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Post Anglican/Episcopalian Theology; Pete Buttigieg
Created by John Eipper on 01/30/20 9:24 AM

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Anglican/Episcopalian Theology; Pete Buttigieg (David Duggan, USA, 01/30/20 9:24 am)

Several days ago our editor asked, in respect to my recitation of Hugh Latimer's adjuration to fellow Anglican bishop Nicholas Ridley that he "play the man" as they were about to be immolated on orders of Mary Tudor, whether Anglican theology teaches that no other denomination embraces scriptural primacy, reason and tradition. (I had written that though the Church of England has erred and strayed from God's ways, it remains the "Mother Church" for "all who believe in the primacy of scripture, the merit of reason, and the value of [church] traditions.")

More recently he asked what I had theologically against the "almost Chicagoan" Democratic presidential candidate, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and gay Episcopalian Pete Buttigieg should he still be in the Illinois primary on March 17, a week after Michigan's March 10 primary and two weeks after "Super Tuesday," when 14 states hold their primaries. The two questions are related and I will address them.

First, theology. Giving the term perhaps more than is due, "Anglican theology" is based on Richard Hooker's "three-legged stool." Hooker, a 16th-century Anglican cleric who resisted the "sola scriptura" formulation of Luther's continental reformation, believed that both reason and tradition informed Biblical interpretation. Reason was not some free-floating appeal to incessant argument over how many angels dance on the head of a pin, but rather to the "right reason" of 16th-century discourse: that with the application of divine inspiration people of good will could reach the right result (e.g., that good works could not buy your way into heaven). The traditions of the church would include the Nicene and Apostles creeds (nowhere found in the Bible), the centrality of the Eucharist to worship (at best an interpretation, and one not followed by at least two-thirds of Protestant Christianity), and the three-fold stations of ordained ministry: bishop, priest and deacon (again, at best an interpretation and rejected by two-thirds of Protestant Christianity). I cannot say whether other Protestant denominations embrace this conception, but I doubt that any others are so avid in their hug.

To explain how these "tools" were used in a recent (i.e., 45 years ago) theological debate within the Anglican Communion, look to the issue of women's ordination. The traditions of the church and the Biblical text argued strongly against it. (I Cor. 14:34: "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should not be allowed to speak. They are not allowed to speak but must remain in submission as the Law says" [NIV]). But then people started to say: "Paul may or may not have been a blatant misogynist but was simply reciting the ethos of the day. In fact, Paul was quite solicitous of women (Lydia, the first Christian in Europe and dealer in the purple cloth whom he baptised, Acts 16:14; naming in his epistles many women who assisted his ministry: Romans 16; Philippians 4; 2 Timothy 4). And at various times women were given a dispensation to perform the Eucharist in the absence of males to do so (e.g., Hong Kong in the 1940s when the Anglican church lacked male priests because they were off at war or in prison camps). The world did not fall apart when the Salvation Army (an Anglican derivative-via the Methodist Church founded by followers of the Anglican Revs. John and Charles Wesley) allowed women to testify in their assemblies. And with that stroke, women were allowed to be ordained.

Contrast that with the theological debate over "gay marriage" and "gay ordination." The Bible speaks with one voice against it, and unlike with women's ordination, there was nowhere in scripture that could be interpreted to be indifferent to it (Lev. 18:22; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). The "traditions" of the church were admittedly wishy-washy. Gay clergy (and bishops) had been the worst-kept secret in the Episcopal/Anglican Church for decades or centuries. Yet until 2003, nobody was "out and proud" when Vicki Gene Robinson was "consecrated" bishop of New Hampshire. The floodgates opened (there are now two lesbian bishops and a gay priest has been elected bishop of Missouri). Gay marriage within the church followed a similar trajectory. Scripture was disregarded under the umbrella rubric of John 16:12-13: "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes he will guide you in all truth" (NIV). Because nobody contemplated the "gay gene" in the 1st century CE, and we know so much more now, the idea that two men (or two women) could marry under the aegis of the Christian faith has to be part of the divine plan of reconciling all under Christ. And since Christ is love incarnate, anything that is "of love" is "of Christ." And by that line of reasoning, "gay marriage" became fully acceptable in the Episcopal/Anglican church (including Canada; but many African/Mid-Eastern provinces have resisted and are boycotting this summer's Lambeth Conference, the [occasionally] every ten-year convocation of all bishops respecting Canterbury as their spiritual home).

Now to Buttigieg. The son of a communist professor of English at Notre Dame, Mayor Pete's performance as mayor of South Bend would be reason enough not to support his candidacy for president. But his blatant touting of his "progressive" Episcopal faith which has embraced his marriage to Chasten Glezman, together with his support for "reproductive rights" (code for abortion until the baby is out of the womb), makes him persona non grata in my political house. Since he and his "spouse" cannot reproduce on their own, any comment he makes on the abortion issue is at best sanctimonious and at worst irrelevant: his ox isn't being gored. With Bernie about to take Iowa and Super Tuesday featuring six secessionist states of the 14 (with Utah and Oklahoma, not exactly liberal enclaves), Pete will be history by March 4. I won't have to worry whether his lack of Christian orthodoxy will play in Peoria.

JE comments: With the controversies surrounding religion and politics, there's nothing more touchy than discussing one in the other. Still, I'm puzzled how Trump defenders (even by default) can base their positions on anything scriptural. At last count, The Donald has broken Commandments 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, with possibly #5 (Thou shalt not kill, if we consider the targeted assassinations). Homosexuality didn't even make it on Moses's tablets.

One of the best parts of my job is getting to listen to America's young people. The "gay marriage" controversy is no longer that (a controversy) among under-30s. Granted, this is not the demographic that votes much, and the US is probably not ready for an openly gay president.  But in twenty years I am confident there will be no more need for discussions of this sort.


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  • Evangelicals and Trump: A Letter to the Editor (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/16/20 10:44 AM)
    David Duggan (January 30th) stated that Christian evangelicals only cared about two things regarding Trump: advancing government suppression of abortion and of marriage between homosexuals. I don't like abortions either, but if we are going to force a woman to have a child then we are partly responsible of taking care of the child after the birth: food, shelter, education, decent job opportunities, big-time Socialism. Also, if two homosexuals see some social or economic reasons for officially getting married, I see no harm to society.

    Regarding Christian Fundamentalist support for Trump, by such logic they are prepared to endorse any heinous criminal to accomplish their narrow objectives. Thus I was happy to feel my respect for Christianity going up a notch after I ran across this editorial by United Methodist minister Martin Thielen in my little town newspaper, Herald Citizen: "Evangelicals and Trump" (February 11, 2020).  The Rev. Thielen writes:


    "It's not an exaggeration to say that the evangelical church saved me in every way that a person can be saved. They introduced me to Jesus. They became the family my childhood family could not be. They loved and affirmed me. They educated me. They gave me a vocation. And they gave me exceptional opportunities of service. Although I left the evangelical church years ago for a more progressive denomination, I've always appreciated the gifts they gave me.


    "However, these days, I barely recognize the evangelical church in America. The most vivid example is their unyielding support of President Trump, regardless of his behavior. For generations, evangelical leaders spoke forcefully about 'character,' 'family values,' and 'godly living.' And for many years, they asked, 'What would Jesus do?' But since 2016, many (not all) evangelicals have jettisoned these values when it comes to the president.


    "A president who brags about sexually assaulting women and is credibly accused of doing so? It doesn't matter. A president who incites racism and white nationalism? It doesn't matter. A president who daily lies to the American people? It doesn't matter. A president who is a serial adulterer? It doesn't matter. A president who pays off porn stars? It doesn't matter. A president who uses fear and hatred to divide people rather than trying to unite them? It doesn't matter. A president who tears little children from their mother's arms? It doesn't matter. A president who is damaging America's reputation and relationships all over the world? It doesn't matter. A president who regularly curses in public, including taking the Lord's name in vain? It doesn't matter. A president who ravages the environment, destroying God's creation? It doesn't matter. A president who uses his charitable foundation for personal gain? It doesn't matter. A president who regularly mocks people, including unattractive women, a disabled reporter, and a teenage girl with Asperger's syndrome? It doesn't matter. A president who gives tax breaks to the rich and reduces help for the poor? It doesn't matter. A president who mistreats and maligns immigrants? It doesn't matter. A president who encourages foreign interference in our democratic elections? It doesn't matter. A president who admires ruthless, murderous dictators? It doesn't matter. A president who violates every value that Jesus taught and lived? It doesn't matter. Ever.


    "I know the reasons evangelicals give for defending President Trump. For example, he is anti-abortion (only recently) and he places conservative judges on the bench. But these and other rationalizations for supporting him are not worth the cost of (1) capitulating the core values of Christianity, and (2) destroying the credibility of the church.


    "I'm not asking evangelicals to become Democrats, because my concerns about Trump have nothing to do with partisan politics. I'm asking evangelicals-for the integrity of the Gospel and the witness of the church-to stop supporting and defending a president who violates every standard of our faith. The evangelical church that taught me the values of Jesus can do better than this."


    JE comments:  Here's the link to Rev. Thielen's letter.  The reader responses are mostly positive, with two passionate dissenters.  His "it doesn't matter" paragraph is a damning laundry-list of Trump sins, delivered with a cadence worthy of Dr King.


    http://herald-citizen.com/stories/evangelicals-and-trump,40316?


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