Monday, March 20, 2023

Nostalgic for a different era? [Updated]

(1) Nostalgia for a different era of Anglican evangelicalism: Quite often I find myself thinking thoughts which are less than well formed and then - courtesy of the breadth and variety of the internet - discover someone has written them up for me better than I could do.

In this case my half-formed thoughts have been about what has changed for Anglican evangelicalism from former to present days (at least in the English stream enjoyed by Australia and New Zealand as well as England). Once upon a time, evangelicals were a minority within the church, sometimes a somewhat maligned and marginalised group. On the minority aspect (but not the maligned or marginalised aspect), when I was a child my father was the vicar of the only evangelical parish in one of our dioceses.  That others around us did not share our views, including the bishop, and so forth, seemed not to matter much: it just meant we needed to work on our mission as we understood and hope one day others might want to join us. It did not mean departure.

Thus it was good to read recently something written by Charles Read, a priest in the Diocese of Norwich, who offers some autobiographical reflections here and includes this:

"I hope you might see the fact that evangelicals like us were happy to be who we were in a church where we were a minority, and where we did not expect to find bishops, archdeacons or diocesan staff who shared our theological views. We just got along with such people, and in the parish we got on with preaching a message of God’s love and salvation open to all, if they would simply turn to God and accept Jesus as their saviour."

But here, for example, is a very recent statement of the opposite, of the unhappiness of an English evangelical Anglican parish which feels out of step with their bishop(s):

"St Ebbe’s clergy have already declared that we are in impaired communion with the bishops in our diocese, which means that we will not welcome them to preach, confirm, ordain or conduct our ministerial reviews, and we will not take communion with them. The PCC has also taken action to ensure that any money we pay within the diocese is distributed via the Oxford Good Stewards Trust and is only used for faithful gospel ministry and essential administrative costs. We will be working closely with others, especially within the Church of England Evangelical Council, to discuss what other actions we can take, either individually as churches or together, both to distance ourselves from false teaching and to promote the cause of the gospel. As a larger church, we are especially conscious of our responsibility to help and support smaller evangelical churches, as well as faithful clergy and laity who are in the especially vulnerable situation of serving in churches where their congregations are divided or against them on these issues.

The debate within Synod, and the decision it made, bear witness to a division which goes far deeper than that over the particular presenting issue. There are now two distinct groups within the Church of England. One has chosen the way of compromise with the world and disobedience to God’s word; the other is determined to stay faithful to Christ, whatever the cost. It has been very encouraging to see deepening bonds growing between orthodox Anglicans, from different evangelical and other orthodox ‘tribes’. In the months, and no doubt years, ahead we will be seeking to build new structures that will, God willing, enable us to maintain distance from those who have gone down the wrong path, while working together with orthodox Anglicans in the cause of the gospel."

Given that, once upon a time, at least in my memory, Anglican evangelicals felt no particular need to leave their English/Australian/New Zealand churches, even though we worried about the lack of understanding of the gospel by diocesan leaders and other parish clerics. It was asserted that they were preaching "churchianity" rather than Christianity. From some preachers there were jibes against other parts of the church such as the (not particularly empathetic) quip (against Anglo-Catholics): "we are saved by grace, not by grease". Then, when it came to which Anglican missions were to be supported or not, we distinguished between those missions we understood to preach the gospel from those who didn't.

We didn't leave over these differences.

Try as I might, I cannot see wherein "That Topic" we have some new "gospel" grounds to justify setting up some kind of new Anglican church or network of churches or (as a recent commenter here proposes) a "realignment" of the Anglican Communion.

(2) Nostalgic for a different era re money and preaching?

Very occasionally, when moving outside my normal preaching "zone" (i.e. working in the Diocese which provides me with a stipend), I receive a small honorarium. Very tiny relative to figures cited below. 

If I were smarter, I would change my name to "TD Jakes" or "Brian Houston" ... as The Other Cheek points out in an expose of eye watering, I could buy a house with that kind of honorarium honoraria over the Ditch.


"In his speech, Wilkie details payments made by Hillsong to guest speakers. “For example, US pastor Joyce Meyer enjoyed honorariums of $160,000, $133,000, $100,000 and $32,000, and US pastor TD Jakes received $71,000 and $120,000, with a staggering $77,000 worth of airfares to and from Australia thrown in. In return, Mr Houston goes to America and receives—you guessed it—his own eye-watering honorariums.”

This system of payments – part of a round-robin of speakers visiting each other’s mega-church or conference – was overdue for exposure. 

Several of the Hillsong music leaders are shown as having huge US-based incomes. According to the Wilkie documents, three had an income of $1.3m. (Is this annual income, as the Wilkie documents suggest, or an aggregate figure? This requires investigation, so The Other Cheek is not featuring their names.)"

We live in expensive times. The same article goes on to report on a number of redundancies at Hillsong. 

I love (and will continue to love) a number of songs which originate in Hillsong worship. But what has been happening behind the scenes is a long way from the early days of Pentecostalism Down Under.

[Update] (3) Also Nostalgic for Rowan Williams and his intelligence brought to bear on seemingly intractable problems, for instance, as reflected on here.


MsLiz said...

Thanks +Peter for sharing the link to Charles Read's story. I enjoyed reading it and especially noted his well-warranted poke at "judgmentalism". I wonder if the acceptance of this very thing is at the root of the harvest of division we have now? Your blog-bio states, "I am not important, but Jesus is!". It's a great personal statement for any Jesus-follower, one I'll try to remember for me. And I've actually got clarity about where I stand now.. so thank you.

Anonymous said...

Three "half-formed" hypotheses in a global horizon--

(1) Evangelicals have become less broadly Protestant and more militantly Reformed.

(2) In public, it was easier for Evangelicals to live with "free speech" that included some secularism than with today's methodically secular states and visible cultural pluralism.

(3) The question how the gospel takes material form in and among people has become the urgent one in the C21 West, yet both the fissiparous Reformed and the restless Evangelicals have chronic weaknesses in ecclesiology.


Anonymous said...

In an ideal Communion, somebody would sponsor a dialogue on *the personal experience of persecution* between gay Christians who bang a drum for churchly SSM and aggrieved Evangelicals from the Continuum. Not That Topic, persecution.

The stories that I have heard from the two camps are startlingly similar. So too is the experience of having their pain-- does it matter what we call it?-- dismissed by officers of the churches they had trusted.


Mark Murphy said...

As a non-evangelical, I found your reflections fresh and interesting, Peter. To reflect on That Topic/'impaired communion'/global 'realignment'/the scapegoating of LGTBQ people as less a defence of orthodox Christianity, and more a result of the rise of a new global evangelicalism.

Because I guess that's one big factor that is different since your father's time. And when we are in *rise* mode we are differentiating, leaving home, 'coming of age', in vigorous identity formation.

Why shouldn't Kenya and Sydney be allowed what Canterbury and England once asserted and enjoyed? It's a human need, though it makes for terrible Christian theology.

Anonymous said...

"Try as I might, I cannot see wherein "That Topic" we have some new "gospel" grounds to justify setting up some kind of new Anglican church or network of churches or (as a recent commenter here proposes) a "realignment" of the Anglican Communion."

Peter, I see you have adopted Bowman's Victorian aunt's strange prissy habit of referring to homosexuality as "that topic". Evasion doesn't help clarity. Confucius said the first and most important task is to call things by their proper name.
But as for your inability to see why the attempt to sanctify (aka "bless") homosexual relationships as a godly state of life for those who have such attractions has caused profound division among Anglicans globally, have you really never read and understood what John Stott and the Global South and Gafcon and ACNA and (in your own neck of the woods) CAANZ have been saying for years? I am sure you know their reasoning!
Do you not understand that calling a homosexual relationship 'marriage' and adopting the secular rhetoric of 'equal marriage' undermines the doctrine of creation ('male and female he created them ... for this reason a man shall leave ..; etc)?
Do you not perceive now that a clear path runs from sanctifying homosexuality to the current craze (especially among tomboy teenage girls) to proclaiming "non-binary gender fluidity" and the growing number of gay men who claim to be women now ('transgenderism') - a biological impossibility, of course, but there are big backs behind it now. That's why Joe Biden appeared on national TV with young Dylan ('One Year of Being a Girl') Mulvaney.
Surely you grasp that Christian doctrine is a systemic whole and you cannot change one part without doing violence to it all?
Can you imagine, say, how Anglicans in the London diocese of Southwark must feel about what Colin Coward revealed in 'Anglican Ink' about their bishop?

In an earlier comment I encouraged Bowman to give up Mind Reading (pretending to know the mental states of Christians he disagrees with on homosexuality) and to focus instead on their arguments, whether they are true or false. So far he has declined to state what he believes about the moral status of homosexual acts (are they sinful or good?), so I can only suppose he thinks they are morally OK but he doesn't want to say so openly. I may be wrong, and if so, Bowman can correct me. But I do encourage him to stop speculating about other people's mental attitudes and focus on their Scriptural and theological exegesis. (Learning about the Thomistic tradition of Natural Law would also be helpful, as modern day Protestants don't seem to know much about it, unlike their forefathers.)

But what about you, Peter? Do you think homosexual acts are per se morally neutral? If so, you should say so plainly - and follow through the logical implications of such a belief for your doctrines of marriage, parenthood, and Scripture. Then you will have a clear answer to the question that perplexes you.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William,
I once heard the "you cannot change one part of doctrine without unravelling it all" in an apologia for a literal understanding of the seven days of creation (which I rather assume not even you subscribe to!).

In any case, there are changes to the "doctrine of marriage" (as we have canvassed here previously) which don't seem to unravel all other doctrines (e.g. finding reasonable, pastoral responses to divorce), so, prima facie, I do not see how a change to the doctrine of marriage re homosexuality necessarily leads to other conclusions (again, I am sure you are aware that there is a "gay critique" re aspects of gender fluidity because those aspects appear to undermine solidarity with homosexuals who do not themselves feel any such fluidity).

Nevertheless, the question I (and many others) are interested in, is whether it is a reasonable response to members of the church, committed to a lifelong partnership, to continue to hold that they are sinners and not members of the Body who would like our support and our recognition of the pathway they have chosen which is a pathway of self-sacrificing love.

Whether a change to the doctrine of marriage flows from such pastoral regard for brothers and sisters in Christ is an open question and it may not receive a clear answer within our lifetimes.

The advantage of such prayerful regard for members of our church is that we neither shun them nor pretend they are not actually part of our life.

So far, as far as I can understand these matters, so far with the Pope and a number of bishops in Europe.

Of course Anglicans here and elsewhere have gone a bit further.

But, in doing so, we have not wanted to change the doctrine of marriage in respect of men and women conjugating, continuing to expect marriage to be loving, permanent, lifelong and, where possible, fruitful in procreation (if only for the mundane reason that humanity could die out if procreation dies out!).

Are we ignoring Scripture? Maybe, though it is difficult to see where Scripture is actually engaging with the critical question herein, of two men, irrevocably gay, seeking a regularised way forward for themselves as creatures with desires, needs, and capabilities for intimacy and commitment.

Are we ignoring Scripture? Maybe, but if so, no more than we (often, in modern life) ignore Scripture on what it actually says about divorce and grounds for remarriage.

let me ask a question of you: if a Russian soldier capturing a Ukrainian woman and rather likes the look of her, is he governed by Deuteronmy 21:10-14, or should we ignore that passage in that circumstance?

MsLiz said...

"continue to hold that they are sinners"

Which creates tricky situations like with some evangelicals I knew where the parents were seniors (in age, and in the church) and one of their adult children returned to NZ after years away along with their same-sex partner. Everyone referred to them as 'friends' for the sake of the mother and more recently I've thought about it again.. how we had to hide the truth because of her beliefs and sensitivities.

And so it seems to me that regardless of how we define 'sexual immorality' it's the job of the church to ensure a safe environment where truth is upheld but *also* where grace and love abound. There's no guarantee that 2-parent families with a 'head of the home' father and strict discipline will reliably produce adults who lead the righteous God-fearing life anticipated by their parents! A judgemental culture is deeply flawed and in my experience produces a toxic mix of anger, pride, condemnation, gossip and self-righteousness, as well as more anger, secrecy, shame, alienation, despair, and tragically sometimes death. They *talk* grace and love but outsiders will discern hypocrisy.

John Sandeman said...

MsLiz, as a Sydney Morning Herald alumnus I am pleased you have researched the archive. Anglicanism used to be great copy for the paper. It's good journalism quoting prominent people from several points of view.

Its always been Jim Naughton's (who used to do PR for the Diocese of Washington and ran the Episcopal cafe blog for years) view that Gafcon and the conservative Anglican movement is primarily about the US right. But the reality is more complex. Not everything is about the US.

There's not much dominionism to be found in the Eastern Island. And the part of the conservative church that is least affected is Sydney Anglicanism Rushdooney is not a poster child at Moore College.

Anonymous said...

Peter, you have maade my point for me. You have conceded that you are ignoring Scripture on marriage. Step by step your position has become indistinguishable from the liberal TEC. Why do still call yourself an "evangelical" if you strongly suspect you are now ignoring the New Testament? Shouldn't you ditch that wornout term and embrace your liberalism without shame?
But as your old commentator Bryden would have remarked, like the fish in the fishbowl, you notice everything except the water.
The water in this case being the post-Christian world we now inhabit, whose outlook about sex Christians are unconsciously imbibing every waking moment.
Romans 12.1 has a comment on this. Has the word "not" disappeared from your text of this verse?
As fot your last question to me: do you really imagine I think the Russian Federation is the modern reincarnation of ancient Israel? I know some Russian monk in the 15th century declared that Moscow was the Third Rome - but the Second Jerusalem? Oi vey! You really must credit me with a bit more hermeneutical sophistication than that.
(I know you got the basic idea for your joke - like all the tired old shellfish arguments - from an internet meme that has been doing the rounds for years, mocking the use of the Old Testament in sexual ethics while ignoring what the New Testament says about purity and marriage. But for the record, let me tell you, I don't keep kosher food laws or observe Sukkoth. And I do so on the advice of Christ's Apostle Paul. Why do you ignore what Paul teaches on homosexuality? Is he teaching error here, as Ron Smith used to say? I really would like to know your answer.

And I would be surprised if a Russian soldier had ever heard of Deuteronomy - but if he had, he would know the official Moscow line, that Ukrainians are not foreigners but errant Little Russians who speak funny.)

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
It is not a response to Deuteronomy to say we are not in ancient Israel. I know of no NT abrogation of the law as set down in D21: does it still apply today or not, and if not, on what grounds do you say that? (Nor, for that matter, is what I said a version of the shellfish “joke”. I am talking about a specific matter of the law on marriage, a law which appears to condone rape (the taking of a woman one fancies in marriage) and ill-treatment of a woman (discarding her when she is found wanting). My own grounds for manifestly disregarding, or, if you prefer, ignoring D21 is that it is unjust.

The point then is that one may consider whether other aspects of the law, whether given in the OT, NT or both are “fit for purpose” in our day. I do not think one has to drink from the well of TEC liberalism to ask such questions. That lovely couple at church who are quietly glad that their divorced son has at last found a wonderful partner in life in a new marriage are likely as conservative as you on many other issues and may never even have heard of TEC as they embrace the newly married couple but find it better to not try to square Scripture with the situation.

In your reply you simply consign homosexuals who feel their situation in life is best managed and regularised by a formal partnership, preferably prayed for in church as neatly sidestepping Romans 12, and continuing to cast them in with all sinners whose lives match that of the lusty worldliness of the world. Is that actually fair to committed Christians who love our Lord Jesus as much as you do?

Anonymous said...

Peter, this is a blog comment and not an essay, so my quick take on OT law and how far or otherwise it applies- or doesn't - to the non-political, non-geographical Church created by Our Lord (comprising Jews and Gentiles from all nations) is to say that those were rough times for rough people, and many things were permitted then (debt-slavery, polygamy, death for adultery, herem etc) that we wouldn't countenance today. As Our Lord said, 'For hardness of heart Moses allowed divorce, but it was not so from the beginning'; and I see these concessions to human weakness or hardness of heart in many parts of the OT. How truly 'converted' were most Israelites even after centuries of life in the land? If you read Isaiah and Jeremiah, the answer has to be: 'Not much.'
My own view of these texts (you may not think it a very adequate one) is that the Israelites were a very imperfect people in a poor and violent world where survival itself was not guaranteed, and God permitted them to live in a less than maximally moral way. In other words, they were not saints - although God's Law was calling them to be saints, and a minority did live in a way pleasing to God.

But you have in any case sidestepped the New Testament teaching of Christ on divorce and Paul on sexual desire and declared it 'Not fit for purpose'. I have to ask: 'Fit for WHOSE purpose?' Not the non-Christian world, of course, which doesn't think in terms of eternity but only this world. Is that your frame of reference?
But let's think of 'that lovely couple at church' - let's call them Liz and Phil, for example, and their son Charlie. Yes, Charlie has found happiness after his disastrous marriage collapsed following Charlie's adultery with the true love of his life, another man's wife. Things are never really as simple as a Mills and Boon 'novel', are they? Sometimes a second marriage is just adultery observing the niceties, as Professor Oliver O'Donovan observed many years ago.
But even divorce and remarriage doesn't change the intrinsic nature of marriage as this is revealed in Scripture and affirmed by Christ: a one-flesh relationship between one man and one woman, intended for life (i.e., not a fixed term contract).
When divorce happens, it is always the consequence of some sin - and very often, one party is more sinned against than the other. Is there expression of confession and repentance in second marriages? There is in the Orthodox tradition. What do you Anglicans do?
Let me conclude with this question - which has been asked of you before but never answered, as far as I can see. There are probably more people in your churches who are single heterosexuals than homosexuals, and they may have no realistic prospect of marriage. How do you counsel them to deal with their loneliness and sexual desires? Through pornography and casual affairs? Or by seeking the grace of chastity?
Do you see the precise parallel, Peter? How do you counsel the single Christian?

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

"vigorous identity formation"

When one moves out of the house, one cannot come back for the furniture. And one pays one's own bills Out is out.


Anonymous said...

The thought pattern described by Rowan Williams and admired by Peter Webster makes sense if one finds a participative soteriology in the NT. Empirically, churches with a purely forensic soteriology have been notoriously fissiparous.

So Webster's dreary conclusion is overdrawn. The Communion can conserve and has conserved unity across national and cultural boundaries, but only when member churches have a soteriology of unity in the first place. Perhaps we should do more to spread the gospel?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
Agreed we are writing comments, not essays, nevertheless a comment may give the gist of a hypothesis which would be advanced in more detail in an essay, and I do not think what you say stacks up to much, given the emphasis put on strictures against homosexuality being "the law of God", albeit upheld in the NT (when, clearly, some of the law is not so upheld by the NT). Nevertheless, the NT does not discuss Deut 21 and we are left with some uncertainty ... unless we view that bit of the law as not "rough" but very simply, unjust.

I do not wish to promote remarriage after divorce on grounds other than the NT provides: I just find (as, no doubt, the priest presiding at the recent marriage of Boris Johnson, also found) that couples present for marriage beyond those gospel/Corinthian exceptions and it seems unworkable to turn them away: they are going to go on loving and committing to each other.

What would I counsel a single, heterosexual person? That they live a life of chastity and reserve sexual intercourse for the intimacy of marriage. What woudl I counsel a single, homosexual person? That they live a life of chastity and reserve sexual intercourse for the intimacy of a lifelong commitment/partnership to one person; and that they are honest and open about such partnership so that the church around them can support them in a similar way to married heterosexual couples.

In other words, I would offer recognition of the reality of sexual desire, desire for intimacy and sociality, in keeping with the Apostle when he wrote that it is better to marry than burn, in a chapter where he makes it obvious that he thinks celibacy is the correct response to the urgency of the times.

Anonymous said...

"new 'gospel'"

Sam used to comment on this. (How btw is he?) In an ironic and unintended sense, the argument may be reasonable.

Mere inclusionism is not the participative soteriology of SS Paul and John because it has too little respect for the Body's own inner life and culture apart from engagement with whatever society happens to be around. "Be not conformed..."

But, to one with a forensic soteriology that issues in an individualistic piety somewhat sceptical of that inner life, participative understandings of communion are already unsupported and could seem all the more untenable if they are confused with naive inclusionism.


Anonymous said...

Well, Peter, I do not find what you say stacks up to much either, because you may have missed the import of my question.
If you (rightly in my opinion) counsel the single (heterosexual) Christian who has no prospect of marriage that he or she must live a life of chastity (and presumably must not watch porn or have casual sexual relations - both very common pastimes now), then you clearly believe it IS possible (not easy but possible, nonetheless) to live that way with the grace that Christ supplies through the sacraments and prayer.
That is simply how this imperfect world is: there are unattractive women, dull men without money, persons with personality disorders or addictions, and people with crippling infirmities - all loved by God who is no respecter of persons but not an attractive proposition as a spouse. For a good many people today, marriage simply isn't going to happen.
What are they supposed to do with their sexual desires and longing for intimacy? Live chastely, you say.
Well then - if a single heterosexual Christian can live chastely, why is it impossible for the homosexual Christian? Or is it not impossible, just difficult? - especially because for men, sex has a quite different dynamic than it has for women. There is a simple biological reason as well as a complex psychological one why sexually active homosexual men have far, far more casual sexual encounters than homosexual women. Sex without consequences (marriage and children) has always appealed to males (except that there is no such thing as 'sex without consequences'). Marriage to a woman tames a man - or at least it should.
Or do you think continence for the homosexual is not impossible but just cruel?
And then - believe it or not - there are people whose marriages are not terribly fulfilling: think of my hypothetical example of that lovely couple Liz and Phil's son Charlie. How is poor Charlie to find intimacy in his unfulfilling marriage? Through an affair, perhaps?
Just today I have seen that a theology lecturer in Cliff College, a Methodist seminary over in Derbyshire in England has been sacked for tweeting that homosexuality is against the teaching of the Bible. I imagine that would be news to John Wesley.
It was in Derbyshire last year as well, in a Church of England school called Trent College IIRC that the Anglican chaplain was sacked for telling the pupils they didn't have to follow the LGBT ideology - and the Bishop of Derby refused to back him for teaching Anglican beliefs.
Protestants really are tearing themselves apart over homosexuality (as the German Catholics are as well). It will not end happily. Stop making an idol out sex.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
I don't think I am missing the import of your question at all.
It is possible to live a continent life but, strange though it may therefore seem, most Christians, through all of time, have not lived that life, finding that marriage is something to desire and to aspire to.
Obviously some people, for whatever reason or reasons, do not marry (this would, of course, apply to both heterosexuals and homosexuals).
But isn't it possible that for heterosexuals, the not marrying may never leave a person wondering if they might yet marry? As, in fact, does happen, and wonderfully so to some people of my personal acquaintance, enjoying later life marriages.
But this you would deny to homosexuals, and knowingly do so in a world very different to the first century (for example, a world where many people live alone rather than in an extended family).
Other things you say re unfulfilling marriages and Methodist colleges are important matters for the individuals or couples concerned but they are red herrings in this context.
One can believe what I and German bishops believe without needing to sack people who think differently.

Anonymous said...

"But isn't it possible that for heterosexuals, the not marrying may never leave a person wondering if they might yet marry? As, in fact, does happen, and wonderfully so to some people of my personal acquaintance, enjoying later life marriages.
But this you would deny to homosexuals, and knowingly do so in a world very different to the first century (for example, a world where many people live alone rather than in an extended family)."

Would I? How often in this blog did we hear the story of Ron Smith, a man with same-sex attraction, who in his 50s married a widow with children? Ron was constantly talking about this. I don't imagine you think he was wrong to contract this marriage. Ron evidently didn't.
All kinds of surprising things happen in God's economy. Over the years I have known at least three Protestant men who told me they experienced as young men same-sex attraction but who subsequently married and fathered children. I don't know if their SSA ever went away but they seemed to be in faithful, stable marriages and AFAIK still are. One of them is a personal friend of mine.
I also knew a woman married to an Anglican priest who left her and their teenage children to pursue a homosexual relationship. And I knew an Anglican female priest whose husband left her and the children to begin a same-sex relationship.
Such stories are not unknown. Wasn't there a prominent English Baptist called Roy Clements in such a situation? I wonder how you as an Anglican bishop would counsel such a couple. To follow one's strong desires and emotions? Or what?

My comment about unfulfilling marriages isn't a red herring, it's a very real question. Because the point on *Christian* marriage isn't about "making yourself happy" - it's about fulfilling the will of Christ for your life, the basic point about discipleship that you seem to have overlooked.
Whether a Christian is single or married, the call of discipleship is the same: it is about dying to yourself and living to Christ.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Moya said...

There is a very wide variety of sexual practice in the behaviour of human beings that, even in heterosexual marriage, ‘fall short of the glory of God’. I fail to see why one such sexual practice should be singled out as the reason for breaking the unity of the Body. I suspect it is so that it can be said, ‘we are a righteous church!’ But within every church there are also sins from the heart of human beings that Jesus talked about far more than sexual sin. ‘There is none righteous; no, not one’ and we need to beware of judgement and self-righteousness which Jesus dealt with much more severely. Only he had a body totally yielded to the light of God which is why the only righteousness we have is his, even as a church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi William
All sorts of amazing things happen to different people: that is good. I too could reference people whose life situations somewhat surprisingly lead to conclusions which would tick all the boxes you wish to see ticked. Good!

But that still leaves the question of people whose life situations lead to a lack of box tick from you but nevertheless live committed lives of loving service to one another, in an open and honest manner, in which no one else is betrayed, and from which households develop which contribute fruitfully to the boyd politic of society and to the Body of Christ. Discussion of how we the church might respond to such situations is not helped by bringing (e.g.) unfulfilled marriages into the discussion.

Those in unfulfilled marriages have opportunity to seek help for their situation and I, and you would encourage that.

But to those who do not wish to live alone AND have opportunity to not live alone, and the not aloneness is transcended through a same sex partnership, you and I differ.

As for discipleship, I admire my friends who are gay and in same sex partnerships and live lives faithful to Christ, including faithfulness to the Body of Christ despite the opposition they have faced and continue to face ... from fellow Christians!

Tim Chesterton said...

I find it interesting that in evangelical land, this seems to be mainly a conversation between straight people, about gay people.

I am truly astounded by the patience of some of my gay Christian friends, who have submitted to decades of straight people arguing in synods and church councils about their salvation and their sexuality. Or, continuing to confront the same tired old arguments in blog posts, arguments that have been answered over and over again, knowing that the people who are condemning them will never be satisfied.

Understandably, however, many have grown tired and moved on. I understand that, as the father of a beautiful lesbian daughter who married her partner over ten years ago now, and is done with waiting for the church to make room for her family. I understand that, as the friend of many wonderful gay Christians who used to engage in these blog discussions, but have grown weary of them.

Meanwhile, today comes the news that the Ugandan parliament has passed a bill imposing the death penalty on gay and lesbian people. This, of course, is quite biblical: Leviticus not only condemns men who lie with men but requires them to be stoned to death. But I have no difficulty imagining where Jesus stands on that subject. Peter, thank you for standing with him.

Mark Murphy said...

Great post, Tim.

Anonymous said...

Peter, it is not up to me to "tick boxes" for other people. Nobody is answerable to me. So it's a bit ad hominem and mean-spirited to personalise the issue, as if I was setting myself as a judge of others. It isn't about me (a nobody) at all - it is about the will of Christ who taught on marriage and singleness and inspired his Apostle to teach his church. Your quarrel is not with me but with the New Testament and 2000 years of orthodox interpretation of it.

But all of us - you and I included - are answerable to the Lord Christ. All of us will appear before his judgment seat. Do Anglicans believe that or are you universalists now?

And you know that St James warns that not all should be teachers because teachers will be subject to a fiercer judgment from Christ.

Do you imagine that the Fruit of the Spirit are an all or nothing affair, that you have them all or none at all? That is far too simplistic an understanding. Prostitutes can have a heart of gold, as the cliche goes. Many adulterers, for example, can be kind and generous and hardworking. Some even become kings and love their children.
And you have failed to grasp my point on fulfilment or not - derived from the Anglican Professor of Moral Theology Oliver O'Donovan - that whether a Christian is married or single, the call of discipleship is the same: to die to oneself and to live to Christ.
As I said above, making an idol out of sex - as Professor Carl Trueman so profoundly chronicled in his book "The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self" - is tearing the Protestant churches apart. Has it really been worth it?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Oh, William, with your failure to allow that there might be more than one Scripturally based response to the situation of gay couples in same sex partnerships, you have indeed set yourself up as a judge of others!

Indeed the fruit of the Spirit is not an all or nothing affair and adulterers can have a heart of gold.

In similar vein we could think about those who have their cake and eat it (Christian disciples who deny self and also marry) and those who don't (Other disciples to whom a marriage like state is prohibited and thus on whom falls an extra dimension to their denial of self, it must extend to deny that which others are permitted not to have to deny themselves).

As a French determinist might say, C'est la vie!

Peter Carrell said...

An additional comment, William:
Following BW above, we might note that Protestant churches might be tearing themselves apart for reasons other than making an idol out of sex ... because they have made a law book out of the gospel.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Tim!

John Sandeman said...

Peter are you saying that conservatives, who want to say gay sex is against God's rules, are distorting the gospel? It is a serious charge, akin to what St Paul said of the Judaisers.
This is an argument for saying such people need to be disciplined. Do you want those legalists in your church?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear John
That is always possible for any Christian; and when the gospel is about God bringing people together, it needs to be asked, when people are being driven apart, whether the gospel is being distorted.

I have in mind what BW says above:

“ Empirically, churches with a purely forensic soteriology have been notoriously fissiparous. ”

I am responding to William’s (Catholic) jibe about why Protestants are “tearing apart”. Why are we tearing ourselves apart?

If there is distortion of the gospel going on, why do you head straight for the possibility that discipline should ensue? That sounds rather law driven! What about a conversation instead?

John Sandeman said...

Whether or not distortion of the gospel should lead to discipline depends on the extent of the distortion I imagine.
“They have made a Law Book out of the Gospel” sounds like a serious change to me: what should bring freedom is bringing chains. Perhaps I over-read the seriousness ofof what you were taking about.
But there would be distortions Of the Gospel, that you would not tolerate I assume. Don’t worry I will not ask what they might be.

Mark Murphy said...

...not just tearing each other apart, but scapegoating gay people in the process.

Does individuation have to be so violent? (C/f the recent, more civil, adult, separation of North American Methodists).

I don't not mind churches saying: even though our official ecclesiology says we are autonomous, as we still regard England as the Mother Church it's time to strike out on our own, truly, and develop a healthy, separate adult life.

That's fine. It's probably even timely. But to make it all about That Topic - Mum has a sister who is lesbian and insists on including her and her partner in family meals... - is disingenuous at best, and....

Scapegoating is hugely ugly of course (as Jesus well knew), makes for awful kingdom-ology, but serves important group psychological functions (as Jesus knew). When a group can't own its own 'badness' - it's anger, violence, it's sense of it's own worthlessness, guilt, and powerlessness/vulnerability - it projects it onto an available minority, and condemns, suppresses, and symbolically or actually kills that group instead. I.e. Uganda. I.e. endless condemnation of homosexuals in the church for supposedly worshipping the god of sex etc (cue further sexual abuse disclosures from upright church ministers and authorities etc).

Of course it's a distortion of the gospel.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear John,
On the specific matter of actually disaffiliating or proposing to do so (... if synod decides ...) because some members of one's church believe that it is reasonable, under God, to enter into a loving lifelong partnership with a person of the same sex, not least to live out one's sexuality in an honest, transparent, non-promiscuous, non-unjust manner, I do think the Gospel has become the Law book.

Distortions of the gospel for which discipline might be invoked? ACANZP does have canons and they should be followed! But, there are other possibilities, not necessarily covered by the canons, or, at least not directly so. Not to get into any debate about any specifics, for a recent example, but responding to Covid, to government regulations and guidance re gatherings has raised some significant, if not sharp questions about whether doing X rather than Y is consistent with the gospel, and whether any inconsistency with the gospel should or should not be a matter of discipline (e.g. whether the way leadership has led might be subject to formal complaint).

I am concerned - I assume you are too - whether the apparent silence of the churches in Uganda about their brand new legislation re criminalization of homosexuals, even their execution is a distortion of the gospel. Closer to your home, I note in your blog's latest post your appropriate concern about "black shirt" Christian (?"Christian"?) protestors protesting violently and whether that is a distortion of the gospel. Hopefully no licensed Anglican clergy were involved!

Mark Murphy said...

Looking forward to seeing conservative Christian bloggers denounce the Uganda development.

Peter, isnt the other task in this for Anglicans who are not wanting to disaffiliate to allow parts of our church to separate out in a mature, gracious do the emotional, theological and legal work so that this can happen with the least amount of tearing apart and scapegoating as possible?

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, to both your points, Mark.

MsLiz said...

"when the gospel is about God bringing people together, it needs to be asked, when people are being driven apart, whether the gospel is being distorted" ~+Peter(10:33)

And.. who might be driving the division/distortion? and why?
The energy doesn't come out of nowhere.


Re: John Sandeman (21 Mar, 5:44pm) "Naughton.. Gafcon.. But the reality is more complex. Not everything is about the US."

Sure thing ~not easy for me to guage. Before coming across Naughton I'd already learned about the Institute of Religion and Democracy and their 'Reforming America's Churches Project'; the Council for National Policy and mega-donors. But Gafcon and Sydney Anglicans is fairly new to me. Once an event deemed unacceptable has occurred, the 'realignment' process seems [to me] to go ahead like it's all pre-planned which makes it seem more political than anything...but I'm just a puzzled spectator.

[And just purely out of interest]
"There's not much dominionism to be found in the Eastern Island".
~I found the story of Howard Carter/The Logos Foundation from the 80s/early-90s where he'd had a following/community in the Blue Mountains area and he even had Rushdoony visit as a guest speaker. He and his followers moved to Toowoomba but later the community fell apart after scandal. To some extent the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) seemed to form out of that; ACL appears to be dominionist (7M) ~but they deny this.

John Sandeman said...

The well-documented failure of the Logos foundation is one reason that there is not much dominionism to be found on the Western (sorry, not Eastern) Island. Another is the comparative lack of interest in that movement in the theological colleges. It might be taught as part of academic study, but it is not something urged on students.

Part of the reason is the small size of conservative Protestantism in Australia. The idea of building a movement to take serious power is laughable. People who might be tempted to go down that path quickly regard it as dead end.

Within Australian Pentecoatalism, the similar New Apostolic Reformation, which can be seen as a reconstructionist movemnet has not gained much traction. There's 7M rhetoric but little else.

And the story of the Australian Christian Lobby, is of a movement that has less power in the political sphere rather than more taken over a 20 year span. It has retreated from engagemnet with the major political parties.

MsLiz said...

Seems to me conservative evangelical male leaders who bang on about authority have been treating their preferred understanding of the gospel as "law" forever.. and love, joy, peace don't thrive in that environment. They ardently preach submission (of course).

At home as a kid when I was sitting in our dining/lounge on a Sunday afternoon, quietly doing a bit of knitting, my father told me to put the knitting away as I wasn't to do 'work' on a Sunday! That's just a tiny example of what the mind-set is like.

Can't you see how insidious this eye-wateringly slavish devotion to Law has been all along?

~it's literally been there ALL THE TIME!!!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Liz
Peter has been a wonderful friend of mine since 1982!
He is one of NZ's best known Christians (e.g. through media appearances re religious matters through the years) and has been a faithful disciple of Christ, beginning, as you note, in Open Brethren church circles.

MsLiz said...

That's another surprise! I'm really glad to know you're friends, +Peter.

One thing Peter Lineham shared particularly grabbed my attention:

"Most gay people who come from strong religious backgrounds are slightly homophobic internally, because they feel a tremendous amount of guilt and are battling with that."

Quite a revelation and reinforces how I need to practise love, humility and openness to new ways of understanding. I often struggle with my "strong religious" background so it's interesting to find a little commonality in that respect!

Anonymous said...

"the Uganda development"

This one?

The deeper issue here is: how should we respond as Christians and Anglicans to regimes that both curtail civil liberties and resist the liberal international order?

Jesus is Lord, with "all power in heaven and on earth." Fascism is a spiritual sickness. Limited states enable conscientious living and obstruct less of the Father's will. The liberal order has promoted vastly more prosperity, conserved more peace, and wasted fewer resources than the old geopolitical rivalries.

If we are still in the God business, let us pray.

NTW Romans Road, Dark Valley.

"emotional, theological and legal work"

A national church faced with schism has duties in a variable ratio to both the departing and any remaining. In the notorious case of South Carolina, 815 did not abandon the dozen or so parishes that wished to remain in TEC, but with characteristic cruelty it did fail even to recognize its duties to the former led by Mark Lawrence. It is easy to imagine cases in which churches err just as badly to the other side, trying so hard to empathize with those stalking out and slamming the door that minorities still ardently loyal to them are betrayed.

As discussed in other comments for past threads under archived OPs, today's schismatics mainly want local yet denominational identities that are stable while the senior sees take their own identities for granted and seek to be more missional where they are and perhaps everywhere as a Communion.

Either perspective can be taken to naive and even delusional extremes. GAFCON will always have gay clergy. TEC is a church for only some of its nation. But churches remaining consistent in a consciously struck balance of the historical and the missional may err less in setting priorities and maintaining loyalties.

In is in-- we confess faith, have or restore trust, build new regional and bilateral relationships, recruit new member churches, collaborate in mission and missions, and manifest organic unity. Out is out-- we stay close to friends when we can and otherwise see each other at cafes and rooftops, meetings of civic charities, and the World Council of Churches. Between the In and the Out is the Ecumene, warmer than it once was but unjustly neglected since Rome cooled on it in the 1980s.


Anonymous said...

Yes and no.

To some, the Bible shows a Way through Christ to trusting human unity. More Bible is more unity in deeper things.The John Stott side of Evangelicalism exemplifies this sunny path.

Anonymous said...

But to others, the same Bible is, as a transcendent authority, an alternative to trusting others and often a warning against dangers of human unity. More Bible is then ironically more ornery suspicion and solipsism. Fairly or not, this darker Evangelicalism has been associated with Martyn Lloyd -Jones.

Depending on one's own mood and situation, Billy Graham could be heard either way.


Mark Murphy said...

Quite disturbing scenes in Auckland yesterday.

A woman vilified as a "trans-rights activist", who calls herself a women's rights advocate, is verbally abused and intimated by rainbow activists, who then break the lines and manage to tip a bottle of tomato juice over her head. Really ugly. And ugly for the small crowd of (mainly middle-aged) women who had gathered to hear her speak.

I'm sympathetic to a critical reading of transgenderism, but feel uncomfortable with some of its rhetoric too. But we didn't they didn't even get as far as talking about the issue. "Posie Parker" has already been cancelled from facebook, twitter, and now public speaking spaces in NZ.

The rainbow activists railing against her *looked* the more aggressive, bigoted group yesterday.

We are on the edge....over the edge...into...a new era of aggressive, polarizing culture wars in NZ. I kind of know this *and* felt shocked watching it actually unfold.

Mark Murphy said...

The cultural war frontier in NZ....

At one point, a weird clash of scapegoated minorities: Destiny Church tane Māori do a haka in a face off with pink-clad, non-binary rabble rousers.

MsLiz said...

"Yes and no" .. "But to others"

I don't quite 'get' where you're coming from BW as I was specifically referring to Billy Graham's influence on Peter Jensen and how Peter's perpetuated that to others.

I assume Jensen fits mainly into your 'Bible as transcendent authority', "an alternative to trusting others" paragraph. But then again, the same people (Jensen/Gafcon) also promote "unity" within their context.

I hope I get time to read more about John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Via Wikipedia I just found this fascinating nugget about Lloyd-Jones, albeit lacking citations. He had a major operation and the text follows on to say "He spoke of a belief that God had stopped him from continuing to preach through the New Testament book of the Letter to the Romans in his Friday evening Bible study exposition because he did not personally know enough about "joy in the Holy Spirit", which was to be his next sermon (based on Romans 14:17)."

Also BW, I've been wanting to tell you how much I'm enjoying reading 'Life in the Trinity' by Donald Fairbairn which you told me about on a previous ADU post. Thanks for that.

And just musing re GAFCON.. are they moving toward establishing an 'orthodox' Anglican Communion that sits alongside the 'revisionist' Anglican Communion? I'm confused.

Moya said...

I thought that calling Posie Parker an ‘anti-transgender activist’ in the RNZ headline I saw was a labelling that set her up for the ugly scenes that occurred… It is so sad and destructive of any real conversation on any topic. Language has power!

Moya said...

Liz, search YouTube for ‘the gospel in chairs’ by Brad Jersak for an evangelical take on the gospel plus what he says is an Orthodox one.
(I don’t know how to give the link sorry). Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

"Graham... (Crusade)... Jensen... others"

I agree with + Peter.

"the same people also promote 'unity' within their context"

It appears to be tribal unity in an opposition rather than human unity in Christ.

"'orthodox'...'revisionist'...I am confused"

So are they. Drawing a line by SSM effectively distinguishes Anglicans who accept and maybe like states with the self-imposed limitations of liberal democracies from Anglicans who for diverse reasons do not.

Nothing in the Way or the Body required that it be drawn. Because all knowledge of God is from his self-revelation, a line thus drawn merely by the will of man is without form or reality or meaning.

On both sides of the line, one can be orthodox or heterodox. The only error is to think that the line is real.


Justification, sanctification, vocation. To a disciple of Jesus, what she does has ultimate meaning as YHWH transforms her through her worship and obedience. Godly meaning is not applied to her life from outside it by a convention or institution.

Protestants are closest to their own traditions when they acknowledge that marriage is good, an *order of creation* for all humanity governed somewhat by states. Believers in the Creator refer questions about his order to his creation

Marriages are privately contracted and publicly registered. When clergy officiate, they exercise a civil competence licensed by civil authority, not a sacerdotal power in the *order of redemption* that is required for salvation.


MsLiz said...

Moya, I watched the 2015 version and enjoyed it, thanks for sharing!

"Language has power!". Absolutely. One aspect of this for me is statements from Gafcon folk which press buttons triggering old concerns embedded long ago in my conservative evangelical days. Aargh!

BW, I find myself most unhappily stuck in the middle of two opposing views and not only that but repeatedly wrenched between one side and the other. At the beginning of this week I thought I'd resolved this issue, at least for me, but evidently not :(

"an *order of creation* for all humanity governed somewhat by states."
Re "all humanity", do you mean marriage as between 'two people' rather than restricted to just male/female, and that also being governed by the ruling civil authority?

"Believers in the Creator refer questions about his order to his creation" I don't understand what this means.. sorry.

MsLiz said...

Bowman, I think I see. Re-visiting what you wrote with coffee in hand this morning is working better for me.

An *order of creation* is separate from, and has no effect on, assurance of salvation for the believer. And therefore, for clergy officiating at a marriage, their actions have nothing to do with things that pertain to the *order of redemption*.

I really hope my understanding's on the right track now. If I understand you correctly, that's a really interesting angle for me to think about.

Anonymous said...

Liz. I've replied twice, but I was too far off the grid today for my phone to post the result. Third try on a landline in town...

Yes, you get the Protestant variant of the old scholastic distinction--

The order of creation: the state, the family, and marriage.
The order of redemption: the visible church, ministry, sacraments, etc .

So why do clergy solemnize marriages (creation) in churches (redemption)? There is a backstory.

Until nearly the end of the first millennium, families everywhere contracted betrothals and conducted weddings (eg Cana). Matrimonial law was more local and customary than universal and codified. Churches had a discipline for marriage, but bishops by *economy* could grant dispensations *** from it.

Early in the second millennium, the West needed a uniform law and a written record of who was married to whom. Only churches then had literate "clerks" in every city, town, and village, so the nucleus of the service that is still in widespread use today took shape in public view on steps facing west into myriad markets and squares.

A thousand years ago under the sky, publishing banns to bystanders and exhorting them to testify to impediments "or forever hold your peace" prevented much bigamy and child abandonment, and perhaps a little polyandry. The cool questions verifying the bride's escort, identity, and intent originally countered the kidnapping and sale of brides. The language has an impersonal, administrative tone that seems odd today but befits a stone-faced determination to save women and their children from poverty and human trafficking.

The procedure is probably the most successful social program in human history, and in some places outside the West it is still badly needed. But for all the lace and flowers, hymns and readings, it is more proper to a town hall, public notary, database, etc than to a temple that dispenses and supports assurance of salvation.

*** Once upon a time, nearly all the bishops of France agreed that Jesus's prohibition on divorce would be satisfied if a husband gave his wife's hand in marriage to her new husband (the king) so that she went from marriage to marriage without ever being divorced.


Moya said...

There are two diverse subjects in this thread and I am still exploring the Atonement. There is an excellent article in the latest Anglican Life magazine produced by the Diocese of Christchurch. It is entitled ‘Why Did Jesus Die? Atonement, Grace and the risen Christ in us’ by The Very Rev’d Lawrence Kimberley, Dean of Christchurch, who enjoys reading in the area of the theology of the Incarnation and Atonement. Apparently, the current evangelical understanding exemplified in ‘the gospel in chairs’, was only produced in the 12th century and was roundly criticised! I found the article encouraging and helpful.

MsLiz said...

Hi Moya, I looked for the article online but it wasn't in the Dec-Feb issue that I downloaded - so I'm guessing there's a later 'Anglican Life' issue that's not been put online yet.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Moya.

On the atonement, David M Moffitt--

Useful for context, N T Wright's overview of his Gifford Lectures, especially after 23:54--


Anonymous said...

"fails the Jesus test at every level of the holy conversation"

Not if one is talking to ChatGPT ;-)

Every critic of rationalism sees that it is missing something essential to the gospel. At ADU, the deficit is nearly always said to be experience. (If Anglicans Down Under are all so Wesleyan, then why have you not merged with your Methodists?) Elsewhere, other deficits are mentioned: embodiment, situatedness, word play, symbolic depth, direct address, recognition, construction, action, "face without flag," metanoia, spirituality, tradition, mystery, desire.

Kindly note that these critiques are by no means confined to edgy revisionists. I know youngish people who cheerfully believe that Adam was an historical person, but make the same sorts of criticisms that I hear in threads here. Postmodern as they are, they have consciously chosen without qualms to see reality in the way that best helps them to know God. Being modern, the old Fundamentalists would not have understood that act of choosing and could not conscientiously have done it.

The elephant that all we blind men are groping seems to be personhood. When reason is reduced to a sort of algorithm, the result just hangs in mid-air, possibly unimpeachable but also ungrounded in lived lives. What we keep calling "conservative evangelicalism"-- conserving what, exactly?-- is better called rationalistic evangelicalism.

There was an historical moment when it was truly helpful to be able to look out the window of a pastor's study and see a luminous crystal hovering over the garden outside, useless and unapproachable but also demonstrably and reassuringly perfect. That moment began to pass a century ago.

Different people erect monuments in diverse places, but I myself think of William James's assertion that what makes ideas religious is that one must let them order one's consciousness to understand them. If one sets out in modern dress to be a properly objective, disinterested, neutral, purely rational observer of say Jesus, then one be will gazing into a black hole or a mirror. If one follows Jesus's words in the Sermon on the Mount, one will begin to know and perhaps love him, but at the cost of being by then a different person in the Lord.

Beating a new groove on the old anti-confessional drum, some argue that TEC is a community, not of theology, but of practice. Believe what you will but follow every rubric of the BCP. They are thinking of Wittgenstein's language-games rather than James's Pragmatism, but live in a climate similarly inhospitable to rationalism.

Personally-- and how else can one think?-- I was gladdened when the theological commission of the Church of Cockaigne, asked to do for the C21 what the famous Doctrine in the Church of England did for the C20, responded with a volume of parallel lives. Like the pairs in Plutarch's Lives of Noble Greeks and Romans, each of these recounted two exemplary yet different ways of living out some common belief. The future of theology is hagiography.


MsLiz said...

"why have you not merged with your Methodists?"

I rarely see Methodist churches. In rural areas down south I commonly see Presbyterian, Catholic, Anglican, a charismatic church, maybe a Baptist and perhaps a closed Methodist!

"conservative evangelicalism"-- conserving what, exactly?

For me personally, the phrase makes me think of patriarchal control (both in the church and in the family) and the tight grip to maintain it. Reading the Bible, especially the NT, super literally and using that to tightly control women/children. Black and white thinking where every question seems to elicit a model answer, and therefore my feeling of it being a closed system with little chance of anything new or fresh being allowed to penetrate. A lot of expectations and accompanying judgmentalism. ~I can see I've used "tight" twice.. which says a lot in itself!

Anonymous said...

"patriarchal control (both in the church and in the family) and the tight grip to maintain it"

Preachers and congregations who help persons crippled by toxic 'archies and dysfunctional families do not lack grateful adherents.

"control...tight... maintain... reading super literally... black and white thinking... model answer... closed system... nothing new or fresh... expectations... judgmentalism..."

Babies will be born today with predispositions to concrete thinking, familiarity, stable order, and secure status. You have described their paradise. But of course it's also hell on earth for the speculative, adventurous, improvisational, independent spirits attracted to + Peter's OPs.

God made those and all babies that way because he loves them. We are little more in Christ, even a littler more our open-minded exploring selves, when we can love them as he does. Which is not necessarily the way they love themselves.

But God will also change them and us. Temperament is only a base, a voice, a start. Life's inescapable tasks press all personalities to develop beyond their childhood attrait. Forgiveness is sometimes easier for us when we can imagine difficult persons, not refusing but accepting the growth that their vocations from God require. Whether God too will do this for them in the end is unclear.

As the new living temple where heaven and earth meet, where the old creation overlaps the new one, and where opening day was Pentecost, Jesus's Body subverts monocultures of every kind. So catholic order does not cater to any single sensibility and actually finds some occasional misfits, eccentrics, and holy fools helpful.

But parishes resistant to catholic order are not rare. Evangelical parachurch ministries that circumvent that order often draw support from narrow constituencies. People in pews who want schism today seem to be seeking a cognitively unchallenging monoculture.

Archaeologists in the Middle East find many magic amulets, made in the same metals and styles as the usual pagan ones, but with Jesus's words of exorcism. Mercifully, Jesus himself acknowledged those who were not his disciples but nevertheless cast out demons in his name. We do likewise when we distinguish between his Body and sectarians.


Anonymous said...

I occasionally mention that regions matter in North America, not just in the US but in Canada and Mexico as well. So-- in a blunt, personal, center-right, millennial, Philadelphian yet Canadian voice-- does this--

For more on the British influence on the continent, see David Hackett Fischer's classic and entertaining book Albion's Seed.


MsLiz said...

"Beating a new groove on the old anti-confessional drum"
Cool YouTube link :)

BW, I've been away and motel WIFI wasn't working so catching up now. I need to understand more about these: "confessing" (which Gafcon seems to use a lot) or "confessional" as you've used above. Btw, creeds and catechesis aren't that familiar to me; catechesis I've only come across very recently.

After a quick search I found "The Confessing Church in History", an article by John R. Muether in Tabletalk magazine June 2021. I've only skimmed over it so far but it looks interesting.

Any info you'd recommend on this topic BW?

Anonymous said...

Liz, *confession* is one word that chases a few distantly related meanings.

On one hand, the Confessing Church in Germany separated itself from Protestant churches that adopted the German Christianity promoted by Nazi ideology. Words like confess, confessing, confession are used more often than we would expect from context by Gafconians who see themselves as being in an analogous situation today with respect to a postmodern ideology of sex. About this, I will say no more today.

On the other hand, documents of Protestant churches in the tradition of the C16 Augsburg Confession are called *confessions*. Most churches that have them have officially regarded them as what Anglicans call *instruments of communion* for centuries.

Up to a point, confessions have worked. The landscape here is dotted with churches built and maintained by people doing good works whose spiritual forebears united around these documents centuries ago. The inhabitants are real Christians whose clarity about what they believe enables them to keep head and heart together as they collaborate in the Lord.

However, all of the churches that are confessional in this latter sense have some
perennial controversies. To name a few--

Who believes the confession? Just clergy or everyone?

Does one believe the confession subject to scriptural correction or does one correct readings of the scriptures by the confessions?

Are creeds just very early confessions, or is there a qualitative difference between say the Nicene Creed and a confession?

What is one's relationship to churches whose confessions contradict language in one's own?

Who authoritatively interprets a confession?

What is the status of an individual who grew up in a church but quibbles here and there with its confession?

How does a church assimilate new or retrieved knowledge to the fixed language of a confession?

In the C19, Romantics questioned the adequacy of language to God with their confessions very much in mind.

When a gap is seen between the Second Temple mind of the NT and the late medieval mind of a confession, how does someone with today's mind make sense of them?

Does a confession authorize practice or does practice contextualize the confession?

Kindly note that questions like these have been answered over and over again and sometimes quite well. But then the question is: which answers will stick and why?

The quality of the answers may be more important than the quality of the confession.


MsLiz said...

"real Christians whose clarity about what they believe enables them to keep head and heart together" ... this really helps me appreciate the creeds much more. Having had little to do with them previously I hadn't felt much connection but now I think I understand. Thanks for the info, and reading through the "controversies" is interesting and helpful.