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Aug 27, 2005




David Huff

Fr. Salty wrote: The Episcopal Church has taught me this: Here's scripture; here's the trinity; here's Jesus. Now go live your life. The truth has set you free.

I love that! Sorta sounds like an Episcopalian version of the Buddhist saying, Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.


Thanks for the chuckle, and lowering my blood pressure a few notches.

Think the dog and I will now take a leisurely walk.


Great post. Loved Fr.Jake's post too.

mason terry

Fr. Salty wrote: Jake's position is an accurate description of the way people live lives, especially those who have many choices. It's not merely a moral position. Paradox, change, ambiguity are real aspects of lives. When we die, perhaps we might face a more severe reality. Then we we'll make a decision based upon that. Al, and other conservatives, simply can't live this way.

Fr. Salty, I have noted that you and I agree more often than not on issues, but I am mystified by the way you use the notion of ambiguity and your readiness to say that Al Kimel and conservatives can’t live that way.

First, you seem to say that Fr. Jake’s description of ambiguity is “how most people live lives” and is “not merely a moral position”. If I understand your statement, it describes the way you believe things happen to be. The virtue of your observation is that it urges caution and humility in making judgments and engaging in courses of action because they entail risks. We can never be certain of outcomes. If this were all that Fr. Jake was saying, then we would be lead to conclude that that he was urging us to show humility and caution.

But if I read Fr. Jake rightly, his use of the concepts of paradox and ambiguity implies more. By the way he uses the concepts as a tactical device--a way of minimizing and dismissing his opponent’s argument without really addressing it—he turns virtue into a vice. It would be better to address the opponent’s position by showing how the opponent has neglected to address or take into account the full range of issues. It might even be more charitable to acknowledge the deep pain that having to choose between two or more incommensurable goods poses for most of us. This choice, I submit, is anything but an ambiguous one!

But how far does Fr. Jake wish to extend his use of “paradox and ambiguity” and to what? You imply that those who can live with ambiguity are somehow morally superior to those who cannot! That must include Fr. Jake! As I mentioned to him, one might conclude that he is insincere about his use of the concept because he is not at all ambiguous or uncertain about those positions to which he is deeply committed. He loathes both Pat Robertson’s recent comments about assassinating Pres. Chavez and Archbishop Akinola’s anti-gay positions. He can’t accept the view, he said, that “the bible said it, I believe it, that ends it". In these and other positions, he showed no trace of ambiguity. However, I doubt his lack of ambiguity on these commitments makes him somehow less morally worthy or astute.


The problem I see with those who invoke "the Authority of Scripture" to condemn those actions of the Episcopal 2003 General Convention that they find distasteful is that they are forced to pick and choose textual passages to support their positions while avoiding those passages that they would prefer not to care about. They don't, for example, claim that wearing poly-cotton clericals should disqualify one from becoming a bishop. But that's a Levitical proscription as well. I have yet to hear a coherent justification for the method of their choosing that is better than Jake's "ick" factor.

Even Professor Gagnon, whom I am told is the theological heavy-hitter of the Reasserter set (and thanks, saltyvicar, for the definitions; if only we now had etymologies), discounts Lev. 18:19 as no longer applicable based solely on modern contemporary mores. So why can't we similarly approach Lev. 18:22 and its progeny?

If this be "ambiguity", then we need to find other principles to look to to help us make choices. Unless your choices are random, then there must be reasons for acting. If our choice is to put on blinders and stab at untranslatable texts (no one alive knows exactly what "malakoi" may have meant in first-century contexts), and take them as gospel, then we are overlooking the Gospel. Or so I read Jake.

And mason terry, if you read back over Jake's prior posts you will see that he has "addressed the opponent's position" many times; he no longer does it every day and like many of us appears to be getting tired of feeling a need to do so.

I guess that being a "revisionist" may not be such a bad thing. The Gospel commands us to look, and to look again (Mark 13:33-37), and God asks that his prophets write the vision (Hab. 2:2). Re-vision must therefore be good, and we should spread the word.

John wilkins

Hi Mason. actually I have no problem with Akinola and Robertson havine their own views. I simply don't think I'll be condemned for not sharing them. Where do we go from there? Look, I think Akinola is a hateful bigot. Alas, I don't think he's going to hell, as I think is faith is sincere. I don't get that kind of charity from Akinola and his ilk. He thinks I'm really dangerous. I just think his views are... inaccurate. I think its OK to be wrong. If he would only allow that he could be wrong. thus, I'm erring on the side of ambiguity.


I can't remember enjoying a post more. I'm so glad that you cleared up this business of authority in scripture for me, among other things.

Bruno Finocchio

and a bit of the hair of the dog (or cat, as the case may be)
and remember the old Episcopal saying
"Where ever two or more are gathered in His name, the is sure to be a fifth"
Peace Brother

Dave C.

I left the Episcopal Church because it seems to me that currently the only point of belief that will allow for complete welcome is a belief that a committed homosexual relationship is a blessed thing. It seems not to matter what the view of Scripture is, as long as you agreee that it allows homosexual behavior. It seems not to matter whether you believe Christ was sinless, born of a virgin, died and arose or not, as long as you believe that he would have blessed homosexual relationships.

In short, the "Here's scripture; here's the Trinity; here's Jesus" can mean something, nearly everything, or almost nothing at all, and that's o.k. unless you also happen to believe that Scripture, the Trinity, and Jesus do not allow us to sanctify homosexual relationships.

John Wilkins

Dave, you can believe or not believe. What we liberals say is that the church should be agnostic about orientation, and focus on the real center of the faith. That would be Jesus. You're picture of liberals is one painted by conservatives.

mason terry


You indeed point out a crucial problem in the way some approach Scripture when they invoke it in these unfortunate debates. You ask some very good questions. Those who reach for Scripture first to decide a question often appear to have no guiding principle or principles in how they pick and choose. Your citation of the Holiness Code in Leviticus is a good example. Mentioning that you understand that Prof. Gagnon discounts the Holiness Code “based on contemporary mores”, you asked why his approach can’t be extended to Lev. 18:22? Continuing, you asked a very crucial question: “If this be "ambiguity", then we need to find other principles to look to to [sic] help us make choices. Unless your choices are random, then there must be reasons for acting.”
I agree. Indeed, that’s the rub. Are there any such principles?

That being said, I suggest that both sides in this debate may be missing the mark and if they are looking for “principles” they are looking for fool’s gold. Both sides are presupposing different, but equally inadequate approaches. Looking to the Scriptures in hope of finding the conclusive and definite answer to every doctrinal, moral or theological dispute is not a fruitful approach. On the other hand, neither is the approach that posits the existence of some abstract set of principles (based, perhaps, on natural rights and law—like brotherhood, liberty and equality) which should be used to guide interpretation of Scripture. Rather, the church’s practical moral reasoning should be guided Christologically by the image of Christ but I will not test your patience by explaining what that entails here.

As a result of critiques, among others, of the Post-modernists of the existence of universals and the rise of hermeneutics of suspicion, many in our time are skeptical about the existence of some body of universals. They are suspicious of claims grounded on some lofty, high-minded principle. What principles others invoke are too often guided by unconscious cultural and economic biases. What we ate for breakfast (to paraphrase Justice Holmes) determines the principles we invoke.

Thus, to continue to Insist that we must search from some principle or principles (whatever they may be) sends us all on a fool’s errand and continues to beg the question. No set of abstract universal principles exists through which we can interpret Scripture.

Fr. Salty—

The point was not whether you did or did not agree with Archbishop Akinola or what you think of him. In using Fr. Jake’s assertions about Akinola and his rejection of a particular view of Scripture, I was not suggesting that you agreed with him or didn’t. I frankly did not know. What I hoped to show was that, despite the way Fr. Jake applauded the PB’s use of the concept, there exists no ambiguity in Fr. Jake’s views on Akinola and on the particular view of Scripture he mentioned. To use the concept of ambiguity the way he did was disingenuous.


To eliminate certain options of where to draw the line does not rule out the possiblity that one is still ambiguous as to where that line should be drawn, or if it is even possible to drawsuch a line.

Using the term "ambiguous" as synonymous with "uncertain," it is possible to hold a position tenaciously while still being open to the possibility that your position does not encapsulate absolute truth. If this is disingenuous, I plead guilty, but am not inclined to repent.

John wilkins

I think that we liberals are fighting for the right to be wrong about some things, and that includes the salvation of those formerly excluded. Jake is correct in moving the issue from "ambiguity" to a lack of absolute certaintly.

Alcuin Bramerton

Feminist theology is about more
Than the use of vibrators
In liturgical dance.

Feminist theology is about
The sexist silliness of saying
That God is a cosmic senior citizen
With hair on his chin
But not on his pussy.

Feminist theology's goals
Are to interrogate
The social construction
Of black womanhood
In relation to the African American experience
And ask if "womanist theology"
Might be a more gender-neutral term
Than "feminist theology" -
And more ladylike?

And feminist theology is about
The employment discrimination
Involved in asserting
That 3.5 billion clitorises
Disqualify the human beings
Attached to them
From being priests of Christ
And from the fringe benefits
Which being priests of Christ brings
In terms of pretty dresses
And pensions.

If you are the proud possessor
Of a penis,
You can pray better.

Feminist theology
Questions this dogma.

And feminist theology
Questions other things,
Such as why it is the case
In many churches
That there is so little
Handbag space
Provided on the High Altar,
And why most medieval
Easter sepulchres
Are not fitted with bidets.

These are live issues
For the female faithful
And they cannot be swept under
The kitchen sink.

It is not easy
To deliver a sermon in church
While you are doing the ironing.

It is true that you could
Get a man in
To do the ironing.

But that would mean
That the man would miss the sermon,
Or do the ironing
Down at the pub.

Or, more likely,
Mow the lawn instead
While laughing loudly
At football jokes
And peeing on the lavatory seat.

Men make such hopeless priests.

Bill Carroll

Isn't a large part of the issue about whether authority is unilateral and vested in a person by virtue of office or bilateral/multilateral and granted to the person in view of trusting relationship and mutually discerned gifts? Some folks will not be comfortable unless there is a hierarchy prepared to give unambiguous answers to disputed questions. Anglicanism as I have known it has been more comfortable without the ability to make neat and tidy resolutions. Apparently, elsewhere in the communion, this has not been the case. Which view of Anglicanism should prevail and why?


Bill, there is also some folks who will not be comfortable unless there is a heirarchy prepared to give unambiguous rulings to disputed actions. Here, the same parts of Anglicanism that don't want neat and tidy resolutions to questions has become more and more comforable seeking neat and tidy resolutions to actions in other seemingly unrelated situations and circumstances. Because of both situations and circumstances, can Anglicanism prevail and how? Authority indeed!


So go hang-gliding. Go dancing. Do something wonderful for someone today. Plant a garden. Feed your cat. Take some asprin. [?!]. Reverently.

Beautiful words!

This is really tangential, but have you seen the movie Harold and Maude? The spirit of this passage reminded me very much of how I felt watching that movie. (It has some things to say about authority, too...)

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