Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My solution for General Synod's 2014 Ma Whea? maze

UPDATE: In the latest Taonga print magazine (accessible via the internet here) I argue for a position, written prior to the publication of the Ma Whea? Commission report with its ten options, which is effectively Option J. I am not the Autocrat of the church but if I were I would continue to argue solely for that option (which, I remind you, is the resolved position of the Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch). However, with the publication of the report and the ten options, and taking 'soundings' about responses to these options, what I write below seeks to acknowledge the 'real politik' of our church at this time.

ORIGINAL POST: For those who wish to cut to the chase re 'a way through the maze' head down through the post to the heading with those words.

The following is "up for discussion" here. Perhaps it is nonsense. It might be useful. No doubt it can be improved. My purpose in offering this is not to hold our church together at any cost (though I would like us not to divide). Rather, my purpose is to explore finding a way to remain together despite opposing views because those opposing views involve important matters of Christian faithfulness. Faithfulness to God's revelation in Scripture and faithfulness to the well-being of people - a faithfulness which, in each perspective's own lights, is found together on both sides of the matter - is not something to be lightly disregarded.

Introduction

I have now read through the 102 pages of the Ma Whea? Commission document including the report of the Doctrinal Commission (you can re-find it here). There is some impressive work in the document. For example, writing is generally clear, ideas are expressed concisely and, in my view, nothing seriously silly or even stupid is said. However I am learning from some correspondents that some are disappointed with the two reports. Nevertheless some folk have spent a lot of time on the various pieces of the document and for that I think our church can be very appreciative.

Let me be also just a little bit cheeky, provocative and yet encouraging in an even-handed manner to regular commenters here: I think some arguments on both sides of the ledger here at ADU could be improved by learning from the document :)

I would like to pay a special tribute to the Rev Dr Andrew Burgess, Principal of Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson who took part in the Doctrinal Commission's deliberations. When he was considering appointment he sounded me out as to whether I might be more inclined to be considered for appointment. I declined for various reasons. Andrew was appointed and to the extent that I can discern his influence on the Doctrinal Commission's report I cannot imagine any aspect where my influence would have improved on his.

My summary thoughts as I read through the two Commissions' reports

These thoughts are important for what I say about a way through the maze!

1. The case for change to the doctrine of marriage of this church (as received by this church and recorded in our formularies) has not been made.

In part this conclusion is drawn from the strength of Section C of the Doctrinal Commission's report. In part it is also drawn from something I do not think any part of the document tackles with sufficient rigour, namely, the distinctiveness of the difference between man and woman and hence the special but deservedly privileged status heterosexual marriage enjoys, in Scripture and in tradition. Put another way, a running thread through 102 pages of the combined document is a flattening of gender difference.

2. The case for provision of blessing of (permanent, stable, faithful, loving) same sex partnerships is almost made.

If I were to tweak the Doctrinal Commission's report I would say something more about the blessed relationship between Naomi and Ruth (mentioned, but could have been explored more) and also open up friendship as a category of relationship well blessed by God. But whether we could then get to a case for blessings which was received well by our whole church remains an open question. Plus ...

3. A crucial question then arises: with an improved case being made would we have a case being made for the provision of such blessings as a provision for pastoral care or as an inclusion in our formularies, printed in our authorised prayer books?

This distinction is very important. The former is a provision of pastoral care for those who wish to provide it, the latter implies a pastoral responsibility across the Three Tikanga of our church. The former puts the onus on bishops (and/or synods) to determine whether to permit such provision (or even, more subtly, to not forbid it). The latter puts the onus on those not wishing to conduct a prayer book service to justify their refusal.

4. Across the two reports, the case is made that we are a church with two (or more) views on same sex marriage and the blessing of same sex partnerships.

5. Yet we seem to be a church in a state that if we cannot find a way to formally be a church of more than one view then we will lose people.

4. I note the observation made that the Diocese of Auckland found it easier to secure a majority re blessing than re marriage. (Section E1.2 of Doctrinal Report on p. 33 of that report, which is page 97 of the combined report).

"We may note that in 2013 the Synod of the Diocese of Auckland voted not to
pursue a path toward same-gender marriage but voted in favour of a path toward
a liturgy for blessing same-gender sexual relationships. The margin of disparity in
voting on the two relevant motions before the Synod indicates that in the minds
and hearts of a significant number of those voting there is a difference between
‘blessing’ and ‘marriage’. In other words: clearly for some Anglicans a blessing
of a same-gender relationship is acceptable when same-gender marriage is not."

Ten Options

Re-linked here are the ten options the Me Whea? Commission is proposing to the GS for consideration.

A Way Through the Maze

A couple of observations to begin with.

First, from the conservative side of things, there is concern that if agreement to some change is secured now it will lead to pressure for further change, then further change until, before you know it, we will have changed to a degree that is worth dividing over. Hence two strategic conservative response at this time: (i) agree to no change, make no compromises, allow no foothold on to the thin end of the thick wedge; (ii) leave fairly quickly after change has been made because the momentum for further change is unstoppable, so no point in waiting.

Put another way, and in question form, might conservatives accept some change to acknowledge we are a church of more than one view if there is guarantee that further change will not be pressed for?

Secondly, with respect to bishops making determinations about the chasteness of candidates for ordination and for licensed appointments, we can observe that bishops already have some discretion in this area. Consider the matter of remarriage after divorce. Strictly speaking remarriage after divorce is not an impediment to ordination or appointment on the grounds of chasteness. But we could understand that a bishop might be a little wary of (say) a candidate who has been twice divorced and thrice married.

Here, then, is my way through the maze, in the light of the 102 page document, the above thoughts and observations:

(in parentheses are named relevant options from the ten options proposed by the Commission, though no claim is made that my 'steps' equate to the commission's 'options').

In certain ways what I am proposing relates to Option F.

Step One: we commit to not changing our doctrine of marriage for a period of not less than twenty-five years. (See Option A)

If 'resistance' to such change is a generational thing, then twenty-five years should see the resistance melt away without painful divisions resulting.

Step Two: we confirm that bishops have discretion (remember: it has already previously been exercised in the past in our church) to authorise priests to conduct blessings of same sex relationships (note: a rite already exists on one of our church's websites but we might wish to bring this up to date while not making it part of our formularies). (See Options C, I)

Step Three: we confirm that bishops and their advisors only have authority to ask of prospective candidates for ordination or appointment to licensed ministry about their adherence to our doctrine of marriage: that is, whether or not a candidate is willing to conduct or to not conduct a blessing of a same sex partnership is not a relevant matter to such discernment processes. (See Option A)

Step Four: we confirm that 'chaste' may be understood by bishops to include people in same sex partnerships which have been blessed by a priest or a bishop and registered with the state via civil union or marriage but need not be so understood (i.e. bishops could choose to continue to understand 'chaste' as 'married or celibate'). (See Options C and E)

For Steps Two and Four, bishops might wish to consult their synods and they might be prudent to do so but they would not be required to do this.  (See Option D).

Step Five: we encourage a period of facilitated conversations in dioceses prior to 1 April 2016 in order that from 1 April 2016 Steps Two, Three and Four may be implemented. (See Option J)

Step Six: we encourage bishops to remain open to the possibility that the actual working out of Steps One to Four, with respect to all sides of the issues, might require new arrangements in respect of episcopal care of clergy and parishes and we authorise the Primates with the assistance of the General Secretary to appoint a commission of responsible persons at any time through the period 2014 until 2018 to review how this new direction for our church is working. (See Option G).

It is understandable that bishops are wary of 'Dual Episcopacy' yet our church may need to find new ways of being an episcopal church in a new situation. All may go well, in which case Step Six requires nothing to be done. But if all does not go well then this Step offers guidance to our bishops and archbishops.






49 comments:

tachesterton said...

Peter, if I were a Kiwi Anglican, I would be cheering for this.

Tim

Peter Carrell said...

Your membership form, Tim, is in the mail ... :)

Chris Spark said...

Thanks for the thoughts Peter.

For me the glaring issue, one of considerable pain but unavoidable, is that the church would still be blessing something that it still seems to very many of us to be under the wider banner of porneia, and specifically part of the sort of sinful actions mentioned (amongst other sinful actions) in Rom 1 and 1 Cor 6, and other places. These actions are no more or less sinful than any other sinful action of which we are all guilty, but they are sinful never the less. And at that point a same sex sexual relationship for a Christian is fundamentally different than friendship, and the Ruth and Naomi relationship (an excellent example of covenanted non-sexual relationship we could well learn more from) becomes irrelevant to the issue immediately at hand. A blessing of a non-sexual relationship would be a different thing, and certainly worth considering. But that is not what we are talking about here.

In short, same sex sexual activity is understood by many of us (and that includes a number with a homosexual orientation) as an area of sinfulness. And so blessing it, whether as part of something the church calls 'marriage' or not, is something we would probably not be able to bear with. That is a culturally sticky situation,. but that is where the issue lies for at least a good number of us

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
Life is messy. Some point out that to remarry a divorced person while the previous marriage partner is alive is to bless adultery (e.g. Romans 7:3, our Lord's teaching on divorce in the gospels). I mention this not to get into a "ping pong" back and forth debate but to acknowledge that already in our church there exists division of opinion over the merits of current practice.

Two wrongs do not make a right. But acknowledging that we live with perceptions of wrong practice in our midst may help us to engage ever more deeply with the nuances of the debates before us.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

So ... this is your plan.

1. Implement an unenforceable 25-year ban.

2. Allow Bishops the discretion to provide de facto legitimization to homosexual behavior on behalf of the church.

3. Pretend a candidate's views on homosexuality can't be extracted by other means.

4. Yap. Extensively. Interminably.

5. Offer up the (vain) hope that separate structures with separate bishops might be cobbled together at some future time if none of this makes any difference. And in the face of all the facts that will have already have been established on the ground.

Tell me again, because I can't quite grasp it. Why should a conservative accept any part of this plan? Because it looks like wholesale surrender to me.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
We are not seeing the same situation with the same eyes ...

1. Implement an unenforceable 25-year ban. NOT A BAN BUT AN AGREEMENT to not reconsider a basic doctrine of the church.

2. Allow Bishops the discretion to provide de facto legitimization to homosexual behavior on behalf of the church. YES BECAUSE AS I BEST UNDERSTAND OUR GENERAL SYNOD THAT IS WHERE THE MAJORITY VOTE is heading anyway.

3. Pretend a candidate's views on homosexuality can't be extracted by other means. I HAVE TRUST IN OUR AUTHORITIES ON THIS MATTER. We are not TEC.

4. Yap. Extensively. Interminably. NO. A SPECIFIC PERIOD NOT INTERMINABLE.

5. Offer up the (vain) hope that separate structures with separate bishops might be cobbled together at some future time if none of this makes any difference. And in the face of all the facts that will have already have been established on the ground. NO. NOT OFFERING VAIN HOPE. ASKING PEOPLE OF GENUINE GOODWILL TO FIND WAYS FORWARD. Again, we are not TEC.

Tell me again, because I can't quite grasp it. Why should a conservative accept any part of this plan? Because it looks like wholesale surrender to me. NO. IT IS FACING REALITY. THE ALTERNATIVE FOR SOME CONSERVATIVES IS DEPARTURE. IT MAY COME TO THAT. WHY NOT GIVE COMPROMISE A GO BEFORE EITHER WHOLESALE SURRENDER OR WHOLESALE DEPARTURE?

Father Ron Smith said...

Fortunately, Peter, most of your Moore College associates and other foreign correspondents will have no say about what we do in ACANZP, so I can't see that their input will make any difference to what our Church in Aotearoa does, or does not do, about your fears for its future which you have so adequately expressed in this post.

All I can think of, in response to your post is, in the words of one of the old charismatic choruses:
"Fear not! Rejoice and be glad, the Lord has done a great thing!"

And as for those in our Church who like you, are still fearful for the future; I'm sure there will still be a place for you - if you really want to be part of our exciting future.

Incidentally, we said goodbye, in a packed church at St. Michael's this morning, to renowned HIV/Aids Specialist, Dr. Charles Farthing, whose medical expertise first diagnosed this terrible disease in England many years ago. Since then, he has worked tirelessly all over the world but mainly in North America finding the latest medical palliatives, that have saved the lives of millions. Now that's Good News! Resurrection hope in this life for many of God's children

The church was full. The service was joyous as we commended this servant of God to his Saviour and Lord. Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

tachesterton said...

I think Peter is attempting to respond to some even more basic realities. As I understand them from my vantage point in Canada, here they are. At the moment opinion about homosexuality is deeply divided in the church. What to do about it? Here are the basic options.

1. The 'conservatives' could keep arguing and hope that they might finally find the convincing argument that would persuade the 'liberals' to abandon the project and return to the good old days. Likelihood of success? Very slim.

2. The 'liberals' could keep arguing and hope that they might finally find the convincing argument that would persuade the 'conservatives' to abandon their convictions and embrace the wave of the future. Likelihood of success? Small.

3. The 'liberals' and 'conservatives' could part company and form two separate denominations. This could be successful, but there are a few problems. (a) 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' are actually stereotypes; in reality there is a wide variety of opinion on various subjects on all sides. (b) Would the Conservatives then split into even smaller denominations? What's their view on the ordination of women? The Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacerdotal priesthood? Traditional liturgies or worship bands? etc. etc. (c) Is it financially viable? Yes, conservatives tend to tithe, and in large centres their churches might do well. But in my diocese in rural western Canada it would be the death of most of the rural congregations, liberal or conservative, which can barely make ends meet now.

4. Some sort of agreement to recognize that this is another subject on which Anglicans have different views (which we do in fact have a lot of practice at). This, as I see it, is what Peter is proposing.

It seems clear to me, Carl, that your preferred option for the Anglican Church would be option 3. Fair enough, if that works for you. But of course, as you mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, you aren't actually an Anglican and never have been, so understandably your attachment to the idea of Anglican unity is not so strong. There are many others like you, hence the popularity, not only of conservative groups like ANIC and ACNA and FCC, but also lobby groups like Inclusive Church and Women and the Church and Modern Church, in which like-minded people get together and reinforce each other's existing opinions. Folks like that are of course very happy with option 3, but it won't work for all of us, and for some of us it is deeply troubling. I would certainly include myself in that category, and I think Peter would too. Hence the willingness of many of us to consider some sort of Option 4.

Tim C.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

NOT A BAN BUT AN AGREEMENT

Yes, an agreement that can be undone at any moment. And even if the people who make that agreement have every intention of keeping it, they cannot bind the actions of their successors. As the opponents of WO in the CoE discovered to their bitter regret.

AS I BEST UNDERSTAND OUR GENERAL SYNOD THAT IS WHERE THE MAJORITY VOTE is heading anyway.

Then your church is toast.

I HAVE TRUST IN OUR AUTHORITIES ON THIS MATTER.

You have trust in current church authorities. Do you have trust in future church authorities?

A SPECIFIC PERIOD NOT INTERMINABLE.

But after two years of fruitless discussion, what then? Someone will say "Let's keep talking." It never ends because no one has an alternative. If you stop talking and admit the argument is intractable, then someone has to act. Talking must be prolonged indefinitely lest someone do something.

NOT OFFERING VAIN HOPE. ASKING PEOPLE OF GENUINE GOODWILL TO FIND WAYS FORWARD

If the problem is intractable, then there isn't a way forward. If there was a way forward, someone would have found it by now. How long have you been fighting about this? How much longer do you need to rehearse the same arguments to learn there is no way to square this circle? Good will cannot overcome the fact that both sides demand control over teaching and practice. Those demands are not negotiable.

NO. IT IS FACING REALITY.

If your church is really determined to embrace this heresy, then I wonder what benefit is to found in saying within it under conditions of compromise. You can leave. You can stay and oppose come what may. But to find some accommodation for heresy seems the one option that should be off the table.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim/Ron/Carl

Ron: I am not afraid for myself. I worry for our church.

Tim: Thank you. You understand our situation well. You precisely nail the issue in splitting: a simple 'liberal' v 'conservative' split does not do justice to a range of agreements and disagreements across and between different spectra.

Carl: I am asking if two views can live side by side in a small church. They may not be able to do so. You may be found to be right. One reason I am most likely to stay (please note, Ron!) is that cutting and running would do little to help people caught up in a nexus of issues - colleagues, for example, inclined to be conservative while loving and supporting family members who are openly gay. They will not leave. Why should I?

carl jacobs said...

Peter

It's not about the difference between staying and leaving. Different people can and will make different and equally legitimate judgments on that matter. You are trying to find a way to stay that allows you to avoid confrontation on this issue. You want to submerge it under the rubric of "something that Christians can legitimately disagree about." That is not true. This is not an area of legitimate disagreement.

Yes, a church can coexist with two different opinions on an issue. But not this issue. It touches too many essentials. Besides, you have already said that the Anglican Church will not formally sustain two opinions on baptism. The issue of homosexuality is orders of magnitude more important than mode of baptism. How can you restrict the later while you tolerate the former?

You say you can't stop the train. You can get off the train or you can ride the train until it plummets into the ravine. But if you choose to stay on the train, you are bound to warn people that the bridge is out and the train is going to crash. It is not sufficient to slow the train a little so the train will go off the bridge at a slower speed.

carl

carl jacobs said...

Tim

But of course, as you mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, you aren't actually an Anglican and never have been, so understandably your attachment to the idea of Anglican unity is not so strong.

What I am is a wandering Lutheran. I left the Lutheran Church because it couldn't answer my questions without appealing to irrational mysticism. Even so I miss the Lutheran Church. So I have spent close to twenty years looking for a Reformed liturgical church as a replacement.

In 2004 I started following the Renewing Church movements and that lead me to the Anglican world absent TEC. I didn't know it even existed. If there was an Anglican Church within reasonable distance I would be a part of it. You have no idea how discouraged I am over churches because of the experiences I have had over the past fifteen or so years. If I wanted to, I could sound very much like FRS on the subject of evangelicalism.

But this subject has nothing to do with Anglican unity. As I have said many times on this weblog, I don't consider liberal Christianity to be recognizably Christian. I consider it a counterfeit - possessing form without substance. TEC is to me as the gnostics were to Paul. Not only do I reject unity with it, I consider differentiation from it to be a moral imperative. That's why this issue is so important. It's not about Christians disagreeing. It's about covering an heretical non-Christian counterfeit with a veil of legitimacy. That's what compromise does.

You can morally leave and say "They have become heretics." You can morally stay and say "We have corrupted ourselves." What you cannot do is say "Let's just stay together and agree to disagree in Christian brotherhood." Not on this subject. That's the problem.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I scarcely think that I and other conservatives in our church are avoiding confrontation. We've been confronting this issue for twenty plus years at synod and General Synod level!

For me a specific point of impossibility of living with 'two views' would be change to our canon on marriage. The steps I outline above represent what I and (as I discern these things) some conservatives could live and work with in our church. Others may not feel able to do so. I imagine a number of liberal minded folk would not accept these steps. They may come to nothing.

If our church is a train riding towards a ravine it has other things to worry about besides this issue (see my post on Easter Day).

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

I would be interested in your views about how this approach would work in terms of the international standing of the NZ church.

Do you think it will satisfy the Global South?

Do you think it will make TEC happy?

Where would the balance fall?

Mary

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mary
I do not hear impressive sounding concern for the Global South coming from our bishops (with one or two exceptions) so it is unlikely that our church will be particularly swayed towards a solution which pleases the Global South.

Under those circumstances I would be quite pleased with a solution which pleased us en masse in ACANZP.

TEC could be happy. But they will continue their way and it won't be like what I am proposing.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You are losing sight of the policy: comment on comments, not on commenters.

People who disagree with me, such as Carl, are most welcome here.

Insights and prophetic speech re our church from outsiders is most useful to sharpen up our debate. Again, Carl is most welcome on that school.

This is an inclusive blog, Ron, in which all people, outsiders and insiders are welcome to comment (providing policy is observed). The open-mindedness and liberality of welcome here is, I believe, in keeping with the broad and diverse nature of the Anglican way.

Peter Carrell said...

That should be "score" not "school" in my comment above!

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I scarcely think that I and other conservatives in our church are avoiding confrontation. We've been confronting this issue for twenty plus years at synod and General Synod level!

I am not talking about confrontation over the shape of canon law. I am referring to confrontation over the theological nature that drives the other side of the argument. You are manifestly trying to find some solution such that "two views can live side by side in a small church." You are beginning with an assumption of unity, and it is that very assumption that must be confronted.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Fair enough, Carl.
In that case the confrontation between conservative and liberal theologies, while living in a church with multiple and sometimes strange and weird theologies has been going on all my life, and longer.

Anonymous said...

Peter

I want to continue the discussion you and I are having – but we are doing that a page back at http://anglicandownunder.blogspot.co.nz/2014/04/ma-whea-commission-nightmare-or-mares.html where no one else much is listening any more, and I keep struggling to find it. It is a discussion not unconnected to this post in any case.

On that previous post several of you were, once again, assuming that reproductive intercourse is identical with marriage. When I questioned that presupposition, you saw my problem as “an absolute, shared assumption that reproductive intercourse is not identical with marriage”.

I then questioned you whether you would marry “a couple who cannot, in their sexual activity, be “open to be reproductive” because they are way past childbearing age, or the male is paraplegic or quadriplegic, or the female has had her uterus removed because it was cancerous, or the male is impotent after a prostate operation, or any other reason”.

From your response that you would discuss these with the couple concerned I take that in principle you would be prepared to marry such couples. From which I can only take that you do not hold to the assumption that reproductive intercourse is identical with marriage when it comes to heterosexuals, but praise this assumption as a strong argument when it comes to denying the same to homosexuals.

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
Perhaps I need to write a book ... meantime I hope you might allow some leeway for a brief reply.

As I engage with these and other questions here I sense that what I (at least) need to develop is a sense of marriage as being something with interlocking characteristics: sex open to reproduction, gender difference, commitment for life, commitment to faithfulness, not within kinship degrees, etc. (With associated discussion re which are necessary, what constitute sufficient for a marriage, etc). On that basis, same gender aspirations for marriage do fall down re gender difference, whatever we make of the other aspects.

Nevertheless and focusing on the specific point you are pressing: I think - after appropriate pastoral discussion - I would not agree to conduct a marriage where a couple - for any reason said - ours will not be a sexual relationship.

I expect a number of my colleagues would not follow suit and would be available to conduct the ceremony.

By the way, for the record, I am not an intrusive preparer of couples for weddings: I assume they are committing to a sexual relationship unless they inform me otherwise! Ditto, I assume openness to parenting unless informed otherwise.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
For the umpteenth time, stop slurring commenters here on the blog if you want your comments posted.

I will NOT tolerate remarks about "anti-gay" theology here when people are simply arguing for the doctrine of marriage as this church presently understands it!

Nor slurs against graduates of this or that theological college.

Accordingly your moderated comment is as follows,

"Perhaps, Peter, if you were to act out your threat to 'write a book', you wouldn't be irritating those of us who seriously contend with [ideas] on your blog. We could choose not to read it. However, I understand your blog sets itself out to be a sounding board for opinions of all parties, not just [] obscurantism.

If you really want inclusive dialogue, you must be prepared to accept comments by people who disagree with you, as well as the multitude on your blog who back you up to the hilt.

Otherwise, your blog might become just another one way street (maybe like kiwianglo but in the other direction). But then, I don't profess to be other than a person wanting justice for ALL people.
"

Arowhenua said...

Hi Rachel picking up on your previous thread, sorry stopped checking the previous ones hence discussion apart from Peter probably dried up on the points you raise.

For me personally i see two types of truth relative truth and ultimate truth. So I would contend with the way you view certain ways of perceiving things as outdated. For example to me the gospel is ultimate truth, although old, it is never outdated, and relevant to all generations.

Regarding linking pro-creative intercourse with marriage. I link it more with the design of the human body rather than necessarily sex. Being created man and woman with the necessary parts for heterosexual sex and for those fortunate enough procreation, to me illustrates a natural order of creation. This view I do not think means as you refer, an assumption that reproductive intercourse is synonomous with marriage.

In response to your current post Peter. I can see the benefits of a negotiated way forward - especially the focus on other things emphasis - but I am a bit hesitant, like carl, not knowing where or when we cross the boundaries of compromising truth.

I wonder if such a blessing would raise the questions as to whether defacto couples could also recieve a blessing. I know marriage is an option for them, but many people currently (ironically opposite to the bid for homosexual marriage) insist vehemently that they will not ever marry.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean,
One question to consider about 'compromise' and truth is whether 'this occasion' is similar to 'other occasions' when such compromises have occurred in the Anglican church, or is it 'worse' or 'one occasion too many'.

As best I can tell there are proponents for each of the options!

Anonymous said...

It is very helpful in this conversation, Peter, that you conclude that the list of examples I gave means that such couples will “not be a sexual relationship”.

Your approach (that couples who, through no fault of their own, cannot reproduce would therefore have a relationship that would “not be a sexual relationship”) does follow logically from your position for homosexuals.

Thank you for being clear where your own logic leads.

Rachel.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
Respectfully, I did not say the examples you adduced would not involve sexual relationships.

What I was trying to say was that where a couple say that theirs would not be a sexual relationship I am do not think I would marry them.

I am trying very hard in saying that not to determine before conversation what a couple will say to me!

As for the logic of my position, I admit to being a little confused as to what my logic leads to ... :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

Respectfully, if you did not say the examples I adduced would not involve sexual relationships, then you have not answered my question.

My question was, “whether you would marry a couple who cannot, in their sexual activity, be “open to be reproductive” because they are way past childbearing age, or the male is paraplegic or quadriplegic, or the female has had her uterus removed because it was cancerous, or the male is impotent after a prostate operation, or any other reason.”

To which you replied (April 23, 2014 at 9:24 AM), “Nevertheless and focusing on the specific point you are pressing: I think - after appropriate pastoral discussion - I would not agree to conduct a marriage where a couple - for any reason said - ours will not be a sexual relationship.”

Since you are now saying that “Respectfully, I did not say the examples you adduced would not involve sexual relationships” I ask my question again:

Would you marry a couple who cannot, in their sexual activity, be “open to be reproductive” because they are way past childbearing age, or the male is paraplegic or quadriplegic, or the female has had her uterus removed because it was cancerous, or the male is impotent after a prostate operation, or any other reason?

Looking forward to the answer this time,

Rachel

Anonymous said...

Arowhenua/Jean

What we are discussing is precisely the variations from your perfect "design of the human body".

Do you marry a couple both with XY chromosomes, but with differing external genitalia? Do you marry a couple both with XX chromosomes but with differing external genitalia? Do you marry a couple where not all the genitalia and related organs are present (no uterus, no testicles, no foreskin...)?

In the first two examples there are people whose genitalia do not match their chromosomes. In a homosexual their attraction does not match whatever you understand as defining their gender (either chromosomes or genitalia) in your "design of the human body".

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel,
I thought I had said that I am open to marrying a couple whose sexual activity in the nature of things is not open to reproduction.

I also thought I had indicated this because I had said that, in keeping with Scripture, I am open to marrying an older couple past childbearing age. Ipso facto that extends to couples who for other reasons cannot reproduce children.

But obviously I have not expressed that clearly so I hope I am clear now.

The point I think I have also tried to make is that a couple, as husband and wife, who cannot reproduce are forming a bond in which they are open to parenting as a mum and a dad and in that way offer the possibilities for family life with complementary parenting.

(I may not have much access to the internet for a day or two but if you post a reply it will eventually be posted!)

arowhenua said...

Hi Rachel

Re:
"In a homosexual their attraction does not match whatever you understand as defining their gender (either chromosomes or genitalia) in your "design of the human body".

I am aware of this, in a past post I voiced how I there is a difference between gender identity (man or woman) and desire or behaviour. However, can we let desire or behaviour determine or dominate our decision making?

The topic up for discussion is whether such desire or behaviour is acceptable to God (as much as we can determine from scripture and reason).

If the conclusion was made that this behaviour is not one God condones. Accepting we all fall short of the glory of God (e.g. we all exhibit behaviours and desires not acceptable to God), would not place a person with same sex attraction as being radically different from the rest of us.

God Bless, Jean

Anonymous said...

So, Peter, having previously challenged my questioning marriage being equated with reproductive intercourse (April 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM) you now confess that you agree with me that marriage does NOT equate to reproductive intercourse and with this you must resile from your cheering of Mollie Hemingway’s confusion.

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel,
Marriage is a relationship, permanent, faithful between a man and a woman which involves sexual intercourse which is open to reproduction.

Scripture admits of exceptions regarding reproduction. It does not admit of exceptions regarding the components of a man and a woman, not regarding intention for permanency and faithfulness.

Perhaps I resile now a little from cheering Mollie H - am too tired tonight to reread her column - but from memory I think she set out the general rule. You are challenging it with exceptions.

Exceptions sometimes prove the rule! None of your exceptions so far tell us why a couple for marriage understood in Christian terms need not be of the opposite gender.

Anonymous said...

Arowhenua/Jean

The topic up for discussion is your suggestion that you can discern from the "design of the human body" God’s will for who can have sex.

I am seeking clarification from you, therefore, do you base who can have sex on external genitalia, or genetic makeup?

I repeat therefore: 1) Do you marry a couple both with XY chromosomes, but with differing external genitalia? 2) Do you marry a couple both with XX chromosomes but with differing external genitalia? 3) Do you marry a couple where not all the genitalia and related organs are present (no uterus, no testicles, no foreskin...)?

Looking forward to your replies

Rachel

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

I am not so much interested in Mollie H's "general rule" confusion that you cheered, as your own challenge of my rejection of your equating marriage with reproductive intercourse.

You have now shifted from "marriage = reproductive intercourse" to "involves sexual intercourse which is open to reproduction" which is completely different to your original position (and Mollie H's).

Further, you now claim Scripture admits of exceptions regarding reproduction. It would be very helpful for you to provide a few examples where Scripture has a marriage admitting such exceptions regarding reproduction.

You cannot be "open to reproduction" when the woman has no uterus.

Furthermore, you slip too easily from the Scriptural position of "Marriage is a relationship, permanent" to "intention for permanency". The tight possible Scriptural exceptions to permanency do not warrant the reality you practice.

So - in your sentence, "Marriage is a relationship, permanent, faithful between a man and a woman which involves sexual intercourse which is open to reproduction." it seems to me that it is you who needs to justify why you are ready and willing to have exceptions to every single part of your own definition (contrary to the Scriptures) except the "a man and a woman".

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
I am trying to understand and to explain Scripture. My understanding may be faulty. Thus if I am misunderstanding Scripture re a widower being able to marry (without specifying "must be of child-bearing age".) I need to acknowledge my mistaken understanding. What is your understanding of remarriage according to Scripture? I am happy to have my errors corrected in my understanding of Scripture!

I am not actually ready and willing to have exceptions to every single part of the definition I gave and you cite above. I cannot think, for example, of an exception being allowed re 'faithful' or 'permanent', unless you are thinking of remarriage after divorce. In which case it strikes me that if that is opening the door to allowing exceptions to 'a man and a woman' then same sex marriage doesn't have much of an argument if it is relying on something the church may have gotten quite wrong. Remember: two wrongs do not make a right!

I appreciate your pressing me re sex and reproduction. You are raising some questions I admit I have not thought of, and have not been faced with in my ministry (with many years out of parish ministry I have not conducted many weddings!) But I am not convinced that if Scripture is our starting point as God's revelation that what is said about marriage, about people of the same gender not having sex with other, allows so much leeway that if we accepted a woman without a uterus creates a possible exception then, bingo, we have just cause and lack of impediment to marry two men or two women.

In some casuistic world we make, your arguments around exceptions is perfectly sensible. But does it do justice to Scripture and all it says to us about human sexuality?

Father Ron Smith said...

It's perhaps as well that people have the option to marry in the civil arena in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This at least ensures that people who actually want to commit their lives together in monogamous marriage may do so, without let or hindrance.

This means they do not have to 'live in sin'

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter

It seems to me that you have shifted the discussion I was having with you away from what I was finding interesting: arguing around “biological design” and your defining marriage as equivalent to reproductive intercourse.

It surprises me that, with your having put so much effort into this topic, that you so quickly abandoned your definition of marriage as equivalent to reproductive intercourse. I would have thought after these years of study, you would have had a definition of marriage which didn’t so quickly cave.

I am not interested in your abandonment of my discussion and morphing it to a debate about what the Bible says about all this – a debate that is tiresomely inconclusive. Especially when you will not specify what you define as a “man and a woman” – do you classify these by chromosome, genitalia and organs, self-perception, or attraction? If by genitalia and organs, how much of these organs need to be present and functioning? Understanding that the Bible does not answer these sorts of questions has precisely been my interest in your original enthusiasm which you have now abandoned.

I appreciate your honesty that “the church may have gotten quite wrong” its approach to divorce and “remarriage”. So, please can you tell me where are your blog posts about this, and what action are you and those who agree with you taking in that regard?

It seems to me that the church being wrong about heterosexual liberal sexual activity is fine in a way that homosexuals choosing to limit their sexual activity to one partner is not – but pointing that out one would end up using all those words that one is not allowed to say in comments on this site, and which you regularly excise from Fr Ron’s comments.

Yours

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
I do not think I am abandoning anything at all.

You (it seems to me) are seeking an all encompassing definition of marriage which copes with every permutation of chromosome and presence or absence of reproductive organs. It could help me, incidentally, if you could give me your definition of marriage ... not least because if I guess at it, I may get it wrong! (So far, my guess is, if two people love each other and wish to commit for life, that is fine).

By contrast I am offering my best understanding of what the Christian churches have taught through the centuries. Fault me by all means, but you fault the inherited understanding of the churches, save on the matter on which significant disagreement has emerged, re the question of remarriage of divorcees.

On definition of man and woman I find it easiest to marry a man who is a man in all respects and a woman who is a woman in all respects. I would not marry a person who said they were a woman but biologically were a man and vice versa. I realise that you have raised a wider variety of issues than that (e.g. in your comments to Jean) but time and space do not permit me to go through each and every situation. (Incidentally, what is your recommendation(s)?)

I run my blog at my own pace so you will look in vain for the posts you seek. The pace of the church pushing for change has set an agenda re same sex blessings or even marriage: I am responding to that. Those pushing for change won't stop so that agenda continues.

As for your last remark. That is pretty cheap. The words I object to here are words thrown against people and inhibit discussion on the site. Other sites around the internet seem to work fine with insults strewn through comments. That hasn't worked here unless I have laboriously moderated. To save time I am insisting on a certain standard of language. The epithets you apparently think I should let through have nothing to do with the issue you raise when you (astutely and carefully) say, "It seems to me that the church being wrong about heterosexual liberal sexual activity is fine in a way that homosexuals choosing to limit their sexual activity to one partner is not." The issue you raise is whether people are being fair and just. There is no need to speculate about people being phobic or "anti" anything if one wishes to make the point that unfairness and imbalance may exist.

To give an analogy, I think one could raise many questions about whether pakeha NZ treats Maori NZ fairly and justly. Throwing words like 'racist' into such discussion nearly always does nothing to improve the tone of the conversation nor the speed with which just outcomes are reached.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I have already said I do not wish to continue debating with you, especially since you are now starting to deny that you have shifted your position - when earlier you accepted you had.

I am interested in discussion - not playing catch-me-out. You say you run your whole blog responding, and have not a single post on divorce! And then criticise me for responding to your points!

You now talk about someone being "biologically" a man or a woman - but refuse to answer whether that "biologically" is the person's chromosomes or their genitalia and organs.

I *know* that I am examining "exceptions" (e.g. where genitalia do not "correspond" to chromosomes) - but that is the very point. Homosexuals are *exceptions*.

Are you now adding "love each other" to your definition of marriage? I think you will find that a difficult condition required biblically.

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
I posted an earlier comment which I have deleted. It was a bit uncivil!

If you do not want to keep discussing that is fine.

If my position is shifting around then it is because you have struck some good blows in your comments and I am trying to both tune up my position while remaining faithful to my understanding of Scripture.

Clearly what I am saying is unsatisfactory to you.

In response to you quest re 'biology' - I am no expert - I think I am saying that chromosomes and genitalia and organs line up.

It would be interesting to hear from homosexuals whether they see themselves as 'exceptions' given that on, say, Romans 1, arguments often seem to run that there is nothing 'unnatural' about homosexuality. Might 'unnatural' be synonymous with 'unexceptional' in that context? (You don't have to answer that question, I am musing aloud).

My point about love and marriage was a wondering if that was your view. It is your right not to respond to the question. But I am not adding it to biblically 'required' conditions.

Caleb said...

A couple of thoughts - I haven't read the comments (though they look interesting!) so I'm sorry if I'm repeating what others have said.

I don't think humility allows us to "guarantee that further change will not be pressed for" on any ethical issue. A guarantee for 25 years is not as bad as a permanent guarantee, though.

If we did sign up for step one, step three would become complicated. For example, let's say that 23 years from April 2016, 90% of ordinands are in favour of gay marriage, and looking forward to two years later when the moratorium is over and they can vote to approve it. Step three would allow bishops to ask ordinands' opinions about same-sex marriage, and potentially to refuse to ordain them because of it. I think for step three to be workable, it can't be used to ensure nobody can ever be in favour of same-sex marriage; it can only be used to ensure people obey the church's doctrine, even if they disagree with it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
Fair point about Step Three but I am sure the 23 years etc could be worked around.

Your larger point concerns Step 3 being misused. I had not thought of that. Mostly I would be surprised to find that it was used in that way. But even if it was, it would be used by a bishop and her/his team in line with diocesan policy/ethos/tendency rather than in line with some other line.

Jean said...

Hey Rachel

My position is that design of the body includes genetic make up and physical anatomy - since genes/chromosomes can influence our physical anatomy. I apologise for my simplistic interpretation earlier when I just mentioned only differing genatalia. You have definitely added a new dimension to my thinking.

Not professing a lot of knowledge in the area of science I did a bit of reading and it appears most people who possess either male and female genes and/or anatomy, do not often have difficulty with gender identity (e.g.. being deemed male or female). Usually there is a predominance of either female anatomy/genes or vice versa, noting also that the sex genes XX, XY are not the only ones that determine physical gender - Ref intersex soc of America. If you have a personal experience that differs this would be interesting to hear.

Biblically I guess the bible doesn't specifically refer to genes directly - as it does not refer to a lot of things, but I believe the generic understanding gained from the bible is we live in a fallen creation where anomalies exist. For example a close relative of my is unable to swallow and has one kidney...

Despite this and correct me if I misunderstand, underlying your message, I get the impression you equate gender identity equally as much with a persons attraction to the opposite sex as you do genes and anatomy? Is this correct?

Blessings Jean

Caleb said...

Hi Peter,

Could you clarify the meaning and purpose of step three, part (a) for me? I understand that the main point of step three is part (b), "whether or not a candidate is willing to conduct or to not conduct a blessing of a same sex partnership is not a relevant matter to such discernment processes." But what is the purpose of part (a), "bishops and their advisors ... have authority to ask of prospective candidates for ordination or appointment to licensed ministry about their adherence to our doctrine of marriage"?

If this part (a) just means: bishops etc can ask candidates whether they will obey the church's present marriage doctrine so long as it is the present marriage doctrine (as they presumably already do), I don't have a problem with it. If it means asking if they agree with the church's present marriage doctrine (specifically the gender restrictions), I can see some problems.

My cynical mind assumed it was the latter, but I'd be happy to be corrected.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb,
I am sure you know me well enough to understand that I am not trying to feed cynicism!

Forget the wording for a moment.

On the basis of some past "gatekeeping" over this/these issue(s) in our church, the steps you are concerned about are designed to enable candidates for ordination or appointment to licensed positions to be accepted on their merits/gifts/calling without recourse to their specific views on same sex marriage (whether for or against), save that the general rubric of upholding the teaching of the church always applies.

Obviously in the current situation plenty of clergy feel able to simultaneously uphold that teaching while also questioning it!

Anonymous said...

Peter

So you will not let me use words like "homophobic" or "racist" (despite, I'm sure you will be aware if you have any sporting interest, the latter being used in significant English-language news in the last day or so) but you will yourself happily use "unnatural" for homosexuals. Throwing words like 'homophobic' and 'racist' into discussions nearly always does nothing to improve the tone of the conversation nor the speed with which just outcomes are reached, but 'unnatural' is fine for homosexuals and others.

At least you have been clear, you will only marry someone when chromosomes and genitalia and organs line up. All other unnatural couples, where testicles are missing because of cancer, or genitalia were not "lined up" with chromosomes at birth, such unnatural couples, along with homosexuals, need not apply to the Anglican Church to be married. But if you are one of the natural couples where everything is as it ought to be, would have been before the Fall, are in the perfect shape of Adam and Eve on Day 6, you can come as often as you like to be married - even if that is anti-biblical. And heterosexuals may do whatever unnatural acts they can think of with their perfect, lined-up genitalia even when that is biblically forbidden. Even when those unnatural acts are the same as are called 'unnatural' by those who are natural when homosexuals do them.

Rachel

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel
I didn't 'throw' the word 'unnatural' into the conversation, I made a reasonable point in relation to how argumentation from all sides about Romans 1 proceeds, and made that reasonable point in relation to your own use of 'exception' in relation to homosexuals which I imagine some find objectionable.

As for the remainder of what you say, you have the right to interpret what I have said as implying all you say. Rather than respond and defend the territory I would prefer to allow others to come into the conversation to agree with your take or to disagree.

Father Ron Smith said...

On this word 'un-natural'. Has it occurred to anyone that for a homosexual person to deliberately inter into a heterosexual conjugal relationship might, for that person, ne truly considered 'un-natural'

This leads to the possibility of Paul's advice against un-natural relationships being directed against heterosexual persons; who enter into intimate homosexual relationships - just for kicks.

The word 'un-natural' has to be properly understood in context!

Jean said...

Hey Father Ron,

You are right context is important.

There is the subjective un-natural e.g. "It is un-natural for me to enjoy bungy jumping".

There is also the objective un-natural e.g. "It is un-natural for a mother not to love her child."

I think Peter's use of the word is in the second category.

Cheers Jean