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Evangelical Episcopal Priest Searches in Vain for Middle Ground in Anglican Culture Wars

Evangelical Episcopal Priest Searches in Vain for Middle Ground in Anglican Culture Wars

By David W. Virtue, DD
February 6, 2020

The Rev. Russell Levenson, priest at the prestigious St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas, the largest Episcopal Church in North America, wants you to believe that in the culture wars ravaging the Episcopal Church "the left and right have hold of the microphones and the vast middle waits for something more, something beyond this insistence on division."

Levenson, who claims the mantle of evangelical, wrote in an op-ed piece for The Living Church. that the late John Stott supported his intention to stay and preach the gospel. "Don't leave... just stay... just stay and preach the Gospel," he allegedly told Levenson as he lay dying in 2011. "We prayed... we hugged... and bid farewell until we meet on that distant shore," he wrote.

In an interview in the H.O.P.E. Newsletter for Episcopalians United in Renewal Vol. 1 No. 4. May 1995, Dr. John Stott said, “If homosexual partnerships are accepted as a legitimate alternative to heterosexual marriage, or if avowedly practicing homosexuals are ordained then I think it would be such a serious ethical blunder as to demand serious thought as to whether the Church has any right to continue to be supported.”

In a paper on Issues Facing Christians Today,Stott wrote that heterosexual gender is a divine creation, that heterosexual marriage is a divine institution and heterosexual fidelity is the divine intention. And Levenson thinks Stott would give his approval to homosexual marriage!

The Christian rejection of homosexual practices does not rest on "a few isolated and obscure proof texts" (as is sometimes said), whose traditional explanation (it is further claimed) can be overthrown. The negative prohibitions of homosexual practices in Scripture make sense only in the light of its positive teaching in Genesis 1 and 2 about human sexuality and heterosexual marriage. Yet without the wholesome positive teaching of the Bible on sex and marriage, our perspective on the homosexual question is bound to be skewed, wrote Stott.

Stott never conceded the Biblical ground on the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman and he fully supported the formation of The Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (TESM) as an alternative to the liberal Episcopal seminaries that were disseminating "another gospel" that would in time turn Episcopal pulpits into post-modern presenters of a sexual and social gospel unrecognizable by the Church Fathers.

It is too disingenuous by half to believe that Stott would not have thrown in his lot with the ACNA had he lived long enough to see it come to fruition.

Levenson agonizes in his piece over Jesus' call that we all may be one (BCP, p.387) while dutifully ignoring those passages in St. Paul's letters that those who preach "another gospel" (Gal. 1:8) be declared "anathema" and Peter in 2 Peter 2: 1-4 who writes, "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed." And St. John in 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."

Levenson, like many evangelicals, including Central Florida Bishop Greg Brewer, have changed with the times. Levenson writes, "I have gay friends, some of whom are clergy. There are members of my parish who are gay and married and have brought their children along. While I still do not perform same-sex marriages, when I'm asked by gay members who desire one, I help them to find a priest and a parish who will. After their marriage, the couple are warmly recognized at our parish -- for who they are, not for who they are not. I now believe that many of the gay couples I have come to know and love have found a life-partner who brings them companionship and intimacy. For those who seek -- and find -- the Church's blessing in that, I can even support their decision as an alternative to my own."

So, what is the moral difference in saying he won't perform a homosexual marriage but will allow another priest to do so and then welcome said couples into his church! Is he saying sodomy is no longer a sin because it is wrapped in the mantle of marriage?

Levenson goes on to criticize an internationally, recognized (but unnamed) Anglican bishop and theologian who was scheduled to preach and teach at his Church, but wrote to withdraw his acceptance. "Though my doctrinal positions hadn't changed, this was not enough to change minds or encourage conversation. The message was clear. I had "made peace" with the other side. I had "drunk the Kool-aid," and was to be shunned."

Levenson's criticism of an African bishop is most disturbing. It is wrong for him to criticize the African Bishop. He may not be performing the blessings of same sex couples, but he blesses their activity by full inclusion and celebration of their lifestyle in St. Martin's. It is also telling that he does not treat the African fairly. It is not "shunning" and "Kool-aid." The truth is Levenson is facilitating people on their way to Hell. No wonder a Christian Bishop doesn't want to endorse that!

As Stott himself said, "The shepherds of Christ's flock have a double duty: to feed the sheep (by teaching the truth) and to protect them from wolves (by warning of error)."

This softening process is yet another example of what homosexuals do. If you can't make people accept your lifestyle, then just show up and demand that your baby be baptized as happened at St. Luke's Cathedral in Orlando and force the bishop and priests to go along with it or tell them they are uninclusive, hate-filled and homophobic if they don't. It's bullying by any other name.

Levenson says that with Lambeth just around the corner, "the left and right have hold of the microphones and the vast middle waits for something more, something beyond this insistence on division."

Perhaps Levenson is not aware that the Communion is already divided with GAFCON bishops meeting in Rwanda a couple of months before Lambeth. There they will pronounce the true, unchanging gospel, uphold Lambeth 1:10 and declare that mission equals evangelism and discipleship. Justin Welby will dodge these obvious evangelical bullets and talk up climate change, convincing the bishops of absolutely nothing,

The "vast middle" are orthodox in faith and morals and stand with GAFCON. It is the progressive West that has rolled over on sexual morality that the "vast middle" will not accept. What about that does Levenson not understand? There is no middle ground, there never was and never will be. Either you stand with scripture, history and tradition which has said unequivocally that sex shall stay between a man and a woman in marriage, or you accept some (LBTQI) alternative which leads to spiritual and eternal death.

Levenson wants to have it both ways and cites the Bishop of London's "joy of diversity" cry. But what diversity? Ask the Bishop of Albany what he understands the "joy of diversity" looks like and he will tell you another story entirely. The truth is, there is no diversity, no compromise, no third way; it's all a lie and fiction.

You cannot serve two masters, but clearly Levenson thinks he can. It has never worked and never will. Diversity is a curse not a blessing; it is a delusion, not a joy. The die has been cast and there is no going back. CANA, ACNA and GAFCON are here to stay and it will be up to Levenson to decide which master he will follow. Only one leads to life, the other leads to a sure death.


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