Saturday, 10 November 2007

Guardian leader column

The Guardian has a leader about the Anglican Communion: Beyond compromise:

…Always a loose and unwieldy alliance, the communion has survived since the age of empire only because of the effective acceptance that each church was sovereign in its own land. With the initial encouragement of the religious right in America, however, conservative elements of the communion are trying to impose an infeasible doctrinal unity. Dr Williams has responded to this pressure by seeking compromises. His difficulty is that, as the head of such a loose confederation, he does not have the power to make deals stick, as the freewheeling action of the conservatives is showing.

Dr Williams is a liberal who is instinctively supportive of gay people. His desire to hold the communion together, however, has already led him to support a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops and to suggest that Anglican churches should not recognise same-sex unions through public rites. These concessions have not, however, checked the communion’s unravelling. The fence on which Dr Williams has been sitting has collapsed. It is time for him to preach what he believes.

There is also a news report by Riazat Butt Archbishop urged to delay conference in gay clergy row.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 10 November 2007 at 11:03am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

The scavengers want to completely dismember the body before they meet? They don't want to meet until their guerilla warfare has been completed? They don't want to meet where the victims of their foray might be seen and heard by others, and where the dissonance about what they are purported that others have said and done, and what they have actually said and done can be exposed?

Are they worried that a big wind might blow over or that a high tide might sweep away their house of cards, which had been built on shifting sands of deception, exageration, accusation and repression?

Do they only want to meet with aggressive males who justify tyranny and accusations? If that is the only kind of communion that is suitable for them, let them have it. Let's also see if Rowan really is a liberal or just like them.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Saturday, 10 November 2007 at 8:34pm GMT

The Guardian makes an assumption that Rowan Williams is a liberal. It will be interesting to see when he is no longer weighed down by various Anglican anchors and balls of chain what he emerges as - I still think he has become a frustrated Catholic where his form of narrative theology is secondary, and that the liberalism it did imply is subsumed by a view of Church.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 11 November 2007 at 2:51pm GMT

Limited comment from new blogger, Andrew Goddard:

http://anglicantheologyethics.blogspot.com/2007/11/guardian-on-collapse-of-communion.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 12 November 2007 at 1:21am GMT

Yes: one of the interesting questions left for Rowan to answer is how he can consistently take the line he does on women priests and bishops, while maintaining that the wider Church is right about gays.

Posted by: acb on Monday, 12 November 2007 at 7:13am GMT

those nasty conservatives - they should have listened and not torn the fabric of the communion in 2003.....

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 13 November 2007 at 11:07am GMT

'Torn the fabric'...what rubbish. There is no Communion. There are two different beliefs in the same organisation, and the sooner there is a reasonable split , the better. But that means both sides willing to accept a simple split - no winners and losers, no right and wrong - just accepting that the differences are too wide to ford.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 13 November 2007 at 5:43pm GMT

NP: and they should all be listening, as part of the listening process now. Shame there's not much sign of that.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 13 November 2007 at 6:38pm GMT

Mark - people have listened for decades.

Rowan himself tried to argue the case for ignoring certain passages in the bible (or interpreting them to mean the opposite to what they say or what most other Christians in the last 2000 years have said they mean)….but even clever old Rowan persuaded few.

Listening does not mean agreeing.
I am sure you, like me, listen to George Bush but frequently disagree with him.

Most of the AC has listened and not heard convincing theological arguments to justify the behaviour Lambeth 1.10 says is “incompatible with scripture”

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 8:50am GMT

NP
Go through the interim response to the Listening Process again Simon posted here a while ago. There are many dioceses who have openly admitted that they have not yet listened and are not planning to do so. Your favourite Akinola is among them.

Christopher here still claims that gays choose to be gay and is worried about the take up rate if we keep giving them the bad impression that they might be normal.
And this comment coming from England where you claim people have listened for decades.

How can you genuinely pretend that people have listened when even those on your side admit that they haven't and won't?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 10:11am GMT

Erika: the listening process is a joke in most English dioceses, too. The ConEvos go to extraordinary lengths to try to prevent their gay colleagues from speaking openly; and the others mostly just want to avoid having a row, so try to placate them.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 12:56pm GMT

Fr Mark,
this isn't the right thread for such a conversation but it would be interesting to find out what each one of us has been able to contribute toward their local listening process.

In our diocese it was at first quite hard to get heard but in the end we managed a personal and helpful conversation with the man in charge of the process. Of course that doesn't influence the diocesan result but as a major British supermarket chain says "every little helps".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 7:49pm GMT

Erika: I came out, in what we were told was a confidential clergy meeting in our diocese as part of the listening process. Next thing I knew, I had a summons to go and explain myself to the bishop.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 8:48am GMT

Fr Mark wrote: "Erika: the listening process is a joke in most English dioceses, too. The ConEvos go to extraordinary lengths to try to prevent their gay colleagues from speaking openly; and the others mostly just want to avoid having a row, so try to placate them."

This certainly is what it looks like from afar.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 11:15am GMT

Erika

Mark 7 says we are all sinful and our sins come from our hearts....i.e. we are all by nature sinful...... there is no justification for any particular sin just because people say it is nature not nurture.

Our bishops are very well aware of the human and theological arguments against Lambeth 1.10 but still most will say certain behaviour is "incompatible with scripture"........

We cannot listen forever, pretending that contradictory theological positions are equally valid..... this cowardly CofE position is ripping the church apart.

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 12:42pm GMT

What if your's is the contradictory one, NP?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 11:28pm GMT

"We cannot listen forever,"

No, but seeing you personally haven't even started yet I don't know what you're complaining about.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 16 November 2007 at 7:50am GMT

The Idea of Somebody telling her to be Obedient, Erica!

;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 16 November 2007 at 8:28am GMT

Doing the "ripping" on a flimsy pre-text...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 16 November 2007 at 8:45am GMT

NP,
No indeed, you can' go on listening forever. You might actually want to start listening before you go excluding an entire group of people from the Church mixing your reading of Scripture with lies and slander and not even bothering to try to understand the people you are lying about and driving away from God. You even deny the possibility that you personally by what you say and do WRT gay people has, in all likelihood driven away from God the very people whose salvation you pretend to care about. Think about it, with your hard judgementalism legalism you may very well have caused someone's damnation. You're not only proud of that, you actually quote Scripture for justificaton to keep on doing it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 16 November 2007 at 11:09am GMT

The trouble with the listening process is not that there is any difficulty in listening. It is that listening presupposes that there is a possibility of changing one's mind, and one ought not to participate in such a process with those who already know what conclusion they 'want' to come to, as though 'wanting' had anything to do with it. There needs to be a more objective criterion, because people's wants are extremely, but extremely strong: so strong that they can and do easily cloud their judgment. Hence the need to have recourse to statistics.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 17 November 2007 at 2:07pm GMT

"It is that listening presupposes that there is a possibility of changing one's mind"

Well, yes, ideally it should do that.
But it goes far beyond that.
To speak to someone effectively you need to know how they will receive your words. If you want to win someone for your cause you need to understand the person you're talking to in order to know just which word to use to convince them.

Unless you truly understand how women feel who feel compelled to abort you will not have the right words to speak to them, but will be reduced to wave plackards at them outside abortion clinics.

Unless you understand how unhappy people feel about their failing marriages you will not know the right advice to help them stay married.

And unless you understand how gay people feel you are reduced to waving the bible at them without finding the right words that unlock their hearts to your message.

Listening is a prerequisite for effective talking. Whether you want to be open to the possibility of changing your own mind or not, it HAS to be important for you to convince those you speak to, and therefore to find the right words for them.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 17 November 2007 at 9:27pm GMT

Ford judges me to be "mixing ..(my).. reading of Scripture with lies and slander"

EVIDENCE pls, Ford?


Sadly, what you have written is misleading, Ford...I am not defending MY reading of anything.......I am merely agreeing with the consistent view expressed by our Anglican bishops - I think they are aware of the scriptures and the hard experiences of many people but I think they right on what the scriptures say.....is it unreasonable to say so?

Anway - EVIDENCE for "lies and slander", pls Ford?

Posted by: NP on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 11:05am GMT

Hi Erika

You are right about waving the bible, and that is why I never do it. I appeal to things that people already know about human love and compassion, and hope that they will, becasue of this, face up to the fact that they are knowingly acting inconsistently.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 1:11pm GMT

Evidence?
Every time you call one of us here faithless you slander us.
Every time you say we deliberately ignore scripture you lie.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 1:18pm GMT

"listening presupposes that there is a possibility of changing one's mind"

No. Listening is about listening to other people, to hearing what their experience is, to understanding how one's behaviour, which one might well have believed to be sincere and motivated by a desire to help, might have caused pain and hardship and despair. It is about acknowledging that gay people are human beings and asking onesself how one's behaviour adversely impacts that humanity. How, for instance, does the behaviour of most conservatives towards gay people drive them from the Church, perhaps drive them to suicidal despair? Might there be a better way to reach people than to speak at them in ways that hurt and damage? Are threat, scorn, derision, condemnation, slander, propaganda, the only way to preach a message of faithful celebacy? Given the way conservatives believe that we can only be saved if we repent and practice lifelong celebacy, I don't understand how they HAVEN'T been listening. I mean, their current way of preaching their message just drives gay people away, so if they want us to come to God, surely they would be keen to find better ways of preaching the message, no?

NP, what Erika said! I still cannot believe that you seriously think your actions are not insulting, hurtful, rude, and generally not in keeping wtih the Gospel. You are defending your reading of Scripture. I have never met anyone who could say "False teachers are not my neighbours" I have never met anyone who claims Paul give us authority to judge other people and call them faithless if they do not agree with us. That is your reading. I don't believe they can teach such unChristian nonsense at HTB.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 2:48pm GMT

That last should read "I find it difficult to believe.....":-)

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 3:30pm GMT

Ford says "You are defending your reading of Scripture." This is what you would call a "lie", Ford....I am saying I agree with the consistent of the Anglican bishops in Lambeth 1.10

Is there any way of saying to some in the AC that "lifelong celebacy" is the biblical expectation for various people which will be acceptable, Ford? I doubt it...... for many, the AC will only have "listened" when it drops Lambeth 1.10..... note how even the nice "open" Fulcrum people are reviled around here when they do not in the end support condoning the rejection of the current position of the AC.


Erika
- pls show when I called you or anyone else here faithless;
-our Anglican bishops say consistently that certain behaviour is "incompatible with scripture".......do you not condone ignoring them and the scripture they refer to?

Posted by: NP on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 4:12pm GMT

NP

Not long ago when badman was advocating a broad church you said: Would prefer a faithful church....(http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/002090.html)

The implication is clearly that a broad church and those in it who disagree with you are not faithful.

Do I condone ignoring bishops and the scripture they refer to?
I condone ignoring bishops, yes, if I genuinely believe that their interpretation of scripture is wrong.
The difference is that I don't ignore scripture, I interpret it differently.

NP, you claim to have gone to Cambridge. Please, you probably didn't mean Cambridge Primary School, so you must be intelligent enough to understand the difference between ignoring something and interpreting it differently.

You may not agree with the different interpretation, but if you keep insisting that I ignore scripture there are really only two possibilities: either you are not terribly intelligent, or you lie.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 7:26pm GMT

"Is there any way of saying to some in the AC that "lifelong celebacy" is the biblical expectation for various people which will be acceptable, Ford? I doubt it"

Why don't you give it a try? Why doesn't any conservative ever give it a try? Erika made the point today that I should go easier and think that perhaps you aren't capable of understanding the hurt your words cause. That may be. I've actually been trying, and failing, to find a way to make my point in ways you can hear. Consider your claim that you are being discriminated against if you are not permitted to refuse to, say, rent me a room. What does that say to me about how you see me? When a conservative claims that propaganda is fact, when he calls that propaganda "science" and refuses to acknowledge any evidence from scientists that he wrong, what does that say? When you defend someone who wants to jail not only me, but those who support me, why should I listen to you? You have never shown the slightest bit of understanding that this issue is about human lives. Because for you it ISN'T about human lives, it's about following rules.

"pls show when I called you or anyone else here faithless;"

Every time you talk about "faithful" Anglicans, all of which are on "your side". That must mean there are faithless Anglicans, or why use the word? Now if the faithful are on your side, where are the faithless? What's more, you frequently claim that anyone who doesn't agree with you doesn't read the Bible, doesn't believe the Bible, doesn't argue from the Bible. You do this all the time. Telling people to "have a read of" such and such a passage certainly implies you think we have never read it before.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 8:03pm GMT

"Is there any way of saying to some in the AC that "lifelong celebacy" is the biblical expectation for various people which will be acceptable, Ford?"

Quite honestly, on my part, no. Because I refuse to believe that a loving God would give to one of his creatures a desire that the same God would then condemn as immoral...and then force that creature to deny his desires.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 9:40pm GMT

"Because I refuse to believe that a loving God would give to one of his creatures a desire that the same God would then condemn as immoral...and then force that creature to deny his desires."

I've never really found this argument convincing, Pat. First of all, as I'm sure you WEREN'T implying in that comment, it isn't just about sexual desire. Second, though, many are born with unhealthy desires. Whenever some conservative makes the comparison with pedophilia, we all angrily jump on him with "There's a difference between the two, stop calling me a pedophile." True, and I DO believe that for most of the conservatives who make the comparison, the two are synonymous, or close thereto, and they deserve to be taken to task for that. But the argument still stands, a pedophile experiences his desires as innate. So just because a desire is innate doesn't make it right. Now I can argue issues of consent and damage to psyche, that, for me, are more powerful, and extendable to the gay experience, and make the difference crystal clear, though they won't mean much to someone for whom sin is nothing more than lawbreaking. What I think is the big problem for some Evangelicals especially is simply "This is what God says, so obey!" There can be no argument, since sin is lawbreaking, holiness is to be found in obedience, and God will only accept those who obey Him. Thus, those who don't obey are not loved of God, and do not deserve to beloved by us, either, because they are disobedient. Any question of suffering, or compassion, or understanding is pointless. What's to understand? Why listen to the damage being caused by that attitude? If you don't obey God will cast you out. The cost is immaterial, the pain is immaterial, obedience is all. But I shy away from "I was born this way". I was. I have never known heterosexual desire. Ever. But the issue is more complex than whether or not God creates people with desires He expects them not to act on. He clearly does.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 10:35pm GMT

Ford:

I take your point--but there is no scientific evidence that pedophilia (to use your example) is an in-born desire. There is scientific evidence of that for homosexuality (not for a "gay gene", mind you, it's far more complicated than that, as is almost all genetics). Pedophilia is clearly a learned response to early experiences--a pedophile is as much a victim as those he abuses.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 19 November 2007 at 11:40pm GMT

Ford,
Yes to all you say, but with one big exception.
I think you make a category error when you equate sexual desire with paedophilia, in that the one is a sub category of the other.

Sexual desire is the overriding category, and it comes in heterosexual and homosexual form. It can be holy and moral.

But both forms of sexual desire can be corrupted, and paedophilia is only one of the many possible corruptions.

Those who equate sexual desire with paedophilia imply that heterosexual desire is in itself moral, although there are some black sheep, whereas homosexual desire is in itself immoral and on the same level as paedohpilia.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 20 November 2007 at 9:17am GMT

"Pedophilia is clearly a learned response to early experiences--a pedophile is as much a victim as those he abuses."

I must admit, I'm not fully informed on the issue, though I do know about your last point.

And, Erika, that is the assumption I was making, though obviously not that well:-) The argument is put by conservatives (not by me) in a slightly different fashion: that heterosexuality IS sexuality, and both homosexuality AND pedophilia are corrupted forms of sexuality. I naturally don't agree with this, and I think the point needs to be made clear. As it stands, I'm not sure it is. I am unaware of any evidence that says categorically that pedophilia is a learned behaviour, but assuming there is, we then have to demonstrate homosexuality isn't. I know I didn't "learn" it, that's for darned sure, I had to teach myself:-) The differences between the two need to be clarified much better. The moral differences are easy to see, but I don't think the science is as clear as all that. I stand to be corrected.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 20 November 2007 at 5:39pm GMT

Ford,
then I must have misunderstood you. I thought you had said that you don't like the argument that God would not give people desires they cannot fulfil because paedophilia is just one of those desires.

I find this argument to be not fully logical because of the category error involved.
Pat is right, God would not give us desires that have no positive possibility of being fulfilled.
Paedophilia does not come under this cateogry.

In this respect I felt Pat was right.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 20 November 2007 at 6:49pm GMT

Erika and Pat,
This is something I think about a lot, actually. I've been pretty clear on what I see as evidence of God's love for me. My sexuality is not something I chose, but something I fought and prayed against for ten years, till, I believe, God forced me to accept it. But, from what I understand, a pedophile also experiences his desires as innate. For me, the question is, how are we different? We must be. Or is it that I am misunderstanding God's love for God's approval? But, if He loves me but does not approve, why has He led me to where I am? At the end, I just keep coming back to the fact that He HAS led me to where I am, and I must not, as the Psalm says "concern myself with matters that are too hard for me."

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 2:09pm GMT

Ford,
I come from a different personal experience. I grew up with liberal parents and just knew that some people were straight others gay and that there was absolutely no moral difference between them. So I cannot truly understand your struggle to accept your sexuality, although I feel deeply for you.

I'm trying to untangle what you're saying. You're right, innate desire alone is insufficient to explain why paedphilia is bad and homosexuality isn't. To me it's obvious that the consequences of sexuality play a major role. A stable homosexual relationship can have positive consequences for those who find lasting loving stability in it. That can never be said for paedophilia. But then you know that, and somehow this is an insufficient answer for you.

How about, then, saying that homosexuality has only very little to do with sexual desire, although it is about that too. But rather, it means that the ability to truly love is restricted to a member of the same gender. Personal fulfilment can only be found in the emotional attachment to a person of the same sex. That attachment may or may not include actual sexual activity. But the phenomenon of "straight" and "gay" goes well beyond sexual expression alone.

Again, none of this applies to paedophilia or any other possibly innate corruptive physical desires.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 4:09pm GMT

Ford,
I'm still trying to get to the core of what is bothering you.

Could you imagine a heterosexual person agonising whether their healthy desire of love and positive sexual expression should be equated with paedophilia because both desires may be innate, and can you imagine that the question of God's love/approval results from this?

The question arises only if you start out with the presumption that homosexuality is sinful. You then realise, like I did, that God is drawing you to this path, that this is where your destiny and possible fulfilment lies. But because you still somehow fear that homosexuality is sinful you can't quite accept yourself and therefore can't quite believe that God can approve of your sexual expression.

There’s still this difference between the intellectual acceptance that homosexuality is normal and morally neutral, and the deep acceptance of this as a truth for your own life and your relationship with God.
Without wanting to sound like a long distant shrink – is something still holding you back from accepting what science, psychology and your understanding of God and Scripture tell you is true?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 6:29pm GMT

Erika, does your life experience mean you didn't have an adolescence hiding what you were, that making sure no-one was looking at you before you looked at that cute girl(boy in my case) who walked into the school lunch room wasn't second nature to you, dating members of the opposite sex desparately trying to find the one who would make it work? Keeping the secret becomes such a reflex that it ceases to be a burden. I was a long time before I could kiss my partner without looking to see if we were in a window, not out of fear, but out of reflex. It isn't about public displayes of affection, either. There was a long period when I had to consciously decide that I would take that little piece of lint off my partner's jacket in public. What straight person ever has to consider such an automatic act of intimacy as an act of bravery? Most gay people have at some point.

Erika, I agree with everything you say. It's a clash between what I KNOW of the activity of God in my life, and the things He inspired Paul to say. We don't know what Paul's words were in reference to, but we know what the Church has always taken them to mean. In that, I am not at all unlike NP. I know God loves me. It's been a long road to self acceptance, but I'm there, with God's help. Like NP, I don't accept arguments based on what modern society says should be my rights. Society doesn't have all that great a track record in determining people's rights.
Your eloquent and touching description of your relationship has actually done far more for my thinking on this issue than any arguments about word meanings and cultural interpretations. But don't feel too deeply for me. The painful days are long over. And I know the difference between homosexuality and pedophilia, including the little acknowledged fact that most pedophiles identify as heterosexual, so maybe we ought to keep those predatory straights away from our kids:-)

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 22 November 2007 at 10:09pm GMT

Ford

I don't know that you know what it is like to live in a misogynistic world.

The last time I only oggled a male (long after my divorce), I was called a f_ _ _ing slut in the car park.

Jeremiah 2:24 or Hosea 8:9 are hardly flattering to females.

Then there's the whole thing that women are brought forward for stoning and death for adultery whilst the male goes unaccussed and uncondemned.

I empathise with GLBTs not being able to express their sexuality honestly, but do not think that is peculiar to your category.

Women in some societies are branded as whores for merely revealing their hair. In other societies women are allowed more "freedom" but are secretly condemned by the "pure" as "unworthies".

Try being a "virtuous" woman who would prefer to be with a partner, but the only males who seem to offer themselves up are already committed. So if you even allow them to flirt, you get branded as the whore whilst they pretend they weren't even flirting in the first place.'

The book of Susanna comes to mind.

There are men who prey on vulnerable parisioners (male or female).

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 9:04am GMT

Ford,
I suppose my experience is different because I feel equally integrated in the straight world. I grew up in a liberal Christian household where it was just accepted that people had different sexualities. Although I never told my mother that I was bisexual I knew I could have. I remember her once suspecting my brother might be gay (he isn’t), her only comment being that she hoped he would not be afraid to tell her. In the last 5 years my father and the rest of my family have warmly welcomed my partner as a full member of our clan.
I knew from an early age that I could love boys or girls and it never bothered me. Having said that, I never put it to the test either and always ever only had boyfriends. I wonder for how many bisexual people there is a kind of biological imperative at play and we opt for marriage and children. And, yes, I do know the embarrassment and the secrecy , that strange fear of what others might say. It’s taken me a long time to realise that that says more about my own insecurities than anything else, and I have been constantly surprised how naturally accepting everyone is.
When I first told a priest, who is a personal friend, about my new love she said that it was quite common for people’s sexuality to fluctuate.

My partner’s experience is completely different. She too was married and had no inclination that she wasn’t straight, she just knew that the relationship was somehow not as fulfilling as it could be, in emotional terms too, but then many marriages are like that. When she discovered her true identity she blossomed. She still hasn’t stopped thanking God for guiding her to wholeness and granting her healing, peace and a true sense of what love is about. I only wish people understood that this has so little to do with sex and so much more with emotional closeness and a sense of belonging!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 9:23am GMT

Ford

Just one quibble with your last post... are you sure Christ inspired Paul to say what he did? Isn’t it possible that Paul felt so inspired but, just like all of us, he couldn’t see clearly? Jesus said clearly that there are things his listeners could not understand and that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide them. But he also said that there are things we just cannot see clearly in this life.
I’m always surprised that people accept that you or I may be misunderstanding Christ and the Spirit, but that we never believe St Paul was in the same position.

I don’t know if you followed the conversation I had with Ben about forgiveness that centred on the same difference in understanding. St Paul was not like Jesus. He was extraordinarily inspired, yes. Called by Jesus, yes. A brilliant theologian, yes. Extraordinarily faithful, yes. But he was still only human, just like us. With the same faults, rooted in the same culture as those around him, as fallible as any one of us.

When we read the gospel stories we must be really careful who we identify with. When NP cites the story of the woman caught in adultery he clearly identifies with Jesus, never with those who are asked to throw the first stone if they are free from sin.
Likewise, when we read Paul’s stories we make the opposite mistake by treating him just like Christ instead of identifying with him as fellow stumbling followers of Christ.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 9:24am GMT

How is it relevant that 'most pedophiles identify as heterosexual'? For the rate of pedophilia to be the same among homo- and heterosexuals, a minimum of 9 or 10 times more paedophiles would have to identify as hetero- than homo-. This is very far from being the case, to say nothing of the fact that the statistics will be further modified by the actual number of children involved in different cases (ie not every case involves just one child, and the average numbers seem to vary between hetero- & and homo-).

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 12:51pm GMT

Christopher

It's not relevant, of course you're right.
Only people who condemn homosexuality often link it to paedophilia to prove how evil it is, and in that false context it IS important to point out that most children are at risk from their fathers, not the gay stranger hidden in the bushes.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 3:19pm GMT

Oh, oh... Christopher Shell has been reading "Dr" Cameron again...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 3:29pm GMT

"The last time I only oggled a male (long after my divorce), I was called a f_ _ _ing slut in the car park."
Cheryl, maybe it's because a lot of my friends are sexually confident women with whom I ogle men! Seriously, if one of them were called what you were called, the answer would likely be "You say that like it's a bad thing!" I don't want to sound accusatory, I only have a vague glimpse of what you have been through, but take stuff like that back, don't let others make you a victim like that. You're no victim, you know what you have survived. Someone who says that reveals enough about themselves that they don't deserve to have you feeling hurt or victimized by that kind of idiotic comment.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 5:39pm GMT

"I’m always surprised that people accept that you or I may be misunderstanding Christ and the Spirit, but that we never believe St Paul was in the same position."

I'm one of them, actually. I have never been blinded on the road to anywhere by a talking light that said it was Jesus, and then promised, and delivered on, a miraculous cure. Paul fascinates me, actually. To me, his conversion is one of the most solid proofs of the Truth of the Gospel. How does someone go from what he was, and I can see why NP likes him so much, birds of a feather and all that, to uberChristian, if not by divine intervention? It is thought by some that, when Paul talks about his sinfulness and being "chief of sinners", it may indicate that he had a hand in the death of James, since James was martyred at the time Saul of Tarsus was doing his utmost to destroy the Church. Just like I do with any of the saints, I give him more authority than me to discern the Gospel. Doesn't mean that I think he says anything about God not loving me, I know that's not true, but what IS he saying? It is not appropriate to just say that bit wasn't inspired. How do we prove that?

Christopher, it is not far from the case that 9 or 10 times as many pedophiles identify as hetero, for starters, and it is most certainly relevant when one of the things that is continually thrown in our teeth is that we in fact ARE pedophiles. I may be wrong, but I seem to remember you yourself hinting at the same thing. If I am wrong, I apologize. I would not want to hurl that at you undeservedly. Yet, you DO cite Cameron, and he does pretend to "prove" that lie, so perhaps you believe it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 23 November 2007 at 5:54pm GMT

Ford,
I quite agree, I give Paul more authority than myself to discern the gospel.
But not to the extent that I believe every single word is infallible.

Yes, he did have an extraordinary revalation revelation of Christ, but so have others since, and in a small way, many of us today. It does not follow that all these people automatically become sinless, righteous and blessed with Christlike insight into God's will.

If it meant that their witness would almost be unimportant to me because I could never hope to follow them other than by following the letters of their faultless laws - a bit like NP is doing. Unless it is possible for each and every one of us, at least in theory, to become a Paul, Christ's bringing the same message and hope to ALL men is an error.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 24 November 2007 at 8:27am GMT

Ford
"It is not appropriate to just say that bit wasn't inspired. How do we prove that?"

I suppose if I'm honest I don't fully understand the question.
Intellectually it is very easy to prove that Paul's words against gays are not directed at the kind of relationships you and I are having.

Theologically, there have been many outstanding scholars making impressive cases against a clear anti-gay reading of Scripture. They come at it from various angles. None of them "prove" anything conclusively, no more than you can "prove" anti slavery sentiments and feminist theology or liberation theology conclusively.

It is easy to read the bible so it supports what you want to believe. It is very easy to make it restrictive, but it is also very easy to read it as God's living word that continues to change in our lives, sending us new messages throughout the ages.

Ultimately, it is up to you. I know you don't like the idea of everyone knitting their own religion, and at a very simplistic level that is absolutely correct.
But at another, deep level, that is precisely what each of us is having to do.
There is no one church delivering an absolute truth. Even among the Roman Catholics there are differing views. Anglicans don’t claim to have infallible truths.

We simply have to get used to the idea that there are no firm answers handed down from the past, but that there are many churches, many priests, many theologians offering a variety of answers. All based on their faithful understanding of what God wants from them. So, in the final analysis, it is up to you. You choose your allegiance.
If God’s love and his affirmation of your life are calling you into a deeper wholeness and a truer living faith, a more fully lived life, then that is the voice you will have to trust.

There is no guarantee that you will get it right, but handing the responsibility for the decision over to others isn’t right either. “They made me do/believe it” is not an acceptable answer for Christians who have been given full freedom and full responsibility as one of the jewels of our faith.

And if we get it wrong? Then we trust in the loving, faithful and merciful God whose guidance we have genuinely sought in this life. We can’t do more than that.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 25 November 2007 at 8:52am GMT
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