CI - David Writes John
you will indeed
CII - John Writes David
True to your word, the latest issue of Virtuosity led off with the letters of the Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury, outlining their exasperation with the latest schism occurring in the body of Christ.
According to the recently published World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Study of Churches and Religions in the Modern World, edited by David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson, there are at present 33,820 different Christian denominations in the world.
I would guess that one tiny new denomination called AMiA making the number 33,821 wouldn't make that much difference. Nevertheless, one wonders why, if the more or less traditional interpretations handed down to some are so compelling, newer insights seem preferable to so many.
Again as my page Gospel Comparison Chart shows even the evangelists didn't see eye to eye on all the major issues. And there is that tug between Catholic and Protestant thought about the essential requirements for salvation, and the controversy whether religious people should be concerned with the hear and now needs of their neighbors or the pie in the sky security for themselves.
I find it curious that the God who was supposed to have given literally true answers to Paul and the apostles misled them about how soon Jesus would return to the planet.
Has it not dawned on most people that the bible is a rather complex and at times obscure and contradictory book, and that there is no feedback - no one returns from the grave to tell humankind that God is not outraged at the sound of Organs in church because they were not mentioned in the bible - or any other silly issue that is on occasion raised by religious folks?
Is not the collective mind of the church in her reasoning and searching a better barometer to religious insight than the capricious competing of traditionalist dissidents who are ABSOLUTELY sure that God resents female priests or detests the latest revision of the prayer book, or that gay people should be treated as pariahs.
Should I judge the ECUSA schismatics by what they believe or by what they do - by their interpretation concerning scripture or how faithfully they carry out the promises of their ordination vows?
Perhaps it just boils down to what one of my old Rectors told me,"People who can't get along with other people, cant get along with "people who cant get along with other people."
John S. Morgan
CIII - David Writes John
Oh John you make so many points, some valid, always interesting. But always require more unpacking than I have time to pursue.
There has always been a core of doctrine uncontested but worked out in the first three centuries.
Women's ordination is not central to the Faith. I have no problem with it. Sexuality is fixed and has never deviated from man/woman. Polygamy was always frowned upon.
Getting along with people is not the core of truth. Kiwanis and Rotary clubs can do as well. Truth is always at the core.
Am writing to you from Midway airport in Chicago and the final call for my plane has just been uttered.
CIV - John Writes David
Your letter and tone struck me as charming -- you said,"...you make so many points, some valid, always interesting..." You could have easily added "and some invalid." I imagine you were thinking that, but nevertheless omitted saying it. I appreciate your forbearance with my religious concerns.
I treasure your writing to me from Midway airport in Chicago when you more than likely would have preferred being curled up with a good book. My aunt is soon to celebrate her 90th birthday with a party she is throwing in Washington D. C. Paul and I will accompany her to Washington from Fort Worth near the middle of October on AMTRAK. We will change trains in Chicago.
I have noticed in our exchanges some similarities come across. We both believe in absolute truth; we don't necessarily agree in all the particulars. We put God as number one and find him appropriate of worship and awe and we both would try to be obedient to him to the extent we understand his wishes.
For me, the Bible represents the reflections of those in the western world who reached for God, reflected, and in the process discovered some answers. I am one who finds in organized religion more a structure for moral striving rather than the final repository of revealed truth. The two laws of Jesus do, however, resonate in me as eternal truths. My own temperament and the insights of theologians suggest God's presence and while I don't completely understand it I consider the Eucharistic feast beyond the mere symbolic.
Likely my scientific background makes me much like the apostle Thomas of the gospels; I expect proof and verification to back my speculations and there is precious little proof or verification in religion. It seems to me God does not intervene periodically in history to say:" You Protestants have it all wrong but you Catholics should revise these few points" or vice versa. Or with the thousands of Christian denominations God never says, "It is 'truth pack' # 347 that is closest to my way of thinking." If God chooses NOT to redirect these diverse paths why should we assume he would be bent out of shape when his salaried employees in General Convention act - making decisions as best they can?
You say,"There has always been a core of doctrine uncontested but worked out in the first three centuries."
I realize there was a core of doctrine formed in the first three centuries. [The Roman Catholics never figured how to turn the dogma machine off.] The fact that it remained uncontested was because of the tendency to toss out, on their ears, those on the short end of the debate. At a time in history when being on the wrong side of the fence often resulted in death, I am unconvinced that all evidences and considerations were fairly debated and discussed. It was Constantine's urging that brought about the hasty canonization of Biblical texts.
I am not so sure if the doctrine of the Trinity were seriously reexamined by any Christian body it would withstand close scrutiny. Don't get me wrong; I would not discard the tradition of Trinity. I understand the dogma's historical development and am comfortable with its usage. But the fact that God might have three parts, seven or seven hundred would not seem to change how Christians go about serving their neighbors, or their obligations to God as they understand him. Was it not a bit arrogant for those in charge of the great dogma machine to assert that they might know what part of the almighty proceedeth from what other part?
It bemuses be when I think of how the traditionalists are so centered on the primacy of Scripture which seems to be devoid of the doctrine of Trinity but are upset to find that a churchman might want to question it.
If we set aside the spurious material found in the last chapter of Mark, we find only two places in the whole of Scripture where all three Trinity names are found together in one verse:
In the gospels it is Matthew in the great commission who records in 28:19"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"
And in Corinthians 13:14 we find:"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.."
No definition is given is given in either of these verses. Words like "coeval" and "very God of very God" are not mentioned. No esoteric parts of the future doctrine are mentioned. Luke does not mention the Trinity. If Luke had believed in the Trinity, this omission would be strange indeed because he very frequently speaks of the Holy Spirit - thirteen times in his gospel and forty-one times in Acts. John does not say anything about the Trinity. The author John clearly believed the son to be subordinate to the father. He went on and on about the relationship between the father and son. But no mention is made of an involvement in a Trinity with the Holy Ghost. The Jews believed in the Holy Spirit but they did not consider it a person or a god. The New Testament authors, from what I can see, routinely talked about Jesus and The Father (God) as if they were simply different people.
You say,"Women's ordination is not central to the Faith. I have no problem with it."
I have no problem with the concept. But I would suggest that women's ordination IS central to the faith package of sum. The leaders of my diocese would want to assure us that Apostolic succession through a woman is impossible; women priests they say in their most generous moments are in a period of 'discernment'. [That word discernment is never used in connection with same-sex unions or gay ordinations.] This group held separate Eucharists at General Convention. They must think it a fairly core part of their faith. Is it for frivolous or core reasons that they are so willing to endanger the unity of the church to the point of separation?
That of course raises the question, "What is core faith?" Does the group of those who leave ECUSA and accept women priests have the core faith? Is it the group of those who leave ECUSA and reject women priests that have the CORE faith? If they can be wrong about one particular of the faith they can be wrong about another? You and I who are absolutists when it comes to truth must conclude that they both CANNOT be right! Again, if they can be wrong about one particular of the faith they can be wrong about another?
Yet they are willing to smugly throw off their ordination vows AS IF they had all the answers. And the devil took Jesus up to the top of the mountain and said:"I will give you the purple if you will just slap ECUSA in the face."
More Christians every day, in all sorts of Christian denominations, are reexamining the questions of gay unions and ordinations to the extent of loss of salary and pension. Why are we to believe that the mistreatment of gays is a core part of the faith?
You say,"Sexuality is fixed and has never deviated from man/woman. Polygamy was always frowned upon."
My homosexual brethren were always around even when it was the custom to burn those "faggots" at the stake - surely an unkind way to express Christian brotherly love.
Lets examine your conjecture that,"Sexuality is fixed and has never deviated from man/woman. Polygamy was always frowned upon," a little closer:
The conceptions of religion are not fixed. In addition to the redactions of scripture, meaning is, perhaps even inadvertently, changed by translation. Translation is intrinsically an act of interpretation. If a given translator, for example, were to assume that monogamy is the order of things, he might in his translations, choose different words from one who had understood polygamy to be the given of what is natural.
Perhaps that is why Gen 2.24 when originally written in polygamous times read in Hebrew,"...and they shall become one flesh," was translated into Greek eight centuries later, in more monogamous times as: "and the two shall become one flesh."
You have assumed that Genesis always implied a kind of complementarily. And perhaps for this reason you assume that gay-gay unions might be unacceptable. Again translation seems to have done a number here as well. The helper referred to as"help meet for him" in the Hebrew gets translated variously as, "helper fit for him" in the Revised Standard, or "helper suitable for him" in the NIV, implying a complementarity not found in the original.
The ancient authors of the Hebrew text might easily have welcomed Adam and Steve as well as Adam and Eve.
I hope your trip was both beneficial and enjoyable.
John S. Morgan
CV - David Writes John
Trip great. Two stories posted today more tomorrow and ensuing days.
CVI - John Writes David
You said in your most recent issue of Virtuosity,"There are rumors of presentment in the air, and it only takes three bishops to issue a presentment against these two men for the fur to fly."
"But if this happens the hypocrisy of the HOB would be revealed for all to see. If Dickson and Allison are liable for their actions then why did the bishops not move against Jack Spong whose 12 Theses must rank as the worst statement of anti-faith since the Arian controversy."
The answer to your question seems obvious to me. It is a matter of speech as compared to action. It has to do with what one does as compared to what one says. Bishop Spong offered up twelve theses that he wanted the church to consider and debate.
The two Bishops, of whom you speak, violated Cannon law in a most egregious manner by their actions. It is not unreasonable for a church which has ordained a priest or bishop and has lavished rich opportunities upon him to expect institutional loyalty - the least of which would be NOT to ordain in a manner NOT prescribed by Cannon law. If I read my prayer book correctly their are loyalty oaths given.
John S. Morgan
CVII - David Writes John
But loyalty to who, whom?
CVIII - John Writes David
I am willing to grant that loyalty to God takes precedence over organizational loyalty.
But if one bases their loyalties primarily on scripture there is no certitude in which to be secure. The biblical authors are men - humans who assert erroneous values for the mathematical relationships between the circumference and diameter of a circle, humans who like Matthew make incorrect references to the authors of scripture in passages they quote, humans who sometimes contradict their peers.
We are told by Matthew in words he ascribes to Jesus that one time Jesus thought he only came to rescue the lost sheep of Israel. The church universal has yet to agree on the essential requirement for individual salvation. But somehow these schismatics have better insight into theology than their religious peers. They see clearly where Paul sees through a glass darkly.
Building a church around "purity of doctrine" is an elusive goal. That is the usual excuse for quitting one church to found another. Gee - you would think that by now there would be one group out there who got it right. Can they not find a group who is pure in doctrine? Why not join it? AMiA will tell us in two years if women are to be accepted as priests yet the core value of some of our purists tell us that women being priested is impossible. Will the REALLY pure of doctrine stand up?
The Reverend Dr. Mark Harris says in his essay, When the Vagrants become Vigilant: The Anglican Mission in America and Lawlessness,"These newly ordered persons are deputized as vigilantes. They will run through the streets seeking out creeping heterodoxy, biblical study that does not conform to a particular biblical standard, or moral stances deemed biblically incorrect. They will be cajoling the confused or battered to a purer view of the faith. They will be as 1st Peter suggests, prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. (1 Pet 5:8)"
They will seek to destroy a great denomination by sacking her churches. Sounds more to me like vengeance than religion. But they are mistaken in mission, as Rev. Harris says:
" …AMiA is mistaken in its mission, The Episcopal Church is not, or ought not be, about purity, but about doing love and justice both."
Purity of doctrine is illusive; the Episcopal church has always tried to understand the will of God, seeking through scripture, tradition and reason, and scholarship in the full and open fellowship of her peers. At the urging of Jesus the church asks us to see him in our neighbor and to serve the poor and needy.
Rev Harris’s essay can be found on Dr. Crews "Joy Anyway" page at: http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/joy.html If this link works it is quicker: Joy Anyway.
His essay is a great read.
John S. Morgan
CIX - John Writes David
Permit me to introduce a very informative an insightful article entitled "Homosexuals in The Church" by Nathaniel Brown with this teaser:
"I want to ask you to consider the idea of selectivity: if we happily ignore injunctions against usury, working on the Sabbath (which is Saturday, after all, so one might say that we are doubly sinning!), against planting mixed crops and eating shellfish, and if we dismiss laws which require us to stone disobedient children, and witches, and women caught in adultery – it begins to look very much as if we are picking and choosing – the difference being that we are doing so not for cultural or personal reasons, but because we have thought and grown into choosing what we believe to be a truer path of love and a deeper godliness – a more truly Christ-like path in which our compass is the two simple commands to love God and to love eachother. In other words, we have learned to test our moral judgements by whether they wrongful or not, by whether they lead to justice and charity. It is time we applied the same lesson to our judgment of homosexuality."
His thesis sounds a lot like Jesus when he indicated that the intent of the law and prophets was to aid us in fulfilling the law to love God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves.
Mr Brown begins his article in this maner:
"I’d like to do that by dividing this discussion up into three parts. In the first, I will present to you some notions of what it is like to be a gay person in 2001. In the second part, I want to offer some ways of engaging scripture around the issue of homosexuality. And in the third, I want to open the discussion up more to where we might go from here, as Christians who are members of the Episcopal Church."
Anyone who wants to understand how it feels to be gay in our times, should read Mr. Brown's Essay. It is often insightful to be able to see the world walking in someone elses shoes.
His full article can be found at: Joy Anyway.
John S. Morgan
CX - John Writes David
In your latest Virtuosity you say:"Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, the ultra-liberal Spong/Holloway clone came out apologizing to gay and lesbian Anglicans for how slowly the church is moving on deciding how to minister to them. The apology came during a General Synod presentation on sexuality, particularly on how to give pastoral care to gays and lesbians.
The apology came as a surprise to the entire Canadian church as he had twice lost a clear substantial majority to broker in the blessing of same sex unions in his New Westminster, Diocese. It was seen as a sop to the homosexuals whom they felt has let them down twice."
True David! He did not win a substantial majority of the votes"to broker in the blessing of same sex unions in his New Westminster, Diocese." But he did win by 54% in 1998 and by a vote of 56.5% now. [I say "He won." More correctly, his synod voted in the affirmative. In reality the church has won.]
He has withheld brokering in"the blessing of same sex unions in his New Westminster, Diocese" in deference to the Traditionalists in spite of the authority for him to do so. But will he be applauded by that community? [Remember it is their supposed gain at the very real expense for justice and fair treatment for others.]
As the good Bishop says:
"Now, a month ago, just a few weeks ago, the same resolution came back to our diocesan synod, and this time it passed by 226 votes to 174, a majority of 52 votes, up from 9 votes in 1998. Again I withheld my consent with some reluctance, but out of a pastoral concern now for people who found themselves as a new minority in our diocese, people who had not thought of themselves in that way, those of a 'traditional conscience' both within the church in our diocese and in the wider church who felt themselves out of step with this potential development.
In some ways, the question in our Diocese has now changed. We began by asking ourselves 'What is the place of gay and lesbian people in the church?' I think the question we are now asking ourselves is 'What is the place of people with a traditional conscience in our church? How do we express pastoral care to them?' and "How do we extend appropriate pastoral care to those persons who are gay and lesbian and who are asking for their life-long permanent and committed relationships to be blessed by the church as they are blessed by God."
The good bishop decided to withold the clear authorization of his diocese to give some adjustment room to'people with a traditional conscience in the church?' He wonders how we express pastoral care to them?
The apology was mainly to the gay community. In effect the bishop said: The majority of the synod has voted twice that we give full inclusion to the gays among us but I am going to withhold the authorization of same sex blessings because the idea offends the religious sensibilities of heterosexual traditionalists who have enjoyed marriage blessings from time immemorial. They understand the mind of the church has changed on this issue as it has she has on many others. But some are slow to change.
After all, David, nobody ever required the heterosexual male to tie his privy member in a knot and never use it during his whole lifetime; that is only a requirement that the traditionalists impose on homosexuals. That is only an expectation that they reserve for others. How enlightning it would be if the heterosexual male would [could?] abstain from sexuality just during Lent.
The homosexual has suffered a virulent wrath in the church because he doesn't fit in the traditional theology - how could God create a creature full of hormones and require that he never use them? In my youth Christian charity dictated that such things be pushed under the carpet. Not only didn't gays fit, they didn't exist.
John S. Morgan
CXI - David Writes John
He said he didn't get a clear mandate, no on else.
CXII - John Writes David
In the most recent issue of Virtuosity you say:
"I believe in Hell, whether it is fire and brimstone or total and final separation from God I know not, but I know it exists, and it won't be just the Hitler's and Stalin's that will be there...."
David, surely you made a mistake here. Some of our Orthodox brethren would hold that Hitler is in heaven. [If they take their doctrine seriously.] I believe the doctrine would also apply to Stalin.
DO WE JUST LET ANYBODY IN?
Jesus: Adolph Hitler would you please pass the Roast Pheasant?
The Holy Ghost: Father would you please remind me of how he got in here.
God the Father: Because of the "Westminster Confession."
The Holy Ghost: What do you mean by that?
God the father: "..they can never fall from the state of justification.."
Jesus: Remember little Adolph was the model Roman Catholic when he was a kid - altar boy and all - he had faith - an evidence of his eternal justification.
The Holy Ghost: So a doctrine sent him up here?
Jesus: You got it.
The Holy Ghost: May I be excused from the table?
John S. Morgan
CXIII - John Writes David
You say the following in your most recent issue of Virtuosity:
"African Bishops Assail Condom Use in AIDS Fight They Cite Dangers, Saying It Undercuts Self-Control"
"JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, JULY 30, 2001 (Zenit) Catholic bishops from southern Africa reaffirmed their opposition to the use of condoms to fight the AIDS pandemic, saying it was immoral and dangerous, Reuters reported."
"The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference ended a seven-day meeting by denouncing the use of condoms, which they said led to moral decay and encouraged casual sex."
As a mackerel snapper in my youth, the Roman Catholic Church made it very clear to me that the use of a condom was a far greater evil than having sex outside of marriage.
In other words: Don't have sex outside of marriage BUT IF YOU DO don't use a condom. Is this crazy?
Sure it is! Dogma got frozen at a time before condoms and the pill, when having sex was inseparable from the possible risk of procreating children.
That is how Roman Catholic unmarried girls get pregnant. They reason:"If I carry a condom, I am a slut. But if I just happen to have sex in a moment of passion, I can still be a good Catholic girl." The result of all this is unmarried motherhood adding to the burdens of an overpopulated planet.
Would a person who values the personhood of humans and their neighbor [like Jesus] tell those who intend to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage to be sure NOT to use a condom? Of course not!
He might have said:"One carries health insurance not because one wants to get sick but as a protection when one gets sick. I recommend that you do not have heterosexual relations outside of marriage but considering the awesome power of passion and temptation you would be foolish not to carry condoms on your person."
Since I am not blinded by dogma let me state this clearly. Bringing an unwanted child into this world is a FAR, FAR, FAR greater evil than the use of a condom outside of matrimony. If the use of condoms helps prevent the spread of AIDS then those engaging in sex outside of matrimony SHOULD use them.
When the young people in the USA see such foolishness, is it any wonder that they want to distance themselves from religion?
David, you did not quote the bishops saying anything about female genital cutting as a major reason for the heterosexual spreading of AIDS in Africa. Was this too hot a topic for the bishops to handle?
Perhaps Virtuosity will report on the relationship between the practice of female genital cutting and the spreading of AIDS.
In Virtuosity you state:
"I believe in Hell, whether it is fire and brimstone or total and final separation from God I know not, but I know it exists..."
David, do they have a hot spot there for those who advocate the forced overpopulation of our planet?
John S. Morgan
CXIV - David Writes John
A couple of things.
Genital mutilation, something I know a bit about because I have written a book about what happens in Egypt is not connected to AIDS. It is a vile practice which Christians are trying to stop.
On all your other points only one rule exists. Sex ONLY within heterosexual marriage. Anything else is sin pure and simple condoms is a pragmatic solution and often unworkable.
CXV - John Writes David
Thanks for responding; I did a quick Internet search on female genital manipulation and AIDS and came up with nothing. I assume that you must be right. I am glad Christians are trying to stop the vile practice.
On your second issue you say,"Anything else is sin pure and simple..."
I think the issue is one of VALUE.
Stated simply, given that one intends to have sexual relations without benefit of holy matrimony, which is the greater evil:
Remember dogma does not spring out of whole cloth. These things are formulated from theological issues, current cultural understandings, political correctness, and other factors. And sometimes bad science. One who thought that egg and sperm were carriers of entities that when combined would form a final blueprint or template for a possible child would likely create different SEXUAL DOGMA than one who thought that babies were to be found fully formed but small in male sperm. Unfortunately, sexual dogmas were cast in stone at earlier times.
In earlier times, the semen was thought to be composed of fully formed babies albeit tiny. Thomas Aquinas apparently used birds in his modeling of family behaviors.
Jesus had strong opinions on marriage; And in his day women were the virtual property of the husband. He did not comment on practices of his time such as having sex with ones slaves. Was he concerned with the contractual or the fun part of sexuality? He DID suggest [in Matthew] that ANY kind of sexual impropriety was a suitable basis for divorce.
The idea that illicit sexual pleasure should transcend all other evils does not make any sense to me.
The idea that one should forego condoms for religious reasons yet concomitantly transmit AIDS to another human is beyond any RATIONAL understanding. That one's God might have such a view seems to me WARPED.
As Jesus once said,"Man was not made for the Sabbath; The Sabbath was made for man."
God the father:You say that you had sexual relations without benefit of holy matrimony?
Jesus:Go stand in that corner young lady and wipe that smile off your face.
God the father:You say as an uneducated, unmarried teenager, with no visible means of support that you brought an infant into the world?
Jesus:Go directly to hell [for a good long while], do not pass go do not collect $200.
The Holy Spirit:Jesus, as I recall, Matthew quotes you saying your followers will be judged according to how they cared for the poor and the needy. His last judgment story says nothing about sex illicit or otherwise.
Bringing an unwanted child into this world is a FAR, FAR, FAR greater evil than the use of a condom outside of matrimony. If the use of condoms helps prevent the spread of AIDS then those engaging in sex outside of matrimony SHOULD use them.
John S. Morgan
CXVI - John Writes David
In the latest issue of Virtuosity, you said:
"Heaven forbid that we should discuss the medical, clinical and scientific facts about homosexual behavior. If we did my brother- in-law might be alive today."
In that same issue you say,"African Roman Catholic bishops recently condemned the use of condoms and argued strictly for sex within marriage. That position is also sustained by the vast majority of African Anglican bishops as well."
In the U.S. the use of condoms has been of great use in preventing the spread of AIDS.
In that same issue of Virtuosity you said,"In Africa most of the sufferers are women and children who might truly be described as victims. It all comes back to the male appendage. The child gets it from the mother who gets it from her husband who gets it from a prostitute."
You surely got that one right! The male human is not going to stop having sex with his wife. There is precious little else for him to do in the way of recreation. The wife is likely treated like property. Condoms could go a long way to protect the wife and possible children; they could go a long way in controlling the vast overpopulation of that area. Their use could ameliorate some of the horrendous damage that widespread human breeding is doing to the planet.
In addition to the information given out by health authorities we have the misinformation given out by the bishops. It boggles the mind that the bishops have their heads so far in the sand. When one of the African men uses his head and heart to protect his wife and kids he is rewarded by a guilt trip by his bishop.
But religion has no feedback; there is no one who comes back from the grave to tell us whether God approves or disapproves the use of condoms just like there is no one who returns to tell us if God approves of Organ music in church or disapproves as some Christian prelates have assured us. I doubt that God approves of the destruction of the planet by overpopulation.
Since there is a vast disagreement in the churches over the use of condoms why not error on the kind and humane side?
Abstinence is a myth that we might get a relatively few teenagers to buy into. The percentages of Adults practicing abstinence is negligibly small. As the spread of AIDS in the millions indicates, monogamy is not well observed by the heterosexual male in Africa.
Of course, the use of prostitutes could be discouraged. In the USA the typical man who visits a prostitute is a married heterosexual who can't get oral sex from his wife. Perhaps the bishops have some advice for the married woman that might obviate that problem and make prostitution rare? Heaven forbid that we should discuss the medical, clinical and scientific facts about Heterosexual behavior...
David, If your brother-in-law was a sexually active gay male he might be alive today if he had used condoms. I'll bet he lived at a time when the gay community was unaware of this danger.
John S. Morgan
CXVII - John Writes David
I am informed that under the ministrations of the retired Bishop of Washington about 70 Accokeek church members worship these days on Sunday. While at Christ Church, under the auspices of Sam Edwards only 20-25 parishioners worship, accompanied by a dozen or so visitors.
I understand the concept of Alternate Episcopal Oversight. I thought however the concept applied to churches not small disgruntled factions within churches.
If you have not heard the other side of the well publicized Accokeek story, you might want to read the letter by their senior Warden.
She makes these points:
The reverend Sam Edwards, has spent only a small portion of his career in parish level service. When he came to Saint Timothy's church in Fort Worth he came as rector; he left as Vicar. His selection by the Ackokeek vestry makes me think that they had confrontational church politics foremost in their minds when they hired him.
John S. Morgan
CXVIII - David Writes John
Those figures are totally inaccurate, John. I ran a story on the true figures based on an outside auditor John. What you are getting is the liberal spin. The other group are mainly outsiders trucked in with only 22 former members meeting in the alternative service.
CXIX - John Writes David
The former senior warden's letter said:"The great majority of the Christ Church parishioner list, have not transferred their names from the rolls, and many are attending the alternate services led by Diocesan designated priests in a nearby community center."
She does say in her letter,"Typical attendance at the Sunday 9:00AM alternate service is 60..." but she does not split that group into members and observers.
I guess we will really know the position of the parish at their next vestry election. I assume that both sides in the Acckokeek conflict will be there to assure that the election conforms to the by-laws of the parish. I wonder when it will be.
John S. Morgan
CXX - John Writes David
Your one-topic recent issue of Virtuosity opens with the line:" A former novice Franciscan friar who was sexually abused by the Assistant Minister Provincial in the 'shiatsu' massage room of the friary...."
More specifically you say:"Allen, 43 was a former novice friar.....for nearly two and a half years and said a fellow Brother...... repeatedly sodomized him for almost a year - from May 1995 to May 1996."
It gets even more interesting when you say:"Allen said he had never had a homosexual relationship till he met brother.....following being raped at.....a military academy. "I was heterosexual and had girlfriends. I had been engaged in the past to be married but the relationship never worked out."
Now let's put all this in perspective:
David, the age of consent is eighteen years of age.
We have had sensational and repeated reports in newspapers recently of Roman Catholic Priests abusing altar boys. One of the reasons that men enter the Roman Priesthood or monasteries in any denomination is that they realize that heterosexuality is not an option for them. That these institutions might attract more individuals of a homosexual orientation than is seen in the general population should surprise no one.
If an adult man repeatedly engages in homosexual sex with another male adult for a year, most people would call that a "homosexual relationship." You got that right!
The incident was NOT reported at the time. [Oh brother! I would turn you in but it FEELS so good! Maybe in June or July or August or April or May or.....]
You say:"When Allen reported the non-consensual sex to the Superior of the order....in the first week of December 1996 he was tossed out of the order with $450.00"
David, what do you imagine happened during the seven month interval between May 1966 and December 1966? There was no reported contact during this period. Did they have a lovers quarrel? Did his lover lose interest engendering jealousy?
And here is the punch line:"Allen later received an out of court settlement for the sexual exploitation from the Episcopal Church."
There is also no surprise that someone might smell MONEY in this soap opera.
There is no surprise that the church might want to keep the incident quiet.
John S. Morgan
CXXI - John Writes David
Your latest Virtuosity opens a "memorial" with this line:"Jim Allen just wanted to serve His Lord and serve people through the only instrument of faith and hope he had ever known - The Episcopal Church USA."
This person was not a young man. He died very recently at age 43. Virtuosity says he"was a former novice friar.....for nearly two and a half years and said a fellow Brother...... repeatedly sodomized him for almost a year - from May 1995 to May 1996."
He must then have been around 37 when he had this year long homosexual experience. And around 34 to 35 or so when he entered the monastery. You had mentioned in your previous (one item issue) issue of Virtuosity that he had been raped at a military academy. You did not tell us his age at the Academy but I assume he must have been in his late teens or early twenties.
You also said in your most recent issue,"He had gone to several Episcopal monastic communities, but each one had a marked taste for homosexual behavior that he eschewed." And that his family "… lived and breathed the Prayer Book and liturgy of America's oldest Protestant denomination. Many of them were clergy."
Grounded in such a religious heritage and having had the personal experience of rape and having carefully and deliberately looked for a monastic community with no homosexual leanings, it seems VERY unusual that when his first temptation came around age 35 that he simply could not have said NO! The fact that he continued with this relationship for a year and then reported it after about a six month delay suggests that he might have been homosexual to some extent.
It is clear that he appeared to be a very troubled man and I would suspect his troubles with depression and his pills went back to long before he joined the monastery. Do you have information on this which could be shared with us?
You say,"What makes all this worse is the truth that Jim was straight, he was not gay, and this compounded the abuse he felt. He always seemed to be suffering. Now he is dead. His death is yet one more reason to state why the pansexual agenda of ECUSA is a non-starter and will ultimately fail. Evil and sin is always defeated."
I can understand his claim that he was straight, that he was not gay. On the other hand he engaged in homosexual activity for a year. Such cognitive dissonance would surely lead to distress. [Gee - I am not really NOT sinning because he is forcing me to do this (so to speak) - and I must admit it sure feels good!]
Yes David, as you say,"He always seemed to be suffering." I am sorry for this man who, from what you say between the lines, seemed to have had his life ruined over his conflict with homosexuality.
Your spin is that,"His death is yet one more reason to state why the pansexual agenda of ECUSA is a non-starter and will ultimately fail." And I suspect that this agenda is your chief concern with him.
I suggest that he may not have had conflicts between a faulty world view and his biological yearnings, had the church at an earlier age developed a more rational and humane understanding of homosexuality - the kind of insight that today is permeating all disciplines and areas of human life within the church as well as without.
The phrase"pansexual agenda," puzzles me. I followed closely the followings at the churches’ most recent general convention, and while they wanted to offer support to lifelong committed couples who for one reason or another could not marry, I found no support listed for other than monogamous practices.
What ever became of Allen’s book?
John S. Morgan
CXXII - David Writes John
James was raped in military academy between the ages of 8 and 12.
He entered the novitiate taking a vow of "obedience." He was lead to believe this was normal practice, then saw the error of it all and tried to get out. For that he paid the ultimate price.
He was never tempted. He was mindf----d, abused and tossed out. For that the SSF should be closed down.
There is not one good thing ever to come out of sodomy. Not one. It is a behavior of sin and death.
PS. The book idea died. I doubt it will ever get published. probably no one would believe how bad it all was.
CXXIII - John Writes David
Thank you ever so much for getting back with me on this issue.
If as you say,"There is not one good thing ever to come out of sodomy. Not one. It is a behavior of sin and death," then why did James after the experience of rape at an early age submit to what he obviously thought to be a great evil. You said that he carefully chose a monastery where he thought the brothers would have no gay overtones.
Again, we are not talking about a child. We are talking about a middle aged man, who had experience with an act he abhorred. His whole upbringing had convinced him that gay sex was wrong. He ascertained to his satisfaction that the institution he was about to join was free of this inclination, and when he was tempted he failed the test not ONCE but over and over. He then waited six months before he ratted on his brother.
You say:"He was lead to believe this was normal practice, then saw the error of it all and tried to get out. For that he paid the ultimate price." "James, your parents may have told you that sodomy was a moral evil; your church may have told you that sodomy was a moral evil; some of the clerics in your family may have told you sodomy was a moral evil. As a 37 year old what do you think? I understand that you were careful to avoid a monestary interested in sodomy based perhaps on your experience with rape when you were 8 to 12 years of age. Well now that you are here, let me tell you that sodomy is routine or "normal practice." Besides it is fun. If you have moral qualms just remember that you promised to be obedient -- you can tell them at the Pearly Gate that we brought up the matter of obedience and after all what was a poor 37 year old male to do?
I will admit that a forceful intimidation to sex by a superior in a monastery closely parallels a quid pro quo sexual advance in the workplace deemed to be sexual abuse. His superior may have violated his vows AND taken unethical advantage of a subordinate BUT the case as you describe it clearly shows that James made a free will decision to do what he thought was morally wrong. Not once but over and over.
David, you give me the impression that you think all homosexuals favor sodomy. It has been my understanding that the interests of gay men are quite catholic. Some never go beyond mutual masturbation; others are only interested in oral sex. Different strokes for different strokes. [It appears it was ONLY sodomy that was proscribed in genesis. It is hard to tell WHAT act offended Paul.]You said, "He was mindf----d, abused and tossed out. For that the SSF should be closed down."
I would agree that, from what you report, that there was abuse of monastic expectations. None the less we were dealing with a middle aged man, experienced with a behavior he abhorred, who repeatedly indulged in what he considered sinful behavior. The fact that he owed his superiors obedience did not obviate his responsibilities to what he considered moral.
If I were the superior that he had finally appealed to, I would have been reluctant to accept his allegations. He had been, by self admission, engaging in conduct proscribed by the monastery repeatedly for a year and then waited six months to make an accusation. I would have suggested an incompatibility with the monastery rules and have given him a reasonable severance. A single misjudgment by a monastery official does not ordinarily suggest that it be closed.
You said:"PS. The book idea died. I doubt it will ever get published. probably no one would believe how bad it all was."
Bad it may have been to this troubled and conflicted individual.
In closing, I repeat your conjecture:"There is not one good thing ever to come out of sodomy. Not one. It is a behavior of sin and death."
Sodomy, a singular kind of sexual expression, is not limited to the homosexual population -- it is not an uncommon heterosexual recreation.
David, perhaps we all should be more concerned with the concept of love itself which sometimes crosses the boundary of gender than with mere acts of sexual expression.
In an overwhelming number of ways the values of long term committed heterosexuals and homosexuals are similar. These values champion monogamy and provide a safe harbor for the rearing of children. They create spiritual ties of extended family. They best can be described as family values.
John S. Morgan
CXXIV - John Writes David
Again, in your latest issue of Virtuosity I see the following:"Or take another sexual standard. A novice friar is seduced into homosexual behavior while taking vows of 'poverty, chastity and obedience' and when he complains he gets tossed out and told to fend for himself."
In your latest issue you also say,"As things now stand if a homosexual priest wishes to change partners he has only to inform the bishop by letter of his changed status and everything carries on as normal."
David, you can’t have it both ways. The priest would find it easy to change partners BECAUSE there was no marriage. Heterosexuals who do not marry also find it easy to change partners. Marriage is all about stability, monogamy, intended life-long commitment, family values. Are you arguing that you want these values for the homosexual community?
You say,"Of course the two homosexuals were not married to begin with, they were just living in sin…"
Apparently you are saying that they are living in sin BECAUSE they were not married. Are you saying that you wish they had been fortunate enough to be in an ECUSA parish that engages in Holy Unions?
You also say,"If a heterosexual priest divorces or is divorced by his wife for, say adultery, the bishop, usually a liberal will come down on him like a ton of bricks."
[Yes...those nasty liberal bishops want to take Jesus seriously.]
This may be because while Jesus had nothing to say about gays, he did comment on heterosexual marriage, saying in a number of places that he did not approve of divorce. Ironically when tinged with any sort of sexual impropriety, Matthew, disagreeing with the other authors, records Jesus as permitting divorce.
David, in the Old Testament, we find a clear passage where Jehovah was said to disapprove of men lying with men. Jehovah was also said to have given all the strange dietary rules inclusive of not eating pig and shellfish. He was clearly recorded as having forbidden the mixing of seeds in gardening and the mixing of threads while making cloth. The practice of circumcision was attributed to him.
Nobody today thinks the everlasting unchanging God ever mandated that one should not mix cloths when making a garment. Oh they might say they do. But in practice they do not! If God really expressed an abhorrence for mixed threads, why would the modern Christian show up in church on Sunday morning wearing a cotton-polyester shirt. Do you show your love for your best friend by doing what he abhors in his home? Of course not; today's Christian thinks God said no such thing about mixing threads.
This is important. Let me say it another way. God once was recorded as telling man not to make garments using two different kind of threads. Anyone who claims to have a relationship or even love God would not want to visit his home doing what he detests such as wearing a shirt woven from mixed threads! His showing up in church dressed in a cotton polyester shirt would indicate that he never believed God forbade the practice and hence the Old Testament was in error on this item.
In the old testament the injunction against homosexual activity is found among the mixing of threads verses; the not touching pigskin verses; the not eating shellfish verses. This too came from God??? The homophobic and chauvinistic culture had no influence on these authors???
Moses, or the patriarchs likely wanted to bolster their admonitions by asserting divine authority -- asserting a very primitive kind of taboo morality, marking as it does certain innocuous animals and actions as unclean and others as clean. If God did not forbid mixing of threads then he may not have forbidden men lying with men.
The early Christians divested themselves of most of the remnants of this code. Jesus, himself, was suspicious of this kind of morality when he admitted that circumcision came from Moses rather than God. And then he quickly addednay not even Moses but the patriarchs.
The other supposed proscription of homosexual behavior in the Old Testament comes from the story of Sodom, which on a more careful analysis and reading is seen to be a moral lesson on hospitality. If it suggests anything about gay behavior it is that homosexual rape is evil.
In the New Testament, Jesus had nothing to say about gay people. In the New Testament, we find the antigay verses outlined largely as conjectures of Paul with his theories that such behaviors arise from idol worship or are unnatural. No friend of mine ever worshipped an idol. [I don't think idol worship is prevalent in the gay community.] Science has shown that homosexuality is not infrequent in the animal kingdom if we are not intimidated not to look. Are all these animals doing something against nature?
Why are we letting the chauvinistic milieu of the Old Testament and the conjectures of Paul in the New Testament drive our sexual ethic for gay people?
David, Sodomy should not enter the picture. It is a singular kind of interest, attractive of both the heterosexual and homosexual.
But David, you say,"Two thousand years of church teaching, based solely on Scripture, has now been effectively washed down the toilet bowl of history by The Episcopal Church USA."
Revision of church teaching and scripture is not something new that happens in the 21st century.
Right from the beginning revisionism set in concerning the scriptures.
In what we refer to as the ten commandments we find:
Deuteronomy 5 verse 8"You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them."
The line,"You shall not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;..." would be OK for a very primitive society. But starts to give problems when a society wants to engrave coinage or have art.
Since it became inconvenient, to say the least, and not wanting to admit that the ideas came from Moses, his culture and the patriarchs instead of God, instead of ignoring the command, the church engaged in a little revisionism. The Eastern church decided graven images were OK if they were flat and hence icons were OK. The Western church decided that the injunction must apply only to God the father; hence birds were OK for the Holy Ghost.
They all knew what they needed to do - they were between a rock and a hard place - they somehow had to tone down that idea that"any likeness of anything that is in heaven above" could not be produced. There goes painting, photography, sculpture, stained glass with saints, coinage, television, computer monitors. In England there was much destruction of statuary and stained glass when some Christians reread these scriptures and started to take them literally as written. [and deified scripture -- dare I say IDOLized scripture]
Why not just admit that everything in scripture was not cast in stone [pun intended] by GOD.
In your latest release of Virtuosity I also find:"No new bishop elected to the HOB will be given consents if he does not approve of women's ordination."
That seems to me to be quite reasonable. There is less than a handful of holdouts at present. It is the direction that the church seems to be going. [About half of the population is female.] By putting a moratorium on new bishops who would not approve of female ordination we would eventually obviate the problem of women functioning in a priestly roll in all ECUSA Dioceses. Scripture has no unambiguous arguments prohibiting women priests. The period of discernment seems to be over – women priests seem to have been well received.
You continue,"That is the end of the Dioceses of Quincy, Ft. Worth and San Joaquin, once their present bishops retire."
No David! That is NOT the end of the Dioceses of Quincy, Ft. Worth and San Joaquin, once their present bishops retire.
I happen to live in the Diocese of Fort Worth, arguably one of the most traditionalist and Anglo-Catholic dioceses in Christendom. Admittedly, I attend a cosmopolitan parish so I can’t speak for the rural areas, but most of the communicants that I know in my parish would describe themselves as Anglo-Catholic and would rather favor women priests. After all, one would not expect a reversal in overall attitudes of the typical Episcopalian as one crosses diocesan borders. I suspect the members of my diocese on the whole would have no quarrel with the acceptance of women priests. Of course we wouldn’t all have to guess if some reputable polling organization were to conduct a poll. I personally know a lady in our parish who has a daughter who is a very successful rector in another diocese.
Our diocese will NOT end; it will thrive. There may be changes in the hierarchy, but the diocese will continue.
John S. Morgan
CXXV - John Writes David
You often criticize presiding bishop Frank Griswold’s approach to what you call pluriformity in Christendom.
But right in the gospels we see a pluriformity of views among the evangelists.
I, myself, have a greater confidence in the view of Jesus as expostulated by Mark than the other synoptic gospel authors. Mark tells, what I call, the good, the bad, and the ugly. [to borrow from an old movie title] Unlike Luke or Matthew, he doesn’t show only the noble in his accounts; then too, he writes at a time closer to when Jesus actually lived. He was more of a reporter and biographer than an advocate for a cause. His view of Jesus is more human. You might say he depicts a Jesus with warts.
In Mark’s view, Jesus may indeed have been the messiah and the son of God, but not God the son - that doctrine evolved in the church much later. Mark is not reluctant to have Jesus show strong emotion. He shows us a Jesus who sometimes fails in his endeavors and accuses his disciples as being dimwitted and dense. Jesus was portrayed as someone who expected to see a fig tree bear fruit out of season and then he got mad at the tree and cursed it when it didn’t. Mark has depicted some of the techniques in the miracles of Jesus as similar to those of other faith healers of his time. Mark’s Jesus sometimes does no mighty work because he can’t -- not because he chooses not to. Although great powers flow through him, Jesus is pictured neither as omnipotent, nor as omniscient On his home turf his relatives announced that they thought Jesus was out of his mind. Mark knows nothing about a virgin birth and lists Jesus’ occupation as carpenter.
Mark’s gospel ends rather abruptly when a young man at the tomb announces that Jesus was raised from the dead by God. Mark’s view of Jesus was not of a divine being as we have come to understand that word.
Mark has been redacted from time to time over the ages. An omission from the text seems obvious where it is noted that Jesus came to Jerico and the next line has him leaving with no remarks about what he might have done there. The greater part of Mark’s last chapter cannot be found in earlier versions of Mark.
In Luke and Matthew, the other synoptic gospel authors, who obtain much of their material from Mark, Jesus does not make mistakes; his miracles are instantaneous and he cures ALL when he cures any. Their accounts are bolstered with birth narratives and resurrection appearances. Jesus was not a village tradesman but only the son of a carpenter. For their Jesus, a fig tree is NOT expected to bear outside of its season. Matthew and Luke would never put in print that relatives of Jesus on one occasion described him as insane. They have a more exalted view of Jesus than did Mark.
You might say there was a ‘pluriformity’ of views among the evangelists.
In John’s gospel Jesus was seen as a philosopher and mystic rather than sage and exorcist. In the synoptic gospels he had little to say about himself. He spoke in parables and aphorisms. And he espoused the causes of the poor and oppressed. In John the poor and oppressed are seldom mentioned. No parables are sited. In John, Jesus is often shown talking about himself and his relationship with his father. The emphasis shifts from accepting the correctness of Jesus’ teachings to affirming his personhood. It is far more a gospel of grace than one of works.
David, why not live with the ‘pluriformity’ of views in our Episcopal church. Plurality of understanding has been with us since the beginning of Christianity even among the gospel authors themselves. In our own communion differences in theological opinion have been embraced historically in the Elizabethan Settlement and in our refusal to reject latitudinarian thought.
There is no need to render asunder this denomination of men and women of good heart and intellect. One should never be required to leave his brain at the front door when entering an Episcopal church. Indeed the command is to love God WITH ONES WHOLE MIND….
John S. Morgan
NOTE: Return to select another set of email letters in dialogue with David Virtue.
NOTE: Return to select another set of email letters in dialogue with David Virtue.