LXXVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I am happy that you made it home safely from your productive sojourn to the land of your birth. Welcome home.

On another personal note, I want to thank you for having put up with my liberal opinions over these few years and for your having shared so many insights with me, as your time permitted.

In your recent version of Virtuosity, you discussed the current situation in Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek, Maryland.

In your lead article you said, "When they were told that a homosexual priest had actually come to the parish once to preach and give communion many parishioners were verbally and visibly shocked."

Where were these people when General Convention mandated all the dioceses to do a study on human sexuality? Can they really be people who "Love God with their whole MIND" if they ignored the pleas of their brothers and sisters in Christ? I can’t have the greatest sympathy for their naiveté.

As you say, and to the degree that it is true, I must agree with you, "What is doubly tragic about the Accokeek situation.….was the sheer ignorance by the vast bulk of the parish as to what has been going on for the past 30 years in ECUSA."

You say,

I’ll wager that phrase had a large number of historical antecedents:

Every time new directions were taken by the church, there were churchmen who looked upon themselves and cursed their fate and troubled deaf heaven with their bootless cries. But change came anyway. And with moral people of good heart and intentions change, by and large, moved in the direction of love of neighbor in the fulfillment of overarching themes in scripture.

In like manner, I think that you will find that the faithful at Christ Episcopal Church in Accokeek, MD have been moving in greater and greater numbers towards full inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the Episcopal Church. This trend in the Episcopal church [even in conservative parishes] continues unabated as individuals, read, reflect, and inwardly examine their own conscience.

It is always hard to rise above one’s culture. Even the great Paul was just beginning to rise above what was considered natural for women in his fiercely patriarchal society; no way was he ready to do that for gays.

Long ingrained habits of homophobia masquerading as theological concerns must be understood for what they are. For most people change is not easy. It was not easy when the church asked them to reconsider the inclusion of women in the life of the church – to rescind long ingrained habits of Chauvinism masquerading as theological concern.

David, can’t you agree that a bishop of ECUSA, of whatever persuasion, should not want to have a rector employed in his/her diocese that has tendencies to support schism?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXVII - David Writes John

Thanks.

I don’t support. And I believe Fr. Edwards when he said he wouldn't do that. His PARISH might choose to do that, but saw no evidence that he would.

V. busy. Can't write much more.

All blessings,

David

PS. Sometime bring me up to date on your health.


LXXVIII - John Writes David

David,

You said in your most recent email that you were very busy; that is understandable I am sure you have a lot of catch up after a trip that carried you half way around the world.

You remarked: "Sometime bring me up to date on your health."

It has been over three years since my stroke; my essential physical problems remain; I even discovered and developed a few more problems after I left the rehabilitation hospital but my outlook is great, and I am far removed from the exhaustion of the accompanying pneumonia. Then, too, one learns to compensate.

My speech was and continues to be impaired. With an AFO (ankle-foot orthotic) on my right leg, I can walk with a hemi-walker for limited periods over relatively flat terrain -- this is precarious but I try to do it some each day for exercise of the leg muscles. In fact, I did have a fall from my manual wheelchair a few weeks ago; I sustained no permanent damage. My balance is precarious because if I slip I have limited recovery. If I hold on to a fixed object with my left hand mobility is greatly enhanced; the hamstring, the muscle which moves the lower leg back, is quite weak. I cannot move the toes of the right foot; I have little control of the ankle. I have very limited use of my right arm and it is an effort to move it.

With great effort I can close the fingers of my right hand; I can sometimes open my index finger. I cannot extend the other digits. My ability to learn new material of a scholarly nature is somewhat impaired. My ability to perform several tasks simultaneously has been hampered. I have a tendency to drool. The prospect of driving an auto seems dubious since I have a startle reaction. My right arm, hand, and leg spasm through the night and to a much lesser extent during my waking hours - more so in the mornings. Evenings are usually spasm free.

On the positive side my other mental powers and memory are intact. I have always retained complete sensation and for the most part have been pain free. I usually get around well in a wheelchair inside and an electric wheelchair outside. I count my blessings and consider myself a very fortunate fellow.

We have been discussing church issues for an extensive time now. My principal interest has been the full inclusion of my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the full life of the church. Some might call this a "preoccupation." I have come to perceive the handful of biblical passages that have come to be construed as anti-gay are culture bound promulgations.

The Biblical authors were between a rock and a hard place. It is hard to rise above one's cultural limitations and impossible to embrace scientific findings which have not yet been made. The assumptions of ones culture are often unconsciously taken for granted.

I am reminded of one of my college teachers, a cripple himself, who told off color jokes in class. One day he said: "I suppose you all are wondering why I am so preoccupied with sexuality?" "It is because I am so crippled up that I can’t be occupied with it."

When no one laughed at his joke, he felt compelled to explain it.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXIX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest issue of Virtuosity you spoke of Frank Griswold’s behavior at the Kanuga event where the Anglican primates met:

"Griswold then made a brilliant tactical move worthy of General Patton. He managed to place ECUSA's problems in the light of wider global issues thus diminishing and deflecting any criticism of him and ECUSA. Any talk of ECUSA and its heterodoxy was passed off as 'insular' thinking. Brilliant. Plain brilliant. Then he quickly moved into center stage lectures about global poverty, global warming, HIV/AIDS, anything but the real issues on whether Western Primates even have a gospel to proclaim or a resurrected Jesus Christ to declare, and if heterosexual marriage is the only acceptable forum for sexual relations."

An honorary doctorate please for Frank Griswold."

Your phrase, "…global poverty, global warming, HIV/AIDS, anything but the real issues on whether Western Primates even have a gospel…" jumped off the page at me.

According to Matthew these issues are the gospel:

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.

The way you described the role of our presiding bishop in your article made me want to say: "Yes - An honorary doctorate please for Frank Griswold."

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXX - David Writes John

They are the outworking or fruits of the gospel John. The core of the gospel is still repentance and faith in Jesus.

Thanks for your note. I may not reply to all as I gets 100s daily, but I feel a special bond despite our very real differences. I still marvel that you like getting Virtuosity.

David


LXXXI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I too feel that special bond. I get news from Virtuosity that I can’t find anywhere else. Your pursuit of your mission faithfully, day after day, with dedication, zeal, and constancy of direction testifies to the sincerity and depth of your world view. I am amazed at how thorough you are as an advocate journalist. You always choose substance over mere filler. You bring a coherence of position to your work.

As I see it, David, all four of the gospels are agreed on the value of repentance. Surely the wish to put sinful behavior behind one and to return to godly pursuits is laudatory.

I would describe those who live into God’s kingdom as the followers of Jesus’ great summary of the goal, the intent, and the rationale for the law and the prophets [as Jesus explained it] to encourage love of God and love of neighbor, regardless what benefit might ensue for them personally in the here or hereafter.

The synoptic gospels use faith in the sense of trust. They assume that a good hearted person would subscribe to the importance that Jesus places on the concept of neighbor through his precepts, examples, and parables.

You are correct, that the idea of the importance of faith is a constant in John. This gospel author shows us a Jesus who is constantly reflecting on his person and mission. Written after the synoptic gospels it is a marvelous metaphor about what the sonhood of God must be like.

It would seem to me that the author of John elevates ‘faith’ to an acceptance of the ‘personhood’ of Jesus. The author seems to be saying that the importance of the gospel is about who Jesus might be rather than what insight he might reveal – his person over his teachings.

Appreciation of the importance and relevance of Jesus teachings are open to all as expostulated in his gospel or as derived from less awesome religious thinkers throughout history.

That God’s benefits to me and his concern for me are contingent upon an ‘acceptance of personhood’ having reached me through a tenuous and fortuitous chain of events seems - well - wrong! How strong could such a commitment to me really be? Based, as it seems to me, on the roll of the dice?

Surely my opportunity for ‘faith’ for the acceptance of Jesus’ ‘personhood’ might easily not have materialized had one king, one war, one element of chance been different?

Does this not make a mockery of Jesus concern with ones neighbor, should the benefits of his religion be terribly unequal for the individual in the far backwoods of China and the urban New Yorker?

Pope John Paul II, the titular head representative of Christianity, received surprisingly little notice when he spoke against the notion, central to much of Protestant thinking and most of Catholic history, of salvation exclusively through Christ, when he stated his opinion in December of 2000:

"The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes--the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life--will enter God's kingdom," regardless of whether they profess Christ.

While there are passages in holy writ that could be construed otherwise, I agree with him on this issue. He seemed to agree with Peter:

Acts 10:34-35 And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."

David, it is not my intention to deny the divinity that is seen in Jesus, but to offer the conjecture that Jesus would be far more pleased with compliance concerning his two laws than any aggrandizement of his persoonhood.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In an article written by Terry Mattingly in your most recent Virtuosity we see this paragraph: "People want help," said O'Toole. "But what people are not doing is going to a priest and saying, 'I committed this sin and I know that I need to be forgiven.' That's not how they think, anymore. ... At some point, American Catholics stopped seeing the world that way."

I agree that people should be able to enumerate and particularize their particular sins. I think, however, that their preoccupation should not be to run to God or their priest for every transaction. After all, sins for the most part are against ones neighbor. God may be indirectly offended in most sins but the directly injured party is usually one’s neighbor.

While the usual concern might be how fast one can get to a priest or to God to say how sorry one is, the one who had his eye blackened from your anger or his new shirt torn in your rage is the primary injured party. While God might be offended, the neighbor is the one who feels the pain of the black eye and suffers the loss of a new shirt.

Perhaps the FIRST response should to see about getting the neighbor a new shirt, and LATER how the sinner can improve his seating in the next world.

When we constantly ask God to forgive sins and forget that the primary victim is usually our neighbor we are misguided. God may indeed forgive but our neighbor still suffers the pain.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXIII - David Writes John

Thanks John,

Forgiveness should be both horizontal and vertical.

D


LXXXIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

State Representative Allen Trovillon, as reported in the newspaper, told a group of gay and lesbian high school students, who came to him for support of the Florida Dignity of All Students Act,"You are going to cause the downfall of this country." They were looking for legislative Sponsors for the anti-discrimination act. These students were visiting the capital as part of Florida Youth Equality Day.

The 74 year old Orlando suburb legislator quoted scripture at them saying, "God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and he is going to destroy you and a lot of others."

Lets cut to the quick and examine the pertinent parts of Genesis 19:1-8

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. "My lords," he said, "please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning." "No," they answered, "we will spend the night in the square." But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."

The facts are these:

  1. Two angels arrive disguised as men.
  2. They loiter around the square.
  3. Lot offers his hospitality.
  4. They share a meal at Lot’s house.
  5. All the men from Sodom surround the house.
  6. They urge Lot to send the men out for sex.
  7. Lot offers his virgin daughters instead.

The story of Sodom is just that; it is a story; not a historical description. How do we know that? What clues us into to the fact that we are dealing with a story with surreal overtones?

In a typical city:

  1. All of the men, both young and old, from all parts of a city, do not converge on a single house at night.
  2. All the men of a city do not have a homosexual bend.
  3. All of the men of a city do not spend their evenings gang raping.

Lot is not giving his daughters up to gang rape. How do we know that?

According to the story Lot said, "Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them." Lot is not giving away his daughters to be raped in spite of what a literalist might think. This is tongue-in-cheek. A man who would give his virgin daughters over to gang rape would not be spoken of by God as a good man. The story is making a rhetorical point. Protection of ones guests is a higher value than protection of ones family.

I have to agree with God, a city where All the men spend their evenings raping strangers, is indeed an evil place.

The obvious moral to extract from this story is that it is a kindness to offer shelter to strangers when they are in danger. This is emphasized in the line, "But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."

A sin against hospitality might not seem important to us today but such safegards were vital to the traveler in ancient times, preyed upon by every kind of opportunist.

It should be noted that the story takes no position regarding homosexual orientation but it does disparage homosexual RAPE. Unfortunately since many in the past days of our culture thought that homosexuality was evil, they thought that somehow this story must be making some point about gays; so strong was this apprehension that someone coined the English word Sodomy to link the story of Sodom to homosexuality.

In the popular mind today the story is still thought to be some moral proscribing homosexuality - likely because of the associations prompted by that word. And indeed, today that link can be seen in the mind of a 74 year old legislator. How sad! Such an interpretation cannot be found in the words of the story. The REAL sin of Sodom was inhospitality.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Embedded in your Special Report on Integrity: The Myth of Safe Places, I find the following themes:

  1. You think that all homosexual behavior is sinful.

  2. You think that homosexual orientation can be changed.

  3. You think that being opposed to homosexual activity is an essential component of the Christian faith.

  4. You do not approve of a common standard for appropriate displays of affection between people of the same or opposite gender or sexuality.

  5. You feel rectors have a moral obligation to override decisions of their denomination when they are deemed unfaithful to scripture.

  6. You feel that the attempt to designate gay friendly Episcopal churches as welcome inappropriate.

Permit me to comment on these:

  1. You think that all homosexual behavior is sinful.

    You say, "…the lie that homosexual behavior is good and right in the eyes of God."

    You say, "The church's business is to call us to repentance, and amendment of life and that includes homosexuals. If the church doesn't do that then it is not doing its job."

    Your premise is simply not true.

    Have you forgotten the consensus of the church at general convention concerning extramarital forms of life long commitments? Faithful, homosexual life long unions would fall under that category. And why not? The same sex union is merely an extension of the heterosexual ideal for couples for whom heterosexual marriage is an impossibility.

    Both situations have nearly identical parallels with the exception of procreation. Both kinds of families exhibit similiar life-long intended loving and nurturing environments suitable for the rearing of children. Love knows no boundaries and often crosses the barrier of gender.

    Yet even in transient affairs, homosexuality does not result in the creation of unwanted children.

    If one believes that the proscription of man sleeping with man in Leviticus is of divine origin rather than a proscription of lawmakers in the name of their God, is one not obligated as well to believe that wearing a shirt to Holy Communion on Sunday morning made of cotton and polyester is an insult to God who was very vocal in his opposition?

    Traditionalists are forever reminding me about the unchanging nature of God. The gravely sinful nature of cotton-polyester shirts is not overlooked. It is simply not believed. So much for God’s holy word. Those who pick and choose use it as a weapon to disparage sexual activities for which they personally have no fond affection.

    Paul seemed to have thought that a penalty for idol worship was the change of an individual’s sexual identity. As a test of his theory did you ever ask yourselves how when the Israelites in the desert worshipped the golden cow, that they had any of their number left to procreate? Why did not the story recount the massive alteration of sexual identity in this group?

    Paul abhorred many of the customs of surrounding tribes. Was not the extreme macho of his society responsible for what he might consider unnatural behavior? Did his inner turmoil over a secret guilt have something to do with that? Today we know that homosexuality is not absent from the animal world. Paul did not. Might our knowledge have changed his mind?

    Was Paul’s list of proscribed behavior comprehensive and accurate? Or well meaning? Today we would find an alcoholic in a drunken state morally guiltless - one who simply had his will power hijacked. After all an alcoholic is one who has NO CONTROL over alcohol.

    When I grew up as a little Roman Catholic I was assured that the innocuous practice of masturbation was deadly sinful. I wonder if just floating in a lake of fire for a month might not be appropriate for those who inflict this kind of cruelty on their fellow man.

  2. You think that homosexual orientation can be changed.

    You say, "…race (meaning color) is a product of birth over which no one has control. Not so sexuality…there is not one shred of evidence to explain homosexuality as a product of our genes. …Furthermore a predisposition does not necessarily mean an unchangeable condition."

    I do not deny that there is some degree to the mutability of sexual behavior as testified to in your, "story of how Mike Haley was once addicted to homosexuality and today is healed, married and a father."

    While his behavior in the way of performance has been altered to some degree, I do not think even he would tell you that he does not have desire for other men.

    Surely, regeneration therapy is not the answer for the vast majority of homosexuals!

    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.

    Regenerative therapy is NOT a ‘solution’ for the vast majority of homosexuals. Why indeed should they change their God given orientation?

  3. You think that being opposed to homosexual activity is an essential component of the Christian faith.

    In speaking of homosexuals you refer to the "intention of wanting them to change their behavior which, of course, is the very heart of the gospel message."

    When speaking of sex, one of the very recent Roman Catholic Popes said that surely sexual sins are the little sins, arising as they do out of human frailty. Yet you have elevated proscription of homosexuality to "the very heart of the gospel message."

    Today’s evangelical Protestantism, the new kid on the block, is obsessed with the gospel being all about sex.

    I would submit that how one cares for ones neighbor with loving care and concern is at the heart of the gospel. The gospel of Matthew does NOT think SEX is at the very heart of the gospel message:

    Matthew in 25:33-46 says, "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."

    You might want to read that again. Nowhere does Jesus make reference to who might be sleeping with whom. It is not on his radar screen. The word SEX is not even mentioned. It is not part of Jesus criterion for the final judgment as reported by Matthew. In what sense could it be at the center of the gospel?

  4. You do not approve of a common standard for appropriate displays of affection between people of the same or opposite gender or sexuality.

    You say, "Integrity wants ‘a common standard for appropriate display of affection between people of the same or opposite gender or sexuality.’"

    "Really. So homosexuals ought to be able to kiss, neck and screw around in the church toilets, and if some ten-year-old stumbles in on them, say to him, ‘that's okay kid you need to be educated lovingly into the ways of lesbitransgays?'"

    Really. So heterosexuals ought to be able to kiss, neck and screw around in the church closets, and if some ten-year-old stumbles in on them, say to him, "that's okay kid you need to be educated lovingly into the ways of adults?"

    Sounds silly doesn’t it when the shoe is on the other foot?

    I think a common standard for appropriate display of affection between people of the same or opposite gender or sexuality is appropriate. Just as appropriate as a common understanding that people in their pews should remain silent till the Sunday service begins.

  5. You feel rectors have a moral obligation to override decisions of their denomination when they are deemed unfaithful to scripture.

    You say, "A rector cannot do that. He must be faithful to Scripture not to the sexual needs of homosexuals or any other group knocking on his door looking for acceptance. Anything less and the rector himself stands under the judgment of God, and he dare not go against God's revealed will on this or any other 'revealed' matter. His own soul is at stake."

    This is a slippery slope. It is not always easy to interpret God’s will. The church has seriously disagreed on meanings in scripture. Protestants and Catholics disagree even on the requirements of salvation. Chauvinistic and homophobic cultures project Chauvinistic and homophobic attitudes on their God and consequently find supportive evidences incorporated into their holy writ. History [and innumerable church squabbles] has shown that even the act of translation from one language to another IS an interpretation.

    In addition to being translated across language, these documents are translations across very different cultures and vast epochs of time. As a result there may be more projected homophobia in our scriptures than the works actually contain.

    "Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth…"

    There were many times when the church chose to override concerns of scripture:

    Yes David, there are all sorts of issues where the practices of the church differ from scriptural passages. The church had the good sense to change with the times. A truly moral marriage should require the consent of both parties; capitalism, the dominant economic system of our time, could not well function without money being made on money; coinage and the arts would not flourish without images; slavery, a given in the bible does not serve the broader ethic of Christ. None of your rectors need lose any sleep worrying that God might not approve.

    We know graphically and specifically where Jesus stood on the question of oaths. He chose not to speak on homosexuality. If rectors want to put scripture over church cannon, they might begin with oaths rather than sexuality. Is what God chooses to speak about less important than what he chooses NOT to speak about?

    If rectors want to put scripture over church cannon why would they start with sexuality issues rather than oaths? Is it because circumcision and homosexuality are far more visceral, lurid and purient than oath taking? Are we dealing with God's concerns or man's concerns?

    There is no reason that a rector cannot dissociate himself from other cultural influenced passages of scripture without fearing heavenly wrath.

    Certainly you agree with some of these positions the church has adopted which override texts of scripture. What is your personal criterion for choosing and picking?

  6. You feel that the attempt to designate gay friendly Episcopal churches as welcome inappropriate.

    You say, "The fact that a parish might have an ex-gay ministry does not mean that parish is unwelcoming in the least…"

    Actually it does. An ex-gay ministry is a way for a traditionalist to reinforce his contention that homosexuality is not innate. It is a way for him to anatgonize the gay community yet at the same time soothe his own conscience. If being gay were thought to be innate, then the homosexual might seem guiltless and God might seem to have been the author of an abberation. If homosexuality is innate, genetic or laid down at a very early age, then all those fag jokes, ridicule, ostracism, cruelty, and other conduct unbecoming a Christian heaped on one's gay brother were far worse -- the guy was always that way he didn't choose evil.

    For the most part, Episcopalians are intelligent and well educated. For a churchman to go against the dominant voice of the scientific community and support a suspicious, unproven, and undocumented 'regeneration therapy' in his parish church must spring from deep seated emotional turmoil.

    You say, "What a parish like Falls Church, VA is saying is this. We recognize that homosexuality like alcoholism is an addictive behavior and just as we have an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter we have a Regeneration chapter for homosexuals. 'You want help, we can offer it to you. Don't run away. Stay and be healed.'"

    But homosexuality is not like alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disease; homosexuality is not. It is not myself who says this but the scientific community. Homosexual behavior is no more ‘addictive’ than heterosexual behavior. In fact, the church once thought that ALL drunken behavior was sinful. The modern model for the alcoholic sees alcoholism as a disease in which the will is ‘hijacked’ but the individual himself erroneously believes that he was merely weak in succumbing to temptation. The guilt was misplaced. Paul says that drunkards will not go to heaven. Should we literalize that? Did Paul realize that their wills might have been hijacked or did he assume that alcohol was a choice for them?

    I can tell you as a creature of the 50’s that growing up homosexual was an unwelcome exercise. Church, the law, society were all against the homosexual. Even today it is impossible for an out gay teenager to get through a day of high school without constant unrelenting verbal and somtimes physical abuse. If the average straight student could get through the day without hearing several homosexual pejoratives it would be a miracle. It should not strain the imagination that people will bring some of these attitudes and behaviors into the church.

    Welcoming parishes are a happy lot sprinkled as they are with an abundance of both homosexual and heterosexual communicants.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You have a most interesting report in your most recent issue of Virtuosity where the Legal and Canonical Commission of New Westminster has been asked by their Bishop to answer a question on blessings:

"Do the Canons of the Anglican Church (national, provincial, diocesan) permit or preclude the Bishop of New Westminster to authorize/from authorizing the blessing of same-sex unions?"

They conclude, "... that a ‘blessing’ is not necessarily a sacrament. We conclude that one of the key effects of the wording of the Synod resolution we are asked to address is the differentiation between marriage (by tradition treated as a ‘lesser sacrament' of the Church) and blessing, which in this context is not to be understood as sacrament but as a ‘rite’. The ‘blessing’ of a same-sex union would operate as the sign of a Christian community's upholding of a relationship and as an outward symbol of God's grace operating in the lives of a committed couple."

Here we have, "…the possibility of the Bishop of New Westminster authorizing a special form of rite to encompass the blessing of a committed same-sex relationship. As such, the act of the Bishop in authorizing such a rite would not be precluded by the canons of the Diocese, the Province or the General Synod."

Perhaps this is the compromise everyone would be satisfied with!

Of course we know that by church theology, a heterosexual couple give themselves to each other in marriage. The clergyman is the witness to this; he does not marry them; in reality, they marry each other. That is classical sacramental marriage theology.

Perhaps the Legal and Canonical Commission of New Westminster has found the answer for the Anglican world. Marriage is recognized by cannon as sacramental. Same-sex unions, while perhaps being of a very similar liturgical and ceremonial pattern are to be recognized as a rite of blessing.

Sacramental marriage for the heteros.
Rite of blessing for the gays.

How do you weigh in on this, David?

When, after 30 years of joyous cohabitation, Paul is finally able to make an honest man of me, perhaps you could ‘give away the groom.’

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

At one time Anglicans were a broad inclusive tent.

Mark Twain said, mankind creates thousand of religions each day. This is not surprising because the world beyond is just that beyond - or as Jesus says, "…they eye has not seen and the ear has not heard…" We had our tent and our churchmen didn't need to create a thousand new religions each day.

After all, no one returns from the halls of eternity to advise if God prefers Moslems over Methodists. Yet dissidents in the church are no longer content to leave the larger issues of theology to be decided by their common mind in general convention or to live side by side with the enlightened choices of their brethren. They think that they alone have been given all the answers.

Such arrogance! They search for their own version of doctrinal purity [an endless quest] and demand that everyone else adhere to it. Next door is someone else with his/her unique version of doctrinal purity. The fellow next to you at the communion rail MUST share your exact theology.

But why this break with the past? We Anglicans had a good thing. The latitudinarian bishops of the Restoration fought for a church broad enough that both Puritan and Laudian might find a home. Anglicans accomplished this comprehensiveness by resisting the temptation to define the faith to the exclusion of our faithful brothers and sisters.

It was simple, where some drew a small circle of exclusion, the church drew a larger one of inclusion. We have long embraced diversity as an important aspect of our orthodoxy. There was the historic Elizabethan settlement which provided a Eucharistic formula which would accommodate a broad spectrum of theologies. But that was then.

That is no longer good for our modern day dissidents. Take the Reverend Judith Marie Gentle-Hardy, Rector, Church of the Holy Trinity, Marlborough, Massachusetts, for example. She refused Holy Communion from her bishop, Tom Shaw, during his visitation to the Church of the holy Trinity. Is it not ironic that their are many traditionalists in the Episcopal church who will not take communion from her?

Perhaps we need to define a flow chart of who can receive communion from whom. It kinda gets complicated after a while.

The Reverend Canon Nelson Koscheski is one who does not appreciate the great Anglican diversity either.

As recently reported in Virtuosity, he said, "…even the so-called good guys are not really willing to risk being outside the club of the Episcopal Church even if the church's price for being inside is apostasy. They're not willing to sacrifice the group for any kind of truth whatever, even when they know what the truth is."

He says, "I have spent my last night in prayer crying for the Episcopal Church. I have been told to get out of Sodom and let it go."

But when did the good reverend make HIS sacrifice? When did he choose to implement his version of orthodoxy? And to EXCLUDE his fellow churchmen? When did he cast off the church that ordained and sustained him for 30 years? When did he cast off ECUSA? When did he finally decide to "get out of Sodom?"

"In April," says Virtuosity, debates and questions ceased. Koscheski's retirement from the Episcopal Church, after 30 years of priesthood, became official."

Christ or my pension? Such commitment! And free advice for others: Don't do as I do, do as I say. Don't be part of a broad body of Christ. Do it MY way.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

"People who cant get along with other people, cant get along with 'people who cant get along with other people'", was a favorite phrase of one of the former rectors of my parish church.

As I have said in many of my previous letters, the search for the perfect Orthodoxy is futile.

We saw some confirmation of this not too long ago from Tony Clavier, who was a bishop in the continuing Anglican movement for over 25 years, when he said:

"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."

And now, in the most recent issue of the Christian Challenge, we read a letter from one ordained in 1997 in one of the continuing churches, who now functions in a parish of the Holy Catholic Church (Anglican Rite) in Paoli, PA.

His church has split five times, two of which were after his ordination in 1997. Let me repeat that. His church has had f-i-v-e splits.

His letter lists reasons for the splits including ceremony as an end in itself and legal disputes. But he explains, "The first problem is worshipping doctrine or theology instead of Jesus Christ."

He also says, "…there is a growing sectarian spirit in not a few of the Continuing Churches to the point that they cannot associate with each other."

Now why does not that surprise me?

His remarks would seem to mirror Tony Clavier’s observation: "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."

There is much to be said for remaining in ECUSA, participating in her general assemblies, listening to her corporate mind in open discernment with ones peers.

There has always been controversy in the church. And realizing that your neighbor may not share all the details of your theology can be infuriating. But these matters are not best settled by going off on ones own. There is a sobering and stabilizing factor in our common rites and liturgy.

The answers are not to be found in a never ending pursuit for purity of doctrine; the answers for Episcopalians are to be found in our common worship, our collective discernment and in our pursuing together in love the yearnings of Jesus.

A church that puts emphasis on loving God with ones whole MIND must be prepared to live with differences of opinion on matters theological.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


LXXXIX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In the most recent issue of Virtuosity, I find phrases like these, "It is belief verses pseudo-belief. It is the authority of Scripture… stands on the authority of Scripture…, or if she does it can be loosely interpreted to make it mean whatever she wants it to mean…"

  1. Concerning the authority of Scripture, Billy Graham once said he believed scripture was literally and inerrantly true because if it were not true then he could not slam his bible on the table and say: "Thus says the Lord."

    His proclamation did not make it so. The truth or falsity of his assertion is independent of his proclamation.

    In truth, the bible contains many errors of fact, egregious errors of science and numerous self contradictions. The authors have their own viewpoints which often conflict with the opinions of their peers.

    Since we have four renditions of the gospels, it is easy to compare corresponding passages among the various authors when the texts are laid side by side as, for example, I have done in my chart of: Comparisons of the biblical authors

    Even on the larger themes there is not unanimity of opinion. Matthew clearly states that mankind will be individually judged on how they cared for the poor and needy. On the other hand, themes of salvation by belief in Christ's personhood can be found in John gospel and Paul.

    I don’t know how it is possible to read these separate accounts and maintain that they are saying the same thing. We have biblical authorities not biblical authority. Which brings me to my second point:

  2. Let's now examine interpretation: When you mention,"[scripture] can be loosely interpreted to make it mean whatever she wants it to mean," you are correct. There apparently is a lot of wiggle room there.

    A lot of that wiggle started with the church.

    Exodus 20:4 says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." And I might remind you that this is a part of one of the ten commandments, a part often omitted in more sanitized versions.

    The church started interpreting this early on. I think you would refer to this kind of activity as ‘revisionism." So would I. But I use the term wherever it fits; the term should not only be used when applied to liberals.

    The Eastern church decided that graven image should not apply to icons since they did not have depth; the western church decided that since graven images were often used in the context of idols that one should not idolize ones statuary. These revisionists of the Western church decided that as concerns graven images, pretty much of anything goes.

The point I am making is about the Authority of scripture. The issue of graven images was at one time very important to the church. Did the branches of the church take it to mean whatever they wanted it to mean? Apparently so because their decisions, while different from each other, conflict with the words as written.

The church has been doing this from time immemorial. This is just one example.

Conservatives love the phrase, "clear words of scripture." Just what was either clear or authoritative here? Did the two churches not make the scripture what they wanted it to mean? There are plenty of other examples of this church biblical revisionism in history.

Some in our church make a kind of idol out of scripture itself.

When speaking of the Edwards vs. Dixon case you say: "If they both stood squarely on Scripture as authoritative and both shared a common understanding of the nature of the gospel there would be no war at all."

Neither stands squarely on Scripture as authoritative. They both come from a tradition that accepts an interpretation of graven images at odds with the words of scripture. Scripture has great value but even on the larger issues scripture self conflicts. The authoritative proclamations of one author do not always agree with another.

There is no common understanding of the nature of the gospel. Even among traditionalists there is disagreement on the validity of ordination of women priests.

The tradition of Anglicanism is to live with ambiguity and broadly define our beliefs as we each, in community, journey into our creator. Our ancient texts should be a source of insight and example, not a weapon we use against our fellow Christians.

We do not have a magesterium; our stability is in our book of common prayer.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


XC - John Writes David

David Virtue,

These paragraphs excerpted from your latest issue of Virtuosity, telling of Colorado Bishop Winterrowd’s possible commencement ceremony are most illuminating:

"The 7 p.m. commencement ceremony is to be at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral, East 14th Avenue and Clarkson Street. Winterrowd is on the board of trustees at Iliff because 30 Episcopal students go there as part of the Anglican Studies Program."

"’I told Jerry his stand (on gays) is incompatible with the spirit many of us value at Iliff,’ said Dee Paddock, an Episcopal student at Iliff."

"A psychologist and heterosexual, Paddock said she decided against being ordained in the Episcopal Church because of Winterrowd's stand on gays."

"Michelle Danson of Niwot, an Episcopal student at Iliff who supports Winterrowd's commencement appearance, said, ‘We've moved from being militant on this issue to hearing all voices, including those we're not comfortable hearing. Iliff is on the cutting edge of what it means to be inclusive.’"

In summary:

  1. Danson wants to hear all voices. [including those he is not comfortable hearing]
  2. Paddock does not want to hear all voices. [especially those she is not comfortable hearing]

The above paragraphs illustrate the attitudes and approaches extant in the church today. They can be summarized in this manner:

  1. There are those who in the past were perhaps militantly opposed to certain ideas but are willing to listen; their world view is such that they are prepared to follow God wherever their heart and intellect tell them they should go.

    New knowledge, new insights, change does not threaten them. They accept the bible as authoritative for them in large measure, but they are aware of its errors and inconsistencies and recognize that it is a compendium of multiple sources. They understand that its authors had viewpoints which did not always harmonize with other authors in the collection. They may be mindful that there are some obscure, rarely used words in the original writings whose meanings have been lost. They are aware that the act of translation across cultures and centuries constitutes an interpretation in itself.

    They are not prepared, on the sole basis of ancient religious texts, to write off their neighbor simply because of discernible differences in ONLY the area of sexual orientation. Especially when the understandings of society, science, law, and their fellow churchmen have separated from the assumptions that underlie these ancient religious proscriptions.

    Above all they would not think it moral to worship any god who would condemn some of their brothers to an eternal lake of fire - even if it meant the salvation of their own skin.

    They are confident of the mind of the church because they share in that mind, they have been nurtured by it, and they trust in the open and democratic process of their church, receiving as it does, counsel, governance, and input from clergy and laity alike. They take the commandment to love God with ones whole mind seriously.

  2. There are others, who do not recognize that the church has been a dynamic organization over the centuries, having moved in a pluriformity of directions. They refuse to recognize that she has changed her mind on a number of issues over the centuries and sometimes in a way incompatible with the understandings of scripture. They think of the scriptures as a book handed down from heaven.

    They are of the born yesterday set who think that what grand daddy believed constitutes the faith once delivered. They do not seem to see the biblical relevance [and the theological implications] of the fact that Mommy no longer wears a hat in church. They think it must be that fashion changed; it can’t be that Mom doesn’t take Paul’s injunction as "gospel" any more. In a defacto sort of way, Mom thinks that Paul was culture bound but at the same time thinks Paul’s injunctions are always authoritative. Her cognitive dissonance is left unresolved.

    Many traditionalists seem to be very uncomfortable when they find out that the person who receives communion at the pew next to them does not share their own belief package in every particular. In truth, to bolster their world view, they seem to need constant reinforcement. It is as if differences of belief amongst their peers constitutes a threat.

Tolerance is not a virtue characteristic of the human species. Our best hedge against intolerance both in religion and in other areas of life seems to be a deep, broad, and continuing education.

Gays have been faithful members of the Episcopal church for ages. The politics of religion did not always favor them, yet they remained faithful. In the normal decision making forums they slowly and openly sought redress of grievances. They attemped to educate and persuade rather than demonize. They did not whine and cry. They did not bolt. They did not run away with someone else's lawful property. Perhaps their example is one to follow in adversity.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

XCI - John Writes David

David Virtue, The most recent Virtuosity says:

"The call by Christ Church, Accokeek, of the Rev. Samuel Lee Edwards has caused a bitter feud between the vestry and Bishop Suffragan Jane Dixon of the Diocese of Washington."

"Edwards, former executive director of the organization Forward in Faith/North America (FIF/NA), is opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. He has written editorials in the FIF/NA magazine, calling the Episcopal church 'The Unchurch," and urging clergy and congregations to "sever their connections" with ECUSA."

"Bishop Dixon has steadfastly refused to approve Edwards' call to Accokeek, citing his ‘unwillingness to guarantee his obedience to Bishop Dixon,’ and his ‘lack of commitment’ to keep Christ Church in the Diocese of Washington."

Those three paragraphs make the case for Jane Dixon! It is regrettable that she was asleep at the helm during the 30 day period during which she was authorized by cannon to annul the appointment.

Father Edward’s moving to head a conservative leaning church in her diocese can only lead to controversy. There are real problems:

  1. She is a female Bishop. Edwards headed an organization that was opposed to the ordination of females in the church. His relationship with her will be problematic.

  2. He has urged clergy and congregations to sever their connections with ECUSA.

  3. He has demonstrated lack of commitment to keep Christ Church in the Diocese of Washington.

A bishop would naturally want a good working relationship with his/her clergy. A loyal Episcopal bishop would want to avoid importing a clergy person into his/her diocese with a demonstrated and documented propensity for schism.

On another matter, Peter T. Chattaway reporting for "BC Christian News" as reported in Virtuosity states:

"ANGLICANS IN the Lower Mainland are one step closer to revisiting the question of whether or not to bless same-sex relationships, following a legal report that was released to Anglican churches April 22."

"The report was prepared by three lawyers appointed by Bishop Michael Ingham, who leads the Diocese of New Westminster. It says the bishop may authorize the blessing of same-sex unions within his diocese, though it recommends that he consult with the other Canadian bishops before doing so."

"The 20-page document clears the way for delegates to vote on the controversial issue again at the next diocesan synod, which meets at Capilano College, in North Vancouver, in June."

"In the past, Ingham has said he would approve the blessing of same-sex unions on two conditions: one, if the legal commission said it was within his power to do so; and two, if a clear majority of the delegates at June's synod voted in favour of it."

This excerpt highlights the following:

  1. The trend for full acceptance of homosexuals into the life of the church is inexorably moving ahead.

  2. The bishop is very sensitive to the mind of the church - he would approve of the blessings only if it were legal to do so and his synod voted by majority in favor.

How else should a faithful bishop behave?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


XCII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

You say, "Then Griswold delivers the biggest fiction of all. He says this: 'I see the Episcopal Church as alive and well and not wracked by controversy and conflictt, as some choose to believe.' Really. What planet is Frank living on? The Church is loaded with conflict"

You have reminded us from time to time, that problems have existed in the church for 30 years. And the church is not without problems.

We use a liturgy that is to be in a language understood by the people. If we did not revise our prayer book from time to time our prayer book would begin to be as obscure as Chaucer in its original English. But some Episcopalians will always raise a fuss at the revisions.

Some objected as women priests were introduced; others saw this as an invitation to schism. You, on the other hand, say in your most recent issue of Virtuosity, "Now, personally I'm for women's ordination…" Yet you are opposed to homosexuals taking their rightful place in the body of Christ.

How do you go about choosing when you decide to part with ONE of these long held traditions and accept the other? Do we have a well developed theology for the one but not the other?

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Jesus was able to rise above his culture. Yet he gave no obvious indication that females would be acceptable as priests and he had nothing to say about homosexuals, their holy unions or their ordinations. Why if, as the literalists would insist, God was writing an instruction manual for humanity, did he not make these issues strikingly clear? And I mean strikingly clear. Are we to believe there was merit in obscurity?

Are we asking too much of scripture when we expect to use it for more than extracting overarching universal themes, extraordinary examples of Godly living, the insights of Jesus, and effective and persuasive moral argumentation that stands or falls on its own merit?

There is some controversy in the church; I would elect to call these tensions growing pains.

"The Spiritual Health of the Episcopal Church" of 1989, was conducted by The GALLUP ORGANIZATION, INC. They say,

"In broad terms the picture of the Episcopal church membership that emerges from this survey is of a church body that is substantially orthodox in its religious beliefs….open to change and new expressions of faith within the church; and holding the view that the Episcopal church should become more involved in areas as ecology, matters of justice, war and peace."

I see the concern of many traditionalists for poverty in the third world as a matter of concern with both justice and world peace.

In the much more recent Zacchaeus project interviewers met with approximately 2,000 people in 250 separate individual or focus group interviews in nine dioceses using a set of questions addressing each group's experience of the Episcopal Church.

The study's basic findings were:

  1. Episcopalians are committed to worship and an Anglican tradition that binds them in Christian community and forms a spiritual framework for personal growth and ministry.

  2. Creative ferment and vitality characterizes Episcopal life in local congregations.

  3. Profound tensions are impacting the life and relationship among congregations and judicatories.

  4. Episcopalians are successfully embracing diversity and changes in the life of their congregations."

Again I would refer to the profound tensions experienced by the church as she emerges from centuries of patriarchy as growing pains. As the Zacchaeus project says: "Episcopalians are successfully embracing diversity and changes in the life of their congregations."

You say, "Now here's a real corker. Griswold says that "the laws and commandments given to us are not so much laws and commandments as they are signs of relationship and intimacy between God and God's people."

Surely Jesus too saw the laws and commandments as signs of relationship and intimacy between God and God's people when he explained that the law and prophets were attempts at achieving the two fundamental laws of love God and neighbor. He explained that his two laws represented the fulfillment of the law and prophets. The law and prophets were effective and valid to the extent that they led to the fulfillment of the two laws of Jesus.

Matthew quotes Jesus as maintaining that the love of God as demonstrated by care for ones neighbor is the ONLY criterion to be used at the last judgment.

You say, "Now in a move that only the EPISCOPAL WOMEN'S CAUCUS could dream up, this gang of femi-nazis tried to do an end run around the Presiding Bishop and his call for the three remaining dioceses to ordain women."

David, the EPISCOPAL WOMEN'S CAUCUS is in agreement with the near universal practice and mind of the Episcopal church. They are as concerned as general convention which initiated a compliance task force.

You say, "The second story today concerns the hypocrisy of Frank Griswold calling Edwards "schismatic" when he has stoutly refused to say one word of criticism about Jack Spong and his Twelve Theses."

A crucial difference, Bishop Spong worked for his version of reform within the Episcopal Church. As you have reported, Edwards … "has written editorials in the FIF/NA magazine, calling the Episcopal church 'The Unchurch,' and urging clergy and congregations to 'sever their connections' with ECUSA."

Bishop Spong was NOT a schismatic.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


XCIII - John Writes David

David,

You say, "The meeting had been called by the bishops because of the growing tension between traditionalist Episcopalians who have no ‘safe places,’ feel marginalized and terrorized by liberal and revisionist ECUSA bishops from one end of the country to the other."

Surely this would make a disinterested outsider think. If well educated people in religion have changed their minds in such large numbers perhaps they are on to something since it is far easier to sit with the status quo.

Are these who feel marginalized, welcoming of the homosexuals in their congregations who have been marginalized and burnt at the stake for centuries?

You say, "High on the agenda appears to be the treatment Fr. Sam Edwards is receiving from the Bishop of Washington Jane Dixon, and her efforts to have him removed from his canonically called position at Christ Church, Accokeek, MD."

The Sam Edwards question is not a question of marginalization. It is a response by a Bishop who does not want someone advocating schism functioning as a priest in her diocese.

You say,"Based on officials statements thus far it looks like the bishops had had enough, and the growing fear that they, not the church's homosexualists and feminists are the ones being marginalized, prompted the visitation to 815, New York."

Have these people heard of: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

You say, "Our Episcopal seminaries are feminizing the language of Scripture, arguing that male language is inherently patriarchal and sexist."

You write: "So, writes Achtemeier, why does God reveal himself primarily in personal terms? If God has no sexuality, if he is Spirit (cf. John 4:24), then why does he not name himself through the media of impersonal metaphorical language? Why are not his primary designations those of Rock, Fire, Living Water, Bread, Way, Door, Refuge, Fortress, and other such metaphors found throughout the Scriptures?"

Human and diverse authors wrote the scriptures. They were subject to the chauvinism of their time in history.

You say, "Feminists stretch language to its limit, beyond ordinary usage, to provide new understanding, says Achtemeier, the author of 20 books and adjunct professor of Bible and Homiletics at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA.

I will grant that some extremists will stretch the language. I think our primary concern should be with accuracy. The King James Bible, for example, goes out of its way to use the pronoun "He" where a more gender neutral rendering of the translation would have been more appropriate. Unconscious chauvinism by male translators has caused some of the very real problem.

Permit me to quote one of the ten commandments: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."

Do you take the position that this commandment was only intended for males? That is exactly what it says! Nothing is said about thy neighbour's HUSBAND!.

Now most Christian denominations inclusive of the Episcopal have sanitized [a revisionist endeavor] this biblical version to read like what is in the book of common prayer: "You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor." Gender references have been removed.

So yes, not only is the Old Testament, in particular chauvinistic, but Christians everywhere have made some changes years ago.

REDACTING THE COMANDMENTS:

Jesus: "I was just reading the following in Exodus: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.’"

God the father: "Yes?"

Jesus:"Pay attention to this part: ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife’".

God the father: "What’s the matter with that? Do you think it is OK to covet one’s neighbor’s wife?"

Jesus: "Of course not but that’s not what I am getting at.

Concentrate on the ‘neighbor’s wife’ bit."

God the father: "Yes! Well?"

Jesus: "What about a woman coveting her neighbor’s husband? Is that not just as wrong?"

God the father: "Of course it is. What makes you think otherwise?"

Jesus: "Moses!"

God the father: "What do you mean Moses?"

Jesus: "Well it says right there in Exodus that a man should not covet his neighbor’s wife. But it says nothing about a woman coveting her neighbor’s husband. Didn’t you make it clear to Moses that coveting thy neighbor’s spouse by either sex is wrong?"

God the father: "I think the operative words are ‘culture bound’. It was a long day and Moses was tired of chiseling on stone about the time we got way down to that commandment and his ears heard what he wanted to hear or what his cultural bound mind set permitted him to hear. In his day and culture woman were virtual property.

Even if a male thought the female might have had the mental capacity or wish to covet there is little chance that these desires could have been acted upon. It was the male that Moses was concerned about. So he just heard the part about a male coveting."

"But not to worry! I see you have a copy of the Book of Common Prayer on that celestial table by your right hand. Turn to page 350 and read the last commandment."

Jesus: "It says: ‘You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.’"

God the father: "Exactly! The Episcopalians of the late 20th century have removed all references to gender. The commandment is for everyone."

Jesus: "Just as you originally intended it."

God the father: "Yes as I intended it but not as Moses understood it. Most of the Christian denominations have done the same revision. They altered the original words and intent of Moses as written. These disciples of a more egalitarian age, inspired by the overarching themes of scripture reasoned that such a proscription should apply to all. They simply revised the commandment."

Jesus: "But isn’t the word ‘revisionism’ a pejorative?

God the father: "Of course not. After your crucifixion one of the biblical authors revised the Old Testament opinion of the effectiveness of animal sacrifice. When bringing the gospel to the gentiles a New Testament writer said that to be a Jew it was only necessary to be circumcised in your heart.

How many Christian businessmen would their have been in the late 20th century if the church had not revised its proscription on the lending of money for interest? I could go on and on."

Jesus: "Was Paul culture bound in his attitudes concerning women and gays?"

God the father: "Yes!"


You say, "It seems he is a Griswold clone - two post-modernist minds bent on destroying their respective churches for a morally bankrupt sexual behavior. Carnley has been 'flirting' with the idea of re-examining homosexuality. He is quoted as saying; "There is no clear biblical teaching about behavior that might be explicitly appropriate to homosexually orientated persons."

More people and members of the cloth in all Christian denominations have been flirting with the idea of re-examinating homosexuality. The trend is for more and more. What is the surprise here?

Actually, I think this story scattered across the books of Samuel constitutes an explicit biblical model appropriate to homosexually orientated persons:

So Jonathan and David made a solemn compact because each loved the other as dearly as himself. Jonathan pledged himself afresh to David because of his love for him, for he loved him as himself.

...the Lord stand witness between us forever to the pledges we have exchanged.

Then they kissed one another and shed tears together…

O Jonathan, laid low in death! I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; dear and delightful you were to me; your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan




XCIV - David Writes John

I never cease to be amazed at your thoroughness John. I'll try and get back to you. Truly swamped.

David


XCV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest issue of Virtuosity you quote two South Carolina bishops who cite six reasons why Edwards should rightfully be allowed to lead the parish of Christ Church, Accokeek as rector.

Permit me to comment on these:

"1. The failure to comply with the thirty-day deadline canonically supporting his position as rector."

I would agree with that.. Unfortunately she was asleep at the helm. The damage has already been done. It is counterproductive for the life and harmony of the church that the controversy continue.

"2. That the basic issue is his refusal to accept the ordination of women and your demand that he does so."

I don’t think so.

"3. That the writings and positions of Fr. Edwards are not schismatic, but illustrative of the struggle of many in the American church over basic theological issues.

Permit me to quote from Virtuosity to show that schism is a clear and present danger:

"Edwards, former executive director of the organization Forward in Faith/North America (FIF/NA), is opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. He has written editorials in the FIF/NA magazine, calling the Episcopal church 'The Unchurch," and urging clergy and congregations to "sever their connections" with ECUSA."

Perhaps these two bishops are unaware of this. You could send the information to them.

"4. That there are bishops and dioceses both in the past and in the present who have found ways to make these relationships work and not be divisive.

If there are bishops and dioceses both in the past and in the present who have found ways to make these relationships work and not be divisive then are at least these two bishops suggesting that ‘alternate oversightis in reality not needed?

"5. That the Primates of the communion and the Lambeth Conference have asked that we find ways to include theological positions on the ordination of women issue that are legitimately held throughout the Communion."

I am afraid my wisdom does not extend to this conundrum. Can we not respect private positions but not let everybody’s private position affect what we do corporately as a church.

"6. That the conflict in the Diocese of Washington is destructive of the unity of the Church both in this country and abroad."

Yes it is time to put this specific case behind us and move on as a church; the time for action has simply expired.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan




XCVI - John Writes David

David Virtue:

In your most recent version of Virtuosity you say:

"The ‘deeper truth’ is this. Accokeek is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. What is going on in ECUSA across the country, in diocese after diocese, are subtle and not so subtle attempts by revisionist bishops to sideline, scorn, deride and pour contempt on evangelical and Anglo-Catholic priests who dare to preach revealed religion, who still believe that Scripture contains all that is necessary to the 'faith once delivered,' and who will not conform to the slide into the moral and theological cesspool that ECUSA seems bent on disappearing into."

The 'faith once delivered’ is too often confused with the set of ideas inherited from ones grandfather. The church goes far, far back in time. There have been substantial changes over the centuries.

In Accokeek the ONLY real issue is the very real possibility that allowing father Edwards to function as rector will result in schism. There are conservative and traditionalists priests already functioning in that diocese. The rest seems to me to be posturing and grandstanding.

Both polarities seem to be protective of their territories, especially conservatives. As I understand it, the Forward in Faith bishops, simply reject on a pro forma basis, in advance and as a matter of conscience, any priest who has indicated the possibility that he or she will not accept the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese--without offering the priest an opportunity to clarify that position.

On the other hand, do you really think that Fr. Edwards could state to Bishop Dixon that he would accept her full canonical and spiritual jurisdiction as the ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese of Washington? Not just affirming her as "administrative leader?"

You say, "One of the suggestions at the May 15 meeting was that Dixon should accept Fr. Edwards's written promise he would not try to take the parish out of the Episcopal Church and ‘back off’ from her rejection of the call." "If nothing else, he has a three-year contract. He has assured her in writing he has not come there to take the parish out of the Episcopal Church," says Iker.

That would seem a reasonable compromise if the loop holes can be avoided but Edward’s will not assert what he would do should the parish decide to bolt. He may not have come there "to take the parish out of the Episcopal Church," but can you imagine what effects the leadership of a former leader of Forward In Faith, with a published record of exhortation to schism, might have on the vestry and parish?

You also say, "These same revisionist bishops are men and women who say that Jesus is not the only way to the Father, and salvation in Christ alone is not necessary or sufficient for eternal life. In several instances they have passed diocesan resolutions to that effect."

Good for them! They share some of the Pope’s better opinions:

Pope John Paul II, the titular head representative of Christianity, received surprisingly little notice when he spoke against the notion, central to much of Protestant thinking and most of Catholic history, of salvation exclusively through Christ, when he stated his opinion in December of 2000:

"The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes--the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life--will enter God's kingdom," regardless of whether they profess Christ. While there are passages in holy writ that could be construed otherwise, I agree with him on this issue. He seemed to agree with Peter:

In Acts 10:34-35 we read: "And Peter opened his mouth and said: 'Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'"

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


XCVII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In his pastoral letter to the clergy in his diocese, Bishop Iker said:

"If we are one Church, then the standards for serving in one diocese should be the same in all dioceses. As a priest in good standing in the Episcopal Church and in this diocese, Fr. Sam Edwards has the right to accept a call to a parish in any diocese of this Church".

When he says "the standards for serving in one diocese should be the same in all dioceses" is he not arguing for the full inclusion of women priests in the life of his diocese?

Perhaps under the principle that "the standards for serving in one diocese should be the same in all dioceses" he means that the resolution overwhelmingly approved by the mind of the Episcopal church at her general convention and excerpted here should be evenly applied in all dioceses:

"….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…."

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


XCVIII - David Writes John

Dear John,

I believe Iker meant doctrinal not pastoral, but it might be worth exploring further. Good point though. | am at an EFAC conf. in Pittsburgh so don't have a lot of time to answer all e-mails.

Thanks for yours.

Hope your health is holding up

Blessings,

David


XCIX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

So far, in the battle for the mind of the church, traditionalist tactics have been:

  1. to whine to foreign bishops

  2. to disrupt congregations and to subvert churches

  3. to demand separate jurisdiction

  4. to refuse usual and customary visitations by their bishops

  5. to self abrogate hundreds of years of jurisdictional geographical rules

Christ Church in Alabama is an example of subversion. According to Virtuosity, the rector was called in 1994. One of the lawyers in the case stated: "The evidence will show that, within two years of arriving at Christ Episcopal Church, Smith began researching how he and his allies in the congregation could leave the Episcopal Church and take the property of the church with them,"

"Yet his (Smith's) sworn testimony is that, as of the day of the vote, Oct. 1, 2000, he did now know whether he was leaving the Episcopal Church," I read in Virtuosity.

The case of Christ Church in Accokeek seems similar:

A group who controlled the vestry, called as their rector the very visible head of Forward in Faith/ North America who had a written record of encouraging schism. Earlier, parts of the congregation left for other quieter Episcopal congregations. Some now refuse to take communion from the newly appointed rector.

The rector said that if the church bolts the denomination he would be with them but he presently has no intention to leave. Does that sound familiar? Will it fool anyone who was not born yesterday? Will someone who is willing to call the Episcopal church the "Unchurch" and encourage others to leave restrain himself in the pulpit? Need we guess in what direction the congregation might be led? Would any ECUSA loyal bishop want such theater in her diocese?

Yes, I understand these people are uncomfortable when those at the communion rail do not share every particularity of their belief. That is unfortunate. But their fellow Episcopalians have every right to be there. Their fellow Episcopalians honor due process. In any endeavor, in any field of human activity, where people use their minds change is inevitable.

In advancing their cases the gays were everywhere lawful – they were willing to let their petitions stand scrutiny. They opened their hearts to the mind of the church and yielded themselves to her discretion. They remained in their church, just as they had over the ages when their views were in great disfavor. They didn't threaten to pack their bags if they couldn't have their way.

I am all for reconciliation but I have yet to see a list of concrete demands or a specific set of grievances. Is there a bishop who wont let traditionalists celebrate holy communion or baptize? Is some Rite in the Book of Common Prayer forbidden them?

I am afraid that the simple fact that one does not like ones boss is not a good enough reason to complain.

When they have thrown off the polity that they find inconvenient, will we recognize these new Episcopalian clones? Virtuosity reports that "Under Smith, services became much longer, more emotional, and less recognizably Episcopalian. Those services - and the socially conservative ministry that preached against the evils of homosexuality - attracted hundreds of new members, many of whom came from denominations other than the Episcopal Church."

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


C - John Writes David

David Virtue, On your homepage I read the following, "Virtuosity exists to keep people informed about the worldwide Anglican Communion."

I would assume that the letter of the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 18th and the two by the presiding bishop on the 19th would be matters of interest to the worldwide Anglican Communion. I assume I will find them in the next issue of Virtuosity.

In this context Bishop Griswold states in one of his letters, "At Kanuga we agreed about the importance of sustained pastoral care. This is for me a continuing concern and commitment. I can report that very few congregations have asked for episcopal ministry other than that of their own bishop. In several of our dioceses bishops have provided for some form of extended episcopal ministry drawing upon assistance from other bishops whose views are more in accord with the perspectives of certain congregations. In two of our one hundred domestic dioceses there has been tension between the bishop, and one or more congregations in which the bishop has indicated a willingness to welcome bishops from outside the diocese, as long as the congregations in question allow the bishop of the diocese to visit the congregations on some other occasion in order to ensure that the bond between the diocese and the congregation is maintained."

He also says, "In the spirit of our pastoral letter, I have been working with particular bishops and more broadly with my Council of Advice, made up of bishops elected by the nine geographic provinces, to explore and to ensure that episcopal ministry is exercised with care and concern for all the baptized, regardless of their particular points of view."

Apparently reasonable grievances have been addressed.

Also the presiding bishop recognizes that in Ackokeek the real issue is not one of prohibiting a traditionalist from functioning in the diocese but the clear and present danger of schism demonstrated in Father Edwards previously published work and his refusal to give assurances to the contrary. Or in the presiding bishops words:

"Most recently attention has been focused upon one congregation in the Diocese of Washington which has called as its rector a priest opposed to the ordination of women. The bishop of the Diocese pro tempore is a woman. Certain groups have described this as an issue of gender, but the bishop, who maintains positive relations with other priests within the diocese who do not accept the ordination of women, has made it clear that the issue is not the ordination of women but the priest's previously stated public declarations about the Episcopal Church. Taken at face value his statements appear to encourage schism."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, probably more sympathetic with his adversaries on most of the divisive issues, was outraged at the scheduled schismatic ordinations when he said:

"The step you are now proposing to take compounds the problem created then. As bishops and primates in our Communion, you are yourselves men under authority. You may act lawfully only within the authority which is given to you. I gave no authority to the Province of South East Asia in 1996, to consecrate bishops for service elsewhere in the world; neither has the Province of Rwanda any authority over Anglicans outside its own Province. You have never given me any satisfactory answer to the question of the authority by which you claim to act. How am I to regard those who act without lawful authority?"

"What you propose to do is in blatant disregard of our Anglican ecclesiology. Even as primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion, I would not regard myself as having power to intervene in the way you are trying to do, in Provinces in which I have no lawful authority. It takes only a moment's reflection to imagine your reaction if I, or any of the other Primates of our Communion, were to presume to intervene in either of your two Provinces."

"Consider what confusion it would bring and what a scandal to our communion!"

David, two can play that game. I would assume a large infusion of American money could set up opposing Episcopates in these African Asian Countries. Would they respect others meddling in their jurisdictions?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

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