Friday, November 29, 2013

The Pilling Report and my role in its compilation

In a week in which I have been pressed hard to justify my commitment to sola fide, I need all the credit in the Heavenly Bank I can gain. So naturally I am delighted that this blog has made the key contribution to the writing of the just published Pilling Report.

Who am I, so deep in debt to the Heavenly Bank, to demur?

You can find out for yourself how all the key points in the Pilling Report have been anticipated here over the years, including one made in a short post in mid 2008. No, not really.

But you really can read about the Pilling Report for yourself at Thinking Anglicans (where the 18 recommendations are set out) and at Cranmer, who has a slightly worrying sub-headline given ADU's responsibility in writing the report, "a right-veering via media through sexual polarisation." That suggests ADU is a front for the Tea Party!

The report itself is here.

Here are the eighteen recommendations [with editorial emendation for the church of these islands in places], all of which I think especially pertinent to where ACANZP is heading (as best I can tell from the NSA reports lying in front of me of high-level conversations going on in smoke filled rooms behind closed doors):

"The foundation of our report
1. We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. (Paragraphs 73 –6)
On the next steps for the [ACANZP]:
2. The subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations or a similar process to which [ACANZP] needs to commit itself at national and diocesan level. This should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. (Paragraphs 55–83, 309–19, 361–4)
3. Consultation on [whatever we decide at GS 2014] should be conducted without undue haste but with a sense of urgency, perhaps over a period of two [better, four??] years. (Paragraphs 83, 364–5)
4. [ACANZP] should address the issue of same sex relationships in close dialogue with the wider Anglican Communion and other Churches, in parallel with its own facilitated conversations and on a similar timescale. (Paragraphs 323–5, 360, 366–8)
On the teaching of the Church and the missiological challenge:
5. Homophobia – that is, hostility to homosexual people – is still as serious a matter as it was and the Church should repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and should stand firmly against it whenever and wherever it is to be found. (Paragraphs 174–92, 320–8)
6. No one should be accused of homophobia solely for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships. (Paragraphs 186–91, 327–8)
7. The Church should continue to pay close attention to the continuing, and as yet inconclusive, scientific work on same sex attraction. (Paragraphs 193–219, 329–35)
8. Since Issues in Human Sexuality was published in 1991 attitudes to same sex attraction, both in English society generally and also among Christians in many parts of the world, have changed markedly. In particular, there is a great deal of evidence that, the younger people are, the more accepting of same sex attraction they are likely to be. That should not of itself determine the Church’s teaching. (Paragraphs 39–51, 156–73, 336–49)
9. The Church should continue to listen to the varied views of people within and outside the church, and should encourage a prayerful process of discernment to help determine the relationship of the gospel to the cultures of the times. (Paragraphs 304–7, 309–11)
10. [ACANZP] needs to recognize that the way we have lived out our divisions on same sex relationships creates problems for effective mission and evangelism within our culture, and that such problems are shared by some other Churches and in some other parts of the Anglican Communion. [ACANZP] also needs to recognize that any change to the Church’s stance in one province could have serious consequences for mission in some other provinces of the Communion. (Paragraphs 85–100, 146–7, 325, 346–9)
11. Whilst abiding by the Church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality, we encourage the Church to continue to engage openly and honestly and to reflect theologically on the circumstances in which we find ourselves to discern the mind of Christ and what the Spirit is saying to the Church now. (Paragraphs 313 –6)
12. Through a period of debate and discernment in relation to the gospel message in our culture, it is right that all, including those with teaching authority in the church, should be able to participate openly and honestly in that process. (Paragraphs 122, 350)
On the Church’s pastoral response:
13. The Church needs to find ways of honouring and affirming those Christians who experience same sex attraction who, conscious of the church’s teaching, have embraced a chaste and single lifestyle, and also those who in good conscience have entered partnerships with a firm intention of life-long fidelity. (Paragraphs 131–5, 328, 386–8)
14. The whole Church is called to real repentance for the lack of welcome and acceptance extended to homosexual people in the past, and to demonstrate the unconditional acceptance and love of God in Christ for all people. (Paragraphs 186–92, 320–3)
15. The Church’s present rules impose different disciplines on clergy and laity in relation to sexually active same sex relationships. In the facilitated conversations it will be important to reflect on the extent to which the laity and clergy should continue to observe such different disciplines. (Paragraphs 371–3)
16. We believe that there can be circumstances where a priest, with the agreement of the relevant [vestry], should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so. Some of us do not believe that this can be extended to same sex marriage. (Paragraphs 120, 380–3)
17. While the Church abides by its traditional teaching such public services would be of the nature of a pastoral accommodation and so [ACANZP] should not authorize a formal liturgy for use for this purpose. The House of Bishops should consider whether guidance should be issued. (Paragraphs 118, 384–8, 391–3)
18. Whether someone is married, single or in a civil partnership should have no bearing on the nature of the assurances sought from them that they intend to order their lives consistently with the teaching of the Church on sexual conduct. Intrusive questioning should be avoided. (Paragraphs 400–14)"

I certainly see above wise words written which have been anticipated here over the years by commenters, if not by myself. To give one instance, Recommendation 10 could have been written by Malcolm who has often commented on precisely the issue at stake in that recommendation.

POSTSCRIPT

(1) Peter Ould has a go at the Pilling Report here. He makes a very odd pair of criticisms for someone so versed in Anglican ways. One concerns clergy making up things as they go along. The other concerns the church holding contradictory positions. But these have been features of our life for a long time. Stories of clergy making up a 'pragmatic pastoral' response to an unusual situation are legion (I could tell a few myself but will not bore you). Contradictory positions simply exist, not least on the ordination of women (as sharply felt in my own diocese where we have both a woman bishop and clergy who do not think a woman should be in a position of authority), but we could also mention abortion and remarriage of divorcees. 

On sexual relationships and a specific point about gay Anglicans being part of a church which both affirms celibacy/marriage and other relationships, well, hello, we are already in that church. That is, we are a church where teaching on celibacy/marriage occurs (and some if not many faithfully follow that discipline) and other relationships exist (e.g. murmurs are made here in NZ about youth leaders living before marriage with their partners) and seemingly we can do little about that (unless we want to embark on a certain kind of intrusive, moralistic crusade)

I suggest the proper evaluation of the Pilling Report is whether it is properly Anglican, with particular reference in (1) upholding doctrine as received by this church (2) providing a pastoral way forward for those who sincerely and conscientiously demur from the doctrine. On a first reading of the recommendations the report seems to pass that test.

But it would wouldn't it, given its genesis :)

(2) Convictional Anglican with a rather good pic says this is going to be a train wreck for the CofE. But does that oversimplify things? Would another stance (e.g. strictly 'conservative' or strictly 'liberal') not be another kind of train wreck?

70 comments:

Simon said...

David Runcorn's paper, included as an appendix, p176ff, is worth a read. He is a respected evangelical theological educator and writer: 'This paper seeks to trace the journey of Christians within the Evangelical tradition, holding a high view of the Bible, who have come to accept the place of committed, faithful same sex relationships within the church, on the basis of (not in spite of) the teaching of Scripture.'

carl jacobs said...

This report fundamentally subversive of traditional sexual morality and the authority that undergirds it. It is confused and incoherent because it seeks to create unity where none should exist. It will not achieve its objective. You should be less concerned about Peter Ould's two criticisms (which seem not at all odd to me) and more concerned about what he wrote a few weeks back when the contents of the report were first outed. He said that members of the CoE should be prepared to leave if the report was approved.

The arguments are over. There is no appetite to 'listen' anymore. Events will increasingly isolate those who value unity about doctrinal coherence. The losers will exit stage right. The winners will rewrite the script as they see fit. The chorus will be given a new refrain and they will be expected to sing it whether they like it or not. But the 'can't we just all talk about a dfferences' nonsense is over.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
In the long run you may be right about the not-listening church turning on conservatives.

But in the short-term it strikes me that this is a report which has very carefully listened to conservatives, illustrated by not recommending formal change to doctrine.

It may then be incoherent re also supporting informal local blessings of same sex partnerships. But I suggest it is a report which demonstrates real listening.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

In the very short term, the stern section of the Titanic seemed a very safe place to be. I wouldn't pay much attention to the short term let alone the very short term. This proposal changes the functional theology of the CoE while leaving it's formal theology still nominally intact. But the functional theology of the church us what people pay attention to and care about. You are drastically underestimating the impact in this proposal. It us not a compromise. It is a revolution. The careful listening to conservatives is nothing by eyewash. That why the liberals like this proposal. They understand it's import as well.

carl

Bryden Black said...

Well Peter; I have on a number of occasions tried to draw parallels with the present day with various eras of past Church history to make certain points. No doubt sometimes those parallels are more contrived than real, but then occasionally I hope they have cast some light upon our ‘dilemmas’.

That said: once more, I do see the deep cultural aspects of this entire discussion regarding gay and lesbian people to be very akin to the Arian controversy. No; I do not see the eventual ‘win’ for what we now call Nicene Orthodoxy to be equated with, say, a ‘win’ for “revisionist” (if I may so call it) theology and practice. The parallel is in the real sense of being caught on the horns of a profound dilemma; and of that dilemma throwing up all sorts of ‘compromises’ and half-way-house ‘solutions’. And so with the awareness that much of the past few decades have resembled living in the 330s to 370s: up and down the greasy pole we have gone! YET in the end there is simply NO WAY the Arian premise can sit alongside the real Nicene solution. And so, in the end, pace even the likes of David Runcorn, I myself do not (yet!) see anything but a unhappy ending here ... Well; in this century!

Anonymous said...

Carl is right. This is like a couple agreeing to stay together in public while she turns a blind eye to his mistress. Another slow nail in the coffin of western Anglicanism. Its dissolution will happen in England as surely as it has in North America. May it rest in pieces.
As for David Runcorn, he wandered off the evangelical reservation many years ago. His work has long been more psychological-mystical than exegetical.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

"14. The whole Church is called to real repentance for the lack of welcome and acceptance extended to homosexual people in the past, and to demonstrate the unconditional acceptance and love of God in Christ for all people."
- re Pilling Report -

As an advocate of a positive desire to include LGBT people as created in the Divine Image and Likeness, and no less loved by God than God's heterosexual children, I applaud the Pilling Report.

Section 14, in tune with the commentary on the Report, can be commended for its implicit recommendation that the Church of England should openly recognise that same-sex monogamously loving, committed partnerships are as welcome in the Church as those of heterosexual persons who desire to proclaim their relationship as a sign of blessed and loyal partner-ship.

I submit that procreation is not an issue in the simple matter of monogamous partnership. There are heterosexual couples who get married in Church without being committed to producing children. There is no compulsion for them to engage in procreation.

One of the greatest problems in today's world (and in the world of the Church, for that matter) is the incidence of multiple sexual relationships that are prevalent and that are antithetical to the Christian understanding of what is required of stable relationships in society.

Few heterosexual relationships are celibate, so why should we expect that the natural sexual attraction of differently-ordered human relationships - between two people of the same gender, who otherwise are not forbidden by civil law to marry - should be denied.

What also needs to be understood is that not all LGBT relationships - like all heterosexual ones - are necessarily sexually active. Are we going to deny such people the right to live together as couples?

The Pilling Report is only the first step towards a period of further consultation in the Church of England. Let's not jump the gun before the C.of E. makes its own decision.

I appreciate that people like Carl in North America might think that the Church of England is already in perdition's ante-room; but he, fortunately, and you and I, Peter, will have no voting rights in the future decisions of the Church of England on this important human rights issue. Let's wait and see "What the Spirit is saying to The Church' in England at this time.

carl jacobs said...

Would someone please tell me what there is to talk about? What are these facilitated discussions and consultations supposed to achieve? The only objective I can see is "Let's keep talking so you don't leave ... (and, adds the cynic, because we really need your money.)" But what is the achievable endpoint of that discussion? Observe the interminable discussions on this website about homosexuality. Where do they lead except down the same blind alley? Over and over and over again. Here, let me summarize:

Liberal: "Bigot!"
Conservative: "Heretic!"
Liberal: "Troglodyte!"
Conservative: "Libertine!"

Repeat ad infinitum


And from the perspective of the opposing world views, every single charge listed above is absolutely correct. That's why no progress can be made. We aren't discussing anything. We are hurling charges across mutually exclusive presuppositions. The discussion becomes "Let's talk until you change your mind."

It is utterly pointless to appeal to endless discussion when the only point of that discuss is to preempt someone from acting on those differences. It seems to me the discussion isn't actually supposed to lead anywhere. It is supposed to promise an endpoint that can never be realized but always recedes into the horizon. So long as the talk they won't act. Or so the theory goes.

Enough. Let Lot go to Sodom if he likes. Choose the opposite direction and separate. There is no point to this interminable internecine warfare.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bryden // Carl

Each of you highlights problems with the Pilling Report and the approach it takes. But do you offer a solution?

Carl: forming a purer Anglican church (e.g. AMiE is an English option) does not change the fact that the 'whole church' of the British isles, of these islands, of your great continent, is a whole church in which there is difference over homosexuality. Partnered gay Christians are not leaving that whole church even if conservative Christians are leaving them (or thinking of doing so). In the end the witness of the whole church of the Western world is the witness of a church in which there is difference.

Bryden: at the level of doctrine, I am inclined to agree with you in the analogy with the controversy over Arianism (albeit reserving judgment to see how it all pans out). But at the level of practical living, does Arianism point in a different direction? Bear with me! As I understand church history, Arianism didn't win the 'doctrinal' debate, but it never went away either. Best understanding of the history of homosexuality and the future of homosexuality? It is not going to go away from the life of the church. We have lived with Arianism by teaching orthodoxy and not expelling Arians from our midst (notable exceptions etc). Are we prepared to be a church which teaches 'orthodox marriage' and not expel partnered gay Christians from our midst?

If the answer is 'Yes' then the Pilling Report might be pointing in a good direction.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I note in passing that you did not answer my question. What is the expected outcome of this proposed conversation? Otherwise a couple of points.

You can stand at the bottom of the hill and command the river to stop flowing but it will not listen. I am describing what will happen more than I am describing what should happen. Separation is coming. There is no organizational solution to this dilemma. There is no via media to be found regarding this conflict over homosexuality. The reason may be found in my second point.

You have not correctly diagnosed the problem. This conflict is not driven by differences over homosexuality. It is driven by different definitions of the Christian faith with homosexuality serving as a surrogate. Simply put, I do not recognize liberal Christianity as legitimately Christian. I see it as a false faith presenting a false Christ and teaching a false gospel. You suggest that the witness of the whole church would remain divided even after separation. I deny they are a part of the Church to begin with. Why then should I seek after unity? This is the question you must answer. If I begin with the premise that liberalism is a false faith then why should I accommodate it? Why should I not seek to eradicate it instead?

The confused witness does not exist because we disagree. The confused witness occurs because liberalism has formal residence within the church's walls. Separation thus serves a clarifying function. It removes confusion by demonstrating that liberalism is not a part of Christianity. I don't want unity with it. I want to see it go the way of Mormonism or Hinduism or any other false religion you can mention.

This is why separation is coming. It's not about purity of Anglicanism. It's about defending an orthodox definition of Christianity. I have said many times that the Christian faith has essential content. There is no possibility of unity with those who would reject the central truths of the Faith.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
Your analysis seems to depend on a sharp distinction between a 'liberal' bloc and an 'orthodox' bloc within the church (within each church such as Anglicans/Episcopalians).

Where such a sharp distinction exists (in TEC??) then there is little point to dialogue/conversation as such liberal blocs have shown their hand, it is not pretty in theological terms.

I am trying to work on what it means to be in a church where the distinction is not so sharp. For example, is a Christian brother who is conservative on abortion, liberal on same sex partnerships and fervent in saying the creeds without crossing-fingers behind backs, one of your 'liberals'?

Put another way, theological differentiation seems in some of our churches/in some parts of the Communion to be more about people being on a spectrum than being in different camps. Where that is the context I think conversation is worthwhile and it is not destined to end where you say it will.

David Runcorn said...

'As for David Runcorn, he wandered off the evangelical reservation many years ago.'

Well that's news to me and to my friends and to the evangelical theological colleges where I teach, among other places.
But how convenient for you. You don't have to engage with the exegesis in my piece at all then.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

Religious Liberalism is a defined religion with defined doctrines. It is easily recognized. Machen wrote about it almost 100 years ago. This is not a new conflict.

I survey the field in my own country. I look to the Episcopal Church and it is there. I turn my gaze to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and it is there. The Presbyterian Church USA. The United Methodist Church. The United Church of Christ. The Reformed Church in America. Each is either in captivity to or riven with liberalism. Where is the battleground in US churches over homosexuality? In these churches that I have listed. And who are the advocates for normalizing homosexuality in these churches? Religious liberals in the church hierarchy. They are making their arguments from explicitly liberal presuppositions.

You ask about the believer who genuinely disagrees. I do not deny that such exists. But I maintain that they are irrelevant to the current conflict. Their numbers would not fill out a decent-sized platoon in the opposing army. This is not and never has been a conflict over exegesis of the seven killer texts. It is a conflict about the nature of man, the nature of God, the person and work of Christ, and the authority of Scripture to reveal answers about those subjects. It is a conflict over essentials.

If religious liberalism had been run out of the Christian churches seventy years ago, we would not be in this situation now. There would be no conflict over homosexuality. Neither would we have church leaders mewling about 'plural truth' and 'many paths to God.' This conflict is all one seamless garment. I wish it was only about a few believers who require patient correction. It is not. It is about unbelievers who wish to seize the mantle of Christianity and make it into something counterfeit and unholy. We have an obligation to fight them. On every beach. On every steppe. In every desert.

carl

Anonymous said...

"'As for David Runcorn, he wandered off the evangelical reservation many years ago.'

Well that's news to me and to my friends and to the evangelical theological colleges where I teach, among other places.
But how convenient for you. You don't have to engage with the exegesis in my piece at all then."

Well, I would have to, David, if you did exegete the texts deeply, as someone who shared the historic evangelical convictions about the nature and authority of the Bible. But I read your piece and you didn't do this. Your approach to the OT reads like mainline liberalism, and your primary influences appear to be liberal exegetes like Richard Burridge and Jeffrey John - there is almost no engagement at all with the work of Robert Gagnon as well as Gordon Wenham on OT narrative or even your former colleague John Nolland, who has written extensively on this subject, as has his wife - and your line of argument is very reminiscent of Tec in the 1970s: 'Genesis/Paul etc isn't talking about this / Jesus said nothing about it / Paul couldn't have known PFE relations' etc - all of which are taken to pieces by Gagnon and Wenham, if you have ever read and critiqued their work.
I understand and appreciate that you are concerned for the wellbeing and struggles of Christians with SSA. I am not being condescending when I say your pastoral concern is absolutely right. But your handling of the texts is liberal rather than evangelical, and makes big assumptions about Jesus (in his Jewish context) and Paul (travelling the frequently homoerotic world of Greco-Roman cities) that I don't think stand up. I think you would agree the word 'evangelical' has become fairly elastic in the past 30 years or so - sometimes the elastic will snap.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

There's no-one so benighted as he who dwells in a bubble of righteous prejudice - against ever-one around him who doesn't think in the same way as he does. Battling against the unrighteous (in his view). And, oh, so lonely! - "If only everyone could be as holy and pure as I am!".

Me ? I'm a sinner, just glad I have a Redeemer, who knows my every thought, word and deed, and still loves me.

Have a holy and fruitful Advent Season, everyone. And try not to judge too many other people this Advent.

ADVENT PROSE:
"Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness!" (God;'s righteousness, not our own!)

Father Ron Smith said...

The 'Last Post' sounds really defeatist. I thank God that true Christianity is much more hopeful. In this Advent eason - the Season of Hope - the Church call us all to repentance. This may not see very urgent for the 'Righteous', but the rest of us - who admit our human sinfulness - have cause for hope - that our redemption draweth nigh. There's a lot of repenting still to be done - by ALL!

Salvation is nothing to do with our own righteousness, but the righteousness of God in Christ!

Even Saint Paul had to admit, in the end, that his righteousness before God was as 'filthy rags'.
The Church is not a mausoleum for saints, but a hospital for sinners

Peter Carrell said...

Dear David // Martin

David: I should never have published the reservation part of Martin's comment. I apologise for that.

Martin: your most recent comment is the kind of comment welcomed here: discussion of an issue. Your comment previous to that about wandering off the reservation should not have been made: it was a personal observation, without supporting evidence; even with supporting evidence it should have been about the state of the person's views, not the location of their person in terms of the 'reservation.' Nothing is gained by calling evangelicals non-evangelicals, catholics non catholics and reservationists non reservationists.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters,
By all means debate what one person says (e.g. David Runcorn above) but I would make the point that both his and +David Sinclair's contributions are worth reading, marking and inwardly digesting.

A particular point in reading David Runcorn's piece is the question whether Scripture actually addresses 'modern' same-sex partnerships or not. (David, if you reading here, I am personally not greatly convinced by your arguments but I support you in asking the question)!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
If liberalism was a monolithic monopoly then, yes, let's force it off the steppe, reservation, etc.

I just don't see the liberal phenomenon in the life of the global church in such simple terms. (Again, I acknowledge that perhaps in the US things are different).

For instance, the Runcorn // +Sinclair contributions to the Pilling report exemplify the complexity of evangelicalism itself, in which one might discern traces of liberalism in one contribution and not in the other, but one could scarcely say that the contributor of that piece with its traces belonged in any sense to a monolithic monopoly on liberalism.

Of course, if we simply expel anyone who is vaguely liberal any time they are vaguely liberal I would be on my tenth expulsion ...

Simon said...

Thanks for your follow up points, Peter, and I too was disappointed at Martin's suggestion that David R is no longer an Evangelical - who of us has the right to declare this, not least publicly from behind the ramparts of an online post?
He identifies himself as much an Evangelical as +Keith Sinclair, author of one of the other appendices.
David is widely respected and regarded in English Evangelical Anglican circles and further afield - a few generations of clergy have been grateful of his teaching and assistance in their formation for ministry.
My experience, having been around Anglican churches and festivals/networks/movements of an Evangelical flavour for most of my life, is in line precisely with what you say above.
And I sense that in the world of those young people being raised in 'Evangelical' church youth ministry, the issue of same sex relationships will cease to be a major 'issue' within a generation. The teenagers I know these days are still keen to respond to Jesus as their personal saviour and build a life on following Christ, but their worldview and priorities in living out the faith are different to what mine were at their age, schooled in Pathfinders, SU camps and Christian Union.
People will come back at me on this blog and respond 'exactly, that's an exact indicator of why the western Anglican church is headed to hell in a handcart'. I say, let's see - God has not finished with the Church yet.
Advent blessings to those on your blog whom I agree with and those who postings irritate me.
As we begin a new Church year today, how about a rowing back on the some of harshness and judgmentalism that can creep into blog responses and putting on "the armour of light", seeking to "live honourably" with one another, online and in the flesh ... that the world might believe?

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I never said that Liberal Christianity was a "monolithic monopoly." I said it was a defined religion with defined doctrine. And it is not just in the US. You can find it in Canada and Europe as well. All you have to do is read what they write and listen to what they say.

Neither is there anything simplistic in what I have said. It's a matter of identifying their presuppositions. If Paul can call out the Gnostics on this basis then I can call out false brothers on this basis as well. I am sure that Paul could have defined a spectrum of Gnosticism. But that didn't mean that some forms of Gnosticism were arguably more Christian. A false religion can exist as a spectrum without ever overlapping with Christianity.

Nor am I concerned with whether any believer is more liberal or more conservative on some particular issue. That is not how I use the word. You are using 'liberal' as an adjective that categorizes certain positions. I am using it in the same way I use the word 'Mormon.' It defines a specific (and very separate) faith system. Sometimes I get the idea that you don't think liberal Christianity is a separate religion at all.

Ultimately the difference between us is where it has always been. You insist on broad fuzzy poorly defined boundaries. That is the cause of your perceived complexity. You have said you do not wish to be placed in the position of having to challenge a colleague's faith and so you look for broad boundaries to cover the differences. You have deliberately expanded the border far beyond what is allowable in order to accommodate institutional unity. That's why you see liberal variation where I see apostasy. For the sake of unity, you cannot allow it to be otherwise.

carl

Anonymous said...

Peter: fair enough, it was an offhand comment I shouldn't have made. What I meant - and expressed in an exaggerated way - was that the focus of David's work has not been Biblical exegesis or even Christian ethics - which is about the engagement of philosophy and the Christian tradition with the Bible - but with 'spirituality' and its psychological adjuncts. These are often ill-defined, subjective things and not a good lens for really understanding the Bible.
And yes, Anglican Evangelicalism is a fissiparous thing, in danger of becoming a cultural movement rather than a theological understanding of what it means to be a Protestant Christian. The movement has been fracturing ever since 'Fulcrum' was established about 10 years ago. But the same thing happened to Anglican Catholicism, as 'Affirming Catholicism' arose and traditional Anglo-Catholics have left for Rome.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I think I get all you are saying. I may be at fault as you say, although my boundaries may not be as fuzzy as you think. It might be more a question of seeing where fellow Christians are at as a fuzzy thing!

Peter Carrell said...

Er, Martin
You have an interesting way of writing. "The movement has been fracturing ever since 'Fulcrum' was established about 10 years ago. But the same thing happened to Anglican Catholicism, as 'Affirming Catholicism' arose and traditional Anglo-Catholics have left for Rome." To me that makes things sound like Fulcrum is at fault ... but my question would be, What happened to make the founders of Fulcrum act to found a more moderate evangelical movement?

Peter Carrell said...

Well said, Simon!

Anonymous said...

"What happened to make the founders of Fulcrum act to found a more moderate evangelical movement?"

I think the information is all out there on their website. I imagine 'Fulcrum' would say they adopted up new intellectual insights on the nature of the Bible, hermeneutics and culture that set them at variance with their conservative forebears. I think it was also a power struggle. Most of Fulcrum's utterances have been criticisms of conservatives and advocacy of the liberal establishment.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Simon writes: "I sense that in the world of those young people being raised in 'Evangelical' church youth ministry, the issue of same sex relationships will cease to be a major 'issue' within a generation. The teenagers I know these days are still keen to respond to Jesus as their personal saviour and build a life on following Christ, but their worldview and priorities in living out the faith are different to what mine were at their age, schooled in Pathfinders, SU camps and Christian Union."

You may well be right, Simon, but that will be because the notion of sexual purity itself before marriage will have faded from public consciousness even among churchgoers, being expected in Britain only for Muslim and Hindu girls. These Christian teenagers are growing up in a highly secularised and sexualised culture, and the normal school and youth culture generally are against Christian sexual morality.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Were the conservatives, Martin, becoming too conservative?

Andrew Reid said...

Dear Peter,
Are you sure the authors didn't take the phrase "pastoral accommodation" straight from your blog? It rang a bell with me.

What's really interesting to me in the report is it reads more like a political party grappling with some tough policy issue rather than a church struggling with an issue of doctrine and its application. Their approach is essentially:
- How do we keep the party together, not betray our founding principles, and remain relevant to our electoral base?
A more helpful approach would be:
- How can we be faithful to Scripture and be clear, gracious and loving in its application to our society today?
By their own admission, there is a paucity of considering Scripture because they think those arguments are at a stalemate (section 226). I would suggest in such a case they try to find a new theological path forwards rather than give up and try for a compromise.
The path forward they suggest - pastoral accommodation rather than change in official teaching - will lead to change in doctrine by stealth. It is exactly the same as happened with remarriage of divorcees and abortion as you rightly point out, Peter. Pastoral accomodations are meant for unusual or extreme circumstances in which the general principles don't hold, not for mainstream application. The CofE will be guilty of the sin that angered Jesus the most - hypocrisy. We will say one thing in our official teaching, and do another.
I am also skeptical about the facilitated conversations. How will they move us forward if we are simply going to re-hash the same arguments? The ABC was positive about their role in the recent General Synod, but many of us remember the shambles of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. This must be done properly or it will simply intensify opposing positions and/or waste everyone's time with no result. It is positive that they want to include other Communion members in these conversations, but TEC has claimed a similar process of listening and inclusion before their decisions re human sexuality.
All in all, they've gone for fudge over faithfulness, which will end in futility.

David Runcorn said...

Peter, Simon, Martin and others

Greetings. And thanks for welcome and comments - both supportive and critical.

This is not the place for lengthy engagement. But a few responses if I may.

Martin, thank you for pulling back, in part, on the challenge to my orthodoxy.

In fact my piece to Pilling was not intended for publication when I was first asked to write it. It was offered as a resource to the working group. It was their decision to publish it alongside +Keith's piece. As such it makes clear this debate is happening within evangelism now and we need to talk to each other, not simply re-name those we disagree with as outside the fold so that we can dispose of their views. I also make quite clear in the piece that I only offer a brief over view of complex issues. So it makes no sense to tell me I am not engaging seriously with scripture or with conservative scholars. Now if that is your critique of my books then I must listen of course but I confess to finding that view rather baffling too. After all my most recent book was an extended study of 1and2 Samuel. Nor do I even quote Jeffrey John (who I have never heard described as an 'exegete' by the way) so I don't know where you got that from. So I still think you are tending to respond to my piece with labels and generalisations - he's 'in' he's 'out'.

I agree with Peter on the Fulcrum discussion here.
In fact Conservative Evangelicals over here tend to look back to the Keele conference in 1967 as the moment the integrity of Anglican evangelicalism was holed below the waterline. At that conference John Stott resisted calls from Martin Lloyd Jones to leave the CofE altogether. Instead the conference publicly repented of a tendency to separatism, to coming across to others in judging spirit and then made a robust commitment for the first time to be fully involved in the life of the wider church and seek it renewing from within. It has done so ever since and has hugely influenced worship, governance, teaching and mission. I trace the roots of an 'including evangelicalism' (in the broadest sense) to that time and am proud to be an heir to that tradition.


I find 'Liberal' such unhelpful label here - and every label is a libel, the saying goes.
I also hear something perceptive in Peter's question about whether conservatives were/are becoming too conservative. It is possible to end up being a 'liberal' because conservatives have moved the boundary posts. I recall Michael Green years ago urging leaders of the Oxford CU to beware of doing just that - defining belonging so narrowly that it actually excludes rather than affirms. He pointed out how many theologians at Oxford at the time had begun their lives as evangelicals but ended out outside a fold that was circling ever more tightly in itself.

Advent greetings ....

Anonymous said...

I think Andrew Reid has made the most perceptive comment on the character of the Report, that it reads more as a political document on 'How to stay together' rather than a theological report on 'What is the will of God?'
By saying 'We will not change anything officially but allow people to depart from this informally', you do have incoherence and hypocrisy, and the only point of doing this is to keep the big evangelical churches in the fold until they come round to accepting it, because by then there will be plenty of 'facts on the ground', the world has moved on, the church looks ridiculous in the eyes of the world, it's in breach of human rights etc etc.
The Bishop of Birkenhead has understood this point very clearly.
In the meantime there has been Gafcon, and it is now realised that there are other international ways of being Anglican that don't involve the old Lambeth hegemony.
And I must repeat that I did not find David's piece engaging with evangelical biblical scholarship (esp. Wenham, Nolland and Gagnon, as well as evangelical ethicists) but toppling some familiar straw men, using arguments that I don't think can stand up to close scrutiny. I can't speak for David's book on 1-2 Samuel; I was referring to his piece in Pilling, where exactly such work was called for.
And if you are looking for breadth of vision beyond exegeting a handful of texts, why not engage ecumenically with a magisterial work like John Paul II's 'Theology of the Body'?
And yes, the question of where you have boundary posts is a perennial one, but not just for evangelicals. All Christians face this question, which is why thousands of Anglican Catholics have decamped for Rome.
As it is, George Carey says the C of E is staring into the abyss. You may or may not agree with him, but you must agree that it's very hard to fight with demography, where the white population is increasingly irreligious and the brown population is still firmly Muslim.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

As one not generally associated with the official 'Evangelical' sphere (and yet claiming membership of the larger Anglican constituency of evangelical proclamation), I much appreciated the statement of 'Simon' (above):

"As we begin a new Church year today, how about a rowing back on the some of harshness and judgmentalism that can creep into blog responses and putting on "the armour of light", seeking to "live honourably" with one another, online and in the flesh ...
that the world might believe?"

This willingness to 'live and let live' is to me, a liberal Anglo-Catholic, a mark of true gospel evangelism - more like the way of Christ, whose liberality was an offence to the biblical scholars of His own day.

With our own Host, Peter; Simon; and David Runcorn - and others on this blog whose charity includes an openness towards a distinctive minority in the Church who just happen to be intrinsically 'gay';
I have a sense of koinonia that transcends any feeling of the sort of separation that has occurred in North America, where separation has occurred on differences of exegesis - perhaps not unlike those that occurred in Judaism, after Jesus proclaimed His own, unique, understanding of what His Father intended for His creation.

We have just sung these words of the Advent Prose (EH 501):

"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people; my salvation shall not tarry: I have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions. Fear not, for I will save thee: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer. Amen!"

- "Amazing Grace ?"

Bryden Black said...

Well Peter; answering your comment @ November 30, 2013 at 5:58 PM

The real difficulty I see has to do with “pastoral accommodation” precisely “changing doctrine” - in the long run. We’ve already got strong advocacy in some Christian circles for redefining “marriage”. How therefore to ensure advocacy for “marriage as the union between a man and a woman”? And this in a western culture that is both secular and over-sexualized - to say nothing about utterly utilitarian in its ethics. Alasdair MacIntyre’s “Disquieting Suggestion” at the start is increasingly becoming not a hypothetical imaginative construction but (as I think he meant it) a most disturbing reality - hence his ch.18, “After Virtue: Nietzsche or Aristotle, Trotsky and St Benedict” [3rd edition].

Reading now (eventually) the rest of the comments. I have to say also David Runcorn’s piece (whatever its provenance) just fails to cut it for me. While I mostly applaud his preamble (but more of that below), he omits tellingly Gen 1 and so also fails to pick up on Gagnon’s crucial point of the echoes of Gen 1 in Rom 1, for example. Nor may one dismiss e.g. Thisleton’s comments on 1 Cor 6 - which do not get any airing. But enough. The most telling comments of all I found to be: (1) Andrew’s Political Party comparison; (2) Serious Muslims and Hindus being the guardians of an ethic of sexual purity ... The latter comment makes strange bed-fellows of these two at rock bottom, given their very different cosmologies and theologies of creation! BUT that is the strange world we now live in. One furthermore where (western) Christians have mostly lost their moral bearings not primarily due to mere exegetical factors but on account of a profound confusion of ontology and so anthropology. Our instrumental exegesis has lost touch with centuries of much deeper Scriptural engagement. Kyrie eleison!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
You could be right!!
There is always a danger that pastoral accommodation changes doctrine 'in the long run'. (Has, so to speak, the damage been done by accommodating divorce and remarriage?) But in the long run, human pain necessitates various changes to doctrine (e.g. debates over war/just war/pacifism, as we argue the merits/demerits of intervention for the sake of justice, non-intervention for the sake of a simpler life, etc).

On homosexuality, 'in the long run' will accommodation change th doctrine of marriage or will homosexuality itself change?

On Islam (on which I can speak from experience,unlike on Hinduism), I can assure you that an accommodation can be and is reached in some Islamic societies re same sex sexual activity (without the official doctrine being changed).

Father Ron Smith said...

"BUT that is the strange world we now live in. One furthermore where (western) Christians have mostly lost their moral bearings not primarily due to mere exegetical factors but on account of a profound confusion of ontology and so anthropology." - Bryden Black -

Factually, not all professional theologians happen to be masters of metaphysics, anthropology or ontological reality - maybe because their theology is just too biased towards their own moral world-view.

However, the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ is known to be the God of Love, whose provenance towards His human children is too gracious to be eroded by the over-earnestness of religious absolutists convinced of their own inflexible moral probity, while content to question that of other committed Christians who think differently.

"Now. who went away justified?"
(Luke 18:14)

Anonymous said...

To the list of significant NT commentators that David Runcorn has failed to interact with should be added Professor Stephen Noll, formerly of Trinity Ambridge, latterly Vice-Chancellor of Uganda Christian University. His relatively concise book 'Two Sexes, One Flesh' is a fine combination of biblical and theological study. I remember having coffee with Stephen and his wife some years ago. Stephen has been in the Tec wars, having been absurdly 'deposed' from the ministry (like Jim Packer in Canada) and in Titusonenine he comments precisely on where the Pilling Report will take the CofE if it is listened to. (q.v. 'lemmings')
I see from Bryden's latest post I will finally have to sit down and read Macintyre this week. A good Advent discipline.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

" Professor Stephen Noll, formerly of Trinity Ambridge, latterly Vice-Chancellor of Uganda Christian University." - Commenter -

This is a Christian University where the Christian Church is co-hosting legislation to criminalise Gays! How could one possibly expect its teachers to empathise with the LGBT community in the Church.?

David Runcorn said...

Martin

Thank you for your trouble in listing all the books by evangelical scholars that my piece should have engaged with - and obviously hasn't given the conclusions I come to? (I wasn't asked to write a book by the way).

I feel I am hearing an assumption that if I had really read these books (and also, you tell me, talked to John Nolland - who is still a colleague and friend actually - I teach at Trinity among other places) I could surely not hold the views I do.
Actually, much as I respect them, helpful and challenging as I find engaging with them, vital as their learning and wisdom is to me, I have come to disagree with them on this. And I am not alone. Biblically centred evangelicals can and do disagree on significant issues. They always have.

But I also assure you too I have not stopped studying or listening. So thank you again for engaging

David

liturgy said...

A most enlightening moment on this thread was the comment at December 2, 2013 at 1:28 AM where Martin’s questioning of David Runcorn’s “evangelicalness” was understood as challenging his “orthodoxy”. It may be a slip, but it is an unchanged and unchallenged one. It is a very revealing one. Evangelicals regularly use the word “evangelical” as a synonym for “orthodox”. And non-evangelicals are treated accordingly.

A further very revealing point (and reinforcing my previous sentence) was made at December 1, 2013 at 3:36 AM where David Runcorn points out that if someone is regarded as not evangelical then it is very convenient as one does not have to engage with the exegesis provided by such a person at all then.

Suddenly many pieces come together, and why people so readily slip into ad hominems, and extricating the ad hominems appears such hard work.

All very enlightening.

Blessings

Anonymous said...

"A most enlightening moment on this thread was the comment at December 2, 2013 at 1:28 AM where Martin’s questioning of David Runcorn’s “evangelicalness” was understood as challenging his “orthodoxy”."

That was of course David's language, not mine. If 'orthodoxy' is defined as being able to recite the Nicene Creed ex animo, I have no reason to think David couldn't say and mean by it pretty much as I do. There are a lot of people in Tec and some in ACANZP of whom I wouldn't be so sure. There are people in ACANZP, for example, who censor their speech and their prayers to avoid referring to 'God the (or 'our') Father'. Insofar as they repudiate Jesus' own way of talking about God, they are not orthodox.
Of course, the Nicene Creed has nothing to say about ethics, ministry or a whole host of questions which are nonetheless of importance, so it is not the last word on every question. As for David's handling of Scripture in the appendix, I think it is in many ways inadequate and partial, but both Bryden and I have made that point elsewhere.

Martin

Anonymous said...

"A further very revealing point (and reinforcing my previous sentence) was made at December 1, 2013 at 3:36 AM where David Runcorn points out that if someone is regarded as not evangelical then it is very convenient as one does not have to engage with the exegesis provided by such a person at all then."

Bosco: this throwaway line is completely wrong! I offered a brief critique myself when challenged, but I don't have the time or inclination to write a book every time I read something I disagree with. We evangelicals have *constantly* done battle with Spong, Schori, Ingham, Holtam etc etc over the way they have handled (or mishandled) Scripture - but maybe you don't read the evangelical blogs like Titusonenine and Stand Firm or books by Stephen Noll, Peter Moore etc where all this weary work has been done at great length. We are not as lazy or stupid as sometimes believed.
But in one sense it is a waste of breath trying to answer someone who doesn't share your basic convictions about the *nature of Scripture, because the starting position of liberal Protestantism (including the neo-Unitarianism of many in Tec) is that Scripture is NOT the Word of God but only an imperfect witness to it, like a rather grubby glass that lets some light through, along with lots of human error.
It's because of disagreement over these meta-questions that trying to debate with liberals is very often a fool's errand.
If someone, OTOH, claims to be an evangelical, then I assume a shared understanding about the nature and authority of Scripture; then the issue is one of correct exegesis according to some agreed methodology. I don't expect liberals to agree with this, anymore than I would judge a game of gridiron by the rules of rugby.

Martin

Anonymous said...

David writes: "But I also assure you too I have not stopped studying or listening."

I am glad to hear this. Let us all never stop listening to God either! John Nolland, Gordon Wenham, Robert Gagnon and Stephen Noll have been my teachers as well, and if you decide to dissent from these leading scholars - *as an evangelical* - then it must be because you are clear you, David, have found flaws in their biblical exegesis and you can point these out in a cogent way. Any liberal could disagree with them quite easily: all he or she has to say is 'Paul was wrong (a man of his time)' or 'Jesus was ignorant (culture-bound)' or 'The Yahwist was patriarchalist etc' - and that's exactly what liberal writers do say. That isn't an option for an evangelical - if the word has definite dogmatic content.

Martin

David Runcorn said...

'... that's exactly what liberal writers do say'.

Actually they don't. I find this a caricature Martin. (well yes of course there are idiots out there - but every tradition has them, including ours). I learn hugely from Christians who do not own the name evangelical. They challenge my faith through their integrity and insight and precisely because they speak into the assumptions and limitations of my own frame of reference.
It is simply not true that 'liberals' don't do serious Bible. You set up 'familiar straw men' here in just the way you accuse me of. I wish I heard more respect in your words for fellow Christians outside the evangelical tradition. I am clear who you read from within the evangelical tradition. I wonder who you read from outside it?

I note Bp David Gillett, my former tutor and mentor, and former principal of Trinity College, Bristol, has written very movingly of his change of attitude towards same-sex relationships.
http://bishopdavidgillett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/my-reflections-on-pilling-report-have.html

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin

David Runcorn makes an important point. Liberal / 'liberal' scholarship includes Tobias Haller as well as ++Jefferts Schori or +Gene Robinson.

Father Ron Smith said...

"That isn't an option for an evangelical - if the word has definite dogmatic content"

As I had always thought, in some circles, dogma trumps faith! And any new work of the Holy Spirit.

Bryden Black said...

An aid for you Martin: Christopher Stephen Lutz, Reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue (Continuum, 2012). Very helpful too is the final chapter and further reading, all post AV.

Peter; I’m glad you take some solace in the fact that theocratic Islam can hold the ‘orthodox’ line while accommodating ‘pastoral’ concerns. I’m not sure I can! The reason: Christian Trinitarian ontology, and so cosmology and anthropology, is seriously at variance with Islam, in the end. Or have you forgotten B16 at Regensburg, 2006? Nor was Islam the only rational target here. Instrumentalist reason as the default western practice with its essential lack of teleology was just as important.

Both of these paragraphs have enormous consequences for any ethical debate; and I see few grasping this nettle on ADU (or pretty well elsewhere, on the blogs!).

Bryden Black said...

Ron: "Now. who went away justified?"
(Luke 18:14)- December 2, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Probably not Arius & co ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Your 1.01 pm comment might just win this year's (inaugural) ADU Comment of the Year!

Anonymous said...

David writes: "I wish I heard more respect in your words for fellow Christians outside the evangelical tradition. I am clear who you read from within the evangelical tradition. I wonder who you read from outside it?"

It's there all right but maybe you can't hear it because I absorb my sources. Everything I think on Christian ethics is suffused by my debt to C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Aquinas, J. Budjizewski and Benedict XVI - none of whom was or is an evangelical. I learn from perceptive non-Christians as well, like Theodore Dalrymple - even a stopped clock can be right twice a day.
I know that David Gillett has changed his mind too, which disappoints me, as I saw his name popping up on Benny Hazlehurst's blog, and I will follow up the link you gave.
What I offered was NOT a caricature, and I wonder if you have read me correctly. Of course liberal scholars 'do serious Bible' - I never said they didn't! The better ones delve deeply into history, grammar, philology and dialogue with philosophy. But what they do *not do is treat the text as the true and inspired Word of God given for the instruction of the Church. I go back to my image of the grubby glass in need of cleaning ('patriarchal / sexist / time-conditioned / culturally limited / primitive anthropology / Gnostic redeemer myths' etc etc) that lets some light through and obstructs other light.

Peter: you may (or may not) recall that I have debated Tobias Haller on this site. It should be no surprise to you that I found his poetic medievalism question-begging and unconvincing on the meaning of NT texts. Neither Spong not Schori is a serious biblical scholar.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Bryden: thank you - but I think I must read the book itself! I am mindful of what C.S. Lewis said in his preface to De Verbi Inacarnatione, that books about 'Platonism' are far harder to follow than Plato himself!
But thank you - and Advent blessings.

Martin

Bryden Black said...

Sure thing Martin! But as with Plato and depending upon whether one is inside or outside the city walls, Lutz’s helps one to quickly see the wood for the trees. I also think it's important to read the 3rd edition, and not just the 2nd.

Bryden Black said...

What's the Prize, Peter? NTW's latest 2 volumes on St Paul - already dismissed by some due to his 'intransigence' on certain sexual issues.

Peter Carrell said...

Remember the old NZ joke, Bryden, about first prize being one weeks holiday in Invercargill and second prize bing two weeks holiday in the same place ... And be careful what you wish for!

David Runcorn said...

Martin you wrote,

'Any liberal could disagree with them quite easily: all he or she has to say is 'Paul was wrong (a man of his time)' or 'Jesus was ignorant (culture-bound)' or 'The Yahwist was patriarchalist etc' - and that's exactly what liberal writers do say.'
I call that a caricature.

'It's there all right but maybe you can't hear it because I absorb my sources.'
Then why not allow the possibility of the same absorbent properties in my contribution rather than appearing to assume I have not really read the 'important' texts here?

Anonymous said...

Peter, that's a bit harsh on Invercargill - it only rains twice a week there: first for three days, then for four.

David, I was speaking in the telegraphic style of a 50 word blog comment (i.e. not nuanced), not a 10,000 word essay with endnotes. Boiled down without finesse, this is what many liberals do say in effect. When I read through your essay, I also noted at the end your conversation partners whom you referenced. If you have refuted Nolland, Wenham, Gagnon etc elsewhere in print, it would be interesting to read this.
Can I conclude my contribution to this thread by saying - incredible as it may sound - I don't enjoy controversy and I feel more depressed more than ever about the branch of the church I have devoted most of life to. I wish there was an amicable separation instead of this interminable warfare; then liberals who want to rewrite the rules could peacefully form their own denomination and have any redundant churches they care for that they can fill. I don't care for this any more than I cared for being a child in a warring home. We don't have to have this zero-sum game.

Martin

Byron said...

"Any liberal could disagree with them quite easily: all he or she has to say is 'Paul was wrong (a man of his time)' or 'Jesus was ignorant (culture-bound)' or 'The Yahwist was patriarchalist etc' - and that's exactly what liberal writers do say."

That's a fair comment: as Diarmaid MacCulloch wrote in 'Reformation': "This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of a homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong."

Father Ron Smith said...

"The only alternatives are either to try to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong." - Byron -

OR, alternatively, one's fixed understanding of what the Bible is really saying - into the present context of life in the 21st century - could simply be wrong!

The Holy Spirit did not cease teaching us with the publication of the scriptures. Even Jesus said "When the Spirit comes.....!"

Anonymous said...

Ron, those are not Byron's words, they are a quotation from Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, a founding member of the Gay Christian Movement and now an ex-Christian. Prof. MacCulloch is entirely consistent in his thinking.

The Bible is a collection of literature from the past. How it can be "really saying" something different in the 21st century from what "it said" 2000 or 3000 years ago is beyond me. If you mean to say you believe the Holy Spirit is today abrogating the Scriptures, then say so clearly.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

For a Latin and Greek scholar, Martin, you sometimes surprise me with your seeming obtuseness:

" If you mean to say you believe the Holy Spirit is today abrogating the Scriptures, then say so clearly."

Now where did I actually say that? Look again at what I actually said.

The Holy Spirit is still teaching us about what the Scriptures are actually saying to us, today. Not abrogation but topical explanation - mostly, about how Jesus re-interpreted the Pharisaical understanding of the Scriptures,
to the point where they sought his undoing.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a scholar of Latin and Greek, Ron, just a dabbler and sometime teacher. The Hebrew Bible is my actual area of research.
Anyway, when you wrote:
"one's fixed understanding of what the Bible is really saying - into the present context of life in the 21st century - could simply be wrong"
I took this to mean either (a) for thousands of years the Church has seriously misunderstood what it thought to be the plain meaning of Scripture [which Professor MacCulloch and I think is absurd) or (b) - trying to understand your words about 'the present context of life in the 21st century - the meaning of the Bible is different from what it was 2000-3000 years ago - which I think is equally absurd, but is an idea defended by extreme exponents of reader-response criticism and some forms of subjectivist postmodernism (see Thiselton and Vanhoozer on this)

When you wrote: "The Holy Spirit did not cease teaching us with the publication of the scriptures. Even Jesus said "When the Spirit comes.....!", I took this to be a reference to the possibility of the abrogation of Scripture by the Holy Spirit, which is of course perfectly conventional mainline liberalism: 'ex tenebris ad lucem', as we dabblers say. 'Progressive Christianity' is the preferred self-designation.
Abrogation of previous revelation is a standard Islamic doctrine as well, but Islam has a much stronger concept of revelation than Christian liberalism, as well as an extremely voluntarist view of Allah that no Christian could share.

Martinos Spermologos

MichaelA said...

Peter wrote:

1. "But in the short-term it strikes me that this is a report which has very carefully listened to conservatives, illustrated by not recommending formal change to doctrine."

Peter, are you that naïve? This is typical liberal double-speak, designed to lull conservatives while the changes desired by the liberals are brought in.

Not to worry – it will just drive home to more orthodox evangelicals that they need to separate from the governance of the Church of England, whether overtly, or in practical terms. That in itself is a good thing, as it will enable them to devote themselves to evangelism without worrying about liberal interference. It will also hasten the process of cutting off liberals from the tithes of the faithful.

2. "Each of you highlights problems with the Pilling Report and the approach it takes. But do you offer a solution?"

Of course there is a solution Peter, its just that you and the folks at e.g. Fulcrum don't want to hear it. The solution was set out at Dromantine in 2005, at Dar-es-Salaam in 2007, at Jerusalem in 2008, at Singapore in 2010, at Nairobi in 2013, and many other places besides. If it wants to survive, the CofE has to courageously and lovingly proclaim the truth. Waffle just leads to slow death, which is what is happening.

3. "Are we prepared to be a church which teaches 'orthodox marriage' and not expel partnered gay Christians from our midst?"

Oh come, Peter, seriously? That is not what the Pilling Report is about, and you know it. The analogy would be if Arians were openly accommodated in the Church. The Church did not dialogue with Arianism, it rejected it. And the Church should not be dialoguing with liberalism now, but rejecting it. That does not entail expelling liberals from the Church, any more than rejecting Arianism meant expelling Arians from the Church – it just means that both Arians and liberals must understand that their teachings are not the teachings of the Church. So you have made the point against the Pilling report very well!

4. "Where such a sharp distinction exists (in TEC??) then there is little point to dialogue/conversation as such liberal blocs have shown their hand, it is not pretty in theological terms."

Precisely. And before the liberal blocs showed their hands in TEC, there was Pilling-style dialogue aplenty within TEC. That stopped once Frank Griswold and Katherine Schori felt they had the numbers to start wholesale clergy depositions. To put it another way, if you engage in this sort of dialogue now you can rest assured that you will be denied it once the liberals get a firm grip on power within your church.

5. "I am trying to work on what it means to be in a church where the distinction is not so sharp. For example, is a Christian brother who is conservative on abortion, liberal on same sex partnerships and fervent in saying the creeds without crossing-fingers behind backs, one of your 'liberals'?"

Why would he be anything else? If he wants to stand by me on the issue of abortion then good for him, but that won't stop me opposing him on the issue of ordaining practicing homosexuals. People holding different viewpoints has been a characteristic of ecclesiology since the time of Paul – it doesn't mean that definitional categories have no validity.

6. "Of course, if we simply expel anyone who is vaguely liberal any time they are vaguely liberal I would be on my tenth expulsion ..."

Its not a matter of expulsion. It’s a matter of being honest about where we all stand. And its not a matter of being "vaguely liberal" – its difficult to see how David Runcorn's views on this issue differ from those of most liberals, so why insist on labeling him 'evangelical'?

MichaelA said...

Fr Ron wrote:

"This (Uganda Christian University) is a Christian University where the Christian Church is co-hosting legislation to criminalise Gays!"

It is, Fr Ron? That is a fairly serious allegation to make. Would you care to explain it? (and also explain how a University or a Church "co-hosts" legislation of any kind?)

Then, once you have explained what it has actually done, could you then please explain why this means that Professor Noll's views are not to be engaged with?

MichaelA said...

Fr Ron wrote:

"I appreciate that people like Carl in North America might think that the Church of England is already in perdition's ante-room; but he, fortunately, and you and I, Peter, will have no voting rights in the future decisions of the Church of England on this important human rights issue. Let's wait and see "What the Spirit is saying to The Church' in England at this time."

That's okay – in practical terms, many orthodox evangelicals in the CofE won't get a vote either. But that doesn't mean they can't react in other ways. Staying in CofE but withholding their contributions from the liberal establishment, for example.

"There's no-one so benighted as he who dwells in a bubble of righteous prejudice - against ever-one around him who doesn't think in the same way as he does."

Precisely.

"Now. who went away justified?" (Luke 18:14)

The one, of course, who acknowledged that he was a sinner and that because of his sin he had no right to live, without God's sacrifice. Thank you Father Ron, for putting it so well!

MichaelA said...

"A further very revealing point (and reinforcing my previous sentence) was made at December 1, 2013 at 3:36 AM where David Runcorn points out that if someone is regarded as not evangelical then it is very convenient as one does not have to engage with the exegesis provided by such a person at all then."

You can't have your cake and eat it too, Bosco. If you blame Martin for not "engaging" in that way, then neither has David Runcorn engaged with a whole host of current conservative writers, which was Martin's point in the first place. You might want to re-think your insistence on blaming Martin.

MichaelA said...

David Runcorn wrote:

"I recall Michael Green years ago urging leaders of the Oxford CU to beware of doing just that - defining belonging so narrowly that it actually excludes rather than affirms. He pointed out how many theologians at Oxford at the time had begun their lives as evangelicals but ended out outside a fold that was circling ever more tightly in itself."

That would be the Michael Green who wrote the following: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=15762#.UqWC4vSnrlM? As I recall, his teaching many years ago or more recently did not give any encouragement to those who would move towards liberalism!

"I feel I am hearing an assumption that if I had really read these books (and also, you tell me, talked to John Nolland - who is still a colleague and friend actually - I teach at Trinity among other places) I could surely not hold the views I do."

No, David, that does not follow. "Engage with" doesn't mean "agree with". Martin was saying that you haven't debated them or shown any sign in your article that you are even aware of their views.

"…Actually, much as I respect them, helpful and challenging as I find engaging with them, vital as their learning and wisdom is to me, I have come to disagree with them on this."

Sure, but Martin's point was to ask whether you had engaged with them. So now on this blog you are telling us that you disagree with them, but it would have been more helpful if you had acknowledged this in the piece, and explained why.

"Then why not allow the possibility of the same absorbent properties in my contribution rather than appearing to assume I have not really read the 'important' texts here?"

Because of the context. These writers have written recently on this very topic. Why omit to mention them at all, or engage with their arguments, particularly when you claim to come from the same tradition or background as them?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
OK, fair point about standing against liberalism and not expelling liberals. Other fair points too.

What, in my own flawed manner, I am trying to get to grips with is living in a church which is not TEC and not the CofE, which is threatened by liberal theological takeover but never quite succumbs, which has people of all stripes and labels trying to get to grips not only with a theological issue but (often) a personal issue, which is increasingly aware that differences over same sex partnerships is possibly not quite analogous to differences over the Trinity (Arians/Orthodox) and, just possibly, is not quite fitting with modern conservative/liberal divides on other matters, which is asking in an "is Paris worth a mass" mode, is homosexuality worth a schism?

No doubt my logic is not up to yours, Michael, and I am expressing myself very badly in your lights. But in my context I do not see my Anglican friends and family grappling with what it means to have their children marry people of the same sex making any kind of equation between the threat of liberalism to the life of the church and the 'threat' their children pose to the church.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Staying in CofE but withholding their contributions from the liberal establishment, for example."

- MichaelA -

And where, Michael, is the virtue in that particular non-contribution to the Church one is part of?

Would it not be better for the non-contributing party to move out? At least, they could claim to actually be supporting the cause they are attempting to defend, without living off the mana of the parent organisation. 'Cuckoos in the nest' are only self-serving.

MichaelA said...

"At least, they could claim to actually be supporting the cause they are attempting to defend, without living off the mana of the parent organisation."

From our perspective, its the other way around, Fr Ron. We see the liberals as living off the mana (manna?) of the parent organisation, which in turn gets it mainly from the tithes of the faithful. Hence its logical to take steps to prevent those tithes being used for ministry that we don't agree with. I am speaking in an English context, where I have some knowledge and interest, not about any other church.

MichaelA said...

I detect your subtle rebuke, Peter, point taken. I was probably over-analytical. Thank you for drawing the whole issue to everyone's attention.

Although I have been down on Fulcrum, I note that those on the liberal blog Thinking Anglicans are pretty unhappy with Fulcrum, believing it has sided with the "con-evos".

Some more links to groups in England who have commented on the report:

From Reform: http://reform.org.uk/news/src/archive/11-2013/title/reform-press-statement-nov-28-2013-reform-s-response-to-the-publication-of-the-pilling-report

Re Church of England Evangelical Council: http://www.christiantoday.com/article/pilling.report.has.deep.and.serious.flaws.says.cofe.evangelicals/34883.htm

From the director of Co-Mission churches in London: http://www.co-mission.org.uk/Groups/228546/Co_Mission/ABOUT_US/_The_Pilling/_The_Pilling.aspx

From the Gafcon chairman (not directly relevant to England, but his attitude is likely to be reflect in local members of the FCA and AMiE): http://gafcon.org/news/chairmans-advent-letter

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
The rebuke was very subtle as it was not intended! But I did intend to defend my corner, albeit defensively and not aggressively.

Whatever the (de)merits of the Pilling Report, it does have the merit of being "pilloried" (interesting pun!) on all sides!