Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Don Mathieson responds to the Doctrinal Commission's report

As we run up to the General Synod in less than a couple of week's time, I offer for readers here a critique of the Doctrinal Commission's report. It is written by Dr Don Mathieson QC, a Wellington lay Anglican lawyer.

The full article is here. The Doctrinal Commission's report is in the second half of the pdf relating to the Ma Whea? Commission's work here.

The following is the beginning of Dr Mathieson's critique:

The bulk of the Commission’s report sets out a rationale for the Anglican Church to conduct same-sex marriages and, if that is not feasible, to conduct same-gender blessings. The objections to that rationale occupy much less space. This critique will help redress that imbalance. The unity of the Church and its acceptability overseas as a church that supports overseas mission are in peril. It is time to speak forthrightly in support of the clear scriptural witness about the sinfulness of homosexual acts and the position adopted without dissension by Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches alike for nearly two thousand years.

Since the Doctrine Commission’s Report was delivered the Ma Whea? Commission has elaborated several ways forward. It labels the historic belief and practice of the Christian church the “traditionalist” view”. That adjective itself tends to suggest that the attitude so labelled is suspect because old-fashioned and not in accordance with modern thinking. It is simply wrong to imply that a position held by the church and its theologians of different stripes for centuries is likely to be wrong just because it is old. Ma Whea states  that adopting this view, here called the orthodox view, of the circumstances in which genital sexual activity is to be approved by the Church would lead to the  ‘disenfranchisement”(with all the emotive freight which that word carries)of those in committed same-gender relationships. It would also, so it is said, lead to their “marginalisation”. This is misleading. In the language of the title of Stanley Grenz’s book, there is a wide consensus among orthodox(including but by no means limited to evangelical) Christians  that the Church must be Welcoming But Not Affirming of those in sexual relationship but not married to each other. They are to be loved. They must be accepted as individual believers. They must be encouraged to participate in God’s mission. The same holds for those who are in an adulterous relationship. But their relationship is not to be approved by pronouncing God’s blessing over it. Gay people in active sexual relationship are be treated with loving care, pastorally assisted and welcomed in services of worship. There is no “marginalisation” here. The orthodox approach needs to be accurately stated. Unfortunately, it often is not. The Doctrine Commission, for its part, does not bother to summarise the practical and pastoral position adopted by Anglicans of orthodox persuasion correctly.

Our Church acknowledges the authority of the scriptures for its belief and practice. The fundamental clauses of the Constitution make the supreme place which the scriptures hold abundantly clear. The rationale advanced by the Doctrine Commission ultimately comes down to saying that the  Commission is faced with a situation-the existence of long term committed gay relationships-with which the scriptures do not deal.

This “silence of scripture” argument fails in its first premise –as will later be demonstrated. The Commission claims that arguments for same gender marriages and blessings are a “faithful response to scripture”. Notice its covert move from the claim that the scriptures don’t deal with the supposedly modern phenomenon of same-gender relationships which the parties to them claim to be “permanent” to contending that a “change in practice is required by the revelation of God”. Such revelation must logically be either derived from the scriptures or be extra-scriptural. If it is extra-scriptural, what is its source? The Commission does not directly say. The Commission comes very close to saying that if society now approves of something that something is “required by the revelation of God”. The absurdity of such a proposition is self-evident and its danger to clear and distinctive Cristian teaching and practice must be reckoned as huge. If on the other hand the revelation of God is asserted to be something contained in the Word of God, we must ask how can scripture simultaneously require X but not deal with X? This is self-contradictory. The place of reason is vaunted in Anglicanism. Good reasoning is not self-contradictory."

What do you think?


liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

Just so we all have "the practical and pastoral position adopted by Anglicans of orthodox persuasion correctly" - does being "welcomed in services of worship" and "no 'marginalisation' here" include them being invited and welcome to receive communion or not?

Thanks in anticipation for that "orthodox approach ...accurately stated".

Christ is Risen!


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
It would be for Don to answer the question as it pertains directly to a statement in his paper.

My own understanding as I listen to folk who I assume are otherwise in general agreement with Don's paper is that invitation to communion is included.

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

As I understand it, the teaching of our church is:

"If among those who come to be partakers of the Holy Communion, the Minister shall know any to be an open and notorious evil liver, ... he shall advertise him, that he presume not to come to the Lord’s Table, until he have openly declared himself to have truly repented and amended his former evil life, that the Congregation may thereby be satisfied..."

Please can you explain how these "Anglicans of orthodox persuasion" pick and choose between "orthodox approaches".

Christ is Risen!


Peter Carrell said...

A lot hangs, Bosco, on the meaning of 'notorious'.

One possibility is that the orthodox among us (of which, naturally, there are few apart from yourself and myself :) ) are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those who claim they are not 'evil livers' while not going so far as to ascribe certainty to the proposal that their lives are so far from evil living that they ought to be blessed.

This approach, incidentally, might help our brothers and sisters, the elders of the undoubtedly orthodox Calvin Community Church in Gore (see post above).

Caleb said...

He makes a lot of quite dumb points in your excerpt; the last paragraph is full of leaps of logic, over-simplification and false dichotomies. I don't think I'll read the rest.

"There is no "marginalisation" here" - spoken like a true privileged person. There is no depression in New Zealand either.

Father Ron Smith said...

There's no room for doubt about the theological stance of this latest critic of Ma Whea and the ACANZP's determination to address a deficit in justice towards LGBTI people in the church and in today's world. I guess, Peter, that's why you've taken the trouble to highlight it on your web-site.

Fortunately, from my own point of view, this is I believe a minority view-point, seeking to maintain an outdated and unjust attitude towards Gay people, on a mistaken understanding of the etiology of homosexuality on the one hand, and of the need to encourage faithful, monogamous relationships between two people who love one another - to the exclusion of promiscuous affairs with other people.

If we were to encourage say that of heterosexual couples, even conservatives in the Church would be clapping their hands. Why is it that intrinsically homosexual people who want to show the same commitment - to one other person - should be denied the privilege?

At a time when even the Roman Catholic Pontiff is considering opening up the Church to divorcees and Gays, this 'Anglican' protest against a deep pastoral need being met in our Church seems niggardly, to say the least.

Kurt said...

Right on, Caleb! My thoughts exactly!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Nicola Marshall said...

A suggestion for all people debating these issues in the next week or two: whenever you talk about LGBT people, say "we" instead of "they", and then stop and ask yourself whether you want to be part of this church.

Father Ron Smith said...

Nicola, in answer to your question; I am not inclined to differentiate between two different sexualities as being of any importance to our common heritage in Christ. SO, I would be happy to say WE of all who belong to Christ in 'This Church'.