Friday, June 27, 2008

"voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals"?

Were there "voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals" at GAFCON? Stephen Bates of the Guardian says there were:
Two days into the great realignment, we've already had the archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda denying that gays are ever persecuted in their countries - and failing to find the words to condemn the violence if they are; voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals; and lip-smacking assertions that the old church has fallen prey to apostasy, brokenness and turmoil, in its attempt to "acquiesce to destructive modern, cultural and political dictates". (my bold)

If there were "voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals" at GAFCON, they must confronted. That is terrible!!!

If there were NOT "voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals" at GAFCON, Bates must confronted. That is slander, or libel, isn't it?

Over at The Anglican Scotist, I have been defending the African Archbishops under the assumption that what is in the transcript of the Press Conference is all that the gay rights activists have to criticize. But if there were "voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals", we have a serious problem and I regret my comments as naive.

However, I have seen no other reports of "voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals", so I am thinking this is a lie. The headline on Bates article is "Vicious hot air currents". Perhaps it is well named, but not in the way he intended.

H/T David Ould at Stand Firm

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Speaking Wisdom to a Double-Minded Man

James 1:5-8
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

This biblical passage came to my mind as I read the response by J I Packer to the question of what he would say to Rowan Williams. Packer responded that he would call on Williams to resign. What interested me was his reasoning-- Williams has placed himself in a position of pretending to believe what he doesn't believe:
Before you became Archbishop, you went in to print cautiously approving gay relationships. It is known, and you don’t deny, that you have ordained at least one person who is a practising homosexual. Now you say that you are seeking to uphold the Anglican consensus of the Lambeth conference of 1998 which says that homosexual behaviour is absolutely off limits, but when asked whether you have changed your own mind on this matter, you say no. I cannot pretend to believe what I don’t believe and all of this of course is documented. He has been asked that question and that is the answer he has given.

No wisdom can come to a double-minded man. He will be unstable in all his ways. And if he is leading the Anglican Communion, the whole Anglican Communion will be like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Condoms on the Altar with the Bread and Wine

The Episcopal priest, Rev. Luis Barrios, who is currently being investigated for performing gang initiation ceremonies on babies at his church, also promotes a theology of the union of God and sexuality according to an article in the online magazine of the Columbia University's Journalism School:
When Melissa Gonzales, 16, receives communion at the church of San Romero de Las Americas in the South Bronx, the altar looks the same as any other, except for a glass bowl full of condoms sitting next to the wine and bread. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Luis Barrios, sees a sacred duty in promoting safe sex among his congregants.

While America’s religious leadership wavers in taking an active role in fighting the AIDS epidemic, Barrios has developed a “Theology of AIDS,” a religious philosophy that embraces an anti-capitalist spirituality, the union of God and sexuality and the ultimate attainment of one simple objective: saving lives.

If they do anything at all, many church leaders will limit their AIDS ministries to counseling and support for the afflicted because they worry that addressing sexuality might promote promiscuity and sex outside marriage. But Barrios has made AIDS education part of his ministry.

Yes, the thought did occur to me that the condoms on the altar might promote promiscuity and sex outside of marriage. Not only is promiscuity against the morality taught in the Bible, promiscuity spreads HIV/ AIDS. An alternative method of preventing the spread of AIDS/ HIV that emphasizes chastity was discussed at GAFCON by representatives from Uganda and Nigeria:
During the mid 1980’s as much as 30 percent of Uganda’s total population was infected with HIV/AIDS. By 2005 that figure had fallen dramatically to 6.7 percent.

Uganda achieved this significant decrease by focusing on supporting abstinence, said Canon Mwesigye. The church particularly participates in the effort by integrating HIV/AIDS prevention into every ministry of the church, especially youth ministry, supporting anti-AIDS/HIV clubs, youth conferences, camps, sports activities, preventing the transmission of the virus from infected mothers to their children, forming support groups for those who have tested positive for the virus and distributing anti retro-viral drugs.

H/T Comment by Dr. Mabuse at the MCJ and Kendall Harmon T19 and Billy Ockham for posting the gang initiation story last week.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Pew Survey: Creeping Universalism or Mere Christianity?

Seventy percent of Americans with a religious affiliation say that many religions — not just their own — can lead to eternal life.

This result was derived by the Pew Survey from a forced choice of two statements presented to those who had said they had a religion: My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life, or Many religions can lead to eternal life.

For Christians, choosing the second choice is mere Christianity, consistent with the greatest 20th century Christian apologist C. S. Lewis. Children who have read the Narnia series will have learned in The Last Battle that the pagan Calormene soldier was credited with worshiping Aslan all along even though he did not know it.

Lewis also stated this more explicitly in Mere Christianity on page 64:
But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those that who know Him can be saved through Him.

and on page 209:
There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might say he still believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Talking Point #2 , Right on Cue

Why hadn't the GAFCON leadership been prepped before the Press Conference on how to respond to the predictable a gay rights advocacy Talking Points?

The question from the gay rights advocate associating the conservative Anglicans with violence against gays and lesbians was a classic example of Talking Point #2 from Soul Force:
2. Historically, people's misinterpretation of the Bible has left a trail of suffering, bloodshed, and death.

As Iain Baxter, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement phrased it:
One of the things in “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” one of the key points that you’ve written is to “prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centred” But the gospel is already compromised by bishops who support the jailing of lesbian and gay people throughout Africa, which then leads to rape, which leads to torture of people and yet they are not prepared to speak out against this and change the laws in their countries.

The question requires a three part response that communicates the Gospel but does not cede that unverified claims of violence have occurred:
1)immediately and forcefully condemn violence,
2) ask for further information regarding the specific accusations of violence or violent language,
3) conditionally condemn the unverified violence or violent speech claimed.

In this case, African bishops can condemn violence in prisons without condemning prison sentences for homosexual behavior. The gay rights advocate question made the unsubstantiated claim that jailing people inevitably leads to rape which leads to torture.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Who Broke the London Gay Wedding Story and Why?

It would seem that someone chose to release the liturgy with the words "With my body, I thee worship". The Episcopal Cafe, a ministry of the Diocese of Washington, claims that they had this up with the liturgy first. The Episcopal Cafe post in "The Lead" with the liturgy is date stamped "Posted by Ann Fontaine on June 14, 2008 11:30 AM". And a subsequent post the same day reads:

The Sunday Mail and the Sunday Telegraph have reports on the news broken earlier today on The Lead of the marriage of two male priests.

The Telegraph story seems to imply that they were waiting for the signal to disclose the information:
An Anglican church has held a homosexual "wedding" for the first time in a move that will deepen the rift between liberals and traditionalists, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.

In the comments below the original story in The Lead, Jim Naughton, the founder and editor in chief of Episcopal Café and canon for communications and advancement in the Diocese of Washington, wrote:

I dunno gang, I think this deserves the publicity it got. Rings, trumpets, 300 people, one of London's oldest churches, a priest from Westminster Abbey, and a service that was just a handful of tweaks away from the BCP. Makes for an awfully good story. Not only that, it was clearly intended to look as much like a wedding as possible. (Which is fine by me, but let's admit that it went as far in that direction as it could.) If events such as this one have been happening on a regular basis, we sure haven't heard about them in this sort of detail.

For me the point here has nothing to do with GAFCON and everything to do with the tremendous hypocrisy of the Church of England. (It isn't respect for Peter Akinola that keeps us form doing what we should do on the issue of full inclusion; it's respect for Rowan Williams and the Anglican Communion Office.) The Episcopal Church underwent an international inquiry and an organized attempt to subvert its governing structure because not every bishop would agree to quash blessings that look a lot less like weddings than this one did. Our bishops were involved in word by word wrangling with the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the ACC over this issue in New Orleans. Our future participation in the Communion was said to be at stake. And now, lo and behold, priests in the C of E crawl out further on this branch than we ever have and what are the consequences for its hierarchy?

We've been playing Rowan Williams' game since we allowed our newly-elected PB to come into the House of Deputies and argue on behalf of B033. Now we see that even the Church of England isn't playing Rowan Williams' game. We pay the price in conscience for our seat at the Anglican table, whereas the Church of England does not. Who negotiated this deal?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Soul Force Talking Points vs. Christian Marriage and Biblical Authority

Journalists are following a gay advocacy script in composing the news articles about the battles over biblical authority and maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. Below are are the 8 Messaging Points from the Soulforce website.
1. Most people have not carefully and prayerfully researched the Biblical texts used by some people to condemn God's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children.

2. Historically, people's misinterpretation of the Bible has left a trail of suffering, bloodshed, and death.

3. We should be open to new truth from Scripture. Even heroes of the Christian faith have changed their minds about the meaning of various Biblical texts.

4. The Bible is a book about God. The Bible is not a book about human sexuality.

5. We miss what these passages say about God when we spend so much time debating what they say about sex.

6. The Biblical authors are silent about homosexual orientation as we know it today. They neither approve it nor condemn it.

7. The prophets, Jesus, and the Biblical authors say nothing about homosexual orientation as we understand it today. But, they are clear about this one thing. As we search for truth, we are to "Love one another."

8. Whatever some people believe the Bible seems to say about homosexuality, they must not use that belief to deny homosexuals their basic civil rights. To discriminate against sexual or gender minorities is unjust and un-American.

This week, reading the news articles about the same sex marriages in California, I did notice that some seemed to follow a story line. Then I noticed that even the articles about the Anglican Communion seemed to fit the pattern.

Now I see that it is based on the first three of these talking points with another I would add. I've also added in certain language in italics that I've noticed:
1. Biblical scholars say that the Bible's handful of passages on homosexual behavior don't mean what many Christians think they mean.

2. Conservative Christians are picking and choosing the texts, ignoring others. This is used to support 1. and also used to retort when Progressives are accused of ignoring texts.

3. Interpreting the Bible passages on homosexual behavior the way conservatives do results in the death penalty for homosexuals.

4. Biblical scholars say that we should be open to new interpretations from Scripture.

I would like to have brief responses to each of these messages and also to have the messaging points for defender of traditional marriage.

UPDATED Dangerous New Fallacy Spread for Talking Point of Same Sex Marriage Advocates

(I've updated this by adding at the bottom a brief discussion and links to the controversy over Bishop Orama last September and the results of the theonomy surveys Sarah Hey conducted.)

The Los Angeles Times and the US News and World Report both presented as a fact this week that Christianity calls for the death penalty against homosexual acts. This fallacy seems to be a part of a new talking point of the advocates of same sex marriage that they have managed to get into the news stories. Christian advocates of traditional marriage need to be prepared to respond with the truth.

The LA Times article inserted this claim into a sentence with quotes from Richard Mouw, the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, here:
Mouw cites Romans 1 in the New Testament that decries men and women abandoning “natural relations” and men “inflamed with lust for one another” committing “indecent acts with other men” — behavior that carried death as punishment.
The newspaper reporter was quoting the President of Fuller Theological Seminary for most of the sentence, but notice where the quote stops and he inserts this misunderstanding. This creates the impression that Mouw is the source for the idea that Christianity calls for the death penalty for homosexual behavior.

Then later in the LA Times article, the claim is made again like this:
Perhaps the most frequently cited is Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: It is an abomination.”The passage from the Torah is repeated, with slight variations, in Christian scripture, which, like the Jewish text, orders death for violators.

Notice how this second sentence is claiming that Christian scripture orders death for violators of the Old Testament (Torah) command. The New Testament does not order death for homosexual acts. Someone reading the article who does not already know this is false is going to think it is true because of the source in the first quote and because the reporter repeats the information later in the article.

We can best understand the purpose of spreading this fallacy in the US News and World Report article:
Frank Kirkpatrick, author of The Episcopal Church in Crisis: How Sex, the Bible, and Authority Are Dividing the Faithful, is particularly troubled by the conservatives' assertion that their reading of Scripture is not one of many possible interpretations of a complex text but instead the only true way of reading it. "It is disingenuous," says Kirkpatrick, an Episcopal priest and a professor of religion at Trinity College in Connecticut. "They do not call for homosexuals to be stoned to death. They choose to follow some passage from the Bible and not others. So, clearly, they are interpreting."
Here we can see that spreading the fallacy that Christian scripture calls for the death penalty for homosexual acts lays the groundwork for arguing that scripture can be selectively ignored and calling for new readings of scripture.

I like what the comment by Carl at Stand Firm in response to Frank Kirkpatrick:
The existence of many possible interpretations does not imply the existence of many credible interpretations. The fact that people disagree about the meaning of a text does not imply the meaning of a text is impossible to sufficiently discern.

UPDATE: I further reflection, maybe this is not so new. It may be relevant to reflect back to last September, At that time there was a scurrulous rumor embraced by the progressive Episcopalians that an Anglican bishop had called for the death penalty for homosexuals. The rumor proved false. Nevertheless, on the conservative Anglican website Stand Firm in Faith, Sarah Hey conducted a two part survey of members to see where they stood on theonomy. The results here and here are clear -- none of the conservative Anglicans participating believed in the death penalty for violations of biblical morality. This is a fear tactic of the progressives.

H/T Mollie at Get Religion,Kendall Harmon T19 and Greg Griffith at Stand Firm

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anglicans and Polgamy: What Can We Learn?

UPDATE: A. S. Haley of Anglican Curmudgeon has noted in a comment below that the online text of the 1988 Lambeth resolutions does not include Andrew Proud's language requiring ordained leaders to be the husband of one wife. I have left a comment on Proud's the post at the Global South website and am awaiting a response.

Since Lambeth 1988 dealt with polygamy, I looked ahead to see how it is presented in the Episcopal Life Bulletin Insert for Sunday June 22, 2008. What I see is one sentence early on:
If the bishops could not agree on homosexuality, they did find themselves able to agree to reverse themselves on a stand taken one hundred years earlier and allow the baptism of polygamists if they promise not to marry again and if the local community were agreeable.
And then another sentence toward the end:
In regard to gender and sexuality, earlier positions take on polygamy, birth control, and remarriage after divorce have been reversed.
I look forward to the Anglican Curmudgeon's fisk.

Here is how Andrew Proud presented the 1988 Lambeth Conferences decisions on polygamy in Split identities, divided loyalties for Global South Anglican. He says:
Lambeth 1988 addressed this issue and concluded that, if you come from a polygamous culture, you should not cast off your wives when you become a Christian but that, once you are baptised, you should not take on further wives. It further concluded that, if you are an ordained leader, you should be the husband of one wife.
So, it appears to me that the Episcopal Church is leaving out that inport second part about who should be given positions of leadership.

Actually, I think we should look at Andrew Proud's whole paragraph about polygamy:
I should note, at this point, that we are not immune to the impact of the surrounding culture on Christianity in Ethiopia. The issue of polygamy amongst the people groups we work with has caused pain and difficulty on all sides. For semi-nomadic pastoralists, like the Nuer, levirate marriage is a way of taking responsibility for and caring for the clan. If your father or your brother dies, you have a duty to marry his wives and have children by them, even if you are already married. This is regarded as a sign of respect to your immediate family, ensures the survival of the clan and fulfils a moral duty to a wife and children who might otherwise be left behind when the tribe moves on with the cattle. Lambeth 1988 addressed this issue and concluded that, if you come from a polygamous culture, you should not cast off your wives when you become a Christian but that, once you are baptised, you should not take on further wives. It further concluded that, if you are an ordained leader, you should be the husband of one wife. This is now part of official policy in the selection and training of candidates for ordination within the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. However, before it became such, we faced the painful situation of having to remove two ordained leaders from their posts for trying to conceal their polygamous marriages. Both were suspended initially, pending investigation. One, removed from his post, is still a deacon but is now working happily as the administrator of our parishes in the western region of Ethiopia. The other caused us great difficulty [xxvi] . Since then, a further case arose, but in this instance the man, fully understanding our position, resigned his post as soon as his father died, because he wanted to be free to fulfil his clan obligations by adopting his father’s wife as his own. We are in no position to throw stones.

And in the footnote he tells a very interesting story:
[xxvi] I personally, had death threats made against me by this man, who had several of our churches locked, at gun-point, by the police, having made use of his influence with fellow clan members amongst the officials. He further attempted to frustrate our work by causing tension and discord amongst the Nuer clans.

Although polygamy and homosexuality are not exactly parallel, it is a rich comparison. First there is the issue of leadership versus baptism. While Lambeth 1988 made that distinction, the Episcopal Church bulletin insert leaves it out. And the Episcopal Church has claimed that anyone who is baptized is fully qualified for leadership. So it may not be safe to try to make this distinction with regard to homosexual behavior: The Episcopal Church has demonstrated their inability to make distinctions between the qualifications for joining the church and for leading it.

H/T to Stand Firm

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Episcopal Gay Wedding in California

While there remains some confusion about exactly what Bishop Bruno has authorized or permitted in the Los Angeles Diocese, Susan Russell is announcing on her website that she and other ordained Episcopal clergy performed a gay wedding at their Episcopal Church:
At 12:10 p.m. in the chapel at All Saints Church, Pasadena, Mel White and Gary Nixon turned their 27 year partnership into married in the sight of God and the State of California at a service attended by 30-something friends and family and the regular Wednesday Noon Eucharist congregation here at All Saints Church.

All Saints Rector Ed Bacon and Senior Associate for Pastoral Care Zelda Kennedy presided, I read one of the lessons (Book of Ruth, FYI) and a great time was had by all.

She has the rector's homily posted which announces they would sign the marriage license at the altar after the service.
After we marry Mel White and Gary Nixon, in a few minutes, we will sign their marriage license here before this altar. We will transform a thin piece of paper into a substantial sacrament of justice.

This is in marked contrast to the service of Gene Robinson a week and a half ago. He was careful to have keep the partnership documents away from the altar.

Susan Russell calls her blog An Inch At A Time, but it seems that events are moving much faster as we slide further down the slippery slope.

H/T Stand Firm

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Democrats' Shadow Figures UPDATE Featuring Episcopal Church

UPDATE: The credits include All Saints' Episcopal Church which is probably All Saints' Pasadena as the credit immediately above refers to Shelley Dudley, who is All Saints' Pasadena's Financial Administrator.
H/T to Stand Firm and News Busters

This is an amazing piece! Aren't they smug and superior.

It is so shockingly offensive it is a little risky. Anyone who is not on the side of any one of the issues is going to see his or herself parodied. I was particularly stunned by the insensitive way this cast those on the opposite of the right to life issue. And with 70% of the country against gay marriage, I'm surprised they featured that issue.

These are not really caricatures of Republicans so much as the shadows in the minds of the Democrats. Maybe it will get a few more of them to actually vote, but how many who do not belong to will it offend?

Desensitization and My Problem with the Ick Factor

The front page of this morning's San Francisco Chronicle was featuring two stories on the wave of gay weddings. Seeking a break from all that, I went to the bottom left corner and read "Killer dad said he had to get the demons out". In this story we learn that a man recently separated from his wife had punched and kicked his two year old son to death in the middle of the road on Saturday night. I do hope you feel the "ick factor". I did. Does that make me an infanticidophobe?

I leafed through the front section and moved on to the local new section of the paper. In the "Digest" I read through the headlines "Passenger dies when man on bail hits tree" and "Murder charges loom after fatal stabbing" to rest on "No-contest plea in sex with minor". It seems that the state of California does prosecute men for having sex with underage girls. Yes, it is a felony crime in the state of California. In this brief article, we learn that a 25 year old man having sexual intercourse with a 15 year old girl was going to face up to five years in state prison, but under the plea deal, will face only 16 months. The man was a supervisor in the juvenile detention center where the girl was a ward. Are you feeling the ick? I did. Does that make me an ephebophobe?

I was very pleased to see on the web today Matt Kennedy's excellent essay at Stand Firm on "The 'Ick Factor'". Is that ick feeling a healthy response to something wrong or a sign of a phobia? Is desensitization an unhealthy "grooming" that undesirables use to disable our warning system against unhealthy behaviors? As Matt+ puts it:
It is a good thing to be repulsed by sin. The “ick factor” tactic is essentially question begging. The real question is whether the behavior that evokes the “ick” ought so to do. The answer to that question is, of course, quite clear and the tactical shaming from the left serves only to callous good consciences.

I actually feel some relief to know my revulsion at the man who kicked his son to death is shared by my community. I am appalled at how many in my community support partial birth abortion. But at least we have not progressed to infanticide.

I am relieved to know that we do prosecute men who have sex with underage girls (and especially men in positions of authority over them). It is not just a felony on the books, soon to be discarded as an anachronism.

Where I live, my understanding of marriage has been discarded as an anachronism. And the community is celebrating. I can't read it in the papers, but it is relief to me to know that there are those of you out there in the greater world who still think marriage is a unique institution for the union of the two sexes.

Love you,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Theology of Disobedience Underlying Gay Wedding Liturgy

The new gay wedding liturgy teaches that the Church is not required to obey Christ, the Word of God. Thus, we should not be surprised that the people advocating this new theology do so in disobedient ways.

The theology of the traditional wedding service is based on Ephesians 5, as Peter Ould has explained in his analysis of the gay wedding liturgy used used May 31st in London on May 31st.

The traditional service teaches that "Marriage signifies unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his church." Ephesians 5 makes this connection in the context of discussing the roles of husband and wife. The husband is to love the wife as Christ loves the church and the wife is to obey the husband as the Church obeys Christ.
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In the traditional service between man and woman, the wife makes the vow to obey the husband and the husband makes the vow to love the wife. We are taught a theology of obedience to Christ as we participate in the liturgy.

In the new wedding liturgy for the gay couple in London, we are taught that their union also symbolizes the mystical union of Christ and his Church:"Such a covenant shows us the mystery of the union between God and his people and Christ and his Church." However, in this service, neither of the men make a vow of obedience to the other. Both make the same vow to love, honor and keep. Neither is clearly representing Christ and neither is clearly representing the Church and there is no separate vow that would represent the commitment of Christ to his Church differentiated from the commitment of the Church to obey Christ.

Thus the new theology of equality with Christ is embedded in the new wedding liturgy. We are not called to obey Christ. We are called to loving fellowship with Christ but obedience is not required.

Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches Bless Same Sex Unions and Ordain Partnered Gay Clergy

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article today on church denominations and same-sex marriage. It reports regarding local churches:
Churches supportive of gay and lesbian rights, meanwhile, find themselves in difficult positions as a result being part of national or international denominations that have stricter rules on marriage than local churches might prefer.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Episcopal Church, for example, now prohibit using the marriage rite reserved for straight couples for same-sex marriages. Separate - and, some say, unequal - rites are set aside for gays and lesbians.

There is a chart:
How Faith traditions stand on sex, marriage, clery Christian denominations have greatly varying degrees of how they view the role of gays and lesbians in the church. Several say sexual activity is permissible only for those in heterosexual marriages. But the United Church of Christ performs the same rite of marriage for straight and gay couples. Here is a sampling of beliefs among some denominations.
The chart has columns: "Celibacy required for gays, lesbians","Bless same-sex unions", "Perform same-sex marriages" ad "Ordain partnered gay clergy".
According to the Chronicle research, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church do not require celibacy, do bless same-sex unions and do ordain partnered gay clery. I knew that was being done on a local basis, but, I thought this was being done against the denominations policy.

In the article it says regarding the Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus:
Andrus is suggesting that all couples go to county clerks' offices or have a purely civil ceremony elsewhere. As a second step, Andrus is advising that they return to the church for a blessing. Andrus is recommending that all couples - regardless of sexual orientation - use one of the three rites approved for same-sex blessings. (my emphasis)
The reporter doesn't seem to realize those blessings are not approved by The Episcopal Church denomination but only the local California Diocese. I wonder if he even read Bishop Andrus' Pastoral Letter Regarding Same Sex Marriage. Maybe he doesn't understand the difference between a "Diocesan Convention" and the "General Convention".

Well, I do really like this quote from Andrus that he uses to end of the article:
"We seek to intently follow Christ, but we don't contain Christ," Andrus said. "Christ transcends the boundaries of the church. ... It's not a surprise to me that the culture is going to manifest Christ in a way that summons the church to new realities. I really welcome that. I think that's the way it's meant to be." (my emphasis)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Progressive Proof Texting at First Public Same-Sex Wedding in the Church of England

Look at the use of Holy Scripture in the liturgy used at this same sex marriage service at St Bartholomew's in London. The first reading was the verses of 1 Samuel:
1 Samuel 18:1-4
And it came to pass, when David had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was know with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
Using these verses as part of the marriage service implies that David married Jonathan (and thus became Saul's son-in-law) through this covenant relationship.

But this is contradicted by verses later in the same chapter. David resists becoming Saul's son-in-law when Saul offers his eldest daughter Merab.
1 Samuel 18:18
David said to Saul,"Who am I and who are my kinfolk, my father's family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?"

Later in the same chapter, when Saul wished to offer his daughter Michal to David, David still resists because of his low social status:
1 Samuel 18:23 So Saul's servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, "Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?"
Clearly, the covenant between Jonathan and David did not make David a son-in-law to Saul. So, the progressives are using the verses in a marriage ceremony as a proof text:
Prooftexting is the practice of using decontextualised quotations from a document (often, but not always, a book of the Bible) to establish a proposition rhetorically through an appeal to authority. Critics of the technique note that often the document, when read as a whole, may not in fact support the proposition.

I t appears that when the verses out of context serve the progressive cause, they are not averse to ignoring the context.

When I read the first verses of the chapter, I think that Jonathan is making the gifts of his royal clothing and weapons to David to show his acceptance of David as an equal. In this reading, the subsequent issues David raises regarding his inferior status make sense.

H/T Baby Blue

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Whose Right to Choose?

People who are pro-abortion as a legal option use the phrase "woman's right to choose" with the implication that this is about a woman's right to control her own body. But mostly I know women who felt coerced into their abortions by the other people in their lives.

The first time I ever heard about an abortion was from an older (17 year old) second cousin of mine who told me that her boyfriend's parents had arranged for her to have the abortion without her own parents knowing when she was 15 years old. So I was interested to see this news from Georgia today.

According to ABC News here:

A Georgia mother who did not think her teenage son was ready to be a father was sentenced to a year in jail last week for illegally signing a parent consent form for his 16-year-old pregnant girlfriend so she could get an abortion...

Though she was not present at the clinic for the abortion procedure, the consent note with Cook's signature was used as evidence in the trial.

"Ms. Cook got herself in trouble when she held herself out to be the victim's mother," James said, "and when she executed a document that defined her as such."

"She actually got on the phone and found a clinic that would proceed without her being there," James said. ...

S. Fenn Little Jr., the attorney representing the teenage girl and her family, condemned Cook's behavior and also raised questions about the role of the Northside Women's Clinic, where the teenager had the abortion in May 2007, in the illegal abortion.

"It was very clear from the testimony at the trial that the girl was coerced and very much strong-armed into getting this abortion that she opposed, that her parents opposed and that at one point, the boy opposed," Little told ABC News. Cook's motivation, he said, was a fear that having a child might jeopardize her son's college plans.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution here::
Cook "began to pressure until the young lady relented and agreed to have an abortion," DeKalb County solicitor general Robert James said Wednesday.

Displeased that the baby would ruin her son's chances of going to college, Cook "searched for a clinic that did not require a parent to be present, forged the letter of parental acknowledgement and paid for the abortion" on May 12, 2007, James said.

Last week, a judge sentenced Cook, now 44, to a year in jail —- the maximum for a misdemeanor —- for interfering with custody and violating a parental notification law.

"This conduct is reprehensible," James said. "There's not a parent anywhere who'd be OK with what she did."

James said his office is now investigating whether the facility —- Northside Women's Clinic in Chamblee —- violated state law.

h/t Innocent as Doves

NY Times and Newsweek Fall for Soul Force PR

Newsweek and the New York Times didn't check the facts with Rick Warren's church before producing articles based on the Press Release from the gay advocacy group Soul Force that begins:
Gay Dads to Celebrate Father's Day at Saddleback Church

For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771

(Lake Forest, CA) This Father's Day, June 15, a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and straight-ally families will spend their holiday in a way that is simultaneously extraordinary and profoundly commonplace: they will attend services at Saddleback Church, the mega-church founded by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.

The following day, the families will join leaders from Saddleback Church for a private meal and conversation. Warren and his wife Kay are expected to attend.

Rick Warren has submitted a comment to GetReligon which denies the reports in Newsweek and the New York Times that members of Soul Force, the gay advocacy group, have been invited to Saddleback for Father's Day this weekend. (see comment 14 here)
14. Rick Warren says:
June 12, 2008, at 2:11 am

Mark, you were correct in assuming Newsweek quoted a Soul Force press release headline that was 100% false. We did not invite this group and I will not be meeting with them. They invited themselves to draw attention to their cross country publicity stunt.

My staff has already told them that neither my wife nor I will meet with them for any discussion or debate. This weekend, both Kay and I are receiving awards from two different universities so we’ll be out of town!

Also, it’s Father’s Day and I’m spending the holiday with my children and grandchildren, as are all my staff.
Rick Warren
Saddleback Church

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Bus to Cleveland, A Parable

A very interesting parable emerged among the comments over at Stand Firm yesterday. Paul B started it:
Okay, you get on a bus. You’ve bought a ticket to go to Cleveland.

In the middle of the trip, you change drivers. The new driver wants to go to New York City instead. He/She takes a vote, and a vocal minority (the only people he/she hears) vote to go to New York City. A minor riot ensues, the police are called, and the people complaining that they bought a ticket for Cleveland are threatened with jail if they don’t shut up and be quiet on the way to New York City.

Are the people complaining they didn’t want to go to NYC in the wrong?

SpongJohn SquarePantheist played along andtook the progressives position:
Only if when deciding to change buses they expect to take their luggage with them or a refund on the ticket.

And Marty the Baptist joined in:
Only an idiot would board a bus for Cleveland… NYC is where the action is. Trust us.

One Day Closer was playing it straight, almost like she was doing a Gracey Allen imitation. But she summed up the unfairness quite well:
SpongJohn SquarePantheist,
If your post was sarcasim my apologies, however, the people that paid for the ticket to Cleveland bought it fully expecting to get what they paid for. A destination to Cleveland!!! The luggage and what is in it was bought and paid for with their hard earned money by them not the bus driver nor the changers of the destination of the bus.

Marty replied:
ODC, the “holy spirit” is doing a new thing—you’re gonna love NYC!!! Trust us… only the truly backwards go to cleveland…

And no—you cannot leave the bus. Or, if you must, you can jump off while we’re moving. But your luggage stays with us. We’ll sell it at a flea-market in NYC… but only to people who solemnly swear that they have never been to, nor will ever go to, Cleveland.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Time for a New Paradigm?

I've been looking at the news stories out today about the rate of genital herpes, Herpes Simplex 2, in the population of New York City, here and here and here. The stories say that the New York City health officials are urging condom use and getting testing for the the virus.

Genital herpes is not curable and can cause painful sores. While the overall infection rate in New York City is 26%, using this figure masks significant differences in population subgroups.

The biggest difference is racial with 49% of blacks have this and 14% of whites. The second biggest difference is gender -- 36% of women have this and 19% of men. However, among men, 32% of men who have sex with men have this and 18% of men who don't have sex with men.

A person with this virus is twice as likely to contract HIV when exposed to it.

The study was performed by the New York Public Health Department and published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The national rate, which has declined in recent years, is 19%.

eflux media reports:
The health department urges the population to consistently use condoms and says that STD clinics offer free, confidential herpes testing.

In an attempt to prevent sexually transmitted diseases from spreading, The Health Department has distributed more than 48 million NYC condoms since 2007 and continues to give more than 3 million free condoms a month at various locations, such as health clinics or bars.

Maybe instead of urging condom use and testing, the New York City health officials should open their minds to a new paragigm. Maybe they should try urging sexual chastity -- abstinence outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

H/T Mike Bertaut at Stand Firm

Friday, June 6, 2008

Baby Blue Compliments +John Howe

Baby Blue made a very interesting comment over at Stand Firm today. She says that the laity have the real power, the power of the purse, and so the laity can change the situation if they understand the structures of power and the theological issues:
The laity hold the purse. I remember my current bishop telling me that this is a truth most bishops don’t want us to know. But even now, in the Episcopal Church, the laity hold the purse. A laity that is equipped and knowledgeable about theological issues and ecclesiastical structures can be a mighty sword for Jesus. But pulling the wool over our eyes is just a tactic of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Stay alert, don’t become complacent or ambivalent, pray without ceasing, and hold your bishops and clergy accountable.

Ironically, it was John’s devotion to equipping the laity for ministry that laid the foundation at Truro for our parish votes. We read the scriptures in small group Bible studies and attended his indepth courses on books and themes of the Bible. We collected his tape series and teachings and even now, after twenty years, his work remains in the foundation of our parish life and witness. We have not forgotten.

A biblically equipped and structurally knowledgeable laity is the best defense against heretical power, like a crew ready for battle. We are not fooled. The bishop no longer pleads, but leads.

As we are all ready in the battle, it would be good to have a Captain who would resist hunkering down below decks, but instead return to the bridge and command the fleet to fight for our own Aslan.

The Uses and Abuses of the Religious

There is a great column in the the Wall Street Journal today, Too Much Faith by Alan Jacobs on how naive journalists are in trusting the claims of religious leaders that the actions they are taking are religiously motivated:
Card-carrying members of the intelligentsia like Mr. Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris would surely be doubtful, even incredulous, if a politician who had illegally seized power claimed that his motives for doing so were purely patriotic; or if a CEO of a drug company explained a sudden drop in prices by professing her undying compassion for those unable to afford her company's products. Discerning a difference between people's professed aims and their real aims is just what intellectuals do.

Yet when someone does something nasty and claims to have done it in the name of religion, our leading atheists suddenly become paragons of credulity: If Osama bin Laden claims to be carrying out his program of terrorism in the name of Allah and for the cause of Islam, then what grounds have we to doubt him? It's not like anyone would lie about something like that as a strategy for justifying the unjustifiable, is it?

I have been thinking about some recent criticism I saw of some of my favorite conservative Anglican blogs. And I am thinking that an appropriate response to the criticism is that they are serving the purpose of discerning the difference between Anglican leaders professed aims and their real aims.

H/T to TitusOneNine

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How to Protect Your Church From Our Mistakes

Greg Griffith has a good thought experiment for conservatvie Anglicans:
Let’s say you were a consultant, hired by a mainline denomination, and you were asked to create a bullet point list outlining your strategy to keep what has happened in the Episcopal Church from happening in your client’s church. Keep the number bullets to 10 or fewer, and keep each bullet to a sentence or two.
Here are the series of shots I recommend to inoculate other church bodies from the false theology virus that took over the Episcopal Church:

1) Teach John 8:1-11 and emphasize that its ending "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." means that Jesus doesn't condemn her to death, not that he finds no sin in her. Rather he commands her to leave her life of sin.

2) Teach Acts 15, and emphasize that it clearly distinguishes between the laws of the Old Testament that do not carry forward and those that do, and includes sexual immorality in those laws of the Old Testament that carry forward.

3) Teach Article VII of the 39 Articles, because it explains that the Gospel does not free us from the commands of the Old Testament called moral.

4) Teach Article XV because it explains that Christ only is free of sin.

5) Teach the biblical understanding of male and female using Galatians 3:28 because as Peter Ould explains, this is how he came to understand his own sexual identity in Christ.

6) Teach Romans

7) Teach 1st and 2nd Corinthians

8) Teach Jude

9) Balance, always balance, these teaching with teachings of compassionate love

10) Only allow people who clearly understand 1) thru 9) to participate in church leadership positions.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Episcopal Church No Longer Recognizes the Universality of Anglican Holy Orders

This letter from Bishop Adams explaining the Ecclesiology of the TEC depositions is so sad. As Craig Goodrich wrote in a comment at Stand Firm, "+Adams understands—and emphasizes—that individual discernment and calling from the Holy Spirit may lead an Anglican clergyman to become a Baptist, a Roman, or anything in between, and—rightly—sees the “abandonment” Canon as a charitable concession to such situations. (This, rather than moral laxity, is really what constitutes Anglican comprehensiveness—or wolliness, if you prefer.)"

A canon that was created as a charitable concession has been twisted to be used for ... revenge. And the result is that The Episcopal Church is making the public statement that it no longer recognizes the universality of Anglican Holy Orders.
Why some may say that the Episcopal Church is no longer a member of the Anglican Communion.

A very interesting and disturbing phenomenon has occurred due to a reinterpretation of the Canons of the Episcopal Church. The decision was made to use a Canon formed to ease the transition for a priest to leave the Anglican Church (of which The Episcopal Church is a part) and go to another Apostolic faith community without trail or expenses, non-necessary paperwork and meetings, which a regular renunciation would have required. A good Canon constructed to work as Christians together in one faith: when spiritual disciplines change and new callings and discernment lead us apart.

But now that same Canon has been reinterpreted to mean that a bishop may depose a priest when they disagree or when that clergyperson sees that they can no longer remain in the Episcopal Church, but she/he may be called to another Anglican entity (Province, Church, Ministry) which shares, supposedly, the same faith and Holy Orders. It has been used nearly 300 times in the past six years. The words have been reinterpreted to speak to a Bishop and his/her clergy instead of a Holy Order within the whole of the Anglican Communion. The interpretation now leans to saying that people are ordained to this Church (TEC) and not to the worldwide Communion. This has been extended to bishops for the first time and now all pretence of investigation, trail, evidence and Anglican identity can be ignored to solve problems that should be dealt with pastorally.

In fact, some few bishops have said they will never depose a clergyperson under these circumstances and have actually sat down with clergy and churches (which they refuse to litigate against) and have worked out pastoral solutions to very difficult and challenging issues. No one has been deposed. Fiscal responsibilities have been satisfied, and even though all arrangements do not satisfy everyone, the Church does not sue its own and cast aside faithful, loving clergy who just can not belong to a Church which has so changed from when they took their vows, that some no longer recognize the Church where many first came to Christ. I actually have a dear friend and priest who was deposed from his office. How many times did he meet with his Bishop? How many people advised him of the gravity of the situation? How many questions were asked of him as to why he was doing what he was doing and believed as he did? Absolutely none. He received a letter one day saying he could no longer be a clergyman in the Episcopal Church. No reason asked. No reason given.

When I was ordained a priest 28 years ago I could go to any Anglican Church in the world and as a recognized Anglican in Holy Orders of the Anglican Communion, I could be invited to celebrate, preach or otherwise minister with summary permission from ecclesiastical authorities. Today, I would stand in judgment of my beliefs and practices in many of the world’s Anglican Provinces. Why? Because the Episcopal Church no longer validates Anglican Orders but only those conferred by bishops within The Episcopal Church (also named TEC). In years past, if I was given a call to another Province, I could go and serve, never being deposed whether I came back or not. What has changed? The Episcopal Church’s understanding seems to be that their orders only extend within the ecclesiastical package of what was known as ECUSA, PECUSA and ultimately the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and applies to TEC only. The Episcopal Church has declared that it is indeed a church apart from the Anglican Communion.

And this has not occurred because of sexuality, women’s ordination, differences in doctrine, nor polity. It has happened because The Episcopal Church no longer recognizes the universality of Anglican Holy Orders and truly is no longer a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church most of us were ordained into. How far will the separation go? I fear it will eventually be complete and Episcopalians can throw away all the books which claim it is an Anglican Church because it will have divorced itself from its past and become something apart. Maybe that is what the majority want. Then those who have trouble with the historic Creeds of the Church can cut those out of the liturgies and declare a universal salvation at no cost or sacrifice. And it will be worth what people are willing to give for it. As little as possible.

The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams
Bishop of Western Kansas

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Obama's Faith: Unitarian, but not exactly Universalist

Barack Obama has been telling the national mainstream media that he has a "conventional Christian faith" and the national mainstream media do not question it. Is this because neither Obama or the national mainstream know what a "conventional Christian faith" is?

Reading "Obama’s latest pastor problems" by Mollie Z at Get Religion and following the links she provides, I found a link to an interview with Obama about his faith from long before he was running for President. The article was linked to "Obama's Latest Pastor Disaster" by Jacques Berlinerblau in the Washington Post.

In "Obama: I have a deep faith" from the Chicago Sun Times from April 5, 2004, Cathleen Falsani interviewed Obama about his actual beliefs about the unique Lordship of Jesus Christ and the existence of Hell. From the quotes Falsani provides, Obama's faith is not "conventional Christian" but rather ... Unitarian, while not exactly Universalist.

We can get the Universalist part from here:
"So, I have a deep faith," Obama continues. "I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.

"That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived."

It's perhaps an unlikely theological position for someone who places his faith squarely at the feet of Jesus to take, saying essentially that all people of faith -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone -- know the same God.

That depends, Obama says, on how a particular verse from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me," is heard.

Obama's theological point of view was shaped by his uniquely multicultural upbringing...

And here right towards the end of the story, I find the not exactly Universalist part:
"The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they're going to hell."

Obama doesn't believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell.

But he's not sure if he'll be going to heaven, either...