Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Victory in Sight for Anglicans in Quest for Global Church Domination?

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Just when it looked like the Anglican church (at least in the West) was becoming the mother of all vacillating churches and the father of many schismatic splinters, and thus losing the quest for global church domination, a stumble by the leading contender has occurred.

Just taking two items on ADU's sidebar this morning, I notice the following:

1. An Irish Catholic lesbian pundit, Ursula Halligan has a crack in the Tablet at Roman theology of sexuality. Time for a change, she says, without drawing pause for breathe to check whether some larger issue is at stake. See below.

2. Andrew Comiskey, once a well known Protestant teacher and leader of ministries aimed to support gay and lesbian Christians becoming and remaining chaste if not changing through the power of God is now a Roman Catholic teacher and leader of the same. Secure in the strength of the one true church, Andrew is a feisty and forthright exponent of gospel values undergirded by Catholic catechetical assurances. But in today's post he is disappointed by the Pope's lack of response to the Irish referendum. The gist of his disappointment is 'Papa, you are letting me down.'

What is going on here? Between Ursula and Andrew, representing opposite poles of the Catholic spectrum on sexuality, we have the emergence of a truly Anglican spirit of ecclesiology. This spirit, historically, questioned the power of the papacy and was and is willing to reconsider all matters of doctrine via synods in which laity have a vote!

OK, tongue out of cheek. There is no actual quest for global church domination ...

But what is interesting about these two posts is that homosexuality is now exposing publicly for the Roman hierarchy what has been a very publicly difficult question for Anglican hierarchies around the Communion: how to fit ancient Christian teaching with modern realities of human sexuality?

I would go so far as to say, recalling other posts in recent weeks to which I have drawn attention here, that the greatest possibility for the Roman church of the 21st century fracturing now lies on exactly the same faultline as the fracturing of the Communion is taking place.


Father Ron Smith said...

" But in today's post he is disappointed by the Pope's lack of response to the Irish referendum. The gist of his disappointment is 'Papa, you are letting me down.'" - Andrew Comisky -

That's the price of jumping ship mid-stream and expecting one's new leaders to do and one would like them to. You just cannot out-pope Il Papa!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I suppose the Pope could have made his views clearer. In the Philippines, he criticized the ideological colonisation of the family, which the Vatican clarified as same sex marriage. His famous "Who am I to judge" was prefaced with "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge". I interpret "good will" as restricted to those not in sin, regardless of which sin. Andrew Comisky is right that the Pope was not helpful, but there again, the Church doesn't even approve of heterosexual civil marriage for Catholics. There was no question of expecting the Church to offer anything other than sacramental marriage, so perhaps the Pope decided to worry about refugees instead. I doubt the Church will fracture over this. It's often hard for Europeans to come to terms with, but most of the Roman church is Latin American, African or Asian. I just don't think they care about manufactured European sexual rights when they deal with matyrdom. Plus Cardinal Kasper gave himself away with his injudicious African comments at the October 2014 synod. As for the other Germans, I think they are seen as compromised because of German Church tax. Those who pay the Piper are asking to be consulted on the tune and they want a liberal one.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Cultural differences in world Catholicism remind me of divisions over cultural differences in ... FIFA :)

I suggest that the very fact that keen Catholics such as yourself and Andrew C are concerned about a lack of clarity/insufficient clarity is a sign that there is a lot of soul searching going on, in a way which was scarcely imaginable a decade or two ago.

Yes, it is unlikely that there will be a formal fracturing and unlikely that Roman understanding of sacramental marriage will change. But could there be an informal fracturing? I am thinking of the fracture between official Catholic teaching on contraception and actual practice by many Catholics.

Father Ron Smith said...

Your last sentence, Peter, nails the real problem for R.C.s like Nick and Mr. Comiskey. While the RULE is : No contraception; the PRAXIS is take no notice.

Is the maybe what you mean by accommodation - such as we need to make in our Church in Aotearoa? It works in Rome, why not here?

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, in fairness to those I would call liberals, I think they would like the Pope to be clear as well. Their cause would then have a champion. I agree, however, that this lack of clarity would have been unthinkable under Pope Benedict XVI. The Catechism is, of course, as clear on homosexuality as it is on contraception. The Catholic Herald occasionally reports on Soho masses which are (shall we say) inclusive. I suppose there is a difference between tolerating those who do not comply with Church teaching (in the hope that they conform) and actually changing the teaching. This seems to be what Raymond, Cardinal Burke was talking about in Oxford when he said that pagans had tolerated homosexuality but had not called it marriage. That's gone down a treat in Ireland, I understand.


Jean said...

I appreciate your wit Peter - we often get similar laughs at our ecumenical gatherings, the Catholics reserve the back seats forcing the Anglican's Oh My Gosh to sit at the front.
and Nick - maybe the Pope was thinking about something else like refugees; hmm yes just maybe there are other things for him to attend to!

At the moment I am at an impasse, a cunundrum, a crossroads in thinking so any insights would be appreciated.

A curious thing came to my attention, at the time of the writing of the OT laws prohbiting same sex behaviour, culltures outside of Israel were pretty much the same in terms of sexual liberality as it is in western countries today. In Assyria was an acceptance of homosexuality which included marriage with a religious blessing. Rosaria Butterfield suggests because of this, and the canon of scipture in the OT and NT systematically maintaining the view of sexual immorality as sin, a traditional christian approach to marriage relationships is not an applied 'phobic cultural reaction to post-modern society' it is moral value upheld by Christians in all time periods, utlitmately originating with God.

As a Lesbian who taught English and Queer theory at University and later changed to Christian Huemenutics - there is an interesting career move; Rosaria says her decision having developed from a thought provoking response from one minister to her writing a degrading article about Promise Keepers. She subsequently decided to research the bible (reading it five times!) and see how it lead so many people up the wrong path, however over some time it lead to her deciding her active Lesbian lifestyle was contrary to God's desire for human's (a sin) and giving it up was a matter of evaluating her personal experiences in light of God's will, as opposed to using those experiences to construct what she believed was right. Acknowledging it was not supressing her desires for the opposite sex or that these immediately changed.

Her story can be heard here:

Help me out:

If one believes God worked through people through the Holy Spirit to write the Bible, acknowledging the prohibition of sexual immorality as against God's wil is consistently maintained throughout the bible, does God not highllight sin because utlimatey he knows what is good for us?. Historically noting that other cultures only started to develop a moral sense around sexuality after being influenced by the abrahamic faiths of Christianity and Islam.

Are there any other named sins in both the Old and New Testament that are currently no longer deemed a sin by the wider church?

The decision Motion 30 deals with concerns mostly those same sex couples who wish to be married in a church so there is at a minimum an assumption of some sense of association with the church. It makes sense that Christian same sex attracted couples would want a church marriage, however, does this mean practicing homosexuality is only a sin if it is done outside of marriage? Is this a division man (encompassing both genders : ) )has the authority to make as much as all of us who may care for their brothers and sisters in Christ who are same sex attracted would wish to?

To add perspective:
Rosaria talks about encouraging friendships with the LGBT community for there are many there who God is also calling, and making it an acceptable practice for people in church to talk openly if they are attracted to the same sex so others can walk in support as they live that life, as she calls it a 'hard cross to bear'. She views the emotions or attractions not as something that necessarily goes away but along the lines of say an alcoholic who for some reason has an inherent attraction to and desire for alcohol.

Cheers Jean

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Nick
It was very kind of Cardinal Burke to give Ireland a treat!
But i notice he did it from the safety of Oxford :)

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Jean
It is right and proper to remind ourselves that Jews and Christians maintained an approach to marriage which was at variance with pagan neighbours and to consequentially ask whether we are still being asked by God to maintain that approach.

But I think it is also right and proper to ask whether we the church have changed our ecclesial mind on sins.

Candidates to consider include:
- remarriage after divorce when it occurs beyond the exceptions Jesus and Paul allowed for. Jesus called such relationships adultery. Has the church changed its mind about this form of adultery being a sin?
- killing people through military action. In the first few centuries of the Christian era, Christians were famous for refusing to serve in the military lest they took they life of another person.

Rosaria Butterfield has an amazing story to tell!

Finally, it is also right and proper to ask, as you raise above, what is God authorising Christians to do? If we keep asking if the church can authorise this or that, then we subtly shift the source of authority from the divine to the human.

Jean said...

Thanks Peter always good to have another mind to bounce off!

Killing as a part of a military force has been a modern 'exception' to God's commandment not to kill which the church has condoned. Shane Claiborne in his book the 'Irresistible Revolution' has quite an interesting take on this. While it is not the status quo it is interesting to hear of Christians who still hold to this commandment completely, in the book 'Son of Hamas' a Jewish Christian is jailed for refusing his military conscription because he did not want to be put in a position of possibly shooting a Palestinian child throwing rocks and thereby go against his belief.

And yes albeit some divorces fall under unfaithfulness and hardness of heart, it would be unwise to claim all divorces by people within a church do, so the church of today also makes exceptions in this area.

Yes Rosaria's story is amazing and helpful as a person who has 'lived it' when considering these matters.

Your last right and proper is one that always snags me! Probably because when I was wanting all religions to lead to God - actually at the time I prayed to God in a Buddhist temple that they do (I know, I know, the things we do); I had to acknowledge that even if I did not want it to be so, even if I cared deeply about friends of other faiths, Jesus was the only way to God.

Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter, there has always been more understanding of Latins in Oxford than anywhere. His Eminence was no doubt "domum". As for your last "right and proper", I suggest that your reference to "church" is limited and protestantesque. Imagine my lot, your lot, the orthodox extended whanau and the bishopless Trinitarian protestants all agreeing that same sexual relationships were well-meaning but ill-conceived and, therefore, sinful. I suspect that the Church could then interpret ancient documents with authority.


Anonymous said...

' - killing people through military action. In the first few centuries of the Christian era, Christians were famous for refusing to serve in the military lest they took they life of another person.'

And thanks be to God, the worldwide Anabaptist movement, along with the Quaker family, and a minority of Christians in the more mainstream 'Christendom' communions, continues to maintain this gospel witness today!

Tim Chesterton