June 26, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

"Are you going to the convention?" That's a question that the union guys - or the people who solve the "what am I going to wear today?" dilemma with mandatory uniforms - never have to answer. Not until you rise to management - or, "take the leap" into self start-up - is the convention question an issue.

Let's be honest: all too often, conventions are junkets. Non-essential; not at all mission-critical: they are chances to burn some budget dollars without fear of reprisal. In business, plot "high season" and "resort," and the convention converges. "Optional workshops?" Yeah, right. Try "starting time on the north course." Bring home a tote bag full of brochures from the exhibit hall, just in case you need "proof," but you'd better have a story to explain that tan...

Unless, of course, you're a church executive (read: pastor), tied-in to a national enterprise (read: denomination). When you're in that professional niche, conventions just aren't the same. In the not-for-profit religious world, "stewardship" requires that you book the big meetings into "off-season" venues. Ski resorts or deserts in July. Midweek, so you don't "miss church" (no "comp time" provisions in the church employee manual!). And once there, you'd better not miss a session: they're likely to be reconsidering the beta code of the whole enchilada.

"The beta code of the whole enchilada?" What's that supposed to mean? These off-season confabs have grabbed national press coverage of late because they have allowed core issues to become conflicted issues. Most notable, most recently: the Episcopal folks (they are the American cousins of the English Anglicans). Day after day, they made the news as they were preoccupied with questions about their leaders. The hot button was predictable: since the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop in New Hampshire, the furor has not cooled. A man who is forthright about his homosexual relationship with his longtime partner, Robinson has become the lightning rod for the issue in the Episcopal community: is one's sexuality at all an issue that may disqualify one from church leadership? Who's to decide, anyway?

Well, in the 21st Century... it appears that the delegates decide. God has lost His voting rights. How so? Heading into last week's national meeting, NEWSWEEK snagged Robinson to answer some key questions. Q: "How do you reconcile what the Bible says about homosexuality with your lifestyle?" A: "The people who are taking the Bible literally are absolutely outside of the Anglican tradition."

Barbara Brown Taylor was an ordained Episcopal priest who left the priesthood but stayed in the debates within the denomination. Still invited to speak on the national Episcopal circuit, she explained to USA Today her beliefs about the Bible: "Jesus knew the Hebrew Scriptures, and he departed from them. He was not faithful to the Scripture of that time, and today the Bible teaches me (that) the book is not the final authority... The spirit is moving; Scripture is not the only measure..." She remains a "vocal Episcopalian."

It isn't an "Episcopal" issue, because the same battle is underway across the religious landscape. The core issue is NOT homosexuality. The meat of the mess is this: is the Bible crucial to Christian faith?

If the journalists could schedule an interview with Jesus, here's what HE would say: "...the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:37-40). There it is, from the "horse's mouth" (figure of speech).

When the Son of God arrived on the scene, He fulfilled the Old Testament's declarations about Him: declarations sourced in His Father. When He was here, He spoke clearly... and we ONLY know what He said from the record of the New Testament. When He left, He sent His Holy Spirit, Who inspired the writing of the rest of the New Testament, to finish the communications from the Godhead to those who "have life."

Who has life? Those who come to Him. How would we know to come to Him, apart from the Bible? Here it is, bottom line: if I don't accept the Bible, how could I ever know how to have life in Jesus?

Bob Shank

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