4/06/2008

Beyond the edges of the Court Battles: Schism and After.

The long awaited ruling on the applicability of a Virginia statute regarding church property was announced last Friday, April 4th. The ruling makes it clear 11 congregations in Virginia can defend their claim to the property under that statute. Now of course there will be the contest concerning the constitutionality of that statute and probably several other motions and then perhaps trial on the particulars of occupation and ownership of property.

Baby Blue on Wednesday, April 2, called for prayer and I am sure a number of us did so. Her call was very appropriate:

"We thought it might be helpful and a good thing to spend the time between now and when the ruling is handed down in focused prayer. This is only the beginning, we are often reminded. This isn't a sprint - it's a marathon. But however the path turns now - it does take a significant turn. And in time - very soon - we will know what turn is before us. It would be truly outstanding if you join us in this time of prayer - whatever side of the opinion you may find yourselves on, it's never too late to pray. Our confidence remains in the Rock that cannot be moved, even though the storms of our life pour over it, it remains steady and steadfast and sure. What ever comes in the next day or two, may we stand with mercy and kindness on the Rock of our Lord Jesus Christ, with - as Lincoln once said - malice toward none and charity for all."

"Not a sprint but a marathon" sounds about right. These being sports filled days, another comment was made by a high level lawyer for the Episcopal Church: "There's a long way to go. The game has nine innings."

The Rock is with us all, and I sometimes wonder what our Lord makes of it all. The very real separation is there, but the Rock is there as well and we all cling to it.

If there is finally to be extended and complete division and whatever temporal shake-out that comes with it, let it come with the resounding sense that those of us separated by the divide made the separation for great cause, for which the issues of temporal ownership were a result, not the primary cause.

The court matter is adjunct to the matter of true substance. The court matter concerns whether CANA has the property by right, by physical presence, or by thief.

But that would not be much of a concern to us were it not for the substantive issue: The Church of Nigeria and CANA have already determined that The Episcopal Church need not be respected as a Church exhibiting the signs of the faith as they understand it. They therefore have entered the 'house' of this Church determined to give true expression to the faith where TEC has not. They have broken fellowship with the Episcopal Church and encouraged schism.

Are they here with the right that comes with being the messengers of the Gospel where it is not already expressed by companions in the faith, or are they physically present as a parallel Anglican agency in spite of the cautions against such doings and without permission of the existing church or the Anglican Communion bodies, or are they sheep stealing?

The courts will not decide that, nor will the current structures of the Anglican Communion, nor will some future Anglican Covenant. This will be a "finding of fact" that plays out in the real future of the struggle across the divide.

I believe The Episcopal Church, which is often in great need of shaping up and flying right, is a legitimate expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, a legitimate part of the Anglican Communion family of churches. No church claiming to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the Anglican Communion both can act in the invasive way that the Church of Nigeria has acted towards the Episcopal Church and not have declared thereby that they are not in communion with this church.

Therefore, whatever the failings of this church, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has declared by its actions that it is not in communion with us. Of course, contrary to the findings of the court, we have never been branches of the same church, but rather members of the same family of churches. But now we are at best estranged members of a family, at worse we have been disowned by the Church of Nigeria.

For this reason and in spite of all that the courts might offer to the contrary, we are ecumenically engaged with the Church of Nigeria and CANA its subsidiary, in the same way that we might be with any other denomination not our own domestic or foreign. When we can we ought to act in concord for the good of the Gospel, when we cannot we ought to act in Christian charity, with malice toward none and charity for all.

But at no time ought we understand or pretend the Church of Nigeria and
CANA to believe we are equal (or even unequal) partners in the Gospel with them. I believe they have declared us (The Episcopal Church) unfit as carriers of the Gospel of Christ. I believe, of course, that they are wrong in this assessment.

The end of the matter then is that the Church of Nigeria's decision to intervene in the ministry of the Episcopal Church has established the fact that the CofN is no longer in communion with the Episcopal Church. Its actions within the Episcopal Church jurisdiction in the United States and other countries where it has established dioceses, replacing the Episcopal Church's ministers with its own and establish congregations within its bounds must be understood as a judgment that the Episcopal Church is no longer a fit church of the Gospel of Christ.

Those ministers of The Episcopal Church who become part of the Church of Nigeria are on the face of it part of a church not in communion with this Church (that is the Episcopal Church). Without prejudice as to the sacramental character of their ordinations, they have none the less abandoned the communion of this Church and may be declared so to be by this Church by declaration of deposition. Deposed, they loose any right to exercise the ministry to which they were ordained and it is presumed that churches in communion with this Church will honor their removal from license to minister.

The end of the matters now in civil court will not be concluded by the marathon before us, or for the remaining innings. Rather these will end, one way or another, in churches not in communion with one another, but worse, with some - the Church of Nigeria in particular - convinced that the Episcopal Church is not an adequate or legitimate carrier of the Gospel of Christ as Anglicans have come to express that Gospel, in America.

We have no alternative but to object, believing that we are legitimate as the Anglican Communion related church in the jurisdictions where we are located. And we ought to pray that the Church of Nigeria will come to re-establish a familial relationship once again.

The end of the matter may not be known in our life time, save to say that The Episcopal Church will remain and determine its future as God gives it wisdom, taking council as possible and necessary with other parts of the Anglican Communion. As to the future of the Anglican Communion, a family of churches, we can with confidence say that some members will continue in the fellowship we have already. With others it is unclear. We can only pray and work for an end of divisions that we did not initiate, for we never said, nor do we say now, that the Church of Nigeria, or the other churches who have begun missions in the jurisdiction of this Church, are other than churches of the Gospel and Anglicans. The Episcopal Church has not broken relations with any church in the Anglican Communion. The break is of their doing, for reasons of their choosing.

There it is.

31 comments:

  1. Well, Mark+, I was "grooving" with your first six paragraphs, but you seem to take a sudden turn in the seventh :-S

    I did have to laugh at your logic with:

    " No church claiming to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the Anglican Communion both can act in the invasive way that the Church of Nigeria has acted towards the Episcopal Church and not have declared thereby that they are not in communion with this church."

    At this point I'm not sure if you are suggesting that ++Rowan William repent and return the Seat of Augustine along with many properties to the Bishop of Rome. Somehow I doubt it, but I'm sure there is someone in the Vatican who COMPLETELY agrees with you, but maybe not as you intent.

    Oh well, as for possession or thief, one you left out is they actually paid for it, some of the parishes in question are new enough to have be purchased by the same who voted to leave.

    Oh well, thanks for the laughs,
    Kevin


    PS -- October 2? I think something funky with the timestamps at many sites.

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  2. Mark, didn't this just happen last week? Somehow you have put up the dates October 4 and 2.

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  3. Dear Sir,

    I am sorry but I find your assertion that TEC did not initiate the current AC crisis hard to understand.

    Did not ALL the Primates (including Frank Griswold) of the AC call on TEC in 2003 not to "tear the fabric of the Communion"?

    TEC knowingly ignored that call, of course.Are we not now living with the consequences of torn Communion?

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  4. Susan and Kevin...oops..I don't know why October. Neuron fart or something. Maybe the fact that here in Delaware spring sprang back at us and it is cold and gray...like October. Thanks I made the corrections.

    Kevin:
    (i) the progression of the thought is that a church claiming to be both part of the AC and the OHCA Church and then acts as CofN has, has broken communion.

    (ii) that is quite different from the CofE beginnings which were not about CofE actions elsewhere in the world, but about the forming of a national church,etc. The parallel is not there, although had Rome the military as well as legal resources(and through Catholic kings they almost did) the excommunication of the English monarch would have been accompanied by a return to Rome. Interesting question about similarities.

    I do agree that settlement for new churches where the existing congregation by large majority wishes to leave and were the founding congregation ought to include the possibility of mutual agreement on keeping the property. I believe in Central Florida, New Mexico and some other places such arrangements have been made.

    The canon on property concerns trust and ownership being first to The Episcopal Church, it does not preclude that trust and ownership being transferred as a matter of mutual agreement. Leaving, taking the keys, removing the minority and claiming the church for those who have left is not a particularly good place to begin conversations about settlement of property issues.

    I was impressed with Central Florida's efforts to settle such matters in ways that did not include as much rancor.

    Glad you had a laugh..even at my expense. Laughter is hard to come by these days.

    Why October 2 and 4 showing up? (see above)

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  5. Mark,

    What is not being talked about much is the toll on people in all this. This Diocese was VERY patient with these congregations during their discernment processes. It has done a very very good job in taking care of the minorities in the break-away congregations, offering support, pastoral care and resources that they may continue in the worship of the Church.

    What has not happened is the care of or even a word of Grace for those who have born all the rhetoric in their own flesh and blood--the LGBT community. While the Commonwealth was moving to change its Constitution to prohibit any legal recognition/benefits to same-sex relationships, despite the numerous Resolutions of GC to speak out when the civil rights of gays and lesbians are violated, the Bishops said nothing. And now, millions are being spent, the minorites of these congregations getting a great deal of care, and still, not one word for the LGBT community. And all this in a Diocese which continues to prohibit the recognition of relationships or consider partnered persons for Holy Orders--second class citizenship all the way around.

    I hardly know how to conclude this. Except to say that if this is only the first inning, I am afraid that the injuries sustained so far may prohibit many from playing this "game" much longer. Please remember, this is not a game. There are no innings. This is not a marathon. There are many striving to be faithful in a toxic environment. The support groups --Integrity, Oasis --you name them, do not exist here.....we are left with the laments of the psalms to pour out of our lips while others speak of power, property, theology and schism.

    Faithfully,
    margaret

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  6. Peter Akinola, as reported by All Africa, writes: "Leadership in the Church has often reflected the leadership style of the Gentile rulers who lord it over their subjects rather than the standard of servant leadership commended and modeled by our Lord Himself.

    "We have become so obsessed with an endless multiplicity of titles and positions without a corresponding passion for Kingdom values to advance the cause of Christ."

    Does he include himself as a member of the debased leadership? EPfizH

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  7. This seems, from the opposing side, to be a mostly fair-minded analysis. I'll only say that, after the events of GC03, the Primates declared, and Frank Griswold agreed, that going forward would "tear the fabric of the Communion at the deepest level." The decision to proceed with that action rested solely with ECUSA; hence, ECUSA is the schismatic body in this case.

    Second, the situation isn't as simple as you would have it. As you're no doubt aware, the straight-line conclusion that ECUSA deposes, and the Anglican Communion recognizes those "deposed" as no longer fit to minister in the Communion, won't happen. ECUSA won't get off that easily; the orders of these individuals will continue to be recognized by other provinces. Perhaps Lambeth invitations won't be forthcoming, but that applies to Gene Robinson (so far), too.

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  8. Phil,

    What you have stated may be a fair-minded analysis. But it can be said, with equal weight, that those that threatened with the sword of schism are indeed the schismatics.

    Sexuality is not a credal issue, it is a "purity" issue. The Gospel does not fare well with those who get all worked up over purity.

    I have faith that Our Lord's table is big enough for us all. But there is no room for name calling or the blame game. There is no room for condemnation.

    Yesterday, did you notice the sequence of events in the Gospel of Luke-how the Good News of our Lord's resurrection was revealed? --First to the women who took it to the eleven. Then to the persons on the road to Emmaus--they took it to the eleven.... the Good News was brought TO the eleven, it did not first come forth from the eleven. Our Lord will always call us into relationship, always. And those outside the pale always seem to get the good news first.

    Put your sword away. It does no one any good.

    --margaret

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  9. But you see, Margaret: it is a game for many. It's a game for those in power of "who wins"; the people most affected do not matter at all.

    As you can see in posts on this thread, what counts is Primates and Bishops and the warning from those in power that the "fabric of Communion would be torn" and "winning arguments." Nobody cares about the torn-up lives and souls of the people at the heart of this, even now - only about whether the status quo and the institution will be preserved.

    Those are the facts of the matter. Remember, though, that God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are. They cannot keep us from the Gospel, no matter how hard they may try; the good news in Christ will triumph in the end.

    You're right about the toxicity - but the Good News is that if there have to be segregated churches (yet again!), then that's exactly what will happen - because the Gospel cannot be defeated.

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  10. Certainly, Margaret, sexuality is not a creedal issue, if by that you mean it isn’t in any creeds. I have to hand it to you on that one. Neither is the Eucharist, and, really, neither is any mention of bishops, or, come to think of it, “border crossing.” Another thing that’s missing, now that I pursue your line of thinking, is caring for the weak and the needy.

    You’ve really opened my eyes on this, Margaret. I see we have quite a bit more latitude as Episcopalians than I thought, though the Presiding Bishop appears to not have worked through the implications of your analysis, what with her lawsuits and all.

    On the purity thing – just sharing between colleagues – you’re so right. One example that's always really annoyed me, and, I’ll bet you, too, is this Jesus guy, who went so far as to teach this kind of hate: “For out of the heart come[s] … sexual immorality … These are what defile a person.” That’s a typical obsession with purity, and somebody that doesn’t get that sexuality is neither here nor there to God. Here’s a guy that, all he seems to want to do in this teaching, is condemn, condemn, condemn.

    Fortunately, there are people like you to set Him straight.

    (Good luck with that.)

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  11. bls --yes. Thank you.

    Phil. Put your sword away. It does no one any good.

    --margaret

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  12. Mary Clara7/4/08 8:15 PM

    Phil's remarks in response to Margaret made me feel physically ill. Such poison!

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  13. Mark+

    Sadly, +Lee seemed to desire similar to DioCFL in how to handle things, yet "new sheriff in town" signaled a change in direction. I guess +Howe's claim to fame could have been +Lee's but he gave into other pressure. Still I think +Lee should be recognized as trying to set a better example, but sadly history will probably remember how +Lee finished more than the year or two proceeding.

    Laughter is actually quite easy for me. It comes out of pain but letting go unto the Lord. He has always been faithful, even when unfair circumstances meant I could fight for my rights (in hindsight would have been a loosing battle) or let go. Wow, in a boarder principle it still true that he who looses his life will find it, the Lord has been faithful!

    Peace,
    Kevin

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  14. OK - some people do not like Phil's statements.....but at least see that it is not a made up concern for purity from Phil and a few other "puritans".....please at least akowledge the roots of what Phil has said.......

    http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=mark+7%3A14-23

    http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=1+Corinthians+5

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  15. Your original comment having been shown to be specious – by Our Lord’s own teachings, no less – it doesn’t surprise me, Margaret, that you confined your response to, “Put your sword away.” Jesus having additionally told us that, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” I suppose you missed the irony.

    One of the central questions dividing mainstream Christianity from its revisionist versions is, “Are there things we do that are unacceptable to God?” Leaving aside the potential consequences, most of us recognize the answer is “yes.” Revisionists, whatever they may say, teach and behave as though the answer is “no” – God has no standards for us, and He is indifferent to whether we change our lives in response to His call. So, the apostolic teaching of metanoia, or, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked [i.e., all of us], declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ez 18:23), or, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19-20) are discarded in favor of platitudes about “purity.” Thus do the revisers strain out gnats and swallow camels.

    My conversations with revisionists have led me to believe they’re interested in only half of Jesus’ Gospel. In truth, though, all of us, whether in the mainstream or on the revisionist periphery, can only receive fullness of life by heeding all of Our Savior’s words and examples. Not just, “your sins are forgiven,” but also, “go and sin no more;” not just, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him,” but also, “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.” Anything less builds a christ in our own image, one who cannot save or offer the power of God, but only leave us in our brokenness.

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  16. Yes, Phil. God does expect metanoia and repentance. The interesting thing, however, is that "reasserters" think this always applies to somebody else. (It's easy enough, I'm sure, to "repent" of homosexuality when it's not a concern for one personally.)

    Here's a thought, though: perhaps God might be asking the so-called "orthodox" to repent of the damage they and the Church have done and continue to do to innocent people. God does indeed have standards, and as I said, most "orthodox" seem awfully unconcerned about what has happened to actual people on account of this foolish and viciously damaging misreading of Scripture.

    Do you know what Jesus talked about most? He told people to look to their own faults, and stop worrying about the alleged sins of others. That's a theme you find I'd bet at least a dozen times in the Gospels; and of course, it's the very thing most people find most difficult, as we can see in this entire episode.

    But again: it doesn't matter in the long run. We actually don't need the permission of the so-called "orthodox" in order to be faithful followers of the Lord Christ. The Gospel will continue to speak to gay Christians despite your best efforts; if we have to attend segregated churches, it won't make any difference at all.

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  17. Phil said: "Revisionists, whatever they may say, teach and behave as though the answer is “no” – God has no standards for us, and He is indifferent to whether we change our lives in response to His call."

    One might respond by noting the way in which some "conservatives" choose to believe that lying is acceptable if done in pursuit of their agenda.

    Phil, grow up and stop lying.

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  18. bls,

    What's the basis for concluding mainstream Anglicans think repentance applies only to others? Because we're critical of the behavior of others, that means we can't be critical of our own behavior, too?

    Are you willing to be held to your own standard? Here you are doing the usual railing against the Christian mainstream: "Damage they and the Church have done to innocent people," "unconcerned about actual people," "foolish and viciously damaging misreading of Scripture," etc. It sounds like it's only those other people that need to shape up.

    Or, are you willing to hold the blog host to that standard? Rev. Harris has another post up decrying the war. I take it he thinks it's in conflict with his faith in some way. Or, I could look at it your way, and suggest he keep his mouth shut until he cleans up his own life.

    Fortunately, you, Rev. Harris and I are all capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. I don't assume you consider yourself perfect just because you criticize me.

    Sure, Jesus said to look to our own faults, but you and I both know that's pointed out just to shut off debate. I'm not worried about the sins of others; I'm worried about the church encouraging others to sin. The distinction is clear if you'll give it a few minutes' thought.

    Malcolm, thank you for another in a series of thoughtful responses.

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  19. Phil, here's the core issue here: a Christian "teaching" that destroys people is false and not from God. Period.

    And that's what you advocate here, and elsewhere (if you are the same Phil I think you are) on a dozen different blogs. (I'm not the one, IOW, "railing" against other peoples' sins everywhere. Please at least be honest about this.) You seem to have little interest in anything but your own interpretation of a few passages in the Bible that, I'm sorry to say, really don't say what you claim they do. (And if they did: they would be wrong, since they destroy people. That's not what God is about.)

    I'm afraid you don't have a great deal of moral authority as far as I'm concerned, exactly because you seem so very uninterested in what has happened to real human beings as a result of what you advocate. In any case, the morality of homosexuality is the very thing that's at issue here, so simply repeating your opinion that it is immoral adds nothing.

    And no: I rarely see "Anglican mainstream"ers critical of themselves. Mostly it's sarcasm and loathing directed at the Episcopal Church, in my experience. And no: I didn't bring the "mote/beam" idea up to "shut down debate"; I talk about it all the time. (It's amazing to me that a central Christian teaching can be so cynically regarded and summarily dismissed, in fact!)

    But as I've said now three times, Phil: it doesn't matter what you say or do. Gay Christians will continue to be Christian; nothing you can do or say will be able to prevent it.

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  20. Phil, I'd be happy to offer up a "thoughtful response" if you'd offer up a comment that is not a tissue of lies.

    There is no "thoughtful response" to a lie but to call it a lie.

    Stop lying and I'll stop calling you a liar.

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  21. bls - since you raise the issue , have a look at what the Lord's direct teaching and you will see that he talked about hell a lot.....he talked about that more than anyone else......because he did not want people to go there......
    he wanted people to repent and believe.....hope you do not brush over all he said about hell given you raise the issue of what He spoke about.

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  22. malcom,

    Where, exactly, is Phil lying? I'd like to see specific cases, because while I can see you disagree with him and that he is challenging your worldview, I have yet to see anything that is a "lie". I see a developed agrument that you apparently dislike with passion.

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  23. bls, I’m not out to do or say anything to prevent you from being a Christian, gay or otherwise. I’m glad to hear you’re going to continue to be a Christian; unlike some, I don’t think we already have enough of us in the world.

    Also, I’m flattered that you would single me out, but what I “advocate” is centered solidly in the Christian mainstream, and has been, without interruption, since Christ walked the earth (and before). I’m quite certain the overwhelming majority of Christians agree with me even today. This is the context about which some honesty ought to be shown.

    Given that, and no offense intended, the “opinion” that carries little weight is really yours. After all, I’m not really expressing one, I’m simply reflecting the teaching of the Church Catholic. You can call it destructive, or stupid; you can claim the clear meaning of Scripture’s been misunderstood, including by those that lived in the culture that produced it, clear up until you and a small band of other Episcopalians figured it out; really, you can say whatever you want, but yours is truly the “opinion.” The Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality isn’t going to change, no matter the path chosen by various isolated Protestant branches.

    Going a step further, it’s nothing more than crude reasoning to say this teaching “destroys people.” We might as well say the man who wishes to bed a different woman every weekend but still insists on claiming the Christian high ground is “destroyed” by the Church that censures his actions. For that matter, why not say the Church destroys everybody? None of us can live up to the standards of the Gospel. Of course, as I argued above, that’s essentially what revisionist Christianity does do, falling back on the idea that no one should be made uncomfortable, and, hence, everyone may believe what they want. Thus the faith is evacuated of any utility and meaning – which brings us back to ECUSA and Katharine Jefferts-Schori’s infamous notion that we offer only questions, and not answers.

    I’m not uninterested, bls, in what happens to real human beings, but as long as there are standards, there will be those that choose to break themselves against those standards. Discarding them is anarchy, which, in my opinion, is not the way of Christ.

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  24. What is it with "conservatives" that so many of them seem constitutionally incapable of being honest?

    Phil's outrageous canards are a little more obvious, but Sharon pushes the same false dichotomy in a more subtle way.

    Pay attention guys. As much as you would pretend otherwise, the dispute here is not between those who believe that sin exists and those who believe it does not. The dispute is about whether particular types of relationships are or are not sinful.

    Claiming that liberals do not believe that nothing is sinful - as Phil has claimed explicitly and as Sharon has implied - is simply dishonest.

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  25. There’s no lying or pretending involved, Malcolm. I just flat-out think you’re wrong. You say, “the dispute here is not between those who believe that sin exists and those who believe it does not. The dispute is about whether particular types of relationships are or are not sinful.” My perception is, “conservatives” would love the dispute to be about the latter. As much as bls may think otherwise, God love him/her, the case from Scripture and Tradition for the traditional teaching is a stone-cold, lead pipe lock.

    Revisionists aren’t stupid, as you can see by reading any of their blogs. That’s why they are the ones that prefer the dispute be about the former (really, not your misrepresented version of what I wrote, but a more subtle one).

    Why, Malcolm, if that isn’t the dispute, are we treated to a constant diet of broad-brush claims that conservatives want “purity codes,” or that we (“we” ultimately intended to mean the Church) aren’t to judge others (vis-à-vis their behavior, rather than their eternal salvation, which is the primary context in which Jesus gave that prescription), or that we get our kicks from power and control, or that the church has a blank slate to reinvent its teachings as revelation unfolds? These aren’t targeted at a specific case of who can whisper sweet nothings to whom, but undercut the whole idea of fixed moral standards – more, evince a scorn for them.

    It’s precisely because I respect the capabilities of revisionists that I feel free to draw broader conclusions from the fact that area weapons are being used when a rifle would suffice.

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  26. ...what I “advocate” is centered solidly in the Christian mainstream, and has been, without interruption, since Christ walked the earth (and before). I’m quite certain the overwhelming majority of Christians agree with me even today...
    ...The Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality isn’t going to change, no matter the path chosen by various isolated Protestant branches...


    Anyone who has studied early Church history knows there has never been an established, homogenous set of beliefs. There has been disagreement and turmoil from the start, as evidenced by just the need for the first Jerusalem council. There is evidence from the Acts of the Apostles that there were occasions to "agree to disagree" and move on with answering one's individual call from God's Spirit.

    There are ideas that have been accepted by the "Christian mainstream" and the "overwhelming majority of Christians" through the almost 2000 years of the Church's existence that has changed, and Thanks be to God, for the better; anti-Semitism, slavery, the superiority of men, the inferiority of women and children, racial & ethnic superiority & prejudice, to name but a few.

    Much changed in the Church when it became the "established" religion of the Roman Empire, one of which was marriage. Prior to marriage slipping in the back door of the Roman basilica, there was no marriage in the Church, especially as a sacrament. It was strictly a secular/civil affair, dealing with property and inheritance. And an authority no less than the Apostle Paul, had very negative views of marriage. But, knowing human weakness, he advocated it for the weak.

    The oldest Christian liturgies celebrating covenant relationships are monastic and involved same sex relationships.

    As far as biblical authority is concerned, please take into account how it came to be. One bible scholar, Charles W. Hedrick, describes it this way;
    "The story "about" the Bible raises significant issues. From the historical records, the collection does not appear to be a deliberate product. A plausible case can be made that the church stumbled into the collection, a process lasting more than 300 years, and the Christian Bible was perhaps not finalized until the 16th century. The collection was shaped by competing religious factions, economics, personal ideologies, politics, the influence of larger churches and more. Many texts were eventually excluded.

    "Nevertheless, the fourth-century collection is still religiously quite diverse with four competing gospels, and Paul's undisputed letters vying with later texts in matters of faith and practice. Surprisingly, second-century Christians included texts in the collection based on their pre-Scripture faith; yet today's Christians judge the validity of modern religious experience by Scripture and creedal confessions.

    "Virtually all surviving New Testament manuscripts are from the third century and later, even though they were composed more than 100 years earlier. No original manuscripts exist. All we have are copies and no two are exactly alike. Hence, New Testament texts read in church today are constructs by modern scholars, who make them by bringing together parts of later copies."

    Ultimately, I take comfort in the inexactness of the authority of scripture and tradition from the encouragement of things such as this snippet from Evelyn Underhill, "The coming of the Kingdom is perpetual. Again and again, freshness, novelty, power from beyond the world break in by unexpected paths bringing unexpected change. Those who cling to tradition and fear all novelty in God's relation to the world deny the creative activity of the Holy Sprit, and forget that what is now tradition was once innovation; that the real Christian is always a revolutionary, belongs to a new race, and has been given a new name and a new song."

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  27. Interesting approach, Phil - defending one slander by adding another.

    So, we liberals really believe that there is no such thing as sin. You produce no evidence to support this accusation. You can't put up an unambiguous example of a liberal Christian saying "nothing is sinful." But that simply proves your point, since liberal Christians are so devious.

    Let me be clear, Phil.

    I believe that there IS such a thing as sin.

    I believe that lying is a sin.

    Indeed, lying (bearing false witness) made it to the "top ten" list of sins.

    And you, sir, are an unrepentant liar.

    You say that "“conservatives” would love the dispute to be about [whether particular types of relationships are or are not sinful."

    Apparently not, since they flat out refuse to engage the issue on that basis. No, instead every "conservative" argument is predicated on a handy-dandy strawman because to engage the issue otherwise would require honesty, integrity and charity.

    Instead, you lie. It is not enough that Malcolm or BLS or KJS are (in your mind) wrong about the issue. No, instead you have to slander them by claiming that they believe no part of the Christian gospel.

    And Yawner, old bean. If you support Phil's slanderous canard that liberal Christians do not believe there is such a thing as sin, then you are equally guilty of the lie.

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  28. Mary Clara9/4/08 5:54 PM

    Preach it, Brother David.

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  29. David,

    Great comment – lots to think about.

    Let me say, first of all, that my view on the history of Christian marriage doesn’t tend to the Erastian. Your contention that, “there was no marriage in the Church, especially as a sacrament” runs up against writings predating any official establishment of Christianity. As early as Tertullian in “Ad uxorem,” we can read things like this:

    We do not indeed forbid the union of man and woman, blest by God as the seminary of the human race, and devised for the replenishment of the earth and the furnishing of the world, and therefore permitted, yet Singly.

    And this:

    How shall we ever be able adequately to describe the happiness of that marriage which the Church arranges, the Sacrifice strengthens, upon which the blessing sets a seal, at which angels are present as witnesses, and to which the Father gives His consent? For not even on earth do children marry properly and legally without their fathers' permission.

    How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit.


    (Needless to say, the paradigm here is one man joined to one woman.)

    Or, in Scripture itself, a balanced view of St. Paul’s teachings hardly lends itself to the conclusion that his opinion of marriage was “very negative.” See Ephesians 5:22 ff.

    The little I’ve read on the supposed “covenant” liturgies – which is far, far less than we’d see if there was a shred of legitimacy to it – has been debunked.

    I’m unclear on the ultimate point of the historical existence of competing beliefs. Of course, there have been any number of doctrinal excursions in the Church’s history, but, where they’ve been judged to be important, the Church has acted to resolve the controversy or rein them in as it spoke authoritatively in response. You might as well say the historical fact of Arianism and Nestorianism proves we can’t really speak to the nature of Christ; that is, the existence of a heresy validates itself.

    In any case, there are two points to be made here:

    First, however you want to construct the history of Christian marriage (on which we disagree), the dogma of the essentials (marriage as a union of one man and one woman, which is a type of Christ and His Church) revisionists seek to overturn has never been in question. The idea that this is an open question is laughable in the Catholic Churches. Sure, some Protestant churches may feel otherwise, but the essence of Protestantism is disunity of faith, so that’s hardly a surprise.

    Second, even if you think the subject is perfectly analogized to some kind of latter-day “circumciser controversy,” even under Anglicanism’s own self-concept, neither ECUSA, nor, for that matter, the Anglican Communion, as a “branch” of the Church Catholic, has authority to alter doctrine. The nature of marriage most certainly falls into this category.

    Finally, there’s no need to go down the path of deconstructing biblical authority. As you know, the process of selecting a scriptural canon was a circular one of “if it’s Apostolic, it’s scriptural,” and, “if it’s accepted as scriptural, it’s Apostolic.” Scripture is only a reflection of the larger Apostolic deposit, in which we have no hint that marriage could have been understood as anything other than the union of a man and a woman. The Old Testament sources aside, I’m also not aware of a single textual discrepancy that materially alters any teaching of the Church, let alone its teaching on the subject at hand. Are you?

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  30. Phil, we know that Christians married. We know that Paul counseled against mismatching believers with unbelievers. So the ideal would have been understood to be between two Christians. None of that is in dispute. Forgive me if you thought I questioned that. But for me it is a stretch to imply that Tertullian was describing anything more than is described in 1 Cor 6. I do not accept he described the existence of ceremonies of marriage provided by the Church.

    The undisputed writings of Paul in 1 Cor 6, compared to one phrase in a deutero Pauline text. Please Phil. We are deserving of more respect.

    How about pointing us to the debunking of the covenant liturgies.

    I believe that the teaching of the Church would be substantially different if the account of Jesus healing the Centurion's "servant" was understood correctly. The "servant" was his male partner, lover. A relationship uncondemned by Jesus. In fact, the Centurion's faith was praised as one of the strongest Jesus had encountered.

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  31. (Dan)
    " The "servant" was his male partner, lover. "
    And Jesus and John were lovers. Or was it David and Jonathan? No, I remember, Jesus was secretly married to Mary Magdalene? No wait, it was St. Paul whose thorn was his homosexuality. Why is it I can never get these fables "straight" (pun definitely intended)?

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