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Episcopal Cafe by Cafe Podcast Network - 3h ago

Jesus speaks to Martha and Mary and to us

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As the Anglican Church of Canada approached it’s General Synod and the questions of marriage equality and full sacramental inclusion of LGBT+ persons, the Living Church published a series of essays from the traditionalist perspective exploring changing ideas about the life of the church today. We are pleased to be able to share these responses, all of which originally appeared atEmpire Remixed, a Canadian collective dedicated to “pushing buttons, causing upset, or challenging institutions,” and carrying on “convinced that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”

This is the last essay in the series

Previous Essays

From Jerusalem to Vancouver: The Pharisees Strike Back

The Heresy of Procreative Evangelism

Whatever Happened to the Bible?

Unity and a Crucified Messiah

The Fruit of Faithfulness

The Good News of Romans 1 for Same-Sex Marriage

Episcopal Authority and the Mission of the Church

The Mysterious Authority of the Bible

 

by Brian Walsh

 

In the final essay in a series of posts at The Living Church weblog, Peter Robinson brings it all together in a piece that seeks to affirm the necessity of pastoral care for those who have been marginalized and wounded by the church while also arguing that those who maintain the traditionalist position on marriage in the Anglican Church must bear their own marginalization as the cost of a cross-bearing discipleship. That LGBTQ+ Christians who have been deeply wounded, emotionally, physically and sometimes fatally, will find no pastoral comfort from this article will not be surprising.

 

In “Christ and Care for the Marginalized,” Robinson expresses an interesting gratitude that there can no longer be any triumphalism amongst those who hold a traditional understanding of marriage. This turn of events, he says, is actually a good thing for traditionalists because they now “are compelled to struggle with the question of what it means to be faithful to the whole gospel even as we also seek to avoid rejecting or excluding others.” If we think of N.T. Wright’s hermeneutic of faithful improvisation the question is, how do we maintain fidelity to Scripture while being innovative in our responses to changing cultural contexts and pastoral challenges? Regardless of what side of the debate we are on, this is the hermeneutical crux of the issue.

 

The way this gets played out in Robinson’s article is in the relation of pastoral care and theology. For Robinson, theology represents fidelity and pastoral care is where we are called to compassionate innovation. But he wants to make sure that the priority in these matters is always with theology. He writes, “We cannot elude the question of how theology informs pastoral care. In a desire to care for those who have been wounded by the church, some suggest that pastoral care must take precedence over theological claims.” But “that is to assume that our care can be pastoral without being theological and that the best we have to offer is our own human efforts to be loving, caring and inclusive.”

 

Now there are two problems with this.

 

The first is that it seems like a caricature. Maybe there is a body of literature in pastoral studies out there that divorces theology and pastoral care in this way, but I don’t know of it. But is there really a pastoral theology that says that the best we have to offer is our own human efforts to be caring and inclusive? I don’t think that affirming pastors have given up on biblical reflection, prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

 

The second problem embedded in Robinson’s critique is the assumption that such a division between pastoral care and theology is meaningful at all. But this is a false and impossible division.

 

Just as there is no psychotherapeutic practice apart from fundamental views of what it means to be human, the nature of pathology, etc., so also is there no pastoral care apart from certain kinds of theological assumptions about faithful and healthy human life, sin, forgiveness and redemption. In the matter of LGBTQ+ inclusion or exclusion in the body of Christ there are undoubtedly different theological perspectives at work and they are manifest in contrasting and conflicting models of pastoral care, but no one is saying, “here is my theology on one side, and here is my pastoral practice on the other, and I happen to prioritize one over the other.”

 

When it comes to the matter of voting to change the marriage canon in the Anglican Church of Canada the issue isn’t that some folks prioritize pastoral care over theology while others prioritize theology over pastoral care. No, the heart of the issue is contrasting theologies, contrasting understandings of the gospel, conflicting views of the grand narrative of Scripture, and … dare I say it … seriously divergent understandings of Jesus.

 

Robinson shares this estimation of the issue. He writes, “At the heart of our confusion are basic assumptions about the incarnation – that in Jesus Christ God has entered into the world so that we might know him and live in response to him. And, in relationship to pastoral care, that Jesus realizes and shows us what it means to be human.”

 

Amen to that.

 

And if we looked at the gospels one thing becomes abundantly clear.

Whenever Jesus is confronted with someone who is marginalized and shamed, he always takes his place beside them against those who would exclude them from the community. And invariably his ministry of healing inclusion is in direct conflict with the orthodox understandings of God, Torah and Israel of his day.

 

Let’s give one example – the man with the withered hand who was healed on the sabbath (Mark 3.1-6; Matt. 12.9-14; Luke 6.6-11).

 

Torah stipulations regarding the sabbath are, of course, rooted in nothing less than the very order of creation.

 

Sabbath (not marriage!) is the climax of the creation narrative.

 

And in the Torah, there is no exception to the sabbath requirement of rest. No work should be done. And healing is work. So when Jesus is in the synagogue on the sabbath and there is a man with a withered hand everyone is watching very closely. What is Jesus going to do? Is he going to prioritize pastoral care over theology? Would he in the name of compassion for this marginalized man abandon the theological principle of sabbath (again rooted in the very order of creation!) for some wider notion of inclusion?

 

So he puts the question to the traditionalists in the room: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or kill?” (Mark 3.4). And that shuts them up. Jesus goes to the heart of the covenant, indeed, the very heart of creation and the Creator’s generative love, and asks the most foundational question. Good or harm? Life or death?

“See, I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity,” says Yahweh, at the end of the covenant document known as Deuteronomy (30.15). There you have it. Life or death? Blessing or curse? “So choose life” (Deut. 30.19).

 

And in the face of the silence of these traditionalists, the inability of these protectors of Torah orthodoxy to answer such a basic and foundational question, Jesus is angry and grieved. How could they not see that the whole story of redemption, the very heart of God, would require breaking the letter of the Torah on a sabbath day in order to realize and manifest the pastoral and redemptive heart of that very same Word of God? If this is the heart of the story of God with Israel, then how could there be any question about the appropriate pastoral response?

 

So, with a mixture of sorrow and anger Jesus says to the man, “Stretch out your hand” (Mark 3.5), and the man is healed. In the very breaking of sabbath, sabbath is realized for this marginalized man.

 

Peter Robinson rightly points us to the cross at the heart of the gospel and pastoral care. But notice that the conspiracy that put Jesus on the cross begins precisely in this radical act of unorthodox inclusion and healing. “The Pharisees went out immediately and conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him” (Mark 3.6).

 

Jesus ends up on the cross because of his identification with and pastoral care of the marginalized, not because the marginalized are upset at him for maintaining the theological status quo. This is a crucial distinction.

 

Again, Robinson is right: “in relationship to pastoral care … Jesus realizes and shows us what it means to be human.” Yes, here is the incarnate one, the Word made flesh, the one who demonstrates and makes available to us, what full, authentic and redeemed human life looks like. And with remarkable consistency it doesn’t look like the traditionalists who are in constant opposition to the welcoming and redeeming Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed and enacted.

 

Being fully human is to follow where Jesus leads in bringing healing and redemption where there is division and brokenness.

 

Peter Robinson identifies the problem of the relationship of theology and pastoral care. His article gives voice to the tension between a deep desire for a compassionate response to real hurt and wounds, and the compelling need to maintain a fidelity to Jesus, incarnate and crucified. Hence his title, “Christ and Care for the Marginalized.” Christ and care. Theology and pastoral practice. Fidelity to the gospel “even as we also seek to avoid rejecting or excluding others” (italics added). This is the horn of the dilemma for Robinson and other compassionate traditionalists.

 

I do not deny that there are all kinds of tensions in Christian discipleship. Nor do I suggest that there are easy pastoral or theological answers to the issues before us. But from these responses that Sylvia Keesmaat and I have written (which reflect the views of a growing number of evangelical voices affirming same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ welcome and inclusion in the life of the church) we have argued that the tension between theology and pastoral care is misconstrued.

 

Fidelity to Jesus and the integrity of Christian discipleship calls us to a radical and embracive love for our LGBTQ+ siblings. Continued exclusion from marriage in the church does not demonstrate such embracive love.

 

Indeed, when we read the gospels, the issue isn’t “Christ and Care for the Marginalized,” so much as “Jesus and the Theological Priority of the Marginalized.”

 

 

image: Jesus and the adulteress, Rembrandt

 

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Episcopal Cafe by Episcopal Cafe - 7h ago

Two poems from Kate Day, an Episcopal Priest and Hospital Chaplain in Syracuse NY

 

Solomon in the NICU

Solomon was asked, “Who is the real mother?” “Get a sword,” he said, “and cut the child in half.”

 

Ten figures hunch around a table: five family; five staff.
No words can ease the taut, invisible cord of mistrust at this table.
Many words are expended through the translator; they are as futile as trying to cure the baby born with a condition “incompatible with life.”
Who is the “real” mother? Who truly desires the baby’s benefit?
Parents who want “everything” done to prolong his stay on this side of the great divide?
Doctors who wish to lessen his suffering (and their own), caused by each tiny, sterile stab into his tender, flinching flesh?
The only motion here: vibrating tension in the unseen cord.
At last, when every other word has been expended, the Imam’s voice rises sweetly,
Chanting ancient verses of life, of death, of submission to God’s will.
Tears flow; the cord slackens.
Like Solomon’s sword, the timeless song has cut right through it,
to the heart of our shared sorrow.

 

 

Joseph of Arimathea in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

Who is this caressing
the motionless toddler in PICU?
Who is calling her name,
brushing back tears?

 

Mommy stands out of reach,
dry-eyed and expressionless. She
will leave shortly to have a cigarette.

 

Daddy comes in to curse and blame,
He will not touch or address his little one.

 

Mommy’s boyfriend is in jail now, having
thrown this blooming girl into her playpen
with such force that she will never cry again.
What he might want to say
will not be said or heard here.

 

But someone sits at the bed.
Reaching around the tubes and wires,
he touches the unbandaged spots
and talks to her. No kin the law
will recognize, he has come in his
wheelchair: just a human being
in this inhuman story, doing
the last loving things that can be done.
He will stay until the end.

 

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Episcopal Cafe by Charles Lafond - 11h ago

This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, a spiritual companion, author, potter and fundraiser who lives on the edge of the sea with his dog Kai. offering regular meditations and reflections on spirituality and church fundraising

 

 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s kiln?”

 

This quote from a favorite author and mystic is simultaneously true and deeply annoying.

 

As a potter, I know the tremendous violence which a piece of clay goes through to become a cup that brings cool water to parched lips. Mine and those of others. This lovely, elastic clay is elastic and moldable precisely because the ancient goo, which makes it sticky and malleable, is death.  Clay, at its molecular level, is simply gazillions of microscopic bits of sand between which is the goo from dead things.  The more the clay ages, the better, the more sticky it is.  The more old-death in it, the better it is for the potter’s use. The dead things – leaves, fish, wood, bits of decomposing flesh – they all float to rivers and lakes where they sink to the bottom along with bits of sand from eroded rocks.

 

Then, a few million years later they become clay for a potter.  And the first thing a potter does after making a cup on her pottery wheel, is to dry the clay – killing the living, rotting goo.  Then the cup is fired in the kiln, burning the goo-remains into gasses and leaving small holes in the cup’s wall.

 

Then glaze (bits of glass with oxides) are dipped onto the cup and the second firing in the kiln is even hotter, melting the clay, collapsing the holes, and the melting the glaze, to become the beautiful and shiny pot you hold in your hand.  Clay which holds water. At the height of the firing, the fire will reach 10 feet into the air and will burst 5 inches out the sides of the kiln in any cracks.  It is violent.  It is primordial.  It is frightening to watch. Dangerous to handle. It is the process. Violence and then, beauty and usefulness.

 

Perhaps there are so many references in our scriptures and those of other traditions, to the potter and the clay because the metaphor works.  We are molded by strong, unseen hands which are called various names by various religious traditions and even by none.  The kiln burns our deaths; our pain-bodies, those of past family, and those of the experience of our present abusers. The resulting sorrow is then transfigured by the same unseen hands. Creation and re-creation.

 

I hate experiencing the agony of my own suffering.  But I do believe, as infuriating as it may be … and it so often is infuriating … that the cuts of my griefs as I experienced life are indeed crevasses which are deep, sure foot-holds of climbing joy.

 

So we suffer.  And we climb. Both. We become the cup.

 

No sorrow = no joy. What a strange equation.

 

 

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Genesis 18:1-10

 

I don’t know much about circumcision. I won’t pretend that I do. But, I do know this, it is so painful that the sages allow one to break the sabbath in order to care for someone who has been circumcised within the past three days. And, I’ll add this, if you cut off an important part of my body I would still be in bed complaining about it three days later, probably longer. Not Abraham. He was up and sitting in the doorway of his tent three days after his circumcision, and he was on the lookout for visitors. That may sound saintly, but it is really more practical than that. People who arrived unannounced didn’t always have the best intentions. Showing hospitality was a way for the host to demonstrate power over a visitor, satisfy any need the visitor might have and therefore avoid conflict. And, since he was a trader, Abraham would have been interested in who passed by and what he might be able to trade for. He didn’t get rich by lounging inside his tent, after all. He sat at the door and kept alert. Hospitality was also a way for Abraham to build up a reservoir of good-will among his neighbours in the event that he might need help sometime. So, he had lots of reasons to be attentive to who might happen by that day. 

 

In this story, though, something funny happened. The visitors took the dominant role. We see this demonstrated in the things they knew:  They knew that Abraham had a wife, they knew her name, and they offered their own hospitality in the form of a gift of prophecy. Everything gets turned on its head in this story. It’s a great way to tell a story, but it makes me think that we might need to look for meaning beyond the actual words. There is something in this reading that I’d never thought about before and I think we should explore that this week:  

 

Abraham told his visitors to sit down and wait for him to bring a little water and bread, but then he proceeded to produce a feast which included much more.

Why?

Was Abraham just being modest? Maybe he didn’t want to appear wealthy and make himself vulnerable to a robbery. We can’t know, but at some point Abraham shifted into high gear and laid out a spread for his guests. Is it possible that somewhere along the way he figured out who his guests really were? 

 

In the Watergate scandal which rocked, and ruined, the presidency of Richard Nixon, then Senator Howard Baker asked, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” That question is now haunting the current president, Donald Trump, as we found out last week that he did in fact know about hush-money payments made to his mistress Stormy Daniels. Like Nixon, it turns out that he knew a lot sooner than he originally let on. But, what about Abraham? When did he know that his guests were not just travelers? When did he figure out that he should step it up a notch, put out the good silver? Did he ever figure out that HE was the guest?


I wasn’t there so I don’t know. I do know that to this very day it is desert culture to care for strangers and travelers. I know this because I have been a stranger and a traveler in the desert, and I was well cared for.


I also know that Abraham’s descendants would promise God that they would do all the things he commanded them. Doing was more important than believing or professing to believe, or even studying! When Moses went up Mt. Sinai for the first time he returned and told the people that if they would accept God’s covenant God would make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The people replied, “All that God has said, we will do.”  It does not say anything about believing, or saying that they believe, or anything like that. It’s about doing.


I also know that later Moses told the people what specific things God wanted them to do and, again, they said that they would do them (Genesis 24:3).

 

I know that a few verses later they agreed again. This time they said, “We will do and we will understand.” By saying we will do first they mean to imply that doing what God says is of paramount importance. Understanding God’s law is secondary. In other words, doing the things God says to do is the defining characteristic of God’s people. What they believe is secondary. 

 

That’s what Abraham was exhibiting that day in the desert. He must have still been in a lot of pain. I mean, think about it. But he still did the work of caring for the stranger and the traveller. 

 

As the writer of James said, “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” It didn’t take thousands of years and Jesus for people to know that. Abraham knew it! He may have had practical reasons for monitoring things from the door of his tent, but he knew God too, and he didn’t spend time talking about what he knew. He did something about it! 

 

It is OK  for us to know what desert culture was like in Abraham’s day. And, it’s great to study and learn about stuff like that, even better if you have a friend to talk it over with. But none of that is enough. It is incumbent on us to understand the desert in our own backyard and do something there, be aware, and tend to strangers and travellers wherever we find them. 

 

There are big things we can talk about, like the migrant crises on the southern border of the USA. But, we already know what is required: Don’t wrong them, love them, show them hospitality. It’s in the Bible. Interestingly, the Bible is silent on the subject of secure borders but it has a lot to say about people who cross them. God is not interested in what we think about it, though, God is interested in what we do.


There are smaller things too, like neighbours or family members who seem like strangers. There are plenty of people crossing their own deserts who are in desperate need of a drop of kindness, encouragement, whatever you’ve got. Again, it’s not about what you think or what you believe, it’s about what you do. Where’s the check you can write? Where’s the good word you can offer? Or, maybe it’s just the harsh words you don’t say. It all counts. 

 

And there are the things that are so small that we may not even be able to see them at all. The dryness in our own lives, the now-disintegrated  hopes and dreams that used to sustain us… it all leaves us weary. But, surely we can find some kindness for ourselves too.

 

Here’s the thing: You might find that, like Abraham, in lifting up your eyes to see how you might be a blessing you wind up being the one blessed.


Some people interpret the three visitors to be a foreshadowing of the trinity. That’s a very Christian way of thinking about it. Abraham might have interpreted it differently. Maybe he thought it was God, appearing as an ordinary man, and incarnations of goodness and love, or light and care, or righteousness and justice. Whatever he thought, and whoever they were, the end was that it was Abraham who was blessed.


Blessings work like that. Some people call that karma, but that’s from a different religion. In our religion we call it losing your life in order to find it.


In what way can you lose your life this week?


What do you think you’ll find?

 

Some Notes of Possible Interest

 

Rashi has a little different take on Abraham’s hospitality, a more saintly take on it. He said that Abraham didn’t want to miss a chance to do a mitzvah, that is why he was sitting at the door of his tent. He also said that HaShem made it extra hot that day so that Abraham wouldn’t be bothered with any visitors. Abraham was depressed about this, though, and so on the third day of his circumcision God came to visit Abraham. Later, of course, Abraham will show similar enthusiasm when it is time for the akeidah. Circumcising yourself and killing your own child put Abraham in a class by himself, for better or for worse. 

 

Abraham’s wealth was mainly from livestock. 

 

Genesis 19:8… All that God has said we will do. 

 

James 2:16… If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

 

Exodus 22:21… “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

 

Exodus 23:9… “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

 

Leviticus 19:34… You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

 

Deuteronomy 10:19… Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

 

Hebrews 13:2… Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

 

Psalm 23:6… Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 

 

Psalm 43:3… Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

 

Psalm 97:2… Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

 

Linda McMillan is on holiday in the rolling hills of Texas. This week, I am the guest and I love it!

Image:  Pixabay

 

©Linda Diane McMillan 2019

 

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As the Anglican Church of Canada approached it’s General Synod and the questions of marriage equality and full sacramental inclusion of LGBT+ persons, the Living Church published a series of essays from the traditionalist perspective exploring changing ideas about the life of the church today. We are pleased to be able to share these responses, all of which originally appeared atEmpire Remixed, a Canadian collective dedicated to “pushing buttons, causing upset, or challenging institutions,” and carrying on “convinced that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”

This is the next to last essay in the series

Previous Essays

From Jerusalem to Vancouver: The Pharisees Strike Back

The Heresy of Procreative Evangelism

Whatever Happened to the Bible?

Unity and a Crucified Messiah

The Fruit of Faithfulness

The Good News of Romans 1 for Same-Sex Marriage

Episcopal Authority and the Mission of the Church

 

 

by Sylvia Keesmaat

 

There are very few people who are currently participating in the conversation around scripture and the amendment of the marriage canon who are not concerned with biblical authority.

What is at stake, however, is precisely how the Bible is authoritative and which texts and narrative strands we privilege in our reading of the text.

As has become evident in the last little while, the controversy around same-sex marriage and the biblical view of homosexuality has shifted away from the texts that have been traditionally appealed to in order to condemn same-sex relationships, and has become rather surprisingly focussed on marriage as a central motif in the biblical narrative and redemption history.

Some of the problems with this interpretive shift have been addressed by Christopher Brittain in his article,  “A position in search of a rationale: Symptoms of evangelical Anglican disarray on same-sex marriage,” which interacts with the most senior scholar making this argument, Ephraim Radner. Dr. David Ney, however, in his recent post “Scripture and the Mystery of Procreation,” frames his discussion of the marriage motif in the context of biblical authority, which will also frame my response.

Dr. Ney begins by suggesting that the authors of “This Holy Estate” do not want to submit to biblical authority. This is hardly plausible, since the bulk of the document is a discussion of biblical texts. Unfortunately, his subsequent arguments reveal a continued misunderstanding of both “This Holy Estate” and the biblical text itself. [For our non-Anglican readers looking over our shoulders on this debate, “This Holy Estate” was a report written for the 2016 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada which provided the theological and biblical rationale for changing the marriage canon of the church to include same-sex marriage.]

The first of these arguments he calls the “shellfish argument,” which he describes in terms of garbage collecting.

One divides the bible into “that which is salvageable and that which is not.” Those who read the Bible this way (he says) conclude that just as the shellfish texts are no longer relevant, so the sexual prohibitions are no longer relevant. This is a problem, Dr. Ney says, “For the Bible must be taken in whole or not at all.” He continues, “But the question is never whether such texts are relevant, but rather whether we are willing to wrestle with the words of Scripture, as they have been handed down to us and interpreted by the Church, so as to discern their particular, authoritative grasp.”

This statement suggests that the authors of “This Holy Estate” (and by extension all of us who do not think that these texts apply to 21st century same-sex marriage) are not willing to wrestle with the biblical texts.

On the contrary, not only did “This Holy Estate” wrestle with the texts to discern their historical context, many of us have wrestled with these texts and have concluded that they are relevant to the life of discipleship, just not relevant to the issue currently under discussion.

Romans 1, for instance, does not condemn same-sex marriage. However, as Brian Walsh has shown, it has plenty to say about what faithful and committed marriage relationships look like. It also has plenty to say about the ways in which idolatry results in sexual violence and immorality.

Such sexual violence in our own culture is deeply rooted in pornography, the fetishization of violence in general, the way in which the bodies of women in our world are used as items of sexual gratification, and the continual use of rape as a weapon. These are also, incidentally, some of the things which undermine healthy marriage relationships.

If we took Romans 1 authoritatively, we would be speaking out much more loudly against pornography in our midst and against sexual violence.

Why is the church not doing this? It is no secret that pornography addiction is as high in evangelical circles as it is in the wider culture. Perhaps we are not addressing these issues because it is easier to “wrestle” with texts in order to apply them to the people we disagree with rather than ourselves.

But perhaps more disturbing is Dr. Ney’s emphasis on procreative marriage as the way that God carries his divine purpose forward.

I won’t repeat the same objections to this view as Christopher Brittain did in his very fine essay on Radner’s procreation argument. Dr. Ney’s piece provides other provocative ways into the discussion.

For instance, Dr. Ney asserts that “Paul’s claim that procreative marriage is a sacrament (Eph 5.22-23) is an understanding about divine and human history in the institution of marriage.”

This is a very puzzling assertion. Paul actually says that men and women becoming one flesh is a great mystery (mystērion), and that he is applying it to Christ and the church (Eph 5.32).

What does he mean by this? He has just explained it: a husband loves and cares for his wife as he does his own body, just as Christ loves the church because we are members of his body. And how do we become members of his body? This is the mystery that Paul refers to frequently throughout the letter: the mystery of the gospel, “that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known ….” (Eph 3.9-10). It is for proclaiming this mystery of the gospel that Paul is in chains (6.19).

Not only does Paul not describe marriage as a sacrament, the whole point of Ephesians is that the mystery that was hidden for ages is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph 3.4-6).

That is to say, procreation is not the way that God’s great plan is fulfilled; rather through the church the gospel is proclaimed to the Gentiles, for Christ Jesus “has abolished the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.” (Eph 2.15).

The household that Jesus creates is not based on procreation or the blood of kinship but on the blood of the Messiah (Eph 2.13). This is a basic Christian teaching.

Of course, it would be very unusual for Paul to suggest that procreative marriage is the way that God carries forward his divine purposes (as Dr. Ney asserts).

For a Jewish man, Paul was unusually negative about marriage, giving only one reason why single people should get married: if they can’t exercise self-control they should marry so as to avoid sexual immorality.  “It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” (1 Cor 7.9, see also 7.36).

If Paul was so convinced that marriage was necessary for the dissemination of the gospel, why would he say in this context “I wish that all were as I myself am” and then go on to urge the unmarried to stay that way (1 Cor 7.7, 8)?

Surely if everyone were single that would severely hamper the spread of a gospel that is based on procreative marriage.

Of course, Paul can say this because he does not believe that procreative marriage is at all important for the spread of the saving good news of God in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Ney, of course, does not consider these inconvenient texts when making his argument. Instead he presses onward, asserting that “God carries forward his divine purposes for his creatures through it [procreative marriage] as well.” This assertion leaves out chunks of the story, where those who carry God’s purpose forward are not married, procreatively or otherwise. Consider Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul himself. (If some of these prophets were married, they didn’t seem to think it important enough to mention).

He also fails to mention that the procreative marriages that do carry the story forward bear no resemblance to marriage today, since they are not only polygamous but also involve sex with slaves.

Dr. Ney concludes this paragraph by saying, “we can see that affirming the larger scriptural narrative means affirming the particulars that comprise this narrative.”

Which particulars does he have in mind, exactly?

Polygamy?

Women dressing up as prostitutes and seducing their fathers-in law (as does Tamar, who is explicitly mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy;  Matt 1.3, cf. Gen 38)?

Visiting prostitutes on the off-chance that one of them might save you from danger (referring to Rahab, also mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy; Matt 1.5; Josh 2)?

Ignoring God’s explicit commandments about marrying pagan women (Ruth, also mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy; Matt 1.5)?

Or raping women that you happen to see bathing and then killing their husbands so that no one discovers that you knocked them up (Bathsheba, the “wife of Uriah” referred to in Jesus’ genealogy in such a way as to indicate David’s sin; Matt 1.6; 1 Samuel 11)?

These are the particulars of the genealogy that Dr. Ney considers to be so important. They are the only instances where the woman is mentioned by Matthew. While procreation happened in the context of marriage for some of them, it did not happen in all. And sexual intercourse happened outside of marriage for at least three of the four.

I can go on. Dr. Ney uses language about the “traditional ideals of marriage, birth and the raising of children.”

He does not define this, but I am assuming he is not referring the biblical traditions of polygamy, sex with slaves, and finding prospective mates at a well (a common biblical theme related to marriage—see the stories of Isaac, Jacob and Moses).

Dr. Ney asserts that human life can only endure through procreative marriage, in spite of the fact that a number of countries are doing just fine with people procreating outside of marriage (I think of the Netherlands, in particular).

Dr. Ney asserts that procreative marriage and the gospel are inextricably bound to one another, in spite of the fact that Jesus did not say “Get married, procreate and make disciples of your children,” but rather, “Go and make disciples of all peoples …“ (Matt 28.19).

Let me be very clear here.

In order to make this argument for procreative marriage, Dr. Ney has had to ignore the clear witness of scripture that God’s grace is extended to all people, outside of our genealogical heritage, whether we are married or not.

He has had to ignore the overwhelming language of adoption found throughout the Bible to refer to God’s relationship to Israel and God’s relationship to us.

And, most significantly, he has had to ignore the fact that Jesus calls into question all traditional kinship relationships. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” … Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12.48; Mk 3.31-35).

This is disappointing in someone who is adamant that we are to submit to the Bible as a whole and that “denying the particular authority of the Bible in part is the steady path to denying the authority of the whole.”

It is not up to me to discern whether Dr. Ney has begun the walk down that steady path. However, as a scholar and as a teacher, I am distressed that an article that frames a topic in terms of biblical authority chooses to ignore so much of the Bible itself. 

 

 

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Episcopal Cafe by Linda Ryan - 1d ago

Television is a marvelous thing. I remember a child being mesmerized by cowboys and Indians, and their sidekicks: dogs, horses, female friends, and jeeps. Television has never stopped being something amazing and almost necessary for me because I learn things from programs it presents, from forensics to religion to history to travel to places I’ve never been or will ever see for myself.

I was watching a program on the travels of the apostles after Pentecost. One of the stories that they presented was the story that appears in Acts 8:26-39 that we know as Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip was following the instructions of an angel to travel along a particular road. He came across a foreign man sitting in a chariot reading a scroll. Philip went to the man and asked if he understood what he was reading, which happened to be the book of Isaiah. The man, a eunuch and a high official of the Queen of Ethiopia, said that he was unable to do so because how could he understand unless someone taught him. Philip proceeded to talk to the Ethiopian, explaining that when Isaiah referred to the Messiah, he was speaking of a man named Jesus. As they walked along, talking of Jesus, the eunuch expressed a desire to be baptized. He and Philip went into a nearby body of water, and Philip baptized him. Philip was taken away by the Spirit to another land, and the eunuch proceeded on his journey home.

Something about this program got me thinking. The script had the eunuch utter the words, “I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God,” and that served as his profession of faith. The book of Acts reports instead that the Ethiopian remarked that there was some water and asked what prevented him from being baptized.  That made me wonder about whether or not Philip had required a profession of faith, and what is sufficient for us to be baptized now?

In the church of my youth, each service would be geared towards the last few minutes when the preacher would come down from the pulpit and stand in the center of the aisle as we sang a hymn, usually “Just As I Am.” Between each verse, the preacher would urge us to open our hearts to Jesus and accept him as our “Personal Savior.” The calling would go on for several minutes before he started the next verse. After the second verse, there would be another pause and encouragement to come forward.  The third, fourth, fifth, and even sixth verse followed the same pattern. 

He reminded us of our sinfulness and how Jesus had come to save us, but we needed to accept that and be baptized for it to become a reality. Becoming a Christian could only be accomplished by publicly accepting Jesus as a “Personal Savior.” During one Sunday night service, I was immersed in the baptistry at the front of the church. I did what was required: got dunked as a sinner, and walked back up the baptistry steps, soaking wet and able to proclaim that I was now a Christian. I was saved from my sins with a hotline to God to ask forgiveness for any fault, great or small, that I might commit in the future, something like a “Get out of jail free” card.

What came to my attention through the television program was the simplicity of the affirmation of faith the eunuch pronounced. There was no personal savior involved; it was an acceptance that Jesus was the Son of God, and that was all that was necessary to believe. Perhaps the writer of Acts didn’t feel a specific affirmation of faith was required. The formula for such professions would come later as the church grew, and the times became more perilous. Still, the Ethiopian’s statement caught my attention and made me do some thinking.

At this stage of my life, I have pretty much rejected the idea of a personal savior. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I can say the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed without crossing my fingers more than once at a phrase or two. I can identify fundamental (as opposed to Fundamental) Christian beliefs, recite things like the Beatitudes and a number of the Psalms. I can retell the stories and parables, and explain them with some understanding, but I can’t claim Jesus is purely my personal savior. 

I believe that when we say that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world, he didn’t only come for a few people, like his disciples and his followers that came with him on his journeys. He came not only for the Jews, but also the Samaritans, even the Romans, and, as time went on, for the Gentiles who encompassed everybody who was not Jewish. To me, that is a much more significant and more powerful belief than merely claiming a personal savior. Either Jesus came to take away the sins of all the world, or he didn’t come to take away the sins of any. That phrase, “the sins of the world,” makes all the difference to me.

I believe that Jesus Christ was, is, and will always be the son of God. His mission on earth was to teach us how to live in relationship with God and with each other. I would say that that is my statement of faith and the reason I am a Christian.

Each of us has to come to our own statement of faith. As I contemplate my particular statement of faith this coming week, I will be looking deeper to see where I am in relation to that statement of faith, and where I can find God as well as Jesus in it. Give it a try yourself. Make a statement that embodies your belief, not necessarily using the language of the church but rather the language of the heart. See where it takes you.

God bless.

 

Image: The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip, by Lambert Sustris (1515-1584), located at the Department of Paintings of the Louvre.  Found at Wikimedia Commons.

 

Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is owned by Dominic, Gandhi and Phoebe, who keep her busy and sometimes highly amused.

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Episcopal Church
Just wow – everything is bigger in Texas, even capital campaigns!
https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2019/07/16/construction-begins-on-st-martins-episcopal.html

 

 

Canadian General Synod
Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz’s “farewell” address to General Synod
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/primate-reflects-achievements-future/

 

And a New Primate was elected, The Rt Rev Linda Nicholls
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/linda-nicholls-elected-primate/

 

Fallout from the failed vote on marriage equality
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/church-grapples-with-pain-after-marriage-canon-vote/

 

Dealing with the painful legacy of mistreatment of First Nations peoples
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/reconciliation-an-ongoing-process-general-synod-hears/

 

Environmental Stewardship actions
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/general-synod-passes-justice-resolutions-receives-apology-at-july-13-session/

 

Revenue down and expenses up
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/church-suffers-deficit-in-2018/

 

Opening up their pension plan to other non-profits and churches + rethinking GS
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/church-suffers-deficit-in-2018/

 

ACoC votes for Full communion with ELCA as part of a larger agreement that will see the ELCA, TEC, ACoC, and the Canadian equivalent of the ELCA all in full communion – it’s slated for us to look at in 2021
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/general-synod-expands-full-communion-recognition/

 

This is an interesting take on the Canadian marriage Canon issue
http://alantperry.blogspot.com/2019/07/marriage-canon-redux.html

 

 

Anglican Communion
From a snapshot of a Zimbabwean choral group, a young woman is now the “face of the Communion” in a widely shared poster
https://www.anglicannews.org/news/2019/07/zimbabwean-parish-choir-director-becomes-the-new-face-of-the-anglican-communion.aspx

 

An Australian women’s engaging and thoughtful essay on why ordination in the Anglican church was her path
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2019/07/why-be-anglican-2/

 

 

Other Interesting Items
A back and forth over the ACNA BCP, which apparently isn’t being well received. 
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/northamptonseminar/2019/07/18/debate-over-the-new-prayer-book/

 

 

 

 

image: The Rt Rev Linda Nicholls, Primate-Elect of the Anglican Church of Canada, Photo: Milos Posic (Anglican Journal)

 

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In the latest court filing involving the Church in South Carolina (TECSC)’s property disputes with the ACNA diocese, TECSC has filed motions to dismiss.

Late yesterday, on Thursday, July 18, 2019, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) filed multiple motions with the U.S. District Court in Charleston asking the federal court to dismiss motions and counterclaims filed by the Church Insurance Company of Vermont (CIC-VT). In the initial filing on June 11, 2019, TECSC argued that CIC-VT acted in bad faith and secretly funded TECSC’s disaffiliated adversaries in litigation against TECSC. (See previous blog post here.)

CIC-VT’s motion for declaratory judgment, filed three days later on June 14, 2019, was “attempting to justify the decision it already made to fund TECSC’s disaffiliated adversaries in litigation against TECSC,” according to the memorandum of law filed July 18 by TECSC. In addition to the motion for declaratory judgment, CIC-VT also filed a counterclaim and third-party complaint in the bad faith action, as well as motions for joinder and consolidation. (See previous blog post here.)

​The memorandum of law filed July 18, 2019, explains why CIC-VT’s declaratory claim, pled in both actions, should be dismissed on the pleadings as a matter of law and equity, and also why CIC-VT’s motions for consolidation and joinder should be denied as “moot and futile.”

The press release goes on to describe the basic outline of the case, and concludes that:

After laying out the many reasons supporting dismissal, the filing notes that CIC-VT’s motions for consolidation and joinder should be denied as “moot and futile.”  In addition, it notes that the denial is appropriate because “the addition of numerous parties to the bad faith action initiated by TECSC against CIC-VT is unnecessary and would unduly complicate and prolong that case and burden and prejudice TECSC.”

The memorandum of law filed by TECSC is available in full here.

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As the Anglican Church of Canada approached it’s General Synod and the questions of marriage equality and full sacramental inclusion of LGBT+ persons, the Living Church published a series of essays from the traditionalist perspective exploring changing ideas about the life of the church today. We are pleased to be able to share these responses, all of which originally appeared atEmpire Remixed, a Canadian collective dedicated to “pushing buttons, causing upset, or challenging institutions,” and carrying on “convinced that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”

This is the seventh essay in the series

Previous Essays

From Jerusalem to Vancouver: The Pharisees Strike Back

The Heresy of Procreative Evangelism

Whatever Happened to the Bible?

Unity and a Crucified Messiah

The Fruit of Faithfulness

The Good News of Romans 1 for Same-Sex Marriage

 

 

by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat

On one level, Cole Hartin’s article “Episcopal Authority in a Changing Church” offers fairand practical pastoral advice to folks who find themselves in deep tension with their bishop. Whatever side of the present debate you find yourself on, the encouragement to love and pray for your bishop, while communicating openly and respectfully is good advice.

 

And we certainly want to affirm Hartin’s closing words:

We strive for unity and mutual understanding as Christians because all of us together have a mission to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all people. Our fractiousness not only consumes time and energy, but diverts us from the mission God has given to all of us.

Amen to that.

 

And yet, there is still the spectre of “alternative episcopal oversight” that runs through the article. Certainly as a last resort, but it is still there in this piece and throughout much of the discussion, debate, and division in the Anglican Church of Canada (and beyond).

 

The very idea of alternative episcopal oversight seems to be a very recent innovation in the life of the Anglican church. And one that has an extremely narrow purview.

When was the last time that you heard of a parish seeking alternative episcopal oversight because their bishop had a stock portfolio over a million dollars? Or was very much at home amongst the 1%? Or supported tax cuts to the most wealthy?

 

For example, and to reach back to the earliest days of our own diocese, the Diocese of Toronto, was there an alternative episcopal oversight lobby when John Strachan was the chaplain and sacred legitimator of the Family Compact, which cemented the power and influence of the wealthy in Upper Canada? These were hardly kingdom values.

 

Has a parish ever sought alternative episcopal oversight because a bishop couldn’t preach their way out of a paper bag and seemed to have little biblical insight?

Or because the bishop has been known to imbibe with some excess in fine wine and good scotch on perhaps a more than regular occasions?

When bishops experience family struggles, and perhaps their children abandon Christian faith, do we seek alternative episcopal oversight?

 

We could go on, but perhaps you catch our drift. The New Testament says very little about bishops, but in those two places where “bishops” (or overseers) are talked about in the Bible (1 Tim. 3.1-7; Titus 1.5-9) it is clear that a bishop must not be greedy or a lover of money, must have a firm grasp on the Word and be able to preach well, not be a drunkard, and have children who are believers.

 

If we are going to root our understanding of episcopal authority and behaviour biblically, then these are some (certainly not all) of the standards that are required of bishops.

 

But it seems that no one ever wants to remove a bishop or seek alternative episcopal oversight because a bishop might be very wealthy, theologically thin, a bit of a party animal, and hasn’t raised a bunch of good Anglicans in their household.

 

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not slagging off bishops here, nor are we (at least in this piece) slagging off episcopal authority in the church.

 

In fact, some of our best friends are bishops!

 

And we’ve got Rt. Rev. friends on both sides of the current debate on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ inclusion in the life of the church.

Our concern, indeed our alarm, is that the issue of same-sex marriage is the only one concerning which we hear any talk about the possibility of seeking alternative episcopal oversight these days.

 

The only issue around which there is suggestion of alternative episcopal oversight has to do with how the sexual relationships of gay people are ordered, specifically the desire (in the present debate) for same-sex couples to enter into the covenant of marriage.

 

Now one might respond by saying that sex is the issue because it is here that “conservatives” (their self-identification) perceive theological deviation and biblical thinness in bishops who support changing the marriage canon. Indeed, Hartin goes so far as to say that, “Currently, in the Anglican Church of Canada, ethical and theological questions have been put aside as the canonical validity of same-sex marriage is coming to the table.”

 

This is simply not true.

 

In the Anglican Church of Canada, deeply theological, ethical and biblical arguments for and against same-sex marriage have been on the table since Cole Hartin was just a young lad and it is just a tad disrespectful and rich for him to declare otherwise.

 

This is an old accusation: that those in favour of same-sex marriage are not theologically orthodox, are not concerned with Biblical authority and are, as a result, somehow ethically suspect. There have been an abundance of biblical and theological studies in recent years in favour of same-sex marriage. And, in the current conversation, it is those of us in favour of same-sex marriage who have been repeatedly returning to the biblical text as a basis and authority for our arguments.

So why is it that the main issue around which there is talk about serious disunity is sex? And specifically someone else’s sexuality?

 

As far as we can tell, none of the authors in the current series of articles from The Living Church identifies as queer. And we are wondering why this issue is the issue around which folks might want to talk about alternative episcopal oversight.

 

Not the excesses of capitalism, not the climate crisis, not immigration, not racism.

 

We might disagree on a number of these issues, but it is sex that makes us start worrying about the unity of the church.

 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this. After all, throughout most of the history of the church, sexual sins have always been considered more serious sins than economic injustice or the violent exercise of authority.

 

That is why in the tradition one of us (Sylvia) grew up in, couples who were pregnant outside of marriage had to confess in front of the church. No one ever stood up to confess cheating someone in business, even though there were some in the congregation who did this regularly, and even though the prophets condemn such actions in no uncertain terms. The current obsessive focus on the sexual practices of some in our communities is no different than these old condemnations.

 

If there is one thing that gets people upset, it is sex.

Given the way that the church fathers embraced Platonism with its devaluing of the body, this is perhaps not surprising.

 

It is perhaps also telling that there is significant diversity amongst the bishops on a whole host of weighty theological and ecclesiastical matters – from sacraments to liturgy to the creeds, Christology, Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, and the nature of Biblical Authority. But no one is talking about alternative episcopal oversight around these real and significant theological differences. And (mostly) we are glad for that.

 

Somehow, as a church, we have been able to hold together around the core of the gospel:

Christ has died, 
Christ has risen, 
Christ will come again.

Therein is our deepest unity, and therein is our mission. To proclaim this Christ.

 

What would happen if we took Cole Hartin’s closing paragraph seriously and asked how all of this impacts the mission of the church? He is undoubtedly right in saying that so much of this fractiousness “diverts us from the mission God has given to us all.” If that is true, then why would we even countenance something as extremely divisive as alternative episcopal oversight?

You see, this kind of disunity doesn’t just divert us from the mission, it damages that mission.

 

But we have one more question that is never raised or answered in these discussions.

Precisely how does having a bishop who disagrees with a parish on the change to the marriage canon impede the missional life of a congregation?

 

Do congregations raise the views of their bishops with every new attendee and at every event they host?

 

In our lifetime there have been bishops who have denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus, a belief we consider non-negotiable biblically and confessionally, and parishes under their authority have still managed to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments, and practice missional discipleship.

 

Many parishes in favour of same-sex marriage have managed to flourish in spite of being under the auspices of Bishops who were against same-sex marriage.

 

And yet they have not sought alternative episcopal oversight, even though there were very strong pastoral arguments to do so.

 

And yet, when those who have had canon law on their side realize that they are about to lose their majority and privileged status, they demand that the rules be changed so that they don’t have to minister with someone that they disagree with.

There seems to be a concern that when they have lost power they are going to be somehow discriminated against by those who previously had no power. This needs to be named.

 

And it is unclear what such discrimination could look like, given that there are no circumstances under which any priest or parish would be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages.

 

If, as it appears, we’re going to continue to disagree on this, we suggest three things:

First, let’s stop all this talk about alternative episcopal oversight.
If we can’t graciously disagree with each other over an issue like same-sex marriage, then the church should probably just die.

Second, let’s create space for each other.
We need gracious episcopal oversight. Just as no affirming bishop will require a priest to solemnize a same-sex marriage, so also should no conservative bishop prohibit such solemnization, should the change in the marriage canon pass.

But third, and for us most important, let’s shift our ecclesial conversation to the gospel itself.
What do we mean by the gospel? What is discipleship?

 

We have been talking past each other long enough, and it is time for a renewed biblical theology that faithfully speaks the good news into our cultural context.

 

We are committed to that kind of renewal, for the sake of the mission of the church, for the sake of the gospel.

 

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