Sunday, July 13, 2008

"I Believe in the Living God"

Over at Walking with Integrity (Integrity is the national GLBT advocacy network within the Episcopal Church), they've posted a recent sermon by Bishop Gene Robinson.

As I ponder the direction I think I want to go professionally in life -- working within faith communities as an advocate for LGBT people and as an ambassador to those who have been wounded by the church -- one of my main tasks will be to open new windows of understanding on the handful of Bible passages which have been used to condemn homosexuality.

"Could it be that even the Bible is too small a box in which to enclose God?" asks Bp. Robinson, a question that is likely to be met with disbelief and outrage in parts of the Christian world. For many, even within the Anglican Communion, the Bible is the Word of God, and to question or doubt the historic or scientific or theological accuracy of any given passage is to directly challenge God's self. This is a non-starter for a lot of people.

Nevertheless, as I have argued before, questioning God is what we are called to do. The Almighty isn't afraid of a mere question; indeed, what are the Gospels but the record of an extended Q&A session with Jesus? Within the stories contained in Scripture, people question God all the time. Questioning and even confronting what we read in Scripture is how we go deeper in faith.

The question before us is whether God stopped revealing His will to us when the ink dried on the last page of John's apocalypse, or whether God continues to speak to us today. Bp. Gene helpfully points to John 16:12, when on the night before he died, Jesus commented to his disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." There is a clear Scriptural argument to be made that the Bible does not contain everything the Lord wants us to know; there is a promise that "when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." That process -- as we look backward over a church history that includes the burning of women as "witches," the endorsement of slavery, the Crusades, the Inquisition and all manner of horrors -- is ongoing. It is essential to note that Scripture was used to justify all of these grievous sins; yet the Spirit never abandoned us, and continues today to call us and pull us and push us forward in the "spirit of truth," to go back now and re-read those parts of the Bible we thought we understood and discover them anew with astonishment that we ever thought they said what it was claimed they said.

"It is the brilliance of Anglicanism that we first and foremost read scripture, and then interpret it in light of church tradition and human reason. No one of us alone can be trusted to such a process because, left to our own devices, we recast God's will in our own image," says Robinson.

What a shame, then, that this year's Lambeth Conference will not include the duly elected and consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire, nor will it include more than a fourth of all bishops, due to their decision to boycott the gathering over the ordination of women and God's gay children. Where is the Gospel passage recalling the time Jesus said, "No, I won't speak to that person"? When we read the Great Commission -- "Go forth, therefore, and make ye disciples of all people" -- where is the fine print that excludes some of those people or allows us simply to choose not to engage with others in conversation about our disagreements? Can we not trust "The Spirit of Truth" to guide us into deeper understanding and reconciliation?


Terri said...

This is a beautiful blog. It gave me goosebumps. I wish we could truly see each other, Gods children, as He does.

Birdie said...

Andy, I found your blog courtesy of Faustus, M.D.; and I think it's great.

The Bible illuminates God, tells of God's love for us, and helps us to find our way to Him. But the Bible isn't God. Those who mistake the two are in that relatively new population of the last century that literally interprets the Word without regard for context. They find comfort in certainty.

I believe that it is incumbent upon Christians to help others find comfort in ambiguity. For to know God is not to know the mind of God. And yet there is incredible peace and comfort in God's grace. That's where I find the source of my strength as I try to educate my fellow Christians to welcome all into the church.

So glad to have found your blog! I'll be back.