WORTH READING ALONGSIDE BELOW: Andrew Goddard's carefully considered analysis of the situation.
ORIGINAL POST: A few days ago I became aware of a brewing controversy, initally within ACNA, and now spreading out a little as Nigeria joins the fray and thus making it a controversy within GAFCON. (See documents at the first 5 links below).
I didn't see this coming. The likely "severe to the point of possible division" controversy within ACNA has been the ordination of women to be priests or bishops.
This is my summary of the current controversy rolling through the past few weeks:
- within the strict (conservative Anglican) orthodoxy of "any and all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful", how might we pastorally care for, welcome and include Christians self-identifying as gay, indeed what language might we use in talking about these matters, for instance, is it OK to use descriptors such as "gay Christian" or "gay Anglican"?
- A recent ACNA HOB statement on this set of questions is (unexpectedly) fairly conservative; a challenge from within ACNA to the HOB statement thinks their fairly conservative statement is harsh; a (strongly conservative, unsurprising) reaction from Nigeria thinks ACNA is heading down a slippery slope to a TEC-like end, unless the strictest repentance for their loose-by-Nigerian-standards approach occurs.
(For other ways of describing what is going on, see the links from 6 onwards below).
This post, spoiler alert, is not about the controversy as a whole intra ACNA, intra GAFCON exploding issue (let alone about That Topic which is at the core of the controversy ... endless reruns on this site from ages beforehand, no need to repeat etc).
I want to reflect on but two aspects of it, of interest to all Anglicans everywhere.
Living together in Christ with disagreement
1. Anglicans from time to time disagree.
2. While all denominations disagree from time to time, there is an arguable special genius or charism to Anglicanism which means our ecclesiastical DNA is distinctive, if not unique, and wires us to live together with disagreement rather than to fly apart.
3. It is profoundly Anglican to exude blood, sweat and tears in all and every attempt to to live with our disagreements.
[4. The deep sadness over the divide in North America which led to the formation of ACNA (from TEC and ACCan), the divide in the Anglican Communion which led to the formation of GAFCON, and, indeed, the divide in my own church, ACANZP which led to the formation of CCAANZ, is not that there is an unreconciled disagreement but that we could not find a way to live together with the disagreement.]
5. ACNA is finding itself this week in a very, very Anglican situation!
6. Ironically, ACNA is not a member of the Anglican Communion and seems able to contemplate living with disagreement whereas Nigeria (which remains formally a member of the Communion) seems unable to comprehend the possibility of living with disagreement.
If you are an Anglican reading this, and would like a contructive vision of living within disagreement, then I urge you to read this brilliant sermon, delivered at a recent ordination of an Australian bishop.
It is not possible to secure complete agreement among Christians (let alone Anglicans) on matters of human sexuality
Whatever we make of the ACNA HOB initial statement, the published reaction to that statement, and ++Foley Beach's response to that reaction (see links below), we are seeing evidence of the thesis that:
It is not possible to secure complete agreement among Christians (let alone Anglicans) on matters of human sexuality.
Across global Christianity, do we have agreement on divorce and remarriage after divorce?
Answer: No. Roman Catholic teaching and practice disagrees with Eastern Orthodox teaching and practice disagrees with Protestant teaching and practice.
Across global Christianity, do we have agreement on the use of artificial contraception?
Answer: No. Roman Catholic teaching is unique to itself, and (it would appear) practice among Roman Catholic Christians does not uniformly follow that teaching.
Across global Christianity, do we have agreement on abortion?
Answer: No. While most churches teach that life begins at conception and the taking of life in the womb after conception is wrong, in practice Christians take a variety of positions, notably, we might observe, prominent Catholic politicians in the United States (Biden and Pelosi spring to mind) faithfully participate in Mass while consistently supporting liberal laws on abortion.
Across global Christianity, do we have agreement on homosexuality?
Answer: No. Even where there is significant agreement that marriage is between a man and a women, there is disagreement over the pastoral response to gay and lesbian Christians. Again, this is profoundly illustrated in the various statements of Pope Francis over recent years where he assiduously avoids challenging official Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality while creatively voiding aspects of that teaching with his constructive, compassionate statements on the church's welcome and inclusion of its homosexual parishioners.
That is, sexuality within the phenomenon of human life is a complex matter and gives rise to endless disagreement among Christians.
Within its defining theological constraints, ACNA is completely correct to allow that there is disagreement within its own ranks.
The Nigerian Anglican church, frankly, is an Anglican outlier with its refusal to entertain even the slightest amount of divergence of views.
Yes, I know that the Nigerian Anglican church is the largest Anglican church in the world.
2. Dear Gay Anglicans response (from within ACNA).
5. An ACNA repudiation of 2 [which I think was published before 4].
6. The Living Church's report.
7. Eternity's report.