Has the GAFCON communique made the right pitch for the relationship between Western Anglican churches and Western culture? I suggest not.
Working from some analysis (at the foot of this post) I suggest the communique represents an approach to Western Anglican churches which encourages conservative churches to focus on their purity of doctrine and practice at the expense of their mission. This is a gaffe because we cannot afford such mistakes in the West = Zone of Christian Decline.
We have been told that the original communique draft had a very explicit mention of Western culture, in negative terms. That the explicit reference has been removed from the final version is good, but it does not alter the implications which remain in the communique, that Western culture is horribly diseased and from this disease the church has become infected with biblical unfaithfulness and a false gospel.
It is a short step from such thinking to offering support for biblically faithful churches adhering to the true gospel, even where those Anglican churches are outside the normative structures of churches such as the Church of England. At precisely such a point, however, an emphasis falls on the purifying of the church, decontaminating it from the false gospel induced by Western culture. It is an attractive option to pursue as no one in their ideal mind wants to be part of an apostate church.
What is overlooked in the communique in my view is that no matter how we evaluate Western culture, for we Western Anglicans it is our culture and it is the only culture in which we live, move and have our evangelical being. In particular, it is the culture of our mission field. If this culture is tolerant of changes in sexual behaviour (both straight and gay) and the church has become infected by that tolerance, nevertheless it is to such a tolerant people that we are commanded to preach the gospel.
Are we to say to our fellow Westerners, 'Your tolerance of fellow human beings working out how to love one another is evil'? That does not strike me as a good way to make evangelistic conversation. Nor does it strike me as the way Paul and others conducted their apostolic mission in the Hellenistic pleasure grounds of the Mediterranean towns and cities. Yet when we establish and encourage churches whose sole distinction (when all is boiled down to basics) is their anti-current-attitudes-to-homosexuality, are we not being party to saying to our fellow Westerners, 'Your tolerance etc is evil. Actually, you are part of evil in our society'?
It is good to purify the church but purification of the church does not take place in a vacuum. History teaches us (as does contemporary observation of, say, the Exclusive Brethren) that the purer the church the further away from connection with society it places itself.
In the particular instance of concerns over homosexuality we Westerners no longer live in a culture which vilifies homosexuals. Our culture does not rejoice that the church's attitudes to homosexuality seem stuck in the 1950s or even 1850s. We live in a culture which loves, welcomes and supports homosexuals and is completely mystified by what is perceived as opposition and antagonism to homosexuals. To preach the gospel in such cultural conditions requires great care.
Yes, we must be faithful to the truth revealed in Scripture and taught in the tradition of the church. But Scripture also presents us with the example of the greatest evangelist, Paul, who sought to be a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles, that is, minimised cultural barriers to the gospel being heard. I do not see how forming Anglican churches whose point of distinctiveness is a specific approach to homosexuality at odds with surrounding society minimises cultural barriers to hearing the gospel.
It is not as though we are forming churches whose point of distinction is promotion of lifestyle at odds with the material affluence encouraged by Western culture. As a commenter on a recent post points out, one feels like saying something when a church family takes off for an overseas holiday while the church is trying to raise funds for a school in South Sudan but for (what can only be cultural reasons) one does not speak up.
It would be quite a barrier to the hearing of the gospel if it was clear to hearers that when they convert to Christ they will sell not just one of their houses but all of them and bring the proceeds to the Vestry for dispersal among the poor. Yet, if cultural distinctiveness should be a feature of Anglican churches, does not Scripture point us in that direction?
Where is the deep thinking within the communique which justifies emphasis on homosexuality as the contemporary form of cultural infection of Western Anglican churches rather than on greed and selfishness?
What GAFCON's communique misses is that Western cultural is nuanced on matters of sexuality. Imagine for a moment if the concern of our day was tolerance of pornography in the life of the church (wait, someone is going to send me statistics about pastors' addiction to pornography!). Clearly we live in a culture which tolerates pornography and allows it to be widely available, especially in these days of the internet. Even more clearly then, tolerance of pornography in the life of the church would be an infection of church life by Western culture. But here is the thing: Western culture tolerates pornography but is simultaneously uncomfortable with its own tolerance. Thus we have ongoing discussions about pornography: how can we curb access to it by (say) teenagers? Is it not demeaning to women, often involving commercial exploitation?
In such a context, for the church to say, in a reasonable manner, laying out the issues, connecting them to society's discomfort, that it is against pornography presents no cultural barrier to the proclamation of the gospel.
Homosexuality is not the same phenomenon. Western society sees no problems with same sex partnerships providing they are conducted with the same decorum as expected of heterosexual partnerships. Sympathy lies with homosexuals. When the church lays out a reasonable explanation for why it does not support same sex partnerships it strikes no common accord with social discomfort about homosexuality. Rather at best it receives quizzical looks from uncomprehending people; at worst it receives virulent criticism with unveiled language about bigotry, homophobia and antediluvian attitudes. Of this subtle differentiation in Western culture between (in the church's eyes) one sexual sin and another, the GAFCON communique offers no recognition.
GAFCON arguably has not done Western Anglicanism many favours by issuing this communique. It has encouraged some Anglicans to believe that they are on the right track by separating off from churches they do not agree with. But the track is a dead end if the disagreement is over homosexuality and GAFCON would have been more helpful by pointing that out.
To focus on unfaithfulness to the gospel in the limited way it has done means that GAFCON may have bought into a church focused understanding of church: if the church is impure, separate off the pure church and be happy.
Better, more faithful to Jesus, would be to encourage the church to have a mission focused understanding of church. In this focus the emphasis falls less on distinctive purity separating the church off from society and more on engagement with social reality.
The great Communion question of today is, How can the global fellowship of Anglicans assist the Western Anglican churches, living in a diseased culture, infected itself by the culture?
The answer is not, If you separate, we will support you.
The answer is, We will support you with understanding and sympathy as your infected churches engage with your diseased culture; we will applaud you as you work out how gospel proclamation in the West works with cultural realities; we urge you to minimise cultural barriers to the proclamation and we assure you of our understanding if that minimisation looks different to the minimisation we ourselves engage in when evangelising in places such as Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America.
Has GAFCON's communique gaffed on the matter of gospel and culture?
Supportive analysis for above comments:
There is no doubt that GAFCON/GFCA as a movement of Anglicans remains highly concerned about Western attitudes to homosexuality. The Nairobi Communique places the reason for GAFCON's beginnings near the beginning of the communique:
"In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written. It sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful. A crisis point was reached in 2003 when a man in an active same-sex relationship was consecrated bishop in the USA. In the years that followed, there were repeated attempts to resolve the crisis within the Communion, none of which succeeded. To the contrary, the situation worsened with further defiance. As a response to the crisis, we adopted The Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which commits us to biblical faithfulness, and has since provided the framework for renewed Anglican orthodoxy to which we, in all our different traditions – Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics – are committed. We also formed the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA)."
There are concerns in the communique about social, economic, political issues such as poverty but Western attitudes to homosexuality receive as much if not more attention than any other issues:
"We grieve that several national governments, aided by some church leaders, have claimed to redefine marriage and have turned same-sex marriage into a human rights issue. Human rights, we believe, are founded on a true understanding of human nature, which is that we are created in God’s image, male and female such that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (Matthew 19:6; Ephesians 5:31). We want to make clear that any civil partnership of a sexual nature does not receive the blessing of God. We continue to pray for and offer pastoral support to Christians struggling with same-sex temptation who remain celibate in obedience to Christ and affirm them in their faithfulness."
The concepts of supporting 'biblical faithfulness' or combatting 'false gospel' is important to the communique's setting out of the reasons for the continuing work of GAFCON, including cross-jurisdictional support of faithful Anglicans in areas subject to false leadership. On 'false gospel' we can read among the priorities of GAFCON,
"Guarding the gospel. We shall continue publicly to expose any false gospel that is not consistent with apostolic teaching and clearly to articulate the gospel in the church and in the world."
But if we ask what 'false gospel' is at stake, it is hard to find much evidence in the communique of concerns other than about attitudes to homosexuality. Although the first paragraph cited above describes, "a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death," 20th century Anglicanism entertained questions about the uniqueness of Christ and whether his death was substitutionary for a long time without provoking a reaction such as GAFCON. I think it reasonable to deduce that the crunch point over a 'false gospel' in the life of the Communion is homosexuality: "It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful."
Finally, here re text, with the exception of the Diocese of Recife in Brazil, references to biblical (un)faithfulness, false gospel, appear aimed at Anglican situations in the West. England, for instance, is singled out with a paragraph of its own:
"We commit ourselves to the support and defence of those who in standing for apostolic truth are marginalized or excluded from formal communion with other Anglicans in their dioceses. We have therefore recognized the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as an expression of authentic Anglicanism both for those within and outside the Church of England, and welcomed their intention to appoint a General Secretary of AMiE.
Reading, I admit rather hurriedly, through your synthesis this morning Peter, I cannot but agree with you on this particular criterion of your critique:
"Yet when we establish and encourage churches whose sole distinction (when all is boiled down to basics) is their anti-current-attitudes-to-homosexuality, are we not being party to saying to our fellow Westerners, 'Your tolerance etc is evil. Actually, you are part of evil in our society'?
"It is good to purify the church but purification of the church does not take place in a vacuum. History teaches us (as does contemporary observation of, say, the Exclusive Brethren) that the purer the church the further away from connection with society it places itself."
God knows, Peter, we all need purification, but it is God alone who can do this for us, we cannot purify ourselves. Oh yes, we can try, but ultimately, this task is undertaken solely by the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The task of the Church is, surely, to ensure that the Holy Spirit gets the opportunity to do that work - within us, as well as the people we target with our mission.
Off to Mass now, to pray for those souls 'who have gone before us with the sign of faith'; and also for those souls who never heard of the Good News of the 'great love of God in Christ' "Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord. May Light Perpetual shine upon thewm. May they rest in peace, and rise one day with Christ in glory. Amen". Kyrie eleison!
You raise Peter some good and serious points. But - to paraphrase another thread - these do not drive one into a corner! How so not?
Well firstly, your own analysis is “shallow”, its shallowness being in the areas of both theology and cultural analysis. Firstly theology: for blog brevity’s sake I’d refer to this article by Edith Humphrey, from 2003, “Why This Issue?”. See http://www.augustinecollege.org/papers/EH_30June03.htm
From here we can see the sheer breadth of the actual theological problem, quoting specifically:
“To ask, as a Christian, about homoeroticism, leads ineluctably to a many-directioned quest, with numerous areas of inquiry:
1. creation and the human body;
2. marriage and the inter-relationship of male and female;
3. the place of male and female relations and same-sex relations in society;
4. the way that the human gendered condition is an icon of Christ's relationship with the Church;
5. how we interpret Scripture in its various forms of narrative, law, gospel and epistle;
6. revelation and authority, and how we understand the different roles of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in hearing God’s word;
7. the contemporary problem of individualism in the Church, and the existence of multiple denominations, which divided for various theological and ecclesial reasons;
8. what we mean, in the Church, when we enact a rite, bless a relationship, enter into a “holy mystery” or participate in liturgy;
9. what it means to be part of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church, that new creation of the Holy Spirit that spans time and geographical space.”
To be sure, the Nairobi communiqué perhaps fails to address this breadth - although, to be fair, it is but a communiqué from a conference. Yet that very conference has a deliberate context and history. The easiest way to access that is via the “Commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration” and “The Way, the Truth and the Life - Theological Resources for a Pilgrimage to a Global Anglican Future” (Latimer Trust, 2009). In other words, what you claim to be a single issue is but a tip, and not a unique tip at that, of a far deeper and broader theological morass.
Part Two, cultural assessment. Once again, for brevity’s sake, I’d address only a couple of issues.
1. The state.
At root, our western society has for a few centuries now struck a bargain with the notion of the state. Some would appraise the beginning of that bargain as being struck especially at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, with the likes thereafter of Hobbes’ and Locke’s views, and subsequently notably the USA and its Constitutional separation of Church and State (even if that continues even to this day to create HUGE interpretational debate!) at the end of the 18th C. There is however an alternative ‘reading’ of much of this history. For example, Bill Cavanaugh’s Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church (Eerdmans, 2011), or his book long thesis, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford, 2009). The upshot and relevance of this point (for now), with which I begin, is that we see clearly in our own day how the state now redefines and creates de novo that core institution of society, the family. See e.g. Doug Farrow: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=25-01-024-f Again, for brevity’s sake.
2. The autonomous individual.
Drill down deep and what is our contemporary western culture’s anthropology? What is the vast consumer economy of globalization predicated upon? What is the contemporary western liberal democratic state’s supposed ‘objective rational-legal bureaucratic authority’ modeled around? Then compare all this, derived from that watershed period of 1680-1715, as the English translation of Paul Hazard’s famous 1935 publication, La Crise de la conscience européenne, would aver, with that alternative “social project” (Milbank) that is the community of the Church in the economy of salvation of the Triune God. Edith H is absolutely correct to quite quickly list her first four points. For the calculus of “individual rights”, while originally derived culturally from that seminal notion of the Image of God, whose very nature is Triune, has now become cut off from this tap root in open rebellion, to become, sadly/tragically, really rather rotten fruit ... Just so, her further points as well.
Peter; the Nairobi communiqué might itself be guilty of a gaffe or two. Your own gaffes are, may I humbly suggest, even worse, as you try to counter theirs. This is the more so on a blog that is hopefully - hopefully! - an instrument in Ministerial Education of a diocese in the western church at this absolutely crucial watershed time [hence my boldness, which I trust you shall forgive]. When Elijah called upon the people of Israel to choose at Mount Carmel, they had a choice. We too have a choice: continue to be “double-minded”; or seek that singular wisdom of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the entire letter of James). “Choose this day whom you shall follow ...!” (Joshua and 1 Kings)
Thank you Ron and Bryden for early comments!
Bryden: I may not have been clear; and if I have gaffed then, not being the Pope, I am correctable as a fallible theologian!
But as I read your analysis I am not at all convinced that either I have gaffed or that I am in any kind of disagreement with you.
I have said that Western culture is diseased (tick with you).
I have discussed whether this means it is time to start new churches or not (as far as I can see, your comments do not address that).
I have not asked any conservative Anglican to change his or her views on homosexuality per se, only the view that homosexuality is a reason to form a new church (tick former with you; you may be in disagreement with the latter).
On your specific point that controversy over homosexuality is the tip of a large iceberg of theological issues (within the church) and various issues (within society and church) I am not in disagreement, but I may be raising a question you do not address, namely whether this is the only tip of the iceberg, and if it is not the only tip, why are fighting over this and not another.
In the end I wonder if you actually address my great concern in the post, how do we communicate the gospel in this particular culture at this point in time?
I often read your blog but rarely comment; in the past remarks I have made have been misconstrued by other commentators and we have ended talking past each other. On this occasion however I’d like to thank you for your sharp analysis of the GAFCON II communique, and putting your finger on how ‘the wrong emPHAsis’ was put on ‘the wrong sylLABle’.
Communicating the gospel in our Westernised context (and in Aotearoa – New Zealand in particular) is precisely the issue, wherever we may sit on our broad Anglican spectrum of theology and church practice. Rather than fixating on issues around homosexuality, we need to reshape our mission to an increasingly secularised (and often indifferent) society, in which most people see us, at best, as irrelevant, and at worst, judgemental, bigoted and hypocritical.
Even on the most superficial level in the traditional ‘hatched, matched and despatched’ ministries we fail to connect. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s clergy held an almost monopoly in the area of life-passage celebration, but now there are very few requests for baptism, only 1/3 of all weddings in total are taken by organisational celebrants (which includes those from other religions, not only Christian), and an increasing number of funerals are conducted by celebrants or family members. The ‘horse has bolted’ on Christendom, and without a change of approach and a good hard look at ourselves, we will continue to miss the mark, and in the eyes of Joe Public, drift off into oblivion.
When we do deliver the goods to our communities in the face of tragedy and disaster (as in the Pike River disaster and the Christchurch earthquakes) or enhancing community celebration and connectedness as I am often involved in here in the Gisborne-East Coast area, we win friends for Christ and influence people, although this is rarely expressed as more bottoms on pews, for all the reasons given above.
Of course the content of the Gospel is important as well as the context. Grace is not cheap and repentance is required. But so is graciousness; those within the Church who believe ‘the other’ is taking Christianity to hell in a handcart (and both extremes are guilty at times) need to assess their motives. I suspect this often has much more to do with power and control, and a fear of the unknown, than any missional objective.
Thank you again Peter for making sense for me at least of what seemed a confused and poorly targeted statement. Whether this is the end of the Anglican Communion as we have known it, only time will tell. Ultimately I believe we (or probably more strictly the generations to come) will look back on this era and wonder what all the fuss was about, as we do on earlier controversies in the Church.
I have two answers for you Peter, one short and the other longer.
A. You say: “What is overlooked in the communique in my view is that no matter how we evaluate Western culture, for we Western Anglicans it is our culture and it is the only culture in which we live, move and have our evangelical being.”
I ask: What on earth would the Early Church have made of such a plea?!?! Not sure Constantine et al would have ever got converted ...
B. You ask, Peter, a direct question - which may be easily answered from what I’ve set up, but apparently all too briefly: By living out our Christian baptism in the grace and power of the Spirit as the Church, where missionary witness therefore is driven by a sharper set of distinctions than you seem to allow. This will mean, firstly, all those distinctive ‘negative puttings off’:
1. Not by aligning ourselves, as does KJS et al, with a tolerant pluralism, where Jesus is the Way to God and God’s salvation for Christians - and therefore, by implication, only for Christians and not also for the rest of humanity.
2. Not by aligning ourselves with certain denials of key incarnational traits, like the Virgin Birth and the physical transformation of Jesus’ body at the Resurrection.
3. Not by aligning ourselves with the seeming default social/political stance of a dichotomy between the private and the public spheres - so that we divorce private morality from public justice, for example, or Sundays from Monday to Fridays, for example.
4. Not by aligning ourselves therefore with the view that “my moral freedom is my choice and my right”, so that noone else can tell me what’s good and what’s bad; there are no absolutes in this world. For this way lies only nihilism.
5. Not by aligning ourselves with those who murder infants and old people - or assist suicides - out of convenience.
6. I could easily go on ...
And now for some distinctive ‘positive puttings on’:
1. Clearly, in the first instance, and begging one’s patience, yet again Rom 12:1-2 - not least as v.2 is itself a tip of the iceberg that is the NT Catechism, and the pair of verses an exegetical link back to Rom 1:16-end re worship generally.
2. Therefore there will be a host of gods and idols to be named and shunned, with One Lord only Confessed ...
3. By aligning ourselves with both Eph 5:18ff and Col 3:16f.
4. By aligning ourselves with the core response to the Gospel, of repentance and faithful transformation, in a manner that does not tolerate a double-mindedness (James) or half-heartedness (1 Jn 2:15ff). You speak of Paul’s being mindful of being a Jew to Jews and a Greek to Greeks etc. But I venture he wld never counsel such a thing wld mean tolerating e.g.: investing in many a pharmaceutical company whose practices of testing new stock and dumping of old involves a callous attitude towards the Majority World’s population; tying the reception of western aid to agreeing with western secular ethics, as does the Obama Administration; so that ...
5. ... marital chastity, between a man and woman on the one hand, and with singles on the other, would prevail in the Community of the Church.
6. Following St Paul, by concluding any such lists, as brief as these selections proffer, with Col 3:14.
[I venture therefore there’s no single issue, homophobic, one trick ‘denominationalism’ at work in Nairobi; far from it ...]
Finally, as the Early Church found, when dealing with the lapsed after say persecution, a certain moral discipline is needed if the Church is to be the Church. And while the boundaries of such might be blurred and even really rather opaque to many a westerner, the beauty of the likes of GAFCON is that we need their Majority World alien eyes - just as they too naturally need something of ours. And so frankly, if heresy is preached by any person of the cloth: show them the door; and if on the way to the door, they comply with say Matt 5:23ff or 18:15ff (and NB The Message’s translation of this last!), well then, you’ve won back a brother or sister! If not, 1 Cor 5 might surely be a place to start ... Discipleship = discipline, as even our own bishop has herself advised. Back to no “cheap grace” Peter!
Thank you Stephen for your response and for contextualising it in a part of our church I do not know well!
Again we are in heated agreement, but also possible agreement, and in possible disagreement.
Heated agreement: we have a culture to convert (and your analysis of the challenge, Romans 12, etc). I am remiss in not pointing that out alongside pointing out that Western culture is the only culture we have got etc.
Possible disagreement: my basic point in the post is that our mission will work (in the long term, in the widest view) if we remain within the Anglican church of the Communion (with or without also links to GAFCON, Global South). To separate from our church for the sole reason (even if it is the tip of the iceberg) of difference over homosexuality is not a wise decision.
Possible agreement: if as we assess the state of the Anglican church and its engagement (or surrender to) the surrounding culture, its adherence to heresy, its failure on multiple accounts to be and do what Christ's its head would wish (i.e. for the iceberg but NOT for the tip of homosexuality), then there might be a case for leaving or for expelling the heretics. (The 'possible' agreement includes the possibility that we might agree or might not on the size of the iceberg).
To return to homosexuality: I consider there to be a substantive difference between the separation of the Confessing Church in the 1930s Germany because of the cultural capture of the German church by a regime intent on killing homosexuals and the possible separation of a 'confessing' Anglican church in the 2010s Western world because of the cultural capture of the Western Anglican churches by regimes intent on permitting homosexuals to legally marry.
A comment or two by you is being deleted ... you are making them too personal. If you want personal answers to personal situations which raise questions for you, please correspond directly with the person concerned.
It is fair to ask, 'If you believe Y then what do you think about XY (i.e. a related topic)' but not fair to ask 'If you believe Y then what do you as someone I believe to be connected with XY as a personal issue think about XY'.
I do not want to have to moderate an inevitable succession of comments which are likely to be about the propriety of comments made ... too little time!
Thank you Peter for your latest response. I too like the expression “heated agreement”; it’s helpful (sometimes) to get a handle on certain situations. All the same, I sense there is greater disagreement between us than perhaps you (we?) realise. How so? There are two keys to my mind (double entendre!).
1. One of the results of the Reformation was their insistence on not just a dichotomous view of the Church, distinguishing between the visible and the invisible Church [we’ll ignore the whole business of to what the expression “mystical body” originally referred!]; they in fact held a trichotomous view, distinguishing also between the visible Church and those organizations and institutions that concretely made/make up the various churches. Now; in the culture of Anglicanism there’s the added aspect of the CoE’s being the national church, the Established Church, where the Sovereign is “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England”, and with Parliament also having quite a role to play ... This ethos nonetheless permeates/permeated, to a greater or lesser extent, elements of the various ‘colonial churches’ - despite ourselves. My point therefore is to seriously ask, given these entire characteristics: how do we really construct our ecclesiology?! I’ll let that rich question do its own work ...
2. Then there’s the presenting issue of homosexuality - which has sadly been ‘done to death’ and despite my own concrete relationships with members of the LGBT communities. Here again I have to probe a key question, which has governed my replies to this particular thread to date: how is it that we have witnessed, in so many western societies and notably in NZ, such a desire for a redefinition of marriage in our day? The answer is a rich and complex historical and cultural one - and finally, I suspect, a profound spiritual one. Although of course there are many who think it’s a simple issue. Even on ADU we’ve commentators who try to offer such one liners as: “equality”; “why can’t we just get along”; “inclusion”; “that’s the way folk are made: if God reckons it’s OK ...”; etc. Yet such simplistic approaches are a denial of the human!
As I’ve tried myself to tease out this question, as a Christian who has all his life straddled many cultures, past and present, and so has a degree of self-transcendence hermeneutically, I have been forced to conclude what I’ve said before: it’s but the presenting tip of an iceberg. I also have two other analogies: (1) it’s like a glacier, which grinds away over many, many years, and then suddenly, at its edge, a piece - and in this case, a large piece - falls off, precipitating an enormous avalanche. Everyone notices the avalanche and focuses on it and its effects. No-one, or at least only a few, give any credence to the years and years of slow grinding away of the glacier, out of sight - that is, now to apply the analogy, the slow shifts in cultural and societal movements which actually brought about this visible, tangible, presenting thing. (2) More simply, and more morally (and possibly more in tune with your own ‘missionary’ assessment): the source of the ‘pollution’ is quite simply upstream, historically and culturally; it’s just the case that downstream is where we are; and how we are is ... well; it is what it is! [And of course, one may still use this analogy in a non-pejorative moral sense by using say the confluence of two tributaries: I anticipate a few yells!]
And now for the final twist. The fascinating thing about homosexuality and homosexual activity, as the presenting thing, is its being so easily open - apparently - to misunderstanding and subtle shifts of moral valency. If I were the Evil One, I could not have picked a better, more brilliant cultural trait with which to sabotage things Christian. I say this in the Spirit of CSL’s “Screwtape” ... For it is, as Ron repeatedly points out, so open to abuse and to hatred - again, for multiple reasons. The entire sex thing, since dear Mr (I do not say Dr) Freud, is seemingly really rather - well, awkward - for some. Yet, for others culturally ... well; we now teach 5 years olds, for goodness sakes; and why not, again for goodness sakes (double entendres again). And yet, and yet (Screwtape mode): if indeed the human is made in the Image of God; and if indeed the likes of Haller are woefully inadequate exegetically etc. which I am still very much of a mind they are (I’ve resolutely refused to really take my gloves off on the internet with him, since I do not know him ...); then we have in our day one of the most ironic and tragic things ever to confront us unfolding in our midst. It would be far easier if it were 1930s Germany - and yet even then ‘many’ did not get it - if you were German, that is! 2 Cor 4:1-6 perhaps, or Eph 2:1-4ff ...?
I think you may by now have something of the flavour as to why we may actually be more in disagreement than you realise. My ‘hermeneutical antennae’, intellectual, cultural, philosophical and historical, as well as spiritual, tune into two things at once: there is a single presenting issue; which however is inordinately rich and complex in its own aetiology, historically, culturally, etc., let alone in the actual instance of any one person who happens to deem themselves gay.
No wonder we humans, this side of the Parousia, are seemingly in freeze-frame mode about ‘it’. Well; some are, and some are not; and those that are not represent two extremes often, the total ‘revisionists’ and the total ‘traditionalists’. What I hope to have shown - again all too briefly - is that there might yet be another stance. I’ve tried to canvass as wide and as deep a perspective as possible, but have still arrived at a position that utterly refuses to align myself with any amendment to the definition of marriage, as the societal and cultural and spiritual thing it really is: such amendment just does not stack up overall! And it is a matter of choose this day: life - or death. Therefore, at root, baptismal distinctiveness, and so sheer holiness [pace Haller] must, yes must, be the order of the Christian Church. And if this particular institution foregoes that ... well; we shall see ...
I think I understand all you are saying, remain in heated agreement with most perhaps even all of it ... and yet,
- is the pursuit of the theological agenda you propose forwarded by separating off from the church which does not agree with that agenda?
I do understand that the agenda is about matters of such importance that separation may be entailed necessarily, even if some pragmatic advantage to not separating is discerned.
But, in the long run, thinking about (say) Methodism, how it began, the church it reluctantly became, and the church it (at least in NZ and England) has turned out to be, I remain somewhat unconvinced at this stage in proceedings re leaving Anglicanism and about supporting Anglican congregations in AMiE outside of the C of E.
I actually don't think it matters whether GAFCON has erred or not.
If you look at where the church is growing (both within denominations and in the "non-denominational" churches) ulitmately the church universal is not going to be based on theology that accommodate the current culture of the West.
Those churches who are "accommdating" including the Episcopal Church in the USA are steadily going down, down, down -- until their position is really irrelevant. Mary
I wonder how many rounds we might take this ...?! And yet, I am actually seeking to make a cumulative argument, and not just responding to responses. So please bear that also in mind (caveat lector).
I sense, Peter, it is partly in our respective attitudes to “the institutional” that we really diverge. And here we do need to get ‘personal’, that is, our personal histories come into play (to a degree) in determining our ecclesiologies. My own (for the benefit of the blog) is classic CoE: local village church; 10 years of English boarding school ‘chapel’ - then kicking ‘the religious habit’ a thousand miles ... Becoming a practising, believing Christian as an undergraduate at Uni - but even back then having a wide exposure to a number of different Christian ‘streams’, eventually getting married to a practising, believing RC lass (as you know), and therefore living an ecumenical marriage for 35 years, even as I was ordained into the ACPCA of the AC - after of course training at Wycliffe, Oxford, when it was ‘broad Evangelical’.
Your own journey and pedigree is importantly different, as I ‘read’ it, even if there are also large areas of overlap, theologically, and marriage-wise! While I don’t take issue with your Durham NT study (vs. my own more “systematic” domain; nor Durham vs. Wycliffe) - of course not! - your ‘upbringing’ probably marks you out as more of an “institutional” person than myself - despite all that chapel! It’s in your DNA! Yet my own convicted Anglicanism is just that - a matter of conviction and not sociological convenience or convention. Yet again, my Church history choices of study have made me acutely aware of “divisions” [long examination essay in the Donatist Controversy from 3rd to 5th Cs; a Principal who just loved the 18th Revival via the Methodists; Stephen Neill’s Ecumenical Movement ‘walking archive’ material - and I married a jolly member of RCC to cap it off!]. Plus subsequent drilling down into Reformation history and theology, to keep me honest.
All this makes me draw those analogies we all do rather circumspectly. While both of us have mentioned the Methodist division from CoE, adducing parallels (plus I’ve cited the Arian Controversy as well), I actually see the present fragmentation as being far deeper and more problematic than that of 18th C; we are at least parallel to the Reformation and probably deeper still IMHO. Reasons: the last 300+ years is quite simply unprecedented in human history; we are in the 21st C now firmly post Christian and post Christendom, as far as the West is concerned. That means that our ACANZ&P, as an organization and an institution, has some profoundly ambivalent features. It has also demonstrated its institutional unwillingness to actually face the last 15 years (since Lambeth 1998) as this has unfolded. The only exception was +David Coles for a few years at the local diocesan level - and I utterly applaud him for that - even if it eventually came to little, as the wider context merely “drifted”. Now it’s just turned, and turned again. As with the Reformation, which was IMHO both inevitable historically and justifiable, so too now the sheer historical forces have seemingly gained a degree of forcefulness. That’s why I think Abp Rowan’s tenure will really go down in history as a massive lost opportunity - or series of opportunities.
Is it too late? Well; at an international level, yes! The AC can never be the same again. More locally? ACANZ&P is absolutely poised, historically, IMHO. One thing is highly likely: sitting on the fence will almost certainly be no real option, longer term. How much depends upon Ma Whea?, and its reception? Actually, while surely an important element in the drama, I don’t count it to be decisive. Why? It lacks the sheer competence; it’s following a bureaucratic path to what is NOT an organizational issue. One may try to patch up organizations - any type of organization - but failure to address its core ‘ideology’ will result in sheer confusion and eventual disaster.
So Peter; we are both attempting two things, diagnosis and prognosis - and at levels of analysis which probably go beyond our competence and available insight (Amos 7:14; yet 3:7-8), in many spheres. That said; we are called to be wise (OT Wisdom Literature; Matthew’s discipleship programme; 1 Cor 1-4, plus entire 2 Cor, as a prescription for Ministry). On the basis of what I’ve written so far then, I have to conclude GAFCON has become a serious player in our region. Your counter - your assessment of their supposed gaffe - just fails to cut the mustard IMHO. Sorry matey!!You’ve to probe far more deeply still, both externally and internally. See you after the next round ...!
It is important not to accommodate our theology with the current culture of the West and it seems that such accommodation where it takes place contributes to church decline.
My concern in this post is whether a kind of opposite course of action is also a poor choice by the church. If we isolate ourselves from our current culture we can be as poor at growing the church over the long term as if we accommodate.
It is early days yet to determine whether a number of churches growing here and there represent a resurgence of Christianity as a whole in the West.
Yes to pretty much all your analysis in the last two comments, save that I do not think I am quite as 'institutional' as you make out. My motivating force as I discern it is that we work from as much strength as we can muster, rather than weakened by dissipation through (what history in my prophetic sight is likely to prove) unnecessary schisms and separations.
Nevertheless you rightly put your finger in serious weaknesses in the life of our church. What could possibly put it right? Well, one thing is that we retain the GAFCON presence in our midst rather than lose it.
I'm sorry Peter, but I simply don't understand your last reply to Mary, much as I don't understand your post as a whole. With regard to what you have said in reply to Mary .. what matters is that God is God, and churches that preach, teach and live as they are able to God's Laws, contains people who are more comfortable than churches where anything goes. It's the same with children as you must have found out, they are more comfortable WITH rules than without. We NEED to know someone loves us enough to care to give us rules, and loves us enough to forgive us when we fail to keep those rules.
For the last few posts I have wondered what yours and other commenter's response would be if I asked you to define love.
We need rules, but how many rules do we need?
My experience of living with plentiful Exclusive Brethren in Nelson is that they have plenty of rules, including those which isolate them from the wider community they desire to reach out to.
Some Anglicans as you know live with too few rules in an attempt to accommodate society/culture and Mary rightly points out that that is not a recipe for growth.
As for 'love': I define love in terms of commitment-in-relationship expressed through generosity of action (e.g. giving, forgiving) and desire to see the well-being of the other person achieved. Supremely love is exemplified in God's commitment-in-relationship through Jesus Christ to humanity. Our efforts to reciprocate that love, or to love one another are pale reflections of God's love for us.
An infelicitous comparison Peter. Any church, any gathering of God's people that functions using the judgement as to whether or not you are obeying the rules, has forgotten that God gave them to us FOR OUR OWN WELFARE .. or that WE have to WANT to obey them, we cannot be forced to.
As to your definition of 'love' .. I think we would do well to remember that it is an action, usually an action we don't FEEL like doing, but we do it to prove our love. Like .. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, etc., etc.
You are usually a reasoned and balanced commentator on Anglican affairs, but I think here you are misrepresenting the Nairobi communique and the GFCA movement.
Your point that the communique and the GFCA as a whole focuses too much on homosexuality has some merit, as shown in your anaylsis. If that is the defining issue, the movement will fail. If the defining issues are Biblical authority, gospel proclamation and genuine discipleship, then it has much firmer ground.
However, you overlook the communique's emphasis on repentance, not just for those outside GFCA but repentance for their own failure to engage in the battle for orthodoxy sooner. Here is the key paragraph:
"We urge those who have promoted the false gospel to repent of their unfaithfulness and have a renewed confidence in the gospel. We repent of indifference, prayerlessness and inactivity in the face of false teaching. We remind them – as we remind ourselves – that the sins from which we must repent are not simply those which the world also believes are wrong; they are those that God himself abhors and which are made clear in his Word."
Your example of internet pornography is entirely irrelevant. No Anglican church has officially stated that is tolerates this practice, nor approves or promotes it, nor persecutes those who oppose it, as they have with homosexuality. The model we need is constructive engagement with our communities, within a framework of faithfulness to God's word and clarity in applying it to our situations - whether the presenting issue be divorce, homosexuality, abortion, gambling, poverty, corruption, parenting or greed.
You also minimise the strong commitment in the communique to support churches in mission, outreach and theological education, suggesting that the emphasis is on schism. The communique lists its priorities as:
1) Making Disciples
2) Deepening discipleship
3) Transforming Society
The initiatives under each point describe their desire to support churches to undertake these tasks. What GFCA offers is support to all churches who share these priorities, including those who are cut off or forced out of existing structures for doing so.
As for Paul's example of minimising barriers, he didn't hold back on preaching the cross to Jews who saw it as God's curse. He didn't hold back on preaching bodily resurrection to Greeks who believed in the immortal soul. Rather, he explained them using cultural forms appropriate to each group he spoke to.
The communique and GFCA might have some gaffes, but they are clear that there is one unique gospel for all cultures, whose common principles will impact different cultures in different ways. What they are opposing is the idea of different gospels for different cultures.
Either you are missing the point of what I am saying or I have not been clear enough.
As a statement to the church about life in the church (emphases on false gospel, repentance, discipleship, etc) the communique is well directed and unexceptional. No gaffes.
As a statement with implications for mission in the West, with particular reference to the fraught, nuanced, ever shifting sands of our culture and sexuality, I see a gaffe, at least to the extent that it explicitly encourages churches to be formed on the basis of attitudes to homosexuality. That is not helpful for our mission. It may be helpful for Christians disturbed at what kind of larger church they belong to.
It would help your comments to pass moderation without redaction if you could express the positive point of view you wish to endorse without the negative sideswipe at brothers and sisters in Christ which is your penchant. Thus I present the following comment minus the sideswipe at beloved members of the body of Christ:
"Peter, the LOVE you are advocating is agape, the sort of love that only God can give. It can be very difficult for human beings to offer - because it is completely selfless.
God's love is absolutely unearned and unconditional - not like the love of some [of us who make it] conditional .
It really is a bit like offering forgiveness. How can one forgive others, if one has not sinned, had need of forgiveness one's-self, and has experienced it for themselves?
Another round Peter (and thank you Andrew for your participation and insights).
You say: “My motivating force as I discern it is that we work from as much strength as we can muster, rather than weakened by dissipation through (what history in my prophetic sight is likely to prove) unnecessary schisms and separations.”
As a default position, I’m not surprised you express it so. Yet there’s another, really rather important perspective to factor in - which chimes in with some of Andrew’s comments. In conversation with Robert Jenson when he was here a few years back now, a line of discussion compared his own Lutheran convictions vs. others’, like Reinhard Hütter’s, who has converted to the RCC (or should that be “returned to Rome”?). We can now add to RWJ’s approach the excellent conversation among Mickey Mattox, AG Roeber (with Paul Hinlicky), Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Theological Conversation (Eerdmans, 2012). His point is just this: he remains a Confessional Lutheran precisely as an ongoing witness to Rome - that it still needs greater reformation. This takes up Paul’s point in 1 Cor 11:19 (which of course is open to naughty manipulation, I grant!).
So; not only do I sense we must “retain the GAFCON presence in our midst” - and by “our” I mean both locally and globally, BTW - but also probe our own institutional stances vis-à-vis brothers and sisters who continue to flirt with what are considered either “sins” or “injustices”. Mere bureaucratic ‘arrangements’, ala Ma Whea?, will NOT SUFFICE. If our own ACANZ&P ‘ideology’ continues in its confused and muddled/muddied state, then we are on a hiding to nowhere - institutionally. We simply may not maintain such “fissures” (my word from Some Theses) among us longer term (see 1 Cor 14:7-8 in context - which is why Paul climaxes the entire Letter with ch.15 - a clear & distinct prophetic Word on eschatological hope). So; the key question: can we in fact avoid institutional ‘blood on the carpet’ in the years to come? I frankly doubt it (though I hope to be surprised by the Holy Spirit who may still convert hearts and minds).
Do you need a dose of realpolitik?
While appreciating Robert Jenson and co's continuing witness to Rome of their foolishness in not following their Reform(ation)ed brethren (advisedly: mostly the men who the problem) more fully, especially iton ecclesiastical death by a thousand schisms, I worry like anything that the Anglicanism to which I belong will become as small and ineffective (re socio-politico-ecclesiastical matters) as the tiny Lutheran church here in NZ is.
Do you really think that (e.g.) our two(ish) post-Anglican congregations here in Chch are 'witnessing to' the rest of us Anglicans?
No. Let's keep together in the extended Anglican whanau, please, bad eggs, black sheep of the family and embarrassing cousins all. Splinter us off into a series of tiny nuclear families and I am afraid Christmas lunch will be a rather dismal, to say joyless affair!
I guess Peter it is whether we are figurally at the point of 1 Kings 18 or not. And even then 19:18 clearly shows we will not be that lonely! And that, clearly and distinctly after all those new leaders have been put in place for the future who will displace the old (vv.15ff). That too is a fruit of hope - in the face of realpolitik of the most murderous kind!
And the point of Robert Jenson's perspective is not specific necessarily to Lutheranism; rather, it raises a principle which we may apply to ourselves institutionally in any form that is/comes on offer.
Fair enough, Bryden.
In broad terms (because there may be exceptions I have not thought of), I intend to remain inside ACANZP witnessing to the gospel, to the glorious truths of the Reformation, and to the joy of evangelical Anglicanism ... until I am thrown out!
In fact, having it all discussed and played out in forms that do not involve the Anglican specifically helps to gain better traction/perspective, I find, upon our own AC foibles.
Just so, of course I appreciate your own “broad terms”.They could be mine. Yet will not necessarily be/become mine. For I’d rather move than be pushed. Yet was Karl Barth pushed or did he jump? Or a bit of both? Busch’s Life, pp.235-262, suggests both: the reality here will likely be just as messy; that too is Realpolitik! Ciao for now!
I have read your posts a few times and I must admit I found it hard to know what you saying. It seems that you are saying, that the church will lose it effective witness to the world if it defines itself by its view towards homosexuality and since its view is antithetical to that of western culture, this will nullify the church's witness as it seeks to make disciples.
If this is what you are saying Peter, then respectfully I disagree. A couple of points in response to your post:
Our culture has set up a false dichotomy when it comes to how the church is to respond to homosexuals. The choice being either:
1. Be opposed to it (due to being homophobic, unloving, bigoted, unjust, unfair, intolerant,)
2. Be a supporter of it (due to being loving, tolerant, fair just, accepting, enlightened).
So if anyone speaks out in support of the conservative view of marriage must be a homophobic bigot – (as if there is no other explanation!) And since this is the paradigm of our culture, the moment the church voices its opposition to homosexuality, we will be labelled as bigoted, etc.
Even it this is the case, does it really matter? Does not faithfulness and piety to Christ more important that what our world thinks of us?
You also state that:
Are we to say to our fellow Westerners, 'Your tolerance of fellow human beings working out how to love one another is evil'
There are two types of sexual expression that God endorses and homosexual sexual expression is not one of them, and to equate the latter with "working out how to love one another" is not Biblical. It appears to be an attempt your part to take the sin out of it. The Apostle Paul makes it crystal clear that homosexual sexual expression is a clear expression of an anti-God state of mind (just as heterosexual sexual expression outside of marriage is).
Peter, so many times myself and other Conservative Reformed Anglicans on your blog and those at GAFCON had said repeatedly that Homosexuality is not the issue. The issue is the nature of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture, it is the same old war over the Bible, it is just the homosexuality is the where the current battle is being waged, due to Bishops and provinces saying that there are three types of sexual expression that God blesses, the third one being homosexual. They know that this is counter to Scripture, so they have to either say that Scripture is wrong, or that God has changed his mind.
Of course we must take great care, this is not in question, but it does not matter at all about what our culture thinks we are stuck in the 50's or 60's. (Whatever that is supposed to mean, seems like a rather lazy comment for you Peter). Of course our culture is mystified by our attitudes to homosexuality, it is also mystified by the cross, or more to the point, sees it as foolishness. The Gospel will always cause offence and ethics that flow from the Gospel will also cause offence and the lifestyle of the Christian will cause offence. Did not the Apostle Paul says that to some we be the stench of death to death?
Yes, we must be faithful to the truth revealed in Scripture and taught in the tradition of the church. But Scripture also presents us with the example of the greatest evangelist, Paul, who sought to be a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles, that is, minimised cultural barriers to the gospel being heard. I do not see how forming Anglican churches whose point of distinctiveness is a specific approach to homosexuality at odds with surrounding society minimises cultural barriers to hearing the gospel.
It is not an either/or. Faithfulness to Scripture and contextualisation go together, but contextualisation that goes to far turns into either chameleonisation or capitulation.
Peter you stated that the churches are forming based on a specific approach to homosexuality. Peter, with all due respect I think you are wrong here.The issue is not homosexuality per se, it the authority of Scripture and the nature of the Gospel, and what it means to be a Christian.
I honestly don't understand why Peter as an evangelical Anglican yourself that you put so much onus on GAFCON, should it not be on those within the Anglican communion who are teaching that Homosexuality is 'God-given', who are saying that God blesses same sex marriage, who are saying that Scripture is no longer authoritative and that there are now three forms of sexual expression that God endorses?
Your example of materialism, I understand, but there is no correlation with the issue at hand because there are no provinces where Bishops are openly being fraudulent, being greedy and self indulgent and where this is being openly taught and endorsed as being from God and that this is a Christian virtue.
Again with Pornography, of course a revolting evil it is, but this would only correlate with the issue at hand if we had bishops and clergy and provinces teaching that pornography is a blessing from God, calling something that God sees as sin as being not sin.
But this is not the case.
Again you wrote:
Peter, again, it does not matter what our culture thinks about what the Bible says. Our role is not to mirror culture or to filter Scripture through the lens of our culture. The moment we let culture determine what we should believe we become a mirror which is exactly what the revisionists church does.
Peter, looking back on your various posts on this issue, it appears that many times many Reformed Evangelical guys have said to you that it the heart of the matter is the nature of the Gospel, the authority of Scripture and what it means to be a Christian. As you know the term 'Christian' is theologically defined. You know this and I know that you know this. I don't understand why you equivocate on this issue.
I may have and increasingly it looks like I have not been as clear as I would have liked to have been about what I am saying.
What follows (short of time) is not a complete response to your critique.
1. I think in NZ (at least) there is a strong possibility that Anglican churches could form if our GS makes the wrong decision which - given the years of false gospelling etc in our church - would be formed, despite protestations otherwise, because our church had made a specific decision re homosexuality.
2. I have not intended to pit false alternatives etc and if I have done so, then 'my bad.' What I have intended to raise is whether Anglican churches are (i) better from a mission perspective remaining within larger national Anglican churches in which there is (so to speak) a 'mixed bag' of attitudes to homosexuality than separating away to be a church or much smaller set of churches with a single attitude to homosexuality; (ii) better geared to mission to a whole society and culture by remaining together despite intense differences than by separating off because I see such separated churches connecting with a very small portion of the whole society and culture (because our Western societies have taken the line they have on homosexuality).
What I am not asking for is for any evangelical, reformed or otherwise, to change their attitudes to homosexuality. (Nor am I changing my own views per se). I am simply asking (or trying to ask in my hamfisted way) that the remain faithful to evangelical theology within the wider framework of broad Anglicanism.
Could wider Anglicanism change its attitudes to homosexuality and conform to a biblical understanding in keeping with the traditional teaching of the church. Too right. That would be good.
It would still leave us with the challenge I am trying to raise here of how we connect with a culture at odds with the church on homosexuality in a way it is not at odds over greed, pornography, fraud and so forth.
The "current culture of the West" to which you have referred (i.e., "a culture which loves, welcomes and supports homosexuals and is completely mystified by what is perceived as opposition and antagonism to homosexuals") is only one of the current cultures that exist in the West. It is the culture of a section of the educated elite and, increasingly, of those who have been indoctrinated by them via schools, the mass media and a plethora of political activists. That it perceives opposition to same sex marriage as "opposition and antagonism to homosexuals" is a function of its inability to perceive the worth of any moral values other than, or additional to, its own.
The idea of preaching the whole gospel to people of that culture reminds me of the parable of the sower. Ground preparation will be required before many will be able to hear the gospel preached, particularly the bits about repentance and transformation.
I recommend you read Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind". Not only has he provided an analysis of the different moral foundations different people use in coming to their moral views but he also offers some suggestions for how people with different moral views might discuss their differences with less hostility and therefore, perhaps, more productively.
I am inclined to agree with you re more than one culture but hesitate becaise I am really, really wondering if on this particular issue the cultures of the West are pretty united. It is not just the elites, it is the young. It is not just the elites and the young it is ... many many people because there is a waking up to the fact of gay members of extended families, friendship circles and so forth.
I have to wonder if you’re in as much ‘touch’ as you think you are Peter, and what on earth you think you understand if you ARE in touch. If there are as many folk out there who believe as you say they do, then it is the church’s fault for so many years of bad teaching. You know already from our previous discussions, that I believe that you and others bent too far backwards trying to make up for the bad teaching the church gave about women and their roles, and now you’re doing the same thing. And if your reply to Janice doesn’t clearly show that you are prepared to let culture declare what the church’s teaching should be .. rather than Scripture .. then I’m an Eskimo.
With respect, the available statistics (and I know that they are not the greatest) suggests that in most western countries (and NZ is well and truly in this pattern) church attendance is GROWING amongst the young ... and that is not found in the "mainline" churches or even the Catholic church.
The "best guess" that I have looking at the Charities commission website for my own city is that a full one-third of the people in church on a Sunday morning are in a "non-denominational" church. (This is on the basis of the amount of collections, and the number of paid staff returned).
In other words in urban NZ the "non denominationals" are already bigger than the Anglican church, the Presbyterian Church, and probably the Catholic church.
I think it is a little late to be talking about "early days" ... they have already gone well beyond that! What is more only a minority of these churches are ethnic based ... most of them are bog-standard pakeha churches.
You might want to do the same kind of analysis for Christchurch.
There is no snow where you live at this time of year, is there Rosemary?
I may be out of touch. If I am, I wish more people outside of the church would speak up and tell us how in touch with them the conservative views of the church are.
Contrary to what you say, I am trying to explore what it means to be conservative in views on homosexuality while engaging with a culture which does not welcome those views.
Getting teaching on women and their roles in life is difficult to do. I may be wrong. But I also think a view I heard yesterday (in a conservatively minded church) which seemed to confine women to sole responsibility in the kitchen is also wrong. I hope that all of us who misunderstand the role of women are subject to critique!
Nah, don't say that! Possibly you are clear, and I am just foggy.
Re "my bad". I have heard this saying recently. Sounds like an Americanism to me. If so, you need to repent of this saying right now. We are Antipodeans, we must not take on American linguistically traits. (Reminds me of the joke when an An Englishman and An American argued over what to call a lift. The American says "It's an elevator". The Englishman replies "It's a lift". This goes back and forth until finally the American blurts out "We invented the elevator!". The Englishman replies softly and politely "We invented the language!"
Back on topic
I cannot speak for the Anglican Church in Middle Earth. Though after reading and re-reading your first point, I am sorry I did not follow. Could form what exactly?
2. I know for myself I could not serve in a diocese where my Bishop endorsed homosexuality sexual expression as a lifestyle that is blessed by God and the reason is not due to homosexuality per se but due to the faux gospel and rejection of the authority of Scripture that gives birth to such a view. To stay together would be the ultimate act of double-speak and it would be sending mix messages to people. Though again Peter, I think it would be more helpful if you moved away from the homosexuality question as it really is about the Gospel of the Lord Jesus and the authority of Scripture.
As for connecting with a smaller group of people, I am not sure if this is true, or whether it is a bad thing if this is true. The Gospel will never ever be popular in our culture, regardless of its views of homosexuality. People reject God's authority and the Lordship of Christ, it is homosexuality at the moment. It 30 years time it may be something else entirely.
Just an aside, what I find really interesting Peter (perhaps you have noticed this too), those who promote same sex marriage and the like seem to either ignore Christians who acknowledge their same sex attraction but realise that the right thing for them to do is remain celibate, for example Rev Vaughan Roberts has written about his own experience. Interesting. (Any thoughts Ron?)
With your question about Reformed Anglicans and the like remaining faithful to Evangelical theologic within the broader framework of broad Anglicanism, it seems that those at GAFCON are attempting to do that very thing, I think it leads to the question what is Anglicanism? What does it mean to be Anglican?
Regarding your last para, I would say that the other issue where Reformed Anglicans have dropped the ball is the issue of divorce and re-marriage. But that is for another post.
"I may be out of touch. If I am, I wish more people outside of the church would speak up and tell us how in touch with them the conservative views of the church are."
Peter, your posts give the distinct impression that you are currying popularity with the prevailing culture. Why?
"I have not asked any conservative Anglican to change his or her views on homosexuality per se, only the view that homosexuality is a reason to form a new church"
Exactly. You are happy for us to hold any belief we like, as long as we don't have the courage to act on it - I got it a long time ago!
I doubt that Western sub-cultures are as united on this matter as some would have us think. If it were not so there would be no need for campaigns to teach school children not to use the word 'gay' as a pejorative.
Family members and close friends might change their minds about homosexuals, as persons, if their previous beliefs contradict what their experience of the person tells them. They might even change their minds about homosexual erotic behaviour if the person is someone they love very dearly and is not obviously a frequenter of homosexual beats. That this is all a form of special pleading doesn't make it less understandable. After all, it's not as though most people make coming to a reasoned, intelligent, education position on homosexuality a big priority in their lives so if you have to come to a position in a hurry and you love the person involved you're more likely to go with acceptance than rejection. But I think there aren't likely to be many families affected this way. Assuming the population aged 15-65 is made up of 4 person families and homosexuals make up 2% of that population, then maybe one in about 10 to 12 families will have a homosexual family member.
As for the young, well, they are the classic low information but idealistic segment of the population and the ones most likely to be influenced by simplistic notions of fairness and justice, particularly if hammered into them by authority figures such as public school teachers and university lecturers. They can easily be led into thinking it's not fair if homosexuals who love each other can't get married. Part of the solution would be to challenge their notions of fairness, get them thinking about whether treating people equally is always as fair as treating them equitably. But the same goes for many adults too, including adults who are leaders in the Anglican Church.
I can only publish half your latest comment. The second half involves asking a question of another commenter about their personal decision making. No! Do not do that here - do that via email, a phone call, a coffee, but not via a comment here.
"" Mere bureaucratic ‘arrangements’, ala Ma Whea?, will NOT SUFFICE. If our own ACANZ&P ‘ideology’ continues in its confused and muddled/muddied state, then we are on a hiding to nowhere - Dr. Bryden Black -
"my bad" may be American or may be Kiwiism.
Sorry: 'form' was form churches outside current Anglican structures.
Yes, the situation of celibate gay Christians seems to be much ignored by Anglican authorities intent on change.
Yes, currying favour to the extent that the wrong issue does not get in the way of hearing the gospel!
No, I am not asking you to not act on your convictions if that is what you need to do. Go right ahead. But for those willing to pause and think through all the issues, I am asking for consideration of missional dimensions to decisions to 'act on convictions.'
Few commenting here seem worried about that, so I am expecting displays of courage imminently!
As a part of an extended family I am related directly or via marriage to about twelve families. What if, say, half the population was so related to that 4%?
Anyway, the issue you are rightly drawing attention to is how united Western culture is. Perhaps I read it a bit differently being a NZer where everyone knows everyone and all are related to each other ... sort of! Whereas in Oz the states divide you :)
Like a woolly sheep your latest comment needs shearing. Here goes.
""I honestly don't understand why Peter as an evangelical Anglican yourself that you put so much onus on GAFCON, should it not be on those within the Anglican communion who are teaching that Homosexuality is 'God-given'," Joshua Bovis -
This stance on the homosexual phenomenon is so out-dated [...].
Are you saying, Mr Bovis, that gay people are so because of their own intention to act as such? Are you really saying that there is no such thing as intrinsic homosexuality? [...] Do you really think that human beings get to choose their own sexual identity? [...]
[...] Even the Pope acknowledges that inbuilt homosexuality, for a certain percentage of humanity, is a given. [...] "
Thanks for starting the discussion on this, and I know some members of the Kiwi delegation were concerned at the prominence given to the issue of homosexuality in the communique, given that the focus of the conference was on faithfulness to the Gospel and making disciples.
I think the "gaffe" as you put it can be summarised in one word: "claimed" in the following sentence from the communique:-
"We grieve that several national governments, aided by some church leaders, have claimed to redefine marriage..."
The fact is that the New Zealand Government *has* redefined marriage. Now you or I may disagree with that redefinition on a theological basis, but the redefinition has still occurred.
As someone who believes that marriage is rightly understood as a lifelong union between a man and a woman, I still want to hold out the gospel to all, in the hope that some may repent and believe. Now that "all" who I want to hold out the gospel to includes (in NZ secular society) men who are married to men and women who are married to women. I want to build a relationship with them, I hope they will come to my church, join a Simply Christianity course, encounter the gospel and be transformed.
But if my attitude (and my church's attitude) to them is that "they only claim to be married", then they will smell that from 100 paces away. I will never build a genuine friendship with them and they will never step inside my church. In fact their parents probably won't either, nor their friends, nor their friends' friends.
Let's hold on to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, but let's not make the gaffe ours.
You have put your finger on a specific issue within the nexus of issues re gospel and culture (at least in the particular instance of Kiwiland).
What if, say, half the population was so related to that 4%?
Well, a), I don't believe it's 4%. Most researchers say it's 1.5-2%.
But having said that, even if half the population is related to at least one homosexual person, that doesn't mean that the all the related people would necessarily change their views on the acceptability or otherwise of homosexuals and/or the homosexual lifestyle on discovering that their relative is homosexual. It would depend on how involved all the members of each extended family are in each other's lives and whether they regard each other as dear friends or just as people to whom they happen to be related. If it's the latter then the fact that a relative is homosexual would make no difference to how a person thinks about homosexuals and/or homosexual behaviour.
Peter. From your last comment to me; can I take it that only you can question the comments of other people on your web-site. If that is so, then this site may just be a sounding box for your own opinions. Not much good to those of us who want dialogue with others than yourself.
You allow people to make the most outrageous statements that defy reality, and then expect the 'opposition' to stay silent? If so, this may be my 'Last Post'.
Thankyou for moderating Ron's posts.
Behind all your questions Ron is the presupposition that says this:
"God made me this way (gay) so how I can be accountable? How can God still blame me"?
Reminds of Adam in Genesis 3, who when confronted with his rebellion blames the woman and also blames God.
Special pleading Ron!
It does not matter what I say Ron, or what the Pope says, or what our culture says, or what LGBT activists say. What matters is what the Scriptures say. And they are clear that there are only two forms of sexual expression that God endorses:
1. Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are married to each other.
2. Celibacy for those who are not married.
So even if you are right Ron in saying that someone is born gay, (my understanding is that the medical evidence for this is zero), they are responsible to not act on those desires, just as the straight person is responsible not to act on their heterosexual desires.
Look at the Lord Jesus words in Mark 7 Ron:
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”f (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
Notice the list Ron, see the term sexual immorality in v.21? In Greek the word (πορνεῖαι )means any sexual expression outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
A question for you Ron:
As I asked you on your blog (which you deleted), could you please show me from Scripture where it reveals that there is another form of sexual expression that God endorses apart from the two that I mentioned?
Surely if God intends and blesses same sex relationships, he would have said something in his own Word to this effect. Please shows us Ron? In your answers, you never refer to Scripture. Time you showed us?
I think Ron, that you know that the Bible says nothing of the kind, you know this, so when you are reminded of this, you have no other recourse but to resort to jibes, calling me (insert pejorative here ______), attacking 'Sola Scriptura'. Your view does not have leg to stand on Ron.
Commenters here are free to comment on views expressed here.
What commenters are not going to be permitted to express is a view on the worthiness, sanity, general competency let along specific priestly etc competency to hold those views. I do not know how to get the message through to you: do not comment on the commenters. Comment ONLY on the comments.
Churches are growing in NZ.
In Chch I think stats would bear out what you are saying re non-denominationals.
However unless the soon to be released census figures tell a different story, I do not see signs that growing churches represent a resurgence in Christianity in NZ.
That is, will we see census figures which suggest that active Christian participation in church life in NZ is moving upwards from the 10%-ish mark to the 20%-ish mark?
Let’s press Rev. Matt Watt’s good point a little further. The church is regularly involved in bait and switch – and his approach is in danger of that. But, having noted that risk, let’s leave that aside.
Let’s take the case he suggests of a woman married to a woman doing his Simply Christianity course. And in this being told biblically “marriage is rightly understood as a lifelong union between a man and a woman” – does she then leave her wife? Or stay with her wife but refuse sex? Let’s press this further – the couple have a child, children in a loving home they have built up over years. Does the gospel taught in Simply Christianity mean this household must now break up?
Oh Mary, please! The decline of Christianity in the West is not the result of Churches becoming more “liberal.” Most “conservative” churches in the West are declining in membership as well. I can’t speak for the countries Down Under, but Up Over in America it is quite clear that forty years of right-wing Evangelical politicking has greatly accelerated the trend of secularization here in the USA. We are fast becoming more like Europe in that regard. Any reputable sociological study of contemporary religion will tell you that. It’s not rocket science.
Sure, maybe the Pentecostals are bucking the trend to some extent right now, but they are also the least successful religious group economically, socially, politically, etc. in the USA. (This, to me is rather paradoxical, given their historic investment in the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” since it appears to be working more for “the libruuulls” than for them.) In other words, Mary, some fundamentalist denominations may have more members overall, but it matters little in practical terms where most of us liberal Christians live (i.e. Northeast, Midwest, West Coast).
In Third World countries, many of which are socio-economic basket cases, it makes perfect sense that such fundamentalisms (Moslem as well as Christian, Hindu as well as Buddhist, etc.) are attracting members. In times of great social stress people look for support networks anywhere they can get them. If the state and secular organizations fail them, they look elsewhere. Again, Mary, basic sociology.
Getting out the heavy clothing
In Brooklyn, NY
"So even if you are right Ron in saying that someone is born gay, (my understanding is that the medical evidence for this is zero), they are responsible to not act on those desires, just as the straight person is responsible not to act on their heterosexual desires." - Commmenter
Even by this parsimonious lack of understanding of the real situation; one must surely apply equal standards of behaviour to heterosexual people, demanding that their sexual activity must always be procreational in intention - and not recreational.
I also think that the Head of the largest Christian body - the Roman Catholic Church, may have a more balanced pastoral and theological approach to sexuality as applied to homosexuals than most anyone else.
Joshua, in the midst of your defence of procreative sex only - strictly for heterosexual married couples; do you have any opinion on sexuality for any purpose other than procreation?
This is germane to my questioning of you on your "No sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage" dictum.
Have you ever read, I wonder, the epic scripture passages about human sexual love in 'Song of Songs'. If you care to do this, you will find sexuality expressed in a way other than for procreation. I wonder, what are your thoughts on this piece of Scripture?
Golly, Kurt, if Jesus had a degree in sociology and Paul had one in anthropology, would Christianity have gotten off the ground?
Does the power of God not have something to do with the progress of the gospel?
“Golly, Kurt, if Jesus had a degree in sociology and Paul had one in anthropology, would Christianity have gotten off the ground?”—Fr. Carrell
Interesting question. Maybe, maybe not. It might have helped facilitate conversions.
Hi Ron, If you were to address my latest response to you on the Venn diagrams thread, then perhaps I'd give a reply to your half comment - once you'd resubmitted it in clinical form - @ November 4, 2013 at 8:20 PM. So how about it please?
Matt's point @ November 4, 2013 at 9:42 PM is well made, now taken up by Bosco - with more bait and hook than anything else! But I'll rise!
I sense, Bosco, there is perhaps good precedent in how the Church has approached polygamy. Of course there has been a range of responses in fact, some more 'constructive' than others.
Yet whatever the response, as we both well know, when the Faith tries to address the real life consequences of the Fall in an ongoing way, such responses never come without some cost and/or pain. They also often take time to effect at the cultural level even when particular individuals are involved. This has been especially true of the case of polygamy, for example; and I'd fully expect it of the now emerging confusions with our ever more common 'domestic' arrangements.
Bottom line: theological clarity; pastoral generosity; much patience; and wholesome teleology, especially longer term.
I am happy to answer your questions, but there appears to be little reciprocity on your part. You are happy to ask the questions, but ignore the questions that are asked to you.
How about you show us from the Scriptures where it teaches that homosexual sexual expression is 'God-given' and that gay marriage is blessed by God and that homosexual sexual expression does not come under the category of porneia. (πορνεῖαι).
Thanks for pushing my point a bit further and for asking how this works out in practice. Here goes:-
(1) The gospel is a gospel of grace, not of law. To ask "Does the gospel taught in Simply Christianity mean this household must now break up?" misunderstands the nature of the gospel. The gospel tells us that whilst we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
(2) But that leaves the question of our response to the gospel. The Holy Spirit working in people's hearts brings about a response of faith in Christ and repentance for sin. But repentance and faith is a lifetime's work. I don't expect someone who (say) works for an arms company to hand in their resignation the day the Simply Christianity course ends. The main sin I am praying that people would repent of during the course is their spiritual pride and their unwillingness to accept Christ's gift of salvation. That is the hurdle I want them to jump over.
(3) You may want to press me further as to what happens after the Simply Christianity Course. The answer is that I baptise sinners and I give communion to sinners. (A good thing really given that we are all sinners!) So I happily distribute the means of grace to sinners.
(4) And I expect in the lives of all my parishioners that there will be moments when sensitive topics can be brought up in pastoral conversation. This could include any number of things: alcohol addiction, gossip, anger, mean-spiritedness, expression of sexuality etc etc. I enter those conversations with fear and trembling and much prayer. I don't presuppose the response individuals will make as a result of those conversations. But I do seek to be faithful in helping people to work out how to follow Jesus Christ in the midst of the messiness of real life.
I must say I get a bit wary and weary of the “The gospel is this – and you misunderstand the gospel” in comments on this site. The stark separation of “this is the gospel” and “this is our response to the gospel” is not my paradigm. For me the gospel includes my transformation. Bryden hooks thinking much closer to my own (and so has NT Wright been fishing in the same water).
1. The history of the church is littered with all those groups believing they are the pure believers. What you get is split after split after split. the desire to label oneself as the true believer and everyone else as a heretic who there must be shunned and cast out is not a Gospel value as I see it, in that Jesus's constant message was : your love must be bigger than family, tribe, etc.
2. I find it rather hypocritical when people talk about a diseased western culture whilst enjoying all the benefits of it. All the advances Western culture has brought the world have transformed people's lives. Yes there are also huge problems about distributing those gains justly and there we have a long way to go. But the idea that the church is so holy whilst the world is so evil does not stand up to scrutiny - and Christians should be a little more humble is their assessment of where "evil" lies. Beams and notes come to mind.
3. The whole GAFCON thing is solely about homosexuality as you point out in your comments. Barely a thing about social justice, non-judgementalism etc, all of which are gospel values. Western Society is diseased, they think, because it has no problem with gay and lesbian people loving each other. The hatred of gay people behind all this is truly shocking.
Thanks for the comment.
The policy here requests a first name (at least) when commenting ...
As a Kiwi now resident in Australia, I attend a Church where the senior minister is an adherent of the 'Jensen School'. He attended GAFCON at Jensen's invitation. For some time I have had concerns about the leading at our Church. Always been a strong anti gay attitude, no women will ever lead (anything), that not all are equal in God's sight, that holiness is more an outcome of works than grace, that assurance of salvation is not a given. More recently the parish has developed a financial deficit (I think because people are having tough times and others are being driven out the door) and so the attention has turned to a heavy message on tithing in accordance with scriptural teaching - that is, the first 10% must go the parish! I have unsuccessfully tried to engage in discussion about these things with the minister but he seems unwilling to discuss anything. I suspect he feels there is no debate!
If Anglicanism means anything at all, it should mean that we can talk about what we believe, why we believe and whether we can agree to disagree on alternatives.
Geoff, thanks for your Sydney-sider outlook on these matters. You really don't have to sit in silence in your present congregation you know. I know it's hard to find a church in Sydney that is open to All PEOPLE. But if you really feel uncomfortable where you are, there's always a kind welcome at Christchurch St. Laurence, near the railway station; or even St. James in the City. These two churches never sent any delegate to Gafcon, and they would gladly engage you in conversation about the gospel.
Thanks Peter and Ron, I appreciate your comments. the fact is I am not in Sydney but in the Far North. The 'Jensen School' has sent out their missionaries! And to compound matters I am the sort of fellow who doesn't like to walk away from a problem. Either our minister has a problem or I do and I would rather address the problem by being up front. What guides me is the thought that if he is wrong, maybe more are at risk. Whereas if I am wrong, I need to see the light.
I am not publishing all of your comment: I am trying to avoid comments here which tell (or suggest strongly what people should do, especially re changing churches).
"Geoff, how would you know if you are wrong on a matter and the minister right or vice versa? Do you think he is endangering souls by preaching heresy? If so, you should report him to his bishop for false teaching.
 Arguing may not resolve issues but only entrench positions. If you think he is in spiritual darkness, you should first of all pray for him.
As a comment on your comment, I suggest one could object to what the pastor is teaching on conservative evangelical grounds!
Geoff, when you say you're in the 'Far North', I hope that doesn't mean Darwin Cathedral, where I spent a very happy 2 years in the early 1970s.
As a member of the Vestry of the Cathedral, I remember only a loving and inclusive worshipping community of people who cared for one another and the society in which they lived, moved, and had their being - which is what the Church ought to be about, really.
Not Darwin - Cairns.
Suggest you try the Pentys Geoff. My sister-in-law tells me they are great; she goes there - so may be biased! Of course there are the RCs up the road towards Trinity Beach; they have a powerful preacher and a great community sense.
"Geoff, when you say you're in the 'Far North', I hope that doesn't mean Darwin Cathedral, where I spent a very happy 2 years in the early 1970s."
So that explains Cyclone Tracy! :)
Not guilty, Martinis. I had already left when Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin.
Everyone knows, Martin, that that cyclone was caused by unseasonably early global warming :)
Very droll latest comment. But I think the humour is starting to run out quicker than Indonesian patience with Australian prime ministers.
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