Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: February 2007 (Page 2 of 2)

Wicked within and wicked without…

wheat and taresOne of the reasons I love Church history and historical theology is because it helps put things in perspective. Recently I have been more and more interested in the responses of the Reformers and their immediate successors to the ecclesial upheaval they experienced. In reflecting on the ways they reacted to what was in many ways a time similar to our own, I find their thoughts reassuring. Additionally, the more I pray and reflect, the more I study, the more I see that I am not nor do I want to be a sectarian. Indeed, even as I am more and more categorized as a “conservative” in the current conflicts in the Episcopal Church and recognize the kinship I and other orthodox or traditional Episcopalians share with other more conservative Christian bodies, the more I understand there is a vast gulf between where I stand and where many of the more conservative among the general American milieu of evangelicalism stand. I have expressed this concern before over the seeming flippant attitude some evangelicals display in questioning whether “so-and-so is saved” or is really a “Christian,” even if they claim to be one. In fact, I believe I’ve caught more than a whiff of gnosticism and perfectionism repackaged. Most recently among such experiences, Anna and I were looking into the background and thought of a particular camp she was considering taking the youth group to.

Because the camp didn’t have a statement of faith, Anna called them to see if she could get a statement from them or have them direct her to another resource (articles, blog etc…). The man she talked to wasn’t very helpful but he did direct us to the site of a school at which one of the presenters works. The school had a statement of faith so we read it…and something caught my eye:

We believe that the true Church is composed of all such persons who through saving faith in Jesus Christ have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united in the body of Christ of which He is the head.

We believe that only those who are members of the true Church should be eligible for membership in the local congregations of the Church.

It was, of course, the second half of this statement that made me think. As Anna and I talked about the statement of faith–particularly this part–and discussed whether we thought the camp inspired confidence (we decided it did not and she would look for another camp for the yoots…), it occurred to me that this understanding of the Church is fundamentally at odds with Paul’s own, and indeed with the consistent testimony of scripture regarding the people of God. This sort of doctrine denies the need for there to be wheat and tares growing up together…as Richard Hooker put it:

The judgement[…] there are two kinds of wicked men, of whom in the fifth of the former to the Corinthians the blessed Apostle speaketh thus: “Do ye not judge them that are within? But God judgeth them them that are without.” There are wicked, therefore, whom the Church may judge, and there are wicked whom God only judgeth; wicked within and wicked without the walls of the Church.*

The Church is not, nor was it ever intended to be a comfort to the perfect, it was to comfort the afflicted, including the wicked–that’s all of us. And at the end of the day, we know that–despite our best efforts at discipline–the tares will grow up amongst the wheat. It seems to me that the role of the clergy is not so much as to pull up the tares (because we will inevitably pull out some of the wheat as well, and God desires none to perish…) but rather, to insure that the tares that inevitably show up don’t choke out the good, strong and vibrant growth of the wheat.

Homeless Paraplegic dropped in Skid Row (Los Angeles)

Hospitaller CrossAnother example of how the Christian element once evident in many hospitals is completely gone. Notice the name of the hospital in this article. This is a shame and a travesty. Rick Warren is right when he says that Christianity has the ability to change the world–especially American Christians. At one time, we believed that and sent missionaries and built hospitals and provided medicine all over the world, not because we believed we could create a utopia or bring about our own salvation, but because we are called to care for those who are less fortunate. We seem to have forgotten that.

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — A hospital van dropped off a paraplegic man on Skid Row, allegedly leaving him crawling in the street with nothing more than a soiled gown and a broken colostomy bag, police said.

Witnesses who said they saw the incident Thursday wrote down a phone number on the van and took down its license-plate number, which helped detectives connect the vehicle to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site.

Police said the incident was a case of “homeless dumping” and were questioning officials from the hospital.

“I can’t think of anything colder than that,” said Detective Russ Long. “There was no mission around, no services. It’s the worst area of Skid Row.”

{Read it all}

Proposed Marriage legislation in Washington state.

Titusonenine has just posted an article about an interesting bit of legislation proposed in Washington State. Rather than attempt to approve same-sex marriage in the state, supporters of same-sex marriage are proposing legislation which would outlaw marriages of people that are unwilling or unable to have children. They are basing this on the Washington Supreme court’s ruling that stated same sex marriage could not be legal because it did not provide the opportunity for procreation. This, and the subsequent discussion on T19 brought to mind a section of one of my papers:

The 1975 report if the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission On the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages found that “On marriage itself the Commission finds no fundamental difference of doctrine between the two Churches, as regards what marriage of its nature is or the ends which it is ordained to serve.”18[Emphasis mine]

Both the 1662 and 1979 prayer books affirm the begetting of children as one of God’s purposes for marriage. Our tradition is not insistent that every sexual act be procreative in the reproductive sense. Jeremy Taylor recognizes this when indicating that sexual expression is hallowed by association with “all or one of these ends.” An obsession in either positive or negative sense with any single end is harmful and distorts the marriage bond. A focus on a single end to the exclusion of all else warps the image of marriage just as the flat rejection of one of these ends does. The Church cannot allow assumptions which do either of these to go unchallenged; to do nothing invites circumscription of the marriage covenant. As Hauerwas relates:

One of those purposes of marriage the church has named is the having of children. That marriage has a procreative end does not entail that every marriage must in fact produce biological heirs, but it does mean that marriage as an institution—that is, an ongoing practice of a community across time—of the church is procreative. Accordingly it would be appropriate as part of the examination of couples desiring to have the church witness their marriages to have their intentioned to have children declared. I would think it quite possible to deny marriage to people who refuse to have their marriages open to children.19

Such a sentiment seems radical in our context and such situations are doubtless best handled in a pastoral manner and on case by case bases by priest and couple. Hauerwas’ observation does, however, cut to the heart of contemporary conflicts regarding the nature of marriage. It seems clear from the elucidation within the prayer book tradition as sharpened by Taylor’s insistence that a couple be willing to concede an openness to any of the particular purposes for which marriage was ordained. Particular sources of fear, insecurity, disdain or hindrance in relation to one of these ends is something that should be explored pastorally over the course of several meetings and should be prayerfully and thoughtfully considered by the couple and priest.

{read the whole essay}

{go to Titusonenine}

Some thoughts on Thomas Cranmer by Ashley Null

…Consequently, much of the subsequent history of Anglican theology can be understood as a struggle to reach agreement on the proper understanding of repentance.

No doubt Cranmer would be disappointed by the disputes of his theological descendants, but he would have understood. As an academic, he knew that different presuppositions often predetermined conflicting conclusions, despite rigorous logic being employed by both sides. As a pastor, he realized that human frailty fought against admitting error, the necessary prelude to anyone switching perspectives. As a sinner, he too struggled with the ever-present human tendency to put his own interests ahead of God’s glory and the advancement of the gospel. His final answer was to put his hand in the fire and commit his life and legacy to God’s love…(p. 253)

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