The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. voted last Saturday to stop using “gendered pronouns” for God.
To “remove all obstacles” for “transgender” participation in worship, the Book of Common Prayer will be bowdler…, sorry, I mean revised to excise all gender-specific references, replacing them with words “drawn from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition…”
This brings to mind Hilaire Belloc’s 1938 book The Great Heresies. There Belloc analysed the greatest heretical threats in the history of Christianity. Specifically, he focused on the Arians, Muslims, Albigensians – and Protestants.
Now even some enemies of Protestantism may deny that it’s a heresy. But even friends of Protestantism can’t deny its potential for encouraging heresy. And even ardent exponents of Protestantism can’t deny its sectarian factionalism – this is borne out by the existence of over 30,000 Protestant sects.
The upshot of it is that one can’t talk about the Protestant Church. The term would presuppose the unity of doctrine and dogma, which is nowhere in evidence. At best, one may talk about Protestant churches – at worst, only about Protestant sects.
The Anglican Church, specifically its High end, has always clung to its ecclesiastical roots in Catholicism. Its communicants describe themselves as Anglo-Catholics.
Considering that some of my best friends are High Anglican priests, I shan’t attack this claim too fiercely. In its structure and liturgy, High Anglicanism has indeed kept one foot in the Western ecclesiastical tradition. But the other foot is buried in Protestantism all the way up to its ankle.
Hence even the Anglican Church can’t resist the heretical temptation of keeping up with secular perversions. This explains its female priesthood and episcopate, tasteless and tone-deaf rewritings of scriptural texts, using pop music at liturgy, Holy Communion administered by laymen (alas, this is practised even in some Catholic churches), increasingly lax stand on homosexuality and homosexual marriage – and general kowtowing to the more objectionable demands of modernity.
Since the US Episcopalian Church is in communion with the Church of England, it’s hardly surprising that it treads the same path to perdition, but at a brisker pace reflecting the dynamic, can-do American personality.
Thus it outdoes the C of E in stepping towards, and in this case over, the line beyond which heresy lies. For, in its nauseating attempt to mollycoddle champions of non-binary sexes (11 of them by last count), those DC chaps effectively deny the Incarnation.
Thereby they openly admit they aren’t Christians. That rather disqualifies them from holding their positions, regardless of how upstanding they are in other respects.
It’s possible to be a good person without being a Christian, but it’s impossible to be a good Christian without being a Christian. And the definition of a Christian surely has to include belief in Jesus, the Son of God in whom the second person of the Trinity assumed a human form to redeem our sins by agonising death on the Cross.
The second person of the Trinity incarnated as a man, disdaining female and non-binary possibilities. Denying this obvious fact is tantamount to denying that the physical Incarnation ever took place.
This takes us into the area of Docetism, one of the earliest heresies, identified as such at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. (Docetism insists that Jesus’s human form was a mere illusion, a phantom, which is what the word means in Greek.)
Refusing to describe Jesus as the Son of God or refer to him as He is therefore either Docetism or atheism – take your pick.
In Christian theology, Jesus isn’t only the Son of God, but also God the Son, of the same essence as God the Father. Thus countless references to God as a Father are justified not only theologically but also logically. He was a father twice over, and denying this is perfectly fine – as long as the denier doesn’t call himself a Christian.
The statement issued by the diocese identifies Jesus as the third person of the Trinity, which is staggering ignorance on the part of those who are supposed to have studied and preached Christian doctrine for years. Given that, one shouldn’t be surprised at their equal ignorance in identifying the mission of churches: “Fixed boundaries of gender identity are being challenged and churches need to respond.”
They do need to respond, but not by going with the secular flow. The proper response would be identifying various sex anomalies as mortal sins and opening a path to repentance and redemption. ‘Transgender’ persons must be welcomed into the church, but on the church’s terms, not their own.
Anyway, those DC chaps aren’t just ignorant and heretical. They’re also stupid in that they can’t see obvious logical incongruities.
To wit, they don’t mind ‘gender-specific’ pronouns when they’re female. As a lifelong champion of egalitarianism, I have to protest. Fair is fair: if Jesus isn’t a he, then none of the Marys, including the Virgin, is a she.
It’s hard for me to penetrate the mind of a non-binary person, but logically it (they? – one can get terribly confused with those things) should be equally offended by masculine and feminine pronouns. Even-handedness in taking offence has to be one of those inalienable rights.
In trying to be all-inclusive, the DC diocese will only succeed in being all-exclusive. Perhaps their objective is to re-enact the Exodus of Jews from Egypt and, if so, I’m sure their triumph will be as soaring as that of their British co-communicants.
British Anglicans are fleeing churches, secure in the knowledge that there’s no pharaoh in pursuit, nor any sea to cross. In general, churches that try to attract Christians by being less Christian only succeed in having less of a turnout come Sunday morning.
They could do worse than heed the words of the great Jesuit Matteo Ricci (d. 1610): “Simus, ut sumus, aut non simus” (We shall remain as we are or we shall not remain at all).