Comments: Monday's news

I am always mystified by reports about GenY, particularly as I am a member of it (born 1979) and grew up in the church. Sometimes I suspect that the researchers often end up finding a reflection of their own prejudices - in any event, not having read the report I think this is probably an unfair thing to say - or simply driving the problem to yet another prodigious level of abstraction.

The question I have recently ended up asking my contemporaries about the church's efforts to meet them runs like this: do you sense that in the local parish-based youth outreach you're being called to a saving faith in Christ expressed in a particular worship/service context, or that you're being co-opted into becoming an attendee of a particular church? This is not a frivolous distinction. Having watched various churches attempt to stage parish-based 'outreach to youth' events, what I frequently see is a lack of engagement with the things that attract people in the 15-25 age bracket. These things are genuine personal interest, trust, open hospitality and welcome, healthy tradition and good teaching. What I see in the parish-based outreach activities is a parental concern with (personal and public) neatness, wanting to find the *right* sort of person, and frankly, people who are intimidated by the whole notion of outreach (particularly to those younger than themselves) altogether. It is, in short, an invitation to participate in the prejudices and insecurities of those who undertake to run the events, or who have the long-term responsibility for welcoming and integrating any newcomers into the parish life.

In the current edition of my local diocesan paper there is an article outlining some research into the reasons for the high attrition rate among parish-based youth ministry workers. Interestingly, or perhaps, obviously, the single greatest pressure identified in this work is resistance to or lack of support for youth ministry, expressed through classic 'gate keeping' politics - almost anyone who's had a long-term parish involvement will know the obstructive and destructive patterns of behaviour that this entails. The energy that this takes up leaves little for the actual work of youth ministry, and eventually the person leaves not just the parish, but the church altogether.

Posted by k1eranc at Monday, 8 May 2006 at 10:15am BST

An interesting piece from Jonathan Petre at the Telegraph.
I can only assume that he is referring to the four man panel put in place following the Primates meeting and last ACC, some time ago now.
It seems news of its existence was unknown to him until very recently.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 8 May 2006 at 1:39pm BST

Oh surely not Archbishop Malango. He has been invoved with AMiA and has 'received' David Moyer. He - the Archbishop - has meddled in the affairs of TEC, meeting on several occasions with those who are plotting to replace TEC as the Anglican 'brand' in America. Can't ++Rowan find a 'wise man' who is not compromised in this way? And how about a wise woman or so? Oh - I forget - you-all don't yet have women bishops. We have several - perhaps we could loan you one or two.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Monday, 8 May 2006 at 2:56pm BST

MALANGO a "wise man"??? Ah, what irony...

This is the same primate who oppresses the people of Lake Malawi diocese (who have hauled him, and his puppet appointee as its bishop, into court) and who backs the thug who is bishop of Harare (who never saw a dictator he didn't want to serve) and stifles the efforts of Harare's people to rid themselves of this lackey of Mugabe.

Unbelievable, and unbelievably saddening.

And by the way, where *is* ++Rowan's leadership on the issues of the Lake Malawi and Harare dioceses?! +New Hampshire raises the specter of schism, but +Harare the Communion can just overlook?

Posted by Nadine Kwong at Monday, 8 May 2006 at 4:56pm BST

k1eranc wrote: “healthy tradition” “a parental concern with (personal and public) neatness, wanting to find the *right* sort of person” “classic 'gate keeping' politics – almost anyone who's had a long-term parish involvement will know the obstructive and destructive patterns of behaviour”

Perhaps we should all be rather grateful to God for each and every person, of any age, who is not lured into destructive patterns of co-dependency and the dysfunctional structures, “prejudices and insecurities” of un-healthy congregations.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 8 May 2006 at 7:39pm BST

Rowan is right to cover the "extremes" and Cynthia's note about women is timely. Personally, I am relieved to see that he has invited someone who would be seen to be "liberal". A week or so ago I was worried that he was in the pockets of one camp only. At least this way there is at least the appearance of trying to seek input from both "sides".

Although the word "side" is something that I feel is imposed. Personally, I would like to see both "sides" continue but in a civilized manner where one "side" cautions of the difficulties of GLBT experiences (e.g. who is the public versus private face in the relationship), and the other "side" witnesses that we should never take God's creation (including sexuality) for granted and love our children as the potter made them.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 8 May 2006 at 10:49pm BST

++Malago seems a strange choice given his current controversial decisions and weakened standing in many people's eyes. But I don't think that the "wise men" are meeded so much to 'keep the communion together' as to sound out the provinces to find possible compromises.

However in the medium term I do think that such approaches to 'keeping the communion together' are misconceived. The idea of extreme provinces like ECUSA restraining themselves temporarily or exercising great caution in their movement away from the rest of us, is far from sufficient to 'keep the communion together'. What we need to see are some centrifugal forces beginning to come into play. As long as such provinces are driven by human-centered rather that God-centered biblical values the fundamental forces will continue to be centripetal...

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 9 May 2006 at 5:09pm BST

"human-centered rather that God-centered biblical values." Dave

My Dear Brother Dave,

I'm happy that God created you and me and that we are EACH given the opportunity to discern Gods "will" individually and personally through the Scriptures, "wise men" and/or trusted spiritual leaders and other emotionally healthy advisors and teachers.

I TRUST the Holy Spirit will continue to deliver and reveal more of Gods TRUTH and WILL to we insistant and demanding human seekers of "light" on a ongoing basis...that is, if we remain/become willing to listen and hear something other than the sound of our own noisy voice.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Tuesday, 9 May 2006 at 6:54pm BST

I think you've got your "centrifugal" (flying apart) and "centripetal" (coming together) forces *backwards*, Dave.

[And/or, that better explains to me your POV? ;-/]

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Tuesday, 9 May 2006 at 8:37pm BST

Dave

I like your idea of centrifugal forces coming into play. There are some philosophical models (e.g. steady state theories, punctuated equilibrium, dialectical conflict) that postulate that at times of change there is a lot of "turbulence" as competing forces or ideas are bounced off each other. Somehow during the turbulence, a model or path becomes clear that brings forward the best elements of the earlier paradigms/system into a higher evolved model. A good (non-emotional) example was the debate over light: is it a wave or a particle? The debate was very heated but rapidly resolved when they finally worked out that light is particles of photons that move in a wave pattern.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 9 May 2006 at 10:06pm BST

"...at times of change there is a lot of "turbulence" as competing forces or ideas are bounced off each other..."

There is also a lot of turbulence when the Holy Spirit takes hold. Perhaps our problem as a church at the moment is not being able to determine, because of our own preconceived notions, whether the turbulence is Spirit caused, or human generated.

Rae

Posted by R Fletcher at Wednesday, 10 May 2006 at 6:14pm BST

Dear JCF, you're right... I got my centrifugal and centripetal forces the wrong way round - Thanks! (and I'm *supposed* to be a scientist!)

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 10 May 2006 at 6:31pm BST

Dear Cheryl, The idea is from an old book I read on religious movements - that all have some drivers which are 'centrifugal' and some that are 'centripetal'. After JCF's correction I should say that the 'centrifugal' drivers are the ones that tend to increase the distance between that particular religious movement and standard Christianity, and the centripetal one's tend to decrease the distance, over time.

In the case I was reading about the author postulated that a particular movement (one started fairly recently with their own 'prophet') would come closer to standard Christianity with time, despite their then superior attitude, because their basic authority sources were the same (bible was above prophet). As I was reading with the benefit of about 50 years hindsight, and know the present situation, I could see that the author's hypothesis has turned out to be correct.

In the case of the rift over liberal vs biblical/traditional Christianity I think that the opposite is true at the moment. The authority sources are different.

Although we started out near each other, liberals will steadily move away from evangelicals/traditionalists as each controversial issue is addressed. Hence "Keeping the Comunion Together" will become increasingly stressful.

I can't see ECUSA doing more than temporarily restraining themselves in their movement towards their ideals - maybe staying within Communion defined boundaries while working hard to widen those boundaries. On the other hand evangelicals/traditionalists already feel that Windsor was a compromise to far - focussing more on unity than biblical holiness (as we would see it).

So now I suspect that the dance will be around how "Anglican" is defined, who gets to decide, and, therefore, who is the 'leaver' !

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 10 May 2006 at 6:54pm BST

Dear Leonardo, essentially we disagree on whether a Holy God can reveal a 'new' morality that is not consistent with His previous revelations.

Given those inconsistencies, and the fact that the 'new revelations' mirror current changes in the attitudes of some secular societies, I have to question whether you have actually discerned the voice of God, or just the voice of the world.

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 10 May 2006 at 7:04pm BST

For those of us divided by a common language...
D'you not think they might mean "wise guys"?

Posted by Oriscus at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 6:48am BST

Dave

Thank you for throwing another ball, I was trying to work out how to weave this into the dialogue.

Much of the debate has been around staying true the principles of the Nicene Creed, or the Articles of Reformation. These are a mere few hundred/couple of thousand years old.

God's seeking out and and finding His own precedes the Torah (e.g. Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and even Moses himself who is at the junction point where the Torah came into written existence).

Thus authors who look at the evolution of theology within the post-Jesus time continuum have inadvertently blinded themselves to the bigger picture.

Wisdom transcends transcends humanity and is inextricably bound into God's consciousness. It's worth doing a bible search, some favourite passages include Proverbs 8 & 9, especially 8:22-31, plus Jesus' words at Luke 7:35.

In the meantime, while we are squabbling over legalistic technicalities on a minor issue, I was delighted to see the WCC, Catholics and others co-operating for this conference this weekend to look at the bigger picture: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060510convert.shtml

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 9:55am BST

"I have to question whether you have actually discerned the voice of God, or just the voice of the world." Dave

My Dear Brother Dave,

It's not up to you to question (or determine) the quality of my discernment process with God.

My relationship with God is my own spiritual quest. My loving God offers me his "will" via the Holy Spirit, inspiration from the Scriptures (as they are constantly revealing and less concealing), injustice/justice in everyday life around me and from the counsel of other trusted human beings and "Wise Men." I receive Gods "will" if I'm NOT demanding or insistant or arrogant or impatient about getting *it* "my way" or if I try finding quick fixes to keep down the terror and underlying fear of being wrong. If I LISTEN (as you and people like you have been called upon to do within OUR Church/with LGBT Christians).

I receive Gods "will" when I'm quiet, open minded (as only the desperate can be), prayerful and NOT rigid...I receive Gods "will" if I'm willing to accept NEW or BETTER understandings of *it* and clearer answers without being too afraid to adjust to the change that may be required of me spiritually and emotionally when I get ANSWERS.

I always must be careful that I'm not "making Gods will up" or twisting TRUTH as I go/grow along the way. It's my specific responsiblity to be the person with Integrity and contious personal accountability to God and Society around me...that, Dave, is what God wants from me.

It's been a huge challenge my entire life to discern Gods will for me. There is nothing NEW going on with me and I have no other "agenda"...none.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 2:50pm BST

Dave writes:
"Given those inconsistencies, and the fact that the 'new revelations' mirror current changes in the attitudes of some secular societies, I have to question whether you have actually discerned the voice of God, or just the voice of the world."

Equally, Dave, since a religious person might consider that the world and society are part of God's creation, such a person might ask if YOU are wilfully ignoring the voice of God.

Posted by IT at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 4:13pm BST

Dear Cheryl C, thanks for the link to WCC news. While I regard this work of dialogue to be an essential part of the larger work of justice and service in the world; and while I also even dare to regard the dialogue as part of the large unfinished work of true witness; I suspect that many evangelical or traditionalistic camps will continue to view dialogue as either suspect or irrelevant to their task of preaching to convert, defined in narrow conformities. Alas, the only hope I can see is to continue to agree to disagree, and keep on with best practice efforts of dialogue, of inquiry - witness, service, justice.

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 4:28pm BST

"In the case of the rift over liberal vs biblical/traditional Christianity I think that the opposite is true at the moment. The authority sources are different."

Dave, I find this dichotomy interesting. For you, there are liberal values and biblical ones. Funny. I find radical ideas very biblical. Put yourself back in Jesus's time, living as a devout Jew, trying to obey all the mitzvoth. With your "living by the rules" attitude and your attachment to what is biblical and traditional, what would you have done if you had heard Him preach, had seen Him break the Sabbath, and all the other "liberal, unbiblical" things He did? He was opposed by the traditional biblical people of His day.

I look at the actions of the conservatives and see unbiblical behaviour. Supporting laws that oppress people, for instance, is not biblical. As to traditional Christianity, well, we have traditionally supported war, propped up heads of state, sold out the poor in the interest of the wealthy, and just generally sucked up to the ruling powers of the day. In this the Church has let the world dictate her morals for the last 1700 years. It may be traditional Christianity, but it ain't biblical.

If you want to defend biblical Christianity, why aren't you opposing usury? It is clearly sinful, despite the fact that the Church married the spirit of the age 500 years ago and declared it to be no sin, despite the Bible's clear condemnation of it. I would submit it has done more damage to our society than homosexuality, so why tolerate one sin while condemning the other as unbiblical? Seems the definition of biblical Christianity is a bit fluid.

My point is that people on both sides claim to be standing up for the Gospel, accusing the other side of selling out to the world while ignoring the ways in which they do the same. I personally feel the right is far more guilty of this than the left, but I am suspicious enough of partisanship in the Church that I am not willing to absolve the left of it either.

And Leonardo, I agree. We are so busy telling each other what God wants, we aren't listening to Him. That each side uses Scripture to support their position says a lot, I think. Who was it said that you know you've created God in your own image when He hates what you hate.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 5:58pm BST

There's some lovely postings here.

One of the reasons I oppose "absolutism" is that it denies the possibility of errors. The debate above still has some parties presuming that the other side will "disappear".

That is not my vision. I would rather see diverse bodies of Christ, co-habitating with other religions in a hospitable manner, learning from observing the best in each other, whilst providing the scrutiny to protect each other from our worst manifestations. That is why I have no problem with the Catholics insisting on male celibate priests; just so long as they don't try and impose it on every other church and religion...

God demonstrates this understanding of the need to "watch each other's backs" in Isaiah 49. There are moments where every soul is vulnerable to the deceiver's machinations (it occurred to God and Moses while they were preparing the first stone tablets). So, unless there are "buddies" who can not be bound to stupid agreements, then we will continue to be dragged into destructive Babylonian blunders.

That is one reason King Xerxes decree that no woman can say "no" to her husband is so wrong. It makes it impossible for women to fulfill their buddy role as described in Isaiah 49. I would rather be in exile than forced to be a rubber stamp for genocide or repression because I have no right to say "no" to some stupid agreement made in a moment of vulnerability.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 11:00pm BST

Then I read on the Church newspaper today that the puritans are still not happy. Check this out:
http://www.churchnewspaper.com/news.php?read=on&number_key=5819&title=Californian%20crisis%20%20but%20not%20in%20San%20Francisco

Will their nitpicking never end?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 8:44am BST

"Will their nitpicking never end?"

You might contrast that with the various statements from Integrity, Oasis CA, etc., welcoming the election of Mark Andrus, and NOT whining that a glbt person was not elected, NOT threatening to pick up and leave.

Anyone who has followed this since gencon03 and has read the documents posted on the website of the Diocese of Washington [DC] must know by now that the goal of the leadership of AAC/Network/AMiA is not to reach a working agreement, not to work for comprehension, not to seek a middle ground, but to replace TEC as the Anglican Communion affiliated church in the US.

Why should they offer any conciliation at all? They are not interested in being part of TEC that accepts glbt people in all orders of ministry and fully in the lay life of the church.

C

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 3:40pm BST

Will their nitpicking never end? Cheryl Clough

The puritan voices are struggling to form words that make "acceptable" sense. Their feardriven trembling and shrill selective thinking progressed into yet MORE underminding, disrespect and NOW degenerates into stronger and more viscious attacks on specific fellow Episcopalians with whom they've assigned grave and sinfilled character fault(s).

These puritan "lynch mobs" mean to cause harm to other Christians who *believe* differently than they do. They are NOW extra frantic, completely self-obsessed, strident, out-of-control and intollerant of the majority moderate thinking/believing/center membership at TEC.

They will get more abusive to fellow Christians and LGBT people as more fear of being "wronged" sets in as the Columbus convention approaches. These religious extremists are desperate to be "righteous" at ANY cost!

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 4:37pm BST

Thanks for that link, CC. My guess is that the various realignment networks will go after anybody who manages to get elected bishop who is not already firmly and publicly pledged to their published and current campaign to dominate and control, or even better, replace, ECUSA province.

I am still wrapping my weasly little liberal Jesus Freak mind around the fact that the ECUSA conservative believers in particular, know the complete and absolute mind of God, period. Full stop. End. This seems especially true when it comes to anything involving sex and human nature. They are so amazingly closed and certain of their exclusively straight, married, Christian, procreating selves. Most of the time their model for human personhood is traditionally male, with a few equality-like flags taped up, here and there. Women exist on the right, pretty much just as they always have - as helpmates to religious men, as wives who alone bear the sacredly gifted genitals that makes sex blissful and endless, and as mothers who must singlehandedly keep the family relationships up and running while the men go off to lead things, or to rest from leading things.

If I met somebody like this in a bar in Virginia, going on and on and on about sex and sin; I eventually would probably wonder about whether he was maybe a troubled closet case, secretly very attracted to all - or at least some - of the things which are so vile and yet so awfully important to his sex as sin systems. But you know, discernment is not an infallible vibe telepathy, any more than it is an infallible reading of scripture.

My Buddhist buds are highly amused by these rightwing commentaries. They suggest to me that all such believers are doing is opening up possibilities of inevitable long-term cause and effect. Among these is the Buddhist possibility that one of the most committed rightwing believes now leading the realignment charge against the churches, will die and then wake up in another life to find himself or herself - a child in a liberal progressive family, a gay man, a lesbian, or a tranny. Cause and effect can even feedback upon us in a single lifetime. If that Buddhist image rings true, I would predict that an awful lot of us are going to be walking a few lifetime miles in just the other person's shoes. By the way, I can recommend Huston Smith's book to any interested readers. Buddhism: A concise introduction, Harper Collins, or Harper San Francisco, 2005. I've been struck by the similarity and basic agreement between the doctrine of original sin in Christian traditions, and the Buddha's noticing of dukkha, life off center. I'm just a beginner in comparing world religions. Hopefully those who already read four modern and six ancient languages will pitch in as our dialogues proceed. One wonders whether any of the active rightwing ECUSA leaders even reads Koine Greek or OT Hebrew? What will the Christian Rights do, if or when the Jewish Rights decide that God doesn't really have much against LGBTQ Folks, after all? Then even Leviticus will have been reinterpreted by the Jewish faith folks for whom it is still core covenant and scripture.

Lord have mercy. There seems some small chances that some of the Christian Rights will get as busy chasing each other, and chasing their own tails, as they have been busy going after the queer folks, and coattailing that with going after the liberals. Perhaps we shall see if their internal glue in community is mainly derived from having a common enemy who must be scapegoated in order to cast a bright light on their own holiness? Even if they succeed in realigment, will it turn out to have been actually a great tempest in a tea pot? Now just where did I leave my discernment mojo, lying around?

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 5:56pm BST

Dear Leonardo and IT, you don't seem to take into account that, though God 'made' the world and people, we are sinful and the world is in rebellion against Him - and under His judgement..

Otherwise there would be no need for salvation, and Christ died for nothing !

Posted by Dave at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 6:39pm BST

Dear Ford, there are well-established exegetical and hermenuetical methods for differentiating in the Old and New Testaments between God-given morality and religious/cultural rules (that may no longer apply). These were debated on TA a few months ago - if you look back you will find explanations as to why a Christian, unlike an OT Jew, can eat prawns (for instance) without offending against his religion.

Posted by Dave at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 6:41pm BST

drdanfee

If I could I would hug you! I have been trying to work out how to weave this one into the dialogue for months, and you threw the ball.

The irony is the Buddhists (and through the Dalai Lama's comment that Hindu's are Buddhists' twins) have caught on before many of the Christians.

God's himself provided the proof that His promise of an everlasting covenant to humanity covers the Buddhists and Hindus late last year. In this article http://www.cathnews.com/news/511/142.php the Dalai Lama urges Christians to not convert because "The Dalai Lama has said that Western Christians and Muslims should embrace the teachings of compassion and peace that can be found in their own religious traditions, rather than convert to Buddhism."

In the same article, the Dalai Lama also asked for prayers for the Chinese people. Proof that God listened was the huge Chinese benzene river pollution that occurred the next day. (Which I also see as God's way of demonstrating that His everlasting covenant does not just cover those that acknowledge him per se, but ALL humanity).

Even the Muslims are now getting in on the bandwagon. This came up overnight:
http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060511iran.shtml with content original letter here http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0510-21.htm

My prayers are now that the power and war mongering extremists (Christian or otherwise) don't panic and do something rash. The walls of their dykes have sprung so many leaks that I don't know if they have enough fingers to plug all the holes. Actually, a mis-step by the extremists might do the world a favour, it will expose them for the lovers of violence that they actually are and thus accelerate the end of their violence justifying totalitarianism.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 7:06pm BST

Hi CC, glad I could happen to help with something. I think we must either trust that God is working through all - just as the Buddhist apparently seeks to face all of life with clear eyes and unclouded mindfulness; or we shall collapse into despair. I see at least two forms of modern despair - nihilist ones which urge us to disappear into competition or owning things or just shutting down completely, and conservative conformed ones whose wishes for us are too well known in the realignment campaign and other forms.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 12 May 2006 at 10:47pm BST

drdanfee

I empathise with your comments, and this links into the usury concerns that I have been pleased to see posted on this and several other times in the last few weeks on TA.

In both of your two mentioned forms, there is one common driver, namely doing whatever is required to keep the people submissive so that the powers that be can play their games with no accountability. Considering some of the articles in the US mainstream press in recent weeks, I wonder if their defintion of a nation at "peace" is where enterprise can operate without accountability for the environmental, sociological or economic damage they cause.

Yet I also take huge comfort in books such as Habbakkuk, Micah and Zechariah e.g. "Hab 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD... " Thus all this is as promised and God's justice and compassion will eventually outshine even these times.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 13 May 2006 at 10:01am BST

Dave,
You dismiss any possibility that your God is speaking to you through the context of modern society, simply because people are sinful.

How can you be so sure that your exclusionary impulses are not what is in "rebellion against Him"?

This arrogance is remarkable.

Posted by IT at Sunday, 14 May 2006 at 1:02am BST

Dear IT, I can't be sure that my "impulses" are from God, in fact I'm sure that many aren't.. But neither can you!

That's why I rely primarily on the most reliable and authentic previous revelation - that found in the Bible - rather than on my own, or the "world's", current attitudes.

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 14 May 2006 at 8:51pm BST

There is apparently an element of Christianity that has developed an intellectual model that God's final intervention in history was the Lord Jesus, and that the only time God will intervene in history is for Jesus to return and destroy the world. The term I have heard bandied for this is called "propositional revelation".

The people who subscribe to this point of view therefore dismiss any new revelation or insight as being an act of sinful rebellion against Jesus and God (who they bundle into the one thing). There are huge inconsistencies in their model (especially for those of the Protestant Reformation origins), most especially their inconsistent application in interpreting the bible (the tolerance towards usury is a simple clear example).

Their model also does not allow that other religions (and when they aren't being publicly embarassed, denominations) having a legitimate portal to God through their varying interpretations of the bible or how they acknowledge Jesus. Thus these factions make out that people such as the Muslims can not know God because they do not worship Jesus and pay tithes to their church branch, for example ignoring that the Muslims acknowledge Jesus' authority but have an argument in semantics about the crucifixion and how the church has promoted Jesus (they are aware of the risk of idolatry of a human being the same error as the idolatry of an object or a power figure e.g. nation or state).

Their model also dismisses Spirit and angels. In some groups this has degenerated to the point that the acknowledgement of angels is automatically touted as angel worship (which is as absurd as saying that if you acknowledge George Bush is president of the US that means you worship George W. Bush).

The beauty of their model is that it is simple and has absolute lines not to be crossed. So if you are white, homophobic, misogynistic bully in the "in" crowd: the bible and its interpretation is an easy read. Plus you don't have to worry about the environment, because that is going to be replaced by the new earth when Jesus comes and burns the rest of us up, leaving them with their pristine heaven - free of the contaminating sinful unworthies.

The only fly in their ointment is if the Ultimate Creative God of the Book of Truth decides to intervene with signs big enough that everyone can see them and they can't hide the evidence. They can then try and hide the evidence (2004 & 2005), or if God keeps sending signs acknowledge that something is happening but say it is from the evil one and that God's anointed messenger(s) are Baal worshipers (which they did a few weeks ago). In worst case scenario, they could simply resort to being Erav Rav and dismissing each and every sign as a "coincidence", interfere with others' dialogue to keep everyone confused with red herrings, or where they think they can get away with it physically attacking their enemies. Of course, in modern times, what we could also do is make sure that our populations are confused, overwhelmed and lurching from war or economic crisis to another so that they can't see the underlying pattern of the common players instigating all these abuses and distortions.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 15 May 2006 at 9:20am BST

I was writing to a friend of mine today and discussing God's adoptive character e.g. Ezekiel 11:20 or Hosea 2:23. I was sharing some similar passages to her and commented: "I just love these (two other) passages' imagery because they show God’s adoptive character. I think one thing I hate about the extremists is they try to monopolize God. It is my belief that there isn’t one honest soul on this earth that doesn’t secretly want to be part of the “in crowd” of being wanted and coveted by God. It is my belief that many souls' jealousy of the Jews is a secret wish to want God to be as jealous for them as God is for the Jews. It is my belief that if God provides absolute transcending proof that He loves and wants all of humanity to be in a proper relationship with Him, that all decent people (irregardless of race, religion or nation) would jump at the chance to be one of his adopted sons or daughters. I also think that having that unifying unilateral offer from God is a pivotal strategy for overcoming the war, fear and power mongering corruptions we are battling today."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 15 May 2006 at 6:36pm BST

From Dave:
"Dear Ford, there are well-established exegetical and hermenuetical methods for differentiating in the Old and New Testaments between God-given morality and religious/cultural rules (that may no longer apply). These were debated on TA a few months ago - if you look back you will find explanations as to why a Christian, unlike an OT Jew, can eat prawns (for instance) without offending against his religion."

Indeed, Dave, but I didn't mention dietary laws. Usury has nnothing to do with ritual, and is decidedly a moral issue. The Church considered it a sin for 1500 years. Then, I would argue in order to please the relatively new and newly influential Middle Class, She declared it no sin. Why is it that 500 year old reversals of what Scripture clearly says are fine, while if we try to do it today, we are "conforming to the World"? And this isn't the only moral issue on which we have conformed. War is another area where, in order to make peace with the powers we are sucking up to, we have compromised the Faith. Why does this raise no ire among conservatives? Surely selling out to the world is wrong, no matter the issue?
Ford

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 15 May 2006 at 8:02pm BST

The fact is, it seems just fine to me to have both Cheryl and Dave as brother/sister followers of Jesus. (For example.) Well, except that Dave has points of view which seem to sort of softly or loudly demand that he interfere with Cheryl, instead of just seeking to understand her, and maybe sometimes agree to disagree.

Too bad. I really think all our heat and noise about getting sufficiently conformed is a waste of time and effort. God will sort us all out, is sorting us all out, and no sola scriptura will escape that sorting by virtue of its rigid conformities to some ancient near eastern manner or commitment (mistaken as God’s commandment). - Any more than having money, being famous, or not – will be a safe exit from coming face to face with Jesus as Risen Lord. To meet Jesus face to face is to simultaneously meet all the neighbors, face to face, for whom and to whom Jesus is risen. I am thus asked: To whom did I offer a cold cup of water?

Surely we pray that God will have mercy upon those of us who have confused legalisms, self-controls, and asceticisms with godliness, just as much as we pray that God will have mercy upon those of us who have confused riches, power, or sensual entitlements of many sorts with godliness.

I just don't know why a particular conservative faith strategy cannot generously co-exist with any and all other reasonable alternative ones. That is our actual global situation for the time being. It seems obvious if you pause to glance around the varieties of modern Christian theology. How odd that the narrowed thinking of this or that conservative system now loudly claims to be everything, simply everything, without exception. And is willing to take up arms against people to make its point.

Believe me, I take fewer risks as an alternative believer than most of us do every day, just getting into an auto or an airplane or taking a brief ride on the city bus lines. I can understand the conservative preference for playing as safely as it seems possible, thanks to sola scriptura models (if indeed that is a partial key to the range of conservative positions), without agreeing that playing it safe is the sole, exclusive definition of following Jesus in any global situation. I cannot agree that the world offers me a vision of some sin which I cannot also see inside my faith communities, committed often by the very people who so loudly say we must be conformed to their version of what a creed or a doctrine means. A sin against good conscience is no less for all that it might be strictly conformed to what some other believer, or priest, or bishop, or archbishop, or pope urges upon me.

The forms of life vary in church and in world, but the underlying rebellion against God – the effort to be God, especially by getting in some neighbor’s face against the core ethics of the so-called Golden Rule - typically serves as a dandy clue to how poorly some neighbor is about to be treated.

These are little different as occasions of hamartia, or of the Buddhist dukkha. Lord have mercy. The flip side? God is at work, doing good in the world, just as much as in the churches. Any common sense look around shows us that. Or does it?

Posted by drdanfee at Monday, 15 May 2006 at 8:20pm BST

Dear drdanfee, I can assure you that enough liberal folk also feel that they need to "softly or loudly demand that they interfere with" me!! It's what is called disagreement and debate - I welcome it even when I feel very offended by vitriolic 'liberal' assertions/accusations. I would prefer it if everyone was a nice biblical evangelical like me!!

Dear Ford, Usury was covered extensively too - take a look around February. There is one discussion here, but there was a fuller one: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/001568.html

Maybe Simon will provide a link.

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 16 May 2006 at 11:39pm BST

Most of my friends, lapsed Christians all, sincerely see the current debate in the Anglican Church, in so far as they pay attention to it at all, as a bunch of old bigots trying to make elaborate arguments to use religion to support their bigotry. They would look at the way in which the issue of usury is sidestepped as just another example of this kind of hypocrisy. I agree with them.

I am not seeking to make the faith over into something that fits my friends' morality, merely to find a way to express my faith in a way that they can hear. This kind of "debate" makes that extremely difficult. They see, have experienced first hand, this kind of thing, and it has left them broken and hating God. As one of them says "Chrsitianity is a despicable religion." They see it as full of bigots who do nothing only come up with complex arguments to justify their bigotry, and then come up with slippery arguments to justify their hypocrisy. I don't intend to water down the faith for their sensibilities, but I need to be able to counter their justified hatred of a Church that has, frankly, spiritually abused them.

You can justify changing 1500 years of Church teaching on usury while you cannot justify changing less certain teaching on homosexuality. If you cannot understand why the world that we are called to evangelize cannot see that as anything other than hypocrisy, I can do no more to explain it. We are not called to change to suit the world. We are called to be honest and true in our dealings. If we don't do that, our message won't be heard.
Ford

Posted by Ford ELms at Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 4:37pm BST

Dear Ford, the largest and *fastest growing* churches in the C of E are all evangelical or conservative evangelical.. they *are* reaching people today, despite remaining true to New Testament teachings (properly interpreted) on what Christians are supposed to believe, what our values are supposed to be, and how we are supposed to live.

Many changes have been made in what the church does and what is seen as Christian behaviour. The question should always be whether the change is consistent with Scriptural teachings propoerly interpreted in the suituations that we find ourselves in.

Regarding Usury, if you didn't find the previous discussions then here's a starting points: Jews were not banned from charging interest to everyone, only to brother jews. You might want to ask yourself why it was ok to charge interest to non-Jews ?... and what that might mean today ?

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 6:03pm BST
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