The Duke, the Dauphin, and the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia
On March 14 I predicted that Shannon Johnston’s response to the concerns expressed about his hosting notorious Christ-loather [which is what his attempted deconstruction of Jesus Christ’s identity in order to serve his own political and reductionist beliefs is] Dominic Crossan for a clergy day would be the same response that all the other revisionist Episcopal bishops offer when questioned about their providing venues and support for rankly heretical ideas. I offered these words as the probable response:
“I don’t necessarily agree with Crossan on a number of his interesting ideas, but I do believe that we should have an open mind to receive the scholarly insights of various academics and researchers. The Episcopal Church believes that Jesus came to save us from our sins, not save us from our minds. I gave permission for the parish to have him as a special speaker—and my giving permission did not imply an endorsement of his particular theology. And since he was already visiting in the diocese, I thought it a good use of resources to give my clergy the opportunity to hear from this well-known scholar as well, again, with the special caveat that my hosting him at the clergy dialog did not imply an endorsement of his views.”
On March 15, Shannon Johnston issued his statement, with these words:
“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. . . . 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. ... 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.”
How, you may ask, was I capable of predicting such preening boilerplate with such precision, not merely in words, but in the tone of self-congratulation as well?
It’s simple. I’ve been a part of The Episcopal Church now for some 15 years, and I’ve watched our revisionist bishops play the same ridiculous and presumptious little game with the members of their dioceses over and over and over again. They’re revisionists. They wish to push certain ideas which they well know are not in keeping with Scripture, tradition, or reason and indeed that the vast majority of the Church through its history and throughout the present-day world recognizes as utterly antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So they invite in various speakers to say for them what they themselves do not wish to say. They let other people take the heat.
And then, when called on the carpet for their providing both venue and audience for such raving, radical heretics—or in the case of Crossan, not even a heretic, but simply a person who happens to have made it his life mission to attempt to deconstruct a particular leader of the particular faith which he most despises—the revisionist bishops wheel out the usual self-serving, pretentious boilerplate rhetoric which any observant lay Episcopalian serious about her faith can now quote in her sleep without breaking a sweat.
The sheer gall of such a display, in these days when we’re all familiar with this droningly tedious ritual inflicted on us by our own Episcopal heretics is vexing largely because it appears that bishops like Shannon Johnston haven’t yet recognized that laypeople like me—and so many others—see precisely what he is doing. It’s insulting to our intelligence to have such a hucksterish display put on yet again in front of us, apparently with the expectation that we’ll fall for it every single time, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.
It’s such a crude and farcical fraud by now—like the Duke and the Dauphin capering across the stage in Huckleberry Finn—and yet our bishops still put on the play with nary a trace of embarrassment or self-awareness.
None of Bishop Johnston’s past actions are surprising. They are entirely predictable, and indeed, were predicted by numerous people watching the whole sorry set of activities from the past year between Bishop Johnston and Tory Baucum. Bishop Johnston promotes the blessing of sexual acts between men and between women. As has been pointed out repeatedly by so many, one cannot do such a thing without violating Scripture, tradition, reason and without promoting antithetical beliefs about such foundational theology as sin, the Fall, salvation, sanctification, the sacraments in general, marriage, the Church, and as Matt Kennedy has astutely pointed out, promoting a fraudulent vision of the nature of Jesus Christ. Blessing sexual acts between two men or two women necessarily means departing from the Gospel; the one springs from the other.
So Bishop Johnston’s happy complicity in providing Dominic Crossan permission and venue and audience to promote his wild-eyed, and rather retro [now] faux “scholarship” about the identity of Jesus Christ is eminently foreseeable, if a bit behind the times, since Crossan’s trundled-out notions have acquired a rapidly receding hairline, dentures, and artificial hips. As Greg Griffith pointed out, it’s the equivalent of inviting Vanilla Ice to one’s child’s birthday party and congratulating one-self as being thoroughly “with it” and trendy. But being twenty years behind while fancying oneself at the head of the parade is merely standard-grade narcissism for our bishops—nothing unusual at all.
The most contemptible part of Johnston’s rhetoric, though, is not the crudity of the game he has once again played, or the self-congratulation of his rhetoric, or even the insult to the intelligence of the informed and observant diocesan members who read it.
It is that he is unwilling to admit the truth about his actions. Rather than go ahead and courageously admit that he is providing permissions, venues, audiences, and promotion for heretics, because he likes their ideas and the idea of being open to someone he deems scholarly, he scuttles away and cowers behind bluster and pretentious rhetoric about open-mindedness, scholarliness, controversial and provocative beliefs, and even engaging in the most obvious trick in the book by going on the attack in portions of his defensive lecture.
And how do we know that he likes these ideas?
All one need do is insert his rhetoric in the defense of another equally radical and crudely Christless rhetorician, only one whose ideas are not considered quite as faddishly popular by revisionists as the Crossans of this world.
To see how utterly contemptible Bishop Johnston’s words are, one simply imagines them in defense of his inviting oh, say . . . Fred Phelps into his diocese for a little tete a tete with his clergy.
“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. . . . What concerns me is the assumption that by co-sponsoring this event, I am “endorsing” or signaling agreement with Mr. Phelps’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 Mr. Phelps’s points to be offensive to the faith. ... 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.”
... Precisely so.
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