Friday, July 13, 2007

Abandoning the Faith

If you listen to critics of our church – the Episcopal Church, though this argument is beginning to happen in other denominations – you would have to believe that Episcopalians don't actually believe in God, let alone Jesus as the Son of God or the Trinity. You would be apt to believe that we don't have any particular morals other than, "If it feels good, do it."

That is such utter hogwash.

The charge is, because we ordained a gay bishop and aren't groveling in apology for doing it, that we have abandoned the faith. Again, hogwash.

The ordination of any gays is based on differing readings of scripture – and we certainly do read scripture differently – as well as an evolving understanding of the state of humanity.

Let's have a look at "the Faith." The basic statement of faith in the Anglican Communion rests in the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. While one is significantly longer than the other, they are in essence similar. One of our other most basic sets of rules is the Ten Commandments, which Jesus summarized pithily by saying, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. We also have the Articles of Religion as our national denominational guide, and our Canons and Constitution to govern our organizational life.

I think a good place to start is with the Apostles Creed. It's shorter than the Nicene, so I can print the whole thing:

"I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

To the best of my knowledge, nobody, including Bishop Gene Robinson, denies anything in this creed. We are altogether with it. It is the statement of faith, and as the Episcopal Church does not abandon it, how can one say that we abandon the faith? Hmmm.

Regarding scripture, let me quote from our Articles of Religion, passed in 1801: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

Our catechism says this: "We understand the meaning of the Bible, by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures."

I know I'm quoting a lot of stuff at you but there's a reason. If we're abandoning the faith it must be because we are throwing out the statements of faith and the instruments for understanding the will of God. BUT, we're not! We affirm the Creeds. We interpret scripture within the guidelines of the Articles (though their authority is somewhat uncertain), AND we certainly invoke the Holy Spirit's guidance in interpreting scripture. It's just that the Holy Spirit is guiding us (The Episcopal Church) into a specific direction.

By the way, that direction is one that says all of us are sinners, don't look at the dust speck in your neighbor's eye when you've got a log in yours, love your neighbor as yourself, don't judge, and every single human being is a beloved child of God who might just be called to service.