Friday, January 9, 2009

Nobody Steps On A Church In My Town*

It's often been a blessing to have Pastor Rick Warren's mammoth Saddleback Church in our backyard at St. John's in Rancho Santa Margarita, about two miles south of Warren's digs. His ministry gives inspiration and comfort to tens of thousands in our community and millions around the world. He brings the gospel alive in practical ways to help people live better, more faithful lives.

But now he's offered to help dissident Episcopalians plant a church in our neighborhood. Thanks a lot, dear colleague!

In the wake of Monday's ruling by the California Supreme Court under which three churches which tried to leave our Diocese may soon have to return their buildings and other properties, Warren wrote,
We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.
As the orthodox pastor of the closest Episcopal church to Saddleback, I'll try not to take it personally. Still, if any of the 20 million Baptists who aren't especially taken with Pastor Rick's conservative Southern Baptist Convention want to plant a church in his backyard, I'll happily talk to the St. John's Bishop's Committee about using our choir room to start Saddleback South. We could only seat about 20, compared to Pastor Rick's 50,000 Christmas Eve worshipers, but all good things start small.

Among dissidents' problems with Mr. Warren's Southern Baptists is this carefully worded policy statement from the Convention's web site:
Women participate equally with men in the priesthood of all believers. Their role is crucial, their wisdom, grace and commitment exemplary. Women are an integral part of our Southern Baptist boards, faculties, mission teams, writer pools, and professional staffs. We affirm and celebrate their Great Commission impact.

While Scripture teaches that a woman's role is not identical to that of men in every respect, and that pastoral leadership is assigned to men, it also teaches that women are equal in value to men.

That's right: Pastor Rick and his colleagues believe Jesus Christ didn't want women to be pastors. The policy is one reason former President Jimmy Carter resigned from the Convention in 2000. With us Episcopalians and many other denominations, the seeming crisis is over the sacramental status of gay and lesbian people. But an even more important problem is that many Christians haven't even come to terms with the radical equality of women in the body of Christ.

In the early church, women played a prominent role in all aspects of ministry. After all, the "apostle to the apostles" wasn't Peter, James, or Paul, or indeed Tom, Dick, or Harry. All four gospels agree (in other words, "scripture teaches") that Mary Magdalene first received the good news of our Lord's Resurrection. She believed, while Jesus's male followers (who had fled in fear after the Crucifixion) at first did not.

And yet in the 21st century, powerful Christian leaders still keep Mary's half of the population down. I can well understand why they prefer to talk instead about the 2-3% of the population who are homosexual. Safer odds.

* Name that movie!

Hat tip to Greg Larkin



John Taylor, you totally rock!

Unknown said...

Right ON, Fr. John! Joyce Wills

John Whittaker said...

Fr. John,

I agree, the move by Pastor Rick Warren to throw his weight into the business of the Episcopal Church is unacceptable and further damaging to the situation. Having an Episcopal Church - “Saddleback Edition”, is not a useful or positive development for either denomination. This conflict should be resolved internally, it is not helpful to have new splinters of the Episcopal Church funded by Saddleback.

In regards to the possible argument of whether Warren is bucking against the “fairness” of the court’s decision, if someone has reached a point where morally or spiritually they feel compelled to leave a particular denomination, they should be allowed to do this. They should not however, be able to take a denomination’s property with them.

I am a Conservative Republican Orthodox Evangelical Anglican living in Southern Orange County and I have a wonderful Church to go to, the Episcopal Church. Thanks, but no thanks Pastor Warren.



PS- Personally, I like Deborah for the equality of women in the Church discussion more than Mary Magdalene.

PPS- The movie was Ghostbusters... Just after the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man did just that...

Fr. John said...'ve earned it, John. (Name that candy bar, same movie!)

Fr. Jonn

John Whittaker said...

lol, trick question... In the original film it was a Nestle' Crunch Bar, but it was changed to Payday for the home video version.


Fr. John said...

John: Just catching up with this. You would've nailed me on the candy bar, since I never notice the switch from Nestles Crunch. You don't miss much! Blessings, bro.

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