Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fraught future?

Bosco Peters @ Liturgy takes up the news of recent days that our church is gearing up for an attempt to find some resolution moving forward from an impasse in our church re the ordination of partnered gay ministers. In the course of a developing thread there, Bosco poses a good question:

"Why, I regularly wonder, is this particular issue so fraught? Am I wrong in understanding that there was not such talk of schism and the possibility of needing “alternative episcopal oversight” with alterations to allow marriage of divorcees, ordination of women, about which the Bible appears clear – possibly clearer. (I could continue: opening communion to all the baptised, dropping the requirement of the Office for clergy, having three bishops equally oversee the same geographic area, etc.)"

I offer a four point response to that question (which you can discuss there if you wish), but I note another possible response within a writing justifying the formation of the AMiE for the Church of England. In that writing, Richard Coekin says,

"The Bishop [of Southwark] was utterly pleasant and reasonable, and he understandably came to the meeting hoping to talk about issues on which we could agree and seek reconciliation. So did I. But we cannot accept oversight from any Bishop who is not orthodox on such fundamental matters of morality which imperil the salvation of the unrepentant.* I genuinely came to the meeting in hope of orthodox oversight. But Bishops are required to teach sound doctrine and refute error and we need leaders to be speaking up on these vital contemporary issues as clergy have to do each Sunday to their congregations. We need support from our leaders in Biblical mission. He has repeatedly insisted that the Diocese of Southwark is no different from the Diocese of London where we operate in glad and full submission to the oversight of the Bishop of London. I have repeatedly explained that the difference is that the Bishop of London has assured us publicly that he believes and teaches that homosexual practice is sin and can be quoted as so doing. We need leaders to whom we can look for support when the Bible is being challenged by our society." [Italics mine].
Here then, within an expression of conservative evangelicalism on the other side of the globe is one reason why proceeding with the ordination of partnered gays is 'fraught' and may or does indeed raise the question of alternative episcopal oversight (or, alternatively departure through schism): to do so would be a sign of false, unorthodox teaching by the bishop concerned and thus affect the ability of those licensed to that bishop to receive oversight from that bishop. Logically one way forward is for oversight to be given by another (true teaching, orthodox) bishop (alternative episcopal oversight), another way forward is to resign one's licence (departure, which, I suppose, if done as a group, is schism).

In my view, here in ACANZP we likely have some within the community of conservative Anglicans who more or less would share what we could call 'the Coekin analysis'. 

Note also that in my estimation I do not think 'the Coekin analysis' by any means would be shared by all conservatives in our church. For instance, whereas Coekin seems focused on the dioceses in which his network is working, some conservatives here working happily in one diocese could be disturbed by actions in another diocese which they disagreed with. For another instance, I think some conservatives in our church will remain under the oversight of their bishop whatever happens.

* Elsewhere in the article, Coekin elaborates what is meant at this point: "As a matter of conscience under the Biblical command to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” with those “who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality”, we cannot accept the oversight of a Bishop who refuses to teach such fundamental Biblical doctrine. The Bible is clear that un-repented wickedness (including homosexual practice) prevents us from inheriting the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The refusal of church leaders to teach this truth with compassion and clarity imperils the salvation of gay people we seek to love in our community by suggesting that repentance isn’t necessary."


liturgy said...

Greetings Peter,

You have not so much answered my question as repeated it with emphasis.

Divorce and remarriage in the Bible is called adultery. Adultery is third on your Corinthian list imperilling salvation.

"As a matter of conscience under the Biblical command to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” with those “who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality”, we cannot accept the oversight of a Bishop who refuses to teach such fundamental Biblical doctrine. The Bible is clear that un-repented wickedness (including having sex with another after divorce) prevents us from inheriting the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The refusal of church leaders to teach this truth with compassion and clarity imperils the salvation of divorced people we seek to love in our community by suggesting that repentance isn’t necessary."



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,

For those who wish to follow the Coekin line, your point is a challenge and, to be honest, I am not sure how they might respond. (Anyone care to respond?)

I would not be surprised if a response included noting that a divorced-and-remarried person would not be an acceptable candidate for ordination.

Nor would I be surprised if they expressed delight to find another person treating the text of the Bible with such stern literalism as you do here :)

Bryden Black said...

Hi Bosco,

Firstly, thank you for the forthright way you are addressing some of these matters. That in itself is refreshing! While your list is longer, and longer than I have time to address myself, I shall have a stab at one, the question of remarriage.

1. Do you believe in the indissolubility of marriage? Or, do you agree that marriages may indeed be rent asunder? And if so, what next ...?

2. When reading Mk 10:2ff, we need to appreciate (I believe) the clear exegetical point re context. Here there is the simple point (I am informed) that women were not able strictly to divorce their husbands in law during the 1st C. So what is Jesus saying in v.12? Is he ignorant of the law of the day?!

3. So, what does Jesus mean in Mk 10:2ff by “adultery”? And does that differ from the Mosaic “allowance”? And are both equally expressive of “hardness of heart”?

4. Back to one, more or less. Is the break up of marriage the single commandment of the Ten, of which there is no possible forgiveness? [Bearing in mind Rom 7:7 & 13:8ff] And how might one be forgiven for breach of any of the Ten - or the One?!

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
I too am troubled by the lack of consistency here in elevating homosexuality to some kind of "super sin" status. It's certainly a sin, but no more than adultery, theft, lying, hypocrisy, etc. There wasn't any formation of AMiE when numerous CofE bishops questioned the resurrection, the authority of the Bible, etc.
It seems to me a bit problematic that they claim to remain Anglican, but want to work outside its structures. I'm not sure the CofE is quite at the TEC benchmark where it's impossible for evangelicals to work there, and the whole church is headed off the rails. I sympathise with their desire not to associate themselves with bishops who don't hold to sound doctrine, but I question their application of that principle.
As the Ugley Vicar pointed out the other day, we need a new John Stott to provide unity and guidance for CofE evangelicals in these turbulent times.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bryden and Andrew for recent comments.

If there is one thing which I think history will mark evangelicals rather badly on, it will be if it turns out that our role in Anglican schism pivots on homosexuality.

Let's have a decent issue to burn any boats on: denying the creeds, banning evangelism, expanding the lectionary to include the Quran, submitting to the Pope's authority.

Father Ron Smith said...

In your own comment on this thread, you state bodly that homosexual practice is a sin, needing repentance. This is a common argument from those in the Church who have not yet understood the reality of the fact that the issue of whether homosexuality is an inherent or an acquired sexual characteristic is no longer debatable. The evidence points to the fact that a minority of people are born with a sexual identity different from the 'norm'.

If I read you correctly, you may be arguing from the point of view that, while the biological fact of homosexuality may be neutral, the practice of it is sinful.

If this is not your stance, then perhaps you would let us all know.

If, however, you are arguing from the point of view that there is no such inherent characteristic as homosexuality; and that therefore to act upon that possibility - in a monogamous, loving partnership - is wicked and 'against creation'; then you are risking the charge of selective discrimination.

To say that heterosexual persons can be allowed the privilege of a sexual relationship with their own kind (heterosexual), while homosexual people must live a celibate life-style, despite their natural affinity with a same-sex partner; is hardly conducive to an ordered Christian way of life for all people - regardless of their sexual orientation.

Peter Carrell said...

That is an excellent point, Paul. I think it is worth being fraught over the possibility that we might change our definition of marriage!

Bryden Black said...

Hi Ron; “not yet understood ...” Well; perhaps we have indeed understood the ‘claim’, but then have gone on to ‘evaluate’ rather differently these ‘phenomena’ than how you yourself then go on to state.

One key for me is to use that very thing scientists have to use when they establish, try to establish their theories - to wit, imagination. And it is a serious failure of imagination that bedevils some quarters of our AC nowadays.

What if, as certain pieces of independent social research in Denmark on the one hand and Canada on the other hand, both conducted during the 1990s and into the early 2000s, have concluded, there are indeed some 1.9% of males and 2.2% of females who are “born” (your word) with a sexual orientation that is “different from the ‘norm’”. What does this ‘show’ and/or ‘demonstrate’? And how might we ‘evaluate’ it?

What if, as some other medical research has now also concluded, there are clearly some genetic propensities behind some forms of cancer. What if my own CA-colon is an example of such a situation? How was that ‘evaluated’? It was excised; then chemotherapy applied; and PTL, I am alive some 14 years later.

And what if the phenomena of BOTH homosexuality and cancer are equally expressive of a Fallen Creation. That imaginative possibility seems to have eluded many westerners, who assume (why?) all natural processes to be simply what they are. That is, their “grand narrative”, by means of which they evaluate their ‘world’, and find ‘meaning’ in it, has ceased to be that one found in Gen 1-3, and elsewhere in Holy Writ, and has become reduced to an immanent set of supposed instrumental ‘causes’. It was precisely this lack of “reasonable imagination” by contemporary western culture that B16 was indicting at Regensburg in 2006. Yet, we actually indulge in selected amnesia, by jumping in and out of two contradictory “narratives”, to suit other predilections altogether!

What if we were rather to inhabit one world only, as faithful Christians? Just so, Romans 12:1-2, built upon chs 1-11. And yes Ron; we then also lived up to Paul’s “exhortation” thereafter ...! By means of that pinnacle of his exposition, in Rom 8, where sinful flesh is condemned in the flesh of our Saviour, so that we might live by the Spirit, putting to death similarly the old nature - even as the creation, our bodies and our souls all “groan” about and within us too!

What if, Ron, you joined Einstein in that Swiss tram for a moment, and actually engaged in one of his imaginative thought experiments? It could transform your world ...!

Anonymous said...

Father Ron Smith seems to be confusing two different senses of "nature" and "natural" which catholic theology (influenced by the natural law tradition in St Thomas) is careful to distinguish.

1. "Nature" can mean what God created and intended to be.

2. Or it can mean "whatever is found in the physical world" (the way secular scientists use the word, from 'natus', 'born').

On that reckoning, nothing is "unnatural", including conjoined twins and anything else we call "birth defects" - "defect" meaning a failure in achieving some teleology.

Catholic theologians understand the difference, also, between how something is perceived or experienced subjectively, and the objective character of that feeling. In the words of the Catholic Catechism, something can be 'objectively evil', even if it is not felt that way.

Anglicans who consider themselves catholic (if any remain?) should study more closely the natural law tradition.

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden, you seem here to be asking for empirical proof of the innate nature of homosexuality. May I venture to suggest that you try to subject the Christian assertion of Christ's resurrection from the dead to the same standard of proof.

Impossible? Experience will decide - not irrevocable proof!

e.g. I really do believe in Christ's resurrection, ascension and glorification, but I cannot provide proof of those realities.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks "Anon"; you are surely pointing us in the right direction. And what is one of the more intriguing developments of late is Alister McGrath's New Natural Law work, where he especially integrates a proper use of imagination (something he first derives from CS Lewis) with his own creation theology as the means of developing afresh Nat Law. And he is deemed to be among the more Evangelical wing of the CoE ... fascinating!

Bryden Black said...

Er; not quite what I'm doing Ron.

Interestingly, Karl Barth insisted on viewing the empty tomb as the empirical correlate of Christ's resurrection!