Skip to comments.Key kids! What time is it? (on "Espiscopal Life")
Posted on 02/25/2006 5:17:54 PM PST by sionnsar
It's Episcopal Life Letters to the Editor time! First up, Leila Richards of Brooklyn, New York has a correction:
Re: Your article "Staying engaged in Palestine" in the latest issue of Episcopal Life: I hope that someone has pointed out to you by now that there is no such thing as a "Palestinian settlement" (paragraph four). The correct term is "occupied territories" or "Israeli settlements built on occupied land." The whole meaning of the article is changed by this mistake.
While you're updating the Episcopal Life style book, please change the insulting term "suicide bomber" to "ambulatory ordnance." The Rev. Flora A. Keshgegian, Ph.D. of Barrington, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hopes like all get out that her "church" doesn't go all Roman Catholic on her.
I am surprised that a professor of Christian history presents such a nonhistorical view of the Christian past. David C. Steinmetz, in "World Christianity under new management?" (Commentary, December), argues that "one of the oldest tests for authentic Christian teaching is to ask whether it is universally accepted. The old rule was it should have been taught everywhere, always and by all."
He suggests that this rule works to ward off colonial thinking. The historical evidence, however, points the opposite way. The only time such a test of universality prevailed in Christianity was when a powerful enough hierarchy was able to impose its will universally and when any who disagreed were rendered heretical and "outside" of Christianity as defined by the hierarchy.
Blessedly, Anglicans tend to shy away from such notions of rigid and imposing hierarchy. The Anglican Communion, as a federation, honors pluralism and precisely the local option that Steinmetz decries. In doing so, it is more true to Christian history. The church, from its beginnings, struggled over yet embraced diversity (e.g., Pauls dispute with the Jerusalem church over the place of Gentile Christians, the local character of different churches, the inclusion of four canonical Gospels, etc.).
The best guard against new forms of colonialism, from whatever direction they may arise, is precisely pluralism, not a feigned notion of a universality.
Wonder where Keshgegian got her Ph.D. Remind me never to go there because that might be one of the dumbest things a supposedly smart person ever wrote. 2,000 years of Christian history and teaching emerged from the exercise of "power" or "colonialism." Gotcha. I am, as the kids say, down with that.
And Keshgegian really ought to drop that tired argument about Paul and the place of the Gentiles since Acts 15:29 reads, "You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality." But Acts is probably only in the Bible because some powerful colonialist ordered it to be put there. Mark Andrus, bishop suffragan of Alabama, genuflects toward Turtle Bay.
Amy Dominis excellent column (An opportunity as a nation, December) adds reinforcement to the energy of the Global Reconciliation Movement in the Episcopal Church, centered on the reduction of world poverty through the means of the Millennium Development Goals.
More than 30 dioceses have made commitments of 0.7% of their resources to this great end, using the MDGs to pattern their giving. The UNICEF Halloween image Ms. Domini used was very evocative for me and is apt for the personal level of global giving, the movement of Gods people, that is needed to meet the MDGs. There are, however, a few differences from the pattern established in the UNICEF Halloween boxes and the model needed today.
It was easy to give to UNICEF: The box was there, the United Nations could do the distribution. With our 0.7% giving, there is more individual challenge in deciding how and where to give. The lack of definition in giving around and through the MDGs opens us to an opportunity to engage the world outside U.S. borders more profoundly. If a diocese is in a companion-diocese relationship, giving through the MDGs creates an opportunity to engage in conversation with those companions about the needs of that diocese, increasing mutual understanding. Also, such engagement can be an opportunity for self-discovery: Where are my passions, my priorities, in other words, the discovery of my hearts contents?
Given the UN's abysmal track record in just about everything over the decades, my "passions, my priorities, in other words, the discovery of my hearts contents" are directed toward organizations that actually get the job done. The Rev. Bob Wickizer of Glen Burnie, Maryland thinks he's figured out why his church is dying.
I read with interest Don Greenwoods column (December) about the club mentality causing the shameful shrinkage of the Episcopal Church. I think that Don Greenwoods premise is only part of the truth. The whole truth includes at least two more components.
First, bishops, rectors and vicars have conspired in this cozy club atmosphere. Typically after about 10 years serving the same parish, a rector, vestry and parish tend to settle into a complacent atmosphere where key decisions about the life of the parish are subtly co-opted and the deciding criteria becomes that set of actions that will insure the rectors stability.
Second, the entire model of Episcopal Church planting and clergy deployment in North America continues to be based upon the English country-church model. The reason why so many mega-churches grow while the Episcopal Church shrinks has nothing to do with the message being proclaimed. It has everything to do with how and where we proclaim the Good News.
As long as clergy job stability remains the focal criterion for parish life, nothing will change. When a few bishops and rectors begin to take some risks, we just might see the gospel take root in surprising places.
'Kay. The reason people have been fleeing ECUSA like it was made out of smallpox has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it doesn't seriously believe much of anything but because its clergy are too comfortable. Once its clergy start taking a few risks, ECUSA's numbers will go through the roof. That's good to know. William Hairston of Lamar County, Alabama thinks war is bad.
In its September issue, Episcopal Life published my letter about the roles of military chaplains. I wrote it in the context of the current war and of the recruiting ad for chaplains that the Army has been running in the newspaper. The December issue is now out, and nothing I have seen or read has changed my mind about that letter.
My intent was to warn priests who might be seduced by the ad into joining the Chaplain Corps that they could find themselves performing duties that compromised their principles. I am not anti-military. What I am against is militarism and illegal, unprovoked, imperialistic, pre-emptive wars of aggression. I was against the last one, I am against this one, and I am already against the next one. My touchstone is a prophetic statement I heard former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning make just after the First Gulf War: When you make war, you dont get peace; you just get more war.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is a tiny group of clergy and laity dedicated to an end not only to war but also to violence in any form. Why isnt the whole church a peace fellowship? Since it doesnt seem to be, what is its point?
Hairston's not against the military. He just doesn't want it to ever do anything. And Ed Browning's "prophetic statement" is a little hard to square with the fact that there isn't a Confederate States of America or a swastika in the current German flag but LibProts like Ed have always had real short memories. The Rev. James V. Stockton of Austin, Texas hauls out the colonialism charge again.
Professor Steinmetzs rather piecemeal article "World Christianity under new management?" (December) provides an excellent challenge to those who would claim the virtue of tradition as a justification for their opposition to unapologetically gay persons in the life and ministry of the church. He proposes one "of the oldest tests for authentic Christian teaching," namely: "whether it is universally accepted," i.e., is taught "everywhere, always and by all." I suggest that people will want to be very cautious about applying this test.
Someone has to determine what in fact is universally accepted. Those who make that pronouncement are, by default, participants in the dominant ecclesial and social strata. A few of the bishops of the Global South are clearly interested in modeling their behavior after that of those bad old colonialists of the past and are seeking to impose their own definition, not of what is, but of what should be universally acceptable.
Perhaps more important, as a church born of the Reformation, the Church of England clearly violated the principle of universal acceptance when it determined its polity against that of Rome. The C of Es offspring continue still today, by their very existence, to perpetuate the violation of that principle.
It would appear then, that a selective application of the principle of universal acceptable is in play. Episcopalians and Anglicans who would use this principle to defend their a priori disdain for the presence of unapologetically gay people in the life and ministry of the church are denying a self-serving blind spot and are being intellectually dishonest.
As intellectually dishonest as people who think that words in the Bible don't really mean what they clearly say, Jim? Add the Rev. Matthew Lawrence of Santa Rosa, California to the long list of liberal Episcopalians who think we can make the Bible say anything we want it to.
Sometimes people with Ph.D.s say the silliest things. David Steinmetz, who holds a prestigious post of church history at Duke University Divinity School, soberly invokes one of the oldest tests for authentic Christian thinking while discussing our current conflict over sexuality with the African and Asian churches (World Christianity under new management? December) The rule he cites is the rule of universality: that in order to be authentic, a theological position has to be acceptable everywhere, always and by all.
I do not possess a Ph.D., nor do I have a specially endowed chair that I get to sit in while making vague pronouncements about ancient rules, but even a casual reader of early church history will find that there was never a time when deep theological controversies were settled by some mysterious acceptance of a rule of universality.
Orthodoxy is written, like history, by the victors. Before our doctrines were carved in stone, they were written in the blood of the vanquished. Lets not pretend that the early church presents us with any kind of a model for the patient working-out of differences. If we were to imitate our predecessors, we would be less inclined, not more, to respect intellectual diversity. We will never learn from history if we continue to fabricate myths in the name of history.
No, I don't know why Matt gets up early on Sunday mornings either since his "scriptures" are clearly and entirely a human invention. Finally, Joseph W. De Bragga of Islip, New York gets it.
Wishful thinking! With all due respect, those two words are sufficient to respond to the Rev. Don Greenwoods belief that club mentality is the primary reason our Episcopal Church has become smaller in the past 30 years. His denial that division came over prayer book revision, the ordination of women and gay clergy flies in the face of reality.
Before the prayer-book controversy, membership ion the Episcopal Church had reached 3.5 million. Our numbers grew consistently from 1880 until 1967, when trial liturgies were introduced. Following the adoption of the 1979 prayer book, memberships were swiftly diminished by 1.2 million one-third and have not recovered even a little.
That loss, however, was only the opening of an ever-widening breach of our traditional faith. Scripture, reason and tradition were replaced with Rotary Club fellowship and feel-good theology. Jazz masses and folk masses were introduced, priestesses were ordained and consecrated. More recent was the divisive consecration as bishop of New Hampshire of V. Gene Robinson, a noncelibate, openly gay, divorced father of two girls who lives openly in a 14-year relationship with another man.
The Episcopal Church is not being led into irrelevance by club mentality. The primary reason our church has become smaller is the proclivity of our hierarchy to popularize our faith, and it is fitting to characterize them as being never in doubt but often wrong.
Can't argue with any of that. Tune in next month for another exciting episode of Episcopal Life Letters to the Editor!
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