Monday, April 24, 2006

Request for General Convention

An Arkansas witness worth sharing:

Dear General Convention Deputy:

The Vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas, would like to share with you the following resolution, passed unanimously following a seven-month parish-wide process of study, prayer, and conversation.

The Vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church expresses its support for our church's offering of a rite of blessing as a resource for pastoral care for our gay and lesbian members who wish to make a lifelong, loving commitment of mutual fidelity as a couple. By this resolution we communicate our position to our clergy, our Bishop and the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

In the spirit of the House of Bishop's moratorium on new rites of blessing, we have not performed any covenant ceremonies, but we would like for you to take into consideration our congregation's desire to offer that form of pastoral care for our members when you attend the upcoming General Convention.

Ours is a growing and vital parish, the second largest in Arkansas. Our worship attendance is rising and this year's pledges to our Stewardship Campaign increased 15% over the previous year's income. We are in a college town, and we believe that the spirituality of our community is reflected in our statement. If we were located in another community, we imagine that our pastoral needs might be expressed differently.

Please accept our invitation to get to know us better at our web site. We have recognized a holiness of life in the relationships of our own gay couples, and we would like to celebrate and bless their lifelong commitments.

We hope that you will help the General Convention find a way to allow our church to promote commitments of loving fidelity while retaining our bonds of affection, communion and respect for those who will disagree with our theology.

Faithfully,
John Lewis, Senior Warden
Christine Cook, Junior Warden
The Rev. Lowell Grisham, Rector

19 comments:

Fred said...

Here is the same comment I posted under this article on Titusonenine:

Kudos to St. Paul’s, especially for their process…a seven month long series of study, prayer and conversation!! Once the stories of gays and lesbians in this church are made known, it is next to impossible to exclude them from all the rites made available to everyone.

As for their hoped outcome of church growth…just look at All Saints Church in Pasadena, Ca where the blessing of unions has taken place since 1991. That parish grows by leaps and bounds due to their boldy proclaimed inclusive theology.

Doug said...

Before I moved from Fayetteville, I was a member of St. Paul's. It is one of the most vibrant, friendly, servant-based communities I know of. They don't just talk the talk-they walk the walk, as well. They run so many programs to help out the poor and under priveledged in Northwest Arkansas. I feel so priveledged to have been a part of this vital community for almost three years. I also wish that all congregations could face this issue as they have, by sitting down in a non-threatening manner with the whole parish to find common ground. Thank you so much Lowell Grisham and St. Paul's Fayetteville.

Anonymous said...

St Paul's, Fayetteville, to the Anglican Communion: "Pound sand!"

revsusan said...

anonymous,

Help me here. Where is "pound sand" to be found in "We hope that you will help the General Convention find a way to allow our church to promote commitments of loving fidelity while retaining our bonds of affection, communion and respect for those who will disagree with our theology."

????????????

It seems to me that the problem right now are those drawing LINES in the sand saying, "our way or the highway" insisting that ECUSA take that now famous "U-turn" and abandon its commitment to the inclusive Gospel as the price for staying in communion with them.

That's not communion -- it's coercion.

Anonymous said...

Susan+, to a degree I am tempted to say that if I have to explain to you that this request is a poke in the eye to the larger Anglican Communion, then you won’t understand my explanation. But I will try anyway.

If you take the resolution of Lambeth 1998, 1.10, the Windsor Report, and the Primates’ Communiqué from Dromantine last year, it is clear that the conviction of much of the Anglican Communion that homosexual activity is wrong and that is wrong for professing Christians to engage in sexual activity with members of their own sex. It is also clear that the Primates and other leaders of the Anglican Communion are asking ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada to refrain from consecrating bishops who are in a sexual relationship with members of their own sex and to refrain from liturgies purporting to bless such relationships. It should be clear to anyone with a high school diploma what the major thrust of these communications is.

It is of course true that Lambeth, the Primates, and the Anglican Consultative Council have no canonical authority over ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. We are not linked by formal, contractual relationships, but by a common history, highly similar governmental structures, and “bonds of affection.” ECUSA is free to do what it pleases.

The response of much of the leadership of ECUSA has been to downplay Lambeth 1.10, the WR, and the Primates’ Communiqué, and in particular to read the Communiqué like Philadelphia lawyers. ECUSA’s leadership also seems to regard these documents as the starting place for negotiation, not as a firm word from their fellow Christians. There has been a lot of talk of “they don’t understand our polity,” and “they do not recognize our context.”

It is clear what the broad intent of the leaders of the Anglican Communion want from ECUSA and Canada. This letter from a parish basically says, “Hang what the Communion wants; do what we ask.”

As I said above, ECUSA is free to do what it pleases, but so are the other churches of the Anglican Communion. And they are free (as some have done already) to break with ECUSA if ECUSA continues in the same direction it has been headed since it began ordaining non-celibate homosexuals. From your perspective, they are wrong in their views about sexuality, and wrong about what ties us together. But suppose they are right, and their view of the nature and principles of interpretation of Scripture are correct? You should at least admit that the conservative leaders of the Communion are being consistent in their beliefs and actions. Even Abp Williams does not support what ECUSA and Canada are doing, even if (based on some earlier writings) he is personally in favor of regularizing homosexuality – for Abp Williams wants the theological arguments to be persuasively made, and for the majority of the Communion to be persuaded by argument, not by “facts on the ground.”

Their request is not coercion. It is a statement simply saying, "If you do this, then, to be consistent with our beliefs about God, we will do that." It is not a threat; it is a promise.

This letter from a parish requesting rites to bless what heretofore has been regarded as disobedience to the will of God is a request to ignore the request of Anglican Communion leaders – and so I say this letter (in very polite language) says, “Go pound sand.”

jg6544 said...

"Their request is not coercion. It is a statement simply saying, "If you do this, then, to be consistent with our beliefs about God, we will do that." It is not a threat; it is a promise."

In other words, "our way or the highway, but we're not trying to coerce you or anything like that".

Anonymous said...

jg, it is somewhat like a wife telling her adulterous husband, "If you persist in your affair, I will divorce you." She may want to be married to her husband, but unless he is willing to cease breaking his marriage vows, she cannot be married to him.

jg6544 said...

"jg, it is somewhat like a wife telling her adulterous husband, "If you persist in your affair, I will divorce you." She may want to be married to her husband, but unless he is willing to cease breaking his marriage vows, she cannot be married to him. "

So she's trying to coerce him into changing his behavior, is that what you're saying?

But the analogy is flawed for another reason, the conclusions we reach about human sexuality and the place of homosexuals in our society and our church in this country have absolutely no effect whatsoever on other countries or on other Anglican churches in those countries. So it's not as though we were doing harm to the other "spouse". It's more like kicking your kid brother out of the house because he's decided to go out for baseball instead of football as you did.

Anonymous said...

I hope this is a better anaolgy: Abraham Lincoln was debating someone (or so the story is told) and asked him the question, "If you call the tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?"

The other man said, "Five." Lincoln responded, "No, four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg."

In some ways, we are debating definitions -- reappraisers say that living the Christian faith can include sexual activity between members of the same sex. Reasserters (the majority of the Commninion) say that it does not, and can not.

It is not a matter of coercion, it is a matter of acting in accord with what God has revealed in his Word. Reapraisers want to change what God has revealed; reasserters say that you cannot do so, any more than you can add a fifth leg to a dog by calling the tail a leg.

jg6544 said...

"reappraisers say that living the Christian faith can include sexual activity between members of the same sex. Reasserters (the majority of the Commninion) say that it does not, and can not."

Reappraisers, to use your term, say that evolutionary theory explains how human beings came to be; reasserters prefer to rely on one or the other creation myth in Genesis to explain something neither explains. The list goes on and on.

"it is a matter of acting in accord with what God has revealed in his Word."

It hasn't been revealed to me in the Bible or anywhere else that I should be condemned to a life of celibacy, for which I am patently unsuited, or be faced to find human companionship and sexual relations in ways I consider disugusting. Maybe that has been revealed to you, but not to me.

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jon said...

Actually, the self-understanding of the Windsor Report looks more like the beginning of negotiations than a set of final demands and the ABC's vision for the upcoming Lambeth Conference is along the same lines, so perhaps TEC isn't so far wrong in treating it like part of a long process.

Jon

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Anonymous -

Would you then say that nothing ever changes? I know I keep using the same arguments, but they are effective. 50 years ago, the "reasserters" said you couldn't ordain women because scripture said so. They have now "reappraised" their position and decided that maybe its ok after all (at least the reasserters in this country - and somehow they justify making bedfellows of reasserters in other countries that don't uphold the same position and haven't reappraised that position yet).

I don't get it? Are you saying that the Spirit only guides us forward when you hear her, and that none of the rest of us are capable of hearing what she has in store for us? Help me understand.

Anonymous said...

JG, you say, “It hasn't been revealed to me in the Bible or anywhere else that I should be condemned to a life of celibacy, for which I am patently unsuited, or be faced to find human companionship and sexual relations in ways I consider disgusting. Maybe that has been revealed to you, but not to me.”

I am not claiming to have a private revelation that supercedes anyone else’s knowledge of God and his will. I am simply saying that God has revealed himself, through the prophets and apostles, his character, his will, his purpose for human beings, his description of the human condition, and his remedy for our plight – for we are fallen into rebellion against him, even though we were created to know, love, and serve him. God, in his gracious mercy, has revealed himself to us, so that we can come to him in faith and repentance, and grow into a life that reflects the character of the Lord Jesus. (See Articles VI-XII and XIX and XX in the Thirty-Nine Articles).

When Jesus taught, he often said, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear.” Not everyone will understand what God has taught us, at least not necessarily at first. My approach to interpretation is what I have heard called the “historical-grammatical method,” which asks two basic questions: 1) What does the text actually say, in its most natural sense? (One of course takes genre into account – poetry, prophecy, story, and exposition are of course understood differently). 2) What is the setting in which the text was originally written? What were the concerns, questions, social environment, etc?

I have been ferociously challenged by Scripture, and only my commitment to conform my life to what Jesus teaches (ALL of what he teaches – both in the Gospels and through the Epistles) has induced me to change, and it has only been by the support of the Christian community and the power of the Holy Spirit that I have been able to grow and change. Do you want to know what Jesus teaches about sexual behavior, or do you want to be confirmed in what seems easiest to you to live with?

When I read what you wrote in your last paragraph, I remembered a passage in CS Lewis’ “The Great Divorce.” On pages 70 and 98-105 (of the MacMillan paperback edition of 1946) there is a description of a person in the grip of unhealthy sensuality, and of that person’s rescue. It says better than I could what I am convinced is true about unbiblical expressions of sexuality, and what can and does happen when a person is willing to make the hard choices involved in living into God’s plan for our sexual lives.

P.S. With regard to Genesis 1-3: nearly all reappraisers are evolutionists, but reasserters are a far more diverse group. Some are six (twenty-four hour) day creationists. Some are theistic evolutionists. Some (like me) are old-earth creationists, believing that the process of creation was long and involved but also under God’s intimate supervision. Most of us believe that there is a great deal that Gen. 1-3 does not tell us, but what these chapters say are accurate representations of critical events in human history.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, regarding women and ordination -- what Scripture says about women and ministry is complex. Some reasserters think that the Bible does permit women to be ordained, although there were some situations (the one in Corinth) in which it was not right. Others believe that women belong in ministry, but not ordained ministry.

But regardless of where reasserters come down on the ordination of women, they acknowledge that what Scripture says about women and ministry is mixed. On the other hand, what Scripture says about homosexual BEHAVIOR is universally negative. The OT, Jesus, and the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 all reject "porneia," sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. Those who say that God approves of homosexual sexual activity have to either argue that the Bible does not count or they have to interpret the Bible in ways that stand the natural sense of the passages on its head.

The Holy Spirit is consistent in what he has revealed. We, on the other hand, can waver, according to the various social pressures and selfish desires we may be subject to.

By the way, are you aware that William Wilberforce, who labored for years to end slavery in the British Empire (at first all alone), was a man who believed in the complete authority and reliability of Scripture?

jg6544 said...

" I am simply saying that God has revealed himself, through the prophets and apostles, his character, his will, his purpose for human beings, his description of the human condition, and his remedy for our plight – for we are fallen into rebellion against him, even though we were created to know, love, and serve him. "

I don't dispute that, I simply don't find, as you do, that that revelation precludes gay men or lesbians from knowing, loving, and serving him, without having to repent for something they have no reason to repent of.

Tell me, do you believe that God would make a "helper and partner" for people like me knowing that the "helper and partner" was so utterly WRONG that filling the "helper and partner" role was utterly impossible for her?

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Anonymous -

I think we can agree on one thing: it is complex.

Grant me this, then, that you judge not lest you be judged. I know that you believe my sexual orientation to be my sin (actually, if I understand you right, you don't even think my orientation is a sin but somehow separate my orientation from the act of having sex outside of relationship, something I don't engage in anyway). I believe that I am a sinner, but I do not believe that my sexual orientation is among my sins.

I am sure, would that I knew you in person, that I might be able to form many opinions about what your sins are, and they might be different from your own assessment of what they are. Its just not my job as your fellow Christian, as your fellow human, to point your sins out to you or to sit in judgement of you. Why then do you feel entitled to do that to me, and to jg, and to the rest of us in the LGBT community?

There are so many opportunities to love and serve together- why, then, are the orthodox so insistent on having their way of judgement on this issue?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I do not think that I am judging you. I am simply saying what I am convinced (and I am not all alone in having this conviction) Scripture says. If the law of the state forbids shoplifting, it is not judgmental to say that shoplifting is illegal. I am not picking you out, and I am not saying that I am perfect, since I know full well that I am not.

I do not think that having an attraction to members of your own sex is inherently sinful. None of us chooses the areas that are the strongest temptations to us. But we can choose what to do about our temptations. Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery, and he told her to give up that sin.

I take care to be part of two small groups where the members have permission to tell me where I am sinning, whether or not I can see those sins. I depend upon their honesty and their prayers to grow in obedience. That is one reason why Jesus tells us to be in fellowship with one another. If you and I knew each other "in real time," I would seek to deal with you as transparently as possible, because I would need your insights to help me grow.

Anonymous said...

JG, you say, "Tell me, do you believe that God would make a 'helper and partner' for people like me knowing that the 'helper and partner' was so utterly WRONG that filling the 'helper and partner' role was utterly impossible for her?"

I have been talking theology, which one might say is "wholesale." You are asking me what I perceive to be pastoral care, which is individual and "retail," although with theological foundations. Romans 1 speaks of same-sex sexual activity being a product of human falleness. It does not say that those who engage in same-sex sexual activity chose to be attracted to members of their own sex; it is simply how humanity's fall into sin has affected that particular person. We all have areas where we are tempted to distrust and disobey God.

But the whole point of Jesus coming was to redeem us from sin, so that the effects of the Fall would be done away with -- partially in this life, and altogether in the coming fullness of Christ's kingdom.

God is not asking you to lust after women instead of men -- or a man in particular. He is asking you to give your sexuality into his hands and, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, to forgo sexual activity with members of your own sex. (Any progress in greater obedience to God's design is not solely individual; one reason God created the Church was so that brothers and sisters could help one another -- through openness, accountability, and prayer -- to forgo what God forbids and to grow in what God desires.)

God can provide opportunities for emotional closeness to others; you do not need to give up intimacy if you give up sexual relations.

Of course, you will not believe me, most likely. Many people with same-sex attractions have prayed to have the attraction taken away, and have not seen that prayer answered, and then given up. But God can and does enable people to be chaste -- almost always as they are willing to be utterly transparent to him and to a small group of other Christians who are also seeking to grow in obedience.

St Augustine used to pray, "God, make me chaste -- but not yet!" Such is the difficulty with sin in general, and sexual sin in particular. We have a hard time believing that anything God wants us to do will feel as good as sex. St Augustine finally discovered that being in God's will was the most satisfyign thing ever.