Monday, April 7, 2014

Ma Whea? Commission: A nightmare or a mare's nest?

I am going to jot down responses to the Ma Whea? Commission's offering of ten options to General Synod, the report of the Doctrine Commission, with a day by day addition to this post for a week or so.

Key Links re what is being presented

Anglican Taonga Report

Ma Whea? Commission's full report in PDF

The Ten Options

Precis of Doctrine Commission's report

Doctrine Commission's full report in PDF

A blogpost or two worth looking at re response

Making Tracts (Bishop Jim White)

Monday 7 April

Reading around the traps (i.e. posts and comments to the posts) I suggest that one way to reflect on the situation before our church is that of two broad groupings talking past each other because the situation is seen in a completely different perspective by each broad grouping. (Thus the one bit of the reports presented on Taonga which connects with this reality is the news that the Doctrine Commission could not agree on a number of matters).

For one group the issue before us is small (and the group cannot understand why so much energy is expended about it), involving a modest extension of rights within our church, an additional rite for our church and, possibly, a tiny change to our doctrine of marriage by removal of gender differentiation as a sine qua non of marriage. In terms of the ten Options, C, D and I could come to the forefront of consideration with little or no ramifications, according to this line of thinking (as I detect it, reading around the traps ... I might be misreading).

For another group the issue before us is big (and thus a lot of energy is being expended because the future shape and even life itself of our church is at stake). On one point this group would agree with the other group, greater clarity re 'rights' within our church is important. Thus we read in the report on the Doctrine Commission,

'The Commission states clearly that the Church should stand for the inclusion of those who are marginalized, even while the shape of that inclusion is debated.'. 

But for the remainder of matters, this group's thinking runs along these lines: there is nothing 'modest' about a change which decides we can bless in God's name what God has prohibited, nor about removing gender differentiation as core to our understanding of marriage. For that matter even adding a rite to our church's set of rites is not a neutral action for it would raise the question of whether clergy would be disciplined for refusing to offer the rite, to say nothing of the question of people being refused ordination or appointment to licensed positions because of such refusal. I note that under Option I there is a chilling remark to the effect that it is a serious option to refuse to permit clergy to not offer the rite:

'“An exception could be considered to permit clergy to elect not to perform blessings of persons in same sex relationships.”

Only, 'could be considered'??

Within this group I detect an alertness to the possibility of naievity. The course of secular debate in Western societies has quickly moved from 'de-criminalization' of homosexual acts, to 'civil unions', to 'gay marriage.' Wouldn't it be foolish to presume that agreement now to Options C, D, or I would settle the matter once and for all? Surely the real agenda of those pushing for change is to secure Option E? Why not 'get it over and be done with it?'

For this group, seeing large rather than small changes before us, of the ten options, J seems the least we could agree to at this time - A would be satisfactory, B plausible but demanding. In ascending order of urgent priority for consideration F, G, and H must be reckoned with if change is going to happen.

But F, G and H are arguably 'nightmare' options. But the reality, whichever way we might go as we reflect on the options is that we have a 'mare's nest' because we have two quite different views at work as to how big or small the issues are.

The mare's nest also involves Option K which the Commission has not presented, and maybe not thought about ... more later.

Tuesday 8 April

Very interesting discussion on the Making Tracts post linked above - please read.

Reading there and elsewhere, and thinking further ... these scenarios/questions strike me:

X: We retain the status quo because we cannot agree on a way forward ... but perhaps also because we recognise that whatever we do, change or don't change, our church will suffer loss, and we cannot work out which is the greater loss if we pursue one option rather than another.

Y: We change (or signal 'change in principle, two years study, change in 2016 in practice') but will we be able to sustain Two Integrities? Will those pressing for change admit safeguards? Will they be permanent or for the time-being? What kind of Two Integrities would we have? Referring back to discussion on Making Tracts (link above) would the Two Integrities be akin to trying to promote both Baptism of Infants of Believers and Baptism of Adult Believers Only (something Anglicans have not done previously) or to living with Military Chaplains and Pacifists in our midst?

Z: We bite the bullet and press for Dismemberment: choose you this day whom you will bless. (At least we might allow ourselves a process through two years for orderly Dismemberment). But would the rump 'gay church' survive? If we pressed for Change Now, Dismemberment Now some very strong parishes (i.e. with many younger generation families) could depart. Almost certainly on such a draconian cleaving of the ways, the Diocese of Nelson (with a theological college in its midst) would walk apart. Perhaps one other NZ Diocese too, along with the Diocese of Polynesia. Many parishes remaining would consist of elderly parishioners incapable of embracing adaptation to the 21st century, unable to put forward candidates for ordained ministry in sufficient numbers to maintain ordained leadership going forward. Within ten years the rump church would be in severe crisis mode re person power in the ministry (though likely not financially as existing trust funds would spread better over fewer ministries). Hmm. Not an exciting scenario. Perhaps General Synod won't go there!

In some ways our church is considering a 'zero sum' game: if we chose one scenario we keep so many and lose so many; if we choose another scenario we lose that much and keep that many. Put another way, our dilemma (arguably, when all is said and done) is whether we wish to include conservatives and marginalise gay couples and their supporters or marginalise conservatives and canonically include gay couples and bring peace to their supporters. We would like to (so to speak) keep both groups happy. We worry that we cannot do so. If there were a simple answer to the dilemma we would not be a church with ten options to consider!

There is also an eleventh Option K to consider which I will think about further while on the road today ... comments may not be posted till late tonight.

Wednesday 9 April

Reading the ten options I do not find any particular sense of reflection on the future of our church in terms of growth and development, in terms of, we might say, riffing off from Option H, 'Planned Memberment.'

The focus, understandably, through the ten options is, 'What will we decide?' and 'How will making a decision, one way or another, affect current membership of the church?'

But we live in a desperate situation for our church, one of widespread ageing and decline of congregations BUT NOT a situation beyond change, transformation and a new day dawning. A new day dawning, however, is about recruiting new members into the life of our church.

None of the ten options addresses the question of what kind of church in the future will new people want to join (whether as Christians transferring from other churches or as new Christians responding to the gospel preached from our ministry unit bases).

In the present context some, of course, are likely to say 'Well, no one will want to join a church out of touch with the times' and others might say, 'Not so. Who would join a church which looks so in touch with the times that all distinctiveness of message and lifestyle is lost?' Personally I would prefer to ask this question:

'What messages being preached in word and deed today are drawing new members into the life of the Anglican church in these islands?'

My Option K is then this: 'We should decide re marriage and the possibility of blessing relationships which are not marriage to make changes (or no changes) which support and foster the messages being preached in word and deed today which draw new members into our churches'.

Would doing anything else foster the continuing decline of our church?

Friday 11 April

Our dilemma as a church is neatly captured by a comment made on Making Tracts - link above - from which I cite a small portion:

"In the NZ society, unlike Australia, there is no official discrimination except in the church. Even the visiting future king attended a playgroup yesterday with a same sex couple and their child. It was harldy big news.Even in my age group of 60 plus I do not experience any discrimination day to day. Most of my friends however do not go near a church.I do not support church missionary activity because I would not recommend any young gay person become involved with the church. That way lies misery."

I suggest that no one on the conservative side of the argument wishes the church to be a place where it is viewed as the only community within society where there is 'official discrimination' against gay members; nor does anyone wish the church to be a place where gay members are 'miserable'.

Yet no one on the conservative side of the argument wishes the church to be a place where our understanding of the will of God is determined by sweeping social change or parliamentary law. Social change expressed in law may be God's will (or at least in accordance with God's will) but shouldn't the church discern whether that is the case or not? And shouldn't our discernment be undertaken in terms of our understanding of Scripture and tradition?

Solomon: what is your cellphone number?

Sunday 14 April

I like this comment by Gail Young on Anglican Taonga's report re the commission (but it needs to be read in tandem with the comment below by Rosemary Neave):


Gail Young

The Catholic and Apostolic Church that was founded by Christ, Matt.16:18, and served by the Apostles and early church fathers as recorded in the Book of Acts calls mankind to define themselves by their relationship to their saviour Christ. Perhaps it is now time for all the modern liberalists who wish to define themselves outside of this doctrine should be like the rest of the modern world and move on too.
Contrary to Rosemary's comments, the church has no desire to throw the "gays" out but like the rest us, their inclusion is contingent upon keeping His commandments John 14:15.
Those attending the General Synod at Waitangi in May would do well to remember that the church and doctrine belong to Christ and not to man and that it is our duty to live in His church for Him and through Him.

rosemary Neave

Sigh - is any of this news? As one friend said we could have come up with this list on the back of an envelope over a drink.

I feel a little sorry for the Commission, the Church handed them a hot potato, because they could not come up with a solution themselves. And now it is back in the Church's hands.

For God's sake make a decision! We are so over this, much of the world has moved on, and can not believe we are still debating this.

If the Church decides to kick gays out, then do it, put us out of our misery. Show your true colours.
Justice delayed is justice denied."

Then ...

Mollie Hemingway, in the context of the USA has a stirring column re marriage and debates (or suppression of debate) in her country. Here is the heart of her pro-marriage as it always has been argument:

"Well, I know that we’ve had years of criminally one-sided media coverage, cowardly political leaders and elite cultural views that have conveyed to you that the only reason anyone might think sexual complementarity is key to marriage is bigotry. ... There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?
Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. ... And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this."

Tuesday 15 April

 With H/T to a colleague for two of the three links below, I note the following:

A new crisis for the C of E re gay marriage, precisely because a clergyman has married his male partner and thus appears to have flouted C of E rules.

Andrew Brown comments on the delicacies of the situation, including that the clergyman is secularly employed as a chaplain while holding a bishop's licence as a canon. I am not sure that Andrew Brown has a particularly dramatic headline - creaking compromises are what the C of E is made up of!

Then a link to an interpretation of Leviticus. What do you think, brilliant or incorrect?


Zane Elliott said...

I wonder from my end of the spectrum whether Option H offers the best resolution.

Those who no longer feel they can uphold the traditional Anglican position on Human Sexuality, or at least the Canons of the ACANZP regarding it; ought to be free to dismember themselves from our Church.

This would allow those who strongly believe a change is in order to pursue that in total freedom, and it would enable those of us who disagree, but deeply love our Church, its traditions, and who wish to uphold the Canons to do so in an environment where this issue no longer saps our time, energy and resources.

I'm sure that this could be done graciously and in a godly way, although it grieves me to think that this is required. An ugly option, but perhaps our relationship is at the point where we have struck 'irreconcilable differences.'

Father Ron Smith said...

Zane's solution might be more easily accomplished for a fellow Armed Services Chaplain than for a working parish priest. He could probably carry on with his current employment without necessarily detaching himself from whichever branch of the Church he prefers to subscribe to.

Zane Elliott said...

Fr. Ron,
Quite the opposite actually.
If I, or a colleague resign from my denomination I am no longer "in good standing" with it, as required by Defence Force Order 65. As a result, NZDF can not retain such a chaplain. Any chaplain prepared to make that decision makes the decision to walk away from their ministry, and salary.

I think that a parish presbyter who is deeply committed to walking away, in some parishes, would see their people leave too. That person would, if the parish was viable, continue to draw a stipend, and have a ministry to continue.

P.s back so soon?

carl jacobs said...

It was illuminating to read the comments on Bishop White's blog in regard to Peter's attempt to fix some security for those who might resist the coming New Church Order. The temporizing and vacillating answers he received were instructive. Those who would trust in such promises should take note. The perpetual guarantee offered on Monday might not necessarily be perpetual on Friday.

As I have said repeatedly, separation is coming. The church will eventually become all option A or all option E. It is only a matter of how separation is effected and who ends up leaving. To trust in some kind of perpetual cease fire is a fool's hope. The current situation is driven by correlation of forces and not an inability of the church to make up its mind. It doesn't take any special skill to read between the lines when Bishop White says:

I think we are in a place of co-existence of two views at the moment. This co-existence has been ‘organically’ arrived and as such has significant drawbacks. However desirable it might be from this or that quarter, I think eliminative views are unsustainable at this point (both points of view arrive at their claims diligently and faithfully and this well acknowledged in the literature). So, can we devise some way that we can live with two views? This would not be the same as claiming both views are correct, but a negotiated and honest accommodation. Because at least one view must be wrong, and the church can’t at this point determine which of these it is, it would be a matter of exercise of conscience in the expression of any individual’s ministry.

Yes, he said some things about non-violence and living together. But nothing requires that understanding to be the model going forward. What is important in the quote is the 'organic' description of the impasse. Organic things by definition grow and change.


Anonymous said...

Carl: rather like our different views of the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, or whether or not the Eucharist is a sacrifice, or whether or not it's permissible for Christians to remarry after divorce, or what precisely happens when a person is baptized, or whether bishops are essential to the 'esse' or the 'bene esse' of the church, or whether a church member needs to have a darkness to light conversion experience, or whether or not auricular confession is a good thing, or whether pacifism or just war is the right position to take, or whether or not the Bible is inerrant, etc. etc.

Tim C.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes and no, Tim.
In my experience a candidate for ordination is unlikely to be asked questions about the living, ongoing dilemmas you pose as part and parcel of Anglicanism; and even if asked, the answer won't greatly affect selection.

There is some history in our church of questions about attitudes to homosexuality determining selection processes. And (in my experience of conversations here) some reluctance on the part of movers and shakers to offer guarantees the going forward from here, on specific matters re blessing/marriage, a candidate would not be asked questions about whether they would or would not bless/marry same sex couples.

Put another way, some at least of our conservatives would be helped if our church offered a specific, concrete way forward as a church of Two Integrities. We shall see what transpires ...

Father Ron Smith said...

"In my experience a candidate for ordination is unlikely to be asked questions about the living, ongoing dilemmas you pose as part and parcel of Anglicanism; and even if asked, the answer won't greatly affect selection."
- Dr. Peter Collier -

But is that really true Peter?

It would seem, from some who have been subjected to 'discernment' for ministry in the Christchurch Diocese, there definitely are those who have felt in their rejection, a rejection of their commitment to LGBT inclusion.

Now, I know it would be very difficult to prove what they have recounted as their experience. but when the doubts exist, perhaps there is some truth in them.

If not, it would be good to hear from the discernment panel, that LGBT sympathisers would not be debarred from training because of their conscientious commitment to LGBT inclusion in our Church.

Caleb said...

What's the current situation re: other gender questions? I know there are some Anglicans in this diocese who disagree with the ordination of women. But they're functioning under a female bishop. How does that work?

Does the diocese currently ask ordinands questions about their stance towards female ordination? And do we ask a prospective priest committed to gender equality whether they'd bless a marriage where the couple were explicitly committing to male "headship," or vice versa?

There are clearly two (or more) views at play in our diocese on gender roles. Are these views held in tension, or is one the official view while the other is begrudgingly tolerated in certain parishes and certain clergy? Is the current arrangement working, or would it be better for everyone if the two factions parted ways?

These are not rhetorical questions; I'm curious about the answers if anyone is able and willing to offer them!

carl jacobs said...


It is instructive to note the things you did not include in your list of examples.

1. Three fold ministry.
2. Infant baptism.
3. Clergy led communion.

And most telling of all.

4. Women's ordination.

Is it still possible to be ordained in TEC if you oppose WO? You read Thinking Anglicans. How receptive are they to the idea of allowing those opposed to WO to become bishops?

A difference over Real presence imposes no burden. One is not required to keep silent in the face of sin. The difference does not ever require me to compromise my conscience. Likewise with light to dark conversions and what happens at baptism and the nature of bishops.

Although there is a fair amount of hypocrisy concerning divorce, the fact remains that there are biblical grounds for it. I concede however that most divorces do not fall into this category. One hypocrisy is not grounds to engage in another. The answer is to correct the first hypocrisy and not add a second.

Sacramentalism ala Rome is a problem. I admit that. A church shouldn't have concepts of justification that divergent.

Pacifism is off by itself and is not a good example. That requires a separate discussion.


Father Ron Smith said...

"I think that a parish presbyter who is deeply committed to walking away, in some parishes, would see their people leave too. That person would, if the parish was viable, continue to draw a stipend, and have a ministry to continue" - Zane Elliot -

A parish priest in ACANZP 'walking away' from that Church, certainly would not continue to receive a stipend from ACANZP. If he were to resort to a schismatic breakaway, thereby becoming no longer a priest but a mere 'minister', he could do what he pleased - provided his fellow schismatics were willing to support him in schism.

Zane Elliott said...

under your option Z you say "Many parishes remaining would consist of elderly parishioners incapable of embracing adaptation to the 21st century, unable to put forward candidates for ordained ministry in sufficient numbers to maintain ordained leadership going forward. Within ten years the rump church would be in severe crisis mode re person power in the ministry (though likely not financially as existing trust funds would spread better over fewer ministries)."

Can you explain the rationale behind those who want to affirm and uphold the current doctrine and Canons of the Church having to dismember themselves from ACANZP? (It looks like this is your suggestion when you speak of trust funds being spread around, or have I got the wrong end of the stick?).

Shouldn't it rather be the other way around as I've suggested above? It seems reasonable (oh that beloved stool of Hooker) for those who wish to pursue change to go and do that, rather than to expect those who hold the traditional position to.

carl jacobs said...

Pacifism is a subject I have let I pass on a number of occasions but once again it is presented as a reason for tolerating homosexuality. And so I decided to address it.

I should say that I do not consider pacifism to be a credible Christian position. I think it owes far less to Christian theology or Scripture and far more to specific objections about the nature and purpose of military power. Specifically, it objects to the fact that military power is not under temporal law but is effectively a temporal law unto itself. It also objects to the self-interested nature of military power as an instrument of national policy. Both of these objections are rooted in a reaction to the sovereignty of nations. This explains the desire of some to subordinate the power to declare war to an international authority. This temporal law-giver would ensure that force is applied for legal and selfless reasons or not at all.

If this sounds like law enforcement, that's exactly what it is. The police officer is under the authority of a judge, and his ability to employ violence is carefully prescribed. He is not a self-interested instrument. He is a servant of the public and the law to ensure equal treatment. The soldier on the other hand is a servant of the public and the national interest. He has much broader latitude in the employment of violence. He is held accountable only by the self-interested gov't that dispatched him. He is the means by which the nations establish a hierarchy of wealth and power and prestige.

This is the actual reason 'pacifists' struggle to reconcile pacifism with law enforcement. They aren't objecting to violence per se. They are objecting to military violence as self-interested and unconstrained. But not every fight fight fits this category. The problem then becomes transposed into the realm of politics. If the pacifist follows the line of reasoning consistently, he must admit that there are just wars. His problem is that it isn't given to him to decide on the nature of any given war as just. That is a political question and political authorities decide that question. Citizens don't get an absolute right of first refusal. The 'pacifist' responds by refusing any fight lest he be forced into a fight he thinks immoral.

This I have always thought is the actual logic of pacifism. The idea the killing is always wrong is morally imbecilic and pacifists know it. My daughter is preparing to be a police officer. She went through a 'shoot/don't shoot' simulator exercise tonight in which she shot a suspect who was preparing to kill a hostage. Should she not have pulled the trigger? The right answer in that case was 'shoot to kill.' The computer said she killed the suspect based upon where the simulated bullet hit the simulated suspect. Would if have been more righteous of her to let the hostage in the exercise die?

These questions tear pacifism to pieces. If the pacifist says "Yes" he makes his position contemptible. If he says "No" he makes his position untenable. It therefore exposes the actual logic of his case that I presented above. But that logic is ultimately a matter of political judgment and not moral absolutism. He can refuse the fight if he is willing to accept the consequences. But he isn't really defending a principle by doing so. He is defending the primacy of his own political judgment regarding the employment of military force.

More to come. I will next address why this has nothing to do with tolerating homosexuality.


Peter Carrell said...

Old habits die hard, Ron: once again you flatter me by mistaking me for someone else, for the inestimable Peter Collier :)

I do not think we should discuss individual named dioceses and how discernment may or may not have been worked out in past times.

My point is not to deny that discernment practices might work both ways re shutting group X out in one diocese while including group Y and vice versa in another diocese. My point is that if our church is serious about maing a change from the status quo then will it be clear and will it guarantee some kind of security for those who agree with the status quo.

The answer might be Yes and it might be No. But please, dear God, may it not be Yes for now and then No later on.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Zane
I am a real politik man.
If you want to believe that our church making a change will change in the direction of traditionalism and as a consequence those supporting change will leave, then you are free to do so.
I suggest you are not going to believe that for a second :)

Father Ron Smith said...

Oh dear, Peter. I see you've had the very same problem on Bishop Jim's blog. It must be that we're either getting old or just confused. I can claim the former but you can't. You're still a young buck in the prime of life.

However, I do apologise for calling you Peter Collier - and attaching a doctorate too. He should be well pleased.

Do give Zane some slack, he's only been only had the joy of being a minister a wee bit longer than I stopped commenting the last time. Give him time to settle in and smell the roses.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Within ten years the rump church would be in severe crisis mode re person power in the ministry (though likely not financially as existing trust funds would spread better over fewer ministries)."
- Peter C.arrell -

A very interesting, if outre speculation, Peter. Eho, In your opinion, would be part of your 'rump' church - in the event..?
And would a certain northern diocese of the South island have any part of it?

Peter Carrell said...

God alone knows the future, Ron, and those servants whom God chooses to reveal it to :)

carl jacobs said...

The exegetical basis of pacifism is poor and is on the level of "Daniel didn't eat meat in Babylon so we should be vegetarians." It hangs much on the Sermon on the Mount without actually explaining the implications that proceed therefrom. Arguably the Sermon has more direct applicability to the officer of the law than to the soldier. Strictly speaking (if the pacifists are correct), the officer should give to the thief what the thief did not manage to steal. We should know we have a problem with our exegesis at this point. The Sermon is not and cannot be a discourse on political authority if it would drive us to such nonsensical conclusions.

Pacifism takes no account of John the Baptist's instruction to the Roman soldier. He notably didn't tell the Roman soldier to leave the Roman army. It takes no account of Paul's statement that the state does not bear the sword in vain. It takes no account of the fact that we are under lawful authority of the state. And it takes absolutely no account of the Unchanging nature of God. It imagines a non-threatening non-violent Christ instead of the Christ revealed in Scripture. That Christ after all was the same person - one person, two natures - that walked among the Assyrian army before Jerusalem and killed 172,000 in one night. The Lord Jesus is the Lamb of the Cross. He is also the Lion of Revelation 19.

That said, there is no command in Scripture to join the military. The pacifist may be mangling Scripture but his position in the abstract is not a direct violation of it. He has adopted his stance and he is free to it. He requires nothing of me by possessing it. He does not force me to compromise my conscience by tolerating it. Because his exegetical basis is so poor, I do not credit his condemnation of me. In short, he does not commit sin by advocating for it. That is a big part of why it not analogous to homosexuality.

The abstract nature of contemporary pacifism is important to this argument. It seems to me very much a western phenomenon and the West makes pacifism costless. What does the pacifist actually do to implement his pacifism? He doesn't volunteer for the volunteer military. He will likely never be drafted because his country is not under external threat. He might write some letters to the editor and vote for candidates who want to reduce military spending. That's about it. Because he is protected by others who assume the responsibility, he never actually faces the consequences of his position. It becomes a intellectual exercise with no physical reality. That's the other reason why it is not analogous to homosexuality.

Now if the nation was actually at war, then my tolerance of pacifism would cease. The state has the rightful authority to compel service. If the pacifist wants to defy that authority, then he is going to jail. Not because he is a pacifist but because he refused rightful authority. His abstract case suddenly has real tangible impact. He is shifting the burden from himself onto others. He has presumed to substitute his own judgment for those who have the authority to judge. And he has no Scriptural basis to appeal to higher authority.

Normalizing homosexuality directly contradicts the Scripture. Pacifism does not. Accepting the normalization of homosexuality requires me to compromise my conscience. Pacifism requires nothing from me. At least so long as there is no war. That is why there is no analogy between the two.


Anonymous said...

Just a query re the 'rump' church Peter. You say afterwards it refers to the 'gay church' and then go on to say this would leave a lot of churches with older congregations.

Do you mean if the decision to dismember may pre-empt a certain number of churches to leave the communion, a number of those remaining would be those containing older congregations?

Rather than those with older congregations would necessarily align themselves with the theology of the 'rump' church?

If dismemberment happened wouldn't some of the older congregations choose to align themselves with the non-rump church?

I just realised I am the only female commenting on this blog recently. I am wondering what that says about me!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Arowhenua,
If our church does not press immediately for dismemberment then an evolving situation may lead in different directions over time.

But I am raising the question with immediate dismemberment would lead to most of our non-elderly congregations leaving.

Rightly you point that, nevertheless, some elderly congregations would also leave.

But to be clear to all readers, if our church wants a better than even chance of surviving for more than the next fifty years, it should not press for immediate dismemberment.

Anonymous said...

Peter thanks for the clarification Peter. Sorry arowhenua is my wordpress avatar I didn't realise signing in that way would automatically use the name I provide as well, cheers Jean

Father Ron Smith said...

"'What messages being preached in word and deed today are drawing new members into the life of the Anglican church in these islands?

- Dr. Peter Carrell -

In my humble opinion, the only message that will draw anyone into the Church at any time in its history - that is of any value - is contained in these words:

"The great Love of God as revealed in The Son" - Jesus Christ, who died for ALL people.

Zane Elliott said...

Hi Peter,
Re: those wanting change to dismember themselves I want it to be an option...
I still fail to see how it is generally accepted that those of us who hold the traditional position ought to leave.

Eegarding the 'rump' - our own Archbishop is very positive about such leftovers (
I think the tenor of this article,(especially the applause given to ECUSA's litigation by ++Richardon) makes it clear that if there is dismemberment I probably won't be writing history!

Zane Elliott said...

Fr. Ron Re: parish priest in ACANZP 'walking away' from that Church, certainly would not continue to receive a stipend from ACANZP. If he were to resort to a schismatic breakaway, thereby becoming no longer a priest but a mere 'minister', he could do what he pleased - provided his fellow schismatics were willing to support him in schism.

That's exactly the point I'm making. You suggested a military chaplian could continue to draw a salary whilst dismembering, but a parish minister couldn't. I see the opposite. Let's think St Michael's and All Angels for a minute - say the vicar decided he couldn't belong to an ACANZP which didn't ordain those in same-sex relationships, and he decided to leave. the parish feels the same way, and thus dismembers. the parish could continue to pay the vicar a stipend. Happy days. Business as usual. A quick change of the parish sign, and everyone is happy.

If I leave I'm looking for a new home, new ministry and new denomination.

Hopefully that offers some clarity to what I've treid to explain above.

Re: my length of time as a presbyter in the Church - Tim 4:12.

Caleb said...

Carl, I've read pacifists who take account of most of the things you say pacifism takes no account of.

I found it funny how you said "The abstract nature of contemporary pacifism is important to this argument. It seems to me very much a western phenomenon" ... You could replace "contemporary pacifism" with "too many people's monolithic conceptions of 'homosexuality'" and be making just as pertinent a point (preferably you'd omit the straw-manning of the rest of the paragraph though!).

It's also funny how you say (re: pacifism) that we can know our exegesis is wrong if we don't like its conclusion. This is the kind of reasoning 'traditionalists' are often accusing 'revisionists' of exhibiting on homosexuality! (Of course, it's arguably consistent with Augustine's idea that exegesis not building up love of God and neighbour is bad exegesis).

Peter, your option J sounds to me like a similar principle to this last observation about Carl... we made decisions on same-sex marriage/ordination not based on what we believe is true according to God, Scripture and Kingdom, but based (albeit indirectly) on what draws members in? Am I misinterpreting you?

Anonymous said...


I’m not entirely sure there’s much point to this, since I don’t think you’re open to having your mind changed on the subject of pacifism. However, I can’t let your dismissal of a Christian tradition that goes all the way back to the NT and the Church Fathers go unchallenged. So here’s an attempt at a reply. However, I’m fairly sure that an exchange between the two of us on this subject could in theory go on for months, and I don’t think we should hijack Peter’s thread.

First, you are entirely wrong in claiming that pacifism is not based in theology or scripture; it’s based entirely on theology and scripture. In scripture, it goes all the way back to the Noah story and the identification of the particular sin that God found so objectionable as ‘the earth was filled with violence’ (not greed, not idolatry, not sexual immorality, but violence). It goes back to the passages in Micah and Isaiah about the nations streaming to the temple mountain to be instructed by the God of Israel and, as a consequence, not preparing for war any more. It is based on the explicit identification in John and Hebrews of Jesus as ‘the Word of God’, the highest and most accurate representation of God that we have, and the explicit commands of Jesus to his disciples to respond to hatred with love, and to love their enemies. It’s based on the New Testament concept of the imitation of Christ - as John Howard Yoder pointed out, the only specific examples of what that imitation means in the New Testament concern non-resistance and love for enemies.

You claim that pacifism takes no account of the unchanging nature of God - that the Christ on the gospels is the same Christ who killed people in OT times. My reply to that is that, yes, there are definite discontinuities between the OT picture of God and that set out for us by Jesus. Jesus himself said as much in his “You have heard that it was said... but I say to you” comments. War and violence are not the only example of this. The Old Testament makes a sharp distinction between clean and unclean foods, but Jesus declared all foods clean. Had the nature of God changed? The Old Testament says that the one who is not circumcised is cut off from God’s people, but Paul says neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything. Has God changed his mind? The Old Testament allows slavery and makes specific commands to regulate it, but I think that if you decided today that owning slaves was a legitimate Christian option as long as you obeyed those OT commands, you would be almost universally condemned by all Christian churches. So has God’s law changed? Has his character changed?

The discontinuities are there - I did not invent them. Faced with those discontinuities, you and I have to decide how we will handle them. Do we stick with the Old Testament warrior God and twist the teaching of Jesus to fit it? Or do we see Jesus as the Logos (‘He has made him known’, as John 1 says) and interpret the Old Testament as a partial revelation that was not made perfect until Jesus came? It seems clear to me that the second is the more Christian position.

To be continued...

Tim C.

Anonymous said...


Carl, you extrapolate from the pacifist interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and say, ‘Strictly speaking (if the pacifists are correct), the officer should give to the thief what the thief did not manage to steal. We should know we have a problem with our exegesis at this point. The Sermon is not and cannot be a discourse on political authority if it would drive us to such nonsensical conclusions.’ Well, let’s try this the other way around. If we are bound to take the Old Testament warrior God as our interpretive key for understanding Jesus, then let’s be clear that the Old Testament does not only justify war; it also justifies ethnic cleansing, and the murder of entire populations, including women and children. Canaanite babies, not just men of fighting age, are to be exterminated. Well, my response to that is, to slightly misquote you, ‘We know we have problem with our exegesis at this point. The Old Testament cannot be the deciding text on the issue of war and peace if it would drive us to such monstrous conclusions’.

You say that pacifism takes no account of John the Baptist’s lack of instruction to the Roman soldier to leave the army (by the way, Luke doesn’t specify ‘Roman’ soldier, and given the situation I think it more likely that it was Jewish temple guards he had in mind, but that’s neither here nor there). My response to that is to say that an argument from silence is very weak. After all, Jesus never explicitly tells prostitutes to leave their jobs, either. And if your response to that point is to say, ‘Surely the commands to avoid sexual immorality are enough?” then I would say, “And surely the commands to love your enemies are enough?’

Yes, Paul says that the state does not bear the sword in vain (and by the way, Romans 13 clearly refers to the power of the magistrate to enforce the law within the state, not the power of the army to fight wars on the state’s behalf). But it’s very clear that in Romans 12 and 13, the instructions to Christian believers are in Romans 12 - where we are told to respond to hatred by giving our enemies food and drink. Romans 13:1-7 describes the state in the third person (‘he’) - and assumes that the church members in Rome were not a part of its coercive machinery, because they had a higher loyalty and were answerable to a different standard stemming from a different calling altogether.

You abandon biblical exegesis altogether and start talking about ‘logic’, giving the situation of a police member and whether or not they are justified in shooting a criminal to protect a defenceless child. You are right, this is a real dilemma for pacifists. But let’s also acknowledge that we aren’t the only ones with a dilemma. If you claim that war is acceptable for Christians, you are then saying that if I had been a Christian bomber pilot flying over Germany in WW2, it would be perfectly acceptable for me to participate in the carpet bombing of German cities, knowing full well that my bombs were killing hundreds of defenceless women and children down below. You would. in fact, be saying that God approves of my killing those children. So what’s the difference? Defenceless children are being killed in both situations. In fact, you could argue that the second situation is more reprehensible, since they are dying by my act, not just my refusal to act.

to be continued...

Tim C.

Anonymous said...


Carl, you say, ‘The west makes pacifism costless’? Well, yes, I grant you that when it comes to my case (I usually say that I’m a ‘theoretical pacifist’, as my pacifism has not yet been tested). But try telling that to the Mennonites whose ancestors were hounded all over Europe because of their refusal to participate in military service. I know Mennonite people living in Edmonton today whose fathers and grandfathers were tortured and beaten and killed by the Bolsheviks in Russia in the early 1920s because they refused to bow to the power of the State. If you read Mennonite history you will see that they have paid a high price for their refusal to take up the sword.

‘The state has the rightful authority to compel service’. Really? The state has the God-given authority to compel me to disobey Jesus? I think not. Peter said, ‘We must obey God rather than human beings’. To put the commands of the state ahead of loyalty to Jesus is idolatry, pure and simple.

In summary, I’m not surprised that you don’t think pacifism is a credible Christian option. I’m not surprised, because I have the same view of your position. I think it allows you to ignore the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and I think it leads you into exactly the same kind of compromising moral and ethical choices that you accuse us pacifists of making.

You think our theology is full of holes; well, not surprisingly, we feel the same way about yours! To me this is not a small issue; it concerns the heart of the gospel, which is the story of a God who loves his enemies, chooses to allow them to kill him, and responds with love and forgiveness. It concerns a Master who tells me that if I want to follow him I have to be prepared to deny myself and take up my cross (which meant, in its original context, being crucified by the State as a traitor because I put my allegiance to Jesus ahead of the State’s demands). It concerns my theology of the Church as a signpost of the peaceable Kingdom, a community where the walls that divide Jew and Gentile, slave or free, male and female are broken down, and God creates a new community in which borders and ethnic origin are irrelevant. Paul sees it as an offence against the gospel that the members of this new community refuse to eat together, but split themselves off into Jew and Gentile; how would he see it when some members of this new community put on the uniform of their country and kill their fellow-Christians who happen to be wearing the uniform of another country? How is that not seen as an offence against the unity of the Body of Christ?

Not a good analogy with homosexuality? I agree - I think homosexuality pales into insignificance compared to this one!

Tim C.

Peter Carrell said...

I am very happy to have a thread about sexuality pivot to pacifism. It's when it is the other way that I am not so happy!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb,
(It's an option K by the way, so as not to confuse).
Several responses are possible:
1. If we believe we are preaching a true gospel which draws people in to the church then working out the way forward on sexuality consistent with this likely is a true way.
2. I couched my terms deliberatively so there is open-ended ness. Perhaps the true gospel we preach attractively is consonant with a liberal approach to sexuality and thus we should decide along those lines.
3. It is by no means agreed that we should change our current practice so it is worth introducing other measures to help decide one way or the other. A useful means for a church in decline is to ask whether a proposed change is likely to win or lose adherents.

However this need not affect the course you are taking: you are convinced that change is necessary because the theology supporting it is certainly true. In that case it would make no difference to your commitment whether the result was an increase or decrease in membership.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish your most recent comment.
The reason is that I am not comfortable presiding over a conversation where you ask another cleric how they do or would conduct their ministry re this or that circumstance, with specific reference to how their present appointing body would view that.
I suggest an appropriate forum for asking such questions (which are quite reasonable but also quite personal questions) is by emailing the person directly or giving them a call.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I need to edit out of the comment below some words which offer conjectural evaluation and speculation about a ministry: not helpful!

"I think, carl, that you may have a person of like mind - in your statement of relativity between a conscientious view of homosexuality versus one on pacifism. [] Your statement here:

"Normalizing homosexuality directly contradicts the Scripture. Pacifism does not. Accepting the normalization of homosexuality requires me to compromise my conscience."

...makes me wonder whether you are actually a member of TEC, which is leading the way on banishing homophobia in the Church. If so, how can you live with that and, as you say, 'compromise your concscience'? "

Father Ron Smith said...

I accept you moderation, Peter - Your Blog- Your Rules. I suppose I get over-challenged by assertions made by someone on your blog, and feel robbed of the right to reply.
However, as I say, your blog.


Father Ron Smith said...

"Let's think St Michael's and All Angels for a minute - say the vicar decided he couldn't belong to an ACANZP which didn't ordain those in same-sex relationships, and he decided to leave. the parish feels the same way, and thus dismembers."

In understood from our Hose that the use of personal names was a problem for him on his web-site. However, If I'm allowed to answer your question here:

The current likelihood of Saint Michael and All Angels Vicar deciding he could not belong to ACANZP if it did not ordain those in a Same-Sex relationship is next to nil.

But neither is it probable if the opposite situation were to obtain.

Your supposition is therefore hardly worth the thinking.

Another factor you need to realise is the SMAA is the oldest parish in Christchurch, occupying the original pro-cathedral site. Not likely to jump ship on adiaphora.

(Note to Host. I feel able to make this response on behalf of our parish and parishioners.)

carl jacobs said...


You wonder about so many things. I am not quite sure why you would wonder about my membership in TEC, however, since there is nothing to wonder about. I am not a member of TEC. I have never been a member of TEC. My attitude towards TEC is roughly analogous to Van Helsing's attitude towards Dracula.

The one time in my life that I attended a TEC church, I was treated to an astonishing display of syncretism - including a reading from Hindu writings, a reading from Buddhist writings, a reading from the Koran, and a version of the Lord's Prayer that was so distorted, I didn't recognize it as the Lord's prayer until halfway through. (All this presided over by one of the first 100 women ordained as a priest in TEC. My shock should be palpable.)

On occasion I have attended an ACNA church that is about a hour's drive from my home. That is the closest Anglican church in my area. I wish it was closer. I live among dead liberal Protestant churches, and shallow legalistic evangelical churches that have done so much damage to my family. I have very few choices.


carl jacobs said...

Oh and btw ...

TEC which is leading the way on banishing homophobia in the Church

Yeh. It's leading the way alright. Just like RMS Titanic lead the way - 12000 ft straight down.

TEC may think it is leading but who exactly is following? The caboose doesn't lead the train after all. TEC isn't even connected to the modern train - which self-evidently has no use for God at all. TEC sits ignored on a side rail thinking itself oh so relevant and heroically says "Me too." But no one listens.


Kurt said...

Well said and reasoned, Tim Chesterton!

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Perhaps Ron and Zane the point would be better made and understood if we talked about a hypothetical parish!

Zane's point is that if St Swithin's in the Swamp decided en masse to leave its diocese and province as a vicar-plus-parish unit then it could keep paying its vicar's stipend.

I think that point is irrefutable.

Zane Elliott said...

Thanks Peter,
SMAA was probably a poor choice, as Fr. Ron has pointed out.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Zane's point is that if St Swithin's in the Swamp decided en masse to leave its diocese and province as a vicar-plus-parish unit then it could keep paying its vicar's stipend.

I think that point is irrefutable."
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

Peter, you are right on this. However, the schismatic Vicar and parish would no longer be part of ACANZP and would incur the same problems of high-jacking property as has been the case in TEC.

Make no mistake here. I can see the distinct possibility of Zane's scenario breaking out in certain parts of New Zealand - but they would be in the minority.

As to the possibility of a bishop and his diocese leaving ACANZP, I can imagine only one prospect, but then, again, there would be property disputes attending such a decision. Perhaps the Sydney Diocese could buy them out?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I deliberately left our consideration of property.

I suggest discussion here and now about such things is too speculative.

I would also presume that an Option via Ma Whea for 'Dismemberment' is about a rational, considerate and careful approach which would avoid the unhealthy disputes we have seen in North America.

Incidentally, it is not my understanding that in the NZ church property owned by trust boards is subject to control by General Synod except for those trust boards appointed by General Synod.

Caleb said...

Very well said T.A. Chesterton; both on pacifism and on how we do indeed think each other are wrong on these issues, but nonetheless manage to co-exist (on violence/pacifism at least; but that's only about life and death; not something really important like the genders of marriage partners!). Thank you Tim!

Father Ron Smith said...

Tim, may I join others on this thread to congratulate you on your epic understanding of Scripture and the efficacy of war versus peace. i guess this is why Jesus has been called 'The Prince of Peace'. Agape

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, re the notional St. Swithins-in-the-Marsh. I guess it would have to be in Christchurch, built on a marsh?

If the parish was an old-established one in our diocese, I could hardly imagine it getting away with structural separation from the diocese without a necessary property agreement of settlement. But, of course, that might be negotiable through whatever severance plan was agreed with the diocese.

I doubt very much whether the departing congregation would be able to form a viable national church structure, though. How many dissidents are there in Aotearoa?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I am speaking hypothetically and generally.

I suggest you should be more worried about whether ACANZP is going to form a viable national structure fifty years from now, and what we might do to ensure that is so, than worrying about whether St Swithins in the Swamp will develop a national church structure

Anonymous said...

Peter I do appreciate your wit : ) ....

I also appreciate the opinions of Kurt and Carl as you give NZ insight into the ramifications of the decision (or not) at hand, given the Anglican branch of the US church made such a decision years ago. It appears (any corrections welcome) that the TEC was able to exist for a while as one church with two opposing beliefs on homosexuality until the time when a practising homosexual Bishop was elected and perhaps this, and maybe his views, were too extreme for those who held conservative opinions to be able to stay within the existing structure hence the formation of ACNA.

So what is clear for NZ?
One view or the other must be deemed the official one by the powers that be. For while we can live with theological differrences in the abstract (I have a good friend who is a priest and holds an opposing view to myself) when it comes to putting theology into practice
breaking point is likely to be reached.

Personally I have prayerfully tried to grapple with why theological positions on this issue appear to be unable to co-exist in practice than say that of Pacifism (smile) or Women in the church (double smile).

My conclusion. Often we approach the issue of homosexuality as one of personal identity rather than an issue of sin or not sin. Whether a homosexual attends church or goes to a cafe they remain either a man or a woman, their personal identity is not defined by the word homosexual, this word is a definition of either their behaviour or desires.

For the most part it also seems to be the opinion of most people on this blog that they would welcome and love and support men and women who practice homosexual behaviour or have homosexual desires into their church. Some have made it clear that in the end, whether naturally or pastorally, these people may be comfronted as to to the alignment of their behaviour with scripture (excluding those who choose celibacy).
So the general desire is men and women of this persuasion are to be loved.

So to put my head on the block I would vote the NZ Anglican Church chooses not to marry two women, or two men, or ordain into leadership men or women practising homosexual behaviour. All this based on scriptural references to homosexual behaviour as sin to the degree of understanding we have today (which I see no need to point out as they have been noted and debated endlessly).

It should also be clear people who practice homosexuality are as welcome as any other person is to worship in any Anglican Church. Just as those in de facto relationships are (even though we may not agree with their marital status). And that the church remains open to communication/discussion on all issues.

Caleb, I empathise with your passion for justice and equality but I believe we can not expand these notions to include sacrificing truth for the sake of inclusion. Jesus did not do this. Re bringing up children, having had a father I never knew and a tenuous relationship with a step father I would find it difficult to endorse a position where a child must contend not only with the uniqueness of being raised by two men or women but also the complication of another relationship or not with their biological father or mother (or both). I really liked your article in Anglican Life.

Carl I empathise with you being unable to find a home in a church that is neither extremist in its legalism nor extremely liberal in its theology. Re pacifism I was nuetral on the subject until I read Shane Claibourne's Jesus For President. An American pacifist who does put his money where his mouth is, if you are open to a different take on American culture it is definitely an insightful one.


Anonymous said...

Peter your option K is an interesting one, and definitely worth investigating.

An Anglican church I attended grew from ten families to a congregation of 120, and from a missional church into a parish. We had attendees from all denominations, we allowed infant baptism, infant dedication, adult baptism, communion for children, communion wine and grapejuice. We had a mix of contemporary and traditional music. The tool for parish growth was initially alpha. The ethos of the church was to introduce people to christ but to allow them to choose where to worship and to be a church where people could come and grow spiritually and be free to leave to pursue God's calling. The charasmatic gifts were practiced within the structure and liturgy of the Anglican doctrine. We also frequently had combined community services with churches of all denominations. We had an equal number of men and women. People looked as often to other congregation members as to the priest for prayer, pastoral care and advice, and the priest openly encouraged the congregation to practice praying for others, preaching, teaching etc etc. Prayer was an essential part of the church. The beliefs of most were conservative and the teaching aligned to this, however, an openly vocal husband who did not 'believe' of one woman came for ten years and was welcomed before he stood up and said he now believed. There were many examples like this. The focus was not on numbers but on sharing the word of God in practice, worshipping Him, and growing disciples. Often people were encouraged in services to give personal testimonies.

Cheers Jean

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Jean for your inspiring and robust thoughts!

Father Ron Smith said...

"I suggest you should be more worried about whether ACANZP is going to form a viable national structure fifty years from now"
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

Dear Peter. Such despair - not very fitting for an Educator in the Christchurch Diocese of ACANZP.

I, alternately, have every confidence in the continuation of ACANZP into the far future. This is God's Church, not a ghetto-style fabrication of dissident human beings who seem afraid of and for the future.

Hosanna to the Son David, Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
God's church is God's church but I have no great confidence that the Anglican part of it is earmarked for preservation.

If we are to survive the next fifty years (noting that various graphs give sober reason to worry about that) then we need to make the right decisions now.

My blogging is a tiny attempt to influence the church to make the decisions correctly. My training and educational work is a tiny attempt to assist ministers of the church to grow in grace so that our church flourishes.

I trust the latter work is not undermined by the decisions our church will make.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Dear Ron,
God's church is God's church but I have no great confidence that the Anglican part of it is earmarked for preservation." - Dr. Peter Carrell -

Oh, dear, Peter. More Depression! Does our Bishop know about this?

AND. Do you think that ACNA and GAFCON have a better chance of survival?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
My point is unremarkable. Jesus said he would build the church. No particular commitment was implied to individual denominations. Do you have some inside knowledge about a privileged position for the Anglican Church among God's preferences?

But you also give me no credit for my consistent attempt to point out that we have a future we can work for, and we have an opportunity to make good decisions to ensure our future.

We must do that work and make those decisions in the face of some sobering statistics about our life (e.g. Decline in census figures), as well as palpable observations about ageing congregations within Dioceses, including our own.

Our future is bright but not through complacent faith that God favours Anglicans over other Christians.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, F.Y.I. First and foremost, I am a follower of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Within that commitment, I became an Anglican - first within the C.of E., then in ACANZP, then in Fiji, then in Australia, then in the U.K. again. Back to N.Z., then to SSF in Australia, then back to NZ and the prospect of Ordination - since when I have been active as a priest in 'retirement'.

So my Anglican credentials are secure - for now. However, one day I hope to be worshipping Christ in the presence of The Father and the Holy Spirit together with all God's children.

I have no illusions about us Anglicans being the only Children of God. God is Father of ALL.

Have a wonderful Palm Sunday. Holy Week and Easter in the parish.
Agape. Fr. Ron

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
We are in agreement on the importance first of being followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, and only then being Anglicans!

Your kind best wishes for the festival days are warmly reciprocated.

Father Ron Smith said...

On your Friday up-date, Peter, you made this remark:

"I suggest that no one on the conservative side of the argument wishes the church to be a place where it is viewed as the only community within society where there is 'official discrimination' against gay members" - (Dr. Peter Carrell) -

Would it be happier, Peter, if there were more evidence of other people showing anti-Gay feelings?

Peter Carrell said...

Very funny, Ron.
Of course not.

Father Ron Smith said...

Looking forward to eternal life with God in the hereafter - where there will be no marriage or being given in marriage? Because that's the promise of the scriptures. I'm pretty sure most Gays can't wait for that day - when all God's children will become equal in privilege. It's just a pity we can't start being equal while still in the flesh - which was given to us by God!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
We are all equal in the flesh which means we have equal obligation to discern the will of God and live by it. That will will have been discerned when we find agreement together on how we understand God's will.

I would hate to mislead people as that would have consequences for me re eternal life.

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Peter for the Mollie Hemingway link. Some of the sanest stuff I've read in weeks!

As well as you bloke quote, a key line was:

"we saw in Eich a dissident who forced us to think about totalitarianism and our role in making society unfree."

Sobering stuff. But then many in NZ have little experience of totalitarian regimes ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I do agree with you when you say: "We are all equal in the flesh which means we have equal obligation to discern the will of God and live by it. That will will have been discerned when we find agreement together on how we understand God's will."

However, it would appear that some LGBT Christians have a rather different discernment of God's will FOR them - from that of some other Christians OF them.

Conscience is very much the responsibility of every single person. There is no such thing as a 'group conscience' before God. Or so I do believe.

When one's life is committed to the Christ within - nurtured by a Eucharistic Faith - one tends to live by the discernment that comes with such a relationship - which cannot be denied by other people, as sub-Christian (vide the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican)

Anonymous said...

The mistake that Mollie Hemingway makes is a simple one of logic: she assumes that reproductive intercourse is identical with marriage. Obviously it is not. It's a tired, old misidentification unworthy of being dragged up once again as some sort of new insight.

It means the impotent are not really married, and nor were St Mary and Joseph at Jesus' birth. Those past childbearing are in the same boat as homosexuals, and the church should forbid their marriage. We await the energy committed to stopping sperm donors, egg donors, and IVF. Let alone masturbation.

Forget about discussing same-sex procreation, and the research developing female sperm, let alone questions that might actually be worthy of the 21st century - the edges of genetic modification.


Anonymous said...

Or perhaps she just logically assumes the male and female organs were created for a purpose, one perhaps to obvious to ignore. And that purpose is procreation whether or not is able to happen for all couples. Not a new insight but a logical one.

As for the genetic modification albeit for reproduction or other uses. Like all scientific developments it is ethically neutral - it can be used for good or bad.

Maybe then a more appropriate 21st century question is are efforts to develop female sperm morally ethical or are we bordering at playing God? If the experiment goes wrong who bares the burden, the child?

Cheers Jean

Peter Carrell said...


Father Ron Smith said...

"The wrath of God, His judgement of all we have done or may do wrong."

- 'Arawhenua' -

Looking in on your correspondent 'ARAWHENUA'S web-site, I'm not surprised to find the above pericope

Why do some Evangelical Christians have to major on The Wrath of God?

What should be primary in our thinking - especially during Holy week, when we focus on the Love of God, in the self-offering of His Son on the Cross 'for our redemption'.

There is no hint here of 'The Wrath of God'. Rather, believers can discern the 'Great Love of God as revealed in the Son' - nothing to do with The Wrath of God, but rather, the inhumanity of man to Man.

"Christ our Passover is Sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the Feast. Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth!" Amen to that!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
The Bible is quite clear about God's wrath being visited on our sins.

Hebrews 10:26-7, for instance, makes the point that to wilfully sin after receiving knowledge of the gospel of God's gracious love demonstrated means, 'there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume adversaries.'

How much more so is the prospect of those who reject the gospel straight up!

Father Ron Smith said...

"The Bible is quite clear about God's wrath being visited on our sins.

Hebrews 10:26-7, for instance, makes the point that to wilfully sin after receiving knowledge of the gospel of God's gracious love demonstrated means, 'there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume adversaries.'

How much more so is the prospect of those who reject the gospel straight up!"

Peter, with due respect: The need of repeated confession of our sins (to daily-Mass goers, a daily occurrence) bespeaks the reality of the fact that we sin on a daily basis. Unless of course, one has attained to perfection in the meantime.

We now have a High-Priest who intercedes for us - on a permanent basis - not just on Ascension Day.
The real Good News of the Gospel is this inescapable fact; that Jesus died to save us sinners - not those who have no sin! They may not need salvation.

God's wrath has been overcome by a supreme act of God's redemption - showing unceasing love - for All Creation. We can. of course refuse tio be beneficiaries of this Love.

Peter Carrell said...

I think we are agreed, Ron, on the need to take sin seriously.

As I understand Hebrews' overall point, it is no light thing to refuse to be the beneficiaries of God's love.

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I am a bit disappointed after all your proclaimations of christian love that you took a sentence off my blog and used it to convey a message contrary to the post. I do not know your motivation for doing so.

Why did you not use the piece in the same post:
"It was Shakespeare who wrote ‘Though justice be thy plea, consider this— That in the course of justice none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,….” Meaning if we focus on true justice (doing no wrong) for all let us pray very hard because none of us will see heaven without mercy (unwarranted forgiveness). And in the bible we read, “Mercy triumphs over judgement. (James 2:13)”


"God through Christ could be both just and merciful because Christ took the payment for all human wrongs."

Do you not believe the wrath of God for our sins was put upon Christ on the cross? Do you really believe this is not a primary part of the Easter story? Is this not the love Jesus demonstrated when he died for us?

And please, I am evangelical, orthodox, charismatic and protestant, but really I am just a follower of Christ.

Blessings Jean

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron / Jean

I suggest further discussion of anything Jean has written on her blog should take place on her blog.

Continuing discussion about the post above or the contents of comments made here is welcome.

Anonymous said...

Sure thing Peter : ) cheer Jean

Caleb said...

I haven't read Hemingway's full article, but a few comments on the section you quote:

"there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system" - This betrays a naivete about the simplicity of sex/gender. It's not that simple for 0.1-2% of people, even on purely physical grounds. Even among straightforward male-female married couples, many don't have the bodily system between them - we call that infertility, and we still bless the marriages.

"a single bodily end" - again, Nope. That's not what Christians actually think (except Christians who oppose all sex for non-procreative ends, oppose contraception and believe post-menopausal couples have no reason to continue having sex).

We believe in sex we're co-ordinated towards mutual pleasure, expressing and building intimate bonds. Sometimes, we're also attempting to participate in the miracle of procreation. A Christian married gay couple having sex doesn't violate the procreative purpose of sex any more than my wife and I using contraception.

"In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh." - That's modern individualism, not Christianity. We work collectively in many ways for many ends. Sex/marriage makes us "one flesh" regardless of whether procreation occurs.

"Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — … is what marriage law was about … If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together." - This conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. The fact that we all exist due to one man and one woman getting together doesn't say anything about the necessity of procreation (let alone not-necessarily-procreative-male-female-couplings) to marriage.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb,
Hemingway is not being naive about what works for (say) 95+% of the population.

Life is more complicated for a few. Does that mean we have an all encompassing definition of marriage to account for all permutations of the human condition, or do we respond to those permutations in other ways?

I suggest that more value can be given to procreative sex in marriage than you give it.
- some remarks you make above re sex for pleasure, only occasionally for procreation are remarks we can make in an age of reliable contraception, which begs the question whether we are understanding Christian marriage according to feats made possible by technology or according to revelation through God's Word (cf. Roman Catholic theology of sex as that which is always open to life being created).
- if the end of marriage (in nearly all cases) is the production of children and their nurture in a loving, stable, unified environment, then sexual intercourse is an important means of strengthening love between husband and wife, of binding them together as a couple whose relationship when they have children will be severely tested, that is, while individual acts of sexual intercourse may prove to be non-procreative, the whole course of the sexual relationship can (and should) be shaped by the intention to have children, to bring them up in a loving environment, and to continue to strengthen the home via the continuing marriage of the children's parents.
- if sex is just for pleasure why not have as much as possible with as many people as possible? Absurd, I know. So perhaps sex is not just for pleasure but for nurturing a relationship. By why is this particular form of nurturing tied to the specific members of the body designed for procreation? Is not God's creational design for sex primarily for procreation?

Father Ron Smith said...

This focus on sexuality reminds me of the schoolboy's experience of a frightening myth that nocturnal emissions are 'occasions of sin' - to be repented of, with the threat of hell and damnation. Dear God!

Anonymous said...

“Or perhaps she just logically assumes the male and female organs were created for a purpose, one perhaps to obvious to ignore. And that purpose is procreation whether or not is able to happen for all couples. Not a new insight but a logical one.” Arowhenua/Jean

“Precisely!” Peter Carrell

To which confused distraction I repeat: The mistake that Mollie Hemingway (and now Arowhenua/Jean and Peter Carrell) make is a simple one of logic: she and they assume that reproductive intercourse is identical with marriage. Obviously it is not. It's a tired, old misidentification unworthy of being dragged up once again as some sort of new insight….

Marriage equality questions the misidentification of marriage with reproduction. Just because dogs have four legs doesn’t mean that only dogs can be classed as four-legged which is the Hemingway/ Arowhenua/Carrell confused, illogical position.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel,
Clearly you see as an absolute, shared assumption that reproductive intercourse is not identical with marriage and thus and so your critique flows.

But is this assumption the problem?

That among the requirements for marriage is openness to intercourse being reproductive? An associated requirement - theologically, I realise that technologically one argue differently - is that marriage is between a man and a woman. An associated benefit is that children are born into a parenting arrangement that consists of a mum and a dad.

What, theologically, is illogical about this understanding?

Caleb said...

Peter, I thought I had successfully articulated an understanding of marriage that is highly respectful of the miracle of procreation, while honest that it does not apply to all sex or even all marriages. And I certainly never said sex is just for pleasure, but also (as you put it) strengthening love and binding the couple together, and creating a relationship able to raise children (among other contributions to the Kingdom).

Perhaps I failed to make that understanding clear, so I'll copy+paste what I said, with a few annotations… perhaps you can read it again, bearing in mind my intention:

"We believe in sex we're co-ordinated towards mutual pleasure, [and] expressing and building intimate bonds. Sometimes, [some of us are] also attempting to participate in [or inadvertently participating in] the miracle of procreation [by which I and, until recently, all humans came into being]."

Re: the rest of your questions to me:

It is true that, roughly speaking (i.e. if we class everything from clitoris to uterus as one "member"), the same members of the body are used for procreation, mutual pleasure and nurturing lifelong Godly relationships (as well as urination. We should also remember the other body parts used in sex, and their other purposes). It is also true that there is a lot of overlap on the Venn diagram between procreation, mutual pleasure and nurturing lifelong Godly relationships (though there are also areas where the three do not overlap, for better or worse - and this was true long before contraception and IVF).

So, I do agree that sex is intimately connected to procreation, and i do not wish to sever the two from each other entirely. I just want to say that procreation is a purpose of sex in general for humankind (and all animals), but not necessarily a purpose of every sex act or sexual relationship - which I believe is already the (Protestant) church's position.

Whether reproduction is the "primary" purpose of sex is an interesting question, but I don't see how it can justify the church's current position whereby any man and woman (with sufficient capability and without being otherwise attached or related to each other, etc) can marry, but no non-opposite-sex couples can.

From my readings of Genesis (though I do think it's a mistake to see Genesis as the be-all and end-all, or supreme trump card, of our theological anthropology… Genesis was written with specific purposes which condition what it says and does not say about humankind) … Gen 1 seems to imply that the primary purpose of sex (in both senses of the word) is indeed procreation - the ability of humans to be fruitful and multiply. They have this in common with the animals (Gen 1:20-22), though with an added purpose of such fruitfulness - so that they are able to exercise God's image in benevolent rule throughout the entire community of creation (1:26-28).

Gen 2 adds extra "primary purposes" for sex/marriage, which do not mention procreation at all: an antidote for aloneness (Gen 2:18), non-subordinate mutual help (Gen 2:18), companionship and unity (2:21-24), kinship bonds forged through sex (one flesh, 2:24), etc. These purposes also do not require any particular sex or gender roles, despite the attempts of some to read them in such a way that they do. It's also worth noting that Jesus and Paul draw on these purposes (and add others) but do not mention procreation.

(I should note that Phyllis Trible's and Karl Barth's "gender complementarity" exegesis of these passages, as expressed by Sue Patterson at the Theology of Marriage conference, goes against the best recent Old Testament scholarship, which I have attempted to reflect above - though i do need to research more, particularly on Gen 2).


Caleb said...

So, I'm not sure how I'd answer your question about "the primary purpose," but no answer to it can possibly (ipso facto) justify the church's current position. Here are some of the main ways we might answer it:
- If procreation is an absolute essential purpose of every sexual relationship (still more if it's essential to every sex act), then someone known to be infertile should not be allowed to marry, gender aside.
- If the latter purposes of marriage are sufficient for a Godly marriage without reproduction, then there is no justification here for the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couple.
- If all marriages must be "open to children," but this can include adoption, fostering, being part of the 'village that raises a child" (and, yes, with today's technology we can add IVF to this category): again, there is no justification for the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couple.

Any possible fourth answer that does justify the church's status quo would need to import into the discussion something that distinguishes infertile opposite-sex couples from same-sex couples and this something would be about gender, not procreation.

You are trying to have your cake and eat it too by applying "procreation is primary" against non-opposite-sex couples but not against opposite-sex couples.

Despite the importance of procreation to humankind and most marriages, and despite your attempts to justify the status quo because of procreation, you do not actually support the status quo because of procreation but because of something else about gender. Your last comment to Rachel makes this particularly clear.

In answer to your question to Rachel about where the illogic is, this is where I see it: you're begging the question by bringing prior assumptions into your discussion of reproduction - and these prior assumptions are not, incidentally, based on reproduction but on gender roles.

If you (a) consistently argued for the status quo because of your understanding of gender roles, or (b) argued that no same-sex or infertile opposite-sex couples can marry because they can't procreate, or (c ) suggested all marriages must be open to children, and infertile and non-opposite-sex couples can be open to children in other ways, there would be no illogic (I would disagree with you on the first two, though).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
On procreation: I am happy to read your clearer and more fulsome appreciation of the relationship between procreation and sexual intercourse in marriage. It lies in the new words you bring to the table of discussion but it does not lie in the words you re-cite, ""We believe in sex we're co-ordinated towards mutual pleasure, [and] expressing and building intimate bonds. Sometimes, [some of us are] also attempting to participate in [or inadvertently participating in] the miracle of procreation [by which I and, until recently, all humans came into being]."" In my view those words make procreation somewhat incidental to sexual intercourse in marriage: my own view is that we enter marriage in order to be open to the life which proceeds from it, necessarily from the sexual engagement between husband and wife. This is not about "sometimes" this and "sometimes" that but about always being open to the gift of life.

However, as stated above, you have brought other things to the comment which are more to my way of thinking.

Incidentally, for the record, as a priest permitted to conduct marriage ceremonies, I would not conduct a wedding for a couple otherwise of child-bearing potential who declared their intention was not to have children; nor, for that matter, would I conduct a wedding for any couple who said it was not their intention to consummate the marriage.

Would I conduct a wedding for a couple not of child-bearing potential? Yes, in principle, because this is permitted by Scripture (see Romans 7:3-4; 1 Corinthians 7:39). In practice I would like to find out more about the situation (because, sadly, many second marriages do not work out well).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
The status quo:

First, as a point of interest re conducting exegetical enquiry, "the best of recent Old Testament" scholarship is a highly subjective criterion for assessing the work of other, older scholars.

The missing point in your argument is this: God has not set the church today an essay topic, "Heterosexual or same sex marriage: discuss reasons for and against on the basis of observations made about Scripture, tradition and science." If God had done that then your probing argument, with its attempts to say what I am saying (i.e. the church and its traditional understanding of Scripture) is illogical might have some merit and a dispassionate observer might award you victory in the debate.

However I am not aware that God has set up the debate in such a way that the status quo is up for grabs if those asserting it are found to be arguing illogically.

My awareness is that God has spoken to us in Scripture about how we are to live out our sexuality and the result is the status quo. That status quo might have reasons for it we do not understand from the mind of God; it might be the result of God being illogical; it might be what it is because we think we see clearly now what one day we will regret. But either way, it is not necessarily something to be overturned by pointing out the illogicality of the arguments adduced to support it. Revelation may or may not be logical. What do you say if in this case revelation is illogical?

However I am not thinking the arguments are illogical. God created humanity as male and female, equipped between them to bring about new life through sexual intercourse, and able as an extension of differentiated gender roles in reproduction to offer differentiated gender roles in parenting as mum and dad. Marriage is the name we give to this relationship where we ask the prospective mum and dad to be committed to each other for life, to share all property, and to constrain their sexual indulgences to each other.

To extend this understanding of marriage to a gender indifferentiated couple both incapable of producing children and of being differentiated mum and dad parents to children produced by other means (e.g. adoption) is a change to the understanding of marriage endorsed by Scripture and by tradition.

It is not a change which is in the same category as marriage for an older couple incapable of producing children but capable of being gender differentiated parents of adopted children since that form of marriage is provided for in Scripture and tradition.

The logic, providing we begin with Scripture as presupposition, remains logical. The illogic is to propose a change to marriage which fails to start with what Scripture endorses.

Obviously a lot more can be said about Genesis 1 and 2 than space in comments permits. We need to neither overrate not underrate the significance of these chapters, not least because of our Lord's citation from them. (I am not, by the way, suggesting that you are guilty of either error). A possible overrating is to take aspects of these chapters' narrative about marriage, produce a check list, and then a knock down argument.

As an instance, ... next comment

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb


an intriguing part of the narrative of Genesis 1 and 2 is the way in which companionship drives the creation of the woman, according to Genesis 2 (which, at this point, is a strong variation on the account of the creation of man and woman in G1).

What are we to infer from this?

It is possible that the inference is "companionship" is a characteristic of marriage. A further inference is then that companionship between any two people justifies marriage between those two people.

But the specific companionship in G2 is not any other human being, it is "woman". Companionship at this point is the social dimension introduced to human existence by humanity being made up of men and women. The aloneness of Adam is not met by another human being, e.g. as a friend, let alone as a lover. It is specifically, concretely met by a person of different gender. The missing dimension to human as male is a female human. Each becomes who they are re gender by the existence of the other.

For the narrative to then move to a declaration about a man and a woman leaving their parents to become one flesh is to make a specific point about the distinctiveness of humanity made diverse re gender being brought back into unity by sexual intercourse so that man and woman form one flesh, one human entity.

From this perspective marriage is more than companionship in the sense of removing loneliness through having a helpmate close at hand. It is a profound movement of reconstitution of differentiated humanity, a movement which enables human creation itself to occur. From the one flesh comes the life of the next 'adam' or human being, so one fleshness mimics the action of God.

Hence the Christian reading of these chapters as humanity's diversity in unity as imaging the very Triune being of the Creator. But you have previously dismissed this as eisegesis not worthy of comment!

Caleb said...

I feel like a broken record saying this, but it is NOT revelation that I am suggesting is illogical or in need of change. Revelation says absolutely nothing about same-sex marriage in 21st-century New Zealand - or about same-sex marriage full-stop. Only interpretation and application of revelation (special and general) says something about same-sex marriage. And it's in interpretations that we differ.

I do indeed believe interpretation and application to be "up for grabs" at all times, and in all places. "Up for grabs" is your phrase - please note that by accepting this phrasing I am not saying we should cast aside traditional interpretations and applications lightly. This means even longstanding traditional interpretations should be able to be questioned, and their defenders should be expected to offer a coherent defence for them. They are human interpretations and applications, by humans who are always fallible, and always capable of learning more. To suggest otherwise is surely human pride - as well as decidedly un-evangelical!

We've talked a lot on your various blogs over the past few months, and I'm sure it's taken up far too much of both your and my time. Rather than responding point-by-point to everything, I wonder if it might be worth tracing some of the main areas in which we fundamentally disagree - until one of us moves on at least one of these, we're probably unlikely to convince each other.

Burden of proof:

You suggest that by default the burden of proof is with those who are seeking to change tradition, not those who are seeking to defend the status quo against a suggested change. Although there are contemporary experiences of the outpouring of the spirit on LGBTI couples and various arguments against the 'traditional' stance, you still feel that the burden of proof is primarily on the 'changing tradition' side.

I think the burden of proof is on both sides. I agree that those seeking to change tradition have a huge burden of proof, but I also think that (as I said above) the tradition bears some burden of proof for defending itself when questioned, and particularly when experience or arguments suggest (even remotely plausibly) that the traditional position may have problems. I believe the arguments and experience have shown very plausibly that the traditional stance has serious problems - indeed, I find the traditional position ultimately unconvincing. If I'm wrong, I think I should be able to ask for a convincing defence of the traditional position - not necessarily from you, but from one or two of the billions of people/churches/academics who hold to it.

Caleb said...

Genesis 1 and 2:

You read various passages in these chapters (image of God, not good to be alone, one flesh etc) as referring to an idea of gender complementarity, such that the binary gender roles (male and female, Adam and Eve) are vital to the theological/moral meanings of the passages.

In my readings, the binary gender roles are not vital to the theological/moral meanings of any of these passages. The male and female gender identities are present in the passages, and described in certain ways (for a number of reasons), but they are never the focus. For example, the companionship passages in Gen 2 focus on Adam and Eve's similarity to each other (over and against the animals), rather than their sex/gender difference (in common with the animals).

Moreover, I believe "complementarity" readings are anachronistic - this is a very recent way of understanding gender, not found in the biblical texts or in theology until modern times. Until recently, gender roles have (implicitly or explicitly) been based on assumptions of "natural" gender hierarchy, not "complementarity."

One example where our interpretation differs is in our readings of "image of God." You interpret this phrase as gender-differentiated [which for you means gender-binaried] relationality - you even call this "the Christian reading of these chapters". Interpreting "image of God" as relationality (gendered or non-gendered) is popular among 20th-21st C. systematic theologians (largely influenced by Barth), but not with Old Testament scholars over the same period. Old Testament scholars instead tend to interpret as God's royal mandate for dominion over the earth (based on both close reading of the passage and examination of how "image of God" language was used in other Ancient Near Eastern contexts).

For critique of the "relationality" interpretation, and discussion of the "royal" interpretation and its unanimity among Old Testament scholars, see the first few chapters of J. Richard Middleton's The Liberating Image. James Brownson in Bible, Gender, Sexuality does not cover the same ground as Middleton, but he does provide a strong critique of Robert Gagnon's reading of "image of God" (and, indeed, the various other passages in Gen 1-2). Failing that, I discuss "image of God" in a footnote in my essay which you've kindly uploaded (though it's largely the same as what I've said here, with largely the same references).


You think procreation is the primary purpose of sex/marriage, sitting alongside and above its other purposes. I'm not sure how I'd describe it in terms of "primary;" I agree procreation is vitally important to sex/marriage in general, but I do think the church can bless individual marriages that will not lead to biological procreation, provided they meet the other purposes of marriage.

You believe it is coherent for our current restriction of marriage to male-female couplings to be defended on the basis of procreation (at least in part), despite Jesus' and Paul's downgrading of the importance of procreation. You suggest that all opposite-sex couplings (despite infertility) are in some way linked to procreation, but same-sex couplings are not. I think this is incoherent, and such a distinction can only be based on gender, not procreation.

You think I'm not valuing procreation enough in some of what I say about it. I think you're quite possibly correct with this criticism... but I still don't see how we can coherently "value procreation" in such a way that it allows for infertile or elderly opposite-sex couples open to adopting children, but not same-sex couples open to adopting children! Whenever you try to explain this, you move from procreation to gender roles.

Caleb said...

Gender differentiation:

My understanding of sex/gender differentiated is much more influenced by contemporary scientific accounts than yours is.

You equate sex/gender differentiation with maleness and femaleness. I see this binary understanding as one possible socially constructed understanding of sex and gender. Many societies have constructed binary understandings of sex and gender, but in different ways - the ancient Jewish gender binary looked different to the ancient Greek gender binary, which looks different to the 21st-C New Zealand gender binary.

I believe in reality, sex and gender are much more complex: people sit at various places on various spectra. Though most people in our society sit relatively neatly into one sex category and its corresponding gender category (e.g. I'm clearly male, and I'm masculine in some ways), this too is largely socially constructed.

You acknowledge diversity exists, but you still feel that essentialist and binary language is useful, because it's the language the Bible uses and it ca be applied quite neatly to most people in our society.

Theological understandings of Gender:

Even putting aside procreation (e.g. for the older couple), you believe binary gender roles (or, as you call it, gender differentiation) is enough to qualify a marriage as being worthy of the church's blessing.

In your recent comments, you have specifically related these gender roles to parenting; I'm not sure if this is as far as it goes, or if you also hold to ideas of specific gender roles in other aspects of marriage. You have also still not provided your theological understanding of gender (but you may feel you don't have to - cf. burden of proof).

I hold to a 'trajectory' reading of gender in Scripture (explained better in previous comments) which suggests our current responsibility is to eradicate all compulsory gender roles and restrictions (NOT eradicate gender differentiation - see above).

I have not been convinced by either (a) other readings of gender that offer support for compulsory gender roles/restrictions, or (b) arguments that marriage is not included in the movement against compulsory gender roles/restrictions (in your words: the priesthood is "gender indifferent" but marriage is not).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb,
Thank you for clearly and helpfully setting out main points of difference between us (or "us" as I believe what we are doing is setting out arguments of groupings of Christians, rather than individually-held opinions).

Among the things you mention the things I would like to emphasise or press a little further are:

1. A Trinitarian reading of Genesis 1 and 2: I appreciate that OT scholars read things differently from (say) Barth. But that, in my experience, is typical of the discipline: Christian OT scholars resolutely read the OT as thought the NT (and subsequent theological reflection) does not exist. Fair enough in the sense that the OT deserves to be read on its own account. Not at all fair in the sense that Holy Scripture is the book of the church which reads it as a wholly Christian book (library of books).

2. Procreation and gender: to a degree I may be guilty of switching from (say) primariness of procreation to gender difference as I argue but, perhaps not clearly enough, I have tried to explain that I see the two as intertwined. A male and a female procreate. The procreated child is brought up by a mum and a dad. These roles are not gender indifferent, nor are they simply about who provided the sperm and who provided the egg and carried the procreated one to full term. Marriage (in a sense) is the relationship between a man and a woman having sexual intercourse open to procreation while in a covenanted relationship intended to bind the sperm-provider to being father of the child and egg-provider to being mother of the child. In sum, procreation is integral to gender difference in marriage. My argument swings from one part of the integrity to the other, not from one issue to another issue.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb,

In your most recent three comments I want to note two areas where we could continue to argue back and forth, but I accept that there may not be much purpose at this time in doing so ... time is precious and all that!

Note 1: revelation and its interpretation ... I am not sure that revelation and our interpretation of it is so easily separable as your words imply (e.g. that revelation could be logical and our interpretation could nevertheless be illogical).

Note 2: burden of proof ... yes, it could be that on specific points, certain emphases and so on, the burden of proof is to be equally shared. Nevertheless the overwhelming, clear understanding re marriage, shared across churches, through millennia, maintained still by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, nearly all Protestants and Pentecostals, does set up a situation where the burden of proof for significant change to the status quo is with the changers, not the maintainers.

Consider this: suppose we were to agree that Scripture is silent on same sex marriage as a possibility. (In itself that would be a major change for conservatives) Where does that take us? It does not require us to change anything. Scripture which is silent on same sex marriage is even more silent on requirement to permit it. The burden at that point is on those arguing that the church should make change.

Anonymous said...

“Clearly you see as an absolute, shared assumption that reproductive intercourse is not identical with marriage and thus and so your critique flows. But is this assumption the problem?” Peter Carrell

I am genuinely interested in understanding your perspective better, Peter.

If a couple cannot, in their sexual activity, be “open to be reproductive” because they are way past childbearing age, or the male is paraplegic or quadriplegic, or the female has had her uterus removed because it was cancerous, or the male is impotent after a prostate operation, or any other reason… in all these cases, Peter, would you stick to your principles and refuse to marry them?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rachel,
That is a good set of questions!
I think they would be best answered in discussion with the couple concerned.
Certainly the Bible does not forbid the marriage of an older couple.
A couple unable to have children would be able to parent as a mum and a dad through adoption.

Caleb said...

Re: image of God, trinity, gender and whether the three have anything to do with each other: Firstly, fair enough about reading the Bible as in some sense one coherent story, but it's also dangerous to brush over the differences between the different texts/human authors/testaments. We need to do justice to both the human and the divine side of Scripture. There can be good and bad examples of reading later theology onto OT passages... I think eisegeting modern ideas of "gender complementarity" onto passages in Gen 1-2 with little or nothing to do with gender is a bad example.

Likewise, reading Trinitarian relationality onto Gen 1:27. I understand that in later theology, the phrase "image of God" has become a cipher for theological anthropology more generally - drawing on the various ways this phrase is used in Scripture, as well as everything else Scripture says about who we are in relation to God. Fair enough - I'm OK with this so long as you're using the phrase generally and so long as it's based on good exegesis of the relevant passages you're drawing upon. But if you're going to read that general theological understanding onto each individual verse that uses the phrase, and use that to draw conclusions about the other phrases in those verses (ie "male and female"), I think you're getting into more dangerous ground, especially when to formulate this argument you're required to completely miss the original meaning of the passage in its contexts. Besides, there's plenty in the Bible to suggest we're social beings, not neo-liberal atomised individuals, and that we're called to imitate God's social nature - it's not necessary to misinterpret Gen 1:27 in order to argue this (unless of course you want to use this as a circuitous way of reading "male and female" back into humanity and/or trinity).

Re: Trinity and gender, I think you have acknowledged in a previous comment (though I can't find it) that the Trinity doesn't translate neatly onto gender binary. I agree... for a start, there's three of them (which may not be such a problem for Barth, but there's only two in my marriage) and only one of the three has a clear and necessary gender (notwithstanding masculine/feminine pronouns used for the other two in Hebrew and Greek). I think there's a far better case for seeing the Trinity as endorsing relationality/diversity in general than for specifically endorsing the relationality/diversity between a husband and a wife, over and above the relationality/diversity of churches, religious orders, friendships and - yes - same-sex marriages. If you want to bring gender (one of the ways we're diverse) into it, Sarah Coakley's article "The Trinity and Gender Reconsidered" argues strongly that a Trinitarian view of gender would be a fluid and non-binary "differentiated relationality" - largely because of how the Trinity doesn't neatly fit into gender binary.

We probably will have to agree to disagree about procreation/gender roles, and about how much (if any) burden of proof the "no change to church teaching" side has to defend that stance. (And possibly on revelation/interpretation too - I didn't fully follow what you meant by your brief comment)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb,
- When you write, " I think eisegeting modern ideas of "gender complementarity" onto passages in Gen 1-2 with little or nothing to do with gender is a bad example." a number of questions are begged as any Christian thinking about gender complementarity in any age begins with these two chapters. Exegesis not eisegesis!
- It is confusing to read 'image of God' in terms of a social relationship (husband and wife, man and woman) and then be told to avoid the atomising individualism of modern times!
- Various human relationships exhibit diversity but are any of them as special as that of marriage between a man and a woman? This relationship is a central concern of the narrative in Genesis 1 and 2 re humanity made in the image of God; and invoked in terms of Christ's relationship with the church in Ephesians 5. In neither place are religious communities, friendships, let alone same sex marriages held up as special.
- revelation/interpretation: you are not writing a book so I am not suggesting you have made an error in thinking per se, but what you do say in a brief comment implies that we have God's "revelation" which is good and logical and without fault and man's "interpretation" which is liable to be bad, illogical and faulty. That seems to push the distinction between revelation and its interpretation too far. It is odd, for instance, to have a God who reveals things only for them to be so misunderstood. Might God reveal things which people readily understand? A revealing God intuitively seems to be a God who wants to be understood!