Monday, February 22, 2016

A Way Forward to General Synod 2016

Well, after much talk and prayer, the report with recommendation, "A Way Forward" is made public, here. (And follow various links on that site).

I am coincidentally busy this week in such a way that at best I will be able to post comments and not make comment myself.

Let alone offer "considered" views on what is written in the report (but, let me assure you, that considered views are forming!).

But I have a few thoughts to offer in the most general sense of appreciation and admiration.

1. In a context of difference and disagreement in our church, the Way Forward group has written as good a report - broadly speaking - in terms of compromise, of attempting to carve a way through "the centre," to hold two integrities together as I could possibly imagine. When we think of the divisions in our church, and note that the WF group are not even agreed on the "compromise" presented in their report, this is, I suggest, as good as it gets at this time and in this church, ACANZP.

2. What the report seeks to do is both simple and complex. Simple: it seeks to hold our church together as a family with disagreements. Complex: what it proposes to hold our church together is a fascinating mixture of theology and pragmatism. Will it work to hold us in one family? Now, that is the question you and I will find taxes our minds over the weeks running up to GS in May 2016.

3. I would like to remind readers that General Synod is under no compunction to do anything with this report. Whatever we think of it, the members of General Synod will determine whether to archive it, formally commend it to us for study, follow its recommendations or ...

4. Finally, some recent words of Pope Francis, aimed at Donald Trump, may also be apt for us as we digest the report and its recommendations. The Pope said,

"“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,”"

Now, I am NOT, repeat NOT, citing this comment in order to cast aspersions on those who respond to the report in one way rather than another. But I am happy to cite these words as a challenge to myself and to you, a challenge to respond in such a manner to the report that we build bridges between each other rather than walls. Yes, we won't agree on what constitutes "bridges" and what constitutes "walls" in this situation, but might we agree that there are ways to discuss issues in the life of the church which keep conversation alive and ways which kill conversation dead? May we find the former pathway.

69 comments:

Ben said...

Oh gees.....a compromised solution based upon a series of more and more compromised foundations....
Forget about compromising the integrity of priests and bishops, this report if adopted would compromise the integrity of the church itself.
Does the working group really believe that God doesn't have an opinion on this....that he would be happy with his church holding two diametrically opposed views. Do they really think that God could bless both both "views"

Ben said...

cont.... Do they really think that God is so unsure of what he thinks, or double minded?

Maybe....just maybe....it would be better to be discerning of God's will....and follow that. If it is for change I'm sure God will allow for a reasonable argument shaped in the light of Scripture and Tradition to be formed, for that change to become obvious to all, so that the church can continue to move forward in unity. So far I would suggest we are a long way from that...and in fact across the face of the Anglican world (as reflected in the recent bishops gathering) we seem to be moving more and more to a consensus that favours maintaining the orthodox witness of the Church

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, in my 86 years as a Baptized Chrisitan, I have come to realise that the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is both 'One in Christ' and at odds in and with itself.

Having said that, I take to heart the words of St. Cyprian, quoted by our friend Bowman in the previous post, who states that the task of a Bishop in the Church is to maintain 'The Unity of the Spirit in the bonds in the bond of peace'. This comes explicitly from our own prayer book Eucharist (p.419) followed by the statement that "We are bound by the Love of Christ". Such love is far greater than human love, and it is this agape that binds us together.

The problems come when we are so sure that our way is correct that we might be willing to divorce ourselves from the fellowship of the Eucharist. This, I think, is the scandal at the heart iof our present brokenness. If we refuse to share the Eucharist with someone of a different theological stance from our own (within the Churches of our Anglican Communion) then surely this is tantamount to schism?

Different opinions on theology have long been enterttained in the Church of England - and in other Provinces of our Communion - without compromising the Dominical intention that we should be one in Christ.
I hope that Motion 30 will pass at G.S., so that ALL sinners may be welcomed at the Table of the Lord - without discrimination on account of their perceived 'unworthiness'. After all, who is worthy?

If we are ever to come to perfection, it will be because of the Love of God incorporating us into God's perfection - not our own.

Anonymous said...


Ben, I have read the summary but not the report. Details matter. Until I have read the report all the way through, and thought and prayed about it, I will have no opinion on it.

From the summary, I see only that two sorts of blessings for those civilly married are being proposed, one for those who may procreate and one for those who cannot. The former, I suppose, prays for God's help for those who enter a state of life known to us from the scriptures. The latter, I suppose, prays for God's help for those who have entered a state of life permitted by law, but not familiar to us from the scriptures. I do not know what I think about what I have not read, but I do know what I wonder. Perhaps, from your reading of the report, you could hazard some answers--

Is the context for these blessings eucharistic?

Is there a difference of meaning between a church wedding and a blessing after a civil wedding?

Can blessings be prayers for the transformation of those blessed?

Are the blessings in both rites transformative?

Is there a salient difference between blessing a sinner and giving him or her communion?

Are the prayers proposed for the fecund somehow opposed to the prayers for those who are not?

Are blessings after civil registration primarily about social validation or about pastoral care?

Would it be wrong to bless a legally registered prostitute, a soldier in a lawful army, or a duly appointed hangman?

Do you object to a church praying for sinners or to calling the prayers *blessings*?

Do bishops and priests have ample freedom to revise their practises in the light of pastoral experience?

Bowman Walton

Philmc said...

Ben - I assume the Working Group considers, with neither group having recently experienced celestial visitations, that the differences are precisely about what God's view is. The one thing that riles me most about this debate is not that people differ, but the refusal in some to accept that 'what God's view is' or 'what scripture says' is precisely what we differ about!

Anonymous said...



"The one thing that riles me most about this debate is not that people differ, but the refusal in some to accept that 'what God's view is' or 'what scripture says' is precisely what we differ about!"

Yes, Phil, I agree. *Marriage* is one of the few great human institutions, and it is bound up with every question about sexuality, yet it has also had an inner meaning for Christians. So there are three dimensions to any marriage question. Few minds have been agile enough-- perhaps few hearts are great enough-- to compass all three with a well-integrated position that acknowledges everything. Some bang on about love, others about sex, and a very few about the Church's special interest in marriage, but almost nobody has convincingly addressed all three realities in a single statement. But of course this is usual in religious discourse.

It may be that the distinction between civil weddings and church blessings will help some to sort this out.

Bowman Walton

Richard said...

The part of the report I am a little bit stumped on is the requirement for the blessing of "civil marriages" in general, and presuambly the marriages of those who have converted from other religious traditions too. While they use the language of "rightly ordered relationship", they are clearly referring primarily to marriage here. To suggest that the explicit blessing of the church as a rite is necessary for a marriage to be considered "rightly ordered" strikes me as rather new innovation which makes some interesting assumptions. To what extent is marriage a "creation ordinance", something common to God's providential purposes for humanity instutited in the creation of humanity itself? To make the church officially have to "bless" a marriage in order for it to be considered "rightly ordered" strikes me as being parallel to the secular notion that marriage is properly defined, created and instituted by the state rather than recognised.

Ben said...

Hi Bowman

I think in your questions you point out many of the contradictions and compromises that I feel lie at the heart of this report. There is very little coherency of witness here for the church to move forward with.

Possibly the main question I picked up on is

"Do you object to a church praying for sinners or to calling the prayers *blessings*?"

I of course have no issue with praying for sinners......I do think tho that we can only "bless" what God blesses - since after all he is the only one that bestows the blessing. So it makes sense to me to work out what it is that God does and does not bless. otherwise we are just speaking random feel good words over peoples lives and taking God's name in vain.

Ben said...

Hi Philmc

In this case, One group has had 2000yrs+ of having their view shaped by Gods leading in this area, celestial visitations, Scripture, wisdom of the saints, the Leading of the Spirit, development of tradition, etc, etc....

The other group has had 50 years of cultural pressure to accept a different norm.

Brendan McNeill said...

My first impressions of the ‘Way Forward Working Group’ report is that it is a document crafted for its time.

It contains phrases such as:

“In theological discourse, marriage has hitherto been the only model available to expound a holy, sexually-intimate relationship.  As the Spirit guides the Church into truth, … to inform a Christian understanding of the relatively new phenomenon of same-sex relationships.”

The ‘relatively new phenomenon of same sex relationships’ – Really? How new, 21st century new, 20th, 19th or just post New Testament new?

“It is suggested that General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui consider whether the principle most important for the Church’s conversations today is the spirit of accommodation...”

Ah yes, ‘the spirit of accommodation’. Would that also be a post New Testament construct?

“It is Jesus who directs us into Genesis when in Matthew 19 he speaks of two becoming one flesh, and this informs our understanding of union.  It is certain, however, that the Genesis texts are freighted with more weight than they were designed to bear – and not just in this debate.  To go to them to discern what is God’s will for us in creation is always fraught.”

Matthew 19:4-5 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

Yes, damned difficult to interpret that passage in Genesis, I’m surprised Jesus quoted it. I can understand why the WFWG is ‘certain’ that to rely upon its obvious meaning is ‘always fraught’. Thankfully they went on to explain what it REALLY means:

“But we can see that this desire looks beyond the surface of a binary, heteronormative world.  It is expressed not in finding a partner of the opposite sex but a partner of the apposite sex.  It is to this partner that one “cleaves” in a union for all of this life.”

Ah, quite so.

More Ratloaf anyone?

Bryden Black said...

These are first impressions after a first read. As and when additional time allows, I shall gather a fuller response akin to that of mine of April 2014 to A Report of the Commission on Doctrine & Theological Questions the previous month, which ran to 16 pages. [I’d already written a submission to the Ma Whea Commission itself, who had graciously interviewed me on the basis of that submission thereafter.]

Peter’s brief summary has a single and simple premise: the Church is a political organization. As such, given that politics is the art of the possible, this report is of course a centrist piece of accommodation, a compromise, winning few friends perhaps and certainly a few enemies.

My own response. The Church might have political dimensions, but at its heart it is the Dwelling Place and Household of the triune God, the Holy One of Israel. From this report one would be hard pressed to actually know this. For example, the fulcrum appears to be sections 3 & 4. Seldom have I seen such a flimsy theological presentation. It truly is sheer gruel, of the sort for which Esau sold his heritage. Strong? Naturally. For thereafter the only natural and logical conclusion is a bevy of chameleon like ‘local options’, scattered around these Islands, like some child’s first attempts at a felt montage or sewing quilt.

Of course, the Report of the WFWG glories in such expressions as: “Unity flourishes through variety and diversity.” “Unity is not about managing the church, but discovering each other.” And for me the capstone: “The addition of a further rite of blessing of a same-sex relationship might therefore be seen as congruent with the Church’s established practice of accommodating previous understandings of holiness in intimate relationships, and retaining them alongside newer understandings as they emerge, despite the diversity of voices they represent.” [NB the words “might” and “congruent”, the latter from Motion 30, section 1 (b)] - for surely, “the Spirit will guide the Church into truth” - our truth, to be sure! For NB again: “It is accepted that the blessing of a relationship has some similarities with the rites of marriage, but even as the two are alike in many ways they are not the same.” To be sure; it took New Zealand as a nation to debunk that distinction so successfully and satisfyingly re the Civil Unions Act of 2004 in a mere 8 years of civil bliss before FULL gay marriage was demanded of Parliament. In this context, “mission” is clearly envisaged to be the entire exercise. See only the second Question on pages 6-8, where cultural analogies reign. Laudable perhaps in their own context, yet as far as the identity of the Church goes, they remain gruel-like. For what is Christian mission?

The late David Bosch would be a 20th C giant in this area of missiology (no refs in the Bibliography despite the “missionary” leitmotif); and I had the good fortune - the blessing! - to meet him a number of times. As the Church “crosses boundaries in mission”, boundaries of geography, culture, class etc., so a threefold dynamic comes into play - as evidenced in the writings of the Early Church Fathers from the 2nd to the 5th Cs. Even as the Church “despoils the Egyptians” (Augustine; we’ll conclude with him), the various elements of any culture are handled/sifted by the Church in one of three ways to achieve better “synchronization” with the will of God: affirmation, neutrality, expungement. In our case today, however, it seems that all is simply affirmed; nothing is sinful anymore; judgment is ‘taboo’; ‘love’ rules, OK! The “majority” divine the “will of God” - and this somehow without the pattern of the Early Church’s stringent catechetical formation, for both nation and church.

Bryden Black said...

And so to conclude this brief response, with both the Augustine reference and the Hebrews quote. Augustine famously starts his Confessions the way he does to state clearly to his readers that ONLY God is immutable; THIS is his premise. Yet he reaches the end of his first paragraph about “rest” also only after he has initially quoted two Psalms (he will decisively use the Psalms at the beginning of most Books thereafter, as due tools of Scriptural Praise), and spoken of the human creature’s vocation to “praise” - to “confession”! YET; how can a mere creature in the flux of time and space - let alone a fallen, sinful creature, embodying the essence of sin with such “pride” - possibly duly acknowledge the One True Immutable God?! The rest of Confessions, all 13 Books, duly provide the answer. And the answer has little - nothing! - which might address the rest of section 3 of this Report; in fact the opposite. Our human search for and journey into the One True God necessarily involves that double confession of “praise” and deep repentance of our natural, sinful wills, since our ‘loves’ are so profoundly tainted and miscued, given the “mirror of our souls” (1 Cor 13:12, the text so beloved by Augustine in his De Trinitate, ironically also referenced in this Report), the “image of God”, is turned away from Him and inwards upon ourselves - incurvatus in se! There is little of the need for any re-turning - or unfurling like a koru - in this Report ...

And then there’s Hebrews, most curious of all, as the Header to “doctrine” being “dynamic”. What were they smoking when they devised this subsection?! For Hebrews, the opening exordium and thereafter the entire Letter, declares one supreme thing: the sheer finality and perfection of the revelation and salvation declared and demonstrated and executed in Jesus. Where on earth in the Bibliography is the likes of Richard Bauckham, et al, eds, The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), being the best current one-stop-shop on this Letter? Even the Latin tag, “Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi”, gets horrendously miscued - yet its use is perhaps inevitable, since the Report will naturally seek to conclude with diverse rites that will exhibit a profound change of Christian doctrine. A change, however, where the impetus and trajectory has nothing to do with Hebrews and everything to do with the supposed missionary context of a world given over to its own self-will.

With embarrassed apologies to St Augustine, whose inheritance and reception of Nicene Trinitarianism spawned one of the greatest tracts of all time, drawing up very firm doctrinal “fences”, whose transgression precipitates only severe injury as we go lemming-like over the cliffs.
Kyrie eleison ...

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,
I don’t have time to read and digest 52 pages this week but at first glance this does not sound like middle ground stuff to me.
It looks like marriage, smells like marriage and sounds like marriage.
This way forward working group are way, way Way ahead of me on this. They seem to be way ahead of the Primates and based on a survey of our parish last year they are way ahead of our parish down here in Dunedin.
Either this is a prophetic step by our church following the way of TEC and Canada or its blatant distortion of Gods word that is out of step with the Church of Christ. It is not compromise.
Personally I was looking for a faithful, patient middle ground step forward- this is not that.
This really is an impatient, hurried work to get the job done. There is much to be bemused by: I mean what does the “dynamic nature of an evolving doctrine” really mean? To state:
“the Genesis texts are freighted with more weight than they were designed to bear” is a staggering reflection on this groups assessment of God’s word. As for the:
“relatively new phenomenon of same-sex relationships.” Oh really? Is there no one on this group who has done history 101?

This does not look like way forward I will be following.

Stu

Philmc said...

Ben - see, that's just what I'm talking about. Maybe the Spirit has used the last 2000 years to 'lead us into all truth.

Brian Kelly said...

Ben said: "I do think tho that we can only "bless" what God blesses - since after all he is the only one that bestows the blessing. So it makes sense to me to work out what it is that God does and does not bless. otherwise we are just speaking random feel good words over peoples lives and taking God's name in vain."

Of course that is right. 'Blessing' has basically two meanings in Scripture (and in life):

1. to infuse some kind of goodness, strength or energy into something or someone ('Your kind gift greatly blessed this work').
2. to express approval and acceptance of some state of affairs, i.e. to declare it as good and right ('Will you give us your blessing for our plan?')

No good will come from obfuscating this matter. Our Lord said, 'Let your yes be yes and your no be no', not to hide our meaning in a forest of ambiguous words.
If you think God created some people to be homosexual, then say so. That's what Ron Smith believes and says so. I believe his understanding of this (as well as his understanding of Christian marriage) is theologically absurd, unbiblical and counter to the consentient witness of Christian tradition (that is, contrary to reason, Scripture and tradition); but at least I know what he believes and (I think) why.
From the excerpts I have read above of the document, it combines both astonishing theological hubris (knowing better than Jesus what his words mean) and breathtaking historical ignorance of homosexuality in the ancient world (which a senior school student vaguely familiar with The Aeneid or The Iliad could refute).
But it's not just in Greco-Roman literature where prophets are doomed not to be listened to; this was a regular fate in the Old Testament as well.
New Zealand Anglicanism, like its North American liberal counterpart, has been declining for at least two generations. Why does it want to follow 6th century Judah in a 'covenant with death'?

Jean said...

I too have only taken a cursory look at the report and a few things stand out to me.

I can see the concept of having a 'blessing' of a civil marriage as a way to include same sex couple within the church while still retaining the churches stance of marriage between a man and a woman. However, I am wary of this 'standing up in court' so to speak. As the report indicates if a blessing ocurs in a church it is therefore seen to be as approved by the church or as the term is used 'right ordered' (obviously); meaning any participant in such a blessing would by implication be able to apply for ordination.

This leads to a big contradiction: Thou shall not marry in a church because it is not theologically appropriate but thou can be blessed and then be a Minister of said church.

I believe this alongside working on the premise of different Diocese being given the authority to choose whether or not they will bless same sex relationships will lead to a lot of confusion.

Would ordained clergy in same sex marriages be limited to practicing only within certain dioceses?
Would clergy who disagree with same sex blessings be required to undertake them if their diocese is in favour?
Would it create a regional division of viewpoints on this topic as in the US and do we want that?
Would congregations within a diocese have any sway?

I find a lot of the comments made already pertinent especially about marriage itself. Many who come into the church once married may have never had a Christian ceremony for their partnership, the premise for the marriage being under God is simply that they are married.

While I err towards the traditional view of marriage as per scripture, this is a bias I have to acknowledge, and as such I seek and pray for what indeed the spirit may be saying to the church on this issue (and many others). However, my opinion is whether changes are to be made instigating or not the blessing of same sex couples, any change in order to avoid chaos and confusion will need to be made nationwide. This of course will not rule out the necessity for 'good disagreement' - I would imagine many are the current practices of the Anglican Church which people who attend the church disagree with : )

Cheers Jean

P.S. My understanding of blessing following from the old testament is that it is actually a physical/literal gift. When Jacob blessed his sons the blessing carried a tangible outcome. Hence, a difference perhaps between to bless (pray for favour), 'God bless you my son' and a blessing.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The one thing that riles me most about this debate is not that people differ, but the refusal in some to accept that 'what God's view is' or 'what scripture says' is precisely what we differ about!" - Philmc -

Well, Phil, I can tell you that one lady got up - at tonight's meeting on this subject at the transitional Cathedral - and said that God had told her that this (the intention of the Report) was not His will for the Church. Now, I can tell you, this was the sort of thing you are talking about when you speak of "the refusal in some to accept that 'what God's view is".

Do you think this lady had a divine revelation that is binding upon ACANZP and its actions on this matter?

Father Ron Smith said...

I agree with Richard's criticism of the idea that the intervention of the Church is necessary for a marriage to be valid. Why, even our Roman Catholic clergy-brethren have expressed the understanding that marriage is a 'sacrament' validated by the two persons involved. All the Church can do is add its blessing.

Ben said...

Yes Philmc, I do see what you are saying, and no I don't think the Spirit has led us in one direction for 2000years only to pull a U-turn at this particular point in history.

The fact that it only appears to be a very small portion of the church, largely in the west, hearing and calling for this change suggests to me that it is being influenced by cultural factors rather than Scripture/Tradition/Reason

That this same minority of the church also often appeals to having some special gnostic insight about changing other core doctrines (such as the divinity of Christ and Salvation through him for example) also makes be think that it is largely out of step with the Spirit

And as mentioned, being out of step with the majority of the (Anglican) church bishops affirming orthodox doctrine at the beginning of the year also suggests to me that yes the Spirit is continuing to lead us into all truth....and that it seems to be very consistent with the way in which the Spirit has lead us into truth for the past 2000 years.....which surprisingly enough, does not surprise me :)

Anonymous said...


Vicar: Hallo, Mr and Mrs Frumpley (Wheeling up on a bicycle).

The Frumpleys: Hallo, Vicar.

Vicar: Have you given thought to when we might bless your wrong ordered union?

The Frumpleys: What?!

Vicar: I see that you have not read our latest report (waving a copy). Well, you see, er, married Christians need to have right ordered unions. And the register does not show that you have been in to have your relationship right ordered, which leaves me no alternative but to believe that it's wrong ordered.

Mr Frumpley: At the moment it seems right disordered. Is there a category for that?

Vicar: I'm afraid not.

Mrs Frumpley: Why must we get married again? We were married by a sea captain precisely to avoid all that expense and folderol.

Vicar: Because it's progress! Doctrine is dynamic. It moves; it changes; it assumes new forms that nobody ever expected and almost nobody really wants! Anyway, it's not a wedding exactly-- you are already married-- it's a blessing.

Mr Frumpley: What is a *blessing* that a *marriage* isn't?

Vicar: Our best wishes and the good favour of God Almighty.

Mrs Frumpley: You don't wish us well now?

Vicar: No. We did, but now we don't. But we will again, if you come in to get blessed.

Mr Frumpley: Does the blessing wear off? Would we have to do this again?

Vicar: We must live "in the Now" (wiggling oddly), as the report says. I would not worry about it.

Mrs Frumpley: But I do worry about it. We thought we had God's good favour because we were doing his will-- being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth with well-reared Frumplies.

Vicar: God used to favour that, but there's been progress since then, and now he does not favour children and he does favour meaningful relationships.

Mrs Frumpley: Ha! That's what all the boys used to say. We'd be doing the twist to the Rolling Stones and they'd say (imitating a drunken drawl), "Baby, we could have a very meaningful relationship."

Vicar: You're not comparing the Almighty to a stranger in a bar?

Mrs Frumpley: It's just funny that whether it's God or man, guys just get most excited about relationships when they're not too keen on children.

Vicar: Well, no, there are five reasons to get excited: number one, Love; number one, Union; number one, Covenant; number one, Gift; and finally, number one, Household.

Mrs Frumpley: Ooooh, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship, Relationship, Laundry. You're terrible at maths, Vicar, but you must be quite the pick-up artist.

Vicar: You really think so? Actually, I memorised that from the report

Mrs Frumpley: It's ok, Vicar. Everyone memorises a pick-up line, you just have to say it in a way that sounds fresh. (Demonstrating) Hold their hands, look 'em in the eyes and say, "Baby, let's get excited-- Love. Union. Covenant. Gift. Household."

Anonymous said...


Mr Frumpley: Alright, enough flirting with my wife. Is this blessing something fit for the kids to hear?

Vicar: They can come or not. They are not needed for the blessing. It doesn't mention them.

Mr Frumpley: But in the Bible the children ARE the blessing! Arrows in the quiver...

Vicar (just a bit testily): We must "live in the Now!"

Mrs Frumpley: No dear, you're confused. Putting the arrow in the quiver is how you GET the blessing. (With a look of concern) I am sure that we will not have to do anything like that in church?

Vicar: No, we would never mention such a thing in church. That's sex.

Mr Frumpley: Sex isn't part of the blessing?

Vicar: No sir, not for having children. But to help a relationship, it is a beautiful thing, an ineffable expression of God's love of the highest order.

Mrs Frumpley: But why did God change his mind?

Vicar: Well, He does that from time to time. Usually after consulting one of our task forces.

Mr Frumpley: But I don't believe task forces. They're just pompous, pretentious, busy-bodying people who believe in universities more than God. I only believe things that are in the Bible.

Vicar: Well, you can't.

Mr Frumpley: I can't?

Vicar: No. You can't. Nobody can. Our minds can't do it. Everybody knows that. It's not even worth discussing.

Mr Frumpley: But I do.

Vicar: No, you only think you do, but since you can't, you don't.

Mr Frumpley: But I am very sure that I do. I live my daily life as though I do.

Vicar: Then perhaps you are a Presbyterian.

Mr Frumpley: But I believe in the apostolic succession of bishops!

Vicar: Then you should believe them when they tell you to believe a successful task force instead of an apostle. (Giving them small tracts) Here, these copies of the executive summary of the report will fit just inside the cover-- or over any page you do not plan to read-- and have a sticky backing. (Demonstrating) Let's see... You won't miss a couple of pages in Leviticus, will you? There you have it. All in the Bible.

Mrs Frumpley: Will you come in for tea, vicar?

Vicar (climbing on the bicycle): No, I've a date, and I can't keep him waiting.

Overheard in the wrong place at the wrong time by Bowman Walton

Chris Spark said...

Much has been said already. But having read the report then attended at the info evening last night, I will simply say not many seemed very happy.
The thing was summed up I think by two people a couple of rows in front of me, one who was what we might call conservative regards this issue, the other progressive, and both asking questions about how this might actually work, and neither (especially the progressive guy actually) being able to see how it could work, even more after the questions had been answered. Indeed both (and especially the progressive guy) seemed quite frustrated at it all.

When it comes to my own perspective, one major issue seems to me to be that they have tried to do a report that will work for a diverse range of theological positions, but then by putting in the dynamic doctrine section, complete with the sorts of dealing with Scripture noted by Bryden and others above, and statements regards fixity of Scripture etc, they have actually tethered it to a particular theological stance (which is arguably not all that Anglican, at least not if the Articles have any weight as to what is Anglican, which, according to the same report, they do). This impression is reinforced by the repeated note that not all the committee agreed with these positions. This tethering to that theological position makes explicit I think why the report seems to feel rather alienating to many on the more evangelical (some would say conservative or traditionalist, ah labels ) end of things.

Looking for a solution is good and necessary, but unfortunately, at least right now, this seems to be even less that solution than what I had thought it might be.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Anonymous Ben said...
Oh gees.."

Ben, are you aware of just how offensive that sounds to a Christian?

Father Ron Smith said...

When will conservative Evangelicals come to understand that, since the many books of The Bible were written, there have been absolutely tonnes of other books written about how to interpret them. There is absolutely no agreed textual rendering, attribution, or definitive meaning attributable to any of the books of either Old or New Testaments.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit's help, in our situation, in our day and age, to interpret what is God's will for us in the Body of Christ, in our world of today. This is why it is so difficult to be so fundamentally dogmatic about "What God said" to the Believers when the books were written - much less about what God might be saying to the Church today.

The group making this flawed document were in agreement only about the fact that they had different views of Scripture, tradition and Reason - the 3 planks of our Anglican ethos. They did the best they could with the material available, let's at least give them a chance to encourage us all into further dialogue - that is not inhibited by private revelations of "What God said to ME". - as though this trumops every other possbility of understanding the scriptures, or the mind of God - not only in the Scriptures, but also through the faculty of human reasoning which is God's gift to all.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
1. If someone says the Lord has said X to me and X is the orthodox Christian tradition, then that is not quite a private revelation.
2. When will Anglo-Catholics come to understand that the Tradition is not open to much variation, that Scripture and Tradition go hand in hand, and Reason serves them both?
3. Despite tonnes of books being written on interpretation of the Bible, the Tradition has not changed much. Moreover, those tonnes of books do not give commissions which cannot agree on what they say the right to make what Augustine says conform to what they would like him to say, nor to quote Pius XI without reference to the context in which he writes.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter,

Your response to mine today only serves to demonstrate how far apart Christians may be on the subject of scriptural literalism. If one were really bound to every jot, tittle and iota, we'd be stoning adulterers. I happen to think the Bible readings we heard last night were more germane to the subject on hand than the six favourite verses used by the literalists to support homophobia and sexism in the Church.

You seem to forget that 'tradition' has altered greatly in the world of Anglicanism since it's reformation phase. Matters like divorce, contraception and women clergy, just to name a few. Former Archbishop Michael Ramsey (of blessed memory) is said to have thought that tradition and matters of church order need to be brought up to date with the dynamics of the interface of the church and the world. The Church exists for the sake of the world - not the other way round.


f the opinion that doctrine and matters of church order are not irrevocable. Look at circumcision in the Early Church - just one instance of mistaken dogmatism.

Father Ron Smith said...

"If you think God created some people to be homosexual, then say so. That's what Ron Smith believes and says so. I believe his understanding of this (as well as his understanding of Christian marriage) is theologically absurd, unbiblical and counter to the consentient witness of Christian tradition (that is, contrary to reason, Scripture and tradition); but at least I know what he believes and (I think) why."

- Brian Kelly -

Thank you, Mr Kelly. I'm not going to stoop to your level and make similar comments about your own understanding. Suffice it to say, that I might have a little leeway on your understanbding of homosexuality, which, I'm pretty sure from the way you engage in this conversation, is totally absorbed from a fundamentalist evangelical viewpoint, closed to modern understanding of the etiology of sexual differentces in human beings. There has been enough evidence given in biological, sociological and psychological treatises to convince all but the most prejudiced of mortals to begin to suspect that sexuality is determined in the womb, rather than by any other, external, agency. This would point to a connection with the process of creation in all its diversity - rather than some disorder inflicted by a malevolent or manipulative Creator. You may have other theories of your own, but please do not discount those of people other than yourself. Modern scienctific knowledge cannot be restricted to cultic understandings of the past, no matter how convenient for you.

I continue to insist that marriage existed before Christianity was ever experienced on the planet. In earlier (biblical) times it was used in polygamous relationships in order to prduce more heirs. Our world of today does not need to multiply so very drastically its population and therefore less, rather then more, children might beeter suit the environment God had given us for human flourishing.
Thus, contraception and childless marriage-like relationships might better serve the society that is ours to cherish and serve. We humans have a responsibility to care for the earth's resources, ont only its burgeoning popilation.

Marriage has always existed with or without the help of the Church. It is still God's provision for humanity, whether 'blessed ' by the Church or not. The couple are the instruments of a marriage. What the State does is offer legal protections for the couple and their families. What the Church is sometimes called on to do is add God's Blessing. And I might add that the Church is being called upon less and less to provide that Blessing. Anything we can do to offer the Blessing of God on monogamous, faithful relationships, the better.

Anonymous said...


St Paul said that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Tonnes of books have doubtless been written about what that means. But I am still sure that Peter has more of it than almost anyone else online.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron,

I really have to make some comments regarding two things you say on this thread, and I say them out of respect to the very thing you claim as “Anglican” - Scripture, Tradition & Reason.

1. “The problems come when we are so sure that our way is correct that we might be willing to divorce ourselves from the fellowship of the Eucharist. This, I think, is the scandal at the heart of our present brokenness. If we refuse to share the Eucharist with someone of a different theological stance from our own (within the Churches of our Anglican Communion) then surely this is tantamount to schism?”

I can naturally see where you are coming from, given both our comments on a previous thread re the Eucharist. Yet there remains a difficulty. If we are both sharing the same Eucharistic Presence of Christ and feeding on him thereby, how is it that there are just so very great divergences in understanding and practice of living? And coupled therefore with this, just what are the necessary links between Word and Sacrament? For, after all, Anglican ordination is to “the ministry of word + sacrament”, as perceived by our Tradition.

2. Your comments @ February 24, 2016 at 12:33 PM and February 24, 2016 at 2:43 PM broadly on Biblical interpretation. Once again, Anglican Tradition has never separated the reading of Holy Scripture from the Creedal heritage of the Church. The whole point of the Arian controversy and its outcome was to establish a ‘correct’ and wholesome/integrated reading of Scripture, discounting some others. We might not go as far as the Orthodox and speak of the Seven Ecumenical Councils exactly, nor go even as far as Rome with its (in some quarters) strong Two Source views of Revelation. For all that, we still tie together Canon and Creed in the way I was suggesting only the other day under another thread, citing Robert Jenson’s Canon and Creed. Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church (WJKP, 2010). Of course, this heritage does not foreclose on new insights from the Living Word of God; but it does insist that any claims to such novelty have to harmonize well with what God has said before to his Church through the Holy Spirit by means of these gifts to the Church - Scripture, Creeds, and Tradition. Indeed; it is unreasonable to not seek for such harmony.

tachesterton said...

'There is absolutely no agreed textual rendering, attribution, or definitive meaning attributable to any of the books of either Old or New Testaments.'

I hope that's an exaggeration, Ron. If it isn't, we're sunk, because it means everything - including Jesus' birth, life, teaching, miracles, kingdom message, death, resurrection, ascension and heavenly reign - is up for grabs. Not to mention the idea you frequently expound, that all sinners are equal - and equally welcome - in the sight of God.

Tim Chesterton

Anonymous said...


"There has been enough evidence given in biological, sociological and psychological treatises to convince all... to begin to suspect that sexuality is determined in the womb, rather than by any other, external, agency."

Thank you, Father Ron, for this carefully calibrated sentence.

In the glorious Anglican tradition of Reason, a link to your evidence, please? As you know, there are other learned divines who likewise point to enough biological, sociological, psychological, and anthropological evidence to convince all... to begin to suspect that sexuality cannot be determined in the womb, as it varies across cultures, engages different social forces in different societies, and can change through the lifespan. A link to the evidence you find persuasive would restore some balance to the blogosphere.

The scientific quest to learn more about human sexuality is certainly very interesting, but our present state of knowledge is hardly a conversation stopper. The scientists I know best follow this research, but have not found it to be conclusive. Thus they are making their personal decisions about homosexuality much as everyone else does.

Bowman Walton


Anonymous said...


"Our world of today does not need to multiply so very drastically its population and therefore less, rather then more, children might beeter suit the environment God had given us for human flourishing.
Thus, contraception and childless marriage-like relationships might better serve the society that is ours to cherish and serve. We humans have a responsibility to care for the earth's resources, not only its burgeoning population."

Father Ron, isn't this just Paul Ehrlich's discredited Population Bomb that has been failing to go off since the 1970s?

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

The earth's carrying capacity is far above the present population. Rising wealth tends to moderate birthrates so that either economic growth or a less unequal distribution of wealth would slow population growth without changing the world's religions. And in the unequal world we have, low or negative birthrates have very regressive consequences for societies, especially the young and the poor.

"Marriage has always existed with or without the help of the Church. It is still God's provision for humanity, whether 'blessed ' by the Church or not. The couple are the instruments of a marriage. What the State does is offer legal protections for the couple and their families. What the Church is sometimes called on to do is add God's Blessing."

Yes. Perfect. This is what we need to get straight before we can see the strengths and weaknesses of the report clearly.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


"Yet there remains a difficulty. If we are both sharing the same Eucharistic Presence of Christ and feeding on him thereby, how is it that there are just so very great divergences in understanding and practice of living?"

Bryden, I cannot guess which scriptural texts to your mind limit divergences. Or is that a euphemism?

Bowman Walton

Brian Kelly said...


Thank you, Mr Kelly. I'm not going to stoop to your level and make similar comments about your own understanding. Suffice it to say, that I might have a little leeway on your understanbding of homosexuality, which, I'm pretty sure from the way you engage in this conversation, is totally absorbed from a fundamentalist evangelical viewpoint, closed to modern understanding of the etiology of sexual differentces in human beings.

Well, like Dr Evil in Austin Powers, it's "Rev Dr Kelly" if you want to insist on formality, but please call me 'Brian', titles can raise false expectations of a person, Father Ron. I just hope calling my outlook 'fundamentalist evangelical' and 'closed' isn't stooping to my level! I thought I was being quite fair to your idiosyncratic Anglo-Catholic liberalism, which is unlike any Anglo-Catholicism I'm aware of.
"There has been enough evidence given in biological, sociological and psychological treatises to convince all but the most prejudiced of mortals to begin to suspect that sexuality is determined in the womb, rather than by any other, external, agency."
This is highly unlikely, and not just to this most prejudiced of mortals. Sexuality is a form of behaviour and affections, and this is certainly not "determined" in the womb. The idea that there is a direct one-to-one mapping of a gene (or combination of genes) and sexual feelings and desires just isn't so, and nothing from LeVay, Hamer etc has established this. If you said a particular genetic endowment could predispose a child to develop same-sex attraction in combination with environmental factors and life experiences and traumas, that would be quite plausible; but that is very far from saying 'it's determined in the womb, like the colour of your eyes'. Human beings and developmental experience are much more complicated than that - and much more plastic and difficult to predict, as homosexual persons themselves acknowledge.

"This would point to a connection with the process of creation in all its diversity - rather than some disorder inflicted by a malevolent or manipulative Creator."
Yes, of course - all disorders are "inflicted by a malevolent or manipulative Creator". Come on, Ron, you don't need to play a straw Richard Dawkins here. You need a better theodicy than that. Do you have one? Two points of clarification: 1. The word 'creation' means nothing to the secularist, who speaks instead of 'nature' - how and what you are born ('natus'). The secularist has no notion of teleology beyond mere survivalism (Dawkins again). 2. 'Creation' is a theological term, not a scientific one. It is a way of ascribing origin, meaning and purpose to nature and especially to human beings and their 'place' in it (a question that is as meaningless to secularists as it is to ask 'What is the place of Ebola in nature?'). If God "created" people to be same-sex attracted, then he also "created" them to be transgender, bisexual, to be basketball players (because they will end up 2 metres high) and to have Marfan's. You see how easy it is to take your notion to a reductio ad absurdum?

"You may have other theories of your own,"
- no, I don't; like you, I am neither a geneticist nor a developmental psychologist;
"but please do not discount those of people other than yourself. Modern scienctific knowledge cannot be restricted to cultic understandings of the past, no matter how convenient for you"

Tu quoque? The past has never been convenient for me and not particularly cultic. But I am currently reading (or trying to read) John Paul II's 'Man and Woman He Created Them. A Theology of the Body' in my desire to grasp what a real Catholic thinker had to say on the subject' and who knows what I'll discover if I persevere?

Father Ron Smith said...

In view of the so obvious preponderance of Evangelical, conservative voices on this thread, I will not excite you all to the point of slavering at the confinement of your potential prey. Rather, I will leave you to reflect on what I have already said on this subject, leaving you to pontificate on each of your scholarly theories about. I really don't think anythiong I could further contribute to this conversation would gain one single affirmation, so will leave you to your theological/intellectual discourse, on a subject you have problems with and yet are averse to listening to anyone else. Blessings on y'all

Bryden Black said...

Apologies Bowman. Let me be plain.

In the context of Ron’s remarks on this thread and on another regarding the Eucharist, to which both you and I also contributed, and in the context now of this Report and its main focus, attempting to ‘harmonize’ two opposites: the key divergence is the way of those in Motion 30 who inhabit 1 (a) and the way of those who inhabit 1 (b), i.e. “those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary to scripture, doctrine, & tikanga” versus “those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, & tikanga” (emphases added). Plain enough I trust!

Bryden Black said...

G'day Brian - Happy reading of JP2! I do hope you've the second edition, published by Pauline Books & Media in 2006, which has Michael Waldstein's great introduction (which runs to a mere 128 pages!). He really is quite the man to do such an intro too: a lay Roman Catholic theologian of immense international standing, married with 8 children. His wife too is no slouch - delightful couple and family!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Yes, at this point, numerically on this thread, you have been "out-numbered" but the observation I would like to make is not about numerics but about content of respective arguments:

Typically here you argue that X is true and Y is not true (and sometimes with the icing on top of "it's obvious"!). But others are arguing back that X is not true and Y is true (and, yes, sometimes those arguments take the form of "It's obvious").

What that suggests to me is that we need within both our narrow ACANZP context and in our wider context of 21st century Christianity, that two (or more) serious, sustainable arguments are going on. What we need to work out - immediately with respect to GS 2016/ACANZP - is whether we are in the business of "housing" the two arguments within two integrities or not.

What I don't think will help us is either side not engaging with the arguments of the other.

Michael Primrose said...

Hi Peter,

As the frustrated "progressive" referred to by Chris Spark in an earlier comment about the Cathedral meeting, I thought I might add a few personal reflections to this debate.

Whilst I thank Chris for his characterisation of me as a "progressive" I think that most people, who have worked with me, would refer to me as intensely radical.

As for the frustration, I would possibly suggest that "anger" and "extremely insulted" would be better descriptions, but I won't quibble about words. As was said on Tuesday night, in one of those glib throw away lines "if they would only call it something else, no one would have any problems".

If I might explain my "anger" with the report, before my emotions are misconstrued and used against the report itself.

Even allowing for the surprisingly short time between the public availability of the report and the meeting, I did manage to read the complete report a number of times. I would make no claim to be able to comment on the report from a theological point of view, but I am certainly able to comment on the report as a senior manager.

May I say, as politely as is possible, that if the "A Way Forward" report had been submitted to me, in my professional capacity, I would have sent it back to the authors with a demand for a re-write and provided them a private lecture on test case analysis methodology.

It is obvious that once you try to run various hypothetical test cases through the parameters set up in the report, that the whole thing falls over in a rather unedifying quivering mess. One can only assume that there was a vain hope that most people would only read the Executive Summary and not bother with analysing the entirety of the report.

I agree with what the report is apparently attempting to achieve, but I find such a woeful job of drafting professionally distasteful.

As to being "extremely insulted", may I ask, rhetorically, why any same-sex couple with an iota of self respect would remain as part of the Anglican Church of New Zealand having read the recommendations of this Report.

The word "hypocrisy" springs to mind in relation to both the report and Church

Regards

Michael Primrose

also signed by Kirk Spragg

Brian Kelly said...

Bryden: yes, it is the second edition and I'm still ploughing my way through the introduction, through which I am learning more about Max Scheler and St John of the Cross. Certainly this evangelical is impressed that in Wojtyla and Ratzinger, the Catholic Church has produced two towering intellects and spirits of the past 40 years. But if I acquire any knowledge here, I hope it will not simply be lodged in my brain but will shape my life and Christian obedience in a way that pleases God. I understand Ron's pastoral motive and believe or not, share the same concern.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

You wrote: “What I don't think will help us is either side not engaging with the arguments of the other.”

It seems to me that most contributors to this thread have sought to engage with the content / arguments of the WFWG report directly, albeit often with disbelief and humour.

However, when the authors of the report, dissenters not withstanding, tell us that Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 are not about “finding a partner of the opposite sex but a partner of the apposite sex”, then alarm bells must surely be ringing somewhere in Bishops residences throughout the land?

How much theological ‘novelty’ is the Synod permitted to advocate amongst the churches of Aotearoa before the New Zealand Bishops feel compelled to engage in correction for the sake of the flock?

Dialogue by all means, but eventually there comes a time for leadership.

Anonymous said...


Peter,
As the Frumpleys were just pointing out to their Vicar, the report's rites appear to cross Peter's Red Line in the same two ways that The Episcopal Church did last summer-- (1) a theology of androgynous sexuality detached from the human universal of sexed, procreative marriage; (2) a failure to think with the Communion. If (1) were false, then we would see that one of the two Forms is a contemporary presentation of traditional marriage. Because (1) is true, we see instead two Forms that omit all reference to men, women, and procreation. Likewise, if (2) were false, we would see engagement with the 1958 Lambeth Conference resolutions on marriage, recent reports from other provinces (eg from the CoE, TEC, and ACC), and the Communique from the recent conversations of Primates in Canterbury. We would also see equal engagement with scripture and tradition. Among other biblical themes, the former discussion would respond to contemporary biblical scholarship on the human binary in eschatology, and the latter would engage the complex and different traditions on marriage rites, East and West. But because (2) is true, we instead see a report that ignores all that and draws inferences about Christian marriage from minor discrepencies among ACANZP marriage rites that are said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and from the authority of the majority of the ACANZP synod's task force. But because Anglicans are not Quakers, this report sets ACANZP on a collision course with the majority of the Communion that would not end well.

About this, Father Ron has the right idea. The report is best viewed, not as the last word, but as the flawed first word in a discussion. In that respect, it is no worse that the other Communion reports that have preceded it, and it has made two useful contributions to the Communion's wider discussion that task forces from other provinces must engage if they do not wish to fall afoul of (2) themselves. That is, the same report that will not suffice as the last word in this conversation is nevertheless too authoritative to be ignored in the wider Communion. We can judge such contributions to be helpful to the degree that they accommodates the pastoral reality of homosexuality (as distinct from pressure group agendas) within a theology of Man, Woman, and Procreation that is stronger rather than weaker. For St Maximus the Confessor was surely right to say that every soul in Christ recapitulates within himself his Lord's reconciliation of the Creator to the Creation, the Invisible to the Visible, Heaven to Earth, Paradise to the World, and Man to Woman.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Marriage, State, and Church

Task forces from other provinces should now engage the ACANZP proposal for responding to changing state marriage laws with a clearer distinction between the relations of church and state with respect to the created order. ACANZP has tacitly opened a necessary discussion of the political theology of our problem. One of Father Ron's comments yesterday spelled out the essential point--

"Marriage has always existed with or without the help of the Church. It is still God's provision for humanity, whether 'blessed ' by the Church or not. The couple are the instruments of a marriage. [And this is why theologians from the C12 have founnd it so hard to fit marriage into a theology of the sacraments. BW.] What the State does is offer legal protections for the couple and their families. What the Church is sometimes called on to do is add God's Blessing."

Marriage and the state are creatures, just as the Church is. Under God, marriage stands in a certain independence of both state and Church, and as state and Church are likewise distinct, each has its own proper relationship to marriage.

Marriage itself is the state of life that arises from the pairbonding for mating of our species and a few other higher mammals. In Christian understanding, the weddings of Hindus and Muslims achieve what they intend, and their rites and customs although mingling truth and error with respect to God, reflect a state of life common to all humans under the conditions of the Fall.

The general purpose of the state is a just order. To a state, marriage is a state of life that is only practicable with the sharing of certain social and legal rights, especially those involving person and property. State weddings-- which the 1662 service largely is-- verify identities, ascertain free consent, and notarise promises.

The general purpose of the Church is the visibility of the Body of Christ, both to its members and to the world. To the Church, marriage as a state of life is bound up with the fate of the sexes from the Fall to the descent of the New Jerusalem. Every life has been marked by bondage to the power of sin and death, and this bondage has alienated men and women from each other, which threatens the integrity of every marriage in the world. Yet as noted in the paraphrase of St Maximus above, every soul in Christ gradually participates in release from this bondage, which in principle enables a couple to flourish, presumably found a family, and just so to be a sign of Christ's reconciliation and mediation of all things. Thus church weddings-- which the 1662 service never quite was-- situate a man and woman amid the whole drama of cosmic redemption in Christ. In Eastern tradition marriage begins when a man and woman share the eucharist as a new little church, so that a wedding is fundamentally a mode of some congregation's eucharist and so is oriented to thanksgiving to God in the Lord's presence. In Western tradition, the blessing has emerged as the ritual act most identified with the church's part in marriage. Blessing among Christians is transformative, committing the thing blessed to God's purposes for it, both in this aeon and in the one to come. Thus the blessing of a marrying couple releases them from the alienation of their sexes in the Fall, and makes them a sign of Christ and his Body, of the descent of heaven to earth at the consummation of all things. In so doing, it transforms a state of life shared with all peoples into a way of discipleship in Christ.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Blessing

Thus task forces thinking with the Communion should also note that the general concept of a blessing for a state of life is at once clearer, richer, more scripturally sound, and certainly more Anglican than the nebulous thought that marriage is a sacrament. Task forces might find it useful to relate ACANZP's rationale for blessings to TEC's overlooked but pastorally realistic discussion of marriage as, not a default position in society, but a transformative vocation in Christ for believing Christians. If both are related to a more ecumenical theology of blessing in its proper horizon of eucharist and eschatology, that may remedy a deficiciency in this report's proposal.

The ACANZP task force seems not to have had the complete theology of blessing noted above. For that reason, it has not thought *blessing* through to the point of intelligibility as is done here. *Blessing* is an act performed *in persona Christi*. It can be viewed as proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way similar to *absolution*, especially in classical Lutheran sacramentology. To be fruitfully received, this requires a formulation of the godspell that pertains to the circumstances. *Blessing* can also be viewed as an act committing the thing blessed to God's purposes for it, both in this aeon and in the one to come. To be understood, this likewise requires a narrative situating the story of the one blessed in God's revealed purposes. Either way, blessing among Christians is always transformative, and so full understanding and indeed participation requires some statement of the telos into which that which is blessed will be transformed. The idea that a blessing is an act of approval or permission (eg in the eucharist, the sign of the cross made by a higher minister to a lesser one as permission to perform an act) or approbation is dependent on the prior, deeper meanings.

Right Ordered

Task forces thinking with the Communion should also take note of ACANZP's proposal that blessing be obligatory.

Intimacy and Trinity

Love, Covenant, Union, Gift, and Household seem to have fallen from the sky, but each is nevertheless worth some further reflection in a Communion conversation that often seems stuck on Union alone. The inadequacy of these concepts in the report arises, not from any intrinsic unsuitability, but on one hand from a failure to situate these concepts alongside Man, Woman, and Procreation amid Eucharist and Eschatology, and on the other hand from the failure to think them through together in the horizon of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. After all, "Whosoever would be saved must in all things believe the catholic faith, and the catholic faith is this..." and these things are bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity as C20 theology has retrieved it and as our ecumenical partners who never lost it urge us to think of it. In any church that is still the Church, peace will be found on the basis of the Trinity.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Sexuality and Signs

From what is said about blessing, it is clear that while blessings for an MWM couple and a SSM couple may hypothetically coincide at points, it is, at the very least, not pastoral to overlook the normal fecundity (even though not all are fecund) of the former and the usual developmental struggles of the latter (whatever actually caused them), nor is blessing intelligible without some transformation and telos.

Catholic, Reformed, and Ecumenical

The TEC report relies more explicitly on scripture and tradition than the ACANZP report. Indeed, TEC reviews the history of marriage in the West to orient the reader for the innovations to come. ACANZP for that purpose substitutes an odd little tract for liberalism called Doctrine is Dynamic. Common sense: if they are reading a proposal for SSB, most people will have absorbed already the possibility that something might change. What they most often want to see is proof of strong continuity with what they believe to be true. Patronising bullshit about living in the now does not deliver. Others writing such reports should learn from this mistake to situate their thought in the Catholic, Reformed, and Ecumenical horizon of Anglicanism.

Truth before Reconciliation

If you put fighting cocks in a cage, they will not settle down to solve complex problems. Anglican synods that have sought to unite warring partisans by appointing their representatives to some conciliating group have consistently failed to find the centre where God is with us. And even if they had solved the synod's problem of conciliating its pressure groups, the actual church's problem of articulating a parish-ready theology and practise remains. Modern synods are not by nature very good at addressing doctrinal matters because the apparatus of representation and consensus is unhelpful to theological work. The synods of the past (eg the Council of Orange) were often meetings of opportunity that recognised an already emergent solution.

Therefore, synods throughout Communion might learn from the experience of the CoE, ACC, and ACANZP that a synod's problem of getting its strongwilled leaders, pressure groups, etc to agree is distinct, inferior, and posterior to the solution of the actual pastoral and theological problem before the whole Body of Christ. And since the gates of hell will easily prevail aginst those who cannot accept a solution from faith in the triune God, there is nothing that voting on things, or facilitating dialogues, etc can really do about that. Truth patiently discerned, first; politics, if any then remain, later.

A representative synod cannot be a church's Research and Development Department, and its partisans cannot be its theologians. In Anglican belief, no synod is assured of the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But it can sometimes recognise and adopt good solutions that emerge elsewhere, and it certainly should pray to God for the emergence of such exemplars. "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot know where it comes from or where it goes." St John iii 8.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Dear Peter,

Apropos your concluding question: “What we need to work out - immediately with respect to GS 2016/ACANZP - is whether we are in the business of ‘housing’ [under one single roof - my addition, as I think you imply it] the two arguments within two integrities or not.”

That is certainly the way the problem is presented by the Report of this working group, WFWG. But I would wish to be even more basic, in the true sense of that word. Is this the right approach at all at all? In many fields of human inquiry, it is the formulating of the question that is vital. The very form of the question will determine the sorts of answers that are available - and what not even!

You will recall two years ago my response on ADU to Motion 30 took the form of three questions. I will not exactly repeat those now, but I will summarize two of them, with additional commentary, since they are beginning to drill down more basically than the Report’s approach. And if they have any veracity, then they and their answers might hold more of a clue as to a way forward than the Report’s proposals.

1. How did we get here, historically, to this point, where we are presented with two seemingly opposing views regarding such a basic human concern, a matter of human being even? For my money, I start 300 years ago, at the turn of the 18th C. It is based more or less on the ET of the book by Paul Hazard, La Crise de la conscience européenne (1935), The European Mind, 1680-1715. Radical Orthodoxy would go back a little further to Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679); I’m sympathetic with that, given Hobbes’ huge influence on political science, and notably his views on ecclesiastical power. So: 300-350 years is the area of examination.

At root I believe is the shift from viewing human being as a creature, made in the Image of God sub specie aeternitatis, therefore both endowed with great dignity and charged with glorifying the Creator to viewing humans as self-positing autonomous personal subjects. Now, the latter simply could not have arisen without the former. For at root too are the notions of Ultimate Reality as Trinitarian and Christology, which are the bedrock of the social imagination. However, this modern view is not a direct descendant; it is more a bastard step-child. And people like Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia, with his claim that such things as ‘civil rights’ are a social construct of western culture, are both right and yet also wrong. The contemporary perception of human rights, despite the original use of the word “God” in the first drafts of the UN Declaration post WW2, are entirely secular, with any theistic notion long forgotten.

So that’s the first basic matter before us. And the Report of the Commission on Doctrine & Theological Questions, 2014, does not even sniff at such questions.

Bryden Black said...

2. Secondly, how is it that people become mistaken? And the notion of “become” is paramount; it’s the incremental changes over time, the small steps both individual and collective that are vital to grasp. And also, NB, this question is addressed to BOTH sets of inhabitants of Motion 30 part 1. Both parties, to sections 1(a) and 1(b), could be seriously wrong in their conclusions, in part or in whole. For prima facie at least both claims cannot be simultaneously correct, again in part or in whole. Human logic excludes the middle! [With apologies to Gillian Rose, beloved of Rowan Williams, and her “Broken Middle”.] True again; the mere existence of both together in the same social spaces requires both theological and pastoral solutions: genuine Christian theology ALWAYS terminates upon people, Imago Dei! Yet again, genuine pastoral ministry is predicated upon authentic theology. There be dragons indeed beyond ... And to name but one dragon already rampant: there would seem to be little space left arising from this Report for those gay people who would remain fully chaste—in the old form of the word. Even granting some ‘local options’ remaining with the status quo, even blind Willie can imagine the overall state of play 2020, given our national cultural pond in which we seemingly swim. And please note: I am merely repeating a close friend of mine’s response—and naturally, he is gay. And I sense he is correct.

So, in other words, as I stated in my “first impressions” @ February 23, 2016 at 2:46 PM, there is absolutely nothing so far in these proposals about any need for any form of repentance or change of heart or mind—and this despite its being absolutely core to the Christian identity, whatever one’s “stripes”. Nor do we need the likes of the rich meditation upon Augustine’s Confessions offered us by Jean–Luc Marion, In The Self’s Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine (Stanford University Press, 2012), to goad us into such a penitent frame of mind. Matt 18:1-4 and/or Acts 2:38-39 should suffice. Tolle! lege! For Isa 66:1-2 rules; OK! as answer to your “concluding question”.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Michael. From what I pointed out in the first three paras of my comment, February 23, 2016 at 2:46 PM, and what you now say, I'd be forced to conclude: we are at least in heated agreement about one thing.

Thanks for your contribution.

Anonymous said...


"Yet there remains a difficulty. If we are both sharing the same Eucharistic Presence of Christ and feeding on him thereby, how is it that there are just so very great divergences in understanding and practice of living?"

Bryden, I cannot guess which scriptural texts to your mind limit divergences. Or is that a euphemism?

"Clear enough I trust!"

Sorry, Bryden, but not yet. My question must not have been clear.

With respect to communion in Christ, I'm sure that there are criteria from the scriptures that you use to distinguish essentials from adiaphora and adiaphora from anathema, so to speak. Those two criteria may be plainly stated (eg 1 Corinthians xi 29), or they may be inferred from some complex of interrelated passages, or they may be inferred from propositions that are themselves inferred from such complexes, or... However you do it, I am honestly curious to know how the scriptures inform your discernments (eg in the first quotation above).

Personally-- but not stubbornly-- I tend to rely solely on 1 Corinthians xi 29, although like any verse in St Paul, that one can exfoliates into quite a tree. So if a duly baptised person who professes the creed recognises those receiving communion as Christ's Body, then he may join them in doing so. Other considerations could matter, but they only become considerations because they somehow impinge on recognition of the Body.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...


Brian, I'm excited to see that you are reading John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them. A Theology of the Body. All of my closest Reformed friends have worked through it, and none were disappointed. If only we were discussing that rather than Motion 30...

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

I think I now see from what premise you are now asking your question Bowman. Your mention of 1 Cor 11:29 was the key. And so apologies for setting off that hare. I must not have been clear enough initially. Although I trust now my first reply coupled with this will now make sense of where my original comment was directed/meant to be directed.

NO; I am NOT speaking abt variances/divergences regarding Eucharistic theology and/or practice. I’ve learned that’s pretty well a waste of time: from Zwingli to Thomas (in the West) pretty well covers it! Naturally, I have my own stance, something of which is incorporated into LDL. And of course Zizioulas and de Lubac have had their roles to play.

My point is rather the sheer observation - the curiosity even - that however much weight anyone wants to put upon Eucharistic participation (or non-participation for that matter) - and Ron seemingly wants to place that front and centre - and with almost any Eucharistic theology actually in the wings, those who share in such rites often have very divergent theologies and practices thereafter regarding Christian discipleship (to use that in a generic sense). I.e. what’s the point in viewing this to be “the heart of our present brokenness”. Surely something else is actually at play here.

Anonymous said...

Peter, if I interpret this report correctly, ssm is so bad that you cannot marry these people, but it's jolly fine if a celebrant does your dirty work for you. In fact all is then squeaky blessing clean and holy orders are an option. Put another way, the recommendation is that you bless in one service what your marriage canon says is unblessable in another. And just so gay people don't think they are being picked on, there is a new burden for heterosexuals. I couldn't have made this up!

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
Thank you for your response to the report.
I'm with you and Bryden: it could have done with some rewriting before publication.
And, while I couldn't do much about it, I wish I had been there in person on Tuesday night.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Yes, that is a possible interpretation of the report.
Another would be that this is a way to hold one church united on doctrine of (traditional) marriage while divided on ssm in two integrities on the latter matter.
Imagine a church which allowed both celibate priests in one Western integrity and married priests in another Eastern integrity, all united under one bishop of an Italian city. If such a church existed, I hope the celibate priests wouldn't feel the burden of celibacy was extra tough because far away (or even, say in Melbourne, in just the next suburb) the other integrity priests didn't have to be celibate. Nor, I hope, would the married priests of one integrity feel they were kinda lesser priests for not having the stamina to be celibate.
Anyway, that's just a hypothesis as a point of comparison. We all know churches with two integrities can't work :)

Anonymous said...

Peter,

Ego quoque? You could have chosen a better example. As far as I know, nobody in the eastern rite says the western rite is sinful on your basis or vice versa. The ordinariate displays perhaps some (but not all) of the report's flaws. Lay men (some of them with advanced theological training and pastoral experience deluding themselves that they have taken holy orders) ask Benedict for a blessing. Although they are not eligible for ordination under the Roman rite, they are ordained nevertheless and their children get confused because everyone calls dad "father". I feel for the wives. Even here though, no-one is talking about sin. It's pragmatic, possibly unprincipled and no doubt irritating for the celibate. BTW, I'm not intending to send comment down a side alley. Your report is more important then Rome's inconsistencies.


Nick

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Nick; speaking of 'Two Integrities"; is not your own denomination of Christianity 'double-minded' about contraception (another human sexuality debate)? Wherein the hierarchy are saying "NO!", while the tank and file are saying "YES!" This is people's lives we are talking about here. Not some detached world of the spirit only. Remember, The Word became flesh, and lived among us.

Anglicans are by no means the only Christians trying to live together with differences. The point is, we are more theologically democratic, believing that 'The Body of Christ' is made up of ALL its members. But then, we do not have a Magisterium with a casting vote.

Brendan McNeill said...

Peter

As I have watched one of my friends wander off and pitch their tent in a theological swamp, I have often pondered if it remains possible for someone to repudiate the teaching of Christ, and still lay legitimate claim to discipleship.

Peter rebuked Jesus, and subsequently denied him three times, and then followed up with sorrow and repentance. But if there is no repentance?

The writer of the ‘way forward’ report has repudiated the teaching of Jesus with respect to Matthew 19, but I’m sure they still consider themselves to be a disciple of Christ, as does my friend.

This morning as I pondered these mysteries, my mind turned to Matthew 13:24-30. In the context of present day Anglicanism this teaching from Jesus on wheat and tares sounds harsh and judgemental. And yet…

I appreciate that we are all sinners and see through a glass dimly. We are all prone to apply Scripture selectively, we all stand in need of repentance. But….

Bryden Black said...

Great text Brendan from Matt 13.

The interesting and perhaps important thing abt it though is as per Augustine's reading of it: this messy church awaits patiently divine judgement - to paraphrase. Although even here, there are also other texts to consider: 1 Cor 5:3-5 (and perhaps 2 Cor 2:5-11, IF it is the same person ...), and 2 Cor 6:14-7:1. As always, how might we integrate Scripture into a coherent whole? And apply it wholesomely to our present, to lay a sure foundation for the future ...?

Ivica said...

Hi Peter,

I usually follow your posts, but never comment.
I will here respond to your post on February 26, 2016 at 7:30 AM:
"Imagine a church which allowed both celibate priests in one Western integrity and married priests in another Eastern integrity, all united under one bishop ... . If such a church existed..."

In fact such church does exist in Europe.
Roman Catholic bishop of Skopje in Macedonia, Kiro Stojanov, is in the same time apostolic exarch for the Byzantine rite Catholics in Macedonia. He is, in fact, originally, Eastern rite Catholic. As such, in different situations he wears different insignia, depending where he presides the liturgy.
In his Roman integrity his priests are celibate and in his Byzantine integrity his priests are married.

Anonymous said...


Ivica, it is good to hear that the two Catholic rites there get along, at least with each other. Happy memories here of Skopje and Macedonia as they were Before The Rain.

https://youtu.be/UCUTGSt31jg

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

And of course in both Roman and Byzantine traditions, bishops are celibate.
Nick

Philmc said...

As someone who was Catholic for most of his life, and Anglican for the last quarter (15 years), I still get caught out with assumptions that prove to be invalid in the Anglican context.

I am a supporter of the intent of Motion 30 (see Fr Ron - there are a few on this thread).

However, I found myself confused by the logic of the Moving Forward document and could not work out why until I realised I was carrying in my head two assumptions that were wrong:
(Christian) Marriage is a sacrament! It isn't in Anglicanism, I now understand, and
Civil marriage, being a simply civil contract establishing rights and obligations in a legal sense, and not being in any sense 'Christian marriage' is a nullity as far as the church is concerned; such a couple is unmarried in the eyes of the church. Civil and Christian 'marriage may carry the same name but they are totally different things.

The fact the second assumption is untrue astonishes me, especially the realisation that someone in a relationship who has never been through a Christian marriage ceremony may currently be ordained, and that there is in fact no vehicle for a (solely) civilly-married couple to have a Christian ceremony.

So Christian marriage appears to be not that big a deal!!

All of this leaves me utterly and completely confused as to why we don't in the Anglican church simply marry same-sex-couples. Or alternatively, the argument that the proposed new blessing ceremony is effectively 'marriage' is not an issue!

(However, I do understand that the route through civil marriage does both protect Pasifika jurisdictions, and at least tries to address the lack of a Christian blessing for couples in civil contracts.)

Let's just get on with it!

(Phil McCarthy, Tawa)

Peter Carrell said...

So one way forward for Anglican engagement ecumenically could be to promote celibacy across its episcopal ranks ...

Father Ron Smith said...

"And of course in both Roman and Byzantine traditions, bishops are celibate." - Nick - February 27,

So, naturally, Nick, in Your Tradition, they are kosher? Does this mean that, in your mind (and tradition) Married Bishops are not Christian?

In the Scriptures somewhere we are told that bishops (elders) must have been married to only one wife. This may suggest that other Christians may perhaps have been free to marry more than one wife. Now where does that leave us, ecumenically and logically speaking?

I guess mnarried bishops would know, at first hand, a lot more about connubial relationshops than single ones.

Anyway, "the rock on which I will build my Church" (Peter?) had a mother-in-law, so presumably had been married. How does that square with a celibate only priesthood and episcopate in your Church today?

The more we criticise in others, the more we are reminded of our own fallibility!

Anonymous said...

Fr Ron, please read the context before rushing into print. On Feb 26th at 12.56AM, I commented that there were aspects of the Way Forward report that were truly surprising to me. Peter gave (what in my view) was a weak example of the tu quoque fallacy. I gave him (in my view) a better one. Ivica gave an example of a bishop with sees in the eastern and western church. Although that was interesting (and in fact I did some checks) my example using the ordinariate is still a better example (though not perfect). Peter's example is also arguably weakened by the fact that bishops in the two traditions we were talking about must be celebate. So, Fr Ron, I do not intend to answer any of your questions, because they are not points I made. I am not prepared to make layman's comments about the orders of your bishops; many of whom (now and historically) are and were strong people of faith and inspirational Christians.

Nick

Keith Buck said...

If I read the report correctly, the proposal suggests that any couple who have not had their marriage blessed by the church are not in a "right ordered" relationship. If that is the case, then does that mean we are declaring that, in the eyes of the Anglican church, any children of such a relationship are illegitimate since their parents are in effect "living in sin"?

Anonymous said...


Phil, of the old seven sacraments, marriage was the fidgety one, the one that refused to fit into any scholastic scheme. Committed as they were to the idea that sacraments are acts of the Church, the necessity of consummation was the part of the picture that could not fit any frame no matter how they gilded it. For contrast, the Jews, not needing a churchly act, just give the couple a secluded moment in the midst of the wedding itself, so that public and private aspects of marriage are ritually joined.

Martin Luther was taken with the discovery that, once one saw justification in a new way, the Word, whether read from scripture or preached in church, behaved just as a medieval sacrament ought to behave. From that he inferred that a true sacrament should have the gospel in it, and from that further inferred that there were only three gospel sacraments-- baptism, communion, and absolution-- other rites such as ordination and marriage falling into a new but not unimportant category of ordinances.

Meanwhile, his preaching on justification was breaking up, not just the indulgence trade but anything structured around penance, including the monasteries of that age. After it dissolved her convent, a nun named Katherine von Bora insisted that he marry her as she had no place else to go. Thus a former provincial superior of the Augustinian order found himself making babies with a former nun in an abandoned monastery. The bawling of babes reverberating in incense-soaked halls of stone brought a further discovery, obvious to us, but still strange at the end of the middle ages-- the goods of this present life can be sanctified by gratitude to God quite apart from any act of the Church.

Among reformers on the Continent, the spreading sense that marriage is an ordinance for life in the present aeon pointed to a revival of the state's role in ordering it. After all, even the Pope's laws had simply been taken from the emperor Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis. Even so, the Church still played an ancillary role of inducting each couple into that state. Why? Only the Church had enough learned clerks in town, village, and countryside to administer such a system. So marriage was secularised in an affirming way in the Reformation-- even in places where kings were not struggling to produce male heirs, and their archbishops had not contracted secret marriages-- but the clergy still played a minor but very public part in it. The Church of England, and Anglicans generally, follow this pattern.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick, Ron, Ivica
I accept that some examples of multiple integrities in churches are "better" than others; and that my one may be the weakest of the lot.
My point is not about quality.
The fact is, there are examples of churches with two or more "integrities."
I thank you for the examples adduced that I had not thought of!

Father Ron Smith said...

" So, Fr Ron, I do not intend to answer any of your questions, because they are not points I made. I am not prepared to make layman's comments about the orders of your bishops; many of whom (now and historically) are and were strong people of faith and inspirational Christians.

- Nick -

Thank you, Nick for (perhaps inadvertently) answering one question - that, in your opinion, some Anglican Bishops are/were Christians.