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We'd like you to understand us - by Tad de Bordenave

We’d like you to understand us

By Rev. Tad de Bordenave

As one deeply opposed to the consecration of Gene Robinson, I find a disturbing response from those on the other side. They cannot fathom the position of those of us opposed. I listen to how they explain why we feel the way we do, and I find they simply don’t get it. They regularly misread, misinterpret, and misunderstand those who don’t agree with them. The thing is, I do not think this is mischievous or intentional on their part. I simply think they cannot comprehend our reasons.

Sadly, this leaves them entirely unprepared and surprised by the unfolding events. I find this alarming for their own sakes. Their spin on events leads in the wrong direction, their concept of the division is flawed, their hopes for reconciliation are based on fabrication.

Let me try to explain this failure to understand us. I do this not to change any minds but to help them see what is coming.

What is missing is nothing less that a conceptual category of our position. Because of that void, they must resort to ideas that they think ought to fit. They assume we liken the consecration to the US pre-emptive strike in Iraq or the issue of women’s ordination. They explain us as being right wing, fundamentalists, literalists, homophobic, reactionary, or Jerry Falwell types. Wrong on all counts.

The most blatant exposé of this naiveté and error, which I have experienced, was listening to the debate in the House of Bishops at Minneapolis. Bishop after bishop claimed that the opposition at home would disappear and the negative reactions overseas would never materialize. The most recent exposé was the headline in ENS about the recent meeting of the bishops in Nairobi. There, about 20 conservative bishops asked the Lambeth Commission to give ECUSA three months to repent. The headline in ENS was “Mixed message from Nairobi.”

Let me give an analogy. Let's say that I see a mad elephant coming to our camp. I cry out the warning. Unfortunately, no one else in the camp has ever seen an elephant. Instead, they make the assumption that an elephant must be a skunk, so the severity of the warning is not taken up. Those in the camp reached wrong conclusions with dreaded consequences. Preparing for the stench of a skunk is a lot easier than for the devastation of a mad elephant - but misguided thinking doesn’t stop the oncoming elephant.

What is the elephant and what is the missing concept? This is easier to see if we look through others’ eyes. Let me give two examples, the first a frequently heard statement from overseas leaders: “You gave us the Bible and that has brought the truth and power and love of Jesus Christ to us. But now you have abandoned the Bible you gave us.”

The other comes from the underground church of China and tells of the sacrifice taken for God’s Word. Four pastors were arrested and the congregation’s Bibles confiscated. The authorities brought them out to a public place with many from the congreagation present. The Bibles were on a table, where there were also four bowls of offal - disgusting and debasing things in a gruel. The authorities said to the pastors that the Bibles would be returned to the congregation if the pastors would risk their lives and drink what was in the bowls. With little hesitation all four pastors stepped forward and drank. Then they said, “Now return the Bibles to the congregation.”

Can we see what is missing in the ethos of ECUSA today? We as a whole in ECUSA have a void when it comes to living with the Bible as the infallible authoritative Word of God, full of love and truth, judgment and direction. For the most part that is simply absent. Moreover, that kind of statement makes many very nervous.

How did this happen? In my seminary classes some of my teachers presented the Bible in a way that deliberately undermined its authority and its intended sense. For many the beginning point was the need to make the Bible’s message palatable to the current culture. Our challenge was to wheedle and adjust to get it in line with the Washington Post. That needed no apology.

The story that best captures this attitude is when David brought the ark into Jerusalem. At one point the bullocks pulled the cart over a rock and the ark started to fall. The priest Uzza stuck out his hand to steady it and was rebuked and struck down for thinking that God's ark needed the steadying hand of a mortal!

This issue undergirds all others. On several occasions I have said that whatever is wrong on the issues of sexuality is not as wrong as the church leaving 1.5 billion people in today’s world unreached, without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I still believe that. Alongside that I must add that for the church to find sources for truth other than the words that proceed from the mouth of the Lord would give another Gospel to the unreached world. That must not happen.

What separates the Church on the issue of Gene Robinson’s consecration is Scripture. We who are opposed do not believe that new information has surfaced in the 21st century that contradicts God’s revelation. We do believe that a careful and regular reading of the Bible brings God’s power and His wise direction. To inwardly digest His Word brings grace for sinful people and correction for our culture - as it has for all people, all cultures, and all times.

If the other side really wants to know where we are coming from, start here. Listen to us – and then you can see what is coming.

Then you can understand why two dozen Primates would break communion with us on this issue, why the Anglican Communion Network of Parishes and Dioceses continues to draw leaders and allegiance, why biblically-minded congregations are willing to walk away from their property, why faithful members refuse to let their money fund another Gospel, etc., etc.

Yes, this issue is alarming and serious, all the more so if the other side does not understand us.

The Rev. Tad de Bordenave is the Director of Anglican Frontier Missions, based in Richmond, VA.

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