Saturday, September 14, 2013

Is anything straightforward about alternative episcopal oversight?

Thinking on further from yesterday's 'preliminary thoughts', I see quite a few complications and have no great confidence they can be worked through! Here are complications I see.

(1) Our bishops en masse and then individual bishops within any individual diocese in which clergy/ministry units seek oversight would need to agree to 'alternative episcopal oversight' (AEO).* Why should they? They have, after all, been discerned, elected, consecrated and installed to preside over diverse rather than monochrome Anglicanism.

*At this stage I leave the specifics of what such oversight might look like, but, at a minimum, AEO necessarily involves some kind of delegation of authority by the present bishop(s) to another bishop or set of bishops.

(2) What would be achieved by AEO? If (say) a clergyperson or a ministry unit are 'offside' with their bishop on a matter of difference, it is true that they do not have to 'host' that bishop for (say) confirmations but could host another, more suitable, acceptable bishop, but save for that pastoral nicety, what else is achieved? If the ministry unit needs to engage with the diocese about property matters, if (say) seeking agreement to license a new clerical member of staff, then it is bound to engage in other ways with the bishop with whom it has difference. If, conversely, AEO included a separation of property (on the one hand) and a complete delegation of licensing authority on the other hand, is not a separate or quasi-separate church thereby established? Noting that in our Aotearoa NZ context we kind of have that with our three tikanga structure does not take us very far because it is a tricky ecclesiological issue to justify these arrangements as coherent with a notion of 'one church of God.' AEO, from that perspective, would compound a poor ecclesiology rather than develop a bold, new ecclesiology.

(3) Might there be fruitfulness in exploring development of current episcopal arrangements rather than establishment of AEO? Reflecting on the voting in the recent Auckland synod, for instance, suggests roughly two-thirds support for change and one-third support for status quo. There are two bishops there, both voting with the two-thirds. What if there was a third bishop, drawn from the 'one-third'? Might that assist that diocese in 'living together' with difference?

(4) AEO would not necessarily make any difference to some (at least) conservative [on this issue] clergy and ministry units. A sticking point re change is the authority of General Synod (under which licensed clergy and lay ministers/officers minister, by virtue of signing the 'declarations' on receipt of licence). AEO would not (as best I understand it) alter that authority, even if it altered the authority of the bishops.

(5) There is also a perspective provided by Malcolm in a comment to yesterday's post:

"As I tried to indicate in a comment on a previous post, I do not think that devolving decisions on chastity and marriage to individual dioceses is feasible. 

This is a communion level issue, and the decision of our General Synod will have far-reaching implications for our relationships with other Anglican provinces and ecumenical conversations. 

This context cannot be avoided by simply claiming some local option. Nor will alternative episcopal be able to paper over the cracks."

So, there is something of a maze to negotiate re the possibility of AEO as a consequence of a possible GS decision in 2014 to change the current status quo. Can you find a way out of the maze and offer the route in a comment here?

Response from Edward Prebble:

"Hello Peter

Thank you for your commitment to providing a substantive response to my idea for putting into shape what Brian Dawson, in an earlier posting, called a “mixed economy”.

First, let me say that your website is only the second time I have suggested this idea to anyone. The first time rather illustrated your comment today about bishops. I suggested it to a recently retired bishop, whose immediate comment was “I would not want the Bishop of ****** swanning around my diocese”.

The second point relates to the question of “compromise” or “olive branches”. We acknowledge that we cannot see a way to reconcile the two major views on this subject. The group to which I belong, which to avoid the increasingly unhelpful labels, I will call Group B, has come to the conviction that homosexuality is essentially a matter of who some people are (i.e. not primarily about what those people do). We would wish to answer in the affirmative the question posed a couple of years ago by Archbishop Philip Richardson: Do we regard sexual orientation as an expression of God-given diversity? Given that conviction, it is extremely difficult for Group B people to contemplate a compromise; treating GLBT people with equality becomes a matter of gospel-driven justice.

On the other hand, Group A members (I offer that “priority” of title for the groups in recognition that this is the historical position of the church) are remarkably short of wiggle room as well. They argue that we are not able to alter the doctrine of the church in this matter. Carl Jacobs illustrated this in a comment on the earlier posting, where I had suggested there are two groups each passionately seeing their respective positions to be derived from scripture, from the call of the gospel, and from commitment to Anglican traditions. His comment was No, you don't. You have one side rooted in Scripture and another side rooted in rebellion against Scripture." One side in this argument is illegitimate. His other remarks show Carl to be a Group A person, but his comment could easily be made with an opposite meaning by a Group B adherent.

So, if we cannot compromise on principle, but we also wish to remain together, motivated by other deeply held principles, then where can we compromise? My idea is driven by the idea that we compromise in the application, searching for every way we can to provide the “opposite” group with room to live, and move and have their being.

Yes, my idea would be very difficult to implement, unless we can generate the necessary good will. The idea is likely to fail because of the detailed complexity of its application, not because of any theological shortcomings. So what would happen to parish trust funds held by their “home” diocese? I don’t know. I think the necessary trust could only be generated if this were seen as a relatively brief, transitional arrangement, with a very firm sunset clause, and an agreement that the issues would be roundly debated again in 10 or however many years.

In response to Malcolm, I don’t see this as essentially a decision at diocesan level. It would depend on a very strong consensus at provincial level that we were willing to accommodate two modes of practice among us as a Church.

Finally Peter, a comment on your now repeated suggestion that it would behove the Auckland diocese to have a third bishop, selected among the 1/3 of synod who belong to Group A. Christchurch is, as I understand it, much closer to 50:50. Are you suggesting that there needs to be another bishop? And to achieve that, does +Victoria need to declare herself for A or B? Or is it OK to continue with only one so long as she maintains what you see to be a centrist position, but one that may be increasingly uncomfortable to the Group B members of your diocese? I think your plan has as many fish-hooks as mine!

Peter replies ... On the last paragraph's question, I agree there are fishhooks but these may depend on the fish, and the school or schools they swim in. Diocese X might wish to develop its current episcopal arrangements, not least because that might be a fruitful way to respond to difference. Diocese Y might choose to work out its differences under its current episcopal arrangements: again, not least because of local recognition that this would be more fruitful than enlarging the number of local bishops. The thought then strikes me whether our church might permit Diocese Z, if it chose, to work with the bishop of another diocese in order work through its differences, if that was a fruitful thing to do. (And, noting a point Edward has made below, for a time-limited period). 

Might I also pick up a point that Bryden Black has recently made on this site, here, that episcopacy is about unity: "Bishops are also necessarily foci of unity AMONG DIOCESES." However we move forward on these matters, we need our bishops to be foci of unity among the dioceses. That behoves the bishops to be talking well together.


liturgy said...

I applaud you, Peter, in your attempts to think through ways of living together with difference. And encourage you to continue this. I think you are also indicating that this may be more fruitful than trying to continue academic debating in the hope that some new light will suddenly be shed, making the differences disappear.

I wonder if you might back up a bit. Why is it this issue, rather than others where we have managed to live together with difference, leading to calls of AEO?

And might looking at exactly how we have lived together with those issues where we differ, might those provide models for into the future? You have already mentioned the tikanga structure.

How exactly are we concretely living together when some communities and individuals are not accepting of the non-discriminating remarriage of divorcees? When a community or individuals are not accepting of women’s oversight, episcopacy, ordination? Significantly different worship styles? You and/or others might think of other such issues that potentially divide, but concretely have not - and,again, how that is being worked out in actual practice.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
It could be that you are charting the way ahead. It is not as though we are unable to live with difference, we can and do.

Nevertheless I think I would want to hark back to something I have said before, that it is not yet clarified that on this particular difference our church, let alone our hierarchy will permit those not agreeing with the 'majority' position to be accepted for licensed ministry.

In other words, AEO might be in the mix of ideas for the future because it (if an agreeable scheme can be found) offers some kind of guarantee that difference will be respected.

Edward Prebble said...

P.S. I have just read Bosco’s comment. Bosco, You are absolutely right, of course. I also don’t see why we should divide on this issue. +Jim White likes to offer the analogy of our differences on pacifism – arguably at least as much a “life-or-death” issue as sexuality. I guess my suggestion comes from the reality that, rightly or wrongly, we are divided on this issue in a way that we have not been with the others. But if we together can find a way to do what you suggest, it would be far, far better.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Edward
Thank you for your PS and for your earlier comment which I have placed in the main body of the post above.

carl jacobs said...

The problem with this proposal is that it is fundamentally asymmetrical. Edward Prebble gave the game away when he said this on the previous thread.

It certainly would require an acceptance by the conservatives that ordaining of gays/lesbians, and the blessing of same-sex unions will indeed take place, and that this change will not be able to be reversed.

The end state of this proposal is thus already determined at the beginning. The teaching and practice of the church will be changed. Given this pre-condition, one struggles to find in this proposal any purpose other than producing a ten-year window in which to change the minds of the dissidents. There is no end-state after ten years other than acceptance of the new status quo.

To 'Group A' this proposal says "The church will henceforth deny what you hold to be true and practice what you hold to be sin. You may privately dissent but you may not publicly act on that dissent." To "Group B" this proposal says "You have to co-exist in the church with them." Underneath however "Group B" holds an unstated but very real expectation that this situation is temporary. "They" are the old that is passing away. "They" will decline by natural loss. "They" will quietly not be allowed to replenish their leadership. "They" will be retaught. To paraphrase the words of the famous Sith Lord "They will join us or die."

How then does a conservative deal with an unrepentent homosexual in the House of bishops? How does he answer the question "You condemn homosexual behavior and yet you are under the authority of an organization that legitimizes it? How can this be?" This will happen. It's part of the unwritten expectation that undergirds this proposal. What happens when the leadership of the church starts biasing the allowable clergy in a specific theological direction? This will happen. It's part of the unwritten expectation that undergirds this proposal. What happens when "they" prove more recalcitrant than expected and the talk of "two integrities" gives way to accusations of bigotry? This will happen. It is part of the unwritten expectation that undergirds this proposal. The CoE experience with WO is illustrative of this inevitability.

This whole exercise is an effort in finding an answer that does not exist. The hull of the Titanic is ripped beyond the sixth bulkhead, and the Engineers frantically scramble to determine how to stop the ship from sinking. The answer is a matter of physics. It can't be done. The only way to save the ship is to go backwards in time and avoid the iceberg. But you have in fact already struck the iceberg. So you had better start getting people into lifeboats.

There is one, exactly one, only one, and no more than one solution to this problem. You must devolve your church into separate authority structures. This will allow the preservation of an Anglican presence by creating an orthodox Anglican church that is free from the post-modern influences of "Group B." The old proud liberal ship is already mortally wounded. It's going to follow the husk that is secularism 12000 ft down into full-throated paganism. If you insist on trying to maintain unity with that liberal husk, you will be pulled under as well.


Anonymous said...

Carl has understood the issues and expressed them with inexorable logic, because he knows well (and so should everybody in NZ) that this is exactly the path that Tec trod, and it has led to schism, depositions and endless litigation. No one in NZ should be so foolish as to follow this course of ruination.
To return to my analogy of the Arian-Nicene controversy which Edward Prebble dismissed as mistaken and inapplicable, he is asking for two contradictory theologies to be accepted alongside each other, as if they could be contained within one church - just as if one could say it didn't matter whether you followed Nicene or Arian Christology.
The only answer is to divide and reorganize.


Tim Chesterton said...

Carl is of course entirely free not to participate in the compromise Peter is talking about. Indeed, since I infer from a previous post that he attends a 'continuing' Anglican Church in the US, not affiliated with TEC, I assume he has already made that choice.

Some of us, however, do not see the Anglican universe in binary terms. I have friends with whom I disagree on the subject of homosexuality, but agree about most other aspects of the Christian faith - and vice versa. I do not wish to lose the cooperation and fellowship in mission that I have with colleagues because of a disagreement about a relatively minor matter of biblical interpretation. The matter of whether Christians may legitimately kill their fellow Christians at the command of their governments seems to me a far more important one (on which Jesus actually expressed an opinion), but I, a pacifist, share fellowship in faith and ministry with military chaplains all the time.

Bryden Black said...

We should be grateful to Edward Prebble for the simple clarity with which he describes the rationale of two Groups, whom he designates A & B, “to avoid the increasingly unhelpful labels”. I want to highlight those elements he picks out for Group B, since they particularly reveal why I am still a member of Group A. I pick up myself on four things.

1. “Who some people are” - “sexual orientation”: this criterion (which some claim furthermore to be kind-of novel) is often depicted as something of a clinching feature to the position of Group B. Why then does Robert Gagnon’s own rebuttal not seem to have been addressed properly? See

2. It may very well be that those whom Edward calls “some people” (who according to studies in Denmark, Canada and US comprise approx 1.8-2.2% of the population) manifest our generic fallen and broken human nature by means of this particular form of same-sex attraction. At least, the foundational opening chapters of Genesis strongly suggest humankind to be an inherently gendered being: Gen 1:26-28, Gen 2:18, 23-24. In which light ‘sameness’ appears a tragic distortion, which just happens to mark “some people” this way, while my own distortions of the Image of God and yours just happen to be different - although I guess some simple observations of general human behaviour suggest we all overlap too!

3. “Diversity”: at one level, this is a necessary ecological phenomenon of any bio system. Yet in our day it has also become a cultural buzz-word. Which was one reason I wrote this article which was included in an Australian collection published in 2006: Brian Edgar & Gordon Preece, eds, Whose Homosexuality? Which Authority? Homosexual practice, marriage, ordination and the church (ATF Press, 2006), pp.151-167, as:
In other words, given the contrasting discourses I trace in this article, a Christian world-view might treat the matters of diversity and differentiation rather ... differently!

4. Lastly, “justice”: this all important yet also rather slippery word begs huge questions. While one does not need to be a MacIntyre afficionado - although it might help; see Christopher Stephen Lutz, Reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue (Continuum, 2012), which is designed for beginners like us - all the same, Alasdair MacIntyre’s oeuvre raises absolutely vital questions whenever people try to raise this basic issue. Viz After Virtue (Notre Dame, 1981/84/2007), Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame, 1988), & Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry (Duckworth, 1990).

All in all, not only do these four classic features of Group B not cut it for me; they have been more than adequately addressed, I feel, to the point that it is now impossible for me to let Edward & Co. ‘get away with it’. This is especially so when the ACANZ&P is about to try to make serious and long-lasting decisions about the matters before the Ma Whea? Commission - even if the date of 2014 might indeed be postponed until 2018.

What I wish to have “acknowledged” is curiously the very point raised by Bp Jim at the recent Christchurch Conference on Marriage: to wit, our “conversations” to date seem irreconcilable - yet that just means more conversation is actually needed. And here I offer some indispensable elements for any future conversation. They (points 1-4 above) might just actually shift the ground a bit - at last!

carl jacobs said...

Tim Chesterton

What compromise would that be? "We get what we want and you can gripe privately to yourself about it" isn't a compromise. Well, OK, 815 would consider that a compromise. And that, of course, is the summary of my whole argument.


Peter Carrell said...

A commented on comment from Carl.

Carl: I do not feel comfortable publishing the following comment without some surrounding comments, as I feel you go along way down an unfair road here. However you are making a point so I publish the comment, with my comments as well.

"Tim Chesterton

The Lord Jesus also never said anything about a man having sex with his mother. What should I infer from that silence? That there is doubt regarding his position on the matter? Or perhaps I should infer that there was no controversy in first century Israel over that subject. As also with homosexuality. [PC: I am not sure what is gained by making that particular observation, Carl. There are other things that Jesus did not make comment on which could be invoked. As best I understand gay and lesbian experience, gay and lesbian persons do not see any particular comparison to be made with incest.]

In addition, homosexuality is not a minor issue. It is willful rebellion against the created order. [PC: A person with homosexual orientation is not involved in 'willful rebellion' per se. He or she is simply finding that their orientation sexually is what it is]. It is the creature shaking his fist at heaven saying "Why did you make me thus? I shall do as I please." [PC: Do you really mean to describe each and every gay and lesbian person in this way? It is not how I have experienced the cri de coeur of gay and lesbian persons]. That is why Paul uses it as a picture of man suppressing the truth of God and chasing instead after idols. Just as man knows he is made for woman, so man knows he is purposed to worship God. Just as man denies this truth and chases after man, so also he denies God and chases after idols. That is not a minor issue.[PC: It may not be a 'minor issue' but is it an issue to be singled out in the way you do? There are many ways in which many people deny God and chase after idols. Why are you focused on this particular one?]

carl "

carl jacobs said...


I mentioned that Jesus didn't talk about incest because Tim Chesterton said that pacifism was 'something on which Jesus actually expressed an opinion.' The clear inference is that Jesus didn't express an opinion on homosexuality. (Both assertions are false by the way.) This is a standard argument from silence used by homosexual apologists, and I responded in a standard way. The point was not to compare homosexuality to incest, but to demonstrate the weakness of the argument. If the exact parallel logic can make Jesus into an apologist for incest, then there is something wrong with the logic.

As for your second complaint. I didn't single out homosexuality for that imagery. The Apostle Paul singled it out. That entire second paragraph was a paraphrase of Romans 1. Paul didn't choose adultery for his example. He didn't choose murder. He didn't choose coveting or lying or stealing. He chose homosexuality. If you have a complaint against someone for being unfair, you have a complaint against him. He described it as willful rebellion. I am not overly concerned with how homosexuals see themselves when that self-image is stacked up against the revelation of God.

I committed no foul in that post.


Anonymous said...

Peter, why did you have to 'fisk' Carl's comments thus? As the editor/owner of this blog, you can certainly make editorial comment, but this shouldn't be in the body of a posting but *after it. It isn't fair to partially publish then try to undermine.
Carl's comments were ones he has made before, and he was speaking *theologically and in a biblical-objective sense about the character of homosexuality, not pastorally and subjectively - which is of course an entirely legitimate concern, but one that you have introjected here in an obiter dicta kind of way.
It's your blog, Peter, but if you rebut or redact people in mid-sentence, we won't have a conversation.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I would presume that you know that there is debate over Romans 1: does it apply to homosexuality or to excessive, greedy pursuit of sexual pleasure to the point of giving up one's 'nature'? At the least, acknowledging that debate might make us pause to think whether Paul is singling out homosexuality 'as we understand it today'.

Anonymous said...

Tim Chesterton keeps invoking the false analogy with pacificism, as if to say, 'Hey, some of us are pacificsts, while most are not, and we get on OK in Anglicanism, so why can't we agree to differ on this as well?' This argument fails because 1. strict pacifism ('it is forbidden for a Christian to bear arms') has NEVER been Anglican doctrine and is actually contradicted by Art. 37 ('restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers'); 2. Any Anglican leader who preached pacifism and urged military desertion in time of war would be rightly charged with sedition.
So the argument fails for an Anglican, Tim. Maybe it works for a classical Mennonite - but not an Anglican.

Martinus Belisarius

Anonymous said...

Peter, anyone familiar with Greco-Roman literature and history knows that homosexuality was a constant in Greek culture for centuries, and was tied up with the Greek worship of the naked male body, evinced in their sculpture, friezes and pottery. The theme runs through the earliest Greek literature I'm familiar with, The Iliad (Achilleus and Patroklos, 8th c. BC), through Plato's Symposion (4th c. BC), down to the latest, 'Daphnis and Chloe' (2nd c. AD?), and included the idealized love of the erastes for the eromenos and the state-sponsored homosexual relations for youth in Sparta.
The Hellenistic institution of the gymnasion was another reflex of this worship of the male body, and it was one factor causing anger and rebellion in the Maccabean times.
Paul the 'wandering Jew' saw this world at first hand, and there is little doubt what he thought.

Martin von Winckelmann

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
1. My fisking Carl's comment. Precisely: I felt that simply publishing that particular comment 'as is' had potential to shut down conversation here. In this case via such a non-empathetic understanding of this particular human situation, which we might helpfully remember is not only a situation for individuals but for their families and friends, for a whole heap of people, from among whom there might be those wishing to comment here.

2. Greek friezes etc. Yes, fair to observe that. Why wasn't Paul more focused on slating that culture, with specific references?

3. You are missing the point re pacifism. The Anglican church accommodates both military chaplains and pacifist fellowships. Whatever the doctrinal basis underpinning or not underpinning each position, we get along without schism. You would be hard-pressed to work from the Articles to every military action and chaplains' complicities in supporting those actions. We might esp. note some bad actions by the British Army against Maori in NZ, supported by CofE chaplains.

Tim Chesterton said...

Martin, so-called 'classical Anglicanism' has been in evolution since 1549. It changed in 1552, and again in 1559, 1662, and has been changing ever since. One of the constants, however (and one that in my earlier days I did not fully appreciate) has been its respect for the Church Fathers as a guide to the interpretation of Scripture. The great church historian Roland Bainton called the first three Christian centuries 'the pacifist centuries'; I think he may have exaggerated a little, but pacifism was certainly the majority position of the Church Fathers.

One of the mottos of the Reformation was 'the Church in continual reformation' (I forget the Latin, but I'm sure you know!). It would be a betrayal of the Reformation to assume that the Reformers got everything right. I, and many other loyal Anglicans, believe that in some aspects they were blinded by the subjugation of the Church to the crown and the state that was just assumed in Christendom. Anabaptists had the courage to see that this was foreign to New Testament Christianity. I make no apology for being guided by their insights here, and I am not alone; there are Anglican pacifist fellowships all over the world, and we work and pray for the day when all Anglicans will see that participation in war and violence is completely contrary to the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles.

carl jacobs said...


I know some people offer arguments about Romans 1, but I do not recognize any 'debate' about what I said. I recognize that some people begin with a presupposition about the nature of homosexuality and then impose that presupposition on the text. And well I understand that desire. Paul puts paid to the idea that homosexuality is natural in about three sentences. Of course people who have a vested interest in a contrary finding will move Heaven and Earth to change the meaning. But that doesn't make the effort legitimate. You can make an argument that Macbeth is a Feminist critique of post-Capitalist patriarchal oppression. Being able to make an argument doesn't make that argument any less risible.

I understand what you did and I understand why you did it. I did not think your in-line comments damaged the post in any way. The fisking was easily answered, and I actually thought a fair-minded reader would have supplied the answers himself. My only complaint is that you called me unfair. I wasn't unfair. I refuse to respect this tactic of inserting personal information into an argument so later it can be said 'Be careful what you say lest you hurt feelings.' I won't let my arguments be hamstrung like that.

There is something else you should consider. At some point, it becomes a pastoral responsibility to tell people the truth. No matter how much they would prefer not to hear it. No matter how much pain it might cause them. Because eventually an account will have to be given and 'I decided Romans 1 was about pagan cult prostitution' won't be an option anymore. What I said was true. If what I said isn't true, then words have no meaning, and meanings cannot be understood. And we might as well recruit new members by throwing orgies in the church basement because we have no authority to condemn or approve anything.


Anonymous said...

1. I repeat that I don't think it is right for an editor to fisk a post. Commenting on it afterward is a different matter. It was obvious to me that Carl was giving a theological review of Romans 1, not a pastoral reflection on the self-understanding of homosexual persons.
2. I don't really follow your second point. Many of Paul's comments elsewhere do indeed critique Greco-Roman culture, esp. the vanity of 'philosophy' in contrast to the Cross, and the vanity of polytheism and idolatry.
3. I didn't miss the point about pacifism. I said it's mistaken and un-Anglican, and the existence of tiny pacifist fellowships in Anglicanism doesn't change this. Anglicanism has never taught that pacifism is true but has tolerated it because a tiny number of COs has never been a serious threat to national security - not least when they could be assigned to supportive non-combatant roles, just like chaplains. Do you think a pacifist bishop urging desertion from the army would be let off? Bad conduct in war doesn't validate pacifism.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
I suggest you would have quite a difficult time persuading Anglicans that pacifism was 'unAnglican' as opposed to 'a possibility pursued by Anglicans and accommodated by Anglicans around the world.' A pacifist bishop charged with sedition is not thereby 'unAnglican.'

I stand by my fisking.

Let me try to express my point re Paul a little differently. Agreed, Paul generally offered through is writings a critique of Graeco-Roman culture. In Romans 1 it is not clear that Paul is offering a general critique of the embrace of homosexuality (as then understood, experienced within Hellenism) rather than a particular critique of the excesses of Graeco-Roman culture (while shaped by language which (working from memory) has a lot to do with Jewish treatment of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
'Unfair' is whether you are allowing for the testimony of self-identifying gay and lesbian persons about what constitutes 'nature' for them. What Paul says in Romans 1, as we engage with it in our day, raises the question of what 'nature' means. What you understand about 'nature' in Romans 1 may be true, but I think there is a debate to engage with over how we understand 'nature' given that we appear to have a widely attested understanding of homosexuality as an orientation people are born with than (appears) to have been the case with Paul.

That debate is (it seems to me) powerful in the church discussions today and not easily dislodged.

Peter Carrell said...

An interesting comment on another site (posted by Bro David on Liturgy, September 15 at 5.59 pm),

"“We need a whole new conversation about the Bible and Homosexuality, and one in which (let me be really blunt) people are actually listening to each other, not distraughtly trying to defend God’s truth against its enemies.

The question at hand is really this: “what is the best way for people of homosexual orientation to live out their discipleship?”

The people on the hard left who don’t want to live out discipleship, and the people on the hard right who don’t want people of homosexual orientation to inherit the reign of God can go have a different conversation.

Here in the middle, where we want to follow Jesus, and we want homosexuals to follow Jesus, we come down to two simple possible answers: (a) through a responsible and godly expression of sexuality or (b) through celibacy.

Which of these answers most closely resembles the ways of a God who liberates slaves, returns exiles and raises the crucified? We need to meditate on the ways and means that were used by the prophets who preached Torah, Jesus and the apostles such as Paul.

And dare I say it – that conversation is probably not going to really begin until homosexual people are being warmly welcomed by a church who instead of saying:
“OK, you can be here, but we don’t approve and sit in that corner and never contribute except through money, and if we find out that any leaders are gay we’ll fire them”

“are you trying to figure out how to follow Jesus? We are too! Are you confused? So are we! Let’s try to figure it out together.”

Pastor Karl Hand
CRAVE MCC Sydney/Christchurch
Lecturer in New Testament and Greek at Australian Catholic University, University of Newcastle and United Theological College"

carl jacobs said...


You are essentially asserting that it is unfair of me to deny the legitimacy of this debate. I disagree. The idea that there is some doubt about what Paul was saying is quite frankly exegetical nonsense. The alternative position destroys the very point Paul was trying to make. It is instead a late 20th century eisegetical imposition intended to reconcile Paul with a prior commitment to the legitimization of homosexuality. It is this kind of mutilation of Scripture that has produced the problems in the church.

Your blog. Your rules. But you are wrong.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl
I do not object to you declaring that I am wrong.

Nor do I generally object to the clarity of your thinking and to the strength of your convictions. Your comments here are most welcome because of that.

Father Ron Smith said...

I don't know whether you have taken me off your 7-day embargo yet, Peter. However, looking in on this conversation, it would appear that carl and martin are refusing to acknowledge that there can be any understanding of the theological legitimacy of homosexuality other than theirs, which, one must observe, has never varied from their outright condemnation and qualification for damnation.

My understanding of the Gospel, and from the Dominical sayings, is that Christ came into the world to 'save sinners' - and that's what we all are: straight, gay, tans-sexual, or any place on the continuum. For them to isolate homosexual people as greater sinners than anyone else, is to limit God's power to, in the first place, create gay people; and in the second place to accept gay people who acknowledge God's rule in their lives - believing that they can be none other than who they are by nature!

We all know, for instance, that Paul had his very own 'thorn in the flesh' which he was loth to discuss. It is some by some accredited theologians that - in the light of his seeming condemnation of homosexuality, this may very well have been something he himself experienced. This would measure up to those instances of conservative fundamentalist pastors who have been, later in their ministry, convicted of the very 'sin' they have condemned in their congregations.

What the Church needs - above all in this matter - is transparency. This is the only workable antidote to institutional hypocrisy.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
The ban stands until tomorrow. I will post the comment you have sent today, tomorrow.

Bryden Black said...

Please the Gagnon article referenced above.

Peter Carrell said...

Indeed, Bryden, I have not read it yet. Soon.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
the Gagnon article at is important and informative. I am inclined to agree with Gagnon, and Carl, incidentally re what Paul is on about in Romans 1' but less inclined to agree with them that there is no further debate.

Anonymous said...

Tim,we have been through this pacifist discussion before, and the analogy doesn't work, for several reasons.
1. Yes, there was strong hostility to serving in the imperial Roman army among a number of church leaders in the earliest centuries, when persecution of Christians and Caesar worship were part of army life. But there was NEVER a church council condemning military service per se. Individuals' opinions were never church policy.
2. The second and third centuries (until the Edict of Milan) also had a strong advocacy of the superiority of celibacy over marriage and the glory of martyrdom, along with a rather extreme doctrine about post-baptismal sin. Are you going to advocate these outlooks as well? I suspect not.
3. Anglicanism is reformed western Catholicism. It certainly values the Fathers (as did all Magisterial Reformers), in particular Augustine and Chrysostom, but not Tertullian.
4. The Anabaptists on the other hand (not a vey peaceful lot, it must be said) were Radical Reformers who had little time for the Church Fathers and imagined they could rebuild theology directly from their own reading of the NT. This has always been a delusion.
Of course all Christians must be peacemakers. And of course the State, as the minister of God (Romans 13) can wield the sword to maintain peace and justice. If I thought otherwise, I would never call the police. Abusus non tollit usum.

Martinus Grotius

Tim Chesterton said...

Well, there's not much more I can say to persuade you, Martin. I will say one more thing, though, and then I'm done. I suspect that people who ten to say categorically 'This argument is nonsense' or 'You are wrong' will not be interested in the compromise proposals that Peter and Edward have been floating. On the other hand, those who tend to say 'I do not find this argument persuasive' will probably be interested in Peter and Edward's approach.

I have often wondered what it must be like to achieve absolute certainty about something. I don't seem to be able to do it; I'm always second guessing myself. Perhaps that's why I tend to be more interested in conversations with people who disagree with me.

All of which is a long way of saying to Martin that when you say, 'this argument doesn't work', my response is 'it works fine for me, and many others too, but I know that logic tends to be more subjective than we think!'

Anonymous said...

Tim, you are a very peaceable person and I am sure you seek to live out the demands of the Beatitudes. It is true I adopt a direct way of writing on the internet but I don't think I'm confrontational in person. If in writing I always softened every comment with 'it seems to me' etc, that would fit in with current western mores of apparent moral hesitancy but would also invite the reply, 'well it doesn't seem that way to me!' If I succumb to ad hominem comments, I should be called out on that; so I prefer to keep discussions impersonal and objective, if we can. Strict pacifism, i.e. a prohibition of self-defense and the defense of others from attack, makes no sense to me, and indeed, appears downright immoral in some circumstances. I can find no sanction for it in either the OT or the NT. That's why I can't allow it to be smuggled into the discussion - it just hasn't been thought through. Carl has thought through Edward's proposal and shown that it really does beg the question, i.e. it assumes the rightness of what is actually disputed.
If 'logic is subjective' maybe that is because we are not looking at enough of the picture.


Kurt said...

I fully agree with Tim that pacifism is a very important aspect of the faith for many Christians. I admire and respect pacifists; though I’m afraid I can’t quite come up to their level. I’m more of a semi-pacifist. I’m more than willing to try non-violence first.

Of course, one need not be a pacifist to oppose President Obama’s crazy war moves towards Syria. Even most of the tired, old liberals in the Democratic Party are against this one; it’s not simply us lefties and a few fringe libertarians.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Yes Peter, by all means fisk Carl with Liberal myths while posting yet another piece of ad hominem from Ron Smith.

Your moderation is shameful and clearly biased. Sitting on the fence for so long has clearly messed with your head.

I'm glad I checked in today. It confirmed for me my decision to stay away from the farce of the Peter and Ron show.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I am not going to justify every decision I make about moderation here.

I would note that Ron's item above (silly in various ways though it is) makes a point which is worth publishing: homosexuals should not be singled out as worse sinners than the rest of us.

Even though individual commenters are not guilty of that error here, the overall effect of discussions such as we have here can be to imply that we are more worried about homosexuals as sinners than anyone else.

This thread is actually about alternative episcopal oversight ... but has, once again, become a place for reworking familiar arguments!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
If you wish to avoid a further (and longer) ban, you will need to 'up your game' re commenting.

Your speculation re St Paul is a case in point: groundless, baseless accusatory allegations made against a defenceless person. That is simple ad hominem.