Friday, August 1, 2008


IV. Shibboleth

In our continuing discussion of the Anglican Communion we have dealt with a wide range of issues. One of those issues is words/labels such as Liberal, Conservative, Orthodox, High Church, etc. We have also dealt with divisions that have occurred in the past both worldwide and in our own American Church and in our own diocese. We have also discussed the issue of the Bible, or rather how one goes about reading and interpreting the Bible.

Now we jump in with both feet on the issue of homosexuality, or more specifically, each of our own interpretations of this word/issue. Let’s go back to the Reverend Gregory Cameron’s discussion of this issue. Cameron refers to this issue as the current shibboleth. The reference is to the Book of Judges, Chapter 12 and I will allow you to read that and/or go back and read the Hellins Lecture on this issue as well.

What I do want to quote from his work is the following:

“It can too often appear these days that we Anglicans are busy making the issue of homosexuality a shibboleth. Unless you can articulate your views in exactly the desired way, be it adapted towards a conservative or a liberal agenda, then you are likely to get cut down. The very nature of your Anglicanism, of your orthodoxy, of your Christian faith, the very value placed upon your membership in the body, is made to depend on one particular articulation of one particular understanding of one particular moral issue, and your position on this matter is used to read back into the whole of Christian faith and discipleship as the way for it to be understood and evaluated. If you are found wanting then you are to be treated as a sinner and tax collector.” (Emphasis is mine).

What I want each of us to consider is that final turn of the phrase – “If you are found wanting you are treated as a sinner and a tax collector”. We will come back to this phrase again because in it is the heart of resolution. For now, and for us Jakeites, I ask that we reflect on the many conversations with Grace as but one example. So no one gets confused and just so everyone knows, I am a sinner (no surprise) and I have been a tax collector (not that that means much).

This, homosexuality, is an issue that at least for the former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin was the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. The piling on of the issues of the prayer book, the interpretation of the bible, the ordination of women supposedly were mere prelude to the main event ordination/consecration of LGBT brothers and sisters. This is the issue that drove John David Schofield into the waiting arms of the Archbishop of the Southern Cone, Gregory Venables. This is the issue that tore the fabric of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Greg Cameron asks the direct question,

“Faced with the levels of anger, political subterfuge and almost histrionic rhetoric that seems to swirl about our Communion, I can understand those who say that perhaps the time has come to let the Communion go. If it stands on a precipice already, why not administer that little shove to put it out of its misery.”

The Reverend Cameron gives two really good answers, I highly recommend that you go read them. I would like us to look at something slightly off topic.

Let’s go back to Cameron’s earlier phrase that says that if a person’s moral interpretation of this issue is not completely in agreement with mine that person is then treated like a sinner and a tax collector, indeed this is true on both sides. You can see this occur on StandFirm or Titus1/9 or even on Jake’s blog, Worldstopper. And yet, the persons Jesus CHOSE to break bread with, to talk to and to love were the sinners and the tax collectors. We, collectively, automatically set each other up for the next line which is, yes we are tax collectors and sinners but Jesus loves us! And off we go feeling really good about ourselves. Or in a more bloody tone, we have just slain those who could not pronounce shibboleth. Should we all sit down with sinners and tax collectors, pass the peace and break bread? At the end of the day, we look at ourselves in relation to God and to our fellow man and say, “we need to be in a right relationship with each other”. Let me (sorta) quote the only scriptural piece I will do in all of these writings, “Love God with all your heart and mind and soul. And the second is like unto it, love thy neighbor as thyself.” As an old professor of mine used to say, “This seems readily apparent to the most casual observer.” If I am going to break bread with Jesus Christ then I must break bread with those that do not always and in everyway agree with me. Yes, I must pass the peace and share the Eucharist with sinners and tax collectors. Now that is a fine kettle of fish!

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

I'm fat, I'm thin, I'm short, I'm tall
I'm deaf, I'm blind, hey, aren't we all

Don't laugh at me
Don't call me names
Don't get your pleasure from my pain
In God's eyes we're all the same
Someday we'll all have perfect wings
Don't laugh at me

Don’t Laugh At Me
Mark Wills


fear not said...

Much wisdom. What's next?

Anonymous said...


I always LOL when I read that thing Jesus said about treating "them" as sinners and tax collectors (I haven't actually laughed out loud while reading that passage for the congregation on a Sunday. But I may not be able to help it, the next time it comes around in the lectionary). I mean, really. Are we DEAF?

Calmly now. How did Jesus treat sinners and tax collectors?


Lynn said...

Fred, this hit home nicely for me! I think we can at least try to be as gracious and listening as the Lambeth attendees are of late.

And you reminded me, I must check in on our Grace.