CLI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Bishop Iker of the Fort Worth diocese in his letter to bishop Smalley of Kansas, as reported in Virtuosity starts:

"The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and I want to express our alarm and dismay over your decision to authorize the blessing of same sex unions and of other persons living in 'committed relationships' other than marriage."

The bishop has had the oportuity to express a lot of alarm and dismay recently. One of the Episcopalian seminaries in Texas announced its decision to accept students in committed same-sexed unions. Then there was the opportunity to express alarm and dismay over the decision of the New Westminster diocese in Canada to approve of same-sex unions. And now the decision in Kansas.

The bishop's letter continues:

"This decision repudiates the clear teaching of Holy Scripture, the witness of the Christian Tradition over the ages, and the mind of the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Lambeth Conference of 1998."

Unlike the bishop's strongly held opinion against the ordination of women, which brings forth alarm and dismay with those who approve of such ordinations, and has scant if any support in scripture, Holy Scripture has no text underpinning same-sex unions.

But who would expect this in a chauvenistic culture where the "holiness code" of the Old Testament takes a dim view of homosexuality in general as it does of eating shellfish, cross breeding animals, and making shirts out of two different kinds of threads, touching pigskin [footballs] and other seemingly innocuous activities. Paul in the New Testament also repudiates homosexuality and for reasons that do not stand the light of this centuries' scrutiny.

The decision of the church to permit divorce and remarriage repudiates the literal [and for some misguided folks the innerant] teaching of Holy Scripture as expressed by Jesus himself. The decision to permit divorce, just as the decision to allow same-sex unions, repudiates the clear teaching of parts of Holy Scripture, the majority witness of the Christian Tradition over the ages, and the mind of the Anglican Communion as expressed in one of the early Lambeth Conferences. But this decision is upheld by the most conservative and orthodox organizations in the Episcopal Church inclusive of Forward in Faith and The American Anglican Council.

Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality. In the New Testament it was disparaged only by Paul. The revisionary powers of these orthodox groups seems quite able when it comes to divorce but appear impotent when there is an attempt to seek redress of grievance for the churches' gay communicants.

Is not what is good for the goose, good for the gander?

The witness of the Christian Tradition over the ages has included official ceremonies of same-sex unions which were written century after century and were to be found in official Liturgical manuals of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The Roman Catholics had developed a "witness of the Christian Tradition over the ages" concerning Limbo but that did not prevent them from jettisoning it at their Vatican council.

The mind of the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Lambeth Conference of 1998 is somewhat fickle. In an earlier Lambeth Conference, the bishops resoundingly condemned birth control. Are we to understand that their promulgations have improved over the decades? Homosexuality is a universal given, yet one of the bishops at the recent Lambeth Conference insisted that there were NO homosexuals in his diocese. What kind of position was he in to make a thoughtful contribution?

Bishop Iker continues in his letter to bishop Smaley:

"Your decision is a serious departure from Christian faith and practice, which violates our communion as Christians. It is divisive and schismatic. By your action, you have seriously compromised our relationship with you, and we wish to go on record as repudiating this new policy. As a consequence of this, no representatives from this Diocese will be present for the Province VII Synod, which you are to Chair in October."

Folks are waking up everywhere to past injustices toward homosexuals and remedying them.

The whole western world seems to be recognizing how unjustly homosexuals have been treated in the past and they have been taking steps to remedy the situation. States have been dropping Sodomy laws and allowing adoptions by same sex couples. Countries in the European Union do not discriminate against gays in their armed services. More and more companies are implementing domestic partner benefits. Television and movies are including homosexual characters more and more, and in positive roles. Psychological and psychiatric associations have long rescinded unfounded and hurtful classifications. Nondiscrimination ordinances and hate crime laws are proliferating. Scientists are beginning to understand the role of homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

As overwhelmingly strong minorities across Christian denominations have recognized these injustices, clerics have put their employment prospects on the line to support homosexuals. The net movement in religious circles is in support of gay monogamous lifestyles and same-sex unions.

The decision of Bishop Iker and the Forth Worth Diocese to oppose and not recognize the valid ordination of women is divisive. And for that matter, does not a group that refuses to participate in Eucharist with General Convention, celebrating Holy Comunnion only with their "right thinking" peers, seriously compromise a relation with General Convention and all of ECUSA?

Rather than going on record repudiating the wishes of General Convention, the Bishop of Kansas, William E. Smalley, is simply setting up a framework to implement the decision of General Convention to support those monogamously committed for whom marriage is not reasonable or possible.

Since the diocese of Kansas is not playing the game the way the Fort Worth diocese wants it played, Fort Worth is going to take its toys and play at home.

As a consequence of his supporting a resolution of General Convention no representatives from the Fort Worth Diocese will be present for the Province VII Synod, which the Bishop of Kansas is to Chair in October. Should the bishop of Kansas be surprised that the Diocese of Fort Worth will practice the same kind of exclusivity that it practiced at General Convention?

The bishop of Fort Worth concludes:

"We call upon you to rescind this action in the interest of preserving the peace and unity of our Church."

No one came back from the grave to tell us that the Christian understanding of slavery was wrong notwithstanding that it was a given in Scripture. Paul told us to be kind to our slaves; he did not tell us to repudiate the deplorable and immoral practice. Nor will anyone return from the grave to settle the question of full inclusion of gay people in the life of the church. Well meaning as he was, Paul's position on homosexuality was as wrong as his position on slavery. As difficult as it is to separate visceral concerns and cultural prejudices from theological positions, that moral question is being decided by the conscience of churchmen.

An "international conversation" of 12 bishops, met three times under the chairmanship of the Most Revd Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States and offered a better way of "preserving the peace and unity of our Church." The group reported that they were "not able to reach a common mind regarding a single pattern of holy living for homosexual people." But they said: "we have different perceptions of the relationship of the authority of scripture to that of reason and tradition, and contemporary experience."

The bishops spoke warmly of the "atmosphere of confidentiality and trust" that marked their meetings. Publicly regretting that "we have often participated in, and responded to, half-truths about others."

Most importantly, to my way of thinking, the bishops said that, in their conversations, they "discovered again the importance of restraining our desire to persuade the other to agree with our position".

Perhaps understanding, discernment, patience, and dialogue are called for more than alarm and dismay.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

CLII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In a recent issue of Virtuosty, I saw printed the open letter from a group of what you describe as "Orthodox" bishops to the Rt. Rev. William E. Smalley, Bishop of Kansas. I notice about half of the group was retired. The letter read:

Dear Bill,

We, your fellow bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, are profoundly alarmed to learn of your decision to authorize "the blessing of persons living in committed relationships other than Holy Matrimony" as you have expressed it in your letter of June 13, 2002. We believe this decision repudiates the clear teaching of our Lord, and the Holy Scriptures, the virtually unanimous witness of the Christian tradition, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops from the whole of the Anglican Communion, and the express decision of the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

You have cited Resolution D-039 in your Policy Statement, but we remind you that it was precisely the authorizing of such blessings that was the subject of more than three hours of debate in our House. In the end such blessings were defeated while the other seven resolves were passed. It seems disingenuous at best to argue from the passage of D-039 to exactly the conclusion we rejected.

Jesus expressed tenderness and love both to the Samaritan woman at the well who was living in a non-marital relationship and to the other woman who was dragged before him having been taken in adultery. But to neither of them did he extend God's blessing on their relationships. Indeed, to the former he offered a new quality of life that would quench the "thirst" that was not being quenched by her former lifestyle. And to the latter he said, "I do not condemn you; go and sin no more." Jesus affirmed marriage as God's provision for human companionship.

Bill, You say the blessings you propose are not a substitute for Holy Matrimony, or even to resemble it. But from the Church's point of view it is the blessing of the relationship that is the priest's unique role in the marriage ceremony.

Our marriage service declares that, "The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord." Along with the rest of Christendom, the Episcopal Church teaches that these benefits are neither to be sought nor blessed in relationships other than marriage.

Moreover, the blessing of same-sex unions violates our communion as Christians, and with the deepest sadness, we declare that by authorizing them you are departing from Anglican tradition in both teaching and practice. It is not within the purview of a diocese or a bishop to act unilaterally in such matters. We categorically reject this decision and disassociate ourselves from it, and we urgently call upon you to refrain from implementing it.

The above letter prompted me to also send a letter to the Rt. Rev. William E. Smalley, Bishop of Kansas.

Here is a copy of my letter. I think mine is a big improvement:

September 2, 2002

Dear Rt. Rev. William E. Smalley,

Some of your fellow bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, are profoundly alarmed to learn of your decision to authorize "the blessing of persons living in committed relationships other than Holy Matrimony" as you have expressed it in your letter of June 13, 2002.

One cannot consider too lightly a letter from many of your concerned fellow bishops. But...

I do not believe this decision repudiates the clear teaching of our Lord for he had nothing to say about same-sex unions in particular or homosexuality in general. I also notice that there is no mention of homosexuality in the ten commandments.

The Lambeth Conference of Bishops from the whole of the Anglican Communion, passed resolutions against homosexuality as they passed resolutions resoundingly condemning birth control at an earlier Lambeth Conference. Is their recent promulgation more credible than their former one?

The last General Convention of the Episcopal Church stated "….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…."

The decision was to support those "living in other life-long committed relationships" but not yet to authorize a church ceremony to galvanize that support.

It seems disingenuous for D-039 to "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" but not authorize a rite to bless them. This could be easily dismissed by saying that such is the way of politics but this would negate the concern that many of the delegates had for the anguish of the very traditional in our church who disagree on scriptural or moral grounds.

Jesus expressed tenderness and love both to the Samaritan woman at the well who was living in a non-marital relationship and to the other woman who was dragged before him having been taken in adultery. And to the latter he said, "I do not condemn you; go and sin no more." But to neither of them did he extend God's blessing on their relationships. After all, no one in the church is seeking approval of fornication or adultery. Holy Unions should curtail promiscuity. A same sex union, too, would denounce, as expressed by our last General Convention, "promiscuity, exploitation and abusiveness." That is one of the features that holy unions, both homosexual and homosexual share - they both exalt monogamy as a virtue. The proponents of same-sex unions are all for family values; they merely want to extend them.

Perhaps a new quality of life can be found that would quench the "thirst" for adultery but the "thirst" of those who are denied any kind of sexual expression of sexuality all of their lives is a cruelty.

Jesus affirmed marriage as God's provision for human companionship but had nothing to say about other monogamous possibilities that wouldn't fly in a very chauvinistic society. He was not embarrassed to break the religious law of his tradition when he thought it appropriate. For example Jesus and his followers did not fast; they cured on the Sabbath. So I wonder where he would stand today on same sex unions in our culture.

I understand that blessings you propose are not a substitute for Holy Matrimony, or even to resemble it. From the Church's point of view the essential act of marriage is the giving of the partners to each other. Blessing of the relationship is the priest's role in the marriage ceremony and, as you say, perhaps a blessing can be devised that is not a substitute for Holy Matrimony but will "provide for them the prayerful support, encouragement and pastoral care" as ratified by General Assembly until the church is ready to live out the implications implied in D-039.

The Episcopal marriage service declares that, "The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord."

If one omits specific identification of gender and "the procreation of children" the description would appear to be that of a same-sex union.

Along with the rest of Christendom, the Episcopal Church has taught that these benefits are neither to be sought nor blessed in relationships other than marriage. But this appears to be changing. The acceptance of most of the original provisions in D-039 recognizes existing reality and is a portent of changes to come in our church.

By the blessing of same-sex unions you are departing from Anglican tradition in both teaching and practice. But then by the widespread use of birth control in our church we have departed from the Anglican tradition in both teaching and practice; even in the Episcopate. In our acceptance of divorce surely the church has departed from what at one time was Anglican tradition in both teaching and practice. Paul urged us to be kind to our slaves; he did not repudiate that deplorable and immoral practice. So I guess there are appropriate times to break with Anglican and apparently biblical tradition in both teaching and practice.

It is not within the purview of a diocese or a bishop to act unilaterally in such matters. You are to be congratulated in attempting to resolve the difficulty in your diocese that our last General Convention left you with - the decision to support such unions, but the lack of any rite of actual support.

With warmest regard and admiration,"

John S. Morgan

CLIII - David Writes John

That is true. A large number are retired.

David

CLIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

It is good to hear from you.

I have been reading a lot about Father Moyer in Virtuosity lately.

I think that the penalty for Father Moyer of being dismissed from the ministry was somewhat harsh. As a minimum he should have been banned from functioning as a priest in Bishop Charles E. Bennison's diocese.

After all he openly refused to let his boss, the bishop, make his annual visitation to confirm in his parish. It is obvious that Father Moyer was looking for a confrontation. It was the rejection of the bishop's authority that prompted his dismissal from the ministry. The bishop has been very patient for a long time. Yes, the bishop may differ with Father Moyer in matters of theology but that alone cannot truly impede Father Moyer's functioning as a priest of the diocese. But insubordination is another matter.

Then too I wonder if one like Father Moyer who asserts Biblical inerrancy has his head screwed on properly or simply slept his way through divinity school.

The decision of Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to invite him to preach, starting with a midday mass Friday at Pittsburgh's Trinity Cathedral was misguided.

The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Episcopal Women's Caucus stated, "We are concerned that the action of Bishop Duncan in regard to Mr. Moyer may be further divisive and harmful to the life of this diocese as well as disruptive to the Episcopal Church."

I realize that bishop Bennison had to confront a clear case of insubordination in his diocese, and I grieve with him when he says, ``I find it grievous for him and for his family. I did everything I knew to make it otherwise...''

Do we not have in ECUSA a legal structure for those prepared to live by the rule of law? Has anyone questioned the wisdom of those procedures until their pet theories fell out of general acceptance?

The issue seems to be to follow due process according to long established and written rules and procedures or set up one's own church. Don't we have enough continuing Anglican Churches?

We have individuals in our church who are prepared to chuck their ordination vows for such frivolous reasons as when a new issue of the prayer book is authorized to keep the language in a tongue spoken by the people. Christendom has seen so many splits over purity of doctrine. If we keep dividing we will discover there was only one Christian - and he died on a cross.

Wouldn't one think that humility might be more widespread in religious circles. After all, we all work from texts that have been redacted, that are obscure and seemingly contradictory in places, and in others downright incorrect, and whose theories of salvation led to the incompatible Roman Catholic and Protestant Versions.

Why does some group always think their understandings are more correct than those of the overall mind of the church of their peers and that their practices must prevail? Does one group have a better line of communication with God?

Since someone has to set directions for issues that emerge why should we not respect the mind of ECUSA as she meets in General Convention?

Any priest who will not permit his bishop to confirm is asking for trouble. In the secular world, when one cannot get along with his boss, alternate oversight is not an option.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

CLV - David Writes John

More humility on both sides. Yes. Yes, there are canons top deal with this without going to law (secular). Bennison is an apostate bishop so why should they follow him.

A few thoughts and a 1000 e-mails to answer today.

David

CLVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

Father Moyer should follow Bishop Bennison because somewhere in antiquity the church decided that the orientations of ministers do not affect their valid administration of the sacraments.

Father Moyer should follow Bishop Bennison because he is a duly elected bishop of ECUSA, installed through a very careful, open, and representative process involving not only the consent of his diocese but ECUSA dioceses across the land.

Father Moyer should follow Bishop Bennison because in a given diocese, priests don't have the luxury to choose the bishop on their own.

Father Moyer should follow Bishop Bennison because presumedly he took ordination vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of ECUSA. The body that nourished him should have some claim on his loyalties.

Father Moyer should follow Bishop Bennison because it cannot be demonstrated that a young priest has a greater corner on truth than a seasoned bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Father Moyer should follow Bishop Bennison because one should not be insubordinate with ones boss.

Everyone has input in our church. The General Convention is biased toward the clergy, those who have been trained and educated in religion. The house of Bishops is complemented by a house of delegates balanced with both clergy and lay input. Broadly speaking, General Convention represents the mind of the Episcopal church.

If Father Moyer is unsatisfied with the Episcopal Church perhaps he can start a church of his own or perhaps he can affiliate with one of the multitude of continuing Anglican Churches.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

CLVII - David Writes John

The problem is Bennison has NOT upheld the discipline and doctrine of the church. He is to blame not Moyer. No one should have to follow an apostate bishop. No one.

CLVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

If ones objectives do not mesh with an organization to which one belongs, one can leave the organization or stay with it and attempt to change the organization, following the due process rules of the organization. One is not permitted to sabotage the organization or to gum up the works. Again in the area of sports, one team usually wins as the other looses. The looser sometimes acts like a spoiled sport and gets petulant, but what is to be thought of one who blames the rules of the game or tries to sabotage the game or gum up the works?

In ECUSA there are those who are trying to sabotage the canonical authority of a duly elected and consecrated Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Bennison is not an apostate; his faith package just does not overlap with yours in every particular.

"Creeds" seem to be the source of doctrinal disputes. They can be divisive. Wasn't it the first Lambeth conference that said something like: beware of creeds they were written by men and subject to error?

In the early days of the Episcopal church birth control was by and large condemned. That was to be expected because we were off shoots from the Roman Church. If you asked anybody at the time about birth control he would not say, "Oh that is some off the wall doctrine that the church devised to keep women in their place."

No indeed! He would assure you that the doctrine was just what God wanted, that it was an essential part of the faith handed down by the apostles from obvious implications of biblical texts. Some bishops would argue that the doctrine was ill formed and not really biblical. The David Virtues of his day would point out that the Lambeth Conference resoundingly condemned it [which it did] and that the bishop was an apostate. But in reality, the bishop would have been an ordinary churchman duly scrutinized, elected, consecrated and approved by the requisite number of Episcopal dioceses in the country.

Dogma changes. Have you heard a good sermon lately telling you what an evil birth control is?

I could repeat this story for divorce where both of the two most conservative and traditional groups in the Episcopal Church have no quarrel with ECUSA's policy. But at one time, it was a baggage we brought from Rome. How many of the AAC bishops or Forward in Faith Bishops are you willing to call apostate?

There has always been some sort of controversy about creeds.

When the first prayer book for use in the United States was sent to England for approval, the Nicene and Athanasian creeds had been removed. Due process eventually led to their restoration - the Orthodox way won the day. The "Orthodox" don't want to bolt or subvert or end run around ECUSA as long as they are winning.

With the addition of the filioque clause into the creed many centuries ago the Lord did not return from the grave to tell us if the Eastern church was correct or that the Western Church was. Churchmen had to do the best they can.

One can only wonder why 'what part of God might have proceedeth from what other part' was ever an issue of importance to split Christendom. Does such an issue affect commerce, or the ways we might love our neighbor or any thing of a practical nature that one can point to? Or was it merely useful in splitting Christendom? Did the early church really think they could define the Godhead from a few scant hints in Scripture? Does that not seem a bit arrogant?

If one of our priests gets it in his head that the filioque clause is in error should he be allowed alternate oversight from one of the Orthodox churches?

Remember that the Trinity was only mentioned once in Scripture and not even defined in that verse. It took scores of years for the "doctrine" of the Trinity to emerge. Today in Church, we say Father, Son and Holy Spirit at every opportunity. In the entire bible, the phrase was uttered once.

That doctrine has been with us from antiquity but doesn't seem to have a real biblical foundation. I have no quarrel with its usage; should I be outraged with a fellow communicant who doesn't think God is a Trinity. The author of the gospel of John has Jesus talk constantly about his relation to his father but didn't incorporate a third entity as part of a Godhead. Was the author of John apostate?

Dogmas do change. Our church has changed her dogma both on birth control and divorce. Even the more traditional in our church have ratified these changes and tucked them in to their view of "the faith once received."

And most of these problems ultimately stem from the belief that somehow women can't function as priests because Jesus didn't pick women in that very chauvinistic society as disciples or because some believe it is somehow moral to deprive homosexuals of any sort of sexual expression all their lives.

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

CLIX - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest Virtuosity we find:

"A principal advisor to Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison warned him not to proceed against Fr. David Moyer and offered a compromise proposal, saying that taking action against the Anglo-Catholic priest was unnecessary and urged the bishop not to force a confrontation at this time."

"The advisor opined "that a congregation could claim its place within the diocese without affirming the views or actions of the bishop, 'thus separating opinions about a particular bishop from the canonical framework that maintains the institutional life of the diocese.'"

If that is true, then Father Moyer could have claimed his place within the diocese without affirming the views or actions of the bishop. He could have separated his opinions about Bishop Dennison from the canonical framework that maintains the institutional life of the diocese.

Father Moyer did not allege that the Bishop interfered with his priestly functions before the point of inhibition. Moyer questioned the Christianity of his bishop and was disturbed that the bishop did not appear to share some of the particulars of his own faith package.

David, you have just demonstrated that all the folderol was about Father Moyer grandstanding and being insubordinate to his bishop. He could have easily let his bishop visit and confirm according to what you have said above. He could merely have respectfully pointed out to his bishop that there were topics and/or interpretations within Christianity on which they disagreed. Instead Moyer chose confrontation and insubbordination.

If a few moments in the pulpit by bishop Bennison would have confused the parishoners, then the persuasive powers of father Moyer must be weak indeed. What were these parishioners to make of the dispute when it was published in the press?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

CLX - David Writes John

Dear John,

Based on what is a minimalist thing the bishop can be restricted in doing, namely look at the books and give a printed version of his sermon, you are probably right. But he cannot even affirm basic doctrines, which if he had done, Moyer would have let him come.

David


CLXI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your latest issue of Virtuosity you state the following:

"Here is how the battle for the life and soul of The Episcopal Church will shape up in the coming months and finally come to a head at the next General Convention in Minneapolis in 2003. Even as we speak the battle lines are being drawn up.

On one side of the great divide you have a series of organizations pushing the lesbigay agenda. They are Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion, The Witness magazine with a $350,000 plus war chest, ready to do battle.

And on the other side of the divide waiting, ready with theological guns drawn is the American Anglican Council. They are mustering their troops and resources ready for a battle royal."

If only the American Anglican Council knew that most revisionists don't believe that "the life of every creature is its blood", they would have something serious to fight over besides spending time fighting those tendencies for reform and repentance over how Christians have historically treated their gay brothers and sisters. -- grin --

Virtuosity continues:

"Their slogan 'God's Love changed me' at the last General Convention will undoubtedly change to echo the Apostle Paul's injunction to don 'the whole armor of God" and prepare for spiritual battle. I have been told that they hope to field a 1,000 active warriors ready for war.'"

There should not be any battle; Christianity is not a war. Various resolutions will be presented at General Convention, debated on, voted on. Some will pass others fail. The mind of our church will be about discerning pressing contemporary concerns that have arisen following the departure of Jesus from the planet - as Christians they will conduct themselves accordingly, cognizant of their baptismal vows to see the image of Christ in each other.

Then all will return home to be faithful Episcopalians sharing together in the love of God and man. They will have done the best they could; the collective mind of our denomination will have spoken. Either the church will have affirmed a rite to facilitate the pastoral recommendations on human sexuality adopted at our last convention or she won't. I'll still be in my pew.

David, Episcopalians are willing to live with ambiguity because as Paul said, we look through a glass darkly. But ambiguity can sometimes be lessened with sincere and open dialogue. Nothing is settled with a warlike mentality - it is minds and hearts that should be changed.

The Very Reverend Peter C. Moore, Dean and President, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, gave an address to the annual convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, on November 1, 2002. The full text of his address can be found at: Homosexuality and the Great Commandment

I thought you might want to read my rebuttal:

The Very Reverend Peter C. Moore opened his address on "Homosexuality and the Great Commandment" by telling us that the Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1998, by a vote of 526 to 70, declared that homosexuality was incompatible with Scripture. What he didn't tell us, however, is that just a few Lambeth Conferences before, the Bishops resoundingly condemned birth control. Considering the average size of their families, our American bishops don't buy that theory. Are we willing to believe that the advisory body, known as the Lambeth Conference, offers better conjectures on human sexuality today?

It is nine theologians that put forward 13 principles of interpretation that Dean Moore seeks to refute. He quotes one principle as, "It's the interpretation of Scripture, they say, not its authority, that is in question." I would raise, somewhat, the question of Authority. The authors of Leviticus ascribed virtually all their laws to God:

"Do not mate different kinds of animals."

"Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed."

"Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material."

"Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard."

"Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD ."

This would make God quite the micromanager, a custom he seems to have eschewed in the New Testament. Does a typical Episcopalian ever think that God ever was bent out of shape by someone planting carrots alongside radishes in the garden?

Isn't it more likely that these authors used the name of God to bolster the civil laws of their society and some of their bizarre notions got mixed in? Perhaps the authors were a little homophobic as well.

Take this verse:

"Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off."

We all know more about blood today: It carries oxygen, transports nutrients, and sustains the immune system. But surely no physician, scientists, or layman, would come up with a statement like, "the life of every creature is its blood." Is there any Episcopalian who really thinks God holds this opinion?

Dean More quotes these theologians as saying: "The paper simply relativizes any and all specific Scriptural texts by declaring that if they can be shown to our modern consciences not to be in concert with the Great Commandment to love God and to love one's neighbor, they are no longer relevant."

There seems to be some merit in their argument. In Matthew 22, "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'"

It seems to me that Jesus is saying that the purpose of the law and Prophets was to bring about the love of God and neighbor. It logically follows then that any regulation counterproductive to this principle is null and void.

Dean Moore says, "We all know that the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were set aside by Jesus Christ."

Actually it was because of a dream of Peter that the early church self exempted itself from some of the provisions of the Old Testament. Coincidentally it came at a time when the would be gentile joiners of the church had no intention of having their privy members cut upon through a rite of circumcision.

Dean Moore admits that: "The Sodom and Gibeon stories may have been primarily about rape (Gen. 19, Judges 19), but the horror in the text implies that the homosexual nature of the intended behavior was repugnant."

At least we can finally put to bed one of the Biblical texts used to beat up on gay people.

The Sodom story is primarily about hospitality. Although I don't see it, there could easily have been an undercurrent of horror of homosexual behavior in the text. There is a lot of horror and revulsion associated with sexuality in general. Prostitutes would be put out of business if middle aged heterosexual men could obtain oral sex from their wives.

Dean Moore says, "When we come to Jesus, far from relaxing these Old Testament laws, he actually stiffens them -- especially when it comes to sexual sin."

Here Dean Moore appears to be linking Jesus with the question of homosexuality. Jesus had nothing to say on the subject.

Dean Moore says: "I know this is very painful for most homosexuals to hear. Their pain is similar to an alcoholic who is told he must stop drinking."

No Dean Moore, the pain for homosexual men would be tying their privy members in a knot and not using their sexuality throughout their entire life. I know this is very painful for most heterosexuals to hear but if they would refrain from sex only during the 40 days of lent, they would have a little more appreciation for what they are asking their gay brothers to do.

Dean Moore says: "We are often told that the church should bless homosexual relationships because they are, after all, loving. And it's not my point to question whether there is some love between homosexual and lesbian partners. There can be care, concern, and compassion. But just because there is love, is the church called to bless it?"

Why not? The church blesses animals and battleships.

Dean Moore says: "Take these hallmarks of the biblical understanding of love."

"1. First fidelity.....But homosexuals neither pledge fidelity nor really value it."

"2. Secondly, permanence. Virtually every married couple says that it is "till death do us part." The church doesn't marry people unless they make that promise....But homosexual relationships make no such promise."

General convention said: [In a resolution that was adopted.]

"….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…."

I would assume that a union rite to implement this pastoral resolution would also include requirements of:

The proposed homosexual union would cary the same stipulations of faithfulness and monogamy as the corresponding heterosexual rite.

"3. Thirdly, reconciliation."

Here the dean launches into his "complementary" theory. How about a nice "similarity" theory for the boy-boys and the girl-girls?

"4. Fourthly, health and wholeness. Monogamous heterosexuals do not normally expose one another to health risks....Sadly, homosexual sex exposes the partner to serious health hazards. The lining of the rectum is not tough and capable of penetration like the lining of the vagina."

When Dean Moore says, "Monogamous heterosexuals do not normally expose one another to health risks," he apparently doesn't recognize the great problem of AIDS in Africa caused by heterosexual promiscuity to the extent that one in four African children will die eventually of AIDS.

Moreover he assumes that homosexual activity must be a kind of extension of the heterosexual's and hence all gays must be interested in anal sex. This is not correct. There is a variety of activities that gay folks can engage in inclusive of, but not limited to oral sex, and mutual masturbation. Those who engage in anal sex are careful to lubricate and exercise care.

Surely his argument can't be applied to Lesbians.

"5. Fifthly, real love is sacrificial. The primary form this takes in marriage is the common burden of child-rearing. Couples sacrifice for the long-term goal of rearing children....But the willingness to bear children, if God allows, is built into the expectations of marriage."

My lover's mother came to live with us for the last three years of her life when she suffered a very debilitating stroke rather than her married heterosexual son. My aged aunt came to live with us for the last six years of her life. I really don't need a lecture on sacrifice. Some gay people rear adopted children or children one of the partners had in a previous marriage. I think I would have been a good father. But 32 years ago that was not an option in my state.

All of these reasons are largely specious ones.

Dean continues: "Homosexuals say that sex should be totally separated from procreation. That is why it is logically impossible for those who advocate homosexual sex to be against any form of mutual consensual sex: incest, polygamy, pornography, bestiality."

Heterosexual sex is totally separated from procreation for those heterosexual who marry at an advanced age. Or did I miss something???

Incest creates genetic problems. It is often forced; it often involves immature individuals who lack the adult capacity for choice. Polygamy breeds jealousy; if practiced widely it would make females unavailable to a large percentage of men. Societies, non-Christian and secular seem to have found reasons to oppose incest and polygamy. As for bestiality, species in general tend to seek their own without religious proscriptions or the need for enforcement.

I myself rather enjoy erotic literature and photography on occasion - it seems a rather harmless diversion.

Dean Moore Says, "Judaism and Christianity brought erotic love, marriage and procreation together."

In all religions and in secular society we find erotic love, marriage and procreation together. In the Old Testament polygamy seemed the modus vivendi. The husband was the virtual property of the wife and marriage was primarily a means of transferring property.

The commandment, now sanitized for most denominational catechisms, originally read: "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."

Notice how the Wife was listed alongside ox and ass. Is this supposed to represent erotic love, marriage and procreation being brought together? Nothing was said about a female coveting a man. All the churches have made a "revisionistic" improvement on what is often considered the very word of God.

But which version is really authentic? The revision in their catechisms and the book of common prayer or the one found in ancient biblical texts. While it passes almost unnoticed, all they have really done is to remove the cultural chauvinism from the text. Can't the cultural homophobia as well be removed?

The truth of the matter is that the Bible barely mentions homosexuality.

In the Old Testament we find a very few verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Leviticus 19 through 24 mixes an alternating bunch of what has generally been called ritual and moral proscriptions. These people likely made no such distinction - certain things were simply forbidden. When it came time for the church to cast off the more or less arbitrary and bizarre of these, certain ones were separated out as of a "ritual purity code."

The question as to which category homosexuality would fall in is unknown.

The ritual purity code was seen to be a reaction against what was found in Idol Worshiping religions. Leviticus 18:30 says: " Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God."

Leviticus 18:19 says "Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period."

Is that a moral or simply a ritual injunction?

In general no one today would think there is anything wrong for a married couple to have sex during the woman's period. No Christian marriage manual purports this to some kind of grave sin.

In Leviticus 18:22, just a couple verses later, we find: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Why do so many traditionalists make a fuss over this verse?

Why is Leviticus 18:22 so important and normative for them when Leviticus 18:19 is not? They are both about a sexual activity. If Christians are exempt from the one why not the other?

The one upset in the New Testament about homosexuality is Paul. Paul was not a divine being. Women no longer accept Paul's injunction on covering their hair or speaking while in church. Paul was well meaning but his conjectures concerning the evil nature of homosexuality were misguided as well. Paul had little data on the subject and did not seem to understand the relational nature of gay love.

Blessings.

John S. Morgan


CLXII - David Writes John

As usual John you make a thoughtful rebuttal. I wish I had more time to engage but I am swamped...I know you'll understand.

David

PS. I hope your health is holding up


CLXIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

A young man once struck up a conversation with an attractive young woman in a tavern. "Would you go to bed with me for a million dollars?" he asked her. "For a million dollars I would do almost anything," she said. "Would you go to bed with me for a dollar?" asked the young man. "What kind of girl do you think I am?" she said. We've already established that, "the young man replied," we are just haggling about price."

The facts alone that Episcopal women no longer cover their hair while in church, and that it is customary for women to read selections from the bible from the pulpit, establish that the church no longer considers those admonitions of Paul in Scripture authoritative.

No longer saying that every word of Paul is authoritative, we are haggling about how advisable his opinions on homosexuality might be. Why should we consider the few passages where Paul deigns to speak on homosexuality authoritative whereas others are not?

Or as bishop Holoway says, "If you go against the express word of Scripture in order to do justice to women, you have already broken down the walls that protect the unchanging authority of Church and Bible..."

"You have tacitly admitted that many of the church's traditional attitudes are obsolete," he added. "Having swallowed the camel of female emancipation, it should not be too difficult for the church to take the next gulp and swallow the gnat of justice for homosexuals as well."

Blessing,

John S. Morgan


CLXIV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I sent a Christmas gift to you today. They expect to ship it on December 18. I tried to order it from Amazon.com and have it gift wrapped with a card. But since it is out of print I was forced to obtain it not from Amazon but from one of their vendors instead. It is a used one in Very Good condition

The book is entitled, "Wrestling With The Angel."

Warmest Regards,

John S. Morgan


CLXV - David Writes John

Dear John,

How very kind and thoughtful of you. Thank you. I shall reciprocate. Send me your snail mail address.

David


CLXVI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In the most recent issue of Virtuosity you say:

"And so it is happening, especially in the Global South where Christianity is light years ahead of the West in making more converts to Jesus Christ than all the crusades this country has ever seen."

In a world where billions of people make less than $1.00 per day, if some authoritative organization were to come along and tell them they are doomed to an eternity of torture beyond the grave and that by acceding to a simple formula they can spend their hereafter in eternal bliss, what do you suppose they would do? Uneducated, working too hard for a subsistence living, lacking the wherewithal to explore competing claims, don't you suppose it might be a question of which huckster got there first?

The number of converts amongst peoples with little discriminatory opportunity to make wise decisions to choose proves little. What does it signify to you? That Moslems must represent the true religion?

If one is born in Saudi Arabia his chances of being Christian are nil. If born in the USA his chances are high. Am I to understand the creator's love is fickle? He perhaps loves you if born in the USA but is eager to smite you if born in Saudi Arabia? What kind of love is that? That is just not my view of what Jesus had in mind.

David, if you had the opportunity to rank homosexuals, prostitutes, and evangelical Christians, which would you put at the top of your list? Which at the bottom?

I am just guessing but I would suspect that you would put evangelical Christians at the top of your list with prostitutes and homosexuals at the very bottom with the prostitutes slightly leading. Am I right?

Would you be surprised to learn that the list of the average American would be the opposite? Homosexuals would be at the top of the list and Evangelical Christians at the bottom?

Those results are from a poll from the Barna survey just released by The American Family Association.

The Barna researchers asked people how they felt about such groups as evangelicals, born-again Christians, ministers, and others groups in society. And yes, evangelicals came in tenth out of eleven, narrowly beating out prostitutes. Gay people ranked significantly higher in the survey than evangelicals.

To be fair here I must add that I suspect that the type of evangelical they were describing was more of the type seen on TV, representing the far religious right, than that of a group of evangelicals found in our Episcopal Church.

Yet the dissidents in our church seem to share a lot of characteristics with them - a strong leaning, if not full embrace, of biblical inerrancy, outspoken zeal for Christian exclusivity, and the defacto hatred and loathing for homosexuals. The public could easily confuse our far right wing with Evangelicals as described by the Barna group. The average Joe public knows mean spiritedness when he sees it.

I imagine the survey would have probably been burned except that evangelical George Barna, president of the Barna Research Group, wanted to show religious conservatives that they have a lot of work to do to turn their image around. I think they should work on their substance rather than image.

Barna said: "...we may be completely loving and wonderful. But somehow we are being perceived by non-Christians in America as a group of people who are not particularly loving not particularly generous, kind, or understanding."

The survey also found the more highly educated non-evangelicals are, the more the negative view they have of fundamentalist Christians. I know that I am highly educated and I have a highly negative view of fundamentalist Christians.

As it is recorded in Matthew 7:16 "Ye shall know them by their fruits." No pun intended

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


CLXVII - From Virtuosity - printed with permission of David Virtue

An Open Opinion on the Authority of General Convention

Feast of the Epiphany, 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Several bishops, clergy, and laypeople have approached us to ask our opinion on the character and extent of General Convention's authority. This question has been motivated by a common concern over perceived threats to our church's internal cohesion and our fellowship with other provinces in the Anglican Communion. These are stresses stemming from the push officially to approve same-sex partnerships. Thus, the questions have taken a common form: what would be the theological and canonical consequences of a decision by General Convention to approve of and permit such partnerships?

We have tried to answer this question clearly and with direct reference to the constitutional self-definition of our church. We have given these issues serious and sustained consideration. Upon reflection, it is our view that actions on the part of ECUSA's General Convention giving license for blessing gay unions or ordaining non-abstaining homosexuals would be contrary to the constitutional principles upon which the polity of our church is based and as such would nullify the authority of any General Convention knowingly sanctioning such actions. It is also our view that, should General Convention take such action, there is neither theological nor moral warrant for leaving ECUSA. Rather it is our view that fidelity to Christ calls upon dissenters to share in Christ's sufferings by sharing a struggle to recall ECUSA to apostolic obedience. We believe that our analysis both supports these conclusions and, at the same time, identifies the crucial decisions we face as we seek the peace of the church. We have hope that a charitable and honest approach to these matters will aid our church in reaching godly decisions.

What is at stake is not a narrow, literalistic interpretation of a few unrelated Bible verses promoted by anxious conservatives. The key issue is the conciliar legitimacy of the Episcopal Church. For us, the question of approving same-sex partnerships raises the deepest and most profound question facing any Christian body that claims to be "church." Is the Episcopal Church willing to live as an interdependent member of the larger Body of Christ, a body formed in and through a historically continuous and geographically extended reading of the scriptures as a whole? Or, is the Episcopal Church determined to act unilaterally to shape its common life and teaching according to the particular needs, insights, and arguments of a relatively small group of American Christians?

For us, there is no painless answer. "Local option" only legitimates a disregard for the counsel and constraint of those with whom we share the common bread and cup. Mutual subjection is not "permission." Our common life must reflect the intimacy of those who live together "in the Lord" (cf: Eph. 6:1). We are called to "forbearance," not "tolerance," and that forbearance has as its aim a transformation of the Church into Christ's image. That forbearance "up-builds" in the particular "righteousness" that is Christ Jesus (cf: Rom 14:17, 19; 15:2), embodied in His sacrifice of holiness (cf: Phil. 2:5ff), and enacted within the Church, through the Holy Spirit, "for common good" (I Cor. 12:7) and the glorification of the Father (Rom 15:7). It is in this light that "local option" is antithetical to the nature of the Church as a vehicle of common and mutually sacrificial transformation in Christ (Phil 2:2ff). Our destiny in Christ can only be together and in mutual submission. It cannot be a destiny at a distance from each other. We cannot cut ourselves free from the weighty concerns of the larger context of the church's witness without separating ourselves from the spiritual mission of the Body of Christ.

The temptations of separation affect us all. We offer this analysis, not only to caution those who advocate unilateral action by General Convention, but also to warn against overreaction. The current failures of our church, and the unfortunate prospect of a General Convention that takes unconstitutional action in approving of same-sex partnership, do not remove from us the obligations of mutual submission. As we argue, a constitutional crisis in the Episcopal Church will profoundly compromise our national structures of governance, but it will not void our vows of obedience and our bonds of loyalty to the church. The failures of our system of governance must be endured with the confidence that God calls us to forbear each other because He also shall forbear us, even in the disordered state of our church (2 Peter 3:9).

In Christ Jesus,

R. R. Reno, PhD; Associate Prof. of Theology, Creighton University. Christopher Seitz, PhD; Prof. of Divinity, University of St. Andrews. Philip Turner, PhD; Dean, the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale (retired). Paul Zahl, Dr. Theol; Dean, the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, Ala.


CLXVIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I think I have vastly improved the above letter of Dean Paul Zahl et al.

Same-sex partnerships and the authority of ECUSA's General Convention

by John S. Morgan
An
improved Opinion on the Authority of General Convention
January 13, 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Several bishops, clergy, and lay people have not approached me to ask my opinion on the character and extent of General Convention's authority. This question has been motivated by a common concern over perceived threats to our church's internal cohesion and our fellowship with other provinces in the Anglican Communion. These are stresses stemming from the push officially to approve same-sex partnerships. Thus, the questions have taken a common form: what would be the theological and canonical consequences of a decision by General Convention to approve of and permit such partnerships?

I have tried to answer this question clearly and with direct reference to the constitutional self-definition of our church. I have given these issues serious and sustained consideration. Upon reflection, it is my view that actions on the part of ECUSA’s General Convention giving license for blessing gay unions or ordaining non-abstaining homosexuals would be in agreement with the constitutional principles upon which the polity of our church is based and as such would not in any way nullify the authority of any General Convention knowingly sanctioning such actions any more than the general rejection of the perverse practice of slavery, or the acceptance of birth control did.

It is also my view that, should General Convention take such action, there is neither theological nor moral warrant for leaving ECUSA. Rather it is my view that fidelity to Christ calls upon dissenters to share in Christ's sufferings by sharing a struggle to affirm ECUSA since there must be someplace where the buck stops; indeed, it is that body which most closely resembles the overall mind of the church. I believe that my analysis both supports these conclusions and, at the same time, identifies the crucial decisions we face as we seek the peace of the church. I have hoped that a charitable and honest approach to these matters would aid our church in reaching godly decisions.

What is at stake is a narrow, literalistic interpretation of a few unrelated Bible verses promoted by anxious conservatives. In the Old Testament, these texts are restricted to the Holiness Code, most of whose positions the church has dissociated herself from. That is why Episcopalians feel comfortable in mixing radishes and carrots in their gardens and wearing cotton-polyester shirts to church and touching footballs.

In the New Testament such conjectures are largely from Paul; never Jesus! When it comes to homosexuality it seems Paul in one passage has coined his own word - a word that has given translators some trouble judging by its range of meaning found in the various translations. Our new Archbishop of Canterbury champions the interpretation of another text of Paul, saying that it is an attempt by heterosexuals going against their nature in experimenting with homosexual acts that Paul condemned. It is no wonder that so many in the church have been rethinking this handful of passages.

The key issue is the conciliar legitimacy of the Episcopal Church. For me a question of approving same-sex partnerships raises the deepest and most profound question facing any Christian body that claims to be "church" and in the business of taking the concerns, problems and exasperations of ones neighbor into account.

Is the Episcopal Church willing to live as an interdependent member of the larger Body of Christ, a body formed in and through a historically continuous and geographically extended reading and interpretation of the scriptures as a whole? Or, is the Episcopal Church determined to act unilaterally and do justice?

Would we be willing to reinsert the institution of slavery to seek union with the literalists amongst us because it was a given in the Bible? Would it really be a Christian example for our children, for us to own a few African Bishops - to have them serve us communion in the morning and scrub our floors at night? Would we be willing to give up the practice of birth control or women priests for the sake of unity with our Roman Catholic brethren?

For us, there is no painless answer. "Local option" may legitimate a disregard for the counsel and constraint of those with whom we share the common bread and cup. But that is part of the spirit of our historic Elizabethan Compromise. What kind of Episcopalians would we be if we failed to share the cup with fellow bishops, priests, and laity who read the same scriptures but whose understandings lead to other conclusions?

Mutual subjection is not "permission." Our common life must reflect the integrity of all who follow their Baptismal Covenant. Surely, we are called to "forbearance," AND "tolerance," and that forbearance and tolerance have as their aim a transformation of the Church into Christ's image. That forbearance "up-builds" in the particular "righteousness" that is Christ Jesus (cf: Rom 14:17, 19; 15:2), embodied in His sacrifice of holiness (cf: Phil. 2:5ff), and enacted within the Church, through the Holy Spirit, "for common good" (I Cor. 12:7) and the glorification of the Father (Rom 15:7). It is in this light of glorification of the father that justice must be part of the nature of the Church as a vehicle of common and mutually sacrificial transformation in Christ (Phil 2:2ff). Our destiny in Christ can only be together and in mutual submission. It cannot be a destiny at a distance from each other. But, of course, any innovative practice must start somewhere. The practice of ordaining women priests started locally in the Church and quickly became accepted in other quarters of the Church. We can only cut ourselves free from the weighty concerns of the larger context of the church's witness if we separate ourselves from the spiritual mission of the Body of Christ, to love God above all and our neighbors as ourselves.

The temptations of separation affect us all. I offer this analysis to caution those who do not blush when expecting the gay people among us to refrain from any sexual expression their entire lives. Would that married heterosexuals give up sexual expression only for the 40 days of Lent. Then they might have some appreciation of the plight of their gay brethren.

The prospect of a General Convention that takes constitutional action in approving of same-sex partnership, does not remove from us the obligations of mutual submission. As I argue, a constitutional crisis in the Episcopal Church will NOT compromise our national structures of governance, and it will not void our vows of obedience and our bonds of loyalty to the church. Our system of governance must be endured with the confidence that God calls us to forbear each other because He also shall forbear us, as he has given strength and insight to the giants among us who have led us out of our approval of the dastardly and perverse sin of accepting the institution of slavery even though it was a given in Scripture.

In Christ Jesus,

John S. Morgan
DrSwiney@aol.com

NOTE: David reprinted this article in the "Letters" section of Virtuosity

CLXIX - John Writes David

The letter to David can be found at: A Traditionalist Clergyman rethinks his position.

CLXX - David Writes John

You make some good points John. I am still "recovering" from a long day and night y/day putting out a digest.

Later,

david

CLXXI - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I very much enjoyed reading your recent issue of Virtuosity that you devoted to the enthronement of Rowan Williams.

The content, style, balance, and viewpoint of your prose was admirable. The descriptions were vivid and exciting. I wish I had been there.

I hope you and your wife had an enjoyable time in the United Kingdom.

Warmest Regards,

John S. Morgan

CLXXII - David Writes John

Thank you John for your kind words. Yes Mary my wife and I were there along with our daughter and her daughter, so I was outnumbered 3 to 1 (grin).

We managed a brief vacation in Wales following the enthronement where I went looking for Druids (grin) Found none. I think RW might turn out to be okay. Very likable and I have an interview coming up sometime in the next 60 days.

All blessings,

david

CLXXIII - John Writes David

David Virtue,

I noticed from your recent issue of Virtuosity that you are very much bothered by Revisionists.

And I know Traditionalists are always applauding "the faith as handed down."

An idea occurred to me that might perk Traditionalist interest. In fact, it might give them a new cause to rally around.

You are probably familiar with Luke 3:22 which says: And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; In thee I am well pleased.

All of the earliest manuscripts have it this way: And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, You are my son today I have begotten you.

My suggestion is that Traditionalists rally around the cause of restoring the original back into scripture in place of the more modern revision.

The story of The Woman Taken in Adultery found in John 8:1-11 is a rather late forgery – the church fathers reference it for the first time in the 12th century; it is not in the earliest manuscripts; in fact the style does not fit the rest of the text.

Now I realize the story seems characteristic of Jesus and is almost always included in movies about the life of Jesus, but in the interest of absolute truth and due concern for the scriptures as once handed down, surely we do the world no favor with these revisions (forgeries) found in our modern versions of scripture.

As a rather broad churchman myself, I am prepared to join the Traditionalists in this endeavor.

Can I count on your support?

Blessings,

John S. Morgan

CLXXIV - David Writes John

No argument from me John,

I'm a traditionalist in language and while I understand new translations try to make it more readable and understandable something is always lost when one dabbles with the original text.

David

CLXXV - John Writes David

David Virtue,

In your Virtuosity article discussing Dr. Crew's letter to the presiding bishop, you state: "Since God is not going to change his word or His mind, the pathway to approval is to get the church to change its position."

In modern times our church has changed its position on major issues, such as slavery; the remarriage of divorced persons; birth control; the admission of children to communion; and the ordination of women.

Presumedly you agree with these revisionist positions concerning slavery; the remarriage of divorced persons; birth control; the admission of children to communion; and the ordination of women. "Since God is NOT going to change his word or His mind" is it possible that our church has misread the word or mind of God?

If you agree with these revisionist positions, as opposed to "the faith once received" in earlier times, is it because you AGREE that the mind and word of God was misread or because you want to be DEFIANT to God's will? If the scriptures have been misinterpreted in the past, then why not concerning homosexuality?

If current movements across Christianity are to be believed, we see more and more Christians who think that the church has wronged her homosexual communicants and are determined to change this.

If the pope can apologize for mistreatment of Copernicus and the Jews, when will this apology be extended to the church's homosexuals? If the church was wrong in the treatment of the former why do we assume that she is correct in her treatment of gays? Remember it was Biblical inspiration that led to the persecution of Copernicus and "the Christ killers." Are things different today?

In earlier times we deconstructed the word "Usury" to mean only excessive interest. This let the head of the Camel in the tent. In modern times as the rate exceeds 20% on some credit cards where are all the Traditionalist guardians of Biblical faith at Forward in Faith and The American Anglican Council?

"Since God is not going to change his word or His mind" about usury, why are these guardian of faith organizations spending all their time on gay related problems? Doesn't usury compel a similar interest? Or is it not theology but a visceral revulsion looking, hoping, yearning, for Biblical support that is driving the antigay agenda?

All the fag jokes, the denial of equal opportunities, the embarrassments, the bashings, the floggings, the expulsions from school and military would have been unjustified and down right sinful if homosexuality were a mere neutral orientation and gay unions a mere extension of heterosexual marriage. That possibility could turn out to be a real guilt trip for some.

If the practice of monogamy is to be desired, then why not welcome a whole additional group to that revered institution? Marriage, the foundation stone of civilization, should be an option for all.

You scoff at Dr. Crew when he writes: "Are heterosexuals willing to share the pain equally? Might we forgo blessing all relationships until we reach agreement? In that way we could discover together whether there really should be any urgency about the matter."

As I have often maintained, if heterosexuals would be willing to give up all sexual expression for only the 40 days of Lent, they might understand the plight of homosexual men who without blush are asked to tie their privy members in a knot and forgo all expressions of sexuality for a lifetime.

Why not try that yourself and see if whether there really should be any urgency about the matter?

We have seen in recent times that some of the men who were apparently called by God to the Roman Catholic priesthood, in spite of their positions of adulation and having been placed high on the pedestal, and in spite of their oaths are not able to do this. What is to be expected of lesser mortals?

You also say: "This is too disingenuous by half. Does Crew honestly think for one moment that Athanasius would have voted for sodomy as an acceptable sexual behavior? If Arianism was declared a heresy and Arius himself anathematized does he think for a moment, then any bishop who would have stood up to defend this aberrational behavior would not have been consigned to outer darkness."

Here, I will have to agree with you. Any bishop who would have stood up to defend this and ANY major disagreement would have been consigned to outer darkness. In those times one could get his head chopped of for advocating positions that were not politically correct. It makes one wonder where Christianity would be today if in antiquity the leaders had been truly free to explore the honest exchange of ideas. If truth were always valued over party line then we might not have seen major forgeries introduced into scripture as late as the twelfth century.

Overall, your article reads as a fine tribute to DR Crew:

"With amazing effectiveness, he has moved the Episcopal Church from thinking of homosexual behavior as deviant and disordered, to victimhood and acceptance. Even beyond that some leaders like retired Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning have said that the church needs 'to learn from the holiness of homosexuality.'"

This seems to mirror the progression in society at large: from deviant and disordered, to victimhood and finally to acceptance - acceptance in law, in psychology, in the world's militaries, and in the hearts and minds of religious people. And most definitely yes, David, I would define homosexuals being burned at the stake as "victimhood."

But, one has simply to ask the question: Why should anyone think that there is anything wrong with homosexuality? The answer to this is that there is nothing wrong with it. It is only because of the adverse interpretations of a handful of remarks placed into scripture by a chauvinistic and homophobic culture that led to our current cultural abuse.

"It has been, by any standard a tremendous performance, and he has been 'honored' for it by being awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by one of ECUSA's leading liberal seminaries - the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts."

Blessings,

John S. Morgan


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