Saturday, 6 October 2007

weekend roundup

Jane Shaw writes in the Guardian about why the bond of baptism means we have no need for a new ‘essential’ Anglican covenant, in Face to Faith.

Christopher Howse writes in the Daily Telegraph about Worshipping God through icons.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Ambition: the spiritual battle in the dark.

Harriet Baber writes in the Church Times that Most Episcopalians just don’t care.

Pat Ashworth writes in the Church Times about how Bishops wade in as Hurricane Katrina aid dries to a trickle.

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The fact that Harriet Baber, allegedly along with "most Episcopalians," don't care what happens to gay people is thought of as a plus, pretty much says it all.

Apparently she's not aware that 40+ states have forbidden gay civil unions or marriage. Somehow the fact that "most Americans think homosexuality should be accepted" doesn't really make much difference to people's lives in that case, does it?

And, BTW, guess how that happened? Answer: "religious" activists on the warpath. In other countries, of course, it's much worse; not about civil unions, but about staying alive. Again, the "religious" are mostly the source of the problem.

I'm glad she can take such a blasé line on this. Since it doesn't affect her personally, I guess it just doesn't matter much. Well, what else is new?

Posted by: bls on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 9:17pm BST

I like Harriet Baber she has a finger on a different pulse.

I believe she would make a great advisor to any Anglican Church on how NOT to introduce change.

But what struck me in this piece was – coming from someone who has demonstrated magnificent and loud angst over the last several years – her admission that “most Episcopalians have not noticed.”

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 9:23pm BST

Harriet Baber: "Whatever happens regarding the status of the Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion will have no impact on most Episcopalians, who have little interest in church affairs beyond their own parishes, and are not terribly concerned about the Church’s official views about sexuality or anything else."

Absolutely true! Most of us find the intense interest in sexualiry from the "orthodox" camp bemusing or, in more egregious instances, definitely off-putting. Since the Church's official views on the matter make sense to us, we do not see a reason to be terribly concerned about them, except to applaud them. It seems that our time is better spent in doing God's work and walking the Way than obsessing about sexuality.

But then we Yanks were always a stubborn lot! After all, it was not the Church of England which saw fit to consecrate bishops for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States...it was the Church of Scotland, hence the cross of St. Andrew on our Episcopal shield.

Posted by: Aji in NY on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 10:10pm BST

Thank you to Jane Shaw for expanding on the Baptismal Covenant, it is beautiful imagery and inspiring. It is ambitious, something that Giles Fraser would like, and I appreciate his wisdom that success need not be measured by organisational position.

I've just come in from a browse of other favourite websites, which includes the Catholic News Service. The Pope is advocating an articulation of the understanding of natural laws, the underpinning divine principles that enable souls of whatever background to cooperatively live with each other. The Pope comments that the underpinning natural laws are forgotten or discounted, then trouble follows as it simply becomes a battle to have power or a balance in power.

My ambitious dream is to see the prophecy made to me when I was 19 come to fruition. Namely that I would live and be in the millenium of peace that follows the resurrection promised in Revelation. You see, that vision saw a time of great happiness, abundance, justice and peace, not just for an elite clique but for all humanity. My ambition will not settle for less. The millenium of peace has been promised to humanity by God so that means the covenant of peace will be fulfilled.

There are those who dismiss things as being irrelevant or miniscule. Jesus was only a man who died a horrible painful death on a cross, in the time before the book, the television or the internet. Yet the course of history was changed. Just as it was as Moses took the people through Exodus and then Joshua led them into settlement.

One of the most amazing things about God is incredibly profoundly metaphysically transformative things can be happening in plain view. Those who see in Spirit know that the world is about to change and is changing for the better. Those who do not see in Spirit can not see anything significant and seek to discredit those who do see in Spirit. When God becomes involved, the "successful" repressive strategies that normally slow or stop transformations become the very things that lead to the transformation. Once God is involved it no longer matters whether you fight for or against the transformation, because your actions either way inevitably lead to the transformation.

God bless the TEC for the conference in New Orleans and reaching out to the communities at that time. Great ambassadors for God and Jesus.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Saturday, 6 October 2007 at 10:34pm BST

Canon Shaw's comments are welcome. Harriet Baber's are, at once, correct and nonsense.

Correct because it is true that most Episcopalians have no interest in church politics or theology beyond how it affects their own parishes. Nonsense because it is not liberals who have made this into an issue, but the conservatives, who seek to block the natural progression of a welcoming, inclusive church, because it has finally hit something that triggers their "ick" reaction.

And, eventually, this WILL begin to affect every parish at the parish level...when they are asked to contribute additional funds to their diocese because the conservative parishes are withholding their own contributions; when a member of their parish, a child they have watched grow up, with whom they have celebrated every other milestone of life, cannot celebrate his or her partnership with the love of his or her life in that church; or perhaps even when some outside conservative group invades their parish, seeking to make it conform to the outsiders' view of things.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 12:52am BST

"After all, it was not the Church of England which saw fit to consecrate bishops for the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States...it was the Church of Scotland, hence the cross of St. Andrew on our Episcopal shield."

Minor correction: Not the (presbyterian and Calvinist) Church of Scotland (the established church in that land), but rather Scottish non-juring bishops, the precursors of what is today's Scottish Episcopal Church. (The Church of Scotland continues as a presbyterian body, albeit not quite so Calvinist as centuries ago).

Posted by: Viriato da Silva on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 2:12am BST

Helen Baber's column was a paranoid screed and nothing more.

I am very curious to know how these few "liberal clerics" managed to force the lay delegates of the Diocese of New Hampshire to support their agenda setting candidate. (Of course, the prospect that the lay delegates in New Hampshire might actually have thought that Gene would make a good bishop isn't even a hypothetical possibility to the conspiracy theorists.)

Really. Was there a grassy knoll involved? I'd like to know.

But despite her paranoid delusions, she does manage to stumble on to one truth.

The average Episcopalian is not up in arms over any of it. Even if they have reservations about the place of homosexuals in society and in the life of the Church, they fail to see why that should be driving their denomination apart.

The only place this has made an appreciable difference to Episcopal (and Anglican) life is where some hotshot or another is fired with ambition - and not the kind of gospel ambition Fr. Fraser was on about. There is no schism except in those places where there is someone who sees schism as a means of obtaining a purple shirt and a funny hat.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 5:53am BST

Shaw's interpretation of the baptismal covenant is puzzling. She mentions two essentials, but seems to ignore the first six questions in the presentation. In other words, hers is a humanistic narcisism that misses the point of Christ's work on the cross and His resurrection.

As seen above, we appear to accept the error of adoptionism if we try really hard to be "nice."

Posted by: Chris on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 5:54am BST

Baber is not in the least bit paranoid. She is one of the sanest philosophers I know. It's perfectly possible to have enlightened social views and still be disgusted by nanny-ish rhetoric.

Posted by: acb on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 11:59am BST

Sorry, Chris

Could you clarify what the "error of adoptionism" means? I've not heard the term before and so don't know how to construe your post.

Thank you BLS for reminding us of what the reality is for GLBTs on the ground. I am so tired of hearing how GLBTs don't care for their families e.g. not providing for them financially when they pass over, when in reality they are legally hamstrung and can't do so even if they want to do so.

Thanks Aji and others for the insight that it was the Scottish who first helped the US Episcopal church. The more I know about the Scots, the more I like them, they were the bunch that forced the Romans to build a wall to keep them out and thus marked the end of that imperialistic empires expansion.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 12:31pm BST

Cheryl,

Adoptionism is basically rejecting Jesus as fully God and fully man and instead thinking he was just a man God chose - or adopted - and the Spirit fell on Him. It gets to first order creedal ideas and the church spent much of the first four centuries working out these ideas.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say "Jesus was only a man who died a horrible painful death on a cross." If "Jesus was only a man" that God adopted then the ramifications are enormous and I would argue Christianity doesn't work.

My apologies if I misread your statement.

Your vision is certainly exciting and encouraging - and a correct portrayal of things to come. God has given a mighty promise. He has also given us a great mission that includes only social issues but making disciples.

Posted by: Chris on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 3:21pm BST

Not the (Presbyterian and Calvinist) Church of Scotland (the established church in that land), but rather Scottish non-juring bishops, the precursors of what is today's Scottish Episcopal Church. (The Church of Scotland continues as a Presbyterian body, albeit not quite so Calvinist as centuries ago).”

It was the Synod of the Church of Scotland that was the Scottish Parliament up to the Union with England of 1707, and when Scotland got her own Parliament again a few years ago, it first met in the hall of the Synod of the Church of Scotland – it was the only room vast enough in Edinburgh.

;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 4:24pm BST

"It's perfectly possible to have enlightened social views and still be disgusted by nanny-ish rhetoric. "

Surely you mean that "It's perfectly possible" to combine the two?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 4:25pm BST

... or even to have obscure social views and nanny-ish rhetoric?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 4:27pm BST

Goran has suddenly become very trinitarian in his postings - Is this a Swedish thing?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 6:33pm BST

Preachings go in 3s according to the early 19th century Pietist tradition here (rare nowadays).

1. For the unsaved in the pews due to societal pressure,

2. For the salvagable,

3. For the saved.

Took at least an hour ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 8:02pm BST

Canon Shaw rightly notes that baptism is foundational to our identity as Christians. And being Christian is of course foundational to being Anglican. But if being Anglican is a particular way of being Christian, there is a need for further reflection.

It is also worth observing that people on either side of our disagreements about homosexuality believe that these disagreements are about what it means to follow Christ. In other words, these are precisely disagreements about what baptism entails. After all, baptism covenants us to follow Christ.

We need to address these disagreements Christianly and for this we do need to recall our baptism, especially so, as there is much sub-Christian behaviour evident in our discussions. But the question of what it means to live in communion with one another as Anglicans will not wither away so easily.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 8:34pm BST

Bravo to Dr. Baber for putting a fresh, frosty gloss over anything that could possibly matter to a committed queer couple - a couple possibly parenting? - somewhere in a local TEC parish or other. One supposes this parish is definitely nowhere near Dr. Baber's fav parish, from the frosty tone of her remarks. A gospel of Episcopalian indifference. Cold. Clear.

How odd that she is able to notice the raw data of the change - straight and gay people living ethically in new ways, even outside the closed and narrow limits of what is now being preached to us as essential, conservatively conceived traditional marriage - the meanings of essential and of traditional and of conservative depending on which era you choose as your criterion? - while she at the same time waxes and wanes in high indifference about why thinking through the lived changes should ever matter to anybody. She appears to believe: If a relationship is not traditional heterosexual marriage - reserved as we now know for certain heterosexuals only - then anything goes. We've been here before, then.

Somebody else finding the love of their life leaves Dr. Baber quite indifferent, then. And she thinks finding committed love in life leaves most other TEC believers indifferent, too. These do not matter, to most all. Nor does recognizing when one finds that beloved, nor does committing to that beloved's well-being over the long run through life's ups and downs. With real support and assistance from one's local community/parish of Jesus believers?

Okay. Dr. Baber is indifferent to such occasions of love or commitment, then. Until and unless the couple are traditional, opposite-sexed, and married properly in a conservative church, she could care less? No differences between our sons or daughters or nephews/nieces or friend's sons or daughters pulling the orgy train each and every weekend when the clubs close down; or moving instead towards a provisionally committed young adult companionate relationship in order to learn what commitment requires?

Odd stance. For a trained philosopher I mean. But oh well. As she says, doesn't give any of it a passing thought. I think this could easily mean: Unmarried=invisible=silent. And, easily, Queer=invisible=silent. Oh yes, we have truly been here before.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 8:37pm BST

Thomas Renz,

While I agree the tone and civility of these discussions is very important, I'm not sure how we can agree on the nature of the adverb (Christianly) when the definitions of the noun (Christianity) are at such variance.

How can we claim unity in Christ when we there is no unity in Christology?

Posted by: Chris on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 9:46pm BST

How can we claim unity in Christ when we there is no unity in Christology?

Posted by: Chris on Sunday, 7 October 2007 at 9:46pm BST

Christian is as Christian does, surely.

If only Churches and their members could . would get on with implementing Matthew 25 and 1 Cor 13 to the best of their ability ---it'd create a lot of unity of purpose. It'd take us all a ;ong way.

Just imagine if the primates, bishops and ACI, T1;9, Vitueonline etc, etc put all the energy of anti-gay campaigning into reducing poverty or advocating on behald of Darfur or Burma...

holding meetings and making statements all over the world. Just imagine !

It'd be hard to over-estimate the tue evanglecal benenfit of THAT !

Discipleship before the minutae of 'beliefs'.

This what consistently impresses the British public about the Society of Friends --I keep hearing.


Posted by: L Roberts on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 1:49am BST

Hi Chris

I'm enjoying the discussion and the postings relating to Goran enable us to weave in the trinitarian imagery at the same time.

I see God as consistenting of the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I see Jesus as both fully human and fully divine.

I believe that Jesus fully died on the Cross and was resurrected by the Holy Spirit with the Father's prior knowledge and consent.

I do not think that Jesus resurrected himself, because that would refute that Jesus did actually die.

Further, I think that Jesus' crucifixion was successful, was premeditated, and was done to enable all humanity to come back into a positive relationship with God.

I consider continuing vilification against women, justification of repression or tyranny over non-Christians to be a refutation of the Trinity's victory at the cross. If Cheva (and all other women) were not forgiven, then Jesus' sacrifice failed as it did not cover half the human population. If Jesus was successful, then there is no reason to condemn all women because of the errors of a hypothetical woman from all those millenia ago.

I believe that Jesus' mission and sacrifice covered both Jew and Gentile, human and animal, manifest and supranatural.

I believe that God is just and would not condemn a soul who is incapable of comprehending "the truth"; perhaps because they were born in the wrong time, are illiterate, censored or repulsed by cruel priests. I believe that God creates and orders the whole space-time universe and thus is not threatened by anything within it and is capable of reconciling all back to God, even if the path is long and convoluted. I also believe that if the teachings about Jesus do not acknowledge and honor the everlasting beneficial covenants and prophets of the Old Testament, then such teachings are a corruption and not from God. I believe there are consciousnesses beyond human comprehension who can choose to enter into relationships with humans to articulate crucial understandings at crucial junctures in history. Jeremiah and Isaiah are two such examples.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 8:25am BST

"It is also worth observing that people on either side of our disagreements about homosexuality believe that these disagreements are about what it means to follow Christ. In other words, these are precisely disagreements about what baptism entails. After all, baptism covenants us to follow Christ."

Isn't that part of the problem, that people on either side apparently believe that their view on homosexuality is (implied: the only) thing that determins whether we're following Christ correctly or not?

And the implication that there is one right way, so all the others who follow the other route are wrong and not following Christ?

We have changed our view on money, over time, and we believe it was reasonable and right to do so. Maybe we were all wrong to do that. Does that mean that none of us is following Christ any longer?
It's just that money isn't the hot button issue of the moment, whereas sexuality is. Intrinsically, it's no less important, possibly even more so.

If only we could get back to understanding that every one of us is doing their very best to follow Christ as he/she can. And we all, every single one of us, get it wrong as often as we get it right.

But right or wrong, we're part of Christ's body, because of our baptism. What a liberating concept, once it's stripped of the either/or significance we superimpose on it at the moment.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 9:37am BST

What's interesting about a world I've spent about a fortnight looking at, and then before for a talk, is how those who join together apostolic order and deliberate liberal beliefs have, across the board, accepted social inclusivity including gay orientation. There is a lot of discussion here about far-out evangelical and other types who seek pointy hats - well there is the other end of the spectrum too.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/10/independent-catholics.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 12:25pm BST

Erika - yes, it is common-sense that both sides cannot be right..... and the longer that people like Rowan Williams try to keep contradictory views in one organisation, the longer we will all suffer (just like people trapped in abusive marriages)

Posted by: NP on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 5:14pm BST

Erika, there are probably those who think this is about whether people are following Christ full stop. But I merely wanted to say that most think that this is about what is entailed in following Christ, without necessarily making blanket statements about whether so-and-so is following Christ.

To illustrate the difference, there are those who do not respect gay people and yet would claim to be "doing their very best to follow Christ". Not everyone would deny that such people are following Christ but many, hopefully most, would agree that their homophobia needs to be challenged. (Even they themselves may speak of the need to respect gay people, oblivious to the fact that they don't.)

Some believe that following Christ entails an end to any discrimination against people living in same-sex unions. Should they be expected to make space for such discrimination because the people who do the discriminating are after all doing their very best to follow Christ?

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 5:58pm BST

Hi Pluralist

Thanks for the link. You're right, there's some really good stuff going on out there, and not just within the Anglican Communion.

For example, I've been seeing a lot of rethinking about liberation theology in Catholic circles.

There have also been some absolutely wonderful things happening internationally in the last few years.

For examples, the Muslims getting more organised about the need for charity and compassion work post the 2004 SE-Asian tsunami. The the Jewish equivalent to the Red Cross or Red Cresent being accepted by the United Nations body as first aid body that meant to be "off limits" during hostilities.

There's also a renaissance of writings going on e.g. Tikkun Olam and the development of interfaith dialogues, centres and conferences.

As we saw in one Bishop's decree posted today on TA, some are concerned about how the bible is being made relevant to Buddhists and Hindus. About time, I say.

May God bless humanity and bring about that promised everlasting covenant of peace promised to the Daughter of Zion that should theoretically be possible through God's acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice. Yeah, an end to tyranny and accusations! Let the trumpets sound out for that one!

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 10:01pm BST

Thomas,
The question is what we mean by "making space".
Living in a same gender relationship I have no problem kneeling next to our very conservative and homophobic Reader at the altar rail.
During public debates I will openly challenge him, at prayer breakfast, we will pray together.

I believe this costs him as much as it costs me.
Of course, socially we would never meet.

I suppose what I find most disheartening about the current dispute is not so much that both sides believe they are right (well, they would!), but that there are many who are convinced that only they are Christians, whereas the others are deliberate sinners wilfully ignoring Christ's words.
That is what I would like to challenge.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 8 October 2007 at 11:23pm BST

Erika says "I suppose what I find most disheartening about the current dispute is that.... there are many who are convinced that ..... others are deliberate sinners wilfully ignoring Christ's words."

Well, I see Lambeth 1.10 which is the standard of teaching on the presenting issue in most of the AC (whether you like it or not, it stands). Certain behaviour, the bishops of the AC told us in 98, is "incompatible with scripture" - right? Now, I see some (even some vicars) just ignore the scriptures and justify the said prohibited behaviour as if it were holy and good and blessed by God..... is this not deliberate sin, ignoring scripture?

Even the liberal ABC has admitted it is not possible to make a positive case from scripture for what you want to justify in the AC......and given the negative case against certain sins is clear (to most, especially those who do not aim to justify any particular sin), I am afraid it is hard not to see, as +Rochester has recently pointed out, that tday some have forgotted than sinning without repentance is not acceptable to God (going by his word, that is)

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 10:29am BST

Erika - the situation you describe so well is one we have been living with for a good number of years, to a greater or lesser extent. I readily acknowledge that it has cost you more than me and I understand the frustration of being thought of as "wilfully ignoring Christ's word."

And yet, it is one thing to disagree, even strongly, about what constitutes “greed” or “sex outside marriage” or whatever. It is another thing for one church to call to repentance from “greed” and “sex outside marriage” and another church to bless relationships or events which seem to embody these.

I hesitate to ask you to do this but if you want to see what the current situation might look like from the perspective of “reasserters,” imagine someone becoming rich by sharp and unfair practice. We would want to call them to repentance, would we not? Now imagine the development of liturgical rites of thanksgiving for people who have a knack for creating wealth by bending the rules. Imagine a guy who in the past has made a fortune in this manner being made bishop. Well, we are all sinners. But imagine this guy, far from being repentant about the sharp practice by which he made his fortune, says this was a great thing to be doing and he’d do it again. How can people travel on the road of Christian discipleship together under such circumstances?

I realise of course that from the perspective of “reappraisers” the comparison I have just made is so deeply flawed, as to be useless. But this time I was looking at the proposal for tolerant co-existence not from the perspective of “reappraisers” (as I have done above) but from the perspective of “reasserters”.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 10:38am BST

Thomas,
My problem with your line of argument is the same one I have with Ben's posts somewhere else. It's the automatic assumption that same gender love is of the same moral calibre as gaining wealth by sharp practice.

There is no possible way by which anybody can support sharp practice and dishonesty. They always have negative impacts on those they are practiced against and are therefore intrinsically wrong.
The same cannot be said for same gender love. It has to be measured by a different yardstick.

You may not agree with my yardstick, but it should be possible to acknowledge that people can hold positive views about same gender love without "justifying sin", simply because they do not believe there is a sin.

And so I expect my homophopic Reader to accept that I do not believe my love in sinful - even if he believes it is.

In return, I accept that he is not discrimminating against me because he just hates what I stand for and feels he has the right to judge me, but because he genuinely believes that following Christ means holding his views.

Respect cuts both ways, and even if we are 100% sure that our way is what Christ wants, and even if we can absolutely not agree with the other person's view on this, we can still acknowledge that both of us are trying to live a Christlike life.
Unlike your sharp practice adulterer.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 12:14pm BST

"I see Lambeth 1.10 which is the standard of teaching on the presenting issue in most of the AC..."

And, yet, the ABC and the JSC and others keep telling you that Lambeth resolutions have no magisterial value; they are not "teachings"...they are, rather, the "sense of the meeting".

Why do you persist in insisting otherwise?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 12:15pm BST

"I see Lambeth 1.10 which is the standard of teaching on the presenting issue in most of the AC..."

And, yet, the ABC and the JSC and others keep telling you that Lambeth resolutions have no magisterial value; they are not "teachings"...they are, rather, the "sense of the meeting".

Why do you persist in insisting otherwise?

Thomas:

Here's the flaw in your analogy between homosexuality and greed--Erika can't help being homosexual...it is the way God made her. To ask her not to act upon the sexuality the Lord gave her is to suggest the Lord erred in creating Erika.

OTOH, the Lord didn't make the greedy man greedy from birth.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 12:18pm BST

Erika, I have chosen sharp business practice and dishonesty by way of example precisely because we agree that it is sin.

Grouping extra-marital sex with greed, paedophilia, cheating, promiscuity etc. need not be automatic but may reflect the thought-through conviction that all these are incompatible with Christian discipleship and thus call for repentance.

I cannot see how your implicit differentiation between a list of agreed vices and another list of behaviour which some of us classify as sin, but others celebrate as a blessing, is workable.

This is not to deny that it is possible, indeed necessary, to distinguish between the committed (sexual) love of two people of the same gender and the libertine approach to sex prevalent in our culture.

Although: those who would argue that sexual love among people of the same sex is compatible with Christian discipleship rarely express sadness about the prevalence of pre-marital (as well as extra-marital) sex among heterosexuals and are rarely heard to call promiscuous homosexuals (as well as heterosexuals) to repentance.

There are probably those who uphold a fairly traditional view of Christian marriage and of the wrongness of extra-marital sex, while seeking to extend the definition of monogamy to include people of the same gender. But the loudest voices are those who seem to be saying that sex is a gift and a blessing when it is consensual. This sounds a lot more like contemporary Western culture than Christian ethics.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 5:14pm BST

Pat,
I'm not sure that being born homosexual is in itself a sufficient argument to show that same gender love is not immoral. For once, it leaves bisexual people in the cold, who could then only act morally if they did not fall in love with a member of the same gender.

To me, it's much more important to show that the reality of same gender relationships can embody everything required of a holy Christian marriage, and can therefore not be considered sinful.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 5:30pm BST

Pat - I do not believe that they way we are can simply be referred to as the way God created us. Much traditional Christian theology marks the disjunction with the term "original sin". There have been a few TA comments over time which seem to be suggesting that the idea that some are born gay is a recent scientific discovery - it is not, new is the attempt to define this genetically.

(And, actually, I do suspect some people are born greedier than others.)

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 6:30pm BST

Thomas,
by the very simple "By their fruits shall you tell them", it is obvious to me that greed, paedophilia, cheating, promiscuity etc are automatically and always wrong because they always have a negative impact on others.

By the same yardstick, same gender love is not always automatically wrong, you only need to look at the incredibly self-sacrificial life "our own" Martin Reynolds leads with his partner, and which they could quite possibly not lead without each other's loving support (sorry, Martin, I only mention you because your story is known to everyone).

To me your argument sounds like "it's sinful because it's sinful".

But as I said before, I'm not really interested in persuading you of the validity of my view. That wouldn't be possible, just as it is impossible for you to persuade me of the validity of yours.

But I know that you are a good Christian and that you hold your views with sincerity, believing them to be what Christ is asking of us.
All I want is for you to accept that I hold my views in the same spirit.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 at 7:46pm BST

There is a whole "sphere of influence" being ignored in this discussion.

If a homosexual person chooses to enter into a monogamous relationship with another homosexual person, how many are affected? The two people and their witnesses. If they remain monogamous then it is only tight knit community that is affected.

If a theologian supports just war or advocates repression of a certain group, how many are affected? In the case of GLBTs, at least 2% of the population, and if you bring in family friends and advocates who refuse to surrender them that ripples much further...

It is like the World Trade Centre. 3,500 souls died in a day from a senseless act of aggression, but that many were estimated to die on average every day as a consequence of the Iraq war.

Some souls see homosexuality as the great dividing line, others would argue that selfishness and aggression destroy far many more lives than honest homosexuality does.

Jesus once told some hypocrites that they should remove the log from their own eyes before they worry about the splinters in others. Take a step back and get it into perspective.

Honest brave souls such as Erika who accept their their lot offer hope not just to GLBTs, but also to other Christians and even non-Christians. Those who condemn and attack Erika offer no hope to any who have been cursed in the past as they believe that every curse is still in force and Jesus' sacrifice was for nothing. They would destroy this world rather than admit they were wrong.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 8:51am BST

Erika - I shy away from defining wrongness as having a negative impact on others. While I believe that sin always has a negative impact, I do not think we can necessarily measure that impact, let alone tie specific harm to specific sins. And I deliberately speak of extra-marital sex rather than same gender love because there is nothing wrong with two people of the same gender/sex loving each other, and not only when they are mother and daughter or father and son either.

I know hardly anything about you - and barely more about Martin Reynolds - but I readily grant that there is good, self-sacrificial love to be found in same-sex relationships. And I would not be surprised to hear from you that far from merely "acting on the sexual inclinations God gave you", you want to deepen this love for your partner in expressing it sexually.

My guess is that if the lesbian and gay Christian movement (not just the organisation of that name) consisted largely of people like you and Ford Elms, the listening process would have been a lot easier to set in motion.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 9:08am BST

Oops. I will now be heard as saying that guys are to blame for the failure of the listening process. I can only say that I don't mean to apportion blame. I want to signal that the accusations and insinuations I read on TA do not make it easier to listen.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 9:10am BST

Pat - last time I am going to bother saying this to you as you clearly do not want to listen to the truth:

- Lambeth 1.10 was never given as an option for those who agree with it;

- there is no integrity in vicars just ignoring it;

- TWR has reinforced Lambeth 1.10 as the teaching of the communion;

- merely asserting that it is not law does not invalidate the scripture and rememember that it says certain behaviours are "incompatible with scripture";

- note, it stands.... and clever old, academic Rowan Williams has not dares to take on the debate and try to remove or change it.... guess why?

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 12:30pm BST

Actually Erika is correct in the idea that sexual sins affect a smaller number of people - and that's why it can be so dangerous. Jesus taught we commit adultery in our own hearts even if no physical action is taken (Matt 5:28). Paul tells how sexual sin is a sin committed against our own bodies (I Cor 6:18).

If the consequences of a sin affect a limited number of people and the primary victim is ourself, then it can be easy to rationalize away the sin itself. One may even claim that this sexual sin has benefits and should be encouraged. But sexual sin never stays confined. But no matter how much one tries to cover it up or delude themselves to what is actually going on, eventually, a family, church or even an entire nation is damaged by the fallout.

Posted by: Chris on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 1:57pm BST

Thomas,

I'm finding it difficult to accept the charge that I'm sinfully having sex outside marriage, when the same people are campaigning against my being allowed to formalise my relationship.

I deliberately speak of same gender love, to stress that our relationships are about so much more than sex, something that frequently seems to get forgotten in the public debate.

But let me repay your compliment - if there were more like you on the conservative side willing to engage with us, the listening process would have been a lot easier.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 3:06pm BST

Thomas,
leaving the same gender issue alone for a moment, I'm fascinated by your point that "that sin always has a negative impact, I do not think we can necessarily measure that impact, let alone tie specific harm to specific sins."

I agree that it is not always easy to measure the impact of sins, or a specific harm. But for the word "sin" to have any comprehensible meaning at all, it has to be possible to link the thought, word or deed to a negative consequence, for the victim as well as the perpetrator's spiritual health.

Can something, anything, that has potentially extremely positive consequences be classified as an intrinsic sin?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 4:06pm BST

Chris
"But no matter how much one tries to cover it up or delude themselves to what is actually going on, eventually, a family, church or even an entire nation is damaged by the fallout."

This is a clear statement of belief. I'd like you to substantiate that claim, please.

I know that "commiting adultery in your own heart" can be devastating to your marriage if your passion is so intense that it takes your heart away from your partner, so Jesus' words do make sense to me.

But two people lovingly creating a stable family unit, with or without children, does not fall into this category. This is akin to Thomas' idea of a sin that has harmful consequences although no-one can see or name them.

I sincerely hope that my whole nation isn't damaged by the fallout of my peaceful, family and church focused life!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 4:18pm BST

Erika, thank you for the recognition that I am willing to engage. People who believe that a civil partnership between people of the same sex cannot be equivalent to marriage (and therefore campaign against making it look as if it were) will necessarily consider sex among people committed to each other in a CP "extra-marital".

I appreciate your use of the term "same gender love" and would not want to discourage you from continuing to use it, as long as it is understood that many of those who call for repentance from extra-marital sex are not opposed to "same gender love" tout court.

As you say, there is a lot more to love than sex. Traditionally, sex was understood as the bond of exclusivity ("one flesh" etc.). Theologians who claim that relationships between people of the same sex should not include sexual activity are in effect saying that even deeply committed long-term relationships between two partners of the same sex should not be exclusive in the way that a marriage is an exclusive relationship.

I know there are many more whys and wherefores which arise from this but is there a coherent alternative account which demonstrates why (or why not), in the new paradigm, sexual activity should be confined to the exclusive relationship of two people?

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 5:03pm BST

Erika, a lie can have "potentially extremely positive consequences" and maybe (probably) in some such circumstances the lie is not a sin.

But traditionally sin is not simply defined as "what harms" but (also) as "what opposes the will of God". There is of course as much disagreement about "what opposes the will of God" as there is about "what harms" - probably more so.

But those who believe that God's will is revealed in the Scriptures (I am not trying to exclude you) and furthermore believe that in the Scriptures we have an unambiguous declaration that God disapproves of extra-marital sex (here I may or may not have have lost you) are not free to re-define, say, pre-marital sex as "ok" because as far as we can tell no-one was harmed.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 5:18pm BST

Thomas,
I'm more reserved here than I am IRL, but thanks. I would have to say that the "listening process" would have been more successful if those who are now so vehement in their "it's a sin to be gay" statements had actually listened. They would know, for instance, what damage they do by preaching a generic message of "be celibate or God will roast you eternally" from the pulpit when one of the congregation is a closeted gay teenager who is living in constant fear of disownment, violence, and perhaps even murder. They would understand why, though they loudly proclaim that they "hate the sin but love the sinner", no-one except like minded "Christians" is so gullible as to actually believe them. They would understand why their behaviour makes it so obvious that they in fact hate the sinner just as much if not more than the sin in this instance.

Sorry, I feel churlish talking like this after your nice statement about me, but it is pretty evident, even from this site, let alone from the misinformation and out and out lies that the "Right" gets on with in this that they haven't listened and are more interested in defending their own right to insult and belittle gay people than in actually spreading the Gospel among us as they understand it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 5:26pm BST

Thomas wrote that sin includes "...what opposes the will of God..."

So theologies of accusations, repression, censorshp are not sin?

Being prepared to sacrifice your own or others children is not a sin?

Refusing to love your neighbour or your enemy is not a sin?

Refusing to not covet your neighbor's spouse or belongings is not a sin?

Harvesting to the edge of your fields so there is nothing left for the poor is not a sin?

Placing unbearable burdens upon the elderly is not a sin?

Showing partiality in the Law is not a sin?

Refusing to offer an inclusive covenant to eunuchs, GLBTs is not a sin?

Refusing to acknowledge that Christ's crucifixion and resurrection was to enable all humanity to safely enter into a relationship with
God is not a sin?

Insulting God's capacity to make and honor everlasting covenants of peace with Levi or the Daughter of Zion or Jesus is not a sin?

All these fundamental acts of rebellion must be "virtues" that enable the pure to throw stones at GLBTs, women and "others" because it is their god's will (note the small g god).

Their god is an egomaniac who sought to place himself above all others, he is not known to his forefathers nor is he desired by women.

Every single sentence above can be supported by biblical passages, some as few as 2 or 3 and others running into the hundreds.

You are totally discredited in all but your own eyes. Take the plank out of your eyes and throw down your swords. God promised a millenium of peace and if you are not working towards that peace then you are guilty of the sin of rebellion and obstruction.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 10:16pm BST

Cheryl - I am not sure I got that. Did you mean to accuse me of repression, censorship, being prepared to sacrifice my children, refusing to love neighbour or enemy, coveting my neighbour's wife and possessions, and a host of other things? Or, worse, did you mean to say that I condone all these things?

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 at 11:46pm BST

Thomas ; its about the quality of relationship and the values of the relationship. Neither commitment nor faithfulness would be present if there were more than one other person involved.

I do think that the real divide, though, is between those who think the Bible is a human production of its time and level of knowledge, and those who think it is 'God's eternal word' in full. I take the former view as do most other liberals.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 12:04am BST

Cheryl, I realised after having shut down my computer that you most likely mean to say that repression and sacrificing one's children etc. can be discerned as the will of the deity presented in Scripture - or something along those lines. "Every single sentence above can be supported by biblical passages, some as few as 2 or 3 and others running into the hundreds." -- I had misread this as saying that for all those things we will be able to find at least a few and up to a few hundred biblical passages condemning it. (And thought you accused me of ignoring these.)

I am reasonably confident that I know what passages you are alluding to in the second line. So let me address this specifically. Do you really think that there are Biblical passages which encourage sacrificing one's children? Pray, do you know of anyone in the last 2000 years who felt inspired to sacrifice their children upon reading Gen 22 or Judg 11?

And where does a biblical passage encourage not to love one's neighbour or placing unbearable burdens on elderly parents or showing partiality in legal disputes?

Maybe I am still not getting it.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 8:22am BST

Thomas

I think we suffered from cross-wires. God condemns the sacrificing of children. I'm sorry that there was confusion. Sometimes to get within the word count a crucial transition sentence gets lost. I could probably post elsewhere and link but then there is a lack of discipline. It's rather fun to make a point in a bite-sized grab and the beauty of TA is that when the editing gets confusing, souls can ask with bemusement and the poor editing clarified.

Bottom line, I think both you and agree that God deplores Baal sacrificing of children and any theology that justifies in kind.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 9:20am BST

Thomas,
“is there a coherent alternative account which demonstrates why (or why not), in the new paradigm, sexual activity should be confined to the exclusive relationship of two people?”

I’m not a theologian, so you won’t get theological answers from me. All I can say is that Christianity makes psychological sense to me. Loving and kindness have a positive impact on the recipient as well as on the giver. “Sin” has a negative impact on the recipient as well as on the perpetrator.

Sex is an emotive topic especially because of it’s incredible emotional impact on people. It is the ultimate expression of love and trust – for me, there’s a sense of enormity when you consider that you let someone touch you so deeply that they enter your body. It is powerful, strong, loving, affirming. But it also leaves you deeply vulnerable to betrayal. Making yourself so trusting and vulnerable that you can allow real intimacy, is the biggest gift we can give one another. It therefore also has the potential to cause the most hurt.

That is why casual sex is wrong, because it trivialises sex, it strips it of the component of deep intimacy, of the melting of body, soul and mind. And it ignores that it may mean more to one of the participants than the other, therefore causing a real emotional imbalance, which is harmful - or "sinful", if you like.

And that is why adultery is wrong, because it betrays that exclusive closeness, that “becoming one flesh” between a loving couple.

But by the same token, that is also why same gender sex is not wrong, if it takes place in a relationship that mirrors Christian marriage. Where sex is not trivialised, where it is a deep , affirming expression of love, a caring, loving, respectful expression of the incredible closeness two people can experience.

And it is interesting that you say: “Theologians who claim that relationships between people of the same sex should not include sexual activity are in effect saying that even deeply committed long-term relationships between two partners of the same sex SHOULD not be exclusive in the way that a marriage is an exclusive relationship”, clearly recognising that, in reality, it COULD.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 9:37am BST

Thomas,
"But traditionally sin is not simply defined as "what harms" but (also) as "what opposes the will of God"."

Maybe that's the core of our difference.
As I said in my previous post, Christianity makes psychological sense to me. To be honest, if it didn't, I couldn't believe it.
Although I know that we can never understand God, I firmly believe that he would not ask something of us that makes no emotional or intellectual sense whatsoever.

Even NP said recently that he would be ok with same gender love, but God tells him it's not ok.
There comes a point, where we have to look at an issue and at our new understanding of it, and have to make a decision:
Do we stick to our belief that God's will is clear and unchanging, or can we consider the possibility that we may have misunderstood God's will.

I still maintain that the church has, in the past, changed it's perception of God's will over time. We no longer ascent to many of the harsh practices and judgements apparently endorsed by God in the Old and New Testament.

It is my firm belief, at first born out of thinking the issue through, later out of my own experience, that committed same gender love cannot be wrong.

And although the conservatives rightly state that most theologians do not agree with me, there is a sufficient body of serious theology that makes it at least possible that my way of reading the bible and of experience Christ in my life is correct. And I’m encouraged by Jesus’ own words that there are many things his hearers at the time could not yet understand, but that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide us all in the future.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 9:47am BST

Yes, Erika, "the church has, in the past, changed it's perception of God's will over time" and I do not consider this wrong in principle. Church councils can err - that's the Reformed part of Reformed Catholic. In each generation we need to reach out for the best understanding of the Scriptures available to us (I do not consider sidelining Scripture a truly Christian option; that is one of the key differences between Merseymike and me).

Nor am I closed to the possibility that contemporary experience of committed same gender love (whether such love is a recent phenomenon or not) might lead to a reappraisal of the church's understanding of Scripture.

But the church catholic has not come to such a consensus yet - by any definition of consensus. This is where Rowan Williams' distinction between what (he as) an individual might believe and what (he as a bishop of) the church teaches has some validity - for those to whom not only the Reformed but also the Catholic part is important.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 12:27pm BST

I guess on the whole those who are (merely) thinking through these issues, even if inclined to a more "liberal" view, will want to hold back from doing things which go against the grain of what the church has been teaching, while those who are quite convinced that the church got it all wrong on homosexuality will want to press on to implement the new perspective on sex - as a prophetic witness.

You, Erika, and many others here do not belong to those who can afford to merely "think through these issues" and thus waiting for the church to catch up with your interpretation of Scripture would be costly in your case. But as long as the church catholic or a local congregation has not been persuaded of the case for reappraisal, this church has little choice but to declare the prophecy to be false - without having to imply that those who hold such false teaching are deceitful and lack integrity.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 12:41pm BST

The quality of relationships Erika describes is an important datum to factor into our considerations. At the same time, while there is much good about the modern world, our culture is doing rather badly in the area of sex. Of course it was not all rosy a hundred or five hundred years ago but was sex trafficking ever as bad as in our generation? Has pornography ever done more damage? Has there ever been a greater break-down rate of “committed relationships”?

By this I am not bracketing homosexuality with sex trafficking and marriage breakdown etc. But I do believe that our culture looks like it has a particular problem with sexuality and with committed long-term relationships. This may be just the right time for a (new) prophetic word but it also seems to be a time for treading carefully about re-evaluating Christian sexual ethics.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 12:43pm BST

"I take the former view as do most other liberals."

Here's one here who doesn't. I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. I believe it is an icon in words of God Himself. The process of inspiration has meant that some things are out and out wrong, some things are muddled, because it comes to us through the eyes of fallible humans who understood according to the culture they lived in. Thus, any literal interpretation of the book is fraught with error. God knew He was speaking to us through human intermediaries who would misunderstand. That's why the book is so complex. Even the historical material isn't all that historical. The Church has always known this. The Reformation's invention of the Bible as the only source of authority is a comforting product of a crisis of faith, but it is an immature approach and incredibly susceptible to the very things it was invented to counter, since it gives to the "traditions of men" the voice of God, witness NP's Bible mining to justify his own judgementalism. But to suggest that it is just the product of a bunch of people sitting down at various times to write down what they thought about God is just as much a remaking of Scripture to suit your own predetermined ideas as anything the Evangelicals do. Moses and Paul did not say "Oh, that was a nice idea, I should write that down" any more than God said "Moses, write this down" or "Paul, take a letter."

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 2:33pm BST

"I firmly believe that he would not ask something of us that makes no emotional or intellectual sense whatsoever."

Actually, Erika, I don't agree here. He told Abraham to sacrifice his son, which must have made no sense to Abraham. I think at times God makes no sense at all. He tells us His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. I believe the Spirit was as active in the selection of +Duncan and +Akinola as She was in the selection of Gene Robinson, and none of that makes any sense at all. There is a basic part of God that is unknown and unknowable, that has been a part of Christian theology for centuries, and it is contrasted with the supreme knowability of God in Christ. For me, there comes a point where Scripture, tradition, and Reason all must stop. It's generally when I get out of my pew to go up for Communion. I guess I'm just far more comfortable with doubt than I am with certainty, which is why I argue so much with Evangelicals, for whom certainty is so much a reason for faith, as if the two were the same thing.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 3:50pm BST

Thomas - I think that's exactly why we do need to support the making of long-term same-sex relationships for those who are gay or lesbian by orientation.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 4:25pm BST

Thomas,
"But the church catholic has not come to such a consensus yet - by any definition of consensus. This is where Rowan Williams' distinction between what (he as) an individual might believe and what (he as a bishop of) the church teaches has some validity"

I quite agree!
What to me personally is crystal clear is not yet the church's official position.
I accept that the church is still in the process of coming to a decision.
All I am asking is to be a part of that decision making process, in my small private way, without being attacked as unfaithful by those who believe the issue is already closed - and I do emphatically not include you in that group!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 6:57pm BST

Thomas,
"This may be just the right time for a (new) prophetic word but it also seems to be a time for treading carefully about re-evaluating Christian sexual ethics"

I quite agree that we need to do much more to show people the negative consequences of our society's over-sexualisation.

But I hesitate to subscribe to the statement that our Christian sexual ethics, as practiced in the past, are necessarily the right answer.

Of course, true Christian sexual ethics are appropriate. But we do need to accept that the good old days were only good because much abuse was hidden behind doors and took place in a society where male violence was almost accepted as normal.

Can we get back to Christian sexual ethics without returning to the repressiveness that ruined so many people's lives?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 7:01pm BST

Ford
"I believe the Spirit was as active in the selection of +Duncan and +Akinola as She was in the selection of Gene Robinson"

How do free will and full responsibility fit into this?
We have the freedom to get it wrong, desperately wrong, as our wars and other horrors so clearly show.

My own belief is that the Spirit is constantly active, but that not everyone is open to it.
By their fruits shall you tell them - that includes those who have heard the Spirit and those who haven't.
Otherwise, isn't there a danger of excusing our own mistakes by claiming the Spirit led us?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 7:05pm BST

I think the Marilyn McCord speech linked by Simon more recently nicely applies to this debate too.

Jesus did not wait for "the authorities" or teachers of law to agree with him before he got on with his mission. Nor did John the Baptist.

Nor did Jonah, who saved the people of Ninevah including its kings and priests.

Nor did Hosea, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, Noah, Ezekiel, Micah or Malachi, just to name a few well known ones.

Like the early matriarchs and patriarchs, these are souls who when God called jumped into the fray (okay there was some wimpering, haggling and attempts to run away by a few of them). But at the end of the day, once they'd accepted they'd been called, they got on with the game.

The teachers of the law might want things to slow down, God is calling people to stop slowing things down. Africa needs to be fixed, and it won't be fixed by swapping who are the tyrants, it will only be fixed by ending tyranny. Children need to be fed and educated and medicines distributed, that requires the skills of cooperation and nurturing, the antithesis of whining and stealing. The world needs peacemakers not destroyers, nurturers not accussers. We need souls who can restore and build, not tear down and desecrate.

If you are for peace and a new earth then you are for the joyful colourful peaceful Jerusalem promised in Isaiah and Revelation, as envisaged being made available to all the peopleS of all the nationS.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Thursday, 11 October 2007 at 10:01pm BST

Ford. I think you misinterpret the Reformation when you say, "The Reformation's invention of the Bible as the only source of authority is a comforting product of a crisis of faith."

Sola scriptura is short hand for the Bible contains all thing necessary for salvation - not that it contains all things necessary for the Christian life. Reformers were speaking out against add-ons Rome was imposing on the laity to build palaces and cathedrals.

We can certainly agree American style evangelicalism often does the same thing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called evangelicalism in the US protestantism with out the Reformation. I don't see much consumerist evangelicalism in TEC.

I'm not comfortable w/ "Scriptural authority." Authority and responsibility must be aligned for an organization (here the church) to function properly. For what can Scripture be accountable? Rather, I think Scripture speaks authoritatively on the subjects it touches; it provides expert testimony of God's nature and His will for His people. A subtle difference, but one that recognizes Scripture only has the authority given to it by God. I don't believe in God because of the Bible - that would be fundamentalism. I believe what's in the Bible because I believe in God and His Son.

Posted by: Chris on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 8:04am BST

Erika, I take your point about what went on behind closed doors. I am not advocating a return to older practices, let alone to the caricatures some of our contemporaries like to draw of the Victorians or the Puritans. But if repression of other people was all too often tolerated in practice, it is not an integral and necessary part of traditional Christian teaching on sexual ethics.

Not everyone who opposes liturgies for civil partnerships or the appointment of a bishop who lives with a partner in a homosexual relationship, wants to see gays and lesbians leave the church. The orientation-behaviour distinction is not entirely unproblematic but neither is it appropriate to deny its usefulness altogether, as some do.

Nor does the call to repentance from extra-marital sex necessarily entail a denial of the experience of love and faithfulness among lesbian and gay partners. I say this to “reasserters” as much as I say it to you.

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 10:00am BST

"Rather, I think Scripture speaks authoritatively on the subjects it touches; it provides expert testimony of God's nature and His will for His people."

Well, it provides "expert testimony" as to what the people writing thought was God's nature and will--or how they could best interpret it based on their understanding of science and the world.

100 years ago, "expert testimony" would have placed Helen Keller in a home for the incurably insane. Annie Sullivan proved that wrong.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 12:22pm BST

"I don't see much consumerist evangelicalism in TEC."

I see a lot of consumerism, or at least the aceptance of consumerist principles, in much of Evangelicalism. Chris, I think about Scripture much the way you do, it seems. My point was that the Reformers went to Scripture as the only source of authority because they had lost faith in a clearly corrupt system. They were right to lose faith in the system as it was, but wrong to replace Papal authority with Scriptural authority. The Pope might not have deserved the authority he claimed, but Scripture had never been the sole source for authority before that time. The idea that Scripture doesn't contradict itself or clearly explains itself is manifest nonsense, invented to justify this shift in authority. And "all things necessary to salvation" is a peculiarly Anglican concept that doesn't resonate elsewhere. The Orthodox find it bizarre, as though there is some sort of checklist which we must fill out at the Gates of Heaven before we are allowed in. All things necessary are contained in the faith, not the Bible which is, esssentially, the user's manual for that faith.

"How do free will and full responsibility fit into this?"

A good question. We get to speak with what we fell is the voice of the Spirit, discerned in out mutual prayer, meditation, and learning. We might get it wrong, only time will tell, but I am certainly not prepared to say that God led us to choose +Robinson, but not +Duncan. I think God is quite willing to something that seems to us so contradictory.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 4:34pm BST

Thomas,
I hope our conversation yesterday made you see that I do respect your view and your willingness to engage. And I am encouraged that we appear to have found many touching points.

I am willing to accept that you do, genuinely, believe that my love has to be celebate, and that this entails no judgement of me, no desire to see me leave the church, and no denial of the love in my relationship. Although I would contend that you are one of the few conservatives I have spoken to on this forum who share your benign view of me.

At the same time, I must stress that I have no intention of heeding your "call to repentance" for something that I genuinely do not believe to be sinful.

I still hope that you can respect that in the same way I respect your opinions.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 8:01pm BST

Pat said,
"100 years ago, "expert testimony" would have placed Helen Keller in a home for the incurably insane. Annie Sullivan proved that wrong."

Thanks for raising the point about the fallibility of science.

Posted by: Chris on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 8:11pm BST

Ford,

With out a doubt modern American evangelicalism has consumerist tendencies - my point is most conservatives in in TEC don't subscribe to those ideas as they are either not evangelical or reject the consumerist elements. I think its a horrible indictment that the term evangelical Christian is used in relation to politics many times more often than theology or mission.

Posted by: Chris on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 8:16pm BST

"I think God is quite willing to something that seems to us so contradictory."

I agree. And I don't have any difficulties with uncertainty either. Apart from one: God is wholly dependable and everything he does is for the good. The guiding principle is Love.
So I can quite accept that the Spirit guided those who elected Akinola - there is much good Akinola has done and still has the potential to do. Of course, he has his own blindspots, and what he does to gay people is not Spirit led under any circumstances.

You mentioned Abraham yesterday - however you read this incredible story, it is a story of deep faith and obedience to God. It is not a story of a wilful tyrant God who demands to its fulfilment the execution of an innocent. God does not will evil.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 12 October 2007 at 9:52pm BST

"Thanks for raising the point about the fallibility of science."

Don't you mean the fallibility of humans, regardless of which discipline we're engaged in?

The one plus of science is that it is an open process subject to peer review, and therefore quicker to adapt to new realities than the church, where every change has to be preceded by a principle discussion of whether change is ever possible.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 8:39am BST

Erika:

Thanks for the response to Chris. That was my point, exactly. Science has corrected itself, and those like Helen Keller are no longer in danger of being declared insane.

But fundamentalist, literalist Bible interpretation never corrects itself...for to do so would contradict its entire raison d'etre--that the scriptures are infallible.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 12:15pm BST

Pat, Chris, Erika et al

Contemplate this. If Jesus did not manage to atone for all humanity, then Jesus was not "the" Messiah.

Those who refute that Jesus' sacrifice covered non-male, non-Christian, non-heterosexual refute Jesus' sacrifice at its very core.

Further, even if Jesus were to reincarnate and resacrifice, they would deny that it was Jesus or that it covered the remnant who had not been covered by the first sacrifice.

Plus it would open the whole debate to a quantitative discussion about how many souls Jesus' sacrifice covered.

Thus the first sacrifice must stand, for ALL humanity and Creation for ALL time.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 12:32pm BST

"I think its a horrible indictment that the term evangelical Christian is used in relation to politics many times more often than theology or mission."

But you know why this has happened. Evo/fundamentalists long ago started referring to themselves as "Christians". This rapidly joined with their belief that only they are true Christians. Thus, in much of the world, the two mean the same thing. I say I am Christian, and people assume I am a Creationist, for example. Since they are politically conservative, and since they have become the backbone of conservative political support in North America, then their religion has become nearly synonomous with conservative politics. Fundamentalist Christian groups in the US have contributed huge amounts of money to the Conservative party in Canada, for instance, that party being largely based in the West with huge Evangelical support. Fundamentalist pastors have the ear of George Bush, indeed, their millennialist theology influences American foreign policy! John Haggee breakfasts with the President regularly. Thus the equation has developed Christian=fundamentalist=politically far right. Since they dismiss "liberals" as not Christian anyway, witness even here how "liberal" is used with the obvious meaning of "opposite of Christian", the situation is perpetuated.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 16 October 2007 at 7:35pm BST
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