Monday, November 1, 2010

Anti-Covenant salvo firing blanks

Andrew Goddard, as usual, quickly, eruditely, intelligently, and concisely parries the attempts at a meaningful salvo from certain progressive elements in Anglican life. This time the 'attack' ads against the Covenant, being mounted in English church newspapers by a couple of groups uniting together for common anti-Covenant purpose, are repelled. Here is a flavour:

"Two of the Church of England groups most associated with an appeal to reason have demonstrated themselves to be incapable of reasoned argument. They have also revealed themselves so hermeneutically challenged when faced with a relatively simple and short text whose contemporary context is well known that, did I not know some of the groups’ leaders, I would conclude they were deliberately misrepresenting the situation and framing false charges just in order to rally their troops and engender fear in those relatively uninformed of the covenant’s background and content."

As you can see, no prisoners will be taken in this counter-raid. The attackers, Goddard is saying, are firing loud and noisy ... blanks! The whole post is here.


Suem said...

Andrew Goddard writes of IC and MC,
"they claim that the covenant would somehow make us more inward-looking because it would require us ‘to seek a shared mind with other Churches’.

I think (for IC) this idea of a "shared mind" is the nub of the issue. Will the Covenant require the whole Communion to be in agreement over issues such as the ordaination of homosexual persons, or will it not?

If it will NOT be requiring such totally unreasonable conformity (particularly given the deeply offensive views held and expressed in parts of the Communion) I do not think IC or MC would have a problem.

Does "shared mind" mean we would have to wait for several decades until places such as Africa begin to catch up and recognise the human rights and freedoms of gay people? If the answer is "yes", then I say "no" to the Covenant. I do not believe those of us in more tolerant societies can allow gay people's gifts, dignities, ministries and faith to be squandered and damaged in this way.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I am interested in your characterization of the issues below, mostly in terms of 'rights.' What happened to theology in respect of the mind of the Communion? It is right and proper that the Communion, seeking to be of one mind in Christ considers it important to share a common mind on any change to the definition of marriage, or to the acceptable manner of sexual relationships of its bishops (if not of other clergy). These concerns are not about rights or dignities, but about what we think God has revealed to us to be God's will.

The continued insistence (whether by you if I have understood you correctly, or by others) that these matters are not something the Communion need be concerned with in terms of a common mind will likely destroy the Communion. Perhaps that is the way things should be, but it suggests we know that God does not value unity. An intriguing implication of the situation!

(PS I welcome a response from you, but it is possible I will not get back online for another 24+ hours. Cheers!)

Brother David said...

I think that you know that there are those of us that do not give a rats patuti about the Communion's common mind.

BTW, when will ACANZP be spending a year on its knees in sack cloth and ashes for ignoring the common mind of the Communion way back when you changed the full aspect of the diocesan episcopacy as you elected and consecrated a human with developed and functioning mammary glands and no penis to that office?

Or that heretical idea of a three Kitanga provincial structure?

If we wait for the mind of the communion we will die waiting.

Suem said...

I can see that certain theological tenets of Christianity need to be upheld, but the sinfulness of homosexuality is not a central tenet of Christianity. Indeed, the issue is not mentioned in the gospels, moreover other sexual issues, such as the remarriage of divorcees have been permitted without the need for any shared mind via a document, despite clear scriptural injuctions to the contrary.

I think that the valuing of the marginalised, the need to reserve judgement and to place mercy and love before the adherence to the letter of the law are central to the gospel. I am surprised that you do not think human rights or justice are theological issues. To me we can bring theology to every aspect of life, it is not just a sideline!
I am sure God values unity, but unity is not the same as coerced conformity, is it? I think what God values is the love that we show each other, this is written strongly through Christ's teaching.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, the Communion has already done the basic theology mandating the full inclusion of gay people within our churches, our province has already signed up to it in principle, and it is all framed in terms of both mission and justice. A reminder ...

"That this General Synod / te Hinota Whanui endorses the principles as to the mission of the Church set out by the ACC 6 and ACC 8 resolution(s) namely:
(i) To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom; (ii) To teach, baptise and nurture the new believers; (iii) To respond to human needs by loving service; (iv) To seek to transform unjust structures of society; (v) To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth [1988, 1994]"

Which bit of gay rights within the church does not flow directly from the first four principles, and indeed from the first, given that the others are implied by the first?

You frequently make this rhetorical move separating gospel-directed mission from human rights. We have already established an inter-Communion agreement that they cannot be. That makes your insistence on separating them a form of backsliding ... :-)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
Theology touches on everything, including rights and social justice (and I probably gave a wrong impression with what I wrote). But I suggest many theologians (if we include the whole church, not just the modern liberal Protestant slice of it) would find it mighty strange to be told that "theology" determined that "rights" were the most important thing for theological reflection in the current issues dividing Anglicans around the Communion.

You are very confident that Jesus taught about love as a priority over unity, and didn't teach about homosexuality. Your beliefs will be drawn from Scripture, yet in Scripture we find that Jesus said some very clear and decisive things about upholding Moses' teaching on human sexuality (noting his constant downer on 'immorality'), and the same Jesus according to John's gospel taught the importance of both love and unity in the body of believers.

The Covenant, I suggest, will encourage Anglicans to search the Scriptures both carefully and comprehensively so that what we do and say will reflect what Scripture says in its wholeness and not just in our partiality.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I have never understood why the episcopal structure of our church is not of such importance that it has driven the Communion to envisage effective sanctions against us.

Meanwhile might I assure you and other readers that our church continues to reflect on our episcopal structure and whether it practically serves us well. We are not so good at thinking about whether it is theologically good and true, and some Communion action might refocus our energies on such theologising.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
If I am a backslider in the light of such attention to interpretation of interpretations of Scripture, then I hope you are not morphing into a Pharisee ... :)

It is not I who am separating 'gospel-directed mission from human rights'. Gospel-directed mission involves proclaiming the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ has saved us from our sin and bought us with the price of his own blood from slavery to sin into the freedom of God's family. It is the right of every human being to hear that gospel preached truthfully.

Where Christians are divided as to the truth of that gospel, e.g. what constitutes sin, what constitutes the character of freedom in Christ, the solution is not to invoke 'rights' but to determine what the truth is.

The gospel of Christ is consistent with a large number of human rights as considered by modern Western societies, but it is not itself determined by human rights but by revelation of God in Christ.

While you claim (with others) that you have received revelation that certain things formerly considered sinful are no longer sinful, others have not received that revelation. I fail to see how invoking 'rights' is going to help those in the latter category to receive that revelation.

Anonymous said...

None of the Bible writers would have understood for a moment what "gay (or homosexual) rights" meant, nor would anyone else until c. 1960.
Human societies have conferred all kinds of "rights" down the ages: polygamy, concubinage, having a catamite, keeping slaves, torturing the same, bear-baiting, abortion etc. Be wary of historical myopia and chronological snobbery.

Al M.

Brother David said...

None of the Bible writers would have understood for a moment what "gay (or homosexual) rights" meant,

Exactly! Until recently, not a lot about human sexuality was understood by much of humanity. How could they write or respond to something unknown to them?

And yet throughout human history, scattered all over the world, were folks who understood that sexual minorities were just that, a small portion of the population with a sexuality that was different. They excepted it as a part of nature, they respected those who were members of these minorities, and even in some cultures held them in honored positions of the tribal order.

Mathematics is without bias or emotion, and yet the math remains the same, the same small proportion of sexual minorities exist in all parts of the world, among all races and cultures. As do many other minority human traits. That makes them normal, even if minority. In fact the only ones who ever go around labeling things abnormal, are those in the majority.

Anonymous said...

"Exactly! Until recently, not a lot about human sexuality was understood by much of humanity. How could they write or respond to something unknown to them?"

Wow, who's the chronological snob now?! Ancient people may not have known about x and y chromosones, but they knew quite a lot about sex ('sexuality' hadn't been coined yet). Homosexuality was well known and encouraged (as an educational rite of passage) among Greek boys in the classical period. Read Plato's 'Symposium' for Aristophanes' speech in praise of the 'superiority' of homosexual love. By contrast, Roman society had no place for such Greek decadence. And ritual homosexuality was common among the Canaanites (they are called 'qedoshim' in the Old Testament). As the Greeks demonstrated, the prevalence of homosexuality in a society is to a large extent culturally driven.

Even so, the largest poll yet (recently in the UK) showed only 1% of British people self-identifying as homosexual, and 0.5% as bisexual - much smaller numbers than you would judge by all the noise and political agitation to change the law on marriage and adoption. Moreover, male homosexuals outnumber feamles 2 to 1. Blind hatred and anti-Christian animus has driven the war on Judeo-Christian ethics.
Homosexuality is not genetically based, nor is it usually 'chosen'; it is an unconsciously learned (inverted) adaptation to life experiences among adolescents. British psychiatrist Professor Glyn Harrison (linked on 'The Ugley Vicar' blog) has some very perceptive things to say on unwanted same-sex attraction.

Al M.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Al M, of virtual anonymity, there is something distinctly out-of-order about your response to David's comment when you label him a "chronological snob" and offer your preferred theory about the psychological origins of homosexuality.

As you must be well aware, David has identified himself on this site as a homosexual man. You on the other hand, keep your own identify and personal experience of homosexuality well hidden, preferring to rely on generalisations about human experience drawn from an interpreted subset of research data - which is essentially a depersonalising tactic discounting the life experience of others worthless as evidence.

What you actually do, in my eyes anyway, is to diminish yourself. When David says that, "Until recently, not a lot about human sexuality was understood by much of humanity", this implies that what was known by the Greeks and Romans was very little compared to what has been more recently discovered, and that social attitudes and beliefs conditioned by that comparative ignorance did not do justice to his own experience as a gay man in a different society. This hardly qualifies as "chronological snobbery". We would say much the same about many areas of knowledge where we have built upon but surpassed the foundations provided by the Greeks and Romans.

Perhaps it would be helpful for you to disclose a little more about yourself: in particular, whether the "unwanted same-sex attraction" you refer to as a general phenomenon has played a significant part in your own experience, influencing the formation of your own beliefs about homosexuality. In my case, it has not: I have never experienced such attractions, and have no way of assessing their importance apart from hearing the testimony of those who have.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Wot, me a Pharisee? At last I gain entry to the company of the good Guys! :-) (Matthew's Gospel is appearing on our horizon)

Peter, your response to my suggestion that the five-fold mission statement is relevant to our definition of "the gospel" is a good one, in its clarification of our disagreement. In terms of classical evangelical theology, you are quite right:- the gospel is essentially about individual sin and redemption.
On those terms, advocates of a changed attitude to homosexuality need to demonstrate that it is not sin, and talk of 'human rights' is irrelevant.

However, the first principle in the Communion's mission statement refers to "the good news of the Kingdom" (my italics). As a biblical scholar, you know that this term brings in the added dimension of social transformation, present and future. That implication is among those explicitly drawn out by the four principles that follow:- to proclaim the Kingdom in its fullness, we must also address issues of incorporation, social service, social justice and care for creation. We are thus already committed, as the Anglican Communion, to a view that addressing issues of injustice in social structures is an essential and integral part of proclaiming the gospel.

If it can be argued that a conservative theological position on sexuality has under-girded social structures oppressing homosexuals, then that argument must form an integral part of our discussion about gospel truth. Hence its repeated appearance in comments here from Suem, David and others.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,

I assume that a shared goal between us is to understand the gospel of the kingdom as fully as possible, both in respect of 'gospel, 'kingdom' and 'gospel of the kingdom.' In that understanding we would want to understand the whole of Scripture and we would refuse to settle for inadequate accounting of Scripture.

Thus I find it difficult to, seemingly, be presented with something of an either/or (individual sin//conservative theology versus social sin, injustice//social transformation). Scripture speaks to both, and it does so in some of its explicit talk about kingdom and about transformation. Notably, in respect of individuals and lifestyle choices, Paul speaks of those who will not enter the kingdom and of those whose lives have been transformed by God (1 Corinthians 6). I do not see in your previous comment where your statements re the gospel and the kingdom account for such talk (which, and we are agreed on this, raises some particular interpretative issues in respect of 1 Cor 6:9-10 ... we are not agreed on the resolution of those issues!)

On the more general question of unjust social structures (accepting your description pro forma) which oppress homosexuals, conservative Christians and their theologies have undoubtedly played a part in reinforcing if not creating those structures.

But much turns on what "unjust" and "oppress" means here. We do not think it unjust or oppressive that we have social structures which prohibit the propensity of some parents to express themselves with physical violence when they feel the discipline of their children requires it. That is because generally across our society we are agreed that such expression is wrong.

In a society which is generally agreed that the physical expression of homosexual desire is right (between consenting adults etc), any opposition to such expression is properly describable as 'unjust' and 'oppressive.' But to use that language in the context of theological discussion begs the question whether all participants are agreed as to what is right. We are not so agreed (e.g. across the social community called the Anglican Communion) and thus I do not see how talk of 'unjust' and 'oppression' moves the discussion along. It presupposes agreement where it does not exist.

Brother David said...

Al M, perhaps you should go study a bit about what our ancestors knew. There are still primitive societies today with ritualized forms of male homosexual behavior because they believe that for a boy to become a man, his body must ingest the semen of mature men of his clan/tribe, who likewise achieved maturity by ingesting the semen of the generations of mature men before them. This is not ritualized in public forms of sex, but in the societal encouragement for boys to freely engage in sexual activity, felatio and anal intercourse, with men when the occasion presents itself. Perhaps the Greeks were practicing a more evolved and "civilized" development from similar beliefs.

The professional medical, pediatric, psychiatric, psychological and social work societies and associations of every modern nation have determined homosexuality to not be aberrant or the result of any pathology. Period.

We do not know the root cause of homosexuality. But we do know that it is not learned. It may be the result of a cascade of genetic events during gestation, or a result of the combination of both genetics and environment during gestation. What we do know regarding male homosexuality (I have studied little of lesbianism) is that the root cause results in the permanent feminization of the male brain, which involves the entire body systems. An example, one area of study used three groups; heterosexual females, heterosexual males and homosexual males. They injected the hormone estrogen into all three groups and afterward, through a series of blood draws, followed the course of how the bodies of the three groups handled the introduction of estrogen. The bodies of heterosexual males handled estrogen very differently than the bodies of the females. The bodies of homosexual men handled the estrogen in a fashion very similar to the females. That is not learned behavior. That is a marked biological difference.

As a human behavioralist, I have a four year licenciatura in human behavior from the Autonomous State University of Hidalgo, psychology and sociology, and am a practicing psychologist in organizational development, I am skeptical of the results of a government asking folks face to face in a door to door survey about their sexual differentiation. No matter how many assurances you gave me of the confidentiality involved, if I was a closeted gay man I would not be inclined to tell you intimate details about my sexual life. I believe that there are greater numbers of us Al M, than the British survey results indicate, but yes, we are a small minority. However, a consistent minority across all humanity.

Thank you Howard for being my Knight in Shining Armor!

Andy S said...

There are still primitive societies today with ritualized forms of male homosexual behavior

And there are societies who cut off the clitori of little girls and sew up their vaginas - a horrendous barbarity.

In truth everyone of us has things that stand between us and the Lord.

It maybe love of food or money, it may be the "expression of our sexuality" to use modernspeak but you can count on the fact there isn't a human being alive today that does not have one or more things that stand as obstacles to their salvation.

To try and pretend otherwise is foolishness.

In truth I believe the Church stands to heal us from sin and that
Satan who hates the Church is always seeking ways to divide and weaken it.

This is what we are observing here,
Satan dividing the Church over what is actually trivial nonsense.

Anonymous said...

And I am skeptical of David's claim that homosexual males are biologically and genetically different from heterosexuals. I have never seen any evidence of this, although there were a lot of claims in the 1990s by researchers like Dean Hamer and Simon LeVay along these lines. None of this has been replicated; in fact a major study in Canada appeared to falsify LeVay's claims. That is not to say that some boys don't have a *predisposition to acquiring same-sex desires (by temperament they may be more sensitive, intelligent and somewhat effeminate compared to their peers) which may issue in same-sex attraction when puberty kicks in' or that homosexual behavior (like all sexual behavior) can effect our brain development. The psychodynamic models suggested by psychologists and psychiatrists like Nicolosi, Socarides, Satinover, Elizabeth Moberly etc that focus on adolescent development still seem the likeliest, not least when we reflect on the significant number of former practicing homosexuals who have moved on from that life (and sometimes from the emotional affects as well) - not at all easy, but a fact recognized by Robert Spitzer, someone with no religious or moral ax to grind.
I have never believed that homosexual desires are consciously "chosen", but cultural and developmental factors (including trauma and sense of alienation) can impel some boys in the formation or inversion of sexual attraction. There is no one-to-one gentetic correspondence as there is, say, with eye color or hair type.
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andy
I do not have time to engage with all you say in your comment (whether for agreement or disagreement) but I cannot let your words 'trivial nonsense' pass without comment. What is being talked about in this thread is neither trivial nor nonsense since it is about questions of what it means to be a social human being with potential to express and nurture sociality intimately. At the very least that is both significant, and sensible.

liturgy said...

Peter you write the very insightful comment, “I have never understood why the episcopal structure of our church is not of such importance that it has driven the Communion to envisage effective sanctions against us.”

As far as I know (please correct me) our province was not even informed of the Primates Meeting first ever motion, against our structures, until much, much later.

Most others, I suspect, DO understand why their “sanctions” against us have never been attempted: because, your own integrity not withstanding (hence your confusion expressed here), with all the talk about orthodoxy etc. it really isn’t about unorthodoxy, it really isn’t about diaconal Eucharistic presidency, it really isn’t about liturgical chaos; for the sanction-driving type it really isn’t about any of the stuff in the first three clauses of the “covenant” – it is about one thing and one thing only: gays. Sign the covenant, have a be-nice-to-poor old Rowan he’s-trying-so-hard week, it will solve nothing. It is using a tablecloth to crack a nut. The covenant is not fit for the purpose.

It will be interesting, Peter, to see how much actual interest there is in the covenant on your next “hot buttons” evening, when people aren’t episcopally summonsed to be present. Bishop Alan Wilson on his recent blog posts about the CofE General Synod vote on the covenant is saddened to find that most people have not heard of the covenant and he could find no one interested enough to provide a comment in favour of it. If it passes in the CofE, it will be out of politeness.

Ps. Do tell more about these qedoshim – like some online info

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I am not so sure that a Primates Meeting today, with our episcopal structure high on its agenda, would not be more aggressive in making its case against it known, possibly with sanctions attending. The climate of tolerance for variations from 'core Anglicanism' is different now to nearly twenty years ago.

Nevertheless I would not disagree with you that for a number of Anglican Covenant supporters the issue at hand boils down to 'gays.'

But, at risk of being a cracked record, I personally do not think it boils down to that. Even if we could agree across the Communion to find a way forward on the issues of homosexuality entirely separate to the Covenant, I would support the Covenant as a reasonable way forward for Anglicans acting globally to restrain the growth of diversity, diaconal presidency at Communion being one of those growths which I think is out of Anglican line.

Brother David said...

Open communion anybody?

liturgy said...

“I am not so sure that a Primates Meeting today, with our episcopal structure high on its agenda, would not be more aggressive in making its case against it known, possibly with sanctions attending. The climate of tolerance for variations from 'core Anglicanism' is different now to nearly twenty years ago.”

Well, we shall watch whether this is true at the next Primates’ Meeting then. My prediction is that there will be neither mention nor sanctions because I am not as convinced as you that there is any significant change in “climate of tolerance for variations from 'core Anglicanism'”.