Bloggers

Blog powered by Typepad

« Keeping promises | Main | Notes about Orthodoxy »

Feb 21, 2005

Comments

bls

But many of us can make an even stronger case that the truth of the Gospel will prevail.

Yes. And this is exactly what we are saying, of course. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law."

In fact, gay Christians are not a "cancer on the church." We are simply a group of baptized Christians, like all others. (For more, see Acts 10:47: "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?")

Here's what Desmond Tutu said, quite a few years ago now, on the topic:

"We reject them [homosexuals], treat them as pariahs, and push them outside our church communities, and thereby we negate the consequences of their baptism and ours. We make them doubt that they are the children of God, and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for something that is becoming increasingly clear they can do little about."

bls

(And thanks for this post. And yes, God bless Frank Griswold.)

elithea

Amen

Karen B.

John, I can't recall ever seeing the cancer analogy applied against a person, as in saying "Gene Robinson is a cancer." I've heard reasserters say Gene Robinson is not the problem. He is only the SYMPTOM of the problem.

To my understanding, the cancer analogy is talking more about the underlying disease in our church and communion:

-- a lost theology of sin and the Fall,

-- a lost theology of repentance and atonement (try checking out the ECUSA website seekers center. It is impossible to find any concept of the atonement there...);

-- a determination to follow our own desires and the trends and teachings of our culture instead of submitting to the authority of Scripture.

These are what I and many perceive as cancers and would like to see cut out of the church.

redeemed

And it's nice to finally see that Frank is beginning to speak more clearly, if he means what he says in his most recent sermon in Belfast. As hard and as painful as it might end up being, it seems as though the progressives are willing to stand by their convictions as the conservatives seem intent on doing. Perhaps the best thing for all is a willingness to say that we have drifted too far apart in our core doctrines of faith to reasonably expect to remain in communion. Instead of seeking a unity that can never truly be united, to seek a separation that could be a good witness to the rest of the world and seek to both begin anew to work towards fulfilling our particular missions. Practically speaking, its already happened. Now maybe we need to simply make it offical and focus our attention on how to make it as painless as possible for all concerned and as cordial in appearance as possible so that the credibility of each remains intact since the religious world is watching.

David Huff

But we have to remember that the revisionist agenda is embraced by a minority of Episcopalians...

And Greg gets this statistic from what fantasy world ? The "controversial" decisions at GC2003 passed by what ? over a 2/3's majority ? They were passed in a completely transparent, democratic process by our chosen representatives. The "Network" only comprises around a dozen dioceses - about 10% of the ECUSA. And yet a "majority" agree with the extremist conservatives ?

The so-called reasserters are free to hold their views, but simply repeating something which is plainly not true, as if force of rhetoric alone could make it so, isn't good argumentation.

liz lee

David--
I'm not sure you really want to get into the numbers game concerning the votes at General Convention. The total number of deputies was somewhere around 1050 (on a good day, there's around 1.9 to 2 million Episcopalians in the U.S.). Even if all of the deputies had voted in favor of the "controversial" decisions, that would be less than a 0.1% representation of the entire Episcopal Church. But it's not even a one deputy-one vote deal--it's a one diocese-one vote deal, which would bring that percentage down even further.

By contrast, when the Diocese of Dallas voted to join the Network, the delegates-to-members numbers were roughly 350 to 40,000 (unlike General Convention, this WAS a one delegate-one vote deal) . Which, as you can see, is a much higher representation.

The real question is--would you want to put something that many consider to be "the work of the Holy Spirit" up for a vote? If the recent state elections concerning same-sex marriage is any indication, I would think the reappraisers would say no.

John Wilkins

Karen, a reinvigoration of such concepts as you have described them would be very interesting. I think what has happened is a that personal sense of sin has been trumped by a description of social and institutional sin. both sorts are described, of course, in scripture. In an individualistic society we are more likely to emphasize personal sin and atonement.

The loss of such words is more an example of our affluence, however, than merely irresponsibility.

David Huff

Liz,

Yes, I am sadly aware of the situation in Dallas, living in that diocese myself. However, Dallas is an extremely conservative diocese which is not representative of U.S. Episcopalians as a whole. Heck, we might as well be Ft. Worth except that (for now at least) we allow female clergy. It's certainly not, IMO, a safe place to be a mainstream Episcopalian...

I'm also well aware of how representation at GC works. But the fact is that the representatives were chosen by their respective dioceses and should reflect their positions as well as can be expected, given the nature of a representative vs. "direct" democracy.

"The real question is--would you want to put something that many consider to be "the work of the Holy Spirit" up for a vote?"

Well, how else would you have us discern this ? The ECUSA has decided that the best way to decide what the Holy Spirit is saying to us is through General Convention. Would you have these decisions made by a pontiff or a college of cardinals ? What if you disagreed with them ?

So is the process imperfect ? Sure, but as Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." :)

Phil

David,

If we are going to determine innovations of the Holy Spirit by vote, then shouldn't we include all Anglicans? How about all those attended Church in the last 3 months?

In that case, I am sure that the liberal side would lose.

In addition, since we are the Church and exist with "Angels, Archangels and all the Company of Heaven," shouldn't we give the Church Triumphant a vote? The vote of the Church Triumphant can be found in Scripture and Tradition.

I've asked others and I will ask you. Please show me something in scripture that says that God blesses sexual relationships between two men or between two women. If you can't find it in scripture, can you find it in an synod of the undivided church? How about the writings of the Church Fathers?

There is greater scriptural warrant for polygamy than homosexual sex.

YBIC,
Phil

Doug

Somewhere after "condemned by others", the prayer above went from being a prayer addressed to God to one addressed to Frank Griswold. Beatified so soon? Oh, and can we add this: From all inordinate and sinful affections and from the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil, good Lord, deliver us.

bls

Well, what do you expect gay people to do, though? This isn't something you need explicit instructions for; all you have to do is reason it out.

1. There is such a thing as same-sex attraction.
2. It is not by itself harmful to the people who have it, nor to anybody else.
3. It is not mutable (as we have seen from years of attempts).
4. It is cruel to demand lifelong celibacy - and worse than that, a lifelong ban on intimate relationship and love - from people not called to it. This would even include dating and falling in love; both would of course be forbidden.
5. It's not a very good idea that people with same-sex attraction marry heterosexually; we also have years of (negative) experience with this issue.
6. Same-sex relationships are not in most cases "vile passions" but instead are often partnerships of 20 and 30 years - marriages in all but name, between partners who care for one another in sickness and in health and for better and worse.
7. Millions of gay Christians are already members of the body of Christ, having been baptized as infants or children. Others chose to come to Christianity as adults, and have not been refused.

So what's the logical solution to the problem? Why does one need explicit permission to make this determination? I have to remind you that for those not directly affected, this is a throwaway issue, something to be considered and argued over for about 3 minutes. For gay people, it affects our entire lives.

Other examples of the use of reason abound: Scripture nowhere forbids slavery, but we believe it is wrong and would never allow it to be part of Christian theology. Why?

Where does Scripture allow women to be priets of the Church? Where does it allow women to have lives of their own, for that matter, and to vote? Where does it say that human beings can rebel against their oppressors and start their own government using their own system of laws and rules? Where does it say that in vitro fertilization is acceptable? There are a million things we come to consensus about without having explicit instructions.

How, in other words, does a tiny group of people, one with an affectional preference different from that of the majority - how does this cause harm to anyone in any way?

bls

(That should be priests of the Church, of course.)

liz lee

David--

With your statement, "Dallas is an extremely conservative diocese which is not representative of U.S. Episcopalians as a whole. . .," you commit the same error that you reproached Greg for in your first post--stating as fact something for which you have no proof.

Your statement that General Convention delegates are chosen by their respective dioceses and (that their votes) SHOULD (emphasis mine) reflect their (diocese's) positions--I find a tad naive. How many Convention delegates have EVER asked you personally how you think they should vote? I've known more than my fair share of delegates (my own husband included) and NONE have ever asked for my input. (Of course, that has also never stopped me either.)

Finally, as for my opinion on how bishops might be chosen, I'm going to give a totally un-American answer. In the first chapter of Acts, the apostles chose a replacement for Judas. Two qualified candidates were chosen, the apostles prayed, and then they CAST LOTS ("and the lot fell on Matthias." Acts 1:26b).

Why lots? Because it fits in perfectly with that damned Anglican "three-legged stool" (Scripture, Tradition, Reason). You see, a lot (or die, or straw) cannot be bribed, it isn't swayed by feelings, it holds no hidden agenda, it has no free will.

Also, if it is wrong for us to judge others as being UNWORTHY of God's grace and favor--why in the world would we presume to think we know best who IS worthy of God's grace and favor? You see, it works BOTH ways--if we cannot know the mind of God as to what is wrong/sinful/bad/condemned; we must also admit that we cannot know the mind of God as to what is right/graceful/good/blessed. Who would desire a faith with that type of uncertainty?

David Huff

That fact that you believe it isn't wrong to " ...judge others as being UNWORTHY of God's grace and favor" is one of the most frightening things I have read recently. The surety of some people in this current fracas that they know the mind of God so well boggles the imagination. I suppose it'd be fruitless to mention, oh, say... the first few verses of Matthew 7 ?

(sigh) there really are (at least) two Episcopal churches in this country. Otherwise, if all the church stands for is expressed in some of the comments I've read here lately, then I'm gone. Luckily we have a large Unitarian church down in Dallas. I'll bet they won't try to force their certainties about the "mind of God" down my throat :)

John Wilkins

Liz, I think you're onto something - we can know somethings, but it can't be perfect knowledge. I believe that God exists - but I believed it even before I looked to scripture for help on this. I'm sure of evil - and I don't need the bible to tell me so. On particulars I wrestle with the community around me. And that's hard work. For you, perhaps, the problem is certainty vs ambiguity. For me its what is easy vs what is hard. The scriptures describe a hard journey towards the kingdom. The easiness of certainty just won't do. Still, for some its a gift, and God bless you for it. For some of us, certainty about particulars is a curse, and thank God he doesn't require it.

liz lee

David--

You misunderstand me, but perhaps that was my own fault. Using the word "others" in my example was too harsh and I apologize. My next sentence is closer to the idea that I was really trying to get across. I don't believe that anyone is ever beyond God's grace and favor, but I do believe that some actions can be identified as wrong/sinful/bad/condemned or right/graceful/good/blessed; and I'm sure that you'd agree with me. My point was that if we can say with certainty and without arrogance, "This is good," it is only logical that we can (with the same degree of certainty and lack of arrogance) say, "This is bad."

As far as "knowing the mind of God" goes . . . I have had a loving and intimate relationship with my husband now for twenty years. I can, with certainty and without arrogance, say that I know him better than anyone else (on earth). Occasionally, someone will ask me, "What do you think Dominic would think about such and such?" No one thinks me presumptous if I reply, "Oh, he'd love that" or "No, I don't think he'd go for that." NOW DON'T MISUNDERSTAND ME--I'll never know my husband's mind completely and sometimes I get the answer WRONG. But besides getting an answer directly from Dominic himself, I'm going to be the most reliable authority.

I feel the same principle applies to the biblical authors and church fathers. These were people who had loving and intimate relationships with God (some even were blessed with knowing Him "in the flesh"). They are trustworthy, they are reliable, and through them, we get the clearest view available into the mind of God. WE can know, because they knew.

And remember, whenever a bishop is elected, we can say things like, "We were led by the Holy Spirit" or "God revealed His will to us"--they're all just another way of saying, "This was the mind of God . . ."

David Huff

Ahhh, OK - that's clearer, Thanks.

I suppose where we might be getting tied up knots is over a sort of "meta-issue." Sure, I agree that we can say "X is good" and "Y is bad" and even have those stmts be right most of the time, imperfect humans that we all are.

The meta-issue is: what do we do when we disagree about things ? And faithful, conscientious Christians do disagree about the things that are so dividing our church right now. (Please note that this is an important point. Those of us who agree with, say, what happened at GC2003 aren't being perverse or wicked on purpose - as if we know you're "right" and we just want to be contrary) And moreover, how do we treat each other when we disagree ?

Right now, in our diocese, the answer to "how do we treat each other ?" from the officials in the AAC/Network is that you either agree with them or you don't belong, you're probably not even a real Christian (I heard the rector of a large church in Plano call people like me "apostates" right from the pulpit the first Sunday after GC2003 as I sat there in the service. Them's fightin' words, and that was the last day I attended that particular parish)

As far as I'm concerned, "conservative" Episcopalians have every right to be in the church and run their parishes as they choose, within the bounds of the ECUSA constitution & canons (which provide more leeway than any, other denomination I can imagine - short of the Unitarians :) No one is going to force beliefs down the throats of "conservatives." All we mainstream or progressive types ask is that you return the favor.

it

I have had a loving and intimate relationship with my husband now for twenty years. I can, with certainty and without arrogance, say that I know him better than anyone else (on earth). Occasionally, someone will ask me, "What do you think Dominic would think about such and such?" No one thinks me presumptous if I reply, "Oh, he'd love that" or "No, I don't think he'd go for that." NOW DON'T MISUNDERSTAND ME--I'll never know my husband's mind completely and sometimes I get the answer WRONG. But besides getting an answer directly from Dominic himself, I'm going to be the most reliable authority.

I feel exactly the same way about my partner of 10 years. The one I'm married to in all but law. Part of that relationship that the conservatives dismiss as wrongful/sinful/bad/condemned.

Go figure.

liz lee

Believe me, I know that those who support the actions of General Convention 2003 are not inherently evil or wish to deliberately destroy the Church. Just as I hope you understand that not all who oppose GC2003 are homophobic bigots.

I have experienced multiple miscarriages. I have no problem stating that my body does not function in the way that female bodies were designed (by God) to function. I am physically broken. (Now I realize that some GLBT persons will take offense at this comparison. That is not my intent, please forgive me, but please hear me out.) Did God make me this way? Those who believe that God controls every minute detail of our lives would say yes. Others might say that it was a result of the Fall or an accident of nature. To me, it does not matter much how I got this way—it was beyond my control.

However, God has commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply.” Since I am unable to fulfill this commandment, am I, by my very nature, sinful? Of course not, just as people who experience same-sex attraction are not sinful by their very nature.

But not only was I physically broken, I also had (from childhood) an all-consuming desire to be a mother. Now many can, and have, said that my condition did not prevent me from being a mother. There was still adoption, surrogacy, foster parenting, etc. Forgive me, but I viewed that much like a GLBT person views the statement, “Well, marriage is not forbidden to you, it just has to be heterosexual marriage.” I didn’t desire any of those things; I wanted a child of my and my husband’s flesh and I wanted to experience pregnancy and delivery as well. It offended my own sense of justice that literally BILLIONS of people had what I could not have.

My sin, when it came, did not come through my physical brokenness, but what I chose to do with it. I allowed it to lead me into sin. Surely you can guess which ones—envy and pride. I still loved God and did not blame Him; but I hated my “neighbor.” There were times when I could hardly look upon my nieces, nephews, and godchildren without experiencing envy. Times when driving by an abortion clinic or watching a news report of a child’s death at the hands of a parent were almost unbearable experiences. Meeting new people gave me a chance to indulge my pride, because sooner or later, the question would come, “Do you have children?” And then, with smug satisfaction at their impending embarrassment, I could reply, “No, I’ve miscarried _______ times.”

My family and friends, who loved me and shared my sense of injustice, would have spent their lives forgiving me, over and over, for these sins. They might not even have considered them sins at all. They were understandable (justifiable) because they came about due to something beyond my control.

But worst of all, when I thought about my future, when I looked out over the long expanse of my life to come, what did I see? A lifetime of wanting something I could not have, something that so many others did have.

Why should I be expected to live a life empty of the one thing that I knew would bring me incredible joy and happiness?

This is the same question that I ask myself (just about every damn day) concerning those GLBT people that I know and love.

And this is where someone would usually give a nice, neat wrap-up of how they overcame their own obstacles, so surely GLBT people can too. I can’t do that—I don’t have an answer. But I am so very tired of being thought of as an unloving homophobic bigot who’s trying to keep all the gays out of heaven and out of the church. All I know is that my own sense of justice must still be imperfect.

And to Him who is Perfect Love, Perfect Peace, and Perfect Justice, may we ALL continue to pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”

Jake

Can the Spirit work through a democratic system? That is one of the critical misunderstandings about ECUSA in other parts of the communion. We are Yanks. We're into the democracy thing. We vote on delegates and bishops. We believe that the Holy Spirit does indeed work through the ballot process.

I've served in the midwest, the west coast, and now the east coast (four different dioceses) over the last five years (I do interim work), and I'm convinced that if we had a vote of every member, there is no question that Bishop Robinson would be confirmed once again.

The overwhelming message that I hear is that folks are really sick and tired of talking about this, and are ready to move on.

it

I'm sorry for your loss and ache, Liz. I'm sorry that you have suffered physically and feel hurt or broken or unfulfilled.

But you see, I'm not broken. And neither is my partner. Being gay isn't an obstacle, or a defect. It just IS, like being left handed.

In fact that may not be a bad analogy to being gay, when you consider how much effort was spent trying to "break" left handers of their natural behavior, which was viewed as different and imperfect, resulting in pain and in some cases trauma.

It just IS.

Erin

it, I like the handedness analogy quite a lot.

The deeper question I have when I consider issues like this is: Is there ever a situation in which it makes sense for a society to curtail one unusual behavioral preference or constraint, such as left-handedness or homosexuality? We are presumably in agreement that the Handedness Police are misguided; my question is, why did they exist? What societal need were they filling?

If we could come to an answer on this for handedness, perhaps it would give some hints at a more general solution for "how liberals might come to understand social conservatives." Stated justification always comes in Biblical terms, but it's obvious to me that the appearance of a moral standard in the Bible is not a necessary nor a sufficient condition for just about anybody's condemnation these days. Still, many conservatives are very emotional about this topic - why? Qui bono?

it

Yeah Erin, I also wonder . Many cultures still consider the left hand "filthy" and using it is insulting. I read once that this probably comes from its use in cleaning oneself after defecation. the word for left in Latin is Sinister. It's a whole loaded thing. (Interestingly I have also been told that left handedness tends to be found at increased rates among creative types. Hmmm, kinda like homosexuals!?) I don't know what the justification was in this century but anyone older than say 40 probably knows kids who were strongly dissuaded from, if not forced away from left handedness.

I think as far as the gay thing goes, it is a fear of sex. My marriage doesn't affect those of my neighbors. Straight kids aren't going to run off and become gay just because we're married. We are raising kids ourselves, and it's awful for society to tell them they need to be ashamed of their mother.

Frequently the complaint is that gays are promiscuous and will tear down the concept of marriage further. But all the gay couples I know are better-and-for-worse types who have been united for many, many years. The promiscuous gays are no more representative of me than the promiscuous college students are representative of all straights. (Trust me, hang out at a college on a Saturday night and tell me that straight students don't cheapen sex more than gays!) And you can't tell me that my marriage is worth less than the casual "lets marry let's divorce" ethos of straight HOllywood.

Seems to me that uniting two consenting adults in a stable relationship is for the better for all. So I don't get it. Except that in a world of uncertainty, human nature requires an "other" to hate.

Liz Lee

it and Erin--

Wow, was I off-base! Here I was struggling to find someway that I might understand even the smallest part of the pain and trauma that society has inflicted on GLBT people and I didn't even need to search any farther than my own left-handedness!

I had no idea the discomfort of being forced to sit in a right-handed desk for 16 years could compare in any way to the trauma that traditional Christianity has inflicted on GLBT people to change their sexuality.

I had no I idea that the small inconveniences of living a lifetime in a world designed mostly for the right-handed could compare to the pain of spending a lifetime without being able to marry the person you love.

And while it would be difficult for a while, I could change my hand orientation. Is that possible with sexual orientation as well?

I can't help believing that if I (a reasserting Episcopalian) had come up with the same analogy (being gay is like being left-handed), you would have roasted me.

Forgive me for trying to understand, I probably won't attempt it again.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Friends and Family