This is the problem

I read this article today posted on the House of Deputies/Bishops listserv post by Kendal Harman.
Honestly, I agree with many of his points – I experience very similar things at General when I talk with many here concerning more traditional understanding of theology, scripture, et cetera. I am told that I am known as the “Evangelical” among my classmates. Generally speaking, they are right, although I am continually drawn to High-Church and non-reactionary Anglo-Catholic piety and worship. After all, my field-placement parish is a “non-fussy, Anglo-Catholic” parish, and I love it. I am “Evangelical,” now (unlike before I became an Episcopalian) in the tradition of Anglican-Evangelicalism, not American-Evangelicalism, which has infiltrated Anglican-Evangelicals in this country and which now motivates those challenging and separating from the Episcopal Church USA.
The difference I have with the writer of the article is his understanding that there can only be one legitimate understanding from Scripture of the issue of homosexuality. In this way, the “traditionalists” are not comprehending those who believe that Scripture taken as a whole does not condemn life-long, monogamous, same-sex relationships. There is no comprehension on their part that anyone can have an alternative interpretation of Scripture and still have a high-view of Scripture and still align themselves with Scripture.
The author is right – liberals do not honestly comprehend the “traditionalists.” Likewise, “traditionalists” do not honestly comprehend how there can be any legitimate interpretation of Scripture concerning homosexuality other than their own. The author’s point is applicable to both sides.
Here is the article:

Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2004 16:58:10 -0400
To: “bishopsdeputies”
From: “kendall harmon”
Subject: [HoB/D]
As one deeply opposed to the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, I find a
disturbing response from those on the other side. They cannot fathom the
position of those of us opposed.
I listen to how they explain why we feel the way we do, and I find they
simply don’t get it. They misread, misinterpret, and misunderstand those who
don’t agree with them. I do not think this is mischievous or intentional on
their part. I simply think they cannot comprehend our reasons.
Sadly, this leaves them entirely unprepared and surprised by the unfolding
events. I find this alarming for their own sakes. Their spin on events leads
in the wrong direction, their concept of the division is flawed, their hopes
for reconciliation are based on fabrication.
Let me try to explain this failure to understand us. I do this not to change
any minds, but to help them see what may be ahead.

What is missing is nothing less that a conceptual category of our position.
Because of that void, they must resort to ideas they think ought to fit.
They assume we liken the consecration to the U.S. pre-emptive strike in Iraq
or the issue of ordination of women. They explain us as being right-wing,
fundamentalists, literalists, homophobic, reactionary, or Jerry Falwell
types. Wrong on all counts.
The most blatant exposé of this naiveté and error which I have experienced
was listening to the debate in the House of Bishops at the 74th General
Convention at Minneapolis. Bishop after bishop claimed that the opposition
at home would disappear and the negative reactions overseas would never
materialize. A recent example was the headline in Episcopal News Service
about the recent meeting of the bishops in Nairobi. There, about 20
conservative bishops asked the Lambeth Commission to give the Episcopal
Church three months to repent. The headline in ENS was “Mixed message from
Let me give an analogy. Let’s say that I see a mad elephant coming to our
camp. I cry out a warning. Unfortunately, no one else in the camp has ever
seen an elephant. Instead, they make the assumption that an elephant must be
a skunk, so the severity of the warning is not taken up. Those in the camp
reached wrong conclusions with dreaded consequences. Preparing for the
stench of a skunk is a lot easier than for the devastation of a mad
elephant – but misguided thinking doesn’t stop the oncoming elephant.
What is the elephant and what is the missing concept? This is easier to see
if we look through others’ eyes. Let me give two examples, the first a
frequently heard statement from overseas leaders: “You gave us the Bible and
that has brought the truth and power and love of Jesus Christ to us. But now
you have abandoned the Bible you gave us.”
The other comes from the underground church of China and tells of the
sacrifice taken for God’s word. Four pastors were arrested and the
congregation’s Bibles confiscated. The authorities brought them out to a
public place with many from the congregation present. The Bibles were on a
table, where there were also four bowls of offal – disgusting and debasing
things in a gruel. The authorities said to the pastors that the Bibles would
be returned to the congregation if the pastors would risk their lives and
drink what was in the bowls. With little hesitation all four pastors stepped
forward and drank. Then they said, “Now return the Bibles to the
Can we see what is missing in the ethos of the Episcopal Church today? We as
a whole have a void when it comes to living with the Bible as the infallible
authoritative word of God, full of love and truth, judgment and direction.
For the most part that is simply absent. Moreover, that kind of statement
makes many very nervous.
How did this happen? In my seminary classes some of my teachers presented
the Bible in a way that deliberately undermined its authority and its
intended sense. For many the beginning point was the need to make the Bible’
s message palatable to the current culture. Our challenge was to wheedle and
adjust to get it in line with The Washington Post.
The story that best captures this attitude is when David brought the ark
into Jerusalem. At one point the bullocks pulled the cart over a rock and
the ark started to fall. The priest Uzza stuck out his hand to steady it and
was rebuked and struck down for thinking that God’s ark needed the steadying
hand of a mortal.
This issue undergirds all others. On several occasions I have said that
whatever is wrong on the issues of sexuality is not as wrong as the Church
leaving 1.5 billion people in today’s world unreached, without the knowledge
of Jesus Christ. I still believe that.
What separates the Church on the issue of V. Gene Robinson’s consecration is
scripture. We who are opposed to what took place in New Hampshire do not
believe that new information has surfaced in the 21st century that
contradicts God’s revelation. We do believe that a careful and regular
reading of the Bible brings God’s power and his wise direction. To inwardly
digest his word brings grace for sinful people and correction for our
culture – as it has for all people, all cultures, and all times.
If the other side really wants to know where we are coming from, start here.
Listen to us – and then you can see what is coming.
Then you can understand why two dozen primates would break communion with uson this issue, why the Anglican Communion Network of Parishes and Dioceses
continues to draw leaders and allegiance, why biblically minded
congregations are willing to walk away from their properties, why faithful
members refuse to let their money fund another gospel.
Yes, this issue is alarming and serious. All the more so if the other side
does not understand us.?
-The Rev. Tad de Bordenave is director of Anglican Frontier Missions. He
lives in Richmond, Va. This article appeared in the August 29, 2004 The
Living Church magazine, pages 13-14; readers are reminded that “The Reader’s
Viewpoint” article does not necessarily represent the editorial opinion of
The Living Church or its board of directors.
Posted but not written by
Dr. Kendall Harmon
South Carolina

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