Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More on the "Spin Cycle"

The American Anglican Council has offered its response to the Special Commission Report declaring it "inadequate" because it "does not reflect the mind of the Anglican Communion with regard to these issues, nor does it comply with the spirit and word of the Windsor Report or the Primates’ Communiqué."

No surprises here -- just more of the rhetoric we've seen since 2003 insisting that the criteria for our being in communion is capitulation to their demands that we pass the narrow, sola scriptura litmus test they have been diligently working to bait-and-switch with the traditional Anglican approach to Biblical authority grounded in Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

Never mind that voices from around the Anglican Communion continue to advocate for listening and dialogue in spite of our differences --

Never mind that Archbishop Eames is on record in saying that ECUSA has not only met but exceeded the recommendations of the Windsor Report --

And -- perhaps most disturbing of all -- never mind that facts getting in the way of the "spin du jour" are cavalierly re-written. Case in point?

From the AAC Commentary on the Special Commission Report: Based on the commission’s theological foundation and the need for a new consensus, the report does not call for a moratorium on consecrations of non-celibate homosexuals; rather, the committee urges only “the exercise of very considerable caution” with regard to the election and consecration of an individual “living in a same gender union” (Paragraph 51 and Resolution A161).

From what Resolution A161 actually SAYS: … we urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.

As a careful reader would get from the spliced citation, the report does NOT say that any special caution needs to be exercised with respect to candidates for bishop "living in a same gender union"; it says that we need to exercise caution with respect to ANY "manner of life" presenting a challenge.

Further, while it DOES list as an example of that a bishop who cannot be a pastoral leader to all in the diocese or is compromised in her/his ability to strive for justice for and respect the dignity of all (Archbishop Akinola might come to mind for some!) it doesn't even list "living in a same gender union" as an example of a problematic "manner of life."

Readers might reasonably conclude that this is a very deliberate attempt by the AAC to get people thinking that the report says something it very clearly doesn't -- a tactic that does nothing to move the church forward in resolving the differences that challenge it and everything to continue to polarize those differences in an effort to immobilize it.

The Living Church got it right in its editorial this week: "We invite and implore all who will be working to shape the Church’s future in the coming months to do so while keeping in mind that they, their allies, and those with whom they disagree all are members of the one body of Christ. How we live out our membership will have a profound impact on our ability as a Church to make disciples as Jesus commanded."

Telling the truth to and about each other is at least a place to start.


Anonymous said...

WHAT????? The AAC didn't tell the truth?? They made up their own facts? Hardly news! For them (or should I use their favorite word)..."ilk"....for those of the "conservative ilk", truth is expendable. Truth went out the door when they received funding to ruin this church. They are a dangerous lot. Worse, they are Christians who lie to further their own twisted agenda. It no longer should shock or surprise us. I appreciate your taking the time to point out their lies. Someone needs to.

Anonymous said...

As a priest I know was bold to say...."When you claim to have the Absolute Truth, no other kind of truth seems to matter."

Chip Webb said...

With all due respect, who's doing the spinning here, Rev. Susan?

The AAC communique cites both paragraph 51 and resolution A161. Here's paragraph 51: "We acknowledge and regret that by action and inaction, we contributed to strains on communion and 'caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians' as we consented to the consecration of a bishop living openly in a same-gender union. Accordingly, we urge nominating committees, electing conventions, Standing Committees, and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise very considerable caution in the nomination, election, consent to, and consecration of bishops whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strain on communion, until a broader consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges."

Translation: What we did in 2003 has hurt the Anglican Communion deeply. Therefore (the word in the text is "Accordingly," signifying a direct link with the preceding sentence), "exercise very considerable caution" before doing the same again.

This paragraph first describes a cause and its effect, then recommends a course of action to avoid the same effect in the future.

The "Resolved" paragraph in resolution A161 is almost the same word-for-word as paragraph 51. The same cause/effect/proposed action structure is followed.

Now it's true that the "Explanation" paragraph of resolution A161 mentions that the "manner of life" is left to the definition of "those involved in nominating, electing, and consecrating bishops." Nonetheless, that caveat does not negate the previous paragraph in which the actions of GC 2003 are clearly indicated to be ones that have put strain on the Anglican Communion -- and which are the reason for this resolution to begin with.

Furthermore, both paragraph 51 (in a footnote) and resolution A161 (in the "Explanation" paragraph) say that "the Special Commission was not of one mind on the use of the words 'exercise very considerable caution in,' with some instead recommending the words 'refrain from.'"

What do you think the minority of the commission wanted ECUSA to "refrain from" doing? The answer should be obvious: to "refrain from" exactly what the Windsor Report asked ECUSA to stop doing. Paragraph 134 of the Windsor Report recommends that "the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges."

So where's the spin here on the AAC's part, Rev. Susan? I see none. The Special Commission is not doing what the Windsor Report asked ECUSA to do. In fact, the Windsor Report asks for a moratorium on consecrations of "any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union." The Special Committee, on the other hand, changes the problem caused by ECUSA to "the consecration of a bishop living OPENLY in a same-gender union" (emphasis my own). Note the one word added by the Special Committee": "openly." The entire meaning is changed. Once again, we have non-compliance with the Lambeth Commission's recommendations.

Far from lying, Rev. Susan, the AAC is being accurate here. And take a look at the latest editorial in The Living Church: They also bemoan the Special Committee's report as not going far enough toward Windsor.

Peace of Christ,

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of the Episcopal Church, does not agree with the small rebellious group. We just don't.

They have their say over and over and at the end of the day, not many in our Church beyond their small group have been persuaded.

This is the reality.

The rest of us have not been persuaded that the Church should become what they've been saying it should be.

Their response to this, has been real hurt and anger, and apparently, courses of action building on that hurt and anger with more hurt and anger.

The AAC, the network, all the rest--they are a small minority in the church, and they are permitted their opinion. But the majority are not persuaded by it.

Anonymous said...

Rev Susan,
You write a lengthy post accusing the AAC of lying, and then conclude with "the living church got it right, we should be nicer to each other."

How is an internet post accusing the AAC of lying in any way within the spirit of the Living Church's editorial?

Physician, heal thyself!


"How is an internet post accusing the AAC of lying in any way within the spirit of the Living Church's editorial?"

Because they did. Because putting quotes around language not contained in a resolution and representing it as part of the recommendation of the Commission is intentionally misleading and does not rise to the high standard of respectful discourse in disagreement we should hold each other to. And because failing to name the intentional mis-statement of the facts at hand not only allows them to stand and mis-lead but also leaves unaddressed the underlying motivation for such redaction.

Does the context of the recommendations that for some same gender commitments fall in the problematic category of "manner of life?" Of course it does ... (thanks, Chip for making that compelling if non-responsive argument.) That is clearly the argument on the table and we hold different perspectives about the answer.

And everything I know about this church and about the General Convention process tells me "rmf" is right on: the majority of the church has NOT been persuaded and while we genuinely regret that our commitment to the Gospel as we understand it has caused pain and discord in the Communion we are committed to staying the course -- and to telling the truth to and about each other.

Asking our opponents to do likewise is, I believe, deeply consistent with the Living Church editorial.

Chip Webb said...

Rev. Susan,

Help me out. What am I missing here?

"Putting quotes around language not contained in a resolution and representing it as part of the recommendation of the Commission is intentionally misleading."

Where has the AAC done this in the text that you cite? You can find "living in a same gender union" in both paragraph 51 and the "Resolved" paragraph of A161, except that the AAC has omitted the word "openly." (They may be hearkening back to the Windsor Report there, which did not contain the word.) The text really is there in both paragraph 51 and resolution A161, and "the exercise of very considerable caution" is there as well (except that the AAC changed "exercise very considerable caution" to "the exercise of very considerable caution" -- a change that does not change the meaning of the text).

Since the text is there in both paragraph 51 and resolution A161, are you thinking, instead, that the AAC has used those phrases out of context? Yes, the resolution uses the phrase "manner of life" and clarifies in the explanation that any number of conditions could fall under this category, subject to the discernment of appropriate individuals. You're perfectly right that in that explanation they do not single out any group in particular.

But as I pointed out before, the actions of GC 2003 are clearly in mind in the previous "Resolved" paragraph, as well as paragraph 51. In both cases, two sentences are linked in both locations by the word "Accordingly." The spur for this resolution came from the effect on the Communion caused by GC 2003 actions.

I see no "intentional misstatement" here and no lying either, Susan. You and rmf may well be right about the mind of ECUSA, but that's not the issue on the table before us. Even with the expansive definition of "manner of life" suggested in the explanatory paragraph of A161, the "Resolved" paragraph of A161 and paragraph 51 both clearly indicate that the caution is to be exercised whenever individuals in life situations similar to Bishop Robinson's are "nominat[ed], elect[ed], consent[ed] to, and consecrat[ed]" as bishops.

I am all in favor of "telling the truth to and about each other," Rev. Susan, and I think you know that I'm a strong proponent of calm, even-handed discourse and listening despite the seriousness of our disagreements. But there's no falsity in the AAC statement that you quote, as far as I can see.

Peace of Christ,

Anonymous said...

I think Chip gets straight to the point Susan. You complain here that the AAC is spinning, but isn't that what ECUSA is doing? What matters here is the truth and it seems unusual that we keep hearing about "listening" when the truth is we have heard each other and we do not and cannot agree. We have irreconcilable differences. Listening won't change the facts. Someone is going to have to say they are wrong - someone didn't get the memo. In this case, not everyone can be right - someone is wrong. Listening is not going to solve that problem. It's irreconcilable.

And then, just to make matters worse, we have another personal attack on Archbishop Akinola. Good grief. As some writing you from DC, that is the oldest trick in the book. When things aren't going well in your political campaign, then you start sliming the other side. It's as old as poor Sally Hemmings.

It is clear Susan, that do not know him or have ever spent any significant time with him to get to know him. Where's your "listening" process now?

I suppose one has to know a lot about spin to be able to call another one spinner. What ECUSA is doing is spinning out of control and it's painful for the rest of to watch. We should do the right thing and recognize that we have spun far from where we started. The Episcopal Church is Anglican only in appearance, not in substance.

And that is the truth.

What was it Bob said?

It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
An' it ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe
I'm on the dark side of the road
Still I wish there was somethin' you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin' anyway
So don't think twice, it's all right


Anonymous said...

"As a careful reader would get from the spliced citation, the report does NOT say that any special caution needs to be exercised with respect to candidates for bishop 'living in a same gender union'; it says that we need to exercise caution with respect to ANY 'manner of life' presenting a challenge."

Oh, sure, Susan, that's what started all of this; that's why we have a Windsor Report in the first place; that's why the Anglican Communion has been brought to the brink of dissolution. It's all because some were being a little careless in examining the "manner of life" of those in the episcopate.

Uh, no. We're here because a practicing homosexual was consecrated as a bishop in ECUSA. That's what we have been asked to repent for; that's why we have a Special Commission; that's what you had better respond to if you still want to be part of the Anglican Communion.

Spin cycle, indeed. We ought to tell the truth.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how we see in this short comment thread, the dissenting, very minority opinion in our Church, demanding of a majority position that they cannot persuade, that even if they are not persuaded, they had better do what the minority in the church demand.

They have given up trying to persuade and now rely mainly, indeed only, on threats, anger and demands.

I don't think the dissenting opinion really realizes that they are a minority within our Church. They have a right to their opinion. They have voiced it, and continue to.

But our church has not been persuaded by the positions.

Anonymous said...

Abp Eames is looking through rose-colored glasses. His is not an official voice, and he certainly does not speak for those who believe that consecrating Robinson as bishop was wrong.

As for who is majority and minority, it is difficult to say, since there is a murky middle who may be, on the one hand, disgusted by the events of GC 03, but who have not said much because it happened in a little diocese a long ways away and does not touch them personally - or on the other, be supportive but not passionate about Bp Robinson -- or, as a third alternative, are not quite sure of what to think, but like their own parish and clergy and do not want to rock the boat.

The "progressives" have the upper hand politically; they may yet get their way, and wind up becoming the majority the painful way, as the orthodox vote with feet and pocketbooks by leaving and/or witholding donations. As things look today, I will probably stop being an active Episcopalian sometime between this summer and the summer of Lambeth (08). I am a tither, and I will be missed, for that alone, if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

rmf, you've really nailed it. So, when are you going to stop with the anger and the threats?

Anonymous said...


Chip Webb said...

Actually, rmf, I choose to post based on whether I think that something requires a response, not based on who is in either the minority or majority. (I could care less about that.) In this case, it was Rev. Susan's claim that the AAC was lying that motivated my post.

When it comes to caring about the church, it really doesn't matter whether you're in the majority or minority, because the church is a subject of far more serious concern than numbers. We're talking about the bride of Christ (to use Scriptural imagery), not an earthly institution. And ECUSA is part of the worldwide church that the Lord Jesus Christ loves and for which he died.

Peace of Christ,

Anonymous said...

I see twice a comment about a small minority position, as if GC03 is really representative of a vast majority of ecusa. This assertion has certainly not been proved by any poll that I have seen. Could the asserter please state on what basis this claim is being made?

Anonymous said...

Hiram wrote:

"As things look today, I will probably stop being an active Episcopalian sometime between this summer and the summer of Lambeth (08). I am a tither, and I will be missed, for that alone, if nothing else. "

That pretty much sums up my own feelings should the church go in a direction which made him comfortable. We've come to a fork in the road.

Anonymous said...

rmf, your first post needed two corrections. Here is a more accurate post:

The vast majority of the Anglican Communion, does not agree with the small rebellious group. We just don't.

They have their say over and over and at the end of the day, not many in our Church beyond their small group have been persuaded.

This is the reality.

The rest of us have not been persuaded that the Church should become what they've been saying it should be.

Their response to this, has been real hurt and anger, and apparently, courses of action building on that hurt and anger with more hurt and anger.

The ECUSA--they are a small minority in the church, and they are permitted their opinion. But the majority are not persuaded by it.

Jeff Martinhauk said...


General convention in and of itself is a poll. GC03, by taking the actions it did, is the recognition of the mind of the majority of the church.

The problem is that those who do not agree with its actions have a hard time believing and/or understanding that their beliefs fall out of sync with the majority.

Attitutudes certainly can change over time, and we shall see at GC06 whether or not the mind of the majority still holds. But it is not realistic to assert yourself that simply because specific polls are not cited that the majority of the church does not hold the opinion of GC03. The process is set up as a representative, democratic one in order to do just that.

If we have no faith in the process, in the polity of the church then perhaps we have a different set of internal questions we need to ask ourselves about our reasons for being here or not.

I believe we need to have faith that the Spirit is at work among us, that this is no accident, and that if we only focus on Communion without allowing a process for change then it is entirely possible that all of the civil rights advances of the past 2000 years would not have been possible. I think even the proponents of orthodoxy would have to concede that orthodoxy alone does not yield a lot of change, and many advances we've made over the past 2000 years have been for the better- elimination of slavery, women's equality, racial equality, religious tolerance instead of religious wars (ok - maybe we're not there completely yet but we're improving).

I ask how our orthodox brethren propose, if we do everything they ask, that we are able to hear and feel the Spirit move among us since they would have us lock in stone the "rules" of their theology as immovable and permanent? Consider the world we would live in if we had done that during the period of, say, the Inquisition? Not a pretty picture. I believe God needs space to reveal himself to us.

This isn't about sexuality. This is about the freedom and grace of God, the gifts God gave us through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus that we might be saved.

Chip Webb said...


No, I think that all of us on the orthodox end are perfectly aware that the majority of bishops and delegates at GC '03 voted the way that they did. It IS a good question as to whether those votes represent the mind of the majority of ECUSA, but as I said before, the whole majority/minority angle distracts from the real issue. We're dealing with the church of Jesus Christ, not a political election.

Both those on the orthodox end and those on the progressive end have firmly held beliefs that they are convinced accurately reflect God's will. Surely, given those beliefs, the whole majority/minority issue is a red herring. If something is God's will, it really doesn't matter if only a minority hold to it. Think back in history: The vast majority of the Christian church went Arian and Athanasius was very much in the minority, but the Arian viewpoint was still heretical. (No, I'm not making a direct comparison of that situation with this one, just illustrating that the majority view does not necessarily express the will of God. Isn't that what Integrity has been saying, albeit in different terminology, for the last few decades?)

How do the orthodox see the Holy Spirit as leading the church? Always in full agreement with the Scriptures, and never opposed. Since the Holy Spirit inspired the text of Scripture, God will not contradict himself.

You say "This isn't about sexuality," Jeff. On that, the orthodox agree with you, in the sense that many larger issues are at the root of our disagreements!

Peace of Christ,

Jeff Martinhauk said...


I appreciate your answer, but it still leaves me not quite understanding your viewpoint.

If you believe that the Holy Spirit only guides us in the direction of the Scriptures, and that the Scriptures are infallible, what do you do when the Scriptures are in conflict with each other?

Again, use the example of the Inquisition. The Scriptures could be used to make a case for going out and making believers of all nations. And that's what they argued. The Scriptures could also be used to make a case for keeping women oppressed, and some have argued for that. The Scriptures have been used in and of themselves for justification over time for a number of things we now believe to be wrong.

So I ask again, in order to understand your viewpoint, how would the orthodox have us better understand God over time, as it seems to me that what you are asking us to do is to "lock" your interpretation of scripture into effect as the official truth of God? Who is it that gets to decide that "official" interpretation of Scripture? Because I read the same Scripture and what I read overwhelmingly tells me that "God so loved the whole world", not just some of the world, and over and over again we see the same inclusive love, and I don't see that reflected in the theology coming from the orthodox. I don't see the full Scripture the way I understand you holding yourself out to believe in it.

So why then must we agree? Can't the church be big enough to walk on our journeys side by side and learn in love through the Spirit together?

I think those are the two main questions for me. To sum up: 1) How do the orthodox see change occurring in the church given that a) they see truth coming only from the Scripture and b) scripture doesn't change (I'm assuming that the changes I've mentioned are acknowledged as good by the orthodox, end of the inquisition, liberation of women, equality of races, etc.); and 2) Who gets to interpret the Scripture, making decisions about what conflicting text and so forth, as there are surely as many ways to read Scripture as there are people on this earth, which is one of the beauties of the depth of Scripture? I see position statements on the AACs websites justifying why the Scripture about slavery and women doesn't really mean what it says, so someone on the orthodox side has taken it upon themselves to make those decisions- who is that and why do they get to make those decisions when the AAC doesn't want to allow me to make the same decisions for myself?

I'd really appreciate honest answers to those questions because the self-evident answers, from my point of view, make the orthodox look very hypocritical. Maybe you can help me out.

Jon said...

Looks like there's plenty of spin in the AAC response, although what Rev. Susan points to isn't the clearest case.

To start off, in the introduction they say that the AC is expecting us to put a moratorium on ordaining gay and lesbian people, although this claim doesn't appear anywhere in the Windsor Report. On blessings, they entirely drop the word public inspite of its consistant use in the Windsor Report, and Windsor's almost obsession with rites authorized by dioceses. They also claim that the Commission failed to address those bishops and dioceses who have authorized rites in spite of the third resolve exlicitly requesting that all such bishops express regret, although it doesn't name those bishops and dioceses. It is also spinning what is supposed to be regretted and repented of. Windsor only requests regreting that the bonds of affection were violated, not regret that TEC did something un-biblical. If I recall correctly Dromantine adds repentence but doesn't change what is to be regretted and repented of. A more subtle spin that is present in the AAC's response and has been expressed in these comments is the conviction that the debate on homosexuality is closed. This is not true. At the level of the AC the debate has only moved into an information gathering phase. This is clear from Windsor's emphasis on engaging in the listening process championed by Lambeth Conferences from 1978, and also from the ABC's comments about what he hopes to be the business of the upcoming Lambeth Conference.


Anonymous said...

TEC is orthodox--those who have a beef are saying it's not, and then call themselves orthodox and say those who don't agree with them, are not orthodox.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, one of the principles of the church is that the mind of the Spirit is discerned by the whole church - not just one part (like the Arians, for example). The closest that we come to the whole church is Lambeth, which said that ecusa should not act as it did. As you know, all 4 instruments of unity said the same thing. GC03 acted as a schismatic body.

Second, as has been said, there is real reason to question whether General Convention delegates are really representative of the people in the pews. I would say that the best we can say is that they are representative of the people who elected them, the Annual Convention of a particular diocese.

Anonymous said...

RMF: TEC is certainly not orthodox in the eyes of the RCC or the Eastern Orthodox. We may be orthodox to the UCC and the Unitarians, but do we really want to be another dying Protestant sect?

Jeff Martinhauk said...


Again, somebody in the AAC has taken it upon themselves to decide what Scripture is important (

Who is this and who gives them authority to decide? I'm not really talking about the broad church, I'm asking a hypothetical question about how, in the mind of the AAC-supporter, they suppose that full adoption of their platform allows for change? Somebody decided in this document to include certain scripture and not to include others. In this document, for example, Jesus is assumed to give tacit approval to any law he did not explicity oppose. This document does not mention anything about the numerous times that Paul talks about Jesus coming replace Old Testament law. Somebody made the decision to ignore that Scripture, and I am interested in how the author decided that even though there is scripture giving clarity around the topic that the AAC can "look the other way" when it chooses, but claim to be using the full and complete Scripture as truth for the direction as the church?

Again, I understand how the church works, but I am trying very hard to understand the theology of the AAC and I just can't get there.

Tony, on your point of the Anglican Communion setting theology for all of its member provinces-- I don't think that is the intent. If it were, then why would we need the intermediate provicial institutions and the proposed resolutions at the ECUSA level? We would just defer to Lambeth on everything. That's just not how the Anglican Communion works. We're a communion, not the Roman Catholic church. We can agree and disagree over time, and we still maintain our bonds of friendship and affection. I believe the orthodox have forgotten that.

Anonymous said...

Jeff: Again, somebody in the AAC has taken it upon themselves to decide what Scripture is important.

Jeff, the AAC has not done this, the Anglican Communion has through the four sources that I have referenced.

Jeff: Tony, on your point of the Anglican Communion setting theology for all of its member provinces-- I don't think that is the intent.

Jeff, you're right - the Anglican Communion does not set theology for all the provinces - that is far more totalitarian than the AC has ever been. The Anglican Communion can and has set boundaries around theology, boundaries that ecusa has chosen to ignore at the possible peril of being declared to have walked out of the AC. Ecusa has violated the bonds of affection so blatantly and willfully that we may be shown the door. I believe that liberals are in denial about this possible outcome.

Jeff Martinhauk said...


I'm trying to understand your point of view, but this is why we can't agree.

I believe you are factually incorrect. The Anglican communion, that I know of, has never espoused the positions articulated in the document I posted. In fact, member provinces of the communion all hold differing points of view on women's ordination. It is in those differences that we maintain the delicate balance of being the body of Christ, of struggling to remain faithful not to question why our road is not the road of the other parts of the body but to let them be, each their own separate parts while also at once the whole body.

Again I ask how would the AAC ask us to move forward on issues if we are to always appease the global orthodox? We would still not be ordaining women if we had to wait for full consensus in the communion on that issue. Why, then is the AAC "OK" with being out of communion on that issue but not ok with being out of communion on this issue? Why then are our global orthodox brethren not ok with a broad enough church for us to be held in common affection through the worship of our lord while remaining faithful in our theology each in the way Christ calls us to do so?

I'm still trying very hard to understand you Tony, but I just can't follow your reason or theology.

Peace to you.

Unknown said...

If, as several posters here assert repeatedly, the overwhelming majority of pewsitters in ECUSA are strongly, nay rabidly, in favor of Integrity's agenda for the church, why are so many of our bishops utterly terrified?

Dennis Canon letters have gone out in North Carolina and San Diego, and will soon probably be sent in many other diocese; +Montana and others are desperate to keep the AAC DVD from parishioners. Obviously they are confident that their congregants are fully informed and on board with the direction of ECUSA.

In the meantime, the only inaccuracy that Ms Russell can find in the AAC commentary is that the actual resolution as proposed mentions nothing about SSUs, and of course is intended to apply solely to those candidates for consecration who offend PETA by making their livings as lion tamers...

Anonymous said...

Saying bishops are "utterly terrified'" is what we used to call just a little bit of hyperbole, esp. seeing as how the bishops mentioned in their statements, provide clear positions for their acitons.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Thank you Craig, for taking the time to respond to me offline. I tried to write back but I didn't have a way to reach you.

As for your comments here - I think that the bishops are indeed in a tight situation. I'm not sure I would call it terrified. But the global orthodox and the ECUSA orthodox are asking them to make a decision between excluding them and excluding GLBT people, while on the other hand those of us that are GLBT are only asking that we all be included and not to exclude anyone, even the orthodox.

The orthodox, both in and out of the ECUSA are trying to make it an "either/or", while the progressives are trying to make it a "both/and".

That's a hard position to be in for a bishop; I wouldn't want to be there. In such a position, they can't make any decision that doesn't turn someone away from the table of our Lord, and that isn't the job they were consecrated to do.


Chip Webb said...

Hi, Jeff,

Yeah, I realize that in my last post, I sidestepped some of your issues (which you reiterated and clarified after my last post) due to time. Books have been written dealing with your topics for discussion. I'll do my best to summarize the orthodox POV in a few short paragraphs.

First, it might surprise you to know that those of us on the orthodox end do not see all truth as proceeding from the Scriptures. Creation testifies to the existence of God, as Paul himself noted in Romans 1; creation is sometimes termed God's "general revelation" of himself by orthodox theologians. We can see pointers to God in the world around us, so creation is a form of revelation. Some Christians consider natural law to fall into this category of revelation as well.

However, general revelation takes us only so far in terms of understanding who God is, so God has provided what some theologians call "special revelation" to provide us with a greater understanding of him. For that reason, God sent his son Jesus Christ to earth, and God has also provided the Scriptures as well. It is the Scriptures that "containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith" (Article VI).

To sum up: Scripture is not the only source of God's revelation to those of us who are orthodox (hey, we also believe in tradition and reason), but it is the final authority.

Second, you wonder how we interpret the Scriptures. One principle that we normally follow is that Scripture interprets Scripture. You look at a particular section in the context of the whole Scriptures to see how it fits in the larger picture. Article XX takes this POV as well: "it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another."

How, then, to explain the varying interpretations that have led people to take up sword, keep people enslaved, etc.? Our sinfulness is deep, and has affected every faculty of ours; we are far fallen from what God has intended for humanity. The only solution is to turn to God in repentance and faith, trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Then God sends us the Holy Spirit, who takes us on a lifelong journey of becoming more like Christ (what theologians call sanctification). However, during this time period, we still struggle with our sinfulness. Our sinfulness has not disappeared, and it will not be totally eradicated in this life. So we always "see through a glass darkly"; we never come to a point of absolute purity. We are always, to some extent, influenced by the original sin that has affected all of humanity. Consequently, any one of us can use the Scriptures to, say, justify owning slaves, hoarding up our money and not giving to the poor, etc.

But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault is not in the Scriptures, but in ourselves. The Scriptures are rich and deep, true, but they are not open to a hundred million different meanings. Can "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God" be interpreted to mean that we fulfill the command if we do not forgive someone the debt that they owe us when they have no way to pay it? (After all, maybe the loaner feels that he or she has already been merciful in extending the time of payment for the loan.) Of course not. Do we fulfill the command to "carry each other's burdens" if we do not get involved in other peoples' lives enough to pray for them and/or help them with their needs? Of course not. Those, however, could be possible interpretations if there are as many different meanings as there are people, Jeff.

So, of course, the Scriptures have been used to justify many awful things, Jeff. Our sinfulness is so prevelant that it should not be a surprise.

Third, you'll find no disagreement here, Jeff, that God loves everyone in the world. That is different from saying, however, that everyone will spend eternity with God. Our sinfulness is so extensive that we are far from God without the regeneration provided by the Holy Spirit that occurs once we turn to Christ. See The Great Divorce, where C.S. Lewis fictionally depicts a bus ride to heaven where not everyone gets off there because they don't want to live under God's rule. God loves everyone, but he does not force everyone to submit to his will.

Fourth, yes, there are still issues where Christians disagree, and, yes, the Scriptures are not clear on every single issue. Here, tradition and reason play a part, while they are still subordinate to Scripture. "In essential, unity; in non-essential, liberty; and in all things, charity" (commonly attributed to Augustine, but probably from another source). "Now in the catholic church itself the greatest care is taken that we hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all people" (St. Vincent of Lerins). Then there are practical questions: Does the action of a church help or hurt the larger body of Christ? Are actions being taken in mind of the oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolic nature of the church? All of these, and more, can be helpful guidelines.

I could say more, Jeff, but I've already said too much, and not done justice to the points on which I've spoken! If you want to read a good contemporary book that gives you more of an idea of an orthodox Anglican perspective, Jeff, I'd suggest that you pick up John Stott's The Contemporary Christian. I'm also willing to discuss this further.

Peace of Christ to you,