Mark Russell: Go into the world

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I am here, because I have tried to build bridges from my constituency into other parts of the Anglican church. I am here because I want to make a statement that I want to be a fellow pilgrim, a traveler with you. It's a risky business, people throw rocks at you, they would rather curse at the dark than switch on a light. People like to poke faults, they like to cause rows, but we need to keep taking risks to make peace in our church. It's the right thing to do. In a world of division and conflict, surely the one place where we ought to overcome difference with love should be the church. Surely we could offer a prophetic message to our world of how to live in diversity.

So I want to encourage you, to actively seek to build new friendships with people you disagree with. When was the last time you met and prayed with someone from a different part of our church. I can go to Spring Harvest and New Wine as a speaker, and hear my friends tut at catholic worship, and the way you guys genuflect and all the liturgy. And I correct them, and say we should rejoice that God is so big he can accept worship from us all. And in the bars, corridors here, I hear the same things being said about the way I worship. I realise many of you have been hurt by folk from my tradition, and that's wrong. Terrible things have been said, shrill tones used, and people have been bruised. Im sorry for that I really really am.

And I realise some of you would rather have root canal without anesthetic than sing Soul Survivor songs with a full band. But as inclusive church, when was the last time you affirmed the happy clappy evangelical who wants to raise their hands in worship. Would they feel included in your church? These are all important gestures, they are hands of friendship, they build bridges.

And so we sow understanding, and love into our church which seems poisioned with intolerance and misunderstanding. Lets begin to break the walls that divide us.

Unity is not saying that we will always agree with each other, unity is a deeper spiritual concept. Unity allows me to love my brothers and sisters even when I don't always agree with them. Love allows me to hold difference and diversity. Unity is not uniformity. Unity is generated by the Spirit of God, it cant be manufactured or organised, or strategised. It comes when Gods people seek to live in tune with His Spirit, and to love others as themselves.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)

55 Comments
Posted November 26, 2007 at 8:21 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. RazorbackPadre wrote:

“[Unity] comes when Gods people seek to live in tune with His Spirit, and to love others as themselves.”

A shallow gloss on the truth.

Unity in the church comes from a common submission to the truth. Unity in the church is found in common understandings and acceptance of the facts of faith - of one triune God, of one common baptism (birth) into one body walking in one common way toward a common goal.

So while there is certainly diversity in the church, it is a diversity that supports the common understanding and the common goals of the truth held in common. Unity can not be a diversity of understandings and diversity of goals amongst people who have no faith in common.

Sorry ‘bout that.

November 26, 9:42 am | [comment link]
2. robroy wrote:

The fundamental problem is that “inclusivity” (which I have said before is merely a cowardly, dishonest spin-word for ordination of practicing homosexual clergy and blessings of SSU’s) is toxic to the Christian church. I do not believe that an “inclusive” church can survive. Disagree? The onus of proof lies with the revisionistas, so show me. Since I don’t want the Christian message to die, I choose disunity over false unity.

November 26, 9:54 am | [comment link]
3. Larry Morse wrote:

Dorothy Parker, under her pen name of Constant Reader, wrote about an A A Milne piece, “Tonstant Weader Fwowed up.” Amen. And do I want Happy Clappy evangelicals waving their arms around in my church, giving me the kiss of peace? No. They can keep their flu to themselves. This must mean I am not inclusive. I can live with that. Will God strike me dead or cast me into Hell? I would like to think his mercy can encompass this weakness.
 
  And robroy is dead on. All this blather about inclusiveness is a thin disguise for the old homosexual agenda.  LM

November 26, 10:08 am | [comment link]
4. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Does this individual really mean that worship style is of the same substance as sexual morality issues?  Because the Anglican tradition has long recognized the ability of the church to adapt itself to differing cultural surroundings.  That view is enshrined in the Forward or Introduction to the BOCP regarding rites and ceremonies instituted by humans.  But I do not recall that any Christian anywhere is released by the Prayer Book from the commandments called moral.  The ones God delivered in His wonderfully apodictic style.

To equate rites and ceremonies with morality given by God, affirmed by Jesus, and taught by the Church Universal for two millenia in faithfulness to the Apostolic witness just does not compute.

And I am an Anglican whose diversity embraces Evangelical, Charismatic, Latitudinarian, Catholic worship styles.  But, none of this equals the blessing of what God calls sin - whether it is my abomination or someone else’s.  Sin remains sin because it offends a holy and righteous and loving God, regardless of how tolerant I am of diversity in worship.

But perhaps he only intends to cover Broad churchmanship and not matters of faith, morals and ethics?

November 26, 10:34 am | [comment link]
5. Daniel Lozier wrote:

The Rev. Dr. Terry Fullam once said, “Our goal is not to maintain unity.  Our goal is to move under the headship of Christ.  Unity is simply the gift He gives when we find His Mind.”

November 26, 10:41 am | [comment link]
6. RichardKew wrote:

I have been sitting for several minutes pondering these response to Mark Russell feeling more than a little stunned. There is a graciousness about the gospel which, I’m sorry, I find missing. What I hear instead are harsh judgments, the kind of judgments that I know that I sometimes make.

At the same time, sitting before me are the texts of two emails, each of which I am struggling to respond to. One is from a Christian whose values and sexuality I am unable to endorse. We are not close friends, but are able to talk frankly with one another even though I often find myself feeling down and disspirited by what he says or does. The other is from an old friend who three decades ago joined another Christian tradition that has significant questions about the validity of my faith. He is forever putting me on the defensive and questioning me.

I have two options. The one is to break off communication with each of these individuals, the one whose understanding of the faith I think to be inadequate and the other who thinks my understanding of the faith is inadequate. The other option is to remain in correspondence, treat them as friends so that perhaps one of these days, although all of us are over sixty, we will find a way forward by the strength of God, in the power of the Word, and by the Spirit’s grace.

It is this latter that Mark Russell I think God is calling us to. Seeking any kind of Gospel-shaped reconciliation is not easy, and in the process of seeking it all of us stumble, fall, and sometimes make idiots of ourselves. Writing others off is not for us to do, God Almighty is the ultimate judge, our task is to reach out to touch what we might consider to be the untouchable.

I suspect I will be roundly condemned by some for what I have written here, but I write it because I am wrestling to faithfully follow the One who was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

November 26, 10:41 am | [comment link]
7. Charley wrote:

No. 6 perhaps the answer is in asking yourself the question of whether you are being a good steward of the time that’s been given you on this earth by maintaining contact with the two individuals you mentioned.

November 26, 11:10 am | [comment link]
8. Alli B wrote:

RichardKew, please understand that for decades we’ve been sitting in the pews with people with disagree with, as well as having loving friendships.  This is NOT what Inclusive Church wants.  They want us to validate, endorse and actually worship that which we consider sinful.  Can you not see the huge difference here?

November 26, 11:20 am | [comment link]
9. small "c" catholic wrote:

Thanks, Richard Kew—responses 1-5 are precisely why I worry about what will happen among the conservatives when the inevitable split comes to pass. Will we just end up sniping at each other over different worship styles, differing views on justification, on women’s orders?

November 26, 11:28 am | [comment link]
10. Milton wrote:

Reading the whole of Mark Russell’s article, I find someone who is genuinely saddened by the divisions in all who call themselves Chrstian and by the harshness with which they often treat each other.  But I would ask Mr. Russell the same question he asks of us: Where are you going?  Jesus was kind to the sinners He met (which was everyone, including me now) and met their most immediate earthly need, but never left them there unchanged.  The woman who came to the well for wet water found His living water instead, and “carried” it immediately to her whole village.

Jesus told His disciples many times where He was going - to the cross - and that anyone who would follow Him would have to die to himself, take up his cross every day, and follow Him.  I read not a word from you, Mr. Russell, about Jesus that would make Him seem anything but a “happy, clappy” 2007 evangelical.  Nothing of the broad (inclusive?) way that leads to destruction.  Nothning of the gate that leads to life which is narrow indeed.  Nothing of the stern warnings of hell and eternal destruction that far outnumbered the tokens in earnest of heaven.  Nothing of the trials and the world’s hatred facing anyone who truly followed Him, though He would not (and did not) leave us orphans, but is with us even to the end of the age.  Nothing of His coming to destroy the works of the devil, to forgive sin, including (but not more than other types) sexual sin, to give his life as a ransom (ransom from what, Mr. Russell?) for many.

By the way, Mr. Russell, you well note the deep flaws and serious sin in those Scripture records as instruments of God.  But you, stepping again over the elephant in the room that blocks unity, totally omit the life-long consequences of their sins, though forgiven by God.  The sword never left David’s house, Moses spent 40 yrs. in exile in the desert and his anger kept him from crossing over into the promised land to which he had led Israel, Samson’s eyes were not ungouged out after cutting the long hair that was part of his Nazarite vow, Gideon later made an idol that ensnared the Israelites, Abraham fathered the people who produced Islam that denies the gospel and the divinity of Jesus (do you?), and one could go on further.  Do not mislead people and pretend that God does not chastise those whom He also forgives.  “By no means will the guilty go unpunished.”

As for where I am going, by Jesus’ grace bought by His shed blood and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am going after Him, not condemned by Him but also to sin (wilfully) no more, convicted of and repenting of the sins I do commit and receiving His forgiveness paid in advance.  This life is the blink of an eye, so by His grace I try to live it in view of and leading to the new life which has no end, just as the eternal life of banishment to outer darkness chosen by those who reject Jesus as the one Lord and the only Saviour also has no end.  Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus Christ!

November 26, 11:39 am | [comment link]
11. Virgil in Tacoma wrote:

A loving appreciation of diversity can only occur when we realize that truth is not manifest. This brings a modesty in regard to our knowledge; we realize that the ‘other’ side might possibly be right, and so we desire to engage in dialogue, argumentation, and debate with an open mind for the possible change it may work in us. We are now able to appreciate our neighbours in that we are in the same boat regarding truth. No room for superiority or ‘holier than thou’ here.

If we know we have the truth (with certainty), we tend to not be open to dialogue with those who disagree with us, we tend to view ourselves as little gods who possess omniscience.

November 26, 11:43 am | [comment link]
12. the roman wrote:

I’m sure Mr. Russell’s comments are heartfelt but it seems to me he cannot differentiate the righteous from the faithful. Not all followers of Christ are stiff-necked bigots. It’s tragic how the transforming power of God’s Grace is trampled under the banner of “inclusiveness”.

How can the “inclusive” bunch deny their moral relativism with a “straight” face?

November 26, 11:50 am | [comment link]
13. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

I think we need to take this address on its merits (or lack thereof) and not judge it by the fact that it was published by Inclusive Church. Reading it through (and the excerpt that appears here may give a misleading impression of the whole), I can’t find the cues that would justify some of the reactions above, so I’ll also join with Richard Kew. It may be, as Milton (#10) suggests that it reflects an Incarnation-centered not an Atonement-centered Evangelicalism, but that must be an assumption from omission.
 
Russell, incidentally, is chief executive for the Church Army and judging by their website they seem more into implementing the Great Commission than much of the Church of England. 

Oh, and Charley (#7), I would have thought that any thoughtful friendship that does not sacrifice either one’s integrity or one’s spiritual compass is good stewardship. After all, ultimately we don’t make the conversions; we merely provide the means for the Holy Spirit to become active in the lives of others.

November 26, 11:51 am | [comment link]
14. Stuart Smith wrote:

#11:  In your estimation, what did St. Paul mean when he wrote in I Cor.2:16:  “But, we have the mind of Christ.” ?

November 26, 11:54 am | [comment link]
15. Virgil in Tacoma wrote:

#14…I would have to appeal to another text where St. Paul holds that “we see through the glass darkly”, but even our appeal to a text must be tentative, in that we have decided something about the text which we need to support exterior of the text.

November 26, 11:58 am | [comment link]
16. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

I am offended that anyone would consider my comment to be an attack.  It is an honest question within the historical parameters I note.  The question remains - given the exemplars used in the address - are worship styles equivalent to moral issues?  I remain skeptical that whether one lifts one’s hands to orans without liturgical permission during a hymn in a catholic-practice parish is the same as saying that God was in error regarding human sexual design and function and morals and ethics.

The Church as hospital for sinners is not given to handing out alcohol to the alcoholics or get out of jail free cards for the kleptomaniac on the grounds of approving diversity.  There is a category error which needs to be confronted in the argument advanced.  But, I will be happy to conform myself to whatever worship practice any parish I visit employs: become all things to all people does not equate with approve all things to all people.

November 26, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
17. midwestnorwegian wrote:

Seriously, can any of our “worthy opponents” write or speak anything without sprinking those omnipresent buzzwords: “inclusive” and “diversity” throughout?  Do they realize that people (like me) IMMEDIATELY tune them out when those words are printed and/or uttered?  And that I do this because I know those buzzwords are the harbinger of the rest of the message to come….yadda, yadda.  A spin on the famous words of Sam Goldwyn, “Inclusive me out!”.

November 26, 12:38 pm | [comment link]
18. robroy wrote:

The assumption that Rev Kew and Mark Russell is that the revisionist side is Christian. Certainly there are Christians and to mourn the loss of fellowship with them is appropriate. There were a great many god-fearing Israelites carried off to Babylon who did not bow to false idols. But it is also appropriate to acknowledge that we are engaged in more than a pleasant Sunday afternoon debate:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Those forces have destroyed what was the Episcopal Church. Now talk of principalities and the like goes against his British sensibilities. But the Episcopal church is gone. Jerusalem has fallen. What to do now? Pretending that Jerusalem remains is not an option. Bp Iker said that we need to get back to Christian ministry of bring the gospel to a dark and fallen world. However, to do this require separation from those that separate us from this gospel mission.

The LORD is righteous,
yet I rebelled against his command.
Listen, all you peoples;
look upon my suffering.
My young men and maidens
have gone into exile.

November 26, 12:41 pm | [comment link]
19. ember wrote:

#1 wrote that ”[Unity] comes when Gods people seek to live in tune with His Spirit, and to love others as themselves.”

A shallow gloss on the truth.

Is it really a shallow gloss on the truth, or is it an accurate paraphrase of Christ’s words in Matthew 22: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

November 26, 12:41 pm | [comment link]
20. Dale Rye wrote:

Let us assume that Anglicanism in North America (and perhaps throughout the world) is about to split into competing reasserter and reappraiser bodies. The members of the existing bodies will have to jump one way or another. Let us further assume that individuals will have a free choice (not a safe assumption, as many people will really only have one locally available option). How will most of those people, whether already Anglican or considering membership, going to decide?

I would submit that very few Episcopalians or Canadian Anglicans are going to be convinced that one side is 100% right and the other is 100% wrong. They “see thorough a glass darkly” without absolute certainty, and assume others do as well. So, the decision is likely to come down to which side seems to reflect the “winsomeness of Christianity” more than the other, to which side seems to embody the core values of Christianity (as defined by the chooser, not by the striving sides) less imperfectly than the other.

I would further submit that a body that expresses the attitude that it is a waste of time to maintain relationships with those who disagree with it is not going to be very attractive. A body that can condemn the leader of one of the largest Evangelical mission agencies in the Church of England for not being sufficiently exclusive is not going to seem very catholic (in the original sense). A body that engages in name-calling or self-justification is going to turn folks off.

It appears that both of the Anglican fragments are going to show all these faults. The question for many of us will not be which choice is good (there will be no good choices for those who value traditional Anglicanism), but which choice is less intolerable. Every display of uncharitable behavior by one side makes choosing the other side more attractive. Please bear that in mind.

November 26, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
21. Ed the Roman wrote:

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Well, yes, but there’s a bit of an argument about whether some parts of the Law and the Prophets are to be cut down from the first two commandments, isn’t there?

There’s also the question of whether Liturgy is something that we can just make up and edit as pleases us, too.

November 26, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
22. Philip Snyder wrote:

When “Inclusivity” concerns forms of worship and liturgy that express the Truth as revealed in Holy Scripture and and the Creeds and the Traditions of the Church, then we should be willing to at least let those who differ from us worship in peace and accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

There are advantages and glories about all kinds of worship.  I love evangelical worship where the focus is not on the ministers, but on what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  I love the simplicity and beauty I find in Morning Prayer and in a simple, said Lord’s Supper.  I love a good Anglo-Catholic liturgy where the majesty and beauty and power of God’s saving act in Jesus Christ is expressed in the liturgical dance between the ministers where we see the perichoresis of the Trinity interpreted.  I also love the joy found in charismatic worship and have been known to lift my hands in prayer. 

I see the liturgy as a frame around the Truth.  Different frames highlight different aspects of the Truth, but the Truth is unchanged by the frame - it only seems that way.  We should all agree that what we do is not as important as what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and that God’s truth is what we should strive to find - whether we express it in Evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, or Charismatic liturgy should be immaterial.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

November 26, 12:54 pm | [comment link]
23. Cabbages wrote:

Do the reasserters really not comprehend that there is a difference between diversity of worship style (should I be standing or kneeling right now, are we listening to Bach or John Denver-lite) and diversity of doctrine and the fundamentals of the faith (is that Jesus guy the immortal Son of God or a mortal hippie dude, does God exist or does God not exist). 
I can’t tell whether we’re witnessing obtuseness or mendacity on the part of reasserters in failing to acknowledge this distinction, but from the quality of the writing, I’m almost certain it’s mendacity. 

Hold your truths lightly and all that.

November 26, 1:08 pm | [comment link]
24. Cabbages wrote:

er, reappraisers, not reasserters.  smile

November 26, 1:08 pm | [comment link]
25. Alli B wrote:

Dale, you say,” I would further submit that a body that expresses the attitude that it is a waste of time to maintain relationships with those who disagree with it is not going to be very attractive.”

Once again, and it bears repeating, you view it as simple disagreement.  Many of us view it as being forced into acceptance.  That’s the crux of the problem, and you don’t seem to see that.

November 26, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
26. Dale Rye wrote:

Re #25: I see it. In fact, I see both reasserters and reappraisers trying to force me to agree with them, not just accept them. The crux of the problem is that I don’t agree with them, at least not 100%. Whether I am willing to accept them is immaterial, because neither side is willing to settle for that. They want me to adopt every one of their positions and cut off all relations with those who are unwilling to do the same. I can accept the idea that I have to support what the Church has officially pronounced on matters of faith, morals, and discipline. I cannot accept that any individual (or body less than the whole) can compel me to support their private judgment on these matters.

When I am asked to support Lambeth I.10, for example, I am willing to support the whole thing. However, neither side wants me to do that. They either want me to ignore the part about listening to gay and lesbian voices or to ignore the part about consecrations and blessings. I can also support the Windsor Report as a whole. Again, however, I am being told that I should not do so, but ignore either the part about providing adequate pastoral care for dissenters or the part about respecting diocesan jurisdiction. If I do not do so, I am not fit to be one of their company.

The comments above illustrate this tendency. A respected leader in the Evangelical party in the Church of England makes a plea for civility and the response (beyond accusing him of being a revisionist, which he clearly is not) is to suggest that he is either too stupid to see the truth (see #12) or a liar (see #23). This sort of wild accusation is going to drive people away, not only from the speaker’s particular sect, but potentially from Christianity entirely.

November 26, 2:18 pm | [comment link]
27. Cabbages wrote:

Dale, do you acknowledge the distinction I reference in #23? Why do you dance around this point?  Would you remain in a church that explicitely or effectively espouses unitarianism? If not, why not? If so, can you at least understand that some people, Christians in the ordinary sense of that word, might want to associate with other Christians rather than unitarians, and that that desire is not “bigotry”?

November 26, 2:34 pm | [comment link]
28. robroy wrote:

Lambeth 1.10 called for listening (no listening “process”, however). This has been transformed and subverted into a lie, one that justifies delay and obfuscation. This is my point of #18, the truth has been exchanged for lie.

November 26, 2:45 pm | [comment link]
29. wvparson wrote:

Anger isn’t a virtue. Yes, Jesus threw out the money changers but Jesus is perfect and his anger is perfect. Our anger is not.

Bitterness is a spiritual cancer. Given space in an institution however orthodox that institution may be, it will eat out its heart. Fear is of the devil. An ecclesial body given over to fearful reaction cannot show forth the Gospel.

Christian bodies must risk penitential introspection.

In all this we must dare a sense of humor and a sense of proportion and eschew obsession.

Yes we must do everything with other Christians informed conscience permits and avoid self-righteous isolation.

(I’m trying to type at an odd angle in a hospital bed. I may be going home tomorrow. Twice in almost a year God has brought me back from death. I hope I may be given the grace to serve Him for some years.)

November 26, 3:29 pm | [comment link]
30. Alli B wrote:

But Dale, you say, “They either want me to ignore the part about listening to gay and lesbian voices or to ignore the part about consecrations and blessings.”
Who on the reasserter side has asked you or anyone else not to listen to gay and lesbian voices?  I haven’t heard any reasserter suggest such a thing.  Clearly the people you refer to should be listened to and receive pastoral care.  I believe this is undisputed.  Perhaps the truth is that your quandary is created by those who are pushing for validation of what many consider to be sin.

November 26, 3:46 pm | [comment link]
31. Virgil in Tacoma wrote:

We are becoming ‘perfect’ through Jesus Christ! If I have to have perfect belief or perfect action in order to have salvation, then I’m in a lot of trouble because neither is the case.

This gives me the freedom to ‘modestly’ proclaim truth, realizing due to my imperfection what I proclaim may not be true. Therefore, I need to be open to criticism in regard to my beliefs. But, there are different qualities of criticism with different motives among those who criticize.

If all of us could claim our beliefs in all modesty, we’d be able to handle the differences among us, but due to our ‘carnal’ natures that appears impossible. However, with God nothing is impossible, so I still have hope that the church will survive these upheavals as it has over two millennia.

November 26, 3:59 pm | [comment link]
32. ann r wrote:

Virgil has it nailed, at least in part.  It is the difference between those who believe there is objective truth, and those who deny it.  There can be no unity there.  If my idea of social justice disagrees with your idea of social justice, we can talk and remain in the same body.  If your idea of truth is contrary to my idea of truth there can be no unity.  I am an organist.  I have played everything from synagogue to Seventh Day Adventist.  Both those groups attempt to follow the Law as best they can, and there can be respect between the respective members , but no unity.  While the Law might unite in this case, faith in Jesus divides.  I respect the traditions of every group I play for, but would not choose to raise my family in those traditions, because certain truths I hold are not represented there.  As another has put it here, a shared belief in an objective truth is the only glue for unity.  General “niceness” will not do it.  Furthermore, for most of us there is the matter of being spiritually fed.  I was greatly saddened by “nochurchhome”‘s description of her former rector’s attitudes.  Under such a pastor one could not be spiritually nurtured.  The only point of church is to connect us with our God, our Lord and Savior, and lead us in discipleship.  If the church does not supply this for you and your children, it is not worthy.

November 26, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
33. driver8 wrote:

The claim that there should be scope for appropriate diversity in worship is commonplace throughout the history of Anglicanism. Indeed it’s affirmed in the preface to the 1662 Prayer Book:

It hath been the wisdom of the Church of England, ever since the first compiling of her publick Liturgy, to keep the mean between the two extremes, of too much stiffness in refusing, and of too much easiness in admitting any variation from it. For, as on the one side common experience sheweth, that where a change hath been made of things advisedly established (no evident necessity so requiring) sundry inconveniences have thereupon ensued; and those many times more and greater than the evils, that were intended to be remedied by such change: So on the other side, the particular Forms of Divine worship, and the Rites and Ceremonies appointed to be used therein, being things in their own nature indifferent, and alterable, and so acknowledged; it is but reasonable, that upon weighty and important considerations, according to the various exigency of times and occasions, such changes and alterations should be made therein, as to those that are in place of Authority should from time to time seem either necessary or expedient.

The claim that theology of human sexuality should likewise be considered an adiaphoron (that is, a matter of indifference or simple variation of opinion) is hardly of the same order. At the very least some recognition should be given to the view that theology of human sexuality is not an adiaphoron and the very claim (of those such as Inclusive Church) that it’s truth should be seen as ‘up for grabs’ or ‘open to discusison’ is a deeply contentious claim.

It is a significant theological error to imply since some matters are agreed to be adiaphora, that the truth of any theological claim can be considered as ‘open to discussion’.

November 26, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
34. Sarah1 wrote:

RichardKew . . . I read your comments with interest.

I think one of the issues here is the priorities and values of the commenters.  As an evangelical Reformed Anglican I have many friends and acquaintances.  A feminist liberal friend, an artsy sort of liberal, an artsy “pagan” [her words], a non-celibate homosexual, a just-married non-Christian, various Christian believers of different stripes—Truly Reformed PCA, charismatic types, Anglo-Catholic, etc, etc—with whom I enjoy some great conversation and many wonderful times of activity together.

Others I have no time for at all.  There was the guy that, after one outing, left an ugly message for me when I didn’t call him right back.  There’s the ex-acquaintance who behaved very dishonorably.  There’s the person who engaged in public screaming matches.  There’s the “bad boss” who “went away” thankfully to another place and with whom I maintain zero contact.  There’s an old client whom we decided would no longer be a good person to serve.  And so on and so on and so on.

I only have, in other words, so much time to engage in “dialogue” and activities with folks who are interesting and thoughtful, whether at work, church, in the community, amongst friends, and so on.

Each person must decide how to spend their time and energy, which are both so cherished and valuable.

I submit that that is exactly what people are doing as Anglicans—deciding how we wish to spend our time and energy in dialogue and activities and “ministry”.

Honestly . . . I have no desire to spend time and energy with a good chunk of progressive Anglicans.  I’d by far rather spend time with secular progressives who are much more interesting, thoughtful, and delightful.  If given a choice between doing a charitable activity—a “mission”—with secular progressives or atheists and progressive Episcopalians, I’d by far choose the former group.

It’s just how people want to spend their time.

I’m sure that there will be a few reasserting Anglicans—when all of this is said and done—who will be glad to “bridge-build” with reappraisers.  I don’t begrudge them that at all.  But to point a finger of accusation at those who won’t be engaged in such activity—because it is not good stewardship of their time and energy—is a bit like my pointing a finger at some of my friends who don’t want to hang out with some of my other friends.

There is no moral problem, that I can see, with deciding that some types of people just aren’t “my calling” and leaving it to those who are interested in such things.

Dale Rye said something interesting above.  He said [rightly I think] that many people will ultimately make their decisions about where to affiliate based on how people behave.  I agree with him, all things being equal [that is, if I can agree in large part with their theology as well].

Having observed the level of discourse—and indeed rationality and sense—amongst progressive Anglicans, I have no interest in “affiliating” in any sense with them, and I am quite confident that the feeling is mutual.  Whether there ends up a “split” in a structural or logistics or institutional sense or not, the actual “split” has already taken place.

I—and many thousands of others—already take notice of where reasserting Anglicans hang out, and I hang out there, whether virtually or physically.  One of the great things about the Internet is that we are now able to communicate amongst ourselves as to where people of like mind hang out either online or diocese by diocese, parish by parish.

I am significantly more aware of these sorts of things than I was four years ago.  . . . And I’m okay with that.

I believe it to be a gift from God and I am so thankful.

November 26, 5:02 pm | [comment link]
35. Michael Bertaut wrote:

(Oh my!  Sorry this is so long)

I find it most interesting that I can be drawn, as a moth to a flame, to an argument for unity.  It’s a good thing, after all, in most circumstances, and I think most Christians, reappraisers or reasserters would greatly prefer peace to war.  Within my psyche, there is this avowed preference for Unity, I cannot deny it or control it.  And the process of realizing my “reasserter”-ness in belief, import, and practice, forced me to re-prioritize my objectives for my faith and spiritual development, realizing that Unity has a price, and in this case, it is simply not worth paying.  This has been predicted, the “Eye of the Needle” was a very small gate, passable by a man only one at a time, and a camel only on its knees.  Jesus knew he would set families against each other, bring not peace but a sword. 
But now I am here.  I have been shown the value of orthodoxy, and its worth noting how stingingly I am being rebuked by my own psyche for embracing it.  But there is no doubt that there is manifest and material truth within, I have read, studied, and seen it, handed down by God to Israel, refined and summarized by the Prophets and Gospel writers, endorsed and made official by the Councils of the Church and Saints, and embedded within the traditions of our Church. (Roman and Anglican).  I suppose that stinging is the cost of faith, the battle between my secular and spiritual selves.

And so, when I see those calling for “inclusiveness”, “tolerance”, or “unity” insisting on the fact that I give their anti-traditional opinions and interpretations the same weight as historical and spiritual fact, what I hear is actually “Agree with me, because I’m right and I require validation.  Now, I have no real evidence that I am right, no science that says I’m right, no tradition, no history, no Scripture, it’s all a new thing.”  I personally have already felt the validation of Jesus Christ in my life, not through anything I have done, but by the very act of gross and egregious sin, from which I was granted Holy Forgiveness.  It was that transformation that forever embedded in me the Truth of the Word, and opened my eyes to the Transforming Power of the Gospel.  When I am asked to be inclusive, inclusive of behaviors not sanctioned by the Gospels, Jesus, Scripture, Tradition, what I am really being asked to do is to DENY those folks who are doing the asking that Transforming Power. 

A reappraiser may see it as an argument for tolerance or against bigotry.  One who has been touched by the Divine, and seen the Truth, through his own weakness and sin drawn to it like a moth to the flame, that call to Transform, cannot deny that Transforming Power to anyone. 

And so I cannot.  I will not.  And unity at that price is not unity at all.  Then unity becomes sin, like fetters, a ball and chain that all will be shackled with, when freedom from sin is the rightful place for us all.

Patrick Henry got it “Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains, and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!”

Love is not validation.  Love is helping all towards salvation, and accepting sin is not love.  Denying the Transforming Power of Jesus Christ in the here and now is not love and it is a cruel joke to play on any man.  I will not participate.  I will not embrace “inclusiveness” at the expense of any man’s salvation.  And do I need to examine both sides of the argument to know the Truth?

I lived on the other side of the argument (situation ethics, personal definition of salvation, my way or the highway, even atheism for a time) for forty years.  But I wasn’t SAVED, I never saw the Truth, I never felt Transformed until I submitted the the Faith received. 

To embrace inclusiveness would be for me to deny that experience to people who really need it.  Can’t do it.  Won’t do it.  Don’t ask me.

KTF!....mrb

November 26, 6:01 pm | [comment link]
36. Larry Morse wrote:

The fundamental problem with the essay - quite beside its sappiness which I commented on - is its absence of standards. Inclusiveness has come to mean “accepting without distinctions.” Not even Christ did that.  And as I pointed out elsewhere, no man can do it. Accordingly, inclusiveness really means this: Accept those whom, for whatever reasons you cannot accept. And f you don’t accept what I accept, you are un-Christian.” And that is the basic message above. This is a deep falsiity in this position, a fundamental dishonesty.  LM

November 26, 9:34 pm | [comment link]
37. Milton wrote:

#29 I knew “wvparson” was ringing a bell but couldn’t get the name to surface.  Fr. Tony Clavier, know that you have the prayers of many of us as you return home after a lengthy hospital stay including chemo and we hope you have a blessed holiday season at home and in better health!

November 27, 1:22 am | [comment link]
38. RichardKew wrote:

I seriously considered not responding to any of this, but reading wvparson’s comment, presumably my old friend, Tony Clavier, I am encouraged to make one final foray.

As I read some of these responses to Mark Russell, various folks have made the assumption that language and the environment in which that language is used are the same on each side of the Atlantic. For example, in the USA among orthodox people the word “inclusive” has become suspect. This is not true to the same degree in the British Isles. It is always wise to check out things like this before interpreting it in terms of our own regional usage.

The second point I make is that it is questionable for us to judge who is and who is not a Christian. Over almost four decades of ordained ministry I have become ever more cautious about making such assessments. Part of the reason is that I am so often wrong, part is that judgment belongs to God alone. I might not appreciate the way someone lives their life as a Christian but I am not in a position to know or understand the veracity of their relationship with the Almighty.

The third point I would make is that because we have been reconciled to God through Christ, we are bound to be agents of reconciliation, even if our personal desire is not to be reconciled to those with whom we are at odds. Reconciliation does not mean compromise, but neither is it possible if we do not maintain cordial relations with one another. While we must stand by revealed truth unflinchingly, it is because we take revealed truth seriously that we cannot back away from attempts on a personal and a wider scale to find a gracious and godly way forward for if we do so we are being unfaithful to revelation.

Finally, I spent time this morning with the Sermon on the Mount. There is some pretty radical teaching there about how we treat those with whom we are at odds, and Jesus puts no ifs, buts, and other qualifications on his instructions. We are called to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us (or disagree with us). I do not see how we can claim to have an orthodox faith if we do not take this cardinal teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ very, very seriously.

November 27, 6:13 am | [comment link]
39. Robert A. wrote:

Clearly, I am getting old…

I used to enjoy reading T19 for the perspective and humor that it brought to issues of faith.  But now, I scarcely recognize it anymore. The voices seems shriller, the humor is no more.

Where is my old “friend” Sarah, whose staunch defense of protestant values drew me to T19 and kept us Anglicans centered between the papists and secularists, whose razor sharp wit amused us as she bested her opponents, yet still had time to share a Coke with them across the trenches?

I used to pity my old “friend” Dale, sitting on his fence.  I used to think, “Poor old Dale. He’s so determined to find a balance between the two sides - any two sides - that he disagrees as a matter of course with virtual everything anyone says. He’ll argue the reasserters on their blogs and doubtless does the same with the reappraisers on theirs.  He can’t have any friends!”

It seems everyone has become very entrenched.  We no longer listen to what anyone is saying.  We just trot out our usual prejudices.  I’ve got to agree with RichardKew and especially Jeremy Bonner. There is nothing in this sermon that justifies the majority of the responses that are being made here. In fact, I would say he went out of his way to avoid the more obvious subjects of contention.

As Sarah says, it’s all about time, and how we choose to spend it.  We all spend lots of time here, hanging out with “friends” and occasionally chiding the “enemy”, but if we are honest, this is not ministry.  We’re not converting anybody here.

Over the last few years, I have thought a lot about the two Great Commandments, how it seemed to me that the reasserters put their faith in the first (extolling the divine nature of Christ), and the reappraisers the second (extolling His human nature).

But recently, a sermon given by a “humble” priest in a “traditional” church in a “liberal” diocese gave me a completely new perspective. He talked about the sin of Pride and how there are two sorts of pride, pride in self which is almost invariably bad, and pride in the accomplishments of others which can be good.  He also talked about the Sin of Acedia which he described as spiritual sloth. He went on to say that by ourselves we are powerless to overcome these, but in Christ we have the means to do so.

It struck me, this was a much better way to see the Commandments.  Our Pride in our own intellect sets us up against God and causes us to break the First, but our Acedia (or spiritual slothfulness) in not undertaking our ministry to others causes us to break the Second.  It is only when we put ourselves BETWEEN the two commandments and reach out in BOTH directions that we can hope to honor these.  And this is impossible unless we are with Christ, He is within us, and He is also standing between them.

RichardKew: Take the time to write your letters.  Reject both Pride and Sloth.  You will be doing His work.

For myself, I think, if he let me, I will go and sit with Dale upon his fence.  I suspect the air will be clearer up there, sweeter even.  And maybe, just maybe, I will feel a little closer to God.

November 27, 6:50 am | [comment link]
40. robroy wrote:

1. The Episcopal church, as an effective organization for carrying out the gospel, is dead. True of False.

If you answer False, go back to question 1.

That is a paraphrase of Kendall Harmon in his lectures in the CLCC conference four weeks ago. See here. Jerusalem has fallen. Full stop.

Who is to blame? Of course, Susan Russell, Mark Andrus, Spong, Righter, Jefferts-Schori, etc. But also the countless fence sitters like Robert who condescendingly looks down on us from his lofty perch. Anyone else? Could the hopelessly (and thankfully) inept Katherine Jefferts Schori, the plagiaristic Spong, the obviously mentally ill Pike and their ilk with the acquiescence of the fence sitters bring down what was the wonderful and glorious Episcopal Church? Again, I quote:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

So Robert A, I suggest you get down off the fence and put on this sackcloth and join us who are prostrate in the dust. Jerusalem has fallen.

November 27, 10:01 am | [comment link]
41. Sarah1 wrote:

Hi Robert A . . . I am more than happy to share cokes [diet coke, please] across trenches.  ; > )

But . . . RichardKew is talking about—and I think that Mark Russell is as well . . . pretending as if everybody believes the same gospel.  He’s not talking about all of us going hiking together—at least I don’t think so.  Please note . . . simply acknowledging that reasserters and reappraisers do not believe the same gospel—simply taking reappraisers at their oft-repeated word about what they actually believe—is not the same thing as deciding “who is and who is not a Christian”.  I have no clue about that.

But I am able to read words about what people claim are their beliefs.

And I’m able to match those words up with reasserters’ words and see that—look there!—their words are often in direct and mutual opposition to reasserters’ words about the gospel.  We have competing and contradictory foundational worldviews.

So, again . . . when RichardKew or Mark Russell are speaking about “reconciliation” I think there needs to be more defining going on.

By “reconciliation” does he mean “the willingness to share a diet-Coke across the trenches”?  Done.

Does he mean acknowledging reappraisers as image-bearers of God?  Done.

Does he mean saying that many of them are very nice people indeed?  Done.

Does he mean hoping the best for them?  Done.

Does he mean “doing mission and ministry together as we all strive for the same thing”?  NOT done, since we don’t strive for the same thing at all.

Does he mean “hanging out together and spending large amounts of time together while we dialogue fruitlessly about things over which we share mutually exclusive ideas and have no interest at all”?  NOT done.

By my definitions of “reconciliation” I’m reconciled nicely with reappaisers.  I feel great about ‘em . . . when I think about them, which actually is not at all very often . . . and certainly wish them well and hope for the best for them.

But I have no interest in spending time with 1) people to whom I can offer nothing, and 2) people who don’t share my values or interests or pretty much anything at all in common, save that we are members of the same organization.

If reappraisers were, as a group, needing something in particular—soup, or housing, or prayer—I’d be as happy to offer that as I would to others.  But since they are . . . by and large . . . doing okay in the category of “mission needs” . . . I’d rather spend time with those with whom I have more in common: thoughtful interesting pagans, or Christians who share the same gospel and foundational worldviews.

Calls for constant dialogue and “being together in various and sundry acts” between reappraisers and reasserters strike me as very condescending to BOTH parties.

It’s a bit like saying “Sarah . . . you need to go dialogue and spend time together with all of those sports stars over there.  Come on, now . . . be ‘reconciled’ with the sports stars!”

I honestly don’t get it.  Why are reasserters and reappraisers enjoined to go “dialogue” together, any more than we are enjoined to go “dialogue” with the sports stars or attorneys or red-headed people?

It is so random and meaningless . . . unless of course, someone senses a special call from God to dialogue with sports stars or red-headed people.  Then that’s a different matter—that would be a call to specific ministry.

November 27, 10:59 am | [comment link]
42. Robert A. wrote:

robroy: Thank you for your kind words about me condescendingly looking down on you from my lofty perch.  It is curious, is it not, that in response to a post about reading, you would think that I have been up there doing that, when I have heretofore always been on the ground on the reasserter side?

As I said, we have become literalists.  We no longer accept any metaphors.  Or parables.  The fence I spoke of is not the same as Dale’s.  It was a device I used to indicate that perhaps we should occasionally get above the fray and look down and see what is happening in God’s Kingdom on Earth.  Not as generals commanding His army, but as medics on a search for the weary and wounded.  Have we become so enamored of doctrine (from both sides) that we no longer have a kind word of praise for someone who makes a genuine effort to reach out, or a word of encouragement for someone who is wrestling with a decision about what he should do?

Sarah: You know that I am a big fan of yours, and it is true that you have always had two voices, but it seems to me that your more authoritative voice is increasingly at the fore, and your more compassionate voice is being slowly squeezed out.  I know that you too are weary.  You have fought the good fight for so long.  Like Christian (and the rest of us), you are on a long uphill journey and the road is hard, but I pray you will not give in to the institutionalist view of our mission.

You are right, there are divisions here that cannot be bridged, that words used by some people are not to be trusted to have the same meaning that we had always assumed they had, but this is an old battle that is constantly being lost.  Who save myself, for instance, still mourns that “Making Love” no longer means what it did in Jane Austen’s day, or that most of us can never again be Gay (or Queer for that matter).

But God’s Kingdom in Heaven is not peopled by principles or agendas or even trends.  Each soul must be individually won. And on the day of judgment who knows what action or word of ours will win our admittance?  The parable about the Samaritan is not that he was a professional caregiver, but that he took pity on the man that lay on the road and did not pass him by.

RichardKew did not even mention the word “reconciliation” until his subsequent post, and even then I can find little wrong in what he wrote from even the most reassertive position.  Why must he and others be judged on what he may have previously written or because he uses words that others may use differently?  Are we all to be judged on the sum of our sins?  For if so, then we are truly lost.  Are we so tired, that we are no longer willing to see the individual for where he’s at?  For what he says?  Must we tell him (in third party language) that we’ll agree with him if he means this but not that?

Fight the good fight, Sarah dear, as you have always faithfully done, and will I know continue to do with hope in your heart, but spare a thought for 1 Corinthians 13: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal… When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

November 27, 3:25 pm | [comment link]
43. Alli B wrote:

Robert, perhaps we’ve taken your post wrongly, but it also sounded condescending to me.  My apologies for the misinterpretation.  Mr. Kew did indeed mention reconciliation in his first post.  Please re-read the second-to-last paragraph.  And I have to say that some of you still frame our responses as being harsh or shrill, and I just don’t see that at all, especially posts 1 through 5, as Mr. Kew references them.  I also think that accusing people of being enamored with doctrine is a bit off the mark.  Doctrine when it comes to the Scriptures matters greatly to some of us.

November 27, 3:41 pm | [comment link]
44. Robert A. wrote:

Alli B: You are right and I was wrong. RichardKew did indeed use the word reconciliation in his first post.  So my apologies to Sarah also.

I think, however, I will stand behind the spirit of what I wrote about the use of words.  It was, I think, a casual enough reference in a post that was primarily concerned with other issues, that I am saddened it should have become the trigger point for a response.

Hmm… So, you too thought my previous post condescending?  Curious, that was obviously not my intention.  I was simply giving my opinion about how present day T19 dialogue strikes me. 

I am sorry you seem offended by my reference to being enamored of doctrine.  The phrase was not intended to be pejorative.  It is right and proper that one should love what one believes, and believe it passionately.

I feel too feel no less about the sanctity of Scripture.  The purpose of my posts was not that one should compromise one’s beliefs, or as Sarah points out, even try to reconcile the differences between two systems which are clearly so much at odds, but rather while holding onto these, one should not lose sight of the charity that is due the individual.  If taking 1 Cor 13 to heart makes me sound condescending, so be it.  I am a worthless sinner, anyway!

November 27, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
45. Sarah1 wrote:

Hi Robert A, Richard Kew used the word “reconciliation” in both his first and second comments.  Further I was not “judging” him for using those words, but merely describing my beliefs about the word he used, reconciliation, to you.

I think I’m allowed to do that.

I agree that charity is a great thing.  Not sure what that has to do with the different calls that people have to different people-groups other than in rather large terms, as in we should all be full of love while carrying out the call of God.

I’ll say it again.  I don’t think that there will be many reasserters called to participate in “dialogue” with reappraisers, when all is said and done.  But some few will be so called, and I’ll support them with all of my heart.

RE: “Must we tell him (in third party language) that we’ll agree with him if he means this but not that? . . . “

Well—since I was speaking to you and responding to you about your question to me . . . I’m afraid that references to others will necessarily be “third-party”!  ; > )  But yes . . . it is fairly standard to carefully define when one will agree with a statement or word definition, and when one will not.  It’s important to delineate how one agrees and how one disagrees with statements.

November 27, 4:35 pm | [comment link]
46. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

Robert A,

For what it’s worth, I did not see condescension in your post, but then I was inclined to agree with it. Perhaps all this an inevitable consequence of the instantaneous written (as opposed to spoken) medium. You can’t hear tone and sometimes - not always - that matters.

November 27, 4:40 pm | [comment link]
47. Robert A. wrote:

Jeremy: Thank you for your kind words.  But I’m afraid, you’ve hit on the key phrase: “you were inclined to agree with it”.

I guess, Sarah, that’s what I’m feeling about your first post to me.  It seemed to me that you identified RichardKew by name, anticipated what you thought he would write about, latched onto a single word that he used, and then proceeded to give me a long rationale about possible interpretations of what he might have meant that you could or could not agree with.  You are of course perfectly entitled to do this, and I understand that it is useful to agree on what words mean, but frankly, it didn’t seem called for based on his actual post.

My concept of charity, I suppose, would be that you had actually responded to the concerns that he had expressed.
 
Regarding the third party references, of course, if you’re going to have this discussion with me, they would have to be that way, but candidly, it felt like talking behind his back to me.  I would have preferred you had addressed them directly to him.

I still admire you, though…

November 27, 5:27 pm | [comment link]
48. Dale Rye wrote:

Rather than post another comment, I will link to [url=http://covenant-communion.com/?p=319]my reaction on the Covenant website.[url]

November 27, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
49. Dale Rye wrote:

Let’s try again:

Rather than post another comment, I will link to my reaction on the Covenant website.

Slashes are significant.

November 27, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
50. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “My concept of charity, I suppose, would be that you had actually responded to the concerns that he had expressed.”

I did—I responded directly to him after his first comment.  I guess we don’t agree about the definition of charity either!
; > )

RE: “I would have preferred you had addressed them directly to him.”

I had already addressed his key points, Robert A.  Then you addressed me, and took me to task for my response.  So then I addressed you with further explanations.

You seem as if you are somehow offended for Richard Kew, whom I know and like very much.  I often agree with him too and have been very grateful for his blogging.  But in this particular case . . . about the particular details which I have enumerated above . . . I do not agree with some of his points nor those of Mark Russells.

The person who seems to have a problem with that disagreement is not RK, but you.

That’s fine with me—we don’t have to agree about what reconciliation encompasses or the call of God on people’s lives.  I’m okay with that.

November 28, 12:17 am | [comment link]
51. RichardKew wrote:

It would appear that the problem being expressed is both the word and the notion of reconciliation. The word actually only appears five times in the NT, every time it is used by Paul, and at the heart of his usage is the notion that God through the Cross of Christ has reconciled us to himself. Put another way, Christ paid the penalty that I might be reconciled to the Father for all eternity—and as a result I and all the People of God are called to the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18).

Now that means a lot more than leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and even in a few well-chosen sentences here there is not enough room even to begin expounding it. But, if Christ in his death was redeeming all creation and we are the first fruits of that redemption, then we are called in partnership with him to reconcile the whole creation, including those who we loathe and who loathe us, to the Savior. That is the Kingdom task delivered by the King to citizens of his Kingdom.

If, therefore, to continue using Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, I am an ambassador for Christ entrusted with the powerful and saving message of reconciliation, then my task is to be an agent of reconciliation wherever there is tension, disagreement, open war, etc. This means in the church as well, for the reconciling people have to be reconciled themselves with one another.

This certainly does not mean selling the truth of the Gospel down the river, but neither does it mean reducing the Gospel to something which is comfortable and tame when the teaching of Jesus, echoed by Paul, is radical and tough. Its about a Cross. I suspect that many who claim orthodoxy want to be orthodox in a manner that sidesteps the uncomfortable demands of the Gospel, I know I fit into that category on a regular basis.

This means that within the church we should be constantly reaching out to one another, especially those with whom we are in disagreement. To use Mark Russell’s illustration, if the prayers of the world focused on Northern Ireland and its troubles since the Sixties can produce a government that includes the arch-Protestant Ian Paisley and the former terrorist, Martin McGuinness, then is it beyond God’s capacity to over time bring a creative and biblical way forward out of the mess that is the Episcopal Church—which has spilled over into the wide Communion?

November 28, 4:06 am | [comment link]
52. Robert A. wrote:

Sarah: I think, on reflection, I have probably “done you wrong”. 

You are right, you did attempt to address some of Richard’s points on your first post to him.  At least, the points that you clearly thought he was making.  Our disagreement, if such there is, is probably more over what we thought those were.

Having (no doubt unfairly) criticized you for talking about him behind his back, perhaps it behooves me to avoid trying to guess what he really meant, but I felt some more specific encouragement was called for, which I attempted to provide.

Perhaps your advice was equally helpful in its own way.

November 28, 4:10 am | [comment link]
53. Robert A. wrote:

Richard: Your last post seems to me to be pretty specific about what you mean by reconciliation, and on first reading seemed hard to fault.  But rereading it, I’m beginning to see where Sarah and you might have some disagreement. 

You’re on solid ground until you get to the last sentence of your third paragraph.  I’ll buy the idea of being an agent of reconciliation.  This was actually the thrust of my original post.  The Commandments deal not only with our responsibility to be reconciled ourselves to God, but also though our witness to others to prepare the way for their reconciliation also.  And if we wish to be reasserters of scriptural authority, it is not enough to do just one of these. We must do both.

But, I’m not sure that you can extend that to mean “in the church as well, for the reconciling people have to be reconciled themselves with one another.”  That sounds very reappraising.  And almost guaranteed to make you break both the first and second commandments, since it makes little dictators out of those that would endorse this.

And frankly, it is not necessary.  With your last two paragraphs, you’re back on solid ground again and doing His work anyway.

November 28, 5:12 am | [comment link]
54. RichardKew wrote:

Quite honestly, I don’t really care who I sound like, I am much more concerned to be faithful to the God who has revealed himself in Scripture rather than looking over my shoulder at the various parties and groups in the church and wondering whether I fit! As far as I can see, being faithful is playing to the audience of One. The truth is that I am not sure I know what this “reasserter/reappraiser” language actually means, or whether it makes any sense.

Furthermore, the cumulative teaching of Scripture is that the church is called to model on earth what the Kingdom of God is all about. If we cannot do that, then however ideologically pure we might be we have fallen short, failed, and sinned. We also deceive ourselves if we believe that in our fallen, human state we do not harbor within our own hearts untruth, deceit, and error. This puts us in the same boat as those within the church whose beliefs and actions we believe are wrong. This is log-in-our-own-eye compared to speck-in-our-neighbor’s-eye stuff, and Jesus talked about that.

I have no desire to endorse the shortcomings of those who I believe have done great harm to the church and its witness in the world. I believe they are wrong and I have told them so in many settings and forums. I have often paid a high personal price for doing so, I would add. However, neither can I be faithful to the Lord who called me to be his servant if I do not keep reaching out to them, and it is in this process that I learn to reflect the nature of God, who also reaches out constantly to those who are fallen and lost.

November 28, 6:58 am | [comment link]
55. Sarah1 wrote:

Thank you for the further explanation, Richard Kew, of your use of the word reconciliation.

I think the place that I disagree with you about is this line: “If, therefore, to continue using Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, I am an ambassador for Christ entrusted with the powerful and saving message of reconciliation, then my task is to be an agent of reconciliation wherever there is tension, disagreement, open war, etc.”

The entire creation is at odds with the Kingdom—full of tension, disagreement, and open war, as you say.  And so, since we are not infinite, God calls us to specific tasks of reconciling, and not at all, as individuals, to tackle every place that there is tension and disagreement.  That is not possible for human beings.

I’m thankful for that realization.  I believe that the task of the Christian believer is to work in the area that God has called him or her, not to tackle all the areas of tension and disagreement in the world, since that would make us strivers to be like God, which we are not. 

Like I’ve said several times above, I’m sure that there will be some reasserters called to tackle the areas found within the Episcopal church between reasserters and reappraisers.  Most won’t, I don’t believe.  And I believe that that is just fine.

What I think I hear you saying is . . . that that’s wrong and immoral.  That all reasserters in the Episcopal church should be tackling the tension and disagreement and war between reasserters and reappraiser and attempting to “reconcile” and that if they don’t, they are doing something wrong.

I disagree.

But . . . I’m guessing that we won’t come to any sort of agreement on that on this blog!  ; > )

Thanks again for further clarifying—I appreciate it.

I hope that all is well in your homeland and that you are enjoying the position that is tailor-made for you!

November 28, 10:59 am | [comment link]
56. Robert A. wrote:

Richard:

I apologize if my use of Kendall’s labels distresses you.  There are times that I also find these categorizations unhelpful, but I fear that they do reflect a certain broad brush reality.  It seems to me, that like it or not, there ARE two fairly well defined perspectives that govern most people’s view of what the Christian Church is about, and these are better terms than many of the alternatives.

I too appreciate your willingness to define your terms.  Sarah is much more eloquent and nuanced than me, so I cannot really improve on what she has said, but I am struck by the reference that you made earlier to the Beatitudes.  In particular the “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”.  Others more knowledgeable than myself have declared that “A Peacemaker is one who seeks to bring harmony and reconciliation between those who are estranged. Peacemaking seeks to produce right relationships between persons”.  This suggest to me that Peacemaking is a special talent or gift that is given to some but not to others.  In fact I see the Beatitudes as offering a parallel to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We are not all called to the same tasks nor given the same gifts to accomplish them.

Why does it matter so much that we make a distinction between the concept of personal reconciliation to God (and our responsibility to lead others to the same reconciliation) and this new idea that we are ALL called to a duty of reconciliation between people?

Quite apart from the fact (as you yourself noted) that scripture never uses it way, it seems clear (to me at least) that this universal reconciliation between people is not what God wants (awful as it is to say so). The story of the tower of Babel seems clear scriptural evidence that God does not trust such unification, perhaps for the reasons I suggested in an earlier post.  Such a people would not only inevitably rebel against Him, but they would be too easily manipulated by unscrupulous leaders (as History has clearly shown).

This seems especially relevant as we enter the third millennium (or the third age depending on your viewpoint).  Will our behavior be based on what we think God wants us to do, or what we think He ought to have wanted us to do?

I admire your steadfast devotion to His service.

November 29, 4:54 am | [comment link]
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