Monday, 10 August 2009

TEC and the CofE

Updated

Giles Goddard has written an article at Daily Episcopalian entitled TEC and C of E: the makings of a progressive alliance.

…The big question facing us all is how we respond to the suggestion of a two-track Communion. The feeling within the progressive groups of the Church of England is that such a thing should be resisted, and if the Covenant were to bring this about it, too, should be resisted. However, and this is a new thought for me, there may be another way. The Episcopal Church in Anaheim passed various resolutions which reaffirmed its inclusive polity and brought greater clarity about the way forward TEC may take. In that context, and having passed those resolutions, what is to stop TEC signing the Covenant? We are awaiting a further draft, but unless it contains radical strengthening of any judicial measures, it seems to me that TEC would be able to sign it, as a sign of its mutual commitment and in the context of its present policy of ensuring that it is open to LGBT people both single and in relationships. Result; a Communion strengthened and affirmed in its breadth and diversity and once again bearing a global witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And for the Church of England? We still have a long way to go. The measures to bring about full recognition of LGBT Christians are still a few years off, and as presently drafted the Covenant might delay those measures even further. Maybe the Church of England shouldn’t sign it. In which case, I suppose, we would be outside the main body while TEC would be inside. Now there’s a thought to conjure with…..

And there is more from Giles here in a report by Riazat Butt for the Guardian headlined Survey set to reveal number of gay clergy in Church of England.

…The Rev Canon Giles Goddard, rector of St Peter’s , Walworth, in London and chair of Inclusive Church, said: “It’s very early days but we need realistic information on how many LGBT clergy there are. It’s about demonstrating to people that we’re here and we need to be respected and recognised. We want to play our full role in the life of the church…

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Comments

Given that we don't yet have a confirmation on the disciplinary aspect of a proposed covenant, and the Ridley Draft is not yet confirmed, depending upon the final draft, TEC may well be able to sign. For the sake of argument, however, if the Ridley Draft were confirmed, and TEC did sign with its understandings, would the GS immediately move to have it removed, and, as a matter or practicality, would it have the power to succeed? I am asking a question to which I truly have no idea of the answer but would appreciate some insights?

Posted by: EmilyH on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 2:23pm BST

"but unless it contains radical strengthening of any judicial measures, it seems to me that TEC would be able to sign it" -- Meaning, they can cross their fingers then break the covenant as long as there is no ability to enforce it? What a great idea. I am sure there are a lot of men (and women) who wish their spouse would agree to such terms for their marriage...

Posted by: rob on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 3:56pm BST

I think that the proposed Covenant is A Bad Thing, for many reasons, including the centring on the 39 articles and Prayer Book, and nobody should sign it. Simple solutions are usually best.

Posted by: RosemaryHannah on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 4:42pm BST

What about the centre deciding what is central and what is local? TEC surely cannot sign up to that, if that is what the Covenant does mean.

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 4:47pm BST

Don't worry, Rob; the so-called Covenant, as now written, has as much chance being adopted by TEC as a snow ball in hell.

Posted by: Kurt on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 4:48pm BST

Such a move would undermine the integrity of our discernment, which is our gift to the Anglican Communion. I believe that Canon Goddard's proposal represents the embrace of a duplicitous ecclesiastical culture that will lead the C of E "sleepwalking" into tyranny. It would be a step backward for an Episcopal Church, which has just recovered some of the integrity we lost in 2006 with the passage of B033 in response to primatial ultimatums.

Posted by: Bill Carroll on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 5:16pm BST

So far the covenant is not a friendly, pleasant deal. It's presenting issue is pretty much soley hot button controversies about queer folks; loud and large in presence precisely through never, ever being named as the real reason for the covenant.

The police-punishment section brings new meanness into play, globally. Instead of suddenly being rendered safer, we will do doubt be even more vulnerable to much Anglican mischief. The movement engines organized to cajole and threaten for conservative realignment will either shift to prosecutory para-church entities; or just continue their take over campaign, finding new needs and new ways to conduct additional purifications of track one Anglicans.

Surely mischief? Because despite Rowan Williams assuming that no competitive hostilities will effectively exist in the new covenanted communion, we still have plenty of real evidence that he's wrong about that. After covenant, plenty of high competitiveness and hostility will be pressed, along whatever new lines the new police-punishment provisions do not explicitly reject. This means bringing up TEC and probably Canada, too, on whatever charges of immorality the covenant will spin into existence, just as current conservative thinking spins a terrible immorality into existence for queer folks even while they are making hugely ethical commitments of love and service - in couple life, parenting, work to better the world and others.

In a way the covenant is rather a Cold War Phenomena. Arming, weaponizing as deterrents - not yet a total Mutual Assured Destruction - except insofar as global Anglican big tent church life goes. In all those big tent venues and affiliations, surely the intent of the Anglican conservative believers is to push everybody else off the presuppositional cliffs innate to their ethics and theologies.

The worst aspect of the covenant in the long run is its pledge to stop change. Nothing else will cease to change for the better, except covenanted global Anglican believers - locked, closed in bubble world Anglican institutions. Modern knowledge is shifting way too fast for this sort of thing to actually be of use. Sure one or two foundational shifts are coming, tectonic, in our modern sciences. Think CERN, think genome and epigenome. Rowan Williams ought to know change will not cease, but increase in our sciences. If he knows, he ought to be telling Anglicans that a Status Quo stop change deal will not serve.

Why Canterbury suddenly thinks a covenant with new weapons and new policing will decrease the levels of hostility (towards queer folks, towards progressive Anglicans, towards hot button modernity) are hard to fathom. Putting some folks on track two will hardly be the end of it.

Track two money is still needed by track one, and to that extent the dependency will gall track one conservatives who tend to be as much sore winners as anybody else we could name. I predict, sadly, Bait and Switch tactics will prevail in the new covenant communion, just as they have dominated realignment campaigning, locally and globally.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 5:51pm BST

My question would whether the strident Global South churches would themselves sign a Covenant that the Episcopal Church might sign?

rob, your comment "I am sure there are a lot of men (and women) who wish their spouse would agree to such terms for their marriage..." begs the question of the nature of the Communion, and how a Covenant might change the nature of the Communion. The Communion has, to this point, been a fellowship - a friendship, really - and hardly so structured to parallel a marriage. (And talk about the difficulties of plural marriage....)

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 6:14pm BST

Rob's comment is telling and bolsters the argument of those who contend that the Covenant's purpose is primarily punitive.

Most thoughtful people would see a marriage (to follow his metaphor) that is primarily held together through absolute conformity in opinion, with angry accusations of "adultery" and threats of judicial proceedings for deviation, as diseased.

Posted by: William on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 7:05pm BST

"... even more vulnerable to much Anglican mischief..."

To me this sums it up! Just say no.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 8:37pm BST

The Covenant's purpose is not "primarily punitive", it is "exclusively punitive" -- it is like a pre-nup rather than a marriage -- but I do find the notion of TEC signing up & being first class Anglicans while the C of E remains second class hilarious!

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 9:18pm BST

I'm inclined to think, with those who have questioned the wisdom of such a move (that TEC just sign the covenant, regardless), that this would be duplicious and not a good idea.

TEC would surely not want to vie with the Global South on its culture of underhand dealing. To sign up to the Covenant in it's present form would be to suggest TEC's agreement with those who believe that it has to conform with the restrictive policies of GAFCON, ACNA & FOCA, et al, in their plan to impose conformity of praxis on matters of gender and sexuality - on which TEC and the A.C.of C. have already acted; to do away with hypocritical structures which have marred the inclusive ministry of the Anglican Communion world-wide.

To my mind, the Covenant is too much to ask of those who want to broaden the tent of Anglicanism to include women and the LGBT constituency.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 10:32pm BST

The term 'progressive' is the problem. It prejudges the issue by assuming what the future is going to be like.

In the history of Christianity the vast majority of future-predicters have turned out to be wrong.

If there is a genuine controversy, you don't label one side 'progressive', since that leaves only one possible designation for the other 'side' (yawn! why are there always envisaged to be two 'sides'?): namely, 'stick in the mud' or the like. On terms such as that, which side you join is a no-brainer. Before any of the actual issues has been so much as mentioned.

Only fashion victims see the two main options as 'new' and 'old' (or 'progressive' and 'conservative' - it's sooo 2006, darlin', and all that!), and fail to take on board the perfectly obvious truth that in the real world good things include some old, some new and some in between. It would be good to have a responese to this point. We do not take our intellectual cue from fashion victims. With their inappropriate, small-horizoned short-termism in a big world, they are the last people one would listen to.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 9:18am BST

Christopher:

Jesus's call was to all the people, and he continues to call us to include everyone. I consider anything that includes more people to be progress toward that goal...and anything that excludes a certain kind of people (whatever that certain kind might be) to be regressive.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 5:58pm BST

Christopher: "The term 'progressive' is the problem."

Of course labels are terrible inadequate boxing-in terms. I suppose we end up using them as lazy short-hand. If you knew me personally, you would probably apply many adjectives to me which were synonyms for "conservative" and very few which were synonyms for "progressive."

However, it happens that, intellectually, I cannot believe that it is right to deny women or gay people access to every level of the Church. That in itself is sufficient for some to immediately jump to calling me and those who share my view as "reappraisers", "unorthodox", "heretics" and so on. I understand, also, that Conservative Evangelicals themselves gladly appropriate
the term "conservative" (although, when I was a child, they were all arguing that the traditional Sung Mattins should be ditched in their churches in favour of Morning Praise services!) unto themselves - as well, quite inappositely, as "orthodox" - so the reducing of people to labels goes on across the board in the present debates.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 7:53pm BST

Thank you Fr. Mark, you beat me to the punch. Yes, over here in 'Uhmerka you have the same suburban (and ex-urban) middle class white folk who seem to be stuck in perpetual mid-life-crisis and really hanker for "morning praise" or some other soppy garbage with guitar, drum and unsingable words projected on a screen during 'worship'(without music, as these types usually can't read music). And yes, if push came to shove, they'd like to be with the same dumb crowd they always worship with, and yes, they usually vote "conservative". They're basically spoiled baby-boomers who haven't a clue of how good they have had it, and being largely uneducated, can't get out of the seventies and rock-n-roll (or country music). The were partying with the rest of the potheads, then one day they grew old and their attitudes changed, but not their taste in music and worship styles.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 9:50pm BST

"Jesus's call was to all the people, and he continues to call us to include everyone. I consider anything that includes more people to be progress toward that goal...and anything that excludes a certain kind of people (whatever that certain kind might be) to be regressive."

Well, this is not all that helpful. Conservative Christians would doubtless say that *of course* homosexuals are called by Jesus, just like any number of other groups of sinners. And, that like them, homosexuals have to stop their sinning (in category which people like Christopher would include homosexual acts).

Personally, I just can't buy into the "The Episcopal Church welcomes absolutely everybody" attitude, with its implication that we welcome them just as they are and don't expect them to change. I don't welcome absolutely everybody as they are with no expectation of change, and neither, I think, does Jesus. I don't want to go to a church that welcomes, for example, child abusers or racists or murderers just as they are, with no expectation that they will stop abusing children, or try to reign in their racism, or stop killing people.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 10:02pm BST

The thing of it is BillyD, is what constitutes as a "sin"?

That's the gist of what we're fighting here for.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 12:39am BST

A suggestion for Giles Goddard:

To avoid future claims that the results of your survey of gay clergy are fudged, you may wish to consider having the responses sent in confidence to a publicly trusted, independent agent, like a major firm of Chartered Accountants, for collection and compilation.


Posted by: Andrew Innes on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 2:07am BST

BillyD:

Equating being gay with child abuse, racism and murder are we?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 2:59am BST

BillyD
"I don't want to go to a church that welcomes, for example, child abusers or racists or murderers just as they are, with no expectation that they will stop abusing children, or try to reign in their racism, or stop killing people."

I would say that focusing on the church here is the wrong emphasis.
I would expect a church to welcome these people in the hope that their developing faith will then help them to change and to transform. The transforming power comes from God, and to say that you cannot join us to access that power until you have transformed is putting up a barrier that ought not to be there.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 8:39am BST

Pat wrote: "Equating being gay with child abuse, racism and murder are we?"

No, Pat, but in conservative Christian eyes homosexual acts are sinful. My point is that the "inclusiveness" argument doesn't make much sense. It makes a nice sound bite ("The Episcopal Church welcomes absolutely everyone!") but it's not really about what's going on. Not only that, but it's facile and unsound. We don't welcome absolutely everyone with no expectation that they will change their behavior, nor should we. The question is not "Whom does God call to salvation in Christ?" since (except for die-hard Calvinists) the answer is the same on all sides of the question: everyone.

choirboyfromhell wrote: "The thing of it is BillyD, is what constitutes as a "sin"?"

Absolutely - and this is we should be focusing on. As long as we're using the inclusivity argument, we and anti-gay Anglicans are talking past each other.

Erika wrote:

"I would expect a church to welcome these people in the hope that their developing faith will then help them to change and to transform. The transforming power comes from God, and to say that you cannot join us to access that power until you have transformed is putting up a barrier that ought not to be there."

Sorry, Erika, but if the local Grand Dragon of the KKK showed up asking for entrance into the Church - making it clear that he intended to continue persecuting Blacks, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants - we would owe him and the Church something more than a hearty welcome with the hope that he would eventually be empowered to change.

Further, your model seems to limit the transforming power of God to Church membership, which I don't think that you really want to do.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 11:37am BST

Billy
In my experience people never show up at church asking for entrance, they just walk in.
And they don't walk in telling you that they're criminals and want to continue being criminals, so there.

People walk into church because for some reason, they're compelled to come in.
Someone may know their personal history, or they may later tell someone about it.
Would you really then tell that new person he or she wasn't welcome? Would you quizz them about their faith, their intentions, their moral?

I hope any Christian church in the land worthy of the name would welcome that person and nurture them as best as they could.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 3:15pm BST

At long last we are beginning to discuss mainstream, normal Anglicans remaining in communion when the radicals in a handful of dioceses in America and the Global South complete the formation of their own Church. Its about time to contemplate a future Anglican Communion not dominated by funamenatlists and literalists who appeal to our baser instincts.

Yes - TEC, CofE, Canada, and others around the world have much in common and can continue to be in communion. Let the extremists leave the Church that so nurtured them all of these years for their new trophy wife if they must. But as Bishop Robinson so beautifully said, those who leave are always welcome to return. (I would have added if they return to their senses but then I'm not the man Bishop Robinson is).

Posted by: Dallas Bob on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 3:40pm BST

"People walk into church because for some reason, they're compelled to come in."

Oh, please, Erika - not everyone comes to church because they love the Baby Jesus, and I think you probably know that. People come to church for all sorts of reasons, including gaining the approval of the community, business networking, personal gain, or a desire to seem (rather than be) holy. It's been like that since Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, and it probably always will be like that under present conditions.

"Someone may know their personal history, or they may later tell someone about it.
Would you really then tell that new person he or she wasn't welcome? Would you quizz them about their faith, their intentions, their moral?"

Well, you're confusing personal history with present behavior.If someone reliable told me, "You know that newcomer who sits next to you at Mass? I happen to know that he beats his wife, but she's too afraid to press charges. I tried to reason with him, but he told me that what he does with his wife is his own business" then you're damned right I'd have a few words with him, and the parish priest as well. I sure as hell wouldn't "hope that their developing faith will then help them to change and to transform."

"I hope any Christian church in the land worthy of the name would welcome that person and nurture them as best as they could."

Sometimes nurturing someone as best as we can means setting boundaries, challenging their behavior. It's not like that all the time, but sometimes it is. What you are describing sounds like what Bonhoeffer describes as cheap grace - "the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." I don't think that that's the Christian message, and I think we make a grave mistake when we appeal for the acceptance of GLBT Christians on the grounds that we ought to be welcoming "absolutely everybody."

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 5:03pm BST

Sorry, I should have addressed this in my last post. Erika wrote,

"And they don't walk in telling you that they're criminals and want to continue being criminals, so there."

But this is exactly what conservative Christians think is happening when gay people turn up at church and make it clear that we aren't interested in trying to cure teh gay, or even ask for a blessing for our relationships.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 5:13pm BST

"Sometimes nurturing someone as best as we can means setting boundaries, challenging their behavior. It's not like that all the time, but sometimes it is. What you are describing sounds like what Bonhoeffer describes as cheap grace - "the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." I don't think that that's the Christian message, and I think we make a grave mistake when we appeal for the acceptance of GLBT Christians on the grounds that we ought to be welcoming "absolutely everybody."
- BillyD - in response to Erika -

What often is not reocgnised by the anti-gay faction in the Church is that to be intrinsically gay is not a 'sin' to be repented of, before being allowed into the community of the Church. It is this idea that is so reprehensible, and which has caused so much suffering and anguish for the Christians who happen also to be LGBT and members of the various churches.

The issue of 'Cheap Grace', per Bonehoeffer, is more properly applied to those who fall into the category of 'sinners' who have no intention of repenting of their sin but want to be accepted by the Church per se.

It is dangerous for anyone to suggest that being instrinsically Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual or Trans-gender automatically puts one into the category of recipients of cheap grace when claiming membership of the body of Christ - just because they feel there is no need to repent of a state of being they feel to be God-given.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 12:00am BST

"What often is not reocgnised by the anti-gay faction in the Church is that to be intrinsically gay is not a 'sin' to be repented of, before being allowed into the community of the Church. "

I would say this is not just *often* recognized by the anti-gay faction, but that it is *virtually always* not recognized. And this is precisely why I think that pro-gay arguments based on inclusion do not do much to advance our cause with them. When a lot of pro-gay people say we should be welcoming and inclusive of everyone, they generally mean something along the lines of, "Sexuality should be no more barrier to Church life or the Sacraments than race, gender, nationality, or income level." But what anti-gay Christians hear is often something like, "Sin doesn't matter."

Rather than focusing on inclusion arguments, I think we should focus on furthering the argument that being gay is not any more sinful than being straight. Until that happens, the inclusion argument is bound to fail with anybody who doesn't already believe that being gay is morally neutral.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 1:38am BST

Attempts at mediation are difficult for an abrasive person like me, but I don't like family quarrels, so, forgive me for my clumsy effort.

I think what BillyD is saying is more in line with the theoretical - he is, in a sense, acting as "devil's advocate" for the "traditionalist" camp, not his own views.

If I may try to restate, and correct me if I'm wrong, BillyD, what he's saying is basically that while we are arguing inclusivity, it assumes operation from a position that homosexual relationships are morally neutral is a given. Further, he's indicating that, to the "traditionalists," this is most emphatically NOT a given, that the established "fact" of our faith is that such relationships are inherently morally damaging.

As such - again, my interpretation of BillyD - the two camps are not in discussion, but speaking from completely different and entrenched positions.

Naturally, this provokes anger in us in the inclusive side, because he restates the arguments that we've heard from those we love and trusted and who betrayed us with those arguments. Such discussions cannot be emotionally neutral nor impersonal for us, because we - as individuals - have dealt with the direct impact of these arguments.

In the end, I'm not certain, BillyD, that discussion is possible. To me, neither of us has the equipment to comprehend one another - "reasserter" or "revisionist." It's clear that we both *understand* the position the other is embracing, but the underlying worldviews make the "other side's" position irrevocably wrong. I don't believe we can profitably continue the dialogue between sides until we've retired from one another, perhaps for a few generations, and the scars of battle, the defensiveness, and the distrust have faded. We cannot ignore the emotional components of this conflict without creating more chaos.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 4:54am BST

BillyD wrote: "People come to church for all sorts of reasons, including gaining the approval of the community, business networking, personal gain, or a desire to seem (rather than be) holy. It's been like that since Constantine..."

This sounds like American Civil/Societal Religion. Used car ditto.

It isn't the thing over here.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 5:30am BST

OK, BillyD, you continue to be the righteous sinner within playing moral policeman to the unrighteous sinners outside and then decide whether you are willing to let them in or not (you did start this conversation by saying you wouldn't let them in until they had changed, not that you would try everything in your power to change their behaviour after they’re joined your church!).

Only, don't think that you're the one bestowing grace, cheap or otherwise. That's only ever in God's power.

That many conservatives think lgbt people are sinful and have to be transformed before we're allowed into their church and that we don't think we're sinful simply because we're partnered is a completely different issue.
Well, it is in parts, because the extreme conservatives are driven by the same certainty that you appear to share, that we can decide who's in and who's out.

Society always has these conversations about morals. Is being an active paedophile and a wife beater sinful? No question.
Is being an alcoholic sinful? Consensus now is that it's an illness rather than a moral failing.
Is being a partnered lgbt person sinful? Of course not, we're here, we're like everyone else, get over it.
And where society shifts and the deep injustice of a previously held view is being recognised, it's only a matter of time before theology follows and before there is a hugely convincing and comprehensive body of theology supporting our deeper understanding of the human condition.

The moral assessment and debate have nothing to do with whether people have a right to be part of the body of Christ. That really is not our decision to make.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 8:40am BST

Erika, I don't BillyD is playing hypocrite here. He's making a valid point that with the self-righteous sinners trying to run the church, to not call being in a monogamous, loving relationship with an adult same-sex partner a sin is the first step to deflate their argument.

Once we get that through their thick heads, everything falls into place, and you and I know it's anything but a sin, flimsy allusions to biblical passages notwithstanding.

Of course it isn't our decision of who have the right to be a part of the body of Christ, but the reality of it is that churches and the politics within are hardly non-judgemental. It's all about what we call a "sin", and those who do are going to judge us personally, whether it is their right and property to do so regardless. American churches are full of sick people that do this, so he knows what he's talking about. Yes, it's wrong that they do, but the "judge not, less ye be judged" argument falls on deaf ears with many over here, especially in the little towns.

See how dangerous and un-Christ-like unbridled protestantism can be?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 10:10am BST

Choirboy

Can I please clarify that I do not believe for a minute that BillyD is being hypocritical.
He and I simply have different views about something.

I agree when he points out that inclusion is wrongly used as a concept by people who really want to say "not sinful".

But I do believe that there is also the wider issue that you do not exclude simply because you have a different view about the sinfulness of something.

Ultimately, I don't care one little bit whether some individual somewhere believes I'm a sinner or not. But I do care when they try to impose their views on to me, and when they will go as far as trying to cleanse me out of their church because of it.

Even if I believe very firmly that someone is a sinner, I have no right to kick them out of my church.

The few conservative blogfriends I have who do believe that homosexuality is a sin, are my blogfriends precisely because they do not believe that means I should be in a different church or in none.

And, just as a matter of principle, I happen to believe that even the worst sinner should be welcome in my church. That we then all try to help him to transform is one thing. But to say that until he's transformed he is not allowed in is, to my mind, profoundly unChristian.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:09am BST

Giles Goddard's project is a non sequitur. It reduces to the following conversation: 'Homosexual practice is not a gospel-compatible lifestyle, and is actually mentioned as a ground for exclusion.' 'Oh no, that's not true, because people involved in that lifestyle total 74 among London clergy alone.'
There's no connection between the answer and the question.
We all get justly cross when politicians don't answer the question they are asked and instead answer a question they wish they had been asked in stead.

Hi Pat-
BillyD said it all. 'Inclusivity' is a facile soundbite for the soundbite generation, whose problematic nature becomes clear at the slightest unpacking.
Nor is it at all true that Jesus welcomed everyone. He did not welcome the unrepentant (of any category) at all. He did not welcome the pharisees. We know these things, so why do we persist in supposing they are not true?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 12:14pm BST

Thank you, Mark, that's exactly what I am arguing.

Choirboy, I think that Erika knows that I'm not arguing for the exclusion of gay people. She's outraged that I'm arguing for the exclusion of *anybody* (in this case, unrepentant active wife beaters).

Erika, I don't think that it's society that decides whether sexually molesting children or beating one's spouse are sins. YMMV.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 12:55pm BST

"Is being an active paedophile and a wife beater sinful? No question."

"The moral assessment and debate have nothing to do with whether people have a right to be part of the body of Christ. That really is not our decision to make."

Erika, this is my problem with your approach to membership in the Body of Christ. Your last statement seems to imply that while you accept that pedophilia and wife beating are sinful, you would not require someone to renounce these behaviours before baptism or inclusion in the Church or whatever. It is not our judgement to make. But surely it is, unless you have no problem with active pedophiles claiming Christian faith with only the possibility that one day, somehow, the Grace of God will give them a change of heart. But how many children will be broken by then? How many wives disfigured or killed? This is my problem. If the Church does not have some authority to say that particular behaviours are not Christian and repentance must involve rejection of these behaviours, then we are forced to accept the active pedophile or wifebeater as part of the Christian community, and, what's more, to affirm that that person's witness of the faith is somehow "valid", and that that person's behaviour is acceptable until God finds the time to change him by grace. Repentance is our word for a Greek word meaning "change one's mind", changing from the earthly mind to the heavenly mind. It is naturally a life long process. But do you not see any requirement whatsoever for a commencement of that process at the time one accepts the Gospel? Or do you instead just wait that the Grace of God will change the person eventually and until then the Church has no responsibility to require a change in behaviour at all, including behaviours that are manifestly damaging to others? Because if you accept the Church DOES have such a responsibility, you clearly believe on some level it IS our decision to make, and we are talking about reasonable boundaries within which the Church can make these decisions. But you seem not to accept there can be any such right for the Church, so I don't see how you avoid worshipping next to the active pedophile, and thereby implicitly condoning his behaviour.


Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 1:02pm BST

Erika, you haven't addressed my point that you seem to be limiting God's power to transform lives to formal membership in the Church. Surely the repentance that comes as a necessary prelude to baptism (for adults) is a result of what used to be called God's prevenient grace? Or are you really arguing that God's grace is a Church monopoly?

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 1:27pm BST

"'Homosexual practice is not a gospel-compatible lifestyle, and is actually mentioned as a ground for exclusion.' 'Oh no, that's not true, because people involved in that lifestyle total 74 among London clergy alone.'"

I'm not sure that it does reduce to this. To me it reads as an admonition not to be so hypocritical as to think we can cover up the fact that we have had gay clergy for eons and our feigned horror at the idea of publically doing it might actually be more about realizing how hypocritical this looks to the public, indeed, how hypocritical it has looked for some time. It is not, and has never been, justificaton for ordaining gay people, but an admonition not to be hypocrites about it.

Now, why not address the issues:

1.Is homosexuality in and of itself sinful?

2.Are lifelong committed monogamous gay relationships actually what is being condemned in thsoe seven clobber verses?

These are the issues, not whether or not someone points out the Church has been hypocritical about this for centuries. That is another, and quite valid, issue entirely.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 1:39pm BST

Ford and Billy

I understand your questions and I do understand the moral issues involved. Please don’t think that I’m simply trying to gloss over the fact that some people commit unspeakable crimes.
But there are 2 questions here. One is, how do we deal with that in order to effect transformation. And the other one is a theological one, do we have any right to stand in the way of someone who is seeking God, quasi as if were God’s guardsmen.

To my mind, the first question has to depend on the individuals involved. But it cannot be right to say, categorically, that someone has to change first before we can allow him to become part of us.
I mean, where would we stop? How pure do you have to be? Who decides?
I know that we promise at Baptism to turn to Christ, but we also know that we cannot do it on our own.
And anyway, this person may have been baptised a long time ago and still have become criminal. Do we sort revoke the Baptism until he changes? Was it conditional?
No, Billy, I don’t believe that God can only be found in the church. But there again…. What do you mean by “church” – a particular group of people that meet every Sunday? Because the whole body of Christ consists of everyone who professes to believe in God, we cannot physically exclude anyone from it.
Of course, we can physically exclude any single individual from our weekly meetings. But I genuinely fail to see why we would want to. We are, after all, our brother’s keeper, and if we feel he’s really going wrong, we’d be better trying to gather him in and then influence him towards change, than to kick him out and make his transformation somebody else’s problem.

To my mind, not admitting someone merely says “We’re better than you”, “We’re not responsible for you” and “God doesn’t want you until you’ve changed, so bog off”. Saying that he doesn’t need us because he can find God somewhere else is really saying no more than “we don’t want you here, this is the pure God-set. There’s a dirty God-set somewhere out there, they can find God outside the church. And after they’ve changed, we might let them join the nice lot in here”.
I find that utterly abhorrent and a complete abdication of our responsibility towards others.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 3:06pm BST

"What do you mean by “church” – a particular group of people that meet every Sunday? Because the whole body of Christ consists of everyone who professes to believe in God, we cannot physically exclude anyone from it."

Um, no. Faithful Muslims and Jews, among others, are not members of the Church - the Body of Christ - nor would they want to be so considered. Claiming otherwise seems to demean both the Church and other religious groups.

As far as your conviction that the Church being open to absolutely everybody is of the essence of Christianity, what do you make of the Gospel I heard at Mass the other day: Matthew 18:15-17? Or 1 Corinthians 5:1-13?

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 3:30pm BST

"And anyway, this person may have been baptised a long time ago and still have become criminal. Do we sort revoke the Baptism until he changes? Was it conditional?"

We don't revoke his baptism, but baptismal grace is certainly affected by that person's actions. That's why the sacrament of Confession has traditionally been considered a sort of "second baptism." So the proper course of action for someone who is a formal Christian but fallen into grave sin is repentance.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 3:38pm BST

BillyD
If someone doesn't want to be considered to be a Christian, then of course they aren't one. But if they do want to be considered to be one, neither you nor I have the right to stand in their way.

I'm not sure what your Matthew quote changes. It talks of a brother and of a church that tries to transform him. That's exactly what I support.
As for "treat him as a pagan or tax collector", when Zacchaeus climbed the tree to see Jesus, Jesus didn't say to him: listen here, mate, not only will I not eat in your house today, I will make sure that my followers don't allow you to associate with them either until you've mended your ways.

Grace always comes before transformation, and none of us have the right to be a potential stumbling block to it.
And I absolutely don't care what Paul said about it.
It's wrong.
It doesn't follow Jesus' example.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 6:06pm BST

"If someone doesn't want to be considered to be a Christian, then of course they aren't one. But if they do want to be considered to be one, neither you nor I have the right to stand in their way."

Which, you must admit, is vastly different from "... the whole body of Christ consists of everyone who professes to believe in God."

By the way, do you see being a Christian a purely subjective thing? Is it only a matter of what one considers oneself to be? I might consider myself to be a Zen Buddhist - in the absolute absence of any accurate knowledge of Zen Buddhism or intention to lead what a Buddhist would recognize as a Zen life; does that make me a Zen Buddhist? Or is Christianity the only religion that wishing makes it so?

"I'm not sure what your Matthew quote changes. It talks of a brother and of a church that tries to transform him. That's exactly what I support."

Really? Earlier you wrote as if transformation were something we just hoped would happen as a person grew into faith - and if it didn't happen, it's none of our business.

"As for "treat him as a pagan or tax collector", when Zacchaeus climbed the tree to see Jesus..." etc.

Really? You think the quote from Matthew means, "If the person refuses to listen to the Church, then go to dinner at his house?" That reading makes sense in the context of the text?

Besides, Zacchaeus repented and offered to make amends for his sins.

"Grace always comes before transformation, and none of us have the right to be a potential stumbling block to it."

Again, you seem to be saying that the only way this grace comes to someone is by membership in the Church, and that if we don't let, say, active pedophiles join the Church with no expectation that they will change their ways, we're keeping them from that grace.

I have to admit that I don't understand your approach. It's as if 2000 years of Christianity never happened.

"It doesn't follow Jesus' example."

On the contrary. It seems to follow Jesus' instructions in Matthew.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 7:53pm BST

"To my mind, not admitting someone merely says “We’re better than you”, “We’re not responsible for you” and “God doesn’t want you until you’ve changed, so bog off”."

To your mind. But that's not what it's saying. It's saying that to be a Christian is to be SOMETHING. To believe the Gospel is to believe SOMETHING and to want to follow that something. I think we have every right to say to people that if they don't want to try to follow that SOMETHING, they aren't Christians. You seem to think that it is an insult in some sense to tell people they aren't Christians. It isn't, it's a simple statement of fact. Would you call someone a Christian who doesn't believe in the Trinity, the Resurrection, the need for redemption, the sacraments, or whatever? Or who instead of these things believes that there is no underlying reality, the goal is nothingness, and that we are reborn time and again till we reach that state? I wouldn't. I'd respectfully call that person a Buddhist and consider him equal to me in every way, because God does, but he's still not a Christian, any more than I am Buddhist. It isn't cut and dried, which is why I included in my statement things that some people DO believe while being called Christian. The thing is, why do you consider it so wrong to suggest that some people aren't Christians because what they believe is so different from Christianity? It isn't an insult, it isn't a degradation of them, it doesn't demean their humanity. Do you feel slighted because no Muslim would consider you a Muslim or no Jew would call you a Jew?

"Grace always comes before transformation, and none of us have the right to be a potential stumbling block to it."

No-one's saying that either. But, again, if someone does not show any evidence of believing the basics of Christianity, can that person be called a Christian? And what exactly is wrong with not being a Christian? And if, as you seem to suggest, there is no minimum requirement for metanoia of some form, how do you deal with the unrentant pedophile? Can you actually be said to have ministered to his brokenness, which it is your Christian duty to do, if you merely accept him and wait for your good example and the grace of God to somehow "fix" him? Surely you have more responsibility to him than that.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 8:15pm BST

"Rather than focusing on inclusion arguments, I think we should focus on furthering the argument that being gay is not any more sinful than being straight. Until that happens, the inclusion argument is bound to fail with anybody who doesn't already believe that being gay is morally neutral." - BillyD -

YES! YES! Thank you BillyD for isolating the nub of the problem for anti-gay assessments of gays.
I think all of us on this site (with, perhaps, the exception of Christopher Shell) are aware of this problem - that an instrinsically LBGT person (regardless of how they use their sexuality) is not intrinsically sinful because of his/her basic sexual identity. IF ONLY this could be recognised and dealt with by those who anathamatise the LGBT community for authentically BEING who God created them to be, perhaps the argument about sexual behaviour could become the real ground of comparison between being straight and being gay.

As with heterosexual couples, homosexual couples ought to be judged by the same parameters - Are they 'faithful, mongamous' relationships; are they 'prospectively' faithful and monogamous; or are they determinedly promiscuous and harmful?.

The fact that homosexual relationships hitherto have been either illegal or illicit has had a bearing on the perceived promiscuity of homo-sexuals. And if the Church continues to withhold its blessing from committed, faithful same-sex relationships, then this could condemn them to further exclusion from the Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:04am BST

"Nor is it at all true that Jesus welcomed everyone. He did not welcome the unrepentant (of any category) at all. He did not welcome the pharisees. We know these things, so why do we persist in supposing they are not true?" - C.Shell

Christopher. This simply is not true. From Saint Luke's Gospel, chapter 7, verses 36ff: "One of the Pharisees (Simon) asked (Jesus) to eat with him.."

If Jesus did not welcome Pharisees, per se, why would he accept an invitation to eat with one? This acceptance of hospitality by Jesus marks him out as an inclusive religious leader - not anti anyone but merely wanting to engage in meaningful dialogue, hopefully leading towards repentance.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:18am BST

Christopher (and Billy):

If we don't include them, how can we hope to help them?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:34am BST

"Last month the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reiterated his opposition to ordaining gay clergy and authorising same-sex blessings, saying they were "at the very least analogous" to Christian marriage and people living in such unions could not "without serious incongruity" have a representative function in a church whose public teaching was "at odds with their lifestyle".
- Riazat Butt in the Guardian -

It would be most interesting of the Bishops, too, were to be surveyed - on the question of "How many clergy have you ordained: (a) knowing them to be gay, or: (b) suspecting them to be gay.

It is well-known that the ABC has, himself, ordained at least one gay clergy-person. How many of the other Bishops of the Church have done the same? TYo find answers to this question may just reveal the hypocrisy endemic in the C. of E.

One problem, of course, has been the reality of the "Don't tell me, I dont want to know" school of theology; which can only be regarded as puitiful, if not downright subversive. A proper survey along these lines among the Bishops might provide a way ahead for true enlightenment on the subject of Homosexuality and the Church of England.

What TEC and the A.C.of C. have done, by their institutional open-ness, is to open the can of worms of hypocrisy that has afflicted the mainline churches for a very long time. To become open and honest in these matters is not like a cleansing of the Augean Stables ezxactly, but what it might do is front up to the Churches' responsibility to acknowledge the LGBT community and accept their validity as fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God - persons for whom Christ died and whom God loves, unreservedly.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:51am BST

If we stopped fighting "the church" - and I refuse to use a capital C for what we've got now - would die tomorrow, and good riddance.

It's a waste. The only ones who've ever shaken my faith in Christ have been Christians - particularly "traditionalists," but our willingness to argue over meaningless legalities and trivialities is absolutely and positively demonic.

Split on this issue and have done with it - stop the play-acting that we're all so clever. There is no unity in Christianity and has never been - even the disciples argued over who'd be the "best." Why should it matter if anyone's offended by TEC missions in other provinces, or ACNA power grabs? We are two separate churches as fact. Anglican? Who cares?!

The only reason to keep this going is because we love to fight and would die before admitting we - including a bunch of very dead men from past centuries who lacked our present knowledge - don't have all the answers and can't decide who's in the "in-crowd."

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:31am BST

BillyD
I think you and I always end up with more misunderstandings than any 2 people have a right to!
When I said that anyone who believes in God is part of the body of Christ, then in the context of this conversation, I naturally meant in the Christian God.
Is Christianity purely a subjective thing? Of course it is. If I tell you I believe in the Christian God, you have to take my word for it. And it’s hardly likely that anyone would want to join your Sunday congregation when he’s secretly a Hare Krishna.

“Really? Earlier you wrote as if transformation were something we just hoped would happen as a person grew into faith - and if it didn't happen, it's none of our business.”

This sentence made me quite cross, because there is absolutely nowhere I said that. In my first post I didn’t refer to the obvious fact that it’s our responsibility because I thought it was obvious. Already in my second post I confirmed that I believe that we are our brother’s keeper and that it is our responsibility to help effect transformation and not to turn someone away until they’ve sorted themselves out.
I don’t mind you disagreeing with me, but I’d rather you didn’t twist what I say to score a point.
Transformation and growing in faith go hand in hand.

I’m not sure what you’re saying re Zacchaeus. I was simply pointing to the story, in which a man climbs a tree to see Jesus, and without any further action and, as far as we know, before any repentance, Jesus invites himself to his house.
If that isn’t the same as someone turning up at your church and you then being asked to act like Jesus, I don’t know what is.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 10:06am BST

(2)

“Again, you seem to be saying that the only way this grace comes to someone is by membership in the Church, and that if we don't let, say, active pedophiles join the Church with no expectation that they will change their ways, we're keeping them from that grace.”

Can we just get a grip here? A known and active paedophile should be behind bars within hours. There is no chance that he would be free to walk into any church.
A wife beater probably would, because unless women press charges many police authorities won’t prosecute, and even where they do, there isn’t always an automatic prison sentence.

But even taking other kinds of unsavoury people as examples, I do not understand your comment at all.
Are you saying you’re happy for God to act outside the church to transform someone, but that it’s really not on that that someone should come to church, because we cannot be expected to do the dirty work? What do you think church is about?
You say to Choirboy: “Maybe it's just me, but this seems to pigeonhole Christianity as something you do in a particular building at a special time once a week. We're not talking about whether or not someone who beats his wife ought to be allowed to attend Mass, after all.”
Well, precisely. So what are you doing? Banning someone from your local church, throwing them out of your denomination, or determining on their behalf that they’re not a Christian and not welcome anywhere where Christians gather?

As for no expectations that people will change, as before, you are misrepresenting me.

But, finally, “we don’t let…..join….” This really is the big difference between you and me. We are not in a position to “let” anyone join. We are brothers and sisters together, all trying to seek God in our lives. If anyone walks with us, then he walks with us. We simply haven’t the power to turn him away in a meaningful sense. All we can do is stop him from trying to join our particular little group, but that’s pure human controlling and with trying to define ourselves against someone we don’t think is quite suitable. It has nothing to do with God.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 10:08am BST

Ford,
You’re doing the same as Billy by insisting that I said we simply accept someone and then ignore them. When I really said that we are our brother’s keeper and it is our responsibility to help effect transformation. Please do not misrepresent me.

No, I don’t believe there’s a problem with not being a Christian.
But I do believe that there’s a huge problem with telling someone who wants to join us and maybe become a Christian that we know he isn’t one and that we will not allow him in and help him to see what it means to follow Christ, and can he please come back when he’s sorted his life out.

Would I call someone a Christian who doesn’t believe in all the major Christian themes? That depends. I would call a baptised baby a member of the body of Christ although it has no comprehension of these things. In actual fact, I have no idea what every single member of my congregation believes in and where in their faith journey they are. All I know is that they want to be in that church every Sunday, so presumably, following Christ means something very important to them.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 10:09am BST

(2)

In your reply to Choirboy on another thread you say that “I do not buy in to the childish concept of the dramatic conversion experience, powerful though it may be for some”. When I first read that it made me really really angry. I’m sorry you find my coming to faith a childish concept. But actually, you have no idea, have you. It’s yet another example of judging based on your own experience. It really isn’t the case that everything that doesn’t fit into your own life experience, emotional or intellectual make up is automatically somehow inferior. It’s merely different.

But then I thought, actually, your argument supports my view even more than my own experience does. Because if people do not come to faith suddenly, then it makes all the more sense that they join a church, where genuine loving Christian people show them by example and through teaching what following Christ means.

“If we do not require some evidence of their desire to live the new life, have we even taught them the Gospel they accept at baptism?”
You can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, you don’t believe in sudden conversion, on the other hand, you think people walk into church as fully formed Christians.
Can we just get real here? A new member wants to join your church. Do you stop him at the door and ask him for evidence that he’s really wanting to change his life and become as holy as you are?
Or might you take the same care and trouble that people in my church take to get to know me and to gently help me work out what it meant when I felt compelled to go to church?

I find your thinking that God’s grace can work on anyone at any time, but that within his own church it can only work if someone has passed a minimum entry test that we set quite shocking.
What are you saying? Go away, hope and pray that God will find you somewhere, but it certainly won’t be here?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 10:15am BST

(part 1 to Erika)

"When I said that anyone who believes in God is part of the body of Christ, then in the context of this conversation, I naturally meant in the Christian God."

At the risk of sounding bitchy, Erika, words are important. The only thing I have to go on is what you write.

"Is Christianity purely a subjective thing? Of course it is. If I tell you I believe in the Christian God, you have to take my word for it."

Why? Where do you get this?

And what about my question about Zen - are all religions purely subjective things, or only Christianity?

"And it’s hardly likely that anyone would want to join your Sunday congregation when he’s secretly a Hare Krishna."

As it turns out, this is not the case. For example, the Diocese of Pennsylvania actually had a priest who was something of a secret Druid, and ended up renouncing his orders in order to go be a Druid full time. As I said before, Erika, the idea that everyone who's a member of the Church is one because they love the Baby Jesus seems a gross mistake.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:41pm BST

Hi Ford-
There's no such thing as a clobber-verse since the essence of a verse lies in what it says in and of itself not in the way people use it. 1 Cor. says clearly enough that men who lie with men (that is a literal translation in 3-letter words, but also, should anyone have had any doubt, an allusion to Leviticus) shall not inherit the kingdom. To say 'Oh but he means only some men who lie with men' is to read in something which is universally agreed not to be there in the actual text - and such an option would never have been thought of had it not been for a vested interest.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:46pm BST

Hi Fr Ron-
I said 'the pharisees' in general, which is generally accurate. Jesus was the last person to condemn someone on the basis of their group identity, so given that he dealt with people as individuals, he would scarcely declare *all* pharisees unwelcome. It is not one's group but one's heart that at any one time (which situation may change) makes one relinquish the chance to be a candidate for welcome.

Having said that, I think Mark's 'Simon the leper' is bound to be more accurate. Luke's extra historical info is generally sparse when compared to Mark.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:51pm BST

"I do believe...can he please come back when he’s sorted his life out."

Which is not what I, or BillyD for that matter, are saying. But how can such a person even accept the Gospel in the first place if he doesn't have some idea what it is and what it is not?

"I’m sorry you find my coming to faith a childish concept."

Which, again, is not what I said, nor do I understand why you considered it in reference to you. This whole idea that someone has to change himself completely, and that that somes about as some sort of dramatic "conviction of sin", before we accept him is what I was refering to, and what I think I have been pretty clear in opposing. While quite old in Christianity, it is pretty awful in its modern form, where it has the appearance of justification by works. But there is a huge difference between this attitude, and the attitude that people don't actually have to believe anything at all. What's the point of baptismal vows, then?

"Do you stop him at the door...as holy as you are?"

It has nothing to do with being "as holy as I am". I really don't understand where this comes from. It isn't about being holy at all. Very few of us attain to holiness in this lifetime, and those who do so succeed by grace from God, not their own merits. No, I don't ask him, but the priest does, and one could reasonably expect that he would give an honest answer, what with him answering to God and all. Read the Baptismal vows. In order to honestly answer that you turn to Christ, you have to know what direction it is you are expected to turn in. If you are going to try to make yourself more Christlike over your lifetime, you have to have some idea, vague though it might be, what it actually means to be Christlike. And what is the point if those among whom you seek to explore your faith cannot even have a reasonable expectation that you even know what that faith is, let alone have any desire to actually follow it, and are reluctant to show you because that might look judgemental? If someone can't assent to the basics of what we believe, I say "Go with God, my brother, I'm sorry what we believe is not right for you." I do not say, "Believe whatever you want, it really doesn't matter, we really don't know what we're doing anyway, so whatever you decide our religion is, well, that's fine with us." I mean, if we don't believe the Gospel is a revelation from the Light, if just a bunch of hints and suggestions of where we might find God as we grope about in the dark, what's the point?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 1:59pm BST

"such an option would never have been thought of had it not been for a vested interest."

Or if it had not been for better knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon being discussed.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 2:16pm BST

"Can we just get a grip here? A known and active paedophile should be behind bars within hours. There is no chance that he would be free to walk into any church.
A wife beater probably would, because unless women press charges many police authorities won’t prosecute, and even where they do, there isn’t always an automatic prison sentence."

Like choirboy, you seem to be assuming that my primary concern is who gets to attend Sunday services, when I thought we were talking about Church membership. I don't know about the UK, but here in the US we have prison chaplains. Should they be baptizing unrepentant (fill in the name of your favorite criminal here)?

"This sentence made me quite cross, because there is absolutely nowhere I said that. In my first post I didn’t refer to the obvious fact that it’s our responsibility because I thought it was obvious."

I apologize, then, because it's quite the meaning that I took. Again, since you and I are not at all on the same page of the hymnal, it would be very helpful if you didn't assume that something that is obvious to you is even on my radar screen.

"I’m not sure what you’re saying re Zacchaeus"

I was asking if your gloss on the Jesus' words in Matthew made sense of the text. I don't think they do.

"Are you saying you’re happy for God to act outside the church to transform someone, but that it’s really not on that that someone should come to church, because we cannot be expected to do the dirty work? What do you think church is about?"

I didn't say that we shouldn't work with them. On the contrary, I think that they should be brought to repentance. In the language of the good Baptist folk back home in Texas, "convicted of their sin." That happens before Baptism, though.

"But, finally, “we don’t let…..join….” This really is the big difference between you and me. We are not in a position to “let” anyone join. We are brothers and sisters together, all trying to seek God in our lives. If anyone walks with us, then he walks with us."

Yes, this is the - or at least a - big difference between us. I subscribe to the traditional view that there are minimum requirements made of someone seeking Baptism or Church membership. Some of those requirements are matters of belief. Others are behavioral. If a Klansman shows up asking to become an Anglican Christian, I think the appropriate response is, "Great! Renounce your racism and resign your membership in the Klan. Repent and believe the Gospel and be baptized." Your response would seem to be something like (and I trust you will correct me if I'm wrong), "Well, we aren't racists here and think you should change, but we aren't in any position to make demands of you. Step this way to the font, please."

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 2:50pm BST

Christopher:

And it never occurs to you that there might have been--back in the first or second century AD--some "vested interest" that made sure that particular phrase was in 1 Corinthians? I mean, it's not like we have the original manuscript in Paul's own handwriting, right?

Or are you suggesting that "vested interests" are a modern invention?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 3:20pm BST

Ford
So you're simply saying that someone who is an unrepentant sinner (how I hate that phrase!) cannot participate in the Eucharist.
That's not the same as saying he has no place in our church with the implication that he would be evicted if he tried to creep in on a Sunday.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 3:41pm BST

"unrepentant sinner (how I hate that phrase!)"

Granted that it's not the most common of Anglican phrases, but why such very strong feelings about the phrase?

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:04pm BST

"So you're simply saying that someone who is an unrepentant sinner (how I hate that phrase!) cannot participate in the Eucharist."

I don't know about Ford, but that's one of the things I've been trying to say. After all, participation in the Eucharist is one of the things being an active Christian is about. (A corollary would be that an unrepentant sinner shouldn't be baptized; the important word here, I think, is not sinner, but unrepentant).

"That's not the same as saying he has no place in our church with the implication that he would be evicted if he tried to creep in on a Sunday."

No, it certainly is not.

I wonder, Erika, if part of our disagreement has to do with what differences in what used to be called Churchmanship.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:24pm BST

"So you're simply saying that someone who is an unrepentant sinner (how I hate that phrase!) cannot participate in the Eucharist."

Not even that. First, repentance is NOT about feeling remorse for some particular sin or other, it is about "changing one's mind" from an earthly way of thinking to a heavenly way of thinking, and that, as you say in your "walking the road" analogy is a lifelong process. Seen in that light, we are all in some sense unrepentant sinners. And it isn't about sharing in the Eucharist either, though that is a part of it. It's about if we are going to ask someone "Do you turn to Christ?" we have the responsibility to tell them which direction they have to turn, as far as we understand it. If we are going to ask them if they will repent and return to Christ if they fall into sin, we have the responsibility to give them some kind of guidlines, however vague, as to what that means. How will they even know they have fallen into sin? Even some of our bishops don't seem able to understand that as it pertains to themselves! It isn't about exclusion, it's about whether or not people even understand what it is they are being included in. Again, it seems very unfair to people to expect them to vow to God they will accept and follow something without giving them some understanding of what it is that they are accepting and trying to follow. How can someone truly promise to turn to Christ if we don't tell them where to turn? I guess it comes down to whether or not you accept that something has been revealed to us, however dark the glass in which we see it, and our duty is to transmit that, accepting that we are constantly being brought closer to it, the glass is becoming less dark. But we still see something, and it seems an odd thing to me to be reticent about expressing our understanding of what that thing is because we are afraid of being exclusive. It seems a cruel inclusivity that wants people to be a part of something when we don't want to teach them what that something is.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:31pm BST

Billy
So what do you do with someone who is already baptised? You cannot unbaptise them, you can merely stop them from participating in the Eucharist.
So do we then end up with two tier sinners, the ones we won't baptise and the ones we wish we hadn't but where we're stuck with it?

Once you start setting conditions it gets hugely complicated. Who sets them, what is classified as such a bad sin that it prevents baptism or would if the person wasn't already baptised, what are the sanctions, what the checks that anyone in our congregation follows a moral code. Does this code change from national church to national church? From congregation to congregation?

And I really would help at this point if you could tell me which church you are not allowing people membership of. Your own? Your denomination? Or anyone in the Christian faith?

I really do not understand how this moral policing can work in practice.

And it all smacks far too much of throwing stones at adulterers to me. In every single story in the bible, Jesus' forgiveness and acceptance of the sinner comes before that person's repentance... or not - often we're not even told whether they repent and change their lives as a consequence.

I just cannot see how anything but 100% inclusiveness is what is demanded of us.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:36pm BST

"So what do you do with someone who is already baptised?"

See Matthew 18:15-17.

By the way, you're writing as if my concern were to shut the sinner off from the Church out of some concern for purity. It isn't, as I thought I'd been at pains to make clear.

"Once you start setting conditions it gets hugely complicated. Who sets them, what is classified as such a bad sin that it prevents baptism..."

First off, it's not the sin that's so bad that it prevents baptism. It's the refusal to let go of and renounce the sin, the intention to continue in the sin, that ought to prevent reception of the Sacraments.

"And I really would help at this point if you could tell me which church you are not allowing people membership of. Your own? Your denomination? Or anyone in the Christian faith?"

What do you think Baptism gives someone entrance to - just the local congregation, the denomination (boy, talk about words I hate!), or what?

"I really do not understand how this moral policing can work in practice."

And yet the Church Catholic has managed to muddle its way through its complexities for the past 2000 years or so.

I believe that the second rubric in your Church's BCP Communion Service deals with just this issue.

"And it all smacks far too much of throwing stones at adulterers to me."

Thanks. :-/

By the way, remember what Jesus told the adulterous woman?

"In every single story in the bible, Jesus' forgiveness and acceptance of the sinner comes before that person's repentance... or not - often we're not even told whether they repent and change their lives as a consequence."

We're also told that Jesus had special insight into the hearts and thoughts of people. Presumably he knew when someone repented. Lacking such gifts, most people have to depend on other signs. "By their fruits shall ye know them."

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 6:38pm BST

"Does this code change from national church to national church? From congregation to congregation?"

Well, it certainly changes from sect to sect of Christianity. There are so many different kinds of Christianity, there's something for practically everybody.

"I really do not understand how this moral policing can work in practice."

Teaching people that Christianity is about something, however your particular tradition interprets that something, is not about policing other people's morals. Why is it such a horrible thing to give people some sort of understanding of what it is they are signing on to before they sign on to it, and giving them the option to reject it, hopefully in favour of another interpretation, if they do not agree with it?

"what the checks that anyone in our congregation follows a moral code"

The conscience of the individual. This is about accepting that if people are going to honestly vow to be Christians, they have to know what it is they are vowing to do, and understand that that commitment involves something on their part. That's not about me saying I'm better than you, that's about saying that we have received a Gospel that we believe is God's full revelation of Himself and His will. We understand it in our particular way, which happens to be very broad, and we think that there is room for everybody who accepts that broad interpretation. But if you can't, well, you can't. Perhaps there are other expressions of Christianity that speak to your soul.


"I just cannot see how anything but 100% inclusiveness is what is demanded of us."

No argument. But what's the point of including them if we don't tell them what it is they are being included in? How can they even be included in that instance? And have we really included them if, for fear of appearing judgemental, we do not give them any kind of guidance in how to follow the faith they have accepted? And, if they fall away from that faith, supporting their return? And how can we do that if we are unwilling to point out to someone that they strayed from the Gospel, as we interpret it to be?


Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 7:19pm BST

"And yet the Church Catholic has managed to muddle its way through its complexities for the past 2000 years or so."

Yepp, but it hasn't stopped them from being Christians outside its policed walls.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 7:15am BST

Billy
"unrepentant sinner (how I hate that phrase!)"

Granted that it's not the most common of Anglican phrases, but why such very strong feelings about the phrase? "


I think because I've had it used against me for too long by people who seem to think they know exactly what sin is, in particular my sin, and what I do and don't repent of.

It's why I absolutely hate this notion that anyone can judge anyone else without creating a huge mount of injustice. Because, as you point out in a later post, only Jesus can truly know the hearts of people.

But mostly because it goes against the core of what I believe to be important about Christianity: It is MY sin I'm instructed to deal with in this life, not that of others. Not until I'm free of sin can I point to the sin of otheres. Motes and specks, you see. And stones at adulterous women.

Whenever we hear the adultery story and put ourselves in Jesus' shoes as the ones who can judge, forgive and punish, we end up becoming that little bit more conceited and proud. And as a group, we tend towards massive injustices.
We are called to identify with the accusers.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 7:23am BST

Billy
I keep looking but can't find it any longer. You've twice said "really?" when I said that I'm a Christian because I have decided to be one, and asked whether I thought all religions were self-selecting.

Could you please explain where you disgree with me? I don't really understand what your repeated question is aiming at and so don't even know how to start answering it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 7:33am BST

Hi Pat-
That is a game that no NT scholar would play. Anything is possible when we don't have the original MSS; but of books where we don not have original MSS it is just about least possible with the NT since we have 25000 MSS of all or part including early translations. This makes it very unlikely in any given case that the entire 25000 completely fail to witness to any given original reading. But multiply [adverb] unlikely when the verse in question is hand-picked by one's own choice and the preferred original reading is simultaneously handpicked. We are now in monkeys writing Shakespeare territory.

In any case, all the above is irrelevant since 1 Cor 6 is consistent with Paul's teaching elsewhere and with Jewish and Christian teaching of the time as a whole.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 12:32pm BST

"There's no such thing as a clobber-verse since the essence of a verse lies in what it says in and of itself not in the way people use it. 1 Cor. says clearly enough that men who lie with men (that is a literal translation in 3-letter words, but also, should anyone have had any doubt, an allusion to Leviticus) shall not inherit the kingdom. To say 'Oh but he means only some men who lie with men' is to read in something which is universally agreed not to be there in the actual text - and such an option would never have been thought of had it not been for a vested interest."

Pure biblical fundamentalism. Arsenokoites may have meant a category of prostitutes; even if not, many other literal teachings of Paul -- on slavery or the inferiority of women or the inherent mendacity of Cretans -- are rightly overriden by appeal to the basic principles of Paul himself. Paul is just wrong about the etiology of lesbianism in Romans 1. The witness of monogamous gay couples has shown clearly a new path of creative love that Christians who have a Pauline spirit of discernment are embracing.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 1:54pm BST

"It is MY sin I'm instructed to deal with in this life, not that of others. "

This seems like a very weird statement in the context of a discussion where the sins given as examples are racism, wife-beating, and pedophilia. I'm not so sure that squeamishness over the possibility of being charged with judgmentalism is called for when the sins to be opposed are those of the strong against the weak.

"We are called to identify with the accusers."

I'm guessing this is a typo, yes? :-)

"You've twice said "really?" when I said that I'm a Christian because I have decided to be one, and asked whether I thought all religions were self-selecting."

The only times I wrote "really?" on this thread have nothing to do with you being a Christian, or the idea of self-selecting religions. You'll find them in my post of 13 August 2009 at 7:53pm BST.

I did ask you in another post what you were basing your assertion, "If I tell you I believe in the Christian God, you have to take my word for it" on, though. *Why* do we have to take someone's word that they're a Christian, in the presence of any contrary evidence? How does that square with 1 John 1:5-6, which seems to state that behavior is an indicator of whether someone really has fellowship with God? Is Christianity the only religion that this is true of - the only religion that if you say you're in, you're in? If so, why?

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:32pm BST

"Yepp, but it hasn't stopped them from being Christians outside its policed walls."

I'm not sure what your saying here. There's no such thing as Christians in isolation (it's not just "Jesus and me," no matter how many C&W songs tell you that it is) and I'm not aware of any Christian group that has absolutely no internal discipline.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:35pm BST

"Whenever we hear the adultery story and put ourselves in Jesus' shoes as the ones who can judge, forgive and punish, we end up becoming that little bit more conceited and proud. And as a group, we tend towards massive injustices.
We are called to identify with the accusers."

I just figured out that you probably meant what you wrote - we're called to identify with the would-be stoning mob, who slinks away one by one. I actually find this quite shocking, given the fact that the sins we've been discussing as examples are things like racism, pedophilia, and spouse abuse. Surely you don't think that acting against those committing violent crimes against the weak and defenseless is unjustified?

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 11:06pm BST

"Arsenokoites may have meant a category of prostitutes"

Is it not also used in some other document to refer to an pbviouslt heterosexual man? The meaning in that context seems more to be "hedonistic" or even "debauched".


Erika, I am with you on the idea of not judging others, I think that's pretty basic, "Judge not lest ye be judged". Yet, surely Christianity is SOMETHING and committing to being a Christian means committing to SOMETHING, and means that we will seek, with God's help, to model our lives after that SOMETHING. We do not come to the Gospel with the full knowledge of that SOMETHING. Indeed, many of us, perhaps most, do not reach that full knowledge in this life. So, how to we get knowledge of that SOMETHING that we have committed to follow and how do we know that we are working in the right direction if there is no-one with the authority to tell us if we're on the right track? That seems to me to follow from your position. I appreciate your abhorrence of judgementalism, but surely there is a great difference between unbridled judgementalism on the one hand and guidance, sometimes punitive even, on the other. There are many Christians who are better at it than I am, many who are further along the path. Are they not supposed to share their experience, to give me guidance, because to do so would be judgemental of them? This is my problem with your position,and I can't get my head around it. If no-one has the authority, the expertise, the knowledge of the faith to correct us when we go astray, however mild that correction might be, what's the point of being a part of a chuch at all? I know you are not "making things up as you go along", but I'm not sure where you take your guidance from if to offer that guidance is somehow judgemental.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 3:10pm BST

No Billy
we're called to identify with the mob who would like to stone but who is brought short by Jesus' words and who slinks away without judging.

I have to remove wife beaters from their wives or help reform them.
I have to remove paedophiles from their victims.
I do not have to allow criminal behaviour.

But I also must not judge that I am better than they are and that I can remove them from the group of God's children.

Re there no such thing as Christian isolation, I don't get you.
I have asked you a number of times now what you are proposing to remove people from and you keep turning the question back at me. But I have answered it several times. You can remove people from your own weekly gathering, you can remove them from your denomination, you cannot remove them from the Body of Christ because that consists of all who have faith in the Christian God and only God can see their hearts and make that call.
Which is why the Roman Catholic church doesn't recognise almost any other group of Christians as Christian, yet that doesn't stop you and me from knowing that we are.
And if Archbishop Akinola succeeded in removing all vile gays from his church, you and I would still know that all Christian LGBTs in Nigeria would still be Christians, not in their church’s eyes but in God’s eye.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 3:10pm BST

Billy
I think I now understand your question about self identifying as Christian.
Now that’s a really tricky one!
I have posted about a hundred times on TA that it is by their fruits that you can tell them.
And yet, among us are people who will imprison gays, who plant hatred and division, who will stop at nothing to get their own will. There is even such a thing as a prosperity gospel, for crying out loud!

So are we, you and I, declaring that these people aren’t Christian? Although some occupy high positions in the church?

When I say that I am a Christian because I declare myself to be one, I mean that as opposed to, say, being Jewish from birth , not because someone believes in the Jewish faith.

And so I’m back where I started, where actually my key point in this whole debate has been. If I join a church and declare myself to be Christian, you have no real means of determining whether in my heart of hearts that is true. The inquisition that could root out false Christians hasn’t been dreamt up yet, and the inquisition we once did have ruled out many real ones who just didn’t fit the thinking of their times.

At the end, at the deepest core, we really have to let go of our urge to control and to judge, and we have to trust God that he knows the truth about every single one of us, and that this is, actually, enough.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 3:12pm BST

"we're called to identify with the would-be stoning mob, who slinks away one by one. I actually find this quite shocking,"

Shocking it may be, but we are called to identify with them anyway, and yes, that means we are called to identify with pedophiles and the like. Monsters are made, not born. We are all "cursed by the Law and bruised by the Fall", it's just that some of us bear more scars than others. So regardless of the heinous nature of some people's sins in our eyes, that can't stop us from relating to them as neighbour, since everybody, even the pedophile, is our neighbour, beloved of God just like you and me. That doesn't mean condoning their behaviour, of course, and it doesn't preclude acting against it. But an attempt at a compassionate understanding of how they got that way would seem to be reasonable. I see it as a basic part of the Christian life, but an incredibly hard one, especially when the particular sinner we are trying to understand as no less human than our own sinful selves seems Hell bent on practicing his sins in a way that damages us or those we care about, or offends our sense of what's moral and acceptible. On the other side, dealing with that behaviour might well mean cutting such a person off from the ecclesia and its sacraments or not letting them become one amongst us in the first place, harsh and extreme though that may be.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 4:13pm BST

Billy
"Surely you don't think that acting against those committing violent crimes against the weak and defenseless is unjustified?"

If your physical brother or sister turns out to be a criminal they can end up in prison or in a psychiatric hospital. Of course you have to protect their victims.

You can then choose whether you visit them in prison/hospital or whether you cut them out of your life.

But what you cannot do is declare that they are no longer your brother or sister. Because that relationship is a biological given based on the fact that you share the same parents.

As Christians, we also share the same parent. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our relationship is defined by the fact that we all believe in the same God.

You cannot judge that someone isn't a Christian, you cannot judge that he is not your brother, you cannot remove him from your church.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 5:14pm BST

Billy
What do you think Jesus meant, when he asked those without sin to throw the first stone?
What do you think the whole point of this story is?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 5:17pm BST

Ford
"but surely there is a great difference between unbridled judgementalism on the one hand and guidance, sometimes punitive even, on the other."

Yes of course.
I repeat - my only problem is with the notion that we have the right to throw people out of the church because we don't like their behaviour or thinking.

We can (and must!) guide, advise, show by example.
That goes without saying.
But punish?
How?
When?
Who decides?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 10:02pm BST

"But I also must not judge that I am better than they are and that I can remove them from the group of God's children."

Aha. Who's talking about removing them from the group of God's children? I'm talking about a temporary suspension of active Church membership (call it excommunication if you will), designed to both protect other members of the Church and to bring the offender to repentance. But even I, with my high view of the Church and her apostolic powers, have no notion that by doing so I am "removing them from the group of God's children," if you mean cancelling their membership in that group. Do you think that a mother who puts a child in time out is nullifying that child's membership in the family?

"Re there no such thing as Christian isolation, I don't get you."

Even when we are alone, our identity as Christians revolves around community, the Church. We pray, "Our Father," not "My Father," for example. We are part of the Communion of Saints, surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses the Bible talks about. It's not "Jesus and me." This is pretty standard Christian teaching, as far as I know.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 10:42pm BST

"Which is why the Roman Catholic church doesn't recognise almost any other group of Christians as Christian, yet that doesn't stop you and me from knowing that we are."

You are mistaken about RC teaching. Of course they acknowledge us as Christians - that's the whole point of the teaching that Baptism is the only sacrament that any Christian can administer.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 10:44pm BST

"If I join a church and declare myself to be Christian, you have no real means of determining whether in my heart of hearts that is true. "

"Joining the Church" is surely a different concept than "declaring myself a Christian," yes? If you're a member of the Church, of course I recognize you as a Christian; even excommunicated people are Christians. The question (I thought) is whether or not I'm called to recognize anybody who just decides to call himself a Christian.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 10:48pm BST

"Shocking it may be, but we are called to identify with them anyway..."

Agreed. What I was objecting to was what I perceive as a paralyzing inability to deal with discipline because of a squeamishness about being "judgmental." "Who are we to interfere in this? After all, we're just as much a sinner as ________________."

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 10:51pm BST

"But what you cannot do is declare that they are no longer your brother or sister."

See above. That isn't what I'm in favor of.

"But what you cannot do is declare that they are no longer your brother or sister. Because that relationship is a biological given based on the fact that you share the same parents."

You've been hanging around Christopher Shell too much. ;-)

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 10:55pm BST

"What do you think Jesus meant, when he asked those without sin to throw the first stone?"

Nu -uh, Erika - you first. :-)

Twice I've asked you about biblical verses (does your pointing to the story of Zacchaeus really explain the instructions Jesus gives in Matthew 18? if the Church lacks authority, what do those verses about binding and loosing and the keys of heaven mean?)

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 11:00pm BST

"What do you think Jesus meant, when he asked those without sin to throw the first stone?
What do you think the whole point of this story is?" - Erika -

Can someone else please get a word in edgeways here? Sometimes it helps when a completely detached person from the argument comes in on it.

I believe that, in it's specific context, this story is about Jesus questioning the right of any person (religious or not, but particularly in this case one who thinks himself to be religious) to judge and proceed to punish a fellow 'sinner'. Ergo; We are all sinners, and as a result of that reality we need to be compassionate towards other sinners.

(N.B. Jesus did not specify the type of sin, here; whether sexual or other!)

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 5:15am BST

Pat O’Neill wrote: ”I mean, it's not like we have the original manuscript in Paul's own handwriting, right?”

The obvious misreading of 1 Cor 6:9-11 is not because of “vested interests” in early Christianity. They are late. 10th to 12th century. Nor is there any Jewish or Christian ideas about the Abomination of Homosexuality in the 1st or 2nd centuries, as often claimed in late Modernity. It’s a misreading.

1 Cor 6:9-11 in itself is about the 10 Commandments. Furthermore, it’s in the o r d e r of the 10 Commandments – as is indeed most of the Bible, vs. the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain…

Just compare! Then you will see that the verses cannot mean what is purported nowadays, because their actual meaning is well within the 10 Commandments. Any late Modern translation is full of “sex”, a late Modern category. The 10 Commandments aren’t. It’s really as simple as that.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 6:47am BST

"I believe that, in it's specific context, this story is about Jesus questioning the right of any person (religious or not, but particularly in this case one who thinks himself to be religious) to judge and proceed to punish a fellow 'sinner'. Ergo; We are all sinners, and as a result of that reality we need to be compassionate towards other sinners."

I think you're setting up a false dichotomy: punishment vs compassion. Sometimes not to punish is the opposite of compassionate, or at least the opposite of love. When a teacher or parent punishes a child in love, it is for the child's own good. Not all punishment is the equivalent to stoning someone to death.

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 11:45am BST

Billy
I no longer understand what you are saying at all.

But I can tell you very clear what I’m saying.
I am extremely radical and there will be pretty much no-one who agrees with me here.

We are not to judge anyone’s relationship with God, ever.
When someone does something actively harmful, we remove him from the place where he can cause harm and we protect his victims.
And we try to talk to him and to make him see why he is doing wrong.

But we do not impose any kind of church sanctions. As I said, I do not understand the bible quote you asked me to explain, but I know they contradict a whole lot of other bible quotes, and so I just have to leave them where they are at the moment, knowing that I don’t understand them.

Communion is a direct touching point between God and the communicant. It is only one of many, I agree. Nevertheless, you do not remove direct touching points with God from people who seek them in order to punish them. That just make absolutely no sense to me.
If someone genuinely doesn’t see what they’ve done wrong, they’re no different from me not confessing a sin of mine I have not yet noticed. The fact that you may have noticed it in me isn’t enough to make me genuinely repentant, but you imposing punishment on me isn’t helping either.
And any action that is aimed at removing me from God is potentially counterproductive.

You say receiving the sacrament isn’t a right. But it isn’t a brownie point for good behaviour either. The language of rights is completely inappropriate here.

We cannot remove people from the fellowship of Christians. I don’t understand the difference of being a believing Christian and an active member of the church, so your comment that you can suspend someone from active church membership makes no sense to me. It’s an external measure we take for our own reasons, that in no way affects the relationship God has with that person.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 11:51am BST

Hi Goran-
You say most of the Bible is in the Ten-Commandments order.

It sounds a bit like AN Wilson's Vicar of Sorrows lining up the Who's Who entries with (was it?) bible chapters in order - but either way we would need evidence in the form of tables before we took such a large generalisation seriously.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 1:23pm BST

"How?
When?
Who decides?"

Punishment is a last ditch effort, first of all, not to be taken lightly. And it is by separation from the community. That the eccelsia has a right and at times a responsibility to do this is clear in Scripture. It is, as I said, a last resort, so only after much prayer, adomnition, discussion, etc. It is also not intended to be final. Anciently, those so disciplined were not considered no longer God's children, but no longer able to actively function as part of the community because they had chosen to put themselves at odds with that community. They were still permitted to attend worship, but required to stand in the porch as a symbol of their separation from the body. As to who, well, the ecclesia, led by the priest and ultimately the Bishop. The latter are people chosen by God to shepherd His flock. We therefor trust they have received some charism to do this. One can have little respect for the priest, but lots for the office. The entire community gets some say of course, as well, the priest isn't a little God in the parish, nor the bishop neither. If the Church doesn't have any role in teaching the faith and guiding those who choose to follow it, what's Her purpose? I can't understand why you seem to think it so wrong for a community that believes it is following, however feebly, Truth revealed by God, to require, with mercy forebearance and love, that it's members actually behave in ways that are consistent with that Truth, guide them to do this, and correct them when necessary.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 1:50pm BST

"I no longer understand what you are saying at all."

That's too bad. I've tried to explain as clearly as I know how.

"But we do not impose any kind of church sanctions"

Well, it turns out we do; see the BCP rubric I referred you to.

"Communion is a direct touching point between God and the communicant. It is only one of many, I agree. Nevertheless, you do not remove direct touching points with God from people who seek them in order to punish them. That just make absolutely no sense to me."

I think you're hung up on the word "punish," as if it were synonymous with being cruel or vindictive. What do you think the purpose of punishment is, anyway? Simply causing pain? If "punishment" is a deal breaker, how about substituting "discipline"?

"And any action that is aimed at removing me from God is potentially counterproductive."

Huh? Who's talking about removing anybody from God? You really do not seem to be listening to what I'm saying. With all due respect, it seems to me that you have this preconceived idea of what you think my position is, and are filtering my posts through them. You ascribe to me viewpoints regarding the powers of the Church ("removing...from God") that no one in their right mind would espouse in the first place, and then deny them.

I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. I despair of getting my meaning across to you.


Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 9:25pm BST

Well Christopher, I was shocked too when I discovered this. The 10 Commandments are much overlooked thesedays...

But, only read 1 Cor 6:9-11 and the Sermon on the Mount, and the Sermon in the Plain, and you will see.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 6:48am BST

BillyD
Having read all your contributions again I think I roughly know what you're saying, although you do contradict yourself at times, but I suppose so did I - it's hard to stay on track in a heated conversation going across 2 threads!

You are right, we do have to agree to disagree. In my last post I said I knew I was so radical that practically no-one would agree with me.
I can live with that.

But do tell me, please, if you do not believe that withholding commuion from someone is removing a (not every!) touching point with God, then what is it you're doing?

I presume you have a certain belief of what Communion is and what happens during Communion. So you must have a particular reason for selecting the withholding of Communion as your disciplinary action. Presumably, that lies in withholding whatever it is that Communion does, otherwise you'd choose another sanction.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 10:52am BST

One point on this whole "punishment" thing: has anybody had the experience of this actually happening? The only case I know of is of a local parish where Essentials was trying to organize. Naturally, this caused a lot of division. The priest who was doing the dividing, I mean organizing, kicked two middle aged people out of the choir because they were living together without benefit of clergy. This significantly added to the division in the parish. When he left, I think everything reverted back to what it had been. I don't know if the couple returned to the choir or if they had left the parish in disgust, though I somehow suspect the former. The whole thing was widely seen as very unseemly, and as what could be expected of the Essentials people. So, I wonder if we are getting all hot under the collar about abstractions here.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 3:01pm BST

Ford
When I first started to live with my partner there was a campaign by some people to make the priest punish me for my sin by not admitting me to the Eucharist.
As it also happened to be a time in my life when I was in desperate need of God, more so than ever before, and as the Eucharist is to me one of the most moving and emotionally sustaining touching points with God, I am still deeply grateful to my wonderful priest that she didn't even entertain the notion.
But she would have been within her ecclesiastical rights.

It's precisely this illusion that The Church (whoever that might be, pace, Billy) has this God-given right to judge who needs punishing or disciplining, and that not admitting people to the Eucharist is a valid way of doing that, that can lead to huge injustices.

But human power crazes aside, I still struggle with the principle thinking that removing people from a prime contact point with God is somehow likely to bring them closer to Him.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 5:07pm BST

"But do tell me, please, if you do not believe that withholding commuion from someone is removing a (not every!) touching point with God, then what is it you're doing?"

I think withholding Communion with someone serves several purposes. In no particular order:

(1) It avoids the giving the false impression that the Church condones or even endorses the behavior involved. Giving Communion to your local Klansman or neo-Nazi would undoubtedly send the message that one can be "a good Christian" and publicly advocate genocide at the same time, and would damage the Church’s ability to preach the Gospel.

(2) It serves as a very serious wake-up call to the person involved that something is wrong with their life, and that the community requires a pretty drastic change.

(3) It prevents the person involved from doing spiritual harm to themself with the Church's active cooperation. The Church's tradition is pretty clear that receiving Communion "unworthily" is a source of danger for the communicant.

As you wrote previously, the Eucharist isn't a reward for good behavior, and you were right. But while it doesn't make any sense to talk about being worthy of Communion, it does make sense to talk about receiving Communion worthily, as the BCP does. How do you worthily receive Communion? You "repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways..."

What happens when someone takes Communion unworthily? The traditional view is that it is a grave sin; St Paul seems to say that it could even kill you. Even if you rejected that view, though, it can still be a source of harm. Looking at it from a psychological point of view, receiving Communion unworthily is a form of self-deception. "Sure I abuse my children, but everything is okay because God accepts me in Communion. There's really nothing wrong."

Ordinarily the responsibility for making sure that we approach the Sacrament “worthily” falls on us; sometimes, though, our behavior is so public and of such character that the decision is taken out of our hands. Remember, in the scenario covered by the disciplinary rubrics, the sins involved are those that cause public scandal, and the person is supposed to be told privately ahead of time not to approach for Communion, if possible.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 6:06pm BST

"One point on this whole "punishment" thing: has anybody had the experience of this actually happening"

Not directly, no. And it happens so infrequently - and is supposed to happen privately, at least when withholding the Sacrament is concerned - that I wouldn't expect anyone to know about it except the persons involved.

There is an ongoing case in the Diocese of North Carolina, where at least one aspect of it may have happened. A man who is on the vestry of his parish was arrested for not only sexually abusing his 5 year-old son, but offering him up for abuse by strangers via the internet. Soon after the arrest, the man's name disappeared from the parish's website vestry page; later it reappeared with the notation "(inactive)" next to it.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 6:14pm BST

"It's precisely this illusion that The Church (whoever that might be, pace, Billy) has this God-given right to judge who needs punishing or disciplining, and that not admitting people to the Eucharist is a valid way of doing that, that can lead to huge injustices."

Abusus non tollit usum. The fact that there was an attempt to misuse the process in your case doesn't mean that there's not a proper use for it (but I'm sorry to read about your experience anyway).

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 11:53pm BST

"But she would have been within her ecclesiastical rights."

I'm not so sure she would have. We're not Presbyterians, where the parish or a portion of it gets to vote on who's in and who's out. And the disciplinary rubric in the 1662 BCP is even more restrictive than the one in the American book - she would have had to check with the bishop first. The need to consult with the bishop first (or informing him/her about it ASAP afterwards) is undoubtedly there to prevent the arbitrary exercise of the rubric protect the ordinary communicant.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 19 August 2009 at 12:04am BST

Hi Goran-
That cannot be true since the main Sermon on Mount references to the Ten Commandments are to the *later* commandments yet occur in the *first* third of the Sermon, ie one particular portion of it, not its entirety.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 19 August 2009 at 12:41pm BST

Read them again, dear Christopher.

The 10 Commandments are: the Great Commandment, Deut 5:6 “I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from Egypt, the House of Slavery” – from which all the others flow – but forgotten in later (Christian) traditions,

The 3 Cultic Commandments (often translated in late Modernity as “sex”):
No other gods;
No Images of them, no worship, not serve them;
Don’t’ take his Name in vain.

The 3 Collective Commandments; Household:
Keep the Sabbath (changed to Sunday, the day of the Resurrection);
Honour thy Parents (in their old age);
Don’t kill (e.g. Honour killings of your household members, still alive and kicking in Mid-Eastern Culture – also in Europe);
Don’t be Disloyal (towards your House. Changed in Carolingian times from the duties of the Husbander/Pater familias to the Marriage breaking of the adultera/adaltrach, the exogamous second Wife).

The 3 Social Commandments; Neighbour:
Don’t steal (the members of your Neighbour’s House for the Slave trade. Changed to things);
No false witness (a Court of Justice commandment. The Word of a Husband/Pater familias was proof in pre Modern Societies. Changed to slander and gossip);
Don’t desire the House, Wife (this is the real Commandment on “adultery”, these days only remembered by the Roman Catechism), Land, Servants, Ox, and Donkey of thy Neighbour.

You have heard, but I tell you:
Matthew 5:21-26, 6th Commandment, Honour killings,
Matthew 5:27-32, 7th Commandment, Disloyalty.

These are the Collective; Household, Commandments most often re-affirmed in the NT.

Matthew 5:33-37, 9th Commandment, False witness,
Matthew 5:38-26, Negating “an Eye for an Eye”, not a Commandment proper, but Leviticus 24:20, well known from the surrounding Culture, “originally” from Hammurabi’s laws.

Matthew 5:43, Negating the “Love thy Neighbour but hate thy enemy” of the Culture, affirming Leviticus 19:18. This is the Commandment “added” by Jesus to the Great Commandment (Deut 5:6) in Mark 12:29-31. The Summa of the Law.

These are the Social; Neighbour, Commandments re-affirmed in the NT. Some are never mentioned (the 4th), others only criticised (the 3rd, the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath).

As you say the 3 Cultic commandments are not mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, but (often sexualised) everywhere in the (much later) “Catalogues of Sins”, but surely they are at least implied…

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 7:52am BST

Thank you, Goran. That all seems pretty clear to me. However, Christopher may not agree. He does seem to have some alternative objective on this thread. Perhaps he needs to get back to the N.T.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 11:58am BST

Hi Fr Ron-
All you need to do is find just one New Testament scholar who believes the Sermons on Mount and/or Plain (or indeed the whole Bible) could be systematically arranged around the Ten-Commandments principle. There are many hundreds of them - members of SBL and SNTS (and BNTS). Not a single one believes this to my knowledge - but you are welcome to prove me wrong.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 21 August 2009 at 12:24pm BST

The 10 Commandments, or Words, being terribly overlooked in our late Modernity...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 22 August 2009 at 3:56am BST

"As it also happened to be a time in my life when I was in desperate need of God, more so than ever before, and as the Eucharist is to me one of the most moving and emotionally sustaining touching points with God, I am still deeply grateful to my wonderful priest that she didn't even entertain the notion."

Of course she didn't. So the process worked in your case: a group of nasty people were not able to impose their will on the Church by somehow succeeding in forcing you out, because their will was contrary to the Gospel, and the priest saw that. Had she not, perhaps the bishop might have. Perhaps not. But there is a huge difference between some fallen members of the family being nasty and the entire family going along with them. Just having them talk about you behind your back, or even scheme against you, isn't injustice, it's fallen human nature. The point is that they didn't get their way.

"It's precisely this illusion that The Church (whoever that might be, pace, Billy) has this God-given right to judge who needs punishing or disciplining, and that not admitting people to the Eucharist is a valid way of doing that, that can lead to huge injustices."

And adopting the attitude that our religion is about nothing more than what each of us on our path feels led to believe it is and the Church has no right or ability to actually teach anything concrete just leads to a place where we don't actually have any kind of message to preach to the world. Both these are extreme situations. The world is usually more balanced. It certainly was in your cse. It must have been hard to learn to love the people who had schemed against you, perhaps it still is. And it probably involved some understanding that just as they had no right to force you out, neither do you have that right WRT them. But I'm still trying to get my head around how it can be that we can say that we have a message to preach to the world, but we are reluctant to be specific about it because we don't want to appear judgemental, and if anyone goes against these principles we have no right or responsibility to tell them they are getting it wrong. That's not the same thing as a bunch of people scheming to get rid of someone they disapprove of.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 23 August 2009 at 2:28pm BST

Hi Fr Ron-
As I am still waiting for any reply, pls can I ask that you not be so dismissive unless able to back up what you say. Then we can have a really good honest debate. Thanks.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 19 September 2009 at 12:06pm BST
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