4/02/2009

The Topsy-Turvy World of Anglican Blog Land: How talk turns to trash.

There is a modestly serious crowd over at Covenant that produces some good analysis of things Anglican, but is occasionally given to a bit of silliness.

In the past few days there have been posts stating that
Archbishop Akinola was taking up a post at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, that Marcus Borg was joining the faculty at Trinity School for Ministry, that Ruth Gledhill
had released a copy of the new draft Anglican Covenant, but that Covenant was pulling it because Ephriam Radner, one of the members of the drafting team and a Covenant writer, had requested it be withdrawn. These notices of matters verging on the apocalyptic were posted along with a story that Newt Gingrich has become a Roman Catholic. All good fun...oops, it turns out the last of these four is true (or I think it is). How can we tell? Well, the first three posts were all filed under the category of "humor" on the Covenant pages. One has to look carefully next to the name of the author, but there it is.

All good fun, perhaps, but the trouble is these things are now out on the net and the linking of this page is well done by robots who don't laugh. We might remember that humor is a highly interactive form of communication best done among people who can laugh together. Pushing humor as news sometimes produces internet blog-farts. These pages, even if pulled, will remain as faint wisps of electronic detritus for years, and people will state with the confidence due Covenant, "Archbishop Akinola went to CDSP in 2009." In the topsy-turvy world of the internet blogsphere anything becomes a fact. Making it up as we go along can indeed be good for a laugh. After all no one would take seriously the idea that Akinola would be at CDSP or Borg at TSM, or Gingrich was becoming a Roman Catholic (wait, I remember, that IS true.) But some will forget the humor and remember the "fact."

Other blogsphere material is neither funny or true but will pass into the land of search engines where the robots cannot distinguish humor from feisty journalism and journalism from trashing. And the purposes served are not at all the simple ones of telling a joke, or poking fun at people who may or may not deserve to be laughed at.

The constant references to Fr. Forrester as the "Buddhist bishop" makes it almost impossible to make careful enquiry into his qualifications and suitability to be bishop of Northern Michigan. He has been subjected to trial by title, "Buddhist bishop." Lost in all that is the sort of studied response that came from the Bishop of Southern Ohio, Bishop Breidenthal.

Some in the blogsphere are essentially providing the internet Anglican talk-show environment for a limited and quite vocal crowd of kvetchers. Preludium has some, but mostly a mild mannered sort. Over at Stand Firm the kvetchers are sometimes given to howling. Sometimes the writers over at SF do a very good job at looking at an issue, so I graze in SF land regularly, even if it troubles my liberal soul.

I was surprised yesterday to see that Matt Kennedy took on a comment I made concerning the saying of the Nicene Creed and dumped that comment back into a criticism of my reasonably consistent effort to keep Fr. Forrester from being tried and convicted without a hearing.


Fr. Kennedy writes with passion and often with great detail, but he gets on a rant and where he leads others are willing to follow. But more to the point the search engine robots will now link me with a plot to overthrow the value of the Nicene Creed. Kennedy says,

"If Mark Harris' defense of Bishop-elect Forrester is any indication of 815 group-think then hang on. TEC gleefully jettisoned the bible to embrace VGR's sexual habits and the teeming masses, the rushing hordes, of LGBTQI people who have since become Episcopalians. Now Mark Harris+, a member of the Executive Council and well connected TEC insider, appears just as willing to trade the Nicene Creed for Thew+, Hegel, the Buddha and the over 2 Million American Buddhists who'll be hard pressed find places to sit amidst the throngs of LGBTQI couples on Sunday Morning. "

One of Kennedy's readers makes this strange comment:

"At present, having read one or two of his sermons, and listened to one, Fr. Forrester seems far too opaque to even suggest the concept of his “becoming a window for the Word of God in our midst.” Owing to his opacity, I think a window is out of the question, but a door might be a reasonable metaphor.

But a door assumes, incorrectly, that someone makes artillery in a sufficiently large caliber (probably something like 2000mm, or thereabouts). Of course, he would then no longer be, figuratively or physically, “in our midst.” The terms that come to mind are splattered and all over us, which as a Christian I should not wish on anyone, and certainly do not wish on him.

Absence of consent followed by deposition seem by far the most appropriate, and Christian, measures for Forrester."

In the blogland equivalent to the radio talk show rants some of the soft underbelly of America's love of violence makes it to the surface, but unlike talk radio there is plenty of time to pull the plug. SF didn't. Suggesting, even suggesting metaphorically, that a gun be taken to Fr. Forrester, is playing the hate game. It is not a joke. It is not a bit of April Fool's Day humor.

While I am of course honored to be vilified by Stand Firm (kind of a badge, you know), I am less honored to know that my reminder that we Episcopalians say the Nicene Creed consistently has been turned into an accusation that I might trade in the Nicene Creed for Forrester, Buddha and Hegel will sit out there as a fact right along with Archbishop Akinola being on the faculty at CDSP.

All of which pales by comparison to the purity driven comment that started it all: "Yes we all say these words, but are they believed when they are spoken?" My response was to say,

"who knows the hearts of people? God alone. About as close as we can get is the sense that a person is without guile, and open to learning again and again from the words what lies behind them.

I believe we say the words, even the ones we don't particularly think are clear or on the surface of it true, and let them wash over us, and perhaps wash us down. There were years when I was not particularly comfortable with "incarnate from the Virgin Mary." The words wash over me and after a while I found the "other side.""

The comment that got picked up by Kennedy and later by his own violent commentator was this,

"I do agree we need to hold Bishops to a "higher standard of theological reflection than a new believer in the faith." Do you suppose that perhaps Fr. Forrester is engaged in his sermons in "theological reflection"?

That would be a good thing. It is not the same as reflecting the Word of God (notice I did not say reflecting 'on'). Theological reflection is at least a step on the way to becoming a window for the Word of God in our midst and beats the hell out of much of what passes for preaching.

Having preached some bad sermons, I ought to know."

Somehow that comment about a window became in rant-land an image of a door and a gun, and splattering, and no more problem in our midst.

What began as a criticism of me (and I know my failings, they are ever before me) as become an occasion for trash talk of the worse sort.

Perhaps it makes for readership - Stand Firm has a mighty active gang of readers. But it does not make for either Christian charity or good journalism, or even modestly useful blogging.



43 comments:

  1. Wow. I remain astonished at their inclusiveness, their love, and their truly CHristian attitude. Who would Jesus shoot?

    Nice to know that they think my beloved (one of those LGBT attracted to the Episcopal church) is not worth having. Thanks. Noted.

    As the bumper sticker says, Lord, save me from your follwers.

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  2. This is a good example of how words get twisted and rhetoric is used for the sake of what, I don't know. I have tried a couple of times to make a reasonable statment or two at one of those sites, and was attacked and there is no other word for it. I will never trust people who do not care whether or not they have the actual facts, and who are unable to listen, let alone perceive that there might be another reasonable view of a matter.

    I believe that integrity, honesty, love, respect, are at the heart of Christianity. How do you love your neighbor as yourself, as we are commanded to do, without that?

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  3. I wish to take the opportunity to thank you for trying to keep some reason and impartiality in this wretched affair, invented out of nothing by the anti Moderns to slander father Forrester.

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  4. I read sites of a conservative as well as liberal persuasion; I find things that push my buttons in both directions, which can be a healthy thing.

    However, the sort of nastiness you cite here is why I made the decision to neither visit nor link to that site, and why I actively direct people away from it. Not only was/is the venom hard to read, but I realized that allowing it to seep into my thought process was hazardous to my spiritual health.

    It's no wonder nonbelievers often have a hard time seeing the face of Christ among those who call themselves his disciples...

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  5. I will not visit those sites.
    There are times when I have to stay away from here because the vitriol and the malice in the comment section starts to bring out the worst in me.

    It must be great to be Right. Everything is always so clear and simple, brutally so.

    There are times when I think the right wing idea of "the light of the Gospel" is a flood light mounted on a steamroller.

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  6. Mark, your points are well taken and have certainly given me food for thought. I make confession and ask for forgiveness for my own part in furthering any hostility in the blogosphere in my overzealous responses to some whom I vehemently disagree with on so many things.

    I have been deeply touched in my heart of hearts this week by your 2 posts on the Kaddish and the 493 Words.

    It is a sorrow indeed that others are able to take something so profoundly beautiful and so Christian like this blog and link your good name to nonsensical trash through their misleading bog posts but fear not, brother, your name will remain good long after their infamy has turned to ashes in their mouths.

    At this point in my life I still deeply love the liturgy (both from my former Roman Catholic home and my Episcopal home for the last 2 decades.)

    I had 3 different wonderful Episcopal churches in my former homes in Appalachia and New York, all full of kind, good-hearted, Christ-like priests and congregants of diverse political and social views. The ability of all to gather at the altar rail every Sunday despite our differences sustained my faith and deepened it as well.

    Since my move to the deep South 7 years ago I have encountered nothing but sanctimonious judgment and outright hatred preached from the local conservative-bent Episcopal pulpits and surrounding me in the pews in the churches in my small city.

    Republican conservative politics and all the anger against the hated "liberals" (of which I have been a card-carrying member for nigh on 35 years now) shocked me to the quick.

    I never encountered this kind of thing expressed towards conservatives, even in the most liberal NYC parishes to which I belonged for many years. I know we liberals are not blameless nor innocent in this "war" but we are certainly not fighting by the same rules either.

    I simply stopped going to my local orthodite-controlled churches after I could no longer ignore the pain it was causing my soul. I could no longer connect with God at these places so I connect with God online and in my own home now.

    Your blog and a few others have been a spiritual oasis for me these many years in the desert and provide me with a lifeline to the church that I still love, even in my self-imposed exile.

    Thank you for reflecting Christ to me, especially when I don't always want to see Him in my anger and frustration. You are one class act and a true shepherd of His flock. Blessings and thanksgiving to you!

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  7. Counterlight:
    For a conservative evangelical who visits here, some of you progressives seem pretty clear that you are in the right, pretty much all the time.
    Mark:
    April fools day jokes and the internet: you are right they will live on. Makes you long for when yesterday's news went out with the cat litter.
    Beryl:
    Words do get twisted on some of the conservative sites. It is hard communicating across this divide. sometimes we do not understand each other. There have been times when people have got a different meaning from my words than what I have intended, but on reading their response, I see how they got there.
    Happens here too, you know.
    Obadiah Slope

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  8. IT there was a graphic on kos today of that VERY comment...

    I find it pitifully sad.

    Mark, while I hasten to say you are more brave than this currently-not-going-to-church Episcopalian to visit SF, I stay away from these rather poisonous places for a reason and you have just observed one of the reasons why.

    If one types in their screen name and almost any hot-button word, one will find a library of not-so-great things associated with them. Trust me, I've tried it.

    I am not the sort that really has to watch this given I hold no position anywhere that demands I maintain any semblance of moderation, nor do I care to. But others like you, Mark, do have that bit of a problem as apparently did Father T.

    So actually, be thankful for your commenters that are able to do what you cannot. At least there are no cameras recording your nod of assent:)

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  9. Mark+,
    I was wondering why Kennedy+ is using his energy denouncing TEC, and reading and commenting on your blog. Hasn't he left TEC and moved on to other places where he can exercise his ministry among people who he believes are still capable of salvation? What keeps him from shaking our dust from his feet? Every minute that he wastes criticizing us is a minute that he could be serving Christ in his new venue. I wonder what it is in TEC that still has such a powerful hold on him.

    -Stuart

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  10. I dislike the first of April. It's hard to tell whether a startling news report is good news, bad news, or a joke.

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  11. Crikey, Mark, for a while back then, I thought you meant it. Then I noticed a wry smile on your blog photo and realised that this is just another anarchic attempt on your part to bring civilisation crashing to its knees. You can't fool MadPriest, you naughty American.

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  12. Ah Stuart, no one is beyond Salvation...what an odd suggestion that is.

    And certainly it is rather strange to suggest that I would not concern myself with my former denomination. Whether I am an Episcopalian or not, I remain a Christian and within the Anglican sphere. TEC's influence threatens to spread to other Anglican provinces and to other mainline denominations...so, alas, the battle continues.

    Besides, given all of the vitriol aimed at, say, the Pope or "fundamentalists" from embittered Episcopalian reappraisers, don't you think your criticisms of former Episcopalians criticizing TEC a bit, well, hypocritical?

    Mark+. I did not intend to take your words out of context. First, I have been surprised by your defense of Forrester precisely because I have always assumed that Creedal orthodoxy was a line that you would defend and yet you seemed to me to be defending Forrester by casting the Nicene Creed in a rather negative light:

    "as you know, the Creed was not the minimum expression of the Christian faith (in all times and in all places)", not at least until Christianity was the religion of the Empire. Nothing codifies like establishment."

    The Creed, you seem to be saying here is "of the establishment" (and thus somehow suspect) and perhaps too narrow to serve as a uniting feature for the Church.

    And, further, you seemed to suggest that the pulpit is the appropriate place to engage in flights of theological speculation

    "Do you suppose that perhaps Fr. Forrester is engaged in his sermons in "theological reflection That would be a good thing. It is not the same as reflecting the Word of God (notice I did not say reflecting 'on'). Theological reflection is at least a step on the way to becoming a window for the Word of God in our midst and beats the hell out of much of what passes for preaching."

    I am hard pressed to understand how Forrester's "Trinitarian" formula: "Source, Us, and the Spirit who helps us give back to the Source" either reflects or qualifies as a reflection on God's word. It is rather more akin to warmed over Hegelianism with Jesus' name slapped over the top. I suppose that sort of thing might be appropriate for a college sophmore's Philosophy term paper, but not a sermon. "We would see Jesus"

    Matt Kennedy

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  13. Christopher (P.)3/4/09 7:19 AM

    Obadiah (but not just Obadiah)--

    Why is it that you think that progressives should not think that they're right? I'm as passionately committed to my views as any "conservative" in my parish (and that, to say the least, is a pretty deep level of commitment, given my parish!). Of course "progressives" think they're right! Nothing could be further from the truth than assuming that an affirmation of diversity means that everything is up for grabs. First, there is a limit to "diversity"--my limit stands at a different place than yours, I suspect, and I have good reasons for my position, but there are certainly things outside. But a passionate regard for my position doesn't mean that I don't also realize I could be wrong, and that I am certainly wrong if I label those who differ from me as not part of the family, that is, not Christian, or not Anglican, or not whatever we're talking about. I'm not called to be a border guard! What gets my goat is the blithe assumption of many conservatives that a position that doesn't agree with theirs is a sign not just of error, but of active and malicious opposition to the Gospel, and this assumption quickly leads to ad hominem attacks on character and motive. Perhaps that's part of being human, but I'd certainly like to see more of the generous restraint--by all parties--that I believe Jesus calls us to exercise.

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  14. "What gets my goat is the blithe assumption of many conservatives that a position that doesn't agree with theirs is a sign not just of error, but of active and malicious opposition to the Gospel..."

    What Christopher P said.

    Obadiah, you, and even Robroy, get treated far more seriously here than any of us ever would over at StandFirm or T19.

    Us decadent liberal heretics actually feel strongly about the justice of our cause, what a shock.
    We consider ourselves faithful followers of Christ who take Him very seriously, even if our detractors do not take us and our faith seriously. We are not alone in that estimation (just ask our resident secularists who seem to know a Christian when they see one). We have a different opinion as to what it means to spread the Gospel; showing it takes precedence over telling it.
    That path is much harder and we fail at it far more often than we succeed, but it is necessary in a jaded world deeply (and rightly) suspicious of religious enthusiasm.

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  15. Devon Miller-Duggan3/4/09 9:39 AM

    To Obadiah Slope and Matt Kennedy,

    I'm sure there are badly behaved and violence-mouthed liberals out there, but generally speaking, they are neither as violent, nor as broadly listened to as conservative speakers-of-nastiness. And I think many liberals have the sense that while we would all fight fiercely for the rights of conservatives to hold their beliefs and follow their practices, they would not similarly stand up for liberals/progressives. This may be because the discourse of people like Archbishop Akinola seems so terribly ready to consign us to the lower pits of hell.

    Speaking purely for myself, and as someone who has known and been ministered to by one of those conservatives, I can say that very few days go by when I don't ask myself whether they might be right, whether I am hearing God's call rightly, whether we are, indeed, marching in the light of God (in the words of the only Swahili hymn I know). I ask and ask and ask in prayer. I am truly befuddled by the idea that my conservative brothers and sisters are also praying and are clearly hearing differently than I am, but I am not going to assume therefore that they are hearing from evil, which seems to be the assumption they make about me.

    It would be awfully nice if conservatives would think about the fact that when liberals talk about "inclusion" we mean to include them, too, and that they do not seem to offer us the same courtesy.

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  16. I'm sure there are badly behaved and violence-mouthed liberals out there
    Yep :)

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  17. I keep wondering why you keep listening to Matt Kennedy. (Also the honorific of Father is inappropriate for one who has resigned his orders.) I have refused to read his stuff for years. Let us move on with what is facing the Church. What do you think about the Title IV revisions?

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  18. wow Muthuh+, what an odd thing for such an experienced priest to say. I don't care what you call me, but I have not resigned my orders. I have been received and am a priest in good standing in the Anglican Province of Kenya...or do you reject the validity of Kenyan orders?

    Matt Kennedy

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  19. Is that one of those internet companies where you send off money and you get a certificate saying you can marry people and call yourself reverend?

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  20. I have been received and am a priest in good standing in the Anglican Province of Kenya...

    And we wish you well there. When are you moving?

    Doxy

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  21. Re this:

    TEC's influence threatens to spread to other Anglican provinces and to other mainline denominations...so, alas, the battle continues.

    I really don't understand the problem. Are you concerned that human beings might actually be honored fairly in God's creation?

    I suppose as one of those liberal TEC types whose appreciation for the diversity of humanity and all things has almost no bounds, my concern over the violence to people being urged by some within the communion has no place in your thinking.

    Indeed, I personally don't care if TEC IS in the communion or not. What I do care about is the perception that I, in TEC, may be viewed as one of these folks merely by the force of the communion of which TEC is a part.

    Therefore, I do somewhat understand your concerns given I do not want to be associated with your Bishop or any Bishop with similar views.

    I may not be right in feeling this way, but that's exactly how I feel.

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  22. Christopher P.
    In saying that progressives here are convinced they are right I don't know that I implied that "
    Why is it that you think that progressives should not think that they're right? " or that I might think progressives thought "affirmation of diversity means that everything is up for grabs".
    I would have a hard time thinking both these things ("convinced you are right" and "diversity means everything up for grabs") at once.
    I was imply pointing out that opinions here are as strongly held as those at say Standfirm.
    I recognise that you have earnestly strived NOT to label those who disagree with you Unchristian or Unanglican. You have held that line for some time, sometimes under pressure. And among progressive posters you are not alone.
    On the other hand I can give you a fresh example of Liberals doing what you do not do: over on Thinking Anglicans posters made it clear that for them there is no room for "Sydney" style evangelical Anglicans in anglicanism.
    Obadiah Slope

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  23. Yes Obadiah
    As a person who has suffered for over 50 years under the so-called 'Anglicanism' of the Sydney Diocese, I have seen the damage it can do. As a gay man, I am one of the few who has kept his faith despite the unrelenting pressure. Some of my gay friends committed suicide, most just left the church, a few found acceptance in other denominations, some like me manage to struggle in the few inclusive parishes so derided by those in power. Even ignoring the 'gay thing' I meet elderly people up here in the Mountains (80km from my inclusive non evangelical parish) who plaintively tell me they wish they could make the weekly journey as their church is 'no longer Anglican". No wonder I am bitter and make comments on Anglicans Together and now here.

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  24. Oh Doxy, thank you for your kind well wishes but I prefer it here-- thank you though.

    Matt Kennedy

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  25. You know, except for a few snarks from across the Pond, this has been an actual conversation - nothing like anyone gets to read over in Viagraland.

    I have to agree with Muthah+, Mark+, you know, when you pay people like Matt Kennedy such attention, it only reinforces his behavior.

    Kennedy's an absolutist, linear, systematic, left-brain thinker. He's one of those guys who has everything in his brain organized into neat little boxes - and those boxes MUST NEVER TOUCH. He'll take out one box at a time and only discuss what is in that box.

    He really doesn't care what you or anyone else thinks. The only thing bigger than the boxes in his brain is his ego.

    This is important for you to know, my darling, because you are an artist. You work from the right brain, and are a creative, non-linear thinker.

    There's no way poor Mr. Kennedy will ever understand what you are trying to say - or really cares what you have to say, except that it gets him some attention.

    Time to move on, darling. If you check your shoes, you'll note that they've got muck on them.

    Just kick it off, wish him Peace, and move on with the gospel as Jesus gives you to preach and work it.

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  26. Kaeton. Do not use my honest, English, up front snarks to try and disguise your clever, clever, psychological, girlie snarks. Anyway, even Matt's not so dense not to see through you.

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  27. " ... I have tried a couple of times to make a reasonable statment or two at one of those sites, and was attacked and there is no other word for it ... integrity, honesty, love, respect, are at the heart of Christianity. How do you love your neighbor as yourself, as we are commanded to do, without that? " -Beryl Simkins

    Thank you Beryl. The answer is that claims to Christian discipleship and any presumed Anglican orthodoxy, so called, are worthless without the practice of those virtues.
    .

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  28. Honestly, Mark, I agree with Father Kennedy. You pretty much turned the Nicene Creed into a symbol of oppression by your answer to Kennedy's question. I felt I had been had by your article: Look, we have these things in common; no, not really; ha ha! Why don't you simply explain your response to Kennedy+ rather than simply taking offense and letting everyone else hurl insults at him on your blog? From what I can see, Kennedy+ understood you perfectly well, and this is what bothers you and your other readers.

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  29. And now we have from Stand Firm, the fact that Thew Forrester substituted a reading from the Koran for the epistle reading and had a Muslim preach. (Not sure whether this is the Muslim member of the congregation for whom TF removed the Nicene Creed from the service so that the man in question wouldn't feel "excluded.") Mark+ and others decry the "Buddhist bishop" moniker and TF being "tried and convicted without hearing."

    But one wonders who, if not for the Stand Firmers, would have been bringing to light the fact that TF substitutes the Koran for the epistle. I quickly checked other blogs of Ms Kaeton, Ms Simkins, and Mr Koch-Swahne. Nope, nothing about it. (Did see that Ms Kaeton is again disparaging Anne Kennedy for having babies.)

    If one conveniently defines "hateful" as not chanting the liberal mantra and bringing to light things that don't sit well with the majority (e.g., "abortion is a blessing."), then the the conservative blogs are indeed hateful. Dismissing Anne Kennedy as a "pregger" - well, that is clearly "loving."

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  30. Brian (Noble Wolf),
    One of the TEC progressives I find worth reading is Nick Knisely (Entangled states.org and Episcopalcafe.org).
    In a recent post he says
    "The fundamental characteristic of Anglicanism in my mind is our insistence that "we pray together". That sure seems easy to do at first glance. But looking at the history of schisms in our denomination, clearly it's not been. Finding ways to preserve what is valuable in the idea of common prayer, whilst allowing people of passionate beliefs the freedom to hold their beliefs with integrity, even when they are in the minority, is to my mind the hardest part of being an Anglican."
    You find it hard in evangelical Sydney and want to leave. Matt Kennedy found it hard in TEC and has left.
    There are no easy answers to the problem NK poses. And that is painful.

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  31. Priscilla, as another unwilling resident of the Deep South, I'll be praying for you. The culture shock for me on finding myself in such a place was also appalling and extreme.

    When I reflect on the fact that people with these views have been effectively running this nation ever since Nixon opened his "Southern Strategy," the shock is even worse. However, Southern dominance goes a long way toward explaining the long-term decline of the United States. In addition, the South's political clout allowed it to become an economic parasite on the rest of the nation, supporting its economy through government transfer payments of all kinds. And then, of course, there's the Southern religious influence. (A side note: Matt Kennedy is a Southerner by birth. In fact, all of Stand Firm is staffed by Southerners. Can't be surprised by much of anything they think or do.)

    Now that the Deep South has lost its political clout (let us hope this election signals a permanent realignment!) we may see an end to this perverse system. The North has always had the real advantages, which include a populace by and large educated enough not to fall for the follies and bigotries of the Bible Belt South. Then, perhaps, there will be jobs back North for you and me, and we can leave the South behind for good.

    Meanwhile, Priscilla, you might try genealogy. I did, and discovered that no less than three of my ancestors marched with General William Tecumseh Sherman through Georgia to the sea. So I say "Hurrah for General Sherman!" A few bars of "Marching through Georgia" does the heart good from time to time, you know.

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  32. I do still read SF from time to time and I have even been known to comment. Among the folks there are posters with whom one can actually have a conversation (I am sure that will shock some of my friends) and even one or two of the staff who have engaged in discussion.

    Of course there are toxic people there and one needs to learn who is whom and edit a bit. And Mr. Kennedy has made it clear that he at least sees no obligation to be fair. None-the-less, I think it worthwhile to recall Timothy's comment that one should preach in and out of season and so I still show up there.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  33. Among the folks there are posters with whom one can actually have a conversation (...) and even one or two of the staff who have engaged in discussion.

    Not my experience once Jim. Not once. And I bend over backwards to kiss my own *ss to be polite there and post by their rules!

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  34. Oh, Maddy darling, I thought we had a Transcontinental Snark Agreement which had a clause to cover girlie snark comments. Not?

    And, RobRoy, no disparaging remarks about Anne or either Kennedy, but thanks for the link. I wondered why my site meter was having a whirl. Here's what I wrote about the Kennedy's:

    "God bless them. Because, thank God, we live in a democracy and not a theocracy, they have the same absolute right to have as many babies as they want and are able to care for as a woman who doesn't want a child or another child has the absolute right to abortion because she is not equipped to care for the child."

    See, Mark+, you really have to stop giving the Far Right such coverage. It really only promotes this sort of foolish drivel.

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  35. Anonymous. I did not leave Evangelical Sydney although several priests made it clear I was not welcome. However I still worship in an inclusive parish within the diocese though I do plan to move to a more welcoming diocese (Dunedin) WITHIN the Anglican communion.

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  36. Mark+, I apologize for this long and probably off topic note, but this struck me: Counterlight writes, "Us decadent liberal heretics actually feel strongly about the justice of our cause, what a shock.
    We consider ourselves faithful followers of Christ who take Him very seriously, even if our detractors do not take us and our faith seriously. We are not alone in that estimation (just ask our resident secularists who seem to know a Christian when they see one). We have a different opinion as to what it means to spread the Gospel; showing it takes precedence over telling it.
    That path is much harder and we fail at it far more often than we succeed, but it is necessary in a jaded world deeply (and rightly) suspicious of religious enthusiasm."


    First, thanks for saying this!

    There was an excellent sermon posted by Kendall+ about bringing the gospel to a post-Christian world. I appreciate your expressed evangelical desire to bring the gospel of our good Lord to the world.

    My point of view is that the liberal approach to evangelism is basically described exactly by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his description of "cheap grace". It eliminates the hard parts of Christianity by ignoring them. Bonhoeffer (and I) are not saying it isn't well intentioned,

    Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving

    And what I don't understand is how liberals can't look around and see what an utter failure their method of evangelization is:

    "What had happened to all those warnings of Luther's against preaching the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousands Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared with the millions of spiritual corpses in our country today?"

    If one looks at western Europe or the northeastern U.S., liberal Christianity is clearly toxic, leading to the near elimination of the church where it has taken hold (e.g., Sweden where less than 1% of the population is in church on a given Sunday and many of those are evangelical immigrants as well as the least Christian states of Vermont and New Hamphshire). Diluting the message to make it more palatable simply makes it insipid and nobody bothers to show up on a Sunday morning.

    Counterlight, it is interesting that your measure of "true Christianity" is how the secular world views you, "just ask our resident secularists who seem to know a Christian when they see one". I contrast this with Jesus' "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (a verse that Ms Kaeton mocks). One of the frustrating things about this debate is how the Christian left exacerbates problem of bringing the gospel to the jaded world. They are the first and loudest when crying out "hateful" and "intolerant" and "hypocritical." The liberals are doing their utmost to increase the jadedness of the world with respect to Christianity. They celebrate loudest when a Ted Haggart or Jimmy Swaggart fall. In contrast, Christ weeps for the shame they bring the church.

    So the job of evangelical Christians, liberal or conservative, is made much harder. I agree with your and St. Francis' method to preach the gospel always and use words if necessary. I carry that out daily in my medical practice as well as traveling the world to provide free care to kids with cleft facial deformities. Why do I do this? I really am not trying to win my way into heaven. Rather, I do it firstly because our good Lord expects it. The parable of the talents burdens my heart. I have been given many talents and so I am expected to give back all the more. But I also do what I do with an intentionality to increase my integrity in the eyes of the "jaded world."

    Anyway, that was probably incoherent, but I am happy that we share a common evangelical drive. In my line of business, I see so much true misery and suffering. People are truly dying to hear the Truth.

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  37. My point of view is that the liberal approach to evangelism is basically described exactly by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his description of "cheap grace".

    But grace *is* cheap, Robroy. In fact, it's free to all those who will accept it.

    "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

    I keep saying it, but you never acknowledge it--Jesus gave unasked-for absolution from the cross. No repentance required. Even for deicide. What do you do with that kind of love?

    I've found many people can't really accept it because they know instinctively that they aren't worthy of it. That's the struggle for so many people who have never known unconditional love--to give themselves up to it...and then to live it out into the world.

    As for why the churches are empty--it's no mystery why Christianity no longer appeals to so many...and it's not the fault of "liberals."

    After 2,000 years, Christ STILL hasn't come back down out of the clouds. Science has explained better than religion how the world works (with religion fighting logic and reason every step of the way). "Christians" have been sinful in their own actions and hateful and horrible to their fellow human beings--their faith has not manifested itself in their lives or in their treatment of others.

    It's a wonder *any* of us has any faith left.

    And yet...we do. Although mine is sorely tested by things like this:

    The liberals are doing their utmost to increase the jadedness of the world with respect to Christianity.

    All I ask is that those who claim the name of "Christian" stop demonizing and vilifying other people and using Jesus' name to do it. Jesus said "Love." Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself. That's it.

    It's a hell of a lot easier to keep your little checklist of rules and regulations in your tight little fist and check off all the things you haven't done wrong than it is to love people who don't share your opinions.

    If you want more people in church, I suggest you focus more on the loving than on the list. Jesus recommended that approach and I believe he knew what he was talking about. And my inclusive parishes are packed to the walls every Sunday.

    Doxy

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  38. "Counterlight, it is interesting that your measure of "true Christianity" is how the secular world views you..."

    Not necessarily the secular world, but all the rest of it outside the church door; that same humankind created by God and whom God loves as passionately as us whether they think like us or not.

    By a "jaded world" I meant much more than the disillusionment that comes from corrupt pastors. I mean a world that sees so much crime committed daily in the name of religion from the violence visited on my kind, to sectarian warfare everywhere from Ireland to Nigeria to Sri Lanka, to suicide bombers.

    "Of this world" I understand as not so much accommodating the latest intellectual fashion (I think you conservatives seriously underestimate us on that score), but turning religion into another instrument to bend people to our will. Bismarck said that the church was the most effective instrument of the state for enforcing social peace. Napoleon once remarked that nothing keeps the poor in line like the threat of eternal damnation. Small wonder then that the Wall Street crowd found itself in coalition with such eager enforcers of social norms in the Christian right.

    The reason I stay with this maddeningly obscurantist religion is because of the radically unworldly message at its heart, the message that God loves us ALL. The story of Christ's death and resurrection is the most profound rebuke to all of our ideas of power and success, and that includes moral and religious success. No one pulls themselves up into salvation by their own bootstraps. No one is worthy, or ever can be worthy, to feast at God's Table. We are there because God wants us to be there. "We're all sons of bitches, but God loves us anyway," said a retired Baptist minister. We are all of us made worthy by God's love for us, and only by God's love for us.
    The last thing that God wishes to lay upon our shoulders is another test, another ordeal. The world is already full of trials by ordeal for all of us.
    God took all those laws of victory and defeat, success and failure, power and weakness, by which the world always works, and threw them out of the window in our behalf. He gave the world and all who dwell in it something they never really had before, hope. No matter what we must bear in life and in history, no matter how catastrophic, we are assured that death and destruction is never the end, and our end is with God no matter what.

    Come Risen Christ our Liberator!

    Thanks Robroy for letting me rant, and for showing me the mensch that hides underneath that boorish and arrogant exterior.

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  39. If Christianity is losing it relevance to the modern world then my own belief is that loss is a direct result of clinging to an orthodoxy that is at best anachronistic and at worst unbelievably cruel.

    Robroy, I don't know where you get your information about "liberal" mainline churches in America but you seem to be operating under the illusion that every Sunday it is one big, happy celebration of anything goes and all is acceptable. The truth couldn't be any farther away than the Earth is from the Sun.

    My own experiences of the last 47 years, in 7 different states and through 5 different mainline protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic church is quite the opposite of your portrayal.

    The Good News is always predicated by the addendum that it only applies if you subscribe to our particular orthodoxy and if you have trouble with anything we say or do then your faith is weak and you are of doubtful status.

    The strength of the Episcopal Church, USA, in my life has been the unwavering message that I am a creature of God, that God loves me as his child, that God became a human like me and even subjected himself to suffering and death, that God is always with me, and that through my baptism I am a member of God's body here on Earth and for all eternity.

    I am always welcome at the table of Jesus where I may sustain myself with his body and blood and hear words that may edify me and spend time joyously celebrating my relationship with God and my membership in his body.

    To many of my friends and acquaintances it is simply not relevant to them to believe in an invisible God who appeared on Earth as the illegitimate son of a Jewish carpenter some 2000 years ago.

    The orthodoxy of biblical inerrancy, original sin, and so much else just rings false to them in today's world where we know without a doubt that illness is not caused by evil spirits or sin, where evil triumphs more often than it fails, where the Church spends far more time monitoring orthodox controls and condemning than it does in easing the pain of the human condition in a world where a child dies every few seconds of hunger or dysentery while a select few spend thousands of dollars on a chocolate desert with flecks of gold dust.

    I too have spent my career ministering to the profoundly poor as a teacher and it is that that anchors me to Jesus and a God who promises that he hears the cries of the children of teach when they are emotionally and physically abused day after day.

    I have sat by the side of over 50 young friends as they suffocated through their last breath from fluid in their lungs caused by opportunistic infections of AIDS. I saw God and Jesus take their hands and lift them up into the light of love despite the hatred and rejection of the orthodox and their own families and communities who were greatly influenced by the orthodox "Christian" leaders in their midst.

    I do not feel any compulsion to prove to any conservative, orthodite, or other member or former member of the Church that I am a "true" follower of Christ -- Jesus is now and always has been with me. Whether my expression of my faith fits within some narrow definition of what it means to be a Christian or not is completely irrelevant and it is that, I think, which is leading most Amerians far away from organized religion today.

    Although the Church successfully placed itself in the way as a necessary mediator for relationship to God for many centuries it is no longer able to maintain that illusion. God is not contained, the Holy Spirit is not confined, and Jesus is not constrained.

    Love finds a way around all obstacles.

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  40. I have two completely different things to say to you, robroy:

    1)

    "What are those three thousands Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared with the millions of spiritual corpses in our country today?"

    Good God, man, Bonhoeffer is talking about Nazi Germany! (Not, oh, say, Greenwich Village in 2009). It's completely unfair of you to direct DB's dead-on condemnation of his nation in his time, towards TEC and its evangelism now.

    *****

    2)

    traveling the world to provide free care to kids with cleft facial deformities

    Wonderful work: God bless you for that!

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  41. Oh Priscilla. Don't be too hard on puir wee RobRoy. Too feart to make an honest argument, he prefers to knock over straw men.

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