Monday, November 20, 2006

Paranoia and Straws in the Wind

My whole Christian experience has been within the Anglican expression of evangelical conviction. Very early on I discovered that there is a paranoid streak among most flavors of evangelical, and I plead guilty for sometimes living into this characteristic that is often displayed by biblical Christians.

Sometimes, however, there has been good reason for evangelical paranoia, but often opposition has been either imagined or exaggerated. Meanwhile, it is not beyond the ability of evangelicals, like so many other orthodox Christians, to set themselves up for exclusion, harrassment, or worse, by their own inappropriate behaviors or attitudes.

Over the years I have increasingly been in the habit when I sense the urge to paranoia welling up within me, to try to get to the bottom of what is happening internally before blaming others for the problems I might be facing, or the difficulties into which I have fallen. When I do this I find that what might be happening to me has little to do with my affirmation of faith, and much more to do with the way in which I have handled myself. I sometimes think we like to believe we are being persecuted when in reality we are getting the just desserts for our own stupidity, bad manners, or the like.

Yet during the last several years there have been straws in the wind that unpleasant things are being done to orthodox believers that go beyond their own pugnaciousness or folly. There have been two in the last couple of days that point to the deepening reality that Christian orthodoxy is now so much on the outs in our secular culture and in the secularized churches that it is being seen as a threat to the postmodern world being born.

Now I know that it is not appropriate to argue from the specific to the general, but in many respects there seems to be a pattern developing. I suspect the two items to which I am about to draw attention are but the forerunners of many more, for our culture, as it drifts further from its Judeo-Christian moorings, is finding itself increasingly irritated by many of the stances and values of the revealed faith upon which Christian orthodoxy stands.

I became aware of the first of these at 5.00 a.m. yesterday (Sunday) morning when the clock radio clicked on and I lay there in the dark listening to a summary of the news. The last item of the bulletin drew attention to the plight of several Christian Unions in British universities.

The Christian Unions are hardly extremist organizations and have been part of the British university scene for generations. The UCCF is their umbrella organization, and they have incubated many lay and ordained Christian leaders, tons of them Anglicans. Both my wife and I came up through what was then known as the InterVarsity Fellowship, which was the setting in which we learned to think and live like Christians (http://www.uccf.org.uk) .

However, at Exeter, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, and Birmingham (where my daughter happens to be on the staff), the CUs have experienced various kinds of ostracism. In Edinburgh they have ceased to be a recognized organization of the university because they had the audacity to sponsor an event that promoted the traditional and biblical understanding of marriage and personal relationships, while in Exeter they have been banned from university facilities and had their Student Union bank account frozen.

Behind these attacks is an aggressive political correctness that in the name of tolerance refuses to tolerate what it believes to be the intolerant attitudes of these young Christians -- especially regarding human sexuality. "The 150-strong Christian Union in Birmingham was suspended this year after refusing to alter its constitution to allow non-Christians to address meetings and to amend its literature to include references to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those of transgender sexuality." (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/christian.union.under.threat.students.prepare.for.legal.action/8379.htm). I find it hard to believe that the Trotsky or Islam Societies would themselves do what is expected of the CU.

While it is entirely likely that some of these Christian undergraduates in their youthful zeal for the Lord have become perhaps a little too strident, such a draconian response to their convictions, ideas that were the mainstream a couple of generations ago, has been harsh and a denial of their right of free speech, free assembly, and free expression.

It seems that if the secularizers had their own way they would drive orthodox believers to the very periphery of society, stripping them of their rights and privileges as citizens of a democracy, rights and privileges that find their roots in the very faith that they are marginalizing. Could it be that orthodox Christians will soon be considered as dangerous as Islamic extremists who fulminate violent acts of terror?

The other straw in the wind is much closer to home and comes in the form of a letter sent by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin. This letter has all the delicacy and finesse of a velvet fist in an iron glove, with Schori, in effect, accusing Bishop Schofield of abandoning his ordination vows to defend the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church."

Here is a diocesan bishop, faithful to the rich mainstream of Anglican Christianity, and who is seeking to defend his diocese in the midst of the maelstrom which was unleashed upon the Episcopal Church by the actions of the 2003 General Convention, being threatened by a woman whose every pronouncement suggests she would theological be more comfortable in some variety of unitarianism. I recently broke bread with a colleague who is well to the left of myself, and he was shaking his head in disbelief over the lady's opening gambits.

Schori threatens Schofield with litigation, says that the people of his diocese will suffer, and suggests that the time has come for Schofield "to renounce your orders in this Church and seek a home elsewhere." What audacious arrogance! Katharine Schori does not seem to realize is that Bishop Schofield is actually being faithful to the vows he made when ordained to the priesthood, for like me he affirmed that he would “with all faithful diligence… banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s word.”

In the era Schofield and I were ordained, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer had yet to be dreamed up. He was ordained using the American 1928 Book and I was ordained using the English 1662 Prayer Book, each of which has some pretty far-reaching vows that priests are called upon to make to defend the church from error. Now error is, for the moment, ensconced in the heart of the church, and is is persecuting those who are faithful to revealed Christianity and the core of historic Anglicanism, so we are being utterly obedient to our vows by countering it.

This error that is imbedded in the church shares a lot with the aggressive secularism that is forcing orthodox believers to the peripheries of society, and might enjoy stripping us of many of our civil rights. There is little generosity and no grace in secularism's vision, and the same can be said for the vision of the faith held by the woman who the House of Bishop misguidedly elected at Presiding Bishop.

What should our response be? It certainly should not be to play the victim card, although I suspect that the politically correct, many of whom glory in their own 'victimhood,' would not allow us to do so. Nor should it be to return kind with kind -- besides, most of us have little power to do such a thing.

It is my conviction that we are being asked to stand at the foot of the Cross, being constant in our preaching and living, "in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2). We are called to honor the Savior, and as we do so, in his own good time, he will honor us. This is only what Bonhoeffer would have described as the cost of discipleship.

To say that we stand beside the suffering church that has been and is being persecuted all around the world is to trivialize what our sisters and brothers are going through in Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, North Korea, and elsewhere. On the scale of their sufferings, we do not yet know what suffering and persecution is. However, could it be that the first steps have been taken down a path which will lead in this direction?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its really quite simple, the new presiding bishop is a heretic, as is confirmed by her own statements, and the majority of the house of bishops are apostates. They all worship at the altar of political correctness and this problem is not confined to North America.

Tyler Simons said...

Leaving aside the question as to whether +Katherine is a heretic, no currently existing Unitarian I know would ever say, "Jesus is our path to God." You might want to call the UCC "Unitarian," but they surely wouldn't call themselves that.

john4woman said...

Schori has been elected captain of a ship that has slipped its moorings and is directionless. She is basically a new age syncretist parading as a leader of God's Church.

What I know of Bp. Schofield is that he is a godly and faithful follower of Christ.

May God have mercy on all our souls!

Eve said...

Tyler,
Katharine Schori said "Jesus is *A * path to God" and I think the Unitarians would agree.

Anonymous said...

The fact is that many Unitarians are atheists, and would say that the expression "Jesus is a path to God" is nonsensical. However, there are Unitarians who still think of themselves as Christians, however marginally, and perhaps it is among those that Bishop Schori would fit.

A Senior Priest said...

KJS can bluster and threaten all she wants. Surely her well-paid lawyers have pointed out that in California she won't have a leg to stand on in court. The precedents are so well set that San Joaquin will win any court case hands-down.

Why should some kind of out-of-state nonprofit religious corporation be able to even THINK that they could use courts of law to take over a separately incorporated California religious nonprofit based on merely notional (for which read illusory to everyone who isn't willing to recognize them) organizational regs? Laughable.

EVEN BETTER... what really scares Ms Schori is that if San Joaquin wins in its effort to make 815's "canons" applicable in SJ only when they are in agreement with SJ's canons... the Episcopal Church is NO Longer a hierarchical church, and al their lawsuits will fall, everywhere. Heheheh...

Richard M. Wright said...

No matter how whacked one might think ++Schori's theology - and it is way out there - and no matter how arrogant and hypocritical her attempted assault on the Diocese of SJ... you might want to be careful about referring to the presiding bishop as "the lady".

Richard Kew said...

Two points:

1. I find it interesting that while the article was about the increased levels of harassment of orthodox Christians, the only responses have been about Schori. Perhaps my readers haven't understood the full nature of the sort of times that are emerging.

2. It is also interesting how words of description (like lady) which are intended as respectful are now considered less than respectful. Where do we go from here?!

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