from Stand Firm:
Some thoughts from R. M. Patterson, a layman in Texas.
The Episcopal Church is embarked on a religious crusade, otherwise known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Like all crusades, this one is a busy endeavor. At parishes from coast to coast, prayers are offered, collection plates passed, devotions made, sermons given, theological reflections penned, study guides published, and Prayers of the People revised to incorporate the MDGs into the Holy Eucharist.
“There are two obvious foci for our ministry,” wrote the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop. “Moving our sanctuaries into the streets to encounter and transform the bad news of this world; and implementing the Millennium Development Goals, which provide a signal opportunity in this age to realize the dream of God for all creation.”
(This was, of course, before she added that other priority: Waging legal battles against fellow church members.)
The MDGs are an initiative launched by members of the United Nations in 2000 to reduce poverty and hunger by 50 percent within 15 years. The 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted the goals as a centerpiece of its mission.
Most of the goals are admirable, though a few carry the tinge of a leftist mantra: Eradicate extreme poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health care, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and develop global partnership for development.
What is striking about the Church’s embrace of the MDGs, however, is how it has transformed a thoroughly secular initiative launched under the umbrella of the U.N., a corrupt, anti-Semitic, inept international bureaucracy, into a divine mission purportedly fulfilling God’s will on earth.
(It apparently escaped the attention of the 74th general conventioneers that many of signees to the goals are the same despots who are inflicting the very suffering and injustices that the MDGs are intended to alleviate.)
So how did the MDGs emerge at the Episcopal Church as “a signal opportunity in this age to realize the dream of God for all creation”? To understand this rationale, you must understand the secular mindset of today’s leadership.
In their view, people are apart from God, not because they live in a spiritually broken world, but because they live in a physically broken world. By this reasoning, mending the social injustices will bring all of its peoples together under a concept called “reconciliation”.
“The Church is uniquely positioned to help lead the momentum of the world…because, simply put, the ministry of reconciliation is nothing less than the core mission of the Church on earth,” wrote former Presiding Bishop Frank Tracy Griswold in A Theological Reflection On The Millennium Development Goals.
The MDGs “are humanity’s response, indeed the Church’s response, to a world that stands desperately in need of repair and rebuilding,” he continued. “The MDGs reflect God’s passionate desire for justice and mercy, and the work of reconciliation we have been given.”
The world is a broken place, desperately in need of repair and rebuilding, because of the injustices inflicted upon its people, such as “those made captive to consumerist societies,” Schori has said. The church is “like the prophets of ancient Israel” called to “proclaim justice in the gate, to rise up and insist that the hungry will be fed, the naked clothed, suffering provided comfort and relief. We know that is God’s will for all creation.”
Here’s the problem with comparing the Church with the “prophets of ancient Israel”: The prophets were calling people to return to God. But under Schori’s interpretation, the way to return to God is to cure injustices, inequalities and poverty.
But what about people who aren’t suffering injustices? Where are they in the Church’s reconciliation program? Oh, never mind. They’re not the noble poor.
And what about those living in poverty who have rich spiritual lives? Are they already reconciled? Or is it only those who live in poverty who need reconciling?
This leads us to our modern leadership’s departure from our Articles of Religion. The Articles portray a dark picture of human nature: “…man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil… (Emphasis added.)”
You’ll be hard pressed to find such a bleak picture of human nature on the Episcopal Church’s website today. Instead, you’ll learn that “Most Christians believe that the physical universe, including humanity itself, is fundamentally good, even though human beings cause it harm through their negligence and self-interest.” (Emphasis added.)
“Inclined to evil” versus “fundamentally good” are diametrically opposite views of humanity. If human nature is inclined to evil, then human nature must be improved by following the will of God. But if people are fundamentally good, then outside forces – sexism, racism, capitalism, consumerism, global warming, even George Bush -- must be responsible for the “bad news” in the world. In that case, our focus must be on eliminating those detrimental forces rather than improving the human heart through the Gospel.
Which begs the question: If people are fundamentally good, why do we need a savior? Let’s just lift the world out of poverty and we’ll all be reconciled to God.
Unfortunately, abolishing poverty may fix the physical problems, but the inner problems, the struggle with our own human nature, remain. And as long as we give people nothing to fight their human nature with, evil will continue to bring bad news to the world. Human hearts are the same, whether one lives in poverty or one lives in riches.
The Church’s embrace of the MDGs tells us much about who we are today. Our denomination is implementing the MDGs, rather than spreading the Gospel of Christ. Our concern for the physical nature of humanity has overtaken our ministering to the spiritual nature.
The Church has dressed up the MDGs with the smells, bells and regalia of the Episcopal Church and called their implementation the will of God. This portends a future less resembling the Gospel than one resembling a social service organization.
We have a morally confused leftist leadership unable to pierce the dark recesses of the human heart that cries out for redemption. Their world view is indistinguishable from the secular left, except that the secular left has no religion and our leadership considers the left’s values as religious.
What remains is a hollow religion, a spiritually vapid faith resting on the foundation of leftist rhetoric. We might as well work at the local homeless shelter, where at least we could see some results.
Oh, what a morally confused bunch our leaders are. They believe you can reconcile people to God…without God!