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BISHOP SCOTT BENHASE AND THE LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION

BISHOP SCOTT BENHASE AND THE LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION

By David W. Virtue DD
www.virtueonline.org
April 21, 2021

Relieved of his role as bishop of Georgia, Scott Benhase now feels free to speak out about what has gone wrong with The Episcopal Church and why it is sinking slowly into the sunset. Benhase was bishop from 2010 to 2019 and resigned, citing unspecified "significant health setbacks". He is 64.

He delivered his thoughts on Facebook recently to instant applause, but his observations are deeply troubling to those of us who have watched on the sidelines as The Episcopal Church has embraced causes and positions that contradict both Scripture, tradition and Our Lord.

Benhase starts off like a fiery evangelical with a full-throated affirmation of the gospel. "God's grace imputed to sinners by Jesus's cross. If that's not our beginning, middle, and end of growing a church, then don't bother." Right off the bat that is a better affirmation of the gospel than anything Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has ever said. Curry has always nuanced the gospel with talk of beloved community, my/your story talk, racism, climate change or any number of caveats that in effect neutralizes the gospel. It should be noted that Benhase was never a Communion Partner bishop, (TEC's loyal conservative bishops), though you would think by the way he now talks, that he should have been.

The bishop made a great start. He should have stopped right there. Sadly, he didn't. The bishop went on to elucidate that he bought into all of TEC's liberal positions, but in doing so he invoked the law of non-contradiction.

Here is what he said: "I'm onboard with the stances The Episcopal Church has taken in my lifetime, whether on human sexuality & gender issues, reversing climate change, addressing our need for racial reconciliation, justice for immigrants, reducing income inequality, etc. Heck, in the early 1980s I backed Michael Harrington as he started the Democratic Socialists of America. I even believe Jesus is a Democratic Socialist! BUT none of that is the primary mission of the Church. It'll be a by-product of the Church doing God's mission. The ONLY thing we have other groups don't have is "Jesus Christ and him crucified" for every last one of this world's sinners (i.e., people like you and me). Why aren't we leading with "him crucified" for sinners? Are we afraid of the totally misguided "divine child abuse" canard? Is our atonement theology that weak and facile? If we lead with anything other than the need for Jesus's cross to reconcile sinners to God, then why would anyone join our churches? They can get everything they need (but that) from some other organization."

Some of these issues directly violate church teaching and scripture. On human sexuality, for example, scripture is absolutely and abundantly clear that homosexuality is forbidden; it will keep you out of the Kingdom. There is much scriptural support to back that up. Benhase's attempt to overlook sexual sin (he doesn't mention fornication or adultery) but allows homosexual behavior, nullifies Jesus's substitutionary atonement for homosexuals. He also overlooked the fact that homosexuality, specifically Gene Robinson's consecration, split TEC and the ACNA was born out of the division.

He can't have it both ways. If God's grace is imputed to sinners, it must, by definition, include sexual sin in all its deviant forms.

EPISCOPAL SEMINARIES

Benhase then goes on to talk about recruiting at one of the church's seminaries.
Here is how the conversation went; "...when I was recruiting at one of our seminaries, I ended each interview by doing a role-play with them. I'd play who I was (minus being a bishop), a 50-something, over-educated, occasionally-pissant, straight white male. I asked each seminarian to tell me why I should join their church. They all mentioned community. I said I attended AA. I had all the needed support. They mentioned outreach opportunities. I replied I was an active member of Rotary. I was already fully involved in helping needy folk. Lastly, they mentioned the glorious music program at their church. I responded I had season tickets to the local symphony. I already enjoyed plenty of great music. I waited patiently for some mention of how their church could meet my greatest need, namely, to be reconciled with God through Jesus by his cross. Never came. One did mention Jesus would be a good exemplar for my life, so I gave him points for that."

This begs the question, does Benhase have any idea about what is being taught in TEC seminaries? Of the 11, only two, TSM and Nashotah House would even teach the atonement; that "grace is imputed to sinners". Has he looked at the curricula of these seminaries lately? At the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, one can take a course in "Poverty and Communities of Faith in the Politics of 2021", or "Body, Desire and Transformation" or "Christian Ethics: Radical Love Embodied". (You can take a guess with your cassock off as to what that is about). Of course, there are standard lectures on liturgy; Introduction to the NT, but I could not find a single course on one biblical book. Perhaps they are included elsewhere. At General Theological Seminary in New York, I came across this: "[This] seminary actively seeks to make vital connections between the enterprise of theological education and the world of science, commerce, and the arts." But are seminarians trained to lead people to a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ? One doubts it.

"Parish clergy aren't social directors, community service providers, or music impresarios. We got one thing and one thing only: God's grace in Jesus. We're stewards of the Great Narrative of Redemption. When we busy ourselves with other tasks, we'll lead, but it won't be missional leadership," said Benhase.

The bishop then cites his friend Paul Zahl who told him that every church he's ever seen or been part of that's led with "Jesus Christ and him crucified" has grown. "That's been my experience, too."

Now it should be noted that some years ago Zahl fell off the evangelical bandwagon into hyper grace teaching, which translates into weak on sin, long on grace. You can read my piece on his movement MOCKINGBIRD: The Shaky Theology of the hyper grace movement here:
https://virtueonline.org/mockingbird-shaky-theology-hyper-grace-movement

BENHASE AND HOMOSEXUALITY

Benhase: "Now, let me just get this out of the way. I'm onboard with the stances The Episcopal Church has taken in my lifetime, whether on human sexuality & gender issues, reversing climate change, addressing our need for racial reconciliation, justice for immigrants, reducing income inequality, etc. Heck, in the early 1980s I backed Michael Harrington as he started the Democratic Socialists of America. I even believe Jesus is a Democratic Socialist! BUT none of that is the primary mission of the Church. It'll be a by-product of the Church doing God's mission. The ONLY thing we have other groups don't have is "Jesus Christ and him crucified" for every last one of this world's sinners (i.e., people like you and me). Why aren't we leading with "him crucified" for sinners? Are we afraid of the totally misguided "divine child abuse" canard? Is our atonement theology that weak and facile? If we lead with anything other than the need for Jesus's cross to reconcile sinners to God, then why would anyone join our churches? They can get everything they need (but that) from some other organization. And those organizations are probably better at it than we are."

You can even read Benhase's book: Done and Left Undone: Grace in the Meantime of Ministry, which begs the question. If he claims to be so orthodox, why was he not with the Communion Partner bishops, or those bishops who have left or been tossed out of TEC? The answer is that Benhase wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants to hold to two incompatible realities simultaneously. But it can't be done. You cannot serve two masters, and Benhase is trying to do precisely that.

DIOCESAN TRAJECTORY

When you look at what he achieved as bishop, Benhase's diocese shows the same trajectory as most dioceses -- downward.

Benhase was elected Bishop of Georgia in 2009 and began his ministry in 2010. His last full year was 2020 when he retired.

When he began his ministry, he had 71 parishes; by the time he left, it had dropped to 67. MEMBERSHIP in 2009 was 16,931. By 2019, it had dropped by 2,774 or 16.4% to 14,157. COMMUNICANTS crashed by 25.8% from 14,098 in 2009 to 10,458 in 2019, a loss of 3,640.

AVERAGE SUNDAY ATTENDANCE in 2009 was 6,472, 2019 it had dropped by 1,202 or 18.6% to 5,270.

CHURCH SCHOOL PUPILS: in 2009 numbered 2,014; by 2019 it had dropped precipitously to 1,240, a loss of 774 or 38.4%. BAPTISMS declined even more precipitously. There were fewer than 102, a drop of 38.7%. Adult baptisms were down to 22, a decline of 56.4%. CONFIRMATIONS saw an uptick of 31 or 18.6%. Those RECEIVED into the churches in 2009 numbered 45; in 2019, it jumped to 88, an increase of 43 or 95.5%. The number of MARRIAGES in 2009 totaled 105, by 2019, they had dropped to 61, a drop of 44 or 42%. FUNERALS in 2009 numbered 232, by 2019 they had risen to 277, an increase of 45 or 19.4%. (You can sure that that this one trend will only increase with time as aging Episcopalians die off).

Benhase's faith life was formed primarily through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an evangelical ministry to athletes. He started out much like John Shelby Spong, who also began as an evangelical and later abandoned it; Benhase never renounced it, but it clearly never fully took hold.

Benhase has gone into retirement, but he will be just as responsible when the TEC ship goes down, despite all his talk of imputed righteousness.

God is not mocked. The diocese under his leadership reaped what it sowed. He left a diocese in decline and a Church that betrayed its Lord.

END

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