Thursday, 16 July 2009

Further views on D025 and Tom Wright

Updated again Thursday evening

Scott Gunn has written at Seven whole days When Tom Wright gets it totally wrong….

Nicholas Knisely has written at Covenant D025, the blogsphere and the House of Bishops, and also Wait…, what?

Ann Rodgers has written for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Episcopalian gay bishops decision confounds activists

And now, here comes Stephen Bates at Cif belief with The Anglican church’s crumbling foundations.

…As it is, this week’s Anaheim resolution will probably become the occasion for a split in the ranks of worldwide Anglicanism, the third largest Christian denomination. The Americans insist they don’t want it and indeed it has almost exclusively been the church’s conservative, largely evangelical, movements and pressure groups which do and have done all along.

The conservative forces are ready to go and have their organisations and lobbyists already in place and flexing their muscles, keen to take over the communion and reshape it in their image – though, interestingly, the conservatives are already falling out among themselves, united in what they oppose rather than what they agree. In England certainly if the conservative evangelicals get their way the established church will look very different from the broad, tolerant institution that it has been up till now – even Tom Wright might find himself anathematised. Some of them insist that the 17th-century Reformation did not go far enough and needs to be finished, which may come as a surprise to the high church Anglo-Catholics with whom they have allied, whose dearest wish is to reunite with Rome. Perhaps someone should tell them…

Afternoon update

Some more British journalists:

Ruth Gledhill has Anglican schism: Is this it? and earlier had Princely Bishop of Durham rides to the rescue.

And Gay marriage approval sounds death knell for Anglican unity (this relates to C056 approval which still needs concurrence in the HoDeputies, but never mind.)

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has Anglican schism means Archbishop Rowan must act.

Evening update

Telegraph Martin Beckford Archbishop of Canterbury faces final divide in Anglican Communion over gay clergy

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 10:31am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

After all his writings on this and related subjects, and considering his self-proclaimed status as a 'historian', Stephen Bates really ought to know that there isn't such a thing as 'the Anglican Church'. And, although he is sharp on Tom Wright, the general tone of the piece verges on contempt for the C of E and the Anglican Communion. No doubt - given his own affiliation - he thinks there is an 'ecclesial deficit' in these institutions. Motes and beams. Does he really think the other sorts of deficit so manifest in his own church are better?

Posted by: john on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 11:50am BST

Regarding what DO25 "actually means", I suggest that it doesn't matter. It will be like the Windsor report - regardless of what it says and what those who voted for it intended it to mean, it will come to mean whatever those who win the subsequent PR battle want it to mean.

Windsor was never binding, never anything else but a report, and yet, successful PR has turned it into something quite different in most people's minds and in the life of the Communion.

It will be interesting to see what DO25 will eventually come to "mean", not in actual terms but in how it's being perceived and used.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 12:32pm BST

"Stephen Bates really ought to know that there isn't such a thing as 'the Anglican Church'."

This term appeared only in the headline of the article, and the headlines are not written, edited or approved by the journalists.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 2:32pm BST

Erika Baker's right: D025 to irreconcilable schismatics is a ground of schism. As B033 was a ground of schism, and the Windsor Report, and.... "any other reason why..."

At least D025 served the purpose of flushing out the Fulcrum evos as schismatic, while Tom Wright came out as a FoCA supporter in the pages of the Times. So everyone now knows where they stand.

Most astounding to me was Ruth Gledhill's column. After years of mischief-making in the Times, she writes:

"Like many Anglicans, perhaps, I've always in my heart greeted talk of schism with an inner response of 'yeah yeah'. Steve Bates, of The Guardian, was always confident it was inevitable. I was equally confident it would never happen, however much it was threatened. Even with Gafcon, ACNA, FCA and all the other acronyms of new life springing forth from the primordial chaos of the Anglican alphabet soup, it still seemed safe to assume the Church would somehow muddle through as usual. But it hasn't. "

So all those inflammatory columns and headlines were just to sell newspapers; she never thought her words would actually mean anything? What empty-headed foolishness -- and what wreckage she has created!

Posted by: Charlotte on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 2:42pm BST

"It will be interesting to see what DO25 will eventually come to "mean", not in actual terms but in how it's being perceived and used."

Not unlike the life cycle of Scripture!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 2:45pm BST

What is with Tom Wright these days? Admittedly my one attempt to read his work didn't get very far (a couple of chapters into his "Luke"), but I knew he had a favourable reputation in scholarly circles. Then there was the ~Christmas article in which he sounded off about matters of sex, and now he's in bed with these FoCA rebels? Which way is Jericho from here?

Posted by: Tim on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 4:50pm BST

Thank you Simon for the Scott Gunn (someone should send a copy to Ruth Gledhill) and the Stephen Bates articles. I think the Scott Gunn is an excellent take down of the +Durham article and what is refreshing about Bates' article is that (finally) a UK journalist says that gay and lesbian priests and bishops (well, no women yet) are nothing unheard of in C-of-E, nor are blessings of civil partnerships (including those of priests), the difference is in how much you pretend and how much you tell. But truth, so it seems to me, is a virtue, Christian as well as civil. The truth shall make us free, or no?

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 5:16pm BST

John: I am not just a self-proclaimed historian, but an Oxford-trained one, as it says in my books (thanks for reading them!) in that I have an honours degree in modern history from that old university. So it is not just me. Do I detect a sneer or just a soupcon of superciliousness from a semi-anonymous correspondent?
Thanks for the defence Erika, but I have to plead guilty to being responsible for the headline on this occasion. I confess I was thinking of a pun on the famous old hymn of Samuel John Stone: The Church's One Foundation, because of the circumstances in which it was written (John can look these up in my old tutor Ian Bradley's Penguin Book of Hymns if he doesn't know them already). The allusion was too obscure and lame to work for John alas, but perhaps Stone's title can be corrected in the next edition of the hymnal to satisfy his strictures.

Posted by: Stephen Bates on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 6:44pm BST

Ruth Gledhill: "In deciding to ignore the pleas for this policy to be upheld, the Americans have clearly shaken him [++RW] warmly by the hand before stabbing him in the front. They have delivered a fatal blow to his hopes for unity and now there can be no more fudging the issue.'"

Oh BALONEY!!! If there's any backstabbing going around, it those who started crying, whinning, and threatening, after TEC showed considerable restraint in B033. After +Robinson got snubbed last year it's nothing short of a miracle that ++RW wasn't thrown in a cab last week and told to use his return ticket early out of LAX.

Let's get one thing straight---The Episcopal Church (USA) has never:
-Crossed provincial borders of the Anglican Communion.
-Made any noises about leaving the AC and gone about crowning one of our own as a self-made metropolitan.

It's real simple, you can cry all you want about somebody else being a heretic; it's another thing all together to engage in a deliberate act of schism, and the last time I looked, schism was no-brainer in the outright evil department. Heresy was, and is, an accusation of a questionable sin, and it's proof almost impossible.

Let the chickens come home to roast Ruth, and deal with it.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 6:55pm BST

It seems there is always a tremendous hue and cry in some quarters after any major meeting of Anglicans, but isn't it possible that a whole lot less has actually occurred here than many journalists - and others - seem to think?

Posted by: christopher+ on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 8:45pm BST

Bravo SGunn.

Somebody needs to correct the going right wing spin doctors like Wright. They natter on, never, ever scrutinizing their odd takes on legacy, full of closed presuppositions, and even more frequently than not, wrong details. Correcting the public record is a full time job. It doesn't help much that people like Gledhill are pulling on the fight ropes, too. I think Gledhill really wants to play that familiar Eric Berne game, called Let's You And Him Fight. It fits right in with the original IRD plans for messing with the churches.

Way too many self-regarding Anglicans want this to be a really big, really nasty fight to some global death point. I cannot quite figure out the FCA and other rights, though, as they inveigh loudly against big tent stuff until it gets to their own differences, then they try to reclaim big tent narratives. They destroy big tents that might contain others; they try to steal back the same idea they just tore apart.

If God made a flat earth when it comes to queer folks and their family members and their friends, who are any of us, really, to say different?

The point right now is to take the next steps in bringing home the conservative realignment to CoE, and surely to make that omelet a few eggs will need to be broken, perhaps in some ways, even Rowan Williams eggs?

The shift waiting in the wings is for Canada and TEC and perhaps Scotland - to start slowly but surely offering shelter in typical Anglican bonds of affection - with all the progressive believers everywhere else. You know, those people all around the planet whom Anglican Mainstream or Fulcrum or DurhamWright or Bob the xDuncanNewArchbishop or Akinola or Orombi or Sugden or ....? do not believer exist, whom all these believers scorn?

In larger terms, if we want to go really global - the current hot moment is all about the straight allies of all the brave honest queer folks. The courage rooted in honesty is spreading, change enabling change. Will it come home to roost even in CoE?

First, queer folks wanted to know. Now, straight family members and friends want to know.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 9:04pm BST

Of course the conservative Evangelicals believe Tom Wright has sold the pass on Justification by faith alone.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 9:06pm BST


I thought the title was yours and am glad to be proved right. I know you are a historian. I think your usage on this occasion was slipshod. I still think so. I did get the allusion. It wasn't relevant to my point.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 9:48pm BST

And when I ask whether there is *really* anything new in all this this week, I mean this: The last General Convention's decision to call for restraint - the ostensible "moratorium" everyone is on about these days - did *nothing* to stop some from leaving the Episcopal Church (in some cases attempting to alienate from the Episcopal Church assets held in trust by them), nor did it inspire some more "conservative" churches of the Anglican Communion to stop crossing provincial boundaries. Quite the opposite! What these wanted was some sort of guarantee that there would *never* be another (openly) partnered gay/lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion - and apparently nothing else would suffice.

So the real story here is not that the Episcopal Church and others in the Anglican Communion are simply not ruling out the possibility of partnered gay/lesbian bishops in future, but that some people (and at least the *leadership* of some provinces and of late some new churches/denominations as well) believe that opposing the "practice" of homosexuality is right up there with, say, belief in the Holy Trinity as a defining matter of faith. It is *they* who insist that they cannot be in relationship - communion - with anyone who disagrees with them on this. No one in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada has ever said anything of the sort.

With all due deference to people's Christian consciences and biblical hermeneutics, I find myself wondering how the Anglican Communion has managed to live with diversity for so long with regard to women's ordination - not easily and not without controversy, of course - while matters of sexuality appear to tear so very much more at the fabric of Anglican unity. Is it possible that this could be better explained by psychology than by biblical theology? To be blunt: Are sexual issues that much scarier for some than even gender issues?

Surely we can get beyond this and continue to live into the greatest degree of communion possible - even amidst disagreement on some issues - while still speaking, learning and living with each other. We've done it before.

Posted by: christopher+ on Thursday, 16 July 2009 at 10:38pm BST

"Surely we can get beyond this and continue to live into the greatest degree of communion possible - even amidst disagreement on some issues - while still speaking, learning and living with each other. We've done it before."

Amen to that.

Posted by: David Keen on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 12:32am BST

One thing that I've noticed is that the same people who were decrying the Episcopal Church's compliance with Windsor as a sham are now lamenting the fact that ECUSA has abandoned the moratorium.

Now, I think that it was the only moratorium proposed in the Windsor Report that anybody ever bothered with observing, but - well, they seem to want to not have their cake and eat it, too.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 1:07am BST

Is the General Convention discussing what is actually going on in the church? Hopefully. The Episcopal Church is now down to a little more than 700,000 active Sunday members in the entire USA (and more than 60% of those people are elderly). The Church released a study this year and stated that the ordination of a gay priest was the most frequently mentioned source of conflict in each congregation. As most have seen by churches closing (more than 40 last year), an entire Cathedral going 'out of business', and now TEC Headquarters is shutting publications and other layoffs. How can we even continue to operate in the coming years? Or is this the Bishops answer? It remains to be seen.

Posted by: Josh L. on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 3:34am BST

Anyone who really believes in Justification by faith alone would not dare exclude a whole group of special sinners from their church because they would know that only God alone can know about anyone's faith.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 7:14am BST

Just to satisfy John, who I am glad to see tacitly acknowledges, though fails to withdraw, his silly sneer about me being "self-proclaimed", I have now looked up the headline I actually filed with my piece. It was "The Church's crumbling foundations" so indeed Erika was right: the Anglican was inserted by sub-editors. John will note it did not occur in the body of the article.
Sara MacVane might like to note that I have frequently observed, not least in my Church at War book, that there are many gay and partnered Anglican priests, so it is not a sudden revelation to me, or, I guess, to any British religious affairs journalist. We have all met quite a few and very Godly many of them are too!

Posted by: Stephen Bates on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 9:54am BST

Arrogant, ignorant, hypocritical -- what other words can I find to describe Bp Wright? He knows very well that his fellow bishops in the C of E, if not he himself, have ordained openly gay men -- in relationships. He uses dehumanizing language not only to cast gays in the most unpleasant light but to airbrush them out of the history of his own Church. His account of gay couples as pagan dionysiasts gyrating before obscene idols in midnight cults, while exciting, is the product of his own morbid imagination. Does he talk to any ordinary people? Talks at them, I imagine. And how unattractive he has made the Bible sound.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 10:05am BST

Josh L.:

Ah... yes, dwindling membership numbers because of conflicts over gay clergy. Haven't read that study, but whatever you are implying won't sit well with a number of readers here.

What you have identified though is important, and needs to be asked. While church ought not to be a "numbers game," I would want to ask whether the utter lack of certainty over what exactly one believes when one is in the Episcopal Church, or for that matter in any Christian community, is at the heart of the problem.

There is a reason the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches benefit in part from what happens in the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 10:24am BST

Josh and Ren:

Do you have a citation for this study? I find it difficult to believe that "the ordination of a gay priest was the most frequently mentioned source of conflict in each congregation." Most congregations go years and years without ordaining a priest from among their number.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 11:27am BST


You're quibbling. In context, 'The Church' can refer only to the so-called Anglican Church. The usage is still slipshod: (a) because it is a simple mis-statement; (b) because it elides what is after all the central point of all these disputes: whether the Anglican Communion SHOULD BE a 'church' in any strong sense.

I have acknowledged you are a historian. The point of my original 'self-proclaimed' was to highlight the incompatibility between that training and your formulation on this occasion.

I have read your columns often. I have read your 'Church at War'. I liked it. I gave a copy to our church library, to spread the word. I think you fell below your standards on this occasion. OK?

Posted by: john on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 12:56pm BST

For everyone's information, the study is actually the report of the Episcopal Church General Convention House of Deputies' Committee on the State of the Church, at pp. 59-81 of the Blue Book, which is available online from the General Convention website at

What Joshua cited is on pp. 65-66, especially the tables.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 1:38pm BST

Blaming the full inclusion of LGBT folk in the life of the church for declining membership and Sunday attendance is scapegoating, unworthy of Christians. If inclusion is the right thing, it is the right thing regardless of its consequences in membership numbers, and if it is the wrong thing, it would be the wrong thing even if the church were growing.

Posted by: WilliamK on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 2:11pm BST

Commenters here seem to be assuming that people are leaving the churches because they are opposed to gay clergy (as many doubtless are -- their own pathologies, some might say) -- the question does not specify that -- on the contrary, young people are leaving because they see the churches as anachronistically homophobic.

Of course I said more than a few times that the quickest way to empty the churches is to preach the Gospel.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 2:58pm BST

Discussions about whether the presence of gay and lesbian people in church impacts parish membership have the potential to be every bit as charitable as earlier discussions in the US about whether African-Americans should be allowed to sit with everyone else in church. Surely those against this at the time were concerned how such innovations would affect membership. Actually, more than that, they were probably fairly certain they had scripture and tradition on their side.

Perhaps the solution here is to stop effectively blaming LGBT people for existing in the first place as though they themselves were the very source and cause of intra-Anglican disagreements.

Posted by: christopher+ on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 3:16pm BST

"Are sexual issues that much scarier for some than even gender issues?"


"Surely we can get beyond this and continue to live into the greatest degree of communion possible - even amidst disagreement on some issues - while still speaking, learning and living with each other. We've done it before."

We've done it before IN CYCLES. We seem to go through this about every hundred years or so. It takes about that long for several factors to ripen. One is the number of Puritans. It takes a while for them to grow to critical mass. Another is the fact that as their numbers grow, they are progressively less willing to put up with the sense of superiority you get from certain quarters. I mean, even in those countries where it is irrelevant, our leaders are, essentially, nobility. Most bishops are capable of tossing off an arrogant, dismissive, or otherwise ignorant comment on times, some more capable than others. The thing is that this is a repeating cycle, and our much ballyhooed Anglican Broad Tent consists mainly of all of us getting along till the Puritans get too numerous and the nobility get too arrogant, at which point there is a big row, most of us put our heads down till it blows over, the Puritans flounce off in a snit to be all pure and holy, and the rest of us get back to tolerating one another till the next time the Puritans and the nobility row out over some issue that, to them, is vital to the very salvation of humankind. Note that one doesn't have to be a dyed in the wool Protestant to be a Puritan, either.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 3:16pm BST

Considering I brought it up..speaking of declining membership numbers: the most recent church numbers are in fact OLD. (2006-2007 is the most recent) Bishop Gene Robinson just stated that in 2008 (numbers not yet available) his diocese grew by 3%, and a large number of those were Roman Catholics transfering to TEC. A parish close to my house released a number two weeks ago saying their average Sunday service has increased by almost 30% in 2009.

Posted by: Josh L. on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 6:29pm BST

Of course the going conservative explanations for our differences are going to simply presume that queer folks are mainly to blame.

The majority of utterly traditional views and practices rely on queer folks being (A) defective or incompetent, (B) silent, (C) invisible, and above all, (D) powerless to survive, let alone thrive openly in public. (Individuals, couples, parents, members of extended families, work teams, on and on and on)

It's not a big surprise if VGR's diocese is gaining members. He was elected by the diocese after all, and was very well-known by the electors who discerned him as their bishop. Let me hazard a guess that any diocese which repeats significant elements in that story is more likely than not, to grow and gain membership. Key repeat elements might be - well known and liked already inside the diocese, open and honest enough to admit to being queer or partnered or whatever, alive and progressing in his or her own personal and spiritual pilgimage, likely to preach in ways which connect real modern daily life with scriptures and tradition.

Neither the Anglican realignment folks, nor the big evangelical megachurches in USA or somewhere else, have a corner on these elements. The main joys of living the gospel hardly consist of being persuasive with the likes of Wright in Durham, or Orombi in Uganda, or Duncan in virtual ACNA. These famous realigners are for the time being, closer to playing the part of those high and mighty invited guests to the Kingdom Feast in the New Testament, who had really important reasons for not accepting any invitation that would be so low as to invite people lesser than themselves. If TEC grows, it will be because people go into their local highways and byways, seeking and sharing good news with the ones who have fallen out of the high and mighty status and power systems. Ah the spiritual empitiness of wielding great power - lots of Realignment Campaigners are still in the hot flush of love with power, and the let downs will come later, if ever.

Folks in the bellies of the beasts are not as dumb as Anglican Realignment presupposes. Beneath all the realignment hoo-ha, the Holy Spirit still whispers, non-stop.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 8:35pm BST

Stephen Bates is only following the lead of the Archbishop of Canterbury - he frequently mentions the Anglican Church.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 8:35pm BST

My take on Wright is here:

Posted by: John {Petty on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 8:38pm BST

I am so tired of Tom Wright that I am thinking seriously of moving to his diocese so that I can be assured of never seeing or hearing him again.

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 17 July 2009 at 11:41pm BST

Martin is spot on.. there are 38 Anglican Churches. All independent of each other as the Church of Sweden is from the Church of England.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 7:26am BST

That was really cruel, JPM;

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 18 July 2009 at 7:32am BST

Josh L.:

Indeed, one sign of growth would be among those who are leaving outposts that are increasingly becoming more conservative/reactionary in orientation. This can offset membership losses in the Episcopal case. (I must point out that this is one area of growth where the same study I cited is noting too.) I think there is movement both ways, and that we should acknowledge, regardless of what is causing it.

As I respect the current Bishop of Rome, especially after his recent encyclical, I have a sneaking suspicion that many American RC bishops are becoming more Romish than Rome itself.

Prior A.:
You said,

"Of course I said more than a few times that the quickest way to empty the churches is to preach the Gospel."

It deserves to be said more often.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Sunday, 19 July 2009 at 12:31pm BST
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