Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ECUSA Walks Apart, Where the Faithful Cannot Follow

Image Credit: "Walking Apart", © Richard Gylgayton. (Used with permission.)

In 2003, the Episcopal Church (USA) said to the majority of the Anglican Communion: "Goodbye -- it's been nice knowing you." The bishop whom ECUSA chose to confirm and consecrate, over the uniform objection of all the Anglican primates at the time, could not be admitted to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, or be licensed to preside at the eucharist in ECUSA's parent church, the Church of England. Likewise, he still cannot be welcomed as a bishop in twenty-two of the thirty-four provinces in the Anglican Communion (not counting the extra-provincial and united churches).

In 2006, the Episcopal Church (USA) said to the rest of the Anglican Communion: "We will urge our bishops and standing committees to 'exercise restraint' in confirming bishops who might upset you, but we cannot do any more than that. Nor can we be sorry if you were offended by our actions -- that is your problem." Some of the dioceses in ECUSA still were very piqued, and announced they would not elect or confirm any more bishops, straight or gay, until the voluntary "moratorium" requested of them by the Lambeth Commission was declared to be at an end.

By 2009, the Episcopal Church (USA) abandoned any vestiges of its so-called "moratorium." Despite a personal plea from the Archbishop of Canterbury, General Convention refused to extend even its resolve of "urging restraint. By the end of the year, the Diocese of Los Angeles had elected a woman in a same-sex partnership as a bishop, who then received the requisite consents from the other dioceses. Other clergy in same-sex relationships were nominated for the episcopacy, as well, and there is no longer any kind of limitation observed on episcopal candidates in a great majority of the dioceses. But Bishop Mary Glasspool, too, may not officiate in the Church of England, or in any of twenty-one other provinces of the Anglican Communion; neither will any others of her ilk, if ECUSA sees fit to consecrate them.

At the same time, ECUSA in 2009 decided (without advertising the fact in the least) to change the rules, and to make, starting in 2011, its diocesan bishops subject to the pastoral supervision and authority of the Presiding Bishop.  When they learned what the new disciplinary canons purported to do, a number of dioceses, starting with the Diocese of South Carolina, refused to recognize General Convention's authority to change the rules without going through a formal amendment to the Church's Constitution.

In 2012, the Episcopal Church said to the Diocese of South Carolina: "Goodbye -- it's been nice knowing you." They adopted more changes to the rules, which they already knew that the Diocese of South Carolina could not, and would not, accept. Most of that Diocese's deputation to General Convention walked out of the gathering in Indianapolis, and its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, informed the House of Bishops that he could not, in good conscience, remain in their company any longer.

The problem with ECUSA's actions over the past nine years is that it refuses to regard what it has done as in any way disruptive to the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Christ. It has asserted its power to annul and set aside the holy orders of bishops, priests and deacons who were each ordained, not into ECUSA particularly, but into that one catholic and apostolic church.

And as if in retaliation for the fact that its gay and lesbian partnered bishops cannot be recognized by most of the other churches in the Communion, or invited to the Lambeth Conference, ECUSA has refused to allow clergy from other provinces to serve in its dioceses (whether under letters dimissory or not) without their first renouncing their allegiance to the churches which licensed them, and then swearing a new oath of obedience solely to the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the Episcopal Church (USA). Until recently, this was a one-way street, because in order to be released from that vow and be able to return to one's original jurisdiction, one was forced to "renounce" one's holy orders, and surrender "the gifts and spiritual authority . . . conferred in ordination." This anomaly was fixed only at the last General Convention, with the enactment of Resolution A030 amending the appropriate canons.

In sum, ECUSA has acted as though it was not in any shared relationships with the other provinces of the Anglican Communion. And recently, as pointed out above, it has begun to act as though it is no longer in any kind of shared relationship with its own member dioceses (except for those who agree with what it is doing internationally and domestically).

But to listen to those in ECUSA, it is the ones who reject its actions as unscriptural who have "departed from tradition," and certainly not ECUSA itself. Here is a dissident within Bishop Lawrence's Diocese of South Carolina who publicly puts the blame on him for the separation that has happened (my emphasis):
There are some who feel that the Episcopal Church has “left” the traditional church doctrines and polity. I am of the opinion that the leadership of this diocese over the past few decades has moved away from mainstream, traditional Episcopal doctrine and discipline. 
For an Episcopalian to maintain such utter nonsense is to show plainly how far removed from reality are those who are in charge of the Church, as well as all those who support the leadership's non-scriptural agenda. Oh, to be sure, they go through the motions of claiming that they are the only ones who are properly interpreting scripture, according to today's understanding of God's holy words, and they deck out their contentions with pseudo-scholarship and citations to pseudo-authority. But in the final analysis, all of what they are pleased to call "theology" comes down to this: "We know better than the rest of the church catholic. We understand the Holy Scriptures far better than those antiquated and hidebound church fathers ever did, or could have -- and the Holy Spirit is guiding us, not you."

Whatever could motivate a churchgoing and God-fearing Christian to jettison two thousand five hundred years of theology and orthodoxy in such an obstinate way baffles me. Their attitude leaves the rest of us with no choice: if we play along with them, we compromise our faith irretrievably; therefore, we must refuse to recognize what they do. They are fully engaged in writing their own judgment-book, and the rest of us can have nothing to do with it.

This is the dilemma currently facing Bishop Lawrence, and no doubt a good many (but alas, not all) of the clergy who serve under him, as well. As the chosen leader of his flock, Bishop Lawrence has the heaviest responsibility -- but the responsibilities of priests for their parishes are, though not as all-encompassing as the bishop's, nevertheless still every bit as solemn, and severe. As a lay person, I do not envy them the burdens imposed upon them by ECUSA's perverse and poisonous obtuseness.

Man is a fallen creature, and ECUSA -- just like any other branch of the church catholic -- is a fallen church. One cannot find perfection on this earth, no matter which church one joins, but perfection, as such, is not the standard. Rather, faithfulness to Scripture and tradition is. And by that measure, ECUSA falls far short of the mark. It is led by the false teachers of whom first Jesus Christ, and later his apostles, warned their first disciples, who then handed down those warnings to us.

Where can Bishop Lawrence go from here? Where can the Diocese of South Carolina go from here?

ECUSA has purposefully and heedlessly left them both with very limited choices. ECUSA simply does not care what it is doing to them. (It has far more important things to concern itself about -- things such as these.)

First, Bishop Lawrence could simply resign (but not without first obtaining, paradoxically, the consent of the apostate bishops who are driving him out of their fellowship). I do not believe he will do this.

Why not? Because it would leave his Diocese -- his flock, whom he has sworn to guide and protect -- at the mercy of ECUSA, who will seize any such opportunity to install someone much more to their liking. (Perhaps, just to rub it in, they would push forward one or more of their transgendered clergy from other dioceses, who so rejoiced at the remarkable contradiction which they maneuvered General Convention into making: "Every creature of God is good; hence partnered gays and lesbians make good bishops; but when it comes to transgendered persons, God somehow erred, and they know better than He does what they should have been.")

Well, what will Bishop Lawrence do, then? Although the responsibility for the spiritual welfare of his diocese lies heavily on his shoulders, the one thing Bishop Lawrence cannot do is to reach a decision on his own about the next steps for it to take.

He has to involve his clergy and his faithful parishioners in that process. (Those who are his adversaries, like Melinda Lucka quoted above, will refuse to view things from his perspective. Instead, they will continue, ad nauseam, to play the victim to the willing ears of the national Church.) Any decision for the Diocese as a whole can be taken only by the whole Diocese, and that will require time for reflection, deliberation, and careful listening.

The decision has to be the Diocese's as a body, but Bishop Lawrence has the responsibility to guide it into the right decision. They elected him as their bishop, and he must consequently advise and lead them. No doubt that is why he has first taken some time off to ponder the options in prayer and solitude.  He must be firm and steadfast in his own resolve before he can inspire others.

There are of course many faithful leaders in his Diocese who will make themselves available when he is ready to hear and meet with them. And my hope is that some of his fellow bishops who voted against the unscriptural measures approved by General Convention will extend their hands to him, as well. Indeed, it would be far better if some other dioceses expressed their solidarity with South Carolina, and if they together faced down ECUSA's apostasy as a determined group, rather than just one of them by itself.

The days ahead will be momentous for the Diocese of South Carolina -- and for any other dioceses that undertake to find their way along the same path. All of us who can perceive the dilemma into which the activism of General Convention has put them must be ready and willing to help in any way we can, as well.

For my part, I pledge to use my legal abilities, and understanding of Church law and history, to assist anyone caught in this dilemma to gain a better understanding of its parameters, and of the options available for consideration. In the weeks and months to come, I will devote more and more of this blog to that endeavor (while not omitting, of course, to blog about and comment on the equally momentous choice facing the entire Nation this November).

There is much work to do. Let not your hearts be troubled -- for we know, if we work together in the abiding faith of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, that God's will shall be done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"I'm from the Government -- I'm Here to Help You."

When Moses asked God to be allowed to see Him face-to-face, God told Moses that if He allowed Moses to do so, Moses would perish on the spot. God transformed Himself into a burning bush, so that Moses could look upon Him without dying.

For 24-year-old Tonya Reaves of Chicago, who simply looked on the face of Big, all-caring Government, it was a true tragedy -- because she did perish shortly afterward.

Only there were few chroniclers to record her passing. Instead, she merited only this laconic report in most news media:
A woman died of injuries she received during an abortion at a local Planned Parenthood clinic Friday.

Tonya Reaves, 24, of the 1500 block of N. Kildare, was pronounced dead at 11:20 p.m. Friday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. She was taken to the hospital from the Planned Parenthood clinic at 18 S. Michigan Ave.

An autopsy done Saturday listed the woman’s cause of death to be hemorrhage, with a cervical dilation and evacuation, as well as an intrauterine pregnancy as contributing causes, according to the medical examiner’s office. Her death was ruled an accident.

Calls to local and national Planned Parenthood offices were not returned.  
A little Googling enables us to put more flesh on these bare bones. Tonya Reaves is survived by a twin sister, Toni, who told the British news media (who still know how to dig into a story) that Tonya left behind a one-year-old son, Alvin, and a fiancé, and that the family wants to know how he death could be ruled "an accident." From the Daily Mail, where there are pictures of Tonya, and lots more:
The family of Tonya Reaves, 24, is demanding answers after she died suddenly after an abortion at a Chicago Planned Parenthood.

Ms Reaves died Friday night of a hemorrhage, the medical examiner said, with complications from the procedure as well as the pregnancy itself as a contributing factor.

Her death was ruled as an accident, but her twin sister and her family want to know how this tragedy happened.

'It happened so fast. She was just fine one day and then the next day she was gone,' Toni Reaves said of her sister's passing to CBS.
The procedure which Tonya underwent at the Planned Parenthood (what a misnomer!) clinic is supposed to be standard for a second-trimester pregnancy, but in this case, the outcome was definitely not routine. According to a pro-life news site:
An autopsy conducted Saturday determined that she died from hemorrhage following a Dilation and Evacuation abortion. The D&E abortion method is one employed in pregnancies that have advanced beyond the first trimester. In involves opening the cervix and removing the pre-born baby by dismembering him or her. The Loop Health Center Planned Parenthood advertizes abortions up to 18 weeks.

While the name of the abortionist responsible for this patient death is currently unknown, Planned Parenthood’s most recent 990 tax forms list abortionist Caroline M. Hoke as its medical director.

This incident follows a report published in the Chicago Tribune in June 2011, that exposed the fact that some abortionists did not report complications at all, in violation of the law. At that time, Illinois officials made no attempt to enforce abortion laws in that state.

“Abortion deaths like this are completely avoidable,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue and Pro-Life Nation. “When a woman bleeds to death after an abortion, it is usually an indication of error on the part of the abortionist coupled with a delay in calling for emergency assistance. Planned Parenthood should be held accountable. Our heartfelt prayers go out to the victim’s family at this time of tragic loss.”
Fot its part, Planned Parenthood was refusing to accept any responsibility, and staying mum on the details, ostensibly because of HIPAA's privacy requirements. According to the statement PP eventually released to the news media:
We were shocked and saddened upon learning of a tragic development at a nearby hospital. Our hearts go out to the loved ones of this patient.  While legal abortion services in the United States have a very high safety record, a tragedy such as this is devastating to loved ones and we offer our deepest sympathies. Planned Parenthood of Illinois cares deeply about the health and safety of each and every patient. "We do not publicly discuss private patient matters and we follow HIPAA laws that forbid the disclosure of patient information," said Planned Parenthood of Illinois CEO Carole Brite.
Notice how, in the first sentence of that statement, Planned Parenthood has managed to shift the site of Tonya's tragedy from its clinic to "a nearby hospital." This is because Planned Parenthood does not want to endanger its primary source of funding, in the face of repeated calls to prevent our taxes from being used to pay for abortions:
The abortion death took place in President Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago at a time when his administration is working hard to provide funding to Planned Parenthood through the federalized health care system.

“In light of this tragedy, which is yet another in a long list of Planned Parenthood abuses, we call on President Obama to immediately withdraw all federal funding and personal support from Planned Parenthood,” said Newman. “Friday’s death is yet another reason why men and women of conscience across this nation cannot and will not comply with the forced funding of abortion and its intentional violation of religious liberties.” 
So we all pay for abortions without accountability, and Tanya Reeves is the one who ends up really paying -- with her life, to say nothing of the horrific death of her dismembered, ripped-apart-in-the-womb, unborn child. But the grisly irony in this tragedy is left to Christian Newswire to uncover:
It is so heartbreaking and tragic that this young woman believed the continuous lies of Planned Parenthood who state that abortions are perfectly safe.

The truth is that abortion is not safe for the women who experience physical and emotional problems for years and years after having an abortion -- abortion is not safe for the 4,500 innocent babies that are brutally slaughtered each and every day in America, and abortion is most certainly not safe for the young women who die at the hand of an abortionist.

Incredibly, Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist named Margaret Sanger who made it her life's work to limit the growth of the black population in America. She felt so strongly about this she initiated the "Negro Project" in 1939. The objective of the "project" was to infiltrate the black community by presenting birth control, sterilization and abortion as health options for black women.

To this day, Planned Parenthood's billion dollars a year, genocidal formula continues to kill women and children -- with Black women and children being disproportionately targeted for abortion. This is no accident -- it's just business -- a very cruel and bloody business!
To which the only proper reaction is fury -- controlled fury, directed at your legislators, who perpetuate this outrage in the expectation it will earn them votes for their re-election in November. Turn them out, I say. Let your contempt for such pandering express itself at the ballot box: it is time to hold all your representatives accountable!

Tonya Reaves believed that Government would get her out of a jam, for free, but paid the ultimate price for that belief. To encourage such a belief is to make those lowest on the economic scale less and less responsible for their actions -- those who may be least able to accept responsibility in the first place. (As we found out after some digging, Tonya was unmarried, with a one-year-old son, and was engaged to be married.  However, she was in the second trimester of a new pregnancy, from which she expected the Government to free her. It did just that, of course, but not in the way she expected.)

The inevitable dependency to which Government funding for welfare leads was manifest this past week not just in the individual tragedy of Tonya Reaves and her unborn baby, but also on a much more widespread scale. Consider this next news item, out of Cleveland (H/T: Ace of Spades):
A myth that President Obama is giving people money to pay their bills has prompted thousands of people across the country to try to pay for utilities, phone service and loans using bogus bank routing numbers.

United Way of Cleveland's 2-1-1 changed its answering machine Monday to say rumors of the Obama program were false after fielding dozens of calls.

Later that day, a United Way employee was on an RTA bus when a rider stood up and announced to fellow passengers that Obama was paying people's bills. The rider told people they could use the red numbers on the backs of their Social Security cards to tap into the government money. Steve Wertheim of United Way said the woman claimed she had successfully paid her electric bill using the technique.
How credible would you have to be to believe someone who stands up on a bus and announces such a crazy "fact"? Apparently, the hoax soon turned into an identity scam, which took in tens of thousands of people in New Jersey, Louisiana and elsewhere:
The scam began on the West Coast in May or possibly earlier, and then quickly moved east.

The hook — cast through phone calls, e-mails and text messages — was the same. The federal government, in a new stimulus plan, would pay that month’s utility bill. To apply, all a customer needed to do was provide a Social Security number and their own bank routing code.

None of it was true. It was just an identity theft sting aimed at stealing personal information. Plenty of people, though, took the bait.

In Louisiana and Texas, Entergy Corp. reported about 2,000 of its customers were conned. Other power companies that cover Tampa, Fla., the Carolinas, parts of Mississippi and several Midwestern states also reported hundreds more being taken in by the phony offer.

But nowhere in the nation was the scam apparently more effective than in New Jersey.
Read on at the link to learn how many credible citizens there are, who are so dependent on their Government to help them out of a fix that they will grab for any ruse that sounds like something Obama might do for them, and willingly part with their Social Security and bank account numbers, to their ensuing regret.

Are they any the wiser for the experience? Only until the next "too-good-to-be-true" story comes along to ensnare them. Apparently, the susceptibility to such scams is directly proportionate to people's ignorance about where the government gets its money:

In the face of stories such as these, it is best to recall the wisdom of another Cleveland -- that long-ago, famously skinflint president, Grover Cleveland (who actually vetoed more bills during his first and second terms than any other president before or since):

"If the Government supports the people," he said in one of his veto messages to Congress, "who will support the Government?"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Readings from the Book of Barack (Iowahawk)

Priceless, just priceless:

Readings from the Book of Barack

1 In the beginning Govt created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the economy was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the ATMs, and the Spirit of Govt was hovering over the land.

3 And Govt said, “Let there be spending,” and there was spending. 4 Govt saw that the spending was good, and that it separated the light from the darkness. 5 Govt called the spending Investments, and this he did in the first day.

6 Then Govt said, “Let there be roads and bridges across the waters, and let dams divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus Govt made the infrastructure and the patronage jobs for eternity under the firmament from the Potomac which was above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And Govt called the firmament Washington. This Govt did on the second day.

9 Then Govt said, “Let the regulations and the guidlines under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the Bureaus appear”; and it was so. 10 And Govt called the Bureaus demigovts, and the gathering together of them He called AFSCME. And Govt saw that it was good.

11 Then Govt said, “Let there be police, and firefighters, and teachers according to their kind, for they will create more jobs”; and it was so. 12 And then Govt bade the void bring forth crime, and arson, and stupidity, that each would yield seed to bring forth more police, and firefighters, and teachers, and jobs. And Govt saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 On the fourth day Govt said, “Let Us make the economy in Our image, according to Our likeness; let it have dominion over the cars of the road, over the appliances of the supercenters, and over the pet groomers of the strip malls, over all the clickthroughs of Amazon and over every creepy thing of the Dollar Stores.”

15 So Govt created the economy in His own image; services and wholesale and retail He created them. 16 Then Govt blessed them, and Govt said to them, “Be fruitful and use the multiplier effect; fill the land with jobs; thou have dominion over thy realm, within limits, as long and thou remember to get thy permits and tithe thy taxes, for they are good. Hope to see you at the fundraiser.”

17 And on the fifth day Govt made an official Govt holiday, and headed off for a 3-day golf weekend at Camp David. But first Govt said to the economy, "you are free to eat from any tree in the garden, except the tree of Knowledge. There is a serpent in that thing, and thy health care does not cover it."

18 So when Govt was on vay-cay the economy set about the garden, plowing its fields and generating revenue for the glory of Govt. They obeyed the regulations and were not ashamed.

19 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the balanced, publicly-funded birds the Lord Govt had made to sing news to the economy. The serpent was on the AM band. He said to the retail sector, “Did Govt really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”

20 "Only yours, serpent," said the retail sector.

21 “Don't be a wuss,” the serpent said to the retail sector. 22 “For Govt knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will wise to Govt's scam.”

23 When she saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, and also free to download, she took some and ate it. She emailed a copy to her wholesaler, and he ate it; and then the wholesaler to the manufacturer, and he to the servicer.

24 Then the eyes of all of them were opened, and they realized they were being taxed naked; so they outsourced fig leaves to make coverings for themselves.

25 Then the economy heard the sound of the Lord Govt returning from vay-cay with the demigods Osha and Tarp and Irs. It was the cool of the day, and they were hiding their profits from the Lord Govt among the trees of the garden. 26 But the Lord God called to the manufacturer, “Where are you?”

27 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid, so I sought a tax shelter.”

28 And Govt said, “Who told you that your profits were yours? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? ”

29 The man said, “The retailer made me —she has a thing for serpents.”

30 Then the Lord Govt said to the retailer, “What is this you have done?”

31 And she said to the Lord Govt, “Don't take that tone with me, fat boy. And why should I give you my profits?”

32 The Lord Govt was in wrath, and said, “For I am the Lord Govt, creator of Eden! I gave unto you the roads and bridges, and schools and cops, brought unto you of gentle showers of Tarp and Stimulus and rivers of Subsidy, I am the purifier of the waters, cleanser of the air, without which you and your profits would not exist. Thus all that thou have created is created by Us. Thus ye shall render unto Govt what is Govt's, and this is the Word of your Lord.”

33 At these words, Solydra and Gm and Seiu and all the Cronyans and Laborites dropped to their knees in trembling fear and supplicated themselves before the Lord, presenting Him golden gifts of contributions.

34 Then the retailer said to Govt, “And who created you?”

35 In righteous anger did the Lord Govt again rise up and said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Tri-Delts and the Dekes, I am and have always been! I am the great cosmic turtle on which you and the entire economy rest.”

36 "And on whom do you rest, turtle?" said the retailer in blasheme.

37 "Do not mock me with your knowledge trickery, harlot!" said the Lord Govt. "I am turtles all the way down."

Read the entire, utterly ineffable masterpiece here.

[UPDATE: A reader reminds me that in 2008, Iowahawk published an equally masterful takedown of ++Rowan Williams, and his attitude toward sharia law in Britain.]

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bishop Sauls and the Ones Society Marginalizes -- What about the Tax Collectors?

Bishop Stacy Sauls, the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church (USA), has offered today, in a letter to the Editors published by the Wall Street Journal, what he terms "a spiritual correction" to the earlier critique which the Journal published last week:

Space does not permit a correction of the numerous factual points I could dispute in Jay Akasie's "What Ails the Episcopalians" (Houses of Worship, July 13). Instead, I offer a spiritual correction. 
The church has been captive to the dominant culture, which has rewarded it with power, privilege and prestige for a long, long time. The Episcopal Church is now liberating itself from that, and as the author correctly notes, paying the price. I hardly see paying the price as what ails us. I see it as what it means to be a follower of Jesus. 
Many years ago when I was a parish priest in Savannah, a local politician and disaffected Episcopalian began a conversation with me. In that case the subject was homosexuality. It could have been any of the things mentioned last week as our ailments. "I just think the church should not be governed by the culture," he said. I replied that I agreed with him, but that "I just hadn't noticed that the culture was all that hospitable toward gay people." He stammered. "Well, maybe not here in Georgia." 
The Episcopal Church is on record as standing by those the culture marginalizes whether that be nonwhite people, female people or gay people. The author calls that political correctness hostile to tradition. 
I call it profoundly countercultural but hardly untraditional. In fact, it is deeply true to the tradition of Jesus, Jesus who offended the "traditionalists" of his own day, Jesus who was known to associate with the less than desirable, Jesus who told his followers to seek him among the poor. It is deeply true to the tradition of the Apostle Paul who decried human barriers of race, sex, or status (Galatians 3:28). 
What ails the Episcopalians is that this once most-established class of American Christianity is taking the risk to be radically true to its tradition. There is a price to be paid for that. There is also a promise of abundant life in it. 
Bishop Stacy F. Sauls

Well, Bishop Sauls, you are certainly correct to say that the Church's being hospitable to persons of same-sex orientation "is deeply true to the tradition of Jesus, Jesus who offended the "traditionalists" of his own day, Jesus who was known to associate with the less than desirable, Jesus who told his followers to seek him among the poor." But as is typical of the Episcopal Church (USA) leadership these days, you leave out the other half of that tradition.

Jesus did not just sit down at the table with the dregs kept on society's margins -- the lepers, the women of loose reputation, the tax collectors. And without the other side of what Jesus practiced and taught, your so-called "spiritual correction" is completely remiss, and is not entitled to be regarded as such. Instead, it is positively deceptive and misleading, as giving a false assurance that lost souls can find salvation in ECUSA as it is today.

Nearly four years ago, just after the indaba fiasco of the Lambeth Conference, I put up two articles that addressed this very point. I see that it is now time to republish them, since I do not believe I could add to or improve what I wrote back then. So, without further ado, here is the first post, from August 15, 2008:

Jesus and the Sinful Tax Collectors

The excellent and very useful Bible History site has a good overview of what was so wrong about the tax collectors in Jesus' day:
The Jewish people were under the yoke of foreign oppressors ever since the Babylonian captivity. During the New Testament times the land of Israel was within the province of Syria and the tax collectors were collectors of Roman taxes, they were extortioners, and very despised.

The Jews detested these tax collectors not only on account of their abusive and tyrannical attitude, but because the very taxes that they were forced to collect by the Roman government were a badge of servitude and a constant reminder that God had forsaken His people. The tax collectors were always classed by the people with the harlots, usurers, gamblers, thieves, and dishonest herdsmen, who lived promiscuous, lawless lives. Some of the common terms for the tax collectors were "licensed robbers" and "beasts in human shape."

According to Rabbinism there was no hope for a tax collector. They were excluded from all religious fellowship including the Temple and Synagogue. Their money was considered tainted and it defiled anyone who accepted it. They could not serve as a witness in any court in Israel. The Rabbis had no word to describe any sort of help for the tax collector, because they expected him to externally conform to the law in order to be justified before God.
"Beasts in human shape"---sounds pretty exclusory, does it not? Tax collectors were the lowest of the low, outcasts and pariahs, who had only their wealth to console them---and doubtless that was enough for most of them. Until Jesus came into their midst:

The attitude of Jesus toward the tax collectors was in stark contrast to that of the Rabbis. He had come to seek and save the lost. The Pharisees were separatists, and did not lower themselves to have anything to do with a tax collector, who was to them no better than a Gentile. But Jesus came not to condemn anyone, but to save every sinner and offer a better life. He never taught that there was anything inherently wrong with paying tribute to the Roman Government or collecting the tax. He was opposed to extortioners, but would fling open the door of repentance and salvation to them. He rejected none, not even the worst.

Jesus made himself a friend of men, even of the tax collectors and the worst of sinners. He set a new precedent among the Jews by accepting and associating with the tax collectors. He ate with them (Mark 2:16), He offered salvation to them (Luke 19:9), and He even chose a tax collector (Matthew) as one of His twelve disciples (Matt 9:9).

Luke 18:9-14 "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Many people today who are gay, lesbian or bisexual in their orientation, or who have undergone gender transformation, see themselves as social outcasts on a par with the first-century tax collectors. And to the extent such discrimination takes place against any LGBT person (to use the collective acronym) in the secular world or in any Church, it is to be denounced and opposed. Jesus' example to us demands no less of any Christian.

It is a confusion of categories, however, to believe that it is equally discriminatory to deny ordination to a non-celibate LGBT person, or to refuse to bestow a Church blessing on their unions. The result of this confusion is that LGBT's see themselves as "victims", and people like V. Gene Robinson become a symbol of society's oppression, on the one hand, or of a radical vanguard that is transforming the Church, on the other hand. Neither role is correct.

The reason for this statement is again found in the Gospels. What did Jesus tell Matthew, who was a tax collector?
Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him. 9:10 As Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Jesus and his disciples. 9:11 When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 9:12 When Jesus heard this he said, “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. 9:13 Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus did not tell Matthew to continue on in his sinful ways. He required that Matthew give them up, and follow him (see also Luke 5:27-28). Then he used Matthew's friendships with other tax collectors to reach out to them as well, over dinners at Matthew's house. He reached out to them, not because they were righteous, or good companions, but because they were sinners, and Jesus came to call sinners.

Another tax collector, Zacchaeus, recognized what Jesus required of him without even being asked:

Lk 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. 19:2 Now a man named Zacchaeus was there; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 19:3 He was trying to get a look at Jesus, but being a short man he could not see over the crowd. 19:4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus was going to pass that way. 19:5 And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.” 19:6 So he came down quickly and welcomed Jesus joyfully. 19:7 And when the people saw it, they all complained, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 19:8 But Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!” 19:9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham! 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
"The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." "Today salvation has come to this household"---why? Because Zacchaeus agreed to give up his sinful trade, and to make amends to those he had wronged.

The lesson from the Gospels is clear: Jesus did not associate with sinners to celebrate their sinful orientations; he called on them to repent of their ways and stop sinning. Still less did Jesus make Matthew one of his disciples and allow him to continue sinning as a tax collector: he required him to give up his profession altogether in order to become His disciple.

I say that the lesson from the Gospels is clear, but there are many who still disagree. In doing so, however, I submit that they distort (or ignore altogether) Jesus' clear calls for repentance. Here, for example, is how one author sympathetic to LGBT's reads the same passages I have just quoted (I have put in bold the statements with which I take issue):
The tax collectors were Jews who collected taxes from fellow Jews for the Roman Empire. They made their living by charging an extra amount. Some of them made more than a living. They exacted any amount they could and thus became well to do. They were considered traitors who became wealthy by collaborating with Roman authorities at the expense of their own people.

The sinners who are grouped with the tax collectors were not ordinary sinners. The Pharisees along with others could readily admit that everyone is, after all, a sinner and in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. But the sinners associated with tax collectors were in a special class. These were people who deliberately and persistently transgressed the requirements of the law. Included in this group would be money-lenders who charged interest on loans advanced to fellow Jews. This was a clear violation of the law of God stated in Leviticus 25:36-38.

Also in this group of sinners might be prostitutes who made their living by their ill-gotten gains. These were individuals who sold themselves to a life of sin in deliberate disregard of the law of God.

Yet, Jesus apparently associated with such people at dinner parties. The Pharisees charged that Jesus was "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34). Even though Jesus belonged to the middle class, he reached out to people of the lower class. On one occasion Jesus said to some religious leaders in Jerusalem, "The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Matthew 21:31).

It's not hard to see why the Pharisees and others were upset that Jesus had table fellowship with people who were morally questionable. These individuals were profiting by disobeying the command of God and betraying their own people. They were what the Old Testament calls the wicked, unworthy to be part of the people of God.

Now, if Jesus had fellowship with tax collectors and sinners in order to preach to them, the Pharisees would not have fussed. After all, who would have objected that tax collectors and sinners were forsaking their sinful lifestyle, making restitution, and seeking a life of righteousness? The Pharisees believed that God offered forgiveness when sinners repented. They could even rejoice that a wretched sinner saw the light and was converted from a life of debauchery.

But what infuriated the Pharisees was that Jesus was not explicitly or directly asking tax collectors and sinners to do any of this. Some of them no doubt did repent, such as Levi (Luke 5:28). But Jesus seems to have accepted them as they were and was freely having dinner with them without requiring that they first clean up their lives.

Of course, Jesus did have a message to proclaim to them. But his message was not, "Straighten up your life and keep the law." Rather, his message was, "The kingdom of God is yours; you are included." By eating with them, he was extending to them the kingdom of God.

When we read about the protest of the Pharisees, we are quick to condemn them and to side with Jesus. But if Jesus were physically present in our world today, would we as church people be comfortable if he spent his time with cheats and swindlers, sexually deviant individuals, gays and lesbians? Would we not be infuriated if he constantly went to their dinner parties and didn't come to ours?
If Jesus were here today, anyone familiar with the Gospels would expect Him to spend his time "with cheats and swindlers, sexually deviant individuals, gays and lesbians", and would not be uncomfortable with that in the least. What Jesus did was come to save sinners, as He Himself explained. Does one think that Jesus' method of saving them was not to preach to them about giving up their sins and leading a better life? For the author of the article just quoted, all the Gospel is about is reveling at dinner parties with loose people.

"But Jesus accepted them as they were," he says, "and was freely having dinner with them without requiring that they first clean up their lives." That is simply being dishonest with oneself. No, of course, Jesus did not tell the taxpayers, prostitutes and usurers with whom He dined: "First renounce your ways, then we can sit down to eat." Eating was a form of shared fellowship, a way of allowing the sinners to come into contact with all that is good and holy, and of creating in them the inward desire to model Christ in their lives. We have no details of how He changed these people---other than Zacchaeus and Matthew (who may have been the same person as Levi), which should be enough for any thoughtful reader---but we know what His message to them most certainly was. He said it plainly to the woman whom he saved from stoning: "Go, and sin no more."

Remember the most important of all of Jesus' sayings in the passages quoted above: "Go and learn what this saying means: I want mercy and not sacrifice." This is a reference to the Old Testament, Hosea 6:6, where the Hebrew word checed (pronounced kheh' sed) can be translated both as "mercy" and "faithfulness". Jesus, stressing the former meaning, sat and ate with sinners to show them God's mercy in living form. He was not interested in false or feigned repentance, any more than the God of whom Hosea was speaking desired a sacrifice that was not accompanied by the required moral submission, which signified the worshiper's faithfulness, or a sincere intent not to sin again. In the NET Bible, there is a substantive note which explains Hosea 6:6 as follows (I have added the bold for emphasis):
Contrary to popular misunderstanding, Hosea does not reject animal sacrifice nor cultic ritual, and advocate instead obedience only. Rather, God does not delight in ritual sacrifice without the accompanying prerequisite moral obedience (1 Sam 15:22; Pss 40:6-8; 51:16-17; Prov 21:3; Isa 1:11-17; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Mic 6:6-8). However, if prerequisite moral obedience is present, he delights in sacrificial worship as an outward expression (Ps 51:19). Presented by a repentant obedient worshiper, whole burnt offerings were “an aroma pleasing” to the Lord (Lev 1:9, 13).
It is simply dishonest, therefore, to read the call of Jesus to fellowship with Him without the accompanying demand for genuine repentance and mending of sinful ways. The analogy to tax collectors does not serve the LGBT community's contentions in the least; instead, it underlines how they are selectively reading the Gospels.

And so we come to the final point of the analogy: Being a tax collector as such did not qualify Matthew to become a disciple---instead, his life as a tax collector was an obstacle to his being one of the Lord's followers, until he gave it up. In just the same way, having a homosexual orientation does not qualify one to be a priest, or to have one's same-sex union receive the Church's (as opposed to the State's) blessing. Just as in Matthew's case, it will be an obstacle to being a minister of Christ until the sinner repents and agrees to sin no more---i.e., agrees to remain celibate while serving as a priest. The strong resistance to this conclusion I see on the part of LGBT's is, as I said earlier, a confusion of categories: it confounds a predilection for a way of life (a greedy tendency to extort money, in the case of tax collectors) with a calling to minister for God in (or through) His church, as a faithful servant of the Lord. The former does not entitle one to be the latter---the two roles, indeed, are mutually inconsistent.

The only way for non-celibate LGBT's to evade the force of this argument is to declare outright that sex outside the covenant of Christian marriage is not a sin, or else that Christian marriage itself is a relationship that applies to more than just a man and a woman. Either way involves a violence to tradition that should give any rational person pause, because once the old concepts are redefined, there remain no limits to redefining them again, and again, and again, as convenient. (If active homosexuality is not a block to ordination, then logically neither is polygyny or polyandry, or incest; and if the Church can marry gays or lesbians, it could equally well bless bigamy, or polygamy, or incest.)

While I recognize, as I say, the right of a civil society to extend full equality to LGBT's in accordance with its democratic processes, it is limited in doing so only by the terms of its constitution. "Full equality" in the civil context does not translate into a religious context, because no one has any "civil rights" before God. All are sinners, and all are equally deserving of condemnation but for His saving Grace. There is and can be no "discrimination" in the religious context, because it is God and God alone Who determines who shall be saved. No one of us has a "right" to be ordained, or even to be called, to His ministry--- again, it is a confusion of Who is in charge to argue so.

(Indeed, TEC's current canons, such as Canon I.17.5, exhibit this same confusion. By listing a whole series of factors that are not to be used in denying to any person "rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church", including "sexual orientation," [and now the "transgendered", as well -- A.C.] the canons confuse God's qualifications for the ministry---repenting of one's sins and promising to lead a new life in Christ---with earthly ones. Again, no one has "rights" or "status" before God, and the only access we have to an "equal place" before God is that we are all sinners in His hands.)

The Church has to stop modeling secular society when it comes to entertaining dialogue about who can be priests. The confusion in categories is overwhelming and obscuring its mission. By all means, let us kneel down together at communion---tax collectors, LGBTs, lawyers, journalists, bloggers, and all the other sinners among us. (Have I left anybody out? Just add your own profession.) Let us all together pray and work for our betterment as Christians; as I say, Jesus demands of us no less. But just as He did not allow His disciple to continue in his life as a tax collector, let us not allow the life of LGBTs to define the life of the Church.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On God's Truth, and Man's Hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of those on the left has ceased to amaze me. It is not that they do not care about how it makes them look; it is that they are incapable of seeing how it makes them look.

Want some recent examples? Here are just a tiny fraction of the ones that have come out just this past week:

House Democrats are backing a bill to require presidential candidates (read: "Mitt Romney") to release ten years of tax returns, while Senator Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and DNC chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz have all said they will not make their returns public, thank you.

President Obama touts himself as the president who is actually cutting back on spending, while he and Michelle have taken more vacations in three years than any prior president, at a cost to taxpayers ranging from a $4.2 million one in Hawaii, to Michelle's $83,000 to ski for just one weekend in Aspen.

In running for re-election, President Obama keeps making the same promises he did four years ago, but calculates that no one will notice how he has broken most of them already.

Over in the Episcopal Church (USA), we have one and the same General Convention positively embracing a huge contradiction:
1. It adopted blessings for same-sex couples. God made them that way, and what He made must be good.  
2. Simultaneously, it removed any obstacles to positions in the Church for transgendered people. In this case, what God made them was not right or good, and they should not be penalized for His mistake. 
Not only does the Episcoleft want to adopt contrary views of God's creation, depending on whose orientation they are trying to promote, but for the most part they contend that their views are no longer open to discussion. That's right -- after years and years of pleading for "dialogue" with fellow Episcopalians on the other side, they now say the dialogue is over. And why? Well, not just because they have won what they wanted. That's just for starters. Listen to one of their spokespersons, the Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, writing "Why Gays and Lesbians Should Never Argue Scripture":
The most important reason, however, that gays and lesbians should never, ever argue about scripture is because the Bible has nothing much to say about homosexuality. We have to remember that this is an ancient book. It was written at a time when people believed the world was flat and that the earth was in the middle of a three-tiered world with heaven above and hell below. It was written at a time when people believed that the whole of human reproduction was held in the sperm of a man and a woman was merely an incubator. Speaking of women, this was a time when they were seen as chattel -- property to be passed along from father to husband, from husband to brother and so on. It was written at a time when slavery was seen as God-ordained and animal sacrifice was the way to cleanse sins.  
In short, we cannot extract modern ideas from an ancient book. The writers of the Bible no more understood homosexuality than they understood that a spherical Earth orbited the sun. At most, we have a commentary on same-sex sexual behavior involving lust and abuse, but nothing -- pro or con -- about the modern concept of sexual orientation. We don't take the Bible's word for it that the earth is flat and women only incubate babies and contribute nothing else to the process. Why on earth would we take it as an authority on sexual orientation?
Excuse me, ma'am? Because the Bible was written by people who lived thousands of years ago is no reason to heed what it says on topics as to which you and your ilk "know better"? In other words, your God speaks more clearly to you than their God did to them? That sounds like a winning recipe for today's theology: God is someone who changes His message to suit His audience.

Not only does such a thesis try to put man's / woman's judgment above God's, but to preach it to professing Christians seems like a foolhardy thing to do -- if Jesus is to be taken at his word:
17:1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 17:2 It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Moreover, notice how the Rev. Chellew-Hodge sets up a bunch of straw men for her then to knock down. (Even the Greeks, who invented logic, had no trouble spotting this fallacy, which in Latin was called ignoratio elenchi -- or in our terms, "a red herring.") The Bible and slavery? Slavery was a fact of life in the ancient world, and so the Bible, as a contemporary text, mirrors its culture in depicting it, but does it endorse it? Show me the text where God commends putting people into slavery. All of its great stories are about people escaping slavery.

The Bible and women? Same fallacious argument: show me the text in the Bible where God orders men to treat women like slaves. God made Eve as Adam's companion, or help-meet, i.e., "one suited to help man in his tasks," in the language of King James.1 All other feminist-based views of the Bible are a denial of that simple truth. Feminists don't want to meet men halfway, or to be seen as a help to them -- they want to do whatever they do on their own terms, thank you.

And her final straw man, the conceit of "sexual orientation"? Please: the Bible nowhere speaks to how people believe they are attracted to others, but only to how they express that attraction. It expressly forbids fornication, or sex while unmarried; it forbids adultery, or sex with a person married to another; it forbids incest, or sex with a sibling; and it forbids sex between males and other males, and between women and other women. (See this post for details on the former, and see Romans 1:26 for the latter.)

The left cocoons itself, and thus cannot see its own hypocrisy, or its fallacies. We on the right, on the other hand, can sometimes be equally blind to our own faults, but we are never in doubt that we are susceptible to fault, because we know for a certainty that man is a broken, fallen creature -- who needs God's grace if we are to walk in His truth and ways.

That is the single most important difference between left and right: the left doesn't require God's help, thank you very much, because God is love, and (to quote the Rev. Chellew-Hodge once more) "Anything that does not promote love is not of God." For the left, God loves us just as we are, with no need for change or correction on our part.

Just as, in politics, Obama needs no help from private business to create jobs or to grow the economy: That is government's job, which he (as the only government that matters) can do just fine on his own, thank you very much.

Answering all such arrogance without sounding arrogant oneself is quite difficult -- I hope that what I have written above does not come across in that way. The truth in man's hands can sound arrogant, because man is just man, after all. That is why I try always to refer what I say back to God's words.

But in politics, the best answer to the arrogance of President Obama is the humble working man himself, who has worked hard, without asking for any help, to build his own business over generations:

Thus if anyone from the left has troubled to read this far, this is the message I pray you would take away with you -- not my message, but God's words, from Romans ch. 8:
8:31 What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 8:32 Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? 8:33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 8:34 Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 8:37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 1 Genesis 2:18. The original Hebrew word translated into English as "a help" or "helper" is 'ezer, a word of which the scholars associated with the New English Translation say (at n. 56):
The English word “helper,” because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (’ezer). Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English “helper” can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not stated here. See further M. L. Rosenzweig, “A Helper Equal to Him,” Jud 139 (1986): 277-80.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bishop Lawrence Addresses His Diocese Following General Convention

The website of the Diocese of South Carolina is carrying this morning the text of a pastoral letter sent by Bishop Mark Lawrence to all of its parishes, to be read aloud at Sunday services. (A .pdf version of the letter may be downloaded here, or in a printable version here, and an abbreviated version -- authorized to be read in lieu of the full letter if time constraints require it -- may be found here.)

You should take note of the entire document, which speaks largely for itself. I wish to call readers' attention, however, to the closing two paragraphs:
This Monday afternoon I will be meeting with my Council of Advice. On Tuesday I will be meeting with our Diocesan Standing Committee. Then during the remainder of July I will be meeting with the deans and with clergy in various deaneries. Given these changes in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church the question that is before us is: “What does being faithful to Jesus Christ look like for this diocese at this time? How are we called to live and be and act? In this present context, how do we make Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age?” 
On the penultimate day of General Convention, in a Private Session in the House of Bishops, I asked for a point of personal privilege and expressed my heartfelt concerns about these changes. I listened to the words of others and then departed with prayer and charity. I left at that time because at least for me to pretend that nothing had changed was no longer an option. Now that I have returned to South Carolina it is still not an option. I ask that you keep me and the councils of our diocese in your prayers as you shall be in mine. We have many God-size challenges and, I trust, many God-given opportunities ahead.
The letter has already generated publicity in the Sunday edition of the newspaper having the greatest circulation in South Carolina; more may be expected in the coming days and weeks, and also in the national press.

Where things will go from here is as much up to the leadership of ECUSA as it is to the Diocese of South Carolina. Resolution A049 enacted by General Convention on proposing a rite for individual bishops to use in their own diocese to bless same-sex civil unions contains the following paragraph (my bold emphasis):
Resolved, That this convention honor the theological diversity of this church in regard to matters of human sexuality, and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support for the 77th General Convention’s action with regard to the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships;
Bishop Lawrence has made known to the House of Bishops, and is making known today in writing to his entire Diocese, his conscientious objection to the action of GC77 "with regard to the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships." If the powers that be at 815 Second Avenue honor the language just quoted above, there should not be any attempts to discipline or sanction Bishop Lawrence for that objection.

Nevertheless, A049 is just a Resolution of General Convention, and so expresses its mind only at the time of passage. As such, it has no canonical force, and instead serves to estop those Bishops (including the Presiding Bishop!) who voted in favor of its passage from now acting contrary to their vote.

In related matters, it should now be noted that all of the ten Bishops currently serving, or just elected to serve, on the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, together with the Presiding Bishop, will be disqualified from participating in connection with either the pending charges against nine other Bishops filed on the eve of General Convention, or any charges that someone not estopped by having voted for A049 might try to file now. The reason is that the entire House of Bishops, including the Presiding Bishop, took part in discussing those charges, as well as engaging in a separate private conversation with Bishop Lawrence on his point of personal privilege, as mentioned in the last paragraph of his pastoral letter.

Canon IV.19.14 requires that any person on any disciplinary panel convened under the new Title IV "shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which his or her impartiality may reasonably be questioned ... [or] when ... the member has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding ...". This language should be enough to disqualify any episcopal members of the Disciplinary Board who sat in on the private sessions of the House of Bishops on these matters.

Finally, there is potential for a constitutional crisis of major proportions should anyone in the Church even try to proceed under the new Title IV with respect to anything that the Diocese of South Carolina or any of its clergy may do. The reason for that statement is simple: the Diocese of South Carolina has not adopted, and will not adopt, the new Title IV because it regards those Canons as beyond the powers of General Convention to enact and remain consistent with ECUSA's Constitution. (It also will not recognize the validity of the Convention's amendments to the Canons dealing with access to ordination and to all lay positions for transgendered persons.) As noted many times before on this blog, the Canons of General Convention are without any binding force on any Diocese that refuses, on constitutional grounds, to recognize their validity.

And short of a Constitutional amendment to make General Convention the supreme legislative and judicial authority in the Episcopal Church (USA), there is nothing that anyone in ECUSA can do about the right of Dioceses to judge for themselves the validity of acts of General Convention. It is the same situation we had in the United States when it was under the Articles of Confederation; Congress had no power to impose any of its laws on an individual State against its will -- because there was no Supremacy Clause in the Articles.

Indeed, it was by reason of their experiences with the stalemates thus generated between Congress and the several States that the Founders included a Supremacy Clause in the new Constitution drafted in 1787, and finally ratified in 1789. And tellingly, some of those same Founders chose not to include a Supremacy Clause for General Convention when they participated in 1789 in drafting ECUSA's Constitution, also adopted by the several Dioceses in that same year.

Finally, to clinch this point, historians of Church polity should note that General Convention did propose adding a "Supremacy Clause" to the ECUSA Constitution in 1895, but that proposal was shot down in flames at the General Convention of 1898 -- after the individual Dioceses had had a chance to review what General Convention proposed to do. (Back then, deputies sent to General Convention still represented their own Dioceses, and voted as the diocesan conventions instructed them to do. A good part of the reason that General Convention and the staff of 815, as well as all of the Church's multifarious Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards, are so disconnected from the pewsters back home is precisely that they no longer feel any responsibility but to vote and to act as they perceive the "Holy Spirit" guides them.)

If a collision is coming, it will have to be one that the national leadership has actively sought by its actions to date, and that it will seek by its actions to come. Will that leadership be wise enough to pull back before it commits itself to still more? We shall have to bide our time, and see.

In the meantime, please pray for the Diocese of South Carolina, and please pray for the leadership of our Church to see and to do the right thing. In this regard, what could be more appropriate than today's appointed collect?

O LORD, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

And Now, Add a Little Drama to Your Life

You just never know what might happen next time you go out for a quiet cup of coffee!
Press the red button and find out

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ECUSA's 77th General Convention (Indianapolis, 2012)

Collected on this page are all the posts written with regard to the actions and debates which took place at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA), held in Indianapolis, Indiana, from July 5-12, 2012, as well as its short-term and longer-term consequences.

Posts on General Convention 77 (2012) and Its Aftermath

Ships Passing in the Night - Opening Remarks at GC77

Good Morning, ECUSA - Welcome to Your Future!

Episcopal Church (USA) - the Spoiled Child of the Anglican Communion

House of Bishops Votes for Liturgical Anarchy

Diocese of South Carolina Fed up with General Convention

Yes, Paul Really Said That

Bishop Lawrence Addresses His Diocese Following General Convention

ECUSA Walks Apart, Where the Faithful Cannot Follow

On God's Truth and Man's Hypocrisy

Bishop Sauls and the Ones Society Marginalizes - What about the Sinful Tax Collectors?

On Amending the Book of Common Prayer and Adopting Trial Rites

On the Impossibility of Enacting a Trial Rite for Same-Sex Blessings without Violating the Constitution (Part I)

On the Impossibility of Enacting a Trial Rite for Same-Sex Blessings without Violating the Constitution (Part II)

On the Impossibility of Enacting a Trial Rite for Same-Sex Blessings without Violating the Constitution (Part III)

On the Impossibility of Enacting Other Trial Rites for General Use (Part IV)

How Prayer Book Supplements Received Approval in the Past (Part V)

Yes, Paul Really Said That

It was bad enough this week when General Convention decided to open all positions in the Church -- clergy, lay and volunteer -- to all those for whom their sex (gender) is like their apparel, i.e., chosen to fit the mood and the occasion. Then it voted to violate ECUSA's Constitution by authorizing a "rite" for same-sex blessings which, until it also amends the Rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, it has no power to authorize.

But the low point of the week was surely when the House of Deputies decided to attack a certain Bible translation (the English Standard Version) for using the word "homosexuality" to translate a passage from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. The contortions they went through in trying to avoid dealing with that reality say all one needs to know about the place of Holy Scripture in today's Episcopal Church (USA).

When Resolution A061 authorizing certain new translations came to the floor of the House of Deputies, the Standing Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music had, after a public hearing, voted to enlarge the list of approved versions which it originally submitted in its Report to the General Convention.  As the SC originally had it, Canon II.2 ("of Translations of the Bible") would have been amended to add two more contemporary translations to the list already in that Canon, as follows (numbers will identify each translation throughout this article):

Existing Translations Authorized

1. Authorized (King James) Version (1611)
2. Revised English Version (1881) [English Standard Version]
3. Revised American Version (1901) [American Standard Version]
4. Revised Standard Version (1952)
5. Jerusalem Bible (1966)
6. New English Bible and Apocrypha (1970)
7. R.S.V. Common Bible (1973)
8. New International Version (1978)
9. New Jerusalem Bible (1987)
10. Revised English Bible (1989)
11. New Revised Standard Version (1989)

New Versions Proposed in the SC Report

12. The Message (2002)
13. Common English Bible (2011)

After the public hearing on the Resolution, the SC amended it to add these translations:

New Versions Added After Public Hearing

14. Contemporary English Version (1995)
15. Contemporary English Version Global (2005)

And in the course of debating the Resolutions on the third day, the House adopted an amendment adding the English Standard Version (an adaptation from the R.S.V.) to the list:

Version Added by the HoD (July 7, 2012)

16. English Standard Version (2001)

Thus, before the 77th General Convention, there were eleven versions of the Holy Bible authorized for use in worship services in the Episcopal Church (USA). And at the 77th Convention, a total of five new versions were proposed to be added to those, and were approved in the House of Deputies.

Or, that is, until a Deputy brought to the floor, at the last minute before adjournment on the fifth day (July 7), a motion to reconsider the Resolution in the form that had passed the HoD just twenty minutes or so earlier (the form with the five new translations listed above). Specifically, the Deputy announced that he was making the motion because he had "discovered" -- in just the time since the Resolution had passed -- that the English Standard Version used the word "homosexuality" in translating chapter 6, verse 9 of First Corinthians.

He announced that he was "shocked", and felt "betrayed", that the House would propose to use such an anachronistic translation in today's Church. Didn't everyone know that St. Paul, who lived two thousand years ago, could have known nothing about the "long-term commitments" and deep, mutual love which characterize today's same-sex relationships? And that to ascribe a modern, only recently developed word like "homosexuality" to the sins of temple prostitution which he was denouncing was a complete case of category mistake? [N.B.: I have paraphrased the Deputy's remarks from the various accounts on the blogs. If anyone who was there has a more accurate transcription, I will be happy to post it.]

To rectify this horrendous error, the House quickly voted to "reconsider" the Resolution, which meant that it would be considered again, de novo, on the next day, and in the form as proposed by the Standing Committee (i.e., with the two proposed originally, plus the two Contemporary English versions, but without the ESV language). In just a matter of minutes, it was as though "l'affaire E.S.V." had never happened.

The offending passage -- which so "shocked" the betrayed Deputy  -- appears (as stated) in First Corinthians (ch. 6, v. 9). Here is how the ESV (16) translates that verse (along with the rest of Paul's sentence, in verse 10). Please note that in this excerpt, and in all the quotes that follow, I have bolded the particular translation's equivalent, in each instance, of the language which gave offense to certain Deputies:
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.]
Well, and what about the two Contemporary English Versions which the House of Deputies also adopted, in its collective wisdom? Here is how they each translate the same passage (14, 15):
Don’t fool yourselves! No one who is immoral or worships idols or is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual 10  will share in God’s kingdom. 
[The Holy Bible: The Contemporary English Version. 1995. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]
There's that "word" again! How could that possibly have slipped by the gay police? So will the Contemporary English versions have to be removed from the list, as well?

But wait -- we have only just begun to review how the other proposed recent versions translate that passage in Paul's letter.  Here's how The Message (12 - a paraphrased version, which makes no effort at  word-for-word accuracy) puts it:
Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. 
[Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: The Bible in contemporary language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.]
Maybe that language is loose enough to pass the Deputies' strict standards. After all, no one in the Church today is into "abusing" sex, is one? So that language couldn't describe any contemporary Episcopalians, and so must be all right. But what about the Common English Bible, which the Deputies adopted without objection? Here is its version of the passage (13):
Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral, those who worship false gods, adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse, h 10 thieves, the greedy, drunks, abusive people, and swindlers won’t inherit God’s kingdom.   

hOr submissive and dominant male sexual partners.
[Common English Bible. 2011. Nashville, TN: Common English Bible.]
Whoa! What did we just read? "[B]oth participants in same-sex intercourse"? Explained in a note as meaning "submissive and dominant male sexual partners?" How did that recommendation ever get past the diligent gay censors in the HoD?

The New Revised Standard Version (11) is very popular in Episcopal churches today, and is an update of the 1952 RSV (4). Here is how it translates 1 Cor. 6:9:
Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10  thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.]
The original 1952 RSV (4) simply called them "homosexuals" (translating, as it noted, two Greek words with the one term in English), while the Revised English Bible (10), and its predecessor, the New English Bible (6) -- two other versions on the already approved list -- used the now politically incorrect term "sexual perverts." That language clearly expresses the illiterate prejudices of an earlier generation, before the American Psychiatric Association removed "homosexuality" from its official list of mental disorders in 1973. Yet, inexplicably, all three versions remain approved by the Episcopal Church (USA) for Sunday and daily worship.

Working backwards through the already approved list, we next have the New Jerusalem Bible (9), a version favored in the Roman Catholic Church. Its translation of St. Paul runs:
Make no mistake—the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self-indulgent, sodomites, 10  thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[The New Jerusalem Bible. 1985. New York, NY: Doubleday.] 
Is that language an improvement over the 1966 original Jerusalem Bible (5), which uses the words  "catamites, sodomites" for "the self-indulgent, sodomites" of the 1985 update? Since "catamite" is a Greek term for a boy used by a pederast, it is not exactly friendly language, either.

What about one of the most widely used of all translations (though not so much in ECUSA, since its  recent revisions have not been listed in the Canon), the current New International Version? It says:
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men a10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  
a [NIV Note:] The words "men who have sex with men" translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.   
[The New International Version. 2011. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.]
 The 1978 NIV (8 - the one that ECUSA officially approves) translated what it now says means "men who have sex with men" as "male prostitutes [and] homosexual offenders". It would thus seem that by the standards of today's majority in the House of Deputies, no version of the NIV should be on the list.

And here is the New American Standard Bible (1995), the successor to the 1901 version: 
Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.] 
The original version (3) of 1901, as well as its English counterpart of 1881 (2), uses the same word "effeminate" for the first class of offenders, but what the 1995 update translates as "homosexuals", the earlier versions translate as "abusers of themselves with men" - a phrase which their contemporary,  Oscar Wilde, would have understood without difficulty.  
At last we come to the venerable King James Version (1), which now reads (in the light of the more recent wordings reviewed above) just the same:

Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  
[The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: Of the Authorized [King James] English Version. 1873 (cxix). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.]

To summarize what we have learned from this little excursion: there was practically no change in the official translations of the Bible from the 17th until the 20th century, when the new coinage "homosexual" began to replace the earlier descriptions of "men who abuse themselves with men." The translators viewed the two descriptions as functionally equivalent renditions of Paul's original Greek (see the Appendix at the end of this article). Seen in this context, the sudden affronts at the ESV's use of "homosexuality" become foolish and perverse.

And what happened in the House of Deputies the next day (July 8)? Did the shocked and affronted Deputy admit to his Biblical ignorance, and did all the ones who voted to reconsider the addition of the ESV withdraw their objections?

Of course not -- do you think these people are capable of admitting that they made a huge mistake, and were wrong? Rather than face ludicrous embarrassment over its Biblical naïveté, the GLBTQI faction in the House of Deputies immediately swept the issue under the rug, by sending someone to the microphone before debate could begin to move to recommit the Resolution to the Standing Committee. That person made a motion to recommit the whole matter to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, for "further study" in the interim until the next General Convention.

And those, dear folks, are the people whom you have elected to play at being "the Episcopal Church" once every three years -- at your expense. I hope you are pleased with the manner in which they carry out God's work in your name.

* * * * * * * * * * *


For the sake of completeness, and just so we cannot be accused of overlooking anything, let's look at some other translations of the Bible, starting with the more modern first. Here's how another respected recent version, the New English Translation (N.E.T.) renders it, with word-for-word accuracy:
Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 6:10  thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 
[The NET Bible (First Edition; 2001). Biblical Studies Press.]
And what about the Catholics? Are the modern translations which they now use any different?

Here's the popular New American Bible, the version used today in most Roman Catholic Churches:
Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals 10  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Board of Trustees, Catholic Church. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, & United States Catholic Conference. Administrative Board. (1996). The New American Bible: Translated from the original languages with critical use of all the ancient sources and the revised New Testament.]
And here is how the former Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, translates the passage in his own recent  version of the New Testament:
Don't be deceived! Neither immoral people, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor practicing homosexuals of whichever sort, 10  nor thieves, nor greedy people, nor drunkards, nor abusive talkers, nor robbers will inherit God's kingdom. 
[Wright, N.T. The Kingdom New Testament: a Contemporary Translation. 2011. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.]
To complete the survey of modern translations, here is Kenneth Wuest's expanded New Testament Translation, which "uses as many English words as are necessary to bring out the richness, force, and clarity of the Greek text":
Stop being deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor those who are of a voluptuous nature, given to the gratification of sensual, immoral appetites, neither men who are guilty of sexual intercourse with members of their own sex, nor thieves, nor those who are always greedy to have more than they possess, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit God’s kingdom. 
[Wuest, K. S. (1997). The New Testament: An expanded translation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.]
These recent translations seem to be pretty consistent. All use or refer to the words "homosexual" or "homosexuality" to describe the acts which St. Paul was cataloguing as barriers to the kingdom of Heaven.

Let's stack up some more, both newer and older, just to be sure we are not missing anything:
Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10  or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 
[Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 3rd ed., 2007. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.] 
Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[The New King James Version. 1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]
Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality10  no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 
[The Holy Bible : Holman Christian standard version. 2009. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.] 
Neither sexually immoral people, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor passive homosexual partners, nor dominant homosexual partners, 10  nor thieves, nor greedy persons, not drunkards, not abusive persons, not swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 
[The Lexham English Bible. 2012 (W. H. Harris, III, E. Ritzema, R. Brannan, D. Mangum, J. Dunham, J. A. Reimer & M. Wierenga, Ed.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.]
Do not be fooled. Those who sin sexually, worship idols, take part in adultery, those who are male prostitutes, or men who have sexual relations with other men, those who steal, are greedy, get drunk, lie about others, or rob—these people will not inherit God’s kingdom. 
[The Everyday Bible : New Century Version. 2005. Nashville, TN.: Thomas Nelson, Inc.] 
Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts 10  or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves—none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. 
[The Holy Bible : The Good News Translation (2nd ed., 1992). New York, NY: American Bible Society.] 
Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who make women of themselves, nor who abuse themselves with men, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor abusive persons, nor the rapacious, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
[The Holy Scriptures: A new translation from the original languages (Darby, J. N. [1890] 1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
Finally, let's look at two other ancient translations besides the Authorized Version of King James, just to  complete this survey. I start with the Catholic Douay-Rheims version, whose New Testament rendition into English (1582) from the Vulgate predates the King James by nearly thirty years:
Do not err: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers: 10  Nor the effeminate nor liers with mankind nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God. 
[The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate. 2009. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.]
And for those who read Latin, here is the Vulgate itself, which dates back to St. Jerome's translation in the fifth century:
nolite errare neque fornicarii neque idolis servientes neque adulteri 10 neque molles neque masculorum concubitores neque fures neque avari neque ebriosi neque maledici neque rapaces regnum Dei possidebunt 
Biblia Sacra Vulgata: Iuxta Vulgatem Versionem. 1969 (electronic edition of the 3rd edition). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
"Molles" is Latin for "soft, effeminate ones." And one doesn't have to know very much Latin in order to be able to figure out Jerome's "masculorum concubitores" to translate St. Paul's Greek.  

The translators have been fairly consistent for more than 1,400 years, have they not? The words they are dealing with, in Paul's original Greek, are malakoi ("soft, effeminate ones", i.e., the passive partners) and arsenokoitai (literally, something like "guys/bums abed", i.e., the active ones) (οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται). Paul was using Koine Greek slang, which like any ancient slang has been out of use for so long that there are few instances of it in the Greek texts we have extant today, to describe the homosexual behaviors in which men then engaged.

More recent ink has been spilled over possible other interpretations of those two slang words than I care to acknowledge, or to link or discuss here. My point in reviewing all the translations of Paul from that of Jerome to those of the latest New Testament scholars is to show how off-base those would-be interpretations are. They are perfect examples of eisegesis -- reading one's own meaning into the words of Scripture -- rather than exegesis, which is reading out of Holy Scripture the meaning which their divinely inspired authors had in mind when they wrote.

Paul knew perfectly well what he was talking about, and so can we.