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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

 

 

October 14, 1999

 

The Episcopal Church will soon vote on a quasi-merger with ELCA. It is not a corporate merger but allows both denominations to recognize each other’s clergy, swap calls, have joint congregations, trade church leaders, share pulpits, inter-commune, and so forth. As far as I can tell, the agreement is a capitulation by ELCA. “How can ELCA capitulate to Rome, Canterbury, Fuller, and the United Church of Christ, all at the same time?” I asked a friend. ELCA is to unionism what WELS is to Church Growth.

 

I have not known many Episcopalians, except for Gaylin Schmeling. He earned his master’s at Nashotah House (a gay Episcopalian seminary) just before becoming Bethany Lutheran Seminary (ELS) president. It was a scandal that Pastor John Moldstad did not even have a college degree when he accepted the call to Bethany Seminary, so some academic credentials were probably needed for the president. In America, a degree is considered an adequate substitute for scholarship. The only seminary presidents who have written anything of substance in the last few decades are Jack and Robert Preus, both formerly of the ELS. (Robert Preus was passed over for a teaching job at Bethany. But then, he graduated from college. That was probably a downer for the call committee. Preus’ doctorate probably was viewed as inexcusable. “Anyone who graduated from high school can teach our future pastors,” the ELS call committee probably thought. “But we do not want someone spoiled by higher education and too big for his britches, if you know what I mean.”)

 

I get the Episcopalian tabloid, their official magazine. I even published a photo in it for the Episcocat series. I caught a cat in mid-yawn and they captioned it with something about singing in the choir. The tabloid has followed me to every address in the last 25 years, so I am aware of their official posture on many issues. I am not an innocent about church issues, but I was unprepared for the shocking information in the enclosed story.

 

A friend of a friend sent it to me. Remember, these are the scandals they could not cover up. Doubtless much worse is going on.

FROM AN EPISCOPALIAN, QUOTE BEGINS:

 
The Weekly Standard Oct 13,1999
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CRISIS
By Tucker Carlson


AT THE bottom of a stairwell at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge,
Mass., a large oil painting leans against what appears to be a broken
shopping cart. The portrait is filthy and badly scratched, its gilt frame
smashed at the edges. Wipe the dust away and it is still possible to read
the name inscribed on the brass plaque beneath: Robert Treat Paine, President of
the Board, 1898-1910. Paine's portrait sits next to that of his
contemporary, George Zabriskie Gray, who was dean of the seminary until he died in 1889. Both men were once well known and highly regarded in the Episcopal Church as
scholars, theologians, and preachers. It has been a long time since the
portrait of either one graced the walls of the Episcopal Divinity School.

It's probably just as well: One suspects that neither man would know what to
make of the school these days. How would Robert Paine, famous during his
life-time for such works as "How to Repress Pauperism and Street Begging"
and "The Importance of Stopping Outdoor Relief to Chronic or Hereditary
Beggars," have responded to the new EDS curriculum, with courses like "Critical Issues
in Feminist Liberation Theology" and its subsection, "Readings in Queer
Theology"? What would George Gray, who regularly railed against "departure
from the Church's teaching, or any other perversion," have thought of the
school's latest internal phone directory, which proudly con-tains the
photographs of the gay partners of faculty and students along with their
addresses in campus housing?

You don't have to be a 19th-century theologian to notice that a lot has
changed at EDS, and in the Episcopal Church generally. For 300 years, the
Episcopal Church in America was known primarily by the prominence of its
members. A quarter of US presidents, half of the chief justices of the
Supreme Court, the Vanderbilts, the Mellons, the Astors, Jefferson Davis,
Fiorello La Guardia, Nat King Cole-all were Episcopalians. Though it has
always been one of the smallest Protestant denominations, the Episcopal
Church was long one of the richest and most industrious, building the
country's most attractive churches and finest secondary-school system, all
the while sending missionaries to virtually every country on earth.

The Episcopal Church used to be impressive. It isn't any more. Membership
has dropped steeply, from a historic high of almost 3.5 million in 1966 to fewer
than 2.4 million today, and falling. (There are by contrast 15 million
Southern Baptists and close to 9 million Methodists.) Worse, America's most
famous Episcopalians are no longer J. P. Morgan and James Fenimore Cooper,
but people like David Johnson, who was bishop of Massachusetts when he
killed himself two years ago after it was revealed that he had been having affairs
with a number of his employees. Or like William Lloyd Andries, a middle-aged
priest from New York who was pictured in photographs that ran in Penthouse
last year having sex with his 25-year-old Brazilian "husband" while wearing
clerical garb. According to witnesses, Andries, sometimes dressed as Marilyn
Monroe, regularly hosted orgies on the altar of his church in Brooklyn.

What has happened to the Episcopal Church? FitzSimons Allison, the retired
bishop of South Carolina, has a plausible theory. Episcopalianism is as
close to a national religion as anything America has ever had, Allison argues. No
other denomination, Allison says, "could quite be the unofficial church for
the culture. As the rest of America has become post-Christian, it has been
very difficult for the Episcopal Church to disentangle itself from the
culture."

That culture-or at least the culture of the upper-middle-class eastern WASPs
who have run the Episcopal Church-has for decades tended toward a brand of
fuzzy, guilt-inspired leftism. In the 1930s, the Witness, the flagship
journal of progressive Episcopalianism, threw its support behind the Soviet
purge trials. In the 1960s, the national church gave millions to a series of
racial identity groups, some of them violent. In the 1990s, Edmund Browning,
then the head of the denomination, publicly congratulated President Clinton
for his support of partial-birth abortion.

The latest, perhaps most insidious, enthusiasm to overtake the church has
been something called "pastoral theology." Developed in the 1940s, pastoral
theology encourages priests to act as counselors to their parishioners. In
theory, it is not an unreasonable idea. Priests, after all, spend a lot of
their time in the company of the sick, the bereaved, and the confused, and
there is nothing wrong with teaching them how to better comfort and
communicate with, for instance, AIDS patients or alcoholics. But there are
important distinctions between being a Christian cleric and being a social
worker, and pastoral education has all but erased them. Successful priests,
explains the EDS catalog in its section on "pastoral studies," must possess
a "self-knowledge and knowledge of, and sensitivity to, the dynamics of human
behavior, as well as knowledge of, and sensitivity to, the needs and
problems of the world and the institutions within which ministry takes place." It's
hard to know exactly what any of this means, since, unlike Biblical
theology, the "institutions within which ministry takes place" change from day to day.
What is certain is that EDS, like many other seminaries, now offers
considerably more courses in pastoral theology than in the New Testament.
The result has been that, in many parts of the church, Christianity has ceased
being a means to transcend the temporal world and become instead a method
used to counsel people in distress, a vehicle for personal growth:
Christianity as therapy session.

Consider the career of Isabel Carter Heyward, a self-described socialist,
feminist, lesbian, "womanist" theologian, whose life and work mirror recent
trends in the Episcopal Church. A former debutante from North Carolina who
was one of the first female Episcopal priests, Heyward is now a professor of
theology at the Episcopal Divinity School and perhaps the best-known member
of the church's growing feminist-liberation-theology movement. Heyward is
noted for her outbursts of melodramatic indignation, which are usually aimed
at the church. Several years ago, for instance, she declared she would no
longer capitalize the name of her own religion. "Using the lowercase 'c'
with reference to 'christian,'" Heyward writes in an entirely representative
passage from her latest book, "is a spiritual, intellectual, and political
discipline for me as a member of a religious tradition so arrogant and
abusive historically in relation to women, children, and nonruling class
men; lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgendered/sexual nonconformists; Jews, Muslims,
wicca, and practitioners of other religious traditions; persons whose
cultural/racial/ethnic origins are other than European; and all
other-than-human members of creation."

Heyward's theology, when it extends beyond slogans, can hardly be
characterized as Christian. The Trinity, which is the central article of the
faith in which she was ordained a priest, is dismissed in one of her books
as "a homophilial/homoerotic image of relations between males (father/son)."
Heyward rejects the divinity of Christ out of hand. Instead, she says, "I
have been led to Sophia/wisdom, to Christa/community, to Hagar the slave
woman, to Jephthah's daughter," all post-Christian goddesses now popular
among certain feminist theologians.

Talk like this infuriates orthodox Episcopalians. "It's not only heresy,
it's apostasy, and dishonest apostasy," says FitzSimons Allison. "If somebody
doesn't believe in God, and leaves the Episcopal Church, then they're an
honest person. But if you stay, it's like being in the Rotary Club and not
believing in service. It's simply dishonorable."

It's also silly on its face (Hagar the slave woman?), which makes Heyward's
attempts at straightforward theology less threatening than they might be if
she were able to think coherently. But Heyward is more than just a lousy
theologian. She's also a "survivor," "someone in recovery," a woman embarked
on "psychospiritual passages" out of anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism,
masochistic fantasies, cigarette smoking, and childhood sexual abuse. This
last trauma came to light when Heyward experienced in a dream a "recovered
memory" of having been "orally sodomized by Jeff the yardman" 40 years
before. In the mid-1980s, Heyward took her many troubles to a psychiatrist,
a fellow lesbian, with whom she promptly fell in love. Rebuffed, Heyward
stalked the poor woman for months, writing her reams of creepy poetry ("How
can I speak to you of love/my therapist") and demanding a meeting.

Pretty embarrassing stuff. Or at least it would be for an ordinary person As
an Episcopal priest in recovery, Heyward felt empowered to write a book
about the experience. (In Heyward's version, the stalked shrink took all the
blame.) The most amazing part of all, however, was that a lot of people read
it. The book was published by HarperCollins and went into paperback.

The moral, of course, is that there is a huge market among Episcopalians for
trendy psychobabble packaged as religion. In the mailroom at the Episcopal
Divinity School, the most liberal of the church's 11 seminaries, the
"Support Groups/Counseling" bulletin board is crammed with notices advertising every
conceivable variety of navel-gazing: a weekend retreat for lesbian couples,
tarot-card instruction, yoga classes, a ceremony led by a local "artist,
mask maker, ritualist and performer" intended to celebrate "rhythms in nature,"
as well as the by-now familiar classes in "stress management and wellness." An
ad for one workshop, placed next to a "Planned Parenthood Needs Volunteers"
flyer, offers advice for 3coping, managing and thriving when a spouse has
Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Adult Attention Deficiency
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)." For those who pay attention too carefully,
there are also "Anger Management Groups" designed to help participants "get
a handle on temper and other feelings."


If all this sounds like the product of a collective mid-life crisis, it
shouldn't be surprising. The average Episcopal seminarian these days is
close to mid-life with the majority entering divinity school past the age of 35.
For many, going to seminary is merely another form of self-discovery, often
undertaken after a divorce. "I'm looking at the Hebrew Bible in terms of
self-esteem," says one middle-aged student at the Episcopal Divinty School,
by way of explaining what she has been doing for the past two years.

Whenever two or more Episcopalians gather, there's apt to be talk like this
(keep in mind that it was an Episcopalian, John Bradshaw, who came up with
the concept of an "inner child"), and not all of it is harmlessly pathetic.
In 1995, Ellen Cooke, the denomination's chief treasurer, was indicted after
it was discovered that she had stolen $2.2 million from the national church,
using most of the money to buy jewelry and a new summer house. Before her
trial, Cooke consulted a female priest for counseling. The priest, Cooke
explained in a statement, "has helped me acknowledge the pain, abuse, and
powerlessness I have felt during the years I worked as a lay woman on a
senior level in the Church headquarters." In other words, sexism made her do
it.

Even a jury could see through an excuse like that, and Cooke is now doing
five years in a federal prison in West Virginia. Episcopalians, on the other
hand, remain easy marks for the abuse excuse. Earlier this year, the Rev.
Chester LaRue, rector of St. John's in Brooklyn, was arrested and charged
with selling cocaine out of his church. When police arrived at St. John's,
LaRue was seated at his desk, writing a sermon and smoking crack. LaRue was
at least the second rector of St. John's to have met an unseemly end, having
replaced the former rector, George Hoeh, who was murdered by his gay lover
in Atlantic City in the 1980s. At about the same time LaRue was arrested, two
other Episcopal priests in Brooklyn were also brought up on charges, one for
tax fraud, the other, by the church, for sexual misconduct. Coming as they
did on the heals of Marilyn Monroe impersonator William Lloyd Andries, these
scandals raised questions about the church's oversight of its priests in
Brooklyn. Before long, the man in charge of overseeing those priests, Bishop
Orris G. Walker Jr., came forward to explain that, contrary to appearances,
he had not been negligent in his duties. Just the opposite, in fact. "One of
my sins is I'm a workaholic," Walker said. "I need to take some time for
me." Fellow priests were impressed. "It's the most courageous thing he could have
done," the Rev. Sara Louise Kranez told Newsday.

The main idea behind pastoral theology is that priests should help their
parishioners feel good about themselves. This is fine, except that much of
the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is specifically designed to make people
feel bad about themselves-to wake them from their self-satisfied languor and
stir them into behaving differently, better. God is quoted at length in the
Bible making difficult, even frightening, demands. Supporters of pastoral
theology have a strategy for maintaining wellness in the face of these
less-than affirming passages: Just ignore them.

This spring, a newsletter produced by the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition,
a group funded by the church, described a troubling incident that took place
in the Episcopal Diocese of California. According to the newsletter,
brochures distributed by the Marin AIDS Interfaith Network had been defaced,
made "corrupt," by a mysterious group of "hate-mongers." What had the
hate-mongers done to the brochures? Nothing less than altered them "to
include Old Testament Scripture condemning the gay and lesbian community."
Imagine that, huffed the Episcopalians: quoting the Bible. Talk about
hateful.

The long-standing debate over homosexuals in the church has unfolded along
similar lines, a theological dispute that, in the pro-gay camp at least, has
contained few references to actual theology. For the last 20 years, gay
Episcopalians have argued, often eloquently, for the right to be ordained as
priests and to have their unions blessed as marriages by the church. For
gays, the first battle has been all but won. Although the issue has not yet
officially been resolved by the church's governing body, virtually every
Episcopal diocese in the country has openly non-celibate homosexuals serving
as priests. It is the second question-gay marriage- that now bitterly
divides the church.

People have been arguing about gay marriage for a long time in the Episcopal
Church, but that doesn't mean its supporters have reached a consensus on
what exactly gay marriage is. Even the basic questions remain unanswered,
beginning with the most obvious one: Should gay marriage be a lifelong,
monogamous union between two people? Otis Charles, the former Episcopal
bishop of Utah and one of the most visible and politically active gays in
the church, can speak forever about homosexuality as a civil-rights issue. Ask
him if gay marriages should be monogamous and he stumbles. "We need to
develop an ethical sensibility that comes out of the gay sensibility," he
says. In other words: probably not monogamous, no.

After a while it's hard not to conclude that the push for gay marriage in
the Episcopal Church is more a political quest than a religious one. Louie Crew,
founder of the Episcopal gay group Integrity, doesn't disagree. Getting the
church to recognize homosexual marriages, he says, is just the first step on
the long road to sexual emancipation. The next civil right to be established
in the Episcopal Church, he predicts, will be the right to be married to
more than one person simultaneously. "Threesomes and foursomes will have to push
for their own agenda," Crew says, sounding tired. "That's not my battle. You
can't do all of it at once."

How much farther can the Episcopal Church go before the whole enterprise
comes tumbling down, tasteful stone churches and all? Probably not much. At
least six groups of former Episcopalians have already split to form their
own, more traditional denominations. Countless other church members have
fled to Catholicism or to the Eastern Orthodox Church. There is growing evidence
that for those who have stayed, encounter-group theology simply isn't as
compelling as the kind that used to mention God. According to a study by
journalist Robert England, the Diocese of Newark, NJ, has seen its churches
empty since the arrival of celebrated Episcopal heretic Bishop Shelby Spong
almost 20 years ago. (Spong has argued that St. Paul, author of
unequivocally anti-homosexuality statements in the New Testament, was himself secretly
gay.) Under Spong's leadership, the diocese has lost close to 40 percent of
its membership. twice the attrition rate of the church nationally, and has
been forced to close 17 churches.

Nothing of the kind is happening in Africa and Asia, where the Anglican
Church (of which the Episcopal Church is part) has never been stronger.
Anglican leaders in the Third World tend to be conservative; some have
already threatened to break ties with the Episcopal Church unless the
Episcopalians start acting like Christians. At some point, the Episcopalians
may have to start paying attention, for they are vastly outnumbered. As
Roger Boltz, administrative director of the American Anglican Council, a
theologically orthodox group working to reform the Episcopal Church, points
out, "There are more Anglicans in church on Sunday in Nigeria than there are
in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and England combined." In the end,
multiculturalism may be the salvation of the religion that the world still,
and falsely, equates with white America.”

 

END OF EPISCOPAL QUOTE