by Bil Aulenbach

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I’d Flunk Out of Seminary Today: Part 2

This is the second part of a six-part series about an imaginary journey to an Episcopal seminary where I ask hard questions about Christianity and priesthood. Without twenty-first-century answers, I may have to drop out. You can find Part 1 here.

Last week, I attended an imaginary class about prayer and prayer life. I asked too many questions. I didn’t mean to irritate anyone—I only wanted to learn how to best serve my Christ, the Jewish Jesus, in an advanced, sophisticated society.

Now, I’m off to my first class on the Old Testament. It must be very important, because at my ordination, the bishop will ask if I “believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 526).

Shortly after the class begins, I ask this burning question: “Is the Old Testament god different from the New Testament one? They seem so different. One seems to be angry most of the time and has so many laws. The other is all about love.”

I am given a nonanswer in reply. The church is very good at that!

I listen for a while and then ask, “How can the Old Testament and the New both be the Word of God? Doesn’t the New Testament replace the Old and all 613 Jewish laws?”

Then I ask, “Who gets to decide what the Word of God is? I think it’s all about unconditional love. But many so-called Christian churches exclude the LGBTQUI community, treat women as second-class citizens, and support a morally corrupt man as leader of the free world. We can’t both be right!”

I understand the need to study the Old Testament as an influence on the early church, but the Old Testament is just that: old and ancient history.

I also know this. I am a gentile. I didn’t know any Jews until I went to college. The Old Testament was written by Jewish authors to record religious history instead of objective history. The two are very different. Religious history tends to hide messages in stories that are historically untrue.

So, I ask my Old Testament professor, “How can we understand the Old and New Testaments unless we are taught by Jewish scholars, know how to read Hebrew, and understand Judaism?”

The professor doesn’t like that question (he isn’t a Jewish scholar) and mumbles something about me taking a course in Hebrew and going to rabbinical school.

I have to think about that.

Maybe I should just shut up and blindly accept what the church tells me I have to believe!

What do you think? Come back next week for my New Testament class.


Image courtesy of Rina Pitucci (CC BY-ND 2.0)

6 Responses to I’d Flunk Out of Seminary Today: Part 2

  • Getting better each week

  • My church has a belief system that allows us to think for ourselves. It is called “Faithful Disagreement policy”. Faithful Disagreement is defined as actions and/or responses by a person holding a different view about a specific policy, belief, principle, or other position of Community of Christ. This disagreement with a Community of Christ position or direction is helpful, responsible, faithful, and bounded by loyalty and commitment to the identity, mission, message, and beliefs of Community of Christ.

    A person who faithfully disagrees is welcome to share about the church position with which she or he disagrees. The intent of the sharing is to improve the overall faithful response of the church to God’s intended direction without classifying others as unfaithful.

    I appreciate that opportunity since my belief system is sometimes different from that of other members and ministry of my church.

    A member or a priesthood member with a differing viewpoint is not to use public-ministry opportunities to speak against the identity, mission, message,
    or beliefs of Community of Christ. Nor should a member or priesthood member publicly criticize the Community of Christ stance on the particular position with which the person disagrees. Public ministry must focus on proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that align with Community of Christ identity, mission, message, and beliefs.

    Agreeing with Community of Christ positions, official and unofficial, is not a test of faith for priesthood, members, and friends.

    A person cannot ignore policies because he or she disagrees with a particular policy. Ethically, administrators must consistently apply the official policies and procedures of the church.

    At no time is any action that harms the body of the church considered in harmony with the principles in this document.

    In seeking to create genuine signal communities, we listen respectfully to one another’s viewpoints. In addition, we try to see from each other’s perspec-
    tive. We trust in each person’s commitment to Christ and motivation to see the mission of Community of Christ flourish. We seek to celebrate our unity while learning from our diversity.

    As a community that embraces a belief in continuing revelation, we strive always to remain open to the Holy Spirit.

    We understand that sometimes both individually and collectively we respond wisely to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and sometimes we do not fully understand. Through our vulnerability to the Holy Spirit, we trust God will continue to guide us in refining positions held by Community of Christ.

    Various legislative conferences and consent-building methods used by Community of Christ, allow a person holding a differing viewpoint to continue to seek change to the position with which she or he disagrees.

  • Unfortunately there is no opportunity/forum in my church to discuss these kinds of questions. I have asked and learned there is no interest. Good to have Progressive Christianity, Bishop Spong, Borg, etc. to read and think about.

    • Thanx Thewnice. Unfortunately, you are in a church setting that is counter-productive to evolve. What happens? If the people don’t evolve then the church community doesn’t evolve and then the leadership wonders why either people don’t come or they come and then leave quickly because most of the subject matter is from the 4th century. Tell your church leadership…eveolve or die.
      PeaceLoveJoyHope Bil

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