THINKING ANGLICANS

Advent pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has sent a pastoral letter about the well-being of the Communion and the future of its common discipleship to all Anglican Primates. In connection with the current controversy he wrote “Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.”

The Sunday Times saw a copy of the letter before its official publication and, picking up on this last point, published this article this morning:

Williams tells clergy: stop gay bashing

Similar stories have subsequently been carried by the BBC and The Scotsman and many other online newspapers around the world.
Churches warned over ‘gay slurs’ (BBC)
Archbishop’s Bid to Heal Rift over Homosexuality (Scotsman)

Monday morning update

Two articles from this morning’s papers:

Williams’ call for Anglican unity falls on deaf ears (Guardian)
Williams calls for healing in gay rift (Telegraph)

The Archbishop’s letter is also available here and here.

33
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
33 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
12 Comment authors
Christopher ShellAnnieDerek OlsenJ. C. Fisherjames wood Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Robert Leggat
Guest
Robert Leggat

No-one can possibly argue with the Archbishop’s comment that “any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.”

The trouble is that his words can be taken to suggest that anyone who adopts the Biblical line on homosexuality is being homophobic. It is depressing to think that the head of the Anglican church seems unable to distinguish between homophobia and a declaration of the gospel.

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

“…anyone who adopts the Biblical line on homosexuality…” (sigh) For the umpteenth time, faithful Christians *disagree* on what Scripture says, if anything, about loving, monogamous relationships between gays or lesbians. You may *not* claim sole Biblical justification for your ultra-conservative view without appearing, quite frankly, to be arrogant. To disagree, and label it so, is perfectly fine. Please do so, and feel free to try and convince us of your position if you feel you must. However, it is a False Dilemma to claim “that the head of the Anglican church seems unable to distinguish between homophobia and a declaration… Read more »

Andrew Brown
Guest

OK. I’ll bite. If there is a distinction to be made between “the biblical line on homosexuality” and homophobia, would you explain how you make it? Specifically, your explanation must show that there is no contradiction between these two texts.

1) “any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent”

and

2) “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

J. C. Fisher
Guest

. . . not nearly as depressing as hearing the repeated *canard* that there is a “Biblical line on homosexuality.”* It seems to me that ++Rowan is finally waking up and smelling the coffee that there IS a bright line between the Gospel and homophobia (actually, a chasm of _sin_), and that it’s essential to the Church’s mission to proclaim this Truth–calling those guilty of this sin to repentance, and reconciliation (particularly w/ their LGBT brothers and sisters). *The only upside to repeating this lie (when it’s not due to simple ignorance, and sadly, it’s increasingly not) is that it… Read more »

Sandy
Guest

I’m glad he finally said it. Too much intolerance and injustice is (and has been over the centuries under different guises) spread in the name of religious beliefs. It’s time to put a stop to it once and for all, in whatever form it takes.

Robert Leggat
Guest
Robert Leggat

I apologise for for my comments, which have unintentionally caused offence. This was my first visit, so I wasn’t to know, David, about comments evidently made many times before. I would have thought that St. Paul’s reference to homosexuality was pretty clear, but it would seem I was wrong. Perhaps the writers of a number of abusive emails I have received in the last few hours, putting into my mouth words that were never uttered, or posing loaded questions, might like to ponder on their own “tolerance” which seems to run counter to the notion of “Thinking” Anglicans. Again, my… Read more »

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

Robert, it’s not necessary that you spend time browsing through the archives at “Thinking Anglicans” to discover that faithful Christians are not of one mind when it comes to interpreting what Paul, et al had to say (or not say) about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. If one is willing to look around on the Internet (Google is your friend) and visit sites that aren’t exclusively “conservative,” then you can start to get the gist of the argument. May I suggest ReligiousTolerance.org at http://www.religioustolerance.org/homosexu.htm for a place to start? While they obviously present issues from a stance of… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

This is what is so hard to understand: the world is full of biblical scholars – and of those the New Testament scholars are the ones who should now concern us, since the Leviticus verse quoted by Andrew Brown belongs to a previous dispensation. So the question is: what proportion of New Testament scholars agrees that the NT line on actively homosexual relationships (and indeed any sex outside marriage) is not clear? (This is the world I inhabit, & I have never come across any highly accredited NT scholar -e.g. a member of SBL or SNTS – with the exception… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

I’ll bite on this one–I’m a New Testament PhD student so not quite a doctor nor a member of SNTS. You’re absolutely right that the NT record is clear that sexual immorality is incorrect. Furthermore, the first century Jewish setting of early Christianity included homosexuality within sexual immorality. I’m willing to go on record as saying that in the very few cases where the NT mentions the issue it says that homosexuality is wrong. But what are we looking for when we go to the NT–are looking for prescriptions or for methods? Do we look for “answers” or for examples… Read more »

V Coles
Guest
V Coles

Andrew Brown has half a point. But the necessary comparison is between what Rowan Williams has said, and what the New Testament says about gay sex.

There is of course no inconsistency.

The problem is with AB’s assumption that all Evangelicals regard the entire bible as a collection of proof texts, all of equal standing. We don’t.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Derek Olsen is right to distinguish the two questions: (1) what does the NT say? and (2) is the NT right? The claim that was being made was that the NT position on ‘faithful’ extramarital same-sex relationships is unclear. I was just pointing out that this is not true, since it can be deduced from wider prohibitions against homosexuality and extramarital sex. It’s correct to say that there is a differende of opinion on this – but the point is: is there a difference of educated or informed opinion? Or is there any difference of unpartisan opinion, with no axe… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

We should add that calling on the Holy Spirit’s support is extremely hazardous, for the following reasons: (1) Most people reckon the Holy Spirit agrees with them. It’s fairly easy to guess why. But obviously they can’t all be right. (2) If this stance is correct now, why was it not correct before? This sounds very unfair on faithful gays of previous generations. (3) Why is it that the Holy Spirit, by coincidence, supposedly moves in exactly the same direction as social fashions? (4) Why is it that the Holy Spirit lags behind the social fashions rather than pre-empting them?… Read more »

Sarah Dylan Breuer
Guest

Derek, You said: “Furthermore, the first century Jewish setting of early Christianity included homosexuality within sexual immorality. I’m willing to go on record as saying that in the very few cases where the NT mentions the issue it says that homosexuality is wrong.” Are you SURE that first-century Jewish writers said that “homosexuality” was sexually immoral? Aside from the oft-noted problems with seeing any word in Greek or Hebrew at the time as corresponding to our 21st-century notion of “homosexuality,” there’s also the question of whether ancient writers, and particularly Jewish ones, saw sexual activity between women as sex, let… Read more »

Jay
Guest
Jay

Dr. Shell, while your points/questions are somewhat leading, I will take a stab at them. My disclaimer is that I am relatively uneducated on theology compared to most of the good people here. A mostly-forgotten Bible college education 30 years ago, a secular work career… I am an unremarkable working-class American married with two kids who deprive me of adequate sleep. (1) Couldn’t agree more. By genuine faith, Godly people seek the Holy Spirit. And many fail, and not for lack of faith. It is a true paradox. (2) The subjugation of women. Racism. Slavery. Murder. Genocide. Were these not… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Jay –

Good points on (3). Not good on (2) – murder, racism, slavery have never been good, or Christian, at any time. You’re not seriously suggesting that at certain times in Christian history the Spirit sanctioned such things.

Certainly the current dispensation is a ‘new thing’ when compared with the Old Testament. What I’m questioning is whether right and wrong have changed since the Book of Acts – it’s not clear that they have.

Dr Christopher Shell
Guest
Dr Christopher Shell

Hi Dylan

How many texts are there that even mention lesbian activity in the culture and period in question?

Re Romans, why would Paul reserve such a recondite and obscure sin as ‘women abandoning heterosexuality for homosexuality’ for special censure, as opposed to homosexuality tout simple?
Don’t you think that there’s a danger that ppl will split interpretative hairs only when it suits the position that they already wish to hold?

Blessings

Jay
Guest
Jay

Hi, Christopher,

You’re correct that I wasn’t “seriously” suggesting that the Holy Spirit has sanctioned those things. However, haven’t men, claiming to be led by the Spirit (and in all likelihood, absolutely sincere in that belief), gone ahead and done them? Often with impunity, and perhaps even the blessing of their clergy? That’s where I was going with my comments on point (2). So really, it’s a continuation of point (1).

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

Greetings Dylan, A few thoughts in response… First, am I SURE that first-century Jewish writers thought that “homosexuality” was immoral? It depends on what conditions you require for certainty. I’m most familiar with the pseudepigraphical tradition and Hellenistic Jewish authors and I can say with certainity that everything that I have read in those texts disapproves of the notion/behaviors; I have not seen texts that mention it in a neutral or positive context. If you have, I would like to take a look at them. Second, you’re absolutely right to say that the terms for homosexuality, homosexual acts, behaviors, etc.… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

Dr. Shell, A quick question for you–are social movements impersonal forces or are they propelled by decisions linked to the hearts, minds, and convictions of the men and women who form the society? Obviously some–perhaps many–social movements are contrary to the gospel and to the Living God but can we say that the Spirit cannot use them to accomplish the work of God through the incarnate Body of Christ? I think of the American abolistionist movement spearheaded by Christians convinced they were guided by the Spirit… Given the advantage of hindsight, I agree–they were right, their Southern and apathetic Northern… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

They have indeed. Which is why it’s lucky we’ve got the attitude of Jesus and the primary documents as a yardstick to test these things against. Had the Spanish Inquisitors etc been using such a yardstick, they could never have considered that their actions were bona fide Christian.

Their mistake was to go along with the prevailing attitudes in their society; and where the church goes astray even today, this is in my view still the most common reason for their doing so.

James West
Guest
James West

‘But staying together as a Communion is bound to be costly for us all. To be in the Church at all obliges us to try and discern the difficult balance between independence and responsibility to each other, and to face the dangers of causing others to stumble (Mark 9.42, Rom.14). How can we be true to our consciences, yet aware that the Church as the whole Body needs to reflect and decide – not just ourselves and our friends? The only thing that will ultimately keep us together is a recognition in each other of the same love and longing… Read more »

james wood
Guest
james wood

‘But staying together as a Communion is bound to be costly for us all. To be in the Church at all obliges us to try and discern the difficult balance between independence and responsibility to each other, and to face the dangers of causing others to stumble (Mark 9.42, Rom.14). How can we be true to our consciences, yet aware that the Church as the whole Body needs to reflect and decide – not just ourselves and our friends? The only thing that will ultimately keep us together is a recognition in each other of the same love and longing… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Derek –

There are 4 categories:

-Fashionable & Spirit-led
-Unfashionable & Spirit-led
-Fashionable & against the Spirit
-Unfashionable & against the Spirit

The category that you were referring to is the first of the four.

All this goes to show is that ‘Is it fashionable?’ and ‘Is it Spirit-led?’ are two unrelated questions. One can neither identify the Spirit’s work with social forces, nor oppose the two to one another.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“One could try to make an argument from silence on this point (I’m not suggesting that you are), but I could not find it compelling. I would wager that if you asked one of the first-century Jewish authors whose works we currently have about his position on the matter he would have negative feelings about it.” Please. Explain to me why I should subject my life, and my life in the Church, to what you, Dr. Shell, “find compelling” (or your little 1st c. “You are There!” fantasy)? As with Windsor, there is this bass-ackwards perspective that the oppressed have… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

JC –

I think you were responding to Derek Olsen there, not to me. Though I largely agree with him, I dont think we need to resort to what we would wager people would say – since we have enough evidence of what they actually did say.

Ethics is both frame of mind and acts. How can it be either/or? It’s both/and.

Having an inclination a certain way is not the point. All of us have many many inclinations to acts which we know would not be individually or communally beneficial.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

My bad, Dr. Shell (I think that Simon’s new “rest of comment here” linkage makes it a little harder to cut-n-paste — but it could just be my aging eyes!) “Ethics is both frame of mind and acts. How can it be either/or? It’s both/and.” (I hope I’ve cut-n-pasted that correctly) Perhaps in a perfect world. In the fallen one we find ourselves in, I believe we are judged on our good intentions (one of which ought to be that our actions match our good intentions as much as possible). “All of us have many many inclinations to acts which… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

I guess it depends on what the source of our conscience is. Is it the voice of reason? the voice of our own community, or mini-community? the voice of our parents? the voice of God? What we call ‘conscience’ may be any one of these things. This being so, ‘conscience’ is sometimes fallible. Sticking to reason alone, it’s rational for one’s conscience to reject practices which claim to be equally valid to those that have a much clearer biological purpose; that are associated with higher average promiscuity rates; that are associated with higher average STD rates; that are associated with… Read more »

Annie
Guest
Annie

Reading through all of these comments I wish to make a couple myself: How can anybody deny the work of the Holy Spirit and not deny scripture, and not deny God himself, and not deny the creeds and and not break the first commandment? How can anybody deny the work of Jesus on the cross to sinners–any sinners? If we deny the work of Jesus on the cross to another, are we not denying the work of Jesus on the cross to ourselves? And, again, how can we deny this and do this without breaking the first commandment? Where do… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

To clarify a few things: Dr. Shell– You are correct in separating out the four categories that operate around the spirit/fashion polarities. I was reacting to your comments from earlier: >(3) Why is it that the Holy Spirit, by >coincidence, supposedly moves in exactly the >same direction as social fashions? >(4) Why is it that the Holy Spirit lags behind >the social fashions rather than pre-empting >them? Are the social fashions a more powerful >force than the Spirit? …and was concerned that point 4 in particular denied possibility the movement of the Spirit in “social fashions.” Being a strong believer… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Annie – Everybody has always agreed that the Holy Spirit can work in absolutely everyone. Everyone has always agreed that there is no sin too great to prevent people being saved (except the sin against the Holy Spirit – which certainly is not homosexuality). Jesus neither condemned sinners nor condoned sins. So where does the attitude come from that sins are not sinful? Not from Jesus. Why do you think we are ‘awaiting the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the Church’? (1) Why would the Holy Spirit delay in giuving such guidance. What sense would it make to do so? (2)… Read more »

Annie
Guest

Christopher:

I’m afraid brevity wasn’t my strong point today. I apologize. I answered you in my blog, leaving your identity completely out of it and merely addressing your questions. I thoroughly loved them! If you would be so kind to visit my blog: http://myweb.poncacity.net/jenandew/

Thank you.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Derek –

I appreciate your attention to this question. I dont think I am viewing NT as merely prescriptive without room for further enlightenment. There’s ample room for further enlightenment on a myriad of topics. But such enlightenment will be supplementary to the NT, like twigs on a branch. What is being proposed is that our further enlightenment is directly opposite to the NT. If this is so, then it no longer stands in the same process or trajectory, but is part of a different tree altogether, i.e. not the Christian one. I expect you may well agree?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

David- Even if just one person claims a different interpretation, one will be able to say that ‘interpreters disagree’. It will then be concluded that it’s not clear what the right position is. Which is a convenient position for some ppl. In the present case, the position being proposed was till recently unheard of. That being so, it clearly didnt leap out of the page. By coincidence (?) it was first proposed at the very time when it became expedient & topical. So how can the vast-majority position be classed as ultra-conservative? That shows a lack of understanding of what… Read more »