Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

The Reverend Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church of Houston, Texas, thinks former Secretary of State James Baker is on to something: 

As you can see from Secretary Baker’s article, he brings his own perspective and insightful proposal out of, not only decades of experience in laying the groundwork for lasting peace and civility in a wide variety of arenas[Such as? – Ed], but also a faithful member of the Episcopal Church and out of his deep and abiding devotion to our Lord and this Church we both love and seek to serve.

Levenson describes himself as a traditionalist.

I have, for years, been open (as I was instructed to do at VTS), and have attempted to live into what Dean Markham calls “generous orthodoxy.”  That said, I do so from the place of one who believes that the revisionists’ (I do not use this word pejoratively, but descriptively) position around human sexuality is not only inconsistent with the Biblical and Traditional teaching of the Church, but has been the chief cause for our divisions and the present anemia we see infecting most of TEC since the mid-1970s, (a time during which we have lost roughly 1/3rd of our membership).

But he has an awfully funny way of displaying his traditionalism. 

But if I am completely honest, I must admit that I realize that these issues of deep concern to revisionists will not go away. These issues have dominated virtually every clergy conference, Diocesan gathering, and General Convention I have att ended since my ordination over two decades ago. But I am an Episcopalian and I love and seek to serve the Episcopal Church. I have not been called away, and feel that my position on these matters has (or should have) as much validity and authenticity as those who may sit on the “other aisle” (to borrow a political term) than I do.

Insofar as he feels the need to trot out the usual tired Episcopal bumper sticker about conservative Anglicans. 

In a letter Thornton Wilder wrote in the 1930s, he offered the following: ”The fundamentalist tradition in American Protestantism has made into fixed hard laws the substance of the Gospel…All that is censorious…and joyless in the Calvinistic-Methodist-Baptist tradition is based upon a misreading of the New Testament and a failure to see that most of the tone in the Old Testament is expressly superseded in the New…”

And lament the fact that there are winners and losers in the Episcopal Organization. 

I will confess that is has been a long time since many of us have experienced authentic “joy” in what we know to be the structures of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. Some may have experienced some measure of satisfaction if his or her “side” won some specific victory, but is one part of the body “winning” and the other “losing,” really something worthy of joy?, (cf. I Corinthians 12). I would suggest that “joylessness” is rooted not in experiencing an open expression of freedom and authentic diversity, but instead a denomination increasingly dominated by strident liberals and conservatives running from grace into the pseudosafety of fundamentalism.

The liberals get a huge kick out of this, Russ.  But Levenson isn’t done insulting conservatives yet.  

I want to suggest that we are now witnessing this kind of “framework” in what we could easily say is a “church split apart.” The response to this increasingly divided Church is the kind of fundamentalism to which both Wilder and Solzhenitsyn refer. Conservatives have taken up the arms of schismatic and pietistic separation from those deemed unholy. Liberals have returned the favor by failing to include the conservatives fully, often deeming them as a dying breed that needs to catch up, convert, or move on.

What should we do about all this?  Basically, Russ thinks the bishops should recommit to the moratoria they just finished relieving themselves all over.

Another controversial General Convention has passed and the spin that key resolutions that were passed did not contradict the voluntary period of gracious restraint offered through resolution B033 in 2006, has not held water with election of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles and the approval of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Massachusetts and same-sex blessings in the Diocese of Bethlehem, with more proposals en route. The period of gracious restraint for some – though not for all — has ended. Now what if, (thinking out of the proverbial box here) the majority of Episcopal Bishops, hopefully with the support of the Presiding Bishop, sought to find a middle-way that honors authentic inclusion.  In order to do so, they would have to re-commit to Solzhenitsyn’s “self-restraint.”

That hot college-aged blonde is the last one, honey, I swear.  Twelve extra-marital affairs is enough, believe you me.

They have to listen to the larger Anglican voice. They would need to honor the called for moratoria around revisionist proposals concerting human sexuality and have to absolutely reject foreign incursions that disrupt our internal unity.  Thus, again, we return to that call for self-restraint. Put simply, what if a majority of our bishops took the lead by calling the greater church to simply hit the “pause” butt on with a firm finger and do nothing more to finish the tear in our fabric that has just about destroyed our Anglican family.

Then what?  Nothing in particular.  

This “pause” could be until our 2012 General Convention. In that interim, this majority of American Bishops, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council, coupled with leaders of our theological seminaries could work with a broad spectrum of openminded-hearted rectors and lay leaders to develop a solution that respects not only the autonomy of individual bishops and their dioceses, but also of clergy and their parishes. 

The problems with this idea have been discussed before and should be obvious to anyone with a functioning intellect.  There is no reason whatsoever for TEO’s dominant liberals to grant these proposals and every reason in the world for them not to.

To people like J. Jon Bruno, John Chane and Gene Robinson, the conservative position is not legitimate and cannot be permitted to be.  Because once planted, the idea that maybe Robbie shouldn’t have gotten that pointy hat in 2003 might grow into the idea that maybe Robbie shouldn’t have that pointy hat right now.

Besides, to declare that an Episcopal bishop is the bishop of this Episcopal parish but not that one or must preach one doctrine in this building and another over there would make Episcopal worship meaningless and turn Episcopal theology and Episcopal witness into even bigger jokes than they already are.

It’s difficult for me to get too angry about any of this anymore.  Like James Baker, Dr. Levenson is yet another Episcopal “conservative” in name only.  Indeed, Levenson seems scornful of orthodox Anglicans who actually believe things, hence words like “fundamentalist” and “pietistic” and “schismatic.”

Levenson claims “conservative” positions but won’t push them too hard or too stridently or in any other way that might make someone angry with him.  All he wants is for the liberal majority to continue to tolerate his existence in the Episcopal Organization.

Which TEO quite happily will, secure in the knowledge the people like Russell Levenson have no influence in the church, never will again, and cannot affect its decisions in any way.  Hope you enjoy your parish, Russ, because it’s as high as you’re ever going to go in TEO and in the future, there will be fewer and fewer such opportunities.

That’s the payoff for laodiceanism.

12 Comments to IDOLATRY 2010

Ed the Roman
March 30, 2010

This is an excellent reminder that James Baker was a diplomat. Diplomats can usefully say things that do not bear close scrutiny because the power relationships really are the goal of what they do. Diplomacy is not attempting to teach a doctrine but to protect or advance interests.

Churches that use that model have a tougher time. They do have to teach a doctrine, and saying things that nobody could possibly believe on close inspection, like that there is any chance that “… [the] majority of American Bishops, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council, coupled with leaders of our theological seminaries [w]ould work with a broad spectrum of openminded-hearted rectors and lay leaders to develop a solution that [would respect] not only the autonomy of individual bishops and their dioceses, but also of clergy and their parishes”, makes you incredible.

Ed the Roman
March 30, 2010

And for the Reverend Father Levenson, he’d better get used to a parish that shrinks, that grows to hate him, or both. He’s the Democrats for Life of the Episcopal Church.

Truth Unites... and Divides
March 30, 2010

CJ: “Like James Baker, Dr. Levenson is yet another Episcopal “conservative” in name only.”

Levenson+ is a Communion Partner Institutionalist-Enabler for TEc’s soul-destroying heresy and apostasy. He’s yoked, complicit, and morally culpable.

Too bad he doesn’t have the biblical courage of Steve Wood+ or Jerry Kramer+ who both said that a Third Way is a myth, and therefore, both of them are going to be out of TEc, if they haven’t left already.

March 30, 2010

Might have worked ten years ago. Too late now. I wonder when he’ll wake up and find out?

FW Ken
March 30, 2010

St. Martin’s is in a very rich part of Houston and was the home parish of the senior Bushes (GHW and Barbara). It was a former rector who back in the 70s declared there would be none of that “born-again” business if Bush were elected.

Don Janousek
March 30, 2010

Solzhenitsyn would have seen through this clown in a second as cast him aside. Even I saw through him the minute he mentioned “living into” something or other. That and his term “authentic inclusion.” What could that possibly mean? What is “inauthentic inclusion?” Youse is either in or out. Similar to the liberal Catholic garbage about being “more alive.” Meaningless drivel.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
March 30, 2010

I’ve known several “Captains of Industry” in my life. In the office they can be mean cusses and the demand excellence from their employees. However, put them on the vestry or – worse yet – make them Warden and their motto becomes DO! NOT! ROCK! THE! BOAT!

But for me the money quote is this: “…peace always comes with some price of compromise.” Wow, I tell ya, leaders like this are priceless – especially clergy. When I hear about peace in the church I always think of that hymn: ‘the Peace of God it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod.’ How easily this man would compromise Christ for a fleeting moment of “peace.”

March 31, 2010

This man talks about the sexuality issue as being the problem dividing us. However, the sexuality issue is simply the issue that revealed the divide between biblical Christians and revisionist liberals. Where does Mr Levenson stand on the Incarnation? The virginal conception? The atoning nature of the death of Christ? The physical resurrection? The biblical claim that all humanity, jointly and severally, stands under the judgment of God as guilty of rebellion? That the Bible is God’s revelation to us, and not simply human beings reflecting on “experiences with the divine.”

Few liberals will affirm the reality of these basic convictions of Christianity, which are stated in the XXXIX Articles, and should be affirmed by anyone calling himself Anglican. I hope that he does indeed affirm them.

Allen Lewis
March 31, 2010

This fellow fits the definition as being one of Lenin’s “useful idiots.”

The liberals will love him because he speaks in rounded tones about such things as “authentic inclusion” – WTHTI – and talks about “peace with compromise”

The man is a buffoon. He makes no sense and obviously suffers from a severe cranial-rectal inversion. All of his high-flown verbiage means absolutely nothing. There is no “there” there.

I feel sorry for this fellow, he will never find out, until it is too late, just how he has betrayed the Savior he says he loves and follows.

phil swain
March 31, 2010

Contra Thornton Wilder, the joylessness of fundamentalism may be based upon a misreading of scripture, but it is not based upon “most of the tone in the Old Testament is expressly superseded in the New Testament.” The author of the “Song of Songs” and the Psalmist, for example, would be surprised to hear that they were joyless. And I’m surprised that Rev. Levenson would use this quote from Wilder which is based upon a distorted view of Holy Scripture.

FW Ken
March 31, 2010

A fair number of fundamentalists would also be surprised to hear they are joyless. Obviously, Mr. Levenson is not closely acquainted with the right sort of fundy. Apparently he doesn’t know any dour Episcopalians either (I have, over the years).

Rick in Louisiana
April 1, 2010

I’m with phil swain. The Wilder quote got my attention. The New Testament “superseded” the Old? I remember in seminary being warned about the dangers of “supercessionism” as implicitly anti-semitic or at least anti-Jewish. (And this is a moderately liberal seminary.) This is the idiot spirit of Marcion still at work with nonsense about “Old Testament God mean and bad… New Testament God loving and good”.

Furthermore “Calvinist-Methodist-Baptist”? That is so stupid one hardly knows where to begin. You can’t stick Calvinist and Methodist together like that. They are quite different. Most Baptists are non-Calvinist although it is true Calvinism is becoming increasingly popular among conservative Baptists.

This guy has a PhD?

But he is onto something tremendously important with his observations about joy and joylessness. Joy (which is not necessarily happiness or glee) is indeed characteristic of authentic Christian faith. But one wonders where we find joy the most and where it seems absent. But such distributions of joy would undermine the good rector’s silly ruminations.

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