My memory may be playing tricks, but a few years ago I thought I was reading Ruth Gledhill's "line" in her posts on Communion developments as broadly sympathetic to conservative Anglicans' concerns to be faithful to Scripture and tradition.
Well, maybe my aging mind is playing tricks, or maybe the "line" has changed. This is something Ruth has written in the past couple of days (H/T to Preludium drawing attention to it. Italics are mine):
"Some years ago, at the Greenbelt Christian rock festival that takes place every August Bank Holiday near Cheltenham, someone close to the Archbishop of Canterbury told me that a person’s view on homosexuality was now what defined them on the Christian spectrum. What this person of considerable authority and intellect was saying was that it was no longer possible to be both pro-gay and evangelical.
In other words, the infighting over homosexuality means that for the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, more important than the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Birth and the Trinity is what one person does in bed with another.
The lines of Christian belief, in the Anglican world at least, have been redrawn around a battle over gay rights that, in the secular world, ended years ago.
Sexuality figures nowhere in the creeds. It is not mentioned in the church’s liturgies. When godparents bear witness to a baby’s baptism they do not swear to help to raise the infant as straight.
Many of the thousands of young people who never go to church in the UK but who are nominally baptised Anglicans cannot remember a time when sodomy was a criminal offence.
These are the people that Church leaders should be trying to attract. In a world facing the well-documented consequences of consumer and materialist greed the Church’s spiritual message is potentially of benefit to millions. If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good."
Appreciatively many Anglicans can and will agree with some sentiments here. Probably a majority of Western Anglicans would agree that it is absurd that "a person’s view on homosexuality was now what defined them on the Christian spectrum." Surely all would agree that the world we live in today is a world in which we are trying to share the gospel of Christ with young people (say, post 1990) shaped by a world very, very different to the world I grew up in (post 1960) which in various ways has been closer to the world my parents grew up in than the world my children are growing up in. Nothing much had changed, for example, about "gay rights" in NZ between my parents growing up years and my own; but it has been all change since the mid-1980s here.
But some things expressed in Ruth's post bear closer scrutiny than others. This claim, for instance:
"Sexuality figures nowhere in the creeds. It is not mentioned in the church’s liturgies. When godparents bear witness to a baby’s baptism they do not swear to help to raise the infant as straight."
This is misleading in various ways. Something not mentioned in the creeds is likely something which was not being controverted at the time the creeds were formulated rather than something not important. The church's liturgies actually include liturgies for marriage! Moreover the church's liturgies include "appointed readings" from Scripture which teaches ... things which do not always fall into line with modern secular agenda! Godparents at a baby's baptism are offering support in bringing up the child in the way of Christ - the way which Scripture teaches ... does not always fall in line with modern secular agenda.
But particularly egregious I suggest are the words I italicised!
"the infighting over homosexuality means that for the 77 million Anglicans worldwide, more important than the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, the Virgin Birth and the Trinity is what one person does in bed with another"
Unfortunately, it has to be acknowledged, sometimes some Anglican leaders have framed the matter in a way which lends itself to this particular characterization. But these words are offered as a statement covering all ways of framing the matter.
Here is another way.
It has been important for Anglicans that their leaders live in accordance with God's revealed will, including God's will for sexual relationships. This has meant that our leaders have been married or single. It has meant that "what one person does in bed with another" has been important: adultery, being blunt, has been a sackable offence. Moreover, so important has "what one person does in bed with another" been, that notwithstanding huge social changes in Western society, in the particular instance of adultery, I can think of no Anglican church, even in the West, which has lessened its expectations enshrined in things such as canons or codes of ethics of what is important in this aspect of living. I can think of no other profession/vocation/job in which adultery is a sackable offence. God's revealed will trumps changing social mores and social distinctions between "public" and "private" behaviour.
In short, it is important to Anglicans what God's revealed will is. From that revealed will has flowed out beliefs in Resurrection, Crucifixion (significance thereof), Virgin Birth, and the Trinity. Concerning that revealed will, there is now a huge question about whether we understand it correctly in respect of human relationships. The answer to that question is not inconsequential, as Ruth's statement implies. We are not solely talking about whether the church may take up a tolerant attitude in general terms to "what one person does in bed with another" (compared, say, to becoming some kind of intrusive moral watchdog for society). We are talking about whether a traditional, long-standing expectation that bishops and clergy (at least) should be married or single, or otherwise. That is an important matter. I think the matter deserves more credence than Ruth gives it here.
There. I have said my piece about what disappoints me in that post!
Let me conclude on a more positive note: if we might give proper credence to both 'liberal' and 'conservative' approaches to the matter at hand, approaches, that is, that are respectful of both people and the church's teaching, then I agree with Ruth Gledhill's broad aspiration when she writes:
"If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good."
We need "new leadership". Our differences are now too entrenched (IMHO) to think that we are going to finding a point in dialogue when one side will wake up and realise the other side has been right all along. It would be good to find a way to "put their differences behind them".
I am not sure, myself, how this might be done. And I am unclear that the word "surely" applies in the phrase "surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass".
In fact a voice in my head reminds me that resorting to the word "surely" in an argument is a sign that the opposite applies. The presumed state of affairs is in fact "unsure"!
PS In thoughtful juxtaposition, you might care to read Walter Russell Mead's latest.
PPS None other than Albert Mohler joins the fray and flays Ruth's argument. But Ruth is sticking to her guns according to this Tweet: "The eminently respectable Albert Mohler admonishes me. I stand by what I wrote. http://bit.ly/djUcLZ"