Category Archives: Episcopal Church

Bahamas postcard: Christ Church Cathedral

From my Aug. 4, 2018, visit to Nassau, Bahamas.

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Would C.S. Lewis suppose God could be found or experienced outside of Christianity?

The guy who scorned liberal Christianity as watered-down (“Christianity and water”)—and who mocked “gin-and-lace” Anglo-Catholicism—turns out to believe God could be found outside of Christianity?

The guy who is loved by U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists turns out to proclaim that people can experience God outside of Christianity?

Consider (here I paste from one of my recent replies in a social media thread):

…What I mean is, Lewis saw God in Plato. He also loved Rudolf Otto’s “The Idea of the Holy,” in fact listed it as one of his top 10 books outside the Bible, and Otto’s book affirms the human experience of God among many different cultures and religions, which seems reasonable considering Saint Paul felt it appropriate to quote a pagan poet who wrote, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Note Paul found a worthy piece of writing about God outside of Scripture, from a writer neither Jewish nor Christian.

Lewis also said, in “Mere Christianity” no less, “If you are Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through….If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.” He goes on to say God may be working through the good parts of other religions to steer people to Christ.

And in the Narnia book “The Last Battle,” a character who seems analogous to a Muslim enters Aslan’s kingdom and joins the ride “further up and further in.”

Considering Lewis’s love for Otto’s book and his own words in “Mere Christianity” and “The Last Battle,” you…must consider C.S. Lewis to be a heretic. Perhaps he wouldn’t be welcome in the ACNA, which seems only capable of issuing demerits. Look at all the evidence against Lewis being orthodox! And you wouldn’t be the first to consider him insufficiently orthodox. But I don’t.…and until I can consider Lewis a heretic, maybe for the time being I’ll consider a church’s consistent recitation of the Nicene Creed as enough to count for orthodoxy…

In that social media reply, I went on to mention Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, which offers appendices that show similarities in moral and ethical teachings across various religions and cultures. Not that morals and ethics are the ultimate concern for many religious people (for them, salvation is), but similarities in identifying sin are probably important to notice.

In that reply, I should have also included this Lewis quotation, from a 1959 letter to Clyde S. Kilby, which alludes to James 1:17:

“If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired.”

The harshest conservative critics will see the above as cherry-picking (selectively using evidence). However I think the above evidence reveals an undeniable tendency in Lewis’s outlook and worldview, in his theological and philosophical orientations, born from his deep and wide readings in classical literature and mythology.

So, more broadly, this post belongs to perhaps an emerging genre of posts, accumulating on this blog and elsewhere, carrying underneath a tonal blend of exasperation and bafflement at the U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists who appreciate C.S. Lewis, who was neither evangelical nor fundamentalist. Many things evangelicals and fundamentalists scorn in other types of believers are the very things Lewis believed. But C.S. Lewis remains famous and beloved, and he was a scholar who believed in a God and better yet in Jesus Christ; so see, they have a smart person in their corner in a time when undefined, somewhere-out-there smart people seem to be the biggest threat to those in evangelical and fundamentalist circles. (Well, the biggest threat until recently.) Evangelical and fundamentalist leaders seem invested in articulating easily-remembered phrases that can become rhetorical memes that build cognitive walls against outside critiques. C.S. Lewis is so quotable, the rhetorical memes are already available. If they side step the fact that Lewis didn’t see the world or God the same way as U.S. evangelicals and fundamentalists, they can quote Lewis with faux gravitas, pat themselves on the back for being smart and bookish, and meanwhile convince no one else in their neighborhoods of anything.

That being said, this post was generated by a recent social media exchange in which an ACNA minister pressed me to seek disciplinary action against an Episcopalian priest for saying God could be found in the Koran. To that I made the above italicized response, also saying I would not be his heresy hunter because I’m not certain C.S. Lewis would play that role. The ACNA minister apparently did not see this as a response to the issue of the Koran. While admittedly not addressing the Koran directly, I argued from C.S. Lewis’s life and work that he thought people outside of Christianity could experience the presence of the real God (what more that might mean or indicate is up for discussion). I think the two strongest pieces of evidence for this are (1) Lewis’s strong appreciation for Otto’s book, not commonly read these days but historically important, and (2) his letter to Kilby. On balance, I’m not sure C.S. Lewis would be welcome in the ACNA except on the merits of his overwhelming celebrity in Christendom. Whether he should be read by ACNA members, as a matter of consistency with the ACNA leadership’s view of orthodoxy, is actually a different question from what I’m raising. But I doubt he would be accepted by the ACNA leadership today on the merits of his actual views. Maybe C.S. Lewis isn’t orthodox enough for the ACNA, or the Southern Baptists—or for that matter the PCA, for whom I have a great deal of love and appreciation, if probably not agreement.

Ash Wednesday Prayer From a Family Heirloom

This page is about the size of a playing card. It’s in a small Book of Common Prayer that belonged to one of my great-grandfather’s brothers.

I love the beginning of this Ash Wednesday prayer, which seems controversial in some theological circles even today: “Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made…”

Oh snap!

Tangential to yesterday’s oral arguments in the S.C. Supreme Court, this aside:

“The justices interrupted his presentation nearly two dozen times (unsettling some of the clergy in the room who could only imagine giving a sermon in such an environment.)”

The bold-facing was added. I can’t seem to find the link for the specific post, but you can read the September 23, 2015, entry on this site.

S.C. Supreme Court

For self-identified U.S. Anglican priests not recognized by Canterbury, a fundamental question remains

New developments here in South Carolina don’t bother me because something more fundamental has not be addressed.

It’s a question about the ordination vows taken by those of you who are former Episcopalian priests.

Now that you’re more biblical than the rest of us, you might appreciate this:

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:8-10

If you’re willing to break your ordination vows, why wouldn’t you break your marriage vows or break your confidentiality following confession?

Where’s the character in breaking your ordination vows?

Your ordination vows said, “…I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”

Assuming yourselves to be morally and spiritually superior, you don’t acknowledge the immorality of breaking vows.

If your wife left the faith, you would have “biblical” grounds to divorce her, right?

Because you had “biblical” grounds to depart from the Anglican Communion!

And to go into a corner not officially recognized by Canterbury.

Unless, of course, you’re talking about affiliating yourselves with African bishops who endorse jailing gays and lesbians on the absurd pretense that gays and lesbians are more likely to be pedophiles.

They couldn’t just reinforce laws against pedophiles?

Have you read about the conservative Bible-thumping heterosexual pedophiles in the U.S.? Quite a rash of revelations lately.

Should we endorse jailing conservative Bible-thumping heterosexuals as a preemptive move to protect children? Maybe try it in Africa first?

P.S. How can I, as a person lately more skeptical than believing, quote Scripture to you? Because I am quoting to you the presumed basis for your assumed moral and spiritual superiority. You tell me how biblical you are and then you dump your vows. You tell me how marriage is most important as a reflection of Christ and His Church, and then decide certain people are not part of Christ’s Church, and then break your vows to them. God is lucky to have you doing all His heavy lifting!

I’m in the newspaper today; here’s a subtle clarification

I’ve known Steve Jones for years, and I admire him. He’s a top-notch reporter.

When he was interviewing me with two other members of Church of the Messiah for today’s article in The Sun News (my former employer), I think either I didn’t make my point clearly enough or maybe a subtle distinction was lost in the shuffle.

Jones reports:

Messiah church member Colin Burch chose to stay with the traditional church while his wife and three daughters continue to worship at Trinity Church.

The bishop of The Episcopal Church in S.C. conducted the service where one of his daughters joined the traditional church.

He said his children see the situation much like they might a divorce.

“They just don’t know which (parent) to go with,” he said.

The divorce analogy, which originated with my wife Kristi, was intended to describe Kristi and my three daughters — they see the split between Bishop Mark Lawrence’s diocese and The Episcopal Church USA like a divorce, and they aren’t sure which “parent” to go with.

My wife and my daughters, in varying combinations, join me at Church of the Messiah from time to time.

As far as my family is concerned, I listen to Kristi and I listen to my daughters, especially my 14 year old, and even as dense as men can be, I’m fairly certain we [my wife and daughters] all share certain values. I can certainly claim Kristi, the 14-year-old, and I have rich conversations about many things related to church, Bible, tradition, and theology.

Now, if I can just get the 14-year-old to teach me Latin. She’s way ahead of me.

Furthermore, more than a year ago now, the 14-year-old opted to be confirmed by the Episcopal Church USA bishop while continuing in a Bishop Lawrence parish.

Of course, I continue to love and admire many members of Trinity Church.

Update, 4:10 p.m.: On my Facebook page, I referred to a tradition started by my great-grandparents. As an exhibit of that heritage, please see “An Important Church in My Family,” which includes a few photos from All Saints Episcopal Church in Oakley, Maryland.

Update, 8:50 p.m., Dec. 8: My distinguished friend (though not distinguished because of our friendship) Charlie Jordan alerted me that RealClearReligion.org, in its list of today’s articles, included a link to Steve Jones’s article in The Sun News.

Update, 7:55 p.m., Dec. 12: I added a bracketed phrase to clarify “we” in the paragraph beginning, “As far as my family is concerned…”

The Rev. Stephen Kidd on The Episcopal Church

Gratitude for Greg Garrett, who yesterday posted the following quotation on his Facebook page, a quotation that captures the essence of why I started this blog about 7 years ago:

“The Episcopal Church welcomed me when others wouldn’t have me, and honored my questions when others simply sought to dismiss them. Its sacramental life spoke to parts of my soul that the fundamentalism of my childhood couldn’t touch; worship felt ancient, holy, and real in ways I didn’t expect. 15 years later I am still amazed at the depth and breadth of our tradition, and I appreciate all the more our peculiar vantage point at the intersection of the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox corners of our Christian family. The Episcopal Church isn’t perfect, far from it, but for me, it is home. — The Rev. Stephen Kidd, from an upcoming book by Church Publishing Incorporated