Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, May 15, 2009

A "Modest Proposal"

Whoa. "Things fall apart" (Yeats). The Church of Scotland, that former bastion of all things Presbyterian, biblical, and evangelical, hits the news with this story about the hysterically anti-gay clergyman The Rev. Ian Watson:

Granted, no point of view should be judged with reference to its most manic advocates, but there should be far more "conservatives" speaking out against this vicious sort of thing than there have been.

Let's imagine something, for the sake of the argument (in the traditional sense of the word argument). Let's imagine that those opposed to the ordination of active homosexuals and the use of the term "marriage" to describe same-sex unions laid down their arms and acquiesced in the whole array of items on the human-sexuality agenda, a proposal that conceivably might accord with what God is doing in our time.

Would that then mean that the severe divisions in the mainline churches would be healed? Would we be able to reunite and go forward with the mission of the church (our "missional" identity, in the current lingo)?

In a word, no.

One reason for this is that we have not had a serious theological debate in the churches about the sexuality question, but let that go. The other reason is that there is a whole host of issues at stake that have not been addressed in a mutually respectful and probing fashion for a long time; sides were drawn up decades ago and the two camps barely speak to one another. Take for example these foundational matters of doctrine:

--The uniqueness of Christ as the Only-Begotten Son
--The nature of the Trinity
--The definition of the gospel
--The power of sin
--The nature of the demonic
--The doctrine of revelation
--The Bible as the Word of God
--The active agency of God in the world
--The relation of faith and obedience
--The nature of baptism
--The definition of salvation
--The meaning of Christ's death on the cross
--The reality of the resurrection
--The significance of non-violent resistance
--The corporate nature of the Body of Christ

On these issues and many others, the differences between the--what shall we call them? liberals? revisionists? progressives? and the--ouch--conservative regressive traditionalists (can we say evangelicals?) are so vast and have been held tightly for so long that it is hard even to imagine how the conversation could begin. But let us hope and let us continue to bear witness to the promise that with God all things are possible.


At May 31, 2009 8:56 AM, Anonymous ConnecticutYankee said...

“The Rev Ian Watson railed against homosexual lifestyles, declaring that such people would not ‘inherit the kingdom of God’ …”

Was Watson “declaring,” or was he simply quoting St. Paul?

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” ... (1Cor 6:9 NIV)

“The row replicates the dispute within the Anglican Church about the ordination of gays. Anglican conservatives base their opposition to gay people on Bible texts that condemn homosexuality, although liberal members argue that many traditional teachings in the Bible, such as severe punishments for adultery, were no longer observed literally.”

“... no longer observed literally,” so they should no longer be observed, period?

And note my emphasis in the Times passage: it’s not oppostion against gay people, but against the ordinations of individuals whose lifestyles run counter to scripture.

Making leaders out of those who deliberately buck the plain teachings of the Bible is certainly “generous,” but hardly orthodox(y).

At June 05, 2009 9:31 PM, Anonymous Andrew Dykstra said...

Mrs. Rutledge, in your listing of potential subjects in this posting, you include one, the Bible as the word of God. I have long struggled to understand exactly what this means. I am not a fundamentalist; I know it was the authors who were inspired; not the words. I know that the authors wrote different types of literature. I know some wrote apocalyptic, some hymns, some poetry, some letters. Some wrote protest literature (The book of Ruth). I know each literary type must be respected and understood in the spirit in which it was written. What was written as history was not necessarily "history" as we understand it. When I read the Bible, I ask myself, "What does this passage say about God?"
In one book (Esther) God is entirely absent. Some passages, such as the parable of the Prodigal are really about God.

Sometimes God takes risks in how He is portayed. I find some passages troubling, such as the story of the bears who killed the children for calling the prophet "baldy." What happened to "turn the other cheek?"

Sometimes, I ask myself "Did God say that?" For instance "The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots." Judges 1:19 Is God stopped by iron chariots, or did this writer interpret this event in this way? What does it mean that the Bible is the word of God?
Has anyone written what you feel is a helpful book on this subject?

Andrew Dykstra, Toronto

At August 19, 2009 11:42 PM, OpenID rsgregorian said...

Rev Rutledge.

Why did you and your other orthodox colleagues in the Episcopal church acquiesce for so long on so many matters of such more fundamental import? It seems as though the fight has been saved to be fought against the gay and lesbian children of god, the very ones all the points you raise about the true matters of import to the gospel serve to save and and redeem. If in that process of salvation some children fail to shed one or more sinful behaviors, are we vengeful when it's pride, or greed, sloth, gluttony, envy or wrath? Indeed not. Instead, we've chosen to runthe very children who can in fact only be saved by the true gospel into the arms of those that preach a gospel that cannot save. Is this the will of god? I hope not.


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