Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Of all times to leave our church, now is not the time

Picking up a very good question asked in a comment responding to my post of a few days ago, If To Lose One Vicar is Careless, To Lose Two is What?, I offer my response as a separate post here (slightly redacted to shift genre from 'comment' to 'post'):

The question asked is this:

"If a majority of the Church decided to adopt Arianism in place of Trinitarianism;would you be happy to accept that stance?"

No, I would not be happy, is my general response to the question.

But my points of reflection if that were the majority wish would be: 
(1) Am I required to adhere to Arianism as a licensed clergyperson? 
(2) Is the will of the majority of the current church able to override the fundamentals of the constitution? 
(3) Am I called as a Trinitarian to remain in this changed-and-changing church to bear witness to Arian Anglicans?

On analogy with Motion 30 I suggest that questions 1 and 2 are currently unanswered; and question 3 is a matter for continuing personal prayer.

But the vital 4th question, analogously speaking is this: 

(4) Is a divide over the blessing of same sex partnerships a matter with the same clarity as the divide between Arianism and Trinitarianism? 

As Bosco Peters points out [here], "It is unhelpful and erroneous to state, without qualification, that the Bible is clear that all same-sex relationships are sinful. The concept of homosexual orientation as exclusive, permanent, and unchosen, for example, is a relatively new understanding."

As long as a majority of Anglicans in our church do not see an analogy re clarity between Arianism/Trinitarianism and clarity between blessing SSP/not blessing SSP, then constant reference to the constitution of ACANZP and the 1928 Empowering Act as prohibiting Motion 30's charting of a series of possible ways forward for a divided church is undermined.

(Added note to original comment: My presupposition, incidentally, is that a majority in our church would not see the clarity that some critics of Motion 30 see, namely that the Scripture and tradition of our church prohibit blessing of, even praying for couples in lifelong, faithful, loving same sex partnerships. That is, our church could be categorised into those who are clearly for and clearly against such prayerful support and those who are uncertain and wish to not shut down ongoing reflection on this matter).

It might be more helpful to ask how our church, in keeping with its constitution and the 1928 Act is going to be inclusive of diverse commitments re responses to people in same sex partnerships. 

The overwhelming approach of our church over decades now has been to find a way to stay together rather than to divide. Repeated suggestions that those on the liberal end of the diversity should leave to form a new church with a constitution which reflects their viewpoints is a bold challenge which will cut no ice with any legal tribunal opponents of Motion 30 care to take these matters to.

More constructive is to find a way forward. That, of course, is precisely what Motion 30 seeks to do.

20 comments:

Bryden Black said...

Well; Peter: to continue something of my most recent comment on the original thread.

Did not Jerome famously remark, “the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian”. I venture that that is exactly where we are headed - in the medium term (i.e. analogously say 365).

Longer term, I seriously hope we shall come to our anthropological senses, as the Church, even should society continue its anti-metaphysical games. One would not expect the world to appreciate a full blown doctrine of the Trinity - even though the very ideas of personhood, and derivatively, things like human dignity and human rights, have culturally, historically arisen due to this very doctrine. The present “marvel” remains the Church’s incapacity to remember its own origins! But then that only echoes Deuteronomy’s warnings about “forgetfulness”. The Church seems to ever shadow Israel’s history figurally ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for what I consider to be a very balanced article - on the dangers of sudden impulsive schism.

carl jacobs said...

There is no credible disagreement whatsoever regarding what Scripture says about homosexuality. Words have meaning. Meaning can be understood. The conflict is rather about the authority and scope and ultimately the nature of Scripture. Look at Bosco's example:

It is unhelpful and erroneous to state, without qualification, that the Bible is clear that all same-sex relationships are sinful. The concept of homosexual orientation as exclusive, permanent, and unchosen, for example, is a relatively new understanding

He is not challenging the meaning of words. He is attempting to change the scope of their applicability. He is saying "Paul condemned what he knew, but what he knew is not all there is." So what then do we say about the authority of Paul's epistle? It must be sourced in Paul himself. For how could God not know about this alternative understanding of homosexuality as unchosen? God is the creator. If it exists, He would be responsible for it. The asserted lack of knowledge forces the source (and therefore the authority) away from infallible God and onto fallible man. We no longer have God's revelation, but Paul's speculation. This diminution of authority is necessary to accomplish the task of justifying the behavior. But it has the collateral effect of obliterating the very concept of revelation. There is not one doctrine of the Christian faith that does not find its root in Scripture. There is not one doctrine of the Christian faith that could not be contested by this mechanism. Indeed, they already are contested by this mechanism.

This argument demands a fundamental change in our understanding of the nature of Scripture and ultimately truth. It tacitly asserts that Scripture is the record of man's attempt to understand a silent and unknown God instead of God's perspicuous revelation to man. It means we today have the authority to cast it aside or rewrite it as we please. And that is what we are doing.

The perspicuous nature of Scripture is an essential. For without it, there are no answers to the questions that requires answers: "Who is God and what does He requires of me?"

carl

Joshua Bovis said...

Hi Peter,

Bosco's comment: "It is unhelpful and erroneous to state, without qualification, that the Bible is clear that all same-sex relationships are sinful. The concept of homosexual orientation as exclusive, permanent, and unchosen, for example, is a relatively new understanding"

is at best special pleading. This so called 'new understadning' is an attempt to make the Scriptures mean and say something different to what they mean and say in order to justify a position that is hermeneutically untenable and justify behaviour that is sinful and keeps a person out of the Kingdom of God.

Joshua

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl and Joshua
I am less interested in whether you or Bosco is right than in whether the kind of argument Bosco offers is, currently, persuasive in the life of the church to which I belong.

In my judgment it is persuasive and thus it forms part of the diversity of views which make up our ... diverse church in which those who hold your views are a significant minority but one which will only get weaker and weaker if more and more leave.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

am less interested in whether you or Bosco is right than in whether the kind of argument Bosco offers is, currently, persuasive in the life of the church to which I belong.

You should be more concerned about who is right. Your fourth point:

Is a divide over the blessing of same sex partnerships a matter with the same clarity as the divide between Arianism and Trinitarianism?

The answer to your question is "Yes!" Even more important is that this is an argument over an essential which means it crosses over the boundary of allowable orthodox belief. This is not a secondary issue. That is why people leave because of it.

At what point do people become so doctrinally compromised, they can no longer be recognized as Christian? It is the same question of boundaries from which have fled for the three years I have participated on this weblog. You are not willing to draw a line against obvious heresy. You let it in the door for the sake of relationships, and now it is consuming you.

Without Scripture we know nothing. We are blind men condemned to grope in perpetual darkness. Many are they who would accept blindness for the illusion of freedom. Because if God has not spoken, then how can we be held to account? We become our own moral authority and our religion because a religion of Self dressed in Christian trappings. That is what has become of the Christian church in the West.

It's a wide road and there is nothing at the end of it but destruction.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,
Call me compromised, weak, vacillating, grey, even pusillanimous but I have lived in an Anglican church for many years which has been compromised in regard to the divide between Arianism and Trinitarianism, the divide between belief in the bodily resurrection of our Lord and denial of it, and the divide between 'marriage for life' and 'marriages can die so divorce can be okay'. No doubt other compromises could be added to the list.

On the one hand I consider my life's work as a minister, to teach, to be a contribution (extremely minor in effect, no doubt) towards maintaining the orthodox belief and practice of the church: that is, I am trying not to be a heretic nor an 'evil liver' myself! On the other hand, I need to ask myself whether dying in the ditch over homosexuality rather than other issues represents prejudice on my part (because it is the one issue where I won't live with compromise) or - sorry, another metaphor coming up - it is the last straw and it is about time I stood up for something ...

George Waite said...

Church is boring; leaving it is a sensible thing to do.

MichaelA said...

"I am less interested in whether you or Bosco is right than in whether the kind of argument Bosco offers is, currently, persuasive in the life of the church to which I belong."

There in a nutshell is why you will fail to achieve even those goals you have set yourself. That is not meant as a cheap shot, but just stating what I (and many others who have watched events unfold in USA, Canada, England and parts of Australia) consider to be the real reason that liberalism has taken hold in western churches - it is not primarily because of the liberals.

"in which those who hold your views are a significant minority but one which will only get weaker and weaker if more and more leave."

I beg to differ - even on your own terms, it won't get weaker, it will just move its location.

If an "orthodox evangelical" (or conservative evangelical, or use whatever term you will) moves out of ACANZP, that doesn't mean there are less ortho evos in New Zealand - just less in ACANZP.

In fact, the reverse is likely to be the case - if the ortho evos move to a place where they can propagate without having to make continual compromises with liberals, then their overall numbers in a particular area may well increase because of the move.

[Please note: I am not advocating that anyone should leave - that is a matter between each person and the Lord. I am just responding to the point you made about the effect of people leaving.]

danielj said...

don't worry Peter...the sin of heresy always resides in the accuser...not the accused. Once an accuser cries "heretic" they are just one stone's throw away from doing ungodly violence in the name of God. History bears this out.

altho now that youve been accused, perhaps you will excise that word from your vocabulary

blessings Daniel

Father Ron Smith said...

Hi, George, don't give up on us. It's only the small percentage of us who blog that can seem boring.

The Church itself is a much wider and more loving community than those of us who spill our vitriol on blogs. If the Church were to be judged by the sometimes inhumane comments ones sees on blogs, from self-professed 'Christians', one might give up believing in a God of Love, Mercy and Forgiveness.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
The following comment was accidentally deleted by me as I worked my big fingers on a small phone!
Peter

Hi Peter,
If the Holy Writ, is indeed, God's
inspired revelation;then surely it
does not come down to what St.Paul
knew or did not know.If it is truely 'Inspired Revelation';then St. Paul wrote what God had inspired him to write:out of his spirit and not out of his human mind.So the knowledge, was God's, and not Paul's.It seems that there is three possibilities:
a)That God did not know that in
2014,we would come up with a new phenonenon.This takes us back to an earlier debate on whether we can know something that God does not.
b)For a reason,best known to
Himself,God choose not reveal His
truth through Jesus (Matt.19 and
Mark 10)and St.Paul (Rom.1);it
would have been easy foy Jesus to have said:Male and female made He
them......but in a couple of thousands years you will come to a new understanding of all this;so in the meantime,this is what you need to know.This brings into question,'The Revelation once Given'.
c)The argument of Silence is much the same as for (b),raising the question of why God did not reveal that truth.
It is modernistic twisting of words for the sake of the justification of a stance,(that cannot be otherwise justified);to
argue that the committment of a relationship is more important or
of equal importance, than the nature of it. Jesus started by saying,"Male and female......".
He did not,your relationships must
be loyal and commmitted and by the way,lets look at male and female relationships as an example.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

I just don't think you comprehend the gravity of the situation. You plead for people not to leave. That is like standing on the boat deck of the Titanic and pleading for the water to not flood the ship. It may seem plausible that disaster can still be avoided. You are still warm and dry. But go down to Deck F. See what is happening in the Mail room. See what is happening Boiler Room Six. Forces have been unleashed that cannot be stopped.

These departures are merely a premonition. The inevitable logic of motion 30 will work its way forward. The legitimization of homosexuality will soon be de facto church doctrine. This increasing liberalization will cause additional departures. Those departures will hasten the pace of liberalization causing yet more departures. If the face of this hemorrhage you will make the same plea for unity that had failed in every other instance. The increasing doctrinal corruption of the church will simply overwhelm the plea. The only way to stop this is for the leadership to repent of its course. Is that going to happen? You assure me it will not. So the water will keep rushing in and the ship will get lower at the bow with each passing minute. It's going to founder.

The church in which you minister is going to get much more hostile to what you believe much faster than you imagine. The adherents of liberal religion will act upon their principles once they assume power and those principles declare that what you believe is hateful. Relationships are not going to stand in the way of that reality. As the conservative position gets weaker - and it must get weaker - they will become increasingly less tolerant of the remaining remnant. This is what always happens when liberal religion finally seizes control of a church.

You have to prepare. You think compromise is possible but liberal religion doesn't compromise once it has no need of compromise. You need to accept this reality and prepare.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

" As the conservative position gets weaker - and it must get weaker - they will become increasingly less tolerant of the remaining remnant. This is what always happens when liberal religion finally seizes control of a church."

Is the the very thing, then that is happening with ISIS, the kickback from the embattled conservatives?

No doubt Jesus Himself was considered to be an outrageous liberal by his contemporaries, consorting with known sinners, and look what happened to Him!

Lighten up for goodness sake!

Peter Carrell said...

HI Carl
(1) You may be right!
(2) If you are wrong it will be because ACANZP is not a mirror of TEC (despite some appearances that it is).
(3) ACANZP is not a mirror of TEC because, believe it or not, there are some cultural differences between Anglicans made up of Pakeha, Maori and Polynesians and Episcopalians made up of Americans.
(4) In the end, you may be right!

Father Ron Smith said...

You don't need to worry about us Carl, in Aotearoa/New Zealand. We have resources you obviously have no access to in your situation. God has given us an egalitarian context in which to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We don't need to add your fears to our situation.As the Scripture should remind you, you have enough troubles of your own.

I'm not a great believer in the old adage, trouble shared is trouble halved. Most often it seems to be double-trouble.

Any way, do you not believe that Almighty God will have the last word? I do, and am content.

Glen Young said...

Hi Carl,
Your post of July 30 hits the nail on the head.Our Titanic is
sailing,full speed ahead; straight into those Alantic icebergs which TEC(USA) floundered on.
If you want some interesting reading,try the report of the
"Commission on Doctrinal and Theological Questions"(NZ).It was chaired by Bishop Jim White (Auck).

Father Ron Smith said...

." So what then do we say about the authority of Paul's epistle? It must be sourced in Paul himself. For how could God not know about this alternative understanding of homosexuality as unchosen? God is the creator. If it exists, He would be responsible for it." - C. Jacobs

And here, Carl, is perhaps the biggest problem some of us have about the supposed 'inerrancy' of scripture.

Is every single word of Paul the precise and exact 'Word of God' in every instance? Do you not think that Paul was sometimes prone to make mistakes in his utterances - like most preachers of the word - because of his own opinions?

Do you not thin that Paul's utterances were partly informed by his scholarly knowledge of extant Jewish theology?

Agreed, there are occasions when he really 'gets the drift' - even saometimes when counteractinjg his own former understandings. For instance, Paul's view of the place of women in the Church - their need of subordination - countered by his eventual revelation (this time, no doubt from God) that "In Christ, there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor master...". counter-cultural!!

What true Biblical hermeneutic needs, is a willingness to look behind the message, to find the 'esse', that which can be translated into either the immediate context or the 'eternal' and find the right balance.

I think this is the reason Jesus spoke in parables - so that only faith-based truth-seekers would be given the true meaning that Jesus wanted to convey.

What needs to be understood, is that the Bible is not the product of a divine teleprinter. Rather, it is the humanly-understood product of a relationship with the Living God - needing very careful interpretation for a particular day, age and circumstance of human life.

The Interpreter, 'par excellence' is the Holy Spirit - still alive, active and teaching, today.
Come Holy Spirit!

TrevDev said...

Hi, Peter. I have been mulling over an aspect of this post for over a month, and my reflections have grown to such a size that I have posted them on my own blog instead of submitting them as a comment here. The link is the-motion-30-playing-field

Trevor Morrison

Peter Carrell said...

I'll publish the comment and read the post in the morning. I might even 'hack' it :)