Total visitors right now: 98

Logged-in members:

Br. Michael

Click here to check your private inbox.

Welcome to Stand Firm!

Big Guy In Sky Not Viable Anymore

Saturday, July 5, 2008 • 8:55 am

From here:

After 23 years as a trailblazing Episcopal leader in Tucson, the Rev. Gordon McBride recently retired, saying it’s time for younger leaders to push the church forward.
A former history professor who specialized in Tudor and Stuart England, McBride is known for incorporating narratives and colorful history into his entertaining sermons. He’s also been outspoken on challenging tradition.
McBride for years has avoided using the word “Lord” at his church.
“If you need God to be a source of power, then great,” he said. “But if you think that’s not who God is, then it’s a useless term. That’s where I am. The notion of the big guy in the sky, it’s just not viable anymore.”
Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was one of the first local churches to adopt an official statement welcoming gays and lesbians to worship there.
The church also made a local mark by bringing such prominent, controversial theologians as Marcus Borg and John Shelby Spong to Tucson.
Both created waves by challenging literal interpretations of the Bible, arguing that its stories are metaphorical.

It’s easy to see why 70% of the membership stay in bed on Sunday mornings.

35 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook

Well, to be honest “Big Guy in the Sky” has NEVER been a good description of the Holy Trinity, although I find it sad that they seem to be rejecting any meaningful notion of God instead of merely rejecting shallow “Man Upstairs” style conceptions in order to embrace a deeper understanding of God as Our Father, Our Lord, Our Reedemer, Our Sanctifier, etc…

[1] Posted by AndrewA on 07-05-2008 at 09:28 AM • top

One reason the African churches have grown so dramatically is that they understanding clearly that Jesus is Lord.

“Jesu ne bwana” is a common greeting.  And if anyone denies that fundamental truth, they are not Christian.

[2] Posted by hanks on 07-05-2008 at 09:39 AM • top

I was baptized at St. Pauls long before it merged with Grace church to become Grace St. Pauls.  It is a somber thing to consider the church I was born in has been utterly destroyed and exists no more.  Oh well.  The cloud and the pillar of fire have lifted from where it was and moved elsewhere; thank God I noticed and followed where He led.

[3] Posted by Chazaq on 07-05-2008 at 09:41 AM • top

And, Jackie, this link clearly belongs as an addition to the “Document the Heresy” thread.

[4] Posted by hanks on 07-05-2008 at 09:45 AM • top

Jackie, this is typical of the TECUSA parishes in Tucson and supported by the Bishop in Phoenix.  I am not aware of an orthodox TECUSA parish in Tucson, though there may be one.  It is also hard to find one in Phoenix, where I live, where many Anglican “continuing” churches have prospered and grown since the ‘70’s. The Anglican Province of Christ the King is now well established in Arizona and nationally.  They were joined more recently by parishes under ++Orombi and others.

[5] Posted by Ol' Bob on 07-05-2008 at 09:46 AM • top

I have met Gordon McBride, he is a nice man who theology is a mess.  When in Tucson visit Saint Bede’s a friendly continuing church.  There is nothing with ECUSA in town.

[6] Posted by Scott+ on 07-05-2008 at 10:18 AM • top

70% aren’t really staying in bed, they’ve simply switched their affiliations to St. Mattress’s.

[7] Posted by RMBruton on 07-05-2008 at 10:32 AM • top

McBride for years has avoided using the word “Lord” at his church.  “If you need God to be a source of power, then great,” he said.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  Acts 17:28a
Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ” ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  Acts 4:10-12

Yes, I do need Him.  Yes, I call Him Lord.  Yes, it is great.  The problem is that McBride has let people believe they don’t need Him.

[8] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 07-05-2008 at 11:10 AM • top

This article is now linked on the heresy thread, #115.  See #24 for another Tucson parish.

[9] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 07-05-2008 at 11:18 AM • top

Ol’ Bob, there is a vibrant Anglican congregation of more than 275 parishioners led by a godly priest who attended GAFCon, in Phoenix.  Check out Christ Church Anglican’s website for directions and service times.  We are actively seeking community of all the Anglican strains locally to pursue Common Cause principles, Christian fellowship, and shared mission.  We are a traditional liturgical church with traditional music, and a full complement of ministries, striving to hear God’s direction in our lives and in the world.

[10] Posted by wportbello on 07-05-2008 at 11:20 AM • top

McBride is known for incorporating narratives and colorful history into his entertaining sermons. He’s also been outspoken on challenging tradition.

2 Timothy 2:3,4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

[11] Posted by Milton on 07-05-2008 at 11:24 AM • top

Since this was always a stupid saying in the first place - it needs to bite the dust.  However, his theology needs to have bitten the dust twenty years ago - why even bother to call yourself a spiritual person let alone a Christian? 

Just ridiculous.

[12] Posted by Eclipse on 07-05-2008 at 11:34 AM • top

I am now in Tucson. On arrival, I was not able to find a single orthodox ECUSA parish here, so I am visiting a really good LCMS church near my house.

[13] Posted by physician without health on 07-05-2008 at 11:51 AM • top

Of course, by any meaningful definition he is not a Christian. He is not alone, though.

When I was in TEC, I often could not find an Gospel preaching Episcopal Church to attend while traveling.

[14] Posted by Going Home on 07-05-2008 at 11:59 AM • top

Well, he will use the term somedoy, guaranteed:

Philippians 2:9-11Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[15] Posted by James Manley on 07-05-2008 at 12:16 PM • top

Oh good Lord. Two thousand years of theology. A teacher of the faith with a doctorate (one prays it was in history) speaks about God with less sophistication than a prayerful four year old.

Gordon is married to Kari Boyd McBride, a Women’s Studies professor at the University of Arizona.

Why am I not surprised? Episcopal clergy seem to be attracted to Women’‘s Studies Professors way out of proportion to their prevalence in the general population. Like attracts like, as they say.

[16] Posted by driver8 on 07-05-2008 at 12:27 PM • top

I was baptized some six decades ago in the Christian Church. The baptismal pledge was to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So I was a Christian before I became an Episcopalian.

When I became an Episcopalian, I thought the Episcopal Church was Christian. Apparently it isn’t. I intend to remain faithful to my baptism and to my Lord and Savior.

[17] Posted by Ken Peck on 07-05-2008 at 12:43 PM • top

The website for St. Bede’s, Tuscon is here. It is a member of the Anglican Episcopal Church.

The same reporter had an article about results of the Pew survey and compared national results with Arizona results. In particular, “Thirty-nine percent of Arizonans say they seldom or never go to worship service, which is much higher than the national average of 27 percent. And a Pew survey released on Feb. 25 said 22 percent of Arizonans claim no religious affiliation at all, also higher than the national norm.”

The harvest is ripe and this poor excuse of a priest offers up Borg and Spong.

Did you notice the comment section?

[18] Posted by robroy on 07-05-2008 at 12:53 PM • top

Grace was the church I attended in college (U of A).  It was a ‘happenin’ place…probably upwards of 400 in worship on any given Sunday.  It was driven by Cursillo, a contemporary guitar-driven worship format, a great youth/college ministry, and a young curate/assistant.  It was a dream parish.  It sponsored me through seminary.  I loved the place…and I take no delight in its current pullback.

The rector retired, a more liberal one came in, it started to fade.  Then it merged with the parish right next to the University.  And now…a shadow of its former self.

It is the way of all the earth…the way of all flesh…and the way of TEC.  Sad to say.

[19] Posted by DHR on 07-05-2008 at 01:46 PM • top

Better than the comment section (although that’s good) is a look at Grace/St. Paul’s Report Card for the past ten years. Attendance down from approx. 380 in ‘97 to about 300 in ‘06. Baptised membership and Plate/Pledge both grew, but it appears this is a great church to get baptised, then take your kids elsewhere for their Christian Education. I wonder if they have received legacies/endowments?  Especially since ‘00?

[20] Posted by loonpond on 07-05-2008 at 01:47 PM • top

Also coming out of this diocese—A Liturgy of Invitation.  In 2007, the Episcopal Committee on Science, Technology and Faith met in an ecumenical roundtable with participants from the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the United Methodist Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. As a part of the conference, they celebrated A Liturgy of Invitation.  This Eucharist is copyrighted by St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, Tucson, Arizona (2007) and is not available online.  The service included readings about anti-theistic philosophy by Abraham Joshua Heschel and Arthur Peacocke.

[21] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 07-05-2008 at 02:44 PM • top

Marcus Borg is a good New Testament scholar and has been president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.  I wouldn’t refer to Spong as a theologian.

[22] Posted by Rudy on 07-05-2008 at 04:06 PM • top

I admit the title needs some work.  smile

[23] Posted by JackieB on 07-05-2008 at 04:21 PM • top

Marcus Borg is a good New Testament scholar and has been president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.

Well, except for being an unbeliever.  You know, denying the bodily resurrection and all. 

But I bet he was a great President of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars anyway.  You evidently don’t actually have to think the Bible is true to be a great President of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.  It might even help to think otherwise.  Who wants to be accused of possessing a ‘closed mind’ when it is an established certain fact that Scripture has no metaphysical authority?


[24] Posted by carl on 07-05-2008 at 04:22 PM • top

Q: The Lambeth Conference is held once every 10 years. About 250 conservative bishops plan to boycott it. They are angry that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has not disciplined North American bishops for ordaining homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions. What do you think of that divisiveness?
A: “Yes, it is about (openly gay Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop) V. Gene Robinson and those issues. But it’s much deeper than that. It has more to do with post-colonialism in Africa and other parts of the world and Western dominance. . . . I think there’s resistance to the Bush administration’s foreign policy. There are many things tied up in this.

Right. The rebellion of the Global South against the apostasy of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada is George Bush’s fault. Yeah, that totally makes sense—if psychedelic mushrooms are involved.

[25] Posted by David Fischler on 07-05-2008 at 04:25 PM • top

Marcus Borg is slippery like an eel.  He wants his readers to imagine that he believes in the uniqueness of Jesus in some authentically/historically Christian sense in his book *Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.*  But in his footnotes he clarifies his meaning.  In fact, the whole approach could be subtitled “How to Play Games with Words and Mislead the Ignorant Masses Who Don’t Bother to Read the Footnotes:”

p. 37 “The sketch affects how we see Jesus in another way as well.  Imaging Jesus as a particular instance of a type of religious personality known cross-culturally undermines a widespread Christian belief that Jesus is unique, which most commonly is linked to the notion that Christianity is exclusively true and that Jesus is ‘the only way.’[f.n. 42]  The image I have sketched views Jesus differently:  rather than being the exclusive revelation of God, he is one of many mediators of the sacred.  Yet even as this view subtracts from the uniqueness of Jesus and the Christian tradition, it also in my judgment adds to the credibility of both.”

pp. 44-5 f.n. 42 ” To amplify slightly, I would agree that Jesus is unique in one sense of the word, and deny that he is unique in another.  In the sense that Jesus is not exactly like any other religious figure, he is unique (and so are the Buddha, Muhammad, Lao-tzu, and, for that matter, every person).  But in popular Christian usage, the ‘uniqueness’ of Jesus is most commonly tied to the notion that he is the uniquely and exclusively true revelation of God. It is this meaning of his uniqueness that I deny.”

p. 43 f.n. 29 “I agree with those who speak of each religious tradition as a ‘cultural-linguistic world’; see, for example, George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1984).  Thus the religions of the world are clearly not all the same; they are as different as the cultures out of which they come.  Yet I remain convinced that the impetus for creating these cultural-linguistic worlds comes out of certain kinds of extraordinary experiences that are cross-cultural.”

p. 131 “The notion that God’s only son came to this planet to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that God could not forgive us without that having happened, and that we are saved by believing this story, is simply incredible.  Taken metaphorically, this story can be very powerful.  But taken literally, it is a profound obstacle to accepting the Christian message.  To many people, it simple makes no sense, and I think we need to be straightforward about that.”

[26] Posted by Bill+ on 07-05-2008 at 04:26 PM • top

Bill+, thanks for culling out those Borg quotes.  There is no doubt of his many heresies and worse—his attempt to mislead people about the true Gospel.

[27] Posted by hanks on 07-05-2008 at 04:38 PM • top

#10 wportbello, thanks!

[28] Posted by Ol' Bob on 07-05-2008 at 05:12 PM • top

There is a troubling thought which recurs, keeps coming to mind, when I read about, think about, the McBrides, Borgs, Spongs, some TEC priests and diocesan bishops, TEC PB Schori, Canadian bishop Ingham, and others:  1) If they are wrong, and I think they are, 2) if their teachings are wrong, and I think they are, 3) if they are standing as a barrier to salvation of those whose souls they are responsible for, assumed responsibility for, by virtue of their ordination, and I think they are, 4) if those sinners are not saved, 5) and if they are not, therefore, received into the Presence of God, what a terrible, terrible responsibility those false teachers bear.

I am astounded at the consummate arrogance it takes to be so absolutely, unequivocally certain that you are willing to place the souls of others in jeopardy.  What is the origin of that absolute certainty?  Mother Teresa is reported to have experienced doubt; these people appear to have none.  They never seem to say to themselves, “what if I am wrong?”  It seems to me that they must have achieved a remarkable level of certainty, or just don’t think this “stuff” we call Anglican Christianity is all that important, anyway.  I fear it is the latter, with the origins of that in the seminaries over the past 4 or 5 decades (except Trinity and Nashotah).

I go from being angry to frustration and pain at my personal and our collective inability to help them.  I just want to pray for them and those whose souls they are placing at risk.

Lord Have Mercy upon them and us.

[29] Posted by Ol' Bob on 07-05-2008 at 07:44 PM • top

The link to the chart seems broken.

[30] Posted by iceworm on 07-06-2008 at 02:54 AM • top

Well, I was able to navigate to the chart by following the instructions on the error page.

It appears 2005 is the peak in both membership and giving (1200 and $400,000). The chart shows an almost steady Sunday attendance (about 300).

In my observation of over 50 years, the way to increase the Sunday attendance is build a bigger nave. Adding a service does not have the same effect as more space. So, I wonder why, with an increasing membership, the leaders did not increase the space.

The Mormons are building here. They want to increase their presence and influence. There is one very large independent Baptist congregation that has wielded a fair amount of influence over the years (over 30), thank God, but my parish seems to want to stay small. I stay because the message is true, but I wonder how long we can hang on without expanding out Sunday attendance.

[31] Posted by iceworm on 07-06-2008 at 03:14 AM • top

It’s rather odd.  I don’t believe in the “Big Guy in the Sky” god (lower case intended) either.  When I talk with atheists or agnostics they’re often surprised when I ask about their concept of God and I say I don’t believe in the god they don’t believe in either.

I believe in God in three persons who is intimately involved in His creation and who longs for a personal relationship with Him and who died on the cross (in the incarnate Second Person) so that we could be in a relationship with Him.

One wonders if this priest ever met Jesus Christ or knows God beyond an impersonal “force.”

Phil Snyder

[32] Posted by Philip Snyder on 07-06-2008 at 07:38 AM • top

Try Deuteronomy 10:12-22 if you want to get a very clear view of “The Big Guy.” 

Here’s a sample:

  “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome .  .  .  .  He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” 

[33] Posted by hanks on 07-06-2008 at 12:46 PM • top

hanks, here’s another good one, familiar to us all because it is from the Sentences of Scripture at the beginning of The Order for Daily Morning Prayer:

“Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15

[34] Posted by Chazaq on 07-06-2008 at 01:07 PM • top

But, who does really believe in this “big guy in the sky,” metaphor. The church has always taught that God is both transcendent, as well as immanent in the creation. It is “in Him that we live, and move, and have our being.”

I’ve found that more than a few progressive scholars put forward nothing more than a caricature of orthodox Christianity, a kind of straw man, or maybe a concept that a young child, recently come to faith might image.

They go on to easily demolish this kind of thinking, but rather than to bring a correction which accurately reflects mature orthodox faith, they share instead a counterfeit reimaging of the faith.

It’s especially sad, and disturbing because oftentimes Biblical terms, and imagery are still used. It’s just that these terms are invested with very different meanings. This can be very misleading to folks who are undiscerning, or just not well informed, and grounded in the word of God, and historic Christian faith.

Personally, I think it’s dishonest as well.

[35] Posted by Grace2000 on 07-06-2008 at 01:31 PM • top

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.

Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere about the crisis in our church. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments that you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm, its board of directors, or its site administrators.