Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Challenging the Episcopal Dean of Cathedral Church of the Advent

The Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama, voted in favor of the new ritual for the blessing of same-sex unions, but won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

I quote from the article:

The Rev. Frank Limehouse, dean of the 3,400-member Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham’s largest Episcopal church, said his church will not "bless any sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman."
"The Bible is clear about this," Limehouse wrote on his church's website. "If anyone who declares the Bible teaches otherwise, then I wouldn’t doubt his or her sincerity, but I would have to question their training in biblical interpretation.”

In response, I wrote the following email to Mr. Limehouse:

Dear Pastor, 

You've managed, in just a few words, to dismiss those who favor gay marriage as ill-trained in Scripture and faithless. 


That's mouthful pastor.

I'm one of those with whom you disagree.

I'm well-trained.

I'll not defend my faith; that belongs to Christ himself.

But I will challenge you.

You could have simply said, "As I read the Bible, here is where I stand." Though perhaps the hardliners want more than that.

I read the same Bible you do, and yet we come to different conclusions. 

That's how God designed this whole thing.

So that we can never retreat into some unassailable position, but have to bear responsibility for our decisions of faith, and especially our ethical decisions. To claim an authority above all question is the stuff of inquisitions and fanatics.

I quote Bonhoeffer:

The responsible man acts in the freedom of his own self, without the support of men, circumstances or principles, but with a due consideration for the given human and general conditions and for the relevant questions of principle. The proof of his freedom is the fact that nothing can answer for him, nothing can exonerate him, except his own deed and his own self. It is he himself who must observe, judge, weigh up, decide and act. It is man himself who must examine the motives, the prospects, the value and the purpose of his action. But neither the purity of the motivation, nor the opportune circumstances, nor the value, nor the significant purpose of an intended undertaking can become the governing law of his action, a law to which he can withdraw, to which he can appeal as an authority, and by which he can be exculpated and acquitted. For in that case he would indeed no longer be truly free. The action of the responsible man is performed in the obligation which alone gives freedom and which gives entire freedom, the obligation to God and to our neighbour as they confront us in Jesus Christ. At the same time it is performed wholly within the domain of relativity, wholly in the twilight which the historical situation spreads over good and evil; it is performed in the midst of the innumerable perspectives in which every given phenomenon appears. …. … responsible action is a free venture; it is not justified by any law; it is performed without any claim to a valid self-justification, and therefore also without any claim to an ultimate valid knowledge of good and evil. Good, as what is responsible, is performed in ignorance of good and in the surrender to God of the deed which has become necessary and which is nevertheless, or for that very reason, free; for it is God who sees the heart, who weighs up the deed, and who directs the course of history.

Your congregation needs to be helped along the way to embrace the faith rather than hide in it, to accept the risk of decision-making rather than deferring the decision to some outward authority that absolves the believer of responsibility.


Tom Eggebeen, Honorably Retired and Interim Pastor
Calvary Presbyterian Church
Hawthorne, CA


If you want to write to Limehouse, here's the address I used: eva@cathedraladvent.com

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