Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Fort Worth

On the House of Bishops/Deputies list serve, The Rev. Liz Zivanov writes:

"I don't think the rest of the church really understands the gravity of the situation in Ft. Worth or the other ACN dioceses. Will we (the leadership of TEC, and especially the bishops) continue to watch as this sort of emotional and spiritual violence continues?

First guns from the Stand Firm folks; now guns and tasers in the Diocese of Ft. Worth. And there's not even an effort to hide this violent activity."

My Response:
The subtext of much of the Convention speech by Bishop Iker this past weekend in Fort Worth was full of demonizing and intimidation, while on the surface complaining of intimidation from those threatening to hold him accountable for his leadership of the diocese.

Here is a sampling:
"Wherever Christians gather to take a stand for the Gospel,even in church conventions, the devil will be close at hand, seeking to beguile, divide, and mislead. Watch out!"

Comforting words for those who oppose his agenda!

"Counterfeit Christianity, man-made religion, and revisionist theology must be identified and rebuked for the sake of the unchanging Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Strong words as precursor for honest and open debate about the nature of the Gospel.

"Let us not lose our will to stand for conscience and truth, whatever the consequences or the cost."

The force of this statement is not to honor individual conscience, but the bishop's conscience -- and those who have a different conscience,formed through their own lives in the church and in our seminaries, know well the consequences and cost involved in voicing them.

Granted that near the end of the speech there are notes of graciousness and caring for those who oppose the bishop's agenda; but it is difficult to be caring for those who have just been characterized as on the other side of truth, counterfeit Christians deserving of public rebuke, agents of the devil.

We can all understand the pressures involved when one's world is under attack, as the bishop's world of traditional exclusion of women and homosexuals has been under attack, but Christlike response to such differences is usually couched in prayerful commitment and offers of dialogue,not demonizing and devaluing. The response from those in leadership at this Convention mirrors a different spirituality than that embodied in our Scripture and Book of Common Prayer. We must not demonize them, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not allow their words or actions to define the presence of Jesus Christ in the world or in the church -- for where they stand is not where he said he will stand.

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