Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Minneapolis Creed. Via Touchstone Magazine's "Mere Comments" the following satiric "Creed" was composed by the Rev. Eric Zolner in response to General Convention 2003 (reprinted with permission):
The Minneapolis Creed

We believe in Justice Mother,
the all inclusive Maker of good self esteem.

And in Jesus,
The only name we recognize from the Bible
He was conceived in an alternative committed relationship
And became person.
He was crucified, died, and was buried.
On the third day his ideals were raised in the minds of his friends.
He "Ascended" into "Heaven" and sits there with the heavenly Parent
But since there is no judgment, he shan't be back.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, Sophia.
She serves as a great rationale for whatever we want to do.
With the Parent and the Child she is used for furthering our agenda.

We believe in one church, as long as it agrees with us,
One baptism for the extinction of sins.
We look for the conversion of those less enlightened,
And a life of full inclusion of all who agree with us

Rev. Zolner is the Associate Rector of Youth and Young Adults at Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

MoreI suggested to Rev. Zolner that he could end it, in the alternative with "Let it Be" in place of Amen. He responded "Or, maybe more appropriately, the end should just say, 'or whatever.'"
Books. It's happened to me again -- several books that I've put on hold at differing times have all become available at once. As a result, I'm "reading" the audio book Da Vinci Code and reading Jasper Fforde's Lost in A Good Book. The first is aggravating, yet a page turner (or a cassette flipper -- what do you call it for an audio book?). I'm also going through Eva Brann's Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Odyssey and the Iliad in preparation for reading the Odyssey and Iliad to my middle children (although, I'm not sure why, since I'll use one of the children's versions -- probably the Padraic Colum edition. (hey, they're just 5 and 6).

Earlier today, I received an e-mail that Tom Clancy's new book is available. Fortunately, this one is less than 500 pages, so I might be able to handle it.

I do want to add a word about the Da Vinci Code, the written equivalent of Oliver Stone's JFK. Yes, I know it's a novel -- it's fiction through and through. Yet the author, Dan Brown, bases so much of his story on true events and facts that it seems plausible. Indeed, if you leaf through the comments at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you find so many people treating this as (gnostic) truth. It starts off with a killer sent out by the Catholic Church -- Opus Dei, the Pope's storm troopers, naturally. And it goes downhill from there. The book's protagonist, a supposedly urbane, brilliant Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, is a -- well, to call him a blithering idiot would be an insult to blithering idiots everywhere. So too, his aide de guerre Sophie Neveu.

The thesis for his book is take straight from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, yet there's no reference to this idea or source (okay, maybe it will come -- I'm still not finished). And his facts are so blatenly wrong! -- For example, he says the Catholic Church suppressed the role of women in religion and this is why there are no female Rabbis or female clerics in the Islamic religion. In this same discussion, he indicates that this is why everything related to the left side of the body -- supposedly the feminine side of the body -- has negative connotations -- to suppress the feminine divine. He even links this suppression (by the Catholics, no less) to the phrase "left wing" meaning "radical." In fact the origin of the phrase goes back to the seating arrangement in the French Assembly. See William Safire's Political Dictionary or this source.

In short, while this book is interesting and captivating (although Brown's character development makes Michael Crichton look like Jane Austen), it is really makes my teeth hurt from it's misrepresentations. Read Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum instead.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Carrot and Stick. It seems the Episcopal establishment is determined to use any means possible to wipe out dissent. We read in the East African Standard that gay activists beat Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Simon Oketch in London simply for being a member of the confessing movement.

In the US, the screws will be turned much more subtlety: they will use the "golden handcuffs" (well, they use that term in lucrative areas of employment -- perhaps if you are an Episcopalian minister it would be the tin handcuffs -- still handcuffs): paycheck, health, life insurance, pension, and other benefits, to keep possibly dissident ministers in line. There will be a courageous few -- you'll see them portrayed in places like the WaPo and others as homophobes.
Nigeria. Chris Suellentrop has a good, but incomplete essay on Nigeria. He notes:
Perhaps most worrisome, Nigeria combines several aspects that are familiar from countries in the Middle East: an abundance of oil, a young population, economic stagnation, a corrupt elite, a legacy of colonialism, a vision of itself as a superpower that is in decline, and a rise in Islamic radicalism. Although Nigeria is only half Muslim (and President Obasanjo is a born-again Christian), 12 states in Nigeria's north have instituted the Islamic law of Shariah...
He fails to note the very strong and growing Anglican prescence in Nigeria . . . which was just severely undercut by the American bishops election of V. Gene Robinson, a notorious gay man to serve as Bishop of New Hampshire.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Minneapolis and Christians die in Nigeria and, perhaps, a country falls...
Ev'ry way you look at it, you lose.

More. Click here to see the original album.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Church Today. Church services today were well attended, especially considering this is really the peak vacation time in the DC area. Nevertheless, not all could attend. I understand that a life-long member of Truro church met our rector at the door and handed him a letter of resignation and turned and left -- not able to set foot in the door.

The opening hymn was very well chosen:
Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er
Shall our hearts forget His promise, “I am with you evermore”?
The readings for today in the Lectionary were so on point, I got goosebumps. Consider the opening lines in the first reading: "Moses said to the people: This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors." The second reading I thought was a direct warning to me: "Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin..." (emphasis added). God knows the anger and hurt I feel. It's multiplied in some respects at not being given any form of outlet. If Peter Lee came and put a dagger in my back at least I could give voice to my frustration. I wrote him last week, but I imagine it will go straight to his circular file.

My only quibble with the Lectionary readings -- I thought the letter to the Ephesians ended one verse short -- it stopped before this verse: "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. "

I imagine that verse will be missing from quite a few Episcopal pew Bibles in the years to come.

The services were a time of worship and encouragement -- building up -- we all need it now. The reporting of what went on at the ECUSA General Convention was saved for a later meeting -- held at 3 pm today. Reports were given -- some quite tearful. I did notice quite a few non-Truro clergy members present -- I suspect we're all struggling with how to come to grips with the decision of a small number of our Bishops and Deputies.

One member of the Virginia delegation -- a lay member -- attended and stood up to give his report and also to plead for unity. He was the only lay member of the Virginia delegation to vote against -- a difficult vote that ran counter to what the Epicopal establishment wanted. I respect this gentleman, Russ Randle, although I disagree with him as far as his comments to continue on with where the ECUSA is going. A short version of what he said, in different form, may be found here. It must be understood that I am just as much an Episcopalian as I was last week or last month and if the Episcopal Church USA remained faithful to the historic faith, there would be no question of "staying." The fact is the Episcopal church has decided to forsake the historic faith and has taken a strong turn, leaving a good number of us behind.

The word Apostacy comes to mind and it appears to be appropriate for this situation: "An abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one's faith or religion." See also, the Encyclopaedia Britanica, but see the Catholic Encyclopedia.

I am purposefully not "reporting" what went on during this meeting, as our Rector indicated it was to be a "family meeting." Also, it should be noted that it wasn't a time for members to say what they wanted to say. Reports were given and questions fielded, but there was no opportunity for congregational members to express their hurt and anger. There is a lot of hurt and anger. A lot.

I would like to continue as a member of Truro, but if it remains aligned with an apostate church, I can not do so.

One fellow stood and read a brief passage from Corinthians as preface to his question:
1 Corinthians 5:9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
Similarly, when I look at the mere Biblical qualifications to be a Bishop, as set forth in I Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, I must ask myself whether this church can truly call itself a Christian church. For now, I will stay at Truro, but if it continues to finance the ECUSA and the Diocese of Virginia and Peter Lee, I will not be able to contribute. And if I can not contribute to my own church, I will need to find another place...

Prayers are always appreciated.
A Gay Atheist Speaks The following essay, published yesterday, August 9, in the Times of London speaks truth.
No, God would not have approved of gay bishops
Matthew Parris

Anglican evangelicals are right. Knowingly to appoint gay bishops robs Christianity of meaning. It is time that convinced Christians stopped trying to reconcile their spiritual beliefs with the modern age and understood that if one thing comes clearly through every account we have of Jesus’s teaching, it is that His followers are not urged to accommodate themselves to their age, but to the mind of God. Christianity is not supposed to be comfortable or feel “natural”. The mind of God, contemplating the behaviour of man, is not expected to be suffused with a spirit of “whatever”. As it happens I do not believe in the mind of God. But Christians do and must strive to know more of it. Nothing they read in the Old and New Testaments gives a scintilla of support to the view that the God of Israel was an inclusive God, or inclined to go with the grain of human nature; much they read suggests a righteous going against the grain.

Certainly it is true that Jesus departed from conventional Judaic teaching in the emphasis He put on forgiveness, but neither the story (for example) of the woman taken in adultery, nor the parable of the prodigal son suggest that He countenanced a continuation of the sins of either. What these stories teach is that repentance is acceptable to God however late it comes, and that the virtuous should not behave in a vindictive manner towards sinners. That is a very different thing from a shoulder-shrugging chuckle of “different strokes for different folks”.

When the row over the appointment of gay bishops first blew up I expected, being gay, to join the side of the Christian modernisers. But try as I do to summon up enthusiasm for my natural allies; sorry as I feel for homosexuals struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their membership of the Church; and strive though I have to feel indignant at the conservative evangelicals, passion fails me. I know why.

“Inclusive”, “moderate” or “sensible” Christianity is inching its way up a philosophical cul-de-sac. The Church stands for revealed truth and divine inspiration or it stands for nothing. Belief grounded in everyday experience alone is not belief. The attempt, sustained since the Reformation, to establish the truth of Christianity on the rock of human observation of our own natures and of the world around us runs right against what the Bible teaches from the moment Moses beheld a burning bush in the Egyptian desert to the point when Jesus rises from the dead in His sepulchre. Stripped of the supernatural, the Church is on a losing wicket.

Even as a ten-year-old boy in Miss Silk’s Scripture class, when I heard the account of how the parting of the Red Sea could actually be explained by freak tides, and that the story of the loaves and fishes really taught us how Jesus set an example by sharing His disciples’ picnic (so everybody else shared theirs), I thought: “Don’t be silly Miss Silk! If Jesus couldn’t do miracles, why should we listen? If the bush was just burning naturally, then Moses was fooled.”

But — perhaps because like countless would-be Christians down the ages I was fighting an internal scepticism about the supernatural claims of religion — I found myself as an undergraduate powerfully drawn towards the sermons and writings of Joseph Butler. The persuasive, quiet sense of this early- 18th-century Bishop of Durham makes (as our college dean, Mark Santer, later to become Bishop of Birmingham, put it gently to me) “the best case one can” for the theory of natural religion.

By induction alone, Butler seems to suggest, we can draw from what we know of ourselves, of science, and of our world, a picture of the mind of God. He was suspicious of revelation. Butler it was who remarked to the evangelist John Wesley: “Sir, the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing.”

In typically compressed but lucid style, he ascribed human goodness to a divine intention. Look at human nature, he said. “It will as fully appear from this our nature . . . is adapted to virtue, as, from the idea of a watch, it appears that its nature . . . is adapted to measure time.” Every work, he said, “is a system; and as every particular thing, both natural and artificial, is for some use or purpose, out of or beyond itself,” so we must ask what mankind is for. He went on to induce the existence of God from the fact that human nature yearns towards something greater and more perfect than itself.

My 1910 Encyclopaedia Britannica devotes 6,000 words to Joseph Butler, and about the same to John Wesley. By the 1960 edition Wesley is steady at 6,000 but Butler is down to a quarter of that length. Today Wesley gets about six times as many words as Butler. Revelation may be a very horrid thing, but it seems to be selling better than reason.

At university I tried very hard to convince myself (as one senses Butler was trying to convince himself) that this appeal to sense will do. I was wrestling with my own sexual leanings at the time (I was 19) and the idea that anything we find within ourselves must be put there for a purpose appealed. Interestingly, it is the Butlerian slant we get today from those Anglicans who advocate the ordination of gay bishops: God cannot reject any loving impulse He has implanted in men, they say. “Really?” I asked the shade of Joseph Butler at 19, and ask the modernists now: how about child- molesting?

At 20 I turned from natural religion to an agnosticism which by degrees has slipped into something as close to atheism as makes no difference. But one could as easily — or, at least, as logically — have turned the other way: towards evangelism, revealed truth and self-denial. For though the New Testament says little about sex or marriage, nothing in the Gospels suggests any departure from Judaic wisdom on such matters, a pretty robust sense of which we gain from the Old Testament.

Jesus was never reluctant to challenge received wisdoms that He wanted to change. He gives no impression that He came into the world to revolutionise sexual mores. Even our eye, if it offends us, must be plucked out.

So this, in summary, is my charge against the Anglican modernists. Can they point to biblical authority for what, on any estimate, amounts to a disturbing challenge to the values assumed in both Testaments? No. Can they point to any divinely inspired religious leader since to whom has been revealed God’s benevolent intentions towards homosexuals? I know of no such saint or holy man. Most have taught the opposite.

Can they honestly say that they would have drawn from Christ’s teachings the same lessons of sexual tolerance in 1000, or 1590, or indeed 1950? Surely not, for almost no such voices were heard then.

In which case, to what does this “reform” amount? Like the changes to Church teaching on divorce or Sunday observance, the new tolerance gains its force within the Anglican Communion from a fear of becoming isolated from changing public morals. Is that a reason for a Christian to modify his own morality? I cannot recall that Moses took this view of golden calf worship. Whispering beneath the modernisers’ soft aspirational language of love and tolerance, I hear an insistent “when in Rome, we must do as the Romans do. Times have changed.” Gays in particular should be very wary of that message; some of us remember when it was used against us, and such a time may come again.

A religion needs a compass. Logic alone does not point the way and religion adds to the general stock of human reasonableness a new directional needle — if it adds anything at all. I cannot read the Gospels in any way other than as declaring that this was revealed to man by God through Jesus. Revelation, therefore, not logic, must lie at the core of the Church’s message. You cannot pick and choose from revealed truth.

The path to which the compass points may be a stony one, but this should not matter to a believer. The teachings of the early Church looked unattractive to the Romans. Revelation pointed the way, and only Revelation can point the way now. I believe this Revelation is false, but Christians have nothing else firm to cling to. The common sense of 1720 may almost have seemed to suffice in Joseph Butler’s day, but it will not suffice now. The Church must take wings and fly above sense, or it will drown. Let it fly — and fly away.