A Seattle Episcopal Priest says: “I am both Muslim and Christian”

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From the Seattle Times:

Some religious scholars understand Redding's thinking.

While the popular Christian view is that Jesus is God and that he came to Earth and took on a human body, other Christians believe his divinity means that he embodied the spirit of God in his life and work, said Eugene Webb, professor emeritus of comparative religion at the University of Washington.

Webb says it's possible to be both Muslim and Christian: "It's a matter of interpretation. But a lot of people on both sides do not believe in interpretation. "

Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, agrees with Webb, and adds that Islam tends to be a little more flexible. Muslims can have faith in Jesus, he said, as long as they believe in Mohammed's message.

Other scholars are skeptical.

"The theological beliefs are irreconcilable," said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. "For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy."

Frank Spina, an Episcopal priest and also a professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Seattle Pacific University, puts it bluntly.

"I just do not think this sort of thing works," he said. "I think you have to give up what is essential to Christianity to make the moves that she has done.

"The essence of Christianity was not that Jesus was a great rabbi or even a great prophet, but that he is the very incarnation of the God that created the world.... Christianity stands or falls on who Jesus is."

Spina also says that as priests, he and Redding have taken vows of commitment to the doctrines of the church. "That means none of us get to work out what we think all by ourselves."

Redding knows there are many Christians and Muslims who will not accept her as both.

"I don't care," she says. "They can't take away my baptism." And as she understands it, once she's made her profession of faith to become a Muslim, no one can say she isn't that, either.

Read the whole article.

Update: A previous thread on this story (an interview with Anne Redding in the Diocese of Olympia "Episcopal Voice") is here.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyChristology

Posted June 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. drjoan wrote:

Thank God for priests like Fr. Spina. 
Bishop Warner has simply copped out.  But that is nothing new.
You know my thoughts on this whole situation already (see http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/3362
This is bad news NOT the Gospel!

June 17, 4:17 pm | [comment link]
2. Andrew717 wrote:

<sigh>  The sexual orientation stuff doesn’t bother me nearly as much as this kind of story.  Someone who professes to be both Muslim and Christian has no business being clergy of any stripe, because they either are lying to one of their religions, or if they have such a miserable grasp of both religions as to honestly think that it’s ok then they shouldn’t be in leadership.  If you honestly believe that 2+2= Purple you shouldn’t teach math.  If you have to lie when you say the creeds, you should not be leading services or performing the Eucharist.

June 17, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
3. Aquila wrote:

Actually, it seems to me that the Jews and Muslims have more common theological ground than Christians and Muslims.  Anyone for forming a Jewish-Islamic congregation? ohh

June 17, 5:17 pm | [comment link]
4. Brad Page wrote:

#2 Now, now, Andrew just you’re not being inclusive.  Please Remember:  The Episcopal Church Welcomes You (to 21st Century Christoislamitarianism).

June 17, 5:18 pm | [comment link]
5. Patti wrote:

The article does a fine job of presenting Ms. Redding’s beliefs, which, even before she professed faith in Mohammed, were not generally compatible with the core of Christianity.  The shockingly sad takeaway for me?  Not much will happen, and she will go on her way living in 2 worlds partially (maybe) and none with commitment to something real, true and holy.

June 17, 5:18 pm | [comment link]
6. Philip Bowers wrote:

popular Christian view is that Jesus is God and that he came to Earth and took on a human body, other Christians believe his divinity means that he embodied the spirit of God in his life and work

Not so.  Anyone who denies the divinity of Christ, co-eternal with the Father, the eternal Logos through whom all things were made, is not a Christian.  It is impossible to be both a Christian and a Muslim, as a Muslim denies the divinity of Christ.

June 17, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
7. Newbie Anglican wrote:

She may be Muslim, but she’s not Christian.

June 17, 5:42 pm | [comment link]
8. FrankV wrote:

Now, Now people! Be kind.  She undoubtedly will be acclaimed the next presiding bishop and then canonized.  Anton LaVey lives on in the Episcopal Church.

June 17, 5:58 pm | [comment link]
9. Br. Michael wrote:

There are a lot of TEC Clergy an laity who do not accept the divinity of Jesus.  Some post quite regularly here.

June 17, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
10. driver8 wrote:

Strange that in some Musilim countries so far it being compatible to be Muslim and Christian, converting from Islam to Christianity is thought to deserve death.

Of course, interpretation is demanded but interpretation that does justice to truth. The Apostles Creed (affirmed in baptism) clealry states truths that are denied in the Quran (notably the truth that Jesus was crucified).

It is hard to see how you can continue to affirm that baptismal commitment (let alone the truth claim of the Nicene creed that Jesus is eternally begotten and of one being with the Father) and hold to anything like the classical Islamic view of the nature of God.

June 17, 6:15 pm | [comment link]
11. Karen B. wrote:

The Seattle Times did a nice job with this story I think.  And they seem to have really pegged Redding with the subtitle they chose for one section.  “Finding a religion that fit”—yup, it is all about what was comfortable for her, what she could accept.  Not about accepting God or Truth as an absolute.

I commented a lot on the earlier thread on this story (the Dio. Olympia newsletter, where this first appeared), so I’ll probably not comment too much more here.  But nonetheless, I still find the following juxtaposition so striking, even given the 30 years+ of dysfunction in ECUSA:

As much as she loves her church, she has always challenged it. She calls Christianity the “world religion of privilege.” She has never believed in original sin. And for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus’ divinity.

She found a good fit at St. Mark’s, coming to the flagship of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington in 2001. She was in charge of programs to form and deepen people’s faith until March this year when she was one of three employees laid off for budget reasons. The dean of the cathedral said Redding’s exploration of Islam had nothing to do with her layoff.

[and then a little later:]

She believes the Trinity is an idea about God and cannot be taken literally.

She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

What makes Jesus unique, she believes, is that out of all humans, he most embodied being filled with God and identifying completely with God’s will.

I’d say this was utterly ludicrous and scandalous but it’s not surprising since we now have a Presiding Bishop that says our faith/church is all about the questions.  The answers don’t matter.  (obviously that’s a paraphrase, but I’m sure most of you remember the various interviews.)

Nonetheless, shame on Bishop Warner and any who made her director of formation.  Unleashing a wolf (albeit probably a kindly intentioned one) on vulnerable sheep.  And likewise, shame on those who allow such interfaith events that drew Redding further astray.  If she’d received decent spiritual direction and discipling she could have found all her longings and spiritual hunger satisfied in Christ.  I pray she may still do so.

How we need those who can confidently teach the faith of the apostles and provide Godly formation, discipling and spiritual direction.  So many are lost and under attack within ECUSA.

June 17, 6:16 pm | [comment link]
12. Karen B. wrote:

Sorry, can’t resist one more comment:

That’s not to say she couldn’t develop as deep a relationship with Mohammed. “I’m still getting to know him,” she said.

Um, Anne, slight problem.  Mohamed’s been dead for about 1400 years.  Even Muslims believe this.  If you’re really looking for the way to know Christianity is true it’s because Jesus is Alive!  He is Risen!  You CAN know Him more deeply each day.  As for Mohamed, you can learn about him.  But you’ll never know him personally, he’s dust.

June 17, 6:21 pm | [comment link]
13. DH wrote:

This attitude shows (1) Bishops are not doing their job in choosing their candidates for the priesthood, (2) seminaries are teaching false doctrine, or at least a watered down version of Christianity, and (3) Parishes are not doing their job in really knowing who they are calling priests.

But that’s the TEC in the 21st Century!

June 17, 6:23 pm | [comment link]
14. DH wrote:

Sorry. 13 should end, “calling as priests”

June 17, 6:25 pm | [comment link]
15. Karen B. wrote:

Ack.  I don’t want to monopolize the thread.  But each time I glance again at the Seattle Times article,  I see something else I want to comment on as I continue to think about it.

Redding knows there are many Christians and Muslims who will not accept her as both.

“I don’t care,” she says. “They can’t take away my baptism.”

And there you have ECUSA’s theology in a nutshell:  Baptism = entitlement.  Once baptized (and sometimes I wonder when that requirement will be done away with) anything and everything goes.  Doesn’t matter any longer what you believe or how one lives, whether one is being transformed by the Holy Spirit, whether one fulfills Biblical requirements in life, teaching, conduct for leadership.  No position can be denied.  That would be discrimination.  That’s the mantra.  We saw it clearly with VGR and are seeing it over and over again. 

I thank God there are still some who hold firm to the standards set forth in Scripture, and once again thank Kendall for keeping the standard of Titus 1:9 set before us daily through this blog and his own example.

June 17, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
16. Newbie Anglican wrote:

Good point, Karen.  I’ve noticed liberals often make a brazen idol out of baptism.

June 17, 6:41 pm | [comment link]
17. nwlayman wrote:

Rev Redding is the latest Diocese of Olympia priestess to give them trouble.  20 years ago, Laura Fraser was found to be into “channelling” and other such black arts.  The bishop then decided it was easier to buy her off than to try her in some ecclesiastical court.  She was given a full disability pension in return for renunciation of her orders.  Because she wore a hearing aid, and had since before her ordination.  Redding should get a Ouija board right quick, and demand the Fraser Special if anyone in the diocese gets rough.  Does anything at all embarrass an Episcopalian??
Interesting to see Eugene Webb mentioned.  Years ago he was an enquirer at an Orthodox Christian parish in Seattle.  He didn’t last long, and now it seems there’s a reason.  He didn’t believe.  But he *is* an Episcopalian!  Maybe a Muslim too?  How does one tell the difference?

June 17, 6:57 pm | [comment link]
18. Words Matter wrote:

The bishop thinks it all peachy:

Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet, he said.

But the interesting and newsworthy person is +Spina:

“The essence of Christianity was not that Jesus was a great rabbi or even a great prophet, but that he is the very incarnation of the God that created the world…. Christianity stands or falls on who Jesus is.”

Spina also says that as priests, he and Redding have taken vows of commitment to the doctrines of the church. “That means none of us get to work out what we think all by ourselves.”

How’d this guy slip through the ordination process?!

June 17, 7:04 pm | [comment link]
19. Larry Morse wrote:

People, how can you not burst into laughter! This is so absurd, logical analysis and dissection are both pointless and unprofitable. You cannot discredit a fool in his own eyes, and he cannot see his discredit in the eyes of others. What’s to comment on? She belongs to a burgeoning category, “A Witless to the Faith.”
  Well, I said this earlier, so please forgive me. This is what solipsism looks like in the real world.
The loud raspberry, friends, and then let’s move on to something completely different, “A man…..with three buttocks.”  LM

June 17, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
20. Matthew wrote:

This is so sad.  Can she not be excommunicated?  Of course, who would do it?  I read this as someone who got a monthly newsletter about a year ago in TEC in which there was a threat of excommunication.  There was also a threat to deny communion and notify the Bishop within 14 days . . . . you know the language in BCP.  The threat of excommunication was based on an investigation (still unknown) as to who “did it” and please come forward if you have any info.  The act in question was not minor but neither is heresy.  If we had taken a “life and let live” approach to that incident, our parish would be dead.

June 17, 7:23 pm | [comment link]
21. Matthew wrote:

meant “live and let live.”  sorry.

June 17, 7:41 pm | [comment link]
22. teatime wrote:

What would be an incredible irony is if she came to espouse the Muslim beliefs about homosexuality and became a thorn in the bishop’s side over it. Hey, it could happen! I’ve found that God has a delicious sense of humor!

June 17, 8:23 pm | [comment link]
23. driver8 wrote:

Based on the article I would judge her a heretic and not fit to preach.

She is welcome to continue her search for truth as she wishes, as we all are of course, but the church has a responsibility to ensure those who teach affirm the basic tenets of the faith. Tenets that she affirmed in baptism and committed herself to in the vows made in ordination.

ordination vow

Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them?
I am willing and ready to do so

June 17, 9:07 pm | [comment link]
24. Brad Page wrote:

#20 Matthew:  You have hit it:  There is no one to discipline this priest in any way whatsoever.  In fact, most of the bishops believe less about God’s revelation than she does.  Moral disputes aside, what amazes me is how anyone - liberal or conservative - who considers themselves theologically Christian can remain in the Episcopal Church.

June 17, 9:08 pm | [comment link]
25. Harry Edmon wrote:

“I don’t care,” she says. “They can’t take away my baptism.”

“They” have not taken away her baptism, she has thrown it away as garbage.  She is the one who has rejected her baptism.  But the bigger shame belongs to her bishop who refuses to discipline her, but actually encourages her.  I expect God to be harsher in His judgment on this so called bishop than this so called priest.  I would say God have mercy on their souls, but unless they repent I don’t think He will.

June 17, 9:15 pm | [comment link]
26. Br. Michael wrote:

Nowhere in Scripture are God’s covenants absolute.  There is always an express or implied condition.  You can argue, twist or squirm to the contrary but polking a finger in Gods eye is always a bad idea:

1 Samuel 2:12-17   12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.  13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand,  14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.  15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.”  16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.”  17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt.
1 Samuel 2:22-36   22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.  24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad.  25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.  26 Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.  27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus the LORD has said, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh?  28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel.  29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’  30 Therefore the LORD the God of Israel declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.  31 Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house.  32 Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever.  33 The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men.  34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.  35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.  36 And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, “Please put me in one of the priests’ places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”’”
1 Samuel 3:10-14   10 And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”  11 Then the LORD said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.  12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
1 Samuel 4:10-18 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.  12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head.  13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out.  14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli.  15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see.  16 And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?”  17 He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”  18 As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.

God is not a fool and He will judge.  The vine grafted in can be cut off.

June 17, 9:31 pm | [comment link]
27. deaconjohn25 wrote:

Needless to say it is scholars who claim to be able to swallow this Mt. Everest sized pile of heretical baloney as the opening line affirms.

June 17, 9:34 pm | [comment link]
28. Daniel wrote:

Would it be too indelicate to call this priest an apostate and say she should be anathematized?  I realize this will never happen TEC’s church of “What’s Happen’in Now,” but it does seem in appropriate in the circumstances.

June 17, 9:59 pm | [comment link]
29. Pam C. wrote:

I have to admit when I saw this headline I burst out laughing. Sometimes the ridiculousness of it all just gets to me. What will they come up with next?

June 17, 10:04 pm | [comment link]
30. Mike Bertaut wrote:

Hmmmm, I am struck by the tone of #29’s comments about the Episcopal Church being the only possibility for you.  Liturgy, tradition, intellect, and creativity are certainly available in other faith traditions.  Certainly you’re not suggesting that we fail to literally interpret the New Testament?  That Christ’s words in the gospels not be taken as historical fact?  That the writings in Acts not be treated as reliable history?  That Paul and Peter’s advice to the early churches not be taken as weighty today?

I apologize in advance if this sounds personal, but when one lets go of the NT as real, Christianity itself cannot be much further behind.

I think if we dug hard enough, we’d find that sort of thinking helped our confused Muslim/Christian friend get started down the disastrous path she is on now.

Just my 2 cents….KTF!...mrb

June 17, 10:09 pm | [comment link]
31. FrankV wrote:

Such twisted logic.  You truly qualify for membership under the current Episcopal leaders.  If you want the true foundation of Christianity, try the Anglican orthodox way based on the love of God, the recognition and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the truth and the light, the Nicene creed, scripture in general, and the 1928 or before book of common prayer (collection of prayers and scripture).  Also, tell me which of the priests, Bishops and Archbishops of the African Anglican churches practice polygamy?  What rot.

June 17, 10:21 pm | [comment link]
32. Brad Page wrote:

#29 TPaine:  The real question (and the point of my comment) is not about what one may claim is an “aberration”, whether it be in the African or American Church.  The question is what “aberrations” are understood to be within the common life of the Church (and celebrated as part of it’s institutional and corporate identity and/or gift to the larger church).  This is a priest supported by her bishop.  The sort of clerical “goofyness” represented here is tolerated and accepted and celebrated at the highest levels of TEC.

And, since you bring it up, yes I am sure there is polygamy in Africa (duh…..and Utah as well, I imagine).  But, does that mean Bishop Akinola would allow a polygamist priest?  Of course not!

And regarding your last sentence:  Yes, she is a “goofy woman”, but I doubt she’s as isolated as you’d like to think and I am sure that she’ll be a priest for as long as she wants to be a priest.

PS:  There are options for those who want liturgy, tradition, intellect, creativity, and a non-literal interpretation of scripture….depending, of course, on how far you want to push the “non-literal”.  If you can say:  “The world wasn’t created in 7 literal days, etc., but Jesus IS the literal Son of God”  then you’ve got some other places to look.  But, if you must say:  “The whole of the Bible should be subject to a non-literal intrepretaton”, then maybe you are right about the Episcopal Church being the only place.  Unitarians don’t have the liturgy.  With its liturgy, tradition, creativity, and a certain post-theistic intellect, TEC does offer an exotic and really rather pretty “boutique” experience of religion.

June 17, 10:22 pm | [comment link]
33. FrankV wrote:

deleted by elves.  We missed this last night.  Off-color jokes not appreciated thanks

June 17, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
34. Jon wrote:

#29…. quick question.  Regarding your allegation about polygamy in Akinola’s “diocese” (I think you mean province): that’s a relevant parallel only if we are talking about polygamous PRIESTS in that province.  (The news story under discussion is about a heterodox PRIEST in TEC.)  Are you suggesting that there are Anglican priests in Nigeria who are taking multiple wives?  If so, can you give us more concrete details?

Also, I wonder if you aren’t failing to grasp the key situation here.  We aren’t talking about one errant priest—but a priest who’s heresy strikes at the heart of the Creeds themselves and (critically) is being strongly endorsed by her bishop.  It’s the bishop’s stance that is critical here.

June 17, 10:27 pm | [comment link]
35. The_Elves wrote:

We ask that folks not further pursue the polygamy in Africa topic, at least in terms of a specific response to FrankV’s question in #33 (Also, tell me which of the priests, Bishops and Archbishops of the African Anglican churches practice polygamy?)  That topic (the background, the exact nature of any pastoral provision, current church discipline standards, etc.) has been discussed in depth on quite a number of threads on the old blog.  If readers need links, write us elves and we’ll reply with details.  (It may take us a day or two, the next few days we may have very limited time online.)


June 17, 10:30 pm | [comment link]
36. robroy wrote:

Tpaine, thanks for your reasoned response. I have a question for you (and DC Toedt if he’s out there). My problem with the “totally inclusive” church, i.e., one that has SSB’s and homosexual clergy is that one has to throw out 3000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition and ignore the 9 or so “hammer” verses in the Bible condemning homosexuality (or at least dismiss them as only applying to the historical context). If one can defy tradition, and pick and choose scripture, rejecting some to history, then not only can islamopalians justify their existence but every other heresy can too. Such a church is destined to disintegrate in a matter of years into a thousand heresies. The wheels set in motion set up by “radical inclusion” leads to certain death of the church. Agreed?

June 17, 10:46 pm | [comment link]
37. The_Elves wrote:

PS to our #37, here’s the best discussion of the polygamy in Africa topic on the old blog. 

Polygamous Bishops in Africa? “The Witness” Has Some Explaining To Do

which points to this extremely comprehensive thread of the same title on Stand Firm: http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/1177/

UPDATE: several more links:

A Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality of the Church of Uganda

Josiah Fearon Speaks his Mind

Frank talk with Josiah

Josiah Fearon on the false Polygamy Canard still too often mentioned by Episcopalians who ought to know better

Bishop FitzSimons Allison and Dean William McKeachie: Is it Anglican well-being or willful amnesia? (discussed towards end of article)

[Should the old blog be down, you can access all of the above by using Google’s cache feature.  Type the word cache: and then paste the url of the article in question on old t19 immediately next to the word “cache:” in the Google search box and it will pull up the article for you.]

So with those link provided, further discussion of details of polygamy in Africa on this thread is closed, but of course all other on-topic comments are very welcome wink

June 17, 10:56 pm | [comment link]
38. FrankV wrote:

Thank you elves.  That allegation really burnt me up.

June 17, 11:51 pm | [comment link]
39. Br. Michael wrote:

In any event the woman is an apostate or heretic and should be disciplined by her bishop unless he too is an apostate or heretic.

Given the current situation, one would expect the PB to exercise some discipline, but that would only be a fool’s hope.  TEC is a laughing stock.

June 18, 12:09 am | [comment link]
40. Andrew717 wrote:

#41, you’re right.  Only those who fail to be heterodox can expect to be disciplined now.  Shan’t be long before we see priests defrocked for the vile heresy of Theism and believing the creeds.

June 18, 12:32 am | [comment link]
41. FrankV wrote:

I wonder if she has ever read the biography and history of Mohammed or any part of the Koran?  There is no reconciling that with Christianity.  In fact, one can argue it is the Anti-christ such as the Apostles John and Paul warn us against i.e, false teachers etc.  “If anyone comes to you and does not bring the teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” 2John1:10-11.

June 18, 12:44 am | [comment link]
42. red_dot_blue_church wrote:

This really burns me up up when other religions say, “Oh yeah, we believe in Jesus.  He was a swell dude, maybe a prophet or a super prophet - but he wasn’t Divine”

Then I guess this makes him a liar.  Maybe they’ll believe the next time he comes.

June 18, 1:04 am | [comment link]
43. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

Robroy (#38),  I think you have stated a point I often make:  If you can’t believe what the Bible appears to say about homosexuality, how can you believe what it appears to say about the Resurrection, salvation or forgiveness of sin?  Answer:  You can’t, and this woman is Exhibit #1258.

June 18, 1:51 am | [comment link]
44. Dave B wrote:

I just scanned the comments so I may have missed it if some one mentioned that there was an article about her in her Diocesan news paper about her “dual faith”.

June 18, 2:02 am | [comment link]
45. The_Elves wrote:

Dave B., thanks for the catch.  I’m not sure anyone has posted that earlier link:

June 18, 2:04 am | [comment link]
46. Rolling Eyes wrote:

Just when you think TEC has gotten as stupid as it could get…

June 18, 2:58 am | [comment link]
47. robroy wrote:

We are told that we need to listen. I continue to be all ears. I have not heard from a liberal on this. I think that it is incumbent of them to answer the question before we carry out the “experiment” of changing the church to be “fully inclusive” (SSB’s and actively homosexual clergy). If we can dismiss the so-called clobber verses, see here, using contextual exegesis arguments, etc., and we toss out 3000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition of condemnation of homosexuality, then do we not have to accept Islamopalianism, Arianism, gnosticism, Donatism, etc.

June 18, 7:30 am | [comment link]
48. Larry Morse wrote:

deleted by elves since the comment this referred to has now been deleted

June 18, 7:50 am | [comment link]
49. Larry Morse wrote:

The heart of this problem is a complex and wide spread one, especially in America: Can one be tolerant and inclusive and maintain any standards at all, or are these two sets contradictions? We have watched for nearly fifty years as America undertook to substitute individual gratification for common behavioral standards. The maintainance of standards was and is widely admired, but the price is at all times exclusion. If you are going to play tennis, you cannot get rid of the net and the lines; if you do the latter, the game becomes meaningless and no one wil play. If you keep the net and the lilnes, some can never play and many can never play well. All standards are exclusive. Someone is therefore always “left out” and it is necessary to understand that this is as it should be. God alone is perfectly inclusive because His standards are universal; we cannot be like Him. This simple truth cannot be scouted.
  It is therefore essential we reestablish the essential truth that exclusivity is inescapable in all issues of standard setting. In America, one hopes that the diversity of possibilities leaves a system somewhere that will include one who has been excluded elsewhere. If I cannot join The Knights of Columbus, I can join the Masons. What I cannot do - or else all human meaning will fail - is join the Knights and the Masons at once because that will require that both give up their identities for my sake.
TEC cannot grasp this ineluctable human situation. Their attempt to include all is, as we have seen, the erosion and attenuation of the Episcopal’s Church’s identity - an erosion so severe that it has even become comic. We grant that exclusivity, unmodified, becomes a vicious parochialism, but we cannot judge the need for standards by its extreme, nor can we allow the human hunger for logic and consistency to cause any proposition-set to be pursued to its logical end, for such pursuit yields the very extreme we wish to avoid.

It is precisely for this reason that I, a skeptic and a doubter and a waffler and a man hungry for faith which he has a hard time grasping, have chosen the real Anglican church, because it allows me to espouse the fundamentals - Do I love God with my whole heart? Well, I do, actually. Did Jesus really die for me and mine? No doubt.  - and mutter and scuff my toes about all manner of other theologicality. But if I did not assent to the essentials, should the church exclude me? Absolutely. And if I end up in the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing my teeth? Whose fault its that? I chose.

The price for the maintenance of standards is a certain hardnosedness. To call this bigotry (and the like) as TEC and the liberal establishment has done, is to establish the extreme as the standard, and poor erring mankind cannot survive that environment. Nor can TEC survive for the same reason. Larry

June 18, 8:20 am | [comment link]
50. Chris wrote:

ECUSA imitates Scrappleface (parody like The Onion):


June 18, 9:04 am | [comment link]
51. gdb in central Texas wrote:

Just goes to prove that you just can’t parody TEC. Mark Steyn points out that Scrappleface had this headline four years ago:

“Episcopal Church Appoints First Openly Muslim Bishop”

June 18, 9:07 am | [comment link]
52. Words Matter wrote:

Excellent points, Mr. Morse. I would only add that a “tolerance” and “inclusion” have become blurred, to the detriment of civility. I am certainly going to “tolerate” what my gay neighbor does in his own home. I can certainly “tolerate” his rainbow flag flying on the front of his house.  We can be civil and even friendly at neighborhood meetings. Amazingly enough, the subject of his sexuality never comes up.

But what happens when “tolerance” becomes a demand for inclusion or acceptance, not of the person, but of his behavior? I must use a pseudonym for fear of reprisals. I am called “bigot” and “homophobe”.  My opinions must be silenced. My Church must bless - not tolerate, bless - his behavior. Everything is about “being gay”.

June 18, 9:15 am | [comment link]
53. Mike Bertaut wrote:

#51, LM, Right on the nose.  I’ve said this before, but it seems an appropriate time to recall these words:

Make no mistake; the battle within the U.S. Episcopal Church is not about intolerance, gender or sexual preference. It is about fear leading to theological amnesia. And fear has driven out the purpose of the church. Loosening the rules to attract more congregants instead has driven more away. Making it easier to be a member is not what works to retain the faithful. It’s all about how you cast your theology in your life—is your faith your anchor or just something that makes you feel good?

And Lord knows, we could all use an anchor about now.

June 18, 10:18 am | [comment link]
54. Ad Orientem wrote:

I have a question.  And it is not intended to be rude or sarcastic.  I am quite serious and would welcome thoughtful replies.  How can anyone professing to be an orthodox (small ‘o’) Christian in good conscience remain in TEC?  If you believe TEC is at the least heretical if not apostate (I believe the latter), then how can you remain?

June 18, 11:12 am | [comment link]
55. Ad Orientem wrote:

I have no idea how that face got in my previous post.  It should have been a close parenthesis.

June 18, 11:13 am | [comment link]
56. Jeffersonian wrote:

Islam:  Come for the burkas, stay for the beheadings!

Is it possible to parody the Episcopal “Church” any more?

June 18, 11:16 am | [comment link]
57. Mike Bertaut wrote:

I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I am constantly in contact with many solid, orthodox Christians within TEC who are in great pain and great confusion caused by the actions of our heretical HOB.  I seem to have been called to stay, minister to them, and remind the leadership that they will be forced to deal with reality and true Christians sooner or later. 
I am comforted by my study of Rome, the Church clearly went through periods where God had put it under judgement as it tolerated the worst sorts of people as Papacy or Magisterium, yet God has preserved the institution in one way or another. 
I am not yet ready to give this Holy Ground back.  Yes, the apostates are in control today, you called it, Ad Orientem, but it will not always be so.  I have been called, for reasons I do not fully grasp, to stand.  And to announce my presence loudly (notice you will find no nom de plum or alias on my correspondence or blog). 

I do not pretend to understand or enjoy this task, but I have come to realize its importance.  I know that I will be unwelcome.  I have already been classified with the insensitive and unfeeling.  So far, a small price to pay, wouldn’t you agree?

Pray for me.  The Battle is Joined.

June 18, 11:22 am | [comment link]
58. Jon wrote:

#57… it’s not strange that any particular orthodox person might still be a member of a TEC parish.  Maybe his parish has got a good solid rector.  (Iin the late 90s I was at the Cathedral in Birmingham where Paul Zahl was the dean.  His replacement is a wonderful orthodox and loving man.  If I still lived in Birmingham I would still be there.)

So that’s one answer.  In theory as Anglicans we are all into the episcopacy and bishops and so on, but in practice how most of us are daily fed is in our parish life, and if that is really good and you have close friends there, many people wouldn’t change.  And of course there are someplaces where not only is the parish sound but so is the bishop.

A lot of other people are charitably waiting for TEC to make its final choices at Sept 30—and others might be waiting for Lambeth 2008.

June 18, 11:30 am | [comment link]
59. Ad Orientem wrote:

Has it occured to you that by remaining in communion with heretics and apostates you are giving them cover and thus possibly causing scandal in the classical sense of the term?  The ancient canons of the Church absolutely forbid remaining in communion with heretics and apostates.  Also the Fathers are crystal clear on this subject.

“Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that merely joins in prayer with heretics be suspended, but if he has permitted them to perform any service as clergymen, let him be deposed.” Apostolic Canon 45.

St. Maximus the Confessor said: “Even if the whole universe holds communion with the [heretical] patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching.” The Life of St. Maximus the Confessor.

“Chrysostomos loudly declares not only heretics, but also those who have communion with them, to be enemies of God.” St. Theodore the Studite, Epistle of Abbot Theophilus.

June 18, 11:33 am | [comment link]
60. Jon wrote:

Note on Larry’s post (#51)... like everybody else, I liked it.  grin  But with one caveat.  I don’t think that the orthodox (at least the overwhelming majority of us) have EVER been advocating excluding gay people from the church itself, or even people who have trouble believing parts of the Creeds.  So in that sense this whiny complaint we constantly keep here about Excluuuuuuuuuding is a red herring.  Lambeth 1998 (which Akinola and all kinds of other conservatives fully endorsed) had two parts, one that indicated that the church could not change its teaching, and the other that gay people were totally loved and welcomed.

So the problem we have had is not with a rank and file person who might be struggling with this or that aspect of the Creeds, or who might be exhibiting sin in this or that aspect of his personal life.  Our problem is with a movement that demands that the normative identity—that the very teaching—of the church be changed.

The only way “exclusion” has been applicable to the current crisis has been the fact that certain people in the church (i.e. people who we love and welcome into it) are being excluded from certain jobs and certain ceremonies, by virtue of their definition.  To focus on Gene Robinson, for example, nobody in 2003 was saying we wanted to exclude him or his partner from worship—we were saying that the JOB DESCRIPTION of “being a bishop” precluded a man in his situation from taking that particular job in the church.  Likewise, the bishop in question in this thread, Bishop Warner, is failing to properly execute his JOB as a bishop, which is to defend the faith once delivered by announcing (by implication) that Islam is correct in denying the divinity of Jesus.

What I really like about Larry’s post is his observation that all groups with a normative identity are going to be in one sense “exclusive.”  In TEC, for example, we exclude from the priesthood people without college degrees—that’s part of TEC’s identity about what it means to be a priest.  We exclude in practice schizophrenics, people with Downs syndrome, etc.  It’s necessary that when you create a Job Description it will exclude people who don’t meet the description.  If you create a liturgical rite (i.e. Holy Matrimony) it will exclude people who do not meet certain criteria—e.g. people already married to someone, people under a certain age, etc.

So I just wanted to go on record here as saying that actually most us have no desire to exclude sinners (or the doctrinally mistaken) of any kind from the church— where would we be if that was the case?  (As Hamlet says to Horatio, use every man according to his deserts, and who shall scape whipping?)  I am a terrible sinner and desperately in need not only of the mercy of my Lord but also the gentleness and compassion of my fellow parishioners.  And it follows by simple logic that on some issues (e.g. the question of the Real presence in the Lord’s Supper, prayer to saints, etc.) some of us inside the Anglican church are certain to be believing untrue doctrine—since an extreme Anglo-Catholic position and an extreme Reformed position contradict one another.  But in both cases (my personal sinful life, my personal doctrinal errors) I am not asking the church to change its teaching.  This is the distinction that needs to be hammered home and which the secular press still largely doesn’t “get”.

June 18, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
61. Dave B wrote:

Thank you elves for posting the link.  I am staying in TEC but watching closely. The people in the parish are really good folks. I am also not really excited by my options right now other than TEC.  I have a very good rector and his assistant is excellent.  Both very orthodox.  We are allowed to restrict our giving to the Church and the Diocese.  The Diocese will have to decide which way to go as will our rector and his assistant.  I am waiting to see what developes.. It has been quite a show so far.  I just hope I don’t eat all my pop corn before intermission.  I have learned a tremendous amount by reading posts on this blog.  Thank you all.

June 18, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
62. Jason S wrote:

This is why the Episcopal Church is becoming such a bad joke.  This is a case of a priest going completely off of the rails, but it’s fine with her bishop, and the national church has no opinion on the subject.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.  By refusing to require any actual theological content in the beliefs of its members, TEC has declined from being a Christian church to a hobby for “spiritual” people.

June 18, 1:53 pm | [comment link]
63. Mike Bertaut wrote:

Re: #62, I really do struggle with your questions, really do appreciate your concern as well.  And you can rest assured, that I am comfortable in my belief in a God who will certainly cast out those who are lukewarm to Him, I know Him to be Judge and Jury in all our ultimate destinations.  That does not preclude me from this struggle.
I have to balance that knowledge, however, with the idea that I am called to defend those who stay.  I do not believe my staying gives any heretic Bishop “cover”, simply because no one would ever confuse me with someone who thought them Christian or qualified for their job.  I am constantly guided back to Jesus’ teaching on the wheat and weeds.  Evil will exist, co-exist even inside each and every one of us.  I am not yet motivated to run from it, I do not see TEC as a lost cause just yet.  I have chosen not to act as a hireling, who flees at the first sign of trouble, but have chosen to become a marker, a standard, a stake in the ground, and a thorn in the side of those who would put Scripture aside and destroy a church with all the potential to be Holy Ground once again.
Interesting that you chose a quote from a Greek (St. Maximus) who was in fact defying Constantinople’s right to govern itself at Rome’s expense, during a time when Rome was a downtrodden backwater and Constantinople the center of the world.  His arguments gave background for one of the most destructive splits in all Christendom 500 years later, as the Pope’s representatives shook the Greek dust from their feet and abandoned their fellow Christians to the Turks, over a simple question of obedience to a Latin ruler they did not trust.  Those same Greeks today have as much claim to Apostolic succession as Rome does.  I will not advocate abandonment, as Maximus did.  God willing, Scripture will revive the souls of the faithful and they will realize their sin, and cast out the heretics.  Until that day, I will remain a champion of the standard by which the HOB should be measuring themselves.
The really amazing thing about this whole process for me has been, if you really knew me, you would have a difficult time imagining a less likely champion!  God’s work, not mine.


June 18, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
64. Ross wrote:

As a side note, unless I’m mistaken Redding is teaching one of the classes I’m taking this fall.

But an earlier commenter said something about not having heard from a “liberal” on this topic, so as a card-carrying reappraiser (OK, I don’t actually have a card, but now that I think about it maybe I should make one) here’s what I think:

In a nutshell, I don’t think she’s being true to either Christianity or Islam by trying to claim them both.

There are various ways you can approach interfaith conversation.  One way is to begin by saying, “At most one of us is right, and everyone else is wrong.  Incidentally, I’m the one who is right.”  The conversation usually founders quickly after that.

Another way is to begin by saying, “We all use different names and words, but really deep down we’re all saying the same thing.  Isn’t that nice?”  You can get a little farther with this approach, but it breaks down on the fact that different faiths really are saying different things, and some of the differences are profound.  This is the error that I believe Redding is making.  If you wave away enough of Christianity and Islam to find the overlapping areas, what you’re left with is neither and it’s not entirely honest to claim that it is.

Now, that being said, I don’t have a problem with a priest in the Episcopal Church exploring Islam, or saying that she finds much truth and beauty in Islam, or that she loves parts of the Muslim faith.  There is a great deal to admire in Islam (and other parts to hold in, perhaps, lesser esteem; although Islam is hardly unique in that regard.)

But if you are a Christian, then when you enter into the grounds of another faith—whether literally into a mosque, synagogue, or temple, or figuratively into exploring their traditions and teachings—then you do so as a guest.  A polite one, hopefully, but intrinsically an outsider.  If you want to “move in,” that means you have to move out somewhere else.

The experience of people I know who have done a lot of ecumenical or interfaith work is that those who do it best—who are best able to bridge the distance between different denominations or faiths—are the ones who have their feet solidly planted in their own traditions.  You have to be confident in your own identity before you can truly relate to others, and that holds true both interpersonally and inter-ecclesially.

Now, all that being said, and even though I don’t think Redding’s approach is really workable, I wouldn’t suggest that she be “disciplined” for heresy, or anything like it.  If I were the bishop, I would ask that when she vests as an Episcopal priest she put on her “Christian” hat, so to speak, and serve the congregation from that place in her beliefs—and if she can’t honestly do that, then she should at the very least refrain from conducting services.  That’s as far as I would go.

June 18, 1:58 pm | [comment link]
65. Reactionary wrote:

She’ll probably be the next Presiding Bishop.

June 18, 2:03 pm | [comment link]
66. Philip Snyder wrote:

Ross -
When I was ordained, I took a vow to be faithful to “the doscrinte, discipline, and worship (not admiration) of Christ as this church has received them.” (BCP p. 538).  I suspect that Redding did too.  To become a muslim is to be unfaithful to Jesus Christ.  Now, if she wants to study Islam, then fine, but to join a mosque or to say that Islam and Christianity are equal or compatible is to deny the following dogmas (basic suppositions of Christianity):
1.  The Trinity
2.  The Incarnation
3.  The Atonement (by whatever mechanism)
4.  The Crucifixion (Muslims teach that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, Simon of Cyrene did)
5.  The Resurrection (without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection)

So, if you want to divest Christianity of those dogmas, then yes, there is no real difference between Christianity and Islam - or Kawanisism or Rotarianism or Toastmasters or any other body.

You cannot be a Christian and deny those dogmas.  You cannot be a priest and not be a Christian.  The bishop should depose her for either heresy or abandonment of communion.

Phil Snyder

June 18, 2:17 pm | [comment link]
67. NewTrollObserver wrote:

#68 Ross,
This raises the interesting question: what are the TEC (or Anglican, for that matter) ‘faith’ requirements for (1) a priest; versus (2) a layperson? If a priest has certain faith requirements, then what does this mean for a layperson? Would it be acceptable, or at least ‘more’ acceptable, for a layperson to be both Muslim and Christian (however such self-appellations are defined)? Or would such a layperson be open to excommunication?

June 18, 2:23 pm | [comment link]
68. Karen B. wrote:

This thread has gotten very interesting.

Mike Bertaut #67, thanks for your stand and witness and your eloquent testimony.  In addition to the parable of the wheat and the tares, I think you can find some good Scriptural warrant for what you’re doing in Jude 17-23

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.  (ESV)

May the Lord provide you with fellowship and encouragement so that you can be built up in the most holy faith and keep yourselves in the love of God, even while you work to engage in a fire-rescue ministry in a very dangerous place. 

I identify with this calling to a very great degree, and to some extent still share it.  (I’m affiliated with two parishes in two different dioceses the US:  one parish has left for CANA, and the other parish is still in ECUSA with no intention of leaving, and where the leadership doesn’t seem to grasp or teach about any of the issues or choices ahead.  In that place, I still feel called to stay and help contend for the faith once delivered, and help minister to those who are in grave spiritual danger due to apathy and false teaching.

Ross, #68, There was much I really appreciated about your comment and I was with you all the way up until your final paragraph about a “Christian hat” and a Muslim hat.  I’m totally against that.  (#70 has already given a good response.) 

But I very much do agree with what you wrote about effective inter-faith dialogue.  I’ve seen it done, and I’ve been very active in it myself (with muslims, it just so happens).  And yes, it works best when folks are clear and honest about the beliefs of their own faiths and not trying to hide or minimize the differences.  And surprise surprise, I’ve even seen once-convinced Muslims become convinced Christians as they study Scripture and prayerfully seek the truth with an open heart.  Thanks be to God.

June 18, 2:30 pm | [comment link]
69. Jason S wrote:

No. 70 writes “The bishop should depose her for either heresy or abandonment of communion.”

I think what defines the current state of TEC is that a TEC priest who becomes a Muslim has not “abandoned the communion” of TEC.  Instead, her bishop is excited about the possibilities.  But a priest who decides to serve an oversees Anglican bishop has “abandoned the communion.”

It’s the logical result of stripping TEC of any theological content and making the only mandatory belief a strict adherence to canons about the ownership of money and property.  Is Jesus divine?  Who knows and who cares?  The only thing that canl get a priest disciplined is something that interferes with TEC retaining control over the maximum amount of money and property.

June 18, 2:36 pm | [comment link]
70. Jon wrote:

Hi Ross (#68) and Phil (#70).  I think Phil has hit the nail on the head.  You reflected on what exactly the bishop should do.  The bishop should sit down with her and ask her what she personally believes regarding those five dogmas Phil mentions.  If it becomes clear that she has an orthodox understanding and commitment to those five dogmas, then he needs to show her how Islam contradicts those and then ask her to publically renounce her commitment to becoming a Muslim (though of course she can still stress her love for Muslims and her interest in interfaith dialogue).  If she is unwilling to do that, or if she does not have an orthodox commitment to those five dogmas, then he should remove her from practicing as a priest in his diocese.

How does that sound?

June 18, 2:46 pm | [comment link]
71. Larry Morse wrote:

“Pray for me. The battle is joined.” The situation can get no clearer than this. We have with us one of the French Resistance, if I may put it that way. Remember them in ‘42? Stay and fight. I have spoken again and again about our talk turning to nothing but warm air, but here we have a fighter. I cannot too much admire this.  Larry

June 18, 3:02 pm | [comment link]
72. Jon wrote:

Hey NTO.  You write in #71:

“This raises the interesting question: what are the TEC (or Anglican, for that matter) ‘faith’ requirements for (1) a priest; versus (2) a layperson? If a priest has certain faith requirements, then what does this mean for a layperson? Would it be acceptable, or at least ‘more’ acceptable, for a layperson to be both Muslim and Christian (however such self-appellations are defined)? Or would such a layperson be open to excommunication?”

For me the issue is not so much whether a person is a priest or not (though that is close) but whether a person is a church leader or not, especially if the person is in some teaching or legislative capacity.  So I would include with priests all kinds of other folks in the church: Sunday school teachers, seminary professors, deacons, delegates to diocesan and national convention, etc.  As I mentioned earlier (#64) I have no desire to expel people for wrong theology—not from the church itself.  I do have a strong desire to expel these people from jobs WITHIN the church for which they are not suited (in this case jobs in which they are spreading false doctrine).  To me it is no different then any other kind of church job: when the church janitor exhibits a total inability to keep the place clean, or the church cook to make edible food, or whatever—then you have to remove them from that job.  But you still love them and welcome them.  You just don’t permit them to do a job which will cause injury to the church as a whole.

June 18, 3:27 pm | [comment link]
73. Mike Bertaut wrote:

#75 LM, you’ve reminded me of one of my favorite CS Lewis analogies.  Remember when he spoke of us as resistance fighters, the devil controls this world, so we are essentially behind enemy lines, going to worship, reading Scripture as if listening to those secret Allied radio broadcasts, to let us know where and when the final battle will be?
I just keep shaking my head, remembering myself four or five years ago, trying to imagine ME doing this now?  Only God could have pulled this off.  I hope our patience is up to it.  It might be a long wait.
Thanks for your support…KTF!...mrb

June 18, 3:55 pm | [comment link]
74. Karen B. wrote:

John Stamper, well-said.  It seems there is such a fundamental confusion (or is it deliberate obfuscation?) about the difference between:

1. welcome for all sinners and doctrinally confused folks, even atheists and non-believers into the church to be loved and taught about Christ.  Radical inclusion—even for me!  Thanks be to God.


2. clear Biblical standards and accountability for those who are raised up into positions of service and leadership in the church.  These range from the qualifications for the first 7 deacons in Acts 6 (“seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”) to the well-known listings of qualifications for elders/overseers in the pastoral epistles (e.g. I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, including this blog’s title verse):

Titus 1: 7-9
7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

There are also of course specific passages that speak about the high standard to which those who teach will be held, eg: James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

I just honestly don’t see how establishing standards for leaders and teachers is discriminatory.  We expect it in business.  We would never appoint a senior manager, let alone a CEO who was not well-experienced and considered capable.  Yet ECUSA seems to believe anyone who is baptized is eligible for any role in the church and to state otherwise is unjust. 

Not to bring the thread back to polygamy, but it does serve as a useful example in one sense:  African leaders have made a pastoral provision to allow church members to continue in a polygamous marriage to avoid the suffering that might be caused to the wives and children should a divorce be demanded.  That is loving and inclusive.  Yet, polygamists cannot hold any leadership or teaching positions.  They cannot represent the church.  A very clear case of applying Biblical standards of love and inclusion as well as demanding transformation and clear standards of Christian maturity, transformation and fruitfulness in those called to represent the church as a leader.

Why does this seem to be beyond “oh-so-advanced ECUSA” (who according to themselves are at least 50 years ahead of the Africans.)  Sigh.

June 18, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
75. libraryjim wrote:

Well, let’s see now. In the past we have seen Episcopal priests who have declared that they are:
wiccans and Episcopalians
Yogi and Episcopalians
Buddhist and Episcopalians (with Buddhist statues on the altar, no less!)
Druid and Episcopalians (even the head of a druidic coven—or whatever they called it)
and now
Muslim and Episcopalians.
Did I miss any?

June 18, 4:07 pm | [comment link]
76. Jeffersonian wrote:

Comment of the day, from Aussie blogger Tim Blair:

Christmas ham must be a struggle.

June 18, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
77. DavidBennett wrote:

This priest, by trying to be two things at once, is essentially both a bad Christian and bad Muslim. Better to embrace one, and deeply respect the other, rather than making a mockery out of both by claiming to be both.

The fact that her bishop couldn’t care less shows the current state of TEC. If a priest can’t get disciplined for becoming Muslim(!), then calling TEC “catholic” in any sense of the word is a total misnomer. The fact that nobody seems to bothered by it in her diocese speaks volumes too.

June 18, 4:34 pm | [comment link]
78. libraryjim wrote:

Why is it that any “Episcopalian AND  ______” gets a pass except “Episcopalian AND orthodox Christian”???

June 18, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
79. Ad Orientem wrote:

Why is it that any “Episcopalian AND ______” gets a pass except “Episcopalian AND orthodox Christian”???

Several points.  First it would seem rather tragic that Epsicopalians need to add the qualifier “orthodox Christian.”  Second I am guessing that you were deliberate in your choice of a small ‘o’ as opposed to a large one.  Third there is no such thing as an Epsicopalian and an Orthodox Christian (capital O).  The two are exclusive.

June 18, 5:29 pm | [comment link]
80. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#18, Words Matter,

You asked an interesting question with respect to the Rev. Dr. Frank A. Spina(†),

How’d this guy slip through the ordination process?!

However, the far more interesting question question that should have been posed at least 17+ years ago would be the same question posed with regard to +Warner. The answer to it might very well have reduced in frequency the number of instances of scandal within TEC in this part of the U.S.

(†)–Full disclosure. I have been a parishioner within the Diocese in question for more than 8 years, AND consider it my great good fortune to be personally acquainted with Fr. Spina.

June 18, 5:35 pm | [comment link]
81. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#23, Teatime wrote:

What would be an incredible irony is if she came to espouse the Muslim beliefs about homosexuality and .... Hey, it could happen!

Sorry, but in just a few more months, if she is to be a thorn in any bishop’s side, it will have to be the side of the current bishop-elect, Fr. Gregory Rickel. +Warner is retiring.

June 18, 5:40 pm | [comment link]
82. libraryjim wrote:

it would seem rather tragic that Epsicopalians need to add the qualifier “orthodox Christian.”

That WAS my point.

Second I am guessing that you were deliberate in your choice of a small ‘o’

Yep. I know the difference between the Orthodox Church(es) and an orthodox believer in other denominations (I could probably word that better, but it will have to do for now).

June 18, 5:50 pm | [comment link]
83. Militaris Artifex wrote:

42. Andrew717,

Shan’t be long before we see priests defrocked for the vile heresy of Theism and believing the creeds.

If Neuhaus Law’

Where orthodoxy is optional, it will soon be proscribed”

is correct, and I suspect it is, your surmise is a fairly safe bet.

June 18, 5:51 pm | [comment link]
84. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#64 John Stamper wrote:

In TEC, for example, we exclude from the priesthood people without college degrees ...

If we do so now, did we do so 18 and more years ago? I will give you a hint where this question is leading. You might want to look into the academic background of Bishop Warner.
I do not know this for a fact, but I have every reason to believe that he did not have a college degree, either when he was ordained or when he was elected to the episcopacy. In so far as I am currently aware, he has never earned a baccalaureate degree.

June 18, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
85. Ross wrote:


His bio says that he graduated from VTS in 1971, so he has that degree at least.  Isn’t a bachelor’s degree a requirement for entering seminary?

June 18, 7:46 pm | [comment link]
86. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#89 Ross,
According to what I have been told by someone longer in the Diocese than +Warner, he did not have the degree when he entered seminary, and did not subsequently earn one. The seminary is an M. Div., I believe.

June 18, 7:55 pm | [comment link]
87. Mike Bertaut wrote:

Hmmmm #91, if we have offended you, I do apologize for my comments.  I do, however, respectfully retain the right to criticize TEC as it is mine, at least as much mine as any reappraiser Bishop.  I, unlike them, have endeavored not to abandon the historic faith to fashion.  And I always challenge the definition of compassion in this way:  Is it compassionate to allow someone you love to continue in error and drag down the faithful with them?  I have a hard time with that.

This is a passionate issue, and abuse is never my intention.  You are quite correct in your statement that there is no perfect church.  There are, however, lines that once crossed, are almost impossible to re-cross and I believe firmly that TEC is headed for one of those at breakneck speed.

Of course you would use historical context to interpret Scripture, as I would as well.  I would think you might find yourself lonely among much of our current leadership in that position, and that scares me.

Busy is a given, but I find no issue more important to me than the state of a man’s soul, and that is the only reason I carve out the time, as do many here, to speak of it.

God Bless You, and thanks for your opinions.  I find much value in them. 


June 18, 10:00 pm | [comment link]
88. Andrew717 wrote:

TPaine, as long as you’re still a Christian/Episcopalian it’s fine by me and I’m glad to have you.  A fact often forgotten by both sides is that the Church is a religion, not a political club.  But the fact that we have to specify that shows much of the rot.  I do believe there are certain baselines, and if you cannot agree on those you don’t need to stay.  A committed Marxist who joins a local Republican club and takes it over, or a Randian who does the same to a Socialist club, I think all would agree they have no business there.  The same goes for non-Christians attempting to take over my parish or Christ’s Church.  I am in no way saying they should be cast out, just not allowed to lead, and they should recognize that they are joining something that has been around for centuries, and not seek to destroy the very foundations.  If one is an atheist concerned with social justice, go join an NGO someplace, don’t seek to become a bishop.

June 19, 12:50 am | [comment link]
89. Mike Bertaut wrote:

TPaine, Don’t be too hard on those who seem intent on purity.  Many woke up one morning to find their church had seismically shifted out from under them, moved a long way in a short period of time into a place they are hard pressed to follow.  It’s quite disconcerting for them (and me too at times). 
Be clear, I can find nothing in the Bible that gives me the right to hate anyone.  Behaviors, yes, Person no.  THAT, my friend, is a challenge for the ages.

June 19, 12:54 am | [comment link]
90. Larry Morse wrote:

The last three comments are vitally concerned with limits, boundaries, with that which is included. For Tpaine, it is necessary to observe that what is included cannot be known until it is specified what is excluded. But why? The answer takes us into the way the brain works, how knowledge is acquired and stored, and indeed, how we can know anything at all.I will look at that later if anyone is still listening.
  Who is included in the Anglican Church? Can we specify? The church has used a creed to show who is included, and yet, as you know, every element, even in the New Testament - perhaps there most - is subject to interpretation and custom. Can one be an Anglican and not believe in the communion of the saints? The creed says “No.” Do you agree? If you do, then Tpaine’s formulation above is utterly unacceptable because it is slack and imprecise. If his formulation is correct, then taking a creed literally, is quite unnecessary. Clearly the church needs to make answer this question clearly and finally: What does the church subscribe to, that everything is excluded save what is included, or that everything is included save that which is excluded? There are vital differences here; these are not distinctions without a difference. An identity hangs in the balance.

The creed undertakes the first position. The custom of the Anglicans - what is that damnable Greek word, adio something or other - takes the second position. My question to you all is: Since both cannot be correct and acceptable, where must the church stand?  Larry

June 19, 8:49 am | [comment link]
91. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#96 Larry Morse,

Is the word you are seeking apophasis or, in its adjectival way, apophatic? As best I can describe its theological use is to describe a theology that attempts to describe God by negation, to speak of God only in terms of what may not be said about God?

June 19, 11:34 am | [comment link]
92. Jon wrote:

Hi Larry.  The term you are looking for is “adiaphora.”  The Windsor Report has a fair discussion of the term:

Such holding together across differences within Anglicanism has made use of the vital doctrine of adiaphora (literally, “things that do not make a difference”). This is explained further in section B. For the moment, we simply note that Anglicans have always recognised a key distinction between core doctrines of the church (remembering that ethics, liturgy and pastoral practice, if authentically Christian, are all rooted in theology and doctrine) and those upon which disagreement can be tolerated without endangering unity[21]. Paul urged Christians in Corinth and Rome to recognise some matters in this way (what to eat or not to eat being a prime example). When something is seen in this way, an individual church, at whatever level, can make its own decisions on the matter.

Conceptually related to adiaphora is the helpful maxim:

“In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis (or, dubiis) libertas, in utrisque (or, omnibus) caritas.”

Which means:


I am not 100% sure I am grasping the opposing two positions you are talking about (the second of which you call the custom of the Anglicans).  Basically the maxim above is the custom of the Anglicans historically—and indeed it’s a fair summary of how most most Christian churches have regarded doctrine and normative identity.  For example, even the church of Rome has regarded some issues as being open for debate.  The question of course is what constitutes the essentials for any particular Christian communion—this is where the different communions disagree.  The key notion, however, is that for most of recorded Christian history, nearly all communions had in common agreement SOME of what they agreed was essential.  For example, Anglicans, Lutherans, Romans, Calvinists, and the Eastern Orthodox were all committed to the Nicene Creed (except for the EO’s disagreement on the Filioque Clause).  Even when they were fighting each other they agreed at least on that.

The interesting thing that has begun to happen in the last 100 years, and especially the last 40, is that prominent figures (e.g. bishops, theologians, seminary professors, etc.) in some large historic Christian communions have begun abandoning even this minimal “mere Christianity” to use the phrase of C.S. Lewis. 

In the case of the article that started this particular thread, we have a bishop who sees no problem with his priests joining a religion founded on a rejection of key planks of the Nicene Creed.  And of course he’s not alone: Jack Spong, Marcus Borg, and so on.  It affects people down in the parishes too: books by these heretics (and the Jesus Seminar, etc.) are very popular in many TEC bookstores.

Now here the interesting thing: when essentials in doctrine (i.e. traditional dogmatic assertions) becomes an empty set (e.g. Spong rejects theism itself, the bishop of Seattle who accepts Islam’s rejection of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection; etc.; and the priests and laity who are influenced by them) then we have either a complete collapse of the church itself—because it lacks any kind of defining identity—or some other kind of defining identity must be found.  And so to avoid complete institutional collapse we find people doing the latter.

This search for a non-doctrinal normative core seems to me to take two forms.  The first is to find it in praxis (practice): what matters is not what we believe but what we do in our liturgy.  This approach is typically also historically revisionist, because its proponents usually try to claim that this proposed form of alternative unity has been the only kind we as Anglicans have ever had.  As Anglicans we have never had essentials in belief, and we have only been bound by praxis.

The second approach that I seem to see nowadays is the theory that we as Anglicans should be bound together, not by theological doctrines (i.e. dogmatic assertions about supernatural realities: God, sin, salvation, etc.) but by ethical doctrines, typified usually by the MDG.  If I understand TPaine (#93) right, he is probably in this camp.  Our current PB seems to be in this camp too.  The problem with it, of course, is that it then becomes hard to understand what makes our group distinctively Christian.  Yes, Jesus urged us to feed the hungry.  But so have many other religions and so do many decent atheists and agnostics.  Or put a bit differently, why are we going to CHURCH?  Shouldn’t we be morphing our institution into simply a broad inclusive group of people (atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, etc.) who focus all our energy solely on creating soup kitchens, building houses for people, teaching people how to read and so on?  If that is what our identity is, why are we doing all this theological stuff—why are we making everybody recite the Nicene Creed and so on?

June 19, 12:24 pm | [comment link]
93. Andrew717 wrote:

My point is that if one’s ONLY issue is social justice, and one does not believe in the Church’s teaching, there are other avenues to pursue your goals without trying to dilute or corrupt the Church.  Which is fairly common.  My best friend recently completed semianry and was flabbergasted by the number of students who openly did not believe, (at least among students after hours) saying Christ was most likely a fictional character or at best a moral teacher.  Ordination was often described as a way to work for social justice, but get a pension, and it’s easier than becoming a professional accademic.  That rot must be excised.

June 19, 12:28 pm | [comment link]
94. Andrew717 wrote:

I must add that I would be thrilled to have an HOB made up exclusivly of LGBT folk, provided they could perform the liturgy without lying and would defrock the subject of the article and the sad excuse for a bishop who thinks denying Christ is just dandy.  The sexual issues are, to me, a clever way to distract the faithful elements within ECUSA while the faith is abandoned, while Christ is removed from the center of the Church, with the creeds replaced by “I beleive in anything I want to at this particular moment.”  The hand with the VGR puppet is dancing about drawing attention, while another stealthily slips arpund us with a dagger.

June 19, 12:37 pm | [comment link]
95. Andrew717 wrote:

Why are we the church (as opposed to an NGO or social organization?) While feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, releasing the captives, we also know that death has been defeated and that by grace we have all, both those who are hungry and those who feed, been granted eternal life though our lord Jesus Christ.  We know, that is, that the kingdom is already here, and all we have to do is live in it.  (And yes, that kingdom is inclusive).

I agree 100%.

June 19, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
96. Andrew717 wrote:

This was a (loosely) Methodist seminary with a large contingent of Episcopalians and Presbyterians, my friend being of the latter.  But my cousin, a reapraiser rector, has confirmed that much the same went on at VTS in her time there a few years back.  And from what I’ve seen in several parrishes, it isn’t terribly isolated.  It isn’t common, but nor is it uncommon.

June 19, 12:48 pm | [comment link]
97. Jon wrote:

Hello TPaine.  Glad you are having time to post here on T19.

Let me correct a misunderstanding.  I have never said that you didn’t yourself believe in supernatural realities.  What I said is that it appeared that belief in these realities was not part of how you saw the defining essence of being Anglican.  Do you see the difference?  I reject, for example, the idea that the essence of being American means loving hamburgers; but that doesn’t mean I don’t myself love hamburgers, just that I think you can be a perfectly good American and hate the things.  (In fact I happen to love hamburgers!)

So I was (I think) correctly observing that you don’t think that any particular beliefs are necessary for binding us together as Anglicans—but by observing that I wasn’t saying that you didn’t have any beliefs yourself in supernatural realities.

By the way, could you confirm that I am right here?  In post #100 you do seem to assert that there are no beliefs that should bind us together.  You quote approvingly the phrase “Orthodoxy for us is right worship and not right belief.” 

If I am right in how I understand what you are saying, can you comment at greater length on why you are shocked by unbelieving clergy coming out of seminaries?  Why is that a problem?  My guess is that they are very committed to performing the liturgy correctly, and they are also probably very decent people who will do a lot of good for the homeless and other folks.  You seem to feel that they ought to have beliefs of certain sort to—but why?

June 19, 12:49 pm | [comment link]
98. Jon wrote:

Quick question, TPaine.  You mention being bothered by a recent movement in TEC and the Anglican Communion of “fundamentalist protestant biblicism married with the rigid authority of Roman Catholicism.”  Can you explain more how you are using the word fundamentalist?  For the last several decades, the word “fundamentalist” (in Christian circles) has meant those Christians committed to (among other things) a young earth (created < 10,000 years ago) and a time in which the entire earth was covered by water (Noah’s flood).  Among the Anglicans (here in America and also overseas) who have been sharply critical of the 2003 TEC decision, I know of no one who is a fundamentalist in that sense.  I imagine there must be at least 2 or 3, but if so that’s probably about it. 

If that’s not what you mean by the word, how are you using it?

June 19, 1:04 pm | [comment link]
99. Shipley wrote:

If one can be both a TEC priest and a Muslim, does this mean that “TEC” now stands for “Total Episcopal Chaos”?

June 19, 1:09 pm | [comment link]
100. Jon wrote:

Wonderful!  Delighted to find agreement on stuff.  I totally agree with you that rank and file people should always be loved and welcomed regardless of their doctrinal beliefs.  Take a look at posts 64, 76, and 78 where myself and Karen B explain in detail why we so emphatically do not EVER want to tell people they aren’t welcome because of some perceived doctrinal error (or perceived sin in one’s personal life, as some regard homosexuality).

So let me say that again: you and I are totally agreed about welcoming and including people in the church.  But if you would, I’d be grateful if you’d look at those three posts to see the distinction Karen and I make regarding church leaders.

If I am hearing you right, this is a place too where you and Karen and I might be able to find agreement (forget about the presenting issue of homosexuality for the moment).  That is, I think you are implying that, while you want all people to be welcome to come to church, regardless of where they are doctrinally, you have a different standard for priests and bishops: that in these cases you do feel like there are basic core beliefs that they all should have, and if they don’t they are in violation of our basic normative Anglican identity.  Is that right… I’d love to hear that it is!

June 19, 2:01 pm | [comment link]
101. Jon wrote:

Thanks, TPaine (#111).  You write:

“I define fundamentalism as interpreting the Bible literally.”

I want to explore your meaning just so I am sure I understand it.  So, for example, all four Gospels claim that Jesus was crucified.  To take what they say literally, it means he really was nailed to a big piece of wood and that he really died.  That when they say that, it literally happened.  Is that a fundamentalist reading of the text?

June 19, 2:38 pm | [comment link]
102. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#96 Larry Morse,
I think the word you were looking for is

a matter that is not of a kind that should be cause for division.

June 19, 2:49 pm | [comment link]
103. libraryjim wrote:

Anglicanism has always held to a core set of beliefs (for example, the statements of the creeds, the 39 articles, and the catechism spells out some of these).
What Anglicanism has been open to in interpretation is style of worship, but even that is dependent on the Book of Common Prayer for basics.

The via media, or middle way, of Anglicanism is not in doctrine, but in worship style. Which is way an Anglo-Catholic and an evangelical may worship differently, but still be considered a good Anglican.

June 19, 3:10 pm | [comment link]
104. Jon wrote:

#115… I agree with you, LJ.  As I’ve said, the claim we hear a lot nowadays about the “via media”, and about praxis binding us together but no doctrines doing so, is simply a completely anachronistic and revisionist history of these terms and our church.  Even in the early 20th century, by which time the Oxford revival had established Anglo-Catholicism is an absolutely legitimate counterweight to the Reformation theology of the early Anglican church, A-C’s and Evangelicals still were in absolute agreement on things like the Nicene Creed, the Calcedonian Formula, a belief in Satan as a real being and not a metaphor, original sin, and so on.

June 19, 3:34 pm | [comment link]
105. Philip Snyder wrote:

Tpaine - can you please be consistent in your statements?
You said:

I certainly believe in supernatural realities, God, sin, etc.  What I don’t believe in or need is dogmatism.

Why are we the church (as opposed to an NGO or social organization?) While feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, releasing the captives, we also know that death has been defeated and that by grace we have all, both those who are hungry and those who feed, been granted eternal life though our lord Jesus Christ.  We know, that is, that the kingdom is already here, and all we have to do is live in it.  (And yes, that kingdom is inclusive).

You stated that you do not believe in or need “dogmatism,” but then you state - dogmatically - that “death has been defeated” and “that kingdom in inclusive.”  Either you have dogmas or you don’t.  It seems to me that you don’t believe in or need dogmas with which you disagree.

Being a Christian entails following certain “dogmas.”  For Anglicans, these are found in the Baptismal Covenant and in the Nicene Creed and entail those things I mentioned in #70 - the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, etc. 
Note, the Dogmas are not the whole of the teaching of the Church.  They are the base or substrate of all the other teaching in the Church. 

Phil Snyder

June 19, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
106. Jon wrote:

Note to Andrew717 (post #103): I agree with you all the way.  I know a lot of traditionalists who have left TEC or are deeply unhappy, and for them the issue of gay folks is peripheral.  The ones I know personally are gentle, warm, and friendly to gay people; the thing that is breaking their heart is all the books by Spong and Borg and their use in church bookstores and classes, and the sermons in which the Cross has been whittled away into nonexistence.

June 19, 4:04 pm | [comment link]
107. Militaris Artifex wrote:

#89 Larry Ross, in re my #90:

Apparently, not only did +Warner not have a bachelor’s degree, the program from which he graduated at VTS in 1971 was not an M.Div., but rather some form of licentiate that was being offered at the time. It was not an actual academic degree, but it was apparently considered adequate for ordination by whichever bishop ordained him. In point of fact, the General Ordination Examination was not instituted as a requirement until the graduating class of 1972.

So, unless the information I was given is incorrect, or he has earned a degree in the interim, which would almost certainly be indicated in the biography which you consulted, he has never earned an academic degree.

June 20, 1:13 am | [comment link]
108. Jon wrote:

Thanks TPaine.  I appreciate you telling me about how you read the Bible.  The method you describe—reading with the literary genre in mind, and also assigning different levels of importance to various parts of the biblical witness (rejecting the idea that each verse is equally authoritative or important)—that’s something you have in common with most of the traditionalists who opposed the decisions of GC 2003 (Ken Harmon, Paul Zahl, Fitz Alison, etc.).  Actually you have that in common with most of the great theologians of the last 1700 years: Luther, Aquinas, St. Jerome, Calvin, Cranmer, Hooker, etc.)  Certainly both of those principles you mention are taught at TEC’s two most conservative seminaries (Trinity and Nashotah).

So one point here is that you might want to reconsider whether the conservative critics of GC 2003 are actually fundamentalists (as far as I was able to gather from you as to how you were using the word—the word I think means for you people who don’t read the bible with those two principles in mind). 

The other thing you might want to consider is whether you aren’t using some of these words in a way that is both vague (lacking definite sharp cognitive meaning) and laden with unstated emotion (typically disapproval or hurt).  That’s a dangerous combination, especially in a public forum!  Better is words that have a clear public meaning and do not have private emotional associations.

For example, the three words that have come up—dogmatic, fundamentalist, and literal—all turned out to be words meaning for you “bad”—they were there largely to express that emotional resonance which the single English 3-letter word does better.  But in terms of the actual denotative nonemotive meaning you were trying to assign to them, that was vague and hard to express.  “Dogmatic” ended up meaning for you “the kind of mentality that tells me I’m a bad Christian and I can’t come to your church”—high on personal feelings, hard to pin down a definite theological meaning to.  “Fundamentalist” ended up not having to do with the historic 20th century movement in America against evolution and geology, but meant—as far as I could tell—both “bad” and failing to read the Bible using two very reasonable principles in mind.  (Spong, by the way, uses the F-word to mean in practice “creedal Christian”—anybody who believes that Jesus actually rose from the dead, for example.)  Literal, for you, ended up not meaning one of the four historic senses of scripture— literal, allegorical, analogical, and moral—but something else (I’m still not 100% sure what, aside from bad).

So I think what I am saying is that a good idea, at least at T19, may be to use these kinds of words as neutral but useful tools to describe certain theological positions or ideas.  “Fundmentalist” has a pretty sharp meaning in Christian history: it means a member of a movement, started in early 20th century America, who believes that any Biblical statement that could conceivably be read as historical fact must be read that way, with a special focus on Genesis and the Creation story and Noah’s flood.  (The movement got its name from a series of tracts called “The Fundamentals.”)  Fundamentalists aren’t bad people—the most saintly and gentle and loving woman I knew was a fundamentalist. 

“Dogma” also has a sharp meaning, which Phil described earlier in this thread.  Dogma isn’t bad—just means a clearly stated theological claim that is crucial to a particular faith.  The Nicene Creed states a number of dogmas.  Islam has dogmas.  Etc.  Christianity collapses into a puddle of goo without dogmatism.

“Literal” isn’t bad either.  It’s just one of the many senses of scripture.  Probably the most important sense, since you first need to understand what the text is literally saying before you attempt to find out if it is speaking in some other fashion.  That’s why I was trying to find out whether you agreed that the literal sense of Scripture was often right.  (All four Gospels say Jesus was crucified.  The literal sense of that is that he got nailed to a big piece of wood.  A reading that rejected the literal interpretation would be one that said he was only metaphorically executed—that he didn’t literally die that way.)  Sometimes a passage or theological claim is to be understood literally, sometimes not.  When Jesus says he is a Vine, and a Gate, and a Lamb—then we are not to understand that literally (though usually the figurative meaning is sharp and clear, just not literal).  So again, literal is a neutral word describing one sense of how scripture is to be understood.

One last thought: one way that “literal” is constantly misused in modern day discourse is that it is confused with “authoritative.”  So someone might say “I know about the Levitine prohibitions against homosexuality, but I don’t read that literally.”  Almost certainly the person doesn’t mean what he just said.  If he did, then there’d be some other figurative meaning he does give to those prohibitions.  But what he actually means is: I understand exactly what they mean, and yes I agree there’s only one thing they could mean, but I do not consider them BINDING.  That’s fine.  St Paul did that with many of the Leviticine pronouncements: announce they were no longer binding on us as Christians.  And perhaps there is a case for that (which would then have to be made) regarding homosexuality.  If so, the thing to do is to quickly agree that the meaning of the Bible is clear, and that there is no nonliteral figurative meaning in this case, but here’s why that prohibition no longer applies.  But it drives me nuts when I hear someone confuse Literal and Authoritative—the two concepts have nothing to do with each other.  You should be on the lookout for that since people will do this all the time and totally miscommunicate their meaning.

June 20, 1:53 pm | [comment link]
109. Larry Morse wrote:

#123: A good ,clear piece of work. Because I have been speaking about exclusion and the means for establishing identity, a comment on dogma is relevant. For a dogma, like the Nicene Creed, adopts the principle that what in not included is excluded, the first of the postures I cited earlier. This is also dogmatic in the other sense of the word, namely narrow and inflexible, for it is this use that is now common and so used by Paine.There is no room for discussion in the Creed; you believe the elements cited and you are Christian, and you are not Christian if you deviate from this standard.

  So I note the the dichotomy created by the Anglican church,  in the rule of tolerance called called adiophora. (Somebody above clued me in for which I am grateful.) The Anglican position is that everything not excluded is included, and TEC has tried to maintain that nothing is excluded. In this manner Anglicans have attempted to give the church a degree of tolerance and flexibility that the Nicene Creed refuses absolutely.
  So I ask you, can these two lie in bed together?
For my part, I fail to see how logically they can, but, allowing for the slipshod, a lot of play in the bearings approach mankind takes to practically everything, it may be possible to maintain so patent a contradiction by each sleeping in the same bed but never touching in the middle. Will this work?
And what does this do to our identity?

  One thing is very clear in the matter of goo: TEC cannot develop a clear identity by arguing that nothing is excluded. The rule is, I submit, where there is no distinction, there can be no meaning; and if all are included, there is no distinction. Larry

June 20, 2:41 pm | [comment link]
110. libraryjim wrote:

John Stamper,
That was a good explanation of the terms. Thank you for taking the time to think all that out and post it.

Jim Elliott

June 20, 2:45 pm | [comment link]
111. Jon wrote:

Thanks, Jim and Larry, for your kind words.

Larry, in my opinion no.  I agree with you that TEC is moving toward a place where they claim that no theological doctrines of any kind are binding on us as part of our normative identity—and replacing that with a claim of unity by praxis or a common commitment to the MDGs.  (Actually, in the case of the first theory, they claim that we have never at any time been bound by any doctrines, which is of course manifestly false.)

Certainly, however, if one does hold that there is no common doctrinal core, then that is incompatible with the belief that there should be a common doctrinal core.

It’s actually interesting.  Susan Russell got very upset on T19 a while back by having her theological views confused with Jack Spong.  I viewed that as encouraging and invited her to go on record here on T19 as sharply disavowing Spong’s theology on all matters save the issue of homosexuality.  She never responded as far on that thread, or anywhere else as far as I could tell.  I told her it would be a very good thing if she could take a vigorous stand for all other aspects Christian orthodoxy (the Empty Tomb, the Virgin Birth, God as Father Son and Holy Ghost, the Devil as a real supernatural spiritual person, original sin, atonement by Christ’s blood, and so on)—and to do so in a normative context, rather than just private expression of her own beliefs.  I would love to see Susan and many others do that, but I am not holding my breath.

June 20, 3:27 pm | [comment link]
112. The_Elves wrote:

John Stamper, what a great comment in #123.  Thanks for taking the time to tease out those different meanings and for reminding us how easy it is to let emotion cloud how we use a word.

June 20, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
113. Jon wrote:

Thanks so much for being vulnerable enough to share your experience growing up.  It was so touching and seemed so TRUE to me when you said: “I wonder if those posting realize how the accumulation of these judgments feel.”  THANK YOU.  A deeply orthodox priest friend of mine focuses a lot on that in his ministry and in his preaching.  In explaining his understanding of why Jesus had to die, he explains it in terms of the way judgement kills—that because Jesus bore our sin for us he also bore on the cross the full experience of judgement for it—and that judgment kills.  “You know that, don’t you?” he says.  “Any time someone is judging you they are killing you.”

So thanks.  Forgive us for all the perceived judgment you feel, judgment and sentencing of you as a person.  Please.

Something that may help is to connect with how deeply hurt and wounded traditionalists are right now.  It’s not just GC 2003 or VGR.  It’s this feeling they have of having their precious creedal faith abondoned and being themselves marginalized and treated horribly—lawsuits and so on.  My priest friend calls it “unabreacted rage.”  It can lead to terrible frustration and pessimism and horribly mean spirited comments—I am talking here about what I see in myself all the time.  So understanding where some of us are coming from—all of these terrible books by Spong and Co. being used everywhere—may help you understand why we get mad and sometimes deeply uncharitable.  Again… forgive me!

June 20, 9:57 pm | [comment link]
114. Larry Morse wrote:

#129, John: I really must object to phrases like, “When they are judging you they are killing you.” John, this is palpble nonsense, isn’t it? Christ made judgments all the time, and you and I do the same, day in and day out. In fact, no one can live, even with himself, without making judgments of value. WE have heard, in education particularly, about being non-judgmental (whichi is a judgment) but this has always turned out to mean, “Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings because their feelings are more important than correcting their behavior.” Isn’t this how it goes? Surely you cannot subscribe to this. And finally, avoiding judgments is avoiding standards, isn’t it?, because whenever there is a standard there must be at least one who sees to it that the standard is met, otherwise it is no standard at all. And a standard, to mean anything, must be for all who exist in the standard’s genus, so that when we make a judgment in this genus, we make it for all.
  And anyway, Mr Paine doesn’t not need his head patted. He is quite able to survive the slings and arrows of daily stress, don’t you suppose? His comments have been vague and ill-focused, and it cannot be ill done for you to say do. To write critically is not the same thing as to read to write derogatorily.  Larry

June 20, 10:10 pm | [comment link]
115. mugsie wrote:

I have put in my support for how ludicrous this makes the Episcopal church look. A Christian and a Muslim being one and the same??? No way!!!! An Episcopal priest also being a Muslin???? DEFINITELY NO WAY!!!! They have totally contradictory beliefs about Christ. Either you are one or the other. You can’t be both. If the Episcopal church has allowed this to happen, then this definitely furthers my belief that the antichrist has a firm hold of the church. I’m glad I got out in time.

May God bless all the poor souls of those who actually believe this garbage, and may He give you mercy for not knowing any better as a congregant. However, I’m sorry, but there’s just no excuse for the clergy, though.


June 20, 10:39 pm | [comment link]
116. mugsie wrote:

Response to #25 Tpaine. The REC (Reformed Episcopal Church) is an excellent alternative for you. It’s biblical, anglican, liturgical, and uses the BCP.

I was raised in the Anglican Church of Canada. I had joined the Episcopal Church here for a while, then when I saw how far it has gone away from the true biblical gospel teaching, then I had to get out. Once they consecrated KJS (who is not a Christian by her own definition) that was the last straw for me.

I have a young adolescent son who is quite impressionable. I needed to protect him from the false teaching I was hearing. He’s getting the TRUE gospel message now, and loving it. I’m loving it too.

I didn’t even know the REC existed until I started doing some web searching. There is where I found it. I read their beliefs online, and also downloaded a PDF of the BCP and checked it out thoroughly. I liked what I saw. I went to check out a service and haven’t moved since. I love it there. No apostacy, no heresy, and no clutches of the antichrist.

Just a wee suggestion for you!


June 20, 11:09 pm | [comment link]
117. Br. Michael wrote:

John Stamper, your 123 was a great primer on basic biblical interpretation.  Genre confusion is a common error and you sorted that out nicely.  Good job.

June 20, 11:31 pm | [comment link]
118. mugsie wrote:

RE #92. I couldn’t have said it better. You spoke so clearly what’s in my own heart.


June 21, 12:01 am | [comment link]
119. Jon wrote:

Hi Larry (#130).  Thanks for your thoughts.  Sounds like there was just a misunderstanding.  As I have consistently understood TPaine when he brings this up, it is a question of him feeling judged and condemned AS A PERSON.  (The issue at hand was not the question of making judgments about ideas or values—I totally agree with you about the importance of being able to openly discuss ideas and explain to each other why we might think the other guy is mistaken.)  It’s hard, however, to be open and honest about it when you are feeling judged as a PERSON.  Most people and certainly most guys find it really hard to say Hey I Am Feeling Like You Guys Are Tearing Me Apart—that I am being condemned and sentenced and hated.  That involves a level of openness that is difficult, so I wanted to let him know that I really appreciated it.  And that I agreed with him—that when we feel judged and condemned as PERSONS it feels awful, like being in a firing squad.  That’s my own understanding of why Jesus urges us not to judge others (as people) and why he tells sinners “I do not condemn you” and why Paul (who TAUGHT what Jesus DID) lays so much emphasis on (a) the terrifying condemning and killing power of the Law and (b) why for Paul the Good News critically involves freedom from condemnation in Christ Jesus.

So again I think you and I just had a misunderstanding.  TPaine wasn’t telling me that my post was attacking him (he actually said “thanks”) and I wasn’t later apologizing for writing it.  What I was doing is allowing TPaine to “stand in” in a vicarious sense for the people I am constantly judging and smugly condemining all the time—his post really worked on me in that sense.  I couldn’t say sorry to all of them but I could say sorry to him as a guy who was within arms length and was having the same problem (caused by the kind of stuff I often do).

One last thought too, and that is that I think it is worth reflecting on the fact that on a blog different people have different conversational styles.  Some people—and you may be one of them—participate because they like the feeling of “going at it” with other people, with verbally sparring and punching each other, competing the way two guys might who are boxing or playing a really tough game of football or raquetball with each other (or whatever).  It’s actually a pleasure for them to compete that way—and for there to be a winner or loser in the exchange.  (They’d throw up if you suggested that they play a game of raquetball but make sure they weren’t trying to beat the other guy, and to be constantly worry about his feelings.)  I personally think that’s great.  I have some good friends who are really competitive that way. 

But not everybody is.  Especially on deeply sensitive issues of one’s faith, other people have a different conversational style, which doesn’t involve verbally sparring or clashing with the other person to defeat them.  So when I heard TPaine a certain way, and then told him I really connected with how he was feeling, you may just want to give us the space to do that without deciding that I am patting him on the head or whatever.  Not everybody is here to spar.  And it’s possible to talk to each other without telling them they are a loser if they can’t take the heat.

Again, though, thanks for your comments, which always help me.  A lot.

June 21, 11:11 am | [comment link]
120. Mike Bertaut wrote:

I continue to marvel at how God can connect all of us on this blog, an obviously diverse group of folks, and bring us to a common understanding and place of peace, WITHIN THE CONTEXT of the ANGLICAN FAITH RECEIVED, without any of us having to invent interpretations or Un-bind Scripture from our own lives and actions.
It gives me hope for TEC, slim as that might sound.
And ditto, John, I’m going to frame #123 and put it on the wall of my cube to remind me of how important language really is.
Remember, all this started, all these connections and understandings, because some poor misguided fool couldn’t tell the difference between Christian and Muslim.  It seems all things do serve the Lord.

June 21, 12:41 pm | [comment link]
121. Bill in Ottawa wrote:

From the rubrics in the Canadian BCP:
<i> IT is evident unto all men diligently reading holy scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority. </i>

While this is not a “purity test” in the sense often used by reappraisers, it is the duty of bishops to truly examine the qualities and faithfulness of candidates for ordination. Having known many people who have graduated from seminary with a weaker faith than when they entered, it seems to me that the discernment processes in most dioceses are backwards; they do it before the candidate goes to seminary and then assume that the person is qualified by virtue of a piece of paper from the Senate of VTS or Trinity College.

The examination of the candidate is not mentioned in rubrics of the ‘79 BCP. There is a section of the service entitled “Examination” but this is part of the vows and not an opportunity for the bishop to exercise judgement or discernment.

June 22, 12:48 am | [comment link]
122. Jon wrote:

Fascinating observation, Bill.  I’d be very intersted in seeing this discussed here at T19 or in this thread.  I know very little about how the process of becoming an ECUSA priest differed pre and post 1979.

One difficulty I see in the text of the vow you mentioned is that it can always be interpreted by noncreedal bishops and laity in their own way.  As you quoted it:

IT is evident unto all men diligently reading holy scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority.

The phrase that everything turns on is, of course, “the requisites for the same.”  An extreme liberal would say he absolutely agrees with all that language.  It’s just that the “requisites” for him are “free inquiry” and a “questioning mind” and the “openness to challenging ideas” (ideas that challenge creedal formularies) and so on.  For him the requisites for being a good priest—and indeed his view is shared by some people on these kinds of review boards—sincerely involve all those things.  And of course he would say that his theology does flow out of great attention to Scripture and (certain) ancient authors.

June 22, 10:25 am | [comment link]
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