XXVI - David Writes John

John,

Yes, I saw the Sthn. Baptist story in this morning's paper. They are doing nothing more than Roman Catholics or Orthodox believers would say and do. The RC's recently reigned in two Catholic leaders talking on gay issues.

There is a deep divide here John, a chasm that seems unbridgeable.

If God created male and female, then either homosexuality is "disordered" as Catholics say, or God has to change his mind and rescind the Genesis option.

For those living in permanent homosexual relationships where a sort of monogamy is practiced it's a hard call. Unless I hear or read to the contrary gay relationships have yet to prove out as inherently holy or life-affirming. There is so much promiscuity (my brother-in-law died of AIDS) despite a 10-year relationship with one man.

More later.

David

XXVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You said: "They are doing nothing more than Roman Catholics or Orthodox believers would say and do."

After their brief experiences with a relatively liberal Pontiff the Roman Catholic hierarchy has been working overtime to ensure that their right wing is firmly ensconced in power and control for decades.

Having changed extensively over the centuries, they would have one believe that their current set of dogmas are unchanging timeless truths. What else would one expect from a closed hierarchy of right wing ideologues. They are right now making sure that Academic freedoms are curtailed in the universities. It is no secret that the pope forbids theologians to discuss certain issues. And what does that say to the average person? It says that he does not think his ‘truths’ can stand the light of day – that in the arena of free and open discussion his pet dogmas would not fare well.

The Vatican is way out of step with the people in the pews in this country, who when it comes to questions of homosexuality, are more liberal than Protestant evangelicals.

You said: "The RC's recently reigned in two Catholic leaders talking on gay issues."

This should not surprise one. What SHOULD surprise one is that so many individuals in so many different denominations have concurrently come to the conclusion that how the church has traditionally treated homosexuals is morally wrong. And that they are willing to put their incomes, professions, and security on the line. Or as they used to say in the vernacular: Something is rotten in Denmark!

You said: "There is a deep divide here John, a chasm that seems unbridgeable."

David, I am beginning to believe that that may no longer be true. People are doing extraordinary things. Very recently, At the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, our presiding bishop, and, a group of bishops, representing a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds, met for four days at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York.

The West Park Communiqué, issued by the Anglican Communion News Service declared:

"Within the atmosphere of prayer and through participation in the monastic rhythms of the Holy Cross community, the bishops entered into a process of structured dialogue on homosexuality within the larger context of human sexuality.

With the guidance of experienced facilitators, trust and mutual respect grew as the bishops considered convergent (shared) and divergent (differing) points of view. The process of dialogue fostered a deep sense of the Spirit's presence in the midst of diverse convictions.

The consultation demonstrated the great value of facilitated dialogue. The experience of Christ in each other during the four days' dialogue, fostered great hope for the possibilities of similar dialogue in all parts of the Anglican Communion."

Frank Griswold has been doing his part with the American Bishops along the lines of guidance of experienced facilitators. Many in the church seem interested in pulling together - to solve real problems and to learn to live with those we cannot yet solve.

You said: "If God created male and female, then either homosexuality is "disordered" as Catholics say, or God has to change his mind and rescind the Genesis option."

God does not need to change his mind. I suggest that the literalists need to read more carefully what is in the scriptural record and what is not. And not to think all options are closed that are not specifically discussed in Genesis.

Genesis contains one of the many origin myths typical of those found in most civilizations used to explain where things came from. Biblical researchers tell us that the creation story really consists of two separate stories which later got edited together in one ‘book’. Genesis is also rich in moral allegory. But it is not a sex manual nor does it cover every conceivable sexual coupling.

When the orthodox church developed a separate kind of liturgical service intended for older adults who wanted to marry AFTER childbearing age they did not get their inspiration from genesis. It WAS NOT a procreation scenario. They were not frustrated in creating such ceremonies, popular over the centuries, because their was no MENTION of their possibility in Genesis. You may recall that the earliest of liturgical documents on Unions, contains FOUR ceremonies: A betrothal ceremony, first marriage, second marriage, and same-sex union.

Surely David, you must think it absurd to hear some argue that gay unions are a threat to the family. Phooey ! Same sex unions ADD an additional socially stable unit that parallels the traditional family as other kinds of extended family do. Like the traditional nuclear family, they offer a secure, non-institutional unit for the rearing of those castaways conceived and discarded by thoughtless heterosexuals. Such rhetoric is only useful on right wing religious news fund raising letters.

You state:"For those living in permanent homosexual relationships where a sort of monogamy is practiced it's a hard call."

I pray that one day your intellect and heart may join our side on that ‘hard call’!

In earlier decades the only places homosexuals could meet were in public restrooms, and parks and later in gay taverns. None of these are environments that are conducive to monogamy or any stable relationships.

For monogamy to flourish one needs the ability to live together openly and have supports and encouragement of friends, family, church, the protection of law – all of these have been traditionally denied to gays.

Society has conspired in every conceivable way to push gays in to promiscuity. [which I lament]

Same sex unions have great potential for ‘civilizing gays’ -- to encourage monogamy.

You say: Unless I hear or read to the contrary gay relationships have yet to prove out as inherently holy or life-affirming."

What do you say of the many gays who reach out to raise children who are really wanted, instead of procreated as an incidental by-product to pleasure as in so many heterosexual encounters married or not.

I find it ironic in a society where so many heterosexuals just want to live together that it is the gays that fight against overwhelming odds for the right to marry.

Perhaps we should be asking ourselves if those increasing numbers of heterosexuals who just want to live together depriving their offspring of legitimacy and the legal stability and protection of marriage whether their casual ‘relationships have yet to prove out as inherently holy or life-affirming.’

And finally you say: "More later."

David, I know full well how your recent emergency hospital stay has put you behind in your work. And the anxieties of an anticipated operation must weigh on your mind. Under the circumstances, I am very grateful for your thoughtful reply even though it may not have been as extensive as you might have wished.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXVIII - David Writes John

Thanks John,

You make a lot of excellent points, I just wish I had the energy to respond. Actually I'm not worries about the future operation. All who have written to me and have had it say it is pretty routine. I don;t like the loss of time and energy. But that's my problem and I need to deal with that.

I do sense a convergence going on, but the jury is still out how it will all translate out.

I have a track on what went on at Westpark and I hope I can get something out there. I'll let you now.

Thanks for staying in touch. You write well and, forgive me for not responding in more detail. We should 'do lunch' if I am in Washington, DC. It would be good to meet you...and you can see I don't have horns.

David

XXIX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Although I used to live in Washington D.C., I have been living in Fort Worh Texas for the last 29 years. I would wish to attend any speaking engagements you book in this area and would be delighted to meet you.

When I posted my last email to you on Lightspeed I received criticism from the gay religious/Episcopal community for these remarks: "Same sex unions have great potential for ‘civilizing gays’ -- to encourage monogamy."

I received comments such as:

"This is such a dangerous argument, dividing us into good queer folk and bad queer folk. We sacrifice our sisters and brothers for a potage of political expediency. We're saying that once "we" have ours, the rest of you can go to hell."

I replied:

"In a sense you are correct. My wording was careless and awkward.

I was using the word 'civilizing' in the sense of 'civil institution' but it didn't come off that way. We must bring gays into our repertoire of 'civil institutions' to assist them in becoming recognized parts of society.

I recognize the need for sexual experimentation as, for example, in the case of testing compatibility for preparation for a life time commitment gay or straight. I also recognize that some individuals are not of the temperament necessary for living with others. I recognize there is a complex diversity in the sexual needs of others that I cannot begin to understand. I affirm that these decisions must be left with the individual. They are not inherently immoral choices.

That having been said I think both the gay and straight worlds would be better served with moderation as opposed to promiscuity in their numbers of sex partners if for no other reason than curtailing the transmission of disease.

I think it proper for the church to bless gay and straight unions; I don't think recognition of temporary affiliations call for ecclesiastical intervention.

I think the words 'more fortunate' and 'less fortunate' would better describe paired gays as opposed to "good queer folk and bad queer folk" but that may just be a personal bias.

Thank you for pointing out the thoughtlessness in my argumentation."

I hope this sets the record straight for all concerned.

Blessings to you David,

John S, Morgan

XXX - David Writes John

Thanks John,

You clearly took some heat.

My apologies for not knowing you are in Fort Worth, TX. For some reason I thought you were in DC. Language and how we use it is vitally important. Clearly I need to be just as careful as you. I think you'll survive the blast.

Thanksgiving blessings,

David

XXXI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

When the Episcopal Synod of America was formed their leading agenda item was opposition to the ordination of women. We still see remnants of that kind of thinking around today - conservatives do not want those bishops to be forced to ordain women who have conscience problems with it.

Traditionalists love phrases like "the plain teaching of scripture". But in the case against female priests the evidences are more obscure; there is nothing plain; nothing jumps off the page at you. Except perhaps Paul’s remark: "In Christ their is neither male nor female". But alas that is an argument for the other side. Therefore the traditionalist’s evidences, it seems to me, must be taken from interpretations and theories and models arising from Scripture such as the idea that since Christ was male and so were his apostles that priests should also be male.

Let me begin my point by quoting a short passage from your most recent Virtuosity, "…the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman. Ackerman is one of the godliest bishops in the HOB and has taken a lot of punishment over positions he holds dear to his heart. Evangelical bishops may not agree with him over the ordination of women, but he has stood firm against homosexuality….." [underlines mine]

Bishops like Stanton and Ackerman who approve of women’s ordination are ‘godly’ men and are welcomed into the fold even though they approve of the ‘monstrous abomination of female ordination’.

Many conservatives thought female ordination so wrong that they almost bolted the church; [I assume the reasons were more than fear of embarrassment at Rotary Club.] Some whole congregations left the Episcopal Church. But somehow you are not ready to cast the proponents of women’s ordination into the lake of fire when they are your buddies.

I notice that you do NOT make statements like, "…the Rt. Rev. [NAME] is one of the godliest bishops in the HOB and has taken a lot of punishment over positions he holds dear to his heart. Evangelical bishops may not agree with him over the issue of homosexuality, but he has stood firm against the ordination of women."

Why is female ordination sometimes the greatest of evils and at other times a slight defect whereas homosexuality is always terrible?

Correct me if I am wrong. The ordination of female priests is a grave evil. But if those who ordain females otherwise hold politically correct views then their action is not so bad.

I suspect that the roots of chauvinism and homophobia are the same. One looks into scripture to justify long held prejudices. One will find there what one wants because the ancient authors lived in a society that was both chauvinistic and homophobic. Fortunately there are overarching themes in Scripture.

It looks to me that with the question of female ordination the mind of the church has changed. With the question of homosexuality we have not yet turned Christ’s whole body around.

Now that the question of women in the life of the church is settled, conservatives can turn their full wrath upon their homosexual brothers. The cross is not new to us.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXII - David Writes John

Truth is John I don;t know a godly pro-gay bishop who has taken any punishment. Most of them, like Harris, Shaw, Haines, Spong spend their time DISHING it out slamming the Lambeth resolution and pouring scorn on evangelical and Anglo-Catholic bishops.

Millennial blessings,

David


XXXIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

As you know there are differences between religious liberals and conservatives in their approach to Scripture.

It has been my observation that the mindset of conservative thought melds, blurs, and homogenizes the writings of individual authors such that every book of the bible seamlessly forms a consistent contribution to the whole.

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to recognize the thoughtful contributions of individual authors each with their own viewpoints. Some of their ideas, notions, observations and theories must inevitably contrast and conflict with other authors when included in that great compendium we call the Bible.

There is often a progression of thought in a series of articles by an individual author where his earlier ideas are supplanted by better ones. When it comes to the Bible conservatives are reluctant to admit this because it admits that false ideas can be sometimes found in Scripture.

By ascribing to God a substantial role in its formulation, conservatives, in my opinion, obscure the contributions of the individual authors.

It was within that more liberal context that I recently returned to the book of Matthew [primarily] and compared it with John.

In the gospel of John there is a shift, as I see it, from how the word belief is understood and used as compared with the synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

These two contrasting uses of the word belief are:

  1. Belief in or acceptance of the personhood of Jesus.

    and…..

  2. Belief in or acceptance of the soundness of Jesus’ positions.

In the former, belief in the person - who he is - is of concern. In the latter, belief in the position - what he advocates - is of concern.

John almost seems to be obsessed with the word belief, using it about fifty times in his gospel. Six times as often as Matthew and nearly twice as often as all the other evangelists combined.

Compare some verses that use the word belief in the synoptic gospels with verses from John:

Emphasis is upon believing: the good news, my words, all that the prophets have spoken. Examine the paradigm shift in use of the word belief when reading verses on belief in John:

Notice how the shift is to personhood: believes in him, you may have life in his name, to believe in the one, believing you may have life in his name.

Matthew of the synoptic gospels is an action man, a deeds man. Below is what he thinks we should do in life and what he thinks will be the consequences of our performance or non-performance. So confident he is of this that he puts the following remarks into Jesus’ mouth:

Matthew 35:21-46

He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick ….

….Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink…..

…Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Note that Matthew’s criterion of judgment is not confession of faith in Christ. Nothing is said of grace or justification. What counts is whether one has acted with loving care for needy people.

Again Matthew is consistent when he writes what we have come to call the great commission where instead of personhood he opts for action, for performance, "…teaching them to obey…"

Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

In Matthew’s Gospel he repeatedly spoke of Jesus as the son of man - his words - not son of God. These words were deep in Israel’s folklore meaning the one who acted both as God’s agent and with God’s authority. All through his gospel he used scriptural references to prove Jesus was the messiah expected by the Jew’s.

But Matthew seemed to think salvation was through works:

"For the son of man is to come with his Angels in the Glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done."

David, do you think Matthew was saved?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Doctor Grittier, a delegate to the Episcopal church’s general convention has come up with a new understanding as to why the thought of full inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the church should lead some to the brink of schism. His fresh perspective leads to an understanding and a model that very likely would persuade you, David, to endorse the full inclusion of homosexuals in the church’s life.

He speculated: "why is it that the trend toward inclusivity of gay people (a subject on which Jesus was resoundingly mute) in ECUSA has generated a response which seems to point towards schism, while the trend towards inclusivity of divorced people (a subject on which Jesus was quite eloquent) a number of years ago caused hardly a ripple in the Anglican world?"

Because of the great ‘heat’ surrounding the subject he reasoned that the problem must be at a deeper level. The proper parallel, this psychiatrist said, is circumcision. Let us first consider the ramifications of that. First let’s get the paradigm right.

When the gospels were being brought to the gentile world there were a lot of them who were not going to join the fold if someone was going to do some cutting on their Privy members.

"…when the Gospel was brought to the Gentiles there soon were uncircumcised believers. That, I suggest, precipitated a situation parallel to what we see today. Some insisted that circumcision was absolutely as necessary as it had always been. Others said that in the new community of believers circumcision was obsolete and irrelevant. Imagine the dilemma of those who may have been theologically persuaded that circumcision was no longer required, but who could not set aside their bone-marrow-deep reactions of revulsion and fear, and who now found themselves sharing the holy meal and receiving the sacraments from the hands of uncircumcised people!"

Is not the parallel with homosexuality clear:

But when the Gospel was brought to the Gays there soon were homosexual believers. Some insisted that proscription against gay sexuality was absolutely as necessary as it had always been. Others said that in the new community of believers thinking of same-sex sexual activity as intrinsically evil was obsolete and irrelevant. Imagine the outrage of those who could not set aside their bone-marrow-deep reactions of revulsion and fear, and who now find themselves sharing the holy meal and receiving the sacraments from the hands of gay people!

If church people can see the homosexual problem as a parallel to the circumcision problem in the early church, the solution may be at hand.

Just how did the early Christians deal with circumcision. Consider the following:

The Genesis quote reminds that circumcision was required by God as a sign of the covenant. This is a given throughout the old testament.

The early Christians tried to pave the way with a little Biblical revisionism and even then a big fight between the liberals and conservatives ensued. [What’s new?] In the passage in John we start the biblical revisionism. John says it wasn't God it was Moses who called for circumcision but it wasn't really him either it was the patriarchs. In the Romans quote the revision becomes complete: People can become circumcised in their heart it doesn't have to be physical.

" …in those days the revulsion to things unclean ran deep. The uncircumcised were unclean In many (not all) of the world's cultures it is a very deep taboo, it is perceived as a violation of fundamental male and female identity, it is unspeakably loathsome, ‘perverse’, ‘unnatural’, and deeply threatening to individuals and to organized society."

I think the kind of world view, of setting aside of certain apparently innocuous objects as unclean and others as clean has all but vanished from the mind of churchmen. It is not part of the world view of most Episcopalians. No one abstains from Lobster because they think God abhors the practice. No churchman avoids cotton polyester shirts because God’s written word considers it an abomination. But it is important to note the ancients were serious about these dualities. Their revulsions were deep in their bones. "The people of the early church, steeped in Judaic purity laws, had a deep visceral understanding of the symbolism and effect of circumcision." Circumcision was bound up with the duality of this world-view.

Many today want also to discard another remnant of the old world view - the idea that the homosexual is unspeakably loathsome, "perverse", "unnatural", and deeply threatening to individuals and to organized society.

We have a model for it: Just as the early church changed its mind about circumcision on what was once perceived to be the clear word of God in the Old Testament, the church must now again change its mind about homosexuality on what was once perceived to be the clear word of God. [The church having exempted itself for many of the other purity code restrictions already]

If we can do it for the one, we can do it for the other. The precedent has been established. The parallel is clear and related. The logic for the male-male sex ban in the Old Testament is wrapped up in the clean-unclean world view that has been largely rejected. To those who say that a proscription of mixing threads while making cloth is only a ritual impropriety while restriction of same-sex was a moral impropriety merely confirm the idea that the clean-unclean world view is dead even in the minds of the more traditional. God as seen through the old testament’s lens was just as serious about unclean rituals being sinful as any other proscription.

In the new testament, there is already sufficient argumentation to revise Paul’s conjectures and theorizing about the nature of same-sex sexuality which also seems to be based on a philosophy, the natural versus unnatural, somewhat akin to the older clean-unclean world view. How can practices found not uncommonly in the animal world be called unnatural? Kinsey has clearly shown that human sexual behaviors are on a continuum from the fully heterosexual to the fully homosexual. With mixtures of both in many people. Homosexuality is one of the natural variations of human sexuality.

More and more Episcopalians come to these kinds or realizations each day. The real objections are visceral not logical. And they are false. The trend is for full inclusion of gays into the life of the Church. If we can hang together we may see unity in truth.

As doctor Grittier says, "Fortunately, there is reason to hope that as the early Christians learned, by experience, to live with and love the uncircumcised, today's Christians can have parallel experience with those who are now perceived as loathsome and intolerable. As that gradually happens, the theological storm will subside."

If JOHN 7:22 can argue that it was really " Moses" who imposed the requirement of circumcision and not even really Moses but the "patriarchs", then it would seem to me it would be a simple step to realize that some of the other trappings were of Moses and /or the patriarchs; that those few passages that proscribe same-sex sexuality should be considered obsolete , wrapped up as they seem to be in the whole clean-unclean world view that Episcopalians de facto no longer accept.

People with their hearts in the right direction can at now respond with their minds also; perhaps in time the visceral prejudices will abate.

David, do you agree?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest Virtuosity Digest you stated, "Hell hath no fury like a revisionist bishop scorned."

David, your use of the term revisionist bothers me. After all we are all revisionists – its just a question of what is being revised.

We have a revisionist model in scripture. The New Testament authors showed us how revision is done. We look to John and Romans to find out how to do it.

When the early followers of Jesus wanted to take his message to the gentiles [many who would not allow any cutting on their privy members] they had to pave the way by making the scripture of their day say that circumcision was unnecessary. So they simply revised scripture. First to blame the requirement of circumcision on Moses or the prophets but not God. Romans said the practice of circumcision could be internalized – one could be circumcised in ones heart.

In these revisions, they also largely exempted us from a primitive world view that divides ordinary objects and activities into clean and unclean – we can now all eat lobster, use mules on the farm, and touch footballs without guilt.

One must conclude:
  1. It is clearly stipulated in the Old Testament that GOD required circumcision of his people.
  2. It is clearly stipulated in the New Testament that GOD said no such thing.

David, does it not make you wonder what else was falsely attributed to God in the Old Testament? You know what springs to my mind. David, we all are revisionists. The biblical authors showed us how. And aren't you glad that the necessary revisions were made to bring the gospel to the gentiles?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I read an article by Cody Low of the Roanoke Times dated Saturday, March 04, 2000 in which he stated:

"In a decision that could have ramifications for Anglicans worldwide, a Roanoke parish Thursday night severed ties with the Episcopal Church (USA) and joined the Episcopal Church of Rwanda."

"Church of the Holy Spirit had been considering leaving the U.S. denomination since last fall. That was when the bishop of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Neff Powell, suggested the congregation weigh that option in light of its long-standing dissatisfaction with some policies and actions of the diocese and the national church."

The bishop considered The Holy Spirit Church separated because they neither paid diocesan dues nor participated in meetings.

To be allowed to rejoin the Episcopal Church the Bishop wanted them:

  1. To apologize to the previous bishop for ‘uninviting' him to make his [annual parish] visit.
  2. To restructure worship services to be consistent with the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.
  3. To give up the parish's use of the titles "deacon," "elder" and "pastor" for some church personnel.
  4. To give a "fair share" financial pledge to the larger church.
  5. To turn over the deed to Holy Spirit's real estate to the diocese, as is the case for every other parish.

I would expect those as minimum requirements for any Episcopal Church.

The conservative congregation has a history of disagreements with the national church over such issues as homosexuality, abortion and the authority of the Bible.

But, David, as soon as I read that these people were using titles like elder for some church personnel, I knew that they did not want to be Episcopalians they wanted to do just what they wanted to do. Another group of Biblical purists going off on their own infallible tangent, unwilling to submit themselves to constitutional authority.

When emotionalism settles down and should the Episcopal Church of Rwanda elect to perform any oversight through their new bishop do you have any question of that outcome? People who can’t get along with other people, can’t get along with ‘people who can’t get along with other people.’

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXVII - David Writes John

John,

You raise good points.

Certainly the use of the term "elder" is more Presbyterian than Episcopal. Deacon is okay in our circles.

I suspect, though, I don't know for sure that there is more to their separation than meets the eye. We know what the bishop thinks, but what does the parish say. It might have something to do with sexuality though, again I am not sure.

As far as the Anglican Church of Rwanda is concerned, I don;t think any of us know till after the Primate meeting in Portugal where you will find me and where you will get my reports.

It's all a bit of crap shoot John and second guessing at this stage is a bit dangerous. I have my own thoughts, but I don;t think they would interest anybody.

It's waiting game and I am prepared to wait.

Blessings,

David

XXXVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your June 28 issue of Virtuosity, you shared excerpts of the Institute for American Values:

"We come together because the divorce revolution has failed. When marriages fail, children suffer. For many the suffering continues for years. For some it never ends. Nor has the divorce revolution reliably delivered on its promise to adults of greater personal happiness. Remarriages are no happier than first marriages.."

It would seem to me that the wishes of gays and lesbians to extend the meaning of marriage to include homosexuals, would be met with joy by those who fear for the survival of the institution of marriage.

Such an arrangement not only would increase the numbers in the ranks of the married but would provide an additional platform for the care of those throwaway children carelessly procreated and abandoned by heterosexuals. More family units would surely result in a tendency to encourage family values.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXIX - Jack Writes David

[Jack Taylor noticed the above letter to David Virtue when it had been posted on Lightspeed and sent him one on his own. It is printed here with his permission:]

Dear David--

I haven't communicated with you in a long while. But I thought I'd second John Morgan's suggestion. And I'd like to pose a serious question? Do you think extending civil or religious benefits of marriage to gays and lesbians could possibly threaten the family or American values more than divorce or promiscuity, if the focus was on maintaining long-term commitments as envisioned by the marriage vows?

I was having a discussion about this very topic with my wife on the celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary June 18, in the context of how marriage vows are binding and how those who are deprived of the opportunity to take such vows (including some of our children) are never given an equal chance.

We both agreed that current society (and the Church) do a great disservice to gays and lesbians and while there are many who have stayed together in long-term, living, committed relationships, many have not,possibly because they do NOT have the marriage ties that bind.

Sadly, we both agreed that had we never had our seven children that bond us together more as a family, and had never taken our marriage vows, we probably wouldn't have stayed together 10 years much less 40. It would have been too easy to let one quarrel separate us for good.

You and I can continue to differ over the interpretation of Scripture as it is related to issues of human sexuality today, but I know we can agree on the importance of family values, loving relationships and issues of justice and equality. Think about it.

Try a simple exercise: substitute the term "black" or "female" for "homosexual" and you will see the same Scriptural arguments today used to deprive homosexuals of full benefits of the Church are those used earlier for the same discrimination against blacks and females.

I know you are an educated person. Try another exercise: remember the so-called "separate but equal" days given encouragement by the Supreme Court; when there were separate "white" and "colored" drinking fountains, railroad and bus station waiting rooms, rest rooms etc., not to mention schools, housing etc.? Do you think we should have separate but equal facilities for heterosexuals and homosexuals? (My wife, a northerner, remembers the first time she encountered a "colored" water fountain in an airport in New Orleans, she thought it was a cute local custom and provided colored water.)

Silly, isn't it? Just as silly, in my view, as thinking people are different and less acceptable (even to God) because of their sexual orientation as their race or gender, or, as I used to mistakenly teach my young soldiers, their nationality or political allegiance.

God bless.

Jack Taylor
Dallas

XXXX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In July 16 Virtuosity I read: "With the opening of sexual behavior to people outside of those in monogamous heterosexual marriage, the way is now clear to broker in adultery and bestiality. Thoughtful observers say this is only a matter of time. God and dog are merely inverse to the need of the moment."

Here are brief excerpts from the resolution overwhelmingly approved at general convention:

"….there are currently couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in marriage and couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in other life-long committed relationships……we expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God….. we denounce promiscuity, exploitation and abusiveness in the relationships of any of our members….this Church intends to hold all its members accountable to these values, and will provide for them the prayerful support, encouragement and pastoral care necessary to live faithfully by them…."

From the above excerpt, let us see what moral principles were AFFIRMED:

What was CONDEMNED:

What will "the church" do?

Out of all this are you not a little over reacting when you say: "the way is now clear to broker in adultery and bestiality"?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXXI - David Writes John

Perhaps John,

But once you open the Pandora's box who is to say where and when it will all end.

David

XXXXII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your August 2 issue of Virtuosity you say:

"...conservative [convention 2000] Republican voices are silenced just as are the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical voices in ECUSA. They are vilified for not ordaining women and daring to toe the line on morality and biblical theology."

What is this: "Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical voices in ECUSA." "They are vilified for not ordaining women".

The new guardians of the traditional, the AAC have no quarrel, theological or otherwise, with women priests, they have them in their membership, presumably guarding the 'traditional.'

What is this: "Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical voices in ECUSA." "They are vilified for... daring to toe the line on morality."

Forward in Faith [formerly the Synod of America], the earlier guardians of the traditional, I am told would have been happy to enshrine Jesus' recorded view of divorce till they realized that one of their founding bishops was divorced and remarried.

David there seems to be no purity of doctrine anywhere. There is a substantial scattering of continuing [read schismatic] Anglican churches identifying themselves as "one holy, Catholic and Apostolic" church - or some variation on that same theme. Will the real 'TRUE ONE' please step forward.

As a former rector of mine used to say: "People who can't get along with other people, can't get along with 'people who can't get along with other people.'

There is no end to the quest for purity of doctrine.

There is no supreme court of biblical interpretation there is no feedback when the church sets off in a given direction or changes her mind - as the historic church has - no one returns from the grave to tell us if God even prefers Methodists over Moslems.

Scripture, tradition, and reason we are left with -- and our MINDS. [as in the commandment to love God with our WHOLE mind....]

With all the well educated and wonderful minds in ECUSA is not the collective 'mind of the church' a better road map than a dissident group's self proclaimed infallibility?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXXIII - David Writes John

You make good points John. However there was a palpable feeling about the HOB [house of Bishops] when I was there that the 3 Anglo-Catholic bishops were being intimidated..and they were. Of course the AAC approve of the ordination of women as I do. I simply lumped them together for the sake of brevity. Perhaps I should not have done that.

Thanks for writing.

David

XXXXIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your August 8th issue of Virtuosity, you said:

"Across the US from north to south, from east to west whole congregations are rising up in anger and frustration that the Church they had pledged their lives and allegiance too is now abandoning one of its most sacred vows, to uphold the doctrine and practice of the Episcopal Church, the authority of Scripture and the sacredness of sex within marriage between a man and a woman."

The "sacredness of sex within marriage between a man and a woman" is not something that has been altered FIRST by what you refer to as the homosexual lobby.

Many, years ago the Episcopal church chose to allow divorce and remarriage contrary to what was stipulated by Jesus in THREE of the four gospels. Yet the outcry was minimal!

Jesus said nothing about gay unions. [I repeat nothing] Yet the outcry has been clamorous.

Just why do you suppose this might be? Is it that while the number of homosexuals is small the number of heterosexuals is great? Or is the real parallel more visceral.

After all, in all truth, the FIRST break with the letter of the Biblical text should have been the one to provoke the most reaction!

Who better is there than you to directly answer this question?

God the Father: I've got an idea!

Jesus: Yes?

God the Father: You know those somewhat conflicting passages in Luke and Matthew attributed to you?

Jesus: The ones that state my misgivings about divorce in the culture of ancient Israel?

God the Father: Yes. And the ones in Romans and Corinthians where Paul beats up on the gays.

Jesus: So what's your idea?

God the Father: Simple! Lets swap the verses.

Jesus: Why do that? I really don't want to badmouth gays. Nobody is going to call me a homophobe! I am excited about gay monogamous families. Some of them are even rearing castaway kids.

God The Father: You got me wrong. If we swap the verses and have you mouth the antigay conjectures then our churchmen will not take them seriously anymore either.

David, this August 15th my lover Paul and I will have been together thirty years - several times the length of most heterosexual unions. I would think all Christians would welcome our family values.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXXV - David Writes John

You make some good points as usual John.

The divorce issue is one that surely needs to be addressed. As a divorced and remarried person myself I don't think I should be in the pastoral ministry, and I am not. I also don't give advice in this area. It is an area quite clouded as so many divorces are not simply black and white. Whose to blame grows cloudier with each divorce. I do a lot of hand holding.

On homosexuality Jesus was clear about the following:

  1. He recognized ONLY heterosexual relationship based on the creation ordinance of Genesis one.
  2. Homosexuality was not on the radar screen of Jewish teaching or thinking.
  3. The Torah forbade it.
  4. Divorce WAS a problem as men shucked of their wives if they delivered a bad plate of food for dinner.
  5. In John's gospel it reads that "not all the books could contain all the words Jesus spake." It is possible he did address the subject but it was never recorded because it simply was not an issue of Jesus's day.

Blessings,

David

XXXXVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Thank you for getting back to me so quickly on this matter.

You said that on homosexuality Jesus was clear about the following five issues. I will quote each and comment on them:

  1. "He recognized ONLY heterosexual relationship based on the creation ordinance of Genesis one."

    Granted! Perhaps Jesus was thinking of heterosexual relationships based on the creation ordinance in Genesis 1:28 "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply…."

    It is probably the only commandment mankind has done best. In fact so well has the injunction been fulfilled that soon we will have precious little on the planet except bodies. I wonder if God wonders when we will have sense enough to slow down.

    But Jesus choose not to comment on the ordinance in Genesis 2:18 "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…."

    Who had God envisioned for the helpmate of the homosexual. As you say:

  2. "Homosexuality was not on the radar screen of Jewish teaching or thinking."

    Nor did that culture have room for committed gay relationships. You have just affirmed the severely female repressive nature of that society when you said in your fourth item: "Divorce WAS a problem as men shucked of their wives if they delivered a bad plate of food for dinner." Chauvinism and homophobia are twin vices of a severely patriarchal culture. Is it likely that these MEN would include gay positive readings in their sacred scriptures? Perhaps Jesus had hoped that one day humankind and/or the church would learn how to handle the issue of same sex unions.

  3. "The Torah forbade it."

    The Torah contains a plethora of proscriptions that no one, including yourself, pays any attention to. It’s purity code assumes the existence of a kind of clean-unclean morality code that is not found in contemporaneous Episcopalian morality. A kind of taboo code that makes certain innocuous objects and actions "clean and unclean." The authors attributed this code to their God.

    The eating of shell fish was one such taboo which was referred to as an abomination just like a man sleeping with another man. It is true the penalty for men lying with men [don't you just love religious euphemism?] was far more severe than that for eating shell fish but the penalty was likely in proportion to the effort needed in enforcing these taboos. I notice for myself that I have a far higher preference for sex than for shell fish.

  4. "Divorce WAS a problem as men shucked of their wives if they delivered a bad plate of food for dinner."

    Yes! And this may have been foremost on Jesus’ mind when he formulated his position on heterosexual matrimony in ancient Palestine.

  5. "In John's gospel it reads that ‘not all the books could contain all the words Jesus spake.’ It is possible he did address the subject but it was never recorded because it simply was not an issue of Jesus's day."

    You no doubt know of religious denominations that do not use organs in church because the bible does not mention them They avoid church organs to be safe. Safe!!! What a view of God! Just because words attributed to Jesus on any given issue are not found in scripture does not mean that these issues are evil.

David, I think most [but not all] arguments against gay unions are not issues of religion but of prejudice and deep seated homophobia - as reluctant as I am to use that word. The religious argument is merely a convenient cover.

On Divorce Jesus was clear on the following:

Matthew 19: 9 "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

In Matthew 19:10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."

And in 19:11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.

Matthew seems to me to be saying that while the proscription of divorce is the ideal of Jesus, Jesus recognizes that such an ideal is not possible for all.

Blessings

John S. Morgan

XXXXVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I found this on the Internet:

"Announcement: On Sunday, August 27, at a parish meeting the resolution was adopted: Be it resolved, that the congregation of St. Andrew's by the Sea Episcopal Church, Destin, Florida, in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, hereby repents of our sin of idolatry to the Episcopal Church in the United States of America....."

I don't pretend to understand a theology that would come up with a statement like "repents of our sin of idolatry to the Episcopal Church." I would merely recognize that my religious inclinations would better be served elsewhere.

But indeed, deliberately worshiping false gods, as one understands them, is surely gravely sinful and if forgiven perhaps not retaining any property rights is appropriate.

It seems strange that so many, many people in one church would have been gravely sinning over such a long period of time and apparently with little apparent joy -- Kind of a lose, lose situation. With adultery, which I don't approve of by the way, one can at least have some fun.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XXXXVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You say something to the effect: Still left out in the cold are the Forward in Faith traditionalist parishes who still struggle to stay in ECUSA, though for how much longer we cannot be sure, and the array of Continuing Churches, many of whom would like to be a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion but want nothing to do with ECUSA. The main sticking point for these groups is the ordination of women, among other issues.

Are you saying that the reason that the Forward in Faith leaning groups and those who bolted years ago over female ordination are unlikely to hitch their star to the newly formed AMiA under bishops Murphy and Rodgers is because the AMiA organization will recognize women priests?

I am not that adroit at reading between the lines.

You say that the main sticking point for these groups is the ordination of women, but I am intrigued by the "among other issues" phrase. Can you be more specific?

It would seem that any parallel structure mediated by the AAC would accept women as priests because the AAC itself does -- guarding the latest revisionist view of what the AAC calls tradition. [I would think the concept of a female traditionalist priest as oxymoronic.]

Is there no room at the table for the self conceived purists of the pure. Will those who would not join in common Eucharists with their peers at general convention still be out in the cold [praying for unity -- on their terms]

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XLIX - David Writes John

Thanks John for your note.

The ordination issue is the sticking point for the FiFNA and the AMiA. I believe the AMiA are on record, though I need to confirm that, that they want a moratorium on women's ordination for six months to see what happens. However one of the persons to leave in Colorado is a woman which sets the issue up immediately. I honestly don't know how it will all play out. Time will tell.

The "other issues" I mentioned were of course sexuality issues, the D039 and the general acceptance of sex outside of marriage

I should say that things are fluid right now, but there is a lot of turmoil.

Hope this note finds you well.

Labor Day blessings,

David.

L - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In the 4 September 2000 issue of Virtuosity you state: "There are NO unanswered questions about the nature of the gospel, about human sexuality, about the deity of Christ, about the Holy Trinity, about the atonement, about the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. NO UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AT ALL."

Up to the beginning of the fourth century CE all the major Church fathers believed that the Father is greater than the Son and the Holy Spirit. This was perhaps likely because while The Holy Spirit was mentioned over 50 times in Luke/Acts, the Trinitarian formula, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not mentioned once in Luke/Acts. In fact it was mentioned once and without further elaboration only in the great commission of Matthew. John can get through his last gospel describing in detail a relationship between the father and the son but does not mention the Holy Spirit. When speaking of Jesus and God most New Testament authors read like they envisioned a father son relationship rather than a coeval one.

Why is it that it took the church centuries to work out such understandings as, the Trinity, the atonement, and the deity of Christ, but in our century we have "NO UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AT ALL?"

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

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