Saturday, June 8, 2013

Submissive Marriage

+Kelvin Wright, Bishop of Dunedin, has published a report on a Marriage Hui held there recently. I have now had three reports of the event, none quite agreeing with the other. But then the Dunedin Diocese claims some street cred  'diversity'. One example being their diocesan submission to the Ma Whea Commission - though oddly +Kelvin's post heading is 'My submission ...'. Still, L'etat est moi and all that.

I think the submission makes a good point: diversity can hold together in one group. There is also a nice subsidiary point about leadership :)

Reading Available Light prompts me to link to the Latimer Fellowship submission (co-signed by me as a v-p), and to put up my own submission to Ma Whea:

"A Submission to the Ma Whea Commission, 31 May 2013

From: Rev Dr Peter Carrell. This submission is in a personal capacity as a priest of ACANZP. For the sake of transparency about context I am currently: Director of Education in the Diocese of Christchurch, Director of Theology House, Christchurch, [contact address] , as a stipended role in the church; a Vice-President of the Latimer Fellowship as a voluntary role; and a regular blogger on Anglican Down Under.

I submit with specific reference to the following term of reference of the Commission:
A summary of the biblical and theological work done by our Church on the issues surrounding Christian ethics, human sexuality and the blessing and ordination of people in same sex relationships, including missiological, doctrinal, canonical, cultural and pastoral issues;

Dear Commission,

I wish to make an observation, doing so because, in my experience, this observation is generally not made.

Preamble: Our church is considering formally making change to aspects of its life otherwise spoken to by liturgy and/or canon, that is, to the ‘status’ of same sex partnerships, with specific reference to blessing of relationship and to acceptance of partnered gay persons for ordained service.

Such change would involve the church making an authorization and raises the question of the authority of the church as an authorizing agent on behalf of God. Do we have the authority to, say, approve the divine blessing of same sex relationships or to change the definition of marriage from a man and a woman to any two people?

My observation: Many questions are raised about what Scripture and tradition says about human sexuality. A question is often raised about the relevance of a law in Leviticus to life today. Or a question is raised about whether the silence of Jesus on homosexuality is a sign of divine tolerance for same sex relationships. Answers to such questions may be given (e.g. many laws in Leviticus continue to be relevant to life today; Jesus was not actually silent about homosexuality because he fulfilled the law of Moses). But these counter-responses are then argued against.

The end result of such questioning and debate needs careful assessment. Let us say we doubt the relevance of Scripture and tradition to a changing world. What does that amount to?

I suggest that it only amounts to the existence of doubt about relevance. But in some minds it appears to amount to sufficient grounds for the authorization of change by the church.

This is an unfortunate assessment as it could mean the church arrives at a position where it makes a false promise to its members. The false promise being that it has the authority to perform certain blessings when it has no basis for making the claim. To doubt the relevance of divine prohibition of same sex partnerships is not equivalent to confidence that the opposite is so.

I thank the Commission for considering this. I do not feel a need to explain myself verbally."


Janice said...

Hi Peter,

You wrote, "Such change would involve the church making an authorization and raises the question of the authority of the church as an authorizing agent on behalf of God."

Have you heard of the work of Jonathan Haidt and others on moral foundations? Originally they said there were 5. It seems they now recognise 6:
1) Care/harm: ...
2) Fairness/cheating: ...
3) Liberty/oppression: ...
4) Loyalty/betrayal: ...
5) Authority/subversion: ...
6) Sanctity/degradation: ...

They say that much of their, present research involves applying the theory to political "cultures" such as those of liberals and conservatives ... [and] that liberals try to create a morality relying primarily on the Care/harm foundation, with additional support from the Fairness/cheating and Liberty/oppression foundations [but] [c]onservatives, especially religious conservatives, use all six foundations, including Loyatly[sic]/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation.

You can watch a 2008 TED talk by Haidt on this issue here.

Conservatives are always going to have trouble with liberals when it comes to recognising and accepting where the authority of the church lies because respect for authority and tradition is really not on their moral map. They are far more interested in personal autonomy and "freedom to choose" than they are with community and what promotes social well-being. They believe that, people embrace conservatism in part "because it serves to reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty; to avoid change, disruption, and ambiguity, and to explain, order, and justify inequality among groups and individuals". ... This view of conservatives is so widespread among justice researchers that it sometimes leads to open expressions of self-righteousness and contempt. (From a 2007 paper by Haidt and Graham downloadable here.)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice,
No, I hadn't heard of that theory/research.
Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

The submission from Dunedin is disturbing in at least three ways:
1. No recognition of the catholicity of the Church in such a central area of theological ethics; just local, Protestant individualism(s).
2. No recognition of the fact that Dunedin diocese has been in serious decline for over 20 years, so that its actual viability as a diocese is in question. How has this happened? What spiritual conclusions might one draw from this?
3. No explanation of how Dunedin diocese came to have a number of partnered homosexual clergy and other leaders (in defiance of church law and practice) who are clearly among those leading the push for change. In other words, 'facts on the ground'.


Anonymous said...

From the Dunedin diocese submission:

"An extreme conservative view would be that homosexual relationships are inherently sinful and that to countenance them is to severely compromise the church’s moral integrity..."

'extreme conservative'??? Where and why does he come up with this pejorative label? This is what Christian churches have always believed and taught throughout history.

".... but for many of our people holding a more orthodox position, it is a little more complex than that."

- 'more orthodox'??? What does that mean? Who has decided what counts as 'more orthodox'? The antonym of 'conservative' isn't 'orthodox', it's 'liberal'. The Dunedin submission is a very unsatisfactory piece of work.


carl jacobs said...

Two things.

1. Trying to maintain 'unity in diversity' means 'legitimizing homosexuality without consequence.' The organization must approve of the behavior because there can be no diversity unless it does so. It must by definition allow for homosexual leadership and official approval of homosexual relationships. So how then is disapproval instantiated in the organization? Will there be a separate House of Bishops for those who disapprove? How can parishes that disapprove credibly preach against homosexuality when the national organization officially approves of it? Can they accept the leadership of someone whom the declare unfit to occupy the office? There are no answers to these questions. Eventually (as always happens) the "unity in diversity" will give way to prescription and coercion in the name of "justice."

2. It is the moral responsibility of conservatives to impose those consequences on the church organization should it make such a decision. To find some way to cohabit with willful rebellion is the absolute wrong decision. This begins with rejecting the leadership of the organization. It extends to a denial of funds. It could ultimately lead to separation. What it cannot be is "Let's find some way to live with our differences." This argument is rooted in fundamental and essential principles. To look for some way to cohabit with it is to surrender dominance to those enemy principles. (And, yes, I chose the word 'enemy' deliberately.) The objective must rather be to differentiate and defeat them - one way or another.


Anonymous said...

"Eventually (as always happens) the "unity in diversity" will give way to prescription and coercion in the name of "justice.""

Precisely because the (secular) liberal understanding of "justice" isn't rooted in any concept of natural law that gives context and content to that word. This is the helpful reminder from Janice's post, that the regnant watchwords of liberalism ('care', 'justice') are quite inadequate in themselves as a basis for social living, let alone for describing the Christian ethic.
The Diocese of Dunedin has only half the members it had a generation ago, and those that remain are rather older than the population at large. Embracing a live & let live liberalism hasn't invigorated the church, and drifting into the trajectory that caused an enormous schism in Tec and the departure of many evangelicals from the ACoC will not help either. Only the lawyers have benefited from this.
If all this leads to congregations losing their properties, that will only intensify the problems. Better to arrange an amicable division of property now instead of later.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
You feel strongly about the wrongness and inadequacy of the Dunedin submission. But to make accusation that (e.g.) the submission includes lies and falsehoods is not something I should be publishing here in the raw form you submitted as a comment, nor your strong claims about the quality of bishops in our church (those words being my diplomatic version of yours). I am sure neither you nor I want to waste valuable time in some kind of court/tribunal/reconcilation process re words easily said and less easily accounted for.

If you have specific instances of false claims in something published then please offer supporting citation/references etc.

In respect of challenging a bishop as to the way they are conducting their office, please contact the bishop directly.

Bryden Black said...

This is insightful and helpful stuff Janice; thank you!

I’d want to go further as well, and point out there are at least two competing notions of ‘freedom’ at work among us westerners. For liberals ‘freedom’ is mostly my individual possession, the exercise of my choice. A richer notion views freedom to be a collective, social, relational phenomenon that describes a particular kind of set of relationships, whereby I grant you your freedom just as you grant me mine, since Another grants us both a share in His Freedom (of grace): it’s called the Imago Dei!

Creation is therefore the First Gift, and Redemption the Second; and trying to found freedom autonomously is bound to fail. Yet liberal humanists simply cannot be brought to acknowledge this basic aporia!

All in all, western Christians paradoxically have now their own choice to make: to fall into line with the notion of ‘autonomy’, or allow themselves to become suitably incorporated into the Body of Christ. “Choose this day ...!” or even Gal 5:1.

Anonymous said...

Yea, we should defInatly wait till there is no chance of being inconvenienced or dragged through the courts and persecuted by the false teachers and wloves in sheeps clothing wearing Bishops hats.

This could get in the way of important Anglican rituals, like afternoon tea and wiine biscuit.

Are there any real men left in the Anglican church?

Anonymous said...

By the war, talking directly to the footsoldiers of the Anti-Christ is pointless.

Anonymous said...

Exactly right Bryden, except the choice is more stark than that.

We must choose now, loyalty to Christ the King, or loyalty to the spirit of the anti-Christ.

And Jesus was clear, moderation is simpky choosing evil.

"Let your yes be yes, and tour no be no. Everything else is from the evil one."

Moderation and centrism is just choosing evil.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
There are plenty of men left in the Anglican church. Some of us are 'real'. By 'real' we could include 'realistic', that is men who think that providing for their families is more important than spending money on lawyers; and spending time with their families is more important than spending time in court.

I am happy to go to court if (a) the secret police put me on trial; (b) the church accuses me of heresy. I am not keen to go to court because of overstepping the mark in respect of language used to describe fellow human beings.