Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Falsely Accused

Falsely Accused (by The Rev. Thomas B. Woodward)

Preface

The impetus for Tom Woodward’s “Falsely Accused” is the widely circulated “justification” for the establishment of a Nigerian mission to The Episcopal Church to save us from ourselves. This “justification” echoes similar false charges by self-styled “orthodox” in this country.

Thomas B. Woodward is an Episcopal priest who has served The Episcopal Church over 23 years as university chaplain at a number of campuses and as rector of St. Paul's, Salinas, California, John Steinbeck's parish church. He has written two books for Seabury Press, Turning Things Upside Down and To Celebrate, and his book, The Parables of Jesus Your Pastor Never Preached, is being considered by Fortress Press for publication. He and his wife, Ann, now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



Falsely Accused

One of the most frustrating things about being a moderate in The Episcopal Church is the constant need to respond to various bizarre charges made against you by groups like the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), American Anglican Council (AAC) and allied groups. Those groups have now been joined by leaders in the Nigerian church who are organizing a mission to cleanse our church of its traditional teachings.

These groups justify their attacks on The Episcopal Church by claiming our leaders hold and teach “pagan or alien doctrines.” They seem to take delight in claiming we hold beliefs such as the following:
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1. Jesus is only one of many paths to God instead of the Only Way (John 14:6).
2. Loving a person means acceptance and love of that person’s sins.
3. The Holy Scriptures are merely historical relics and are not be taken seriously.
4. People can propound any new teaching as long as it makes the listeners feel good (2 Timothy 3:3-4).
5. Heaven and Hell are only figurative terms used in the Bible; liberals believe it is wrong to frighten people with such old ideas in the modern world.
6. The resurrection of Jesus never happened.
7. The Episcopal Church has abandoned its faith and embraced the heresies of Bishop Spong and Marcus Borg.

It is quite possible to find some or all of these views extant somewhere within The Episcopal Church; but you have to look very, very closely to find them. However, it is dishonest and a complete distortion to jump from finding one person holding such a view to charging hundreds or thousands of others with holding the same belief. For example, a couple of years ago a clergy couple was discovered to be interested in Wicca (pagan religion). Anglican Communion Network (ACN) spokesmen immediately rushed to charge the entire progressive leadership of our Church as embracing paganism!

That kind of attack reached its peak in the DVD produced by the ACN for distribution to households across the country loyal to the Episcopal Church. In it an ACN spokesman charges, amongst even more outrageous statements, that “the leadership [of The Episcopal Church] have embraced a foreign and alien and pagan religion.” That sort of thing takes one’s breath away by its sheer ignorance and vindictiveness.

I hope you can begin to understand the frustration of a solidly orthodox Episcopalian upon reading such accusations. But out of a need for both charity and clarity in addressing the characterization of mainline Episcopalians, we respond as follows:

Charge against Episcopalians: Jesus is only one of many paths to God instead of the only way.

As Bill Coats notes, most in our church believe Jesus to be the sole path to salvation. However, there has always been room for other views, including St. Paul’s argument to the contrary in his Epistle to the Romans (chapters 9-11), where he argues that the Jews remain the people of God and Christians have been grafted into Jewish holy history, a reading which has become the norm in most Christian churches in understanding our relationship to Judaism.

Through the ages, Anglicans have embraced both these views as responsive to the Biblical record – so it is unclear why the ACN and the Nigerian Mission to the U.S. want to insist that everyone submit to their own conclusions or – failing to submit – be charged as heathen or heretic. Even the Southern Baptist Convention is not that arrogant.

Charge against Episcopalians: Loving a person means acceptance and love of that person’s sins.

This was a charge made against Jesus by religious leaders, that by sharing meals with the tax collectors and sinners, he was not only affirming them as people but also accepting and affirming their sins. The Network people are surely not suggesting that in loving felons, the leaders in The Episcopal Church are condoning or loving the felonies – or that in following Jesus’ command to love our enemies, we are encouraging them to defeat us?

The issue here seems to be the growing understanding throughout the church that the homosexual practice condemned in Leviticus and Romans 1:27 is far different from what more and more Episcopalians know first hand in the gay and lesbian people they see in loving, caring relationships which are based on commitment, fidelity and the desire to reflect the presence of God in their common life. Again, most Episcopalians believe that homosexuality is an inborn affect, something St. Paul did not know. This new understanding then has altered the original context of Paul’s prohibition and allows us to focus on the qualities of intimate relationships, whether homosexual or heterosexual, rather than on externals.

St. Paul, himself, shifts the ground somewhat as he moves from his attack on abusive sexual relationships in the first chapter of Romans, where he argues for restraints, to his very powerful statement about how to value and judge relationships which are marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit:



The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians
5:22-24)

One thing that has changed is our understanding of how difficult it has become for the church to condemn human relationships that are filled with the marks and the presence of the Holy Spirit. To judge those relationships as sinful – when God’s presence in them is so apparent – is most likely a matter of a lack of faith than anything else.

Liberal and moderate Episcopalians condemn sexual relationships that are promiscuous, exploitive or outside the bonds of love and commitment. For the Network/Nigerian coalition to claim otherwise is reckless and, basically, a smear job on faithful Christians. It represents a misrepresentation of the Jews, as well, in that Reformed and much of Conservative Judaism have stated that the Levitical laws condemning homosexuality are in conflict with the broader scope of their Scripture which affirms the goodness and holiness of loving, committed relationships between both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Charge against Episcopalians: The Holy Scriptures are historical relics and are not be taken seriously.

Anglicans around the world have held different beliefs about the nature of the authority and interpretation of Holy Scripture. What is new is the Network/Nigerian contention that there can now be only one way of interpreting the Bible and only one way of considering its authority.

We believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is primary in encountering and experiencing the living God. We value the Bible for what it reveals, which is often in parable and through the experience of those living in the stories, rather than in lists of rules and proscriptions. Most of us believe that improvements in translations of the Bible and the light that has come from recent discoveries and new tools for understanding the Bible can only deepen our understanding of the meaning and message of Scripture.

The majority of Episcopalians believe there is room for various approaches to and interpretations of the Bible – and that part of our common life is to be spent in dialogue between and among those understandings. The Network/Nigerian coalition seems to want to excise from The Episcopal Church any interpretations other than their own narrow and restrictive interpretations. It is destructive of the whole church for them to claim that anyone who does not agree with their peculiar point of view is a heretic, apostate, or enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We invite them to coexist with us, but not to attempt to destroy us with this new, rigid exclusivism.

Charge against Episcopalians: People can propound any new teaching as long as it makes the listeners feel good.

We find it preposterous and insulting to claim that The Episcopal Church espouses a "feel good theology." This is an ideologically motivated fabrication, and we reject it out of hand

Liberal and moderate clergy and laypeople have always focused on the Cross as central to our salvation as well as to our understanding of the world. To suggest otherwise is ignorant and mean-spirited.

Charge against Episcopalians: Heaven and hell are only figurative terms used in the Bible; liberals believe it is wrong to frighten people with such old ideas in the modern world.

The exact meaning of heaven and hell have been in dispute in Anglicanism, as well as in other branches of the whole church, for some time. In fact, there are several conflicting notions of each throughout both Christian and Jewish Scriptures. When the ANC, AAC or any other group claims that those holding a different but valid Biblical position other than its own are heretical or disingenuous, they reveal a spiritual arrogance not seen since the Crusades. While that attitude has marked the multitude of Christian sects around the country, it does not reflect our Anglican tradition of comprehensiveness.

There is certainly room in today’s church, as there has been throughout our history as Anglicans, for more than one interpretation of the meaning and reality of heaven and hell, as well as other key understandings of the Christian faith found in Scripture and our tradition. What is new is the arrogance of dismissing and demeaning any interpretation other than one’s own.

Charge against Episcopalians: The assertion that the Resurrection of Jesus never happened.

The charge that liberal and moderate Episcopalians do not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is ill-informed and reckless. There have always been variations of belief in the resurrection, even among the writers of the Gospel and in the Epistles, and those differences persist today in our church as well as in others. Until recently, it has only been in fundamentalist churches that believers were attacked for holding Paul’s understanding of the Resurrection instead of Matthew’s. When we talk about essentials and the heart of our faith, those who are attacking us who believe in the resurrection of Jesus and who hold that this resurrection is the ground of the new life for all believers, owe us a formal apology.

We say the Nicene Creed proudly, and we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ every Sunday with great joy and thanksgiving. What could bring anyone visiting our churches and observing the faith and devotion of our people to say anything different? We not only believe in the Resurrection, we are both proud and humbled to be called “resurrection people.” We will not be deterred in our faith by anyone seeking to demean or diminish that resurrection faith.

Charge against Episcopalians: The Episcopal Church has abandoned its faith and embraced the heresies of Bishop Spong and Marcus Borg.

This charge is familiar to those who were on high school debate teams. If you were willing to do anything to win, you would first lay out the extremes of your opponent’s side and then the centrists of your own – and then characterize the struggle as between those two straw men.

Neither Bishop Spong nor Marcus Borg represents the center of the Episcopal Church, but both have contributed to the welfare of the whole spectrum of our church. Bishop Spong does not represent his teaching as a replacement for our Catechism. His life has been dedicated to reaching those outside the Christian church who have found the Christian faith to be incomprehensible. His purpose is not to insist that others believe as he does, but to provide a door into the Christian faith so young and older people outside the faith can hear our preaching and be involved in our worship, and be caught up in the living presence of Jesus Christ in our life in the church and in the world.

If we are going to be open and honest about the accusations about John Spong, it is crucial to know what Bishop Spong is doing: he is not speaking for the church, but to the unchurched – and God has used his peculiar witness for good. If one were to compare records of various bishops in drawing people into the Episcopal Church, often to become some of our best conservative, moderate and liberal lay people, clergy and bishops, the two at the top of the list would probably be Jack Spong and James Pike.

Has the Episcopal Church abandoned its faith and taken on the teachings of Bishop Spong? Of course not. All anyone has to do is to visit our seminaries, listen to the preaching and teaching of our clergy, read through the Catechism at the back of the Book of Common Prayer and the liturgies of the Prayer Book. It all hangs together as the core of our faith, even though it is not lock-step uniform.

As Episcopalians, we are part of a wonderful whole, with a full spectrum of witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At a recent House of Bishops meeting, note was taken of Bishop Bob [as he signs himself] Duncan, the head of the ACN, and Bishop Gene Robinson in deep conversation. What a powerful image of our church! We have liberals, moderates and conservatives and everything in between, all celebrating a common faith. May we never be reduced to commonality – for the same reason none of us would ever go to a circus which had only thirty-five elephant acts. I want the trapeze artists, the clowns, the jugglers and lion tamers. We have them all in the episcopate, in the clergy and in our congregations.

Beware when church leaders want to claim the whole of church for themselves, whether of the right, left or middle. Beware, especially, when those who believe they, alone, are the orthodox begin talking about the real orthodoxy as “the faith first handed down to the saints.” Up until thirty five years ago, “the faith first handed down to the saints” meant no women on vestries, no women allowed in church without a hat or head covering, no remarriage after divorce no matter what the circumstances, separate churches for Black people, no use of birth control measures, and a thoroughgoing marginalization of gay and lesbian people and others.

Change and reassessment of our understanding of Scriptures and our tradition has not been an enemy of the Christian Church over the past several decades. Our task as the Church of Jesus Christ is to hold onto the core of the Gospel handed down to us by the faithful of previous generations, while letting go of the parts of that tradition which contravene and contradict Jesus’ commandment of Love.

The demonizing of John Spong has spilled over onto such Biblical scholars as Marcus Borg, who has also been called a “heretic” by spokesmen of the ACN and AAC. Dr. Borg is not an Episcopalian. As a Biblical scholar he has few peers. He is not orthodox in some of his beliefs but he has, like Bishop Spong, inspired great numbers of the unchurched to reassess their faith and to commit themselves to traditional Anglican orthodoxy. One of the great gifts of Marcus Borg is that he makes it possible for large numbers of people to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – and has probably put more Bibles on bedside tables than any other living Christian!

Those who have the most trouble with theologians and Biblical scholars like Marcus Borg are those who insist on the literal meaning of Scripture or something close to that. That quasi-fundamentalist approach to Scripture, so often found in the “orthodox” rants is one, but only one of many strains of Anglican approaches to Scripture – and a recent strain at that. Many in The Episcopal Church believe that approach does not honor Holy Scripture, tending to take a dynamic revelation and reducing it to a dictated document, tied to an ancient culture.

A lively and faithful Episcopal Church will welcome the insights and the prodding of a wide variety of scholars, teachers and leaders, just as we welcome the prophets and sages who prod us into new awareness of the church’s role in the world. This has been our genius.


I am proud to be a member of The Episcopal Church, and I regret with great sadness the attacks from those who style themselves as the “orthodox.” I do not want to impugn the character or the purposes of those who are in the Anglican Communion Network, because I know many who are fully dedicated to the life of Jesus Christ and his Church and who want only that their own theological commitments be more fully honored in the church. I apologize if I have seemed to disparage honestly held opinions about Scripture and tradition by these same people. Of course, there is room for them in The Episcopal Church, just not as the sole arbiters of what God is speaking to us through the Bible or our tradition. The one thing I would ask of those with significant differences from the heart, the majority of The Episcopal Church is that they renounce the tactics and distortions noted above – and that their attacks cease and be replaced with dialogue and some form of mutual regard. Our Communion deserves better than the false accusations addressed in this article.

To quote the wisdom of Bill Coats, from an informal conversation:


“Anglicanism has always been marked by a particular generosity. The various
schools within the church appealed to different audiences. Each approach may not
be exactly compatible, biblically or theologically, with each other, but the
trust which was the glue for the church was that each group intended in their
approach that the Lord Jesus be accepted and worshiped. …What made you doubt the same intent and sincerity on our part, particularly when we kept denying as we
do now the outrageous charges you make against us? We say speaking openly as
Christian brothers and sisters: What happened to your generosity of spirit?”

Note: The quotes containing the language of “heretic, apostate” and the like come directly from the DVD, Choose This Day, produced and distributed by the ACN for distribution to non-ACN households to lure them away from their congregations. You can download the video here.

32 Comments:

Blogger Father Doug said...

OK. By my count you've admitted (if not for yourself, at least for bishops and others entrusted to guard the faith) to 6 out of the 7. Sorry about the accusation of #4. We admit it. You aren't satisfied with good feelings alone. That must be why that great evangelist Jack Spong saw such contraction in his diocese during his tenure.

8/22/2006 9:36 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

"father doug," I'm sorry you had such a simplistic reading of this essay. Did you have to work hard to miss the point? or did that come naturally to you?

8/22/2006 11:30 PM  
Blogger Alan C. Tull said...

Tom has done a spelndid job. I would add to the discussion of salvation through Jesus alone the universal enlightenment of the Logos of God in John 1. The issue is how Jesus is the way to God. I don't think that it is up to human beings to limit how Jesus will bring salvation.

Alan Tull

8/23/2006 12:11 PM  
Blogger Milton said...

Tom, you commented on Drell's Descants that St. Paul had proved wrong the idea that Jesus is the only way to the Father. By way of answer I have pasted below your comment and my reply:

-----------------------------------

(TOM) Brad, the notion that Jesus is the only access to the Father is the kind of triumphalism that has led to the persecution of the Jews, Buddhists and many other religions. St. Paul (Romans 9-11) says it is wrong — and that was before the persecutions. Most Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholics, have repented of this kind of triumphalism. One verse of the Bible gives it some credence — but much more in the Bible indicates that it is wrong. That it is true for you, is fine; but you don’t get to define reality.

Second, I would ask you to look at “Choose This Day” again if you really think it is not slanderous. I think describing TEC as pagan, heretical, an alien religion, abandoning the Scripture, etc.. goes way beyond the pale. I would ask you to read my essay, posted on episcopalmajority.blogspot.com entitled “Falsely Accused.” I pray for your conversion.

Comment by Tom — 8/23/2006 @ 6:02 pm

(MILTON) Tom, I know you addressed this to Brad, but I will put in my 2 pesos in addition to whatever he may have to say. You write:

“Brad, the notion that Jesus is the only access to the Father is the kind of triumphalism that has led to the persecution of the Jews, Buddhists and many other religions. St. Paul (Romans 9-11) says it is wrong”

Do you mean Romans 9:11 or Romans chapters 9-11? It seems to me that you mean Romans chapters 9-11. But Paul is not talking about Jesus in these chapters, but about Israel. The whole point of these chapters is that God has partially hardened the hearts of Israel until the fullness of the Gentile church has been grafted into the promise, “being a wild olive (Gentile believers), were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree (Israel)” Romans 11:17

Paul in fact affirms that it is through Jesus that anyone is saved. Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in reches for all who call upon Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED”. Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Even Romans chapter 2 which states even more strongly that God shows no favorites between Jews and Gentiles yet affirms that judgment has been given to Jesus (as Jesus Himself affirms in the Gospels)
Romans 2:13-16 for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

New Testament accounts of salvation coming to the Gentiles came as Jesus moved the apostles to reach out to them who were previously afar off, not from any alternate path to the Father not going through Jesus. See Acts chapter 10 where Peter was used to save Cornelius and his family. When they believed and the Holy Spirit fell on them all, “he (Peter) ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. …” (Acts 10:48) In Acts chapter 16 Paul sees in a vision a man from Macedonia appealing “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul casts out a spirit of divination from a slave girl, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” (Rom 16:18) The Roman jailer asks Paul and Silas (Rom 16:30-31), “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’” Paul affirms salvation through Jesus Christ alone throughout his epistles. For example, (1 Cor 2:2) “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Chist, and Him crucified.”

You wrote:
“One verse of the Bible gives it some credence — but much more in the Bible indicates that it is wrong.”

OK, it’s your turn. Show us where in the Bible it says that Jesus is not the only way to the Father. We await your reply.

Comment by Milton — 8/23/2006 @ 8:22 pm
-----------------------------------
Alan, we are not trying to limit how Jesus will bring salvation. You are right, that is not for us to do. God reveals to us in His word, taken as a coherent whole, how He chooses to bring salvation.

Lisa, for someone who has complained about the "harshness" you find on Drell's Descants and other conservative blogs, you sure have a free hand with sarcasm. "Did you have to work hard (at sarcasm)? or did that come naturally to you?"

8/23/2006 8:35 PM  
Blogger Linda in VT said...

It's a great essay and was forwarded to me by a couple of other people who admired it. I quite agree. It does come as a surprise to me to read the assertion that "Marcus Borg is not an Episcopalian." He's been a friend and colleague for years, is past president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars, and is married to an Episcopal priest. What does it mean exactly to say he's not an Episcopalian? I disagree with him in much, but so what? We're both seekers after the same God, so it seems to me.
As to the "only Jesus" piece: He's certainly the only one for me, but I thank God every day that, for those who have never had an opportunity to hear the message, or who have been turned off it by the shortcomings of its witnesses, me included, there are other channels of grace -- and even if I may think that ultimately they all flow through the One channel, no one need consciously believe that in order to be the subject of God's gracious favor. Silly God: so crazy about the lot of us!

8/23/2006 8:50 PM  
Blogger Thomas B. Woodward said...

Dear Milton,
I agree with what Linda wrote, just preceding. But in more detail:

I was referring to Romans 9-11 (chapters). Karl Barth, Paul van Buren, Krister Stendhal and many others have concluded that for Paul the Christian community has been grafted into Jewish Holy History -- and that the Hebrews continue as the People of God, for God does not break promises. Those are difficult words for those who want assurance that we are the only ones in God's favor, but that is what Paul wrote.

The Gospel record of Jesus' dealings with those marginalized by his religion and culture is very clear that Jesus included them within his love and acceptance even though there was no commitment from them to him, often no repentance.

Paul also talks about the world before Jesus where there was no place without adequate witness and access to God.

I would also point you to the experience of Christian people who have been open to working with and learning from other religions. Our witness to the goodness and to the fullness of God is not complete without the best from other traditions. You and I can say that we see no other access to the Father than through Jesus, but that does not allow us to claim the same for anyone else.

I would agree that as the Word of God, the statement in John has some meaning and validity -- and that has to do with the access the Jews, Muslims and others have through the Risen Christ, even though they do not acknowledge him by name.

Lastly, your claim represents a theology of triumphalism, that after the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, there is no longer any need of other religions. That theology has been repudiated by nearly every major Christian denomination, including the Roman Catholic Church. The horrors visited upon innocent Jews, Muslims and others through the century from our theology of triumphalism is more than any of us could possibly comprehend -- and there will not be enough time in history for us to make proper amends. It continues even in our own country. If your belief is fruit, it is bitter for others while sweet to you. It is, sadly, not bearing the kinds of fruit promised by Jesus from his disciples.

I am not reflecting on your character or your commitment to Jesus Christ. I assume you are fully committed to him as your saviour. I worry deeply about the effects of this exclusivist belief, though -- and believe that the rest of God's witness is much broader.

Re: Linda: I thought Marcus Borg was continuing his life in a different church than TEC, though I am fully aware that his wife is an Episcopal priest.

8/23/2006 9:17 PM  
Blogger Milton said...

Tom, I think we actually agree far more than it seems at first glance. Romans chapter 2 does not say that Gentiles who have not heard of Jesus or whose culture precludes their giving Chrisitianity a fair hearing are condemned because of it. On the contrary, (Romans 2:14-16) "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." God in His grace and mercy is free to choose whatever medium pleases Him to draw people to Himself, and it may not appear during their earthly life that Jesus is involved for some. But the only source of salvation nevertheless remains Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. The Romans 2 passage seems to imply that we are judged according to our deeds, but not saved by them. If a person truly puts the will of what they can understand as God before their own self-will, this is the essence of Christianity and the reversal of the Fall, which was caused by our choosing our self-will over the will of God. God's mercy and grace (purchased by Jesus obeying the will of the Father as Adam did not) still save us, not calling Jesus "Lord, Lord" and not doing what He says. Romans 9:14-16 "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, 'I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.' So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."

You wrote:
"Those are difficult words for those who want assurance that we are the only ones in God's favor, but that is what Paul wrote."
Now who on earth wants a sparsely populated heaven? Not I!
Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'"
God obviously wants everyone to be saved, as do I, though He knows (and Jesus said) that broad is the road that leads to destruction which is traveled by many, and narrow is the gate that leads to life which is found by few. How very sad and unnecessary, when salvation is free and freely offered, with even the faith necessary to receive it being the free gift of God in grace.

You wrote:
"I would agree that as the Word of God, the statement in John has some meaning and validity -- and that has to do with the access the Jews, Muslims and others have through the Risen Christ, even though they do not acknowledge him by name."
Agreed. Sounds a lot like Romans chapter 2.

You wrote:
"Paul also talks about the world before Jesus where there was no place without adequate witness and access to God."
True. And immediately after this in Acts 17 Paul writes, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (vs. 30-31)

There is a logical fallacy in your comments on triumphantalism. Certainly violence committed against non-Christians because they do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord is never justified and is rightly condemned. However, the ultimate truth of Jesus' claim that He is the only way to the Father is not negated or disproven by the sins of some of His nominal followers. Being misunderstood does not make one a liar. Jesus' claims stand regardless. Some would also pit Peter against Paul. But Peter affirms the truth of Paul's writings and their status as Scripture.
2 Peter 3:14-16 "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation, just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." So one may misunderstand and misapply Scripture, even horribly, without proving it false thereby.

Peace to you in Christ!

8/23/2006 10:04 PM  
Blogger Phil S. said...

The thing is that, as a moderate conservative, I grant you that liberals (espeically moderate liberals) have been unfairly and unjustly accused the issues that you set out. In my own writing, I try hard not to do that and I think there are conservative (i.e. the Anglican Communion Institute) voices which would concede all this.

Yet, I find it interesting that you have also made some unfounded comments about conservatives in your post as well. That is:

"Those groups have now been joined by leaders in the Nigerian church who are organizing a mission to cleanse our church of its traditional teachings."

I'm not sure how you get this accusation, but, however much I dislike the current initiative around the Church of Nigeria in America, I think we have to concede that they think they're acting to preserve tradtional teachings. Now, I think their ecclesiology is screwed up, but it is a distortion to make the claim you do.

"To judge those relationships as sinful – when God’s presence in them is so apparent – is most likely a matter of a lack of faith than anything else."

In essence, you are charging that conservatives are unloving because they disagree with your take on homosexuality. This is an unfair accusation because conservatives simply don't have faith or love because they don't accept your argument for the sanctity of homosexual relationships. Is there possiblity for dissent here? Personally, I don't buy your arguments (I won't waste time here outlining why. Yet, I would ask you if, given conservative arguments about the sinfulness of homosexuality, it is a loving thing to do to let someone continue to harm themselves and the people they love by disconnecting themselves from God. You can think I'm wrong here, but do you see how love would motivate someone to gently suggest that sin is inherently dammaging?

"The Network/Nigerian coalition seems to want to excise from The Episcopal Church any interpretations other than their own narrow and restrictive interpretations. It is destructive of the whole church for them to claim that anyone who does not agree with their peculiar point of view is a heretic, apostate, or enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We invite them to coexist with us, but not to attempt to destroy us with this new, rigid exclusivism."

Yes, we shouldn't expect people to hold only one interpretation of Scripture. Yet, can I point out that not even the ACN does that. The ACN includes Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals and Charismatics who disagree on pretty much everything, but they do have a range of beliefs which they believe can be justified. Conservatives do not argue that we throw out every position but their own. They simply want to see a decent Biblical and theological argument. Now, I get that liberals have done that, but, simply, conservative don't agree. Now, we could keep disagreeing until the cows come home and that would be fine, but the conservative perception is that, by acting upon the liberal view without convincing even moderate conservatives (GC 2003, for instance), they are being shut out and their view is disrespected. I think this goes a long way to explain the heat that conservatives feel in talking about the issue.

My point here is that the distortions go both ways and it is important as moderates to realize that and work to break through them. I applaud what you've already done, but it is something useful to see what one's moderate counterparts are seeing as well.

Peace,
Phil

8/25/2006 8:04 AM  
Blogger Charming Billy said...

I applaud this essay as an effort to establish dialogue with conservatives. I agree with you that many conservatives have made irresponsible charges and that those who know better have been too slow to acknowledge and condemn this.

However, I must say that in this otherwise admirable essay I continue to evidence of a tendency to talk past conservatives and beg the questions conservatives regard as problematic.

Let me address these charges specifically:

1) “... most Episcopalians believe that homosexuality is an inborn affect, something St. Paul did not know.”

You presumably do not regard homosexual behavior as sinful. However, it begs the question to assert that because homosexuality is an inborn affect, it is therefore morally innocuous. Pedophila or alcoholism may also be inborn affects for all we know.

In any event, although Paul was unfamiliar with modern psychological terminology, he nevertheless understood the concept of "inborn affect". In fact he gave us a profound and insightful discussion of "inborn affect" under the terms "the flesh" or "sinful nature." For Paul, the inborn affect of homosexuality was a predisposition toward a certain kind of sin.


2) “Liberal and moderate Episcopalians condemn sexual relationships that are promiscuous, exploitive or outside the bonds of love and commitment.”

The problem is not that liberals and moderates fail to condemn these sorts of sexual relationships. For conservatives, the problem is that liberals/moderates also fail to condemn all sexual relationships outside of man-woman marriage. This is the crux.

3) “To judge those [same sex] relationships as sinful – when God’s presence in them is so apparent – is most likely a matter of a lack of faith than anything else.”

God may very well be present in committed same sex relationships. Personally I believe he often is. However, admitting this does not preclude me from also judging, faithfully, that same sex relationships fall short of what God intended.

In making this judgment I believe I am following scripture, the church, and reason; not my own personal preferences, much less prejudices. You may disagree, but with so great a cloud of witnesses it is unwise and uncharitable to attribute this judgment to lack of faith.

8/25/2006 4:13 PM  
Blogger Pat Greene said...

Charming Billy,

I have heard Roman Catholics state that marriages without hope of children "fall short of what God intended." Given the similarities between "orthodox" conservative Anglican views on sexual matters and R.C. views, should we then refuse to allow marriages between people who are past child-bearing age?

8/25/2006 6:59 PM  
Blogger Charming Billy said...

Pat Greene,

Your RC interlocuters misunderstand RC teachings. The RC Church does not permit marriages between those who are resolved to avoid having children or between those who cannot by their nature (same sex partners) have children; it doesn't forbid marriage between those who are willing, but unlikely to have children.

This is consistent with the notion that marriage is a procreative relationship.

8/25/2006 7:12 PM  
Blogger Jeff Martinhauk said...

I'm copying a comment I made at Jake's:

I think the response to the "lies" was pretty well done.

But what I wish we would do more of is try harder to be inclusive. There are a few references in the response to the fact that there is room in the church for a broad spectrum of beliefs, but my overwhelming response to several of the "lies" is, "so what?", even if they aren't my own beliefs.

The point of the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism to me is that we are bound together not out of a particular confession but being bound together with the liturgy and practice of worship. I know, I know- not everybody agrees on that. But chiefly that is what we do. That is what we use weekly. We do not have a "Book of Confessions" like the Presbyterians or "Book of Concord" like the Lutherans where we all sit down and decide what we believe. That is the beauty of our church- we are diverse. That is a positive for our church, not a negative, and we should publicize that and remind people about it all that we can.

If people don't like it, then we should have an open and honest discussion about whether or not that is the way it should remain. But to try and play into the hands of the "accusers" by creating an ad-hoc book of confessions is untrue to the spirit of Anglicanism, in my opinion, and does exactly what they want us to do by defending points of view that may or may not exist. It just isn't the point.

j

8/26/2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Jeff Martinhauk said...

Charming Billy -

"Nature or Nurture" isn't the point- I would disagree with the author there as a gay man. We know now that most likely a combination of genetic and environmental causes are likely to make a person gay. What is interesting to me is that you are asking "what does the other person need to do" (your implied answer is celibacy or change) instead of "what do I need to do" (what is the pastoral response of the church). That is the central problem with the judgement of the church in this regard. The judgement of gays and lesbians as sinful people has lead to spiritual abuse by the church. Much suffering is the result.

I would say that St. Paul knew about as much about homosexuality as he did about the role of women in the church- he had an answer that might have been appropriate for what he knew at the time but the time is not now.

We have a time in which gay and lesbian people have loving, compassionate, caring relationships. Gay and lesbian people raise healthy, loving, Christian children. Who was Paul addressing? Was Paul addressing a specific group of people who were involved in specific sexual indulgence, or a group of people involved in lifelong loving relationships? I don't know the answer to that, and I haven't heard that anyone else does either.

I was just as likely when my partner and I got together to have children as a straight marriage between a woman with a hysterectomy and a man with a low sperm count. Quite frankly (and I don't judge religious beliefs lightly), the RC definition of marriage for procreative purposes is a completely arbitrary one. I have two children and they are wonderful, well-adjusted, happy, and full of the love and light of Christ.

j

8/26/2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger Jeff Martinhauk said...

Charming Billy, again-

You state quite clearly that you make a judgement about me and my sexual orientation.

How do you reconcile the judgement you make with Matt 7:1 (judge not lest ye be judged)? I'm curious as to why you place more emphasis on the teaching of Paul as you read it on homosexuality then on the words of Jesus on loving your neighbor and withholding judgement?

j

8/26/2006 9:32 AM  
Blogger Charming Billy said...

Jeff Martinhauk,

It was not my intention to judge you or any person. I am not judging you; I am judging that scripture says something about a particular behavior; namely that it falls short of what God intended.

I base this judgment squarely on the words of Jesus in Matthew 19. Here Jesus recapitulates and reaffirms the OT understanding of marriage as a union between man and woman.

As for judging your sexual orientation, scripture says nothing about that except insofar as it says that no sort of orientation, be it sexual, social, political, aesthetic or whatever, should be allowed to interfere with our orientation towards God.

I'm more interested in judging which of my orientations interferes with my relationship with God than in speculating about yours.

"We have a time in which gay and lesbian people have loving, compassionate, caring relationships."

Who's to say they didn't do the same in the days of Paul and Jesus? There are scholars who say they did and those who say they didn't. I would hesitate to base any important interpretion of scripture on the basis of this sort of scholarly conjecture.

I am prepared to state, a priori, that there were indeed faithful, caring same sex relationships in the first century AD. But how does this substantially alter what is set forth in Matt. 19?

At any rate, the small "c" catholic teaching on marriage is based upon the belief that God has joined together man and woman, not upon the emotional quality of a relationship. Of course, a "loving, compassionate, caring relationship" is a desideratum, but marriage can, and sadly does, exist in its absence. This is the basis for the catholic understanding of marriage as sacramental: There is an objective and subjective element in marriage, as in any sacrament. Even if the human, subjective element, is absent or defective in a marriage, the objective, divine, element remains.

"Quite frankly (and I don't judge religious beliefs lightly), the RC definition of marriage for procreative purposes is a completely arbitrary one."

It seems to me that you've simply assumed that same sex couples can be in fact be married. But that is precisely the disputed question. If some same sex couples have children, that only proves that some same sex couples have children. It doesn't demonstrate that the procreative definition of marriage is arbitrary; much less that same sex couples can be married.

The RC teaching is not that marriage is confined only to those particular individuals who can have children. It states that marriage is confined only to that class of persons who are essentially procreative. That doesn't rule out particular infertile male-female couples since males and females, as a class, are essentially procreative.

8/26/2006 4:55 PM  
Blogger Jeff Martinhauk said...

I think that Rev. Woodward did a great job, and I've been thinking more about this topic and wanted to also talk more about it myself.

Since blogger.com doesn't have a good trackback feature I'll just post my trackback here so that you can read my post if you want.

j

8/26/2006 6:39 PM  
Blogger Jeff Martinhauk said...

Charming Billy-

It sounds to me like you are not really trying to discuss the post but instead the whole theological question of gay and lesbian spirituality.

Since that's not the topic, I'm not going to bite, but there are lot's of other posts around the blogosphere where that is going on and is being done rather well.

Here is the link to my sites references related to GLBT issues if you are interested.

j

8/26/2006 6:41 PM  
Blogger Rick Harris said...

"the notion that Jesus is the only access to the Father is the kind of triumphalism that has led to the persecution of the Jews, Buddhists and many other religions. St. Paul (Romans 9-11) says it is wrong — and that was before the persecutions. Most Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholics, have repented of this kind of triumphalism."

"your claim represents a theology of triumphalism, that after the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, there is no longer any need of other religions. That theology has been repudiated by nearly every major Christian denomination, including the Roman Catholic Church."

Fr. Woodward, you seem to be saying that the Roman Church no longer teaches that Jesus Christ is the sole path to reconciliation with the Father. Maybe I have misread you, but if that is your claim, it is easily refuted.

"The name 'Jesus' signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation,23 so that 'there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'"24
-- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2d Edition, paragraph 432.

See also, Dominus Iesus, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, published in 2000 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

"This complex of problems applies especially to the Christian faith, in that from its very origin, and in its essential nature, it claims to know and to proclaim the one true God and the one Savior of mankind: 'There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved', said Peter to the rulers and the elders of the people of Israel (acts 4:12). Can this absolute claim still be maintained today? . . . The Catholic Christian could only, in all humility, put the question that Martin Buber once formulated to an atheist: But what if it is true?" -- then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 2002 preface to Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Ignatius Press, 2004, translated by Henry Taylor.

It interested me that your article included a stated intent to refute the charge made by conservatives that the Episcopal Church now teaches that "Jesus is one of many paths to God instead of the Only Way." But then you seem acknowledge that you yourself do not agree that Jesus is the only path to God, and, over at the Stand Firm blog you teach that the claim is, "wrong, theologically, Biblically, and morally-- and yes, it was a contributing cause of the Holocaust . . ."

Your thesis seems to be that, no, the Episcopal Church does not really teach that Jesus Christ is not the only path to salvation, while you yourself believe and argue strenuously that Jesus Christ is not the only path to salvation, and, oh by the way, those of you who do believe and profess that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation contributed to the cold-blooded murder of 12 million Jews.

8/27/2006 11:08 PM  
Blogger anglicanhopeful said...

"If one were to compare records of various bishops in drawing people into the Episcopal Church, often to become some of our best conservative, moderate and liberal lay people, clergy and bishops, the two at the top of the list would probably be Jack Spong and James Pike."

So...Spong and Pike are 2 exemplary models for outreach and evangelism for TEC. Are you SURE you want to take this position?

8/28/2006 12:52 PM  
Blogger anglicanhopeful said...

As for your claim of Marcus Borg not even being an Episcopalian, while he was born Lutheran, he seems to be spending alot of time in Episcopal churches since the 1990s, and in particular the Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, OR where he attends services and where his wife serves as priest, canon and director of the center for spiritual development:

http://www.center-for-spiritual-development.org/SummerSeminar06.htm

http://www.trinity-episcopal.org/sections/Services/Directory.htm#Clergy

8/28/2006 1:06 PM  
Blogger drdanfee said...

As a gay man follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I am more and more getting past having to convince anybody else of my equality, my range of human competencies, and those few better gifts I might come near to possessing from time to time to time, if only for a few moments and if only under certain happier circumstances.

You may think and feel however you like privately about me. If you are closed to the goods in my personality and life and relationships; closed to the goods that are so often either permeated with the blessings of my particular sexual orientation or gender variances or at least warmed and broken open by my experiences of being queer in this century; then so much the worse for that passing time being. You lose out on the chance in this century - to understand, support, and celibrate the goods that I am called to celebrate. I take it that you will decline to join me in giving thanks to God in Jesus for any and all of those goods. I will miss whatever your support, understanding, and participation would have brought into my life. But I would miss out even more, if I did not heed the call to be honestly, positively my best, including my queer best.

If you are open to the goods, then we can avoid wasting lots of fruitless time and effort in enforcing negative and mistaken ancient near eastern and other historical traditional bad definitions of those goods – as nothing but bads. Using this available time and effort that is perhaps no longer so loudly devoted to condemnations of these goods in my life, we can maybe join in even more common witness, world service, Tikkun, and of course, worship and giving thanks yet again.

You may be as stubborn as you feel you need to be in maintaining all or part of the traditional condemnations. That is your personal right of conscience. What is increasingly vexed and maybe even surprisingly closed to you is any unquestioned or innate traditionally superior right - to use your conservative or traditional condemnations of me as a way of using force against me, based on your innate privileges as a majority straight person. You may no longer deny me an opportunity to work in some occupation or profession for which I am suited. You may not deny me food, housing, or other pertinent services to which I would otherwise be entitled if only I were straight (and conservative?) like you. You may not unduly interfere with the partner and/or the child or children I so love, and to whom I am intentionally and ethically committed as – part of the endless celebration and thanksgiving – and part of the unceasing vocation to lifelong Tikkun.

If you cannot discern Jesus at work - in my life, my queerness, and my relationships and parenting – you simply have no right (and God willing, less and less power of various sorts) - to oppress, - to tell traditional negative lies to continue the most lively of your customary efforts to assassinate my good queer character, - to penalize or disrupt my body and my feelings, to gleefully mistake the better sides of my queer personality, to repeat remarkably false stories about my ethical commitments, to deny my world service, and to interfere with my relationships.

8/30/2006 11:48 PM  
Blogger rick harris said...

Dear drdanfee,

I appreciate your witness and I'm going to try to respond in a way that is both simple and challenging. The Gospel message is not about who I am nor about who you are. It is about Who Jesus is. Jesus is the only Son of God, the Light of the World, the Sole Redeemer available to mankind. The message is that we sinful humans can accomplish none of God's purposes on our own; without Jesus we can actually do nothing. We are all spiritually impoverished and until we acknowledge our own poverty we keep Jesus from being able to accomplish anything in our own lives.

IMHO, there are two competing views of Christ in the Episcopal Church today. In one view, Jesus was a great teacher and a great exemplar who particularly ministered to the poor and the excluded in society. In the other view Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, simultaneously human and divine, who came to earth for the overriding purpose of offering to each of us salvation from the consequences of our own sinfulness.

In the second view, which I will call the orthodox view, your underlying nature as a gay person or my underlying nature as a straight person who sometimes has lustful thoughts, is completely immaterial. We are both tempted to sin from time to time, and we both succumb to the temptation to sin from time to time, and that is true of everyone else in the world as well. But it is absolutely crucial to acknowledge our sinful natures in order to open the door to grace-- unearned and undeserved forgiveness for our sins and an invitation to the wedding banquet. In the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus contracted two men praying in a temple, one an open and notorious sinner, and the other who was well-respected, faithful, and quite pious. But the open sinner, the Pharisee, was able to acknowledge his sinfulness before God. The Pharisee was unable to see and acknowledge his sinfulness and was simply proud of and thankful for his piety. Jesus challenges us with the question-- which of these two men went home justified before God?

If you believe that you can keep yourself afloat on the strength of your ethical commitments, your world service, and your relationships, then you don't need to get into the lifeboat labeled Jesus Christ.

As for me, I believe that God's strength is made perfect in my weakness. I am drowning and I need someone to save me. Fortunately, God has sent a lifeboat to rescue me.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
John 3: 16-21

8/31/2006 5:06 PM  
Blogger rick harris said...

CORRECTED:

Dear drdanfee,

I appreciate your witness and I'm going to try to respond in a way that is both simple and challenging. The Gospel message is not about who I am nor about who you are. It is about Who Jesus is. Jesus is the only Son of God, the Light of the World, the Sole Redeemer available to mankind. The message is that we sinful humans can accomplish none of God's purposes on our own; without Jesus we can actually do nothing. We are all spiritually impoverished and until we acknowledge our own poverty we keep Jesus from being able to accomplish anything in our own lives.

IMHO, there are two competing views of Christ in the Episcopal Church today. In one view, Jesus was a great teacher and a great exemplar who particularly ministered to the poor and the excluded in society. In the other view Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, simultaneously human and divine, who came to earth for the overriding purpose of offering to each of us salvation from the consequences of our own sinfulness.

In the second view, which I will call the orthodox view, your underlying nature as a gay person or my underlying nature as a straight person who sometimes has lustful thoughts, is completely immaterial. We are both tempted to sin from time to time, and we both succumb to the temptation to sin from time to time, and that is true of everyone else in the world as well. But it is absolutely crucial to acknowledge our sinful natures in order to open the door to grace-- unearned and undeserved forgiveness for our sins and an invitation to the wedding banquet. In the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus contrasted two men praying in a temple, one an open and notorious sinner, and the other who was well-respected, faithful, and quite pious. But the open sinner, the tax collector, was able to acknowledge his sinfulness before God. The Pharisee was unable to see and acknowledge his sinfulness and was simply proud of and thankful for his piety. Jesus challenges us with the question-- which of these two men went home justified before God?

If you believe that you can keep yourself afloat on the strength of your ethical commitments, your world service, and your relationships, then you don't need Jesus as a savior. You have selected yourself as your own savior. You don't need to abide in Jesus. You need simply acknowledge Him as a good teacher and try to live our life the way He suggests. You are a good swimmer and therefore have no need to get into the lifeboat labeled Jesus Christ.

As for me, I believe that God's strength is made perfect in my weakness. I am drowning and I need someone to save me. Fortunately, God has sent Someone Who can rescue me.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
John 3: 16-21

8/31/2006 5:13 PM  
Blogger Esther392 said...

Rev. Woodward - You have stated that David Hicks is sleazy and that his report has been debunked numerous times yet you have yet to respond to numerous requests to provide proof of your claim. Please provide internet links to articles or other substantial proof of your claim or issue an apology to Mr. Hicks.

9/01/2006 12:30 AM  
Blogger Thomas B. Woodward said...

Milton,thank you for praying for my conversion. I have been converted and now believe more than ever in the rightness of what Episcopal Majority is doing. I can't thank you enough.

But I do want to thank you for your irenic later response and invitation to dialogue -- that is the heart of our calling.

Esther392: Mr. Hicks is not owed an apology. I made the case well. With no supporting witnesses at a very public event, I do not need to provide more than the ample evidence I supplied. Smears and fantasies are just that and it is time that they be pushed from center stage so the church can get on with its business.

Alan Tull, in his brief remarks at the beginning of this string, put the case well for the notion of the exclusivity of access to the Father. I would add, don't worry, folks. You believe you are the only ones with access, so enjoy your status. I believe the Risen Christ will take care of the rest of us through his cosmic and undeniable Love. You have only one slight worry: if you read the parables and other sayings of Jesus, there is a recurrent theme: those who are convinced that they are in and others are out, discover that the reverse is true. But not to worry, God will find you and embrace you wherever you are.

Phil and others, I have nowhere indicated that you or conservatives are unloving; though I think the effect of what some of you and several of the "orthodox" organizations are doing is very destructive to the cause of the Christian Church in the world. I am so grateful to Episcopal Majority for asserting the heart and tradition of Anglicanism as found in the Episcopal Church. Our parishioners need to know what is normal -- and what is conservative revisionism.
Tom Woodward

9/02/2006 11:35 AM  
Blogger Esther392 said...

Thank you for your response. However, Mr. Hicks has asserted his testimony is eye witness testimony. The only thing I have read you report is a 3rd party report of someone who was not there. Is there somewhere else you could send me to read your offer of proof?

Forgive me, sir, but you have proven nothing except that you would put forth a slur and be unwilling or unable to back it up. This is a human trait. One would hope you would have the humility to at least either clear your name or Mr. Hicks.

9/02/2006 11:55 AM  
Blogger Milton said...

Tom, you commented above:

"Milton,thank you for praying for my conversion. I have been converted and now believe more than ever in the rightness of what Episcopal Majority is doing. I can't thank you enough.

But I do want to thank you for your irenic later response and invitation to dialogue -- that is the heart of our calling."

Actually I don't recall praying for your conversion in my comments here or on Stand Firm in Faith. Probably you have me mixed up with the many
respondents to your comments there.

What I have asked you for 3 times there is a list of the specific Bible passages that show the conflicts in Scripture that you keep insisting are there. You have avoided doing that so far, though I understand that such a list may take some time to prepare, either from there being numerous conflicts or from there being no conflicts found after a thourough search. If you are indeed preparing such a list and not refusing to back your assertion of conflicts in Scripture, just say so and I will await your compilation eagerly.

9/02/2006 10:21 PM  
Blogger Milton said...

Tom, looking at the top of the comments on this thread, actually you prayed for my conversion! :) Thank you, I can use all the prayers I can get, though I was finally converted to choosing Jesus' will over my will about 9 years ago!

9/02/2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger Phil S. said...

Thomas;

I take your point on my unloving comment. My attention seemed to have wandered there. You actually stated that conservatives who consider homosexual practice a sin lack faith. Now, that is a distortion and rather an unfair charge because it amounts to, if you don't agree with us, we don't think you have faith. I would not presume to comment on your faith or even the faith of gay and lesbian persons because I know faithful people who line up on both sides. Do you see why I have a problem with that statement?

In point of fact, I do think that many conservative groups have undertaken actions which are dammaging to Christ's church. Mind you, the dishonours are even, so far as I've seen, since TEC has acted in a way that has been dammaging to the cause of the Christian church in starting down this road in the first place. We can sit here reckoning the dammage, if we like, or we can start trying to rebuild out of this mess.

Peace,
Phil

9/03/2006 5:24 AM  
Blogger Thomas B. Woodward said...

Esther -- The only internet information about Mr. Hicks is (1) that, as President of the Darlington School in Rome, GA, he forced the resignation of John Merchant (a fine priest, in my estimation) who had been chaplain there because Fr. Merchant wrote an article Mr. Hicks did not like, and (2) he has been a consistent anti-gay presence for some time.

As some have noted, the "incident," which would have produced a furor at St. Paul's had it actually happened, received no notice anywhere -- at the school or in the press -- and Mr. Hicks, by reports, raised this "incident" only near the time of the consecration (you would have to look up the interval in years).

I know St.Paul's and my brother, who was Headmaster of another Episcopal school just miles away from SP, knows the school well -- we agree that a speech of the character David Hicks alleges would have caused an uproar from the school and the school, itself, would have intervened in the matter of Gene Robinson's even being considered as bishop anywhere!

What you have here, quite obviously, is a smear job on Gene Robinson -- and not the only one. Another held up his consideration in the House of Bishops and it, like this one, was found to be spurious -- a desperate attempt by a man with a vivid imagination and little integrity.

9/04/2006 2:29 PM  
Blogger Esther392 said...

Rev. Woodward,

Thank you for your detailed response.

I need to point out that this information is totally different from your original statement that Mr. Hicks had been debunked numerous times. I read quite a lot and have read many newspaper articles that were written in reference to John Merchant. All of them state that Mr. Merchant was requested to meet with parents who were upset about the article and he refused thereafter tendering his resignation because he did not feel he should have been asked. This is much different that being forced to resign because he is pro-gay.

You are admitting that you are basing your opinion (which is all you have) on the opinion of your brother who happened to work in the area.

If I were to tell you that my sister who lives very close to where you now work told me that something you had written was totally inaccurate because she lives nearby and had heard nothing of it and therefore I think you are a liar. I think you might take umbrage at that, sir.

So let's recap -
You made a statement that in reflection was "over the top." (Now you may have every cause to be upset because Mr. Robinson is your friend but that does not change the facts.) Although in fairness, you based your opinion on the opinion of someone you trust and love. Nevertheless the resulting statement was based on opinion that relied on opinion. Also I have found no reports where Mr. Robinson denies the incident.

Your account of why Mr. Merchant resigned differs from the account listed in the newspaper reports.

While admitting I am not overly adept at this internet, I have been unable to find any links that would place a black mark against Mr. Hicks' name or character. He held an obviously important position with a school so his credentials must be in order. He provided what he claims is eye witness testimony in any event.

Now, let's be impartial here. If this were before a court of law, who would win? Eye witness testimony of someone whose character has not been called into question counts for something, wouldn’t you agree?

So that leads me back to my last post. You need to publicly admit that you made your earlier comments in haste and wish to revise the statement. Based on your opinion and knowledge of Mr. Robinson, you do not believe them to be true. Now that's a lot different than your original words, wouldn’t you agree?

9/04/2006 9:29 PM  
Blogger Esther392 said...

Oh, I forgot. Here is the bio on Mr. Hicks that can be found on the internet. Hmmm doesn't sound like a flake to me.

David V. Hicks graduated from Princeton University and earned his master's degree in philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. David also studied at the University of Moscow, was an officer in the U.S. Navy, teaching strategy and policy at the Naval War College, along with being the Republican and Conservative Parties' candidate for Congress in New York's Westchester County. Currently, he is the President of Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, and he has headed three independent schools over the past twenty years.

Mr. Hicks' books include Norms & Nobility : A Treatise on Education which won an Outstanding Book Award from the American Library Association. Mr. Hicks also created a stir in boarding school communities with his essay, The Strange Fate of the American Boarding School, published in The American Scholar.

9/05/2006 2:55 PM  

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