Monday, June 4, 2018

On the brink? schism among Anglicans Down Under in 2018

Here in Christchurch, possibly in a couple of other dioceses, we are on the brink of schism as several parishes meet aroundabout now to make decisions whether to stay or to leave ACANZP.

Caveats

1. I speak loosely re timing of decisions as it is not an intention of this post to discuss specific parishes and their decision-making processes; and do not mention any in the comments because such comments will not be published.
2. I also acknowledge that "leaving" is viewed differently from different sides of the matter: some think ACANZP in its majority has left, because of changes made last month at GSTHW 2018; some think the minority of parishes voting to "leave" are the ones who are leaving, even though they can claim to be remaining in terms of the constitution and canons of the church on 1 May 2018. Thus:
3. I will speak of parishes contemplating leaving in this sense of "leaving": leaving the polity of ACANZP as it is governed through June 2018 onwards by decisions made at the May 2018 session of GSTHW.

Is it too late to pull back from the brink? Four questions

As usual I am trying in my own mind - bear of little brain - to make sense of what the thinking is and also wondering, perhaps against hope at this late hour, whether the thinking can be changed. In particular, with the ease of hindsight, I wonder if various conversations and discussions, formal and informal, in recent years have failed to robustly address various matters. Such as:

A. Does God necessarily condemn partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union?

B. Is it "false teaching" to consider that the question above has a negative answer?

C. Is the Bible on marriage so clear on the ideal of marriage (one man, one woman, bound together for life, sex only acceptable within marriage and never, ever outside of marriage) that no pragmatic variations can be considered in the life of the church?

D. Must separation occur when false teaching is admitted into the life of the church?

As I seek to understand the thinking which is driving forward parishes towards decisions to leave the polity of ACANZP (June 2018 version) I sense that the answers to the four questions are Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.

My own answers and, by implication, the answers of the majority of GSTHW members are: No, No, No, and No.

Four answers, or reasons for staying in ACANZP (June 2018 version)

A. Does God necessarily condemn partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union?

No. I suggest (strongly!) that we simply do not have enough Scriptural evidence to determine that in the light of our modern knowledge of homosexuality (e.g. that it is unchosen and that it rarely changes as a lifelong orientation) we can be sure that God necessarily condemns partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union. For a specific consideration of 1 Corinthians on the matter, see now my post at Hermeneutics and Human Dignity.

B. Is it "false teaching" to consider that the question above has a negative answer?

No. With respect to human sexuality, the New Testament is clear that there are two kinds of false teaching, one is that sex/marriage is bad (e.g. 1 Timothy 4:3) and, two, that sexual indulgence/licentiousness is okay (e.g. Galatians 5:19-21). 

But, also with respect to human sexuality, the New Testament also clearly demonstrates that certain matters may be discussed and the result of the discussion does not necessarily entail those concluding the discussion differently to others are therefore "false teachers." Thus remarriage after divorce has intriguing variations across Matthew, Mark, Luke (and, also intriguingly, no concern in John) and then 1 Corinthians 7 demonstrates the early church tackling a question which had not been thought of when Jesus was being pressed for an answer. Also in 1 Corinthians, Paul can discuss restraint within marriage without raising the question of "false teaching" while also advancing the merits of celibacy without making marriage into a poor choice in comparison. There is no intrinsic reason, surveying all that the New Testament says about sex, marriage, sexual desire,  decisions made by civil authorities, mercy, love and judgment to presume that either Jesus or Paul or any apostle would consider that a church responding to changes in society, changes in understanding the human condition and formulating a proposal that lifelong commitment to the good of another person could be blessed is thereby entertaining "false teaching."

C. Is the Bible on marriage so clear on the ideal of marriage (one man, one woman, bound together for life, sex only acceptable within marriage and never, ever outside of marriage) that no pragmatic variations can be considered in the life of the church?

No. In part, an answer is above in the response to question B. But the Old Testament is a living reminder that even though the God of the whole Bible is, so to speak, a monogamist re marriage, there is pragmatic acceptance through much of the Old Testament, that polygamy is part and parcel of life in certain cultures, through specific periods of human history (part and parcel of "changes in society, changes in understanding the human condition and formulating a proposal that lifelong commitment to the good of another person could be blessed"). In John 4, Jesus, somewhat unaccountably, gives no specific direction to the Samaritan woman at the well to sort out her complicated marital/sexual life. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 acknowledges the power of sexual desire is more than strong enough to upend his commendation of celibacy as the desired state of life.

Further, this being written the day after Mark 2:23-3:6 is the gospel reading for the 9th Ordinary Sunday, the New Testament opens up important questions about the nature of rules and humanity: is humanity made in order to obey rules or are rules made to serve humanity, to enable us to flourish? When we move from certain NT statements to make those statements rules, are we moving in the direction Jesus moves or in the direction the scribes and the Pharisees moved in?

D. Must separation occur when false teaching is admitted into the life of the church?

No. Some of the severest challenges false teaching makes to church life come in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. At no point does the command of Jesus to the faithful require them to leave their churches. In fact, is there any point in the New Testament where false teaching is to be met by departure rather than by continued adherence to true teaching?

In conclusion

There is only one body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

We are already a set of separated "bodies" (human versions of the desired "one body"). It is tempting to think that one more separation doesn't matter. It does. The plan of God is for one body. There is ultimately only one body. We are all going to be with the Lord as one body, notwithstanding our differences and disagreements. We witness to that one body when we remain together. We increase the (admittedly slight) chance of unifying the churches when we cease our separations. I do not see in the differences before us the need to separate.

We are on the brink but it is not too late to step back.




83 comments:

Chris Darnell said...

Thank you Peter for this well thought through evaluation of the current situation.

I had the same reflections on yesterday's Gospel, and presented them to the congregation with great trepidation.

Is is heartbreaking to me that we cannot even agree to agree to disagree. Has nobody been actually listening to and wrestling with the dialogue?

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Chris.
Yes, the gospel was apt!

Tim Chesterton said...

Thank you for this Peter.

Father Ron Smith said...

GAFCON already built this sad scenario.

Anonymous said...

Well, you can't say you weren't warned about the consequences of un-catholic and a-theological actions - and you went ahead and did it anyway - and you, Dr Carrell, voted for it. An appeal to fifty shades of doubt and uncertainty about the teaching of the Bible and the Church Catholic across the ages sounds extremely unconvincing.
Don't forget there were plenty of ecclesiastical voices in Jerusalem who said Jeremiah was wrong, who put him in a well and would have killed him too. Who was correct and who was condemned?

William

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Thank you for your comments. I pray that God's Spirit will guide ACANZP into truth as its various parishes consider their future.

I guess my starting point would be question C - everything flows out from what God sets out for us as the pattern for marriage. God does that for us in Genesis 2 - a man and woman becoming one flesh. We see other variations described throughout the Bible, but that pattern is consistently taught and affirmed throughout the Bible. Celibacy and marriage is a choice between two good options, not a good option and a sinful option. Of course, Jesus shows grace to people from all sorts of sinful backgrounds, but I would argue in both John 4 and John 8, there is a call to a new life of faithfulness. Human rules in addition to the Scriptures are indeed condemned, but if we follow your argument to its logical conclusion there would be no limits to any behaviour society now tells us is acceptable.
From there, I would say the answer to A is that God condemns all sin and calls sinners to repentance. And for a church to participate in blessing something he condemns is a grave matter indeed.
Likewise, my answer to B is yes because the answer to C is yes. This is not a disputable matter where the Bible is silent and we can hold different views.
My answer to D would be a rather Anglican "it depends on the circumstances". In most of the Biblical texts, the apostles still have the authority to discipline and remove false leaders. They certainly threaten to come and remove false teachers. They also warn against giving hospitality to travelling false teachers.In a situation where the whole church has embraced false teaching as its official doctrine and there is no hope of repentance or discipline, my answer would be a sad Yes. I don't know enough about the situation in ACANZP to judge whether your circumstances are at that point.

Brendan McNeill said...

Peter,

I had determined not to contribute to your blog again following the church’s embrace of SSB, however your response to the four questions you raise cannot be allowed to go unchallenged, especially given your influential position in the Anglican diocese.

A. Does God necessarily condemn partners to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union?

Yes. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s created order is male and female, complementary sexes, united in marriage as one flesh. This sexual union, the only one affirmed in Mosaic Law, and singularly affirmed by Jesus in the New Testament doubles as a metaphor for Christ and his Bride, the Church.

All references to homosexual unions are universally condemned in Scripture, and in 2000 years of church history. To suggest we are in possession of new knowledge that negates both the teaching of Scripture and the Apostles doctrine is an absurdity; one to be repented of.

B. Is it "false teaching" to consider that the question above has a negative answer?

Yes, clearly.

C. Is the Bible on marriage so clear on the ideal of marriage (one man, one woman, bound together for life, sex only acceptable within marriage and never, ever outside of marriage) that no pragmatic variations can be considered in the life of the church?

Yes.

D. Must separation occur when false teaching is admitted into the life of the church?

It depends on the nature of the teaching. In some instances, there can be genuine differences in understanding that can be accommodated, for example with baptism, believers or infant? However, when the teaching in question contradicts the foundational make up of marriage between one man and one woman, and legitimises, even bless extra marital sexual relationships, then error of this magnitude cannot be accommodated. If the Bishops refuse to exercise church discipline by refuting false teaching, and calling the originators to repentance, then the entire institution is corrupted by this obvious sin. Those who remain faithful to the gospel and to the Word of God are obligated to challenge such teaching, and if they are not acknowledged, they have no choice but to leave behind that which God cannot bless. Some orthodox clergy may elect to stay hoping to change the Anglican church from within. In my assessment, this is a forlorn hope. Never the less, I respect their choice.

SSB/SSM in the church is a political response to a theological problem. There is still time for Bishops to acknowledge their failure to uphold the teaching and doctrines of the church on the nature of marriage, and to publically repent. What chance of that happening do you think?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
Our actions may be "un-catholic" but we appear to have some empathy coming from a well known Catholic called Francis!

Dear Andrew
You are right that the general thrust and tenor of Scripture is towards marriage and celibacy as the alternative. But there is also a general thrust and tenor in Scripture towards mercy and kindness. I don't see in your response (careful and penetrating as it is) actual engagement with the possibility that God might look kindly and mercifully on those unable to marry (man/woman) but who cannot bear the burden of celibacy.

Dear Brendan,
We are not involved in politics versus theology but we are involved in people's lives, as Jesus was when he bent the rules to heal on the Sabbath. (The political nature of the resolution we have reached is because we disagree about what that involvement in people's lives should be and so the politics of the church is an attempt to hold the two answers in one body).
As for influence: IF ONLY! The people I would really like to persuade on this matter are pretty much uniformly telling me I am COMPLETELY UNPERSUASIVE. But I thought it worth one final go :) And I am pleased that you have commented!!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Who was correct and who was condemned/"- William

Well, William, there was one very famous precedent - post conservative O.T. theology:

Jesus, The Messiah, was correct in bringing a 'New Covenant' - Love over Law. He was condemned by the Keepers of the Law. They were so riled they had him put to death.

"Intentional Schism is a horrid Thing".

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; I’m genuinely sorry if there really is a prospect of schism, but there again there are many schismatics who trace their roots to the Church of England; some of them say they are better for the schism. I’m sure you see the benefits of splitting from Rome. I’m not sure that your ABC questions assist you. Ultimately you appear to favour a pastoral solution for a minority (let’s be very clear about the low numbers) that ignores tradition. Surprisingly of all the more pressing issues, this truly western affectation is your focus. No one is forced to be a Christian and we cannot negotiate the terms. That is a truth that clergy including Francis need to understand.

Anonymous said...

Recently, here up yonder, World Vision was willing to hire Christians in SSM. For about a day. Then the wrath of their supporters led them to walk this back.

Reflecting on the polarised debate about this on Twitter et al, Michael Pahl has given the two usual poles of Christian opinion even catchier names than our Team A and Team B-- BBCs (Biblical Bible Christians) and JBCs (Jesus Bible Christians). He too draws this distinction in an irenic spirit, recognising even as a proud JBC neutestamentler that there are some just plain flaky JBCs and also some BBCs who have a quite sophisticated understanding of scripture.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/04/04/wv-bbcs-and-jbcs/

In a more recent controversy, + Michael Curry preached at a royal wedding, and Christian reactions were again polarised in the now-usual way. Some BBCs (our Team A) denied that the sermon was even Christian because it went on and on about love and even social justice but not about not PSA. This perplexed JBCs (our Team B) who recalled how moved they had been by the bishop's several trenchant comments about Jesus on the cross. Again, Michael Pahl--

https://michaelpahl.com/2018/05/23/christianity-lite/

From comments on ADU, I get the impression that if one could swap the controversies, one would get the same result. If the GS of ACANZP were to formally endorse the TEC PB's sermon as the authoritative model of effective evangelism, the same persons and churches would rend their garments and ponder leaving over that. Moreover, debate over this would polarise, and each pole would again make similar criticisms of the position of the other. The Team A/BBC view of everything and the Team B/JBC view of everything tend to diverge. Outliers do exist-- I am one of them-- but the overall pattern is too tidy to miss, and commentators here frequently allude to it.

The second question is: why do they not collaborate? I can readily understand each team's belief in the virtues of its own thinking, but I do not understand nearly as well its rejection of the other team's approach. Most importantly, why are these habits and views seen as replacing each other rather than as overlapping? Can what we have so carefully separated be cross-bred for hybrid vigour?

But the first question is: what dark power leads persons to want the divide in the Body to deepen? Gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow, lust, anger, vainglory, or pride? (Evagrius Ponticus) Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, or sloth? (Gregory the Great)

If churches rift apart along the same fault lines as their societies, how are they salt or light?

BW

Anonymous said...

Once again Father Ron Smith displays his amazing aptitude for entirely missing the point of contributors' comments, before segue-ing into a reiteration of 1960s John Robinson "theology" - 'All you need is love'. (He hasn't found the courage to move onto 'Imagine', it seems, but liberal post-Christian NZ has.) I don't know who Father Smith's Messiah is, but it is plainly not the character in the NT Gospels who was not condemned by the Sanhedrin for preaching 'Love, not law' but as a blasphemous messianic pretender; and who was killed not by the Sanhedrin but the Romans as a putative insurrectionist. This is clear to anyone who reads the Gospels with a bit of attention. Alas, that basic commodity appears to be in short supply.
Has ACANZP crossed a Rubicon? The liberal majority has long been there in the synods and among the bishops, but the parlous condition of so many parishes cannot be concealed, and one wonders how much dead men's money is still around to sustain parishes that barely muster 30-40 people on a Sunday (like St Luke's Wadestown, for example, or plenty of others) with no viable children's work to speak of, and the constant danger of deficits. If the biggest churches go, so will there money - and no doubt Tec-style lawsuits will break out to consume what little energy a failing church has left.
But now GAFCON is established, a faithful majority international Anglican structure is taking place and departing parishes will find a home there.

William

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Nick
I am not quite as keen as you are on admitting that I "ignore tradition": what our church has proposed is something well connected with tradition, the tradition of commitment to a life partner for life.

There are more pressing issues and I plan to get back to them soon ... hoping that our own local situation clarifies soon :)

Yes, there are benefits to splitting and they have been shown through history, albeit with different evaluations from different sides of the splits. 1054 and all that! I am not naive: our church may have written a suicide note and those who split, if they do so, may flourish beyond their wildest dreams.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman
Yes, why can we not work together?
Part of the answer is that we are not all Anglicans in our parishes - that is, Christians with an Anglican tendency to work together across great theological chasms. Many parishioners in Kiwiland are formerly Baptist/Pentecost/Reformed etc and bring with that an outlook that is more disposed to man the barricades in theological controversy than to build bridges.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
ACANZP may have crossed a Rubicon with disaster to follow but I would want to be very careful myself about predicting energy sapping lawsuits to follow. Such prediction implies a will and desire to go to court and my own conversations with those contemplating departure is that there is no such will or desire.
What is absolutely important is that if and when we can settle this controversy (whatever form that takes) we need to be in the business of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ the insurrectionist and Messiah.

James said...

Hi Peter

You need to test your assumption that "our modern knowledge of homosexuality [is] that it is unchosen and that it rarely changes as a lifelong orientation".

This link https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-006-9088-5 taken from this excellent article http://thefederalist.com/2018/05/30/neil-gorsuchs-question-key-unlocking-upcoming-masterpiece-cakeshop-decision/ may help your understanding.

In summary, researchers examined young people (more than 10,000 American youth aged from 16 to 22), meeting with them three times throughout a six-year period. 1.5 percent of males reported only having a romantic attraction to other males at the age of 17, but then 5 years later when that 1.5 percent were asked about their romantic attractions, the vast majority (70 percent) reported a 180 degree flip, stating that they only had romantic feelings for women. The results were similar for females, with only 1 percent of women maintaining an attraction only to women.

The mutability of same sex attraction is becoming more and more recognised as opposed to the old fashioned 'born this way, never changing' understanding. A recent article on Newshub describes how sexuality much more likely exists on a spectrum https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/05/does-sexuality-exist-on-a-spectrum.html

Finally, there are very many Christians who experience same sex attraction, but do not consider themselves 'comdemned' to a same-sex civil marriage or civil union, even with a very orthodox undersanding of biblical teaching on marriage. Vaughan Roberts and Sam Allberry are two English Anglicans with very interesting teachings on this matter, drawing on their own experiences as well as biblical teaching. A Christian who (through no mistake of his or her own) has same sex attraction, and which does not change over time (according to the studies above, a very small minority of people), can and should draw solace from Paul's teaching on singleness and the strength that he or she can be to the church.

Watering down the teaching in the bible on sexuality based on the false assumption that God has made people gay or lesbian, and orientation can never change, therefore for 'happiness' they need to be same-sex married is weak teaching, both biblically and empirically.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,
I am slightly astounded that you would use 'our modern knowledge of homosexuality' to explain or clarify scriptural evidence. Society and its norms are constantly changing. My guess is you grew up in a time when human sexuality was far different than it is now and that was only in the last 40 years or so. Much has changed as society desperately seeks to fulfill every need possible. If one was not a christian of course there is nothing wrong with people in any type of relationship for any length of time. So long as its fulfilling and loving while you are part of it. However, as a christian, the Bible must come first in our lives. God's wisdom and understanding is often totally different to my daily wants and needs but before Him must I lay down my life.A large part of that will involve persecution and discrimination as the road I walk is different to 'modern knowledge'. As you well know, it also involves great happiness, joy, hope and peace.
Our 'modern knowledge' would also disagree with your conclusion. According to society at large, my sexuality is always changing and relatively fluid. I am not specifically born with one orientation but am on a spectrum and this position can move as the days pass. You will have noticed that 'I am born this way' argument rarely exists anymore. For some of us our sexual orientation does not change, but for others over time, theirs does. The Bible calls us to put our lives before Him, to repent of all our sin - as defined by Him (not us), and to live for His glory. It is clear as others have mentioned, regarding marriage and same sex sexual unions. Therefore the answer to question A is yes.
It of great sadness that splits need to be discussed. They are painful and don't do much for the gospel. But they will also bring hope. People and churches need to wrestle with this decision. The conclusion that many churches around the world have come to, is that this is an issue of authority in God's complete word. God knew when He created us exactly what we would all struggle with but nothing is outside of His dominion, word and love.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Bowman

What is happening in the Anglican church is not the result of an arbitrary desire to identify an issue over which sides may be formed, and voices raised. The proposition before the church is that homosexual couples may live a blessed unrepentant life, in so far as their sexual relationship is concerned, and still inherit the Kingdom of God.

Anyone who has studied the Scriptures knows this to be untrue. No lie is of the truth. Jesus is the personification truth. In so far as Bishops and clergy within the Anglican church proclaim a lie, they are anti-truth, and presumably by definition anti-Christ. They are purveyors of false hope with damning eternal consequences for themselves and their hearers.

This is no small matter. This is not something easily overlooked.

It is true that many of us attending Anglican churches came from diverse theological backgrounds, and while the church remained orthodox in its doctrine and practice, it provided a home for many. However, if to be Anglican now means we must embrace another gospel, then it’s not surprising that individuals and entire congregations are leaving.

Anonymous said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_5:22

Shall we read this verse literally?

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi James and Anonymous (at 9.09 am; please use your first name at least)

If people's orientation is mutable I urge men to marry women and women to marry men.

My pastoral concern is for those whose self-testimony is of immutable orientation towards the same-sex.

I am not arguing that anyone "needs" to get married but I am proposing that the church might, at least via priests whose conscience so permits them to do so, and their bishops to so authorise, offer prayerful support and thanksgiving to those who find a loving partner and seek through mutual lifelong commitment to sacrificially love and serve that life partner.

Is God against love where it is found between two adults, neither of whom is exploiting the other?

Chris Spark said...

Hi Peter,
I have commented more fully at your Hermeneutics link you point to in this post regards Scriptureal issues.
But just to say, in addition to that - this is not just about rules, it is about trust in Jesus and his ways that they are good. The same arguments that are used here (and in some comments above about kindness and goodness) could well be used by someone who wants to leave their partner because they have found someone they truly connect with and their old marriage was 'dead' etc. The same could be used by someone who feels that it is not kind or good to offend people, and (for instance) to deny their entire religious upbringing, by holding to the exclusivity of John 14:6 and all the Christology that underlies it. And I can totally understand both of those arguments, and have sympathy with them. But at the end of the day, I trust Jesus and his message through his apostles, and that he knows what is kind and good even better than I do, or those who make such arguments.
It is right and good to wrestle with theological questions, to wrestle to do our best to understand the truth of the Scriptures and what they are saying in a particular case, and to wrestle through that together,. We have been doing that (not enough I would say, before this decision was made, but many of us tried for more! And still we did do the wrestling, and still are). But to make this change is, as has been made so very clear all the way through by many to all those involved in the decision, a divisive change. I am deeply, deeply sad about that, deeply sad, but it is where we find ourselves, and response to it is necessary in some way, because trust in Jesus and his ways is essential to who we are - indeed who we are as Anglicans, if our heritage and formularies have anything to say about it. And the thing is Peter, I think you have understood that, and with all due respect it strikes me you are being more hermeneutically tricky now than I have seen before, the timing of which worries me. That may just be my impression, but there you go.

BTW - BW - I quite liked Michael Curry's address, and I don't think I would have been ashamed to preach it in that context myself, not that I could have been as engaging - if the church changed to de-sanction PSA I would rend my garments as you say, but I don't have any desire to be divisive!

God bless all at this hard time

Father Ron Smith said...

"I don't know who Father Smith's Messiah is, but it is plainly not the character in the NT Gospels who was not condemned by the Sanhedrin for preaching 'Love, not law' but as a blasphemous messianic pretender; and who was killed not by the Sanhedrin but the Romans as a putative insurrectionist. This is clear to anyone who reads the Gospels with a bit of attention" - William -

William, may I refer you to passages of Scripture (the N.T. Gospels in fact)
that refer to Jesus criticising the Scribes and Pharisees for their 'lawful' intention to stone to death an adulteress? I guess that did not sit well with either the Sanhedrin or the Scribes and Keepers of the Law who faded away after being challenged by Jesus to "throw the first stone". One doesn't need to have a Doctorate in Biblical Theology to discern the underlying angst among the Sanhedrin membership - prompting one of them to recommend the death of Jesus in these words: "It is better for one man (Jesus) to die for the people". If Jesus had been a rigid upholder of their moralistic laws he may have been allowed by them to live to a ripe old age. Certainly, Jesus was no direct threat to Roman Government.

The ordinary people, on the other hand, who were recipients of the loving-kindness of God in Christ, recognised Jesus as their Healer, Reconciler and Redeemer. As for the Roman involvement in Jesus' crucifixion, it was only at the urging of the religious authorities, who presented Jesus as an enemy of the State. Perhaps, William, you need to pay more attention to the abiding undercurrent of Scripture that allows a more critical discernment than you may have been used to.

And, as for your accusation of my non-allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah - not only of the Jews but of the whole human race - My whole life - for the past 45 years - as both a Franciscan Brother and a priest in ACANZP - has been spent in the service of Jesus Christ. I meet him on an almost daily basis in the Eucharist. He is the inspiration for my daily life and work.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Chris
There is always the possibility that arguing for X with Y-type arguments means that (implicitly) Z is being argued for. (Some listening to sermons on Sunday on the Sabbath according to Mark 2-3 may have had exactly that thought in mind also).

My own sense - clearly not fully clear in the post above - is that everything the Bible teaches about marriage (and divorce and remarriage) is to be observed and should be observed, not least in order to lead a "dikoi" life. So to the extent that I am wittingly rather than unwittingly promoting this or that, I am not wittingly promoting faithlessness in marriage nor indeed multiple ways to God.

What I am trying to do is to work out whether Anglicans who love Jesus and trust in him but find themselves drawn to a shared life with another of their same sex (and unable to otherwise pursue marriage with someone of the opposite sex) must necessarily always find themselves in the position of being treated by the church as errant sinners who subscribe to false teaching. Perhaps this is so, and I am wrong. But I am also trying to reckon with the continuing faithfulness and dignity of same-sex partnered Anglicans in the life of our church.

I am prepared to live in a church which allows both options. It seems that you are not. Does leaving ACANZP increase the chances of those deemed heretics continuing to be engaged by the teaching which is leading to the leaving?

(Have found your comment at the other blog and responded to it.)

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Brendan!

Your side of the argument seems better defined than the other one. The only major disagreement that I see over there is over whether procreation is the telos of marriage. For now, it seems that the proponents of Yes are attracting support, which is exciting.

Worldwide, the other side comprises four distinct positions. Some accept that churches like the CoE and ACANZP must find a way to live with civil SSM, but are unsure what they should be. Some rather conservative but science-minded folk would prefer to accommodate civil union for any with an evidence-based belief that they are incapable of straight marriage. Persuasive or not, James's comment above seems pertinent to their position. Others influenced by feminism resist a procreational understanding of marriage between men and women. Still others seek an altogether non-biological definition of marriage (eg TEC's TFSM). Your comment seems most relevant to loud proclaimers of this one. A mixed bag.

But I suspect that all proponents do agree on at least one point. None of the proponents are likely to agree with you that doing This or That always and in every case leads to automatic everlasting torment. So-- a devout gay guy goes to church on Sunday, hears a bishop proclaiming that gay sex is heavenly, gets married on Monday, gets hit by a bus on Wednesday, and appears at the front desk of the Heavenly Mansions. On your account, he hears,

"Sorry, you did have a reservation with us, but it was cancelled at precisely 9:52:38 GMT on Tuesday. However, there is a new reservation for you at the Hotel Burnham. Shall I reserve a space in the next shuttle?"

He appeals to the General Manager:

"I would really rather stay at the Heavenly than go to the Burnham. Can something be done?"

"No, the cancellation is automatic. No managerial discretion allowed."

Michael Pahl's point, I think, is that this is the true divide. To his BBCs (my Team A), everything that Christianity has been, is, or can ever be depends on this deontological certitude that what one does at 9:52:38 GMT on Tuesday has an eternal consequence that cannot fail, and the Bible is mainly important as the divine source of that certitude. In contrast, his JBCs (my Team B) seem much less agreed about their personal eschatology, but they are very sure that it is not that one, and they read the scriptures (even the parts with rules and advice) mainly to know Jesus. For them, Christianity is about what Christ has done, is doing, and will do. Full stop.

BW

Anonymous said...

Thank you, James, for your 8:54 to Peter.

Is this a fair restatement of the argument you find at the links?

It is said that any discrimination with respect to a person's homosexual deeds is also done with respect to his being, which is bad.

To the contrary--

(1) Discrimination with respect to a person's being is bad, but discrimination with respect to his deeds is not bad.

(2) A person's being is that in him which is immutable.

(3) Insofar as sexual orientation is mutable, it is not part of a person's being.

(4) Therefore discrimination with respect to a person's homosexual deeds is not also done with respect to his being.

(5) Therefore discrimination with respect to a person's homosexual deeds is done with respect to deeds alone.

(6) Therefore it is not bad.

QED

Some will not grant the etic definition of personal being at (2) and so also (3). Is there a better restatement of those steps, or is this an actual matter of dispute?

BW

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Bowman

As you know there is much we agree upon, even around this topic. I’d suggest however that the “all you need is love” and “Jesus plus nothing” Christians have a theological problem. It was Jesus himself who said “If you love me keep my commandments”.

Now commandments sound a lot like rules to me. Rules that are fulfilled in the life of a believer through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, rules that are administered with grace and truth, but rules none the less. We can, and ought to have a theological discussion about what Jesus commandments are, and how they were understood and communicated by the Apostles, particularly in this context around sexual immorality. That would be a fruitful conversation.

We could and should have another conversation about the implications for Christians who ignores Jesus commandments, some or all of them. That too would be a fruitful conversation.

My sense however is that the “Jesus plus nothing” Christians have little desire to move beyond their understanding of an endlessly inclusive gospel, and a God who has moved on from concerns about sin, righteousness and judgement to come. He has certainly moved on beyond church discipline. It’s true that Jesus didn’t instruct the faithful in the churches of Revelation to leave and start again, but he did threaten to remove his candlestick unless they repented.

It was someone earlier on this blog who reflected that we cannot presume to be Christians on our own terms. It seems however that many Anglicans are determined to die trying.

Anonymous said...

Chris, blessed are the peacemakers; thank you for your comments here.

Your recent paper left me with four questions about your several exegetical findings--

(1) Are you among those who find norms for Christians in Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:18?

(2) If you know that the Six Texts were not first understood to refer to bisexuals seeking pleasure but avoiding procreation, how do you know this?

(3) How should a believer with persistent SSA make scriptural sense of the Lord's postponement of his deliverance?

(4) Does the canon mention any other instance of disordered attraction that is involuntary, intrinsically evil, and chronic?

(5) Within each kind, living things vary; how do you know that scriptural statements that are true for the vast majority of cases do not have even one anomaly?

BW

Chris Spark said...

Hi Peter, one last pitch here - I am not saying that because X and Y are being argued for Z is being argued for - that is not my point- I don't see you arguing for the other two explicitly or even necessarily implicitly. My point is the invalidity of arguing for Z in this way, because of the same argument for X and Y being invalid. Or to be more precise, the kind of argument that says it is not kind and good to hold those things because they are (seemingly to us) not kind and good has a lot of applications, and most of them seem invalid to me - including in the three areas (the same sex issue at hand, and the adultery and exclusivity of Christ issues I used as examples).

The false teaching issue I do want to be careful with - my primary concern is not said partnered couples by any means (although I question the Scriptural validity of their understanding of the Christian way to understand and manage their desires and longings, as I also question the wider Christian community's unwillingness to help them take up their cross by life-sharing and burden-sharing). They are individuals within a wider church structure with ideas and practises I differ with, like many others. Rather, my (and certainly many in my position) primary concern is the authority structures that have changed the doctrinal position of the church.

God bless

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, what seems not to have been understood by at least some of your recent correspondents here is that the most heinous of sins connected with human condition is the exploitation of another person. To my mind, this is what comes out clearly in Jesus' treatment, for instance, of the 'woman taken in the act of adultery'. He was kinder to the the woman than the male audience, whom The Law seemed not to punish so severely - if at all.

Exploitation in relationships - of whatever kind - is the real enemy of any human attitudes towards the rest of the created order - not least that of human sexuality. This is why rape and paedophilia are such a scourge in society. On the other hand, equal loving relationship that are mutually beneficial and legally sanctioned - without prejudice to the wellbeing of other people - help to build civilised society. Predatory relationships with any part of the Created order are a serious problem.

However, the human conscience does have a high priority. If conservative people have a conscientious horror of other people's committed, loving, lifelong same-sexual relationships, then even the Church cannot enforce their acceptance of an eirenic attitude towards a class of people they - in common with GAFCON - discern as death-dealing and unworthy of a ecclesial fellowship with them in the Body of Christ. Their own conscience has to live with that - now and in eternity.

One does, however, need to heed Christ's warning about judging other people's motivation. We are ALL sinners, subject to the same standards of behaviour - not just sexually but also relationally to the rest of creation.

I happen to think that the tenor of the Gospel demands a different understanding.

Glen Young said...


Hi Ron,

Your blogs certainly show an interesting understanding on the life and mission of Christ.They constantly speak of Jesus teaching LOVE and Tolerance and dismissing the LAW. And yet they accuse GAFCON of building this sad scenario -June 4th @ 5.58 PM.;when in fact it was TEC, who brought the split about by promoting the gay issue, and would not co-exist with the orthodox parishes and then sued all the departing parishes.It has cost millions and is still going on.Your blogs give a totally biased account of the history of the issue.

"Jesus the Messiah was correct in bring a 'New Covenant'-Love over Law. He was condemned by the Keepers of the Law. They were so riled by Him,they had Him put to death". June 4th @ 11.26 PM. John records Jesus as saying:
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another .."John 13/34. No mention of COVENANT. They,the Temple leaders had him put to death because
they had turned His Father's House of Prayer into a DEN of THIEVES and were using the LAW to subjugate the people into poverty by Temple taxes and money
changing and Jesus challenged them on this.They had perverted the function of the Temple away from GOD'S purpose, to serve their own greed.

"I meet Him [Jesus] on an almost daily basis in the Eucharist. He is the inspiration of my daily life and work". June 5th @ 10.45 AM.
I understood that Christ was everywhere and He did not only hang out in ACANZP Churches while they are having Eucharist. Maybe, it is this elitist
attitude of the Clergy that is driving people away from the Church.You see, some of us have everyday employment and have to make a living and don't need
pious clergymen telling us about how wonderful it is to meet Christ every day. Most of my days are spent in the garden, fulfilling the purpose for which He put man on earth.I am sure that He is often there with me.




Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, what your church has proposed is not “something well connected with tradition”. The tradition of commitment to a life partner for life has always been exclusively between a man and a woman with orientation irrelevant. Now, I accept that some may justify your Church’s recent decision on other grounds, but an appeal to tradition is demonstrably weak and best abandoned. Equally weak is the argument from love that has more in common with a Beatles song than the New Testament. Although I am unconvinced by new interpretations of the six texts, the interpretations do at least have some academic integrity.

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
Ok I didn't quite get that re the argumentation!
I think we are going to continue to disagree about the authority structures changing (the importance thereof). There is a formal change but informally we have never had a lay or ordained minister disciplined for teaching an accepting line on blessings of same sex partnerships. Further (as I also observe on the other blog) I have yet to see an argument that impresses on me the need to leave because of this change. To protest yes. To leave, no.

There is a theology of leaving, of schism and it is not actually being offered and articulated in our church at this time (as far as I can tell).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
It can be seen as a weak connection to the tradition but I think it stronger than that because it invokes biblical understanding of covenants, draws inspiration from biblical relationships (David and Jonathan (irrespective of whether that was a sexual relationship, it was and is an inspiring example); ditto Naomi and Ruth). It is - obviously - weakly connected to the tradition of marriage where that is focused on a husband and a wife - but not weakly connected to that tradition where it is focused on fidelity and permanence.

But perhaps it is more important to focus on whether we are in a new Galilean, Teilhard de Chardinian moment of new understanding about human sexuality. Something I think I mentioned a month or so back to you is an open possibility in the mind of at least one Catholic bishop resident between Palmerston North and Auckland!

Have you ever been puzzled by the insistence of John Newman that he be buried with Augustus John? An interesting fact from history, from the life of one who advanced the thesis that doctrine develops :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; I think Bowman has suggested (convincingly in my view) that personality influences the way we approach these issues. Some may try to bridge gaps that others find unprincipled. No-one should counsel schism and I hope that you avoid it. I am not surprised that there is at least one Catholic bishop whose thinking is open to change. With the ever increasing number of immigrants in our parishes, bishops will be careful which issues they prioritise. Change with us has to come from Rome in any case and even Francis cannot push a glacier.

Nick

Father Ron Smith said...

Glen, you are just regurgitating the same old arguments - based on law, when Jesus intended his Church to obey the NEW Commandment - without which his followers could not be recognised as being his disciples.

Regarding your remark about who was responsible for schism in the U.S.A. It was the people who actually walked away. They were hardly kicked out. Common sense should tell you that the schismatics are the ones who walk away - not those who remain loyal to the institution. Our General Synod has bent over backwards to accommodate the nay-sayers on S/S Blessings. If they go, it will be on their own heads. Don't blame us.
Anyway the dissenters will be getting their instruction at GAFCON right now, from the ex-Archbishop of Sydney. Watch this space.

Anonymous said...

By coincidence, Brendan, my major mentors in spirituality both explained the relation of law to life in Christ this way: obedience to the law is weeding the garden so that what you plant can grow. We must weed before we can plant, and we must continue to battle weeds and pests after we plant because the plant itself attracts them as the Lord gives it growth and fruit. But plainly we do have to plant, water, prune, and otherwise tend or we will have no fruit.

To JBCs, BBCs are strange gardeners who relentlessly weed a patch of soil as an end in itself, never planting anything. Frustrated by all that fruitless work and the grim mindset that is stuck on weed-death, the lighthearted JBCs want to lavish all of their effort and love on getting actual flowers and fruit. The shift of focus does make scriptural sense-- Jesus expects much more from us than diligent sin-fighting-- but, as BBCs would expect, the neglect of weeds and pests really hurts the yield! After a season of that, any JBC who really wants fruit will better balance the effort. I am not sure what finally gets BBCs to buy seeds and a watering can.

Most discussion of That Topic is uprooted from this dynamic.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Changing the focus slightly, and moving beyond what might change, something I admire Rome for is the way the Pope, and others, find language to draw people into the fold. Unfortunately the language of schism is a language which - yes, I know, it is an unintended consequence - conveys hostility and exclusion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Any further comments making speculative comments about the role of individuals will not be published.
You must provide internet links as evidence for such claims.
I am letting your comment above pass because GAFCON is in the background to present developments and may soon be in the foreground as key leaders here head to GAFCON 2018.

Glen Young said...


Hi Ron,

Common sense tells me that the schismatists are the ones who are changing the Church so that those who hold to the DOCTRINE upon the it was established are no longer part of it. TEC was told by the Communion in general not to go down the line it did; but it did and therefore are responsible for the schism that followed. Then out of the love, by which they show who they are following, they started litigation against the departing Parishes. The Church has not bent over backwards to accommodate the orthodox. I put in a submission covering the legal and Scriptural aspects of what the Ma Whea Commission was considering and asked to be heard. The Commission came to Auckland and spent the afternoon at St. Matthews but did not contact me. The pew sheet from St.Matt made it quite clear that the function of the Commission was to find a Church structure in which the Liberal and Conservative factions could live together. The decision to go ahead with the proposal had already been decided;they just had to determine a method.

Your blogs are continually barking at GAFCON and make a pretty good job of JUGGING some of it's leaders; which seems strange from someone who is constantly espousing LOVE.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Bowman

Thank you for the garden analogy, although in this instance the Genesis Chapter 3 garden story is more appropriate. We are called to live in obedience to God’s revealed truth, and not to eat of the forbidden fruit regardless of how pleasant it may appear.

All Christians commit sins, however no Christian who lives an unrepentant life will inherit the Kingdom. I may have repented of my sexual immorality, but if my life is characterised by greed or idolatry, then I am not walking has he walked. I am not following Christ, but rather my own sinful desires.

The Bible warns that sin is deceitful. It can appear rational, pleasant, loving, even fully justifiable. It may even be heralded by angels. Its followers may sing beautifully in the choir, serve at the table of the Lord, and preach from the Scriptures, but its wages are death.

How can we know if we are deceived by sin?

First, by measuring our lives, our attitudes our practices and our teaching by the revelation of Scripture. Does the Holy Spirit really lead us in ways contrary to the Word of God, to engage in sexual practices outside of marriage?

Second, are we walking in the faith that has been once delivered to us by those who have gone before? Loving what God loves and laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, running with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfector of our faith?

To be clear, the idea that our holy and loving God is willing to bless sexual sin in the life of a believer is a wicked deception. It destroys both the hearers and the teachers alike. It opens a spiritual door in the life of the church through which even darker forces may enter.

At the very least, it is a sin to be repented rather than celebrated. May God in his infinite mercy grant grace to those so affected.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Peter, for your advice. I will do my best to comply.

In the meantime, today's 'Daily Word' happened to focus on the love between David and Jonathan (Scriptural) which David described as 'above that of women'. Make of that what one likes, it DOES appear in Scripture!

Today's '3 Minute Retreat' from the Jesuits says this:

"Think of the last time you witnessed an act of selfless love. Perhaps you were the giver or maybe the recipient. Parents and caregivers of all kinds are called to act selflessly every day. God is the model of selfless love for us. There was no need for God to create our planet or the creatures that inhabit it. Creation was an act of selfless love. There was no need for God to send his only Son to save us. It was an act of selfless love. As we learn about God’s love, we draw closer to God and the mystery of the Trinity. God has lavished us with love in the Persons of the Son and the Spirit, who in turn nurture in us the desire to do the same. When we allow our hearts and minds to be filled with an awareness of the divine life within us, we participate in the endless spiral of love that leads to eternal life."

LOVE really is "What makes the world go round". God created us to love!

Father Ron Smith said...

On scanning down the comments on this thread today, I came across this amazing testimony from someone calling him/herself 'Anonymous' (June 5th):

" According to society at large, my sexuality is always changing and relatively fluid. I am not specifically born with one orientation but am on a spectrum and this position can move as the days pass. You will have noticed that 'I am born this way' argument rarely exists anymore. "

Au contraire! My sexuality has never changed and I happen to be same-sex attracted; a priest in ACANZP; and a happily (37 years) married (non-connubial) partner to a heterosexual woman who has two grown children from her deceased first husband - now with their own children. Our marriage was conducted by a bishop in the Church who knew the circumstances of our relationship as, of course, did my wife-to-be. This was - for us - 'a marriage made in heaven'. It had to be, otherwise, it would never have lasted.

My sexuality was given to me by God - I believe now, to provide testimony to God's infinitely variable creation, not only in the human world but also in the world of other creatures - as any farmer or naturalist will tell you.

Now here's a conundrum for you, anonymous, is my celibate/married status anywhere to be found in your restrictive 'code of conduct' for Christians?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter;

I agree that some of Rome’s language draws people into the fold, but the CCC arguably does not. John, Cardinal Dew for example has said that some language in the Catechism is pastorally unhelpful. Our New Zealand Catholic bishops do a very good job, in my view, of accepting all people unreservedly while gently pointing out the Church’s teaching. If you are talking about language in Vatican documents, it pays (if you can) to read the Latin, Italian, French or Spanish. English doesn’t rate highly in the translation accuracy list and the English is often wanting.

Nick

Anonymous said...

A quick reply, Brendan, to a fine comment that deserves more and better than this.

About obedience to God, Christians differ-- sometimes by personal temperament, sometimes by childhood formation by parents, sometimes by ecclesial tradition-- as to whether blind obedience (Genesis 22) or informed obedience (St John 15:15) is more virtuous in the kingdom. In practice, each has occasionally lead to tensions and paradoxes; neither is always safe.

The diversity of temperaments has the universality and scriptural witness of an order of creation, and most spiritual guidance assumes that this is such, but I have never seen this discussed as carefully as it should be. Meanwhile, I myself remain suspicious of arguments that boil down to-- a fixedly liberal/conservative temperament on every matter is necessary to salvation.

In their classical expressions, Anglican tradition (eg after Richard Hooker) and the later Reformed tradition (eg after the Westminster Standards) have tended to differ on (a) the noetic effects of the Fall, (b) whether God with respect to creatures, *recognises* what is good (Genesis 1:31 and 2:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:21) or *decrees* what is good as an expression of his absolute will without regard to what he has created, and (c) how far the scriptures constrain those given authority on earth by God. Characteristically and for the most part, Anglicans (like Jews, Catholics, and Orthodox) have been less pessimistic about the probity of reason after the Fall, more confident that the law is heuristic rather than apodictic with respect to the good of creatures, and less suspicious of human authority. But the later Reformed and those they influence, being more pessimistic, less confident, and more suspicious developed the *precisionist* exegesis (eg Regulative Principle of Worship) that has occasionally collided with Anglican readings of scripture ever since the debates between Richard Hooker and Thomas Cartwright centuries ago.

Returning to the matter of Christian obedience, it seems that the modes of obedience to God and reading of scripture are correlated. That is, if all of life in Christ is tying isaacs to altars in blind obedience, then one's practice demands reading that yields a lot of clear law to obey, and also, more subtly, a conviction that this law is a direct expression of the immutable will of the eternal Father. But if life in Christ is, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, less dogmatic and more empirical, a testing of things in the light of the Resurrection, then one's practice demands reading that changes the reader into an inquiring and godly-wise agent, and also, more subtly, a conviction that God is active in his creation. It happens-- perhaps it is not inevitable-- that the sort of reading necessary to each sort of obedience is close to useless to the other.

Now no critique of SSB has been more radical than my own argument that no marriage matters to Christians per se except as the sign of Christ's relation to the creation that St Paul discovered in procreative pairbonding (Ephesians 5). This argument not only preempts SSB, but explains why even BCP solemnisation of MWM has been fading from serious Christian interest as the past few generations have minimised procreation in their pairbonding. (Why do we still care about royal weddings? Is it because they, uniquely in our time, are always celebrations of pairbonding that is primarily procreational? Are they the last real weddings?) Now I am right and those who disagree with me are wrong; I have had the nerve to face something unpleasant, and they have not. But I do not think that they are failing to be obedient to God. Rather, they are trying-- failing in my view, and therefore needing critique, but anyway trying-- to give him the informed obedience of those who are servants no longer but sons. That was his will long before it was theirs.

BW

Anonymous said...

(FAKE) NEWS BULLETIN

In Cockaigne, the Minister of Health has denounced as "...a mere placebo, one effective in only 21% of cases" the anti-homosexuality pill Trusex, which was discredited last week when the results of independent clinical trials were released by investigators at the University of Cockaigne. The drug's active ingredient purportedly stopped electrical activity in a part of the brain believed to inhibit the desire for procreation. "The brilliance of the marketing," the lead investigator said, "is that it promised, not that you would never want sex with a member of the same sex again, but rather that you would want to have sex to make a child. And with media buys that huge and celebrity endorsements that gripping, you suddenly had a public eager to have children and homosexuals who wanted to be part of it."

However, the scientific findings did not come soon enough to spare the Church of Cockaigne three painful years of controversy as Anglicans there debated whether homosexuality should be "cured" if it could be. Having gone far in its efforts to promote a positive view of non-procreative sexuality, the church was stunned, not only by the brisk sales of what its archbishop called "a drug to cure what need not be cured," but also by the bitter conflict between those who would and those who would not take the drug.

"The Church of Cockaigne should denounce Trusex for what it is-- a divorce drug," one bishop argued. "Couples pledge lifelong love and fidelity before God, and then, on the basis of a new pill and Six ancient Texts, one of them walks away from it in a selfish desire to impregnate or be impregnated. This is a gay person's worst nightmare." Such criticisms from the clergy explain another problem for the Church of Cockaigne. "Yes, it is true that our churches have had some membership inquiries from persons taking Trusex," confirmed the general secretary of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in Cockaigne. "The intolerance for the natural human desire to have children was so hurtful that they had nowhere else to go but GAFCON."

Commenting on the Anglican dilemma in his paper's Wednesday podcast, the religion editor of the Cockaigne Chronicle noted, "Plainly Trusex was either a fraud or a hoax-- which is a police matter-- but so long as most people believed the ads and the testimonials, it gave ordinary people a certain cover to feel and say heart-felt, yet unconventional things about homosexuality, obviously, but also about having children, relations between the sexes, fatherhood and motherhood, and even the meaning of life that had become too hard to say. Most who finish school as gay people will die as gay people, of course. But the pendulum has swung, and conversation will not go back to political correctness soon."

WB

Father Ron Smith said...

Thankyou, BW - for your differentiation between 'blind' obedience and 'informed' obedience. God's gift of human freewill, surely, requires us to choose to be obedient - rather than passive obedience. This latter, uncritical, following of dictatorships has been the direct cause of much suffering in the history of the world. After all - wisdom is still acounted one of the more excellent gifts.

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Bowman

The best lens through which to understand our present controversy is that described by Paul in Romans chapters 6 through 8. We are either governed by works of the flesh that emanate from our old Adamic nature, or we are living as God’s new creation, putting to death the works of the flesh by the power of the Spirit.

We are either living in grace and truth, just as Jesus himself demonstrated, or we are still in the realm of licence and legalism, both being works of the flesh. This difference is perfectly illustrated by the women caught in adultery by the Pharisees.

The woman was governed by licence; the Pharisees were governed by legalism. Jesus entered, full of grace and truth. Jesus upheld the truth contained in the law of Moses by commanding she be stoned, but through words of grace he convicted the Pharisees of their own sin and hypocrisy, such that they no longer condemned her. Jesus then applied both grace and truth to the woman by offering forgiveness combined with a call to repentance. “Neither do I condemn you – go and sin no more”.

Grace without truth = licence.
Truth without grace = legalism.

In upholding the law (those without sin cast the first stone) and again (go and sin no more) we see Jesus interpreting the moral law of Moses with grace and truth. Archbishop Cranmer understood this clearly; that the moral law of the Old Testament still applied to Christians as he explained in article 7 of the 39 articles.

Therefore, men having sex with men, and likewise women with women is a work of the flesh. To claim otherwise is to suggest that these are Holy Spirit led, new creation activities. That once we are ‘saved’ God is no longer concerned about deeds done in the body, and is now willing to bless that which he formerly condemned. This is a rehash of a very old heresy; a modern expression of Gnosticism.

Again, this is no small matter and not something we can simply overlook. For those within the Anglican church this has become a ‘chose this day whom you will serve’ moment.

Jonathan said...

Brendan I agree with your "grace without truth" and "truth without grace" being equally unhelpful. Another (slightly different) take on this may be Mark 7: 9-19 where Jesus critiques the sidestepping of the Torah for Tradition. Right from the time the Torah was given the people of Israel should have realised that the application stoning, burning penalties etc should be left to the sinless. You may be able to clarify how you divide the Torah into Civil, Ceremonial and Moral?

Father Ron Smith said...

Brendan, we can all see where you are coming from in your argument here. You are reiterating the very same arguments that would have compelled you to set up your own house church in Aotearoa in the first place. However, on joining the Anglican Church in this country. you committed yourself to the more eirenic nature of the Anglican Church which, in ACANZP, is now, itself, committed to the prospect of openness to the blessing of the legal same-sex relationships that are deemed - by the local bishop and others in her/his diocese - to be worthy of God's blessing.

If you have already departed from ACANZP, then, I feel, your opinion on this very important matter is no longer important for us who have remained loyal to our Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand. You are free to pursue your own conservative strictures with whatever church you have now chosen to support, but I feel - and I hope our Host, Dr. Peter Carrell might agree with me - if you have left ACANZP on account of our new openness to SSB - your continued battling against it is not helping our own people to make up our own minds on a subject that it critical for us at this time.

Anonymous said...

Brendan, I look forward to replying further to your 8:14 because I especially like your citation of Romans 5-8. But first a little quick signposting.

Of course, I will not defend SSB because I cannot even defend the standard practice of solemnisation-on-demand. Until Protestant churches are much clearer about what their weddings are actually doing in the Body that civil licensing is not doing, they should, in most places, just stop staging them.

Apart from Christ there is no Bible; instead, there is Tanakh, Mishnah, and Talmud. Because God was in Christ, the whole canon is the level of meaning for every verse, as we see in the fathers, reformers, and today's theological exegetes. Both BBC prooftexting and JBC critical readings are interesting, but until they are situated in the whole canonical narrative they are also incomplete, mere rationalism lost in the void between believing Christians and practising Jews. Believers that God came in the flesh do not understand any verse anywhere in the Bible until they can relate it to him. As you know, Richard Hays shows one way of doing that in his Moral Vision of the New Testament.

The Six Texts are a few of the many planks of the canon's fence around the scriptural theme of Genesis 1:28... Revelations 21. Importantly, Jesus refers marriage back past the law of Moses to the creation. And more subtly, he indicated thereby that the creation itself preceded the law that shows men how to live in it. Christians cannot interpret the Six Texts without reference to the intent of God in creation.

I do not see how anyone can rationally defend or oppose the precise intentions behind the acts of any modern synod, unless it has explicitly incorporated its reasoning in its decisions. As Lord Chancellor Coke famously held, "a corporation hath no soul," and neither does a modern synod meeting as a sort of governing board.

In my experience, which you and anyone else may discount without giving any offense, ordinary fuddy-duddy Anglicans who do not think all that much about That Topic believe that it amounts to this--

(a) Everyone should have real sex (not fake sex) with the right people (not the wrong people).

(b) However, when rarely God does not enable people to have real sex, then fake sex is not wrong for those people, although it is still wrong for everyone else.

(c) It is not wrong for those not enabled because God himself made the exception with an Act of God and there is no higher authority than he.

(d) But because there is no exception to the rule that sex must be had with the right people,

(e) the right people for those who may have fake sex must be determined for the sake of God's decent order.

This crude argument is upsetting to each side in some way, but I mention it here because I speculate from myriad online conversations that it is the one that is prevailing in churches.

Again, welcome back!

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
Brendan is most welcome to comment here.
I do not set membership of this or that church as a criterion for commenting here in relation to ACANZP.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan, I enjoyed your comment.

Those of us who like shellfish, meats in cream sauces, bacon cheeseburgers, etc have been very glad that the Lord took time out of his busy world-saving ministry to assure us that we may enjoy all of these delicacies without guilt. Others may think this too silly a matter for his attention, but how can any gourmand not be grateful to the cosmopolitan diners of the Markan community who preserved this culinary counsel from Chef Jesus for posterity? Indeed, we are perplexed to infer from Josephus that even after the Lord had explained the matter to them twice, eaten countless meals with them, and even risen from the dead to break bread and grill fish, the disciples around James in Jerusalem were probably still keeping kosher. St Peter, in fact, is almost traumatised by the thought of eating swine. Would we not rather have expected the Jews to have noticed the aroma of roast pork wafting through the air when Christians gathered?

But we have been misreading, and sometimes mistranslating, St Mark 7:3. As you can see for yourself--

http://biblehub.com/text/mark/7-3.htm

http://biblehub.com/greek/4435.htm

http://biblehub.com/mark/7-3.htm

The NIV has it right; the ESV is wobbly.

Folding your hand into a *pugme* to wash it is the act of ritual cleansing mentioned in Psalms 26:6 following an interpretation (asmachta) of Leviticus 15:11 that treated the verse as an example of a broader principle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asmachta_(Talmudical_hermeneutics)

So St Mark 7 is not about the law of *kashrut* (aka "kosher") inferred from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Rather it records Jesus's critique of a hermeneutical principle: when broad bodies of law are inferred from narrow rules by *asmachta*, the Creator's symbolic (vv 6-8, 14-16, 17-23) and beneficent (vv 9-13) purposes in giving the original rules are obstructed. As we might expect of a precocious student of the law (St Luke 2:46-47), Jesus is giving divine rules the weight that a BBC would give them, but he is reading them in ways not uncongenial to a JBC.

Anonymous said...

But is not Jesus talking about food at least in vv 14-16? No, standing near the Sea of Galilee, he is dismissing the pious Jerusalem custom (vv 2-5) of always living in the state of ritual purity required for praying a hundred miles to the south in the Temple. The problem is this: hands easily and often unknowingly contract uncleanness in the course of a day, they transmit all such uncleanness to food in the course of handling it to eat it, and as the now-unclean food enters the body, it renders the body unclean.

Any Jew actually in Jerusalem and planning to enter its courts would avoid the state of ritual impurity by washing his hands before eating. Especially devout Jews who lived there (eg scribes, Pharisees, and their disciples) sought to maintain a perpetual state of ritual purity so that they were always ready to go to the Temple. So their shock at seeing *some* of Jesus's disciples in a state of ritual impurity is not surprising, although even pious Jews in the north passed their lives in that state, except when they were pilgrims in Jerusalem.

We are so far from that ritual world that our own astonishment is just the opposite: not only the scribes and Pharisees, but *some* of Jesus's disciples apparently did maintain ritual purity! And they were doing so, not just far from the Temple, but in a borderland with lots of Gentiles contaminating everything and everyone around them. So Jesus's declaration at vv 14-16 was not an obvious response, and his disciples' thought that it was a puzzling "parable" (v 17), perhaps one taking sides in a dispute among them, was not unreasonable.

http://biblehub.com/text/mark/7-17.htm

St Mark 7 may be obliquely relevant to the law of kashrut in one way. Many Jewish sages have divided the 613 commandments into three categories-- rules that any human society should have, rules that anyone might respect that were revealed to the Jews, and rules so arbitrary that they are inexplicable except as a sort loyalty test or mark of national identity. Although valiant efforts are sometimes made to contest this, the laws of kashrut fall into the third category. Offhand, I cannot think of any text in which Jesus recognises this third category, and his two purposes for law in St Mark 7 could seem to preclude it altogether.

BW

Father Ron Smith said...

Two lovely posts, Bowman. And to think that The Lord of The Church himself, was sassy enough to suggest that all of the Law could be compressed into th One New Commandment: Love God first, and then one's neighbour as one's self. I'll bet the Lawyers were discombobulated by this - as are, seemingly, some of the Lord's followers today.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Thanks for the comment.
Your other comment and its commitment within it for prayer is appreciated but I am not publishing comments which mention parishes by name, even when that mention is constructively about praying for that parish!

Jonathan said...

Thanks Brendan - I wasn't familiar with the biblehub tool you linked to for a transliteration - that's helpful. I'm sorry I knew what I meant to say and expected you to read my mind not my words so here's another attempt!

Some readers may well contrast the law repeated in Mark 7:10 (Jesus' apparent non-critical reference to the death penalty) with the traditions referred to in Mark 7:9 (spoken of critically). Here's my guess and it's exactly that: Jesus wasn't defending the OT death penalty at all and as I mentioned, it should only ever have been enforced in the OT by sinless people. He was simply using a figure of speech to point out their inconsistency. And, I suggest, it is contrary to scripture for a state to enact legislation permitting sinful people to put sinful people to death. (It's at this point I tie myself up in knots attempting to think about wars - ones I personally label "just" and "unjust" if that distinction exists).

On the matter of dividing the Torah into packages of Moral (still in force) and Other (no longer in force) I am guessing that Christians holding a high but unenlightened view of scripture may potentially (either now or in times past) may have regarded sex during a period, levirate sex, slavery, eating food with blood in it, and the afore-mentioned death penalty, as either Moral or Other, depending on their method of interpretation. For myself, I can't decide whether these were large-scale accomodationism (God moving his people from where it was a step towards a more godly culture, but the rules themselves not affirming the morality of the activities permitted or commanded ) or quite what was happening.

And, rehashing a point made by many, Matthew 19 now seems to be mainly applied by the church as a text about gay sex (rather than straight divorce) being sinful. Having said that I am perplexed at Jesus' apparent strictness of command even taking other texts into consideration... I can't imagine Jesus prohibiting a divorce and remarriage in the case of neglect or abuse.

Re-reading the Torah is on my agenda though...

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, message receved and ujnderstood. However, one did marvel at the serendipity of today's intercession list. Agape.

n.b. I also said prayers fro the Diocese of Toronto, Canada, which chooses its next diocesan bishop today.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father Ron.

History is an art, and its work is never final, but some Jewish scholars believe that whilst the belief and practice of Jerusalem Jews was deeply influenced by their experience of Babylonian exile, the Jews left behind in faraway Galilee simply carried on the old Torah traditions despite being exposed to many Gentile neighbours and travelers. Thus it happened that the Galilean practice of ritual purity was closer to the plain meaning of the scriptural text than the Jerusalem practice for which scribes (often also priests) and Pharisees proselytised. So St Mark's portrait of Jesus, especially when he is in Galilee, has an interesting tension-and-synergy between his vigilant rejection of southern revisionism and his empathy for those not Jews but nevertheless favoured by God (eg the Greek Syrophoenician woman). Perhaps God preserved in the north a simpler Torah more useful to the mission of the Messiah?

BW

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Johnathan

I note Bowman has responded at least in part to your question around dividing the Mosaic law into the civil, ceremonial and moral, and to be fair I would not hold myself out to be an authority in this area. However, it is clear from the reading of Scripture that practices like the prohibition against mixing woollen and linen clothing are based on the covenant relationship of that Israel had with the Lord, and while they may contain a spiritual metaphor associated with ‘mixture’, it is generally accepted that these laws found their fulfilment in Christ, and we now serve under a new and better covenant.

Similarly, with civil laws dealing with offenses, and compensation. They were unique to Israel, albeit they have served to shape our understanding of justice in the west. The idea of a punishment proportionate to the crime is contained within an ‘eye for an eye’. Some religious cultures cut off a person’s hand for theft, or even flog women who report being raped because they have admitted to an extramarital sexual relationship. This is considered ‘just’ in their context. I note that it would have been unusual for a literal ‘eye for an eye’ to be meted out, as I understand that usually some form of monetary or material compensation was made to the victim.

It is generally agreed (and specifically within the 39 Articles) that the moral laws contained in the Old Testament remain applicable to Christians. While I affirm the two great commandments as expressed by Jesus, and more recently by Ron, if that was all we needed to understand about Christian discipleship, then the rest of Scripture is redundant.

The NT contains 22 exhortations to avoid sexual immorality. If we exclude the Old Testament and the Epistles, the only proscribed sexual relationship referred to by Jesus was adultery. That makes for a very small list of sexual sins! Arguably, by condemning adultery Jesus was referencing Leviticus 18:20 “Do not have sexual relations with your neighbour’s wife and defile yourself with her.” Leviticus 18 and 20 contain a long list of proscribed sexual sins, including the one that Anglicans have recently decided to celebrate and bless.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1 Paul is drawing upon the sexual sin described in Leviticus 18:8 in condemning the Corinthian church. Leviticus 19:9 contains a condemnation of prostitution, as do many other Old Testament Scriptures. Paul echo’s this condemnation in 1 Corinthians 6:15 followed by an explanation as to why sexual sins are particularly grievous, along with an injunction to ‘flee from sexual immorality’.

In short, both Jesus and Paul have validated the moral law of the Old Testament by quoting from it either directly or indirectly. Arguably James has done the same in Acts 15 referencing Moses after having instructed gentile Christians to abstain from sexual immorality. Only the Mosaic law contains an explicit list of sexual sins, and even then the list is not exhaustive. There is no law against paedophilia, nor explicit condemnation of it in Scripture. If you will bear with me in a little foolishness, it would be easier for Christians to mount a case for paedophilia from the silence of Scripture than for the blessing of same sex relationships that are repeatedly condemned in Leviticus and elsewhere.

How much better had our Bishops chosen to engage in this theological debate to provide guidance for the church and those attending synod. We can only guess why they preferred the silence of the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan and Brendan, I am writing on deadline today and cannot say much more than this before Tuesday--

Whatever a believer concludes about any particular rule in scripture should comport as far as possible with his wider beliefs about the uses of law, the gospel of Christ, Abraham and Israel, the scriptures, and the Creator's ultimate intentions;

conversely, one's suppositions about these latter topics guide one's understanding and application of any particular rule found in scripture (eg "Thou shalt do no murder" or "Do this in remembrance of me").

On That Topic, we have seen that one side tends to discuss rules found in scripture according to a medieval-sounding theory of law abstracted from the rest of God's revelation and intention, whilst the other side tends to insist that some plausible wider beliefs warrant their treatment of the Six Texts, but without explaining exactly what beliefs those are, why they are plausible, and how these warrant their reading. Each side is sane and sure that it is doing the obviously right thing. And because recent generations have wanted office-holders at all levels to be genial consensus-builders, not authoritative dogmaticians, there is nobody to bridge, or even to map, the gap.

My suspicion-- not quite unfounded, but also not provable from up here-- is that this polarisation has arisen from the historic Church's dogmatic silence on the atonement. All Christians have always believed that God was in Christ saving the world, especially on the Cross. However, no creed or council of the ecumenical Church has prescribed any particular belief about how this happened, and Anglicans have retained that traditional openness to a range of beliefs about it. Plainly, whatever one does personally believe about how the Lord has saved one will be very deeply held.

And so, if it were to happen that some faction in a church tended to believe strongly and exclusively in PSA (Penal Substitutionary Atonement), whilst the rest were unsure how they were saved but most inclined to prefer, say, CV (Christus Victor) or EL (Example of Love), then we would expect that the former would think about scriptural rules in pious accord with the rather transcendent notion of law in PSA, whilst the latter, seeing their core faith in non-legal terms, would revere scriptural rules along with the rest of their biblical heritage, but would apply them in hard cases rather pragmatically. Which is what we have recently seen.

Only those down there will know whether this fairly describes ACANZP, but the threads of ADU often do seem close to it. The only cure for that is a tour of Romans 5-8, which Brendan has already begun. I hope that we can all meet there in the upcoming week.

BW

Glen Young said...


Hi Brendan,

Our Bishops were not given to engaging in theological debate on this issue,
because their focus was on finding a fashion in which the Constitution 1857 and it's legal Doctrine could be circumvented: hence "The Way Forward". Those who have remained loyal to the ACANZP are those abide be that Constitution and Doctrine.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Keep going.
Your northern hemisphere compass is on track Down Under.

Anonymous said...

Bowman‘s contributions are undoubtedly the most thought provoking. Sometimes a famous quotation attributed to Καλλίμαχος about books sticks in my mind, but there again we cannot reduce everything to sound bites.

Nick

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter,

It has been a long time since I have visited your blog. It is disappointing to read of your position, though I am not surprised. Your four questions and your answers are indicative of person who no longer holds to Holy Scripture as the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Sadly Peter, you have answered the questions according to what you want to hear, not what Holy Scripture is saying.

Anonymous said...

"Getting their instruction at GAFCON right now, from the ex-Archbishop of Sydney." Is this sarcasm (bordering on a deliberate insult) an example of your 'love' Ron? Or are you just suggesting that our African brothers and sisters are incapable of exercising their own minds? Many African Bishops are on the public record stating what they think of this view.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua,
In the life of the church there is always some tension between Scripture's authority (this is the way, walk ye in it) and our interpretation of it (what is the way, who should walk in it, does this way continue to exist?).

Do you agree that Christians properly consider the question of interpretation on some matters over which sharp disagreement arises over what Scripture authorises/prohibits (e.g. baptism, remarriage after divorce, tithing, church government, women in leadership)?

If you were senior pastor of a church, what would be your pastoral response to a same sex , civilly married couple who joined your congregation for worship?

If you were part of leadership of a large denomination, spread across many cultures, in which a rainbow spectrum of theological views were held, how much discretion would you allow to your ministers to exercise their consciences on matters of faith and practice?

I do not want to disappoint you but the questions above are currently part and parcel of my life right now and I am neither going to back away from exploring them nor commit to a position which is untenable for ACANZP.

Blessings
Peter

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter,

Are you suggesting that bringing the ACANZP to a point of schism is tenable????

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Glen
I think it untenable for the whole of ACANZP to commit to a position of never, ever, anywhere offering permission for priests to bless same sex partnerships.

I think it untenable to commit a church which by an overwhelming majority is open to Two Views to maintaining only one of those views in order to protect only one of the views.

I think it both untenable and unfair to side with only one view on the basis that that view is closed to Two Views and maintains a threat of schism if its demands for only one view to prevail are not met. In other contexts we would use certain English words to describe such dominance and singularity of mindset.

Unfortunately that openness to Two Views, that willingness to govern via synodical majority has brought the threat to reality. It need not be the case. Those threatening schism are welcome to stay, encouraged to stay and protected if they stay. Nevertheless schism is in the air.

Let me be clear: no one is being forced to leave but it is the right of those leaving to choose to leave and they have my personal blessing (for what that is worth). Under God we shall all pursue the paths we are being drawn on and under God we will find ourselves continuing to serve God and the gospel. And, in the end, all will be present with God for eternity. I wonder if in the eternal habitations we will have a discussion about how we responded to GS in 2018?

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

I have been reflecting on your suggestion that our understanding of the atonement, and the reason why it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die a criminal’s death may be at the core of our differences in the Anglican church.

Those who are well have no need of a physician. Perhaps just a little encouragement from time to time based upon Jesus example? A place of friendship and fellowship? A sense of shared mission around making this world more equal, more diverse, more sustainable and carbon zero?

My son recently recommended a book to me called “Ordinary Men”. It is based upon the experience of Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. It describes how ordinary men transition into becoming those who shoot defenceless naked pregnant woman in the back of the head. In a recent Podcast Jordan Peterson referenced the book saying “We think we would be Schindler’s in WWII Germany, but most of us would have become Nazis.”

We are Barabbas, we are the unbelieving thief, we are the guards mocking, torturing and abusing Christ, casting lots for his garments. BUT… through the atonement, through the shed blood of Christ, through his grace we have been forgiven, set free from the power of sin, raised to newness of life, seated with Christ in heavenly places.

Only those who know how broken they are realise their need for a saviour, the need to have their old Adamic nature put to death and buried through the waters of baptism, to rise anew in the life of Christ.

Paul reminds us we have been bought with a price, that our bodies are now members of Christ himself. That we have a responsibility to honour God with our bodies. (1 Cor 6:15-20). Consequently, we are not free to engage in any sexual activity of our choosing, joining ourselves to prostitutes, or in other proscribed sexual unions.

To sin in ignorance is one thing, to carry on sinning in defiance of God’s revealed Word and purposes is entirely another matter. It calls for loving and gracious pastoral intervention. If the person does not listen following a repeated and final warning, then it becomes a matter of church discipline.

Discipline is important in any family, without it there is rebellion and every disorder. Even rugby players are expected to abide by the rules of the game! There are yellow and red cards for those who breach them. The same is true in a functional church. Hebrews 12:4-12 reminds us that God disciplines those whom he loves. If you are not disciplined, you are not true sons and daughters. No one likes discipline but note well, “It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

We cannot expect peace in our homes, or in our churches if we abandon discipline in favour of diversity, or some other extra Biblical value.

I note Peter’s latest suggestion that we may have schism here on earth, but we will still be together in eternity, implying that schism is pointless, and all will be resolved in heaven. It may be that God will accept rebellious children into His Glorious eternity, albeit through fire, but Hebrews 6 suggests that rebellion has consequences, that for some it will not end well.

I can still hear Jesus words to those who cast out demons and did many miracles in his name: “Depart from me I never knew you.” Which suggests it is unwise to assume that rebellion has a heavenly reward.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Brendan,
I object to your comment's general thrust because it implies that a reasonable response to a human dilemma necessarily means the atonement is undermined. That is nonsense. There is no more necessity to the undermining of the atonement through agreeing to bless civil marriages than there is to agreeing to conduct marriages of the divorced. That is partners to both kinds of relationships and priests conducting the blessings remain entirely able to believe that sin is endemic in the human story, guilt before God is a problem, and Jesus's blood shed on the cross is the remedy for sin and guilt and critical to our hope for eternal life in the loving presence of God.

The human dilemma is how to rule and thus order our unruly desires and affections.

Ordering for heterosexuals in Christian terms is via marriage or a consecrated life of celibacy. No fornication, adultery, orgies, consorting with prostitutes, pornography.

Hitherto ordering for homosexuals in Christian terms has been via a consecrated life of celibacy which is somewhat compulsory because marriage is not an option.

Speaking for myself, but also I suspect for many commenters here, compulsory celibacy has never been a welcome way of ordering my own unruly affections and desires and the inspiration for my own celibacy until I married was the hope of marriage. Am I terrifically different from others reading here who have enjoyed marriage?

What churches around the world are contemplating is the possibility that some order for homosexuals might be provided via the church publicly supporting a marriage-like (speaking theologically) partnership (between those legally, civilly married/unioned). One reason for doing this is that we are doing something which the ancient church, as far as I can tell, did not do, which is to talk openly and honestly about the experience of being homosexual, including the difficulty of keeping one's homosexuality secret, of repressing desire, and living celibately without hope of an alternative which is blessed.

Obviously some churches, some within churches are denying that any change is possible, that any rethink of what might help homosexuals to live an ordered life is impossible, and thus that the eternal order for homosexuals is unchangeable, and thus even within an ordered, civil marriage life, two men are as liable to judgement from God as any man engaging in orgies, prostitution, etc.

Some churches, including ACANZP, are proposing that for those who think differently, who think that the church might support the ordering of life via blessing civil marriages, could have space in our church to provide that support.

That approach is quite some way from a general support for disorder, for rebellion against God, for denying the reality of sin and guilt, let alone denying the need of a Saviour who dies an atoning death on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

"Are you suggesting that bringing the ACANZP to a point of schism is tenable?"

Is schism actually being discussed? Suppose that a group of churches decides that--

(a) They will not be governed by the GS anymore, and that

(b) Those who will be so governed are in error, but are still Christians and Anglicans, and so

(c) Even if their unity is only imperfectly visible, all are still in the Body united by the one Head, so that

(d) All (at least from the seceding side) are still in full communion.

(That is, suppose that they proposed to the majority church what our ancestors proposed to Rome during the Reformation.) Would that be schism? Why or why not?

Studying the TEC-ACNA relationship at close range, I must say that it makes no sense for these Anglicans to be so estranged from each other when they both have warm official relations with Christians of the same very different traditions. How can both churches have decent relations with the CoE and the RCC but not with each other? And how does any Anglican square the Lambeth Quadrilateral with an insistence that there has been or should be a break? Admitting that happy warriors may not read joint statements with a smile, everybody else can see, I think, that a century of blessed ecumania has made it nearly impossible for any body to regard any other body as a non-church over differences subtler than recognised dogma.

BW

Father Ron Smith said...

Anonymous Glen Young said...

"Hi Peter,

Are you suggesting that bringing the ACANZP to a point of schism is tenable????"
____________________________________________________________________

I don't want to preempt Peter's response to this question. However, I would like to point out that any schismatic activity brought about in ACANZP by anyone in our Church has been (will be) the direct action of those who are contemplating leaving its provenance and fellowship.

Those who remain in fellowship with ACANZP (think of our sisters & brothers in the Diocese of Polynesia who, although they may be unable to consent to the Blessing of Same-Sex relationships because of their own cultural context still have determined this will not push them into schismatic severance from ACANZP on this issue) - despite any unease with the intention of our Church to allow for such Blessings - may yet be in agreement with the High-Priestly Prayer of Christ: "That they, Father, may be One as You and I are One"

The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is big enough to contain people of very different cultures - perhaps this is why we have been made different - to prove that God is a God of a multiplicity of ethnicities, races, cultures and virtues. The trouble we have as human beings is believing that God actually does exist in cultures different from our own. This, surely, is why the Jewish Leaders of Jesus' day found his inclusivity of Gentiles so abhorrent to their fear of inclusion of those outside of their own Covenant relationship with YAHWEH.

Even Paul had to warn his fellow Jews not to become imprisoned by their restrictive notions of God as their exclusive Redeemer. By our Baptism into Christ, we have all been welcomed into the Family of God: "Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: There, let us keep the Feast - Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (Easter Anthem)

Brendan McNeill said...

Dear Peter

As an aside, and because you have raised it again, it is fair to say I have re-examined my own attitude towards divorce and remarriage while investigating SSB/SSM. My growing conviction is that I/we have failed to take Jesus seriously in this matter.

Divorce is not the unforgivable sin, but how do you show the fruit of repentance if you insist upon living in an ongoing adulterous relationship? Where I have landed is this: For Jesus ‘disciples’ to live in obvious unrepentant sin, irrespective of church attendance, means they have fallen away from the faith, and this does have an impact upon the Atonement. Hebrews 6:6 says “To their loss, they are crucifying the Son of God all over again, and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

And…

“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” Hebrews 6:7-8

This is a high standard to meet, so how does grace feature in this mix?

Clearly it is still possible for a couple living in an adulterous relationship to be granted the gift of repentance by God. The pastoral response will be determined by a variety of circumstances too numerous to rehearse here, but one of them could well require separation.

The point being that God cannot and will not bless an unrepentant life. This ought to be a foundational understanding of our faith, otherwise we are undisciplined children, outside the covenant and promises of God. If this is NOT the case, and God is pleased to bless the rebellious and the obedient alike, then what was the point of Christ’s atonement? What is the point of Christian discipleship, what is the point to any of church life?

Peter, you once agreed that homosexual sex was sinful. I’m sensing you have moved from that position, else how could you support fellow clergy in their desire to bless a sinful practice that God has condemned? Surely this is a question of choosing between pleasing man or pleasing God?

jonathan said...

Bowman, "to map, the gap" could be a helpful exercise, particularly if we got to one map of the gap rather than two different maps of the gap...

jonathan said...

Peter, I agree with your comment that "we are doing something which the ancient church, as far as I can tell, did not do, which is to talk openly and honestly about the experience of being homosexual, including the difficulty of keeping one's homosexuality secret, of repressing desire, and living celibately without hope of an alternative which is blessed."

The message I hear from orthodox Christians including from some who are either gay or same-sex-attracted is that (majority view) same-sex sex is wrong but same-sex sexual desire is something to be managed just as opposite-sex sexual desire is something to be managed for others. (Minority view: same-sex sexual desire is worse than opposite-sex sexual desire even if neither are acted on).

When it comes to the HOPE of an alternative (to celibacy) which is blessed I will attempt to map one tiny sliver of the gap: some will view such a hope to be morally equivalent to the hope of a married person finding sexual gratification outside marriage; others will see in such a hope a potential way of holiness acceptable in view of the Fall having affected our sexuality as it has everything else; and some will see this hope as potentially leading to a way of holiness open to any gay or same-sex attracted person not called to celibacy .

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brendan, for your 11th 10:19 on my 10th 12:06.

Alas, I am as busy now as I then expected that I would be, and so I will surely not be able to reply before my Tuesday night, which is about your 11 am Wednesday morning. When I do, DV, I will first off take up your suggestion that we look again at Romans 5-8.

Like John Paul II and Benedict XVI, our friend Peter often still appeals to Enlightenment virtues of tolerance, etc about which more postmodern conservatives have lately grown wary. This change of sensibilities may be worth discussion someday.

But with respect to That Topic, my own sense is that the difficulty in reaching agreement or even agreed disagreement arises from differences in the understanding of law that are well within the bounds of ecumenical orthodoxy. These differences are also apparent in-- perhaps even caused by-- divergent readings of Romans 5-8.

We may not find these understandings and readings equally congenial-- I do not-- but they do make it much harder for either of the usual sides to doubt the allegiance to Christ of the other on the basis of the scriptures. For some, that difficulty could be consequential.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Jonathan
Some subtly different possibilities to contemplate!

Anonymous said...

No map of the gap tonight, Jonathan. Too busy! But the analogy below is a popular Instagram from it. Some will agree, some will not. What are the warrants behind the reasons given for these reactions?

NARRATIVE

After Saul's call to become Paul, he preached the gospel in Jewish communities along the road from Jerusalem to Antioch.

Jews who gave their allegiance to Jesus thereafter exhibited signs of the work of the Holy Spirit, which evidenced their incorporation into the pure Body.

Jewish communities often had God-fearing Gentile guests who were, by definition, ritually unclean.

In Antioch, St Paul saw something truly bizarre: Gentiles (of all people) were exhibiting signs of the work of the Holy Spirit, as if they too had been incorporated into the pure Body of the Messiah.

Prior to this observation, St Paul knew of no scriptural reason why Gentiles should have a place in the Messiah's community.

After this observation, St Paul began to draw his deep knowledge of the scriptures into an interpretation of what he had seen that suggested a calling to present the gospel primarily to Gentiles.

St Paul's calling was ratified by the other apostles.

Indeed, St Peter underwent a like change in his view of the Gentiles.

ANALOGY

According to the scriptures, just as the Gentiles are ritually unclean, so too are homosexuals.

But just as the Holy Spirit's gifts to those Gentiles who gave their allegiance to the Messiah demonstrated their inclusion in the Body, so too do analogous gifts to homosexuals who give their allegiance to the Messiah show that homosexuals are likewise included in the Body.

Just as the inclusion of the Gentiles was not dependent on their becoming ritually pure through circumcision, so the inclusion of homosexuals is not dependent on their becoming ritually pure through celibacy.

Rather, just as God's expansion of his people had made the old ritual marks of distinction between Jews and Gentiles otiose, so too God's inclusion of all those alienated from the regenerating human community has similarly made the Judaic penalties on homosexuals otiose.

BW

Anonymous said...

By definition, Christians believe the apostolic message that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. They also know that the Creator has given laws and changed souls. (For simplicity, why not refer to these realities as Reconciling, Law and Change?) However, the Christians we know here differ with increasing depth over how the three are related, and these differences seem to lie behind the often snarky and bitter debate about That Topic.

Of a variety of ways of understanding these three truths together, two have crystalised here at ADU. Polarities with points of resemblance have arisen before (eg Barlaam the Calabrian and Gregory Palamas in the C14; William Ames v Richard Sibbes in the C17), and some other polarities (eg Reformed/Lutheran, conservative/liberal) sometimes partially overlap this one. I call the two poles, simply and without prejudice, A and B.

A uses Law to explain both Reconciling and Change. B uses Reconciling to explain Change and Change to explain Law. The two minds are not mirrors of each other, and they do not necessarily clash on every matter. But although both recognize the divine origin of Law, A sees Law as the snowmelt that flows into all the rivers irrigating every field, whilst B sees Law as a delta of sediment where one main stream meets the sea.

At their most consistent, A knows a lawful Ruler who decided to make heaven and earth as zones of obedience to his power, and B knows a loving Creator who has sometimes used rules to improve the creatures he loves. Importantly, A reads the Bible with an understandable attention to lawlike propositions, and also protologically, with a heavy emphasis on how the beginnings of all things explains them. B meanwhile tends to read the Bible with a no less understandable attention to explicit and embedded narrative, and so eschatologically, trusting that all God's works in time will be consummated in the End that he has revealed. A takes refuge in God's powerful will; B is confident in the Creator's love for his creatures.

The brilliance of Brendan's decision to take That Topic to Romans 5-8 is that A and B both rely heavily on these chapters of scripture. The contrast and similarity of A and B are most clear in the differing ways that they read them.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Thank you for the previous two topics.
They explain with great clarity our differences at this time.
You have Instagrammed the Chch Dio!

Bryden Black said...

I shall have to break that vow to abstain!

Dear Bowman; that hoary chestnut of a parallel @ June 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM is just that - a hoary chestnut. We’ve heard it before; and it remains plain wrong!

How else does Acts 15 cite Amos 9?! How else does Paul go all the way back to Genesis in Gal 3-4 (probably an early letter) to include the Gentiles in that primordial promise?! How else does Richard Hays produce that delightful work, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels??? And that coda of RLC actually fails to get you off this hook ...

Sorry Bowman! Over and out ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bryden. Is your 'broken vow' a SIN or a mere peccadillo? If answering causes you to sin again; please don't bother. Agape. Christ is risen, Alleluia!

Bryden Black said...

Neither Ron; there's a difficulty with the medium - irony!