"There is, BTW, a view widely accepted up here [North America], that the C22 Church will be Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal, with Anglicans reabsorbed by Rome. It supposes that the Anglican Communion will never reach a consensus on doctrinal authority, so that the consequential debates over the urgent issues of the C21 all happen in Rome where, eventually, some clear decision does get made. Just as Anglicans often invoke Roman social teaching as if that were their own teaching, so they may also begin to invoke Roman teaching on sex, political theology, etc. Over time, pastors who need more than a communique or a Lambeth resolution to ground their practise could find themselves relying on better articulated papal decisions. At some point, practical reliance on the Roman magisterium becomes actual reunion.
In the case of SSM, the basic issue is: how should churches who understand marriage in the traditional way respond to civil legislation that defines it differently? Rome's implemented answer to that question will set social limits on the ways in which other churches can or even want to answer it. And in failing to invoke a more than procedural basis for their rejection of the TEC innovation, the Primates failed to settle Anglicanism's authority problem. Every time Anglicans claim an impractically low degree of authority for their decisions, or set them on too narrow a basis, they take a small step toward the reunion scenario."I am intrigued, first, by this prophecy of the Christian future, circa 2200 - should the Lord tarry that long and global warming be merciful - because it chimes in with something Christopher Wells puts his finger on in an article linked to in the Perspectives post:
"We remain unable to articulate and defend the basis of our faith and order beyond what Archbishop Williams called the consensus of the moment. That being so, the next natural question is: How long will the consensus hold? But the deeper and more difficult, essential question is: Why should this, or any, consensus be maintained? On what grounds?
Insofar as the communiqué and its addenda approach these last questions, they announce the majority position in the manner of a placeholder:
The traditional doctrine of the church, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching. (Addendum A, para. 4)This is an announcement because no argument is offered, and it is a placeholder because no means of prosecuting the argument are proposed. Would-be apostolic doctrine seeks sources for which the would-be catholic order of the following paragraph could provide structure."
Christopher goes on to suggest a way forward towards a catholic future for apostolic teaching in the Anglican Communion (as opposed to placeholding announcements by the majority):
"Now is the moment — in the run-up to the Anglican Consultative Council’s meeting in April, in preparation for next year’s Primates’ Meeting, setting the stage for the 2020 Lambeth Conference — for the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order and comrades in arms to work carefully and collaboratively to cast a compelling vision and curriculum for our structural and doctrinal future. The objective: to grow, as Lambeth 1920 said, into “the unity of a universal Church” and so articulate “ideals” that are “less Anglican and more Catholic” (Lambeth Conference 1920, “Report of the Whole Committee on some important results of the extension and development of the Anglican Communion” in Ecumenism of the Possible: Witness, Theology and the Future of the Church, ed. William A. Norgren [Forward Movement, 1994], p. 99).
What catholic ideals? Those that express apostolic doctrine. The method unlocks a great storehouse of common and precious property. In his 2004 letter to Rowan Williams following the publication of The Windsor Report, Cardinal Walter Kasper praised the report’s commitment to catholicity but urged redoubled attention to apostolicity, “witnessed in the Scriptures, the early councils, and the patristic tradition.” Christians, Kasper said, have both “synchronic” and “diachronic” obligations, that is, obligations both to today’s “communion of churches” and to the historical “consensus” of the whole Church — beyond the inherent instability of merely contemporary agreement. The particular and universal together, across time, make possible the health of the one Body."
But Wells' invocation of Kasper in support of his (cheerfully optimistic) proposal makes Bowman Walton's observation stand out: Christopher cites a Roman Catholic cardinal as the one who offers Anglicans guidance on how to be catholic and apostolic! Walton's prophecy says that more and more a significant number of Anglicans will look theologically to Rome for guidance because they will not find it in "majority" primatial pronouncements, let alone in "lowest common denominator" type agreements which attempt to articulate common ground between TECian innovation and African adherence to Christian tradition. Christian consensus in the 22nd century - against the ravages of secularism and Islamism - will not only need to include Rome, the prophecy implies, it must include Rome. But will Anglicanism - shorn no doubt of liberal provinces reduced to negligible statistics (including ACANZP unless some dramatic turnaround occurs) - be strong enough to be a distinctive voice in that consensus? Or will we both meekly and cheerfully accept the Pope as "the" Christian spokesperson? (As, on a number of matters these days, we already do so).
Walton's comment also intrigues me, secondly, because it highlights the need for some very cool, considered, compassionate, constructive, civil. contextual theological discourse about the Western reality on the ground: couples who are married in the sight of one of God's agents (the state) but not (or not yet or sort-of-but-some/many-of-us-have-questions) in the eyes of another of God's agents (the church).
This is quite a big topic which I may well come back to in a separate post, suffice to say that I am personally not hearing many Kiwi conservative Anglican voices articulating how we respond to same-sex couples who come to church cheerfully acclaiming their married status.
It is such a trap to start making noises which suggest they have come to a church which thinks of two classes of marriage and it is as alarming a theological trap to think that mere embrace of all marriages as "equal" solves all theological conundrums of the day about marriage. Cue the relevance of the slow, creaking but incrementally developmental adjustments of Roman social theology from which many Anglicans have in the past learnt and will continue to do so.
But do Anglicans necessarily need to wait for Rome to speak before getting ahead of such questions of our day?
I'll post now, incomplete though this post is ...
"Walton's prophecy says that more and more a significant number of Anglicans will look theologically to Rome for guidance because they will not find it in "majority" primatial pronouncements, let alone in "lowest common denominator" type agreements which attempt to articulate common ground between TECian innovation and African adherence to Christian tradition. Christian consensus in the 22nd century - against the ravages of secularism and Islamism - will not only need to include Rome, the prophecy implies, it must include Rome. But will Anglicanism - shorn no doubt of liberal provinces reduced to negligible statistics (including ACANZP unless some dramatic turnaround occurs) - be strong enough to be a distinctive voice in that consensus? Or will we both meekly and cheerfully accept the Pope as "the" Christian spokesperson?" - Dr. Peter Carrell -
Well, Peter, in this statement you are conferring upon one of your correspondents the role of a prophet? Then Bowman must beware. The Scriptures show Jesus as declaring that prophets have been known to have been stoned - whether or not their prophecies have been proved (by actually being played out).
While not one who is queueing up to be the first to cast a stone (my own sins being obvious, even to myself), I would urge caution on believing exactly what Bowman has to say on this important issue.
His understanding of the Church of England and his own experience of Anglican provenance must be just a wee bit suspect - if he can so outrageously discount the witness of Anglicanism over the last few centuries. If he really believed it was a work of the Holy Spirit - working in and through the English Church, despite the admitted sins of Henry VIII, which brought Christianity to so many in the former Engliah colinies; Bowman would not hasten to rush in where angels fear to tread. He would respect the particular genius that has been the driving force behind Anglicanism's 'Bridge Church ' provenance; which has encouraged this Pope to welcome an Archbishop of our Church (David Moxon) to share in a blessing of advocates of Christian Unity.
In this gesture, Pope Francis is showing less respect for his own putative 'authority' that Bowman so regrets is not a natural part of Church of the Anglican Communion, than he. This is a telling instance of the Pope's willingness to share jurisdiction - rather than imposing his own version onto others.
Again, Peter, I'm sad that you should be so despondent about what you see as a loss of Anglican Authority amonbst its own. I will remind you of the words of Jesus: "Those aho are greatest among you must be your servants" - not your overlords. Nor yet your conscience. Good leadership takes care of the welfare of ALL its beneficiaries - not just the 'great and good'.
If Anglicanism is intended to continue to be a part of the Body of Christ, it wuill only be so because of the will and mercy of God - not by human dictate or sectarian prophetic wilfulness.
Briefly, I think there are two (or more) versions of a global Anglican future. One - subscribed to by your email - is that Anglicanism goes and grows from strength to strength (with a setback or two along the way) and we need not fear the future, whatever we may think is happening in the present. Another - at least touched on by Bowman's prophecy, and one I am intrigued by (but not necessarily a subscriber to), that Anglicanism is a rickety old thing whose post Reformational was not the best of starts with Henry's marital perambulations, and the continuation through the centuries has been jolly perilous, not least shown in the vagaries of Lambeth Conferences that say one thing on one occasion and reverse it on another, and mostly fail to ever quite say anything that becomes universally authoritative in the life of the Communion; all of which means that the Anglican future may be bright-ish or, that the wheels may finally fall off the wagon.
The question of the day is whether we have a wheelwright or a "she'll be right" approach to fixing what is broken in our polity. Hooker of the Twenty-First Century, where are you?
One advantage of the RC is the very accessible Catholic Catechism on the Vatican website. It is almost the default authority for the whole church because it's the one everyone can find. If I go to Anglican Online, I can search what Anglicans believe and find that it's diverse (I quoted that). There's a reference to the short catechism in the BCP (which is helpful), but, perhaps surprisingly, the most user-friendly link leads to the parish website of St John's Roslyn. The content of that site looks fine to me, but, unless you theologians know where to look for authoritative Anglican doctrine, nothing stands out to the lay enquirer. So, probably by default, the far less ambiguous "brand RC" will likely have an influence. People have a better idea of what they are getting into. Where even faithful Christians go to church less and practise the faith on-line, there is even more need for "brand CofE" to clarify what exactly it stands for. Theology Humpty Dumpty style (words meaning what I want them to) does not work. Diversity sounds great, but people usually invest in something more definite.
To your point about ‘two classes’ of marriage.
Wikipedia suggests that it was first the Dutch Neo-Calvinists who first introduced the concept of ‘sphere responsibility’ – That is God has ordained various institutions or ‘spheres’ that are essentially self governing, albeit there may occasionally be overlaps in the manor of Venn diagrams.
These spheres include the individual, the family, the church, government and arguably the marketplace. When an institution exercises authority in an area outside of its direct responsibility, it’s called tyranny. For example, the state appointing bishops, the church dictating whom an individual should marry, or a five-year-old demanding the family eat at McDonalds. You get the picture.
When it comes to marriage, then clearly the state has a role in a contractual sense, usually around the dissolution of the marriage with respect to shared property, child support and so on. However, it has nothing authoritative to say about the status of that relationship before God as far as the Christian church is concerned. That is a matter outside of its God given institutional responsibility. A state authorized marriage may effect a relationship that is pleasing to God, or it may not. The State is indifferent to such matters.
The church however cannot be indifferent.
It seems therefore unavoidable that pastorally, the Church will be required to challenge the marriage status of some couples who decide to attend. This has always been true even before gay marriage was sanctioned by the State. I suspect however, that to our shame, the challenge is made too seldom, and when it is the couple in question simply moves on until they find a church that either doesn’t care, or prefers to engage in ‘don’t ask don’t tell’.
I see one glaring problem with Brendan's 'Church taking a hard line' philosophy regarding who is properly married and who is not. As far as the State's legal right to decide on juridiction is concerned - about who is married and who is not - it would seem that there is more Christ-like charity in the attitude of the State than in that of a Church that would refuse membership to those not married under Church discipline. This also brings up the situation of those couples (whether gay or straight) who live together withour the 'blessing' of either Church or State. Are they more acceptable to the Church than those legally married by the State but not by the Church?
And then, for Roman Catholics (Nick), I seem to remember that the use of contraception for Catholics is not questioned by the parish priest at the door, as long as the 'Don't ask, don't tell' principle rules. So please don't imagine that the problem of selective membership is only a problem for Anglicans. When strict rules are in place that casn be side-lined by those 'ruled'; perhaps they have dubious authority. Remember, Jesus said that the Sabbath exists for the good of humankind, not the other way round. He was less strict about what might be done on the Sabbarth than the law-keepers.
"And the greatest of these is Love" Love overcomes the Law - not because it is more slack, but because it is more charitable.
In response to Fr Ron, I said the RCC is a less ambiguous brand not unambiguous. Secondly, some Catholic laity may play Humpty Dumpty, but the magisterium does not. My comment above was not directed at your laity. I don't see them falling off any walls anytime soon.
Hi Father Ron
“As far as the State's legal right to decide on jurisdiction is concerned - about who is married and who is not - it would seem that there is more Christ-like charity in the attitude of the State than in that of a Church that would refuse membership to those not married under Church discipline.”
Well, clearly it’s not the first question you ask a new couple when you greet them at the door. And yes, we are all sinners standing in the need of grace.
That said, the goodness of God is intended to lead us to repentance. I’m assuming you still believe there are attitudes and behaviours we need to repent from? Where would we discover what those sinful attitudes and behaviours may be other than in Scripture?
Is popular culture to be our guide?
I’m guessing that the guidelines of Scripture are amongst other things, intended to promote human flourishing. Therefore, is ignoring them as the State has every right to do, really an expression of Christ-like Charity?
To say ‘yes’ to this, is at best to minimize the role of church discipline with respect to individual character formation.
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”
To all: the prophecy is not my own but is rather the working consensus of some persons in North America who have professional reasons to think carefully about the future of religion.
Father Ron, the *bridge church scenario* of the ecumenism that flourished two generations ago is out of date today. Lutheranism is seen as a more plausible bridge tradition. And anyway, Rome and even Antioch can build their own bridges now.
To whom it may concern: the historical cause of our confusion has nothing to do with the Tudor origins of the reformed Church of England. Rather, it arose from the gradual confessional isolation of the CoE over the course of the C17-18.
The CoE retained the older, more catholic Reformed tradition known as the *high church* when the other Reformed churches in Europe had moved on to the confessional identity they have today. The CoE rejected the limited atonement, double predestination, and presbyterianism embraced by the international Reformed movement, whilst it rejected baptismal regeneration, the real presence, and episcopacy as taught in the CoE. This forking of the international Reformed tradition and the deepening estrangement of its two streams finally resulted in something called Anglicanism, a tradition that understands the Definition of Chalcedon as the Reformed do, but is in other ways like a high church Lutheranism without Luther.
Peter: the Hooker of the C20 was named Karl Barth. If we do not even read him, should God send us another one?
Thank you, Nick: it takes a true friend to tell the hard truth. Today, the early Reformed theology of England and Scotland is enjoying a modest revival among those who admire its hybrid vigour of Reformation theology from scripture and rich liturgy, sacramentology, and ecclesiology from the M1. Richard Hooker in particular is finally getting his due-- from Thomists intrigued by his use of Aristotle and St Thomas; from Protestants who would retrieve his Reformed mystagogy of liturgy; from political theologians who would learn from his robust account of state authority. One would think that some update of this glorious tradition would be the Anglican Catechism to which dioceses linked their websites. But in the intervening centuries the tradition has forked again, and each of its branches has meandered far from the spring.
Brendan: it is an unexpected pleasure to encounter Dutch Neo-Calvinism down under, since we mainly encounter it these days in Johannesburg or Grand Rapids. In that connection, what may most invite challenge is the broken link in the minds of heterosexuals between marriage and procreation.
"That said, the goodness of God is intended to lead us to repentance. I’m assuming you still believe there are attitudes and behaviours we need to repent from? Where would we discover what those sinful attitudes and behaviours may be other than in Scripture?
Is popular culture to be our guide?" - Brendan -
"If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us" - this quote from the BCP Holy Communion Service has much wisdom. If sin is that which separates us from God, we have already received 'the remedy for sin', which is the sacrifice of Christ - for which not even our repentance is needed. However, to be able to understand the economy of our redemption, we need to understand the cost of it, for God. I tnink that is what occasions true repentance - this understanding.
And then, there is the matter of: "What is sin?". Is it, for instance, a desire to use one's innate homosexual nature to love one other person of like disposition, to the point where one one to make a public commitment (alike to civil marriage) to that one person for the rest of one's life? How is that more sinful than a heterosexual commitment to lifetime fidelity?
When the Church considers committed monogamous sexual relationships outside of marriage to be 'sinful' (though natural) this is something that ordinary human beings find difficult to understand. So that when you ask: "Is popular culture to be our guide?" Maybe the answer, in this instance, could be Yes!
If 'popular culture' in some African countries is that Gay people should be killed (as is intimated by the GAFCON Primates); then the answer would ne No!
Thank you all for good points well made, clear questions thoughtfully posed and robust answers given ... keep it up.
Am not convinced, Bowman, that (the great) Barth is An Anglican Hooker, though he deserves other accolades. Yes, Nick, there is nothing quite like the Roman Catechism in the Anglican world.
Sorry ... no time for more responses but I am enjoying all your comments.
And then, there is the matter of: "What is sin?". Is it, for instance, a desire to use one's innate homosexual nature to love one other person of like disposition, to the point where one one to make a public commitment (alike to civil marriage) to that one person for the rest of one's life? How is that more sinful than a heterosexual commitment to lifetime fidelity?” - Father Ron
Well, that’s a big question and one that greater minds than mind are struggling to resolve. On balance for me it looks like this. For those who advocate for the legitimacy of sexual intimacy between members of the same sex there are six passages of Scripture that are at best awkward and difficult to marry (if I may be permitted to use that term) with that perspective. I don’t need to reference them because you know them well, and will have explained them away to your satisfaction.
Second, those engaged in same sex relationships find it impossible to participate in the creation mandate, without the assistance of a third party of the opposite sex, or to participate in the Abrahamic convenient which is one of intergenerational blessing. They are by definition ‘self excluded’.
To that extent at least they have placed themselves outside of the purposes and intergenerational blessing of God.
Then there is the question of sin that we have both raised. Can we agree that at the very least, sin is rebellion against God, his order, plan and purposes for His creation.
You state that homosexuality is ‘innate’. That may well be true as far as the statement goes. The question however is this. Is homosexuality an expression of the old Adamic nature, or is it a legitimate expression of the new creation in Christ?
If it’s the former, then repentance by those engaged in homosexual relationships is required. If it’s the latter, then we have erred for 2000 years of Church history and repentance of a different kind is required.
I’m picking its the former.
Bowman, I’m delighted to be the source of unexpected pleasure.
I agree the link between marriage and procreation is broken. My Grandparents were Irish Catholics who immigrated to NZ in the late 19th century. They had fourteen children of which my dad was number 10. I was my parents only child, albeit I’m told it was not for lack of trying.
We have managed to have five children of our own with 13 grandchildren (so far) so there’s not much broken there, thankfully.
I’m not sure what your implied link is between Calvinism and procreation or the lack thereof. I’m not really a Calvinist, although I have read a good deal of Rushdoony in times past. Saved into a Pentecostal church in the 1970’s, and have experienced something of a theological fruit salad since then, joining with the Anglicans Easter last year. It has been one of my joys to read outside my theological stream, hence the sphere theology.
I suspect the lack of procreation has more to do with student debt, and cultural ‘self realization’ than a disinterest in sex. But I could be wrong. I understand the Japanese are increasingly disinterested.
"Am not convinced, Bowman, that (the great) Barth is An Anglican Hooker..."
Taken straight, Peter, he isn't. But Hooker's distinctive moves in ecclesiology-- the use of the Chalcedonian definition as an organising principle, the actualism by which what we do really is in the totus Christus, the respect for human tradition and institutions, the vision of the state as also under Christ, and arguably a sense of mission that Barth finds missing in magisterial reformers-- are also Barth's distinctive moves. And it is just those features that have left Barth's massive achievement notoriously open to appropriation from Roman Catholic and Lutheran theologians who have learned, in Robert Jenson's words, to "do un-Barthian things with Barth."
For example, on myriad details of practical churchmanship, Barth is as dry as an Anglican would expect a Swiss Reformed to be. That does not stop a Lutheran like Jenson from using Barth's trinitarian actualism to correct an Augustinian formulation of the sacraments that always threatens to flatten the means of grace into didactic aids. Nor does it stop a Catholic like Hans Urs von Balthasar from relating Barth's totus Christus to the communio sanctorum and indeed to the angels so prominent on the Byzantine side of his thought.
So any Anglican road from Hooker into the C20 leads through Barth and this ecumenical circle around him. And were TEC not such a disappointment to literate Protestants, not a few of them who have learned from Barth to think the Trinity and read the fathers would find him a well-paved footpath onto that Anglican road. However, continuing down it into the C21, an Anglican Hooker will have to engage, not Hooker's papal and precisionist critics, nor Barth's Vatican I and liberal Protestantism, but Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism on one hand, and Islam on the other. Robust Anglican responses to all of these interlocutors require the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that Barth promises but never quite delivers. That points, in more way than one, back to your OP.
I have learned new things about both Barth and Hooker!
"Second, those engaged in same sex relationships find it impossible to participate in the creation mandate, without the assistance of a third party of the opposite sex, or to participate in the Abrahamic convenient which is one of intergenerational blessing. They are by definition ‘self excluded’.
To that extent at least they have placed themselves outside of the purposes and intergenerational blessing of God." - Brendan McNeil -
So, Brendan, you are condeming all monks, friars and nuns to being sentenced for rebellion against God - because they do not fall in with your idea of God's plan for populating the earth? Sounds a wee bit simplistic. But then, like you, I may be a bear ofr little brain, but at least I can figure this one out.
Even Jesus spoke quite clearly of the 3 types of eunuch (unable to procreate) who, neverthess were created by God for a purpose. Was this in rebellion against God's own plan that everyone should procreate? Obviously not!
And, There was one category of 'eunuch' that Jesus described as: 'born so from his mother's womb'. Seems to me quite possible - indeed highly probable - that this covered the phenomenon of homosexuality. But then, that's only Jesus in the Scriptures saying that. This was undoubtedly the sort of saying of Jesus that got the Scribes and Pharisees excited - to the point where they thought Jesus was apostate - just like the present day nay-sayers on the inclusion of gay people as part of the God-created community.
Good discussion between Father Ron and Brendan. The way that SSM became legal in the US seems a challenging example to both sides. My point here is not that our laws or government are norms for any other country, but that the judicial rather than the legislative process of change here makes Caesar's logic unusually easy to trace and evaluate. A richer history would have richer interest, but the briefest narrative is as follows. After that, back to Peter's OP.
State judges in New England found an obstacle to the faithful discharge of their duty to try certain civil cases with equity: those where a person, for want of a legal form for doing so, could not declare the intent to convey property interests and third party social and legal rights to a partner of the same sex. For example, a partner who had lived for years in the house of another man who died unexpectedly and intestate. Had the partner been a woman, the court might have recognised a common law marriage that conveyed some right to live in the house. As both partners were men, he was merely a guest and had to be evicted from his home when the title passed to the heir. The judges were concerned that there was no raison d'etat for such difference in treatment. How does the work of government require this?
Please note that although the deceased could have avoided this problem by petitioning the court to amend his deed while still living, this costly precautionary measure would not have obviated the judges' concern. Ordinarily, people do not have go through all the legal records in their extensive lives amending them one by one through court orders to protect the interests of a spouse. What is the raison d'etat for the difference of treatment on the basis of sex?
The supreme courts of a few states thus ordered their states' legislatures to provide a statutory remedy, and among the first results was a civil partnership statute. This was satisfactory for cases like the one above, but did not address another concern of equity. In the US many financial benefits, including health insurance and pension benefits, are given by employers to persons who are the spouses of employees. Hospitals regulate access to patients in their care by a legal rule of kinship. Merchants offer goods and services to parties at a discount if their spouse has already bought them. In these kinds of cases, the third party has no plausible interest in whether the sex of a spouse differs from that of the employee, patient, customer, etc. with whom they do business. Nevertheless, for want of a legal status that could be conferred on the same sex partner, some unintended inequity to him or her was inevitable.
Such cases were brought to the Federal courts for review. These courts asked the responding states to show that there was a compelling raison d'etat for a law that gave public and implicit private rights to some citizens and not to indistinguishable others. Some states raised the argument that there was a state interest in the procreation of children in marriage that was not present in relationships between persons of the same sex. On review, the courts found that the body of rights conveyed by marriage so far exceeds those plausibly required for the rearing of children that the procreative interest could not serve as the raison d'etat for the difference in treatment.
Under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified after the Civil War largely fought over the institution of slavery, the United States and its constituent states and other territories may not have any law that separates citizens into categories without a compelling raison d'etat, a reason intrinsic to the work that all governments by nature do. Finding no such reason for marriage statutes limited by sex, the Federal courts overturned that limitation. On review, this was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Now back to the OP.
On one hand, Romans 13 would seem to require that a Christian accept those decisions of the state that are reasonably intended to promote order, justice, and equity. It is very hard to deny that this is exactly what the US courts were intending to do, case by case, over a period of a about 15 years. Nor is it easy to argue that they got the principle of equity wrong. Finally, our moral disapproval of the behaviour does not seem relevant to the questions in which marital status comes before the courts-- should this man or woman be homeless, denied funding for needed surgery, regarded as next of kin in emergencies, etc? Conservatives have not to my knowledge engaged this reasoning with a directness that I could find convincing. Rather, they seem to assail the civil law for not being a mirror of the moral vision of canon law, which is more or less to assail Caesar for not being the Second Coming. When they do that, they just give up the votes of those for whom church is church and state is state.
On the other hand, this model of justice is not self-evidently relevant in the Church. First, where Caesar has acted rightly justice has been done. Full stop. Finis. The End. Over and out. Celebrate the victory with a big party, dance in the streets, launch fireworks, and in the morning move on to the next thing. Not every inspiring civil cause has a counterpart in the Church.
Second, the Church lacks the state's straightforward mandate to establish social justice, so that the two realms are distinct, and an argument that the Church needs to do something for the sake of justice cannot be a copy of the brief given to pagan Caesar. Proponents of SSM have a bad habit of addressing synods as though they were, not diaconal bodies for administration, but lordly parliaments governing states. When they do that, they just give up the votes of anyone for whom church is church and state is state.
Third, the sort of justice we tend to see in the NT (and arguably in the Bible as a whole) is less like the commutative justice of civil procedure (ie equality before the majestic law), than like the distributive justice that responds fittingly to a person's condition (eg widows and orphans). Neither side of the sex wars has fully understood this as heated arguments over Galatians 3:28 have often shown.
Fourth, anything the Church *must* do is warranted, not by moral sentiments that even the pagans have, but by its correspondence to the person and work of the Christ. Any *ought* or *should* language in the Church should be preceded by some excellent antecedent christology. In that connection, I personally find representations of Jesus as the early Marlon Brando to be poorly grounded in both scripture and tradition.
For many, the upshot of all this is that Christ wants to break their hearts. One cannot comprehend both his rule through Caesar and his rule through the Church with a heart that is stuck in either liberal or conservative sentimentality.
Hi Father Ron,
Thank you for the continuing dialogue, it has helped me understand your perspective more clearly. I’d like to respond briefly to a couple of your statements.
“So, Brendan, you are condeming all monks, friars and nuns to being sentenced for rebellion against God - because they do not fall in with your idea of God's plan for populating the earth? Sounds a wee bit simplistic. But then, like you, I may be a bear of little brain, but at least I can figure this one out.” – Father Ron
For the sake of clarity, I am condemning no one.
My previous comments were in the context of fulfilling the purposes of God through procreation. Of course there are Biblical exceptions. I’m surprised however that you appear unable to differentiate between those who choose celibacy out of a desire to dedicate oneself more fully to the service of God, (Matthew 19:12) and those who choose to pursue sexual expression through homosexual relationships.
“And, There was one category of 'eunuch' that Jesus described as: 'born so from his mother's womb'. Seems to me quite possible - indeed highly probable - that this covered the phenomenon of homosexuality. But then, that's only Jesus in the Scriptures saying that.” – Father Ron
Wow. I admit this is the first time I have heard Jesus teaching on those who were born eunuchs in Matthew 19:12 being used as a justification for homosexuality, let alone a ‘highly probable’ justification.
I appreciate that Jesus had a penchant for concealing the truth within parables and teachings that were hidden from those without an ‘ear to hear’, but this would be pretty subtle even for Jesus. Don’t you think?
A truth only to be revealed 2,000 years after it was first declared by Jesus, and then only to a select few?
So Ron, how can you be confident that you are not writing your own narrative into this brief passage of Scripture in order to justify a personally held view?
We are all capable of doing this of course, but isn’t one of the blessings of the Body of Christ our ability to test our insights against established theological orthodoxy?
But then I guess I’m not the first to have raised this with you.
If you examine what you wrote:
And, There was one category of 'eunuch' that Jesus described as: 'born so from his mother's womb'. Seems to me quite possible - indeed highly probable - that this covered the phenomenon of homosexuality
you have Jesus advocating the celibacy of homosexual people who are not prepared or able to use their sexuality heterosexually within marriage. This is a very respectable argument, though one I doubt you intended to raise.
"So Ron, how can you be confident that you are not writing your own narrative into this brief passage of Scripture in order to justify a personally held view? We are all capable of doing this of course, but isn’t one of the blessings of the Body of Christ our ability to test our insights against established theological orthodoxy? - Brendan -
Well, Brendan, I guess we can only be convicted about what we believe by our understandong of the situation. If you were to question the individual membership of a congregation as to what they took out of a sermon preached on matters such as Matthew 19:10-12; I guess the answers would each be coloured by their own predisposition - related to their being married or single.
It is interesting, is it not, that Jesus should specifically mention the 3 different types of neuterdom. He could have confined it to the more 'godly' aspect which is 'for the sake of the Kingdom'. That he did not, does require further pastoral/theological speculation. This is not my idea alone. Other thologians have expressed a similar vein of thought. And Jesus, as you say, did speak in parables!
Hi Father Ron
The first half of Matthew 19 deals with the topical questions of today. Marriage, divorce and sexual identity:
‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’
That’s a total of two gender options.
Then on to a ‘Jesus affirmed’ marriage relationship ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’
No same sex unions in sight.
And then onto the conversation about eunuchs:
11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
The context for this conversation around eunuchs and celibacy is the disciple’s reflection upon Jesus teaching around divorce. Verse 10: His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus then describes situations where men don’t marry using the example of eunuchs and celibacy. My first thought about those who are born eunuchs is a reference for the sake of completeness to those who are impotent or infertile as a result of a birth defect or similar health related condition.
By saying ‘not all can accept this’ and then later ‘he who is able to accept it let him accept it’ I believe the primary emphasis of this passage is his reference to those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom.
Jesus himself was such an example.
I admit that given the overall context of Jesus conversation I’m struggling to see any hint of homosexuality being even a sub text. That said I accept that you can see it.
"My first thought about those who are born eunuchs is a reference for the sake of completeness to those who are impotent or infertile as a result of a birth defect or similar health related condition. "
- Brendan -
As you, yourself, have admitted, Brendan; your subesequent thoughts on this issue have not changed. However, you have - as I have done - provided your very own thoughts on what the first category of eunuch may have been meant to include.
It would seem that in N.T. times, Christians had little, if any, understanding of the phenomenon of homosexuality, excepting its prevalence in the Gentile culture - which seemed to have been connected with licentiousness and orgies rather than committed same-sex relationships.
The fact that it took so long for homosexuality to be recognised as a part of the human condition should not be too surprising. The same situation occurred in the understanding of slavery and the humane treatment of women in the community. The demands of human justice eventually brought society (and, dragged by it heels, the Church) into a more equitable and loving understanding of human relationships
“The fact that it took so long for homosexuality to be recognised as a part of the human condition should not be too surprising. The same situation occurred in the understanding of slavery and the humane treatment of women in the community. The demands of human justice eventually brought society (and, dragged by it heels, the Church) into a more equitable and loving understanding of human relationships.”
- Father Ron
Homosexuality appears to have been well documented as an acceptable practice in ancient Rome according to Wikipedia.
Not so well documented as an acceptable practice in the ancient church however.
Adulterous relationships can be equitable, loving and understanding. Promiscuous relationships can be equitable, loving and understanding. I love you Ron but I’m forced to conclude that you must have a very low view of Scripture to trot out these justifications for same sex relationships.
Fr Ron does not appear to be familiar with Juvenal's second satire; where the poet blasts ssm as a blasphemous perversion. See especially lines 120ff.
" “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” - Brendan -
In carefu;ly reviewing our conversation on this subject, Brendan; I note here your quoting of verses 11 and 12 - lnnked by the colon at the end of verse 11. This does connect Jesus' talk about heterosexual marriage with the subject of eunuchs, when he says that "All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given (which, presumably applies, also to the words o verse 12, giving the three distinct categories of eunuch.) The ending of verse 12 has these words (related to what has gone before about eunuchs): "
Now the word eunuch, even in modern terms, can be applied - as Jesus did in his first example - to anyone incapable of, or unwilling to engage in the act of generative sxual activity. The fact that this category could have included oersons who are psychologically incapale of heteosexual congress, is not beyond the power of human reason to understand. However, Jesus did end verse 12 with these words: "He who is able to accept (this), let him accept it".
I can accept it. You, obviously, never will.
However, Jesus did say that you should not discriminate against those who are able to accept what Jesus has revealed to those who are open.
Interestingly, it would appear that though, as you point out, there was some knowledge of homosexuality in the time of the disciples, Jesus never chose to say one word, directly, about it - except, perhaps, in his parabolic use of his own words in these verses.Jesus seemed far more concerned about heterosexual fidelity. This seems to mne to be more about love and faithfulness than procreation.
A far more obvious interpretation is that eunuchs from their mother's womb are to remain celibate like the other two classes. When there was a pagan poet (Juvenal) in the first century criticising same sex marriage as immoral, the concept was obviously understood; hence any change from Leviticus for Jesus would have required express language. The ubiquitous God is love arguments cannot be used to cover up what we might not like. Love does not stretch to confirming people in their folly. Catholicism views it as merciful to correct doctrinal error.
Hi Ron / Nick
I am with Nick in questioning whether invocation of Jesus' words re eunuchs is any kind of basis for developing a theology of same sex partnerships!
For clarity: I am not saying there is no basis for such a theology, only that building out from Jesus talking about eunuchs is something of a theological blind alley.
" Love does not stretch to confirming people in their folly. Catholicism views it as merciful to correct doctrinal error." - Nick
Nick, I would agree that human love may not 'stretch' to such an accommodation of human 'sinfulness'. However, agape is rather different from adelphos. It is the Love of God which is more accommodating of human misbehaviour than other loves. God loved the world so much, that while we were yet sinners.... That quality of loving has not been extinguished by the death and resurrection of Jesus, but extended.
I know that I am a sinner, Nick, but I also know that God loves me - beyond my own imagination - the Bible tells me so!
Fr Ron; a small point, but you mean philos. Adelphos is a brother. My point on mercy stands. We should show agape by mercifully correcting those so caught up in same sex politics that they confuse man's justice with God's. This is a spiritual work of mercy in the Roman tradition and favoured by the Holy Father.
"For clarity: I am not saying there is no basis for such a theology, only that building out from Jesus talking about eunuchs is something of a theological blind alley." - Dr. Peter Carrell -
Well, Peter, Scripture tells us that 'There are none so blind as WILL NOT see". I find it quite exciting that the great mystery of the Love of God is even beyond the speculation of our academic theologians. And I am glad that the mercy of God is not limited by human limitations.
After all, there are lots of speculative theories being 'built out' from 6 contentious verses of the Scriptures which might seem, to you, and other Evangelicals (even Roman Catholics) on ADU , to exclude homosexuals from the Kingdom of Heaven. However, there are thousands of verses that spoeak of God's love for sinners, and Christ's redemption of sinners, that contradict this parsimonious viewpoint.
After all, the Gospel is Good News for sinners, is it not? Or is it only Good News for saints? There are many sins that Jesus spoke about that are more hateful than our sexual pecadilloes (and he never said anything about homosexual 'sins' but plenty about heterosexual ones) - hypocrisy, judgementalism on the sins of other people (that Jesus was tough on) are only two of them. Jesus said; "I come to call sinners, not the righteous". If I thought I was 'righteous', I'd be shaking in my shoes right now. Reality, not fantasy - about our capacity for holiness without the help of God - is our watchword.
I don’t believe Peter, Nick or anyone contributing to this discussion believes that homosexuals are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven any more than thieves murderers or theologians. We understand the depth of God’s love and his grace.
However, I would like to draw your attention to one of those ‘contentious’ verses, not because it mentions homosexuals and sodomites (NKJV) but rather because of the tense used by Paul in summing up:
1:COR 6 9-11
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Paul says ‘And such were some of you’ with the operative word being ‘were’. This implies that those who once engaged in those forbidden practices have now repented and abandoned them.
That is not to say they were now perfect, a careful reading of Corinthians makes it clear they weren’t, however Paul states, as does Jesus, that sin should be forsaken, not continued with.
For those of us who believe Scripture treats homosexual practice in the same light as fornication we would expect, along with Jesus and Paul, that such sins should be forsaken.
Speaking personally, I cannot find anything in Scripture to substantiate a theological claim for legitimate homosexual union in the nature of marriage. Peter suggests there might be one, albeit using a double negative. Are you able to point me to your favourate website link (or two) that lays out the justification?
"I don’t believe Peter, Nick or anyone contributing to this discussion believes that homosexuals are excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven any more than thieves murderers or theologians. We understand the depth of God’s love and his grace." - Brendan -
I'm quite interested Brendan - following up on your last comment (3.43pm) - as to which particular category you place yourself, under the title of those whom you graciously admit to having acces to the Kingdom of Heaven: "homosexuals, thieves, murderers, theologians. I'll better understand where your arguments are coming from when I know.
NICK, you're right. I meant, of course, to refer to 'philos', rather then adelphos.
Regarding your comment here following: "We should show agape by mercifully correcting those so caught up in same sex politics that they confuse man's justice with God's. This is a spiritual work of mercy in the Roman tradition and favoured by the Holy Father".
'The Holy Father' has already expressed his thought about gay people when he said this: "Who am I to judge them?" As, for Roman Catholics like yourself, the Pope represents God's justice on earth, perhaps you might like to imitate his humble attitude of respect towards the gay people he chooses NOT to judge. End of story.
“I'm quite interested Brendan - following up on your last comment (3.43pm) - as to which particular category you place yourself, under the title of those whom you graciously admit to having access to the Kingdom of Heaven: "homosexuals, thieves, murderers, theologians. I'll better understand where your arguments are coming from when I know.” – Fr Ron.
** chuckle **
I’m more of a general purpose sinner I guess, with no special predisposition to any category on Paul’s list, or the abbreviated one I used in my last post. Of course homosexuals can be saved by the grace of God, just like anyone. Who ever thought otherwise?
My guess is that God would then expect them to become ‘eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom’ if their experience of ‘new creation’ life didn’t change their predisposition towards same sex attraction. I for one believe it can and does, and has for many former homosexuals, albeit I accept that’s not everyone’s experience.
The Pope is correct, we are not called to judge, and especially those outside of the Kingdom of God. There is of course legitimate church discipline for believers. Paul puts it like this:
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
1 Cor 5:9-12
Oh, and what about those links I asked for regarding the theological justification for SSM?
This is from the New Catholic Reporter last month:
"... Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli asked the pope how he might act as a confessor to a gay person in light of his now famous remarks in a press conference in 2013, when he asked: "Who am I to judge?"
Francis' reply appears in a new book The Name of God is Mercy to be released Tuesday.
"On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?" the pope says. "I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized."
"I am glad that we are talking about 'homosexual people' because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity," he continues. "And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love."
"I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together," says Francis. "You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it."
It seems to me that the Pope does not say what some want to hear.
Brendan, you could search Tobias Haller for another point of view on the general topic. He has contributed to ADU in the past.
Correction: it was the National Catholic Reporter 10 January 2016. I was clearly up too late.
"if their experience of ‘new creation’ life didn’t change their predisposition towards same sex attraction. I for one believe it can and does, and has for many former homosexuals, albeit I accept that’s not everyone’s experience" - Brendan -
Dear Brendan, the myth of conversion-therapy for intrinsically gay people has been blown apart - especailly in the U.S., with one of its proponents admitting that its former advicates were wrong in assuming that homosexuality is a sinful state of being, needing to be 'cured' by either spiritual or scentific eradication.
There is eom evidence of bi-sexual people being helpd to choose one aspect of their sexuality in preference to the other, in order to live more peacably with the more predominant sexual identity./ However, attempts to 'turn' homosexcuals into heterosexuals has been acknowledged by most modern psycho-therapists to have been harmful rather than of any practical use.
The idea of a GAFCON Prelate at a Lambeth Conference trying to 'exorcise' a homsoexual Church of England clergyman caused great consternation at the time, setting in mortion some serious study into the effects of injudicious and unhelpful attempts to force gay people to submit to unwise spiritual practices, which were based on a wring understanding of the etiology of homosexuality. The Chruch has moved on since that time, thank God.. Homosexuals now are being treated by most thinking people as subject to the same moral precepts as their heterosexual counterparts. This is one reason why some Christians are advocating stable relationships for homosexuals - as well as their heterosexual sisters and borhters.
Dear Fr Ron
I said nothing about ‘conversion therapy’ in my post, although your volunteered thoughts on such practices are noted.
However, I did ask for a second time if you could provide links to posts that outline a theological justification for same sex marriage. My google searches have not really delivered anything that useful, and I’d be grateful for your help in this regard.
 *experience of new creation life* [changing a] predisposition towards same sex attraction.
 *conversion-therapy for intrinsically gay* people.
These are neither equivalents, nor alternatives, nor mutually exclusive. They are not comparable in the same horizon of time-- cf a decade or more v 12 weeks. They may not be referring to the same people.
Within the rather severe limits of present knowledge,  is a tautology. By definition, *treatment for treatment-resistant cases* fails to have a symptom-specific effect, and there are such cases in every branch of psychotherapy. The existence of treatment resistant cases (eg borderline personality disorder) does not mean that no treatment for a given disorder ever works; neither is all surgery successful. In all branches of scientific treatment, research strives to identify a mechanism into which treatment might intervene with specific and measurable results. While no present theory of sexual orientation identifies a mechanism with sufficient clarity, knowledge continues to advance, more slowly perhaps in a climate of culture war hysteria that politicises science.
On review of admissible evidence, a Task Force of the American Psychological Association found, that Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) had some reliably reported benefits, but that those benefits are non-specific to the symptomatic attraction.
Meanwhile, patients continue to seek help from psychologists that they do not get from their pastors. The APA report's serene discussion of current treatment approaches supported by present knowledge begins on p 54/62--
Let the reader beware: the ethical questions raised today by pediatric cochlear implants could someday surround more successful treatments for sexual abnormalities, including attraction to the same biological sex. Christian ethicists should not reach irreversible conclusions on the basis of present knowledge.
Brendan, the TEC rationale for SSM can be found in the Task Force on Marriage report here--
Because SSM was already legal in several US states when the Task Force was appointed, the question before it was not *whether* to celebrate SSM in TEC, but *how* to do so with a coherent rationale and practise. The result is a briskly confident report that develops its case more thoroughly than other reports from around the Communion in which conservative and liberal voices comment on their impasse. Although there are further details that I would like to have seen, the TEC report does the best job of explaining the history of marriage in the Western Church.
Those with less time might think through Martin Davie's summary and critique of the report for the Church of England Evangelical Council--
At ADU, I have often noted that rival notions of ecclesial order have shaped the backdrop of debates over SSM, and that the implementation of change in marriage doctrine may bring change of polity as well. The clash between episcopal/diocesan and synodal/national visions of church order are particularly clear in the Episcopal Cafe thread about the report. There, Christopher Seitz and Ephraim Radner advocate for the former against various Task Force members who generally affirm the latter--
As elsewhere, the two sides clash over the meaning, scope, effectiveness, and legitimacy of conscience clauses for clergy who only officiate at traditional weddings. However, the alert reader will note that, in TEC, episcopalians tend to be conservatives defending the discretion of local bishops and diocesan synods, whilst synodalists tend to see bishops as officers of the General Convention enforcing its will in dioceses. Thus in TEC, it is localist conservatives who most often argue for a tolerant diversity, whilst it is the internationalist liberals who insist on uniformity enforced by prosecutions. It is clear from the thread that the two sides do not trust each other.
"However, I did ask for a second time if you could provide links to posts that outline a theological justification for same sex marriage. My google searches have not really delivered anything that useful, and I’d be grateful for your help in this regard." - Brendan -
Thanks to Bowman's input, you already have TEC's theological justification for considering same-sex marriage - as an extension of the extant marriage justification for heterosexuals. This, of course, is sans the usual assertion that marriage must be all about propagation of the species. There are many marriages undertaken today - some in Christian Churches - which have no expectation of bringing children into a world already grossly overpopulated. But then, that is another point of view - very different from yours, but not necessarily less valid in our world of today.
I think, if we get down to the nitty gritty; most conservative people opposed to same-sex relationship are obsessed by the propsect of what some biblical literalists call the act of 'sodomy'. However, by no means all homosexual relationships - not even committed monogamous ones - are active in that particular process; believe it or not! There is such a thing as eros within agape that is consonant with the created order, into who even homosexuals are created. After all, you wouldn't expect the same discipline of celibacy for yourself within a relationship that you seem to be projecting upon gay people.
As someone not yet convinced by ssb and ssm arguments, my concern has more to do with which side has the itching ears of 2 Timothy 4:3. Without giving a final view, ssb and ssm arguments appear to me, at least, to rely on inchoate appreciations of mercy and justice. Nevertheless, I accept that, if I am correct, verse 2 applies to the delivery of that view with a particular weight on the word patience. To use the NIV, the great patience and careful instruction are the true mercy and agape.
" Without giving a final view, ssb and ssm arguments appear to me, at least, to rely on inchoate appreciations of mercy and justice." - Nick
Certainly, Nick, appreciation of the mercy and justice of God could not be called 'inchoate' - 'not fully formed or developed'. Rather, human understanding of God's Mercy and Justice requires the charisms of Faith, Hope and Love; three Gospel virtues that are gifts from God, not necessaarily attainable by diligent study - even of the scriptures.
"Where charity and love are - there is God" (Holy Thursday antiphon)
"As someone not yet convinced by SSB..." --Nick
Nick, why do you care about SSB? The usual arguments for it are that nobody wants to sing an alto part, and too few actually can sing a tenor part well. The former argument is rejected by advocates for more interesting voice leading, and descant for sopranos that lets altos carry the melody. The latter argument is countered by those who favour occasional tenor soloes and a clear separation between the baritone and bass registers, such as one hears in Russian church music. All too often, however, these eloquent dissuasives fall on ears, more tone-deaf than itchy, who revert to SSB by default. But as Bryden would say that someone would say, let those who have ears hear...
"Without giving a final view, ...ssm arguments appear to me, at least, to rely on inchoate appreciations of mercy and justice." --Nick
At least in my country, Nick, the notions of mercy and justice that support SSM are perfectly clear in the civil sphere. There is nothing inchoate about the justice by which a lesbian's life expectancy is rising because she can now be legally covered by her partner's gym membership and health insurance. But those notions are much clearer in court than in church.
SSM proponents had a persuasive critique of the way civil marriage laws marginalised sexual minorities in ways that affected them throughout their lives as social beings. Here and there, Caesar has agreed and married them. But do the old arguments that persuaded Caesar still matter once SSM is the law of the land?
The persuasive critique emphasised law over churches because the latter do not have the social power of the state in the lives of gays and lesbians. Even in a town where most churches would not have hosted her wedding, my hypothetical lesbian has still gotten material justice from her nation's nighest court, no matter what her churchgoing neighbours think.
Still, there has been important change even among churches without rainbow banners out front. Among these, she recognises a clear difference between the few churches that harbour something like a 1950s fear of homosexuals, and the many where folks are trying to be true both to their neighbours and to their God. The former are not very interesting anyway, and the latter, though not rainbow people, are approachable enough to enable her to reconnect with her family's tradition.
So the original, clear form of the justice argument is happily dead or dying as the reality in the streets is changed by the law. But alas, for happy warriors, a beloved argument never dies just because it is no longer true. What seem inchoate to you, I suspect, are the zombies of once clear arguments that get hazier as they shamble down the road from the courthouse to the churchyard, somehow satisfying a need in those who must recite them again and again.
What matters in churchly discussion about weddings or blessings for SSM is that zombies not crowd out the living thoughts that emerge from fresh observation of a new landscape. On one hand, it is fair to say that TEC's rite for SSM is not critical to anyone's health insurance, right to inherit property from a spouse, hospital visitation rights, etc. A church without a wedding rite for SSM is certainly not unjust in the way that a state that would not allow SSM was unjust. Arguments that seek to guilt-trip churches into doing things for civil justice are just those old zombies straying from the courthouse.
Some still believe, I think, that whistling for the zombies to come wins them a moral high ground in debate on which they hope to do good for their constituency. A little guilt now and again can do wonders. But increasingly this keeps an old polarisation alive that undermines their efforts. I have argued elsewhere that Anglican partisans, after a generation of wars about women's ordination and homosexuality, need leaders who can put the old polarisation behind them, precisely so that they can lead their constituencies in a C21 horizon. And however one feels about Pope Francis, governance somewhat devolved from Rome, etc that may apply equally to the Concilium and Communio parties on the ground in Roman Catholicism.
On the other hand, it is also fair to say that a Christian *state of life* that corresponds to the new legal status has not been clearly enough envisioned, and that replicating a problematic heterosexual rite for homosexuals in a fit of justice fever is giving the latter far less than they need and deserve. That is the sort of faux justice that majestically forbids both the rich and the poor to sleep under a bridge on a rainy night. Homosexuals are just like all the other beloved sinners to whom the Church has a duty of deliberate, informed, reflective care along the path of salvation. They deserve better than a patch on the old wineskin, but a new one will take experience, reflection, and time.
So unless you live in a country without SSM, I would give up the quest for the right opinion about it. I do not say that one cannot arrive at such an opinion-- I believe that I have-- but I do say that the opinion at which one arrives is almost inconsequential unless one is a prime minister or high court justice. Millions here debated SSM, decided that they were against it, amended their state constitutions accordingly, and then were outvoted 5-4 on the Supreme Court. In the UK, no party manifesto even mentioned SSM, but then David Cameron's political advisor suggested that it would help him in a looming leadership battle, and in a bit more than a year it had the royal assent. SSM is an affair of state-- politics.
What matters much more are the still poorly understood trajectories of the lives in Christ of those who believe that they are gay or lesbian. The Church needs to know more to do the right thing by them. And anyway, when one thinks of such Christians as W. H. Auden, William Stringfellow, and Richard John Neuhaus, one knows that all of us can learn from them. We have been all along.
Didn't fully understand all of your last 2 contributions, Bowman, but your last paragraph (at 10.34) got my attention::
"What matters much more are the still poorly understood trajectories of the lives in Christ of those who believe that they are gay or lesbian. The Church needs to know more to do the right thing by them. And anyway, when one thinks of such Christians as W. H. Auden, William Stringfellow, and Richard John Neuhaus, one knows that all of us can learn from them. We have been all along." - Bowman Walton -
The mills of God do appear to grind slowly - especially in the Church understanding of the lives and commitment of Christian homosexuals. Thank God that TEC and the anglican Church of Canada have done a wee bit more research than some other Churches in the Anglican Communion. This is why they can be pro-active on this matter of humsn justice.
Thank you for your reflections on the question of SSM.
I agree that the issue of mercy and justice is clear in the civil sphere, perhaps with the only complication now being that the LGBT ‘justice’ warriors are no longer content with ‘equality’ but appear determined to press on until they can dance on the corpse of their former ‘oppressors’ – Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla, the company he founded being their first victim for the ‘crime’ of donating to proposition 8. There have been others since, and there will be many more.
Having lost the ‘culture war’ in the civil sphere, the focus has moved on to the Church, Christian Schools, faith based Universities, sports franchises, and businesses who (I believe wrongly) refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings. Not only must all wrong actions be punished, but also wrong thoughts.
‘SSM marriage won’t affect you, but when it does you had it coming.’
Most Christian parents, business people and employees are woefully unprepared for this onslaught and the Church seems at a loss to know how to talk about it, preferring instead to hunker down and hope it will all blow by them. It won’t.
I also happen to think that SSM does not ‘add’ to marriage as it was understood, it destroys it. There were plenty of options including Civil Unions that delivered the legal status required in the civil sphere, without radically reshaping our understanding of marriage and in particular the ‘rights’ of children to have both a mum and a dad. Yes, I know there are single parents, but that’s different from having two ‘mums’ and / or two ‘dads’. This is uncharted territory.
But you are right, this debate, but not its impact is behind us now and what we happen to believe one way or the other about SSM is irrelevant, at least in a civic sphere.
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“What matters much more are the still poorly understood trajectories of the lives in Christ of those who believe that they are gay or lesbian. The Church needs to know more to do the right thing by them.” Bowman Walton
And this is the nub of the question, and its one that has to be understood from both a theological, pastoral and cultural perspective. I suppose I could add sociological, but once you start down that track where do you end?
It seems to me that without having a firm grasp of the theology regarding homosexuality, then our pastoral response is likely to be flawed at best, possibly even counter productive.
There are those like Fr Ron who by emphasizing love, mercy and grace appear to believe that the answer lies in affirmation ones gay and lesbian predisposition, and appears to see nothing problematic with acting upon one’s same sex attraction. If you believe that God is love, as we all do, then what’s the problem?
Well, the problem is that some attitudes and behaviours appear from Scripture not to have God’s loving endorsement, but rather to attract his wrath. Yes, of course there is forgiveness for those of us in Christ, but the subtext is one of repentance, faith towards God, and an honest attempt to walk in newness of life.
So the question remains, how does God view homosexuality? Well, for 2,000 years the Church believed it knew the answer to that question based upon (at a very minimum) those six contested verses, but also from a much wider reading of the text.
There is no doubt that as a result, homosexuals have been treated shamefully by Christians, as have Jews, and indeed other Christians. Homosexuals have not been the only target of our self-righteousness.
However, because our actions have been wrong, it does not necessarily mean that our understanding of Scripture, or God’s character was flawed. It’s our character that is flawed.
Yes, it’s right that we take time to reflect on the pastoral question, but isn’t the theological one of first importance?
"What matters much more are the still poorly understood trajectories of the lives in Christ of those who believe that they are gay or lesbian. The Church needs to know more to do the right thing by them." BW
"The mills of God do appear to grind slowly - especially in the Church understanding of the lives and commitment of Christian homosexuals." FrRS
"And this is the nub of the question, and its one that has to be understood from both a theological, pastoral and cultural perspective. (I suppose I could add sociological, but once you start down that track where do you end?) It seems to me that without having a firm grasp of the theology regarding homosexuality, then our pastoral response is likely to be flawed at best, possibly even counter productive." BMcN
Gradually, God is teaching our civilisation to stereotype and standardise people less, and to accommodate human exceptionalities of all kinds more and more. The leadership in this learning is nearly always the Church allied with science. In the C18, pioneers helped the mentally ill; in the C19, the deaf and the blind; in the C20, racial minorities; in the C21, sexual minorities. None has been wholly without social controversy or the mistakes of pioneers. Work among most aboriginal populations began in deep ambiguity before flowing into this main stream. Much of it would have been better conceived with better understanding of the exceptionalities. But for all of these flaws, none of us would back away from the stream as a whole, or doubt that we are learning from God.
Personally, I think that this way of framing our discussions about homosexuality in the Church is more insightful and inspiring than the polarised and confrontational rhetoric of some civil struggles. Among its other virtues, it allows for some difference of opinion among those who are wholeheartedly committed to the stream insofar as it is from God.
Brendan, I've drafted a reply to your questions. But I hate it. With your indulgence, I will send a better reply by Sunday.
Here was me thinking only Rome granted indulgences, but as you so graciously sought one from me, then I am bound to gladly grant it.
I appreciate that the pastoral is nuanced but the theological?
Bowman, I drafted a reply to you which needs work. You'll have it within 48 hrs. I'd ask for an indulgence but you'll appreciate that I prefer the type that deal with the temporal effects of sin.
Speaking of indulgences, Brethren. I well remember acting as Luther's Cnfessor in John Osobrne's epic play 'Luther'. An outstanding scene was when Cajetan presided over the sale of indulgences in the market-place. This involved granting the indulgence of days off purgatory, in exchange for money - more money, more days off. Now how does that square with Roman Catholic theology with the doctrine of sin and repentance? No wonder there had to be a Reformation!
One of my greatest "theological" surprises in recent years was the discovery that indulgences still exist within Roman ecclesiology.
Will recent (and welcome) Roman appreciation of the Reformation finally lead to their excision?
No, Peter, our source in the Holy See whispers that Francis plans to commemorate the Ninety-Five Theses (1517) with a tour of indulgence-peddlers to raise funds for a new Church of the Reformation in the Vatican, and that a search is already underway for sinners with the resources (and of course the sins) to substantially advance the project. Reportedly, there is real excitement at its ecumenical aspect, since the sinners to be indulged need not be Roman Catholic, and the clergy for the new church need not be Protestant.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign does not deny that their candidate has been approached, several times, about participation in the project. They confirm their understanding that the building is likely to be as decorous as any of the Trump Organization's investments worldwide. "It's gonna be-- it's gonna be HUGE-- the most amazingly, incredibly, awesome building ever constructed!," said a source who modestly declined to be identified for the record. A leading manufacturer of lavatory fixtures confirms that its order book does have an order for gold-plated faucets of angels blowing water through trumpets for delivery to the Vatican City, but a company spokesman says, "It's really nothing out of the ordinary."
Clearly out of the ordinary will be the Nave of the Defensor Fidei. Recalling the refutation of Martin Luther written by King Henry VIII of England, it is expected to be the only space in the world designed for rapid reconfiguration for either solemn liturgy or solemn cricket. In an instant, the swiveling Focus of Devotion's four faces will be rotated to display either the legs of a Zwinglian holy table, a lace parament for consubstantiation, a stone face with reliquary for transubstantiation, or an LED display of the running score of a cricket match.
It is not believed that the Vatican Bank will need any technical assistance in identifying persons with substantial guilt and resources. However, our source reports that HH Francis will travel soon to Cuba to confer with HAH Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, on an offer from President Vladimir Putin of several thousand surprising photographs that could facilitate contrition and restitution in capitals worldwide. President Barack Obama reportedly refused to "get the United States into an intel bidding war against Russia," but with the delivery of Edward Snowden's suitcase of NSA intercepts from Hollywood, our source implies that the US has won it anyway. A Nigerian general who claims to have made a fortune on the internet has also offered his services. It looks as though 2016 will be the best year for indulgence sales since 1516.
I presume, Bowman, that publishing your comment means we both have targets on our backs, from one secret service or another (or all of them)!
Peter, after all that about Syria, I'm the files have been thickening anyway. On the other hand, you should know that the man with the earpiece who opens his newspaper to the same page every time I turn around always seems to have ADU open on his phone. You won't see him in your analytics-- I'm sure they've scrubbed his traces-- but I think you have a fan.
Nick, there are persons who sell indulgences for most temporal effects of of most serious sins, but since their methods add the guilt into the principal and compound it continuously, only psychopaths find it to be a good investment. I do look forward to reading your thoughts.
Brendan, the gap between your approach and Father Ron's approach has a long history. Acknowledging that well takes time, and not acknowledging it well would make anything I say seem arbitrary rather than eccentric.
Your thinking on indulgences is wishful. Since indulgences are integral to the year of Jubilee (you know, the holy doors), the chances of a rethink for 2017 are about as likely as TEC crying nostra maxima culpa en masse. Some Catholics criticise Francis for liking indulgences too much. I seem to remember that he gave a plenary indulgence from the balcony as soon as he was elected. I remember wondering whether it worked over the internet.
Even a Protestant, Nick, can appreciate when indulgence is shown to his wishful thinking! :)
Bowman, have you ever thought of writing scripts for ecclesiasitcal whodunnits? I'm sure you have enough intrigue in your purluie to thrill us all.
Nick, so you still believe that the Pope can remit days in purgatory? Or is it some other divine favour that Rome has access to that no self-respecting protestant would deem possible. If so, what is the going rate for peccadilloes; like kissing a person of the opposite gender behind the bikeshed at school? Or, is that a 'mortal' sin?
Fr Ron, to low church Anglicans, I suspect that your belief in the real presence is in the same league as Catholic indulgences; but to answer your question it's not my favourite doctrine, though I will not say that it is wrong. Incidentally, lest there is confusion, under Catholic doctrine, people who die with unconfessed mortal sin are not in purgatory.
(Why) is SSM important?
Concerns about five topics are driving most discussion of SSM from below the surface-- the authority of scripture, homosexuality and homophobia, the culture of procreation, churchgoing as mainstream culture, and the sensus fidelium. When arguments cannot be related to the unstated motivations behind them, they are likely to misunderstood. What have I missed or misstated?
(1.1) Some prioritise SSM as a test of the Authority of Scripture (AoS) in the Church.
(1.1a) AoS, as a clear boundary separating intentional Christians from nominal ones, frees the former from the latter, enabling healthy churches. The matter is not intrinsically important, but it is a clear boundary-- the Six Texts are clear, and and things people do with their bodies are more definite than things people say that they think. And the boundary works. Churches that oppose SSM have highly committed intentional Christians, and almost no nominal Christians. Thus they are experienced by the like-minded as wonderfully vibrant churches in contrast with the debating societies to which other churches have degenerated.
(1.1b) AoS is a shield for the ecology of local church life. A Christian only flourishes with fragile traditions that are cultivated and transmitted amid deep agreement. So certain kinds of change that are simply too disruptive to the ecology of the church must be rejected whatever the cost in fairness, egalitarianism, autonomy, etc.
(1.1c) AoS eases the tension between voting and diversity. A church can have a high authority conserving a stable tradition for a highly diverse body. Or it can be an egalitarian community that freely revises tradition by voting but is not very diverse in race, class, culture, etc. But it cannot feasibly be a highly egalitarian body that freely revises tradition and is very diverse.
(1.1d) AoS assures impeccable teaching and witness. Meeting this one condition enables one to tolerate a number of ecclesial ills that would otherwise incline one to leave.
(1.1e) AoS is less reliable than universal moral intuitions in deciding moral questions. Clear departures from scripture in moral matters opens a church to more reliable counsel without weakening AoS in other aspects of religion.
(1.2) Some prioritise SSM because they see homosexuality as a uniquely important.
(1.2a) Homosexuality is an addiction that is destructive to self and others.
(1.2b) Homosexuality creates a dangerous vulnerability. Although most Hs are harmless, the percentage of persons inclined to serious sexual evil is higher among them than among the straight population. Or conversely, the percentage of persons inclined to sexual evil is lower among those aligned with family etc.
(1.2c) Homophobia is a menace driving individuals to suicide, breaking up families, marginalising persons.
(1.2d) Homosexuality is a menace when marginalised by homophobia, but is no longer dangerous once homophobia is mainstreamed.
(1.3) Some see SSM as determining whether a culture of procreation is characteristic of the Church.
(1.3a) The erosion of a church's understanding in depth of sex, gender, marriage, family, etc erodes its fitness for its mission to be the community of the new creation. The mere presence of homosexuals in a church is not intrinsically a problem. However, for the 3% to have an influence on the program equal to that of the 97% is unjust and counter-missional.
(1.3b) Some see the received culture of procreation as responsible for the oppression of women and sexual minorities.
(1.4) Some see SSM as a test of whether a churchgoer can be a mainstream citizen.
(1.4a) If nobody goes to church, it does not matter whether the church is right or not, and nobody will go to a church that does not recognise SSM.
(1.4b) A church has to reflect the highest aspirations of the community in which it finds itself, and in a progressive community in a progressive era, those aspirations include SSM.
(1.4c) Any unusual position on something as constitutive of common culture as marriage requires more intellectual and moral commitment than many or most members will muster. They will not learn more religion so that they can defend a church that is eccentric on SSM; they will drift away from that church.
(1,4d) Unlike earlier changes in sexual mores, SSM inevitably marginalises serious Christians, both in many churches and in society at large, so churches debating SSM are determining whether serious Christians will stay or leave.
(1.4e) Maintaining orthodoxy in a culture committed to SSM will require churches willing to leave the mainstream, so churches debating SSM are determining whether they will embrace "the Benedict Option" or something like it.
(1.4f) SSM uniquely compels Christians to decide between personal values-- progressive materialism and traditional religion-- that they have been able to hold together for several generations.
(1.5) Some see SSM as testing the authority of the *sensus fidelium* in church teaching.
(1.5a) Bishops and clergy have to follow their people on a matter that the latter care about as much as they care about SSM.
(1.5b) The sensus fidelium is a check on factionalism, not a source of truth. It can reject teaching about SSM that is simply unlivable by the body of the faithful, but it cannot propose doctrine of any kind.
Correction: (1.2d) Homosexuality is a menace when marginalised by homophobia, but is no longer dangerous once *homosexuality* is mainstreamed.
Thanks for your insights and reflections. I will digest over the next few days and maybe have a question or two.
Father Ron, truth is stranger than fiction, and I'm sure we've both seen or heard plenty of that. I do occasionally exchange manuscripts, or sometimes just a new character, setting, or modus operandi, with a friend who actually does write a genre-bending ecclesiastical whodunnit now and again. It is usually set in a rather hypothetical church, one that should exist, and someday might, but does not yet.
So yes, though I am not sure which of mine you were thinking of, purlieus do stimulate. You can think of a place in a state, ask what incident made it so, ask who could possibly have done that, and then ask why they did it? Many say that this is exactly backwards, but Orhan Pamuk, with his lifelong fascination with Istanbul, told me that he always builds in just that way around his settings, not his characters.
But no, I had not thought about screenplays.
In the context of this thread, you identified a proposition that Rome might end up as the vox ecclesiae by default. You did not use those words, but I rather think that you are correct because of secular brand theory; you know what you are getting with Rome (albeit Pope Francis takes a circuitous route to end up at the Ratzinger aka JP2 Catechism). In terms of what is inchoate, people who say that they are Christians and support same sex relationships (I make no judgement on whether you can) often rely on imprecise secular notions of justice. Fr Ron has started to rely on mercy, though I find his use of the concept loose. Biblical justice is not equality. Biblical mercy brings a sinner to repentance; it isn't a pardon for the unrepentant. I suggest that confusing secular understandings of equality with biblical justice and mercy is to misunderstand both. As for ssb, I mentioned it only because I think NZ Anglicans will discuss it at their general synod. Their Motion 30 predates ssm in New Zealand.
(2.0) Where did the five concerns come from?
As noted, concerns about five topics are driving most discussion of SSM from below the surface-- the authority of scripture, homosexuality and homophobia, the culture of procreation, churchgoing as mainstream culture, and the sensus fidelium. When arguments cannot be related to the unstated motivations behind them, they are likely to misunderstood.
But how did these five concerns come to be so motivating? And why are those motivated by some positions unable to see or respect the concerns of those motivated by the other positions? The Anglican ethos transmits positions of past theological movements that are themselves forgotten. Thus Anglican thinking is shaped by a common theological culture with layers and standing disagreements that are no longer explicitly recognised, even in such august settings as the CoE Pilling Commission or the TEC Task Force. The result is that partisans on all sides are forced to resort to non-theological appeals to such civic principles as majority rule or tolerance that only persuade each of them that it alone has a bona fide religious concern. Until each position is seen as a fully religious position, a properly theological dialogue about them cannot begin.
(2.1) Concern about the authority of scripture (AoS), both in use and in abuse, reflects C16-17 disagreements about the ultimate purpose of Reformation. Confusingly, all parties in those disagreements referred to their view of scripture as *sola scriptura*. At that time, bishops in the Church of England occupied a spectrum of opinion that goes beyond the somewhat reductive typology below. The classical voice is conceded by all sides to have been that of Richard Hooker (2.1a). The Thirty Nine Articles take many positions by implication and restraint (2.1b). The age had a strong current of neo-Augustinianism on both sides of the English Channel (2.1c).
(2.1a) Anti-corruption reformers wished to reset the church and society to the norms of a better time before the corruption of the M2, and employed both the scriptures and the fathers and councils interpreting them as a criterion of later developments. For these reformers, a Christian's saving faith is trust in God's will to save, not assent to propositions to be believed de fide. Neverthless reliance on the testimony of the Church is a sufficient reason for that faith. Of course the scriptures could be followed as the fathers had done it-- that was the idea-- but on many matters on which the two were not conclusive, a believer could rely on the natural law as explained in eg St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II. In practise, this reliance was likely to be reliance on the prudence of better informed magistrates.
(2.1b) Lutherish reformers (Reformed, not Puritan) believed that God desired to save every human being, saw the believer's faith in Christ as effecting his justification, and saw the sacraments as means of grace insofar as they stengthened this faith. Again, for these reformers, a Christian's saving faith is trust in God, and reliance on the testimony of the Church is a sufficient reason for that faith. But the scriptures are the ultimate source of that testimony, and they explain everything necessary to salvation. What they do not explain fully can be understood by recourse to the natural law and reliance on one's lawful governors, as above.
(2.1c) Calvinish reformers (Reformed, Puritan; cf Jansenism, Synod of Dort) believed that God elected some, but not all, human beings to salvation, and that close obedience to divine commandments demonstrated the regeneration that warranted *assurance* that one had been elected to salvation. Please note that, for these reformers, the testimony of the Church is not a sufficient reason for saving faith. After all, everyone, including presumably those elect to damnation, then believed the Church about all the facts in the creeds. Rather, a Christian's saving faith is recognition that, because God has regenerated her soul, she has direct proof of election to salvation. Putting it mildly, this view gives a certain existential urgency to the search for divine commandments in the text of the scriptures. At the same time, though it need not discourage resort to natural law-- *Calvinist Thomist* is not an oxymoron-- in Puritan practise it often did so.
(2.2) Concern about homosexuality and homophobia continues modern Anglicanism's openness to the *enlightened*, scientific consensus through two different generations of research. The openness itself, although it arouses suspicion of worldliness in those most indebted to the Puritans, evolved from the practical reliance on Aristotelian thought that can be seen in such an exemplar as Richard Hooker. Just how far contemporary science can be equated to what the Rennaissance and Reformation meant by *reason* is warmly discussed, and critical reflection from the history and philosophy of the sciences has seldom been taken fully into account. We do not know everything, and we are not close to an integration of what we do know.
(2.2a) Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection gave a huge impetus to the study of sexual attraction in the C19 and C20, most notably in the work of Sigmund Freud, whose program of a scientific psychotherapy was not seriously challenged in medicine until the 1970s. Although consciously non-religious and scientific, Freud's psychoanalysis nevertheless had a moral agenda that valued the health of the ego, the self's capacity to love and work despite inner animal impulses and outer environmental challenges. Homosexuality and other sexual deviations seemed to Freud to reflect a sickness of the ego that was experiential in its origin, but had consequences for the self's fitness, in the Darwinian sense, for reproduction. Thus, to enlightened physicians, schoolmasters, clergy, and parents of the C20, homosexuality was at once a menace, insofar as it was contagious, an illness, insofar as it damaged a person's capacity to reproduce, and a moral failing, given the identification of the ego with the conscience of traditional moral theory. Thus those who came of age in the middle of the C20 were exposed to the pattern of practise that resulted in the stigma now called *homophobia*. It is important to note that while psychotherapy has advanced far beyond Freud, psychiatrists no longer classify homosexuality as a disease, and the stigmatisation of young homosexuals was and is unconscionable, all the scientific components of the Freudian view of homosexuality are still current. They have simply been eclipsed in popular imagination by more recent developments in another branch of science.
(2.2b) James Watson and Francis Crick's solution of the code by which an organism's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) directs the synthesis of proteins enabled the integration of previously separate sciences that studied cells, physiology, matter, and inheritance. Until recently, this new science explained the structure of living things, not in terms of what happened to them, but in terms of the Central Dogma that stimuli to inherited DNA causes proteins and proteins cause events in cells. In principle, this molecular-level account of life enabled visible human activity to be related to brain activity that can be imaged. This in turn suggests that variations in human behaviour, especially those involving a loss of function, might be traceable to differences in the inherited DNA. If the failure to desire a reproductive partner can be regarded as a loss of function, then in principle, homosexuality can be imagined to have a physiological origin at the molecular level. More recent research has overturned the once Central Dogma with a thriving field of epigenetics, and a new science of social and affective neuroscience is probably more relevant to the materiality of behaviour, but most ordinary people thinking about homosexuality today retain from the molecular revolution a sense that sexual behaviour is biologically, and probably genetically, determined. To those so informed, the basic ideas of sexual orientation, etc make intuitive sense, and homophobia can seem superstitious and morally abhorrent.
Brandan, thank you for your interest and consideration.
I am not making a Lenten discipline of That Topic-- in fact I may yet give it up until Alleluia returns-- but it only takes a little to finish an outline. My concern-- and I think yours-- is that we get past these desperate appeals to toleration and majority rule and on to discussion on shared theological ground, even if that must be disputed theological ground.
The obstacle to that discussion is that although the Six Texts do stand on that ground, as you say, they do not stand alone. The sense of them seems to have been exhaustively and exhaustingly validated, but the meaning and application of them depend a lot on how they fit the canon as a whole, and the nature of what we are applying them to. And those matters have histories.
Thank you for your patience with all of this. I look forward to seeing your thoughts.
Nick, yes, yes, and what?
Yes, I agree, a clear and durable value proposition is always important when the price is high. For a richer understanding of the situation on both sides of the Tiber, we might also look at Albert Hirschman's EVLN model--
Ceteris paribus, we would expect lower loyalty in a church with lower entrance requirements (ie the church has a duty to take you at low cost), and that shocks its members with events that force them to align their self-concept with another church. Conversely, a church that is careful about letting people in should have higher loyalty, so that disgruntled members choose Voice (or maybe Neglect) rather than Exit.
In the US religious landscape, that sure sounds like the difference between TEC and the RCC. I have no numbers on the balance of trade between our side and yours, but it looks to me as though the trickle of RCC --> TEC has slowed a bit as Rome learns to live with some dissent, but the TEC --> RCC pulses from one General Convention to the next. And I know high church Protestants who would not have hesitated to join TEC thirty years ago, but who cannot even consider it today.
A common TEC response to that is that all churches are realigning anyway, and so many liberals will want to be Episcopalians that it would help the brand if all the remaining conservatives just left. (Theoretically then, TEC should be paying parishes to leave rather than suing to make them stay.) Nevertheless, if one's reason for joining TEC rather than UCC (post-Reformed congregationalism) or UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) are its catholic distinctives, then the tendency to prosecute bishops, fiddle with liturgy and sacraments, and nurse a feminist grudge against tradition should weaken the brand over time.
Which leads us to the *stadium effect*. If all mainline churches do the same things to attract the same liberal Protestant constituency, they will cancel each other's propects for gain whilst still incurring the costs in Exit, Voice, and Neglect of the changes they make. And what will Rome offer?
Just by having a balanced social magisterium and keeping its loyal liberals, Rome will still be competitive even for at least some liberal Protestants.
Yes, state is state, and church is church. Causes formulated in terms of either do not travel to the other with the rationale intact. An argument that wins in one sphere is generally unpersuasive in the other sphere. Judas and Caiaphas both made the mistake.
I give up. What is SSB? And what is Motion 50? Neither is in Peter's lexicon of New Zealand English.
Thanks for your many stimulating interventions.
SSB refers to blessing of same sex partnerships (according to some informal, locally composed rite or according to a formal, common rite of the church, which, in some way, distinguishes itself from "marriage.")
Motion 30 refers to a motion of our General Synod in 2014 which signalled that ACANZP is moving towards SSB (if not SSM) while working on ways to not disenfranchise those who do not agree that our SSB, let alone SSM should be part of our church's life. In particular it set up AWay Forward group to bring report and recommendations to our church, prior to our next GS in May, 2016. That report is imminent and almost certainly will be discussed on this site soon!
“My concern-- and I think yours-- is that we get past these desperate appeals to toleration and majority rule and on to discussion on shared theological ground, even if that must be disputed theological ground.” - Bowman
Bowman, I have really appreciated the way you have framed this discussion, and the time you have spent engaging with it. It is difficult (obviously) to look beyond our personal world view that has been shaped by a variety of influences and of which Scripture is just one. This is especially true when it comes to the question of homosexuality within the Church, but also true when one approaches Scripture generally.
Rather than simply ‘cut and paste’ your responses in full, I will simply reference them when making a comment or asking a question.
(1.1) The prioritization of SSM within the Church has originated with the LGBT lobby and not with those who seek to rely upon the AoS as our primary guide to faith and practice. (just an observation).
(1.1a) Agreed. I chuckled over your comment regarding ‘debating societies’.
(1.1c) Agreed. Poses a conundrum for Anglicans world wide perhaps?
(1.1d) Being forced to swallow too many dead rats can cause indigestion.
(1.1e) What are the ‘universal moral institutions’ of which you speak, and on what authority do they provide ‘more reliable council’ than Scripture when engaging in questions of morality? Do you have some examples?
(1.2) Possibly, however once again the prioritization has come from the LGBT folks initially.
(1.2a) One could also argue that heterosexual activity is ‘addictive’ and potentially destructive to self and others. In other words, this is not a unique feature of homosexuality, but perhaps a more prevalent feature amongst those who engage in its practice?
(1.2b) Yes. Is it fair to say these are subjective observations, or are they supported by research?
(1.2c) Again, subjective observation or substantiated by research?
(1.2d) Subjective observation? How has normalization of homosexuality resolved the issues you raise in 1.2c for example?
(1.1) Yes, this is an important issue facing the church, and one we are largely blind to. It will have increasing downstream implications that will marginalize more conservative Christians, their families, their businesses and their churches.
(1.4a) “and nobody will go to a church that does not recognise SSM.” How many believers were surveyed in order to reach that conclusion?
(1.4b) What you are really saying here is that the Church must be ‘like’ the community it seeks to reach; else it won’t reach it. This is a somewhat nuanced question. If it were entirely like the community it is attempting to reach, what does it have to offer the community that it doesn’t already have?
There are times when the Church must speak prophetically to culture, else we become like salt without its flavour. Matt 5:13
The Church shapes culture and is shaped by culture. The challenge for us is to distinguish between those aspects of culture we can and should embrace, and those we must in all conscience reject. For me this comes back to the Aos.
(1.4c) This feels like an opinion which may or may not prove to be true.
(1.4d) This is ultimately true.
(1.4e) You imply the orthodox must leave churches shaped by culture. Why wouldn’t the orthodox Christians ‘stay’ and the followers of popular culture leave, or do you expect the 3% to prevail?
I’m familiar with Rod Dreyer and ‘the Benedict Option’ and have a good deal of sympathy for that approach. If LGBT ‘rights’ trump Christian orthodoxy in the Church generally, then I suspect many will gather around St B.
(1.2) Had to look up ‘sensus fidelium’ in Wikipedia.
(1.5a) Only if they are politicians first and followers of Jesus second.
(2.0) “Until each position is seen as a fully religious position, a properly theological dialogue about them cannot begin.” – Agreed.
(2.2a) Causation of homosexuality is an interesting question. I’m not sure how much either Freud or Darwin have to contribute to this discussion as far as the church is concerned.
It would be absurd to suggest that God would or could justly condemn someone born with blue eyes rather than brown. If HS were a function of someone’s God given DNA, then condemnation of its practice would be out of the question, unless we have gravely misunderstood God’s character.
The impact of sin is to distort something God created to be good. Sex is good, within the context God created. Just as our natural appetite can be distorted into gluttony, an enjoyable glass of wine can become drunkenness, so our sexual appetite can also become distorted. Could homosexuality be such an expression? How else could its practice justly invoke Scriptural condemnation?
(2.2b) I wonder how much the idea that HS is biologically and genetically determined stems from an initial rejection of Christian orthodoxy. Having rejected sin as a determining factor, other causation must be found? Shades of Romains 1:22 perhaps?
That’s not to say engaging in HS practice does not have an impact upon our physiology, it may well do so and in fact probably does. We are shaped by our habits for better or worse. What difference homosexuals exhibit as observed by Freud and others could well be an effect rather than a cause.
Probably because of Paul, we in the Church have treated sexual sins as being more abhorrent than other lusts of the flesh. As a result, the temptation to condemnation has been greater, and has resulted in alienation of many homosexuals from the church.
There is a good deal of work to be done around the question of pastoral care for HS in the church. Hopefully this will be conducted in a framework of compassion for the individual and faithfulness to the Aos. It’s a critical time for the Anglican church as it decides if it wants to continue, at least in part, as an expression of popular culture – a culture it once helped to form, or if the gulf is now too wide and it must become counter cultural in its expression.
" under Catholic doctrine, people who die with unconfessed mortal sin are not in purgatory." - Nick -
This rather reminds me of a del;ightful story told by an Benecitine monk of my acquaintance:
'A simple Irish Catholic, when questioned about his belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Heaven; scratched his head and asked his interlocutor: "Well, if she aint in Heaven, where the 'ell is she?" '
Incidentally, Nick, I can accept the idea of some sort of purgation or cleansing after the death of the body. We will all, surely, need it! This brings up the meaning of Saint Paul when he speaks about the general resurrection - at the second coming of Christ: "All who have died in Christ will be first to risen abd then thoise of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air" (per Jerusalem Bible. 1 Thess.13-18)
This gives us some idea of the whereabouts of the 'faithful departed'for whom WE pray: 'May they rest in peace, and rise one day with Christ in glory' - who are surely, during their 'rest', being purified by God.
Surely anyone in that place of the Departed (that I would prefer to call 'Paradise' after the invitation of Jesus to the Penitent thief: "Today you will be with me in Paradise") are being prepared for their final journey into the fullness of God's presence - where we presume the whole company of 'Saints' may aleady be praying FOR US.
Thank you so much, Brendan, for giving such prompt attention to the outlines. I apologise for misspelling your name.
I suppose you realise that in the *five concerns* series I have tried to articulate lots of contemporary opinions with which I myself heartily disagree. We'll see whether that was a useful exercise or not.
By all means use the numbers. They're there for your convenience.
There are still three outlines to come in this series, so I will wait to comment in detail until at least they are out on the table.
A nontrivial subtlety that I have not mentioned in this series is the question, to what population(s) did the Six Texts refer in their original setting? Peter's mathematical and biblical mind is likely to have seen and considered it. It traveled from the village of Fulcrum to the edge of Pilling. I posed it to Bryden a few weeks ago in a lightly algebraic form. Proponents of SSM often raise it with historical claims that I find a bit too glib for plausibility. But stripped to its simplest form: apart from what they do, what part of today's 3% would have been part of that original population?
"The impact of sin is to distort something God created to be good. Sex is good, within the context God created. Just as our natural appetite can be distorted into gluttony, an enjoyable glass of wine can become drunkenness, so our sexual appetite can also become distorted. Could homosexuality be such an expression? How else could its practice justly invoke Scriptural condemnation?"
"Sex within the context that God has created". Well, that's a poser, isn't it - especially for dyed-in-the-wool active heterosexuals. I guess for them, their way is the only way that God could possibly have intended sexuality to be enjoyed. I can iomagine some macho heterosexual men being disgusted at the thought of eros operating out of their particular scale of experience.
However, to the human being whose only experience of sexual attraction has been to people of their own gender; Guess what? They may just feel the same about heterosexuals. In their innate inability to imagine erotic feelings towards (or between) people of the opposite sex - except, perhaps, for the purpose of procreation.
How are they supposed to react to your binary proposition?
Granted, heterosexual people must find it easy to go with the flow on what are seen as biblical prohibitions against homosexual eroticism. However, for intrinsically gay people, the possibilities of believing in a God who would deny them their natural source of human affection could be severely limited. This is probably why gay people are not very drawn to what they see as the God of the Heterosexual Community.
Fortunately, some Christians have found their way through this negative view of a different sexual-orientation; not only from the view of biology and social science, but also through a rather larger understanding (also biblical) of God at work among people of a whole range of sexualities - people whom God has created with a difference - not unlike that of the colour of one's skin; one's ethnic origins; one's language or one's gender - all differences that have always occxasioned bigotry and divisiveness on account of someone's purity code.
"We are one Bread, on Body, for we all partake of the One Bread" Difference is built into the human condition. Learn to live with it!
Today's Gospel spoke of Jesus being criticised for deinging to keep comopany with tax collectors and sinners. Perhaps they were they only people open to listening to Jesus' call to love one another.
Bowman, I haven't digested your response yet, but I was hoping that you would not ask "what?". Currently all I can offer is lifelong celebacy with support (see the papal quotation from the NCR above). Not a crowd pleaser, so no doubt why some turn to secular mercy and justice.
Nick, Proposition (1.1e) is more radical than Father Ron's comments, but it was prompted by your earlier replies to them. Meanwhile, Brendan has asked some pointed questions about (1.1e) to which I will reply DV on Monday. Since my aim is to enable everyone to return to discussion on theological ground rather than continuing to appeal fruitlessly to arbitrary decision rules like *tolerance* or *majority rule*, my reply will make a best case for (1.1e). Whether it is the bast view or not, if it is a reasonable theological view, then Father Ron's overall position should make more theological sense to those who disagree with it. That will not be agreement, of course, but it will be a conversation.
There is nothing wrong with lifelong celibacy for those called to it. Among the overlooked virtues in the TEC Task Force report is a fine section arguing that both the married and the unmarried states should be engaged by those in them as vocations.
A problem with all church practise in this area from BCP 1662 to Motion 50 (now that I know for certain that it is not a dance step) is that it prioritises getting the population at large to marry. Is that the right priority for a disestablished church? If the state and civil society want to promote marriage, then by all means let them. But I suspect that we should be helping members to discern their vocation as an organic part of their life in Christ.
Just a straw in the wind on this conversation. Nick's advocacy for the cel;ibate state is adequately dealt with in Jesus discussion on marriage and celibacy. One of the categories of the 'eunuch'; that he speaks of is the person who elects that vocation as anh opportunity to do so "for the sake of the Kingdom". One presumes that this is the sopecific calling of those within the Church who choose to became a monk, a friar, a nun, a consecrated virgin (i.e. a Roman Catholic priest) - not necessarily a calling for someone outside of the Church, of whom are the majority of single people.
There still remains the other two categories of eunuch; (1) one who is "made so by others" (castrato); and (2) "he who is a eunuch from his mother's womb" (not necessarily a cripple or an inadequate person for the purpose of sexual delight, but maybe, just maybe, GAY).
Brendan, Nick, it must be Monday down under, so here beginneth the promised comment(s) on (1.1e). To ease the eye and please the widget, I am breaking my reply into parts. I have several deadlines today, so they will appear from time to time through the day, as I get things dispatched to their destinations.
The next comment will explain some current moral psychology as background. Over the past several years of debate over That Topic, it has been the most consistently useful single insight into why people disagree, and why arguments from one side to the other so consistently fail.
The third comment will explain the views of a wise old Quaker named Friend Don who heartily-- and quite traditionally-- believes (1.1e). Although his views are more radical than those of anyone here, if you understand their Quaker theological basis, it is not hard to supply in your own mind the missing theological suppositions of those churchly proponents for SSM who do love the scriptures, and who do aspire to be formed by them, but who cannot imagine treating the Six Texts as any kind of law for the Church. That may not elicit your agreement on the issue at hand, but you may find the position attractive in itself, and it may enable you to gauge the extent to which their view is necessarily a threat to the Authority of Scripture (AoS).
The fourth comment will answer Brendan's forked question tine by tine.
The fifth comment will be a brief postscript gently critical of the method of the official dialogue efforts that have frustrated so many, especially conservatives, around the Anglican Communion. It may appear tomorrow.
Because it fits nowhere else, I note herewith an online example of (1.1a) that is well worth watching. Superb rhetoric in the style of California evangelicalism. A reminder that persons who are cooked on one topic may be quite raw on several others. But mainly it shows how, rightly or wrongly, secession can release a lot of good energy.
John Ortberg is the preeminent figure in ECO, the Evangelical Covenant Order (of Presbyterians), who have left the Presbyterian Church USA over the latter's positions on That Topic. If ACNA has a Presbyterian sibling it is ECO, and a comparison of the two is very thought provoking. The link is here--
I watched the John Ortberg message at the link provided. A lot of what he said resonated with me, and our own story. Two things he said. First, “no-one who believes in total depravity can be all bad,” which I just liked for its own sake. Second “man cannot invent a movement,” which is an important observation. Of course he also said a lot more that was meaningful.
For the sake of perspective, in the beginning of 2003 (or thereabouts) we left our Pentecostal denomination where we had served for 18 years in a variety of lay leadership roles, and started a house church. Three couples, each of us clearly led by the Lord to take this step. Over time we planted two other house churches in the city, and had folks from at least nine different nationalities fellowshipping with us. We always shared a meal together as part of ‘breaking bread’, shared the ministry and enjoyed the blessing of God. Over a decade I learned a good deal about myself, and about ‘church leadership’ - all the while running our growing IT businesses.
When the earthquakes happened in 2011 we saw a brief season where people’s hearts opened both to their neighbours and to God, and I wondered if this might have facilitated a ‘step change’ in the city – the beginning of a movement perhaps. After about three months, the openness seemed to fade as people got on with the ‘new normal’.
By 2013 I was personally burned out, and needing to step back, or to be more honest, away from the responsibility of leadership. We invested in those who we willing and able to pick up the responsibility and after six months we handed the work over to them.
Then for two years we did very little that was ‘intentional’ by way of church life. Last Easter we went to our local Anglican Church, and sensed that God wanted us to engage there, so here we are.
I share this because I’m so conscious that it takes more than dissatisfaction with the status quo, and even personal gifting to start and perpetuate a movement. When I listened to John Ortberg describe the beginnings of his first denominational church with 12 people in 1800 and something, and then with 13 people 50 years later, I wondered if my initial expectations had been too high!
I share this background in part by way of commentary on John Ortberg’s message and my ability to identify with it, and in part for the sake of perspective. I very much value and appreciate the work of the staff at our Anglican church, their love for God and their dedication to his service. It’s a different form to be sure, and there is a good deal of diversity of expression, but here we are.
Dear Brendan, I, personally, was very interested in the trajectory of your movement - from independent Church to a particular type of Anglicanism that you have encountered in the local community and which obviously coheres with your own conservative spirtuality. There is such a wide divergence of 'spiritualities' in Anglicanism that it should not be too difficult for anyone - from Bible Baptist ro ex-Roman Catholic - to find a spiritual home in one or other Anglican setting.
However, I am intrigued that you have found one such community here in my hometown of Christchurch. Of course, I can immediately imagine the identity of your new family, and the sort of composition and theology of its membership - which is probably rather different from that of my own parish. However, I do welcome you into the Anglican family. At least we can co-exist, under the authority of our Bishop. I pray that, in God's good time, we might learn to love one another. After all, we both believe in a God of Love who has called us into the fellowship of the Body of Christ in Christchurch. Welcome!
Thank you, Brendan, for your story. The Pentecostal --> House Church --> Anglicanism trajectory was not my own, but I have encountered it before. Thinking of Father Ron's warm welcome, there is a small global communion of Convergence Anglicans here--
--that combines that trajectory with his liturgical theology and practise. So far as I know, this CEEP have no ties to ECO whatever, but they do have the same non-territorial ecclesiology as ECO and ACNA. Personally, I dislike that, but it is even being embraced by some traditionalist Orthodox (eg ROCOR bishops) who argue that the Church in the Western Hemisphere requires a new variation on the old ecumenical church order.
We need a new category for the sort of postmodern church that is neither interested in keeping "liberal" rationalists around as some would (eg Anglican Communion), nor even in arguing with them as others would (Continuing Anglicans, GAFCON), but instead plunges into spirituality where no head-tripping rationalism can follow. For the big picture that somewhat explains this emerging category, look here--
Dear Fr Ron
“I do welcome you into the Anglican family. At least we can co-exist, under the authority of our Bishop. I pray that, in God's good time, we might learn to love one another. After all, we both believe in a God of Love who has called us into the fellowship of the Body of Christ in Christchurch. Welcome!”
Thank you for your welcome. Who knows, perhaps we sit beside each other every Sunday morning sharing the peace and gathering around the Lords supper?
There is no shortage of unconditional love for each other, gay or straight, at least on my part. I have had gay employees in our business, and one young lady lived with us in our home for a year, and we still catch up occasionally.
Being a ‘conservative’ Christian does bring with it some unhelpful stereotypes. Perhaps conservative is the new gay?
Brendan and Nick,
This third comment explains the views of a wise old Quaker of the C17 named Father Rob who heartily believed (1.1e). You can find his life here--
--and his views more extensively given here--
If I were Father Rob himself, I might begin with an exposition of St John 1:9, which the AV englishes, "[The Logos] was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." But the translation is disputed. I will leave you to ponder it in a proper meetinghouse silence, whilst I leap from that frying pan into the fire of the human heart.
For our purposes, the salient thing about the Quakers is that they organised in a cruel age when the same people who might dutifully attend divine service in the Church of England as by law established might also attend the public executions established by that same law. Thus they identified the regeneration of the soul with the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit in an experience classically described by James Naylor in 1659--
"There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thoughts to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it, nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places in the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life."
Dogmatically speaking, such Friends agreed with the Church of England that Christ had died for the sins of all, but denied that any are regenerated until the Holy Spirit had enabled a turn from participation in a society's cruelty to a life identified with the crucified and risen Christ. Naylor's words exemplify a strong influence of the Sermon on the Mount on early Quakerism, yet those words only mean to him what they do because Christ has turned the mind from the fleshly acquiescence in the world's evil to which such words are merely impractical *counsels of perfection*, to the basis of a spiritual marriage of the soul to its Bridegroom. By implication, even though the soul would be lost without the scriptures, it dare not divorce itself by putting them above the voice of the Bridegroom himself. However high one's view of the authority of Scripture, one is doomed unless one's practical obedience to Christ's voice within is even higher.
Father Rob's spiritual descendants today, edited here to please the widget, explain that contrast this way--
"Traditionally, Conservative Friends believe that the leadings and teaching of God Himself, through the agency of the Inward Light of Christ, are a more sure foundation of our Christian faith than the Bible, although we value it highly as a secondary and subordinate tool. Different individuals within our body assign different roles to the Bible in their lives, and any extended discussion of Scripture is always lively."
Their explanation alludes to a subtle point: the diversity of their opinions about scripture results not from differences of mere opinion but from the differences among souls in Christ. This is not a human tolerance of disagreement, although it certainly requires forbearance, but a Christ-led plurality of meaning. The sort of authority that seeks safety in standardisation is entirely out of place in such a community.
That is reflected in worship that is experiential rather than didactic--
"Protestants are actually too diverse to lump together, but most unite around the belief that the Bible is the only sure foundation of Christian faith and practice. The typical Protestant worship service is a lecture about God, where a paid professional teaches the congregation, usually on a topic from the Bible. The focus of Quaker worship is the act of listening to God, and then going out to try to do what He said to do. Quaker worship is actually more similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church, because like them, we believe that the Holy Spirit physically enters the room and ministers to us."
And predictably, even with all that makes a ordered community possible-- the famous Quaker consensus, the testimonies of past Friends, the customary procedures of the meetinghouse-- there is a sense that unity is given by God.
"As Friends, we try to remember that we strive for unity, not uniformity, and the unity we look for is a congruence with the will of God. Although God is singular, different individuals will have different perceptions of that will, and we recognize no creeds or forced orthodoxies. It is God that provides the cement to hold us together, not memorized passages or tests of belief."
(1.1e) AoS is less reliable than universal moral intuitions in deciding moral questions. Clear departures from scripture in moral matters opens a church to more reliable counsel without weakening AoS in other aspects of religion.
What are the ‘universal moral [intuitions]’ of which you speak, and on what authority do they provide ‘more reliable counsel’ than Scripture when engaging in questions of morality? Do you have some examples?
So here, Brendan and Nick is the fourth comment. For tonight, it is also the last.
Intuitions? For the sake of argument here, we might use the ones I explained above in the second comment. But so far as I have seen, most who believe in (1.1e) are not aware of contemporary moral psychology.
Authority? If moral intuitions are truly universal, then they are part of human nature and must be from the Creator of man. Where else can they have come from? And if they came from him, how can they not have authority?
Reliable? Moral intuitions are immediate. They do not depend upon any process of transmission through time or interpretation of ancient languages. Being born again hourly in every maternity ward, they are never out of date. A group consciously seeking to be attuned to them and determined to reach consensus can find it.
Example? The long transition from arranged marriage without consent to arranged marriage with consent to freely chosen partners is probably attributable to the moral intuition that a person's autonomy should be respected in what so intimately concerns his self.
Yes, while Christ has died for all mankind, clearly not all are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and born into newness of life.
Yes, Scripture is but one authority in the life of the believer; the person of Jesus Christ as mediated by the Holy Spirit is another; one could argue that Church Elders, Clergy and Bishops are another.
It is natural therefore that based upon this variety of influences sincere, regenerate Christians who love God, study the Scriptures and walk in submission ‘one to another’ will arrive at different positions on a variety of issues. Why? Because all of this is mediated through human agency.
It’s within this context that mainstream denominations dwell. There are differences over child vs believer baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the veneration of Mary and so on, but never the less there is acceptance of those differences, and the individual’s right to conscience in such matters, while still being subject to those ‘major influences’ outlined above.
However, if Christians deny the virgin birth or the divinity of Christ or the resurrection, or the personhood of the Holy Spirit (say) then they have stepped outside of what mainstream denominations call ‘orthodoxy’ and into another world where there be dragons.
Now, we Anglicans are being asked by our more liberal colleagues to accept that the question of SSM or SSB is no different to those other ‘debates’ that go on within the land of Christian orthodoxy, a question upon which sincere Christians can agree to disagree and yet still maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
However, it’s not just the AoS, that is challenged by such a statement, but all legitimate authority in the life of a regenerate believer including the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and the gathering of Bishops and elders, the latter possibly being the least reliable for reasons that should be obvious.
For many of us this is a dead rat we are unwilling to swallow. Not because we are seeking to establish the ‘perfect church’ or aspire to absolute doctrinal purity, but simply because it is a ‘bridge too far’ from Christian orthodoxy; a none too subtle invitation to dragons.
Brendan, I think that you are disagreeing with something I've said, but I am not sure what that might be.
I think we are on the same page on this matter. I was agreeing with your statements that there are broader influences on the life of a Christian than just the AoS including the work of the Holy Spirit, and I might add, the influence of Bishops etc.
My point however was that none of these additional influences legitimately point to SSM or endorse it in the life of a believer IMHO.
I am struggling with the idea of ‘universal moral institutions’. Is this an extension of ‘God’s law written on their hearts’ Rom 2:15? Or is this an extension of ‘natural law’ theory / doctrine?
What I observe is that peoples lives seem to be more significantly impacted by cultural norms than by natural law or ‘universal moral institutions’. Child brides, forced marriages, FGM, and ‘honour killings’ in some cultures would be just one example.
Brendan, I still owe you and Nick a comment that ties the others together. Alas, that will probably not appear until tomorrow. But meanwhile, I hope that all will bear in mind is that my aim in this series is not to drive anyone into a corner but to convert a mutually frustrating impasse into an illuminating conversation.
The phrase I've used is *universal moral in-tu-i-tions* (UMI), not in-sti-tu-tions. The evidential warrant for the idea is mainly person-level psychological research-- surveys, psych lab experiments, fMRI BOLD signals, etc.
But yes, I could have, and now see that I should have, drafted some similar statement that reflects the older traditions of society-level research from Herodotus to modern cultural anthropology that notes the family resemblances in human in-sti-tu-tions worldwide. It is relevant to, for example, the question how diverse a global communion of representative synods must necessarily be.
"Is [UMI] an extension of ‘God’s law written on their hearts’ Rom 2:15? Or is this an extension of ‘natural law’ theory / doctrine? ... peoples lives seem to be more significantly impacted by cultural norms than by natural law or [UMI]-- Child brides, forced marriages, FGM, and ‘honour killings’ in some cultures..." (FGM = ?)
Three superb questions. They flag the fact that the ideas presented in my comments are not obviously consistent among themselves. If there is one law written in our hearts, then why are there two variants of it? If all social mores flowed from UMI, then whence comes the established cruelty from which early Quakers converted to the Light? I will have thoughts on this in my next comment, but suspect that something will have to be left to the wider Anglican conversation itself.
To whom it may concern:
The Diocese of Texas adopted same sex blessings in 2012--
A summary of the arrangement can be found in the FAQ on p 122.
Apparently the general idea was conceived by James A Baker III, the former White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State. He described the conflict in TEC over SSM in this way--
"I looked at it as someone who has had extensive national and international experience in both politics and negotiations. From both perspectives, it was clear to me that this issue is one that is so very divisive, and with respect to which positions of both sides are so deeply held, that we’re not going to resolve it, if we insist that we have to go one way or the other. That is, if we insist that, on this issue, there is going to be one winner and one loser.
"I must confess to you that I ran into a few of those types of issues during my time in public service. They are so divisive that they’re just not capable of being solved on a one-win, one-lose basis. Instead I felt--and I still feel--very deeply that our goal ought to be to come up with a win-win solution, if we can, that gives those with views on either side of this issue, the opportunity still—-notwithstanding their views—-to dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ through The Episcopal Church.
"Now, saying that, I recognize and I appreciate that there will be some on the fringes of this issue that feel so committed and so dedicated that they will always look at this issue as an either-or matter. I just happen to think that continuing on that path is a recipe for disaster.
"My experience, frankly, told me that the best way to find that win-win solution would be to see if we couldn’t create a system that allows both sides of the controversy to simply agree to disagree, and in so doing, to still maintain respect for one another in the process."
Mr Baker's perspective is so quintessentially Episcopalian that I thought his remarks worth quoting at length. His complete statement appears as a foreword to the report at the link.
James Baker, is a man like Obama who believes that all of life’s conflicts can be resolved through negotiation and compromise.
He was recently quoted in Politico.com:
Blasting “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship,” former Secretary of State James Baker laid in hard to the Israeli prime minister on Monday evening, criticizing him for an insufficient commitment to peace and an absolutist opposition to the Iran nuclear talks.
Netanyahu’s problem is that he takes Iran’s leaders at their word when they say they will obliterate Israel off the face of the earth. James Baker knows that no one could ever follow through on such an outrageous statement.
He is the Nevil Chamberlin of American politics.
it’s not surprising therefore that he would apply the same logic to dealing with dissenting views on SSM / SSB.
He will be equally offended on the day when Jesus comes in His glory and all the holy angels with Him and begins to separate the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus, what are you doing, surely this is not the work of a civilized man?
Brendan, you will surely understand that the scope of my comments is already so comprehensive that I cannot possibly broaden it further to discuss the Iranian nuclear program, the souls of Messrs Baker, Chamberlain, Netanyahu, and Obama, or even the very interesting question whether the Bridegroom of the New Jerusalem is in some sense civilised (Rev 21). Some of them are beyond evidence-based inquiry; none are boring
But if what you are implying between the lines is that the grassroots of TEC are not so much militant for gay rights as simply unwilling to fight about sex, then you have absolutely nailed it. In fact, much of such fighting as actually happens concerns not sex, but the degree to which SSM is really a dastardly plot to centralise a church in which dioceses have had the size, autonomy, sense of identity, and diversity of provinces elsewhere in the Anglican world since 1789.
My comment here on the Diocese of Texas was not advocacy for any side of the sex wars, but a hint to those down under that, insofar as they look up this way for test cases, it may be that they would find the concrete experiments of certain dioceses more useful to their thinking about Motion 50 than the merely regulatory canons of the General Convention as a whole. The 2012 agreement between Texan conservatives and liberals was reached at a time when neither side expected the US Supreme Court or the General Convention to mandate SSM. They agreed that parishes, in consultation with their bishop, would take positions on whether to offer SSB or not. Conservatives won strong protection for conservative parishes and clergy; liberals won a guarantee that every parish would at least consider SSB in an episcopally supervised process that would in principle settle the matter. The deal was possible because both sides gained something of value to it.
I suspect both sides of SSM/SSB in New Zealand do care deeply about the issue, would prefer not to fight about it, and are angling towards the kind of ‘mixed member proportional representation’ for the Anglican church that presently makes up our local parliament.
In this model, everyone stays ‘within the house’, but you sit on different sides depending upon your political (theological) persuasion.
This works well in a secular context where there is no mandate to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, nor is their any pressure to subscribe to the equivalent of the Aos, or any external authority other than the ever shifting rule of law.
I’m not sure that everyone would feel as comfortable with that approach within the Anglican Church, although in practice (SSM to one side) individual congregations appear to have been defined along defacto liberal / conservative / evangelical lines for some time.
What motion 30 (not 50) seeks to do is brighten the colours of the rainbow where they are already faintly painted. Up until now, Anglicans could at least pretend those colours didn’t exist; Motion 30 means they can pretend no longer.
On a personal level, I’m somewhat ambivalent about what the NZ Synod decides, less so about the views of my local Bishop, and decidedly less so concerning my local congregation. This may change when I’m embarrassed by several Anglican churches in my city who decide to fly rainbow flags from their bell towers.
There is only so much explaining to my friends (and to my conscience) that I’m prepared to do.
"This may change when I’m embarrassed by several Anglican churches in my city who decide to fly rainbow flags from their bell towers."
Somewhere, Brendan, I have a recipe for grilled rat with truffle sauce that I may put up. Basically, it is an informal case for seeing the Six Texts as landmarks on the boundary of a procreation ethic rather than as sanitation measures against a contagion of gayness. The former is easier to connect to the canon as a whole than the latter.
But a taste for baked ratloaf served by an ecclesiastical parliament may be beyond my acquisition. In the C21, no truth is determined by voting. Insisting on settling a truth-question in a parliamentary fashion is like astronomers voting on the planethood of Pluto, or the Tennessee Legislature voting to change pi from 3.14... to 3.0.
What should a fecundity flag look like?
Hi Bowman and Brendan, I am in the rare position of having little to add. I have appreciated the reading and thank you both. I suppose if we go back to the top, Rome will end up as the default voice. BTW that rainbow flag looks better than that alternative flag that I'll be voting against in the referendum!
Dear Bowman and Nick
All this gastronomic talk is creating in me quite an appetite. As usual Bowman you have excelled in the presentation of two eclectic main dishes. However, as its Lent I have no option but to deny myself and wait patiently for desert.
A fecundity flag? Already my imagination is running wild, and my eyes are beginning to water at the prospect. Nick, perhaps we should hold a competition within the Anglican communion for just such a flag? The winning entry could be held proudly erect by the Bishop and paraded through Cathedral Square to the adulation of world media.
Might we dare to hope that through popular demand it could even become a late entry in the referendum?
Wouldn’t that be something.
I must say, I do like Nick's expressed alternative for the Rainbow Flag over its possible alternative - YEAH!. However I'm not so sure about Brendan's statement here:
"What motion 30 (not 50) seeks to do is brighten the colours of the rainbow where they are already faintly painted. Up until now, Anglicans could at least pretend those colours didn’t exist; Motion 30 means they can pretend no longer.
On a personal level, I’m somewhat ambivalent about what the NZ Synod decides, less so about the views of my local Bishop, and decidedly less so concerning my local congregation. This may change when I’m embarrassed by several Anglican churches in my city who decide to fly rainbow flags from their bell towers There is only so much explaining to my friends (and to my conscience) that I’m prepared to do."
This does sound rather more like the conscience of a traditional Congregationalist than your average Anglican. What the provincial Church decides is of less import than what your own congregation does about SSB. However, Brendan, you do seem to be concerned about what your local bishop thinks about motion 30. I guess that's a start.
Given your easy access into your present congregation, it seems to me that they may be pretty conservative on the issue of Motion 30, so that - although they might learn to live with it (for other parishes) they would elect not to go along with SSB for themselves. Now that seems a highly possible stance under the premise of Motion 30. In that situation, you could still remain an Anglican - in communion with your bishop - without compromising your own conscience.
You say that 'there's only so much explaining to my friends (and to my conscience) that I’m prepared to do."
I guess, again, Brendan, that if Motion 30 passes in General Synod, with provision made for SSB, your conscience and your friendships will be so severely tested that you might have to return to your first love. I hope not, though. The local Church would miss you. But then, your conscience would be clear, and you would not have to worry which queue (sheep/goats) you found yourself in at the Pearly Gates.
I'll always remember a St. John's College lecturer suggesting to some of the more charistmatically active students that they might be surprised at which queue they found themselves in at the parousia, and, furthermore, who they found beside them in their queue. (But then, that was SJC - not Laidlaw or Moore College.)
Father Ron, I wonder whether you could critique an opinion about SSB from your observation post in the blessed isles. I try to understand all sides of a question, but some questions have sides to which I have little imaginative access. I think that a gay or lesbian Anglican thereabouts may see Motion 30 roughly as follows.
Where state SSM is already the law, sexual minorities are better off with church SSB than with a "me too" church SSM.
(1) Those with theological sensitivity may find that the stated Christian rationale for SSM is rather unconvincing, although the human rationale for it is intuitively compelling. In that situation, a state SSM and a church SSB could seem-- personally, socially, spiritually-- more valid.
(2) Controversy over the scriptural rationale for SSM is cost without gain. Forcing people to declare themselves opposed to some aspect of the rationale for SSM because it conflicts with their views on scripture only energises homophobia and limits options for gays and lesbians. Happy warriors may not care, but those with ties to people, churches, and traditions without rainbows may resent having a barrier erected in their lives where none was needed.
(3) SSB is more flexible and more open to further development. The legal and social problem to which SSM was the solution was rather cut and dried, which lent itself to a single easy change of civil procedure. The same cannot be said about the pastoral dimension of SSM which is, for many, uncharted territory. Giving wider discretion to bishops and parishes seems more likely than some centralised process to test and diffuse ideas and practises that are actually helpful to sexual minorities and the wider church.
(4) SSB, being more independent of state action, can be exported to places where states will not act on SSM.
How far wrong am I?
“I'll always remember a St. John's College lecturer suggesting to some of the more charistmatically active students that they might be surprised at which queue they found themselves in at the parousia, and, furthermore, who they found beside them in their queue. (But then, that was SJC - not Laidlaw or Moore College.)” – Fr Ron
I do acknowledge that my choice of scriptures was somewhat weak in that Jesus test for determining who was a sheep or a goat was not an explicitly theological one. However, the very idea that there may be two queues is an offence to many, Christians included.
Brendan, your choice of Matt 25 is sound. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and giving water to the thirsty are corporal works of mercy. Because we Romans think James is true, faith without works is dead. Consequently, there probably are two queues. Justification by faith won't work alone; but now I'm being naughty.
Naughty - but not Catholic. Justification by faith is Catholic doctrine. It has never ever believed in 'justification by works'. Only liberal Anglicans believe that.
Anyway, Matthew 25 has nothing whatsoever to do with 'corporal works of mercy'. It is to do with whether the 'Gentiles' accepted or rejected Christian missionaries ('the least of these my brethren'). I worked this out for myself by close reading of how Matthew uses 'brothers', then saw that Donald Hagner (Matthew 14-28, p. 746) and Tom Wright (in one of his popular books) agreed with me. :)
In other words, it means the precise opposite of popular exegetics.
And every Protestant I know has James in his or her Bible, and usually knows what it means. We admire Luther but have thought of him as Pope Martin speaking infallibly.
Bowman, If only Anglican Churches had been more accepting of the idea of Same-Sex Blessings - for monogamously-partnered Christian Gays - there may just not have been thr same call for SSM, in keeping with the civil authorities. However, it would seem that ship sailed once the first legal SSM was permitted in the world outside of the Church, Now, it would seem that SSM is sought by Christians so that they can access the same civil rights as those legally married. The Church had a role to play at the beginning of all of this, but they mismanaged the opportunity to keep marriage for heterosexuals. Same-Sex Blessings may now not be sufficient for those refused this access before the advent of SSM. I guess the situation will be tested if ACANZP goes ahead with Motion 30.
"We admire Luther but have thought of him as Pope Martin speaking infallibly"
Ahem, I spoke fallibly then. I meant: "We admire Luther but have NEVER thought of him as Pope Martin speaking infallibly."
Thank you, Father Ron, for your swift response.
What you say about SSB has also been said of Civil Partnerships-- had the Church's conservatives embraced them, the campaign for SSM might have been forestalled, at least for a while. But the history of this is full of ironies, especially in the US.
Although some grassroots gay rights organisations did dream of SSM in the 1990s, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the main national force for LGBT interests, judged that campaigns for this would prompt a homophobic backlash and quashed them. It encouraged activists to instead increase public sympathy for gays and lesbians in the military. Bill Clinton signed the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) with tacit support from the HRC.
But George W Bush, his Republican successor, had lost the popular vote in 2000, and running for re-election, had only tepid support from evangelicals in 2004. To get the latter to the polls, his campaign had laws against SSM put on the ballot in several key states where the evangelical vote was crucial. Pastors, by encouraging their congregations to vote for these referenda, also ensured the re-election of the President. Of course, this tactic opened the box that HRC had closed, since nobody could stop the grassroots from organising against so blatant an appeal to homophobia. Ignoring the HRC guidance, these activists made SSM a cause. The Supreme Court, expected to strike down the DOMA anyway, applied the same logic to the new laws against SSM and struck them down last summer.
This does not prove, but does lend support to, the proposition that activism for LGBT rights will sooner or later arrive at SSM.
Brian, I used the word "alone"; and some protestants (perhaps not you) do as well.
This is just one reason I am an Anglo-Catholic not subject to the authority of Rome. I cannot, in all conscience, believe in the infallibility of any human being - no matter how exalted in the hierarchy of the Church. I also am aware of the fallibility of Saint Peter, verified in the stories of his fallibility in the New Testament. Mjuch as I am in awe of the love and humility of Pope Francis, I do n ot believe he is infallible.
Fr Ron, the two clear instances of papal infallibilty concern the immaculate conception and the assumption; both of which I suspect you accept. Of course non-Catholics readily accept the notion of infallibilty in a general sense. Which bit of the Apostles' Creed, for example, is wrong? I accept that this was the undivided church, but humans being infallible is not a creation of Vatican 1.
Nick, when the Church was united in authority - at the time of the promulgation of the historic Creeds, this was assumed to be the work of the Holy Spirit. however, with a divided Christendom, whose version is the right one? People outside the Church still wonder about that.
Even the 2 largest Churchres in Christendom - the Orthodox and the Roman Church - e.g. - cannot agree on the validity of married clergy.
It's not all about the filioque clause.
"Brian, I used the word "alone"; and some protestants (perhaps not you) do as well"
Popular Catholicism is generally confused on the question of justification, while Catholic doctrine has historically tended to conflate justification and sanctification.
The dying thief not only knew very little theology, he also didn't have much in the way of meritorious deeds to plead on his own cross.
The Reformed faith has long been clear on this: We are saved by Christ alone (solo Christo), only by his favour (sola gratia) which is received only by faith (sola fide). 'Faith' itself does not save us, it simply receives salvation from Christ.
Formally speaking, it is easy to infer a contradiction between James 2.24 and (say) Roman 3.20, 28; and I imagine that is the conclusion Luther drew (I haven't checked the original sources). But Peter Davids' commentary (pp. 128-133) argues that James and Paul are really talking about parallel but different understandings of faith (intellectual conviction about facts vs. trust in Christ) and works (of the law, viz. circumcision, kashrut etc vs. works of charity), and it should be evident from Galatians 5.6 ('faith working through love'), 6.4 ('let everyone test his own work'); 1 Cor 13.2; 2 Cor 9.8 etc that Paul considered active love as the evidence of living faith.
Nick, did St John Paul II infallibly define the impossibility of the ordination of women to the major orders of priesthood?
Bowman; no, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has said that a future Pope might.
"Fr Ron, the two clear instances of papal infallibilty concern the immaculate conception and the assumption; both of which I suspect you accept." - Nick -
Nick, we Anglican, I'm afriad for your argument, still do not believe in papal infalliblity. And I would certain - from the point view of human reason - could not believe in the doctrine of the 'Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If she were 'immaculately conceived' how far back would the immaculacy have to go? back to Eve?
No, discussing this with a R.C. Nun recently (a Marian Sister) she agreed that, if Mary were 'immaculately conceived, then she would not be the truly human being whose humanity Jesus 'took upon himself' at His Incarnation. This would surely have defeated another dogma, more scriptural, that 'Jesus took our sinful nature upon himself". If Mary were indeed sinless, that might have been a problem, and not just a mystical one. By virtually divinising Mary, we downplay the mystery of Christ as both God and human.
I think the Lourdes' ascription to Mary, as saying "I am the Immaculate conception", might better be translated: "In me, was the Immaculate Conception (of Christ).
However, If God allowed the Prophet Elijah to be taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, then I don;t have a problem with the Assumption of the BVM, Theotokos, the God-Bearer.
Hi Fr Ron, thanks for the clarification. Your views seem similar to the eastern orthodox.
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