Friday, September 28, 2012

Facing a battle

My attention on Facebook (by one colleague) is drawn to a post on a local blog (posted by another colleague) which leads to this interview of Vaughan Roberts, one of the evangelical leaders in  the Church of England (and a speaker here in NZ a few years ago).

30 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Of course, the tragedy is that so many would consider the struggle to be the tragedy. They would see it as illegitimate self-loathing born of false consciousness and religious oppression. To one such as this, there would be given no alternative but surrender to the desire. For authentic desire has become the Revelator of nature, and nature must be obeyed. It is the hopeless counsel of despair offered by those who wish to preserve the slender reed upon which they found their legitimization of homosexuality. Since homosexuality is legitimized by appeal to the authenticity of then desire, then there can be no allowance for the man who morally repudiates a desire he acknowledges to be legitimate. Instead he must be co-opted or crushed.

This man is courageous indeed,

carl

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Carl for these words: courage is indeed the key!

As one who has professionally counselled a few gay men and women, and who has friends and associates among many more, you have put your finger on an important issue - desire. This was one of the key motifs of Michael Vasey’s [RIP] own testimonial book, Strangers and Friends (1995), derived of course from St Augustine for him. Though nowadays, in the mostly secular world, it’s become a different creature, I suspect ...

Thereafter, I’d point to the wonderful meeting here in Chc this week of the international movement called - yes! - “Courage”. Well attended, with some notable, bold addresses from goodly and godly folk. It is glorious to see such supportive networks these days. And I note well VR’s own support network - as revealed in the interview. We surely betray Christ’s compassion if we are not prepared to walk alongside the broken, in whatever form it may present itself in this world.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Certainly. I pray for them every Monday from a list that is divided in two: those who continue to seek to be faithful to the Bible’s teaching that the only right context for sexual intercourse is in a marriage between a man and a woman and those who have moved away from that view. Sadly the second group is growing."
- Vaughan Roberts -

I suspect there may be many clergy like Vaughan, who, because of their fundamental understanding of the Bible, have declined to be called 'homosexual'. The fact remains: If he has this same-sex orientation, this is what both the Church and society will call him. The fact that he struggles to contain his innate sexual identity.

And what is the reason for this? My answer is that Church and society have, hitherto, seen fit to denigrate people with same-sex attraction, making the 'homosexual' relaity 'persona no grata' in their estimation. This is seen now to have been discriminating and wrongful - towards the percentage of human beings who are intrinsically L,G,B,T or Q.

Vaughan's honesty here does him credit - especially when he reveals that he has chosen to remain chaste. However, this is also open to heterosexual people - most of whom do not choose to be chaste.

The fact remains, Vaughan is what is commonly termed;'homoseucal' - simply because he has no al;ternative but to be attracted to people of the same gender. That is the term used by both Church and society for this condition.

The sad thing is that - because of homophobic opposition, mainly from the church - Vaughan has to,whether he really feels he is being true to his inner nature or not - to deny that he is Gay. Instead of admitting that he has no other possibility of 'being', he feels he must renounce his natural identity in order to fit in with a mistaken understanding of heterosexual clergy persons, who pride themselves on being 'straight' - but not necessarily celibate like he feels necessary for himself.

Bryden Black said...

“Instead of admitting that he has no other possibility of ‘being’.” I think, Ron, that with this comment of yours (admittedly amidst a number of lines of thought) we might be approaching the heart of the matter.

There are, it seems to me, two key ways of interpreting (yes; that is the word) feelings of same-sex orientation. They are either an integral part of creation for a small percentage of humans (approx 1%-2%: results of research in different countries at different times vary) - if indeed they are even a ‘hardwired’ expression of humanity, in all cases, something which has yet to be proven either way.

Or they are yet another manifestation of the fallen created world and so of Original Sin - even should the ‘jury’ eventually demonstrate conclusively a hardwired component to these phenomena (plural - since I am well aware of the many cultural factors involved as well). For even such genetic predispositions may be viewed from the perspective of the Fall (like a familial propensity to certain types of cancer).

I happen to be persuaded, as it seems is VR, after a considerable amount of hermeneutical probing, that we have to do with the latter.

Ron; it would seem from your comments, here and previously, you happen to adhere to the former view. Although to date, it really does appear to quite a few on this site you have yet to actually legitimate this claim of yours.

Father Ron Smith said...

"As one who has professionally counselled a few gay men and women, and who has friends and associates among many more" - Bryden Black -

One wonders at the qualification of the word 'professional' in this instance. Is that the profession of a qualified and accredited psychological counsellor, or that of a working stipendiary priest?

If the later, then I guess, during my stipendiary priestly career I've had some experience in this area, myself, but would not use the term 'professional'. Also, because of my personal interest in wholeness and integration, my friendships with Gays has been always affirming - as, I believe, would have been those of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Ron, it seems evident from these comments that your view is just as oppressive and narrow as any other. Why do you feel the need to tell Vaughan who to be? What happened to live and let live? ;)

Scott

Father Ron Smith said...

In answer to Scott's comment:

One is not 'telling' anyone 'to be' who they happen to be, ontologically. One is merely encouraging someone to rejoice in their being - without feeling the need to suppress their innate identity - even if it offends others. We are all created in the divine image and likeness.

This is called 'reality'.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I just don't get your rejoicing!
My ontology is both 'made in the image of God' and 'sinner'. I can rejoice at many things about myself while being horrified at many other things. I can rejoice (e.g.) at being someone able to praise God with all my being, while being horrified (e.g.) at how much prejudice, hatred, and loathing of others which I find rising up within me (and quite 'naturally' too).

Is my identity bound up with being able to praise God or being able to hate others?

Our human nature is too complicated (I find) to blithely bless various 'identifications' which we humans like to make. An extreme militant Nazi and an extreme pacifist vegan are both made in the image of God, but I find it hard to celebrate the identity of either, not least because I share the convictions of neither.

carl jacobs said...

FRS

You have never demonstrated that:

1. Homosexuality may be a part of man's ontology.

2. Authentic homosexual desire reveals a man's ontology.

3. Authentic homosexual desire is morally good and therefore should be acted upon.

You can't just tell someone to celebrate his homosexual 'being' without answering these questions from authority.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"An extreme militant Nazi and an extreme pacifist vegan are both made in the image of God, but I find it hard to celebrate the identity of either, not least because I share the convictions of neither." - Peter C. -

Peter, the difference here is that I do not equate either Nazism or veganism with homosexuality. Neither Nazism nor Veganism is ontological in human beings.

Homosexuality is a 'given' whereas,
I believe anyway, both of the other characteristics are voluntarily acquired.

With regard to C.J.'s remark, I do not propose to pander to his lust for 'chapter and verse' on the etiology of homosexuality. If Carl really wants to try to understand something about it's authenticity he should rouse himself and look, pro-actively, for some information for himself on the www. He could well start with looking up the latest understanding of the subject put out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

From the perspective of moral theology, perhaps he could acquaint himself with the works of Professor Morton Kelsey - on this subject.

One observation I have to make here is, in the words of the old adage, that "You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink" Implacable deniers of the authenticity of the LGBT community in our midst may never be cured of their distaste for such people and their implied activities.

Bryden Black said...

Ok Ron; so you don't equate Nazism and veganism with ontology. I.e. you don't like the examples cited by Peter. Fair enough ...

BUT what do you make of his earlier paragraphs in his comment? Plus, what do you make of my own either/or interpretative views? Both questions getting at the same thing.

For it is one thing to say VR's "being" is created. It is quite another to view significant desires to be marring the image of God in which we are all made. That's the key hermeneutical issue at stake here.

It is of course yet another thing to see the likes of VR, and even your dear self, then placed ontologically within the redemptive identity of Jesus, who is God's wisdom - righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Just as thereafter both you and VR are enjoined to become in the Holy Spirit who you are in Christ Jesus.

What say you to all this ...?

Father Ron Smith said...

"I can rejoice (e.g.) at being someone able to praise God with all my being, while being horrified (e.g.) at how much prejudice, hatred, and loathing of others which I find rising up within me (and quite 'naturally' too)."

- Peter Carrell -

And quite rightly, too, Peter - re the last horrific detail. However, I've lived long enough not to be 'horrified' at the duplicity within my nature. Saint Paul makes quite a bit of this in his self-dialogue, where he asks questions like: 'Why do I..(when I intend the opposite?)

In my preparation for saying Mass, I ask the question: "Why go I so heavily while the enemy oppresseth me?

The liturgical preparation then leads me into a resolution of my personal dilemma: "O send out Thy light and Thy truth, that they may lead me, and bring me unto thy holy hill and to Thy dwelling...then I will go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness!

This preparation is a necessary reminder (for me) of my innate sinfulness - juxtaposed with my realisation of God's redeeming grace and mercy. Antique and wordy, I know, but a good preparation for facing Christ at the altar.

The great paradox at the very heart of Christianity is the fact that, though we are ALL sinners, Christ died for us, thus cleansing and redeeming us! Fact or fiction?

It's a pity more clergy don't use this preparation for themselves.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
It is not compulsory for a person who experiences same sex attractions to identify themselves as gay (this is Vaughan Roberts point, as I understand it). That the identification as gay is a matter of choice, even as experienced same sex attractions are not, means we can affirm those in the body of Christ who seek to identify themselves foremost as 'in Christ'.

Should a person who experiences sexual attraction to children (a) identify themselves as paedophiliac, (b) celebrate that identity, (c) seek Morton Kelsey for moral guidance? I suspect your answer is the same as mine: No!

So the question, in its various forms posed on this blog, remains unanswered: on what grounds do you privilege homosexuality as normative and to be celebrated as much as heterosexuality?

I think that we are all thinkers here, keen to understand the rationale for propositions advanced here. "Distaste" doesn't cut it. Moral theology does. Let's keep to rational discourse, and avoid characterization of each others affective state.

Bryden Black said...

Fulcrum have posted this very helpful article from one who has himself "battled" and won through to a worthy position:

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=745

Interestingly, it also directly engages with another view, one which might be tempting in the prevailing Zeitgeist, but which is, as Sean says, incompatible with the Incarnation.

Father Ron Smith said...

"That the identification as gay is a matter of choice, even as experienced same sex attractions are not, means we can affirm those in the body of Christ who seek to identify themselves foremost as 'in Christ'.
- Peter Carrell -

All who have been Baptized into Christ are entitled to show their status as 'en Christo'. therefore, whether one is heterosexual, L., G., T., or Bi-sexual does not affect that status, surely?

I hesitate to challenge you on your inference that paedophilia is the moral equivalence of homosexuality. It is as irrelevant as necrophilia and other forms of perversion that are commonly objected to by society identity - is all.

Bryden Black said...

All who have been Baptized into Christ are entitled to show their status as 'en Christo'. therefore, whether one is heterosexual, L., G., T., or Bi-sexual does not affect that status, surely? - Ron.

You are absolutely correct Ron, of course. BUT - thereafter, as stated in earlier comments by me on this thread, this "status" is NOT the whole story. Addressing the whole story appears to be difficult for you - at least, I deduce this from your silence re both my questions, which remain unanswered, and the things you constantly omit.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I am not making or implying a moral equivalence between paedophilia and homosexuality. I am asking for you to adduce the grounds for privileging homosexuality as normative (given that once it was not seen that way) when you do not privilege paedophilia as normative (given it continues to be seen as non-normative).

Father Ron Smith said...

"Addressing the whole story appears to be difficult for you - at least, I deduce this from your silence re both my questions, which remain unanswered, and the things you constantly omit."

Really "addressing the whole story" Bryden, seems even MORE difficult for you!. My silence at your posed questions is due to the fact that I do not normally reply to didactic 'set-ups'. I have learnt to avoid 'selective questioning'. If you do not know the answer to your own questions, then no-one can help you - especially in the area of human sexuality.
______________________________

Peter, in answer to your question:

"I am asking for you to adduce the grounds for privileging homosexuality as normative (given that once it was not seen that way) when you do not privilege paedophilia as normative (given it continues to be seen as non-normative)". - Peter Carrell -

The clue here might be your own deduction: 'given that ONCE it was not seen in this way. As with the biblical understanding of slavery and the subjection of women; there has been significant movement in the modern Church (and the world) on the etiology of homosexuality, thus rendering it to be within the normal compass of sexual-identity.

This does NOT apply, so far as I know, to paedophilia. Paedophilia has a connotation of molestation of children. Such activity is still regarded by moral theologians and the medical world as being morally perverse.

Homosexuality is a neutral state of being, which has no such anti-social connotation - there are no 'victims' in mutually consensual relationships.

Enlightenment in both the medical and the more liberated religious world, has brought a new and more liberal understanding of the etiology of human sexuality and gender. Thus, it is incumbent on the Church to discover how both Women and LGBT people may be treated with the respect that is their due.

Bryden Black said...

"Enlightenment in both the medical and the more liberated religious world, has brought a new and more liberal understanding of the etiology of human sexuality and gender. Thus, it is incumbent on the Church to discover how both Women and LGBT people may be treated with the respect that is their due." - Ron Smith.

Parsing this comment with the seriousness it deserves: what my own hermeneutical ears easily pick up are the strains of a song sung premised upon human autonomy and emancipation, the leitmotif of 18th C European modernist culture, and beyond, and notably in the sirens of 'sexual liberty' in a post-contraceptive world. That Ron also lumps together slavery, women, and then LGBT communities is by now a common-place but huge assumption, premised upon a false trajectory, yet to be proven at all at all.

PS I have also tried to be polite and not snarky ... in tribuite to our host.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Society has made some good calls through the centuries (e.g. slavery, emancipation of women, also decriminalizing homosexual sexual activity). But it is not an absolute guide to the right thing to do in every instance: can we say that society has made the right call on (effective) abortion on demand, or a beneficiary system that (more or less) enables men to take minimal, or even no responsibility for fathering children? Are Christians on such matters not entitled to dig deep into theology in order to critique the "wisdom" of society?

Again and again, commenters here have found it mighty strange that a Catholic Christian such as yourself, with a fine and firm knowledge of Scripture and tradition, espoused and invoked on many other matters of faith and practice, offers only acceptance of social change re matters such as gay 'marriage' and neither theological justification nor theological critique of this aspect of "wisdom."

Anonymous said...

One of the best moments, of course, at the Christchurch Courage meeting, was the leaders declaring unequivocally that heterosexuals using artificial contraception are sinning as gravely as anyone involved in a homosexual act. "The sirens of 'sexual liberty' in a post-contraceptive world". Wonderful indeed!!!

James

Father Ron Smith said...

Just a very short answer to your query in your last post, Peter, on the veracity of my 'acceptance of social change re matters such as 'Gay marriage'.

I used to think that the eterm marriage ought be reserved for the ;normal' heterosexual relationship that was capable of procreation; preferring to advocate the legal Civil Partnership for monogamous same-sex couples - presuming that the Church might graciously allow that such relationships might be a way of securing God's Blessing in the Church.

However, since the Church has consistently refused - in most countries - to recognise and hallow such relationships, I have been persuaded that monogamous same-sex relationships undertaken by Christians might better be recognised as equivalent to the status of 'Marriage' - but without the connotation of procreation.

I think many Christians would have comfortably accepted that a Civil Partnerships would have filled the need for commitment of same-sex partnerships - if the Church had been generous enough to recognise them by participation in a Blessing.

However, since the Church has been less than gracious about the fact of civil Partnership for same-sex couples - both for the general public and for bona-fide members of the Church - many pastorally-minded Christians have realised that the Church is being obdurate against same-sex partnerships, and that same-sex couples might look beyond the Church for a more secure legal situation of civilly-recognised Marriage.

The irony in all of this is that, since the Church's obduracy in recognising Civil Partnerships being Blessed by the Church has now issued in the request for a legal Marriage for Christian same-sex couples; parts of the Church are wondering whether they were actually WRONG in refusing to recognise & Bless Same-Sex Civil Partnerships in the first instance!

I, like everyone else, must be led by my own conscience on matters of this order; hoping that the Church may one day catch up with an urgent pastoral initiative that seems necessary in today's world.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Again and again, commenters here have found it mighty strange that a Catholic Christian such as yourself..etc." - Peter Carrell -

I'm not at all surprised about that, Peter - especially as your blog is advertised specifically as an 'evangelical' perspective on Church matters. Naturally, most of your commenters are of the same persuasion. From the majority of your correspondents' perspective, I must seem like a real 'fish our of water' (one of Bryden's favourite cliches).

However, If you and your other commenters don't want to hear about my liberal catholic views, I guess I could be persuaded to desist from posting here. That would be a pity, though, because I do enjoy the cut and thrust - even if the learned theologians among your other commentators find me irritating.

Just let me know when you've had enough! I do have plenty of pastoral work to do in my old age.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
The strangeness is not about your being a 'Catholic' Christian but about your being a Catholic Christian who does not agree more with evangelical Christians!

Please keep commenting - you are most welcome here.

Thank you for the full reply you gave to my question in a comment just above re marriage. Much appreciated.

Bryden Black said...

Now to address the first part of your Comment, Ron, October 2, 2012 9:23 PM, pertaining to myself.

I sense you are worthy of worthier remarks than these. They dishonour your better self.

A first element of “the whole story” may be found not only in my either/or presentation of two fundamental hermeneutical stances, but also now on the Fulcrum site within the two threads following Matthew’s and Sean’s articles.

They are as I state: either same-sex orientation is part-&-parcel of the created order of things; or, they are an expression of the Fall, and so represent yet another expression of disorder. It behoves us all to grapple with this inevitable dilemma. For much would appear to depend upon the outcome, upon what view one holds and why. Thereafter, much too depends upon one’s profound pastoral relationships with any who are embroiled in our Fallen world!

Just so, the next element of “the whole story”. It is one thing to soundly declare one’s “status” ‘en Christo’, as good and as necessary as this might be. It is then another, as we find throughout the NT, “to become in the Spirit who we are in Christ Jesus”, as the Early Church Fathers were wont to put it. Our newborn ontological reality needs to become realized. That is, we are exhorted to become transformed into the Image of Christ - which is to say, to become again true Image bearers of the Creator, in whose Image and Likeness we were created to be. That is, as the entire history of the Church demonstrates, pastoral-and-theological features go hand in hand, as people learn to live out their redemption. The written word of God in the hands of the Church establishes “a holy school for all the world” (Athanasius), with additional canonical means of grace also granted the Church in her pilgrimage to the Parousia (the sacraments, Rules of Faith, liturgy, Creeds, Councils, episcopal oversight, iconography, even certain doctors and saints).

Which last sentence prompts the final element of “the whole story”. Given the fact that my diocese of origin was once part of the Province of South Africa, I fully appreciate your more Catholic traditions - perhaps far more than you realise. Your “preparation for saying Mass” is not something alien to me; just as neither is the priest’s proclamation of the Fourth Gospel’s Prologue at the end of Mass! In which case, like Peter C, I am puzzled how you - notwithstanding now October 3, 2012 10:39 AM - have reached certain conclusions re “marriage”. For even this latest comment in no way renders an adequate theological account. Such an account would at least address the likes of http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2009/06/blessing-a-scriptural-and-theological-reflection/

Over to your worthier self, Ron!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bryden, I do not propose to challenge your own hermeneutic on the ontological presence of homosexuality as part and parcel of human life. You have come to a particular conclusion for yourself, which satisfies your own personal understanding of how God has worked in God's creation.

I, too, have my own understanding of The Fall, and how it has affected ALL humanity from Adam onwards. (I am mindful of the Holy Saturday 'Exultet' at this point: "O happy sin of Adam, that gave us so great a Redeemer").

What I am still working out, through my own experience - and that of others who are prepared to share the task - is how, like Saint Paul, I am able to live with the dilemma of 'the sin that is in me' and with the reality of my longing to be 'other than I am'. In the end, like Saint Paul, I have to surrender to the reality of the fact that "God's grace is sufficient for me", and that I can only do my best to be conformed to the Image and Likeness of God in which I have been created - by God's grace - and not by any work of my own. I believe that this is why the repetition on the confiteor is so important at the Mass. We are ALL sinners in need of Christ's power to BE redeemed.

I am mindful of Our Lord's response to the person who addressed him as 'Good Master' - "There is One alone who is Good" - guess who that is!

Shawn said...

For certain kinds of theology it is not the Bible, nor even tradition and reason, that is the ultimate authority, but modern liberalism. Thus whatever the modern secular world says on any issue, such as homosexuality, marriage or abortion, is accepted as authoritative, regardless oh what the Bible teaches.

This is the reason Ron cannot or will not answer the central question proposed by Peter and Bryden. To do so would reveal that the only reason for the acceptance of homosexual marriage and the pseudo-scientific myth of an intrinsic homosexual orientation is Modernist ideology, and it's notions of human autonomy and desire fulfillment masquerading as "liberation".

Liberals have added a fourth leg to the stool, Midern Secualr Liberalism, and that leg is allowed to overrule the others.

But the modern Western world is a Godless morally bankrupt abomination, attacking faithful Christians and Churches, degrading and perverting marriage, promoting sinful lifestyles as a "human right", and incinerating millions of children through abortion.

The Churches only response to the modern world should be implacable opposition.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Churches only response to the modern world should be implacable opposition." - Birdman -
____________________________________

Contra (Mundum?):

"God so LOVED the World, that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life"

Shawn said...

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

Father Ron Smith said...

I guess, then, that God just has more love than we humans. After all: "It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves".