Thursday, May 16, 2013

Brewing the Perfect Storm in our Church (2)

The ideal Anglican church is one in which everyone agrees about everything. For those who think such a church would be terrible, let me point out a resounding attractive feature of it: no committees would be required. :)

The next best Anglican church is the one to which most Anglicans belong most of the time. That is the Anglican church in which terrible disagreements take place but we continue to exist together in a form of coalition. We are able to do this, I venture to suggest, because in this Anglican church we find we are able to pursue different visions for how the church should be, what gospel should be preached and what missional activity is consistent with that preaching.

This is and has been the life of my church, ACANZP ever since the time when Bishop Selwyn arrived and promptly forged a coalition between his high church for settlers and CMS's low church for Maori and (later) evangelical settlers. Albeit with many bits bolted on so that we could also talk of our church as a coalition of progressive liberals, moderates, and conservative evangelicals, of three tikanga, and of those desperate for the church to break out into fresh expressions and those not at all desperate about changing anything.

Coalitions generally withstand ordinary storms of controversy, as our church has done. But can we withstand a perfect storm of controversy?

The brewing storm, previously suggested here in part 1, arises from divisions among us which are not proving easy to reconcile. It is this, should some final failure to reconcile be reached, which sets this current controversy apart from previous ones.

As a church we have managed to propose and receive a new prayer book acceptable to the whole coalition, revise our 1857 constitution to form a new three tikanga coalition, and introduce the ordination of women to all three orders without significant breakage to the coalition. We have also, to pick up a pertinent example, been a coalition which has absorbed change to the way we respond to divorce and remarriage after divorce.  But this time things are not turning out so straightforwardly. We are struggling to find common ground.

When one group argues for the acceptance of gay marriage because it is just and another group argues against it because it is unsupported in Scripture, there is not just a difference in the ends of the argument but also in the means to the end!

But the perfect storm brewing is not solely because we have difficulty with arguments. Potentially we could work a lot harder on these but even if we did there are other elements in the storm. (And to those who say, "Haven't we already done a lot of work on the arguments?" I say, "Yes, we have done a lot of work, but it has not been hard work." We have not, for instance, taken a dozen of our best theologians, locked them in a room and told them to not come out until resolution of the arguments has been achieved!)

The storm is also brewing because we have division in attitudes. In my first part I noted that in our church there is a gulf between those who accept our relatively lax approach to sexual discipline and those who do not. Can we have agreement on new sexual ethics for our church if we are not agreed on taking sexual ethics seriously?

Then there is also a contribution because of differences in our understanding of authority in the life of the church. The key legal and theological phrase we are concerned with is "the right ordering of sexual relationships." Order is something which is determined by someone. If we are to determine a new "right ordering", whose orders will we follow? How will we determine whether that person/group has the authority to give the orders?

On the specific matter of homosexuality and the right ordering of sexual relationships, I suggest that we have a problem we are not facing, and that is the problem of authority. May General Synod order sexual relationships? May the bishops? Is it up to individuals? Or individual parishes or dioceses? Somehow that doesn't sound right! Does not General Synod (and all lesser bodies of the church) have to live according to the doctrine of Christ, that is, teach what Christ teaches? Thus we need to know how Christ orders sexual relationships. As many people have pointed out, on the direct matter of same sex partnerships, Christ never said anything! (If, as a church, we wish to say that we have disregarded Christ on the matter of divorce and remarriage, surely we are not to take our disobedience to Christ as a reason to make a determination about what is the 'right ordering' of same sex sexual relationships?)

In short, on what authoritative basis would we as a church institute a "right ordering" of sexual relationships different to what we have inherited from Scripture and tradition?

Part of our storm is that some of us think there is no such basis, some of us do not care whether that basis is secured or not, and some think they have found it but struggle to explain it in theological terms distinct from modern Western social democratic policy.


Eric said...

Well put. There has been lots of discussion on this topic but I haven't seen anyone identify the different layers clearly as you have here.

mike greenslade said...

And here I was thinking an ideal Anglican Church was one where we loved God and loved our neighbours, where the hungry were fed and the prisoners visited.

To characturise christian support for same sex marriage being based on justice misses the point. It is supported primarily because it is scriptural.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike
I am taking for granted that your expression of the ideal Anglican church is also true!

There are many arguments for same sex marriage and I accept that some argue as you would, on the grounds of Scripture. However my discernment of the "dominating" or "imposing" argument at work in our church is that which appeals to "justice."

Anonymous said...

From the last Hui it appeared that proponents of Same sex marriage had reached the same conclusion that most of the rest of us have - that it's extremely difficult (impossible?)to make a coherent argument for same sex marriage from Scripture. Instead the appeal was made to move the argument away from scripture which essentially means finding a different authority on which to base our decision making as a church.
However once we do that....are we really still a church?


Peter Carrell said...

In far fewer words than I have used, Ben, you have expressed the matter concisely and precisely. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

"However once we do that....are we really still a church?"

Well, "a" church, certainly - but would it be one that the Lord of the Church(es) recognises?
There were seven churches addressed in Rev 2-3, only one of which wasn't taken to task for some serious degree of compromise or disobedience in its ranks. Rev 2-3 does warn us that Christ will discipline his churches, even to the point of removing their lampstands, and those in leadership carry a fearsome responsibility before the Lord to teach and live in holiness, love and truth.
How could anyone seek to make peace with the latest exegetical abomination in preaching from Katherine Schori?

Anonymous said...

from Schori's sermon last Sunday in Curacao
"There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it. Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves.[1] But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so! The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.

An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God. The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand. This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor. This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household. It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her."

I think I need some Curacao myself now ....


Peter Carrell said...

It would be helpful, Martin, if you could support your description "exegetical abomination" with a link ...

Bryden Black said...

Fascinating! And here we have it now in black and white - well; in pixels upon a screen: Mike Greenslade’s “primarily because it is scriptural”, versus Ben’s “it’s extremely difficult (impossible?) to make a coherent argument for same sex marriage from Scripture”.

I fancy even Alasdair MacIntyre would be impressed with this example of “rival versions of moral enquiry”!

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Martin
I have found discussion of it at .

You are right that is "exegetical abomination" or, more diplomatically,"anti-exegesis."

Good grief!

Bryden Black said...

The unity/the “one” the PB seeks is of course the unity/union of neti, neti. That was her eventual answer when I posed a question to her when she was here in Chch a while back. My question too concerned the problem of opposites as does Luke’s depiction of the Python spirit versus the Name of Jesus. The really serious thing here (as well as silly eisegesis/antigesis) is therefore monism’s inclusivity of light and darkness, good and evil, as opposed to the God and Father of Jesus’ sheer Light and due Holiness, in whom there is no darkness at all (1 Jn 1:5, Jas 1:17). This is not just a perfect storm; it is diabolical con-fusion. But thanks be to God: the Book of Revelation is beautifully clear about that outcome! Kyrie eleison!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Instead the appeal was made to move the argument away from scripture which essentially means finding a different authority on which to base our decision making as a church. However once we do that....are we really still a church?" - Ben -

Well, Ben, the very same premise you make here about 'the argument' - being 'away from scripture' - has been followed on the thorny subject of divorce and re-marriage in the Church after divorce.

The Church seems to have remained together despite that fact!

And 'Anonymous Martin' - I put it to our Host - is surely, if not indulging in ad hominem, at least being deeply disrespectful to the TEC Presiding Bishop when he speaks of her as 'Schori'. Does this not require at least some sort of censure. Perhaps not,though,in this environment of disrespect to our fellow Anglicans in TEC.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Re "Schori"
1. You are correct. I missed that omission.
2. I am not going to get too fussed by fine details.
3. As Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori is in danger of bringing her church into disrepute if she is going to exegete the Scriptures like that. I think her problem as Presiding Bishop and her reputation his greater than my problem as a fallible moderator.
4. Just to be clear: I do not respect Anglican office holders solely on the basis of them holding office. Respect is earned not bestowed. There is virtually nothing that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has done during her time in office to earn my respect.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you have made your attitude to Bishop Katherine of TEC very, very clear. My assumption was correct - that on your blog, she may never be treated with the respect due one of our co-partners in the Communion. I'm sad about that, but not surprised.

"Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful with the fire of God's Love". Amen.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
She can easily win my respect: e.g. offering reasonable exegesis of Scripture!

I do not know of any Anglican folklore which says that one must respect leading bishops of co-partners in the Communion no matter what they do or say!

Bryden Black said...

Ron, you correctly seek respect to be paid to those who hold significant office in the Church of God. What troubles me though, in this particular case, of the PB of TEC, is her own disregard of the Catholic Faith, which she is supposed to represent. There is absolutely no way her ‘philosophy’ of neti, neti, which ‘philosophy’ is clearly demonstrated via her exegesis of Acts 16 in this sermon, is an expression of that Faith. In this respect, both of us need to adhere to the Faith rather than disrespectful alternatives. If we were both more consistent in this regard, then our dialogue on this site might actually achieve a degree of “edification”; it might even display a small slice of the Kingdom of God, being a fruit of the Spirit of Truth!

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden. Why not just accept the fact that you and the Presiding Bishop of TEC do not have a common view of how the Bible needs to be exegeted. That does not, though, automatically prove that she is wrong. I'm sure you are spot on about most of your learned theses - especially those you have garnered from multiple evangelical sources, but you are not 'The Oracle' There is no one individual who is 'right about everything - not even I.

The main difference between your authority and that of Bishop Katherine is that she is a Bishop in the Church, appointed by TEC General Convention, whereas you are a priest in ACANZP, with limited pastoral authority. I think a wee bit of respect is indicated towards someone with a leading role in another Province of the Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am finding your response to the egregiously wrong exegesis by the PB to be lowering my respect FOR YOU!

If you cannot tell the difference between possible variations in exegesis and a completely wrong exegesis, then it troubles me greatly.

As a matter of fact I think you can make the distinction. How about acknowledging that for once, the PB is WRONG?

mike greenslade said...

Kia ora e hoa,
If our respect for each other is based on our supposed capacity to exegete correctly, we have a real problem as a christian community. Sure, we need to critique academic exercises, but that does not equate to our value as persons. No wonder division seems inevitable or desirable when we begin to categorise each other on this type of basis.

For the record, I have have huge respect for Katharine Jefferts Schori as a person and as a leader, even if I don't agree with her every utterance.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mike
I respect you and the way you have put things re PB Jefferts Schori. Thank you.

I cannot honestly say I have huge respect for her as I believe she has mishandled a number of matters concerning Episcopalian churches.

I also read this wrong exegesis in company with many things I have read which, even if they are not wrong as such, are odd, platitudinous or barely recognisable as Christian theology.

Naturally I am not asking you to agree with me! But I hope you will understand that my evaluation of the quality of her leadership is not purely about her exegesis.

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron,

While you are correct to point out the vast differences between the OFFICES held by the PB of TEC and this mere minnow, the IDEAS and TEACHING I have witnessed both in print and personally that come from the PERSON of the PB do permit me an evaluation: many of her IDEAS and TEACHING emanate from a ‘philosophy’ that is radically at odds with the Catholic Faith. Her ‘exegesis’ - if one must call it that - of Acts 16 re the Python spirit versus the Name of Jesus is simply one of piece with that ‘philosophy’. Now; you might not be able to ‘read’ that to be the case. But IMHO that is your problem, not mine - at least, not if one has any inkling of the implications of neti, neti ... In which case, it might just be more truthful to acknowledge that in this case the PB has seriously disregarded not only basic exegesis but also essential Christian philosophy and teaching. I wish we’d only have the humility to respect the fact that any Christian leader, as a leader, and notably those in the episcopacy, should be especially accountable for their ministry of the Word.

Anonymous said...

Just noting a couple of comments recently comparing issues in the church around Same sex relationships with issues in the church around divorce. The main difference to my mind is that no one is saying that we should be celebrating divorce or that it is a good thing. Everyone would acknowledge I think that Divorce is a result of our broken human condition and that is reflected in Scripture. There is consensus in the church I think on this.

we don't have the same consensus in our church when we talk about same sex relationships despite a similar clarity in scripture on this issue unfortunately. as you have pointed out Peter it seems hard to see how we will gain consensus when some parts of the church declare such relationships as something good to be celebrated despite the witness of Scripture and other parts of the church declare them to be a reflection of our broken human nature as attested to in scripture


Bryden Black said...

Many thanks indeed Ben for your clarity. I certainly hope Bosco acknowledges your simple logic (ref. Storm pt 1). He has tried to pursue this supposed analogous argument re divorce // SS relations often however.

liturgy said...


I do not think it is pastorally appropriate for me to give individual examples of celebrations of divorce or cases where divorce is proposed as a good thing, God’s will, and the result of the couple being given God’s wisdom to divorce, but certainly the claim that “no one is saying that we should be celebrating divorce or that it is a good thing” is false. And Bryden’s seeing this as somehow a significant comment in a church that has had this liturgically celebrated for more than two decades, is surprising.

Fascinatingly, in Ben’s same comment that Bryden endorses, divorce is accepted as “a result of our broken human condition” but same-sex relationships are rejected as “a reflection of our broken human nature”.

My points, however, were being made at a different level than reopening discussion about divorce and remarriage which, Carl’s excellent points notwithstanding, I do not believe will be seriously re-examined in our church. My points were about being able to hold significantly opposing positions and practices within the same church body. Reopen the divorce discussion all you like – I think one would make more progress pushing water uphill with a rake. But its accepted status, I continue to hold, provides a paradigm which conservatives can work with in the way that Peter hopes.

Christ is risen


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Am I right in then thinking that we have a problem. On the remarriage of divorcees we have relative agreement across the spectrum of our church (no matter how wrong theologically this is, how urgently it should be readdressed, or how inconsistent it is with approaches to SSB).

What we do not have on SSB is relative agreement.

Rosemary Behan said...

Far be it for me to interrupt, but I suspect you're at cross purposes. Bosco, in his inimitable way, is suggesting that 'conservatives' have let the leadership of the church get away with soooooo much that they in effect DO disagree with, that those same conservatives who have done so, may as well find an accommodation with yet another 'new idea.

On the other hand, Peter is saying to Bosco .. that this is where SOME conservatives draw the line in the sand. They will go no further.

Of course as far as I'm concerned, that's too little, too late.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I think it is a timely interruption!
Unless Bosco disagrees with your interpretation I think it rightly assesses the situation in which there is an element of cross purposes.

liturgy said...

You are right, Peter and Rosemary, there continues to be an element of cross purpose, and so I think it is best if I walk backwards out of this conversation.

Rosemary is correct that on occasion I have highlighted that conservatives have not shown faithfulness to their conservativeness on, for example, divorce and remarriage. Sometimes because, it seems, to do so would have been inconvenient to their own conservative constituency of divorced and remarried. This is not such an occasion.

[I am, more than once, on record with my unhappiness with siloing groups, eg. “conservatives”. I am very conservative in some areas, whilst some would find me very liberal in others. Peter is conservative in some areas, but manifestly revisionist in comparison with Rosemary when it comes to ordaining women. Hence my reticence with the terms.]

Continuing that this is not such an occasion: I have not heard anyone say that our church’s practice of marrying divorcees impinges on the conservative beliefs and practices of conservatives in our church. Many would say that the church wedding of someone in their seventh marriage (all partners still alive) is blessing adultery; no clergy or parishes have left because of such an unbiblical event; no clergy or communities have sought alternative episcopal oversight in a diocese that marries someone beyond their third marriage; nor have clergy who would understand themselves to be compromised if they officiated at such a wedding been pressured against their conscience to do so.

Having made my best attempt at providing a model from that which has worked for different understandings of divorce and marriage, I quietly conclude my backing out of the room and close the door, conscious that I’ve probably increased rather than decreased misunderstanding of the point I’ve been trying to make.



Peter Carrell said...

I think you are perfectly clear, Bosco. Thank you.

It could be that the way to avoid the perfect storm is the way you chart: observing all the unbiblical practices we Anglicans do tolerate!

Rosemary Behan said...

I'm not saying you're wrong Bosco, but I will say you have not perfectly understood the position of me lets say, who has retained as far as I can I believe, all that was manifest when the Anglican church separated from the Roman Catholic, all that was held firm then, I hold firm now. However, to leave, or to seek alternative oversight, is to not consider the lay people of the church. Not just your own parishioners, but all of them. Staying in means you are still heard at Synods, people are still aware of exactly where you stand and what you stand for. Some are even grateful that you stay in and keep saying it. Those 'some' does not include the leaders of the church, who are marked in their opposition. However, as someone who trusts that the Lord will make it as clear that the time to leave has come as He did when it was time to leave St. John's, I wait. Not very happily or patiently I might add.

carl jacobs said...

Bosco's question is simply put in two parts.

1. Why do you tolerate divorce? [The answer btw is that many many people feel the Scriptural prohibitions are too severe. There has been a sort of collective silent agreement to ignore the Scripture on this subject because ... well ... we think that happiness is more important than Truth. And we justify it on 'pastoral' grounds.]

2. Why won't you tolerate homosexuality on the same basis? If we are willing to cohabitate with divorce on pastoral grounds for the sake of individual happiness, then why aren't we willing to cohabitate with homosexuality on pastoral grounds for the sake of individual happiness?

In both cases, the Scriptural injunction is clear. In the case of divorce, we tacitly ignore the Scriptural imperative. In the case of homosexuality, we build our whole case upon the Scriptural imperative. Why the difference? That is the inconsistency he is highlighting. And make no mistake. It is a glaring inconsistency. That's why Liberals constantly point to it. It's the proof that resistance isn't about Scripture, but something else. Power. 'Ick factor.' Self-interest. Something. It allows then to shift the ground of the argument away from principle toward something less noble.

I offered my own reasons why homosexuality deserves a different degree of response, and Bosco declined to address them. Otherwise I think his critique is on target. There is no principled reason to offer a different kind of response. There are of course not-so-principled reasons. First among them is that divorce is very comfortably embedded in modern church culture. Who wants to bell that cat with the significant cost and risk involved? But that is what is required. To stand on principle over homosexuality while quietly ignoring divorce is crass hypocrisy. It completely undermines our case. It's hard to explain why a divorced bishop in an objectively adulterous relationship is acceptable to the church, but a homosexual bishop is not.

Consistency. It's not just for breakfast anymore.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
You make an important case for consistency.
It is possible that there is more consistency in our church, in yours also, than meets the eye. Three quick instances.
1. There are parishes which would no more recommend a divorced person for appointment than a partnered gay minister.
2. Speaking personally, I would no more press for the removal of a bishop who divorced and remarried while holding office (as has happened in our church) than for the removal of a bishop who subsequently was discovered to be in a same sex partnership. (Reasons for not so pressing include how messy it is to remove etc). See 1 above for how I would vote in an episcopal election.
3. In general terms I think our church (indeed any church) is faced with degrees of accommodation over the circumstances of change in society. It is likely that we will accept some degree of tolerance re same sex partnerships because we have done so over divorce and remarriage, over contraception, etc. It is not so much that we are driven by zeal for consistency as we are human and live out discipleship within the reality of human conditions, which are messy, diverse, often difficult, ever changing and mutating into new challenges.
4. I believe we can consistently argue for an unchanging definition of marriage in the midst of this situation. But the argument perhaps should be the subject of a post not a comment.

Bryden Black said...

The clarity I celebrate Bosco, and which Ben has brought to this discussion, is just this. He has pointed out how the analogy you persistently seek to draw between the past emergence of divorce and remarriage in the Church on the one hand and current same-sex matters on the other is false; they are simply not commensurate. How so?

A - Divorce. Jesus makes it very plain divorce is granted due to “your hardness of heart”. [I’ll address those claims you mention re supposed divine approbation below.] The divine intention for marriage is also plain; and Jesus reiterates it by citing Genesis 1 & 2. But we all know the realities: notwithstanding the inauguration of the kingdom of God in Jesus and the gift of the Spirit to the Church, this world remains broken in via, with some marriage relationships symptomatically becoming broken also. Yet the marital intention firmly remains. The Church in the 20th C has sought to address this necessary balancing trick, pastorally and canonically, by permitting the remarriage of divorcees in certain circumstances. I grant you Bosco, I have seen these alleged “circumstances” become ever more stretched, way beyond their original intent, to the point that I for one would seek a more rigorous upholding of the conjugal marriage intent.

I use this last term, “conjugal marriage”, deliberately. It is the one chosen by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George in their article which originally appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in 2010, and which subsequently became What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, 2012). They contrast this comprehensive marital union of a man and a woman with the contemporary revisionist view of marriage. And I can quite see how those claims you mention in your first paragraph, re divorce being in some cases a ‘good thing’, fit perfectly well into this revised notion of marriage. BUT NB: it is NOT the traditional Christian view of that Estate into which the Church originally and solemnly blessed a husband and a wife! [BTW; it is this contemporary revisionist view furthermore that quite easily accommodates two people of the same sex becoming ‘married’. Girgis et al are very clear on this too.]

B - Fast forward to the present. The western churches are quite simply riven over contrasting stances re same-sex relationships. There are multiple reasons for this stand-off; and I for one think Edith Humphrey spelled it out in the briefest and best possible way ten years ago in an article Why This Issue?. For the fact is one ‘side’ sees certain sexual acts and ways of behaving to be “sinful” per se, while the other ‘side’ blesses them in quite specific ‘monogamous’ circumstances, given the supposed ‘natural’ orientation of the parties. This is not the ‘accommodation’ of remarrying divorcees - reluctantly, pastorally, compassionately (even if, as I say, contemporary practices have probably now ‘gone too far’). This is an absolute stand-off between two opposing parties, governed ultimately by two opposing anthropologies - resulting in a tragic irony becoming enacted among us, I would venture.

There may be seemingly some parallels between A & B, between the historic divorce debate and today’s wrangles. But at root these issues are just plainly incommensurate, governed by irreconcilable ‘grammars’ and world-views. That’s the clarification Ben has helped to lay on the table - at least for me!

carl jacobs said...


There are parishes which would no more recommend a divorced person for appointment than a partnered gay minister.

Those parishes don't exist in a vacuum. They exist within an authority structure. What happens when those parishes are suddenly subjected to a homosexual bishop - a bishop who manifestly does not meet the criteria for leadership specified in the pastoral Epistles? To submit to such leadership is to create scandal. Submission implicitly testifies that homosexuality is within the bounds of orthodoxy. It is not optional to reject such leadership. It is mandatory.

I would no more press for the removal of a bishop who divorced and remarried while holding office ... than for the removal of a bishop who subsequently was discovered to be in a same sex partnership.

This would be exceptionally poor judgment in my opinion for the reason I have stated above.

Reasons for not so pressing include how messy it is to remove etc.

This is not a good reason to avoid the issue. How difficult do you think it would be for me to state an issue where you would feel compelled to see the bishop removed? What you are saying is that homosexuality is not that serious of a sin. It doesn't warrant the disruption that would be necessitated by (say) an adulterous affair with a church employee or a long record of hiring prostitutes.

See 1 above for how I would vote in an episcopal election.

That is all well and good. The important question however is not how you would vote but what you would do if you lost that vote.

In general terms I think our church (indeed any church) is faced with degrees of accommodation over the circumstances of change in society.

Why? Because the general culture won't like us if we call them to account? Because it will require us to place ourselves in cultural opposition? You don't evangelize people by pandering to their sinful desires. You can't trick them through the door with a light version of Christianity, and then hit them with the bait-and-switch of strict moral requirement. If you can only keep them by moral compromise then you didn't really have them in the first place.

It is likely that we will accept some degree of tolerance re same sex partnerships ...

Again, why? What is the cost of not doing so? What is the cost of doing so? What Scriptural authority do you possess to even consider this? Now I grant that John the Baptist would have done better in the short term if he had applied some pastoral tolerance to Herod's marriage. But is that what God requires of us?

It is not so much that we are driven by zeal for consistency as we are human and live out discipleship within the reality of human conditions, which are messy, diverse, often difficult, ever changing and mutating into new challenges.

As I said earlier, you are tacitly asserting that the Scriptural standard is too harsh. You don't get to make that call. As much as you may not want to do it, you have to be willing to point your finger in someone's face and say "Life isn't about being happy. It's about faithfulness. You can't get married again. You can't have sex again. You have to live alone. That is the consequence for your decisions. The institution of marriage is more important than your happiness." And this is where people flinch, and all those 'pastoral' rationalizations start getting applied. But that is all they are - rationalizations.

I believe we can consistently argue for an unchanging definition of marriage in the midst of this situation.

I believe you are wrong. Your practical actions will undermine you doctrinal arguments. People won't listen to what you say when what you say does not align with how you act.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
It is recognised by my evangelical colleagues and myself that we need to understand that any changes approved by our church will, one day, lead to a gay bishop living openly in a same sex partnership. Thus it could be that we need to be decisive in working out a resolution before that day rather than when it comes.

Where I use 'we' above I am trying to give expression to how life is in our church (which as far as I understand, you are not part of), thus while "I" could and should do certain things; and while conservative evangelicals could and should do certain things, the "we" of our church is heading in a certain direction.

Thus it remains absolutely on the table of possibilities that in the perfect storm to come the outcome will be separation.

(This doesn't respond, I acknowledge, to every point you make above).

Father Ron Smith said...

'As I said earlier, you are tacitly asserting that the Scriptural standard is too harsh. You don't get to make that call. - carl -

As did Jesus when faced with the scriptural requirement of stoning, for the woman caught in adultery.

I'me sure glad, carl, that God has not appointed you the judge at the Last Trumpet.

Anonymous said...

However, Fr Ron, he did say to the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more!" As to the harsh attitudes to divorce and remarriage espoused by some on here, I believe the forgiveness and mercy of God applies to ALL sin confessed and absolved. Or are there gradations of God's forgiveness?


Father Ron Smith said...

Fair comment, Jimmmie (sic).

However, I should't really need to point out to you, or anyone else, that God's forgiveness is really limitless - for sins admitted and repented of. What the Church needs, at this very moment, is an up-to-date understanding of what, precisely, SIN is, and what SIN is not - in the light of modern social and scientific discovery

Jesus said this: "When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will lead you into ALL the Truth - about SIN!" - in other words, about what sin is; and what sin is not.

From Leviticus, for instance, we learned that even wearing clothes with mixed fibres was considered sin, eating the blood of animals, etc., which are not today acknowledged as sin.

In the N.T., we find that women not wearing hats in Church was a sin.

With the continuity of the Truth still being brought by the Holy Spirit into God's world, we need to be more open about the endemic problems of the traditional understandings about gender and sexuality, when modern science helps us to pick our way through the shibboleths that have been challenged in today's world, in ways that cause us to re-evaluate our attitudes towards God's gift of sexuality for ALL people - that includes people who may be different from ourselves.

The Gospel imperative moves us towards charity and love - rather than premature judgement. This was the message of Jesus himself.