Maybe you remember the video we showed on the morning of Christmas Eve, “The King Shall Come” by Michael Linton. It’s a lovely piece, sweetly sung and played by the combined choirs and orchestra at Wheaton College.
That should have been my first clue – and it was, actually, because this was the first favorable mention of fundamentalist Wheaton we’ve ever had on our site in 10 years. But I decided to go ahead in honor of the college’s courageous role 150 years ago in the anti-slavery movement, and because Linton’s Advent carol should be more widely heard. For several days after I posted the video, that was the music I heard in my head, not the standard Christmas repertory. I watched the video several times.
The composer makes quite an effort to ask viewers to visit his website, so I did, and wrote him a nice note to let him know that we’d shown his work on our webcast and made it available to our thousands of followers. The video had only had a thousand plays before this, so I thought he would be pleased. But come to find out…
He answered back this morning.
“Thank you for your e-mail regarding the use of Wheaton’s performance of “The King Shall Come.” Mary Hopper is an extraordinary musician and I was both delighted and honored by Wheaton’s use of the processional. And I am grateful for your kind note. But it is with mixed feelings that I receive the news of the piece’s use on the dailyoffice.org website.
“I am happy that your visitors like the piece and found it useful, and also for your own kind words. But there is more. Because of the House of Bishop’s vote in 2003, confirming the bishops’ belief that the Bible was not to be held as the authority in matters of faith and practice, over riding all else (a motion put before the House of Bishops by the Bishop of Quincy, Illinois, if I remember correctly), my wife and I resigned our positions in an Episcopal parish as musicians and exited the Episcopal Church with our daughters. Except for one funeral, I have not even been inside an Episcopal Church since nor have I used the dailyoffice website (something that I once consulted twice daily). I believe that the Episcopal Church as it stands today is both deeply corrosive to lives of Christians and a pollutant in the wider, secular, culture. I understand that people of good will and the best intentions can disagree on important matters, but there comes a time when profound disagreements must lead to responsible separations.
“I believe that there really is a time when “the King shall come” and “truth shall be extolled.” It’s just not a bit of poetry. And at that time all of our sins and arrogances will be burned away, most certainly mine. But I ask that my music not again be linked to the dailyoffice website. There is a continent of deeply wonderful music available for use and whatever music I might have most certainly won’t be missed by those using the site.
“I do not mean to be rude or ungrateful for your personal kindness. I am grateful and I thank you for being so generous as to understand a position which to many might seem inexplicable — but it is my position.
“All best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2015.
Imagine that – I belong to an evil Church that’s corrosive to Christians and pollutes civil society, but he wishes me a healthy and properous new year!
As Vicar I get these Gay-hating messages from time to time, but to me it’s just one of the costs of proclaiming the Gospel. Linton doesn’t spell it out, but that 2003 decision in the House of Bishops had nothing to do with Biblical authority; if anything it had to do with Biblical interpretation. But the decision in 2003 concerned the election of the Rev. Gene Robinson, who is openly Gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire. He needed the consent of the other Episcopal bishops and he got it – then had to wear a bulletproof vest to his consecration, in case some fundamentalist bigot decided to assassinate him.
So I replied to Mr. Linton:
“That’s fine. I once picketed your alma mater for encouraging anti-Gay violence and murder.
Here’s a photo I took that day in 2007 outside the Wheaton chapel when former Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola preached to Bob Duncan’s “Anglican” schismatics; 50 demonstrators showed up, not a huge number, but still, the Chicago Tribune, the Sun-Times, local TV, the Associated Press, Christianity Today, the college newspaper, the Religion News Service: we got our message across. Jesus loves everyone.
I don’t always answer the Michael Lintons of the world; there’s no point in arguing with a bigot. They never have original things to say that I haven’t heard 10,000 times before. But I decided today that I’d give him a 20-word reply for no better reason than so he would know the first and most important lesson of the Stonewall Riots: If you attack us, we fight back.
It’s true of Lesbigay people and I hope it’s true of Episcopalians: we fight back. I am all in favor of saintly Louie Crew turning the other cheek, but it’s not what I’m called to do.
I hoped my 20 words would be enough to make my pal Mike think twice about continuing this useless conversation, but no. He couldn’t let a thing like that go by.
So he sent this. (I haven’t even looked at it yet, just copy-and-paste.)
“Thanks Josh. It must have been fun to picket NYU and Yale! HA. I assume you mean Wheaton. Were you with Soulforce? I may have this wrong, but I do believe that the college provided a meal and a discussion for the Soulforce visitors, at least one time, followed by a civil open forum. But I may have the story wrong. We live on somewhat metaphorically different planets with different values. Let’s hope that we can continue to cultivate a civilization where such differences are respected, where we don’t descend to the kind of civilization where differences bring people to kill each other, as is happening in Africa and the Middle East. It will be tricky to negotiate and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be successful but it is something to work for.
(And I still haven’t read it; let him have the last word, so I don’t get sucked in to another pointless screamfest.)
Wheaton College continues to promote anti-Gay views – and to provoke increasing criticism from its own students. Last January the college gave its chapel to a “conversion therapy” advocate, even though “pray away the Gay” isn’t a therapy, doesn’t work and is illegal when administered to minors in California and New Jersey. Christianity Today was on top of that demonstration too and ran this photo by Philip Fillion:
Meanwhile American televangelist Scott Lively, described by The Washington Post as “obsessively anti-Gay,” is facing a “crimes against humanity” lawsuit in Federal court for his role in promoting Uganda’s “kill the Gays” law. Maybe he can get a gig at Wheaton.
I would think that our humble composer and the little fundamentalist college would think twice about picking needless fights with Gay people, when it’s increasingly obvious that young adults have made up their minds on the sinfulness and injustice of homophobia. But no, these intrepid anti-Gay campaigners soldier on, convinced they’re warriors for Christ – and in that, I do aver, we have everything in common.
Mike Linton wrote a nice tune, and the Wheaton students sang it beautifully. I just don’t ever want to hear it again in one of our evil, wicked, corrosive, polluting Episcopal churches.++