One gets the feeling from browsing through the Fall Church News Press that the congregation, which will likely announce its departure from the Episcopal Church tomorrow is not exactly well liked by its neighbors.
This is form the paper’s lead editorial this week:
Rather than affirming a generosity of spirit and Good Samaritan compassion that can embrace and nurture a complex and multi-faceted humanity, in this case, the leaders of the Falls Church Episcopal have chosen to stand against the civil authority of the U.S. Constitution that promises equal rights for all, just as happened in all those pulpits that, in the past, denounced what they called the “un-Godly” acts of freeing slaves, ending segregation, or more recently, ending prohibitions on interracial marriage. Church folk experience such hate, emotionally, as a burning righteous indignation.
If this week’s vote results in the departure of Falls Church Episcopal from the Episcopal denomination, the church will go down in infamy as a regrettable and despised bastion of bigotry, prejudice and hatred.
This analysis characterizes what is happening at Truro and hte Falls Church as an “Old South” backlash”
In the churches voting to defect this week, two of their mantras pertain to “Jesus Christ as the sole path to salvation” and “Biblical inerrancy.” Their leaders assert the larger denomination has drifted too far from these tenants of the faith while, oh by the way, ordaining a gay bishop (the principal lightning rod motivating their defections).
A young friend was once under the sway of one of these churches, but ran into the problem of going off to college and cultivating his powers of independent thinking. He related to me a conversation he had with a minister at the church when he then started doubting this notion of “Biblical inerrancy.”
Then the next question, it seems to me, would be, “Who gets to draw that line?” Ministers would say, of course, “God.” But in reality, few have ever claimed to see a big hand with perfect penmanship really pierce some cloud cover and lay it all out. In other words, it’s really a very human proposition, and as such, subject to very human frailties.
The same goes for the claim that “Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.”
Not only does this necessarily leave the vast majority of humanity for all of history doomed to Hell, it does also for all Christians who don’t live up to certain preachers’ definitions of sufficient faith. It leads to the same question: Who gets to decide what “Jesus as the only way” means?
Could it mean that emulating the spirit of one filled with compassion for the downtrodden and abused, who told parables that taught tolerance and acceptance of differences represents the “only way?” Not likely, not with these folks.
In fact, it’s hard to know what drives these people’s kind of religious intolerance more, fear or nasty personal bigotry. In the end, which it is it doesn’t really matter.