- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently by the Rev. Al Zadig Jr. at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase.

It’s been a tough year for the Anglican Communion and for many dioceses and parishes within — and for many here.

I’m referring to when the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved Christianity’s first openly non-celibate gay bishop. The leadership of the 2 million-member Episcopal Church in this country made the decision while the majority of the world’s 75 million Anglicans looked on with disbelief.

Many in America looked on in disbelief — some with thankful disbelief, others with discouraged disbelief. There are some here in this church that agree with the actions of convention. There are others here that feel as if they are sailing in the opposite direction of the mother ship, the Anglican Communion.

I am most afraid for people who are arguing this issue, but who aren’t rooted in prayer and worship — those folks for whom this issue has caused them to stop going to church anywhere.

This is affecting the worldwide church in ways she hasn’t seen since the Reformation. The archbishop of Canterbury told us in September 2003 that because of the actions of General Convention, it could tear open and split the very fabric of the Anglican Communion. …

I have come out against the actions of General Convention. I believe strongly that what has happened is simply new-age, dangerous, unbiblical innovation. It doesn’t mean I or any of the other leaders here at All Saints are homophobic or mean-spirited or unwelcoming to anybody. It means I am sticking with Christians throughout the world who see what the Episcopal Church has done as dangerous to the futures of our children, the health of the church and her members, as well as our witness in the world.

Jesus was faced with many such chapters in his ministry. The scribes and Pharisees were out to end the ministry of Jesus. In order to trap him, they bring a woman who had been arrested for adultery.

The scribes say, “Jesus, the Law of Moses says we stone her, and what do you think we should do?” Remember, the Jewish codified law stated the penalty for adultery was strangulation. Now, if Jesus agreed to her death, two things would have happened: He would have lost the name he had gained for love and mercy and would never again be called the “friend of sinners”; and he would come into collision with Roman law, for the Jews had no power to pass or carry out the death sentence on anyone.

On the other side of things, if he said, “All is well, don’t worry about it, it’ll all blow over,” it could immediately be said he was teaching people to break the law of Moses and he was condoning and even encouraging people to commit adultery. Therein lies the trap.

He doesn’t say a word. He bends down and starts writing something in the sand. … When Jesus finally speaks, he is saying, sure, go ahead and stone her, but only if you’ve never sinned yourself. Silence. And slowly everyone, realizing perhaps that there is no hierarchy of sin, left everyone, but the woman.

Does this mean that for Jesus the sin of adultery turned into the woman’s right to have sexual freedom? Does it mean Jesus was about to say, “Who am I to judge?” No, Jesus would call the situation for what it was: sin.

Jesus says, “Go, make a new start in your life but don’t sin anymore.” Jesus proves again that the function of authority is not to banish the sinner from respectable society. It is to make him or her more into his image, to bring about healing, to bring about reconciliation.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the Communion. I’m in this for the promise. The promises in Isaiah [are], “Instead of ashes, you will receive the oil of gladness; instead of mourning, a garment of praise. Instead of despair, oaks of righteousness will be planted.” …

The Lord has a great plan for you, for this church, and I believe for the Communion. I can’t tell you how it will pan out; nobody can. But don’t leave All Saints; don’t leave the denomination.

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