Thursday, August 24, 2006

Naming the Lies

The Episcopal Majority is hosting an essay by Tom Woodward, former rector of St. Paul's, Salinas, CA, entitled "Falsely Accused." Tom lists some of the lies that are often repeated about the Episcopal Church:

...One of the most frustrating things about being a moderate in The Episcopal Church is the constant need to respond to various bizarre charges made against you by groups like the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), American Anglican Council (AAC) and allied groups. Those groups have now been joined by leaders in the Nigerian church who are organizing a mission to cleanse our church of its traditional teachings.

These groups justify their attacks on The Episcopal Church by claiming our leaders hold and teach “pagan or alien doctrines.” They seem to take delight in claiming we hold beliefs such as the following:

1. Jesus is only one of many paths to God instead of the Only Way (John 14:6).
2. Loving a person means acceptance and love of that person’s sins.
3. The Holy Scriptures are merely historical relics and are not be taken seriously.
4. People can propound any new teaching as long as it makes the listeners feel good (2 Timothy 3:3-4).
5. Heaven and Hell are only figurative terms used in the Bible; liberals believe it is wrong to frighten people with such old ideas in the modern world.
6. The resurrection of Jesus never happened.
7. The Episcopal Church has abandoned its faith and embraced the heresies of Bishop Spong and Marcus Borg.

It is quite possible to find some or all of these views extant somewhere within The Episcopal Church; but you have to look very, very closely to find them. However, it is dishonest and a complete distortion to jump from finding one person holding such a view to charging hundreds or thousands of others with holding the same belief. For example, a couple of years ago a clergy couple was discovered to be interested in Wicca (pagan religion). Anglican Communion Network (ACN) spokesmen immediately rushed to charge the entire progressive leadership of our Church as embracing paganism!

That kind of attack reached its peak in the DVD produced by the ACN for distribution to households across the country loyal to the Episcopal Church. In it an ACN spokesman charges, amongst even more outrageous statements, that “the leadership [of The Episcopal Church] have embraced a foreign and alien and pagan religion.” That sort of thing takes one’s breath away by its sheer ignorance and vindictiveness.

I hope you can begin to understand the frustration of a solidly orthodox Episcopalian upon reading such accusations. But out of a need for both charity and clarity in addressing the characterization of mainline Episcopalians, we respond as follows...
Make sure you read Tom's excellent response to each of these false accusations.

In case you missed the video containing Les Fairfield's rant concerning the "foreign, alien and pagan religion," you can read more about it here.

Let's discuss the seven statements. I have a few thoughts, which would include wondering why Marcus Borg is placed in the same category as Bp. Spong.

Keep in mind that those who want to use our words to condemn us will often pull phrases out of context and string them together. You may recall the controversy involving Paul Tillich, who in one of his books was suggesting that it is best to refrain from the temptation to limit God to the physical realm, and that it was less than accurate to claim that God exists, as we understand existence. As you can imagine, it didn't take long for the word to go out, "Tillich claims God does not exist!" This soon became "Paul Tillich is an atheist!"

Most likely, even if we use the utmost care, our words will be twisted. But I think it is of value to honestly and openly discuss these things that are being said about us. The fear of such accusations cannot be allowed to silence us.

Because of the nature of such a conversation, anyone who has made such accusations in the past, or is affiliated with organizations who refuse to repent of the sin of bearing false witness against their brothers and sisters in Christ, is asked to not participate in this discussion. If such persons do not honor this request, well, you know the routine by now. No, I'm not a hard-line inclusivist. Haven't you heard? According to Dr. Williams, the church is not inclusive. Imagine that.

Now, having gotten that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, let us continue without the distraction of having to look over our shoulders for the next flame. After reading Tom's response to these false claims, what would you add?


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