Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rhode Island State Council of Churches splits... Over the Prayer Banner?

The RI State Council of Churches is suffering a major fracture as the Rhode Island Orthodox Clergy Fellowship has decided to go its own way. The break comes over the issue of marriage equality. The Rev. Donald Anderson is for it and is expecting the Council to endorse a bill presently before the RI General Assembly within the next few weeks. This is opposed by the more conservative, orthodox churches in the coalition.

What most startled me was the fact that the Rev. Anthony Perkins of the Ukranian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket says that the split began back in 2012 when Donald Anderson came out in support of removing the Prayer Banner at Cranston West High School when it was challenged by a 16 year old atheist (and my niece) Jessica Ahlquist.

I always appreciated the support of those clergy who recognized the importance of preserving the secular nature of our government, but never realized how difficult it must have been to navigate the politics of the interfaith work at the Council of Churches.

Reverend Perkins said:
In the past, the RICC leadership had wisely followed a policy of avoiding taking stands on issues that RICC members disagree on. This compromise was not ideal. For instance, we did not get any support from the RICC in support of traditional marriage last year or support for protecting the unborn [ever]; nor were more liberal members able to use the RICC to advocate for positions they held dear. It was a compromise, but necessary to maintain the kind of diversity that RICC once valued.
It is important to realize that "religion" never speaks with one voice. There is no certainty, only a bewildering array of different theological positions. Sometimes, as an atheist, I am confronted with the argument that without God, I can never have certainty in my life. This is true, I only have conditional beliefs that I rank as being very likely true, pending further evidence. I think this is all any of us can ever mean by "certainty." But the vast array of religious opinions demonstrate to me even less certainty. 

Sure, each believer in each belief system is certain that they are right, but collectively Religion gives no answers that are suitable to everyone. The Pope's certainty and the Dalai Lama's certainty and the certainty of the Ayatollahs are very different things.

Of that you can be certain.

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