Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dear AC, We are proud of our fudge. Would you like the recipe?

Well, that didn't take long. Fiery epistles (here, here) being written in Australia about what a dim-witted decision we have made! Talking down the 'natives' comments from North America. The word 'fudge' has been used - somewhat deprecatingly? - in one of the Australian epistles. Well, let's use that word - I love fudge, especially made by my Mum, not too sweet, with a bit of crunch - and let's turn the tables a bit: has ACANZP a recipe to offer the rest of the Anglican Communion?

Dear Anglican Communion,

Yesterday our General Synod/te Hinota Whanui came to a resolution about same-sex relationships. It is quite long so I will send you to a link rather than reproduce it here. It should be read alongside a letter from our three Archbishops. Also helpful will be this report on Taonga.

What has been resolved has been described as 'fudge'. I guess that is because it is an amalgam of opposing views, a familiar and classic Anglican solution to differences among us.

Across the Communion, however, we are well aware that any such fudge on this matter is a bit different to other fudges. Divisions have occurred in some places (i.e. instead of fudge there has been a brittle biscuit/cookie) and in other places it seems like no one is prepared to enter the kitchen, let alone get the ingredients out to make fudge.

While only time will tell whether our fudge is a good fudge, I want to suggest some reasons for hope (from a conservative perspective) that it is good fudge.

1. Our Synod engaged in a remarkable process of listening at all possible levels (by tikanga, by house, by diocese) so all could contribute, not just those comfortable speaking in plenary session. The process seems to have been slow and deliberate, and carefully worked out as 'in committee' so that people were free to engage frankly and freely without fear of creating unhelpful headlines.

2. Out of that discussion a nine person working party was set up. I do not know the full membership of the group but the members I do see in photos on the Taonga website assures me that it was a group of clear and convictional thinkers from all parts of the spectrum of views.

3. The resulting resolution, UNANIMOUSLY agreed, is framed in its preamble with a sure theological explanation of the church in relation to the grace of God revealed in the gospel. That is a great sign that we are a church which wishes to think before we act and to act according to our thinking - the general Kiwi tendency is to make pragmatic decisions and to think up the reasons afterwards!

4. We are upholding the doctrine of marriage as we have received it:

"In the midst of the articulation of many theologies and cultural influences, our unity in Christ was never-the-less evident even when we disagreed.  The Church has received and articulated an understanding of intimate human relationships which it expresses through her doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman, and is life-long and monogamous.We uphold this traditional doctrine of marriage." [from the preamble to the resolution]

5. We are acknowledging that life today is different to yesterday, without making stupid and superficial claims that the revelation of the Spirit changes to fit with today, while also acknowledging what we have known for a long time as Anglicans, that we are not agreed on doctrine:

"We recognise a diversity of voices about what constitutes a right ordered intimate relationship between two persons regardless of gender.  At this time it is the will of the General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui to respond to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Although we are far from unanimous in seeing the way forward, there is a broad recognition of the dynamic nature of doctrine, and the call of the prophetic word to be attentive to the movement of the Spirit.  There is no questioning the depth of love and commitment in some gay and lesbian relationships and their commitment to serve the wider community and to be disciples of Jesus Christ." [from the preamble to the resolution]

6. We have drawn a 'line in the sand' about the place of those whose understanding of marriage and blessings of other relationships is 'conservative' - making the following statement the first part of our resolution:

"A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is contrary  to scripture, doctrine, tikanga or civil law, will not be required to perform any liturgy for the blessing of same-gender relationships, will continue to have integrity within the Church, and will remain compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction;"

7. We have accepted formally that we are a church with 'two integrities' on these matters by also resolving:

"A process and structure by which those who believe the blessing of same-gender relationships is consonant with scripture, doctrine, tikanga and civil law  may perform a yet to be developed  liturgy for blessing same-gender relationships  in a manner which maintains their integrity within the Church, is compliant with the parliamentary legislation within any relevant jurisdiction, and can remain in communion under scripture, doctrine and law; including(i)  A proposal for a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships;
(ii)  A process and legislation (whether church or parliamentary) by which a new liturgy to bless right ordered same-gender relationships may be adopted;"

In other words, we have not asked people to change their views, nor to compromise their views, but we are asking ourselves to stay together with our different views.

8. We are asking for people to be patient and gracious, noting the unhurried nature of governance in our church. The following will satisfy only those seeking change who are willing to be patient and gracious:

"Clergy who so wish are permitted to recognise in public worship a same-gender civil union or state marriage of members of their faith community:(a)  with the permission of their licensing Bishop; and
(b)  with the permission of their Vestry or equivalent leadership body.
Such recognition cannot be marriage or a rite of blessing of a same-gender relationship.
We recognise that this may cause even further distress.  Noting the commitment of the Church demonstrated in clauses 1 to 4 above, we ask the LGBT community to recognise that any process of change within our Church takes time."

We may wish to raise all the criticism in the world about when a prayer is a prayer and not a blessing and vice versa but that would be to miss the point. We are organising ourselves as a church to get to a certain point about blessings and in the meantime the above compromise is offered as a way forward because there is a need to allow our church to digest points 1 to 7 above.

Woven through those eight observations if a recipe for a way forward for those with ears to hear it. It has been bathed in prayer and suffused with goodwill on all sides of the Synod. It is offered free of charge to the Anglican Communion.

Yours sincerely,
A clerical pundit from the ends of the earth.


Barry said...

The whole subject is known by many as "No win; loose, loose".

No matter what action is taken – other than status quo - the Church will be the looser. Any action will alienate some (or a lot) of current parishioners.

Once the first step is taken, the inevitable end point is a very unhealthy place. Let me explain.

50 year ago our parents would have considered us insane if we told them that it would not be long before homosexuality was legal, and whats more same sex marriage would also be legal. They would have called for the men in white coats!!

In Scandinavia there is a small but solid group calling for the removal of ALL restrictions on marriage. Anyone could marry anyone else. Brother/brother, mother/son, etc This might sound crazy but hold on. The only reason for current limits is the production of insane (lunatic) children – which is what usually is produced from breading between people of very close relationship. But with mostly free contraception around the world and now with same gender marriage (no possible children) then there is no real argument against unlimited marriage.

This is the rather unhealthy place that same sex marriage will inevitably migrate towards. Yes – I can already hear you saying something like “That will never happen” – but believe me it will.

And once any organisation starts down the recognition track then it eventually has to follow whats legal in that society.

So get ready for some rather strange couples applying for vicar jobs…. Yes – it might be 50 years away – but its inevitable once the organisation starts recognition

Father Ron Smith said...

"The whole subject is known by many as "No win; loose, loose".
- Commenter here -

The only thing loose about this conversation is the grammatical howler made here.

I presume Cimmenter meant the word 'lose' rather than 'loose'.

But then, loosey-goosey could describe the facility with which our Church manages conflict. Rather like the line in the hymn: "Rigid sinews - gently bend".

Better bend than break!

I thing our General Synod has performed the miracle we needed - even though at a slow pace.

Joshua Bovis said...

Fudge - a verb
: to fail to deal with (something) in an open and direct way

: to speak or act in a way that is meant to avoid dealing with a problem directly

: to change (something) in order to trick people

John Sandeman said...

I am normally a fan of cognitive dissonance but I wonder if this one will work. One of the aspects of traditional marriage is that it has been considered the only relationship in which sex should take place. Thats the tradition.
By setting up another relationship in which sex is allowed, isn't your General Synod changing Traditional Marriage?
This proposal would seem to fall short of both what LGBT people want and what the traditionalists want. And the reactions seem to bear this out.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Joshua,
I hope someone gives you the new Anglicanised edition of the dictionary:

additionally under 'fudge' (verb) it has:

- to amalgamate contrasting points of view, like the ingredients in Mum's fudge


Peter Carrell said...

Hi John (Sandeman)

There are already two relationships which our church recognises as being sexual and also chaste:

Traditional Marriage

Marriage after divorce for reasons other than those allowed by Jesus and Paul.

What I am coming to recognise is that there is an argument mounted with theological integrity which asks if we can make such accommodation in the second instance, why not in the third, of a blessed same sex relationship?

While I don't agree with the argument it has sufficient force for me to acknowledge that it is held by honourable Anglicans.

Thus to you point: 'Traditional Marriage' has already been changed in our church. We seem to have survived.

As to the unhappiness of some on both sides of the debate ... there seem to be some very happy people in the middle ground!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

I have been thinking about the decision made at General Synod and my conclusions are:
1)The process decided by General Synod is one of grace.
2) However, this issue is too divisive in the long term for the church to have two positions. There will be contention in the future and that may lead to different churches emerging.The decision at General Synod might allow that to take place with a degree of consideration and care. Allowing some peace and space is a good thing.

The real issue is that within the ACANZP there is no longer a uniformity of belief, particularly over the role of scripture. The root of this goes back a long way and can probably only ever be resolved by the church splitting into its component factions.

I enjoy your blog and am interested in your thoughts about this.

Cheers - Chris

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris
I absolutely agree with your (1).
You may be right about (2).
What may happen is that, first, we do stick together for quite a while; secondly, over time demographic change continues in our church: if this grows the conservative or the liberal emphasis among us re Scripture then that approach to Scripture will finally predominate.

But if we remain, roughly, the same church demographically-and-theologically, i.e. two strong integrities, then, yes, in the end we may not be able to live together. (An analogy, from this week, is the nearness our church came to reducing three tikanga to two).

Michael Reddell said...

I write as a bit of an outsider: someone who attends more Anglican services than anything else, and yet who is reluctant to throw his lot in with an Anglican congregation while the uncertainty around this issue has gone on.

I'd like to believe this is one of those compromises that could be lived with, perhaps akin to the presence of pacifist and just war strands within the church. But I don’t think it is. We don’t, for example, find liturgies in the NZPB on that issue. Peter notes potential parallels with the matter of remarriage after divorce (beyond grounds allowed by Jesus and Paul), which is hardly an encouraging example - since what was once regarded as ungodly behaviour is now widely taken for granted within the Protestant churches. And it is difficult to impute any meaning to a commitment by the denomination to reaffirm the doctrine of marriage as between one man and one woman, and the one place within which relationships should be sexually consummated, while at the same time it is willing to officially recognise, and bless, stable long-term gay relationships. The blessing of gay relationships may not undermine or threaten any individual marriage, but it undermines the very institution - which has its origins in the very earliest days of humankind. And it is difficult to see how the two views will co-exist in the church long-term, especially while the secular society has such a strong push to marginalising, and perhaps prohibit, any dissent on issues around homosexuality. See, for example, the recently ousted CEO of Mozilla.

My church history is not as good as it should be. But through 2000 years I’m struggling to think of other formalised accommodations of this magnitude - of taking behaviour condemned both in Scripture and throughout the history of the church, and blessing it; affirming it as good and of God. Churches have at times been indifferent to lots of things they should have acted or spoken out more strongly on - one might think of slavery in the past, or abortion today, but neither was blessed - affirmed as good - in the liturgies of the church. Erastianism has at times been a problem - perhaps especially for the Church of England, formally a creation of king and Parliament, but again it did not infect the lituriges or doctrines of the church.

I was interested in the reports that the General Synod resolution was unanimous. I’m not familiar with procedures, but would this have been a voice vote or a secret ballot. Unanimity in the latter would be truly impressive, while on a voice vote it means no more than “lack of vocalised dissent” in an open meeting.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
I think the first thing to acknowledge is: you may be right!

Some quick thoughts re the church (Anglican in particular) cobbling together compromise and holding it would include the accommodation of anglo-catholic and evangelical approaches to understanding the eucharist (especially if one thinks of evangelicals as believing we are true heirs of the English Reformation and anglo-catholics as believing the Reformation was a giant mistake save for removing Papal control). In my own Diocese there is a remarkable story for future historians to tell of having a woman bishop lead a diocese which includes clergy and congregations that do not think women should be presbyters let alone bishops.

One further quick thought: is it too early to tell whether future generations of Anglicans might yet agree as a church that what Scripture has not taught against is faithful, permanent, stable, loving, sexual relationships between two people of the same gender? That is, we are two integrities at present, but might that change in a peacable way in the future?

Father Ron Smith said...

"My church history is not as good as it should be. But through 2000 years I’m struggling to think of other formalised accommodations of this magnitude - of taking behaviour condemned both in Scripture and throughout the history of the church, and blessing it; affirming it as good and of God."
- Michael Redell -

Think, for instance, of Divorce, Slavery, Treatment of Women as Subservient, Usury, Patriarchalism. All of these overturned in the spirit of New Testament, Gospel, updating.

Sure, there has been a lot of change to scriptural norms. Just needs a wee bit of thinking about.

Bryden Black said...

As time goes on and more respondents than usual chime in (on various threads), we are getting some good conversation. As a reasonably regular commentator here, my thanks too.

While the mood of the GS does seem to have been a “remarkable” time of “grace”, from various accounts, I have to seriously wonder whether in the longer term we in ACANZ&P are through this resolution just on a hiding to nowhere. That is because the root causes of the opposing views are simply incommensurate and have been side-stepped (for they are NOT just paradoxical, as per + Kelvin on his blog, which approach runs into the serious possibility of being mere monism; nor will Peter’s “fudge” survive ...). I.e. Positions on Scripture have been cited; I too have mentioned this - often. More expansively, basic sets of assumptions of the role of the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral are also at stake - which is another way of saying what I have all along believed regarding authority and legitimacy being the absolute base issue under contention. “Experience” is often touted as the clinching source - but I have addressed that elsewhere under 30 April post, space for which Peter kindly offered as my commentary piece on the Theology’s Commission’s Ma Whea? Report - the epistemology section towards the end.

Nor do I think Peter your analogy re divorce really stacks up (along with other analogies of seemingly opposing views, like Just War). This old hoary chestnut has been paraded too often, in my view, since there’s perfectly adequate theological and pastoral work already done and easily available which is of an entirely different league to that re ss ‘marriage’ etc. I’ve cited the CoE’s Winchester Report (2002 I think from memory) before on ADU. Its processes knock into a cock hat, for example, the TEC’s “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church”: A report offered by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops (2010), which simply runs two opposite views alongside each other without any attempt at discernment: pluralism rules OK! Which is simply foolishness in the end - and not of the 1 Cor 1-3 kind.

I seriously wonder how our own “fudge” differs in the end from the approach of the TEC HOB report. Ours is merely pluralism of another variety - even if it might be a form of temporary grace, a gracious space for us to catch some kind of breath ... Yet pluralism in the end nonetheless.

Michael Reddell said...

I'm not sure most of those examples fit my bill. Was slavery ever blessed - taken as given perhaps by Paul, but not blessed or declared good? Or were those slippery concepts of "treatment of women as subservient" or "patriarchalism", or lending only without interest?
Yes, many Christian attitudes to many of these things (and others - I noted abortion earlier), have changed, hot always for the better, but have the liturgies and doctrines of the church? As I noted in my original comment, the remarriage after divorce precedent is not an encouraging one for the argument that this is a reasonable and enduring compromise.

But I take Peter's point about the ordination of women, and will need to think further about that as precedent, and how it illuminates thinking about the current issue.

Andrew W said...

Divorce: still explicitly condemned by doctrine, hypocrisy in practice

Slavery: bulk of historical church teaching is that it's generally a bad thing, official church teaching (at least in Europe) at forefront of condemning chattel slavery throughout 2nd millennium AD, even if often ignored in others.

Usury: debated throughout the last 2 millennia, not explicitly addressed in liturgy, arguably instance of hypocrisy throughout that time.

Male headship: consistent doctrine of church throughout last 2 millennia. Still enshrined in liturgy in many churches (see marriage ceremonies).

So, in summary, "Because there is some stuff the church hasn't put into practice well over the last two millennia, we should regard ANYTHING as up for grabs if the world reckons it knows better than eternal God". How well did that work out for Adam & Eve?

(And yes, I know it's a "mystery" how the Church could be so clueless for 2000 years only to be led to true knowledge of goodness by the philosophy of anti-God 17-18C Europeans)

Peter Carrell said...

Dear All,
Thank you for recent comments. I wonder if I could ask you (with Michael who has already said he is doing so re women's ordination) to think more positively about the possibility that 'fudges' can exist in the life of churches, and survive for longer than we think.

Here is one example: annulment in the Roman church doesn't look like it is going away any time soon but it is a fudge of the kind that the church pretends through legal examination that an actual marriage is not a proper marriage and so a new marriage can be engaged which does not constitute a variance with the teaching of Jesus.

Here is another example: co-operating parishes in NZ have been around for a while and look like they will be needed for a while longer. Some parishes involve a 'fudge' (highlighted in discussions this week at GS) whereby a Methodist minister can take an Anglican eucharist service which all parishioners will participate in as a valid eucharist ... but it is not an Anglican eucharist because we have deemed by ecclesial fiat that it is not so because the Methodist presbyter is not an Anglican priest. At worst it is a play on words, at best it is a way for honouring niceties of theology of ministry without drilling down to the nitty-gritty of what is actually going on in presidential ministry in each church.

I am thinking of starting a Fudge Appreciation Society. Motto: There is more to fudge than meets the eye.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Peter for suitable prompting of further possible - possible - parallels. Re annulment: this from T19, which is educational:

38. driver8 wrote:
Of course - when women were ordained as presbyters, the view that only men could be so ordained was repudiated. Men are still ordained, and a few in England at least, are still ordained who continue to believe what the church believed for almost all its existence. However the church as such no longer shares this view.

Indissolubility has a more complex history. William Fittall, Secretary General of General Synod, recently denied that the CofE ever held an indissolubilist view of marriage. His meaning however was very tightly restricted - namely that the CofE did not hold that the very rare second marriages after divorce by Parliamentary Act were bigamous. However, it was silent concerning the more general point that ecclesiastical courts, which handled matrimonial matters until 1857, had no jurisdiction to grant divorce in the modern sense. In that sense, the CofE was surely indissolubilist.

Indeed though the 1857 Act transferred jurisdiction to civil courts, and permitted dissolution by such, it didn’t change canon law: it simply made canon law a legal irrelevance. Even the current Canons affirm that marriage is by its nature a union permanent and lifelong. On the other hand - since the 80s pastoral provision for remarriage in church following divorce has been delegated to individual clergy - this only makes sense on a view that the church might properly reshape its pastoral practice in the light of the power of the state to dissolve marriage.

It’s complex - due to the whole civil/ecclesiastical thing - and the CofE’s ability to say two apparently contradictory things simultaneously. William Fittall assures us that the CofE never taught indissolubility; on the other hand, I’m not quite sure that, at some level, it isn’t residually still present in the church’s teaching - though completely incapable of being enacted.

Apologies - for this rambling rumination - I rather regret thinking about it out loud but as I’ve typed it I’ll leave it.

Thank you Drive8 for these insights into how insolubility/annulment played/s out in the Mother Church.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Its processes knock into a cock (sic) hat, for example,...." - BB -

Another schoolboy howler! Does it have feathers, one wonders?

Worth tuning in for this sort of
unintentional humour. Makes my day!

Bryden Black said...

Tu as raison, Msr Ron; excusez-moi! J’étais à la mode poètique - knock // cock. Mais voyez vous cette pièce alors:

Peut-être ça marche au lieu de ton biretta - ?

Meanwhile, your response to the pluralism of TEC’s HOB report would be appreciated.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bryden, not being, myself, a person devoted to seeking out what might be thought by others to be heresy, I don't go looking for trouble on doctrinal issues. No, I have not read the TEC HOB report you refer to. Far too busy in the parish. May get down to it later.

No doubt though, you will be giving us your opinion ere long. We wait with bated breath!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter (and others interested in how we're doing in ACANZP on our capacity for 'fudging' on issues of sexuality); it should be acknowledged that the Roman Catholics are not immune to such accommodations - one of which is the issue of contraception - forbidden by the Magisterium, but practised widely by the faithful laity.

Just for the record!

Edward Prebble said...

Peter and others.
Various forms of busy-ness have kept me from commenting much on this matter, and I thought I'd like to respond to your original posting, rather than pick up the rather rambling conversation that has followed it. You will know that I comment from a strongly liberal perspective on these issues, but also from a deep desire (like yours) to find the middle ground.

I think your summary is brilliant, Peter, and full of grace. One of the interesting features of the General synod resolution (something either encouraging or disturbing depending on the point of view) is the extent to which you and I are in agreement here. I really like and agree with your 8 point summary (with one addition that I've put in another comment so as not to confuse this one).
I may be distressed at what seems an appallingly glacial speed of change, but change is happening. You may be concerned at the as yet unknown nature of a future accommodation for those taking a traditional stand on these issues, but we have committed ourselves to making such an accommodation.

You are right that we do not know what demographic changes will happen, and how they will impact on an eventual definitive policy, but it is significant, and a mark of grace, that we have committed ourselves to stay in the same room and keep talking.

And let me comment on Mike Reddell's question about how a "unanimous" vote happens. I, like you Peter, am no longer a member of General Synod, but from my experience when I was, I expect that this was a voice vote with no one voting "Nay". Our very complexity (approval by all three houses and all three Tikanga) leads in fact to very few formal divisions. The work in all the caucuses and plenary sessions, and the work of the 9-member committee would have been spoken of a aiming for a form of words that "we can all agree on". The fact that GS managed this on a matter of such profound controversy says a lot about the skill with which the synod was led.

Thanks for your comments.

Edward Prebble said...

I think your excellent 8-point summary misses one important aspect, so I offer a 9th point: we as a church have apologised to gay and lesbian people for how we have handled these issues and how we have discussed them in the past.
That is actually a very big thing. It is a powerful way of emphasising that something different needs to happen now; whatever happens in 2, 4 or ten years, the status quo cannot continue if we feel that an aspect of the status quo is something we need to apologise for.
One of the reasons why governments are very reluctant to apologise for anything is that it opens the way up for later law suits or claims for compensation. An international example is the agreement the New Zealand and French governments came to 25 years ago after the Rainbow Warrior bombing. while we Kiwis may have been unhappy at the low level of compensation, no one else has ever got the French to apologise for anything! It was a recognition that wrong had been done, and a commitment not to repeat the wrong.

The resolution of our General Synod needs to be seen in a similar light.

MichaelA said...

"(And yes, I know it's a "mystery" how the Church could be so clueless for 2000 years only to be led to true knowledge of goodness by the philosophy of anti-God 17-18C Europeans)"

Very funny, Andrew W, and very true!

And yes, Fr Ron's assertion that there has been "a lot of change to scriptural norms" is just as inaccurate now, as it is every time he writes it. But it does make a useful foil to demonstrate the truth. :)

Father Ron Smith said...

" Fr Ron's assertion that there has been "a lot of change to scriptural norms"" - MichaelA -

And where, precisely, did I make that statement, Michael?

What I HAVE actually said is that the common understanding of the meaning of 'scriptural norms' has undergone changes.

Please don't put words into my blogging that are not there. It does not help understanding.