Thursday, July 14, 2016

My "Way Forward" (Part 4)

There is no easy pathway forward on holding together churches with differences over same-sex relationships. Ian Paul writing at Psephizo, as a member of the C of E's General Synod, describes his experience this past week of participating in a long "Shared Conversation." The sense of I have is that (1) the CofE is heading along a similar pathway to ACANZP (2) it is hard to get the process right, let alone fair presentation of content (3) holding together is everyone's conviction, the possibility of schism is nevertheless ever present.

[UPDATE: Alongside Ian Paul's reflection,  I commend also reading Lucy Gorman's reflection, from a quite different perspective. In a nutshell, what I am trying to do here is to offer a suggestion for how we might be a church that includes both Kiwi Ian Pauls and Kiwi Lucy Gormans].

Picking up from yesterday's post, I cannot see a way forward for our church to remain together which does not involve permission for same sex blessings to take place, which does not involve continued commitment to our current doctrine of marriage and which does not involve an agreed, authorised liturgy for such blessings which is nevertheless not adopted as a formulary of our church.

For comment, picking apart, praising or ignoring, I offer the following proposals:

(1) A canon is agreed by General Synod/te Hinota Whanui which provides for use in our church a liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships where a bishop authorises the use of that liturgy in her or his diocese;

(2) Both that canon and an amended Title D (our canon on ministry standards) make clear that no clergyperson is compelled to bless a same-sex relationship, nor is any officer of the church (minister, churchwarden) compelled to make a church building for which they are responsible available for a service of blessing of a same-sex relationship;

(3) An amended Title D makes clear that a bishop may consider for ordination or for appointment to office a person in (a) a civil marriage, or (b) a same sex relationship which has been blessed using a liturgy provided by our church or its equivalent in another church.

Could we be as brief as that?

Now, if what has been written above is torn asunder in comments, then I may come up quickly with a fifth post in this series, hastily amending what I have written. If comments are kinder (but, I expect, still critical) and the debate is slow burning, then the fifth post in this series may take longer to come ... but it will be before 1 October 2016!

57 comments:

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

I take it from your point (3) you envisage it being possible that Bill and Andrew who had their SSM performed outside the church, could have it subsequently ‘blessed’ and therefore legitimized inside the church.

Practically speaking how is this different from the church actually performing SSM, as both Bill and Andrew are legally married, and their union is blessed by the church?

Second, Paul talks in Timothy 3:2 and elsewhere about ‘elders’ or ‘overseers’ being the ‘husband of one wife’. I accept that the church has at times transposed those relationships when women have been appointed to ministry leadership, but the Biblical marriage distinction remains, that is between a male and female.

How would Bill and Andrew’s marriage (3a) fit within the Church’s current doctrine on marriage, and qualify either of them for positions of leadership as your ‘way forward’ suggests?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
(1) The "practical difference" is this: for the marriage to be performed inside the church, the priest would need to use a marriage service of the church and thus a service which enshrined/embedded a gender-neutral understanding of marriage in the doctrine of this church. The commitment of our church to this point is to conserve the traditional doctrine of (gender diverse) marriage and thus to not change that doctrine.
(2) I think that question needs to be answered by those who advocate for SSB. I have gone as far as I am able in arguing for a place in our church for those who dispute the meaning of Scripture. I am not going to continue arguing on their behalf for answers to well-framed questions such as you have proposed here!

Anonymous said...

In light of your purpose, Peter, a counterplan for the sake of argument. Imagine that your provincial administrative body instead passed something like this--

1. The Christian understanding of the marriage of man and woman is a part of the ecumenical faith of the whole Church that will be faithfully commended by all clergy in this province until the end of time.

2. An Anglican who follows the scriptures as an unnormed norm can be, but need not be, morally certain that--

(a) The first Christians associated the Six Texts with persons whose desire for the same sex was cultivated rather than innate.

(b) In the providence of God, some persons have an unintended, uncultivated and innate desire for persons of the same sex.

(c) Such desires will be found to have a biological explanation.

3. A Christian who believes (2) does not contradict (1) in approving a relationship like marriage for persons of the same sex, neither of whom has ever been attracted to the opposite sex.

4. Bishops of this province shall advise their clergy and laity on the ways of showing such approval that are most fitting in their locales.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Very good, Bowman.
I would be very interested in what (e.g.) Brendan has to say in response ...
Indeed, interested in what any member of our church would say as to the workability of what you suggest!

Andrei said...

You have allowed yourself to be drawn into a labyrinth with no exit Peter

Christianity and marriage are in decline in the West

And you are engaging in an argument equivalent to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

What do you think the Armenian Christians in Iran (who we mentioned on another thread), the Copts in Alexandria, or the Orthodox in Damascus might make of this discussion?

And who would you rather align yourself with the aforementioned Christian groups or the noisy yuppies of Parnell who may control public discourse but don't go to Church anyway

If the Christian Faith is counter cultural so be it - adapting it to accommodate the fads and fashions of the worldly is the road to oblivion

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
I have been in that labyrinth for quite a while now.
Or is it a Gordian knot?
I always recognise that the way out could be quite simple, schism.
But I am anxious to avoid that.
If possible.

Father Ron Smith said...

I suspect, Peter, that New Zealand Anglicans will continue to be trail-blazers on issues of common justice and pastoral accommodation on issues touching our common humanity, as well as other important issues in the past, e.g; Synods involving th faithful laity; the ordination of women; the tri-cameral (3 tikanga) governance of our Church. Since that time, however - especially on the issue of sexuality - we have been outrun by TEC and now the Anglican Chutrch of Canada - thus ptroving the ability og Anglicans omewhere around the globe to beat new pathways to Gospel openness to the outcast and poor.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and other readers
I am not prepared to publish comments which imply/allege that opposition to change to the church's traditional doctrine of marriage is "homophobia." DO NOT DO THAT!

Hence I am only publishing the following of the comment you have just submitted, Ron:

"The Anglican Church of Canada, after a false start, has now confirmed its determination to allow for Same-Sex Marriage as part of its constitution. That will certainly put ACANZP on the back foot regarding its ongoing debate on the acceptance of same-sex partnerships is concerned.

No doubt Canada's decision will also affect the Church of England's movement towards [similar change].
"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron (at 12.41 pm)
It is not a competition :)

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

With respect to your suggestions, please see comments ‘in-line’ below.

2. An Anglican who follows the scriptures as an unnormed norm can be, but need not be, morally certain that--

(a) The first Christians associated the Six Texts with persons whose desire for the same sex was cultivated rather than innate.

[reply]

My first observation is that this is a significant assumption. We don’t know what the first Christians thought about ‘innate vs cultivated’ when it came to homosexuality, or even if they cared to make the distinction. Scripture suggests there was no handwringing over this question.

Even now I believe it’s fair to say the jury is still out on ‘innate vs cultivated’. The active homosexual Milo in the short video clip below states that same sex attraction (for him) is predominantly cultivated and explains the reasons behind the gay lobby’s narrative for presuming ‘innate’. It’s well worth watching. There is a young woman of our acquaintance who has also stated that same sex attraction in her experience was cultivated. It doesn’t make the case either way, except to state we cannot dogmatically presume same sex attraction is innate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgoyQevEhhQ

(b) In the providence of God, some persons have an unintended, uncultivated and innate desire for persons of the same sex.

[reply]

Once again, ‘in the providence of God’ is an assumption. It could equally be said, ‘As a result of sin and brokenness in the world some persons have an unintended, uncultivated and innate desire for persons of the same sex. This would be more theologically sound. Jeremiah 19:9 is instructive reminding us of the deceitfulness of our human heart. Who can say if our attraction towards sin of any kind is ‘innate or cultivated’, but either way we are without excuse before God.

In my understanding Christ came to set the captives free, to deliver us from the power of sin and death. This is the good news of the gospel which Motion 30 significantly undermines.

It is also my experience that not all captives desire their freedom. Jesus reminded us to ‘count the cost’ of following him. Some have counted and determined it to be too high, while others have been led to believe (erroneously) by some in the Church that they can celebrate rather than repent of their sin, and still receive salvation.

(c) Such desires will be found to have a biological explanation.

[reply]

Once again an assumption, and one that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Brian Kelly said...

Bowman:
Homosexuality (or heterosexuality or bisexuality or paedophilia - in the precise meaning of that word, not how the press use it - or any number of para-sexualities) isn't "innate" any more than being a "native" speaker of English or a "born" violinist or basketball player is "innate".
That is to say, there are potentials inside each one of us to become, in limited or exceptional degrees, any of the above, a combination of our physical (genetic) inheritance and the environment of our early years. Conscious personal choice (of the subject) may not have much to do with it. There is no such thing as a homosexual baby anymore than there is a newborn (or even fetal) Anglophone or musician.
I have never heard that a person with, say, paedophiliac attractions or gender dysphoric feelings ever "chose" to feel that way - any more than I "chose" my desires. But yes, I could certainly "cultivate" them and even more so did the "culture" around me (the clue is in the word: a culture is what cultivates).
Further, I am sure you know that in Catholic morality, it is not the personal choice or perspective of the agent that determines the morality of a desire or its actions.
The issues for us is always: what is the evangelically faithful pastoral response to members of the New Creation with still unregenerate feelings?

Anonymous said...

"In my understanding Christ came to set the captives free, to deliver us from the power of sin and death. This is the good news of the gospel which Motion 30 significantly undermines."
Brendan

This is really a significant part of the issue for me. If we come to the point of believing that God is unable to transform our lives and the world around us....to redeem and restore....to set us free....then what power does the Gospel we proclaim have, and why would anyone be interested?

which is probably why churches that promote such a view with regards SSM/SSB (among other things) are rapidly aging and dying.

And again.....why would we want to be one of those churches?

Ben

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ben
I imagine for some gay men it would be a considerable transformation to be set free from slavery to sexual drive leading to promiscuity in order to commit to a selfless, sacrificial loving relationship, as it is for some hetersexual men to be set free from slavery ... promiscuity ... to commit to marriage.

There is a lot to discuss, beyond above, in what you and Brendan say. It would be interesting to have some more comments ...!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, my comments on your suggestions:

(1) A canon is agreed by General Synod/te Hinota Whanui which provides for use in our church a liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships where a bishop authorises the use of that liturgy in her or his diocese;

A: To load an individual bishop with the responsibility to decide whether or not to apply a pastoral concession of the Church is counter-productive of episcopal collegiality. The fact that the Church allows for the Blessing of a Same-Sex Marriage should not be compromised by an individual bishop's prejudice against it.

(2) Both that canon and an amended Title D (our canon on ministry standards) make clear that no clergyperson is compelled to bless a same-sex relationship, nor is any officer of the church (minister, churchwarden) compelled to make a church building for which they are responsible available for a service of blessing of a same-sex relationship;

A: In conjunction with your first proviso (and my answer to it) this matter could be settled by a simple policy of the Vicar and Parish involved. No parish or minister can be compelled to use their church buildings can be used in a way contrary to parish use. However, it might be pastorally beneficial for the minister of such a parish to commend S/S couples to a minister and parish that could accommodate their need.

(3) An amended Title D makes clear that a bishop may consider for ordination or for appointment to office a person in (a) a civil marriage, or (b) a same-sex relationship which has been blessed using a liturgy provided by our church or its equivalent in another church.

A: Any diocesan bishop has, at this time, authority to accept or decline a candidate for ordination on the grounds of their suitability. However, again, it may be pastorally sensitive for a bishop declining a candidate for reasons of marital status to indicate another avenue for exploration of ministry.

Peter Carrell said...

On (1), Ron, does it ever cross your mind that a bishop might act on principle and not on prejudice, on theology and not jaundice?!

In any case, I made that point not to provide for the whim or otherwise of a bishop but to provide for bishops to make sound judgments as to what will or will not hold their dioceses together in unity around share belief.

Liturgy said...

Thank you, Peter, for your thoughtful, simple way forward. It seems to me an improvement over what was presented to GSTHW16.

I would remind readers here that GSTHW16 changed our church’s Constitution. You and I both pressed that this was the worst time to be tinkering with our Constitution, and our diocesan synod (unanimously, if I remember correctly) supported our position.

GSTHW16, however, went ahead and now “Diocesan Bishops and other Bishops with episcopal jurisdiction within a Diocese in New Zealand may authorise forms of service to be produced and used in individual ministry units, after consultation with the Vestry or equivalent body”. Hence, most of your points are already covered. Your canons are superfluous.

All that is left to clarify, following your logic, it seems to me, is that Title D Canon 1 10.4, when it refers to “Ministers are to be chaste”, includes marriage and committed same-sex couples.

I don’t want to get sidetracked from my (or your) primary point, but it is very noticeable that, in the first objection to your thoughtful piece, Brendan quotes “Timothy 3:2” [sic] “‘overseers’ being the ‘husband of one wife’”. There is hardly a blink – “I accept that the church has at times transposed those relationships”. Our church also has no issues with overseers being divorced and remarried. So the obvious, primary meanings of this text is abandoned (maleness of overseers; in-first-marriage of overseers, both, surely concepts that the author of the letter was at least thinking about). And Brendan, instead, uses the text to deny a relationship that was not on that author’s mind.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
My proposed canons may be superfluous, i.e. unnecessary in the light of present canons, but I suggest that it would be helpful both to the mood and politics of our church at this time if we agreed via synodical process on what we understand those canons to permit; along with, as you note, a needed change to Title D.

Our mutual friends the chancellors may feel redundant!!

Brendan McNeill said...

HI Bosco

You are correct. The idea that two homosexual men would marry, have their relationship blessed by the Church, and then proceed to roles of leadership within the Church would never have entered the Apostle’s mind.

Andrei said...

"The idea that two homosexual men would marry, have their relationship blessed by the Church, and then proceed to roles of leadership within the Church would never have entered the Apostle’s mind."

Maybe it did Brendon

2 Timothy 3

3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their's also was.

10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Andrei said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITtp534OcKM

Brian Kelly said...

Good catch, Andrei.

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" sounds like interminable "assisted conversations", i.e. re-education.

As Bosco Peters notes elsewhere in response to Brendan, much of modern Anglicanism has wandered very far away from the instructions about leaders of the Pastoral Epistles - even as it disappears from the world (watch dioceses collapse in the coming years).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
What in particular has the church wandered away from re the Pastoral Epistles? Instructions concerning widows, perhaps? Attitudes to Cretans?

I suggest that the difficulties of the church in the Western world go well beyond whether or not we are tuned up to the Pastorals or not. We are in serious trouble, but not because of some faithlessness here or there. Even the most faithful-to-the-literal-words-of-Scripture churches are struggling against the onslaught of secularism.

Do you, I wonder, ever appreciate that even the most liberal of Christians regular in church in the West is among the most counter-cultural groups of today?!

Brian Kelly said...

Peter, see Bosco's comment which you published for details.

If I read him right, Bosco seems to think that accepted deviation from apostolic practice in one area justifies more deviation today. I can't follow his logic there. An error is not corrected by another error.

I don't accept for a moment that 'the most liberal of Christians regular in church in the West is among the most counter-cultural groups of today'. Persons like Gene Robinson - or to go no further than St Matthew's in the City - are themselves the acolytes of secular liberalism, and in the most insidious way because the Church is afflicted by secular beliefs. Peter, do you seriously think that Tec's militant advocacy of abortion on demand, Bible-doubting feminist 'theology' and homosexual relations is 'counter-cultural'?

The complete reverse is the truth.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
Hmm, that same Patriarch who speaks so eloquently about the danger of modernism also speaks in the next YouTube clip against union with Rome. Might Christians working closely together be a stronger force against the forces of modernism?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
I am not going to argue about what Gene Robinson or TEC are up to because that is not my point. (Clearly I might need to dial back on the word "most"!) My point is that when we internally savage fellow Christians for not thinking the same as us, we may be overlooking that nevertheless they and we are in the same now quite small Christian boat, looked at somewhat oddly by the rest of our secular societies. That might be reason to try to find some common ground rather than digging stones out of the ground to cast at them.

Yes, the church is afflicted by secular beliefs but in my view that affliction only partially comes from the usual suspects within our ranks, "the liberals." It comes in multiple ways from various sources, not least media, as well as from (e.g.) our friends even our own family members who constantly witness to us that life is quite fine without God. Bit by bit that witness is wearing the church in the West down.

Andrei said...

Hmm, that same Patriarch who speaks so eloquently about the danger of modernism also speaks in the next YouTube clip against union with Rome.

Did you watch that video Peter?

He was talking about Council of Florence held in 14something and how St Mark of Ephesus held firm over submitting the Greek Church to Rome at that council along some other examples of people holding true to the Faith in the face of challenges to it down the ages - That's a Sunday of Orthodoxy homily - I hadn't seen it until you pointed it out. Its about holding fast to the Faith in the face of challenges - see there is nothing unique in holding firm in the face of challenges to the Faith from both inside and outside the Church to this age - it goes back right to the beginning

You might take heart from that

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill actually met earlier this year - here is the English version of their joint declaration

Father Ron Smith said...

With all the argument, above-stated, would the Church not be better off celebrating what we all have in common (faith in Jesus Cherist as Saviour and Redeemer of ALL who look to Him for Salvation), rather than bickering about what 'the other' is doing that we don't agree with? This argumentation is what secular society grabs hold of saying: "See how these Christians abuse one another1" "Who among you has not sinned, let him throw the first stone" - Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Peter, Brendan, and Brian, the counterplan eliminates the one persistent argument for schism-- the claim that to remain in a church that permits SSB is necessarily to belong to a church that is not under the authority of the Word. Some happy warriors do in fact reject that authority, of course, but the claim itself is a hyperbole.

Most of those who favour SSsomething believe that they are confronted with a biological anomaly that the scriptures never directly addressed, just as they never addressed the several anomalies that arise from, say, the neurobiology of sociopaths. Their belief is not proven, just as the opposite view is not proven. But given what is securely known, it is a reasonable understanding of the scriptures, and one that can eventually be disproven if it is in fact wrong. Persons and churches should not be described as having rejected the authority of the scriptures if they both affirm the orthodox understanding of marriage for all normal cases, and acknowledge that *economy* may require a dispensation for anomalous cases. And if they have not rejected the Word, then the one persistent argument for schism collapses.

Bowman Walton

Malcolm Falloon said...

Dear Peter,

What do you intend by authorising a liturgy by canon? Does that mean it is not a formulary of the Church? What difference will that make?

Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrei
I am glad the patriarchs met! That is something.
I wish (but not to resume a previous discussion) that Moscow had been at the recent Orthodox council!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Very well put.
Thank you!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Yes!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm,
(This is my understanding, happy to be corrected by a jurist or a liturgist!).
If a service is a formulary then it has a particular status in the life of our church, it expresses what we have agreed to enshrine what we believe as ACANZP/as licensed officers of ACANZP.
If a service is authorised for use, but is not a formulary, then that service expresses what some believe but not what all are required to believe.
I am trying to lower the temperature of the situation.
The route I am proposing is a compromise in at least two ways: those who would wish a service of blessing to be a formulary would be denied that wish; those who would not like formal permission to be given for those who wish to conduct SSB would be asked to accept that formal permission was being given.

Brian Kelly said...

Bowman wrote above:

"2. An Anglican who follows the scriptures as an unnormed norm can be, but need not be, morally certain that--

(a) The first Christians associated the Six Texts with persons whose desire for the same sex was cultivated rather than innate.
[* What does it mean to say a desire is 'innate'? Surely ALL desires - as opposed to unlearned instincts for air and food - are LEARNED?]

(b) In the providence of God, some persons have an unintended, uncultivated and innate desire for persons of the same sex.
[* The Providence of God allows ALL KINDS of things - good and evil - to exist in the world. The use of 'providence' here misconstrues the meaning of this word in reformed theology: that God is sovereign and grants and permits all manner of things - even man's disobedience and unbelief - to the end of His glory. Assyria is the rod of God's anger against Israel (Isa.10.1) - but Assyria will also be punished for its wrongdoing.]

(c) Such desires will be found to have a biological explanation.
[* 'will be found'? Is this dogmatic prophecy? How about: 'will NOT be found'? or 'will remain mysterious till the eschaton'?]

Sorry, Bowman - you are inviting the camel into the tent. It has already made its way inside in North America and driven out the poor Bedouin.
Sadly, orthodox Anglicans are having to fold their tent in order to survive. Which is hard to do when your tent is made of stone.
The Diocese of Dunedin, once quite lively, in in terminal decline, having lost 80% of its attendance in 30 years. Do you want to administer the coup de grace?

Brian Kelly said...

"Persons and churches should not be described as having rejected the authority of the scriptures if they both affirm the orthodox understanding of marriage ***for all normal cases*** [emphasis mine], and acknowledge that *economy* may require a dispensation for anomalous cases. And if they have not rejected the Word, then the one persistent argument for schism collapses."

Bowman, that is nonsense that doesn't survive parsing. You have simply arrived at revisionism using slightly different language about "normal" and "anomalous" that some homosexuals would take offence at. The "orthodox understanding of marriage" (i.e. the NT teaching) is binding on *everyone.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian @6.44 pm
I suggest "innate" is pretty clear. Ever since I can remember having any desires relating to the opposite gender, they have been for the opposite gender. I am innately heterosexual, though I presume various aspects of upbringing, Hollywood movies, all those romance books I devoured as a teenager, to say nothing of all the baudy talk at my all boys' school (both viciously homophobic as well as vigorously macho) all fostered that innate desire. Is it that difficult to actually hear what homosexuals say when they say that they have been innately homosexual, rather than heterosexual?
(And, yes, for the record, I have also come across the testimony of the kind, "I was interfered with as a young boy by an older man and that set me on the pathway to (e.g.) homosexual desires, bisexual desires, confusion about my sexuality).
You are an intelligent and learned man, Brian, so I am surprised that you do not understand, or do not appear to understand that homosexuals might be as innately homosexual as heterosexuals are innately heterosexual.
And, yes, I know, we all know here, that that does not then straightforwardly mean that SSB or SSM is all fine by God because desire is one thing and acting on desire is another.
But the question hangs in the air of 21st century life, is the God of love to deny the covenanting of love between two men or two women? Are we utterly certain that all that is in the Bible denies the possibility that the church might support people committed to faithful love of one another (and especially in a world of easy promiscuity)? And, even when some of us are utterly certain that the Bible does so deny, Bowman's point, are we to deny a place in the church for those who do not share that certainty?

As for the camel's nose in the tent. Isn't the story of decline in Western Anglican churches about so much more than specific decisions made about homosexuality? Would the decline be much less if the status quo on homosexuality of (say) the early 1970s had remained in force till now?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian @ 6.52

I do not agree with the criticism you make of Bowman's "parsing."

Those in favour of SSB include those who appear to subscribe to every aspect of a conservative evangelical's stereotype of a liberal, progressive Christian who has sold out to the culture but, in my experience, most of the Anglicans I mingle with who are in favour are resolutely creed-believing, Bible-preaching, follow the words of the agreed liturgy of the church Anglicans, and also believe in marriage between a man and a woman being open to procreation, binding for life etc. Why, some even believe that only SSB is possible because SSM is not agreeable to their understanding of marriage.

The question Bowman raises is a good one. If Anglicans are committed to Scripture as the Holy Scripture of the church and believe nevertheless that Scripture does not actually answer questions about the propriety of SSB and thus we might pursue SSB as a matter not forbidden, then we have a church which, if it then divides, should honestly appraise the situation as one in which the division is over SSB and not over a general commitment to Scripture, or orthodox belief in the creeds.

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

I suspect the effect of your canon will be to simply shift the debate from General Synod onto the local dioceses and their bishops and make unpicking the tangle even more thwart. Why bypass the checks-and-balances of the constitution with regard to formularies and makes the local bishop (with or without a diocesan synod’s agreement) the arbiter of the Church’s doctrine? Bishops are to defend the faith, not define it.

I also suspect that your canon would have the effect of creating a “claytons” formulary that, while not applying to the whole province, would nevertheless carry the weight of a formulary within those dioceses that adopted it. In my view, General Synod cannot delegate away its responsibility under our constitution onto a diocesan structure that was not designed to bear its weight.

Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
I think they are fair criticisms to bring to the table of discussion of my proposal. But what is your better pathway in the face of a church which (IMHO) is not agreeable to not having some way forward re SSB, yet seems to understand that it will drive more people away if it changes our formularies than if it does not?

In defence of my proposal I offer the following advantages to sit alongside your offering re disadvantages:

- it provides for the bishop (or bishop-in-consultation-with-their-synod) to judge when the time is right for implementation

- it provides for Dioceses such as Nelson and Polynesia to never implement the service

- it sits with existing powers of bishops to not make a move on some matters (e.g. historically, we know that +Sutton in Nelson refrained from ordaining women for some ten years after our church permitted ordination of women to proceed; we know that some bishops are keener on ordaining to the vocational diaconate than others, some dioceses pursue LSM while others do not (or once did and now are withdrawing that model)

- (incidentally, wouldn't it be similar to the ecclesiology of our sister church in Oz?)

A further point which your wording does not seem to appreciate when you say "[what] makes the local bishop ... the arbiter of the Church's doctrine?" The very point of what I am proposing is that SSB would not be "doctrine" in the sense of something enshrined in a formulary, to bishops would neither be defending doctrine in this sense, nor defining it. They would simply be acting (to implement or not) within a permissive environment in which our church made SSB permissible without making believing in SSB mandatory via formulary.

Brian Kelly said...

Peter, since my comments were directed to Bowman, I will allow him to speak for himself, whether I have understood him correctly.

But let me take up your remarks: 'I am surprised that you do not understand, or do not appear to understand that homosexuals might be as innately homosexual as heterosexuals are innately heterosexual.'

By 'innately' I understand 'born that way'. My skin, eye and (former) hair colour are 'innate' to me, as are other physical features (including propensities for health or illness) because they are genetically coded. Everything else has been programmed into me by experience. I do not believe *anyone* - not even you, Peter - is "innately" heterosexual or "innately" homosexual. Sexual affections are not genetic in character. Many years of studying identical twins has not established the very high level of concordance
that such a claim would require. (And there is plenty on the subject in Socarides, Nicolosi, Satinover, Yarwood, Regner etc.)

Peter, the point you have to answer squarely is not "What kind of people are we?" but "What does God want us to be - and do?"
In other words - and here, Peter, you need to be very clear about what you believe (because you are adept at listing all the things you are uncertain, unclear, unsure and agnostic about when it comes to reading the Bible):

"Is it God's WILL that some humans should have homosexual attractions?"

This was the very point I was faulting Bowman in his use of the word "normal".
You see, I am left-handed and belong to a relatively uncommon blood group. What does 'normal' mean here? I could easily imagine world in which left-handedness and my blood group were the majority - "normal".

I'm afraid the rest of your point is rhetoric, not argument - said with feeling but still rhetoric.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian
By "innate" I mean that whatever causation factor or combination of factors is involved, my sexual orientation is what it is through all my life.
Whether we attribute this to God or not is a tricky question, just as it is re (say) left-handedness, rare blood types, and growing up in a posh family rather than a poor family (thinking about God's role as creator and sustainer of all things, as the one who works out all things according to his plan).

I think I have been quite clear here on ADU that I read Scripture as only approving sexual intercourse within marriage between a man and a woman. I am also trying to be clear that I am trying to understand those in my church who do not share that clarity!

Bowman is more than able to respond, but I am happy to demonstrate that I am more sympathetic to his approach to working out how we live with difference in the Anglican Church than (e.g.) to your approach.

But I appreciate both of you for the learning and clarity of conviction you bring to the conversations.

Liturgy said...

I wish, once again, that people here would engage with what is actually written. I said nothing of the sort of silliness that Brian reads into the final paragraph of my comment. If you want to make a feeble straw man to argue against, please don’t falsely ascribe that to me.

Clearly people here cannot agree whether women should be allowed to be overseers in the church, or whether divorced-and-remarried people (males?) should be allowed to be such overseers. Our church has followed agreed due process and decided that the former be allowed. Our church has not yet followed agreed due process whether divorced people can be remarried – but for about half a century we have gone ahead and done so anyway.

Bowman has given a wonderful response to Brendan’s argument from silence.

And Malcolm, have you missed the change to our Constitution? The very shift you are arguing against is now part of our Constitution that you and I sign up to. Where were you when I argued so strongly, repeatedly, and widely that this not proceed (and Peter argued similarly on this site)? I have already indicated, Peter is also writing as if the constitutional change didn’t happen. The discussion cannot continue as if we are working within the context of the unrevised Constitution.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Readers in the light of Bosco's comment at 8.38am

A note to explain why I once argued against a recently made constitutional change but now wish to use that constitutional change re SSB ...

In general terms I think the constitutional change is dangerous around bishops promulgating liturgical change which effectively defines doctrine (at least local to their episcopal units) without such change being a matter of common agreement across our whole church.

Now that we have the change, for the specific matter of that which may yet split our church apart, I am happy to use the change to the advantage - so I hope (against hope?) - that it might provide a "way forward" which enables us not to split.

Father Ron Smith said...

"You are an intelligent and learned man, Brian, so I am surprised that you do not understand, or do not appear to understand that homosexuals might be as innately homosexual as heterosexuals are innately heterosexual." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Thank you for that reality check, Peter. However, sadly, most conservatively heterosexual persons - despite their sometimes obvious intelligence - seem simply unable (certainly unwilling) to admit that, though their own sexuality is innate, the sexuality of homosexuals is mostly 'innate'. In other words, it is not something that we actually choose to be.

At last in old age, I can now admit to being, myself, innately homosexual - though married but living a 'celibate' lifestyle.

I suppose not many innately heterosexual persons could really ever understand what it might mean to be innately homosexual. Not a fault on their part, just a reality!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; Rev Bosco Peters has mentioned the constitutional change more than once. The interesting thing is that if he is right, no one seems to be waking up. Are there any Anglican canon lawyers who have given a view on what you might have alteady done?

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Rev Bosco Peters would be the first to admit that the canon lawyers may know more than he, and they would be the first to admit that where "canon" meets "liturgy", he may know more than them. The one thing that unites us all, me included, is a fervent desire to not have to find out the constitutional truth via an ecclesiastical court case :)

(In a serious answer to your question: not that I am aware of.)

Malcolm Falloon said...

Peter,

I disagree with you on the viability of using the recent changes to how services are authorised to bring about the compromise you propose. Among other things, it would be destructive of good order to bypass Part G, section 4 of the constitution on what has proven such a controversial issue.

Your proposal also seems to hinge on a distinction between doctrine-as-enshrined-in-the-formularies and doctrine-as-expressed-in-the-church's-worship: formulaic doctrine as opposed to permissive doctrine. That is too subtle for me.
Whether General Synod changes its doctrine of marriage (which it seems reluctant to do at present) or redefines the church's understanding of chastity (as you propose in your clause 3), both involve changes to the doctrine expressed in the fundamental provisions of the constitution.

As an aside: I consider these two alternatives to be mutually exclusive: if you extend the doctrine of marriage (as proposed by the Working Group), you don't need to change the definition of chastity; if you change the definition of chastity, you can not but diminish the doctrine of marriage. If the church effected both changes at once, the church would be left with a nominal doctrine of marriage that was only a matter of personal preference.

You ask me for a better pathway. The only viable pathway, in my view, involves structural change and constitutional revision. We should not be under any allusion that accommodating such a compromise will involve far-reaching changes. I am less certain, however, that we have the collective will to pursue such a course.

Malcolm

Father Ron Smith said...

So, tell me, Malcolm; is it your honest opinion that, if our Church allows for the celebration of Same-Sex blessings for faithful members of our congregations you could not live with that and would have to leave? That seems to me to be what you are no0w implying.

Malcolm Falloon said...

Ron, sorry to disappoint you but I was simply making a comment on Peter's proposal.

Malcolm

Rosemary Behan said...

It’s sad to read some of these recent posts. Chin up everyone, perhaps we have forgotten that we are all ‘in’ Christ. That is everything to Rev. Vaughan Roberts. He may be same sex attracted, but he is loved and knows he is loved because he is ‘in’ Christ. I know that is everything to me. I may be a woman .. and like Vaughan, try to submit my all to the Godhead .. but I don’t find being a woman easy. But .. I am ‘in’ Christ .. and really that is all that matters. I’m not one of the hordes standing at the brink of the chasm between us and God .. all of whom believe that Jesus is the only way .. but I am ‘in’ Him.

Surely we must also remember that He is not only the way and the life, but that He is also Truth. Peter, you are very compassionate and courageous to try and find a way to help the two sides to be united, but I must ask if you are SURE that, that is the True way He wants you to find? I know how hard it is to be heterosexual and compassionate, especially if you are also male, but you are clear as to the teaching of Scripture, therefore perhaps it is less than compassionate to not stress that Truth.

Father Ron, in a public meeting recently you declared that you are ‘gay’ .. and that you just want to be loved. I’m sad that you use the term gay, because I think for most of us, that means someone who practices their homosexual leanings. Whereas we all know that you are not only married, but a very principled person, so I doubt that you are committing adultery against your wife. That means as far as I’m concerned, that you are a same sex attracted man who struggles to be obedient to our Lord. For that I honour and respect you. Also, if you are ‘in’ Christ Jesus, you ARE loved, no one .. NONE could love you more.

Rev. Bosco Peters, I don’t understand what you mean by the canons are already changed, but you know that I am not one to agree to divorce lightly, that I don’t agree with the ordination of women, although I do believe the matter is adiaphora, and therefore not a first order issue. That I DO think the matter of same sex blessings and marriage IS a first order issue, and that to say anything less is to mislead and perhaps deny any same sex attracted person the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus did warn us strongly that if we misled any of His children so, we would be better off with a millstone around our necks!!!

Remember everyone, we ARE loved, we are ‘in’ Christ, and there is nowhere safer, and nowhere we wish anyone else to be.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Rosemary, for your acceptance of me as I know I am accepted by God. Regarding the innermost thought of our hearts; only God is privy to them. If we know, in our hearts, that God does not judge us, we have nothing to fear from the judgement of fellow human beings. Thanks be to God! Let's all try to be better at not judging one another.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm (at 11.56 am): your comment raises issues I will deal with in a separate post!

Hi Rosemary, Thank you for a warm appreciation of commenters here, including me!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
Your point about "in Christ" is well made. There is a teaching there that I know I have neglected.

On the question of whether the unity of the church is God's will, when it disagrees over what the truth is, I am entirely open to the possibility that God's will is misunderstood by me!

Father Ron Smith said...

You are right in your assessment of our opinions, Peter. Scripture reminds us that "Here, we see through a glass, darkly" but one day, please God, "We shall see Him, face to face". Agape.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I do not wish lawyers or courts on the questions that I posed; it is simply a matter of the wise man building his house upon the rock. Since your structural church has an Act of parliament as its rock, you need to be clear that your new round of soul searching and dialogue is not sand-based. Otherwise despite all your wrestling with the issues and walking along side, you know what will happen in the heavy legal rain. Rev Bosco Peters' view could be rock; why doesn't someone find out legally?

Nick

Anonymous said...


"2. An Anglican who follows the scriptures as an *unnormed norm* can be, but need not be, *morally certain* that--

(a) The first Christians associated the Six Texts with persons whose desire for the same sex was cultivated rather than innate.

(b) In the providence of God, some persons have an unintended, uncultivated and innate desire for persons of the same sex.

(c) Such desires will be found to have a biological explanation.

"3. A Christian who believes (2) does not contradict (1) in approving a relationship like marriage for persons of the same sex, neither of whom has ever been attracted to the opposite sex."


Peter, Brendan, Brian--


Some replies to the counterplan seem to have overlooked the import of *moral certainty*, a term from moral theology. Moral agents are obliged to act, not on the basis of a perfect knowledge that is unavailable to them, but rather by balancing the urgency of the matter at hand against the relative certitude of the necessarily contingent (and sometimes mistaken) knowledge that human beings have.


In this instance, the causal origin of the homosexual desires described as "innate" (as distinct from "cultivated") is not known. Our sketchy knowledge about this is, not revealed and eternal, but rather empirical and contingent. For that very reason, our Bayesian priors, our selection of the evidence, or both may well lead us to reasonable doubts about (a), (b), and (c). Brendan and Brian are right about that.


But these are not grounds for doubting that other ordinary human beings are acting with the obligatory *moral certainty* when they follow their own Bayesian priors and selection of evidence to believe that (a), (b), and (c) are probably true enough to ground action (ie a changed view of the scope of a received interpretation of scripture). Indeed, if they both believe as the Church believes concerning what is revealed and eternal (ie that scripture is *norma normans non normata*) and act with due diligence with respect to the contingent unknowns (a), (b), and (c), then they do all that the Western Church has required of them.


It is hard to found a case for schism on a narrow disagreement about the import of inconclusive research. Nevertheless, should further investigations supersede the views plausible today, future moral agents will be similarly constrained by *moral certainty* to act in the light of it. And because the received teaching on marriage is both revealed and eternal, applications to changing circumstances can never be more than conjectural and contingent. This is why the camel cannot follow his nose into the tent of a scriptural church.


Bowman Walton


PS-- Sorry to be so slow to reply. This is a busy year Up Yonder...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I am trying to get my head around what your fine logic means in everyday "Anglicanspeak"!

Are you saying that (a) both sides have their points (b) each side should respect the logic of the other (i.e. better than we often experience in current debates), and (c) the combination of (a) and (b) mean that we do not really have sufficient grounds for schism on this particular matter?