I honestly wrote most of this on Wednesday before going to church today or looking at the lessons. I felt that I needed a day to recover from the article the Herald by Rachel Zoll published yesterday (not yet online) about our heroic Presiding Bishop. My intention was to give the rector a break today since he had just returned from vacation. I can't help the fact that after he spent most of his sermon discussing our "inclusive" Church and how we Episcopalians can embrace both sides of an issue, and how he applied this concept to the issue of divorce, I was replaying what I was pondering on Wednesday regarding the importance of resolving contradictions and conflicts rather than turning a blind eye to the issues. When he went on to suggest that our enlightened Episcopal attitude towards "Demon Rum" was because we should embrace such pleasures as God has given us, I blew a gasket. That statement should have raised the eyebrows of our visitors, those trying out our "The Church of God's Free Pass," or "The Church of If It Feels Good, God Blesses it, Do It."
Charlie started his sermon by reading parts of today's reading from Romans 8:1-11. I am glad Charlie admitted at this point that he was a "liberal" with regards to the scriptures. He then added that others such as the African churches and many local churches are "literal" with respect to issues such as "divorce." Straying into the minefield of divorce he proceeded to espouse the "liberal" rationale for divorce, that people were not meant to "stay married for 60 years."
Is this the kind of thing you say on a Sunday where a large part of the congregation present consisted of young parents and their children who were preparing to sing for us the song they learned in VBS, "I believe?" He did admit that there was no scriptural basis for his position, but then suggested that this was an example of why we should be liberal with the scripture. I was baffled but reminded of Romans 8, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh."
To top it all, later in his sermon, Charlie said that he did not like to preach about moral issues!
Of course, most of us are ill equipped to discuss moral issues. We are what the Church has reared us to be. We have been raised to be "in the Spirit." We are not supposed to try to understand issues, we should keep doing God's work (remember the MDG's?), and love all different opinions. Loving all those opinions is especially easy when you don't try to understand them. But, when you embrace contradictory or mutually exclusive opinions, you run the risk of serious mental, and dare I say spiritual disturbance.
Is it better to ignore the questions and immerse oneself in God's work, or should you tackle the issues, and see if one argument or the other is tenable? I see the latter as part of God's work.
When approaching inflammatory issues, are you happy living with contradictions, saying "I just won't think about that," or does your brain stay active, analyzing information until you can at least have an opinion, albeit perhaps not a full apologetic that could stand the test of debate?
Now, I am not the most "Orthodox" of people, but I am certainly not considered "liberal" either. This still does not make me one of those dreaded "moderates."
You know, the wishy washy, can't make a decision, won't take a stand types who sit in the pews on Sundays and thinks, "Well doesn't that sound nice," to any new idea that comes from the pulpit (such as Charlie's opinion about divorce).
You see, the Church is in conflict. Part of this has to do with the liberal approach to scripture as well as issues not directly addressed in the scriptures such as abortion.
Bill Gnade at Contratimes asked if you have ever met a pro-life vegan. I can't say that I have, but I know you are out there. Bill thinks they might exist but they are "rather rare and never medium rare." For me to be such an animal, I would have to hold onto two contradictory positions at the same time. Of course, the pro-abortion vegan does not consider the fetus a life form, and therefore has a rationalization that allows them to approve of abortion while not approving of consuming animal flesh.
This led me to consider all those contradictions that I live with. I will spend the next week or so looking for these and tossing them around in my head with the goal of eliminating as many as possible . In this exercise, I am going against the recommendations of our Church leaders such as Bishop Gene Robinson (AKA the Happy Bishop) who praised the Anglican Church as the place where people can hold two contradictory positions at once.
“The Anglican tradition is uniquely capable of holding two seemingly contradictory ideas together. Its position on abortion, for example is that all human life is sacred. And, that no one has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body. Both are true,” Bishop Robinson
Does anyone have an issue with that? "No one has a right" to tell me that them's not fightin words!
The position of the Episcopal Church has been to support pro-abortion groups, while at the same time preaching a gospel of love. These positions appear mutually exclusive in my opinion. So if we follow Charlie's view of the big tent where all Christians can come together, shouldn't the Episcopal Church support pro life as well as pro-abortion groups? Answer: No!
Example: The Executive Council’s decision to join the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC)
Read what happened when NOEL (now called Anglicans for Life) took their pro-life message to the last General Convention.
"The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton from the Diocese of Newark (also a board member of RCRC and the Social and Urban Affairs Committee(emphasis added)) was the next speaker. She referred to a quote by Martin Niemoller, and then said, 'while abortion may not be favored by local churches, we are deputized to follow the Holy Spirit,
not the wishes of the folks back home.'"
These are your spiritual leaders folks. Some of you may recognize Elizabeth Keaton as the Swan of Newark for which we have a link on this very page.
Sheila (the NOEL speaker), speaking for the first time before a GC legislative committee
“RCRC does not encourage parental involvement in the issue of abortion. They encourage girls to seek truth from within. This is out of alignment with both society and the Episcopal Church as a recent Zogby poll showed that 69% of Americans support parental notification of abortion and Resolution A094 affirms the role of God, parents, and spiritual advisers to guide a woman before considering abortion...”
"When we heard about the task force being formed to research the declining population in the Church, we laughed and when we realized that the Episcopal Church chose to uphold the sanctity of abortion, we cried."
More on how the pressure to hold two conflicting positions affects people and some ideas on what might lie behind these thoughts comes from the story of Jennifer Fulwiler and her transformation from pro-choice atheist to pro-life Catholic,
"As long as I accepted the premise that engaging in sex with a contraceptive mentality was morally acceptable, I could not bring myself to consider that abortion might not be acceptable. It seemed inhumane to make women deal with life-altering consequences for an act that was not supposed to have life-altering consequences."
And what happens to the mind of your Episcopal Church when it faces mutually exclusive positions that it would rather not face?
"For many years, there have been pro-life and pro-choice organizations in the Episcopal church. They existed together, if not in harmony, then at least without the need to see one another’s existence as a need to leave, or necessarily to reform, the church as a whole. They were able to respect one another’s faith. They agreed to disagree. But this was apparently unsatisfactory to the Executive Committee, which determined that the church must take sides and declare that one side is wrong and the other is right. This is the action of an Executive Committee that is hell-bent on imposing its will on the church with no possibility whatever of compromise."I am in conflict with my church because of the contradiction of giving to an organization that supports abortion while staking my position on the belief that abortion is wrong. I am in conflict when the preacher says that we were not meant to stay married for life but admits that the Bible says otherwise. The result of these conflicts may be harmful to my soul. This is the danger inherent in Bishop Robinson's or Charlie Foss' method of dealing with polarizing issues.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is another fine example of what happens to the mind when it tries to hold onto too many conflicting points of view simultaneously. The Anglican Curmudgeon's post of 07/06/2008 delves into the thought processes of the man, and after going there, I am glad to have come out alive.
Or perhaps to be "Orthodox" and Episcopalian at the same time is a contradiction that no one can live with and maintain their sanity.
One final note. Once again the wisdom of the Episcopal lectionary spliced and diced the Gospel reading with no indication for the pewsitter where the alterations had occurred. They were Matthew 13:10-17. Reading these deleted words, I cannot help but hear the Spirit of Truth calling,
“'You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.'
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear"
Let's see, we took on the Sermon, the Lessons, the Apostates, and gave a brief reference to the Music, maybe not a Grand Slam because the music was okay. Alright, the organist did have a few false starts. Nuff said.