Church break follows gay vote

You knew this was coming...

Church Break Follows Gay Vote
Four area parishes split off from U.S. Episcopal Church. Bishop to address issue today
By Colette M. Jenkins
Beacon Journal religion writer

More than two years after the Episcopal Church's debate over homosexuality, four Northeast Ohio congregations have voted to split from the national church and the Diocese of Ohio. The four parishes -- St. Luke's in Fairlawn, Church of the Holy Spirit in Akron, St. Barnabas in Bay Village and St. Anne's in the Fields of Madison -- voted Sunday to break with the Episcopal Church USA and affiliate with the Diocese of Bolivia in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. The South American diocese is based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and led by Bishop Frank Lyon... The four Ohio parishes--with about 1,300 active members--decided to leave the U.S. church and the local diocese because of "divergent understandings of the authority of scripture and traditional Christian teaching," according to a news release.

It seems to me that the news release quote concisely tells us the key to why this split is happening. It is not so much "the gay issue," but a more underlying issue: These parishes are correct in their assessment that the Episcopal Church has decided that something else trumps the Scriptures.

The Emerging Church must learn from this sad situation. As long as we remain tied directly to Scripture, then we will be okay. But as soon as we say that other things can trump Scripture, then we will be moving beyond what it means to be Christian.

This is not to say that there has to be conformity to any particular interpretation of Scripture, for the emerging church embraces conversation about how we understand the revelation of the Bible. This conversation is a very good thing; our understanding of varying interpretations of the Bible helps to stem parochialism and divisions in the Body of Christ.

What I've seen is this: The best in the emerging church movement are seeking to authentically engage Scripture. But I have also seen a "take it or leave it" attitude with the Bible in some "EC" circles, which is a shame.



bj woodworth said...

Bob I agree with your comments about the essentila nature of upholding the authority of scripture but there is an equally significant issue at hand here - that of mission. Granted on paper these splits happened because of soemthing trumping scripture. But what trumped it was an alternative interpretation of scripture. Namley monogoamous homosexual realtionships are not prohibited in the Bible. This has begun to define churches as "accepting" or not accepting of gays and lesbians. If churches begin to define themselves around the issue of homosexuality then where will our gay borthers and sisters choose to worship? They will worship at churches that are "accepting" of them. If my church or your church aligns itself, on the basis of upholding scripture with at church that "is not accepting" of homosexuals then we will loose the potential for them ever belonging to our communities. We would be choosing doctrinal and ethical purity over the mission to the least, the last and the lost. Isn't that what Jesus ranted against the Pharisees about? Does that make sense. I for one am not ready to make that break even if it appears to be for a high view of scripture.

Bob Robinson said...

Excellent point, BJ.

This is a topic worth exploring: the balance between mission and scriptural fidelity.

Is there a way to lovingly accept those who live in a homosexual lifestyle into our communities of faith without affirming that such a lifestyle is God's desire for them?

Ee do this all the time with other things: We have found a way to lovingly accept those who live in any number of other "siful lifestyles" into our communities of faith without affirming that such a lifestyle is God's desire for them; we have found a way to lovingly accept those who live in a materialistic lifestyle into our communities of faith without affirming that such a lifestyle is God's desire for them; We have found a way to lovingly accept those who live in a prideful lifestyle into our communities of faith without affirming that such a lifestyle is God's desire for them...etc., etc.

Sexuality is no more or less fallen in our world than other things--we need to find a way to accept those involved in all lifestyles that "fall short of the glory of God," including homosexuality.

But this is a far cry from where the Episcopal Church is today, accepting the lifestyle itself.

ScottB said...

Bob, well said. I get nervous when I hear people start downplaying the authority of scripture. I think that, no matter a person's view of scripture, you're exactly right in your assessment that we are a community united around the scriptures. Lose that, and we lose our Story. I think accepting scripture - all of scripture - as authoritative is what helps keep us from idolatry. When we start picking and choosing which parts we'll hold as authoritative, we begin to create a god in our image. Anything that's uncomfortable, we just discard - the end result is a deity that's strangely like us.

And I'm in full agreement that subscribing to the authority of scripture isn't to agree to a particular interpretation of it. But I think that's a different conversation and places us in a different relationship with it. "How do I understand/interpret/live this?" is functionally a very different question from "What do I need to listen to?"

Bob Robinson said...


[["How do I understand/interpret/live this?" is functionally a very different question from "What do I need to listen to?"]]

Nicely said.

lyricano said...

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church" (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

lyricano said...

“Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (1 Corinthians 11:14)

lyricano said...

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28)

Bob Robinson said...

Lyricano brings to light some very difficult passages that may make it hard for anyone (like myself) to claim that the Bible should be unquestionably lifted up as some kind of authority. How can I say, on one hand, that certain things were more "cultural" and limited to the biblical times (such as women keeping silent in church, or men wearing short hair, or never allowing tattoos), and on the other hand say that homosexuality as a lifestyle is sinful (why isn't that a culturally and historically specific command that we can dismiss today?)? Am I just picking and choosing what I will say is culturally past and should be re-interpreted for our day?

This is a good question. I'll tackle the three passages Lyricano provides, and then summarize.

Bob Robinson said...

1 Cor 14:34-35
I follow biblical scholar Gordan Fee on this one (New International Commentary on the New Testament: 1 Corinthians).
He insists (with very strong scholarly reasons) that these two verses are not authentic to Paul's original letter.
1. In manuscripts it appears here or after v. 40. This points to the likelihood that these verses were added later as a gloss.
2. These verses do not fit into the flow of Paul's thought; what do these have to do with manifestations of the Spirit?
3. These verses stand in STARK CONTRAST to 11:2-16, where it is assumed (without any reproof) that women pray and prophesy in the assembly, as well as the "everyone" of 14:23-24 who speak in tongues and prophesy and the "all" who prophesy in 14:31. The "all" in Greek would have included the men and the women.
4. In this text we read, "as the Law says." Anywhere else Paul cites the Law, he also cites the text. He does not do so here. Why not? Because no such text appears in the Law.

The author of these verses wanted to subjugate women...but it was not Paul who wrote these verses.

Bob Robinson said...

1 Corinthians 11:14
With our modernistic ears, when we hear "Nature," we hear, "The Scientific Natural Law of Things."
So when we read that "nature" teaches us these things, we think, "hmmm...this must be the way God intends universally, naturally, scientifically."

This kind of thought is anachronistic to Paul's use of the term.

If this was Paul saying, "Thus sayeth the Lord: Men, never wear long hair. And women, always have a head covering when you pray and wear your hair long!" then we would hear him say something like that. Instead he appeals to "the nature of things," or "the way things are," or, an in verse 16, the "practice" of the contemporary churches.

So I do not hold this to be a binding, timeless dictum on all Christians for all times. Hey, this is the same Paul who, according to Acts 18:18 wore his hair long right there in Corinth as part of a vow!

Bob Robinson said...

Leviticus 19:28
I love it when critics of the Christians and our "inconsistent" use of the Bible pull verses out of Leviticus to prove how we "pick and choose" what we want to follow.

Leviticus is the book of Law written to the Old Testament People of God, the Israelites, so that they can be a "separate people" from the pagans in the lands around them. They were to be "set apart, holy." So Leviticus was rule after rule telling them, basically, this: The pagans around you do detestable things; do not do those things.

So, many of these laws are VERY specific to that culture.

Okay. If I am in a situation in which God leads me into a pagan land that does things like divination so as to predict the future (v. 26), or child prostitution (v. 29), or (as in the case of v. 28) carves into their skin as a form of mourning for the dead, then I will not take part in those things.

As it is, I DO live in a culture that goes to spiritists and diviners (most of which are con-artists), and a world in which child prostitution is still a plague. So, I DO not take part in promoting these things (and in fact I am active in social action to stop these things from plagueing our world).

But I do not live in a culture in which the normal way to mourn the dead is to write incantations into our skin. So, is this binding on me? I think that if I write "MOM" on my skin, or draw a crucifix on my skin, that is a different matter altogether.

Bob Robinson said...

So, the point is this: I grant that there are certainly "difficult passages" in the Bible that Christians interpret in different ways. And I also grant that even the homosexual passages are interpreted in different ways among Christians. (I'm a "liberal" by some Christian's standards in that I contend that the Bible does not say that a proclivity towards homosexuality is a sin, just an active homosexual lifestyle).

The issue is this: The discussion needs to be about "what does the Bible teach." If the Episcopal Church gave sound exegetical reasons as to why the Bible affirms homosexuality, I would say, "I disagree with your interpretation, but I respect the fact that you've shown a legitimate alternative interpretation that I need to investigate further."

Instead, they dismiss all the Bible's teachings on the subject as passe' or not enlightened enough: "This is the 21st Century; we know that science has taught us that people can be homosexual as well as heterosexual. How can we allow an ancient, outdated text tell us something that our enlightened minds know is not true! The Bible simply doesn't know what it's talking about. God would never want to stop people from loving each other! After all, God is love! How can homosexuality be wrong when it feels so right?"

Modernity meets Personal Desire.

While I affirm experience as a legitimate avenue of divine revelation, the Episcopal Church has allowed experience to trump clear biblical teaching. That's the issue. In order to be Christian, we must be people of the Christian Bible.

lyricano said...

Bob, I think you are correct that "the issue is . . . about 'what does the Bible teach.'" Like churches that allow parishoners with tattoos (or even churches that embrace the tattoo lifestyle), Episcopalians simply emphasize Love, Honor, Commitment, instead of legalisms about particular sexual practices. Even if one believes that the sexual relations of individuals should be regulated by church authorities, I must wonder why so few churches break off from those mainline/liberal congregations that take a permissive stance on masturbation (which carries similar ontological issues as homosexuality). Episcopalians (and others who prefer the inclusion of our tattooed siblings) are simply trying to err on the side of love rather than condemnation.