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June 01, 2009

Ah, the pathos: The droning of self-excommunicates

In the last few days a couple of headlines have popped up that have an interesting running theme: excommunication. I’m not talking about the common use of the word, namely expelling Catholics from the Catholic Church. Rather, I’m referring to Protestants breaking communion with a church or religious organization.

A few days ago, the Associated Press reported that Liberty University will no longer recognize the College Democrats club on campus.  Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Hine told the club’s president, Brian Diaz, that the Democratic Party stands against the principles of the university and therefore cannot be facilitated or supported by the University any longer.  Some of the issues that clearly divide the values of the College Democrats from those of the school’s founder, Jerry Falwell, are abortion, socialism, and the gay rights agenda.

Similarly, a little later, the Associated Press reported on the “ousting” of 61 Episcopal clergy due to their opposition to “consecrating” an openly gay bishop. As former Bishop John-David Schofield said, "The Episcopal Church needlessly isolates itself from their brothers and sisters around the world." In this case, though the clergy were officially ousted, it's the Episcopal Church that is ousting itself from the worldwide Anglican Church.

The Associated Press has presented the Liberty University situation as an “ousting,” or a “barring” of participation of a radically liberal group from engaging in communion with Liberty University. I have trouble with this because neither institution has been vague about what it believes. I hope it comes as no surprise that Liberty University, the same institution founded by the conservative Baptist Jerry Falwell, stands firmly against homosexuality, abortion, and socialism. Likewise, the Anglican Church worldwide does not believe in homosexuality as part of God’s plan. 

When both of these institutions align themselves so closely to specific values, aren’t violators of these values ousting or barring themselves? The institutions have done nothing except uphold what they have always believed. 

This does not inherently mean these groups have done anything wrong—except maybe claiming a grievance or victim status. Their fault is circumstantial. Thomas Aquinas said it would be better to be excommunicated than to ignore one’s conscience. This can be terribly and corruptly interpreted, as has been done in the recent past to support being pro-choice and Roman Catholic. A properly formed conscience, informed by fidelity to Scripture and with a proper discernment ofnatural law and God’s law, could not lead one to justify abortion or homosexuality. These are just two examples.

With regard to homosexuality, with its abandonment of reproductive capabilities, its direct conflict with Scripture, and the impossibility of unifying two souls, how could a prayerful reflection and a life lived for Christ ever lead to the acceptance of homosexuality? To clarify, a homosexual relationship could not unify the two souls because the virtue of chastity opens one up to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Since Scripture condemns homosexual behavior, these gifts of the Holy Spirit are inaccessible to those who practice it. Liberty University, in these circumstances, is upholding traditional Christian doctrine.

It’s difficult to claim wrongdoing on the part of Liberty University or the Anglican Church when these individuals publicly held to opposing beliefs within the walls of institutions that have been clear in rejecting these views. 

There is logically no reason to believe a Democrat would go to Liberty University -- except perhaps for research purposes -- or a practicing homosexual would be a practicing Anglican. It is as logically inconsistent as claiming to be a married bachelor. In no possible world can you be both. 

If you publicly denounce the beliefs of a group you claim allegiance to, you have excommunicated yourself. 

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Comments

Jason Taylor

Actually it's a bit more fundamental then that. If you publically denounce the beliefs of the Church and serve as a clergyman then you are in fact a thief. You are given your salery, your status, and your cool robes for a contract which you have broken.

TimC

I don't follow TEC politics closely, but my reading of the AP story about the Episcopal church led me to believe that the "ousted" clergy were the conservatives. I understood that Bishop Schofield holds to the traditional Christian understanding of sexuality, as do the clergy associated with him. In which case, this seems like a counter-example to the original post (the points of which I generally agree with.) Am I missing something here?

Steve Rempe

In the case of the San Joaquin Diocese of the Episcopal church, it was actually clergy who opposed the consecration of Gene Robinson who were dismissed by the church body. This wasn't exactly news, as the whole diocese had already voted to leave the Episcopal Church en masse. So no, the Episcopal Church is not moving in an orthodox direction.

Gina

Tim, you're correct. My apologies. I'll fix it.

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