Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Bible is NOT the Word of God

The Bible is NOT the Word of God

When we say the Bible is the word of God, we mislead people. The Book of Common Prayer directs us to say “The Word of the Lord” after readings from the Bible. After the Gospel is read at the Eucharist we are directed to say the “Gospel of the Lord.”

Few Anglican clergy and scholars would describe literalism as their interpretive principle. Certainly a few use literalism when it comes to so-called anti homosexual passages. Some use the absent of mention of women disciples in the New Testament as grounds for excluding women from ordination.

Most lay people are used to some interpretation and criticism when hearing sermons. Few are literalists when it comes to thinking about the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus walking on the water or feeding the five thousand. I think lay people on the whole are confused about how to interpret the Bible and many know little about it all. That confusion continues as we regularly refer to the Bible as the word of the God.

The Bible is not the word of the Lord. God did not send words to certain individuals who wrote them down on pieces of stone, papyrus or ancient paper. Cecil B. DeMille, with tongue in cheek, had God send fireballs smashing directly into the two tablets of stone and out popped the King James Version of the Ten Commandments in the old movie of the same name. We know the Bible is a library consisting of many different kinds of books, myth, story, history, prophecy, poetry, letters and biography.

Few clergy are willing to deal honestly with the Bible stories. In discussing a new Lutheran study course in the Bible, Bob Matthias, a retried Lutheran Bishop, has this to say. “Any new Bible Study program will surely examine the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. Will we be free to suggest that these are not intended to be factual eyewitness accounts of the birth of Jesus? Will we provide those who participate in this study the tools to think about the resurrection story as something other than a historically documented event? If that is boldly done, then we must examine the other super natural events in the Bible to determine if they also might be better understood as story.

When I graduated from seminary in 1961 I had been exposed to these possibilities. We read about Rudolph Bultmann and his demythologizing of the scripture. It was presented but not affirmed. It was years however before I was able to suggest in classes that the creation stories were best understood as myth. I do not ever recall being that bold when preaching at Christmas or Easter. Deep down inside of myself I always struggled with these texts and felt that these were not factual accounts of events.”

The Bible is not the word of God. John Spong says that in The Sins of the Scripture. The Bible is not a book about facts. “It is a book of stories that seek to express the spiritual experience of the men and women whose stories are told within its pages.” I agree with Biblical scholar Bob Mattheis who wrote those words.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What Are We Doing? 150,000 plus Iraquis Dead

What Are We Doing?

“…a war doesn’t only kill off a few thousand or a few hundred thousand young men (and women) that can never be brought back. And if people go through enough wars so all that is left is the brute - the creatures that you and I and others like us have brought up from the slime…. The scholar [PRIEST] should not be asked to destroy what he has aimed his life to build…. You must remember what you are and what you have chosen to become and the significance of what you are doing.” A teacher to his younger colleague in Stoner, a novel by John Williams

What is it that priests have aimed their lives to build? The Bishop addresses the ordinand and says a lot of churchy stuff and then says, "…you are called to the renewing of this world…. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach to declare God’s love to penitent sinners….” Later we “pray that (PRIEST) may be to us an effective example in word and action, in love and patience and in holiness of life.”

As I read over the vows and expectations in the ordination service, they are Jesus, church, bishop, scripture, sacrament, and pastoral related. They are quite unspecific and in fact provide a lot of freedom and leeway of interpretation left to the individual’s interpretation.

The young and not-so young, newly ordained look to the bishop for leadership. When the bishop loves raising money, building retreat centers and saying nothing of the social and political issues of our time, the new clergy will do the same. Too bad so few clergy realize the tremendous freedom they have to develop their own values and abilities to participate for love and justice in the church and state.

Glancing through the sermon on the Mount, which should be the required reading for the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons, one reads what Jesus calls us clergy to do and be: peacemakers, prepared for persecution, show mercy, seek justice - to see right prevail. Our lives are aimed to build love, peace, justice, forgiveness, safety for the dispossessed and hungry.

In the novel Stoner the hero decides not to go to war and kill others because he does not want to destroy what he has aimed his life to build.” Priests cannot go to war to kill or support a war to kill, as that destroys what they have aimed their lives to build.

But it is the same for all Christians. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” This is the social policy part of the baptismal vows. So often these wonderful words are spoken without any specifics. We aim our lives to build justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being. Specifically, this means to do all we can to stop this present war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It means we work and pay taxes that all may have adequate medical care. The same goes to make sure people have food and housing.

This is the significance of what we are doing as priests and lay people in the Christian Church.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Responses to "Why is Schofield so Fat?" (see article below)

1. Happy New Year Robert (& Ann, too!) Fatness aside, your blog was important because it revealed (or at least implied) the apparent other side of the character of a man who is unaccepting of women in the church, gays and others who do not conform to his "interpretation" of scripture. What he may do in his private life is something we can only speculate. Of course, we've all experienced this many times before! Take care.

2. Oh, Robert. I am sitting here laughing so hard tears are streaming down my face.
You wouldn't believe the grief people have gotten for daring to mention this little detail in David's profile ... so to speak.
I am laughing so hard, I can hardly see straight.
"Honey baked ham, peas and potato dishes...jiggly salads..." I am hoarse and my dogs are thinking I'm demented.....

3. Hi Robert, Happy New Year. Do not be apologetic about your essay on David S. It is actually something he should deal with. I remember him well here in West Marin and his coterie of young men - always in doting attendance. It takes more that overt sexual activity to proclaim one's preferences. God made two genders and gave free will on top of that - How wise!! David is stuck in a rut and cannot see that. Fat is his defense and his perimeter.

4. Thank you for addressing THE question everyone I know is asking: WHY is Bishop Schofield SO FAT?! I mean, it's obvious the man cannot be healthy. Your musings as to why His Largeness is so -- well, LARGE -- makes perfect sense to me. (I was a psych major in college.)

5. Robert, I am not offended by outing the Fat Bishop. Instead, I would like to see you have more material that supports how the repressed sexuality creates other forms of acting out and more frequently than believed, how it turns into violence. Matthew Shepard case may be most public example.

This is also an opportunity to illustrate how the Church's decision to create more time to study every three years is a strong source of Post Traumatic Stress for many GLBT members.

actually I was delighted with your blog of +David
But I think the true villains are anyone who sits in his thrall and allows him to think he is a spiritual guru.
but they are all victims and he is disgusting

6. 30 years ago, when I was a young, first year seminarian at CDSP, I
was encouraged to visit and "try out" many congregations on Sundays.

I was introduced to the Vicar of Inverness, Father John David. It was

a place shrouded in incense, chants and speaking in tongues, which
seemed very much in sync with the other wilds and wonders we have
come to think of as emblematic of West Marin. "Father" was dressed in

a lace cotta which would have embarrassed Pope Pius the Tenth. He
held out his hand as if to be kissed but then somewhat awkwardly
accepted my firm, via media Episcopalian handshake.

The service was straight out of the Anglican Missal with a number of

pre-Vatican II adornments and a few words in a language I was unable

to recognize, not having had the gift for such things.

After Mass we were offered refreshment at what seemed to be more of
an audience than coffee hour. Quiet charming, John David was most
solicitous of the younger, more attractive males among us. I felt
very uncomfortable, as if I was in the presence of an ecclesiastical

Uriah Heap. Father invited us to return. "You boys come back anytime.

I want you to feel welcome here." Some did quite often. One arranged

to do his field work there. I was "creeped out" as some say today and

reluctant to return.

I returned to St Columba's only on two occasions thereafter. One
time Father had recently been shopping at a "fabulous"
ecclesiastical thrift shop in Berkeley, known as "St
Procopius." (There a defrocked Roman Catholic clergyman supported his

"home for boys" through the sale of vestments and paraphernalia
discarded by Roman churches after the reforms of Vatican II.) He
wanted to model his most recent acquisition. He was thrilled with a
bargain purchase of a full length lace cotta perhaps once worn by a
Cardinal. Several seminarians and I visited St. Procopius on another

occasion where we not only found a wide array of used Italianate
vestments, chalices, aspergilla, monstrances, etc., but noticed that

the proprietor also had a side business dealing in hand cuffs,
restraints, leather gear, Nazi uniforms and Third Reich memorabilia.

John David was also alleged to have said on one occasion that
ordaining women was nonsense as "It would be like baptizing dogs and

children, it just won't take." (Quoted to me by the late Rev. Norman


Sometime after his consecration as Bishop of San Joaquin, I recall
seeing a photo of John David in his favorite pre-Tridentine lace
cota. "Grace through Lace" could have been the caption. Looking at
the current photo, I wonder if it still fits

7. There is obese, and then there is morbidly obese. It's mean and funny. I have to say, Robert, my friend and I laughed our asses off at your post. But i would wonder if you could doctor the photo to show a Jabba the Hut sitting in that chair next post--that would be even funnier.

8. Your punishment for this will be that you will NEVER be able to sit at table
with Schofield in Gaybasher's Heaven or wherever he will eventually land.
Not that you'll be in that place anyway ...

9. Thanks Robert:

Somewhere in the New Testiment there is a passage that says our bodies are temples to the Lord. In that light, Bishop Schofield is clearly abuasing that “temple” by his overeating. As such he is no less (or more) a sinner than those homosexuals he condemns. (Perhaps that is why Jesus said we all were sinners and in need of God’s grace). Not to feel guilty, mind you, simply realize that we are forgiven and get on with loving our neighbor.

10. If you're going to out someone,You certainly did pick an easy target this time!

11. Cute he is not. Pathetic, yes. I've seen too many Schofields...recognized the look in the photo even before I'd learned anything about his history. I hope the true spirit buried in there finds freedom before the tortured construct that holds it prisoner does too

12. Wonderful picture of a circus fat man. There will be no change unlessl he admits to himself that he is queer and tells

How can the Episcopal Church permit this man to remain in
power???much damage to himself and others.

13. He's been a disgusting human being for as long as I have known him.
When I was working at Diocesan House, he came in every week to have Neill Little print his Sunday Bulletins. (Name) and I always found a way to bait him about his theology and he would eventually fly into an adolescent huff and leave condemning us for heresy.
I can still see him rushing up the stairs to get out of our den of iniquity back to the safety of either Inverness or Castro Street.

14. Hello Fr Robert,

Your blog was priceless, thank you … years ago, (Name) and I gave a performance …. in St. Louis … (yes, I will proclaim the word anywhere) … we gave the Bishop in question a ride out to the airport, and he broke the passenger seat in our van … although, to be fair, he did invite us to dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park should we ever make it to work in his diocese (we didn’t). 

One wonders, in receiving the Eucharist, how many carbohydrates are involved, although, as (name) has often stated, to true believers, that would be protein. …

15. Dear Fr. Cromey,

I am one of those so offended by your comments. Here is my reply:

Let me just say upfront that this post is vicious, contemptuous, and presumptuous about people of larger size, using all sorts of fat jokes and playground imagery to describe Bp. Schofield.

Two of the most loving, generous human beings I know in this world are a faithful Lutheran female couple who care for an adult woman with autism, indeed, have made her a part of the family. Both are rather large, beautiful women. Plain and simple, size and all, they are icons of God’s generosity.

It’s easy to point fingers at and psychoanalyze people who struggle with their weight. “Look at them. What are they hiding, not dealing with, running from?” But the doctrine of Original Sin tells us that we’re all not dealing with something and we don’t deal in different ways. “This side of the new Creation”, to use that felicitous phrase of Miroslav Volf, we’re both sinner and saint simultaneously. Some of us may “not deal” with food, but before we point fingers, Christ tells us rather to examine our own selves, to ask ourselves how we’re not dealing. After all, all of us look to this or that rather than God to put our trust in, to fill our ache, to quench our desire.

I’ve always struggled with my weight, but no more so that when I wasn’t dealing with my desires and affections for men. At one time I was 210 pounds. That was right before I chose not to go into the monastery and began the hard work of integrating my sexuality and faith. Celibate or partnered, homosexuality integrated, just like heterosexuality, leads toward love and service. Some don’t buy this because it’s all theoretical or biblical or even traditional for them—it’s all in the head, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I’ve simply known too many generous, Christlike same-sex affectioned persons, both celibate and partnered, to suggest that homosexuality integrated cannot lead to Christlike fruits, to holiness.

The Anglicanblogosphere has been abuzz for months now about the intersection of Bp. Schofield’s weight, alleged homosexuality, and recent actions toward schism. Some of the comments about his size have been downright mean and vicious. If I needed a reminder that we all “don’t deal with something,” this whole episode makes this clear. None of us, even “liberals”, are immune from prejudices and mean behavior as this whole incident shows. Disagree with Bp. Schofield, dislike him, point out what in his character bothers you, pick apart his theology and policies, but leave his size out of the discussion. After all, this type of behavior is exactly how many “conservatives” and “communionists” (witness Archbishop William’s Advent letter, for example) have treated Bp. Robinson for being gay and partnered irrespective of his theology, his character, his policies. The proof is in the pudding, not in one’s size, sexual orientation, or relationship status.

So, I empathize with Bp. Schofield given his alleged homosexuality even if I am deeply disturbed by his recent actions and by the long-known tendencies of his leadership in San Joaquin that treats homosexual couples quite badly (even through excommunication).

So much tells homosexuals not to deal and integrate our faith and sexuality, and the Church is gravely involved in that negative telling. The Church often does not have Good News for how Jesus Christ applies to our lives. Few Anglican leaders are willing to say “God loves you”, “God wants you to order your desires and affections to Christlike virtue”; and “we have not treated you as we would wish to be treated as if we were you, nor helped you in ordering your lives in healthy ways.”

His alleged homosexuality may very well play a role in both his weight and recent actions, but is it not our task to pray for him (and not for what we would want for him, but for what would be to his greatest good and God’s will) rather than point fingers, make jest, and be nasty? I remember something about our Lord instructing us to love our enemies, and making fun of someone’s size is hurtful, unkind, and not Christlike. Just as I don’t like being treated this way for being gay and partnered, I don’t like it that so many “inclusive”, “tolerant” Christians have chosen to treat Bp. Schofield likewise. I have been that "elephant", that "growth failing to mature", that one in "pain". In these things, I see something of the wounded Christ, yes, even in Bp. Schofield:

17. Aside from whatever else John David Schofield does, unless his substantial overweight is due to a medical condition, as a Christian he is failing in his stewardship of the important part of God's creation that is his body. Of course, a problem in this very personal element of stewardship suggests there might also be problems in his stewardship of all the gifts, talents, and responsibilities God has given him.

18. Anybody who sets her/himself up as a leader and authority has different standards of behavior and ethics than ordinary folk.

Spiritual discipline is identical with physical discipline. The body and soul are One. Schofield's curse is that he is disintegrated.

What we Christians ned more of is a dose of truck driver therapy.


"How come you're so goddamn fat, Bishop?"

"What the hell kind of model are you for kids in your church?"

19. I wasn’t offended at all by your comments on Bishop Scofield. I would observe that there is no sin in the corpulence, but the means by which it’s acquired can be extremely sinful. In that sense, fat may be a symptom of potentially serious spiritual illness. I’d just about bet the farm that this prelate’s fat relates to a second rate intelligence, that has never been able to reconcile what his spirit is telling him with what he perceives the world to be demanding of him.

We know so well that not all of us can survive this sort of life problem. Some simply can’t come to grips with the acceptance of their own reality, nor can they deal with the frightful loneliness of perceiving themselves as unique. Faced with the dilemma of protecting themselves from opprobrium and disgrace, should the public discern their secret yearnings, the duller intelligence often turns to coping mechanisms such as hiding beneath an appearance that few would associate with sexuality. Choosing a profession that automatically confers an aura of moral authority, such as the clergy, further obfuscates the dreaded reality.

So far, nothing terribly sinful has happened, but we finally come to the point where real evil enters the picture. Knowing that a great many people trust their clergy to provide relevant moral guidance based on scripture, our “hero” twists the clear meaning of the Gospel away from the Great Commandment and substitutes for it a gospel of hatefulness, divisiveness and deceit. Whether he admits it or not, a man of Scofield’s educational attainments must be fully aware of what he’s doing and the ramifications of it. And yet he does it because of his pathological need to protect himself from the embarrassment of moral ambiguity. That he is leading others into moral error and providing the occasion for their sinfulness doesn’t appear to matter to him.

20. I must confess that I do not have a great deal of sympathy for the individual who pounced on you for pointing out Bishop Schofield's weight problem. His size is NOT healthy and betrays deeply repressed psychological issues. His enormous size indicates a severe eating disorder.

Now I agree with the individual that morbidly obese people (such as Bishop Schofield) may very well be extremely Christ-like in their relationships with others. I believe cigarette smokers may also be icons of Christian charity. I have know a number of absolutely wonderful people who were tobacco smokers. My maternal grandfather was one of them. However, the medical evidence indicates that smoking is detrimental to ones health and to the health of others when it becomes "second-hand smoke". When I was a cigarette smoker (which was only four months ago) no one ever stood up for me and castigated others for decrying my bad habit. Quite the contrary I was a social pariah to be lectured and scorned.

I've also always been on the thin side. You wouldn't believe how many people have criticized me to my face (many of them having their own weight issues) for being too thin! I have to laugh because on a crowded MUNI bus I can always find a seat.

Bishop Schofield clearly has an eating disorder with which he has yet come to grips. Unfortunately, his obesity and slovenly appearance do not communicate nor commend the Gospel of Jesus Christ to me. I'm sorry but I only see the man's gluttony.

21. Some people who get offended are obviously not intelligent enough to get
the irony of your remarks; they hang on to the literal words. Keep up your
keen, Moliere like treatment of phoneys.

22. Some were offended by my outing the corpulence of the Fat Bishop.

Not me. I thought it was hilarious.

23, He is committing chair abuse.

24. Thanks for the porcine insight.

25. Robert, I am not offended by outing the Fat Bishop. Instead, I would like to see you have more material that supports how the repressed sexuality creates other forms of acting out and more frequently than believed, how it turns into violence. Matthew Shepard case may be most public example.

This is also an opportunity to illustrate how the Church's decision to create more time to study every three years is a strong source of Post Traumatic Stress for many GLBT members.

I have been following this entire issue with much interest. I am not an Episcopalian myself but as a Christian I was so pleased that a denomination decided to embrace and welcome those people of our society that many say cannot be Christians because of their sexual identity. When Bishop Scofield decided to pull away from this affirmation and take his diocese with him I was appalled at his audacity. If he had a problem with it he should have stepped down, not dragged his congregants with him. And since most of his proclamations about homosexualtiy and the like sound more to me as "one who doth protest too much" I would think it is merely because he is afraid of being "outed" himself and wants to deflect attention away from himself and onto others before his true identity is discovered...

Please--the man is pitiful. Lace vestments? Eating disorder? Affinity for young men? I'm not a psychologist but I am a normally intelligent person and even I can see the signs of his repressed sexuality and the frustration that comes from it. He needs to admit to himself and others who he truly is and get on with his life without dragging the diocese down with him. There is nothing wrong with being gay as long as you know who you are and are comfortable with it. Denying it just makes for a lot of pain and unnecessary grief. Look at Scofield--prime example of this, no?! I rest my case...