Saturday, June 16, 2018

I agree

A recent letter to Latimer Fellowship members (available here) raises some intriguing questions about ecclesiology as the (unnamed) author proposes that while the decision of the GS re blessings is a first order issue (and thus one might depart ACANZP because of that magnitude) it is a second order issue whether one chooses to stay or go.

"While the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and the need for repentance for sexual sin is a matter of first importance (for salvation depends on us repenting of our sin), I would argue that the decision of if and how to leave or stay, is a secondary matter."

Ecclesiologically, this statement begs questions about who decides what is of first and of secondary importance, as well as who decides what sexual sin is. After all, the letter is premised on disputing a decision of the General Synod, so a question of relevant authority is involved here!

On the matter of first and secondary importance I suggest the argument here is an argument we Protestants are happy to make but a Roman Catholic would not necessarily be so sanguine about a first order matter having a discretionary second order response.

There is also a soteriological question to consider along the way: is salvation dependent on our repenting of our sin? And that is a genuine question: we can marshall, say the example of Zacchaeus into discussion, we can consider whether "repentance" becomes a Pelagian style "work" when expressed as a sufficient condition for losing salvation and we can ask whether repentance is something we do in order that we might be saved or whether repentance is something we do as we are being saved.

But back to ecclesiology. The author of the letter writes this re the life of the church and working through secondary importance differences:

"These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways."

I agree.

I would extend the scope of the sentence to include the decision of GS itself. It is precisely a decision about brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to the Bible and yet are able to respond in different ways.

The greatest grief in my heart right now is that decisions are being made about congregations departing ACANZP which are unnecessary.

And they are unnecessary precisely because of the brilliant statement in the letter being overlooked in congregational deliberations:

"These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways."

It is Anglicanism 101 that we believe this, practice it and live together in the one tent.

5 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, even Jesus did not necessarily expect a person to express remorse for their known sins before pronouncing his forgiveness.

Because of the expection of the 'woman caught in the act of adultery' that she would be killed by being stoned (with the sanction of The Law) she might have been expected - at least by her would-be persecutors (The Scribes and Pharisees) - to have at the very least to have to ask Jesus for forgiveness, Seemingly, though, Jesus pronounced his forgiveness - BEFORE advising her to abandon her way of life - Was this lest lest she, later, be stoned to death by the enactment of The Law.

In other words, what The Law required could be different from Jesus' expectation of a sinner. This is where God's mercy is greater than the requirements of the Law.

Liturgy said...

If I were a member of Latimer, I would be concerned, in our current highly incendiary context, to have an anonymous (“I”) speaking on behalf of the whole organisation (“we”).

This anonymous author puts a particular spin on the GSTHW decision. I see it no different to Anglicans being free to differ on the understanding of marriage after divorce, and little different to Anglicans holding different positions on blessing weapons of war, the exact nature of Christ’s eucharistic presence, the use of different forms of contraception, and so forth. Tragically, Committed Same-Sex Couples has become something of an Anglican obsession these last few decades.

Has this anonymous author really engaged seriously with this issue in relation to those who differ? The very point of the difference is in the author's sentence: "These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways".

Most concerning, not simply theologically, but consequentially pastorally, is the Pelagian teaching that our salvation is dependent on our repentance, the quality of our repentance, the fullness of the sincerity of our repentance. Good luck finding anyone who can with full integrity of heart say they have fully repented of their sin.

Furthermore, the anonymous author has not grappled with the distinction between what is wrong (and evil) and what is sin. Something is a sin if one consciously and freely chooses to do what is wrong/evil. Conscience is primary - and if one does wrong, sincerely believing it is right, it remains wrong but is not a sin.

Certainly, if one is so inclined, one could argue that salvation is risked if one freely chooses to do what one believes to be a grave evil. But the suggestion that salvation is imperilled by doing what one believes to be right is a gross distortion of the Good News and a parody of a loving God.

Blessings

Bosco
www.liturgy.co.nz

David Wilson said...

Fr Ron,

your comment puzzles me. Forgive me (!) if I have misunderstood. You seem to be saying something like that the only reason that Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to "leave [her] life of sin" was to avoid the possiblity of her being caught again and thus stoned.

This seems impossible to accept. Jesus did not dilute the law regarding adultery. Rather, he reinforced it by internalising it. "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Mark starts his description of Jesus' ministry with a statement which gives a summary

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’

The response which Jesus requires in relation to the arrival of the Kingdom is repentance and belief.

We do not know all that went on between Jesus and the woman. What did he see in her eyes. Perhaps Jesus' instruction itself opened for the woman the very possibility of turning from (repenting of) her life of sin. This is the Law as promise rather than condemnation. "Thou shalt not commit adultery" can be taken either way.

Father Ron Smith said...

David (Wilson), with regard to your response to my last post on this thread; certainly, Jesus would have been aware of the FACT that, if the Law-givers had another occasion to 'find' the adulterous woman sinning - when Jesus was not there to defend her against this monstrosity of 'The Law'- she would probably have received the legal punishment. That is one part of the equation. It was the forgiveness of Jesus that would have encouraged her NOT to sin further - not the threat of more persecution.

The other, is the matter of the legal penalty about to be exacted by other guilty 'sinners' against a woman (not the man/men, you will notice, only the woman). It would seem that Jesus found this untenable - and therefore this Law to be societally unjust.

One cannot but see the possibility that the penalties of 'Law' being exacted by today's rigorists opposing LGBTI people in the Church whose own private consciences do not condemn them for their loving legal relationships - is unjust and should not incur the 'penalty' (exclusion) required by religious gatekeepers of an outdated 'law' that even moderate Christian society no longer deems tenable.

Jesus, after all, came to 'set us free from the law of sin and death', which can only condemn, rather than offer the prospect of reconciliation and forgiveness - which Christ on the Cross has already vouchsafed in the Gospel

I am wholeheartedly in agreement with Fr. Bosco Peter's comment here:

"Certainly, if one is so inclined, one could argue that salvation is risked if one freely chooses to do what one believes to be a grave evil. But the suggestion that salvation is imperilled by doing what one believes to be right is a gross distortion of the Good News and a parody of a loving God."

wdg_pgh said...

Reading these comments, especially Father Bosco Peter's comment and Father John Smith’s reply to Davis Wilson, puts me in mind of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. In Twain’s novel the boy Huck is torn between helping his friend, the slave Jim, and avoiding what he has been taught is a sin so bad as to condemn him to hell, i.e. helping a slave to freedom. Huck chooses to help his friend even if by doing so he may be sending his own soul to hell. Of course Twain’s point was that what we are taught is good or evil may well be (in Father Smith's words) “unjust and should not incur the 'penalty' ... required by religious gatekeepers of an outdated 'law' that even moderate Christian society no longer deems tenable,” keeping in mind that American slavery was supposedly well supported at the time by scripture.

Bill Ghrist