Friday, June 09, 2006

What’s really at stake (and it certainly isn't sex)

What I believe is that preserving the traditional Anglican theological process of seeking truth in common prayer will still serve us well if we let it. -- +Stacy Sauls


I've just arrived in Columbus -- have only unpacked the laptop so far! -- but wanted to share this stellar analysis by +Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, as a "must read" for context we prepare to gather for General Convention 2006. More to come ... Susan

What’s really at stake (and it certainly isn't sex)

Sex sells in America. One particular commercial comes to mind. It involves a woman shampooing her hair in an airplane restroom while making incredibly suggestive sounds that are heard to the great shock of everyone else on the flight. What does sex have to do with buying shampoo? Nothing, of course. The Church is learning the hard way what advertisers learned long ago. Sex sells because it pushes decision making from our most rational capacities to our most visceral ones.

The presenting issues of our current controversy in the Church are sexual, specifically whether the Church can be supportive of a certain kind of same sex relationship (marked by mutual love and respect, exclusivity among partners, and lifelong commitment) and whether people in such relationships should hold positions of ordained leadership, especially as bishops. Reasonable, intelligent, and equally committed people of faith, to be sure, hold different and completely rational opinions about these issues. That is not the problem. The problem is that sex pushes us to react viscerally and instinctively instead, and we frequently succumb, as much on one side of the issues as the other. It is this visceral reactivity that is behind the name calling, slander, and rampant immaturity bedeviling us at the moment and getting in the way of any thoughtful resolution of the issues. Visceral may be OK for buying shampoo. Faith deserves better.

Read it all in The Advocate, the Diocese of Lexington's newspaper


Catherine said...

A meaninful and timely piece. Now if we could only get the opposite side of the aisle to read it.

Praying still,


Unknown said...

Yes, Catherine, quite a discussion on this article going on over at T19. Here's the thread:

You can also see that Kendall is dealing with similiar issues as Susan and has to moderate comments.


Milton said...

Catherine, many of us on "the opposite side of the aisle" have read it and find it more of the unconvincing and historically inaccurate and revisionist same. For much better commentary (and non-vitriolic) than I could give you on why, find the thread on Titusonenine and read the comments.

Milton said...

Good heavens!! To post comments, I'm dizzy from jumping several hoops and, oh no, horrors! I've created a
BLOG!! :)


thanks for making the effort, milton!

Catherine said...

I'm sure it has BB. Thank you for the invite. I have been over to T19 and perused several discussions. Thank you again.

And Milton, easy does it ok? I am not being sarcastic here. I think we all need to tone down and calm down. Life is stressful enough without us clammering this way and that as fellow Christians. Let's all simply keep praying that whatever God's will is--and He alone will decide--that it be done.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

First, let me say that I LOVED this article, and since I know pretty much nothing about any of the other candidates for presiding bishop, the Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls gets my vote (were I to have one, of course).

Second, I've just finished looking through the comments at t19. What comes to mind is Elizabeth Keaton's description of a conversation on this blog a week or two ago- tedious, which, as defined by her is "people who enjoy separating pepper from fly-poop."

Third, to Milton- in response to the commentary on T19- I don't find the T19 convincing. What I hear is people who desparately want to change the facts. I hear revisionist talk from the reappraisers, a point I've made before. The quotes don't lie.

I think it is a little bit like what Susan always says about how there is always a reason why conservatives can take the Bible literally except for the pieces that they don't like, and then there is a reason to take into account the "contextual patterns" of the passage in order to truly interpret God's will- something they don't like very much when used in arguments by the "left".

I hear similar veins in the T19 thread-- Sauls is accused of not having the "contextual background" to know what the quotes and history "really mean."

I call that tedious- trying to separate fly-poop from pepper.

I for one am willing to acknowledge that I believe the spirit is taking us in a new direction with my position, expanding our ever-growing knowledge of God's all-inclusive love.

Why, then, can't the convervatives just acknowledge that this proposed shift to a "Doctrinal Covenant" is a new direction for Anglicanism? Why is that so hard? What ground do you lose by such an acknowledgement? You would at least gain respect by that, from me for one.

Milton said...

Catherine, no sarcasm taken nor any sarcasm or ill-will meant in return. It's just that Saul's article strikes me as totally more of both "sides" talking past each other. I hear nothing of the Gospel or the saving grace of Jesus bought with His blood shed on the cross that graces me no longer to live to my lusts (as I previously assuredly did) but to die to myself and live to God in Christ Jesus. To bring up just one phrase I read often from your "side"s proponents, nowhere in the Bible did Jesus say He came for the "radical inclusion" of everyone, no questions asked, no transformation needed to reconcile us born sinners to a holy, holy, holy God whose eyes are too pure to look upon sin. He said that "if anyone would be My disciple, he must die to himself daily, take up his cross and follow Me". When people (the rich young ruler, former disciples who couldn't take His saying that unless they ate His body and drank His blood they would not have life within them) rejected His words and His works and turned away from Him, He didn't say they were "radically included" anyway. There were and are conditions, conditions that we cannot meet on our own, in the flesh. "Then who can be saved?" "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." "Without Me you can do nothing."

Oh yes, unity. Jesus said, "Do you think I came to bring peace upon the earth? No, I tell you, I came to bring a sword." He goes on to quote Micah (He quoted nearly every book of the OT in the Gospels, thus affirming their truth) to say that even family members would be divided against each other over Him. (Compare Matthew 10: 32-39 with Micah 7: 5-8)

After rambling on so long, the shortest statement of the Gospel and the faith that saved me is the title of my blog (sounds like a monster-run for your lives, it's a BLOG!!), Galatians 2: 20. When I read articles more along the lines of that verse, with the conviction that comes from staking your eternal life on its truth, there may be a hope of bridging the chasm between these two very different "faiths". God's grace and peace to you!

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Milton -

I like Galations 2:20.

I think that it is relevant.

And my definition of being crucified with Christ sounds like it is much different than yours.

Why was Christ crucified? I'm not talking about the theological reason. I'm talking about the historical reason. Christ was crucified because the message he preached was radically different than religious tradition allowed for. He preached that "love thy neighbor" was that of which all the law and the prophets hang. That's pretty radical in my book, especially for his day.

Or apparently they thought so, for they crucified him for it. And he forgave them until the last, even as he forgives us.

And we are crucified with him. Crucified for sins of "lust," as you put it? I hope that's not all there is to it. I think rather it is the sins of those who persecuted him. The sin of listening to the voice of tradition over the voice of love. Listening to the voice of keeping the status quo over the voice of fighting for peace and justice.

I agree that much of the debate talks "past" one another.

Jesus also talked "past" the pharisees and the saducees. His message was too big for them to get. I don't think that's revisionism. I think that is the story woven throughout the Gospel.

Milton said...

Jeff, "lust" and "the flesh" do not refer only to sexual sins but to our fallen, inborn tendency to prefer and live out of our own self-will that is opposed to God's will until we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. In fact, until this happens, we put our own will before God as an idol in our hearts.

Jesus' message "love thy neighbor" was radical (especially applying it to the Samaritans the Jews despised), but that wasn't what got Him crucified. He said Himself that He came (among other reasons) to be the sacrifice for our sins, so ultimately it was the will of the Father, obeyed in perfect submission by the Son ("He is the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world")that crucified Him. But the Pharisees said that it was because Jesus, being a man, claimed to be God, blasphemy deserving death. The only defense against that sentence would be, of course, if that man really WAS God, the reality that Jesus tried repeatedly to get the Pharisees to see but to which they hardened their hearts to the end.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Milton -

I'm not so sure I agree with you.

I think that is a very literal reading.

If I imagine all the subplots of this rich interwoven tapestry of our Christian history as it might be told with a broader view, more fully describing the other points of view in the story, I can imagine that the religious authorities were not only concerned about heresy but about loss of power. Jesus had quite a following. They were quite taken with the new message, the message you agree is a radical departure from what they were hearing.

Now, you might say that this "imagined" story is not in the Bible. And it may not be. But the Bible to me is the starting point for the journey, not the ending point. It is where I begin my meditations, not a rulebook where I find my thoughts must come to a conclusion. God is too broad in my experience for such limitations.

And that, I believe, is the real crux of it: Do we choose to put our faith in a limited document, prepared by humans in all of their sins and oppression, trusting that even though we acknowledge our imperfection the document somehow is perfection?

Or, do we acknowledge that the document has been created over time with the guidance of the spirit but by imperfect human hands, rough around the edges but smooth in the middle, helpful for self-guidance but not for judgement of others.

The latter is my belief. And I do use it. I read it every day and grow more and more enamoured with it. And the more I love scripture and find inspiration in its Holy Words, the more I am convinced that to apply it literally in any context is a sinful abuse of the minds we have been given by our Almighty Creator.


Catherine said...

Thank you Milton for sharing so much. I appreciate the depth of your reply as well as the time you took to provide it. I tried to get to your blog but as usual with, there is some technical glitch that is preventing me from visiting your site. I will try later. Peace to you too, Milton!

Catherine said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Milton -

I'm not so sure I agree with you.

I think that is a very literal reading."

That in a nutshell is what's wrong with an apparently large faction in the ECUSA. Without any Scriptural or traditional backing, Jeff dismisses the argument of Milton that Christ was killed for the crime of blasphemy, despite the Scriptures' plain reading.

I already read Stacy Sauls' well-written piece. Looking forward to reading more informed commentary at T19.


Jeff Martinhauk said...

A few things on my mind this morning to the topic of crucification and literalism -

Perhaps to reconcile your point of view, I should have phrased it as "things that lead to his arrest" rather than "things that got him crucified". I don't differentiate the two, as I think one lead to another.

On the use of Scripture, I highly recommend the Daily Office for today. I think it speaks volumes on the point of confusing the mistake of holding tradition/literalism with faith/love.

Fr Michael - I appreciate and agree that the view of the Bible is a large part of the problem, and I so articulated. However, I think another large problem is the way you've articulated your post. You said "Looking forward to more informed commentary at T19," when I think what you mean is "Looking forward to more commentary with people who interpret the Bible the way I do at T19." That point of view is fine to have, but at least acknowledges it as a point of view rather than being critical of another member of the body of Christ. This problem is endemic to both sides of this debate- blaming the member of the Body of Christ for having a position different than our own. THAT is ultimately the problem with the church today; not theology.


Milton said...

Catherine, quite welcome. No technical problem with my "blog". I only created the shell of one to be able to comment here; I don't have the time or the urgent impulse to maintain a real blog.

Jeff, I will reply later when I can give your comment the time it deserves. I will say now that our little discussion only illustrates more clearly how different our basic premises of faith are, and how utterly different and irreconcilable these two "churches" under one roof have become. We are following two entirely different maps, both purporting to be of the same territory. No wonder our paths have diverged from each other, to end at two very different destinations.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, maybe I should start leaving stuff at your blog rather than hogging up space here. However, as long as the hostess indulges...

My luck, my server doesn't seem to like CANN and the CANN-hosted sites, so T19 is off limits to me.

But in any case, the reason I'm even on this blog is that I'm looking for reasoned commentary from a point of view that differs from my own. My interest in Anglicanism/Episcopalianism stems from my belief that your communion is like the canary in the mineshaft. The Episcopalian Church at the pew level seems to engage contemporary movements (such as women's liberation, the US divorce culture, and LGBT) a few years in advance of the RCC in this country. I'm trying to understand your theology in your own terms, not through some conservative Catholic caricature.

Quite frankly, I'm not as firmly behind the conservative Episcopalians as you might surmise. I find the gay marriage thing like swallowing a gnat compared to accepting divorce in both the laity and clergy. Ditto for the change of the BCP, which would seem more fundamental for a communion that bases itself on common worship more than upon common belief. So I'm trying to learn from my admittedly conservative Catholic point of view why this particular step caused such controversy when other seemingly more fundamental items did not.


Jeff Martinhauk said...

I will say now that our little discussion only illustrates more clearly how different our basic premises of faith are, and how utterly different and irreconcilable these two "churches" under one roof have become. We are following two entirely different maps, both purporting to be of the same territory.

I appreciate that comment, and I think that is what Sauls is talking about, relating back to the two different maps of Protestantism and Catholicism in Elizabeth's day. The model I think he refers us to, in order that we don't too easily come to the conclusion that the houses are "utterly different and irreconcilable" is Elizabeth's - to focus on the essentials of faith. That which Catherine posts here quite frequently:

"I have no desire to make windows into men's souls. There is only one Christ Jesus, one faith.
All else is a dispute over trifles.
Believe what you want about the bread made holy, but come to the rail to receive it."

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Fr Michael - thanks for the clarification. And you're welcome on my blog anytime.

Just promise me you won't take it so personally the next time I say I like the Holy Father's shoes!


Renee in Ohio said...

I joined the Episcopal church shortly after the last General Convention, and, at least in part because of the decision to elevate Bishop Robinson. Long story, which I can tell another time. But I've been looking forward to this event for the past couple years, and now, look, it done snuck up on me! I don't know how much convention I'll be able to attend, because our family really can't afford for me to take a lot of time off work. But I definitely want to hear Bishop Robinson speak.

I'm going to start posting about GC06 and related issues at my own blog, here.