Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is St Matt's-in-City discriminating against Classes of People?

Whether you go here on ADU or there on Liturgy you can find some interesting and intelligent commenting responding to +Philip Richardson responding to St Matthew's in the City's provocative protest that our bishops should front foot the question of ordaining gay or lesbian candidates for ministry who are living in partnerships.

If nothing else, both Bosco Peters and I know that some prominent people within our church are following this particular development closely, so closely that they are looking at our sites.

In the latest move by St Matt's, a letter following a parish meeting has been written which includes this (my italics):

"It [the discrimination agreed to between our Pakeha New Zealand bishops that refuses to admit into the discernment process for ordination anyone who is gay or lesbian and in a committed relationship] is discrimination against an entire class of people. Such discrimination by any institution or state would be worthy of our condemnation, but it is also a source of deep embarrassment that our church is perpetrating it. Your acceptance of this discrimination initiated by colleagues in the House of Bishops represents all of us to our shame.

As neither our Diocesan Synod nor the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui have sanctioned the “discrimination,” you are under no obligation to continue this practice a minute longer. As our bishop we beseech you to end our communal participation in this violation of human rights, this offence to the Gospel, and an embarrassment to the Church." (From an Open Letter to Bishop Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland, here).
On the face of it, St Matt's is riding a white charger whose name is Right and Righteous Cause. How can the bishops of our church, including their direct target, +Ross Bay, withstand the thundering hooves and steaming nostrils of this valiant steed?

In several ways. Today I give one of them.

St. Matthew's-in-the-City themselves are guilty of discrimination against 'classes of people.' When we ask what classes of people constitute the society to which we are called to preach the gospel of Christ, classes which do not live exactly by the traditional Christian standard of marriage or singleness, to say nothing of classes which may have a view on the church's missional image being out of touch, then we have a very large class of people living together who do not wish to marry, a class of people who think committing adultery is ok, and, though perhaps tiny, nevertheless able to be classified, swingers, polyamorists, and polygamists.

You will find nothing in the St. Matt's protest taking up the cause of these classes. Is their protest discriminatory against these classes?

If it is not discriminatory because they intend to take up their causes soon, our church, I think, would be quite interested to know this.

If they have justified cause for being so discriminatory, we need to hear their justification. Remember, in the particular case of St. Matt's-in-the-City, it cannot be for reasons of Scripture or Christian tradition for they make a public lifestyle out of their billboards which question Scripture and tradition, nor can it be for reason for unwillingness to offend fellow Christians - see also track record on billboards.

There is a response they could make which does not involve them reaching out to (say) polyamorists. They could drop talk about 'discrimination.' They could apologise to Bishop Ross Bay for implying that he has acted in ways which are embarrassing to the church. They could acknowledge that between 'the doctrine of Christ' (which includes, for example, the unity of the church) and the canons of the church (which, for example, do not permit ordination to various orders below the age of 23, or, for bishops, 30), our General Synod does sanction discernment (a better word, I suggest, than the inflammatory, 'discrimination.').

In short, St. Matt's in the City have right and reason to pursue change in our church re gay candidates for ministry. But they should do it through constructing a theology and persuading the whole of our church of the truth of this theology. Protesting in a manner which is disrespectful to our bishops and to our General Synod is momentarily exciting but scarcely a winning strategy in the long-term.


James said...

My notion of NZ Anglicanism was largely conditioned by the 2008 billboard incident. In 2008 I turned to the St. Matt's site, and used Google to search its pages for Spong. I don't remember how many results there were then; now there are 406.

Bp. Spong's writings are so riddled with errors, straw man arguments, and various sentimental appeals in painting a kind of bogey-man "Fundamentalism" out of Trinitarian Christianity, that I have read few good old-school "Fundamentalists" that come even close to him in the snake-oil salesman department. The scholarship is, generally, utter tripe; and he manipulates his readers by inspiring in them fear that faith will somehow make them less intelligent or rational. Which is such a rich, but yet very sad, irony. It was no surprise to me that a student of Spong would sink to the depths of creating a tabloid-like controversy and then speak to the world using hate speech. It simply has Spong written all over it - talk-show style cheap controversy, plus a good dose of vitriol for the opposition. Spong, like Cardy, preys upon the vulnerable, the insecure, and those who wish to appear as intelligent and different, but don't have much understanding of the humanities.

So I expected New Zealand Anglicans in general to be rather backward regarding the humanities in general, to be quite honest.

Getting to know the sites of Bosco and Peter has changed that impression entirely. This site here is characterized by true depth of thought in the articles and the comments, as are few others in the Anglican world. I was very wrong to believe that New Zealand Anglicans are largely undereducated.

But the hate speech and vitriol are really rather small matters compared to denying Christ, and encouraging others to do the same.

It is infinitely better to be intellectually backward and hateful, than to hurt one's parishoners and the church by bringing into the church another gospel.

James said...

I tend to expect now, of NZ Anglicanism, much the same of my own dear Church of England - lots of good thinking going on, but a rather scarce place when one examines the faith department. In the Church of England, many of our clergy are rather unsure of such basic things as the idea that Christ died for our sins; or that He rose from the dead. No matter how intellectually developed one might be, or how much commitment to the poor one might have ... if one is still insecure in faith in the resurrection or the atonement (which isn't to say that there may be intellectual struggles - this is normal enough in persons of faith), one is still making "baby steps" in faith and will need a lot of help.

Compared to other prominent Protestant bodies, to Roman Catholics, and to Eastern Orthodox Christians ... we western Anglicans tend to score very low in the faith department. It's an area where we desperately need the help of our fellow churches.

Because Anglicans tend to be rather weak in the faith category, I really wouldn't expect most of you to understand how awful and blighting teaching a different gospel can be for persons who are exposed to such. Though I know some of you would understand this very well, but probably find it difficult to explain and communicate this (just as I find it terribly difficult, disheartening, and distasteful).

We Anglicans tend to do just fine when our theological categories in some way or other harmonize with secular psychology and sociology. But naturally, the idea of a "different gospel" is rather foreign to both psychology and sociology; and therefore we also don't tend to understand this general notion. We simply wobble around and don't know what to think, with some then shouting "Fundamentalist!" (sort of the contemporary equivalent of shouting, "Witch!") at the very thought that there could possibly be such a thing as "another gospel."

I would kindly suggest: remember what Cardy did in 2008, and how utterly stupid his whole "divine sperm" meme was; especially the fact that he was actually teaching that some people believe this. This is Spong again - teaching people that those of a different religion (in this case, Trinitarian Christianity, and more specifically Roman Catholicism) actually believe XYZ (when, in fact, they don't). It's simply pathetic, and in the case of something largely viewed as repulsive and irrational as "divine sperm": it's hate speech, since it encourages listeners to adopt a very negative attitude toward the group of people so targeted.

Think of how Cardy is teaching people about how Jesus is a dead teacher (e.g., in denying the resurrection). Consider how his own turning away from Christ and teaching others to do the same may have led to this horrid stupidity in 2008, when he clearly felt so clever, but was showing such utter hypocrisy by telling a disgusting lie about people of a different religion. Consider whether loving Mr. Cardy entails handing him a bullhorn - or if you think expressing love for the Koran-burning Terry Jones would mean allowing his congregation to put forward initiatives in the broader church, thus gaining more attention for themselves.

Consider whether letting this fundamentalism of self-styled "progressives" does not contribute to anxiety amongst Christians of the more conservative stripe, causing them to adopt the attitudes we associate with "fundamentalism."

I would suggest: if you like this initiative, ask someone else to take it up and dissociate it very clearly from Mr. Cardy and St. Matt's. And: take this as an opportunity to speak to Mr. Cardy and St. Matt's, asking them to turn to Christ or leave the Anglican Church of NZ. They are asking for your ear - so if they do not listen to you now, they are being hypocrites.

Father Ron Smith said...

"They could apologise to Bishop Ross Bay for implying that he has acted in ways which are embarrassing to the church." - Peter Carrell -

Presumably 'they', here, means the people of St.Matthew's-in-the-City, Auckland.

Do you not then, Peter, also feel that another 'they' - the 'Latimer Protesters' who tried to prevent the legitimate and canonical ordination of Juna Kinnear in Dunedin - should apologise to Bishop George Connor, for implying that he has 'acted in ways that are embarrassing to the Church', when merely carrying out his episcopal function?

'Their' action was more egregiously embarrassing to the Church - IMHO.

Bryden Black said...

But Peter; ‘identity politics’ is just the name of the game played nowadays ... ;-) It’s so much easier than the careful crafting of the means of sifting between “the world” and “God’s will” (back to Rom 12:1-2). This latter implies a life-time’s schooling, of contemplation of the Scriptures, of ‘reading’ one’s social script with Christian discernment.

“The pathos of modern theology is its false humility. For theology, this must be a fatal disease, because once theology surrenders its claim to be a meta-discourse, it cannot any longer articulate the word of the creator God, but is bound to turn into the oracular voice of some finite idol, such as historical scholarship, humanist psychology, or transcendental philosophy. If theology no longer seeks to position, qualify or criticize other discourses, then it is inevitable that these discourses will position theology: for the necessity of an ultimate organizing logic (as I shall argue in Part Four) cannot be wished away. A theology ‘positioned’ by secular reason suffers two characteristic forms of confinement. Either it idolatrously connects knowledge of God with some particular immanent field of knowledge - ‘ultimate’ cosmological causes, or ‘ultimate’ psychological and subjective needs. Or else it is confined to intimations of a sublimity beyond representation, so functioning to confirm negatively the questionable idea of an autonomous secular realm, completely transparent to rational understanding.” So writes John Milbank in his now famous introduction to Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason.

Which quote exactly substantiates what James says here (and elsewhere) about the curious ‘alliance’ between the likes of St Matt’s non-Trinitarian Jesus following (an offering of Esau’s gruel one more time) and ‘the LGBT cause’. But I guess (one more time again) we shall just have to “wait for the real conversation to [truly] begin” (to paraphrase Oliver O’Donovan again) - and this by means of a sifting that goes beyond even the setting up of GS Motions via false dichotomies.

Peter Carrell said...

To which contributions, James and Bryden, there is a one word reply: Indeed!

Hi Ron, +Ross is carefully following the current line of our church. I do not think he deserves to be charged with embarrassing the rest of us. +George, arguably, was not following the then current line of the church, and thus created an opportunity for the challenge that was made. No doubt it was embarrassing for him, but I am not sure that the objection then requires an apology for making the objection under those circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I have to second what James has written. Whatever personal qualities Mr Cardy has, the fact remains that he was deeply offensive to creedal Christians (but more importantly, to God and the beloved Mother of Christ) in his billboard stunt in a way that would have brought a stern rebuke to a smart aleck teenager prankster and certainly sullied the calling of a minister of the Gospel.
The fact that he rejects cardinal doctrines of the Creeds means that he can't be considered a valid partner in conversations about the doctrine and discipline of the Church, since he has no interest in holding and maintaining these.
Remember that in the late 2nd century "Progressive Christianity" was espoused by the Valentinians and other Gnostics who used biblical language and (vaguely) biblical ideas to construct an entirely different religion, as Irenaeus demonstrated in Adversus Haereses. It grieves me to say it, but this religious parasitism is still with us.

James: "down under-educated" does not necesarily equate to "undereducated", but the danger exists that too many clerics have been insufficiently schooled in either biblical theology (and almost never in biblical languages!) or historical theology, with the level of philosophical abstraction necessary to understand issues in the way that Milbank would desire (to extrapolate from Bryden's quote). It is common to cast aspersions across the Tasman, but a certain seminary there turns out among the best classically educated clergy in the Anglican communion.

Peter "Palaiologos"

spiritedcrone said...

Dare I say it but Peter does have a point. While the presenting issue right now may be the refusal of the Anglican church to ordain any more GLBT as priests, the bigger but maybe not expressed issue is this idea of right relationship and trying to define it in terms of particular sexualities or behaviours.

I observe that our morality is based on ways of behaving that we have become used to by virtue of particular legal systems, eg:marriage is good not because it's necessarily the best form of relationship but because it relates to legal contracts and we have become well used to the way it operates.

Thankfully, as a woman I'm not now a chattel but it's not that long ago that the church was happily reinforcing the notion that a woman had to be given away by the presiding male in her life into the care of another male who would take the dominant role.

I see that the bigger discussion needs to be around how much the church ought to be deciding what kind of relationship is correct and the reasons it thinks it has that right to be so pronouncing for priests or anyone else.

Father Ron Smith said...

' (to extrapolate from Bryden's quote). It is common to cast aspersions across the Tasman, but a certain seminary there turns out among the best classically educated clergy in the Anglican communion.

- Peter, the Greek -

The bracketed bit needed saying, if only to explain what the casual reader might have to do in order to understand the burden of what is being indicated in the text of the writer. - (wordy?

Moore College might have bred those whose discourses need constant explication (and extrapolation) but do they tend to create more heat than light? A classical education may help to produce learned essays, but does it always necessarily bequeath an increase of spiritual wisdom? There are quite a few good atheistic minds formed at Oxbridge.

Humility is not a 'learn-ed' trait.

Anonymous said...

"A classical education may help to produce learned essays, but does it always necessarily bequeath an increase of spiritual wisdom? There are quite a few good atheistic minds formed at Oxbridge."

False polarities. I was referring to the rigorous education at Moore in biblical languages, biblical theology, and patristic and Reformation thought. I don't think they're interested in "essays" after ordination but in preaching and teaching. Whether there is "spiritual wisdom" is for the Lord to say; all we can say is a tree is known by its fruit. I don't think you'll find any atheists or agnostics in ministerial posts in the Diocese of Sydney. ACANZP and Tec couldn't say the same. You're not going to tell me that Jack Spong is a "catholic bishop", are you? Do you share the same faith in Christ Jesus as Glyn Cardy? Presumably you know that the Valentinian bishops were "validly ordained"?

Peter "Palaiologos"

hogster said...

I see little difference between the methodology of St Matt's and the tabloids. The sensationalist and extreme will always muster a certain kind of following.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Whether there is "spiritual wisdom" is for the Lord to say; all we can say is a tree is known by its fruit."

- Peter, the Greek -

Agreed. And when such fruit includes the Archbishop of Sydney's suggestion of a moral equivalence between same-sex marriage and polygamy, one sees some pretty strange fruit. Celebration of Same-sex monogamous relationships is very different from that of serial heterosexual partnerships. One does not necessarily lead to the other.

For your information, I am not an afficionado of Bishop Spong's non-Trinitarian theories. However, he has some valuable insights into the human condition, vis a vis biology, psychology and reason. There is some good in almost everyone.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
It would be very good, possibly vital even to our present discussion, to learn from you the basis for judging that that making a moral equivalence between monogamous same sex partnerships and polygamy is 'pretty strange fruit'.

Would Scripture, tradition or reason be most informative in the conclusion of 'pretty strange fruit'?

Father Ron Smith said...

One major difference between same-sex monogamous unions and those unions of heterosexual polygamy is that the first participants celebrate faithfulness to one sexual partner, while the others do not - or is the concept of sexual faithfulness (a Christian virtue) not a requirement for heterosexuals?

I just cannot see how same-sex monogamous relationships should have a unique role in encouraging polygamy. One mode celebrates monogamy the other, polygamy. They are very different apple/oranges.

Anonymous said...

"And when such fruit includes the Archbishop of Sydney's suggestion of a moral equivalence between same-sex marriage and polygamy, one sees some pretty strange fruit."

I haven't read Jensen on this, but I imagine he is alluding to the devastating 2004 New Republic article by University of Chicago legal scholar Richard Posner, that the secular liberal case for "homosexual marriage" (private consensual arrangements made by adults) is identical for that covering polygamy. I think Posner is right on this. Precsiely the same legal reasoning pertains.
Polygyny is accepted in the OT(where the bitter fruit of sexual jealousy and power play is freely displayed), but Jesus makes it clear this is a concession to human weakness under the old dispensation and has no place in the new life in Christ.
Marriage is not a human 'right', it is an estate grounded in creation and determined in its nature by God. Male-male or female-female couplings cannot be marriage, whatever the State says. People who understand catholic theology (e.g. John Paul II, Benedict XVI) grasp this point at once.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Kurt said...

Oh, please Peter P., Moore Theological College is only a legend in its own (collective) mind. From what I can tell, it is one of the most provincial, small-minded institutions in the Anglican Communion.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Brother David said...

Polygamy is a legitimate biblical form of heterosexual marriage. There may well be those who engage in it in a very moral form. It is not for me to judge because I do not find any teachings from Jesus that condemn the practice.

I can only say that I am unaware of any nation here in the New World that has allowed polygamy in its civil marriage laws. But I think that few could argue that polygamy is not a legal form, and so a morally acceptable form, of heterosexual marriage in many nations of the world.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
Moore College is the largest residential theological college in Australasia. Its graduates fill many churches, not only those in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. My personal experience of their graduates in ordained ministry is that they are both knowledgeable and superbly trained.

Most if not all students (IMHO) go into the college as conservative Christians and come out as conservative Christians. They are probably the largest college around these parts because most young people responding to God's call to ministry are from conservative churches.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
There is a moral equivalence between monogamous marriage and monogamous same sex partnerships on the matter of the virtue of sexual faithfulness.

But is there not a moral equivalence between same sex partnerships and polygamy in respect of New Testament teaching about Christians and sexuality: neither are envisaged as possibilities for those in the kingdom of God?

James said...

Fr. Ron Smith,

I am delighted to hear that you don't like Spong's teachings which teach against Trinitarian Christianity and Our Lord. And I agree that some of what he has said is true; though I'd also like to point out - some of what Fred Phelps has said is also resoundingly true - he having been one of Kansas's most profound defenders of the rights of African American people in decades past.

My masters' thesis was on Nietzsche; and for my historical theology class, I wrote on Feuerbach.

However: it's essential that we teach our flocks to rightly divide truth. This means - when a man has gone so far overboard as Spong (or Cardy), we mustn't let them exercise teaching authority in the church - for if we do, we are mutually responsible and mutually condemned with Paul's words "let them be eternally condemned/anathema." We must in some way bring meaning to these words - I think we can be sure that they are applicable when a cleric denies an essential aspect of Christ which is related to our salvation (though it can be argued that this can be applied even more broadly).

Bryden and Peter P - quite happy to see you bringing up Milbank. And I am doubly embarassed at my earlier prejudice about Kiwi Anglicans. Milbank is fascinating, but unfortunately - requires a lot of education to read. Nb. LGBT advocates: Milbank advocates gay clergy. We have been having some very lovely discussions here. Kurt: my last TEC priest gave a sermon in which the sole point, repeated many times, was: that John the Baptist never doubted Jesus. Ron: you are right that many can turn away from the faith with a classical education. Our young seminarians need good spiritual guidance; engaging in study is not "neutral."

Please do consider what you can do. I would suggest the most fair way forward would be for Fr. Ron to find another party for carrying forward this initiative; and that Kiwi Trinitarian Anglicans - gay and straight - speak to St. Matt's with a united voice, now that St. Matt's has shown this extra arrogance. There is this article if it helps: New Zealand Anglicans: A Call to Consistently Ethical Behavior. Or write your own! Start a petition, or something like that. Anathema is an awful thing - and in inaction, we're especially exposing LGBT people to this. Fr. Ron's gentle, loving voice inspired me to write this to him, which may be helpful in describing the general situation to LGBT advocates: To a fierce advocate of LGBT issues in the Anglican Communion: Christology and the future of LGBT activism.

James said...

A further note: I realize it may seem radical or unloving to suggest that St. Matt's either turn to Christ or leave.

However: Scripture does tell us that at some point, we must "cut our losses" and dissociate. Here, 2 John is essential reading. At some point - further imprecations to turn to Christ, loving discipleship, etc. etc.. simply don't work any more.

It's been 3 years since 2008. I don't know what Cardy's bishop has done so far ... I don't know what spiritual care he and St. Matt's have had. But I'd suggest that now is the right moment at least to give St. Matt's a good reason to pause for thought, or even leave.

This may also be the only way you can help some members of St. Matt's "wake up" to who Christ is - and realize the errors of following Cardy.

Churches which are Trinitarian in practice do not allow their flocks to be taught to deny Christ. For help, you could perhaps do an informal inquiry amongst other non-Anglican Trinitarian churches, about the consequences of pastors of churches claiming to be Trinitarian, denying Christ before their flocks. This might help NZ Anglicans understand the ecumenical consequences: that at some point, it will only be honest for Trinitarian churches to turn their backs on you - as their only means of helping you awake to the importance of loving the Risen and Living Christ.

Surrounding non-Anglican churches may be quiet about Cardy mostly because they don't want to hurt Anglicans - but you can alert them to the fact that, in bringing a light upon what Cardy is doing - they are in fact helping NZ Anglicans heal, and turn fully to Christ.

Finally, LGBT advocates - this may present you with an historic opportunity to deal with the awful conjunction of non-Trinitarian Christianity and LGBT advocacy, which is currently so prominent. In doing so, you could vouchsafe the cause, and prevent it from being relegated to an isolated, non-Trinitarian cult. It will allow LGBT Christians to show: that they are truly Trinitarian Christians, and that they care about matters other than LGBT ordinations and same-gender sex acts.

Kurt said...

“Moore College is the largest residential theological college in Australasia. Its graduates fill many churches, not only those in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.” Fr. Carroll

More’s the pitty. (Pardon the pun). A couple of years ago I had a conversation with an Australian Anglican monastic priest about Moore College and Sydney “Anglicanism” in general; you can imagine his opinion of the place. From what I have been able to determine, his aversion was merited. How many students, conservative or otherwise, does Moore have from outside of Australasia? Looks pretty provincial to me.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryden Black said...

Thank you for your latest careful distinctions Peter. Clearly needed.

Peter Carrell said...

But Kurt, Australasia is our world!

James said...

Yes, Kurt - during my tenure as George Eliot Chair of Gender and LGBT Studies at The Good Samaritan School of Theology, we were quite of the same opinion about Moore College. In fact, I had my students spend a semester on a creative assignment, channeling energies in imagining students and professors of Moore College and drawing them with crayons. You'd be amazed at what a creative study like this reveals about Moore College students and personnel. Some were holding chainsaws (I think this is a metaphor for violence); most had angry or sad faces (metaphor for deep, prejudiced conservatism); a few even had horns and tails (metaphor for evil). Of course, we know that the students don't literally walk about with chainsaws or with tails; but you and I with our rich understandings of metaphor will appreciate this.

The next semester, we spent discussing the artworks the students had made. It was really one of the most fascinating theological discussions I've ever had. We came to the conclusion that Fundamentalism is destroying our society, and that its epicenter is the Diocese of Sydney. We were going to release this prophetic work with artistry and profound social commentary as a coffee table book to raise awareness amongst urban families all over the world, but a cruel consipiracy of the military industrial machine and right-wing Fundamentalists blocked all our efforts at publication; alas, the truth in its fullness shall never be known.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks for some of your more personal info James; helps to set the context more fairly. I shall reciprocate when in the mood! Have a good day/night/evening ...

Anonymous said...

Moore may in fact be the largest Anglican seminary in the world. Whatever people think of its teaching, the caliber of its academic staff cannot be doubted.

I don't cite Milbank uncritically - I was aware of his recent views on homosexuality. The "Radical Orthodoxy" folk are revealing the problems Rusty Reno foresaw about them a few years back in 'First Things'.

Polygyny was accepted in the OT world, but there is every reason to believe that Jesus and St Paul both enjoined monogamy. 'A man will cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh.' 'A bishop must be the husband of one wife.' Thanks to Muslim migration, de facto polygyny is now appearing in the West.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Anonymous said...

New York is of course the center of the world, but Kurt should know that a "province" in Australia is pretty large. Nearly all of Moore 27 or so teaching staff have PhDs (many of them published) from Oxbridge, Sheffield or London. Knowledge of Hebrew and Greek are especially stressed. (I've learnt a lot from their books.) Worldwide, Moore has about 2000 students doing TEE in Nigeria, India, China etc. -
And hey, some Moore graduates are even ministering in NY. So there is hope for the Big Apple yet.
Peter "Palaiologos"

Brother David said...

Marriage is not a human 'right', it is an estate grounded in creation and determined in its nature by God. Male-male or female-female couplings cannot be marriage, whatever the State says.

Sorry, in Mexico marriage is not a right nor an estate established by anyone's God, it is a privilege established, licensd and controlled by the civil authority and now legally includes mixed and same gender couples. There is not a religious body in the whole country that has not bowed to the civil authority regarding marriage, whether the RCC, the Mormons or anyone else. No one in Mexico will defy the law and grant you a religious marriage ceremony until you have been civilly married first.

Kurt said...

“Moore may in fact be the largest Anglican seminary in the world. Whatever people think of its teaching, the caliber of its academic staff cannot be doubted.”—Peter P.

Perhaps; though as I remind my friends from Texas from time to time, bigger is not necessarily better. I’m sure that my parish priest would be more than willing to match the academic credentials of any prof (pro?) from his seminary (Yale Divinity School) with those of Moore Theological College any day of the week.

“We came to the conclusion that Fundamentalism is destroying our society, and that its epicenter is the Diocese of Sydney.”—James Coder

Actually, James, I wouldn’t give those Sydney Calvinists that much credit! They are big frogs in a small pond.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

" Please, out of your love for Christ, and your love for LGBT people, consider aiding them in seeking a movement which helps them turn to, and worship The Risen Christ – instead of, as they will be taught in many places in TEC, that Jesus is, in plain language, dead."

- James (to me) on his web-site -

I'm touched, James, by your concern for me, and for my LGBT friends. You are much more hospitable and loving towards us than most other evangelical conservatives on this site. And, you have a love for Jesus in the Eucharist - which is a defining characteristic of your Christology - in my view.

Unfortunately my influence over the mistaken theology of other Christians is no greater than that of our learned colleagues on this web-site. All I can do is to speak the truth as I see it; Love God and love God's children with all the passion of which God has allowed me to be capable. I rest my case.

I do not believe that TEC is any more crippled by quirky theology than many other Christian Churches. It's current movement towards the inclusion of LGBT 'sinners' is no more harmful than Nigeria's hatred of the same people. But then, Love is stronger than Death. Bless you!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Worldwide, Moore has about 2000 students doing TEE in Nigeria, etc."

- Peter, the Greek -

That explains an awful lot. And I really do mean 'awful': Homphobia and death-dealing toward LGBTs - both sub-Christian.

James said...

Fr. Ron,

Thank you so much for your kind words. I am not sure how "conservative" or "evangelical" I actually am. I think in most churches I wouldn't very likely be identified with either. Though I can certainly see why, in a western Anglican context, I am identified in this manner.

As for TEC: it's simply enough to ask one's self "the question":

Has the leader of any prominent church claiming to be Trinitarian gone so far as +KJS in denying the divnity of Christ and the resurrection, in the last 1,500 years? One may believe - "she doesn't really deny them because ..." - but one must certainly see how she prominently dissociates the "meaning" of the resurrection from the bodily resurrection of Christ; and how strongly she associates the divinity of Christ with things completely reducible to the humanity of Christ.

Apart from this, the prominent place of Borg and McFague in her tenure as Presiding Bishop, and the prominent place of Spong in her service as a diocesan bishop add extra weight of evidence.

See this article and then ask yourself the question.

The problem is not "quirky theology" - the problem is teaching people about dead Jesus - and teaching them to deny Christ.

Anyways ... even if one doesn't have the time or inclination to research into TEC ... one can do one's bit to call upon one's LGBT allies to understand this problem, and do something about it.

Yes, love is stronger than death - and that's precisely why we need to be vigilant in exercising love and assuring that our flocks are being taught to worship the Living, Risen Christ.

Blessings to you.

Kurt said...

Good grief, James! This is your “proof”? How lame. I take it you do not witness to “secularist humanists,” agnostics and atheists very much? Their numbers are growing throughout the Western world. I meet them all the time. Sounding like a Calvinist robot does not get their attention. The Presiding Bishop is trying to engage them—obliquely, it is true—and ask them some serious questions. Trying to get them to think beyond their narrow visions. Now, I’m sure she would answer these questions a bit differently to an audience of Sydney Calvinists; wouldn’t we all?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, in Mexico marriage is not a right nor an estate established by anyone's God, it is a privilege established, licensd and controlled by the civil authority and now legally includes mixed and same gender couples."

Well, things haven't changed much since Graham Greene wote 'The Power and the Glory' (and 'The Lawless Roads'), have they? The State decides the truth! Ave, Caesar, nos morituri etc.
Ah, Mexico - such as peaceful, prosperous equal haven in the wilderness of this world! I wish we all could be Mexifornians .... You have me happily whistling 'Cuchara' as I down my first tequila sunrise of the mor-, er, day....
Hasta luego, hermano!

Pedro "Paleoloco"

Brother David said...

Again, James does not bother to tell you that he is linking to an article that he authored. Again he is his own appealed authority.

James, I am seeing deep seated psychological issues with you and your obsessions. +KJS and +JSS are probably lucky that you live an ocean away from them.

You often use the phrase, "when I researched this for our church..." I now have to consider that you are likely commissioning yourself with these great feats.

Do you have a liking for Coco Puffs for breakfast?

Anonymous said...

Lo siento - "Cucuracha" - la tequila, sabes ....


James said...

Kurt, that's an angle I considered. However given context I don't think it's +KJS's intent "to witness" to such persons. Neither context has her in dialogue with a secular humanist or person with whom she'd be "witnessing."

Kurt and Hermano David: if you are so confident, simply answer the question above.

To date, no one has been able to name a top-level leader of a prominent church claiming to be Trinitarian who's gone as far as she in denying the divinity of Christ and the resurrection. And she does completely deny that doctrine which the church knows as "the uniqueness of Christ."

Hermano David, I know you found it some how scandalous the first time you "discovered" that this paper was very likely by me. I'd suggest: the scandal has somewhat worn off. I do wish others would seriously treat +KJS's Christology. I'm afraid it's become something of a "no-no" issue, much like her election - nice people do not write about that topic kind of thing.

If either you (or anyone) knows of a more thorough paper on the PB's Christology, I'd be most obliged; this is an area where I've done a lot of research, and I'm not aware of any other serious treatment of this most important issue.

And: think about it yourself. Do you care about Christology? Can you find statements of the PB clearly affirming the bodily resurrection of Christ, or making clear that the divinity of Christ is not simply this thing reducible to human capacities?

Consider rather: what can I do to call TEC to take Jesus seriously?

Anonymous said...

James: no doubt David can and will speak for himself. If he can affirm the Trinitarian, Incarnationist, Two-Nature Christolgy of the Catholic Creeds, all and well - it is the least one can expect of an orthodox Anglican. However, he did opine on this site once that 'how Jesus addressed the one he called "his Father"' need not be the model for Christians to follow, and he has spoken appreciately of the Coles Notes Theologian Jack Spong, so how much he agrees with classical Anglican doctrine and how far he may align with Tec unitarianism is unclear, to me at least.
As for Schori: many of us don't consider her an orthodox Christian at all, and her Neo-Socianism isn't worth debating. I doubt you will get a straight answer about her from David (but I hope I'm wrong) because the name of the game being played here is politics, not faith.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Peter,
But Jesus played that game too - politics - has ++KJS been following the Master?

James said...

Peter P.
"her Neo-Socianism isn't worth debating" - No, it's not worth debating.

I like the way you describe this as Neo-Socinianism. This is the very word Tillich used, in his attempt at waking the church up to the realities of what was occurring during his own time (albeit not from such high positions of church leadership as now is the case). Under the influence of him and others, Neo-Socinianism in the church faced a serious decline. But under-educated parts of the church universal did not heed the message, and now are in ascendancy in the Anglican Communion.

Neo-Socinianism is, however, worth shining a light on - and informing Christians all over the world that we are pouring poison into the veins of the life-blood of the church.

And that those we shepherd, will very likely emerge with a stunted form of faith which takes many hours, months, years of gentle discipleship of competent ministers of the Word to bring them to a form of faith that's able to grow and appreciate Christ. That we are not only teaching against them, but we are saddling them with a task of enormous proportions for each soul who is in our tutelage. Not universally of course as Anglicans ... but at least in a very prominent sense.

We must warn other churches that we are creating little, easily-digestible DVD and booklet series of Marcus Borg, in order to teach this "other gospel" on a massive scale. And that the spiritual death which is sown by ourselves will involve so much time of their own affectionate, loving discipleship that they will be drawn away from tasks of scholarship, creation of beautiful music of praise, evangelism, mission - and any number of things we prefer to do, than casting a light upon sad corners of the church and unseemly things happening amongst Christians.

This task will be tremendously unpopular, including amongst "orthodox" Anglicans. But I would aver that it's essential in vouchsafing the ministry of the church catholic.

And, like Tillich - we need to do our part in shining a light on our problems, or - our problems will never be taken care of.

The word needs to be heard amongst faithful Anglicans about what is happening in TEC. And if we don't do it, who will?

With all the Anglican talk about sex and church polity - who is seriously trying to awaken us to our problems with Christology? I celebrate Peter's serious coverage of issues of Trinitarian theology here. But we will need many, many more than him.

I would suggest: if you look around for detailed articles shedding light upon the problems of the Communion's pastoral theology and Christology - you will find very, very little. The silence is almost deafening. This is a very "damning" situation for all of us. We need a Tillich.

Anonymous said...

RE: "You will find nothing in the St. Matt's protest taking up the cause of these classes."

Right -- so agree. There are numerous minority sexual orientations out there, but they're not the currently faddish ones right now.

One of the most hypocritical aspects of the gay activists efforts is that they want societal and legal definitions of marriage to be expanded to include *their* currently trendy minority sexual orientation -- but for none other. They don't care about those who are of a loving, consensual, mutual polyamorous sexual orientation, or those who are of a loving, consensual, mutual adult sibling-love sexual orientation, or those who are of a loving, consensual, mutual adult life-challenged sexual orientation, and on and on it goes.

All they want is the legal and societal definition of marriage to be expanded to include *their* particular minority sexual orientation -- but nobody else's. It really is a picture of bigotry and hypocrisy.


Kurt said...

“Kurt, that's an angle I considered. However given context I don't think it's +KJS's intent "to witness" to such persons. Neither context has her in dialogue with a secular humanist or person with whom she'd be ‘witnessing.’”—James Coder

Well, I think it is the Presiding Bishop’s intent to witness to such persons, both directly and indirectly. So you have not proved anything to me. The Presiding Bishop is a national and world figure who is published, interviewed, filmed, photographed, recorded constantly. If you want real evidence of theological heresy, it should be very easy to obtain—if it exists. Put up or shut up about it. Your personal speculations are not only insufficient “proof” of anything, they are very insulting to every American Episcopalian. Broad Church/Latitudinarians and modern High Church Catholics express theological beliefs differently from conservative Evangelicals. However much Calvinists and other Evangelicals insist that their formulations are the only true expressions of the Faith, they are mistaken.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Brother David said...

However, he did opine on this site once that 'how Jesus addressed the one he called "his Father"' need not be the model for Christians to follow,

Do you have a link Peter, I am not sure this is in context and my memory fails for having said this.

Brother David said...

Has the leader of any prominent church claiming to be Trinitarian gone so far as +KJS in denying the divinity of Christ and the resurrection, in the last 1,500 years?

You want a yes or no answer to the above question James.

How about you answer this question yes or no. James, have you stopped beating your mother?

They are the same form of question.

My answer is that I do not concur with you that +KJS denies the trinity, or the divinity and resurrection of Christ. Period.

Peter Carrell said...

Would that be Tillich the womaniser we need? Or a theologian who shares Tillich's heady, what-I-think-in-the-ivory-tower-is-different-to-what-I-do-in-the-bedroom theological content?

I am afraid I don't have much time for the theology of theologians of Tillich's ilk. Might you point us to a different exemplar, James?

Anonymous said...

David: you said on this site a few weeks ago (though I can't locate it right now) that Jesus's language for "the one he called 'his Father'" need not be normative for Christians. It was so striking a contradiction of the New Testament that it stuck in my mind.
As opposed to the Chalcedon view;
The humanity and divinity are exemplified as two natures and that the one hypostasis of the Logos perfectly subsists in these two natures.
You also wrote this on January 23, 2011:
"I am probably a Spongian;
That in the person of Jesus Christ the disciples believed that they had encountered the living God."
I do not consider Spong a Christian in any historical-dogmatic sense. That he held the office of bishop in a trinitarian church was a scandal.
Kurt: your strained defenses of Schori are beginning to sound a tad desperate. Everyone knows she doesn't hold to classical orthodoxy - and she's pretty skeptical about life after death as well. Ipsissimis verbis.

Peter C. - I am with you on Tillich. He was both a personal and dogmatic disaster for Protestantism.
But your comment about Jesus "playing politics" makes no sense to me.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Peter,

Jesus announced the gospel of the kingdom of God, in doing so, he was 'playing politics' at the highest level, raising up the possibility of an alternate kingdom to Caesar's. This gospel was political, about the organising of human life, according to God's rule, and for an end beyond the normal limitations of human kingdom's (i.e. death).

The question of an Anglican leader 'playing politics' is about what they understand the gospel to be. If they 'play politics' they could be playing the same politics as Jesus played. Or not. My point is that describing church leaders as 'playing politics' may be an inadequate way of trying to convey a value judgement about what they are doing.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Peter

In future I shall likely reject comments which include "everyone knows" as an assertion about one person's theology. Unless backed up by links to specific evidence, that kind of claim is unwarranted.

Anonymous said...

RE: "Your personal speculations are not only insufficient “proof” of anything, they are very insulting to every American Episcopalian."

Of course, they're not at all "very insulting to every American Episcopalian." Thousands of us over here in The Episcopal Church agree wholeheartedly with you, James -- keep up the good work on pointing out that particular heresy of the Presiding Bishop.

Why those of us who are American Episcopalians who believe the Gospel should be insulted by someone rightly pointing out that many of our current leaders at the national and diocesan level don't share the same Gospel or beliefs about Jesus Christ is beyond me. It's deeply unfortunate that they are our church's current leaders.

We welcome the truth-telling, James -- may your tribe increase.


Kurt said...

Well said, Fr. Carrell!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Theopolitics maybe - but I can find nothing in Jesus' words about offering an alternative "political" structure to Tiberius Caesar's, other than in the eschaton.
As a good Augustinian (which is to say, a bad one), I have no problem with Christians being involved in politics - Wilberforce and Shaftesbury, for all their faults, are among my heroes. But the Kingdom of God does not enter ther through parliamentary legislation, or even by Tiberius's distant successor Theodosius. By 'playing politics' I mean suborning Christian rhetoric to support a secular goal.
Peter "Palaiologos"

James said...


I'm in agreement with you that there are many tendencies of Tillich that are less than admirable and which we don't want emulated.

Nonetheless, Tillich has been important in his history of the church and illumination of certain trends of theology of his day as variants of Socinianism; and this was very important in awakening church leaders to the fact that some things taught in their midst was not Trinitarian Christianity.

For this, I am quite grateful.

But in saying, "we need another Tillich" - yes, I can see why this causes pause and concern. I should perhaps have chosen better words.

Brother David and Kurt -

You can make your case that some other top-level leader of a prominent church claiming to be Trinitarian has, in the last 1,500 years gone further than +KJS in denying essential aspects of Christ.

Or, we can rest the case that, of all persons anyone knows on this blog (or any places I've asked the question, for that matter), +KJS is the very most prominent in this regard; and that, as far as we know, the Anglican Communion exceeds all other church bodies in the last one and a half millennia in this type of apostasy.

Brother David said...

Sorry Peter P, I do not recall the comment. And it would definitely have had to have had a context.

Spong was about trying to bring the Christian story out of the definitions and symbols of antiquity into the modern world, to allow it to be relevant to modern folks, folks who are not willing to stop thinking when they enter a church. And that was his understanding in modern terms, that it boiled down to the fact that these Jews, in spite of everything in their personal worldview and belief system which spoke against it, everything that told them that it was blasphemy, believed that in the person of Jesus they had encountered the living God.

I know John Shelby Spong personally. And I know his wife Christina personally. I took a summer semester class from him at Vancouver School of Theology. It is a tiny Anglican seminary where we all lived in campus housing and ate our meals together and sat up late into the evenings chatting and sharing and knowing one another on a more intimate basis than is normally possible in other academic settings.

He is in fact a very humble man and a very devout Christian.

Anonymous said...

David, Spong is only a "Christian" in the sense that Valentinus and many others throughout history have claimed to be "Christian" - which is to say they use biblical language about "God" and "Jesus" but reconfigure it to mean something quite different from the Apostles and the early church. Nobody is fooled by this legerdemain. I take it from you that he is "a very humble man". Having read some of his writings, I conclude he has a lot to be humble about. Even Doug Theuner found him embarrassing (I heard him say so).

Peter "Palaiologos"

Brother David said...

Brother David and Kurt -

You can make your case...

Or, we can rest the case...

Are you daft????????

My answer is that I do not concur with you... Period.

There is nothing more to it. It is time that you let your obsession with +KJS rest. I will not acknowledge anything more with you on this topic. If you choose to persist with this then you only show us all that you indeed have something mentally wrong with you!

Dr Carrel, please intervene on this.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters,
(1) I will take no more comments on this thread about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. I think the point has been made that some think she thinks X and others think she does not. Let's leave it there until and if I post on her or her theology or life in TEC for which she might be held to have some connection.

(2) I will not publish general comments that X is Episcopalian/Anglican/Christian in name only. By contrast I will (and have) published the comment about John Spong's Christianity being Valentinian: there is a specific objection being advanced there which can be rebutted if need be. There is something dodgy about Spong's theology and that is a view very widely held around the world.

(3) I appreciate David's comments here about Bishop John Spong drawing on personal experience of the man and his teaching. They need to sit alongside other experiences, however, which I am aware of, in which people have not felt that the man was humble when with them.

Brother David said...

I appreciate David's comments here about Bishop John Spong drawing on personal experience of the man and his teaching. They need to sit alongside other experiences, however, which I am aware of, in which people have not felt that the man was humble when with them.

Which I can see both being actual experiences that folks may have with the same person in varied settings, under different circumstances and contexts.

I would not say that he was a saint!

James said...

David, thank you for your concluding remarks about Bishop Spong. I will not deny that he belongs to one of the many groupings of Jesus followers. And I would have chosen other language had I known of your history with him.

I do not want to violate Peter's wishes here regarding +KJS, but allow me as a word of rebuttal after having been written of as obsessed and possibly "mentally wrong" - if you re-insert the words you have removed with ellipses, David, you will see that the conclusions I say we can draw are heavily qualified, and based only upon the knowledge we ourselves can bring to the fore. Thus qualified, the conclusions would not be so unreasonable if we in fact could not find any reasonable candidates.

But we are foregoing this exercise, so yes let's let it fall.

Father Ron Smith said...

"All they want is the legal and societal definition of marriage to be expanded to include *their* particular minority sexual orientation -- but nobody else's. It really is a picture of bigotry and hypocrisy.

- Sarah Hey -

I presume, Sarah, that you're speaking here of homosexuals.

Perhaps you might just turn yourself around for a moment and try to see it from the gay point of view. Bigoted and hypocritical are not characteristics confined to gays. They are more often the subject, rather then perpetrators of these particular 'sins'.

'Physician, heal thyself!" - Jesus.

James said...


After our mini-spat on Tillich I'm left thinking about "Theologians," especially after my mention of Milbank's support of homosexual clergy prompted Peter P. to remark that he reads Milbank critically.

My general thoughts here are: "Well, of course ... as with any theologian ... are we really expecting theologians here to be exemplary men of God?"

And my response would in general, be: "No."

Theologians are the vehicle by which God introduces "new ideas" into the church - even only "new ideas" in the sense of bringing those things we all believe in, to interface in new manners with culture. But in general, they don't tend to be saints. Their thoughts ... are always to be encountered with a dash of salt.

Barth most likely had an extra-marital affair; we don't take all of what he wrote to be "gospel," but we acknowledge much of it as exceedingly important. St. Bernard's theories of "divine light" seem a bit odd, but illuminating if taken in the right way. St. Augustine was rather unfortunate in his attempt at explaining women. Luther was challenged in his attitude toward Jews. Calvin had oddities.

Theologians are like "raw product." It comes into the church for inspection. From the most devout men ... some of the theology will be misguided, if not bonkers.

There are, of course, different types of theology ... but the most "cutting edge," "raw" ideas ... these are what especially need to be put to reception.

That which sort of sounds like what a lot of others were saying ... is probably simply attempts at putting things in different ways to interface with different problems, or to hone the description of the issue into something more finely tuned ... a largely conservative enterprise ... very much needed in the church.

But I'd venture to add: "Let's not make saints of cutting-edge theologians." God may use strange tools for introducing to us those thoughts which we need for renewal. But it's really in reception that these are honed (after which they can be introduced to the laypeople - before which, it's like handing the unexperienced complicated, dangerous power tools).

Great theological ideas are no sign of sainthood. They're rather a sign of intellect. The "great inspirations" are more a part of natural grace ... given to all men ... than they are the grace of redeemed and holy lives. Holy men do not inspire with great ideas transcribable upon paper; they inspire by incarnating Christ Himself; by who they are.

The Holy Spirit is more important in the church's process of discernment and reception, than in the raw product exuded by the church's theologians. It is in the discernment that we have more of the phenomenon of "two or three together." One must trust more the insights of a redeemed man, than an evil one, or a vagabond; but even the works of a member of the NDSAP (like M. Heidegger) may ultimately bear theological fruit (in M.H.'s case, on "both sides" of the ideological spectrum in theology).

This is theologizing about theology. So it also requires reception and may be utterly daft.

James said...


I sometimes worry for strong advocates of LGBT issues within the church since they are likely to become fond of Spong and Borg's teachings in general. Spong especially has shown himself to be a very strong supporter of LGBT Christians.

In engaging in advocacy and defense of TEC ... one can feel all the more the need to defend these types of things. And this can induce an entrenched position. I also can not really afford to stop trying to alert others of the problems with these teachings, though I know that some, in the exchange of ideas, the faith in this manner of thought will become entrenched. But I regret very much that this does and shall happen.

It's not for me to ask you to give up defense of TEC. But I most certainly do not want to hurt you where it hurts worse ... where one, by engaging in the clashing of mutually exclusive ideas ... draws up a defensive position upon those very ideas which prevent one from unfolding one's faith further in Christ. If, that is, you are a "true believer" in the Spong / Borg type of Christology.

This is a most serious issue. And I do not want to belittle you in saying this. It's not for me to judge where your faith "is at."

All I ask of you is to think of this for a moment, and that before engaging in verbal sparring with me, and others here, you pray that your faith in Christ might not be hurt.

This is an odd request, I know. But I believe the faith of many gets wounded in rhetorical battles like these, even though they may seem to be "intellectual" and about "ideas." With such ideas, we are also engaging powers and principalities ... and we by no means have the guarantee that all such engagements will turn out as positive experiences for ourselves.