Thursday, January 21, 2016

Communion Crisis Has Deepened As Much As Resolution Has Been Delayed

Introduction

Wow! Whizzing around Anglicanland via blogs and Tweets this past week, the Primates' Meeting has stirred up the Anglican "Hornets' Nest" Communion.

They sure have stirred up deep feelings about what it means to be an Anglican/Episcopalian.

They have also provoked an outpouring of words, many of which are inaccurate, unhelpful, even hubristic, and imprecise. Quick examples:
- the word "suspend" figures in headlines and content, but this is inaccurate, as Bosco Peters points out;
- as Episcopalian bishops - seemingly every last one of them - make comment, there is a bit (or a lot) of hubris, such as +Marc Handley Andrus of Los Angeles claiming as one bishop that he knows the mind of Christ better than all the primates put together;
- then note Mark Harris rightly pointing out that even the ABC himself claiming that it is about "consequences" not "sanctions" is unhelpfully playing with words, as well as alerting us to the use of the word "punishment" in a GAFCON statement.
- Finally, on "imprecise," here and there I notice frequent criticism of the Primates Meeting along the lines of "38 men, who do they speak for, who are they to make decisions on behalf of the rest of us?" Precision, in this context, would be recognition that we are an episcopal communion of churches, led by bishops chosen through guidance of the Holy Spirit and set apart for leadership over us by the same Spirit, from among whom primates are chosen to be representative leaders of our episcopal churches. When the primates meet together it is imprecise to dismiss any decisions* they make on the grounds of gender or being mere individuals coincidentally present in one room. Precision would be to dismiss their decisions on the grounds that the collected wisdom of 38 Anglican provinces, represented and distilled through especially chosen and empowered leaders was of no account. (*Yes, I understand that from a canonical/legal perspective, they can only give advice to the Communion. Here's the thing: if we don't take their advice, the Communion (as a Communion) will be in even more trouble than it is.)

Let me offer a further few words to the thousands out there, as accurately, precisely, helpfully and non-hubristically as possible. In these words I want to argue that as much as the primates have delayed resolution of the deep division in our Communion concerning homosexuality, they have also (unintentionally) deepened the crisis of the Communion.

The crisis

The crisis for the Communion concerns what it means to be a "Communion." Let's remember, at all times, that Anglican churches are free to make any decision they see fit, and there is no trademark on "Anglican" or "Episcopalian" so they can continue to use these words to describe themselves. Nor is there any crisis for individual member churches as churches if the Communion dissolves. Each member church can carry along fine, and they can relate to any other churches they see fit.

But there is a crisis for the Communion when member churches having formed an Anglican Communion then dispute what "Communion" means. Sociologically speaking voluntary groups such as the AngComm form. Groups argue, groups divide and groups dissolve. It happens. The peculiarity of the Communion as an arguing, fractious group is first that it keeps refusing to divide into two or more separate communions and second that it cannot decide rules or arbitration process which might (once and for all) settle what is divisive (cf. failure of proposed Covenant to gain unanimous support).

Why does the Communion keep refusing to divide into two or more separate communions?

We can advance reasons concerning historic ties, family resemblances, desire to be some kind of global match to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Perhaps also there is something about status involved too. On any reckoning, the See of Canterbury is respected and revered throughout the Christian world. While any church can call itself "Anglican", not every such church is connected to Canterbury as the member churches of the Communion are. Walking apart from communion with Canterbury is not a step to be taken lightly by those who wish to call themselves Anglican.

Catholicity

But I wonder if something deeper and more (ecclesiastically) earthy is pumping  the emotions at the heart of our "bonds of affection." That is our catholicity. The four widely agreed marks of a true church of God are "one, holy, catholic and apostolic." Catholicity speaks of universality, of the whole church gathering up all God's people in one extended family. Catholicity is the instinct of the local gathering of God's people to connect with other gatherings, and gatherings of gatherings so that the local belongs to the global (even as, yes, to be theologically correct, the local church always expresses the global or catholic church). Catholicity means the church is always more than what we currently belong - even the world's most globally embedded Christians belong to something they cannot see, the church of all the saints through all ages.

Catholicity for Anglicans pushes us to be parishes in dioceses in provinces in the fellowship of provinces known as the Anglican Communion. And it doesn't stop there: every conversation we have in local church ecumenical networks and in formal global church to global church dialogue (e.g. ARCIC), is the catholic pulse beating in our ecclesial hearts.

When we continue to appeal to Scripture, to say the ancient creeds, to cite the Cappadocian Fathers and so forth, we are also catholic: we recognise and affirm that the church is shaped and founded by shared belief, historically (through saints departed and present) and globally. Our universality is held together by a common mind even as our comprehensiveness incorporates our diversities. Where those diversities are substantive, the catholicity of the one church of God is fractured if not broken (cf. East and West Christianities, and the fractures within each of them).

It is catholicity which held the Primates Meeting together last week and catholicity which inhabits the communique. First catholic sign: it offers a sign of commitment to belong together:

"Over the past week the unanimous decision of the Primates was to walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ."

Second catholic sign: the sanctions (or, officially, "consequences"):

"However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity."

To belong to the catholic body of the church is a serious matter because commonalities express belonging together through shared beliefs (the apostolic mark of the church) and shared behaviours (the holy mark).

[Catholicity, incidentally, is not the same as general inclusiveness. Even the most inclusive statements of an extraordinarily inclusive church such as TEC do not pretend that (say) Mormon belief is compatible with doctrine in TEC].

That seriousness about being catholic means that differences may be indifferent (adiaphora) or they may represent a break in the commonalities, that is, a diminishment of catholicity. With respect to catholicity within the Anglican Communion and catholicity as the Communion engages in dialogue with other catholic communions, a question mark exists over TEC (see further below) so it is appropriate that neither TEC nor the Anglican Communion pretends that all is well concerning our catholicity as a communion. All is not well because unresolved difference has emerged these past dozen years or so. Thus for TEC at this time to contribute to either representing the Communion or leading the Communion would be to ignore a problem in our midst (or to make a pretence that it doesn't matter).

To give credit where it is due, catholicity is also enabling TEC leadership - as I read various statements being made - in a gracious and considerate way to voice their commitment to the Communion even as they voice considerable angst and pain about the disciplinary steps taken by the Primates.

The question mark over TEC's participation in the Anglican Communion as a catholic communion is given more precision in the Primates' communique that perhaps has been the case previously:

"Their work, consistent with previous statements of the Primates’ meetings,addressed what consequences follow for The Episcopal Church in relation to the Anglican Communion following its recent change of marriage doctrine."

That "recent change", Anglican Curmudgeon reminds us, includes a significant reworking of Scripture, as evidenced in these liturgical words:

"Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people."

Whether or not we agree with Curmudgeon's critical evaluation of these words, the words he emboldens highlights a significant departure from what the catholic church has understood marriage to be about, not only between a man and a woman, but with the man symbolising Christ and the woman the church, and their difference-in-unity expressing the "mystery of the union between Christ and his Church" in ways going beyond "mutual fidelity."

It is right and proper that a communion aspiring to be catholic, to walk together holding common beliefs, questions whether this innovative doctrine of marriage is consonant with the catholicity of the church (that is, with what the whole church believes or, in this case, at least what the Communion believes). Note that the criticism being poured out on the primates, by extension is poured out on all God's people, Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox and Pentecostal who share their reservations about embracing this innovation.** The problem for the catholic Anglican Communion - from a liberal/progressive on homosexuality perspective - is not that it is dominated by a bunch of (alleged) homophobic fundy primates but that it has a majority of member churches which think and act as the majority of churches around the world do.

What kind of catholic future for global Anglicanism?

So, there is a kerfuffle, Anglican-style. Some voices post last week's meeting are stridently critical. In the face of the overwhelming cause of justice for the LGBT people, catholic considerations appear to matter little to some Anglicans. In that sense, the crisis (of catholicity) of the Communion has deepened this past week: by acting in a catholic manner, the primates have sharpened the battle for future of the Communion, a future which could be determined more by considerations of justice than by doctrinal coherency. Yet what is sought via the push for justice is likely to unravel the Communion as it is currently constituted. Delayed resolution could result in squaring the circle of justice - doctrine - catholicity. But it could lead - we might even say it will probably lead - to a new set of Communions claiming the "Anglican" (or "Episcopalian") moniker.

In charting the future, which the proposed Task Force will no doubt always have in the back of their minds even as they do and say everything to avoid formal fractionation, many Anglicans will no doubt be encouraged through the next three years by this part of the communique:

"4.The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.
5.In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion."

Here catholicity involves the whole church agreeing on (i.e. united around) doctrine and "unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine" break that unity and thus divide the universal church. (Remember: on the particular statement "traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union", the majority of the Anglican Communion is united with the vast majority of all other churches around the world, so the catholicity broken here is not just that of the Communion but that of the Communion as itself a branch of the whole catholic church of God.)

Now it is not rocket science to work out that in pretty much any debate over which church or Communion is living out its catholic character or not, the majority set of churches claiming to be catholic with supporting evidence re sharing the teaching of the catholic church wins over one or two or even six Anglican churches claiming to be catholic while departing from agreed doctrine!

In other words, beyond the weird, wild, wonderful and sometimes winsome reactions in Anglicanland to the Primates Meeting, there is a simple sign pointing to the future of global Anglicanism: the majority voice will determine the present Anglican Communion's direction. Those voicing the minority view (i.e. that doctrinal innovation should be accommodated irrespective of agreement or disagreement with it) will face a crossroads, either to stay with the majority, or to find another expression of Anglicanism, with a different understanding of what it means to be catholic.

Conclusion

To my way of thinking, the last few days since the end of the Primates Meeting has highlighted how deep the gulf is between competing understandings of what the Communion means, with special reference to what value is placed on its catholic character. I cannot see that gulf being readily bridged, let alone filled in anytime soon - though I will prayerfully hold high hopes for the Task Force the Primates Meeting has asked the ABC to set up.

In fact so highlighted has that gulf been that I suggest the Primates Meeting has, no doubt inadvertently, deepened the crisis in the Communion as much as it has enabled resolution of the crisis to be (yet again) delayed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

**ADDENDUM: I very much appreciate a point made by Tim Chesterton here in recent days, in comments he has made, that whether or not we agree with Anglicans approving and undertaking same sex marriages, such marriages are now a feature of a growing number of countries and Anglicans need to have some way of pastorally responding well to couples married in this way and wishing to participate in congregational life. The Primates' communique is devoid of assistance and advice on this need.

ANOTHER ADDENDUM: Wesley Hill is well worth a read.

YET ANOTHER ADDENDUM: ACI-Canada has spoken, robustly.



34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Peter, this is the dry spring before a summer of forest fires.

As you may know, the fires that ignite in dry forests are very destructive. They can consume many square miles of forest habitat for endangered species, or flash down canyons from arid wilderness to small towns. So the US Forest Service used to to try to prevent all forest fires at any cost.

But then forest scientists figured two things out. First, many fires only consume brush on the forest floor and then burn out without seriously harming the great canopy above. These fires are somewhat like vaccinations against really vast conflagrations. Second, the many ecological systems that make up old growth forests have evolved over millions of years to need occasional forest fires. If the fires are all prevented indefinitely, the ecologies of forests deteriorate with worse consequences than a fire. It is important to contain fires, but it is also important to let fires do their work.

There is a lot of peace for the peacemaking Task Force to make. Correction of misunderstandings, righting of wrongs, healing of wounds, building of relationships-- these are valuable no matter what the future holds. Personally, I would like to see both ecclesial and interpersonal peace between TEC and ACNA. Who is to say that this is not enough to preserve unity, or in the longer run, to restore it?

But in a few years the deepest divisions among us will
manifest themselves, and parts of the Communion may well be released to the wider Church. So long as they depart on good terms, and remain ecumenical partners, preferably in communion with us, we should not regret that.

At present, the whole is arguably less than the sum of its parts. When I see good people disagree here at ADU over something as simple as whether they do or do not have a doctrinal standard, I know that we are not missionally effective. Our synods are impairing the effectiveness of our episcopates, and perhaps in some places vice versa. It is also apparent that a global Communion will have to balance its Reformation devolution of authority from Rome to national churches with some inverse recognition of authority in the wider Communion. But not every church is ready for reform.

All that we do is in the hands of God. We should thank him for all the good that the Communion has done. We should make as much peace in him as we can. Eager provinces in the Communion should accommodate cautious ones in a well-loved second tikanga. We should maintain communion even with those in the Body who leave the Communion. All should allow their minorities to depart on good terms. The Communion should have an identity clear enough to enable new churches to join it, and missional enough that they will want to do so.

After a fire, a forest knows how to come back. The old niches are redefined, species return in due sequence, the canopy rises above new growth, and another cycle of old growth begins.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

For me, personally - a dyed in the wool Anglo-Catholic - the real seat of our catholic membership of the Body of Christ resides in our acknowledgement of, and dedication to the grace available through the presence of Christ in the Body and Blood of His sacramental presence. After all, this was the command of Jesus to his nearest followers - 'On the night before he died' - "Do this, to remember me!"

One would think that those of us who are mindful of the place of the New Testament Scriptures, and their references to the words and deeds of Jesus, our Redeemer (understood to the deepest possible extent of their true meaning in the specific context of our environment and situation of our human situation for today) would accept those words and deeds as signs and symbols of Christ's presence with us in the sacament of the Eucharist. To resile from this fellowship is surely a scandal.

Any resistance to joining other sinners in the Celebration of the Eucharist - where all are equal in the presence of God - is surely tantamount to our refusal to accept the fact that we are ALL sinners.

This is why I find myself, in the current situation of intentional withdrawal from participation with other Anglicans in the Sacrament of Unity in the Body of Christ, at odds with those of my fellow Anglicans who have set themselves apart - on the grounds of their ritual purity - as being more important than their fellowship with others whom they judge to be impure because of their innate sexual nature - a factor they had no control over from the womb. (Matt.19:12)

The example encouraged by the visiting preacher at Canterbury's Meeting of the Primates recently, of washing the feet of, and reverencing one another, in a sacramental setting of humble mutuality - as happened on the final day of the Primates' Meeting, at the instigation of Fr. Jean Vanier - is just such an instance of the fulfilling of the Gospel imperative, initiated by Jesus.

One wonders who, present at that final Canterbury meeting, could have refused to take part in this symbolic act of penitence so needed from people on all sides of the arguments in our Communion at this time.

The TEC Primate has graciously accepted the restrictions placed on his Churchr's involvement in Communion Affairs for the next 3 years.

What, I wonder, are people like the Primate of Uganda - who left the Meeting before its conclusion because he did not agree with what he saw as the lightness of penalty meted out by the Primates to TEC - going to do about repentance for their share in the schismatic break-up that has already occurred within the Communion?

For reconciliation to be real and ongoing, something more has to be done by the Gafcon Primates to acknowledge their own part in the schismatic rift. That is, of course, if they have any conscience about their unwillingness to accept the differences in theological understanding that have brought about the necessary change in the attitude of sexism and homophobia that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has so rightly said; has caused so much suffering for those on the margins of society whose ontological sexual reaiity is different from 'the norm'.

There is the notion that the difference is now all about changes being made to the Church's rules about the nature of marriage. One suspects the real sticking point is, rather, about the inability of some conservative Christians to understand the phenomenon of the different expressions of human sexual responses. If this were not so; would not the Church have encouraged Same-Sex Civil Unions, instead?

tachesterton said...

'The Primates' communique is devoid of assistance and advice on this need.'

Thank you, Peter. This is my real disappointment about the Primates' meeting. If only 2% of the population is gay/lesbian (and that's a conservative estimate I think), then in our province of Alberta which has over 4 million people, that's 80,000 people. I suspect the percentage is higher in cities like Edmonton, where i live, as LGBTQ people tend to move into the cities and leave the rural areas. What is our mission plan to reach this population? How will we demonstrate the gospel to them? And what about those who see themselves as devout Christians and want to be part of the life of our churches?

Tongue in cheek addendum: I note that we're told in the gospels that if we have two coats and our brother/sister has none, we're to give our second coat to our brother/sister. Well, I have two cars and two guitars, and some of the people in my church own two houses - one in Edmonton and one in warmer climes. What does repentance mean for them, and how should I treat these 'unrepentant sinners' (myself included)?

Tim Chesterton

Anonymous said...


Father Ron, there is indeed something curiously fissiparous about a churchmanship that both avoids receiving communion with fellow sinners, and would excommunicate those sinners from the chalice. Anyone who understands Article XXXI has an epistemic ground for your view. In the next Communion, I doubt that any will be permitted to speak or vote without communion. I pray that God provides that we are all in it soon.

Bowman Walton

Liturgy said...

Note the difference in the Archbishop of Canterbury's description of what he thinks happened at the meeting of Anglican Primates: "we ASKED that TEC, while attending and playing a full part in our meetings and all discussions, will not represent the Anglican Communion to other churches and should not be involved in standing committees for a period of three years. During this time we also ASKED that they not vote on matters of doctrine or how we organise ourselves." Cf. The Communiqué :"we formally acknowledge ... by REQUIRING that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent [an unclear] US on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, SHOULD not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they WILL not..."

How different discussions might now be if the Archbishop's wording was what was used in the Communiqué!

Blessings

Bosco


Anonymous said...


Yes, Tim, but I take the Primates' point to be: love God and do what you will, so long as you do not change the received teaching-- especially recently reaffirmed teaching-- of the Communion. Advising churches on how to flourish on other principles is not their remit.

And let's be realistic. The gay or lesbian Christians that I know are smart enough to understand that Caesar and Christ are using the same word for different purposes. Caesar will marry them in a park with music and caterers, and Christ will feed them in a church with music and communion. They know this; they live this. The ecclesiastical politics of TEC's alternative to traditional weddings and the Communion's rejection of it is really not beyond their comprehension. They can choose from several churches that have rainbow flags out in front, but they choose ours because it really does offer the best way to God. They are capable of living their lives.

Meanwhile, your scenario is also quite real. Because their families reject them and for other reasons, the lives of LG people can be more fragile than those of otherwise similar people. So the list of concretely useful things that can be done for LG people in need is really quite a long one. And there is no reason why Anglicans of any school of churchmanship cannot do them. Beliefs about weddings are no hindrance to volunteering time, money, initiative, or an ear. When I pointed this out in the evangelical journal Fulcrum recently, Thinking Anglicans linked the article and a few said that it gave them real hope. And well it should, for works of mercy change our hearts in ways inaccessible to words.

If there is a problem in the communique, it is not for LG people but for the unanglican dream of church as a perpetual and rather partisan revolution that must always be changing something to validate its relevance. If one's great contribution to LG people has been misrepresenting traditional teaching about marriage to them, stoking their resentment of that teaching, and raising false hopes that it was just going to go away, then of course one is hearing a lot about pain! Very often in TEC, passionate commitment to a cause has crossed the line into dishonesty and partisanship that are always, of their very nature, destructive. As the confessors say, responsibility rests with the proximate cause.

As you say, those of us in countries that have SSM will have to learn to live with it. That will take time, faith, and the self-respect not to fall for agitprop from happy warriors on either side. Indeed one lesson that compassionate Anglicans can take from this is that it is a mistake to tie heart-felt humanitarian concerns to any one side of an obvious power struggle, either in the church or in the state. That was not the way of Jesus.

We should by all means acquaint fellow Anglicans in other lands with our challenges, just as they should acquaint us with their lives with militant secularisation, overwhelmingly Muslim populations, failing and corrupt states, etc. It's an exhilarating and hard world for everyone. Believe it or not, this global Anglican dialogue about human exceptionality remains one of the bright spots in it.

Bowman Walton

Brian Dawson said...

So which should be most important - communion, catholicity or justice?

Father Ron Smith said...

re Brian's question: "So which should be most important - communion, catholicity or justice?"

My response would be; do we have to choose between them? Surely each is important to the fulfiment of the Kingom of God.

Anonymous said...




Brian, we should question the question.

Communion and catholicity do not conflict. Rather, they appear to conflict because we are far from being ready to *think with the Communion* as Peter's conception of communion requires. Ironically, the more some rebel at the mere thought of doing that, the more confident I grow that those practises and institutions will be acquired over the next generation. If not, what is the point of a Communion? If churches only want to friend and unfriend each other, they can do it on Facebook.

And in the present aeon, are not works of mercy nearer our calling than works of justice? Where SSM is concerned, does not all the work of justice happen in the state, either a parliament as in the UK, or else in the courts as in the US? As we now read scripture, a social gospel does make hearty sense. But we have already seen that a church that sees itself as enforcing justice soon becomes toxic. The Church is called to be the non-conforming people of a peaceable kingdom, not a shadow government imposing ideology in the name of God.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Peter for your musings around “catholicity”. As you know, I’ve tried as well to distinguish this Christian notion from the now near universally touted world of ‘inclusivity’. [See my “Whose Language? Which Grammar? ‘Inclusivity’ and ‘Diversity’, versus the Crafted Christian concepts of Catholicity and Created Differentiation, in Whose Homosexuality? Which Authority? Homosexual practice, marriage, ordination and the church (ATF Press, 2006), pp.151-167.] For starters, confusion often arises due to a lack of appreciating the important if subtle difference, especially among ‘native’ westerners.

As Wesley Hill so eloquently states, among other features, it means stewarding a tradition. Not that this then sets matters in stone. Yet it does challenge those who’d ‘stretch’ the ‘boundaries’ of that tradition as they try to ‘include’ what seems for all the world Aristotlean opposites to that tradition to make their case on grounds that are at least commensurate in a clearly demonstrable way with the evaluative criteria of that tradition. For my money, “progressives” have simply not been able to do that to date, even after years even decades of discussion: alien paradigms seem always to be surreptitiously imported to solve the problem.

And it’s at this point I venture that we need to grasp the nettle. Even granting Provincial autonomy (by whatever means of local polity), what does mutual submission and mutual humility look like institutionally? E.g. Eph 5:18-21 & Phil 2:1-13, notably given v.5's baptismal nature - “Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus.” (NEB) For only such characteristics warrant a form of (Christian) life whereby the catholic co-inheres with unity, holiness, and apostolicity. And furthermore, should we ‘tolerate’ degrees of ‘difference’ among us, then what forms of “integrity” (cf. e.g. Motion 30) align with any form of catholicity and what are simply incoherent? I suspect that our current local dilemmas at this very point are merely a microcosm of the macro AC as a whole.

Liturgy said...

This "...is not their [the Primates'] remit." Bowman Walton

Ah... yes - their remit...

Bosco

Anonymous said...

Bryden, a word of discerning praise for *inclusivity*.

It acknowledges the central insight of the Adam story in Genesis-- that the image of God in the temple of the creation is a mosaic comprising each person with all of his or her given exceptionalities in humanity as a whole, and just so, the Church is intrinsically, not just as a pious afterthought, bound to the richly differentiated wholes of humanity and creation. At least in the theological West, the older language has not communicated this so clearly to so many. Barth, for famous example, rediscovered this missional being of the Body of Christ in the world, not in the magisterial reformers, but in their Anabaptist critics.

Inclusivity challenges us to hold in one thought both Christ's mediation of all things in heaven and on earth, and the perceptible horizon of change and differentiation. It suggests that God's image is not complete without the man born blind in so many gospel stories, the differentiation of the sexes throughout scripture, and all the exceptionalities within the human condition, including the 3% who put up with these debates about them with astonishing grace. We do not all fit the same places in the mosaic, but we do all have places in the image of God.

TEC's approach to SSM was indeed the unintelligible concept juggling to which you object. To minimise the difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals, it tried absurdly to eradicate the difference between men and women. Concretely, so that LG folk would feel church-accepted in America's wealthy suburbs and college towns, it asked people in farm towns and inner cities to disown their sense of themselves as women and men in their thinking about marriage. It eased the sense of marginalisation for gay executives (a good thing) at the expense of a farmer's wife's sense that her man would do and should the right thing (a crazy thing). Just so, that approach was not inclusive-- it was just another battle in America's inter-regional wars of culture and class. But the flawed proposal has popularised something true that deserves to survive and thrive in a less myopic and meanspirited milieu.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...



Bosco, *remit* is a hard word to resist here where we shovel snow in January. Unlike our semantic equivalents, *remit* has that punch on the second syllable that sounds like what it is. Or ought to have been.

A governor who had planned to run for president has poisoned one of his own cities with lead in the water supply. (No, I am not making this up. Search words: Flint, Michigan, Lead, Rick Snyder.) He was empowered, had a responsibility, granted authority, gave approval, took under consideration, etc. Alas nobody had a remit to keep people from being poisoned by their own government.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Bowman, a further stab at the need (IMHO) for the clear distinguishing of ‘inclusivity’ from the hallowed Christian note of “catholicity”, one furthermore that is actually sustained by the very comments you make.

Naturally, I well appreciate your second and third paragraphs: nicely adumbrated. But we need to go even further, to distinguish not just inner city types (San Fran) from farmers (Dakota), but what is even more basic. For as and when we drill down, right down, to rock bottom, much that passes for ‘inclusivity’ slips, slides into sheer monism. It is the monad in addition that is unable to distinguish the good from evil. Au contraire; it rejoices in the very evil that seeks to masquerade as light! For every form of ‘difference’ is justly an emanation of the One. Nor do have to be aware of the Forest Debates of the Upanishads to see this. Our culture these past decades has become delightfully gnostic at a popular level. And so how might we sift that feature.

Rather; I really do sense the important thrust of your second para is better served by the notion of “kata holos”. True; ‘inclusivity’ might do equal service. I demur however, and along similar lines to those of the second half of the 4th C. The Church needed to get hold of suitable language to distinguish, via perennial terms available, what eventuated as ousia on the one hand and hypostasis on the other. And true again; notable folk like Jerome and Augustine are on record as being disgruntled and/or disapproving - even confused. And one can only be sympathetic given the perspective(s) from which they were thinking. YET the alternatives were dire ... And it is to clearly and justly and boldly avoid our own current, dire cultural wars and worse that I seek to distinguish a wholesome catholicity, which is fully synchronic and diachronic (Ephesians, Irenaeus, and yes, Barth), from the muddied idea of inclusivity. Our evangel requires it, as do the current recipients of that Good News (IMHO).

And ALL the various recipients of the Good News, as you seek to portray in your first para. Just so, the other pairing of the title of that essay of mine: created differentiation versus diversity! Me thinks we are in heated agreement - to some degree - here ...

And just so, finally, the conjoining of the catholic + created differentiation establishes a richer, more clearly defined vision of the mission of the Church than our present (western) indulgences (IMHO).

Anonymous said...


Yes, Bryden, it makes sense to specify, as you do, that the differentiation of the tiles of the mosaic is created, not chosen. That done, the Judaic universalism in *inclusivity* is distinguished from the baggage of existentialism and liberationism that it carries for some, though not all, who use the word. That in turn should distinguish narratives of homosexuality that are at home in that Judaic universalism from narratives that are only intelligible in the frames of Sartre and Marx.

Both sides in this debate would find your distinction challenging. The Six Texts do not show that there could not be persons whose *homosexual* condition is created (eg Michael Wigglesworth); they show that the bisexuality practised among Israel's neighbours was prohibited by God. Just because some narratives of homosexuality are, as you say, gnostic, it does not follow that all of them are, as some evangelicals seem to imply (eg Ian Paul's use of Paul Ricoeur). And of course, your distinction should induce our other good friends to explain why they are burdening homosexuals and churches with a myth of Sartre and Marx, rather than the gospel.

Bowman Walton



Anonymous said...

Bryden, my word "distinction" in the last comment should have been "specification." BW

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Bowman for your considered comments overnight. Trust the snow storm has not wrecked too much havoc with you and/or yours. Being part farmer, I am all too aware of the significance of weather events. E.g. part of North Canterbury is undergoing the worst drought in 80+ years these past 18 months - though beautiful respite these past few weeks, with rains and heat one after the other, and in the middle of summer and El Niño: go figure!

I sense we are drilling down further quite nicely with these rounds. True; ‘inclusivity’ does not necessarily imply dualism and/or Gnosticism. Just so, the legitimate complaint of Jerome re hypostasis. And yet Basil’s greater concern to absolutely fend off any Sabellian understanding overall (re Trinitarian doctrine) trumps in the end the collective appreciation of the specification of terms available. It’s something like this that is driving me here. The pitfalls of dualism over the centuries (Platonic, Kantian, and now neo-Gnostic: cf. TF Torrance’s oeuvre) are just too serious in their consequences in my view. I well recall KJS’s talk, “Science and religion: your context or mine?”, held at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, on 29th June, 2010, during an informal trip to Australasia. My question (deliberately sprung) evidenced her inability to distinguish genuine “paradox”, scientific or religious, from sheer contradiction. Indeed; her (eventual, after a great pause) answer stank of neti neti, pure and simple.

As for the Six Texts. Curiously perhaps but not insignificantly, I have over many years tried to establish a frame of reference that does not rely simply or solely upon them in these debates, our current dilemmas. Rather, as ever in any hermeneutical exercise, each has to be situated with care; and overall, they need to be able to be read canonically, as well as philosophically (e.g. in the wider setting of the perennial “the one and the many”, and nowadays “pluralism”). I.e. back once more to 4th and 5th C, which was ‘decided’ by means of multiple criteria and shifts of framework (or paradigms). And so, while I agree your second para has prima facie plausibility, especially the second sentence, what if hypothetically - in the strict sense of that word - any genetic impulse towards same-sex orientation were indeed a consequence of the Fall. And of course any additional factors might be also specified as Fallen - epigenetic, societal, environmental. For example, my family clearly has a familial propensity for bowel cancer. And while the jury is still out as to what % of folk present with the disease due to such genetic factors and what on account of lifestyle and diet etc, our human sense of medical stewardship (itself a glorious expression of the combination of Nature and Grace) would excise the thing! And I am mercifully a recipient of all this - just as other members of my wider family are embroiled in the ss debates. All of this therefore is both intensely intellectual as well as pastoral and moral in my camp - a fully orbed theology indeed!

But of course such a train of thought just might not be germane: your “created” ss possibility remains an option - initially, and perhaps even for a while. And so, what as ever we need to ascertain is what constitutes data and so evidence at all at all. Back to an earlier thread and our comments back and forth. And so it is in this overall context that I am striving to set up Occam’s Razor, and even such things as Critical Experiments, to validate and/or falsify any hypothesis and/or framework. And within this process, I have found my desire for these current distinctions and specifications not only helpful but essential, as we all seek those consequences ecumenically which under our Courteous Good Lord might eventuate. Perhaps even, our one holy catholic and apostolic Church depends upon such ‘nice’ distinctions ...

Anonymous said...


Bryden, as you will recall, the empirical problem is also mentioned in two evangelical appendices to the Pilling Report by + Keith Sinclair and David Runcorn. The Bishop of Birkenhead's paragraphs 420-422 point out that we are uncertain about the causal web behind presenting cases. David Runcorn meanwhile asks whether we can be morally certain that those cases instantiate the behaviour prohibited by divine law promulgated in the ancient world. These two limitations in our knowledge are linked.

If the prevalence today is close to a naturally occurring y < 3%, whilst in some societies of the ancient world that prevalence b was high enough to be normal or even normative, then surely in those societies x > y. Given that the prohibition cannot have been directed solely at the y hidden in x, might the cases intended by the prohibition be only the difference, the unnatural but conventional behaviour of x - y = z?

An affirmative answer does not settle the matter. It does enable discussion of why the matter has been so hard to settle.


https://www.churchofengland.org/media/1891063/pilling_report_gs_1929_web.pdf

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/the.pilling.report.bishop.of.birkenheads.dissenting.statement/34867.htm

http://www.churchnewspaper.com/41004/archives


Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish the comment you have just submitted to this post.
I both understand and appreciate the point you are making, but it could be made without discussing particular named people and their sexual identities. While those named people have discussed aspects of their sexual identity in the public arena, on one matter, proposing that one is and one would be (if married) "bisexual", I think you go beyond what has actually been said.
Your logic may be irrefutable but this blog is not funded to fight litigation!
Feel free to submit again, making the same point, without discussing named individuals.

Bryden Black said...

I would simply and humbly venture Bowman that we are playing ‘their’ game in some of those sections of Pilling you cite (which I downloaded quite some time ago BTW).

You mention “empirical” matters; I shall also. I have observed folk encounter a wide and deep set of consequences of sin as well as their own sinful behaviours and their consequences; and nonetheless also encounter a God who has a singular remedy for all of these. It is indeed as the cross of the Crucified is lifted up and the Holy Spirit called upon to come to his wounded People, that slowly but surely - and sometimes most dramatically - the Image of Christ is restored to them and in them and they know themselves fully children of the Father, whose call ever remains upward until their deaths. I ask only whether you have encountered the ministry of Leanne Payne and her successors? As GK Chesterton once remarked: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” Sadly, this is where much of the state of our current dilemmas remains. And I guess it is the conclusion also of the Bp of Birkenhead, whom you also cite.

Anonymous said...

I would not get to stubborn with this. If we get expelled you won't only see dioceses leave you will see Provinces leave. Nobody wants to belong to some offshoot and will get rid of the bishops before they leave.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Now it is not rocket science to work out that in pretty much any debate over which church or Communion is living out its catholic character or not, the majority set of churches claiming to be catholic with supporting evidence re sharing the teaching of the catholic church wins over one or two or even six Anglican churches claiming to be catholic while departing from agreed doctrine!" - Dr. Peter Carrell -

I never thought that you, Peter, above all people, would have thought the virtue of 'catholicity' in the Christian community to have been total agreement on all things to do with polity and doctrine. After all, you are an Anglican - part of a community that has already resiled from the magisterial doctrine of papal infallibility (whose adherents may claim to be the only 'catholics' in the Christian world). Surely, the deep-down visceral meaning of the 'catholic' - as the Oxford dictionary claims - is first and foremost: "including a wide VARIETY of things". The O.E.D. then goes on the explain that the word "Catholic", with a captial C, "of the Roman Catholic faith; of or including all Christians; relating to the doctrine and practice of the Western Church".

The middle definition - "of or including ALL Christians" is surely the category into which (still, apparently under the capital C definition) both Anglicans and the Churches of the East can claim the title of Catholic. The common demominator here, is not the Roman Catholic Church and its Magisterium; but the commonality of belief in the Creeds of the Church Universal - which includes, but is not defined by, the institution of the Roman Catholic Church.

Therefore; when speaking of a 'departure from agreed doctrine', one needs to ask "Whose agreed doctrine". Not that of the Roman Catholic Church, nor even that of the Orthodox Churches of the East, surely?

The true basis, then of Christian 'catholic unity'; is the agreed historic Creeds of the universal Church - before any agglomeration of the doctrines that have been added on by successive Church Assemblies (e.g. Papal Infallibitly).

There are, for instance, those of us in the Church who do not believe that certain 'pastoral' sanctions - such as limited sacramentasl accessibility, male-only priesthood, papal infallibility, selective categorisation of what constitutes sinful behaviour on the grounds of defective understanding of the tenor of the Gospel - all of these being contrary to the unbounded love and mercy of God - disqualify any believer in Christ from membership of the Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...


Bryden, your last comment hints at a suspicion or a disagreement, but I cannot quite find it. Sometimes on these threads, reasonable people are emphatic about points that clearly mean more to them than they do to me. What am I missing?

On therapy for homosexuals, my sense is that happy warriors still fight about it wherever happy warriors go to fight about everything. The world of Christian psychotherapy has been a stormy place for four decades. Every time I seriously investigate the rival claims of some new controversy, I find more of the same old inter-regional conflicts of class and culture. The Civil War here has never really ended; it was institutionalised as religion.

But on sexual orientation, serious specialists on both sides now sound as though they are saying the same things. Both sides agree that therapy cannot reliably change a person's sexual orientation, but that FWIW change does sometimes follow a treatment. Both sides agree that they have gay and lesbian clients who seek therapy to help them live within the bounds of their religious commitment to celibacy. Both sides believe that their clients are helped. Both sides pray with clients. Religious counselors do this work; the American Psychological Association endorses it.

Apart from the occasional blizzard, why should I worry?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Father Ron, do you think that Peter is disqualifying anyone from membership in the Body of Christ?

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Bowman; No I have never thought that (although sometimes I wonder whether he is not tempted to exclude someone from being an Anglican)- Just joking. Peter is a dyed in the wool Evangelical Anglican - just as I am a dyed in the wool Anglo-Catholic. We just can't help ourselves. We have to learn to co-exist - "Just as I am without one plea..."

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
There is a creedal basis to catholic Christianity, but there are other things to consider as that which is important for Christians to agree on. Anglicans and Roman Catholics, for instance, are divided on matters not attended to by the creeds (e.g. the role of the magisterium, the role of Mary, and the role of the Pope), and a greater catholicity would come from those disagreements being overcome.

The words you cite at the beginning of your comment above, however, are focused on "catholicity" within the Anglican Communion: our agreed doctrine which undergirds our union around common things. That includes the creeds but is not limited to them. Funnily enough, it includes rejection of magisterium and of papacy. My argument is that it also includes agreement (albeit an unwritten one, with reference to Anglican documents prior to Lambeth 1998 1.10) on the doctrine of marriage. The Primates Meeting's communique highlights the move away from that agreed doctrine by TEC. It can scarcely be denied that Anglicans have until recently been unanimous that marriage is between a man and a woman, because all 38 provinces individually thought that was the case via their canons and liturgies. It is not difficult to logically conclude that therefore 38 provinces had agreement on the gender differentiated character of marriage, whether or not a Communion body wrote that agreement down on a bit of paper or not.

Anonymous said...

Peter, Father Ron-- We seem to be confusing two different things that Anglicans, whether anglo-catholic or evangelical, are usually rather good at distinguishing well: on one hand, sacred tradition as a sort of wiki that grows organically in whatever ways please the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand, the promulgation of inferences from that wiki as binding law (eg canons, de fide definitions, liturgies, etc). Catholicity is life in the often informally recognised wiki; communion is reasonable compliance with some trusted promulgator.

As a condition of that trust, every legitimate promulgator is in abject nose-in-the-dust submission to the tradition. Open the front door of a communion and you can walk through to the wiki, an ecology of faith teeming with life. But open the front door of a heresy and you can't walk through because there is nothing behind it but a book or a task force report or a charismatic personality.

From inside, the wiki is like a vast greenhouse with several promulgators coming and going. Some distinguish one communion from another (eg the Pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch). Others distinguish practises within communions (eg The General Chapter of the Order of St Benedict, the Church of England Evangelical Council). Still others adapt the common wiki to local conditions (eg the General Synod of ACANZP). Remember: the wiki itself is a living ecology beyond the control of any of them. Theologians conduct tours of the greenhouse, and can tell us a lot about its contents, but they have no binding authority there. The Holy Spirit is in charge.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

Importantly, whilst local adaptations of the wiki are authoritative where they are, nobody believes in a wiki that is simply the sum of all the local adaptations around the world. That is, nobody anywhere believes that a communion can be an atrium of doors with nothing behind them and only empty space in front of them. What would be the point?

Modern heresy arises from the delusion that there can be a promulgator independent of the wiki or even superior to it. Roman Catholics insist that papal infallibility is an orderly defense against that delusion; many Non-Romans worry that such concentrated power could lead to, or has already lead to, just such a delusion. Whichever is the case, papal infallibility is more faithful to the wiki than the TEC view that the General Convention can prune and reshape the wiki by its own lights to make a desired interpretation more plausible.

Now that SSM is a right protected by the US Supreme Court, US states are adapting their marriage laws and procedures to comply with the law of the land. Presumably, bishops in cathedrals around the corner from state capitols are responding deliberately to any pastoral issues that arise as they do. Some are upsetting local conservatives, whilst others are upsetting local liberals, just as bishops have always done. Local dioceses seem entirely equal to the task of responding to the actions of their own governments in their own social contexts. Nevertheless should some distinctively American circumstance require it, TEC's House of Bishops could support what member dioceses are doing with counsel or direction.

At either level, TEC has the limited responsibility of local promulgators-- to advise where local circumstances pose problems to all baptised Christians living by the common wiki. Reviewing the kinds of promulgators above, TEC has no responsibility to promulgate a distinction between the Anglican Communion and other communions (eg Anglicans are not evangelicals); the Instruments of Communion do that. Nor to act as a special body within the Communion (eg the American chapter of Modern Church); there is no national exception to Anglican comprehension. Nor to lend the authority of the Church to a favourite theology or hermeneutic, as though ordinary academic and committee work could bind the freedom of the Holy Spirit (eg Task Force on Marriage); the Holy Spirit owns every real church, and no church owns the Holy Spirit. Some want power that nobody has.

For many restless Anglicans, and not only in TEC, that last paragraph is the sticking point. What they see as a modest desire for a church that thinks the way they do-- and as they are Masters Of The Universe, why should it not think as they do?-- turns out to be intrinsically impossible, and not simply because the Primates are too rigid to allow it. Ethnophyletism is, not only an Orthodox heresy, but an Anglican one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyletism


Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I am in agreement with much of what you say, but your version of the organically growing Spirit directed "tradition" is that it is solid, coherent and agreed by all. (At least, that is how I read one or two phrases above). But the tradition does occasion some sharp disagreement, and promulgators of consequential schism are sometimes substantial bodies of Christians committed to one form of the tradition rather than another. Principally I have in mind the split between Eastern and Western Christianity. Fast forwarding, there is a potential "pioneering" role for a promulgator such as TEC's GC, which reshapes/reforms the tradition, so that one day the faithful (the whole of the West? or, just: the whole of the Communion?) look back, and around, and say "Look how the tradition re marriage has grown organically, starting with those first TEC buds."

However, what I infer from your comments, is that the much stronger pathway to adjusting the tradition is for a widespread change to take place among all God's people, which synods and conventions finally recognise by change to canons. From that perspective, you are right to call into question the hubris of (e.g.) TEC claiming exclusive foresight as to what the tradition one day will be, as justification for changing the tradition when (relatively) few other Christians support them doing so.

Anonymous said...


Thank you, Peter, for a swift, thoughtful reply.

The one wiki is here. Catholics read Luther; Calvinists read Maximus; Orthodox are beginning to read Augustine; everybody reads Tom Wright. Is there a unified fields theory of the gospel? No, but for the first time in history, the several magisteria can and do learn from each other. Benedict XVI was a different sort of pope for having read Martin Luther and Karl Barth in depth.

We have one wiki, but a few global communions. For them we need to distinguish three sorts of promulgating authority-- communion identity, vocational tradition, local application. From communion to communion, those three kinds of authority differ in form, but are recognisable nonetheless. Richard Hooker would attribute that to the ubiquity of right reason.

TEC, a pioneer? Like Pius IX in 1865, TEC needs a Bishop Dupanloup, and I am not sure what he could say.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/3165356.pdf?

In the negative birthrate lands of Utrecht-Porvoo, TEC's *SSM for all* is not a pioneer. In the moderate to high birthrate Anglican Communion, it is a dead end.

But yes, in principle, the question how churches should respond to civil SSM will most likely be answered by local bishops who actually encounter it. Eventually, somebody's pastoral guidance to clergy will evolve toward a useful practise that can spread.

Two pioneering examplars show contrasting possibilities. In both places, the lawyerly service of the BCP has come to be seen as a redundant anachronism. "Today, a priest is not a public notary. But in the twelfth century, he had to be, or there would be no records. Without publicly verified records, brides would be sold into exploitive marriages to near kin who bounded from parish to parish in search of extra wives. Over a few centuries, the meticulous recordkeeping of the clergy cleared all that up. But now that civil servants can also read and write, clergy can spend their time on other things." And indeed, so long as couples obey the civil law, the medieval social pathologies will never again return. Realising this, and faced with state reforms of marriage, some bishops have done a bit of reforming of their own.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Cont'd

In the northerly and cosmopolitan Church of Cockaigne (CoC), weddings are always private, and churches are not popular venues for them. Thus a protracted fight in convocation over SSM with nothing of pastoral value at stake marked the end of church weddings in the eastern province. From that time forward, the bishops withdrew the 1662 service from use except by their special permission. In its stead, the bishops encouraged couples of all sorts to be lawfully married by a magistrate, and to invite a priest to offer prayers in their private celebrations. For such events, the bishops issued a litany that makes no legal declaration of the couple's marital status, but does ask God for the peace of the couple, all present, the people of Cockaigne, the royal family, any stricken by disaster, and the peoples of the earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, and in the hope of his return, a blessing is given to all present. In Cockaigne, weddings for nominal Christians have been supplanted by warm fuzzy evangelism to a secular society.

Meanwhile other bishops in the subtropical Anglican Church of Parador (ACP) also require that couples be married by a magistrate, but only pray for them in their community's ordinary Sunday eucharist. Rather than discarding the ideal of the village wedding, these bishops have reclaimed it as a service in the household of faith for journey and reconciliation, healing and fertility. As with many services in a pentecostal milieu, the couple are at once the object of concern and representatives of the hopes and fears of the men and women present. Emphasising that marriage demands the transformation of the self in Christ, this rite does not shrink from notes of penitence and eschatological hope. Clearly this is no service for a nominal Christian, and counseling before the service is often apologetic or catechetical. Perhaps for that reason, those who object to its use with same sex couples are biting their tongues for the time being. Most often, as the priest crowns the couple and leads them around the font three times, the congregation unabashedly pray that the couple will have many arrows in their quiver. In Parador, C12 legalities have been pushed aside for a C21 experience of converting grace.

From brief experience in just two provinces one cannot make predictions. But it is striking that the unintended consequence of state SSM in both has been the same: churches searched their souls for the reason for doing weddings in the first place. Having done that, the "pioneers" in both CoC and ACP have been happy to leave the witnessing of intent and consent to clerks in the town hall. In so doing, they have freed themselves to frame and pursue contemporary pastoral objectives for marriage that reflect the prevailing churchmanship in each place. The lighthearted liberals of Cockaigne simply want to be God's presence at the party as Jesus was in Cana of Galilee. The counter-cultural conservatives of Parador want their church and society to feel about sex, marriage, family, and life as God does. Neither province's Primate understands why TEC is so stuck in the past, and neither had the patience to spend a week in Canterbury finding out.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

That may be all very well, Bowman, as an analysis which points us to ways forward other than TEC's pioneering pathway. But is it realistic to suppose that (say) CofE, SEC, ACCan, ACAustr, or ACANZP are going to follow either of the pathways of Cockaigne or Parador?

Anonymous said...



Peter, a typology of endpoints is easier-- and at this stage more useful, I think-- than a predicted pathway. The former reflects the differing priorities among opponents of SSM. The latter is a guess about how forces in tension will respond to changing constraints in an unknown timeframe. The CIA would assign a roomful of analysts to some matters simpler than this one. But I understand your haste.

In the churches you mention, proponents of SSM primarily seek to avoid disagreement with their social peers, and opponents of SSM primarily seek to conserve biblical authority. Yes, warm-hearted people on both sides do care deeply about other things, but a settlement that is either a social embarrassment or an abandonment of scripture will lead some to try to unsettle it, and others to try to leave. Even churches in which one side has the votes to prevail, will usually step back from measures that cost them much of their base of support (eg Wales).

As I said in September, the hardest practise to dislodge would be one that left traditional marriage intact, but also graciously acknowledged a prior legal commitment undertaken in SSM. Those for whom the duty of procreation rather than punishment of homosexuality is the central concern of biblical teaching could accept this, and so could those whose main concern is to avoid being ostracised by their neighbours as wicked, persecuting homophobes. It would, of course, disappoint those for whom the Bible's anti-homosexuality is truly cosmic, as well as their polar opposites who want to see a sexual ethic for androgynes marked by a rite of the church. I have no vote counts at my finger tips, but my guess is that, to the annoyance and disgust of the blogosphere, a *marriage and partnership* position is the one most likely to hold in most of the churches on your list.

What "gracious acknowledgement" is sufficient for each local church but not "legitimisation" in the meaning of 1988 Lambeth I.10? This is the real question. We could-- and no doubt will-- reflect in some depth on the meaning of the word. For the moment, it is enough to say that the more robust a church's teaching on the procreative, or at least on the sexed, character of traditional marriage, and the more it stresses the state's just purpose in SSM, the more gracious its acknowledgement can be. A church is at least taking a position clearly different from that of TEC if it-- (a) cites scripture against both homophobia and androgyny, (b) asserts a firm Romans 13 rationale for critical support of the state's SSM, and (c) further shows from scripture that the pastoral priority is to affirm the Church's continued challenge and love of a still-learning child of God.

Try to imagine one of your Primates with his colleagues in the Canterbury crypt saying something like this-- "Although ACANZP has just reaffirmed and clarified its traditional theology of marriage, it also supports New Zealand's effort to give all citizens equal access to the many customary and third-party contractual rights associated with marriage. ACANZP does not affirm that such scriptures as Genesis 1:28, Ephesians 5, etc refer to SSMs, but we do recognise that our members who share their rights and resources under the law are taking a praiseworthy step toward just relationships.

"Just because ACANZP's practise of marriage is so traditional, lesbian or gay members could doubt that God still loves them and that the Church still accepts them. Guided therefore by Articles XXXI and XI of the 39 Articles, ACANZP proclaims the gospel of grace to all persons, and especially to those of our own members who are partnered in SSMs. As with all members of ACANZP, our pastoral conversation with them never forgets that we are equally at the foot of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel has not changed; presented with new circumstances, we have proclaimed it in a new way."

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman
That - to my mind - is now much clearer.
You may have predicted a ACANZP outcome!