Greetings in the Lord,
Some hurdles are ahead for the "Year of the Constitution". The Ambridge Clergy Association has all but collapsed, and shows no interest in supporting the project. The school superintendent is still working on it, but somewhat behind the original schedule.
God will use the seeds that have been planted, which are many, but I have the impression that God has made a visitation to Ambridge, and the spiritual leadership of Ambridge has decided that it has more important things to do.
The clergy (as much as the school system) are the key to the success of the Year of the Constitution because of the destructive notion of "church/state" relationship held by almost all. An honest revisiting of our history would put us smack up against the fact that not a single one of those who signed the Declaration or voted at the Constitutional Convention were deists, as claimed, lst alone atheists, and that every single one of them supported the general Biblical worldview. Not all were Christians, but to a man they understood that we are both personally and corporately accountable to God who created us.
That fact is slowly becoming more evident as people ask, "Why have we in America come to such a self-destructive state of affairs? Why are our children killing each other in our schools? How could we have elected a president who has the morals of an alley cat? How could this be in America?" Pray for a spiritual awaking and deep repentance across our troubled land.
Faithfully in Christ,
I use the term "revisionist" to label those persons who are quite literally revising the orthodox faith and practice. I do not mean the term in a derogatory way, but descriptively. Often mistakenly called "liberals", they are by all reasonable accounts revising (not liberating) what has been Christian faith and practice for two centuries. The question is not whether they are revising, but rather (1) whether they are doing so legitimately, and (2) how we discern the rules by which one decides between legitimate and counterfeit Christian faith.
The September yearly meeting of the clergy of my diocese of Pittsburgh, promised to be controversial. Catherine Waynick, who had been elected bishop of Indianapolis a year ago, who had signed the so-called "Koinonia" statement with John Spong supporting homosexuality, and who had voted at the recent Lambeth Conference in England against the Biblical position on human sexuality, had been invited to be the speaker at the clergy conference.
There was considerable surprise and uproar from the conservative side, both in and out of the diocese. It turned out that those doing the inviting did not know that she had signed the Koinonia statement, and Lambeth had not yet happened at the time of the invitation. Our bishop, Robert Duncan, in any event declined to dis-invite her, despite numerous pleadings and exhortations.
The issue raising the ire of most conservatives was Catherine Waynick's support of homosexuality contrary to Scripture. The fact that she was a woman bishop was also an issue for many. Waynick is clearly a revisionist, one who is revising, or who at least accepts the revising of others.
I do not consider myself in communion with Catherine Waynick both because of her support for homosexuality, and because I do not believe that in the plan of God, women are to be ordained. [For a full discussion of that, see my article, Psychology, Salvation, and the Ordination of Women, either on our website (http://theRoadtoEmmaus.org/roadpgs/theol/wmord.htm) or purchase the booklet ($4.50 post paid.)]
The issue behind either homosexuality or a male priesthood, however, is the nature of truth and the ground rules for honest, substantial, and graceful dialogue.
If Catherine Waynick had been a John Spong or a Barbara Harris (two other revisionist bishops with considerable unsavory baggage), it would have been easy to dismiss her. But she turned out manifestly to be a woman of the highest caliber. She is what in an earlier age would have been called a "lady" -- gentle, kind, listens well, and speaks with integrity and honesty.
So the event went quite differently from what many expected. Bishop Duncan had had, from that point of view, very good reasons to invite her. Despite the contentiousness of the above issues, she quickly won the hearts, I would surmise, of all there.
That was partly because Waynick's primary contribution was a discussion
of how clergy can better manage their lives to remain emotionally and spiritually
whole and healthy. People looking for a "revisionist" point to pounce
on were disappointed partly because the topic did not lend itself to that.
Bishop Duncan started by describing his Biblically rooted viewpoint, followed by Waynick with her revised edition. Waynick presented the standard defense of homosexuality, namely that it would be cruel and unkind to condemn people whom God had made that way, and that these people had suffered greatly at the hands of persecutors.
She drew the usual comparisons, noting that the Bible had been used to keep blacks and women in subjection, and hoping that we would not continue that practice with homosexual persons.
She also made the standard unproven assumptions, (1) that God does make people that way, and (2) that it is a safe, non-destructive lifestyle.
For fear of raucous debate (one must suppose), the audience was not invited to ask direct questions, but rather was instructed to pass in questions to be asked by a moderator. I handed in:
If the evidence were to show that God approved of the view opposing yours, and if the empirical evidence (medical, psychological, biological, and others) indicated in favor of a view opposing yours, would that make any difference to your view?
Catherine Weynick, with some searching hesitation, said that if the evidence were clear against her view, then we could rejoice that we had reached clarity, and would then have to find some pastoral way of helping those who found themselves in a homosexual compulsion. It was, perhaps, a possibility she had imagined for the first time.
That, of course, was the answer I had hoped for, indicating that she was a truth-seeker, open to the honest evidence regarding the matter. I had a half hour discussion with her later, explaining my view of how to conduct discussion of such volatile issues, in which she confirmed her prior indication that we must be truth-seekers.
Being truth-seekers is always the first step to honest covenant
"Come, let us reason together...." is the Lord's invitation to join Him
in a freewill covenant relationship of trust and obedience. A revisionist
open to the truth is closer to God than an orthodox person with an unteachable
Both bishops, however, had a mistaken notion that the empirical evidence was undecided, that the scientific jury was still "out" on homosexuality.
But the truth is that we have good reason to believe God to have said "no" to homosexuality, and that we have no independent reason to suggest either that God did not know what He was talking about, that He had changed His mind, or that we have misunderstood Him. The empirical evidence is clear and unambiguous.
But, given the ground rules, I was not able to point out that the jury was indeed "in", so the clear confrontation of the issues was not able to happen. I gave Weynick a summary of the available evidence.
The discussion indicated the dysfunctional aspect of nearly all such discussions on homosexuality. Either the participants have not learned the documented facts, or they do not want to speak the facts out loud because they fear either that their view might be toppled by the truth, or that so much furor would destroy the unity of the Church.
The facts in summary form (see http://theRoadtoEmmaus.org/ind_sex.htm) have been handed out to nearly every bishop in America twice by myself, so there is no good reason for them not to know. The mystery remains why the facts about homosexuality cannot make it to the Church discussion table.
One has to conclude that our conservative leadership has a pathological
fear of the potential conflict which often comes with honest and candid
discussion. There is a tendency to sacrifice truth for peace.
Bishop Duncan's stated aim with Catherine Waynick was to model an honest sharing of conflicting positions with no harshness or name-calling. They indeed succeeded in doing that, but were lacking in the precision and knowledge which could have brought the event beyond a stalemate. There was very little response and counter-response to test each other's view.
Our Church leadership is much more fearful than it ought to be. An honest debate, even if a bit raucous, can lead in the long run to an appreciation of each other as persons -- so long as there is a clear distinction between persons and viewpoints.
That basic principle is seriously compromised by homosexuals who maintain that "My homosexual behavior is who I am, not what I do." The distinction between persons and viewpoints then blurs together so that any critique of homosexual behavior is seen as an attack on the person, a "hate crime". It is not possible to discuss homosexuality truthfully under such conditions.
That distinction between my "being" and my "doing" is not easy to maintain in heated discussion, but the risk is an imperative one. We must risk pain and disunity to get truth.
Homosexuality is thus not the prime issue. The issue is the nature of truth and of honest discussion, the question of "How do we know the truth?" Is there any possible way for contentious issues to be resolved?
The answer (from the Master of resolving contentious debate) is a resounding "Yes! Come, let us reason together.....!" We have all but lost that capacity, largely due to the destruction of our education system by persons in control via government bureaucracy, and due to the near collapse of intellectual integrity among Christians.
Science and honest academic process are the way of the cross for the intellect. We give up our right to be right, and allow the truth and the Lord of truth so speak for themselves. Christians, of all people, should understand that. But instead many have opted for precisely the opposite, theories of infallibility and inerrancy to sandbag our positions and to make ourselves appear infallible. We ought to be doing as did Elijah on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18), put ourselves and our view at risk, and allow God to prove His own case.
The "Elijah test" for today would be an open and honest contest on
the basis of the evidence. But that requires a willingness to put
everything at risk to the evidence and to the capacity of God to supply
the evidence. If God cannot do that, then, on His own terms, He is
a false god, and not worthy of worship.
That is the risk which Christians have been unwilling to make, and which has earned for us (and for God) the reputation of being unconcerned for truth, only for getting our way. That is not the way of the cross.
If the discussion were forced onto the evidence, the case for homosexuality would collapse over night. There is not a teaspoon of credible pro-homosexual evidence. But that can be discovered only by a willingness on the part of those who consider themselves orthodox to risk themselves being found wrong.
The fear of candid debate fracturing our unity is a bogus boogie. There is no reasonable unity apart from truth. "Dialoguing to consensus" in the absence of fact and logic produces no unity at all, only an illusion of good feelings. The only unity worth protecting is that based on truth. Truth and the Lord of truth will protect the unity because nothing else can. Every attempt to protect unity by subverting truth will only ensure that the unity will either be a sham or that it will be violently fractured as the unresolved tensions build up.
Following Jesus on the way of the cross, giving up our right to be
right, is the only way we will ever find ourselves living in the light
with one another.
The issue of a male priesthood is a "sleeper" issue in the Christian community, especially in the Episcopal Church. Despite successes by the winners of that debate in 1976 to ordain women, the issue has not died, and there appear to be increasing numbers of clergy and lay folk expressing doubts about the decision to ordain women.
The resistance has become bolder in reaction to the 1997 General Convention making it mandatory on all bishops to ordain women who are otherwise qualified, and to forbid any person in any office whatsoever to vote against an ordination on the grounds of sex.
But fear of rebuke has stifled conservatives' countering on the issue. Even the Episcopal Synod of America, the only Episcopal group specifically targeting women's ordination, has remained all but silent on that issue.
The Pittsburgh clergy conference with the two bishops was an extraordinary demonstration of the issues involved, albeit I suspect few saw what was going on.
At the conference, the proponents of women's ordination had about as good a representative as they could field. And so what happened?
A key target of the feminist movement has been the claiming of "sameness" (not true equality) with men through the ordination of women. That blurring of the gender roles has compromised the distinction between "who I am" and "what I do" because the masculine role concentrates on "doing" while the feminine role concentrates on "being". Femininists maintained that their "being" was undermined or held in contempt if they were not allowed to "do" ordination.
And that is precisely what we see among homosexualists. What is clearly homosexual behavior is defended as though it were the essence of their identity. So we have invented, with no substantial evidence, a whole new category of human being - "the homosexual". Following close behind are a raft of other "identities": the sadomasochist, cross-dresser, bisexual, pedophile, etc., all (yes, including bestiality) being publicly defended in print.
The effect of putting women in leadership roles, such as making them bishops, is to undercut the masculine virtues of precision and clarity in thought, a disciplined intellect, and courage to stand for principle even at the cost of great pain. One need only look abroad in America today to see that happening in epidemic proportions.
When a very charming, competent, and friendly woman is defending even such arrant nonsense as homosexuality, one will find very few men willing to "fight" with her. It runs against the grain, both because at least some men want to be polite in that inane sense of the word, but also because the image of a woman in authority is very frightening and undermining to men who may not have their own masculine and feminine aspects of their own image in God in balance. Insecure men, of which we have an abundance, will hesitate to "take on" a woman in serious intellectual debate, or be unable to do so gracefully.
So we do not debate anymore, we "dialogue to consensus" -- the pseudo-feminine version of honest debate. We keep talking in exclusion of fact and logic until we all come to a magical agreement of "feel-good" with no substantial content.
At the conference, Catherine Weynick did not so much instruct us as mother us. Almost everyone loves to be mothered, and most of us, I think, ate it up. Instruction is not "in", precisely because the masculine virtues are not "in" (as demonstrated abundantly in our government school system). She told us some very moving stories and talked about being well and how to nurture ourselves emotionally. Those are all good things. But they do not and cannot replace the masculine virtues of moral and intellectual firmness.
As a result, the painful truth about homosexuality never got into the discussion. Contemporary western men are seriously lacking in either emotional, moral, or intellectual substance to force the discussion onto the truth of the assumptions behind presentations such as Weynick's. There is a conviction abroad that that cannot gracefully and lovingly be done -- more of the arrant nonsense by which we are captivated.
The current obsession with nurturing in exclusion of stern duty is leading us into decadence, not truth. And in the end, it destroys the feminine virtues of nurturing, togetherness, and inclusion as well. Love cannot happen in moral or intellectual chaos.
The masculine and feminine virtues are not mutually exclusive, and they must be wedded. But they cannot be wedded if they are so blurred as to be indistinct. We have come to think of persons as independent, generic, and interchangeable entities rather than as very different but complementary entities. We have all but lost the capacity to see one of the most essential gender distinctions - that between being and doing. We think that since everybody "is" and everybody "does", that there is no essential difference between us on that score. But the distinction is built into the nature of God in whose image we are made -- male and female.
[Again, I refer the reader to my article, Psychology, Salvation, and the Ordination of Women for development of these thoughts.]
So, we saw a discussion at the clergy conference which illustrated of one of the basic dysfunctions of American and western society. Our public discussion will continue to go astray into the arrant and terribly destructive nonsense that homosexuality (or, to be fair, pansexuality) represents until men, in graceful and helpful ways, begin again to assert their God-assigned roles as the spiritual leaders and protectors of their families and of society.
When men do that, and when women discover the extraordinary spiritual power which is theirs in the image of God, then the Christian community will begin to manifest a strength and integrity perhaps never before seen in human history.
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Copyright, Earle Fox 1998