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The Sin of Exclusion – Richard Rohr

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Why is it that we value those who are like us and devalue those who are different? 

Maybe it’s women or lesbians, maybe it’s aborigines or gays, maybe it’s drug addicts or prostitutes, or maybe it’s another culture.  Is it that they don’t sound like us or eat the same food as us. Is it that they see the world differently? Is it that they value different things?  Do we read the situation as one where they are criticising us?  Is that why we have to circle the wagons?

Richard Rohr has some insights into the practice of excluding people.

The Sin of Exclusion

Those at the edge of any system and those excluded from any system ironically and invariably hold the secret for the conversion and wholeness of that very group. They always hold the feared, rejected, and denied parts of the group’s soul. You see, therefore, why the church was meant to be that group that constantly went to the edges, to the “least of the brothers and sisters,” and even to the enemy. Jesus was not just a theological genius, but he was also a psychological and sociological genius. When any church defines itself by exclusion of anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God.  (more)

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in theology, women's ordination

 

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Why do corporations often underperform in the ethics arena?

Issue #1

The WA government has made a less than magnanimous offer to its Indigenous people.

Between 1905 and 1972, the WA government withheld up to three-quarters of the wages earned by workers on state-run Native Welfare Settlements. The monies were put into government trust accounts with the promise that they would later be rightfully dispersed.  Link

The money was never paid.

An indigenous stockmen

An indigenous stockmen –  from ABC news

With records ‘lost’ The WA government has offered $2 000 to each worker as compensation for unpaid wages.

Why is it that WA bureaucrats, in this era of clear thinking around racism, would attempt to minimise decades of racism? Why is it deemed acceptable that decades of lost wages are to be cancelled with a single payment of $2 000?

Issue #2

Grunenthal, the maker of Thalidomide, has apologised to mothers who took the drug during the 1950s and 1960s and to their children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.

Why is it that a company waits 50+ years to apologise?  Even now it denies legal responsibility. Was it not the company’s responsibility before this? Was it no-one’s ethical issue?  What is happening when a company turns away from taking responsibility?  Aren’t companies run by ordinary citizens, who are upright members of school councils, churches and sports clubs?  What is happening with the culture of a company when presumably ethical individuals are subsumed by the less than ethical nature of their company?   Few people would say that money is more important than people, but that’s what their corporations say all the time.   Link
Issue #3
The LCA has debated women’s ordination for decades, with the Church’s commission on theology determining that there are no theological problems with its inception. General Convention has twice voted with a majority for women’s ordination. The will of the Church is clear, but the lack of action ensures deepening division.  All this while the LCA suffers from a lack of clergy to fill parishes (it’s the same in the Catholic Church – Irish Catholic situation).
How is it that corporate LCA continues to block women’s ordination when general Church consensus and theology has no problem with it? The LCA hierarchy seems to have a notion that the LCA body isn’t ready for women’s ordination.  It gives voice to conservatives and mutes the voice of reason behind women’s ordination. “Let there be no debate.  Let the voice of protest be silenced.”  Like a ‘stern father’ the hierarchy holds that it knows best and there is no budging.  Like the stern father with adolescent children it is unable to adjust restrictions and fails to enter into respectful conversations with family members who are unhappy with current circumstances.
The WA government stands accused of being self-interested and callous. Its response is at best inadequate and, more realistically, out of touch with standards of compassion and ethics. Grunenthal, after years of denying responsibility, stands accused of a disingenuous apology. It is not surprising that the apology has been rejected by suffering families.  LCA hierarchy stands accused of being disingenuous in the way it has sidelined the CTICR after its years of study on women’s ordination.  LCA hierarchy stands accused of idolising Church unity at the cost of women and deepening Church division.  While we understand that District Presidents are mostly supportive of women’s ordination, why is it that we don’t hear their voice? While individuals may be upright moral Church members, they have remained silent to the LCA’s less than ethical response to women, to the voice of the General Convention, to the deliberations of CTICR.  Presumably it’s because they fear that their voice will not be heard.  It is time to speak up!  The silence of the well-intended is given little respect in history.
By resisting change the LCA no longer reflects the reformers’ drive to be true to the Gospel.  By resisting change the LCA is now in a position contrary to the radical Gospel through which Jesus introduced grace for all – slaves, rulers, robbers, lepers and even women.  Without women’s ordination the LCA is also unable to witness to issues of justice, but there’s nothing new there.  Did you notice that the LCA was not amongst the churches mentioned in the news this last week calling for a more humane approach to asylum seekers?  There are times it feels shameful to be a member of the LCA.
Perhaps, an epitaph on certain tombstones might one day read,
I, alone, held the Church together by not ordaining women. Strangely, I rent the Church in two.
One day, under wiser and more tolerant leadership there will be an apology from the LCA for the way it has treated women.
 

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Women’s ordination and slavery – It’s easy to spot injustice and oppression in history

Slaves in the hold of a transport ship

It seems unlikely that in a few generations many will support today’s LCA notion that women cannot be called and equipped by God for ministry. The rest of the Church will look back in sadness and regret that women were so poorly treated. They will wonder at the inhumanity of the Church and, most likely, consider that they would never have participated in such systemic oppression of women.

As support for this hypothesis, we want to look at the way scriptural passages were used to support the notion of slavery. It is sad that so few people opposed this theology for hundreds of years, resulting in the dehumanising and deaths of countless thousands of people.

1. Slavery was divinely sanctioned by the patriarchs

Noah’s curse upon Canaan (Gen. 9:24-27) (the first appearance of slavery in the Bible) was a prophesy of the black African’s destiny.

Abraham is our godly example.  He was a great slave-owner. He received, possessed, and willed slaves to his children as property.  The Scripture says that the Lord blessed Abraham by multiplying his slaves (Gen 24:35), and an angel commanded the slave, Hagar, to return to her mistress (Gen 16:1-9), which “clearly support(ed) the fugitive slave law.” Hopkins (1864, 76-77)

Joseph saved many people from starvation because God commanded him to, “buy the people and the land, making them slaves to Pharoah.” (Gen 47: 15-25) (Stringfellow, in Elliot, 472)

2. Slavery was incorporated in Israel’s national constitution

God allowed two categories of slaves:  1. They were allowed to take foreigners as slaves and to will them to their descendants (Lev. 25:44-46).  2. Hebrews could will themselves and their families into slavery for a limited period of time. (Ex. 21 and Lev. 25)

3. Slavery was approved by Jesus and the apostles

Despite living amidst the brutality of slavery in the Roman Empire, Jesus and the apostles were not reported as speaking out against the practice. “It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that slavery is contrary to the will of God. … We accept the Bible terms as the definition of our slavery, and its precepts as the guide of our conduct.” (Pro-slavery Arguments, 1852,107-08)

Amongst other Biblical proof-texts, 1 Cor. 7:20-24 speaks clearly (Stringfellow), “as the Lord has called every one so let him walk”.

4. Slavery is a merciful institution

Through the practise of slavery, “millions of Ham’s descendants,” who otherwise “would have sunk down to eternal ruin,” have been, “brought within the range of the gospel influence.”  Hodge says (in Elliot, 848), “If the … course of abolitionists is right, then the course of Christ and the apostles were (sic) wrong.”

_____________

The style of hermeneutic is similar to that applied to opposing women’s ordination.

There can be no justification for denying women the opportunity to respond to their call. When Scripture is used to justify an abusive position it reflects poorly on the hermeneutic, the scholar and the Church.

References

Elliott, E.W., ed (1969) Cotton is King and Pro Slavery Arguments… New York, Negro Universities Press (originally published 1860)

Hopkins, J.W. (1864) A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical and Historical View of Slavery from the Days of the Patriarch Abraham, to the Nineteenth Century, New York, W.I. Polley and Co.

Pro Slavery Arguments: Several Essays (1969) (orig published 1852), New York, Negro Universities Press.

Swartley, W.M. (1983) Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women, Herald Press, Scottsdale PA, USA.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Hermeneutics, history, theology

 

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