+Gene Robinson has been writing on the Bible and homosexuality in The Washington Post. The first in the series is here, and from there you can link to the succeeding posts. In this post I do not want to engage with +Robinson's interpretation of seven 'texts of terror' concerning homosexuality per se: the ground he traverses is well worn, and the manner of his walk (the arguments he offers) offers nothing new to the ongoing debate about these texts. But I do want to engage in one argument he offers which, in turn, I argue goes to the core of the division in the Communion. This is what he writes in his first post:
"In John's Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." (John 16: 12-13a) I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, "Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven't done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don't think for a minute that God is done with you - or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth." "
At the core of the division is the question of truth: around what understanding of truth are we united, that is, what is the basis of our fellowship? In a sense the Covenant addresses a subsidiary question: in what manner will we address differences in understanding of truth? The primary question for Anglicans is 'What is truth?' The normative answer for Anglicans has been 'the Word of God, written for us in Scripture, clarified through tradition and reason.' An answer, incidentally, which is the same for all Christians, with some important differences between us in the content of 'Christian truth' arising from how we define Scripture, tradition and reason (e.g. differences between Protestants, Romans, and Eastern Orthodox in the canon of Scripture).
Also 'normatively' Christians have been very, very wary of claims to 'new Truth' beyond the pages of Scripture, pointing to salutary lessons from church history when our ancestors in the faith have gone astray.
But here we have one of the leading bishops in one of the chief protagonist churches in the Communion proclaiming the virtue of 'new Truth'. (Note also the blithe manner in which +Gene moves from 'all truth' to 'new Truth', unconstrained by the possibility that 'all truth' is deeper insight into the truth revealed in Scripture!).
It is quite reasonable, sober, and sensible for Anglicans around the globe to be very concerned that, when all is said and done, TEC is on a pilgrimage to 'new Truth' and not on a path of ever deeper, ever renewed understanding of plain, traditional, Scriptural orthodoxy, confined to the bounds of Scripture and our creedal understanding of Scripture. A new approach to homosexuality is simply one expression of the will to embrace 'new Truth.' The big picture here of Anglican alarm is not the issue of homosexuality, but the lack of will to commit to faithful orthodoxy.
What is the nature of the truth around which we fellowship as Anglicans in the Communion? Is it the old, old story of Jesus and his gospel, or is it the new Truth of +Robinson and his peers? It cannot be both. We are in a rift because truth is non-contradictory. The future of the Communion, ultimately, will be as an orthodox Christian community or not. Right now we are in a grace-filled phase (well, sort of!) in which we are giving the benefit of the doubt to each other: perhaps TEC is right, perhaps it is not, as it claims to be just as orthodox as the rest of us. But this phase will not last forever: the truth will out. We will be a TEC-shaped Communion, or a Communion which constrains TEC (i.e. relegates it to the second tier, suspends it, or even expels it), or TEC will repent of its Robinsonian toying with new Truth. I can think of no fourth possibility for our long-term future.
Right now I am very doubtful that TEC will repent, doubtful that the Communion will constrain TEC (because of the absence of a significant proportion of primates from the Primates Meeting in January), and thus view our likely future as a TEC-shaped Communion. While I object to the boycott of the primates, I understand that they may feel tired and worn out trying to combat the propensity of ++Williams and other primates to not confront 'new Truth' and judge it for what it is: heresy.
I am grateful for +Gene Robinson for his honesty and frankness in revealing once again why there is a rift in our Communion. It has nothing to do with bigotry and homophobia, and everything to do with fundamental concerns about the theological commitments defining Anglicanism in the 21st century.