Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Idol of Clarity

A quick report at the end of a long night of open hearings on the resolutions regarding our response to the Windsor Report. "Clarity" seemed to be the word of the day ... something both Martyn Minns and David Anderson have told me is what they are asking for out of this convention ... and (speaking of clarity) it becomes more and more clear that nothing short of complete "compliance" with the Windsor Report will be sufficient for those insisting that have sole possession of absolute truth.

That being said, here's the testimony offered to the committee:

The opinion of the Bishop of Durham notwithstanding the Windsor Report offers recommendations and invitations -- not ultimatums.

I ask the committee to remember in their deliberations that this report was created without consultation with, contribution by or participation in by a single openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person -- and that the 30-year promise to listen to the witness of gay and lesbian persons continues to go unfullfilled. There is is much to regret in our Anglican family -- and the continued silencing of gay and lesbian voices in the wider communion dialogue must be on the list. We have much work to do -- and we cannot faithfully do that work by making an idol of "clarity" as we seek the mind of God on these complex issues. Let us reject the implication that we are at a "Deal or No Deal" moment in the Anglican Communion.

Rather, I propose we allow
A159 to stand as our best offering to balance our autonomy as a church and our interdependence as a communion and discharge the resolutions before us tonight.

23 comments:

Milton said...

Rev. Susan, with all respect for you as one for whom Jesus also died on the cross, we reasserters do not think we are the sole possessors of truth. Nor do we think we "possess" truth. Rather, the Truth who is Jesus, the Son of God made man,possesses us as bondslaves of Christ, who in His grace and boundless mercy yet says,"You are My friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have Heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15: 14-15)

Jesus did not set aside the other Commandments when He stated the two greatest Commandments. See Matthew 19: 16-21 Of course, it is impossible for us to keep the Commandments in our own strength or goodness, only in His grace. "With men it (salvation) is impossible. But with God all things are possible."

For an example of being possessed by the Truth, who is not surpassed by Scripture but who can only be known through Scripture with meaning revealed by the Holy Spirit...
Hebrews 4: 12-16 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

Jim Strader said...

Milton - The sharp and active edge of the Gospel is to love (respect, honor, abide) with one's neighbors. Jesus' teachings, as portrayed in the parable of the Good Samaritan and the parable of the Great banquet, suggests to me that the love of God and the love of neighbor (especially the neighbor we despise) have precedence in God's domain. Jesus' commandment for compassion in the synoptic Gospels seems to be much closer to the truths Jesus taught as compared to the latter messianic texts of the Epistle to the Hebrews and Gospel of John.

Walter Maner said...

I value the open dialogue found in this blog. The danger is always that we will favor association with those who share our opinions, and thereby stoke our idiosyncrasies. It is no surprise the communion and communication have the same root.

Hearing the phrase "possessing the truth" made me realize how deeply suspicious I am of religious authority. But, here I am, listening to people with varying degrees of authority offer their point and counterpoint. Maybe it will be a correction to my own inbred beliefs *smile*. Why am I suspicious? My experience with organized religion began in the 1950s, in the deep south, where I heard countless sermons directed against the evils of women entering politics, interracial dating, and other hot-button issues that were probably far off God's radar. I am sorry to say that, after what seemed to be an avalanche of well-founded scriptural authority, I allowed myself to be duped by folks who were assertive, consistent and secure in their beliefs. I no longer take these dispositional traits as markers of validity; rather the opposite, which explains my suspicions. Anyhow ... what I hear from some authorities today about homosexuality is not so different from what I heard in the 1950s. The words are different, but the pattern and the process are the same.

My 2 cents worth: Christianity is, and must be, a mass medium, which means that its fundamental truths must be simple. It is not about point and counterpoint. Tell me about Jesus. What was important to Jesus? What would Jesus do? If that is your launching point, I welcome your ideas, however much they may differ from my own.

Anonymous said...

Susan

I think you have missed the point -- somewhat dramatically actually.

Perhaps it would be helpful if you could read and interact with this blog entry.

http://andrewplus.blogspot.com/2006/06/after-big-hearing-conversation-with.html

I look forward to your comments

revsusan said...

Milton -- with equal due respect, I was speaking of the testimony I have heard here in Columbus and expect to hear more of today, much of which is grounded in the deep, clear and (I believe) sincere conviction that there is only one "clear truth of scripture"(we heard that over and over) and that the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Body of Christ -- including the celebration of their relationshps and the affirmation of their vocations -- is outside the bounds of that truth. Period.

As for Jesus being "the Truth" on that we can agree -- +Gene in his remarks yesterday stated clearly that in the Episcopal Church the "gay agenda" IS Jesus -- the way, the truth and the life. That is the witness Integrity has been making in this church for the last 30 years and -- God willing -- the witness we will continue to make not only in this church and in this communion but to those outside the faith yearning to hear that God's abundant love is REALLY abundant enough to include them.

tony said...

But, Susan, I believe that you worship (I hope you worship Jesus, I say this in light of the Via Media curriculum that speaks of people making an idol out of Jesus) a Jesus of your own making. The Jesus of the gospels spoke often approvingly from the OT. He supported marriage between a man and a woman. In His fulfillment of the law He never said that the moral law of the OT was abrogated. To affirm a Jesus who is all loving (yes) and never judgemental toward sin (no) is not the Jesus of the gospels. To affirm a Jesus who calls us to love and we get to decide how to define that love (as in same sex unions) is not the Jesus of the gospels who upheld the Jewish law. Conduct is important in the Kingdom of God because is shows whether or not Jesus is genuinely Lord over us.

tony said...

And why is clarity bad? I love it when there is clarity in my relationshps with others. I love it when a speaker is clear. I love it when the gospel is faithfully proclaimed with clarity. Why would clarity be bad in our relations in the Anglican Communion. Isn't this call for murkiness akin to the old liberal game of using the same words but changing the meanings?

tony said...

btw - Susan, I appreciate the clarity that you bring in your advocacy of what you believe.

Okay, now I'm going to enjoy my day off. I'll be praying for you all at GC.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

It seems like the same ol' issues just keep coming up.

Jesus said to treat your slaves well, too. Does that mean that we should go out and get some slaves? Of course not. Our experience with the Spirit over the years has broadened our knowledge of God. It isn't a Jesus of our own making, it is a God that surpasses all understanding.

How can we, as humans, ever have clarity about something so infinitely bigger than us? We can't. But our knowledge continues to expand. That is the point. It's messy. It isn't clear. There aren't hard and fast rules because we can't absorb the whole truth- the truth is too big for us.

The fact that we can't get past this in the past few days has had an effect on me. Read about it here.

j

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we cannot have clarity about mysteries of God, but we can, and should, have clarity about our intentions.

If both sides in this "dialogue" allow a document to be produced that deliberately misleads, then God will not honor it. The resolutions as currently worded (which will not satisfy the conservatives and thus do little good) are clearly intended to imply a retreat, yet they are supported by those that have no intention of retreating. What ever happened to letting your yes be yes and your no be no? Whatever happened to standing up, with pride, for what you know to be true? What is worth more, the Truth or the ability to be part of the confederation we call the Anglican Communion?

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Anonymous -

I think that is exactly what we are trying to do- to stand up and say exactly what we mean.

The documents as worded may not satisfy conservatives but that is not the intent. The resolutions are not intended to "satisfy" anyone in particular but instead to give everyone comfort or not in our position. If it does not satisfy anyone then we will all know where we stand. (e.g. If we regret that we did not more fully consult, then the conservatives will have to decide how they feel about that, etc.)

To do anything else would be untrue to our convictions.

j

Anonymous said...

Susan

I know you are busy, but that link covers such extremely important points (which you are apparently totally unaware of) that you really do need to deal with it.

Otherwise you are fighting the wrong war. You may (as you predict above) win this battle, but what the heck when you don't even understand the larger war.

I'll send you the link again -- in case you just missed it- and you won't find anything disagreeable on the site to shatter your views. This Andrew is one of your fellow travellers.

http://andrewplus.blogspot.com/2006/06/after-big-hearing-conversation-with.html

Moderator said...

Anonymous of 1:23 -

Please understand that Susan is in the middle of General Convention. She also has an appearance on Larry King live in several hours.

I'm sure she would love to respond to your question/issue, however she is extremely busy at the moment. Perhaps after GC is over she will be able to more fully address the point.

Further questions on the topic will be left pending moderation until Susan has a chance to catch her breath.

Thanks,

Moderator of Inch at a Time

Lorian said...

Originally posted by Tony: "To affirm a Jesus who calls us to love and we get to decide how to define that love (as in same sex unions) is not the Jesus of the gospels who upheld the Jewish law."

Tony, I have a couple of issues with this statement.

1. Jesus, in fact, did not, according to the Gospels, "uphold the Jewish law." He healed on the Sabbath; he permitted his disciples to eat with unwashed hands, and to harvest grain for their consumption on the Sabbath; he touched lepers; he ate with sinners; he stopped the execution of a woman caught in adultery. The epistles make very clear that Jesus did not come to uphold the law but to take its place.

2. Additionally, the very question you have raised here assumes that the "law" addresses the issue of loving, committed, monogamous relationships between same-gender-oriented people. I dispute this claim vehemently.

J.C. Fisher said...

But, Susan, I believe that you worship (I hope you worship Jesus, I say this in light of the Via Media curriculum that speaks of people making an idol out of Jesus) a Jesus of your own making.

Tony, I appreciate this comment, as it has so much, well, clarity about the dilemma facing TEC.

It is precisely the reasserters (many of them) who, I believe, worship a "Jesus of their own making" (in fact, I call that one "GeeZus", to distinguish this idol clearly).

Loyal Episcopalians, in contrast---while mediating the Biblical Jesus through Tradition and Reason, of course---have (again, in my opinion) stayed more faithful to the Second Person of the Trinity.

In short, then, the dilemma:

"We're Christians, you're idolaters!"

"No, we're Christians, you're idolaters!"


And the Law of the Playground prevails. :-/

So, how do we get out of this mess?*

Maybe---the only possible answer, really---"the way out, is through."

That is, we go through the pain of our mutual mistrust. By staying together. Weeping together. Praying together...

...never being quite sure that the person praying next to us, is praying to the same "Jesus", or "GeeZus", as we are.

In facing our uncertainty over our neighbor---the neighbor we KNOW is made in the Image of God, we KNOW Christ died to save---we can face our own uncertainties as well.

And leave them at the Foot of the Cross.

Begging the Lord's Mercy.

Which is THE only answer.

God bless!

[* A mess, you'll note, that really has exactly ZERO to do w/ "homosexuality"]

tony said...

J.C., you seem to be suggesting that reasserters are not loyal Episcopalians. I am a cradle Episcopalian who has sought to remain loyal to a church that has been in free fall for over 40 years. I hope that you will learn to be more respectful to those who have stayed loyal to ecusa throught the vicissitudes of the church throughout most of our lives.

tony said...

Lorian: Jesus, in fact, did not, according to the Gospels, "uphold the Jewish law." He healed on the Sabbath; he permitted his disciples to eat with unwashed hands, and to harvest grain for their consumption on the Sabbath; he touched lepers; he ate with sinners; he stopped the execution of a woman caught in adultery. The epistles make very clear that Jesus did not come to uphold the law but to take its place.

Lorian, I know that this is one of the latest talking points of the left, but let's take a critical look at this. You say Jesus did not uphold the Jewish law and that Jesus came to replace the law.

Yet, Jesus said "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever relaxs one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men to do so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (mt. 5:17ff.)

Jesus doesn't seem to agree with you.

Jesus not only upholds the law, he intensifies it (e.g. adultery and thoughts, murder and thoughts). He doesn't uphold the Pharasaical understanding of the law; He does uphold the law. Are you familiar with the term antinomian?

tony said...

Lorian: Additionally, the very question you have raised here assumes that the "law" addresses the issue of loving, committed, monogamous relationships between same-gender-oriented people. I dispute this claim vehemently.


Of course you do. But self-justifying exegesis of Scripture is not exegesis at all.

J.C. Fisher said...

I'm a cradle Episcopalian too, Tony.

...but that "church that has been in free fall for over 40 years" you spoke of, is EXACTLY the Body of Christ which formed me.

Again, the dilemma: who's loyal? Who's respectful?

It's easy to say "Nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah, nyaaaaaah, nyah! I'm right, you're wrong!"

Staying together, and loving each other---for Christ's sake---is hard...

[And frankly, it's just about IMPOSSIBLE to do over the internet. If we were together, incarnationally, then I could share the Kiss of Peace w/ you. As it is, I profoundly HOPE we will still have that chance, someday. God bless!]

Lorian said...

Ah, Tony, I'm so glad you brought up antinomianism! :)

Here's an interesting quote from Elie Wiesel that I think applies quite well to the discussion of gay rights and gay marriage:

"By raising segregation and racial persecution to the ethical level of law, it puts into practice the antinomian rules of Orwell's world. Evil becomes good, inhumanity is interpreted as charity, egoism as compassion."

Do you see the parallel, or shall I draw it out more specifically? ;-)

As far as Jesus and the Law, I think he made it quite clear that the Law he was concerned about was the Law of God, not the detailed intricacies of the "holiness codes" and traditions as observed by pharasaical types:

Matthew 15:
" 1Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2"Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
3Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, 'Honor your father and mother'[a] and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'[b] 5But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' 6he is not to 'honor his father[c]' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'[d]"


If Jesus was so concerned about homosexually-oriented people living in covenantal relationships with one another, why did he not address this during his time on earth?

tony said...

Yes, Lorian that's an interesting quote from Weisel. Please do tease out the meaning of it from your perspective.

Lorian, I somewhat agree with you on this: "As far as Jesus and the Law, I think he made it quite clear that the Law he was concerned about was the Law of God, not the detailed intricacies of the "holiness codes" and traditions as observed by pharasaical types:"

However, Jesus did not abrogate the moral law of the OT.

Whyd didn't Jesus speak about homosexuality? He didn't need to; it was a settled question, as was bestiality and many other sins that Jesus didn't mention. Jesus did affirm in the Gospel of Mark that marriage is between a man and a woman.

tony said...

J.C., the Episcopal Church formed me as well, which is why many of us have stayed with it. However, as we have seen over the last three years, ecusa is part of a larger entity and it is not right that we thumb our noses at the rest of the Anglican Communion or act as if we have no need of them.

Lorian said...

Tony says: "Yes, Lorian that's an interesting quote from Weisel. Please do tease out the meaning of it from your perspective."

Okey dokey. The Wiesel quote again:

""By raising segregation and racial persecution to the ethical level of law, it puts into practice the antinomian rules of Orwell's world. Evil becomes good, inhumanity is interpreted as charity, egoism as compassion."

In other words (and with specific application to the treatment of GLBT persons in our society), by raising segregation and discrimination to the "ethical level of law" (e.g., making laws and constitutional amendments which deprive or obstruct GLBT persons from equal civil rights in society, whether those be marriage rights, adoption rights, or the right to not be imprisoned for one's orientation), "it puts into practice the antinomian rules of Orwell's world. Evil becomes good, inhumanity is interpreted as charity, egoism as compassion." Or, rather, "reparative therapy;" "love-the-sinner-but-hate-the-sin-style" ostracism and persecution; "separate-but-(un)equal-civil-rights" legislation;" "tough love" approaches whereby gays are "encouraged" to "become straight" by depriving them of rights, liberties, church fellowship, familial love; the imposition of criminal penalties for those in homosexual relationships; all of these are somehow seen as "extending compassion and Christian love to the homosexual." That kind of love I can live without, thanks very much.

Tony says: "However, Jesus did not abrogate the moral law of the OT.

"Whyd didn't Jesus speak about homosexuality? He didn't need to; it was a settled question, as was bestiality and many other sins that Jesus didn't mention. Jesus did affirm in the Gospel of Mark that marriage is between a man and a woman."


No, Jesus reinforced the importance of the Ten Commandments, although he said that all ten could be summed up in just two. He did not reinforce the keeping of codes such as making some people "untouchable," stoning people for moral offenses, or "kosher" cleanness.

As far as his "endorsement" of heterosexual marriage, he did no such thing. He spoke about marriage in terms of a man and a woman because heterosexuality was (and still is) the predominant sexual orientation. Because nearly everyone in Israel in Jesus' day married young as a matter of cultural expectation, whether they were heterosexual or not, committed primary relationships between same-gendered couples were relatively unknown in Jewish society in the first century CE. It would be unreasonable to expect that Jesus would use "gender-inclusive language" in his sermons about marriage, or to expect that, even if he did, such references would have survived the progression of oral tradition, transcription, and translation over the course of two millenia.