26 March 2010

The HOB report on same-gender relationships

The Same-Sex Relationship in the Church, the report presented at the spring meeting of the college of bishops of The Episcopal Church has been released.

The "report" is actually two reports - not exactly what was requested by the bishops. There is the "conservative" report and the "liberal" report. Both contain the same tired information.

The conservatives have tackled the issue using the usual clobber verses. But their report is not all exactly what one would expect it to be. They surprise me at times. Consider the following.
We realize that many leaders of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada see [same-gender relationships] as the kind of litmus test of moral sensitivity and courage. Slavery was such an issue in the early nineteenth century in the England of Wilberforce, and remained an issue much longer for leaders in the United States. And there have been social and reform movements, such as women’s rights, the rights of workers to safety and minimum wages, not to mention the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when many in the Episcopal Church were socially conservative, protective of the prerogatives of the establishment and of men in power, and thus hesitant to join a movement which seemed to have unwelcome social and political features, and where it seemed easier and more “prudent” to wait.

We believe that there are a number of Episcopal bishops in 2009 who may well have some conservative reservations about moving ahead with same-sex marriage, and are sensitive to the considerations listed above; and yet they lend their support to revisionism, perhaps because they are afraid of being like the two Episcopal bishops in Alabama in 1963 who joined with six other local churchmen in writing an open letter to Martin Luther King, Jr., criticizing him for disobeying established laws and for not having patience to wait for change in civil rights to develop gradually and naturally. We believe that many of our leaders would have done well to be more hesitant on moving forward on the issue of same-sex marriage, however. At the heart of our position is the conviction that the issue of same-sex marriage simply cannot be put in the same category as other social issues on which Anglicans and Christians in general have changed their mind. We do not believe that acceptance of gay and lesbian marriage fits neatly into some narrative of successive liberation movements that emancipated serfs, slaves, child laborers, blacks, and now homosexual couples.

When we consider some of the moral issues on which the Church (speaking broadly) has changed its thinking and practices over the centuries, what emerges is not so much a general pattern as the more difficult requirement to consider the rationale for change in an issue-by-issue fashion, and not on the basis of some template of “progress.” Such issues as slavery, capital punishment, usury, divorce, just war, the role of women in society, and (more particularly) the ordination of women to office in the church, as well as others, need to be analyzed and thought through on both biblical and philosophical lines. This takes some careful work, as each issue has its own rationale, pattern of biblical material and its interpretation, and its own distinctive relationship to science and philosophy. When this is done, the case for same-sex marriage does not have the same kind of biblical support and philosophical rationale as women’s ordination and a moderate divorce policy have, for example p.7 [All emphasis added]
I found that quote interesting for a number of reasons. They must acknowledge that the church does change its teaching and not only ignores tradition and scripture (and provide examples of such change). But by doing so, they prove that they ignore both tradition and scripture in doing so. And, frankly, there is far less "justification" for women's ordination in scripture than for prohibiting same-gender marriage. To "moderate divorce policy" requires blatantly and flagrantly disregarding not just scripture as a whole, but Jesus' own explicit statement on the subject.

Yes, the Anglican Communion is still protective of the prerogatives of the establishment and of men in power. The report goes on to blame liberals for diluting the gospel (which gospel, one must wonder):
Conservatives also share the scepticism voiced by non-western church leaders about the agenda of modern liberals, because so often the attitudes toward a revision of traditional views of sex and marriage are linked with liberal views of biblical authority, theological heterodoxy, and a general tendency to water down the basis and nature of Christian attitudes and way of life. This would generate a Christianity that, by not being counter-cultural enough, becomes unfaithful to the Gospel. p 8
It was liberals who gave those men in power the permission to divorce wives even while the wives were in hospital with catastrophic illnesses. But, that benefited the men in power, therefore, that liberal watering down of the gospel was praiseworthy.

The one argument against same-gender relationships that is the most ludicrous is this:
The testimony of a homosexual Anglican in England who is not at all convinced that homosexual relationships are pleasing to God, writes candidly, “I know many Anglicans (including leaders) with a homosexual orientation, but seeking celibacy, who have said privately they will feel betrayed if the Church of England changes its traditional viewpoint on homosexuality. Some say they already feel tempted to leave the Church of England. p 38
Using this logic, it was wrong to abolish slavery because some slaves accepted the "accepted biblical teaching" that slavery was their "cross to bear" - abolition betrayed them. It was wrong to allow divorce because some married people accepted the traditional teaching as their "cross to bear" - allowing divorce betray them.

On the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable, yea morally correct to betray the millions (yes, there are millions) of homosexual members of the Anglican Communion to avoid betraying the few who accept an unscientific view that homosexuality is a "disorder" or accept the medieval teaching that same-gender contact is the worst possible sin.

The report makes much of the genetics of same-gender attraction. I refer you to Gay Married Californians which began a series on the genetics of homosexuality by our blog friend, IT, who knows the subject far better than those who presented the conservative report to the HOB.

One interesting observation about the genetics is this: If homosexuality is a disorder, then it is not a choice, and, therefore, cannot be a sin any more than acne, arthritis, or asthma is a sin.

But the "liberals" do not win, either. Their report is sadly lacking in both theology and biblical exegesis. The "liberal" report takes as its basis the Marriage Rite from the Book of Common Prayer. They do use biblical passages to support their position, but their arguments are not as strong as the former group's arguments.

The real heart of the matter, as the report acknowledges is this:
In order to understand the church’s mission to same-sex couples, we must understand the church’s mission to those with whom Paul (or his rival) associated same-sex desire: the Gentiles.

This procedure enjoys several advantages. It reminds us that the passages in Hebrew Scripture that refer to same-sex sexual activity (Gen 19:5; Lev 18:22 and 20:13 of which the Genesis passage does not refer to desire but to rape) have the same shape as those that Romans treats: they characterize Gentiles. It helps to restore all these passages to the canon of Scripture, from which contemporary embarrassment had banished them. It does that by restoring these passages to their place in a larger and more important topic: the salvation of many nations worked by God. p 62 [Emphasis added]
I've been saying this for decades: as far as the biblical authors were concerned, same-gender contact was "a Gentile thing" to be avoided at all costs because those people did it and we are not those people. That's the same as a mother prohibiting her children from playing with or eating the ethnic food of a neighbour because "we are not like those people."

According to the Rt. Rev'd Henry Parsley, Jr., chair of the theology committee,
The purpose of this project is not to create a new consensus or make a recommendation to the church. It is rather to express as fully as possible two contrasting theological views, both rooted in the teaching of the church and in Holy Scripture, in order that we might listen to and learn from both sides of the debate.
We killed the evangelism budget and funded a report to tell us what we have known for at least ten years - that there are two opinions and never the twain shall meet. There isn't one word in this report that any of us could not have written. It's much ado about nothing and a waste of time, ink and money. OCICBW.

Episcopal Life has an article that's worth reading as does The Lead. The Christan Post has an interesting article, too.

24 March 2010

The GRAPEVINE forced to close

Our sister blog, The Grapevine, has kept us up-to-date on the situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin in addition to the schismtac group lead by Mr. David Schofield a former cleric.

The Grapevine has ceased to exist as of today. Although I am not at liberty to disclose the details, the closure has to do with litigation involving the schismatic group.

My sincere thanks to those who ran The Grapevine for the excellent service they provided the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Episcopal Church by keeping us informed about the real and imaginary diocese in the Big Valley. And, I thank them for the support and help that gave me and T3LS during difficult times.

If you would like to thank those who operated The Grapevine, please use this thread to do so. I will forward your comments to them.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

23 March 2010

Hyperbole never ends

Fire! Fire! The sky is falling. The sky is falling.

That's the news from the "other side". Lies and scare tactics characterize the schismatic movement.

Here is a bit of an "article" posted on a certain site today:
TEC has moved inexorably and fatally away from the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; she can no longer claim to be a Christian denomination by any measureable [sic] standard. One former TEC Anglo-Catholic bishop described Jefferts Schori as a Wiccan in her beliefs. He may be right.
I can't remember any General Convention tossing out one bit of the Apostles' or Nicene-Constantinopolitan creeds. TEC has not repudiated any article of the faith.

In fact, the General Convention of 2009 moved in a more catholic direction by affirming the Blessed Virgin May is Theotokos - the bearer of God. But, facts only get in the way of the truth where the schismatics are concerned.

The two creeds above are the standard for what the gospel is - nothing else is necessary to believe for salvation.

And, of course, there must always be an attack on the person of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The accuser is unnamed, of course, and proof of the accusation is ever provided. Not only is it a lie, but the "accuser" has no idea what Wiccan's believe.

But, to inflame the alleged masses of their deluded followers, the schismatics must resort to lies. Fortunately, we all know who the bible says is the father of lies.
    You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8.44
And, of course, to back up their claims, the article quotes a certain Assembly of God "minister" who is highly respected by the schismatics and who offered a "prayer" at the Inauguration in January 2009. Yes, nothing like quoting a non Anglican/Episcopalian in defense of schismatics.

22 March 2010

Two days and two miracles

This morning I awoke to find a second miracle has occurred. The first was the passage of the health care reform bill (thank you Ted Kennedy). The second miracle is just as wondrous to many of us.

Friends of Fr. Jake has announced that one of our "outsiders" has made the difficult decision to become united with us in mission in The Episcopal Church. "BP" will be received into TEC at the Great Vigil of Easter. To use a Native American phrase, "My heart soars like a hawk."

Read it here.

21 March 2010

The Good Samaritan wins in Washington

The introit for today begins "Judica me, Domine" (Judge me, O Lord). I think the Lord will judge the US Senate and House today and will find most to have acted righteously.
    Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
    we thine unworthy servants
    do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
    for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
    to us and to all men.
    We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
    and all the blessings of this life;
    but above all for thine inestimable love
    in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
    for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
    And, we beseech thee,
    give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
    that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful;
    and that we show forth thy praise,
    not only with our lips, but in our lives,
    by giving up our selves to thy service,
    and by walking before thee
    in holiness and righteousness all our days;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord,
    to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit,
    be all honor and glory, world without end.

Lent V - Judica

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Year C
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8
    Introit: Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art my God and my strength. -- (Ps. 42. 3). Send forth Thy light, and Thy truth: they have conducted me, and brought me unto Thy holy hill, and into thy tabernacles.

    Collect Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

    Gospel: Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany,where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, "Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."
Homily: As we turn our faces now toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we are given this last Sunday in Lent to ponder God's gift of generosity and what that generosity means in our lives with Him and one another.

We may start by looking at the family of Mary and Martha of Bethany, with their brother Lazarus, as portrayed in today’s reading from John's gospel. Jesus came to their home and they gave a dinner for him – a fine example of generous hospitality in the context of a small, close-knit Jewish community of the time.

Further on in Chapter Twelve we find that all sorts of people coming to Jerusalem for Passover stop by the house to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and to see Jesus himself. So many people went to visit the Bethany household on this occasion that the Jerusalem authorities who were hunting for Jesus decided to find and arrest Lazarus too, since, we are told, “it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.”

The generosity of his friends at Bethany had unintended consequences. More than any other gospel, the Gospel of John is crafted to show how very unwelcome Jesus was among his own Galilean Jewish neighbors, and how he became the focus of suspicion and growing hostility on the part of a small but powerful segment of the Jerusalem leadership. The story today of the dinner at Bethany points us toward the events of Holy Week that will result in Jesus' crucifixion right in the heart of the annual Passover celebration.

But to return to the dinner itself: In the midst of this meal, Mary of Bethany comes into the dining area with a bottle of expensive oil, the sort that was customarily used to anoint the dead before burial. She pours it lavishly over Jesus' feet and then dries his feet with her hair. It is a costly gift, a generous gift, one that comes from her head, heart, and soul – quite unasked for, quite unexpected. This is Jesus the Lord of Life, who had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead only weeks before, and Mary treats the Lord of Life as if he were already a dead body.

We do not know how anyone in the house interpreted this extravagant gesture except for Judas. Judas asked the money question: would it not have been better to spend all that money on the poor and needy? Questioning Mary's generosity in this way was surely valid. Jesus had built much of his reputation on the way he accepted, fed, and healed people who were outside the socio-economic safety zones – men without status in the eyes of the temple and court authorities, widows who were unable to stand on their own two feet, and children who were unable to make choices for themselves.

Jesus' response to Judas is interesting, therefore. He tells Judas to let Mary be; she had bought the oil for the day of Jesus' burial. Jesus' death comes into view on the horizon as he continues, "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." The admonition seems gentle, but perhaps there is a note of sharpness and certainly of poignancy.

In the house at Bethany, the poverty of the human Jesus becomes visible. Mary’s extravagant gift of anointing is given to one for whom there was no room at the inn at his birth, for whom there was precious little hospitality given during his lifetime, and for whom, in the end, there will be a borrowed tomb.

The notes of generosity in this gospel reading prompt us to consider our own attitudes toward giving, especially the ways in which we offer ourselves and what used to be called "our substance," to God.

The God who appears in Isaiah today is the one who gives life to the world, the God of the Exodus, the extraordinary God whom we see across the whole span of scripture. In the words of Walter Brueggemann in his prayer "On Generosity":
    You come giving bread in the wilderness,
    You come giving children at the eleventh hour,
    You come giving homes to exiles,
    You come giving futures to the shut-down,
    You come giving Easter joy to the dead.
The world is full of earthquakes and disasters. Week in and week out our parishes and the charitable agencies around us are bombarded with the real needs of hurting, starving, wounded people in famine and war, flood and hurricane. The poor we have always with us, always with claims on our compassion and generosity.

We do not always make time or use our imaginations for risky, generous offerings, like Mary who poured out an abundance of oil on Jesus' feet. These are the tokens of a deep-seated generosity in our souls that mirror and honor the generosity of God our Creator, who gives us life by bringing us out of error into truth, our of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.

-- The Reverend Angela V. Askew is priest-in-charge of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, New York.

Happy Birthday Sebastian

On this date 325 years ago, in 1685, was born the greatest musician of all the ages past, present and future. That fact is a given and even the likes of Stravinsky stated that any musician, who wished to be true musician, but study the compositions of JS Bach.

Although the world remembers JS Bach as a musician, he was first, and foremost a theologian/preacher. But his sermons are not contained in dusty volumes on the shelves of a seminary library. His sermons are preached daily throughout the world to millions of people.

Given that Johann was a family baptismal name (nearly every family member for three generations received the name Johan), I'm sure everyone called him Sebastian. So, Happy Birthday, Sebastian! Without you and your magnificent music, the world would be dreary, indeed.

Make sure to read this article which will explain the photo I chose for this post.