Wednesday, 12 December 2007

more from the Chicago Consultation

Marilyn McCord Adams delivered a paper entitled “Shaking the Foundations: LGBT Bishops and Blessings in the Fullness of Time”.

Read the full text on Daily Episcopalian over here.

Read the Episcopal News Service report here.

Check at Episcopal Café for more papers soon.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 December 2007 at 6:57pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

A very interesting and forward-looking paper.

This is the future.

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 12 December 2007 at 11:06pm GMT

Rev Canon Prof McCord seems to have managed to argue for the normalisation of same-sex relationships based purely on drawing equivalents with racism and sexism.

But race and sex are inate properties. Whereas even identical twins, with the same genetics and womb environment, do not necessarily develop the same sexualities. Plus many people experience themselves as changing sexuality (George Melly for instance). Further, sexual behaviour does not necessarily equate to sexual orientation. So, just because some people currently experience themselves as sexually orientated towards people of the same sex, doesn't mean that same-sex sex is righteous.

If Prof McCord wants to justiofy kicking people who cannot agree with her out of the TEC she could at least try to answer their objections; if she can.

Posted by: david wh on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 2:30am GMT

My Goodness, what could this be? Truth ringing clear as a bell instead of the tired old muckraking from Hell?

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 3:11am GMT

I agree: this is the future.

Maybe this kind of theology will succeed in giving a wholesome, liberating, saving sense to the word "biblical", used so obnoxiously by so many today.

Posted by: Joseph O'Leary on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 3:54am GMT

Why can't Marilyn McCord Adams and Rowan Williams swap jobs?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 8:30am GMT

A fascinating paper, with some important observations on how liberals and conservatives act. But her case is, for me, fatally undermined by the fact that she collapses ecclesiology into democracy - and nation/state democracy at that. Indeed, one might say a distinctively North American model of democracy that attempts to bypass Hegel (and Marx, though it contains what some may see as Trotskian transitional demands) in how it understands conflict and challenge.

In England at least I would have thought that the main liberal tradition is the "liberal catholic" with which I would personally identify more than any other label. Her view of the church as, at its heart, systemically sinful human construct, is not likely to reach out to that constituency.

In summary, a nice try, but it doesn't offer anything to those of us outside the particular insular world of the USA (which may in itself be odd from a theologian based in Oxford). So, not the future after all.

Posted by: David Walker on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 8:58am GMT

David and David
I'm not sure you've not missed the main point of the paper. She isn't trying to persuade you to her point of view. On the contrary, she knows that is impossible.

What she is doing is calling for an end to extreme liberal tolerance that appears to set no limits to what we agree to in the name of liberal values.

It's time we got our act together and began to set some real boundaries.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 10:35am GMT

Sorry, got muddled with my previous comment, it was not aimed at David Walker.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 10:42am GMT

David and David: you both seem to be rather sneery about Marilyn McCord Adams: she is one of the sharpest thinkers you'll ever come across. Regius Professors of Divinity at Oxford are not generally intellectual lightweights.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 11:19am GMT

“Homophobia is a sin whose end time is now,” said the Rev. Canon Marilyn McCord Adams"

This is what I call the future. This is the only boundary I am prepared to consider, until it is effectively addressed.

(Talk about christology at a crossroads!).

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 12:01pm GMT

An excellent paper and I appreciate her wisdom that churches are not divine:

"...the Church is summoned to vigilance, to institutional circumspection which is ever on the lookout to identify the systemic evils to which it gives rise; to repentance and works meet for repentance that seek to uproot them. Nor is this a temporary and passing assignment. When it comes to social and political arrangements, our institutions will always be riddled with systemic evils. Because it proves so difficult to uproot any one of them, because we can’t dig out all of them at once, we are everywhere-and-always tempted to status-quo acquiescence. Our calling is to the exact opposite: to discern which ones are ripe for uprooting and to take the lead eradicating them, beginning in the garden behind our own house!"

On the question of innateness, for the newbies. Sex and race are not clear cut, we've had numerous questions recalling testosterone females and human chimera hermaphrodites as physical examples of the confusion on what forms sexuality.

Nor is "race" innate - we are all children of Adam and Cheva and we are all related and we are still able to interbreed.

There are genetically associated physiological conditions that may or many not fully manifest, or may manifest to varying degrees e.g. diabetes, lupus or parkinsons.

Sorry, but those who want to argue the biological strategies can only succeed by relying on ignorance, censorship to hide the evidence and insulting the messengers in an attempt to discredit them. All tyrannical strategies that are the antithesis of the covenant of peace.

Choosing peace and thus the book of life necessitates accepting that brings diversity, condundrums and tensions. It's all part of the fun of the human existence and why God granted sentience - God loves such dialogues.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 5:01pm GMT

On 13 December 2007, david wh wrote:
-snip-
"But race and sex are inate properties. Whereas even identical twins, with the same genetics and womb environment, do not necessarily develop the same sexualities. Plus many people experience themselves as changing sexuality (George Melly for instance). Further, sexual behaviour does not necessarily equate to sexual orientation. So, just because some people currently experience themselves as sexually orientated towards people of the same sex, doesn't mean that same-sex sex is righteous."

(1) Biology and genetics isn't a simple binary yes/no situation. For example, we know from identical twin studies that genetically identical twins shared both handedness and sexual orientation at a higher rate than non-identical fraternal twins.

This suggests that there may be some environmental influences at play here.

Or perhaps "penetrance" (whether a gene is expressed totally, partially, or not all) is affecting the observed differences in sexual orientation and handedness for identical twins.

In any case, sexual orientation appears to be as innate and as "biological" as handedness.

(2) Finally, if the sexual behavior involves two consenting adults and doesn't harm anyone, wouldn't that make it "righteous" enough for us? After all, shouldn't one celebrate the joy that our creator has given us and doesn't that joy include our sexuality?

Posted by: Steve Caldwell on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 5:14pm GMT

"Finally, if the sexual behavior involves two consenting adults and doesn't harm anyone, wouldn't that make it "righteous" enough for us?"

Not even for me, actually. Just because something pleases us as individuals doesn't make it right, even if it causes no harm. Besides, we aren't always good at judging what causes harm. I just don't buy the legalist conservative "God says so" argument. Given that they have to use so much falsehood, distortion, and propaganda in their arguments suggests to me they don't believe it either. I could accept an argument that respects who I am, how difficult it is to come to terms with one'sself when everyone is telling you even God hates you, the effect of knowing that someone can kill you and not only get off with it, but that you can actually be blamed for your own murder, and most everyone else would think it justified, and any of the other things they clearly don't know, despite all their "listening". If they could acknowledge all this and still say "Those things are wrong, but we still believe the Bible says you must not act on your sexuality." But they don't do that. Instead, they lie to make me out a sick pervert, rebellious against God, likely a child molestor, so deformed in my humanity I will die 30 years before straight people, am seeking blessing for promiscuity, that I could choose to be straight if I actually had any respect for God, and on and on. If their argument had any weight, they wouldn't feel the need to lie to bolster it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 6:53pm GMT

Welcome back, David Walker. Please stay - you have been missed.

Posted by: badman on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 7:16pm GMT

'..So, just because some people currently experience themselves as sexually orientated towards people of the same sex, doesn't mean that same-sex sex is righteous."

And on the other hand :

just because some people currently experience themselves as sexually orientated towards people of the opposite sex, doesn't mean that opposite-sex sex is righteous.

Does it .

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 8:18pm GMT

"What she is doing is calling for an end to extreme liberal tolerance that appears to set no limits to what we agree to in the name of liberal values. It's time we got our act together and began to set some real boundaries."

I'm in full agreement with this. And yes, this is something that applies to all parties in the current conflict. Including (she says, with gritted teeth) us liberals.

++Rowan, on the other hand, seems to believe that any sort of acting-out will be tolerated as long as it will "keep people at the table." But people are becoming disgusted by endless acting-out, and they will want to leave the table if something is not done to set boundaries -- and soon.

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 8:55pm GMT

"Regius Professors of Divinity at Oxford are not generally intellectual lightweights."

Nor is the current ABC, and yet he isn't very effective at much right now, is he?

Smart people are still subject to making poor cases for their POV.

The rigorous theology from the liberal side is still sorely lacking, even four years after Gene Robinson's consecration (and eight years since he was first a candidate for the epicopate.)

This would be (and should be) one of the truly legitimate crticisms the conservatives could make, if only they weren't so concerned with their petty power games.

Posted by: dave p on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 9:21pm GMT

Dave makes a relatively valid point about theology. Sometimes, I wonder whether the liberal argument can be boiled down to confusing human rights with the Gospel. Then, I realize that the conservative argument can be boiled down to confusing reactionary ideology with the Gospel.

The trouble is, the more I realize how wrong the latter is, I am not as convinced of how right the former seems to be. Anyone, when provoked, can say anything, no matter how--in the end--it does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 10:54pm GMT

Ren Aguila, your complaint is a common one these days. Are you by any chance following the discussions at Father Greg Jones's blog "The Anglican Centrist"? I'm fairly convinced myself of the need for a fresh start in theology -- and that is not to disparage Professor McCord Adams's contributions, here and elsewhere.

Posted by: Charlotte on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 12:16am GMT

In his latest book of collected essays, Rowan Williams includes a piercing critique of the theodicy of Marilyn McCord Adams.

Rowan Williams, ‘Redeeming Sorrow: Marilyn McCord Adams and the defeat of Evil’, Chapter 13 in ‘Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology’ (London: SCM Press, 2007), pp. 255-274.

Originally this was a paper presented at the 15th annual conference on philosophy of religion, Claremont, February 1991 as a reply to Marilyn McCord Adams’ paper at the same conference, ‘Evil and the God-who-does-nothing-in-particular’.

Both were first published in D.Z. Phillips (ed.) ‘Religion and Morality’ Claremont Studies in the Philosphy of Religion (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1996). McCord Adams’ paper on pp. 107-31 and Williams’ reply on pp. 132-48.

It is worth reading in full and is devastating in its demolition of McCord Adams’ concept of God.

Rowan Williams states in his opening paragraph:

'I find her paper unsatisfactory in terms both of philosophical analysis and of moral adequacy to the question of suffering' (p. 255)

Later he writes:

'What is disturbing in her account of providence is that it suggests that providential divine action has something of the nature of crisis management - that is, it is essentially reactive. It becomes more necessary the worse things get. The implication is that, as human history evolves, it is quite likely that we shall need increasing supplements of direct divine intervention to save us from even worse disasters than we currently experience.' (p. 266)

The doctrine of God, and of his action in his world, is central to theological ethics.

Posted by: Graham Kings on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 12:22am GMT

Gee this thread got sorta silly, with the consevo remarks that the liberal or progressive believer position boils simplistically down to a shallow notion of civil rights or human rights. Just for that thread record: ah, no, not at all.

The civil rights or human rights notions get wide play, mainly for two obvious reasons. Firstly, the church has a simply abominable record when it comes to either the civil rights or the human rights of citizens who are not straight. A really terrible historical record.

So many lib-prog correctives in ethics and theological discernment start where some of the worst is obvious in our traditional discernments, with those domains where theology and ethics has traditionally justified us rather categorically, in thinking the absolute worst of queer folks in general and in particular.

Secondly, the consistent result of admitting consevo views to our conversation over the past ten years or so, is that we quickly hear loud arguments which narrow and rule out considering alternatives. This automatically collapses our leeway for a range of approaches to ethics or theology, in favor of quite narrow and often rather extreme consevo approaches, which in turn often depend too heavily on us taking a closed presuppositional approach to our hermeneutics.

Hence we suddenly feel a need to avoid confining ourselves to a closed consevo conversation which mainly curls back upon itself, implicitly denying any basis for queer civil rights or human rights. Nigeria is just one recent example.

A changed view of rights is hardly the whole correction, however. The profound gospel witness to justice as a core aspect of God's holiness - what else is the point of loving our neighbors as we ourselves are loved by God? - is surely a heartfelt piece of alternative libprog views.

To get started, not finished, with the flexible state of current alternative ethical-theological discernment, I recommend Grey Temple's book, Gay Unions in Light of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Available from Church Publishing, or via internet Amazon for something under twenty dollars paperback. A start on alternative discernment, not the final whole, since empirical data is still actively being investigated.

The empirical, ethical, and theological literatures are large. One could do several disserations on the existing published work. The lack of cons evo exposure to these literatures is odd and striking. Where have cons evos been? A blog post doesn't do your homework for you.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 2:27am GMT

"The rigorous theology from the liberal side is still sorely lacking, even four years after Gene Robinson's consecration (and eight years since he was first a candidate for the epicopate.)"

How rigorous and complex does theology have to be to show that slavery is wrong?

These things are much more a case of a true awareness in people. The resulting theology is, eventually, extraordinarily simple.

The complex stage is needed when people still try to stick with pre-awareness concepts and throw up one objection after the other.

Having said that, there is very good theology around, why do people keep saying there isn't? On previous occasions when this was said I have posted a number of links. I don't know if anybody has ever followed any of them up. The continued repetition of many arguments here indicates that few do. But that doesn't mean it's not possible.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 7:37am GMT

Dave and Ren: yes, I think you're both right. However, there is a huge growth in, for want of a better word, "gay theology". It's not all being produced by airheads, either. I don't know whether we could expect "rigorous theology" to emerge from the liberal side in the wake of Bp Robinson's consecration, any more than it has emerged from all these years of women's ordination.

When Abp Rowan was a don, the tenor of his teaching was very much that you should have the courage to follow your intellectual convictions even when it takes you into controversial and dangerous waters. He taught with an integrity, the integrity of someone who was intellectually courageous. The sad thing is to see how he has lost that by capitulating to expediency. Marilyn McCord Adams seems to have kept hold of it: such idealism and clarity are tremendously attractive, especially to young people, I think.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 8:48am GMT

The Archbishop of Wales is to consecrate a missionary bishop for America.

Speaking in Cardiff after the dramatic announcement today, Dr Barry Morgan said he felt that all Anglicans in America with the surnames: Jones, Williams, Jenkins as well as Lloyd, Morgan, Gwynn, Vaughan, Meredith and Llewelyn should immediately transfer their allegiance to the new bishop.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 9:20am GMT

"Sometimes, I wonder whether the liberal argument can be boiled down to confusing human rights with the Gospel."

This keeps going round and round in my mind.

It is clear that gospel values are more than human rights. But how can it be that human rights should not be part of gospel values?

Can it be that humans can be more compassionate, loving and respectful than God?

That's not to say that every "I want" is a human right. But if it IS a true human right it's a gospel value.

We tend to believe that God only speaks through the church and that what happens in society is first of all suspect. And yet, time and time again society has led the way. That's not bad in itself. The church is made up of the progressive and the cautious, its discernment process is rightly slow.
But we shouldn’t believe that the church is static. Society is more open to experimenting. The church then discerns what of this experiment is new truth and what is going in the wrong direction. To believe that the Spirit is only active within the confines of our ecclesiastical structures and processes is an error.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 9:22am GMT

Ren

I think your posting very nicely highlights the problems of "absolutism", whether that be liberal inclusiveness or conservative puritanism.

In reality, we come to realise that the extremes and absolutist interpretations and implementations mean either condoning an abomination (e.g. a pedophile father having sex with his 9-year-old daughter) or making the goals unachievable (one shall not divorce even if thy husband steals your life's savings, rapes and bashes you to the point of hospitalisation).

The reality is that we look at the merits of various positions, and recognize where the boundaries would be pushed too far. It is not okay to organise lynch mobs to murder blacks nor is it okay to force women and children to be the victims of violence and rape.

A healthy solution actually incorporates traits of both liberalism and conservatism, but with a good dollop of compassion and mercy so that it is not unsustainable.

Remember, before Cheva, Adam's mate was Lilith and while she might have been "perfect" their universe died because there was no compassion or grace. This universe is Cheva's - she brought compassion and grace. Those who prefer Lilith's ideology are welcome to shuffle off and find her, I hope they don't mind living as metaphysical existences without any manifestation as her character can not tolerate imperfection, diversity or free will.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 9:29am GMT

"What is disturbing in her account of providence is that it suggests that providential divine action has something of the nature of crisis management - that is, it is essentially reactive. It becomes more necessary the worse things get. The implication is that, as human history evolves, it is quite likely that we shall need increasing supplements of direct divine intervention to save us from even worse disasters than we currently experience. (p. 266)"

The alternative to "crisis management" is well known; it's called navel-pilling in Swedish.

The technical term is deus otiosus.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 10:22am GMT

Graham sums up the basic problem

The idea that there is a 'personal' God who 'acts ' in the world.


Its medieval silliness. God and religion are human creations.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 11:05am GMT

I've met Marilyn McCord Adams and heard her preach. I haven't read her scholarly work, and perhaps it is quite intellectually powerful, but I think I might find it as unsatisfactory as Rowan Williams does. I say this because the sermon I heard from her and the conversation I participated in with her were in no way intellectually weighty. She made a lot of cheap, shock value points including that Jesus was a bastard and several other things. Absolutely the opposite of someone like Rowan Williams.

Posted by: Andrew on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 11:20am GMT

I find the notion that human rights are somehow antithetical to Christianity a little odd.

The 1978 Lambeth Conference Resolution (3) on Human Rights is worth citing in full:

The Conference regards the matter of human rights and dignity as of capital and universal importance. We send forth the following message as expressing our convictions in Christ for the human family world-wide.

We deplore and condemn the evils of racism and tribalism, economic exploitation and social injustices, torture, detention without trial and the taking of human lives, as contrary to the teaching and example of our Lord in the Gospel. Man is made in the image of God and must not be exploited. In many parts of the world these evils are so rampant that they deter the development of a humane society. Therefore,

we call on governments to uphold human dignity; to defend human rights, including the exercise of freedom of speech, movement, and worship in accordance with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights; the right to be housed, freedom to work, the right to eat, the right to be educated; and to give human value and worth precedence over social and ethnic demarcations, regardless of sex, creed, or status;

we thank God for those faithful Christians who individually and collectively witness to their faith and convictions in the face of persecution, torture and martyrdom; and for those who work for and advocate human rights and peace among all peoples; and we assure them of our prayers, as in penitence and hope we long to see the whole Church manifesting in its common life a genuine alternative to the acquisitiveness and division which surround it, and indeed penetrate it;

we pledge our support for those organisations and agencies which have taken positive stands on human rights, and those which assist with refugee problems;

we urge all Anglicans to seek positive ways of educating themselves about the liberation struggle of peoples in many parts of the world;

finally we appeal to all Christians to lend their support to those who struggle for human freedom and who press forward in some places at great personal and corporate risk; we should not abandon them even if the struggle becomes violent. We are reminded that the ministry of the Church is to reveal the love of God by faithful proclamation of his Word, by sacrificial service, and by fervent prayers for his rule on earth.

Posted by: badman on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 11:38am GMT

I don't understand the relevance of Graham Kings raising here and on Fulcrum rowan Williams's "devastating in its demolition of McCord Adams’ concept of God."

The article in the book is a just a resell of a 1991 paper obviously as part of the selling of books with Rowan Williams's name on the front.

I'm interested in what she is saying now, and on this issue, and it is here about the limits of tolerance.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 12:15pm GMT

"The trouble is, the more I realize how wrong the latter is, I am not as convinced of how right the former seems to be."

Can we form a support group? Seriously, I find myself getting more and more frustrated with the extreme positions of both sides, each adamant of its own rightness. Many of each side's critiques of the other are valid, I think. While I guess I basically side with the Left, there's a lot on the Left that makes me uncomfortable. I thought it was just my innate knowledge that I am right, and why can't everybody else see it as clearly as I can:-)? Maybe it's not arrogance after all.

"We tend to believe that God only speaks through the church and that what happens in society is first of all suspect. And yet, time and time again society has led the way."

And yet, time and again, society has led us down the garden path. In some instances, like burning old women, we colluded, even urged on, society. In other instances we stood aside. Society is why we allow usury, which I argue is a VERY BAD THING. Society is why we tolerate war. We followed society and tolerated slavery till our consciences stung too much. Society told us, and we not only agreed but took part, that the best thing to do with the "savages" was to take their children away from them, force them not to speak their languages, and feel ashamed of their culture. We stuck in the physical and sexual abuse for good measure. Sorry, Erika, but I don't put any trust in society when it can swing from thinking I'm the bee's knees to throwing me into a concerntration camp in the space of less than a decade, which happened not all that long ago in Germany.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 12:51pm GMT

On the contrary, Erika, I think one recent development in ecclesiology is that the church--not merely the institution--is the alternative to the prevailing society that makes itself the fulfillment of human needs. (The term ekklesia is sometimes used to avoid the problems associated with the so-called "institutional church.")

Not that the church is a pure society, but that it is willing to criticize the world in which it exists. I won't use the question of sexual ethics here, but rather how the modern world makes a claim to being the "heavenly city" which it cannot be. At the same time, it is willing to judge everything it does against the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Word of God (remember, Jn 1 names Jesus as the Word made flesh and the Bible is totally quiet about itself being the Word of God).

Going back to McCord Adams, I am willing to read her work, and at least some of what has been commended here on gay theology. But having read a few of her public speeches, I think a look at her more academic stuff, including the one Rowan critiqued, might be a better start.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 1:19pm GMT

Could the mainstreaming of homosexual partnerships act to increase the divorce rate. Not solely, and not absolutely directly either. By means of helping to create an atmosphere in which marriage is thoroughly and/or increasingly optional and disposable? Now you're talking.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 1:24pm GMT

Rubbish, Christopher. If gay people marry, they obviously have no effect on heterosexual divorce rates. If anything, they are saying that the ideal of married commitment is worth aspiring to. That sort of illogical thinking, worthy of My Lord Carey, illustrates how the conservative case is little more than scare-mongering.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 2:01pm GMT

Ford and Ren,

that's why I also said (was it on another thread?):

Society is more open to experimenting. The church then discerns what of this experiment is new truth and what is going in the wrong direction. To believe that the Spirit is only active within the confines of our ecclesiastical structures and processes is an error.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 2:11pm GMT

"By means of helping to create an atmosphere in which marriage is thoroughly and/or increasingly optional and disposable?"

How does marrying gay people give that impression? How does fighting tooth and nail for the right to marry make marriage appear disposable? Is it not more reasonable to say that the image of marriage as disposable is a direct result of heterosexuals treating their marriages in that way? Gay people after all, can't get married in most societies, thus don't have marriage to dispose of. Unless you are referring to the situation in which one or both partners is gay and the couple divorce rather than live a lie. I don't think that is a desirable situation. It is dishonest. Why choose dishonesty?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 2:34pm GMT

David Walker,

McCord Adams does do some interesting things here, and you can go a long way down this road if you accept her premises. This becomes apparent on several fronts: about the church she says it is both "divine and human." But then she only attends to what is human, "the ways we organize ourselves--are human constructions that have no intrinsic authority." It is a matter of developing "skillful means" to certain ends.

On "homophobia" she reheareses the history of the treatment of homosexual people; we should learn some things from that as we should from the treatment of adulterers etc. But what does it show or have to do with the real issue? The word "homophobia" itself, has largely become a "boo" word, has outlived its usefulness, and should be sent packing (who is afraid? Of what?).

On the whole she has a point that there is a need to discern boundaries. People have been asking about boundaries from the evangelical side, and the covenant process is about that. Now this, after abandoning a series of commitments suddenly to talk of boundaries is a bit rich! Without reference to others "we" must now set boundaries? This seems to end up with a catalog of "voices" without communication, in dialogue with only themselves.

As for the future, it could be: This info in The National Post of Canada this week - "Between 1961 and 2001, the country’s population increased from 18 million to 31 million . . . In the same period, the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada fell by 53%, and it’s still picking up speed." Well the seeds of the future are in great part in the repsonses we make today.

Peace,

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 3:48pm GMT

By the way, Charlotte, I haven't really gotten around to reading Fr. Jones's blog, until now. It does make for some promising reading.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 4:44pm GMT

Ben
"Between 1961 and 2001, the country’s population increased from 18 million to 31 million . . . In the same period, the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada fell by 53%, and it’s still picking up speed." Well the seeds of the future are in great part in the repsonses we make today"

I couldn't agree with you more!
To think what problems are facing this world - and we get more and more worked up about what kind of loving loving couples do. It's utterly pathetic and we truly deserve to loose even more relevance if we don't get our act together soon.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 5:01pm GMT

Ben: yes, you're quite right that the churches have been painting themselves into the corner of total irrelevance. If you look at the morally very hard-line RC Church right across Europe, you can see that it is at serious risk of dying out in a generation. Why? Because young Europeans don't want to be told they can't use contraception, can't divorce, can't marry same sex partners, can't have any role at all in the Church's decision-making if they are lay people, can't get ordained if they are women, etc., etc. It is a long list of needless stumbling blocks to bringing people to faith. Unsurprisingly, they have been voting with their feet, for a long time now, and now this process is beginning to have a critical effect on numbers and the viability of the institution.

On homophobia: I think gay people will stop using the term when there's no need for it. It would be inappropriate for non-gay people to tell them when that is, just as it would be inappropriate for me to tell a Jew that anti-Semitism doesn't exist any more; or a black person that racism doesn't exist. They will decide for themselves what terminology is appropriate. If gay people are telling the institution that it is homophobic, then I'm afraid the rest of you just have to accept that it is homophobic. A culture of ecclesiastical denial is a big part of the problem here.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 6:18pm GMT

Erika,
In so far as any of my friends recognize anything like liberal Christianity, they see it as a sad, if somewhat cute, attempt to look good. They know what Christianity is: an evil, manipulative belief system that supports the traditional abusers of power, and does not in any way follow the teaching it pretends to. It is comprised of people who will lie and cheat to get what they want, who will walk all over "unimportant" members of society, who show no understanding of anyone's pain and hardships, and who will do whatever they like while hypocritically demanding everyone else comply with a law that they themselves ignore. I find this unspeakably sad, since I know what I find so wonderful abiout the faith, and I know that, while we don't always follow the Gospel all that well, it is a wonderful message for all that, and it hurts to see the Gospel of freedom turned into a manifesto for a corrupt Mafia judge to let criminals get away with their crimes as long as they are sufficiently sycophantic to Him. Thus, when a conservative points accusingly at declining Church attendance while practicing many of the things I have just mentioned and actually at times pretending that such abuses are minor or not true, or somehow trumped up, or a manifestation of persecution of Christianity or hatred of God, that's just proof of how cut off they are in their own little world. 'Tis just as well to laugh about it as cry about it, you can't change them. They need to see the impotent Liberals failing dimsally to spread the Gospel. That they themselves are part of the problem is never allowed to encroach on their "reality".

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 6:41pm GMT

"Could the mainstreaming of homosexual partnerships act to increase the divorce rate. Not solely, and not absolutely directly either. By means of helping to create an atmosphere in which marriage is thoroughly and/or increasingly optional and disposable? Now you're talking."

How in the name of heaven (quite literally) does the opening of marriage to a previously excluded class of people make marriage "increasingly optional and disposable"? Logically, doesn't it do exactly the opposite?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 9:21pm GMT

"In the same period, the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada fell by 53%, and it’s still picking up speed." Well the seeds of the future are in great part in the repsonses we make today."

That stat--like the one about Episcopal membership dropping over the same time in the US--only has bearing if placed in the context of ALL religious membership in each nation over time. I think you'll find that, in the US, only two religions are growing, both mainly through immigration: Roman Catholicism and Islam.


Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 9:25pm GMT

Ben; "Between 1961 and 2001, the country’s population increased from 18 million to 31 million . . . In the same period, the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada fell by 53%, and it’s still picking up speed."

Of course, the membership statistics for most denomination show similar trends over the period. That includes both Rome and the assorted conservative Calvinist sects. The decline is fairly consistent with the surrounding demographics, regardless of diocese, churchmanship or relative liberalism or conservatism.

Certainly the statistic tells us that the Church can do a better job a evangelism. It tells us nothing about causes, effects or solutions.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 10:39pm GMT

The Archbishop of Wales is to consecrate a missionary bishop for America.

Speaking in Cardiff after the dramatic announcement today, Dr Barry Morgan said he felt that all Anglicans in America with the surnames: Jones, Williams, Jenkins as well as Lloyd, Morgan, Gwynn, Vaughan, Meredith and Llewelyn should immediately transfer their allegiance to the new bishop.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 9:20am GMT

And all bearing the ancient and noble name of Roberts / Robaitsh be consecrated forthwith as bishops !

Posted by: L Roberts on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 11:01pm GMT

It is worth reading in full and is devastating in its demolition of McCord Adams’ concept of God.

Rowan Williams states in his opening paragraph:

'I find her paper unsatisfactory in terms both of philosophical analysis and of moral adequacy to the question of suffering' (p. 255)


''WELL, I find his papers, letters and statments unsatisfactory in terms both of philosophical analysis and of moral adequacy of his understanding of relationship & love."

L Roberts


Posted by: L Roberts on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 11:06pm GMT


Why oh why is anglicanism, in Britain at least, so infected with this terrible snobbery and snidery ? WE won't find much in Jesus' message about gay relationships, civil partnerships or 'scholarship;. But then what do I know ? I am no-body in the eyes of this compromised organisation.

Posted by: L Roberts on Friday, 14 December 2007 at 11:09pm GMT

Erika: "Having said that, there is very good theology around, why do people keep saying there isn't? "

I wasn't implying that there isn't plenty of "gay theology" around, but that the leadership of TEC (at least the liberal wing) should have the guts to lay out the particular gay theology they support.

Frank Griswold, in the aftermath the Windsor Report, admitted that TEC had not made the theological case and (supposedly) commissioned some work on the issue. The results so far:

(tumbleweed blowing down main street...)

There's a huge difference between "there's gay theology out there" to "this is the particular gay theology TEC can stand behind".

Posted by: dave paisley on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 6:42am GMT

"... in the US, only two religions are growing, both mainly through immigration: Roman Catholicism and Islam."

And both of them have memberships that are mainly nominal.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 8:35am GMT

If Marilyn McCord Adams is going down the 'Jesus was a b******' line, she is presumably wanting to become a yokefellow of such as Mary Daly with her alleged cackles of 'What is this religious b***s***' (see: Peter Jones, 'Pagans in the Pews'). Mt 7 'By their fruits'; Mk 7 etc.: principle of from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 12:46pm GMT

Dave Paisley wrote: "Frank Griswold, in the aftermath the Windsor Report, admitted that TEC had not made the theological case and (supposedly) commissioned some work on the issue."

Yes why not indeed? I think it is too early. If you have a look at what literature there is (DS Bailey around 1950 and a lot after 1978), you will see that not 2 authors say the same, even when they agree ; = )

It is true that late Modern anti Modern translations don’t agree either, but since these are invariably read through the coloured glasses of late Modern anti gay social prejudice, this is less noticeable (for those who do not look closely).

The changes to the Old Latin in the Parisian Versio vulgata are generally translated much the same, with increasing divergences due to the distance in Time and the different church traditions, resulting in sometimes different and contradictory or even un-reconcilable reasonings for the same Academic Gnosticist/Platonist “moral” teachings (Calvinists still generally believe “Bed” to be a noun, to Roman translators it’s a verb: coitus).

The Versio vulgata Scholastic (that is Gnosticist/Platonist “moral”) (hetero-)sexualizations and Roman Gregorian/Empire socio-political changes (think the 6 rejected “minorities” of Laterans III to IV and “obedience” respectively) are more instable, some of the 12th century “proofs” having been abandoned or changed with Time (and exposure), and quite a few that were not express having been written into the texts of the new Vernacular Bibles of the neo Humanist Renaissance (in some cases only after 1955, such as “to know in the biblical sense” in Gen 19:5).

Some 11th century “proofs” for Rome’s ecclesiological changes (1 Thess 4:3-7, Jude verse 7, and so on) have been re-circulated as anti Gay only after 1970.

Conclusion:
It is much too early to write a Theologia/apologia of Sexual Orientation, or anything like it, because this late Modern anti Modern social politics is barely 40 ears in age.

The “proofs”, especially those from 1947 onwards, have not yet reached anything like coherence, much less so any defence.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 1:50pm GMT

GK-S - Well, that's an interesting way to sidestep the point.

Nobody's asking for proof - just more than "uh, we think gay people are OK, so we're off in this completely different direction."

The work of the House of Bishops to date has been abysmal, partly because they've tried to include all viewpoints across the spectrum. If a majority of the HoB in favor of the perceived TEC position could come up with some position paper that was even vaguely defensible that would be progress.

If we waited for "proof" as long in other disciplines we wouldn't have powered flight yet...

Posted by: dave p on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 5:38pm GMT

Fr Mark,

You put the question of church viability and growth down to "relevance" (churches have become more and more irrelavant). But relevance in whose terms? The churches that you would see as the most "relevant" are the very ones suffering the most serious losses - so I think we need a reality check here!

It is a fact that in Canada and the US there are churches that actually have grown through this same period, many groups with a fairly clear sense of identity and of being grounded in the gospel have grown (e.g. the Christian Missionary and Alliance Church - in Canada - has seen growth in these decades of from 5% to 10% and Baptists and other groups have seen growth not simply decline!).

Dean M. Kelley who was with the National Council of Churches in the US (not one of the "cons ideologues") wrote Why Conservative Churches Are Growing in 1972, in the first stage of decline. He kept hearing the mantra of "relevance" as the key to growth in the context of growing seculariztion. Harvey Cox at Harvard, you may recall, wrote The Secular City and so on. In light of what Kelley was seeing there seemed to be something wrong with that thesis and he checked it out. It was not a question simply of being cons or lib, but cons normally had a more coherent and grounded in the gospel message that people - surprise - found relevant! Harvey Cox himself has had a change of mind, with renewed appreciation for the contribution of conservative and especially charismatic churches, and again recognizing them as the growing churches.

On homophobia, the term is used to describe a condition of fear or hate. That may be part of it sometimes but as a general term it becomes a way to denigrate somebody. As we see here when people speak of R Williams in this way (seems not to be since he against much pressure chose recently to affirm them as people). Fear or hate is hardly "the" issue - it could be turned around to make this clear - is it at all accurate to describe homosexual persons in general as "heterophobics?"

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 6:11pm GMT

"The work of the House of Bishops to date has been abysmal, partly because they've tried to include all viewpoints across the spectrum. If a majority of the HoB in favor of the perceived TEC position could come up with some position paper that was even vaguely defensible that would be progress."

But that, precisely, is their strength. There is a huge amount of pro-gay theology around and every one of the supportive bishops in HoB will have been persuaded by something that particularly chimed with him. There can be no official TEC theology on this.

I don't think there was one particular CoE anti slavery theology either, just every individual suddenly being persuaded by one or two arguments that were convincing to them.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 7:44pm GMT

No, Ben: the RC is in a spiral of catastrophic decline across continental Europe and yet it is extremely conservative on sexual ethics/ gender issues. Conservatism does NOT equal success, numders-wise, for churches. I know a Conservative Evangelical church whose vicar emptied his pews by his anti-gay obsession: he preached about it so much that even the fairly conservative straight members of his church got fed up listening to him go on about it and left.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 8:40pm GMT

Ben
"You put the question of church viability and growth down to "relevance" (churches have become more and more irrelavant). But relevance in whose terms?"

Obviously, the more liberals leave the more conservatives are left and the more they appear to be thriving.
But that's not the problem.
The problem is that there are massive issues facing this world, and all we do is tear ourselves apart (literally!) over a single moral issue that harms pretty much no-one.
That's where we make ourselves irrelevant to all those who truly care what happens in this world.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 10:10pm GMT

Ben,

Homophobia is defined as fear, hatred or intolerance of homosexuals, based on a conviction that homosexuality violates the laws or norms of God, nature or society.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 10:14pm GMT

You got nervous over the word “proof”, did you, dave p / David Paisley?

But I think that it is most illogical to say first that the TEC HOB haven’t done any work and then say that the work done isn’t “defensible”.

It’s either, not both.

And “defensible” seems to be your own evaluation – unexplained, without base, as it is.

I pointed out to you that (isolated) words and verses have been used/misused from, say the 11th century, as “proofs”, I did not say they were…

I also pointed out to you that – with changing political/ecclesiological “needs” – obsolete “proofs” for abandoned teachings (that once used to defend Roman Gregorian ecclesiastic “reforms”) have been re-circulated post 1970 and claimed a fresh (though much altered) as “proofs” for NEW socio-political teachings – teachings so NOVEL that they haven’t been made into a semblance of coherence, and don’t add up.

Outside of the USA and (parts of) the Anglican churches – that means in rather large tracts of the world, they are un-known, even.

The anti Gay movement is not traditional, but new, new, new. Late Modern social politics.

Also, if I may say so, it is not at all helpful but careless to use different signatures.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 15 December 2007 at 11:00pm GMT

So, Erika, would it be asking too much to have a few key TEC bishops outline *their* particular take on the theology?

To borrow from a turn fo phrase from Dr. Evil, "throw me a frickin' bone here..."

Posted by: dave paisley on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 12:06am GMT

Fr Mark,

Dean Kelley studied a range of groups and I can refer you to several groups in my context that help make this point. You will note that I did NOT say cons = growing churches. It was one of the things that the groups Kelley studied had in common (an imporatnt factor that provided the stage for some other things that spelled growth). This work along with that of Harvey Cox and now Philip Jenkins represents study of data and actual cases, I'll take that over suppositions.

You speak of one community in Europe that for a century or more in certain places has been in decline, probably for some of the reasons you cite but for a large variety of reasons( at the same time see Philip Jenkins, God's Continent for a review that shows serious decline but also renewal in places).The RCC in N America has done much better than some of the mainline churches and not simply because of immigration.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 1:31am GMT

Hugh,

With respect I suggest to you that when R Williams, against real pressure, went to be with to hear and to speak to the association meeting of homosexual persons, much discussed here just recently, he did not do it as a person of fear or hatred. There is a quite different basis for his views of marriage and of homosexuality, as there is for many others whom you will not or cannot acknowledge.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 4:37am GMT

"So, Erika, would it be asking too much to have a few key TEC bishops outline *their* particular take on the theology?"

Well, let's throw that open to those here who have been following this debate for much longer than I have.

Is it possible that TEC came to consecrate Gene Robinson without having mentioned some theology in support of it in public?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 12:38pm GMT

Ben W,

RE the Roman church in Europe:

In my youth when I was living in France every family I knew had their l'Oncle Abbé as a matter of course. They are all dead now, but one (84 years of age).

Today giving one's sons to the church is no longer reckoned an honour even for the Yeomanry.

People tell me that priests who are left (average age over 65) often have 10 to 12 parishes.

So churches are without priests, without Mass, lay persons performing baptisms and funerals.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 2:39pm GMT

Ben: The RC Church is not just one church community in Europe: it is by far the most dominant form of Christianity across most of the continent. If you travel about and go to Mass in many countries in Europe, have friends who are RC priests in many countries, you will observe that it is shrinking rapidly. Even Catholic Ireland is fast giving up. Congregations are getting ever smaller and older, no-one much wants to get ordained. The Vatican is concerned about it, but, in my view, misunderstands the cause, which the current Pope tends to put down to "secularising" tendencies. I think he is mistaken, and that the main cause is completely out-of-touch and unrealistic sexual ethics and approach to gender issues and church governance - most of the directions that the Anglican conservatives want us to follow in. What monumental folly!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 3:17pm GMT

Fr Mark,

I think we agree that the RC church in Europe is in serious trouble an on the fact that it has been out of touch for a long time with the people on important issues.

One factor is probably, as the pope says, secularization. Another probably is, if the Latin American situation is something to go by, bound to the past in tradition and culture real renewal in the gospel has not taken hold in any deep way (as it did in some parts of the RC in L America, and many others moved on to more Biblically based groups. See Philip Jenkins, God's Continent). The follow up is why? There again we agree at least in part.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 5:53pm GMT

Absolutely agree Fr. Mark. Here in Anglicansism we've preserved much of what the RC Church has abandoned, meaningful and classical liturgy, good music, and preservation of sound architecture. But instead of taking it further with meaningful and relevant theology, we want to tread backwards and try to emulate the 1950's.

Here we have a chance to keep what is good about Christianity and at the same time pursue following a God that we can have the courage to admit that we don't know all there is.

Instead, we want to put a cheap facade on a crumbling old building. No wonder the younger generations see the fallacy of it all, they're smarter than we give them credit for.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 7:33pm GMT

choirboyd'enfer: Yes, quite right. I'm keen on a Christianity which is aesthetically traditional but theologically in the 21st c. Why can't we have good taste and be happy in the modern world, rather than sub-Lloyd Webber music, badly-dressed clergy and 1950s ethics?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 9:14pm GMT

Fr. Mark, the parish I'm singing at Christmas Eve is doing all but two movements of Haydn's Missa Sancti Nicolai. That's a (low church) parish church! And would be a real "yawner" for any respectable English Cathedral.
(St. Thomas's Fifth Avenue is performing Britten's Ceremony of Carols tonight and oh, by the way, Messiah in a couple of days!)

A RC cathedral in Majorca I happened on one New Year's Day a few years ago managed to eke out "Bread of Life" (in Spanish) for a crowd that was anything but enthusiastic. I walked out and said bring on the San Miguel on tap. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: choirboyfromell on Sunday, 16 December 2007 at 10:01pm GMT

choirboy: The Haydn and Britten sound gorgeous. Let's bring back the religion of good taste and the beauty of holiness!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 8:38am GMT

Fr Mark,

To follow up our conversation a little further and consider your thesis in the concrete. I know Anglican churches that are growing and those in decline. As I indicated, whether cons or lib, one can be plain dumb, as you saw in the vicar who drove away his people by harping on one thing (it takes more than just being "conservative" for the church to grow).

But it is not generally the case that liberal churches are growing and evangelical ones are not, rather, the general pattern is the reverse. I know Anglican churches that have seen substantial growth are those which are evangelical. Again take the example of bishop Spong, who in his writing and speaking has become the premier spokesman for reductionist theolgy and ethics, under his watch there were drastic losses in his area. He makes no bones about that but tries to put a brave face on it. He isn't bothered and even sees all this as "liberating," we can let all that go. Like Wal-Mart: The sooner you lose all those people crowding the aisles the sooner you can be that little outfit filling that speciality niche that you were meant for. In 20 or 30 years as things are going he should feel very liberated.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 2:19pm GMT

Thank you Fr. Mark. I think many of the young singers in the choir like being challenged with good repertoire and high expectations. If their minds weren't, they'd probably spend their Sunday mornings googling You tube. This is a lesson that the liberal camp needs to be aware of as well.

They don't want to listen to gay bashing, and silly slurpy camp songs as well.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 2:40pm GMT

GK-S - "nervous over proof"? Not at all - you're the one who introduced the word. And proof is a strange concept in theology, surely?

As for the amount of work done by the HoB, how about we call it "minimal" and "inadequate". Does that satisfy your need for logical consistency?

The rest of your comment I find pretty much incomprehensible. Sorry about that.

As for the different signatures - well, that's just posting from two different computers. Please accept my abject apologies. I have fixed the transgression and assure you it won't happen again.

Erika - "Is it possible that TEC came to consecrate Gene Robinson without having mentioned some theology in support of it in public?"

I think it's clear from Frank Griswold's remarks in the wake of the Windsor Report that the answer is "yes" - it is certainly possible that zero supporting theology was mentioned. The closest I can find (and this is post-Windosr, mind you) is this from Griswold in Oct 2004:

From the Presiding Bishop: A Word to the Church
Some preliminary reflections regarding the Windsor Report

"...as Presiding Bishop I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry. Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons."

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_52922_ENG_HTM.htm

If there were any sort of official "theology" behind TEC's position at this point, one would have thought the PB would have mentioned it.

It was in remarks following the HoB meeting in Jan 2005 that Griswold mentioned commissioning some work that has yet to see the light of day (if it ever will).

Posted by: dave paisley on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 3:13pm GMT

Apologies for late entrance into this 'conversation', but Dr McCord Adams description of Jesus as a bastard is presumably a reference to his conception being outside wedlock. Such a position is supported by the 'biblical narrative' as we have it. That Jesus is refered to in adult life as 'the son of Mary' and not of Joseph is another pointed allusion to his illegitimate state.

I, too, have heard Dr McCord Adams speak and her guilt lies in using language that grips her hearers. She does not indulge in the language of Dr Williams, who employs the concept of the eternal more often than not as a timescale for making his point! Both individuals have academic gravitas, I grant you. But she at least is prepared to witness to what she personally believes. I have a vague memory that was once a thing that Dr Williams did before he entered the schitzophrenic state of Rowan/++Rowan and refused to accept that what he had thought to date was the very reason why God (in His wisdom) had brought him to the Chair of St Augustine.

Sorry for the rant. But I don't have eternity to get my present life (secular and ecclesiastical) in order. In addition to which I want to stop the loss of sensible, compassionate, thinking people from the practice of the Christian Faith within the Church of England.

Posted by: Commentator on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 3:35pm GMT

Ben W: I don't think that "healthy" numbers in individual churches have anything at all to do with how liberal or conservative they are, but everything to do with how committed and organised the leadership team are. Some liberal churches I know are very large because of having their act together in this way, and some conservative churches are not. But I agree that, at the moment, more conservative Evangelicals are more committed than the other groups in the C of E. Personally, I find there is a kind of wound-upness to many Con Evos that I meet which leaves me thinking that it would often be better for their personality development if they had a broader range of interests, and didn't mix in such church-centred circles. But the same could have been said of the Anglo-Catholics in their heyday.

If you take a long-term view, though, you can see that these things come and go. What some Evos talk up as "revival" at the moment plainly isn't, in that they are not making any impact on the unchurched of England. I would imagine that it is not possible to take socially well-balanced unchurched British people, who are used to equating being ethically high-minded with being anti-discrimination, and then tell them that your selling point as an institution is that you believe in discrimination against gays/women/whoever. At some point, if they want to have a future in the UK, the conservatives will be confronted with the need to deal with what is evidently their culture of exclusion of people who are different. I think that is obvious, and that, at some point, the chickens will come home to roost.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 5:59pm GMT

Ben W wrote: “But it is not generally the case that liberal churches are growing and evangelical ones are not, rather, the general pattern is the reverse. I know Anglican churches that have seen substantial growth are those which are evangelical.”

Sorry Ben, but friend NP destroyed that sort of argument for you, through hard labour month after month.

Ben W wrote: “Again take the example of bishop Spong…”

Well, we don’t actually. The good Bishop seems much more important to your camp.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 8:58pm GMT

David Paisley wrote: “GK-S – "nervous over proof"? Not at all – you're the one who introduced the word. And proof is a strange concept in theology, surely?”

Now you are evading. I pointed out to you that your side has been abusing proof-texts since the Carolingians at least for political and ecclesiological gain.

David Paisley wrote: “As for the amount of work done by the HoB, how about we call it "minimal" and "inadequate". Does that satisfy your need for logical consistency?”

No. You were the one who said it was “illogical” and “indefensible.” I pointed out it can’t be both.

RE “any sort of official theology” Have you read the American HOB’s To Set Our Hope on Christ?

David Paisley wrote: “The rest of your comment I find pretty much incomprehensible. Sorry about that.”

Not my responsibility to educate you. You be sorry!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 17 December 2007 at 8:59pm GMT

Fr Mark,

If I accept your statement about how churches grow I have to believe that content and substance in terms of faith/theology have nothing to do with it! To quote you, it's all a matter of "how committed and organised the leadership team are."

I think you have a point about the importance of good leadership and organisation, but to say that is all there is to it is a stretch! I am convinced people are more intelligent and thoughtful than that. That is also why I think to put people's convictions about marriage and homosexuality down simply to discrimination is simlpistic cliche that people will see through.

To put this down as matter simply of accepting people who are different is once more to distort the issue (for the sake of respect and open communication I hope we can do better). On accepting people who are different, can we say we all have some things to learn measured by Jesus? I believe I can rightly say that I see more evidence of that all the time among evangelicals (you need to get out more -:). The two missions working with "the excluded" and the down and out in the heart of our big city are both cons or evangelical (to serve and welcome people it is clear takes place without exclusion). So I think in this case also there is need to listen and pay attention in order to avoid misrepresentation.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 12:53am GMT

Ben: I am afraid that right faith/ right theology do have very little to do with what makes a religious group grow. Evidently so, because they are many flourishing completely nutty religious groups, both in the UK and, even more so, in the US. I used to work with a lot of people who had been taken in by the kind of African churches in the UK which preach the "prosperity Gospel" (if you have right faith, you will get rich) and which exorcise demons from uncomprehending children. Hearing about those things used to make me angry that so many pastors teach such dangerous rubbish; but they were also very successful, numbers-wise.

I am aware of the work many Evangelicals do in inner cities: I've also spent time working with the homeless and asylum seekers. In the latter situation, though, I must say that the most difficult people to have on placement with us were Con Evos, because they tended to have such fixed views of bringing the poor asylum seekers to Christ. This caused great tension, given that so many of them already had a different faith, which Con Evangelicals tend to find very hard to respect. They didn't have a clue how to work in an inter-faith context.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 9:00am GMT

Ben: thinking about it, of course doctrinal truth can have nothing to do with numbers growth for religious groups. Otherwise, the largest group would be the truest. I don't suppose you believe that? Roman Catholicism is by far the largest Christian denomination in the world, and now the largest number of Christians in church in the UK on a Sunday morning are RCs. So are they the truest church? If Islam becomes the biggest religion, would that make it the truest?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 9:04am GMT

Ben ; you don't accept anyone other than on your terms. Unless you fully accept my gay relationship as morally equal to a heterosexual marriage, then you are displaying homophobia. That isn't acceptance, nor affirmation.

I'm really not in the least interested about your 'convictions'. Whether you justify your beliefs according to religion is irrelevant. Racists in the BNP will use their ideology to defend their view too. Just because yours is attached to a religion makes it no better. Worse, if anything, for it tells us something about the real nature of your religion.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 10:44am GMT

"That is also why I think to put people's convictions about marriage and homosexuality down simply to discrimination is simlpistic cliche that people will see through."

That's funny, BenW, because, from what most conservatives say, even here, though I grant you not all conservatives talk like this, it is pretty obvious that their convictions about homosexuality are solidly based in homophobia. The perception of homophobia hiding behind God's coattails is neither extreme nor simplistic, it is pretty clear, actually. We've had conversations here in the past week or so that show it. That's why the repeated conservative claim to have "listened" to gay people is so funny. The kinds of stereotypes and bigotries they express make it obvious they have never listened, many have probably never knowingly talked to a gay person. Many have no idea what it says to us tthat +Akinola can proudly state that he drew back in disgust the first time he knowingly touched a gay man The funny part is that they just can't seem to see it, again, I think, because they have no idea what a gay person actually is, they just have stereotypes fuelled by the more flamboyant images from major gay pride parades, and the near hysteria of some preachers. Not only that, but you can be as explicit as you like about what it is they do that reveals their true colours, and, rather than learn, they actually defend it! It's like a kid with crumbs and chocolate all over his face claiming he doesn't know what happened to the birthday cake. So every time some conservative makes some pious pronouncement about having listened to gay people, or pretends not to hate gay people, usually in the hilarious "hate the sin, love the sinner" lie, ( I mean, do they seriuously think we can't see through that?) we can all point and laugh at people who are so unaware they actually think everybody believes them. Sorry, but the evidence is pretty clear.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 1:16pm GMT

The point I made was a simple one and surely almost irrefutable. Namely: no-one denies that the western world is now considerably less inclined than it was to see man-woman marriage as the norm as opposed to being the most popular among several alternative lifestyles.

Unless you think that the western world is *more* inclined than it was... (etc) then you agree with me here.

No-one can deny, either, that one of the said alternative lifestyles is homosexual relationships, stable or otherwise.

Further, no-one can deny that, whereas a polity/system where marriage is viewed as the norm favours the spread of marriage, a pluralistic system would favour the spread of homosexual (and other alternative) relationships.

Result: marriage is promoted and advanced by precisely the opposite means that homosexual relationships are advanced. To work in favour of one is to work against the other.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 1:17pm GMT

Fr Mark,

We do see all kinds of "strange" groups out there. And I also get angry with the cheap and distorted teaching that is presented as the real thing. One reason I keep asking about framework and reference for what we have to say.

There are several possibilties here. On the one hand reflection on this might tell us that a lot of people are very cynical and simply out of self interest connect to what appeals to them. For others it may be a question of what is true and good measured by what they discern of the gospel (e.g. the destitute person who hears and believes that God is good and wants to bless his people has hold of "truth" even if he has a lot more to learn about that. A person might even become a Mormon on the basis of "the truth" he sees there about family and loyalty - in that sense it is still truth that draws them even if we recognize there is much that is false about this as a whole. I guess I am more "accepting of people" in this way than you are!? -:). I recall a statement from M Muggeridge, "the person who falls before a tree and worships is in possession of more 'truth' than the blind secularist").

And if we are merely cynical,whether about wider question of the possibility of truth or specific the issue of marriage and sexuality, what does that say? What is true and right has nothing to do with it? That whoever has the loudest voice and can twist the most arms wins? If we are there than lets drop the conversation and this list!

Our son worked for four years until recently with an evangelcal agency in the inner city - job counsellors, drug rehab, doctors and nurses to provide medical care etc all part of it - no easy talk about "God bless you," but at the right time for a teenager kicked out of home or on the run to be embraced or even to hear God is for you is not cheap talk! I think evangelical people coming in volunteering at some agency not their own might well be superficial and unprepared, but experience and reflection in the situation about this kind of ministry has matured a lot of people. And I think no matter who we are in this setting we will continue to learn!

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 2:05pm GMT

Göran
do you have a link to the American HOB’s To Set Our Hope on Christ?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 2:22pm GMT

Fr Mark,

To stay with the point I made earlier about the health and growth of the church (and your response).

If a "committed and organised ... leadership team" is "everything," it is amazing that bishop Spong has not take the field by storm! No one has ever said he is not capable (he is indeed very able in various ways). He has produced book after book of his theology and ethics, he travels and speaks in all kinds of forums long and late - talk about organization and commitment! But the people did not buy it, they left in droves precisely because of "faith and theology."

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 3:07pm GMT

"Further, no-one can deny that, whereas a polity/system where marriage is viewed as the norm favours the spread of marriage, a pluralistic system would favour the spread of homosexual (and other alternative) relationships.

Result: marriage is promoted and advanced by precisely the opposite means that homosexual relationships are advanced. To work in favour of one is to work against the other. "

What utter nonsense. A heterosexual couple who want to get married will neither be encourage nor dissuaded if their next-door neighbors are a gay couple in a committed relationship. If it were so, then the couple's commitment to marriage wasn't very strong to begin with.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 3:58pm GMT

"Further, no-one can deny that, whereas a polity/system where marriage is viewed as the norm favours the spread of marriage, a pluralistic system would favour the spread of homosexual (and other alternative) relationships.

Result: marriage is promoted and advanced by precisely the opposite means that homosexual relationships are advanced. To work in favour of one is to work against the other. "


Why do you have to "promote" anything?
Allowing gay couples to marry will not reduce the number of straight people who want to settle down together. Or do you think they suddenly all get cold feet because of that gay couple down the road?

You make it sound as though there was a limited number of wedding slots available and if the gays take some up the straights lose out.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 4:03pm GMT

"Further, no-one can deny that, whereas a polity/system where marriage is viewed as the norm favours the spread of marriage, a pluralistic system would favour the spread of homosexual (and other alternative) relationships."

Christopher, I agree in part. The fallacy lies in your assumption that a gay relationship does not have the same level of commitment as a straight one. Sure there are gay people practicing serial monogamy, there are gay people who are promiscuous, but so are there straight people doing the same thing. I still do not understand how people fighting for blessing of lifelong committed relationships, held to the same standards of stability and fidelity as heterosexual ones, contribute to the idea of the throw-away marriage. It would seem to do quite the opposite.

The Church has an opportunity to stand for fidelity and lifelong commitment in relation ships here. Instead, we have people who are quite willing to change their minds on Scripture when they want to dissolve their own marriages, but are adamant it can't be done so that gay people can enter that life of committed, faithful stability. I'd say there's more damage done by such a clergyman than by two gay people who sincerely intend to spend the rest of their lives together. Unless you think that a remarried divorced bishop ignoring the parts of the Gospel that inconvenience him while demanding obedience to other parts of it is a good example of integrity, let alone is making a good argument for "traditional" definitions of marriage.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 4:09pm GMT

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/ToSetOurHopeOnChrist.pdf

may be what you need Erika.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 4:40pm GMT

Thank you very much Simon!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 6:50pm GMT

"Further, no-one can deny that, whereas a polity/system where marriage is viewed as the norm favours the spread of marriage, a pluralistic system would favour the spread of homosexual (and other alternative) relationships."

"All thihgs equal" no one is "favoured".

So no favouring will promote nothing.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 7:45pm GMT

"That is also why I think to put people's convictions about marriage and homosexuality down simply to discrimination is simlpistic cliche that people will see through."

I think this may be a clue to what is going on here. Ben W obviously thinks he is engaged in communicating of some sort, instead he is statements are increasingly difficult to follow - and when unpacked nearly always turn out to be extremely offensive.

In this comment he manages to say 2 things:

First he calls late Modern social prejudice "people's convictions about marriage and homosexuality... "

then he calls "discrimination [a] simlpistic cliche".

And don't you think he doesn't believe it is.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 8:08pm GMT

Strange how Christopher views civil partnerships as promoting 'alternative' relationships.

I thought that the cons evos didn't like them because they were a form of gay marriage?

And thats what i believe too. So, surely their promotion can only strengthen marriage, not weaken it?

What weakens marriage is divorce. But the cons evos are the ones angling to make the church more liberal on that score, probably because so many of them are divorced!

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 10:49pm GMT

GK-S re:"your side "

You clearly have no idea which "side" I am on. Please read and understand more carefully in future.

Posted by: dave paisley on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 11:17pm GMT

Erika:

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/ToSetOurHopeOnChrist.pdf

Posted by: dave paisley on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 at 11:18pm GMT

The "proof" texting side:

"Now you are evading. I pointed out to you that your side has been abusing proof-texts since the Carolingians at least for political and ecclesiological gain."

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 6:55pm GMT
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