Over the weekend Teresa and I had the pleasure of entertaining some friends from the UK. Yesterday we did some exploring in central Christchurch city. That led us to Turanga, our brand new central city library which is spectacular and on the evidence of yesterday, excellently patronised.
Once inside Turanga, there are multiple stairs to climb but the ascent to the highest level is worth it as this gives access to a viewing platform for which the foremost building on display is our Christ Church Cathedral.
I took a photograph ...
As I work my way in to the role of being the Bishop of Christchurch, I am, on an almost daily basis, being brought up to speed with all that is expected of me as bishop in relation to the cathedral. To be honest, this is pretty exciting and I am meeting some very interesting people who are being drawn into the reinstatement project.
I also note that even while the project is getting some steam up and forging ahead, there are continuing arguments in the Christchurch Press letters' page about the cathedral ... well, this past week, cathedrals, since some news about the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch's thinking about their cathedral has prompted a new flurry of letters.
In the midst of these public debates about buildings is a simple-but-complex question: what is the public character of our faith?
Our faith is not in buildings but buildings house faithful Christians. Within such "houses", Christians pray and praise God. Houses of prayer. Bit by bit such spaces, from their design and intentions through to their actual use, become sacred spaces - spaces which attract Christians and non-Christians and people who define themselves somewhere in between those two descriptions. Attachments form. Our faith may not be in buildings such as cathedrals but cathedrals engender some kind of faith, from well articulated, theologically formed faith through to incoate faith - faith in some kind of divine something through to faith in the God of Jesus Christ, whose story is told in Scripture and whose definition is set out in orthodox creeds.
However the future of our cathedrals in Christchurch is worked out, we are privileged to be part of a city where cathedrals matter!
Dear Peter having been a vociferous advocate of a new and different building to replace our orginal Christchurch Cathedral, I am now convinced - by the current circumstances now prevailing, with the national and local governments both pledging their moral and financial support - that the Church and our diocese has no alternative but to go along with, and embrace, the project that our Diocesan Synod agreed to support (albeit through pressures external to its previously expressed intention).
This, for me at least, is a situation of adjusting to a seemingly obvious reality. What many people like myself had believed to be a moral imperative - the raising up of a radically different worship centre to accommodate the natural environment in which we are placed, with attention paid to the multi-cultural aspects of our local people; has been changed to meet what has now proved to be the only possible answer to our desperate need for a solution to our situation.
The outcome is not MY preferred solution. However, I am prepared to live with it and in time to love it. Not unlike the situation of a Puritan's disdain for innovation who campaigns for the status quo and is then faced with the reality of innate gender and sexuality difference recognition by everyone else. We learn to live with a just and loving solution to a perceived reality!
We live in a fallen world which, however, has been ransomed by Christ. What does God expect us to do to help in God's work of redemption? To deny the reality of the existence of gender and sexual difference? Or to acknowledge and embrace it? And get on with the urgent business of being 'other Christs' in and to the world.
Faithful people and churches try very hard to get some things right for God, as well they should. But God wants the faithfulmess rather more than the rightness.
Father Ron, a quick, non-partisan, and perhaps even calming thought on That Topic.
When people-watching at Turanga (or in a lab with fMRI), you will not see souls give up an idea that works well for them when presented with evidence that weighs against it. Whatever they may say they do, people will normally weigh the cost of paying serious attention to an anomaly against the cost of just ignoring it. If the cost of worrying about an unusual case is loss of the ideas they use everyday, then they will almost automatically ignore it and any other exceptions to their good-enough, but never-perfect paradigm. Minds either organically maintain stability, or else require medical attention.
So hypothetically, if everyone at, say, Moore had indisputable proof of the existence of at least one "intrinsically gay" person, we would expect them to do what smart, honest, capable people do everywhere else-- ignore it. They would also ignore 10, 100, 1000... At least until they have a new paradigm of thinking that fits this surprising fact and still does all of the daily work of the old paradigm.
Niels Bohr, in a mood not unlike your own, tartly quipped about the elderly critics of his new model of the atom, "Science advances one hearse at a time." And he was right about that. Younger people are not more wise or good, but they are more likely to have adopted-- for unrelated reasons, usually-- a paradigm in which an old anomaly begins to make some new workable sense. Eg today's new science of epigenetics arose in the 2000s as molecular and cellular biology began to make sense of four anomalies that were well known to geneticists in the 1950s. Now science is not quite the Reason of the three-knotted cord, but, to faithful eyes, both of these are modes of the love described in I Corinthians 13. They are patient, among other things. No, the patience of a grass is not as the patience of a cactus, but the Lord God made them both.
Postscript. The empirical hypothesis to which we refer--
(Hx) There is (or could be) at least one person involuntarily attracted only ever to persons of the opposite sex
--raises four irenic and pastoral questions in my mind.
(1) If Hx is a truth of science, then why is voting or even punishing being used to promote it in churches?
We would normally expect proponents of an evidence-based hypothesis to trust that over time increasing evidence (and occasional hearses) will change minds because that is the way science works. A Communion that follows Reason, or at least science, should be a cheerful, tranquil, patient, and non-coercive band of churches that, like the worldwide fellowship of secular laboratories, initially infer somewhat different things from early evidence but converge in their several understandings over time as evidence accumulates and analysis improves. But proponents of Hx (eg TEC's PB) sometimes both believe that Hx is already settled science despite disagreements and yet also use coercion to induce others (eg Albany's bishop) to recognize it. Can one cite science as one's Reason whilst acting unscientifically, and hence by that standard irrationally?
(2) Conversely, does acting only scientifically in indisputably empirical matters necessarily and sufficiently protect perceptual minorities in churches from violations of conscience?
At first glance, it seems that it should do so because, if a matter is merely empirical, then an ecclesiastic is just another observer without special authority. A matter of fact cannot be settled by heritage, identity, voting, etc. It cannot be a matter of divine being or human salvation. So then, it seems that there is no occasion for church authority to be abused with respect to a perceptual minority.
(3) Does a cleric exercise the ministry of binding and loosing in accord with the Lord's commission if s/he tests whether a soul can be *morally certain* that s/he is (not) an instance of Hx?
All human action is uncertain. In moral action, we should seek a degree of confidence in our factual basis that is proportional to the gravity of the act, but not an unattainable certainty that paralyses life. Pastors have always helped souls to sift perceptions, avoid undue bias, and weigh deliberation against action. How much and for what should science about human sexuality be used in this ministry?
(4) How often does Hx apply to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or the transgendered?
It seems to apply to no bisexuals ever, some lesbians and transexuals sometimes, and most gays always. Yet these very different states tend to be discussed hereabouts as a bloc explained as one integral whole by Hx alone. Scientifically-- and pastorally-- each of the several *explananda* requires its own *explanans*, even if all of these have some Wittgensteinian *family resemblance*.
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