Friday, July 31, 2009

Forum: Columnist took unfair swipe at Episcopal Church

From Oklahoma-

As pastor of the Episcopal Church in Enid I wish to respond to the comments about the Episcopal Church in the Cal Thomas editorial “Church of What’s Happenin’ Now.”

Mr. Thomas claims the church, at its recent national convention, voted “to end the ban on the ordination of gay bishops and permit marriage “blessings” for same-sex couples.” This is a misrepresentation of the resolution to which Mr. Thomas refers. In fact, the very reason the Bishop of Oklahoma voted against the resolution was he feared it would be oversimplified and sensationalized by the media, exactly what Mr. Thomas has done.

The second century theologian Marcion removed the parts of the Bible he did not agree with; Mr. Thomas appears to do the same. He quotes Scripture to support his views, yet ignores passages that might hold him accountable for his attack on Christians. St. Paul tells us gifts are given for “building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity” (Eph. 4:12b-13a, emphasis added). It is easy to create attention-getting headlines without knowing the underlying truth of a document. To then use those assumptions to call Christians “heretics” does not build up the body of Christ nor is it very mature.

Mr. Thomas is excoriating those who in good faith have read scripture and reached different conclusions than he has. Whether one agrees with Mr. Thomas’ position or not, it is inappropriate to attack the character of Christians with whom we disagree.

What in fact the church convention did was to recognize that, in light of changing laws in various states regarding same-sex unions, the church needs to have serious discussions about how to best represent Jesus Christ.

We are not “putting (ourselves) through theological makeovers,” society is placing these issues in our path and to be faithful Christians we must trust the Holy Spirit to lead us down them.

While many may protest the comparison of sexuality with the issues of slavery or women’s roles in church leadership, they are all issues that have divided the church. We have decided slavery is wrong, even though it is condoned in the Bible, but not until after much hard discussion and theological work. Churches still disagree about women’s ordination, and supporting scripture can be cited for either position, but for the most part we don’t call one another “heretics” when we disagree.

Finally, in accusing the Episcopal Church and President Jimmy Carter of worshiping the god of inclusivity, Mr. Thomas seems to have torn another page from his Bible. John 3:16 tells us God sent His Son so “all who believe” might have eternal life, not just those who believe and think like me.

I have come to know both “liberals” and “conservatives” in the Episcopal Church, and I have found those with whom I had little common ground theologically were nevertheless often very faith-filled, committed Christians who studied the Bible and did the hard work it sometimes takes to discern the will of God.

The familiar hymn “Amazing Grace” contains the line “I once was blind but now I see.” Let us as Christians extend the grace of prayerful dialogue and study together to see the truth instead of denouncing one another.

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