Tuesday, July 26, 2022

On the cusp of the eve of the Lambeth Conference 2022

UPDATE: The updated Calls have been published (here).

The key change to the Human Dignity document is captured by Tim Chesterton in a Tweet here.

ORIGINAL: It is Monday (UK time). Tomorrow we head to Canterbury, Kent to register. Wednesday is a welcome day (with various meetings of the kind that prepare people - e.g. me as a Bible study group convenor). Thursday and Friday are retreat days. The conference begins on Saturday, though the formal opening service is on Sunday. I think we can say we are on the cusp of the eve of the Conference!

And what a cusp it is, as something seems to have backfired big time for the Conference organisers.

Last week we learned (and by the end of the week the Anglican public learned) that the draft “Calls” were available, and among these draft Calls, the one on Human Dignity, was text concerning the Lambeth 1998 1.10 resolution on human sexuality, couched on the one hand in a context which acknowledged the differences across Anglican provinces, and, on the other hand, offering the possibility of re-affirmation of the resolution.

Cue a concert of concerns over the weekend on Twitter, blogs and statements of various house of bishops.

Cue within the last 24 hours learning that the 1998 material was not part of the drafting group’s process and was added late and without notice of it being circulated to the drafting group.

Cue within the last hour or so (as I write, late Monday afternoon UK time) this Tweet issued by the official LC Twitter account:

In full consideration of comments made about the #LambethCalls the Lambeth Calls Subgroup that coordinates the process will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the President of the Lambeth Conference) today to discuss concerns raised. A further statement will be issued later.

As far as I can hypothesise (it is an hypothesis, as I have no inside knowledge), what has happened is this:

Initially there is a steering clear of the 1998 resolution.

Then Global South bishops make it clear that they intend a discussion of the resolution and even a vote to reaffirm.

Then someone added the resolution bit, which then offered the advantage to the Conference that the Global South desires were on the agenda before the Conference begins, rather than the Conference chugs along and then there is a hiatus while Global South tries to add to the agenda.

The furore thus created seems to have caused a massive rethink on the part of the Calls organising sub-group and we now await the outcome of their deliberations.

UPDATE: That outcome is here. The Human Dignity call will be amended and republished. There will be a third option for voting: in my words, Yes, More thought, No.

I am loathe to jump on a bandwagon of blame or accusations of “bait-and-switch” (as some of the Anglican punditocracy have done over the past few days).

The fact of the matter is, the Communion is not united on the matter of the role of 1998 Resolution 1.10 in the life of the Communion. We may or may not ever be united, but we do need to find a way to discuss this point of difference and to try to understand why there are differences among us. 

Might 2022, despite this rocky cusp to the formal beginning of the Conference, bring some togetherness to our life together?

I have a few other thoughts!

1. Has the furore of the past few days been a talkfest of northern/western Anglican provinces focusing on “our” bit of Anglicanland to the exclusion of any real recognition that the majority of Anglicanland doesn’t think like we do? (In a “worst” case of one eyedness, in some expressions of intense concern it has seemed like some in the Church of England think the Lambeth Conference is another Church of England conference and how could ++Welby possibly … But, let’s get real: the Lambeth Conference is a gathering o bishops in which the majority of bishops are not bishops of northern/western Anglicanland!).

2. To the extent that the greatest intensity of concern comes from the liberal/progressive movement within global Anglicanism, just how is this movement doing “on the ground”? Numbers aren’t everything, but I was recently in a bastion of Anglican liberal lands and was shocked at the low numbers at worship. Then today, walking along a Cambridge, UK, street, I came across “Christ Church” church and paused to look at the noticeboard - a person came out of the church and we had a brief conversation. She told me that some 600-700 people worship there and it is a church plant of an inner city Cambridge CofE church. Do I need to tell you that this helpful woman also told me it is a certain kind of church? (Clue: not liberal/progressive).

3. That is, there are all sorts of issues at play here, including, most painfully, the anxiety and stress this late notice of the Human Dignity Call’s content is causing LGBTQI++ Anglicans. My interest going into the Conference is how we can find together a “both/and” outcome rather than an “either/or” one.


Mark Murphy said...

How exciting. You might sit on the edge of your seat for this one, Peter.

I do like how the Global South are impacting set processes. In therapy, we call this disrupting 'fixed gestalts'.

As a progressive/liberal, I often wonder what are we doing so 'wrong' that our numbers are so low.

I think of: spiritual aridity of liberal theology; becoming more of a secular NGO than a spiritual community; being less warmly committed to each other's lives; praying without intimacy; needing to offer more radical versions of church membership (see Bosco's recent post on using the language and practice of ordination and religious orders to appeal to spiritually hungry post moderns); being more innovative and experimental in liturgy styles (death to pews!); putting contemplative spirituality at the heart of church (so much that a basic contemplative prayer/meditation training is as fundamental part of 'catechesis' as learning the Lord's Prayer or doing an alpha course); managing the tension of offering spiritual nourishment to Christians moving beyond a stage 3 expression of faith (see Fowler's Stages of Faith theory) while knowing that stage three faith commitment is the sort that keeps churches going practically...

I don't think being more 'traditional' on matters of same-sex attraction is even close to "the answer" though.

Progressive and evangelical churches are fishing in entirely different bodies of water. I suppose this is Lambeth's challenge to acknowledge.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
Your last sentence in particular hits the nail on the head!
How do we talk to each other and not past each other?

Anonymous said...

Christ Church Cambridge is part of "Reform" and is still within the C of E, just. There is a network of other churches in England which have Anglican orders but are not part of the C of E.
Durham, which I think is well known to Peter, has a large "Christ Church" which has largely supplanted George Carey's St Nicholas's Church as the "student church" of the city, and Jesmond Parish Church in Newcastle is sponsoring a number of churches outside diocesan control. There is a similar network in London called Co-Mission, led by the large Dundonald Church. These churches are basically conservative evangelical, not charismatic, and they place great emphasis on children's and youth work, students and families, so the age profile is a good deal lower than your typical English Anglican parish. These evangelical churches, with their clear emphasis on conversion and the devotional life, provide clear communities of faith in large and very secular urban centres.
Another development particularly in Southwark in south London, has been the growth of Pentecostal churches among the large immigrant African community.
What of the liberal catholic Anglican movement? It is increasingly identified with feminism and the pro-homosexual movement, which accords with secular liberal sentiment of "inclusion" but seems to have very little power to convert the unbeliever or restore the lapsed. Put simply, few men are interested in being led spiritually by a woman (even Protestants understand that the pastor is a spiritual father, not mother, to his congregation), and no family is likely to wish to be led spiritually by a person in a homosexual partnership. The result: a dearth of men and young people in these churches. Is the Church of England discovering a law of unintended consequences?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

"Put simply, few men are interested in being led spiritually by a woman (even Protestants understand that the pastor is a spiritual father, not mother, to his congregation), and no family is likely to wish to be led spiritually by a person in a homosexual partnership."

Offensive dribble and a projection of your own prejudices, William, that will further discredit the church among the ever growing pool of secular postmoderns.

Some of my finest ministers have been women.

Some of our best theologians (en.g. John Henry Newman) and liturgists (e.g. Jim Cotter) have been gay.

I am happy to be spiritually lead by one with deep roots in Christ - their reproductive parts or sexual attraction is quite irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Mark Murphy is right that liberal theology is marked by "spiritual aridity", but its problem is not praying without intimacy, it is praying without faith. No doubt some will be offended by my putting things this way, but the truth is liberal Protestantism (and its Catholic analogue, Modernism) has long been defined by what it doesn't believe - or sits loose to in the Tradition. Hasn't the Episcopal Church in the United States long been thought of as Unitarianism with vestments and incense?
The answer is not to be "innovative and experimental in liturgy styles" - has any church been more innovative and experimental in this than New Zealand Anglicanism? - but to pray and BELIEVE the immense riches of the Tradition. There is no substitute for the faith once delivered.
Rewriting what Our Lord taught on the nature of marriage or the priesthood will not cut the mustard, either.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Your own personal preferences don't change a sociological fact, Mark. Protestant churches led by women do NOT attract men. Family men do not look to a partnered homosexual as their spiritual leader. That is a simple fact that observation will confirm. Notice that I said partnered, not SSA - a BIG difference.
Did St John Newman have SSA? Perhaps, but so what? He kept his priestly vows and thus is an exanple to the faithful. Otherwise he would never have been canonised.
To clarify: I certainly do not hold with Catholic triumphalism. I am keenly aware of the sexual failings of Catholic priests and religious and the harm this has caused to the lives and faith of the young. In Dunedin, for example, a Catholic high school is changing its name because its namesake, a bishop, failed to discipline sexual abusers among the clergy and religious - a sad story throughout the Catholic world. Just as prayer without faith is pointless, ministry without holiness is destructive.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

The more fruitful discussion, in my view, is whether some churches (William is keen on) attract people (for whatever reasons) who will never join a church of a different kind (e.g. That Mark is keen on); and vice versa.

Generally, taking up a cue from William, in my observation (!!) this IS the case!

One can then observe, whatever one feels about it, that currently one set of Anglican churches is having a good run in attracting people and another set isn’t.

Will this be so in, say, 2122?

Anonymous said...

Some churches

offering thoroughly *vertical identities*

attract people who are so disoriented

by secularity, diversity, and disenchantment

that they will never join other churches

that offer a *horizontal identity*

and that instead attract people who insist

that their institutions perfect their societies.

And vice versa.


Mark Murphy said...

Just repeating your prejudices and calling them “fact” does not make them so (or make them ‘natural law’), William, nor does it make any of this morally defensible or expressive of the love of Christ. Perhaps you know many men who are repulsed by a church led by women or someone who is gay. These men do not represent all men, nor should churches base their leadership doctrine on such flawed cultural values and prejudice (I’m sure many white South Africans under apartheid were not attracted to churches lead by Africans, Indians, or woman of colour – the same logic goes for patriarchy and heteronormativity).

You don’t seem to appreciate that we are not living under ‘level’ playing conditions, but under conditions of patriarchy where men and women are conditioned to treat males as “naturally” born to rule, and women (and homosexuals) as “naturally” submissive, weak, and unqualified for power. The church can’t be blind to this lest it legitimize injustice and systemic abuse, as it has a track record of doing with slavery, racism, colonialism, and sexual abuse of the vulnerable by its clergy.

This whole antipathy towards women in power and gay people, and in your posts on this blog it comes across as a palpable disgust, is dying out, thankfully, at least in the West. For the generations coming after me, conservative or liberal, Catholic or Protestant, this just isn’t an issue anymore. Younger people (on the whole) aren’t ‘naturally’ disgusted by same-sex attraction, nor by women being in positions of power and leadership, and in fact find it strange and morally troubling when women and LGBTQIA+ are excluded from the love of God and full membership (including leadership) within the church of Christ.

For LGBTQIA+ living in the Global South – and there are huge numbers in this category – the situation is more dire, and in fact life-threatening. The sort of rhetoric you trot out as “fact” and mere “observation”, which attempts to hide its dark power and prejudice behind so-called objective 'sociology', becomes lethal, on-the-ground, dog-whistle politics in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria. Gay people are hated, brutalized, and murdered.

This is the difficult context which informs Lambeth.

Anonymous said...

I suggest, Peter, that a key issue is whether one sees religion as a matter of therapy for the world or of salvation to eternal life. Neither Catholic nor Protestant is immune here. I think for example of a Catholic medical student I knew who was very active in the Young Christian Students movement founded long ago by Cardinal Cardijn. As a doctor she worked tirelessly to advance health care in underprivileged communities at home and abroad and rose to a high position in the NZ health service. But along the way, her personal faith seemed to fade and was replaced by leftist activism on behalf of the poor. In her obituary there was praise for her achievements but nothing of the young Catholic I knew.
Both Pope St John Paul and Pope Benedict were acutely aware of the two-edged sword that is "liberation theology" and warned that engagement in politics in the name of the faith must never be at the expense of the faith. The same can be said for Greenism and the neo-romanticism about an imagined pre-Christian "Maori culture": these postmodern ideologies have an attraction emotionally and politically for many in NZ at present. I can only suppose these are ersatz religions among people who once wrote "Christian" in the census box but now don't bother.
The Christian faith does indeed answer to many personal and social needs - frienship, health, the inculcation of personal virtue - but it is first and last about transcendence and eternal life.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

"The more fruitful discussion, in my view, is whether some churches (William is keen on) attract people (for whatever reasons) who will never join a church of a different kind (e.g. That Mark is keen on); and vice versa." (+Peter).

While these types of Christianities/churches can look vastly different, appeal to vastly different people, and 'never the twain shall meet', there is often some long-term migration between the two.

For a long time, I attended a liberal Anglican church which many members joined through experiences of (1) church burn-out and abuse in pentecostal, evangelical, or Roman Catholic congregations, or (2) through spiritual growth; by wanting 'something more' than was offered by their previous "stage three" faith communities.

Anonymous said...

Mark, so many emotive and denunciatory argumenta ad hominem et ad verucundiam directed at someone that you have never met! Your comment doesn't bear much sign of having understood the points I have made but is instead an attack on my supposed character. "Dark power", "prejudice", "lethal" - oh my, Foucault is alive and well, unmasking the secrets of the wicked heart!
I cannot speak for liberal Protestantism, only observe what I see. It does seem to me that many Protestants (as well as Catholics) have little understanding of natural law (with or without scare quotes), but it is central to Catholic theology and quite opposed to the nominalism that surfaces so often in Protestant thinking, especially modern liberalism. St Thomas's Treatise on Law is the place to start, but it may be helpful to consult contemporary philosophers like J. Budzsizweski ("Written on the Heart", "What We Can't Not Know") or Edward Feser. Less passion and more knowledge is always a helpful thing. Or read Pope St John Paul's "Theology of the Body" if you really want to understand Catholic teaching on marriage and our embodied existence as men and women. But I do encourage people really to learn what natural law is and its inherent relation to reason and Holy Scripture. Budzsizweski is very helpful here.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Gosh. We shouldn't have to choose between 'vertical' or 'horizontal', 'therapeutic' or 'transcendent'. That's the dualistic mind again.

A comprehensive Christianity encompasses *both*. Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin are splendid examples of this.

Anonymous said...

"As a progressive/liberal, I often wonder what are we doing so 'wrong' that our numbers are so low."

Possibly nothing.

What we might less pretentiously call adaptives do have some serious theological and cultural weaknesses, and their churches would be healthier if they repaired them. Would they still be "progressive/liberal" then? I think so; others may differ.

But their immaturities are not causing their low numbers. Rather, the secular tide flowing in the West is lowering everyone's numbers for the time being.

Those adapting to the emergent society are experimenting for those who belong to it. Some experiment to *gain* plausible initial adopters and scale (eg US evangelicals of the *Emerging* persuasion, some CoE Fresh Expressions). There has never been reason to expect them to attract a mass following scant years after starting.

Others experiment to *retain* "best customers" unrepresentative of the whole "market" (eg college town parishes of TEC that cannot evangelize the poor, the working class, the middle class, or the countryside around them). Their sunset strategy was never intended to achieve growth.


Meanwhile, *reactive* parishes (eg some Reformed evangelicals, traditionalist Roman Catholics) have attracted a rising share of the inexorably declining aggregate. They are most attractive to those who at least protest, and may really be marginal to, the postmodern social fabric. Sticking to a received model, they are not consciously experimenting, but doing an old thing in a new setting is nevertheless change. And in fact, many who prefer this bristle. not so much at accommodating new social reality as they meet it in their personal lives, but at being ordered by some majority vote to march rank and file into a utopian future.


Can a postmodern society be Christian? If so, how? If not, why fret about the numbers.

Are we plotting revolution? Constantine died a long time ago.


Mark Murphy said...

Hi William

I am actually responding to the words you have written here. I am passionate about this - this affects real people. I get so angry when I hear you saying what you do, with no sense of how dangerous this discourse is. In my work as a therapist, I have worked with lots of women and men (gay and straight) wounded and abused by patriarchal "common sense". I get so angry when it's dressed up as the will of God

I am responding to your writing here and previously that people are 'naturally' disgusted by homosexual acts (I'm not, my friends aren't, my mother isn't, my colleagues aren't etc etc), and dressing this up as natural law. To quote a large research study on this topic: homosexuality is "a natural part of our diversity as a species." This is so obvious.

I have no wish to read John Paul II, to be honest - a celibate man lecturing us on family and sexuality?

Anonymous said...

Occasionally, I meet a former fundamentalist who has swum the Tiber or sailed to Byzantium or even made a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The traveler's enthusiasm for his new denomination is heartwarming and infectious, and I am always happy to introduce him to others in it.

But although superseded in principle, the old fundamentalist antipathies surface when something ecumenical happens. He is scandalised to see his One True Church sitting there on the dais alongside the discredited yet dreaded Catholics or Lutherans or Episcopalians or Orthodox. He is horrified to see them mingle in a chancel.

Now a schismatic sect is founded on a pathology, an opposition that it constitutionally cannot get over, but the great churches are all founded on great loves. The completion of conversion from sect to church is to let go of the old hatreds and the stereotypes of the Other that serve them. That happens with cultivation of the great love.


Father Ron said...

As the Lambeth Fathers and Mothers of world-wide Anglicanism meet to together to struggle with issues much wider than those of gender and sexuality - although these are issues affecting every single human being (from Pope to Bengal Beggar) and should be approached with great sensitivity - I was amused to note 'Pax et Bonum's opening words in a comment here especially: "Your own personal preferences..."

"Your own personal preferences don't change a sociological fact, Mark. Protestant churches led by women do NOT attract men. Family men do not look to a partnered homosexual as their spiritual leader. That is a simple fact that observation will confirm. Notice that I said partnered, not SSA - a BIG difference. Did St John Newman have SSA? Perhaps, but so what? He kept his priestly vows and thus is an example to the faithful. Otherwise, he would never have been canonised".

Has it ever occurred to you, William, that Blessed John Henry Newman might have been highly embarrassed by the thought of being declared a Saint of the Universal Church, when his self-acknowledged 'Special Friendship' with Fr Ambrose would, in his day, have been banned by the superiors of Roman Catholic Religious Orders? So much so that he probably arranged that his mortal body would no longer be around to provide the usual holy relics'.

Noting that 'canonisation' is an activity in the Roman Catholic Church undertaken by human beings like ourselves; this process, surely, is a subjective action taken a special section of the Body of Christ concerned to express their own understanding of what constitutes the degree of holiness that God might reward with a special place Courts of heaven.

One other hand, we Anglicans may be rather more reluctant to arrogate to ourselves the privilege of declaring just who may, or may not, be accepted by God as outstanding enough to bear the title of 'Saint' worthy enough to bypass the biblical notion of passing through purgatory (Paradise?) before being taken by Jesus into heaven when He comes again in glory.

Your ideas about the leadership of women in the Church do not agree with the choice of Jesus, who sent Mary of Magdala to tell the Good News of His Resurrection to the male disciples. Many parts of the Church Universal call Mary 'First of the Apostles" - a title that many men of the Church have a problem with (but not Pope Francis, apparently!)

Anonymous said...

Mark, it is difficult to explain to non-Catholics what we mean by natural law, but I do encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and explore this central dimension of Catholic and indeed historic Christian thought.

If you did, you would understand more clearly what is meant by 'physis' (Romans 2, 1 Corinthians 10 etc) and how physis as an order established by God and discerned by reason and deep conscience (synderesis) differs from the personalist secular humanism that I discern actually underlies your own moral thinking. You would also understand that the existence of something 'in nature' is not what theologians mean by physis. All manner of things exist "in nature", like polydactyly or birth defects.
Neither does one's "feelings" toward homosexual acts have that much bearing on the subject. If you have studied ancient Greek literature as I have for many years, you will know that in e.g. Plato's Symposium, there are paeans to what we today would delicately call "man-ephebe love" - something widely extolled and encouraged in 4th century BC Athens. I'm sure that does not surprise you since all kinds of approbative "feelings" can be learned - though not apparently by the apostle St Paul.
Yet conscience (synderesis) has a way of striking back. J. Budzsizweski in "What We Can't Not Know" has an interesting but very uncomfortable section on the testimony of the nurses who have to do the post-operative work in abortion clinics, dealing with fetal remains. Does this offend you or anger you? If so, why?
Anyway, I do encourage non-Catholics to think and learn about natural law - which isn't only for Catholics, by the way. A great introduction to the subject is by the Anglican C. S. Lewis, "The Abolition of Man".

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Father Ron said...

"For LGBTQIA+ living in the Global South – and there are huge numbers in this category – the situation is more dire, and in fact life-threatening".

This, surely, is one reason why our bishops at Lambeth must stand against the culture of homophobia and misogyny that still prevails in certain parts of our world, and why they should resist the temptation to collude with bishops from those areas who want to continue with the deadly culture of parts of Lambeth 1:10 - which is committing a class of humanity to deadly torture - simply because of their natural instinct to love someone of their own gender.

Anonymous said...

What interesting ecclesiastical circles you move in, BW. I am not sure what you mean by "fundamentalist", but presumably you mean a conservative Protestant biblical literalist? I don't think I have ever met one who became a Catholic, although no doubt they exist somewhere out there. I do know of numerous Anglicans who have become Catholics or Orthodox who had become disenchanted with Anglicanism: would you call them "fundamentalists"? Would you call Jaroslav Pelikan a "fundamentalist" for leaving Lutheranism to become Orthodox? Was Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali a "fundamentalist" for becoming a Catholic? Did he do wrong in forsaking Canterbury for Rome?

I never use the term "fundamentalist" because it is usually pejorative, with more than a hint of intellectual condescension, and it is certainly unclear what it means. If Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant can all be labelled "fundamentalist", perhaps it is time to stop labelling people?
Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

It's made the Guardian!


On the surface of it, it's a disturbing read.

Same-sex partners of attendees weren't invited? Why in earth not?

Pretty brutal symbolism there: you're not welcome.

Mark Murphy said...

Gosh William, you seem to be now be implying homosexuality is equivalent to birth defects.

I actually have no idea what so....outrages? disgusts? excites?....you about same-sex attraction. I'm completely lost.

I wonder if this about gay people at all. I keep on thinking of Rene Girard's The Scapegoat.

Mark Murphy said...

Is what is occuring in the discussion here on this post and thread a *parallel process* for what is happening, and about to happen, at Lambeth?

Peter, this could be brutal.

Mark Murphy said...

Yes, the best theory is that Newman wanted to remain with Ambrose and not get dug up for veneration.

His canonization, including being vetted by canon lawyers for any sign of grevious sin, demonstrates the myopia and sexual obsessiveness of magisterial Catholic approaches to this issue. They don't care that John and Ambrose lived together for many years, had a clearly intimate relationship, that John greived Ambroses death like the loss of a spouse (Newman's words), or even that the two were buried on top of each other! All of that is fine (and not a same sex relationship, apparently) so long as no obvious cases of sodomy could be discovered.

= obsessive sexualization and objectification of gay men (because of the celibate church's own dangerously repressed libido?).

Anonymous said...

Ron, you must be wary of projecting your own wishes and thus doing violence to the historical facts. There is not the slightest evidence that St John Newman's friendship with Anbrose St John was anything other than chaste and in keeping with the Law of the Church. He would not have canonised otberwise, Rome's procedures for canonisation are pretty strict, I can assure you.
It is probably because frienships today are seen tbrough a hypersexualised lens (the sickly shadow of Freud, I suspect) that many moderns keep misreading the past. How often does one read that King David - a rampantly heterosexual man if ever there was! - "may have had" a himosexual relationship with Jonathan because of the intensity of his friendship? Pure projection. Such nonsense shows that moderns do not ubderstand male friendships as ancients did. And not just among men. The deep friendship between Naomi and Ruth was not at all sexual but morally a profound mother-daughter relationship. Brothers are not lovers. We must banish the obsession with Freudian eroticism today and return to a healthier understanding of friendship.
Newman's wish to be buried with Ambrose St John may strike us as odd today but it is exactly the same instruction the old prophet in 1 Kings 13 gave to his sons: to be buried with his brother orophet fron Judah, who died after rebuking King Jeroboam: the expression of profound spiritual kinship.

I do not think I have to remind you, Ron, that St Mary Magdalene was not one of the Twelve, nor was she a priest. Not even Our Lady was! Why is that? Do you think the Lord and the Apostles made a mistake there?

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Jeremiah said...

oh dear god, the wheels are really falling off now.

It shameful that we live in a world where many go hungry, climate change is destroying the planet, and there is a war going on and all the anglican church cares about is controlling the sex lives of people it has never met.

BTW it is about sex. It is about the perverse obsession that the Bishops have about gay sex. Maybe they should all try it and get it out of their systems.

Please note also it is gays who are seperated out for persecution on sexual grounds.

The 1998 resolution also states that Heterosexual marriage is the only place for sex. How come the church is more than happy to marry so many couples who have LIVED TOGETHER before getting married. Isnt that endorsing SIN.

I could write a thesis on the double standards and hypocrisy of the anglican bishops. Including the ones forced further back into the closet much to the detriment of their souls. Shame on Lambeth, Shame Shame Shame.

Mark Murphy said...

And all the apostles were Jewish too. Does that mean....no it doesn't. Being Jewish ain't essential fo the priesthood.

We can throw this back and forward.

When you see a woman presiding at the eucharistic table with such simplicity and dignity, taking a congregation into the heart of God.....as I have with one of my previous vicars ...

When you grow up with friends who courageously accept their stable, life-long same-sex attraction, when they deeply accept *and love* themselves as they are; and you witness how good this is ...and you see them eventually find a beautiful, loving, mutual relationship....and you see how good this is...

God is good.

Peter Carrell said...

On natural law: even if we assume a God of providence who runs the universe on somewhat strict lines (unchanging laws), we (the church) are still left with what we do when the social contexts of our lives do not conform well to those strict lines. How is the church to respond to divorce and the possibility of a new marriage? (By no means agreement even between RC and Orthodox on that, let alone Prostestants). When natural outcome of a difficult pregnancy might be a natural abortion of the baby within, we think medical science is free to defy the strict lines of nature and attempt to save the baby’s life. When Paul shares the agony of the Christian not easily given to elibacy and accepts it is better to marry than burn with lust, does natural law mean that no reasonable consideration can be given to the situation of gay and lesbian persons not otherwise able to enter into heterosexual marriage? Even the universe bends towards the arc of justice and fairness. (Cue, I suggest, Pope Francis’ sympathy for homosexuals. Natural law has its advocates (we can think not only of Aquinas but also of Hooker) yet in thinking of those advocates, we can see that natural law considersations can lead to differing conclusions. In the providence of God, might some things be too difficult for neat, natural law answers?

Mark Murphy said...

I hear you, Jeremiah.

Why does the Anglican Communion keep on trying to pretend it has "one mind" on this issue? Why does it keep trying to impose that "one mind" on everyone, thinking that this will lead to unity?

I'm speechless. I've looked at the first "call", the redrafted "call", and I can't believe an organization that has had so many years to think and plan about this, so many listening groups, could be so clay-footed. .

Nevermind statements on mission, respect for human dignity, interfaith issues, the environment. If you can't tolerate difference in your own midst, please, please, don't lecture the world on anything or produce another mission statement on evangelism.

Peyer, this is so embarrassing

Mark Murphy said...

If a partnership can't agree to live together and in such a way that both sides are respected, and that any differences are openly talked about and acknowledged,

then it is much more healthy for everyone, not least any children involved, for that partnership to find an amicable way of separating.

Mark Murphy said...

Just as Canterbury needed to separate from Rome as part of it's growing maturity and individuation, perhaps Kampala and Kigali (and Sydney and Nelson etc) need to separate from Canterbury (and Edinburgh and New York etc)? Maybe this is the only path to a truly post-colonial Anglicanism?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
I think this LC is pretty important.
It has the potential to settle that we are a Communion which agrees to disagree.
It has the potential to not do that, and, in fact, to widen divisions.
In that light, the brouhaha of the past few days is spilt milk in the process of determining what kind of cheese we are making.

Mark Murphy said...

Does Archbishop Justin get it? I'm starting to wonder...

We're not prepared to throw our LGBTQ+ brethren under the bus for a sham unity.


Anonymous said...

Thank you +Peter for clarifying thoughts. Praying!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

Given your premises, your conclusions do follow. And I am not cranky enough to insist that I alone have the one true understanding of natural law. But I do associate different premises with it. As usual, that reflects a penchant for working with the strongest form of an argument, not the one that happens to be best publicised.

"On natural law: even if we assume a God of providence who runs the universe on somewhat strict lines (unchanging laws)..."

That sounds more like Newtonian mechanics than Aristotelian natural law.

Why not instead assume a Creator whose creatures have teleology and sometimes consciousness consistent with his revealed purposes?

"...we can see that natural law considerations can lead to differing conclusions."

Bad in arithmetic, but commonplace in ethics! Ethical reasoning is seldom coercive reasoning. In most situations that come to mind, our objective in ethical reflection is not the eradication of all options but one.

That is, we do not deem reflection to have failed if it results in say three good options from which another godly criterion grounds a final selection. Concretely, the Father does want us to honour the fabric of his creation, but there can be more than one way of doing that, and he also wants us to be diligent in our vocations from him.

"In the providence of God, might some things be too difficult for neat, natural law answers?"

Natural law seems more to weed out options that simply ignore the Creator-creature relation than to specify that because of that relation there is one and only one deed which one must do forthwith.

Natural law is an ecumenical heuristic that many of us intuitively use when we are talking about theistic evolution, or climate change, or human rights or subsidiarity, or C. S. Lewis on the tao, etc. But when the conversation lurches toward sex, we start using it odd ways.


Father Ron said...

In the context of all of this - about collegiality in the Church, the Body of Christ. One might be asked of each branch of the Church that has taken a step away from the original Apostolic Band (including the Churches of East and West - both original and Reformed). of what value is the conciliarity of the many different parts of the Body of Christ in today's world?

Maybe the best analogy is one made by St. Paul, when he spoke of the various parts of the Body that need to work together in order to maintain the essential UNITY that Christ prayed for.

Does this mean organic unity? or Unity in the Spirit of God? Even the Roman Catholic Church has its separate parts and jurisdictions - as does the Orthodox Church, under its various patriarchs. (One reflects: there must be some theological difference between the parts, or they might never have become separated in the first place).

Cannot, then, our Beloved Anglican Communion Churches - in their separate jurisdictions - thrive apart; while agreeing to the Creedal statements common to us all? Rather than those which have been designed to set us apart - like The Jerusalen Statement, or Lambeth 1:10)?

After all, neither Rome nor Constantinople jurisdictions have to follow the traditional Anglican '39 Articles', but we still treat them as Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Can we Anglicans no learn to live together without total agreement on adiaphora?

Father Ron said...

Dear William,

I'm surprised you have never heard the story of Mary's 'priesthood' being based on the FACT that, as a catholic priest's ministry includes the function of a midwife bringing into being the Body of Christ at the Mass; much more importantly, Mary brought forth the Incarnate Body of Christ into the world - of her own substance - with the cooperation of the Spirit of God.
This was surely a classical case, par excellence, of catholic priesthood!

Anonymous said...

"As the Lambeth Fathers and Mothers of world-wide Anglicanism meet to together to struggle..."

...I am pondering an essay on praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I looked it up for a reply to Moya; Robert W Jenson wrote it.

That one can so pray, Jens took for granted. But why? And when?

To the why, he replied that invoking the prayers of Mary as the Theotokos uniquely solicits the intercession of the entire communion of saints. Her "Fiat mihi" takes on Israel's vocation in perfect obedience; in containing Christ her womb also contains the *totus Christus*, Christ and all the saints who will ever be. To invoke the prayers of Mary is to ask the church triumphant to pray for us.

(The full argument affirms that intercessory prayer pleases the Lord, cites the definition of Chalcedon as correct, and uses a Lutheran and patristic notion of heavenly space. Along the way, he explicates the Virgin of the Sign ikon, the tabernacle and temples, the bodies of prophets, and the space of the Bible. But I think this gives the gist of it.)

So then when? He does not say. But a gathering of the world's Anglican bishops seems a worthwhile occasion.


"Just as Canterbury needed to separate from Rome as part of its growing maturity and individuation"

Nation-building. Subsidiarity. Modernisation.

"...perhaps Kampala and Kigali (and Sydney and Nelson etc) need to separate from Canterbury (and Edinburgh and New York etc)?"

No nation-building. No subsidiarity. Modernisation?

"Maybe this is the only path to a truly post-colonial Anglicanism?"

Does going to a meeting every ten years constrain any church to be so English that it can't be missionally national where it is?

Is a church struggling with its settler culture finding the Communion to be an obstacle to that?

Offhand, I wouldn't think so, but it would be interesting to know.


Anonymous said...

Peter, what happened to my reply to BW about "fundamentalists" and Jaroslav Pelikan and Michael Nazir-Ali? Did you decide not to publish it?

On your own comment on "natural law", with respect I don't think you have
Fully understood the issues because you have conflated two understandings of "nature": nature as the Creator intended (and it still subsists) and nature marred by the Fall.
Curing birth defects is not "unnatural", it is achieving nature's telos.
Aborting healthy unborn babies (the vast, vast majority) is not natural, it is violating the Ten Commandments. Do you not wonder that western people have seared their conscience on this?
When New Zealand introduces medical suicide and a "duty to die" will be imposed on the elderly, the very sick and the severely depressed (just look at The Netherlands and Belgium), will this be another subject on which NZ Anglicanism has nothing to say?
I do encourage your readers to read J. Budzsizweski to find out what natural law, in Christian perspective, actually is. Few Protestants seem to understand this today, although many did in the past (not just Hooker).
Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Peter Carrell said...

Apologies, William, I have discovered that there were some comments I hadn’t seen!

OK - I need to do some learning on natural law and am pleased with the lessons above, thank you William and Bowman.

Nevertheless, there is a certain kind of strictness to understanding teleology for all human situations as per Airstotle or Aquinas? Might, for example, a homosexual with ability to form a lifelong, sexually intimate relationship, with permanent commitment under civil law be denied that end/goal? (Ditto, assuming William is on board with annulment per RC canon law, we could ask about the divorced Catholic ineligible for annulment being denied to end/goal of being married again?)

Mark: a necessarily brief reply, but I encourage seeing LC as trying to avoid various “throwing under a bus” scenarios. For example, would a (further) division of the Communion do anything for LGBTQI++ people in (say) Nairobi or Accra? Does a diminished Communion (just Scotland, Wales, NZ, USA, Canada, maybe England and Australia, maybe not) offer gay Anglicans much in the way of a global church to belong to? Either way, LC is a conversation (whatever else is going on) and I think judgments could be suspended until 8 August!

Anonymous said...

Ron, one can play with rhetoric and imaginative metaphors and symbolism all one likes - the Middle Ages did it all the time and it happens regularly today, with secularists reinventing "marriage' and "gender and sex" - but nothing changes the fact that Our Lord did not ordain His Mother to the priesthood and neither did the Apostles. She was not a priest, she was something much more important than that.
The popes, including Francis, are very clear that the Church has no power to change this Dominical law.
Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

And all the apostles were Jewish too. Does that mean....no it doesn't. Being Jewish ain't essential for the priesthood.

We can throw this back and forward.

When you see a woman presiding at the eucharistic table with such simplicity and dignity, taking a congregation into the heart of God.....as I have with one of my previous vicars ...

When you grow up with friends who courageously accept their stable, life-long same-sex attraction, when they deeply accept *and love* themselves as they are; and you witness how good this is ...and you see them eventually find a beautiful, loving, mutual relationship....and you see how good this is...

God is good.

Mark Murphy said...

Dear Father Ron

I chop and change, as I'm wont to, as to whether spiritual unity or full institutional unity is what is called for.

I remember writing a few gushing letters to Father Thomas Keating, the founder of Centering Prayer, while he was still alive. He wrote such warm, sweet replies. The first letter he signed off:

"We are united in prayer".

It made such an impression on me, because up to that point I'd always considered Christian unity to be a 'churches reconcile and (formally) unite' kind of thing. Father Thomas's words woke me up to unity being a much deeper, already present reality (if we have the ears to listen and eyes to see).

Anonymous said...

Strange straw man comment there, Mark - the Acts of the Apostles noted that St Paul appointed "'presbuterous' in every city", among Gentile believers. What was the point of that remark?
The New Testament and the Early Church is full of stories of godly women of spirit and courage like St Lydia and St Eunice and martyrs like St Perpetua and St Felicity of Carthage. But no female priests or bishops. Strange?

As for your second paragraph: all kinds of things are possible in a fallen world where God's grace is mysteriously present. Even slavery wasn't entirely bad for some slaves, was it? But it was never God's perfect will for His redeemed creation. One thinks of St Thomas's notorious remark on prostitution. How might you counsel the single lonely heterosexual Christian with no prospects of marriage, or the married one whose sex life isn't very "satisfying"? To use pornography and prostitutes? To have an affair? All of these were lively possibilities in Corinth in AD 50 as they ae in Christchurch today. Or what would St Paul - and his Lord - say?
You need to distinguish between what God permits (and tempers in his mercy) and what He positively desires for His redeemed creation. That is why I am constantly urging you good Protestants to discover the universal natural law. You won't understand C. S. Lewis without it - let alone why we humans behave and react the way we do. It's the key to true understanding.

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Gosh William. Loving, committed, flourishing relationships (between two people of the same gender) and talented, popular, spirit-filled ministries (of priests who are women) are "fallen creation" that God permits in his/her mercy but is ultimately contrary to his/her will?

Please don't take this as an ad hominem attack, but I do wonder if you've actually encountered any of the above.

"How might you counsel the single lonely heterosexual Christian with no prospects of marriage, or the married one whose sex life isn't very "satisfying"? To use pornography and prostitutes? To have an affair?"

(1) I'd want to understand their experience of loneliness and relational despair. I'd be curious about what might be blocking them from feeling more supported and confident in exploring intimacy and connection with others, including religious beliefs, ideas, and experiences of 'God', including early experiences of parents and family life.

(2) "Unsatisfying sex lives" can mean all sorts of things. I'd want to listen more deeply to what is really going on (acting out in terms of porn or affairs is an avoidance of this deeper, personal confrontation, and a perpetuation of addictive, stimulus-entrapment).

Of course, if the lonely person involved is gay, one thing that might be dooming them to a life of painful isolation *might* be the condemnatory, pathological belief that they are "intrinsically disordered" and are doomed to a life of perpetual loneliness (as per current Catholic and conservative Protestant teaching). Because sexual energy can never be 'solved' this way, by cruel intellectual fiat, such beliefs are more likely to drive us into casual, loveless, exploitative sex than loving acceptance and the experience of genuinely mutual, non-exploitative intimacy.

Mark Murphy said...

Hi William again,

So we have evidence of women being in positions of leadership and authority in the early church - as deacons, as an emissary of Paul to the church in Rome (Phoebe), or indeed as "apostle to the apostles" (Mary Magdalene) - and we see this as the organic, hard-won consequences of Christ's own proximity to and empowering of women. So much so that a bible-centric scholar and theologian such as N.T. Wright completely changed his view on women's ordination in light of this.

And we have evidence of heterodox Christian movements and communities in which women are spiritually prominent (dialogue between Peter and Mary in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene highly recommended!).

Why not more cases of women priests and bishops in our history?

Patriarchy is much older, and in some senses culturally deeper, than Christianity. Like slavery, it is an institution that was so ingrained in first century societies (and still is) that it has taken many hundreds of years (and, in the case of patriarchy, millions of women and gay men abused and burned) to begin to 'see' and unravel. For
patriarchal religious and political beliefs to be present in our historical criteria for priests, bishops, and 'Christ's representatives on earth' is both inevitable and deeply tragic.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mark, thank you for replying.
I have to say first if you can't even use the biblical language for God as endorsed by Our Lord (your "his/her mercy etc"), then I wonder if we are talking about the same religion. How Jesus spoke about God, the Father and the Holy Spirit (ho ekeinos, John 16) decides the matter for Catholics; any deviation from His practice is "another gospel". The Creeds are drawn from Scripture, not from postmodern Sprachskepsis. Otherwise you will find yourself agreeing with Feuerbach and Marx, that religion is just projection of our desires and fears.
Second, listening to the lonely frustrated Christian is certainly kind and right, but when we have exhausted our psychological toolkit (of whatever contemporary or classical brand), in the end it comes down to obeying God and seeking His grace. Otherwise our faith is fraudulent. Sex isn't like food or drink, although the modern world has certainly made a god out of it.
Third, on your second post, of course holy women in the New Testament performed vital ministries, as nuns do today; but the Lord and His apostles never made them priests or bishops. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are very clear on this, and if you think Our Lord was blinkered and constrained by "patriarchalism", you have a rather low view of the Word made flesh. Nothing is "deeper" than Christianity because the message is of divine origin and is translatable into every culture.
Finally, a personal view: I think no human calling surpasses that of being a mother. We men can only guess - and poorly- what it must be like to bear a child within your body and nurture him or her from the same. You see, natural law includes reverential awe at the way we have been made,

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Father Ron said...

Dear Wiliam, you said:
"That is why I am constantly urging you good Protestants to discover the universal natural law. You won't understand C. S. Lewis without it - let alone why we humans behave and react the way we do. It's the key to true understanding."

William, have you never considered the fact that what is 'natural' to one person might be entirely unnatural to another? This is why gays and straights act differently from one another in their natural affections. Science and society have now discovered that what is natural for one person is completely unnatural to another. Thus, human nature, created by God, allows for differences in our capacity for human affection - according to the lives of generation of human beings. Your 'virtue' of 'True Understanding' doesn't seem to agree with what nature herself has provided - in God's multi-various created world.

May God free us all from inherited prejudice - that can blind us to the reality around us!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

Soundbites about *natural law*. Just for clarity. Maybe more next spring.

(1) In Washington, in the latter 1970s, I read the usual Thomist worthies on this topic with pleasure.

(2) That was a time when competent Thomists-- experts on St Thomas's handwriting; young future popes-- doubted whether Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's Humanae Vitae, edited and signed by Paul VI, was a correct explication of natural law.

(3) Speaking broadly, modern Christians struggled to conceive human agency within the Creator-creature relation itself as personal and situational.

(4) Still speaking broadly, Postmodern Christians still so struggle, and now some are suspicious of, or hostile to, the Father.

(5) Like many recent theologians, St Thomas Aquinas wrote things that fill some of that imaginative hole. But these ideas tend not to be considered when zealots are shouting for and against foxhunting on the basis of natural law.

(6) So, for those upstream reasons, arguments pitched as natural law downstream have often sounded to moderns and postmoderns as an absurd denial of their agency as situated persons. Wherever the fault for that lies, a better argument requires a more creedal imaginary on all sides.

(7) Meanwhile, proponents of natural law per se have tended to push it as a closed, manualised, system that has not engaged and integrated alternate readings of St Thomas, nor the other godly and reasonable projects that should influence our ethos (eg Karl Barth, Alasdair MacIntyre, Stanley Hauerwas, N T Wright, Louis Martyn, Robert Jenson, john Webster to name a few).

(8) As a body of metaphysical theory, natural law does not in principle depend on how one describes the physical world. Hypothetically, the theory can remain the same whilst generating surprising interpretations for novel facts.

(9) Because of Humanae Vitae, *natural law* is almost a codeword for a sexual ethic, but the potential scope of the theory is as wide as our agency in the creation.

(10) Despite their mutual sympathies and shared knowledge, the old Anglo-Catholics did not always apply natural law as the old Catholics did.

(11) At the point where proponents of any system are defending precisely its self-sufficient closure (eg Reformed con evos, Leo XIII Thomists), they are covertly debating its authority rather than its substance and merits.

(12) Today, advocacy of natural law is sometimes explicitly paired with rejection of liberal democracy in a way unimagined half a century ago. That is, it can be represented, much as Theonomism, Christian Reconstruction, etc have been, to promote Christian nationalism.

(13) What effects would acceptance of a theory of natural law have on synodical churches? Or conversely, what effects will spreading synodicalism have on the theory and application of natural law in the Roman Catholic Church?

(14) Are assemblies of churchfolk units of the *totus Christus* that remain in him only so long as their errors are being corrected? Or are they-- by his design-- little israels who can rely on God's covenantal promises even as they seemingly disobey him to escape hard dilemmas?

Personally, I care most about (3) and (4). It is better to be with the last five people on earth who clearly do believe in YHWH than in a vast collection of the unsure, confused, and indifferent.

For now, I am not so much *for natural law* as *anti-anti-natural law*. We do need to keep it in the mix, if only as a placeholder and for the ecumene. But we should study the synergy of these ideas with others, including those of the natural sciences, political theology and ecclesiology.

I will not take up *natural law* again before April 2023.


Anonymous said...

"Patriarchy is much older, and in some senses culturally deeper, than Christianity. Like slavery, it is an institution that was so ingrained in first century societies (and still is) that it has taken many hundreds of years (and, in the case of patriarchy, millions of women and gay men abused and burned) to begin to 'see' and unravel. For patriarchal religious and political beliefs to be present in our historical criteria for priests, bishops, and 'Christ's representatives on earth' is both inevitable and deeply tragic."

Hi Mark

Is there any thin slice of this-- I stress "thin", the thinner the better-- that you care to display with historical data?

Please yourself in choosing a thin slice. I am just curious to see from one example what sort of evidence has overcome your educated and professional scepticism of sweeping generalisations about the past. I happen not to believe anything at all in the quotation above, but I so respect your overall perspective as I have seen it here at ADU that I am curious to know what excavation, manuscript, diary, etc persuaded you to reconstruct some tiny bit of the past in a way that agrees with it.

To be clear, solid evidence will not rock my world. I have favoured both civil unions for homosexuals and the ordination of women since the 1970s. And I come from a rather long line of Christians who have been evangelical in theology and egalitarian in politics. In Virginia, of all places, my family opposed slavery from the C18, supported Reconstruction after the C19 Civil War, and promoted civil rights for black citizens from early in the C20. I myself have been active in racial reconciliation ministries, and presently do what I can to help black women and men achieve elective office here up yonder. I detest inequality.

But the construct Patriarchy does not seem to have explained any historical realities better than more material causes. And as an activist, I see no real use for it. Enlighten me.


Mark Murphy said...

Hi Bowman,

What a noble request! And it is good to hear more of your background. But alas, you know as well as I do, that history is but the record of men.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman for long post on natural law - much appreciated - and below is not intended to elicit a reply from you out of respect for your self-discipline on further natural law posts! Perhaps more directed to William …

I am wary of all “closed systems” of thought, not, I think, out of some kind of extreme ‘liberalism”, but through a respect for science (i.e. That as facts change, we might change our theories/paradigms/minds).

With respect to natural law and RC theology, I see a failure re Humanae Vitae because it has failed to capture the hearts and minds of many Catholics (i.e. They just disregard it in the regulation of sexual activity in respect of contraception); and also in “annulment” as a means of engaging the reality of divorce for many kinds of reasons. Thus I am not particularly persuaded by (e.g.) explanations for the constraint against women in ministry re some kind of logical loop from Jesus and his twelve disciples onwards: at some point the church chose to cement this male-only approach (and, eventually, celibate only approach) and it may yet uncement it … with possible increase in trips to physiotherapists to undo the resulting contortions in logic!

Arguably, Jesus himself, with his oblique explanations of the kingdom, his question in response to a question mode of engaging in ethical issues, set in motion an open-ended rather than closed system for Christian thought!

Mark Murphy said...

Which is to say: you've picked the wrong Myers-Briggs type (I'm an extraverted intuitive - bound to frustrate your extraverted thinking) to answer your question in a way that will be really satisfying for you, sorry. I actually can't enlighten you (perhaps about anything!). No doubt, your activism will not suffer!

But my last post wasn't (entirely) deflective (though the scope of your knowledge is truly intimidating at times). Almost all of our historical knowledge (say, of Christ, women in early Christianity, the history of the priesthood) has been written by men. Why is that? Because they have neater handwriting? What cross-cultural phenomena supports that to occur? Can we naively trust that women's experiences are treated fairly in these accounts?

As Jane Austen’s character Anne Elliot says: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.”

But I'm curious: how do you explain the lack of women priests and bishops in our history and across different historical and cultural spaces without speaking of patriarchy*?

* "a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women" (Sylvia Walby).

Mark Murphy said...

"Arguably, Jesus himself, with his oblique explanations of the kingdom, his question in response to a question mode of engaging in ethical issues, set in motion an open-ended rather than closed system for Christian thought!"

Hooray! Beautifully put.

Mark Murphy said...

William! I've found something we both agree on:

"Sex isn't like food or drink, although the modern world has certainly made a god out of it."

I do hear your desire to stay close to the words and experience of Jesus when it comes to speaking of God (as Father).

Leaving aside the rich feminine imagery for God in both Jewish and Christian scripture, it just doesn't make sense to me that the infinite, eternal, creator of all beings, genders, trees and planets is a He. That just feels so human-centred, so suspiciously convenient for men, and so, well, pagan.

I'm not saying don't use God the Father. But, as you say, mothers are such extraordinary beings and experiences for all of us. Why not draw upon that rich reservoir of meaning as we attempt to approach the wide, unfathomably loving One?

Anonymous said...

As I set the natural law hare running here and a couple of you have responded, I will venture just a couple of responses to your remarks.
1. Ron at 10.58 - you are confusing two different (if often overlapping) meanings of "nature": the structure and telos God gave to creation; and what is found "in nature". Polydactyly, for example, is found "in nature" but correcting it is natural. Do you think it is "natural" to be born a male but really wish you were female (gender dysphoria)? Do you understand why feminists, lesbians as well as heterosexual women, are at war today witb transgender activists? Why there was a flap at the Dunedin City Council the other day over changing facilities at Moana Pool?
Ron, your belief expressed here that God specially created some people *to be* same-sex attracted or bisexual or transgender means that you reject natural law and are a Nominalist. Wiliam of Ockham would understand.

2. BW at 11.48 - I am glad you are giving yourself a few months to think about the subject because I am not sure you actually understand the tradition properly. I say this tentatively because I find it hard to grasp your meaning, and your idioglossic style. What is a "more creedal inaginary"?. My struggles may reflect my limitations and reading, but I think it is more to do with your own content and approach which isn't really theological but socio-psychological: you don't actually engage with issues as theologians of Scripture and Moral Theology do, but stand back and offer your own psychological evaluations of what you presume are people's secret motives. Be careful, because this can smack of patrician judgementalism.
Much more helpful if you deal with concrete factual arguments instead of allusive psychological pen portraits.
Did Karl Barth really "engage and integrate alternate readings of St Thomas" (whatever that means)? Has N. T. Wright? Actually Aquinas is really very clear! I never thought Barth had much time for natural theology. You will find Alasdair Macintyre has moved much closer to Aquinas.
I am not sure what you mean by point 8,because NL isn't what I would call a "metaphysical theory": it's about ethics, not ontology.
Edward Feser and J. Budzsizweski are the best guides to understand what natural law actually *is, how St Thomas interpreted it through the lens of the Decalogue - and how nominalism, scepticism and Mill's utilitarianism went on to attack it. On science, see also Feser's "Aristotle's Revenge". Happy reading!
Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

Peter and I have gone back and forth about natural law for years. The longest such colloquy was with Branden and Bryden as Gafconians were plotting schism.

As life is too short to restart every topic from the very beginning, I usually pick old ones up where we last left them and then put them down again.


Mark Murphy said...

Dear William,

You have certainty set the hare running...

There is a lovely Irish song about a white hare (symbolic perhaps of the spirit of Ireland, or just the spirit or soul herself) who draws the interests of many hunters with their guns and quick hounds. Everyone tries to catch the white hare, but she evades all.

I'm glad you've found an aspect the Great Tradition that so captures your attention and interest.

Natural law seems to bring out a sense of awe in you - in the meaningfulness and goodness of creation perhaps - a sense of Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans.

Maybe it feels like the golden thread within our very midst that leads irrevocably back to God. Now, I suppose this might be quite Anglican, or simply pluralist, but can you allow other Christians to have other 'golden threads'? Like Peter, I instinctively prefer a more 'open system' - open to new movements and 'showings' of the Spirit - whose 'minimal core' is the life and parables of Christ. And the whole law image just turns me off TBH - we are made (naturally) so different, we have different gifts and preferences (and I'm just talking about psychological typology here). Some of us are drawn to the sense of order and consistency in images of 'law'; others of us are drawn to the mystery and spontaneity of the Spirit blowing where it will, or the earthy enigma of the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed.

Sometimes the Roman Catholic system wants to know to much, codify too much, nail it all down.

I realize you and everyone else on this blog will probably accuse me of humanism, of pick and mix, cafe Christianity. But the theology is: God is vast and eternal - and *dynamic*. How can one way of thinking ever fully describe or exhaust or capture Her being? And clearly diversity is emblematic of His creation: humans have different typological preferences for perceiving and evaluating the world. Why wouldn't this apply to how we experience and speak about God?

While it seems to bring a sense of moral comfort and guidance for you, the way you present natural law, particularly around issues of sexuality and *difference*, often brings out the opposite feeling for me. At times here, you've compared homosexuality to birth defects, and women priests and gay relationships to slavery - destructive and contrary to God's will on the whole, but occasionally embodying God's grace and mercy. This feels intuitively (naturally) repugnant to me.

Our daughter has down syndrome. Is her condition an instance of "fallen creation" - a birth defect God permits but does not will or intend? What is 'perfection', 'normality'? Can we be so certain and categorical about what is "fallen" and what is "God intended" creation?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark.

A broader and deeper reply to your thoughts would be better, but at this hour I have time to be narrow and shallow. I hope that we can stay with this. For now--

"But I'm curious. How do you explain..."

The usual explanation is that, as the earliest bishops became pillars of urban order, they also became de facto magistrates. As such, they stepped into the role expectations of an imperial order founded on military force. As you know, that imperium remained the basis for the ancien regime down to the last century.

Fun Fact: The bishops of Durham had their own armies down to about the 1830s.


Anonymous said...

Mark, there are many golden threads in the fabric of Christianity, of which natural law is but one. What is interesting
about it is that there is nothing exclusively or specifically Christian about it, although the Bible certainly underwrites the four central principles of natural law:
1. The witness of deep conscience (synderesis)
2. The evidence of design in general in the world (cf. Psalm 19), and how evrn inanimate things follow a law-like regularity (e.g. the physics of gas laws, conservation of energy etc)
3. The detail of design in particular (the teleology of our bodies, the complementarity of the sexes, the function of our rm3otions etc; cf. Romans 1, 1 Cor 11).
4. The onnection of act and consequences: "as a man sows, so shall he reap", Galatians 6.
These four principles have long been recognised by Jews, Muslims and evrn non-theists, as C. S. Lewis noted in the appendix of The Abolition of Man. Roman Catholics have given particular attention to natural law, following Aquinas, but so too did Calvin: his Institutes of the Christian Religion makes dozens and dozens of references to the natural law.
Ut is only modern atheusm that has denied teleology in human beings - but even a Dawkins can't escape from conscience and moralising! As the Roman poet Horace said, "You can drive nature out with a pitchfork (sc. Kicking a donkey out of a barn), but it will still cone back in."
Your daughter is God's gift to you and she is blessed to have you both as loving parents. There is no "perfection" in nature this side of the Parousia: we are all "a work in progress", thank God.
More later, perhaps - thank you for your patience and willingness to dialogue,
Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Mark Murphy said...

Hi William

Thank you.

Those four central principles are quite reasonable and as you say commonly-held. I guess that the rubber meets the road in terms of how natural law is *interpreted* and applied (as with human law and scripture). Again, I want to note that it is often heterosexual men who are doing the interpreting and applying.

So what is different about a *Christian* approach to natural law? As with scripture, that the law is interpreted through the personhood of Christ and the sort of God that Christ reveals?

What of those teachings of Christ that are quite radical, particular, mystical, and, in some senses, quite beyond measure and reasonableness? I'm thinking of the Beatitudes etc. Following Pascal we might say: the heart (of God) has reasons that reason cannot know.

Mark Murphy said...

I know I've posted a lot of this thread already, but I want to say one more thing (and it's lengthy, sigh).

It's about *complementarity*. This is often cited by conservative arguments against same-sex relationships and marriage. William's already given us a natural law version: female and male bodies are both different and also complementary (in often attractive and exciting ways!). This complementarity is vitally necessary for the continuity of our species and the natural cycle. People also might quote scripture to affirm this (creation of male and female, two flesh becoming one etc.).

Of course, the above is all true and powerful. But it is also obvious that a persistent minority of our human species does *not* experience attraction and wholeness in a heterosexual narrative. Does this mean they spurn or fall short or resist of fall outside the phenomenon or principle or law of complementarity?

I just want to make this point: physical complementarity is one (important) aspect of a much deeper, wider, and more subtle phenomenon. Indeed we are often attracted to our "opposites" - to people whose qualities complement and make whole our own. *Psychological complementarity is important and real, and it varies considerably across bodies and over time*.

Traditional societies have tended to assign psychological and relational qualities to certain genders (bodies) in quite rigid, stereotypical ways - e.g. men as extraverted thinking providers, women as intuitive, feeling-based nurturers. The two become one and make a whole: the sort of wholeness that is also psychologically nourishing for children and family life.

But of course, stereotypes do not cover the diversity of reality, and often break down at the 'margins' of society and thought. Our modern and postmodern world has emphasized the oppressive potential of these stereotypes, and encouraged more individuation to wholeness (Bowman's coffee just thrown at the monitor).


1. Complementarity is more than physical.
2. It is highly possible for same-sex relationships to be formed on the basis of and richly enact the principle of complementarity: two flesh becoming one.
3. References to primordial man and woman (Adam and Eve) should be read allegorically: 'man' and 'woman' as symbolizing relational wholeness through the integration of complementary qualities.
4. There is no reason, therefore, to deny LGBTQ couples the sacrament (and grace) of marriage.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark

Please keep commenting. :-)

Into what formulation of the godspell does your 11:21 fit?

To what extent could one say that it has been revealed or commanded by God?

Is anything about it beyond secular comprehension?

If it is replicated in some (but not other) non-Christian religions, how should we think about that?


Unknown said...


Some like to say the word sacrament.

They use it whenever they want to say that something in church is exciting.

But the trajectory of the word's usage sets expectations that not every utterance of it meets.

Might it be that alternate words like rite or ceremony or condition of life are underestimated?

Why sacrament?


Mark Murphy said...

Thanks Bowman.

I don't see Christ as that concerned with what we might call 'outer marriage'. I mean - its hardly a focus of his teaching (and he has nothing to say about same-sex marriage of course). He attends weddings - and helps out with the catering. And answers trick questions on the topic.

John identifies Jesus as the bridegroom and God as the bride. (John 3: 28-29). Clearly this evokes the narrative of complementarity but applies it in a highly symbolic way (for understanding urgent, spiritual realities). And in so doing, the usual gendered attributions are subverted - God is imagined in ravishing, feminine form. Erotic desire (and not just selfless agape) attracts us forward.

Jesus uses this imagery in Mark 2: ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.' Again, this response counters the the puritanical legalism of the Pharisees' questions (regarding fasting).

Jesus evokes wedding imagery (and the complementarity narrative that underlies it) in some of his parables. He uses the image of a wedding banquet to illustrate that the kingdom of heaven is open to all, including, or especially, those on the margins. (Matthew 22: 1-14). In Matthew 25, God - the kingdom of God - is the much-awaited bridegroom. We are wise of foolish bridesmaids - with or without the oil of consciousness. Will we be able to see and meet him ('him' this time) when he arrives?

Nothing much about family values, marriage being the basic unit of society, husbands (or wives?) submitting etc. etc. Instead the concern is for the kingdom of God, its radical openness to all, everyone being invited, exclusionary purity codes being subverted, Jesus as the model - the one who is already united with the bride. The kingdom, Jesus's presence, as a celebratory wedding feast - life in abundance.

I don't think Jesus is wanting to subvert marriage so that it becomes easier for gay people to marry; but he is more than willing to treat complementarity in a more than literal way, to announce a wedding banquet to whom all are invited, and disregard anything that gets in the way of that.


Marriage as a sacrament? To be honest, I don't think I'm very Catholic on this (having defended it a few posts back). It's not a gospel issue, certainly. I don't really care if you call it a rite or ceremony or a sacrament. Everything is sacramental. I just hate the idea of some people being excluded from something that others freely enjoy (because they are seen as not good enough etc).


The extravagant inclusiveness of the kingdom, God's willingness to be approached through feminine imagery and erotic desire, Christ as the model "wedding", spiritual realities as more important and urgent than 'worldly' ones (Mary has chosen the better part)...

all these are God-revealed perhaps and counter the human tendency to police, possess, and control access to the Presence.

This gospel doesn't concern itself directly with same-sex marriage, but its message inspires many of us to move in that direction.

Father Ron said...

Dear William, I feel I can understand your (Roman) Catholic dogmatism and tendency towards absolutism - otherwise, you could hardly believe in the theory of Papal Infallibility. (Except, of course, that apparent infallibility has failed the Church from time to time with various 'ex-cathedra' statements from the Throne of Peter that have since been proved fallible). Indeed, in Rome's declaration of the 'invalidity' of Anglican Orders - at least one other branch of the 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church', has had to bear the burden of being discredited as a recipient of the power of the Holy Spirit to ordain its clergy. One does wonder - in view of his patent unpopularity with certain dogmatic theologians in the Vatican (and North America) - whether even the present-day Pope, Francis, agrees with the theory of Papal Infallibility.

What Francis does believe (from his own mouth, on the plane on his way back from Canada, recently) is that some ideas of 'Traditional' theologians, might even be a product of what he is pleased to call 'Backwardism' - rather than an open-mindedness to 'What the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church' of today.

When Jesus advised the Apostles of the ongoing work of the Spirit in the life of the Body of Christ, he describes the dynamic of an open-mindedness to new understandings of God's dealings with God's human children - in these words: "When the Spirit comes, He will lead you into ALL the Truth" - a process which will continue until Christ's Second Coming.

This reality, that Truth will be progressively revealed, should warn us all to practise humility about what we do, and what we do NOT know; that no-one - except God - is yet privy to the fullness of the Truth about God, and God's leading towards the fullness of The Kingdom. ("Unless you become as little children, you will not enter into the Kingdom!")

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mark, for your 7:01 and 7:48 above. Good questions.

My initial reply of 7/29-- "narrow and shallow" I called it-- has not made it into the thread. But I will post a fuller reply in a couple days.


Anonymous said...

Ron, it is not only Rome that does not recognise Anglican orders, whole swathes of the "Communion" have this problem with other Anglican parts. It seems to me that Anglicanism is becoming like other streams in Protestantism like Lutheranism and Presbyterianism, with the liberal residue of state churches in the north while the Global South goes a separate way. Watch how this Lambeth Conference pans out. It is also true that in Britain the Ordinariate has received hundreds of Catholic leaning Anglican clergy, so the liberal drift has accelerated there.Most of the people being ordained as Anglican clergy there are middle aged women on a second career.What is the average age of your parish? How many children attend? St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Dunedin draws 50 people on a Sunday, a quarter of them the choir.
I am surprised anyone seriously trots out the "branch theory" today.
Your third paragraph is pure Modernism and that was sent packing, with Tyrrell, more than a century ago.
The future of Catholicism lies in eastern Europe and Africa, perhaps in China as well, along with the Philippines. Anglicanism's future is overwhelmingly in Africa, The future belongs to those who show up for it,

Pax et bonum,
William Greenhalgh

Anonymous said...

I thought the Church is the Bride of Christ at least in Paul, not God?

Mark Murphy said...

Oh you might be right Moya! You are much better on scripture than I.

But I quite like my reading, if a bit quirky perhaps.

What do others think: Is "the bride" of John 3: 28-29 the people of God or God?

In The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, 'we' are clearly the bridesmaids or guests at the wedding, and the identity of the bride is unknown (but not us, not 'the church'). Jesus clearly identifies himself as the bridegroom - but does he ever say 'we' are the bride? I don't think so, but happy to be enlightened.

So if Jesus identifies himself as the bridegroom, who is here s bride ? John says he already has the bride....he who...baptizes with the *Holy Spirit*?

Mark Murphy said...

Might we think of the incarnation not just as a birth but as a wedding?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mark.

Your replies seem consistent with my point at 3:26.

I'm reading them with (14) of my 11:48 of 7/29 in mind.

All the Anglican fights are at bottom over which of those two extreme positions better describes the calling of national churches in this aeon.


Mark Murphy said...

I see we are now a notified public enemy of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches,

whose recent "Orthodox" statement announcing Global South bishops won't receive communion alongside their western apostates in Lambeth, includes an inaccurate portrayal of the Anglican Church of Atearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia as having "either ordained gay, married bishops, or opted to conduct gay weddings."

Peter spoke of whether Lambeth decides if the Communion is the sort that can agree to disagree, or not. It seems as if the Global South group have decided for the latter:

"....we most certainly cannot ‘walk together’ until provinces which have gone against Scripture – and the will of the consensus of the bishops – repent and return to orthodoxy."

Feeling for you, Peter.

Father Ron said...

I just logged into a particular Bible study from the Lambeth Conference, where Archbishop Justin Welby speaks very movingly of the subject of 'holiness'. He makes it very clear that (as Jesus once said to one of his questioners that "God, alone, is Holy"), we human beings sometimes want to call purity by the name of 'holiness' - a characteristic that can come only from God, and not from us - no matter hard we try

I was most impressed with the archbishop's suggestion that, Like Jesus, we (who are also sinners) need to walk into the midst of it (sin) proclaiming God's Love! Not a bad interpretation of what is GOSPEL!
(What Pope Francis calls taking upon ourselves the smell of the sheep)

Check on this video from the conference, beginning at the 49th minute): -