Episcopal Drama Part II: A Message from the Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John, ABQ

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This is an article written by Dean Mark Goodman of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John in Albuquerque, NM (Diocese of the Rio Grande), which is the Episcopal church where attend.  His intended audience is his congregation and this was originally published in the weekly “Cathedral News.”  It has been reposted here with the Dean’s permission.  The Dean also has a blog of his own: fromthedean.wordpress.com.

I believe this article speaks to both elements of the “Episcopal Drama” to which I alluded in my first post with far more clarity, grace and eloquence than I could muster. I have edited it only in that I have left out items which are of interest mainly to the Cathedral congregation and do not address the topics at hand.  I have also taken the liberty of placing in bold a few comments that were especially meaningful to me. Please enjoy.

-James Stambaugh

I write this while still attending the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, meeting in Anaheim, California.  If you have been following the work of the General Convention, you will know that it has been extensive and varied. Not only are there legislative sessions, there is also a daily Eucharist, including a grand Sunday liturgy, as well as committee meetings and hearings, gatherings to share collective ministry, and social times to deepen relationships. It will also not have escaped your attention that there is a certain level of tension that exists at General Convention. That is, one level, inescapable when you get so many people together in one place. On another level, it is a result of good and faithful people diligently trying to discern God’s will in the actions and decisions of this council. People disagree, and that’s a good thing. However, when disagreements touch deeply held convictions and challenge them, that can become very uncomfortable, even painful. As at many General Conventions, it is that sort of disagreement that has been experienced this past week.

I don’t enjoy being in that sort of atmosphere. I go to General Convention to see colleagues in ministry, share ideas with them, and meet new people from around the Episcopal Church and the Communion. I go to share in the councils of the Church and add my voice to our collective work to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. I don’t go to observe wrangling over issues, and when it happens (which, as I said, it almost always does), the very real temptation is to become discouraged and disheartened. I felt that temptation most keenly last week, on Tuesday, after the deeply serious discussions that took place earlier in the week. It was a temptation that was given a keener edge by the acrimony that began to be displayed by various groups around the Communion in response to important decisions that had been made. “What am I doing here?” I thought. “Why don’t people just trust God to lead us and focus on ministry?” “Why must we fight with one another?” was what I felt in my heart.

It was on that same day that I attended a gathering of some of the international guests of the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, for an interview. These individuals included Dr. Jenny Te Paa, the Principal of St. John’s Theological College in New Zealand; Dr. Victor Atta-Baffoe, Dean of St. Nicholas’ Seminary in Ghana; Dean Rowan Smith, Dean of St. George’s Cathedral in Capetown, South Africa; among others. In answering my questions, and those of the other interviewers, these leaders spoke of lived ministry in challenging local settings. There was discussion of issues of poverty, HIV-AIDS, indigenous peoples being included in the life of the Church, raising the awareness of the status of women in areas where they are no more than property, the difficulties of funding and communications. The divisive issues of General Convention were not center stage. I was thankful for that and realized that it is this focus on mission and ministry that keeps us rooted in God:  hopeful and energized, not fearful and discouraged. I came away from that interview renewed in my understanding of why I am here.

I also came away from that interview renewed in my determination that the hot-button issues of the Church cannot distract us from the work of mission and ministry that God has set before us. This has been my intention in every church I have led, and it will be my intention here, at the Cathedral of St. John. The Church has struggled with thorny questions in every age, and God has always shown the way through them; he will do so in this instance, too. I don’t have the answers to some of these questions of our life together, nor is it up to me to state with certainly the mind of God. Our calling as Christians, I believe, is to live in faith, which means we don’t always see where we’re going. This calling is given beautiful expression in the ethos of Anglicanism, an expression of Christian discipleship that enables us to live in the midst of creative tension, wherein we go about the work we have been given to do while believing, patiently and faithfully, that God, through his Holy Spirit, will lead us where we need to go. I don’t always like living this way, but I believe it, with all my being, to be our calling.

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44 Comments

  1. amen and amen. Though, I do genuinely fear that such a via media may be disappearing before our very eyes.

    Tell me when you’re through with this series because I wanted to post on D025 (unless you do it. You had hinted but I don’t want to presume) and C056

    Reply

  2. Tony,

    Go ahead and post about DO25, etc. I was going to write something, but decided this message from the dean would be a better contribution from my end, so have at it.

    Reed,

    Come on down! That would be totally awesome. Bring me some cheese curds.

    Reply

  3. Here’s an interesting quote from one of the resolves in DO25: “the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God'”

    Given that Theophiliacs have deconstructed the heterosexual nature of marriage based on the polymorphously perverse kinds of “marriage” in Scripture, I cannot wait till the Theophiliacs–especially the Epicospal ones–deconstruct the need for “lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogramy…'” based on the same rationale.

    If the polymorphously perverse kinds of “marriage” in Scripture deconstruct heterosexuality, why not monogamy also? Isn’t the Episcopal Church just being a little too conservative?

    Reply

  4. I don’t want to turn Theophiliacs into a T19, StandFirm, VirtueOnline, Episcopal Cafe, Thinking Anglican or AnglicanMainstream. There are too many writing about it right now.

    I’m going to ask if it will provoke certain equal and opposite reactions which might dissolve the highly mythologized “via media” – and what that might mean for my own pursuing Ordination.

    Reply

  5. Hmmm… NT Wright does not seem to think it is the “middle way.” I thought he was one of the heroes here on this blog, but I have read no mention here concerning his views on this issue.

    Is it time to point out that Bishop Wright is British and to tell him to keep his nose out of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.?

    Is it time to remind him of the American Revolution and let him know that we are free from British control?

    Personally, I found such suggestions by other Episcopalians to be quite comical. In my own opinion, Bishop Wright is Bishop RIGHT on this one.

    My fear in this situation is what the writer of Hebrews labeled “the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13). The problem is that sin tends to feed itself. Sin denied dulls the conscience.

    Reply

  6. Roger,

    I’m afraid you’re misreading me. I do NOT think that the two resolutions passed represent the middle way. I think that it will harden both sides and dissolve the middle way. Or it might possibly.

    Tony
    p.s. Wright is one of my heroes

    Reply

  7. Roger,

    Thanks for reminding me about Bishop Wright’s comments. I meant to post these links a couple of days ago. Like the message above (which I see is too good for anyone to fight over), I found these links thanks to Dean Goodman.

    NT Wrights op-ed in the London Times.

    Blog in response to NT Wright’s op-ed.

    Reply

  8. James wrote:
    Like the message above (which I see is too good for anyone to fight over)…

    RESPONSE:
    Just because nobody stated any disagreement does not necessarily mean there is no disagreement. When your Dean attempts to divide the mission from the missionary’s lifestyle or the ministry from the minister’s lifestyle, his logic is flawed and his statement is unscriptural(1Tim.3 and Titus 1:6-9). Actions speak louder than words. When gay missionaries and gay ministers fill the pulpit, it portrays a lifestyle that is in conflict to the ministry and mission of your church. It is also in conflict with the mission and ministry described in Scripture. A person’s beliefs, values and morals are reflected in the way that person lives. His lifestyle will reflect his beliefs (compare Matt. 12:33–37). The Scriptures command us to judge people on the basis of their lifestyle. Paul warns us about those who claim to be Christians but their lifestyle refutes their claim (Gal. 5:19–21). John tells us that a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s word proves that we are “liars” if we claim to be Christians (1John 2:4).

    The Dean wrote:
    “The Church has struggled with thorny questions in every age, and God has always shown the way through them; he will do so in this instance, too.” Just because the Anglican Church is still around does not necessarily mean that God’s will has been done in the midst of all their “thorny questions.”

    RESPONSE:
    To claim that they have ultimately found God’s will in each of their struggles is highly debatable. Do you want a history lesson on the failures of the Episcopal Church, or shall we move on?

    The Dean wrote:
    “This calling is given beautiful expression in the ethos of Anglicanism, an expression of Christian discipleship that enables us to live in the midst of creative tension, wherein we go about the work we have been given to do while believing, patiently and faithfully, that God, through his Holy Spirit, will lead us where we need to go.”

    RESPONSE:
    I have heard some battered wives make similar statements. They believe that living on the edge of death is their call in life or their cross to bear. They do not realize that they could put a stop to it by simply standing up to the bully or calling the authorities.

    Reply

  9. George,

    ugh. How bout I be straightforward and say I don’t want to talk about marriage; gay, straight, christian, non, polygamous or otherwise?

    Reply

  10. Roger,

    I feel you’re being a little underhanded with your claim that the Dean is trying to seperate ministry from lifestyle. The Dean is refering two instances of ministry in his article, first the ministry that was described in the meeting he went to at the Convention: Anglican ministers working with poverty, AIDs/HIV, inidigenous settings, etc. The second area of ministry that he mentnions is his own ministry at the Cathedral. By your comments are you suggesting that either the group of people whose ministry was described at the meeting, or the Dean himself are not living a lifestyle befitting a Christian? It is a dangerous thing indeed to judge men and women you do not know. Remember that Matthew 12:33-37 has nothing to do with anything except the words we use.

    I am also not sure what you meant by mentioning Gal. 5:19-21, maybe you meant 5:14-16.

    And again in I John 2:4, the only lifestyle, or sin, or commandment this passage is refering to the sin of living a lifestyle contrary to the commandment of Jesus: Love each other as I have love you.

    Concerning this comment: “To claim that they have ultimately found God’s will in each of their struggles is highly debatable. Do you want a history lesson on the failures of the Episcopal Church, or shall we move on?”

    you fail to understand that the Dean is not talking about the Episcopal church alone, but the Church with a capital C, as in the body of the Christ. As the creed says, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church…” that is the Church he is refering to. As far as specific denominations and their histories, I don’t know of a single one that isn’t marred with some really ugly crap, so you’re right we should move on.

    And finally concerning your battered women comment: Are you equating the work of the Gospel (i.e. “the work we’ve been given to do…”) with the life of a women who gets beat up by her husband? Is trusting God that He can use imperfect people and institutions to advance His kingdom, and waiting patiently for His Will to be revealed really like a woman who refuses to get out of an abusive situation? I am going to have disagree with your comparision.

    Reply

  11. George,

    Are things getting boring discussing the resolutions for General Council at AGThinkTank, or is there too much A/G and not enough Think at this time in the Pentecostal church calendar? I ask, because the only charitable conclusion I can draw from your posts is that you’re bored and looking to stir up a little trouble (which, you’ll know, I am cool with – it’s fun). I draw that conclusion because you have received definitive statements from us (well, at least Reed, Hunt, James and me) regarding our “real” position on gay marriage, ssu, and how they relate to biblical Christianity. I’ll summarize for you (since Tony is off somewhere twitching at the mention of the topic): we are all heterosexual men in long term, monogamous, marriage relationships. We (I at least) see a clear picture of sexual ethics and marriage relationships (sex is for a relationship that has been ratified by the institution of Christian marriage, and that marriage should remain monogamous and uninterrupted) within the cultural context of the first century (Christian marriage: a man marries a woman). Now, I know I bit, I know you’re going to want to deconstruct that last statement that differentiates the context of Christian marriage as cultural and not mechanical dictation straight from the mouth of God. I’ll let you know up front, however, that it works out to very little difference between the bottom line of my theology of marriage and yours. In fact, the only difference that I can see working out is that I am a little more willing to hypothesize how much our modern ideas of marriage were influenced purely by culture. We discuss these things, because the leadership of the church has asked their constituency to wrestle with it alongside them. We discuss these things because, in spite of what we may already believe or practice, we know there are men and women out there that who are real people that need us to be vigilant; we are under obligation to take up their burden and bear it with them. They are real people, who have real relationships, who have genuine faith, and who claim Christ. That is good enough for me to take another look at the debate (though, I keep coming up with the same conclusions), and I will continue to look at the debate with fresh eyes whenever I am called upon by brothers and sisters in Christ that need my support.

    Roger,

    What would be the benefit of exposing anyone’s “history?” What does it prove? This is an argument against the church frequented by atheists. Think up all the apologetically oriented information that Strobel compiled as an argument against this dismissal of Christianity in general, and it can probably be applied to any dismissal you would try to apply to any Christian sect, since they are all guilty of the same things in one regard or another. If the intent is to demonstrate people are wrong because of a flaw in their track record, why don’t we just start exposing each others’ personal history? From personal experience in his sermons, Mark uses “the Church” to refer to the universal Church. He thinks that the “Church” (universal) has struggled through and found God’s will in spite of things that have sidetracked it. You’re ignoring James’ very specific comments that this post is actually the church bulletin for the week, you cannot take it out of that context and try to nitpick it.

    “I have heard some battered wives make similar statements. They believe that living on the edge of death is their call in life or their cross to bear. They do not realize that they could put a stop to it by simply standing up to the bully or calling the authorities.”

    We agree on a lot of points, but, I’m sorry, this is ridiculous. If your intent was to frustrate me (us): mission accomplished. What do you want us to do, borrow the fundamentalist church’s “God Hates Fags” signs? Should we draw lines in the sand and dare each other to cross? Or should we just restrict our official meetings to resolutions reaffirming that we really are still right, and then bicker piously among ourselves about the extent to which we’ve been right while everyone else is wrong? “Oh, remember that ONE time we were wrong? We thought we had been wrong about something or another, but then it turns out we were really right all along, so we were wrong about being wrong; Man, that was embarrassing.”

    Now, let me take a step back, I am assuming your purpose is relatively similar to George. Apply heat to an issue and see if there are any cracks, so that I can dismiss any legitimate challenge it may make to personal opinions (then you can get together with all the other people who love to rejoice in how right they are and do chest bumps, high fives, et al). In which case, I’ll answer in kind – allow me also to make a sweeping generalization for rhetorical effect. This would be one of the things that disenchanted me with the A/G – a pedantic, self-serving philosophy that says once a matter has been settled in one’s mind there is no need to bring it up again, no need to tolerate people who disagree, no need to validate the questions of people who don’t see it like me (they’ll grow up and come around some day), no need to accept that the A/G is vastly outnumbered by a rich heritage of Christianity that very patiently puts up with its antics, no need to recognize an avalanche of legitimate scholarship, even within evangelicalism, that says the “distinctives” are all wrong (I know a Jesuit priest who does a fair sight more to encourage Pentecostal theology than Carson, Geisler, Grudem, Erickson, et al), no need to question my intellectual honesty, and no need to hold people in a higher esteem than their own opinions.

    The others have mentioned this stuff (and more eloquently, and certainly with a little more charity), but I felt like you and George must be needing some attention and I can get into rhetorical fights without getting worked up. :0)

    Shawn

    Reply

  12. James,
    My comments were in the context of the resolutions which were passed by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in their recent meeting at Anaheim, California. That was the context of your Dean’s comments in which he seems to prefer to look beyond DO25 and CO56 rather than give any substantive opinion in favor or in opposition to these decisions.

    Shawn,
    I did not expose anyone’s history, I merely mentioned that it seems to tell a different story than, “The Anglicans have always been correct.” I actually think James might be correct when he says the dean was referring to the church at large. In which case, I apologize for my comments about Anglican History. As James said, we all have our mistakes in history.

    Concerning the A/G distinctives, blast away… nobody here cares.

    Reply

  13. I don’t feel the need to blast away at the distinctives because, /1/ I was making a sweeping rhetorical point, and /2/ There are people far more qualified that have already done so. Their opinions don’t seem to matter to folks who have decided to believe. I am cool with that.

    Reply

  14. Shawn:

    Let me requote myself: “Given that Theophiliacs have deconstructed the heterosexual nature of marriage based on the polymorphously perverse kinds of ‘marriage’ in Scripture, I cannot wait till the Theophiliacs–especially the Epicospal ones–deconstruct the need for ‘lifelong committed relationships “characterized by fidelity, monogramy…”‘” based on the same rationale.

    Let me give you a few outs: (1) Given that I can’t remember which of the Theophiliacs has posted what on homosexuality, maybe you didn’t participate in the deconstruction of the heterosexual character of marriage in the Bible. (2) Maybe you, I guess like Tony, draw a distinction between “biblical” marriage (which is polymorphously perverse) and “Christian” marriage (which is heterosexual and monogamous). If so, you don’t need to respond. I’ll just drop the issue, and we can move on.

    If, however, you did participate in the deconstruction of the heterosexual character of “biblical” marriage based on its polymorphous perversity, then you need to explain to me why that same deconstruction doesn’t apply to monogamy. After all, in all the riotous variety of “biblical” marriage, homosexual marriage is never mentioned. We have polygamy, concubinage, rape-laws, Levirate marriage, slave marriage, etc., but no homosexual union. That’s odd, in my opinion. What’s further odd, however, is that the one form of marriage that most often appears in the Bible after monogamy is polygamy. If we deconstruct marriage’s heterosexual character, why do we cling to its monogamous character?

    And, since we’re being serious here, I’ll reiterate my point that Jesus’ words in the gospel regarding marriage are the biblical hermeneutic that explains the practice of Christian marriage. If we separate “biblical marriage” from “Christian marriage,” on what basis do we practice “Christian marriage”? Tradition? Reason? Experience? At some point, “Christian marriage” is “biblical marriage” or it is not binding on us at all. Right? Isn’t that the point of the Quadrilateral? Scripture as interpreted by tradition according to reason and in line with experience?

    George

    Reply

  15. Shawn:

    One other thing: “I am a little more willing to hypothesize how much our modern ideas of marriage were influenced purely by culture.”

    I agree with that. Our modern idea of marriage as inclusive of homosexual union is influenced purely by culture. There’s nothing in Scripture or tradition that requires us to practice or bless it.

    Conversely, the biblical view of marriage is explicitly countercultural. In the teeth of pagan polygamy and sexual immorality, and in the teeth of Jewish laxity regarding divorce (or at least among one school of rabbis), Paul and Jesus taught that at creation, God created man and woman for lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage.

    George

    Reply

  16. Roger,

    Dean Goodman’s message is about not letting the “hot button” issues get in the way of the work of the Gospel. Dean Goodman has given personal substantive opinions about DO25 and CO56, they are on his blog (link above), but that was not the purpose for article he wrote above, nor was it the purpose for me reposting that article. Have you read these resolutions, or merely what others have said about them? People on the internet, (Bishop Wright among them) make it sound like these two resolutions are a)penned by the very hand of Satan, and b)make a decisive doctrinal statement concerning homosexuality. Niether a) nor b) is the case. Unfortunately, I am getting the impression that fundamentalism (including and especially so called “Anglican” fundamentalism) has decided this is their opportunity to strike and are using these resolutions as battle standards. I also have a feeling that if he hasn’t already, Bishop Wright will moderate his statements once he calms down.

    Reply

  17. George,

    I think you’ll appreciate the first contribution I am preparing. It lines out all of the places I actually stand on issues. Because, quite honestly, I have explained to you and others on many occasions that I will talk about something without believing its true. I doubt that topics like gay marriage are going to hit the list, but I am hoping it will provide a baseline. So, allow me to quote myself:

    “We (I at least) see a clear picture of sexual ethics and marriage relationships (sex is for a relationship that has been ratified by the institution of Christian marriage, and that marriage should remain monogamous and uninterrupted) within the cultural context of the first century (Christian marriage: a man marries a woman).”

    I mean to say that in the New Testament, we have this clear picture (from Jesus and Paul, as you say it).

    “They are real people, who have real relationships, who have genuine faith, and who claim Christ. That is good enough for me to take another look at the debate (though, I keep coming up with the same conclusions), and I will continue to look at the debate with fresh eyes whenever I am called upon by brothers and sisters in Christ that need my support.”

    “They” are those who belong to the homosexual demographic. I see no greater biblical injustice (rhetorical here) than having someone stand in our midst proclaiming Christ while simultaneously we demonize them, break fellowship, and work to deny them rights that find their basis in national citizenship not in ecclesiological membership. Something I find disturbing (to borrow a soap box from James here), is a general trend in western evangelical churches to do things like extending fellowship and admiration to a person/group simply because they are part of the Israeli nation even though they are actively engaged in killing Palestinian Christians and at the same time to completely reject a person/group because they are homosexual, even though they claim to be Christ’s.

    Allow me to reiterate, again, to you that I am largely in agreement with you (currently) regarding the issue of gay marriage (I should take it a step further and say that I am also in agreement with the other theophiliacs in rejecting a good number of the heterosexual marriages that I have seen on the basis of the same New Testament ethics).

    You wrote:

    “Conversely, the biblical view of marriage is explicitly countercultural. In the teeth of pagan polygamy and sexual immorality, and in the teeth of Jewish laxity regarding divorce (or at least among one school of rabbis), Paul and Jesus taught that at creation, God created man and woman for lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage.”

    I am largely in agreement with this as part of the New Testament ethics of sexuality/family, but I would stipulate that “marriage” in this statement absolutely must be seen as something belonging to the sacred and not to the civil/secular. There just is no amount of Bible thumping that can take place on this issue that is going to make all of its many modern facets “black and white.” Surely, we aren’t going to say that all of the Bible’s (or even the New Testament’s) civil pronouncements should be applied to the modern situation. We want to find authorial intent and apply theological principles. The modern debate about marriage, as I see it, has at least to do with whether those theological principles have gender assignments.

    Blessings,

    Shawn

    Reply

  18. George,

    The name of the contribution in question is “Well, I am all for Biblical Marriage”

    Here is the first part of my very first comment on that thread.

    “Allow me to think out loud with all of you. These are not thoughts I feel are irrefutable (I don’t think many of those actually exist anyway), but are ideas that I have puzzled over long enough that I am ready to subject them to public opinion. So, in no particular order, here are three hermeneutical quandaries that are not necessarily related to each other and may only be loosely related to the topic:”

    I am not sure what extent this kind of speculation fits your description of whether or not I participated as such:

    “If, however, you did participate in the deconstruction of the heterosexual character of “biblical” marriage based on its polymorphous perversity, then you need to explain to me why that same deconstruction doesn’t apply to monogamy.”

    I came with questions, we talked them out, and (if I am not mistaken) I gave you statements very much like the ones I am making today at the end of the thread.

    Shawn

    Reply

  19. Shawn:

    Thanks for your reply! I apologize for harshness or sarcasm in the tone of my previous reply. I recognize that part of the difference between us is that we have different areas of settled opinion. You have questions about whether Christian marriage can be inclusive of homosexuals. I don’t, seeing no support for such a position in either Scripture or tradition, nor seeing any further requirement for it in either reason or experience.

    So, what’s my concern in this debate. My concern is with the proper interpretation of Scripture first and foremost, and then with the logical implications of certain arguments that have been raised on this site.

    To rehash the old ground: I think Scripture–or more properly, Christ–clearly teaches a normative hermeneutic of Scripture in his discussion of marriage in Matthew 19:1-13. That hermeneutic, as I understand it, teaches that (1) marriage is a lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous union that is (2) ground in creation and further that (3) deviations from (2) were allowed (in law) and described (in narrative) because of/as the result of hardness of heart. For me, then, to advance a hermeneutic of marriage that contradicts these points calls into question the authority of Christ and his interpretation of Scripture. That’s why I react strongly to some of the arguments advanced on this site.

    A further reason why I keep pushing the logical implications line of thought is because I think that some of the arguments (or suggestions) advanced by some on this site have implications beyond what the authors may intend. That was the point behind my deconstruction challenge to Tony and you. If one suggests that the heterosexual nature of marriage can be deconstructed on the basis of the pluriform marriages in Scripture, then why (logically speaking) can’t one use the same argument to deconstruct the monogamous character of marriage in Scripture, since that was one of the pluriforms? I haven’t yet seen an answer to the logic of that question, although I appreciate your personal commitment to the biblical standard of monogamy.

    Perhaps some new ground can be broken by an admission on my part that I’m not sure I can any longer advance a good reason why marriage should be a civil issue, as opposed to a private contract or ecclesiastical covenant. I’m libertarian enough–and enough of a biblical anarchist–to see that this might be one way of resolving the debate currently roiling our society.

    As a topic of discussion, I doubt rehashing the old ground is going to break any new ground. But perhaps it would be fruitful to have a dialogue on the narrow issue of whether Scripture requires Christians to advocate civil marriage.

    George

    Reply

  20. George,

    O for goodness sake I’ll bite. But only a little and if it goes too far off I’m done.

    On Marriage in the Christian/Secular context-

    I understand that given the many people who have posted with various angles it might be difficult to tell where people come down on this. If you recall our first battle over gay marriage (in fact I think it was our first battle ever) was on Paul Stewart’s site. I said that I support traditional Christian marriage, but, given the way the secular system works, I think there should be no reason that the State should not grant “equal rights” to homosexual couples, and IF they wanted to call it “marriage” I don’t care because it is the Church that decides what “marriage” means in the Church (or rather God, but we as his “binders and loosers”).

    Unlike you, I want to completely de-christianize the secular state. As David Bentley Hart so adequately shows, the “secular meta-narrative” borrows it’s ontology and ethics from Christians. The quicker we allow it to be exposed as the empty myth it is the better. When the secular state is left with the ethics of atheism, with no real value system at all, then Christians can claim what is rightfully theirs. We like “rights” but who gives “rights” to people? The secular? bah! Even the Declaration of Independence had to borrow from the Christian God to get its “rights” language to work! In a play on the words of Alistair MacIntyre: “Whose rights?” and “Whose Polis

    This stems, for me, from a rather rigid post-foundationalism. Like Shawn, I do not think that there is a “meta-narrative” that can be universally justified. I think that Christians can show how our narrative works to include, pretty much everything, but that one cannot start from “the ground up” and “justify” Christian belief. I will not ask permission from “reason,” “rationality,” and “science” to give permission to believe in the Atonement and Resurrection. We need to relentlessly deconstruct the false ideals of the Enlightenment…level the playing field…empty the value systems borrowed from Christianity and name the secular state for what it is, a parasitic nihilism on the back of Jesus.

    On “biblical” marriage – I have decided, because of our many complicated interactions on different starting points concerning the authority and inspiration of the Bible that I am going to post on this, so we’ll leave it till later. I think “the bible” is indeed inspired, and that it is the primary resource for theological reflection for all Christians; but I am convinced that there is dialectic, both in Scripture and our interpretation of it.

    This dialectic means to me that coming to know the mind of God on something involves process. Real. Historical. Process. So that our conclusions are always available for judgement. Jesus, and especially his death and resurrection, are the “unveiling” of God in a way that “the bible” is not. So I’ll get back to you on that.”

    I don’t feel that I’ve been very clear, so please interact with me and tell me where you have questions or concerns.

    Tony

    Reply

  21. ha! I knew it, I made no sense. Did you want to talk about “marriage” and “deconstruction” or “biblical authority” again?

    Reply

  22. George,

    Our silence isn’t the cold shoulder (mine isn’t at least), I am trying to formulate a response that doesn’t resort to any of the language or reasoning that we have already exhausted. In fact, as already stated, I agree with much of what you have to say on the topic, but don’t like the language you use to frame it. It’s not “wrong” or “bad,” it just doesn’t communicate the tone of how I feel. So, give me an afternoon to articulate it.

    Shawn

    Reply

  23. Not at all, Tony! I’m just tired of the topic, and I’m worried that I’m wearing out my welcome hear by rehashing the same argument over and over. Hence, the agree to disagree stance.

    Shawn, articulate away. I sometimes wonder whether I’m just “not getting it,” whatever it may be: substance of the argument, tone of the argument, implications of the argument, etc.

    Reply

  24. George,

    About your most recent comment to Tony: this feeling you’re expressing is precisely the feeling that Dean Goodman was expressing when he wrote this article. It is a feeling that Episcopalians/Anglicans are frequently left with because we are committed to living in tension rather than making an error that will harm someone (I know Roger thinks it’s an abusive relationship akin to underpowered women shacked up with violent men – which isn’t so great if you’re the woman, but is pretty sweet if you’re the man, but I digress) or that will violate the sanctity of Scripture or tradition.

    Here is what I think. You express a fear about carrying some of the objections expressed here out to their logical ends. I agree, in fact, some of the hypothetical questions I have brought up are seriously flawed simply because they can be carried logically to a place where nobody wants to go. Something else bothers me more, however. Simply, we are having this conversation because there has always been a good bit of allowing culture to shape Christianity. This was the point I brought up about women’s suffrage, but I think it was lost. Our ideas of women, their role in ministry, their fitness to lead, etc. has changed in the church, because there has been major cultural upheaval over the issue (and rightly so). Additionally, the shift in the larger Christian community (some of which is still resistant to women) did not occur until the culture shifted. So, my underlying concern is that there is a traceable tradition within the church, especially the western church, where the culture has had a great influence on how we express Christianity. It’s the form vs. function argument. I think the church moves with the culture because it has to – we run into trouble when we treat the function like it is the form. I think I am just trying to work out (in this issue and others) where the form ends and the function begins. I am not sure if this helps you understand my position any. If nothing else, it at least functions as a friendly cease fire, right?

    Blessings to you,

    Shawn

    (By the way, no one is in danger of wearing out their welcome in my opinion)

    Reply

  25. Shawn:

    I appreciate what you say about the relationship of church and culture.

    One observation and one concern:

    The observation is that Christian marriage (lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous union) has proved remarkably resilient across history and culture. I’d be loath to give that up as a moral norm, not merely because its biblical, but also because it has resisted contrary (and dangerous) cultural tides and also because it has shaped a culture that more nearly approaches an equality of the sexes than anything else. In other words, and somewhat counterintuitively, the best way to advance modern culture’s value of equality is through marriage traditionally conceived.

    The concern is that your remarks seem to me to treat culture as an almost autonomous value around which we must bend, rather than as–in Andy Crouch’s words–what we make of life. Our culture–through its sexual practices, laws, etc.–is deeply committed to a basically unlimited abortion regime. Do we bend around this or do we change it? Similarly with homosexuality, do we bend around it or do we change it?

    George

    Reply

  26. Hi, folks–

    This discussion is fascinating to me on several levels. For one, I too am a white male twentysomething from the Midwest who attends seminary, grew up evangelical, reads books by people like Hauerwas and NT Wright, drinks beer and smokes pipes, etc., etc. Maybe y’all have attempted to deconstruct all that somewhere on the site, and if so I’d be very interested to read it. There’s obviously some sort of aesthetic, or sensibility, or identity at work here that I’m just as much a part of as you are. What does it mean? What do we owe to what we “emerged” from, do we really see ourselves as having emerged or gone “beyond” it in some fashion (e.g., “post-evangelical” or “post” something), and if so what are we “emerging” into? Are we appropriately self-aware about all of this? How are we being shaped ecclesially? Not sure yet on all of this myself. But I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Second, I’m also an Episcopalian, and became one in college. (I was raised in a small, bible-only denomination.) For me, the attractions were several: The hermeneutic need I eventually perceived to read Scripture with the church and in the context of tradition, worship, and prayer; the historicity and catholicity of a church that understood itself as materially carrying on the apostolic faith and order through time and space; the confessional reticence that saw itself as subscribing to the faith once delivered to the saints but not as bound by a timeless, ahistorical propositional statement. Would I be right in guessing that many of you were attracted by the same things?

    Third, although I’m well aware that I’ve reacted in several ways against the evangelicalism of my upbringing, I’ve also reacted in at least as many if not more ways against the Protestant liberalism I’ve encountered in the Episcopal Church. That is, basically, what I see as its tendencies toward radical revision of the creedal faith (e.g., Spong, Borg, Sauls, Pike, et al), and a radical theological incoherence and confusion that winds up being celebrated as a virtue (e.g., of “comprehensiveness,” or “mystery,” or “anti-foundationalism,” or something like that). So, basically, if I’m critical of several facets of my evangelical upbringing, I’m just as critical if not more so of much of what I’ve encountered in the Episcopal Church. I don’t want to wind up like Karen Armstrong or someone like that, and just wave my hands around about the great grand mystery of it all, while surreptitiously my positions are dictated by the American polis and secular culture.

    That brings me to some finer-grained points. Tony, I too am a great fan of MacIntyre, Hauerwas, David Bentley Hart, and etc. In fact I just took a class last semester on philosophical theology w/ Hauerwas (I’m at Duke), and we were assigned all the classic stuff on non-foundationalism, e.g. Wolterstoff, MacIntyre, Bruce Marshall, Lindbeck, etc. But here’s the thing that Hauerwas would warn you about, like one of the commenters here did: Don’t fall into the trap of liberal Protestant (Tillich et al) “correlationalism,” where the dialectic is between the “timeless truths” of God on the one hand and the “changing circumstances” of the “human sciences” or “history” or “culture” on the other hand. The cart pulling the horse there turns out to be America, way more often than not. We’re going to have to read Newman, Hauerwas, Hays, NT Wright, and Radner and think more carefully about our ecclesiology and the place of Scriptural authority within it.

    Finally, the ECUSA General Convention stuff. Basically, as you’d expect from what I’ve already said here, I’m very, very skeptical of attempts by some Episcopalians to turn radical incoherence and confusion into some sort of virtue, whether it’s “the ambiguity of where we are now” or “living into the tension” or the “mystery of being Church” or “walking together in mission, no matter what” or something like that. At the end of the day: What’s holding us together here? By what authority are we taking our decisions? The basic flaw here is to attempt to create a Hegelian tertium quid, whereby there’s a dialectic set up between contradictory theological positions, so that as such we’re held together by the promise of a truth that somehow will transcend them all. But what are the loci for that truth? What’s our authority? And wouldn’t Feuerbach take one look at all of this, laugh, and say that he was right all along?

    Anyhow, thanks for bearing with me, if you read all of that. This really is a great blog. I just discovered it this morning, and I’ll be checking back regularly.

    Peace,
    Jordan

    Reply

  27. Ok, so I just looked through the site a bit more, and it looks like you have indeed addressed some of the stuff I asked about (the Bible, for instance). Of course I’d still be interested to hear more of your thoughts, or have you direct me to stuff you’ve written.

    I also notice that y’all are big Harry Potter fans. I approve of this.

    JLH

    Reply

  28. Jordan,

    Indeed, welcome to the blog!

    What you said pretty much sums it up for me so I’m not sure how to respond except that I am glad you found the blog. How did you find it by the way?

    The main difference between me and you seems to be that you are doing graduate studies, and I have only read some books. I will of course be pursuing my graduate studies, but my life has been in a different order than the typical, so I am only just finishing my BA. So it is likely you will find plenty of holes and juvenile assertions in my posts, so I welcome your critiques.

    Keep having fun at Duke!

    Reply

  29. Thanks for the welcome, folks. I ran across the site while trolling around for new stuff on the General Convention. And no worries about holes or juvenile assertions or anything like that– I’m very far from being an expert on anything. But that’s what blogs like this are for, in part, I’d say. Better to argue things out in a place like this first before we’re tossed out into the real world!

    Btw, yeah, Duke’s an amazing place. I’d recommend it for anyone thinking about going on for grad school or seminary. I feel blessed to be here every day.

    Reply

  30. It seemed to me that the gauntlet was being tossed down by James when he stated, “Like the message above (which I see is too good for anyone to fight over) . . .”

    I seldom ever pass up such a great opportunity to start a “fight.” 🙂

    But, I do love you guys (especially my sons-in-law)!

    I have been at the NM District Campground in the mountains with no internet connection since Thursday. It seems that you guys solved all of the world’s problems while I was away. Great job!

    Reply

  31. Jordan wrote:
    …I’m also an Episcopalian, and became one in college. (I was raised in a small, bible-only denomination.)…

    RESPONSE:
    Welcome to my friends’ house!
    🙂

    Question:
    Does anyone ever say anything like, “I just got saved at the Episcopal church”?
    …or perhaps, “I just got saved and joined the Episcopal church”?

    Reply

  32. When I was baptized, it was into the “holy catholic church” even though it took place at a Southern Baptist Church and was performed by a Southern Baptist preacher.

    Reply

  33. I was confirmed. No re-baptism was required. In fact, I don’t think that even the Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox require re-baptism unless it wasn’t into the Trinity

    Reply

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