July 2012


‘Everything Christ did was done to keep us bound together and living at peace with one another. . . And so it was that Paul could have accused the Corinthians of many great crimes but he accused them of contentiousness before any other. He could have accused them of fornication, of pride, of taking their quarrels to the pagan courts, of banquets in the shrines of idols. He could have charged that the women did not veil their heads and that the men did. Over and above all this, he could have accused them of neglecting the poor, of the pride they took in their charismatic gifts, and in the matter of the resurrection of the body. But since, along with these, he could also find fault with them because of their dissensions and quarrels with one another, he passed over all the other crimes, and corrected their contentiousness first.’

St. John Chrysostom

Alas, this is not a homage to one of my favorite bluesmen, but a commentary on the Church I love.  In my previous post on human sexuality and the Church, I made a statement, “Anything that divides the Body of Christ, The Church, is not a good thing.  Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.  How dare we presume that it is ours to alter according to our whims?  My great dream in life is to see a shared communion table amongst all believers, a unified Church.  This should be a goal for all believers.  We can’t allow our own agendas to outweigh God’s agendas.”

I was challenged a short while later by a reader with the question, “What exactly is God’s agenda?”

Now that’s a compelling question.

Rather than answer that query in regards to  a specific issue, such as human sexuality, I pondered it for a bit in broader terms, and tried to frame some ideas from both negative and positive perspectives.  From the negative, I looked at the question in terms of the problem, “Why is the Church so confused over certain ideas, the things that divide us?  How did we get to this point, where we seem to have lost any form of unity over basic beliefs?”

From a more positive framework, I considered the question, “What is the appropriate response, a ‘Proceed in this manner…’ type of answer, that helps us to define, in broad terms, how God wants us to act, even in specific circumstances?  What is a general overview, or dare I say, mission statement (Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little…), that would allow us to proceed as a Church, unified, and in God’s will in the midst of a culture that wants the Church to adhere to differing agendas and plans?”

In short, I’m defining what I see as the problem, or at least part of the problem, then instead of camping out and complaining about it, exploring a framework or general mindset that would help the Church adequately approach specific issues, such as inclusiveness and human sexuality, as they arise.

Why do we need to do this?  Muddy water is neither palatable for drinking, nor comfortable for diving into.  You can’t tell how deep it is, what lies in its depths, but you can be pretty sure that it would be unpleasant to take a big swig of it.  Even worse, there’s a possibility that something dangerous and ugly is just beneath the surface, stirring up the mud.  In the same way, if we aren’t unified as the Bride of Christ, then we give the appearance to the greater culture of being troubled, unpleasant, and unpalatable.  When we argue and bicker amongst ourselves as believers, we become unappealing to those whom Christ came to seek and save.

We seem ugly.

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Much to the dismay of many of my Evangelical brethren, I read the Huffington Post.  I read it not because I lean one way or the other politically, but instead, because I like to read the Huffington Post.  The format intrigues me, being part news reporting, part cultural commentary.

Lately, I’ve read a good deal written about the cultural clash of Christianity and human sexuality that is occurring in our time today.  The Anglican Communion has struggled with this issue for years now, and the denomination has seen itself split over the matter of whether or not homosexuals should or shouldn’t be ordained into ministry.  Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, straddled the fence between both sides as long as he could, and lost a battle that couldn’t be won…The Church of England is a divided entity.

The Anglicans aren’t alone.  The Presbyterians and Lutherans in the U.S. have both divided, at least in part, over the matter of human sexuality.  The United Methodist Church has long taken the stance that they welcome homosexuals into their congregations, but that they do not consider the homosexual lifestyle to be in accordance with Holy Scripture.  Despite a great deal of protest and disruption of their recent General Conference, they held fast to that conviction.  Who knows what lies ahead for those who are dissatisfied with the UMC?  When the Episcopal Church ordained Eugene Robinson in 2003 as its first openly gay bishop, theologically conservative groups splintered off, many of whom would eventually to come back together as the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).  Will the more theologically liberal Methodists break off, or continue to press on toward having the UMC fully accept their ideas?  Could we be on the verge of seeing yet another serious schism in American Christianity?

I’m not really writing this to debate whether homosexuality is a sin. It is.  The Bible also contains a pretty lengthy list of laws that I personally am really good at breaking, so I am definitely not casting stones here.

I also believe that scripture is clear that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, without narrowly defining who our neighbors are….regardless of sexual orientation, race, political affiliation, or whether you’re a Georgia Bulldog or Florida Gator fan (I know, that’s a stretch.  Personally, I believe the doctrine of purgatory was developed with UF fans in mind…).

My purpose today isn’t to debate, but to post some thoughts that I hope would be compelling to both sides of the argument.  Here we go…

“The soul that would preserve its peace, when another’s sin is brought to mind, must fly from it as from the pains of hell, looking to God for help against it. To consider the sins of other people will produce a thick film over the eyes of our soul, and prevent us for the time being from seeing the ‘fair beauty of the Lord’– unless, that is, we look at them contrite along with the sinner, being sorry with and for him, and yearning over him for God. Without this it can only harm, disturb, and hinder the soul who considers them. I gathered all this from the revelation about compassion…This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love.” 

+Lady Julian of Norwich+

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