Monday, March 14, 2016

A Way Forward: Section 4: A Critical Review (3)

[The full report is accessible here. The section under discussion in this post is accessible here. In these posts I am aiming to work my way forward through A Way Forward report, posting on a new section each Monday. Pagination refers to the PDF version of the report.]

What am I trying to achieve with a critical review of A Way Forward report? 

My goal here at ADU through these and other posts is that our church might hold together despite severe disagreement. That also is the goal of the report. My questions about the report therefore ask whether the report takes us to that goal or not. If the report does not get us there then I hope that my critical reviews yield some alternative pathway or pathways for consideration. This also is where my friend, colleague and fellow blogger Bosco Peters is heading with his own series of posts on the report (here, here), and notably with a specific suggestion for improvement on what has been proposed, here).

One of the key questions clarifying in my own mind, and for which I thank correspondents "off blog" as well as commenters here, is whether A Way Forward can be found which does not make dissenters in our church, especially does not make dissenters of those who otherwise believe on marriage and human sexuality what the vast majority of Christians (indeed, Anglicans) around the world believe. That is a most odd possibility for a church otherwise acclaiming itself to be orthodox in its understanding of the doctrine of Christ! But the difficulty of resolving these matters is not to be underestimated. Bowman Walton, commenting here a few days ago makes a vital point which motivates us to keep going forward towards resolution:

"And in a few years, ACANZP might stand rather tall for having taken on a tough problem and soldiered on through a murky report and contentious synods, general and diocesan, to a centrist solution that some may criticise but none can improve upon"

Let's see where Section Four of the report takes us this week ...

Section Four is titled "The Theology of ordination and of marriage." It consists of:
- Introduction (9)
- Ordination (9)
- The theology of marriage (9-10)
- The doctrine of marriage (10-11)
- Pastoral Sensitivity (11-12)

The Introduction distinguishes between "the Church's theology of ordination and of marriage, and the statements in Te Pouhere [Constitution], the Formularies [authorised services], and the Canons [rules] which collectively express the Church's doctrine." [italics as given in report]. It then goes on to point out the obvious re theology: it has been changing, it is varied and "no single theological position emerging from these influences could be held to be that of the whole Church, and certainly not belonging to the whole Anglican Communion." It then makes an observation which is currently irrelevant to life in ACANZP (re litigation, none is happening) and an observation which is absolutely relevant to this season in our life: "it is doctrine to which licensed Anglicans register their assent."

The implication seems to be that we need to find a way for assent to doctrine to be able to be given by those who cannot assent to possible change in doctrine. But what does not seem to be addressed is how diverse theologies with none "emerging" to transcend other viewpoints would lead to a change in doctrine! Doctrine on this account is what the church as a whole agrees to (prior to requiring assent to it): so why is there not a reflection on how theology becomes doctrine?

Paragraph on Ordination: rightly this paragraph notes that the general standard re relationships of prospective clergy should not be changed, the standard of "rightly ordered" relationships. Also rightly, in my view, the report proposes that the church should not agree to formally bless a relationship between two people and not count that relationship as "rightly ordered." But that is about all that is right with this paragraph!

Here are my critical questions about the remainder of the paragraph, noting that it jumps to what is proposed without offering explanation of why the proposals are being made.

Q1: In the end, is the report making a change to "the Church's doctrine of marriage" or not?

The consistent wording of the report is that no change is being made (e.g. the next paragraph, at the bottom of p. 9), but, in fact, it does make a change because it offers a new understanding of the incompleteness of a civil marriage between a man and a woman, and it offers an implicit view on the church's evaluation on the status of a civil marriage between two people of the same gender. I sense anecdotally that people are responding to the claim of the report to make no change re doctrine of marriage in that time-honoured and theologically profound declaration of St. Tui the Billboard, "Yeah, right!" There is more to say about this as it comes up again in the report.

Q2: Is allowing Dioceses/Hui Amorangi the choice as to who is "rightly ordered" concomitantly with a choice not to "adopt a rite" "consistent with Anglican ecclesiology and our current doctrine of ordination which vests considerable discretion in Bishops"?

Now, this question of Diocesan choice comes up repeatedly through the report, so this next comment is not my last word on the matter. 

Comment: it is actually a "big deal" in Anglican ecclesiology that Dioceses or hui amorangi in ACANZP might decide to adopt a rite or not, otherwise approved by General Synod. For instance, such power to choose diocese-by-diocese is one of the critical distinctions between the ecclesiology of the Australian Anglican church and the ecclesiology of our church (as I understand these things). But we are not the Australian church! That Diocese-by-Diocese choice is a novelty. There is no existing rite of our church which dioceses and hui amorangi are permitted to choose whether they authorise it or not.

Perhaps this is the way forward, but if it is, then could the report please speak more accurately: such Diocese-by-Diocese choice is not consistent with the ecclesiology of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, it is a new step.

The report is on safer ground when it talks about the existing discretion of Bishops when it comes to ordination, but is it accurate when it uses the word "considerable"? After all, the report is trying to overcome an aspect of the bishops' discretion which is not "considerable" because their discretion does not extend to idiosyncratically determining what "chaste" means!

Q3: Why is there no explanation of the focus on civil marriage in the proposed expanded definition of rightly-ordered relationships?

I can understand that the church should address the question of status of civil married same sex couples because that is a change to our society which, whether we agree with it or not, is a change and raises a question or three about our response. Thus, at the least, expanding the definition of rightly-ordered relationships does mean saying whether or not those who are civilly married can be included in that expanded definition. It is also appropriate, potentially, for any report proposing an expanded definition to also propose associated conditions (such as here, that the civil marriage be blessed by the church). 

But what is not made clear is why "civil marriage" should be focused on in the way the report proposes. If (as we find later in the report) the civil marriage of two people in a same sex relationship is not deemed to be a "church marriage" (even after blessing in church), we can ask the question whether there could be other ways of coming to church in a covenanted relationship for a blessing, for example, in a civil union or in a legally contracted partnership for life. But at this stage at least, no explanation is given for exclusively focusing on civil marriage in an expanded definition of "rightly ordered" relationships. Without that explanation is difficulty going to arise, for example, if an ordained person, considered to be in a "rightly ordered" relationship in another Anglican jurisdiction (but not otherwise "civilly married"), applies for a position in our church? Is this clergyperson and partner going to need to go through a civil marriage for the sake of an appointment in our church?

The theology of marriage section, pp. 9-10

The first part of this section, at the bottom of page 9, partly tells us that the working group had a commission not to change the "traditional doctrine of marriage" and thus "there is no change to the existing formularies." 

But it also in part tells us that "The group's proposal (in line with its commission) to propose a service for the blessing of same-sex relationships does not (in the view of the majority of the members) impact the current doctrine of marriage."

At this point the report and our church is in a certain kind of difficulty: it has not come to a common mind on a proposal that our church, ideally, would like to come to a common mind on. Can we yet get there? How will we get there is a working group of eminent minds of our church cannot get there?

However it is possible that the last two sentences do express a common mind of the working group:

"It is accepted that the blessing of a relationship has some similarities ... in many ways they are not the same. Neither would a doctrine of same-sex relationships be the same as the doctrine of marriage."

It would be helpful, even in a brief outline of theology within a report which is obviously not devoted to providing a comprehensive theology, to have a sentence or two which clarified what the differences are. The similarities are described in the remainder of this section, at the top of page 10.

The two paragraphs at the top of page 10 are a mix of the agreeable (e.g. "it is reasonable to expect consonance between the virtues ..." and the question begging. When the report concludes with the following sentence, several questions are begged, answers at best hanging in the air, if nowhere to be seen:

"As the Spirit guides the Church into truth, the Christian tradition has discerned godliness in modes of friendship and community, but the discourse of marriage is leaned on (to some considerable extent) to inform a Christian understanding of the relatively new phenomenon of same-sex relationships."

I suggest that sentence begs these questions be explored and discussed:
- what is the nature of "truth" that the Spirit guides the Church into? (A specific related question is whether the Spirit guides the (Anglican) Church into truth which is contrary to Scripture (see Article XX, cited at the foot of this piece).
- Why single out the Christian tradition as discerning godliness in modes of friendship and community? There is a theology of friendship and community in the Old Testament!
- On what basis is the claim made that same-sex relationships are "the relatively new phenomenon"? (See here for some links to same-sex marriage as a "relatively" ancient phenomenon!).

The doctrine of marriage pp. 10-11:

It is agreeable, and faithful to the Anglican tradition, to note as the report does at the beginning of this section that marriage is not a sacrament and certainly not a Sacrament of Christ but is described in our catechism as a "sacramental action."

The next few paragraphs strike me as odd (bottom of p. 10 and top of p. 11). They make an argument that the current ACANZP doctrine is "not of one voice with regard to marriage", expressed as it is in services old and new, that is, in services which assume (for instance) a wife to be will promise obedience to her husband and which assume the "mutuality and equality expected and celebrated in marriage today. But why do these paragraphs not talk about the multiple ways in which our doctrine does speak with one voice (e.g. marriage is instituted by God, between one man and one woman, intended for life)? By not doing so the thrust of the observations is towards impressing on readers that our doctrine is flexible. Indeed the report goes on to say,

"It is suggested that General Synod / Te Hinota Whanui consider whether the principle most important for the Church's conversations today is the spirit of accommodation already contained in church doctrine, as these examples demonstrate."

This is very one-sided towards the accommodation in the doctrine and simply leaves out the possibility that the doctrine also contains non-accommodating aspects. The report cannot envisage the possibility that the non-accommodating aspects might overrule the accommodating aspects when it comes to its next sentence,

"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."

That is, we can acknowledge the variance between BCP and NZPB without feeling any necessity to add a rite which concerns a couple who are not differentiated in gender because none of the variance implies any variance on the matter of gender make up of a couple in a blessed intimate relationship. The report at this point actually offers no specific ground on which the church might contemplate "adding" such a rite.

Pastoral Sensitivity (pp. 11-12):

It is quite right and proper that the report acknowledges the various ways and means our church has developed in order to express our pastoral sensitivity in changing times (e.g. people requesting marriage who are not baptised) and to changing circumstances for people (e.g. remarriage after divorce). Effectively this section raises the question, might the church also be pastorally sensitive to the requests of same-sex couples to have their relationships blessed by the church?

But does this section of the report take the church with it as it presents its thoughts? After all, the point of a report such as this is not to convince those already committed to blessing such relationships but to convince those uncertain about whether it is right to do so and to open up minds currently convinced that it is not right to do so to at least consider the possibility that this church might permit such blessings as a choice on the part of its ministers.

The following sentence is a mix of the possibly persuasive and the not yet persuasive!

"This pastoral provision is particularly apposite to the Church's current conversations about same-sex attracted persons, not least because the scriptural strictures against the possibility of divorce and remarriage (coming as they do from words attributed to Jesus) are arguably much stronger than those against same-sex relationships."

The possibly persuasive is that a church which thinks remarriage after divorce is permissible as a "pastorally sensitive" response to the complexities of marriage and differing causes of broken marriages might also think that supporting (sic) same-sex partnerships is also pastorally sensitive.

The not yet persuasive are the implications in the sentence that the differences in the strength of the respective strictures (i.e. against remarriage after divorce, against same-sex relationships) are resolved by "argument", that the exegetical challenges of both kinds of strictures are precisely the same, and that on same-sex relationships the "scriptural strictures" constitute no barrier to deducing that the church acclaim God's blessing on what otherwise appears prohibited. There is a significant minority if not a small majority (in my estimation) in our church who would need persuading on each of these matters.

The final paragraph on p. 11 is also not persuasive when it talks about "the doctrine of marriage implicit in both canons and formularies place the love and holiness of a couple's relationship as prior to absolute or literalistic traditional understandings of marriage."

All kinds of relationships exhibit "love and holiness" (noting this is undefined in this paragraph), from those within the forbidden laws of consanguinity to the polyamorous. No such relationships are now or in the future likely to be considered by our church as "prior to absolute or literalistic traditional understandings of marriage." Further, for many Anglican pastors, the influence of traditional understandings of marriage would lead them to look for more than "love and holiness" in a couple's relationship when they request marriage after one or both have been divorced: penitence, repentance, forgiveness and forgivingness might also be sought! The "feel" of this paragraph, in other words, is of a subtle redefining of what "counts" in a relationship, away from the constitutive aspects of a traditional understanding of marriage (between a man and a woman, intended for life, open to procreation, vowing fidelity) towards something much vaguer. "Love and holiness" is a phrase used with neither term defined, and certainly not the tough term "holiness" which raises significant questions about how the Scriptural strictures against same-sex relationships relate to understanding the holiness of such relationships.

P. 12 provides us with one last paragraph in this section of the report. It continues the failure of this section of the report to signal that it understands the need to reach out persuasively to those in our church who need persuading of what this section of the report assumes without argument. 

In the first sentence of the paragraph we find a move made from "manifests a number of virtues" to "thus, can be called a 'Holy Union'." Where does this phrase "Holy Union" come from? What grounds have been advanced in the report to this point to now offer this as a descriptor of same-sex relationships? None that I can see. (That is not to say that this is an inappropriate descriptor, but it is to say that in a church where many people think that same-sex partnerships are not "holy" and, indeed, may not be "unions" (if by that term we are talking about relationships in marital language), then a lot more work has to be done to ensure a favourable reception of such a descriptive phrase than popping it into a final paragraph.

The final sentences in the paragraph beg a question or two in another direction: why cannot same-sex couples who are required by the report/recommendations to be civilly married in order to receive the church's blessing not be married 'in church'? We look to the next section, Section 5, hopefully next Monday morning, for further light on what the report considers marriage to be and not to be. Till then ...

My conclusion to Section 4

As a church we need better than what we have been given in this Section. Particularly, if we are to move from "theology" to "doctrine" (at least in the sense of the former describing our many and varied discussions and the latter describing the theology we "fix" by putting it into words of rites and canons), we need greater substance, more complete discussions than we get here.

In particular, given that one outcome of the report/recommendations is that it could make many ordinary, orthodox Anglican office-holders into formal dissenters (if not catalyse formal schism), we need a lot, lot more said about what the doctrine of marriage and any new additional doctrine placed alongside it means.

Article XX

THE Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation. 


137 comments:

Bryden Black said...

Only one real comment on this Section 4 Peter.

If indeed, “As ... noted, the Church’s doctrine is contained in its formularies and canons”; and if the Report of the WFWG is proposing a new formulary, encapsulating such doctrine; and if such a formulary rides piggy back upon the State’s amended definition of “marriage” by “blessing” the same - then; how on earth is our doctrine and theology of marriage undergirding it NOT CHANGED?! This is all sheer sleight of hand frankly ...

[We recall Motion 30's clear statement to the effect that “We uphold the traditional doctrine of marriage.”]

Father Ron Smith said...

If you're quoting 'Article XX' Peter; that has already bee nypassed by ACANZP's acceptance of re-marriage of divorced persons. This is one reason our Church can no longer be said to be bound by the 39 Artifacts

Malcolm Falloon said...

Peter,

Sorry for being a little off topic, but I'm still having trouble establishing whether I have the final (official) form of the report. I have been trying all the different links and file formats, but all the documents I download (including from your link) have two forms of blessings for civil marriage that are identical (or so it seems to me). This is a mistake in compiling the document, surely. Or am I missing something obvious?

I can't believe that with such an important document it is so hard to establish what is actually in the report.

Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
In the PDF I link to, the blessing services are different, slightly.
Form 2 mentions man/woman coupling in a manner appropriate for this service to be used of a heterosexual couple.

Malcolm Falloon said...

I'm sorry Peter,
You will need to be more specific. I followed your link. They look identical to me - word for word. We can't be looking at the same document, surely.
Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
Near beginning of rite 1:
"In the beginning, when God created the first human,
God declared that it is not good for us to remain alone.
Out of compassion, God created a companion
flesh of flesh and bone of bone,
so that two people could comfort and care for each other,
and thereby a pattern of mutual support and faithful partnership
was established from the very beginning."

Equivalent in rite 2:
"In the beginning, when God created the first human,
God declared that it is not good for us to remain alone.
Out of compassion, God created a companion
flesh of flesh and bone of bone,
so that two people could comfort and care for each other,
and thereby a pattern of mutual support and faithful partnership
was established between a man and a woman from the very beginning."

Note the addition of "between a man and a woman" to the last line of the citation from rite 2, compared with the equivalent line in rite 1.

I suspect there are a difference or two more, and will keep the need to "spot" these differences when I come to review the two rites.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Just to give a little nuance to your statement about diocese by diocese adoption of rites in the Australian Anglican church, the way we tend to do things is offer every possible option in the Prayer Book so that dioceses and parishes can pick and choose the ones they prefer, eg I think there are 3-4 current forms of the Communion service.
Having said that, Sydney has refused to use the 1995 Prayer Book for Australia and continues to use the 1978 Australian Australian Prayer Book, alongside some modern authorised services it developed itself.
In general, Australian dioceses are able to act very independently, in that a GS canon only has force in a diocese if the diocese adopts it at their own synod.
Andrew

Malcolm Falloon said...

Thanks for your patience Peter.

At least I know I have the actual document! It feels like one of those children's puzzles where you spot the differences between two pictures. I'm obviously not very good at those kind of puzzles.

I notice that the report "accepts" that the two are "alike in many ways" but "not the same" (p10). Well it fooled me!

Malcolm

Anonymous said...

Peter, Bryden, and Malcolm,

One could well think that the received practise is a sleight of hand presenting an act of the state recognising the legal and social rights of a couple as an act of the church that is, of course, nowhere mentioned in scripture. Identifying a church's own *right ordering* of life, not with that act of state (over which a church has no control) but rather with the blessings (over which the state has no control) establishes the freedom for ACANZP to speak and act in its own voice on the lived character and eternal significance of the two conditions of life defined by the public laws. In principle, the new blessings should be more intelligible and consistent than the old ceremony in which the minister acted, in a confusing and archaic fashion, as an agent of the state.

It is just because the new arrangement is so much clearer than the old one that we can directly compare the rites for same sex couples to those for women and men, we can do so, of course, whether they have the same character and significance or not. But are these rites relating each to the marriage created by God, or to the status defined by the state? And are they correlated to two conditions covered by the same legal status, or to just one condition covered by one legal status?

The language of the rites blurs these distinction by invoking divine institution in both rites but omitting much of what God reveals in scripture about the marriage of men and women. So if the intention in proposing blessings was to allow a distinction to be made between SSM and MWM, that intention is actually undone in the language of the rites.

This seems to reflect politics. To satisfy those who would deny that SSM is the institution talked about in Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:18, Malachi 2:15, Ephesians 5, etc, two rites are distinguished, which disappoints those who want a TEC sort of SSM. But then to satisfy those offended by the thought that the God who created procreation sees any relation between it and sexual differentiation or pairbonding, the substance of Genesis 1:28, Malachi 2:15, etc is eviscerated from the rite for men and women, which disappoints those for whom God's concern is, precisely, the *right ordering* of the relations of fertile couples. Both oxen are gored.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

Now politicians do necessarily disappoint people every hour of every day, but competent ones avoid doing this in ways that seem disloyal or deceptive. And that is really the problem here: going so far as to require some churchly rite of all Christians raises high and yet contradictory expectations that might have been fulfilled by genuinely different rites, but are disappointed with a degree of treachery by the rites actually proposed. If you are a partisan for *marriage equality*, ACANZP is merely being disloyal to you in not standing with TEC in some unisex marriage rite that is confusing and archaic, but is propaganda for a cause you believe in. But if you are a partisan for the traditional doctrine of marriage-- or an Anglican Primate-- then you will not easily see all this as anything but an elaborate deception. Whether the hazards of disloyalty to the former or deception to the latter are worse is for those who are there to judge, but from afar I cannot think that this dilemma will help ACANZP in the long run.

Better politicians would recognise that, in this case, a candid and plainspeaking approach to disappointment does less purely political damage. They might congratulate believers in *marriage equality* on their political victory for social justice, and then promise to respect the civil status of SSM in the church, whilst firmly declining to invent any new ceremonial folderol whatsoever. Or they might persevere further down the path of instituting blessings distinct from weddings by giving men and women a rite of blessing that is plainly well-suited to prospective fathers and mothers. These approaches are just as disappointing as that of the report-- maybe more so-- but they are also more honest and they avoid the damage-- invisible to happy warriors but obvious to everyone else-- of being seen to serve a logic of worldly power rather than of divine truth.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"...one outcome of the report/recommendations is that it could make many ordinary, orthodox Anglican office-holders into formal dissenters (if not catalyse formal schism)..."

Peter, to span the water between them, a bridge of *blessings* must be founded on both the left and the right banks. The report's way forward past liberal-traditionalist dissensus is for the conservatives among the traditionalists to become liberals so that liberal arguments that they now disbelieve will finally make sense to them. This bridge rises up from the left bank, soars over a few city blocks, and then descends to the left bank again, never passing over the water at all. That is not a way forward but a way sideways.

As civil engineers know, we can only build a bridge where the rock in both banks can anchor the footings that support the weight of the span. Down any stretch of river, there may be only one or two feasible sites, and surveyors search for them with care. What sites might theological surveyors find on the right bank?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

The right bank will probably only support a bridge where it--

(a) Supports a complete yet *contemporary* traditional marriage for men and women. For example, brides need not pledge obedience to grooms, but men and women should be unmistakably recognise their differences and be committed to the harmony of them in Christ. And a marriage open to whatever children God may will (cf Genesis 1:28, Malachi 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:15) should not be presumptively understood to be a relationship without birth control. In short, conservatives will probably not accept any variation on the liberal practise of substituting *childless unisex marriage* for gloriously-sexed marriage with children.

(b) Explicitly respects the rightness in their historical contexts of the Six Texts. In practise, this probably means that a bridge cannot rely on an essentialised homosexuality that is a transcultural, transhistorical and biological condition. But it can recognise that many *in the church at the present time*, although far from having a secure scientific understanding of homosexuality, are *morally certain* that their own desires have been oriented to the same sex.

(c) Makes reasonable sense, **even without an analogy from marriage**, as a lived way to holiness. That is traditionalists need to be persuaded that the state of life being blessed is actually a good one for a Christian morally certain of his or her same sex attraction. However, analogies from marriage to this new state, however ingenious, will usually not be very persuasive. Therefore, a bridge that can carry traffic will not rely solely on thin analogies from the *childless unisex marriages* that liberals favour, but will also present it as a traditionally holy response to the orientation itself.

(d) Explicitly honours the scriptural path of celibacy. And realistically, the more dishonour is shown to this way of life in the course of this debate, the more costly the reparations required for a stable bridge may become. Apart from debates on SSM, does this condition of life also require a blessing?

(e) Gives all applying to be blessed competent pastoral support in evaluating their moral certainty about their choices. That is, a church is not a short-order cook serving up blessings to order for all able to pay for them. And because the state actually is just such a cook, traditionalists probably have little compunction about saying "no" to those unable to recognise the Church's own stake in a given blessing. Those being blessed should be prepared to reflect deeply on their life in Christ, and clergy blessing them should be prepared to support those reflections in a disciplined way. A start on this may be found in the TEC TFSM report's section on vocation.

(f) Makes scriptural sense as Christian faith. There are numerous references to marriage and family in scripture, of course, but evangelicals are likely to regard at least these as indispensible: Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:18, Song of Songs, Malachi 2:15, St Matthew 19, Ephesians 5, 2 Timothy 2:15, Revelations 21. Word studies on *love* or *covenant* or *blessing* can certainly be informative, but the listed texts are criterial because they relate traditional marriage to the *cross*, *community*, and *new creation* of Christ himself. Apart from those themes, the faith itself is unintelligible.

Surveying is a science, but aspects of it are still art. It may be that others taking their samples elsewhere on the right bank will find other secure bedrock. In fact, others may sometimes find mud, where I expect to find stone. We can only increase our confidence in our maps and calculations with a finer mesh of datapoints.

But discussions about our measurements do not change the basic fact: a bridge that really is a bridge has two ends, and those ends are in different places, so that in either direction one can travel across it to someplace new.

Bowman Walton

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman and Peter,

By framing the report more towards being a political construct, you have come much closer to identifying its true nature. It is, IMHO little more than a theologically inept presumptive narrative advocating the embrace of SSB by the church. I would be interested to know how many of the WFWG’s members dissented from this report, and specifically what sections they disagreed with and why.

It is a measure of the reports fragility that it fails to document dissenting voices, other than to acknowledge their existence, or to publish their concerns in order for us to weight them against the reports conclusions.

How can the WFWG’s report be seen as anything other than a divisive document when it deliberately excludes dissenting voices within the working group?

Peter, you ask if a way forward exists that ‘does not make dissenters of those who otherwise believe on marriage and human sexuality what the vast majority of Christians (indeed, Anglicans) around the world believe.’

Surely those of us who are of a more orthodox theological persuasion when it comes to understanding Biblically affirmed human sexual expression should not be considered ‘dissenters’ in this discussion within the Anglican Church. Rather it is those who advocate the theologically novel ‘way forward’ with respect to SSB who are the dissenters?

I agree that a more honest conversation with the ‘social justice warriors’ right at the outset would have been helpful. A culturally driven political cause was never going to pass itself off as a thoughtful, theologically grounded attempt at Christian reformation.

Furthermore, this report does nothing to change the mind of those of us who view SSB advocacy as a reflection of culture rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit. A more helpful initiative would have been a consideration of how best to provide pastoral care to those Christians with same sex attraction, rather than to seek a way to bless a sexual union that God through Scripture appears to condemn?

Can our attempts to take this process seriously be attributed to inhaling too much incense in our youth?

Bryden Black said...

Well Bowman; that’s quite a series of offerings here. I shall not attempt a response to all aspects!

Firstly, State versus Church. Years ago I had (and still have) a friend who is a most competent sociologist. One schema for him depicting what has emerged among us goes: (1) Originally, the religious ethos and world-view embraced everything, notably the polis too; (2) From the high middle ages onwards (Marsilius of Padua) we begin to see the separation of church and state, climaxing in the US Experiment, close of the 18th C; (3) Nowadays, it is the exact reverse of the first - the political economy encompasses all, and the religious is but a slice, a perceived slice, an optional slice even, of what is modern life with its bureaucratic order. So; when our NZ parliament Amends Marriage, this schema is the best context in which to appreciate what has occurred. (Other theorists also come into play, Charles Taylor, Adorno, Habermas, Rawls, Leo Strauss ... among them.)

Now; the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in Jesus the Messiah of Israel would simply demure, constructing its own ethos and world-view, even as it tries to engage with any and all of this, “plundering the Egyptians” etc. (as I’ve posted before here on ADU, with missiological discernment and discrimination). And so I agree wholeheartedly that the 21st C Church needs to distance itself from the business of state order. Extreme examples naturally come to mind - Barmen and the Confessing Church, Apartheid, contemporary Russia, etc. Here in NZ I simply concluded some time ago that the present European practice of Town Hall + church rite for those who wish it is the best way to go forward. Yet, what civil stuff may we the Church actually endorse and what not? Here lies the present rub ...! And frankly many on both/all sides simply have not done their homework ...! The WFWG among them ...

That the two rites proposed are absolutely as Malcolm has discovered (with great sympathy to you mate! At least we in Chch were warned at our transitional cathedral gathering of their being virtually identical) reveals massive confusion/laziness/deliberate obfuscation/whatever (delete the inapplicable). All in all, the current options before us serve us really rather badly as a Church and as a Province of the AC. And I say this for all ‘sides’ of our current ‘dilemmas’.

We need to do better for all sorts of reasons. Among them the metaphor of building bridges indeed - which you go on to employ delightfully! In a private communication to Peter C immediately after the Report was published, I too referenced Pope Francis re “walls and bridges”; and I also referenced the Two Builders of Matt 7 fame, addressing directly the matter of foundations. Here in this Report we have no real foundations at either end, frankly. While it is true that the Schedule of section 10 and its elaboration in Section 5 goes some way towards establishing a theology of SSM (NB not only SSB in my view, despite the language of the subtitle to section 5 - they really do need to clarify matters here), there is no counter in this Report (and certainly no Minority Report ala Pilling in CoE), no well argued thesis for the change in doctrine involved. And please let’s not invoke the ill conceived March 2014 Report of the Commission on Doctrine & Theological Questions. To address that - which I have - takes some 15+ pages, and that was but preamble to really getting down to some foundational conclusions.

My plea to GSTHW 2016 is to not even set these changes to our formularies down the Way of the dioceses towards eventual ratification. Our Church simply deserves better. At this point there is too much muddlement and sifting sand for long term ‘building’. And here in Chch we know all too well the consequences of building on “sifting sand” ...

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron, I don’t follow your reasoning in your comment of March 14, 2016 at 7:01 PM. And the reason I don’t follow is this: what has the matter of divorce or re-marriage to do with Article XX with its careful following on from Art XIX? Or its supposed dismissal re Section 4 of this Report?

For the point is often made that Scripture (the authority of which is the centre of gravity of Art XX) does allow divorce under quite carefully circumscribed circumstances, and that we may also derive from Scripture sufficient warrant for remarriage in church. See only the Winchester Report of 2000 to the CoE. Marriage in Church after Divorce at http://www.chpublishing.co.uk/product.asp?id=13853 Which remarriage I’d imagine you are more or less in agreement with - again in certain circumstances.

The crux of course with Art XX is the matter of anything being “contrary to God’s Word written”, and the question of consistency and/or “repugnancy". Then we have a serious tilt of the hat towards matters adiaphora at the end.

All of which is kinda pertinent re this Report ... And therefore probably the reason Peter concluded with it.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Brendan and Bryden. I hope that your Lent is being blest?

"A more helpful initiative would have been a consideration of how best to provide pastoral care to those Christians with same sex attraction, rather than to seek a way to bless a sexual union that God through Scripture appears to condemn?"

I agree, Brendan, that best practise in pastoral care for gay and lesbian individuals is logically prior and even a pastorally more urgent topic than SSB. However, I also recall just such consideration from the 1980s and saw then that, even when SSM was far from being a legal possibility, there was experimentation with *chaste particular friendships* among celibate religious who felt attraction to the same sex-- some in RCC, some in TEC-- who were trying to reconcile their vows of celibacy with the zeitgeist of *total sexuality* (ie there is no part of the soul that is not involved in its sex). So although you are right, Brendan, that it is odd to be discussing homosexuality in lifelong partnerships with so little sense of the spiritual trajectories of individual homosexuals, the question of companionship would probably still arise in a better conversation than this one.

"Can our attempts to take this process seriously be attributed to inhaling too much incense in our youth?"

Ha ha ha, Brendan. No, I know Conservative (Wilburite) Quakers having the same conversation.

Why then are we stuck on this merry-go-round? Because reports written by and for liberals are too one-sided to stop the music that all of us hear. When a traditionalist consensus emerges on how to deal pastorally with civil SSM in the parish, we may all be able to step down from our painted wooden horses and off of the ride. The worry is that this may not happen until it is too late; some see a funnel cloud on the horizon approaching the fairground.

Thank you, Bryden, for kind words. What appears to be needed first is a thoughtful report that discerns a best pastoral response to civil SSM that does not rely on any new doctrine at all. Traditionalist interest in making a more widely credible counter-proposal may be stimulated by that exercise.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

"By framing the report more towards being a political construct, you have come much closer to identifying its true nature. It is, IMHO little more than a theologically inept presumptive narrative advocating the embrace of SSB by the church." - Brendan McNeill -

Well, Brendan, I guess everything to do with human endeavour comes down to 'politics' - 'of the people'. God is so interested in people that Jesus actually became a human being at his Incarnation. No doubt the liberalising activity of Jesus (usually directed towards the poor and the 'dregs of society') would have been considered offensively political by the scribes and Pharisees.

I don't see any movement in, or outside of, the Church that could be any other. Jesus dealt with people's lives and situation, bringing them into a 'right relationship' with his father. This is what the Gospel directs us believers to do, don't knock it. Sometimes the Church itself has to be dragged into the mucky business of ensuring the 'full humanity' and human rights of ALL people - not just the great and the 'good'.

Father Ron Smith said...

"For the point is often made that Scripture (the authority of which is the centre of gravity of Art XX) does allow divorce under quite carefully circumscribed circumstances, and that we may also derive from Scripture sufficient warrant for remarriage in church. - Bryden Black

Dear Bryden. I wonder if you have always maintained this argument - with regard to the modern understanding of 'no fault' divorce? I guess we marshall our argumkents around those subtleties that most suit them at the time.

However, since you've brought the subject up, the conservative argument about divorce and re-marriage is that it Christian Marriage is a solemn commitment on both sides to remain married to the same person for life. However, when one party opts out, the 'innocent' party is, rightly in my opinion, allowed by the Church to re-marry. Of that were the only case for withdrawal from the contract that was countenanced by the Church, I would have no argument here.

However, as we all know, the Church (at least ACANZP) allows either party in a divorce case to be re-married, which rather contravenes the strictness of ARTICLE XX (as our Host quoted). Therefore, ipso facto, ACANZP is no longer bound by ALL 39 Articles.

Nor, IMNSHO, should our Church be bound by a strictness of humanly-articulated doctrine (the doctrine of Article XX)that could possibly be perceived to deny the Mercy of God towards sinners.

jean said...

Hi All

I do have sympathy for those who worked on this document regarding their brief. It appears the report echoes of trying to fit the answer to the desired brief (retaining traditional marriage and giving same sex blessings). I have done the same many a time especially when trying to write lesson plans that fit in with the school curriculum, writing the lesson then wording it so it fits in with the theory.

As opposed to a pragmatic look at all the aspects; such as theology, current church doctrines (tradition) and evaluating the ethical and moral implications from a Christian standpoint of accepting same sex couples as in all ways equivalent to heterosexual couples, including raising children, by the State and in society (reason). All this before not after accepting there lies enough of a basis for having two integrities regarding the union (bone of my bone) within the church.

My opinion falls with other commenters on these thread whereby as a christian I see marriage as inherent in creation (Adam and Eve) and therfore for all mankind, meaning I believe if we see people married in other religions of in civil ceremonies as not right ordered until they have a church blessing we are losing not gaining ground. What intrinsically in the Bible makes a human union Holy is it being between a man and a woman, can this be changed?

The only way I can see as a way forward at present is a rite which is a blessing on relationships in general such as could be carried out for family members (Father's and Sons) or any two people in a relationship including those in same sex partnerships, with the blessing not one of joining together but of asking God to bless each individual helping them as individuals to follow Him as they relate to and care for one another.

I know this falls far short of what many hope for.

Thanks Peter for your breaking down and careful analysis of the report, pointing out where parts may fail to hold up when they are put into practice and where greater depth of perspective is required.

Cheers
Jean

Bryden Black said...

Once more Ron I have to not quite follow you: (1) It was your original comment that brought this up, both Art XX and divorce-and-remarriage; (2) Seeking what’s more, by this move re d&r, to nullify a key aspect of Anglican history and so identity re the authority of Scripture; and (3) as for the “argument” re d&r, I have already referred to what many consider a helpful resource - and it is really rather different to your own rationale here; and certainly (4) to waive either Art XX and supposedly the rest by some ill conceived logic only lands us outside the one holy catholic apostolic church, traditionally perceived by Anglicans - even ACANZA&P as per our constitution. And lastly (5), one of the beauties of our Church and its present forms of authority is that no priest is obliged to marry those who come to them.

To be sure; you can speak of ‘contemporary experience’ and the like - but nothing of that ilk will persuade theologically that we should either deny or go beyond (this language echoes Art XX) Rom 12:1-2, which I cite fully:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual/reasonable worship. Do not be conformed to this world/age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

And the reason is this (Eph 4:20-24):

That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Essentially, both of these passages direct us, via the Gospel of Mercy, to the NT Catechism, by which the NT Church formed its disciples, as they “became in the Holy Spirit who they were in Christ Jesus” (to echo the Early Church Fathers).

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Bowman; I shall seriously take that to the Lord in Prayer - your last comment - which has about some ring of truth (JBP).

Peter Carrell said...

Hello All
Thanks for engagement, support for what I am doing, and all round continued probing of the issues!

Father Ron Smith said...

" it is really rather different to your own rationale here; and certainly (4) to waive either Art XX and supposedly the rest by some ill conceived logic only lands us outside the one holy catholic apostolic church, traditionally perceived by Anglicans - even ACANZA&P as per our constitution." - Bryden Black -

And what you are saying here, Bryden, is merely 'your rationale' - 2 different rationales, of which your rationale (about membership of the O.H.C.C.) might not be shared by, say, Roman Catholics (say, Nick) who already don't believe that Anglicans are part of it. So your rational is not shared in common by ALL Christians.

"And lastly (5), one of the beauties of our Church and its present forms of authority is that no priest is obliged to marry those who come to them." - B.B. -

And this 'beauty' is a fact affirmed by me - in common with the idea that, if Motion 30 is brought into effect, neither will any priest be 'obliged' to bless a relationshop of anyone who comes to them!

Ypou see, Bryden. No need for either of us to get into a state about this. If ACANZP can accommodate the re-marriage of divorced persons without any priest be 'obliged' to marry them; the very same pastoral trestment can be offered for same-sex blessings - without any priest being 'obliged' to administer them.

Father Ron Smith said...

"How can the WFWG’s report be seen as anything other than a divisive document when it deliberately excludes dissenting voices within the working group?" - Brendan McNeill -

The Group was called together with a view to facilitating some way to accommodate Same-Sex Blessings in our Church. That was the brief. As a matter of course, there were objectors within the group about that possibility, and to the way in which the majority finished up. So, in fact - if you have been present at any of the diocesan presnetations, you might have heard - there have been dissenters - within the group.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi All,

Fr Ron, such dregs I am. Dregs redeemed by His abundant grace.

You said “Sometimes the Church itself has to be dragged into the mucky business of ensuring the 'full humanity' and human rights of ALL people - not just the great and the 'good'.”

I see nothing about human rights in Scripture. I see a lot about human dignity, sanctity, brokenness and redemption. I also see that we are to pick up our cross and follow Christ, put to death the old nature and clothe ourselves in the new. What ‘rights’ we may have once assumed are exposed for the vain presumption they are at the foot of the cross.

I’m firmly in the camp of abundant grace and the goodness of God; goodness that when glimpsed even for a moment, leads to repentance and wholehearted abandonment to the purposes of God.

Purposes that can never include blessing that which Scripture condemns.

Bowman and Bryden, I would welcome the development of a theological framework for the pastoral care of those with same sex attraction that does not require any new doctrine at all. This is perhaps the very least we can do for those who struggle with same sex attraction.

I like the idea for several reasons, first because it would meet a very real need in the church, and not least because it seeks to wrestle the initiative from the more liberal section of the church that can only see one pathway forward – affirmation, blessing and normalisation of same sex unions.

A pathway that compromises not only Scripture but 2000 years of Church teaching and history. A pathway that must eventually divide the church as surely as Jesus separates the sheep from the goats.

In order to defeat a powerful idea, you need a more powerful idea. If we are reduced to being reactionary, we will lose. This has been demonstrated to me time and again in the culture.

To lose the culture is forgivable, to lose the Church less so.

Bryden Black said...

Sadly Ron this logic, which presents the situation of d/r as being on a par with SSB and matters of “obligation” being therefore ‘equivalent’, only stacks up - if they are indeed analogous. And the beef has been for years that they are not: even Motion 30 is premised on this beef. Viz. Parts 1 (a) and 1 (b), with the language of “contrary to” versus “consonant with”. So; yet again, I may not follow you down your Way as it is simply illogical.

As for your other line re you/me/Nick - and all Christians. Well; to this point, you and I just happen to be part of same ‘tribe’, a tribe with a quite specific history and tradition, which has to date been able to adjure to particular conditions of authority, and so, legitimacy. What is occurring in our midst - if you are able to countenance it - is that these conditions are radically changing. And it is mostly a failure to grasp this which has precipitated our muddlement. And the outcome for all the world to see is that, as with crises of authority in the past, communities will split. For human beings may not co-exist where hitherto common foundations crack. We may cite either Ps 11:1-3, or as is often done today, W B Yeats’ “The Second Coming”: Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.

Either way, as I have said before, after Butterfield” “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.”

Father Ron Smith said...

"This is perhaps the very least we can do for those who struggle with same sex attraction." - Brendan -

You may not yet be aware of the fact, Brendan, that most homosexuals might never 'struggled' with same-sex attraction, if misguided conservative religionists did not encourage them to do so. Another fact is that one's innate sexuality - unless questioned by others - is not normally something one 'struggles with'. Have you, for instance, ever 'struggled with' your own (presumed) heterosexuality? Or have you, becuase you are in the majority, just taken it for granted as 'normal' for yourself? I suggest that, though you may have 'struggled' with it during your childhood and adolescence, you may now have reconciled yourself to the fact that you are as you are, because that's the way God has created you to be.

Father Ron Smith said...

" to this point, you and I just happen to be part of same ‘tribe’, a tribe with a quite specific history and tradition, which has to date been able to adjure to particular conditions of authority, and so, legitimacy" - Bryden Black -

I am really beginning to wonder about this - being members of the same tribe' Bryden. My Anglicanism doesn't seem very much like that which you ca=laim for yourself. Mine is more of the Unity in diversity model; while your seems to be intimately tied up with the 39 Artifacts of a religion that has been overcome by what one m,ight call 'Facts of Life' - that militate against conservative obscurantism.

You may have signed up, at your priestly ordination to absolute obedience to the 39 Articles of Religion. When I was priested, by Bishop Paul Reeves in Auckland in 1981, the notion of the 39 A's was not even in the contract. In any event, most Christians in the world have no knowledge of the 39 As as the Catholic and Apostolic Credo. That being the case, I cannot see hiow belief in them is 'necessary for salvation. The Catholic Creeds are good enough for me.

Furthermore, as Saint Paul tells us, Marriage is not necessary for salvation - even though, for some people, it is better than burning

Anonymous said...

"Thanks Peter for your breaking down and careful analysis of the report, pointing out where parts may fail to hold up when they are put into practice and where greater depth of perspective is required."

Yes, Jean! I wish that the earlier reports from TEC, CoS, CoE, and ACC had gotten such deliberate attention. Quite apart from their usually bad conclusions, each of these reports has some excellent parts that deserve to be read far out of context by the whole Communion.

For example, the Province of Parador could not be more implacably opposed to the conclusions of the TEC report, but their doctrinal commission was so taken by the TFSM's sections on the history of marriage and on marriage as a vocation that they are developing them further into a study document. And although the Scots departed from the true religion some time ago, the Church of Cockaigne's human sexuality commission has likewise found merit in the CoS sections evaluating the science of homosexuality, and convened a forum with scientists and divines to discuss and update them. ACANZP is the exception that proves the rule: neither commission likes that report at all, but then its blessings idea is the only conclusion from any report that both Parador and Cockaigne have taken seriously.

Perhaps Peter will do the same some year for a really controversial document such as the Thirty Nine Articles?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"Well; to this point, you and I just happen to be part of the same ‘tribe’, a tribe with a quite specific history and tradition, which has to date been able to adjure to particular conditions of authority, and so, legitimacy. What is occurring in our midst - if you are able to countenance it - is that these conditions are radically changing. And it is mostly a failure to grasp this which has precipitated our muddlement. And the outcome for all the world to see is that, as with crises of authority in the past, communities will split."

Maybe, Bryden. You are there, and I am here. What I see here is that theological liberalism needs Christendom to have something to bang against, and theological conservatism needs Christendom to have something to conserve, and so both have diminishing relevance to a post- Constantinian world. Only Christians open to the future but engaged in some sort of ressourcement are actually thriving as a new landscape takes shape. These Christians do not commission reports and count votes in synods; they test ideas and exchange those that work in leadership conferences.

So I hypothesise that churches are most likely to split and die when they waste energy on lib-con collisions of temperament, lack a constituency for re-sourced creativity, and confuse parliamentary processes with actual discernment of spiritual life and death. The Achilles heel of Anglicans worldwide may prove to be a fondness for ponderous representative synods that in their decadence thrive on centuries-old partisan squabbles but are too backward-looking and shallow to recognise and replicate theology that actually works well in an emerging landscape.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Maybe Bowman, re 39A, but I have noticed over the years quite a few other bloggers doing such a critique!

Mind you, there are more than 39 Mondays each year ... so it is an idea for 2017 :)

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Achilles heel of Anglicans worldwide may prove to be a fondness for ponderous representative synods that in their decadence thrive on centuries-old partisan squabbles but are too backward-looking and shallow to recognise and replicate theology that actually works well in an emerging landscape." - Bowman -

Thank you, Bowman. Couldn't have put it better myself.

Agape, Fr. Ron

Bryden Black said...

Well Ron; herewith some facts of life to add to the pile.

I did not “sign up” to the 39 Articles at my ordination. I revere them simply as a suitable snap-shot in history of the Anglican Way of honouring the Scriptures, the normative foundation of the Christian Faith, through which the God of the Church speaks to the Church and exercises authority over the Church. During the 19th C to be sure, countless ‘divines’ sought to shine Lux Mundi upon these very texts amidst an experiment in rewriting Jesus’ History; yet the very 100th anniversary collection of that effort (1989) wisely modified such views (both more or less). No “obscurantist” lot there! And neither am I! Rather; lose that Scriptural lode star and we are likely to hit some rocks - history has demonstrated that rather vividly!

So; you may relish your own ‘views’ on Holy Writ, preferring more of a mystical, existential view of ‘experience’. I shall remain with the likes of a Wittgenstein, well aware that any and all human experience (or so-called ‘facts of life’) comes pre-loaded with understanding; and in which case, I shall seek to evaluate my own “understanding” constantly via the bench-mark of Scriptural engagement, seeking to live under the authorship of the Living Creator, who has graciously granted us sufficient testimony to His Economy of Salvation in this servant and instrument of Holy Writ (with due acknowledgment of John Webster’s form of words here).

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Bryden, for your explanation of the basis of your spirituality. However, as a sacramentalist catholic, I am more enamoured of, and inspired by, The Christ revealed as The Living Word: Word-made-flesh in the Mass.

Brendan McNeill said...

“You may not yet be aware of the fact, Brendan, that most homosexuals might never 'struggled' with same-sex attraction, if misguided conservative religionists did not encourage them to do so.” Fr Ron.

Yes, Ron it’s we conservatives that are the problem.

Prior to hurricane Katrina, my wife and I found ourselves in New Orleans during ‘decadence weekend’. http://www.southerndecadence.net It was a ‘cultural experience’ closely resembling much of Romains chapter 1. There were signs in the streets saying ‘no public sex acts’. A useful reminder.

I can think of no heterosexual equivalent to decadence weekend that is a large event involving thousands of people, predicated on the promise of promiscuous sex.

Research on gay sexuality reveals that 28% of gay men have had more than 1,000 sexual partners. 83% had more than 50 partners and 43% estimated they had more than 500 partners.

79% of homosexual men say half of their sex partners are strangers.

https://carm.org/statistics-homosexual-promiscuity

To the SSB issue, there is an extremely low rate of sexual fidelity. Among homosexual males in their current relationship, only 4.5% report sexual fidelity. (Sources:Laumann, The Social Organization of Sexuality, 216; McWhirter and Mattison, http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS04C02)

Perhaps they were the Christians?

When it comes to SSB I don’t think the average Anglican has any idea of the world they are getting into. Monogamous homosexuality is about as close to an oxymoron as you can find. While this is tangential to the WFWG paper, it is material to what we are being asked to bless.

Bryden Black said...

Amusingly perhaps Ron the very Scriptural basis of my spirituality - as you call it - engenders itself the love of a sacramentalist view of Reality, one which embraces EQUALLY an integrated ministry of word and sacrament, both of which together and only together authentically reveal Jesus, Living Word of the Father.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of sacramentalist catholicism, Father Ron, I pray that the *bright sadness* of the upcoming services for Holy Week will lighten your steps and brighten your heart.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

" Monogamous homosexuality is about as close to an oxymoron as you can find." - Brendan McNeill -

No different, I would suspect from the prospect of monogamous heterosexuality, Brendan

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Bowman. Yes, the Queen of Seasons Bright will be adequate reward for the Solemnities of the Holy Week Liturgies.

Have a lovely Holy Week, yourself. Agape, Ron

Brendan McNeill said...

No different, I would suspect from the prospect of monogamous heterosexuality, Brendan - Fr Ron

Then you would suspect wrongly. The same report referenced in the link above made this observation:

Among married females 85% reported sexual fidelity. Among married men, 75.5% reported sexual fidelity.

By way of reminder, partnered gay men 4.5% reported sexual fidelity.

We deceive ourselves if we think we are comparing apples with apples when it comes to heterosexual and homosexual attraction.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Reality, one which embraces EQUALLY an integrated ministry of word and sacrament, both of which together and only together authentically reveal Jesus, Living Word of the Father." - Bryden Black -

No argument with you here, Bryden - except that Jesus warned the Pharisees, You read the Scriptures but you do NOT underrstand..."
He also said "DO this (make Echarist) to Remember me.

Perhaps you may not be familar, Bryden, with the way we celebrate the Eucharist at SMAA; with the Word in the Book, reflection on that Word, then digesting it in THE WORD MADE FLESH in the Presence of Christ. You can't get better than that: Word from the Past and its Fulfilment in the Present and for the Future! You cannot remain in the Past only. The Word needs to become flesh to feed us.

Father Ron Smith said...

Oh yes, Brendan, an afterthought to me previous today: re your:

"Monogamous homosexuality is about as close to an oxymoron as you can find. While this is tangential to the WFWG paper, it is material to what we are being asked to bless."

If, indeed, monogamous homosexuality is as rare as you say; then why be so worried about the few people who might want God to bless their monogamous same-sex relationship? After all, they will be monogamous, in the very same way as are heterosexual monogamous relationships!

And, just by the way, YOU are not being asked to bless anything. God is the presumed Bestower of Blessing.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I would prefer this post not to continue with a thread re statistics and deductions about non-monogamous behaviour.
The underlying issue is whether we might and how we could recognise monogamous relationships.
Let's stick to that rather than segue into a general discussion about homosexuality.

Bryden Black said...

At this point I'm tempted to be not a little naughty! If you were yourself tempted to read, mark, learn and digest ... my own book, The Lion, the Dove & the Lamb, then you might get more of a handle on both my spirituality and its premise, and thereafter ALL its very full consequences. Over to you!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

Fair enough, but my point is that if approximately 95% of these 'monogamous relationships' are characterised by infidelity doesn't that give a lie to the notion of 'right ordered' in any meaningful sense of the phrase?

Sure, there is no guarantee that any given heterosexual marriage will not be characterised by infidelity either, but where it's an overwhelming statistical norm, doesn't that present us with a different challenge?

At the very least, it's a pastoral issue.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
Responsible priests and bishops do not look at a person requesting marriage or a blessing and ask themselves what the percentage rating is of the chance that they will not be monogamous. They take that request in good faith, especially when it is from a professing Christian.
I think on this blog we could also take on trust that when fellow believers are talking about blessing relationships which are intended to be monogamous then we trust that will be so and leave the failure to achieve monogamy to those who do not talk to the church about blessing.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your most reasonable response to Brendan's unreasonable assumption

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan and Brian
No, I am not going to post your latest comments here.
They have their place in a general discussion of homosexuality in modern society, but that is not what this post is about.
I also observe that some of your genuine concerns for homosexuals would be well met by advocating for a church where monogamous relationships were blessed rather than denied.

Anonymous said...

Peter, Fr Ron referred at 20.42 yesterday to members of the OCAC and who Romans (including me by name) might think were excluded. For the record, I must confess myself woefully inadequate for the task of pronouncement; I offer my most profound apologies for any disappointment caused, but assume there won't be a wall in heaven, so we can all see then.

Nick

Anonymous said...

"Monogamous homosexuality is about as close to an oxymoron as you can find. While this is tangential to the WFWG paper, it is material to what we are being asked to bless."

Cucumber sandwiches, anyone?

Thank you, Brendan, for retrieving an argument from the past that is extremely important now but is also easily misunderstood and not easily applied to the present discussion. I cannot quite follow what you yourself think about it, but I will try to reframe the concern you raise as it appears today and in the Church. It would obviously be more helpful for us to hear from any actual historian of sex and gender in *New Zealand* who happens to be out there following this.

Is marriage in fact *natural* for sexual minorities? Or is it the sexual equivalent of black women straightening their hair to look more like white women? This was rather hotly debated within the nascent gay rights movement of the 1960s-1980s. In that phase, many gay voices were arguing that polyamory was intrinsic to gayness, essential to gay self-acceptance, and the core moral argument of gay liberation. Such voices often opposed, or at least deprecated, the vision that other homosexuals, often clergy, had for SSM.

In the 1990s US, they were still quite vocal, and perhaps even dominant in the gay community, but two political developments marginalised them-- (a) the main gay pressure group, the Human Rights Campaign, began to argue that they were an embarrassment to the gay rights movement, and (b) the gay grassroots backlash against the Republican initiative to increase evangelical turnout at the polls in 2004 with referenda against SSM. Where SSM is legal, the rules of not-quite-free speech have settled on the familiar double standard of all identity politics: those inside the identity are permitted to explore radical possibilities that are not even to be mentioned by polite people outside of it.

Now it is unreasonable to denounce all double standards in a grumpy, Trumpy way as mere political correctness. The difference between an *emic* or insider view of a community and an *etic* or oursider view of a community is real. And pretenders speaking for a community to which they do not belong really could burden public discourse.

Now we who eat cucumber sandwiches with the Vicar normally take pains for a faultless politesse, but on this particular matter the secularity of the double standard makes it a poor guide for Christians. For both sexual minorities and the Church have their respective *emic* or insider understandings of sexuality, and in a church that is really a church, the latter will prevail.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Am not sure whether you are referring, re missing comment, to a truncation to the above comment (in which case Blogger must have cut ... Too many words?) or to another comment posted immediately afterwards. If the latter then I cannot see it anywhere in the Blogger system. Not even in Spam!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

Thank you for your insightful recollection of the gay movements legitimization and cultural normalization over the last thirty years. I expect that history may soon be updated to include the SSB of monogamous relationships by the Anglican church in New Zealand, and ultimately formal marriage rights for gay couples conducted by your local vicar with the Bishops blessing.

At such time, the circle will be squared and we can all repair for lashings of cucumber sandwiches on the church lawn accompanied by a glass or two of the groom and grooms best Bollinger.

My concern is that we in the church are on a trajectory with respect to the gay rights movement which is mirroring what has taken place in culture. 35 years ago, all the gay movement wanted was decriminalization of homosexuality, then it was just the removal of discrimination with respect to legal definitions of marriage / partner relationships. Then all they wanted was civil unions, and then the movement that formerly ridiculed marriage decided they wanted it for themselves and only the most egregious bigots would object. (part 1 of 2)

Brendan McNeill said...

Part (2 of 2)

The only difference I see between the culture and the Anglican church is a decade. SSB is a stepping stone, not a destination. The motions will not cease from synod until full marriage rights are accorded to homosexual couples. If the legitimization and normalization of homosexual relationships is simply a matter of social justice, on what basis could anyone reasonably object?

Motion 30 is nothing more than a trogon horse designed to weaken the opposition to gay marriage within the Anglican church by degrees.

To pretend otherwise is to miss the point entirely.

So while we opine on the deficiencies of the report, critique its theology, or lack thereof, seek for accommodation and a ‘way forward’ with ‘two integrities’ the liberal proponents of SSB can relax. They know the ultimate prize is at hand.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I offer my most profound apologies for any disappointment caused, but assume there won't be a wall in heaven, so we can all see then."
- Nick -

Too right, Nick!

This reminds me of a wonderful story told to a party of Anglican pilgrims in Rome by a R.C. Friar:

"When Saint Peter was taking a party around the Courts of Heaven, one of the party asked: "What is that wall doing over there?" Peter then said: "Sshh! That's the Roman Catholics, they think they're the only ones up here!"

Brian Kelly said...

Brendan: you're right, it is simply liberal secular culture in slow motion with a thin "religious" gloss on top to the point of being overtly dishonest about what the Bible actually says.
There is really only one question to answer - and I will not second guess how Peter answers this because I find his comments Delphic in the extreme.
The question is this: Is homosexual desire part of God's created good or is it an aberration, a falling short or a perversion of God's will for the human race?
If you answer that it is a good, then every other debate is really secondary.
If you answer that it is not a good, then there is no way you can affirm it - which is what 'blessings' mean.
If you answer that you don't know, then you must err on the side of caution and tradition, deferring your own ignorance to the church catholic.
My own view is that the question of 'same sex marriages' may not arise for western Anglicanism because most of it will go over the cliff in the next fifteen years. The age profile of so many parishes simply doesn't make them viable for another generation. Justin Welby knows this in England and sides openly with tradition, although also speaking very much in code.
Bowman also rightly discerned the focus of my comment.

Richard said...

I do find it somewhat sad that as Anglicans we struggle to find any common agreement about what it means to be Anglican or even what we understand the gospel to be other than some sort of commitment to shared liturgical practices. Frankly, this worries me far more than our inability to agree about marriage or same sex blessings. If we cannot agree on what our theological and missional dna looks like are our efforts towards unity less about our sharing in God's triune life and mission than they are about protecting an institution that has taken on a life of its own somewhat independently.

The distain or ignorance among some for a document like the 39 articles along with our reformational origins and Catholic history is perhaps reflective of this. While I don't think the articles should even function as a confession in the manner of Reformed confessionalism, they along with other early Anglican documents (e.g Cranmer's book of homilies, the various editions of the prayer book leading up to 1662, Hooker's writing in On Ecclesiastical Polity) to sketch out what I think is best described as the "missional dna" (thanks to Andrew Burgess for this) of Anglicanism. That is to say they don't simply function purely as founding documents or a hard confession, but rather as an example of a highly creative missiological strategy that sort to both reform and re-evangelise the English church while retain its distinctive Catholic and culture and heritage in a way that people could understand. In this way Anglicanism really did represent a kind of "reformed catholicism" and a missional impulse and compromise which itself anticipated the latter protestant rediscovery of world mission. This strikes me as something far more bold, theologically rich and innovative than the rather shallow identifiers of Anglican identity we see raised today such as the rather tired attempt of the Way Forward report to cite "scripture, tradition and reason" as some kind of unifying core of Anglicanism.

Part of the issue here is what the church demands of its clergy. I think Anglicanism at its best is permeable and open at its edges and resistant to any notion of "membership" other than our common bapitism, but confessional at is core. The fact that our clergy don't necessarily share any common confession, shared understanding of mission and the gospel hints at our real problem.

Brendan McNeill said...

Brian

Yes, the question of homosexual desire being a ‘created good’ or a perversion of God’s plan and purposes for humanity goes to the heart of the matter.

It is a question the Anglican community has been too polite (or too afraid) to address. This is not because people don’t have sincerely held views on the question; it seems to me they do, but the fear of disunity that publically debating such a question would raise has drained all courage from the communion.

Far better to invent ‘two integrities’ and take this bizarre construct seriously by appointing a working group to reconcile the irreconcilable than expose the elephant in the room.

The thing about elephants is that they become increasingly difficult to hide.

You may well be right about demographics determining the destiny of the Anglican Church, in which case the argument becomes moot.

Father Ron Smith said...

Brian Kelly:
"My own view is that the question of 'same sex marriages' may not arise for western Anglicanism because most of it will go over the cliff in the next fifteen years. The age profile of so many parishes simply doesn't make them viable for another generation. Justin Welby knows this in England and sides openly with tradition, although also speaking very much in code."

This is not a very spiritual argument, sounding more cynical than reflective - about the Anglican provenance.

However, we must all remember that this is God's Church, not ours. And while Christ is at the centre of our worshipping and pastoring community, the Church will not die.

The fact that it might be in the middle of a new phase, wherein human justice and the spiritual hunger of a minority (LGBT people) might be struggling for a meeting point in our Church - in the form of the provision of a Liturgy of Blessing for monogamously-related same-sex Christian couples already within our congregations - ought not cause any more of a furore than that which came with the emancipation of slaves or women in our Church.

These are signs of a healthy, modern Church which is true to its Master's calling to 'love one's neighbour as one's-self'. "By this (Love) they (the world) will know you're my dicsiples".

Bryden Black said...

Richard - you’ve hit the nail on the head, brother! And fascinatingly, your mentioning “Scripture, tradition & reason” - which is often nowadays repeated like some mantra solving all issues - makes me cite this:

“My suggestion will be that the idea [of the “Triple Cord”, as he rightly terms it] is less helpful than it appears and that it proves impossible to argue that Hooker’s view really illustrates it or that the Caroline divines after Hooker follow his views”. So Rowan Greer, Anglican Approaches to Scripture: From the Reformation to the Present (Crossroad, 2006), p.14.

Father Ron Smith said...

" they (39 Articles) don't simply function purely as founding documents or a hard confession, but rather as an example of a highly creative missiological strategy that sort to both reform and re-evangelise the English church while retain its distinctive Catholic and culture and heritage in a way that people could understand." - Richard -

And, indeed, at the time they were enunciated as a launching pad for a reformed Church in England, the 39 Articles o0f Religion and Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer were necessarily foundational.

However, with the passage of time - and the ever-decreasing need to be a classical 'Confessional Church' - the Church of England no longer had to defend its right to be different from the Roman Catholic Church, whose Magisterium was no longer feared or accepted as 'necessary for salvation'.

In its time and ethos, it was necessary to make a 'point of difference' from the existing papal supremacy; some of the Articles even point to differences from Rome's liturgical and pastoiral practices. This all emphasising the fact of separation from Roman jurisdiction - which needed to be stated as the basis of the Church of England's 'reformation' while retaining the 'Catholic Creeds' and claim to the Apostolic Succession.

Since that time of separation from the influence of the papacy, the Church of England has, itself, gone through significant changes of pastoral and liturgical reform - in accordance (perhaps ironically) with the declaration of Pope John XXIII's ethos of semper reformanda.

Also, since that time, different provinces of the world-wide anglican Communion have gone through their own phases of reformation - most notably in their prayer book revisions. For instance, in the New Zealand Prayer Book, there is no mention of the 39 Articles. In their place, on page 927 (Human nature, God "Te Atua') we read these words: "Christians learn about God in the Bible;in the Teaching of the Church summed up in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds; AND THROUGH SHARING IN THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH. None of these is primary over any other of the 3 formulae; thus attributing to Sharing in the Community of Faith an equal part in discernment.

That Sharing in the Community of Faith, in various Anglican Provinces around the world has given rise to discernment on such isses as (1) The abandonment of the Biblical concept of Slavery; (2) The re-marriage of divorced persons; (3) The allowed use of artificial means of contraception; (4) The ordination of Women as clergy and bishops.

Now, this discernment, in certain provinces, has allowed for the ordination of Gay clergy and Bishops and the Marriage of Same-Sex Persons.

None of these reforms were included in the 39 Articles of Religion, or in the list of Services in the Book of Common Prayer. Nevertheless, they have since been accorded status in parts of the world-wide Anglican Communion. It cannot be said therefore that, without exception, all Anglicans must subscribe to the 39 Articles of Religion, or to the exclusive use of the Book of Common Prayer.

Brendan McNeill said...

“These are signs of a healthy, modern Church which is true to its Master's calling to 'love one's neighbour as one's-self'. "By this (Love) they (the world) will know you're my dicsiples".” Fr Ron

One of the difficulties I have encountered in the past when seeking to discuss matters of faith and practice with those of a deeply liberal persuasion is our common use of Scripture is understood uncommonly.

I have a Christian friend who talks about ‘the Body of Christ’ but in doing so has abandoned Paul’s definition in favour of ‘all humanity’. Common use of Scripture understood uncommonly.

Similarly, when Fr Ron talks about God’s love for all humankind (the world) from his previous posts I take this to mean a form of universalism that (like my friend) looks beyond sin and human agency in favour of God’s non-judgmental cosmic embrace of all humanity.

If this is indeed the case, what need for the Cross? Or if salvation is universal, what need for repentance?

I raise this because it highlights the difficulty we have in ‘hearing’ one another when our common use of Scripture is understood uncommonly.

This is also one reason why I feel less passionate about maintaining ‘unity’ at all costs. Dialog by all means, but how can we pretend unity when we are not agreed on the basics of Scripture, what it means to be human, Jesus redemptive work on the Cross, repentance from dead works and faith towards God?

Father Ron Smith said...

"“Scripture, tradition & reason” - which is often nowadays repeated like some mantra solving all issues" - Bryden Black -

No more of a mantra, surely than "the 39 Artifacts and the BCP", which have been overtaken by circumstance and reason.

Bryden Black said...

Your response to Richard and now to myself makes me, Ron, have to mildly introduce you to Oliver O’Donovan’s On the Thirty Nine Articles: A Conversation with Tudor Christianity, first published in 1986, and then reissued (but why bother ...?!), with only a new Second Preface (to which I’ll come and which runs from pp.vii-xiv) by SCM in 2011. The Introduction alone, which remains the same in both editions, as does the rest of the text, is a gem of insight. I copy a particularly salient section:

But in England we were all Anglicans without trying to be. When I moved to Toronto and began to teach Canadians from a minority Anglican church in an overtly ecumenical context, I discovered to my dismay that I could not communicate what seemed to me self-evident universal priorities to students who were searching for a sense of denominational identity. It became clear to me that if nobody offered them a theological understanding of what it was to be an Anglican, they would look for their Anglican identity in the most foolish and untheological places, never discovering, perhaps, that being an Anglican was nothing other than a mode of being a Christian. And so I learned what ought to have been an elementary lesson - that our universal communion in the truth of the gospel will not come about by the denial of denominational traditions, but only by the critical appropriation and sharing of them. I think I was not deceiving myself when I observed that my Canadian Anglican students began to make an altogether more confident use of the ecumenical resources of their School when they had first been introduced to what Tudor Anglicans understood the essential truth of the gospel to be. But to assure ecumenical good faith, and to quieten a nagging scruple that I might be guilty of purely polemical indoctrination, I added to my course on the Articles on the last occasion that I taught it a new feature, which quite transformed it. Promising (with some trepidation) not to alter a word to accommodate him, I invited my friend Dr. George Schner SJ to attend the course throughout, and gave him an opportunity at each meeting of the class to comment from a Roman Catholic perspective on how we Anglicans were presenting ourselves in the eyes of our fellow-Christians. I can only wish it were practicable to incorporate some such feature into a book; for thanks to Dr. Schner's sensitivity and acuteness, we were all helped to see how, in reaching to recover our Anglican tradition, we were being led into areas of theological concern that we held in common with those whom we would once have identified as our opponents. It is in the same spirit, and hoping for the same sort of result, that I dare to put our conversations with the Articles, somewhat revised, into public circulation.

The Second Preface dares to use the Articles as a means of gauging - wait for it - responses to women bishops - and in the House of Lords! You shall have to read that on-line yourself in Google Books.

Anonymous said...

Bryden and Richard, do either of you disagree with anything taught by the seven ecumenical councils?

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Second Preface dares to use the Articles as a means of gauging - wait for it - responses to women bishops - and in the House of Lords! You shall have to read that on-line yourself in Google Books." - B.B.

My (retired but active) priesthood, Bryden - despite my own hopeful and previously entertained expectations - has become more taken up with actual ministry, rather than readinbg about why or how I might be ministering. In 86 years of life I have absorbed probably about as much theory about Christianity as one person might be expected to hold in one's cranium. Therefore, my priority is not to philosophise about spirituality (lovely as that must be for dedicated academics like your good self) but rather, to apply myself as best as I am now able, to 'be' the Gospel, rather than philosphise about its origins.
As far as we know, Jesus never wrote a single book, but look what he managed to achieve for all humanity. I'm looking forward to the day when I might confidently say, with Paul: "Christ in me, the hope of glory!"

I'm sorry I haven't read even one of your many books or publications, which no doubt are still being produced and sitting on bookshelves. But, each to her/his own understanding of what it means to be a Christian in the world of today, where we live, breathe and have our separately-gifted being. I do, however, recall an apostolic reminder about theory: "Where are your philosophers now".

All I care about is Christ, crucified, risen and glorified. Jesus has already redeemed us. What we must do is live into, accept, and rejoice in that living redemption; experiencing it for ourselves and encouraging others to seek it for themselves. Reading other people's theory about how to accomplish that salvation can be exciting, but not nearly so fulfilling as living it out and sharing it in the real world of experience.

Brian Kelly said...

Ron Smith:
"This is not a very spiritual argument, sounding more cynical than reflective - about the Anglican provenance."

Tu crois? I'll ignore the ad hominem and I'm not sure what you mean here by 'provenance'. I just suggest, as the Americans say, you 'do the math'. I assure you I may not be bright but I am reflective.
Churches grow either naturally, by transfer or conversion.
Either that or they die.
Few children are born to women over 40. I don't see a wave of conversions. Do you?
And do you know the history of the church of North Africa, Syria, Anatolia, Persia? Ou sont les chretiens d'antan?

"However, we must all remember that this is God's Church, not ours. And while Christ is at the centre of our worshipping and pastoring community, the Church will not die."
If you are in a state of denial, go and see some of the states on the Nile.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Churches grow either naturally, by transfer or conversion.
Either that or they die." - Brian Kelly -

And that is why I maintain that those Anglican Churches which try to keep up with the real needs of the people they serve are not in danger of dying. Those Churches that are only looking backwards, in the hope that that will excuse their delving into the humus of modern life and all that is involved, amy, indeed, just fade away. This has been the fate of many once-large sectarian 'Churches' - that have forgotten how to minister to real material as well as the connected spiritual needs of people that ensure a connection with real lives - have disappeared.

Bryden Black said...

Great question! I am indeed drawn to join our brothers and sisters of the East, and breathe their air! Alas; in NZ the sociology is agin it 😟
And because I know the church to be as much sociology as theology ...

Father Ron Smith said...

"And do you know the history of the church of North Africa, Syria, Anatolia, Persia? Ou sont les chretiens d'antan?" - Brian Kelly -

Sadly, Brian, as I have tried to explain, in a way that he can truly understand, to Bryden; my Church life is mostly lived in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I do not try to do the work of Christians in other places, where they have been destined to live. Although I pray for Christians - and other people - around the world, I cannot, ultimately try to make myself responsible for their situation. If this is what is called theology in situ, then that is my situation. This is why we Anglicans - though very different in our location and perspective, if we want to maintain our catholic and reformed ethos, ought try to co-exist, though our situations may be different. Our place is where we are, not somewhere else. - Except, of course, if one is called to be a 'missionary' in foreign parts. But even that is nopwadays frought with the possibility of being accused of colonial interference

Having said all that, I am concerned about how the Anglican Churches in parts of Africa and some other provinces treat the local victims of endemic misogyny, racial and religious abuse, corporate corruption and homophobia. These issues are nearly universal - and so obviously needing outside, international, intervention.

Father Ron Smith said...

"he question is this: Is homosexual desire part of God's created good or is it an aberration, a falling short or a perversion of God's will for the human race? If you answer that it is a good, then every other debate is really secondary. If you answer that it is not a good, then there is no way you can affirm it -"

Sorry, Brian, for treating your comment in a piecemeal way, but really, yout critique of Motion 30 is so diverse, I can only deal with one point at a time.

I know your question here was addressed to Peter, but I cannot resist offering my version of as reply:
(1) "Is homosexual desire part of God's created good or is it an aberration?"

A: Clearly, in your mind, it could only be the latter. However many highly qualified Christian theologians and psychological and medical specialists; homosexuality is part of the broad spectrum of natural (innate) human sexual responses.

Consequently, your assertion: (2) "If you answer that it is a good, then every other debate is really secondary. If you answer that it is not a good, then there is no way you can affirm it -"

A: Again, your assumption would obviously be that homosexuality is an aberration, therefore unacceptable to you. However - bearing in mind that one might not be able to describe, or even understand, the authenticity of something one has not oneself experienced - it seems that there is sufficient evidence to counter your thesis, enough to convince a sizable body of theologians, psychologists and social scientists (as well as the people who actually experience same-sex attraction who are members of the Church, and are at peace with this aspect of their lives - despite objections from religious S.S. conservatives on this issue) to counter your agnosticism on the issue.

This is people's lives we are speaking about here. Not just some abstract philosophical 'problem' that needs a convenient solution to suit a certain moral scrupulosity.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian/ Ron
All sexual desire feels natural, normal and acceptable at certain times and places in individual lives (and at other times may feel unnatural, abnormal and unacceptable).

As long as humans have had sexual feelings they have also had sexual ethic discussions, and the resulting ethics have not always coincided with those times and places when desire has felt natural, normal and acceptable.

Our discussion as Christians is about whether the ethics of sexuality should change or not. But it may be worth remembering that previous discussions have not necessarily felt constrained to match ethics with feelings.

Father Ron Smith said...

" But it may be worth remembering that previous discussions have not necessarily felt constrained to match ethics with feelings." - P.C. -

You are so right, Peter. However, one must ask the question: "Are feelings at all a part of God's intentions for his human children? And, are all feelings antithetical to ethical propriety.

I'm thinking now, especially in Passiontide, of Jesus 'weeping' over the inratrnsigence of Jerusalem's hard-heartedness; its insistence on Law, where Mercy might better be invoked.

Another thought, Peter, on your last comment, is that perhaps 'right and wrong thoughts' about sexual impulses are common to each class of human beings, not just heterosexuals. This does not mean that gays have any less scruples, just that they may not be understood by straight people as having any - perhaps because straight people may be encouraged to believe that gays are an abomination and 'aberrant'.

Bryden Black said...

Aha! I get it at last! I once was blind but now I see; NOW I UNDERSTAND! Oliver O'Donovan doesn't do real ministry; Bryden Black doesn't do real ministry. Only FRS does real ministry. Thank you Ron for this light-bulb moment.

It reminds me of Karl Barth: "Thanksgiving (Eucharistia) follows grace (Charis) as thunder follows lightening."

Bryden Black said...

I reply Ron to your comments re ‘science’ etc. to Brian. Two things.

1. Not a while ago, there were a string of ‘authorities’ cited on ADU re the ‘scientific opinions’ on homosexuality generally. Since they countered your own fond interpretations, you didn’t like them mentioned, and backed right off this site - for a while. The bottom line here frankly is this: the scientific jury is well and truly still out. None of us may be emphatic or so utterly sold one way or the other ... yet.

2. Even more basically however is another line of thinking, which I posted on Liturgy just this week re Bosco’s use of the word “prejudice”. I repeat that now:

There are two ways we may view human being. The one views us basically - that key word again - as materialistic, biological animals, with epi-genetic components. The other views us as creatures of the living God, essentially good but fundamentally flawed, along with the rest of creation - where the etymology of the qualifiers is decisive; there is a basic asymmetry; the Christian faith is not dualist.

For, as Alister McGrath demonstrates in his first volume, Nature, of A Scientific Theology (2001), we can only VIEW ‘nature’ AS something or other; ‘nature’ is not a neutral concept. Human being is integral to how we view nature. Consequently, pre-judgments on how we view nature and so human being will effect and affect basically this entire moral problem that is before us. And that will also impact any so-called ‘scientific’ theories of the multifactorial aetiology of the homosexualities before us. Indeed; most western Christians are in a real bind here. They still have not been able to bridge the two basic views I have outlined above, tending to remain on either one bank or the other, with not much traffic across the bridge - and this despite the increasing rise of good literature re the science/religion interface [scope for many a blog there I suspect!].

I.e. Ron, there is an essential difference in the way Christians evaluate - should evaluate, according to the basic doctrine of Creation + Fall - the appearance of certain key phenomena in our world. The “feelings” of which you speak are precisely just such. And therefore, in addition, so are the (moral) acts they give rise to. Which is exactly Peter’s point. You are right: it IS people's lives we are speaking about - and their authentic human appraisal - as fallen creatures made in the Image of God and so needing redemption.

Brian Kelly said...

That is correct, Bryden - though I would say it more directly without the bibliographical tangents!
Ron constantly confuses and conflates two notions of 'nature' (without listening to or understanding what you or I have said before on the subject), before taking his leave with a parting word about "your assumption" or "your moral scrupulosity". (As if catholic Christianity was "my" idea! Ah, if only.) In other words, he regularly fails to consider the actual issue at hand and reduces all questions to ad hominem assertions 'I have a better view of God than you' or 'I am more loving than you'.
I have said before (and get tired of saying) that theology uses "nature" with two distinct meanings: the world as God made it and intended it to be ('creation') and the world as it is ('fallen' as it is called in catholic theology). The fact that certain phenomena are or appear to be "innate" (i.e. inborn) has little bearing on whether they are "good" which is a theological category, not a psychological one. If you have weak view of sin, then you will be really perplexed by the world. Gender dysphoria is also apparently "innate" or "natural" or at an rate any early developing feeling. And currently the gay world is an uproar about this and impolitic remarks by Germaine Greer.
But what do we say about 'trans-sexualism'? That it is 'natural' because it is found in nature? That God makes mistakes?
The ethical character of homosexuality isn't decided by psychology or social science, the modern versions of which are in any case largely materialist and atheist. These are only self-descriptions of the plastic human soul. You see how far the modern atheist goes when Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York and scion of a Catholic family, calls traditional Christians "evil" who have no right to live in "his" state. Such is the nature of human pride. I hope to be dead before it has reached its high tide in our collapsing culture, but I fear for my children.
The real "nature" we are concerned with as Christians is not humanistic psychology or politics but our re-creation in the image of the True Man, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that this Paschal-tide.
And Ron - remember that the judgments I have expressed are not "my" views or "my moral scrupulosity" but the consentient witness of catholic Christianity (the Bible, tradition, Aquinas, Augustine - and the ascetic Francesco).

Father Ron Smith said...

" the scientific jury is well and truly still out. None of us may be emphatic or so utterly sold one way or the other ... yet."

Well, Bryden, on this statement of your alone; how can you say that there is NO scientific evidence of the eitology of homosexuality? And, as for your mention of 'homosexualities' (plural); how many do you think there might be. Likewise, how many heterosexualities can you conjure up?

If, indeed: " None of us may be emphatic or so utterly sold one way or the other ... yet." - then why are you jumping the gun with your own definiate conclusions, without prejudice?

Father Ron Smith said...

"You are right: it IS people's lives we are speaking about - and their authentic human appraisal - as fallen creatures made in the Image of God and so needing redemption." - Bryden Black -

Bryden, do you think that heterosexual people are less 'fallen' than homosexual people. Because the way you are framing your arguments, this would appear to be your main thesis' which I reject, absolutely.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The ethical character of homosexuality isn't decided by psychology or social science, the modern versions of which are in any case largely materialist and atheist. These are only self-descriptions of the plastic human soul." - Brian Kelly -

Ah, dear Mr Kelly, would this be precisely the same with the ethical character of heterosexuality?

What needs to be sorted out here is the fact that human sexuality is best described as a continuum; maybe, at one end, macho male; and, at the other end, femme de la femme. What matters most, in both sexual and emotional engagement is the notion of monogamous faithfulness. This, I believe, is at the core of the New Testament Scriptures. We cannot say this of the Old Testament, simply because of the common incidence of polygamous marriage.

The real probem I think, for conservative anti-gay polemicists, is the tendency to concentrate on specific sexual activity the might be involved - this can. indeed be quite threatening to the mach male. What, however, is not understood is the emotional relationship - that may have little or nothing to do with sexual activity.

Now I'm pretty sure it is the (presumed) sexual activity of gay people that really freaks out the average heterosexual male - not merely the presumed infidelity of gay people. This presumption may not stack up as bring more perfidious than their own sexual activity.

It may turn out to be that the sex life of homosexuals is no more promiscuous than that of heterosexual people. Both types of individual are subject to the reality of their FALLEN human nature.

As you, yourself declare, the protestationsa of 'normality' on both accounts may just be "self-descriptions of the plastic human soul."

Anonymous said...

Peter, I am a bit confused by the use of the word integrity. From a conservative point of view, aren't progressives on ssm genuine, honest mistaken folk? For example, this is how I see Cardinal Kaspar; genuine, learned but sincerely wrong. I accept that he is honest, but with a misguided view on communion for those in a second relationship, while the first spouse is living. If I start talking about integrity, I run the risk of confirming his error. That would be unmerciful. That would be sinful on my part. Admittedly, the Pope's exhortation could back Kasper up, but it would be new (not ordinary magisterium) and a pronouncement ex cathedra (extraordonary magisterium) hasn't been issued since Pius XII.

Nick

Anonymous said...

"The right bank will probably only support a bridge where it--

(b) Explicitly respects the rightness in their historical contexts of the Six Texts. In practise, this probably means that a bridge cannot rely on an essentialised homosexuality that is a transcultural, transhistorical and biological condition. But it can recognise that many *in the church at the present time*, although far from having a secure scientific understanding of homosexuality, are *morally certain* that their own desires have been oriented to the same sex." --Bowman

"...theology uses "nature" with two distinct meanings: the world as God made it and intended it to be ('creation') and the world as it is ('fallen' as it is called in catholic theology). The fact that certain phenomena are or appear to be "innate" (i.e. inborn) has little bearing on whether they are "good" which is a theological category, not a psychological one. If you have weak view of sin, then you will be really perplexed by the world. Gender dysphoria is also apparently 'innate' or 'natural' or at an rate any early developing feeling... But what do we say about 'trans-sexualism'? That it is 'natural' because it is found in nature? That God makes mistakes?" --Brian

Brilliant brothers Brian, Bryden, and Brendan, Brian is right.

Four questions necessarily follow from what he says:

(1) Is God's *providence*-- sustaining, concurring, and governing (cf John Webster)-- in reproductive defects (ie disordered attraction) different from his same providence in birth defects (eg missing, additional, or disordered parts of the body)?

(2) How is a soul living with a disoriented attraction to cooperate with God's manifest will (eg Genesis 1:28 and 2:18)?

(3) What constitutes *moral certainty* in such a soul answering (b)?

(4) What would the Church be doing in blessing such souls before or after they contract a civil SSM?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
My understanding of "integrity" in this context is that while I think you are honest but mistaken and you think that of me, if we cannot determine via some agreed "authority" who is actually mistaken then two integrities may enable us to live in the same church, albeit somewhat uneasily.

Were we a Roman-type church that authority might boil down to one bishop and that bishop could make the determination.

You are alluding to the possibility that in the actual Roman church, conservatives might be in a quandary if the Bishop of Rome makes a decision they believe to be honest but mistaken! I can assure you that in that situation Anglicnas are on hand to give advice :)

Brendan McNeill said...

Peter

I think the ‘honest but mistaken’ approach works well when it comes to secondary matters like infant baptism vs believer’s baptism, spiritual gifts, tithing in the New Testament, and a host of other matters. In such things there is genuine room for differing interpretations and understanding of Scripture within the definition of ‘integrity’.

However, when it comes to what it means to be human, about whether our sexuality is ‘binary’ that is male and female, or ‘best described as a continuum’ (as recently suggested by Fr Ron) then ‘honest but mistaken’ works less well.

To refute the Genesis text that states God created us ‘male and female’ which was affirmed again by Jesus in Matthew, appears to be something less than an honest mistake and more like a conscious repudiation of the text.

As Anglicans we appear to have lost the ability to call that for what it is.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
1. Can we be a church with two integrities when one integrity wishes to affirm X is first order and Y is second order and the other integrity wishes to affirm both X and Y as second order?
2. A different but related question is simply to ask, What do we do as a church when we cannot agree what is first order and what is second order?
3. Does it make a difference to talk about blessing same sex relationships as a possible reason for two integrities when we already have two integrities about divorce/remarriage? (That is, ACANZP is currently a church where one can believe that remarriage after divorce (save for rare exceptions) is always adultery (according to a plain reading of our Lord's teaching) and another can believe that, despite that teaching, with repentance, a divorced person may have a second marriage blessed in church). The answer to my question, noting comments here and on Bosco Peter's Liturgy site, seems to be this: some think there are multiple integrities re divorce/remarriage and that is a possible model for two integrities re blessing of same sex relationships; others do not think so.
4. I want to suggest that one can be committed to a Genesis/gospels account of gender differentiation, of marriage being between a man and a woman, and also affirm the blessing of same sex relationships as an "honest" view which, clearly, others may think is a "mistaken" view, but nevertheless argue that there ought to be space in our church for genuine difference of view about such blessings, not least because we can all agree that humans are created to relate, and the celibate life is very tough if it also involves living alone as necessarily modes of Western life imply (e.g. we are not great on having homes which cope with extended family life).
5. I recognise that few actually hold to something akin to (4) above because many who want (4) also muddy the theological waters by talk of gender continuums and seem to imply that once we have agreed to bless same sex relationships they'll introduce at the next synod proposals for blessing other relationships and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Personally, Peter,

I have never read an account of two integrities-- either on That Topic or on the ordination of women (which I favour)-- that did not sound unreal. And in fact, it did not work very well during the CoE's long debate on the consecration of women to the episcopate. TEC's wariness of conscience clauses reflects a less difficult but still unpleasant institutional memory of people trying to live two integrities in one church.

Concrete church life is ordinary life transfigured in a more or less inaugurated *new creation*. Without the human commonality that enables community there is nothing there to transfigure.

In practise, a church that is salt and light will fail to support some ways of life, not because they are foolish or wicked, but because it must sacrifice lower priorities to its mission of letting God transfigure the life that it actually has.

Both the theory and the practise point to a much more communitarian church. Thus an intentionally libertarian church is an intrinsic impossibility.

And alas, this is a first order concern. If there is no light on the hilltop of Zion, then there was no Messiah either, and the Holy Spirit has not lead them into the truth.

In this instance, the two sides seem polarised between those for whom sex, marriage, and family very much are, or very much are not, that *new creation*. Or conversely, whether social advocacy cannot, or absolutely must, replace family life as the sphere in which a church is salt and light. One can hypothetically believe both, of course, but the test is whether actual churches are truly living both on the ground. Is there a constituency for this hybrid in which families like Brendan's are advocating Fr Ron's social gospel, and those yearning for SSB also live out a rich theology of MFM? At least in the blogosphere, I have not seen it.

I worry that unrealistic talk about *two integrities* is setting the stage for a disaster. Perhaps we need a sober theology of intentional and missional separation rather than a cheery acceptance of disintegrating unity. The alternative is to sacrifice one position, not because it is intellectually mistaken (though it may be that), but because it is not where the Holy Spirit is leading the Church to be.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

In the present season of discontent in the Anglican Communion, over what is seen as the relevance of human sexuality to Christian theology and tradition; I offer the following extract from this week's Roman Catholic newspaper 'The Tablet', in which - in celebration of 50 years since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsay, made the first visit of an ABC to the Vaticsn since the Reformation and had two days of conversations with Pope Paul VI - is mentioned the occasion and a speech made by Archbishop Michael Ramsay:

'The Anglican Centre in Rome was dedicated on 22 March 1966; it opened a few months later. “The Anglican Communion cherishes the Holy Scriptures and the Catholic Creeds,” Archbishop Ramsey said in a short speech at the dedication ceremony. “In history, it values the lessons of the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and it values no less the continuity which it claims with the ancient church.

“In spirituality, it (the Church of England) learns from saints and teachers of its own, while it also tries to learn from saints and teachers of every period in the West and in the East. In theology, it learns from the Scriptures, the ancient fathers and the liturgy, while it strives to use whatever light is shed by modern knowledge upon the understanding of man and the world.

“The Anglican student is often a debtor to writers within the Roman Catholic Church. This Centre is an attempt to repay that debt by making available the resources of Anglican learning to any who will come and enjoy them.” '

What is interesting, in the light of present circumstances regarding both Churches, and efforts being made to briung them into the modern world; is this statement made by Archbishop Ramsay fifty years ago: "while it (the C. of E.) strives to use whatever light is shed by modern knowledge upon the understanding of man and the world."

This might challenge the theses of some of the conservative commentators on ADU, who seem to deny the need to keep up with modern-day understandings of gender and sexuality. The Church is servant to the world, as, "the Sabbath was made for man" (said Jesus) not the other way round. This would seem to indicate that - as Pope Francis is constantly showing in his eirenic ground-breaking ministry - the Church has to meet and deal with the world as it really is - not necessarily where we might think it ought to be.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Your latest comment makes many important observations but also contains something of a slur on commenters here, and I ask you, once again, to think more carefully before you write, lest I begin to resort to a simple Delete of such comments, thus losing the good with the bad.

No commenter here denies "the need to keep up with modern-day understandings of gender and sexuality." That is as inaccurate as it is unfair. The persistent line to which you object is not in fact a denial of modern-day understandings but a denial that those modern-day understandings overturn the theological convictions of the church of God.

I feel the need to remind you that thus far, despite all the modern-day knowledge available, only 1/38 Anglican churches in the Anglican Communion has changed its doctrine of marriage to be gender-neutral, and neither the Roman Catholic nor the Eastern Orthodox churches have changed one of their written statements about human sexuality. Conservative Anglicans actually keep very good theological company and I ask you whether you might have some grace to acknowledge that fact rather than continue to denigrate us.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
My standard and sincere reply to all such comments as your latest is, "You may well be right!"

Nevertheless I think it worth pursuing the notion of two integrities in ACANZP on several grounds:

- we have some experience of this kind of thing with our three tikanga structure;

- it may assist us on the journey to wherever the larger journey of Christian discourse about human sexuality is heading in this century (i.e. it may be a useful interim stage);

- what may have not worked elsewhere may work here, we are a strange people who can make unexpected things happen ... like beating both India and Australia at cricket this past week!

Father Ron Smith said...

"To refute the Genesis text that states God created us ‘male and female’ which was affirmed again by Jesus in Matthew, appears to be something less than an honest mistake and more like a conscious repudiation of the text." - Brendan McNeill -

Now Brandan, you appear to take on the mantle of a Con-Evo biblical literalist. Look at what you are saying here. The verse of Scripture from Genesis, read literally, could mean that God created each one of US to be 'male and female' - with characteristics of both genders. This could explain the fluidity that you so deny in your rejection of a continuum of human sexuality, within which same-gender attraction may be involved. A reminder of our composite humanity too is the fact that Jesus, though male in appearance, was also representatively fully human - not just male. Otherwise the female of the species may never have been redeemed by the Man for all seasons.

However, biblical literalism also demands that Adam and Eve be the sole human beings created by God in Genesis. This would immeidately cause a problem with the identity of the person Cain married after he was cast out of Eden for killing Abel. Was it his sister? Because of Adam and Eve were the first humans, that would have to be the case.

Also, what do we do about the heavens, the earth and the underworld description of the cosmos?

It is only modern knowledge of biology and the cosmos that have given the Church insight into the reality of God's Creation. Let us not go backwards in evolution. That would not honour God the Creator of all.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Nice try but you haven't convinced me!
The narrative in the first chapters of Genesis conveys theological convictions about the Creator, creation, humanity, the fall and the beginnings of human society.
One of those convictions is that humanity is composed primarily of the male and female genders.
That there are those who identify differently is a fact both of science and of anthropology, but what does that mean in relation to the theological convictions of Genesis (and thus of the Judeo-Christian faiths for which Genesis is foundational)? Does it overturn them? That question is not answered by science but by theology.

If we did overturn those convictions, what do we then make of the Bible? On your account it would appear to be an even older Artifact than the Thirty-Nine Artifacts! And just as easily dismissed as irrelevant on your theological presuppositions advanced here.

But if we do that to the Bible, let's be consistent and also have no more nonsense about the body and blood of Jesus (since such narrative conveying o Jesus' statements are intrinsically suspect, and many scholars think them made up by the church).

In fact, why have the Christian faith at all in the scientific age? We have evolved, surely, from such rudimentary and now past their use by date ideas. Onwards and upwards to the sunny uplands of the New Age!

Brendan McNeill said...

“The verse of Scripture from Genesis, read literally, could mean that God created each one of US to be 'male and female' - with characteristics of both genders.” Fr Ron.

The good thing about this recent series of posts, is that it confirms the futility of attempting to have a meaningful exchange with a theological and social liberal. As Peter implied in a subsequent post, when Scripture can mean anything you want it to mean, then we are indeed headed for the ‘sunny uplands’, which in turn speaks to point (5) of your previous post Peter.

“I worry that unrealistic talk about *two integrities* is setting the stage for a disaster….” “The alternative is to sacrifice one position, not because it is intellectually mistaken (though it may be that), but because it is not where the Holy Spirit is leading the Church to be.” – Bowman

To which Peter you replied in part “- it may assist us on the journey to wherever the larger journey of Christian discourse about human sexuality is heading in this century (i.e. it may be a useful interim stage)”

Now if Fr Ron had made that statement in response to Bowman, I would have understood what he was saying. But Peter, what do you mean by that other than a wide eyed journey towards those ‘sunny uplands of the new Age’ that you appear to deride in a subsequent response?

Brendan McNeill said...

Two further thoughts prompted by mowing lawns and high temperatures.

1) On the matter of celibacy for Christian homosexuals, this is no greater standard than we expect from unmarried heterosexual Christians. True, they may live in the hope and expectation of future marriage, but as attendance at any church will tell you, especially for many single women, this hope will never be realized.

2) Reflecting on the two integrities when it comes to SSB.

It seems to me that one integrity is based around the support of an orthodox understanding of the Biblical narrative that has been widely accepted and almost universally understood for thousands of years.

The second ‘integrity’ is a departure from Biblical orthodoxy, and promotes a theological novelty not found in Scripture. It is therefore extra Biblical. Its roots are to be found in human experience, feelings and the trajectory of popular culture. Sure, Scripture is used to support this view from time to time, but no one who has embraced Biblical orthodoxy is convinced by the arguments even when SSB advocates bother to present them, which it must be said, they usually don’t. The advocates of this ‘integrity’ appear to be motivated by what we commonly call ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’ rather than the integrity of Scripture.

To call this position an ‘integrity’ can only be done so on the basis of ‘personal integrity’ not on the basis of Biblically Orthodox integrity.

Therefore, to talk of ‘two integrities’ is somewhat disingenuous as the language implies that equal Biblical ‘authority’ is to be found in both positions, just as it exists for example in the infant / adult baptism debate.

However, this definition is overly generous to those who embrace SSB as all the weight of Biblical integrity is in the Orthodox position. There are six texts that condemn homosexual practice and none to be found in support of homosexual practice. How then could we possibly construct a theology of SSB and not be acting in violation of Scripture, or at least to give every indication of violation?

Perhaps a more responsible definition would be to call these two positions:

a) A Biblically orthodox integrity.

b) A personal integrity.

Then we put it to the Church on that basis.

Anonymous said...

"...two integrities in ACANZP... may assist us on the journey to wherever the larger journey of Christian discourse about human sexuality is heading in this century (i.e. it may be a useful interim stage)..."

Yes, Peter, even the midnight sky looks better down under.

But the future is a foreign country. They will do things differently there.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
JUst to pick up on the question you ask directly above (before I mow my lawns!), the future could be a strange country. At the height of American/European slavery of Africans, attended by various Christian apologists, who would have guessed how the future would turn out, including a biblical resolve to never head down that pathway again. In, say, 1450, in a global church unquestionably (i.e. with biblical conviction that this was right and proper) governed by bishops, would anyone have imagined that within 100 hundred years large regions of European Christianity would no longer be under the sway of bishops, and, furthermore, that the new arrangements were convincingly believed to be biblical.

100 years from now, will the global church be accepting of, say, blessing of same sex relationships (perhaps with a line of reasoning not yet advanced on any blog in 2016!), or, will those churches currently accepting of such blessings be a quaint footnote in Church History 101 notes, because they closed the doors on the last such church in 2073, and the vibrant story of 22nd century Christianity was being told by Pentecostal churches with a strongly conservative theology reminiscent, so many scholars at a 2101 conference observed, of the strict theology of Benedict XVI. Or ...?

However I will be slightly surprised if the future of any church still operating in 2100 will be charted by following the approach to the Bible, and in particular to Genesis, exemplified in Ron's comment above.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The second ‘integrity’ is a departure from Biblical orthodoxy, and promotes a theological novelty not found in Scripture.' - Brendan -

And who might be the arbiter of this self-proclaimed 'orthodoxy', Brendan. I'm afraid that your chosen 'orthodoxy' may not be that of another Chreistian soul. So please, let's not claim special privilege. As has already been said; not all theological 'orthodoxies' - slavery, polygamy, misogyny - in the Bible are still seen to be orthodox in today's Christian environment.

Father Ron Smith said...

"no one who has embraced Biblical orthodoxy is convinced by the arguments even when SSB advocates bother to present them, which it must be said, they usually don’t. The advocates of this ‘integrity’ appear to be motivated by what we commonly call ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’ rather than the integrity of Scripture." B. McNeill -

So you are implying, Brendan, that 'social justice' and 'equality' are extra-Biblical goods, antithetical to biblical integrity? News to me! However, I guess these 'goods', promoted by Jesus, were motivators for those who thought he was a heretic.Also, it might be good for you to realise that some of us promoting these 'goods' are actually worshippers, too, of the God you believe in.

Anonymous said...

Peter, Bowman and Brendan, my question is whether I, believing that Cardinal Kasper is honest but woefully wrong, can act with integrity if I confirm the Cardinal in his honestly held views. My answer is no. I think the same applies to you. There is no integrity if you confirm others in what you believe will prevent them entering the kingdom of God. The side that thinks it is correct must apply the integrity test to itself. Otherwise mill stones become the big picture.

Nick

Anonymous said...

"The second ‘integrity’ is a departure from Biblical orthodoxy, and promotes a theological novelty not found in Scripture.' - Grandfather Brendan

"And who might be the arbiter of this self-proclaimed 'orthodoxy', Brendan." - Father Ron

"In, say, 1450, in a global church unquestionably (i.e. with biblical conviction that this was right and proper) governed by bishops, would anyone have imagined that within 100 hundred years large regions of European Christianity would no longer be under the sway of bishops, and, furthermore, that the new arrangements were convincingly believed to be biblical." - Doctor Peter

The future is a foreign country, and as we enter the borderlands we already see forests without the familiar trees and hear birds singing songs never heard in the memory of the living. And although we cannot follow its paths over the ridge, we can go from grove to grove in its shadow without seeing any people sitting in rows like parliaments and voting to govern institutions that think that they think are churches. In fact, among those we meet, nothing that lacks a personal charism is considered to be the Church. As a rule, people become Christians, not to be more nationalistic, corporate, and bourgeois, but to be less so. This occasions many differences from the churches that flourished in the modern centuries past.

There are Christians in the borderlands who are slaves, polygamists, and misogynists, and they still find that the Bible speaks to their several conditions. What sometimes induces them to rethink those conditions is the more or less common recognition of the best practises of those recognised as holy men or women of God. In the borderlands, the Holy Spirit uses the Bible to point to several perennial truths and a galaxy of living exemplars, some brighter than others.

In the borderlands, any belief that has depended solely on the support of an institution has already faded dead away with the institution itself. There are bishops and scholars there, but they are respected for their charisms rather than for their roles in old denominations that are remembered somewhat as we remember the Holy Roman Empire.

Were we all to take up residence in this borderland, we might be surprised by who we would become, what we would come to believe, and who our closest friends might be. Over the ridge we cannot cross, nothing lost from our homelands will be restored, and a few new things will emerge that we cannot imagine.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Nick, I have a lawn to mow, but first ask you for the favour of a paraphrase of your last comment.

I trust that you have a reasonable point, as usual, but parts of your comment were not clear to me--

(a) Personally, I am not familiar with Walter Kasper's position on Motion 30.

(b) I have not seen any person X confirming others Y in what X believes will prevent Y entering the kingdom of God Z.

(c) I suspect that there are substantive disagreements about Y and Z that have never been discussed.

(d) As nearly as I can tell, Peter, Brendan, and I have each made a series of internally consistent statements.

(e) None of the three of us has a position that I could reduce to a side, although we broadly agree that certain non-theological lines of argument supporting Motion 30 can be ignored.

(f) Surprisingly, none of the three of us has commented on the comments of the others enough for me to say for certain where we agree and where we do not.

(g) Perhaps I am mistaken, but all three of our positions seem to entail case-wise discernment on the principle of economy. Although every real church struggles hourly with Ezekiel 3:18-19, and you are quite right that millstones are always in that big picture, so too is the power to bind and to loose. What are you trying to say about this?

In short, it is certain that I, and possible that you, have no idea where the three positions of Peter, Brendan, and I would sit in relation to each other after a thorough comparison. This is not a surprise. Most of our comments have been either about the Way Forward report or about Fr Ron's comments as though those were more worthwhile than our own thoughts on the underlying problem. From what I can see here up yonder, that is unlikely to be the case.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

In this conversation about supposed irrevocable 'orthodoxy', may I draw to people's attention the following, from a book about Archbishop Arthur MICHAEL Ramsay, a much-loved C. of E. theologian:

"Attached to catholic order though he was, Ramsay's attachment to it was always subject to the reality of divine action in the present age. In a situation of crisis in church relations, and indeed, throughout the church and the nation, from the mid 1960s onwards, many things that had seemed certain in inter-war Cambridge seemed mutable, dispensible. If the greater need of God's church on earth demanded it, then there was little in the ordering of the church, so often thought to be immutable, that could not and ought not to be overturned. What God had instituted, He coud surely amend".

(Archbishop Arthur Michael Ramsay - the Shape of The Church' by Peter Webster Webster (1974, revised 2015)

(It should be noted that Archbishop Michael was at the forefront of those advising the British Government to decriminalise homosexuality. He was also the first ABC to be received in audience, on 2 consecutive days by a reigning Pontiff - by Pope Paul VI - who took St. Peter's ring off his finger and gave it to the Archibshop - a covert sign of collegiality!)

Brendan McNeill said...

The following conversation may have been overheard at the 1916 Anglican Synod held in Auckland and presided over by Bishop Averill.

Archdeacon MacMurray to Archdeacon Calder.

“Brother Calder, it’s wonderful to see you again, but I must say you are looking rather pale, are you feeling well?”

“The truth is brother, I have not been sleeping well, these past three nights I have been awoken by the most terrible nightmare.”

“Too much of Bishop Averill’s port perhaps?”

“Not at all – each time the dream is exactly the same, we are at Synod, and God forgive us, we are passing a motion to bless that which God has called an abomination.”

“Cheer up brother, that could never happen in a 100 years.”

Father Ron Smith said...


what I CAN say about my quotation about Archbishop Arthur Michael Ramsay is that it can actually be confirmed, by reference to an existing publication. I did not make it up. I wonder if Brendan McNeill has the same provenance for his quotation about associates of Archbishop Averill. This is not competitive game we are playing. It has to do with real lives under the provenance of a loving God: "Who loved the world so much...."

Brian Kelly said...

"You keep using that word 'provenance'. I do not theenk it means what you theenk it means.'
:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Bowman,

I do not reason by peeling off the layers of an onion; I tend to get a cook's knife, chop the onion in half and either use it or chuck it. Nevertheless, I'll try to answer your paragraphs (though they were about me primarily with a suggested extension to that topic and, in particular, the so-called integreties):

(a) Personally, I am not familiar with Walter Kasper's position on Motion 30. Nick: wrong issue; perhaps the Catholic example was not the best, since some Anglicans are against ssm but have no issue with remarried second timers. Forget the Anglican view (aberration?) for the sake of my point.

(b) I have not seen any person X confirming others Y in what X believes will prevent Y entering the kingdom of God Z. Nick:not yet; but that is the serious risk that I have raised. Encouragement does not need words.

(c) I suspect that there are substantive disagreements about Y and Z that have never been discussed. Nick: of course.

(d) As nearly as I can tell, Peter, Brendan, and I have each made a series of internally consistent statements. Nick: yes, I do not think I suggested otherwise; but you have not considered the risk I raised.

(e) None of the three of us has a position that I could reduce to a side, although we broadly agree that certain non-theological lines of argument supporting Motion 30 can be ignored. Nick: if you count up the number of words you have written, you'll see that some inferences can be drawn.

(f) Surprisingly, none of the three of us has commented on the comments of the others enough for me to say for certain where we agree and where we do not. Nick: see (e).

(g) Perhaps I am mistaken, but all three of our positions seem to entail case-wise discernment on the principle of economy. Although every real church struggles hourly with Ezekiel 3:18-19, and you are quite right that millstones are always in that big picture, so too is the power to bind and to loose. What are you trying to say about this? Nick: see below.

In short, it is certain that I, and possible that you, have no idea where the three positions of Peter, Brendan, and I would sit in relation to each other after a thorough comparison. This is not a surprise. Most of our comments have been either about the Way Forward report or about Fr Ron's comments as though those were more worthwhile than our own thoughts on the underlying problem. From what I can see here up yonder, that is unlikely to be the case. Nick:you might be right, but it isn't my point: hence the paraphrase you ask for-

I see a serious problem with the integrity model, if one side (or both) do(es) not truly believe that the other side could be correct on judgement day. I, for example, think that ssm/ssb is so far removed from the gospel that I would consider the integrity model unsustainable for me. I would be telling a lie if I did not correct the other side at synod (praise God you haven't got me in your church). No-one seems to have addressed how these integreties will work if people don't really believe in them. How long can it all last?

Nick

Anonymous said...

I forgot Matt 18:6. If people do not believe that the other view point could be correct on judgement day, there might be a duty to decline the integrity model for those people at least. I don't think even Roman loosing helps much here, unless I have misunderstood the point.
Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick (and co)
What does God think of Kasper's proposal? Quite approving, I should think, based as it is on the gospel of forgiveness. But probably quite concerned that it could be a slippery slope. What does God think of the current Roman annulment set up? Quite bemused I should think, given that Jesus said nary a word about annulment as a kind of "get out of jail" card re divorce and remarriage. In short: neither "integrity" quite squares the circle we logicians on earth might desire, but both might not receive God's condemnation.

On the matter of SSB, I am sure God is concerned that the Six Texts are so flagrantly ignored by Anglican bishops and theologians. How reckless! (God may even be concerned by THAT enigmatic remark by Francis.) But I wonder if God is approving of two people willing to commit to faithfulness when alternatives are not only celibacy but also promiscuity. Not so much MORAL approval, as though God changes his mind, but a form of pragmatism (perhaps as formerly exercised relative to biblical instances in respect of the polygamous patriarchs). I know as a father I would prefer my child to live in lifelong faithfulness to one partner (even if never formally marrying) than move through a series of relationships. Even Jesus in John 4 seemed strangely reluctant to discipline his new Samaritan apostle for both her past and her present "dis-ordered" life (by, ahem, ecclesiastical canonical standards).

So, to the matter of two integrities, divided as they are according to human judgment: what if there is a chance that God is looking at these matters through some different lenses, asking questions which frame the matters differently to the way we are doing?

I know, I know: how would we know what God is thinking. After all, he didn't make Kasper his Vicar on earth!?

Anonymous said...

Peter, to use my cook's knife approach, call your two integrities the two pragmatisms and I think my questions are all answered. Pragmatism has a credibility cost though; you annulment example illustrates that.

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Your cook's knife, Nick, sound like the pragmatic version of Occam's philosophical Razor :)

Father Ron Smith said...

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER REFLECTION:

"Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed FOR US; therefore, let us keep the Feast - not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" - Antiphon

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!

As I participated in a choral 'Stations of The Cross' pilgrimage in SMAA last evening, I was brought into the reality of what Jesus had to suffer for the intransgience of his fellow religonists. Kyrie eleison!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am prepared to publish your comment at 9.10 am because I take it at face value/literally: Jesus faced opposition etc.

If for one second I thought you were disparaging fellow commenters here, fellow Anglicans in many parishes, and the vast multitude of Christians around the globe ...

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter,

It is tempting for Christians to take refuge in a form of ‘Scriptural legalism’ when confronted with a culture that is animated by autonomous moral relativism. While this temptation is to be resisted, neither should the norms our culture necessarily be embraced.

Consequently, I cannot avoid asking ‘why are the Six Texts flagrantly ignored by Anglican bishops and theologians’? You say ‘how reckless!’ and while it’s difficult to detect ‘tone’ in any text, I sensed you were being ironic rather than literal in your condemnation.

I then have to ask, why is that? Would the Apostles be equally unconcerned about the Bishops they had appointed being indifferent to the Six Texts? Why do I feel intuitively that would not be the case?

You expressed fatherly preferences for your own children around monogamous cohabitation as opposed to serial relationships, however one hopes you promoted faithfulness in marriage as being the norm, that it was what you modeled, and that it was your reasonable expectation for them growing up.

Our culture has long since ceased to reinforce a Biblical model for human sexuality, assuming it ever really has. Its current message is about as far from God’s intention for humankind as one might imagine.

So then, what should be the response of pastors, bishops and elders living in this time?

Should it be one of gradual cultural accommodation, or do we believe that God has something exceedingly better for this generation?

If it’s the latter, then surely it’s up to the Church to articulate His greatest good, rather than engage in cultural assimilation. What was it Jesus said about salt again?

It is true that God continued to bless his rebellious people in the wilderness, but he was not pleased with them and consequently they never obtained their inheritance. We should not therefore presume God’s approval simply because we continue to enjoy his blessing.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
Hopefully I have modelled all the right things as a parent, including the Model of the Open Wallet :)

"Cultural assimilation" is always to be guarded against (as the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation makes clear) but it is not always able to be avoided (as a number of instances in the Bible also make clear).

Put simply, "we live in the world but not of it" but that does mean, short of, say, moving to Gloriavale, we do live "in the world" and that means various pragmatic adjustments. One of those might include adjusting to how one's children (or parents!!) live when they choose to not follow "the model".

Brendan McNeill said...

hmm... and to my point that it is the responsibility of the Church to 'articulate His greatest good' when it comes to human sexuality?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
The Church should agree on what "His greatest good" is in respect of marriage and teach accordingly on it.
Irrespective of present controversies over same-sex marriage, the church has struggled through the centuries to agree on "His greatest good" re marriage!
- procreation v pleasure v both re sexual desire/intercourse
- school for sanctification v household of faith v both
- nurture of children v protection and safeguarding of family wealth v both
- modelling Christ's love for the church v Christ's love for the church inspiring married love v both.
- singleness v marriage (with 1 Corinthians 7 in mind)

I mention these things not to be obtuse but to point out that while the "ideal" is that the church teaches "His greatest good" re marriage, it would be interesting to get four conservatives (Protestant, Catholic, E. Orthodox, Pentecostal) in a room and see what answers they gave.

Perhaps, putting the focus slightly differently, we could agree more easily on "what is marriage?" and "what makes for a great marriage?" and "why is marriage good for society and for church?"

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I am in pretty fulsome agreement with you on how you are handling Brendan's questions. Marriage is the ideal arrangement for majority heterosexual relationships - into which children can be born and counted as a 'Blessing from God'.

However, same-gender relationships that are stable, loving and monogamous can sometimes make up the gap; where heterosexual parents - for different reasons - fail in their obligation to bring up their own children, who can be given a secure loving home in which to thrive, without having to resort (by default) to state-care, which often fails the children's deepest needs. Best in the circumstances!

(By the way, my previous post was offered without guile, in the spirit of the Holy Season)

Brendan McNeill said...

"Perhaps, putting the focus slightly differently, we could agree more easily on "what is marriage?" and "what makes for a great marriage?" and "why is marriage good for society and for church?" - Peter

Yes, we could and should do that, but in the context of the push for SSB from within the Church, wouldn't that be rather sidestepping the issue? A kind of 'hear no evil, see no evil' approach?

Because what we are doing by supporting 'Same Sex Blessing' is to include it within our understanding of 'His greatest good' (how else might it be blessed), and if same sex unions are indeed a 'blessed state' on what possible basis could the Church deny such partners marriage? Not on the basis of the Six Texts one presumes, and not based upon the existing 'cultural construct' of marriage where ones gender is simply a temporary marker on an ever expanding continuum of sexual identity.

If we as a Church are at some point inclined to push back against this absurdity, when do you think might be a good time?



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I think you have just stated a powerful case for not supporting the blessing of same sex relationships in our church (because, in my words, the basis for supporting those blessings is more or less the basis for supporting full same-sex marriage in the church and if we think the latter definitely is not God's will then we should be wary of the former as ambiguously possible in God's will).

Nevertheless, there is still a case for a church in which those who support and those who oppose such blessings, continue to seek to find a way to live in disagreement.

In answer to your last question, "Now" continues to be a good time to argue for that which we believe and against that which we do not believe.

Bryden Black said...

My, my, Ron; you have been busy since I was last free enough to take a peek at ADU! There’s much to address and engage with; so apologies that I only take issue with the two comments which are replies to my own material; and apologies that it has been a while in the reply ...

1. March 18, 2016 at 10:53 PM. Two things. (a) I am certain I have never said there is “NO scientific evidence of the eitology (sic) of homosexuality”. Au contraire; I have claimed on the basis of the evidence to date that we humans remain undecided, as the evidence is itself both multifactorial and inconclusive - and even at points contradictory. Which also contradicts much of what you have stated here and there (I paraphrase): that our new understanding of gender and of sexuality therefore says/implies ...
(b) The plural of forms of “sexuality” I and thereafter yourself mention is easy to explain. Because once more the phenomenon of homosexuality is multifactorial, and the epigenetic components (plural) are just that, there are globally speaking a number of forms. How many I would hesitate to say. But a clear, local example will make it obvious what I mean. Samoa has their very own “fa’afafine”, who are different from those who hang out in the Cross of Sydney (either in the 1970s or in the 2010s, both eras being themselves rather different), and finally say those of Central Africa, all of whom I have encountered. As for your question: “Likewise, how many heterosexualities can you conjure up?” Well; if a Cultural Studies Lecturer at Vic Uni in Wellington is anything to go by, whose ‘evidence’ might count - eleven! That is his claim regarding the types of explicit sexual activity that might be engaged in by various people - who themselves might indulge in more than one type clearly. But that is merely his ‘opinion’ of course!

Bryden Black said...

March 18, 2016 at 10:58 PM. FRS: “do you think that heterosexual people are less 'fallen' than homosexual people. Because the way you are framing your arguments, this would appear to be your main thesis' which I reject, absolutely.”

The issue under this thread concerns the WGWF’s proposals re SSB and/or SSM. If we were to address the wider context - and from time to time I surely do do that - then the issue before us might be the more generic one of porneia, to use that Greek, NT term. Porneia is one expression of “the flesh”, as Paul uses that short-hand language, referring to fallen human nature generally, itself a mixture of multifactorial features, but essentially a function of sin (singular) at work in an otherwise ‘good creation’ of God’s. And porneia refers to sexual falsehood, any falsehood, any malfeasance of a sexual nature.

So; no. If we are to use that newly invented binary of “homosexual/heterosexual”, then clearly each class of human being may be as virtuous or as sinful as the other. Only however, there is the creation ordinance, governed by Scripture and Tradition, and experienced for centuries in many/most parts of the Church, for sexual activity to be ‘institutionalized’, and so “enjoyed” and “used” (the language is that of Augustine) by spouses of the opposite gender - as we clearly see in Gen 1-3. Technically, theologically again, and via Augustine again, the two natural goods/ends of marriage, which he termed fides and proles, faithful union and fruitful procreation, are also together and simultaneously sacramentum, an embodied sign of the lasting union between Christ and his Church (which even the BCP takes up). All of which permits the Church to ‘read’ its Scripture from Gen-Rev as a single, coherent whole. And equally clearly, the proposed innovation of SSB/SSM simply may not do this of its very nature. Which is why I am of the clear view it’s a serious mistake for the Church to now try to accommodate itself to our contemporary cultural ways, ways which may be explained via a ‘reading’ of history of the last 300-350 years, themselves a mixture of Christian and post-Christian ideas and practices.

[But also see now PC’s section 5 and further comments thereunder.]

Brendan McNeill said...

“Nevertheless, there is still a case for a church in which those who support and those who oppose such blessings, continue to seek to find a way to live in disagreement.”

I don’t believe there is a way to live in SSB disagreement, at least not in a practical sense. Our faith is not lived in the abstract, but in community. Sooner or later my minister is going to be asked to perform a SSB. His response to that request will determine which of his community quietly walks out never to return, and who remains.

At best, (or at worst) the Anglican church will be divided into liberal and conservative parishes, a divide that I suspect already exists, but is destined to become more pronounced.

Just how comfortable any of us will be defending Anglicanism to our friends (or even to ourselves) when they witness churches flying rainbow flags from their bell towers remains to be seen. I expect we may eventually tire of it.

Which is why the absence of orthodox leadership in this debate is far more damaging to the health of the communion than it might first appear.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
A further thought (and inspired by a paper a colleague is writing on AWF, a paper I hope will see the light of day in the public domain soon):

As my own thinking perambulates through these days, digesting both the report and the criticisms of it, here, there and everywhere, I think it may be worth distinguishing between (at least) two ways of the church responding to same-sex civil marriages.

1.The way the report does which, taken overall, seems to blur any distinction between a "blessed same-sex partnership" and "Christian marriage between two people of the same sex" (and thus prompts your superb question above).

2. Some kind of acknowledgement, prayer for, even blessing of two people in a same sex partnership who have committed themselves to one another, with love and in covenantal terms, as a way of the church community acknowledging that, whatever its members may think about such a relationship, it is not going to pretend the relationship does not exist and it is not going to deny that some good exists in any human commitment to love for life. (And, the church does this without invoking theological support which is so coloured by its doctrine of marriage that it drifts into (1) above.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for the second paragraph of your comments, above. It seems to me that religious requirements in these matters may sometimes seem more stringent than those of Almighty God; whose Son Jesus took great delight in loving sinners into the kingdom - rather than erecting obstacles for them to negotiate. After all, we are ALL sinners, not entitled to exact penalties on the basis of our own righteousness - as in Jesus' story of the Publical and the Pharisee.

Holy Week offers us all an opportunity to reflect on our own sins, before pronouncing on the perceived sins of others. This is why the Mercy of God is so important a tool in the Gospel. Pope Francis has reminded us of the deep meaning and implications of our redemption.

Anonymous said...

"2. Some kind of acknowledgement [TO WHOM?], prayer for, even blessing of, two people in a same sex partnership who have committed themselves to one another, with love and in covenantal terms, as a way of the church community acknowledging [TO WHOM?] that, whatever its members may think about such a relationship, it is not going to pretend [to whom?] the relationship does not exist and it is not going to deny [TO WHOM?] that some good exists in any human commitment to love for life. (And, the church does this without invoking theological support which is so coloured by its doctrine of marriage that it drifts into (1) above [and indeed without invoking any pastoral or spiritual necessity at all]." -- Peter Carrell after Anonymous

"Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!" 1 Corinthians 6:3

"For you died, and your life is hidden in Christ with God." Colossians 3:3

Peter, what troubles me most about this paragraph is the sheer self-absorption of it. It describes a rite that is, not narrowly tailored to the doing of purely pastoral work for the good of souls, but is rather a Public Statement that will comport well with a certain ecclesiastical self-image. Most Anglican rites do have a bit of teaching to edify the participants, of course, but this paragraph seems to keep referring to an unnamed human audience sitting in judgement on what the Church looks like. Personally, I rather doubt that any such audience exists, but there are some for whom faith would be unsupportable if they ever believed that it had disappeared.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

For a less narcissistic discussion, Peter, consider what has recently come to light in the Province of Parador. As you know, the episcopate there implacably oppose SSM. Nevertheless, three of its bishops have acknowledged to their metropolitan that, as alleged, they have occasionally conducted exorcisms in secret for same sex couples whom they knew to be civilly married.

Now to be clear, these bishops are no liberals. They oppose homosexual acts under all circumstances; they opposed SSM when their Parliament was approving it; they would reliably oppose Motion 30 SSB if anybody had the nerve to propose it in Parador. But exorcisms in Parador are hardly cheery celebrations of self-esteem and social validation. And because they are pastoral in nature they are also too discreet to attract a congregation let alone influence public opinion. So the orthodoxy and loyalty of the bishops is not in reasonable doubt.

Rather the question has been raised, not with malicious intent, whether God has used the exorcisms so powerfully as to create an embarrassing problem. For without disclosing their inspiration for asking, many other couples, usually also same sex couples, have begun requesting the same rite from other bishops. At first these were ignored as pranks, but persistent petitioners made it clear that they were serious. Thus several bishops have quietly inquired of the canon theologians of Parador whether some such requests might be honoured. In this way, the dark rites first came to official twilight.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

These several learned divines were perplexed. For some thought that because the whole world is in bondage to sin, there could be no occasion on which the Church could refuse to pray for release from that bondage in the power of the Holy Trinity. Everyone is entitled to exorcism, and indeed in baptism every single catechumen is exorcised. (Indeed, a few aging Anglo-Catholic bishops similarly exorcise their confirmands to the quiet amusement of their parents. But that is another matter, perhaps.) In some ways, pious same sex couples seem to be the ideal recipients of this grace. It may be curious that this sometimes results in stronger relationships, but prayer is not magic, and God knows best how to answer prayer. Theologians of this mind answered "yes".

But other divines, no less learned, noted that to entrust anything to the proper future opened for it by the power of the Holy Trinity is precisely to bless it. *Exorcism* is simply a species of the genus *blessing* whose members are characterised by a more explicit acknowledgement of the invisible war and the necessity of spiritual combat. And since it is clear that same sex couples cannot be blessed, it is also clear that they cannot be exorcised either. That the Fall is acknowledged to be the backstory for the curious bondage of the will that is same sex attraction is no reason to make an exception. Theologians of this mind answered "no".

The two schools of theologians debated the Anglican understanding of the bondage of the will. I will not try your readers' patience with the arguments among them, for only those who know the Thirty Nine Articles and their medieval precursors would be able to follow them, and they could imagine the arguments for themselves. But as you might expect, this is what finally brought the deeds of the three unhappy bishops from the shadows into the noonday sun of their metropolitan's wrath. Believing the second sort of theologian more than the first, his grace resolved to make an example of the innovators that nobody could possibly forget, and summoned his canon lawyers to prepare a case against them.

But they could not. As the chancellor put it, it is not the fact of blessing a same sex couple that is contrary to the Communion's teaching. It is doing so to "legitimate" a civil union whose partners have the same sex. And the common sense meaning of "legitimate" is surely "to influence a community of opinion to regard a thing as in compliance with received norms." That is, it is not the blessing itself that is forbidden, but the intention of using it to influence the opinion of others. But the accused bishops had taken pains not to let their pastoral work be taken as a public statement of any kind. They blessed in secret, and solely for the well-being of the souls involved. They also avoided innovation, following the example of Jesus Christ, and a rite of great antiquity. And obviously, the bishops have a general obligation to free people from the power of sin in the name of Jesus Christ whenever they can. Thus they have done nothing contrary to the canons of the Province of Parador.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

To be blunt Bowman I am not exactly following your logic in the analogy you adduce above, though I think I may have the gist of it.

The paragraph I wrote which set off your train of thought in the above three comments could be met in one of two ways, indeed in two of those ways:
1. an event in the life of the congregation in which the congregation acknowledges to the couple and the couple declare to the congregation that thus and so is the nature of their life together. (It might or might not entail a shared rite adhered to by other congregations, it might involve a rite tailored for the occasion. It is, incidentally, pretty much what our current Motion 30, since 2014 GS, has provided for, as far as the "acknowledgement" part goes, that there be the possibility within congregational life for such acknowledgement.)
2. a public, agreed, authorised rite of the church, which focused on those elements in any committed relationship which most if not all the church can say "Amen" to: constancy in covenantal relationship (see Section 5 of AWF, and my critique), and commitment to love one another. (Yes, there could be teaching supporting this rite, teaching which more clearly distinguishes this rite from a wedding rite than the current thinking in AWF does).

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bowman, like our esteemed host, Dr, Peter Carrell, some of your extended theses on Same-Sex Blessing in the Church seem overly philosophical and maybe not suited to a Church needing to identify with ministery the sinners - i.e. all people.

Your paragraph here, for example has me worried:

"Rather the question has been raised, not with malicious intent, whether God has used the exorcisms so powerfully as to create an embarrassing problem. For without disclosing their inspiration for asking, many other couples, usually also same sex couples, have begun requesting the same rite from other bishops. At first these were ignored as pranks, but persistent petitioners made it clear that they were serious. Thus several bishops have quietly inquired of the canon theologians of Parador whether some such requests might be honoured. In this way, the dark rites first came to official twilight."

Your use of the word 'exorcism' in this particular context, reminds me of an action made by one of the Gafcon Primates at a Lambeth Conference (under the patronage of Abp. George Catrey) to 'exorcise' one of the English clergy present, who admitted that he was a homosexual. This caused quite a kerfuffle amongst the gathered Church people, as to have marked out the homophobic tendencies of some of our African bishops at the time. This action did little to advance the cause of the Gospel at that Lambeth Conference.

Father Ron Smith said...

"They also avoided innovation, following the example of Jesus Christ, and a rite of great antiquity." - Bowman Walton -

Inlike, then, the innovation of Pope Francis, in washing the feet of o woman, prisoners and a Muslim at his forst commemoration of our Lord's action at the Institution of the Eucharist.

In fact, the chief reason given by his co-religionists that Jesus was not the Son of God, was because he broke some of the Holiness Code by letting off the 'woman caught in the act of adultery'. Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, and sought the company of tax-collectors, prostitutes and other well-known sinners (not exactly 'privately' either but rather as an example of God's love for sinners)

The Gospel is a 'turning upside-down of the status-quo' - the poor being lifted up, the rich sent empty away, and sinners, redeemed.

"God so loved the world....."

Anonymous said...

"In the borderlands, the Holy Spirit uses the Bible to point to several perennial truths and a galaxy of living exemplars, some brighter than others. Any belief that has depended solely on the support of an institution has already faded dead away with the institution itself. There are bishops and scholars there, but they are respected for their charisms rather than for their roles in old denominations that are remembered somewhat as we remember the Holy Roman Empire."

Peter, I described the curious *blessing* in Parador to describe just one SSB that implemented no social ideology, required no theological innovation, and was intelligible on the basis of broadly received scripture and tradition. While that filter probably pleases conservatives and appalls liberals, I think of it as an impartial implementation of the C13 Test*: would practise or teaching X take root and survive in a setting where it had no institution to support and enforce it?

Some might believe that such institutions as denominations, synods, etc are not only immortal but have ahead of them an ever brighter future. Others who know better may still have compartmentalised this knowledge from their thinking about That Topic. Friends of both kinds will wonder why anyone would imagine such scenarios as the one that I described at 4:44 am on 20th March, or why I would use the C13 Test to filter proposals.

But others who have understood posts like this one--

http://tinyurl.com/gn5hz2s

--or have simply lived in places undergoing fast radical secularisation, as I have done, probably follow my reasoning all too easily.

"Were we all to take up residence in this borderland, we might be surprised by who we would become, what we would come to believe, and who our closest friends might be. Over the ridge we cannot cross, nothing lost from our homelands will be restored, and a few new things will emerge that we cannot now imagine."

Bowman Walton

* Historical Note: The Crusader sack of Constantiople of 1205 destroyed the city's Christian culture, divided the Byzantine Empire into Latin kingdoms, and weakened West Asia on the eve of ruthless Mongol invasions. These events largely uprooted the brilliant cathedral-centred cultures that had been founded throughout West Asia in the C4. Into the resulting social chaos came the intensive Sufi proselytisation that precipitated mass conversions to Islam throughout the century, creating the Middle East as we know it today.

The Christianity that survived in that region was not that which depended on the patronage of the now-ruined cathedrals but that which was rebuilt from hardier and more flexible monastic traditions designed to flourish amid poverty and occasional persecution. From this time forward, for example, no Orthodox bishop has been married, and all have been at least nominal monastics. History never quite repeats itself, but it would be prudent to assume that the Chritianity of a future with weaker institutions will not include many counter-intuitive political compromises.

Anonymous said...

On your two proposals at 9:43, Peter--

They are both much better than proposals like that of TEC or AWF that redefine MFM on some purely androgynous pattern to accommodate SSM. That pulls them far toward the better side of the tacit Red Line.

However, they mainly replicate the social recognition that is the core feature of any wedding, whether in state or church. In the view from Parador, rites that merely duplicate the state's SSM in church are *blessings* in name only, which tugs them at least a bit toward the bad side of the Line.

How do you think same sex couples would experience these practises as you envision them?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, the Parador Three could effectively *bless* same sex couples with exorcisms because the prevailing Pentecostalism of their very Global South society feels the pain of childlessness, acknowledges the reality of rebellious powers, does not stigmatise hard personal struggles with them, and experiences exorcism itself as the Holy Spirit's empowering presence and love. That rationalistic societies deprive themselves of these rich experiences makes our own ritual practises doubly important to churches in them.

Bowman Walton

Brendan McNeill said...

With respect to SSB I cannot help but think the same thing is happening to the Anglican Church in New Zealand as is happening to the Republican party in the USA. Both of their ‘elites’ have lost touch with the concerns of their mainstream constituency.

I have only been to one wider church meeting last year regarding motion 30 and all of those around me, without exception opposed it. I was only a few weeks into Anglicanism at the time, so I just mainly listened, albeit I did ask a question of the panel at the end.

The disaffection with the Republican party has been decades in the making. While I doubt there will be an Anglican Trump, he is a Presbyterian after all, the destiny of any institution that acts in ways contrary to the best interests of its members is entirely predictable.

The only variable is time.

Father Ron Smith said...

Me? I'd rather concentrate, at this time in Holy week, on the Passion and Compassion of The Crucified, Risen and Glorified Christ. Through Him alone are our sins washed away - whatever we may consider our sins to have been, or to be. Deo gratias! Looking forward to the Great Triduum - Eucharist, Foot-Washing, Night Vigil, Veneration of The Cross, Easter Vigil, Feast of the Resurrection and the first Alleluias!

Anonymous said...

For now, Brendan, Father Ron at 10:02 has the right idea.

For later, it appears that the ideas and practises of classical Anglicanism are experiencing a modest renaissance, but that the synodicalism that seemed so modern and so urgent to Anglican churches in the 1950s-1970s now enmeshes them in internal interest group politics just when they need to be more radically spiritual and missional.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I assume that some (many? Most?) gay couples would experience anything less than a "church wedding" as less than acceptable if not downright disrespectful.
However our discussion here is about whether "anything" which happens re a blessing or something akin to it, re social recognition, etc (with appreciation for you nuanced critiques on those points) is going to happen in a broad, non-schismatic church or in a post-schismatic remnant church.
I would like to think that the "experience" of gay couples would include the character of the church in which that experience took place as well as the form and substance of the "something" which happened.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for such a prompt reply during Holy Week.

Liberals promised sexual minorities that they could and would change the Church's doctrine. This presumptuous promise cannot be kept. And sadly, the breaking of it may already be having pastoral consequences for the innocent. How then can the latter be shielded from the painful results of the hubris of the former?

"I would like to think that the 'experience' of gay couples would include the character of the church in which that experience took place as well as the form and substance of the 'something' which happened."

Obviously, there will be a distribution curve-- satisfied, stoical, ambivalent, enraged, dramatic. As you hope, some will have seen through the false promises, and will not be surprised.

Even they, however, will feel some sting of rejection. And they will understandably wonder about the weights of the factors leading to that rejection. That is part of the pain of belonging to a minority-- we all face some rejection, but those who belong to a minority can never be sure that bigotry was not the reason. The better angels of our nature would not leave them to struggle with this alone.

I hope that your series has space for some creative thinking on how to bind the wounds.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

We need to see the challenges here, Bowman, as involving the whole church, though they can easily become a question of how "we" help "them" or "they" experience "us".

Peter Webster said...

Pleasing as it is for an author to see his work being used, and not simply amongst those academics whose job it is to read such books, I feel I should just qualify the use that Father Ron makes of this particular passage. The context in which this appears is in relation to the disputed Anglican-Methodist unity scheme. Anglicans on both sides were unable to deal with an ambiguity in the proposed Service of Reconciliation that was to unite the two ministries. Ramsey, feeling that the will of God was that the Church should be one, was able to allow the ambiguity to stand, trusting (as it were) that God knew what He was doing, even if those participating did not, or at least not fully.
I mention this because his stance on the law on homosexuality was derived from a quite different principle. Ramsey maintained that a conservative discipline was still necessary *within the Church*, but that it was no longer possible nor desirable for the secular law to match it. (This is detailed at length in chapter 3 of the same book). I am reluctant to say what Ramsey would or would not have thought of current Anglican debates on sexuality, but his views at the time were not as liberal as is often supposed, and Father Ron seems to suggest.

The book is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Archbishop-Ramsey-Church-Archbishops-Canterbury/dp/0754665968/