Monday, May 13, 2013

Brewing the perfect storm in our church (1)

The past week's Human Rights Tribunal hearing into the case of a gay man thwarted from entering the discernment for ordination process in the Diocese of Auckland on account of his honest profession that he is in a marriage like arrangement with another man is part of a 'perfect storm' brewing for our church.

The brewing storm is going to occur over what we decide in the future as a way forward to avoid going to court, whether that court is our civil Human Rights Tribunal or a church tribunal to which a bishop is taken for not observing the standard of chasteness when ordaining someone or making an appointment of an ordained person.

There was quite a lot of chatter last week in and around elements in the case. I cite but two examples of what I have observed on websites, Facebook and Twitter:

This comment made on Taonga, for instance:


"If the canon says they cannot permit people entering into ordination into the priesthood because they are living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Well that accounts for half of the Anglican Clergy in Aotearoa NZ with all 3 tikanga. I know of many clergy living in sexual relationships outside of marriage."

If true this is outrageous. If not true this is either daft (on a generous reading) or libelous against the vast majority of clergy not living in sexual relationships outside of marriage. 

Or consider Brian Dawson (a senior priest in our church, Vicar of St Peter's Willis St, Wellington) in a 6 May 2013 essay:


"The real problem for the bishop will be consistency. There are canons / rules within the Church that are ignored on a daily basis, so what makes this one different? It would also be naiive in the extreme to imagine every unmarried candidate for ordination, whether gay or straight, is celibate. There are many, many, many situations where this hasn’t been the case, and many where it still isn’t. Any student at St John’s Theological College in Auckland (our national seminary) knows that the single students apartments aren’t always occupied by just one person and more than one vicarage has been the scene of pre, post and extra marital sex. People in sexually active relationships outside of marriage have been involved in all stages of the ordination process, so any bishop who says “it just can’t happen” is likely to be faced with numerous examples of where it has. But then, who cares?"


Again, let's be blunt: if what Brian says here is true, then this is outrageous. We are, according to this summary report, perceived to be a church with lax sexual discipline in which bishops either avoid imposing discipline or feel powerless to impose it. 

Whether or not perception equates to or even approximates to reality - in my view we are a much better church than the comments above suggest - the fact is that such chatter reminds us that there are several matters of significant division between us in the brewing of a perfect storm.

(1) We are a church in which there is a large gaping division between those who view lax sexual discipline as a matter about which little can be done and those who view lax sexual discipline as a matter which we ought to do something about.

(2) We are a church in which some are attempting to make the argument against changing our current 'working' definition of chasteness (in sum: no sex outside of marriage) with serious engagement in biblical hermeneutics while others are attempting to make the argument for changing that definition on the basis that sex outside of marriage is already a common feature of our church's life.

(3) On the specific matter of chasteness being the 'right ordering of sexual relationships' (D 1.10.4.1) we are a church which includes those who feel bound to determine that right ordering with respect to Scripture and tradition and those who feel bound to determine that right ordering with respect to reason and experience.

Here is the thing about Anglican divisions in general terms. They do not necessarily spell the end of the church as we know it. They may be elements only in brewing a storm or two not the perfect storm. We are a church which has been for a long time now a kind of coalition in which different divided parties have managed to live with divisions while continuing to pursue different visions for how the church should be, what gospel should be preached and what missional activity is consistent with that preaching.

But I am proposing that we are brewing the perfect storm through the kind of week we had last week, along with the gathering phalanx of commissions looking into this or that aspect of blessings of same sex partnerships, marriage and related matters.

I am not sure when I can get back to this topic with part (2). An unusual and potentially over busy week lies before me ...

66 comments:

mike greenslade said...

What is truly outrageous is when Clergy engage in sexually abusive behaviour, and when the Church authorities turn a blind eye.

Jethro said...

I reckon we could sum up many of our church's problems as changing our beliefs to suit our behaviour, when it really should be the other way round.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

More to the point, you are a church divided over Theology Proper, Christology, Anthropology, and Soteriology. The differences you have listed are all derivative of these more fundamental divisions. You are witnessing the outcome of two different religions fighting for control of the same organization. Only one can win. Therefore only one can survive within the organization.

This case is less like the coming of a perfect storm and more like the occurrence of a spark in a room full of flammable gas. The situation has existed for a long time. Now comes an event that precludes avoidance. It will trigger an explosion. The divergence must finally be confronted. If your church follows the general culture, and approves this behavior, then it will join the herd that rushes without concern towards the cliff and an inevitable plunge to certain destruction.

Do you want to survive as a church? Quit following the crowd. Stand rather in opposition to it. Stand athwart 'progress' and cry "Halt!" It likely won't matter. I fear judgment has fallen on the West - that we have already been given over to the desires of our hearts for our own destruction. Poverty and decline and bondage will become our handmaids. But perhaps there is a revival of Hezekiah in our future. Perhaps.

But first someone has to be willing to preach the Word in the face of a culture that despises it. He must reject the greatest 'truth' of modern man. He must speak the unspeakable heresy and declare that man is not a little sovereign over his own life, but is rather a creature under authority. A creature who will be held to account. A creature who can know the Revelation of God to man. Start here. Declare that homosexuality is toevah to a world that gnashes its teeth at the mere suggestion. Don't appease them. Tell them the truth, and let God give the increase. Otherwise, there is no hope.

And remember this. China is being raised up for a purpose. It will soon have 100,000,000 excess males - men for whom there are no women. Countries traditionally put such men into the Army and expend them in wars rather than suffer the social dislocation of sexual frustration on such a wide scale. China is the most frightening country on Earth today. And it is emerging as a global power. If the judgment is to come, the instrument of judgment is already at hand.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

When the Church speaks judgementally of 'sexual relationships outside of marriage', it needs to understand that, in today's world, there are perfectly respectable people living in such relationships: Our daughter is one of them. She is living with her partner - they have a beautiful child between them - without the supposed benefit of actually being (officially) married.

They are faithful to one another in their exclusive & loving connubial partnership, having set up home together with an unwritten commitment to one another that has not received the official blessing of the Church - nor yet a Register Office - and is yet stable. They have both looked at the possibility of marriage, but have rejected it, as not more stable than what they already have - which is commitment to one another and to their child(ren). Their relationship is built on mutual trust - not any state or Church-sanctioned licence.

Why should the Church judge their relationship as in any way defective- especially when they see a failure rate of 50% in marriage - a process that does not guarantee any degree of permanence exceeding that of the commitment they have made to one another?

Anonymous said...

" You are witnessing the outcome of two different religions fighting for control of the same organization. Only one can win. Therefore only one can survive within the organization."

- carl jacobs -

Let's hope, then, that the surviving 'religion' in ACANZP be that which is in accord with the spiritual values of this statement:

"Where Charity & Love are - there is God" - This is the reconciling influence of Christ in the Gospel!

Eric said...

Have many other people been disallowed from the ordination process because of de facto relationships?

Have some been admitted in spite of them? That would now be a double standard.

Peter Carrell said...

Carl Jacobs, a resounding standing ovation for your post May 13, 2013 at 11:02 AM! The following comment is from Jimmie. I inadvertantly pushed Delete instead of Publish. Apologies!

The kinds of responses which you suggest, to our Gadarene rush to the cliff here in ACANZP, have been admirably exemplified by many faithful priests and bishops in the new province of The Anglican Church in North America (embracing the whole evangelical to catholic spectrum) with astoundingly positive outcomes in terms of conversions, increasing membership and youth participation, compared to the declining, "anything goes" Episcopal Church. God has forever honoured courageous faithfulness. May God raise up such prophets among us! Jimmie

The Underground Pewster said...

Sexual permissiveness has any number of justifications. The most recent being the notion of extramarital sex being an example of a committed covenantal relationship that is equally blessed when compared to a Christian marriage. Sexual behavior in the clerical ranks has been and will forever be an issue for the church and the wisdom of the early church is something we should never forget (1 Timothy). Permissiveness in the clerical ranks begets permissiveness amongst the laity. Such a model for the Church is not justifiable by any traditional, historical, or scriptural basis, and because of this, the rational basis must also be questioned.

Brian Dawson said...

Hi Peter,
Firstly, I am honoured to be quoted in your post, although the term 'senior priest' makes me feel very old!
I agree, it is outrageous, because it suggests some double-standards. It also highlights the desperate need for the sort of theological work to be done on marriage that your bishop recently called for. If the only check is whether someone had been legally married (we don't demand church blessings BTW, and old celebrant will do) that makes something of a mockery of the whole affair IMO.
We may well be heading towards your perfect storm, although I hope not. Part of my dis-ease with last week's court hearing was the danger of ending up with tightly specified doctrines that paint us into corners. I think that would be a shame. Long may our divisions lead us into conversation rather than divorce!
Pax, Brian

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian,
One point about painted corners is whether they are part of a square we have attempted to make from a circle which, despite our best efforts, cannot be squared!

In part the perfect storm image concerns whether we are going to force people to agree to the disagreeable.

Dialogue and not tribunals is going to be important.

Bryden Black said...

Peter; this storm has been brewing for a while, as we all well know. What is not so well known are its real dynamics. My dropbox link in an earlier post to an article published in Aussie a while back suggests some of these dynamics.

This link below now nails a key outcome of that picture I painted:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

While this directs bloggers to an article as well, this has now been revised slightly and published as a book last year, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. The book version is more elegant and directed to the general public, with suitable examples and a lighter touch. For all that, the essence of the argument remains the same. Tolle lege!

Brian Dawson said...

A couldn't agree more!
An important point here I believe is whether we have to reach common agreement before anything changes. This call for consensus before movement is reasonably new I believe, and not altogether helpful. For myself, I can see a need to allow some to move slower than others, and possibly not at all. If that means none of us can move though, then I have a problem, and I think a large downpour becomes inevitable.

Bryden Black said...

You make good and relevant points, Brian and Peter.

Using the language, I only think we need to be really astute regarding why the movements/changes, whence and whither these movements/changes, especially their well-springs, and so whether lastly they actually accord with Scripture, Tradition and reason. For how might any such movements ‘sit’ with the Church catholic? As we seek to dialogue regarding these “circles and/or squares”, such factors surely are relevant.

Nor are we the only ones who have tried to engage with such matters. My own resources from the time Rowan Williams called his ad hoc Primates Meeting October 2003 to the present constitutes some 160 MB, plus 25+ hard copy texts. And of course, there’s the Report of the Anglican Communion “Bible in the Life of the Church” Project, which ran to hundreds of pages and was content to permit multiple ‘perspectives’ merely to sit side by side without ‘evaluation’; i.e. a case now of not only squares and circles, but pentagrams and octagons as well!

All in all, Brian, I am not confident of a happy resolution hereabouts. Roll on the Parousia!

Edward Prebble said...

I am in the interesting position of agreeing with both you, Peter, and Brian. We need to have clear policies on sexual discipline, and we need bishops who are willing to enforce them. But our consensus on what constitutes "chaste" living is breaking down, and somehow we need ways of re-establishing a new understanding, or perhaps a series of understandings.

A comment on consistency. During my recent three years at St John's College, I met and worked with perhaps half a dozen students who were single as they began college, and became married during, or soon after their studies. So these people were not celilbate, in the strict sense of the word; ie they had made no commitment to a celibate life. I do not know if each of these students was a sexual virgin until the night of their wedding, but somehow I doubt it.

I wonder if their Bishop(s) asked any of them about the current status of their sexual relationship with their respective girl/boyfriends. Again, I rather doubt it.

Part of the double standard Brian and others have alluded to is that anyone who identifies themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual will certainly be asked those questions.

Is there any ability for a gay person to be single for the time being until the right person comes along? That sort of status is assumed of the heterosexual students I mention above. The problem is, of course, that if a gay person does find a prospective partner, s/he does not have a church-sanctioned means of recognising that change of status. It certainly sounds like a double standard to me, unless, as I said in another thread, you believe that any same-sex sexual activity is inherently sinful, in which case there is no problem.

Father Ron Smith said...

Having, once again, read the excellent paper given by our Bishop Victoria (Christchurch) to the recent ACANZP Hui - on Marriage - and being in conversation with a retired bishop and other retired clergy; we have found a measure of egreement on 2 facts:

1. The Church in the past has cssutained a high degree of hyocprisy on the issue of Gay Clergy.

2. There are marriages outside of the Church that can be held up as more faithful than some marriages which have taken place without the benefit of Church particpation. (I have mentioned one such in my own family - above).

In the N.T.; of marrage itself, Saint Paul does not specifically advocate it. He believes that it is better not to marry. The proviso he makes about marriage is that "It is better to marry than burn". Now he did NOT state that marriage was only for heterosexuals. but surely he might give the same advice to anyone contemplating marriage today - whether gay or straight.

As Bishop Victoria has clearly stated; there are other forms of marriage predicated in the Bible, but none more seriously than "The Marriage Feast of the Lamb" - betwixt Christ and his people. Now that is the be-all and end-ll of marriage - relationship to God - even before our relationships to one another.

There has always seemed something selfish about conservative straight people; forbidding gay people the joys of sex, while arrogating that joy to themselves. And make no mistake - it isn't always about producing children - not even in the Bible! Read 'The Song of Songs'

Father Ron Smith said...

"Sexual permissiveness has any number of justifications. The most recent being the notion of extramarital sex being an example of a committed covenantal relationship that is equally blessed when compared to a Christian marriage"

-Pewster underground -

Do you think, Pewster, that God is limited to the Church to dispense God's Blessing? That would prove to be a particularly parsimonious and limiting view of God's beneficence. I suspect that sort of idea is what is generating so much fuss over the fact that some of God's children find so little loving acceptance in the Church that they opt our of it.

"here charity and Love are - there is God" - Sadly, it is not always found within the hearts of Church people. But God is not mocked!

Father Ron Smith said...

" I am not confident of a happy resolution hereabouts. Roll on the Parousia!"

I seem to remember another movement like this ended in tragedy for all concerned.

Is it not better to await God's Good Time - rather than wishing for our own ends? After all, some of us could find ourselves on the back foot - nowhere near ready!

carl jacobs said...

There is no possibility of accommodation on homosexuality within a single organization. You can't have one half the church electing homosexual bishops while the other half declares homosexuality a grave sin. The theology and practice of the church must be consistent on this issue. If you declare it good and holy in one place, you are committing the church to declare it good and holy in all places. Something cannot be both sin and not sin at the same time.

Neither can you formally approve of homosexuality while allowing for private dissent. That dissent will of necessity have no formal place in the church. It will be denied in both teaching and practice. People who consider homosexuality sinful will be told in every possible way that they are wrong. Even so, they will not accept this judgment and will in turn condemn the church itself as morally compromised. They will leave as a result.

Neither can you subsume the entire problem into 'dialogue.' One side sees dialogue as a pedagogical tool to move the opposition into at least a position of tolerance if not support. The other side sees dialogue as nothing but tacit legitimization of a position that has no Scriptural warrant. It sees nothing to discuss because the issue is already settled. There is no common basis upon which dialogue may occur. That is why 'dialogue' has never been able to solve this problem. It serves only to sharpen the differences until one side leaves. The resulting church becomes homogeneous on the issue, and the conflict disappears.

The problem is not a collapsing consensus regarding the definition of 'chaste' but a collapsing consensus about the authority by which the definition of 'chaste' may be fixed. When a common vision of authority no longer exists, then the organization cannot hold together.

carl

Bryden Black said...

I’m sorry Ron, but this comment is too cryptic for me to get!

As for +VM’s talk to the latest Akl Hui: perhaps you might like to try this rejoinder -

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/40623476/Some%20theses.pdf

Nor do I cover everything therein. For example, good Christian missiology has always accepted natural law’s marital customs in the first place, both re alien cultures and those more ‘at home’. Yet subsequent catechesis has also directed Christians towards marriage as being between one man and one woman in the fulness of time/down the generations.

Mention of natural law prompts again that delightful article from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy I cited in my earlier comment above with its public link. Their reasoned argument is particularly trenchant, and needs to be seriously factored into any deliberations and conclusions. So; I seriously think you might try to take them on board, for they address many of your points made here - and of course, far more ably than I! Enjoy your homework!

Peter Carrell said...

That is well written, Carl. thank you. You are characterising elements in the brewing storm with foresight from your faraway place!

Anonymous said...

Bryden, thanks for your 'Theses' which I read with interest and profit. You could push the argument on imago Dei further with an exploration of what it means to be authentically male and female - something now lost in modern confusion and 'reproduction technologies' which obviate the need to have the proper parts! To sum up the modern outlook (one widely if not explicitly shared by Tec and its acolytes in NZ): 'Darwin, Kinsey and IVF overthrow Bronze Age Mythology!' I loved the line about the 'bricolage of postmodern plasticity' and may steal that.
Do you have a link to the Harvard Journal article?
I don't know what Victoria Matthew had to say on marriage (or how much she understands metaphor or ancient literature, let alone biblical hermeneutics), but I hope she came out in favour of biblical polygamy! :)
Martin

Andrew White said...

"marriage is (not) only for heterosexuals".

The very terminology seems to be missing the point. From a biblical standpoint, "heterosexual" and "homosexual" work OK as verbs, and yet to use them as nouns introduces categories that the Scriptures don't overly care about.

Scripture doesn't bless and affirm heterosexuality, it blesses and affirms marriage, and sex therein and only therein. Yes, biblical marriage is heterosexual, but take away the marriage and heterosexuality is regarded as another in a long list of sexual rebellions against God.

We need to be much clearer on this. Yes, there is a distinction between extra-marital sex that could be brought within marriage (between one unmarried man and one unmarried woman who are of an appropriate age and not closely related), but this distinction is "regenerable" not "admirable".

The harder question is how to relate to a sexually corrupt society. Even beyond God's own testimony, the last 50 or so years have provided plenty of evidence for the destructive effect of "free-er" sexuality on society. Thus, out of concern for society, we have an incentive to lobby for families based on Biblical models. And yet, true transformation comes through reconciliation to God, not the imposition of moral lifestyle - at what point do we say "Go shoot yourselves in the [crotch] foot if you want - we'll seek righteousness and be waiting to show the way back when society collapses around you."?

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments to date. The next 36 hours may be tricky re posting further comments. Be patient ... :)

Bryden Black said...

“The problem is not a collapsing consensus regarding the definition of 'chaste' but a collapsing consensus about the authority by which the definition of 'chaste' may be fixed. When a common vision of authority no longer exists, then the organization cannot hold together.” - carl

“I have myself however become also convinced that the issues surrounding the blessing of same-sex relationships and/or the ordination of people in these relationships are but the presenting symptoms of a deeper, more serious matter. In my resource for the General Synod of 2010, which I entitled, Why the Anglican Communion Covenant matters, I said this:

But such events and such phenomena as Bishop Robinson’s consecration are furthermore symptomatic of a deeper concern. And it is this concern which triggers directly any conversation on such a thing as the Anglican Communion Covenant. For what is really at stake here is the issue of authority - and beyond that, the different forms of supposed legitimacy substantiating differing understandings and practices of authority itself.”

This formed part of the introduction to my presentation to the Ma Whea? Commission.

Taking these two statements together, one can see why I said earlier, “I am not confident of a happy resolution hereabouts”.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Martin; and your magpie behaviour is welcome!

Herewith: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

While this directs one to the Harvard article, it has now been revised slightly and published as a book last year, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Enjoy!

Father Ron Smith said...

" If you declare it good and holy in one place, you are committing the church to declare it good and holy in all places. Something cannot be both sin and not sin at the same time."

- carl jacobs -

I'm afraid that our host, Peter's, acclamation of your postings, so far, carl, does not really move me from my thesis that you seem intent on separating out parts of the Church on the bases of gender and sexuality - in a way that might not find favour with many professional theologians in today's world.

The fact that The Church is already divided into fissiparous sections, is proof that there can be vastly different understandings of God's connectivity with God's world than can be interpreted by a single vision. The Scriptures are not a single vision. They are the product of many individual understandings of God's dealings with humanity, at different times, in different places and with different peoples. Synthesis of these situations is an ongoing basis of study - as, indeed, is its application to the world of today. God's Word has already become flesh, and lives among us! Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf. We live now by grace, and not by your requirements of what you may perceive to be necessary in order to please God.

'Semper Reformanda' - Pope John XXIII's impetus for Vatican II - has been largely abandoned by current Roman Catholicisim. I suggest it has never been really embraced by some institutional Protestants.

Saul was asked by Jesus: "Why do you kick against the goad?". I see many people in the Church today who are afraid of changes to their comfortable enclosed world of set values which ignore the real needs of the still evolving world of human nature. There should be no fear of change. Rather excitement at the thought of God being in charge, despite our human failings. We need more concentration on the goodness of God, and less on the failings of God's human children.

To other detractors of the Marriage paper delivered by Bishop Victoria Matthews at the recent theological Hui of ACANZP; I would say that her theological acumen would at least measure up to that of any male in our Church of today. It is perhaps what she has to say that does not fit in with the ideas of some people, and she is not appreciated on that account. Also, she probably has a better (experiential) understanding of what it means to be celibate and unmarried.

Christ IS Risen, Alleluia!
He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Peter Carrell said...

I get your point, Ron, that there is diversity of understanding within Christianity. There is a degree of it in Anglicanism too. But Anglicanism has limits: we struggle, for instance, to accept that infants can be baptised as one view and they cannot be baptised as another. It is simpler in the Anglican church if we all hold the one view on that.

I wonder if we can be a church which both declares same sex sexual relationships to be sinful and declares them to be holy.

hogsters said...

Re Ron's "

I'm afraid that our host, Peter's, acclamation of your postings, so far, carl, does not really move me from my thesis that you seem intent on separating out parts of the Church on the bases of gender and sexuality - in a way that might not find favour with many professional theologians in today's world".

Ahhh the old "professional theologen" card.

One of the problems for us ordinary folk in the pews is when the "professionals" deny things that are tantamount to denning a faith in Christ, that is Christ as Lord Christ as the crucified and risen one etc etc...

When there may well be a rank of "professional theologens" who's next project might be to become church historians so they can chronicle how exactly some sections of the church fizzeled out and died.

So tragic that faithful pew sitters get caught up in the fallout with the corresponding discouragement and disillusionment that so often follows these debates.

Thank the Lord for the fact he said "I will build my church and the very gates of hell will not prevail against it" .

Theres a good bit of theology to unpack.


Blessings




carl jacobs said...

FRS

you seem intent on separating out parts of the Church on the bases of gender and sexuality ...

I am certainly intent on driving out of the church the influence of false authorities that (among other things) presume to legitimize homosexuality.

...in a way that might not find favour with many professional theologians in today's world.

Yes, I am sure you are right. But then I don't measure a man's theology by the number of letters after his name. Otherwise I should have to credit the opinion of (say) John Dominic Crossan. Smart theologians can be rank unbelievers. The liberal churches are full of them.

The simple believer possesses more wisdom than the most educated scoffer. Why should I listen to the doubt and skepticism and angst and uncertainty of one who is wedded to the anthropomorphic religion of this post-modern age? He worships his own freedom and reduces God to a passive cheerleader for man's authentic desires. That is the end result of your much desired synthesis. I will have no part of it.

carl

Bryden Black said...

Sorry Martin; you asked for the original talk from +VM. Herewith, from our national church website:

http://www.anglicantaonga.org.nz/News/Common-Life/Biblical-models-of-marriage

IMHO: bits are right on the money; bits just plain curious; bits pretty neutral; bits non-sequiturs. All a bit like the curate’s egg. Nor am I really sure how it actually advances the discussion overall that much.

All in all, I still reckon Peter’s summation, “I wonder if we can be a church which both declares same sex sexual relationships to be sinful and declares them to be holy” - following something similar by Carl, which I too similarly take up towards the end of Some Theses via talk of “fissures” even as we apparently seek “togetherness” - is in fact the reality.

Father Ron Smith said...

" But Anglicanism has limits: we struggle, for instance, to accept that infants can be baptised as one view and they cannot be baptised as another. It is simpler in the Anglican church if we all hold the one view on that.

I wonder if we can be a church which both declares same sex sexual relationships to be sinful and declares them to be holy.
May 14, 2013 at 9:58 PM"

- Dr. Peter Carrell -

With all due respect, Peter; you are here comparing apples with string beans. Unless, of course, you are saying that infant baptism in regarded by its opposers as 'sinful'.

Agreement to live together despite differing views on Infant Baptism is hardly the same as agreeing to live together on the intrinsic value of homosexual sex. However, I do suspect that certain people might consider one of these two phenomena to be 'more sinful' than the other.

Incidentally, Infant Baptism does have its justification in our N.Z. Prayer Book preface to the Service of Baptism, which quotes teach from St. Peter on the subject. I think the non-infant-baptism party is in great danger of denying the Holy Spirit's power to administer the Sacrament of Baptism to an infant - despite that infant's capacity to respond verbally to the grace given.

I cannot, on the other hand, give such a provenance for homosexual sex - except that it is obviously natural to about 10% of humanity, and therefore deserving of being considered as part of creation.

Bryden Black said...

Please Ron: Kinsey's 10% just does not stack up to either Canadian or Danish research during the late 1990s - early 2000s, where 1.8%-2.2% were the general results.

Janice said...

homosexual sex ... is obviously natural to about 10% of humanity, and therefore deserving of being considered as part of creation.

Ron, that was Kinsey's prevalence estimate, based on no real evidence but publicised as, a kind of a political decision of gay activists in the '70s".

Population studies referred to in the linked article give an estimate of about 4% of the US population who self-identify as homosexual, bisexual or transgender. Other studies estimate 1-2% for lesbians and 4-5% for male homosexuals.

Paedophiles (or paedosexuals as some would have it) are also estimated to make up about 4-5% of the population. I suppose their sexual desires feel natural to them and they typically say they've always been sexually attracted to children but which of us would agree that paedophilia is natural and can be "considered part of creation" just because of that?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
1. In your comment above you misunderstand my point. The question at stake regarding the point is nit as you characterize it. The question is simply whether Anglicanism is able in each and every instance of difference to accommodate difference.
2. Yesterday you submitted a comment which I will not publish because it calls into question whether another commented should be welcome to comment here on the Anglican church. Let me be clear: I do not care what background a commenter is from, they are welcome here and they are welcome to instruct Anglicans in how to order our lives.

liturgy said...

Easter Season Greetings

Here are some questions I have asked in different ways previously, but since this post itself is an iteration of previous ones, might I ask variants also:

Can a conservative (marriage is lifelong) position exist with a liberal one (divorce and remarriage is possible within the explicitly biblically allowed exceptions) and those with a radical revisionist one (divorce and remarriage is possible even beyond explicitly biblically allowed exceptions)?

Can someone with such a conservative or liberal position exist in a diocese with a bishop who has had more than one spouse (1 Tim 3:2)? In a church which has such a bishop?

Can conservatives and liberals and radical revisionists be together in the same church in the case of marriage, divorce, and remarriage?

This is not about wading, once again, through the arguments for and against divorce and remarriage, it is a meta-discussion: accepting that at least the above three positions exist and whether they can be together in the same body; and if so, what is it about homosexuality that would make it different to the divorce/remarriage issue?

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

" Let me be clear: I do not care what background a commenter is from, they are welcome here and they are welcome to instruct Anglicans in how to order our lives." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

"welcome to instruct...." ?

Yes, and that is how it comes across to me - that people from other Provinces are 'allowed to instuct' other Anglicans on how to live their lives. What's the matter with them? Have they so got things together for themselves that they should be allowed to "instruct other Anglicans on how to live their lives"?

One perhaps needs to remember the injunction of Jesus - about the problem of trying to remove the speck from other peoples' eyes, while yet blindly 'logging on'

Oh, and yes! Perhaps Bryden and Janice better get together to harmonise their maths - about the number of LGBT people there are in the world - if they really want to make a case for themselves.

Peter Carrell said...

One simple point of difference, Bosco, is that when discussing marriage (and remarriage/divorce) we are discussing marriage between a man and a woman.

With homosexuality we are discussing a different kind of relationship, in which the binary complementariness of the two sexes is not being brought together into one flesh.

Peter Carrell said...

Another point of difference, Bosco, is that the problems you are raising concern divorce which is a failure of marriage, and remarriage which may be the wrong remedy for divorce. Without changing anything about marriage as an intended lifelong contract between a man and a woman, we could resolve the issue over divorce by banning it and/or refusing to conduct remarriages after divorces (other than on the narrowest of grounds). Even better (and my preferred option) we would remain married for life and so remove divorce as a fact of life.

With homosexuality we are at least talking about introducing something (blessings of same sex partnerships) which we should only do if have no thought of subsequently banning them or refusing to do them; we may even be talking about marriage between two men or two women which is substantive change to 'marriage' itself.

Anonymous said...

Peter, you have put your finger on the underlying error in Bosco's questions: a confusion of categories. All Christians agree that marriage is intended (by God) to a be a lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship between a man and woman, and disputes only arise over what kind of sinful behavior gives grounds for terminating that relationship. Broadly these are: 1. None. 2. Adultery. 3. Adultery, desertion, cruelty (cf. D. Instone-Brewer) 4. Disaffection, growing apart (the commonest scenario today in a post-Christian world).
Only traditional Roman Catholics (not even Orthodox) argue (on ontological grounds) for an impossibilist position, which at least has the merit of a certain intellectual rigor, but goes beyond what the Bible actually says and entails some exegetical gymnastics. So, like it or not, the Protestant Church does have to wrestle with the fact of divorce and to distinguish between cases; witness the recent stand-down by an Irish bishop-elect. Some cases of remarriage are indeed adultery observing the niceties.
But none of this changes the essential God-intended nature of Christian marriage. Homosexual relationships, on the other hand, are not and cannot be Christian marriages, whatever the secular state decrees.
Bosco, let's not confuse apples and oranges (yes, that is an allusion to Jean Winterton!)
Martin

liturgy said...

I will try once again, assuming that Peter and Martin are not deliberately ignoring my point that “This is not about wading, once again, through the arguments for and against divorce and remarriage, it is a meta-discussion” and making their confusion of categories by returning yet again to the discussion we have all been through and long ago got the T-shirt for.

We all know the arguments you are making about homosexuality. They have been rehearsed here endlessly.

This is asking a meta-question; one category “up”. [My question was not at all about whether there is only one fruit, but at a different category altogether – at the level of the trees; or better: examining the ground in which these trees grow]. How is it that disagreements about (something like) divorce and remarriage, which some would regard as accepting and blessing sin (adultery), and others would regard as acceptable (even in bishops), is not in any way the subject of similar rigorous debate, or as problematic, as blessing or marrying committed same-sex couples?

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
In the context of raising the question of the meta-level of the discussion, you asked, "and if so, what is it about homosexuality that would make it different to the divorce/remarriage issue?"

I suggest that the question of category is, nevertheless, a partial answer to your question.

The difference in categories explains why there is a different intensity in debate. Homosexuality re Scripture is a debate about how we move from complete prohibition to complete acceptance, blessing, even changing the definition of marriage. Remarriage after divorce re Scripture has some wriggle room and the move the church has made has been to stretch the wriggle room. It has been stretched too far.

But to answer your question from a different angle. In the anecdotal history of our church, candidates for ordination and candidates for appointment to a parish position have been asked, seemingly as a make or break issue, what their attitude to people in same sex partnerships is. I know of no similar make or break question which has been asked about the remarriage of divorcees. Do you?

Thus conservatives are particularly anxious that the way the debate on this matter proceeds keeps alive the option of conservative candidates for ordination continuing to be accepted, and conservative clergy continuing to be appointed to licensed ministry positions. Or does our church wish to move to exclude conservatives?

Anonymous said...

"How is it that disagreements about (something like) divorce and remarriage, which some would regard as accepting and blessing sin (adultery), and others would regard as acceptable (even in bishops), is not in any way the subject of similar rigorous debate, or as problematic, as blessing or marrying committed same-sex couples?"
1. Your premise is mistaken: it HAS been the subject of rigorous debate, at least earlier in the 20th century. Check your church history: Anglicans gradually loosened their discipline, allowing divorced & remarried men to be ordained (it was previously forbidden). The 'rigorists' lost this one!
2. It isn't as "problematic" because Catholic Christian history and practice has NEVER accepted the idea of "same sex marriage", whereas the idea of divorce and remarriage has always been around - and debated. Read Erasmus and Milton on the subject.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

"All Christians agree that marriage is intended (by God) to a be a lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship between a man and woman"

I'm sorry, but all Christians do not necessarily agree with your thesis: based purely on your own understanding of God's mind for people in today's world. This is just one more instance of 'sola scriptura', where any sense of evolution in human socialisation is locked into the understanding and customs of the first century A.D.

At this season of the Resurrection, when we await the coming of God's Spirit at Pentecost, we need to have hearts (and minds) open to God's ongoing revelation - a similar 'break' from past cultural theological understanding to that which occurred for the Jewish people at the Coming of Messiah.

The revelations given through the ministry and work of Jesus began a new era in the discernment of the God of Love, that had been buried in legalism, and caused ructions among the Scribes and Pharisees (Keepers of The Law) of Jesus' day. It seems that this may still be happening today, with conservatives in the Church resisting the Good News that Jesus Christ brought redemption for ALL people - not just the outwardly pious.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
If not all Christians agree (as Martin asserts and you dispute) then what percentage of Christians do "agree that marriage is intended (by God) to a be a lifelong, sexually exclusive relationship between a man and woman"?

Speaking personally, if it is not all (e.g. I accept that Christians such as yourself do not agree), then I estimate it to be 99% of all Christians.

Further, could you justify why you see this belief as a matter of 'sola scriptura'. For myself I see this as the view of Protestant (sola scriptura) churches and Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Pentecostal churches (not sola scriptura). Perhaps I am wrong?

Shawn Herles said...

One day Ron may actually deal with the arguments and points other commentators are making, rather than just repeating the ad hominem claim. that we are legalistic Pharisees.

Reformed Evangelical's are proclaiming the Gospel of God's free grace to all, and not giving certain sexual behaviours a free pass from the Gospel call to repentance and conversion to ALL, merely because they are currently fashionable liberal causes.

Shawn Herles said...

Sola Scriptura is the best defense against the idolatries of the modern world.

I like all the Sola's though.

Scripture alone reveals that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.

We are not saved by the new legalism of cultural Marxism and "LBGT" rights, but saved by a holy and loving God who does not save us to leave us in our sins, but to transform us through grace alone into children who do the will of the Father, not the will of the world, the flesh and the devil.

Anonymous said...

OK, just to be clear, I wasn't including Thomas Muenzer, Mother Ann Lee, Joseph Smith and Brother David Berg in my number .....

Martin

carl jacobs said...

Bosco

How is it that disagreements about (something like) divorce and remarriage, which some would regard as accepting and blessing sin (adultery), and others would regard as acceptable (even in bishops), is not in any way the subject of similar rigorous debate, or as problematic, as blessing or marrying committed same-sex couples?

There are several layers of answers to this question.

1. At the most basic level, the answer is "There shouldn't be any difference." Certainly for me there is no difference. I have never been a member of a church were the pastor would have maintained his position in he divorced without biblical grounds. The tolerant position on divorce that you describe is a moral compromise. There is a straight line between compromise on divorce and compromise on homosexuality. But you can't fight every battle at once. Much ground has been lost but you can't recover everything at once. You must begin where you are. You must first occupy Normandy before you can cross the Rhine.

2. This is fundamentally an argument about authority. By what authority do we order our lives? How do we know how to live? One side is appealing to Scripture as the unnormed norm. The other side is appealing to experience. Because divorce is allowable within the authority of Scripture, divorce does not present near the challenge to Scriptural authority that normalizing homosexuality presents. Since there is no way to reconcile homosexuality with Scripture, the normalization of homosexaulity represents a complete negation of Scriptural authority. Experience is placed above Scripture as a norming authority. That is the source of the severity of the conflict.

3. Homosexuality is objectively speaking a much more severe sin. For the sake of homosexuality, Sodom was destroyed without mercy. (And, no, it wasn't about 'hospitality.') It was one of the sins for which Canaan was judged, and it is specifically held out as a physical representation of man's idolatry. Just as man should know to worship his Creator, man should also know the natural function of man and woman. Homosexuality is unnatural to man in the same way that idolatry is unnatural. It fundamentally violates man's created purpose.

It is cowardly and hypocritical to shy away from condemning divorce simply because it is so widespread. Yes, it would offend many people, and might result in substantial cost. Tough. The easy cohabitation with divorce is a moral failing that should and must be corrected. But that does not make divorce an equivalent case with homosexuality. It manifestly is not.

carl

liturgy said...

Thank you, Carl, for, in your different levels, acknowledging the one at which I was thinking. At that level, it seems to me, you and I agree. So thank you again for at least being consistent and challenging those who dependably speak up about one but are silent on the far more prevalent other. And for having the integrity of saying that your intention in occupying Normandy is to cross the Rhine – for those who are seeking to hold what they call the biblical line on homosexuality, the next logical step with integrity, as you indicate, is to fight for the return to that line on divorce. What little we hear of that, however. We hear only of Normandy. And little to nothing of the Rhine.

In reply to other comments, for the vast majority of the time of Anglicanism in New Zealand the formal, official position affirmed “our Lord’s principle and standard of Marriage a life-long and indissoluble union”.

I must have been sick for the church history classes which described the intense debates, commissions, huis, taking bishops to court, church splits, refusal to turn up to international bishops’ and archbishops’ meetings, refusal to participate together at communion, etc. that resulted from the move away from that teaching to a church which holds together those who follow Carl’s approach and those who follow Martin’s, those who see Anglican practice as blessing adultery and those who marry someone for his seventh time (all previous partners still living).

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
It is no part of my case here to also argue in defense of bishops who have not turned up to conferences or when turning up have withdrawn from communion with other bishops; nor is it part of my case to defend and support those parts of our church which have promulgated commissions etc. (Why have "they" done that?) Nor do I envisage taking bishops to court over these matters.

Thus I find myself wondering if you are creating a straw man to argue against. That straw man exists in some parts of Anglican blogland. But not here.

Nevertheless I accept that there remain points of vulnerability in my situation and the point on which your argument is pointiest concerns the dissolution of marriage.

However I would like someone to answer the question I raise (it does not have to be you): are we a church which intends to remain inclusive of conservatives? (Whether those conservatives refuse to remarry divorced persons-and-persons in a same sex partnership or conservatives who will undertake the former but not the latter).

I think it worth fighting for true inclusivity in our church.

liturgy said...

I think you are seeing a straw man straw man, Peter. I wasn’t at all making the point you suggest.

My point was that the debate in the church about remarriage of divorcees was (and is) conducted significantly differently to the debate around homosexuality.

From the result of the former, I see no basis for your fears for the latter.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
If that is your point then I am clearer about it, now. Thank you!

I would be most satisfied if the outcome of present discussions and debates is a settled and peaceful church without breakage, division or schism.

It could be that I am unnecessarily fearful that it will not be so. It could be that I am necessarily (on the basis of what I hear) realistic about the possibility that it will not be so.

No one here, by the way, has remarked on whether my concerns about the future exclusion of conservatives are unnecessarily fearful.

carl jacobs said...

Bosco

From the result of the former, I see no basis for your fears for the latter.

Empirical data would suggest otherwise. There is no example of the two sides co-existing harmoniously within one church. It becomes the triggering event of dissolution, and for the reason I listed above - normalizing homosexuality unambiguously requires a re-casting of the nature, authority, and purpose of Scripture. There is no way to normalize homosexuality and still keep Scripture as Norma Normans. That is the irreconcilable point of contention. That is the essential doctrine that is being defended.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"No one here, by the way, has remarked on whether my concerns about the future exclusion of conservatives are unnecessarily fearful." - Peter -

Peter, I suppose your fears could well be answered by some assurance that there may still be official Scribes and Pharisees in Judaism. I hope that helps you contain your fears about S.S conservatives being allowed to remain in God's Church.

I suppose we might all wish that the Church could become sinless, but we know, by experience, that this will never be likely. Our only hope is to be allowed to share in the sinlessness of Jesus Christ, as exemplified in the Eucharistic Liturgy:

"Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the Feast - Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia!"

Father Ron Smith said...

There is also, in the Christian context, NO WAY to normalise injustice: "Vengeance is mine - I will repay", says The Lord

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
(1) I am completely mystified by what you are saying, not least because at no point did my question touch on whether we will ever be a church without sin.
(2) I would hope that nothing ad hominem is implied by the use of the phrase "official Scribes and Pharisees". If there is an ad hominem aspect then I am afraid I am inclined to be fearful that my conservative Anglican friends will be excluded!

carl jacobs said...

FRS

There is also, in the Christian context, NO WAY to normalise injustice

It is not unjust to condemn an illicit desire or the actions that proceed therefrom. If you think homosexual desire is not illicit, then I suggest you cite an authority to establish this assertion. Please understand that your subjective spiritual navel-gazing doesn't count as an authority. You can't establish anything of yourself. The authenticity of the desire doesn't count as an authority. We all have authentic but immoral desires. A bunch of post-modern scientists who observe the authenticity of the desire and subsequently declare it 'natural' doesn't count as an authority. You can't bootstrap a claim of nature from the observed presence of desire, and there is no other observable but desire. Besides which, the scientific process cannot investigate the concepts of 'good & evil.'

So what is the legitimate authority behind your claim? I have asked you this question ... what ... a 1000 times? And you have ducked it .. oh .. a 1000 times.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

" Please understand that your subjective spiritual navel-gazing doesn't count as an authority."
- C.J. -

I seem to remember an old adage about pot & kettle, here.

My authority for thinking that same-sex loving may be acceptable to God stems from the fact that, in every act of loving, there is something of God. Hatred of other people, on the other hand is absent of God.

Jesus said: "They will know you're my disciples by your LOVE" - not by your subjective judgement!

What you don't seem to get into your noddle, carl, is that even you are a sinner! Yes, frightful isn't it! But the truth! And while you are a sinner, God does not give you licence to judge other people's monogamous, loving relationships.

Even Jesus once said, in answer to someone who called Him "God Master" - "Who are you calling good, there is One Alone who is good"

I'm also mindful of the Pharisee and the Publican. Jesus soon sorted that one out.

A person's talent for condemnation will do them no good in the long run. If Christians could only fast from it for a while, they might find life more pleasant for themselves - and certainly less stressful.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron (5.44 pm)
Are you saying that John the Baptist lost his head for nothing?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron (5.44 pm)
Two further thoughts.
(1) I do not accept that calling into question the validity of a relationship is a matter of condemnation or of demonstrating one's moral superiority. Please watch your words on that one. People should be able to comment about the ethical issues relationships involve without invocation of (e.g.) the Publican and the Pharisee.
(2) I find your 'love' ethic quite unsatisfactory. "in every act of loving, there is something of God."Yeah, right! When I love a woman other than my wife "there is something of God"!? When I love one of my children more than another "there is something of God"!? When I love the church and my ministry in it with consequential neglect of family "there is something of God"!?

So, on this matter, I stand with Carl and ask for a substantive authority for declaring that what the Bible prohibits is no longer prohibited. Your love ethic is insufficient for that task.
(3) It is reasonable, is it not, for conservatives to ask those pressing for change in our church's polity for the basis for the change?

Father Ron Smith said...

I think there is a place here for subjective experience - especially where the love of God is concerned. I guess one has to actually have experienced it to feel it for others.

Sometimes when the Church seems incapable of loving, the experience of God's love can be absolutely overwhelming.

Of course, this experience may be thought to be purely subjective - except to the person concerned - but is that not where 'the rubber hits the road'? God, thankfully, is not totally dependent on the Church to transmit God's unconditional love. The Church, at it's very best, can be a vehicle of that love, if it tries hard enough. But, sadly, it so often fails.

Think of the Franciscan Hymn, with all it's special attributes:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, show faith; where despair, bring hope; where there is darkness, shed light; where there is sadness, joy!

Not a bad outlook for a Christian!
Deo gratias!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Yes there is a place for our subjective human experiences of love to contribute to our understanding of God's love.

I think the difference between us concerns the role of objective norms/rules which govern the working out of that experience. John the Baptist drew attention to that objectivity when he challenged Herod. We do not find that Jesus disputes his cousin's invocation of objectivity!

carl jacobs said...

FRS

The difference between you and I is that while I condemn behavior, you condemn me. This actually doesn't bother me because your posts serve so clearly to illustrate the difference.

What you don't seem to get into your noddle, carl, is that even you are a sinner! Yes, frightful isn't it! But the truth!

Umm .. you see I am a Calvinist. the whole of my anthopology is built upon the reality of sin. You have made a judgment from ignorance. Trust me on this. You really don't have any idea just how ignorant that assertion is. And you have made this assertion without any evidence at all.

I would point out btw that the state of "sinner" presupposes the existence of something called 'sin.' It means that some behavior is evil and can properly be condemned. So your own argument contradicts the charge you have made against me. You can't call me self-righteous for calling a specific behavior sinful when you have admitted that some behaviors are sinful.

And while you are a sinner, God does not give you licence to judge other people's monogamous, loving relationships.

And who levied the criteria of 'monogamous?' Who are you to condemn other people's polyamorous relationships? Who levied the
criteria of 'loving?' Who are you to condemn other people's sexual encounters absent relationship? Who are you to condemn the father who sleeps with his consenting adult daughter? Who are you to condem the man who leaves his wife for a younger woman? I assume you would condemn those things. Right?

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

"Umm .. you see I am a Calvinist. the whole of my anthopology (sic)is built upon the reality of sin. You have made a judgment (sic) from ignorance. Trust me on this. You really don't have any idea just how ignorant that assertion is. And you have made this assertion without any evidence at all." - carl -

I would have thought that you, as a self-confessed Calvinist, would have understood all too well your own part in the common sinful environment of all humanity? Or do you think that Calvinists, by your own definition are not sinners?

Your arguments, here, I find to be circumlocutory, and not helpful in the ongoing conversation.

carl jacobs said...

FRS

Your arguments, here, I find to be circumlocutory, and not helpful in the ongoing conversation.

'Not helpful', huh? Yeh. If I had tangled up my arguments into such an inconsistent contradictory mess, I might try to hide behind that fig leaf as well.

carl

Andrew White said...

I consider myself to be a common sinner, steeped in sin and, in this, like to all other men. And this is why I cling to the authority of the Scriptures, for these alone I trust to be unclouded by human sin.

For my thinking is clouded by sin, tainted by the desire to justify my own evil before myself and others and hide it from holy God. And the Scriptures declare me a common sinner, so when I look at the proclamations of others I consider that they are under the same cloud as I, and when they urge me to distrust Scripture, as I am wont to do, I instead must say "No", and return to cling to the revealed truth instead.

We are alike, you and I, brothers in sin. Let us be brothers in redemption also and cling to the Scriptures, to the revealed truth of Almighty God who forgives and renews.