Monday, January 22, 2018

The Final Report: can we live with the accommodation it offers? (Part 2)

Further on the Final Report of the Motion 29 Working Group - Part One is immediately above. A link to the report is at the beginning of that post.

I read an article when I was at Knox Theological Hall in the mid '80s and now have only a vague notion of its title etc but it went something like below (and I recall one or two other articles and books through the years which have proffered similar notions):-

In the first century there were several strategies in Palestine for either coping with or even keeping at bay the onslaught of Roman rule and Graeco-Roman culture. Handily (and this is why I remember the article) the writer found a series of "i" words to characterise the strategies, though I am not confident I have got the word for the Sadducees correct.

Zealots tried insurrection - military rebellion, violence - and failed miserably.

Pharisees tried insulation - hedging themselves in communities with various rules while also remaining in the wider society - a relative degree of success, indeed this was a strategy which many Jewish groups since have used effectively.

Essenes tried isolation - a step beyond the Pharisees (for the Essenes had some rules too) because the Essenes took themselves as far as practicable away from the Romans, residing in the desert - a limited degree of success, or even, they simply, in the end, failed and their community ceased to exist.

Sadducees tried integration - you cannot beat the Romans so why not join them by working hand in glove with them? Was integrating themselves (ingratiating themselves?) with the Romans easier because they rejected the idea of resurrection or because they came from that strata of society which rather liked to lead?

Christians tried incorporation - and succeeded rather well, because eventually the whole Empire became "Christendom." That is, while here and there, perforce of circumstances, Christian communities embraced aspects of insulation and isolation, they generally worked to a longer term and large vision for their strategy, one which was about "offence" rather than "defence."

Ever since reading that article I have appreciated that in any given situation in which a group interacts with another, different group, one or more of the above strategies is employed, consciously or unconsciously.

I suggest, below, that, when we consider possible responses to the Final Report (assuming, hypothetically, that GS passes in toto its recommendations) three of the strategies above are relevant as we consider possible structural (or quasi-structural) change.

The Final Report: against isolation, soft support for insulation, offering incorporation?

If any member of our church (or ministry unit or episcopal unit) wants to be Anglican in a different way because the report and its recommendations are implemented, there are three different ways on the table or dropped off the table, according to the Final Report's evaluation.

Extra Provincial Diocese (EPDio): as I understand this possibility, a group of parishes would be formed as a diocese which was not part of the "province" of the Anglican church of these islands but was part of the Anglican Communion. Some EPDios exist, though I am not aware of any within the Communion which are the result of leaving an existing province while remaining within the territory of that province. The Final Report rejects this option and gives cogent reasons for doing so (p. 14).

Forming an EPDio would be a strategy of isolation. The parishes so gathered together would be isolated from ACANZP in at least this sense: they could claim to be no longer part of a body which had agreed with the recommendations of the Final Report. There are advantages to this strategy (as there were for the Essenes), particular in respect of preserving (what I will call here) purity of doctrine.

Alternative Episcopal Oversight (AEO): for some Anglicans (in various provinces, in recent decades) having an alternative bishop to relate to, whether for pastoral oversight or for sacramental duty, has been a help in remaining a part of a church which has made a decision or decisions which are almost but not completely impossible to live with.

It appears some Anglicans in our church feel that they can live with the kind of decision a GS implementing the Final Report's recommendations would be making, providing they could insulate themselves from (some of) the effects of the decision. That is, by being able to relate juridically to a diocesan bishop who disagreed with the decision, if need be, by pastorally and sacramentally relating to a bishop other than their diocesan bishop. The stronger step represented by a EPDio would not be required, according to this thinking.

The report offers what I am describing as "soft support" for this possibility, on p. 11 and at the foot of p. 14:

"[B2] [p. 11] The WG recommends that the House of Bishops consider developing guidelines for the provision of alternative episcopal oversight in situations where relationships in dioceses or amorangi become impaired."

The WG thinks this will greatly assist in safeguarding those of differing convictions while ensuring that the role and rights of bishops are respected. "

"[H1] [p. 14] [having rejected EPDio] ... We note however, that should faithful Anglicans in this Church wish to consider other ecclesial arrangements, it would be appropriate for this Church to consider how best to embrace this challenge with the same grace and spirit as is reflected in Motion 29; seeking to find ‘breathing room’ for one another; to live out our commitment to each other in the light and life of the gospel."

This is "soft" rather than "strong" because it is not a recommendation to GS for legislation its members vote on but for the HoB to "consider" the development of guidelines.

Nevertheless, it is on the table for discussion.

Christian Communities: The Final Report, having moved on from a stumbling block in the Interim Report re Religious Orders and Religious Communities, is focused on and supportive of the idea of Christian Communities (pp. 13-14). In fact it

"recommends recognition of Christian Communities in this Church ... bound by common bonds of affection and theological conviction; being able to remain involved in the life of a parish, the diocese and this Church."

Note that this language means Christian Communities could be formed by conservatives or progressives on the matter at hand, but also for other reasons (e.g.) proponents of the exclusive use of the Book of Common Prayer, parishes which believe the purest form of eucharistic worship is a carbon copy of the Roman Mass, etc. I am thinking of forming a Christian Community for those who commit to only using the NZPB for services :)

Psychologically this option could be helpful to those feeling isolated by proposed changes or who wish to insulate themselves from the rest of the church but structurally this option is utterly mainstream within the continuing structure of ACANZP:

"... members of the Christian Community continue to be part of this Church." 

That is, while adhering to the specific constitution of the Community, members would continue to be subject to the discipline both of the wider church through canons and the Constitution and of the local diocesan bishop. There is not necessarily a connection between Christian Communities and AEO.

A strength of this proposal is that it gives those who believe their view of things (see examples above) the opportunity as a united and recognised group to advance that view across the wider church - an opportunity for a strategy of incorporation, that is, of remaining inside the church in order through time to win over the church to a particular understanding of a holy, blessed life.

On GLBT matters, if conservatives are ultimately correct, let's see that view incorporate the rest of the church through the next decades. If progressives are ultimately correct, let's see ... you get my drift!

A further strength of the proposal is that it should prevent SSB being thin end of the wedgist. That is, for conservatives like myself who are open to SSB being permitted but unable to see how changing our doctrine of marriage is consistent with our constitution, the formation of a Christian Community around this view would be an ongoing signal to General Synod that resistance to changing the doctrine of marriage itself is a characteristic of our church's life.

Readers will have various views on this analysis and differing preferences for the future structure of our church to which they (and their ministry units, episcopal units) wish to belong.

What do you think?

Has the Final Report got the options re structure (a) right, and (b) well reasoned?

If you prefer EPDio, do you think the rest of the Communion would agree to it?

If you lean towards AEO, is that a personal preference or also a preference of your ministry unit?

Are you interested (might your ministry unit be interested) in forming a Christian Community?


Peter Carrell said...

(From Bowman Walton)

Considering persons who dislike SSB, Peter, are their readings of the Six Texts, their objections to SSB, and their choices of I correlated? There seem to be two rough approaches--

(a) Taken as divine law in God's word written, the Six Texts are chiefly and precisely homophobic, declaring homosexual acts to be intrinsically evil in every possible situation. Action consistent with them dutifully opposes such acts as intrinsically evil at every opportunity. This opposition is not constrained by a duty to treat error/sin as equal to truth/obedience. And it is inconsistent with participation in-- even mere identification with-- a church body that to any degree endorses these deeds. Thus the Six Texts presently require a separated community in Isolation, either an *Extra Provincial Diocese* or a distinct *continuing church* aligned with GAFCON.

(b) Taken as part of the whole canon, the Six Texts are heteronormal, but not homophobic. Action consistent with them upholds scriptural belief in the man/woman dyad as a human universal sacred to the Creator God, as well as a rich body of related practise. Such a belief and practise cannot survive and thrive without a *community of practise* that Insulates traditional excellence from mediocrity and subversion, and that as far as possible Incorporates the wider world where so much pain necessarily arises from ignorance of the dyad and its Creator. A *Christian community* may suffice to Insulate a robust *community of practise*, and over time *Alternative Episcopal Oversight* may enable it to Incorporate those around it.

Anonymous said...

My 1:27, posted by Peter, is a brief description of the two main ways of disliking SSB. This is a still more brief comparison of those two positions.

(1a) Those who agree with (a) cannot even be associated with those who practise SSB, and the only question for them is simply how much distance from it their duty requires. That is what proponents of (a) say for themselves, again and again, and given their premises, their deduction seems beyond reasonable doubt.

(1b) But those who agree with (b) have an ironic positive motivation for staying with those who practise SSB: the former have a duty to protect the latter from their spiritual blindness, not just with respect to homosexuality, but also with respect to heterosexuality. Plainly stated, even if the proponents of SSB have their social ethics right, they lack a revealed basis for adequate pastoral care of those in Christ as women and men, and that fault will do harm that the (b) team have no right to walk away from, and a positive duty to contain and repair.

(2b) The (b) team need a context for cultivating the patterns of life that come of receiving what the scriptures say about the dyad. This need not be utterly dissociated from proponents of SSB as a strategy for helping the homosexual 3%, but it does need to be a place where a body of practise is cultivated apart from those who scorn the dyad to help those alienated from it.

(2a) The (a) team need and deserve a just and pastorally sensitive way out. While they likely should be given some provisions for the road, it may also be important to them that any buildings etc that they leave behind be devoted to the work of the (b) team with they have argued the most, but with which they also have the most sympathy.

Anonymous said...

(3) Both constituencies have a reading of the Six Texts in which homosexuality is clearly mentioned, and each reading seems consistent with the respective way its proponents usually read the Bible. Both sorts of reading recognise that the faithful reader is in the Bible that s/he reads, and both have precedents acknowledged as classical by Anglicans. Hypothetically, either or both could be faulty, but neither way of reading the Bible is strange to Anglicans.

(4a) Christians have always believed that they might be directly addressed by the Holy Spirit in particular verses of text. A way of reading that emphasises alertness to this over other considerations been cultivated by those following Richard Baxter, Jeremy Taylor, and William Law from the late C17.

(4b) Christians have always been conscious of the canon as a narrative of salvation with cosmic, historical, and personal processes in which they participate. Among Anglicans, SS Augustine, Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Cyril have been the most influential early exemplars. Nearer the Reformation, Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, John Donne, and Richard Davenant had this big picture in view as they navigated between the Scylla and Charybdis of Roman teaching on infused grace and the Continental Reformed teaching on double predestination.

(4c) The classic study of the tension between these two tendencies in Anglicanism was published in 1966 by the conservative evangelical Bishop of South Carolina, C. FitzSimons Allison, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter. Worth comparing with that is Janice Knight's discovery of a similar tension among Puritans in England and New England, Orthodoxies in Massachusetts. Some have seen this difference of pieties as analogous to the *dissociation of sensibilities* in English poetry famously described by T. S. Eliot.

Anonymous said...

(5) Those who dislike SSB are often urged to empathise with homosexuals, or scolded for not doing so enough, but it does not seem that more or less of that would make any difference at all to the way these readers generally understand the scriptures after lifetimes of studying them. Indeed, many (a) have admitted that they are distressed by the conclusion to which their faith has led them. That many proponents SSB do not understand and indeed respect praiseworthy devotion to God's word has embittered discussion of their proposal.

(6) Those who like SSB sometimes disparage the Bible as a source of moral insight. This comparison illumines one reason why some do this so often-- despite their allegiance to modern critical study of the scriptures, these proponents read the Bible for practical purposes much as their (a) opponents do, so that the latter think that they are hypocrites and the former disavow biblical guidance for fear that this may be true. After all, they read the Six Texts the same way. But surely it is wiser to prefer the (b) reading, which has actually learned from modern critical study, is also the one with the deepest roots in sacred tradition, and has the most to teach today? Whether doing so can be called *sola scriptura* is a matter of theological taste.

(7) A comparison of (a) and (b) on the basis of their implicit systematic theologies is beyond the scope of this brief comment. But the reader may ponder their respective relations to the Team (a) and Team (b) discussed on recent threads. Here we note only that (b)'s [and Team (b)'s] greater emphasis on *new creation* seems to offer a basis for re-evangelisation in the wider society, but one startling to those who see only progress and not also decay.


James said...

I'm still a little unsure that the Christian communities genuinely offer sufficient protection to ministry units of one theological persuasion or another.

For example, a conservative parish under a liberal bishop will have to put up with that bishop and other parishes in the diocese conducting same sex blessings. How can that parish in good conscience continue serving under that bishop and within a diocese if (perceived) heretical / non-biblical acts are being practised? The Christian communities themselves are answerable to the house of bishops, so I fail to see what real protection there is for conservatives serving in a liberal diocese. How can a conservative continue to subject themselves to the discipline of a bishop conducting something so contrary to his or her theology?

(I know I am only referring to two sides here where there is a spectrum of views, but for simplicity's sake please allow me!)

And I believe that the report offers insufficient comfort for chaplains, in particular military chaplains. If the advising bishop to (for example) the NZDF allows for SSB, and a conservative chaplain does not wish to do so, what protection exists for that chaplain, who will inevitably be exposed to attack from certain liberals in the NZDF with an agenda?

Those are my main reservations about a report which does a very good job of trying to square a stubborn circle!

David Wilson said...


Your 5 I's reminded me of Richard Niebuhr's book "Christ and Culture". While not identical, there are definite similarities with his:

a) Christ against Culture
b) Christ of Culture
c) Christ above Culture
d) Christ and Culture in Paradox
e) Christ the Transformer of Culture

The 'battle' between the opponents of SSM and SSB and the proponents is a battle between (a) and (b) (taken as read that modern Western culture has become largely accepting of same sex sexual activity, and classes any opposition to that viewpoint as 'homophobic'.)

My view is that Christ should be the Transformer of Culture. Perhaps the paradigm is John 8.11: "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin."

I don't really know how we can do this. Perhaps it is in creating within our Christian communities places where we enable one another to leave our lives of sin (and, of course, by no means only sexual sin).

Peter Carrell said...

Dear James,
That hypothetical parish might be able to live with what it considers to be an errant bishop in the same way that parishes have learned to live with errant bishops in the past - bishops, say, who have been remarried divorcees, or who have publicly preached dodgy things about the resurrection, or who have been observed to less than faithfully follow the rubrics of the liturgies.

To such a hypothetical parish I would say, Try the Christian Community route and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, you could then consider more drastic alternatives. But if you leave now it will be difficult (though not impossible) to reverse the decision.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear David
Yes, indeed, a reminder of Niebuhr.
My point about incorporation is about whether we remain committed to transforming the church ... from within!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman
Might you be over-complicating matters (albeit with a deeper, more precise analysis than I have offered)?
I think it simpler, talking to the so called average Anglican, to talk about whether our response to the report is one of isolating ourselves from fellow Anglicans, or insulating ourselves, or remaining in order to attempt to persuade them of our viewpoint.

Glen Young said...

Hi Bowman,

Have enjoyed your epistles and they would surely be the basis of excellent Pastoral Care; however, the situation in NZ is that the Constitution is an insuperable barrier to this Report ever being legally acceptable.This mess has arisen, because from the beginning, the wrong question was asked; that is, how can the blessing of Same Sex relationships and the conservatives exist in the same Church. The first question should have explored whether both parties had a valid right to exist in the ACANZP. The pre-assumption of the Ma Whea Commission was that they did; however, after all this time and effort, the validity of that assumption, that legally, Same Sex Relationships can be blessed has not surfaced.

Anonymous said...

James and Glen, because there are two sorts of conservative, (a) and (b), there could be two different conservative responses to the situation James describe.

As he says, those who choose not to be associated with anything like SSM-- (a)-- are obviously not protected simply by belonging to *Christian communities*. They may prefer "isolating [themselves] from fellow Anglicans" (Peter), either as an extraprovincial diocese or else as a new church recognised by GAFCON.

But those who primarily want to protect and strengthen MWM in a cynical age-- (b)-- may find "Christian communities" helpful in establishing excellent teaching and practise and "insulating" it (Peter) from mediocrity and subversion. If they also have *Alternative Episcopal Oversight* they may even "persuade [others] of [their] viewpoint" (Peter).

Glen, you may be right. Is it possible, however, that the WG has sidestepped the problem you raise by severing the tie of SSB to SSM, and proposing that clergy not give SSB as a sacramental act of the Church? Since 39A XXV expressly denies that even matrimony is a sacrament, such a proposal would not be without some justification in the Formularies.

Average Anglicans, thank you for your reading! Peter is right, as usual. But please see my reply to James and Glen above anyway.


Glen Young said...

Hi Bowman,

What then are we talking about blessing? Two people having a platonic friendship while leading a celibate lifestyle. My mentor,Dr Anderson,argued that "the twain became one flesh" by spirit to spirit bonding in sex. Multiple partners leads to spirit to spirit bondaging and only God can undo that entanglement.

If that is the level of blessing being promoted, I do not think it will satisfy the gay community.