Thursday, December 22, 2011

Modern Church isn't very serious in its opposition to the Covenant

From a few sources my attention has been drawn to this article by Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church, entitled "Instead of the Anglican Covenant". The good thing about the article is that it takes seriously the last published words by ++Rowan on the Covenant, especially his question what alternatives there are to the Covenant, and offers to provide an alternative.

What is not so good is that the article does not take the Anglican Communion very seriously and it makes a surprising assumption for a writer who is clear thinking and offers many sensible thoughts about aspects of Anglican life.

The Anglican Communion is not a whites only, European/North American liberal values educated, Democrats- and Social Democrats-at-prayer sect. It is a 38 member Communion of people drawn from every continent, many cultures, a wide variety of educational backgrounds and an array of contexts in they seek to live out Christianity with an Anglican character, including societies in which opposing religious and political forces will jail, maim and even kill Christians. If we take this Communion seriously, and if we take seriously the possibility of holding this Communion together, we will look for more than an essay reminding us what bishops said at Lambeths past when it was mostly the white guys who gathered together about how theological discussion can solve all our problems given enough time and tolerance.

In that essay I would also expect a discussion on assumptions about Anglican diversity because that is what we do not get in this present offering. A discussion, that is, which notes the folly of assuming that diversity is infinite in Anglicanism and thus all things can be seriously considered in order to find the middling way, the compromise and so forth. Anglican diversity is not infinite. There is no discussion in Anglicanism about whether we should have bishops or baptise infants; and even less discussion about whether we should recognise the hierarchical primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Don't try raising those subjects in the expectation that you will be given a reasonable hearing and an opportunity to have your views considered in a tolerant theological discussion. Expect rather to be run out of the church. Some things are not up for discussion so it is quite proper as Anglicans to argue that other things are not up for discussion and quite improper for opponents, such as Jonathan Clatworthy, to insist that is bad form and should be so.

The fact of Communion life is that we have some who consider same sex partnerships a reasonable matter to discuss as part of possible Anglican diversity and we have those who do not think it part of our diversity at all.* Therefore it is folly to assume that we can invoke 'diversity' as a value which will enable us to move forward.

When Modern Church takes the Communion seriously I am sure we will get a better proposal than what is given by Jonathan Clatworthy.

(*For the record, because I seem to be much misunderstood on these matters, I am one who thinks that is a reasonable matter to discuss: on that I agree with Jonathan Clatworthy. In trying to take the whole Anglican Communion seriously I recognise that many Anglicans think differently to Jonathan and me.)


carl jacobs said...

There is nothing new in this article at all. The 'solution' is nothing but the same liberal mantra that has been repeated over and over again - "Can't we all just get along?" Otherwise, it is boilerplate argumentation explaining why the liberals aren't responsible for schism. As with all liberal argumentation, there is the pungent oder of presumed historical inevitability around their position. There is also no acknowledgement that "allowing" two positions inherently legitimizes the innovation. It's hard for example to think a church takes seriously the idea that homosexuality is a sin when part of the church elevates homosexuals to the office of bishop.

Nothing to see here. Move along.


Father Ron Smith said...

The only 'oder' (sic) proceeding from this Modern Church statement is the fact that it does not actually proclaim homophobia as a far greater sin than homosexuality. The first is humanly-inspired and the other is part of God's creation.

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

The only 'oder' (sic) ...

As a general rule, I correct typos for people when I quote them. This seems to me the charitable course of action. This is after just a comment in a weblog, and people make typos in weblog comments all the time. Especially when they are rushing to finish a post at 7:32 when they were supposed to leave the house at 7:30.

To the comment at hand.

1. What is your definition of 'homophobia?'

2. By what authority do you declare it to be a sin?

3. By what authority do you declare homosexual behavior to be a natural part of creation?

4. How can I present the moral case against homosexual behavior without being accused of 'homophobia?'


Father Ron Smith said...

The asnwers to your queries, Martin'

1. Fear of homosexuality

2. The second Commandment in Jesus' reduction of the Decalogue: "Love your neighbour as yourself".

3. Human reason and scientific discovery.

4. You can't

Try to have a worry-free Christmas!
Agape, Ron

Anonymous said...

Well, Mr. Jacobs, there you have it.

And a vindication as well of what you wrote in your original comment.

Anonymous said...

P.S.: A comment recently posted at TitusOneNine, sounding a note of hope:

"As we watch the deviations and alterations necessitated by the New Thing come forth, we only have to mark the differences to know how far we are being asked to travel from the mind of Christ and the orders of creation. We can remain confident that such departures are a dance with death and cannot generate or lead to new life. Abide in the vine, keep the faith: the squall of deviation will blow itself out."

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

Re: "The fact of Communion life is that we have some who consider same sex partnerships a reasonable matter to discuss as part of possible Anglican diversity and we have those who do not think it part of our diversity at all."

Given Father Ron Smith's admirably direct answers to my questions, I must ask you. What exactly do you think there is to reasonably discuss?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I think - in a Western context of social change, of a tradition of engaging in matters through synodical discussions, themselves leading sometimes to commissions and conferences - that it is reasonable to discuss whether the Bible does apply to permanent faithful same sex partnerships, how the church is to respond to the presence in society and in the pews of people self-identifying as gay or lesbian. Indeed I have been part of such discussions.

I have also found that these discussions have often involved discussion of reasonable questions which have been raised in Western society about divorce and remarriage.

Within such discussions there can be those who contribute points which brook no further discussion, statements of absolutes, refusals to consider compromises, etc. But there are also those who want to discuss what it might mean to agree to disagree in the Anglican church, etc.

carl jacobs said...

Father Ron Smith

1. Fear of homosexuality.

I no more fear homosexuality than I fear prostitution or the thought of a mother having sex with her son. You claim to know my motivations better than I do so that you can dismiss anything I say. It's a convenient way to avoid having to give a meaningful response.

2. The second Commandment in Jesus' reduction of the Decalogue: "Love your neighbour as yourself".

Non-sequitor. You did not quote the first part of the commandment. "Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength." If you Love God then you will keep his commandments. His commandments specifically prohibit homosexual behavior. You cannot use the law to set aside the law. That which is evil is still evil.

3. Human reason and scientific discovery.

All human beings use reason. It is an exercise in self-flattery to suggest you are more rational than your opponent. Because all humans use reason, you cannot uniquely claim human reason as your authority. It is in fact a common process that begins with a set of first principles. Inform reason with a different set of first principles and you will produce a different set of internally consistent answers. So when I ask for an authority, I am asking for source of the first principles that inform your reason.

Scientific discovery cannot answer the question "What is good?" Men may have desires and wish to act on those desires. It does not necessarily follow that it is morally good to act on those desires. It does not matter whether the desires originate in either nature or nurture, or some combination of both. Many authentic desires are by nature evil. Men are expected to rise above immoral desires and act righteously. And just for the record, science has not established the genetic inevitability of homosexual desire.

4. You can't.

Yes, I knew you would say that. I am well aware that you attribute my every argument to malice, ignorance, or fear. I just wanted to get you on record.


Father Ron Smith said...

Carl, you seem to have your own 'authority', why deny this to others?

I confess I do not find your particular arguments at all convincing. You argue from the ancient perspective of 'Sola Scriptura', which, in today's Church is not a sufficient reason for bigotry and prejudice, especially when faith in the Living Christ can 'set you free'.

Have a good Christmas. And don't worry too much about Gays in the Church. You have enough to worry about with your own problems. And don't forget the advice of Jesus:

"They'll know you're my disciples by your Love" (not your hatred and discrimination).

Anonymous said...

Ron, try to be a patron saint instead of a patronising one.

Do not squander the privilege of Leviticus (!) 19.32 with intemperate and ad hominem commentary. Stop accusing others of hatred until you are perfected in love yourself.
Try to overcome your fear of (and feelings of intellectual and moral superiority over) traditional catholics and evangelicals.
Consider - however briefly - that you might be wrong and that you are not 'Athanasius contra mundum'.
Don't succumb to bigotry and prejudice. The truth of an opinion is not determined by the vehemence with which it is expressed. Look in the mirror. Pray instead of posting. Instead of repeating mantras and bromides all the time, use your free time to read and try to understand the theology you plainly despise. READ what John Stott has written - because you have written him off as a hater and bigot.
And keep taking The Tablets (Exod 20).


carl jacobs said...

So there, Gentle Reader, is 'reasonable discussion' writ large. The whole of one-half of the conversation may be summarized thus:

"You are a hate-filled bigot. Have a nice day."

How then should I respond to such an "argument?" We are no longer talking about the subject at hand. I have become the subject at hand. Which is extremely convenient for my opponent since he self-evidently has no meaningful response to anything I said.

At root, this is a conflict of authority. I point to Scripture as the unalterable and binding revelation of God to man. My opponent points to .. where exactly? He won't say beyond human reason. And there is good reason for that silence. It is his own reason to which he refers. His true authority is his own presumed enlightenment. He has looked within himself and found moral enlightenment. He seeks out others who agree with him, and they tell each other "We have looked within ourselves and found enlightenment. We have progressed." It's sort of a liberal version of being born again - except it is self-initiated.

It is not possible to argue or discuss or interact with someone who establishes himself as the standard. I can submit to his enlightenment, or I can stubbornly resist his enlightenment, but I cannot question the authority of his enlightenment. To do so only proves that I am darkened with ignorance, and malice and fear. And that's why this sort of discussion smashes almost immediately on the same rock time after time after time.

"You nullify the Word of God with your reason."

"No, you nullify Reason with your word of God."

Let's get on to that 'listening process' shall we? It's surely going to be ever so productive.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Carl, you have now twigged to the fact that trying to "debate" with Ron is a fool's errand because:
1. Ron believes he has a direct experience of God and Christian truth that trumps the Bible, mainstream scholarship (which he disdains), and the age-long consensus of the Church;
2. Ron dismisses his opponents with ad hominems (that they are only fearful, hateful and ignorant bigots, unlike himself).
3. Ron seems to think longevity confers wisdom and authority.

The first point only establishes that Ron is a solipsist or neo-Gnostic (whether or not he knows these terms). His religious formation was Anglican catholic but that is not how he thinks now, at least in sexual ethics. Tobias Haller didn't fall into this fallacy but attempted to show that traditional biblical exegesis and traditional Anglican theology were wrong. I think he failed in this enterprise, but at least there was something to debate.
The second point demonstrates Ron's inability to engage in logical debate.
As for the third, it is not one's years but how one uses them. It is not without significance that St Michael's Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, was something of a national citadel of traditional Anglo-Catholicism, but while it remains highly ceremonial, some years ago its vicar was Jonathan Kirkpatrick, a leading advocate of "gay rights" then partnered with Tim Barnett, an agnostic Labour MP. As many examples in Tec testify, it is possible to have a rather conservative or traditional exterior liturgically speaking but a radically different interior.


Father Ron Smith said...

Glorious and merciful God,
you reach out to us
in the breathtaking humility
of Christ's birth among us;
so prepare our hearts for His coming, that we may celebrate your LOVE for ever, and share it with ALL your people through Christ our Saviour; Who is alive and reigns with you, Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen

Christ's + Blessing to ALL

Andrew Reid said...

To take a slightly different tack to Carl, I thought it was positive that this article recognised that our dispute was:
1) Theological
2) Fundamentally about the authority of the Bible, and not about sexuality.
You can actually have a debate if you agree about its nature and scope.

What I find so frustrating about the article, as it seems you do Peter, is the way it states that the defining quality of Anglicanism is the Principle of Toleration/Diversity. We do tolerate differences in secondary matters, such as forms of worship, doctrinal issues where Scripture allows a variety of interpretation (e.g. baptism), and fields of ethics where the Scriptures are silent (e.g. nuclear weapons, global warming). We do not and never have tolerated false gospels, disobedience to the Scriptures, or ungodly living. We don't want a uniform Communion, but we want a united Communion - united around the Lord Jesus Christ, worshipping God, full of Biblical faith and good works, sharing his good news, and in fellowship with one another in the Spirit and according to our received church order.

Another point I find particularly annoying about this article is that those who hold to traditional interpretations of Scripture are labelled intolerant, while those who believe in revised interpretations are labelled tolerant. Who is it doing the suing in TEC? Who is it refusing ordination to evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics in some dioceses in the CofE? Who is it writing polemical attacks on evangelicals in Australia?

We need a process to resolve our differences, not talk about them endlessly. This is not an alternative proposal at all. It just says, We tolerate any new doctrine or idea, and will talk about it until we have got the numbers to make it official church doctrine/practice. Again, I come back to the Council of Jerusalem as a model for us. They got all the churches and leaders together, had a robust debate about the teaching of the Scriptures, and came up with a resolution that held to that teaching, while being sensitive to people's consciences.