Thursday, August 26, 2010

One or the other or both?

Can the Western Anglican churches of the Communion have their cake and eat it too? Kendall Harmon on T19 publishes this excerpt from a Riazat Butt Guardian report on the meeting of African bishops in Uganda:

'The archbishop of Uganda yesterday urged hundreds of African bishops to shake off their fears, shame and superficial dependency and re-evangelise the "ailing" churches of the west.

In a rallying cry to the biggest constituency of the Anglican Communion, the Most Rev Henry Orombi said it was time for Africans to "rise up and bring fresh life in the ailing global Anglicanism".

His call came on the same day that US Episcopalians published a guide on liturgical and ceremonial resources for clergy and same-sex couples.'

[CORRECTION: Riazat Butt has written erroneously here, as pointed out in a comment below by Mark Harris. The guide was published by the United Church of Christ. The connection to TEC is that Bishop Gene Robinson has written the foreword. But that does not make it a 'US Episcopalian publication.']

Nice juxtaposition of "ailing global Anglicanism" and "US Episcopalians published a guide ..."! When 400 bishops gather in Africa at such a meeting, the "ailing" description does not refer to the African (or Asian) part of global Anglicanism. It is meant to point to Western Anglican churches where we struggle with numbers that at best are not increasing, and aging profiles that are not decreasing for typical congregations. The "US Episcopalians published a guide ..." line in some minds is always about whether TEC (in particular) has caused its own ailing by wrong-headed moves, and other churches (such as my own ACANZP) are ailing because of similar wrong-headed moves. "Wrong-headed" of course being some kind of foolish, self-destructive embrace of progressive theology.

There are many reasons why Western churches, including Western Anglican churches are either in decline or treading water. Embrace of progressive theology is just one of those reasons. But there is a searching question here which does not readily go away: if we are interested in stemming decline, reversing decline, and generally not "ailing", can we both embrace progressive theology and strategies which lead to growth? Is it one or the other or both?

Back to the Guardian article. Look at the photo. Seated in the front row are the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of TEC as the twin heads of the Communion's leading Western Anglican churches the Archbishop of ACNA. Now there is another interesting juxtaposition to consider ... in a dynamic future for healthy global Anglicanism, distinct from "official" Anglicanism via the Standing Committee (where TEC is healthily represented), will TEC play any significant role?

41 comments:

Mark Harris said...

What's the reference here:
"His call came on the same day that US Episcopalians published a guide on liturgical and ceremonial resources for clergy and same-sex couples."

The reference is (I think) to a title published by the United Church of Christ and written by UCC ministers. The fact that Bishop Robinson does a forward does not make this in any way a resource of The Episcopal Church.

Here is the blurb on the book.

ALL WHOM GOD HAS JOINED
Resources for Clergy and Same-Gender Loving Couples
LEANNE MCCALL TIGERT
MAREN C. TIRABASSI
Foreword by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire

ISBN/Prod. Code: 978-0-8298-1838-3 Your uploaded image.
USA
$25.00

All Whom God Has Joined provides—in one accessible volume—a unique collection of liturgical and ceremonial resources as well as pastoral care tools and insights on same-sex covenanting ceremonies for clergy and couples addressing these issues. Those who want a clearer understanding of this subject will also benefit from this one-of-a-kind book.

Leanne McCall Tigert is an ordained United Church of Christ minister and author of The Pilgrim Press. She and Tirabassi co-edited Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality and Caring for Ourselves While Caring for Our Elders.

Maren C. Tirabassi, an ordained United Church of Christ minister, is a bestselling author of The Pilgrim Press. She has co-written or co-edited eight books, including: Transgendering Faith: Identity, Sexuality, and Spirituality; Caring for Ourselves while Caring for Our Elders; Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship; and Gifts of Many Cultures: Worship Resources for the Global Community.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Mark: I will add a corrective note!

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, I did as you suggested - i looked at the photo. How depressing! All those conservative men in frocks! How did Rowan put up with it?

Peter Carrell said...

They are not frocks, Howard! They are robes of office. I presume that ++Rowan felt at home among colleagues :)

Howard Pilgrim said...

Amplifying my first comment a little ...

1. The depressing thing about that photo is that it depicts a possible future option in which the dominant "Anglican" witness to the gospel is one that offers no place for women, LGBTs, or those with any real footing in our modern age.

2. The "success" offered by this option is numerical, and transient, and will be lost as soon as the Third World catches up with the West. Like the popularity of the televangelists , this success will evaporate as its adherents lose their appetite for infantile dependence on infallible leaders. We all grow up sooner or later.

3. Of your options, I want "Both" - church growth and a progressive theology, by which I mean one that relates fully to the challenges of modernity. The eternal gospel is one that speaks truthfully to us in every condition of life, including modernity. Can there be true hope in anything else?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
I understand how a photo of bishops could demonstrate the presence of women bishops. I have no idea how one would tell from a photo of bishops who were 'LGBT' bishops, unless we gave them special badges to wear. (You do not want that to happen, do you?)

I also do not understand your complaint about the predominance of male bishops in such a photo. In which Anglicn church in the world is there not a predominance of male bishops in any photo taken of the bishops of that church?

As for 'success' in relation to church growth, I am interested in 'growth' that means the church exists. Perhaps things are different in Waiapu, but I am concerned as I experience Anglicanism in the South Island at the predominance of the aged, and keep wondering what the best way forward for nurturing younger generations of Anglicans ... so far I find that the best way is not the way of the tele-evangelists, but nor is it the way of progressive theology.

I agree with you when you write, "The eternal gospel is one that speaks truthfully to us in every condition of life, including modernity. Can there be true hope in anything else?" But what is "truthfully" in this context?

Howard Pilgrim said...

"They are not frocks, Howard!"

They are so too! Our robes of office as Anglican clergy are frocks. The higher up the ladder of power we climb, the more gorgeously we dress. The one redeeming fact nowadays is that when we dress up like this a good proportion of us are women, so our robes of office can be taken as a sort of unisex statement of inclusivity ... except in the case of that photo. All the men in it, except ++Rowan, are there because of their conservative beliefs, which pointedly exclude women and homosexuals.

Join the dots, Peter. A group of power-holding men, averse to women and gays, dressed up in such gorgeous array. Call me a Puritan on this one, but something is out of kilter.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, our comments are playing leapfrog here, so I will leave the photo aside and concentrate on the nature of the gospel.

Like you, I am concerned for our ageing church population and how we must communicate with younger generations ... my own children and grandchildren for starters. In the context of that challenge, I thank God for the inclusive nature of our church, in these respects:-

1. I do not think that the next generations are impressed by their perception that we exclude gays and lesbians. Their view is not an expression of sexual laxity, but a widespread and growing acceptance that sexual orientation is a given fact of nature rather than a choice. We are pushing water uphill to convince them otherwise: if your theology compels you to do so, give it a try, but mine doesn't. For them as for me our present policy is felt to involve a denial of common sense and natural justice.

2. There is an issue of faith development to consider, in the sense of Fowler's theory. Younger adults tend to be drawn towards social movements, including churches, that offer them definite ideologies, and make costly demands for commitment to mission. As they mature, they will tend to critique those beliefs and commitments, seeking a more comprehensive world-view. I want an Anglican church that is inclusive enough to provide for our needs at all stages of life. Like you I am suspicious of a "progressive" theology that addresses only the questions of older people (Do you know how far into his 80s Spong is now?). However, the questions arising for a maturing population in the modern world will not go away and will be waiting for the generations that follow us.

3. Regardless of age, I have always felt that a dynamic of liberation is at the heart of the gospel, and has been since Jesus set us all on this road. So I am looking for this factor in all those who claim to speak in Christ's name. None of us have got it completely right, when it comes to living out the gospel, but there are signs of authenticity. Right now, women's leadership and same-sex relationships seem to be two of the testing grounds for us all (alongside the environment, world peace and economic justice, et.al...) Somewhere in there, grace and truth must meet! Then we will have something better to say to our children and theirs.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
These bishops are not gorgeously dressed - being sober minded low churchmen, I presume :) - and it is not clear to me that ++Rowan is there because he is not conservative ... and that word 'kilter' - I smell a rat there - it reminds me of 'kilt' and makes me wonder if someone is a closet Presbyterian ... :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
With respect to your longer, non-frock-focused comment below: I am not disagreeing with you on seeking a church which is apt for different stages of life, which is not perceived to exclude people who identify themselves in one way or another (but may challenge all of us as to our primary identity being in Christ).

But I am also for a church which sifts truth claims carefully. Thus I think it somewhat naive of you to speak of "a widespread and growing acceptance that sexual orientation is a given fact of nature rather than a choice" as though that is it. Sexual orientation (in my understanding) is more complex than that, not least because some people tell us they do choose to embrace their own sex rather than the opposite sex. Is it true to God's Word to say, 'Whatever, it's your choice'? Or is there some guidance in that Word as written in Scripture which, in fact, we should follow?

Howard Pilgrim said...

We have come to a good focus, Peter, now that my eyes are no longer blinded by an aforementioned gorgeous array :)

1. We agree that our primary identity is in Christ, and that his image judges and transforms all other sources of identity.

2. We agree that the church must sift all truth claims carefully. That is why you and I are theologians by nature and by our commitment of time and energy, including this dialogue!

3. We agree that God's Word as written in scripture is there to guide all our discussions. We may differ about the hermeneutic by which that living Word is made plain to us in the 21st century, although we probably agree that this process should be in living continuity with all those who have read the scriptures before us.

4. We agree that the living Word that addresses us with the will of God (echo K.Barth) never says, "Whatever, it's your choice" in the modern style where anything goes. But this is not how Christians have ever heard from their Lord, and not how some of us are now hearing a fearsome command, "Set my people free!"

5. We appear to disagree about a question of fact rather than faith ... Is sexual orientation something chosen? We live in a world in which increasing numbers of people, including me and my children, have come to a conclusion that the best answer to this is, "Probably not." The more probable that answer becomes, the more it will effect our reading of scripture and our understanding of what God (sternly, implacably, rock-breakingly) demands of us in our attitudes to our homosexual brothers and sisters.

Four major agreements, and one small difference. This is not such hard work after all!

Howard Pilgrim said...

Now that we have sorted the theology, Peter, I would like to return to the photo, your original topic, because something you wrote has staggering implications:- "I have no idea how one would tell from a photo of bishops who were 'LGBT' bishops..."

The thought had never occurred to me that some of bishops and primates gathered to hear ++Orombi's exhortations, and assembled so happily in this photo, might be LGBT, albeit closet and celibate.

Do you know something hidden from those of us less familiar with the African Anglican scene? Here I was thinking that all African bishops sympathic to LGBT people would stay far away from this conference, let alone those who are actually in that category and vilifed by its Ugandan host. Pig ignorant of me, I admit. I must take a broader view!

Bryan Owen said...

Let's assume as a matter of fact that any given orientation or desire is a fixed given rather than a matter of choice. Let us further assume as a matter of fact that the orientation or desire in question feels natural, as though it is part and parcel of what it means to be the person I am.

On the basis of what authority do I move from these facts of my orientation/desire with warrants for acting on my orientation/desire as something I ought to do, something that is morally right?

Andy S said...

I don't imagine the Homosexuality is high on the agenda of this meeting of Bishops given the pastoral challenges they face on a daily basis.

Things like poverty, slavery, war and disease not forgetting that several of their number have had members of their flocks dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and slaughtered for being adherents of the Christian Faith.

Being a clergyman in Africa is not quite the cosy sinecure it might be here and the issues faced might be, shall we say more immediate and a times even life threatening.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Once you have made those assumptions, Brian, the moral warrants follow without too much difficulty, as I see it anyway.

The scriptural warrants come straight from St Paul. His argument in Romans 1:18-27 is predicated on a different assumption:- that all homosexual desire is unnatural, a perversion of something else brought about by separation from God and idolatry. If you are indeed willing to grant what many Christian homosexuals claim, that their sexuality is something they receive as a gift from God, and that their relationships are dedicated to God's service, then they should be encouraged to engage in what is, for them, "natural intercourse", and to shun all that is, for them, "degrading passion".

St Paul's argument in 1 Corinthians 7 would likewise be understood differently in the light of your new assumptions. Firstly, we would continue to honour the gift of celibacy, for those who have it, gay or straight. For those who do not, we should accept his warrant for emotional and physical intimacy within a lifelong, faithful relationship as God's provision for their needs, and encourage them to form such relationships rather than to "burn with passion".

Beyond specific scriptural warrants, however, I think there is a case for a moral theology based on our experience of creation as we find it. That is to say, our knowledge of good and evil is an integral part of our human condition, based on the will of God expressed in creation, and our common human awareness of the common good. This capacity for moral discernment is not infallible, but it does define our moral responsibility: God will hold us, and all humankind, accountable for following the light we have, imperfect though it may be. Do we need any further moral warrants?

Howard Pilgrim said...

"I don't imagine the Homosexuality is high on the agenda of this meeting of Bishops given the pastoral challenges they face on a daily basis."

What??? Andy, didn't you read Orombi's comments to the reporter? - he put homosexuality right in the foreground of the discussion they are going to have with the ABC. The assembled bishops may well have more important matters to discuss, but it is Orombi who won't let this witch-hunt go!

Andy S said...

Their are 400 Bishops are attending Howard

This is another perspective from one of the organizers


The CAPA general secretary, the Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso, said Uganda was chosen by vote as the venue for the conference by the standing organising committee on the sidelines of the first conference that sat in 2004 in Abuja in Nigeria.

“It is interesting that we are having the second African bishops conference in Uganda just after the African Union summit. Those of us who believe in God think this is a message in terms of the privileged place Uganda occupies on the continent,” he said.

Kaiso noted that the conference would focus on the future of Africa.

“We cannot have a prosperous future when the greater part of our population is under war, disease and our population is merely surviving. We are saying as the church who believe in the fullness of life, things must be done differently. We are here to reflect together on how we can tackle some of these bottlenecks of perpetual conflict, poverty and disease,” he said.

It is not God’s will, Kaiso added, that people should live a hopeless life. “Change is possible in Africa but how can we achieve it? Our leaders use our money badly and fail to build hospitals, wells and roads. But since the church is everywhere, even where governments don’t reach, we can use that strength to mobilise people.”

Asked whether homosexuality that has split the Western church from their African counterparts was on the agenda, Kaiso said the church was finding ways of advocating for change in the mindsets of those who purport to be homosexuals.

Kaiso, however, noted that there were other pressing issues to address, saying homosexuality was not high on the agenda.
“It is no longer an issue because even when AIDs came, it first shocked us as a church but we moved quickly to offering pastoral support and created support and advisory groups. The Church never gets defeated because we believe in a living God,” he said.

The problem that caused homosexuality to creep into the church, Kaiso added, was lack of clarity and vision. “After this conference, we will have a more harmonised vision for Africa to address issues of spiritual conflict between faith as a practice. We will also have policy changes in conflict management and accountable leadership.”

Asked about the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who defends homosexuality, Kaiso said the Anglican church was still grappling with the issue and was trying to get to grips with it.

“Nobody has got the right answer yet. We are all trying to get answers for the Christian family. There are no right or wrong answers yet our presence here is a pastoral response to all these matters,” Kaiso said.


Its not an important issue to the Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso from this reading though the reporter felt the necessity to raise it with him.

And to tell the truth, how the Bishops propose setting about tackling the problems endemic to Africa would be far more interesting topic for discussion but I doubt the Guardian is interested in reporting on that.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Yes Andy, I am glad to hear that most of the African bishops have probably come to the conference with more important issues on their minds, despite ++Orombi's fixation on homosexuality.

I am not so glad to note the terms in which Canon Kaiso spoke:- "Kaiso said the church was finding ways of advocating for change in the mindsets of those who purport to be homosexuals". The problem is all in the minds of the gays? If this view is representative, then Anglican leaders in Africa have a long journey ahead before they can offer the West any sort of lead on this issue. We for our part, may "need to keep advocating for change in the mindsets" of those like Kaiso who are blind to the reality and presence of their own LGBT people.

Meanwhile, we all have a mission to get on with. May African Anglicans all be blessed in theirs, which does not include reforming us, whatever a few of their prelates may think.

Anonymous said...

It is simply a historical accident, a by-product of the British Empire, that the presumed leader of the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury. It would be self-serving nonsense make this into some kind of foundational theological fact ('instrument of unity'), since any bishop could presumably be elected to serve as president; and given the evolution of the Anglican Communion, that is what should happen.
Church decline is not inevitable in the 'white', 'western' world, because some churches, at least, are growing there; but they are not women-led or LGBT-affirming. In fact, such denominations are generally aging and in decline. This may not matter to some with an agenda of "justice", but the statistical evidence is pretty overwhelming. Can ACANZP not learn from this? Isn't one definiton of madness to keep repeating a mistake in the hope of getting different results?
Al M.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Howard.

When you write "there is a case for a moral theology based on our experience of creation as we find it," I think you may have put your finger on one of the issues that divides Christians on all of this.

At the risk of having misread your intentions (and if I have, please do correct me), it seems to me that such a statement assumes that "creation as we find it" is unambiguously good. It assumes that we can move straight from creation to redemption without really having to bother with that troubling intermediate step called the Fall, and thus that it is not really true that while "God made everything good as the created expression of His Divinity," nonetheless "everything has been corrupted and perverted by human sin" (Thomas Hopko). It seems to me that it is on the basis of such assumptions that the individual's subjective experience of his/her desires/orientation take on an unprecedented authority (greater, as I hear it cited by many, than scripture and tradition combined). Personal experience is increasingly regarded as an infallible source of authority in all matters moral and religious.

I think this is deeply problematic, not merely because it downplays (and in some cases simply dismisses) the problem of sin. But also because it does not adequately take into account the ways in which our experience of ourselves and the world are deeply shaped by the culture in which we live, a culture that (like the rest of the world) is also fallen and in need of redemption.

I'm reminded of some things written by the lesbian Roman Catholic writer Eve Tushnet for Commonweal (unfortunately, I can no longer find the essay posted on the web):

"But our human experience, including our erotic experience, cannot be a replacement for the divine revelation preserved by the church. We must be careful not to let it become a counternarrative or a counter-Scripture."

And:

"If we seek to overcome any aspects of our culture that conflict with the gospel, I'm not sure why we would expect the gay liberation movement - slightly over a hundred years old - to be less culture-bound, and therefore a better guide to the countercultural aspects of the gospel, than the Catholic Church."

While I'm not Roman Catholic, as a catholic-minded Anglican I do see the point about guidance from the one holy catholic and apostolic Church on such matters. And given the many ways in which the Church's mission and witness are compromised by an increasingly post-Christian (sometimes even hostile anti-Christian) and sex-saturated culture, I think the Church's historic guidance provides warrants for being wary of claims to new revelation grounded in our experience of creation as we find it.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Bryan, I agree with you that the theological value placed on experience is a key issue dividing us. A few brief responses:-

1. I carefully avoided saying that experience is an infallible moral guide. Nevertheless, it is reliable in conjunction with scripture and tradition in their combined role of conveying enough revelation of God's will for us to live by.

2. Sometimes reasoned reflection on experience is the best guide we have, especially when we begin to suspect that our understanding of the received tradition and its reading of scripture may need to change. In such circumstances, reason's most important function is to carefully gather evidence regarding the aspect of human experience under consideration. Proceeding carefully is important, but this differs from foot-dragging or simply refusing to consider the evidence.

3. "Experience of creation", per se, has a distinctive theological aspect: giving special weight to Christian experience of creation. This in turn means that creation and redemption belong together, not only as doctrines but as experiences. To experience nature as creation is to receive it as a gift from God to us as redeemed creatures.

4. For this reason I am not advocating a purely natural moral theology. Nevertheless, my understanding of biblical theology is that all human beings have sufficient knowledge of right and wrong to enable them to be accountable for their actions before God. It is our failure to act even on this imperfect knowledge that is addressed by the gospel. Experience of redemption empowers us to obey God, as well as giving a clearer moral vision of our created state. This is the category of experience to which I appeal above all others when I say that we are now being called to revalue same-sexuality.

5. I am suspicious of The Fall as a heavy-duty doctrinal killer of ethical debate.
a) I don't find it functioning like that in the scriptures.
b) St Augustine and some of his later fans may have used it thus, but they don't constitute doctrinal common ground for Anglicans.
c) My impression is that it gets used rather selectively, to undermine opponents moral arguments rather than ones own.
d) I am particularly suspicious of the notion that we are living in a time of depraved sexuality, as opposed to media-driven exploitation of sexual titillation. I look at my children and the families they are raising and see something much healthier than the sexual minefield I had to negotiate as a teenager.

5. While I appreciate your desire to be "wary of claims to new revelation grounded in our experience of creation as we find it", I am equally wary of all other claims to revelation based on received understandings of tradition and scripture. Old is not always safer than new. Like Matthew's trainee scribes, we have to learn to blend old and new in faithful discipleship, where "faith" is the key factor and infallibility is neither an option nor a requirement.

Peter Carrell said...

[From Bosco Peters - sorry, hit 'delete' instead of 'publish' - not enough coffee today :) ]

liturgy has left a new comment on your post "One or the other or both?":

It is probably wiser to observe rather than participate in this particular debate, and certainly I have little energy or competency for either this approach or its concerns, but there have been a couple of points for which I might like to put in a footnote.

There have been repeated use of the term modern age. That age, I posit, has passed. Yes, there are still some thinking and mostly living in the age of modernity and this discussion, as noted several times here, is mostly a good example of that.

In a church that still thinks primarily in modern constructs, it is not surprising that Peter, in his search for young people, will find mostly young people in those churches who themselves, differently from the majority of their peers, will comfortably live in that past modern world. This does not, of course, mean that, as Peter wishes to conclude, such a minority of young people within our churches should determine the approach to the majority of young people to whom such constructs are pretty meaningless.

Howard IMO, said one of the wisest things in this thread, “this success will evaporate as its adherents lose their appetite for infantile dependence on infallible leaders. We all grow up sooner or later.” Some of what followed after that, however, IMO reverted to the use of the scriptures as a paper pope.

In the discussion about the garments the bishops are wearing in the photo, do I note a sexism consisting in an unexamined position that attractive garments are the prerogative of and for females? Certainly, regular contemporary Western masculine attire must rank as the ugliest in human history. I hope Peter can clarify his assertion, however, that the photo shows the bishops in their “robes of office”. Is this, Peter, a photo after a Eucharist during which some bishops concelebrated, whilst others did not? If so, was the colour for the service red, white, or green? Or did the bishops go into their wardrobes, and rather than put on the appropriate “robe of office”, put on the one they thought “prettiest”? Having spent more than a year in Africa, I think that not beyond a possibility.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I hesitate to comment re your assertions in respect of young people in church as I may be misunderstanding the point you are making.

Re the robes in the photo: I noticed the fact of a number of stoles being worn. Could be concelebration. Could be a whole lot of mini-celebrations of communion taking place around the conference site (e.g. according to different first languages present). Could be a mystery obscure to us in the West ...

Anonymous said...

How could we know that same-sex erotic attraction is a 'gift from God' as Howard suggests? Surely only through special revelation - a category that modern secular ethical reasoning necessarily discounts. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest this at all and much that refutes it. I don't doubt that SSA is not (for most) consciously 'chosen' but that has little bearing on its ethical character, since most other paraphilias are not consciously 'chosen' either. Pastoral responses, OTOH, to people with SSA are a different matter, as commentators like Peter Ould note. But nobody is exempt from the impact of sin and the Fall in his or her life, heterosexuals most emphatically included, as many 'cultish' groups testify.
Al M.

Bryan Owen said...

Howard, thank you for your thoughtful response to my comment. I do wish I found it persuasive.

Howard Pilgrim said...

A quick wrap-up from me, in response to three comments.

1. Bosco:- Yes, i am one of those old fogeys stuck in my resistance to the shibboleths of postmodernism. This is what i have in common with most of the participants on this thread, and on Peter's blog generally:- we care passionately about truth, and how it relates to faith. One truth is not as good as another in our worlds, and we all hope to persuade one another, or be persuaded, to embrace a larger vision of truth than we currently have.

2. Bryan ... almost persuaded? Is that like Acts 26:28 then? Persuasion is hard work mostly, and I am happy to leave my words to work over time, if they are to work at all.

3. Al M.:- Are your sources of revelation really so restricted? Can we have no knowledge of God's goodness apart from your "special revelation", or putting that another way, is there no means of special revelation apart from holy scripture, and your particular reading of it at that? On your own terms then, is your view even consistent with scripture? What about Rom.1:19-20? And then there is 1 Tim. 4:4-5. You will read these differently then I do. no doubt, but how can you be sure who is getting the special revelation?

Bryan Owen said...

No, Howard, not "almost persuaded." I said that I wish I was persuaded. I am something of a reluctant convert to a different position on this matter than what I understand to be your position. And such conversion entails a cost.

liturgy said...

Post-modernity, Howard, is precisely about “embracing a larger vision of truth than [those in modernity] have”.

“Stuck” is an interesting word to choose, because IMO it encapsulates this thread and SO many like it well. People may bring their previous reluctant conversions and changes of opinions to this discussion, but, having watched this debate, and participated from time to time, here, and on its predecessor Anglicans All, I have yet to see anyone arrive with one position, and after discussion, change that position significantly.

As Al M says on this very thread: one definition of madness is to keep repeating something in the hope of getting different results.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
It could be that people willing to give written expression to thoughts in a public domain are of such conviction that they are unlikely to change them ... but that does not mean that non-writing readers of blogs and books and what have you do not change their minds!

As a matter of fact at least one correspondent here (Bryan), at least on this site, but perhaps not on this thread, has expressed that he has changed his mind!

And speaking for myself, and thinking back to the days of Anglicans All, I would like to think that at least the temper of what I say has changed; and that I remain genuinely open to change in substance as I continue to weigh the arguments back and forth.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
One more observation (and clarification of comment above): re the comment above, I do not mean to imply that the named person there has changed his mind because of reading here. Which leads to a more general point: it would, indeed, be flattering to think that things said here led to changes of mind (i.e. in accordance with God's mind and will) ... but one must be more modest. Perhaps the odd thing written here cumulatively adds to a whole lot of things said and written elsewhere which adds up to weight of reason to change one's mind!

liturgy said...

The reluctant conversion, Peter, was a direct quote of Bryan on this thread! If that change of position can be documented from participation on this blog, and if it is significant, then I totally retract my last comment.

I also can change :-)

Otherwise - I'll stay stuck in my position, that actually people don't change much through this kind of discussion. Significant change generally happens through a different process. IMO.

Anonymous said...

Howard asks:
"Al M.:- Are your sources of revelation really so restricted? Can we have no knowledge of God's goodness apart from your "special revelation", or putting that another way, is there no means of special revelation apart from holy scripture, and your particular reading of it at that?"
Special revelation essentially means direct communication of the Word of God - in the prophetic experience, supremely through the Incarnation, and then its inscripturation. Using rationality is not special revelation but natural theology. The two working together (fides et ratio) is basic Thomism. Natural theology (which I have a lot of time for) does not give us access to the mind of the covenant, triune God; only the Word of God does.
"On your own terms then, is your view even consistent with scripture? What about Rom.1:19-20?"
Yes, I am consistent. Read on to verses 22-27. Sin has its noetic, epistemic effect on the human understanding, leading the pagan mind to do the very thing you as a Christian are trying to do, viz. to assert that homosexual acts are admirable. Anyone familiar with parts of Plato's 'Symposium' and broader streams of classical Greek culture would know what Paul is saying here.
Ideas have consequences. If same-sex acts are 'good' (= God-ordained, as you claim), then they should unite couples (or multiples) into "marriages", and these should provide the basis for child-rearing - which is rapidly becoming the case in the western world. Are you happy with this development, Howard? (For the record, I come from a broken home and my unmarried sister has two children, so I have no pretensions about heterosexual relations either; but I do think there is a godly ideal for Christians to aspire to.)
"And then there is 1 Tim. 4:4-5."
Pari passu, exactly the same argument can be made for bisexuality (should the Christian bisexual have multiple sexual relationships? why not?) and pedophilia or even zoophilia, which I'm sure you would NOT say were "created by God" but the result of aberrant psychosexual development (a mismatch between body and affections). Or what about the 'T' in LGBT? Does gender dysphoria not show that 'God makes mistakes'? Just because something exists "in nature" doesn't mean it is "according to nature" (kata phusin). In other words, talk of human nature implies a teleology, including a teleology of sexual acts. This is another good reason why Anglicans need to study the classical sources of philosophy as well as the Scriptures. New Testament professor John Nolland has a series of video lectures on the 'Anglican Mainstream' website which examines the significance of sexual acts and our embodiment as males and females.
"You will read these differently then I do. no doubt, but how can you be sure who is getting the special revelation?"
That's the dilemma of Anglicanism that drove Newman into Rome. I'm not inclined to follow but I grieve to witness what Newman foresaw in the 1850s, the dissolution of Anglicanism.
Howard, I recognize that you care (as I do
) about those on the margin and want them to discover life, holiness and wholeness in Christ. What does this mean in practice?
Al M.

Anonymous said...

Howard asks:
"Al M.:- Are your sources of revelation really so restricted? Can we have no knowledge of God's goodness apart from your "special revelation", or putting that another way, is there no means of special revelation apart from holy scripture, and your particular reading of it at that?"
Special revelation essentially means direct communication of the Word of God - in the prophetic experience, supremely through the Incarnation, and then its inscripturation. Using rationality is not special revelation but natural theology. The two working together (fides et ratio) is basic Thomism. Natural theology (which I have a lot of time for) does not give us access to the mind of the covenant, triune God; only the Word of God does.
"On your own terms then, is your view even consistent with scripture? What about Rom.1:19-20?"
Yes, I am consistent. Read on to verses 22-27. Sin has its noetic, epistemic effect on the human understanding, leading the pagan mind to do the very thing you as a Christian are trying to do, viz. to assert that homosexual acts are admirable. Anyone familiar with parts of Plato's 'Symposium' and broader streams of classical Greek culture would know what Paul is saying here.
Ideas have consequences. If same-sex acts are 'good' (= God-ordained, as you claim), then they should unite couples (or multiples) into "marriages", and these should provide the basis for child-rearing - which is rapidly becoming the case in the western world. Are you happy with this development, Howard? (For the record, I come from a broken home and my unmarried sister has two children, so I have no pretensions about heterosexual relations either; but I do think there is a godly ideal for Christians to aspire to.)
"And then there is 1 Tim. 4:4-5."
Pari passu, exactly the same argument can be made for bisexuality (should the Christian bisexual have multiple sexual relationships? why not?) and pedophilia or even zoophilia, which I'm sure you would NOT say were "created by God" but the result of aberrant psychosexual development (a mismatch between body and affections). Or what about the 'T' in LGBT? Does gender dysphoria not show that 'God makes mistakes'? Just because something exists "in nature" doesn't mean it is "according to nature" (kata phusin). In other words, talk of human nature implies a teleology, including a teleology of sexual acts. This is another good reason why Anglicans need to study the classical sources of philosophy as well as the Scriptures. New Testament professor John Nolland has a series of video lectures on the 'Anglican Mainstream' website which examines the significance of sexual acts and our embodiment as males and females.
"You will read these differently then I do. no doubt, but how can you be sure who is getting the special revelation?"
That's the dilemma of Anglicanism that drove Newman into Rome. I'm not inclined to follow but I grieve to witness what Newman foresaw in the 1850s, the dissolution of Anglicanism.
Howard, I recognize that you care (as I do
) about those on the margin and want them to discover life, holiness and wholeness in Christ. What does this mean in practice?
Al M.

Anonymous said...

Howard asks:
"Al M.:- Are your sources of revelation really so restricted? Can we have no knowledge of God's goodness apart from your "special revelation", or putting that another way, is there no means of special revelation apart from holy scripture, and your particular reading of it at that?"
Special revelation essentially means direct communication of the Word of God - in the prophetic experience, supremely through the Incarnation, and then its inscripturation. Using rationality is not special revelation but natural theology. The two working together (fides et ratio) is basic Thomism. Natural theology (which I have a lot of time for) does not give us access to the mind of the covenant, triune God; only the Word of God does.
"On your own terms then, is your view even consistent with scripture? What about Rom.1:19-20?"
Yes, I am consistent. Read on to verses 22-27. Sin has its noetic, epistemic effect on the human understanding, leading the pagan mind to do the very thing you as a Christian are trying to do, viz. to assert that homosexual acts are admirable. Anyone familiar with parts of Plato's 'Symposium' and broader streams of classical Greek culture would know what Paul is saying here.
Ideas have consequences. If same-sex acts are 'good' (= God-ordained, as you claim), then they should unite couples (or multiples) into "marriages", and these should provide the basis for child-rearing - which is rapidly becoming the case in the western world. Are you happy with this development, Howard? (For the record, I come from a broken home and my unmarried sister has two children, so I have no pretensions about heterosexual relations either; but I do think there is a godly ideal for Christians to aspire to.)
"And then there is 1 Tim. 4:4-5."
Pari passu, exactly the same argument can be made for bisexuality (should the Christian bisexual have multiple sexual relationships? why not?) and pedophilia or even zoophilia, which I'm sure you would NOT say were "created by God" but the result of aberrant psychosexual development (a mismatch between body and affections). Or what about the 'T' in LGBT? Does gender dysphoria not show that 'God makes mistakes'? Just because something exists "in nature" doesn't mean it is "according to nature" (kata phusin). In other words, talk of human nature implies a teleology, including a teleology of sexual acts. This is another good reason why Anglicans need to study the classical sources of philosophy as well as the Scriptures. New Testament professor John Nolland has a series of video lectures on the 'Anglican Mainstream' website which examines the significance of sexual acts and our embodiment as males and females.
"You will read these differently then I do. no doubt, but how can you be sure who is getting the special revelation?"
That's the dilemma of Anglicanism that drove Newman into Rome. I'm not inclined to follow but I grieve to witness what Newman foresaw in the 1850s, the dissolution of Anglicanism.
Howard, I recognize that you care (as I do
) about those on the margin and want them to discover life, holiness and wholeness in Christ. What does this mean in practice?
Al M.

Anonymous said...

Howard asks:
"Al M.:- Are your sources of revelation really so restricted? Can we have no knowledge of God's goodness apart from your "special revelation", or putting that another way, is there no means of special revelation apart from holy scripture, and your particular reading of it at that?"
Special revelation essentially means direct communication of the Word of God - in the prophetic experience, supremely through the Incarnation, and then its inscripturation. Using rationality is not special revelation but natural theology. The two working together (fides et ratio) is basic Thomism. Natural theology (which I have a lot of time for) does not give us access to the mind of the covenant, triune God; only the Word of God does.
"On your own terms then, is your view even consistent with scripture? What about Rom.1:19-20?"
Yes, I am consistent. Read on to verses 22-27. Sin has its noetic, epistemic effect on the human understanding, leading the pagan mind to do the very thing you as a Christian are trying to do, viz. to assert that homosexual acts are admirable. Anyone familiar with parts of Plato's 'Symposium' and broader streams of classical Greek culture would know what Paul is saying here.
Ideas have consequences. If same-sex acts are 'good' (= God-ordained, as you claim), then they should unite couples (or multiples) into "marriages", and these should provide the basis for child-rearing - which is rapidly becoming the case in the western world. Are you happy with this development, Howard? (For the record, I come from a broken home and my unmarried sister has two children, so I have no pretensions about heterosexual relations either; but I do think there is a godly ideal for Christians to aspire to.)
"And then there is 1 Tim. 4:4-5."
Pari passu, exactly the same argument can be made for bisexuality (should the Christian bisexual have multiple sexual relationships? why not?) and pedophilia or even zoophilia, which I'm sure you would NOT say were "created by God" but the result of aberrant psychosexual development (a mismatch between body and affections). Or what about the 'T' in LGBT? Does gender dysphoria not show that 'God makes mistakes'? Just because something exists "in nature" doesn't mean it is "according to nature" (kata phusin). In other words, talk of human nature implies a teleology, including a teleology of sexual acts. This is another good reason why Anglicans need to study the classical sources of philosophy as well as the Scriptures. New Testament professor John Nolland has a series of video lectures on the 'Anglican Mainstream' website which examines the significance of sexual acts and our embodiment as males and females.
"You will read these differently then I do. no doubt, but how can you be sure who is getting the special revelation?"
That's the dilemma of Anglicanism that drove Newman into Rome. I'm not inclined to follow but I grieve to witness what Newman foresaw in the 1850s, the dissolution of Anglicanism.
Howard, I recognize that you care (as I do
) about those on the margin and want them to discover life, holiness and wholeness in Christ. What does this mean in practice?
Al M.

Anonymous said...

Bosco states:
"As Al M says on this very thread: one definition of madness is to keep repeating something in the hope of getting different results."

Actually, what I said was "repeating a mistake". Repating good, true things is not madness but wisdom and character formation ('habitus'). Liberal theology leads us astray because it continues in a mistaken understanding of Scripture, God and creation - for example, a sermon last month in Christchurch Cathedral by the 'theologian in residence' that leaned heavily on Brueggemann's semi-post-modern view of "Scripture' as "conflicting testimonies and countertestimonies" (what I call 'he said/she said') which left little doubt who was really on the side of the angels. A clever piece of work but very contrary to classical Anglican theology a la Cranmer, Jewel, Hooker etc.
Al M.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Some may wish to believe that Canon Grace (I have never heard of a man named Grace) knows of what he speaks in regard to what the important issues are for the CAPA conference, but a quick check at Thinking Anglicans allows one to find links to press reports of a number of (arch)bishops who did not get the message and keep taking opportunity to denounce GLBT Anglicans/Christians.

So, please, let that false hope die with what is the truth.They cannot resist. It is an issue, and not a back burner one, but an issue that the most self-important prelates cannot resist speaking about to the rest.

Howard Pilgrim said...

AL, you have given some substantive responses to the challenges I threw at you, so let’s keep this dialogue going a little longer. I shall follow the order in your two comments:-
1. You define special revelation as “direct communication of the Word of God”, locating it in the prophetic experience and the Incarnation, and then its inscripturation. By this I take it that your access to the first two loci is by way of the third, so that all God’s special revelation is contained in scripture. Two interrelated questions naturally arise:-
a) Does all of scripture have the status of special revelation, or is this only to the extent that it encapsulates prophetic experience and/or the Incarnation?
b) By what means does the inscripturated revelation become a direct communication to you, me and the Church in general?
The importance of these two questions for our present discussion lies in the privileged place you give special revelation in your moral theology, in which it alone gives us access to the mind of God, and does so quite independently of any process of rationality, presumably including rational processes of exegesis.
2. You write, “Natural theology (which I have a lot of time for) does not give us access to the mind of the covenant, triune God; only the Word of God does.” What does natural theology give you access to” Your sentence could be read two ways:-
a. Natural theology gives us no reliable knowledge about anything in the mind of the true and living God. This reading is hard to reconcile with the “lot of time” you have for it.
b. Natural theology shows us some things about God’s mind, but does not lead us into a covenant relationship with God, or reveal his triune nature.
I will assume your mean the latter, given that it is more consistent with Romans 1: 19ff, where Paul is clearly affirming some sort of universal human capacity for natural theology. What does he say can be revealed by the processes of reflection on ordinary human experience? Explicitly, ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης, “his eternal power and divine nature” (NRSV); which must create a little tension for either reading of your assertion. Beyond that, Paul implies that all humans can clearly perceive at least something of their moral duty, which they then proceed to turn against. This is consistent with the classical Anglican formulations of Hooker and his followers that moral duty is something derived by reflection from common social experience, even to the point where it may correct our reading and application of scripture, which is my own position.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Continuing my response to Al M...

3. You appear to use Rom.1:22-27 as a basis for asserting that my thinking is basically pagan, and that it is sinful of me to assert that homosexual acts are “admirable”.
a.I actually never assert any such thing, but rather that within the context of a life-long faithful relationship, same-sex intimacy may be acceptable to God, on the same conditions as heterosexual marriages may be.
b.For my thinking process on this issue to correspond to that described by the apostle in this passage, it would have to be an outcome of a life characterized by rebellion against God and idolatry. Furthermore, it would mean that I was myself involved in degraded sexual practices, not necessarily homosexual, and that it was this descent into unruly passion that had corrupted my thinking about homosexuality. Have you been able to infer this much about me from my writings? You may need to ask Peter for more evidence about my dissolute state!
c. On the other hand, you might be saying that I have arrived at the same mindset as idolatrous, sexually dissolute pagans, but through some other means. The question then remains whether that process is necessarily an outworking of sin within me. I of course might ask you whether your own position on this issue is entirely uncontaminated by sin.
4.Yes, I am happy in principle with same-sex relationships providing a basis for child-rearing. There have been some excellent examples of this working out well, and such arrangements are quite widely known in the animal kingdom. “It takes a village to raise a child” and some of the parenting units within that village might well be stable, loving same-sex couples.
5. When you turned to ! Tim 4:4-5 you did get a bit carried away! My point regarding this passage is that, in direct contrast to the dissolute process described in Romans 1, it celebrates the sanctifying effects of knowing God and receiving his provision for our needs with thanksgiving and prayer. Among the first generation of Jewish Christians, this principle was lived out as they established new rules around food, some of them in direct opposition to scriptural commandments. It also enabled them to resist new pressures to consider marriage unclean. I and others are now suggesting that this principle can be extended to meet the needs of homosexual people for an appropriate form of intimacy within the context of lives characterised by knowledge of God, thanksgiving and prayer. You ask what our care for those on the margins means in practice. In the case of homosexual brothers and sisters, it means a journey together towards a new discovery of what holiness of life can mean for them.

liturgy said...

Al Mynors: I am sorry that you do not understand the essence of your own quote. Madness does not lie in the repetition (be it of a mistake or otherwise). Madness lies in the expectation of a different result.

If you took exception to the theologian in residence’s sermon, did you follow the biblical process and discuss this with her first, and then follow the other suggested procedures prior to your public disparagement here?

Peter: I lauded the change to your moderation policy and only returned to commenting here because of it. I have indicated previously I think you are not holding to your policy in allowing Al Mynors’ comments through. I do not believe there is anyone with such a surname in New Zealand, and I think this is merely another pseudonym for a previous-and-now-still-if-retitled anonymous participant. It is clearly your call – such a modernist use of a post-modern medium would be acceptable if the rest of your comments policy was enforced. But do you think it is?

Do you think it appropriate for you, as a senior member of our diocese, to host anonymous criticism of a colleague on your public site unless you have given her a chance to respond, and have followed some sort of process akin to my second paragraph above?

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I assume some correspondents here live overseas, but have good understanding of our church because they visit here as tourists etc or drop by websites of churches here. I could be mistaken but I have seen little here from 'Al Mynors' or 'Alison' which is inconsistent with them being well informed overseas readers of this blog.

I will pay more attention to criticism of people when their writings or speech have (a) not been directly engaged with here, or (b) are not widely known in the public domain. I accept that on that criterion I should not in future publish criticism of the sermon in our cathedral referred to by Al above. [Al and others, please take note].

Thank you for your attention to these matters. I also acknowledge that I have no way of checking whether names used are pseudonyms or not ... that means that in time I may yet come to an even tighter moderation policy.