Monday, March 20, 2006

A New Thing?

Several weeks ago I wrote a piece about the theological vacuum that there is among those who believe the whole issue of rethinking our understanding of human sexuality is of God. As I have before, I asked at that time if anyone could come up with an adequate theological response to orthodoxy, and as usual, there has been a resounding silence. I guess it should not surprise me because few 'reappraisers' visit this blog, but stuff does get around on the Internet and I had hoped that somehow or other it would get into the in-box of some of those leading this charge away from received biblical values.

However, I have raised the issue with one or two 'progressive' friends, and it would appear that the only approach they can come up with that gives them permission to move forward is that God is doing a new thing. That is, to assert that God is doing something that is above and beyond anything that has ever happened before in the history of monotheism, outside the canon of Scripture, and having little to do with the on going tradition and life of the church.

What this allows for is an end run on the last 4,000 years or so, and seems to obviate any need for a response to careful historical analysis, and the mindset of the church catholic through the ages. It also obviates any need to respond to careful and disciplined theological analysis that makes it very clear that a revisionist understanding of sexuality has no place in the Christian story.

The manifesto in the Episcopal Church of those who are going down the path that God might be doing a new thing is a document that was presented to the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, England, last year, and which goes by the unlikely title of To Set Our Hope on Christ. Shallow and thoroughly postmodern in its approach toward Scripture, it asserts that "For almost forty years, members of the Episcopal Church have discerned holiness in same-sex relationships and, have come to support the blessing of such unions and the ordination or consecration of persons in those unions" (TSOHOC 2.0). It believes that this is the gift that we have to offer the rest of the world.

It is not my intention to respond to this document, although obviously I find it totally lacking, but to move forward to discuss the wider implications of what it means for God to be doing a new thing like this in our midst.

First of all, we have to get a clear answer to the question why God has broken completely will all precedent that was set by... God! If we are to be trinitarian Christians believing in the God who has revealed himself, then it is essential that we accept that this deity is eternal, almighty, and immutable. This means that God was, is, and always will be unchanging and changeless, and that in this Almighty God we live and move and have our being.

This also means that what we believe (and have always believed) about this God and God's self-revelation is either wrong, or was revelation just for a limited period of time and now has been superceded. This would mean that we are part of some kind of evolutionary continuum, and not only have we evolved 'upward' but so has God.

This further means, therefore, that if God is doing a new thing, then God is a process rather than all the things that Christians have declared him to be since 325 AD and the Council of Nicea. If this God is always changing, developing, and altering, because we are always changing, developing, and altering, then this God is becoming a different God than the One he used to be. It is also to say that those who are in the know, gnostics if you like, have a better idea of who God is and what God is up to than the whole of the rest of world Christianity.

To say that God is doing a new thing is an attempt to totally sidestep revelation and all our Christian past in favor of an untried and untested future. It also raises such huge questions that it soon becomes apparent that this solution to a profund theological dilemma is actually no solution at all, unless you want to abandon all that the church believes about God, and start again from scratch. It is to happily declare ourselves out of step and out of communion with the whole Christian faith tradition of the last two millennia. This is nothing less than chronological arrogance that flies in the face of To Set Our Hope On Christ's protestations of humility.

That these 'progressives' are prepared to go to such lengths illustrates that not only does the left not understand precisely what it means to be human and made in the image of God, but also that they have totally lost touch with the nature of the triune God in whose image we have supposedly been made (Genesis 1:27, Mark 10:5-9). This is perhaps the most supreme example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, or of demolishing the whole building in which your apartment is located for fear that your home will be repossessed!

Looking at the history of the church, there has been a steady stream of those who have pronounced that God is doing a new thing going back as far as Montanus, a prophetic individual from Asia Minor at the end of the Second Century. His prophecies were claimed to be of a higher order than what God had already revealed, and were finally declared suspect. There were also a variety of strange practices and values attached to the Montanists.

It would seem that a good few of these movements of new or higher revelation have a sexual component to them. Somewhere within them there are individuals who chafe under biblical standards of sexual morality. We have certainly seen this in plenty of 20th Century groups who have made such claims. And here we have such a claim being made again, except this time instead of being on the fringes it is in the heart of the established churches.

I actually had an experience of this phenomenon early in my ministry. In the early 1970s as the charismatic renewal was cranking up and from America's West Coast came the Jesus Movement, I was the assistant on the staff of a young and dynamic parish in North London. A Jesus Movement group had found its way to London and began preying on our fairly large and lively congregation of teens and twenties. This group was then known as the Children of God.

The Children of God had been founded by a Christian Missionary Alliance pastor who subsequently took for himself the name Moses David. He had been a plain vanilla evangelical minister, but as the phenomenon went forward he began receiving revelations which resulted in the Children of God moving away from revealed Christianity. In a relatively short time they went from being a quirky but basically orthodox outfit, to being something entirely different.

Among the revelations that Moses David had was one that opened the doors for a different kind of sexuality. Certainly, his own appetites were met by a variety of women, and not long after this, supposedly under the guidance of God, they launched their "flirty fish" initiative which based upon the teaching of Jesus that he would make his followers fishers of men, sent out a bevvy of pretty young women into the streets to offer their bodies to men as evangelistic outreach.

For more than a year I lived in proximity to this group, and the problems and damage that they did in the lives of individuals. Indeed, one young woman who had gone off and joined the group for a while until her parents abducted her, lived with us for many months, so we were up very close to all that was going on among these people.

If God is doing something new, then I suggest that those who adhere to this notion rather than ignoring objections to their position should provide solid and strong justification for it that item by item, issue by issue tells us clearly why God's nature has changed, and why God's nature even needs to change. We need evidence, we need hard facts, we need solid research and clear spiritual insights to help us grasp the kind of new thing that God might be doing because God's nature is in a process of evolution. Those asserting that a new thing is taking place are the ones who are obligated to clear away without reason of doubt objections to their position, not vice-versa.

We haven't received this, and certainly To Set Our Hope On Christ does not provide anything but the most tentative grounds for accepting this huge sea change that is being claimed is taking place. This is what I might call as a result of my experience Moses Davidism.

In effect, what I am being asked to do as I climb the mountain of faith is to change midstream to untried and untested equipment. Not only that, but I am being asked to put my whole weight on some new kind of rope that was designed by someone who has never done any research on why the old one doesn't work as well as it should. Sorry, I'm just not in the business of doing such a thing.


Anonymous said...

Fr Kew,

It may be that the "God is doing a new thing" shtick is based on process theology, which is quite the fad and has been for years.

Unfortunately I myself don't know more than superficial things about process theology. For example, it does, at least sometimes, posit an evolving God, for example the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Dan Berger

Fr. Ed Renner said...

The 1979 BCP Catechism asks and answers "How do we know God is doing a new thing?" on page 853.
"Q. How do we recognize the truths taught by the Holy
A. We recognize truths to be taught by the Holy Spirit
when they are in accord with the Scriptures."

With the current "Scripture means what I say it means" Syndrome, everything is a truth taught by the Holy Spirit because anything is "in accord with the Scriptures."

Richard Kew said...

Yes, Dan, the whole process theology thing was big a generation ago, and certainly has fed the "new thing" approach that seems to prevail in "progressive" circles today. Norman Pittenger, who if I remember correctly taught at General Seminary, fed this thinking as well. It also works well with the relativism of postmodernity that finds any absolutes or fixed points hard to stomach.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kew,

I have been reading your blog since its inception and have found it to be consistently insightful and stimulating. The last two postings have, however, risen to a new level in my opinion (despite what must be severe exhaustion.)

The post yesterday reminding us of what the Israelites left behind in Egypt is a profound insight I suspect I will never forget. Since Origen put "despoiling the Egyptians" into our consciousness, perhaps we will now think not only of what was taken, but also of what was left.

Today's explanation that the slogan "God is doing a new thing" has implications for Nicene theology is the most important thing I have read on the subject. The usual protest to "it is all about sex" is the important insistence that Scriptural authority and biblical anthropology are the real issues. But even these pale before the realization that "God is doing a new thing" inevitably means "A new god is doing a new thing."

One question: Does "God is doing a new thing" necessarily imply that BOTH God has changed and mankind has changed or does it merely imply that one or the other has changed? This may sound like the quibble of a pedantic logician, but I am, well, a pedantic logician who quibbles.

Mark McCall

Tim said...

I find some people's ideas of a `new thing' or `God.. changing' or `God...[is] changeless' somewhat strange. For ages, folks have spoken of God as `outside time', which is a concept not normally expounded on enough (possibly because people either have no clear picture, or are lacking a mathematical framework with which to understand it). Time is a box by which God is not bound. He knows the state of the world at all moments, both in our past and future in time; it is us who define time by walking through it.

To say that, because Christian thinking evolves, therefore "God must be changing, which flies against His changelessness as per James 1:17" (etc) is a fallacy: it sees God only in a restricted light, where He sees all time at once. This is the multi-dimensional nature of His will!

Jimmy said...

I want to thank you for this post
'A new thing'
It has helped me to see that church traditions are something to be valued, preserved and defended.
If we think we have a better or more up to date understanding of the will of God than the Apostles or the Christian Fathers ( your post has helped me to see ) we are just deceiving ourselves.

Lou Heron said...

It is difficult to respond adequately to such a long and thoughtful piece which is so nicely written. Instead, I would suggest that despite the lack of response you have noted, the rationale for the current sexual agenda is based not only on a self-serving application of Isa 43:19 or Jer 31:22, God doing a new thing, but upon other premises, as well.

One of the key contentions is that the Scriptures don’t mean what we think they mean. This approach has been part of the argument set since Bailey’s groundbreaking *Homosexuality and the Western Tradition* in 1955. To make a long story short, the methodology is to find an alternative meaning for the words of Scripture and to promote the alternate, no matter how unlikely, as the true meaning. The next step is to show that the newly discovered reading is either silly (e.g., a literalistic use of “man-bedding” for the Levitical passages) or refers to something other than mutually agreed-upon same-sex eros (usually ritual prostitution).

Another is to raise tradition to the level of the Scriptures and then to rely on historical aberrations as if they were mainstream tradition, a favorite method of Boswell, RIP.

A third is to borrow “read the red” from Fundamentalism and to manufacture a contest between Jesus and the remainder of the Scriptures, including, most definitely, Paul. This, of course, relies heavily on an argument from silence and on a picture of Jesus as a divine social worker in drag.

The real bottom line is that the mantra about how we humans decide things is true: “What the heart desires, the mind justifies, and the will chooses.” The error of the orthodox is a belief that this struggle is being carried out on a rational level. It is not. Reason is the slave of desire and the will is the lapdog of both.

Richard Kew said...

Lou, Thank you for your thoughtful and appreciated insights.

Jimmy said...

From a poem

'Don't say you love me
for love is unreal
we are greater than love
as reason is more than to feel'

'I will say I love you
for to me love is real
and like a vessel
my reason
contains all I feel'

anthill said...

Richard--I have a link to this essay on Very good work!

I'm going to take a link into the anthill as part of "the argument."

Also, I'll be praying again on Saturday.

Fr Sullivan said...

Fr. Krew

Just wondering if you are barrowing some of your arguments from the defense of slavery given by the Confederates. The orthodox defense of slavery was traditional and biblical. Using your line of argument, I must assume God changed. If not, what did?

Of course slavery and homosexuality are different, so another of your assumptions is that scripture is being revised. Why not argue that the church is continuing to understand scripture more comprehensively (not differently, nor gnostically)? For example, instead of reading Rom. 1:27-28 alone, read Rom. 1-13 and see that Paul's complete argument had more to do with keeping the Roman Jews and Gentiles living together in a new relationship as the body of Christ. He begins his epistle by observing their ridiculous stereotypes of one another -- concluding that we are all one, no Jew or Gentile. We are one in Christ. We need each other, the eye needs the ear. We are different but one body. Hope and faith are important, but the greatest of these is love.

Of course, the real problem is the homosexuals. If only they had stayed in the closet. Instead they come to our churches and share our Eucharist – becoming one in Christ with us heterosexuals; thereby exposing the whole church to their love of one another. We have to see love expressed…ugh. Now we are in agreement, love expressed physically (Eros) should of course only be done the way God intended. God's intention of sexuality is the same from Genesis to Revelation, in a monogamous relationship based on fidelity, faithfulness, and (here is that word again) love, exactly the way God shared his love in the covenants, through prophets, and through Christ’s love with the church. God has not changed one iota. What has changed is our experiences of one another. We see love expressed by two human beings – and we see something familiar. Love is love. The church should keep the bar HIGH! Therefore the question being asked by the Episcopal Church is: why not raise the bar for homosexuals and include their experience of love in the rites of the church? If our only defense is tradition, then I expect to be saying mass in Latin under the authority of Pope Benedict.

Fr. Sullivan

P.S. To adopt your hard-lined defense of the church, besides saying the Words of Institution from the Vulgate, I will be having a long talk with my wife and children. Or do you think His Holiness will allow a member of the clergy to remain married?

Richard Kew said...

Fr. Sullivan, just because Scripture has been misused in the past does not mean that invalidates its authority. Clearly, Paul in the first century was often writing to correct misperceptions regarding the use of Scripture. By the way, comparing slavery and sexuality is like trying to say that chalk and cheese are the same thing.

Yes, as time progresses we do see how Scripture speaks to the circumstances of changing times, but that does not include changing the meaning of words to suit our preferences. From beginning to end of Scripture, either in small texts or the whole flow of the Bible makes it clear that sexuality is intended by God to be complementary between men and women, not between those of the same gender. If you want a full exposition of this, then I would commend several of Prof. Anthony Thistleton's scholarly works on hermeneutics and also Prof. Robert Gagnon's magnum opus, "The Bible and Homosexual Practice."

I would further add that the bar is already high and that the only legitimate place for Christians when it comes to the expression of genital sexual activity is between a man and woman within the context of marriage. I would suggest that you begin with the wrong presupposition.

Fr Sullivan said...

Fr. Krew,

Thank you for conceding that scripture can be misused. However your claim of certainity about this issue, is where this discussion ends. Your certainty will continue to be my struggle.

Fr. Sullivan

Ned Hayes said...

I just saw this posting on the front of your web-site... didn't realize the conversation had continued.

So I'm re-posting a somewhat longer version of the original comment I made on another area of the site.

Hi Rev. Kew --

I recently encountered your blog off of a listserv for the emergent church that I read. I've really enjoyed reading your blog, and I have greatly enjoyed your emphasis on Anglican identity.

However, as a Bible-believing Christian, I was saddened to find yet another wonderful Christian using the Bible and Scriptural authority to say that homosexuality is a "sin" and is not allowed for Christians.

I believe quite strongly that homosexuality is innate, and is in fact strongly endorsed by both the Holy Scriptures and by the acts of the apostles. Yes, Sodom and Gomorrah and St. Paul both condemn it, but both areas are questionable in context and in culture. (I won't disagree with the Levitical law -- but that part of the Bible also endorses abortion (Exod. 21/Num 5) and makes specific requirements about linen and wool clothing (Lev 11) and how to eat kosher food (Lev 19), neither of which are observed any more by Christians. Or perhaps I should not speak for you: perhaps believers who cite Levitical law against homosexuality do, in fact, continue to observe all the points of Levitical law. I don't know -- I know I claim Christ's gospel over law - Gal. 2)

I won't belabor the point, as we obviously disagree here. And St. Paul, above all people, advised us not to engage in such disputes (Titus 3:9).

Briefly though: in Greek "malakoi" is clearly NOT the word for our modern conception of homosexual (1 Corthn). In fact, elsewhere in scripture, Jesus even commends the faith of the Centurion who kept a "pais" (sexual servant) and heals that same servant! (Matt 8).

Secondarily, the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 is clearly ritually unclean according to Jewish law. He is unclean and can NEVER be sexually clean (his genitals are mutilated). Therefore, any observant Jew would run the opposite direction.

And yet, he is baptized and welcomed into the church by Phillip. This is a "sexual freak" according to both modern conception, and according to Jewish law. He does not even exist before God, according to Torah law: yet he is allowed -- even encouraged -- to accept Christ and become a Christian.

Homosexuals are not consciously perverting Scripture by loving each other: we need to read closely before we begin pointing fingers, in my humble opinion. (p.s. I am not a homosexual "activist," but a Christian minister who's been married -- hetrosexually -- for about 10 years)

P.S. A little searching on Google turns up tons of information that defends a reading of homosexuals as full persons before God. Cf. Church Tradition and Homosexuality for a starting list of readings that challenge "orthodox" readings of Scripture on this issue.

In Christ,

Ned Hayes

Walter Little said...

Mr. Hayes’ letter is no doubt well-intentioned, but is such a hodge-podge of the canards which have been trotted out over the years to show that the Scriptures don’t mean what they say, that it is difficult to know where to begin. Since he mentioned the Greek word “malakoi” and since that is an easy one, why not there? Mr. Hayes’ contention is that “in Greek "malakoi" is clearly NOT the word for our modern conception of homosexual (1 Corthn).”

The claim is true but meaningless. The sexual language of all the ancient world through and past Hellenistic times was almost exclusively concerned with things done to rather than done with, and no conceptual classification of sexual behavior contained taxonomy which centered solely on the relative anatomical sex of the participants. The English language, in fact, had no such technical terms until the hybrid word “homosexuality” was imported in cognate form from German by Chaddock in 1892. The author(s) of Leviticus seem to have had the concept but, as would be expected regarding an unconditionally prohibited class of actions, had developed no technical language relating to it.

The term “malakoi” was used for the receptive participant in same sex eros by Dionysus Halicarnassensis, Dio Chrysostom, and Ptolemy, among others. In addition, descriptions of the change in taste among the active partners in Hellenistic Greece toward more effeminate passive partners used, for instance, malthakos, a cognate of malakoi, to designate the latter and Plato had employed the same word in the same way in Phaedrus. Plutarch, writing a few decades after Paul, refers to males who willingly submit to the passive role as exhibiting both malakia and thēlutēs (effeminacy) by doing so. Philo, in De Specialibus Legibus III (39-42) uses the term malakia, another cognate of malakoi, to refer to men who participate in pederasty, and in De Abrahamo (136), he refers to the kind of men who take a woman’s role in intercourse as undergoing malakotes, yet another cognate. An additional problem with the approach Mr. Hayes has adopted, presumably from Boswell, is that he ignores the relationship between malakoi and arsenokoitai in First Corinthians 6:9 rather than acknowledging the high probability that there was a reason for these two words to occur in apposition. Countryman, among others, correctly notes the importance of the context and groupings of words in the Pauline sin lists (106).

This is but an example of the truth that if Mr. Hayes will look deeper and with an open mind, he cannot help but come to the conclusion that the Scriptures really say what they say. I leave to others to help Mr. Hayes with his other misconceptions, except to confess that the statement about the centurion’s “pais” is just too redolent of the polemics of misdirection to pass up. The word has several meanings, and certainly “servant” and “slave” are included in these. But to claim that it of necessity or even usually means “sexual servant” is outrageous. Please see LXX Job 4:18 in which the word is used to refer to God’s servants. And whose sexual servant does Mr. Hayes think Jesus was? Luke 2:43 identifies Jesus as, yes, pais.

In closing, let us all agree that ECUSA’s problem is not homosexuality. It is a mindset which emphasizes sins rather than universal and evenly distributed sinfulness as the human disease. The problem is, in short, moralism. Moralism cannot but result in Pharisaism and the twin evils of self-righteousness:
a) Other’s sins are worse than mine, so I’m really OK (Luke 18:10-14), and
b) My sin isn’t actually sin at all (Isaiah 5:20).
ECUSA’s problem is the corporate end point of these. See 1 Corinthians 5.

Fr Sullivan said...


A great discussion has ensued. You stated, "In closing, let us all agree that ECUSA’s problem is not homosexuality. It is a mindset which emphasizes sins rather than universal and evenly distributed sinfulness as the human disease. The problem is, in short, moralism."

Might the real human disease at the center of this debate be fear? Homosexuality is clearly something you do not fully understand - and we all respond fearfully with that which we don't understand. ECUSA has corporately been trying to understand homosexuality since the early 70's. Fear or worse, complacency, has kept many from the depth ECUSA has gone to in order to understand our homosexual brothers and sisters. Through this faithful biblical process, a new understanding of homosexuality has emerged, namely, homosexuals can exhibit the same qualities in their relationships as heterosexuals.

Therefore, why not explore this new understanding within the context of God's revelation of sexuality revealed in Scripture?

As Anglicans, we pray what we believe, so a liturgy is the next step in our new understanding. Unfortunately, some would rather justify their fear or complancency, either way -- you seem not fall in either camp, as your words prove your continued struggle with this issue. Ultimately, whatever "side" you take, I am confident God will reveal His will in love.

Fr. Sullivan

Ned Hayes said...

Thank you for the wonderful discussion.

In the end, although we may disagree about what the scriptures say, I think it's important to recognize that all of us -- including me -- take the Scriptures seriously, and believe the Scriptures are holy guides to all parts of our lives. To doubt that in another follower of Christ is to divide us, not unite us.

Personally, I find many more calls in scripture to uplift the poor and create justice for the oppressed (hundreds of them in the O.T. alone) than to condemn homosexuals.

Yes, the two actions of materialistic greed and homosexuality may well be equally sinful. Yet as I meditate on the Good Book, I find myself convicted in one and not in the other as "sinful." God may change that over time: He may also bring you to a different conviction about sin in your life, or in mine. I set no limits on the Holy Spirit's power to transform.

Yet I also don't think it's up to me to re-interpret the Scriptures, or to read into them condemnation and hate that are not there. I take seriously your reading of Scripture: I hope you take mine as seriously, and as prayerfully.

Amen to Fr. Sullivan's call for prayerful liturgy.

-- Ned

Walter Little said...

I have let these two response fester for a bit because it is obvious from them that such communication skills as I have are inadequate. However, it would be unfair to shirk the task of responding any longer.

I do want to make haste to agree with Fr. Sullivan that “Homosexuality is clearly something you do not fully understand.” I trust he would agree that none of fully understands the human psyche and that we will not until that great day when such questions are meaningless. We do run into trouble when we pretend to understand at least as well as God does why we do the things we do. God has revealed a great deal about us in the Scriptures–and all of it profound. We have discovered a great deal, most of it pretty superficial and always conditional upon what we may discover tomorrow to invalidate or correct what we “know” today from our own efforts.

I also agree that “ECUSA has corporately been trying to understand homosexuality since [at least] the early 70's.” I suppose, in fact, that ECUSA must continue to share our lack of understanding and that its complete comprehension, like ours, must await the last trump.

I could stand up and cheer the question, “why not explore this new understanding within the context of God's revelation of sexuality revealed in Scripture?” Yes! ECUSA has acted without taking into account the clear language of the Scriptures and, even worse, it has acted contrary to the findings of its own theological commissions which were given the task of studying the matter.

But, I am not so sure about, “As Anglicans, we pray what we believe, so a liturgy is the next step in our new understanding.”

What does this mean? What liturgy? Perhaps the liturgy of the word? Perhaps Fr. Sullivan means that we need to preach the gospel of sin and salvation, the gospel of Original Sin and the hopelessness of our situation, instead of false gospels of slavery to the law and the moralism which results. If this is the case, he and I are singing from the same hymnal. But, would doing so remove the twin evils of calling others more sinful than we or of calling our sins virtues? I fear that this will not happen, for our very sinfulness blinds us.

Regarding Mr. Hayes latest communication, it is certainly true that there are“many more calls in scripture to uplift the poor and create justice for the oppressed (hundreds of them in the O.T. alone) than to condemn homosexuals.” How true! There are no condemnations of homosexuals that I can find. What is condemned are acts of homoeroticism. Homosexuals, we can safely say, are all sinners–every one of them. Come to think of it, heterosexuals are no different mutatis mutandis.

We all condemn ourselves, if we receive the grace to see our piteous state. We all rejoice in the “mighty adversative” (to quote John Stott) which was in our lectionary for Sunday last, “But God . . .” (Ephesians 2:4). Oh, and there are more condemnations of homoerotic acts than of child sacrifice, so we see that counting condemnations and ranking sins takes us precisely nowhere. Social injustice, sexual perversion, child sacrifice–all are condemned, and the purpose of the condemnation is to convict us. No conviction, no repentance. Would the prodigal son have come home if he had become wealthy?

I do take Mr. Hayes interpretation of Scripture seriously, and would like to assume that he will make the time to invest in a serious and open-minded study of those Scriptures which deal most directly with this issue and will pledge to himself to reject pseudolinguistic clap-trap. I also hope that both “sides” will see the question as having a much deeper root than sins of sexual expression. The problem is our universal tendency to seek to lighten the convicting power of our own sins and make heavier the sins of others (Matthew 23:4). The problem is, once again, Pharisaism, and we all share it. It is just as much a manifestation of sinfulness for the Church of Nigeria to call for criminalization of homosexuals as it is for ECUSA declare the acting out of homosexual orientation to be a virtue.

Ned Hayes said...

Walter --

I'm sorry you need to feel I'm "stewing" here. I'm not. I'm just sad. I think God's sad too, to see us do this.

However, I did have a point here, that was entirely missed. It's unfortunate that I threw some contested languaged your way, for you to contest (again), and throw back. It's the Bible bashers ball... the only one who wins is the guy who sells us our Bibles, no?

The point I was trying to make with the eunuch story and the centurion story does not depend on language at all. The point is that homosexuality and homoerotic acts were all around Jesus during his time here on earth. Centurions and many of the Roman elite in Palestine at that time were not known for their celibacy or for their heterosexual tendencies. Yet Jesus never even mentions this cultural practice which was all around him.

Yes, I do acknowledge that whatever language he used, sexuality and homoerotic acts seemed important to Paul, and to the writers of Leviticus.

Yet frankly, if it didn't seem all that important to Jesus and his disciples, it's not all that important to me. Jesus was quick to condemn those who condemn with moralistic arguments, and was quick to welcome those who were excluded and sexually unclean (bleeding women, sexually prolific persons, lepers, etc. -- none of whom a proper Jew would touch).

Christ is my model. And I will admit, with you, that it's not an easy model to follow, is it? It forces me to love Osama bin Laden, and to love the homosexual, and even to love people with whom I disagree vehemently.

In that light, I do appreciate your final summing up and your acknowledgement that all of us are unworthy sinners before God. I am the least of these. thanks be to God for His grace.

Amen. -- Ned.

Anonymous said...

The claim is nonsense. It's not God doing a new thing; it's the people doing a very old thing.

Craig Goodrich

Fr. David B. Rude said...

After reading all these comments I have the distinct feeling that I have missed something very important along the way. I have been battling against the idea that sinners, e.g., homsexuals, could not become priests. But it seems from this column that there is some official act or proposed official act of the church to declare that homosexuality is not a sin? The Ordination of Gene Robinson is one thing. All of us are unrepentant sinners. But having some official act that says it's not a sin is something entirely different. What have I missed?

Walter said...

Dear Fr. Rude,
What many have missed is 1 Corinthians 5. Those few who have really read it have too often done so in a literalistic fashion and have derived little of use from doing so. If more Episcopalians (or, more accurately, more Mainline Protestants) were to read this chapter with a faithful and scholarly commentary to hand, and if they were to read with open hearts, they would see that ECUSA's current policy de facto declares certain sins to be not sin, just as was done by the Corinthian church.

BTW, do you really believe homosexuality (a cognate of a combination of Greek and Latin words coined in 1870's Saxony to describe a proposed congenital or learned state) is a sin, or was this a slip of the keyboard? Perhaps this seems to be nit-picking, but when the underlying condition is conflated with acts, there is no possibility of understanding.

Fr. David B. Rude said...

Dear Walter,
I don't think a person has to be particularly bright or have a bible handy to notice that same-sex relations are really not what God intended. On that basis my understanding of sin is quite liberal. But sin is really not the issue because it is crystal clear we're all in the same boat. We show our ignorance of the subject if we point fingers at others. It is the answer to the problem that is the issue and that is Jesus Christ.
As to the Corinthian passage it is surprising that it comes from the lips of Paul who not only preached grace but complained bitterly about the fact that sin waged unabated in his own life. As the passage moves on, Paul moves on from the particular sin (which was not considered a sin by everyone) to listing a bunch of sins, which to me, he simply means, "sinners". But we have it from Christ himself that Christianity is not for the righteous or those who think their righteous. It is the sinners he fellowshiped with. So on one level this passage seems to contradict Jesus.
Finally he directs a penalty, according to the 'learned commentaries', that would result in the death of the sinner. Not only is that contrary to other passages but death to those who deviate from 'our standards' is the hall mark of fundamentalism.
My dilemma that I've been trying to get a satisfactory answer to is that there are probably few, if any, that have been ordained that are not guilty of unrepentant abominations. Where do we draw the line and on what basis.
Finally, because we ordain re-married, or glutonous,e tc., clergy, does not mean we are saying whatever their sins are is OK. It seems to me they are two very different issues.
I appreciate whatever help you can give me.