I’ve gotten some pushback on my last post Be True to Your School, Or They’ll Go Postal, which concerned recent events at our Church of God General Assembly. One major objection is my characterisation of what happened on the floor of the General Council as the Seminary being “outed.” Probably the easiest way for me to explain this is to go back to something I discussed a long time ago, which I discussed in my post The Woman Who Outed the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Deborah Pitt was the Welsh Evangelical psychiatrist who published an exchange of correspondence she had back in 2000-1 with the now former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. My characterisation of this as an “outing” got this response from a commenter:
His views were not “buried in some of his public writings” as you say. The very statement is an oxymoron. Buried and public? A simple Google search, or even a glance at his Wikipedia bio (these are hardly difficult to access) would provide one with ++Williams views and with links to the full text of several of these articles. There has never been any attempt by the Archbishop to cover anything up and so to say he was ‘outed’ as if he was trying to hide something is absurd.
To which I responded:
Given the way that ++Williams writes, it’s certainly possible to bury an opinion in front of everyone. Writing and speaking without clarity or decisiveness is an occupational hazard of Anglican/Episcopal men and women of the cloth, and that’s something I lament in this post and the previous one on the subject.
Had Williams’ views been better understood in general, the publication of his letters to Dr. Pitt would not have been newsworthy.
There are several reasons why a person’s “public” writings aren’t well disseminated and understood in their “community,” some of which are as follows:
- They’re behind an academic paywall. Some of us can breach that paywall, as was the case with Karl Barth’s girlfriend, but most cannot. In any case, even amongst our clergy, interest in academic publications is limited, to say the least.
- They’re couched in the post-modern jargon so that those outside of the “craft” (now I’ve passed from trade union to Masonic imagery) don’t really understand what they are saying. That in part was the case with ++Williams.
- In closed systems such as churches, it is in the interest of some people not to have certain information widely disseminated. To do so requires that some people dig and risk consequences for that digging and dissemination. That’s especially true in a hierarchical, episcopal form of church polity, which is certainly the case in the Church of God.
- There’s a tipping point where issues which previously weren’t of much interest suddenly become of interest, and those who disseminate previously obscure facts can be justifiably said to “out” someone else.
In personal outings, it’s the rare one where only the person involved knows what is going on. Usually things get to the point where those who know reach a critical mass and then things come out. That, IMHO, is was basically happened on the floor of the General Council the week before last. Yes there have been many discussions about topics taught at the seminary and elsewhere, but now it’s a matter of record. I’m sure some on the floor wish it hadn’t happened that way, but it did, and now we must move forward.
My father didn’t like rock music. But there was one time he made an exception. My brother was a Beach Boys fan, and one evening at the house he made us stand and listen to “Be True to Your School” as it played on our Magnavox console. My father was big on his sons being loyal to the institutions they were a part of, whether it was country, school or what not.
I’m not much of an institutionalist to start with, but school had several problems. For one thing, because we moved and switched schools every two years, it was hard to develop a loyalty to any school. But after we moved to Palm Beach, school loyalty was especially problematic, whether it be their blasé attitude towards bullying, my endless problems with English teachers, or their dislike of my college choice. It wasn’t until I went to Texas A&M that I found a school I could truly be true to.
No Church of God minister or employee of any church or institution associated with the Church of God shall violate Articles 1 & 2 of the Declaration of Faith by naming God using feminine pronouns or feminine titles. The usage of feminine titles or feminine pronouns for God in reference to the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit is a violation of the Declaration of Faith and shall result in ministerial disciplinary action.
I can feel the eyeroll from my Anglican readers…in any case, many of those who pushed back came from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. But the real revelation came when one of those who proposed this agenda item was a Seminary graduate who first heard God referred to in these feminine pronouns at the Seminary. Evidently some at the Seminary didn’t like being outed in this way; one reaction in particular was very emotional.
I strongly suspect that at least some of that emotion came from the fact that the Seminary had been “outed” on this issue. Being outed or coming out isn’t easy; just ask any gay conservative. (They get to come out twice, and frequently the second coming out is harder than the first.) Since I am a bona fide academic with the credentials and teaching experience to go behind it, I think I can address this issue knowledgeably, which blunts those who would attack me with the decidedly “trade union” attitude inculcated by academic credentials, ministerial credentials or both.
The first task of the educator is to teach his or her students how to think. Concomitant with that is the risk that the student will come to a different conclusion than you did. Academics these days seems to be less and less willing to take that risk, which is why freedom of speech issues are so “hot button” on campuses. Many academics have retreated into a “religion of authority” (to use Sabatier’s term) which is a major reason why academia has become so monochrome in terms of diversity of thought.
That reality is amplified in the Church of God by two simple facts. The first is that our lay people (and many of our clergy that come out of the laity) don’t have a great deal of formal education relative to those outside of the “movement.” Along with lower AGI, that’s encouraged an inferiority complex among our people, which is amazing considering the impact that modern Pentecost has had on Christianity and the world. To have a seminary at all is a sign that we have “arrived,” not thinking about the fact that the rest of Christianity struggles to keep up with us.
The second is that many of our pastors, including some very successful ones, are not seminary graduates. To have one take what he learned at the institution and “turn it against” some of his erstwhile professors raises doubts in the mind of others about the value of a seminary education. It’s little wonder that a visceral reaction follows.
Nevertheless, for any educator the risk of his or her students going against what was taught to them in the classroom is an assumed risk and goes with the territory. Our best response to that is either to defend what we have been taught or admit that we were wrong. Unfortunately the nature of Pentecost and the employment of post-modern “thought” and rhetoric means that many of our seminary academics are singularly unsuited to effectively defend what they teach outside the walls of “Old Kudzu.” I suppose that’s one reason why they left apologetics to the Lay Ministries Department.
The best we can hope for is that, down the road somewhere, our students, informed by their life and career experiences, will come to appreciate what we taught them back in the day. Years ago I had one student who didn’t strike me as very studious. Nevertheless he went on to get is M.S. and has had an excellent career with a well-respected supplier in the geotechnical industry. He has told others that “I wish I had listened to Dr. Warrington…”
It would be nice if my own church would listen to someone whose own “home church” was ruined in part by those who taught and those who learned in its seminaries, but given the defensive mentality that reigns that won’t be an easy thing to do.
Turning the Tables on Christian Respectability I blame Mrs. Hill. She was my childhood Sunday School teacher and she started it. She taught me the stories of Jesus with her warm smile and worn-out flannel graph. 1,593 more wordsThe Danger of a Good Reputation — American Reformer
In this week Bossuet shows the nature of Jesus Christ from a human standpoint. Many of the earlier elevations discuss his divine origins, but now Bossuet connects him with Israel’s institutions: its monarchy, its priesthood, and its own bloodline, which were necessary preparations for his mission. The elevations: Anointing of Jesus Christ. His Royalty. His […]Anointing of Jesus Christ. His Royalty. His Genealogy. His Priesthood. — The Bossuet Project
Anyone who has done any work with print is familiar with the CMYK (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/BlacK) colour scheme. (Most web images are done with the RGB (Red/Green/Blue) scheme.) In either case the idea is that, by using a few colours and mixing them properly, one could produce the effect of many colours, thus making it possible to […]When CMYK Separations Were Really Separate — Chet Aero Marine
My parents divorced in the late 1970’s. That was back in the day before our tax code made inter-spousal transfers free of estate or gift taxes, so it was a mess. (Yeah, there was such time…) After it was done, she dated an English insurance agent. The relationship never got very far, although he found out how good my mother was at stringing him along…years later she told me that she didn’t “seal the deal” with him because he was an atheist. Serving in World War II, he had lost his faith in a God that didn’t prevent such an event. My mother had many faults, but not even her own brother being killed in the war changed her mind on that.
I suspect that what happened to my mother’s boyfriend happened to William Hamilton, the Baptist theologian who was at the forefront of the “God is dead” movement of the 1960’s. His son wrote the piece When my dad killed God where he tells us the following:
For my dad, the death camps of the Nazi regime posed the most difficult question about the nature and existence of God. We have only two options, Dad said. First, if God is not behind such radical evil, he cannot be what we have traditionally meant by an omnipotent God. Second, if God really is the architect of all things, then God is a killer.
I well remember the furor over that. I don’t remember much about what my church had to say about it; it tended to be vacuous and liked to ride the fence. But I was between my own direct encounter with God, baptism and being confirmed an Episcopalian; I knew he was there and I knew he cared, even among the “miserable offenders.”
Hamilton wasn’t the last person to be challenged by the theodicy issue. So was Bart Campolo. For some of us, however, Campolo’s attitude towards life and God wasn’t a possibility, as I noted:
For me personally, it’s an entirely different ball game. If I had ever asked the question at home (and I can’t recall I ever did) “Why do bad things happen to good people,” the answer I probably would have gotten was, “So what? You just have to tough it out, and if you can’t, it’s too bad.” And, as I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, the home I grew up in was anything but an “ideal” Christian home. The difference between the two is significant. While Campolo’s concept on the existence of evil focused on God, the one I was presented with focused on me.
But this much is obviously true: evil and suffering have outlived the loss of faith. Once we had God to blame. But now that God has gone (… other explanations are available …) we have no one left to blame but ourselves. Not for earthquakes, but certainly for the horror of war. Humanists now own the problem of evil. So why don’t humanists more often experience some sort of loss of faith in humanity? Where is their existential crisis? I may be wrong, but it seems to me like it’s a dog that doesn’t often bark.
It’s one of those perennial questions, but for me the answer was clear when God was proclaimed dead by others and that answer still is now.
The goal of the book is to examine the “reception of the natural sciences among Protestant theologians in the modern era” (1). The editors picked ten influential theologians from various Protestant denominations over the past two centuries in Europe and America to analyze the way they have dealt with science.
To be honest I am getting tired of the monologue that exists on this subject. Doesn’t it occur to anyone that the Christian scientists just might have something to say about the subject? The theologians and seminary academics, for the most part, live in their own bubble on the subject, doubtless afraid that real scientists and engineers would turn a few sacred cows into hamburger for the cosmic cook-out.
For my part, I pursue my science and engineering on sites such as this, letting people know that I am a Christian and really don’t see the contradiction between my relationship with God and the engineering that I pursue.
I think what we have going here is a turf war. If the theologians and our ministers continue to pursue it, they will set back Christianity, and, hard as they try, they won’t be able to blame the scientists and engineers they worked so hard to ignore.
Note: a relative of mine, whose branch of the family has been plagued by the adherents of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, noted the confusion of the term “Christian Scientist” in my title. I had no intention of attaching that meaning to the phrase. I don’t think that the whole concept of the First Church of Christ, Scientist has theological or scientific merit.