Friday, 8 August 2008

the Pitt letters: Archbishop and bishops respond

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement in response to the release of the Pitt letters.

Friday 08 August 2008

In response to the recent coverage of the correspondence dated back to 2000, The Archbishop Canterbury has made the following statement:

In the light of recent reports based on private correspondence from eight years ago, I wish to make it plain that, as I have consistently said, I accept Resolution I.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as stating the position of the worldwide Anglican Communion on issues of sexual ethics and thus as providing the authoritative basis on which I as Archbishop speak on such questions.

That Resolution also recognises the need for continuing study and discussion on the matter. In the past, as a professional theologian, I have made some contributions to such study. But obviously, no individual’s speculations about this have any authority of themselves. Our Anglican Church has never exercised close control over what individual theologians may say. However, like any church, it has the right to declare what may be said in its name as official doctrine and to define the limits of legitimate practice. As Archbishop I understand my responsibility to be to the declared teaching of the church I serve, and thus to discourage any developments that might imply that the position and convictions of the worldwide Communion have changed.

The Bishop of Durham and 18 other bishops have written a letter to The Times which begins:

Sir, As bishops in the Church of England, we wish to protest in the strongest possible terms at what we regard as a gross misrepresentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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"That Resolution also recognises the need for continuing study and discussion on the matter. In the past, as a professional theologian, I have made some contributions to such study . . . As Archbishop I understand my responsibility to be to the declared teaching of the church I serve, and thus to discourage any developments that might imply that the position and convictions of the worldwide Communion have changed."

So while theologians (among other Anglicans!) may study and discuss, yet their Archbishop tries to "discourage any developments that might imply that the position and convictions of the worldwide Communion have changed"? So whatever the studies and discussions, in the end they're all for nought???

To quoth Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that's INSANE TROLL LOGIC! :-0

Lord have mercy...

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:03am BST

If a number of the bishops do not agree with the Archbishop's proposal, as noted in the letter, at least two of them - as patrons of Changing Attitude - do not agree with their own letter, at least in private.

How else can they reconcile their patronage of the charity with the views expressed in the letter: that Gene Robinson's consecration was a " ‘foot-in-the-door’ tactic of divisive innovation" and which dismisses "‘inclusion’ – that regular mantra of gay lobbyists"? After all, one of CA's stated beliefs is that "prejudice against gay people in the church is as unacceptable as racism or prejudice against women".

Is this another example of a mismatch between public and private belief?

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:04am BST

The Anglican Communion has no position. You need to be a Church to have a position. Some churches of the Anglican Communion have one position. Others have another. One shouldn't act as if the Covenant has already been adopted. Anglicans have also always been free to disregard Lambeth Resolutions, which are not binding doctrine. The Archbishop's distinction is untenable and leads to loss of personal integrity.

Posted by: Bill Carroll on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:24am BST

Thank God for the quick response of the Bishops from such a broad spectrum of the C of E,for writing so clearly and factually to correct the 'disclosures' in the Times.My heart sank when I saw them, as it has every time that my former world of the media headlines every rumour about the end of the anglican communion. Journalists have the task of reporting stories, but the gleeful 'doom' emphasis this year and then, the baffling strategy of media exclusion from the Lambeth Conference, has combined to ensure cynicism and doubt about actual outcomes. The 'Rowan letters' would never have got such massive coverage if the media had been trusted to hear and report what was actually happening at Lambeth, as we were in 1988 - then we were awash with new stories and had no time or space for very old ones. And surely a Church that believes in secrecy and exclusion has got real theological problems? If you think I am naive, then please read the Gospels.

Posted by: Andrew Barr on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:29am BST

But, Hugh of Lincoln, that assumes that viewing Gene Robinson's consecration as a "divisive innovation" is ipso facto "prejudice against gay people in the church". I realise this is the very equation many seek to make - but it is at least logically possible to oppose the manner of the innovation whilst also opposing all prejudice.

It's not being gay (or black or female) that is that opposed but being sexually active outside of marriage as traditionally understood - whatever one's orientation, race or gender. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't agree with this sentiment - but can you not believe it's possible to hold it without hypocrisy?

Posted by: pete hobson on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:32am BST

There is no such thing as the Anglican "Church" there is only a "Communion" of churches. As a Communion of autonomous churches, the Lambeth gathering has no authority to determine or to proclaim what is and what is not doctrine no matter how many primates (and Archbishops of Canterbury) say otherwise.

Williams's compartmentalized dichotomy between his public and personal roles reveals exactly the problem many of us have with the kind of global "church" he is so desperately trying to create. It's not the kind of church I signed up for when I became an Anglican many years ago and it is not the kind of church I would seek out now.

Accuse us Americans of innovation if you must, but let's be clear that the proposals of the Archbishop via the Windsor Group are rather far reaching innovations that will forever change the foundational ethos of Anglicanism.

Posted by: Rodney on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 2:58am BST

If we accept for a thought experiment moment that TEC and Canada and Scotland and others possibly are doing all global Anglicans a huge church life favor, by daring to test this empirically-based notion that queer folks are not innately disordered by virtue of their not being straight; then what have we to fear in the long run?

If this new view - and it is very new compared to the ancient views which it disconfirms - turns out to be mistaken, we shall know and benefit from a full public test of that knowing. If correct, instead, then we shall have the blessing of knowing that, too.

Problem is, so far - the tilt of the outcome is obvious already. Each time queer folks have been given a fair chance to demonstrate equal competencies, pretty much the ranges we might have expected them to be capable of if only queer folks had been straight (and this includes poor performance ranges which, as with straight folks, turn out to have nothing to do with being straight or not) - the claim of innate disorder or impairment has failed to be supported.

Even popes and patriarchs and cardinals and archbishops and bishops know this, if they bother with the data and the daily life examples all around us in democracies which permit honesty and fairness in the test.

The only conceivable reason for avoiding a fair and public test, right out in the open in society and in church life as Anglicans, is not our palpable fears of doom that the sky will fall down on us as God's judgment, but rather, our profound fears that we shall have to face truths about queer folks and human competency that we dearly wish not to face. Not even to suspect.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 3:12am BST

It is clear from this part of the Archbishop's statement (above-mentioned) that his primary duty, as ABC, is his loyalty to the ratified Resolutions of the Church (per: 1.10 Lambeth 1998):

Qte: "I accept Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference as stating the position of the world-wide anglican Communion on issues of sexual ethics AND THUS PROVIDING THE AUTHORITATIVE BASIS ON WHICH I, AS ARCHBISHOP, SPEAK ON SUCH QUESTIONS" Unquote.

This is his unquestionable duty, as ABC, to uphold, in any Council of the Church, until such Resolution is either rescinded or overturned by a subsequent resolution of the Church.

Maybe that is precisely what the next meeting of the ACC (with representatives from lay, clerical and episcopal orders) should set about doing.

Perhaps, then, the Church could be seen to be governed by the Body, rather than the Head.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 4:03am BST

JCF,

Too clever by half. ++ Willaims expressed some thoughts on the matter for consideration before serving in the present position. Even then keeping before people that the same-sex relation can not be equated with marriage in light of its particular character.

Why not recognize reality? The communion along with R Williams considered the various possible responses and this did not carry the day(e. g. Lambeth '98.1.10). That is not for nought! It just did not come out according to your predilections.

Hugh: ++ Williams is clear enough. The church is not simply about inclusion, or it would not be able to exercise discernment on any issue. People might come along and claim that the book of Mormon is appropraite reading for worship at the eucharist after all, or that polygamy is one more option for the sexual relation. That is all fine, after all we must be inclusive!

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 4:33am BST

What utter contempt for gay persons can be seen in the bishops' letter - so much for a 'listening process' all our views and thoughts represent is 'regular mantras' and all we are is 'lobbyists'. They have a dark heart.

You can see what ++Rowan has to put up with.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 7:03am BST

These men have lost all credibility. Their letters purpose is what ? It clarifies how unclear the C of E and the 'Anglican Communion' (insofar as it exists) are about theses matters.

They seem to be saying, at best, #

"We used tobe undecided --but now we're not so sure!"

"He used to be undecided but not he's not so sure !"

And this equals a teaching ? A policy ? Something--anything coherent ?

Hello ?

I find it very disappointing that even the normally sane and reliable, BS-free John Gladwin has, apparently put his name to this rubbish.

It is no wonder that no one can take this Church too seriously. And do they really think we are all going to put our lives and loves on hold while this Church sorts itself out ?

I am still waiting for the offical postion on the eucharist, the saints, Theotikos etc. I don't see Rowan et al discouraging Benediction of the bl. Sacrament or the Haily Mary in the meantime !But surely, these and other practices, are to be discouraged as , as they 'imply that the position and convictions' of the 39 Articles and BCP 'have changed' :--

'... thus to discourage any developments that might imply that the position and convictions of the worldwide Communion have changed...'

Why have Rowan and the bishops accepted Civil Partnership Law into Church Law -- doesn't THAT imply a change of convicition in practice ? C.f the CofE Pensions Board booklet.

Why don't journalists press them very hard on this matter of the Law ?

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 7:11am BST

So I have been basing my life on the Michael Harding Memorial Lecture for all these years --

only to be told now -- that Rowan was merely 'thinking aloud'.

Am I going to Hell --- or is he ?

It turns out that he was a Not Very 'professional theologian' who refuses to take responsibility for his words and deeds.

Btw there is quite a spat going on on Fulcrum at the moment, on why Homophobia is Christian (Ebbsfleet thread).

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 7:15am BST

I have just searched the Changing Attitude website, high and low, and can find no list of their Patrons.

Maybe wisely hidden away or withdraen given this fatuous letter ?

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 7:24am BST

Rowan williams:

Our Anglican Church has never exercised close control over what individual theologians may say.

Tell that to the Puritans and theologians like Robert Cartwight.

(I haven't included the Roman Catholics as they were never part of the Reformed Church of England.)

"Our Anglican church"...does he mean the Church of England or the Anglican Communion... I wish he would say...there is no Anglican Church.

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 8:15am BST

The statement is ridiculous.

There is no such entity as THE ANGLICAN CHURCH!

On several occasions he (and others) mention this imaginary body – and the apparatchiks in the Anglican Communion Office wince.
Even if the present format of the Covenant were to go through it makes very heavy weather of saying that this is NOT the creation of such an ANGLICAN CHURCH.

Churches, like mine here in Wales, are very concerned each time this ANGLICAN CHURCH appears. Partly because it make transparent what is heavily denied elsewhere and partly because it also makes clear what is driving Rowan’s theological and ecclesial agenda and we want none of it.
Rowan makes a bad situation worse with this sort of remark.
The rest of it makes little sense – but others have already drawn proper attention to that.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 8:33am BST

From the Bishops’ letter: “a difference between ‘thinking aloud’ as a theologian and the task of a bishop (let alone an Archbishop) to uphold the church’s teaching. He has regularly insisted, as he did in his closing address at Lambeth, that the church is right to have a basic ‘unwillingness to change what has been received in faith from scripture and tradition.”

I don’t understand this kind of reasoning. To say one cannot build one’s theology on "some few texts” is one thing. Just a matter of stating facts; it becomes to narrow a reading while there are often different readings possible. But to say some “… a number of very ambiguous texts…” as Dr Rowan did is to acknowledge, vouchsafe even, that the conventional reading may be questioned. That it is questioned. Admits that there is c a u s e to question it.

Then there are consequences. Defending a tradition one believes is right is OK by me, even if in error. The Swedish Fathers of 1809 talked of being “wisely slow to react” as one of the virtues of a Constitution. But to defend what one k n o w s to be wrong is inadmissible.

It’s defending (as right) something which is merely an accident of Time. Error. Maybe even wilful Error. Something Not in the Biblical Texts but put in translations (Scholastic Versio Vulgata of Paris). Strange and alien teachings (“a problematic and non-scriptural theory”, indeed) from the beginning of the 1st Millennium (Alexandrian Museiwn), repeated at the beginning of the 2nd Millennium (European Neo Platonist Academia; Academia Palatina, Oxford, Paris).

If he knows this – and as an academic he has the tools to find out – in that situation, both as Archbishop and Professor, he must speak up for what he knows to be true, but never defend what he knows to be wrong.

Further from the Bishops’ Letter: “… he articulated clearly and sharply where we now are as a church: the reaffirmation of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life; the reaffirmation of the previous Lambeth resolution on sexual behaviour; the moratoria…”

Talking about putting sexual mores side to side *by* Christology… Idols! Who wrote this????

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 8:48am BST

Faugh!

Posted by: poppy tupper on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 9:39am BST

I thought the very same as Hugh, and wondered if a couple of the bishops had actually read the final letter?

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 11:27am BST

Well,

Receiving a letter of support from Wright must be like receiving the support of the school bully.

I don't agree with the official C of E line on hosexuality or Lambeth 1998 or any of the official stuff, including Covenants etc. But I don't think RW's position is intrinsically false. I read him as personally believing monogamous homosexuality is OK (his clarification is very careful and does not repudiate that position) but as also being committed to 'catholic' theologising. As overall 'boss', he more or less has to be. Ergo, he sticks with the official line publicly. On the other hand, he writes this stuff, he gives communion at a gay church, he asks - even at this Lambeth - all Anglican bishops present to imgine what it would be like to be a gay priest now. He's miles, miles better than boring, unimaginative, arrogant types like Wright.

Compare me. I think the Virgin Birth is a complete nonesense from any point of view (not least evidence - minority attestation in the NT, contradicted by Paul, etc.). But I' not going to campaign for its annulment nor do I wish to offend many people whom I like, love and respect who do believe in it.

This is not the only issue in the world (contrary to the views of MerseyMike et al.). As liberals, our duty is clear. We break the rules in good conscience. We try to say in communion with our evangelical friends. That's the deal.

Posted by: John on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:20pm BST

Signing a letter implies being in total agreement with its content, even if drafted by someone else. Otherwise it is a misrepresentation of others' views - what The Times is accused of.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 12:49pm BST

Priddis (has he no self-respect?), Dow, Scott-Joynt .. The usual suspects - one or two of whom have been happy enough to misrepresent Rowan Williams when it suited their own ends. Here they go again. It is not the "gross misrepresentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury" (what "gross misrepresentation"?) that they protest. Rather they fear that more people within the Anglican Church, reading the letters, will sympathize with the Archbishop's private view.

A letter as interesting for who has not signed it as who has.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 1:00pm BST

"He has our full and unqualified support in his magnificent leadership."

Why comment? Speaks for itself.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 1:09pm BST

"It's not being gay (or black or female) that is that opposed but being sexually active outside of marriage as traditionally understood - whatever one's orientation, race or gender. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't agree with this sentiment - but can you not believe it's possible to hold it without hypocrisy?"

You don't see the utter hypocrisy of denying someone the ability to marry their partner of choice and then condemning them for "being sexually active outside of marriage" when they choose to live and love that partner anyway?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 3:27pm BST

"People might come along and claim...that polygamy is one more option for the sexual relation..."

Umm...they already did that.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 3:30pm BST

For Treebeard:

http://www.changingattitude.org.uk/aboutCA/patrons.asp

"The patrons of Changing Attitude support our aims and objectives and are committed to a church which is fully inclusive."

Pete, the tone and content of the bishops' letter seem to go against CA's ethos, which is why I was surprised to find two patrons amongst the signatories, especially given the manner in which it speaks about a co-patron.

John, the Vatican declared the infallibility of the doctrine of the Assumption of the BVM only in the last century. Many Anglo-Catholics will celebrate this feast next week. Some accept the theology, some are a little shaky on it, others mark it as a major Marian feastday, without believing the theology. Others regard it as the rankest of heresy. All are valid Anglican viewpoints. But to effectively declare Lambeth 1:10 as infallible docrine from which there can be no departure in "position and convictions" strikes me as un-Anglican and dogmatic.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 7:01pm BST

"It's not being gay (or black or female) that is that opposed but being sexually active outside of marriage as traditionally understood - whatever one's orientation, race or gender. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't agree with this sentiment - but can you not believe it's possible to hold it without hypocrisy? - Posted by pete hobson"

It's either hypocrisy, or nonsense, Pete: your choice. [And what Pat O'Neill said at 3:27]

*****

"Why not recognize reality? The communion along with R Williams considered the various possible responses and this did not carry the day(e. g. Lambeth '98.1.10). That is not for nought! It just did not come out according to your predilections."

FALSE, Ben W. Did you read the Reflection Document? Even the bishops now recognize that the *process* leading to 1.10 in 1998 was fatally flawed. "The communion along with R Williams considered the various possible responses"??? Hardly: the bishops at Lambeth in '98 were engineered by +++Carey to reach the conclusion they did (and then energized by US Reasserter $$$$$$ reify 1.10 into DOGMA. Let us also note that "R Williams" publicly rejected 1.10 immediately following Lambeth '98)

Your revision and reframing, Ben W, is hardly going to persuade me (not that I think you're really trying. Of course, you'd probably say the same about me. Lord have mercy!)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 9 August 2008 at 11:15pm BST

No, Pete, because it is essentially giving no option for gay people to ever have relationships. Something so stupid should simply be rejected on common sense grounds, irrespective of whether the Bible says it or not. It really is about time that sensible people recognised that the Bible is given far too much authority and should be read simply as a book inspired by the faith of its human authors. Actually, they already do realise it - so how about saying so openly?

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 12:21am BST

Hugh of Lincoln. I shall be presiding at a Mass on Friday 15th August in honour of the BVM, and don't have too much of a problem with her assumption into heaven. If it was good enough for the Prophet Elijah to be 'taken up into heaven in a chariot' on a whirlwind, I think it just might be OK for trhe mother of Christ to be given a similar Entry Visa.

Incidentally, I do not thing the more mundane of our Dearly Departed pop straight up to heaven. I, like St. Paul, think that they might just be held in a state of suspensory bliss in Paradise - until the Second Coming of Christ. There is Scriptural evidence of this. That's why the Church still holds them up in her prayers.

I do, though, have a problem with the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. how far back would you have to go to ensure absolute purity for Mary?

I do not think that Resolution 1.10 has been ever regarded (at least by 'Thinking Anglicans') as a sort of Papal Bull. It could quite well be rescinded - first by the next meeting of the ACC and then by meetings of the Other Instruments - if that was seen to be the right thing to do.
However, until that happens, it may still be the official stance of the Anglican Communion.

B.t.w., from the protests of our R.C. friends it would seem that our recent acceptance of women on the episcopal bench was the only thing that was holding us back from re-union with Rome. Why do we bother to wait for Rome to do something we may even regret, in the long term?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 7:25am BST

I don't think talk of gayness being innately disordered is at all relevant to assessing R Williams' stance. He has explained his stance ad nauseam and it seems to make sense to the vast majority of his fellow bishops at Lambeth.

He to "discourage any developments that might imply that the position and convictions of the worldwide Communion have changed". That does not mean that he personally would not like to see them change. But he cannot approve of jumping the gun in a potentially schismogenic fashion.

Martin Reynolds, did you notice that when Rowan was asked in his post-Lambeth press conference if his work on the Covenenant was moving the Anglican Communion way from a federation of autonomous churches to a single Church he agreed that this was so. If a vote were taken among Anglicans or their bishops about this, I wonder how it would go.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 5:53pm BST

Thanks so much Hugh of Lincoln (lovely name).
Much appreciated. I feel heartened by it --so many good types like Una, and Gene - to name but two.

I can't imagine what came over John gladwin. I was shaken on seeing that he had --apparently --signed the wretched little epistle.

Posted by: Treebeard on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 7:19pm BST

JCF,

It would be more accurate to say that in present circumstances the informal small group process was recognized to be more helpful. Specifically, to your point,the Reflections document REAFFIRMS '98.1.10.

What we got from the likes of J S Spong in '98 was that the leaders from Africa are simply backward, now your line that it was all foisted on the bishops! (Your words are, "the bishops at Lambeth in '98 were engineered by +++Carey to reach the conclusion they did ..."). More of the same kind of blind patronizing nonsense!

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 9:26pm BST

The bishops' daft letter reads: "We do not, he said, simply welcome people into the church without asking questions."

The more simple truth, with regard to gay people and the C of E currently, is: "We do not welcome people into the church."

That is the real problem.

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

No, I missed that Fr Joe, I will have to revisit it.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 10:36pm BST

I trust that Changing Attitude have approached both John Packer and John Gladwin to ask if they really do agree with some of the stuff in this letter?

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 11 August 2008 at 2:15pm BST

Re Bishops Packer and Gladwin;

Is not their willingness to subscribe to both the 'Bishops' Letter' and at the same time to the theological stance of 'Changing Attitudes', just one more instance of what might be called, in the particular circumstance: 'Situational Theology'?
One could hardly call it 'Contextual Theology'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 7:31am BST
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