Saturday, May 20, 2006

Better Than This

Better Than This

A foretaste of the Not-So-Heavenly Argumentation to come from Kendall Harmon's recent commentary on his blog titusonenine: A compromise on a compromise is not a compromise. This is what the Episcopal Church’s leadership is trying to do: exercising very considerable caution instead of implementing a moratorium; sitting in judgment on other’s work instead of weighing our own actions, elongating the process instead of seeing General Convention 2006 as the very end of the road; and, finally, evading clear choices by the false construction of new alternatives. At the end of the day it is all about the same thing: avoiding solving the massive problem that we bear the major responsiblity for creating, and rebelling against the call of mutual submission and interdependent life. One prays hard for better than this–KSH.


I'll agree wholeheartedly with the Canon Theologian on one thing: one certainly DOES pray hard for better than this. But the "better than this" I'm praying for would be better than the hubris of presuming to declare "game over" when you don't like the score.

The "better than this" I'm counting on may just be "new alternatives" that we haven't even thought of yet but will -- as we continue in conversation and communion with those with whom we disagree.

The "better than this" I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us ALL into is a place where a compromise on a compromise is not only a compromise but a way forward from an impasse manufactured by those drawing lines in the sand and asserting that unless we assent to their "clear truth" answers to the complex questions facing our communion we are "walking away" when the clear truth is that we have committed to stay.

Efforts to turn General Convention 2006 in an Anglican Eschaton ("... seeing General Convention 2006 as the very end of the road") echo the "sky is falling" rhetoric that has dominated the right wing discourse for these last three years. Here is but an outline of a triennium of "end of the road" moments on a journey that is far from over:
  • "If Gene Robinson is elected ..." (June 2003)
  • "If General Convention consents to his election ..." (July 2003)
  • "If he is consecrated ..." (November 2003)
  • "When the Windsor Report is released ..." (October 2004)
  • "When the primates meet at Dromantine ..." (February 2005)
  • "When the ACC votes ECUSA off the Anglican Island ... " (June 2005)
  • "When the Special Commission takes a U-Turn on inclusion ..." (April 2006)

The "better than this" I'm counting on is the faithful mainstream of the Episcopal Church to finally say "enough is enough," affirm the actions of General Convention 2003 and confirm our commitment to continue to stay at the table no matter who chooses to walk away.

At the end of the day, solving the massive problem we face as Anglicans striving to stay in relationship with our God and with each other will not be solved by ultimatums, threats or bullying. The "better than this" we pray for may just be "elongating the process" so the work we have been given to do as a people of God is done in GOD'S time -- not ours.


Anonymous said...

"affirm the actions of General Convention 2003 and confirm our commitment to continue to stay at the table"

With all due respect, isn't that logic similar to being at a dinner table, being asked by the majority of those present over and over again - with great patience - to put out a cigarette and responding that no, I will continue to sit at this table and I will continue to smoke. Whether we are so called reappraisers or reasserters, I hope we all can take a very big picture look at what is happening here. I don’t think the “option” you hope for is an option the Anglican Communion can accept; it’s having your cigarette at a non-smoking table.

Thanks for listening, though, and my compliments on a very neat and accessible blog.


Chip Webb said...

Rev. Susan,

Well spoken, as always, but I'm betting that All Saints Pasadena has not seen a large percentage of its parishioners leave over the last three years, as many orthodox parishes have. Many others won't wait for even the next Lambeth conference. The laity are the ones who are truly "voting" on the Episcopal Church. In many, many cases (and in progressive churches as well -- a friend of mine who attends a moderate-to-progressive Episcopal Church told me that they lost a few hundred people as a result of GC '03), they are leaving. I don't think that ECUSA has yet seriously faced up to this fact.

Peace of Christ,

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Susan -

I love the listing of all the "lines in the sand". Its a reminder of how important it is not to draw lines in the sand but instead to remain committed to process. I love how everyone calls each big report that comes out "fudge" but it is clear that the "fudge" is a big part of the process that keeps us from drawing those lines in the sand that keep us from doing something we'd regret.

To Chip, what I hear is fear that we won't grow if we move forward in the Spirit. I would agree that there may be a realignment. It may take time for people to understand the theology of all-inclusive love of God instead of God somehow loving people but condemning them to burn eternally in hell. That's a big shift. And its a hard pill to swallow when the leadership doesn't fully buy it. But once they do, once we agree that that is who God is, once we agree on the radicality of God's love, that is a message that heals. That brings people in to the fullness of God. People sometimes spend their first year at All Saints Pasadena just sitting in the back row in tears because of the power of all-inclusive love, healing from the spiritual baggage they have had elsewhere. That doesn't cause attendence problems. Except maybe a lack of seating room in the parish hall. But it does take time for people to fully grasp the concepts so that the message can be "sell-able."

Chip Webb said...


Actually, you don't hear fear of not growing. I'm sure that if ECUSA continues heading in the direction it's currently going, after the hemorraging of the orthodox (and some who wouldn't consider themselves either orthodox or progressive) stops, and even before then, some progressives will come into the church. I don't think there will be near enough to counteract the losses, but as I've said before, I really don't find numbers to be a major issue when discussing these matters. ECUSA would lose the vast majority of the orthodox who have come to or returned to the denomination since the 1960s, and perhaps a significant number of those who don't consider themselves either orthodox or progressive, but I know that many (though not all) progressives would be happy about that.

What you do hear from me, though, is not fear or concern over growth or numbers, but distress over all the people who have been lost and who will leave, depending upon what happens in the Anglican Communion. You also hear first-hand and second-hand witness of the pain that parishes undergo when they lose people -- not just a family who leaves for whatever reason, but when literally hundreds of members leave a parish not because they are upset with something at the parish, but over what the Episcopal Church has done. Like I say, if you haven't seen that in the past few years, you probably can't relate to seeing the pain that parishes go through. Some parishes have left ECUSA partially because they couldn't survive the loss of their laity if they stayed in the denomination. ECUSA is still, it seems to me, in close to total denial over how many have left and how many are ready to bolt if the church continues on the same path.

Jeff, the orthodox cannot agree with the definition of God that you give, or what you define as the movement of the Spirit. To do so ignores Matthew 25: 41 ff. and a host of other scriptures (many, if not all, of which have been excluded from our lectionary since at least the 1979 prayer book). Contrary to popular progressive belief, no one on the orthodox end wants to see people go to hell. But we take the words of our Lord seriously about the need for repentance and faith in him. We don't skip over (as the lectionary does)those difficult passages of scripture. In our natural sinfulness, we don't desire the will of God; we run from it. And as C.S. Lewis depicted in The Great Divorce, God is not going to make people love him. Those who want to live their lives apart from God will be able to do so -- and that's, perhaps at the most fundamental level, what hell is.

Do we on the orthodox end want anyone to go to hell? No, of course not. But if the church cannot ordain anything contrary to Scripture, or set one Scripture in opposition to another (as the Thirty-nine Articles tell us), then we dare not ignore the Scriptural warnings about hell.

Peace of Christ,

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Chip -

I think the issue you raise has always been the biggest irony on this for me.

Both sides of this issue are pained by the same exlusion. On the orthodox side, people are leaving because they feel the church has left them. Similarly, gays and lesbians feel excluded by the church unless the church takes a stronger more inclusive stance for them.

The irony is that both sides feel excluded by the church. Both sides know what it is not to have the validation and reassurance that the church is meant to offer. Now of course I don't agree with the position of the orthodox and could find a million reasons why I don't think the church should validate their position.

But it would seem much more human if we could stand together acknowledging our solidarity in wanting to remain a part of the institution, realizing together that we are going through the same feelings, and in our compassion acknowledge that we don't want anyone to have to go through it.

I feel like that is what my position entails. I don't mandate anyone accept my theological position. I don't mandate you accept God to be a radically inclusive, loving God. But I don't hear that coming back across the aisle. I keep hearing back that "it has to be my way or the highway." And that is truly disappointing. I just don't understand the viewpoint that doesn't have room for faith, or understanding that God may reveal Godself differently to different people. It just goes back to the Bible-- is the Bible more important, or our experience of God, or our experience of each other? I cannot say of the three that it is the Bible. Especially when used to create these kinds of divisions.

Chip Webb said...


While some on the orthodox end may feel that "the church has left them," exclusion is not the primary issue for us. If exclusion per se were the issue, I think that most of the orthodox would have thrown in the towel on reforming the denomination decades ago, because they faced an uphill battle back then.

I know that one of the major lenses through which progressives view things is the inclusive/exclusive angle; inclusion seems to be the most important (and only?) mark of the church for progressives. Honestly, we on the orthodox end normally don't think of things from that angle. We really do believe that the church is to reach the world in love, and to be welcoming to everyone. It's just a given assumption on our end. As I said on another thread, we don't believe that being welcoming means losing our Christian distinctives, but we are nonetheless very concerned with loving those who come to our parishes.

The lens through which we primarily see things is whether we're being faithful to Christ. That involves Scripture, tradition, and reason informed by (and in submission to) Scripture. We know that not everyone who comes into a parish will believe in Jesus and/or essential doctrines of the faith. We know that there also always will be doctrinal differences on non-essential issues among individual members of the body of Christ. The crux of the matter for us is not differences among individuals. Rather, we are concerned with what the church is to preach and teach.

As I've said before many times, I realize that progressives are also concerned with faithfulness to Christ. I also know that we have very different understandings of what it means to be faithful. The church, though, must have a consistent witness to the world.

Peace of Christ,

Anonymous said...

Hi, all: I've been asked to write an article for our local (large circulation) newspaper on the current controversy in the church. I'm trying to become better informed by a variety of perspectives. I must say I'm impressed by the civility of the discourse on this blog. I'm also impressed by the honesty shown by Chip and Jeff. But as I read their posts, I am coming to the conclusion that the conservatives are right on one point: this is as much about theological redifinition as it is about competing ideas of "justice" and "truth." I know from experience, having worked in an evangelical parish, that we got lots of folks who were upset about current Episcopal Church policies. What frightens me is that those on the left, and those on the right, are either casting aspersions at their opponents, or listening to their friends. It is much harder to lovingly hear your adversary (for they treat one another as adversaries) AND be willing to be changed by them. The Episcopal Church leadership has taken a can they back down with grace? Or why, in their own minds, should they? It will be interesting to see the consequences.

In Christ, Elizabeth+

Anonymous said...

"Both sides know what it is not to have the validation and reassurance that the church is meant to offer."
No, Sorry, Jeff. The Christian church is not meant to be a "place of validation and reassurance." THAT is what books like "I'm OK, You're OK" are for.
Jesus said "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." And that "glorious sword" is the word of God, the Bible. Ephesians 6 defines it as the one piece of armor with which we are to arm ourselves. It is the only piece of armor which is offensive in nature (the others, helmet, shield , etc. being defensive pieces). The authority of God's Word, the Sword, is what is at stake here, and agreement on its authority is what the great divide in the church is over, not someone's expression of their sexuality.

Also, it always makes me giggle when New-Agers use terms such as the "Godself"----do you realize what a revealing term that piece of babblespeak is?

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth---Go to TitusOneNine---great blog for a variety of opinions/issues re:ECUSA debate.
And the posters are generally much better informed than on a small one-issue site such as this.


elizabeth ... good for you for checking out "a variety of perspectives" ... and do, by all means, check out titusonenine -- Kendall Harmon does an amazing job of keeping current the articles and commentaries he posts for reflection. However, keep a good supply of grains-of-salt as you wade through the comments. They're a great reflection of the mindset/worldview of the neo-orthodox Anglican right wing but not exactly "fair and balanced" if you're looking for mainstream opinion and perspective.

Ironically, a recent poster on titusonenine directed readers to this site to find more balanced rhetoric in the discourse between folks with differing perspectives in the comments so kudos to those striving to keep civil discourse civil!

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

For Calvin ... here's my "push back" against your smoking-at-the-table metaphor: second hand smoke kills and "those at the table" have every right to ask the smoker to put it out if they're going to stay.

Help me understand how gay and lesbian people living out lives committed to our Lord in relationships and vocations that model all the qualities of holiness we hold as standards for the baptized sitting at the table in ANY way affects the heterosexual faithful striving to do the same in theirs.

It's another apples and oranges argument.

Thanks for listening and for the blog compliments ... I'm having just a little too much fun with it to get the rest of my work done on some days! :)

Anonymous said...


I do appreciate the response you’ve offered. First I think we’re approaching the issue in entirely different ways. And not the way most might immediately think. I was – and am – commenting on your discussion of “options” available for the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion. That is, I believe, the post-thread we are currently on – correct? So the “presenting issue” of homosexuality is a non-starter, viz the Windsor Report.
Nick Knisely’s blog (the location from whence I came to your blog) has an article up talking about different ways of looking at sexuality, the issue of context, and yes how Windsor does not address the “presenting issue.” There is a huge point that I think you and Nick have both subtly missed. The Windsor Report is not about sexuality. The options open for the communion are not about sexuality either. This is not the moment (or the blog thread as I read your initial comments) to discuss homosexuality. This is a moment in which we need to examine ways for the ECUSA to stay a member of the Anglican Communion. But no one can forget (and I know you don’t want me to say this, and frankly I don’t like having to remind people) the Communion does have a teaching on homosexuality: Lambeth 1998 clearly articulated the Anglican Communion’s position. And they did so with such clarity that the vote came down around 540 to 70. Not a close vote by any means. So with that decision – that very clear decision – I’m not sure the debate can, at this point, be reopened. I think that is what your “push back” (I don’t care to push, though) does: I think you want to return to Lambeth. So the rule for the Anglican Communion right now is “No Smoking” at this table. And hence I think my analogy is apt for this moment in time as well as this thread on “options” which you have initiated.

We can both talk until we are blue in the face about homosexuality – and you’ve articulated very well the argument from your “side” of the fence. But it is an argument I’ve heard. I’ve heard it over and over again. Any argument I would offer in this space about the acceptability or unacceptability of homosexual behavior by Christians (particularly Anglican Christians) would be an argument you’ve heard before. We are both at an impasse on that. Hence we should be talking about options for staying in the Anglican Communion – and you have rightly initiated that in this very thread. Returning to the acceptability or unacceptability of same sex behavior is simply like a smoker arguing that the second hand smoke won’t hurt us. It doesn’t matter the arguments you use from that angle. The Communion has a teaching. As a reasserter I can assure you that I do want everyone at the table (hard as that may be to believe). I just don’t want any smoking. My buttress is simply (and this may sound glib, cheap, and a cop-out) is that the table is non-Smoking and has been since Lambeth 1998.

I do hope you can lighten your work-load soon. I do enjoy reading blogs from different perspectives and your's is certainly one worth considering.


Frair John said...

I canbelieve that the donatist reaserters want all of us at the table. As long as we are silent, know our place and don't ask for seconds.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Russell:

A brief note of introduction: I profess no religion, but am trying to understand more about Christianity by, among other things, watching Christians. Very educational in many respects.

A question about the smoker-at table analogy. You ask how faithful LGBT Christians could interfere with the faith of straight Christians. What would you say to Rom 14:13-23? It is applicable? If not, why not?

I ask you to believe that this is a sincere question by someone who does not know the answer, not an attempt to count coup or score points.


The person who posts as
Just Passing By
at T19

Anonymous said...

Rev. Russell

An addendum to my question (your blog does not handle HTML in the same way T19 does. My previous comment should read:

" ... by someone who does NOT know the answer ..."


the person who posts as
Just Passing By
at T19

Frair John said...

Calvin, are you saying that homosexuals should sit down and shut up because we cause offence? Or we should go through the paitently flase and evil process of "reprograming" so that we not disrupt your own piety?

Anonymous said...

The Bible should be the basis for our relationship with God, not the other way around. emotions are not always right; they do not always lead us in the right direction. That is why we need something to hold as a constant...a backdrop to compare with. (ie: i am hurt and broken by husbands' lack of ___. They world says I should leave and find someone who gives me what I think I am missing. What does the Bible say?)
That is why reasserters say the Bible must play such an important role. It helps us "put a fence around" our emotions.

Jeff Martinhauk said...


I know that "the church leaving you" may not be the primary issue for you, just as gay and lesbian inclusion is not the primary issue for me.

For me, the primary issue is loving and serving the God whom created me in love.

I believe that you honestly say and believe the same thing.

I also honestly believe that there is a similarity between both sides of this debate-- that the orthodox feel genuinely pained by not being agreed with by the actions of GC03, and that GLBT people feel genuinely pained by not being yet fully included because the inactions of GC03 have not yet gone far enough. That is the commonality of which I speak. We both know what it feels like to believe strongly in something and have the church not be there supportive of the positions which we strongly believe.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Eve -

I've explained many times my position on hermeneutics so I don't think everyone wants to hear it again. For this particular passage I would only say this: if you have decided that the Bible is the literal truth, I do not see how you can believe both that Jesus comes to bring a sword and that Jesus comes to judge no one (John 8:15). Or that when Jesus comes, he will draw ALL people to him (John 12:32). I could keep going.

On "Godself", I hope that it reveals that I understand God to be neither masculine nor feminine. That I understand God to be both and neither. To be bigger than my understanding can imagine. If you somehow feel elevated by calling it babblespeak, then fire away.

And finally, Eve, the Christian church is VERY MUCH meant to be a place of validation and reassurance. Validation and reassurance that we are loved. Validation that we are, at our core, born and made in Gods image. That we are good. That we are capable of doing good. That we are called to do good. That living in communities of love, we may serve in love.

Overriding focus on sin to the exclusion of love is not useful. Rather, sin should be focused on forgiveness and grace, and in learning how to better serve in the future. Anything else is damaging psychologically; it is not healthy for us, and as such it is not what God wants for us. It inhibits our ability to serve in love. If we are guilt stricken due to the spiritual baggage the church lays on us we cannot fully live into the being and essence of the spirit God has given us.

The alternative view, blaming your namesake for the downfall of man, puts far too much emphasis on the dark side. On what can go wrong. It does not see that the arc of history always bends towards justice. That God is the one who bends it that way. That God uses us as his arms to do that good work. God is good- and we are too. When we're not, God works on us to fix us. It just takes time sometimes, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I can see why your "better than this" is better for you, and those who agree with you. Jeff Martinhauk has (bravely and fairly) said that the two sides both have in common a wish not to be marginalised.
So as a conservative I appreciate his even handedness. I wonder if you as as even handed as him? When you talk about moving forward from lines drawn in the sand you seem to be saying that the conservative side is the side at fault and progress will be made if they change their minds. Is this the "better than this" you wish for - i guess I am asking if you really want your opponents to stay without surrendering their viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

Jeff says: God is good- and we are too.

This, IMO, speaks to the heart of the debate between so called reappraisers and reasserters.
I would offer that we are not "good too". We have no health in us; we are miserable offenders, as the prayer book used to say. Daily, we sin against God "in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone." "We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under (the Lord's) table."

Or as St. Paul says so well in Romans 7, we are slaves to sin. "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do --this I keep on doing."

With the Lord's help, we can empty ourselves from any notion of being inherently good. With the Lord's help, we can repent of trusting in our own righteousness.

Only when we are empty, can we be filled. The Lord's grace and mercy and transformational power is there for us, but first we have to get out of the way so that He may work.


obidiahslope -- Good question: and the short answer is "yes."

The clarifying point is that when I talk about conservatives "drawing lines in the sand" I'm talking about rhetoric like that in the post in question -- Kendall Harmon decreeing that GC06 is "the end of the line" when the rest of us are advocating for continuing conversation.

And the longer answer is that I have written VOLUMES of commentary on the same theme: the church is enriched not diminished by our differences; it will grieve the heart of God if we cannot work through those differences and keep everybody at the table; our criteria for being included is NOT being agreed with but being included ... those who insist ECUSA must be expelled from the Anglican Communion because we hold a minority position on LGBT inclusion are the ones precipitating this "crsis."

I've spent years in the Diocese of Los Angeles participating in Reconciliation events focused on bringing together those with differences in order to find common ground. If I'm a little jaded about that process at this point it's the result of recognizing that while we were at the table talking about how we could walk forward with those with whom we disagree others were working on "exit strategies."

The question I would ask is are you willing to be part of a church where you hold a minority perspecitve/theology/outlook? Is your criteria for being included being agreed with? And can you acknowledge the ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and BEING excluded because of who you are?

What I'm pushing back against -- and will continue to push back against -- are the voices insisting that voting ECUSA off the Anglican Island is the only option for reconciliation within the communion. Historic Anglican comprehensiveness dserves better than this.


chip ... "The communion has a teaching" is for me the key component of your thoughtful comment.

This presumes an authority of "the communion" (in this case the to teaching bishops at Lambeth) that has historically rested elsewhere: in the case of the Episcopal Church in the shared reflection of bishops, clergy and laity.

In 1998 my diocese refused to receive the portion of Lambeth 1.10 declaring homosexuality incompatible with scripture -- that is not "a teaching" we either recognize nor received. So the idea that "The communion has a teaching ..." is itself counter to centuries of Anglican ethos where the focus on common prayer allowed us the latitude to embrace different "teachings" on any number of issues and questions. Turning the communion into a magisterium with authority to declare doctrinal positions would be a completely new direction for us to go ... in which case I would argue (and have) that those advocating such changes are the revisionists.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kate, try opening your eyes...this is HARDLY a small, one-issue site. It is one of the most fair and broad-minded sites online, as opposed to T19 which may be large but is extremely narrow-minded.
And Elizbeth, as any good and decent journalist, you will look at a broad range of sites and form your own conclusions. You seem very open-minded and willing to listen all views, which is more than a lot of can say about conservatives that come here daily to give us "what for" for being among the baptized and equally loved by God. Please let us know when and where your article will be published so we may all read it.

Jeff Martinhauk said...


"We have no health in us; we are miserable offenders"

Wow. With a self-esteem like that it is no wonder that you need a set of hard and fast rules to hold you up- a set of literal truths. I guess I would too if I believed that.

I believe that while we do sin, we do more good than bad. If that wasn't true, there would be anarchy. Saying "hello" to your neighbor would be more likely to yield getting shot then a "hello" in return. Driving through an intersection would be a disaster, because people would be more interested in getting to their destination than stopping for a red light to allow cross-traffic to proceed. And so on. People are essentially good.

Are we perfect? No. Do we sin? Yes. But to say we are miserable, wretched creatures I think is to defy God's commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. That implies you don't love yourself, which means you can't possibly love your neighbor.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Obadiahshope -

FYI... Susan's the one who taught me how to "talk across the divide," so I'll vouch that her devotion to reconciliation is genuine, not that my opinion's worth much!

Also, I second the need to not draw "lines in the sand." As I think I said somewhere else, everybody complains when a report comes out that it is filled with "fudge," but I think what it really is is always an attempt to keep the dialogue going, to NOT draw a line in the sand. And that is the important part.

My rector told a story yesterday about many years ago when he was a dean in a southern diocese, and they had a parish leave over women's ordination. That same parish then had a group leave because they didn't like the height of the candles in worship. They then had a group leave because of something else which I would consider trivial. Finally the rector of this broken parish came to the then dean of the cathedral and said he realized how important it was to NOT draw lines in the sand, because it only lead to devalued relationships, and breaking down community. He wanted to come back to the ECUSA, and reaffiliate.

That's the difference between finding the similarity of what we have between us, and drawing the "lines in the sand" that seems to be coming from the Network and the AAC. Is our purpose to draw division with our differences, or to live together in community with our diversity of opinion? I think its the latter. We have so much to learn from each other in this manner.



for "babyblue" -- please stick to offering comments on posted articles rather than posting articles you'd rather be commenting on

Bruno said...

I fear the problem is not a line in the sand, but rather a pruning of the branch before we can see the fruit it bears.
If we are truly a people of faith, and a people of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, then we have nothing to fear while we wait for the branch to bear fruit.
What I find greatly troubling is there are people who have, I believe, a fear that I, and those like me will contaminate their worship so much that it will no longer be valid?
How do I, as a member of the body of Christ, give peace to those people? Do I step away from the church? Do I promise that if I come to church, that my partner and I will sit a safe distance apart from each other?
Do I promise to not take communion till I repent of the evil that I am percieved to be?
How do I, as a member of the body of Christ, give peace to the people who percieve themselves to be beyond the grace of God because of who they are?
I honestly don't know how to appease, but I can say, "let us talk, let me tell you my story how I came here and why". I can open a window into my soul and tell you that I was called back to church by the Spirit, I am more than willing to do this because I must be bold in proclaiming God's saving grace. I can open my ears to hear your story, if you choose to open the window to your soul. I will trust that your story is real, will you trust that mine is real?
I can only ask that those who disagree stay and be in conversation, and that we continue to worship God together. I can ask that I be free to evangilize to those who stand at the precipice, and call them back, as the Spirit called me back, saying nothing is beyond the Love of God. I can only do this by example, words are not my gift. I can live honestly and openly so that others may see the blessing to me that is my partner, and I pray that I may be to him.
It is through God's love that we are bound together, all of us as the body of Christ. It is through God's love that we recognise each other as God's own children. It is through God's love that the gift of the Spirit is givin to us. What a tearing apart it would be then to deny these gifts of love and walk apart from one an other, to prune the branch before it bears fruit.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jeff,
It's not a self-esteem problem; it's an original sin problem.

If I'm o.k. and you're o.k., why did the Son of God have to die on a cross?

Jeff Martinhauk said...


Here is a great reference on that topic.

Sorry it is a complicated URL but this site doesn't allow embedded hyperlinks.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff:

Does it not trouble you when the final quotation from your linked, Christian sermon is a lengthy statement by an avowed athiest?

Here are some other nuggets from the same man:

"At present there is not a single credible established religion in the world."
-- George Bernard Shaw, from the final paragraph in the Intruduction to Major Barbara

"Common people do not pray; they only beg."
-- George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance (1910), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations

Anonymous said...


You wrote above, "I've spent years in the Diocese of Los Angeles participating in Reconciliation events focused on bringing together those with differences in order to find common ground."

I too have tried my hand at reconciling folks with diferences in order to find common ground. I wonder what your experience has taught you on reaching out to the conservative members of the ECUSA. Or said another way, how have your encounters with those with whom you disagree challenged and or possibly changed your perception of the "other side?"

I'll admit I don't peruse your site more than infrequently (introduced to you through Via Media) so if you've already commented on this, disregard by simply pointing me in the right direction. Thanks.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry, Susan. I thought the Bishops' Statement was applicable to our conversation here. It seemed to me to shed light on how the orthodox are approaching General Convention- that the Windsor Report all ready is a compromise and it's up to ECUSA to decide is we are willing to accept the compromise or go our own way. It does seem as though the bishops are saying that it is the Anglican Communion who is speaking to ECUSA to either accept or reject the Windsor Report.

I am sorry - I didn't realize that you would not want to include the statement in our conversation here. I am glad to see that you posted it as a separate topic - thank you.



widening gyre ....

In response to your question I'm going to repost a piece I wrote three years ago ... Longing to Hope Again.

Check it out and see what you think.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Anon of 1:06 -

Actually, you are only partially correct. See below for more info on Shaw's renouncement of aetheism.

Since you didn't enlighten us all with the quote from the sermon, I'll put it here, along with 2 other quotes. Regardless of Shaw's own views (he was an activist, and for that I admire him), I rather like the message:

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized as a mighty purpose; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making me happy.” He continued, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” (George Bernard Shaw - A Splendid Torch)

"Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it"

"I never resist temptation because I have found that things are bad for me do not tempt me."

George Bernard Shaw renounced his atheism in his thirties, although I'm sure that given the tone of your posting you probably won't find much consolation in his spirituality after that. Follow this link for more information.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the clarification. It is helpful. (I didn't mean for the tone of my post to be so offensive. I'm sorry for that).

The adherents site noted:

Shaw began to spread "the Gospel of Shawianity."

Isn't this precisely the primary problem, that we want to spread our own gospel, instead of the Gospel?

Or, perhaps I'm just projecting my own experience onto those of others who may not face the same challenge and who are meeker than I.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jeff,
I looked at the sermon that you suggested and frankly, it contradicts so much of the Bible-- Psalms, John, any of Paul's letters (just to name a few, off the top of my head), I could not begin to start.

This is truly so, so sad that this kind of thing is being taught in our churches. So sad.

Jeff Martinhauk said...


I don't know. Honestly, I don't really care too much about Shaw. I was more interested in the sermon.

And I do think that part of the problem is that the message of the Gospel has been rearranged.

We have strayed from what Jesus taught-- that religious institutions, the folks in power, have to always check themselves when using that power to keep down those without power. That Jesus hung out with those whom the religious authorities said he shouldn't.

And that's where we are on this "issue" of GLBT inclusion.

Jesus took probably a harsher stand than I advocate-- I don't want to go into the temple and turn over tables. I just want us to move forward together to learn and love together. No lines in the sand. No deep divisions. Disagreements? Sure. But not discord and discontent. Peace, love and hope. That is the message I believe is paramount.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughful answer. You are asking a minority to stay in TEC, to continue the conversation. Will they feel safe enough to stay? Some will, but if many leave it will cause problems for TEC in the anglican Communion, as a number of primates will stick up for them. (not on the issues of property, but fellowhip).
Ironically, creating a safe space for dissidents will help ECUSA's cause. How safe a space you - and like-minded people - are prepared to give is the moot point in my view.

Anonymous said...

Jeff---I think our ultimate disagreement can best be summed up by saying that I am a believer in the theology of the cross, and you believe in the theology of glory (as defined by Luther). If unfamiliar, I highly recommend Forde's "On Being a Theologian of the Cross." Fundamental difference.

Anonymous said...

To Jeff M.--I apologize for my troll comments on titusonenine.

I did visit your site, but didn't want to register another password somewhere in order to comment.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Jeff, for fixating on Shaw. It’s just that I relate to him so much. And I very much agree with you that we have strayed from Jesus’s teachings.

We want God on our own terms and not on God’s terms. We want to wander around in the desert knowing that God always will take us back, as though God somehow owed us mercy. (as though we could rewrite Jesus's story of the Prodigal Son?)

I need to ask God for forgiveness of this attitude, of putting myself above Godself. Both sides in this debate need to seek this kind of forgiveness.

I’m sorry for the rant. Everyone is pointing fingers at the other side. The tone now is very shrill on both sides, and it is very frustrating.

I thank you for your honest, heartfelt posts.

Eric Swensson said...

"We have strayed from what Jesus taught-- that religious institutions, the folks in power, have to always check themselves when using that power to keep down those without power. That Jesus hung out with those whom the religious authorities said he shouldn't.

"And that's where we are on this "issue" of GLBT inclusion.

Excuse this reasserter for popping in here, but in here, but this sounds so much like a professor I had once in a class on atonement theory. He thought substitionary atonement was pure bull, that Jesus was killed because he drank too much wine with the wrong people.

Do you think Jesus died on the cross because he got out of line while proclaiming inclusive love or did he die to take away the sins of the world?

I'd like to hear Rev Susan on this as well as the author of the quote, and since this is obviously not a private fight, anyone join in, and you can answer and ask my questions at my blog as well.

Anonymous said...

The list of "end of the road" moments is interesting. I would think, Rev. Susan, that instead of instilling confidence that you could keep on going exactly the way you have been, it might put you in mind of the guy in the flood who kept turning down rescues, waiting for God to save him.

One thing that the list does prove, anyway, is that whatever happens, ECUSA can't claim it wasn't warned.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Eric -

I think it is a "both...and".

I think Jesus died on the cross both because he was radically inclusive and because he came to take away the sins of the world. I'm not sure I see any distinction between the two. I see the sins of the world as being anything that does not include radically inclusive love.

Phil B. - Thanks for the apology. And I completely understand about the registration thing - I need to move my blog elsewhere so it is easier to use.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that I am a miserable sinner. But Cranmer understood "miserable" to relate to the Latin root "miserere" or mercy. Therefore, to be miserable is to be in need of mercy, which I undoubtedly am. May God have mercy on us all.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Shaw went from not believing in a God to believing that "To me God does not yet exist; but there is a creative force struggling to evolve an executive organ of godlike knowledge and power; that is, to achieve omnipotence and omniscience; and every man and woman born is a fresh attempt to achieve this object. We are here to help God, to do his work, to remedy his whole errors, to strive towards Godhead ourselves."
this is hardly a renouncement of atheism as you claimed.