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PHILADELPHIA, PA: Episcopal Church Rector Butts Head with American Bible Society Over Homosexuality

PHILADELPHIA, PA: Episcopal Church Rector Butts Head with American Bible Society Over Homosexuality

By David W. Virtue, DD
December 10, 2019

The rector of Christ Church, a flagship parish in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, is uncomfortable associating with the American Bible Society because of its traditional marriage policy.

In January of this year, ABS created the Affirmation of Biblical Community, an employee policy that bars individuals in homosexual or unwed heterosexual relationships, among others, from employment at the organization.

"The actions they took in defining marriage indicate they're not able to go in a direction that matches the diversity of all the congregations in the Old City district," said the Rev. Tim Safford, rector of Christ Church. "I believe they think they are doing their best work in not being sectarian, but ultimately their world view will affect what they do."

"We want to make sure Christ Church tells its own history with its own perspective," noted Safford.

This is profoundly ironic as the Episcopal diocese has lost thousands of Episcopalians and has closed churches owing to its pansexual policies. The denomination itself can barely muster half a million parishioners in total average Sunday attendance on any given Sunday.

"We want to be good neighbors," Alan Crippen, chief of exhibits, programming and public engagement for ABS asserted. "We're attempting to build relationships. We're sensitive to how they tell their own stories." To that end, ABS staff have met with some of the institutions, including Christ Church, Mikveh Israel, and Old First Reformed Church to discuss the project and hear their perspectives. At this point, however, no formal method of input or approval has been planned.

However, sites like Christ Church are proceeding, however cautiously. Safford feels it is a difficult choice between not participating and having someone else tell your story or joining in and appearing to condone a stance your organization opposes.

Nevertheless, he sees merit in the project overall. "We think reviving this notion of religious heritage is very significant," said Safford. "We're hopeful that with ABS taking up the cause, it will bring people in so we can tell our stories."

The American Bible Society moved to 5th and Market Street in 2015 after being headquartered in New York City for 200 years.

ABS moved forward with that intent last month when it began work on the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center (FLDC), a $60 million, 40,000 square foot museum on the first floor of the Wells Fargo building. The museum aims to show how the Bible has influenced American history, from the founding fathers to civil rights leaders. Through its market research, ABS anticipates around 250,000 visitors each year, some from the 4.8 million that already come to Independence National Park annually and some coming just for the FLDC.

For more on this story click here: https://hiddencityphila.org/2019/12/american-bible-society-brings-tours-and-trepidation-to-old-city/


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