Thinking Anglicans

Bishop Chane on the ACC and Archbishop Akinola

Last week’s report in the Church Times contained quotes from Bishop John Chane, of Washington DC. These came from his column in the September issue of Washington Window, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of Washington. The full article by Bishop Chane is now on the web as a PDF file here.
Update The article is now also online as a web page here

The column is reproduced in full below the fold.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

By now you should be aware of the results of the Anglican Consultative Council Meeting held earlier this summer in Nottingham, England. At the request of the Primates, both delegations from Canada and the United States attended as observers rather than as voting participants. The Episcopal Church did so—on the authorization of its Executive Council—in order to keep peace in the Anglican family.

During the meeting, representatives of our church presented To Set Our Hope on Christ, a paper laying out the Scriptural rationale for our decision to consecrate a gay man to the episcopate and to authorize a “local option” for blessing same-sex relationships. The document, to my way of thinking, is honest and persuasive. In addition to explaining why our General Convention voted as it did, it also provides the Anglican Communion with an insight into our history as a Church created out of the newly formed United States following the American Revolution. Our style of governance—in which laity, clergy and bishops share decision-making power—is unique in the Anglican Communion.

The report provides a comprehensive index of the hard work the Episcopal Church has done in studying the cultural, theological and biblical aspects of human sexuality since the 1970s. This extensive work has been neither studied, nor, in many instances, even acknowledged by many of our Church’s critics. As a result, there is much misinformation afoot regarding the thoughtful, deliberate manner in which we arrived at these controversial decisions. This misinformation continues to divert much of the Episcopal Church’s physical and human resources from domestic and global mission imperatives that the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to embrace.

One very disturbing outcome of the ACC meeting in Nottingham was the Council’s decision to admit Primates to membership on the Council. To this point, the Anglican Communion has been held together by four “Instruments of Unity”: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting. We are not a Church dominated by a Curia of Primates and Bishops. And yet that seems to be the direction in which we are heading. This is fearful indeed given the rhetoric of some of the Primates claiming new authority for themselves. The well-balanced essence of Anglicanism, as it has been handed down through the ages, is now under attack by a few who presume to speak for many.

One of the most outspoken of this small group of men who presumes to speak for the entire global Communion is the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. Archbishop Akinola has almost single-handedly led the attack against the Episcopal and Canadian churches with his zealous pronouncements against homosexuality. More recently, he has set his sites on the Church of England.

This spring, the House of Bishops of the Church of England voted to allow gay clergy to register domestic partnerships as now permitted by British law. However, they required clergy who do so to pledge themselves to celibacy. Archbishop Akinola responded thusly:

“May I remind the Bishops of the Church of England that, when faced with similar decisions on the part of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, discipline was imposed. [Author’s note: No discipline has been imposed on either church, nor do any of the instruments of unity have the power to impose whatever discipline on member churches.] While I have great affection and respect for the historic role that the Church of England has played in our lives, no Church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity, and no church is beyond discipline. I call on the House of Bishops of the Church of England to renounce their statement and declare their unqualified commitment to the historic faith, teaching and practice of the Church. Failure to do so will only add to our current crisis. I am, by this statement, asking my brother Primates, their bishops and all the faithful in our Communion to remain calm in the face of this new provocation as we look forward to our next meeting.”

With the Archbishop’s reference that “no Church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity,” I must ask myself who has been left with the ultimate authority to interpret the teaching of the Bible? Certainly such important work has not been left up to the Archbishop of Nigeria alone. And if the Church is to really focus on the issues of the Bible’s teaching and the core teachings of Jesus Christ, why does this Archbishop spend so much time on human sexuality issues while so many of his countrymen and women are oppressed by poverty, illiteracy and violence? Where is the strong voice of the Nigerian Anglican Church in opposing the continued neglect of vulnerable women and children, or in advocating on behalf of the poorest of the poor? Jesus was very clear in his hard teachings that one could always tell the righteous from the damned by whether they lived into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger and visiting those who were in prison.

One thing I can say about the American Church and her bishops is that we take very seriously the teachings of Jesus. Our Church may be divided in painful ways about the issues of human sexuality and the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, but we are united in fighting poverty and hunger and are faithful in attempting to live into the mandates of Christ’s Gospel about radical hospitality extended to the least among us. When our government does not respond to the needs of the least among us, our Church, its laity, clergy and bishops respond. We work very hard at offering the resources available within our dioceses, whether they be large or small, to assist in eliminating hunger, disease, genocide and violence against women and children.

More recently, we have begun to respond to the mandate of our own Church and the larger Anglican Communion in meeting the challenges of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. We do these things in spite of our own internal divisions and we do them because of the challenge placed before us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I call upon all Primates, laity and bishops within our Communion and Archbishop Akinola in particular to do the same within their own Provinces and the larger Church. For Jesus has made it very clear to us all; “As you have done it to the least of these, so have you done it to me.” We are all under Judgment, but that judgment ultimately belongs only to God as we know him through Jesus Christ.

The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Bishop of Washington.

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Tim
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Wow, what a sensible fellow. He hits the nail on the head with everything he says there. I thought the same when I saw Akinola’s line on “the teaching of the Bible”; I think passing judgement and calling for “discipline” on others, especially in the public view as an archbishop is, is out of order; and in addition to his comments on how one can tell the righteous, I would add two favourite quotes – “true religions is…care for widows” (James), and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”… Read more »

Alan Marsh
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Alan Marsh

“Our style of governance — in which laity, clergy and bishops share decision-making power — is unique in the Anglican Communion.” Not so. The Church of England has a General Synod and so do other provinces. “why does this Archbishop spend so much time on human sexuality issues while so many of his countrymen and women are oppressed by poverty, illiteracy and violence?” Why does ECUSA spend so much time on human sexuality issues while its own cities, as we have recently seen in New Orleans, are evidently suffering catastrophic levels of poverty, neglect and racial discrimination? Why are the… Read more »

James the Thickheaded
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James the Thickheaded

Chane, chane, chane…..Chane of foooooooloolools. Just as Akinola might find something better to do, Chane might also consider that Christianity is not merely social justice. As a matter of fact, most secular NGO’s do a far better job at this than ECUSA has ever done. Christianity is about our state of sin, repentence, redemption, and salvation. This engages us in worship, adoration, giving thanks, and prayer for the state of Christ’s church. Maybe, that’s even the core. The attributes Chane claims as the center…are about good works. Christ may inspire these….but he is not necessary to this service, nor do… Read more »

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

Bishop Chane spoke with grace and dignity. Compare his statements with those of Dr. Peter Akinola on occasion of the latter’s acceptance of the KAIROS Award in New York City a few weeks ago. Last week’s Church Times quoted a portion of Dr. Akinola’s speech as follows: “THE online Kairos Journal ( http://www.kairosjournal.org) seeks to “embolden, educate, equip and support pastors and church leaders, writes Pat Ashworth. Its annual Kairos Awards go to those it considers to have made “a bold and consistent stand for historic orthodoxy in the light of theological decline”. It judged Archbishop Akinola, and Bishop Venables,… Read more »

matt
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matt

“Our style of governance—in which laity, clergy and bishops share decision-making power—is unique in the Anglican Communion.”

I thought CofE had laity, clergy and bishops voting in General Synod, where I also thought that the decision making power was located. I’d assumed this was standard throughout the Anglican Communion.

Have I been very stupid again, or is he being ironic?

Andrew Brown
Guest

I wish he knew the difference between “sight” and “site” — assuming you’ve cited him accurately.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

I’m no fan of the line being taken by Peter Akinola. However, I think there is something interesting going on in the Washington statement here, in the way in which governance is both spoken of directly and implied. Governance (outside of the business sector) is not simply about having a representative (and quasi-democratic) system of appointing bodies which then have unfettered power to determine the direction of the organisation. For example a UK Charity would be constrained by its constitition, and the trustees would have very limited power to alter its aims and objectives – even then they would need… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“Why are the poor of Nigeria flocking into Anglican churches there, while attendance even in the wealthier parts of ECUSA is in steady decline?” Because Nigeria is an economic and political basket case. All religions in Nigeria are experiencing growth, not simply “evangelical” Anglicanism. I am old enough to remember that Nigeria in 1960 was thought of as one of England’s colonial “success” stories. Big things were expected of the Nigerians. Didn’t happen, they flopped–and flopped Big-time. It is simply a reflection of the chaos of living in a failed country. Any institution which brings order out of the surrounding… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

David, you raise a good point on the tensions in international church bodies. But what are we to say of the principle “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.” Of course, the English Church at the time of their own split from the “international body it belong[ed] to,” declared (and believed) it was remaining true to the pure Christian faith — but that isn’t what the “international body” thought! The Episcopal Church has made a similar claim today: the ordination of Bishop Robinson does not repudiate any core doctrine of the Christian Faith. It is… Read more »

Jim Naughton
Guest

One difference between the Episcopal Church and the Church of England is that the U. S. elects its bishops. I can understand people being unaware of this, however. British press reports still sometimes refer to the “appointment” of Gene Robinson.

Gerard Hannon
Guest
Gerard Hannon

I continue to be amazed at the arrogance of purportedly-Anglican clerics, in no small measure from countries which are either totalitarian or highly corrupt, to impose their distorted views of Christianity on the rest of the world. I do not deny that there can be differences in interpretation by people of good will, and good faith, but nobody has the right to impose their interpretation on others, or act as if they, and they alone, know the Truth. We seem to be headed towards a division between the Christian Church of the Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd, versus the… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

To take matters a little further back in history, the “style of governance” of the PECUSA derives from the much older Scottish Episcopal Church, which provided its first bishop – and continues to elect its own bishops.

Not that election guarantees the quality of the outcome….

John Wall
Guest
John Wall

Another difference between ECUSA and the Church of England (can’t speak for other churches) is that each diocese of ECUSA has great autonomy. Unlike England, where the Archbishops of York and Canterbury have real power over clerical appointments, the Presiding Bishop of EUCSA is at best (and at most) “first among equals.” Thus, the kind of action taken by the ABC to “persuade” Jeffrey John to decline his appointment as bishop could not happen over here. I understand that in England this centralizing of power is a holdover from the canonical structures of medieval Catholicism.

obadiahslope
Guest
obadiahslope

“Our style of governance—in which laity, clergy and bishops share decision-making power—is unique in the Anglican Communion.”

I would have thought that the structure of the Anglican Church of Australia was similar in style. Bishops are elected here too, in Sydney from the floor of synod.

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

“I understand that in England this centralizing of power [over appointments] is a holdover from the canonical structures of medieval Catholicism.” Actually the power of appointment (seized by Henry VIII) was gradually transferred away from the King to the Prime Minister, along with all the rest of the monarchy’s powers. Since 1986 the nomination of diocesan bishops has effectively been made by a commission consisting of the two archbishops, six synod members (clergy and laity) and clergy and laity from the diocese concerned. It is impossible to say whether it produces better or worse results than elections. Some still wish… Read more »

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

Just a couple of points from earlier comments: Kurt wrote, “It is simply a reflection of the chaos of living in a failed country. Any institution which brings order out of the surrounding chaos, any institution which can be a social survival network, is eagerly embraced. Most people in the technologically advanced countries of West have long since ceased to view the Church in such a survivalist way. Therefore, attendance at religious observances is in general decline.” I think he may well have a point, but would be interested to see how he developed this argument in relation to the… Read more »

Jim Naughton
Guest

I wouldn’t mind being educated here. Here is what the Episcopal Church does: Our parishes elect lay delegates to a diocesan convention. At the diocesan convention lay delegates and diocesan clergy vote on lay and clerical reps to our General Convention. At General Convention, we have a bicameral arrangement: House of Bishops including all bishops, not just those with diocesan jurisdiction and a House of Deputies that includes the lay and clerical reps. In electing bishops, the diocesan convention does the balloting, and then consents must come from sitting diocesan bishops and Standing Committees, unless the election was 90 days… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“Kurt wrote, ‘It is simply a reflection of the chaos of living in a failed country. Any institution which brings order out of the surrounding chaos, any institution which can be a social survival network, is eagerly embraced. Most people in the technologically advanced countries of the West have long since ceased to view the Church in such a survivalist way. Therefore, attendance at religious observances is in general decline.’ I think he may well have a point, but would be interested to see how he developed this argument in relation to the extreme religiosity of the USA as compared… Read more »

Charles
Guest
Charles

With regard to church government, I think its fair to say that Bishop Chane overstated slightly. ECUSA’s particular brand of democracy may be unique, but they are not alone in involving the laity and clergy. The point Bishop Chane is making though is that if the Primates are added to ACC, there will be little or no real influence of clergy and laity in the Instruments of Unity. Here, in Canada, we have some similar arrangements to ECUSA, but we have some of our quirks. Our Primate is elected by the Clergy and Laity only, the Bishops only role is… Read more »

John Wall
Guest
John Wall

Jim, thanks. I have heard it said, and on good authority, too, that the organizational structures of ECUSA are much more like the Articles of Confederation than like the current US Constitution. That is, there is far more autonomy granted the “States” (dioceses) than in the current US COnstitution.

Jim Naughton
Guest

Thanks, John. I wish we were even more like the Articles. Printing our own currency, for instance. Now that would be a big help.

Harold Macdonald
Guest
Harold Macdonald

We Anglicans have scarcely a leg to stand on, when it comes to being an authentic church with an immaculate pedigree. That belongs, apparently, to Rome. Against Roman criticism we cling to authenticity by a slender thread, no doubt. Now, with Peter Ankola thundering about our invalidity, we are once again on the deep slop to perdition. However, it’s not a new experience for Anglicans to stand precariously on one leg (claiming the three-legged stability of Richard Hooker). We know that, since Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, inclusivity has always spawned separation. Peace and All Good.

obadiahslope
Guest
obadiahslope

Jim,
In the Australian church the bishop is elected by Synod, made up of local church delegates and clergy.
In Sydney the election is directly from the floor of synod.
Our general convention is similar to your GC except that it is tricameral (Bishops, clergy, laity). This national body does not vet diocesan bishops.
AFIAK in those societies rich enough to support a democratic synodical system that is the way Anglican churches tend to operate. Bishop Chane is simply wrong in describing power sharing as unique to ECUSA. It is worrying that he knows so little about the Anglican churches of other countries.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Plus (continuing to comment on ECUSA polity), I rather think our “representative democracy” is a little *too* “representative” (which is to say it’s too *indirect*). With our GC reps being chosen, in turn, by diocesan *reps*, it resembles U.S. federal governance before the XVII Amendment (to the Constitution, 1913): back when U.S. Senators were elected by state legislatures, not the people themselves. I think that *too many layers* between the people/laity and their government, breeds contempt for that government (giving rise to the myth—True *or* False—that “the people in the pew wouldn’t have approved +GR”). Don’t get me wrong: I… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest
Leonardo Ricardo

“Bishop Chane is simply wrong in describing power sharing as unique to ECUSA. It is worrying that he knows so little about the Anglican churches of other countries.” O’bad. I’m not worried/worrying or worrisomeded. I think Bishop Chane covered our democratic American Episcopal Church system well without specifically pointing out the *differences* in other churches that are less fortunate and unable to operate more *evenhandedly*…besides, Bishop Chanes main point is a suggestion that +Akinola may need to spend more time at home doing the exhausting “pastoral” work in NIGERIA with all those ongoing problems such as childbirth death, critical/terminal rampant… Read more »

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

I was amused by Kurt’s comparison of turnover “evango-fundies” and the SWP. (I assume that he does mean the Socialist Workers’ Party.) I think there is certainly evidence of “churn” in successful evangelical churches. Before Alpha, the last big evangelical thing in England was “Good News Down the Street”, which originated in the parish next door to the one where I worshipped at the time. Figures I saw indicated that the high numbers did indeed represent a high turnover. I would suggest that sociological factors in different levels of religious observance are quite complex. Why, for instance, the very different… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“It is worrying that he knows so little about the Anglican churches of other countries.” ObadiahSlope

Perhaps so, Ob, but how many Sydney Anglicans know much about the American Episcopal Church and its history? Is everything before 1788 a blur to them? How many know that the American Church is the oldest Anglican body outside of the British Isles? In fact, in large measure, the Anglican Communion exists because of the American Church.

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

“the oldest Anglican body outside of the British Isles” – a remarkable claim! There were Anglican chaplaincies and organisations in many places in Europe long before American independence, and indeed throughout the whole sphere of British influence, in Africa, India and the far East. It seems rather more likely that the British Empire is responsible for the existence of the Anglican Communion than the American Anglican Church – and it seems strange that a former colony is so anxious to maintain its place in the spiritual Commonwealth which succeeded the Empire. But many Americans I know are closet Monarchists… just… Read more »

obadiahslope
Guest
obadiahslope

Kurt,
most Sydney Anglicans are not as ignorant as I am but even so would have only a shaky knowledge of ECUSA, I agree. Some might blame Bishop Colenso for the Anglican Communion though.

But Bishop Chane is a bishop, and an experienced one. I would expect him to have a reasonable knowledge of the communion. He might even have gone to Lambeth and had the chance to meet a variety of bishops. Did he assume all the non-Americans were all appointed?

Andrew Carey
Guest
Andrew Carey

I think Bishop Chane is probably right about the uniqueness of the Episcopal Church in terms of its polity and degree of ‘democracy’. The predominant model of church government throughout the Anglican Communion is that of the ‘Bishop in Synod’. This contrasts with ECUSA which often sees the House of Deputies as being the senior house in General Convention. I can see how the move to make Primates permanent members of the ACC strikes a jarring note with ECUSAns. However, as far as I can gather the idea came from within the ACC structure itself, and is a natural outworking… Read more »

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“There were Anglican chaplaincies and organisations in many places in Europe long before American independence, and indeed throughout the whole sphere of British influence, in Africa, India and the far East.” Oh, please! English Church chaplancies existed in some countries since the late middle ages. And other countries had chaplancies in England, too. Yes, yes, and of course there were Irish Anglican Bishops, and Scots, too. That’s obvously not what I meant. I’m talking about sizable, domestically generated, dioceses, Alan. But Americans were the first non-Brit nation to have Anglican bishops,outside of the British Isles. It’s just history. Or is… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

The history of the Scottish Episcopal Church is rather a troubled one. Its episcopate died out and a new succession had to be created for it by the Church of England, so what the status was of the first American bishop is anyone’s guess, having been consecrated by Scottish bishops with an English “ancestry”. So far as I know most of the dioceses of Africa, India, Australia and SE Asia derived directly from the work of English missionaries, and their bishops were being appointed until relatively recently in some cases by the Archbishops of Canterbury. Even the parishes in the… Read more »

Howard
Guest
Howard

Re Alan Harrison’s comment regarding Kurt’s ‘It is simply a reflection of the chaos of living in a failed country,’ that he “would be interested to see how he developed this argument in relation to the extreme religiosity of the USA as compared with Europe.” I would like to add to Kurt’s reply that the US is, to some extent almost by design, a society in a state of perpetual disentegration. It is thus hardly surprising that our conservative impulses should work themselves out in such ways as to seem virtually indistinguishable, to secular eyes, from the ways adopted by… Read more »

Jim Naughton
Guest

OSlope,

Just to clear a couple of things up. Bishop Chane is not a senior bishop. He’s been a bishop for just over three years. He has never been to a Lambeth conference. He is aware that some other provinces elect their bishops.

Obadiahslope
Guest
Obadiahslope

Jim,
thank you for clarifying those points, and correcting my assumptions. I am left wondering what Bishop Chane meant about the power-sharing among laity,clergy and bishops being unique in the Anglican Communion. Does Andrew Carey, who made an insightful post above get close, or is there some other difference that the bishop was getting at?
While the ethos of the dioceses of Washington and Sydney are different both are democratic from what I can see.

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

I would agree with Howard that the policies of the American conservatives has lead to the disintegration of social services for the needy and the quality of life for all Americans, whatever their social class. But the United States is far from a failed state. In fact, both our Revolution and Civil War actually resolved certain issues. Unlike Nigeria. The two most recent Intel projections I have read do not have a good outcome for Nigeria, despite of–because of?–its oil.

I just returned last nite from the 150,000 person anti-war demonstration in DC. George Galloway was one of the speakers.

Cheers!

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“But Bishop Chane is a bishop, and an experienced one. I would expect him to have a reasonable knowledge of the communion. He might even have gone to Lambeth and had the chance to meet a variety of bishops. Did he assume all the non-Americans were all appointed?”

You have a point, Ob. If I were a bishop, I’d certainly use the opportunity to get to know about other Provinces. Perhaps not everyone thinks as we do about such things.

Topher
Guest
Topher

“when it comes to being an authentic church with an immaculate pedigree. That belongs, apparently, to Rome.”

Well, no … I think that “distinction” (yes … twinge of sarcasm) belongs to the Orthodox churches (if we’re going to spilt hairs, here). It was Rome, after all, that gradually shifted from episcopal polity to a pontifical model. Modern Roman polity … hardly “authentic” to the early church and its first Council at Jerusalem.

All that said, last I checked the only thing with an immaculate pedigree was my former chaplain’s Siamese cat.

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

“Perhaps, Kurt, you might list the dioceses outside PECUSA/ECUSA which were founded from the USA? That would be very helpful.”– Alan Marsh Well, according to “Horizons of Mission” by Titus Presler (Cowley, Boston, MA ’01) our first external Missionary Bishop was elected in 1844 for Amoy and Other Parts of China, which was about 10 years after the first American Anglican missionaries arrived in China. In 1859 American Anglicans became the first non-Roman Christians to witness in Japan, and a Missionary Bishop was consecrated for Japan in 1866. To the American colonies in Liberia, West Africa, missionaries were sent in… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Most interesting, Kurt! I will go and look up the book on Amazon!

Gerard Hannon
Guest
Gerard Hannon

Excuse me for getting in the way of continuing arguments that are tantamount to counting the number of angels on the head of a pin, but does anybody care about the un-Christlike message of Archbishop Akinola, or are you instead going to argue endlessly about who did what first, and which Province is better than the other Province? We should be talking about the message of the Church, and whether uncharitable fundamentalists should be allowed to presume that they stand on the high ground of the Anglican Communion. People like the Nigerian Primate argue from a pharisaical perspective that, in… Read more »

Nadine Kwong
Guest
Nadine Kwong

In addition to the provinces and dioceses listed by Kurt in answer to Alan Marsh’s question regarding “dioceses outside PECUSA/ECUSA which were founded from the USA”: 1. The Anglican Church of Mexico, prior to becoming its own province, sprang from missionary efforts by the then-PECUSA beginning in the late 1800’s, with its missionary bishops named by the PECUSA. (And IIRC, one of the early missionary bishops of Mexico, prior to passing to oversight by an Irish Anglican bishop, originally had oversight of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church, so that would mean the PECUSA arguably was involved somewhat in the early… Read more »

James Koenig
Guest
James Koenig

It is disheartening that some equate “orthodox believers” with those in opposition to inclusion and full rights (and rites) for gay and lesbian persons. The living Gospel of Jesus Christ is not well served by those who would choose– as individuals or for the church–a watch-dog or judgemental role instead of following in our Lord’s footsteps. Jesus was in radical opposition to some of the cultural gender and marriage models of the time– women were property, marriages were arranged. If we walk in Christ’s footsteps– we orthodox believers–by the power of the Holy Spirit can come to new understandings of… Read more »