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The Rector of Bruce Garner’s Parish Preaches Yet Another “Gospel-grounded and based sermon”

Saturday, May 10, 2008 • 4:45 pm


Over in another thread, Bruce Garner, progressive activist in TEC, and member of All Saints, Atlanta, has made this claim:

“Every Sunday we hear a Gospel-grounded and based sermon that gives us the nourishment we need for the coming week.”

Here’s the Easter sermon from this year, preached by All Saint’s rector, an excerpt of which is posted below:

First let me clear the decks a bit. What we are professing is that something happened at the end and immediately after Jesus’ life that changed everything for his friends. That ‘something’ goes beyond mourning and beyond grief and beyond the impulse that would try and wrest meaning from a senseless death like setting up a memorial of some sort. We have received stories that were written down some eighty years or so after the fact and which seek to embody and make accessible that unutterably strange ‘something’ that happened. Later still come creeds which are more like the bare bones outline of the whole story of Jesus, rather than a series of dodgy propositions to which we have to give intellectual assent without crossing our fingers.

We refer to this ‘something’ that happened to change everything as ‘resurrection’ and we know little to nothing about any events that gave rise to the proclamation that something happened all those years ago which changes everything for us.  This ‘something’ is called ‘resurrection’ and we don’t have to take the stories of Jesus’ appearances as factual accounts of what happened; this in spite of the fact that some Christians insist that we do just that if we want to be in their pre-modern club, an invitation which I, for one, happily decline. We don’t have to understand the stories as factual accounts of anything in order to grasp the truth that God’s grace changes everything.

We don’t need any further evidence, of course.  We’ve had four years of evidence, examples, direct quotes, actions, and discussions already articulated and nicely laid out for all to see via blogland. 

But this is just a reminder that when Bruce Garner speaks of “the Gospel” he is speaking of nothing even remotely approaching the historic faith on which Christians around the world base their hope and their life.

All of those words—“gospel,” “resurrection,” “salvation,” “divinity,” “sin,” “redemption,” “Christ,”—are “written in water” for progressive activist Episcopalians, and when they use them they cynically re-define and manipulate their meanings into something utterly opposing to the Christian gospel.

Mutually opposing definitions of the same words. 

Mutually opposing foundational worldviews. 

Mutually opposing values and practices.

Two different gospels, both antithetical to one another.  Residing in one organization—the Episcopal Church.

It’s gonna be an interesting series of decades. 


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Comments:

I believe in the something of the dead and the <i>whatever<i> of the world to come.

It’s potent stuff. That sure is the power of Easter hope.

[1] Posted by driver8 on 05-10-2008 at 05:19 PM • top

This ‘something’ is called ‘resurrection’ and we don’t have to take the stories of Jesus’ appearances as factual accounts of what happened; this in spite of the fact that some Christians insist that we do just that if we want to be in their pre-modern club, an invitation which I, for one, happily decline. We don’t have to understand the stories as factual accounts of anything in order to grasp the truth that God’s grace changes everything.

You know, I’ve never been to seminary.  Never taken a New Testament course.  But, without doing the Google work, I know that if Christ was not raised from the dead, physically, our faith is nothing.  Not only is our faith for nothing on that point alone, but Jesus was a liar for saying he WOULD rise from the dead, because I’m pretty sure he was talking literally when he saidd it.

It boggles my mind.

If you believe in the resurrection, you can believe anything else in the Bible.  If you do not believe in the resurrection, the Bible is just a bunch of familiar sayings.

[2] Posted by Paul B on 05-10-2008 at 05:23 PM • top

Sarah, liberals do not have a gospel. Depending on their particular disposition they have a lie (universalism) or the Law (the social gospel). The reality is there is a Gospel and there is everything else.

What I’ve been trying to figure out is why people will speak of grace and deny the evidence of the power behind that grace.

[3] Posted by texex on 05-10-2008 at 05:24 PM • top

Oh no, Driver8.  They believe in the “resurrection” and the “gospel” and “salvation” and “divinity” and “sin” and “redemption” and “Christ.”

They can form their lips and tongue into the syllables and vowels of those words quite easily.

[4] Posted by Sarah on 05-10-2008 at 05:25 PM • top

Some of us here have known the reality of resurrection in our hearts and in our bones while others are here hoping that there may be something in all this for us. And then there are some of you here who may have a measure of curiosity, but for whom the whole enterprise of Christian faith appears to be monumentally irrelevant, a pipe dream, and a pipe dream filled with the mythology and symbols of an earlier age at that.

I’m curious about their definition of a measure.  Methinks it’s not practical to count the number of full shovels but by the number of dump trucks this drivel could fill.

[5] Posted by Piedmont on 05-10-2008 at 05:28 PM • top

I just don’t get it.  If you don’t believe in these holy mysteries, then why bother with PRAYER AND WORSHIP?  Who are they praying to and just what are they worshipping?

[6] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 05-10-2008 at 05:30 PM • top

some Christians insist that we do just that if we want to be in their pre-modern club

Feel the inclusiveness.

[7] Posted by Greg Griffith on 05-10-2008 at 05:31 PM • top

Bruce,
I’m sure you’ll be stopping by in the next few mintues.  I’ve heard you make this kind of claim for years now.  This, however, is not Gospel centered.  Christianity lives or dies on whether Jesus, literally rose from dead.  My heart aches for all those folks at All Saints who are being led down the wrong path.  Sorry my friend.  This is another gospel.

[8] Posted by rreed on 05-10-2008 at 05:39 PM • top

“We don’t have to understand the stories as factual accounts of anything in order to grasp the truth that God’s grace changes everything”—-Geoffrey Hoare

Maybe so. But what if, as all four gospels declare,
Christ really did bodily rise from the dead?

What if He then appeared to his disciples—-so that they could see His face, hear His voice, and in one case even feel His wounds?

Wouldn’t THAT “change everything”?

There’s good reason why the early disciples were known as WITNESSES to the Resurrection.

[9] Posted by Irenaeus on 05-10-2008 at 05:45 PM • top

What are the requirements for this pre-modern club besides actually believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

Do we have to give up running water, indoor plumbing, Anderson triple-pane windows, cars, TV, radio, the Internet, electricity, ballpoint pens, universities, Scripture in our native language, hospitals, medicine, pharmaceuticals, grocery stores, organs in church and coffee at fellowship hour?

Do any of those things make us better or smarter than the people who saw Jesus alive in person after seeing Him dead?  And the reappraisers accuse us reasserters of gnosticism.

[10] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 05-10-2008 at 06:16 PM • top

Whoa! I will be in Atlanta from May 23rd to 26th and I am glad I read this because I will make a point of finding an Anglican church to attend and stay very far away from Bruce Garner’s All Saints Episcopal. That is not the Truth being taught there! Thanks for the enlightenment Sarah…Lord I pray that you reign down some Holy Spirit conviction on those at All Saints Episcopal in Atlanta! In Christ Name amen.

[11] Posted by TLDillon on 05-10-2008 at 06:38 PM • top

...and isn’t the whole thing just mind-bendingly inconvenient the way it came down to us from the apostles? (sarcasm alert)

[12] Posted by ears2hear on 05-10-2008 at 06:40 PM • top

From the standpoint of straight, cold logic:
There is nothing that can explain the transformation of a ragtag dozen or so working-class Jews into the biggest revoluton of all time in the world’s religions short of “something” akin to a verifiably dead man rising from the grave.
The Rabbit.

[13] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 05-10-2008 at 06:48 PM • top

If the good Rector does not believe in the resurrection and Jesus’ appearances as factual accounts, he would be party to what someone once said “if the resurrection did not happen,it would be the greatest hoax ever played upon mankind”.

[14] Posted by bradhutt on 05-10-2008 at 06:55 PM • top

Gospel-grounded and based sermon

I’d like to defend Mr. Garner’s assertion that the sermons he hears are Gospel-based.

After all, sermons which turn to the Gospel and say “this is all a load of horse manure and we don’t believe any of it” are still based on the Gospel, very much in the way that atheism is still a religious position.

Granted, the new religion that’s being preached there is obviously not Christianity (and thus not Anglicanism), and their apostasy—if, as many commentators believe, it is indeed the “unforgiveable sin” (i.e. the conscious rejection of the Gospel)—brings the soul of each and every member of that congregation into danger of hellfire. All quite true.

But a sermon that discusses and dismisses the Gospel is still—to be rigorously fair to them—Gospel-“based”. It’s just based in the rejection thereof.

pax,
LP

[15] Posted by LP on 05-10-2008 at 07:03 PM • top

To All Believers in Jesus,
This open letter will be direct to the point like an arrow to the bull’s eye. Pastoral malfeasance or malpractice is the greatest treason a minister can commit against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is very similar to the unforgivable sin of betraying the Holy Ghost. It is practiced weekly without restriction and without shame.
What is pastoral malfeasance? The ministers who stand and preach a gospel other than God’s rightful need for punitive justice against our sin and His wrath being appeased by pouring out upon Christ judgment intended for us. He in turn sets us in right legal standing before Himself, through faith in what Jesus has done, while simultaneously giving to us His holy righteousness.
There are too many evangelical churches that have become centers for motivational speaking where parishioners learn that God is a god who wants to make them prosper and that sin is something that is keenly overlooked, which is not an infinite offense against the Creator who demands from His creation unblemished righteousness.
The apostle Paul tells us that humans inherently know we are separated from God by our sin and we try to suppress that truth through drugs, sex, greed, power, alcohol, etc. Too often when desperate individuals arrive in our churches looking for a solution they get messages about how to improve their lives or their relationships, but the Gospel is absent in the remedy. Father J.I. Packer, an Anglican priest, in his quintessential work, “Knowing God,” correctly writes:
“We have all heard the Gospel presented as God’s triumphant answer to human problems – problems of our relation with ourselves and our fellow humans and our environment. Well, there is no doubt that the Gospel does bring us solutions to these problems, but it does so by first solving a deeper problem – the deepest of all human problems, the problem of man’s relation with His Maker. And unless we make it plain that the solution to the former problems depends on the settling of this latter, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false witnesses of God.”
The reality is that fewer people are showing up in our churches to get even a watered down Gospel because the age of attractional evangelism is rapidly dying, as recent research shows. The new generation that is coming up now wants to know about Jesus Christ. They are turning to the churches for spiritual guidance. It is time for the churches to stand up for the saving message of Our Saviour. Gospel malpractice goes beyond the pulpit and is a trait of a complacent church that limits the mandate of the Great Commission to an invitation to come when we are clearly told to “Go!”
How contemporary is Paul’s letter to Timothy? It is very contemporary.
“But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of religion but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; NKJV).
The transformation of the church lies within the pages of the Bible and the Sacraments and Tradition. Individuals and churches have to become effective incarnational witnesses in culture there must anchor ourselves in Jesus. Paul, again to Timothy, says: “…you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Our heart pleads with God in prayer to transform our churches to being training and equipping centers that send people out into culture to be Jesus’ ambassadors. Not talking pious moralists who point people to their sins, but servants who through humility and loving relationships point people to an all-sufficient Savior.
We need to put people in their context. But we must share the Gospel. Morality does not reconcile people to God; it comes through the Gospel of Christ. And only through Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Pax Romana,
+Stonewall

[16] Posted by BishopOfSaintJames on 05-10-2008 at 07:04 PM • top

The people of this parish actually get up on Sonday morning and go there to hear this ...stuff? Why?

[17] Posted by Enough on 05-10-2008 at 07:14 PM • top

“Liberals do not have a gospel. Depending on their particular disposition they have a lie (universalism) or the Law (the social gospel)”—-TexEx [#3]

TexEx: I assume you’re referring to Liberal Protestants and not to political liberals (who include some 50 million American adults and hold a variety of religious views).

I believe Liberal Protestantism is one of the most theologically destructive movements in church history. But you paint with too broad a brush in suggesting that Liberal Protestants reject the gospel.

Since we may not have common acquaintances (and in any event haven’t identified them), let me ask you to consider a couple of hymns that appear in both the 1940 and 1982 hymnals:
—- “O Holy City, Seen of John” by Walter Russell Bowie (#582-583 in the 1982 hymnal)
—- “God of Grace and God of Glory” by Harry Emerson Fosdick (#594-595)

“O Holy City, Seen of John” reflects the Social Gospel as an expression of Christian faith, not a debunking alternative to it. Most theologically orthodox Christians could readily join in the words.

Harry Emerson Fosdick presents a more difficult case. He was certainly not orthodox and evidently gigged his conservative Christian contemporaries. Yet “God of Grace and God of Glory” does seem to reflect Christian faith. (I don’t know about Fosdick, but some people’s faith is considerably better than their theology.)

To take an example closer to home, one of my godfathers is deeply Liberal Protestant in his theology and yet has a firm, vibrant faith.

Let’s be wary of suggesting that Liberal Protestants do not and cannot have the gospel.

[18] Posted by Irenaeus on 05-10-2008 at 07:21 PM • top

Theological liberals tend to just not get certain things, and Episcopalian liberals in particular tend to get form mixed up with substance (of course so do Episcopalian conservatives at time)  I’ve seen one discussion in which a person said to an Episcopalian priest that TEC had abandoned the gospel.  One of his parishioners said “But we read the gospel every Sunday!”  Another person, when defending parish whose rector allowed parishioners to carry their banner in a gay parade, said something along the lines of “well at least we have daily offices every day and observe all the prayer book special days”.  Recently a liberal commentator on this blog said something along the lines of “But I hardly every deviate from the lectionary!” when attempting to defend his theological soundness.

You can have the most prayerbook worship service in the world and spend a great deal of time talking about the Gospel, but if what you say in the pulpit and what you teach children and adults alike in the class room is not founded in solid orthodox doctrine, you are still wrong.

[19] Posted by AndrewA on 05-10-2008 at 07:22 PM • top

As the Bishop pointed out in 16 above, Scripture predicted all of this.  Why do non-believers participate in church then?  In the case of ECUSA, I think because it is all theatre.  It is interesting to note, for example, that Robinson of NH was a drama major at Sewanee.  Not everyone can go on to be an actor.  Not everyone can be in the grand performance of Aida.  It is much easier to put on fancy robes and participate in the high pagentry of Episcopal/Anglican churchiness.  You don’t even have to have mastered the basics of your own field, as this trash from Atlanta shows.

[20] Posted by physician without health on 05-10-2008 at 07:24 PM • top

#16 +Stonewall
Re: “This open letter will be direct to the point like an arrow to the bull’s eye. Pastoral malfeasance or malpractice is the greatest treason a minister can commit against the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Well said dear bishop!

[21] Posted by bradhutt on 05-10-2008 at 07:27 PM • top

I had an e-mail conversation with Bruce once or twice while a listener on HoBD listserve.  I can tell you that in his case, as is most often true [edited to delete vague personal comments] that’s wrong about this guy.

Make as fit as he needs to be for Executive Council.

[22] Posted by gppp on 05-10-2008 at 07:43 PM • top

gppp
Vague slander isn’t an appropriate means of argument.
carl

[23] Posted by carl on 05-10-2008 at 07:47 PM • top

20, when running a piece on the rector of St Thomas 5th Avenue, accusing him of thinking that homosexuality is a wrong and disordered (a shocking position for a rector in the Diocese of New York to hold, I know) gay magazine “The Advocate” suggested that the reason that gay parishioners continued to go to that particular parish was that its High Church worship style was good theatre, much like how gays like opera (this was The Advocate’s explanation, not mine).  The Advocate also listed the “all male choir” as an attracting force.  Now, keep in mind that just about every choir is going to have males in it to sing the tenor and bass parts.  Trinity Wall Street has a high church worship style as a well as a well trained choir will plenty of males in the choir.  It also has a theology much more GLBT friendly.  So what does St Thomas have to offer that Trinity doesn’t?  Should much credence be given to the small mention of an “all male choir” by The Advocate?  Should we assume that they have a good understanding of their own demographic?  If we do, we should remember that what the “all male choir” means is not that the choir has any more men than any other choir, but that the soprano parts are sung by young boys instead of women. 

Now, I’m saying all this as a fan of the all male choral tradtion and the high church worship style, but The Advocate does seem to suggest that that it also attracts certain other demographics.

[24] Posted by AndrewA on 05-10-2008 at 07:49 PM • top

Why don’t you guys go trolling the internet for sermons like this and bring these priests up on charges of abandoning the communion of the church?

[25] Posted by Paul B on 05-10-2008 at 07:49 PM • top

#24—St. Thomas 5th Ave is one of the last orthodox strongholds in NYC.  It is a very prestigious parish, in an extraordinarily beautiful building, on a very valuable piece of real estate—just up the street from Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.  I met a faithful parishoner, who told me that recently, there has been a noticeable influx of liberals, who make it hard for Fr. Meade to hold the line.  I leave you to draw your own conclusions…..

[26] Posted by In Newark on 05-10-2008 at 07:57 PM • top

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6-9

And Jesus also added that if it involved children then there was also a millstone in view.

[27] Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 05-10-2008 at 08:13 PM • top

26, I’ve visited them a few times, love their choir and building, and appreciated Rev Mead’s sermons which I listen to from time to time via the webcasts.  It would appear, however, that while he remains orthodox in his theology he seems much less willing to rock the boat that he was in apparently was in his younger days.  There is no way that the New York Diocese will even let St Thomas slip out of their grip (a path Andrew Mead seems to have no desire to take), and I’m not sure their parishioners would be willing to risk such a venture.  I fear that when he retires the parish will become another Trinity Wall Stret.

For a flash back to 1989, see…

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE3D9163AF930A35755C0A96F948260

[28] Posted by AndrewA on 05-10-2008 at 08:17 PM • top

#17 - it’s the pancakes. And sausages. Also the coffee. And they use real cream - organic.

[29] Posted by Festivus on 05-10-2008 at 08:36 PM • top

At least the average Sunday attendance is trending downward nicely after 2002 so that more people aren’t exposed to this ‘something’ gospel.

[30] Posted by robroy on 05-10-2008 at 09:05 PM • top

One of the most memorable Easter sermons I ever heard came from Fr. Doug Travis, my former Rector.  It began:

If you ever ask a priest: “What happened at Easter?” and he replies: “Well, that’s complicated….” Run.  Do not walk, run away!

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can account for the existence of the Christian Faith.  Nothing else comes close.  Nothing else could cause so many to die horrible nasty deaths (Paul, Peter, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, etc.) instead of recanting what they knew to be false. 

I love the “temporal chauvanism” stated in the sermon in question.  “The pre-modern people were so ignorant, be we know so much more.  We know that Jesus could not physically rise from the dead! We know that virgins don’t conceive and that no one can walk on water.”

While they may “know” that, I faith that God, the One Who created everything out of nothing, the Alpha and the Omega, I faith that God knows me and loves me.  I faith that God loves me so much that He came (in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity) to die and be resurrected so that I, too, may die to sin and be resurrected.  I faith that this God, who can bring being out of nothingness can give new life to His Son.  I faith that this same God can cause live to be begun in a special and unique way with Mary - whose “yes” is the antidote to Eve’s “no.”

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

[31] Posted by Philip Snyder on 05-10-2008 at 09:11 PM • top

This is like a vegan trying to explain why he works at McDonald’s.

bb

[32] Posted by BabyBlue on 05-10-2008 at 09:19 PM • top

Thanks for the link to the attendance chart. Pitiful really. Around 3,100 reportable members (flat since 2004), but average attendance down to 800. Money’s pretty good. Many older members send in their club dues to ensure a really impressive burial.

[33] Posted by Gator on 05-10-2008 at 09:27 PM • top

33, perhaps, but if the numbers I’ve seen are accurate, that is still one of the larger Episcopal parishes.

[34] Posted by AndrewA on 05-10-2008 at 09:37 PM • top

It doesnt qualify as an Easter sermon. Its not a Christian message. Not even close.

This type of preaching is a slow poison to those that hear it. I would rather all such parish buildings be converted to nice restaurants, or museums, than to house someone who preaches this message.

[35] Posted by Going Home on 05-10-2008 at 09:43 PM • top

“This is like a vegan trying to explain why he works at McDonald’s”—-Baby Blue [#32]

It may be worse than that. A vegan might conceivably work at McDonald’s (e.g., as a janitor) because he desperately needs money and can’t find another job. This is a bit like a vegan having trained at Hamburger University to be a McDonald’s cheerleader or PR person.

[36] Posted by Irenaeus on 05-10-2008 at 10:08 PM • top

#11, ODC, go to the FiFNA website and click on “Atlanta”: O.S., despite its recent changes, is still the only one in town. This kind of heterodoxy has been coming out of All Saints for at least 30 years.

[37] Posted by tomcornelius on 05-10-2008 at 10:26 PM • top

With that dismissal of the reality of the life and work of Jesus, His atonement on the cross and His resurrection, I wonder why they even bother to spell out or say the name of Jesus.  They are but one step away from expunging the word Jesus from all of their liturgy, creeds and hymnals as the unitarians have already done.

“we don’t have to take the stories of Jesus’ appearances as factual accounts of what happened…”

In other words since everything about Jesus was written 8 decades after his supposed existence which may be a fiction itself, along with the disciples, why do we need to consider him at all.

They have lost the belief that in the case of Jesus, truth is wonderfully stranger than fiction.

[38] Posted by Bill C on 05-10-2008 at 11:04 PM • top

…resurrection is forgiveness… resurrection is also the experience of being fully known and fully loved for who we are…Resurrection is also a new community—a new community made up of people who are forgiven and known.

I’m figuring Bruce Garner+ must have a PhD, because this is nonsense that he piles higher and deeper.

When Abp Venables was in Fort Worth last Saturday, Fr. John Jordan asked a question during the Q&A;portion of the morning:  “What do you say happened on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion?”, or words to that effect.  ++Venables was quite clear and direct on the Bodily Resurrection of Our Lord.  Obviously, Bruce Garner+ is not.  Let us pray for him.  His God is too small.

[39] Posted by Connie Sandlin on 05-10-2008 at 11:44 PM • top

We have received stories that were written down some eighty years or so after the fact

Eighty years after the fact would put the Gospels in the early second century.  As far as I know, N.T. scholars think all the texts were written well before that, even Revelation.  For the Gospels, we’re talking forty years or so, aren’t we? —i.e., AD 70, at the outside.  And Paul’s letters begin a bare 20-25 years after the Resurrection.  He says clearly that he is teaching what he has received from the eyewitnesses, and he teaches the Resurrection clearly and strongly.  Oral history in ancient times was amazingly reliable, and the time between the events and the writing in this case very short by ancient standards.

[40] Posted by Katherine on 05-11-2008 at 12:28 AM • top

This sermon is an excellent example and proof of what is really going on in the Episcopal Church. Our issues are not just about homosexuality and civil rights as revisionists claim, it is counter to the basic beliefs and teaching of our faith, proven by their own words.

[41] Posted by bradhutt on 05-11-2008 at 07:10 AM • top

I checked the home page of All Saints, Atlanta.  There are four priests on staff, and some eleven others are listed as affiliated with the congregation, i.e., probably consider it their home parish and attend.

Hmmm.  All those priests, and none of them challenge this hogwash??  They keep coming back for more??

Alas, I knew the rector in seminary (Yale), though not well.  Even then, our interests ran in very different directions.  He always was suave and smooth talking.  But just take another look at Rom. 16:17-18:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye of those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you learned.  Avoid them; for such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, AND BY SMOOTH TALK AND FLATTERY they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.”

Geoffrey Hoare+ has one advantage that suits him well for being the cardinal rector of a prestigious and very large TEC church like All Saints.  He’s a native of England.  He’s got that wonderful accent, you know.  Plus that ingrained sense of class distinctions.  He always was ambitious.  And now he’s enjoying life at the top of the social ladder.  Sweet, huh?

Well, sadly, I hope he enjoys it.  All the rewards he’s getting will be in this life.  But after he dies…

David Handy+

[42] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 05-11-2008 at 07:54 AM • top

There are few more ludicrous sights, if you are English, than seeing the privileged sons of the British establishment - whose careers are replete with advantages of their birth - setting themselves up as arbiters of social justice. He had to come to America to do it because in England people would see it for the farce it is.

Here are his latest thoughts on Pentecost. Feel the love:

I have no objection to anyone else’s advancement but will resist, with al that I am and all that I have, being controlled by some other power. I’m sure this is why I have such a strong antipathy to anything that smacks of manipulation or cant by those of my co-religionists who are so sure of themselves and what they believe is the will of God that they will seek a major realignment of power within Anglicanism, for example. I am dismayed that it has come to a matter of lawsuits over property, but am delighted that the leadership of the Episcopal Church is acting to preserve our identity and relationship with the wider communion even if the bullies and manipulators believe that they are doing a good thing. They must be resisted and have thought that they can take advantage of a rather flabby and undisciplined liberalism which has characterized our particular branch of Christ’s body for a while.

[43] Posted by driver8 on 05-11-2008 at 08:42 AM • top

John tells a story of the risen Jesus eating a meal on the lakeshore during which he commanded Peter “feed my sheep.” He said it three times: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:4-17). He gave one instruction for each of Peter’s earlier denials (John 18:15-27). There were no demands for displays of repentance and the only confession asked was a confession of love: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Jeff, is it common for guys like you to prepare sermons without reading the text in its original language?  Or, would the sermon have been too long if you went into the Greek?  Or perhaps, the real conversation - the one where Christ asks Peter if he <span style=‘font-family:Symbol’>agape<o:p></o:p></span> Him, and Peter eventually realizes that he doesn’t even <span style=‘font-family:Symbol’>filaw<o:p></o:p></span> Christ - perhaps that conversation doesn’t quite fit into your Antipremodernist’ Bliss, much less creed? 

...and we don’t have to take the stories of Jesus’ appearances as factual accounts of what happened; this in spite of the fact that some Christians insist that we do just that if we want to be in their pre-modern club, an invitation which I, for one, happily decline. We don’t have to understand the stories as factual accounts of anything in order to grasp the truth that God’s grace changes everything.

(Shrug)  One of the charter members of that club said that without the Resurrection, our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15).  Of course, he would have told you that he was just relaying a message.

[44] Posted by J Eppinga on 05-11-2008 at 09:07 AM • top

We refer to this ‘something’ that happened to change everything as ‘resurrection’

And our ‘priests’ all ‘preach’ that statement of their ‘Christian’ ‘faith’ in our ‘churches’.

[45] Posted by st. anonymous on 05-11-2008 at 09:09 AM • top

Thanks very much tomcornelius #37! That is very helpful indeed. To bad there isn’t a list of “false-teaching” churches in TEC for us Christians that actually believe that the Bible is the written Word of God and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life raised “bodily” from the dead and appeared to the disciples, etc… Especially for those of us who from time to time each year have to travel!

[46] Posted by TLDillon on 05-11-2008 at 09:19 AM • top

Ravi Zacharias spoke of this creed on one of his radio programs.  I think it is appropriate for this discussion.  It sums up the “New Thing” in TEC.  An English writer named Steve Turner wrote it and you can find it in its entirety here:
http://www.apuritansmind.com/Apologetics/SteveTurnerCreed.htm
Below are a few excerpts.

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin      
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.
 
We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
 
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
 
We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
 
We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.

We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

[47] Posted by Think Again on 05-11-2008 at 10:18 AM • top

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair,
Chop us, change us, clip us, weed us,
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody-knows-where.

To what variation
Our posterity may turn,
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Bland or ruthless, tusked or toothless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.

Ask not ‘Is he god or devil?’
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good or evil
Throned immutable on high;
Such a dated, antiquated
Mode of thought we must defy.

Since the goal of our endeavour
Has no content, form, or name,
No position, we can never
(Happy warriors!) miss our aim;
Since improvement means just movement,
All directions are the same.

But unnatural selection
Must bring aid to Nature’s plan;
Sterilise each backward section
Of the family of Man:
Gas the creatures, change the features
Of the planet if you can!

Mercy, justice, in the present,
Beauty, wisdom, what are they,
So our offspring (though unpleasant
By the standards of to-day)
With no rival by survival
Value rules the Milky Way?

Lewis later revised the same for publication:

Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future’s endless stair:
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

Wrong or justice in the present,
Joy or sorrow, what are they
While there’s always jam to-morrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we’re going,
We can never go astray.

To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.

Ask not if it’s god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.

Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature’s simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
Goodness==what comes next.
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.

On then! Value means survival–
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present
Standards, though it well may be).

- C.S. Lewis

[48] Posted by st. anonymous on 05-11-2008 at 10:28 AM • top

Think Again, it is only except for Hitler.  Stalin, after all, was a great champion of the Revolution and and staunch defender against the Fascists (the only true sinners in the world, and the category in which all apponents of the progressive truth are placed).  Genghis Kahn is a perfectly normal and good expression of his culture, and all our ill will against his memory is only because our history is written by Eurocentric bigots.

[49] Posted by AndrewA on 05-11-2008 at 10:28 AM • top

I am waiting for Mr. Garner to appear and explain this “Gospel grounded” (sarcasm off) Easter homily to us.  I am trying very hard to understand and grasp the nourishment he receives every week.  Right now I am suffering from spiritual malnutrition after reading the whole homily.

[50] Posted by terrafirma on 05-11-2008 at 11:34 AM • top

Thanks Sarah for being vigilant and on the case!

[51] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 05-11-2008 at 11:57 AM • top

I am waiting for Mr. Garner to appear and explain this “Gospel grounded” (sarcasm off) Easter homily to us.

Mr Garner may or may not post on this thread in defense of this sermon.  But we should understand that he will not avoid this thread out of embarrassment or fear of being unable to respond.  He could respond consistent with his presuppositions.  And his response would make perfect sense - to him.  But he could never respond to our satisfaction.

If a Mormon sermon declares God the Father to be a man, we consider it absolute proof of the non-Christian nature of Mormonism.  But a Mormon would be neither troubled nor embarrassed.  Likewise this sermon proves the non-Christian nature of Mr Garner’s church.  He won’t be shocked.  I suspect he heard it before we did, and nodded he head in approval at each heterodox assertion. It simply reflects what he believes.

carl

[52] Posted by carl on 05-11-2008 at 12:26 PM • top

We have received stories that were written down some eighty years or so after the fact…

Isn’t this the beginning of the end? “eighty years ... after the fact” puts us into the 2nd century, which is impossibly late for any of the gospels by the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars. And, to further complicate the lie, the earliest “resurrection story” appears in 1st Corinthians, written some 20-30 years after the event, when (as Paul states) many of the witnesses who saw the risen Lord and could be called upon either to verify or contradict his account.

At some point The General Convention Church must deal with so-called “leaders” who deny their baptismal vows “to continue in the apostles’ teaching” and their ordination vows. But, of course, it won’t; hard-heartedly prefering itching ears and every wind of false doctrine with eternal consequences for those very leaders. (See Mark 9:42, Matthew 18:6 & Luke 17:2.)

[53] Posted by Ken Peck on 05-11-2008 at 12:30 PM • top

Yes, #53, that’s what I thought too (#40).  This is not only faulty theology, but it’s ill-informed biblical scholarship.  I didn’t even go to seminary and I know the N.T. texts are not from the second century.

[54] Posted by Katherine on 05-11-2008 at 01:22 PM • top

No wonder Bruce is so screwed up!  We have swapped emails and blog postings over the past few years; but NOW, we see the ‘rest of the story’, don’t we?

Mea culpa.
Fr. Chip

[55] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 05-11-2008 at 02:48 PM • top

Irenaeus [18],

Yes, my use of liberal here is in the theological sense and not political.

Rejection of the social gospel does not mean there is no need to reach into the world and demonstrate God’s love in kindness and charity. Caring for the poor, the hungry, widows and children were obviously

Also, “vibrant faith” does not mean one has been justified. John Wesley appears to have a vibrant faith for years before the time he claims to have had a saving or justifying faith. I’m sure Jane Fonda has a vibrant faith as well. The issue is how vibrant our faith is; does it justify?

[56] Posted by texex on 05-11-2008 at 04:15 PM • top

Well, there is your classical definition of apostasy, denial of the key doctrine of the Resurrection.

[57] Posted by Anglican Observer on 05-11-2008 at 04:57 PM • top

GoodMissMurphy (#6), I’m afraid that the answer to your question may be that they like the vestments, they like the incense and bells. They like the dress up and “make believe.” Scary, isn’t it?

[58] Posted by oscewicee on 05-11-2008 at 05:52 PM • top

#25 Paul B wrote

“Why don’t you guys go trolling the internet for sermons like this and bring these priests up on charges of abandoning the communion of the church?”

Abandonment? The sermon appears to be written in official TEC “full communion as we see it” speak. 
Thank you Sarah, you were very brave to read the whole thing.

[59] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 05-11-2008 at 07:18 PM • top

My retort comes in the form of this marvelous poem by John Updike titled Seven Stanzas at Easter:

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

[60] Posted by The Rev. Father Brian Vander Wel on 05-11-2008 at 08:29 PM • top

#11 ODC, depending on where in/around Atlanta you’re going to be, I can recommend a couple of non-TEC options.

In the southern suburbs, in Peachtree City, I attend All Saints Anglican. Absolutely no relation to the All Saints in this article.

On the north side, Christ Church of Atlanta has a bunch of great folks.

As tom says in #37, Atlanta’s a tough place for orthodox TEC churches.

[61] Posted by Dannon on 05-11-2008 at 11:04 PM • top

Yes, #53, that’s what I thought too (#40).  This is not only faulty theology, but it’s ill-informed biblical scholarship.  I didn’t even go to seminary and I know the N.T. texts are not from the second century.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t go to a (non-Trinity/Nashota House assuming that you’re in the US) seminary that you “know” that. After all, there are plenty of biblical scholars who believe that the NT dates from the late second century. (OK, so the scholars I’m thinking of all died in the nineteenth century, but they must know better than us because we are just “pre-modern” savages while those scholars were right at the heart of the modern enlightenment in biblical criticism).

[62] Posted by Boring Bloke on 05-12-2008 at 04:35 AM • top

#62. Well, I made the original observation, and I am a graduate of Heresy House of the Southwest (‘62). (Well that’s almost 19th century.) I recall that the dating taught there then was that Mark was written shortly after the Neronian persecution (c. 70), Matthew & Luke about a decade and a half afterwards (c. 85) and John yet another decade later (c. 95). Of course later, J.A.T. Robinson (of “Honest to God” infamy) discovered Jesus and wrote another book, “Redating the New Testament” which moves most NT dating even earlier than the 20th century “consensus.” The only “scholars” living in the 19th century are the Jesus Seminar fellows.

Of course, no matter how you do the dating, 1 Corinthians must come well before Nero’s persecution and Paul’s martyrdom, which places in the worst case senario less than 30 years after the crucifixion.

Mark is an interesting case, I think. (That thinking business is pretty dangerous in The General Convention Church.) The “best manuscripts” end with 16:8, “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The resurrection appearances which are in later texts appear to be (maybe 2nd century) additions to “fix” the problem. The 16:8 ending of Mark is problematic.

First of all it is awkward Greek, suggesting that the last page of an early codex was lost. That is, of course, possible, although I think not. (There I go thinking again.) For one thing, the Roman Easter Gospel has always been Mark 16:1-8, and Peter was, after all, one of the apostles named by Paul who *saw* the risen Jesus.)

Second, one is left with some difficult problems: (1) the stone was rolled way, (2) there’s that “young man”—clearly an angel—and (3) the empty tomb.

But most seriously, one is left hanging with 16:8 “and they told no one, for they were afraid.” If that is, in fact, “the end of the matter,” then Peter and Paul and the rest, the early church, the evangelists including Mark, are left totally unexplained.

And judging by Paul’s epistles (and not just 1 Corinthians) before Mark, and Matthew, Luke and John afterwards, the early readers and hearers of Mark’s gospel—even with the 16:8 abrupt ending—knew “the rest of the story.”

[63] Posted by Ken Peck on 05-12-2008 at 09:31 AM • top

#63 Ken Peck said,

“But most seriously, one is left hanging with 16:8 “and they told no one,
for they were afraid.”

It appears that an implication is being put on the wording of “they told no one” as to mean never! How can you put or inplicate that the text means that they never told anyone? Why couldn’t it mean that they told no one for a few weeks or a few months maybe even a few years but a few decade or at all? By what means and how can anyone have the authority to place a specific time to the text “they told no one” to mean never or at the very least decades after the fact? Does the Greek give such an implication or better yet, does it say exactly that they never told anyone? Someone had to tell someone in order for it to be written down! Besides, how would anyone of us truly feel at this given time in our lives if Christ appeared to us in the flesh? Would we really and truly believe? Then knowing what we had just witnessed would we be eager and willing without fear to run out and start proclaiming that we saw Jesus Christ in the flesh an that He spoke directly to us? I believe that in Mark in the ESV one that I have it includes verses 9-20 in the 16th chapter of Mark and it clearly states that “[SOME OF THE EARLIEST MANUSCRIPTS DO NOT INCLUDE 16:9-20]* Those verses say:

Mark 16:9-20
  [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. [10] She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. [11] But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
  [12] After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. [13] And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.
  [14] Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. [15] And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. [17] And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
  [19] So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. [20] And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

I personally think that it is a dangerous business to be making decisions and especially assumptions that some texts are to be included verses those texts that are not supposed to be included. Clearly if we take things away or leave out or even assume some things about biblical texts that are not truly a valid assumption God will find a way to get the Truth out there for all His believers, followers, and children.

I give thanks to God for those who did tell the stories and wrote them down. Where would we be had they not? What courage it must have taken and I ask myslef daily, “How would I react if Jesus Christ was to reveal Himself to me today in the flesh? Touchable flesh and have a cup of coffee with me and rebuke my behavior and doubting? Would I go out and proclaim immediately what had just happened to me? Or would I have some fearful feelings first for a while and keep it all to myself for a time and pray and ask God to help me to discern just what to do and how to go about doing it and take my fear away? The only way I could for sure know is for that to actually happen because no one of us truly knows just what and how we would react if we had been in the shoes of the disciples and to presume is dangerous ground indeed!

[64] Posted by TLDillon on 05-12-2008 at 10:22 AM • top

Irenaeus [18],

Apologies for my unedited posting yesterday - allow me to clean it up.

Yes, my use of liberal here is in the theological sense and not political.

Rejection of the social gospel does not mean there is no need to reach into the world and demonstrate God’s love in kindness and charity. Caring for the poor, the hungry, widows and children were obviously important activities of the early church and play large roles in Jesus’ teaching.

Also, “vibrant faith” does not mean one has been justified. John Wesley appears to have a vibrant faith for years before the time he claims to have had a saving or justifying faith. I’m sure Jane Fonda has a vibrant faith as well. The issue is not how vibrant our faith is; does our faith justify is the central question?

[65] Posted by texex on 05-12-2008 at 12:27 PM • top

“No wonder Bruce is so screwed up!  We have swapped emails and blog postings over the past few years; but NOW, we see the ‘rest of the story’, don’t we?

Mea culpa.
Fr. Chip “

The comment above is one of the reasons I am usually reluctant to even try and engage this list at all.  I quickly scanned through the posts and am appalled at the level of sarcasm and rudeness expressed by those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.  The first word to come to mind was “Pharisees” and it isn’t difficult to figure out why.

The comment posted was posted out of context of the sermon like so many other comments I read here.  Read or listen to the ENTIRE sermon as well as many others of my rector.  You will get a more accurate picture than what you saw start this thread. 

I have neither th energy or time to respond in any detail a the moment but I will respond, and no I am not embarrassed to respond.  I have nothing about which to be embarrassed, but I am not sure some of you could say the same when it comes to manners in general and common decency. 

Perhaps all some want to hear every Sunday is what miserable offenders we all are.  If that’s what I wanted to hear, I would have probably gone Calvinist or Baptist years ago.  I much rather look for the joy of worshiping the Risen Christ.  I already know what a miserable offending sinner I am.  But I also know that Jesus, through the grace, boundless grace, of God took care of that some time ago.  I wonder from what I read on this list how many of you actually believe that.

Anyway.  I will post a better and more thoughtful response.  In the meantime, I seriously suggest that you make an effort to see the broader and more complete picture than you are being shown now.  Unless of course you only want to see a skewed version.  I would match Geoffrey Hoare’s spirituality against anyone who has ever posted to this list.  And I guarantee you his knowledge and scholarship outranks 99.9% of those who post, including me.

I still love you as my sisters and brothers in Christ.  To do otherwise would be hypocritical considering who I serve as Lord and Saviour.  But many of you are not very likeable at the moment and Scripture doesn’t say I have to like you, only that I must love you. 

Bruce Garner
All Saints’ Atlanta

[66] Posted by Bruce Garner on 05-12-2008 at 08:22 PM • top

Bruce, last time I checked, it was the Pharisees that were the ones that were quite insistent that Jesus did not come back from the dead, so perhaps you better reevaluate who you are calling a Pharisee.  BTW, “spirituality” is a word that means little to me.  The Dali Lamma and Shirley McClaine are both very spirtual people.  That doesn’t mean that either are Christian. 

I showed the sermon to my Eastern Orthodox brother, without saying where it came from.  He figured it must have been from a Unitarian minister.

[67] Posted by AndrewA on 05-12-2008 at 08:57 PM • top

Bruce, if a preacher says that Jesus did not rise physically from the dead, there is not much I will listen to from that preacher.  He is starting from a different place and working from a different set of assumptions and convictions.

Yes, such a preacher may be a good person with many gifts and graces, and a great capacity to inspire others to do good and be good.  He may well be an excellent scholar, within the boundaries of the scholars who share his assumptions.

But a preacher who denies the ressurection has denied a basic element of New Testament Christianity.  He cannot be trusted to teach the fulness of New Testament faith, for he has denied an essential element.  In my experience, such a preacher is also likely to deny that Christ’s death was a ransom for our sins, that the Holy Spirit is a person (“He,” not “it”), that we can and do grow in faith as we submit our sins and areas of temptation to the Lord and the Holy Spirit transforms us, and that those who reject Christ will find themselves rejected.

Your rector is no doubt a good man and one who has helped many, at least on this earth.  But has he brought people into a living relationship with the God of Scripture?  Has he taught them that Scripture is God’s Word and may be trusted?

It is not uncommon for a metropolitan area to have a large and active liberal parish—because there is a large field of people to draw from—many of whom may be seeking “Christianity lite” for a variety of reasons.

One reason I became an Episcopalian is that it is generally a warmer and gracious style of being a Christian than some others I have known.  But there is a difference between style and content—and the core content should be the same among all churches that bear the name of Christ—including the actual, physical resurrection of Christ.  (Actually, the XXXIX Articles are a good summary of “mere Christianity.”)

[68] Posted by AnglicanXn on 05-12-2008 at 09:04 PM • top

RE: “The comment posted was posted out of context of the sermon like so many other comments I read here.”

Nonsense—the comment posted fits precisely in with the rest of the sermon, which is clearly linked to in the post.

RE: “I have nothing about which to be embarrassed . . . “

I agree—you have nothing to be ashamed of with your gospel or foundational worldview.  Somebody who claims to believe something should stick right by it until they change their minds.  The fact that it has nothing in common with the gospel of most Anglicans—or indeed most Christians—throughout the world [other than the words, evacuated of their meaning] is neither here nor there.  I always respect those who stick by their stated beliefs.

[deleted all the tsk tsking over “manners”—extraneous filler]

RE: “Perhaps all some want to hear every Sunday is what miserable offenders we all are.  If that’s what I wanted to hear, I would have probably gone Calvinist or Baptist years ago.”

Right—those Calvinists and Baptists are the only Fundamentalists that believe in the Resurrection!  ; > )

RE: “I would match Geoffrey Hoare’s spirituality against anyone who has ever posted to this list.”

I’m sure he is—most spiritual. I personally think that Shirley MacLaine is also one of the most spiritual people out there.  And the Dalai Lama.  What that has to do with anything that has been argued I don’t know.

RE: “And I guarantee you his knowledge and scholarship outranks 99.9% of those who post, including me.”

Another pointless set of criteria in light of the man not believing in the resurrection.  We can draft any PhD and do just as well in “scholarship.”

RE: “But many of you are not very likeable at the moment and Scripture doesn’t say I have to like you, only that I must love you.”

You will no doubt be aware that I—along with so many many many many other Episcopalians—am more indifferent than you can possibly comprehend as to your opinions about us.

[69] Posted by Sarah on 05-12-2008 at 09:11 PM • top

Bruce, I imagine that I am like many here. I would rather hear about Hoare+‘s Christianity than his “spirituality.” That word has, unfortunately, come to mean a lot of different things that have nothing to do with the Christian faith so it’s hard to be sure someone is referring to Christian spirituality or the Holy Spirit when they use it. No, we don’t want to hear every Sunday that we are sinners - though sin has to be addressed, because we *are* sinners. What we want to hear is the Christian hope, that Christ died for us, that Christ loves us, that Christ *is* and that He will come again. And we don’t want to hear that watered down into meaningless vaguenesses of metaphors extrapolated so far out that they mean anything and everything but the fundamental truths - Christ has risen, Christ will come again. You spent how many words chastising people here tonight? It would have been far more useful to have expended those words on defending/explaining your priest’s very unChristian sounding sermon. I can only guess that chastising was far easier.

[70] Posted by oscewicee on 05-12-2008 at 09:22 PM • top

1. The resurrection - desperately needs better preaching that the evasive, vague, theology as plausible deniability that is the stuff of this sermon.

2. The Creeds are propositional and so is the content of christian faith. Without truth claims - why would I even bother to believe or how would I even know what it is that I believe.

3. I do want to hear about sin - because it points me to the joy of repentance.

4. I can only go on this sermon - and I am sure at a profound level that I will never reach he is loved by bunnies, small children and the baby Jesus - but the NT scholarship in this sermon is poor fare, painfully inadequate to the texts and the Tradition.

5. Clergy that serve up such thin gruel to their congregations need to hear criticism because they are selling their people short.

[71] Posted by driver8 on 05-12-2008 at 09:27 PM • top

There is an easy answer to this sermon - 1 Cor 15.  Either the resurrection is fact, or we are all fools.  I guess some people want to think of themselves as fools.

[72] Posted by Harry Edmon on 05-12-2008 at 09:43 PM • top

The comment above is one of the reasons I am usually reluctant to even try and engage this list at all.  I quickly scanned through the posts and am appalled at the level of sarcasm and rudeness expressed by those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.  The first word to come to mind was “Pharisees” and it isn’t difficult to figure out why.

I think I know why… It’s because the Pharisees believed in resurrection, as opposed to the Sadducees, who did not. 

Am I right? 

Thank you for the fine compliment, Bruce!  smile

BTW - can you guess what the first word that came to my mind, when I read your priest’s Easter sermon? 

I would match Geoffrey Hoare’s spirituality against anyone who has ever posted to this list..

Let’s see… ++Venables, Episcopaliated, Mario Bergner+ .... to name a few off of the top of my head…

Ahhhhh, nope.  I don’t think I’d do the same. 

And I guarantee you his knowledge and scholarship outranks 99.9% of those who post, including me.

Assuming that is true, you’d be unqualified to make such a claim.  At any rate, you can read my comments (somewhere in this thread) regarding Geoff’s sloppy treatment of two of the Greek words for ‘love’. 

Of course, you can always critique that skewed post as part of your better, broader, fuller, and more thoughtful response.  wink

[73] Posted by J Eppinga on 05-12-2008 at 09:57 PM • top

Perhaps all some want to hear every Sunday is what miserable offenders we all are.  If that’s what I wanted to hear, I would have probably gone Calvinist or Baptist years ago.  I much rather look for the joy of worshiping the Risen Christ.

Again… where to start?

i)  It might surprise you to hear this, but even the crustiest of Baptists and Calvinists hear a lot more than what you suggest, on any given Sunday. 

ii)  While I agree that the part of God’s message that doesn’t fall directly under the category of ‘good news,’ can be overemphasized, it can’t exactly be disregarded, and it isn’t inherently bad, if we are to believe Romans 7

iii)  Actually, there is nothing amiss in a sermon that contains both “what miserable sinners we all are,” and the Risen Christ.  Asserting that there is a conflict presents a false dichotomy.

iv)  RE:  “I much rather look for the joy of worshiping the Risen Christ.”  Based on your priest’s Easter sermon, it’s apparent that while you and I both say the same thing, we mean completely different things.  I anticipate and revel in the worship of the Risen Christ, only I do it with the realization that while Death was the curse handed to Adam and his progeny, Life was given to Christ (the Second Adam) and therefore will be given to His progeny;  For that to happen, there must be a literal reversal of the curse, definitely occurring at a point in history, in the case of Christ

v)  Worshipping a Risen Christ, as opposed to an impotent corpse, or even a Gnostic Christ, has its consequences.  Such a Christ does not appoint scribes who somehow get it wrong through superstitious rants.  Such a Christ demands that we love Him by conforming our lives to His life - and His life was conformed to the Law, every jot and tittle.  If we don’t, then we don’t love Him. 

I already know what a miserable offending sinner I am.  But I also know that Jesus, through the grace, boundless grace, of God took care of that some time ago.  I wonder from what I read on this list how many of you actually believe that.

Again, it would depend on what you mean by that.  On the orthodox side (and if you look carefully, the word ‘orthodox’ on this site includes a fairly broad theological spectrum) we do in fact believe that not everyone will be going to Heaven.  A large part of Christ’s ministry was spent dwelling on the uncomfortable subject of a Hell that actually has people in it. 

RE:  “...took care of that some time ago.”  That’s another area where I suspect that we might not be on the same page.  All of the orthodox on this list can point to at least two times (some, like me, point to three!) when their salvation was “taken care of”:  Two-thousand years ago, and also during their lifetimes. 

I can point to many times in my life when God hauled me up short, and I realized that not only did I deserve to be born into Hell, I deserved to go to Hell, at that very instant.  When that happens, I cry out for forgiveness, and ask God to continue the good work in me, that He started.  (Thank the Lord, for water, bread, and wine)

The thing is, yes ... for Believers, their salvation has been taken care of 2000 years ago.  But they may not take that for granted, and they may not pervert the Gospel in such a way that it leads others to take the active and passive obedience of Christ, for granted.  Unfortunately for your priest, he is doing exactly that, by denying the literal Resurrection of Christ.  Frankly, I fear for his soul, and the souls under his “care.”

[74] Posted by J Eppinga on 05-13-2008 at 04:47 AM • top

Glad to know I can agree with four words of the sermon:

God’s grace changes everything

Everything else is bunkum. As Rowan Williams said in <a href =“http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/1717”> Westminster Abbey</a> just before Easter,

...if the bones of Jesus were discovered in Palestine I could not be a Christian in the way that I now am. I could not celebrate the Sacraments: I could not understand the life of the Holy Spirit as I do: I might still want to be associated with some of the insights and values of the Christian tradition but you would no longer have me as Archbishop of Canterbury (I rather hope you wouldn’t have anyone as Archbishop of Canterbury!) because I actually don’t think that the Church would be credible in its central historical shape…

[75] Posted by Marcus on 05-13-2008 at 04:57 AM • top

I refer you to my rector’s blog for his response.
Since there doesn’t seem to be a single one of us who was present to see our Risen Lord, we have no idea what He really looked like, now do we?  Even the Gospel accounts note that He was not immediately recognizable.  Remember he told the one who called Him “Raboni” not to “cling or touch” him yet.  So what is the issue with any priest acknowledging in a sermon that we really don’t know exactly how or what happened on that first Easter nearly 2,000 years ago.  Jesus appeared to His followers in a locked room.  How did He get there?  Did He squeeze through a keyhole?  Did He slide under the door?  Did he drop through the ceiling?  Who cares?  He got there and He appeared before those who mattered to Him.  What difference does the mechanics of His appearance make?

Please keep in mind that we do not know exact dates for when the various narratives of Scripture were actually written down.  We also know that they were passed down and around in an oral tradition before being written down.  The oral version may or may not have been as accurate the 50th telling as it was the 5th.  And let’s remember that there have been a number of fingers involved in writing and translating since the originals.  We do, as you know, believe the Holy Scripture to be the word of God.  We do not say that we believe them to be the WORDS of God.  There is a difference.  I’ve yet to see any evidence of God leaning down and whispering in some scribes ear:  “Take a letter!”

And why does it matter exactly how it happened or even what Jesus really looked like?  Neither is the point.  The point is that God resurrected the crucified and dead Christ…again we do not know the mechanism nor does it matter. 

We spend so much time wallowing in and fighting about minute details that we miss the bigger picture of what was done for us, the grace, boundless grace that was bestowed on us.  Are we so afraid of not knowing every little detail that we deliberately obfuscate the broader purpose of the narratives?  Jesus died for us.  God resurrected Jesus.  Does it matter how?

Bruce Garner

[76] Posted by Bruce Garner on 05-13-2008 at 08:50 PM • top

Bruce:

So what you are trying to say here is an infinite, all powerful God of the Universe cannot control the account of the most important event in World History…  I frankly don’t buy it.

So Yaweh is SO powerless He can’t control the writing of a single book - that is just so sad.  Pretty pathetic God - how could He take care of me?  Or raise Christ from the dead?  Or do anything of substance?

Do you realize when you start the “Bible is Borderline” theology you are basically stating that our God is just a powerless god - like all the other gods of the pantheon - and HECK He don’t even have no name.

[77] Posted by Eclipse on 05-13-2008 at 08:58 PM • top

“Since there doesn’t seem to be a single one of us who was present . . .”

The fact that debunking revisionist professors and priests weren’t there either never hinders the dogmatism of their debunking.

[78] Posted by Irenaeus on 05-13-2008 at 09:39 PM • top

And why does it matter exactly how it happened or even what Jesus really looked like?  Neither is the point.  The point is that God resurrected the crucified and dead Christ…again we do not know the mechanism nor does it matter.

Bruce, what on earth are you talking about?  What does ‘being immediately recognizable’ have to do with corroboration of a witness’ testimony?  The Body laid in the tomb was hardly recognizable as human, yet people who witnessed Christ’s execution knew it to be Christ’s Body.  Tell me, how exactly does “immediate recognition” factor into corroboration of the account of Christ’s death? 

Well now, if “immediate recognition” doesn’t factor into identity corroboration in one instance, would it be possible that this criterion would fail in another instance? 

Perhaps, yes? 

Well then, it’s not a reliable criterion. 

As far as His Resurrection is concerned - that’s not exactly an everyday event.  I don’t expect that the mind could grasp such a thing, right away.  I also wouldn’t expect a resurrectee to look like they had in life;  I would expect them to look like they do, lying in a casket, wearing ill-fitting clothes, shot up with formaldehyde, cheeks sunken in, with an expression that they never had in life.  As Bill Cosby pointed out in one of his early routines, corpses don’t “look like themselves.” 

So, we have two reasonable explanations why Jesus might not be immediately recognizable:  That the human mind can’t grasp such an occurrence immediately, and that it would probably expect to see the person looking more ... dead.

The discussion over oral tradition really has no merit in corroborating the accounts, positively or negatively;  although the act of casting doubt on something this fundamental, reveals more about the doubter than the text itself.

[79] Posted by J Eppinga on 05-13-2008 at 10:11 PM • top

The point is that God resurrected the crucified and dead Christ

The point is you’ve eviscerated the doctrine of any content. Who knows whether it is true or false, whether it accords with Scripture or not, because I don’t have the slightest idea what you mean when you use the word resurrection and you seem to tell me you don’t either.

[80] Posted by driver8 on 05-13-2008 at 10:19 PM • top

I refer you to my rector’s blog for his response.

Refer to your heart’s content.  I care little for footnoted proofs;  less (if it’s possible), for clergy who equip the sheep like this.

[81] Posted by J Eppinga on 05-13-2008 at 10:28 PM • top

Okay, the good Reverend claims that he attacked for saying…

“...for saying that the experience and assurance of resurrection and its meaning for our lives is not dependent on any particular set of pictures in our heads other than those of the scriptures.”

Yet that is not what is said at all.  He said that “We don’t have to understand the stories as factual accounts of anything”.  What he said was that we don’t have to take Scriptual accounts of the resurrection as factual.

Lets see what else he says…

“Obviously many of our brother and sister Episcopalians have decided to take that route and are now, inevitably and correctly, making the case that they are not leaving the Church. They do not seem to want to admit, however, that they are leaving the Episcopal Church, ‘this branch of Christ’s body’, as they no longer support decisions of the General Convention. This difficulty has power and property at its core and leads to the unedifying but necessary resort to secular courts. It is hard to hold a minority position (as I have on many of our currently divisive issues for most of my ordained ministry)”

Here again he makes the mistake typical of TEC arrogance, which is to assign to those that object to the General Convention’s actions the label of “minority”, when in fact they are part of the majority of all Christendom now and throughout history.

[82] Posted by AndrewA on 05-13-2008 at 10:48 PM • top

Bruce, I used to post occasionally on this site as well as Father Jake’s. I tried to take a centrist position usually, although you might differ on whether I succeeded. I haven’t posted on either for a very long time, as I decided that “closed” minds couldn’t be persuaded to change their perceptions. That my analysis was correct was reinforced by the comment in your first posting above about opinions expressed on your rector’s sermon, towit a “level of sarcasm and rudeness expressed by those who claim to follow Jesus Christ.”

Have you ever read the posts on Father Jake’s? Most of them set the standard for a “level of sarcasm and rudeness.” Father Jake is the worst sinner of them all.

Which is why, as a former member of All Saints Atlanta and then the Cathedral of St. Philip, I turned my back on the Episcopal Church two years ago. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal, which is why I continue to follow events and read these sites.

Dude, be less judgmental that ye may not be judged accordingly.

[83] Posted by fastlosinghope on 05-13-2008 at 11:11 PM • top

Please keep in mind that we do not know exact dates for when the various narratives of Scripture were actually written down.

So we cannot say that the “resurrection stories” were written 80 years after the fact. Obviously the account in 1 Corinthians was written before Paul was beheaded and that was roughly 30 years after the fact. The evidence is that Mark’s gospel (with its empty tomb was written sometime around the time of Peter’s crucifixion—again roughly 30 years after the fact. (This is based on the early first century church historian Papias’ account, quoted by Eusebius.) Sometime around the end of the second century Clement of Alexandria reported a similar tradition, differing sufficiently in detail as to not depend on Papias.

Yes, there were German scholars in the 19th century who insisted that the gospels (or at least Matthew, Luke and John) were all 2nd century. But the scholarly consensus these days is that all the gospels, including John, were written in the first century. This is based on manuscript discoveries and the use of the texts by second century writers.

Now obviously the attempt to push the texts into the second century is part of an agenda to discredit the texts themselves. And, as I pointed out, if we are to dismiss the gospel accounts because they were written down long after the events, then everything in the gospel accounts must be called into question (even Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness and imagined “inclusiveness”), not just those parts we don’t like for some reason.

Yes, Paul says the body was changed. Yes, the gospels indicate that it wasn’t always “immediately recognizable.” Yes, the gospels indicate that it had properties that differ from our bodies. But what they do agree on is that it was a body and not some warm fuzzy feeling or spiritual apparition.

The sermon has this line:

But this [Easter] celebration is not without its complications for anyone who lives in the 21st century.

Which is a sort of modern arrogance because, the simple fact is that it was “not without its complications for anyone who” lived in the 1st century. They were not as stupid as some of the folks in the 21st century seem to think. They knew perfectly well that someone who was crucified, dead and buried did not get up out of the tomb and start walking around a few days later. They did believe that ghosts sometimes appeared; but not embodied spirits.

One might note that in the early anti-Christian apologies, it wasn’t the resurrection appearances that were attacked—it was the empty tomb.

[84] Posted by Ken Peck on 05-14-2008 at 06:53 AM • top

Please keep in mind that we do not know exact dates for when the various narratives of Scripture were actually written down.

Agreed

  We also know that they were passed down and around in an oral tradition before being written down.  The oral version may or may not have been as accurate the 50th telling as it was the 5th.

What makes you say we know this? (a) Early civilisations were very good at maintaining oral tradition, particularly on matters of importance. (b) Within the Christian community, there were a small number of individuals given primary responsibility for preaching and teaching (c) OK, so the gospel passed around by word of mouth for at least twenty or thirty years before being written down. That does not mean that it is the fiftieth telling. Traditionally, Matthew’s Gospel was written by the apostle. So that’s an eyewitness account to everything except the birth story (albeit at least 30 years after the event; but you are arguing on the basis of chinese whispers, not an onset of senility). John was written by the apostle. Another eyewitness account. Mark was written by a disciple of Peter (Some say that Mark would have been in in Jerusalem himself at the time of holy week, but I’ll neglect that). One removed from an eyewitness account. Luke was written by a disciple of Paul. Two removed from an eyewitness account. Not five, and certainly not fifty.

OK, so you reject the traditional attribution; the testimony of Papias and the like. Fine. But that is still no justification for your assumption that the gospel passed through 50 hands before being written down. We do know that there were only a handful of Bishops in each city between the time of the apostles and the last date when the gospels could have been written; I think that Clement towards the end of the first century was the third pope, for instance, and he knew Peter personally: only one removed from the apostle’s direct testimony. We know that the apostles (not every one of them, but enough) wandered the Roman and Persian empires, spreading the word, and were seen by a great many people. We also know that the Bishops were charged to preserve the witness and accounts handed to them by the apostles precisely, neither adding nor taking away; and that the first Bishops were appointed by the apostles themselves. We can also surmise that if any `Gospel’ purportedly by one of the apostles started circulating which was not in agreement with the recollections of the stories told by the apostle to those who knew him personally would not have received the universal and rapid acceptance that our four Gospels did.

When you say `we know,’ I assume that it’s shorthand for `Bultmann and Tillich said so as the only possible justification for their removal of the miraculous from the gospel narratives.’

And let’s remember that there have been a number of fingers involved in writing and translating since the originals. 

We have enough diverse and early sources to be confident that the best Greek text (or texts) we have is more than close enough to the original to render this observation unimportant.

[85] Posted by Boring Bloke on 05-14-2008 at 07:29 AM • top

The typical conversation goes like this:

Liberal person: “It is silly, out-dated, flat-earth thinking, and pre-modern to think Jesus rose from the dead.”

Reasserter: “So, you don’t believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”

Liberal person: “Of course Christ is Risen!  I am an orthodox Christian who can recite the creeds without crossing my fingers!”

Reasserter: “But you don’t believe Christ rose from the dead…”

Liberal person: “Who the heck knows what really happened?  Scripture is very untrustworthy.  You are a Pharisee, and I am better educated than 99.99% of you.”

Reasserter: Sigh

[86] Posted by DietofWorms on 05-14-2008 at 07:56 AM • top

Bruce (#76), you use the arguments of a man who is looking for reasons not to believe something that troubles him.

Eclipse (#77), I can’t speak for Bruce, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that the “all powerful” God he worships is not capable of direct intervention in human life. That appears to be another facet of the New Thing - that God is just out there, twiddling his thumbs, and not directly involved with human life, not a personal God. I would be happy to hear that this is not what Bruce believes, expressed in words that are not code words.

Good point, Irenaeus (#78) - the arguments are those of one “just looking for a reason [not] to believe.”

Ken Peck and Boring Bloke, thanks for your posts.

[87] Posted by oscewicee on 05-14-2008 at 08:06 AM • top

For an extensive study on the reliability of oral traditions (you will be surprised), see Dr. Reginald Ray’s “Buddhist Saints in India.” In that book, he demonstrates that accurate and complete oral traditions persisted for HUNDREDS of years, despite modern beliefs that this simply can’t happen. Thirty years or so or even a hundred years (if we’re talking oral tradition as opposed to actual eyewitness accounts) is a drop in the old oral tradition bucket. To this day, in parts of the far east, there are people whose JOB it is to sing/recite epics that are (if printed) thousands of pages long…

[88] Posted by ears2hear on 05-14-2008 at 08:16 AM • top

The blog in question is at…
http://www.geoffreyhoare.blogspot.com

My personal impression is that he addresses straw men arguments instead of what he actually said in the sermon and what the real criticism of his sermon were.  He also displays poor manners at best by not linking the criticisms of his sermon or even giving the name of this website.  I would encourage people to read the blog and leave polite but reasoned and comments about whether or not they think he addresses the issue adequately.

You might also want to comment on whether or not you think his conclusions about law suits and TEC’s new way of being a Christian are justified, as well as the characterizations he makes of those that disagree with the recent actions of the General Convention.

[89] Posted by AndrewA on 05-14-2008 at 08:36 AM • top

Good thing God came when He did. He must have known best to come before digital cameras and audio recordings. Our political candidates are finding that every word, every arched eyebrow, affects their image. Of course the Lord today would probably not be concerned about image, which would probably appear quite strange to 21st century humans.  All this commentary reminds me of Andrew Lloyd Webber, 

“Now why’d you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?
If you’d come today
You could have reached a whole nation
Israel in 4 BC
Had no mass communication
(Don’t you get me wrong)
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?”

[90] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 05-14-2008 at 08:39 AM • top

Further reading on his blog

I still prefer Hillary and still do not understand why the two campaigns aren’t trying to have a conversation about some kind of joint approach to the country. I suppose it is because they both really believe that they would be the best President

Now, I respect the man’s right to have a political opinion, but when the political opinion is expressed in support of a specific candidate, on a blogspot calling itself “A Word from the Rector”, which is linked to by his official parish website under the link title “The Rector’s Blog” it sounds an awful lot to me like he is, in in capacity as a rector, endorsing a specific candidate.  I wonder what the IRS would think of that.

[91] Posted by AndrewA on 05-14-2008 at 08:41 AM • top

More on the oral traditions point: people of the Mediterranean VALUED memory far beyond our current era, and had many techniques for ensuring accurate memory. In Greece (and Rome) the art of oratory required memory training. Many of those techniques persisted to the Renaissance, as described in Frances Yates’ “The Theater of Memory.” I think I got the title right. I suspect that a certain strain of Biblical scholar has not taken in the whole range of research into this subject, perhaps being too narrowly focused within their specialties and the controversies within them.

[92] Posted by ears2hear on 05-14-2008 at 08:57 AM • top

Boring Bloke, Luke may have done the research for his Gospel during the Council of Jerusalem where he would have had access to the original disciples. That would make his writing only once removed from the eye-witnesses, the same as Mark.

[93] Posted by texex on 05-14-2008 at 12:38 PM • top

I don’t doubt that Luke met both the original apostles and Mary on numerous occasions. I was being generous to our worthy opponents.

[94] Posted by Boring Bloke on 05-14-2008 at 12:50 PM • top

... Perhaps too generous, I was forgetting Luke 1:1-3.

[95] Posted by Boring Bloke on 05-14-2008 at 12:52 PM • top

There are a couple of things I marvel at with regard to this website.

One is the frequent tendency to a)either not read a post completely and/or b) to imply or infer content that is not stated in a post.

The other is the idea that if others don’t agree with us completely then they deserve to be castigated, insulted, made fun of, and dismissed entirely.  In other words, they can’t be “in the club” unless they think and act completely like the rest of us.

If you bother to read my posting completely and carefully, you will note that I, at not time, stated that I did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Let me say that again and in a different way:  I do indeed believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The point I was attempting to convey is that I don’t know what that looked like, how it happened or anything about it.  That does not change my belief in it!  I don’t know exactly how the human hand works either.  But that doesn’t negate the fact that I consider that human hand and its working and functioning to be a miracle of God’s creation. 

No one on this list seems to be interested in my faith journey (or anyone else’s apparently). But I am going to share some of it with you at the risk of being ridiculed because it doesn’t match exactly what some of you think a faith journey and it’s content “should” look like. 

When I was in my early teen years (about 1963 or so) I felt a calling towards a closer journey with God - a faith journey if you will.  My exposure to organized religion was via the Southern Baptist tradition.  I heard nothing about a loving God, only hell fire and damnation and that everyone was doomed to hell and that the preacher in the pulpit had all the answers.  Even during the course of all of this I did accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour and recorded it in my zipper cased Bible accordingly.

I was bright enough and open minded enough to be bothered by statements in print in the Sunday School books that advised us that Jewish people and Roman Catholics were going to hell.  This bothered me, mostly because I didn’t understand how any particular religious community could either know that or make such a judgement about others.  Hence I began searching for a community of faith that would allow me to think about my faith without condemnation and that would teach me the complete story of God’s relationship to humanity over the centuries.  I clearly was not getting a full picture where I was.

My father’s sister and husband and children had already left the Southern Baptist tradition (and been basically branded heretics by the rest of our family in the process) and become Episcopalians.  I went to church with them one Sunday while visiting them in Jacksonville, Florida.  St. Andrews was in an area called Alderman Park.  When I walked through the doors, I knew I had come home.  God had called me home to a faith community.

This lead to a search back home for an Episcopal congregation.  There was one around the corner from our home in the Ormewood Park neighborhood in Atlanta.  So I visited.  (Despite the first hymn that I heard being “When Morning Gilds the Skies” and realizing there was never any way I could hit those notes!)

I also began discussion with the rector of the parish.  This lead me to confirmation class (where my mother joined me in my journey).

The priest began the class with two profound statements to us: 

The first was that he could not prove that God existed.  By the same token he could not prove that we and he existed either.  There was no logical way to prove that we exist.  He said this is where we begin.  It is called faith.

His second statement was that the Bible was a book of myths.  He did not mean myths in the terminology or form such as Greek and Roman mythology.  He meant myth as the term is used in another way:  to describe something in the terms and context of the people who were describing it, whether orally or in writing.  People in the CE and BCE often had a very different frame of reference from ours.  They describe events and actions and places in different terminology. 

Rather than in any way weakening my faith, these two statements made it all the more secure.  They laid the foundation for what was to become.  I was becoming part of a religious tradition that really did expect people to worship God with their minds as well as their heart and soul and being.  We were expected to use the brain with which God had blessed us. 

I completed the confirmation class, as did my mother.  We were both baptized on a Saturday in October, 1965 and confirmed the next day by the bishop.  (I had never allowed the Southern Baptists to baptize me.  Something didn’t feel exactly right about their view of things and I realized that I did not want to make my profession of faith there.)  I preached the homily at mother’s funeral just two months shy of it being 42 years since we were baptized at the very font I referenced during the homily.

That’s all I want to say about my faith journey at the moment.  If there is interest I will say more at another time.

My point is that I have a very solid foundation for my faith and it was a gift from the Episcopal Church to me. 

One of the hallmarks of traditional orthodox Anglicanism (and by extension Episcopal thought) is the ability, actually the desire, to maintain the ability to engage with each other in differing opinions while still being bound together under the broadness of the church.  We have never been confessional in the sense that we have never put together a list of beliefs, yes’s and no’s, do’s and don’t's.  The Nicene and Apostle’s creeds are enough for us and provide a broad enough umbrella to cover us.

And for those who asked, yes I do believe that God can and does intervene, become involved it, whatever term suits you, individual human lives.  I have had that happen.  I know it exists.  At the same time I also believe that God is not some great puppeteer in the sky who is directing all we do.  Why have given us the ability to reason and think if all choices were already going to be made for us?  So if God did literally dictate the books we now call the Bible, why do we have two different creation stories in Genesis that do not match?  Why do we have two different flood stories that do not match?  Did God make a “typo?”  No, of course not.  God inspired the writing of these stories by human beings.  And what is not divine is certainly human, hence there may be different versions, views, slants, etc. because of that.

So this is where I am, from where I have come.  It would be nice to hear more of your own faith journeys on this list instead of so much whining and complaining and ridiculing other folks.  Isn’t the Christian community supposed to be about us seeking out that which unites rather than divides us? 

My intent is not to offend any of you.  (And believe me, if I DID want to offend you, it would be abundantly clear that was my intent!) But you need to know that the rapidity and virulence with which some of you pounce on issues, clearly without having read a posting completely or even looking to see where the poster is going, doesn’t make for dialogue.  If you really want only to hear from those who think and act exactly like you do, perhaps it should be made clear that other thoughts are not invited or welcome.

To the individual who indicated having attended All Saints’ and the Cathedral in Atlanta, your email monicker gives no indication who you are, so I can’t really speak to your concerns. 


Bruce Garner

“Since when do you have to agree with people just to defend them from injustice?”  Lillian Hellman, Writer (1905-1984)

[96] Posted by Bruce Garner on 05-14-2008 at 09:55 PM • top

Wow, and I was verbose as a guest to this forum.

[97] Posted by monologistos on 05-14-2008 at 10:03 PM • top

Bruce,

From what I can tell, my theological sympathies are much closer to most SF commenters than, say, the rector who preached this sermon, but I think you are sadly right about the general tone of SF.  Even though I find the excerpt of the sermon that was quoted above to be badly mistaken in both fact and in its reasoning, I was disappointed with the way you were treated in this thread.  I have often wished, given the momentous and complex issues at stake, this could be a more thoughtful, charitable, and productive forum.

[98] Posted by Occasional Reader on 05-14-2008 at 10:58 PM • top

Bruce,

Looking over your posts, there seem to be a few recurring themes:

a)  Jesus rose from the dead, but we don’t know the mechanics of the Resurrection;
b)  Eyewitness accounts of Christ’s resurrection are suspect for various reasons, therefore one does not have to believe in the accounts. 
c)  Episcopalians are noble citizens that live high on a hill, whereas Baptists and other Pre-Moderns are creepy troglodytes who are lucky on those occasions when they get to bask in the loving scholarship of your faith communities. 

To respond:

(a)  Again, it depends on what you mean by both things.  I myself “don’t know” precisely how Christ’s circulatory system was resanguinated.  I myself “don’t know” whether Christ’s resurrection was more of a repristination or a reconstitution.  Actually, since I don’t have a medical degree, I couldn’t begin to speculate.  The thing is, I’ve never heard my fellow troglodytes talk this way.  It’s as if they file the “problem” of not-knowing-the-mechanics in that special place where we also file questions like “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin,” and “what was God doing before He created the universe?” 

What I do know, is that an eyewitness was told, “He is not here.”  The eyewitness came expecting a corpse; and the angel informed the eyewitness that seeking the corpse of Christ there (or anywhere), was futile.  That would tell me –enough- about the “mechanics” of Christ’s Resurrection to infer that the New Body was the same as the Old Body.  Christ’s subsequent visits to other eyewitnesses (and especially to Thomas, who I think the Church has given too much of a rough time for his healthy skepticism) is telling about “the mechanics” of His Resurrection as well, I think – I.e., that Christ’s Body was physically recognizable. 

Christ’s declining to be touched by Mary, but not by Thomas, doesn’t seem inconsistent with the accounts of His Resurrection.  Actually, and this is pure speculation on my part – refusing the hug seems consistent with um, celibacy;  I’m referring to the type of celibacy that is more comprehensive than ‘technical virginity’ – it’s the type of celibacy that doesn’t even look at a sexy woman.  No, I think Christ’s Resurrected Body, was real and (what’s more) positively human. 

How did Christ get into a locked room after He rose from the dead?  Gee, I dunno…  could it be due to the same factors that allowed Him to escape pissed-off lynch-mobs (Luke 4:30, e.g.,) when He felt like it? 

Basically, the qualifier, “I don’t know the mechanics of the resurrection,” seems out of place.  I don’t know why it would be said, let alone why it would be said in conjunction with an affirmation (?) of belief in the Resurrection. 

(b)  You say you believe in the Resurrection, but cast doubt on the eyewitness accounts.  What seems odd, is that you don’t seem to delve into the epistemological crisis that you’ve just brought on yourself:  How do you know, what you know?  You say, “faith,” as if it means something, but then proceed to denigrate the witness of the Word of God.  Frankly, your faith seems like skepticism in denial. 

(c)  I’ve never understood how someone could be proud to be an Episcopalian.  It’s amusing sometimes, pathetic mostly, and forgettable, eventually.

[99] Posted by J Eppinga on 05-15-2008 at 04:56 AM • top

#99, Moot, People who leave other traditions (Baptist, Roman Catholic, what have you) to become Episcopalian tend to be rather proud of themselves for so doing. It is part of the process of differentiating themselves from the old and embracing the new. Part of that is thinking the old is invalid, low and yucky and the new is elevated, true and lovely.

All Saints (Atlanta) had an ASA of about 900 in 1996. Its ASA in 2006 was 800. Those are the most recent figures I have. Its Plate ‘n Pledge increased by $1 million for the same time period.

Bad theology can be contagious. Get inoculated!

[100] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 05-15-2008 at 05:35 AM • top

Addendum. To be fair, I should point out that the above applies to almost any change in religion. When Episcopalians become Christians for example, they can get really annoying. They start insisting on actually having sound theology preached, that whatever prayers are said reflect the teaching of the Church down through the ages, that Church discipline be applied not only to fiduciary and fiscal matters but to matters of theology and practice as well. Sometimes they go so far as to insist that the Episcopal Church is more than a vehicle for social justice! Shocking, but true, I assure you.

Christian Episcopalians can really get under the skin of the rest of the denomination.

I’d rather my church did not require suits.

[101] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 05-15-2008 at 05:41 AM • top

The topic of this thread is not Bruce’s personal “faith story”. Neither is the homily of the Eucharist an appropriate place for personal testimony except insofar as it points to Christ and the Gospel, to the Kingdom of God. I grant you I’m perpetually off topic but neither I nor Bruce have reason to complain if we insert our life stories where they are out of context and are not complimented for our “listening process” which generally seems to involve long monologues about ourselves.  I realize that the topic seems an invitation to defend himself though and I don’t at all *blame* him for carrying on. smile

[102] Posted by monologistos on 05-15-2008 at 07:07 AM • top

Bruce, if all your Rector had said was “We don’t know the scientific and metaphysical details of how Jesus was resurrected, but we know that he was,” no one would have a problem.  That isn’t what he did in his sermon, inspite of the strawmen you and he bring up in his defense.  What he did was say that we don’t have to believe that scriptual accounts of the resurrection or the creed, and then he exibited a great deal of snobbery by suggesting that those that we do are some how less enlightened. 

His blog post suggesting that he was insisting on a simple belief in the creeds and scripture is dishonest.  Even if I were to give him the benifit of the doubt and believe that he actually meant it to be taken that way, I can’t ignore the fact that he said quite the opposite, and he said it from the pulpit in what is arguably the most important sermon a preacher gives every year.

[103] Posted by AndrewA on 05-15-2008 at 07:36 AM • top

We have never been confessional in the sense that we have never put together a list of beliefs, yes’s and no’s, do’s and don’t’s.  The Nicene and Apostle’s creeds are enough for us and provide a broad enough umbrella to cover us.

This might be true if the creeds were allowed the plain meaning of their words, but waltzes and polkas are danced around those words today, which is a shame because if it keeps up, they will mean precisely nothing.

Bruce, we talk about our personal faith journeys every day. I think most of us feel there is an urgency in what is going cock-eyed in our church and we feel pressed to find a way forward, either with TEC (and the concommitant need to help TEC get back on the rails) or through finding a way to stay Anglican without TEC - or discerning if we are led to another church altogether. I imagine that is where many of us are in our faith journeys and we talk about such things a great deal. Maybe you just haven’t recognized that. Or maybe you don’t like to hear about our faith journeys. Or maybe you find them, as you do the Baptists, invalid.

[104] Posted by oscewicee on 05-15-2008 at 07:53 AM • top

So the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds are enough for us?  That sounds nice, and it sure helps Bruce, since his sexual proclivities aren’t mentioned.  Of course, neither is the Eucharist, and, really, neither is any mention of bishops, or, come to think of it, “border crossing.”  Another thing that’s missing, now that I pursue that line of thinking, is caring for the weak and the needy.

I see we have quite a bit more latitude as Episcopalians than I thought, though the Presiding Bishop appears to not have worked through the implications of Bruce’s analysis, what with her lawsuits and all.

[105] Posted by Phil on 05-15-2008 at 08:23 AM • top

There is a very big issue at stake here.  There are FAR too many Anglicans, conservative as well as liberal, who make a virtue out of our lack of theological coherence.  They BOAST that we aren’t a creedal or confessional church, as if that were something to be proud of.

I emphatically disagree.  The “big tent” approach that ha characterized Anglicanism from the time of the Elizabethan Settlement has ALWAYS, I submit, been fundamentally driven by POLITICAL and SOCIAL considerations, not authentically religious ones.  And although ever since Richard Hooker in the 1590s we’ve TALKED as if this vaunted tolerance and roominess of ours was because of an earnest desire for theological comprehensivess of the sake of truth and not a mere capitulation to compromise for the sake of peace, the historical facts clearly prove otherwise.  The history of Anglicanism is the history of a Church fatally prone to compromise for the sake of peace at all costs.

The influential blue-ribbon panel’s Windsor Report is just one more confirmation of this habitual Anglican tendency.  But there are plenty of other signs, sprinkled liberally throughout out history.  And not least there is the justly famous Lambeth Quadrilateral itself, a product of the third Lambeth Conference in 1888.  As you may recall (or look it up in the 1979 BCP, p. 877), the Quadrilateral confidently states as the second plank or side of the four elements of it,

“The Nicene Creed as the SUFFICIENT statement of the Christian Faith.”

To which, my questions is always: “Well, sufficient FOR WHAT?”

I think it is as plain as day or the noses on our faces that the Nicene Creed is NOT in fact “sufficient” for resolving the crisis we face today.  We DESPERATELY need a new Anglican Creed that can rule out the relativist heresy now so epidemic among western Anglicans.

So what if that means ex-communicating literally millions of liberal Anglicans?  I have no problem with that.  I really don’t.

Reformations divide.  So do creeds. Well, so what??  Better to divide the Church than to tolerate heresy.  That’s the bottom line.

David Handy+

[106] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 05-15-2008 at 08:41 AM • top

#98 Occasional Reader,
Read more often, and I believe you’ll be greatly heartened and encouraged by what you read on SF.

[107] Posted by HeartAfire on 05-15-2008 at 08:42 AM • top

David #106, perhaps “sufficient” means “sufficent for a creedal statement”.  Perhaps we should look briefly at what a creed is or isn’t.  The Apostles’ and Nicene creeds are called symbolum rather than fides (formal statements of belief).  J.N.D. Kelly points out that Thomas Aquinas distinguished between creeds (per modum symboli) and doctrinal expositions (per modum cuiusdam doctrinae) but suggests that the distinction will prove inadequate.
Perhaps it is fair to say that linguistic distinctions will not strike to the heart of the matter ... unless someone is claiming that “sufficient” means what the Reformation came to mean by “fundamentals” ... minimum sets of propositions about the faith necessary for all Christians.  That is not my understanding of what the councils of Nicea and Constantinople that hammered out the Creed intend it to be.  I would suggest that an attempt to write a “new Anglican creed” will be inadequate to the task, following the many statements of some group’s faith that have now been produced, including the Quicunque vult, the Augsburg Confession and the Thirty Nine Articles.  Any creedal statement, IMHO, cannot be simply that of the Anglicans or the Lutherans or the Roman Catholics but must speak for the whole Church.  Also, it seems to me the Creed is distinguishable from an outline of faith or catechism.  Please feel free to expound or amplify or straighten me out!

[108] Posted by monologistos on 05-15-2008 at 09:48 AM • top

I mentioned in passing the intent of the 2nd and 3rd Ecumenical Councils that produced the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and I speak here to the understanding of Henry R. Perceival, editor of the T&T;Clark Eerdmans library of early church writings which I heartily recommend to you:

In these as in every other of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the question the Fathers considered was not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, nor wha they, from a priori arguments, thought would be consistent with the mind of God, but something entirely different, to wit, what they had received.  They understood their position to be that of witnesses, not that of exegetes.  They recognized but one duty resting upon them in this respect - to hand down to other faithful men that good thing the Church had received according to the command of God.  The first requirment was not learning, but honesty.  The question they were called upon to answer was not, What do I think probable, or even certain, from Holy Scripture? but, What have I been taught, what has been intrusted to me to hand down to others?  When the time came, in the Fourth Council, to examine the Tome of Pope St. Leo, the question was not whether it could be proved to the satisfaction of the assembled fathers from Holy Scripture, but whether it was the traditional faith of the Church.  It was not the doctrine of Leo in the fifth century, but the doctrine of Peter in the first, and of he Church since then, that they desired to believe and to teach, and so when they had studied the Tome, they cried out:“This is the faith of the Fathers!  This is the faith of the Apostles! . . . Peter hath thus spoken by Leo!  The Apostles thus taught!  Cyril thus taught!”  etc.

[109] Posted by monologistos on 05-15-2008 at 10:21 AM • top

Ooops, the Creed wasn’t the product of the Second and Third Councils but of Nicea.  I was confusing things.

[110] Posted by monologistos on 05-15-2008 at 10:37 AM • top

As a side note on this digression into credal language, here is a historical note that will remind you perhaps of recent events:

The Fahters of the Council at Nice were at one time ready to accede to the request of some of the bishops and use only scriptural expressions in their definitions.  But, after several attempts, they found that all these were capable of being explained away. Athanasius describes with much wit and penetration how he saw them nodding and winking to each other when the orthodox proposed expressions which they had thought of a way of escaping from the force of.  After a series of attempts of this sort it was found that something clearer and more unequivocal must be adopted if real unity of faith was to be attained; and accordingly the word homoousios was adopted.

It appears that the Fathers thought real unity of faith something desirable.

[111] Posted by monologistos on 05-15-2008 at 10:46 AM • top

monologistos:  One of the most telling things for me about the Ecumenical Councils is that they didn’t say “This is our opinion, feel free to differ”, but “This is what God has Revealed, and ANATHAMA on all those who say otherwise”. 

I suppose there are some that would accuse them of being premoderns, or spending to much time riduculing people that think differently rather than having a big kumbaya session talking about their personal journies.

[112] Posted by AndrewA on 05-15-2008 at 10:56 AM • top

Bruce, I am interested in your faith journey and would like to hear more.  You can e-mail me with the rest of it if you choose to.  You stuck your head out by being willing to offer it.  I enjoy learning about how people got where they are.

[113] Posted by terrafirma on 05-15-2008 at 11:23 AM • top

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