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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ With Christians Like These... ~


"COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/16/06)-Over 1,000 homosexual and pro-homosexual clergy, bishops, and laymen of the Episcopal Church celebrated Eucharist Friday evening at Trinity Episcopal Church, just blocks from the site of the 75th Episcopal General Convention.

" 'This is a small taste of what heaven must be like,' said the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, as he began his sermon to the prolonged cheers of the adoring congregation. Then Robinson was brought to tears as he thanked his homosexual partner Mark, three years after the Episcopal Convention at which Robinson's election as bishop was affirmed.

"Sponsored by the homosexual pressure group Integrity, the gay-themed Eucharist stretched on for about two hours and 20 pages in the Eucharist program. The service began with a prelude on the church's massive pipe organ and concluded with a resounding rendition of 'Amazing Grace' by the congregation. Around 600 communicants took places in the pews, while hundreds more sat in folding chairs, packed into the balconies, and flowed into the basement, the foyer, and out the doors.

"Bishop Robinson said that he was primarily addressing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members of the Episcopal Church who were gathered there, adding, 'I do invite those of you who are, shall we say, 'heterosexually challenged,' to listen it.' " (Reported by Hans Zeiger, Virtue Online Correspondent.)

No Bishop Robinson, we will not "shall we say" that. May be some of us, however, would like to wear T-shirts that say, "I'm Heterosexually Challenged, and Proud of It!" Perhaps some of us would print large posters with the same declaration and march in a parade. On second thought, we would probably be denied a permit because that would be offensive to many.

More from Zeiger's report: "Robinson read a passage from a book that he said was the 'secret that makes Gene Robinson tick,' John Fortunato's 'Embracing the Exile' (Harper, 1982). Fortunato described in the passage his coming-out experience, and his satisfaction with being gay. 'What the hell are you asking me to do?' Fortunato asked God in his book."

"What the hell are you asking me to do?" is a very strange way of addressing God. I assume this disrespectful street-language question is rhetorical. If Fortunato was sincerely interested in the answer, he would read God's "Book" instead of writing his own.

Here's more, but best to read on an empty stomach, or have something in which to vomit: "It is a new day in the Episcopal Church, according to Crew. The homosexual movement, he said, is 'going to work this out by wiring the circuits.' Citing an example from the Gospel, Crew paraphrased the words of Christ as they relate to the homosexual cause: 'I'm talking about being given a new spirit.' " Excuse me? Shall we say you are "Christ-challenged"? (Yes, I shall say, keeping in mind both meanings to this term that I would like to coin.)

"Trinity Episcopal Church was founded in 1817 by the Rev. Philander Chase, a frontier missionary and Ohio's first Episcopal bishop. Chase founded two religious colleges, served as presiding bishop over the Episcopal Church of the United States, and was the first Protestant to preach in the city of New Orleans. Old Philander Chase was born during the American Revolution. His was the classical Anglican faith of the Founding Fathers. In a Good Friday Sermon about Isaiah 53 that Philander Chase preached as a young man, he criticized those who disregarded the truth of the Bible in his day. 'If the mere assertions, (of people, who talk much but read little, and think still less,) are to be the grounds of our exploding truths, and of giving up our belief in matters of the highest importance, which have been examined and credited by the wisest of men, Where shall we end?'

"Bishop Chase, if he were to return to his old Trinity Church for Eucharist this evening, would find there the answer to his question. For there the Episcopal Church may have had its end." I contend the end of any denomination will not be due to its invitation and welcoming of homosexually oriented people or of any others. The end of any denomination will come when it excludes people. All are invited, or should be, to our churches. Preachers do tend to focus on some sins over others because some sinful practices are more easily incorporated into the politics and emotions of the population. Adultery, slander, gossip, and even gluttony (eating more than your body needs) are recorded to be on equal par with homosexual practice. But there are no great cries from the pulpit against those even though slander, gossip and bearing false witness has hurt more of us than any homosexual. 

In human logic, some sins are more grievous than others. Of course, some one lying about my child is more forgivable than some one murdering him. But in the economy of the spiritual realm (Kingdom of God), Jesus raised many eyebrows when He equated hatred with murder, adulterous thinking with adulterous acting. Jesus explained they are the same. A thought like, "Yeah, I overeat and sometimes pass on juicy gossip I hear, but at least I'm not a homosexual" would be subject to the condemnation of Christ. Not only is this a self-righteous and prideful self-assessment, (sins themselves), but would hold no water (in the baptismal sense) in God's eyes, for "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." My casternation is based upon how some denominations spin the Scriptures in a vulgar direction and my missive above is an example. To understand the essence of my contention, please read on.

"COLUMBUS, OHIO (6/15/06)-The 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church today passed a resolution essentially condemning the Bible as an 'anti-Jewish' document. Not only does the resolution aim to address perceptions of anti-Jewish prejudice in the Bible and Episcopal liturgy, but it suggests that such prejudice is actually 'expressed in...Christian Scriptures and liturgical texts.' "  (Reported by Hans Zeiger, Virtue Online Correspondent.)

In other Weekly Reflections, I teased those who view the New Testament as "Christian Scripture." Except for the chronicles of the Acts of Apostles and the Gospel According to Luke, the New Testament was written by Jewish people. They are Jewish Scriptures, and until Paul's commission for inclusion of the Gentile people and Peter's vision during his prayer on a roof top, all Christians were Jews.

"Virtue Online interviewed the Very Rev. Dr. Peter Cook of the Diocese of Western Louisiana, a member of the Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music, following the final vote of the House of Deputies to concur with the House of Bishops. Cook attempted to dissuade his committee from amending Resolution C001, but his vote was far outweighed. Resolution C001 'in effect smuggled in a critique of the Scriptural text instead of the liturgical text,' said Cook.

"Underlying it all was a terribly flawed understanding of God's Word, Cook suggested. 'I think it reaffirms the belief amongst many that our culture is entitled to critique the Scriptures.' Cook said that the liberal view of Scripture had triumphed in the passage of the resolution, based on the belief that the Bible is 'a document produced in a certain time with limitations, and because of that it may not be relevant for all cultures at all times.' The orthodox view, according to Cook, is that 'the Scriptures were written at a particular place in a particular culture, and that they are relevant to all cultures.' But 'if Scriptures were only communicated by men, which means that they were man's best efforts to interpret what God is saying,' they will inevitably miss the mark, Cook concluded."

Cook's remarks call for many observations. This issue of straying away from the teachings of Christ or biblical relevance and interpretation is not a modern one. It began in the apostles' time, being addressed in many of the Letters or Epistles of the New Testament. It generated many "councils" of the church, beginning with the first one in Jerusalem when Paul asked the apostles for a letter to bring back to the Gentile churches settling the argument about their need to be circumcised and follow other Jewish practices. Christianity thrived in spite of or because of, in part, persecution of the Gospel from within the Christian ranks, that were also infiltrated by non-Christian impostors. 

I also find it very interesting that the scriptures of non-Judiac-Christian cultures and traditions, many of which pre-date the Bible (as of China and India) are still deemed relevant to modern times and are not subject to such argumentative drivel by their adherents. Go figure.

The Anglican denomination (Episcopal Church branch in the US) is only a couple of hundred years old. What was the need for another of the over 5000 denominations fracturing Christianity into divisions? I addressed this, in part, in the June 2006 Weekly Reflection, "What About Apostolic Succession?" These denominations all proclaim the Bible as their only authoritative source, so it follows that we should all be in agreement. Since the Reformation five hundred years ago (and the church that was being reformed had a counter-reformation of its own), we see in many of the names of the "new" churches the adjective "reformed," as in "The Reformed Church of the New Apostolic Age" or "The Reformed Church of XYZ Township." What are they reforming? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps they are just taking the original reformation into 5000 different directions.

It's important to distinguish between biblical and Christian doctrine and liturgy. Different cultures cannot be expected to agree on liturgy. Some find it important to dance their prayers and use traditional drums and other cultural expressions of music, while others prefer a more solemn reflective style of worship. That's liturgy. But when a church "invites" the "heterosexually challenged" (a politically correct term meaning "you have a problem with your sexuality") and that the Scriptures are anti-Semitic and not relevant in our present post-modern culture, that's doctrine. The Jehovah Witnesses could not support their doctrines with the multiple translations of Scripture, so they rewrote the Bible. Others just write it off.

Apostle John recorded Christ's critique of the seven churches in His Revelation. Studying them regularly is prudent for all of us. The Episcopal Church in the US is in there for sure, for it has exposed its colors, perhaps reflecting the "Rainbow Coalition." With Christians like these, the Gospel needs no enemies.

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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