March 22, 2007

The Episcopal House of Bishops: "Here I Stand"

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 6:45 pm

This is just so cool. I usually leave blogging on the Episcopal “troubles” to Father Jake and other Episcopalians better able to talk about Anglican politics, but this just demands some comment.

The new “Reformation” is a way-overused metaphor — the second Reformation has been declared hundreds of times, without it having happened yet. (Hmmm…reminds me of the second coming.) So I’m not about to call this equivalent to Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the Wittenburg church door. But it certainly is reminiscent of Luther’s pivotal statement “here I stand…I can do no other.”

As Christians of a progressive persuasion, we are very good at listening, at empathizing, understanding the other side’s hurt, at walking a mile in their shoes. We look to reach compromise, to make everyone happy, or at least leave no one upset. And this is a good thing, a Christ-like thing, that we should never lose.

But at some point, compromise requires compromising the very Gospel itself. At some point, compromise requires us to stop being faithful servants of Christ. It is at this point that we must, with Luther, state that here I stand, I can do no other.

It seems the Episcopal House of Bishops has reached just such a point. They have issued “A Communication to The Episcopal Church from the March 2007 Meeting of the House of Bishops.” This is essentially an answer to the Anglican Primates from around the world who have been poaching congregations in the US, and in the Dar es Salaam Primates meeting, demanded a mechanism for foreign pastoral oversight of Episcopal churches that dissent from the ordaining of gay Bishops.

The first part of the communication recounts the Episcopal Church’s repeated attempts to reconcile with the conservatives in the world-wide Anglican Communion, particularly those from the global south, and how those attempts have been repeatedly rebuffed. They make it clear that they have been trying to do all the listening/working together/empathizing/compromising stuff for quite a while, to no avail. It appears that Dar es Salaam has become the equivalent of a papal bull that the conscience of the House of Bishops will not tolerate:

We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God’s truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.

The rest of the communication is a rather forceful rejection of the demands made on the Episcopal Church by the Primates at Dar es Salaam.

As I have often thought regarding my own denomination, schism is not something to be avoided at any cost. At some point, faithful following of our Christ requires us to say “no” to compromise. I have no idea how this will play out in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, but if the price to avoid schism is to recant on this statement from the House of Bishops, then it seems far too high a price to pay.

March 7, 2007

Screwtape to Wormwood: Suffering is Good

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:23 pm

With apologies to C.S. Lewis, through some amazing technical hackery, I have intercepted the following email:

Hello Wormwood –

I want to congratulate you on your latest piece of handiwork with your patient. Putting the thought into his head that our enemy actually desires that humans suffer was a master stroke. Now he is busy preaching that compassion and (ugh!) caring for other humans is contrary to our enemy’s desire. The belief that pain and suffering is good is a meme that has always been a very productive one for our forces, but that has been in decline over the past few centuries.

But do not rest in our fight against more accessible health care in the U.S. I have personally been very involved in this battle over the years, but am afraid that the tide has been turning against us of late. We have been very successful convincing Americans, especially Christian Americans, that universal health care is a “government take-over” of health care (I take particular pride in that turn of phrase, which was in fact originally authored by me). We need to continue this line of attack, convincing them that, instead of Americans coming together to collectively provide for the needs of each other through their representative democracy, universal health care is a power grab by an ominous government bent on taking over control of their lives. You need to make sure that your charge continues to view “the government” as a monolithic autonomous monster, not as a vehicle by which the citizenry works for the common good. Remind him that our enemy has been evicted from the government by the “fiction” of the separation of church and state (oh, how ironic, that we claim this bane of our existence is actually in our forces’ favor!) and therefore, government involvement in health care, no matter how compassionate, no matter how good, is godless and must be opposed by Christians.

I also encourage you to continue with your current attack on Christian compassion with this idea that, because their savior suffered, suffering is somehow good. I am reminded of one of my past victories. A Christian woman was married to a non-believing man*. When her husband went into the hospital, I was able to convince her to give the doctors specific instructions to deny pain medication to her husband so that he would suffer, thereby doing penance, and subsequently able to join her in heaven. Oh how delicious, making her believe that her evil cruelty was an act of love and obedience to our enemy! I shall treasure the taste of her husband’s suffering for eternity!

Of course, you must prevent your charge from re-reading his Bible, particularly the passages in the New Testament about love (how I hate that word) for their neighbors, or about caring for the sick as an obedient response to the love our enemy unwisely wastes on humanity. Above all, do not let him turn to Matthew 25.

Keep up the good progress with your charge. He moves further and further from the influence of our enemy, all the while thinking he is being obedient. Soon he will be ours completely!

Regards,

-Screwtape

* A true story related by the Pastor of my church in his sermon this past Sunday.

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