Committed to Scripture
"We're Christians -- we're Nicene Christians, we're creedal Christians, we're orthodox Christians..."
Culture war veterans will reflexively stiffen at the words, recognizing that, whoever this speaker may be, whatever his agenda, he wants to rob us of our inheritance. The verbal chloroform is administered before the larceny takes place.
The setting is the Episcopal Church in the U.S. , whose bishops recently commissioned and accepted a report entitled "Gift of Sexuality." By now the moves are familiar ones in all the mainstream churches: a hard teaching becomes a complex issue becomes an object of theological dispute becomes a locus of productive tension becomes a source of diversity becomes a new orthodoxy in which -- you guessed it -- St. Augustine doesn't qualify as a Christian.
"What we did in the paper on issues of sexuality was, we took the statement about theology that we began with 18 months ago and we reworked that and said this is the framework or the context within which the whole discussion is taking place," [Central Florida Bishop John] Howe added. "We're Christians -- we're Nicene Christians, we're creedal Christians, we're orthodox Christians -- it restates that and says, within that context, we hold really divergent opinions about matters of sexuality. Our present conclusion is that equally orthodox Christians who are equally committed to the Scripture can come to very different opinions about these matters," he said.
So, what is it to belong to a Church? It is to choose this group of people with which to sing hymns we don't believe. Catholics cannot indulge in sectarian morose delectation here; our own bishops' document "Always Our Children" differs from the Episcopalians' only in the degree to which they were able to push the envelope. Says ECUSA Bishop Robert Ihloff of Maryland:
"The experience of thinking and stretching was grace-filled," he said, "with a group of diverse people committed to the church and each other. It took a long time to reach consensus and not everyone will be pleased but we went as far as we could at this time."
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