I - John writes David

David Virtue,

I have you quoted as saying:

"Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has extended an invitation to Third World bishops conflicted over homosexuality to "come and see" for themselves.

Now what precisely it is they are to "see" remains something of a mystery. The Presiding Bishop has not elaborated, and for that we are duly grateful.

But one can speculate. Picture this: hundreds of black bishops pouring out of international jet planes in Newark, New Jersey and then being sent on a long bus tour to the well-appointed residences of gay Episcopalian couples: Louie and Ernest, Barry (Stopfel) and Will (Leckie), and so on."

Those experiences that you list would surely be wholesome and educational, but consider that the Bible says the following:

"Slaves Obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart. [Ephesians 6:5] Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the the Lord. [Colossians 3:22] Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them. [Titus 2:9]"

It would seem that the Biblical literalists in the Episcopal demonination, if they were consistent to their principles, would want to OWN a few of these African Bishops rather than show them around the diocese.

Or is it only when they want to say something unkind about gay people that they revert to literalism?

John S. Morgan


II - David writes John

Dear John,

If I understand your point it is that these African bishops should be 'obedient' to Frank Griswold's call to "come and see." But why should they? What is there to SEE? They KNOW what it is that is being required of them. To come and affirm homosexual behavior which they roundly rejected at Lambeth. They shouldn't waste their time, air fare or anything else. Scripture has firmly spoken about sodomy. The answer is a resounding NO and no deconstructing of the Biblical text can or will change that.

Blessings,

David Virtue


III - John Writes David

David Virtue, Thank you ever so much in responding so quickly to my comments.

You said: "If I understand your point it is that these African bishops should be 'obedient' to Frank Griswold's call to ‘come and see.’ But why should they?"

My point is this: The African Bishops used a literalistic understanding when they condemned the gays at Lambeth.

Remembering the American experiences with slavery, and the mind set of the literalists, and their knowledge of what the bible says on slavery, the African Bishops should not be shocked to find that the American Literalists would rather own a few African Bishops rather than host their visits.

You said: "What is there to SEE? They KNOW what it is that is being required of them. To come and affirm homosexual behavior which they roundly rejected at Lambeth."

An about face from Lambeth, I know usually takes time. It was about 50 years after Lambeth condemned birth control before Lambeth rescinded the decision. [Apparently what is ever so clear in the bible can be obscure at another point in time.]

In my youth the story of Sodom was thought to be a condemnation of gay sex. It is not hard to understand that in a homophobic climate that one might make this misunderstanding considering that tangentially the story did mention male-male sexual activity.

But simply reading the story without prejudgement establishes [in plain Biblical text] that its moral is not about gay sex. [Of course, Jesus indicates that he did not think it about gay sex, and neither did the church fathers.]

To realize that it is about the evil of inhospitality requires more than a memorization of a few bible verses. It requires an understanding of the culture of those who wrote the story. It is the understandings of these kind of things [not deconstructions] that might Benefit the African Visitors.

You state: "Scripture has firmly spoken about sodomy."

Scripture has firmly spoken about a flood that covered the entire earth.
Scripture has firmly spoken about languages having their origins at Pentecost.
Scripture has firmly spoken about the sun standing suddenly still.
Scripture has firmly spoken about the rainbow as a covenant. [not a property arising from the diffraction of light.]
Scripture has firmly spoken about woman being created from the rib of a sleeping man.
Scripture has firmly spoken about how sinful lending money for any profit is.

In all these cases, scripture was wrong. I would not be surprised to learn that: "Scripture has firmly spoken about sodomy."

As I have said, how could gay prejudices, rampant in patriarchal societies, not find their way into scripture. What is remarkable is how so little was said. And we find that some supposed references come from simply reading with misconceptions. And we find that some of that arises attempting to translate obscure ideas. These are the kind of things we might share with Bishops from far off lands.

I posses no talent in discerning the truth when one author of Scripture says God loves animal sacrifice and another says He hates it. I posses no talent in discerning the necessity of circumcision when one biblical figure argues for it or another against.

I do think we should be concerned with the overarching themes in the bible like love, brotherhood, and about who Jesus taught us was our brother.

Blessing,

John S. Morgan


IV - David Writes John

Dear John,

It's Friday, but Sunday's comin' as Tony Campolo preaches so vividly.

First of all the African bishops did NOT condemn homosexuals at Lambeth, they condemned the behavior, in much the same way as I condemn my son's fornication but I still love him. I don't condemn him. I condemn what he does.

Slavery is not in the same category as homosexuality. Slavery was condemned last century by the well known evangelical politician William WIlberforce. It was the Evangelicals that got rid of slavery, and still they understood that Paul accepted the slave master relationship because it was of an entirely different order than slavery of the last century.

On homosexuality. The Bible is not obscure on this. Seven passages in both Old and New Testaments roundly condemn homosexuality. Jesus' silence on the subject is because the Jews never had it on the radar screen of their minds and thinking. Jesus never publicly addressed the issue. He might have privately, but it was not recorded. "Not all the books could contain what he said" See John's gospel.

The Sodom and Gomorrah story was BOTH about homosexuality and social injustice. A later prophet affiremd that.

On your other points.

A flood did cover the known earth. That has been attested too scientifically in our time.

Scripture did not say "languages had their origin at Pentecost." Incorrect. They had their origin at the Tower of Babel, not Pentecost. At Pentecost each heard the gospel "in their own tongue." The sun did stand still. There is enough scientific evidence to show it did. Consult any astronomer. The rainbow is a covenant. (Even if it is refracted light) There is no contradiction there. God has never flooded the world again and won't. It's a promsie he made and has kept. Fire has done far more damage. Woman was created from man. What's the problem there?

Re money. You're probably right. Usury was not accepted in the OT, neither was interest. I'm glad for 7 percent rates not 21 per cent. But that's more complicated. We might agree on that one.

You say "gay prejudices were rampant in patriarchal societies." Granted that those societies were patriarchal, but God condemned it not because of the society, but because HE SAID SO. He made "male and female" not male and male. Homosexuality is contrary to the divine order.

Finally animal sacrifices were for sin atonement. They were done away with when Christ was made full and final atonement for sin. There has never been a blood sacrifice for sin since then.

What troubles me John is that you have been badly taught by revisionist priests who have had the gospel deconstructed out of them at seminaries run by unbelievers. This is the most profoundest tragedy of all.

Easter blessings,

David


V - John writes David

David Virtue, Greetings!

It is refreshing to ‘argue’ with someone like yourself who is really interested in finding ‘truth’ rather than winning debating points. I thank you for the dialog.

You say: "First of all the African bishops did NOT condemn homosexuals at Lambeth, they condemned the behavior, in much the same way as I condemn my son's fornication but I still love him. I don't condemn him. I condemn what he does."

Here, I think we agree. I cant approve of improper behavior: stealing, bearing false witness, overpopulation of the planet etc. I even think a proscription against fornication, under most circumstances, should have been included in the ten commandments

But on the other hand, the Lambeth resolution says effectively that it is OK for heterosexuals to have sexual activity [within marriage] but all male homosexuals must tie their penises in a knot and abstain all their lives.

Its kinda like the story of the young newly wed heterosexuals. She said: "On Friday night my husband goes out with the boys; on Wednesday night I go out with the boys. What could be more fair than that?"

Roman Catholic priests pride themselves on their celibacy and suggest they have given up so much voluntarily. According to your position, lifelong celibacy is the minimum requirement for gays. In their case there is no voluntary about it. No one puts a gay man on a pedestal for repressing his innate sexuality. He is still the object for contempt and ridicule.

I can no more believe that a rational and loving God would mandate such a proscription than I can believe that God would micromanage thus: "Keep my statues: do not breed any of your domestic animals with others of a different species; do not sow a field of yours with two different kinds of seed; and do not put on a garment woven with two different kinds of thread."

I can imagine ancient pastoral tribes incorporating this into their primitive sacred texts but not the God of the Universe saying this. [Of course, in a defacto sort of way no one else really believes it either - no one suggests anyone avoid mixed threads when buying shirts. I dare speculate that some of your friends show up in church on Sunday morning wearing Dacron-Polyester cotton shirts.] Its those famous seven texts, misinterpreted and mistranslated as some of them are, that becomes THE ethic for some.

You state: "He made ‘male and female’ not male and male. Homosexuality is contrary to the divine order."

The famous British author and very effeminate homosexual, Quentin Crisp, tells the story of the time he went to volunteer his services in the army for World War II. [Quentin's usual problem was just getting from home to work on a daily basis through a London working-class neighborhood without getting beat up.] Quentin decided that it was his duty to offer his services to his country. Before he enlisted, he cut his hair short and dressed in male appearing clothing. He DID, however, put nail polish on his nails, reasoning that he did not want to be accepted on false pretenses.

Of course he was immediately sent to the staff psychiatrist. The psychiatrist was LIVID. How dare this QUEER show up. [We must ask ourselves why? If Quentin had been a thief would the psychiatrist have been overcome with such rage? What is it about a homosexual that threatens ones world view?]

The psychiatrist took one look at him and said: "Male and female made He them." Quentin retorted: "Male and female made he me!"

Yes, God made male and female but he also made male and male and female and female. In all mammals studied homosexual behavior has been found. Should our species be an exception to the natural order?

It seems strange to me to infer that just because God created carrots that he did not create radishes.

Yes, David, as sure as God created Adam and Eve He created Adam and Steve!

You state: "Scripture did not say ‘languages had their origin at Pentecost.’ Incorrect. They had their origin at the Tower of Babel, not Pentecost."

Here you are right and I am wrong. My point should have been that science understands how language drifts. How rapid a phenomena this is. How separation by vast mountains can quickly give rise to separate tongues.

In fact the development and evolution of language is easy to trace. One can obtain maps of this. None of this work suggests in any way that our major languages radiate from the area of Babel. One can tell the whole story without mentioning Babel just as science has worked out the vast epochs of time for the evolution of life and mankind, the mythological account in Genesis notwithstanding.

You state: "What troubles me John is that you have been badly taught by revisionist priests who have had the gospel deconstructed out of them at seminaries run by unbelievers."

David, I was reared Roman Catholic, and usually got As and Bs in religion class through high school so I think I have a good grasp of the party line. Much of what they said was of value. Some of it thought false - I dared not say so because as you would imagine DOUBT of their truths was sinful. Religion was taught much like I imagined at the time communism was taught in Russia - little ‘truth sessions.’

Everyone seems to respect science and technology when they bring us autos and television but those same analyses when applied to religion seem suspect.

We know the bible is filled with little errors of fact and contradictions. Consider: Following the death and burial of Jesus, who went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week?

"Paul said nothing about anyone going. Mark said that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went (chap 16). Luke said that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and some other women went (24:10). Matthew said Mary Magdalene and the other Mary only went (1:28). John said that Mary Magdalene alone went (20:11)."

It does not take a ‘deconstructionist’ to see that none of these accounts agree with each other. Was God unable to inspire a good text editor? Am I supposed to assume infallibility only on the larger issues.

As I pointed out in my last letter, on so many issues of science the bible was flat wrong. That is understandable. No one knew of evolution in those days so they could come up with incorrect accounts. [And often did]

In reading the synoptic gospels and comparing them with the work of John one would think the authors were talking about two different men.

The synoptic gospels quote Jesus speaking in short sentences. He has little to say there about Himself. He speaks in parables and aphorisms. He espouses the causes of the poor and oppressed. He is pictured as a sage and exorcist. Mark has Jesus ask his followers to keep many things secret for a while.

The author known as John, shows a boastful Jesus who speaks in long sentences of rich theological development. This Jesus favors expressions beginning with "I am…" The bread of life, the paschal lamb, the way, etc." He reflects extensively on his own mission and person. This Jesus has little or nothing to say about the poor or oppressed. He does not perform exorcisms but takes on the character of a philosopher and mystic.

The Jesus seminar has searched the origins of these texts and to my mind is good at sorting out what Jesus actually said from what has been put into his mouth.

David, I think this assumption, that somehow the Godhead dictated a book to human scribes, is the major stumbling block to the acceptance of Gay People in our Churches. [There is a lot of value in Scripture but it is far from error free.]

When an assumption causes that kind of harm to your brothers and sisters in Christ it is worthy of your reconsideration. [The strong human desire for certainty notwithstanding]

May God be with you,

John S. Morgan


VI - David writes John

Dear John,

At last I have a few moments following the Easter rush.

In response to homosexual behavior "tying one's penis in knots" to use your phrase. Three things need to be said about that.

  1. Sex is a GIFT not a RIGHT. Scripture is absolutely clear about that. Not everyone is given the gift, so not all can exercise it.
  2. Jesus and most of the disciples never had sex so clearly it was not a priority in spreading the Good News of the Kingdom, nor was it a RIGHT for them. They said the proclamation of the gospel far transcended sexual needs.
  3. CELIBACY is a biblical option that Jesus and the disciples recognized and practiced. Why can't gays.
  4. REPARATIVE THERAPY for homosexuals is out there. Gays don't want to talk about it. But it is there and tens of thousands of formerly gay people can testify to it.

You say homosexuality is "innate" There is no medical or scientific proof of that. Most of it is conscious or unconscious learned behavior. My brother-in-law Peter was gay. (He died of AIDS a year ago) His father was and still is emotionally retarded (though a Presbyterian minister for 40 years) and his mother was and is a manipulative, cold, unloving woman. I have a hard time with her.

Quentin Crisp is not a good example of anything except a wild extreme case. Not a good shot there John. There are better examples. He was high camp as they say, and tewwwibly British. I am half English myself and know the type.

Sorry homosexuality is not found in most species. Scientifically incorrect.

Yes, God made Adam and Steve...but not for sodomy.

You were raised RC. I was raised Fundamentalist. Legalism is BIG in both camps. The answer is not to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

Now you talk about contradictions in the Bible. Truthfully John most of them have been answered. See Prof. FF Bruce, The NT Documents are they Reliable, for a good start.

Mark was the primary document that the other three drew from, but did not slavishly copy. Each writer saw the gospel through their own lens. Matthew a Jewish tax collector, Luke a Gentile physician. The differences make the difference. If each simply copied the other it would have been a scandal.

John's style of writing, he is not a synoptic writer, is different in purpose and tone from the three synoptic writers. You can't compare apples and oranges.

Finally God did not "dictate" anything. That's a fiction. The dictation theory has been blown up. "God breathed" to use Timothy's language is quite different.

Certainty John is not blind trust. It is open reflective thinking recognizing Scripture as infallible and God's word written to sue the Prayer Book language.

Easter blessings,

David


VII - John writes David

David Virtue you said: "Dear John, At last I have a few moments following the Easter rush."

I think that in considering the exigencies of Holy Week, your response was rapid indeed.

In a handwritten letter to Dr. Crew concerning dialogue on the gay issue the Archbishop of Canterbury he wrote:

To be truly the Church, we must stay together and wrestle with the issues over which we disagree. In the process, pain is likely to be experienced by us all. Each one of us is challenged by new insights and new experiences to confront deeply held beliefs and test them, and that is painful. I am sure, however, that out of the apparent confusion will eventually come a fresh sense of unity as we allow the Holy Spirit to work amongst us."

David, it looks like you and I are being faithful to his wish.

In my e-mail of April 2, 1999, I said: "David, I think this assumption, that somehow the Godhead dictated a book to human scribes, is the major stumbling block to the acceptance of Gay People in our Churches. [There is a lot of value in Scripture but it is far from error free.] When an assumption causes that kind of harm to your brothers and sisters in Christ it is worthy of your reconsideration. [The strong human desire for certainty notwithstanding]"

In your most recent letter you state: "Finally God did not ‘dictate’ anything. That's a fiction. The dictation theory has been blown up. ‘God breathed’ to use Timothy's language is quite different. Certainty John is not blind trust. It is open reflective thinking recognizing Scripture as infallible and God's word written to [use] the Prayer Book language."

While not liking my phrase, "the Godhead dictated a book to human scribes" you use the phrase: "recognizing Scripture as infallible"

And you are not alone in this infallibility conjecture. One of the three American Bishops along with the 53 other persons present) who attended an event at Lambeth, sponsored by the "International Bishop's Conference on Faith and Order" and in a meeting which was basically highlighting the ex-gay movement was quoted as saying: "I came to the realization a long time ago that the Bible was literally true and that has made everything easier."

Accepting such conjectures concerning Scripture may, on the surface, seem harmless or laudatory but they often lead to conclusions that prove to be harmful to ones fellow man.

The tendency to do this with a religious work is not uncommon. For the Christian fundamentalist and a Moslem fundamentalist the mind set is the same, it is only the infallible book that is different.

To adhere to this mind set one has to reject most findings of science: Biological, Linguistic, Astronomical, Geological, Newton’s Laws of Motion. For all these sciences we find major contradictions with the bible.

The problem is not with the Scriptures. We cannot hold an author accountable for fashioning stories consistent with the world view at the time. We can’t blame him for making incorrect statements about knowledge that has yet not been discovered. We cannot blame the author for narrating one of the numerous creation myths found in antiquity.

The problem is with a contemporary reader projecting those utterances on God. Such interpretation suggests that God did not know about his evolutionary plan about life, that She did not know how long ago this creation process began. He couldn't find contradictions of his assertions of fact merely because they were scattered among various writings.

When someone tells me that a certain math book is inerrant and I find that the answer for the problem 2+2 is listed in the back of the book as 5, I say that it is not. I will not even say it is an apparent error. I say flat out that it is an error.

In my last e-mail I posed the question: Following the death and burial of Jesus, who went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week? I showed that Scriptures gave five inconsistent answers to that single question and I still wonder why God did not ‘breathe’ consistent answers as one would expect of an infallible document.

Still, there are some of more conservative persuasions, who hold that in the Anglican tradition Holy Scripture is open to what scholars call "hermeneutical" treatment. [Hermeneutics means "informed and reasoned interpretation"].

The former Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta while stipulating that the Bible will always be definitive for the Church’s faith argues that Paul’s essential argument in Romans 1:26-27 revolves around the word natural, [Paul never uses the word "homosexual". Instead he uses the terms "natural" and "unnatural"] and had Paul the understandings we have today about how innate homosexuality is he might not have been so proscriptive.

Bishop Simms also points out how our fundamentalist sisters and brothers, also use a hermeneutical [interpretive] approach to the Bible -- as proved by their latitude toward the cruel text in Leviticus. He knows of no version of Christianity that advocates a sentence of death for homosexuals. Quite the contrary. The most conservative Christians insist that homosexuality is a curable dysfunction, and they mount programs of compassion and therapy that aim at healing the "disease". David, I believe you mentioned reparative therapy!

You state: "4. REPARATIVE THERAPY for homosexuals is out there. Gays don't want to talk about it. But it is there and tens of thousands of formerly gay people can testify to it."

But until the effectiveness of these therapies is found in scientific journals we will continue to hear these numbers by advocates. Right wing Christianity finds that this brings in dollars when such tales are spread in contribution letters.

In the Episcopal church the idea would seem to be purely academic in view of the fact that Integrity has found only about 10 people in the United States who are both ex-homosexual and Episcopalian. Ex-homosexuals generally attend more evangelical churches.

Unfortunately, the advocates of "reparative therapy" do not think much of it themselves; they believe it to be extremely difficult in most cases, requiring therapy five times a week often for years. They claim a "success" rate of about 30 percent, but their patient population is skewed to those most willing and desperate to make a change suggesting a far lower conversion rate for a representative population of gay men.

I do not know if you have a daughter but if you do would you have her marry the tortured soul of such an experience; for one who believes in the sanctity and permanence of marriage how well would you sleep at night with this "new heterosexual" married to your daughter?

As Freud himself said, "In general, to undertake to convert a fully developed homosexual into a heterosexual is not much more promising than to do the reverse." [But I will foot the bill, David, if you want to try.]

I can understanding your hope for reperative therapy, in your heart of hearts, I imagine you think it 'unfair' that individuals be required to abstain from all sexual activity all their lives merely because they are gay or lesbian. That God should heap this burden upon an already much despised an maligned minority just doesn't seem right.

You also said: "Most of it [homosexuality] is conscious or unconscious learned behavior."

Most reparative therapists think sexual orientation is fixed in early development before the age of 18 months or, at the latest, three years, making the case that even if homosexuality is not genetic but environmental, it is still involuntary.

You wrote: "Sorry homosexuality is not found in most species."

Thinking that I might have been hasty when I said, "In all mammals studied homosexual behavior has been found. Should our species be an exception to the natural order?", I spent a half hour on the Internet with a search engine and came up with:

Eight percent of the male sheep at the United States Department of Agriculture's Sheep Experimental Station in Dubois, Idaho, are gay, officials confirmed in late November.

"These animals are homosexual. They are responding physically to how they are," explained Anne Perkins, a doctoral student at the station who is completing her dissertation on "Reproductive Behavior In Rams."

Homosexuality among animals is "nothing real unique," according to Perkins, who said gay sex has been observed in 63 distinct mammalian species. "It's not considered aberrant in farm animals at all," she said.

"Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity" (St. Martin's Press. $40) Biologist Bruce Bagemihl's 10-year investigation yielded 751 pages of same-sex and transgendered behavior in hundreds of birds and mammals. Four-hundred and fifty species are examined in Biological Exuberance, proving that heterosexual behaviors in animals are simply part of a much more expressive continuum, just as Alfred Kinsey had written to be so about humans.

David, I don’t think our species should be an exception to this biological diversity.

I hope this e-mail has been of benefit to you.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


VIII - John writes David

David Virtue:

You dealt with 'the atonement' and made reference to the statement "Christ died for our sins" in your news letter this week. The statement: "Christ died for our sins" seems to me to depend on the "Atonement Model"

The Atonement conjecture always bothered me. [Maybe it doesn't fit so nicely and that is why it took the church so long to perfect it.]

Consider this: As a teacher, when I make an exam over some subject matter, I can make it so easy that everybody will pass or so difficult that everybody flunks. [Or any degree in between.] If I make the exam very hard and everybody fails, I should rightly put a large share of the blame on myself. Do I make the exam medium so 50% pass or somewhat hard so 10% pass? The point is I control the outcome! Yes, the student does have some maneuvering room but the overall control is with me.

It seems to me that the 'orthodox' model of the atonement model suggests this: It is like God saying: "How high should I set the requirements?" "What percentage do I want to pass. They are my rules; I will do what I want. I can make the rules hard or easy. They are my creatures. And just for the fun of it, I think I will make the stakes of my game stiff. The winners go to eternal bliss. The losers, I think I will torture with fire forever! In the normal course of things that would be very nasty but I am going to convince them that I am the good guy. I think I shall consider sex sins particularly vile. Here is a neat one. I'll make same-sex encounters strictly forbidden and then I'll create such strong hormones that almost no one who emerges into puberty with these tendencies can resist. I'll tell the humans that it is their fault they fall - that after all they had choice."

There is no rational way that one can say that the one who sets the standards has no responsibility for the outcome. Whatever game God is playing with mankind retributive punishment is NOT part of it.

If the biology of mankind arose, as science shows, through millions of years of evolution, then the Creation Story of Genesis is Mythological. Mankind didn't suddenly fall. The atonement model took hundreds of years to perfect. The idea was to fabricate some reason such that the death of Jesus would make sense. [and to give the organized church a method of control - establish a need and convince everyone only you can satisfy that need]

In all likelihood, the religious authorities did not like the idea of Jesus tearing up the temple and that played a large roll in his crucifixion. Jesus died a hero. He preached the kingdom of God. He taught with his death that some ideas are so important to share that the fear of dire consequences should not stifle them. Jesus did not die in vain.

I say again David, your publication needs a good op-ed page.

Your brother in Christ,

John S. Morgan


IX - David writes John

Dear John,

for some reason my computer blurped me in the middle of a note to you. My apologies.

The atonement theories or doctrine are the legitimate formulation of something very simple, "Christ died for my sins." Any kid can understand that.

That the church formulated something more complex does not deny its truthfulness, merely its need to formulate in some theological form what we all, at the simplest level know to be true, that Christ died for our sins according to the gospel.

Sin embraces all behaviors and lifestyles contrary to the will of God and what is revealed in Scripture. We cannot and should not try to justify a behavior, any behavior that is proscribed by Holy Scripture. If we do we only lance ourselves on the petard of God's judgment.

Thank you for your kind words about my stuff. An op-ed page is a good place to appear though I hardly think anyone will give me the time of day. I am moved that Virtuosity is now reaching so many thousands.

All blessings,

David Virtue


X - From Virtuosity - printed with permission of David Virtue

THE REV. KING COLE IS NOT A MERRY OL' SOUL
A Rector under Siege

News/Commentary

By David Virtue

If there's one thing you don't do, it is to tell a southern country boy how to milk a cow, birth hogs, shoe horses or grow vegetables.

No sir, you don't.

You also don't tell that same farm boy who grew up believing in Jesus and hearing Bible stories from his mother's knee, that after 35 years as an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ it is time to modify the Church's moral teachings and message to suit the mood of the times in which we live.

No sir you don't.

You also don't try and tie a country boy down with what amounts to a church arrest, or any other kind of harassment and believe you can get away with it.

No sir, you don't.

But the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III the relatively new Bishop of East Carolina thinks he can do just that to the Rev. C. King Cole, 61, the 25-year rector of St. Andrew's in Morehead City, NC. And he's trying to make his life a living hell.

The 'theological cleansing' in that diocese is just beginning.

You see C. King Cole is a die hard evangelical. He's been preaching the gospel in his parish for more than a quarter of a century and during those years he has lead hundreds to the Lord with a get-along-side down home folksy style of evangelism that has seen everyone from doctors and lawyers to would-be suicides and farm hands, get down on their knees and confess Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, renounce sin and evil and rise up to newness of life.

Bishop Daniel, on the other hand, is part of a new generation of 50ish, trendy, post-modern, revisionist bishops who believe in ordaining active homosexuals to the ministry and is open to blessing same sex unions. He is also opposed to the kind of evangelicalism that makes churches grow, while liberalism empties them. (Clearly he has not read the statistics for church decline from the Diocese of Newark, NJ.)

And to the Rev. C. King Cole that theological dog won't hunt.

And the bishop has blundered. Blundered badly. He's picked a fight with an evangelical hound dog who won't go limping, like some wounded animal into that dark night.

No sir, he won't.

Despite all the bishop's efforts which include making Cole re-read his ordination vows, placing him under church "arrest" which means inhibiting him from literally speaking outside of his parish, the Rev. Cole happily journeyed to Ridgecrest near Asheville, NC this past weekend to teach some 450 people who had come from all over the U.S. how to do evangelism - country style.

"If he thinks he can inhibit the ministry of St. Andrew's, he's made a big mistake and misjudged my vestry and parishioners badly," said the feisty rector.

And Cole has the 100 percent backing of his vestry and the vast majority of the 700 folk who worship at St. Andrew's.

It is a repeat of Tom Shaw of Brockton, Mass. and Charles Bennison of Philadelphia, PA all over again. And the outcome is uncertain. "I may leave the Episcopal Church, but I will never abandon my people," he said. "Never."

"I love them, they are my family. I know them all by name. I visit them. I make pastoral calls. I see them in hospital, I pray with them, marry them and bury them. I will never, ever let them go."

In an exchange of letters between the bishop and Cole, the rector advised that a proposed visit by the bishop to his parish might be rescheduled because "people do not wish to be confirmed at this time." Cole suggested the visit be rescheduled in order to make better use of everyone's time.

The bishop immediately saw this as an act of disobedience and wrote the following response back to Cole. "On April 13, 1999, at a meeting in my office and in the presence of witnesses you stated to me your active consideration of abandoning the ministry of this church. Further, you declared at that meeting that by signing the documents known as the "First Promise" you do not consider yourself loyal to the Episcopal Church nor do you consider bishops as having ecclesiastical authority over your ministry, as you promised in the vows you took at your ordination to the...priesthood." Bishop Daniel then went on to say that he had a tape recording of a meeting held at St. Thomas Church in Oriental that "made statements and accusations...questioning your faithfulness to the Episcopal Church and to your bishop. You also indicated your unwillingness to present a Confirmation Class to me on the occasion of my scheduled episcopal visitation to St. Andrew's."

Daniel then issued a Pastoral Directive telling Cole he could not "preach, teach, exercise pastoral ministry or celebrate or administer the sacraments outside of St. Andrew's. Nor was he allowed to invite a vestry or any other group within this diocese to meet with him for purposes of preaching, teaching or pastoral care. Daniel said that any action Cole might choose to take would require a written permission from himself. Daniel concluded the letter by saying that he hoped that "the present difficulties would be resolved, your continuing loyalty affirmed and this Pastoral Directive is rescinded."

Cole responded in a letter by asking the bishop's forgiveness "for whatever offense I have done...and [is] painful for you," which the Bishop has never responded too.

Following this letter, the senior warden of the vestry wrote to the bishop in which he said, "Our firmly held belief is that when the positions and doctrines of a church, any church, differ from Holy Scripture, it is the church and not Scripture that is in error."

He then went on to say that Daniel was "being misled to believe that King is acting alone and without the support of his Vestry and his congregation. The primary purpose of this letter is to ensure you that this is most definitely not the case."

He said that "the vast preponderance of the active parishioners at St. Andrew's support the positions set forth by King Cole and the orthodox theology that they represent. Your pastoral directive is to silence King and our point of view."

"We believe," he wrote, "that many of the current positions of the Episcopal Church of the US depart from teachings of the Bible and therefore cannot be followed. We show no disrespect or discourtesy to those whose opinions differ from ours nor have we attempted to silence them in any fashion. We simply want the right to stand where the Holy Scriptures, our consciences, and the Holy Spirit lead us to stand."

The letter also noted that if the restrictions of movement were to be literally applied to Cole he could not even make a pastoral visitation to the sick and shut-ins. The vestry urged him to rescind it immediately.

The bishop did not.

In an interview with the Rev. Cole at Ridgecrest Conference Center, near Asheville where some 450 Episcopalians were gathered for an Evangelism Congress sponsored by the Brotherhood of St. Andrews and the National Church, Cole said that attempts to change the church's historic stands on moral theology with regard to human sexuality was the flash point for he and his congregation.

"We just could not continue to turn a blind eye to what the bishop believes and teaches. Of the 66 voting clergy at the last Diocesan Convention in this diocese 55 voted against affirming the Lambeth resolution calling it mean-spirited towards homosexuals. The resolution opposed the behavior of homosexuals not homosexual persons. The bishop just doesn't get it. We are fighting for our theological lives. This is spiritual warfare. We cannot let it go unchallenged. We are not prepared to compromise the historic gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Cole concluded by saying that the most dangerous thing in the church today is personal opinion uninformed by biblical truth.

END


XI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your most recent issue of Virtuosity, you suggest that Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III the relatively new Bishop of East Carolina is out to persecute the Reverend C. King Cole, 61, the 25-year rector of St. Andrew's in Morehead City, NC. You suggest that rector Cole is under siege that "ethical cleansing" in that diocese is just beginning.

To use one of your favorite expressions, THAT DOG WON’T HUNT. The arguments in your article don’t support a thesis of persecution.

One can easily understand the Bishop being upset when "In an exchange of letters between the bishop and Cole, the rector advised that a proposed visit by the bishop to his parish might be rescheduled because ‘people do not wish to be confirmed at this time’."

I continue to quote from your article ’We just could not continue to turn a blind eye to what the bishop believes and teaches. Of the 66 voting clergy at the last Diocesan Convention in this diocese 55 voted against affirming the Lambeth resolution calling it mean-spirited towards homosexuals. The resolution opposed the behavior of homosexuals not homosexual persons. The bishop just doesn't get it. We are fighting for our theological lives. This is spiritual warfare. We cannot let it go unchallenged. We are not prepared to compromise the historic gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’

Cole concluded by saying that the most dangerous thing in the church today is personal opinion uninformed by biblical truth."

It appears to me, based solely on your presentation here, that the Bishop wants to exercise his customary and usual oversights without subversion by a maverick parish. He wants to confirm at appropriate times; he is appropriately upset when, as you quote the bishop: "at a meeting in my office and in the presence of witnesses you stated to me….you do not consider yourself loyal to the Episcopal Church nor do you consider bishops as having ecclesiastical authority over your ministry, as you promised in the vows you took at your ordination to the...priesthood."

The Bishop, in ordering him not to speak outside of his church, would seem to me to be exercising an appropriate sanction under the circumstances. If the Rector would follow the ecclesiastical rules he wouldn’t be under any sanction concerning expressing his views outside of his parish.

The rector, if I read the above figures, is clearly out of step with his diocese. But the toleration of the Episcopal church has always been large.

We begin to see what is really going on when the rector states: "This is spiritual warfare. We cannot let it go unchallenged. We are not prepared to compromise the historic gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

But who is to interpret ‘purity of doctrine’. No one returns from the dead to tell us if Jesus even prefers Moslems over Baptists.

As the Most Reverend Richard Holloway, in his June 10th address to the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church said: "there have always been different schools of biblical interpretation, nor is there any infallible arbiter who can step in confidently and tell us the right way to understand scripture. The state of contemporary biblical scholarship illustrates the difficulty. Tom Wright, one of the most brilliant biblical interpreters at work in Britain today, strongly disagrees with Dominic Crossan, one of the most brilliant biblical interpreters at work in the United States. Raymond Brown, another brilliant scholar, would probably be found some where in between.

We unavoidably take sides in these fascinating disputes, because that is what theology is all about. And our particular history and temperament will influence the point of view we adopt. The important thing to realize is that there is no place in this life beyond these disputes and differences where everything can be reconciled into a single, inescapably obvious point of view.

Conflict and difference belong to the nature of faith itself, as they belong to all other aspects of human experience. We should celebrate, not deplore, this variety of experience. It is perfectly admissible, of course, to settle for one point of view, and to acknowledge that this is where we are most comfortable. What we cannot honestly do is assume that ours is, in fact, the only sound approach. There is clearly a multitude of approaches: why can't we celebrate them instead of lamenting them?"

No David, Rector Cole is not being persecuted, he just sees his version of Christianity as the only one. It reminds me of the time that the thought of women priests seemed so unchristian that a group known as the Episcopal Synod of America emerged from the ranks of Episcopal Traditionalists. They were on the verge of leaving the church, yet today we find the recent emergence of a new protector of Traditional Orthodoxy, the, American Anglican Council, who count among its ranks supporters of female ordination - they even have women priests as members. Even the most traditional can’t agree over some items they consider basic to Christian Doctrine.

I am getting weary of everyone who seems to have an agenda of doctrinal purity attempting to intimidate ECUSA with it. Let us behave like Christians!

In the words of The Reverend Robert C. Morris in his article entitled "The Hard Path of Christ and the Easy Path of Being Right " [in his Option 3: Living Together in Disagreement while Practicing Charity] when speaking about disagreements in the church:

"Let's be really, really clear about this. The parties to this conflict don't agree. We're at a stalemate about that, for the time being at least, and into the foreseeable future.

So why not try something the NT actually encourages? Some are ‘of Paul’ and some ‘of Cephas’. But Christ cannot be divided. Is it imaginable that the Anglican Church could model something almost unprecedented in history, and hold together WITH an increasingly sharp division of interpretation and practice. Could we have open and out gay-welcoming parishes and ‘recovering’ gay-welcoming parishes and ‘abstinent’ gay-welcoming parishes. Could we do that with all our unhappy divisions, even down to allowing (heaven forbid!) 1928 PB parishes? We would have to ‘forbear’ one another in love, as Paul insists. He should know. Look at James sending emissaries after him at every point tidying up his message with their footnotes. Yet, thunderclaps, expostulations, and all, Paul stayed 'in communion' with the James and the Jerusalem Church, and (apparently) they with him. We have a chance to do something almost new in Christian history. Something in the spirit of the great Anglican Settlement of the Reformation, as well as in the Spirit of Christ. Only this time we don't have the Queen and her Police Power to enforce it. Someone asks, in the dialog, ‘How can there we reconciliation if there isn't acceptance?’ Well, I'm not sure I accept everything about my wife, or child, or priest-but I can surely be reconciled to them in the sense of the give and take of living, and the love I bear in my heart for them, including the things I can't agree with. I can accept the person without accepting every opinion, or behavior. We don't have to be at enmity with each other.

This, of course, can't happen unless there is some willingness to actually listen to people who are not expected to be converted to our viewpoint by the process- and to listen deeply enough to hear their own experience and devotion to God expressed, and accepted. This might lead to some agreement on what makes for essential unity in Christ. Perhaps it is the willingness to accept Jesus Christ as God's revelation, as Savior and Master, and to follow his Way to God with all we've got, even if we can't always agree on how to do that. Perhaps it is accepting others who say that they are seeking to follow Jesus, even if we don't want to hang around with them. Perhaps its getting on with our own call to a world of spiritual and physical hunger, genuinely lost souls, instead of passing judgment on ‘another's servant’ (See John 21 and Romans 12)."

David, as long as their is Christianity there will be disagreement. New documents about Christian origins will be dug up in the desert. Theologians, historians and linguists will study, reflect and publish. With knew knowledge [in any field] comes change. Religion is not static. Let some stay with the past, if that is what they wish, but let others grow. When men of good intentions read and reflect they get new insights and their is no prediction where new knowledge and understandings may lead.

But I see your article, David, as an agitation for the paranoid. Those who will not ‘live and let live’ will be encouraged to push their various agendas on ECUSA. You have not made the case that that parish is persecuted. You have made the case that they are unwilling to submit to the lawful and minimal expectations of their Bishop.

As I have said repeatedly before, David, your magazine needs an "OP-ED" page.

Your brother in Christ,

John S. Morgan


XII - David writes John

Dear John,

Thank you for your note. You certainly are taking what I write seriously, so thank you again. You touch on many points. With so many e-mails I get I'll touch on a few.

There is nothing "maverick" in holding onto the ancient truths of the church. It is the bishop who wishes to change the ground rules for belief, not the Rev. King.

"Toleration" is a fine word, but it only goes one way in The Episcopal Church. What of the four orthodox bishops who have been told, nay ordered to ordain women or face presentment. Where is the toleration there? The revisionist bishops have behaved badly, and in a fascist manner by demanding that all bishops ordain women. The British are smarter than us. They allow flying bishops to resolve the conscience issue. But one wonders, with the sex lives of some of the bishops, whether many of them have a conscience at all.

The rector is not "out of step" it is the bishop who is out of step with 2,000 years of church teaching and 526 bishops of the present day worldwide Anglican Communion.

"Purity of doctrine" has been well established for 2,000 years.

"No one returns from the dead" you write. Really. Jesus did, unless of course you don't believe that, and he vindicated his claim by offering salvation to all who believe.

You might also recall the story of the man who went to hell and lifted up his eyes in torment and plead with God to send Moses or one of the prophets. Jesus responded "They have Moses and the prophets and if they don't believe them they won't believe anyone."

You write "some of Paul and some of Cephas" indicating issues of doctrinal difference. Not true. Now these were not about doctrinal issues but about a competitive spirit in the church, not about purity of doctrine. No one questioned the resurrection. Revisionists like Spong do.

You write "new documents about Christians origins will be dug up in the desert..." implying contradiction.

Here's the truth. Anything that has and is being dug up only confirms the biblical narrative. Nothing that has been dug up to contradict Scripture as we have received it. Nothing. I get Biblical Archeological Review and know it to be true. Otherwise tell me.

I could go on and on.

The bottom line is this John. Will you accept the authority of Scripture as given and will you submit yourself to it in the Spirit of Christ. That is the question.

Now, as your note was posted on QUEST COFFEE HOUR by Louie Crew, I respectfully request that my response to you be posted.

Thanks,

David Virtue.

PS. I doubt anyone would give me an OPED page, but thanks for suggesting it. I'll have to be content with the 25,000 readers who read Virtuosity. Org. At least my list is growing daily and for this I thank God.


XIII - John writes David

Dear David,

You wrote:

Dear John, Thank you for your note. You certainly are taking what I write seriously, so thank you again. You touch on many points. With so many e-mails I get I'll touch on a few.

David, I always take your work seriously. It is written with passion, insight, and style. You often select subject matter given scant attention elsewhere. You write from the point of view of the conservative mind set I struggle to understand. If we are to behave as brothers and sisters befitting our Anglican and Christian Heritage we must listen to each other as both our presiding bishop and the archbishop of Canterbury have so strongly advised.

You state: "Toleration" is a fine word, but it only goes one way in The Episcopal Church. What of the four orthodox bishops who have been told, nay ordered to ordain women or face presentment. Where is the toleration there?

David, I agree, toleration must work both [all] ways in the Episcopal church. With men and women of good will things can usually work out. I know, for example, in his diocese, that Bishop Iker has worked out an arrangement with Bishop Stanton to supervise women priests who may be called to function in Iker’s diocese. This should obviate action of extremists.

It must be said, however, if my memory serves me correctly, that the four orthodox bishops of whom you speak, were ordained at a time that they should have seen the handwriting on the wall - that the corporate church was ready to move forward on the women’s ordination question and that they might be expected to implement the decisions of general convention.

You state: But one wonders, with the sex lives of some of the bishops, whether many of them have a conscience at all.

Isn’t that kind of a Catch 22 for some? Christian sexual expression requires marriage but gays are not allowed marriage!

You state: The rector is not "out of step" it is the bishop who is out of step with 2,000 years of church teaching and 526 bishops of the present day worldwide Anglican Communion.

According to your figures, the rector is out of step with his diocese. [Your article stated: "Of the 66 voting clergy at the last Diocesan Convention in this diocese 55 voted against affirming the Lambeth resolution calling it mean-spirited towards homosexuals."] The bishops of the worldwide Anglican Communion apparently read their scriptures differently at different times. The Bishops at Lambeth resoundingly condemned birth control only to rescind that decision fifty years later. With 2,000 years of experience perhaps they should get it right the first time.

You state: "No one returns from the dead" you write. Really. Jesus did, unless of course you don't believe that, and he vindicated his claim by offering salvation to all who believe.

To those like myself, who suspect there is life after death, it follows that Jesus is alive somewhere. But my point is still valid – he does not walk the planet advising us of his preferences of Baptists over Moslems.

You state: You might also recall the story of the man who went to hell and lifted up his eyes in torment and plead with God to send Moses or one of the prophets. Jesus responded "They have Moses and the prophets and if they don't believe them they won't believe anyone."

The bottom line is this John. Will you accept the authority of Scripture as given and will you submit yourself to it in the Spirit of Christ. That is the question.

David, who gets to write that bottom line? The average Protestant would say salvation is through faith! The average Roman Catholic would say good works are required! [They both are working from the same basic text.] If by chance God prefers the Catholic doctrine does that mean that Protestants who have not tucked good works into their portfolio will be in hell lifting up their eyes in torment pleading with God to send Moses or one of the prophets? And Jesus will responded "They have Virtue and the prophets and if they don't believe them they won't believe anyone."

You state: You write "new documents about Christians origins will be dug up in the desert..." implying contradiction. Here's the truth. Anything that has and is being dug up only confirms the biblical narrative. Nothing that has been dug up to contradict Scripture as we have received it. Nothing. I get Biblical Archeological Review and know it to be true. Otherwise tell me.

I am not a cleric, nor have I taken degrees in religion, but when I read the secret Gospel of Mark it seems to me the work pictures Jesus as gay. Moreover some biblical scholars think that this gospel [stripped of its more esoteric content] was the version used by Matthew and Luke to produce their corpus, and not the version of Mark which we are familiar.

Your phrase "Scripture as we have received it" is interesting because the "look" varied a lot over its history. The period of time from the death of Jesus to the first collections of sayings ascribed to Jesus was twenty years, known as the oral period during which the tradition was carried by word of mouth. The actual gospels were composed during the last quarter of the first century by third-generation authors who mixed in a lot their own theology putting it in Jesus’ mouth and redacted from time to time. One can see how different the traditions were by comparing John with the synoptics.

You state: I could go on and on.

Please do.

Your brother in Christ,

John S. Morgan


XIV - John writes David

David,

I posted the following letter on Lightspeed:

In his Virtuosity Digest of June 13, 1999, David Virtue says: "It may come as no surprise that it is conservative parishes that are growing through such means as ALPHA, Cursillo, etc. while liberal parishes decline and go out of business."

I wonder if you have any data that could confirm or deny this.

Here is the first reply I received::

Gee, I didn't know that having Cursillo and Alpha in your parish automatically meant that the church was conservative. All Saints, Jackson, MS is a "renewed" parish with both of those activities taking place but the people there are pretty intentional about its being a place for ALL people.

I think David needs to go to his room!

Jack Taylor wrote:

John et al--

Just a quick note about my parish, Transfiguration, viewed by some as one of the most liberal in Dallas, arguably one of the most conservative dioceses anywhere.

It continues to grow, attracting young families especially. It also attracts many transfers from more conservative parishes. One transferred recently from St. James, Dallas, after more than 20 years. Many have transferred from Christ in Plano, TX, where The Rev. David Roseberry is rector. Most of the transfers say they tire of the conservative preaching-in-a-rut about sexuality, alter calls for Right to Life etc. Some also say they like our inclusiveness and outreach.

As the parish AIDS Outreach Ministry chair for the past few years, I've had four members from Father Roseberry's parish alone (we opened our membership to anyone willing to work with AIDS relief, regardless of parish or even religious preference). Father Roseberry refuses to allow an AIDS ministry in his parish, even though a sister died from AIDS.

My parish also has the only gay and lesbian ministry in the diocese. Many newcomers are encouraged that our parish is truly one where everyone is welcome.

I imagine there are similar stories from other so-called "liberal" parishes, such as All Saints in Pasadena, etc.

In short, I think David Virtue's statement is probably based on very little true data.

God bless.

And Finally Dr. Louie Crew wrote:

It's hard enough to apply those labels accurately to people, harder to apply to parishes.

Is there a list of parishes affiliated with AAC? I could run checks on their membership over the last two decades.

Is there an equivalent network of parishes that might be called 'liberal'? I suppose we could look at those who sponsor the Oasis in our diocese, but that would be too focused on just one diocese. Those parishes number almost half those in the diocese, and come from every position on a spectrum of vitality. I suspect that liberal and conservative parishes everywhere come on every spectrum of vitality. The AAC parish in our diocese is not exactly bursting at the seams, as I had thought it might, given how strong the women's caucus is in a hostile place like Ft. Worth and given how strong Integrity often is where we are most outside the reigning order.

When I studied diocesan growth patterns, I found that ECUSA is actually shrinking the most in the much touted bible belt (a,k.a. the Sun Belt) if you factor in the huge migration to those areas in the general population. Yankee Episcopalians must not take well to Suthun fried Anglicanism and all those 'other sort of folks' going down there are probably not of the color or class to bring out mint juleps and other hospitality....

You can review Dr Crew’s massive statistical analysis of membership changes in ECUSA [where his statement of membership decline in the bible Belt is documented] by clicking this link: ECUSA Membership Changes

David, you identify a survey of Episcopal church members, sponsored by the Episcopal Church Foundation, that "indicates that diversity in belief is nearly as much a mark of identity as prayer book worship..." yet "more than 95 percent of those interviewed believe communion and liturgical worship according to the Book of Common Prayer are central to their religious lives."

This would seem to mirror Christian Believing, a report published by the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England in 1976, which described four attitudes toward the creeds ranging from insisting they must remain "a norm of Christian belief" to regarding "the essence of ...faith…in a life of discipleship rather than in credal affirmation."

This is my Episcopal Church. Their are no outcasts in my church. I am comfortable at the alter rail with all my fellow Anglicans, regardless of the divergent roads their faith may have led them. I would be surprised if the beliefs of educated and thinking Christians did not grow over time in the family of God. I think one can be impressed with the words of Paul: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself," for example, without buying into every doctrinal whim slowly but inexorably added by the faith communities over the centuries.

Let us worry less about which segment of the church is growing; as a denomination let us all grow together, and perhaps in more ways than one.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


XV - David writes John

The data is spotty at best. The diocese of Newark, NJ and Pa have all gone into decline numerically. I will be documenting Pennsylvania's shortly. Newark was exposed by Robert Stowe England less than a year ago, and anybody who doesn't think that Doss did not decimate his diocese would need to have their reading glasses tested.

There may be odd congregations that are not evangelical that are doing well because they are in suburbs that are growing. But I cannot document that.

David Virtue


XVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In one of your earlier e-mail exchanges with me, you stated: "Finally God did not "dictate" anything. That's a fiction. The dictation theory has been blown up. "God breathed" to use Timothy's language is quite different."

I wish you could share with me, a little more extensively, your ideas about the Authority of Scripture. I will share with you some of mine.

The youth at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Tifton, GA. Distribute a t-shirt that says essentially this:

Top Ten Reasons To Be an Episcopalian

  1. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Creator of Heaven and Earth. (Ps. 121)

  2. Whatever you believe, there is at least one Episcopalian that agrees with you.

  3. Guitar-Toting Priests

  4. No Grape Juice.

  5. Awesome Youth.

  6. Male and Female He created them; Male and Female we ordain them.

  7. We can believe in dinosaurs.

  8. We don't ask you to check your brains at the door.

  9. Everyone is invited to dinner.

  10. No minimum age requirements for full benefits.

Some of this is just playful youth humor. At the same time, some of it points to serious church tradition. We Episcopalians pride ourselves on not having to leave our brains at the door. We are proud of our long held approach to the Bible in our three-legged stool of Scripture, tradition & reason.

The Bible has always held a position of high regard for Anglicans not only as repository for the parables of Jesus and the wisdom of the Prophets or the insights of Paul but because it chronicles the struggle of Western man in his reach for God.

At the far right of that continuum stretching from the liberal to the conservative approach to Scripture we find those who speak of the Bible as error free..

I have always wondered how it was possible for an alert high school student to graduate with such a view and I suspect that a seminary student would have to sleep half way through to believe such.

The Bible contains egregious errors of science. The authors are not to blame because many of these things had not yet been discovered. But that does not make the Biblical Compendium any less error free. It has errors of fact, inconsistencies, and puts conflicting testimony in the mouth of Jesus.

When we begin to make grandiose claims for the authorship of Scripture we begin to distort both its meaning and value to us. When an Episcopal bishop makes a statement like: "I came to the realization a long time ago that the Bible was literally true and that has made everything easier" , perhaps religious conservatives should be a little uneasy. These overexaggerated claims are not helpful. To take the Bible seriously, I do not think that you can take it literally. The phrase "The Bible says" is a distorting and misleading one. The books of the Bible were separately written by authors who did not suggest that they expected their writings to be included in a later compilation. At one time the gospels circulated separately.

Let me give you some concrete examples as to why I think the term "The Bible Says" is distorting and misleading:

  1. Mark chapter six verse seven: "Then he summoned the twelve and started sending them out in pairs and giving them authority over unclean spirits. And he instructed them not to take anything on the road, except…..but to wear sandals…"

    Matthew chapter ten verse one:
    "And summoning his twelve disciples he gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits…..don’t take a knapsack for the road…or sandals…"

    Here we cannot say: the Bible says.....
    We can say: Mark says wear sandals.
    We can say: Matthew says don't wear sandals.

  2. Both Mark and Luke unconditionally prohibit divorce. Matthew names infidelity as the one exception to the categorical prohibition of divorce. Since these books circulated independently at one time, those Christians who lived in regions where Matthew was read and had adulterous spouses were the lucky ones, since they enjoyed the support of their religion in terminating unsuccessful marriages of this sort. Not so in the territory of Luke.

    [Doesn’t this seem to traditionalists a strange way for God to inspire an errorless book? He has one author stipulate a command. He has another author contravene it. And in the final compilation , when the church includes these writings in her cannon, we are left with an inconsistency between the authors.]

    Here we cannot say: The Bible says......
    We can say: Luke says that Jesus forbids divorce.
    We can say: Matthew says Jesus says divorce is permitted when infidelity is involved.

  3. There are two versions of the Lords prayer, one in Matthew 6:9-13 and the other in Luke 11:2-4 Matthew’s version begins: "Instead you should pray like this". Luke says "When you pray, you should say" They have differences in content. These differences are not surprising since the utterances of Jesus were carried orally for twenty years and composed in narrative form by third generation authors near the end of the first century.

    [But doesn’t this seem to traditionalists a strange way for God to inspire the recording of his son's favorite prayer?]

    Here we cannot say: The Bible says.....
    We can say: Matthew says…
    We can say: Luke says…

  4. In his hearing before the council when Jesus is asked whether he is the Anointed (the messiah) the various evangelists substitute different words into Jesus’ mouth.

    Mark has Jesus say:
    "I am."
    Matthew has Jesus say: "If you say so."
    Luke has Jesus say: "If I tell you, you certainly won’t believe me."

    Here we cannot say: The Bible says.....
    We can say: Mark says...... or Matthew says..... or Luke says.....

  5. Mark believed Jesus thought his disciples were obtuse and dense. And he frequently projects this view into Jesus’ mouth: "You still aren’t using your heads are you?…Are you just dense?…You still don’t understand, do you. Would it not be unfair to the other evangelists to say that the bible says Jesus thought his disciples dense. [Scholar’s Version]

David, statements like the following which I have taken from your Digest, Virtuosity, make this kind of error: "I've never criticized the gay lifestyle," White said. "I've only proclaimed what God said himself." Quoting Bible verses in Leviticus and Romans denouncing homosexuals, White added: "God said it, not Reggie White."

God did not say any such things. The author/authors of Leviticus may have attributed that to God. Paul spoke from his own perspective in Romans. The Bible is the record of what some people said God said or conjectured God would say. It is not a record of what God said.The Bible can not literally be called "THE" word of God because of the diverse viewpoints of it’s authors and the inconsistencies and errors found in the text.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Thank you for forwarding me the article, "Be Fair to the Liberals: How Worldview Affects Communion", by David Mills an ESA/FIF member.

Mr. Mills offers to define for us what liberals believe, not as he says: "…the usual but certainly unsatisfactory name for a hazy collection of skeptics, relativists, ideologues, and sentimentalists held together mainly by opposing the same things…"

I don’t find his categories clearly enunciated and defined; nevertheless, he apparently thinks liberals believe:

  1. "…truth evolves and grows and changes… "

  2. "…what has been, even what has been settled, may not be, or shall not be any longer…"

  3. "…Bible and the tradition were historically limited attempts to speak of the fundamental religious realities…"

  4. "…others believe that they have recovered the original Faith itself…"

I want to examine each of these statements

STATEMENT #1 "…truth evolves and grows and changes… "

I think that is sort of a straw dog to accuse liberals of believing truth changes. Ones belief concerning what might be true can change. There is a biblical passage about the intention of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. I hear liberals mention that one. Paul in a very memorable verse said that when he was a child, he thought like a child. I hear liberals mention that one.

I cannot conceive of any adult having the same belief on all particulars as he/she did as a child. It is our conception of what might be true that changes. As people read, study, and reflect, they change their minds on any number of issues. That is the nature of the learning process.

STATEMENT #2 "…what has been, even what has been settled, may not be, or shall not be any longer…"

There have been a lot of items in the history of Christianity that have been settled and then resettled.

  1. The Anglican Bishops at Lambeth voted resoundingly against birth control only to do an about face 50 years later.

  2. In my youth the Baltimore Catechism made much of Limbo as a place where unbaptized children were to spend eternity. The book carried the imprimatur of five Roman Catholic Bishops. Now, after the reforms of Vatican II, you can’t find the word in the New Catholic Dictionary.

  3. I have no conservative Anglican friends who visit their neighborhood Roman Churches in search of Indulgences.

  4. The church fathers forbid usury time after time defining it as lending money for ANY interest. The church has no understanding as such today.

  5. At one time the church condemned Copernicus on alleged Biblical grounds. I am shocked to find that even fundamentalists concede that the earth circles about the sun along with the other planets. No one calls for sun centered models to be taught in the schools - yet!

  6. The question of women priests has been revisited and apparently successfully. There likely have always been a core of very traditional Anglican prelates who had to ask themselves: "Is it the chauvinistic tendencies of a very patriarchal society that lead me to oppose the ordination of women or are their real doctrinal considerations?" The new guardians of the traditional in the Episcopal Church, the ACC, do not even mention women priests in their statement of faith yet for their Episcopal Synod of America brethren it was of the utmost concern. The truth is that many in the church have revisited this issue and simply changed their minds.

  7. At one time in the Episcopal church, birth control was thought to be immoral. These questions were "settled" with the aid of the fathers of the church who had absurd ideas of sexuality - such as the sperm being "little man fully formed but small".

  8. Disagreement over the filioque cause split the church into Eastern and Western. At that time mankind knew next to nothing of genetics or how vision worked or much about science but we are supposed to believe that they somehow knew by reading a few scattered scriptural verses what part of the God of the universe proceeded from what other part. What arrogance! What practical purpose it does it have. Is God vain enough to purr like a cat when his humans guess right? The actual result was to have each division of the church to incorporate their version into their creeds so that their own conservatives can criticize their own liberals who don’t want to continue with such folly. The sad truth is that one side MUST be wrong; perhaps both. Unless Mr. Mills wants to embrace this my truth - your truth nonsense.

It appears to me Mr. Mill’s statement: "…what has been, even what has been settled, may not be, or shall not be any longer…" more descriptive of the church as a whole than just for liberals.

In most areas of life we make decisions on the facts at our disposal and when facts are unavailable and the need to make a compelling decision we tend to act on our gut feelings, on faith, tentatively, revising our decisions as more information becomes available. In science doubt is a virtue; in religion these get turned around - faith becomes a virtue and doubt the sin. The guilt engendered is self-serving to the institutional church.

There is always the tendency to dogma creation and unreasonable and extravagant claims in religion unchecked by any reality test. Pious minds spend endless time creating dogmas, and since they are about other worldly things, there is no reality test. Jesus does not return from the grave to tell us even if he prefers Baptists to Moslems. And neither has anyone else.

Sometimes these dogmas have implications which are hurtful to one’s neighbor and are actually incompatible with "love of neighbor". Examples would include forcing poor and or sick women to have child after child, tyranny over the mind of man, the forced overpopulation of the planet, unjust warfare, the inquisition, and shameful treatment of homosexual persons to name a few.

STATEMENT #3 "…Bible and the tradition were historically limited attempts to speak of the fundamental religious realities…"

This one seems to me closer to the beliefs of most liberals that I know.

Much of what mankind knows about Christianity comes from the bible. The American Anglican Council uses the phrase: "Gods Word written" when speaking of the Scriptures. I have spoken of religion as having no reality test, but if one’s beliefs about Christianity stem largely from the bible [as compared with, for example, reflections of theologians] and you think it to be "Gods written Word" then that conjecture becomes somewhat testable.

"God’s written Word" should be internally consistent. It should not contain, errors of fact or contradictions. [but it does] The various authors ought to agree when they say Jesus says something. [A little comparison with the scriptures themselves show that this is not always true.]

For example:

In his hearing before the council when Jesus is asked whether he is the Anointed (the messiah) the various evangelists substitute different words into Jesus’ mouth.

Mark has Jesus say:
"I am."
Matthew has Jesus say: "If you say so."
Luke has Jesus say: "If I tell you, you certainly won’t believe me."

I think Episcopalians of all sorts [liberal, conservative, moderate or whatever label] should be asking themselves which of the Biblical authors come closest in revealing the wishes of God and why they think so.

The bible is a testimony of the peoples of all ages who have searched for religious truth. Some of the highest ideals can be found within. It is the book from which all our religious pilgrimages should begin. It contains the parables of Jesus and insights as to what God might be like. Let us not make insupportable claims for its authorship.

STATEMENT #4 "…others believe that they have recovered the original Faith itself…"

Anglican’s in general think of themselves as having: "recovered the original Faith".

  1. Read, for example, the 39 articles.

  2. In our attempt to "recover the original Faith" when separating ourselves from Rome we discarded Indulgences and Invocation of Saints.

  3. Prelates in the Oxford Movement ‘recovered’ the idea that they were priests and not mere ministers.

  4. And yes, scholars want to reexamine the origins and early development of Christianity. We have more theologians and scholars living and working today than at any other time in church history and they have many recently discovered ancient manuscripts to study.

I think most Episcopalian Liberals would consider what is attributed to Jesus in the New Testament - to Love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves - as having binding authority. On a great many issues we have been able to live together with ambiguity.

Mr. Mills says: "If they [liberals] are right, those who cannot or will not explore formerly forbidden areas and risk the loss of all certainty, who will not open themselves to new movements of the Holy Spirit, who want to hold to the plain meaning of the ancient texts, and who rely on the Church’s tradition to tell them what it says, cannot be allowed to define the Church’s doctrine and discipline."

Aren’t these the very things the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, asks the church to do when he wrote:

"To be truly the Church, we must stay together and wrestle with the issues over which we disagree. In the process, pain is likely to be experienced by us all. Each one of us is challenged by new insights and new experiences to confront deeply held beliefs and test them, and that is painful. I am sure, however, that out of the apparent confusion will eventually come a fresh sense of unity as we allow the Holy Spirit to work amongst us."

Would Mr. Mills be accusing the Archbishop of being a liberal?

Mr. Mills says:

"Conservative Christians are sometimes confused because all five types of liberal tend to keep the traditional forms (verbal and structural) of the Faith. In using them, while rejecting the content they had previously, liberals are being perfectly reasonable." [I keep reading his article over and over and so help me I can only see four ‘types’ of liberals mentioned.]

There is no doubt in my mind that liberals have variously allegorized some of the creedal assertions, in the Baptismal Covenant, but I think that the promises [those things we as Episcopalians purport to do], are literally agreed with by most liberals.

To wit:

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

I will with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

I will with God’s help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

I will with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will with God’s help.

Mr. Mills continues:

"This is why orthodox Christians must understand the nature of communion and know what they are saying and doing by remaining in communion with those who are so fundamentally opposed to the Christian revelation."

Which Christian revelation of the filioque cause ? Or are is the Orthodox branch of Christianity not Christian either? If you keep shrinking the size of the group, Mr. Mills, you will end up with only one Christian and he died on a cross. The church has always had disagreements beginning with the question of Circumcision.

"To put it simply: how can they join at the Lord’s Table with those who do not believe in the Lord, or claim to believe in Him but do not believe what He and His authorized spokesmen say?"

His ‘authorized spokesmen’ could not agree what he said when Jesus had his hearing before the council. They each put something different into the mouth of Jesus. We are to believe they are always correct on the larger issues?

"Breaking communion is simply giving liberal Christians the great compliment of taking them seriously and believing that they mean what they say."

No! Breaking communion arises from the anxieties created from challenges to one’s world view. There is no real reason why Christians should not have different approaches to faith. When basing a belief on "evidences unseen" there will always be arguments about what those unseen evidences might be or mean. Let us emphasize those things we agree upon like working for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. When people see Episcopalians let them say: See how those Christians love one another!

Nowhere in Mr. Mill’s article do I find the use of the word moderate, I only find intolerance:

"The only thing to do with Liberals is to respect them for their convictions, and for those same convictions excommunicate them."

Blessings,


John S. Morgan

XVIII - David Writes John

You make some excellent points John. I wish I had time to explore them all. I suggest you send them along to DMills@aol.com and see what he says.

Blessings,

David

XIX - Mills Writes John

[I sent an e-mail to David Mills and got this reply]

Dear Dr. Swiney,

Thank you for your letter. I'm afraid I don't have time now to engage your points, but let me say that I think your objections have fairly obvious answers, and obvious in a way that doesn't encourage me to pursue the discussion.

To point out, for example, that we grow in knowledge (or should do) as we grow older, is not a rebuttal to my description of liberalism as believing that truth changes, which statement can be easily proved from the statements of representative liberals themselves. As we grow older, we should grow in our understanding and articulation of truth, which we can do precisely bec. it does not change -- as one might grow from thinking the earth is flat, bec. that is all one sees, to knowing it is a sphere, bec. one, through others, sees more of it. Growth requires an unchanging canon, which liberals themselves do not accept, except in the haziest sense of some variable relation with a fairly undefined deity, the articulations of which change so profoundly as to justify the claim that they believe truth itself changes.

I'm afraid the reasoning of the rest of the critique is equally inadequate, and presumes too much upon the political reality of Anglicanism today as the ground or basis for thinking about the questions facing us. Just because most Anglicans now believe in contraception doesn't mean they should -- it is at least possible that in this official Anglicanism is being unfaithful.

Faithfully, David Mills

XX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In the July first 1999 issue of Virtuosity, I saw an article entitled, "The Puzzle of Life: True Science" - By Charles Colson.

I want to comment on these two paragraphs:

"The trouble is, natural forces produce only identical, repeating patterns: An apple falls from a tree exactly the same way, whether in Montana or Mongolia. Applied to DNA, this means natural forces would produce a rigidly repeating sequence of chemical ‘letters’ - the same pattern over and over."

"But you can't write a complex message by repeating the same pattern of letters over and over - and by the same token, you can't get specific instructions for thousands of proteins. As Davies puts it, a constantly repeating pattern would be as ‘as useless as a stuck record.’ This argument is fatal to any attempt to explain the origin of life by natural causes."

The argument to explain the origin of life by natural causes is basically NOT a very complicated one. It hinges on the idea of a self replicating molecule.

Lets start with a VERY simple model - a mold. Every time I put clay in a mold I replicate the image in the mold. [No one dreams up arguments to show how it is not possible to keep making similar statues from a common mold!]

The DNA molecule, once formed, is self replicating. Picture a box with one DNA molecule and a lot of small molecules that are used to make DNA, then shake the box. Because of the helical SHAPE of the DNA molecule it forms a template to assist the molecules to mechanically position themselves in just the right orientation that they form chemical bonds. The end result is two DNA molecules. They would continue to replicate till they run out of raw materials and as long as you shake the box.

Now the order of some of the molecules forms a CODE. [There are actually four molecules involved in the code - Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine] In our example the CODE formed would be random. The process of Natural Selection in a real life organism shapes the code.

When one ‘evolves’ bacteria in the lab [as is done every day in biological laboratories across the world], one bombards a sample of millions of bacteria with a radiation [or other method] to randomly re-arrange some of the code sequences. In nature cosmic rays and accidents in replication give rise to the code sequence changes. [Some would suggest that it is here that God sometimes fine tunes the process.]

When people are given an antibiotic for a bacterial disease, most of the bacteria die. But a few live who may be more adaptable to their environment. The very few out of millions of bacteria that survive with resistance to the antibiotic, because of code changes, have all of the available resources to replicate because all of their fellow germs are DEAD. This is evolution in action albeit on a small scale.

Of course these processes are somewhat more complicated but this is the gist of the process.

What are the religious implications? To my mind, the big mystery is: How did God organize a world for the emergence and sustenance of life. We are kind of looking at the after effects.

It is foolish to argue that this CANNOT happen. An argument similar to the one carried in your digest might have been impressive in the fourteenth century but today these processes are outlined in High School Text Books.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXI - David Writes John

Dear John,

You've caught me with my proverbial pants down. The DNA story is way over my head. I am not a scientist and several others including a Dr. Munday commented on it.

I've asked Dr. Munday to write a contra piece. I'm swimming in deep waters here that I simply don't know enough to comment about. I'm sure you may be right. I defer to your superior intelligence. I'm just not scientifically astute enough to know how to respond.

Sincerely,

David

XXII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Did you ever read a single sentence that you thought contained seven major errors? In reading your Virtuosity Digest of July 20, I think I have located such a sentence:

"Here's a man who openly lives in a homosexual relationship with another man against all the evidence of science, 2000 years of church history, theology, the Biblical witness, Lambeth and AIDS. And for all that he gets a D.D. degree."

  1. evidence of science – The American Psychological Association has removed homosexuality from its lists of mental disorders years ago. Clinical Observations are often very biased. Physicians see sick people. When they realized that there is a huge population of well adjusted, normal, and happy gay people they revised their classification. They had only been treating those poorly adapted to living in a hostile environment. There is NO scientific evidence that suggests that homosexuality is not a normal variety of animal sexuality.

  2. two thousand years of church history -- For most of those 2000 years, there was a rich tradition of same-sex unions, in sections of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

  3. theology – There would not have been such widespread acceptance of homosexuality, same-sex unions, and ordination without extensive theological support. I am familiar with many of these arguments.

  4. Biblical witness – Errors seem to compound themselves. The English word Sodomy comes from the faulty understanding of the Biblical story of Sodom. Yet it is only with a homophobic mind set that one can read proscriptions against gay sexuality into the story. The story was about rape and hospitality. The romance of David and Jonathan in the Bible is at least gay neutral if not positive.

  5. Lambeth – At one time the Bishops of Lambeth resoundingly condemned birth control - only to do an about face fifty years later. Should we assume that they are better at these things today. Scholarship is one of the best escapes from the status quo. The third world bishops had not been dealing with these issues – one even suggested that homosexuality did not exist in his country. To escape from a prejudice, one has to work with the problem.

  6. AIDS – The disease is sexually transmitted. Monogamous couples of any kind do not catch AIDS because of their sexuality.

  7. And for all that he gets a D.D. degree -- I think he received his degree for other reasons.

Although your writings are very opinionated, I think you make a serious attempt at 'fairness'.

In the preceding paragraph you said: "Apparently he was given the doctorate for his outstanding services, as a layman, who has made a significant contribution to the Episcopal Church including the founding of Integrity, the organization for gay and lesbian Episcopalians."

I think a list of that man's accomplishments would dwarf those of we, mere mortals. If you would like an expansive list of Dr. Crew's accomplishments, I am sure I can provide one for you.

Blessings, John S. Morgan

XXIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

"Jesus' disciples came and urged him, saying, 'Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.' He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'"

This statement of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 15.23-24 seems most perplexing. Did Jesus at that time understand his mission to exclude all non-Jews?

Now a more or less liberal interpretation of the passage might be that Jesus’ expanded his horizons as he matured and that here the Canaanite woman helped him to see her as a person of need, and perhaps to see his Messiahship as broader than he had imagined.

But a conservative understanding of this statement baffles me. How does one who understands the scriptures so inspired that they could as easily have been printed in heaven see this?

Would God wish to leave the impression that his original intention was to exclude most of mankind from his concerns? Did he wish to suggest that Jesus intended to countermand his marching orders? Did God change his/her mind? Certainly the bickering of the apostles over the issue of carrying the message to the gentiles shows that some of them had grave reservations as to what was to be expected in this regard.

Why in your opinion would God choose to leave such an ambiguity in his book?

The statement of Jesus about intending to return before the generation passes away raises similar concerns. The gospel record suggests that his followers expected his early return. That statement of Jesus has led to many revisionists redefining the word ‘generation.’

Why in your opinion would God choose to leave such an ambiguity in his book?

Once upon a time, a young boy was walking with his father along the boardwalk in the cool of the evening and asked of his dad: "Dad, how far away is the moon?" His father answered: "I don’t know son." A short while later his son asked: "Dad, what causes the tides?" To which his father responded: "I don’t know son."

They walked for a long while and finally the son said: "Dad, you don’t mind me asking you these questions do you?" "Of course not," his father responded: "If you don’t ask questions how are you going to learn anything?"

David, you don’t mind if I ask you these questions, do you?"

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I noticed the following line in your "Secret Meeting" article in the latest Virtuosity:

"You can be sure homosexuality will well and truly be on the table at General Convention, with some of it going on in hotel bedrooms as well."

I was bemused as I thought that there would likely be a lot of heterosexuality with some of it going on in hotel bedrooms as well.

And I'll just bet it won't all be in the missionary position. And I'll bet you know that too -- in spite of the dogmatic assertions of the Church in earlier times that all other positions were gravely sinful. Now I can't believe that that is the belief of most conservative clerics today. Religion Changes.

We see religion frequently changing its positions. You will remember when the Lambeth Conference resoundingly condemned birth control only to do an about face only 50 years later. And now they are oh so sure about the gays! You were at Lambeth David. Did you recall any of the bishops saying: "Hey brother we sure backpedaled a mere 50 years after our birth control promulgation! You sure we are doing the right thing on this homo question?"

Judo-Christianity at one time REQUIRED IN SCRIPTURE circumcision of males but this was EVENTUALLY changed in NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE.

The church universal for centuries considered the lending of money for ANY interest gravely sinful. That eventually changed.

I know traditionalists don't like to admit this because it weakens their stance on today's moralizing.

But just as sure as the topics in Virtuosity concern themselves with homosexuality today, 50 years ago virtually ALL religious publications were silent. The trend for the acceptance of gays for full inclusion in the life and expression of the church marches forward. 50 years ago the church was silent! Today we are half way there. 50 years from now we will be.

If you want a secular parallel consider this. Do you know ANY moderately educated person who would say that women should not be college educated, should not be allowed to vote, should be unmarried to be allowed to teach school, should be required to have a male escort to buy a beer in a pub? What does a moderately educated person think of Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive cars? Would the word backward come to mind? Of course they are chauvinistic. I bet they daily search their scriptures to find support to suppress women. I bet they will find support for these positions in their scriptures because it was the same chauvinistic mind set that wrote them in the first place.

Our Episcopal priests and bishops who disagree on the issue of homosexuality have attended the same seminaries. When so many religious persons have changed their mind on a topic one must wonder why. When they say INTERPRETATIONS of scripture have been incorrect, when they say certain words of scripture have been inconsistently translated in the different languages, that homosexuality as we know it was not in the ancient mindset, that scripture was culture bound, that in some cases some of the authors were in error, I think men and women of good will should consider, study and reflect on these issues. The truth of the matter may be simple blindness of heart -- the reading of one's own prejudice into scripture.

I affirm that the law of Jesus to love God with your whole being and your neighbor as yourself takes precedence over ones wish for an inspired, error free scripture.

The traditionalists point to the bible as their source of Authority in condemning the gays. I truly believe that they are invincibly ignorant -- they are UNAWARE of the intrinsic hypocrisy of their position. Now I truly love my traditionalist brethren but it appears that they have blind folds on. They pay no attention to Jesus when he rants and raves about swearing oaths instead of making an affirmation. Or as he puts it: Just say yes or no. Traditionalists go into court and take an oath. [What goes on in their minds do they say: "Taking an oath is against God's holy word but who is he after all?"] They freely dispense themselves from the holiness code of the Old Testament EXCEPT where there is some provision about a gay person. When it comes to some text seeming to be a proscription for gays they point to it with glee.

Give us a break! Give us your mind! Give us your heart! Give us your love!

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

This just arrived in my mailbox:

The Associated Press

By JUSTIN BACHMAN

MACON, Ga. (AP) - Georgia's Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to expel two churches that allow homosexuals to serve as leaders.

The ouster of Oakhurst Baptist of Decatur and Virginia Highland Baptist of Atlanta marked the first time in the 177-year history of the Georgia Baptist Convention that it has taken such action. The convention changed its constitution last year to exclude congregations that ``affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.''

David,

I read about this kind of thing frequently - a whole congregation risking its affiliation status or a brave clergyman risking great financial peril - chooses to make an ethical stance FOR gay people knowing full well that they will likely be kicked out and/or disfranchised.

I see it over and over again.

They seem to be willing to put all on the line for love of neighbor.

By their works you will know them!

Whose side do you suppose God is really on?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

NOTE: Return to select another set of email letters in dialogue with David Virtue.