Scripture Interpretation is the Rub

A must read letter to the editor of the The Beaufort Gazette:

. . . Let me begin by saying there are large numbers of us in this church who believe the actions taken by our General Conventions in 2003 and 2006 were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not at all in violation of the authority of the scriptures. To that end, a group of us holding to this belief have organized ourselves into St. Mark’s Chapel in Beaufort. If the Diocese of South Carolina or the people of St. Helena’s Parish decide to separate themselves from the church, we’re staying home.

A number of people and parishes in this diocese share our view. Some of us are members of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, calling ourselves "Episcopalians for a United Church."

From your article [in the Gazette on December 13], one might get the impression a majority of South Carolina Episcopalians are in favor of leaving the Episcopal Church. I doubt that. I am grateful for my friend and colleague, the Rev. Jeffrey Miller, rector of St. Helena’s Parish, who stated if the diocese makes any decisions on these matters, "we’ll bring them back, and we’ll talk with the parish about those." My experience as rector of St. Helena’s Episcopal Church for 10 years tells me the majority of the parishioners, if given a voice in the matter, will opt for staying home.

Miller is right when he says the rift in the Episcopal Church is not just about the consecration of openly gay bishops. The primary disagreement we have is over biblical authority — whether or not the Bible is authoritative for our lives, period. Absolutely!

But how we interpret the scriptures and what we regard to be their authority is — and always has been — a divisive issue in the Christian Church.

For some of us, the supreme authority is to be found in the inclusive teachings of Jesus.

He ate with street walkers, tax thieves and other rejects, declaring it is the infirm, not the well folks, who need a physician. When a woman found to have committed adultery was about to be stoned by religious leaders, Jesus ran them off. When they were gone, he asked the woman, "Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?" The woman said, "No one, Lord." Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more."

If we are going to focus on the authority of the Bible, the highest authority of all is that which commands us to live in a manner that reveals the unconditional love of God.

As for the matter of openly gay

bishops, the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, the Bishop of South Carolina, believes the Holy Scripture is "pretty clear" on the matter.

"While everyone is welcome to come to Christ and into His kingdom, there are certain standards," said Lawrence. "A gay person who is in a partnered relationship does not meet those standards."

If because of certain "standards" a person is welcome to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and communion but not the sacrament of ordination, such a person is only partially welcome. Where is the unconditional love? We have a considerable number of bishops and other ministers who are divorced and remarried; certainly the teachings of Jesus are "petty clear" on that subject.

Why are these church leaders dispensed from "certain standards?"

I have been ordained in the Episcopal Church for 54 years. I am sure that in that time there have been occasions when I have fallen short of certain "standards." But never once have I given thought to leaving my beloved church, nor has anyone asked me to.

The Rev. Roger William Smith

Source: The Beaufort Gazette: Scripture interpretation is the rub

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