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Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Schism bias watch.

Here's the latest example of egregious bias disguised as fair and balanced religion reporting: UPI religion editor Uwe Siemon-Netto's "analysis" of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams's audience with the Pope, "A Rift Worse than Schism?"

But a ranking prelate in Rome made it clear that the Vatican was in no conciliatory mood concerning Anglicanism's "American problem." "What's happening here is in many ways worse than the great schisms 1,000 and 500 years ago," he said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines schism as "the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." That applies to the Eastern Orthodox and the Protestants . . .

But in the eyes of the Catholic hierarchy — and others, including the majority of the world's Anglicans - the Episcopalians' decision to consecrate an active homosexual as overseer in his denomination and to bless same-sex unions points to a much deeper question: what coordinates must the Church follow — Scripture or the mushy postmodern obligation to canonize any form of human desire, even when it is utterly unbiblical?

Clearly, the liberal-revisionist wing of contemporary Christianity, including many Western Catholics, is at the losing end of this global struggle within the Body of Christ.

Whoa! Let's look at this amazingly even-handed, well-informed, historically-nuanced, and completely unbiased passage again:

What "coordinates" can the Church steer by? Apparently, only two, and they are diametrically opposed: Scripture — capitalized and clear, always easy to understand, independent of history and culture, and indisputably dedicated to "traditional family values" — and, on the other hand, "the mushy postmodern obligation to canonize any form of human desire, even when it is utterly unbiblical." Now that's a freight-train of opprobrium and innuendo, wouldn't you say? Oh, and just in case you think there might be a scriptural argument on the liberal side, our writer clears that right up. Not only are the liberals "mushy" and "postmodern"; they're "utterly unbiblical."

Nonsense. The Bible always requires interpretation, in light of the cultures in which the texts were written, the witness of the church over time, and the culture and experience of people living now. (Or who would need a sermon?) The Bible isn't a blank slate for us to write our own values and priorities on; it does genuinely challenge us. But it isn't so much a final court of appeals as it is an instrument through which the discerning church listens for God's word. And the gift of interpretation is given to us, the living church, living today. Fidelity to scripture is not the opposite of interpretation; it is only the beginning of interpretation. Conservatives, however, like to pretend that they are not interpreting the Bible when they discover chapter and verse for their own values and biases.

More than anything, though, I'd like to point out the absurdity of defining the ecumenical danger posed by liberal developments in the Episcopal Church in terms that presuppose the primacy of the Pope. Think about it: The only schism in the news is the threatened one within the Anglican Communion, which took leave from Rome several centuries ago. Are conservative Anglicans planning to realign themselves with the Vatican? Don't bet on it. But Uwe Siemon-Netto thinks there's a big story in the umbrage the Pope is taking over the Episcopal Church's approach to human sexuality. That's rich.

You're not being "ecumenical" if you're dedicated to convincing Protestants, Orthodox, and heterodox Christians to give up their various disagreements with the Vatican. That's called apologetics. UPI's religion editor needs a refresher course in biblical criticism and the history of Christianity.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 8 October 2003 at 5:52 PM

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