Finding and Missing Jesus at Ford's Funeral
Today's Top Five
1. Lots of Jesus, but not all of Jesus' words, at National Cathedral
The state funeral for Gerald Ford at the National Cathedral was "a resounding repudiation" to Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens's "radically secularist misreading of the establishment clause," Ed Whelan wrote at National Review Online. Explicitly Christian language permeated the ceremony, "from its opening words 'With faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the body of our brother Gerald for burial' through the many prayers, readings from Scripture, and homily, to the dismissal 'in the name of Christ,' " And that's not all, Whelan noted:
The United States Marine Orchestra and the Armed Forces Chorus not only performed; they sang explicitly Christian hymns. During the prelude, for example, the Marines sang "When Jesus Wept." During the service itself, the Marine Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment for Denyce Graves's singing of the Lord's Prayer, and the Armed Forces Chorus sang "Eternal Father, strong to save" a prayer to the trinitarian God. The closing hymn, "For All the Saints," was sung by all and included lyrics like "thy Name, O Jesus, be for ever blessed."
However, complaints about the religious content in the Ford funeral is coming not from secularists, but from evangelicals. Kendall Harmon, one of the country's most prominent evangelical Episcopalians, noted that Robert Certain, the presiding Episcopalian priest truncated the gospel reading, John 14:1-6. In Certain's reading, verse six ended: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life.'" But verse six continues: "No one comes to the Father, but by me." "This seems to be another gesture of a church that cannot deal with Holy Scripture on its own terms," Harmon complained.
Other conservative Anglicans are frustrated that Certain's homily dragged Ford into the denomination's current fights. "Early this past summer, as I prepared to leave for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, President Ford's concern was for the church he loved," Certain said. "He asked me if we would face schism. After we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women, he said he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the Great Commandments to love God and neighbor."
Wonderful. By all means, let's start having our governmental leaders weigh in by proxy on denominational disputes. Why aren't Clinton and Carter leading the debate on whether Southern Baptists should speak in tongues? If memory serves, Certain's church divided from its parent body in 1789 over whether a head of state gets to decide church disputes.
2. Conservative Anglican scandal? Or politics?
Evangelical Episcopal priest Don Armstrong, executive director of the Anglican Communion Institute and a Colorado Springs pastor, has been put on paid leave from the Colorado Episcopal Diocese during an investigation into an accusation that he misused church funds. That's about all the news so far. No one is talking about the details of the allegation except to say that police have not been contacted. The Colorado Springs Gazette frames the story as similar to the resignations of New Life Church ministers Ted Haggard and Christopher Beard, but the connection is problematic. If the allegation against Armstrong had been about sexual immorality, the Episcopal diocese probably would not have put him on leave. More likely, they would have made him a bishop. Speaking of which: Armstrong is one of the chief internal critics of the Episcopal Church's recent leadership and direction, and he encouraged a protest of withholding funds from the diocese and the national Episcopal Church. Some bishops in the Episcopal Church have made comments suggesting they think such a protest would be a form of misuse of church funds. But if that's the basis of the allegations here, the Colorado Diocese is going to look awfully petty.
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