Sunday, 27 July 2008

News from the Big Blue Tent (11)

Well, I did what I said I was going to do: took the train to Dover, bought a map and bottle of sun tan lotion, then walked along the cliffs to Samphire Hoe (the country park made out of the Eurotunnel spoil heap) read my book for a good three hours then retraced my steps slowly along the coast to catch the London Victoria service back to Canterbury. The sun has shone all day, but hazily enough for me not to burn and I now feel thoroughly into the plot of “Animal’s People”. I’ve had a good supper (before the queues), a cooling shower and made liberal use of the after sun spray.

So what to write about today? Perhaps it’s a chance to give a sense of where I feel I (personally as opposed to the conference as a whole) am at this instant on the Anglican Communion issues we’re going to be dealing with next week. I may well change; I have to be open to that if I’m taking the process seriously, but this is how it feels this middle Sunday evening.

I think it is possible to envisage some sort of covenant document, broadly along the lines that the Design Group have come up with, which uses the traditional Anglican formularies for the bulk of its text, recognises that as Anglicans our mission is to enculture the gospel along with evangelising the culture, and clearly avoids attempting to lay down the line on doctrinal issues that are not part of the historic creeds and on moral positions. A covenant will need to have some criteria for determining whether a particular church is adhering to it, and there have to be ways in which new areas of concern can be raised and addressed in a timely fashion where they are so grave, have so wide an impact or are sufficiently divisive not to be simply matters that provinces (or dioceses) can determine autonomously without being called to some form of account. My area of greatest scepticism is whether such a covenant can ever be used to deal with matters that have already become rancorous.

I’ve heard enough stories this last 10 days to know that even TEC bishops who voted against Gene Robinson are facing territorial incursions from parishes who think the game is now pick-a-bishop. That really will not do. We mustn’t let this particular issue off the hook again.

And so to bed! I read and study my bible habitually, prayerfully and hard, learning both from the insights the Holy Spirit provides me and from the long tradition of piety and scholarship within which I am continually formed and reformed. My personal conclusion is that what St Paul and the Old Testament are condemning are not faithful, loving and stable same sex relationships as we see them today but rather matters of cultic sex, sex as the expression of a particular power relationship, and promiscuity. The other main argument, that God didn’t create Adam and Adam, collapses into a narrow form of Thomism (in which every “thing” can have only one good and natural purpose) that is explicitly rejected in the Prayer Book (and its revisions) marriage service and therefore cannot be claimed as Anglican.

Nonetheless, if I ever thought this issue could be “adiaphora” (something a local church can determine without needing to heed others) I no longer do. The consecration of a bishop in an active same sex relationship has certainly helped some Christians in North America to feel more fully accepted by the church, official liturgies and blessings for such partnerships have done the same for the couples involved and their friends. But the price is being paid elsewhere, particularly in places where Christians are on the defensive or in a minority in relation to Islam, and are often seen as slack on topics such as the consumption of alcohol. In countries like these male homosexual activities are often still criminal. There is no way they can tackle these issues at present in their contexts nor could they defend themselves by saying that “it’s not us, it’s just the Americans”. Indeed the very fact that it is the USA (in many parts of the world I doubt Canada is adequately distinguished) leading that plays into the anti-imperialism and hatred of America that is so strong across the globe. Invasion by American cultural values is no more popular than invasion by its troops.

As a C of E bishop I recognise that were I to insist on carrying out the consequences of my own views on this subject rather than upholding what Synod and the House of Bishops have agreed then I would have to resign. But my Anglican ecclesiology and catholic spirituality teach me to be obedient to the collegial will, properly expressed, not least because I might well be wrong. Equally, I believe that any individual church that claims to be Anglican needs to have a polity which gives full weight to the whole communion. It’s here where I find I am looking over the next few days to my American brothers and sisters for reassurance.

Highlight of the day: a good long read.

Lowlight of the day: the campus shop had closed when I got back and there’s no beer in the fridge.

Posted by David Walker on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 8:44pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Big Blue Tent | Lambeth Conference 2008
Comments

There are some worrying issues in this report.

Firstly: "I believe that any individual church that claims to be Anglican needs to have a polity which gives full weight to the whole communion" -The Church of England, by law established, does not and cannot have such a polity, even if it wished so to do. It has been established at Synod that it cannot be so bound. The advocacy of this polity is therefore incoherent, whether one thinks that it is right or wrong - and there are arguments for the latter view (see below).

Secondly, in relation to SSRs / Gay bishops: "the price is being paid elsewhere, particularly in places where Christians are on the defensive or in a minority in relation to Islam, [...] In countries like these male homosexual activities are often still criminal" - How can it be right that Christian ethical positions be guided by the standards of other religions, or communion-wide attitudes to inclusiveness be guided by the criminalisation of minorities in specific territories? Neither aspect is faithful to the Apostolic tradition, and neither do these approaches rest easily with the our mission of prophetic witness.

Posted by: Paul H on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 9:31pm BST

If Bishop David will read us his own tea leaves here, I'd be appreciative.

I still get a sense of "Blaming the Victim" here: Muslims kill Christians in the Sudan and this is . . . my fault? +Gene Robinson's?

As an (U.S. of) American, I'm certainly willing to take my lumps: prophets (and other revolutionaries) have long called on us to "throw yourselves on the machinery of war" (predatory capitalism, environmental destruction, etc), and by those standards, I haven't done my duty.

But I will be attending a same-sex wedding in California soon, and joyfully so. This is a crime? As Christ is Lord of my conscience, I don't think so.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 9:38pm BST

Bishop?
Origins at Darwin...
KBar at Keynes
.... beer is 3 quids a pint, but after such a day you may not mind shelling for what's good and cold.
)
As a plus, if you go to the Origins, you'll probably get to know a bunch of happy, hard working stewards.

Posted by: Leonel on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 9:40pm BST

David Walker seems a very nice man from his comments on the blog, especially these ones.

I find it difficult, though, to read that, although all these nice bishops don't actually go so far as to think gay people should be persecuted by anyone else, they aren't prepared to stand up for them at the cost of any unpleasantness within the Communion.

This is difficult for me at many levels: not least, personally, because I am a partnered gay priest, waiting for the "official" church to catch up with the rest of life, and increasingly irked by an organisation that wants, even expects, us to do things for it, but only at the cost of integrity. Many clergy friends are completely demoralised and wound up near to breaking-point after the last 5 years of continually being discussed and regarded as a problem by bishops and others. This doesn't just mean we're not sure whether we want to work for such an organisation, but also, that we're left wondering how strong our faith is after all this. What does the C of E offer us as gay people? It just seems like prolonged misery at the moment.

Also, reasoning such as David's is intellectually disturbing, because the problem is, what about, for example, the Jews in Europe in the 20th C. Would it have been ok to say "well, we mustn't make too much of a fuss on their behalf as the other side can't cope with it"?

On many difficult issues of ethics, at some point, choices have to be made, choices which determine the course of history and which determine real people's lives. So I don't think it is intellectually or morally adequate to say "I'm ok with gay people in relationships, but I don't want to act on that basis until everyone else agrees." That's feeble reasoning, because it depends on other people being prepared to stick their necks out, and offers no support to them when they do so. How could you then expect to be listened to on any other ethical question, if your reaction to a really difficult one is, basically, "pass"?

The other thing I am unhappy with is the suggestion that this is all an "American problem". I am gay, and a product of the Church of England: don't blame the Americans when you should be openly addressing the reality of what it is to live as a gay Christian in England. I think it is cowardly and hypocritical of English bishops to pretend the problem is not one on their own doorstep. The C of E is, and always has been, an employer of large numbers of gay people, as clergy, teachers, musicians, etc., and surely has a duty to treat them properly, not just to leave them in the lurch because some Africans wouldn't be happy otherwise.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 10:13pm BST

This American cannot offer you any encouragement, because, like many people on this side of the Atlantic, he is finally ready for the schism.

I am sorry, but for many of us in TEC, the word "Anglican" has come to mean angry foreigners shouting demands, bishops who think that "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" is sophisticated theology, other bishops who think that gay men are inhabited by rectal demons that cause floods, condescending lectures from Tom Wright, impromptu street exorcisms, bishops raiding our church like pirates, and the like.

The Anglican Communion used to be a point of deep pride for me; now I think of it more as an embarrassing relative, the one who always gets drunk at family gatherings and dances with the lampshade on his head.

For many of us, the past five years have been a time of spiritual violence. Imagine, Bishop, just what it would feel like to have your church spend years debating just how loathsome and vile you are and how severely those who accept and love you must be punished. I cannot tell you how many tears I have shed over this church that I now regret ever having loved.

Do what you feel that you need to do, but do not seek comfort from those whom you are about to betray.

Posted by: JPM on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 11:08pm BST

I really do want to thank you for these blogs - and indeed am equally grateful for the team at Thinking Anglicans for their continued absolute and unequalled excellence. Your coverage and comments, theological and personal, have made Lambeth real, accessible and entertaining. And I think you have shown something of super-bishop qualities of honesty and transparency.

In the whole story, thus far, of sexuality and associated issues, yours is the very first word I have seen on promiscuity. All the gay stuff has endlessly focused on 'faithful, monogamous etc' relationships; but apart from the HoB 'Issues..' statement which relates to sexual activity outside marriage, it's a straight & gay can of worms which everyone seems to ignore - perhaps because it's so commonly practised; and no-one seems to think that it's abnormal, maybe because it isn't! Don't ask, don't tell applies equally to the courtship and discerning practices of vast numbers of male, female, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, lay & ordained people: white, black, British, African, Sudanese etc etc. It just seems to me to be so blinkered and inconsistent to argue about the validity or not of 'stable' gay relationships when half the Christian world is bonking like the rabbits of the University of Kent, and nobody even dares mention it. 'Oh, it's not promiscuous because he's my boyfriend,' she says; 'and he's the fourth one I've had, but I don't think I can marry him because he's not a Christian.' YOU know what I mean...

It seems to me that it would be far better for the powers that be to affirm that (most) Biblical material supports sexual activity as an expression of love, and leave it at that. Who conducted (and witnessed) the marriage of Adam & Eve, Sarai & Abram etc? The marriage/Bible thing is just so full of potholes interpreted by potheads.

Those who are engaged in what is known as recreational sex would then know that it's not compatible with Christian teaching, and make their own beds and sleep in them. But at least gay and straight people who fall in and out of lust, love and bed would know once and for all that they are all in the same boat; and that they, that's to say we, are responsible, at the last, for all of our imperfect thoughts and deeds, be they sexual or otherwise - the latter being by far the majority!
Blessings on you, Bishop David.

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 11:11pm BST

'...nor could they defend themselves by saying that “it’s not us, it’s just the Americans”.'

And why, exactly, is that?

Personally, I think that all this talk about the Islamist threat being caused by Gene Robinson's consecration is, to put it politely, baloney. Islamists do not need an excuse for hostility towards non-Muslims, nor (pace the Primate of Sudan's claims) did they wait for +Robinson's appearance on the world stage to start calling Christians, infidels.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 11:18pm BST

BillyD, perhaps I am putting a little crudely, but it seems that we are being asked to subordinate the Gospel to the Koran.

Posted by: JPM on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 11:58pm BST

"Islamists do not need an excuse for hostility towards non-Muslims, nor (pace the Primate of Sudan's claims) did they wait for +Robinson's appearance on the world stage to start calling Christians, infidels."- Bill D.

Three cheers, Bill D.!

Which occurred first 9/11/2001 or the election of +Gene Robinson? The purple-shirted African homophobes blaming the U.S. for the violence in their own countries between Christians and Muslims inhabit a different planet from normal people. Why should we even listen to them? Their incursions into TEC dioceses have shown that they have no moral character but are guided by human greed and the sinful desire for power.

Posted by: John Henry on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 12:02am BST

>>>Which occurred first 9/11/2001 or the election of +Gene Robinson?

The Rwandans began their meddling in the U.S. in 1996, a good seven years before Robinson's election.

Anyone who thinks that all this is about Robinson is sadly misinformed. More of the controversy has to do with secular right wing politics than with sexuality.

Posted by: JPM on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 12:36am BST

Well said, Fr. Mark. TEC has also been served for years by innumerable gay priests, and yet, in many places, our Church is behaving as if the whole idea of gay clergy is a totally new, hitherto unheard of, phenomenon. The fact is that there are hundreds of parishes which have been served lovingly and faithfully by gay pastors who have earned the love and devotion of their parishioners. And Gene Robinson was elected bishop by the clergy and people of the Diocese of New Hampshire because they knew him well, they knew him to be a faithful Christian, and they loved him.
OFW

Posted by: Old Father William on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 12:48am BST

I am appalled at these comments by Bishop Walker. Does he not understand that the vast majority of Episcopalians who support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians were and are terribly opposed to the US invasion of Iraq and the throwing around of American military weight? Good God! And are gays and lesbians now to be sacrificial lambs for US imperial policy? This indeed smacks of the scapegoating of Jews in Germany after WWI.

Muslims are opposed to alcohol, and the full inclusion of women, and demonize gays and lesbians. Are Christians therefore to do likewise? God help us all.

I pray Episcopalians will not allow anyone to be made a sacrificial lamb. And I also pray Anglicans will stand up for all persecuted people around the world.

Posted by: Phyllis on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 12:57am BST

"But the price is being paid elsewhere, particularly in places where Christians are on the defensive or in a minority in relation to Islam, and are often seen as slack on topics such as the consumption of alcohol. In countries like these male homosexual activities are often still criminal. There is no way they can tackle these issues at present in their contexts nor could they defend themselves by saying that “it’s not us, it’s just the Americans”. "

Not that long ago, in many jurisdictions in the USA, it was a criminal offense for a black man to marry a white woman. Should the Episcopalians and Anglicans in the jurisdictions where that was not so have refused to perform inter-racial marriages on the grounds that it would make things difficult for their co-religionists in Virginia or North Carolina?

Would anyone honestly make that argument?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:09am BST

The argument that Americans should abstain from ordaining gay bishops because Nigerian Muslims might make life difficult for Nigerian Anglicans on account of it is frankly specious.

Moreover, I think it's morally corrupt. It reminds me of a newspaper comment I once read which argued that gay couples should not be allowed to adopt children because the latter might be harassed by homophobic peers at school. Who is at fault here? Not the gay parents, I think.

Posted by: MRG on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:22am BST

I find it difficult, though, to read that, although all these nice bishops don't actually go so far as to think gay people should be persecuted by anyone else, they aren't prepared to stand up for them at the cost of any unpleasantness within the Communion

Well said (Fr) Mark.

This is the nub of it for me.

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:25am BST


Also, reasoning such as David's is intellectually disturbing, because the problem is, what about, for example, the Jews in Europe in the 20th C. Would it have been ok to say "well, we mustn't make too much of a fuss on their behalf as the other side can't cope with it"?

On many difficult issues of ethics, at some point, choices have

said (Fr) Mark.

This is what happened in europe . The Jews were abadoned by Pope and offical church.

They still haven't learned.

Yes, too bloody nice by half. Oh, and gracious ....

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:28am BST


The other thing I am unhappy with is the suggestion that this is all an "American problem". I am gay, and a product of the Church of England: don't blame the Americans when you should be openly addressing the reality of what it is to live as a gay Christian in England. I think it is cowardly and hypocritical of English bishops to pretend the problem is not one on their own doorstep. The C of E is, and always has been, an employer of large numbers of gay people, as clergy, teachers, musicians, etc., and surely has a duty to treat them properly, not just to leave them in the lurch because some Africans wouldn't be happy otherwise.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 10:13pm BST

said (Fr) Mark.

This paragraph and indeed this entire peice is essential reading for all the bishops.

The demoralisation must be terrible. I feel demoralized by all this, and I left the C of E and its ministry and *gutless hypocritical bishops* some time ago --not without pain and regret.

(* There arent enough like Richard Harries, John V Taylor; Richard Holloway-former Primus of Scotland, Una Kroll,Desmond Tutu, Malcolm Johnson and HA Williams )

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:34am BST

Now the bishop of Ebbsfleet is sounding off about gays, inadvisedly, on Fulcrum. And then trying to say he meant something else when held to account by an evangelical lay preacher.

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:50am BST

Will anyone take heed to this ? :--

'This American cannot offer you any encouragement, because, like many people on this side of the Atlantic, he is finally ready for the schism.

I am sorry, but for many of us in TEC, the word "Anglican" has come to mean angry foreigners shouting demands, bishops who think that "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" is sophisticated theology, other bishops who think that gay men are inhabited by rectal demons that cause floods, condescending lectures from Tom Wright, impromptu street exorcisms, bishops raiding our church like pirates, and the like.

The Anglican Communion used to be a point of deep pride for me; now I think of it more as an embarrassing relative, the one who always gets drunk at family gatherings and dances with the lampshade on his head.

For many of us, the past five years have been a time of spiritual violence. Imagine, Bishop, just what it would feel like to have your church spend years debating just how loathsome and vile you are and how severely those who accept and love you must be punished. I cannot tell you how many tears I have shed over this church that I now regret ever having loved.

Do what you feel that you need to do, but do not seek comfort from those whom you are about to betray.'

Posted by: JPM on Sunday, 27 July 2008 at 11:08pm BST

Let this voice be heard.....

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 1:52am BST

I note that, where I asked Bishop David Walker to read his tea leaves to us, Jim Naughton has already drawn conclusions from the same posting above:

"Although he [+Walker] believes that the Bible does not speak to same sex mutual relationships, he also believes the place in the church for gays and lesbians has to be sacrificed for the Christians who suffer from Muslim violence."

Human beings, SACRIFICED? In a ***futile*** attempt to save others from irrational, demonic violence? God forbid!

Lord have mercy...

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 2:18am BST

I am also sad and sick of being told that my very existence is causing trouble for churches in Africa that have demonized me and my partner and said every evil thing that they can think of about us. It is time to start calling that out as a lie and an excuse for pure and simple bigotry.

Bishop, do whatever you think is right. Sell out good and faithful gay and lesbian Christians for the hate filled bigots. If you have a good conscience after even setting us up in such a bind good for you.

But know this: you are spelling the end of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church will survive. Unlike the lies that many in the CofE have been told (and repeated), TEC is not in crisis.

But the Church of England is in crisis.

And once exclusion bcomes your policy you can expect a well deserved tailspin for the old CofE. What do you think will become of the CofE in the public mind in England? And how will you attract people to an exclusionary church? And do you want to serve as a bishop in an exclusionary church? Would it even seem Christian to you anymore?

If you force TEC to leave, don't you know that Americans will give much cash to set up a rival Episcopal church in England? Do you really want to have to try and keep parishioners in an exclusionary church when there are welcoming alternatives around?

How long do you think that there would be a C of E after you impose this new rule?

One last question regarding "giving full weight to the whole communion." When was the last time that you personally made an important decision based on how it would impact the message and mission of the American Episcopal Church? No, you haven't? Why then must our bishops refuse to bless our partnerships and tell us that we are not full members of the church and abandon us to satisfy the hateful bigots in England, Africa and elsewhere? So that you have an easier time of things? It really is about the ease and comfort of straight people, isn't it.

This schism can't happen soon enough. I hardly see the bigots in Africa and England as even Christian any more.

Whatever you talk our bishops into agreeing to I am hopeful that the House of Deputies at General Convention will quash. The unChristian agreement to exclude gays and lesbians from the episcopate will be removed.

Our church will survive if you kick us out for standing up for the gospel imperative for acceptance and justice.

Will the CofE survive becoming an exclusionary church? Would it even deserve to?

Posted by: Dennis on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 2:46am BST

"I am sorry, but for many of us in TEC, the word 'Anglican' has come to mean angry foreigners shouting demands,..."

I'm with JPM here. As a cradle Episcopalian here in the U.S., I used to get a sort of warm nostalgia for the Mother Country upon hearing the word "Anglican."

Now I just feel sick to my stomach.

Yes, that's a sad state of affairs, but there you have it...

Posted by: David H. on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:36am BST

Bishop Walker writes: "But my Anglican ecclesiology and catholic spirituality teach me to be obedient to the collegial will, properly expressed, not least because I might well be wrong."

Thanks be to God that Martin Luther didn't subscribe to such an "Anglican ecclesiology and catholic spirituality"! Had he been "obedient to the collegial will, properly expressed" in papal bulls, Imperial Diets, etc., there wouldn't have been a Reformation! If "catholic spirituality" means submitting to whatever the majority thinks--however wrong one may think the majority to be--then I want nothing to do with such a "catholic spirituality"! I think it's time for TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada to say, "Unless we shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason ... we neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honourable to act against conscience. Here we stand. We can do no other. God help us. Amen." As for the claims by some Africans that Muslim violence against them is caused by the inclusive practices of TEC and the ACoC.... This attempt at cynical manipulation is beneath contempt.

Posted by: WilliamK on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:44am BST

While the secular government sustains Nigerian Davis MacIyalla in human rights terms by offering him asylum, Canterbury dithers about just what sort of ethical behavior this asylum is, since after all it might be expedient for the church - and for some nations? - That one or a few be sacrificed for the greater goods of the large, large, global communion that claims the utter privilege of such sacrifices?

We heard this argument before, I seem to recall, from the NT folks who were dithering about Jesus, and arguing that crucifixion was meet, especially when weighed against uproar among the regular people.

How can any Anglican believer who has finished something besides eighth grade - and I include life experience in that tally - be silent while this sort of thing is so solemnly and simply preached?

Alas. Lord have mercy. It is letter from Birmingham jail all over again. And we cannot count that Anglican bishops know better.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 4:04am BST

"Why should we even listen to them?"

Hasn't that been the position of TEC since about 1976?

He that hath ears to hear, let him listen.

Posted by: Austin on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 4:25am BST

Fr Mark wrote: “What does the C of E offer us as gay people? It just seems like prolonged misery at the moment.”

So it does. And it does seem right to remind us that neither what the Bible “does not say or know of”, nor the continued political and anti Christian use of British Colonial legislation (the blackmailers “charter” as it was called) in former Colonies reasserting themselves anti colonially are arguments against Gays and Lesbians, God’s Very Good Creation, Human rights or even the Millennium Goals ;=) Not even Islamic mission-strategies, if be...

With the vantage point of 50 years hence the anti Modern emissions yesterday in the comments to Ruth Gedhill’s blog on Times online or the continuous panic mongering in the Felegraph will seem only quaint and strange and the homophobia of this day and age a bad and embarrassing memory for the churches. A sobering thought.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 6:13am BST

Bp. Walker offers an understanding of adiophora that is inaccurate. Adiophora is not "something a local church can determine without needing to heed others". That's a rather weak ecclesiological twist of a strong Reformation term regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Adiophora means roughly Greek term for matters indifferent to or unable to undermine the communication of the gospel. Gassman and Hendrix define and illustrate the term as follows: “Literally ‘indifferent matters.’ Rites and practices imposed by the Interims in 1948 that Melancthon and others considered to be indifferent, that is, not able to undermine the gospel, while Gnesio-Lutherans held that such matters were not indifferent in a period of persecution or status confessionis.” Scott Hendrix and Günter Gassmann, Fortress Introduction to The Lutheran Confessions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 202). In his 2005 Luther Lecture at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Timothy Wengert noted that an interpretation more accurate to the sense of this term might be “undifferentiated matters”. In other words, matters that might otherwise be indifferent to the ability to communicate the gospel can take on gospel import depending on particular contexts and circumstances.

In contexts throughout the world, including the UK and US, where lgbt persons face violence including from the churches, good news is hard to come by and too often the attitudes, behaviors, and the like of bishops et al get in the way of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to lgbt persons. The attitudes of the church at present impede the gospel proclamation to a portion of humanity . This is not adiophora, indeed. This has become a matter of whether or not the gospel of Jesus Christ can reach out in our own contexts. Increasingly, it looks like the CofE is a firm "no" with it's inflated membership figures and low attendance. It will only become more so if the AC adopts the attitudes he expresses here, and rightly so. It may be the gospel reaches us, but with the positions the bishop adopts here, it won't be from Anglicanism.

Posted by: christopher on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 6:22am BST

I suppose the real problem here is that, not being of the Church of England, but an Anglican in New Zealand, I have to have a different perspective from Bishop David.

My perspective tells me that, from our point of view in New Zealand, Canada and the USA, we are parts of the Anglican Communion which have a responsibility to our state laws which now have equal rights for women and gays.

Being duly constituted as parts of the Anglican Communion which have legal jurisdiction to operate in our own particular countries, we need to accept the fact that we are subject to the local rule of law.

It seems to me that the Church of England is in exactly the same position. If the Church of England did not go along with the law - as it relates to the inclusion of women and gays in society - it has bishops in the house of Lords to do something about that. However, it is an offence to discriminate against gays and women in the work-force in the UK, so the Church, being an arm of the State, can hardly renege on the issue.

What other countries do about their relationship to local government legal requirements is, surely, something they have to deal with. As this is the case, then different Churches in these different situations must either capitulate to the local government requirement, or protest on the grounds of human rights. This is biblical!

The real question is: Are all Anglicans going to be ruled by the lowest common denominator regarding the human rights aspect of inclusivity, or is our Church going to pursue the issues of common human justice here? And do all the Churches have to agree - one way or the other?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:47am BST

I suspect (though it hasn't been mentioned much) that a bigger problem for some Africans may be superficial analogies between gay relationships and polygamy (or specifically polygyny). Polygyny is ambiguously disapproved of by the Bible, culturally accepted in parts of Africa and some scientists (mainly evolutionary psychologists) argue that a desire for such relationships is innate in men. Homosexuality is disapproved of by the Bible, culturally accepted in parts of the West, and many scientists are now arguing that a desire for such relationships is innate in some men and women.

I don't think these relationships are equivalent in terms of the positive kinds of love that can be expressed; polygyny to me excludes the kind of self-giving pair bonding that a good gay relationship can have. But views such as mine depend in a way we often don't realise on ideas about love matches and soul mates and individual autonomy that are specific to the last few centuries in the West. I suspect marriage is Africa is less about eternal love and more about family and social realities than in today's UK/US: you marry who your parents approve of or for practical reasons of support. (In that sense it may be nearer Biblical concepts of the purposes of marriage).

In a polygynous culture, arguing against polygyny means telling men that they must abandon their cultural traditions and give up enjoyable sexual relationships to conform to God's law and I suspect that they would see telling gays to be celibate in the same way. I think it may be these different cultural ideas about marriage that are really causing our problems in talking to other cultures. But if there are people who know more about African culture and have more insight on this topic, I'd be interested to hear their views.

Posted by: magistra on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 8:28am BST

Isn't it BECAUSE in some countries homosexuality is still a crime that attracts draconian punishment that we must stand up and say this treatment of normal people is wrong?

Do we only have a responsibility towards the straight Africans who find same gender love difficult? Do we not have an even more urgent responsibility towards the 2-8% of Africans who live in constant danger for being what they cannot help but be?

If we don't speak out loudly in support of same sex couples, how do we ensure that people like Davis Mac-Iyalla do not have to seek asylum after having lost their church, their job, their families and their countrires, and after having lived with fear of violence, actual violence and death threats for years? At least he did not lose his life too, many others do.

This is not just about hurting the feelings of Western lgbt Christians, this is very much also about protecting the millions of African lgbt Christians whose suffering is real and enshrined in law and the mores of their churches.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 8:46am BST

Treebeard wrote :Now the bishop of Ebbsfleet is sounding off about gays, inadvisedly, on Fulcrum. And then trying to say he meant something else when held to account by an evangelical lay preacher.

Do you have a link for this, as i can't see it on the site

Posted by: Ian on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 9:49am BST

I can't help wondering if we have not adapted the policy of Adiophora to the contemporary world, . For sure Provinces need to take into account the impact of their decisions on other within the Communion (and some of the blogging Bishops have been good enough to record their surprise at the impact of the TEC decisions on African provinces) but to suggest that the mission of one Province should be inhibited by the concerns of another of another faith in other provinces takes the understanding to far. (To draw and analogy and it is only that)I wonder whether Samuel Crowther (the first [Black] African Anglican Bishop)would have been consecrated in 1864 if the same proceedures had been adopted - or would the Americans have said " not a good time we are fighting a civil war and a good proportion of good Christians would be upset by this"

Posted by: Tom Allen on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 10:28am BST

David: your wishy-washy compromising views are exactly what led me to leave the Church and to embrace atheism. Thank you for reminding me how weak and vacillating liberal Christians are.

No notice at all should be taken of premodern homophobes other than to tell them they are wrong. Stuff the Communion. It is nothing but an instrument of repression as its treatment of Gene Robinson has proved

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 12:29pm BST

The "if we're not mean to the queers, the Muslims will get mad" meme is all over the place now, having ripped its way through the blogosphere like cholera through a slum.

It is clear that the bishops have found a comforting rationalization for the dirty business they are about to do.

Posted by: JPM on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 2:10pm BST

I have an idea. All of us women who are Episcopalians should be forced to put on burkas so we can make it easier for African Christians to deal with Muslims.

Posted by: Phyllis on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:10pm BST

Erika - "normal people"?

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:12pm BST

BillyD
Yes, I realised that was stupid as soon as I had posted the comment!
What I meant to say was "like everyone else", i.e. not evil, not sons and daughter of Satan, not a sub human species below dogs.
Thanks for picking me up on it!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:29pm BST


' Treebeard wrote: Now the bishop of Ebbsfleet is sounding off about gays, inadvisedly, on Fulcrum. And then trying to say he meant something else when held to account by an evangelical lay preacher.

Do you have a link for this, as i can't see it on the site'

Posted by: Ian on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 9:49am BST

Yes, Ian, voila ;-

Link to andrew's blog on fulcrum:--

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/forum/blog.cfm?thread=7949

Link to discussion of his blog by others :--

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/forum/thread.cfm?thread=7951

Hope useful, Ian,

yours

Treebeard


Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:53pm BST


Erika - "normal people"?

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:12pm BST

That's right BillyD, being queer is totally normal. Whereas being a a homophobic unrepentant bigot is - well-- you Select a word ........

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:58pm BST

I have an idea. All of us women who are Episcopalians should be forced to put on burkas so we can make it easier for African Christians to deal with Muslims.

Posted by: Phyllis on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 3:10pm BST


That's it Phylis ! We'll adopt in Wales too, with pleasure ! I'm sure I'll look so fetching too.

Anything to help out...

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 4:01pm BST

David Walker
If you read nothing else today, please read Elizabeth Keaton's latest blog entry "Which Way Africa?" at http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 4:30pm BST

BillyD: Can you fathom that "normal" also implies "natural" and "ordinary" even though it is not "common"?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 6:48pm BST

"Link to andrew's blog on fulcrum:--"

Well, that was depressing.

The more I read the "Anglican gay people are causing problems with the Muslims" nonsense, the more shocked I become. Let's pretend for a moment that it's true (although I don't think it is). So what? So American attitudes cause problems with Anglicans relating to Muslims in Africa - you don't think that African attitudes cause problems with Anglicans relating to people who accept modern Western thought on sexuality? Every time the likes of ++Akinola or ++Deng Bul open their mouths on the issue of sexuality, Anglicanism takes a hit in the developed world. For the majority of Americans, the question of homosexuality is a non-issue; when they see people railing against it using outmoded or nonsensical arguments ("God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," "even animals don't practice homosexuality," "gay people are responsible for increased levels of juvenile delinquency") their first thought is not to get themselves down to St. Swithin's-in-the-Swamp to check out the Faith.

There are two subtexts to this nonsense: (1) gay people are expendable - it's either back in the closet or out of the Church if we're to get along with Africans et al., and (2) there are no gay people in Africa - it's a First World problem, and not a very important one at that.

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:16pm BST

BillyD: Can you fathom that "normal" also implies "natural" and "ordinary" even though it is not "common"?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 6:48pm BST

I dunno - I seem to find (my fellow) queers everywhre ! Fortuantely for me ....

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 7:30pm BST

The revised Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 9

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "As a Jewish Teacher I recognise that were I to insist on carrying out the consequences of my own views on this subject rather than upholding what the Scribes and Pharisees have agreed, then I would have to resign. But my Jewish background and spirituality teach me to be obedient to the tribal will, properly expressed, not least because I might well be wrong." And instantly the woman was not made well, and she crept away in despair.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 8:02pm BST

I am surprised that buying things on the Lord's Day now seems unremarkable even to English Evangelicals.

Another truth tht has changed since my childhood then. 'Sabbath' was strongly kept -- no unnecessary work done --so veggies etc for sunday roast were prepeared on the Saturday,(certainly in Welsh families in England,) at the very least.

Posted by: Treebeard on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 9:42pm BST

"My personal conclusion is that what St Paul and the Old Testament are condemning are not faithful, loving and stable same sex relationships as we see them today but rather matters of cultic sex, sex as the expression of a particular power relationship, and promiscuity."

What a pity that St Paul and the other authors didn't just say that so that it didn't come down to one Bishops personal opinion .... after all they managed to be clear enough in other aspects particularly when they were changing the teaching of the Old Testament.

You would have thought that if they were wanting to say "we now know God wants us to bless faithful, stable same-sex relationships" that that is what they would have said, instead of continuing to include ALL same-sex relationships on the various sins lists, not to mention the falling short of the will of God as described in Romans 1.

I wonder what else is going to become "personal opinion because I don't like what it says" next.

Posted by: Margaret on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 4:30am BST

BillyD wrote: “The more I read the "Anglican gay people are causing problems with the Muslims" nonsense, the more shocked I become.”

And for a Cause. For did we not learn from the affair of the proposed the Nigerian legislation last year (to add a 5 year sentence in pre-modern conditions to already forbidden homosexuality, 3 or 14 years) that it was the Muslim chair and Members of the Nigerian Parliament that opposed the Scheme. It was the Christians that voted to approve (spurred on by their churches ;=)

Link (Nigeria is on page 28): http://www.rfsl.se/public/ilga_govbedroom_2006.pdf

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 7:15am BST

Margaret: well, women speaking in churches, for example?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 8:54am BST

Thank you Margaret for your plain summation of Scripture. Why do people insist on interpreting God's Word to suit themselves?

Well we all know the answer to that one. God has spoken, once and for all time, for all men and women, through the apostles.

The Lord doesn't need any pope ... or bishop, to gloss his words.

Posted by: Fidelis on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 9:15am BST

"What a pity that St Paul and the other authors didn't just say that"

I know many of you believe St Paul to have been infallible, but even he could not have anticipated types of relationship that would only be known almost 2000 years after his death.

Or do you think there was a large number of same sex couples living in faithful loving relationships in St Paul's days>

This isn't about a Bishop's personal view, this is about a Bishop engaging properly with the theology and the history of what is being discussed.

Even if we take your view that Scripture is to be taken literally and as sole authority, it's not so much a case of "personal opinion because I don't like what it says", but "personal opinion because I don't believe it says that".

But then, you already knew that!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 9:49am BST

This is wonderful. It brings home the truth of Jesus' message clearer than anything could.
I am going to copy this and meditate on it for a long time to come.

(Qualification : Most 'Jewish teachers' were not as narrow as some Pharisees were. I think it is always important to pull back from possibly building Jesus up, by charicturing Judaism. And we all now know where this led to historically. Culminating unforgettably in the 20th century. I know Christians don't like to dwell on this too much. But we need to.)


The revised Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 9

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "As a Jewish Teacher I recognise that were I to insist on carrying out the consequences of my own views on this subject rather than upholding what the Scribes and Pharisees have agreed, then I would have to resign. But my Jewish background and spirituality teach me to be obedient to the tribal will, properly expressed, not least because I might well be wrong." And instantly the woman was not made well, and she crept away in despair.

Simon

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Monday, 28 July 2008 at 8:02pm BST

Posted by: Treebeard on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 9:55am BST

Margaret dear,

Same-sex relationships are not included on the various sins lists, that is a well known anti Modern canard due to faulty translations (due to the Western academic tradition of various Platonisms/Gnosticisms from Alexandria. Culture.). The Bible does not address human sexuality generally and certainly not the same sex variety. Please!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 10:11am BST

Margaret:

Perhaps Paul didn't write that because he didn't feel he needed to. The people he was writing to knew what he meant. He had no idea his words--written in Greek--would be preserved (after a fashion) and translated centuries later by people who had (at the time) little knowledge of his culture and would take his words more literally than he intended and out of the context in which he wrote them.

After all, he thought he was writing to one group of Christians in Rome about the specific situations they were facing, not providing a prescription for two millennia of Christians in different circumstances.

And, if JESUS thought homosexuality was such an abomination, why didn't HE ever say so?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 11:12am BST

Pat O'Neill: "If Jesus thought homosexuality was such an abomination, why didn't HE ever say so?"

Quite right, Pat. Having searched the Scriptures for some clue as to whether Jesus said anything at all about homosexuality, I have come to the conclusion that, if He ever did, it might have been a sub-text - parable-like, as this was Jesus' preferred way of teaching - as contained in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, verse 12:

(Having spoken about marriage and divorce, Jesus said this): 'There are eunuchs born that way from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can".

The second and third categories are easy to identify: a/ castrati, for instance, and b/ those called to the celibate life-style in the Church.

But who are those 'Eunuchs from their mother's womb'? Could they be intrinsically homosexual?

Here again, Jesus could have foreseen the current confusion in the Church by his closing comment:
"Let anyone accept this who can". Does that say anything to our present dilemma?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 1:04pm BST

"particularly when they were changing the teaching of the Old Testament."

But, Margaret, I can't help but wonder what you and other conservatives would have done had you been alive and Jewish in those days. Given your current attitudes, I think you probably would have been just as opposed to what Paul and the Apostles were doing as you are to what the Evil Hell Bound Liberals are doing now. And I can just imagine what you would have thought of Jesus if you saw Him eating with the unclean, consorting with sinners, working on the Sabbath, etc. Changing the OT? Considering that you are adamantly opposed to people trying to live by the spirit of the Law, not the letter of it NOW, I can only imagine what 1st century Jewish Margaret would have thought about someone who taught that HE was the fulfillment of the Law!

And, Pat O'Neill, Paul most certainly didn't think he was writing "to one group of Christians in Rome about the specific situations they were facing". I'm quite sure that, when God called Him into the office that morning to begin the Divine Dictation of Scripture, He was quite clear that He was dictating to Paul the rules by which the Church should be structured for evermore and the only authority for the Church, that in fact the teaching aspect of His ministry on Earth had been a waste of time, and He should actually have come out of the wilderness straight to the Cross so He could bribe the Father to acquit the criminals and be done with it. Humans obviously needed a Law to live by, wouldn't even try to understand the Spirit of that Law, and needed to be allowed to buy their redemption through obedience. They wouldn't value it otherwise.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 3:28pm BST

Took me a moment to read your last paragraph in the spirit intended, Ford, but once I did...very well done.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 29 July 2008 at 6:21pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.