Who Do You Say that I Am? — another newsworthy item

11 04 2007

So, this is my first foray into Anglican/Episcopal politics and church happenings …. and I have firmly decided that I am not even going to touch the whole Don Armstrong presentment issue, or the March House of Bishops communique … I would rather talk about something I can speak intelligently to.

Here’s an interesting article from the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest.  Thanks to Episcope (see blogroll for the link to Episcope) for pointing it out.

Read the entire article here 

This is a rather interesting piece, and one which I believe sums up in layman’s terms the struggles which we face as The Episcopal Church and most likely the broader Anglican Communion.  I also think it’s quite interesting that the prima facie issue (and the issue the press seems to care about) appears to be sexuality (first women’s ordination, then the consecration of +Gene Robinson, and lastly the elevation/election of ++Katherine Jefforts-Schori). 

But, as we all know should we as thinking people look beneath the surface, the struggles we are facing come from two items:

1)  power — specifically, the rise of Christianity in the 3rd world and the context in which the Gospel was given to the 3rd world, and

2) identity — What exactly does it mean to be an Anglican?

One big (I mean MAJOR big) reasons I was drawn to The Episcopal Church is that it is part of something bigger than itself (i.e., the Anglican Communion) and that sense of global community and continuity is embraced, in theory at least.  In addition to that, the “glue,” or the sense of “togetherness,” that holds us all together isn’t meant to be a set of doctrines, per se, but that we worship in a similar manner as found by our various Books of Common Prayer (the BCP).  All BCPs, I gather, have their root somewhere in the official BCP of the Church of England, which dates to 1662 or thereabouts.   In other words, if we have to distil what we believe into its bare bones, I would say that it would be found in the ancient Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds. 

The article talks about the general points of view of the three clergy (two female, one male, one of the females being a lesbian) and then … wonder of wonders, they all agree upon something, which is quite telling

All three priests agreed that many Anglicans south of the equator and conservatives here in the North are trying to replace the liturgy with a literal interpretation of the Bible as the test of what it means to be orthodox.

This is, of course, what people in certain quarters of The Episcopal Church have been saying all along … for more commentary see Father Jake and Daily Episcopalian on the blogrolls to the right.

A “plain reading” or literal translation of the Scripture is something that I would think would be anathema to Anglicans.  I could see how that point of view would be respected as something to be considered, but I also think that deeper meanings could be read into it … such as what do the Church fathers have to say about said Scripture (i.e., Tradition) and how we could apply it to our situation today (i.e., reason/experience). 

However, I think to take the literal reading of Scripture as how God intended it to be understood for all people for all time is closer to an Islamic way of interpretation than it is to Christianity, which is a point that I believe that some conservatives miss. 

Of course, I also believe that some liberals in their tendency to overanalyze, explain away and apply things to today’s world miss the point of what the writers of Scripture were saying in the first place.

Continuing on with my humble commentary we find …

“The church,” responded Emrich firmly, “is what God invites.”  Although he thinks history will probably show that ordaining women and consecrating Robinson were the right things to do, he also believes they were done prematurely and in the wrong way.  “The church is more important than that,” he said.  “In its ancient wisdom, the wheels have always turned very slowly, and there’s a reason for that. If you get ahead of the culture too far, it hurts the church.”

There’s something very very telling and prophetic in what +Emrich is saying. 

I had the privilege of hearing +Gene Robinson preach at a service, as well as having a Q&A session one Sunday not even 2 months before General Convention 2006.  I will go on record saying that I believe this man is called to be a bishop in the Church and that anyone would be hard-pressed to find someone more genuine about their faith and having a passion for the Gospel.   I recall him saying at time time (I can’t say I know what his views are now), that The Episcopal Church and the broader Communion should have tackled the issue of marriage / same-sex unions FIRST prior to agreeing to consecrate him. 

If he were a single man, I dare say that no one really would have blinked … OK maybe they would have hiccuped and there would have been some weeping an gnashing of teeth, but I think part of what is disturbing so many people about the consecration of +Gene is that by admitted someone to the Episcopate who is not married or single, then the Episcopal Church is creating more facts on the ground than it was ready to deal with.

FOR EXAMPLE …. would The Episcopal Church be willing to consent to the consecration of a heterosexual bishop (male or female) who is living with someone in a faithful relationship, but IS NOT MARRIED?!?!?!?  In other words, is TEC ready to acknowledge the validity of co-habitating couples regardless of orientation/sexuality/lifestyle, etc etc etc? 

It is this question, that of same-sex marriages/blessing of unions, etc., which I will comment on in another post … but i think this is food enough for thought for the meantme.

So, what is my point?  I’m still figuring that out.

For now, my point is thus:  YES, the issues facing TEC and the Communion are much bigger than sexuality.  However, since sexuality and the nature of relationships between people have become the catalyst for the larger argument, we have no choice but to tackle that.

More heretical and thoughts worth throwing tomatos at will follow, don’t you worry.

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One response

16 04 2007
Eileen the Episcopalifem

Very interesting article, and assessment of it. I agree, +Gene is probably right, in that same-sex marriage should have been handled before his consecration, doing away with at least a part of the argument against his consecration (although, even if TEC through GC had determined it before had, the con evs would still be screaming apostasy or heresy or relying on the leg of reason too much, but, at least, policy wise, the decision would have been made).

This sentence intrigued me: “However, I think to take the literal reading of Scripture as how God intended it to be understood for all people for all time is closer to an Islamic way of interpretation than it is to Christianity, which is a point that I believe that some conservatives miss.

As Islam is such a big part of African culture, perhaps a pervasive part, this might explain why Anglicans in Africa have this viewpoint. I guess, perhaps what I’m saying is that there is an extremism built into their culture – they are pre-primed for it. If you are leaving behind Islamic traditions to follow Christ, then perhaps you are looking to replace those traditions with similar, concrete, deterministic tradition. It’s an angle that’s been dancing around at the edges of my brain for awhile now, but which this statement has helped to solidify.

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