Bishops turn thumbs up

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ECUSA.jpgLast night, the Episcopal House of Bishops voted 99-45 to approve a slightly revised version of D025, a resolution that affirms the legitimacy of partnered gays and lesbians to be ordained. The key paragraph now reads:

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention affirm
that God has called and may call such individuals, to any ordained
ministry in The Episcopal Church,; and
that God’s call to the ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church is a
mystery which the Church attempts to discern for all people
which call is testednone
through our discernment processes acting in accordance with the
Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church; and be it further

The new version of the resolution must go back for approval to the relevant committee of the House of Delegates, and then, if approved to the full house–but there seems little reason to think that it won’t sail through.

What the resolution certainly does is make clear that the 2003 election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire was no regretted action, no one-time thing. But does it also remove the effective moratorium that has been observed on such a choice over the past three years? No doubt, the Anglican schismatics in the U.S. and the worldwide Anglican Communion will take that to be the case. And, sooner or later, they’ll be right.

Almost unanimously the Conference’s Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music committee yesterday approved a resolution to put together “theological resources and liturgies” for same-sex unions, particularly “within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions,
or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral
response to meet the needs of members of this Church.” And another resolution is coming down the pike giving bishops wider than usual latitude in blessing same-sex unions in those jurisdictions.

In a word, the Episcopalians are moving with all deliberate speed to fully normalize the status of gays and lesbians within their church. More conservative religious bodies will of course regard this as surrendering to the culture, but the truth is that all religious bodies must slow march to the beat of the culture if they expect to remain relevant to the lives of their members–that is, unless they want to relegate themselves to sectarian status. The Episcopalians are more willing to own up to this than most; indeed, they are doing so precisely by citing the changes in civil law respecting same-sex marriage.

But this establishmentarian inclination can even be found among its conservative schismatics. The new-minted Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, Robert Duncan (Trinity College ’70!), favors the ordination of women–a once controversial left-wing position in North America that raises hackles among Anglicans in other parts of the world and some of his own flock. Give the Duncanites a couple of decades, and they’ll be fighting over the ordination of gays and lesbians too.

  • First, thank God. This is just further confirmation that my wife and I have found the correct denomination after years of feeling like outsiders in the denomination of our youth.
    Second, I think there is something fundamentally different about the issue of homosexuality which makes it highly unlikely that the Duncanites – should they instead by Akinolians? – will consider the ordination of gays in just a few decades.
    Hating homosexuals is an integral part of their identity. Why this issue, and not the ordination of women, or abortion or any other thing is causing such a worldwide schism is incomprehensible to me, but there we are.

  • Charles

    Mr. Suh, hating homosexuals is not part of our identity. An endearing belief that the Bible is the actual word of God is…that is what motivates me to my beliefs. At some point, we all have to agree as to what reality is…and the reality is that the book of Jeremiah, Paul’s letters and many other passages in the Bible condemn homosexuality. I refuse to allow a momentary wave in social politics sway a beliefs that have endured for more than 2000 years.
    I will not tolerate hatred, bigotry or social inequality as an American citizen or a Christian…but I will also not allow the United States, or its individual states, to determine the policies within any church I attend. Our Country is held to a different covenant that our churches are. The spiritual direction our churches lead us in shouldn’t have anything to do with secular beliefs.

  • Bill

    Charles, you are a liar. A false prophet who knows nothing of God’s true message.
    Anyone who would try and keep God’s creations from serving the Lord or from a place of worship is simply not on the side God commands you to be.

  • Charles

    Bill, everyone is welcome in church. Everyone is welcome to communion. Everyone is welcome to serve the Lord within that communion – most notably by loving and serving one another. I simply do not believe that an openly gay man, that practices this lifestyle without repentance, should be given a position of authority within the Church. I also do not believe that the Church should be led by an individual who holds universalist beliefs where salvation is concerned.
    In an attempt to be all things to all people, the Episcopal Church of the USA has departed so sharply from scripture that the message has become this: do whatever you want…not only will God love you, but your salvation is assured. I believe God loves all of us no matter what, but if one holds the belief that salvation is assured no matter how unrepentant one is for ones sins, then why would that person go to church at all? Christians are telling TEC USA how they feel about these policies, and they are talking with their feet (over 60% of all Episcopals in this country have used those feet to walk out of the Episcopal Church to never return in the past 20 years).
    This is a very fundamental problem I have with TEC. Nothing I’ve stated makes me a liar.
    The TEC is not comprised of bad people. They are motivated by something good, and that is the need to be inclusive…but I would no sooner allow an openly gay man, living with another man, to lead a congregation than I would allow a polygamist to hold such a position. We all sin, but to sin unrepentantly is not what we should be about.

  • “Mr. Suh, hating homosexuals is not part of our identity. An endearing belief that the Bible is the actual word of God is.”
    Do you allow divorced people to hold positions of leadership? Women? For that matter, do you allow women to speak in church or come in with uncovered heads and/or cut hair?
    Anglicans claim to be catholic and apostolic, but they allow their priests to marry, something the Romans consider completely at odds with a person’s ability to preach the gospel.
    In your congregation, do you hold all property in common? Do you speak in tongues and have members of the congregation prophesy during worship? Do you eat a common meal together as a regular part of your worship? All these elements were key to the early church’s experience of worship, and any service where they’re absent would be alien to them.
    No, you’re quite willing and able to break with Scripture on a host of issues. It really is about homosexuality; something about that issue motivates people to schism, to break bonds that have lasted millennia.
    Wouldn’t you say that claiming to adhere to all Scripture while doing nothing of the sort is blasphemy? Your own beliefs condemn you.

  • Charles

    Taken to its furthest logical conclusion, Mr. Suh, we could find fault with just about everything, in every church, if we wanted to. Yes, we allow divorced people to minister the word of God…divorced people that have properly reflected on what they did and asked for forgiveness. Living an openly gay lifestyle and thinking their is nothing wrong with it is a departure from scripture. People who live unrepentant, sinful lives should not lead a congregation. I don’t hate anybody, I just don’t feel that is correct.
    Yes we eat a common meal, this meal is called “eucharist” and it is remeniscent of Old Testament dietary laws as well as a reinactment of the Last Supper…Christ becomes present in our Communion. I believe this.
    As for cut hair and covered heads, those admonitions are found in the Old Testament and are to be followed by people adhering to the Jewish faith – those are laws, by the way, that Jesus did away with in the Book of Acts. Those are laws designed to bring one closer to God…moral laws, as found in the Bible, are line-in-the-sand laws that apply to everyone (Jew and Gentile alike). I don’t analogize divorce with murder…both of which are against God’s law…and neither would you but for the fact that you are trying to win an argument.
    I am not trying to win an argument. I am trying to explain to you that where scripture is concerned, as it pertains to homosexuality, there is no argument. The Bible is very clear on this. Anglicans, and all Protestants in general, are clearly not as mindful of the rules as our past bretheren were (we would like to think that Jesus wouldn’t have been either). Interpretation and discussion of Scripture, by people who know what they are talking about, has played a major role in the Reformation and the continual development of the Church. I see no room for such interpretation where the Bible’s statements on homosexuality are concerned.

  • As for cut hair and covered heads, those admonitions are found in the Old Testament and are to be followed by people adhering to the Jewish faith
    No, they’re found in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul was describing elements of proper Christian worship.
    Anyway, you’ve skirted the issue, which is that you are perfectly comfortable with ignoring many parts of the Bible – even parts, such as dealing with women in the church, dress, status of divorced persons, all of which are found in the New Testament – that were considered essential just a few decades ago.
    And if we’re talking about the New Testament while completely ignoring the Old – something Jesus absolutely did not do, feel free to check out Matthew 5 on this – then the role of women in the church, the unsuitability of divorced persons to minister and proper dress and hairstyles for church are just as important as the issue of homosexuality, for all those issues are mentioned with just as much frequency and, frankly, far more emphasis and length than homosexuality.
    Nor would Paul presume to say that divorce and murder are so different; he included “disrespect toward one’s parents” in his description of depraved people in Romans 1 – the only place in the entire NT where homosexuality is unequivocally described. While it’s very likely that Paul, like us, would consider murder to be worse on a human level than divorce or many other things, for him sin is simply sin.
    Your problem is that you want homosexuality to be not just a sin, but something worth a schism in the church – “heretic” and “schismatic” being virtual synonyms in the first few centuries of Christianity. However, you simply have no scriptural or tradition basis for your willingness to jettison so many New Testament ethical standards while holding onto homosexuality so tightly.

  • Mark Silk

    Suh’s argument comes down to the contention that singling out homosexual acts to the exclusion of other New Testament proscriptions requires extra-scriptural criteria. The Catholic church does this via natural law (which, of course, raises other issues). It’s not clear to me what rational basis “sola Scriptura” Protestants have for doing so.

  • Well, sure, if you want to be all concise and clear and everything, Mark.

  • Charles

    Okay, okay, okay. We are all imperfect Christians because we don’t cut our hair, cover our heads and follow the book of Paul to the letter. I have misquoted scripture. That was incorrect of me. My apologies.
    You are not addressing my one single issue: people who live homosexual lives, without repentance, do so in complete violation of scripture. They aren’t saying they are sorry, Mr. Suh. They don’t think they are doing anything wrong (and from the impression I get, neither do you..which may the be very crux of this discussion). Like I wrote in my response, there are SEVERAL instances where we can argue, theologically, about what the Bible says and what it does not. The Bible, on a whole, is very clear on the homosexuality issue – as was the Apostle Paul. The fact that you are not directly speaking to me about this, and instead talking about several other social and personal admonitions in other scriptural text, is puzzling.
    Tell me, please, why should a person who is sinning and not reprenting at all be allowed to lead a congregation of people TOWARDS repentance? What scriptural basis can there possibly be for that? That is the question I am asking and nobody seems to have an answer for me that isn’t filled with completely self-serving definitions of what the Bible says.
    I’m probably not the guy to engage either of you in a debate over scripture. I am a reasonably intelligent man, and very well educated…but not in scriptural pursuits. However, I feel that my simplicity is needed in arguments like this. When you are raising kids, and trying to teach them the right way to live, you don’t make lengthy, doctrinal explanations to them. You don’t dance between the raindrops of reason and morality. You teach them the way to go; I’m not raising my kids in a Church where homosexuality is seen as a valid lifestyle. I wouldn’t raise my kids in a church where our pastor was a pornographer. I love everyone, in the agape Christian sense of the word, but I won’t condone that kind of behavior.
    Speaking of extra-scripural critera, I find it odd that TEC’s moves to change it’s stances on homosexuality and gay unions comes on the heels of several states within the US, and the United Kingdom, doing it first. The rulings of our Nation’s various state supreme courts should not determine our Church’s direction.
    Thanks a bunch. I enjoy speaking with you.

  • “Speaking of extra-scripural critera, I find it odd that TEC’s moves to change it’s stances on homosexuality and gay unions comes on the heels of several states within the US, and the United Kingdom, doing it first. The rulings of our Nation’s various state supreme courts should not determine our Church’s direction.”
    On this issue, at least, you and I are in perfect agreement. Of course, I want the church to be out in front of the state on this issue, and you want the church to resist the state.
    I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin, just as I think it’s fine to eat pork, wear mixed-material clothing and for women to walk into a church without anything covering their hair. For people to engage in these activities requires no repentence even though they are in violation of Scripture. What’s changed is our experience and the way we interpret Scripture in light of that. So accepting homosexuals into the full life of the church is just continuing the long-standing practice of deciding which Scriptures still apply.

  • Mark Silk

    If I could again add my two cents: The question you might consider asking yourself, Charles, is why you feel as strongly as you do about homosexuality as compared to some of the other scriptural proscriptions, when it’s anything but clear that Scripture provides the same moral ranking. You might even compare, say, your relative tolerance of divorce, which the New Testament is very hostile to, to your feelings about slavery or polygamy, practices that the Bible has no problem with. The point is, not all of our moral sentiments match the Bible’s. Why not and what, if anything, should we do about it?

  • Charles

    Mr. Suh, I agree totally with you on the fact that the homosexual discussion is largely emblematic of the types of conversations we have had, as Christians, throughout our history. The Bible was written in a periodic and historical context that we are constantly trying to make sense of in today’s world. In some contexts, society has evolved. Examples? The abolition of slavery, the social intolerance for systematic racism…which still isn’t far enough, but it is a start…the inclusion of women in all facets of social and government life. In others, we have not. We don’t care about family structure anymore. We are perfectly willing, as people, for our behavior to be limited by what is legal and what is not; ethics and principles don’t really enter into it. Parenting has become a lost art; our kids raise themselves, by and large, and it shows. Sexual perversion isn’t just a problem…it is an advertising tool.
    Religious theologans have, for years, tempered their beliefs of the Bible with whatever social context they are living at the time. We want to encourage the correct behaviors, but we also do not want a well-stocked hell either. Admittedly, one cannot do this and remain logical at all times (in an Aristotelian sense). The comparisons that Mr. Silk asks me to make in his most recent response would lead me to be logical, but not traditional. That, Mr. Silk, is why homosexuality is different for me. I am just too traditional. This isn’t the world my ancestors envisioned for me…and while I will welcome some changes, I will not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The social cost for a wholesale acceptance of sexual depravity is simply too high. The social acceptance for divorce, and it’s social cost, is also too high. But if, for instance, my congregation is led by a divorced person that has atoned, that is different. That is a wonderful example for the other divorced people in the congregation. I won’t restate it, but an openly gay man who lives with another man is simply not capable of that (and, to be sure, Bishop Robinson is also divorced).
    What should we do about it? We should talk more. Changes should come slowly. Trendiness should not be the goal. We should learn to discuss these things rationally and calmly (and I appreciate the both of you very much for that). What’s the rush? To me, this entire change within the Church has happened, in a relative sense, overnight. I went from my Church having two wings, to one wing running everything (and using a majority on the Counsel of Bishops to lord it over us conservatives). Next, we have a presiding Bishop that is more welcoming and open to people of other, non-Christian, faith traditions that she is to the conservative wing in her own Church. Next? I am to be re-educated as to what it is to be a Christian, almost guaranteeing that the Bishop that replaces ours will not be anything alike. That is about 2000 to now. Homosexuality is one issue, but there are a whole series of issues that predicated the present problems in the Church….and I for one am very happy to discuss them with anyone. We haven’t been nice enough to each other (on either side). Maybe the three of us are changing that just a little?