Monday, July 18, 2005

Antinomian Alert: Ingham on Abiding in Jesus and Having Sex with as Many People as You Want

Shrimp here: Go to the ELCIC web site and right on the home page it says, "In full communion with the recently shunned Canadian Anglicans" --well, OK, it says Anglican Church in Canada--I made up the reference to them being raving lunatic heretics, which they are)

Actually Archheretic, er, Archbishop Michale Ingam, who really should not be ridiculed as much as deposed, is a very dangerous man. Proof? Below, his own words. He makes the most deadly, antimonian argument wrapped in such ever lovely, lovely language. Canadian Lutherans should thank him for his use of Luther below.

Without further adeau:

Diocesan Synod 2005
Saturday Morning
Address by Bishop Michael Ingham

Today in Synod we remember the life and work of St. Matthias. The Book of Acts tells us that Matthias was one of the disciples of Jesus from the beginning. He was one of two hundred companions of our Lord who stayed with him throughout his ministry from his baptism right up until his Ascension into heaven. After Judas the betrayer went out and hanged himself in shame, we are told the remaining apostles held an election to bring the inner circle back up to twelve, and Matthias was elected by the drawing of lots.

I remember the day I first heard this story. I was sitting in church as a child and one of the ladies from the choir was reading the lesson. She said "and Judas, falling headlong, burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out." Then she accidentally turned over two pages and said "And the lot fell on Matthias."
Tradition says that after Pentecost Matthias travelled to Ethiopia, and there he witnessed to the resurrection of Jesus among the people of East Africa. This is interesting because, many centuries later, Ethiopia was colonized by western European powers, principally Italy and Britain. When the soldiers and generals made their way up the Nile to enter this remote land, they discovered the largest Christian church outside Europe.

Coptic Christianity took deep root among the Ethiopian people. There are, to this day, literally thousands of monasteries scattered throughout the hills and countryside, and among the people there is a deep tradition of prayer. It was the one country in Africa the western churches agreed not to evangelize, because the Gospel was already present, already being lived out, albeit in a cultural form very foreign to Protestant Christians at the time.

In the Collect for St. Matthias Day the church prays to be preserved from false apostles (which is a reference to Judas) and to be kept steadfast in the truth by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers. We find that same sentiment in the first reading today from Paul. The letter to the Philippians is one of his most passionate and personal letters. In it he speaks of his spiritual journey from being
a zealous Jew and a persecutor of Christians to the joy of his new life as a witness to the power of the risen Christ. It was a difficult and painful journey for Paul. In the third chapter, he writes about the agonizing break with the past this journey meant for him; how he turned aside from a tradition and an orthodoxy he once supported to an uncertain and risky faith he once despised.

He chose a new and emerging religious path over the religion of his own people. He chose to stake his life on a truth few others could see. This decision of faith led him to deep suffering, to experience isolation, rejection and humiliation by those who counted themselves as the true bearers of God's revelation. In this time of wilderness, he discovered the grace and power of Christ, a gift entirely beyond his own merits. And it is from this discovery that Paul appeals to the Philippians to press forward toward the goal of Christ and not to dwell in the easy certainties of
the past."Forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ."
(Phil. 3:13-14)

The controversy of the day was about circumcision. To Jews this was a sign of the covenant with God, a mark placed upon the body of every male child that signified an irreversible belonging, a special relationship with God that could never be erased. Paul had defended this sign as a universal requirement for everyone who wished to belong to God. But after his encounter with the liberating freedom of Christ, after his deep and irreversible experience of grace and forgiveness, he came to a new place of understanding. He saw his earlier convictions as spiritually immature.
In his grace-filled maturity he realized that God requires no sign except love. God demands no mark except faith. With this good news, Paul became free and was able to give up everything even his own security - and trust himself to God's grace and an unknown future.

"We are no longer citizens of this world," he writes to the Philippians, "our citizenship is in heaven" (3:20). In other words, our task as Christians is to walk the earth bearing witness to another world, to another dimension of reality, and to a God whose glory is made perfect in love.

Love, he says elsewhere, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love is the greatest of the gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 13: 7, 13) and it is far more important to concentrate on this than to argue over rites and ceremonies. This is what the church calls the doctrine of justification by grace. Paul's whole theology is about grace, and love, and glory and truth. This grace comes from God, and we cannot earn it. It is entirely unmerited. We can only receive it, and the greatest mistake we can make is to imagine that righteousness or holiness is something we do, when in fact it is God's gift alone. Our salvation, according to Paul, does not depend on our works, but on God's grace.

This is the basis of Christian freedom. "Beware of the dogs" he says to the Philippians, "beware of the evil workers, those who mutilate the flesh in circumcision" (3:2). He repudiates the believers who still hold on to old signs and old ways. The Gospel of Christ is not about rules and regulations, institutions and rituals. It is about grace. It is the power of God to transform and make new. When we worry about institutions, about their limits and how to set the proper boundaries, when we set about trying to keep people out or even in, we are doing the wrong thing. There are no boundaries on God's love. There is no limit to God's grace. "For freedom Christ has set us free," he proclaims to the Galatians, "let no one make you slaves once again to the elemental spirits of the universe!" (Gal 5:1)

This gospel, according to Paul, is an invitation to hope, love, forgiveness, humility and peace. It is not about obedience to law. Paul discovered something that Christians need to learn and re-learn: that observing tradition is not the same as faithfulness to God. Law must continually give way to gospel, even if this means a difficult and painful journey away from past certainties into a new and transformed freedom.

I believe Paul was a mystic, not a lawgiver. Paul needs to be rescued today from those who would turn his liberating message of grace into confining dogmas of obedience, a new theology of works, an orthodoxy of the kind Paul himself firmly rejected after he came to know Christ. There is an ironic reversal of Paul going on today among some who profess him as their champion.

Genuine orthodoxy requires no sign except the sign of love, no mark except faith itself. The same point is made in the second reading this morning. Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine, the source of life, to whom we are intimately and necessarily connected, and from whom spiritual truth flows into us, bearing life and freedom like sap from the tree. In this beautiful passage, Jesus uses a single word over and over again: the word 'abide.' Eleven times he says it: abide in me, as I abide in you; those who abide in me as I in them bear much fruit; apart from me
you can do nothing; if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you (John 15: 1ff).

Why this repetition of 'abide?' The word means to rest safe, to dwell within, to hold fast, to remain with. It carries the meaning of trust, of permanence, of loving commitment, and enduring relationship. Jesus asks us to stay with him, to rest safe in him, to draw our life from his and not to be severed from him by anxiety or fear or by a false attachment to the world or its institutions.

We are asked to abide in his love. We are assured that his love abides in us. And after these eleven repetitions, Jesus gives us his greatest commandment, the one commandment in John's Gospel that sums up all the rest as our primary duty and responsibility: "This is my commandment, that you love another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, than to lay down one's life for one's friends. (15:12ff)

We have reached a moment in the life of the church, especially in the Anglican Communion, when the bonds of love have become strained. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes in families it is only when relationships become strained that members of the family pay closer attention to each other. Sometimes a single member of a family can bring forward an issue that the rest of the family doesn't want to hear about, and it's only when that single member insists, creating a certain amount of discomfort for everyone, that the matter gets dealt with and dishonest
patterns of avoidance are put aside.

The Primate told us yesterday that gay and lesbian Christians have been asking for a hearing in the Anglican Communion for thirty years, and because of our actions in this Diocese and elsewhere the Communion has finally taken note of a matter it must address, and the conversation internationally might now finally begin. This has not been achieved without some strain to many people around the world and to many people in our diocese. But strain is not always bad.

Sometimes families face up to things only when they seem to be breaking down. And healthy families eventually learn to deal with problems, with levels of discontent, because they want to stay together and not turn their backs on each other. Everyone knows that without the family no one belongs.

We have made our statement to our family, the church. We have stood up and said that there is a matter of justice to be looked at; we have said that the unity of the church cannot be built on the exclusion of some of its members, and that the Christian family must find a way to honour and respect every human being, as our baptismal covenant requires. This matter has now been taken up by the national church, and by the international church. It has moved beyond us now, and it may take a lot more time to resolve than we might like. But that is the nature of families. I
believe, when the history of this period is written, that we will be seen to have served the church through our actions, and not to have harmed it. We will be seen to have acted prophetically and with a right conscience by bringing to the attention of our family the needs of all the children of God.

But now it is time to pay attention to relationships and the strain our actions have caused. We have heard at this Synod that there are still levels of deeply felt anxiety among the parishes and people of our Diocese, that will not go away. We have heard a call to reconciliation and healing. We must now put the same effort into re-building broken relationships that we put into ending the discrimination against some people in our church. Just as we have been determined to stand with aboriginal peoples in their quest for healing and reconciliation, we must show the same commitment to those who have stayed unhappily among us and those who have chosen to walk apart in recent years. Reconciliation is a ministry given to each of us at our baptism, and we cannot simply wait for the other person to begin. We must begin it ourselves.

So the words of Jesus come to us now with particular power. Abide in me. Not in doctrines, not in declarations, not in instrument of unity: abide in me. In today's gospel, Jesus is saying to us resist the temptation to be defensive, resist the instinct to despair: deny in yourselves the urge to be angry and resentful of the way things are. If you give in either to bitterness or the quest for victory you will cut yourself off from my life-giving grace, and dry up like a dead branch and be thrown into the fire.

There are two dangers in any period of conflict and controversy. One is to become obsessed with it, captured by it, and deflected from the works of love. And the other is to avoid it, to run away from it, as the disciples did on Good Friday. We must do neither. We have a message to give to the church today, a message that is neither defiance nor surrender. We are saying to the church that our love for the Gospel is undiminished here. We are saying that our commitment to the church cannot be questioned. Indeed our actions have been intended to serve the church in
obedience to the Spirit.

We call on Anglicans everywhere to take seriously the needs of all our
members, just as we take seriously our affection for the Body of Christ to which we belong. Centuries ago, St. Matthias created a church that flourished and grew in a place no one thought to look. This is a good day, therefore, to speak to the world from the West Coast of Canada. The Diocese of New Westminster is alive and well, and seeks nothing else but to bear the marks of love and the signs of faith within the fellowship of the worldwide church.

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