Thinking Anglicans

learners not warriors

Anglicans need deep learning not cheap victory is the title of an article published by Ekklesia and written by Savi Hensman.

Some church leaders caught up in the sexuality row not only refuse to consider scholarship which does not conform to their own perspective but also demand the right to prohibit others from acting on the fruits of study. Anglicans need to be learners not warriors.

Read the article here.

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Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

A deep personal thank you to Hensman for pointing to the previous Lambeth documents that affirm what I have been saying on this forum for months: that new scientific knowledge is a gift from God and must cause us to reconsider biblical interpretation in that light.

The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty.

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

The principle every right minded person should agree with. Some of the application is biased. There is, for example, ample evidence that the sin in the story of Sodom was hypersexuality – apparently bisexual but with a homosexual element, indeed preference. It cannot possibly have been lack of hospitality – otherwise why would Lot offer his daughters? There are plenty of studies demonstrating this (if it needed to be demonstrated) in detail.

John Richardson
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John Richardson

This article rather tends to claim the high ground of “deep and dispassionate study and genuine dialogue”, but in fact rests on unfounded claims and tendentious argument. The conclusion is already presumed in the reference to “homophobia” as one of the “destructive forces” threatening the world. Those who do not agree with the writer’s position on same-sex relationships are characterized (or rather, caricatured) as aggressive, ignorant and obtuse. Those against whom she writes are not ‘scholars’ but rather “loudly” insist on their (traditional) view – as if volume in theology were measurable or relevant. The “thinking” hat is always on… Read more »

Andrew Innes
Guest

The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty.

Pat:

How right you are!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty.”

The astonishing thing is that the middle ground appears to concede this point to the conservatives as though it was no big deal and that the church hierarchy prefers to strengthen a centralised organisaion rather than to challenge the prevailing mis-interpretation of Anglicanism.

Pluralist
Guest

“This is a sharp break with mainstream Anglicanism. ‘It is no part of the purpose of the Scriptures to give information on those themes which are the proper subject matter of scientific enquiry, nor is the Bible a collection of separate oracles, each containing a final declaration of truth.”

It seems, though, according to the Advent Letter, that it is the purpose of apparent majority understandings to box in everyone via centralisation as if the Bible is an oracle and as if science is an irrelevance.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“The absolute refusal to accept that gift and hold to interpretations that conflict with the truth God has shown us through scientific inquiry is an affront to the almighty.”

Which is why we’re Anglicans. For some, I’d say many, and apparently for a distressing number of Anglicans, this is not only NOT an affront to the Almighty, it is a sign of faith and badge of holiness. For others, it is a challenge to create counter “science” to muddle the issue.

david wh
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david wh

New scientific information is indeed valuable. The question is, of course, how you interprete the information and turn it into knowledge. Many liberal scholars are guilty of exactly what Savi Hensman is criticising: “refusing to consider scholarship which does not conform to their own perspective”! The debate is closed in the minds of many.. not because the weight of all information supports their conclusions, but because the outcome of alternative interpretations is unacceptable to them. Often this is bolstered by an argument that any negative evaluation of someone’s sexuality is tantamount to violence against their person (because they experience them… Read more »

Ben W
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Ben W

Pat, We do need thoughtful reflection on “scientific knowledge,” and on the relation between this knowledge and the Bible. There is a key qoute from Hensman, “It therefore calls upon Christian people both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used.’” There is a valid point here, if overstated. At the same time if there is one thing to learn from the last hundred years of scientific work it may be that science… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Many thanks to Hensman for her depth and detail, not to mention her frankness and passion for the typical Anglican breadth now supposed to be ruled out of bounds by the current conservative realignment campaign. I also note with gratitude the companion essay linked at the very end of this one, titled, Rewriting History, and available in summary bullet points or complete PDF file. Taken together, they start a very good response to all the realignment matters being forced among us: Not least this whole business of whether and how a new covenant will settle and preserve Anglican space by… Read more »

John-Julian, OJN
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John-Julian, OJN

Hensman has done all of us a favor by pulling out the declarations of earlier Lambeth Conferences. It is the closed-mindedness and the apparent rejection of reason that seems to be shown by so many of the homophobes which is truly most disturbing. Indeed, in Creation, it was God’s gift of reason which actually defined humanity and differentiated human creatures from all the rest. It was God’s first and primary gift to humanity — historical tradition developed later and that tradition produced scripture. But it was the uniquely human intelligence and reason which God intended to be definitive in all… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Thank you Hensman and Amen Pat.

God does not need to be dumbed down or reduced to human comprehension, nor is God threatened by anything in Creation because everything in Creation is of God.

If God keeps manifesting something, that is because God wants it. It is not our place to challenge the pots’ existence, but rather work out how to appreciate its beauty by putting it in the best possible light whilst not damaging it during its allocated span of existence.

JCF
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JCF

If one examines the trajectory (re Anglican views on homosexuality) over the course of successive Lambeth conferences, the picture is clear: what changed between 1988 and 1998, was that in those countries where “deep and dispassionate study” were being done (primarily the so-called “North”), majority and minority parties were becoming evident, and increasingly reified. …and the anti-LGBT party was the ***minority***. Those in the minority saw that their minority status was only likely to become *more marginal* (more discredited by the *Lambeth* standards of “biological, genetic and psychological research”—and that research’s PERSUASIVENESS) over time. Ergo, it became necessary to *change… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

She makes some very intresting and valid points. It is a good thing to have this assessment of the situation out there to counter the “poor persecuted orthodox” myth that said that TEC just woke up one morning and decided it was going to thumb its nose at the rest of the world in the interest of getting the approval of society. One statement gives me pause, however: “Yet one of the founding principles of Anglicanism had been that no man could claim the authority to speak with the voice of God.” To me, the question in response would be… Read more »

Margaret
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Margaret

One of the things that fascinates me about this whole debate is the refusal of the more liberal side to consider the scientific evidence that has come in recent years, that has undermined their dearly held “scientifically proven” beliefs — particularly the evidence of the changeability of sexual orientation and the lack of evidence for any strong genetic determination. Despite the copious evidence (much from researchers who are homosexual themselves) we still get the mantra of “its genetic — God made us this way …”

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“What is not clear though is if we take God seriously enough to think God might really have acted and spoken in the history with Isreal or in Jesus Christ. “ How is this not clear? I certainly believe God acts in history. Every “liberal” I have corresponded with, and I correspond with people far more left wing than I am, affirms this as well. They are all solidly Incarnational Christians for whom God’s acting in history, God’s immenence, is crucial to their understanding of this issue,. ISTM that those who see Divine self revelation as ending with the last… Read more »

Ben W
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Ben W

drdanfee,

Interesting that you should speak about the narrow minded thinking of one who disagrees with you and who you wrote you to say, “Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind.” That is the point of one of your compatriots on this list yesterday, in essence, “I know what I believe, listening is a waste of time, it can only be the way I already think.” There is something about people living in glass houses . . . ?

Ben W

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

My goodness, there are some depressingly “flat earth” comments on this thread. Surely there are no intelligent people left in Britain, outside of illiberal churches, with such views. It does make me wonder how it is that the C of E has allowed such a pre-modern mindset to go unchallenged within it for so long. If Christianity has such a backward-looking anthropology, then I’m afraid it’s not going to survive to the end of this century, and nor will it deserve to: no thinking people will take it seriously any more, which is exactly Savi Hensman’s worry.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“At the same time if there is one thing to learn from the last hundred years of scientific work it may be that science does not simply “hand down absolute truth” (e.g. witness the theory about the make-up of light – is it particle or wave? Science has affirmed both but only to be challenged again and has not been able to decide finally. Science too has had to learn humility, after all it is human beings thinking and working). In this piece science becomes the new revelation – “every new disclosure of truth.” This is the old confidence of… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Margaret: no, I think its actually an irrelevance. The fact is that gay people simply are – and why isn’t something which interests me at all. More important is that as they are, then how should they be enabled to form fulfilling and loving relationships which can contribute both to their wellbeing and that of society?

However, your conclusions are wrong and I can only assume you have been reading the anti-gay research again. The vast bulk of scientific opinion believes that sexual orientation is largely fixed.

MRG
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MRG

I agree with Merseymike on this one. The aetiology of homosexual preferences doesn’t interest me all that much – indeed, queer theorists would find nothing at all objectionable in what Margaret proposes. Genetic, conditioned, environmental – the important fact is that self-identifying gay people and same-sex relationships exist. What are we to say about this? I once saw a bumper-sticker that said “If God didn’t create homosexuals, there wouldn’t be any.” In one sense, of course, this is true enough: even Akinola would not claim homosexuals are not God’s creatures, and “liberals” such as myself and Merseymike (I assume) would… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
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Hugh of Lincoln

Sadly, there are some contributors to this thread who seem to have missed the doctrine-debunking scientific evidence referred to in the report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as their Submission to the Church of England’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality. “In conclusion the evidence would suggest that there is no scientific or rational reason for treating LGB people any differently to their heterosexual counterparts. People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when they are able to integrate the various aspects of the self as fully as possible (19). Socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to LGB people who… Read more »

trog
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trog

I’m puzzled how “Anglicans need deep learning not cheap victory” becomes “learners not warriors.” Ahh, well . . . no matter. I’d suggest to Hensman the inception of two indices: one listing the approved texts and one listing the disapproved texts. Then when those pesky civil wars subside such ignorant, but aware, clergy can quickly update their knowledge on the pressing issue of human sexuality. Even better—a cross-reference of which scientific texts illume which scripture and vice versa. On the whole, it seems that Hensman has uncovered, in the non-binding resolutions, the basis for an Anglican CDF. Good idea! Keep… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The so-called sexual orientation change data doesn’t much overturn any of this sea change in our modern knowledge. All it shows is that some people say they can become straights, regardless. How many of those changers were functionally bisexual to start with? We do not really know from the available data. The successful changers Masters and Johnson reported, using surrogate sex therapy as their main treatment modality, were almost all functionally heterosexual before they showed up at the M&J clinic in St. Louis. These questions are hardly news. The peer journal literature is simply full of them. And it is… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

“that the C of E has allowed such a pre-modern mindset to go unchallenged within it for so long” FR Mark

It is intensifying it: something about a letter some days ago.

Being gay is largely fixed, but who cares regarding what is still a reciprocal, consenting, loving relationship.

Pity that the scientific method of revision, correction, facts into world views cannot be used by religion, instead of it dragging up what some people in the past thought and trying to impose that on the findings of science, social science and philosophy.

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat,

With all the huff and bluster I am glad to see you came around to my basic point:”in science, all laws are subject to amendment by new discoveries.”)

Ben W

Margaret
Guest
Margaret

Merseymike – I agree with your comment “Margaret: no, I think its actually an irrelevance.”

It is very clear from many passages in the Bible including many of Jesus’s own parables on God”s judgment that God judges us on our actions — justly, of course. Our orientation is not relevant, either on sexual issues or on things like lying, stealing etc — but our actions are extremely relevant.

My comment reflects the fact that this completely irrelevant argument is also outdated science — and yet it gets pulled out again, and again, and again, and again by those pushing for “inclusion”/

Joseph O'Leary
Guest

Absolutely right. Churches which reward no-nothingism are signing their death warrant. Flat earth theories of NARTH etc. are gobbled up by people who have not a clue what open-minded research and study really mean. They recycle the long-discredited theories of viciously homophobic psychoanalysts like Bergler and Socarides, keeping their names that would otherwise be forgotten in the public domain. The claim that there is parity of closed-mindedness between liberals and reactionaries on this issue is just as false as it would be to say that there was parity of common sense between the supporters and the opponents of Bush’s catastrophic… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Ben W wrote “That is the point of one of your compatriots on this list yesterday, in essence, “I know what I believe, listening is a waste of time, it can only be the way I already think.” There is something about people living in glass houses . . . ?” Now you are mixing the subjects Ben. It’s the indication of a very grave diagnosis. Dr Dan is not living in a glass house. It is you who are seeing him not as him, but as something other. But then you said the other day that discrimination was a… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Margaret I agree with you, the scientific debate about gayness is being abused by both sides. But I come to a completely different conclusion. It actually doesn’t matter why I am what I am and whether I could change it if I tried. Assuming that change is desireable is based on the questionable assumption that straight is better than gay. Actually, it’s about love. Some people are capable of loving people from the opposite sex only, some are capable of loving people from the same sex only, some are capable of loving people from both sexes. What actually matters is… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ben “Interesting that you should speak about the narrow minded thinking of one who disagrees with you and who you wrote you to say, “Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind.” That is the point of one of your compatriots on this list yesterday, in essence, “I know what I believe, listening is a waste of time, it can only be the way I already think.” There is something about people living in glass houses . . . ?” This is precisely where you misunderstand what we’re saying. Listening does NOT mean having to agree, however… Read more »

david wh
Guest
david wh

Hugh of Lincoln after quoting Royal College of Psychiatrists submission to CofE on Human Sexuality: It must be shocking to have one’s flat-earth world-view shattered so convincingly. The trouble with quote “scientific or rational” reasoning on sexuality (or anything else) without discussing the information on which you base your claims, is that it all depends on your unspoken assumptions. Communists, for instance, prided themselves on having scientific, rational reasons for ill-treating religious people (or just killing them). If you deify Self and make your world view “do what You want unless it hurts someone” then of course you’re not going… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“the evidence of the changeability of sexual orientation” Margaret, there’s a difference between “It’s fenetic” and “That’s the way God made me.” Furthermore, there is no such credible scientific evidence as you claim. This is what I mean when I say the Right has no credibility. You hate the sin, love the sinner? Clearly not, since you feel the need to spread misinformation like this about me. You are only obeying what God has said in Scripture? No, since God does not tell you to bear false witness against me, in fact, that’s on the Big Ten. So, what fuels… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Ben:

As usual, you miss the point. I was pointing out the difference between science and biblical literalism. The former is self-correcting; the latter allows no corrections.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Quite right, Margaret. And there is nothing wrong with faithful and committed gay relationships – certainly nothing which the human writers of the Bible could have known about as they were a cultural impossibility at the time. That stems from the fact that there was no understanding of sexual orientation….

Its the problem with religions so wedded to outdated humanly produced books, seeing them as something more than just words written by men, inspired by their faith to do so. That’s all the bible is.

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

“There is, for example, ample evidence that the sin in the story of Sodom was hypersexuality – apparently bisexual but with a homosexual element, indeed preference. It cannot possibly have been lack of hospitality – otherwise why would Lot offer his daughters?”

Ummmm. Jesus himself said it was lack of hospitality. Are you contradicting Jesus?

ben W
Guest
ben W

Erika, That is a helpful response. You help build understanding. And I agree that listening “does not mean having to agree.” At the same time further learning might lead to fresh insight and in some cases agreement (let’s not close the door to that!). It is also interesting that the statement you qoute from drdanfee, “Nothing you can say will ever make me change my mind,” presupposes exactly that. This is, he in effect says, foolish and the person should change her mind and agree with us. So what does one make of your statement? “This is precisely where you… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

David Wh, “If you deify Self” Which is of course also manifest in claiming that your own understanding of Scripture is the only one. Also, this relates to what I have been talking about elsewhere, the Right’s tendency to make baseless, negative statements about gay people, while pretending they are “scientific”. There is also the right’s tendency to make vile statements that we are worse than animals, inhuman, and God knows what else. Why should this be? There is, it seems, an overall assumption on the Right that Western society has abandoned God (I would argue it has abandoned the… Read more »

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

ooooo, john richardson, the man who doesn’t read blogs or post on them, has appeared again. perhaps he’s so tired of no one posting on his own blog that he felt he had to join the party here. whatever jr thinks he knows about science or sociology, he should remember that gay people know they are gay, and many gay people know that god loves them for themsleves. that’s a theological starting point he’d do well to accept. he objects to assumptions, then expects us to accept his assumptions about the nature and status of the bible. oh, come on!

Ben W
Guest
Ben W

Pat, To speak to this in a little more complete way, read what I actually wrote it, science does not “hand down absolute truth.” In your words that is, “Science is not a collection of facts…it is a method of determining facts. As such, it is constantly correcting itself…” So we can drop the stuff about “literalism.” And on light: you know the history here of back and forth on whether it is particle or wave, affirming one and the other, now with some convergence on light in some way as both. There is still an ideological form of “science”… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ben the thing is that someone like drdanfee will not change his mind because, just like me, he is living in a stable, faithful relationship. Experienced love, actual parenting of real children. That, plus the fact that we experience the reality of God’s affirmation in our lives and that we believe there is theology to support us. So, no, we’re not going to change our minds. But I don’t think you need to be so sensitive and interpret our response as “your view is foolish so you’d better see things our way.” I think this is where the listening is… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The sea change in our current thinking has to do with two shifts. One, we shifted from having a categorical empirical presumption – mainly based on religious revelation and cultural traditions? Or at least on reasonable inferences from these sources? – that same sex bonding was innately, what are the fav phrases? Disordered, and unnatural. Why, so the rant which is our proper traditional legacy went, not even animals do it. (Nodding heads all round?) Then, surprise. We discovered a plethora of animal evidence across too many species to ignore, showing that, well, animals do, do it. Not just the… Read more »

david wh
Guest
david wh

Ford, What I mean by ‘deifying Self’ is nicely encapsulated in the RSP’s basis for their comments on LGB sexuality “People are happiest and are likely to reach their potential when … self as fully as possible”. Leaving apart the fact that many people put down their achieving great things to having had unhappy lives, Christianity is not about trying to gain happiness for your Self. [I expect gasps from all American readers! – ok, generally happy citizens is a good guiding principle for ruling a country]. But happiness is not the only guiding principle for running a society well,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

And Richard Dawkins is wrong to see science in that way, Ben. Have you read Stephen Jay Gould on the separate magisteriums of religion and science? THAT is where I’m coming from.

Each must recognize the authority of the other in its own realm…including that when the writings of one violate the knowledge contributed by the other then the first must be willing to re-evaluate its interpretation of those writings.

Margaret
Guest
Margaret

Erika you said “Actually, it’s about love.” Actually one of the clearest message of the Bible is that from God’s viewpoint love has very little to do with it. You find Samson and Delilah condemned because they were outside the terms of the Law, even though it was clearly a love match. You have Rachel being barren because Jacob was being unfair to Leah — because of his love for Rachel. Love did not excuse his behaviour. No allowance was made for David’s liaison with Bathsheba because “he loved her” — as he clearly did. I could go on. If… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Margaret I don’t know what to say. I am absolutely staggered that the God whom John calls Love, who told us to love him and to love our neighbour as ourself as the top two priorities, should then expect us to lead a life of rigid morality in which love has no meaning. I can see your quotes, as they stand in isolation they make no sense to me. They do not speak of the God I know, the God I believe in, the God I love. They do not speak of the self-giving, self-emptying God who permeates Scripture. They… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

David Wh: there’s some rather Puritan self-hatred in your post above. I’m British, yet I also think God made us to be happy. When I look at the misery visited by some churchpeople upon their fellow humans, particularly gay ones at the moment, I don’t regard that as being godly.

John Richardson
Guest
John Richardson

I haven’t had much time to revisit this thread – Christmas is coming – but I’ve given a lot of thought to the ‘science’ issue in Hensman’s article and would still hold that she relies on assertion, not evidence. What ‘science’ tells us about homosexuality is still quite limited. Same-sex attraction in animal species could probably be described as a form of behavioural disorientation which is maladaptive from an evolutionary point of view. The causes are still obscure but undoubtedly when the Royal College of Psychiatrists says it is “determined” by genetic factors and early uterine development it is overstating… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

John: Very little happens in nature that is maladaptive in evolutionary terms. Usually, it means we haven’t figured out how the behavior is evolutionarily beneficial. I’ve read studies that suggest that homosexuality in all the species that experience it (including human) was developed as a hedge against over-population. IOW, if a certain low percentage of the population can be counted on never to reproduce, it creates a safety valve that can be opened up (by increasing that percentage) during periods of decreased food availability or habitat shrinkage or the like. If the initial small percentage of the population never existed,… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Am I the only one who is finding this science conversation completely irrelevant?

It doesn’t matter why blacks are black and whites are white, what matters is that both are equal.
The same goes for straight and gay.