Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thinking Anglicans Think, Don't They?

Ron Smith at KiwiAnglo's Blog draws attention to Malcolm French at Simple Massing Priest making a simple point about ++Rowan Williams and the Covenant, namely that he seems to say one thing when talking about the Anglican Communion and its need for a Covenant (for which there is no alternative) and the Porvoo Communion (of northern European Anglican and Lutheran churches) and its lack of a need for a Covenant, in particular noting the latter Communion is able to agree to disagree on same sex blessings.

Ron diplomatically fails to communicate the abrasive nature of French's comments about the Archbishop, but a sentence such as this, "In an intellectual fiddle which should be an embarrassment to any current or former academic, the Archbishop's defence of his pet project makes less sense than Glenn Beck on acid," is not a compliment.

But what is embarrassing is finding people who presumably think of themselves as thinking Anglicans (including Episcopal Cafe which also publishes excerpts of French's post) not thinking about the differing situations of the Anglican and Porvoo Communions. The only fiddle of an intellectual nature going on is in the logic which avoids analysis of the two quite different situations. The Porvoo Communion is a communion which has arrived at a point of agreeing to disagree and has made a statement which reflects that state of affairs. The Anglican Communion is a communion which has not arrived at a point of agreeing to disagree and under ++Rowan's leadership is trying to find a way to live with disagreement. The Covenant is a statement (so to speak) which reflects that state of affairs. If it comes into operation it may yet lead to a situation in which we agree to disagree, not least because it is a mechanism for member churches to keep talking to each other about what they differ on.

If the Covenant does not come into effect there is no alternative strategy being worked out for the whole Communion which would keep us in communion though, as canvassed in recent comments on this blog there are one or two possibilities for a way forward for  a majority of the current Communion to be some kind of formal Communion together (albeit based on agreement and not on agree-to-disagree).

A few moments' thought shows that ++Rowan Williams is a consistent leader, adeptly responding as best he can in different situations, all driven by desire to hold as many Christians together in one body as possible. Even as he does his best he is heavily criticised, whether abrasively, as French does, or more gently as commenters here have been doing recently.

Poor guy. Can't win! At least that's what I think!


Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Peter, we now know what you and your friend Shawn both think of the thinking power of T.A. - practically nothing! However. I do find your sudden enthusiasm for Archbishop Rowan to be quite touching. When he seemed not to be doing quite what you, and other conservative Anglicans thought was right and proper (his reluctance, for instance, to disown his authorship of 'The Body's Grace'), you were not too keen on his stance of liberality towards LGBTs.

I do have a great regard for the ABC's personal spirituality, as well as a grudging respect for his attempt to keep the Communion together - under great provocation from both sides of the gender and sexuality arguments. He is certainly doing better than his anti-gay predecessor, but still, he seems unaware of what might happen if GAFCON were to gain the 'moral' ascendancy by becoming power-brokers in a proscriptive Covenant relationship within the Communion.

For conservatives like yourself, it must be galling that others of us, who have understood the integrity of the LGBT claims to fellowship with the rest of us in the life and ministry of our Church, should deem their cause important enough to want to protect them from abuse by the anti-gay lobby within the Anglican Communion.

I partly admire you for trying, Peter. But do you really thing that those anti-gay factions that have already expressed their total disdain for Gays by distancing themselves from the Instruments of Unity in the Communion, would ever agree to live together with those of us they have already rejected as unorthodox, unGodly and 'Unthinking Anglicans'?

Why you and your fellow con/evos should think that the unity of the Communion could be fixed by any attempt to coax schismatics and would-be schismatics into rejoining the Communion - on the basis of further talks - which they have so far repudiated as useless seems ingenuous at the very least.

The Gospel pathway to unity requires a willingness to be 'at one'. I do not see any evidence of this in the schismatic activities of those provinces which have already declared war on LGBTs and all who want to see them included in the fellowship of the Anglican Communion. This is not a parlour game, but a battle for power on the part of a puritanical sodality in the Church.

Suem said...

Did the Poorvo Communion use an "Anglican Covenant" - in other words implement some kind of legal document which all had to sign before they reached the stage where they agreed to disagree?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You are completely missing my point!

Perhaps we should not bother to try to keep the Communion together with all its extremes as well as the great mass in the centre. If we should not bother then the Covenant matters not a whit. And Porvoo would be the way forward for one of the remnants of the Communion.

But ++Rowan Williams is bothering to try to hold the Anglican Communion together. It is a global communion drawn across all continents. The Porvoo Communion is a small communion drawn from a small region (northern Europe) in which much commonality of intellectual heritage may be assumed, including the singular fruit of Westernism, the ability to agree to disagree.

For ++Rowan to be part of one small communion of people of one culture (but differing views) to do one thing, and in respect of being part of a global communion of several cultures (and differing views) is another thing.

A little bit of thinking shows ++RW is acting consistently. A lot of unthinking lambasts him unfairly.

My point has nothing to do with whether or not, on other questions when discussing matters LGBT, "Thinking Anglicans" or "thinking Anglicans" offer some important thinking.

But at this point some Anglicans are not thinking very fairly.

Of course you and I and Suem would like a Porvoo-style communion (for we both, despite our differences, share much in common with the culture of northern Europe). But that is not where the Anglican Communion is at!

Father Ron Smith said...

Sue, in answer to your question (although I suspect you already know the answer): No! PORVOO partners just trusted one another to be true to their own ethos, in situ, in order to maintain koinonia - a precious and God-given, unity in Christ.

What has been lacking in the A.C. for some time, is the ability to trust one another's judgement of local needs of the local community.

Andrew Reid said...

Thinking tends to go out of the window in situations of crisis, doesn't it? Even if I were the most rabid anti-Rowan Williams hater (which am I not), I hope I would still manage to distinguish between a Communion which shares, in theory, a common theological basis, system of church order and historical relationships, and a Communion which is a northern European federation of like-minded churches who co-operate in ministry together.
You can see how much closer the ties within the Anglican Communion are by the pain that rupturing them is causing. I don't think we would have 1% of the agony (outside northern Europe anyway) if the Parvoo Communion walked apart.

Andrew Reid said...

Just on the topic of thinking, here is a very well thought out contribution by the ABC to a House of Lords debate on the status of Christians in the Middle East - just to show you I can say something positive about him!

Suem said...

Thanks Peter, and Ron. Yes, I did know the answer. Perhaps though it is fair to say that that is "not where our Anglican Communion is at"- or at least not where certain people, groups and provinces are at. I don't really think as a Communion we will stay together - or at least not in the form we are in. We are a very different Communion than the one we were a decade ago. I think all the Covenant will do is to focus our differences and divisions. I think it may inshrine homophobia more deeply in some parts of the Communion and make it easier to pillory those who do believe in the integrity of those of us who just happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and who wish to affirm all LGBT people can offer, in terms of gifts to the Church, including, but not limited to, the gift same sex couples bring through their love and relationships.
But it will remain God's church - and he continues to work within and outside his church in a myriad of ways - and for some crazy reason I remain positive despite feeling grieved over the many negative things I see happening.

RMBruton said...

Hi Peter,
Or, rather, G'Day Mate!
My Grandfather used to refer to Anglicanism as the Thinking Man's Religion, but sadly it has been co-opted into a place where men are expected to check their brains at the door and enter brainless.

Andy S said...

What others are saying

Father Ron Smith said...

Suem, again, I agree, broadly, with what you are saying here. the Communion certainly is not what it was a decade ago. In the wake of opening up the integrity of the Gospel's inclusiveness - in certain provinces - the Communion has been torn apart by those who have disagreed with the progress made - on grounds of an exclusively puritanical, parsimonious mind-set, which is inimical to the Gospel ethic of redemption by faith.

For such people (mostly con/evos), whose security lies purely in the written words of Scripture - as opposed to the Incarnate and Living Word of Christ in the Eucharist and in the World - we, and all who embrace the need to include ALL in the message of the Good News of Jesus, are considered to be not only heretical but brainless.

If only the 'Instruments of Unity' had kept us together - despite the tendency to schismatic departures - then the Communion would still have been just that - a Communion of Churches embracing the original reformation tenets of 'Scripture, Tradition, and REASON' - without the needs to park our brains at the door, before considering what the Body of Christ is really all about.

What seems to be missing from the Anglican Communion nowadays is the acknowledgement of the warning of Jesus: "Judge not, that you be not condemned yourselves" We appear to have divided on the issue of very different understandings of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. But Jesus did ask: Who went away, justified?

The moment we set ourselves up as sole exemplars of righteousness we are condemned by our own judgement. Mercy, Truth and Justice are divine initiatives. Judgement on a human scale is often premature, and ill-considered by the self-righteous.

Anonymous said...

Once again we have an example of the lies, the sheer dishonesty of the so-called "inclusive" church.

Ron claims that "For conservatives like yourself, it must be galling that others of us, who have understood the integrity of the LGBT claims to fellowship with the rest of us in the life and ministry of our Church, should deem their cause important enough to want to protect them from abuse"

I'm sorry, but what utter rubbish. What abuse? Do I abuse an alcoholic by being opposed to alcohol abuse? Do I abuse a drug addict by being opposed to drug addiction? Do I abuse adulterers by being opposed to adultery?

Being opposed to homosexual acts does NOT mean conservatives want to or are "abusing" homosexuals, and for Ron to claim so is an outright lie.

This kind of dishonesty and mis-representation of the conservative position is made necessary by the fact that the so-called "inclusive" church, who are very exclusive of anyone who disagrees with them, do not have a Biblical or theological leg to stand on. Having no credible argument to make, they resort to this kind of rhetoric.

Another example is this from Ron:

"But do you really thing that those anti-gay factions that have already expressed their total disdain for Gays"

Again, this is a lie. Not only that, it is deeply offensive. I do not "disdain" gays. I have and continue to have friends who are gay and I have never disadained them. I have nothing but deep compassion and respect for people who struggle with deeply ingrained psycho-sexual compulsions.

But I still believe that Scripture is clear on this issue. That does not mean I disadain anyone.

The real disadain here is Ron's. His disdain and abuse of conservatives for one, but more importantly for Scripture.

The Bible is clear on homosexuality.

The Bible is clear on not bearing flase witness against your neighbour, yet Ron tells lies about conservatives.

It is this disdain for Scripture and for those of us who do not believe in simply surrendering to the fashions of the day that is the mark of the so-called "inclusive" church.

Anonymous said...


"For such people (mostly con/evos), whose security lies purely in the written words of Scripture - as opposed to the Incarnate and Living Word of Christ in the Eucharist and in the World"

The written Word of Scripture is the Word of the Incarnate Christ. What the Bible says, the Incarnate Christ has said.

Your attempt to drive a wedge between them is theoligicaly unsound.

"and all who embrace the need to include ALL in the message of the Good News of Jesus"

The message we (conservatives and evangelicals) preach is preached to ALL, but not all choose to accept it, as Christ Himself said. Cons/evos/ Do include homosexuals in their preaching and calling, but they, like all of us, must repent of our sin and try to conform to the will of God.

Your not being inclusive, your setting homosexuals up as an exclusive elite who are, unlike the rest of humanity, immune from Biblical norms of morality, and you excluding as "stupid rednecks" (from your comment about parking our brains at the door) anyone who does not agree.

"the original reformation tenets of 'Scripture, Tradition, and REASON' - without the needs to park our brains at the door,"

If reason is used as an excuse to ingore Scripture then your not talking about the Reformation tenents, but a liberal perversion of them invented to justify ignoring Scripture when it does not suit liberal political ideology.

"The moment we set ourselves up as sole exemplars of righteousness we are condemned by our own judgement."

Which is exactly what you are doing. Your setting up yourself and the so-called "inclusive" church as the sole exemplars of righteousness and justice, and harshly condemning anyone who disagress, even to the point of lying about them.

You are condemned by your own judgement.

Anonymous said...

Well, Shawn, them is fightin' words - & all the more striking in that they come from a declining corner of the Anglican vineyard whose public persona is of the Labour Party at, well, not exactly prayer, more likely theo-musing (since a God who listens to prayer and acts in the world is a bit fundy, no?, and who believes in that since Kant?). What you show is the disconnect between the kind of people who get chosen to be leaders and the mainstream opinion of the church, which is much nearer what you express. Do hierarchs in NZ Anglicanism ever wonder why clergy are so different from typical churchgoers? We expect national church officers like Anthony Dancer to espouse trite leftist views, but would be shocked if these were held in the paying pews.
As for debating Ron: I fear you waste your asperity on the desert air. Of course Ron's catholic-lite ideas don't make sense, because (whether he realises this genetic link or not), he seems beholden to liberal catholic ideas of the 1950s (like those of Gabriel Hebert) and hasn't kept up with - or even understood - the modern catholicism of a Ratzinger. Ron doesn't understand the place of the Bible in catholic theology, so he sets up un-historical aunt sallies.
Still, keep fighting the good fight - but as one who pretty much shares your outlook (and taste for polemic) - may I suggest to you (but much more to myself) to follow the style of blessed John Stott who never wavered from the truth of the Scriptures but always countered error with gentleness? Heretics take their errors very personally!

Suem said...

We seem to have drifted rather far from the subject (whether we can agree to disagree, or whether we require a Covenant.) What we do have here is an exemplification of the kind of attitudes that prevent us from being able to agree to disagree.
I don't agree with Shawn that gay people in loving relationships are in any way, shape or form akin to alcoholics, drug addicts or adulterers, but my disagreement with him does not make me want to break communion with him. Shawn, can you accept that I see same sex relationships as a gift from God and still stay in communion with me?

Anonymous said...


Don't write us off yet! I have seen the many young evangelicals who are training for ministry and I believe there is hope for this "declining corner".

Your correct in pegging Ron's theology as liberal Catholic. It certainly owes little to nothing to the Anglican tradition, Reformation principles (the Solas)or the Thirty Nine Articles.

Good advice about gentleness. I'm afraid that, as a "Jacksonian" American I don't tend to do English politeness very well. I call a spade a spade, and I like a good fight!

I also tend to get hot under the collar with the way liberals in the Church villify and demonise evangelicals, in often very dishonest ways.

Still, I need to learn to take things less personally and respond with a little more patience and gentleness.

God grant me the grace!

Anonymous said...


My point was not to say that homosexuality is the same as alcoholism. My point was that one can disagree with a certain behaviour or choice or compulsion or addiction, but still have compassion for the person themselves. What I was reacting to was Ron's description of anyone who opposes the acceptance and blessing of homosexuality as a "hater" or "abuser" or as "disdaining" homosexual persons themselves.

I have never come across any evangelical who actually thinks like that. And can you understand why I find the accusation offensive? Such accusations are deeply unfair, and designed to sideline serious theological debate by painting evangelicals as mere haters. It is to put it bluntly, a low and despicable tactic.

To answer your question about fellowship, the answer is yes. I have no problem with being in fellowship with those who disgaree on this particular issue. I know people aho are pro-homosexual, or at least struggling with the issue and have not yet come to a decision, who are on every other issue perfectly orthodox and even "small-c" conservative.

The real question though, is can the pro-homosexual part of the Church live with those of us who disagree? I am not convinced that in the long run they can. There is something decidedly totalitarian about modern progressive-liberalism, in both its secular and religious forms, and all the evidence I see from Europe suggests to me that sooner or later the pro-wing of the Church will use the power of the State to force the rest of us to compromise.

Now not everyone who is pro wants that, or would agree with that. But the hardcore homosexual-liberal activists do, and sooner or later conflict will come.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that, Shawn. You are right that vilification and demonization is the standard operating procedure of the liberal/left (Kurt's posts are predictable in both content and vitriol): precisely because they don't have much in the way of arguments, they resort to denigration of the orthodox on the grounds that the orthodox are:
1. stupid (cf. 'Thinking Anglicans') or
2. unkind (cf. 'Inclusive Anglicans' and how how often they reach for 'hater' and 'mean-spirited').
What is lacking is actual theological engagement. Many of them imagine themselves to be 'catholics' but the word has little meaning in their context since they have no interest in engagement with the catholic heartlands of Rome and Constantinople,and they have little in common with the Caroline Divines.
Despite what they say, liberals are not driven by rigor of thinking but by an elective emotional and decidedly modernist attachment to a particular idea of human happiness that is posited on sexual satisfaction. That is why they respond so ferociously to traditional askesis. In the past gays like Tobias Haller would have taught - and practiced - the monastic self-abnegation of the Cross. Their new sexual ethic is not Christian, patristic or biblical, so they have engaged in decades-long revisionism to change the way the Church thinks about sex and marriage. The goal is largely self-serving.
The revisionists have been aided in their campaign by two factors in particular:
1. the enormous amount of sexual permissiveness in western society since the 1960s, aided by contraception, divorce, pornography and abortion.
2. the decay of Christian practice in the west, along with increasing wealth, leading to sentimentalism in ethics.
A sympathetic liberal hierarchy in Anglican politics has assisted this movement. Thus a leading advocate of 'gay rights' would become the vicar of Christchurch's most prominent Anglo-Catholic church, despite being sexually 'partnered' with an agnostic politician, then later a cathedral dean.
Liberalism is posited on emotional attraction to individuals and a genealized (even secularized) concept of 'love', not on fidelity to Scripture and tradition, or on biblical standards of holiness - without which none of us will see the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Suem writes: "Shawn, can you accept that I see same sex relationships as a gift from God and still stay in communion with me?"

Why are you so opposed to polygamous or polyamorous relationships? & what about the 'B' in LGBTQQ? Why are you opposed to bisexuals having a seies of sexual relationships in their lives? Why would you deny them happiness?


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

This seems a fascinating wandering discussion, having moved a bit far from Peter's observation about the differences between Povoo and the WWAC. I do think if you look back into the texts of past Lambeth resolutions, you will find something a bit more like that willingness to agree to disagree on a number of topics. Some, it seems, will not want to agree to disagree on issues relating to sex and marriage.

In the off-topic thread, Martin makes an assumption about something I might have taught in some past time, but I am not sure he understands clearly what I am teaching in the here and now: and that is not about self-satisfaction, but marriage -- which has the same ethical requirements of self-giving and self-sacrifice for same-sex couples as for mixed-sex couples. There is absolutely no ethical difference implied or suggested -- or taught -- at least by me. The askesis and discipline of fidelity and constancy is the same for all people. I admit there are gay liberationists out there who argue, mostly outside the church, for the kind of patterns of behavior Martin and Colin describe; but these are not patterns I either approve or support.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Tobias, for your reminder of what the original posting was all about.

It does seem that the anti-gay lobby is so intrigued with what goes on 'in the bedroom', that they completely miss the whole objective of fidelity, love and companionship that are as much as part of loving, committed gay, as well as straight, relationships.

This is probably why they are so totally opposed to any idea of 'marriage' for same-sex people. They are fixated on the sexual implications, rather than the capacity for loving faithfulness.

"God is love, and in every act of loving there is something of God".
And we are not talking about lust!

Bryden Black said...

I cannot resist: my apologies, Ron and Tobias!
While I have still to have the time to do justice to R&H (it’s that time of year ...), what has already struck me from reading some additional material re ‘marriage’ ala ss couples, as offered now here again, is this. How might you Tobias, with your ethical emphasis, handle Oliver O’Donovan’s opening chapter, “The Failure of the Liberal Paradigm”, in his A Conversation Waiting to Begin? Another way of asking the same question is to note there would appear to be little ontology undergirding your proposals (as far as I’ve seen them to date).
And if we cannot agree on either of these two tacks, then agreeing to disagree is not just a pragmatic course of action, but a silly contradiction deep down that may not find resolution - apart from within some kind of Hegelian world. And I am sure such a metaphysic cannot truly bear more than the fruits of its own “speculative Good Friday”.

Anonymous said...

Tobias Haller writes: "In the off-topic thread, Martin makes an assumption about something I might have taught in some past time, but I am not sure he understands clearly what I am teaching in the here and now: and that is not about self-satisfaction, but marriage -- which has the same ethical requirements of self-giving and self-sacrifice for same-sex couples as for mixed-sex couples"
No, I haven't misunderstood. I don't know what you personally used to teach, but I do know that homosexual Anglo-Catholics in the past resolutely taught that they were called to celibacy (and not ot sexualize friendships), and perhaps you used to teach this as a monk, before you changed your mind about one of the essential requirements of Christian marriage. Whatever your background and formation, you are completely out of kilter with the Fathers, Rome and Cosntantinople and are not catholic in your theology but liberal protestant.
Bishops like Mark Lawrence in SC understand this and seek to hold the line against your rewriting of Christian doctrine, which is why the revisionists in Tec that you represent have been campaigning to undermine him.

Father Ron Smith said...

As a fan of 'Thinking Anglicans', when some people may think that to be an oxymoron; and continuing on the sexuality theme that seems to have intruded onto this thread; I was most interested to read that Evangelicals, between the ages of 18 and 25, at least in America, are responsible for 80% of pre-marital sexual activity.

Surprisingly, considering the blog-owner's Evangelical provenance, I found this item on 'virtueonline' under the title of 'Evangelical collapsing sexual mores'. This revelation suggest that there is more of a problem with 'sex outside of marriage' amongst heterosexuals, than that of homosexuals! Not only that. These people are 'Evangleical Christians'.

Do con/evos find that behaviour excusable for heteros, even though 'sinful', while homos' sex outside of marriage is not only sinful but abominable?

My question here is: "Are there two standards of behaviour at issue here: one for straights, and one for gays? I wonder of Bryden could provide an answer.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Not one conservative evangelical teacher of the faith known to me in our church would teach that sex outside of marriage is okay.

I should be surprised if that was being taught by conservative evangelicals in America.

As for the 80% in the survey: that is disappointing if it reflects the behaviour of young people who are not merely paying lip service to the Christian tradition they have grown up in but claiming to be disciples of Jesus!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Bryden (with apologies to Peter),

First, be aware that O'Donovan's book has a different title in the US: Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion. (A bit sensational, no?) That being said, I'm not sure what in particular you would like me to respond to in his opening chapter. It seems to me he gets off on the wrong foot with his definition of "liberal" to include "the old habits of negotiating stubborn oppositions by synthesizing them within a central, non-dogmatic stream of opinion." That sounds to me like the Elizabethan Settlement, which was comprehended mutually exclusive doctrines of the Holy Eucharist, among others. Thue the term "liberal protestantism" gets tossed about with some imprecision. If the intent is to say that classical Anglicanism (which is built on Patristic models of broad comprehensiveness) is "liberal protestant" then I suppose I will have to plead guilty. But "liberal protestantism" is more usually understood to reflect thinking of the 19th to mid-20th century.

As to O'Donovan, he is primarily addressing arguments based on justice or human rights, which is not the approach that I take. So I am not sure what in his work you are asking me to address. To pick up the analogy of his original title, a conversation requires one to engage with what the one with whom you are conversing is actually saying. Talking past each other is not conversation.

That being said, if the issue is how to reconcile opposing views that are so strongly held they are incapable of being dealt with in the old "agree to disagree" model --- and this does get us into touch with the theme raised by Peter, I think --- I would say there are several ways to approach the issue. The Anglican Covenant is one of them. I think it not a sound way forward as it essentially requires capitulation (if temproary) of one point of view to the other.

At my blog yesterday I posted a citation from Lambeth 1878 which I see as a more helpful way forward: a pragmatic way to address disagreement on the basis of provincial autonomy (it is to this I was alluding in my earlier comment directed to the theme of Peter's post). Lambeth said, "the duly certified action of every national or particular Church, and of each ecclesiastical province (or diocese not included in a province), in the exercise of its own discipline, should be respected by all the other Churches, and by their individual members." Note no agreement (even to disagree!) is required, only respect. If that is not possible, it is not due to the failure of the "liberal paradigm" on the part of the liberals (who, as I note, are the "classical Anglicans") but on the part of the insistent "Right" (to use party language) who demand all think and do as they say.

I don't know if that answers your question, but I hope it may shed some light on how I see the problem.

As to ontology, I do get into a bit of that in R&H as I think it is a crucial part of the problem. My thesis, which is the Biblical, Patristic and Scholastic position (I offer citations for all of this) is that there is no ontological difference between men and women; sex (or gender) is accident not essence --- to use the language of classical philosophy. Part of the problem in recent years has been the emergence of the notion of "complementarity" which is based on a defective anthropology, harking back to gnostic and pagan sources but with little foundation in the Christian tradition.

Peter Carrell said...

No need to apologise Tobias!

It would be disingenuous to pass over lightly what the meaning of the word "discipline" in the Lambeth 1878 statement, in the phrase "in the exercise of its own discipline."

Given the words "its own" I take "discipline" to mean the particularities of constitution and canons regarding the ordering of the Anglican way of being church: one church wants liturgy infracting clergy to be lashed, another just requires home detention; one church requires its clergy to say the daily office, another merely encourages it. This is unremarkable and still holds good in the life of the Communion.

What this statement of Lambeth does not deal with is the question of one church teaching contrary to a shared Anglican understanding of theology. What Lambeth 1998 sought to deal with (what Lambeth 2008 studiously avoided dealing with) and what the Anglican Covenant seeks to deal with is how the Communion might exercise (so to speak) its shared discipline in respect of an infraction of Anglican theology. Lambeth 1878 does not deal with this.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Peter, I would respectfully disagree with your reading of the word "discipline." In this context, this is not about the canonical regulation merely of clergy, but the whole canonical structure, which clearly reflects the doctrine of the church as well.

Who are suitable candidates for ordination? -- to cite what gave rise to problems with Lambeth 1998 -- is thus a question of discipline.

The marriage issue does raise broader questions. The problem, from my perspective, lies with those who wish to elevate matters heretofore understood as under the general area of moral theology to come under the category of dogmatic theology. And, as I've noted, the more they try to do so, the more they run into problems and contradictions with actual dogmatic theology, including the Incarnation itself.

I am quite willing to affirm that the concept of same-sex marriage is a development in moral theology, and even "doctrine" so far as that goes (there being a "doctrine of marriage") but I would not say that this is a question of the Faith of the Church.

I have taken pains to lay out my argument in a way that (pace Martin here and Dr. Radner in his review) follows the patterns of classical Anglican thinking and the Patristic thought that underlies it. (Martin and Radner attribute coming to different conclusions to the use of different methods, but that is not the case: the same method or hermeneutic can lead to different conclusions -- else why would there be any disagreement in any era using its own common tools?)

As the preface to the 1789 BCP of the Episcopal Church states, "...provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire... in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the
edification of the people..."

I cannot see church teaching on matrimony as a part of the "substance of the Faith" -- else the framers of the Creed were negligent; as it is also part of our Anglican heritage to affirm (via the Lambeth Quadrilateral) that the Nicene Creed is "a sufficient statement of the Christian Faith" ("sufficient," no doubt, in the sense of the Articles, meaning containing the fullness of all that is necessary or required. I therefore feel confident in referring the matrimonial question to "discipline." And it was in fact issues such as remarriage after divorce that formed the substance of disagreements between the practice of different provinces, as does the ordination of women. Both are matters covered under the intent of Lambeth 1978. Lambeth 1998 went too far, and Windsor farther still.

Peter Carrell said...

You are missing the point, Tobias!

All your arguments are worth discussing academically; history may one day prove you have offered arguments that are persuasive of the Communion as a whole.

But right now your distinctions between theology/dogmatics, what is in the creed and what is not are irrelevant. Your theological protest is the protest of the thinking individual. As a whole the Communion through Lambeth 1998, Windsor and the Covenantal process, with illustration via non-attendance at Lambeth 2008 and other meetings, is saying that the matter of same sex relationships IS a matter of the doctrine of Christ/theology of Anglicanism which is NOT subsumed under the right of each church to 'exercise its own discipline.'

You may think the Communion as a collective body is wrong on the matter but the collective body is acting as though it is right. That is where Anglican dogmatics/doctrine/theology is at, and with that understanding of the Communion as a whole we must wrestle and find a way forward. Save an amazing collective response to your arguments, what the Communion is doing is something other than what you are pressing for.

If we wish to be Anglican we should go with what the Communion of Anglicans is doing and not with what our own individual understandings of 'classical Anglicanism' or of 'Hooker' etc are proclaiming.

Anonymous said...

"If we wish to be Anglican we should go with what the Communion of Anglicans is doing and not with what our own individual understandings of 'classical Anglicanism' or of 'Hooker' etc are proclaiming."

I must agree with Peter. If individuals conscientiously disagree with the teaching and discipline of the Anglican Communion AND are determined personally to break that discipline, then the only right thing for them to do is to resign from the ministry to follow the dictates of their conscience. Rowan Williams understands this point and acts accordingly; Tobias Haller does not. That is what makes him a schismatic.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Peter. As this all started with a question about being a "Thinking Anglican" I guess that I'm happy to be in that category!

I would simply observe that your own read of the state of the Communion does not match my experience. You seem to me to presume which way the Communion is heading, and it doesn't look that way to me. Nor do I think it wise for me simply to step back and let matters take their course (whatever course they are taking) but rather to continue to engage the issues, theological, doctrinal, and disciplinary, as part of the mandated "Listening Process." Listening requires speaking, and it is listening to folks like me that was mandated; as well as the continued calls for "seeing the theology." So, "I will not cease from mental toil" as the poet said; even though I have no expectation that the Anglican Communion will by any means be the New Jerusalem.

That being said, I see things shaking out rather differently from what you describe. Surely the non-invitation of Gene R to Lambeth is more than balanced by the refusal of some from the GS to attend. Some in the Global South appear to me to have shaken the Anglican dust from their feet and moved on altogether. Will they come back in another generation? I think so. But in the meantime the shape of the communion as I see it is now divided into three parts: those taking or sympathetic to the view of TEC / Canada, a larger group of those not particularly warm to that view but not willing to break up over it, and a (now) much smaller portion willing to make a split (if they already haven't). So I don't see what Lambeth 1998.1.10 did as any longer reflective of where we actually are as a communion -- if it even was accurately reflective of where we were then, politicized as its adoption was.

So I think what "the communion of Anglicans is doing" is exactly engaging in the kind of dialogue and examination of issues -- not considering it a closed, off-limits book, but a process of doctrinal development -- and I remain a part of that process. Those who wish to ignore what is happening, or hold to the view that dialogue and listening are off the table, will have made decisions for themselves, but have effectively removed themselves from the table of fellowship and dialogue.

At least that is how I see it.

Anonymous said...

"My thesis, which is the Biblical, Patristic and Scholastic position (I offer citations for all of this) is that there is no ontological difference between men and women; sex (or gender) is accident not essence"

I'll remember that next time I'm looking for public toilets ("washrooms" for the prim). I don't imagine that will "wash" with the judge, though.
Haller's "thesis" is neither Biblical, Patristic nor Scholastic. It's pure Modernism.

Sancti Paule, Augustine et Thomas de Aquino, orate pro nobis.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Martin, the "teaching and discipline of the communion" is a fiction at this point. The Covenant is a proposal to settle some sort of common core, but unless or until it is adopted the "teaching and discipline of the communion" is that of the individual provinces and churches that make it up; and it is to the doctrine, discipline and worship of one of those provinces, The Episcopal Church, to which I am vowed and in which I exercise my ministries, and I have no reason to resign from them.

Rowan and I have a good working relationship, though we do not always see eye to eye. He does not regard me as a schismatic, but as one who is engaged in the very process of discernment and dialogue he -- and Lambeth, and Windsor for that matter -- have called for.

That is what it means to be a Thinking Anglican.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Martin, you are now being merely offensive. Rather than vainly invoking Thomas Aquinas, you might read what he says on the subject. He attributes the sexual difference purely to bodily distinction due to a defect in the empowering principle of generation, but holds that there is no distinction between men and women as far as the human nature or the divine image is concerned. That is precisely what I'm referring to in the matter of ontology, which was Bryden's question.

Can you cite any patristic or scholastic source -- other than some of the gnostics -- that claim otherwise? This is not modernism, but orthodox doctrine, also enshrined in the Chalcedonian definition of the divine and human natures, as well as a later Council that determined, "Eva ipse est Adam." (Perhaps needless to say, but this is also what Genesis 2 teaches: that Adam and Eve are of the same substance.)

Modernism? Hardly.

Anonymous said...

"there is no distinction between men and women as far as the human nature or the divine image is concerned."

Of course I am aware that Thomas says this, as you are aware that he says homosexual acts are gravely sinful. You are picking and choosing. Thomas could never have approved of your modernist invention of "same-sex marriage". For the record, I am not beholden to his Aristotelianism, the source of most of his errors. Thomas is best when he sticks close to Scripture, but strays when he follows 'The Philosopher' a little too much.
You will also be aware that many of the Church Fathers did not care much for marriage and exalted the celibate state of the monk as the way of perfection. Some of them were more than a bit misogynistic.
But why do you care about the Fathers? Why not follow the schismatic gnostics? Is it because you want to claim to be 'catholic'? Then read Doug Farrow.
A loyal catholic - with a concept of catholicity - would abide by the teaching and discipline of the Church Catholic, but not unilaterally break it, or seek to drive from office faithful Anglicans like Mark Lawrence.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Martin, I think you make my point for me. You are not willing to allow that the theological premises for my arguments in support of same-sex marriage are not "Modernism." (That you do not agree with my conclusions or my argument is quite another thing, but you haven't shown any evidence of engaging with either, but simply reject them because they do not fit with your understanding of catholic orthodoxy.) You too admit you pick and choose from Blessed Thomas as it suits you, so you should not critique me for doing so! I do not cite him because I think he is an authority, but simply to demonstrate that the notion an "accidental" quality to the sexual-difference is in fact, as I stated, a venerable concept and not a bit of Modernism.

I don't know why you keep harping on Mark Lawrence. I've served on committees with him, I voted for the consent to his election, and I agree with the recent finding that he has not abandoned the communion of the church. I have good working relationships with many bishops and clergy who disagree with me on the sexuality issue and I have no wish to see any of them, including Mark, leave or be drummed out of the church. The reasons Mark is in trouble today have nothing to do with the sexuality issues (except perhaps due to his own abreaction to positions taken by GC), but with his attitude towards the canons of the church. He appears to have a parochial understanding of the canons governing church property, and even his fellow bishops in Province IV (few of them anything like liberal) are trying to appeal to him to conform to the church's discipline. As a point of consistency, you keep saying *I* ought to do so, so calling Mark to the same standard is not de trop. I believe in an ordered life under obedience. I think everyone should conform to the law and teaching of the church of which they are a part, and I make no demands of others I don't abide by myself in that regard. I don't agree with everything GC does, but I am vowed to conform.

Finally, I simply don't understand why you feel it necessary to adopt such a hostile tone. I'm happy to have a reasonable discussion, but you seem to be very hot under the collar on this issue, and I don't find that conducive to rationality. It seems to me, from your earlier comments, that you want to conform those with whom you disagree to some sort of generic (and weak) argument you think they might make (or that some have made), rather than addressing the actual positions taken, which in my case do not fit the narrative you crafted above, and to which I took exception.

Bryden Black said...

Many thanks Tobias for the engagement. A few (off the cuff) responses pro tem.

I am aware that Oliver published his Fulcrum ‘sermons’ in the US earlier and under a different title to that in UK.

One of the key things that intrigues me in all this “listening process” is how one describes oneself, seeking to claim particular pedigrees - something, if folk really pay careful attention, I myself have never actually done re my own ‘position’: others merely try to attribute ...

So; I read Oliver’s opening chapter as addressing 19th and 20th C liberalism, and its concomitant ethical reductionism. Nor can I agree that Thomist ontology should have the last word. For starters, two eminent contemporary theologians in the area of the revival of Trinitarian theology, Pannenberg and Jenson, both explicitly want to stress the reciprocal dynamics of the subsistent relations of the triune identities. Something the Tradition simply could not see itself doing, given its premises. Yet this has huge implications on the very questions before us - dogmatic, theological, and thereafter ethical. Your references to “complementarity” may not be dismissed as you try to do. In which case we all have to strive to agree on what constitutes forms of legitimate development and what illegitimate - the jury being utterly out at this point in time! Nor do I share your confidence on your ‘take’ re the AC’s current perceived trajectory; not at all. In fact, I think you are far too close to the ‘centre’ to really acknowledge the real forces of the periphery, which will, once again, as proven so often historically, determine the outcome - despite the current central power plays.

Last but not least: citing Lambeth 1878 is classic! The AC had not become just that, the Anglican Communion; back then it was merely an embryonic thing, looking for some form of acknowledgement that ‘English speakers’ were all over the world, and so too was that thing the CoE, sort of: but how might we relate? And while canonical issues had arisen (e.g. SA), there was no sense yet of institutional cohesion: quite the opposite. Exactly 100 years later Lambeth saw fit to create the Primates Group, having already created the ACC, both as institutional expressions of something much richer than that of a hundred years previously. That is to say, “discipline” was exactly one of the things that was being sought over and above mere “bonds of affection” across this bourgeoning Communion as early as 1970s; otherwise why did Runcie, ahead of Lambeth 1988, see himself having to already address the supposed ‘Crisis of Authority’ [cf. his collection of essays/articles published that year]? That he failed to so address it is now, as they say, history. For 1998's resolution has become utterly washed up on the shore as mere flotsam in light of 2008. The ACO might not see it in this light; you neither. But the institutional life of the AC is all but over, frankly. For the failure of the Covenant, once seen as the only game in town, has ensured/will ensure this ... in the fulness of time. Well; that’s my take!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
The Anglican Communion is the official global Anglican body to which member churches who belong make claim that they are the official Anglican churches of their countries (or regions). Thus TEC (and ACCan) does see off the challenge of ACNA to also be an official Anglican church of North America.

That there are schools of thought within the Anglican Communion is undeniable, and that many arguments carry on around the Communion claiming this and that is also undeniable: you and I contribute to that carry on, and each hope to influence those who listen to us.

But when all is said and done, that official global body which effectively bestows status on member churches to be true local expressions of that global Anglicanism is the vehicle for Anglicanism and not nostalgia for classical Anglicanism or outdated statements of former Lambeth Conferences. The Anglican Communion currently has expressed itself through the most recent Lambeth resolutions (1998 because 2008 was a resolutive non-event), the Windsor Report and the ensuing Covenant. Claims that the Covenant is 'unAnglican' only stack up if, in the end, the Covenant is rejected. If it is accepted, as implied above, you and TEC should consider your position re being Anglican: the version which bestows status upon TEC or another version.

If the Covenant is rejected the problem may be that the frayed and charred Communion will go up in smoke. At that point Anglicanism will definitely mean whatever anyone wants to make of it!

Anonymous said...

A brief reply:
1. I am not a catholic but an evangelical Anglican and sometime biblical scholar. Thomas does not have authority for me as he does for Rome, though I often find him very illuminating. But not the accidents/essence stuff. That's Aristotle, not the Bible.
2. The shared humanity of women and men should be obvious to any biblical Christian. I don't think that point needs to be labored.
3. But none of this tells us what sex is for, and how marriage is different from friendship. This is precisely where your confusion and Modernism enters. You don't understand the relational significance of the "joined otherness" of maleness-femaleness, and how Christian marriage. You have eroticized same-sex friendship and called it "marriage". I have called this "Modernism" but I guess I could have equally called it Pagan Classicism Revived.
The locus classicus for the Chrisitna understanding of marriage is Ephesians 5.21-33, which teaches that Christian marriage mirrors Christ's marriage with the Church. Two "husbands" or two "wives" could never be a Christian marriage, only a parody of one. You should read the little work 'God and Marriage' by that great Anglican scholar Geoffrey Bromiley.
4. The campaign against Mark Lawrence being conducted by liberals in Tec is overtly political. On the surface, it has nothing to do with, say, charges of heresy (Pike! Spong!) or immorality (Robinson!) but groundless disputes about canons.
The conduct of these Tec liberals is nothing short of scandalous.
5. Yes, my tone is sharp and I sometimes fail in charity, or at least "English" moderation. But partly it is my distress at the enormous damage caused to the Anglican Communion by the disobedience of revisionists and modernists in Tec.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Peter. My main point of disagreement with you, then, is the extent to which I see you as taking as settled the very issues that are on the table and about which consensus has not in fact been reached. Lambeth 1998 1.10 was adopted, but clearly did not represent a consensus view. It is now being held up as the "mind of the communion." This creates a problem. You also seem to have advanced the Covenant to a point of adoption when even in your own province its success is by no means assured. At this point 'What it means to be Anglican' is what it has long been: in communion with the See of Canterbury, part of the ACC, etc. There is nothing "outmoded" in that. I don't think the failure of the Covenant will mean any change: the real Anglican communion will simply be defined as it has been: a fellowship of national or provincial churches in communion with Canterbury. This also addresses to some extent the concern Bryden raised: proposed centralization, apart from cooperation in mission, of the Communion is just that, proposed.

Bryden, I too attempt to avoid "labels" but most especially "being labeled." I reject that assertion that I represent a "Modernist" position. When it comes to Pannenberg, I have a concern about "recipricalism" and prefer the "relational" model proposed in some other circles. Nor do I think it so entirely novel: since Father and Son do represent reciprocal terms. To see that as "complementary" however seems to me a grave error -- as it is in human anthropology. I lay out the rationale for rejecting this concept at length in the book, but the nub of the problem is that it implies "defect" or incompleteness. You will find the whole argument laid out in R&H. You may not accept it, but it is not a glib dismissal.

Martin, I address all of your various assertions about marriage in my book at length, including the passage from Ephesians, any alleged confusions over friendship, and the relationship of the sexes. Again, you may disagree with my arguments and conclusions, but you are here simply contradicting things you imagine I may have said, rather than addressing what I actually have said. You may not feel it worth your time, and I understand that.

Bryden Black said...

Clearly, I shall have to find time - after Christmas! - to try to digest these arguments you make/try to make, Tobias, in R&H.
However for now. There’s an important difference here: while both of us might be trying to reject ‘labels’, claims to such “pedigrees” (my word after all) as “My thesis, which is the Biblical, Patristic and Scholastic position (I offer citations for all of this)” I mostly find unconvincing first off, and so have stalwartly not used them myself. Simply because that’s what all the fuss is about! ‘Are you? Am I? Truly of such ...?’ It’s agreeing/disagreeing about such ‘belonging’ that’s precisely the point! And we may not try to claim ahead of the actual process of discernment itself. Positions may resonate with certain traits - or not. They may try to use certain traits, but then also bend them or extend them. This is the very warp and woof of the struggle.

E.g. To nail but one key trait/motif: inclusivity versus catholicity. In 2006 I had published a small article/contribution by ATF Press in a motley collection entitled Whose Homosexuality? Which Authority? The point was to try to trace the historical - not to say genealogical (!) - differences between these two notions via my own title, “Whose Language? Which Grammar? ‘Inclusivity and diversity’, versus the crafted Christian concepts of catholicity and created differentiation”. My own thesis (!) was that the former kind of discourse and arising grammar was essentially predicated upon autonomous human reason’s cultural rise over the past 250 years, while the latter was indeed truly an essential part of the Christian Tradition. They sound effectively similar, and possibly the same, to some/many, but in fact they belong to two very different world-views, once we do the hard, genealogical work the likes of which MacIntyre encourages. So; that’s why I am shy of such ‘authoritative’ claims up front; they often/sometimes present as shout-out bids. Especially when the real logic/grammar rather bends instead of extending. Does yours in R&H? Don’t know for sure yet; this juryman remains still out (FWIW!). And I shall be especially alert to the section re “relational” vs. “complementarity”: the pedigree [sic!] for the latter includes Rahner and Jenson and Torrance, as well as Pannenberg, all in their creative and necessary ways. I myself discern something crucial afoot here frankly, something which has nothing to do with anthropomorphism and/or the anthropological alone, but which lies at the heart of triune Being, as revealed because immanently so, in sovereign freedom. Eh bien; on verra!
Have a blessed Christmas.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, Bryden. Let me just emphasize that I did not raise the points about Biblical, Patristic, etc. as points of authority but of method. Martin accused me of "Modernism" and "Liberal Protestantism" (the latter also a critique made by E Radner.) The irony is that it is actually folks like Gagnon who employ a late 19th century biblical hermeneutic. So my point is not about which technique is more worthy, or which might produce the right results, but rather an accurate description of what each is using. I find it fascinating that the anti-SSM lobby are generally the ones who fall back on the various "fallacies of authority" (antiquitaem, verecundiam, etc...).

When it comes to understanding Scripture, I prefer close reading of texts, following Augustine's maxim to "edify" on the basis of the twofold commandment. I also take a canonical approach rather than relying on the tools of late 19th century scholarship (though aware of their utility -- esp. textual criticism when it comes to doubtful texts or multiple attestations. I think it would be foolhardy to jettison all that we have learned.

I trace the "complementarity" heresy (and yes, that's what I think it entails) back to Karl Barth. I was pleased to discover, through a friend who edited his correspondence, that late in life he admitted to error on that, but sadly felt too old and sapped to pen a more formal reevaluation; this letter didn't make it into the English translation of his collected letters -- but it is in the German. Wonder why that might have been?

I've not read Pannenberg's systematics. I have read his short essay on why the church cannot accept SSM, and found it mostly a string of unproven assertions. For instance, his assertion that Genesis 1-2 and Jesus' use of it in response to the question on divorce constitutes definitive rejection of same-sex relationships is not proven, merely proclaimed. The texts themselves do not suggest any such rejection, but rather an affirmation of permanent fidelity in marriage.

A similar problem arises with the theses advanced by Martin: e.g., that SSM is "eroticized friendship." I assure you that gay and lesbian persons know the difference between spouses and friends to the same degree as heterosexuals -- unless by implication a heterosexual man is incapable of friendship with a woman because she is his sexual opposite. The assertions about "otherness" are also problematical: every person is "other" to every other person.

Also FWIW I do not have much concern with the issue of inclusivity vs. catholicity, although I have written a bit about it under Hooker's concept of Comprehension and the Articles' notion of Sufficiency. Again, this places me more in the world of the 16th than the early 20th century -- but I do not say this as a matter of authority, but simply as a statement of how I work. It is the arguments themselves that must be evaluated, and not the people who make them.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
Your excellence and adeptness in scholarship, in moving between the times of ways of thinking through the ages, and your nuanced reading of Scripture are impressive (at least on this reader). There is no doubt, also, on your testimony and the testimony of others that relationships between people of the same sex akin to marriage are part of the weave and woof of modern life, especially if viewed through, say, the prism of 'fidelity.'

I would go further and say that were Hooker alive today, were Barth a young man, and even Augustine (an ancient Father who knew a thing or two about relationships), they would join me in appreciation of your argumentation; in Barth's case, yes, there were signs at the end that he would go further and might agree with you.

Yet in the end Barth or even if they were to line up, Barth/Hooker/Augustine, do not constitute final authority: the final authority is Scripture since Scripture critiques Tradition (as Anglicans (re)discovered at the Reformation), and Reason is an ongoing conversation about the meaning of Scripture which history reminds us involves an unchanging partner in the conversation (Scripture), and a changing partner (Reason as expressed through the generations).

In Scripture, I suggest, we have authority for understanding that constituent to marriage is the union of of the two sexes, male and female; and, conversely, we have no authority in Scripture for understanding that this constituent factor to be varied. There are other constituent factors, as you argue, such as fidelity; any and each relationship which includes such a value enriches human society. Marriage, however, incorporates a factor unobtainable to two people of the same gender, the mystery of opposites uniting in one flesh.

That mystery incorporates the outcomes deriving from the opposition of male and female sexual drive, reproductive cycles, etc which are unarguable biological differences, as well as the arguable differences in psyche (men from Mars, women from Venus). Scripture speaks of this mystery in various ways, from the Genesis creation texts entwined by our Lord himself, through the Song of Songs, and into the epistolic passages analogising human marriage and Christ's relationship with the church. It never speaks of the equivalence of marriage between a man and a woman and a relationship between two men or two women.

Thus, appreciative of the sophistication of your method and of your learning, to say nothing of the ease with which you move through the eras of Christian scholarship, I nevertheless remain unconvinced that the outcome you seek in arguing that marriage is indifferent to gender is either credible or plausible.

Anonymous said...

I find myself pretty much in agreement with Peter's last comment, which directs us first to the priority of Scripture over its interpreters (much as I value their work, there are points where I think Barth and Pannenberg are wrong about the Bible) and which strives to engage with the actual data of Scripture, particularly as it deals with sexual desire. Quite simply, sexual desire for one's own sex - however it arises in an individual - is misdirected and not God's will (as the Catholic Catechism frankly recognizes). I also think Tobias Haller misunderstands me when he writes:

"A similar problem arises with the theses advanced by Martin: e.g., that SSM is "eroticized friendship." I assure you that gay and lesbian persons know the difference between spouses and friends to the same degree as heterosexuals -- unless by implication a heterosexual man is incapable of friendship with a woman because she is his sexual opposite. The assertions about "otherness" are also problematical: every person is "other" to every other person."

First, I meant that God calls his people, in the family of the Church, to brother-and-sisterhood, and/or friendship and not to eroticize male-male or female-female affections with sexual desire. Second, I don't know any married man who isn't capable of an affair if he doesn't watch his friendships with women.

Haller's Modernism arises from: 1. ignoring or trying to nullify the Scriptural strictures against homosexual acts; 2. trying to speak about marriage - and maleness and femaleness - in an abstracted way that ignores the mystery of male-and-female together; 3. rejecting the traditional Catholic askesis of those not called to marriage. These are quintessentially Modernist strategies, because they don't deal with the actual text of Scripture (or try to make that text so "problematic" and obscure as to be useless, although nobody found them obscure at all until c. 1960) but work at a level of generalized abstraction. The turn of the century Cathpolic Modernists worked in a similar way.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you Peter. I think you do frame the real difficulties well. The issue for the church will be how it works with those difficulties.

I cannot say the same for Martin.
Ultimately it becomes a kind of moral fideism rather than a real wrestling with the actual biblical text, with all its complexity and contradictions. The fact that he finds some arguments reductive of the utility of texts to his predetermined end is simply testimony to his unwillingness to "wrestle till dawn" until a blessing is received.

Father Ron Smith said...

Of interest, on this latter subject of the biblical idea of marriage being only between one man and one woman, I've just been reading (again) - preparing for tomorrow's lectionary reading from 2 Samuel 7: 1-16 - some preliminary verses from chapter 5:13-16 (Jerusalem Bible)

"After coming from Hebron, David took other concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and sons and daughters were born to him. These are the names of those born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, Eliphelet"

What does this say vis-a-vis the biblical 'absolutes' about the idea of 'marriage' being the only God-ordained sexual relationship: 'between one man and one woman' ?

(And no casuistry, please)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
(1) The constituent aspect of marriage that it is between male and female is preserved in polygamy.

(2) The OT (taken as a whole) is ambiguous about polygamy; especially in comparison to its certitude about the wrongness of a sexual relationship between two men.

(3) As Christians we take cognisance of the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, valuing particularly those points where the combined witness of both Testaments come together to disclose God's will. In respect of marriage the line through Genesis, the gospels, and the epistles teaches monogamy; again, between a man and a woman. No ambiguity.

I am open to correction but I do not think casuistry is involved in the set of observations above.

Anonymous said...

Tobias Haller writes: "Ultimately it becomes a kind of moral fideism rather than a real wrestling with the actual biblical text, with all its complexity and contradictions."

I'm not really sure what "moral fideism" means here, but I don't think it applies to me. I've always understood the twin divine command to love God and neighbor as foundational of Christian ethics,and have closely followed the work of David Jones in his book and lectures 'Biblical Ethics'. I don't think my understanding of Christian ethics is obscurantist or unreflective - it's very mainstream and though I'm not a catholic, I'm sure catholics would agee with me. I'm a traditional historical Anglican so I don't accept that the text has "contradictions", other than in a formal or progressive revelationary sense; it's Modernist to find contradictions in Scripture and therefore set aside its authority. Wrestling with the actual text is *precisely what I do. Ignoring its uncomfortable parts by declaring them "obscure" or wrong is not an option I take.

"The fact that he finds some arguments reductive of the utility of texts to his predetermined end is simply testimony to his unwillingness to "wrestle till dawn" until a blessing is received."

Well, I have wrestled with this sentence a while and still don't know what it means. Whether I am "unwilling" is, I submit, not an easy psychological judgment to make. Tu quoque, Tobias? I do know that in God's economy, blessing comes from obedience to Christ's commands (John 14.15, 21).


Anonymous said...

Ron, Professor Gordon Wenham's concise book 'Story as Torah' (2004) argues for a holistic way of reading OT narratives, in which the narrative outcome comments on the ethics involved, where explicit narrator comment may be lacking.


Anonymous said...


"The fact that he finds some arguments reductive of the utility of texts to his predetermined end is simply testimony to his unwillingness to "wrestle till dawn" until a blessing is received."

Then again, perhaps he has, and you just do not like the content of the blessing. "Wrestling" with Scripture can often be little more than an excuse to ignore it when it does not suit our politics or sexual compulsions. Liberals like to claim they "wrestle" with Scripture, but I do not believe them. It seems perfectly obvious to me that far from wrestling, they already know what they believe, and it would not matter one bit how clear Scripture is on an issue.

Because this is not about how we wrestle with Scripture. The problem is that a small section of the Church has abandoned a Biblical worldview in favour of Western liberal progressive politics, and for liberals those politics always trump Scripture.

Liberals approach Scripture the same way they approach everything, as somethinbg alien and subversive of liberal orthodoxy which must be tamed and rendered safe according to the Orwellian dogmas of cultural Marxism.

Claims about contradictions in Scripture and the need to "wrestle" are just dishonest verbal tactics to hide the truth that Liberals know exactly what their position is going to be, and it matters not one bit what Scripture or the wider Church says.

Francis Schaeffer wrote that reading Christian Century was a sadly predictibale affair because he always knew what side of a major ethical issue liberals would come down on. The side of secular humanism. All talk about "wrestling" with Scripture was just hot air.

On every major ethical issue of our time, from marriage and sexuality, to abortion to euthanasia, "Christian" liberals are perfectly predictable. They will, and have, on every issue, sided not with the Church or with Scripture, but with secular humanism.

As I have said before, this issue is not about differing interpretations of Church teaching and Scripture. This is about the false religion of secular Humanism, thinly dressed up in theological drag, infiltrating the Church and trying to bring it into submission.

Answer one question for me. If Scripture had literally hundreds of pages concerning human sexuality and clearly came down against homosexuality, would it make any difference to you?

Are you really concerned with what Scripture and/or the Father say? Or is that, as I suspect, just fog to disguise the truth that your in submission to something else entirely.

Anonymous said...

John 13.17: "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" - this was the text I was trying to recall, but the other two from John do the job equally well. Blessing is not a matter of knowing the truth but doing it.
Understanding the Word is certainly important, which is why I spend an hour or so each morning with the Greek and Hebrew, but the Jacobite image of
"wrestling" in Scripture is primarily to do with persevering in prayer and resisting sin, not building up a store of unused knowledge.
I agree with Shawn that the trajectory of liberalism has been predictable for a long time now, because at its heart liberalism - or 'cultural Marxism' in its Gramscian form best known to us in the west through its influence on education, broadcasting and 'popular' sentiment - is a project for the here and now in which sexual satisfaction is the summum bonum. Theology-lite liberalism simply coopts the issue du jour of the secular capitalist world. Not long now before suicide becomes a "reasonable" and "holy" thing for Christians!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Martin, and Shawn: you are shadow boxing against a straw man of "liberlism" rather than addressing the arguments I've laid out at length in my book. Martin, you may deny that contradictions exist in Scripture, but at least one of them has come up in this discussion: Moses' provision for divorce and Jesus' rejection of it on the basis of Genesis 1 and 2. His reason: human hardness of heart. This is just one example where a particular text is privileged over an opposed text or set of texts. Much rabbinic discussion (and Jesus is part of that tradition) engage in exactly this method of privileging texts one over another. It was also the practice of the Fathers and the Scholastics (Aquinas often "trumps" one text with another that better fits his argument) and the Anglicans tasked with a similar adventure tried to find biblical grounds for Henry's divorce, opposing the prohibition in Leviticus against the mandate in Deuteronomy -- the latter having been favored by papal authority to grant the marriage to Catherine.

As to arguing to a predetermined position, I find that more true of the "conservatives" who ignore anything that doesn't suit their position, and in some cases, such as Dr Gagnon, invent support; or come up with novel theologies ('complementarity') to bolster their claims.

And yes, Shawn, if I believed the Scripture to be perfectly clear on this, attested in large portions of the text, I would be convicted by it. But it isn't. This is one of the reasons most "conservatives" depart into areas of "natural law" or insistence that texts such as Jesus' midrash on divorce are really about a unique allowance of heterosexual marriage -- a thing not at all evident in the text.

I grant that there are a handful of texts disapproving some male same-sex acts, and I examine and take them up with care in my book, and find they all refer either to idolatry, rape, or prostitution. Others may disagree with my finding, but to say I've not investigated will not stand.

Moreover there is only one possible biblical text on lesbianism, and it is likely that Clement of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo were correct in understanding the text on "their females" in Romans 1 as a reference to irregular sex in heterosexual marriages (echoing Wisdom of Solomon, on which Paul's text relies.) If that is true -- and it is a question -- then one immediately has to ask if it is right to speak of "homosexuality" and to wonder why if this is such an important prohibition God failed to inspire Moses to include it in the Torah. Or to consider either that only male same-sexuality is actually against God's will, or that we are dealing with a cultural artifact of a male-dominated culture that understood sex as primarily a male activity, something "done to" another. But then, you may choose to deny that any features of Scripture are conditioned by the cultures in which the texts were given.

I think I'll let matters rest with this. I'm always grateful for real engagement, but I think Martin and Shawn and I are talking past each other.

Anonymous said...

"I grant that there are a handful of texts disapproving some male same-sex acts"

- good (and you must also grant that the Bible NEVER speaks approvingly of such acts, and never imagines marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman)

"and I examine and take them up with care in my book, and find they all refer either to idolatry, rape, or prostitution. Others may disagree with my finding"

- yes they do: Ephraim Radner, Ashley Null, Robert Gagnon, Richard Hays, Gordon Wenham and many others. Idolatry, rape or prostitution may (or may not) be the consequences of wrongful desire, but that's not the fundamental issue.

"but to say I've not investigated will not stand."

- nobody is saying this. What we are saying is yours is an eccentric individual reading, and if you wish to be a catholic rather than some kind of protestant following his own private judgment, you should submit to the discipiline of the Church Catholic. "Securus iudicat omnis terrarum orbis", to mangle Manning or Wiseman's words (I forget which) to Newman.

Father Ron Smith said...

Anonymous Martin, from your last posting on this thread, it has occurred to me that you might have at one time been a Roman Catholic. Am I right? If not, you sound like one of their finest casuistic thinkers - magisterial.

Try to imagine that the Scriptures are only a guide (they never actually redeemed anyone) - the best resource we have in writing about God's dealings with his human children; but still a guide. God's Word has now been manifested in the life, witness, death, resurrection of God's Son, Jesus Christ - the Living Word - not just a substitute for the words of Scripture, but their ultimate fulfilment.

"A New Commandment I give unto you: the you love one another, as I have loved you (to the death) so you should love one another" and "They will know you're my disciples by your LOVE" - not by your knowledge of the scriptures, important though they are as a foundation for faith.

Peter Carrell said...

A question, Ron:

Is 'A new commandment' a commandment or a guideline?

If the former, how do we know it is a commandment? That is, by what means has that commandment come to us?

If the latter, by whose authority do we know it to be a guideline?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you're trying to trap me on the old chicken and egg syndrome. However, you have just quoted the dominical Word of Jesus, which actually is revealed in scripture. Therefore, as this is The Word-made-flesh in Jesus - who is eternally part of the God-head and not limited to words on a page - The command of Jesus, too, is eternal" "Love one another as I
have loved you" Jesus is the Message as well as the Messenger.

We need the Scriptures, of course, to have the original message revealed to us. But having said that, scripture requires, firstly an interpretation, and then, a response> This, in turn, may lead to further revelation that can be understood only as it is discerned and enunciated, hopefully, by the Church. "Nothing is impossible for God", as we heard today in the gospel Reading. Further revelation - beyond the words of Scripture - must be possible for God. Jesus is alive - "Christ in us, the hope of glory"

"I have further things to tell you, but you could not bear them now".

I believe that Jesus still has things to tell us, for instance, about what sin really is, and what it is not!

Anonymous said...

Ron writes: "I believe that Jesus still has things to tell us, for instance, about what sin really is, and what it is not!"

Actually, I believe Jesus was speaking to his apostles in the context of the quotation from John. Leaving that aside, have you had this private revelation, Ron? If so, please tell us where when and how this revelation occurred so the Church may judge whether to accept it or not.


Father Ron Smith said...

One of the 'new' revelations given by God to those parts of the Body of Christ that have 'ears to hear', Martin, is that LGBT persons, being made in the divine Image and Likeness of God, have an equal share with heterosexuals of the redemption that Jesus Christ has secured for us.

Agreed; some parts of the Church appear not to have heard that message yet! But, like the issues of the equal value of women and slaves to the males and patriarchs of the human species, that took time to be accepted by the whole Church, this basic knowledge, when properly understood by the current protesters, will eventually percolate down to those who, at present, actually doubt the value of women, slaves and LGBT persons as fellow workers in God's vineyard and members of the Body of Christ.

How do I know this? Because enough followers - bishops, clergy and faithful laity - of the Anglican 'Scripture Tradition and Reason' ethos of the Church (after prayer, study and counsel together) have enunciated it, and my heart is now inclined to believe it.

Anonymous said...

"How do I know this? Because enough followers - bishops, clergy and faithful laity - of the Anglican 'Scripture Tradition and Reason' ethos of the Church (after prayer, study and counsel together) have enunciated it, and my heart is now inclined to believe it"

Yes, I think the Church Father St Arius said something similar around AD 325.

And St Marcion before him.


Father Ron Smith said...

Martin. A few other theologians, who are actually alive today, have cottoned on to the fact that God loves Gays. What has been lacking in your formation that you have not yet 'got the message'?

Do have a joyful Christmas. And try not to worry about who is redeemed. God will sort that our when the time comes. Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

"Martin. A few other theologians, who are actually alive today, have cottoned on to the fact that God loves Gays."

Really???? Next you'll be telling me he loves Vegetarians! or even Sydneysiders!

"What has been lacking in your formation that you have not yet 'got the message'?"

Oh, I dunno - I suspect I was too busy conducting pogroms and hate campaigns to give it much thought.

Yes, I will "try not to worry about who is redeemed". Perhaps I should cancel my subscription to the Pereptual Chantry for the soul of Henry VIII?

Et moi aussi, je te souhaite joyeux pas d'enfer!