Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Same sex partnership supporter votes for Covenant

Some interesting words emerging about the Covenant in the past two days. ++Rowan has videoed - link and comment at Catholicity and Covenant.

Thinking Anglicans links to several items. One of these includes this,
"I am firmly committed to the belief that suitable candidates who are in a faithful and committed same-sex partnership should be eligible for appointment or election as bishops in the same way as anybody else. This I believe to be a matter of faithful interpretation of Scripture rather than simply adoption of current ideas of permissive freedom. I also believe that it is not a matter which affects salvation and that there is therefore legitimate diversity on this matter. That said, however, I am also aware that many will, and do, disagree with me profoundly on good and solidly Anglican grounds: it is a matter of fact that the regulation of human conduct and relationships solely in monogamous marriage between male and female or celibacy is regarded by most Christians (including most Anglicans) as a central and unchangeable aspect of the deposit of faith.


That being the case, there will inevitably be disputes over first-order matters between (and within) different churches. Conflict over what is necessary to salvation is part of what it is to be a catholic Christian. The local needs therefore to relate to the universal. Catholicity cannot be limited purely to one’s own context (Intro. §4 and sect. 3). My brother or sister who disagrees with me in Lagos is still my brother or sister and a member of one and the same catholic Church; and, provided that they are operating using the methods accepted as constitutive of catholicity, I have to take them seriously and they too have to take me seriously, provided that I too am adopting these methods. For Anglicans the universal is nothing less than all other Anglicans (and more widely all those who call themselves Christians). It is for this reason that I would acknowledge the possibility that the current Covenant proposal, which is very circumspect and which encourages dispute resolution and listening before legal recourse, may be better than the current situation of unregulated disagreement and schism, or leaving everything up to the Archbishop of Canterbury."
The author is Mark Chapman, Vice-Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford (not exactly a bastion of my kind of evangelical conservatism!) and writes this and the remainder of the essay at The Living Church.

Within the excerpt cited above, Chapman makes a couple of points I am trying to make through this blog (in a haphazard and often unclear way!):

First, a point about commitment to being in relationship with ALL Anglicans:

"My brother or sister who disagrees with me in Lagos is still my brother or sister and a member of one and the same catholic Church; and, provided that they are operating using the methods accepted as constitutive of catholicity, I have to take them seriously and they too have to take me seriously, provided that I too am adopting these methods. For Anglicans the universal is nothing less than all other Anglicans (and more widely all those who call themselves Christians). "

At risk of being critical of i-friends here and local friends and colleagues, I find arguments against the Covenant to be insufficiently committed to building a Communion of all Anglicans, not just of the Anglicans who agree with me.

Secondly, a point about the non-draconian nature of the Covenant and the lack of a better alternative to the present situation despite what many say:

"It is for this reason that I would acknowledge the possibility that the current Covenant proposal, which is very circumspect and which encourages dispute resolution and listening before legal recourse, may be better than the current situation of unregulated disagreement and schism, or leaving everything up to the Archbishop of Canterbury."

18 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

My brother or sister who disagrees with me in Lagos is still my brother or sister and a member of one and the same catholic Church; and, provided that they are operating using the methods accepted as constitutive of catholicity, I have to take them seriously and they too have to take me seriously, provided that I too am adopting these methods.

Is a man a brother simply because he is a member of a church that has an historical association with the Anglican Communion?

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
My brother in Christ is the one who confesses himself to be so; my sister in Christ is the one who confesses herself to be so.

It is not for me to judge that people who say they are Christians, worship in churches which say the creeds and follow authorised liturgies are not in fact Christians.

As far as I can tell, all churches in the Communion remain confessing Christian churches.

Father Ron Smith said...

A very good reply to Carl, Peter! - especially in the light of his question:

"Is a man a brother simply because he is a member of a church that has an historical association with the Anglican Communion?"

Despite Carl's hubristic wish to excommunicate self-designated Christians who have a different opinion from his own, I would submit that all 'Christians' who celebrate the presence of Christ among them in the Eucharist, who believe in the 'Real Presence' of Jesus therein, are united to Him - and to all who accept His Lordship.

Carl's radical tendency to exclude those he doesn't agree with is not a mark of discipleship of Christ. It does remind me of the Pharisee and the Publican parable of Jesus.

Father Ron Smith said...

You will have noted, Peter, that these 'YES to the Covenant' articles have all been posted on 'Thinking Anglicans' - a web-site which some of your posters may have thought to be oxymoronically-name -like, e.g. virtueonline.

However, in my experience of 'Thinking Anglicans' - from which I gain a lot of my material posted on kiwianglo - T.A. usually features a balanced set of opinions, both for and against the Covenant. (As, indeed, you are doing, today)

That someone should advocate both Same-Sex partnerships and Covenant should not be too surprising. I'm sure that many gay people want the Anglican Communion to continue to be in a koinonia relationship, that respects and values the different interpretation of biblical ethics.

Where I would take issue with 'Catholicity & Covenant's idea, is to think that the GAFCON Provinces would be willing to 'return to the fold of Anglicanism' under a Covenant relationship such as is presently proposed - even with section 4 intact. GAFCON does not wish to associate with 2 of the Provinces of the Communion it does not agree with.

While GAFCON retains this stance of Eucharistic stand-off, there can be no rapprochement. If Section 4 cannot achieve that, nothing can.
(Not that I approve of section 4).

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

My brother in Christ is the one who confesses himself to be so; my sister in Christ is the one who confesses herself to be so.

So then, if you are duty bound to accept as legitimate the testimony of one who claims to be your brother (as you just said) then upon what basis can you say (as you have said many times before) that Anglicanism is not without limits?

carl

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

hubristic ... radical ... Pharisee ... Publican

You forgot "bibliolator."

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
(1) It would be interesting (and helpful to this discussion) to know the grounds on which you would not accept the confession of a Christian to being a Christian.

(2) Anglicanism has all sorts of limits in respect of people confessing to being Christian: e.g. it would not/should not accept someone whose confession involves a sub-Trinitarian understanding of God, or who combined that confession with a competitive confession such as to also being a Buddhist or Muslim. One might also point out that Anglicanism has always had some trouble with people claiming to be Anglican while also professing allegiance to the Pope, or denying that confession of faith can be made by parents in the baptism of a child.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
I appreciate Mark Chapman's perspective and his genuine desire to keep us all in the same boat. I have 3 concerns with his approach.
1) His starting point seems to be "catholicity" - how can we all stay in the same boat - rather than faithfulness. True catholicity or unity can only happen when we believe, live and proclaim the same gospel. He does highlight the primary role of Scripture, and refers to "methods...constitutive of catholicity". But our primarly calling is to be faithful, and not to embrace a catholicity where we are endlessly arguing the toss over the fundamentals.
2) He misdiagnoses the dispute resolution attempts in the AC. He believes that the current instruments have failed to bring resolution and the Covenant will offer a better way. When you have provinces departing from the apostolic faith, stoutly declaring their autonomy and refusing to heed advice and guidance from other provinces, no framework for dispute resolution will succeed. The issue is not the mechanism but the attitude towards the Scriptures and other Anglicans, a view he hints at in his final paragraphs.
3) He places his trust in an untrustworthy body to implement the Covenant. As he notes in his last paragraph, there is a lack of trust in the standing committee of ACC to effectively implement the Covenant. That is because that body singularly failed to do anything meaningful towards resolving the crisis regarding sexuality. Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic members tried for years to get the ACC to take action, but it was set on a path of unending dialogue as a cover for gradual acceptance of the TEC/ACoC agenda. No wonder those members resigned in frustration.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

Anglicanism has all sorts of limits in respect of people confessing to being Christian

So then your first statement was in fact imprecise. You have now attached content to the Confession. Your two examples were:

1. A sub-Trinitarian understanding of God

2. Combining that confession with a competitive confession.

Your first statement should then read ...

My brother in Christ is the one who legitimately confesses himself to be so.

A sub-Trinitarian confession or a synchretistic confession would deligitimize the man's confession and indicate to you that he is not your Brother in Christ. Correct? As you wrote ...

It would not/should not accept someonewhose confession involves a sub-Trinitarian understanding of God, or who combined that confession with a competitive confession such as to also being a Buddhist or Muslim.

Are we agreed?

It would be interesting (and helpful to this discussion) to know the grounds on which you would not accept the confession of a Christian to being a Christian.

The question improperly formed. I would not reject the confession of a Christian because a Christian would by definition have a proper confession. Instead we must ask "How do we separate a legitimate confession from
a counterfeit confession?" A legitimate confession will accurately express Christian truth on:

1. The nature of man.
2. The nature of God.
3. The person of Christ.
4. The work of Christ.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
I guess (to try and get inside Chapman's viewpoint) he would see the dividing issues as "second order" and thus not about gospel "faithfulness".

Will the Covenant help unite what is divided and not united by anything else? I think quite a bit could turn on who signs and what then happens. Two (of many scenarios): TEC does not sign/everyone else does ... we have a clear delineation between the course TEC has chosen and the Communion Covenanting; TEC and everyone else signs, setting in motion a pathway to draw together a resolution (however awkward that might turn out to be).

Much, in other words, is yet to be made clear: we are in an abject state, the Covenant may make that worse (so some argue), it might make no improvement, it might improve things. I suggest that a failure to implement the Covenant will either make things worse or offer no improvement. No Covenant will not improve things.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
I realise that Chapman in the face of it is not arguing that same sex partnerships are a second order matter; but effectively (I would propose) his argument works by treating it as a second-order issue.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
OK you have a small point in there. But day to day we Christians do not run around qualifying the word "confession" with descriptors such as "counterfeit" or "legitimate". Our confession is what we profess to believe. When I lead a service I do not ask people to stand to confess their faith legitimately, I just ask them to stand to confess their faith.


In short, I suggest it is gracious to trust Christians (or, if you like, those who say they are Christians): until and unless there is some explicit sign that they do not actually confess Christian faith I take it on trust that their confession is a true one.

By the way, since Christianity is about grace, I wonder if "legitimate" is all that useful in determining who are Christians and who are not!

Shawn said...

"I would submit that all 'Christians' who celebrate the presence of Christ among them in the Eucharist, who believe in the 'Real Presence' of Jesus therein, are united to Him - and to all who accept His Lordship."

You just excommunicated virtually the entire Evangelical church, both within Anglicanism and without, not to mention a fair number of classical Reformed Protestant churches. Perhaps you have more in common with Carl than you think.

Christian who accept the Lordship of Christ do not advocate homosexuality. These two positions are mutually contradictory.

Father Ron Smith said...

Gosh! Reading Carl Jacobs requirements for being recognised as a 'brother/sister in Christ' would have totally outlawed Our Blessed Lord's approach to people on the fringes. They'd never have got past the first post.

I take it that Carl is not an ordained 'minister of the Gospel'. If he were, he would chase more people away than might ever be attracted to the Light of Christ. He certainly wouldn't qualify to be on the staff of - 'The Hound of Heaven'! However, God loves him!

Father Ron Smith said...

" I suggest that a failure to implement the Covenant will either make things worse or offer no improvement. No Covenant will not improve things." - Dr.Peter Carrell -

Precisely! I agree with you, Peter.
At least, NO to the Covenant will not make things worse. So surely that is the preferred option?

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

It's a small point with a huge implication. The center of your argument is found in an assumption of brotherhood. You can't just assume it. You have to establish it. If you cannot establish it, then you have to act upon the knowledge gained. Grace does not provide room for outright heresy.

In short, I suggest it is gracious to trust Christians (or, if you like, those who say they are Christians): until and unless there is some explicit sign that they do not actually confess Christian faith I take it on trust that their confession is a true one.

This is well-said, and I agree. But this is not a matter of waiting for the unknown to be made known. This is a matter of well-known and well-publicized explicit rejection of Christian truth - rejections as serious as the synchretism and sub-Trinitarianism you listed. You therefore by your own admission have no reason to consider them other than false brothers. You certainly shouldn't treat them seriously. You must treat them as false shepherds and wolves among the flock.

If a man comes to you and says "I am a Mormon and therefore your brother in Christ" you will say "No, you are not." Likewise if a man comes to you and says "There is truth in every religion, and each provides a path to God, but I am of the Christian tradition. See, I am you brother in Christ" you must also say "No, you are not."

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"You just excommunicated virtually the entire Evangelical church, both within Anglicanism and without"

Shawn, I do wish you would get your facts straight before you utter such a condemnation. These are your words, not mine.

Carl, I think you're getting over-excited (again). A cold shower might do you the power of good!

Peter Carrell said...

We might be talking past each other, Carl!

I think we are agreed that a person confessing to be a Christian who also confesses to other things which call that confession into doubt ("I am a Christian and a Muslim", "I believe in Jesus Christ but I don't believe he is divine", etc) is worth checking further as to whether they are a brother or siste in Christ or not. (A very minimal checking here might be checking that we have heard correctly; that a newspaper report is an accurate report; etc).

We may be disagreed, or I may not yet be clear about your position, on the matter of someone who confesses they are a Christian and says or does nothing else to call that confession in doubt. To me it seems like you are asking for further checks on that person. But I may be misunderstanding you when I mention that!

There may also be disagreement between us about what constitutes something which calls a confession into doubt. For instance I do not think that a person who describes themself as a liberal or progressive Christian is automatically in doubt as a Christian brother. They might be (e.g. if they deny the creeds), but many do not. Nor do I think that a Christian who supports same sex partnerships is automatically in doubt as a Christian brother or sister. I suspect we are disagreed on that, but that is my view. The reason I hold it (briefly) is that ethical teaching is disputed in the life of the church and someone I am in dispute with over ethics is not automatically in doubt as a Christian brother or sister. For instance I have many Christian brothers and sisters (with doubts on my part) who have remarried after divorce despite the reason for their divorce not squaring with the teaching of the New Testament. We may differ about that but I do not stop thinking they are fellow believers.

I also have fellow believers who charge me interest when they loan me money, but, again, I don't think that is reason to stop thinking they are a brother or sister in Christ.