Showing posts from March, 2007

Experience As a Theological Source

Nicholas Knisely has an interesting discussion of experience as a theological source of authority that amplifies my last post, which in turn had relied on an earlier post by Nicholas. He elaborates on how our personal experience can indeed be a valid source of authority on theological matters, even in the traditional Anglican triad of scripture, authority and reason:

"But there's an implicit thinking in that essay that I really need to make more explicit. It has to do with the methodology of using human experience as a theological source or even as a norm. It is my understanding that one of the differences between the Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church is that Methodists explicitly allow human experience into the Episcopal triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason as one of the sources of theological inquiry. If it's not true for Methodists, it's certainly true for some of the newer methods of doing theology (feminist, liberation, queer, etc.)
"The standard …

Another Priest's View of Gays and Lesbians and Faith

In an earlier post I noted the fact that it was our personal experiences with gay and lesbians that led us to take a hard look at the theology of same sex relationships. Since I was criticized by Hansoniana (in a kind way) for arguing that theology should be developed by these personal experiences alone, let me be clear: my point was that these personal experience merely lead to the inquiry, they themselves do not answer the theological question. Nonetheless, these experiences offered us important empirical information that can inform the theological exploration in at least two instances. First, these personal experiences confirmed that sexual orientation is innate, and not chosen. Second, these experiences showed that same sex relationships can be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Another example of the call for further inquiry as a result of these personal experiences is that of my own priest, Nicholas Knisely (a self-described--and accurately s0-- theological conservative by…

Atonement: A Guy in the Pew Struggles with Theology

As we come close to Holy Week, I think it is time to focus on the Cross. Over the course of Lent, I have been doing much reading and thinking about the theological concept of atonement--the fact that Jesus Christ died for us on the cross, and by that death he wipes out our sins and defeats death itself.

This is at the center of my faith. This is what I believe. Nonetheless, I think there are difficult issues worth exploring that might help me illuminate this faith. I therefore decided to explore the mystery of the Cross and atonement with the following admonishments in mind from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
"We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ's death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, eve…

Francis Collins: The Language of God

One of the books that I want to read is Dr. Francis Collin's The Language of God. Dr. Collins, as you may recall, is was the leader of the Human Genome Project, and his book describes how and why he came to believe in God. This book is particularly timely in response to the anti-religion polemics coming from such well-respected scientists as Richard Dawkins.

I recently ran accross s a very interesting review in the December issue of First Thingsby Stephen M. Barr, theoretical particle physicist at the Bartol Research Institute of the University of Delaware. (Sidenote, this is where Nicholas Knisely did his graduate work in physics).

As Barr relates in the review, Collins' conversion began at the side of a hospital bed:

"It was in medical school that [Collin's] atheism suffered a blow: "I found the relationships [I] developed with sick and dying patients almost overwhelming." The strength and solace so many of them derived from faith profoundly impressed him and…

Gays and Lesbians and Faith: Personal Reflections of a Parish Priest

As I watch the debate unfold within the Anglican Community about issues of same sex relationships, I am struck by the importance of our own personal story as we each struggle to come to conclusions about these issues. I am no different--I was lead to take a closer look at scriptural references that appeared to condemn homosexual relationships only after I was confronted with the reality of gay and lesbian friends and family. I was confronted with very good people in apparently healthy committed same sex relationships, and with the reality that my gay and lesbian friends and family members had no choice in their sexual orientation. I therefore faced the tough issue--how were these committed relationship sinful?

I am finding that my story is the story of many who have concluded that committed, same sex relationships are not sinful. In each instance, before we began to do the tough biblical and theological thinking on this issue, we were confronted with the reality of the lives of real hu…

Daring to Be A Different Church

In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of attracting the unchurched back to church through innovations like You Tube. I also noted, however, that once folks entered our doors and attended services, we would need to offer them a reason to stay.

Father Patrick Gahan, rector of St. Stephen’s Church, Wimberley, Texas, recently wrote a very thoughtful article about how to do just that. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

"At St. Stephen’s, the parish I serve, we decided to scrape the rust off tired, contentious, and unhealthy practices and dare to do church another way. In just 18 months, our attendance is up some 100 worshipers per Sunday, our monetary giving has increased by some 45 percent, and participation in our adult formation classes has increased by more than 100 percent. More importantly, St. Stephen’s has become a much more vibrant faith community because we have taken these five very practical roads to revival:"1. The Episcopal parish community must e…

Democrats and Evangelicals

There is a debate occurring in political circles about whether Democrats have any hope of gaining the votes of Evangelicals. No one is saying that a majority of Evangelical voters will vote Democratic--the issue is whether Democrats can make gains with these voters. Stuart Rothenberg, one of the best political analysts to be found, is skeptical, based largely on the lack of any movement in the 2006 midterm elections:

"The GOP percentage among white evangelicals dropped by 4 points from 2004 to 2006, from 74 percent to 70 percent, according to exit polls. Meanwhile, the Democrats’ showing inched up to 28 percent from 25 percent.Given the strong Democratic year and the huge Republican advantage with white evangelicals, the Democrats’ gain was unimpressive. The 2006 midterm elections were so stunningly good for Democrats that all voter groups moved toward the Democratic Party last year."Amy Sullivan of Red Letter Christian thinks that Rothenberg simply misses the point:"In …

Maison de Naissance: Saving the World One Child (and One Mother) at A Time

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink'...Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?...'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." Matthew 25:35, 37, 40

We as Christians need to take very seriously this call to take care of the "least of these who are members of my family." Accordingly, from time to time, this blog will discuss organizations that meet this call, and are therefore worthy of our support.

The first organization for which I urge your support is Maison de Naissance.

Maternal and infant mortality rates in Haiti are the highest in the western hemisphere and among the highest in the world. One in every 16 women in Haiti will die during childbirth (about 200 times the risk of mothers in the United States). Most women have known a relati…

Apocalypse Wow!: Father Matthew Presents

Father Matthew. the young Curate from Yonkers making good use of You Tube that I wrote about in an earlier post, has a new video that does the best job I have seen putting the book of Revelations in proper context. It take about 5 minutes, but is well worth a look:

Are We Listening?

One of the sources of difficulty that the Episcopal Church is having with the Anglican Communion is a resolution passed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference (which is essentially a conference of Anglican bishops). Resolution 1.10 states that the Anglican Communion as a whole upholds “faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.” Also included in this Resolution, however, was the following:

“[We recognize] there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual…

A Kindler Gentler World? If so, why?

The March 19, 2007 edition of The New Republicincludes a fascinating article by Steven Pinker, a professor at Harvard, about the largely unnoticed decline in violence and cruelty worldwide since the 16th Century:

"In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, "[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized." Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most under appreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth. "In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of …

Conservative Jews and Gay Rabbis

The Jewish Theological Seminary is one of this nation's leading rabbinical schools for conservative Jews. The Seminary just announced that they will now allow the admission of gay and lesbian students. Here are some highlights (the emphasis is mine):

"I write to announce that, effective immediately, The Jewish Theological Seminary will accept qualified gay and lesbian students to our rabbinical and cantorial schools. "This matter has aroused thoughtful introspection about the nature and future of both JTS and the Conservative Movement to a degree not seen in our community since the decision to admit women to The Rabbinical School nearly twenty-five years ago. Convictions and feelings are strong on both sides. Some will cheer this decision as justice long overdue. Others will condemn it as a departure from Jewish law and age-old Jewish custom. One thing is abundantly clear: after years of discussion and debate, heartfelt and thoughtful division on the matter is evident amo…

Father Jones on Diversity in the Anglican Communion

My second post on this blog raised the issue of why the Anglican Communion is about to schism over the issue of same sex relationships. This is obviously a very important issue to the lives of worshippers in the Communion, but as I argued in my post, the Anglican Communion has tolerated diversity on far more critical issues of faith. Father Greg Jones of the Anglican Centrist blog makes the same argument, albeit with far more authority and learning than my humble second post, in responding to the claim by Nigerian Archbishop Akinola that the issue of same sex relationships is worth dividing the Church over:

"In another place, Archbishop Akinola asserts as a matter of principle that issues like this one are worth dividing the Church over -- because, he says, "two cannot go together except if they agree." He asserts this principle -- as if it were well-known and long-operative in Anglicanism. But, in fact, it isn't and hasn't been."For nearly five centuries …

Appealing to the UnChurched

Last week, the Barna Group released a study showing that "one out of every three adults (33%) is classified as unchurched - meaning they have not attended a religious service of any type during the past six months. " The Barna researchers noted that:
"These results coincide with a unique book released this week by Tyndale House Publishers, entitled Jim and Casper Go to Church. That book describes the experience of a former pastor and an avowed atheist who together visited a dozen significant churches across the nation. Jim Henderson, who has been a pastor of small and large churches, interviewed the atheist (Matt Casper) during and after each church service they attended to gain insights into what it’s like for an outsider to attend such churches. Among the congregations visited were well-known ministries such as Willow Creek (pastored by Bill Hybels), Saddleback (led by Rick Warren), Lakewood (featuring Joel Osteen), and The Potter’s House (home of T.D. Jakes).

The Episcopal Church and Salvation

As I mentioned in my last post, there are numerous orthodox Anglicans who argue that the Episcopal church's views on same sex relationships is just the final straw. In most cases, the example used are comments made by our Presiding Bishop about her views on salvation. As an example of this argument, one conservative Rector argued as follows:

"When bishops refuse to affirm the Nicene Creed and core essentials of the Christian faith, there is a crisis in the Church. When they vote to bless and call holy behaviors that the Bible defines as sin, there is a problem. When the leader of the denomination responds to Jesus' words -- "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me," (John 14:6) -- by stating that Christians should not say that Jesus is the only way to God, "If we insist we know the one way to God, we've put God in a very small box," orthodox Anglicans take issue.
"Another statement was: "Christ…

Gays, Lesbians and the Episcopal Church

Since I worship at an Episcopal Church, it seems apt to start this blog with a comment on the current battle occurring in the Episcopal Church over inclusion of gays and lesbians as full members of the church body. It appears that a schism--of the entire Anglican Communion and of the Episcopal Church itself--may be in the works as a result of this issue. I have views on this issue, and will comment on them at greater length in a later post, but it seems to me that the larger issue is why it is THIS issue that threatens to split the Anglican Communion. After all, the issue of the church's views of the morality of same sex relationships, as important as it may be, is hardly central to the Christian faith. It has nothing to do with the divinity of Christ, the reality of the resurrection, or the meaning of the Eucharist. Oddly, however, the Anglican Community has tolerated wildly divergent beliefs on each of these issues. And the Communion did not split over the decision to allow wome…

This Blog

To many people the focus of this blog will come as a surprise. I am fairly well known in Arizona political circles as a Democratic member of the State Senate in the 1990's, as a Member of the Clinton Administration in President's second term (serving in both the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Pentagon), and as a lawyer for various Democratic candidates and organizations and progressive causes. Many people would therefore expect me to focus on politics and public policy. The people who know me best, however, know that lately my focus has been elsewhere--on questions of faith. That will be the focus of this blog. Of course, I am an unreformed political junky and will, at times, talk about current political events. And, as should soon be clear, I think that my faith itself has political implications. Nonetheless, I will aim to focus on what matters first--my faith.