Monday, May 16, 2022

Clearly (Down Under and Up Yonder version(s)) - updated

Last week the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia met. Some sense of the big issues can be gained here and here (via the multiple links there). Has our neighbouring church come closer to a massive schism, or has it managed to find a way to not do so? I feel a little unclear about that!

Following debates, and ruminating on the particular shock to the Synod of the bishops not agreeing with the houses of clergy and laity on a statement about marriage, it has struck me that quite a lot depends in modern Anglicanism on what the word "clearly" means, whether we are agreed on what is "clear" and what is not, and whether we are minded to live together with those who are not as clear as we are on a matter or matters.

For what it is worth, I think the bishops got it right when the voted against a statement which said this:

"Marriage as the union of a man and a woman.  Pursuant to the authority recognised in s.4 and s.26 of the Constitution to make statements as to the faith, ritual, ceremonial or discipline of this Church, and in accordance with the procedures set out in Rule V, the General Synod hereby states:  

1. The faith, ritual, ceremonial and discipline of this Church reflect and uphold marriage as it was ordained from the beginning, being the exclusive union of one man and one woman arising from mutual promises of lifelong faithfulness, which is in accordance with the teaching of Christ that, “from the beginning the Creator made them male and female”, and in marriage, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt 19:4-5).  

2. The solemnisation of a marriage between a same-sex couple is contrary to the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.  

3. Any rite or ceremony that purports to bless a same-sex marriage is not in accordance with the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.  "

Why do I think that? Because (a) accepting (1) above is true when discussion concerns marriage between a man and a woman, does not entail that (2) and (3) are true without further reflection about the relationship between what Christ taught (as recorded in our Gospels) and what Christ did not teach (because no one asked a question of Christ about same-sex relationships, and certainly not in the context of modern states making civil provision for marriage between two people of the same sex). It is the case that "further reflection" in churches today both yields conclusions in which (2) and (3) above are held to be true (and thus the houses of clergy and laity voted in favour) and conclusions in which neither (2) and (3) are held to be true, or only (3) is not held to be true (and thus there were significant minorities against the statement).

And, thus, (b) the bishops got it right (I am interpreting their decision here), because they felt the ACA should be a church in which continuing exploration of two (or more views) on these matters is possible.*see further below

Or, more simply, those voting against the statement felt that things are not quite as clear as the statement's promoters and supporters make them out to be.

Incidentally, readers here, like me ignorant until last week of a specific requirement of the Diocese of Sydney, may be interested to know that the issue of commitment to marriage (in line with the statement proposed to the GS) in that Diocese is such that all new principals of Anglican schools there, along with new school board members, are required to sign a statement of support for marriage being only between a man and a woman.

Yet, let's be clear, it is also the case that clarity can be fervently held on the other side of this particular ledger. Over the weekend I noticed some discussion about an interview with Wesley Hill, a celibate, gay (wait for it) Episcopalian priest and theologian, who is interviewed here.

Wesley is a fascinating bloke, because a lot about his theological approach to being gay in the church would sit very satisfactorily inside ACNA. Yet he is coolly and calmly convinced that his place is in The Episcopal Church, promoting what he calls a "Side B" approach to being a gay Christian: commitment to being celibate while boldly being out.

But here's the thing.

If you follow the comments in this thread on Twitter, you get a lot of support for Wesley.

But if you follow the comments in this thread on Twitter, you get a lot of clarity that there is no place for Wesley and his views in The Episcopal Church.

Speaking personally, I would struggle to be part of either an ACA or a TEC which (finally) got to a position of shutting down all possibility of exploring aspects of human sexuality, respecting the fact that some lack of clarity attends the discussion.

Back to the General Synod across The Ditch.

There was also some controversy over a motion to celebrate 30 years of women in ordained ministry, that controversy reflecting the difference between dioceses in ACA over whether women may be priests or bishops.

If we put both controversies together, over marriage and over women being ordained to positions of authority such as priest or bishop, we highlight an arguably deeper question for Anglicans than one about clarity or lack of clarity, that question concerns whether anything in our understanding of Scripture may change as life changes.

Is that the great question for global Anglicanism in the 21st century? (Actually, it is the great question for global Christianity!)

But if it is the great question, then it is closely associated with the question whether global Anglicanism, and the Anglican provinces around the globe, can live with some answers to the great question being less than as clear as those of us who love clarity would like.


1. Australian Primate warns against going it alone on SSB.

2. Case is made here (re who is or isn't Anglican in Australia) that the General Synod only narrowly avoided effectively determining that ACA is not a comprehensive church but "a narrow, even Calvinistic, confessional church".

3. On what the bishops' vote signifies, see this The Living Church article, and note this excerpt:

Bishop Garry Weatherill of Ballarat opposed the marriage motion, saying he was aware of only two same-sex blessings which had occurred in the church since the Appellate Tribunal’s decision.

“That is not a tsunami. People have been saying this is a tear in the fabric of the church, and drawing a line in the sand. It’s not,” he told TLC. “The reason the bishops voted against the motion was to leave the space open for discussion, not to make hard line edicts.”

The church’s primate, Archbishop of Adelaide Geoffrey Smith, told The Australian newspaper last week that the scriptures and church clearly understood marriage as between a man and woman.

“I am not aware of any proposal to alter that,” Smith said. “The current discussion is really about the ‘therefore’ part. Is it the case that therefore blessing a marriage that is not between a man and a woman is inappropriate or impossible to be done?

“Or is it the case that yes, the doctrine of the church is that marriage is between a man and a woman but actually we are living in a culture and society where lawful marriage is possible between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, and there might be good that comes from that relationship and it might reflect something of God’s love and therefore it’s appropriate for some kind of blessing or recognition.”

Archbishop Smith's statement/question, as expressed above, is pretty much aligned with my own position as a bishop in ACANZP: affirming marriage traditionally understood AND making room for exploration of what it means to be church in a changed society.


Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter, for a giving us a 'clear statement', that is a clear as any logical statement can be - about the situation of marriage and homosexuality as a subject of legal/spiritual/moral minefield for rational discussion: -

"If we put both controversies together, over marriage and over women being ordained to positions of authority such as priest or bishop, we highlight an arguably deeper question for Anglicans than one about clarity or lack of clarity, that question concerns whether anything in our understanding of Scripture may change as life changes."

Jesus, in his dealing with the tricky lawyers' questions of his day, sometimes resorted to 'unclear' statements that had them flustered - simply because the Scribes required a starkly legalistic response that would suit their theology, when what was needed was something wiser and far more charitable that required a deeper and more reflective consideration of all the factors involved.

We humans think we have a definitive understanding of everything that God has created, but we still need to explore the metaphorical 'black hole' of the realities of human ignorance that still remain to be discovered. As each new discovery is made; the wise person is able to adjust the lens of their pre-determined perspective. However, the adamantly (Adam) idee fixe can still prevent the flow of the Holy Spirit's revelation to a needy world.

I note the old adage that 'The Holy Scriptures were given for our learning' - not for our use of them as legalistic time-bombs for the destruction of useful discussion.

There is none so blind as WILL NOT see!" - And still (in defiance of human reason): -

Christ is Risen Alleluia! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Peter,
and for the clarity of your own position - as a bishop in our NZ Anglican Church.
I would add that I have had to put on a different lens with the Australian use of the words "General Synod".
For us in NZ, for TEC, and for other churches, "General Synod" is what we vow and sign to follow (even if on the ground, those who make those vows break them more often than upholding them).
In Australian Anglicanism, "General Synod" seems to function more akin to Lambeth Conference - a meeting that makes declarations, passes motions, etc. but these decisions have no teeth until individual dioceses pass (or fail to do so) themselves.
Easter Season Blessings

Father Ron said...

Sorry, Peter; just one more comment on what the Lay and Clergy Members of the recent Aussie G.S. need to be aware of: I remember seeing a notice in the rear window of a car, reading: -


Mark Murphy said...

Let us now, with one voice, affirm the clear teachings of Jesus on same-sex monogamy…

Anonymous said...

"...a church in which continuing exploration of two (or more views) on these matters is possible."

That is, a church in which views on these matters are private, not common.

"Or, more simply, those voting against the statement felt that things are not quite as clear as the statement's promoters and supporters make them out to be."

Or: proponents of the statement are right in affirming that we should respect their private opinion but wrong in asking us to suppress another respected private opinion to do so.


Anonymous said...

Yet again, to be... clear.

In the world of observable and interpretable facts, SSM is an initiative of states to remove their own restrictions on the life-chances and property of persons who for whatever reason are attracted to the same sex. Every real church has a duty to "be subject to the rulers" when, as in this matter, the Son uses them to establish just order.

This is not a private matter for Christians. Even if one believes that homosexuality is immoral, that belief does not warrant a civil order in which it is harder for homosexuals to share property. Even if one is dismayed by broad changes in the society's ethos, discriminatory civil laws against homosexuals only burden one's witness to the gospel that saves them.

Churches have been known to give unsolicited advice to the public on all sorts of things-- mine has an official position on the location of the US embassy to the State of Israel-- but this is a matter in which their witness is actually useful because many believe that a state is legitimate to Christians only if it punishes those with bad morals.

We have seen that this belief poisons discourse in polarised societies. Non-Christian citizens suspect that Christians are necessarily disloyal to the civil constitution. And indeed, some do cite Christendom as their motivation for sedition.

Both are mistaken. St Paul quoted above was not writing of such a state. It is important that churches bear true witness to the divine basis for Christian obedience to legitimate public authority.

Churches need not say that homosexuality is good; they must say that state injustice against homosexuals was rightly abolished.


Anonymous said...

Why then are the wise and the good perplexed?

Postmoderns are building meaning from the personal to the transcendent rather than vice versa.

The Common/Private distinction basic to Anglicanism is less understood and accepted among Anglicans.

The State/Church distinction that differentiates the Body from Israel or the ummah is in disrepair.

Marriage, perhaps uniquely, sits amid all three messes.


Father Ron said...

Perhaps what we Christians need to understand is that Marriage is not s9olely about sexual union - although that part of it is equally sanctified and blessed by God. It is mainly about the devotion of one person to another - at a level more intimate than that with other people; a community in which both may thrive. The attraction of a good marriage to others is more about the encouragement it gives to other people. Children born into a good marriage - or introduced toit by adoption - can learn from the selflessness that occurs within its compass.

When both partners experience the love of one another in such a relationship, they can be freed to spend some time in caring for others in the community - fed by the love they have received from a devoted partner. This can be a fruit of their hallowed relationship which gives evidence of God's love for all who grow to understanding the place of God in their lives

Mark Murphy said...

Re: Bowman's response

Problem is the common/private distinction had been used to silence abuse against those experiencing same-sex attraction.

Commonly, the church does not make windows into private bedrooms, while commonly excluding rainbow Christians from the full life of the sacraments.

I have worked with two many gay christians living in a schizophrenic church culture that says we love you/you are intrinsically disordered/remain single and celibate for the rest of your life/you're not allowed to be in leadership here.

Anonymous said...

Mark, that challenges my heart greatly. Am I not allowing people to be who God has made them, free to be themselves?
I think my core belief is that God gives us free choice in all things but it seems I am disallowing that to gay people by certain other beliefs.

Peter Carrell said...

Alongside Mark's response, Bowman, I would place my own concern about using "private" versus "common" because private may imply this is only about the views of individuals. (I get that, technically, historically, the use of private and common is standard etc).

My preference would be to talk about "common" (what we all hold together) and "difference(s)" (what we do not hold in common but what we do respect is a difference in understanding (which may, or may not, ever be resolved in a common understanding).

We have an Anglican history in which some such differences have yielded to a common understanding (e.g. on slavery) and some have not (e.g. on women ordained to presbyteral or episcopal roles of authority in the church).

Or, not yet!

Mark Murphy said...

Hi Moya

Yes, this runs very deep for some of us, to the level of being, or 'creation' if you like. Secondarily, it is a matter of marriage and ordination.

I resonate with the common/different distinction, Peter. What do we hold in common about marriage? a fruitful way to meet the other (rather than: 'we have a fundamentally different view on Scripture!' etc).

Father Ron said...

Dear fellow commenters; are not these arguments ALL about our difference in interpretation of the Scriptures? It is, I think, significant that Jesus taught sometimes by parable - in one instance (Matthew, chapter 19); about marriage and non-procreative singleness. Was it so that no one individual could claim a universal meaning that covered not only their own personal interpretation but allowing of none other? In this chapter of Matthew, Jesus seemed to allow for a conscientious difference of opinion on the interpretation about marriage and divorce: "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given".

Jesus then goes on to talk about eunuchs, ending with the message: "He who is able to receive this message, let him receive it" - No absolute direction here! Some of us discern in this latter injunction that the 'eunuch from his (her) mothers' womb' could be intrinsically gay.

Anonymous said...

4:41 is just an explanation.


People of all civilisations distinguish Common things (eg eucharist) from Private ones (eg personal prayer) because neither can be reduced to the other, yet neither can exist without the other. In the West, Anglicans have been notably alert to this distinction and interdependence, but the reality is a human one.


Is there really no political dimension to the present unrest? Perhaps not on the blessed isles.


The kingdom of heaven is like language or folktales or jazz. Each performer uses more or less skill to adapt the memory of past rehearsals and performances of the Way to new listeners and occasions. Better performances have strong family resemblances to the the best of those remembered. Even if composed in advance, they are interpreted by individuals in situations with contexts.


Anonymous said...

Thanks that analogy of the kingdom of heaven being like language or folk tales or jazz sounds so much more flexible than I have known and is very helpful. The better performances most closely resemble the way of Jesus but with infinite variations. No wonder John commented at the end of his gospel that the world cannot contain the books written about Jesus and his way.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter. Prayers for your speedy recovery.

Mark Murphy said...

Thanks for the updates Peter - rich and disturbing.

(ADU readers: Peter's added some more info and links to the bottom of his above piece here).

Update 2 is very interesting: is the real conflict between neo-Calvinist and 'comprehensivist' visions of the Anglican Church (rather than conservative versus liberal, pro-gay vs. anti-gay, pro-teachings-of-Christ vs church sell-outs etc)?

Update 3: Archbishop Geoffrey Smith's way of articulating this issue is really helpful and, yes, *clear*, and I'm very grateful to live in a diocese where our bishop thinks this way, too (and to be part of a church that has an episcopal structure where this sort of thinking, 'over-seeing', and safe-guarding takes place). However....

although the church has 'always taught that marriage in between a man and a woman', Christian marriage has been more fluid and evolving than this way of speaking suggests. For most of its history, Christian (and secular) marriage had been strongly patriarchal in legal, political, and psychological ways. Very recently this has changed, but mainly, if we're honest, in response to changes coming from outside of the church. Similarly the notion of marriage as the flourishing of reciprocal, intimate relatedness is a distinctly modern idea and shift.

Unknown said...

+ Peter is right. Usually, drift from his position in either direction appears more likely to reflect class politics than theology.


Anonymous said...

Everything is better on the blessed isles, of course.

But elsewhere in the West, resistance to SSM has some association with populism. Conversely, ambitions to go beyond just civil SSM toward new models of gender, marriage, etc have some association with globalists.

Both sides have reasonable points. But those points have class-bound motivations.

That Topic is hard for churches because neither side will admit that its class is blinding it to the most reasonable concerns of the other. Put another way, both sides rightly see themselves as standing up for a repressed group, and neither has a vision large enough to accommodate the other.

Churches like ours should be considering their responsibility to the Son for what Cicero called *the concord of the orders*.


Anonymous said...

"...some association..."

The hypotheses in 8:24 are empirical. Case studies and surveys can test them. In principle, the strength or weakness of an association of some x with some y can be quantified. Perhaps someone has already done the research.

Why do most people find it so difficult to seriously entertain a view on That Topic alternative to their own? Because the habitus of the class to which one belongs inhibits empathy with certain views of other classes.

I'm not saying that class interests can never be transcended to reach a merely christian opinion. I've done that myself.

But I do say that it is unusual to do so.


Peter Carrell said...

What about tribal interests, Bowman?

It strikes me that a certain form of tribalism surrounds (e.g.) GAFCON on homosexuality - the GAFCON view is a marker of belonging to the tribe, so now the tribe cannot change the marker without destroying the tribe.

Mark Murphy said...

I don't think people primarily take a position on this issue, or get passionately involved, because of class - that's too detached. Primarily it's because of *experience*; chiefly, if you're same-sex attracted or not, or have supported a loved one on this journey or not.

Class doesn't explain the heat in This Topic.

My mother has stayed in the same class all her life, but shifted in a big way on This Topic through the experience of having a much loved gay minister, meeting her son's gay friends, and supporting a friend whose son was gay and suffered and died from AIDS.

Second, there is often strongly projective and scape-goating dynamics if we're honest. The institution of marriage is *not* under perilous threat from one or two applications for same-sex relationship blessings. Come on. What else is under threat in one's life, one's tribe? In early colonial NZ, there were notable anti-semitic groups being organized in Taranaki, even though that area had hardly any Jews at the time (it had many Maori).

Thirdly, I suppose it could be class, in the same way one is in favour of protecting Antartica, even though one has never visited.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter, I agree.

And while I do see plausible reasons why class-blindness could make it harder for either side to understand the other on That Topic, they are a Western story, not an African, Asian, or Latin American one.

Mark, it seems that you disagree with something that I assume. If that's the case, then all that we can do here is clarify that difference and move on. :-)

I think it's clear that That Topic is used here and there as a wedge issue to split those of one mindset off from those of another.

Both sides sincerely do believe that their position makes moral sense. Neither side is crazy, although both have their cognitive distortions.

But at least on the side of the resistance to SSM, the matter has always been one item of a wider complaint that is evidently widely shared on one side yet unintelligible to the other. So I ask: what force polarises the two sides?

Here up yonder, it's probably a new class divide. Elsewhere it could be different, but the divisions down under do look familiar.

Knowing this, if indeed we do, does not change the merits of not using civil law to inhibit same sex couples from forming recognised households. But it does pose a gospel question to everyone: are we living out unity in the Son?


Anonymous said...

Put another way: even if Byzantine emperors had not decided to simplify judicial administration by reassigning marriage laws from judges to bishops-- so that there was no tradition of church weddings to confuse people-- the same social cleavage would likely be straining churches today, but the casus belli would be something else.


Anonymous said...

Protestants do tie themselves up in knots trying to avoid the plain sense of Holy Scripture. The words of Our Lord in Matthew 19 on marriage are clear to anyone of at least average intelligence. It is absurd and unfaithful to try to twist them into meaning something else.

The issue is not "class" but politics and the longing for an earthly kingdom, in contrast to the Kingdom of God. Catholics are grateful that the Archbishop of San Francisco has told Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stay away from Holy Communion while she continues to attack Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. One must hope that a similar sanction will soon be placed on President Biden as well. As self-proclaimed "Catholics" who vocally attack the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life and the nature of marriage, these politicians are not only assailing the Church but imperilling their own souls.

Would that Protestants had the same clarity and courage as Archbishop Cordileone. It was out of frustration with Anglicanism's confusions that Anglican Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali and Peter Foster joined the Ordinariate.

Pax et bonum

William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William,
I find that Protestants tie themselves in knots, working from Matthew 19, to find support for people remarrying after divorce. Do you have a non-knotted view on remarriage after divorce?

I also find it quite a knot to tie, to work from Matthew 19, then hypass Romans 13, and offer an uncompromising view on the blessing of same sex civil marriages, all the while ignoring Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 who admitted, when arguing for celibacy, that it was nevertheless better to marry than burn, a recognition of the strength of sexual desire which (in my experience) is rarely engaged with as a text in the discussions you say Protestants tie themselves in knots in.

As for the Roman Catholic church, there is a critique of such decisions, by Catholics, who argue, with attractive simplicity, that it is no business of clergy to bar people from the Lord’s table, since clergy are the servants/waiters of the table and not the host of the meal. Importantly, there is also the criticism that there is a large amount of pick and mix around banning Catholic politicians for their views on abortion but not on capital punishment, propagation of war, and the like. No doubt you have a simple resolution of such matters but I would struggle to ban Pelosi from communion and not a whole bunch of other politicians in an attempt to be a consistent policeman of the Table!

Mark Murphy said...

Hi William,

In my experience, the clarity and simplicity you are perhaps longing for can rarely be found at the level of everyday consciousness, which includes biblical exegesis, political decision-making, and theological dialogue.

Inevitably we are full of knots.

Like Peter, I think a much bigger knot would be to police the Lord's table for divorcees, pro-life politicians, just war theorists etc.

But there is a level of faith beyond the everyday where clarity and simplicity exists in bucketloads.

Unknown said...

If the peacemakers are blessed, are the sowers of discord accursed by God? If Cain and Judas were, they are.

There are three ways of understanding the eternal death of happy warriors who are apparently but not actually in the Body.

(1) Most concretely, the dots of the several dominical and apostolic admonitions connect against unprofitable and divisive argument, and for a transformation of everyday fallen humanity to the mind of Christ. It makes a dreadful sense that brains degraded by habitual fighting cannot know the higher war of the Lamb or inhabit the eternal peace that follows. Who admires a troll as a noble, Christ-like soul following the Way of Jesus?

(2) That peace is the Creator's last remedy for the human stain that began with Cain's murder of Abel. Those in his eternal peace are beyond Cain's narcissistic comparisons of self with others. If unregenerate cains were lurking on every corner of the New Jerusalem to attack the saints, then where would be the victory of the Lamb? No envious hater can dwell in heaven.

(3) The Son draws the Body ever more into his love to unify humanity, so that, free of bondage to evil, they may draw all creatures into his Father's peace. Those in the Son speak in love or they do not speak at all.

How do we reply in love to those who presently appear to be destined for eternal fire from which they cannot emerge? Ezekiel was told plainly that we who see those on a path to death are obliged by God to warn them.

Moderns distracted themselves with endless scrutiny of their motivations. What will we do?


Anonymous said...

Dear Peter,
It comes as no surprise that there are Catholics who have "an attractive simplicity" (attractive to whom?) in their (mis) understanding of the discipline of Holy Communion as well as the graveness of the sin of abortion. But what did you expect? Are you a Quaker who imagines everyone is equally endowed with the Holy Spirit? St James warns us that not all are called to be teachers, and we who teach will be judged all the more severely. I take that warning with utmost seriousness. One day I will have to give the Lord an account of my stewardship.

Perhaps you do not think abortion is a sin? Maybe you think the unborn child is not really human and doesn't have a right to life? I don't know your scientific beliefs on this question, I only know what biologists teach. If you think abortion is fine, there are many like you in the American Episcopal Church. But you at least know that Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, both of whom make public claims to be educated Roman Catholics, are vocally and politically committed to attacking this fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church, taught without exception by the Popes and Magisterium. This causes great scandal to the faithful and imperils their own souls. They are not stupid or ignorant of what the Catholic Church teaches on the sanctity of life and the fundamental duty to protect it. They are just like Sinn Fein.

There is no law in the United States that requires Pelosi and Biden (and numerous other self-proclaimed "Catholic" politicians) to be Catholics because the Constitution forbids a religious test for holding office. Membership of a church in any meaningful way implies some kind of minimal discipline. It is impossible to read the New Testament otherwise.

That a number of prominent scholar bishops like Nazir-Ali and Foster have left the Church of England for Rome indicates great disquiet with Anglican confusions.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Unknown said...

The comment box under this week's OP will not open for me.

If the upcoming Lambeth Conference advances nothing more than the continuity of the Communion, that is sufficient.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
I am struggling to see how you have actually read my comment above as I do not see you responding to any of the points I have made.

For clarity: I do not think abortion is fine, it is morally wrong to take the life of human being. Nevertheless, abortion should be legal and accessible (to some reasonable degree, e.g. noting variations from one country to another re precise conditions under which abortions may occur) since the alternative to making abortion illegal is not the cessation of procurement of abortion but the procurement of abortions by illegal and often very dangerous means.

That might not be simple and straightforward, though I hazard a guess that it is the (actual) position of the majority of Christians, Catholic and Protestant, in the Western world.

Anonymous said...

Peter, your second paragraph above didn't make any "points", it didn't grapple with any texts but simply alluded to them, so I can't see what there is to "respond to".
There is a blindingly simple piece of logic that you appear to be evading. (Please forgive me and correct me if I am misrepresenting your position).

1. You want your church to "bless" same-sex civil marriages.
This means an official doctrinal declaration that the relationship, including its sexual side, is good and willed by God. That is what "bless" means (as well as prayer for God's beneficent participation in that relationship).
2. Yet you know that such sexual relationships are nowhere found in Holy Scripture or the practice of the Catholic Church as features of the lives of Christians.
3. So you are forced to declare the words of Scripture as either obscure or obsolete or false or "obiter dicta".
Nothing new here, but you would do better to agree openly with a Bill Loader or Luke Johnson than to claim your liberal Protestant beliefs can somehow be derived from the New Testament and the Early Church. They can't.

Where is the shame in admitting one is no longer an evangelical? In England and Wales, for example, there are a number of Anglican bishops (Paul Bayes, Alan Wilson, June Osborne) who were raised and once taught as evangelicals but have now rejected that allegiance and are clearly liberals now, especially on sexuality. Rightly, they do not call themselves "evangelicals" any more because they now use liberal theological methods. That seems the most honest procedure to me.
Similarly some of the brightest of Anglican bishops have opted for Rome.

I am glad that you see that abortion is gravely sinful and perhaps you understand now why Pelosi must not come to Holy Communion while speaking and acting against the Church's fundamental teaching. I hope you will join me in praying that Pelosi and Biden will return to the Church's teaching and encourage others to do the same. There is more joy in heaven ...

(BTW, your prudential "defence" of abortion serves equally well as a "justification" for prostituion and drug taking and maybe even slavery. Christianity seeks the high road, not the lowest common denominator.)

Pax et bonum,

William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Yikes William.

My very distant observation of abortion politics in the States is:

1. Those voting against abortion almost never vote for the sort of healthcare system and socioeconomic support that stressed young mother's need to confidently bring children into this world.

2. Sadly, paradoxically, tragically, making abortion illegal generally does not decrease the abortion rate (due to the illegal abortions Peter has mentioned). Having a safe, legal abortion system is different to more expansive liberalization, however.

There's no way of avoiding it: this topic is full of knots!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
My essential question to you above, which you have not responded to, is whether you have a position on marriage/divorce/remarriage which does not involve "knots." I have no idea whether you have a simple or knotty position on that, and therefore no idea whether you are fairly charging those you disagree with.

I find it absurd that you critique a position on the legality of abortion (i.e. as a means for the state to save the lives of women in desparate straits) on the grounds that the same argument would justify the legality of slavery or prostitution. I am not aware, for instance, that the danger to prostitutes is particularly different whether prostitution is legalised or not; and the simplest way of protecting slaves from marauding masters is to prohibit slavery altogether.

The question of whether a church might permit differing views on blessing of same sex civil marriages rests on the question of whether we respect differing views in the church on the nature of homosexuality as a human phenomenon, and thus what in the Bible applies to two men or two women commiting to each other in love for life.

I am sure you know all the lines of thought that then proceed etc and I won't rehearse them here. But I fail to see what your concern about there being no shame in being a former evangelical etc has to do with the matter at hand. The matter at hand is the application of the Bible to the development of human knowledge. Evangelicals have been doing this work for a while, perhaps most famously in working out how to understand Genesis in the light of evolutionary biology and astronomical and paleaontological studies about the origins and age of the matter of the universe and of our planet.

I presume one can be an evangelical and an evolutionary biologist in your understanding?

Anonymous said...

Our Lord was once an unborn child and his entry into this world was not at the First Christmas, despite our obsession with that date, but nine months earlier, when the BVM assented to the Lord's call. That is why the Church marks the Aunnunciation on March 25th.
And when the BVM visited St Elizabeth, St John the Baptist, himself still in utero, greeted the unborn Saviour. Evidently two human lives here!
These are the theological, ethical and scientific facts that shape a Catholic's thinking. The contemporary vagaries of politicians don't concern me too much here. Politics changes all the time - Catholic US Democrats used to be pro-life - but science and theology don't.
Now abortion up to birth (and even after) has been writen jnto the statutes of states like New York. How is this different from China's infanticide?
I do pray that Joe Biden will rediscover his childhood faith. All of us will appear before the Lord to give an account of our discipleship, and how we havd treated "the least of His brethren".

As for the facts of abortion in the United States, you may not know that 40% of abortions are performed on black women, who make up under 12% of the female population; yet 70% of black children are born out of wedlock - compared to 25% in 1963. That is why the relative proportion of blacks in the US is declining, while their poverty is growing. The "sexual revolution" (that is, the repudiation of chastity) is the single greatest cause of social problems and poverty in the United States - as Catholic sociologist and politician Senator Daniel Moynihan recognised many years ago.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Hi William,

1. No, the scriptures don't address the question of committed, loving, consensual mature relationships between Christians of the same-sex. We have to grapple with that now. When they speak of homosexuality, it is in terms of fornication and violent rape including sex with slaves, most probably children. No one is arguing that any of that is ok.

2. Catholic Christianity is full of committed gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women who have lived as loyal Christians, building and enrichening the life of the church. In terms of theology, Erasmus, John Henry Newman, and more recently James Alison are examples of deep catholic thinkers who were/are gay; Andy Warhol regularly attended Mass and volunteered in homeless shelters; in terms of writers, the great Gerrard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde and his lover John Gray, as well as Evelyn Waugh....; the chief executive of Stonewall, the leading UK-based LGBT equality organization, Ruth Wall, is a practicing Roman Catholic, etc etc

Anonymous said...

Peter, whatever position the secular state comes to on divorce and remarriage is not strictly relevant to the Church because Christian faith is not a precondition for marriage but it is for Christian marriage. We do not live in Christendom today. But I imagine even liberal Protestants are not happy about marrying adulterers seeking to "bless" their affair. Do not think I am blindly uncritical of every act by the Catholic hierarchy. The church weding of British PM Boris Johnson caused a great deal of heart searching.
Your comments on abortion are mistaken. Very, very few abortions are performed "to save the lives of women in desperate straits" - as I am sure you know. Surely you are aware that abortion absolutists think there should be NO laws against abortion right up to birth - or even for a few days after, to give time to check out for abnormalities. If you think this point of view (the law in China and New York State) is wrong and immorsl, can you articulate why? That was the point of my inadequately expressed reference to prostitution and drug taking: granted thst yuo can't abolish drug taking and prostitution, does thd state have an interest in trying to limit these as much as possible? If yes, then the same applies to abortion - something that secular feminists strongly resist.

Pax et bonum
William Greenhalgh

Father Ron said...

William Greenhalgh said this:

"But you at least know that Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, both of whom make public claims to be educated Roman Catholics, are vocally and politically committed to attacking this fundamental teaching of the Catholic Church, taught without exception by the Popes and Magisterium. This causes great scandal to the faithful and imperils their own souls. They are not stupid or ignorant of what the Catholic Church teaches on the sanctity of life and the fundamental duty to protect it. They are just like Sinn Fein."

Dear William, I think that you, as a devoutly conservative (pre-Vatican II?) Roman Catholic may not quite understand what you have taken on by your voluminous contributions to this so-Anglican Blog. What you need to realise is that our Bishop Peter, is not only a very principled Anglican Bishop but also one of a more open and curious disposition than most conservative bishops - either Anglican or Roman Catholic. What he invites here, I think, is open dialogue - rather than the R.C. Certainties you are disposed to offer.

When you speak, here of the 'fundamental' teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, you have perhaps forgotten that Vatican 2 moved on from certain of the fundamental understandings of the former 'irrevocable' practices of the Church that had fixed ideas about, for instance, males only in the sanctuary and the place of women in the Church. Also, the position of the priest as supreme intercessor for the people, behind the altar, has changed for the understanding that, at the Mass, Christ is the centre of attention, not the priest.

Pope Francis. TBTG, is moving with the times, rather than the previously preferred position of staying within the certainties of dogmatic 'certainties' that have been discover, by scientific discovery, to be more flexible than was once assumed to be. Regarding his acceptance of President Biden's presence at the Eucharist, the Pope is allowing Christ - in the Sacrament - to strengthen the President for service to the WHOLE community - not just the R.C. contingency to which he, himself, belongs.

One problem with the Catholic Bishops in America, when they challenge the 'liberality' of Pope Francis, is that they seem to forget Jesus' story of the Pharisee in the Temple, whose self-righteousness did not commend him for the 'justification' that Jesus said belonged, rather, to the sinner, who knew his need of God. "Jesus came into this world to save sinners"; not 'the righteous' who may not recognise their need of salvation. In my - not so humble - opinion, Pope Francis would make a very acceptable Archbishop of Canterbury acting as an agency of Christ's redemption in, for, and to a needy world.

Mark Murphy said...

Dear William,

Here is an icon you may like: Christ and John the Baptist greeting each other from their mothers' womb as Mary visits Elizabeth....

Anonymous said...

Dear Ron,
Protestant observations on the Catholic Church and her teaching are of course interesting and your attention to Catholic affairs is clear to me - although I am also mindful of an old adage about grandmothers and sucking eggs. Have you perhaps thought of joining the Catholic Church yourself? I myself was surprised when Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali joined the Ordinariate as he was once chairman of an evangelical theological college - although I have also heard he had a "Catholic phase" during his youth in Pakistan.
Anyway, popes come and go and no infallibility attaches to their political decisions, which is a good thing when one thinks of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, the First Crusade, the Interdict on England in the reign of King John, and Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia.
It is a terrible shame that abortion has become a blind spot for Protestants, and I think that can only be because their theological methods have been dislocated by modernity, in which abortion has become the anti-sacrament of secular feminism. Have you noted how radical feminists in the US are desecrating the Sacrament? I hope you and other Protestants of good will will join with me in praying that Pelosi and Biden will return to their childhood faith instead of attacking it in promoting the evil of abortion.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Dear William
Thank you for your reply above. I agree (for instance) that remarriage after divorce can effectively involve the blessing of adultery. But not every situation is thus and so and the church (whatever civil rules in respective countires) has had to and will continue to have to engage with ways to regularise new marriages.

Abortion is challenging and I am aware that across the states there are varieties of permissions (currently) but you will be aware that if Roe v Wade falls, then states will impose a variety of anti- or restricted laws re abortion which will likely have the effect of women travelling across state lines to procure abortions … so a somewhat messy situation legally within the one federal country.

I think we will differ on whether abortion should be legal in order to avoid the consequences of abortion being illegal; but I agree with you that legal abortion opens up its own pandora’s box of difficulties re abortion in some place being permitted to a point where effectively it is infanticide. I have no “easy” answer to offer.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I am glad to see there is a little more meeting of minds here - keep asking uncomfortable questions! No "easy" answers does not mean no answers at all, and it is no accident that the Scriptures depict our earthly life as a pilgrimage (a difficult journey, not a tourist trip), and a battle (not a workout in the gym). When Christians make "peace" with the world, it is not as victors.
I am sure you did not imagine God put us here on earth so that we would be so comfortable that we would not want heaven! I am often prone to that temptation, and then reality interrupts.
Many years ago I heard the great scientist Professor Sir William Liley, the pioneer of fetal blood transfusions for the rhesus condition, speak out boldly for the unborn, for whose protection and wellbeing he devoted his immense scholarship and his professional life. Liley was not a believer, much less a Catholic, but was motivated by his scientific knowledge of human development and his humanitarianism. The news of his suicide in 1983 came as a great shock to me.
Good theology is done not by atomising prooftexting of Scripture but by reading Scripture symphonically (as Anglicanism's John Stott always taught, although he did not use that word) in conjunction with right reason (avoiding fallacies of logic) and natural law (as St Thomas expounded with unsurpassed brilliance in his "Treatise on Law" in ST 2/1, and C. S. Lewis wonderfully repristinated in "The Abolition of Man" in 1943). If Sir Wiliam Liley could perceive the evil of abortion, a Christian has ten times the reason for seeing it - and for resisting it.
May the peace of Christ continue to disturb us!

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Father Ron said...

William, the Peace of Christ should never disturb us. On the contrary, it should be the table-turning righteous anger of Christ that should put fire in our bellies. It once used to be thought that the sign of a 'Good Catholic' was her allegiance to and belief in the utterances of the Bishop of Rome, However, this seems no longer the story of 'authentic' catholicism (judged by your attitude here to the Pope's recent reminder to the U.S. bishops that The Eucharist is not a reward for the (self) righteous, but a medicine for sinners).

My question of you, here is this; do you really think that Pope Francis is in error in his discernment of the therapeutic purpose of - and his evaluation of Christ's power - at work in the Mass? (Even I, a non-Roman Catholic, can discern and believe in Pope Francis' eirenic teaching on the purpose of Jesus' intention at his institution of the Mass.

Semper Fidelis!