Thursday, May 04, 2006

Church Braces for Possible Election of Gay Bishop

From today's L.A. Times ... I'm just blown away by the desperate efforts of the schismatics to paint this election as the be-all and end-all of the communion! And language like "throwing a bomb into peace process" does nothing to advance the discourse and everything to further polarize and alienate those within the church AND to set back our evangelism efforts by speaking hate rather than proclaiming love.

"Church Braces for Possible Election of Gay Bishop"

The possible election this week of an openly gay bishop to lead a Bay Area diocese of the Episcopal Church would have repercussions likely to reverberate throughout the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

On Saturday representatives of parishioners and clergy of the Diocese of California, which is centered in San Francisco, will select their next bishop from among seven nominees, including two gays and one lesbian. However, leaders of rapidly growing churches in Africa, Asia and South America, which represent the vast majority of Anglicans, endorse traditional teachings on marriage and sexuality.

As a result, tensions over differing interpretations of scriptural teachings and homosexuality have pitted liberal Western parishioners against conservative African church members, and many church observers say the schism has taken on racial, as well as philosophical, overtones. In a break with policy, the U.S. Episcopal Church in 2003 for the first time consented to allow an openly gay man to be elected bishop.

The 2-million-member U.S. denomination has been bitterly divided over gay clergy ever since. Indeed, three Southern California Episcopal churches have pulled out of the Los Angeles Diocese and aligned themselves with a bishop in Uganda.

"What California decides will touch every Episcopalian," said gay ordination opponent Cynthia Brust, a spokeswoman for the American Anglican Council, which has 300 affiliated churches in the U.S."It's already been extremely painful for families who've been part of the Episcopal Church for generations: people who were married in it, who baptized their children in it, buried their dead in it," she said.

"To watch your church suddenly say, 'Anything goes,' is a horrifying thing," she added.

The Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, who was bishop of the Diocese of Newark in New Jersey before his retirement in 2000, said Brust misses the point."There's not a scientist in the world today who supports the idea that homosexuals are mentally ill or morally depraved," said Spong, a noted author and outspoken church leader on the subject. "So I'd rather see the church split. I have no desire to be a part of a homophobic church."

The Rev. Susan Russell, senior associate for parish life at the 4,000-member All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena and president of Integrity, a 30-year-old national gay and lesbian advocacy organization, would not go that far."I'm convinced the voters in San Francisco will listen to the Holy Spirit and not be compelled to elect a gay candidate out of political correctness, nor be afraid to elect a gay or lesbian if that is the right person," she said.

"I think it will grieve the heart of God if we can't work through our differences," she said. "A church that has held both Catholics and Protestants together for hundreds of years should be able to hold both gays and straights."

But for church members such as Paul Zahl, dean of the Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh, the election in 2003 of V. Gene Robinson as bishop in New Hampshire was a step away from biblical authority."The election of a gay bishop in California," he said, "would be an extraordinarily aggressive slap in the face of a conservative group that is getting smaller all the time in the United States."

Of the impending decision, he added: "They've been asked by people around the world — even by people who agree with them — to hold off on ordination of another gay, given the terrible tumult this caused three years ago. If they go ahead and do it anyway, it'll be like tossing a bomb into a peace process."

In the election to take place at Grace Cathedral atop San Francisco's Nob Hill, the new bishop would need a majority of votes from separate houses of electors — one of about 300 clergy, the other of about 400 parishioners — in the same ballot.The new bishop will replace the Rt. Rev. William Swing, who will retire in July.

The unusually large field of nominees includes the Rt. Rev. Mark Handley Andrus, Bishop Suffragan, of the Diocese of Alabama; the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, officer for congregational development, Diocese of California; the Rev. Jane Gould, rector of St. Stephen's Church, Lynn, Mass.; and the Rev. Bonnie Perry, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Chicago.Other candidates are the Rev. Donald Schell, rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco; the Rev. Canon Eugene Taylor Sutton, pastor of the National Cathedral in Washington; and the Very Rev. Robert V. Taylor, dean of St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle.

All have said they want to be considered on the basis of their qualifications, not their sexual orientation. The 27,000-member Bay Area diocese includes San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties.

The bishop-elect would still need to be confirmed at the denomination's once-every-three-years national gathering, to be held in Columbus, Ohio, in June."Whether or not we elect a gay or straight bishop here on Saturday, the question of full inclusion of gay and lesbians in the life of the church will not go away," said the Rev. John Kirkley, rector of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco."Eventually, one of them will be elected," he said. "Our general convention in June will have to deal with that reality, regardless of what happens."

By Louis Sahagun
Times Staff Writer
May 4, 2006


Anonymous said...

Matt Kennedy
Prophets of the "New Thing"
The Episcopal Church humbly tells everyone and anyone who will listen that when gathered together at Convention she hears directly from God. After she prays, she votes. And in the very act of coming to “democratic” decision “the Spirit” makes his will known to the world.

It is fascinating that God has chosen the Episcopal Church, of all places and people, as his primary revelatory vehicle to the modern world and even more fascinating that, by way of contrast with his past utterances through lesser vehicles (like the bible, tradition, the Church as a whole), God has chosen not to critique and challenge human social norms, but to embrace them.

It turns out that God’s new thing looks a lot like the world’s old thing. Whereas before God was not quite on board with things like gay sex and gnosticism, now he’s not only willing to give them the old college try, he’s ready to take the lead.

We know all of this because the Episcopal Church is “prophetic”.

What exactly do people mean when they say that something or someone is prophetic? We are familiar with the Old Testament prophets all the way up to John the Baptist and the New Testament prophets as well, like Agabus and Philip’s daughters, but what does it mean to be “prophetic” now?

Biblically speaking, prophecy generally falls into two categories: foretelling and forth-telling.

Foretelling prophecy reveals some future event or state of affairs before it comes to pass. Jeremiah, for example, was “foretelling” when he revealed the ultimate disastrous outcome of the Babylonian invasion of Judah before that outcome had come to pass.

Forth-telling prophecy on the other hand reveals, expounds, and/or proclaims divine truth in an eternal or lasting sense. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a great example. In one sermon Jesus revealed, proclaimed, and expounded divine law.

The truth revealed, expounded, or proclaimed can be “new” in the sense that it is new to the world (not to God) but it does not have to be.

A good preacher or teacher is standing in the “prophetic” office in so far as he or she is teaching divine truth even though it has usually already been revealed.

Equally, and still in the forth-telling sense, someone may speak prophetically when he or she applies divine truth (previously revealed or not) to contemporary circumstances. John the Baptist, for example, was prophetically forth-telling when he criticized Herod’s relationship with his brother's wife.

It is in that last sense, prophetic forth-telling, applying divine truth to contemporary circumstance, that the Episcopal Church claims to have received new revelation at General Convention 2003 and on that basis, to have taken “prophetic” action in confirming the election of VGR to the office of bishop.

But all of this talk of prophecy begs the question: by what standard? How are we supposed to know whether something is truly, “prophetic”?

It’s interesting to pose this question to ECUSAn hierarchs and Integrity apologists.

You’ll usually get something along the lines of, “When God’s people gather together Christ is present. We gathered at Convention and were moved through prayer and by the Holy Spirit who spoke through our democratic process, confirming VGR’s election and affirming our (non-celibate) homosexual brothers and sisters.”

I asked a friend who is very much in agreement with the outcome of GC2003 how the Church could possibly assent to such a dramatic change in doctrine by virtue of a vote of all things. I was told, and I quote: “With a great deal of deep prayer”.

General Convention, in other words, is God’s revelatory vehicle. Through it God speaks "prophetically."

But again, how do we know?

The bible, helpfully, provides two tests applicable to prophetic speech.

The first test applies primarily to foretelling prophecy. What is foretold must actually come true (Dt 18:21-22). Otherwise the prophecy is false as is the prophet.

The second test is applicable to both foretelling and forth-telling prophecy. This is the test of non-contradiction. Is what the “prophet” foretells or forth-tells in contradiction with what has already been revealed? (Dt. 13:1-5; Acts 17:11; Gal 1:6-9; 2nd Pet 2; 1st Jn 4:1-5:10; 2nd Jn 9)

The underlying assumption is that the eternal God who sees the end from the beginning does not change (Js 1:17). His Word, therefore, will never be overturned.

We need to be careful with this test. We are looking for bona fide contradictions not differences. The New Covenant is quite different from the Old Covenant. And yet they do not contradict each other. The purity and kingdom laws of Leviticus, for example, have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the new Temple, not overturned.

New prophecy may very well be quite different and quite new. God does apply his truth to every age. But it will not contradict what has been said before. God can do a new thing but his new thing won’t make his old thing out to be a lie.

And that’s the problem orthodox people have with GC2003. The confirmation of VGR’s election and the further promotion of homosexual behavior as good and blessed cannot represent new prophetic revelation precisely because it makes God’s previous revelation out to be a lie. It stands in direct contradiction to what he has already revealed to be true.

I know that this is an old point but I don’t think many revisionists really grasp the importance of it.

They prefer, it seems, to think of orthodox believers as modern-day Pharisees unable to see a new move of the Spirit.

In fact, Jesus’ primary critique of the Pharisees was not that they cared too much about the Law and not enough about the Spirit, but that their own teachings actually stood in contradiction to the Law (Mk 7). The Pharisees’ myopic focus on their own teachings and traditions over and above the true Word of God as revealed through Moses and the prophets blinded them to Jesus’ true identity and to the inherent consistency of his new proclamation with older revelation. Had they been devoted to revealed truth, they would have been far better suited to notice when the Truth was revealed.

Focus on the Word, study of the Word, a firm rootedness in the Word provides a believing community with the spiritual eyes to recognize a counterfeit.

In that sense, the Episcopal Church’s claim to possess “new” revelation that contradicts the old, is sadly symptomatic of a core spiritual blindness far more reminiscent of the Pharisees than the prophets.

Anonymous said...

"Focus on the Word, study of the Word, a firm rootedness in the Word provides a believing community with the spiritual eyes to recognize a counterfeit."

Exactly! That's why anyone who can read and understand doesn't set much store by the claim that homosexuality, homosexuals, or same-sex sexual relations are inherently sinful in all contexts.

Jake said...

And women must wear hats, I can stone to death my son for disobedience, God hates shrimp and calls bears to maul rude children.

One does grow weary of those who insist on using scripture to hide their own strong personal bias.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

For me, Faye, it is not about "knowing", as you put it, but about trusting that God has us on the right path. I don't know how we can call it faith if it is anything else.

I don't see a belief in the Bible as the literal and inerrant word of God as faith, but as a misdirected search for concrete answers due to a lack of trust because concrete answers can't always be found.

Anonymous said...

The confirmation of VGR’s election and the further promotion of homosexual behavior as good and blessed cannot represent new prophetic revelation precisely because it makes God’s previous revelation out to be a lie. It stands in direct contradiction to what he has already revealed to be true.

THIS - IS - A - LIE!!!

Spurious arguments, like Matt Kennedy's, do nothing to hide the fact that the "reasserters'" assertions are built upon prejudice . . . and nothing more.

Diktats that Scripture says what Kennedy, et al, CLAIM it says (or that you have "3500 years of Tradition!" on your side {snort}), isn't going to intimidate faithful Episcopalians (and, to be clear: Episcopalians being faithful Christians). We will follow the Holy Spirit (the one Kennedy so casually dismisses---as if the H.S. would refuse to respond to Episcopalians' prayers for clarity and discernment?), wherever the Spirit leads (a path---Via Crucis to be sure---on which we hope the rest of the Anglican Communion will join us).

God bless +Mark Andrus, and God bless the Episcopal Church! :-D