What is the “Gospel”

There is much written about the different “gospel” that is now being proclaimed by the North American Anglican churches. Whether the accusation comes from bishops, priests, and lay people of the Episcopal Church USA or the Anglican Church of Canada, or from provinces in the Global South (see this statement from the Primate of the Province of Southeast Asia as an example) they all proclaim that because Canada has approved blessings of same-gender unions and the U.S. has approved the election and consecration of a bishop in a long-term same-gender union that these churches now believe in and proclaim a different gospel. Never mind the North American churches’ presentations of how they wrestle with and understand Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as relating to their recent decisions.
How do they define the “Gospel?” What is the “Gospel?”
Here is how Dictionary.com defines “Gospel:”

n 1: four books in the New Testament that tell the story of Christ’s life and teachings [syn: Gospel, Gospels, evangel] 2: an unquestionable truth; “his word was gospel” [syn: gospel truth] (3 has to do with music) 4: the written body of teachings of a religious group that are generally accepted by that group [syn: religious doctrine, church doctrine, creed] 5: a doctrine that is believed to be of great importance; “Newton’s writings were gospel for those who followed”

How are these groups opposed to the U.S. and the Canadian Anglican churches defining Gospel?
1.) The four “gospels” – yes, but according to most who take an anti-homosexual perspective the Gospel is not simply the writings of the four “gospel” writers. There is a tendency to view all of scripture equally and all of it was dictated by God the Holy Spirit, it is all therefore “Gospel.” When these groups accuse North American Anglicans of proclaiming a different gospel, what they mean is that these churches are proclaiming interpretations of scripture that they do not agree with. “Gospel” to them is not simply the proclamation of reconciliation with God by Jesus Christ.
Many think of the Gospel as the words of Jesus detailed by the four writers in their “gospels.” We proclaim salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ, and we follow Jesus’ teachings, which are considered the “Gospel.” This is how I would define “Gospel.”
2.) Yes – I think we can all agree that the words of Jesus are the “Gospel.” Because the prohibitionist perspective on homosexuality and same-gender unions is in direct conflict with recent decisions by the North American churches, the forces in opposition claim that these churches have then accepted a “different gospel,” even though Jesus said nothing about this topic as recorded by the four gospel writers. Of course, they consider the entire canon of scripture to be the “Gospel” all together.
4.) Here is where their perspective finds its natural home, I believe. These groups accept a certain line of scriptural interpretive reasoning that presupposes an anti-gay bias. “The Gospel proclaims that homosexuality is an abomination, sin, contrary to the will of God, and anyone who is a homosexual is not fit to be in leadership of God’s Church.”
This is not “Gospel” from the very important teachings of Jesus (#5), or from the four gospel writers. Even when those who favor full inclusion of homosexuals give reasoned and sound rational for their interpretive perspective, it makes no difference. There can be no deviation to the anti-homosexual stance.
What the opponents of the North American decisions demand is a capitulation and strict adherence to their particular theological and interpretive beliefs – no others. This is not historic Anglicanism by any rational. It is, however, fundamentalism.
If what we say is the essence of the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus in the four gospels and perhaps what is expressed in the historic Creeds, then no, the North American churches are not proclaiming a different “Gospel.” They are simply proclaiming a different understanding of how God is working in the world today and a different interpretation and application of Scripture. It makes for great rhetoric, but not an honest dealing with the issues!

Anglican Consultative Council

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is meeting in Nottingham, England this week. The ACC is one of the Anglican Communion’s “instruments of unity” and is designed to offer advice to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have given their presentations justifying the actions over the past two years that have caused such acrimony and conflict within the Anglican Communion, and within their respective churches. See news entries at Episcopal News Service for more complete news coverage of the meeting and the presentations.
I’ve read a good portion of the 135-page paper presented by the American delegation. While people can disagree with some of the theological and scriptural work, the following excerpt from the American Anglican Council (AAC) indicates that there is not even a willingness to listen to the arguments. For the AAC and those aligned with them around the world, there is no willingness to compromise or to remain together. Here is an except that I think demonstrates the extreme nature of their cause and their opinions:

“AAC: ECUSA Shameless in Its Defense of a New Gospel
Nottingham – The Episcopal Church’s presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) asserts a new gospel marked by theology and doctrine contrary to Holy Scripture and inconsistent with the historic faith and practice of Anglicanism. ECUSA’s statements were framed by specific arguments they have espoused for at least 15 years. Their profession that the Holy Spirit led ECUSA to consecrate a non-celibate homosexual and bless same sex unions is deeply disturbing, and we reject the validity of such a claim as contrary to God’s word revealed…”

Read it all.
Their minds are made up, there is no possibility for alternative interpretations or application of Scripture, there is no allowance for similarities to past historic events and changes, and no possibility that their position could be wrong. They have become Anglican-fundamentalists, who are acting in very unAnglican ways.
We shall see whether this is just another round of meetings giving reason for the ACC and the Network to attempt to split the Episcopal Church. I can certainly understand different positions, but I cannot understand the decent into fundamentalism.

Downing Street

The Downing Street Memo
The end justifies the means
Is this what our government has come to?
Bill Clinton may have lied about having sex with that woman, but the lies that are going on right now are far more profound and have unimaginable consequences.
What war on terrorism? All of this has harmed any attempt to end terrorism and change the minds of those who wish to engage in it.

Equal authority, or essential to the primary authority?

“In the Episcopal Church, our theology reveres Scripture as but one of the three sources of authority, co-equal with Reason and Tradition. We have always required clergy to be educated, and most of our seminaries have been open to historical and critical scholarship. Few priests believe that the bible is inspired literally word for word. As a result, few Episcopal parishes require you to hang up your mind when you enter; we are not beholden to a confessional statement or to a majesterium’s conclusions.”
This quote is from an essay written by Louis Crew for the book Combating Homophobia, edited by James Sears & Walter Williams (Columbia Univ. Press, 1997: 341-353).
My question is whether Scripture is really co-equal to Reason and Tradition in authority over the Church and Christians. Is Scripture THE authority, informed by Reason and Tradition, as we attempt to understand the intent of the original writers (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) and how it all applies to us today? Is Reason an authority tamed by Scripture and Tradition? Is Tradition an authority mitigated by Scripture and Reason?
I grew up with Scripture being the absolute center. Traditions of man were always suspect. Reason, the thinking and philosophies of man, are always available for corruption. Yet, what is needed to understand Scripture? Tradition and Reason! The Church of Rome tends towards Tradition as its authority. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals tend towards Scripture as their authority. Unitarian/Universalist Christians tend towards Reason as their authority. Anglicans proclaim all three, co-equal, as our authorities. I accept that, but still tend toward Scripture when the rubber hits the road.

Identity Politics

Frankly, we need to get away from identity-politics as the motivator for decision making. This isn’t an issue of avoidance in considering and remedying the profound forms of prejudice and bigotry that are still rampant in our society. It is a recognition that as we move away from considering people according to their merits – character, abilities, education, experience – and consider their identity as paramount – skin color, ethnicity, orientation, etc. – we will inevitably cause more harm to the advancement of equality than not. Maybe this is a period we must move through, but I am not convinced that the long-term good will be honestly achieved in this manner.


John died this morning at 9:30 am when the doctors removed his resperator.
I knew him just a few weeks, but he made quite an impression. I regret his leaving, but rejoice in his new life.
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant John. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everylasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

The fragility of life

There was a guy that just started showing up at chapel a few months ago – the daily offices, daily Eucharist, Compline, etc. After a time and after seeing him in the library, I introduced myself and we got to know one another. He lives here in Chelsea about a block from the seminary and over the past year has been home bound by a strange illness effecting his heart. He told me that during his illness he used to say the daily office over the Internet, but now that he was recovering he came to the seminary to be with real people once again. John is a great guy, and I am amazed that he maintains such a positive and upbeat attitude.
About three weeks ago, John returned to the hospital because of some strange back pains. Doctors discovered that he has Hodgkin’s Disease. He started chemotherapy. I was surprised to see him at a local coffee shop a week ago last Tuesday (May 31st). He had undergone his first round of chemotherapy and was as positive and upbeat as ever. We planned to get together when I returned from Ohio. Yesterday, June 12th, a mutual friend told me that John has returned to the hospital and has been given only a couple days to live. He is now on a ventilator and is unconscious. I am in shock.
Life is so fragile. I am amazed at the resilience of the human body, the soul, the will for life. Yet, life is so fragile. Please pray for John and his family. I have witness seemingly miraculous recoveries of cancer patients (even last summer during CPE!). All things are possible for God, but in all things God’s will be done. If it is John’s time, I know that though he is absent from his body he is present with Christ. For a Christian, the end is no more.

Today – Ordination

I woke up early this morning, which did not surprise me. I still do not know… actually, I do not feel much different than I normally do. The thought struck me this morning that this day has been coming for nearly six years now. These past three years of seminary have been in preparation for this day and the day in six months when I am ordained priest, Lord willing. So, in many ways, this is just the natural outcome of the past three to six years. Like graduation. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anxious. It all happened too quickly for me to be sad. It was fun and exciting and wonderful to be with all the people with whom I have so closely lived and experience life over the past three years. I feel the same way today – I will be with Lisa and Elaine and we will be fulfilling that for which we have prepared these past years.
I tried praying this morning and nothing profound happened. I feel as if I should be having this mystical experience. Nothing much came. I am just here and there is not much more that I can do or be right now. Silence, perhaps. Just letting things be. Just let things be.