Of Limited Pastoral Use  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Jamie Parsley is an Episcopal priest in Fargo, North Dakota. In a sermon preached yesterday he spoke about being attracted to liberal theology (of the Jesus Seminar-Bishop Spong variety) while a seminarian. However, these theologians turn out to be of limited relevance when one is faced with the realities of parish ministry. Do read the entire homily.

...The more I have worked in parish ministry and cultivated my own spiritual life and delved deeper and deeper into scripture, I have found myself becoming distanced more and more by these academic religious thinkers. Oftentimes, I simply have found that the message of these theologians rings hollow in my ears next to the experiential faith of my day to day life and those around me.

Having said that, I am just as quick to say that I have not become a fundamentalist by any sense of the word. I still consider myself to be progressively minded as I once was. I am a good "progressive, inclusive, neo-orthodox, Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian".

...However, what I discovered very quickly as I grew both as a Christian and a priest active in parish ministry, is that all that critical training I received from those [liberal] theologians was not always helpful--either to the people I served or even to my own spiritual well-being.

[Quotes Spong to the effect that Jesus' body was tossed into a common grave from which there was no resurrection].

So, yes, there was an empty tomb, but nothing ever laid there. The resurrection wasn't a miracle, though it was a profoundly spiritual event. But it all seemed just as far-fetched for me. How did Spong know this? Where did he get his knowledge on this subject? Certainly he wasn't there. And, as far as I understand, Spong wasn't any more educated than most other bishops I knew of or knew personally. Certainly his episcopacy gave him no greater knowledge on these topics than anyone else. Yet, he wrote with such authority on this issue that it seemed almost as though anyone who believed contrary to his rather flimsy approach to this subject was small-minded and quaint.

The other more practical problem for me with this was that I could never preach that message from this or any pulpit. There is no good news in it. There is no hope in it. A mass grave and anonymous, "unmarked bones" are not what those I look to for spiritual inspiration lived and died for--people like George Herbert, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill, The Martyrs of Memphis, and any of the others.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 29, 2009 at Monday, June 29, 2009 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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