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A Gay Bishop is Faithful

| 28.10.03
'A Gay Bishop is Faithful', by John P. Streit, Jr.

The recent conflict in the Episcopal Church over the election of a gay bishop is in part a result of sharp differences in how the Bible is understood and applied to contemporary culture. What is often lost in the din of loud and rancorous debate, however, is the fact that both sides of this debate are acting out of deeply held, scriptural convictions.

Yes, I do say scriptural. And yes, I do say both sides. I think this is not always obvious for two reasons. One, the conservative side of the debate likes to accuse the liberal side of not being scriptural. Two, the liberal side of the debate often frames their arguments in terms of social justice, human rights, and other categories that transcend purely religious categories. So it may not always be clear that the motivations flow from, as Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold put it shortly after the vote, "an authentic way of reading Scripture."

In this sermon, preached in September 2003 after General Convention, Streit delivers a positive theology that explains and undergirds the changing times we live in. While God is unchanging, Streit maintains that the Bible as a whole tells the story of gradually changing understandings of how God's will is to be acted out in the world.

Citing examples from the New Testament and Christian history, Streit uses the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, Peter and Paul's debates over the role of Jewish purity laws for Gentile converts, and nineteenth century Christian abolitionists to paint a picture of Christian history that progressively lowers barriers and roadblocks to full inclusion within God's kingdom.

What made this sermon noteworthy for me was that, unlike so much theological work done regarding homosexuality which focuses on tearing down six or seven scattered texts throughout the Bible that seem to prohibit same-sex sexual activity in very specific contexts, Streit builds up a much more positive view of God's work through all of history and creation drawing on the same biblical foundation.

LINKS: http://www.stpaulboston.org/Sermon%202.htm

I Feel Sorry for Jesus

| 19.10.03
'I feel sorry for Jesus', by Naomi Shihab Nye

I ran across this poem in the October issue of The Christian Century, and was delighted to see that it was also available online. Two things viscerally grabbed me about this poem.

First, the dangers of "talking for Jesus," which seem so obvious. I see it more as an indictment of theological and ideological certainty, or an over-association of one's own agenda with what one perceives as Jesus' agenda. We've all either known people or been people who wanted to be "His Special Pet," or missed the heart of the gospel in favor of the "pomp" and "golden chandeliers."

Secondly, and more importantly, it was the last line "You won't hear me talk about this again" that seemed the most arresting, all the more powerful for it's paradoxical relationship with the rest of the poem. In the earlier verses, Nye illustrates those who appropriate Jesus wrongly, then falls into the error herself. Yet the path to truth for Nye is not about talking for Jesus, but following in Jesus' footsteps. By standing in the spot where Jesus was born and by making "every twist" of the Way be "written on [her] skin," Nye experiences a truth beyond ideology, and beyond words.

One major commonality of the "appropriators," from my perspective, is that they not only talk for Jesus, but talk endlessly. Conventional wisdom seems to be that if something is important it needs to be mentioned often. But by saying "You won't hear me talk about this again" Nye draws attention to the need for silence as part of spiritual practice --both to hear what others have to say and to hear what Jesus has to say. She also subverts conventional wisdom by suggesting that the truly important things aren't mentioned often and have to be keenly sought out or listened for in order to be heard and understood.

PUBLISHER: "I Feel Sorry for Jesus" first appeared in Antioch Review (Spring 1998.) I first read it in the October 8, 2003 issue of the Christian Century.
LINK: http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m1058/21_120/110361288/p1/article.jhtml

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