Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Presiding Bishop Nominee's Book On Homosexuality Reopens Hot Topic On Baptist Campus

Presiding Bishop Nominee To Visit Book Discussion Group

Mercer University's Canterbury Fellowship, in conjunction with St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Macon), is currently conducting a book discussion of Episcopal Bishop J. Neil Alexander’s This Far By Grace: A Bishop's Journey Through Questions About Homosexuality, at Mercer University.

J. Neil Alexander, Bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta and Presiding Bishop Nominee, is scheduled to meet with the student group March 27 at 6 pm. The meeting will take place at the Student Union Center at Mercer University.

The book discussion comes on the heels of a gay rights controversy at Mercer and has attracting many former members of the recently decommissioned Mercer Triangle Symposium, a gay/straight student alliance at the university. Controversy surrounding this student group precipitated the withdrawal of support and funding by the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Purchase the book for yourself, your church or organization through the link below.

This is a great book and I have given it out......I also met Bish Alexander at the Seminary, I respect him greatly.............The SPIRIT is moving!

The Rev. Maureen Doherty
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

Learn How to Lead a Meaningful Book Discussion in Four Easy Steps!

Of the Diocese of Atlanta, Bishop Alexander, 52, is a former seminary professor, and served on the delegation that explained Episcopal policies on sexuality to an international Anglican council last year. He depicts his own changing views on sexual morals in the 2003 This Far By Grace. Alexander is one of seven nominees for Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to be elected in June 2006.

Mercer University in Macon, GA is one of the nation’s oldest and largest Baptist institutions of higher learning. Says Tim Smith, Christian Education Coordinator at St. Paul's: "We hope to illustrate to the wider Mercer community how we Episcopalians deal with our faith: thoughtfully and considerately, using reflection and dialogue."

Discussion of homosexuality, however, may be contoversial given the University's recent troubles with the Georgia Baptist Convention and subsequent shut down of the school's gay/straight alliance.

According to the November 16, 2005 article published by the Associated Baptist Press:

Georgia Baptist Convention messengers, meeting in Columbus [GA], approved a recommendation from the group's executive committee that the GBC begin the process of severing ties with the 7,000-student school. Mercer was founded in 1833 by three men who also played instrumental roles in founding the convention.

The motion noted reports about the Mercer Triangle Symposium. The group billed itself as Mercer's "GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] rights student organization. In conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign — the national gay-rights advocacy group — the symposium sponsored a "National Coming Out Day" event Oct. 11 on the Macon campus.

Robert White, the Convention's executive director, said inviting students to meetings where gay rights are openly advocated was a step too far for the convention.

"At the very least, on-campus meetings give the impression of approval by the administration," White told the paper. "I understand that a part of the university experience, whether Baptist or otherwise, is being exposed to a broad variety of thought. At the same time, I believe that Georgia Baptist parents should be able to have the confidence that their young people who attend a Georgia Baptist institution will not receive errant signals."

Whatever the case, Mercer spokesperson Judy Lunsford said that, as she understood it, the symposium had "held its last meeting" Nov. 14.

Though presenting the Bishop's experiences with gay people in the church in an unbiased way, This Far By Grace is affirming to the LGBT community in its underlying message that gay Christians are Christians first, their sexual orientation being secondary to their faith:
"...putting the gospel of Jesus at the center of one's life is a radical choice. But it is a choice that many of us---straight and gay---have made, and it is the decision that most clearly defines who we are. Everything else is secondary."

The Bishop also writes: "Faithful Christian believing does not offer the possibility of cutting off our relationship with anyone...[but] is about active participation with...the whole of God's creation in all its infinite diversity."

Tony Pearson, Faculty Advisor for the Canterbury Fellowship at Mercer, said:

As I believe that we are members(as in fingers, toes,etc) of Christ's body,
the only Christian response is understanding--to offer it if we do, to try
harder to achieve it if we don't. We should always be about the business of
reaching out and re-membering. There are many of our LGBT brothers and sisters
out there who aren't accepted as Christians because of the way they were made
(and God made everyone). That, in my opinion, is sinful. When we don't
extend the hand of fellowship to another human being, we are cutting off a
part of the body of Christ.

Now, I firmly believe that there are countless faithful Christians who have
problems with homosexuality. They have problems because of what they were
taught by parents (and various relatives), friends, and clergy on soapboxes.
They don't often personally know gay people. But they see or feel the
discrepancy between what they were taught and what they know to be true from
their own expereience of God. I think that This Far By Grace is an excellent
book to explore if people want to ask questions in a place where they feel

At Mercer, we felt this would be a good book because of what happened with the
GBC last semester. The subject was thrust into the public spotlight once
again and it was said several times that further dialogue was needed.
Canterbury felt it important to offer the campus a venue where dialogue could

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Macon, GA is a vibrant and diverse community of worshippers emphasising an expression of faith through Music and the Arts.

Bishop of Atlanta Nominated for 26th Presiding Bishop

See the Article from Episcopal News Service

Below is a letter from Bishop Alexander:

January 25, 2006

Dear Friends in Christ in the Diocese of Atlanta:
Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Today, after many months of discernment, prayer and consultation, the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the XXVI Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has announced its slate of candidates. I am deeply honored to be numbered among those bishops of our church that the Joint Committee has commended to the House of Bishops for its consideration and election, and to the House of Deputies for its consent.
I was surprised, many months ago, when members of the Joint Committee indicated to me that they wanted to consider me for this ministry. Lynn and I took some time and entered into our own period of prayer and discernment. Over the years, we have tried in every way to be faithful to the church we love so dearly. Our desire is always to be open to serving the Lord of the church under a call not always of our own devising. Looking back over the years, we are grateful to God for the rich and varied opportunities for service that have been given to us.
Our call to the Diocese of Atlanta has certainly been among the most important to us personally. As we have done many times before, we ask ourselves, in discernment and prayer, if there are any compelling reasons why we should not make ourselves available to the call of the church, should it come. We have done this thoughtfully, prayerfully and humbly, desiring only to be responsive and to offer ourselves to the service to which the church calls us. It has been in that spirit that we have been willing to move forward in this process.
Because of our great love and confidence in our church, we are certain that the Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ will work through the continuing discernment of our church and that the General Convention will select God’s choice to be our next presiding bishop. Of those who are nominated, that mantle will fall only on one of us, and that person, whoever she or he may be, will need the support of all of us in prayer, fresh energy and our full commitment to the mission and ministry of our church.
In the meantime, it is of greatest importance that the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Atlanta move forward on all fronts with as much devotion and vigor as we can muster. I will be orchestrating my work and that of our diocese as I always have – on the assumption that I am going to continue to be the Bishop of Atlanta. Nothing is served, and least of all the Gospel of Jesus, if we allow this to be a significant distraction and thereby fail to do those things God is calling us to in these days. You will have my fullest attention from now until the General Convention. Should the actions of our convention call us to new ventures of service, there will be plenty of time in the months that follow to make the necessary adjustments. Unless and until that happens, it is my strong desire that we operate as much as humanly possible in the normal mission-driven mode of the Diocese of Atlanta.
The very first thing I said after my election as Bishop of Atlanta was this: “I will only be as good a bishop as you pray for me to be.” Those words are particularly powerful to Lynn and me at this point. We deeply covet your prayers in these days. Pray, however, not only for us, but for our beloved church. Pray that the church’s discernment will be animated by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and that when all is accomplished, the will of God will have been faithfully discovered yet again.
Love and blessings!
Faithfully, in Christ,
+ John Neil Alexander

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