Monday, October 24, 2011

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS: Chapter Two



CHAPTER TWO

"I Want to Thank You for Lettin' Me Be Myself Again"


"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less.
That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."
(Matthew 5:5 - The Message)


"Line upon line...precept upon precept..."

That's a well-known Bible phrase that I like a lot.

To me it means that if you want to communicate effectively, you have to lay a foundation of what you want to say and then build upon it...and you have to build upon it, as that same Scripture goes on to say, "here a little...there a little"...

I do have a lot of things that I want to communicate to you...many things I want to talk about here...but I need to lay a foundation first, so that you can really understand with clarity my actual purpose in putting all this out there.

As I said earlier, I'm just writing what I know...and most of all, I know God. So my foundation has to be that of constructing somewhat of a theological framework.

Otherwise my subject matter becomes marginalized and trivialized.

Please don't let that be off-putting if you only picked up this book to read what I have to say about being gay.

It may sound like that part's going to be boring, but it's not. And it's important.

Everything I discuss will ultimately bring me back to the main topic of sharing the Good News with you, because at the end of the day that's really what I always want to talk about.

I was born to share GOOD NEWS.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me to do it.

I re-iterate, this isn't a "gay" book. But I do think it's important that I deal with that whole subject from my God/Bible/Christian paradigm, and I will...everything from Sodom and Gomorrah to "abominations" to what the Bible says about it (and doesn't say about it) to legalism and homophobia, and so on...

I want to answer some of the questions on the topic that I'm asked pretty much all the time these days, and discuss two of the most obnoxious phrases that I've ever heard (and, believe me, I've heard them a lot!)...

They are,

"God didn't make Adam and Steve, He made Adam and Eve!" ,

and

"Love the sinner, hate the sin!"...

Just really find both of those statements extremely offensive for different reasons, and I'll be happy to tell you why when I get to that part.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'll get to it.

All in good time.

But my sexual orientation does not define me entirely.

After being in full-time ministry for the better part of half a century, I would like to be known and remembered for more than just being gay...or for being the gay Bishop...or the gay minister...I'm not denying or hiding (obviously) that part of me, but that's just one aspect of who I am.

But knowing both the God part and the gay part does put me in a position that makes me feel it's my responsibility to address sexual orientation from a God-perspective.

To whom much is given, much is required.

Bottom line, I'm going to tell you what I know about all that, but first I need to tell you what I know about this.

I think the easiest way to to deal with my subject matter is to put it in question and answer form...to just give simple, straight-forward answers to the things that people ask me about the most.

So, for the sake of context, let me start here...



QUESTION #1: Do you think that your theology is “orthodox”?
ANSWER #1: Yes, I do!

            
The word orthodoxy was a word that I rarely, if ever, heard while growing up in churches within the classical Pentecostal denominations. In that tradition, the emphasis was always placed upon the power and manifestation of the Holy Spirit over and above the correctness of theology or Biblical doctrine.

Orthodoxy and all that it entails became a bigger part of my consciousnes as I received my education, but it didn’t really become so personally important to me until recent years.

The dictionary defines orthodoxy as the quality of being orthodox (especially in religion) a belief or orientation agreeing with conventional standards. The word is from the Greek ortho ('right', 'correct') and doxa ('thought', 'teaching', 'glorification'), and is typically used to refer to the correct theological or doctrinal observance of religion, as determined by some overseeing body; those beliefs which reflect the faith of the whole Church since the time of the apostles; a term used in a number of senses, of which the following are the most important: (1) Orthodoxy in the literal sense of 'right belief,' as opposed to heresy; (2) Orthodoxy in the sense of the forms of Christianity which are dominant in the East.

As we examine the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and other historical and foundational Christian statements of faith, we see their relevance to ministry in the 21st century.

The more research that I do, the more confirmation I receive that the message the world is really waiting for is organic, original and orthodox Christianity…the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is simply the GOOD NEWS.

No more.

No less.

The actual, original Gospel is preached so rarely these days in the mainstream churches, that when it is presented in a candid and uncomplicated manner, many people who think that they are orthodox in their beliefs, actually believe that those who preach only the GOOD NEWS are unorthodox!

Amazing how things get turned around.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't think you can improve on what the angels anounced to the shepherds in the Christmas story..."Behold, I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY which shall be to ALL PEOPLE...unto you is born this day a SAVIOR!"...

That's the Gospel, pure and simple.

GOOD NEWS.

GREAT JOY.

ALL PEOPLE.

In recent years I have particularly developed a greater appreciation for the Apostles’ Creed, which is accepted by both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church (the Greek Orthodox Church favors the nearly identical Nicene Creed) as an official confession of Christianity.

In both creeds (and this is true for all the other ancient Christian creeds) there is nothing mentioned about the devil, or a “rapture”, or a “tribulation period”, or about Israel becoming a nation in 1948, or anything about hell and eternal damnation.

The older Roman Catholic version of the Apostles’ Creed used to contain the phrase “He descended to hell”, but the Modern English Version uses the more Biblically accurate phrase “He descended to the dead”, because true Hebrew and Greek scholars cannot deny anymore that the Hebrew “sheol”, and the Greek “hades” should never have been interpreted as “hell”, because they simply mean the grave, or more specifically, “the unseen”.

More about that a few pages later.

Anyway, here it is:



THE APOSTLES’ CREED
(Modern English Version)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He rose again;
He ascended to heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Amen.



This creed is basically what I believe and preach.


The only revision that I would make to it would be to replace the phrase “God’s only Son” with “God’s firstborn Son” because of Romans 8:29:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the FIRSTBORN among many brothers and sisters.(TNIV)

And I should also point out that the word catholic (lower case), simply means the Church Universal, the Body of Christ.

This term is not to be confused with Roman Catholicism, but is accepted by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike.

Webster defines “catholic” as “broad-minded, as in belief or tastes; liberal; comprehensive; large; universal in reach; general.”

I love the Church of Jesus Christ with my whole heart, and I respect its ancient traditions. Jesus said that He would build His church, and that the gates of hades, or the unseen, could not prevail against it. In other words, death or anything from the unseen realm (including the mysterious force of religion) can not ever overpower the life-giving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, Who was crucified, buried and resurrected, and is the Head of the Church, the Lord of the Universe, and the Savior of all people, especially those who believe.

So, the answer to the question about my theology is, yes, I most definitely do believe that it's orthodox.

Next question...

5 comments:

Avatar said...

"I was born to share GOOD NEWS.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me to do it."

Yes...

He is...

Donald said...

Who the heck made Steve!!!
It seems that nobody wants to claim Steve. But, I thought that God made Adam, Steve, Bill, Jack, Bernice, Gladice, Bertha,....
From the way most of the folks that I've heard use the phrase, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" I have a hard time believing they don't hate everybody.

Anonymous said...

acrBeautifully worded and can't wait for more ...

Keith

Jere Luck said...

I'm with Keith! Beautifully worded! Can't wait to read more! And you are not my gay Bishop! You're my Bishop! Oh, and yeah, he's gay. What about it?

Erik said...

Bishop,

Really good.

Faves -

What you wrote -- "Webster defines “catholic” as “broad-minded, as in belief or tastes; liberal; comprehensive; large; universal in reach; general.”

What i think ---

Doctrine, Creed, and Dogma have often been an irritant to me personally, because every time it was limiting G-d, and made me ill, have to go for the Tums or later Prilosec at each mention of it.

Simply replace all of them with -

Yours -

"That's the Gospel, pure and simple.

GOOD NEWS.

GREAT JOY.

ALL PEOPLE."

Mine -

This is the essence, sans declaration of specific details of any dogma, doctrine or creed.

From your writing --

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less.
That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."
(Matthew 5:5 - The Message)


"Line upon line...precept upon precept..."

After being in full-time ministry for the better part of half a century, I would like to be known and remembered for more than just being gay...or for being the gay Bishop...or the gay minister...I'm not denying or hiding (obviously) that part of me, but that's just one aspect of who I am.

But knowing both the God part and the gay part does put me in a position that makes me feel it's my responsibility to address sexual orientation from a God-perspective.

To whom much is given, much is required."

Mine -- Exceptional.