Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good news, ?Ma Whea?, Freedom of Speech

My concern for the future of the whole of ACANZP in these islands does not blind me to good news when and where it occurs. Thus it was lovely to read in yesterday's Press about church growth in Ashburton (in my own Diocese), including comment from local clergy. If you click on the link here you can also go to a very interesting interactive map of Christchurch re Christian / not Christian belief. Incidentally the article confirms something I have observed: immigration is making a difference to church life in NZ but raises the question, Why are fourth and fifth generation European Kiwis not in church?

The Ma Whea? Commission report is now getting some close inspection. Latimer Fellowship has begun a series of critiques. The general introduction to the series is here, and Chris Spark offers the first critique there. LATER: Alongside that you might profitably read this.

I try not to be annoyed by much, but I am annoyed when defending the doctrine of our church as it currently stands, and as, just last week, I and many colleagues vowed to uphold leads to talk about such upholders having an 'anti-gay theology'. That is not on if we are to be a church in which people can be faithful to Scripture and tradition in a free and friendly atmosphere. Accordingly, I offer this link to a a superbly made statement, "Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why we must have both". The context for this statement is the recent controversy over whether a US company CEO can hold private views which dissent from the trend of public, secular discourse. Those writing the statement are for gay marriage but aghast at where the response to dissent has gone in the States: to the point where freedom of dissenting speech is curtailed.


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, while I fully agree with the 'Free Speech' emphasis of the article you have linked us to, I still cannot understand why you allow one of your commenters - whose opinion you also point to here - to speak of pro-gay people as upholders of what he is pleased to call 'porneia'; while yet not allowing me to counter with the comparatively harmless rejoinder of this being 'anti-gay.

Do you not think that the word porneia might be equally offensive to some of your readers, as is the use of anti-gay' to yourself?

Just asking!

I do think that, if you are expecting sensible and equal free speech on your blog, you need to open the gates a wee bit wider.

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
He is risen indfeed, Alleluia!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
A full, fair and frank debate of NT words such as 'porneia' needs to be able to consider that its scope includes sex between people of the same gender without invoking 'anti-gay' in response.

If such discussion is not possible without incurring 'anti-gay' then we may as well shut down all discussion of sexuality issues in the Bible in favour of those who believe all issues are now sorted once and for all.

John said...

Thank you Peter for defending the right of members of ACANZP to defend the present doctrines of our church without being labelled "anti-gay". Such "name-calling" does not assist rational debate on the subject of same-sex marriage/blessings. I thought our ordained clergy had made oaths to uphold the doctrines of the church. This does not mean we cannot debate possible modifications to these doctrines based on scripture, tradition and reason in that order but let us do so in a respectful manner and so that neither LGBT members of those holding traditional/orthodox views feel threatened or side-lined within our church. I find it discouraging that many commenting on these issues fail to appreciate our need to also consider views/doctrines of other provinces of the Anglican Communion or for that matter those of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I read this article recently written by a celibate homosexual in the states, it may be of interest to others:

I have to admit to a dislike of the use of anti-gay terminology. There are many behaviours in many of my friends which I disagree with but they can accept this, as I accept they disagree with many of my stances (e.g. I do not label them anti-christian).

The Mozilla article astonished me. That ones personal ethical views (especially ones that pose no obvious malice) can lead to a CEO of such a well respected company having to quit.

Reading this was a little like the shock I received when the Salvation Army in Australia was forced (by a court battle) to remove it's appeal for money for a programme to help prostitutes out of their profession (a longstanding programme). This because prostitution was legalised and surely therefore women needn't escape it. A far cry from the visit by missionaries in Kenya recently whose church of 3000 run a programme offering restoration of self worth and transformation through Jesus to those caught up in prostitution.

It makes me wonder if what often comes under the guise of "tolerance" leads to something awfully different.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Jean
That is a very interesting essay. I have included a link to it in the post above.

hogsters said...

re the article on religious affiliation and a comment therein, namely:

"The Catholic church has always been fairly strong here, but the churches are fuller than they used to be. The slack old Europeans are all a bit post-religion. They like sleeping in on a Sunday morning and taking the kids to football.

"They still obey the 10 Commandments. There are a lot of non-worshipping Christians. They have moral values but they fall short when it comes to Sunday worship."

"they still obey the Ten commandments" Really!

Not withstanding Jesus unpacking of the Ten commandments which makes us lawbreakers guilty of breaching everyone one of them, and thus being made all the more aware of our need for Christ to fulfil the Law for us, I would ask how exactly are those he speaks of getting past the first four commandments which show that God is central in our lives?

Its a generous man who can say those who show no affiliation to a worshipping community "still obey the ten commandments"

It kind of shoots the gospel proclamation in the foot given "through the the law we become aware that we are Lawbreakers,or become conscious of sin, (Rom 3:20) and thus are in needs of God's mercy and grace. Or to continue with the logic and argument of the Apostle Paul are in need of the righteousness of God that is given us through Faith in Christ.


Chris Spark said...

Hi Ron, Peter has pretty much said this much more briefly, but I feel I should just say something to clarify, as I don't want the word 'porneia' to be misunderstood as I have used it in a couple of places.

Porneia is a major Greek word used in the NT to speak of illicit sexual activity (ie sexual activity outside the realm of what is considered acceptable by the speaker/user, and usually translated sexual immorality these days I think) and I am using it because I think Jesus' use of porneia in the Gospels (eg in Mark 7, though I know this is probably a translation of what he said in Aramaic originally) seems to refer to sex outside of heterosexual marriage, especially given the way porneia and other sexual language is also used elsewhere in the NT by people who are seeking to follow in his steps. So I am considering it to be the general category of illicit sexual activity as defined in the NT.

So the important thing here is that I am definitely NOT using it as a swear word to label anyone, and if it has been heard as such please hear this correction - it is about understanding what Jesus and the NT more widely defines as illicit sexual activity.

To make all this doubly clear and more than abstract, I certainly consider myself to be guilty of porneia, to have been saved from my guilt from that (and numerous other sins, and the general rejection of God these are symptomatic of) by Jesus. I do still yet struggle with temptation in pretty much all of these areas, and at times fall in different ways.

For that reason, for me to slight anyone for porneia would be totally out of place, all I can do (and try to do) is work out what it is, and how seems best to work against it (in myself first of all!), and that is what I am seeking to do.

At the same time to be called anti gay is very personally hard for me, because of loved ones I have who are gay, and to whom I am no more 'anti' than I am to anyone else. This sort of pejorative labeling I find creates obstacles to loving relationships and working out differences and principles in the midst of them because it plays into the hands of easy 'us and them' divisions, and means it is tough to then have clear discussion.

Hope that makes sense. I am actually only an occasional visitor here, so don't read everything that is written.

Father Ron Smith said...

"So the important thing here is that I am definitely NOT using it as a swear word to label anyone, and if it has been heard as such please hear this correction - it is about understanding what Jesus and the NT more widely defines as illicit sexual activity." - Chris Spark -

And just, precisely, where does Jesus speak in the Scriptures of same-sex relationships as 'porneia'?

As far as I know, Jesus never ever referred to same-sex relationships at all, not to mention such relationships as being 'sinful'.

What you wish to read into what Jesus did, or did not actually say about same-sex relationships may not be admissable as an argument.

Chris Spark said...

Hi Ron, this is getting off the point in this post - I was simply wanting to explain why I used the term porneia and certainly did not mean it to be a label, as this sort of adverserial tone of discussion is unhelpful on the whole, though I realise sometimes unavoidable perhaps.

Though Jesus doesn't talk about everything by any means, I think it is clear that Jesus' sexual ethics were what you might call conservative in his Jewish context (see the way he works with the divorce issues and roots it in the creation ordinance) rather than making things more lax (as you might say he did with Sabbath commandments). His teaching was generally radical, but not always radical in the same directions or the directions we might expect.
That is why I take it the (also Jewish) Apostle Paul is moving in the same direction (also regularly quoting the creation ordinance re sexual ethics, and tying that to the importance of resurrection and embodiedness) and therefore we can read Jesus and Paul together - both in terms of their positive view of sexuality generally, the non-ultimacy of sexual expression and relationship, and the sort of thing s that would fall under the wider banner of something like porneia.
Perhaps I feel it is a case of reading with the grain in context. And also it is allowing the fact that the Apostles' words on these matters help, for both theological and historical reasons (historically because they were Jews who knew and were close in time and culture to Jesus), to show us the mind of Jesus on these issues, especially when they seem to be speaking from the same 'playbook' so to speak (both quoting Gen 1-2 in the same way in connection with sexual ethics).

And that grain and context is also why I feel it necessary to caveat the discussion of terms like porneia talk about this without pointing to my own fallenness, including in this area, as I tried to in that last comment.

But I will certainly leave it there, because as I say we have moved this away from where Peter was taking it - simply explaining why 'porneia' is not a swear word to use for labelling others. A discussion of an important are of meaning certainly does not equate to labelling or being anti anything. It is vital, for all involved, that we can have that sort of discussion without it descending into name calling or hermeneutics of suspicion.

God bless

Caleb said...

I think it's more "not on" to complain about being mischaracterised, as if that's not something that happens to everyone on all sides of all debates, and as if it can actually cause any real harm to anyone in a privileged social position... Aren't there worse things to get angry about - including the damage various representatives of the "I'm not anti-gay, but..." side do to LBTI people?

Peter Carrell said...

In general terms, Caleb, concerning the whole question of 'speech' re these matters, you are right.

In the particular terms of this blog, and trying to keep discussions flowing freely, i.e. not hindered or inhibited by use of terms which either put people off contributing, or which bog me down as moderator in a series of complaints and counter-complaints, I am keen to see a high level of slur-free, mischaracterization-free, etc commenting.

No one is perfect, however, and I know I can be as much at fault as anyone else here.

Anonymous said...

I'd have a lot more time for the 'Jesus never referred to same-sex relationships at all' argument if those who used it applied it consistently across the board. But I find it curious that some of those who use this argument most frequently seem to abandon it on other issues that are dear to them: for instance, the tradition that the presider at the Eucharist must be an ordained priest, or the tradition that bishops ordained in the apostolic succession are essential to the being of the Church - neither of which are things that Jesus chose to express an opinion on. Both of them also seem to me to be contrary to the spirit of Jesus, who often side-stepped the priestly hierarchy of his day.

If we're going to say that we can't establish a doctrine or an ethical position on any subject on which Jesus did not express an opinion, then let's be consistent in our application of this principle!

Tim C.

Father Ron Smith said...

Reading through this thread again, I found this statement:

"Though Jesus doesn't talk about everything by any means, I think it is clear that Jesus' sexual ethics were what you might call conservative in his Jewish context"
- Chris Spark -

You could have fooled me, Chris. What about the challenge of Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees in his defence of the 'woman caught in the act of adultery'? Would you call that 'conservative'? And would his Jewish listeners have agree with you mis-statement?

I don't think so. Jesus acted in the context in which he found himself at the time. He was not a rigidly fanatical keeper of Law.
In Law, the women should have been stoned to death. They were shamed!

Father Ron Smith said...

Sorry, Peter!

My last line should have read:

"In Law, the Woman should have been stoned to death. They (Keepers of The Law) were shamed."