Sunday, September 30, 2007

Whose spirit is this?

Some things one simply does not joke about: suicide, murder, rape etc. We agree that contemplating certain things--even in jest--is just reprehensible, if not plain sick.

It was something of a surprise to see the following discussion thread at a site, StandFirm, frequented by relatively powerful Anglican intellectuals like Radner, Seitz, Witt, et al. They seem to have kept curious company--just how representative of the Anglican right's "mentality" are comments I-XXV below?

One might pause at the causal, and curiously stubborn, contemplation of extreme violence as humor. Is it all that funny really? I suppose to a certain kind of radical right winger it is all simply hilarious. At least one of the writers below, a priest in post XXV, seems to disagree with Griffith's profession of humor. He writes:

Preserving and defending many things is our way of life and the liberals do not realize that not only are we defending the ‘Faith once received’ but also our way of life, for the joke’s about brown shirts are not that far from the truth.


It is sad that we have to feel the need to defend ourselves, almost to the point of doing that one thing most of us who have done it, pray we never have; to take up arms to defend our way of life. That is what the reference to Small band of paratroppers was. I doubt that Jake knows that all airborne troopers are taught to form small groups upon landing till they all link up then ulitmately form small groups again to do what they are trained to do and that is distupt enemy operation behind the lines by taking and holding things away from them to deny them the use of such.

He seems almost--but thankfully not quite--ready to don a brown shirt and take up arms to defend his way of life. That from--apparently--a priest! Hopefully he speaks for nobody, and all his tough talk is just empty bluster--more "humor" from the radical fringe.

And one might flinch as well at the caricature of manhood, the caricature of Christ, and the way Griffith gestures at women when he needs an insult, calling his critics at Jake's girls. What a monstrous witness to the power of darkness. Those who, like Archbishop Williams, have played at appeasing this crowd should not be under any illusions as to its nature.

To return to the question of how far the Eliminationist mentality (will the Moderator sell women out when push comes to shove over ordination?) at least has spread on the right, one need go no further than the words of Bishop Duncan, who extolls us to take the point of view of one contemplating who is worthy of being killed--"murdered" I think he means, inasmuch as the martyrdom he wishes to call down would fall on innocents:

"My prayer for us who have gathered here is that...we will be such a threat to the present order that we will be found worth killing, if only Columba's white martyrdom, but, if it be so, let it be the red martyrdom," Duncan said, contrasting the "martyrdom" of asceticism with that of death.

And from David Virtue:

During his sermon in the cathedral, Duncan said that there hasn't been an Archbishop of Canterbury worth killing since 1645, citing Anglican historian Philip Jenkins.

That is just the kind of point of view taken--in jest one hopes--at post X below. A truly extraordinary confluence of violence merely contemplated and attributed to the will of God.

I've extracted some relevant posts from the thread and numbered them with Roman numerals for future reference, highlighting Griffith's posts in boldface. Thanks Jake for bringing this to our attention. I'm sure Mother Mary--one of the gals--would thank you too.

We were quite angry on hearing this and wondered if they realized they were talking to a NM – TX bishop. Their cities may have a lot of urban gang problems; but, they don’t realize most of us have guns, know how to use them and nobody’s gonna mess with our bishops!
Bob Maxwell+

I’m already reaching for my pistol…
Posted by Greg Griffith on 09-28-2007 at 05:15 PM

Threatening in a blog to shoot people is serious. Just sayin’.
Posted by Anthony on 09-28-2007 at 05:31 PM

Agreed. However, “reachin’ for my pistol” is an old expression I use around here. No threat is being made.
Posted by Greg Griffith on 09-28-2007 at 05:38 PM

Little tin goddess- I would hope that Benedict hears about this and boxes her ears IN PUBLIC ,bunch of carpetbagging tinhorns.
Posted by paddy c on 09-28-2007 at 05:54 PM

Those Christians—see how they love one another!
I don’t think all of this talk of shooting helps the cause of Christianity or of orthodox Anglicans.
But let the truth be proclaimed on the blogs. They hate that! (Besides, death by blogging isn’t criminal. )
Posted by Ken Peck on 09-28-2007 at 06:25 PM

Alisdair+ : Perhaps it’s time for the “Small band of former paratroopers” to mobilize and deploy!
Posted by Charles Nightingale on 09-28-2007 at 07:00 PM

they don’t realize most of us have guns, know how to use them and nobody’s gonna mess with our bishops!...”
At last… a perfect solution to all this bickering going on in the church. We’ll just kill the sobs. God help any dissenters on Fr. Maxwell’s vestry.
Posted by Virg on 09-29-2007 at 08:48 AM

I’m already reaching for my pistol…
Hey, what gives with this? The Commenatrix (Blessed be her name) got on my case for saying a lot less than that.
It should be quite evident to all by now that our Presiding Marine Biologist and all the 815 gang are not liken to a school of angelfish. They are sharks, pure and simple.
the snarkster
Posted by the snarkster on 09-29-2007 at 08:59 AM

Frankly, Fr. Maxwell, I wouldn’t waste a bullet on her.
Posted by Frances Scott on 09-29-2007 at 10:32 AM

Frankly, Fr. Maxwell, I wouldn’t waste a bullet on her.
Can we get back to humor,intellectual discourse and walking as the Lord would have us do? Let hatred be their prison not ours. Intercessor
Posted by Intercessor on 09-29-2007 at 10:53 AM

I will just point out that the talk of guns will be used to confirm the idea that we are a bunch of thugs. I would have thought that after the first person posted a caution, it would have stopped. Greg, I understand that it may mean something else to you and a few others, but it will be perceived as a threatening statement, and the original statement is not even a thinly veiled threat. The only possible reading is, “If you mess with Bishop Steenson, you risk facing our guns.” This cannot possibly have a Christian interpretation. It’s a bit like Peter carrying his sword into the Garden of Gethsemane.
Aren’t the people who blog and comment here above this. Someone important, at least He is important to me, once said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In context, it could easily be taken to mean, “Pray even for the Roman soldiers, who extort money from you.” Someone else, much less important, said, “Never hate your enemy. It clouds your judgment.”
I would love to hear what Sarah has to say about the strategic implications of posting comments like, “Most of us have guns and know how to use them.” I can just imagine how ENS would use this. “PB threatened by radicals on StandFirm.” In any case, the remarks reflect and error in judgment at best, and at worst, they reflect hearts that are filled with rage.
Posted by revrj on 09-29-2007 at 12:32 PM

they reflect hearts that are filled with rage.
in other news, grass is green, water is wet, and politicians are liars.
of course we’re filled with RAGE (some of us, anyhow). given the galling actions taken against an institution that we care(d) for, what else do you expect?
Posted by Clay From Dallas on 09-29-2007 at 01:14 PM

Of course, no one is threatening anyone with anything here. I’ll caution anyone pondering a real threat to read our comment policy, but I’ll also remind those who think we’re under orders to keep everything here cupcakes and bunny rabbits not to fall for the caricature of Jesus that our Worthy Opponents have tried to sell us… how was it put the other day? - A sort of zoned-out hippie pacifist, wandering from town to town, spouting Zen koans and harmless parables?
Let’s not forget that the people in these churches have in many cases put their life’s work into them; that their parents and grandparents are buried in the graveyard; it’s where their children were baptized, confirmed and married; and that the people we’re up against are nasty - there’s no other way to say it - and they’re playing for keeps.
I won’t criticize those who think the best course is to play the pacifist, but they shouldn’t find fault with those who want to pick up their sword along with their trowel.
Posted by Greg Griffith on 09-29-2007 at 01:33 PM

“Mess with” is a Texas term as someone pointed out earlier
“Don’t mess with Texas” is an award winning anti-litter advertising campaign. The penalty for messing with Texas doesn’t have anything to do with firearms, but is a hefty fine.
While the talk of guns may be merely an expression of righteous indignation, I still think it is a disservice to the Christian and orthodox causes. And certainly the Opposition will cite it as an example of “homophobia” or whatever.
Speak the truth in love.
Or as Jesus reminded us, “Love your enemies...” (And has someone has added, “...and drive them nuts.")
Lovingly blog the Way, the Truth and the Life. It will drive The Enemy up the wall! They hate it when we do that.
Posted by Ken Peck on 09-29-2007 at 01:57 PM

In Ken Burns’s WAR last night, there was an interview with a Ranger or maybe a Marine who was in a crack unit that was being disatched in secret to face the Japs. The sargent, when asked by reporters what was their missin replied,"We just take care of people. When we meet a Jap we just take care of him.” He was probably from Texas.
Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 09-29-2007 at 08:37 PM

Just for your info, this thread is being followed on Jake’s site, with comments about how violent and bullying we orthodox are. (It also includes some notes on Bp Duncan’s address at the Common Cause meeting, where he speaks about those who held to orthodoxy in the face of persecution.)
Just as one should be careful in the type of jokes one makes while waiting to go through security at an airport, it would be wise to watch our humorous comments—we may be “just joshing” among ourselves, but we are not alone—and reappraisers are not known for their light-hearted sense of humor.
Posted by AnglicanXn on 09-29-2007 at 08:58 P

I saw that thread at Jake’s place. It consists mainly of the same little gaggle of shrieking schoolgirls that always posts over there, plus TaoMikael calling me (for the eleventy-billionth time) a propagandist interested only in pumping up the traffic stats for the site. (True fact: Ever since we ditched SiteMeter some months ago, I have looked at our stats once, and was so distressed by the difficulty of using our web host’s stats package I’ve never done it again).
While I appreciate your advice about watching our p’s and q’s, I refuse to conform my posts to the delicate sensibilities of Jake and his gals. This will always be a place where men can feel free to be men… the kind of place our church used to be, once upon a time.
Posted by Greg Griffith on 09-29-2007 at 09:16 PM

Greg, Yo da maiin!
Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 09-29-2007 at 10:06 PM

To all those who are concerned about Fr. Jake Stop’s the World (yeah right) posting this thread and any other from Stand Frim in Faith and its posters I say this: I would suspect that Fr. Jake’s website hits were extremely low and comments barely there because his musings lack depth. So to spice things up and get some things rolling for his numbers he has decided that picking and plucking postings & comments from the favorite targeted website there is for liberal revisionists is of course, Stand Firm in Faith. Fr. Jake lacks the skills in being able to write his own postings that would invite good debate or conversation and thus must continue to stir the pot, if you will, in taking comments from another website (SFiF) and then build a post from it to allow those who seem to want to swim in the sewer and partake of droppings that are out of context. Most, not all but most, of those that post on Fr. Jake’s site do not post here. Why? Are they afraid of not being able to answer the hard questions? It certainly cannot be fear of their postings not getting posted since SFiF is not like all other liberal sites that weed through postings and decide who is and who is not acceptable in their eyes to have their comments posted & read. To me Fr. Jake and others like him do not have the character it takes to stand on their own without standing on others.
Posted by One Day Closer on 09-30-2007 at 09:59 AM

I shoulda known better, but I had to take a peek at Fr. Jake. He is into this thread like (fill in with favorite simile). What morbid fascination in a little conservative levity! It is real spiritual (fill in with favorite metaphore). I am a lady and won’t stoop to some of their more biological word pictures, I guess that is all Jake’s gals have to offer. Potty language!
Posted by Crabby in MD on 09-30-2007 at 09:59 AM

Right on ODC..I am more concerned about SpongeBob guarding the Crabby Patty recipe than the rant and reflection of Mother Jake. Intercessor
Posted by Intercessor on 09-30-2007 at 10:30 AM

Greg, You are such a cliche: such a man you are, all testosterone blazing, guns and swords out. And such a guys-only club, too! Is this really how you see yourself as a Christian? Very, very sad…
Posted by michael cudney on 09-30-2007 at 12:17 PM

michael cudney,
You’re over-analyzing things. The only way you can visit SF and come away thinking “all testosterone blazing,” is to have spent WAY too much time in the extreme, hyper-feminine wing of the Episcopal church. You and Jake’s girls need to get out into the real world more often. You know… experience more diversity.
Posted by Greg Griffith on 09-30-2007 at 01:05 PM

I have to admit I have followed this debate with interest, mostly as the second the topic of defence is raised our not so Worthy Opponents scream blue blazes.
So here is my first question to those at Jake’s site. How many of you have served as a Chaplain in the Military or Police Force? I am willing to bet nor many. I think the answer from my ordained friends here would be somewhat different, combined with the fact that probably more than one used the GI Bill to pay for seminary. Why does this matter? It matters becasue we tend to understand our flock becasue many of them come from a similar background. It is no accident I think that the Left is scared of the conservatives becasue we have so much background in the military and law enforcement. We have all taken a vow to “defend’ either the Consititution of the USA of for me and probably a few other “the Sovereign’s Majesty.” Preserving and defending many things is our way of life and the liberals do not realize that not only are we defending the ‘Faith once received’ but also our way of life, for the joke’s about brown shirts are not that far from the truth.
Already we are having less and less say what our children are taught in schools. They are even taught that homosexuality is ok despite Biblical proscription not withstanding the medical facts that it will kill you or lessen your life by 50%. I used to smoke but the second the doctor proved to me it was killing me I quit. The Primates told the HoB this was killing the communion. The HoB is back to being school children smoking behind the bicyle sheds bullying those who aren’t in the ‘cool group.’ I would suggest they are the bullies. What a bully fears most is when the bullied has ultimatley had enough, and our joking was an expression of that.
Mostly because since the HoB Meeting and what most view as the dismal faliure of their responce the ante has most certainly been upped with the Common Cause Patners saying enough is enough. By indications of what we have on record from Bob+ all methods honorable and dishonorable are going to be added to 815’s arsenal, and that is very, very sad for all.
It is sad that we have to feel the need to defend ourselves, almost to the point of doing that one thing most of us who have done it, pray we never have; to take up arms to defend our way of life. That is what the reference to Small band of paratroppers was. I doubt that Jake knows that all airborne troopers are taught to form small groups upon landing till they all link up then ulitmately form small groups again to do what they are trained to do and that is distupt enemy operation behind the lines by taking and holding things away from them to deny them the use of such. It is called attacking being the best form of defence:)
I do feel sorry for those over at ‘that other site’ really don’t get it that we will not allow false teaching to be rammed down our throat. Since TGCC has declined to participate as a Bible believing province they are scared stiff that we will seek protection from a true bishop who does not threaten his flock but nutures them as he vowed to do.
I’ve said my peace (deliberate pun). I escaped TGCC’s clutches in 2000 and want to see a separate province so we can all be at peace. It is obvious we are never going to agree and neither side wishes to have the others point of view rammed down their throat, so peace may best be allowed for he by letting those who wish to leave, leave and with property if the majority so chose, they paid for it, and paid the clergy salaries, so it is theirs despite what some dubious internal rule says.
“O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not forget me”
The Prayer of Sir. Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading.
Posted by Alasdair+ on 09-30-2007 at 01:15 PM

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Radicals Turning Up the Heat a Bit

Oh boy! Here they come--outraged, outraged radical Anglicans--right and left--in a frothy lather about our dear HoB and anyone who might reasonably suppose the HoB did well:

That such statement can come from someone in such high office in the Communion is an indication of the heart of darkness in the once Christian and self-proclaimed civilized West that is slowly eroding the Communion of its Christian foundations. Such encroachment on the Lordship of Jesus Christ upon his holy and catholic church – his rightful property – must end.

That's Poon reacting to Kearon's approval of the HoB. See the juicy hyperbole in boldface? See what I mean about Akinola's statement being mild, his rhetoric being tawdry? Poon shows you here how it is done. Whew! The hair on the back of my neck stood up--how 'bout you?

Here's a lefty:

We should either come out and say what we're doing and why (with strong biblical and theological support), or we should stop doing it. If we take the first option, let's face the consequences, if any. It is neither honest nor helpful to do something and then say we're not doing it. It smacks of the worst kind of American imperialism to tell the primates that we've honored their requests, when we really haven't

Note the initial fallacy of neglected alternatives--why are those the only permissible options, especially when exactly what we should do is still being discerned? And let me make a prediction: we will hear more about "American imperialism" in the near future.

It's not necessarily that, as Jake suggests,

The Church is a harlot. But she's all we've got.

I'm not sure reaching for Hosea is so helpful here. Why can't compromise and discernment be messy? Why can't an honest compromise leave everyone disappointed? Maybe this is what a virtuous church looks like when its members are in passionate discord and sedition is in the air. The presumption that the Church should have repented, as if a Church even can do such a thing except in an unhelpfully hazy, metaphorical sense--and the presumption that the Church should have gone further than GC2006 and GC2003 or else betray its fidelity to God seem to misread what might well be going on in the HoB and AC. Moderates are genuinely trying to discern without railroading those who wish to remain at the table. There's nothing unfaithful in the sacrifices that come with the process fo compromise.

And how odd to see left and right join hands in an effort to make sure that process of compromise, that effort of discernment--and nobody should say it is insincere (see Harmon's accusation of false witness in italics up top)--should fail.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Akinola's Reponse? Zzzzzzzz

Is this strong enough for our separatists?

It is remarkable that this rebuff is so...restrained, no? Compare it to Radner, Seitz, Noll and Harding--in fact, I think Akinola should just up and Ordain all of them right away to the Episcopacy so he can finally get better help writing these things. He's still around stateside, no? If he hurries, he can beat the 9/30 deadline. I know, I know--now that would really be alot of purple; but hey, I'm not issuing an ultimatum here, OK?

While we await a meeting of all the Primates to receive and determine the adequacy of The Episcopal Church’s response it seems clear from first reading that what is offered is not a whole hearted embrace of traditional Christian teaching and in particular the teaching that is expressed in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. [my boldface type]

We're waiting for all the Primates to meet to determine the adequacy of the HoB response--note the relatively moderate conciliar tone, admitting that he--Akinola--alone is unfit to make that type of determination. Consitent with that relatively irenic, conciliar tone he uses "seems" in rebuffing it, logically leaving open space for disagreement and error on his part.

Yes, there is some immoderate hyperbole thrown around, but this stuff is trivial, unconnected:

we have looked forward with hope to the response of The Episcopal Church as requested by the Primates when we met earlier in the year in Dar es Salaam. That request was the culmination of many conversations and years of painful negotiations [about four years]

It was our expressed desire to provide one final opportunity for an unequivocal assurance.... [I guess it's an ultimatum after all]

our pleas have once again been ignored [what a goofy thing to say: so obviously false]

we have been offered is merely a temporary adjustment in an unrelenting determination [as if the HoB were some homogeneous army marching in flawless lockstep; I'm reminded of old Soviet posters extolling factory workers to unrelenting labor]

In truth, though I'm fisking the hyperbole (I'm only kind of sorry), there isn't much of it and it is much milder than I expected: like a writer using too many adjectives. It's as if there is so little substance--c'mon, of all Scripture quotes to end on, John 14:21? Isn't there something better that couldn't be so easily appropriated by his opposition? Something a tad more concrete?--what little meat he can offer up has to be dressed up with these tawdry ribbons.

Should we just blame an unusually sleepy Minns and/or Sugden, and let Akinola off the hook?

But seriously, if this missive is indicative of things to come, we have turned the corner as a Communion and may look forward to better times. I can't help but think someone here or in the CoE will lean on Akinola/Minns/et al for something with a little more fire. But maybe the fix is in, and the Separatist/Realignment program has lost the allegiance of enough CoE evangelicals to have lost its leverage over Williams. That would be news. If true, how should we best use the time?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Comments on the HoB Statement, New Orleans

So the HoB's statement is openly transient, a piece composed merely for a specific time, place, and audience. Though it does not wear an open expiration date--nobody seems exactly clear on how long it will have to function--it is already decomposing. But everyone knows that; the piece succeeds if it is enough to get us through this crisis. It does not have to be beautiful to fulfill its function.

The crisis was not the loss of separatist Anglicans so much as the real possibility of a fissure between moderate provinces without separatist inclinations and our province. The intended, primary audience for the document is the wide body of Anglican moderates, especially moderate Primates.

When Radner says

In the end, the response must be construed as a failure to meet the Primates’ requests, although one made with some very small gestures in their direction. and others made to emphasize their disagreement with the Primates,

one should ask--to be clear--after the referent of "Primates". If he means the radical separatist Primates he is right.

But the history of the Tanzania non-ultimatum's making seems to indicate that most Primates, and even the ABC, accomodated the radicals' discontent in order to keep them from walking away from the table. The Tanzania non-ulimatum might not speak to the mind of the Primates, if what we mean is the moderates--and it seems to me that the HoB document is banking on the fact Tanzania did not speak for the moderates propria persona.

What has changed for the HoB, and for the Primates, and for the ABC--and what Radner and others like Hey seem to have missed--is that they now recognize the plan was separation and substitution all along, and they are able to see that this plan was unreasonable all along. "Unreasonable" because the separatist project seems to have made a mockery of the councils and painful labors of the provinces, as if the meetings and negotiations were all a sorry sham for those pursuing separation.

Thus some Anglican conservatives will not be able to see the HoB document for what it actually is: a compromise that is part of a process. "Compromise" is not a category they are willing to recognize, because for separatists reconcilation with an Episcopal Church that has not turned 180 degrees is not a real possibility. But for moderate provinces who took Windsor et al sincerely and seriously, compromise is a welcome development: it means the process of reconciliation can go forward.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


How should the House of Bishops respond to the Tanzanian non-ultimatum? Should they totally absent themselves from Lambeth?

Kendall Harmon thinks it is a good idea; Marshall thinks it is at least worth talking about; Jake seemed to like the idea for a time, though perhaps he now has had second thoughts.

Radner put forth a variation: only those prelates unable to bring themselves to consent to Lambeth 1.10--on homosexuality--should absent themselves; Wells likes the sound of it; Bishop Howe sounds like he would approve of it; Kennedy sounds like he'd go with either version.

There are other voices to consider.

So far as I can tell, the largely unspoken subtext of these proposals runs something like this:

Given the ABC's likely inclinations and what the HoB is likely to put out before 9/30, soon the Anglican Communion will fracture, and the break will likely be permanent--much like the break between northern and SBC Baptists, or Protestants and Roman Catholics. To avoid that scenario, radical measures should be taken, such as the ones outlined above.

The rationale for the HoB or certain parts thereof refusing Lambeth rests on the premise that it would somehow keep the AC together. Does anyone think that premise is true? Anglican separatists are intent on replacing the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion, and if that proves to be impossible, they will produce another entity, an alternative communion. For these, excision of the Episcopal Church from the AC is non-negotiable. Why? Separatists remain convinced that the Episcopal Church is on a liberal trajectory that cannot be altered and will only grow in contrariety to the faith once delivered to the saints.

In some conservative quarters it is sinking in: a break-up of the Communion is likely sooner rather than later, and efforts to excise the Episcopal Church are stalling relative to separatist expectations--in part due to Williams' notable lack of enthusiasm for the requisite purification. No wonder there is some anxiety among conservatives, and a search for means adequate to the ends of separation and replacement.

Getting the HoB to stay away from Lambeth is just such a means, enabling better passage of whatever strong resolutions can be mustered to aid the separatist project. A focused Episcopalian presence at Lambeth might rally allies and reasonable bishops to the cause of Moderation, and would almost certainly result in the absence of much of the Global South faction, especially Nigeria.

Nigeria is committed to absence in the event of HoB attendance; going back on their word would occasion an enormous loss of credibility. Yet, Nigeria's absence would very likely hurt the GS-faction's cause at Lambeth, resulting in a weakening of separatist momentum. In short, given Williams' surprising resistance to Nigeria's threat of a boycott, Nigeria's threat looks more and more lilke a strategic disaster for the GS/separatist cause. TEC should do absolutely nothing to prevent that disaster--entirely the work of GS hands to be sure--from visiting the GS faction.

On the other hand, the necessary condition of Nigerian/GS-faction presence at Lambeth seems to be TEC's absence. Only in that way can Lambeth be utilized by the GS faction as a means to strengthen momentum toward separation and replacement.

From a GS-factionalist's point of view, something must be done to get TEC to stay away from Lambeth so that the GS faction can have a chance to dominate it.

Attempts to stay away motivated from some notion of Christian witness or affection or sincere desire to express regret are futile and misguided. Attempts to paint staying away from Lambeth as somehow the Christian thing to do seem to me objectively ideological. What do we know about Biblical meekness exemplified in Moses and Jesus? There is no doubt that it is openly confrontational. Nonviolence and desire for peace do not imply submission or, for that matter, working overtime to enable the triumph of Pharaoh, Babylon, or their contemporary analogues.

If the HoB is serious enough about what it did at GC2003, then it should go ahead and represent its actions at GC2003 at Lambeth as part of its commitment to the didache, the Christian moral response to the Gospel of Christ. Episcopalian bishops would be well advised to spend their scarce energy making a better and more persuasive theological case for themselves than they have up to this point.

Moreover, the HoB has no business copying the GS faction by using absence from the councils of the church as a tool. There is ample precedent in church history for the presence of contending--even heretical--parties at church councils. Consider the precedent we might set for future Lambeth meetings: "Having a tough time communicating? Having a tough time making a persuasive case? Solution? Stay home, of course. Somehow that will help communicate and make your case."

And who else--aside from Canada--is similarly qualified to represent the voices of homosexual Christians? Will their need for representation magically go on vacation? Until Lambeth 2016?
Now that we are engaged in this action, we cannot simply opt out for a path of less resistance--TEC is obliged to represent those voices and take whatever hits come its way. That is genuine fidelity with the weak and defenseless. Absence says, in effect, that we Know discourse is impossible, and our not being there would at least enable discourse for those who remain. Oh? But do we know that? Do we have permission to undermine the necessary conditions of discourse?

Absenting oneself from a church council while continuing to be a church seems to willfully undermine the authority of the council by undermining any claim the council may make to at least approach being genuinely ecumenical. That may not bother those who would deny TEC is a Christian church, or who would see its esse as church diminished--on those views, TEC's absence from the council approaches irrelevance for the council's authority. Otherwise, supporters of GC2003 should pause longer before advocating the Episcopal Church withdraw from Lambeth.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Debating the Law: Into the Fray

I owe any opponents paying attention some account of what in Christian tradition and the Bible would push a strict, serious, literal reader looking out for "plain sense" to apply the Leviticus punishment today. This is something of a target; where is the soft spot in the Reformed Reconstructionist case, say? Ideally, the conservative wants a reading of Scripture in plain sense fashion that would...

(1) not rest on an appeal to secular morality,
(2) would cogently maintain the wrongness of all homosexual activity whatsoever as Biblical,
and (3) cogently show on nonsecular, strictly Biblical the death penalty should not be applied,
while (4): the reasoning in (3) would not lead to trouble for (2)--that is, there would be no contradiction between (2) and (3).

A tall order--can it be done? First, here is the Target.

I. A Touch of History
Full disclosure: when I threw down the gauntlet to the any part of the Anglican right willing to take it up, I had John Calvin's commentary on Deuteronomy in mind. I figured that at least Calvin would be a good authority to go by on what the Calvinist or Reformed sector of Anglicanism would be committed to on pain of inconsistency:

Let us not think that this Law is a special law for the Jews, but let us understand that God intended to deliver us a general rule to which we must tie ourselves!

That's speaking to Deut. 13:5 (NRSV): But those prophets or those who divine by dreams shall be put to death for having spoken treason against the Lord your God—who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery—to turn you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

That's just the kind of principle that they might try to say does not apply for Christians; evidently Calvin thought differently. And not only that: Calvin backs up the OT death penalty for apostasy (commenting on 17:2-6), for perjury in capital cases ( 19:16-21 ), for troublesome kids (21:18-21).

Prima facie, Calvin and Orama are close on the applicability of OT Law--complete with penalties--to modern Christians.

And they would not be alone; Calvin's followers de Bres and Bullinger felt the same way about the appliciability of OT Law. Icing on the cake: here is John Knox defending the execution of Servetus under Calvin's watch and with Calvin's vigorous support by reference primarily to Deut. 13. Do we need to get into witch trials? Execution by reference to OT law, complete with penalties: this is how things were done, and how they were done in Massachusetts and elsewhere, in this country, before there was a Bill of Rights, how they were done by serious Bible-Christians who did not get squeamish with bourgeois sentimentality, but had the awful courage of their convictions. And we should never forget.

II. Support In the Bible
On the face of it, Calvin had excellent grounds in the words of Jesus:

Matthew 5:17–19 NIV: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 23:1–3 : Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

And Paul:

Romans 3:31 : Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
7:7 : What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law…

7:12 : So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

6:1,2 : Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!

6:15: Shall we sin because we are not under Law but under grace? By no means!

7:22 : For in my inner being, I delight in God’s Law.

8:7 : The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s Law, nor can it do so.

Even better for Calvin: a host of OT prophets imply that OT law will be binding at the end of all things, at what Christians woudl call the Parousia; I won't quote, but encourage you to look it up for fun:

Zechariah 14:3–4,16–17; Isaiah 66:15–17; Isaiah 2:2–3. I can't help but note it's Torah going out to all the nations in Is. 2.

And you can find more than one place where the OT claims the law(=Torah) is eternal--a view with which Jesus above and Paul too seemed to agree:
Psalm 119:152; Psalm 119:160; Exodus 12:24; Exodus 29:9; Leviticus 16:29.

Yes, I'm proof texting in the worst way, adopting the David Virtue "grammatical-historical"/ ACI's Edith Humphrey "plain sense of the Scripture" hermeneutic of my opponents. Anglicanism a la Holmes/Griffiss/Westerhoff/Williams/et al has resources to parry this general trend in the Bible and its logical, historical outcome in atrocity. But my opponents don't buy into Holmes/etc. How will they escape, especially in view of Orama's apparently clear grasp of Scripture's "clear sense"?

III. Theological Reflection
Probably the best living Reconstructionist Covenant theologian--one who speaks for what seems to me the strongest branch of Reformed theology--is the formidible Greg Bahnsen (in this article Bahnsen's target is Norman Geisler; it sounds to me like my opponents might be trying to take a Geisler-like line here). He is in the excellent company of John Frame, Van Til, Clark, and others--all of whom are good theologians with philosophical skill (though not all would share exactly Bahnsen's version of Covenant theology). Note too as an aside, early Anglicanism in what would become the US indulged in a fair bit of Covenant theology (dispensationalism is another crazy ball of wax altogether).

Bahnsen makes the point (Rom. 3:19) that the Law as Paul understood it (and yes, the "New Perspective" on Paul does seem friendly to Bahnsen's point here, Wright and Dunn being perhaps closer to Calvin than Luther) is meant to apply universally, to all nations, "all the world." The argument of Romans 1:26-7 presupposes that universality; as Gagnon notes, Paul is looking back after Christ to the OT in order to condemn Jews and Gentiles alike (Rom. 3:11, 23).

Moreover, this universality/eternity to the law is shown in its full application to the Gentile nations before it was given to Moses (consistent with Paul in Romans). In Lev. 18:24-8 the Canaanites are guilty by the Law. And for those still reading the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah as a matter of homsexual activity run amok, Bahnsen's point is especially sharp: the Gentiles of these cities are judged and destroyed according to what became known as Mosaic Law.

One and the same eternal law: before Moses, with Moses, after Moses, after Christ, no? as Bahnsen notes, Mosaic law was not thought to be tribal morality, but a light even to the Gentiles (Isa 51:4; see also Ps 119:46 & esp. 118-9; 94:10-12). We could go on and on and on.

In the NT too, the Law/Torah applies to Gentiles, who are condemned by it: Mark 6:18, 2Peter 1:21; 2 Thess. 2:3 and 1 John 3:4; Rev. 12:17; 14:12).

Those on the Anglican right who'd say Orama is wrong in effect want NOT the plain sense of Scripture whole, but some mutilation of Scripture worked by their own hands, one conveniently sanitized for snazzy altar calls. A strong case with good Scriptural and traditional grounds can be made for seeing the moral Law, of which Leviticus is a part, as being eternal--and as Calvin et al saw--that would include ALL the Law, including the nasty parts about execution.

Modernity frowns on all that, and those mutilating the Law without Scriptural principle by removing the punishments from the principles are acting, it seems to me, from within the framework of Modernity and the European Enlightenment--the very thing they would disavow as Barthians or narrative theologians. Too many tend to forget it was exactly the savagery of the Law in action that helped deliver the Enlightment and Modernity--as well as Anglicanism.

Bishop Orama's Courageous Biblical Christianity [Bishop Orama and Others Say he was Misquoted]

Probably by now you have heard that Bishop Orama of Oyo in Nigeria claimed

[9/14: As it turns out, Bishop Orama was--to the best of our knowledge--misquoted. While one might wish for better knowledge of just what happened, what was said, etc, it seems reasonable to conclude he did not make the following derogatory claims. Thus, so far as I can tell, he will not do as an example of a Reformed reconstructionist thinker, as I had earlier presumed when I originally wrote this post.

It seems what information has been gleaned and squeezed out is largely due to the laudable labor of bloggers on the conservative end of the Anglican spectrum who took it upon themselves to do whatever could be done to find out just what was said and done. Official, mainstream news agencies did relatively little by comparison to defuse this situation.

As the underlying question--what principled objection to Leviticus 20:13 is available to those reading Scripture primarily for its plain sense--remains significant IMO, I'll leave this up.]

Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God's purpose for man...

Though one hopes Orama was completely misquoted, still, one might reasonably suspect that this opinion is authentic to Nigerian Anglicanism and the Global South faction; it might well be that strong, international criticism will serve not to change the opinion, but merely silence it, driving it underground where it can continue to operate unseen and unheard.

I. Curious Conservative Reactions
While some Western conservatives might disavow Orama's comments, one might be forgiven for wondering why they would bother.

[Update: Father Harmon says that I have interepreted him completely wrong; moreover, he is both stunned and displeased that his words could be so miscontrued. OK--fair enough: my apologies for the error. My mistaken interepretation about the nature of his objection read his content in a way that minimized the basis of what turned out to be his substantial disagreement.

But wait: this gets even more interesting. In these matters--understanding one another in times of intense passion--we lack omniscience, and what might seem like plain sense turns out--in reality--to be a betrayal of the message intended. My reading of +Harmon is a case in point: he sees my reading of his own words as a complete distortion of what he wanted to say.

The way to make sure the intended message gets through? The only way it seems to me is dialogue. If the necessary conditions for communication are broken, there would be no correction, no admission of a mistake on my part, and a considerably darker hardening of the heart.

Which is not at all to say hearts are tender; they are already quite hardened with scar tissue. It strikes me that this is at the very outer edge of dialogue, dialogue at second or third hand, tendons and such stretched to their snapping point. Is it worth at all it to stay engeged this way in such conditions?

One has to wonder whether some demonic intelligence might constitute a community like this by minimally embodied communication. The threat of exchanges devolving into vice more easily on account of abstraction from the flesh--for instance, me becoming disposed to read what so-and-so says in a negative way b/c I do not actually hear and see him, but get to project what I think he must sound and look like as he says such-and-such--gets magnified into a massive, metastasizing, invasive spiritual disease afflicting a great mass of people much quicker than if there were no internet at all.

I'm going to italicize my comments--which seem mistaken to me now--on +Harmon's post so that those disposed to see for themselves what I am talking about will be able to still take a look.]
Here's Father Kendall Harmon of T19:

These words are to be utterly repudiated by all of us--I hope and trust.

Well, why is that? He wrote (beackets added):

[1]We are all in the global village now, like it or not, and the world is indeed flat. So what we say needs to take seriously the resonances that it may bring out in contexts other than our own. There could hardly be a worse statement in a Western context than to say of ANYONE that he or she is "not fit to live." [2] It immediately brings to mind the Nazi language of Lebensunwertes Leben ("life unworthy of life") and in flood images and activities too horrendous and horrific for any of us to take in even at this historical distance from the events themselves.

According to [1], the problem is that others will hear--we live in a global village after all, and comments like this will gain a wide enough audience to most likely hurt the Separatist cause. Why? Part [2] gives Father Harmon's answer: it will remind hearers of Nazi language. And of course he is right about that. Bishop Orama is not a Nazi or fascist so far as I know, but he has no trouble employing their Eliminationist rhetoric. Some bishop.

But I am utterly stunned by Father Harmon's reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama's rhetoric. There is nothing specifically Christian--no laudable Biblical principle--invoked in Father Harmon's words. And there is nothing significantly moral either. The trouble with Bishop Orama's words is strictly instrumental: it will hurt the cause by bringing to mind Nazi depravity. I suppose such an instrumental reason could have a moral resonance for Father Harmon: the end--Separation--justifies the means perhaps. He did not say that Bishop Orama was in error, or that Bishop Orama's words were unscriptural or anti-Christian. The problem? Bishop Orama could hurt the cause.

Here is Greg Griffith of Stand Firm (I do not know if he is ordained like Father Harmon: no disrespect intended):

[1] About the horrible nature of the remark, the injury to the Christian witness it does, and yes, even the "rhetorical violence" it commits... I agree completely.

[2]Describing homosexuals as "unfit to live," or implying that that sentiment is in any way part of the Gospel message, is where I get off the bus. "Life not worthy of living" is the phrase Nazis used to describe Jews, dissenting Christian clergy, the physically handicapped, the mentally retarded, and anyone else who might spoil their vision of a pure Aryan world.

[3]If being homosexual makes one unfit to live, then being the kind of sinner Bishop Orama is makes him similarly unfit to live; and of course, that is not the Gospel of Jesus, not the Good News we have been entrusted by Christ to carry to the world.

I think it is pretty clear that Griffith does alot better than Father Harmon in stating his reasons for repudiating Bishop Orama's remarks. The remark has a "horrible nature" perhaps due to its "injury" to Christian mission and its "rhetorical violence." On the latter count, Griffith invokes comparisons with the Nazis in [2]. He goes further than Father Harmon, saying explicitly that the Nazi message of Elimination is not part of the Gospel message: thanks for that. Finally, in [3] there is some kind of half-baked argument that Bishop Orama deserves to die if homosexuals deserve to die--and that this is not the Gospel message.

While Griffith's response has unmistakable specific moral content, and even refers to the Goispel message, still it leaves one wondering. What exactly in the Gospel message contradicts Bishop Orama's message? It is odd--even comic--to see biblical conservatives in the tradition of Barth and Childs run to secular notions of moral good when push comes to shove. Guys, one does not need to hear the Good news of Christ to condemn Nazis, their Eliminationist rhetoric, and rhetorical violence: one can do that on purely secular moral grounds.

II. Throwing Down the Gauntlet
When push comes to shove, and Bishop Orama's remarks constitute a shove, does the Gospel vision of these--or any--Separatist, Anglican, biblical conservatives have the resources to issue a specifically Christian moral repudiation? Can they do better on this count than, to choose another extreme, Borg and Crossan?

Show me. I do not think you can do it, because any sound, specifically Christian moral argument that implies the events of GC2003 are permissible for Christians counts as an utter failure of the Separatist biblical vision. In other words, to make the argument condemning the bishop's remarks, you will end up conceding too much, and if you do not conceed too much, you will not be able to condemn the remarks.

Where is the crux of the problem? The problem is that Bishop Orama has the Bible--as construed by responsible Separatist interpretation--on his side. Leviticus is clear:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.

All Scripture is of a piece, and Christ did not come to obliterate any part of the Law--not a single iota! Bishop Orama respects the Bible enough not to claim to be a biblical Christian and just pretend. His Bible says homosexuals must die--what does Father Harmon's Bible say? Or Griffith's? After all, Scripture is clear in Leviticus. The difference might be simply that Bishop Orama has the courage to be consistent and lift up his vision of Scripture for all the world to see, whereas other self-styled conservatives insist on hiding this unsavory part--ashamed--under a bushel.

Careful: an appeal to Authority, like the authority of a great old interpreter, is a fallacy. You 'd have to extract the authority's argument and let the argument stand on its own merits, and you had better hope it stands.