September 2004 Archives

New Sojourners Video

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Sojourners has produced a new Flash video commercial about our glorious election process to date.

Here is the URL:

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.election&item=petition_flash2

Here is a small piece of what David Batstone wrote in Sojourner's latest e-mail update. He is commenting on the recent Jimmy Swaggart sermon in which Swaggart said that he would kill any man who would look at him in an amorous way. See for yourself what Swaggart said. (You will need Windows Media Player)

As much as I defend Evangelicals to most of my more liberal fellow seminarians, I am afraid that this is truly were we are headed.


"How has it become so possible today for Christian leaders to twist Jesus' teaching about loving all of God's children? The pattern is transparent in many sectors of the church. Too many Christians have turned Jesus into a warmaker, not a peacemaker, and justify their position by the same logic. Our enemies in the Middle East are an "abomination.

"On a more personal note, I recently received a note from a SojoMail reader full of profanity and insults. My attacker closed his note wondering how I could call myself a Christian, taking the position I do of waging peace in the Middle East at the expense of partisan support for "freedom fighters" in Iraq and uncritical support for the state of Israel. I usually do not take the time to respond to such letters (believe it or not, I get a few hate letters...:-), but this time I did write back a short note asking how he, in turn, could call himself a Christian and use such profane, violent words toward another human being. His e-mail back to me was revealing, albeit shocking: 'I can write to you as I like, for you are not a human being. You have forfeited that right; you are nothing but pond scum.'"

"That's the theological loophole for what passes as Christian morality these days. Simply demonstrate why the other person, or race of people, has forfeited their status as a human being, and you can do with them what you will. By the way, that is the same theological loophole used by the church in Latin America to justify the massacre of millions of native Americans during the Conquest; they were not deemed human beings. "

Read David's whole piece: click here

"I want to confront homophobia for two reasons. The first is that the 'gay agenda' has replaced the 'communist threat' s the battering ram of reactionary politics. Instead of the commie behind every bush, there's a gay person sick and sinful.

"The second reason is that while the church has generally given at least some support to the oppressed, in the case of homosexuals the church has led in the opposition.

"The better to refute the assertions of contrary-minded Christians, I want to speak as a Christian preacher who shares Bishop Tutu's sorrowful conclusion: 'The Lord of the Church would not be where his church is in this matter.'"

William Sloane Coffin, The Heart Is A Little To The Left, p 27.
(Among other things, the retired pastor of Riverside Church, New York City)

Classes and...

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Classes have begun and life is crazy once again. An Ember Day letter is due, and there are too many things hanging loose. The end of seminary is fast approaching.

I read this recent e-mail update from Stephen Bennett Ministries.


There are "gay" activists who hate the work of SBM and other "Christian"
organizations who disagree with SBM's ministry -- yet we don't care any
more. After four years, we've stopped worrying about what others think and
are focusing COMPLETELY on what the Lord has called us to do...

The promotion and acceptance of homosexuality is the NUMBER ONE issue in
America today destroying our nation, our culture and our families.
We are
NOT afraid to go on the front lines -- and YOU can allow us to do so through
your financial support and prayers.

Is he that myopic or does he really, honestly, truthfully believe that homosexuality is the "NUMBER ONE" issue destroying this country, culture, and families?

This appeared in a post from the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv:


ITæ‹… THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SURVIVAL
By Giles Fraser

Thereç—´ a biblical reason for obsession with sex

AFTER HIS engagement at Greenbelt, the US biblical theologian Ched Myers has spent a week with us in Putney. During his talks, the penny dropped for me.

After all this time thinking about homosexuality, I finally get why the Bible is apparently anti-gay.

The real obsession of the Hebrew scriptures isn稚 about what people do in bed; that痴 a more modern fixation. What the scriptures are really concerned with is children. Just as Yasser Arafat once said that his secret weapon was "the Palestinian womb" (i.e. that the Palestinians are going to triumph through demographics), so, too, the people of ancient Israel were obsessed with their own survival. It makes sense.

Itç—´ how it all begins in Genesis. Noah being told by God to "be fruitful and multiply", and Abram complaining that "I continue childless", only to be blessed with descendants as numerous as the stars. Itç—´ why the Bible remains obsessed with barren wombs, eunuchs, and so on. What is going on here is the psychology and politics of survival, with the unproductive misrepresented best as useless and at worst as traitors.

Kicking and screaming

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This from Duke Magazine from 2002. The article presents questions asked by an audience to Stanley Hauerwas of Duke Divinity School.


[Another member of the audience asks:] What's the point of defending a society that's built on spending? We've been terrorized by Madison Avenue for how long, through the television and such?

Be careful with that kind of language. You've been manipulated by Madison Avenue--I'm not sure you've been terrorized. And it's very important to get the description right. As a response to September 11, for academics to roll out all the things that they've thought have been wrong with America and American foreign policy is--the word I'm close to is "duplicitous." It is morally inappropriate. Nothing that America has done in the world justifies, excuses, or explains September 11.

It is therefore all the more important for us--and this is the use of the word "us"--to try to understand why it is that many people in the world find it satisfying that this has happened to America. On September 11, America was dragged kicking and screaming into the world. We think of ourselves as global, but our globalization has remained safe within the boundaries of our ocean, and now the reality of the world has been brought home. We're mad as hell because we didn't really want to deal with this kind of world on an everyday basis. It's a very important moment for national self-examination, and I would like to be as helpful to that as I can as a Christian. If you are a pacifist, you don't want to withdraw--you want to be as helpful to your neighbor as you can.

> from Philanthropy News Digest/Foundation Center newsletter
> August 27, 2004
> Civil Society
>
> University of Massachusetts economist Lee Badgett has studied marriage
> customs in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, where same-sex
> marriage or same-sex partnership rights have existed for up to fifteen
> years. She found, and noted in a briefing paper prepared for the Council
> on Contemporary Families and the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic
> Studies, that previously existing trends in marriage, divorce,
> cohabitation, and out-of-wedlock childbearing did not change. In fact, in
> Denmark, heterosexual marriage rates increased after the adoption of
> same-sex marriage and are now the highest they have been since the early
> 1970s. Divorce rates remained the same in the countries studied. The
> majority of families with children are headed by married couples. In
> Norway, 77 percent of couples with children are married and in the
> Netherlands, 75 percent, compared to 72 percent in the United States.
> According to Badgett, the Scandinavian and Dutch experience suggests
> there is little reason to think heterosexual couples would eschew
> marriage if gay and lesbian couples got the same rights.

Here is the latest proposal (blackmail attempt - did I type that?) presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning ECUSA and the Communion.

http://www.virtuosityonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1292 Or, click below for the full text of the letter.

When the "reactionary conservatives" say that the disputes currently taking place within ECUSA and the Communion revolves around power, I wonder how such statements by "conservatives" are any less of an attempt at power? Now that American reactionaries (note, not meaning historically practiced Anglican-Evangelicalism) are flush with "power" from support by overseas bishops, they are pushing for the whole enchilada while they can.

They will even attempt to forbid the U.S. Church from using the word "Anglican," and force it to rewrite its constitution. If the reactionaries are successful in denying the ECUSA the role of Anglican presence in the U.S., then I believe they will push in the civil courts to take control of the structures of the Church, since the Constitution's preamble says that the Church is that which is in communion with the Sea of Canterbury. After all, the proposal says the "faithful" diocese and parishes (read: Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes, also known as "The Anglican Communion Network") will have the right to elect their own Presiding Bishop, etc., which gives them the structure which is then in fact in communion with the Sea of Canterbury, thus the legitimate "Episcopal Church USA." These types of definitions have already been made. This is so very difficult to say, but they cannot be trusted. Their end justifies their means.

The following from the British Daily Telegraph – The Rt. Rev. Clark Grew (not Drew) retired as my bishop last March 2004. I was surprised, in some ways, to see his name as one of the four bishops traveling to London. In other ways, however, knowing his viewpoints, it does not surprise me at all.

With all the reports coming forth over the past couple of weeks, and with the recommended compromise in Colorado, my three year long hunch that when push-comes-to-shove, I will not be ordained still haunts me. Only time will tell and only God knows!

Here is the article:

US bishops fly in for 'sanctions' talks
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 08/09/2004)

A delegation of American bishops flew into London yesterday for talks with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, following reports that they are to be severely disciplined by the worldwide Anglican Church.

Fantasy Champuions League

The liberal bishops have been dismayed by suggestions that they could be barred by Dr Williams from Anglican summits as punishment for backing Anglicanism's first actively gay bishop last year.

The delegation has the support of the liberal Primate of the American Episcopal Church, Bishop Frank Griswold, who presided at the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Bishop Griswold is also understood to have brought forward a trip to London. The bishop, who faces the humiliating prospect of being barred from the annual primates meetings, the highest Anglican council, was due to fly to Britain on Friday but will now leave the US today.

Lambeth Palace refused to confirm or deny that Dr Williams would be meeting Bishop Griswold or the group of four, the Rt Rev Thomas Shaw (Massachusetts), the Rt Rev Robert O'Neill (Colorado), the Rt Rev J Clark Drew (Ohio) and the Rt Rev Don Johnson (West Tennessee).

A spokesman said that he did not comment on the Archbishop's private diary. But other sources confirmed that the bishops were determined to express their anger over suggestions that the Episcopal Church could face sanctions for defying the majority over homosexuality.

A modest proposal

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Considering the last post I made, I just read this post from the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv.


Date: Sat, 04 Sep 2004 16:52:31 -0400
From: Tobias S Haller BSG
Subject: [HoB/D] A suggestion for impaired communion


The recent meeting of the Provincial Secretaries of the Anglican
Communion leads me to believe that the predictions from conservative
columnists about the collapse of the communion may be somewhat
exaggerated. All but a handful of the 38 provinces of the Communion were
represented at this meeting, and of those, apparently only two (Uganda
and Nigeria) stayed away as an expression of their attitude towards the
Episcopal Church, with which they have severed "communion."

In all of the discussions concerning the present crisis, however, I have
yet to hear a good and precise definition of exactly what "commuion"
means. I hope this may emerge from the work of the Lambeth Commission.
In the meantime, people talk about communion in "nominative" terms, that
is: what does our communion consist of; what is its nature; is it like a
federation or a coalition; and so on. My response is to suggest we treat
communion, or being in communion, in a more _verbal_ sense: What does a
communion _do_; how does it work?

As I have noted in the past, when determining whether one is "in
communion" or "out of communion" with another ecclesial body, the first
thing you look to is the mutual recognition of ministers and their
ability to _function_ as such within the various constituent member
churches or provinces of the communion. Thus we move from ontology to
action. And this is also where talk of "impaired" communion has
practical implications.

I have been reading over the past few weeks of Episcopal priests and parishes who are jumping the Episcopal ship and seeking episcopal oversight outside the U.S. Now, we have "Anglican" bishops under the authority of Rwanda, priests under the episcopal authority of bishops in Uganda, Nigeria, and Bolivia, among others. Now, some British liberals who favor inclusion of homosexuals have said they will seek alternative episcopal oversight from American bishops if the Church of England sides with those demaning exclusion of homosexuals.

The bishops in countries from the global south are quick to get their foot in the door as the geographical territory of the current Anglican province in the United States is subdivided into geographical oblivion by their actions.

According to Anglican tradition and recent pronouncements by the world's Anglican Primates, no bishop can enter another's province or diocese to exercise episcopal duties or oversight without the prior approval of the diocesan bishop with jurisdiction. The primates who are feverishly opposed to Gene Robinson and the American Church's decisions during General Convention '03, declare that the American Church is infringing upon their territories and imposing upon them something that is sin and against 2,000 years of tradition, and that the American Church does not have that right. Yet, here are the same primates and bishops literally infringing upon the American Church's authority and establishing their own beachheads of authority in the American Church's territory. They are acting hypocritically, despite their justifications.

So, we have activist bishops from all over the world violating their own decisions and pronouncements, and I wonder what will happen when suddenly two, or perhaps three, new churches under the episcopal authority of different bishops start to compete with each other. What will the bishop from Bolivia do when it seems that the church under a bishop of Nigeria is luring parishioners away from his church? What will happen when the peculiar beliefs or activities of one foreign church conflict with those of another foreign church located in the U.S.?

This is no different than Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches and denominations that continue to splinter time and time again. The "Continuing" Anglican denominations in the U.S. simply continue this trend. Now, opportunistic bishops around the world are setting up their own mini-denominations/fiefdoms in the U.S. It will never end. As several conservative traditionalists have said - it is all about power.

I came across this today:


The following was written by a Christian lady, married, professional,
heterosexual, with grown children:

_____

Alan Keyes, conservative sometime candidate for the presidency of the United
States and now candidate for Senator from Illinois, has recently said that
lesbians are "sinners" and "selfish hedonists."

As a Roman Catholic Christian (like Keyes) and as a straight woman, I'd like
to dissect this statement.

1. "Sinners." Catholic theology teaches that all men and women are
sinners, so this is kind of non-news. Keyes could, with equal accuracy, have
proclaimed that all garbage collectors are sinners, or all politicians are
sinners, or whoever. This statement seems hardly worth the ink it takes to
print it, or the breath it takes so say it.

2. "Selfish hedonists." This is the meat of Keyes' statement, and
I am frankly startled by it. Note the implication. This is a statement that
straight sex is less fun than lesbian sex. Now, this may or may not be true,
but I'm wondering how Alan Keyes, who, whatever else he is, is a guy, would
know this.

So. Where are we? Lesbians are "hedonists", meaning, pleasure-seekers. Their
sex is more fun, Keyes is saying. If I were sufficiently "selfish" that's
what I'd be doing. But no. Since I am "unselfish" and I'm not apparently
interested in pleasure, I, as a straight woman, will be the stoic, bravely
putting up with (less pleasurable? entirely non-pleasurable?) sex with a
man, for the greater good or something. How virtuous of me, right?

My husband was especially pleased by this insight, needless to say.

Heaven or hell

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I was walking along the boardwalk and ocean at Coney Island today. There were hoards of people enjoying the day, the water, the music, and one another. As I walked along the shore I couldn't help but watch the joy of the children as they played, and their parents, too.

If what is traditionally emphasized within Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism is true, that those who do not make a specific decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and then live a life that proves their decision will end up in Hell for all eternity, then the vast majority of God's creation will end up burning for all eternity.

I just don't know. I don稚 remember the theologian or pastor who offered this theory, but it is appealing: as moral free-agents, God will abide by our decision.
I don't know.

Who owns "Marriage"

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Who owns the term "marriage?" Is "marriage" a term that belongs to the Church, society independent of the Church, or both?

I have heard it said many times that most gay people are not that concerned with getting "married," per say, meaning that all the ceremonial trappings and many of the ideas of heterosexual marriage are not a necessity for the survival of their relationships. After all, successful gay couples have had to survive without State and Church approval, and in most cases within hostile environments. Whether the Church gives its blessing or the State gives them a license does not make their relationship any more valid in their own experience. Considering that nearly half of all heterosexual marriages do not survive, including born-again Christian marriages, State and Church sanction will not make that much difference in the good survival of their relationships, it seems. Yet, for purposes of equal treatment under the law, at least State sanction can be an important aspect of gay relationships - survivor benefits, rights of visitation, taxes, equal treatment in housing, work, et cetera.

Is the word "marriage" the domain of the Church? This means the Church needs a well-developed theology of marriage, which it lacks. (Who controls marriage - is a couple married when they receive the piece of paper from the State, or when they finish the ceremony within a Church? Perhaps neither, but when intercourse first takes place? Does the Church want to relinquish control to the State?) The problem is that the Church and Christians have been such miserable failures concerning marriage survival rates.

What about Civil-Unions? The way the State deals with the issue gay couples and the way the Church deals with the issue should be very different. When the Church demands that the State accept its definitions and reasoning that result in the denial of equal protection for one segment of the population, then we have problems with the establishment of religion...

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