THINKING ANGLICANS

What We Think We Are Doing

An article with this title by Bishop Pierre Whalon appears this week at Anglicans Online.

You can read it here.

There is then further comment and response by Bishop Whalon at the Episcopal Café.

See the comments here, and the response here.

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drdanfee
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drdanfee

Well, well, continuing … Bravo and thanks, as ever, to Bshp. W. One of the fairly constant intellectual factors in doing global Anglican Theology together with other believers these days, simply (and that is, not so simply?) boils down to the fact that the rational part has changed and is changing so very quickly. Insofar, as by rational part of doing theology, we are – taking account of the science? We hardly finish reading the latest round of peer reviewed journals, than somebody somewhere can pretty clearly see the empirical outlines of new stuff, already on the several empirical horizons.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“This political, non-theological way of going forward is great ammunition not only for the schismatics within our church, and their foreign partners busily violating is deafening silence the third Windsor moratorium on cross-border interventions, but also for those supporters of punitive measures against gays in Africa. It seems lawless – Bishop Pierre Whalon – The episcopal ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson was not lawless (it being within the parameters of the TEC Constitution). Nor was it without prior theological reckoning. Like a certain biblical precedent, those affirming the need to go ahead with that procedure would have been entirely justified… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

I think the theology has been and is being done. It would perhaps be better if there was a clearer authoritative statement on certain matters but I get the sense that TEC is trying to be inclusive toward its more conservative members on the one hand and demonstrate some degree of restraint on the other. I think that the degree of reflection and action demonstrated in the election and consent to Gene Robinson and resolutions carried by the General Convention over many years (Bishop Robinson didn’t appear completely out of the blue) do demonstrate consistent thinking on behalf of TEC… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

I am not at all persuaded by Bishop Whalon’s plea that the theology be done — whether by TEC’s House of Bishops or by anyone else. First of all, commenters elsewhere have responded that there is no Anglican theology. Or that Anglicans theologize by doing, rather than by writing. This point is important: the Anglican tradition is not confessional, and it has a limited number of belief boxes that one needs to check off. This doctrinal flexibility is a famous advantage of Anglicanism. Why damage the brand? Second, why damage the Anglican brand in a way that can only make… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Bishop Whalon, in his further comment, explained that he did not mean no theology had been written to support full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church. What he did say is that the theology of full inclusion had not been officially adopted by General Convention, so that inclusion was proceeding, but not on the basis of the Episcopal Church’s theology. Instead, a combination of pragmatic and political decisions was leading to full inclusion in many (but not all) dioceses of the Episcopal Church. I do see a parallel with the political strategy of many liberal supporters of… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

I myself am not qualified to “do the theology,” so these are the guesses of an outsider. But here they are: 1) NT Wright’s version of the “theology of the body” is probably the real argument that needs to be countered. Wright insists on a dual-natured human being, falling into one, but only one, of two mutually exclusive categories, either male OR female, with distinct natures and different thought patterns, emotional lives, and appropriate social roles. That finds a welcome among social conservatives in all parts of the world, certainly in the American South, where society is still structured in… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

This section of Pierre Whalon’s initial article intrigues me: “It seems to me that the Holy Trinity had had enough of the “don’t ask–don’t tell” policy that was de facto on the church-wide level up until 2003, and therefore the Spirit introduced us all to the new Bishop of New Hampshire. Now we had to deal with the reality of what we doing, and defend it. Not by some appeal to psychology or endocrinology or genetics, or other contested, ephemeral, and finally dehumanizing “scientific answers,” but some honest-to-God theology, a reasoned argument based firmly on Scripture and the other, lesser… Read more »

MarkBrunson
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My impression from Bp. Whalon’s response is not that he believes we don’t have a theological framework, but that he is frustrated that General Convention won’t officially validate it. The truth is, our egalitarian polity is extremely rare in the Anglican Communion, and Whalon, being in Europe, probably has a better grip on that than most of us in TEC. Given that, most provinces would *only* read the theological groundwork if it were officially endorsed and promulgated by our governing body. Anything without that *imprimatur* (ha, ha) would be regarded as mere extracurricular reading. I confess a similar frustration with… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Charlotte
“1) NT Wright’s version of the “theology of the body” is probably the real argument that needs to be countered.”

I believe that Tobias Haller has done just that in “Reasonable and Holy”.

Kurt
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Kurt

“British Evangelicals have a very particular way of making an argument, and if the argument doesn’t come to them in their preferred form, they will reject it altogether. If we want to try to reach them, we might imitate their preferred method. It very closely resembles the exegesis done by theoretical Marxists and the followers of other Continental philosophers…”–Charlotte In other words, the British evos are theological sectarians in the same sense that, for example, the Militant tendency, are political sectarians? Interesting analogy. That would certainly account for the fact that they believe they must dominate and drive out all… Read more »

Jim Pratt
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Jim Pratt

Bishop Whalon is right in saying that TEC has failed to articulate a theology behind its actions. Perhaps TEC should look northward. The Canadian General Synod has made theological statements. In 2004, it “affirmed the sanctity and integrity of committed same-sex relationships”. (and as a member of that synod, I can affirm that the discussion on the floor was quite theological, particularly concerning the term “sanctity”) In 2007, the Synod stated that the blessing of same-sex marriages was not a matter of “core doctrine”. If this year’s Synod does move forward, we can hope for at least some theological statement… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

Rather than searching the scripture and tradition in order to discover and explain what rights gay and lesbian people may have, we might more profitably attempt to explain how new practices with regard to blessings and ordinations, build common ground with a growing positive social consensus about the human person. It would help, if we would actually, not only talk to, but also learn from, people in the human and social sciences. – Rod Gillis – Rod, I believe, has a point here. The whole Church needs to take on board the fact that we are in a new era… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

On one level it’s an interesting conundrum. Either first study then make a declaration, carried by the required majorities without doing, then ‘do’ *or* prayerfully, deliberatively and in the context of prayer, study and debate over several decades at each time attempting as a collective body to discern the Spirit’s leading before proceeding to the next step. The difference between the two is not so great. The former is the model more likely to be adopted by the Church of England (as it has used in debates over women priests and bishops), Church of Scotland (Presbyterian, of course) and the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

I have to disagree with Jim Pratt, that TEC should look north to Canada “The Canadian General Synod has made theological statements. In 2004, it ‘affirmed the sanctity and integrity of committed same-sex relationships’ “. The debate over the term sanctity at the GS he speaks was a tortured debate grounded in resistance by conservatives to applying the term to gay and lesbian relationships. The Anglican Church of Canada has developed several “reports” on this issue, all piously named after one saint or another. The reports reflect a great deal of theological expertise, but share a common set of flaws.… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

The problem with Wright’s argument and similar is simply that he must (A) confuse, obfuscate, and oversimplify the empirical realities of human embodiment, then (B) raise his falsfied male/female simplicity to indicate essential-categorical sheer marks of being. This may be done sketchily or elaborately, but the two step is just about the same, regardless. Part A refuses what we now know to be real and empirical – sex is NOT categorically equal to gender, and none of that is exclusively-categorically equivalent to a unitary heterosexual-only human sexual orientation. In fact, sex is itself a rather complicated biological business of human… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

All the thinking and publishing in the world is worthless without the actions to go with it. OTOH, the actions have value without the thinking and publishing, if they are right.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

All the thinking and publishing in the world is worthless without the actions to go with it. OTOH, the actions have value without the thinking and publishing, if they are right.

Christopher
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Christopher

The theo-anthropological truth is that Chalcedon teaches there is one humanity whom Christ assumes. Genesis teaches us this same truth in terms of theo-anthroplogy, that we are one humanity. We are one and not only one among ourselves but also related to the rest of creation. Within that one humanity is a lot of variation, but that variation is no cause for division. That there is division is because of Sin. Folks who hanker after separate maleness and femaleness tend to obscure this “we are one humanity” in their theologies and tend to cut across “that which is not assumed… Read more »

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

I’ve had a stomach full of heterosexist ‘theology’. It’s useless to me -it’s passes straight thruogh me.

Stop the BS and the prevarication.

Let’s get on with living and loving and enabling others to love & live.

Jim Pratt
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Jim Pratt

Rod, Yes, the debate at GS’04 was tortured and marked by conservative resistance to the term “sanctity”. And that is precisely what made the resolution a theological statement. As to the St. Michael Report, written at a time when same-sex marriage was still before the courts and Parliament, came out and stated boldly that the issue was not “unions”, but covenanted relationships that are the equivalent of marriage. To use only the language of human rights can lead us down the path of defining God in our terms (see, e.g, arguments by some conservative churches against state-sponsored welfare, which are… Read more »

MrsBarlow
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MrsBarlow

I have found in Pierre Whalon’s piece a new level of wisdom that I’ve not seen before in all the many scribblings of the past decade or two. What I take from it now is the value of General Convention working towards publication of a statement, an apologia if you like, that sets out the theological reasons and passions that have led The Episcopal Church to its present practice. I hope I have learned from my North American friends the particular and valued role that General Convention has within the life of this part of the Anglican Communion, and also… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“it seems to me that it would be a good, courageous step for General Convention now to publish a statement that defends and celebrates the actions of the Episcopal Church. What is to be lost in doing such a thing? What would be gained is a clear commitment to the gospel: we found this treasure to which we believed we were led by the Holy Spirit, and now we want to share it with every person on the face of the earth. I only wish my own part of the Anglican Communion here in Australia could do likewise – at… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Thanks to Jim Pratt, “To use only the language of human rights can lead us down the path of defining God in our terms.” I’m grateful because his statement is an example of fundamental misdirection in these kinds of conversations. The churches are not using only, or even mostly, the language of human rights. Churches, in this instance, largely ignore both the language and the notion of human rights. It is not only the language of human rights that may lead to defining God in our terms. Classical atonement doctrines, for example, define God in very unpleasant terms agreeable to… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The link provided below may help in evaluating the claim that Jim Pratt makes in his post “ … The St. Michael Report, written at a time when same-sex marriage was still before the courts and Parliament, came out and stated boldly that the issue was not “unions”, but covenanted relationships that are the equivalent of marriage.” The St. Michael report in its overview (8) states “…any proposed blessing of a same sex relationship would be analogous to a marriage to such a degree as to require the Church to understand it coherently in relation to the doctrine of marriage.”… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new Conservative government introduced a motion to restore the traditional definition of marriage; the motion was defeated in the House of Commons by a margin of 175-123. Prime Minister Harper publicly stated that the vote was decisive and that his government would not return to the issue.” – http://www.mapleleafweb.com – Thanks to Rod Gillis’ posting (above – 21 Feb), we gain an insight into Canada’s legislation in 2007 which recognised that same-sex marriage merits the same legal status as that of heterosexual couples. I have no doubt that the St. Michael’s report from the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Fr. Ron Smith made mention of the Harper government’s motion regarding a socially regressive definition of marriage.The vote was taken as a non-confidence measure in a minority parliament, and probably to give Harper’s ultra conservative “base” their day in court as it were. I’m doubtful though, that Canada’s St. Michael report has had much impact outside pious circles. However, it may have given some comfort to the several urban based dioceses in Canada that have openly moved on the blessing of same sex unions. But, there is one common denominator between ecclesiastical life and secular life in Canada, and that… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

As much as I’d like to say it were otherwise, the Anglican Church of Canada was actually well behind the curve on the issue of equal marriage. The change was driven by court challenges. Every party in Parliament was split on the issue. (The social democratic New Democrats were the only party to whip the vote. The one NDP MP who voted against equal marriage was sanctioned by being stripped of her critic roles and committee appointments, something which was unprecedented in the 80+ year history of the Independent Labour Party cum Co-operative Commonwealth Federation cum New Democratic Party. Indeed,… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Say no more” – as the saying goes. I certainly opened up a hornet’s nest here. However, I do still think that the Anglican Church of Canada has been more open than most other Churches of the Communion (except, perhaps TEC) towards the needs of ther LGBTs within the Church community.
The St. Michael’s Report was quite a revelatory experience for for at least one ‘Down-Under’ Christian. At least they uncovered the fact that same-sex issues were not issues of core doctrine.

Malcolm+
Guest

Context is everything, Ron.

In the context of the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Church of Canada is a radical and progressive voice.

In the context of Canadian civil society, we are a bunch of dithering ecclesiastics a generation behind in the conversation. Heck, in a country where equal marriage is the settled law of the land, we’re still just debating “the blessing of same sex unions.”

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Heck, in a country where equal marriage is the settled law of the land, we’re still just debating “the blessing of same sex unions. – Malcolm+ on Monday – Point taken, Malcolm, and I think the Communion is grateful for the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada has at least woken up to the situation as it has been already put into practice in the civil realm. As you will see from the Letter on the subject of Civil Partnerships in a later thread on T.A., there are other Christian bodies in the U.K. urging their government to recognise… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Father Ron wrote “I think the Communion is grateful for the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada has at least woken up to the situation as it has been already put into practice in the civil realm. Caution is in order for those who evaluate the Canadian scene from a Pollyanna perspective. The General Synod defeated, in the order of bishops, an enabling motion that would have allowed dioceses to proceed with a local option. Some dioceses moved anyway surfacing tension in the house of bishops. The Council of General Synod is in a deadlock unable to work to… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“The movement on gay and lesbian rights in the Canadian Church is largely due to the faithful and active presence of gay and lesbian people in urban parishes. Be grateful to them for their “gracious restraint” and their courage. The credit certainly does not belong the ecclesiastical structure that is running in several directions at once looking for a fire hose.” – Rod Gillis – Thankyou, Rod, for your enlightenment on this issue. I had always thought that it was the institution of the Anglican Church of Canada that had advanced the cause of LGBTs in the Anglican Communion –… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Fr Ron asks: “Am I correct then in thinking that there is a lack of nerve within the hierarchy of the Cof C. to follow through?” The short answer is yes. The few exceptions are courageous. You might research the home pages and diocesan newspapers of the following dioceses here: New Westminster, Montreal, Huron, Ottawa, and for something very foxy, the diocese of Toronto. I highlight the polarization in the Canadian Church because it helps one understand the pressure on Canada from the wider Communion, most especially from the so-called instruments of Communion. It has been effective unfortunately. Polarization leads… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Thanks again, Rod, for your further posting on this so important issue of the wider Communion on the Anglican Church of Canada to ‘conform’ with the slow pace of reform elsewhere. It will probably take the independence of TEC to continue the struggle for justice in the North American Churches on the subject of inclusivity of LGBTs. Only the latest movement by the Church of England to extend the full pension rights of surviving partners of same-sex civil-partnered clergy saves the Mother Church of England from being last in the field of securing common human rights within the Church. However,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Fr. Ron noted: “the latest movement by the Church of England to extend the full pension rights of surviving partners … is a significant step in the right direction towards inclusivity, and I hope Canada’s Church leadership will be duly encouraged by that process.” As far as I understand it,the Pension Plan in the Canadian Church is required to pay benefits to surviving partners, regardless of gender.Its required by law. The Anglican Church of Canada also lobbied the federal government here over a decade ago, long before same sex marriages were on the horizon, to extend employment benefits to partners… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

In fairness, Ron, while the Anglican Church of Canada may be behind the curve in Canada on this issue, it isn’t (overall) behind by that much – and the ground did shift quite suddenly in the opening years of the millennium. While lecturing others is always easier, I think the Anglican Church of Canada did fairly well on accountability with the Residential Schools issue – against legal advice, we were the first body to respond to the issue by accepting responsibility and apologizing for our role. And the Residential Schools issue did draw a lot of energy out of the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Malcolm + wrote “the Anglican Church of Canada may be behind the curve in Canada on this issue, it isn’t (overall) behind by that much” I think it depends what you mean by ‘The Anglican church of Canada’. Most groundbreaking innovations and ideas don’t usually come from bureaucracies and policy statements. Most theological innovation comes from new scholarship or creative experimentation. It is only later as “green shoots” in renewal or new thinking become ubiquitous that bureaucracies and over arching church structures get involved. Often it is with the purpose of both embracing and at the same time trying to… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The post from Malcolm + on the residential school’s legacy (Canada) is more complicated than his post allows. The historic complicity of the Canadian Church in government-sponsored racism cannot be reasonably contested. However, the residential schools agreement was also about saving the General Synod from the dire financial consequences of litigation. Folks interested in the complexities of this issue, including perspectives from a first nations perspective, may be interested in this archived article about the settlement. –Rod Gillis
http://www.anglicanjournal.com/issues/2003/129/apr/04/article/schools-agreement-signed/?cHash=addad5c57b