25 September 2007

TEM asks, "Who is drifting from biblical truth?"

There's a great essay over at The Episcopal Majority. It should be required reading for all those who accuse ECUSA of losing biblical grounding. The author says, in a thought-provoking way, that actually ECUSA is more biblical these days, not less.

Here's a sample:
For over five years I have asked "orthodox" bishops, priests, and laypeople at General Conventions, diocesan conventions, and in every other forum possible to provide a justification of their "orthodox" stance on Biblical theology that references the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] instead of vague statements about the Bible in general and the usual three to five verses from John's Gospel. There have been no takers. I want to be very clear here: close to six years of asking in a quiet, respectful tone – and no takers. I am amazed that those who are willing to use the Bible as a weapon are unwilling to converse about a central part of it. I keep hoping someone will prove me wrong here.

In a similar vein, I have searched the statements of the Anglican Primates who are most upset about our "abandoning the Bible" for any evidence of the life, the teachings, and the actions of Jesus Christ in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke – and I have found none.

Here are some questions for anyone who wants to charge the leadership of the Episcopal Church with "abandoning the Bible" or failing to acknowledge the real authority of the Bible. I ask these questions not rhetorically, but out of genuine concern:
  • Whom did Jesus heal – and which of the healing stories involve repentance or conversion?
  • How did Jesus choose Levi, the tax collector, as disciple/apostle – apparently without evidence of personal belief or repentance?
  • What do you make of the parables that speak so movingly about sufficient faith outside Jesus' faith community?
  • What is the relationship between Jesus' community and the religious establishment?
  • What is the relationship between Jesus’ community and the marginalized people of his time?
  • Is there any group or class of people that Jesus excluded from his welcoming embrace?
  • How was it, when scholars tell us that Jesus honored women completely, that our church was able to marginalize them for nineteen hundred years?
  • Are there reasons we do not use the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and Paul’s list of the indications that the Holy Spirit is present in individuals and groups (Galatians 5:22-23) as the basis for our moral judgments on committed human relationships rather than the regulations of the purity code that even Conservative and Reformed Jews have rejected?
These are not difficult questions. They are questions, though, that reveal the ignorance of the attacks of those who believe that the Episcopal Church does not concern itself with the authority of the Bible. I believe it is disgraceful to ignore the teachings, the parables, the healings, and the loving and affirming relationships of Jesus Christ while charging those who not only affirm, but also treasure those realities with disregard of the Bible.

If there has been a change within the Episcopal Church over the past few decades, the change has come from our reading the Bible and taking its core message with complete seriousness. The change has also come from our willingness to subject our morality to the overwhelming evidence of the morality preached by the Incarnate One – even when it conflicts with the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans. Is that a kind of change to fear or to attack? No, it is not an occasion for attack – or really to fear. It represents the authentic voice of our Lord – and while that voice has often provoked fear, even in the faithful, it is also the path to our salvation.
I wish there were more. I'd like to see a book-length project take this up, including the work of academic biblical experts. This is a tantalizing argument, and it could change things if it could be made persuasively. One might quibble with privileging the synoptic Gospels over other books here, but then this makes one realize the unarticulated assumption that the Pauline corpus should trump the parables of Jesus.

We need a book to take this up. Anyone?

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