Thursday, August 25, 2005

Dealing with Paradox and Ambiguity

From an interview with Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church;

We all claim the authority of scripture. The ancient creeds, the doctrine of the trinity, the nature of Christ -- all these things are not up for negotiation. ... I would say if sexuality becomes the ground on which division occurs, then it means that sex is more important than the doctrine of the holy trinity and the divinity of Christ, which is a very sorry situation to find oneself in. Isn't it ironic that people can overlook Jesus' words about divorce and remarriage and claim biblical orthodoxy and become hysterical over a reference in the letter to the Romans about homosexual behavior? The Bible, of course, didn't understand homosexuality as an orientation. It only understood it as a behavior. Clearly, the biblical writers presumed that everyone was naturally heterosexual.
This is one the most succinct statements of the current situation in the Episcopal Church that I have ever read. The divisions are not about core doctrines. They are not about the authority of scripture. They are about hysterical reactions.

Bishop Griswold concludes with these words;

The Episcopal Church is a questioning community. ... It's confident that Christ is at its center, and that gives it the courage to look at things that are difficult. It also is a church which has lived with open-ended questions. It doesn't need to reduce things to absolutes. We can deal with shades of gray, we can deal with paradox and ambiguity without feeling that we are being unfaithful.
There it is. There is the distinct "value added" of the Episcopal Church. It is the primary reason I chose this tradition. I left Christianity for a season as a young adult because of the blatant dishonesty I found in some of the teachings. It is this willingness to honestly struggle with paradox and ambiguity that drew me back into the Church.

It seems to me that those who are attempting to remake the Episcopal Church in their own image keep missing this point. It is not about the scriptures. It is not about the creeds. It is about having the courage to ask the tough questions. It is about being unwilling to become another generic brand of Christianity. It is about stating clearly that the "don't ask, don't tell" approach to some issues within much of Christendom is just plain dishonest.

God is working through all of this. If it comes to pass that the Episcopal Church is forced to surrender her intellectual integrity because of pressure from external powers and principalities, I will have to question the future of the Christian faith. It is obvious to me that the future of Christendom is not found in the dying world view currently espoused by the hysterical fundamentalists. As is the pattern with most dying movements, their current popularity is simply a desperate last gasp.

If we allow the thought police to take over, it is quite possible that Christianity will self-destruct. If so, I personally will not participate in such a suicide. But I will also not surrender my hope that God can redeem even this sad state of affairs, and will raise up something new from the ashes of a Church destroyed by hysterics.


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