Let’s get ready to rumble!

episcopal gaysLast summer I attended a worship service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I went so that I could witness the congregation’s interfaith Eucharistic prayer. The sermon text was Mark 7 and the priest told us that it showed how Jesus was xenophobic, racist and sexist.

The next day I ran into another priest from the church. I told her I had been at the previous day’s service. “I’m so sorry,” she immediately replied. “Why?” I asked, thinking she was going to apologize for the sermon. “Oh, our sound was all off and we had those problems with the lighting. Didn’t you notice?” she said.

Oh how I wish I could go back to Grace Cathedral this weekend when it hosts a vote on who will be the new bishop of California:

The Episcopal Diocese of California’s nomination of three gay clergy among seven candidates for bishop is no surprise — priests in the diocese have been blessing same-sex unions for at least 27 years.

But the possible election of one of them Saturday threatens to split not only the 220-year-old Episcopal Church in the United States but also the centuries-old Anglican Communion, the group of churches around the world that share worship and prayer traditions rooted in the Church of England.

That lead came from the San Francisco Chronicle‘s religion writter, Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, who does an excellent job of highlighting the international importance of a local issue and the myriad interests concerned by the vote. Episcopalians in America are but a fraction of the world’s 77 million Anglicans, he writes, only one-ninth the size of the Nigerian church.

Four California churches now proclaim affiliation with the Anglican province in Uganda and are distancing themselves from the Episcopal Church in the United States and battling it in court for ownership of church properties. An Oceanside church says it is affiliated with the Diocese of Bolivia.

This rift has a racial and colonial subtext in which power dynamics have been reversed. The Anglican faith of white colonizers is now being dictated by the once-colonized.

africananglicanMany reporters highlighted the racial aspect of the schism, but I’m not sure about the colonization angle. Not just because both the colonizers and the colonized are, well, dead, but because it ignores the fact that this is not a colonial situation in which people are being forced to change their aboriginal traditions. The Africans aren’t forcing new traditions on anyone, they’re merely maintaining the church’s historic teachings. That the descendents of the colonizers have changed their minds doesn’t make this reverse colonization.

I also wanted to highlight this from the Los Angeles Times:

“To watch your church suddenly say, ‘Anything goes,’ is a horrifying thing,” [Cynthia Brust, a spokeswoman for the American Anglican Council, which has 300 affiliated churches in the U.S.] added.

The Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, who was bishop of the Diocese of Newark in New Jersey before his retirement in 2000, said Brust misses the point.

“There’s not a scientist in the world today who supports the idea that homosexuals are mentally ill or morally depraved,” said Spong, a noted author and outspoken church leader on the subject. “So I’d rather see the church split. I have no desire to be a part of a homophobic church.”

Many reporters frame this issue as a division between conservative and liberal interpretations of Scripture. But as Spong so eloquently says, for some folks Scripture is not necessarily the arbiter of how the church should consider homosexuality.

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  • http://EpiscopalBayArea.org seanm

    Why so much about Grace Cathedral in a diocese of 81 congregations?

    Why a photo from Philadelphia in a story about the San Francisco Bay Area?

    Why point out the accusations of the right without looking at their agendas or sources of funding? [http://www.thewitness.org/article.php?id=1058]
    [http://www.edow.org/follow/]

  • http://blidiot.blogspot.com/ Raider51

    In response to the first two questions.

    (1) In the Episcopal Church, the seat of the Bishop traditionally is in a Cathedral in the diocese. (Not alway, however; the Cathedral for Virginia is Shrine Mont.) The Bishop’s cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of California is Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

    (2) I’ve notice the pictures used in GetReligion are not newspictures as much as they are illustrative pictures. For example, in the post below, I don’t think that’s Presbyterian beef. And the section on Crunchy Cons indicates that the picture was not taken at Rod Dreher’s home.

    On the your third question — I’ve seen this document — it reminds me of the Clinton administration spending a ton of money to document the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. But I guess that’s my own form of guilt by association. It’s better to focus on the ideas, right?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Sean M.,

    Thanks for your questions. Raider51 gave good responses to the first two. I simply hope he or she is not an actual Raider fan as I would then have to remind him of the superiority of the Denver Broncos.

    Yes, Grace is ground zero for this in California.

    And we don’t photograph our own pictures — we use them to illustrate larger concepts. I actually did have a picture of gay members and priests from Grace Cathedral marching in a gay pride parade, but the picture quality was not as good as this one.

    As for the final question, I’m glad you asked. I looked at neither the funding mechanism of those who hope to continue to change the Episcopal church’s traditions and teaching nor the ones who want to retain the traditions. They both use money, I’m sure, given by people who support them.

    Best.

  • http://www.psonnets.org/ Michael Rew

    There are nearly seven billion people in the world, and we kvetch about 77 million Anglicans. I think it is time faithful Christians attending Episcopal churches leave, with or without the Episcopal name, and with or without their church properties. Why worry about saving the denomination’s place in society? A denomination is just an organization codified on a piece of paper. And the Pharisees condemned Jesus in order to save their place in the Roman Empire (John 11:47-57). And why worry about saving properties? Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The denomination is being taken away from you using the extrabiblical bylaws you and your forefathers wrote. And, in a sense, it may be fitting that a denomination which began with divorce will end with gay bishops blessing gay marriages.

  • http://blidiot.blogspot.com/ Raider51

    Mollie,

    I bleed silver and black. Therefore, I must remind you that the Raiders are 53-36-2 against the Bronks; a winning percentage of .582.

    Still, all this will pass away and I like the work you do.

    BTW, normally, I sign in with my name — I must’ve done something to cause me to get an alias. Sorry about that.

    William P. Sulik

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    No, Michael, we’re not going to simply shrug and leave. Instead of leaving, we’re going to stand firm and insist on things like the proper authority of Holy Scripture and biblical teaching on controversial topics, all the while pointing out that the bylaws meant to regulate group decision-making have been violated to push through a social engineering experiment. And praying, and praying, then praying some more.

    If you don’t agree with denominationalism, then don’t join one. (I was once a Campbellite myself.) But your critique about this being a fight over a denomination’s “position in society” (coupled with some of the most off-base proof-texting I’ve ever seen) shows ignorance of the real issues Episcopalians are confronting.

  • Pingback: CaNN :: We started it.

  • Dan

    Out of curiosity, how did the Episcopal priest use Mark 7 to claim that Jesus was xenophobic, racist and sexist? Mark 5-8 reads:

    “So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?’

    He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
    “These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are but rules taught by men.’You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”‘”

  • M. Everest

    The conversation about the photos reminds me…

    There are several times when I’ve wanted to know a little more about the art accompanying a post. Would the GetReligion folks be willing to link their photos to 1) their source of the picture or 2) a page that would give a little more information about why that image was chosen?

    (Go Broncos!)

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    “Out of curiosity, how did the Episcopal priest use Mark 7 to claim that Jesus was xenophobic, racist and sexist?”

    I suspect it’s got more to do with the story further down in Mark 7 about the Gentile woman and the “crumbs to the dogs” comment. Nothing like a little “I’m not going to bother understanding 1st century culture, so I can label it whatever I want” ‘tude to spice up a sermon, huh? (Do these guys even use commentaries? I’m thinkin’ … not.)

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    As for Episcopalians leaving their church, there have been several efforts to do that. One effort seeks to create a totally independent diocese for conservative congregations. Others leave for the Roman church. Still others leave for Eastern Orthodoxy. The church has been splitting up as far back as 1989 when I first heard several priests in the Milwaukee area lead their congregations into the Orthodox tradition (and of course the fight over property becomes the media’s focus).

    Should one leave one’s church when it no longer follows Scripture? Tough call. St. Paul says to “mark those who teach contrary to what you were taught and avoid them.” I remember having lunch with Dr. Preuss of Concordia Seminary–Fort Wayne (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod) and he lamented the politics in his church and the lack of discipline for heretical teachers. We asked why he didn’t leave the LC-MS for the Wisconsin Synod or the ELS and he told us it was hard to leave a church body you grew up in and loved and didn’t feel ready to just leave it to the liberals. So pray for those who are fighting the fight.

    As for Jesus being xenophobic and racist with regard to Mark 7, certainly the incident with the Syro-Phoenician woman *could* be viewed that way if one had a pre-conceived bias. But then, how do you explain Jesus not only granting her wish but proclaiming her faith to be greater than faith found among the Israelites? I wonder why they still call themselves “Christian” when they think the “founder” was a scoundrel.

  • Dan

    Deborah, you may be right. The idea, I suppose, would be that God was racist to choose the Jews, and Jesus was both racist and xenophobic by directing his ministery to Israel first. That still leaves the sexism unexplained. And why doesn’t the priest pardon God and Jesus for their political incorrectness given that Jesus instructed the Apostles to preach to all nations?

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    Then again, Dan, I could be wrong. The only Mark 7 readings I see in the Sunday morning lectionary completely skip over the story about the Syro-Phoenician woman. So unless he was preaching from the text for Proper 18 (and contrasting how Jesus treated the deaf man versus the Gentile woman in the verses just prior), then I’m just as much at a loss as you.

    I wish I could figure out from the descriptions on Grace Cathedral’s website which sermon it was — it would at least be entertaining to listen to:

    http://tinyurl.com/jo29k

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    It was the “even the dogs get the crumbs” lady, yes.

    And it was August of 2005, I believe. And the 11:00 sermon — it was definitely SUPPOSED to be broadcast over the internet — although, as you may recall, there were technical probs.

    The priest showed how Jesus overcame his problems through the persistance of the woman.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I find it fascinating to watch the American Episcopal Church self-destruct through its abandonment of the Christian moral Tradition. And it is obvious the secular media is a propaganda ally of those in the Episcopal Church who are more in love with secular moral teachings than with the Christian moral Tradition. What bothers me as a Catholic is –in spite of the Episcopal disaster–how many supposedly intelligent Catholics belligerently want to copy the Episcopal Church (even as the younger generation coming of age appears far more conservative-orthodox on many matters as compared with the VietNam generation of malcontents now in charge of so much in our country –including many Church bureaucracies).

  • Scott Allen

    Deacon, you’re definitely right, trends pass back-and-forth between protestantism and catholicism like influenza.
    What bothers me is the chicanery of priests/ministers of the sort. They wear robes and invoke the Holy Spirit and Love whenever they are questioned. They teach their congregations to be non-judgmental, yet assert that Christ was fallible (as Mollie stated, “Jesus overcame his problems”) and by this sit in judgment on God Himself.
    More generally, how can they trust a God who cannot even preserve His Word (the Bible), inviolate and accurate, to preserve their lives through eternity? How can these charlatans accept money in Christ’s name to preside at services and weddings preaching TIME magazine’s version of morality? Wouldn’t it be more honest to just sell subscriptions to TIME and take off the robes?
    They can fool the families, but how can they in good conscience comfort the bereaved at funerals, or the sick, those who have been robbed, or the poor, when they believe in no eternal life, judgment or justice?
    Their ideology and practices are so full of contradictions and confusion that the only unifying theme is hatred toward God’s Word — the very foundation of their authority.
    To all members of this church, I urge you to leave it and let it die. We ALL need to follow 2 Jn. 9-11 in respect to these false teachers: we should not welcome them anywhere, not let them enter our houses and kick them out of the house of the Lord.

  • http://n/a Greg

    I was surprised by the post suggesting that Robert Preuss grew up in the LCMS. I think both he and Jake went to Luther Seminary. Their trek was probably Norwegian synod/ELC to Little Norwegian Synod ELS to LCMS. In other words the Preuss brothers left the church bodies they grew up in to join the LCMS. They left the ELS to become Missourians.

  • Michael

    I have to take issue with the point of colonization, although the writer was probably stretching things a little.

    The truth is, however, that the Bishop of Uganda has become obsessed and preoccupied by homosexuality, in part because of the influence of the U.S. Anglicans. There is not “homosexual” issue in Uganda, one of the most repressive places in Africa for gays. Instead, the Bishop is ignoring poverty, civil war and AIDS because he is too busy appeasing Anglicans in California, Virginia, and Pennsylvania who are convinced that homosexuality is ruining the Anglican Community.

  • Jackson

    “There’s not a scientist in the world today who supports the idea that homosexuals are mentally ill or morally depraved,” said Spong.

    Typical scientism. Yet morality is not a scientific issue.

  • Michael

    Yet morality is not a scientific issue.

    But when the “basis” of “morality” is tenuous and disputed, a healthy amount of prejudice begins to help shape “morality” Thus it’s helpful to look outside to begin to understand that prejudice.

  • http://n/a Greg

    Michael says:
    when the “basis” of “morality” is tenuous and disputed, a healthy amount of prejudice begins to help shape “morality” Thus it’s helpful to look outside to begin to understand that prejudice.
    On the contrary, the basis of morality is not tenuous, it is founded on the clear testimony of the written Word of God. As far as it being disputed, it is disputed by those who are perishing to their eternal peril.

  • Pen Brynisa

    It’s official: the Diocese of California has NOT chosen a “gay bishop”. The Rt. Rev. Mark Andrus, suffragan of Alabama, was elected by a landslide.

    view results here:

    http://www.bishopsearch.org/index.htm

    also, re:
    Many reporters frame this issue as a division between conservative and liberal interpretations of Scripture. But as Spong so eloquently says, for some folks Scripture is not necessarily the arbiter of how the church should consider homosexuality.

    Yes, this is true for “some folks”, Mollie, but I don’t think it’s true for most of us in the Episcopal Church.

  • Michael

    On the contrary, the basis of morality is not tenuous, it is founded on the clear testimony of the written Word of God. As far as it being disputed, it is disputed by those who are perishing to their eternal peril.

    Actually, there is no clear testimony at all. Thus the conflict and the soure of the theological debate,

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    “The Bible never speaks plainly, but is always interpreted under the influence of spirits.” — Mark Andrus, newly-elected Bishop of California (taken from his address at Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, AL just after GC 2003)

    Read it all here: http://titusonenine.classicalanglican.net/?p=12795

    (Wait’ll you see the quote about him hearing the mollusks on the creekbank. If I lived in California, I wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry right now.)

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Huh! Bible interpreted under “the influence of the spiritS.” Spirits in the plural usually denotes demons. (Or in some religions their gods.) Most churches and Christians at least lay claim to being guided in interpretation by the Holy Sprit (singular). Is it possible the Episcopal Church has taken another step down into the pit of semi-paganism????

  • Pen Brynisa

    You know what they say, Deborah; whenever three or four Episcopalians are gathered, there’s always a fifth. Under the influence of spirits, indeed!

    Seriously, though, thanks for the link. I wish you’d included the rest of that paragraph from which you quoted. The whole paragraph reads:

    The Bible never speaks plainly, but is always interpreted under the influence of spirits. Further, every institution has at its heart a guiding spirit and, no matter what name is on the masthead of that institution, it is only by prayer that the Holy Spirit becomes the guiding, interpreting spirit.

  • Pen Brynisa

    Deacon John, this is exactly why I said that I wished Deborah had quoted the entire paragraph.

    The Bible never speaks plainly, but is always interpreted under the influence of spirits. Further, every institution has at its heart a guiding spirit and, no matter what name is on the masthead of that institution, it is only by prayer that the Holy Spirit becomes the guiding, interpreting spirit.

  • Jackson

    I wish they would have selected a homosexual “Bishop,” because I support anything that leads to the destruction of all heretical groups, including the Episcopal Church and the whole of Protestant “Christianity.”

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    Pen — your criticism re: my partial quote is well-taken. I think the phrase “the Bible never speaks plainly” blinded me to all else.

    To say that sound Biblical interpretation often requires digging into original languages or understanding the relevant culture would be an accurate and fair statement. But “never speaks plainly?” I think that’s pushing it a bit too far. And I think it smacks a bit of a reconstructionist “we must re-interpret Scripture for each generation” mindset that I disagree with.

    But perhaps I read too much into it. I honestly don’t know the guy, or his theology. I’m just not encouraged by what I read so far. (At least one person I have read comments that his transfer from Alabama to California will improve the theological climate of both states. Whoa, dude!)

  • Pen Brynisa

    Deborah, I don’t know much about Bp. Andrus, either; the speech you linked to was the first I’ve read. I’m inclined to be generous concerning his “never speaks plainly” bit. After all, I know many secularists who believe that the Bible does speak plainly–plainly in favor of all kinds of evil. It’s easy for them to pull quotes out of context and, in a spirit of contempt for Christianity, read all kinds of nonsense into them.


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