Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Forget about Sexual Innovations, Concentrate on the Basic Doctrine which motivates the leadership of TEC

A most serious suggestion to my friends from Dr Peter Toon, Sept 26, 2007

Back in 1991, when I was a colleague of Professor Charles Caldwell (now retired and living in Naples FL.) I was very impressed with his insight into The Episcopal Church and his evaluation of it.

Though he saw women’s ordination as a serious error, and though he also noticed all kinds of errors and faults in the 1979 Prayer Book, he maintained—I still think rightly—that the answers to three basic questions by Episcopalians would reveal where they were doctrinally and morally.
These questions did not involve anything about women’s ordination or the ordination of active homosexual persons, but they got to basic Christianity:

• Who is God?

• Who is Jesus?

• What is salvation?

How one answers these proclaims where one is in the spectrum from pantheism through to biblical Trinitarianism. In passing I may note that Dr Caldwell often demonstrated that the official Prayer Book of TEC had rejected the full, biblical Trinitarian Faith, even though it did so, to mislead the unwary, in nearly “orthodox” phrases.

The present TEC through its House of Bishops (Sept 25, 2007) has declared that it is officially not in favor of blessing same-sex unions or of ordaining people in such unions. At the same time, it is fully committed to the full rights of homosexual persons both in society and in church (so it is not clear if this includes supporting same-sex unions that are not actually blessed in church).

However, many bishops turn a blind eye and do not seek to prevent such events occurring in their dioceses, as all investigative reporters can demonstrate very quickly.

Thus TEC speaks out of both sides of its mouth simultaneously—a practice that has been in operation since the early 1970s.

Now back to doctrine.

If one reads the growing literature on “The Baptismal Covenant” (so beloved of the Episcopal hierarchy) and its duties (see the recent book of sermonettes by the lady Presiding Bishop), if one studies the theology being taught in most of TEC seminaries, if one studies the resolutions submitted to diocesan and national conventions, if one listens to the discussions of the House of Bishops, if one looks at the innovative liturgies being used in many places, if one listens to the sermons in most churches, if one studies the history of innovations in TEC since 1960, if one follows the web Episcopal blogs, and if one reads the learned articles and books of the professors in most TEC seminaries, then one comes to the conclusion quickly that the practical theology—that which makes TEC tick like a clock—is not biblical Trinitiarian Theism at all.

Reduced to a short span it is: God is Love and all love (loving) in the world is God.

Stated in more technical terms, it varies from a dynamic kind of pantheism, through various kinds of panentheism (especially beloved of feminist theologians) to process philosophy/theology, where God and the cosmos are seen to be in an evolutionary process together.

So Who is GOD in the new religion? God may be neuter or feminine but not solely masculine—thus God is She or It and is never Father but is Parent or Mother/Father. Further God is not in God’s own being wholly Transcendent, above and beyond the cosmos—No! God’s being is integrated into the cosmos even while also being apart from it. (A simple picture of this is the Mother giving birth but always keeping what She births tied to her—the cosmos in God and God never wholly apart from the cosmos—pan-en-theism.)

In this way of thinking, the symbol of God as Trinity is retained but usually to present a “divine” picture of community and cooperation for communitarianism on earth.

And who is JESUS? Jesus is the Child of God even as also the child of Mary, a unique Event of cosmic evolution. Jesus is regarded as really androgynous, even while also being male in a male-dominated society, and “his” real saving work is the way “he” got alongside the poor, needy, outcasts, and hungry and ministered to them. Where regular religion and society stopped, there Jesus began to minister and this led to his martyr’s death. The resurrection is the symbol of new life arising from this Jesus, new life to change the world with justice and peace and enabling the value of all human beings of every kind and type to be recognized and affirmed.

And what is SALVATION? Since God is not separate from the cosmos, heaven is not “up there.” Salvation is cooperating with God in change to bring about better and better conditions on earth for people so that they live in dignity, without fear and poverty. The present millennial goals of the United Nations express part of this hope of salvation. Christians today in the Baptismal Covenant are charged to work for justice, peace and dignity.

I SUGGEST that from today onwards those who wish to engage with Episcopal leaders leave aside for the time being the sexuality agenda and move instead to the Basic Christianity agenda to ascertain what kind of sincere, religious people are the majority of the House of Bishop, Executive Council and General Convention of The Episcopal Church. They are sincere, please grant them this, and they are fervent, please grant them this—but move on and examine their theology that motivates them.

Then having done this to go back to the public Liturgies and new Canon Law of TEC since 1970 and read these in the light of the doctrine discovered.

(my own attempts to do this kind of thing are found in the content of several booklets available from or by calling 1-800-727-1928)

Dr Peter Toon

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