Friday, July 23, 2010

A Response to the Reformed Pastor

As I wrote yesterday, I had been very charged up by a post on the site The Reformed Pastor discussing Bishop Robinson's appearance at Foundry United Methodist Church. Initially, I felt that I would stay out of the debate and talk about it just on my blog; however, in rethinking the situation, how fair or honest am I being about my own views on this situation if I'm not willing to engage in thoughtful dialogue when given the opportunity? Every debate has two sides, and both should be represented.

So today, I went back to his site and took advantage of the opportunity he gives to his readers to post comments. I'll be curious moving forward to see if there is any response or continuation of what I think could - in any circumstance - be a constructive dialogue.

My response:

"One of the great things about our country is the ability to engage in civil debate, and I appreciate having the opportunity to read your views here. However, I (and I should point out that I am a cradle Episcopalian) was in attendance at Foundry UMC when Bishop Robinson spoke, and I am curious as to whether you listened to his sermon in its entirety (which is available on the church's website). I have concerns that much of the anger and pain that people feel about his consecration as a bishop is perpetuated by offering only selected excerpts of sermons, talks, etc.; in reading this post, it appears you relied on a single source - Jeff Walton's piece - and excerpted selectively from that.

"Second, I must take issue with your understanding of the situation in the ECUSA where 'congregations, priests and members are fleeing in droves.' Of the 7,100 individual parishes in the ECUSA, 83 have left - that's 1.1 percent.

"In the comment above, Undergroundpewster refers to feeling that Bishop Robinson has discovered truth and is operating under self-delusion. I would contend that it is not delusion or the discovery of truth, but an understanding of the Bible as he has arrived at it. One of the marvelous things about any Christian denomination is that, for millennia, Christians have engaged in deep study of the Bible and n the area of scriptural interpretation. Just as you and I may disagree over whether the Bible is literally the word of God or rather man's understanding of God's word, our understanding of the Bible and the meaning that we get may also differ. I'm confident that Undergroundpewster would be offended if someone felt that his understanding of the Bible was wrong and called him deluded. No matter our differences of opinion, any debate - in the realm of theology or anywhere else - should always be tempered with respect. My wife and I have differences of opinion from time to time on church issues, but we view each other's opinions - and always those of others - with respect.

"Finally, with regard to your last paragraph, a listening of the complete sermon would clarify the use of Acts 3. I agree completely that God healed the man through Peter and John, but it was not God that allowed the newly-healed man into the Temple - it was that he finally met the rules of man that finally allowed him into the Temple. It was not just healing, however, but a new view of this person by the Temple officials - just as the view of the ECUSA towards ALL of our brothers and sisters has changed and they are being welcomed.

"The sign which hangs outside of each Episcopal parish reads, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you" - there are no asterisks, no conditions, and no requirements. I believe that we are living into that promise through the inclusion of everyone in the various aspects of life in the church.

"Again, thanks for providing a place for this debate."