Thursday, June 2, 2011

Receiving truth

Woven through comments to recent posts are some important themes for Anglican theology: incarnation, trinity, biblical theology (especially the glorious subtleties of Paul's theology of body in 1 Corinthians). These things are worth bothering about because when we understand them rightly in a theological commitment which is biblically sound, orthodoxy, we have a sure foundation for worship and mission which honours the God of Jesus Christ and which God will honour with the power of the Spirit of Jesus.

In our bothering about them, we Anglicans face sharp challenges. Others (in relation to us, particularly Romans, Easterns on the 'catholic' side, and Presbyterians, Baptists on the 'reformed' side) claim to have a better understanding. Within our own ranks, we cannot agree on a mechanism (the Covenant) to enable us to walk together in orthodoxy, and we have now watched over a process of serious disengagement from each other, in some cases involving actual schism. A cynic can be excused for wondering if we Anglicans are seriously bothered at all with orthodoxy: if we were, wouldn't we view with more alarm our internal difficulties, and wouldn't we have placed ARCIC III on hold, humbly acknowledging that we are not worthy to have a discussion under the table, let alone around the table, while we are in the state we are in?

Perhaps the most pointed challenge of all, however, is working out the circumstances in which orthodoxy may be enlarged, as Anglicans understand it, in a manner which is agreeable to Anglicans. Part of being Anglican is - obviously - that we are in disagreement with other Christians: we are Anglican and not (say) Eastern or Presbyterian, because we disagree on some matters. To be Anglican is to be free to disagree with other Christians, but does being Anglican require agreement among ourselves? Is there a level of internal disagreement which destabilizes what it means to be Anglican?

Cutting to the chase for this particular post - no time to write the tome required to engage with the questions above - a remark from a valued colleague the other day has gotten me thinking about the idea of 'reception' in respect of orthodoxy. We Anglicans commit to an engagement with claims to theological truth in which Scripture, tradition and reason figure prominently in our method. But how do we know when we have arrived at truth, especially if it is truth which enlarges our understanding of orthodoxy? My colleague's point in invoking the idea of reception is that, in the end, we will be united over change when we have received the case for change together. Unilateral actions by bishops, decisions by narrow majorities in synods, doing things 'our way' by individual parishes do not constitute 'reception.'

A case in point in respect of the life of my own church is highlighted in a sermon Fr. Ron Smith draws attention to on his blog, a sermon preached at St Matthew's-in-the-City (Auckland) and published here on their site. The sermon is entitled 'The Anglican Empire and the Oppressive Myth of Unity.' A case is made that individual gay candidates should not have their ministry aspirations slam-dunked by the alleged needs of the 'Anglican Empire' to be unified. Unity or 'unity' in this framing of Anglican disputes is an oppressive myth. But is that all there is to say? I count both Glynn Cardy, the Vicar of St. Matthew's-in-the-City (who did not preach the sermon, but presumably approved it being preached) and Ross Bay, the Bishop of Auckland as valued colleagues, but on the basis of this sermon, one is acting badly, a conclusion which does not sit well with me. In fact, I think there is something more to say, and when we say it, both the vicar and the bishop are acting well.

If we frame such matters in respect of 'reception' our question is whether our church (ACANZP) has yet received the proposal that orthodoxy may be enlarged to include the theology which affirms an orthopraxy in which partnered gay persons may pursue their ministry aspirations to the fullest extent. We have not yet made that reception. The Bishop of Auckland is right to resist changing the theology of this church by unilateral action. At risk of appearing to act unjustly, even oppressively, +Ross is acting with the proper integrity of a bishop, as one who has sworn to uphold the faith we have received. Conversely, the faith we have received may be stretched and deepened, in a 'new reception' (so to speak), and that will only happen if possibilities for such stretching and deepening are voiced: Glynn Cardy has also acted well in giving space for that voice to be heard.

One dilemma as a church contemplating receiving an enlargement of orthodoxy is this: to what extent in a globally connected age, in which we are not and cannot be innocent about the impact of our decisions on others in the global Anglican family, does reception for us take account of reception by others? A little pointedly, given our own Archbishop David Moxon is a co-chair of ARCIC III, if we (the Communion) are engaged in a global conversation with the Roman Catholic church on matters of ethics, why we would we (ACANZP) not be engaged in a global conversation with our brother and sister churches in the Anglican family on one such matter? Another dilemma is whether we are willing to engage with Scripture to the depth which such reception requires, and in a manner which takes very seriously the sweeping arguments, as well as the details, in a book such as 1 Corinthians (as noted by Bryden Black in a recent comment). Our series of Hermeneutical Hui have been a beginning in that engagement, but (arguably) only a beginning.

In the 1970s our church found a way to receive the truth that women might be ordained as priests and bishops as part of an orthopraxy which was in harmony with orthodoxy (that is, we had no significant, schism-inducing division when that decision was made). At the time we walked in harmony with some members of the Communion and not with others, but the Communion as a whole received the possibility that we might be a 'both-and' Communion in respect of this matter. Things are a little different today. In what way would reception take place in our church if there is to be change? If reception does not work out for our church, can we continue without change with a glad heart, free of charges that we have sided with oppression?

ADDENDUM: A friend and colleague has drawn my attention to these links worth reading in association with the above post, and comments below: here and here. It interests me that St Matthew's-in-the-City highlights offence (not giving it), and moving away from offending the Anglican Communion (i.e. to being willing to offend it) as keys to resolving the debate. On the one hand there is an interesting contradiction there (how do we know what the gospel is while the rest of the Communion does not). On the other hand, focusing on our Kiwi context, my stick in the fire of the debate is, 'Do we want to split our church wide open?'

72 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

"To be Anglican is to be free to disagree with other Christians, but does being Anglican require agreement among ourselves? Is there a level of internal disagreement which destabilizes what it means to be Anglican?" - Dr.Peter Carrell -

As you, yourself, have already pointed out, Peter, there is such a thing as 'progressive' agreement on orthopraxy. For instance:

We Kiwis were among the first to initiate synodical government within the Communion. We were also ordaining women (including female Bishops) before our Mother Church of England - in fact. on this issue. Mummy still hasn't decided when or even whether to allow women to become Bishops! Have we been, in your opinion 'un-orthodox' in these areas of Anglican pro-activity?

It is only on this one issue - of the place of the LGBT community within the life and ministry of the Church that, suddenly, 'orthodoxy' and 'orthopraxy' is seen to have become a breaking point in the wider Communion. 'Global South' has separated itself from the rest of the Communion and declared it's own unique 'orthodoxy' under the banner of the 'Jerusalem Declaration'. Is that the sort of disunity you are speaking of - as inimical to the spirit of Anglicanism?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Is there just the one thing causing division at the moment? Is it one thing and one thing only, or one thing that is a 'straw breaking the camels back'? Is it one thing which is trivial and no one can understand why it is a problem or is it quite a significant thing?

As a matter of accuracy 'Global South' has not (repeat, NOT) separated itself from the Communion. Nor has Global South allied itself in toto with the Jerusalem Declaration. Member churches of the Communion in the process (it appears) of separating from the Communion area actually small in number, and tend to fly under the 'GAFCON' flag.

Anglican unity in recent times was torn asunder when TEC proceeded to ordain +Gene Robinson. Please d not forget that inconvenient fact when commenting here!

James said...

As a historical footnote to what Peter said, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of TEC was one of the Primates that issued the statement of the England Primates Meeting -

"If his [Gene Robinson's] consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. ... This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level ..."

TEC's leader was one amongst those who issued this statement together as the Primates Meeting. So even TEC recognizes that it is the party which tore the fabric (schism). It's never officially distanced itself from Griswold's statement.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Anglican unity in recent times was torn asunder when TEC proceeded to ordain +Gene Robinson. Please d not forget that inconvenient fact when commenting here!" - Peter Carrell -

Then why was the Communion not 'torn asunder by N.Z.'s ordination of a woman Bishop - arguably more liable to cause fraction in Catholic Unity than the issue of sexual orientation?

I think you will agree, Peter, that it is OK for us to disagree on the relative importance of Communion-breaking issues. GAFCON has chosen the gay issue, but it may not actually be more than adiaphora.

Bryden Black said...

Peter, if I may so judge: this is probably one of your better/wiser posts - even if comparisons are often odious! I say so, because you raise a necessary ingredient of our present, continuing ‘dilemmas’, and in addition, approach it fairly.

One thing that undergirds the ABC’s own approach to theology generally, and which has marked his tenure especially, is the need for time to evaluate any “enlarging”, “stretching” and/or “deepening”, and notably the making of settings where such time might be made available for better dialogue. One only has to think of Lambeth 2008's “Indaba Process”. His magnum opus on Arius traces something of this as well.

Where however (IMHO) he might have got the equation somewhat wrong because off-balance is in not appreciating adequately what you rightly refer to: “what extent in a globally connected age, in which we are not and cannot be innocent about the impact of our decisions on others in the global Anglican family, does reception for us take account of reception by others?”

We need to tease out two elements here: the impact of our globally connected age; the impact of reception by us/others. While these two are related - clearly! - it’s the second that has, for me, the greater onus. For the task of discerning what others have already “received” demands a hermeneutical depth and breadth, and spiritual suppleness, which, despite the apparent global connections we seemingly enjoy, appear often to be wanting - in not a few quarters.

For on many sides (as with the Arian controversy!) other, less than worthy factors are often to the fore, rather than the patient, humble discerning of the Word of the Lord of the Church in the Spirit and especially via the Holy Scriptures - together: “we have the mind of Christ”. As Oliver O’Donovan has said so simply: it’s as if the real “conversation [is] waiting to begin”.

One may only point to the latest symptom of our crisis of authority (for that is what is really going on here: it’s a matter of authority, with a few key presenting issues) in England:
http://www.peter-ould.net/2011/05/28/everybody-out/
PO carefully and rightly highlights the clear distinction being made between orientation and practice, while some would just want to obfuscate this distinction, to pursue their agendas. This kind of thing does not advance our corporate discernment; it only increases the temptation to suspicion. Equally, many suspicions have been unfortunately aroused by the sheer processes of the ACC Jamaica plenary meeting on the Covenant on Friday 8th May 2009.

“Reception” by any party is not able to be advanced when such factors as these examples raise (and I am sure other folk can offer similar cases - from further quarters!) obfuscate the true task of Christian discernment and so possible “reception”, or otherwise.

liturgy said...

“decisions by narrow majorities in synods, doing things 'our way' by individual parishes do not constitute 'reception.'”

I am not wanting to put words into Fr Ron’s mouth, but, if I’m hearing him correctly, there is an issue of why focus on one area and not be consistent in others? You mentioned recently in a comment, “the fact is, there are Anglicans regular in worship who will not say the Nicene and Apostolic creeds”. I advance Fr Ron’s response to you: there are parishes which do not “follow the N.Z. Prayer Book rite of Baptism” and hence do not share “in affirming our credal beliefs”. And nothing happens. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Examine some of the parishes that do remember, as you urge us not to “forget that inconvenient fact when commenting here” of the episcopal ordination of Gene Robinson, and tell me that they “follow the N.Z. Prayer Book rite of Baptism”. My prediction: those who in your view are orthodox on both counts are in the minority, at least in our diocese.

Secondly: if the Anglican Covenant passes by a narrow majority in synods, including General Synod, will you question the validity of its “reception”?

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
There is no parish in NZ calling itself Anglican, belonging to ACANZP, led by licensed ministers swearing adherence to the General Synod which should be using services which are not authorised. Even better - given that what constitutes 'authorised' is fairly flexible - if they only used services this church has received through its synods.

I think we may find as the years unfold that our bishops follow our own diocesan bishop's example, and require of their clergy canonical obedience on these matters.

If the Covenant only passed by slim majorities I would, as you would expect, be overjoyed. It is the least I could do, given all the Covenant naysayers to the left, right, behind and in front of me. Victory!!

Seriously, slim majority passing would only mean it had passed. Reception by the church would be in another league: onwards and upwards, the fight will continue :)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden,
I feel compelled to say that I think you have made one of your better judgements in this thread :)

PS Do you have a copy of that Arian magnum opus?

Peter Carrell said...

This is a comment from Rosemary Behan:

One HUGE problem you’re going to have Peter, is inconsistency.

Your last paragraph begins, “In the 1970’s our church found a way to receive the ‘truth’ that women might be ordained as priests AND bishops as part of an orthopraxy which was in harmony with orthodoxy.”

Our own church councils at the highest level have reached the conclusion that those who hold to one side of this equation have Scripture on their side, and so do the opposite side. All those years ago Peter, was the vote 98% in favour? 90% in favour? 80% in favour? 70% in favour? Or was it in fact a very close vote? In other words, there appears to be [according to our highest councils] no clear mandate on this issue. Strange, you’d think there would still be the same sort of division within the Anglican church as there was that day when the vote was taken. Hmmm.

I’m sure you’re giving a big sigh .. darn it, Rosemary is asking those awkward questions AGAIN, but you see Peter, they NEED an answer, otherwise you will never find the ‘unity’ you’re seeking on an issue where Scripture is in fact more clear cut. For instance, I can agree that the ‘truth’ IS that women are priests, we are ALL priests!! Your sentence doesn’t end there though. So, the BIG question is, are those who believe as I do, welcome as members of the Anglican church, or are we going to have our thinking and believing ‘policed’ by you and others? Are those on both sides going to be able to teach as they wish on that issue? Are those on both sides able to seek ordination? Has the Anglican church exercised the Grace expected of them towards those whose views are different? Do you want people who believe as I do to leave and stop ‘messing up’ your nice clean church? As I have asked you many, many times before .. are we welcome .. AND our views .. on every committee? Can we teach what we believe? It’s not just the odd priest who believes thus Peter, it’s lay people too. Oh you and others have ridiculed us and emasculated us, but God knows we are sincere, even if we are sincerely deluded as you believe.

A warning Peter. Those who believe thus have been very patient, exercised a deal of Grace, but they WILL leave if certain steps are taken, what will God say to you then on THAT day? They will feel as disenfranchised as the Presbyterians or the Baptists, that our church is making this a first order issue, when we don’t see it that way. You are quite clear in this post that you want everyone to feel that they can be both members and ordained members of this Anglican church or ours, that you don’t want to be .. or be seen to be .. as oppressing anyone or anything. Unfortunately, until you settle this inconsistency, until you say publically that the precise ‘truth’ is not clear on this issue, you are unlikely to be able to settle another problem with clearer Scriptural warrant, and retain the unity you seek.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I would like to try to clear up some unfairness in your email: at no point have I ever thought that people who believe what you believe about women in ordained ministry are deluded. If I have ever 'ridiculed' anyone for holding such beliefs I apologise, but I honestly cannot recall ever ridiculing people.

My point about the reception of the ordination of women in the life of our church in these islands is comparatively small: it did not lead to significant division in our church, and it has not resulted in ongoing public wrangling in the life of our church. I agree with you that not everyone in our church, overnight, so to speak, agreed with the decision: some had reservations, some (such as your and my former diocese, Nelson; and tikanga Maori and tikanga Pasefika) took a long time to embrace the ordination of women. But very few left the church.

Further, my point about our unity on the matter is that when I was ordained at the end of 1986, I entered into an ordained ministry which was not significantly divided on the matter of the ordination of women. Sure, the women who were my peers felt strongly that a lot of work needed to be done about men accepting them as full and equal partners in the ordained ministry - chauvinism and patriarchalism abounded. But I do not believe we were a divided church.

Now at that point what I have said relates to what I posted. You also raise a number of other questions which I will address in a separate comment because I think they are about a different situation in our church: namely the situation when a received teaching is questioned!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I think a key question you are asking about an environment within our church where the reception of the ordination of women is questioned if not disputed concerns what we may teach; closely related is the question of whether all are welcome, even those who disagree with the church's teaching.

At risk of being too blunt, but also acknowledging this is a comment: those who seek to teach within our church need to teach in accordance with the constitution of our church. That constitution is very clear that we are a church which ordains women. To teach against that publicly would be against the constitution of our church, and thus not an option for a licensed teacher in our church (i.e. licensed ordained or licensed lay minister). The inner beliefs and values of the teacher are not the concern of the constitution: one may believe what one likes; but one may not teach what one likes. (Tomorrow I may wake up in severe doubt that our Lord was raised from the dead. The constition has no interest in my doubts, but it is interested in what I say publicly in my next sermon).

So, all are welcome; all are welcome to believe what they like; but licensed teachers must teach in accordance with the doctrine of our church.

You raise other questions but I need to attend to them another day. And if I don't, remind me!

James said...

I'd like to thank you, Peter, for bringing up the issue of reception. As an issue, it gets to the very heart of many of our Anglican problems.

At this point I'm tempted to jump into talking about how all knowledge and thinking is in some way intersubjective and jumping into "philosophy mode." But unpacking reception properly would take pages and pages.

All societies have their own ways of receiving knowledge. A more self-conscious acknowledgment of what reception is, and how we receive things, can do a great deal in helping us understand ourselves, how the Holy Spirit works in the church, how we think about knowledge and doctrine. Contemplating this is an exercise that sheds light on much.

There is nothing wrong with publishing one's thoughts about cold water fusion. But we recognize that though this is fine, we don't teach cold water fusion to school kids in physics classes. It simply hasn't been received.

Another word which can get complicated is "teaching" (doxa). We can teach about Arianism, Borg, Spong, etc. etc.. But we do not teach Arianism, Borg, Spong, etc.. I sometimes use the phrase commend to belief to clarify how when Christians use the word "teach" in "one must not teach," that they do not simply mean "provide information about." This also speaks to reception - what we commend to belief is that which we have received.

Father Ron Smith said...

" So, the BIG question is, are those who believe as I do, welcome as members of the Anglican church, or are we going to have our thinking and believing ‘policed’ by you and others?" - Rosemary Behan -

I thought, Rosemary, that you and Wally had already migrated to the Sydney Diocese. In which case, you shouldn't have any problem with your anti-women clergy philosophy. Is not your Archbishop still of the same mind as yourself? And he is, after all, Anglican, is he not?

Kurt said...

Well, James, why don't you tell us where to find the complete statement that Bishop Griswold made so we can evaluate the quote in context? It doesn't hurt to check sources, does it, my lad?

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

My mother of sainted memory often used the phrase 'Nero fiddled while Rome burned'. While historically inaccurate (the persecuting emperor pre-dated the violin by some 1500 years), I reckon she was right on the button! As Anglicans we've spilt far too much ink and consumed excessive bandwidth on circular arguments around notions of unity and issues of sexuality, while ignoring the real issues faced by each national church within their particular context.

In order to survive, many good Anglicans have chosen to keep their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationships quiet from bishops, colleagues and congregations. Those who are open about their sexuality and feel called to ordained ministry, have been blocked before or during church processes, or quickly come against a vocational glass ceiling. The Anglican Church, already struggling for relevance in many New Zealand communities, cannot afford to limit the pool to only those who fit a narrow heterosexist or patriarchal norm; we need the brightest and the best to further the Church’s mission.

In failing to speak out against injustice within our churches, while having much to say about the issues in wider society, we come across as hypocritical and judgemental. We are rightly accused of looking at the speck of sawdust in another’s eye, yet paying no attention to the planks obscuring our own sight, limiting our vision by lack of imagination and pettiness.

God uses us best as channels of Christ’s light and love when we live authentically and honestly. At my ordination in 1989 I was ‘called to live out the demands of Christ’s love’ with ‘strength and humility’, qualities not limited by my ethnicity, culture, gender or sexual orientation. Coming-out has opened new doors and opportunities for mission and ministry in these deprived and remote communities where I live and work. To maintain integrity and self-respect, we all need congruency between our self-understanding, community and church involvement and Christian vocation, and in doing so, become more effective disciples of Christ.

When we face our Maker, we will truly know whether exclusion from Christian leadership or fully including LGBT people has been the correct path. I am much clearer regarding state-sponsored vilification and violence against sexual minorities condoned by silent consent or active encouragement of some church leaders.

Some prophets of old called for a restoration of past practices or lost values, while others spoke of new ways in a new world. Where this fits with your notions of ‘received truth’, Peter, I don’t know. But I am inclined to follow my heart, and ask “what would Jesus say or do?” and act accordingly.

Rev’d Stephen Donald, Tolaga Bay

James said...

Kurt,

Very right to ask - I'd simply forgotten to link, probably thinking most people would know the "go to" spot. A Statement by the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Lambeth Palace, October 16, 2003.

You can also look at the whole archive of AC news for 2003 - e.g., PB Griswold's statement of the following day is in there. This helps remind one why the collective Anglican world dropped its jaw two weeks later, when the consecration actually went ahead. I remember my own surprise, my thought being: why then did Bishop Griswold consent to this statement, or not issue some form of minority report?

Here's a "google hint" that I find very helpful: if you ever find a quote you want to source, you can take a rather unique-looking part of it, put it between quotes, and use that as a search query. This can be incredibly helpful when doing some kinds of research.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

James, there is nothing in anything to which you have linked that would lead an educated person to believe that +Griswold did not intend to carry on with the consecration of V Gene Robinson. Absolutely nothing.

And there is everything to convey that even though he understood the gravity with which others held their opposing views, he still intended to carry out the legal and canonical processes of TEC and continue with the consecration of +Robinson.

To allude otherwise is to severely misunderstand what one has read, or is purposeful misrepresentation of the face value meaning of the documents.

Father Ron Smith said...

"When we face our Maker, we will truly know whether exclusion from Christian leadership or fully including LGBT people has been the correct path"

- Revd. Stephen Donald -

Well spoken Stephen! We all have to face our Maker in the end. Whether we will match up to what God has called us to be and do as Bearers of God's Image and Likeness in God's world will finally be revealed.

God help us all to follow the Holy Spirit's call upon us - as we are and where we are - regardless of the criticism of others. Honesty before God is really the best, and only, policy to follow.
Jesus have mercy!

Glynn Cardy said...

Dear Peter,

I am not a regular viewer or contributor to Anglicans Down Under, yet I admire what you do in facilitating discussion across the broad evangelical spectrum and beyond.

The question I have for your readers is: How long will you tolerate a church that blatantly discriminates against gay and lesbian Christians?

I know some of your readers want to make a distinction between orientation and practice but if, for example, you are demanding laity of a particular gender, culture, or race be permanently celibate to be ordained it would be quickly labeled as discrimination. Of course the ongoing discrimination against Dean John of St Albans is sobering for gay or lesbian priests who have committed to celibacy.

I know some of your readers will want to justify discrimination by reference to biblical teaching on homosexuality. Without entering into a full debate it seems that Christians need to make a judgment call regarding the influence of context in shaping the minds of biblical writers and editors, and determining what truths of scripture are compromised by context and what have lasting value.

There are times when modern day science and cultural understandings conflict with Scripture and we might wish to hold to our interpretation of Scripture. However there are other times when we might not.

In the meantime, following Stephen Donald’s post, there is a credibility problem and thus a missional problem in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. We are discriminating against gay and lesbian people. How can we then criticize others in New Zealand who may be discriminating on the basis of race, gender, age, or religion?

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Glynn for raising the questions the way you do; they show how some things need further ‘discrimination’ - in the Aristotlean sense!

As you only flag the very complex hermeneutical issues, I won’t go into them fully either: blogs are hardly the place! That said: while “context” is often the cry, and it is right to a degree, to be sure (I’ll finish there), another question must also be to the fore, namely, are there not some constants as well? And if so, what might these be?

While many today would seek to make our supposed understanding of ‘causation’ primary, as if that somehow settled the matter [the most direct says: God made me gay and I rejoice in that fact; simpliciter - which is how I have heard it put], we are still left with the important distinction between any kind of ‘desire’ and its expression/practice - and this despite its (apparent) aetiology. Not to do so is a most serious distortion of much moral theology and ethics. Consequently, more work in joining the dots needs to be done before we may legitimately lump the categories together the way you try to. Which feeds back to be sure into some - but not all - of the “constants” we might raise.

Yet even in the case of legitimate human constants, being human also means these will be “socially mediated”, even those of gender and race. And please note; I do not say “constructed” pure and simple; there’s a vital difference; again which many do not sufficiently discriminate between! The argument is not exactly that between the essentialists and the constructionists.

All of which begins - should begin - to allow us to discriminate between false forms of discrimination and perfectly legitimate ones. And it’s often the lazy, fuzzy eliding of generalised categories that simply gets us into the fixes we find ourselves in - often, even if not always. For example, the apparently simple extrapolation from the women’s issue to the LGBT issue (please forgive my impersonal language) - as if they were indeed on some kind of single categorical spectrum. Rubbish! Which is why I have always conversed with Rosemary and her position rather differently than with those of the LGBT stance(s). The NT universally condemns homosex behaviour (and you can go into whether it’s the ‘same’ ‘behaviour’ as today’s for all one’s worth, Glynn; I have encountered most of the strategic forms of debate ...), while I would suggest, and do say to Rosemary, that the overall NT witness regarding women in positions of ordered Church leadership is far more subtle and complex.

Upshot: there are many forms of necessary discrimination not being entertained nowadays, even as there are naturally [sic] others you and I would agree (I suspect!) are most abhorrent. And mostly, it is our western context that seemingly permits our hazy lack of distinction in these regards! Which makes any “reception” a necessary global and cross-cultural, diachronic as well as synchronic, exercise - of humble discrimination/discernment. Which should make the Ang Comm, one might imagine, a wonderful matrix for such an exercise, given its apparent penchant for Three-legged Stools, etc. But alas, as I have already said earlier, “other factors” seem mostly to be really at play than those of true hermeneutical value, and so which obfuscate both reception and authentic discrimination.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Glynn and Stephen (with much thanks to other commenters here, but the particular things I want to respond to are raised by these two colleagues),

We may get to where you want the church to be, and we may not. The 'may not' includes the possibility that our church moves forward on an agenda for change in such a way that we divide as a church. Would that be a success for gay and lesbian persons in our midst, to be welcomed by a church half its former size?

Between your posts I see a good case for gays and lesbians being understand as a 'people group' who should not be discriminated against as a people group (because we do not discriminate against other people groups). But do all in our church understand this? It would be a pity to force our church apart for want of explaining clearly that the ordination of gay and lesbian persons has moved on from a moral issue to a people group issue.

I think you actually have quite a lot more persuasive work to do to explain what you hope to achieve, what the consequences will be (e.g. those who in good, Scriptural, traditional conscience could not support you ... or are accusations of homophobia going to be slung at those who read their Bibles as Christians have read them for a long time?), and what ethics will be held to by those ordained from the 'GLBT' people group (are bisexual priests committed to monogamy, for example)? I assume that they will be. But does the church at large share this assumption?

Further, one way to respond to ++David Moxon's reasoning is to argue that we leave the Communion because we wish to go our own way on these matters. I am prepared to argue for that: will you join me?

A further question: why is the campaign from St Matthew's being launched at this time when Auckland is considering electing a new assistant bishop. Does one campaign help the other?!

What would Jesus do or say? But that is the problem, is it not? We do not know what Jesus with his liberal heart and rabbinical head would do or say in our situation. He might even turn out to be somewhat Roman Catholic in his answer, asking all his ministers to be celibate!

Father Ron Smith said...

"The NT universally condemns homosex behaviour (and you can go into whether it’s the ‘same’ ‘behaviour’ as today’s for all one’s worth, Glynn; I have encountered most of the strategic forms of debate"

- Dr. Bryden Black -

I think you will find that your assumption here is not borne out by many credible modern theologians in the various Churches today, Bryden. You just cannot make such bold assumptions as though they were 'Holy Writ'. (ironical paradox!)

The Bible is a mass of contradict-ions on many levels, needing more careful hermeneutical research than obviously you are prepared to undertake. Our Lord's stance on human behaviour is so different from that of the moralisers, that it barely needs my comment here.
Sexist judgementalism was one of his pet bete noir.

But there are competent senior scholars - Anglicans and others - whose biological (and theological) research is possibly more recent and up-to-date than your own (with all due respect); whose opinions are formed not only by book-reading but by actual engagement with Church members from the LGBT community, whose own spiritual and biological experience informs them of what exactly is involved in their innermost sexual responses.

What the Church needs to do is sit with and listen to the experience of those who are 'in the know' and who need to be heard on this issue.
Until that happens, there will always be people (like yourself) who will automatically reject the fact of 'innate' homosexuality, as opposed to the idea of nurture only

From that learning point onwards, it is only a small step to begin to understand that one's God-given sexuality might best be exercised from one's own understanding of how one might best respond to the need to be loved. This is the same for gays as for straights, in my view.
I am not speaking of sexual promiscuity, but the need for a monogamous loving partnership which can be accepted for straights but not, seemingly, for LGBT persons.

Perhaps you need to read the essay by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams (written before he became ABC): 'The Body's Grace'. That should help you to better understand the true situation.

Anonymous said...

Ron, Robert Gagnon's opus (both his books and website essays) is contemporary and extremely comprehensive, and I'm sure Bryden is familiar with it. Gagnon is the scholar you need to engage with.
Curiously, few do. Why?

Sociology is no substitute for hermeneutics. And whatever you think of the Bible's "contradictions", Bryden's point is correct. You will find nothing in the words or actions of Jesus that support homosexual relations. Jessu did not relax the standards of his day, he intensified them.

Peter "Palaiologos"

James said...

Hermano David, I understand your concern - but please pause for thought. I have not said that Griswold did not intend to continue discussion with Robinson, nor that he intended not to carry out the consecration. Regarding these, the closest I came was to registering my own surprise that he did, after issuing the statement.

What I actually said was: "So even TEC recognizes that it is the party which tore the fabric (schism). It's never officially distanced itself from Griswold's statement." For this is what the quote I brought up addressed.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to Gagnon's website:

http://www.robgagnon.net/

It's replete with essays, videos, engagement with critics etc.

Gagnon is the voice to answer.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Father Ron Smith said...

"Sociology is no substitute for hermeneutics: - Peter The Greek -

Did I ever suggest it was. The point I'm trying to make is that a good hermaneutic does not ignore the discipline of sociology, anthropology or any other 'ologies' you would care to mention that have arisen from the common sense God gave to God's human children, en Christo. God gave us each a mind with which to think for ourselves.

The hermeneutic I am speaking of needs prayer and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, not just a PhD.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, you write, “We may get to where you want the church to be, and we may not. The 'may not' includes the possibility that our church moves forward on an agenda for change in such a way that we divide as a church. Would that be a success for gay and lesbian persons in our midst, to be welcomed by a church half its former size?”

I am unclear, Peter, whether you are talking about the national or international situation here. If internationally, that’s far beyond me, although I recognise that our local actions have wider implications. I trust that, as in the past, the ACANZ can offer different models of being Anglican adaptable to other national contexts.

If you are referring to the ACANZP, call me naive, but I reckon we are sufficiently mature and in relationship with one another to live with the diversity of expression of church in our communities. Since 1992 we’ve worked within three tikanga (cultural streams for the non- NZers); sometimes a bit creakily but overall a success, allowing ethnic and cultural expression to shape the ‘particular’ mission of the church. I am not suggesting similar administrative separation as way to deal with other diversities, but believe with respect and trust we can work through any bumps along the road.

I have followed your blog for some weeks, interested in the range of views your postings draw into discussion. My hunch was to keep on the sidelines and not enter the water; the responses to my posting shows my instincts were correct! I appreciate the energy you give to the task, and even if I disagree with you on many points, believe the debate is healthy.

I have always struggled with the idea that giving full rights to minorities, inside the church or in the wider community, somehow diminishes the rights of others. Full inclusion of women in the life of the ACANZP, you must agree, has enhanced the life of all members and the communities we serve. We are still working out the implications of this ‘innovation’ and I can see little difference with opening the door (or should this be the closet) for full inclusion of LGBT within church life and ministry.

Of course this means serious rethinking of understandings of sexuality, marriage and relationships, something long overdue anyway in our fast-changing society. I am old enough to remember my parents horror over my older siblings going mixed flatting; little would they have expected that within three decades, all their grandchildren would be living in de facto relationships. Some will continue to believe we LGBT have no place in the life or ministry of any church; but if we offer nothing else, our sexual outsider status forces honest discussion of these essential issues of being human.

I appreciate and value our Anglican heritage and liturgical practice, institutional support for clergy, ministry and mission, episcopal leadership and sense of Anglican family within the wider body of Christ. But these are launching points for mission, rather than constraints on God’s spirit which ‘blows where it will’. Enough from me, and every blessing. Stephen Donald.

James said...

It's important to point out:

The teachings of Scripture regarding sexuality do not discriminate against LGBT people.

They do imply, when fully unpacked, that some people should not be having sex at all. But this is only when we go into details.

This applies for, e.g., men who only wish to have sex with men. It is true that society has made this into a very large issue. But then again, only about 1.4%-2% of people self-identify as either gay or lesbian.

Scripture also implies that, e.g., a man in his "natural state" who hasn't been "civilized" - i.e., a man who is oriented toward having sex with any available attractive female ... should never have sex. In modern notions of gender and orientation - this is also an orientation. The number of persons falling into this category is much larger than the number who self-identify as LGBT. But we do not call this "discrimination."

People whose ethical vision has been primarily conditioned by the American trauma of slavery and pop culture (which itself is profoundly influenced by the U.S.) tend to see all ethical issues in the exceedingly narrow categories of "discrimination" and group identity. We end with a lot of moralizing and finger-pointing - one moment, you're a hero of women. The next, you're islamophobic, because what you teach exludes Muslims and belittles them. Etc. etc.. It's highly reductionist, and stultifyingly Western and self-congratulatory, trying to fit all ethical categories into this narrow criterion. It pays no heed to the wisdom of ethnicities and peoples other than our own, and judges them harshly in the lens of our own arrogance.

Christ's ethics is based primarily on love - and within that notion of love, encompass a very broad range of values (as opposed to our single, reductionist one of "discrimination"). He discriminates against women (none amongst the 12 or at the eucharist), Jewish leaders, merchants of religious paraphernalia, persons who are unwilling to give up their inheritances or secular occupations.

We can help our sheep if we're able to get them away from group-based ethical pronouncements, and to see themselves and others as sons and daughters of Christ - with following Him in our various different ways our true vocations (and not our careers).

James said...

I've found the comments here quite illuminating. As usual, Bryden's are exceptional.

And Peter, this one is really a "hits the issue on the head" comment:

It would be a pity to force our church apart for want of explaining clearly that the ordination of gay and lesbian persons has moved on from a moral issue to a people group issue.

It's almost as if Anglicans these days can't confront issues, but must refer to people groups instead. Our brains have become captive to various lobbies.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Would that be a success for gay and lesbian persons in our midst, to be welcomed by a church half its former size?

I would certainly consider it a success and would prefer to be a welcomed, full-fledged member of a church half its former size, as opposed to being a second class member of the original church.

And as well as I can determine from just the few who participate here, that is the only successful future to which I can look forward. I cannot accept what Bryden, Peter the Greek, or James profess to be the truth.

As such, I will never be a member of a church that embraces their ideas as its teaching.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I cannot accept what Bryden, Peter the Greek, or James profess to be the truth.

As such, I will never be a member of a church that embraces their ideas as its teaching."

- Hermano David -

Dear Brother David. while tempted to follow you in your first sentence here, I am bound to say that, because of my geographical situation in Aotearoa, N.Z., I have to live with at least one of the persons you mention, within our Diocese. However, as you will have gathered, I certainly do not subscribe to his didactic method of hermeneutical exposition. I prefer to think a little wider, risking what he might presume to be hetero-doxy in pursuit of the ultimate Truth.

Would that this coming Season of Pentecost might bring further enlightenment to closed minds on this subject. 'En Christo' is my motto and defence. I look to none other.

Bless you, my Brother David!

Bryden Black said...

And all this from the matter of “reception”! It might just be that others too agree with my earlier “judgement”, and that this very approach of “reception” holds some helpful steps forward, revealing what truly might be at stake!

Dear dear Ron, isn’t providence fascinating! Only this morning did I spend 1 ½ hours with some dear folk, among whom are one prayer counsellor and two professional psychologists, and amongst a wide variety of topics (we do necessarily range wide) at one point it was asked: “have you ever met a really content and well integrated LGBT individual?” I have to say I have not myself exactly; and I have friendships and associations with far more folk than those correct figures cited by James would suggest proportionably among my wide circle of contacts. [BTW: early 2000s Danish and Canadian longitudinal research would suggest approx 1.9% of males and 2.2% of females identify themselves as gay and lesbian respectively, generally corroborating James’ figures.] It would probably not be that helpful if I were to engage here with further elements you mention, other than to suggest you do pursue, Ron, not only Robert Gagnon’s work (as supplied by Peter P), but also Leanne Payne’s.

I leave off and return to “reception” proper. Another crucial element it seems to me in this entire approach has to do with what sociologists have fondly termed “plausibility structures” (Berger) or the “available believable” (Ricoeur). Stephen mentions this (without naming it as such) when he talks about generational shifts in attitudes. But unless we are to reduce once again our moral theology discourse to mere phenomenology (as does mostly the otherwise very helpful book by Michael Vasey, Strangers and Friends), the Christian Church may not go down this path exactly, grounded as it should be in revelation. Naturally, as Christians and as members of multiple cultures over space and time, we will need to engage in our hermeneutical struggles with such exercises in the sociology of knowledge, as Berger and Ricoeur show. But the trick here has to do with just what I only intimated previously: that “any ‘reception’ [is] a necessary global and cross-cultural, diachronic as well as synchronic, exercise - of humble discrimination/discernment”. For (apologies Ron!), the last creature to ask questions of the water is the fish: we as humans ‘naturally’ and ‘obviously’ swim in our own specific cultural ponds. Yet, the first time the fish knows itself to be the creature it is is when it is caught and on dry land: cross-cultural clashes (due to travel, trade, migration, conquest, whatever) will reveal our own deemed plausibilities. All of which underscores yet another point of James’s, and reflected by Peter C too, that we westerners really must move off reducing so-called ethical matters to ‘identity and group politics’ and the single cause of ‘discrimination’ - which of course are precisely our ready “available believables”! Only too “available”!!

Which, finally and lastly, makes - MUST make - the matter of reception a truly catholic affair for the Church. And if we do have to walk apart globally, due to inadequate and premature “reception” processes, among the membership of the Ang Comm (well; we’re pretty well there already frankly), let alone nationally in ACANZ&P (I am not nearly so sanguine as some commentators here ...), it will only be one more scourge on the Body of Christ, and we shall just have to learn with St Paul to make up the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings - one more time. Kyrie eleison!

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for your kind words, Stephen!

I would share with you the hope that our church in these islands is able to find a way forward which does not shy from our diversity, and which builds on what we have already done to live with the amazing diversity we have.

But there are some challenges of not to be underestimated difficulty which lie before us. One is whether we are a church interested in 'reception'!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Only this morning did I spend 1 ½ hours with some dear folk, among whom are one prayer counsellor and two professional psychologists, and amongst a wide variety of topics (we do necessarily range wide) at one point it was asked: “have you ever met a really content and well integrated LGBT individual?” I have to say I have not myself exactly; and I have friendships and associations with far more folk than those correct figures cited by James would suggest proportionably among my wide circle of contacts.

It is this reeking kind of mouldering pile of unmitigated, malodorous shit that I find so incredibly insulting on your blog Peter.

Bryden knows absolutely nothing of me, or my life, or my personal level of happiness and integration as a living human being and yet he sits in such smugly condescending, self righteous judgment of me and those I embrace as my kindred brothers and sisters.

I think that this is where we shall part ways, for more and more I find little of honest conversation here. It has become more and more of just you good old boys slapping one another on the back in that phooney, ritualized way that real men, heterosexual men, are allowed to touch one another.

Bryden Black said...

You are partially correct Dah-veed (but only partially); I do not know that much about your dear self. But this I do know. (1) I try hard on these blogs not to argue ad hominem; (2) to be reasonably restrained both in proposal and in counter-proposal. On both counts now (and previously) you reveal indeed something of the restlessness I have encountered more often than not ... Failure to engage truly with the realities, personal and theological, hermeneutical, sociological and psychological, genetic and hormonal, does not warrant ... a rant in lieu.

Anonymous said...

Ron, some of us do have PhDs AND do pray for the discernment of the Holy Spirit. Knowing the Spirit's mind is not other than correctly understanding the Scriptures - unless one is a neo-Montanist or neo-Gnostic or neo-whatever, and has an extra-Scriptural or post-Scriptural source of revelation. I have every reason to believe that Montanus and Valentinus were men of prayer too.

Someone who hasn't engaged with Gagnon hasn't properly entered the conversation. The challenge to Ron and Stephen is to READ and ENGAGE with Gagnon and point out where he is wrong, in their eyes.

James correctly makes the point - one demonstrated at great exegetical length by Gagnon - that the Jesus of the NT is rather different from the figue of popular imagination. The biblical Jessu was an ascetic figure who set high demands on his followers, including renouncing what we hold most dear.

For the record, let us agree on these points at least:
1. Same-sex erotic attraction (SSEA) is not (usually, anyway) a conscious "choice", any more than any other sexual attraction, and any moral evaluation of it has to keep this in mind.
2. Where SSEA is "innate" (fetal) or acquired psychodynamically is disputed, but it is surely the case that environmental factors will influence the development of such feelings, just as surely as whether people will end up in their lives, say, as basketball players or alcoholics is influenced by their upbringing as well as their genes.
3. Everyone needs friendship, love and acceptance - this is basic. But is it right to eroticize friendship? What does it mean that God created us male AND female?
4. Whatever the secular world thinks and does - a trend identified by Stephen with reference to cohabitation today (he could add multiple sexual partners and the ubiquity of pornography as well, in a way that would have shocked his grandparents) - is not the pattern for the new creation in Christ - 'en Christo'.

Peter "Palailogos"

Anonymous said...

Peter, in your original posting you wrote: “If we frame such matters in respect of 'reception' our question is whether our church (ACANZP) has yet received the proposal that orthodoxy may be enlarged to include the theology which affirms an orthopraxy in which partnered gay persons may pursue their ministry aspirations to the fullest extent. We have not yet made that reception.”

I believe that one of the many issues of Anglican unity, is the very idea of ‘received truth’, because which ‘truth’ is the one most worthy of reception? As I began to prepare this response to comments directed my way, I was interrupted by a Jehovah’s Witness disciple knocking at my door, ready to share the ‘received truth’ of her sect, in this case concerning blood transfusion.

By your definition Peter, the ACANZP has been acting beyond ‘received truth’ for at least 35 years (with the ordination of women), and perhaps over 150 (synodical governance), since these innovations were adopted well ahead of most other Anglican national churches. After Lambeth 1998, the comment was made that issues around ordination of gay and lesbian bishops and clergy surely blow over before Lambeth 2008, as had happened with most controversies in the past. (i.e. revision of the BCP, birth control, women’s ordination etc). That in fact was the brilliance of spacing these conferences a decade apart!

But oh no, nearly 15 years on and we’ve now got ourselves tied in knots, caught in a series of self-contradictory arguments of so many different issues, and proposing a solution, an Anglican Covenant that neither extreme will touch, and the centre ground finds distasteful. I don’t know a clear way forward, but trust with the Spirit’s leading, we will progress at some point to constructive dialogue.

James, those of us of differing sexual and gender identity did not choose our orientation, after all, would we want to be vilified, persecuted or ignored if there were other options for attaining personal congruency? Word limits don’t allow me the opportunity to produce equally valid arguments to yours.

Bryden, I (like Brother Dah) take issue that LGBT individuals are universally discontented and lacking integration. Either you are talking to the wrong individuals (maybe those struggling to come to terms with their sexuality?), or perhaps you are experiencing the righteous indignation of many LGBT in the face of injustice that comes across as dissatisfaction or unhappiness.

Many of my LGBT friends are ‘recovering’ Christians who have walked away from churches, unwilling to expose themselves again to the institutions that have rejected them. This contrasts with the world beyond the Church, where most LGBT are treated with respect, and face few barriers to progress in leadership roles and employment, at least in liberal democracies.

With all this focus on LGBT issues, you Peter, other posters and your followers, could think I am a one-issue prelate! Sometimes just walking away seems an easier personal option than continuing exercising the lifetime vocation I committed to at ordination. But I remain in the Anglican Church and obedient to my bishop, under whose authority I have the privilege of engaging with the congregations and communities in this vast parish. And these are exciting times to be here on the East Coast (i.e. north of Gisborne, NZ), with new opportunities to bring Christ light and life in partnership with my tikanga Maori colleagues.

When teaching children the Bible in a remote back-country school, counselling a whanau (family) bereaved by the suicide of their teenage son, or working on a social services initiative with young parents, national and international issues seem very, very far away...

More than enough from me! Blessings Stephen Donald

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Stephen,
The very little I know about life and mission beyond Gisborne means I admire your commitment to minister there.

Perhaps I caould attempt to be a little clearer about 'reception' and our church: might we agree that there is a minimum desirable reception in which our whole church embraces new possibilities (synodical governance, ordination of women, 1989 NZPB, etc) even if we disagree about the desirability of a maximum reception in which the Communion embraces new possibilities (let alone an ultimate reception in which Romans and Easterns embrace Protestant innovations!)?

Leaving maximum reception to one side for the moment, my question in this post and thread of comments is whether our church is ready for minimum reception of blessing of same sex partnerships.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you to all who are commenting here - much appreciated. I am weighing up all the wisdom being contributed.

James said...

Hermano David and Stephen, there are a few qualities I have which I did not choose, and which make it difficult for me to integrate into society, particularly church. All very different from what LGBT people face in both - some which probably make integration more difficult than for LGBT people.

If for any of these qualities, I'd joined an affiliation group which advocated changing of church doctrine (which, on points, I'd love to see changed, which would make my life qualitatively much better), my estrangement would easily be ten times what it is. And one hundred times, at moments that I engaged in advocacy.

I frequently visit a church which is very, very conservative, where I sometimes wish to speak of the importance of loving attitudes toward LGBT people (which I feared they may lack) - and I can tell you frankly: what the people fear is not LGBT people. They fear advocacy of change of church doctrine. Make clear this isn't the case - and people with defensive reactions suddenly begin expressing genuine love, inclusion, and desire to help however they can.

I respect your choice to identify with advocacy groups, and engage in advocacy. But when sparks fly, you do better to ask yourself why, than to infer the presence of hatred or foul attitudes.

David, you hang a lot at Preludium where it's not uncommon for some Anglicans to be called "othodites" or "fundigelicals." I'd suggest part of this is simply culture clash: a lot of the ideas which have been received there, haven't here, and vice versa. What I've seen here has been rather charitable to LGBT people, with no lumping of "liberals" into a derided group. I'd suggest: hanging less at Preludium might subtly change your culture in ways that you're better able to engage with persons who are not quite so caught up in the general outlook of TEC hardcore loyalists. That was one of the reasons I was happy to see you here - happy to see strongly TEC-identifying persons "mixing" and exposing themselves to other views. And discussions here are much more charitable and founded in reason than in most Anglican blogs.

I know I haven't made interacting with me easy for you. Generally I don't care much about sex issues, and am much more concerned about TEC's Christology, but this is perhaps even more difficult to hear than the usual banter about homosexuality.

I don't "fit into a group" at all, really. "Conservative" Anglicans tend to let themselves quickly get sidetracked about LGBT issues and discussion turns there, as if LGBT issues were a huge magnet. "Liberal" Anglicans do the same. We're talking about the teaching on sex, and dwelling little on what we teach about Christ. This is especially damning of "conservative" Anglicans who claim to hold orthodoxy high.

So I can also identify with you as feeling somewhat a loner.

My suggestion: the Communion is an awful, war-torn, toxic zone rife with temptations toward bad attitudes - no matter which "side" one is on. If you feel called to engage in advocacy in the Communion, also find shelter in another group of non-Anglican Christians that's not concerned about LGBT issues. If you don't engage in advocacy with them - you might be surprised at your own "reception" there, and their willingness to pray with you and discuss life's issues.

It's clear to me that if the Communion is to survive, we will need to do more in calling upon other churches - for support, for their teaching, to learn from their patterns of living. Perhaps those of us engaged more in the Anglican conflict than others have special need for this, and can be pioneers in dealing with the insularity of the Communion.

Kurt said...

"As such, I will never be a member of a church that embraces their ideas as its teaching." Hermano D.

Nor I.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

James said...

So are we calling out sides now, after having talked about the deleterious effects of group-think?

That was quick.

Anonymous said...

RE: "So are we calling out sides now, after having talked about the deleterious effects of group-think?"

Meh -- ultimately Kurt and Hermano *will* indeed be in different churches.

The two groups believe in mutually antithetical foundational worldviews and no organization can survive with such worldviews together. It's like a law of the universe.

So in the end, we'll all be in different churches and will be highly likely not to have to interact all that much. It will be amazing how much hostilities will lessen.

I don't know how long it will take -- 10 years, 30 years. But happen it will. One can see this as the mainline churches over here in the US steadily [and sometimes plummetingly] shrink. It's just the working out of the principle that the two holders of the two mutually opposing foundational worldviews won't end up in the same faith organizations together.

Till then, it'll certainly be tough and conflict-laden times.


Sarah

Bryden Black said...

Perhaps I’ll have one more crack at it, and then sign off on this thread. But firstly (yet still relevantly ...), thank you James for pointing out that different blogs have their respective blogging cultures - as if it were not obvious, but then that’s also the point of the “fish” analogy, one more time. And then again, Stephen’s diagnosis of my range of encounters may be correct too: but even then I cannot also help but think there’s more to it than his own assessment still, namely, the very plausibility structures of many a westerner’s ethos and world-view, one more time. [Painting the issue of how such mind-sets prevail at all, in very strong terms of black and white, is the story of “Hitler’s Willing Helpers” - which means John and Jill Citizen in the Weimar Republic, and beyond into the Nazi era, being complicit even in e.g. the Final Solution ... A very sobering but helpful analysis that pertains hugely to the very matter at hand - reception.]

I find Peter’s insistent focus upon “reception” so helpful because it forces directly our attention on what we receive and why, and what we do not receive and why, and what we cannot receive and why, and what we may not receive and why; in each case, the shift being subtle and complex but vital (matters of discrimination abound!), just as the “we” gets ever more carefully teased out. True, such distinctions are able to be made more readily as and when we become more conversant with the deep hermeneutical issues at play in ‘reading’ anything at all at all - issues that redound eventually upon matters of authority and its counterpoint, freedom. But only so if we also attend to the rigours of “practising rules” (Wittgenstein et al) on the one hand, and the sheer etymology of ‘author-ity’ on the other - the teasing out of ‘sources’ and their respective legitimacy.

Then lastly (FWIW): Oswald Chambers “Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25.).
The tiniest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient to account for spiritual muddle, and all the thinking we like to spend on it will never make it clear. Spiritual muddle is only made plain by obedience. Immediately we obey, we discern. This is humiliating, because when we are muddled we know the reason is in the temper of our mind. When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God’s will and the whole life is kept in simplicity.” Holy Cross Day, 14th Sept. Ciao for now!

Father Ron Smith said...

"If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards"

- Dr.Bryden Black -

At last, i must confess, Bryden, I find something in your very long dissertations on this thread, one pericope (above-mentioned) that I find makes some sort of sense.

Many Christian LGBTs have been so long vilified by the Evangelical moralists - on the question of their innate sexual-identity, that they have been forced into an inner dialogue with God that has, thank God, sometimes allowed them to believe that God actually masde them and loves them as they are - warts and all. Guess what! Just like their hetrosexual sisters and brothers in the Faith. That, for some LGBT Christians, has led them to become more bold about their understanding of themselves - as beloved children of god - but also as messengers of hope to other LHBTs in the Church and the World.

And this is what is so puzzling to people like yourself, whose horizons are limited to your own understanding of sexuality and gender. You are your fellows (usually fellows) are putting all your energies into proff-texts from the Bible, whereas, I believe the Holy Spirit is extending our understanding far beyond the first century compilers of the Scriptures - to the more insightful treatment give by Jesus to his contemporaries, where he made no bones about the dangers of the Pharisees who used The Law to bind, rather than abiding by the New Commandment, which was to love, rather than arrogate to one's-self jusdgement.

That's quite enough from me at the moment. I, like Dahveed, am not prepared to waste my time on closed discourse, such as you prefer.

Father Ron Smith said...

"If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards"

- Dr.Bryden Black -

At last, i must confess, Bryden, I find something in your very long dissertations on this thread, one pericope (above-mentioned) that I find makes some sort of sense.

Many Christian LGBTs have been so long vilified by the Evangelical moralists - on the question of their innate sexual-identity, that they have been forced into an inner dialogue with God that has, thank God, sometimes allowed them to believe that God actually made them and loves them as they are - warts and all. Guess what! Just like their hetrosexual sisters and brothers in the Faith. That, for some LGBT Christians, has led them to become more bold about their understanding of themselves - as beloved children of God - but also as messengers of hope to other LHBTs in the Church and the World.

And this is what is so puzzling to people like yourself, whose horizons are limited to your own understanding of sexuality and gender. You are your fellows (usually fellows) are putting all your energies into proof-texts from the Bible, whereas, I believe the Holy Spirit is extending our understanding far beyond the first century compilers of the Scriptures - to the more insightful treatment give by Jesus to his contemporaries, where he made no bones about the dangers of the Pharisees who used The Law to bind, rather than abiding by the New Commandment, which was to love, rather than arrogate to one's-self jusdgement.

That's quite enough from me at the moment. I, like Dahveed, am not prepared to waste my time on closed discourse, such as you prefer.

James said...

Fr. Ron,

Again, we are talking about a group ("the Evangelical Moralists"). Now there is certainly merit in this kind of thinking. But part of the point of this thread is - we're coming back to this and back to this.

Allow me to provide a counterpoint which you might understand.

Conservative Christians have been so long vilified by some parts of the church, describing them as "fundamentalists" (and sometimes even teaching that they are infected with a genocidal germ), that they have been forced into inner dialogue with God which has led them to believe that God loves them - even those things that their critics mock and despise. That God has told them certain things, so they know, confidently - [insert certain ways such persons would like to change our doctrine].

My advice to such conservative Christians in the church is: lay back, let the Holy Spirit feed you; engage in dialogue, but not too insistently. Your perceptions of what God is telling you need also to enter into reception process for discernment. And: that your conviction that "this is what God told you" should be held lightly.

I'd suggest that this is exactly what has happened with regard to the teaching of an alternative form of sexual ethics in the church: we are considering it in the reception process.

God loves unrepentant sinners - no matter whether the sin is sexual, has to do with greed, abuse, hatred, etc.. But for us to change our teaching on ethics - if we are wrong - one of the many consequences will be: encouraging our members to sin. And in doing so, we would be especially negligent with regard to our LGBT brethren.

A problem with this kind of argument is it's also what permitted, in the United States, for a horrific form of slavery to take hold in the South. Gradually the church moved from the position: "It is evil; but some, with whom we disagree, find it necessary" to "We acknowledge the spiritual gifts of our brothers and sisters who have come to believe that their slave holding is in no way a sin. Slavery is just fine."

Had the church been better discerning about Scripture and honest about the utterly different natures of that which we call "slavery" in Paul's time, and the slavery practiced in the United States - it not only would have prevented many from entering slavery, but for this situation - what's relevant is that it would have saved its own members from falling into sin in being slaveholders.

You would be right point out that sex acts and slavery are very different things. But we have no grounds in Scripture for saying that sex sins should be taken lightly; quite to the contrary. And with regard to homosexuality, the consequences of such sin are more explicitly described than for most kinds of sin. So if we get this wrong, what we would be doing to our LGBT brethren would be quite horrid.

This is also why it is so egregious when advocacy of Scriptural sex ethics is described as hatred, bigotry, and discrimination (please note, I am very happy that you are not doing this). Surely, in many individual cases, there will be signs of these things - which should be dealt with individually in those individuals with these sins. But we must understand: this is no less about love, than the alternative sex ethic is about love.

I'd also like to note that I am very happy that you decry the marginalization of LGBT people, where it happens. This is also most certainly a sin.

Bryden Black said...

Ron, two things:

1. It was Oswald Chambers - as clearly indicated.
2. When you say you follow the New Commandment of Love rather than the Old Law (exemplified by the Pharisees, and so also by people like me, by implication), what is singularly missing in all your posts is any appreciation of one massive omission on your part. And what’s that? The often hard work of discovering what specifically the loving thing to do - or not do - actually is. What constitutes loving behaviour? [James has now brilliantly raised this very point too.]

And if you do not/cannot/may not ‘feel’ the strength of that very question, then no wonder you find much of what I am trying to say difficult to understand. Knowing myself what and who I have engaged with over the past 25 years, ever since I saw the Australian doco, The Clinic (a masterpiece of propaganda), I can assure you your own ‘reading’ of my position is not at all “puzzling”: plus ça change ...!

Father Ron Smith said...

"with regard to homosexuality, the consequences of such sin are more explicitly described than for most kinds of sin. So if we get this wrong, what we would be doing to our LGBT brethren would be quite horrid."

- James -

Here you go again, James. SIN! - Empirically stating your own opinion - while not allowing me to express mine - when I say that the Scriptures, in their unexpurgated version - may indeed seem to have some things to say about same-sex behaviour; they were written at a time when biological origins and development was an unknown science.

There was no evidence of the continuum of sexual differentiation so how could moral teaching on homosexuality possibly hold water?

I should think that every modern student of the Sodom and Gomorrah story is now privy to the idea of the predominant sin being that of inhospitality to strangers.

When St. Paul speaks of sexual perversity, it is quite probable that he was referring to hetero-sexual males who forsook their natural orientation in order to engage in homosexual behaviour.

Jesus, in Matthew's gospel, speaks of 'eunuchs' - one category of whom he refers to as 'those who are eunuchs from their mother's womb! It is entirely possible that he was speaking of inherently Gay persons.

These are just a few reasons for believing that God intentionally created people of different sexual natures - other than the female and male who were meant to procreate!
Remember, Jesus, the Son of God did not 'procreate'.

Bryden, I'm intrigued by your bit here "Knowing myself what and who I have engaged with over the past 25 years...".

Being now in my eighties, I think I can claim a little more life-time to have accumulated wisdom about the place of God in my life - and in the lives of other people with whom I have conversed on this thorny subject. Age has little to do with discernment. Experience of the subject in question is a greater stimulus to truthful exposition.

Bryden Black said...

To be sure, Ron; only one with an octogenarian status may feel the full force of TS Eliot’s famous line, about having the experience but missing the meaning [The Dry Salvages]. To repeat: “what is singularly missing in all your posts is any appreciation of one massive omission on your part. And what’s that? The often hard work of discovering what specifically the loving thing to do - or not do - actually is. What constitutes loving behaviour?

It would be appreciated if you were to address concretely this kind of lack - perhaps too with the help of the likes of Robert Gagnon (see earlier), whose understanding of the experience you resolutely refuse to address - ever! So; please at least attempt to cover the bases. Otherwise people like me will continue to be unable to “receive” what you claim to be an ‘enlarged truth’.

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden, if you really want to know about what constitutes 'loving behaviour' read, again, Jesus in the gospels.

Don't both swooning on Gagnon. Rather, read from the man at whose feet you once sat (and probably swooned over at the time) - Rowan Williams, who, as a really learned and fruitful theologian & spiritual leader (how many books have you written on anything?) - produced his seminal article on homosexuality: 'The Body's Grace'.

Have YOU, and all the other Gagnon fans on this thread,actually READ this article from a person who is now 'Primus Inter Pares' in the world-wide Anglican Communion?

I really would like to know - Or are you as reluctant to read him, knowing his affirmation of LGBTs, as I am to read your favourite author Gagnon - guessing that if he shares your views on gays he is probably overtly judgemental?

I would rather throw in my lot with the ABC's spirituality and openness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than your pet theorist Mr.Gagnon -whoever he is. It is understandable that you, Simon the Greek and James would drink at his fount of conservative wisdom.

Peter Carrell said...

To help the conversation along, let me point you to these Gagnon and Williams links:

http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm (RW's paper)

http://www.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_121_2_Richardson.pdf (A conservative response)

http://www.robgagnon.net/ is Robert Gagnon's website, from which his material can be accessed.

James said...

Fr. Ron, first off I should point out that I'm not trying to prevent you from expressing your opinion by offering mine, but that's a number of comments previous.

♫ SEX MAGNET SEX MAGNET ♫
♪ I'm a feelin' yer attraction again ♪
♬ pull me baby! ♬


(again, we're being pulled by the polarizing forces of the sex argument ... and on cue, the various parties begin their little song & dance routines - myself being no exception)

One of the pathetic things here is we're re-hashing arguments that we've probably all had before when we're being pulled by the sex magnet, and tend to be saying the same things. Anyways, I'm thinking of a "new" thing here in response to one of your arguments, and am thankful for the opportunity. It's about the following theme general theme or line of argument:

There was no evidence of the continuum of sexual differentiation [... and many other things] so how could moral teaching on homosexuality possibly hold water?

This seems to imply a notion of inspiration of the Bible where the Holy Spirit imbues the writer with something like "super genius / super wise" characteristics. The writer, endowed with these powers, analyses evidences at hand, and provides for his time, the most intelligent and wise response possible.

However, we also believe that in some way inspiration has to do with being "visionary." I.e., that inspiration is not only about given intelligence and wisdom in analyzing existing known data - but that there is a givenness in the inspiration itself. That the writers may, in prayerful meditation, might be told things by God; that God speaks. And thus, our thought of "inspiration" is not limited to the thought of very smart and wise folks making remarks on those things they see and hear - but is also characterized by God's own wisdom revealed in the inspiration.

Also, we must take into account that Paul was working with his general knowledge of what Jesus had said and done - with a wealth of detail from many eyewitnesses now inaccessible to us.

And finally, we have Christ's own testimony as well. Surely, Jesus being God, if He wished not only for persons feeling so called to engage in same-gender sex acts, but also for us to make such practitioners our clergy and bishops, He most certainly would have more urgently stressed this profoundly counter-cultural message during His earthly ministry, especially since it goes against the grain of His other teaching regarding sexual ethics. In absence of this, we must assume that His teaching on same-gender sex acts must fall in line with His general teaching about sex and ethics. As Jesus was not merely incredibly smart and wise by human standards - rather, Jesus was (and is) God.

There are other problematic aspects to this, such as - it seems to assume a utilitarian ethic - but explaining that would take more words than we need right now.

In short: the divine inspiration of Scriptures entails not merely heightened human faculties in analyzing empirical evidence at hand, but also entails God's self-revelation, and His wisdom about His creation - implying that believers in divine inspiration of Scriptures must not analyze it as if reducible to purely human reactions to empirical evidence (albeit with heightened powers of intellect and discernment).

Anyways, I'm happy, Fr. Ron, for your having given me opportunity to think about this more, though very likely minds better than my own have already made this same point about such types of arguments; and I'd be happy to hear what you think of this response to this type of argument.

James said...

I myself drink from the "conservative" well and the "liberal" well and am probably best labelled "post-liberal."

Specifically with regard to Scripture and LGBT issues, at the time I studied it most carefully, I honestly wanted to find a compelling answer in which Scripture permitted the blessing of same-gender sex acts in certain circumstances - acutely aware of the many concerns you present here and elsewhere. This would make some things in my life much simpler.

With regard to other issues - European philosophy departed radically from Schleiermacher around the beginning of the 20th century, due to certain aspects of this type of thought, which do not stand up to rational scrutiny. Theology largely followed in the "post-liberal" turn with Barth, Tillich, Niehbuhr, et al. This is a great blessing, as it is much clearer in affirming Christ, whereas more "classic liberal" theology radicalized some of Schleiermacher's insights which were philosophically untenable, and moved into non-Trinitarian Jesus following, in prioritizing ethics over Christ Himself - a recurring problem for both "liberal" and "conservative" Christians (for different reasons in each camp). The post-Schleiermachian turn enables us to understand a fully incarnate Christ, and incarnate church in the world - taking seriously the critiques of those largely rejected Victorian ideologies which were largely understandable in their time due to various anxieties and insecurities, but from which society has moved on. Here, I'm not thinking so much about the sex issue, but the Christology of +KJS, Borg, et al.

My appreciation for the authority of Scripture comes not out of blind adherence as some might presuppose, but rather from an understanding of the various paradigmatic turns our society has faced through the Enlightenment up through and including postmodernism - in which even more powerful reasons rise to the fore in favor of Trinitarian Christians holding high the authority of Scripture. This with a rather robust cognizance of cultural issues, taking the culture of our times quite seriously - seriously enough to be interested in questions like, why we tend to think certain ways and categorize certain ways. And this is no simple issue - it takes one on a rather grand tour of not only philosophical thought through the centuries, but also the very practical issues of how real people tend to think and feel - and how they tend to generalize while doing so.

To sum it up, I'd say: it's nice if we get to drink from many wells. But it's also important that we prioritize the growth of faith, and find good guidance in choosing what we drink. And if we don't have time to run through Husserl on intentionality, Heidegger on why Dasein is not a being, Derrida on the priority of writing over speech - we do well to drink from the well of Scripture itself, or we're likely to end up with a funny pastiche in our idea of "hermeneutics" which can be misleading, and act as an obstacle to God's work through His Word in us.

James said...

By the way ... apologies for the way the last two posts respond to issues earlier in the thread ... this may be a good turn for the thread, examining some concrete texts.

For ease I'll turn these into links for those whose browsers don't do so automatically -
The Body's Grace (RW)
A conservative response (John Richardson)
Robert Gagnon's website, with a huge wealth of papers covering most arguments which have been made in favor of the notion that Scripture can be interpreted so as to allow the blessing of same-gender sex acts.

For starters - I don't find Williams's argument particularly compelling (granted, it's been ages since I read this and have only skimmed this time, I hope to read more carefully now we are bringing it up in this manner). He seems to wish to reduce discourse and valuation of sex acts to mutuality. I must say as a fallen man: I find myself from time to time fantasizing about sex, of which I am by no means proud. But such fantasies are always involve a highly mutual sense of pleasure, and mutual pleasure-giving. Nonetheless, there are things wrong about the fantasized sexuality - things which, I'd argue, are best described outside of a monolithic criterion of "mutuality." My current impression of Williams's argument is: that while it may open our eyes to certain things, its general tenor is a plea for reductiveness - a reducing our argument to those factors which "fit" into this mold. Simply brushing all other concerns aside as "legalism" is ... naïve, a gesture which itself deserves to be brushed aside as poorly grounded.

While I can appreciate how some may find his vision of sexuality compelling ... I'd plea for a more generally broad understanding of sexuality, the values we apply to sexuality, and the place of sexuality in our individual lives and that of society.

Given the above - I'm not sure that Williams himself still attaches the same importance to the insight described in this paper, and I'd guess that he would probably have seen the reductive quality of trying to exclude other values and notions in the general discourse on sexuality, such that he'd likely currently be a strong opponent of this paper's reductionist tendency.

But this is merely my current impression; I'd need to read it more carefully for a better evaluation.

Anonymous said...

Ron seems never to have heard of Professor Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, which is odd, since Gagnon's work is known throughout the world and is freely available on the internet. Maybe Ron hasn't kept up with the latest scholarship, but he can with his computer, simply by reading Gagnon's website.
I imagine most of us have read Rowan William's 1989 essay. 'The Body's Grace' - I have, several times, and I don't think even Williams stand by it now. If I can find it, I will post a detailed critique of this essay by English theologian Garry Williams.

Peter "Palaiologos"

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

James, a few questions.

1. Has there been new material discovered over the last 20 to 30 years that would shed new light on Pauline theology?

2. Has there been some major advance in our reading and understanding of Koine Greek over the last 20 to 30 years?

3. Is there some reason that a Pauline scholar, who is a known theological conservative, teaching today, with a year less in his education than most university professors, is somehow more learned or more expert in the field of Pauline studies than a Pauline scholar, who is a known theological centrist, teaching 20 years ago?

You demand that we must deal with Gagnon. I dealt with Gagnon's same conclusions 20+ years ago. I did not find them correct or persuasive then and I see no reason that I would feel any different today.

For every conservative New Testament scholar, there is at least one, perhaps more centrist or liberal New Testament scholars. They are as serious in their conclusions as Gagnon is about his. They have just as impressive credentials and are just as respected in their scholarship. And they disagree with his reading of the Pauline and the Old Testament material.

I disagree with his reading and conclusions of both the Pauline material and the Old Testament as well.

So where does that leave us. In the same place. You believe what you believe and I believe what I believe. I am willing to abide in the same church in which you, Bryden, Peter the Greek, Sarah and others, abide. But I am not willing to allow you to make what you believe the teaching of the church. And should there come the day that somehow your beliefs became the teaching of the church, then I would leave that church for a church whose teachings was what I believe.

I think that you lot are of the same mind.

So Dr Peter, where does that leave your church unity? I am not longer willing to sit idly by while folks are willing to sacrifice my life, a living, breathing, warm blooded human being by throwing me under the bus for the sake of cold and indifferent institutional unity.

To me it is not much different to what the Roman Church has done all these years by sacrificing the lives of innocent children and young adults for the sake of a cold, and now shown to be heartless, institution.

To me, the end does not justify the means. I am not willing to impede the life of one more person to abide by a senseless moratoria. I am not willing to demean the family life of one more family while those who stood by while the rest of us openly and publicly wrestled with the issues, drag their heels regarding reception.

And Bryden, I very much understand your question in regard to what is the loving thing to do. And as long as we both believe what we believe, our answers will be different. But as long as my beliefs are held by a majority in the church, then I am not willing to allow your answer to be the teaching of the church.

And I believe that at this point the beliefs of the current generations are on my side. So as cold as it sounds, we are just waiting for the minority who hold your beliefs to die.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to Garry William's essay 'The Theology of rowan Williams', which contains a section on 'The Body's Grace':

http://www.latimertrust.org/theology-rowanwilliams.htm

Peter "Palaiologos"

Peter Carrell said...

[Hi Sarah, I am only prepared to publish your comment if I edit out unnecessary descriptors. Please focus on content not presumed character. Regards, P]

RE: "But as long as my beliefs are held by a majority in the church, then I am not willing to allow your answer to be the teaching of the church."

Of course, Hermano's [] beliefs are not held "by a majority in the church" -- neither the Anglican Communion nor even TECusa - -the most liberal province. That is why -- naturally -- TECusa has the Incredibly Shrinking Membership and Attendance problem. Because the majority of the people in the pews disagree with the stances of our erstwhile national leaders and many of them are leaving. At some point, when enough have left and TECusa is far teensier even than it is now, what Hermano says will be true -- but not yet.

RE: "And I believe that at this point the beliefs of the current generations are on my side."

The other good news is -- and we have recent wonderful votes in many states of the US over just the past two years -- most youth grow up and become mature and functional. Thankfully, the votes are demonstrating that. I hang out with great Millennials of all sorts and they are happily quite conservative.

I'm looking forward to the future, as the "high tide" of interest in one particular minority sexual attraction [as opposed to all the other minority sexual attractions] was some five years ago.

And -- of course -- our side is rapidly and multiplyingly reproducing! ; > )

RE: "So as cold as it sounds, we are just waiting for the minority who hold your beliefs to die."

Oh, no colder than folks waiting for gay activists to die. Fortunately there are very very few people who have those sorts of desires.


Sarah

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Sarah, there are many different interpretations for what is happening in your country and in TEC. You may live in your spin and I shall happily live in mine. But the latest polls show that with each passing year more and more folks in your country are pro GLBT rights and pro same gender marriage, with the most recent poll just in the last couple of weeks showing that the majority has now passed the critical boundary in the affirmative of both.

I think that you will also see that the election of 2010 was a fluke and once the crazies showed their true colors by voting against the working class people, the people of the US have rapidly had their eyes opened to the mistake that they made. What a colossal blunder it was when the Republican majority voted en masse against US medicare and social security.

As for shrinking TEC. Your spin on that does not take into consideration that all churches are faltering. Including the largest conservative protestant church in the US, the Southern Baptists. The Roman Church is barely remaining at it same levels, but the demographics have changed incredibly. The Roman Church in the US is poorer and browner. It too would have shrunk but for the influx of illegal Latinos you lot wish to push back south.

Spin as you will, the experts on such things are not in agreement with your spin.

James said...

Br. Hermano David,

"You demand that we must deal with Gagnon. I dealt with Gagnon's same conclusions 20+ years ago. I did not find them correct or persuasive then and I see no reason that I would feel any different today."

I'm not sure you really want me to try to answer your many questions, but let's look at this statement you make.

What here do you mean by Gagnon's same conclusions? do you mean simply
"Scripture generally presents sex acts between men as sinful, and in such a manner as not to be limited to the cultures of the authors alone"? Or is it something more along the lines of, "argument X for interpretation of Scriptural passage Y as Z does not hold up?"

Suppose I were to say, "Oh, I read a few articles that said the pastoral theology of The Episcopal Church has orthodox Christology ten years ago, and I didn't find them convincing, so I'm not going to read a work drawing the same conclusion now" - were you to ask me to read an article by an expert on the matter bringing new thinking and evidence to the fore?

Dr. Gagnon has claimed that years ago, people used to debate him on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality. And they no longer do, because they inevitably lose. I have every reason to believe him, based on his very thorough treatment of so many issues. Yes, there are NT and OT scholars better-known than him. But they do not share the same repute regarding exegesis of the issue of homosexuality in Scripture. He's simply spent so much of this time covering this, where others have dedicated only a chapter or two, or a book, none of which are respected de rigeur as Gagnon's work. And when they do, he frequently responds and points out their errors.

Caveat: his site is a MESS and articles are not arranged topically. It would be much more helpful if we had a way of classifying arguments - "shellfish argument," "Paidon argument," "purity code argument" (which I personally believe to be one of the most convincing), "we know more about sexuality now" argument, etc. etc.. It is a pity that there are so many essays on specific political issues and sexuality strewn between the more academic articles.

I think you may simply be tired of reading, thinking, etc.. about all this. This does become strenuous. You might take Walter Wink's approach: that Scripture does condemn same-gender sex acts for men - but that we, with the use of reason, should not. This is, simply: a view which is not really about Scripture and homosexuality any more. It's more about finding ways of re-evaluating the church's relationship to Scripture.

And no, I'm not insisting that you read anything by him. FWIW, after your accusations of mistreatment here, think about respect in discussion - I'm thinking primarily, I haven't recommended to anyone on this thread that they read Gagnon - I simply made a clickable link about all three essays mentioned by Peter - it's PP and Bryden who have been recommending him. (do we "all look the same" therefore you address me instead of PP and Bryden?). You wondered previously here why I sometimes congratulate Bryden and Peter (here also Peter, and in other threads Fr. Ron and others) - and not you. This has nothing to do with orientation. You simply haven't given me much to go on - most of your remarks toward me have either been trying to discredit my arguments on what you assume about my character (always negative). I know your snarkiness is appreciated at Preludium and I have my own respect for it - but it's a bit odd if you consistently deal with me in an emotive (and negative) fashion, and then complain that I "touch" Bryden and Peter but don't "touch" you. I'd sort of thought ... you'd rather not be touched like that.

Blessings.

James said...

ok, Br. Hermano David, I do like this:

Sarah, there are many different interpretations for what is happening in your country and in TEC. You may live in your spin and I shall happily live in mine.

The last phrase - nice work there.

I must also thank you for estimating me to be in the esteemed company of Bryce and Peter Palaiologos, though I'm not sure I'm worthy of this compliment - their writing here shows me they're better theological minds than the lazy grey material that produces my own comments. And the Notorious Trio meme has been somewhat fun.

You are an intelligent enough man, Br. Hermano David. This thread hasn't been good for you, and I'll acknowledge that you're often a lot better than this. I think that this blog for some reason gets you very, very angry and you come out showing less than your best colors. I've found myself in similar situations myself. As happy as I was seeing you here, I think I may have been wrong, and that you need to be around more like-minded persons when it comes to these difficult topics. And I acknowledge that with your own experience, these topics will be much more sensitive for you than they will be for most of us.

There are things that help traumas; there are things that don't help. Commenting here might not be one of the things that helps.

Blessings to you, and apologies for any possible offense. I do wish I could "touch" you in some positive, healing way. You probably underestimate how much I would love to reach out and say, "YES, I affirm what you affirm - and what a blessed thing it is!". Because this would make it so much easier for us to speak together about Christ, who He is, and who He is for us. But honesty - and my very love for you and for LGBT people - prohibits me from doing so. You are waiting for me to die - well, hey, I'm waiting for me to die too! But don't you die, Br. Hermano David - if this place does not help you live and love - as much as I do like to see you here - it isn't a good place for you now, not at this moment. In a day or two, a week or two, a month or two, it may be again; and whatever you choose, I will be happy to see you here.

I know from my own experience: blog commenting and the engaging in advocacy we do here, in the Anglican world - is far from neutral, and can have toxic effects on those who engage in it. We may be on "different sides," but we share the same war - and I think we can both agree: war sucks, and this particular war particularly sucks.

James said...

group therapy idea:

"Notorious antagonists" (in no special order) Peter P, Hermano David, Bryce, Fr. Ron, James, Kurt all find some funny bit of writing they have that's got nothing to do with the Communion or religion, and post links to it here, or put in comments if it fits. You can upload documents for free to MediaFire and they'll give you links to post here. We all read, laugh, appreciate, slap backs, remember we're all a buncha silly guys, created in God's glorious image who Jesus loves beyond our wildest imaginations - thus seeing the guy, and not simply the "opponent." Good idea? Bad idea?

Father Ron Smith said...

"..if we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be. When looking for a language that will be resourceful enough to speak of the complex and costly faithfulness between God and God's people, what several of the biblical writers turn to is sexuality understood very much in terms of the process of "entering the body's grace". If we are afraid of facing the reality of same-sex love because it compels us to think through the processes of bodily desire and delight in their own right, perhaps we ought to be more cautious about appealing to Scripture as legitimating only procreative heterosexuality."

- Dr.Rowan Williams (ABC) -

James, et al who deny 'The Body's Grace'; Rowan Williams' ideas on God's gift of sexuality rings true with my understanding of God. I'm sorry you can't subscribe to it.

That's my lot on this thread!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

were you to ask me to read an article by an expert on the matter bringing new thinking and evidence to the fore?

James, that is the gist of my first two questions. What new evidence or thinking has occurred in the last twenty years that make Gagnon's scholarship something I should not miss?

What here do you mean by Gagnon's same conclusions?

I mean, there is no new thinking or evidence involved in his work, his scholarship is the same as his predecessors. He uses the same material and comes to the same faulty conclusions. His "argument X for interpretation of scriptural passage Y as Z does not hold up." And in fact I do not believe that the "scripture generally presents sex acts between men as sinful..." Period.

James said...

Hermano David,

A good bit of what Gagnon does is the rather thankless "negative scholarship" - setting aside various theories about, e.g., that Romans 1 should be read describing temple prostitution, that Jesus in healing the Roman Centurion's slave, was blessing a gay couple, etc. etc.. There are so many details, it really makes more sense to take one's "favorite" and see what Gagnon has to say about it.

Actually, one of my "favorites" which I thought conceptually had the greatest chance of being compelling ... for various reasons ... was William Countryman's argument about the "purity code." This actually some scholars have found to be one of the weakest arguments - probably more concerned with details than with conceptual coherence, as I am, coming from a philosophical background.

My own research for myself and our church was done in 2001, with online resources - I'd had contact with gay theology as early as - I'd guess 1997, with James MacNeil's books. I didn't come across Gagnon until sometime after 2001. You should simply find one of his better articles (specifically about the Bible and homosexuality ... not one of his political ones) where he addresses one of the arguments in the pro-same-sex acts views as an intro. That is, if you want to continue to think about Scripture and sex ethics.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for turning us once again to the exploratory essay written by RDW, called “The Body’s Grace”. To be sure now; read that more than a decade ago! Together with the letters associated therewith around England’s Gen Synod [read those have you!?]
Just as I tell you now I have also read (for example) three of the better argued texts ‘on your side’ of the debate: Michael Vasey’s Strangers and Friends (1995) (already cited); DG Myers & LD Scanzoni, What God has Joined Together (2005) - thanks Bosco for this title - and WS Johnson, A Time to Embrace (2006). This last is particularly revealing, with the subtitle, “same-gender relationships in religion, law and politics”, all predicated upon a liberal-democratic ideal. A powerful and balanced presentation from 1997, with contributions from Gerald Bray, Jeffrey John, Oliver O’Donovan, Elizabeth Stuart, Anthony Thistleton, Michael Vasey, Simon Vibert and Rowan Williams, edited Timothy Bradshaw, then of Regent’s Park College Oxford, The Way Forward?, finished up being vilified - and frankly, misunderstood - by all sides; but for my money was indeed, back then, a viable and serious option - only to be overtaken by the seriously manipulative manoeuvrings of sundry ‘sides’.
Sadly Ron, the realities of this particular ‘church dilemma’ long rampaged across the political prairie ... Resulting in hermeneutical options simply denied most western folk ... I.e. smelling these roses is especially hard nowadays! As a result, all my coffees and meals with gay associates and formal ‘discussions’ (mostly in Melbourne, but Tim B got a few in!) have a heavy sea and strong head-wind as their primary context. Cya then!

Father Ron Smith said...

Sorry, all, I really was going to make my last statement to be really mu=y LAST Statment on this thread. However.. I just cannot let james get away with what he has said here:

" In absence of this, we must assume that His teaching on same-gender sex acts must fall in line with His general teaching about sex and ethics" - James, on Paul -

Would you then affirm his various statements about the place of women in the Church - as being eternal truth; or would you concede that Paul was speaking 'In the spirit of the age' when he made them?

I still believe in what Jesus said about the truth: "When the Spirit comes, he will LEAD you into all the Truth - about Me, about SIN ..etc" So, in point of fact, not all was known about what SIN actually was at the time Jesus was addressing his disciples. We and the Church are still learning!

Kurt said...

Oh, Sarah, come off it! TEC has experienced far greater membership loses in past periods. Compared, for example, to what happened to us following the American Revolution, the present slight decline is almost insignificant. (And, as David points out, it reflects the decline of American religion in general; the result, in large measure, of the past 30 years of con evo politics which has turned many people off to religion).

When peace returned to America after the war in 1783, approximately 100,000 loyalists had left the United States many, about 60,000, heading north to Canada, (including the Rev. Charles Inglis, the Irish-American former Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street, who would become the first Anglican Colonial Bishop.) By 1790, in a nation of four million, Episcopalians were reduced to about ten thousand. In Virginia, only about 30 parishes of the 160 that had existed in 1776were able to support a priest between 1802 and 1811. In Georgia, Christ Church Savannah was the only active parish in that state in 1790. In Maryland, half of the parishes remained vacant by 1800. For a period after 1816, North Carolina had no clergy at all when its last priest died. Dr. Samuel Provoost, first Bishop of New York, was so disheartened, he resigned his position in 1801 and retired to the country to study botany having given up on the Episcopal Church, which he was convinced, would die out with the old colonial families.

It didn’t happen. And later in the 19th century the Episcopal Church would grow significantly—and not simply the Evangelical wing, either—to regain its position as one of the nation’s most prominent denominations. I’m sure we will weather the present little tempest just fine, with or without you, Sarah.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

James - re Mr Gagnon on homosex:

"He's simply spent so much of this time covering this, where others have dedicated only a chapter or two, or a book, none of which are respected de rigeur as Gagnon's work. And when they do, he frequently responds and points out their errors."

And why he he spent all this time, you might ask, if he is not very interested in debunking it?

How 'de rigeur' as you call it, is the book 'The Body's Grace by +++Rowan Williams (in your opinion) compared to that of your favourite theologian Gagnon?

Would you not consider that the Archbishop of Canterbury has some integrity regarding his opinion on homosexuality v. the fundamentalist views of your favourite author on the same? At least, Rowan is a Bishop (teacher) in the Church to which you owe some fealty - or do you not?

The problem with some academics in the Church - who discount the work of secular scientific writers on this issue - is that they are quite happy to affirm the anti-gay polemic of people such as Gagnon, while at the same time discounting the work of someone like the ABC, who has some insights into the incarnationally Christological relevance of the place of the LGBT community in the Church and the world.

James said...

Fr. Ron, I have left some impressions of William's essay here.

Williams's essay is great in reminding us of many important things about sexuality in arguing his point. However, he fails in sufficiently grounding that point, and I have pointed out its weaknesses above.

Re. Gagnon: I'll translate your critique in other words - "oh if he spends so much time on homosexuality and the Bible, he must have some bad attitudes; and these bad attitudes will taint his argumentation and what he says won't be true."

Very simply: even if we knew these works to be written by a terribly embittered, criminally malfeasant man - we still have to deal with the arguments as arguments. What we're doing here again is "ad hominem critique." It's essential that we learn to address the arguments themselves.

I can agree with you: "This sounds suspicious." The man is quite a phenomenon. However: "specialties" these days in academics are becoming narrower and narrower. Gagnon is simply the only specialist in this area who speaks with this kind of authority on Scripture and homosexuality - in fact, he's the only person in the world who does.

BUT: DON'T accept him on "his authority." Take your favorite argument that various passages should be read otherwise than how they've been read through the centuries ... then look up what Gagnon has to say about that argument.

Gagnon isn't even close to being "my favorite theologian," not by a long shot. I don't think I'd even class him as "a theologian," he's more of an exegete who also provides reflections on theological issues from time to time. The sex ethics stuff is very, very dull compared to other types of theology; so it's not that Gagnon is not a skilled thinker and writer. He simply has to do some very thankless, arduous work.

James said...

Fr. Ron, I just had a thought that made me chuckle, and perhaps you can have a laugh along with me as we have a laugh at the expense of ourselves and each other simultaneously.

I was just thinking: I am so glad that I do not have the responsibility of being your bishop. And I am quite sure: you must be quite thankful not having the responsibility of being mine. And we can take joy together that neither of us has this awkward and unwelcome burden.

But there is something so blessed in meditating upon the fact that we do share the authority of Our Lord and Savior, and we drink of the same cup, even though exercising spiritual authority over us is like herding cats.

The Church is sometimes very much like a circus (the circus being one of Nietzsche's favorite metaphors). And there is something tragically comic, but humorous nonetheless, at the thought of the task of commanding such a circus as the church frequently is. For God has given us no divine constitution, nor books of itemized church guidelines and conduct codes. Instead, He came down to stand amongst us, being baptized, breaking bread with us, dying, rising from the dead, and then sending us His comforter.

I take joy in knowing that such utterly disparate characters as yourself and I come together like children to eat His body, and drink His blood.

Many blessings to you.