Friday, November 06, 2009

Style over Substance: Philip Linder+'s Responses to the Search Committee.

The once in once out and then back in again petition nominee Philip Linder+'s responses to the search committee's questions have been posted via links from the Bishop Search web page. I needed a little help because I was not sure that I was learning much from his answers. One of the most interesting comments I received was from a parishioner in Columbia,
"His eloquent non-responses are very typical of his long-winded evasive responses to most issues..."

I had a similar impression, but I did not have much experience listening to him respond to the issues. Let us think about this style over substance question as we examine his responses.

A. Faith Story: He begins with his faith story where we find,
"I said to God, 'If you really want me to be a priest, then when I flip open this Bible the page has to tell me so!' My Bible opened to John 15: 'I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser…You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.'"

I tried to duplicate this style. So, I isolated the NT between my hands and opened it randomly (try it yourself), and you would not believe what I came up with, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8,
"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit."


Continuing on in the faith story we find,
"The Reverend Martin Gable of St. Martin’s, Atlanta, taught me that one is always a priest and pastor—you cannot step in and out of that call"

Wait just one minute! As I recall, Linder+ was first called to run for bishop, then recalled and dropped out, then called back and went in by petition. In cell phone speak we call that style "Call Roaming."

"—and above all else you must be an individual that never breaks trust with the people whom you serve. Today my wife and I continue to struggle with God’s will and call for our lives and ministry."

Breaking trust...maybe some other Trinity folks can fill me in on the rumor that he told some church leaders that he would not run for bishop, and then he went ahead and accepted the nomination. Others can explain the level of trust they gained from his letter to the parish after he withdrew from the bishop search process, and how they felt when they found out that he agreed to be a petition nominee.

Question B

“I would work hard to establish a strong personal relationship with every clergyperson, congregation, and institution I serve.”

Where is the substance? His resume indicates that the only diocesan office which he has held is Deputy to the General Convention. In ten years in this diocese, he has not served on the Diocesan Executive Council, and as a result, he was an unknown in this neck of the woods until his escapades at the 2009 General Convention became known in that infamous "Crosswalk" article.

C. The SSB questions:
Remember earlier, I think in part A, he said,
"I am deeply passionate about my love for Jesus, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion and my desire to serve the people of God."

The substantive facts on the ground (his work at GC 2009) show that his passion for the Anglican Communion is not in its preservation.

"I gave much time, prayer, and voice to the development of Resolution D025 called, 'Anglican Communion: Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion.' In 2006 I voted for B033, dealing with 'manner of life' and the election of bishops, as the best way forward at that moment in time. What became clear at this General Convention was that B033 would not hold anymore on its own, so the deep question for me was how can we find that Anglican place of middle ground? I felt we must come to the great Anglican principle of the via media—that the truth lies in the tension of the extremes."

Apparently, Dean Linder voted for D025 in 2009 largely because he sensed that most other bishops would no longer abide by B033 not because of any stated theology or doctrine. He follows the decisions of others. Style point.

His via-media style points are not backed up by substance. I am beginning to think that the via media is a convenient chasm into which the left tosses claims to "Truth," hoping that the real Truth never emerges.
"I saw our passage of Resolution D025 as our acknowledgement of what is, as a way forward that is not perfect, but nonetheless a way for us to state boldly that we as Anglicans, as Episcopalians, are now recommitting to our faith and love in Jesus Christ now with a desire to fully focus upon mission and ministry in His name."

He knows the way forward that he has prepared, he just is unwilling to admit it.
“Some may choose to interpret this differently, however I firmly believe that we have respected the spirit of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

And just who might see it differently? Not just this lowly pewster...

The Archbishop of Canterbury himself visited the General Convention and asked the deputies not to take any action which could strain the Anglican Communion further. After the Convention passed D025 (which Linder+ worked mightily to put together) and DO56, the Archbishop said, in his understated, English way, “a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces.” While the Dean professes that the General Convention honored the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop disagrees. Via media indeed.

" the 76th General Convention I was not able to support the House of
Bishops’ recommendation to study and develop resources for the blessing of same gender
relationships. I firmly believe that neither The Episcopal Church nor the Anglican Communion is in any way prepared theologically or emotionally to embrace such a practice as 'official.' Clearly the blessing of same gender relationships are unofficially taking place in certain dioceses and other jurisdictions within the Anglican Communion, however that is very different from the Church officially sanctioning them as a body. Within the Diocese of Upper South Carolina I do not believe that our congregations or people as a whole, support the blessing of same gender relationships either from a scriptural or theological understanding, and as bishop I would not allow this practice. If a priest in our diocese were asked to perform such a blessing, I would not allow it, but rather invite the priest and the church members involved to meet with me to discuss why their bishop and our diocese stands in that place. I would offer to them my love, prayers, and concern; and, yes from a pastoral perspective it would be very difficult."

Not ready for "official" (his quotation marks) blessings of same sex marriages. He thinks the theological foundations have not been done. I wonder what he thinks of the theological work that has been done that opposes SSBs? I wonder, would he allow SSBs to be done as long as they are kept in the closet, or on a don't ask/don't tell basis as part of that "generous pastoral response" approved by the General Convention? He appears to say, "No, not here because that is not what the people want." It would be preferable if he could say that the apostolic teachings are against it!

Question D

“although I have not been able to give my time to this as dean, as bishop and one who has previously been active in Cursillo, I will fully support these ministries by my presence at weekends and their continued incorporation into the diocese’s vision as a tool for evangelism and renewal.”

It is unclear to me why Linder has not had time for Cursillo as Dean but would have as Bishop. Moreover, he professes an interest in evangelism. Yet according to statistics provided by the Episcopal Church, the Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) at the Cathedral has remained stagnant.

My overall impression of his responses are that he is trying entirely too hard to appear as a moderate (style), when in actual fact he is part of the revisionist class (substance) that is wreaking havoc on the ever shrinking Episcopal church. This nominee, if elected, would continue to move the church away from its sure foundation and towards the shifting sands of the secular world because, recall his build up piece from Crosswalk, where he described D025,
"The resolution," Linder said, is "a truthful acknowledgement of what is, a way forward that is not perfect but nonetheless a way for us to state boldly that we are now recommitting to our faith in Jesus Christ with a desire to focus fully upon mission and ministry in his name. I believe," Linder continued, "that we have turned a major page in going forward...and we have done so in a most Anglican way that respects the worldwide Anglican Communion."

Acknowledge the "What Is." Bow down before It.

And I still don't get how anyone can "state boldly" a "not perfect..." "...way forward."


  1. I've been following along, though not commenting, primarily because I'm not up to speed on the inner workings of the Anglican church. Nonetheless, I de-lurk to note the story of asking God for a sign to demonstrate His calling. The story caused me to furrow my brow a tad, as I recently read this.


  2. Bull Street5:47 PM

    Pewster--Thanks for your good work on Linder. The sentence that leaps out at me is this:

    "If I were to be elected bishop of our diocese, I would be fully committed to the Church’s
    theology of welcoming all baptized members into the full life of our church."

    Anyone who knows anything much about the Episcopal Church knows that the phrase "full life of the church" is code for gay access to all the sacraments, including ordination.

    That along with his vote in favor of the resolution stating that God has called and may call partnered gays to all orders of ministry, means necessarily that he will seek (in due time) to ordain and place non-celibate gays in churches that want them.