Pronunciation: rí:z’n
Etymology: Middle English resoun, from Anglo-French raisun, from Latin ration-, ratio reason, computation, from reri to calculate, think; probably akin to Gothic rathjo account, explanation

noun 2 a (1) : the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways (2) : proper exercise of the mind (3) : the sum of the intellectual powers

intransitive verb 1 a obsolete : to take part in conversation, discussion, or argument b : to talk with another so as to influence actions or opinions 2 : to use the faculty of reason so as to arrive at conclusions

Episcopalians acknowledge three equally important sources of authority on questions of faith: scripture, tradition and reason.

Reason is in short supply these days in a few Northern Virginia congregations. They are being urged to split from the U.S. Episcopal Church over the installation of openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson and the election of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, on the grounds that these events constitute a rejection of scripture. In fact, they represent a rejection of the idolatry of scripture.

In order to understand the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing that has these folks all in a twist, here is what Bishop Schori has to say about the role of reason:

Reason implies, as one old hymn puts it, that “new occasions teach new duties.” We believe that revelation continues, that God continues to be active in creation, and that all of the many ways of knowing — including geology, evolutionary biology, philosophy, and arts such as opera, punk rock or painting — can be vehicles through which God and human beings partner in continuing creation.

Given this worldview, we are compelled to use the resources God has given us. Not to use our brains in understanding the world around us seems a cardinal sin…

…When the various sources of authority seem to be in tension, we must use all our rational and spiritual faculties to discern the direction in which a preponderance of the evidence points. To do otherwise is to repudiate the very gifts God has given us.

Uh-oh. Requiring people to use their brains is just asking for trouble. Much better to pat them on the head for submitting to authority. Asking difficult questions just represents disobedience – so don’t do it. Says the Reverend Brian Cox, another leader of the small and noisy anti-reason movement within the Episcopal Church: “When the Father tells you to do something, you don’t argue with him…You don’t need to know why.”

There are people who find this authoritariansim comforting. One pro-schism worshipper at Truro Church tells the Washington Post: “Right now . . . there is a feeling of hope and expectancy about where God is going to lead us next. It’s kind of exciting.”

Here’s where someone or something is leading them:

If the votes at The Falls Church and Truro succeed, as their leaders predict, the 3,000 active members of the two churches would join a new, Fairfax-based organization that answers to Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, leader of the 17 million-member Nigerian church and an advocate of jailing gays.

Jailing gays? How “exciting.” As the rest of the world moves forward, these unfortunate people will be endorsing a backward Nigerian law, devised to placate both Islamic and Christianist fundamentalists, that “penalizes gay activity, whether private or ‘a public show of same sex amorous relationship,’ with jail time.”

In an article describing why he would take this shocking position, Archbishiop Akinola uses the word “scripture” nine times. The word “reason” appears not at all. This in and of itself is enough to demonstrate a departure from Episcopal tradition, but just in case it’s not perfectly clear he states that “adherence to scripture is not only paramount, it is also non-negotiable. In matters of faith and practice, scripture provides sufficient warrant for what is considered right and what is judged to be wrong.” Nope, no reason to be found around here. Further,

The practice of homosexuality, in our understanding of scripture, is the enthronement of self-will and human weakness, and a rejection of God’s order and will…

…Homosexuality does violence to nature…The acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism as normal is the triumph of disobedience…

And this weird Victorianism:

God created two persons – male and female. Now the world of homosexuals has created a third – a homosexual, neither male nor female, or both male and female – a strange two-in-one human.

As vile and unenlightened as Bishop Akinola’s world view may be, one member of the Falls Church vestry who voted against the split pointed out that “We’ve been inhibited in no way from preaching the gospel as we see fit.” That’s not good enough for those who are engineering this schism. Like those who feel entitled to censor the speech of GLBT and allied students in our public schools, these bullies aren’t satisfied with having the freedom to express their own views. They must also be allowed to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

For GLBT members of the church, and for those who believe that accepting all of us as fully part of creation represents an abandonment of scripture, Bishop Schori has exactly the same message: “That there is room for them at this table as well.” However, for those who are deliberately engineering schisms, not just in the Episcopal Church but in other mainline denominations, having a seat at the table is not good enough. They define their own right to a seat at the table as the ability to deny others a seat. That is neither reasoned nor reasonable.

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One Response to Reason

  1. Jonathan says:

    Great letter in today’s Washington Post:

    Churches at a Crossroads
    Tuesday, December 12, 2006; Page A26

    Regarding the Dec. 4 front-page article “Episcopal Churches to Vote on Departure”:

    The historic Falls Church and Truro Church congregations in Virginia are contemplating severing ties with the U.S. Episcopal Church and aligning instead with a controversial African bishop who advocates prison for those engaging in homosexual activity. The Virginia churches’ spokesman indicated that this position gives him “pause.”

    So what would be a “show-stopper,” the death penalty for gay people?

    My little, not-so-historic church in Annandale, Ravensworth Baptist, is one of a handful of Baptist churches in Virginia that are welcoming and affirming to all who come to Christ’s table, including our homosexual brothers and sisters. As such, we are not unfamiliar with controversy.

    But as a body, we choose to grow together and stand on the side of love and inclusion, as directed by the spirit of our Lord and by his apostle Paul, who implored us to “do everything in love.”