February 27, 2017

March 15, 2013

Shannon Johnston Issues Statement

From the TEC Diocese of Virginia website:

A Statement from Bishop Johnston


On the Teachings of John Dominic Crossan and the Witness of the Creeds
This week, I received some questions and concerns about the fact that I was a co-sponsor of a “Clergy Day” with Dr. John Dominic Crossan, hosted by the Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring. This event was in conjunction with two evenings of presentations by Dr. Crossan at that congregation which has been studying his writings as part of a Lenten program. When approached by the rector about the possibility of a day when clergy might have the chance to hear and question Dr. Crossan, I readily agreed that this would be a fine opportunity for our clergy (and clergy from neighboring dioceses) to engage first-hand a scholar who is a world-renowned figure and who would be speaking about a topic of great import: the final week of Jesus’ life. It is my firm conviction that clergy should be current in their knowledge of various schools of thought that, agree or disagree, have broad dissemination and can be influential for a large number of people, both churchpersons and those without a community of faith. In short, it is important that our Church’s leaders know “what’s out there,” what is being said and taught.

Admittedly, Dr. Crossan is quite controversial with respect to some of his views concerning Jesus’ life, the historical context, and the resulting theology of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. But these very controversies are precisely why I believe it is important to have the opportunity to hear directly from him, to think critically (in the larger sense of the word) about what he has to say, and to ask probative questions so as to gain the clearest possible understanding.

Due to the meeting of the House of Bishops, I was not able to be in attendance at the Clergy Day, and so I did not myself hear Dr. Crossan on this occasion. But from my own reading and from what I have heard about the Clergy Day’s content, I have been able to gather some perspective. Reports of the presentation and the Q & A sessions, even from those who took issue with him, have been quite affirming, saying that Dr. Crossan was energizing and provocative, substantive and responsive. I think it is a healthy dynamic that some questioners pushed back at Dr. Crossan’s premises; I also know personally that Dr. Crossan encourages and welcomes critical feedback, as he did at this event.

What concerns me is the assumption that by co-sponsoring this event, I am “endorsing” or signaling agreement with Dr. Crossan’s opinions and teaching. I mean to imply nothing of the sort. I simply do not think that we need to be fearful or reticent to encounter ideas different from our own personal convictions and the Church’s official teachings, even if we find those ideas to be objectionable in some way. Indeed, I find some of Dr. Crossan’s points to be offensive to the faith.

Some of the questions put to me about allowing Dr. Crossan to teach in the Diocese of Virginia challenged my own creedal orthodoxy - a kind of “guilt by association.” I reject such reasoning completely. Allow me to quote from my own pastoral address from January 25, 2013, delivered before the diocesan Council:

“I am as creedal a Christian as you will ever find. The core of my faith is utterly and absolutely defined by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. I do in fact believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation. But I also think that inevitably, people will have differing ways of understanding, interpreting, appropriating and applying these essential truths. I do not accept that my own dearly held faith is in any way compromised by agreeing to disagree over the ways in which the catholic and apostolic Church gives witness and offers ministry, any more than I feel that my Church is compromised by my doing so . . . To me, the plain fact is that I - we - need to hear and understand other views of Christian truths.”

As I’ve noted here, I quite disagree with many facets of Dr. Crossan’s theology - for example, his view of the Resurrection of Jesus, which I believe to have been bodily, personal and unique to the Lord, accomplished in a moment of historical time. This is a central tenet of the Christian faith and is without qualification the proclamation of the Episcopal Church and of this bishop. Indeed, any teaching that is contrary to the Creeds is contrary to the witness of our Church and, specifically, is at odds with my own faith and teaching.

Nonetheless, I will not be a censor of ideas, a roadblock to inquiry that is grounded in a search for “God with us.” The Holy Spirit is still at work with and within the Church and, in my view, we cannot shut down that which pushes our limits. Many times in human history, we have seen how the Spirit has pushed the Church beyond itself.

I give thanks for scholars, like John Dominic Crossan, who are part of that work that challenges us, even if it turns out to be an occasion to return to our own orthodox convictions with stronger roots. No less do I give thanks for scholars, like N.T. Wright, who keep us grounded with such compelling integrity. I also give thanks for those places, like Church of the Holy Cross, Dunn Loring, that provide the forum and the hospitality for all who would seek a deeper understanding of faith in Jesus as our risen Lord and Savior.

The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston

Couple of observations off the bat.

  1. No mention is made of the Falls Church ordination recently. Perhaps Johnston knows there is no way he can make that sound reasonable.
  2. Johnston’s argument is that we ought not to be afraid of engaging with and being challenged by different ideas. To some extent this is true and my own library is testimony to it. I love reading a wide range of opinions. But a clergy conference is not simply an academic essay-writing get-together; it’s an opportunity to feed the pastors who feed the sheep. In Johnston’s own consecration vows he promised to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church of God and the entire congregation affirmed that faith not least in the words of the Nicene Creed which Johnston also again appeals to in his statement. Some of us will be confused as to how inviting Crossan to address his clergy is guarding that same faith - especially when Johnston himself acknowledges that he believes Crossan to be wrong on key issues. When I go to annual clergy conferences the bishops concentrate on teaching us what is true, and encouraging us to do likewise.

No doubt many of you will have other thoughts.

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+Johnston will be preaching/doing Confirmations this Sunday at Holy Cross, Dunn Loring, at 10:30. As this is a stone’s throw from where I live, I am planning to attend. Should be interesting.

[1] Posted by AnnieCOA on 3-15-2013 at 08:38 PM · [top]

We need to pray for AnnieCOA, as she will be entering a spiritually hostile environment.

[2] Posted by AnglicanXn on 3-15-2013 at 09:21 PM · [top]

I would point out that this letter is not in response to SF or +John Guernsey, this is most probably in response to concerns expressed by folks who are still Episcopalians in Johnston’s congregations.  Good to know there are a few Piskies out there with enough discernment to recognize false prophets.

Given the intended audience, no need to mention lesbian ordinations.  Anyone who was leaving TEC over that has already left.  But it probably did rile up a few people (of the sort who won’t leave over the ordination, but it is “one more straw”).  So he wants to defuse his most recent outrage before it impacts the plate and pledge. 

Having Crossan in has long term benefits for Johnston.  He has set the bar VERY low, all his future Clergy Days will seem a big improvement.

If Johnston has invited Crossan to debate, he might have a leg to stand on.  Instead he invited him to help train his clergy in theology and biblical scholarship.  Which is to say, to help Johnston, KJS and the rest indoctrinate the clergy of Virginia into the current heresies of TEC.

[3] Posted by tjmcmahon on 3-15-2013 at 09:47 PM · [top]

I ‘ll leave it to my betters to pick apart the details.  I just know Shannie don’t gotta clue ‘bout what a “bishop’s” ‘spose to do.

[4] Posted by Nikolaus on 3-15-2013 at 10:10 PM · [top]

It seems to me there are two keys to unlocking Johnston’s “creedal orthodoxy” – views held widely among TEC clergy.

The first key is hermeneutical. One can love and recite the Creeds, they say, and still allow for 57 varieties of interpretation as to their meaning. Even Bp. Spong can deny the literal truth of each creedal article and still say he loves the creed. No need to cross the fingers, just sing it; better yet, hum it. The core doctrine is “God with us”; the Creeds are its ancient conceptual clothing; and the Holy Spirit leads us into new fashions of understanding.

The second key is pastoral. Even if one disagrees with Crossan about a creedal doctrine like the Resurrection, it does not really affect someone’s salvation. Hence it makes no difference whether Crossan is addressing a graduate seminar or a confirmation class. Johnston, I would guess, might even be willing to invite Richard Dawkins to come and broaden the flock’s perspective by arguing that God is not with us.

Neither of these views has anything to do with the actual creeds or the councils that adopted them or the reason they were included in the Book of Common Prayer or that clergy vow to defend them. The purpose of the creeds is expressed in the Athanasian Creed, which concludes:

This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

[5] Posted by Stephen Noll on 3-15-2013 at 10:12 PM · [top]

No matter how far left you are theologically, having your bishop invite Crossan to your clergy conference is like having your parents hire Vanilla Ice to play your 18th birthday party: However much of an enfant terrible either one may have been in his heyday, time has rendered them both boring and predictable, saying the same tired things over and over. Bringing Crossan in to epater le bourgeoisie is just proof you’ve run out of imagination.

[6] Posted by Greg Griffith on 3-16-2013 at 12:22 AM · [top]

David+ and Stephen Noll+ are entirely correct.

+Johnston does not only not mention his in-your-face ordination of a lesbian at the historic Falls Church (whose property is not yet finally his), but he also represents John Dominic Crossan as a bona fide “scholar” with whose views he allegedly does not agree, but who is still worthy of “teaching” his flock.  Yet he conceives that the priests in his care can hear Crossan’s unorthodox views without Bishop Johnston being present to guard the faith, because they somehow will “push back” at that which is unworthy of acceptance. Therein lies Bishop Johnston’s failure to fulfill the primary pastoral role to which his episcopal office obligates him.

In my view, +Johnston convicts himself (of his open stance for unorthodoxy) out of his own mouth. He may well personally believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, but we see now that it is not so firm a belief as to preclude his clergy from listening to, and being tested with, the idiocies conjured up by Crossan. No, Bishop Johnston’s clergy must instead be ready to “engage”—without any warning beforehand—this lapsed monk, who can do no better than to go around seeking whatever platform will welcome him, and offer only weak explanations for his having abandoned the Gospel, and substituting a rank heresy in its place as though it were a rational reading of the Scriptures. Bishop Johnston trusts his clergy and congregants to sort out the truth: but why, then, would he allow Crossan unfettered and uncensored access to his flock, in the blind hope that there would come forth those who would definitively challenge Crossan’s modernist heresies?

To take just one instance of the opportunity that +Johnston allowed for misinformation to proliferate, consider that Crossan’s hypothesis depends wholly upon the position that the Shroud of Turin was a 14th-century fabrication of a clever (but never identified, or explained) artisan.

When Crossan first formulated his views, the so-called “majority” of scholars in 1988 backed the later provenance of the Shroud, but since that time the views of its origin have shifted profoundly, in light of the accumulated evidence. Indeed, it is no longer just a matter of interpretation of historical evidence: there is no present explanation of the Shroud’s microscopically (and medically) accurate details which has withstood scientific analysis. In short, those who would reject the Shroud’s amazing evidence of Our Lord’s resurrection are, like John Dominic Crossan, blinded by their own smug certainty that “science has disproved” the authenticity of the Shroud, no matter what the accumulated evidence to the contrary.

One need not debate the authenticity of the Shroud, however, to discredit Crossan’s teachings. By denying that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and by claiming that He lied to us when He said so (or that the reports of His statements to that effect were lies), Crossan forfeits any audience among the faithful. To give credence to what he contends is to deny the very foundation of the faith once received from the Saints, and to venture into uncharted territory, where any scholar (so-called) may bring into question the basics of the Christian faith just by questioning that one self-authenticating claim of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was either what He said he was—the Son of God incarnate—or else He was history’s greatest fraud and deceiver. Accept +Johnston’s premise (that every version of Jesus’ last week is worthy of audition), and you enter the latter camp, due to an inability to discern through reason and intellect alone whether or not Jesus’ claim was true. That very willingness to entertain as rational an apostate monk’s denial of the faith, on the purported ground that it constitutes an “alternate view worth hearing”, manifests +Johnston’s own apostasy, and betrayal of his flock.

While I rejoice that ACNA has retaken the high ground through Bishop Guernsey, I am not as sanguine about the prospects for the apostate Episcopal Church (USA). It almost succeeded in its attempt to introduce (utterly benign, in its view, because that is how it sees itself) a wolf into the fold. And that attempt, I have to conclude, in the light of Bishop Johnston’s non est culpa mea (i.e, his refusal even to name Fr. Baucum or otherwise justify his betrayal of Fr. Baucum’s trust), was par for the course. Trust a liberal to do the right thing, in other words, and you might as well pound sand.

[7] Posted by A. S. Haley on 3-16-2013 at 12:35 AM · [top]

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

I John 4:1-3

[8] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 3-16-2013 at 02:08 AM · [top]

A scholar? (No. A false teacher.)

A world-renowned figure? (So is the devil.)

Clergy should be current in their knowledge of various schools of thought. (True. They can read about it at Wikipedia, or in McGrath’s book on heresy.)

Admittedly, Dr. Crossan is quite controversial. (No. Blatantly heretical teachings are not controversial. I’m not aware of a group of true Christians who have accepted Crossan’s teachings. The question of whether the Virgin Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus is controversial. Whether priests should be celibate is controversial.)

I am as creedal a Christian as you will ever find. (Heh-heh. So, you ordained a self-avowed, practicing, and unrepentant female homosexual to the priesthood.)

The core of my faith is utterly and absolutely defined by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. I do in fact believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation. (Holy Scripture also contains warnings about things that lead to defilement, and the outer darkness. Perhaps the Bishop skips over those parts.)

Indeed, any teaching that is contrary to the Creeds is contrary to the witness of our Church and, specifically, is at odds with my own faith and teaching. (What about teachings that are contrary to Holy Scripture?)

I will not be a censor of ideas. (Ummm, that’s exactly what bishops are supposed to do.)

Many times in human history, we have seen how the Spirit has pushed the Church beyond itself. (And, many times in history, we have seen how that other spirit has pushed the Church beyond herself, and over the cliff.)

I give thanks for scholars, like John Dominic Crossan, who are part of that work that challenges us. (Yes. Without darkness, it might be difficult to appreciate the light.)

[9] Posted by Ralph on 3-16-2013 at 05:13 AM · [top]

“I will not be a censor of ideas. (Ummm, that’s exactly what bishops are supposed to do.)”

Ralph, I think it is here that you get to the heart of the matter. In TEC, bishops are not guardians of the faith. They are administrators of institutional franchises. As such, it is not their place to indicate any limits on the extent to which clergy may wander off the theological farm (keep in mind that the original invitation to Crossan came from the rector of Holy Cross Dunn Loring—in a real church he’d have been disciplined for exposing his sheep to a wolf, in TEC he gets co-sponsored). In fact, it is apparently their place to encourage their clergy to sit at the feet of those who would destroy the faith.

By using the word “censor,” Johnston is trying to suggest that there is something somehow illegitimate about calling any views, no matter how contrary to Scripture or creeds, out of bounds. In doing so, he issues an open invitation to the wolves who would devour the flock. As such, he is as much a destroyer of the flock as the wolves themselves, no matter how “creedally orthodox” he thinks himself personally.

[10] Posted by David Fischler on 3-16-2013 at 08:16 AM · [top]

It is clear that Paul considered false teachers destructive to the life of the churches he had planted. They still are today. They give aid and comfort to the pagans in the pews and call into question the faith of committed Christians.

[11] Posted by Pb on 3-16-2013 at 08:38 AM · [top]

Bishop Johnston’s explanation makes clear that he does not consider teaching right belief and shunning unbelief to be part of his job.  If he had appeared, as the chief pastor of the diocese, along with Crossan to challenge and contradict him, he might have a case.

Thank you, A.S. Haley, for the fascinating links on the Sudarium Domini and the Shroud.

[12] Posted by Katherine on 3-16-2013 at 08:52 AM · [top]

If you believe the Holy Spirit might lead the church beyond her biblical creedal “limits” or push the church “beyond herself” through a “teacher” like Crossan then you are not creedally orthodox. The Jesus you hold to at present is merely a transitory infinitely malleable ideal. Your real god is the corporate subjective wish image of a tiny sect of revisionist activists. This is not Creedal orthdoxy.

[13] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-16-2013 at 09:07 AM · [top]

I had a conversation with a local Episcopal priest which had a similar flavor.  I asked why she was happy with someone putting up idols to Buddha and Ganesha in the church social hall, given that, she did not believe they were gods and that we shouldn’t worship them.  She said that she doesn’t worry about anyone following these false gods because God is merciful and will save everyone regardless how misled they are.  It seems that Bishop Johnston has a similar view; yes he worships God and believes the creeds but doesn’t see any danger in not believing in them.  There are no consequences.

But these people don’t actually believe that there are no consequences of bad belief; I don’t think Bishop Johnston would invite someone to Clergy Day to “challenge” them with the “controversial” idea that (say) God hates gays.  (And I wouldn’t want him to.).  The same church that welcomed Buddha and Ganesha censured an exhibit featuring pictures of guns.

By his invitation to Crossan, Johnston shows that he believes his own confessed orthodoxy to be unimportant and optional.

[14] Posted by John Boyland on 3-16-2013 at 09:16 AM · [top]

Yeah, right.  Invite a few Wiccans and Satan worshipers too.  After all, we shouldn’t be fearful of alternative perspectives.

Johnston isn’t “censoring” anyone by not inviting heretics to speak.  I’m sure Crossan has a full schedule anywaysHe is, however, promoting them by inviting them and paying them

[15] Posted by Bill2 on 3-16-2013 at 09:52 AM · [top]

Classically, a central aim of the Nicene Creed is to set a boundary around the discussion of truth. The Bishop seems to disagree rather vehemently with this aim.

Of course, boundaries are always drawn (discussion of truth always occurs in a limited context); the Bishop just draws them in a different place than credal orthodoxy.

[16] Posted by driver8 on 3-16-2013 at 01:24 PM · [top]

#14, Buddha and Ganesha in a TEC parish hall?  I knew things were bad; I didn’t realize it was that bad.

[17] Posted by Katherine on 3-16-2013 at 01:47 PM · [top]

“Admittedly, Dr. Crossan is quite controversial with respect to some of his views concerning Jesus’ life, the historical context, and the resulting theology of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.” I think he purposely avoids unpacking this statement because he wants to continue to hide and shrink from the reality of the blasphemy Crossan brought through the door. If Shannon Johnston loves Jesus Christ, why does he allow Him to be treated this way? Where is the respect, reverence and awe for his savior Jesus Christ? That is what seems to be missing with so many folks I have known in TEC. They don’t take their sandals off.

[18] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-16-2013 at 03:29 PM · [top]

So Johnston’s argument is that he was just offering up some form or debate club.  That is, to say the least, unconvincing.  He appears to even the casual observer to be like the child caught with his hand in the cookie jar claiming he was putting it back in.

There is another TEC priest and bishop pattern of thinking that your pew-sitters (read: donors) are a backward lot who need to hear the general pieties to keep from being frightened off, while you cleverly and gradually manipulate them into a state as enlightened and current with the times as you are, at which time the truth can be revealed.  There is a sense of that here.

[19] Posted by pendennis88 on 3-16-2013 at 03:59 PM · [top]

“#14, Buddha and Ganesha in a TEC parish hall?  I knew things were bad; I didn’t realize it was that bad. “

You may want to bypass Marquette, Michigan altogether.

[20] Posted by tjmcmahon on 3-16-2013 at 05:19 PM · [top]

This jumped out:

This [clergy day] was in conjunction with two evenings<> of presentations by Dr. Crossan at that <b>congregation which has been studying his writings as part of a Lenten program.

Are you flipping kidding me???

I can tell you in no uncertain terms that if either Bishop Julian Dobbs or Bishop John Guernsey got wind that a rector of a congregation under their care had allowed a Lenten program that included studying Crossan’s writings and further endangered the flock by inviting him to speak to the congregation for not one but two evenings…that rector would have understood in very short order <i>exactly<> what it means to be under the authority of a bishop.

[21] Posted by AnnieCOA on 3-16-2013 at 05:50 PM · [top]

“Admittedly, Dr. Crossan is quite controversial with respect to some of his views concerning Jesus’ life, the historical context, and the resulting theology of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.”

Did you notice what +Johnson didn’t say? He didn’t say Crossan is wrong. He’s “controversial”, his views “are at odds” with the bishop’s views. Isn’t that special!

+Johnson speaks about “my belief”, “my views”, but he never actually says that those views are correct in any objective sense. Just that he chooses to believe them, while Crossan doesn’t.

I think that gets to the disturbing heart of the matter. It suggests that the bishop’s faith is somehow his personal preference rather than a truth claim. In the same way, I truly believe chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla, but I don’t believe all must acknowledge that it is. My belief about chocolate is sincere, but I make no claim that my belief is objectively true. I just happen to like it.

The creeds don’t roll that way, though. They make objective truth claims, to which every bishop is beholden. Not just that they must prefer creedal orthodoxy as an aesthetic choice, but that they acknowledge the claims made in the creeds are true. That is exactly what his statement fails to do.

Sad, sad, sad.


[22] Posted by SHSilverthorne+ on 3-16-2013 at 06:56 PM · [top]

AnnieCOA:  And I am sure that if a parish in DioVa had studied Matt Kennedy’s assorted blog postings and then invited him to come speak to the parish over the course of two evenings, and then the suffragan bishop had suggested Matt as the clergy conference speaker, Johnston would not have been quite so “open” to ideas that differed from his.  In other words, I am quite certain that Johnston knows very well how to draw the boundaries around who he will permit to speak, it’s just that he has no problems with what Crossan is saying.

[23] Posted by jamesw on 3-16-2013 at 07:00 PM · [top]

#20, tjmcmahon, if they’re worshipping pink elephants in Marquette, Michigan, then I’ll have to pass.  In Maharashtra state, India, Ganesh is almost always a cute little pink guy with four arms and an elephant’s head.  Yes, they worship a pink elephant.

[24] Posted by Katherine on 3-16-2013 at 07:19 PM · [top]

#22. SHSilverthorne+
Now that I think about it, the Nicene Creed is more than than a series of truth statements. It is also a stumbling block for “What is truth?” TEC folks. The Nicene Creed is also a mystical document that does not allow wiggle room. It can be confessed with the mouth but it takes faith to believe the mysteries contained therein.

[25] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-16-2013 at 07:54 PM · [top]

Too little, too lame, and too late!  Typical TEo episcospeak, totally devoid of substance.

[26] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 3-16-2013 at 08:44 PM · [top]

“I am as creedal a Christian as you will ever find. The core of my faith is utterly and absolutely defined by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.”

That’s not enough, +Johnston. 

The Creeds do not contain the entire content of Christian doctrine, although what they do contain is true, important and “ought thoroughly to be received and beleived” as the Articles of Religion aver.

So what about the rest of Christian teaching, +Johnston - the parts that you take good care not to mention?

[27] Posted by MichaelA on 3-16-2013 at 08:54 PM · [top]

Hi Katherine,
It is more known for the Buddhist prayer rugs in the sanctuary, do it yourself liturgy and taking “open” communion to new heights.  I’m not actually positive about Hindu gods.

[28] Posted by tjmcmahon on 3-16-2013 at 08:56 PM · [top]


‘“I am as creedal a Christian as you will ever find. The core of my faith is utterly and absolutely defined by the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.”

That’s not enough, +Johnston. ‘


What would you prefer Johnston had said: The core of my faith is utterly and absolutely defined by…..
39 Articles? and/or the 1662BCP?
Westminster confession?
Jerusalem statement?

[29] Posted by obadiahslope on 3-17-2013 at 01:38 AM · [top]


You misunderstand me.  My issue is not with what +Johnston said - there is nothing wrong with defining one’s faith by the creeds (nor by the other things you mention, scripture, articles, BCP, WCF, JS etc). 

My issue is with +Johnston thinking that such a statement is a relavent response to concerns that he has promoted John Dominic Crossan’s teaching to the clergy over whom he is supposed to be a shepherd.

[30] Posted by MichaelA on 3-17-2013 at 02:01 AM · [top]

You also said “So what about the rest of Christian teaching, +Johnston - the parts that you take good care not to mention?”

I was wondering if there was a statement of faith which would have caught +Johnston in its net, by including the the parts of Christian doctrine had not mentioned. If such a creed existed then it possibly could have been a relevent response.

I did not mean to disagree with your main point BTW, or to suggest that Johnston has done the right thing.

[31] Posted by obadiahslope on 3-17-2013 at 02:51 AM · [top]

grin  Dear tjmcmahon, I never for a moment thought you were Hindu.  Or Buddhist.

[32] Posted by Katherine on 3-17-2013 at 06:15 AM · [top]


That’s fine, I didn’t think you were suggesting Johnston did the right thing etc.

I haven’t really turned my mind to the issue that you raise - for example, it may well turn out (on more thorough reflection) that +Johnston has contravened the Nicene Creed, even on his own terms.  But I was bypassing that issue and pointing out that its an old trick for a heretic to wave around certain points of Christian doctrine that he agrees with, like a magical amulet, in order to distract attention from other doctrines that he brazenly flouts. 

For example, the Nicene Creed nowhere stipulates that practicing homosexuals should not be ordained as priests or bishops, yet there can be no real doubt as to what the Nicaean fathers would have said if the issue had been put before them.

Of the various statements of faith you raise (leaving aside scripture, which contains the fullness of Christian doctrine) the only one that deals with our current issues is the Jerusalem Statements (specifically the Declaration, which is part of the JS).  But that is only to be expected - Christian leaders from the 4th century through to the 17th century never had to deal with an assertion *from within the Church* that homosexuality was to be glorified, and accepted within the highest leadership of the church.

To get back to your question, I would have thought the following is a good basis for a staetment of faith. 

Firstly, something similar to Canon A5 of the CofE, which states: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”. 

Secondly, the Jerusalem Declaration, which affirms the above formularies, and adds at clause 8: “We acknowledge God’s creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married”.  So far as I am aware the JD is the only statement of faith in general circulation which deals with this particular issue.

Personally, I think the above two points are sufficient.  But we need to remember the limitations of ALL statements of faith: They can never guarantee against the rise of future heretics - constant and prayerful vigilance by the faithful is the only sure remedy.

[33] Posted by MichaelA on 3-17-2013 at 05:07 PM · [top]


Thankyou for that thoughtful post. I did also wonder whether Johnson has contravened the Nicene creed- and it is good to get your take on that.
I take your point about creeds being a “lagging indicator”, often written in response to Heresy and therefore not directly addressing succeding “current errors”.
But as the Johnston episode shows (and yes SF has pointed out before) those exhibiting current errors will usually contravene Nicea sooner or later.
And yes, I am a fan of the Jerusalem declaration - which I believe was largely written by Dr Mark Thompson the incoming Principal at Moore College.
But subject to the limitations you point out.

[34] Posted by obadiahslope on 3-17-2013 at 06:02 PM · [top]

An underlying presupposition is that the clergy and laity hearing Crossan are capable of distinguishing truth from lies.  Given the level of biblical illiteracy in our culture, this is a fallacious assumption.

[35] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 3-17-2013 at 07:20 PM · [top]


The underlying supposition is that the diocesan, as shepherd, should do more than allow anything to be taught, with the hope that the participants have enough grace to withstand false doctrine.  +Johnston did not, he threw his clergy ‘to the wolves’

[36] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 3-17-2013 at 08:59 PM · [top]

Crossan is too world famous. I’ve seen him on tv and more than once. And he is really smart with a PhD or something and hangs about universities and such. And EVERYBODY knows scholars are smarter and more respected than like pastors or priests or the like. So there! In this world it seems all too easy to be a scholar if one fights orthodoxy in a way secularists can embrace just like liberal mainstream media embrace, at least temporarily, conversatives who seem to go off the reservation and embrace liberalism or at least can be perceived to attack some conservative principles.  There is a challenge here not only to Biblical literacy but to critical education and to the culture that embraces empty celebrities, conflict, and controversy for the sake of celebrity, conflict, and controversy.

[37] Posted by Don+ on 3-17-2013 at 09:21 PM · [top]


I am surprised to hear that the Jerusalem Declaration was “largely written by Dr Mark Thompson”.  You of course have far better sources than I do, but I have always been struck by the number of disparate people who were present in Jerusalem in 2008 who write of the high level of input from many sources that went into the Statement and Declaration before they were finalised. 

There are also a number of media reports on the internet that Deaconess Allison Street said after a meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia in 2010:  “This [the Jerusalem Declaration] was not the voice of five or six men in an isolated context. I wanted to remind the Synod of the experience it was to be at GAFCON with a thousand delegates from our worldwide Anglican Communion.”

I understand that Rev. Street was one of our delegates to General Synod ACA at the time, and that she was also present at Jerusalem in 2008, so her words should be accorded some weight.

But of course I am just a lay person in Dio Sydney, so I have no particular inside information.

[38] Posted by MichaelA on 3-17-2013 at 09:58 PM · [top]

that’s what I have been told, but of course I am open to correction. I don’t know that it has been reported so I can’t give a reference and key links on the sydang site are broken.
But it is public knowledge that the JD is very well drafted and Mark was part of the advance party who prepared for the conference. When I first read it it sounded like Peter Jensen to me. (Note to Rev Ould - that is a compliment;-) ). Of course, Rev Street’s response was directed at the idea that the conference was united around the statement, and had sufficient input to own it. So both what you say and I said could both be true! And maybe someone who was there could chime in….

[39] Posted by obadiahslope on 3-18-2013 at 12:22 AM · [top]

Hi Obadiahslope,

Here are some reasons that I find it highly doubtfult that the JD was “largely drafted” by Dr Thompson:

1. I think Rev. Street’s comment goes further than you suggest

2. Dr Thomson has commented at: http://sydneyanglicans.net/news/group_drafts_gafcon_theology_for_churches

This article relates to Dr Thompson’s work post-Gafcon on the Theology Resource Group, but near the bottom of the page he emphasises the fact that the same spirit of inclusion was followed at the Jerusalem conference as the TRG follows now:

The strong bond of fellowship and the process of inclusion that characterised GAFCON has been especially evident at the Theology Resource Group’s meetings, he adds.

“There were large plenary sessions where everybody had a chance to speak, and everyone had a chance to comment on the work being done by various groups,” he says. “This was in keeping with what had happened in Jerusalem” the same sort of process ensured that everybody around the table, all 38 people, had the opportunity to comment, contribute, or amend the final product so that it is not just one or two people’s ideas but really belongs to the whole group.”  Dr Thompson is the sole Sydney Anglican in the group, which is made up of 38 members across the Anglican Communion who were elected by their provincial leaders.

That is a pretty clear statement that the same process was followed at Jerusalem, with many people contributing to the Statement and the Declaration. 

3. Revd David Holloway, rector of one of the largest churches in the UK was present at Jerusalem and called the final statement “a truly collaborative effort” - seehttp://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2008/08/03/gafcon-the-future-and-the-jerusalem-statement/

4. Canon Chris Sugden of the CofE attended the Jerusalem conference.  He wrote afterwards:

“Thirdly, the Primates trusted the Holy Spirit moving among his people to guide us. There was no prepared text or even papers for us to discuss at Jerusalem. There were bible studies and study groups, but no texts. Yet, as the week progressed, in bible study groups, workshop groups, and regional groups, the participants found they came to a common mind about the nature of Anglican identity and mission. This they expressed in the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. There were scenes of great joy when the statement was read and adopted. We were so thrilled that God had led us from all our backgrounds, and cultures and traditions to be rooted in the same understanding of his Word and our faith.”

See http://www.fca.net/uk/news/the_need_for_gafcon/

There have been many similar comments published by participants at Gafcon.  I would be very wary of claims (particularly unattested claims) that the JS and JD were largely the work of one person.  The fact is, there was a lot of theological firepower at that conference.  We tend to forget how strong theologically is the Global South.

[40] Posted by MichaelA on 3-18-2013 at 02:14 AM · [top]

I can confirm that the Jerusalem Declaration was written by many hands through a number of collective revisions by Primates and other theologians and church leaders.

I’d like to argue that the JD is a “protestant” document, using the word “protest” in the sense of “confessing” the truth of the faith and “contesting” areas where that truth is under attack.

In the main, JD clauses 1-7 are a “return to the sources (ad fontes),” a reassertion of classic Christian teaching based in the Gospel, in Scripture, in the Creeds and Councils, in the Articles and in the Prayer Book and Ordinal. In the process, JD does clarify its way of understanding these sources:

•  Clause 2 includes a brief “hermeneutic” of reading the Bible in its “plain and canonical sense” with respect given for the Church’s historic and consensual reading.
•  Clauses 1 and 5 claim that the Gospel and rule of faith are to be understood in the light of the Reformers’ recovery of justification by faith alone and substitutionary atonement.

Several contemporary deviations from the faith are alluded to:

•  Clause 5 opposes adoptionism and universalism (so also clause 14).
•  Clause 8, as noted, protests God’s exclusive design of marriage, alluding to the language of Lambeth 1920. Note that it does not mention homosexuality; if anything, the protest is against the culture of easy divorce.
•  Clause 9 puts the global mission imperative front and center, an emphasis lacking in both the Creeds and Articles and recovered in the 19th-20th century missionary movement.
•  Clauses 10-13 are ecclesiological. While affirming a broad spirit of ecumenism among “orthodox” believers who may differ on secondary matters, it also recognizes the need to break communion with churches and leaders who have denied the essentials of the faith.

Now let me return for a moment to Bishop Johnston. It is not enough for a Christian, especially a bishop, simply to say the Creeds. He must protest them by proclaiming the faith clearly and enthusiastically (ex animo) and by defending them against false teachings and teachers. Is there any evidence that Johnston has “protested” the faith once delivered to the saints in this way?

[41] Posted by Stephen Noll on 3-18-2013 at 04:28 AM · [top]

I’m struck here by the difference between Bishop Guernsey and “Bishop” Shannon Johnston.  Bishop Guernsey says no to false teachers in order to protect the sheep, which is what a good shepherd does.

Johnston, on the other hand, invites the wolf in the midst of the sheep, in the hope that the sheep will protect and defend themselves.  It’s one thing to present one’s material with the specific purpose of debunking it.  I’ve been a part of teachings on Dan Brown and John Shelby Spong that had that particular purpose.  That’s merely teaching the sheep what the wolf looks like, but to invite a wolf into the sheep merely for providing a wider perspective?  That’s not what a faithful shepherd does.

[42] Posted by Townsend Waddill+ on 3-18-2013 at 11:22 AM · [top]

Of course, that guy Jude said something about teachers who are false. And that guy Paul as well. Wonder is that ever crossed Johnston’s mind?

[43] Posted by Festivus on 3-18-2013 at 11:24 AM · [top]

#42, #43: I think you are missing the point.  Of course Bishop Johnston would protect the church from “false teachers” (according to his “gospel”).  He would never invite Robert Gagnon to speak unopposed on homosexuality, or Bishop Mark Lawrence to speak unopposed on the Constitution of TEC.  These people teach dangerous heresies for our “newchurch”, whereas Crossan merely has some differences with technicalities of the Nicene faith. In TEC now, minor details like the resurrection are not to be compared to the importance of normalization of homosexuality or of the archbishopric of PB Jefferts-Schori.

[44] Posted by John Boyland on 3-19-2013 at 09:31 AM · [top]

By the way, given that Johnston has declared how he values N.T. Wright no less than John Dominic Crossan, given that Wright was in the DC area this weekend talking at a conference attended by quite a few Anglicans, did Johnston bother to go?  Did he also invite Wright to speak in a TEC church?  I don’t know.  Just wondering.

[45] Posted by pendennis88 on 4-29-2013 at 09:28 AM · [top]

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