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Lost in a Big Tent

Alice C. Linsley

Many in the Episcopal Church USA have embraced a new religion. The religion derives from many ideological threads: modernism, feminism, process theology, rights activism, etc.

In this religion people may believe whatever they want. The only thing that matters is that we all love one another and non-judgmentally embrace a wide range of attitudes and behaviors that the Bible describes as "sin."

The historic Faith that was received and passed down by the Apostles has been revised to fit contemporary values. Theological revisionists worked diligently, though rather illogically, to create a "big tent" where everyone would feel welcome. Alas, the tent was destined to collapse, and it has.

The same-sex "wedding" ceremony of two seminarians last week in the Church of England is an example of where revisionists theology leads. It is praised as a victory, even as the Church of England loses members weekly. Likewise, the Church in Wales has seen a 15% decline in membership in the past five years.

In the United States, the Episcopal Church (TEC) lost 37,669 members in 2015, a decline of -2.1 percent, while attendance declined -20,631, down -3.4 percent. A net 43 parishes closed, bringing the denominational total to 6,510 congregations.

This new religion is an example of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It is an example of insanity. Madness comes of losing one's grip on reality. A religion that poses a gender continuum as reality is lost. The State (as here) may recognize bisexual, transgender, unspecified, indeteriminate, and gender diverse, etc., but the Christian Faith acknowledges only male and female, created in the image of God. This is a fixed reality; as fixed as heaven and earth, night and day, good and evil, and true and false.

Without a fixed reality, our grip on permanent virtue is lost and we slip beneath the murky waters of insanity. I am reminded of something G.K. Chesterton wrote in The Ball and the Cross:

Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities. ...The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue.

Some years ago I was in residence at the University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee, Tennessee. I was there to do summer graduate studies. As part of my research I conducted an experiment with Sewanee faculty and advance degree students to test why dialogue with Anglican revisionists is impossible. Here is the experiment, limited in scope, but still revealing.

Imagine a medium slightly curved yellow banana and a yellow Magic Marker. One end of the banana has been removed, revealing a circle of white fruit. The Magic Marker has a yellow cap and on the opposite end there is a round white bottom. In the experiment, I presented these objects to 5 men and 5 women and asked them to respond to 6 imperatives. The banana and marker were placed side by side on a table with the white ends toward the person interviewed. Each person was asked in private to do the following:

1. Pick up the yellow thing.
2. Pick up the long yellow thing.
3. Pick up the thing that is like the moon.
4. Pick up the thing that is like a sword.
5. Pick up the thing that is to be eaten.
6. Pick up the thing that is used to write.

The first two, though descriptive, are ambiguous. Of the ten participants only one person declined to act on the basis that she needed more information. Three people picked the banana, arguing ontologically that the banana is naturally yellow and therefore the true “yellow thing.” One picked the highlighter because it is manufactured and therefore more of a “thing.” One picked the highlighter because it is always yellow whereas the banana changes from green to yellow to brown. One picked the banana on the basis of her interpolation of the suffix “er” and concluded that the banana was “a little bit longer” than the highlighter. Three people, not able to decide between the objects, picked up both.

Revisionists love ambiguity because it allows for many diverse responses to God’s imperatives. The greater the ambiguity the easier it is to fudge.

Coming next to imperatives 3 and 4, we find associations. All ten participants selected the banana as being like the moon. When I asked how each came to this conclusion, eight answered that the banana’s curve reminded them of a crescent moon. Two further noted the white circular end of the banana as being like a full moon. One also noted the white circular end of the Magic Marker and thought it looked like a full moon, but decided that the banana was still “more like the moon.”

When asked to pick up the thing that is like a sword, eight selected the banana and two selected the marker. The eight that picked the banana said that it reminded them of a curved sword. One who selected the marker had imagined a straight sword. The student who selected the marker had associated it with a straight sword and the adage “the pen is mightier than the sword.” (A+ for imagination!)

Revisionists enjoy the association game because it allows for a range of opinion based on subjective associations. For example, if the majority of people can be influenced to associate a monogamous homosexual lifestyle with Christian holiness, then the majority opinion will carry the day.

Imperatives 5 and 6 are: Pick up what is to be eaten. Pick up what is used to write. Here there was universal agreement and no time taken to mentally process. For all 10 participants the choice was unambiguous and the selection was made immediately.

God created humans with a male and female complementary teleological distinction. It is obvious that God did not create gay and lesbian, as there is no language in Scripture and Tradition defining the purpose of gayness and lesbianism. In a fit of childish willfulness (disguised as modernism) the revisionist is likely to insist that the banana is for writing and the marker is to be eaten. A typical revisionist’s response to orthodox teaching is: “I see it differently,” but this doesn’t fly when everyone, except the revisionist, recognizes that the banana is food and the marker is an implement.

So it is that natural and intended purposes cannot be discussed intelligently with revisionists. So it is that ambiguity is elevated above certainty, and the biblical worldview is set aside in favor of pseudo-psychology.

Is it any wonder that the folks wandering around in the big tent seem lost?


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