Americans study the Tanzanian communiqué

In an Episcopal News Service press release, Bishops’ Theology Committee offers Primates’ communiqué study document it says:

The Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on June 1 released a study document aimed at helping the bishops respond to the requests made to them by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

The 15-page “Communion Matters: A Study Document for the Episcopal Church” is available online. A color PDF version of the document is available here. A black-and-white PDF version is here…

Go to the release for much more detail on the content of the document, the proposed process, and for links to other documents. The colour PDF version is 660K, and the black-and-white one is 375K.

There are many useful links to other background documents at this page here.

(There was also an earlier release – 16 April – of a draft covenant study guide.)

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Ann
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This document seems like a good summary of where we are and how we got here. It admits that we are hung up on sexuality (especially out gays and lesbians with partners). It hints that perhaps someone needs to sacrifice. In the end there is sort of a feeling of “so what” (as another person has said) and we are back to “does the communion matter more than people”?

Pluralist
Guest

Technical point: there is no reference from note 1, and 33kb when processed to paragraph flowing text. There is a great stress on diversity, liberty and breadth and comrephension as a means to truth. Not everyone shares this, within and outside Angloicanism, it says, and globalisation has brought this closer. Then there is this autnomomous in communion, “freedom-in-relation” via bonds of affection. Centralising is not an option, and it wants not “a compromise for the sake of peace, but a comprehension for the sake of truth”. It seems to me that this stance is hardly something that is for Episcopalians… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Regular readers of TA posts will find nothing “new” in this document from TEC. Perhaps that is why it has attracted so few reactions so far. In setting out the stall this account says it attempts to be “impartial”, to this end it deals with Communion documents uncritically. It does not look at what has happened around those documents nor investigate the political activity of groups such as the Global South etc. In today’s parlance we have here a “Windsor document”. It is generally argued elsewhere that progressives have far less to fear from the pursuit of the Windsor Process… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Martin, I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that the “GS” view is that these matters are beyond discussion — and their strategy from 1998 (table the “irenic” report and adopt a “final” resolution) continues. In spite of that, Windsor and all that follows continues to speak of the possibility of a new consensus emerging, a listening process towards change. This the GS will not do; they see no need to change, as Scripture is clear and final. Thus we face the impending divide, now not between the progressives and the rest of the church, but between the “people open… Read more »

ruidh
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ruidh

Martin Reynolds: “Lesbian and gay inclusion has not just come to a crashing halt it has already been reversed on all fronts. So, if that is the starting point – then having already lost all practical progress achieved over the last 40 years – we have indeed less to fear than others!” Are we sharing the same reality? 40 years of progress lost? I don’t think so. In many ways there’s no going back. What has happened is that we’ve gotten too far out in front. We haven’t done the hard theological work that we’ve needed to do. We’ve listened,… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

As I have said many times before – the sensible thing to do would be to positively work for the break up of this appalling organisation, and look towards a new global body headed up by TEC. I cannot understand, other than misplaced sentiment or fear of offending anything connected with Africa, why there is any good reason to pursue a worldwide communion when clearly ideas and beliefs have diversified so greatly. We should not allow ourselves to be held back by homophobes, no matter where they come from.

Hugh of Lincoln
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Hugh of Lincoln

There are two opposing tides of change flowing in the Church of England: One posits diversity, where all ministries, laity, clergy and bishops, are of equal merit, embracing differences in theology, practice, gender and sexual orientation; the other threatens to impose outmoded patriarchal Windsor-compliant power structures. One will have to give way to the other. My hunch is that a laity-driven revolution will prevail against a male-dominated curial one-party state, leaving the ancien regime exposed. Women bishops will be key to this development. In order to break the current impasse across the wider Communion, each member Church should be allowed… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

I’ve explained it elsewhere, Merseymike. It’s easy to be in communion with those with whom you agree and whom you like. The true expression of Christian love is to be in Communion with those who despise you, and not despise them in return. Not something I have been able to do, but I recognize the need to try. This really isn’t about religion or God or faith for you is it? Is it about punishing the Church, or people who have used the Church to hurt you, or about getting your way, or about fighting against those you see as… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

My own view is slightly different from Merseymike’s. I would not be working for a division in Communion up front but see value in a loosest possible one and in not trying to achieve a unity. In that several are trying to achieve a unity, I can see where the division is likely to be, and that it is preferable to any unity that comes with a price tag acting against inclusion. There is now, in a sort of transition to who knows where, but I reckon this is temporary. We know who the people are who want to impose… Read more »

Brian MacIntyre
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Brian MacIntyre

ruidh commented: “We haven’t done the hard theological work that we’ve needed to do… And today we’re paying the price of our arrogance.” And so I respond arrogantly – Yes, it is we who are to blame for all our troubles. Bad, bad Dobbies! As a layperson I’m not exactly sure what constitutes doing “hard theological work”. Turning out a certain number of impenetrable 1800 page theses? At what point do we know the work is done? Most people have a gut reaction that something is right or wrong – ordination of women for instance – then will try to… Read more »

C.B.
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C.B.

“we’ve gotten too far out in front. We haven’t done the hard theological work that we’ve needed to do… as we did with the ordination of women.” This is precisely why we need to try and stay in the AC even though it is hostile towards gays. If we leave and surround ourselves with those who already agree, we will never do the work that STILL needs to be done. And yes, I do believe that if it is to be done anytime soon, we are the ones to do it. Clearly, there are those who will never be persuaded,… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

It seems to me that Martin Reynolds is overstating the case, as some other commenters have suggested — my current feeling is that this situation is best approached tactically (sometimes two steps forward, one step back is really the right thing to do).

But I certainly agree with Tobias & have said repeated that the (so-called) “Global South” primates have never accepted the Windsor Report, which implies the possibility that the church’s position might change — they never have and never will accept that.

JCF
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JCF

As a response to ruidh’s charge, I would like to direct your attention to this outstanding (IMO) Scriptural meditation (loosely framed as a letter) here: ““For freedom Christ has set you free” http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/%7Elcrew/dojustice/j491.html

*Christopher
Guest

There are some excellent pieces of work out there and have been for some time, not simply in biblical scholarship but in doing theology on the matter. Eugene Rogers comes to mind, for example, as does that of Elizabeth Stuart, Tobias Haller, Michael Vasey, James Alison, Sarah Coakley, Gray Temple, Gareth Moore, OP…come to mind. Others could be added. Sometimes no matter how good the work, however, it is disagreed with and will be so. Theology in and of itself does not change minds, nor end debates. In the meantime we who are in same-sex relationships are in need of… Read more »

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

“As a layperson I’m not exactly sure what constitutes doing “hard theological work”. Turning out a certain number of impenetrable 1800 page theses? At what point do we know the work is done? Most people have a gut reaction that something is right or wrong – ordination of women for instance – then will try to back this reaction up through what they suppose to be reasoned arguments, that will then be challenged, then counterchallenged, etc. Theological work is part of this, but it isn’t driving the process. I might point out that nearly a century and a half after… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Now I’m truly fascinated.
C.B., what is the weakly realised theology you’re speaking about, and ruidh, what kind of work is still to be done – where could it arise from and where might it be taking you?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

At the moment, Ford, the church is something I am positively choosing not to go to. I think it is a negative and unhelpful force in my life, and until it stops being so, then I will continue to stay away. But the longer I stay away, the less I feel Christianity has to say to me, so maybe I will never return.

Hugh of Lincoln
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Hugh of Lincoln

The abolition of slavery would never have come about had the matter been left to theology. It was the sheer inhumanity of it which drove change.

Likewise, the abolition of homophobia won’t come about by recourse to theology alone. Lambeth 1:10 has become the Fortieth Article of Faith, running counter to those advocating an inclusive Church.

People witness the maltreatment of gays and want justice for them at every level of the Church, on humanitarian grounds.

This remains my hope.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Ruidh,
I wish we had those “bowing down in adoration” smilies! You have it spot on! The only thing I can say is that it seemed to me that the “hard theological work” around the ordination of women didn’t seem done at the time, but seems to be more clear now. I do hope that’s NOT the path this goes, however. Let’s get it right this time and do the theology first, eh?

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

Erika – I don’t mean to open a pandora’s box on this issue. The past is the past. Many who completely support SSBs and the ordinations of non-celibate gays and lesbians feel TEC got the cart before the horse with the consecration of VGR. It can be debated endlessly. However, the fact remains that TEC and the AC are not at the end of dealing with this issue, but STILL at the beginning. Yes, there are many great theological pieces that have been produced on the subject. But they were not and have not been placed front and center. Go… Read more »

Andrew Innes
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Andrew Innes

*Christopher: “In the meantime we who are in same-sex relationships are in need of concrete and practical care of our relationships in practical terms. Too few seem able to spell out what that might be…” I couldn’t agree with you more and it is one of the things that concerns me about the upcoming vote at the Canadian General Synod. If it fails, and it may well because the bar has been set very high, what then? Will we get more motherhood and apple pie about “pastoral care” or will the Bishops spell out in concrete terms what the phrase… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Andrew, I grew up in a Church and society that made it pretty clear what an abomination in the eyes of God, like myself, deserved if caught. I’m 45. I left in my early 20s because the Church wasn’t conservative enough, and returned about 6 years ago. I would agree with your last statement, but I think part of the problem is the idea that rejection of sacramental matrimony for homosexuals is a rejection of us, and also that marriage is about the validation of relationships, so to refuse to marry us is somehow to deny our humanity. The fact… Read more »

*Christopher
Guest

Andrew, You’ve hit the nail on the head, and hence my frustration. The Church doesn’t seem to give a damn about what this puts young folks through. We figure it out on our own, do it ourselves, and frankly, I would appreciate it if the blather about “pastoral care” would go away altogether given that I’ve seen little in the way that is spelled out in any way that is concrete beyond priests and bishops patting themselves on the back for a nice word. To ruidh, I would note that conflation of legal and same-sex blessings is a mistake; one… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford, as someone who has been married and now lives in partnership with another woman, I would very much like to know just where your objection to SSM lies. By any yardstick I can imagine, my current relationship has a depth and intensity my marriage never had: companionship, friendship, caring for the children, living as active Christians together, seeking God’s presence in our lives… this relationship is truly blessed and I have now doubt that it is the real “marriage”. Everything we promise to be to each other in a marriage service has been realised, where before it had been… Read more »

Davis d'Ambly
Guest
Davis d'Ambly

Andrew – thanks for your excellent words!

John
Guest
John

To argue for “full-inclusion” using slavery as the basis is really quite specious. The men and women who led the abolitionist movement were deeply spiritual and did use theology as the basis for their argument. It was their prophetic voice that changed nations. Theologically it is difficult to argue for “full-inclusion”… it requires a significant paradigm shift and a abandonment of much of what has come before… a disestablishment and deconstruction of the “tradition”.

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

Christopher – There are well over a million children in the U.S. alone who are being raised by same-sex couples. That number is growing. So, is the ability of couples to be legally married. I know dozens of same-sex families (legally married with legally adopted children) that would not consider sending their children to church just because they do not want their children to feel like their families are second class, that their parents are somehow not on equal footing with heterosexual parents because the church has blessed the straight couples, but not the gay couples. The legality of marriage… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

I’m not denying there were “deeply spiritual” abolitionists, John. And many were slaves themselves.

It is generally accepted though that the Church had a part to play in the retention of slavery before the tide changed. We’re all familiar with those passages of Scripture which were used to condone slavery; it would be an understatement to say that it was tricky to oppose it on exegetical grounds in those days. Acceptance of slavery was entrenched.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I would very much like to know just where your objection to SSM lies.” I had a partner for 16 years. It ended. I don’t want to go into it. I am now with another partner with whom I have found great healing. Both strictly monogamous gay relationships, both entered into with the expectation of lifelong commitment, and the end of the first was just as painful as the end of any hetero marriage. I believe God led me to this relationship, I truly do. For me, to repudiate it, as many conservatives would have me do since it is… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

I have concerns about those who tell lesbian and gay people they have not done enough to be treated as equals. I have concerns about those who say lesbian and gay people should accept their inferior status within the Church while everyone gets their arguments straight. I have concerns that the abusers have convinced some of the abused that they are to blame for their predicament. I have concerns that lesbian and gay people are being scapegoated in the name of God and for the unity of his Church. I would ask those who are happy to accept the status… Read more »

*Christopher
Guest

CB. I know. And that doesn’t include many others who will give up on finding a framework for “the good life”, an Aristotelian term, because of a lack of anyone suggesting support for such. Ford, However, the psychology studies I’ve read in journals have shown that same-sex couples who went through a civil union tended to recognize that this framed, matured, gave a sense of “hardening” to their relationship. Rituals do matter. I know that our own union ceremony surrounded by family and friends, with vows (stability, obedience, life-long conversion–the vows of Benedict) and crucifixes exchanged, and Eucharist solidified our… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“We’re all familiar with those passages of Scripture which were used to condone slavery; it would be an understatement to say that it was tricky to oppose it on exegetical grounds in those days. “

Difference being, that the 6 misygynic passages really are misogynic (though not as much as has generally been claimed in the 20th century) and that the 3 pro-slavery passages really are pro-slavery, whereas the 6 anti-gay passages are 20th century changes.

(and yes, there are new, hitherto un-known passages, both pro-slavery, misogynic and anti-gay, in some late modern “translations”, not merely the inverted formerly-pro-mandatory-celibacy ones).

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“But the longer I stay away, the less I feel Christianity has to say to me, so maybe I will never return.” So why are you here, then? Seeking a reason to come back? Seeking to vent your hurt, to hurt Christians the way they have hurt you? Seeking to grandstand? If you’ve no use for the Church, fine, why is it necessary to repeatedly state your disdain? Where is the gain for you in this? I know this sounds like an attack, and I’m sorry. IRL, you’d hear a tone in my voice that tells you this is a… Read more »

Andrew Innes
Guest
Andrew Innes

Ford: My primary concern is that the Church offer young gay people encouragement to form loving, committed, faithful, life-long relationships. Abstinence for life, – the current position – is simply an unattainable goal for most and rigidly held, simply directs them into harm’s way. For me, the issue is less about equality, or rights, and more about acknowledging the value and worth of gay relationships before God. If marriage is the sticking point, find another term. I am prepared to accept that a committed gay relationship, while sharing many of the same attributes as a marriage, is sufficiently different that… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Very pleasing account, Erika, and wish you two the best; I agree with *Christopher on the purpose of rituals – one of my this-world spirituality points as to how rituals are gates for passing through – and I think this may be an answer for Ford Elms’s point, wishing his relationship well too.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“But the clobber passages are there, and I am not comfortable at all with the way they are explained away.” Ford: Excellent interpretations (and *translations*) have been made repeatedly (here, most notably by Goran), which you dismiss as “the way they are explained away”. Instead of continuing to clobber us (and yourself) with the very notion of “the clobber passages”, maybe you could explain why you do not find scholarship like Goran’s (and Tobias Haller, etc. etc.) convincing? What *I* am not comfortable with, Ford, is the ease with which you seem to dismiss the *need* for a public covenant… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

We can hardly do all the hard theological work that remains to be done about queer folks and such, just because the hard empirical data is hardly yet completely gathered into the storehouse of corrected knowledge. We are barely at the beginning of correctly understanding sexual orientation – a number of open doors are still startlingly open in brain studies, developmental biology, as well as in several new key domains of what we might loosely call, the social construction of the human body. Any theology which too closely depends upon any facts in those domains remaining untouched is putting all… Read more »

Tom Ricketts
Guest
Tom Ricketts

I agree with Ruidh. There are many good theological discussions of the grounds for blessing committed same-sex relationships and why participation in such relationships should be no bar to ordination to any order of clergy. The difficulty has been with the reception and use of this work. To my knowledge, in TEC little use has been made of this work in pastoral letters, official reports, and convention resolutions to address the concerns of those in TEC and the broader Communion who are upset at the breach with past practice and teaching that TEC actions open up. My mildly cynical view… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford, Everything the bible tells me a marriage is or can be about, I find in my relationship. I believe God has led me, painfully, to this relationship and it has been the greatest blessing and surprise in my life. I do not want to GET married, I AM married. My understanding is that in a marriage service the priest affirms what is already in place, thanks to God’s grace. Not to seek God’s blessing through the church on this relationship almost feels like rejecting the enormity of what God has so graciously given to me. A church blessing would… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

And we shouldn’t be afraid to assert, Goran, that the Bible is just plain wrong on those three issues.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“it is worthless, un-holy and beyond blessing” Don’t you think this a tad extreme? “We do not believe that sacramental matrimony is designed for gay people” means “Your relationship is worthless, un-holy, and beyond blessing”? I don’t see it. Lots of people will take it to mean this, of course, but surely the challenge then is to counter them. If the first is in fact true, we do not counter the bigots by trying to be something we cannot be, but by being what we ARE and what God calls us to be with dignity. “Why in the world would… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“The people who most obviously need to do their hard theological work includes the staunchest traditional or conservative religious thinkers at all levels, who still seek to preserve their legacy negatives by carefully presupposing around the factually disconfirmed negative claims our legacy offers us about people who are not straight.” I couldn’t agree more. And I am still waiting for someone to tell me why they believe God created man and then gave him woman so he would not be alone, yet that he also created another category of people who will have to be alone, because being in a… Read more »

C.B.
Guest
C.B.

Tom Ricketts -“the leadership of many dioceses, having upset lots people by appropriate inclusive policies, tried to molify discontent by bland sound bites about to justice and tolerance rather offering a substantial theological rationale that confronts inherited practices and attitudes with critical evaluation in the terms drawn from Scripture and Tradition.” Couldn’t agree more. For my two-cents, I think there is a deep desire on the part of many (progressives and moderates) for more exposure to the theological underpinnings of TEC’s position. We have to remember that conservatives have framed this issue in terms of “if you are pro-gay you… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

drdanfee said
“We are barely at the beginning of correctly understanding sexual orientation…”

So one assume that our understanding of sexual orientation will dramatically change in potentially unexpected ways as research progresses. We frankly don’t know what drives orientation and we’re not sure what we’ll find.

Therefore we are making statements of God’s eternal, unchanging standards based on an ever changing base of human knowledge.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I do not want to GET married, I AM married.” Point taken. Marriage is the Church affirming what God has done. “Not to seek God’s blessing through the church ….. “ Neither am I willing to reject what is plainly God’s blessing to me because some people have a need to have the rules spelled out for them. Perhaps they are so unsure of the love of God that they can only see Him in words they can read. I don’t however feel the need to do it in public, nor to force the Church to give me the public… Read more »

Chris
Guest
Chris

drdanfee,

After re-reading your post (and prior to seeing any response to my post) I think we’re closer in agreement than I thought.

My apologies if my previous post was unclear and led some to think I was questioning the human worth of GLBT people. I certainly did not mean to imply God does not see GLBT people as less than or beyond salvation even if non-celibate.

However, I question the idea of saying, based on very limited and changing scientific data, all forms of sexuality are created by God and we should have equality in marriage and ordination.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ford, I can’t think of an intellectual answer to your question why you should want to seek God’s blessing from the Church instead of being content that he has blessed you privately. Only that Christianity is about what we do and affirm corporately, not something we do privately at home. Would you feel equally happy with non-Church authorised Baptism or a funeral without the presence of a priest? I’m not sure where your exposition of Paul’s view of matrimony takes us. I’m not a Pauline scholar, but I would have thought his view that marriage was only for those who… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“if you are pro-gay you are anti- true Christianity.” or more broadly, if you are gay,y ou are not Christian. Look at the debate here. Despite the fact that I and many others here are gay AND Christians, many conservatives, by their use of language, obviously do not recognize this as anything otherthan a vague almost academic point. “They” “the homosexuals” “my Church” it is all so obvious in the language they use that they are unaware that the people kneeling next to them at the rail of a Sunday morning might not only be faithful Christians, but also might… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Hugh of Lincoln wrote: “And we shouldn’t be afraid to assert, Göran, that the Bible is just plain wrong on those three issues.” Well… not so fast… I’d say the Bible is wrong on 2 of them p e r h a p s, or rather: different scriptures do address 2 of these issues, pro or con. Addressing them in the 2 ways the Bible addresses things; A (in scriptures up to and including the 1st century AD) there is a Gospel direction given explicitly, or implicitly, such as in Galatians 3:26-29 There cannot be either Ethnic, Social or Biological… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Interesting to read a thread with nothing but liberals arguing with each other. However, recognizing in advance that I will be about as welcome as a skunk at a picnic, I appear merely to commend Ford for his forthrightness and unstinting grip on the realities of the situation. As he says, Scripture does not endorse the goals that liberals pursue in this area and neither does the Tradition of the Church. I’ve read enough poofy liberal theologizing to know that no amount of thesaurus theology will convince me to abandon the plain meaning and intent of Scripture. And, I also… Read more »