Showing items filed under “The Rt. Rev. George Sumner”

An Ancestor in the Faith

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What is the heresy of our time? Experience- supposing that our feelings and impressions are the norm for Christian faith and action. In the name of personal subjectivity, we make ourselves the measure of all things.

Most all the great assertions of the Christian faith are true, but....certain qualifications are required. So the Christian life is about offering to God all of yourself- that means heart as well as mind. And Christian understanding knits together thought, will, and feeling, or better yet imagination, but under the guidance of the Word of God. But what about the Holy Spirit? It must not be quenched, but discerning the Spirit's movements depends precisely on that Word.

All this comes to my mind as I read my recent birthday present, 'Mariner,' a study of the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by the Anglican priest, poet, and scholar Malcolm Guite. As you may recall from schooldays, he was one of the great and original romanticist poets. The book describes how the era of industrialization in many ways resembled our 'post-' era. He was an adamant proponent of abolition. His struggles with depression and substance abuse are not strange to our time. At times his views felt more like pantheism or deism.   The alienation and final redemption in the poem 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' may be seen in his life (and ours). And by the end of his life Coleridge came to a deep, traditional, 'owned' faith in his home Church of England. He was finally able to see how experience, trauma, the striving for justice, personal spiritual journey, and imagination find their home as aspects of the 'confessions of an inquiring spirit' which is orthodox as well.  As such he became a key example of a faithful modernism, something the Church after him still struggles to find.

+GRS

Contra Washington: Ten Theses

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A recent resolution out of the Diocese of Washington has advocated genderless talk about God. This is not a new thought, though its association with gender neutrality is. In the wake of strong criticism, the bishop has replied that this should be taken not politically but theologically. To honor this distinction, I offer the following theses: 

  1. God is not a creature, and hence is not male or female. God is beyond our knowing, and were we left to our own devices we could only project our own notions upon Him.
  2. But God has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and pre-eminently in Jesus Christ. In this light, we can rightly understand how creation too reveals His glory. 
  3. Naming is different from describing. Jesus calls God “Abba,” and He is addressed as “my beloved Son.” 
  4. The official liturgies of the Church derive from this revelation and must make sure they address the true God truly.
  5. As a result we are commanded directly by the risen Jesus to baptize in the name of the “Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
  6. In the relation thereby restored, we are given the space to describe God in many ways. Jesus described Himself as a hen gathering her brood. The proper places for such descriptions include private prayers, poems, songs, and even sermons. 
  7. The question of how we address one another is a different one, dependent on custom, language, and usage. It should be debated separately. 
  8. The use of “He” for God is a linguistic accommodation to the Incarnation within the grammatical structures of English.  It makes no metaphysical claim.  
  9. Male and female God created us. But their roles had been the subjects of great historical and cultural change, and are an appropriate topic of discussion. 
  10. For the reasons above God should be addressed without exception or change in an orthodox manner in our Church, to His praise and glory. 

+GRS

 

 

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