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My thanks to Lleweton for sending information on this English chaplain and poet from the Great War.
Studdert Kennedy was known for distributing New Testaments along with Woodbines to troops before and after battle. He also wrote poems, including some frank descriptions of what happened in the trenches. ‘To Stretcher Bearers’ — the first stanza of which follows — is one of them:
Easy does it — bit o’ trench ‘ere,
Mind that blinkin’ bit o’ wire,
There’s a shell ‘ole on your left there,
Lift ‘im up a little ‘igher.
Stick it, lad, ye’ll soon be there now,
Want to rest ‘ere for a while?
Let ‘im dahn then — gently — gently,
There ye are, lad. That’s the style.
Want a drink, mate? ‘Ere’s my bottle,
Lift ‘is ‘ead up for ‘im, Jack,
Put my tunic underneath ‘im,
‘Ow’s that, chummy? That’s the tack!
Guess we’d better make a start now,
Ready for another spell?
Best be goin’, we won’t ‘urt ye,
But ‘e might just start to shell.
Are ye right, mate? Off we goes then.
That’s well over on the right,
Gawd Almighty, that’s a near ‘un!
‘Old your end up good and tight,
Never mind, lad, you’re for Blighty,
Mind this rotten bit o’ board.
Studdert Kennedy was the seventh of nine children born to Jeannette Anketell and the Revd William Studdert Kennedy, who was the vicar of St Mary’s, Quarry Hill in Leeds. (Studdert Kennedy is the surname, by the way, not Kennedy.)
After finishing his studies at Leeds Grammar School, he went to Ireland for university, earning a degree in Classics and Divinity from Trinity College (alma mater of Jonathan Swift and other luminaries) in 1904.
He then returned to England and studied for a year at Ripon Clergy College in Ripon, Yorkshire. In Februrary 2013, the Ripon Civic Society mounted one of their green plaques at the site of the former college to remember the famous chaplain. Ripon College Cuddesdon, incidentally, is the successor to Ripon Clergy College.
Studdert Kennedy’s first posting was as a curate to a church in Rugby. In 1914, he was appointed vicar of St Paul’s in Worcester.
His time in Worcester was to be short-lived, however. When war broke out, he soon volunteered to be an Army chaplain. His ministry took him to the Western Front, where he saw the atrocities of war up close.
The Northern Echo newspaper explains (emphases mine):
The Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy became one of the best known figures on the Western Front for giving Woodbine cigarettes, a copy of the New Testament and spiritual aid to soldiers before battle as well as their injured and dying comrades.
The cleric, who trained at Ripon Clergy College, won the Military Cross for running into no man’s land at Messines Ridge, Flanders, to help the wounded during an attack on the German frontline …
Six years after completing his training at the Princess Road college, which closed in 1915, the Rev Kennedy, volunteered as an Army chaplain aged 31, and became attached to a bayonet-training service.
While touring the Western Front with boxers and wrestlers, he gave morale-boosting speeches about the usefulness of the bayonet and became known for his heavy smoking, despite suffering asthma having been exposed to mustard gas.
It should be noted here that some asthma sufferers find relief from smoking cigarettes. There were also no pocket-sized inhalers in those days.
The article gives us an idea of Studdert Kennedy’s pastoral manner, particularly appropriate for men who, in some cases, had only minutes to live:
He often became embroiled in battles and soldiers told how the Rev Kennedy once crawled to a working party putting up wire in front of their trench.
When a nervous soldier asked him who he was, he replied “The church.” And when the soldier asked what the church was doing there, he replied “Its job”.
Soldiers said they liked the chaplain for his irreverent preaching style and salty language, while he described his chaplain’s ministry as taking “a box of fags in your haversack, and a great deal of love in your heart”.
After the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., Studdert Kennedy returned to England and was appointed priest-in-charge of St Edmund, King and Martyr in Lombard Street in the City (financial district) of London.
He published two volumes of poems in the aftermath of the war, Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918) and More Rough Rhymes (1919). These poems and others helped to make him
the country’s most famous religious author.
It wasn’t long before Studdert Kennedy made his political views clear. These he had absorbed during the War. He became what is known as a ‘Christian socialist’, although, in reality, you can be a Christian or a socialist, but not both. He was also a pacifist.
He wrote hard-hitting works: Lies (1919), Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) (featuring such chapters as “The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob,” “Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering,” and “So-Called Religious Education Worse than Useless”), Food for the Fed Up (1921), The Wicket Gate (1923), and The Word and the Work (1925).
He left St Edmund’s to tour the country as part of the Industrial Christian Fellowship. He was taken ill during a speaking engagement in Liverpool, where he died in 1929.
a crowd of more than 2,000 turned out for his funeral procession, and tossed packets of Woodbines onto the passing cortege.
The citation for Studdert Kennedy’s Military Cross reads as follows:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches, which he constantly visited.
Photo credits: Northern Echo
It has been said that our leading clerics embrace the world because they cannot say with confidence that Christianity is the true faith.
The Right Revd Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recently expressed his thoughts on the correctness of England’s gay marriage law. Forget the Bible, it’s the yoof he’s after:
“One of things that I think is most noticeable where we make a bad impression in society at the moment is because we are seen as against things, and you talk to people and they say I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic, that is this that that, that is the other.”
Asked later whether this meant that he regretted voting against gay marriage, he said he stood by his vote because he did not believe “rewriting the nature of marriage” was the best way to end discrimination against gay people.
He said: “The Bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society and … the Church has not been good at dealing with homophobia … in fact we have, at times, as God’s people, in various places, really implicitly or even explicitly supported it.
“And we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong.”
“And we have seen changes in the idea about sexuality, sexual behaviour, which quite simply [mean that] we have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice.
He added that polling suggests that the majority of Christian young people, including born again evangelical young people, also disagree with the Church’s traditional line on homosexuality.
“We have to be real about that, I haven’t got the answer and I‘m not going to jump one way or the other until my mind is clear about this,” he said.
“I’m not going to get into the trenches on it.”
Well, we can disregard the New Testament, then — just the ‘Church’s traditional line’. Time moves on. (Irony alert.)
He makes it sound as if same-sex adherents were banned from C of E and most non-conformist churches. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question was whether the Church should condone and encourage a formal arrangement — marriage — between such partners.
One of the purposes of marriage is procreation, something which same-sex couples are unable to accomplish without resorting to manmade means.
What next? Will Welby also support incestuous unions in future?
This is where actor Jeremy Irons said we could be going — and many clergy agree:
Could a father not marry his son? … It’s not incest between men. Incest is there to protect us from inbreeding, but men don’t breed… If that were so, then if I wanted to pass on my estate without death duties, I could marry my son and pass on my estate to him.
There is more to this than ‘gay rights’. It will be interesting, if not alarming, to see how this legislation unfolds over the next decade.
Following on from yesterday’s post on politicians’ sexual peccadillos, a more general social outlook sees a plethora of unsettling news stories from the West.
A brief sampling includes sexual experimentation by preteens involving porn and rape, an abusive (soon to be ex-) husband who grabbed his beautiful wife by the throat in public, the ‘right’ some believe they have to deface public or private property, the hate born of extreme nationalism based on neopaganism, the expanding presence of powerful street gangs (the 21st century Mafia), urban bankruptcy, colour-blind juvenile delinquency (it involves many races), the denial of humanity to toddlers and abortion. There is much more.
Whilst we lament these destructive elements, the Revd Walter Bright reminds us that we, too, suffer from our own pernicious temptation and sin in this regard. I cited his post on New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner yesterday and it is too good not to reprise:
Even though some of our weaknesses may not lead to a public scandal, every one of us has a Weiner in us. For some it is pornography, prostitution, strip clubs, money, alcohol, the party life, groupies, gossip, boasting, exaggerating, sexting, anger, masturbation, hustling and dealing. It is that thing that we wrestle with, fight against but it keeps coming back to knock us down …
It has a grip on you. It is stubborn. It is not easily overcome. It is almost like a “dog going back to it’s vomit” and a lot of Christians have a little of Weiner in them. They fall down and get up, they are hot, than they are cold. No matter how hard you try to cut loose, you are caught in its web. It is that thing you get easily addicted to …
The Weiner in you is pleasurable. It is the thing that keeps you coming back for more. Sin has a lot of pleasure in it. I don’t think anyone will be doing it in the first place if it wasn’t fun. But the tricky thing is that pleasure is fleeting and temporary. It bites in the end, and always lead to death – spiritual death.
At the Anglican-Episcopalian site Stand Firm, the Revd David Ould wrote about Charles Saatchi grabbing his (for now) wife Nigella Lawson’s throat at a London restaurant:
… when we fail to honestly take responsibility for our behaviour and acknowledge the sin within us we deny ourselves any opportunity to be forgiven or to rebuild broken relationships. Which is bad enough with others, whether they are our spouse or not, but even worse (and yes, it is possible to be even worse than this) when it comes to the way we relate to God. And never forget that the mercy available from God is even more spectacular.
To save us from judgemental moralism, aren’t we all in danger of being Saatchi?
The Revd Timothy V Shockley Sr also addressed the breakdown of society with the following excerpt from the best selling book, Are Christians Destroying America?, by Pastor Tony Evans:
When you see a culture that’s deteriorating look closer and you will probably see a people of God who have withdrawn from the culture and turned it over to the unrighteous to rule. Consider: when Christians began abandoning inner-city and urban neighborhoods, taking their skills, resources, and moral influences with them those neighborhoods deteriorated.
When Christians left the public school system, moral values were systematically erased until they became almost illegal to teach. When Christians vacated the media, then a spiritual approach to defining everything we hold dear went with them. When Christians decided they ought to get out of politics then righteous political decisions left with them. These realities are magnified in minority communities one of the beauties of integration is that minorities won the right to live anywhere they want, but one downside has been that much of the expertise and moral consciousness of the minority community left the inner city leaving behind an absence of the models who are desperately needed to give a community vision and stability. God’s people have been called to penetrate society. Don’t get me wrong, evangelism is always first because without forgiveness of sins, anything else we give a person is temporary. We have been called first and foremost to win people to Christ. But having given a person Christ for eternity, we must also give him Christ in history. We must give him hope in time. The absence of righteousness in our culture has everything to do with the absence of God’s people penetrating the culture. When there is no yeast the bread stays flat, and when there is no Christian influence the culture stays flat.
(There is only one item I disagree with somewhat and that is the sentence relating to urban neighbourhoods. It’s a bit unfair to the many residents who are God-fearing and peaceable. On the other hand, some people moved out way too early, but having lived in such an area and with a now-deceased widowed grandmother who was the last elderly holdout there, the day comes when you just have to move. With Grandma, it was the random stones (from strangers) through the windows, some of which missed her by inches, and the teen burglars who broke in once during the middle of the night. Did they have a surprise when she burst out of bed at the age of 72 in her pyjamas dashing towards them and shouting. Unfortunately, by then, they had already taken a heavy chain to her television set and brick fireplace. She sat up the rest of the night near the front door, which couldn’t be relocked. She lived in her house for another ten years.)
This isn’t a call for theonomy by any means. However, Holy Scripture calls us to lead a life of goodness and truth. When we excuse certain behaviour to each other or our children because we harbour indifference and deny the family structure — or we offer as excuses ‘helplessness’, ‘identity’ and modernity — then we are enabling a corrupt, violent, valueless society.
Setting the best example we can is a good start towards a remedy as is explaining to each other and to the next generation why certain things are plain wrong.
The American Episcopalian-Anglican site Stand Firm recently featured a summary of New York City’s mayoral candidates.
Timothy Fountain tells us:
In New York, what I think is the new legalism is on parade. I’m calling it “justification by sexual expression.” It’s all the rage these days. It’s there in the requirement that one affirm gay marriage in order to be a Good Person, for example, but not limited to that.
It seems that the Empire State, in particular its Big Apple, requires public sexual expression in order to be a worthy public servant. Consider[:]
Anthony Weiner, candidate for Mayor of NYC. This is a guy who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives because he was texting pictures of his junk to various lady friends. While he was married, no less. But he’s a serious contender for Mayor. In fact, his name recognition might be best of all the candidates, because he expressed his sexuality.
His main opponent? Christine Quinn. Her main qualification? …
Yep, she’s a lesbian. She should be Mayor because she expresses her sexuality.
But wait! There’s more!
Now leaping into the NYC race as a candidate for Comptroller? It’s Elliot Spitzer!
He was the Governor of New York, until word got out that his public pay and benefits included patronage of upscale prostitutes.
It’s not just the Empire State that faces challenges in this area:
Moving beyond New York Democrats, there’s Mark Sanford, former GOP Governor and now Representative from South Carolina. He created my favorite new sexual euphemism, “Hiking the Appalachian Trail,” which means “Flying to another country on the peoples’ dime to romp with my mistress while the people keep my wife and family in the Statehouse.”
The question is what is this guy thinking? After being publicly humiliated and getting kicked out of office by his actions, he goes back to doing the same things that ousted him in the first place. It is my take that Anthony Weiner has a Weiner Problem. Even though he insists that he does not have an addiction to this kind of lifestyle, he most definitely has a problem. A problem that most believers can identify with: A disposition to sin and a return to it – just like a dog to its vomit.
The Weiner in you is a weakness,
A certain disposition to sin. Even though some of our weaknesses may not lead to a public scandal, every one of us has a Weiner in us. For some it is pornography, prostitution, strip clubs, money, alcohol, the party life, groupies, gossip, boasting, exaggerating, sexting, anger, masturbation, hustling and dealing. It is that thing that we wrestle with, fight against but it keeps coming back to knock us down.
The Weiner in you is a stronghold.
It has a grip on you. It is stubborn. It is not easily overcome …
The Weiner in you is deceptive.
It tells you that you are invincible. No one will ever find you out. You wife will never know. Your boss will never find out. The Weiner in you tells you that you are good at it. In fact it even convinces you that you can never change – this is who you are – embrace it …
The Weiner in you is pleasurable.
… It is the thing that keeps you coming back for more. Sin has a lot of pleasure in it. I don’t think anyone will be doing it in the first place if it wasn’t fun. But the tricky thing is that pleasure is fleeting and temporary. It bites in the end, and always lead to death – spiritual death …
Five decades ago, our more faithful family elders predicted this would happen. We were younger then; some of us — myself included — told them that this was a new era which needed a new way of thinking. Now, many of my peers and I — the ‘me’ generation — see that what our parents and grandparents foresaw in their wisdom has, indeed, come true.
It’s hard to believe that so many people today value sexual relations and other sin above moral living. (I use that term because not everyone mentioned in this post is Christian.) Moral living is so much easier, but the problem is that it is less ‘fun’, less ‘satisfying’. And, where politics are concerned, many voters bought into the whole thing by rationalising Bill Clinton’s behaviour not so many years ago. ‘So what?’ they said. ‘French presidents and prime ministers have been at it for years. No one there cares. Why should we? It’s time America grew up and accepted sex as a fact of life.’
Sex is a fact of life, and not always in the best way these days. What example does this set for us and for future generations? We have a sexually saturated society. We also have a corrupt and crime-ridden one. Is one feeding the other or turning a blind eye to it?
For those trapped in this lifestyle, Pastor Bright has this advice:
The first thing one needs to do is accept or acknowledge that they have a Weiner problem. If you cannot accept the fact, you will not be able to confront the fact. The second thing is to be open about your Weiner problem, thus leading to the third thing – seek help. Finally we must humble ourselves under the mighty power of God and allow the word of Christ to dwell in us richly as we daily submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we acknowledge our sins, openly confess our sins to Jesus and to others without shame and seek the help we need through counseling, accountability and for some – deliverance, drawing power from the Lord, allowing his word to saturate our lives as we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit – we not only get set free, but also stay free and victorious.
On July 26, 2013, The Telegraph reported that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was deciding how much materialistic sin the Church of England could engage in:
The Most Rev Justin Welby said he had been left “irritated” after it emerged that the Church helped to fund Wonga – a day after he had pledged to put the controversial loan company out of business by throwing open a network of parish churches to promote non-profit credit unions.
The Archbishop, a former oil executive, said the Church would now be reviewing its investment arrangements but that the organisation has to decide “how much sin” it can tolerate.
He admitted that the rules currently allow the Church to invest in companies engaging in activities it is morally opposed to.
These can indirectly include pornography. The Archbishop said that if the C of E invests in a hotel chain, pornographic videos or television channels are part of the service provided.
And what about shifting from Wonga to promotion of non-profit credit unions for payday loans? More information required.
Of course, what we do not know is how other state churches (e.g. Sweden, Germany) and the Catholic Church invest. Yes, we know of the Catholic banking scandals, but there must be more of a general mainstream nature to their investments.
The Archbishop is right to say that this is a complex issue with many variables to consider. The C of E should be self-financing to the extent which it can. I would not wish to see identity-based lobbying groups or other money-rich entities (consider Qatar’s massive investment in the UK and France) financing my church and thereby extracting certain concessions in preaching and administration.
On the other hand, there is the danger that, by investing in short-term, high-interest lending, the C of E could fall into the moneychanging trap that so angered Jesus. He also railed against the corruption in the purchase of sacrificial animals in the temple. A poor shepherd might bring in his cleanest, fittest animal only to have a priest reject it, forcing the man to buy one from the temple. (See John 2:13-22.) Therefore, today’s C of E’s investment portfolio needs careful consideration and management. I wonder if they pray for guidance. I certainly would were I on their investment committee.
Not surprisingly, the warning light is on for Anglicans who are already suspicious of our elitist, left-leaning clergy. James Higham at Nourishing Obscurity points out:
This is not a religious post, it’s political. There is an organization, it’s called the Church. It does its thing, prostitutes do theirs. The Church has a set of precepts. These may, to many, be outdated, outmoded, fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, might be wrong in their eyes, might be homophobic or anti-Narrative.
The thing is, there is a set of precepts. Welby is trying to be all things to all people, he’s doing the Relativism Shimmy. He has no right whatever, spiritual or temporal, to do this. The only thing he can do, whilst he holds that position and wears that mitre, is champion that Church of his for all he’s worth.
He’s succumbed to leftism and is deliberately wishy-washy, like his little-lamented predecessor. What’s worse, the key questions which the laity have shown they are of one opinion on, the biblical opinion, is not shared by Welby and his cronies. The enemy is within the citadel and I can see the smoke from here.
Few traditionalist Anglicans missed the critique of Welby by the Revd Peter Mullen earlier this year in The Telegraph:
He is of course an establishment man. I do not mean to suggest by that the old establishment based on the 16th century and the Elizabethan Settlement and supported by luminous divines such as Hooker, Law and Lancelot Andrewes. That wonderful creation was put to death decades ago. No, I mean the new establishment: a hierarchy among the bishops and in the Synod of Left-wing modernisers, devotees of all the secular fads such as diversity, social cohesion, political correctness and, of course, apostles of that sublime superstition, global warming.
Accordingly, Bishop Welby takes the Left-wing attitude towards economics in general and the banks in particular. These things, “…must be rebuilt from the ruins of the financial crisis to become something that helps people rather than being there for people to help it.” The banks must discover “a social purpose.” That “must” implies that if they fail so to discover it, then it will be discovered for them by higher authority.
So it’s banker-bashing as usual. There is no mention of the clear truth that in this country the crisis was produced by the excessive borrowing and spending of the Blair-Brown years, their employment of an additional million civil servants and their vast extension of the client state by increasing and proliferating an already excessive spending on welfare.
The bishop does speak from the highest moral ground: “One principle that seems to me to be clear. We cannot replace what was destroyed in 2008; we can only replace it with something that is dedicated to the support of human society, the common good and solidarity.” Who are this “We” who will do the replacing, we might ask? But the point to notice about what the bishop is saying here, is his supreme confidence in the objective infallibility of his own thoughts: he begins by mentioning a “principle” but proceeds only to offer his opinion. Clearly the implication must be that he regards his own private opinions as matters of principle. This is dangerous. It has been known to lead to demagoguery.
Back to the current Wonga controversy, about which the Archbishop said:
it was almost impossible for the Church to make an investment that was not somehow tainted.
He said: “If you exclude any contact with anything that directly or indirectly gets in any way bad, you can’t do anything at all.”
Signalling a potential review of its entire investment portfolio, he added: “I think we have to review these levels and make sure we are consistent between what we’re saying and what we’re doing.”
May the Holy Spirit guide him and his advisors in the way of righteousness.
After that is sorted out, the rest of us hope our prayers for a return to Anglican orthodoxy are answered.
The reason homosexuality has appeared at the forefront of mainstream Protestant and Catholic discussion on sexual habits is that fornication and adultery were given a nod and a wink ages ago.
That doesn’t make them right, and the New Testament speaks to these quite clearly. One of these is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (note footnotes ‘a’ and ‘b’). Emphases mine:
9Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Another is Jude 5-7:
5Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
With these in mind, it is curious to read what Archbishop Desmond Tutu said to the UN on the subject:
Speaking at the launch of the UN’s global campaign to promote ‘gay rights’, the Archbishop said, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”
The other place is hell, in case you’re interested. Now one wonders how the good prelate visualises a homophobic heaven.
I am still perplexed that the UN, with its many Islamic and third world nation members, can promote such a programme. It seems that Islam, in particular, would like to see Christianity take the hit for this. Meanwhile, their book dictates death for same-sex adherents.
I have taken the “screed” (written by what I might consider a prototypical liberal Episcopalian) found in that post, and I substituted the word “exhibitionist” for “homosexual”.
“Yes, I will explain it to you. Sin is in the eye of the beholder. What you view as sin, others view as beauty. I am not an exhibitionist, but I believe that the same God that made me and others non-exhibitionist made other people exhibitionist. I think it is counter-intuitive to think that ideas of 3,500 years ago should still be followed today. The fact that a tribe of Hebrews wrote a book 3,500 years ago encapsulating their history and philosophy does not compel us to follow all their ideas as though they were cast in concrete for all time. Hopefully we have learned something in the passage of time. We have learned that slavery is ignoble. We have learned that women need not be subservient to men. We have learned that black people are equal to and indeed no different from white people. At least many of us have learned this. Now we have learned that certain people, about 5%, are born with exhibitionist orientation. It is not a life style they choose, any more than a person chooses to be born black or hispanic or asian. If Jesus stands for anything, he stands for the proposition that we should love one another, and ‘by this all men shall know that you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another.’ So I suggest that you quit casting stones unless you are that rara avis, the person without sin. Exhibitionists are not committing sin. They are doing what is natural for them to do by reason of the way God made them. Okay?”
And this is not unlike the relativism that happened with fornication and adultery. Therefore, it follows that other sexual sin will surely follow as being ‘okay’ in mainstream churches.
Undergroundpewster offers this analysis (excerpted, be sure to read it in full):
In short, “Sin is in the eye of the beholder” uses the approach of moral relativism which quickly leads to the chaos of ideas summarized in the comment.
The “… a tribe of Hebrews wrote a book 3,500 years ago”, and ”…Hopefully we have learned something in the passage of time…” argument basically tosses the Bible into the “Historical Documents” section of your denomination’s Prayer Book, like paintings on a cave wall, nothing more than the art work of primitive man ...
In the end, the only eye of the beholder that counts is the eye that belongs to God. As Christians, we have the witness of the Gospel from which the ancient creeds are derived as our reference, and in the Gospel, Jesus more often than not points out that none of us are without sin in His eyes. When we look at ourselves in the mirror and see our sins as blessings, then we are fooling ourselves just like when we look into a carnival mirror and see a distorted image of ourselves. If the distorted image we see at the carnival makes us laugh at the ridiculousness of it, why don’t some Episcopalians see how ridiculous we appear when we stare at what God has condemned, and we turn it around and call it a blessing?
Why, because we allow people to say that “it is all relative,” or that it isn’t in the Creeds, and such things are therfore non-essential. But perhaps the Nicene Creed takes it for granted that we are in need of salvation.
To sidetrack briefly into what the Pope said after the World Youth Days — ‘Who am I to judge?’ — many will take that as a relativistic or sin-accepting statement even if, perhaps, he did not intend it that way. And once we start interpreting such soundbites as permission-giving, the slippery slope lies before us.
There is another, more insidious, angle to sexual sin which the Anglican site Stand Firm recently highlighted. It is that some of those who allegedly follow Scripture are also relativists, because as the First Things article from which the Revd Matt Kennedy quotes says:
In her teaching, [Episcopal Bible scholar Ellen] Davis’ Sudanese students can recognize someone who seeks to be faithfully obedient to the Scriptures, even if they disagree with her on the shape of that obedience …
Davis and other Bible scholars in the Anglican Communion seek dialogue and reconciliation in the area of same-sex sin. They present themselves to orthodox Anglicans as those who know Scripture but advise that we should not be too didactic about sin, especially where that sin can interrupt our filial love for another congregant.
Mr Kennedy makes an important point about Bible scholars, sin and heresy:
Arius was a sincere man who took the bible seriously. So was Sabellius. So was Pelagius. Many heretics are quite serious about the bible. But they seriously and sincerely distort the truth of the bible and thereby obscure the revelation of God in Jesus Christ presenting a false Christ who cannot save.
The New Testament is not about legalism. It is about salvation. It contains fewer statements about specific sin than the Old Testament. That said, sin correlates with unbelief.
Jesus came to bring us to bring us out from unbelief to faith and salvation — eternal life. As Mr Kennedy says:
The Jesus who rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and who inspired and superintended the writing of the New Testament through his chosen apostles says that those who engage in gay sex apart from repentance will not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10). These are two antithetical Jesus’ who proclaim two conflicting gospels. And if we are to believe our New Testaments then we cannot escape the fact that eternal life is at stake. This is not like Anglo Catholics and Evangelicals arguing about vestments and candles. This is not … a clash that might one day in the future be categorized alongside the question of dancing, rated R movies and whether or not Christians ought to drink wine. This is about defending and holding to the undiluted gospel of Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose again to save sinners.
These alleged Jesus-loving Bible scholars urging reconciliation with those who believe that serious sin (which impedes salvation) is acceptable in God’s eyes are leading many Anglicans down the road to perdition. The reason this is happening is that relativist laypeople do not read Scripture regularly. (I was one of them!) Routine reading — the Grant Horner Bible Reading System is excellent — brings all the relativist lies to light.
On the clerical relativists, reader Sarah rightly observes:
those who believe that the Church can bless sexual activity between two men or two women also have far, far deeper and more foundational antithetical beliefs on Scripture, tradition, the Church, sin, salvation, sacraments in general and marriage specifically, and the Gospel as a whole.
This is what Presbyterian theologian John Gresham Machen warned of nearly a century ago (see my Christianity / Apologetics page for excerpts from his Christianity and Liberalism published in 1923).
Undergroundpewster shows us how relativism plays out. (Emphases in the original below.) Keep in mind that whilst today’s topic is same-sex activity, tomorrow it could be adult-child sex, incest or bestiality. After all, ‘They can’t help it — God made them that way’!
Going back to my questions and applying Episco-reason …
1) Is the behavior right or wrong? It must be considered “right” because “What you view as sin, others view as beauty”, and “They are doing what is natural for them to do by reason of the way God made them”. Another way of looking at this is that it is a type of sexual orientation and therefore the behavior is appropriate for that orientation.
2) By what standard do you judge the behavior? We musn’t apply some ancient standard or our inner sense about the behavior because “Sin is in the eye of the beholder”, therefore there is no standard by which we can claim to judge him or his behavior. So we should back off and leave him alone.
3) Does this behavior disqualify him for a position of responsibility? To claim that would be akin to “casting stones unless you are that rara avis the person without sin” so we can’t go there either.
4) What signal does support for him send to children? It sends the signal that we “stand for the proposition that we should love one another” and part of that love is to approve of another person’s sexual orientation.
Sexual sin — all of it — is forbidden in the Bible. It is one of the greatest temptations humanity has faced since the dawn of time. The fact that it often ‘feels good’, ‘is natural’ or ‘expresses my identity’ does not make it any less sinful.
More about the pleasures of sin in general next week.
The word ‘holy’ used to strike awe and fear into Christians, especially those aged 80 and over.
My parents and grandparents used the word rarely and only when appropriate.
Now it seems as if ‘holy’ equates to ‘Christian love’ which equates to ‘accepting everything going’.
The Ugley Vicar from England’s Essex (Ugley is the name of a town in that county) recently posted on a rationale from Synod for women bishops. His readers took this, rightly, as a call for an all-inclusive God — meaning a ‘she’ — and mused that this is often a dog whistle for LGBT rights in the church.
The document which the vicar cites — ‘A Health Report on the C of E Following York Synod’ — features the following quote from Colin Coward. He is the Director of Changing Attitude within the Synod.
If that isn’t a 1984-ish title — particularly for the Church — what is?
Anyway, here are a few sentences from Mr Coward (emphases mine):
The Church of England knows it has a crisis on its hands. It thinks the crisis might be solved by gently persuading enough conservatives to overcome their convictions and vote yes for women bishops. I am convinced the problem is far deeper than that … I believe in a God of love. They believe in a nasty, rule-bound, vindictive God who despite everything they say, hates gays. Until they overcome their prejudice, they will continue to drive the church towards a precipice.
How does he arrive at such a spurious conclusion?
More importantly, has Mr Coward read the New Testament, especially the Book of Jude?
There is a modern day confusion between holiness and accepting every sin around us. One has only to read the Epistles to learn this.
Yet in Modernist and Postmodern Christianity, we must ‘love’ not only the sinner — quite rightly — but also accept, if not encourage, his sin. Where is that in the New Testament?
Carl Jacobs made an excellent point in the comments (emphases mine):
They believe in a nasty, rule-bound, vindictive God who despite everything they say, hates gays.
Translation: “They believe in a God of Holiness.”
The Love of God in liberal conception is reconstructed into an expression of human autonomy. It begins with the assumption that man is basically good, and that therefore his autonomouus desires are basically good. Justice becomes an effort to enable people to act upon their autonomous desires. The “God of Love” becomes an ex post facto divine justification of human desire – a means to functionally deify autonomous man. This is the essence of liberal religion.
“Holiness” by contrast begins with boundaries, the transgression of which produces divine wrath. Justice is a correct alignment reward and punishment with behavior. Man being a natural trangressor faces wrath for the sake of justice and the whole of the Gospel falls out. This is the essence of orthodox Christianity.
Two very different religions indeed. Why be unequally yoked?
God is, indeed, love. However, He asks us to become holy, as He is holy. He wants as many of us as possible to share eternal life with Him and His son. This precludes our deliberate sinful behaviour. Why would it be all right for the chosen of Israel in the Old Testament to be chastised for their sins and not us?
It seems as if many Christians — Protestant and Catholic — are falling into a me-centred Christianity, which is no Christianity at all.
Love your neighbour, by all means, but let’s not allow our sins to universally defile Christ’s holy Bride, the Church.
Over the past several years, a growing trend has seen more non-Christians taking active leadership roles in church services.
The milder examples of this involve a church hiring unbelieving organists or choir directors. A church needs one or the other and in desperation takes on someone who loves music for the sake of it but has no tie to Christianity.
This goes back further than the 21st century, however. When I was still a Catholic, the church my family and I belonged to in the 1970s hired as its organist a university student who was majoring in music with an instrumental speciality in the organ. He freely acknowledged that he was more than a lapsed Catholic; he was, he said, an atheist. He took the job to be able to state on his CV that he had regular work as an organist.
More serious examples of unbelievers at the forefront of church services are the known atheists who lead them. Cranmer posted on the topic two years ago:
Oxford University takes its Christian foundations very seriously. Despite multi-faith multiculturalism, its higher degrees are still bestowed upon graduands Ad honorem Domini nostri Jesu Christi, et ad profectum Sarosanctae Matris Ecclesiae. As they kneel before the Vice-Chancellor, he touches each one upon the head with a Testament, admitting them in nomine Domini, Patris, Filii et Spirutus Sancti.
But on the morning of Sunday 20th February, the preacher in the University Church of St Mary’s was the notable atheist Philip Pullman. What glory to God that sermon must have brought.
Cranmer notes that, just a month before, the university’s Hertford College removed the requirement for a chaplain (emphasis in the original):
to perform divine service according to the liturgy of the Church of England during term time.
The notion of ‘Christian Atheism’ has become increasingly popular in the Church of England. ‘Is a particular famous person interesting? Does he sell a lot of books? Is he an intellectual? Fine — book him in for the first Sunday of the month at 11:00. We don’t care whether he believes or not. He’ll bring in the punters.’
The Revd Brian Mountford, longtime vicar of Oxford’s University Church, published a book in 2011 — the year of which Cranmer writes above — called Christian Atheist: Belonging without Believing. Not surprisingly, the aforementioned author, and now guest preacher, Philip Pullman — ‘self-confessed Christian Atheist’ — says of it:
In this fascinating and thoughtful book, Brian Mountford explores the borderland where Christians and atheists gaze at each other with expressions ranging from the hostile and scornful to the friendly and sympathetic. In some ways it is the most interesting place in contemporary religion. Mountford has an extensive knowledge of this borderland, and in the interviews and reflections in this book he explores it in the company of some eloquent and thoughtful contemporaries.
However, inviting Pullman to preach takes this concept into dangerous territory. Those who are Universalists won’t have a problem with that. However, Oxford’s university churches and chapels are Church of England places of worship.
Dr R Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, examined this development in a 2010 post ‘The Scandal of Pagans Leading Worship’ on his Heidelblog. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
We have a fairly clear witness from Paul himself as to how he viewed the role of self-identified non-Christians in public worship. In 1 Cor 14 [it] seems clear that Paul envisioned that “outsiders or unbelievers” (ιδιωαι η απιστοι – 1 Cor 14:23 – “unbelievers” and “outsiders” are two ways of describing same group) would find their way into Christian worship services. He did not, however, seem to imagine that they would be invited by the pastor and elders to lead the service! Rather, Paul envisioned that, when an unbeliever (and outsider) finds himself in a rightly ordered Christian worship service, the unbeliever would be convicted of his sins, come to faith and repentance and fall down before God.
We should also observe how Paul thinks about “unbelievers” and the distinction he regularly makes between them and Christians … Unbelievers are those whose minds are “blinded” by “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). Believers are not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14) because there is a fundamental spiritual antithesis between belief and unbelief ( 2 Cor 6:15) …
The antithesis that Paul teaches is a spiritual antithesis, not a cultural antithesis. As a matter of divine revelation and providence we have a common culture with non-Christians …
There are, however, things we do not share. The things not shared are sometimes described as belonging to the “antithesis” between belief and unbelief … The spiritual aspect of the antithesis is in the forefront of Paul’s mind and writing. Believers belong to Jesus in a special way as his redeemed people. They’ve been bought with a price. The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon them. None of that is true of unbelievers. They do not belong to Jesus in the special, redemptive sense of “belonging.” They do not have his Holy Spirit. They have not been accepted (justified) by God for the sake of Christ’s righteousness imputed and received through faith alone. Unbelievers are under God’s wrath. Believers are under God’s peace.
Nowhere does the spiritual and epistemic antithesis come to a clearer expression in Holy Scripture than when it considers public, corporate worship. We live in the world, under God’s common providence, with unbelievers sharing (Matt 5:48) in God’s common gifts to humanity but when we gather, on the Sabbath, for Christian worship, we withdraw from the common into a special, sacred space and time. It is not a time to celebrate our common humanity with non-believers, it is not a time for cultural, artistic expression and achievement. It is a time to bow before the face of our Holy Triune God and worship him as he has commanded (WCF [Westminster Confession of Faith] 21.1) …
This is why Paul speaks of unbelievers as “outsiders” because he was distinguishing between that which is common and that which is sacred, between culture and worship.
It would not surprise me to find in future that atheists file a lawsuit against a church which refuses to employ them in a leadership capacity. Surely they have just as much ‘right’ to hold that position as a Christian? Surely not.
Clergymen who encourage this type of thing will most certainly face questions on the fateful day of judgment.
To paraphrase the 17th century Bible scholar Matthew Henry, the New Testament is the key which unlocks the Old Testament. Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.
In the past, I have recommended that those wanting to know more about Christ begin by reading the Gospels of Sts John and Mark.
Other Protestants are quite keen on encouraging potential converts to read the letters of St Paul.
On this note, I read the following quote from David ‘Poirot’ Suchet (pron. ‘soo-shay’) in a recent edition of the Radio Times (15-21 June 2013, p. 157):
… my conversion to Christianity began after reading St Paul’s letters in 1986.
Suchet recently won the magazine’s Readers’ Award for religious broadcasting for presenting David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St Paul which aired on BBC1. This award was part of the Sandford St Martin Trust Awards for religious broadcasting held on Monday, June 3, 2013, at Lambeth Palace in London.
I have not seen the programme. So many British series on Christianity are revisionist. However, if this is rerun, I shall try to view it.
Suchet and his other brothers Peter and John, the latter a television presenter and former newsreader, are the sons of a Jewish gynecologist and a nominally Anglican actress. The boys were raised with no religion.
On 22 November 2012, the British Bible Society announced the appointment of David Suchet and Dr. Paula Gooder as new vice-presidents. They joined the existing vice-presidents: John Sentamu (Archbishop of York), Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Westminster), Barry Morgan (Archbishop of Wales), David Ford (Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge), Joel Edwards (International Director of Micah Challenge) and Lord Alton of Liverpool.
David Suchet became a practising Anglican in 1986 and was confirmed in the faith in 2006.
He came to Christianity by reading Romans 8 whilst staying in a hotel.
This is further proof that hotels should continue to accept Gideon Bibles; some no longer do.
Although I always read the Bible when staying in a hotel, it is always a pleasure to discover that I am not alone.
One can indeed come to faith and find solace by reading the oft-ignored volume in the bedside stand drawer.
Trinity Sunday was May 26, 2013.
The following Sunday — June 2, 2013 — is the feast of Corpus Christi, Latin for ‘the body of Christ’.
Although Corpus Christi Sunday is primarily a Catholic feast, it is also celebrated in high church Anglican and Lutheran congregations.
You can find out more about Corpus Christi Sunday in my post from 2010, including a description of how one Anglican high church marks this feast.