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non-negotiables

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 12, 2008

Back in 1990, Harvard Professor of Judaic Studies Jon Levenson wrote an article in The Christian Century entitled "Theological Liberalism Aborting Itself." Himself Jewish, the author had no personal interest in the triumph of any particular strand of Christian thought. Levenson was concerned to show that the progressive divinity schools, in jettisoning the Christian creeds on which they were founded, had failed to emancipate themselves (as they imagined) from dogma, but had instead replaced a coherent doctrinal orthodoxy with a capricious political one. An excerpt:

At a conference several years ago, I found myself seated at a dinner table with several other Jews but only one Christian -- a professor, it turned out, at a prominent liberal seminary. In response to genial questioning from some of his dinner companions, the lone Christian explained that his institution had long ago shed its once vivid ecclesiastical affiliation. The break had occurred over the application of the historical-critical method to the Bible, a prospect that the denomination had found incompatible with its deepest beliefs. "Are there, then, any beliefs or practices required of the faculty or students now?" asked one of the company. "No," replied the seminary professor firmly. But then, as an afterthought and in an undertone, he added, "except the requirement to use inclusive language."

An overstatement? Fast-forward to 2008, and take a look at the Student Handbook of the Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, MA. This is from the section headed "Corporate Worship" (p. 29, emphasis added):

Faculty, staff and students work together in teams according to the scheduled rotation to plan and lead worship. As a practice, worship is on a four-week cycle that includes traditional language and inclusive language liturgies. A week of alternative liturgies is part of this cycle. The cycle of worship is always being revised. The primary goal of our liturgical practice is to use inclusive human language. Unless otherwise designated liturgies are inclusive.

Next time someone tries to make the claim that progressive theological seminaries have abandoned all standards, tell him he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Incidentally, your Uncle Di was routed to the Episcopal Divinity School website by Chris Johnson, whose own attention was snagged by an EDS course offering named "Queer Incarnation."

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