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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On the radar, and for the record

In the couple weeks there has begun circulating through the blogisphere an article from the June issue of the Diocese of Olympia's Episcopal Voice newsletter, containing an interview with an Episcopal priest who has also converted to Islam. I say "also," because she maintains that she is both Christian and Muslim. You can download a PDF of the newsletter to read said article (page 9), and/or read an article in the Seattle Times that covers the same ground.

I learned of the article a couple of weeks ago, and pointed it out to folks at that time. However, I hope that any lack of commentary thus far on this blog is not construed as "trying to stay under the radar," but rather as "amazed listening" and "waiting to see if far more articulate people will speak first."

My opinion? Honestly I found it both confused and confusing. With the best of intentions, I think she is trying to mesh some beliefs that are mutually exclusive.

We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the ‘only begotten son of God.’ That’s how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal."

Um... yes, it is. One of any faith, or none, can certainly credit the teachings of Jesus as wise, and grant that his pattern of life is a wonderful choice; however, it is a defining tenet of Christianity that recognizes Jesus as God, and the Son of God. Fully human, and fully divine. Begotten, not made. And, despite what some on the fundigelical end of the spectrum would attest, is also true in the Episcopal Church: see the catechism.
“The renunciations [of Satan, evil powers and sinful desires] any Muslim can say."

These renunciations are part of the vows we Episcopalians take at baptism. And sure-- many faiths have common tenets and teachings, and the Children of Abraham (Christians, Jews and Muslims) more commonalities than most. This is certainly an area to be explored and honored in interfaith dialogue as we strive to live up to our Covenant promises "to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves" and "to respect the dignity of every human being." As Christians, we believe Jesus is the Truth-- the fullest expression of God, and God's will for humanity-- but that doesn't mean truth cannot be found in part elsewhere as well.

“The affirmations are tough for any Christian who is at all progressive because there are certain of us [Christians] who have taken these and made them into something like fraternity hazing—you have to say these words in order to be part of the club."

No, we haven't. We take them as affirmations of our faith, and public vows to follow Our Lord as Christian disciples. Yes, they are tough, and I will be the first to admit that I have had (and will undoubtedly continue to have) moments of struggle along the way. That's why faithful community is so important, every day. This is not a club, but rather a way of life. If you want to be part of a club, I'd suggest the Kiwannis; they do wonderful work.

"I see them as taking Jesus as the human example to follow toward God. Most Muslims see Mohammed rather than Jesus as the pattern of life to follow, and I do not see him as the only example. I just am not willing to put ‘onlys’ in front of all those affirmations about Jesus."

This woman may indeed be a kind, loving and generous soul, doing her best to live a 'spiritual' life; but if she cannot testify that she believes in Jesus as "only," in this manner, then she is not Christian.

Please understand that I do not mean that to sound pejorative. Often people use "Christian" as a synonym for "good," as in, "She is so sweet, such a nice, Christian lady." Friends, with the best will in the world, that's off base. One does not have to be Christian to be "good--" there are scads of Good People in this world who are not Christian, and scads of Christians who fall short of Good on a regular basis.

It is not my call, of course; I am only a priest in another diocese, and not in any position of authority over her. However, as she is not living into her ordination vows to "conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church," I do hope and pray that her bishop prevails upon her to back up and take stock, and to then "fish or cut bait." Tobias' suggestion in this regard is the best one I've seen.

Later: AKMA-- who, bless his faithful heart, is as high on the "far more articulate" scale as anyone can be-- has just posted this. I knew I should have waited. I am obviously still working on that whole patience thing.

1 Comments:

Blogger The young fogey said...

Had a hint of a suspicion that if you wrote anything on this you'd come out on the side of the angels.

To be fair I think the valid criticism on conservative sites (not the insults, ad homimem etc.) was directed to liberal ones that famously are dedicated to news on the Episcopal row. It seemed hypocritical of them not to report it, especially because the people in the story proudly made it public! It's not a litmus-test challenge: there are lots of good sites that don't or seldom report on this stuff and are about other things including serving congregations, 'having a life' or the disciple thing in general.

June 21, 2007 1:42 PM  

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