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Be Fair to the Liberals: How Worldview Affects Communion

David Mills

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After some years of ecclesiastical combat (Episcopal battlefield), I think I know why so many conservative Christians do not respond to liberalism as strongly as one would expect. They think that liberals are just cheating: that they know the rules, but like spoiled and willful children have decided to play by rules they like better. Since they're just cheaters, they only need to be shamed into behaving, and if they won't be shamed into behaving, conservatives can try to change their Church's rules and structures to prevent the liberals from cheating anymore.

An Evangelical friend recently told me that he wanted to tell Bishop John Spong and his allies, "OK, fine. Believe what you want. But don't call yourself a Christian. You can't be a member of the club without paying some dues, and the basic dues is to believe. Get in or get out, but stop muddying the waters." The Roman Catholic bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, Fabian Bruskewitz, is reported to have said that "the difference between a dissenting Catholic and a Protestant is that the Protestant has integrity."

This isn't really fair to most liberals. I'll admit, it is irritating when a man who has made quite a good living from the Church declares his rejection of yet another of her doctrines, and praises himself for his prophetic courage while irreligious reporters applaud him and publishers strew book contracts at his feet. It is more than irritating when comfortable sherry-soaked theologians sneer at the Pope for his supposedly simplistic understanding of the problems of modern society or when (as has happened in the Episcopal Church) tenured feminists publicly describe as "evil" a bishop who on biblical grounds hesitates to ordain women.

Nevertheless, we have to be fair to the liberals, and try to see things from their point of view, not just as a courtesy due any opponent, but to know what to do about them. Most liberals are not cheating. They are playing by the rules and playing fair. They are acting with integrity. That's the problem.

Read this article on the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry website (new window will open).

Posted: 12/05/04



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