LI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

The question I wish to explore in greater depth is: Should not the biblical literalist be morally and truly able to justify divorce and remarriage?

I think one of Matthew’s more obscure texts has been obscured, ignored, and forgotten.

I write you because I am sure that you have given this issue a lot of thought and might, from your conservative perspective, be of help to me in pinning down not only Jesus’ ideal [which the church likely has a good handle on] but what he would tolerate among his followers in a practical way.

Many texts in the gospels testify to Jesus' proscription of divorce. Matthew and Luke seem to have got their basic information from Mark. Here are some texts from Matthew:

Matthew who shows especial concern for the poor and needy is probably not happy with divorce himself and has likely seen close up men divorcing their wives for nothing less than serving unappealing meals. The consequence for the woman was awful in that society.

But the author, Matthew, felt honor bound to report that he had discerned from the oral tradition that while Jesus opposed divorce in principal he may have personally recognized its necessity. So he crafted dialogue for Jesus that he thought might accomplish this, namely: "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given."

Now the first part of this qualification is clear: "Not everyone can accept this word"

The second part is somewhat perplexing: "but only those to whom it has been given"

I notice that various editors of scripture alter words to better express the translated thought. But the various biblical translators seem to leave this phrase intact. As if to say: "I wonder what is really being said here; I haven't a clue here so I’ll leave it alone."

What could that phrase mean?

Let me suggest a few paraphrases to get a better idea:

  1. Not everyone can accept this word, but only those who happen to be reading it here.

    This seems the most literal transcription but it is silly. Lets try this one:

  2. Not everyone can accept this word, it's only for my followers.

    If it were to mean that surely Matthew would have worded it that way. My guess is that it means something on the order of:

  3. Not everyone can accept this word, but only those who have the ability.

    Or…

  4. Not everyone can accept this word, but only those who have that sort of constitution.

    Or…

  5. Not everyone can accept this word, but only those for whom it would not be a severe hardship.

While very obscure in his phrasing, Matthew sensed from his sources that while Jesus was generally opposed to divorce he understood that living in a wretched marriage was neither desirable or possible for some. Matthew didn't have a clue what specifics might qualify either. So he left us with an obscurity - an attempt at qualification.

Being uncomfortable with an obscure remark, the church leaders have chosen to ignore it. After all they want to be the ones with all the answers. It is easier not to speak if you can't do so authoritatively.

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.

Had Jesus penned the text he might have written: Not everyone can appropriate to their own lives my strict ideal proscribing all divorce; for them this capacity has not been given. The given of some situations makes divorce feasible.

David, have I got something here or am I just wishful thinking?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest release of "Virtuosity" you said:

"What the apostle Paul said placed the question beyond dispute:
‘If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith is in vain...If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.’"

The statement uses the words, "your faith" and begs the question: Faith in what? Faith has content or as I frequently say comes in packages. Paul, for example, has no belief about the Trinity, the theology of Matthew does not seem high on his list; his concern with Jesus is usually to add his own spin.

For those, like myself, who suspect that the soul is immortal, Jesus, like all others in history, would be alive somewhere. What is so important about his physical body having been resuscitated for a brief interval?

One, for example, can believe with Matthew that the sole criterion for everlasting life is how one cared in life for the poor and needy independently of whether Jesus had a temporal resuscitation.

If one were to base his 'faith' on the gospels, one would of necessity have to do a little picking and choosing because, as my chart on the gospel authors demonstrates, they are not always in agreement:

Comparison Chart of The Four Gospels

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LIII - David Writes John

Dear John,

The four gospel authors must be seen as writing from their own vantage point. They did not copy one another. Plagiarism was not the idea. Neither contradicts the other. Each presents a point of view from their vantage point. Luke is a gentile, Matthew is a Jew etc.

The resurrection was absolutely necessary for our justification to have taken place. Resuscitation is out of the question. No resurrection, no salvation.

David


LIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Thanks for getting back to me so swiftly. I would also very much like to hear from you concerning my previous missive which dealt with my interpretation of these very cryptic words of Jesus found in Matthew:

"Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given."

Are these words not a disclaimer by Jesus that while the proscription of divorce may have been the law it's rigid observance is not always appropriate for some?

I understand how demanding and time consuming the writing, researching, and editing of a voluminous journal like Virtuosity must be. And I am sure there are times when you would rather not type another sentence. I want you to know that I am grateful for every word you have sent my way.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your recent Virtuosity you state:

"A Pew Internet & American Life Project survey reported recently that 21 percent of Web surfers, or roughly 20 million people, have looked for spiritual or religious information on line.

With Virtuosity you have been furnishing your fair share of information.

I have also made some modest contributions at:

Primer for Second Semester Divinity Students

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest Virtuosity you state,

"The HOB is not united, just ask Bishops Jack Iker and Keith Ackerman and any of the dozen or so evangelical bishops willing to talk off the record. Griswold may THINK he has united them with 'graceful conversation' but this is a fiction."

The search for unity around purity of doctrine is futile within and and especially without ECUSA. The continuing churches split because their vision of doctrinal truth was better than someone else's. They are not going to give up that vision when asked to join a larger movement

Tony Clavier was a bishop in the continuing Anglican movement for over 25 years. If you think that the search for a perfect orthodoxy is solved through schism then listen to Tony Clavier when he says:

"I've been there myself having exercised an episcopate in the continuing church for over quarter of a century before moth-balling my mitre. Already we see a divided episcopate, one looking to conservative evangelical Rwanda and another to charismatic catholic Singapore. There is disagreement about liturgy, the ordination of women, sola scriptura, the Tradition. Wait until the matter of structure and canons arises." [underline mine]

He is also good at defining the middle for us:

"The middle will 'receive' the 'prophetic' ideas of revolutionary thinkers, whether evangelical, High Church, latitudinarian, tractarian, broad or liberal. For better or worse some ideas will be adopted, some rejected and most revised. I term this process 'the common sense of the laity.' It is an essential part of the Anglican ethos and is what I term moderate."

.....there's no place like home.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your most recent issue of Virtuosity, I read:

"The Church of England could permit divorcees to remarry in church as early as next year following a consultation with its members that has so far shown a large majority in favor of change, The Sunday Times reported."

"In seven of the eight dioceses that have conducted a vote, including Durham and Norwich, church representatives have expressed their support by a wide margin. In one, it was 100% in favor. In the eighth, Chichester, probably the most conservative of the 44 Anglican dioceses, it was still voted through. The clergy voted narrowly in favor, with the laity voting for the change by a bigger majority."

"It is believed the majority of synod members, including most bishops, support a change. George Carey, the archbishop of Canterbury, is believed to be sympathetic."

Would this make George a revisionist?

Elsewhere, your digest says:

"A survey into British social attitudes has found only a quarter of people now consider themselves to be 'Church of England.'"

I will wager there is a huge connection here. Serial monogamy seems to be the defacto standard modus operandi among Christian and secular folk in the WASP world. As British Anglicans are told they cannot remarry in the church, they quit.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

"We are definitely wanting to be separated from the 'ex-gay' label and be more focused on supporting Christians who are gay," said Jeremy Marks, director of Courage, United Kingdom.

A startling statement from the director of "Courage," an affiliate of "Exodus International." You may wonder why.

It reminds me of a story that I read many, many years ago in the Advocate of two of the founders of Exodus international itself who quit, found each other, and claimed that the treatment was unsuccessful.

"None of the people we've counseled have converted no matter how much effort and prayer they've put into it. There is much more benefit to the more honest view," director Jeremy Marks said. And he should know having been a minister who has participated in conversion therapy for more than 14 years. After 14 years with zero success it finally hit him - reparative therapy does not work; it does not cure.

It comes as no surprise to me that when a condition found the world over is diagnosed by the Christian right such that prayer to Jesus is the only cure and that the scientific world offers no cures for the supposed condition and has no records of cures for the supposed condition that the diagnosis is dogma driven.

Their parent organization, Exodus International, preaches that being gay is somehow anathema to being Christian. Jeremy now realizes how damaging that can be for most people. He said. "They end up fighting themselves in an internal war."

Yes David, there is much more benefit to the more honest view. As Integrity, and Dignity, and similar organizations in all the other mainstream Christian denominations have shown, homosexuals can be both proud and Christian. It is an increasingly less hostile world for them but they crave support for who they are, not for what some misguided group thinks they should be.

Do I want to trust the agenda driven propaganda of the religious right or the statements arising from courageous and honest people within the movement who disclaim it?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LIX - David Writes John

I will concede the difficulty to change. But that applies to more than just homosexuality. Alcoholics don't cease to be alcoholics, they are "recovering alcoholics," but they CANNOT DRINK.

Let me pose the idea of homosexuality being in the category of what the Apostle Pall called a "thorn in the flesh," and lived with it. Dag Hammersjkold was gay but never expressed it and wrote MARKINGS which he could never have written was he otherwise or practiced it.

Sorry I could not reply to your other notes. Simply swamped with 200 plus a day 7 days a week.

Sincerely,

David


LX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In the February 16 to 19 issue of Virtuosity we read:

"Across the country, in diocese after diocese, in parish after parish the spin begins. It begins subtly. A remark here, a statement there, then a sermon, finally the vestry is polled and before anyone knows it the church is being asked to bless a same-sex marriage."

"Suddenly the parish is galvanized. Older Episcopalians are shocked, the vestry is divided, the rector digs his toes in, and the gay and lesbian folk demand a hearing. With the rector's support a special meeting is called and gays and lesbians reveal their pain, plead their stories and demand acceptance, not because of who and what they are, but for what they DO. That's the crunch. And they want to go on doing IT. And they want the church to accept that they do IT".

"They tell their stories; sympathy and compassion merge into empathy and acceptance. The Bible is dragged out and promptly marginalized, made to look culturally bound, cauterized, with "queer theology" replacing biblical theology. Traditionalists and evangelicals are scorned as being old and out of touch with the new reality. They too are marginalized. The bishop is notified. He says the Church is now inclusive. He cites the Righter Trial. Scorns "narrow Biblicism" as unacceptable. See the big picture, he says. God loves us all the way we are. You don't have to change. The church has always had homosexuals, many of them clergy. Accept reality. Being in the closet is unacceptable and wrong. Don't be mean-spirited. No outcasts. Accept, accept, and accept. Then ordain and finally marry. And that is how it goes in parish after parish, week after week in diocese after diocese across the country."

"The ones who get hurt are people who know their bibles, who know it is wrong, the behavior that is, though that's a diminishing group. They cry Scripture, tradition, history and show medically it has never worked and that the broader Christian Church has never accepted avowed sodomites in its priestly ranks or to marry. The behavior is sinful they say. Never mind. The once silent majority are now themselves marginalized. They are made to feel unwanted. The shrill cry of a handful of sodomites drowns all. Sooner or later the message is clear. You can leave. You can go. If you won't conform begone. The church doesn't want narrow-minded "fundamentalists" like you anyway. Get lost is the real message."

Now cut to ancient first century Israel:

Across the Mediterranean basin, in congregation after congregation, in church after synagogue the spin begins. It begins subtly. A remark here, a statement there then a sermon, a quote from the book of Acts or Romans. Finally the elders are polled and before anyone knows it the church is being asked to toss out God’s law of circumcision, the sign and seal of his eternal covenant.

Suddenly the synagogue is galvanized. Older Jews are shocked, the community is divided, the rabbi digs his toes in, and Paul and his crowd, the proponents of admitting uncircumcised communicants demand a hearing. With the bishop’s support a special meeting is called and the uncircumcised reveal their pain, plead their hardship cases and demand acceptance, not because of who and what they are, but for what they DON’T DO. That's the crunch. And they want to go on not doing IT. And they want the church to accept that they do not do IT. They want to throw out God’s unchanging law; circumcision is too much to ask of them. They would have us ignore or revise Genesis 17:9-11

"Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you’."

They tell their stories; sympathy and compassion merge into empathy and acceptance. The Old Testament is dragged out and promptly marginalized, made to look culturally bound, cauterized, with "revisionism" replacing biblical theology. Good Jews are scorned as being old and out of touch with the new reality. They too are marginalized. The bishop is notified. Some who appear in the new book of Acts say the Church is now inclusive. They cite Jesus soft pedaling the ancient covenant: "Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath." Jesus wants us to think the patriarchs invented the notion of circumcision that Moses didn’t receive this seal of the covenant from God. See the big picture, some of Jesus’ very apostles say this. In the new book of Romans 2:29 revision has reached a zenith: "No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God."

God loves us all the way we are. You don't have to be circumcised. If you don’t like God’s law in the old testament, write a new one. The church has always had circumcision, but join the revisionists pretend that to be faithful to God all you have to do is have "circumcision of the heart." Accept reality. Don't be mean-spirited. No outcasts. Accept, accept, and accept. Then ordain and finally marry. Share the communion cup with those uncircumcised unclean reprobates. And that is how it goes in synagogue after church, week after week in region after region across the holy land.

The ones who get hurt are people who know their Old Testament, who know it is wrong, the behavior that is, though that's a diminishing group. They cry Scripture, tradition, history and show medically it has prevented disease and that the rabbis have never accepted the uncircumcised in their priestly ranks or to marry, or even see the inside of a synagogue for that matter. The behavior is sinful they say. Never mind. The once silent majority are now themselves silent. Christianity will soon be completely non-Jewish. Sooner or later the message is clear. You can leave. You can go. If you won't conform begone. The church doesn't want narrow-minded "literalists" like you anyway. Get lost traditional Jew is the real message.


LXI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I am a little confused here. Your web site opens with the words, "Welcome! Over 76,000 people in 32 countries read Virtuosity every week."

But when John Clinton Bradley accessed your list server he got the response that there are only 2,146 subscribers.

You quote Mr. Chris Rodriguez, a Systems Analyst for Episcopalian.org, saying : "While it is true that subscribers to the Virtuosity List are permitted to review List subscribers, this is not publically accessible information." "Bradley accessed a non-public list that does not reflect the full subscribership."

The Analyst did not specify any other number that might "reflect the full subscribership".

Doug LeBlanc at Archives of NEWS@EPISCOPALIAN.ORG says: "The numbers John posted were accurate on the day he accessed them. Listserv normally responds to a 'review' request by listing both the number of concealed and open subscribers."

You said, "Virtuosity digest is read by key Anglican decision-makers, clergy laity and the mainstream media." I do not doubt that. You also say, "LISTSERV by count reaches 80,000 and more on the pass along." But 35 pass alongs seems to be a very high figure if Mr. Bradley’s figures are correct.

If there is a "number of concealed and open subscribers" greater than the listserver supplied automatically to Mr. Bradley can you reveal this?

We all know you think 76,000 people read Virtuosity. How many are actually mailed to subscribers by your list server? Is 2,146 very far off the mark?

One must admit that for an on-line journal confined mainly to one religious denomination, even 2,146 subscribers is a very impressive number.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXII - David Writes John

John,

My digest goes to 12 LISTSERVS around the world in its entirety. Each has several thousands readers. The total is more than 80,000

Hope that helps.


LXIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You indicated in your last email that your digest goes to 12 LISTSERVS around the world. I feel confident that if Mr. Bradley could get confirmation from a few of these LISTSERVS he could be more secure of your numbers and the matter would be put to rest. Or perhaps he can find them in the list of subscribers he copied - I don't imagine you would want to send these copies out one at a time to various LISTSERVS.

I am confused again and perhaps you can help me out as you have done frequently in the past.

In your most recent Virtousity you said: "In a closed-session attended by ACC delegates on sexuality, chaired, no less, by Holloway, delegates bowed to Lambeth's pledge to ‘listen’ to homosexuals. The delegates did just that, though they refused to listen to the voices of thousands of ex-gays who had left the lifestyle through powerful conversion testimonies."

The item that struck me was the phrase, "thousands of ex-gays who had left the lifestyle through powerful conversion testimonies".

It is hard to get a handle on these emotional issues. Could my confusion be in your use of the phrase "left the lifestyle" rather than "conversion"?

I say this because Jeremy Marks, director of Courage, the affiliate of Exodus International in the United Kingdom, very recently said that in his fourteen years of counseling in the ex-gay movement: "None of the people we've counseled have converted no matter how much effort and prayer they've put into it."

If their are thousands of ex-gays who have converted from homosexual to heterosexual, then in an ex-gay organization in existence for years and dedicated to this process of conversion, surely they would have witnessed at least ONE such conversion. But their leader insists NOT ONE.

Jeremy says: "There is much more benefit to the more honest view." I can understand how tortured my gay brothers and sisters must feel, when proselytized by those in the Christian movement who are sure that their way of looking at things is the only right one. As a result of these zealots, my gay brothers and sisters are urged against their innate orientation. "They end up fighting themselves in an internal war," says Jeremy.

These self righteous ones are the primary source of church schism through the ages. They can neither conform to the common mind of their churches nor find an existing religious community that shares their version of the truth with which they can affiliate. In Episcopalianism we have at least ten continuing Anglican groups adrift in a sea of their own who can get along with nobody but themselves - a kind of pluriformity of Christian speculation.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXIV - David Writes John

John,

It all depends on who you talk too. I know of lots of healed homosexuals. But if not, why not see it as a thorn in the flesh and live with. Dag Hammwersjold did and he wrote MARKINGS, which he could never have done if he had indulged his instinct.

David


LXV - John Writes David

David virtue,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

You say, "It all depends on who you talk too. I know of lots of healed homosexuals."

I believe you know many gays, and have even a few as friends.

But healed can mean a lot of different things. I know a lot of people who attend healing services in church but who would not think of going there if they broke their arm. Apparently healing is not the same in both cases. And are there not degrees of healing?

Perhaps you might ascertain how "converted" these "healed" homosexuals are. Do they still have their natural attractions for members of their own sex? How frequent and passionate is their heterosexual behavior. Lifelong monogomy does not seem to be in the cards for the best of heterosexuals; I wonder how successful for the impaired.

I can understand a bisexual wanting to function more heterosexually. I can understand a homosexual who has thrown his whole heart and soul in an effort to please those who think him loathsome -- not wanting to admit total failure in their presence - that God had abandoned him to a retrobate mind.

I understand that conversion therapy is construed as successful when the individual admits being able to perform at least at a minimal heterosexual level, that attractions for the same sex are not absent as in the case of the bulk of heterosexuals.

I do not think it is in the best interest of gays, to suggest that there is something wrong with their innate sexuality. Science as a whole does not at this time favor conversion therapy. I do not think that adding the conjectures of Paul to the primitive, largely abandoned, clean-unclean morality of Liviticus, without reasonable medical foundation, is a sufficient warrant to tamper with another person's sexual orientation. The likelyhood of harm seems to outweigh any possible success. On the other hand, understanding that one might want to have children, I would not disapprove of a well informed, non-easily-intimidated individual's attempt to try.

Are these experimentees converted or just bent - to coin a phrase?

Is this the solution you would want to offer a heterosexual partner wanting to enter into a lifelong contract -- to give them a 'healed' homosexual? Instead of sexual relish - minimal performance [at best] for a lifetime? What a high and noble view of Holy Matrimony.

Why after fourteen years of dedicated conversion effort could not the ex-gay ministry Courage convert even one homosexual to heterosexual?

You say, "But if not, why not see it as a thorn in the flesh and live with."

Why not have the divorced Christian "see it as a thorn in the flesh and live with?" Surely what is good for the goose should be good for the gander!

Is the opinion of Paul somehow superior to that of Jesus Christ?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You state in the latest Virtuosity: "Not only is theological heterodoxy now deeply entrenched in the pulpits of the land, it is also deeply entrenched in the warp and woof of its seminaries as well."

In most areas of my life, I find that the Universities have served me well. Why should I feel differently about theology as studied and shared in seminaries. In academic communities, especially scientific ones, truth is the main object of concern.

Is it simply that one does not like the answers that makes seminaries suspect?

You also state: "The truth is the vast majority of ECUSA's bishops and priests have departed from the faith 'once delivered'"

Why should that surprise you?

The Church has throughout the centuries departed from the faith "once delivered:"

Also in your most recent issue of Virtuosity, you quote presiding bishop, Griswold, saying he found it "curious" that conservatives accepted the Episcopal Church's past shift to allow remarriage of divorced members with little resistance. On that issue, you report that he said, "the church has set aside what Jesus has actually said without causing any concern."

And if he said that, I might add, once again, departing from the faith once delivered.

But it was not at that point that conservatives raised a brouhaha. In fact one of the charter founders of the Episcopal Synod of America, arguably the most conservative group in Anglicanism, was divorced and remarried. On that issue, for the most part, conservatives are willing to depart from the faith once delivered.

But on an issue that Jesus said NOTHING, leaving only the New Testament conjectures of Paul, and the Old Testament purity code utterances, conservatives were blown out of the water!

When it is NOT THEIR PRIVY MEMBER being tied in a knot, they are all to willing to find scriptural proscriptions.

Cannot conservatives recognize an emotional and visceral issue, and separate it from theology? Do you really think that the God of the universe ever forbade the mixing of carrots and radishes in the Garden? The creation of mules? The wearing of a cotton-linen shirt? Do you not in your heart of hearts suspect that regulations like these arose from the culture and were attributed to God from their leaders? In a very patriarchal society would not homophobia seep in as well?

I wish for your own comfort, happiness, and peace of mind that our church was just as you found it in your youth. One could not find a better advocate of your position than David Virtue. I also would wish that you could theologically accept gays in the full life of the church. Perhaps you have already accepted the ordination of women.

But, more important than your wishes or mine, I think truth, absolute truth, God's truth, is what in the end we must find and serve.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I have a friend who claims that while one can romanticize Hammarksjold’s book, and that while he found it moving, he also felt the terrible sadness.

He would much more have read Dag's story of triumph and fulfillment as a sexually fulfilled, loved child of God, rather than a record of torment and isolation.

The Roman Pontiff uses the moral intimidation of his office to exact forced overpopulation of the planet. He perpetrates this abomination based on what Paul referred to as the unseen evidences of faith. But instead of punishment for this most intrinsic of evil actions, harming our planet and causing terrible burdens for the poor, we are to understand that he should reap bliss in the great bye and bye because of his invincible ignorance of the fact that a finite planet cannot sustain exponential population growth, and his acceptance of Jesus as his personal savior.

One of the great mysteries of religion.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your most recent issue of Virtuosity you say,

"LOUIE CREW AGAIN. We have now learned that my Virtuosity list was misappropriated by Mr. John Clinton Bradley, VP of Integrity and apparently given to Dr. Crew, Founder of Integrity the gay Episcopal organization, who is on the Presiding Bishop's Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. All legal avenues are being pursued at this point by my attorneys. Close to 1,000 E-mails have been received from you expressing moral outrage and…."

As I understand it, if anyone obtained your list, it was by contacting the LISTSERV for an automatically retrievable copy of the little over two thousand or so names but excluding the handful of those who did not want their names known. Later you had the ability of the LISTSERV changed so as not to give out this information. In what way could you say that your list was "misappropriated"?

If an article had been sent using your list, I would have imagined that it was one in response to Bill Fishburne’s one sided account of a so called church take over by homosexuals which I first saw on the Canadian Prayerbook Society's page and then in your Virtuosity Digest.

I was shocked by the article myself.

In his article Mr. Fishburne says, for example, "The new All Souls rector, Todd Donatelli, recently issued the first Excommunication in the history of the Episcopal Church in the United States. This high honor (considering the source) was afforded one Lewis W. Green for the offense of disagreeing with the church’s homosexual agenda."

Of course, I realized the allegation was most peculiar since there are quite a few people in the Episcopal church who have been "disagreeing with the church’s homosexual agenda." In this regard, your name springs to mind. You haven’t been plagued with excommunication problems have you David?

Of course I was able to put this obscure rationale into perspective when I read elsewhere: "On a Sunday morning when there was a gay man serving as a chalice bearer, Lewis wore latex gloves to receive communion. He took the bread and threw it into the chalice and made an obscene gesture at the chalice bearer."

A whole host of apprehensions were set at rest for me when I saw the Fishbourne rebuttal letter. I would think that your readers would have been far more outraged at receiving a presentation on only one side of an issue than by getting a one time unsolicited email. I know I would have.

That church in reality seems to be a very healthy one – a very diverse mix of young and old, straight and gay, married and single with lots of families and children. I applaud Bill for having served on the Vestry, as Junior Warden, and as Treasurer, but the real problem was as he described it: "…the church we left…is too liberal for us…" Perhaps this and his intense dislike of homosexuals clouded his judgment.

David, your digest, Virtuosity, still needs a good op-ed page.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXIX - David Writes John

Stealing intellectual property is an illegal offense, one year in jail or $50K fine.

Also using tax-payer dollars give to a public univ. while using their computers for private use offense is also punishable.

David


LXX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

One would really have to stretch a point to construe your first statement to apply to Dr. Crew. A list made public on the internet could hardly, it seems to me, constitute intellectual property. I think of prose or poetry as constituting intellectual property. If you didn't want to share those email addresses why were they made available? Is not the implication that they were available for use by others?

As for your second point, I cannot grasp any relevance.

Perhaps bad judgment was involved, but surely you must have been grateful, that all relevant information was made available to a very few of your subscribers so that they could get a balanced view. I will bet that you can secure permission to carry the Fishburne rebuttal letter in your publication for the many, many thousands who did not receive it. Surely your readers would be pleased knowing the viewpoints of both parties. I find in life that there are usually two sides to most issues. With both documents a part of the record, you might elect to make additional comments.

Surely your readers are asking: What use has been made of this list when it was publicly available that David is concerned about?

If we can avoid a frost, we are going to have an early spring here in Fort Worth. Have a good Lent.

Blesssings,

John S. Morgan


LXXI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You quote D. Dean Weaver of the Presbyterian church in your latest issue of Virtuosity:

"For 2,000 years, Christianity has said that homosexuality is sin. I come from the tradition that still believes that," he said. "If we give up this belief of how humans relate sexually, we lose the essence of who we are as the church of Jesus Christ because we have abandoned what we believe to be basic biblical principles."

He could just as well, and just as truly have said:

"For 2,000 years, Christianity has said that divorce is sin." "If we give up this belief of how humans relate sexually, we lose the essence of who we are as the church of Jesus Christ because we have abandoned what we believe to be basic biblical principles."

Is it not hypocritical to oppose homosexual unions when not opposing divorce?

How are all those traditional churches who are requesting alternate oversight because their bishop approves the new ECUSA paradigm of support of gay lifelong monagomous unions NOT hypocritical when the basis for their oversight request is NOT because their bishop is willing to support re-marriage of the divorced?

Does not this fact point out that the issue is visceral rather than theological? The right wing traditionalist can not agree to me ministered to by one who supports those loathsome untouchable homosexuals! On these two issues they would rather throw their allegiance to Paul rather than the son of God.

When he says, "For 2,000 years, Christianity…", what he should indicate is that church documents concerning homosexuality are from the Leviticus holy code in the Old Testament which contain a cultic clean/unclean morality that has been largely abandoned by Christian folk and [erroneous but well meaning]conjectures by Paul in the New Testament.

Unlike the proscription on divorce, Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality.

If we should lose the essence of who we are as the church of Jesus Christ because we have abandoned what we believe to be basic biblical principles by accepting homosexuality as not always sinful, then did we not lose the essence of who we are as the church of Jesus Christ because we have accepted divorce and remarriage? Or am I missing something here?

If the church can do the one, she can do the other.

The objections to homosexuality are more cultural and visceral than theological.

The Presbyterians were wise in their latest decision not to outlaw holy unions of homosexuals in all the churches of their denomination.

As the arguments are reexamined about homosexuality in all of Christendom, the end result is an increased understanding and support.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXII - John Writes David

David Virtue:

The Canadian internet site Religious Tolerance.org at their page: THE BIBLE AND HOMOSEXUALITY at http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibl.htm gives conclusions reached about homosexuality by conservative, mainline, and liberal Christians. And on the whole they give very balanced accounts; however they saw fit to include a most interesting passage that I want to share with you.

These conclusions concerning holy scripture by conservative Presbyterians are startling:

The Presbyterian Church (USA) may be moving towards a liberal point of view. At a 2000-Fall meeting of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, (a conservative reform group), speakers stated that "Scriptural condemnations of homosexuality merely reflect biblical authors' cultural biases and are not among the "essential" messages of the gospel."

Several conference speakers said the Bible's condemnations of same-gender sexuality call to mind other scriptural passages used in past centuries to justify slavery and to keep women from participating fully in the life of the church -- on the basis of long-held interpretations that are largely abandoned today."

Speaker William Placher from Wabash College, said interpreters of the Bible must "draw a line between cultural conventions and the truths that Bible stories convey," and always "keep in mind the assumptions the author brought to his time and place." He said the apostle Paul, for example, lived in a patriarchal culture where it was "socially acceptable to treat homosexuals with contempt."

David, do we today live in a society where some Christians think that it is socially acceptable to treat homosexuals with contempt?

These Presbyterian conservatives can understand what is culture bound in the Bible. Have they come to realize that these issues are visceral and not theological? Why cannot Episcopalian conservatives reach a similar understanding?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXIII - David Writes John

Dear John,

The issue is not contempt. That is wrong. I have never felt contempt for homosexuals. The question is, is sexuality merely cultural or is Genesis 1 a statement about creation - male and female.

No conservative or liberal can re-intepret Rom. 1 to make it mean what it does not.

David


LXXIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Thanks for your quick reply.

You say:

"The issue is not contempt. That is wrong. I have never felt contempt for homosexuals."

I don’t imagine that you personally, as you have indicated time and again, feel contempt for gay people. You must admit that there are many who do. And, as you know, I think the question of homosexuality in the church is far more visceral with emotional feelings inclusive of contempt and loathing than anything theological. Some people readily translate their personal feelings of loathing and revulsion into a universal morality. Looking for scriptural support often removes the sting of unkind behaviors toward their neighbors.

You also state,

"The question is, is sexuality merely cultural or is Genesis 1 a statement about creation - male and female."

Could it be your position now that while some of the conjectures of Paul and writings in Leviticus may have been culture bound, the writings of Genesis were not? There is apparently a range of conservative opinion on biblical issues. You seem to rely heavily on Genesis in formulating your rationale concerning gay unions.

Genesis is a myth – a creation story. It’s primary purpose was to describe the beginnings of things. It seeks to answer the question: "Where did it all come from?" The intent of the narration was not to describe every kind of human coupling. The authors did not take the opportunity to proscribe gay sexuality. Homosexuality was not mentioned – "not on their radar screen" to use a favorite phrase of yours.

In Matthew 19 Jesus uses a text of Genesis when he speaks of marriage, "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one."

Jesus gets his image of marriage from Genesis [that type of marriage imagery concerning the procreation of children] but his imagery of "the two will become one flesh" is just that, imagery.

The two obviously can become un-flesh according to these words Matthew records for Jesus, "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." Apparently ALL marriage is not permanent - one flesh can again become two.Does this not indicate that while Jesus uses the rich imagery of Genesis he does not completely literalize it?

Jesus draws from Genesis when he speaks of marriage. Genesis is concerned with origins. Genesis does not speak to the variety of couplings in a complex society. Genesis attempted to answer the question: "How did we get here?" Gay sexuality has nothing to do with the question: "How did we get here?"

The Eastern Church has a "second marriage ceremony" which was designed primarily for those beyond child bearing years. This ceremony is similar in its use of litanies and collects to the ancient liturgies for same-sex unions.

Genesis did not discuss this kind of marriage either. It was "off their radar screens". It did not bear directly on the question of origins. It seems to me that it would be silly to use a ceremony that talks of pro-creation and the joy of childbearing when two ninety year olds get married. That is likely why a more appropriate ceremony was devised by the Eastern church. Genesis does not speak to this. But again that was not the purpose of Genesis.

You ask the question, "The question is, is sexuality merely cultural or is Genesis 1 a statement about creation - male and female."

The answer is YES!

Sexuality is cultural.

AND

Genesis is a statement about creation - male and female.

But its mission statement was to explain where things came from and how WE got here.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your last email, you said: "No conservative or liberal can re-intepret Rom. 1 to make it mean what it does not."

Are you really serious?

While I do not want to quote the entire corpus in Romans 1 from verses 22 through 32, I do want to comment on some of the ideas presented there.

One of the theses presented there is that because of improper worship [namely idolatry], individuals somehow had their sexuality "confused" as punishment. It must be noted that the passage does not use idolatry in a revisionist mode but speaks concretely of "birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."

I cannot for the life of me see how that idea could be at all relevant to homosexual and lesbian Christians, some of whom serve God in our communities, in our choirs, and as priests. It also seems to put the ox before the cart.

Most gay people that I know, and this seems to the be majority recollection of the gay community, were gay from their earliest recollections. But the theory would suggest that somehow the worship of idols is causative of homosexuality. [Not that homosexuality is the cause of idolatry.] I don’t think that there is any link what-so-ever between the worship of idols and homosexuality. Nor have I heard of any serious inquiry. While it is convenient to use this passage to badmouth gays, no one would adopt the thesis as a study for a serious scientific inquiry. To be blunt, in a defacto sort of way nobody really thinks it true.

Now if conservatives really characterize homosexuals as individuals prone to the worship of "birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" we in the gay community have more educational work ahead of us than we ever dreamed of!

The phrase in the first part of verse 26 says: "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections…"

  • Would not this seem a most peculiar punishment for idolatry?

  • Are we to understand that most of the tribes surrounding Israel were predominately homosexual?

  • When the Israelites worshipped the golden calf in the desert did they ALL turn homosexual?

When one pursues the logical consequence of this kind of statement it borders on the ridiculous.

The second phrase in verse 26 says: "…for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature."

  • How can something existing in the natural world be against nature. Homosexual behaviors are now well documented in animals. Are animal actions against nature?

  • In another sense, does an individual, homosexual since birth, engage in an unnatural practice when attempting heterosexual behavior?

  • The idea itself, of sin being defined by that which is unnatural, hearkens back to the clean-unclean morality of Leviticus where certain innocuous animals and practices were arbitrarily deemed clean and others unclean. That basis for morality has all but been abandoned by Christians of our Century.

Verse 29 identifies these individuals as, "Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

And verse 30 carries on the rant: "Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventers of evil things, disobedient to parents…"

Just reflect on some of those words: covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, backbiters, haters of God.

David, do you have those kinds of homosexual friends? I do not! Is this not lunacy? Do you suppose the author ever met a real living homosexual?

In what way are these ridiculous conjectures helpful in understanding the contributions of gays and lesbians in the church?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

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