Sunday, September 30, 2012


This morning as we watched several flocks of geese fly overhead, I was asked, "Why don't they all fly together in one big flock?" I speculated that a large number of smaller groups might give the species as a whole a better chance of success given the possibility that a bad leader might cause the flock to get lost. Losing a small group would not be as bad as extinction.

Today's preacher spoke of his faith journey from one of the smaller denominations of Christianity to his current position of retired Episcopal priest, and he tied this in with the Gospel reading from today.
John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell, And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ Mark 9:38-50
I guess that polydenominationalism may not be such a bad thing after all (as long as those denominations are full in it for Christ). Unfortunately, there will be some flocks that wind up being misled or picked off by predators, and they will never make it to the promised land.

I wondered what changing one little word in Mark 9:38 would do for this reading,
+KJS said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

Oh yeah, polydenominationalism is okay as long as those geese over there don't look too much like yourself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

+Upper SC Appoints Team Members of Task Force 10 + 1 Waldo to Gomorrah

The following letter was sent from the Diocese to the membership last Friday. After reading it, I wonder, why we are paying this guy's salary?
21 September 2012

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Following General Convention’s vote in favor of a provisional liturgy for the blessing of same-sex unions, I promised to follow up on my own “no” vote on that resolution (A049) with a process to articulate the boundaries within which we can live in unity within this Diocese, even in our disagreements on this issue. In late July, through a communication with diocesan clergy—active, licensed and retired—I sought applications for membership in a task force to work with me in doing that work.

As I chose members of the task force from a healthy number of applications, I sought to balance theological acumen, perspective, congregational representation, passion and availability for the work, and other, in some cases quite specific, gifts for this work. Required of all, and indeed present in all the applications I received, was a devotion to the good news of God in Christ Jesus and to articulating a way forward in the church that holds us together. Such a way forward will by definition ask all of us to remember our servant ministry towards one another and ask us to live graciously in a tension we are unlikely to resolve.

That way forward must be deeply rooted in the evangelical imperative, and it must engage scripture, tradition and reason—both in the very pastoral and human dimensions that have challenged the church to address same-sex relationships and, more rigorously, in the theological dimensions that have given a moral grounding for the church over many centuries through the received tradition. Our task will be to help me articulate the boundaries within which we might live together that includes same-sex relationships and those who struggle with the church’s decisions with clarity and substance.

This will be hard work. But it will also be work with unexpected blessings for the members of the task force and for our entire diocesan community. I have asked each member to be ready to listen, to pray, to work, to write, to present and, above all, to love one another.

We will need each of you to pray for us—not for us to fully resolve our differences, because that would be more than we could deliver. We will need for you to pray that we listen deeply for and to God and to each other, that we might have wisdom and clarity, and that we devote ourselves fully to work that might faithfully, truthfully and authentically unify us in our diversity.

The members of the task force, in alphabetical order, are these:

Ms. Caroline Avenger, Christ Church, Greenville
Mr. Frank Ballard, St. Mary’s, Columbia
Ms. Jennifer Bull, St. Michael & All Angels, Columbia
The Very Rev. Tim Jones, Dean, Trinity Cathedral, Columbia
The Rev. Alan Leonard, Rector, St. Margaret’s, Boiling Springs
Ms. Sally McKay, Diocesan Staff Liaison
The Rev. Jim Neuburger, Rector, St. John’s, Winnsboro
The Rev. Dr. Ellen Francis Poisson, Order of St. Helena/Priest in Charge, All Saints’, Beech Island
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo, Bishop, Chairperson
The Rev. David Wagner, Assistant Rector, St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, Columbia
The Rev. Bradley Wilson, Licensed Supply Clergy, Columbia

Brief bios of each member of the task force may be found below. While I have not set a specific deadline for completing our work, I am working with a 6-18-month framework. We cannot rush, and yet we will be deliberate in moving forward in our work.

“Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.” —Ephesians 3:20, 21

Your brother in Christ,


The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo, Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

Bishop’s Task Force on Unity – Member Bios

Caroline Avenger

Caroline is a life-long Episcopalian and grew up at Holy Comforter in Sumter. She has been a parishioner at Christ Church, Greenville, for 12 years, and she and her husband, Mauldin, have two daughters, both baptized at CCG. Caroline has served on the vestry for the past two and a half years, acting as the vestry representative on the Christ Church Episcopal Preschool board. She attended Cursillo #100 and has participated in Alpha as well. Caroline chaired the ECW bazaar twice and has served on the ECW board in a number of positions. Caroline has also been involved in nursery, children’s church, and VBS.

J. Franklin Ballard

Frank Ballard has served Episcopal parishes and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina for the past 35 years. He is a graduate of Southern Wesleyan University with a major in psychology and minor areas of concentration including statistics and biological sciences – genetics concentration. Frank completed a terminal master’s degree in clinical psychology with a minor in neurological disability assessment at Appalachian State University in 1977. He retired after 33 years with the State of South Carolina (28 years with SCDMH inpatient services as a staff psychologist and psychiatric treatment coordinator and 5 ½ years with the USC School of Medicine as chief research coordinator for clinical trials in the department of Neuropsychiatry). Frank has been Parish Musician and Associate for Liturgy at Saint Mary’s, Columbia for the past 13 years and is a Safe Church trainer of many years.

Jennifer Bull

Jennifer Bull grew up in Greenville, SC, and was active in her Southern Baptist church. She completed her Bachelors of Arts in Dance and her Masters of Education in Divergent Learning with an Arts Emphasis, both at Columbia College. Jennifer has been teaching classes in dance, theatre, and the arts for 12 years in public schools in Dorchester School District Two, Richland School District One, and Richland School District Two. She has two children, one of whom has a rare genetic disorder. Since receiving her daughter's diagnosis in 2004, Jennifer has become enthusiastically involved in arts education and mainstream arts opportunities for students with special needs. In 2007, Jennifer was confirmed at St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church where she is an active member of the congregation, serves in the Children's ministry, and participates with the Praise Choir. She is married to Susan and lives in Irmo.

Sister Ellen Francis Poisson, OSH

Ellen Francis is a native New Yorker. In the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, she lived in Iran and England. She has a M.L.S. from Teheran University and received a doctorate in library science from Columbia University in 1983. She worked for the following 25 years in medical and other libraries in the New York area. In 2000 Ellen Francis graduated from General Theological Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of New York. She entered the Order of Saint Helena in May, 2000, and served as a supply and interim priest. She was a member of the Episcopal-Muslim Relations Committee in the Diocese of NY and following 9/11 she participated in several peace delegations to Iran and Afghanistan.

Ellen Francis is currently a member of the OSH Leadership Council and serves as treasurer and webmaster, and she also serves as Priest-in-Charge at All Saints’, Beech Island. She is a founding member of the Interfaith Fellowship of Augusta, and is a member of the CSRA Peace Alliance and the Progressive Religious Coalition (in Augusta). She is a member of the advisory board of South Carolina Interfaith Power and Light.

The Very Rev. Tim Jones

The Very Reverend Timothy Jones is Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Until recently he was senior associate rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and an STM from the School of Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee. He has published widely in the area of spirituality and formation, including articles in academic journals and books with wide appeal.

Tim is married to the Rev. Jill Zook-Jones and Tim and Jill have three grown children and three grandchildren.

The Rev. Alan Leonard

Alan Leonard has been rector of St. Margaret’s, Boiling Springs since December 2005. Previously, he was an Army chaplain serving in the United States, Germany and Iraq. Alan is the chaplain for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9539 in Spartanburg. He also serves on the advisory board of Harvest Family Ministries, a nonprofit organization that assists people in need in the Boiling Springs area and the advisory board of Seniors Take Charge, an educational and advocacy organization for Senior Citizens in Spartanburg County. Alan graduated from Ripon College with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Leadership Studies, and earned a Master’s in Counselor Education from Northern Illinois University. He did his M. Div. at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Alan spent two years as Assistant Rector of Holy Spirit Episcopal Parish in Missoula, Montana. He is married to the former Brenda Heidhoff-Killen, a cellist, and has one son, Tim.

The Rev. Jim Neuburger

Jim Neuburger currently serves as Rector of St. John’s in Winnsboro, SC. Prior to his ordination, Jim served in a variety of secular capacities in business operations, management consulting, and national and international sales and marketing. Jim’s interests focus on the Christian life, bringing the Gospel from the head to the heart, and on strengthening congregations, having served as a Diocesan Congregational Consultant prior to his ordination. Jim recently completed a study of the strategies employed by 60 of the top Episcopal congregations – those that have grown 25% or more from 2004 to 2009.

Jim and his wife, Carol, live in Ballentine. They are the parents of three children and the grandparents of two grandchildren.

The Rev. David W. Wagner

David Wagner was born and raised in the Diocese of Atlanta, where he spent many summers and retreat weekends at Camp Mikell (the Atlanta equivalent of Camp Gravatt). There, he met and married his wife, Kathleen – aka Beano – a social worker in Columbia. David graduated from the General Theological Seminary in New York City in May 2011, and he is in charge of the Youth and Young Adults programs at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields in Forest Acres, Columbia.

The Rev. C. Bradley Wilson

Brad Wilson is from the wheatlands of Kansas and is a graduate of the University of Kansas, Trinity College in Bristol, England, and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. Ordained in 1980, he served parishes in Oregon, Alabama, and Pennsylvania before moving to Columbia in 2009. Brad served on the Board of Examining Chaplains in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, in Moral Theology, and he taught Introduction to Ethics at the seminary level the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. His wife Carol keeps him alive and comfortably ensconced; two daughters and their families in Atlanta bring him joy, and his son (still in school!) brings him much pride. He often supplies at parish churches in the diocese when not editing Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory for an updated republication.

Sally T. McKay

Sally is a life-long Episcopalian and member of Trinity Cathedral. She completed the Education for Ministry (EFM) program in 2003 and has served on Trinity’s vestry and foundation board. She currently chairs the Communication Committee, serves on the Bicentennial Committee, and has been a lector of more than 25 years. Sally is a communications consultant to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. She also works with clients on public speaking and presentation skills. Sally is a devoted practitioner of Yoga and teaches at City Yoga in Columbia. Sally and her husband, Walker, have two boys – Walker and Mitchell.
Jennifer married to Susan? I didn't know that was recognized in SC. Unless of course she is married to a boy named Sue.

As expected, the task force is stacked with "progressives," and there is little doubt that the majority will help pen a document proporting to help us "to live graciously in a tension we are unlikely to resolve."

Who needs 18 months? I think any Bishop worth his paycheck should be able to do it himself in 18 minutes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Classical Revisionism

Today's lay preacher presented to the congregation a classic revisionist look at how we should interpret the stories found in the Bible. He began by stating that he was not going to preach on the appointed Gospel reading for this Sunday, Mark 9:30-37, but instead would be talking about the subject that he really wanted to talk about (See rule 1 towards the end of this post).

Our preacher reached for Matthew 14:22-33 instead.

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Next, he drew from Greek mythology the story of Sisyphus who is condemned to roll a stone uphill, again and again for eternity.

He then pointed out that nobody these days believes that the story of Sisyphus is literally true, and that the story has to be read metaphorically, and likewise, no 21st century, rational, modern, thinking person can believe that Jesus or Peter actually walked on water. The story from Matthew 14 has to be read as a metaphor for giving up the safety of whatever boat you are in and placing your trust on some nebulous something outside of yourself. (See rule 2)

No good sermon leaves out the Cross and the Resurrection. So today we got a taste of the revisionist "resurrection as a metaphor" story to round out the sermon.

Sermons like this are probably pretty common in the Episcopal universe. While this kind of thing may appeal to a small elitist subset of American "progressives," I don't think a strictly metaphorical approach to Biblical exegesis does anything but create a self pleasuring trap for people to fall into. What does such an approach, in which the congregation is told that they can't believe the events in the Bible literally, do for people who, immediately after the sermon, are asked to stand and say the Nicene Creed? (Rule 3)

CREED: (From the Revisionist Dictionary) What we usually say after the sermon, together professing things that none of us individually believes. “Those creeds are not about checking off a bunch of propositions. They are about giving our heart to a sense that Jesus shows us what it looks like to be a divine human being” (Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori).

Is it any wonder that "...Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power" (shamelessly borrowed from the title of a book by Marcus Borg being studied in the adult Sunday School class).

I was working on the Revisionist Rule Book (revised edition) and today's sermon suggested four additions:
1) Talk about the subject you desire most because the Gospel reading for the day really doesn't matter (it never happened anyway).
2) Focus on a metaphorical approach when events in the Bible cannot be believed as actual events.
3) Increasing doubt is good.
4) Stay in your self made pleasure craft, and you will never be in danger of sinking.
I also wonder if it is time for TEc to come out of the closet and break out,

We believe in a higher power, the divine,
which is worshipped by many religions,
like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.
We believe that Jesus was an exemplary human being.
He was so good that people thought he was the Son of God.
He was dedicated to justice and helping the poor.
He preached love.
People thought that he was the Savior.
He died on a cross, and, similar to the ancient belief
in atonement through sacrifices,
people believed that he died for their sins.
Like Socrates, he was a teacher of a subversive wisdom.
Like Buddha, he had an enlightenment experience.
Like a shaman, he was a healer.
Like Gandhi, he sided with the minorities and the outcasts.
He was a classical prophet of Israel.
He was concerned with the shape of society and criticizing the elites. He was a most remarkable man whose example we should follow.
We believe that, as the church, we are a group of people
who stand up for justice and the acceptance of diversity... 
We believe that the New Testament was mostly made up by the followers of Jesus. But it is a good book that teaches people to love each other, look after the environment and engage in social justice. AMEN  (H/T Articles)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Diocese of Upper South Carolina: Task Force 10 To Gomorrah

The following notification came from the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina last week:

"Task Force on Unity to be announced" -
"Bishop Waldo will name the members of the Bishop's Task Force on Unity early next week. The Task Force will consist of 10-12 people who will work for six - 18th months on defining the boundaries within which we can live together even as we differ on same-sex blessings. The group will also work to articulate a rigorous theological understanding of same-sex blessings that will acknowledge the broad spectrum of belief in Upper South Carolina. Finally, the Task Force will create a plan by which our diocese will address the specifics of General Convention resolution A049"

Bishop Waldo just can't make himself be a leader on this issue. He has stated that he wants same sex blessings to happen, but he just can't bring himself say "Yes" or "No."

So instead, he will create and launch a "task force" to do the dirty work. Which means we better lift our eyes unto the hills and run as fast as we can towards them.

Given the overwhelming support for ssb's among the clergy, how can the result of the task force's deliberations be anything but the very thing that Bishop Waldo desires most? Let's see who they come up with as the members of this special ops unit. I'll be checking my mail box, but I don't expect to have to unpack the old foot locker and join the task force. And don't look for anyone to try to torpedo the fleet which I am sure will be carefully screened and shielded. If things hold true to form, the only thing coming out of the Task Force on Unity will be a smokescreen that allows +Waldo's precious ssb's to move forward.

We don't need 10 or 12 people to waste a year of their time on this when, as Sartre would say, "Les Jeux Sont Faits" (or as my High School French teacher translated it, "the die is cast").

Monday, September 17, 2012

Spreading American Values

After the horrible murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Lybia, everyone was quick to blame his death on a low budget, lousy bit of anti-Islamic propaganda produced in the U.S. The initial reports we heard on the MSM led most of us to believe that the attack on the U.S. embassy in Lybia was the result of a spontaneous mob outraged over internet clips of the movie.

This led the maker of the movie to be "brought in for questioning."

Now we are hearing reports that this was a premeditated attack which would explain the fact that the attack occurred on the anniversary of 9/11.

But why Lybia, and why this particular Ambassador?

The HillBuzz's Kevin DuJan is a "Gay conservative political analyst, essayist, author and radio and TV commentator on politics, pop culture, LGBTQ issues, and current events," and his shocking report (warning graphic content) alleges that the U.S. Ambassador to Lybia was homosexual, and that his body was ritually sodomized by his attackers.

If true, then this becomes more than just a story of a mob incited by our freedom of speech. It becomes a story about the perception that America is trying to spread, not only its liberty to insult others, but its sexual immorality to an unwilling world.

Stopping the spread of American liberal sexuality is quite possibly one goal of radical Islam.

Throw in a dash of mockery of Muhammed, and a pre-planned attack would quickly get the green light to go.

If the story is true, then Our State Department should be considered in part to blame for the terrible sequence of events in Lybia. What kind of outfit would permit someone with a bull's eye on his chest to walk into a shooting gallery? Maybe somebody there needs to be brought in for questioning.

If the story is true, then why has it been buried?

Because nobody here wants to talk about this "American value" and its insulting effect on the Islamic world at this particular time.

No we would rather talk about a lousy movie.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

They Should Be Flocking To the Episcopal church.. right?

In the course of today's sermon, our preacher noted that one of the reasons that the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are doing well is that they have a consistant liturgy of worship, and the features that she identified as things that attract worshippers were things that the Episcopal church also does well. I think she used the term "Deep Church" at some point to describe what people need.

She left a big gaping hole to explore, but she didn't illuminate the depths very well.

If the Episcopal church is doing worship right, it should be doing well in terms of attracting worshippers... right?

Nope. The Episcopal church lost approximately 50,000 members each year from 2006-2010 and lost approxmately 25,000 Sunday worshippers yearly over the same time period.

Most regular Sunday worshippers in your typical Epsicopal congregation are clueless as to the facts of the decline and its underlying causes. What they see on Sundays is a thin veneer of priestly vestments and a liturgy that appears reasonably mainstream (although I would argue with some of the theology behind the 1979 BCP). What they hear on Sundays from the mouths of their pastors is another matter altogether. Let's face it, revisionist preaching is a sure fire way to kill faith in Jesus through the promotion of doubt or through the subtle presentation of heterodoxy or even heresy.

What congregants hear if they attempt to engage their revisionist clergy in small group or in private conversation can be worse than the Sunday preaching.

If people are looking for form without depth of substance, the Episcopal church is ideally situated to stroke their skins.

Judging from the numbers, people do want to have a deeper relationship with God, and that kind of thing can only be facilitated by a Church that stands firm in its conviction of the truth of the Gospel.

Does your church stand firm?  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting the Cross Out

I spent yesterday thinking about the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, and how the world really hasn't changed much in that there are still, and always will be, bad guys (and gals) out there causing death and mayhem, striving for dominance and tyranny, and generally looking for ways to make other people miserable. I had every intention of simply posting Psalm 53 today as a reflection.

The fool hath said in his heart,
There is no God. 
Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity:
there is none that doeth good. 
God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. 
Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy;
there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 
Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge?
who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God. 
There were they in great fear, where no fear was:
for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee:
thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them. 
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!
When God bringeth back the captivity of his people,
Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. Psalm 53 (KJV)

I wasn't wanting to single anyone out for special treatment on this the day after 9/11/2012, but then along came the story of the American Atheists (h/t StandFirm in Faith) and the American Atheists' attempts to keep the "9/11 Cross" out of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. After reading that story, the words of the psalmist cried out for publishing to bring the Psalm into the current context in light of the actions of these particular fools.

These American Atheist folks won't stop until every cross or cross like image everywhere is removed. When that happens, somebody will have to remove a lot of old style doors from all those government owned buildings. You know, the type that has this pattern outlined in decorative trim on their upper halves,

                  (I simply looked up from my desk and took that picture of the door that stares at me everyday)

and replaces them with this,

The dreaded luan door!

If I have a choice as to which door to knock on, or which doorway to enter, it certainly won't be the unadorned luan door.

You do have a choice. You can choose the way of the Cross of Jesus, or the American Atheist doorway to no-where.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Matthew 7:13 (KJV)

Addendum: In light of this morning's news of the murder of the US ambassador to Lybia by fools enraged by an awful film about Mohammed, I am left shaking my head that there are other false doorways binding men's hearts for the Cross to conquer.
I am waiting to see if the American Atheists are willing to take on the Muhammedeans.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Was Jesus a Prejudiced Bigot? A Lesson to be Un-learned

I can't believe we are visiting this issue again. Today's reading from Mark 7:24-37 included the story of the Syrophoenecian woman.
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
The last time we heard a sermon based on this text, we were erroneously told by our priest that the woman opened Jesus' eyes. The full content of my blog post and the comments are well worth reading again since today we were told by our new priest that there were several ways of looking at this story, and the one she chose to expound on was, by her admission, the most dangerous interpretation. Never once did she explain what the danger was, but from the amount of time given to it, I got the impression that the dangerous = radical, and that was what she thought would be most beneficial for us pewsitters to learn.

So what might this dangerous interpretation be? Yep, it is the same old argument that Jesus' human half (don't go there!) needed to be taught a lesson by the Syrophoenecian woman (with the addition of negative terminology that He was pejudiced and bigoted).

Oh yeah, shock language about Jesus will get their attention.

At any rate, I call the un-named danger Arianism, and it pops up every time you make Jesus into a prejudiced, bigoted rabbi.

They must teach this stuff in Episcopal seminaries.

It is wrong teaching, and it should not be pushed into the collective consciousness on Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Jesus and Tolerance

This weekend we debated (I lost) watching "Intolerance" the silent film from 1916. I will watch it by myself later this week, but as I recall from my days studying the history of movies, my issue with the film is that I was left wondering that the problem of intolerance cannot be solved by mankind becoming uncritically tolerant. This morning I was chatting it up with someone who felt that Christians are considered amongst the most intolerant of people. I disagreed to the point of intolerance, and pointed out the Lord's intolerance of Sin, and maybe our problem is that we do not communicate the message as well as He would like us to.

Posted over at To All theWorld this radio sermon was from 1959 and given by Billy Graham in which he takes on the following points:

1) The Way Is Narrow.
2) Jesus was narrow about the way of salvation.
3) Our Lord's Intolerance.
4) Playing Both Sides.
5) Jesus was intolerant toward hypocrisy.
6) Jesus was intolerant toward selfishness.
7) Jesus was intolerant toward sin.

This is from the first point,

"If you should ask a man the direction to New York City and he said, 'Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead there,' you would question either his sanity or his truthfulness. Somehow, we have gotten it into our minds that "all roads lead to heaven. You hear people say, 'Do your best,' 'Be honest,' and 'Be sincere—and you will make it to heaven all right.'
But Jesus Christ, who journeyed from heaven to earth and back to heaven again—who knew the way better than any man who ever lived—said, 'Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it'" (Matt. 7:13,14).
And this is from the last point,
"He was tolerant toward the sinner but intolerant toward the evil which enslaved him. To the adulteress he said, 'Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more' (John 8:11). He forgave her because he loved her; but he condemned sin because he loathed it with a holy hatred.
God has always been intolerant of sin! His Word says: 'Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil' (Isa. 1:16).
'Awake to righteousness, and sin not' (1 Cor. 15:34). 'Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts …' (Isa. 55:7).
Christ was so intolerant of sin that he died on the cross to free men from its power."
What Billy Graham was seeing as the new "tolerance" might have been something that contributed to the changes of the 1960's, 70's, and 80's.  

Never mind me, I'm just another intolerant $@&.

Read it all at Robert S.Munday's blog, To All theWorld.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Another Mark Against the Shellfish Argument Gets Left Out of the Sunday Lectionary Reading

Some readers may not have heard the shellfish argument as currently used to support same-sex blessings/marriage, but it basically goes like this, “If you oppose same sex marriage because the Bible says it’s a sin, how come I see you eating that shrimp po-boy?”  One of the primary sources for counter arguments against this reasoning was seen in this past week's daily readings from the Book of Acts. This week, Acts 10 rolled by, and we heard about Peter's vision of the unclean foods coming down on a sheet and God commanding Peter three times to "kill and eat" (Peter might have not gotten it the first two times).

Another primary source for counter arguments is found in Mark 7:19 which fell victim to the lectionary editor's scalpel (one of my pet peeves) in this Sunday's readings. Today's readings actually contained two deleted sections from Mark 7 and both will be highlighted in bold type below along with a link to the shortened version that was read to Sunday congregations across the country.

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

9 Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear (curiously v. 16 is left out of the on-line NRSV). 17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 
20 And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’(link to shortened version, Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23)

Jesus in Mark 7 seems to be referring to pre-ingestion hygiene regulations here rather than shrimp po-boys or oyster loaves, but Mark did pen "Thus he declared all foods clean," and that is what is interpreted by many to be a foretaste of Peter's vision in Acts 10. Even so, Peter in Acts 10:28 may have been thinking of his recent vision of unclean foods when he says, "but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean" as he sortied out to convert the Gentiles.

Does this mean that the moral code that forbade same-sex intercourse has been superseded?

No, because Jesus makes the point in verses 21-23 that persons are still defiled by violations of those ancient commandments.

Let's face it, the life changing ministry of Jesus and his Gospel is meant for everyone. The sick cannot be healed unless you are willing to get your hands dirty.

It is interesting that Mark 7:19 will not be heard by the Sunday crowd. Nor will they be treated to Jesus' more graphic description of exactly what he means by "things that come out."

So those that buy into the shellfish argument can sleep snug in their pews today and walk away from church unchallenged by the difficult language the Word sometimes throws at us. 

The Thirty Third of August Finally Touched Down

I've been waiting for this day to fall on a Sunday for a long time now. This song has been in my head for decades ever since, like the singer, I put those angry feelings under lock and chain...

"Well, today there's no salvation,
The band's packed up and gone.
Left me standin' with my penny in my hand.
There's a big crowd at the station,
Where a blind man sings his songs.
He can see what I can't understand.

It's the thirty-third of August,
And I am finally touchin' down.
Eight days from Sunday, Lord.
Saturday bound.
Eight days from Sunday, Lord.
And I'm Saturday bound.

Once I stumbled through the darkness,
Tumbled to my knees,
A thousand voices screamin' through my brain.
Woke up in a squad car, busted down for vagrancy.
And outside my cell it sure as hell,
It looks like rain.

It's the thirty-third of August,
And I am finally touchin' down.
Eight days of Sunday,
Saturday bound.

Now I've put my angry feelings,
Under lock and chain.
Hide my violent nature with a smile.
Though the demons dance and sing their songs,
Within my fevered brain,
Not all my God-like thoughts, Lord, are defiled.

And it's the thirty-third of August,
I am finally touching down.
Eight days from Sunday,
Saturday bound.

Eight days from Sunday, Lord.
And I'm Saturday bound." Mickey Newberry 1969 Looks Like Rain (Amazon)