Saturday, June 11, 2005

i am so righteous; liberals are so unworthy

Finally, here is another. It accuses conservatives (presumably) of thinking of liberals and homosexuals as unworthy to share communion with them (us) (whatever). Read all of them here.

What kind of theology would allow us to step away from the altar and say, “I cannot receive from you or with you, because you are not worthy”? Who of us is? Is that not why we come?

In spite of our often deeply felt differences, we cannot declare each other “out of communion.” Is it not Christ who has brought us into communion by his saving grace? Not because we are worthy or right, but because we are his? What human authority can take even the least among us and declare him/her out of communion?

We are all people who love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, even though we are standing in different places.
I beseech those contemplating separation from ECUSA not to take this step away from communion with us. I would pray that we could continue to share in the communion of the one who makes us whole, in the midst of and perhaps, especially now, because of our division and need.

The Rev. Gail Keeney-Mulligan
New Milford, Conn.

7 comments:

J-Tron said...

She makes an excellent point. Although I do think that there may be rare instances where excommunication is appropriate, I share her sense that we come to communion not at our own table but at the Lord's table. If there is to be any unity and truth in us at all, it is through this acceptance of and reverence for the sacrament and the ability of God to act in us and change us, despite our sinfulness. Stepping away from the table is a refusal of Christ when he comes to us hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, and suffering.

Johnny Awesomo said...

J-Tron,
I think that you would agree that a sacrament is a sign, or a symbol, and as such is a teaching tool. In other words, the symbol is of something very real, namely the Incarnation and Christ's sacrifice for us. In order to accept it worthily, certain requirements are made of us, i.e. no sin in our hearts, acknowledge the truth of Christ's salvific work, and so on.
The result of all of this is that we cannot accept it willy nilly, trusting in a God of love who accepts and tolerates everyone. This is a real God who punishes and judges as well as redeems. We are warned about taking the Eucharist unworthily, because to do so would dishonor the truth that it represents.
I would argue that those who have departed from orthodox Christianity do not at all accept the sacrament in its proper sense. Orthodox Christians are hesitant to 'come to the table' not out of rejection of Christ or a sense of moral superiority, but from a true ethical concern for those who would abuse it by disregarding the teachings of the Church, both militant and saints who have gone before us.

father wb said...

“I cannot receive from you or with you, because you are not worthy...”

Who actually says this? Of course its our Lord's table and his communion. My problem with this woman's letter is that she is attacking a straw man. Maybe there are some Episcopalians who are members of the KKK somewhere, but there are many more who are thoughtful traditionalists, and who have a fairly sophisticated and charitable attitude toward communion and its reception.

This kind of rhetoric is unhelpful reductionism. Its not very different form saying "Conservatives are HATERS!" (which another one of the Episcopal Life correspondents said pretty explicitly).

Something closer to an accurate and reasonable construal of the position of some traditionalists is not that they won't receive from / with people who are not worthy, but that they won't receive from / with people who won't *acknowledge* that they are unworthy.

If you believe that there is such a thing as sin, and that it is dangerous to receive the sacrament in a state of sin, then you don't want people receiving it who you believe actually to be in a state of sin. And you want them not to receive *for their own sake*, not because their receiving is somehow distasteful to you. I.e. you want to "deny them communion" because for them, with unconfessed sin, to eat the bread and drink the cup is to eat and drink condemnation on themselves.

This is real spiritual egalitarianism, because the "worthiness" criteria apply across the board. I.e. it is just as dangerous for a homosexual to receive with unconfessed sin as it is for a heterosexual. But the false teaching of ECUSA blinds people, spiritually speaking. It brings them to a place where they cannot see what is sin and what isn't, because ECUSA has begun to say that sin is blessed. And traditionalists believe that this teaching is imperilling souls, far more than (e.g.) a homosexual act, which can simply be confessed. The teaching of ECUSA, in the eyes of traditionalists, actually keeps people from salvation becasue it keeps them from receiving the simple, easy grace of forgiveness, and it keeps them in a place where the presence of God is full of wrath.

That's why we traditionalists are so horrified. Becuase ECUSA's new gospel is actually holding people back from the Kingdom of God. ECUSA's new dogma inculcates an actual preference for Hell.

J-Tron said...

In the Roman Catholic Church, which I think we'd all agree has a much more stringent attitude towards who can and cannot accept communion than Anglicanism does, the priest is given authority to deny communion, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the person who steps forward and holds out their hands to search their souls and decide whether it is a good idea for them to receive. Why would we wish to impose an even more stringent concept in our own tradition where the understanding of the sacrament is more open in the first place (IE, all baptized Christians are welcome at the table). For instance, I can understand why someone who does not believe in the ordination of women would not receive from a woman. That is an issue of understanding of ontology. But I don't understand why two people who disagree about women's ordination cannot take communion from a male priest, side by side, even if one person is acting against their own best interests. If I know that my brother or sister is about to receive in an unworthy manner that will do them harm, I might caution them against receiving. But if I make a protest out of it by not receiving myself because I don't think the person next to me is quite well enough confessed, I take on the role of Christ in judgment. It is, in my opinion, a rejection of Christ out of pride.

father wb said...

Right. I reckon we agree. I was more thinking of denying communion to people, or counseling them not to receive, than of receiving it myself.

I received from Griswold himself last year during the Triduum. I decided that not to receive from him would be Donatistic. I still think that's true.

At some point, though, doctrine erodes so far as to produce a religion that is no longer recognizably Christian. I don't think we've reached that point yet, largely because I'm a firmish believer in Lex orandi lex credendi. But our "orandi" is changing slowly but surely. Cf. the "women's eucharist" (as though the real Eucharist were a "men's eucharist") that caused such a stir not long ago. God forbid that such things should become common in ECUSA. I'm pretty distressed that they are even allowed to begin with.

J-Tron said...

I've heard one other person reference the "women's eucharist" but I don't know what it is. Was this a particular event I missed? Please tell me that clowns were involved, as I believe firmly that no Eucharist is complete without clowns.

J-Tron said...

And, WB, I think that this is what's behind the point of the woman who wrote this letter. There are folks who are refusing to be in the same room to take communion with other folks because of perceived righteousness. This is happening. It's happening on the international level, as +Akinola has said several times he does not want to take communion with +Griswold or +Robinson at Lambeth, even if he is not celebrating. Heck, it's happening at Berkeley. Some wouldn't come and take communion when +Robinson came a year ago January, some wouldn't come and take communion when Dean Zahl came a year ago May. In both cases it was Dean Britton who celebrated, but there was still this need that folks had to distance themselves. I found both situations unfortunate.