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Differences Exposed
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 8/19/2005 | The Rev. Kevin Bond Allen

Posted on 08/19/2005 3:56:59 PM PDT by sionnsar

The divisive 2003 General Convention decision to approve the consecration of world's first homosexually active bishop made church conflict fun and easy: liberals versus conservatives, innovators versus traditionalists, Culturals versus Biblicals. The scorecard was easy to keep: Are you for or against affirming homosexuality through the Church sacraments and practice?

We could worry about the political labels and theological differences later. Yes, there were hurt feelings on both sides of the aisle; yes, we were hurling Scriptures and epitaphs at each other; and, yes, there were split congregations and people leaving the Church. However, the good news was that, as far as conflicts go, this was as good as it gets: for or against, yes or no (when we had the courage to raise our hands in public).

But "later" came as the Primates and the rest of the world then said, "This is all very entertaining on CNN, but would it trouble you too much to explain WHY you differ on homosexuality? Then we will know how to relate to you and your positions." And "later," as we tried to explain our views, we were horrified to discover that sex isn't the real or dividing issue at all.

The sexuality debate is but the symptom of a far greater problem: we already are divided and we don't know how to relate to ourselves. The Episcopal Church has evolved into two different denominations under one roof and we are in denial of that reality.

Now, I don't know about you, but for me schizophrenia really muddies the water of a good old fashioned conflict. Because we have been in denial and because we have championed diversity for so long, it is unclear what truly constitutes these two emerging Episcopal Churches. I like to know where I stand. For instance, one US presidential election I reviewed the party platforms, added the scorecard, and discovered that I was 65% Democrat, 30% Republican and 5% suspicious of both!! But there are no definitive platforms to check your personal scorecard against in the Episcopal Church.

To further confuse us, the protagonists of each side are using the same vocabulary while meaning and believing very opposite things. Now I used to be able to tell, for example, if someone believed in the incarnation and was evangelical by whether or not they said "Jesus" using three syllables. But now I have to sneak into the speaker's favorite seminary and surreptitiously count how many Jesus Seminar authors are in the New Testament section to know if we are talking about a divine Son of God or not. As one grizzled evangelical retorted, "He says "Jay-ee-sus" but he doesn't mean it!!"

So when our Presiding Bishop presented an unofficial rationale (entitled "To Set Our Hope on Christ") for the pro-Robinson decision to the international Anglican Consultative Council this summer, reading through it left many of us scratching our heads. Is the Bible authoritative or even relevant today, or not? Is morality just what I define it to be or does God have a say in all this? Is the guidance of "Holy Spirit" simply a label for a popular vote or is there truly an external being active in our Church councils? And when did "we" decide this was our Church position?

If we were all in agreement on such questions, then the sexuality question would be decided quickly one way or another. But the sexuality debate has revealed that we are as deeply divided on these and other key theological questions as two separate denominations could be. Oh, my God, how I long for the good old days when we were just talking about sex!!

Sadly, denial is not a healthy place to be and trying to define what we believe and make decisions based on the sexuality issue is a dead end.

Furthermore, to bow to the choruses of "Unity! Unity!" ultimately means that some people will be coerced to participate in and support what they really don't value or believe in. Then they simply will walk away from a Church that is becoming increasingly a jack-of-all-views and a master of none.

I have a friend who, when he is shopping for a used car, brings a small statue of Jesus with him. When he climbs into a car, the first thing he does is take the statue out his pocket and tests if it will stand between the dashboard and windshield. If it doesn't, he crosses the model off his list and moves on to another car. When I asked him why he did this, he said, "I don't go anywhere without my Jesus!" I think it is time to acknowledge that there are at least two very different cars in the Episcopal lot and it is high time that we stop saying "one model fits all."

It's time to ask what car you want to ride in and understand why. It's time to move past denial, stop talking about sex, and begin to clarify what our two different groups believe and let them go their separate ways. Then each could witness God's love to the world from their strengths instead of battling each other in their weaknesses.

--The Rev. Kevin Bond Allen has served as a lay missioner in London's inner city, vicar of a Cambodian Episcopal Church, university pastor, USPG visitor to Bangladesh and is now the Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Bellingham, Washington. His graduate studies were at Seattle University (Roman Catholic), General Theological Seminary (New York), and Ridley Hall (Cambridge, UK).

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 08/19/2005 3:56:59 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

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2 posted on 08/19/2005 3:57:27 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar

Thanks for posting this. I'll take the "model" which has room for Jesus. :0)

3 posted on 08/19/2005 4:07:46 PM PDT by kalee
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To: sionnsar

Despite the apparent affirmation of orthodoxy last week in Orlando one could easily substitute "Lutheran" for "Episcopal" throughout the article.

4 posted on 08/19/2005 8:38:51 PM PDT by lightman (The Office of the Keys should be exercised as some ministry needs to be exorcised.)
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To: Honorary Serb; TonyRo76; SmithL
Worth repeating:

To bow to the choruses of "Unity! Unity!" ultimately means that some people will be coerced to participate in and support what they really don't value or believe in. Then they simply will walk away from a Church that is becoming increasingly a jack-of-all-views and a master of none.

5 posted on 08/19/2005 8:44:27 PM PDT by lightman (The Office of the Keys should be exercised as some ministry needs to be exorcised.)
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To: lightman

What worth implementing is an authority capable of promulgating and enforcing a doctrinal position around which faithful Anglicans could unite and against which unfaithful ones could react and from which they could walk away.

I take it the good Reverend agrees with me that Anglicans need nothing so badly as a Magisterium. What I suspect happened all those years ago was that a generation of Anglican Fathers recognized that a Magisterium could err and decided, even if only implicitly, that therefore it would err. This is theoretically true, naturally, but what I suspect was not recognized was that the authority to define doctrine carries the immediate responsibility to do so faithfully. Being in error doctrinally is magnified, much more so than it is in the various fields of science. That means that the responsibility is palpable and the greatest possible burden. That it is so is a very good thing.

That being said, I note that scientists have managed to be roughly correct overall (despite their recent dogmatism about undirected evolution) without a Divine dispensation. I would expect that a Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which would have the blessing of such a dispensation and which did take its job seriously would be even less likely to stray into error.

But perhaps my error in this is assuming that Anglicans would agree that the Divine dispensation against permanently straying into error exists.

And after all is said and done, there is a great deal of bad blood all around. "Unity!" is forlorn while the participants glare suspiciously at one another, especially when much of that suspicion is sensible and well-considered.

And that points out that Anglicans may well be most guilty of ignoring our Lord's injunction to forgive each other seventy times seven. Granted it is abominable to abide open and notorious sin, and the good Reverend above seems prepared to abide with that, even looking back fondly to the days when that was all the debate was apparently about, but when Anglicans whose doctrines are so similar as to be indistinguishable cannot abide each other, then charity has been dispensed with and pride needs to be rebuked.

But even that would not long remain a problem, were there a Magisterium and someone empowered to enforce it.

In Christ,
Deacon Paul+

6 posted on 08/20/2005 4:49:55 AM PDT by BelegStrongbow (St. Joseph, protector of the Innocent, pray for us!)
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