Friday, March 21, 2014

Is This Worthy of a Bishop?

That's one of the questions Fr. Peter Carrell asks in a posting at Anglican Down Under regarding Bishop Gene Robinson's inaugural column for "The Daily Beast." Here's part of what Bishop Robinson writes:

Maybe you’re religious, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re one of many who claim to be spiritual but not religious—which I take to mean that you hold many of the values espoused by one religion or another, but you’re highly suspicious of organized/institutional religion and its failure to live out its stated values. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s famous line: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”... 
Much of what you will read here will be critical of organized religion, since along with Chesterton, I believe in Christianity but seldom see it put into practice. Love is the central theme of the Bible, and yet we find it so hard to live lives of love. The enemy of love is not hate, but fear. When confronted by those who seem filled with hate, I try to ask “What are they afraid of?” with as much sympathy as I can muster. Responding to hate with love is one of the most daunting tasks of those who claim to follow Jesus. 
This column will also go far beyond Christianity. God is infinite, and it comes as no surprise to me that there have developed, over time, many credible and faithful approaches to understanding God. In the end, no religion holds a lock on the reality of God. Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God and offers insight into God’s reality, and we would do well to exercise a good measure of humility in claiming we know God’s will. Better to begin each pronouncement we make about God with “In my experience…” or “From my perspective…” or simply “For me….” At the end of the day, no matter how much we believe we know God’s will, we must acknowledge that each of us is only doing the best she/he can.

Fr. Carrell's response hits the nail on the head:

A bishop, intended within Anglican polity to be a teacher of the faith, belittles his own religion and its claim to have received the fullness of God's revelation in Jesus Christ by declaring 'Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God.' Further, as a bishop authorised by the church to proclaim the Word of God, the best he can do is boil down all proclamation of God's truth to 'In my experience.'

This is not Christianity. Nor is it Anglicanism as a manner of being Christian which is both catholic and reformed.

And, I would add, in comparison to the fullness of the faith as received within Anglicanism, Bishop Robinson's post-Christian religion of personal opinion is just downright boring.

11 comments:

kiwianglo said...

I've noticed your comments on A.D.U., Bryan, and I'm afraid you, like Peter Carrell, might just have a view incompatible with the Bishops and people of your own Church T.E.C.

I think that honesty would require you to re-think whether, or not, with your specific views of LGBTI people, you can still pledge your loyalty to your Presiding Bishop, and the Canons of your Church in North America.

Having met and spoken with Bishop Gene, in the context of a special Mass in the U.K. at the time of the Church of England's refusal to have him present at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, i was impressed with his humility and deep spirituality. You cannot take that away from him with your denigration of his particular understanding of God as supreme over all religions in the world.

To think less of God's supremacy is demeaning of The Almighty. Even Jesus spent time in the company of people with different faith views, and he was kinder than you to those he encountered in his ministry of inclusivity, en Christo.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison

Bryan Owen said...

Greetings, Fr. Ron (kiwianglo).

I've noticed your comments on A.D.U., Bryan, and I'm afraid you, like Peter Carrell, might just have a view incompatible with the Bishops and people of your own Church T.E.C.

The "view" affirming that the fullness of God's revelation is given to us in Jesus Christ is clearly and repeatedly expressed in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. That is still the authorized Prayer Book in TEC, and so it is the normative expression of the doctrine, discipline, and worship to which all ordained persons have sworn their loyalty. Insofar as bishops like Bishop Robinson deviate from, deny, or reject that doctrine, discipline, and worship, they have violated their ordination vows. And insofar as any Episcopalian (lay or ordained) deviates from, denies, or rejects the teaching about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, he/she is also violating the Baptismal Covenant promise to continue in apostolic teaching and fellowship (see my posting "All of the Baptismal Covenant").

I think that honesty would require you to re-think whether, or not, with your specific views of LGBTI people, you can still pledge your loyalty to your Presiding Bishop, and the Canons of your Church in North America.

​I think that honesty requires me to adhere to the promises I've made in the Baptismal Covenant and in my ordination vows. No one in the Episcopal Church takes a pledge of allegiance to the Presiding Bishop. Nothing in the Canons of the Episcopal Church requires any Episcopalian to embrace the post-Christian views of folks like Bishop Robinson.​ And my "specific views of LGBTI people" are no different than my views of anyone else - they are persons (not labels!) with real feelings, hopes, and dreams, real needs to be loved and respected, persons for whom Christ died, persons who are called to repent of their sins and accept the love, mercy, and forgiveness offered to everyone in Jesus Christ.

Bryan Owen said...

Continuing my response to Fr. Ron (kiwianglo):

Having met and spoken with Bishop Gene, in the context of a special Mass in the U.K. at the time of the Church of England's refusal to have him present at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, i was impressed with his humility and deep spirituality. You cannot take that away from him with your denigration of his particular understanding of God as supreme over all religions in the world.

​I have no doubt, Fr. Ron, that Bishop Robinson exhibits the qualities you reference, and that he is, indeed, a very nice and kind man. He's always struck me that way when I've seen him interviewed. But the points made by Fr. Carrell and myself pertain to Bishop Robinson's theological views, not his personal character. And I note that in your accusation that I have somehow denigrated him, you are taking a stab at my character rather than addressing what you think may be inadequate or erroneous about my theology - an ad hominem tendency I've seen happen numerous times in your comments over at Anglican Down Under. Your comments are welcome here, but if you're going to go down that ad hominem road, please don't bother.

To think less of God's supremacy is demeaning of The Almighty. Even Jesus spent time in the company of people with different faith views, and he was kinder than you to those he encountered in his ministry of inclusivity, en Christo.

​If Christianity is true, then to think less of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the fullness of God's revelation is demeaning to the Almighty. And if that's the case, then Bishop Robinson's reduction of that truth to the subjectivity of personal opinion is supremely demeaning of the Almighty. "No one has ever seen God," we read in Holy Scripture. "It is God, the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (John 1:18). But it follows from what Bishop Robinson has written that such statements are arrogant.

As for Jesus' kindness and inclusivity, we should also remember the intolerant and exclusionary side of Jesus.

BC said...

Fr Bryan, thanks for posting this.

Reading +Robinson's article a few times, I was struck not so much by what he said as by what he did not say.

What was said? Recognising that there can be saving knowledge of God in other religions is hardly unorthodox - it's pretty standard catholic teaching.

What was not said? Jesus. A bishop is given a public platform to engage with - I assume - the 'spiritual but not religious' and does not mention the mystery of Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection. Instead a generic sense of the spiritual is offered.

I think you capture it well with your closing comment - "downright boring". Soon we will be celebrating the great drama of the Paschal Mystery - with its beauty, agony, questions, silence and glory. Why replace such a Drama with such a bland account of spirituality?


Bryan Owen said...

Very well said, BC. Thank you!

The Goo said...

Thank you Bryan, and thank God that you have not sworn allegiance to the PB. Obviously, +Robinson has. He seems to be regurgitating her earlier remarks. Back at Anaheim I believe that she stated that God made promises to the Jews and the Muslims which have not been broken, and that if she denied that they have access to God, then it would be a sin against the Holy Spirit.

"Each religion grasps only a part of the infinite God and offers insight into God’s reality, and we would do well to exercise a good measure of humility in claiming we know God’s will."

I wish I were one of those who found this type of revisionist trash boring. To me it is heresy, plain and simple. And as usual, it comes from one of those fortunate ones who is just a little bit smarter than the rest of us, who has just a little more insight into what God wants to reveal to us.

Thank you for maintaining and preaching the "view" affirming that the fullness of God's revelation is given to us in Jesus Christ.

Bryan Owen said...

Many thanks to The Goo for the comments and support!

Brandon Filbert said...

Regarding kiwianglo's comment:

My, my, but how arrogant one becomes when one "has the votes." In looking back on the vows given at ordination, I don't see a personal vow to the PB. Perhaps kiwianglo does not quite understand the difference between Anglicanism and the Roman Catholic Church. Or, perhaps kiwianglo is expressing the triumphalist mindset of those who believe themselves to be "in the right" and thus feel able to banish all those with differing opinions, just like in the Good Old Days--but now with an "enlightened" attitude. Do the ends justify the means?

thegospelside.com said...

Well played, good Father, both in the post and in the responses.

It still surprises me when people retire and use their bishop status to promote the cause of self by denigrating the faith and the church that sustained them...rather than build the cause of Christ as they pledged in baptism. Not to mention their refusal to uphold the vows repeated in all three of their ordinations that the Scriptures are the Word of God.

Perhaps this is the Bishop Pike syndrome-that fame is the only thing we care about. Sometimes the retired cannot give up the pulpit and want to hang onto it by making progressively more preposterous statements in order to garner attention.

"Generation Like" anyone?

C. Wingate said...

my grumpy response

Bryan Owen said...

Many thanks for the comments from Brandon, thegospelside, and C. Wingate.

And C. Wingate, your "grumpy response" nails it! Thank you for sharing the link.