Thursday, February 08, 2007

Worship or Blasphemy?

When read the first paragraph of the following I thought it was a joke. I’d made a mental note to contact the webmaster of the site I found it on when I figured I could Google the Episcopal Urban Caucus and see if this was for real. It is.
The Sunday after General Convention I returned to my home parish for Gay Pride Sunday and participated in a Disco Mass for which gays and lesbians turned out in force. The opening hymn was a beautiful jazz rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” Musical offerings came from gay men in sequined tank tops and from the Director of Music who was ushered into the service singing a disco number complete with Go-Go girls. The queen of St. Mark’s appeared in full drag to deliver the homily and the closing hymn was, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” As I stood singing among straight men and women, young parents with their children, gays and lesbians, teenagers in hip hop clothing, Asians, whites, African Americans and Spanish speaking people I realized I was part of the realm of God and I was glad to be there - in a place where God’s creation of a new thing was being lived out.
God’s new creation envisions a time of joy, prosperity, health and peace - a new social order whose goal is transformation. As members of the EUC let us not rest until every member of our family is fully accepted at every level of our Church.
--Nell Braxton Gibson, Coordinator of the Episcopal Urban Caucus, describing a "disco Mass" at her home congregation in New York City.
Gibson was writing in response to last summer’s Assembly of the Episcopal Church where, much to her horror and anger, the bishops voted to tell the worldwide Anglican Communion that they might consider moderating their stand on gay ordination, gay bishops, and same-sex marriages (something yet to happen). The way she put it was, “I am still appalled at the General Convention’s decision to support B033, a resolution that calls on the Church to sacrifice the humanity of a group of people for the sake of institutional unity.”

Can’t she see the disconnect that the average Christian might find when she says that the ECUSA “sacrificed the humanity” of a group of people who worship in the manner above? I’ve heard of the Virgin Mary referred to as the Queen of Heaven. I consider Jesus to be the King of Kings. What on earth is the Queen of St. Mark’s? Why is Jesus not even mentioned? While God loves all his creatures, He is very specific about what true worship is:
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:9)

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23, 24)

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’’” (Matthew 4:10)
Christian worship is designed to be God-centered. Note that the closing hymn was about the people in the church, not God; the opening hymn was the “anthem” of Judy Garland, much beloved of gay groups. This was not true worship, but a sad, sick parody of it.

What she described in this “Disco Mass” is the worship of self. Worse than that, it is the glorification of what Scripture teaches to be a perversion of the very Image of God. When I mentally picture what the worship must have been like, the names of Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind.

When people put an aspect of their lives—their sexuality, their social standing, economic status, intellect, or any other thing—above the revelation of God through Scripture, they are committing idolatry. To do this and call it Christian worship is blasphemy.

The “new social order whose goal is transformation” that Gibson proposes is completely at odds with God’s plan. We are not called to transform society to match our confusion and weaknesses. We are called to transform ourselves, the church, and the world in conformity to Jesus Christ.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live... (Romans 8:12, 13)
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
If this is the direction of mainline denominations—even if it is limited to a few churches as blatant as this one—then such denominations are not in the business of transformation. They’re simply glorifying the brokenness of humanity. No wonder so many mainline churches are empty.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28, 29)
Keep praying—keep the faith,


Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. It has ultra rare files, amazing photo's, lively discussions, and more! The only thing missing is you. Please check it out.

Ted D Rossier said...

That was an absolutely wonderful post Tom. The sad clarity of the current situation in "mainline" denominations is both startling and saddening.

Every time I read something like this, I become more convinced that we need a new Reformation. Those of us on the side of Biblical Christianity cannot let ourselves be silenced. Like Martin Luther, our consciences are captive to the Word of God.

I hope the next New Wineskins conference goes as well as you hope, and that the churches involved do not fear losing membership as much as they fear being unfaithful. I'll be watching and praying from the Southern Baptist ranks.


phillip j. owings said...

Tom, it is good to see that you are blogging again. Three good posts this week. Keep it up brother, contend for the faith and God give us the unction to support you, Wayne and the Elders of the Kirk in prayer.