Anglican, bible, Episcopal Church, God, Jesus, religion, Robin Meyers, theology
Robin Meyer’s in his book “Saving Jesus from the Church,” makes an important and seminal point. Our churches today, at least too many of them are creedal in nature, and are self-centered. It’s all about what you must believe and nothing about what you should do. It’s believe this, and get this in return.
I’ll be reviewing the book later this week I, and don’t want to delve too deeply into his argument, but in a sense I think they reflect what Presiding Bishop Schiori was getting at in her remarks at the convention has week. We too often spend all our efforts as church in defining what a person must believe in order to be saved. We in essence talk almost exclusively on what it means to worship Christ, instead of what it means to follow Jesus.
This is what falls so clangingly on the ears of the fallen away or never there people of our country and world. The see the hypocrisy over what we claim about Christ and that we fail to do little to live out his teachings. We ask folks to swallow a set of dogmas and creeds, that ask us to suspend belief and if we do so, we are somehow saved for a life of eternal bliss. Yet we don’t act in any way worthy of that end.
We insist that all inconsistencies and out right falsehoods in the bible are somehow reconciled when they are not. Archaeological evidence doesn’t support the claims, nor does biblical exegesis. We tell them they don’t understand, but in fact they do. They come down essentially where all the scholars do, or most of them. We lose the beautiful message of Genesis in an attempt to prove that Adam and Eve were real and that somehow we are born sinful. We concoct strange doctrines of “limbo,” since abandoned, to “cover” babies who die before being baptized. We look foolish, we sound foolish, and rational thinking persons turn away in disgust at our voodoo explanations.
It’s all about my salvation, and my sin, and my confessions, and my proper worship. And faith is not about me. It’s about, as Bishop Schiori rightly says, US. We remove the layers of “church” speak from the bible and we are left with the wonder of an itinerant preacher who was so mesmerizing in what he said that his followers forever felt they were changed and that he never left them. He taught us to love and be respectful of each other, to help one another, to feed, clothe, nurse, and comfort each other. He taught us right relationship with God, and not the Pharisaic alternative of ritual, and tradition done for tradition’s sake.
But we, in our busyness to organize and spread the Word, and be the leader, shut out all the voices that didn’t sound like ours and we instituted the ritual and the tradition all over again, just changing it to “ours” rather than “theirs.” We, in direct opposition to what the Jewish rabbi taught us, made it all us and them again. Join our club, or risk damnation. Believe what we believe.
Someone actually said yesterday on a forum that the Episcopal Church had gotten “too caught up in social justice.” How does one get too caught up? When is there too much social justice? This sort of orthodoxy is insane to me. It’s incantations and recitations and somehow God is pleased? Seriously, people argue that because some words were changed in ordination liturgy, Episcopalians have “lost” apostolic succession. This of course from the church that wants to claim it exclusively to itself. How convenient one must ask. But surely, you don’t think God cares a whit do you? About the words used? Might the heart be his concern?
Meanwhile, millions of people consider themselves spiritual and feel something bigger than themselves but have no vehicle that gathers that energy and love. For they can’t return to the purveyors of a lie. The lie being that words and such make us Christian, make us Godly people. They can smell a rat.
That is the field we need to tend. All those who desire for meaning in their lives, who want to make a difference, who want to feel connected with humanity and the world. We, the institutional church, can serve as that meeting place, if and only if we return to the center of things. God. And God is in the message delivered by that sublime carpenter. Love God, and love neighbor. In fact, by loving neighbor we love God. Turn no one away. Stop worrying about what they believe, and welcome their help and service. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Heal the sick. Visit the incarcerated. Live Jesus.
I am an Episcopalian because I believe that my Church gets that. It is teaching me how to live that out. I am grateful. I am blessed. I am being transformed. As John Dominic Crossan has said, “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”
Randal Graves said:
Oh man, I am so telling Hagee on you. We’ll see if your “social justice” can deal with one of his Uber Armageddon Murals,” pinko.
Lordy Randal, you are the most fun irreverent non-believer I’ve ever know. No doubt God gets quite a chuckle reading your comments. I sure do!
Diane Roth said:
Reading your whole post, I agree with you, but I must say, the word “creedal” stuck out for me. I appreciate being part of a church which accepts the historic Creeds (as Episcopalians do) because it makes it more about “us” and less about just “me and Jesus.” In other words, we are part of a community wich confesses together.
That being said, I think part of the problem is seeing “faith” as intellectual assent (what we believe) rather than as trust, which necessarily means faithful living.
Faith isn’t just believing in your mind that Jesus is the Christ, but trusting what that means enough to live your life as if it is true.
That includes social justice.
Diane, I too appreciate the creeds, but I think that our Church doesn’t require such belief as part of the package. One is able in TEC to have a pretty broad range of beliefs and still be welcomed. What I’m trying to get across is that for some churches, it has all become about what you believe and agree to. It’all about Christ, and very little about Jesus.
I utterly agree that we are communal and need to be so if we are to be authentic. I like your statement about trust, and think that is really the essence in a sense of following Jesus. It is not an easy road, and most of us rebel at the insecurity it can afford. As community, we make that trip a little easier I think.
I agree totally about your last couple of sentences.
rick allen said:
I don’t know why belief and action are presented as an either/or. As integral beings, our actions are caught up in our beliefs, and our beliefs in our actions.
Doing social justice is terribly important. But, as a human being, I am bound to ask, sooner or later, why. What I believe, why I think the very ground of the universe call me to love, confirms me in that work. It can’t be separated.
In any case, I know of no church that insists that simple assent to propositions saves. The fundamentalists insist on a personal relationship to Jesus. We Catholics have this strange idea about baptism and mortal sin. I don’t think anybody says, “Just believe and you’re in,” except, possibly, the Gnostics, for whom salvation is enlightenment alone.
Rick, they shouldn’t be for sure, but I think that for some churches it is more about what you believe rather than what you do. It’s all about sin and salvation and confessions and statements of fine points of doctrine. Go to a forum and you will find almost all the discussion is about who’s right and whose wrong. There is little discussion about action in the social justice sphere but to argue that X doesn’t deserve it, and Y doesn’t either.
What I’m getting at is that churches that are inclusive in welcoming all the “others” to the table are justice oriented more than they are doctrinally pure. Your own Catholic church refuses all to the table except other Catholics. Jesus invites, not a church. At least thats the way I see it. That’s what I’m getting at. Don’t come to communion unless you are free from sin. Mortal versus venial, communion okay for one, not the other. And that doesn’t begin to address the issue the bible.
You say just believe it and your in, and say nobody says that, but sure they do. It’s the requirement to be a member. You believe what they tell you, and do the things they tell you, and you have the church’s blessing. YOu don’t, and you are in trouble, no prize for you. I’m simplifying, but that’s how those who have abandoned the church (all churches) see it, and they aren’t so very wrong it seems to me.
Anthony Kalnoky said:
Sherry, Limbo was never ever a ‘doctrine’. It was an attempt to explain an unknown condition by some intellectual leaders, but never a doctrine. Vatican II Council of all Bishops forbade teaching Limbo.
And the frank problem with some episcopalian sects are new Man-Made ideas, Never historically Christian, but preciselly Contrary to Christian History: Living-With Gay Bishop, formally ‘marrying’ or blessing same sex unions, Free Sex outside Marriage, Women Priests and Bishops, None of which Christ began or authorized, and all against biblical Also teaching. All these, and Condoms OK, Moral since the 1930’s (Anglicans).
Obviously men’s new ideas, not God’s.
That’s where we differ Anthony. I don’t see these “new ideas” as man made but a return to the reality of the early church and it’s belief. It was almost immediately overrun by an institutional church who started to impose the pharasaic rules to gather it’s power.
Jesus, never started anything. And as far as saying that Jesus could have nominated a “woman’ apostle but didn’t, well he could have nominated a black or asian, or a one legged person. Does their absence mean that today we can’t make them priests? Of course not.
It’s not obviously men’s ideas and not God’s. But you have to be open to actually learning what the early church taught, not what your present church teaches it taught. Those are often two very different things.
Pat - Arkansas said:
Well done, again, Sherry.
Anthony Kalnoky said:
We Catholics sure know about the early Church, And what Christ and the Apostles he chose (Middle Eastern Fishermen, blue-collar workers).
What kind of “Parasitic control” did the early Church establish? You know of course that there was no Bible Yraching, because there was no New Testament. The first Gospel was written about 22 years after Christ. And Christ Definitilly was The Messiah, not just a teacher.
Acts of the Apostles Is a Narration of the Early Church.
Know the Main, Central Liturgy of the early Church, Last Supper on? The Last Supper liturgy, now known as the Mass, and the Real Presence Eucharist, only to those qualified to receive it: 1 Corr 11:18-29.
Everyone I know knows Christ established The Church, with 7 Sacraments.
Think The Church was the Apostles idea, not Christs? That would be a new one!
Anthony Kalnoky said:
“Pharasaic Rules to Control”. What kind Pharasaic Rules did the early Church establish to “Control”? Gathering together once a week was not a new rule; only the Day was new: Sunday, because our Lord arose from the Dead on Sunday. That was the Holy Day was changed to Sunday: By the First Christians.
Anthony, many people believe that the statement “you are Peter and upon you I will build my church” was not a statement of Jesus but a addition by the resultant church to give efficacy to their power over that of other gnostic and ebonite sects that also claimed to be Jesus followers. There is a good deal of difference between the Church’s official interpretation of much of the bible and that of biblical scholars worldwide. I tend to follow the latter since it is their professional judgement and I also am impressed by their proofs.
Ruth Hull Chatlien said:
Sherry, thank you for this. I appreciated the analysis of how inadequate just having “right beliefs” is.
Ruth, I see nothing wrong in believing all these things, but when they are “tests” of some salvation, they it seems to me and others, to be roadblocks to those who would respond to the message of Jesus as prophet. I don’t think they should be a litmus test and I’m tired of churchs who claim that only right belief results in “eternal” salvation. That was never what it was about, I’m becoming more and more convinced.
rick allen said:
“churches that are inclusive in welcoming all the “others” to the table are justice oriented more than they are doctrinally pure.”
Again, I don’t see that a “justice orientation” makes “doctrinal purity” any more or less required. The Episcopal Church is considerably more invested in the Nicene Creed, so far as I can tell, than the Baptists or charismatics or “bible Christians.”
Rick what I’m trying to explain is that while certainly TEC is doctrinal and we say the creed each Sunday, there is no claim that one must believe it in every respect. People are fairly free to fashion belief as their hearts and minds dictate. I see much of doctrine and ritual as the means by which I worship, but the real task of the church is encouraging not belief but action in the world to erradicate hunger, homelessness, and the institutional structures of discrimination. I’m getting into my book review for later in the week! lol…
When doctrinal adherence is the first requirement, a ton of folks just walk away since they can’t believe as required. I certainly couldn’t in the RCC, it is why I left.
rick allen said:
Where was I? Oh, Baptists. “Your own Catholic church refuses all to the table except other Catholics. ” And, unless the rules just changed, the Episcopal Church requires baptism for communing. Now Baptists encourage baptism, but they don’t think it required in any way. I’ve known plenty of unbaptized Baptists. Is their church more inclusive than the Episcopal?
All this seems to come down to what exactly people are being welcomed to and for. No one needs a church to be told they’re fine as they are. We are most of us quite capable of having a high opinion of ourselves.
Most churches don’t welcome us to tell us we’re great, don’t change a thing. Jesus said, repent and believe the gospel. We are welcomed to conform our lives to the love of God. Not to stay as we are, surely. Is that not inclusive, to ask that those who wish to enter the church seek to conform their lives to the holiness the church believes we are called to embrace?
I never said TEC was perfect. It is far from that, and I am troubled by baptism as a requirement, though i think that there are some minimal requirements to be considered “Christian.” Presumably, one who cannot meet the minimum in terms of belief in Jesus in some sense would not wish to partake in Eucharist.
Why Baptists may not require baptism for whatever Eucharistic ceremony they engage in, they do tend to require a pretty good list of requirements, “the fundamentals” do they not? I’m not stating a fact, but asking a question. I’m not well versed in baptist doctrine.
I agree that Jesus calls us to belief in God and to serve God through love. He by his life and preaching is transforming, and we are called to that transformation it seems to me. To be transformed is to follow his teachings which I see as justice in nature. They have nothing to do with ritual assent to creeds and doctrine, which were developed way down the line. In fact Jesus spoke out strongly against the rituals and creeds of his time, yet all too soon people want to develop heirarchy and rules of conduct.
Anthony Kalnoky said:
Catholic, Missouri Synod Lutheran, ELCA Lutheran, Orthodox Catholics only refuse ither denominations at the Communion Table. 1 Corr 11 about 27 Places a restriction on anybody walking up for the “Body, the Blood” of Christ.
But in every other way, the Catholic Church is wide open to Joint Word & Worship, Ecumenical events, Talks with other Faiths.
I am on the Ecumenocal Committee of our new Catholic Mega-Church of 11,000 (5,000 a year ago). I succeeded in getting 7 more Protestant, Orthodox Ministers, Priests to our Joint Word Worship with combined Choirs last October. I and Catholic Church are Very Interdenominationally involved. We work closelly with our Methodist neighbors.
What types “Pharasaic Rules” did the Early Church establish to “control” members, Sherry, pray tell?
I’m happy to see your church involved in interdenominational activities.
I explained the Pharasiaic rules in another reply to you Anthony.