Monday, September 7, 2009

Wright in the thick of it

Over on Hermeneutics and Human Dignity I offer a few remarks about N.T. Wright's tour de force on justification called Justification: God's plan and Paul's vision. Richard Burridge has a few thoughts too in a Church Times review.

Burridge offers the provocative idea that Wright (and Paul) is 'the Marmite Man' - one you either love or hate - with nothing in between!

Certainly Wright's role - one of a collective of writers - in the latest Anglican Communion Institute essay on the Covenant is a Marmite Man role, if this riposte by Jim Naughton is anything to go by.

Included in the riposte is this paragraph:

"If, someday, the first things unchurched people think of when they hear the word Anglican is homophobe, Rowan Williams and these fellows will be the reason why. Their efforts to make the Communion safe for the most vicious sort of anti-gay bigots, and unwelcoming to those who make even timid moves toward full inclusion of GLBT Christians may be clumsy and transparently self-aggrandizing, but that doesn't mean they may not succeed."

Unfortunately this kind of rant is self-defeating for the purpose of making the Anglican church safe for gay and lesbian Anglicans. First, it contributes to a militant unfriendly culture in the church in which every disagreeable idea is subject to scorn and ridicule. We need a church which has a culture of fair consideration of difference and disagreement - it is not always easy to do this (I get accused myself of unfair reception of ideas I do not agree with) - but we could try better than Jim Naughton does here.

Secondly, what is it with making the simplistic equation from the ACI stance which is "honest belief that Scripture requires of Anglicans that we be married or single" to "homophobe"? Essentially this equation is dishonest and unfair. There is further dishonesty in assessing the work of ACI (which, let us remember includes some of the leading Anglican academic scholars of our generation) as making the Communion 'safe for the most vicious sort of anti-gay bigots'. That is not their work, nor is it their aim or intention for that work. They are, in fact, trying to make the Communion safe for Anglicans being, believing, and belonging to each other as Anglicans. Again, in what way is a church which cultivates dishonesty a safe place for anyone, let alone gay and lesbian Anglicans looking for respect for being honest about who they are? This kind of remark by Jim Naughton represents an abusive and scornful sub-culture in the church which, apparently, understands itself as representing the best interests of the widest and most inclusive array of Anglicans possible.

Thirdly, the Anglican Communion will be a safe place for gay and lesbian Anglicans when its understanding of homosexuality is well-balanced on its foundation in Scripture, supported by reason and tradition. As long as we have not done the necessary work together on interpreting Scripture towards conclusions held in common about the nature of inclusiveness in respect of homosexuals, the Communion will be a quarrelsome environment, unsafe for many people, including the 'GLBT community'. The point of the ACI essay, and of the Covenant, is that we should be a Communion working together on common discernment of Scripture. But of the importance, and necessity of this we find nothing in what Jim Naughton writes.

Keep up the good work +Tom, Chris, Ephraim, Mark, and Philip!

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