Thursday, 25 March 2010

Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church

updated Maundy Thursday

The US Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has published a draft of the 95-page report titled “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church”. This is really two reports, one from the “Traditionalists” and one from the “Liberals”.

Episcopal Life has this story: Bishops’ theology committee publishes draft report on same-gender relationships which includes useful information of the report’s status. It starts:

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, concluding its six-day retreat meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, has posted a draft of the long-awaited 95-page report titled “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church” on the College for Bishops’ website here.

“For a generation and more the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have been engaged in a challenging conversation about sexual ethics, especially regarding same-sex relationships in the life of the church,” Theology Committee Chair and Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley wrote in the report’s preface. “The hope of this work is that serious engagement in theological reflection across differences will build new bridges of understanding.”

A notation on the report’s table of contents page cautions that the report “has been edited in several places” following a discussion among the bishops on March 20. “The responses of several pan-Anglican and ecumenical theologians will be added to this study in the summer, along with some further editing, before a final edition is published,” the note concludes.

Episcopal Café reports this as House of Bishops posts same-sex report(s).

update

Bill Bowder reports this in the Church Times as US theologians have words over gay marriage.

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Comments

The thrust of the "traditionalist" argument seems to be that proof texts constitute an adequate argument, but people do not. (The way they use "experience," you'd think they were uttering a profanity!)

Posted by: Geoff M. on Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 7:16pm GMT

Theological reports written and released by Church committees should be taken with a grain of salt, no matter which side of an issue they are written from, unless the scholarship in those reports has been submitted to academic peer groups for critical evaluation.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 9:06pm GMT

I enjoy reading just about everything on this valuable website, Thinking Anglicans, and I am a progressive Roman Catholic. I looked at Nashotah House's website as I am unfamiliar with this Episcopal Church seminary. In general, are theologians from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church against same-sex marriage? I noticed one of the theologians arguing for traditional marriage was from this seminary. It is confusing to me just where they(Anglo Catholic Episcopalians) are on this issue because here in San Francisco, the Anglo-Catholic parishes are almost all gay male congregations and many have same sex couples. Enlighten this Vatican II Catholic. There seems to be a disconnect here or maybe I am completely missing something.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 9:41pm GMT

"We have the teaching of Jesus about the disappearance of marriage and family relationships in the kingdom of heaven, and we have the examples and teachings of both Jesus and Paul, who made clear that physical sexual needs, expressions, and relationships are temporary and secondary compared to our destiny as co-heirs with Christ."
- Traditionalist Arguments -

SO! What has that to do with the efficacy of sexual expression and relationships here on earth? The writers are here talking about something we already know - that ALL erotic relationships are due, eventually, to be subsumed into the area of 'agape' - whether hetero- or homo-sexual.

This says nothing about the equivalence of both types of relationship in terms of their usefulness as ways of loving that help both straights and gays to experience an important dimension of God's Love here in our world. To have denied our natural instinct for sexual love may just have frustrated God's design for human loving as 'one way' to experience love as fellow human beings before being able to properly understand what the broader aspect of loving - agape - is all about.

Perhaps more attention should be paid to Human Development Studies - before discounting the sheer experience of physical and romantic loving that may have been meant by God to inform any coherent theological understanding of human sexuality.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 25 March 2010 at 10:26pm GMT

The website of Trinity does not use the word 'Episcopal' in its title (despite what the posting says) and describes two of the reasons for choosing Trinity as:

10. Trinity is committed to raising-up teachers and leaders for the Global South, with special links to Uganda Christian University and the Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt.

11. Trinity deliberately builds bridges of friendship across Anglican and Episcopal jurisdictions.

Hmmm. I bet it does. And real friendly they are too.

It doesn't sound to me like it is part of the Episcopal Church. Just asking.

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 12:01am GMT

Chris, I think it would be more accurate to say that everyone at Nashotah House is against same-sex marriage. I don't think it's necessarily characteristic of being Anglo-Catholic, as much as it is of being traditionalist among the Anglo-Catholics; for your observation is correct that there are also progressives (the writers in the report apparently chose the term "expansionist," because the believe they are acknowledging and responding to expansion in the church that the Spirit is already bringing about) among Anglo-Catholics.

Indeed, one could argue, at least from initial reports, that the Expansionists are Anglo-Catholic. They are expressing a very sacramental theology of marriage (marriage as an means of grace for each member).

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 2:21am GMT

Chris,
There are really 2 streams of Anglo-Catholicism.

One, represented by Nashotah House, Forward in Faith, and the former bishops of San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Quincy, is very close to pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. Opposed to the ordination of women, very clerically centered, and very conservative.

The second, represented by Affirming Catholicism, the previous Primate of Canada (Andrew Hutchison), and the SF parishes you are familiar with, looks much less toward Rome, especially in the era of JPII and BXVI, is progressive, socially activist, and in favor of women's ordination and same-sex blessing/marriages.

This is rather a simplistic explanation, but I hope it helps.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 2:25am GMT

Chris S, the English equivalents may be instructive:

For Nashotah House, think "Forward in Faith" [anti-WO, anti-LGBT (except, perhaps, if DEEPLY closeted)].

For the A-C parishes you know in San Fran, think "Affirming Catholicism".

Throughout TEC (in the U.S.), MOST A-C parishes, I expect, would tend to be more like Affirming Catholicism (though perhaps w/ not quite the uniform demographic you've experienced in the City by the Bay!). For this reason, progressive Anglo-Catholics in the US haven't perceived the same *need* for an organization like Affirming Catholicism.

The exception would be in places like Fort Worth, where they're fighting to leave TEC (w/ their property, of course, like thieves-in-the-night). HTH.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 2:30am GMT

We have the teaching of Jesus about the disappearance of marriage and family relationships in the kingdom of heaven, and we have the examples and teachings of both Jesus and Paul, who made clear that physical sexual needs, expressions, and relationships are temporary and secondary compared to our destiny as co-heirs with Christ."

So - by that logic, all of us should be like the Shakers - celibate for life. Let's see - how many Shakers are left? Oh - and how many who wrote that piece of junk are celibate?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 3:09am GMT

You want something hilariously ballistic, Fr. Ron? I know from experience. Tell them that, since sex isn't important, and our destiny as heirs of God, blah, blah, is, and saving souls is mostest importantest of all . . . put away their own families and spouses as a living sign to us poor, benighted ho-mo-sekshuls of how to live righteously.

Next will follow the most incredible display of gymnastics since Cirque du Soleil.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 3:59am GMT

"I looked at Nashotah House's website as I am unfamiliar with this Episcopal Church seminary. In general, are theologians from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Episcopal Church against same-sex marriage?" - Chris Smith, on Thursday -

Chris, it would seem that Nashotah House has sought an allegiance with certain Orthodox church-people in the U.S.A., which would align them with theological arguments against any sort of same-sex relationships. However, that, I think, is peculiar to that particular Anglo-Catholic institution. I don't think that many Anglo-Catholics in any other country would be so blissfully unaware of gay partnerships within their midst.

What may be a defining issue though, is what you might want to call a secure, monogamous same-sex relationship. Whereas in the outside world it may be considered to equate with 'marriage', this has been seen to be a problem generally with the Church. A same-sex committed relationship theology is in need of being articulated in order to enable these partnerships to become acceptable.

Nashotah House appears to deal somewhat differently from some other Anglo-Catholic institutions on issues of both women and gays!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 9:50am GMT

Geoff M.: apparently you have proof-texted the 'traditionalist' document. The exegetical arguments and overall approach of the paper are grounded in biblical theology methodology, not proof-texting.

Father Ron Smith: PLEASE read the whole traditionalist report... you seem to have skipped a few pages.

Grumpy High Church Woman: Trinity School for Ministry is an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition and an officially recognized theological school in the Episcopal Church. It has a student population and faculty that respect, and draw from, the evangelical, catholic, and charismatic streams. It also sustains a respectiful dialogue on the ordination of women. Our students go on to serve in TEC as well as the ACNA. And if that's not enough, we are blessed by vibrant fellowship with Global South Anglicans on- and off-campus.

And, yes, it is a "friendly" place -- come and see for yourself sometime. You might find this hard to believe, but mostly we talk about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how we are called to serve in his mission to the world.

Posted by: Phil Harrold on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 12:10pm GMT

My opinion is that although some people might be against Same-Sex relationships, it is not out place to judge them, it is God's place. Also would those some people against it like it to be on their concience that they pushed Gay/Bi/Lesbian people away from God? I may not agree with the way they live, but it's not my place to judge. Hope other people understand what I'm getting at.

Posted by: Victoria on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 1:31pm GMT

Adding to the responses to Chris Smith by Marshall Scott, Jim Pratt, JCF, et al.: As a graduate of Nashotah House (long long ago and in very many respects in a galaxy far far away), I grieve that the House has evidently gone over to the Dark Side. It's not entirely clear what "Anglo-Catholic" means any more, at least for American Episcopalians. American Anglo-Catholics were (mostly) not nearly as extreme as some in England could be. (Whatever else one might want to say about the American Missal, it did take the Book of Common Prayer seriously, if not always strictly literally!) I might note that even the "right-wing" Anglo-Catholics (e.g. ex-Quincy, ex-Fort Worth, ex-San Joaquin) have indicated that they have no interest at all in Rome's recent attempt to troll for Anglicans.

Evangelicals in the American Church are also not as extreme as some in England appear to be, and "Evangelical Catholic" is not obviously an oxymoron! The old broad-church-establishment folks aren't doing that well either. One reason why Affirming Catholicism doesn't seem to have caught on in TEC is that many don't see why we would need it. (Though it may turn out that they (we) may be naively mistaken about that!)

Posted by: Bill Moorhead on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 2:30pm GMT

@Marshall Scott:

Indeed! I am a bit iffy about using "traditionalist" to mean "anti-same-sex marriage." It seems to me that a genuinely "traditional" approach promotes the use of the Church's "traditional" sacraments rather than consigning the faithful to "shacking up." It is precisely *because* of my belief in the Church's Tradition that I support same-sex marriage, and oppose the creation of any new ad hoc (or - heaven forfend! - "gay") rite.

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 3:13pm GMT

As I mentioned over at the Cafe, before discussing whether the conservative paper represents a particular school of Episcopal thought, it would be helpful to know how many of the writers who produced it are Episcopalians. I'd be grateful to anyone who could shed light on this issue. I haven't taken an exhaustive look, but my initial Web explorations suggest that the answer is one. I believe two are members of the Church of Canada and one is from the Church of England. I could be wrong, though.

Posted by: Jim Naughton on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 3:49pm GMT

I have to echo Cynthia Gillett and others: If sex is temporary, physical, etc., and sex is non-existent in heaven, and we all aspire to a heavenly life here on Earth, then all the writers who ascribed to that philosophy in the TEC draft need to divorce their spouses immediately, posthaste -- or ask the PB or the ABC or the Pope to annull their marriage, depending on just how Catholic their Anglo-Catholicism is.
Mark Brunson, if you ever have a chance to see their "But, but, but ... we never meant that to apply to US!" gymnastics, please let us know.
As far as Nashotah House, two decades ago, I knew an Episcopal priest who was a graduate from that fine school. He told me he was traditionalist in liturgy and liberal in theology, a combination I find most pleasing. I would hope that Nashotah House still instills that kind of education.

Posted by: peterpi on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 6:42pm GMT

'Indeed! I am a bit iffy about using "traditionalist" to mean "anti-same-sex marriage." It seems to me that a genuinely "traditional" approach promotes the use of the Church's "traditional" sacraments rather than consigning the faithful to "shacking up." It is precisely *because* of my belief in the Church's Tradition that I support same-sex marriage, and oppose the creation of any new ad hoc (or - heaven forfend! - "gay") rite.'

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 3:13pm GMT

Excellent point !

It can also be salutory to bear in mind that 'tradition' and 'betrayal' share the same root.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 6:51pm GMT

Phil Harrold: my extended response to the response will be up shortly. As for Trinity, its graduates are hard pressed to obtain candidacy or deployment in most dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 6:56pm GMT

My opinion is that although some people might be against Same-Sex relationships, it is not out place to judge them, it is God's place. Also would those some people against it like it to be on their concience that they pushed Gay/Bi/Lesbian people away from God? I may not agree with the way they live, but it's not my place to judge. Hope other people understand what I'm getting at.

Posted by: Victoria on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 1:31pm GMT

It is a relief to me that Victoria isn't judging me, even though she may not approve of the way I live.

If only there were more like her ...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 7:00pm GMT

Many thanks to all of the people who took the time to post comments about my question concerning the Nashotah House Seminary. There are many things Vatican II Catholics such as myself admire about American (Episcopalian) Anglicans, especially their ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. Also of their inclusive love toward glbt people by affirming and blessing same sex unions. I feel you are several light years ahead of us and you provide the best model of Church- a model that we hoped would have come about as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Sadly, since 1978, we have been hijacked by the far right elements of our hierarchy, especially the hierarchy in Rome. I admire the many "Anglo" Catholic people I have met in San Francisco, Boston and New York City because they are very inclusive and supportive of women and glbt people by placing great value on their roles in the Church. I may prefer a more contemporary Eucharistic rite than many of the Anglo Catholic Episcopalians I have met, but I certainly respect and admire their right to express traditional and ancient Catholic forms of Eucharist. I enjoy reading the many topics on this remarkable Thinking Anglicans website and I have met a great number of NCR readers who feel the same way. Hats off to all of you. You have much to teach us. Again, thank you for the insights and answers you provided. I think I "get it" now.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 7:00pm GMT

Jim Naughton,
according to ECDplus.org, LeMarquand and Westberg, though ordained in Canada, are now canonically resident in Albany and Milwaukee, respectively. Sumner is a priest in the Canadian church. Goldingay is not listed, so presumably is still canonically resident in the CofE.

So for what it's worth, not one was ordained in TEC.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 7:35pm GMT

It's always nice to read a contribution like yours Chris Smith, and I am keeping your denomination in prayers during this difficult time of trial. I think that change will come and what is still a work in progress in the Episcopal (along with most of the C of E, believe me) Churches is faith rooted in the Gospel of Christ's love, along with "doing church" beautifully and with a sense of elegance. We'll get there.

Posted by: evensongjunkie (formerly cbfh) on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 11:22pm GMT

"we are blessed by vibrant fellowship with Global South Anglicans on- and off-campus."
- Phil Harrold -

Ah. now, there you have it! Nashotah House does have a 'non-TEC' affinity with the Global South. That immediately warns me about their relationship of loyalty (what an old-fashioned but still lovely word) with The Episcopal Church in the USA.

This 'Global South' affinity, plus its's newly-formed association with certain Eastern Orthodox Church authorities, puts Nashotah House somewhat to the 'right' of the liberating influence of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. One begins to wonder whether N.H. might be seceding from TEC and it's covering influence in the near future? Does ACNA have any hopes of a new partnership in the area of theological indoctrination, I wonder? - Just asking!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 26 March 2010 at 11:54pm GMT

Dr.Goode, though not ordained is cetainly an Episcopalian. I don't know the others.

Back in the long ago world of the 50's I was a member of a very "high church" parish -- the term Anglocatholic was rarely used then. And very aware that it and others were safe places for closeted gay men -- I didn't know any lesbians. My rector and many others were celebate and wanted us to follow Rome's example.

Althouh I was a straight woman and at that time couldn't imagine seeking ordination, I did appreciate that the parish was not dominated by the family with children programing I'd known in suburban parishes.

I'm not welcome there now so can't say who is involved but suspect that many deeply closeted gay men are threatened by the openness of those working for honesty in all areas of life. and that that includes many clergy.

Columba Gilliss

Posted by: Columba Gilliss on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 12:01am GMT

'A respectful dialogue on the ordination of women' at Trinty. How nice for everyone, especially women. Meaning it is okay to say that women aren't priests (the impossibilist argument), or are but shouldn't be (like robbing a bank, you can do it but you shouldn't argument). Or our orders are at best in reception and will be there until the Second Coming as far as I can tell. I feel very respected indeed. And I am sure any man would feel just as respected if such things were said about them.

Posted by: Grumpy High Church Woman on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 12:14am GMT

@ Fr Pratt, I was under the impression that Dr Sumner, though of course "a priest in the Canadian church," was indeed "ordained in TEC."

Posted by: Geoff on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 2:02am GMT

Cnservative American Anglo Catholics are liberal on one issue and that is divorce. They have virtuually all abandoned the traditnal Anglican position on divorce and re-marriage. If they had notdoner so , a lot of their clergy and laity would have had to leave! They just don't talk about it and contraception is a non issue. by the standard of the past they are liberal.

So when they say they are defending marriage, remember they believe in serial polygamy.

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 6:39am GMT

Same old same old. I am always irritated by the way the conservatives totally ignore Jesus's negative attitude to marriage and the family - if you want a prophet of family, it ain't him. Also by their assumption, never questioned, that it would be better to be straight if one could be. Long way to go in challenging CULTURAL assumptions.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 8:21am GMT

Geoff: but of course Trinity grads are not accepted by many dioceses in TEC-- they are formed in the faith as received from the apostles and historic teachings of the Church. TEC's policy of inclusion, in its prevailing mode, does not, shall we say, 'include' that.

Father Ron Smith: I think you are confusing my comments about Trinity with Nashotah House.

Grumpy High Church Woman: we have a "respectful dialogue on the ordination of women" because we have, by God's grace, committed ourselves to searching the Scriptures in a community that upholds their authority and the received teachings of the historic Church. Ordained women and men participate in this multi-disciplinary and scholarly endeavor, and our goal is the mind of Christ and an undivided Church. This requires supernatural humility, so we often fall short. But, again, by God's grace we continue the search together.

Posted by: Phil Harrold on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 11:13am GMT

RIW: "Conservative American Anglo Catholics are liberal on one issue and that is divorce. They have virtually all abandoned the traditional Anglican position on divorce and re-marriage."

Yes, this is quite so, and a point worth making. I was reading through the traditionalists' case in the TEC document to see if they stressed the lifelong nature of the commitment made through marriage vows, but I didn't notice where they did so. It is peculiar that even the most conservative minded Christians seem to have coped so well with the radical change in doctrine on the indissolubility of Christian marriage, while making such a big deal about the gender of the spouses. I didn't notice any discussion of the conservative take on transgendered people getting married, either, which one would expect if gender definitions are so important to them. Or maybe I missed this in my cursory reading?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 5:17pm GMT

For what it's worth on the Trinity issue, the Diocese of Los Angeles -- a liberal diocese -- has ordained two Trinity graduates in the last couple of years. Both are in charge of congregaions, as a rector and the other as a vicar. The one I know is a very fine priest.


Posted by: dr.primrose on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 6:01pm GMT

"Trinity grads are not accepted by many dioceses in TEC-- they are formed in the faith as received from the apostles and historic teachings of the Church. TEC's policy of inclusion, in its prevailing mode, does not, shall we say, 'include' that."

Does your "faith as received from the apostles" still include that commandment (one of Ten, as my apparently deficient TEC formation taught me) to ***NOT bear false witness*** Dr. Harrold?

[As far as your graduates being "not accepted by many dioceses in TEC": perhaps if they didn't have such a history/reputation for schism and then THEFT, they might find a greater welcome into holy orders of TEC? (See again re "Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness": something too many of your graduates have abandoned, along w/ their TEC ordination vows!)]

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 7:18pm GMT

'Geoff: but of course Trinity grads are not accepted by many dioceses in TEC-- they are formed in the faith as received from the apostles and historic teachings of the Church. TEC's policy of inclusion, in its prevailing mode, does not, shall we say, 'include' that.'

Posted by: Phil Harrold on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 11:13am GMT

They have nothing to learn from anyone else then ?
Going to be of limited use in a mature, forward-looking body like TEC then. And are they supposed to be carried and cosetted in their bubble of self satisfaction ? For how long ?

Plese gett a bit real fella !


Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 9:39pm GMT

What grist for so many of the turning mills, a spate of antigay Anglican ones surely among them, is this report probably going to be.

Among its immediate deep flaws is its 'creationist' citing of pseudo-science when it comes to accurate modern knowledge (and ongoing theory plus research testing) when it comes to most of the hot button Anglican topics related to queer folks, pairbonding, and human nature generally.

Alas, again, Lord have mercy.

All that looks like it will be solidly called to account - as pseudo-science, flat earthism variety - by IT, starting on Friends of Jake ...

at: http://friends-of-jake.blogspot.com/2010/03/i-wont-lecture-you-on-theology-if-you.html

And: http://gaymarriedcalifornian.blogspot.com/p/genetics.html

I cannot abide self-celebrating 'biblical theology' which either deliberately ignores and/or distorts what we really know empirically. The conservative stuff in this report is either flat earth redux, or claiming to be listening by getting its ears all twisted up about the 'defectiveness' or 'unnaturalness' of everybody except nothing but very straight Anglicans who 'naturally' need to divorce when they mess up in a bad marriage. Alas. Again. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 10:52pm GMT

"So when they say they are defending marriage, remember they believe in serial polygamy."
- Robert I Williams -

I think, Robert - for the sake of your own argument here - you are talking about 'serial monogamy', which simply means 'one wife at a time'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 27 March 2010 at 11:43pm GMT

JCF & Rev. L. Roberts: to carry on the apostolic witness and tradition is, by God's grace and power, to be inherently missional and engaged IN the world... without being OF the world.

I pray that our sad divisions would end so that we might join together in that mission. In this blessed Holy Week, may we each experience once again the transforming power of the Cross. Christ's peace to you all.

Posted by: Phil Harrold on Sunday, 28 March 2010 at 12:55pm BST

1. Much of the thread was disconcerting. Of course, I knew you were talking about the Trinity (More or Less Episcopal) School for Ministry. But as a graduate of a different Trinity, it was a bit jarring.

2. Affirming Catholicism did exist in the US - though their website appears to be defunct. The Canadian province rather fell apart since, though affirming the ordination of women, some of the leadership figures turned out to be less so on the current presenting issue. There is a struggling little group in Toronto, though I've lost touch with them. Just yesterday, another priest and I spoke briefly about the desire to have something in this diocese like Affirming Catholicism. A previous poster was correct, I think, that the need / desire for such a group is stronger when one feels like a minority.

3. I believe Jim might also have included another previous Canadian primate on his list. Michael Peers was, by the time of his retirement, the senior primate of the Communion. He might, arguably, have included Trinity Collegge Toronto as well, although there were always parallel subcultures of affirming and less affirming Anglo-Catholics. The Place Across the Street, however, has never much tolerated liberal / moderate evangelicals and now seems determined to hire faculty exclusively for the far right of the American church.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Sunday, 28 March 2010 at 3:01pm BST

A post at Episcopal Cafe, on the Report for the bishops, contains this link to an interesting article. I would be interested to hear from folks with a scientific skill set, on the article below. http://www.pnas.org/content/105/30/10273.full

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 28 March 2010 at 4:55pm BST

I am (I think) a member of the "struggling little group in Toronto." The Humphrys Chaplain would be the one to contact. In line with other comments, I suspect that there might be to some extent a feeling that the main Affirming Catholic organization here is called "the Diocese of Toronto" and thus a certain sense of superfluity regarding party membership.

Posted by: Geoff on Sunday, 28 March 2010 at 10:10pm BST

Rod, I am reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant. You remember that one, right? It's the one where the description of the elephant varies according to what part the blind men are touching.

In the case of the article cited, I think most scientists would agree that there is often a difference in brain structures between homo- and heterosexuals. (As with much in human development, it is not an absolute, but a trend). The question is why, and what is the causality.

As I am attempting to teach at my series on genetics (kindly cited by drdanfee) http://gaymarriedcalifornian.blogspot.com/p/genetics.html, the biological components are numerous and complicated...and not absolute.

No geneticist expects absolute genetical determinism. That is a view of the non-geneticist! But people have no problem recognizing there is not a single gene for atheletic prowess or intellectual ability, while recognizing that there tends to be a genetic component. Why don't they realize that sexuality is equally complex and poly genic (= multiple genes)?

Yes, the evidence is compelling that there is a genetic component to sexuality (see this recent op/ed in the Los Angeles Times) but it is not an absolute. Almost nothing is.

But really, whether it is genetics or chance or environment, what difference does it make? GLBT people report themselves as having an innate tendency towards their sexuality. It is a morally neutral fact, like having red hair or being left handed. Surely the issue is in what one does with it. And so the issue really is between those who see it as a sin, versus those who see it as morally neutral.

I should add that although I am a geneticist by profession, I am not a specialist in sexual orientation. (I work on cancer research).

Posted by: IT on Monday, 29 March 2010 at 5:57am BST

Many thanks to "II" for your interesting and insightful comments on the article from PANS in my link above. Basics such as the standing of a scientific opinion and the standing of the publication in which such opinions appear are daunting to a layperson. I gather from talking to folks in the science community that PNAS is a highly regarded publication. What you say about the multi-faceted components that are likely at work inside the matrix that is human sexuality is understandable. While I don't think science resolves moral issues, it does provide several of the cumulative insights that require us to see human sexuality differently and more comprehensively, than, for example, the people of the ancient world. New knowledge brings with it new responsibility. I'm currently studying the report produced by theologians for the bishops of TEC. I'm far from finished, but a preliminary observation if I may. The theologians would have been better advised to stay away from attempting to marshal scientific information. It’s not their field. They leave themselves open to the critique that they are orchestrating evidence that they understand only on the surface. Reports would be much more valuable to the Church if they included articles written by scientific specialists as well as theologians. In fact, some of the assertions that are made about the evolution and development of civil and human rights ought to be tested by experts in political science and the social sciences. What has very little credibility is the position that the bible has all the answers or even asks all the pertinent questions on this issue. Just say “divine revelation” and all whispering ceases. In that regard I like your reminder about the parable of the blind men.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 29 March 2010 at 3:26pm BST

Geoff,
I stand corrected. I had forgotten that George Sumner is a native New Englander like myself.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Monday, 29 March 2010 at 4:38pm BST

To oversimplify and falsify, we all start out with a female template, and we develop fingers and toes, veins and arteries, sexualities, over nine months (and more) according to nutrition, hormonal input, and timing. (Miss the arm stage and you'll be born without them.) The XYs among us get hormones to develop in a masculine direction -- some go further, some less. I've seen textbooks that state that gay boys were "insufficiently masculinized" -- no, they just turned out as they turned out. If viable, they're just humans. This variation in development seems to occur across species -- a blog yesterday noted that 8% of rams are homosexual. The stories humankind tells itself are so powerful, they can overwhelm observation and experience for years. Anyway, I'm going with the word "development" and I'm happy with it.

Posted by: Murdoch on Monday, 29 March 2010 at 11:14pm BST
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