Saturday, 6 August 2011

What Rowan Williams wrote about homosexuality in 1988

This is taken from a Jubilee Group pamphlet, published in 1988, and titled Speaking Love’s Name; Homosexuality: Some Catholic and Socialist Perspectives. Several excerpts are available on the web here.

The Introduction to the pamphlet was written by Rowan Willliams. A copy has been placed below the fold.

More about the Jubilee Group starting here.

The General Synod resolution of 11 November 1987 to which Rowan Williams refers:

‘This Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships is a response to, and expression of, God’s love for each one of us, and in particular affirms:

(1) that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship,
(2) that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion,

(3) that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion,

(4) that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality, and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders.’

As noted in GS Misc 842b:

Although often referred to as the ‘Higton motion’ (the debate was on a Private Member’s Motion from the Revd Tony Higton) what the Synod passed was in fact a substantially recast motion proposed by way of an amendment by the then Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Michael Baughen.

Introduction by Rowan Williams

The past year has been a wintry one for the Church of England; a time in which it has often been difficult to believe that it is possible to be an Anglican with integrity. We have shown ourselves to be self-destructive in our inner conflicts, in some very dramatic ways: above all, we have shown a degree of collective neurosis on the subject of sexuality that is really quite astounding in this century and this culture. We have, it seems, been happy to collude with the paranoia of populist homophobia, fuelled by the AIDS epidemic and by myths of gay ‘propaganda’ in schools — fuelled, that is, by tragedy on the one hand and lies on the other. Last November, the General Synod passed a resolution whose force remains ambiguous, declaring the undesirability of gay clergy being allowed to express and experience their sexual identity in the way most people do. Even the most superficial analysis of the debate shows how the Synod was simultaneously cajoled and panicked into this move: well-meaning ‘liberals’, equally afraid of the harshness of the original motion (about which the less said the better) and of getting involved in a genuinely theological debate on sexuality, joined hands with some of the most disturbing elements in the contemporary Church of England, those who are determined to make it an ideologically monolithic body, to produce a vote which has, in practice, delivered much of what the original motion aimed at. This shabby compromise has been held up by bishops as representing the ‘mind’ of the Church, and accorded something like legislative force. Bishops have appealed to it in justifying their actions against gay clergy and ordinands. It is becoming harder all the time for a gay person to be honest in the Church. We have helped to build a climate in which concealment is rewarded — while at the same time conniving with the hysteria of the gutter press, and effectively giving into their hands as victims all those who do not manage successful concealment. And the lowest point has come with the vendetta conducted by the Diocese of London through its legal officers against the parish of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate, and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

What, as a church, do we think we are doing? It is time we heard and applied to ourselves the woes addressed by Jesus to those who put stumbling blocks before those who believe — or seek to believe, or understand what it is to believe. For whom are the actions of the past few months good news? Perhaps for the moralists who seem to think that discipleship is primarily about rule-keeping in a restricted field of behaviour (but who are not above collaborating with a segment of the Press that is openly pornographic); or for those who cannot cope with the rapidity of change in sexual mores, especially the new habit of talking with confidence and self-trust about sexuality. It is possible to feel some real sympathy for people who are bewildered and even hurt by such changes, and it is crucial not to forget that they too have pastoral needs. But as the New Testament makes plain, to go at the pace of the slowest, to respect the human needs of those whose vision is less clear, is not to compromise on the substantive point of what liberty in Christ means. The Church of England has indeed been giving an uncertain moral lead, just as it has been accused of doing — but the uncertainty has been over the moral and spiritual importance of truthfulness, truth to one’s own nature, truth in relations with other believers. The more we make such truthfulness impossible, the more we quench the Spirit.

As the debate amply shows, ‘liberalism’ is not enough. It is hopelessly inadequate now to think that we can go back to the comfortably discreet situation in which sexual orientation was known and tacitly accepted, but never discussed, let alone affirmed. Such a situation too helps to nourish just that coyness, adolescent naughtiness and irresponsibility which many, gay and straight, I have found so tiresome a feature of the ecclesiastical gay scene: no-one holds you responsible for an adult sexuality, or suggests that you might need to share and reflect as much as anyone else, and there is little help in working out a tough and consistent morality. To argue for the need for gay liberation in the Church is not to commend a policy of letting everyone go their way in a bland situationist paradise, but to ask that this issue become part of the collective and public reflection of the Church, something on which experience can be shared and supportive and challenging patterns evolved. But aren’t there, frankly, a great many more important matters for the Church in general and Catholic Socialists in particular, to get involved in at the moment? This is the voice of the contemporary wisdom of the Labour Party, in other terms, and, there as here, it assumes that justice is divisible. If we have no integrity here, we cannot expect to carry conviction elsewhere, because the issues of victimisation and disempowering are the same here as with the questions of race, sex and class. Even more importantly, for the Christian, we, as a church, make the claim that we show something of that order of human relationships in which God is the final creative authority (‘the Kingdom of God’). When we produce a situation of repression and dishonesty, we at the very least put that claim in question for many of those in need of the good news of Christ. This is not an optional extra for us. The present collection of essays is an attempt to acknowledge the mess we are — in; to express some of the hurt and anger that has been generated (not least among those who feel that their pastors in the Church, especially those in ‘leadership’ positions, have let them down); and to move the necessary theological discussion a little bit further forward. But it will have made its point if it communicates why so many people currently feel ashamed of our Church’s public voice on this issue. Not all of us are fully agreed on the tactics or the theology of where we go next; but we share the sense that our Church has not done well in these matters, and that we are in urgent need of plain speaking and clear thinking, recognising that there is a debate to be conducted (which has already begun long since, if the truth be told) about theology and spirituality, one that is not to be sidetracked either by the trading of texts or by a tactful but finally corrupting liberal discretion.

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Comments

I truly can't recognize this as being from the current Archbishop given his actions. I've always loved Rowan's writings, but I remain baffled by his actions.

Posted by: Rick+ on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 4:26pm BST

I am often reminded that Rowan Williams was such a great writer. It seems sad that the Archbishop of Canterbury appears not to have read any of Dr. Williams's books...

Posted by: Scott on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 4:41pm BST

Did I read somewhere that Tony Higton has somewhat changed his mind?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 6:16pm BST

Wow. He musta' forgot he wrote that.

Posted by: Daniel Berry on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 7:03pm BST

I wonder if we can associate Rowan's credibility issues on the subject of homosexuality with his HANDLERS? Could it be that Rowan doesn't speak until his "handlers" determine what his "script" will be? This is a real shame as his writings prior to his becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, are first rate. All of this sounds like a replay of "Backstage At The Vatican." It appears there may already be an Anglican style Magisterium. If not, it certainly sounds like the kind of double speak that emanates from the Vatican on a regular basis. Rowan will have to decide. Do human beings from the GLBT communities deserve a place at the table without restrictions? He seems to want his cake and eat it too. Is he so enamoured by the idea of top down central authority or is it his handlers? I pose this question in all sincerity.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 7:03pm BST

THIS is the Rowan Williams whose elevation and translation to the See of Canterbury we welcomed with so much gratitude and pleasure. And THIS is NOT the Archbishop Rowan Williams who presides with so little distinction as the head of a rebellious, embarassing and disintegrating denomination.

Not all of it is Rowan Williams's fault. But quite a lot of it is. And I for one am tired, and wafer-close to being unchurched, because for me the Anglican Way was the bridge to carry me to All Truth. And there were and are no other bridges in plain view - but only stumbling blocks.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison

Posted by: William on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 7:27pm BST

"The ***past year*** has been a wintry one for the Church of England; a time in which it has often been difficult to believe that it is possible to be an Anglican with integrity. We have shown ourselves to be self-destructive in our inner conflicts, in some very dramatic ways: above all, we have shown a degree of collective neurosis on the subject of sexuality that is really quite astounding in this century and this culture. We have, it seems, been happy to collude with the paranoia of populist homophobia, fuelled by the AIDS epidemic and by myths of gay ‘propaganda’ in ***schools*** — fuelled, that is, by tragedy on the one hand and lies on the other."

Substitute "current Canterbury Archepiscopacy" for "past year", and "Anglican Provinces" for "schools", and pretty much this entire paragraph still obtains. Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 7:54pm BST

Did someone kidnap the man who wrote this and replace him with a conservative look-a-like?

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 8:53pm BST

Rowan Williams' credibility as an intellectual remains intact if we allow for the possibility that he regards his current role - in part - as an extended academic exercise in which he gets into the shoes of his predecessor(s) to ascertain what is required of him as ABC.

We underestimate, I think, how wounding the Reading affair was for him, and how abhorrent he found the Lambeth 1998 1:10 debacle. The only way to seek redress for these episodes was - perversely - to capitulate to his opponents who outnumber him on the episcopal circuit.

Then he allows the role of ABC to become a mockery by appearing to advocate the Anglican Covenant because his role demands it. Yet it is a document so obtuse, nobody of the erudition of Rowan Williams would want to personally author; he wasn't present at the Synod when it was initially proposed. So the whole edifice upon which it is founded collapses in an atmosphere of acrimony and befuddlement.

Posted by: A J Barford on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 9:52pm BST

I can see two possibilities. First, Rowan Williams simply may not hold the same opinions in 2011 that he held twentythree years ago. In this case, he's taken a 180 degree turn. If this is the case, he's taken significant steps backward (at least, in my opinion), but his actions as Archbishop are in accord with his conscience.

The second possibility is that Rowan Williams holds opinions today that are very similar to the opinions that he held twenty three years ago with respect to human sexuality. Unfortunately, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he feels that he can't put these ideas into action. If this is the case, it's an even greater shame. It would appear that acting as Archbishop of Canterbury may have cost him his soul.

Only God knows the truth.

Posted by: Barry Fernelius on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 10:20pm BST

"We underestimate, I think, how wounding the Reading affair was for him"

Give me a break, AJ. Was Neville Chamberlain "wounded" in 1938, or was it the Czechs?

The wound of "the Reading affair" was the knife left in *Jeffrey John's* back!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 11:28pm BST

There is another Jubilee Group pamphlet from about the same time where Rowan argues that progress/change should be at the speed of the slowest ...... combined this with the Gillian Rose approach ...... gives more of the flavour of the man. Even then its still some way off the mark.

I see nothing in what Rowan writes or says to guess he has changed his personal views.

He wrote some time ago that Ratzinger was a man of three parts, theologian/teacher, bishop/CDF, Pope - and that he preferred the first .................... I guess many would say the same about him .....

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 12:23am BST

The Covenant is Rowan Williams's policy, his solution: he drives it relentlessly and people who would vote against it vote for it so as not to offend. He has become the ultimate Church bureaucrat, and he is not passive about this but active - he tells the laity and others of the General Synod of the ordinal when he wants a local bishop to him in charge of the business. The documentation for the Covenant is all one way argument. Why did it happen? Perhaps on taking 'the job' he became scared of the future of the institution, and stood on his own head.

The Church of England will save itself and this man by voting against this Covenant which, by his own older writings, is unethical by rejecting one particular community of people and forces the speed of the slowest in terms of the bureaucratic, centralised process. No wonder when people oppose him (like during his continual sidelining of Jeffrey John) he starts shouting. It's because the whole thing is exactly what he was against. He seems to think others should see what he has to do. No they don't, they still have an ethical stance.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 5:12am BST

I think some commenters here could be a little more charitable to poor Rowan. I have reason to believe (from people who know the Archbishop well) that his private views have not changed significantly. I think the ABC believes that in his current role he does not have the luxury of giving voice to his own views on sexuality, as he did when he was merely a priest and an academic. You may disagree with this view (it is certainly not one that his predecessor ever shared), but it is a thoroughly conscientious one. From my own very limited conversations with him I know that he is acutely aware of the human cost of the line he feels compelled to walk, and it appears to be a source of genuine distress to him. The Archbishop deserves our prayers, not our scorn.

Posted by: rjb on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 8:57am BST

A vote for the Covenant, merely because they do not wish to offend the Archbishop is the worst possible reason to vote for such a divisive document. Rowan needs to take some blame here. There is entirely too much of this "we do not want to offend him" attitude. This so called "Covenant" is a piece of poison. It disenfranchises rather than includes. Rowan's hand is all over this and it is foolish to think otherwise. He needs to show some backbone and some honor. It would be a good time for him to speak AGAINST this "Covenant" but what does he do? He remains in the shadows. Real lives are ruined as a result of this kind of dysfunction.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 4:47pm BST

"From my own very limited conversations with him I know that he is acutely aware of the human cost of the line he feels compelled to walk"

The traditional Christian approach is to to suffer the consequences of your conscience yourself not to place them on others.

For whatever reason, he has manoeuvred himself into a place where he is now simply in the wrong.

I can see that the original plan was a good one. Get people to talk to one another, start a listening process, stress how important unity is... it could have worked. It should have worked.
But then he caved in to the bullies and no-one is responsible for that other than he himself.
No-one else made him do it.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 6:32pm BST

So, rjb, Abp. Rowan Williams is acutely aware of the human cost of the line he pursues, and it pains him, but he pursues it anyway. Are those suffering the human cost supposed to feel relieved that Abp. Williams, to use an Americanism, "feels their pain"? How does silently acknowledging their pain help the suffering in any way?
Sacrifice the few -- a few that must be used to being sacrificed by now so it's no big deal to them, right? -- to benefit the many?
But, are the many really being benefited? I think not.
Also, if one particular theological/political view feels free to use the ABC's office to publicly proclaim that position (as Abp. Williams' predecessor did) while another particular theological/political view, one that may be just as valid and supportable within the CofE and the broader Anglican Communion, keeps silence, then which theological/political view is going to be pressed forward?
He has a voice. He was given a platform, just as his predecessor was given a platform. He can use it.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 6:53pm BST

RJB, while I admire your call for charity, even share it, the role of a leader is to lead, not to follow, wobble, or wring his hands. If the Archbishop holds more inclusive views views on sexuality, views that are contrary to those of many conservatives, it is his duty to express those views, to teach, to persuade, to lead; to do otherwise is to smother the small, still voice that the Spirit puts in us to lead us.

But the wound is in Jeffrey John, the gay community has received no comfort or word of hope, reactionaries who doubt the Spirit’s ability to lead us into newness and inclusion have not been rebuked, and every divisive document or movement has been met with bland appeasement, silence or mild reproach.

Let us, by all means, pray for the Archbishop. But my prayer is not that he may be comforted, but that he may somehow find the courage to lead.

Posted by: Nat on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 6:55pm BST

Without a doubt, Dr Williams deserves our continuing prayers. But he also deserves to be challenged to hold true to that which 'rjb' appears to maintain is still his personal view. Why has God called Dr Williams to serve Him as Archbishop of Canterbury? Surely God has chosen him because of what he believes and of what his personal integrity would call him to uphold. The Gospel tells us that the truth will set us free. God does not call Dr Williams to anything other than that living freedom in the Truth. Being true to himself is the best way that Dr Williams can serve the Church of God - and in particular that part of it which is expressed in Church of England.

So please, no more "poor Rowan". He is an intelligent man. He had already served the Church in Wales as an Archbishop before his translation to Canterbury. If he wants to address the source of his "genuine distress" then let him rediscover his "genuine self". My prayer is that the "genuine self" is the man who wrote the above. I pray for him that he may have the courage to be honest before God, to himself, and before the Church. Then, and only then, may he be thought to be aware of the human cost TO OTHERS and dare to ask that others recognise his pain & suffering.

Posted by: commentator on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 7:09pm BST

I think he has a sincere but misguided view that church unity (especially among Anglicans and with Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches) is the top priority and that this can be achieved by capitulating to senior clergy who are firmly opposed to greater inclusion.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 7:33pm BST

'There is another Jubilee Group pamphlet from about the same time where Rowan argues that progress/change should be at the speed of the slowest'.

Take that line and absolutely nothing would have happened in the Church in the last 50 years. No women, no ecumenical projects, no Faith in the City, no welcoming others to our altars, no liturgical developments, no Series 1/2/3 no ASB, no Common Worship, I could go on and on.

The pace of the slowest is like the Steward who burried his talent in the ground and did sod all with it and we know what happened to him.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 8:01pm BST

Just in case things like these comments get read or digested by or for ++Rowan, I would like to encourage him that a great many of us have deep faith and respect for him. I personally believe he is a good man and I pray often for courage for him. God bless you, Dr Williams, and God bless our GLBT siblings.

Posted by: Dan Barnes-Davies on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 10:10pm BST

If Rowan Williams ever embraced LGBT liberation it did not last long. Rather than affirming liberation, he says in this 1988 text that gay priests, in order to mature as persons, must submit to their bishops and that the church must find a way to help them deal with their sexuality. The focus, not surprisingly, is clerical, even though the issue at the time was all LGBTs within the Church of England. An institution which for centuries oppressed LGBTs would supposedly repent and prescribe acceptable behaviour for gay priests (and non-ordained LBGTs?). In principle, it makes sense for all members of the church to be held to the same standards but in a world where discrimination against LGBTs persists, the reality is more complicated. An example in the United States is the Bishop of Long Island, after the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York State this month, saying that all priests in his diocese who have same-sex partners must get married within nine months, disregarding the legal problems this could create for binational couples and those couples who intend to move to states which do not recognize civil marriage equality.

In this early text, Rowan already attacks liberals as too permissive and preaches his dogmatic Anglo-Catholic Socialism, which puts the institution before the individual.

Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose.

"As the debate amply shows, ‘liberalism’ is not enough. It is hopelessly inadequate now to think that we can go back to the comfortably discreet situation in which sexual orientation was known and tacitly accepted, but never discussed, let alone affirmed. Such a situation too helps to nourish just that coyness, adolescent naughtiness and irresponsibility which many, gay and straight, I have found so tiresome a feature of the ecclesiastical gay scene: no-one holds you responsible for an adult sexuality, or suggests that you might need to share and reflect as much as anyone else, and there is little help in working out a tough and consistent morality. To argue for the need for gay liberation in the Church is not to commend a policy of letting everyone go their way in a bland situationist paradise, but to ask that this issue become part of the collective and public reflection of the Church, something on which experience can be shared and supportive and challenging patterns evolved."

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 10:46pm BST

In my previous comment I should have said that the New York State Legislature passed the Marriage Equality bill last month, not this month.

I should have focused on how Rowan offers no evidence for his observation that many gay priests are immature. He could be arguing that the closet has wounded gays and lesbians in the ministry, but it also comes close to the standard heterosexist view of gay men. The straight man with a wife doing the housework (even today women are still more likely to do the housework, alas!) is not necessarily more "mature."

I am struck by the lack of facts in the piece.

I agree

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 11:06pm BST

I agree with RJB that Rowan's view of Christian belief is not one widely shared here. His private view is not the equivalent of the church's view, as he perceives it, which entails as well where he sees the church in its length and breadth. Most here see the church in different terms. In many ways it is the mirror image of individualistic fundamentalism: the church is where specific causes are being furthered and where individual conviction is paramount (the Bible is inerrant; the sexual progressive position is inerrant). The catholic view has been that certain beliefs have been so tested through time that they are not unassailable, but would be open to change only with great, resounding consensus. This is why it is also very difficult to say that one 'knows' the archbishop's personal view and that this is also somehow determinative.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 11:18pm BST

While I can understand (and even respect) the position that rjb ascribes to Rowan, I cannot and will not accept or tolerate the political manipulations he has engaged in to advance his odious Covenant. To use the bully pulpit of his opening address at a previous General Synod to condemn anyone actually disagreeing with his pet project and daring to "campaign" against suggests to me that the man is completely bereft of any ethical sense at all.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 11:30pm BST

"The catholic view has been that certain beliefs have been so tested through time that they are not unassailable, but would be open to change only with great, resounding consensus."

See re Richard Ashby's comment above: it sounds like you're proposing change ONLY (if) at the change of the slowest.

*Real* LGBT Christians have *real* calls---to ordained ministry, to marriage. They need the Church to uplift them in these callings. I hear you propose (endless!) ecclesial fiddling, while your LGBT brothers & sisters burn.

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 8 August 2011 at 9:33pm BST

No, change can happen at whatever pace you (or your mirror image on the other end of the spectrum) deem appropriate, given the cause you mention. The point being made is that the ABC is likely to be influenced by a different understanding of the church. You needn't agree with that of course. But the implications follow. The ABC appears to want a covenant as a means of ecclesial recognisability (or so he has said). That would not be a church you 'recognise' because it does not espouse your views. It would be a church recognisable to others, however.

The covenant then serves the purpose of forcing no one to do anything except declare where the recognise the church. You don't see it where the ABC is.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 12:10am BST

Cseitz's opinion that "catholicism" (whatever that would be given the demise of Anglo-Catholicism) requires a supermajority before making ethical decisions is unethical, for that would affirm the tyranny of the majority and the prejudice of a culture. The people, if not the medieval hierarchy of the C of E, have moved on in any case. All members of the church should have the same rights. Otherwise, the old principle of the dignity of the human person will continue to be violated.

Saying a teaching is not unassailable but would require an overwhelming consensus to overturn goes against the very best of the Reformed tradition. The Reformation started, Paul Avis says, when Martin Luther said councils may err. Article 21 of the Articles went further and said councils may not only err but indeed have.

A Catholicism which would require worshipping the institution would be unAnglican.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 12:37am BST

I wouldn't care to speak for him, but suspect the Archbishop has in view the great ancient churches as representing the 'catholic' faith and practice, and in that context recognisability (not the same as uniformity with them) is the goal. ('Anglo-catholicism is an internal category, by contrast.) Of course councils can err -- though whether this is a genuine reformation insight is another matter. That has nothing to do with the point at issue as the ABC sees it, re: a covenant.

Others will find this concern wrong and so will not wish to covenant.

Both sides appear to agree that too much power--late in the game--shifted to a Standing Committee and so changed the character of what had been requested. So the fate of the covenant is now tied up with perceptions as to its deployment.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 2:21pm BST

"No, change can happen at whatever pace you (or your mirror image on the other end of the spectrum) deem appropriate, given the cause you mention."

You still don't get it, Dr Seitz. I'm not talking about a "cause". I'm talking about ***human beings*** (Y'know, the Imago Dei (made LGBT)? Beloved and redeemed by Christ? Your brothers and sisters in the Church? Us.)

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 7:06pm BST

"It is becoming harder all the time for a gay person to be honest in the Church. We have helped to build a climate in which concealment is rewarded — while at the same time conniving with the hysteria of the gutter press, and effectively giving into their hands as victims all those who do not manage successful concealment." - ABC -

One hopes that Archbishop Rowan has not renegged on his opinion, clearly stated here, that there is a culture of concealment within the Church that is positively unhealthy. Therefore, to allow the protestations of the lunatic fringe - who see homosexuality as a blight on the face of all humanity - to still hold sway in the Church of England, not to mention many of the 'Anglican' Churches of the Third World, is to go against the ABC's own stated theological objection to such unbalanced and downright unethical oppression of a significant minority in the Church.

When will the Church require honesty over hypocrisy on such matters? The world is not fooled by external appearances. No wonder the Church is losing the confidence of many of the thinking members of her congregations - not to mention the many gay people who are believers.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 10:22pm BST

Thank you for explaining the UK context, cseitz. "Catholic," since Vatican II, has been the whole people of God, not just the institutions. It sounds as if Williams is following an older model of catholicity. Baptism rather than ordination is the primary sacrament.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 10:53pm BST

Does it still not occur to anyone that his writings in 1988 cost him nothing and gained him a certain luster with the academics with which he was largely concerned?

I do NOT trust him. I do NOT believe he is a good or holy man.

He is a self-promoter, an ambitious career builder, and, far from intelligent, he is merely cunning. A politico, like all those who've made the weak claim that "church" overrides doing what is right. It is a deceitful, wrong-headed, and thoroughly despicable claim.

Stop wasting your time on praying for him, and pray, instead, for his retirement and quick replacement by an actual progressive, intelligent mind with a conscience.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 5:43am BST

I happen to still think that Abp. Rowan Williams was called by God to lead the Church of England after the debacle of 'Lambeth 1:10'. However. the machinations of the conservative hierarchy of the Church have succeeded in changing the focus of Rowan's archi-episcopate, to the point where he feels helpless to pursue the inclusive agenda that he had formerly espoused - before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury.

His advisors - such as Nazir-Ali, Scott-Joynt, and his predecessor, George Carey - have ambushed him into agreeing with the puritanical spirit of sola-scriptura-ism, to the extent that threats of further schisms (post ACNA and GAFCON) seem to be threatening the very stability of the Anglican genius for moderation that had formerly allowed the Provinces to pursue the mission of the Gospel in their unique contexts, without hindrance from the 'holier-than-thou' crowd,

Rowan's step back from renewal of the Church in the direction of freedom in Christ has led to an unfortunate precipitation towards further schism and the fragmentation of the Communion into those who demonise the LGBT community, and those who sincerely believe that God created all humanity in the divine image and likeness - regardless of race, colour, gender or sexual-orientation.

If the Covenant persists in its inexorable move towards segregation - as opposed to integration - then the world will have lost the genius of what had become known as the Bridge-Church, the Via Media of Anglicanism world-wide.

The question is: Can the Anglican Church abandon its brinkmanship and move forward to a new age of mission in and to the world? A lot presently depends on the leadership of the C.of E. and the Archbishop of Canterbury - but this could change, and rapidly.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 2:20pm BST

The 'whole people of God' who worship in Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches have not sided with the progressive agenda of liberal anglicanism, and neither have the vast majority of Pentecostals, Baptists, and world-wide Christian churches. Most of them see the agenda of TEC as a cultural and not a spiritual issue. They can be written off as misguided and bigots, but that is the Christian faith they hold, often at great risk to life. This is simply a fact on the ground. It is one that the present ABC believes is relevant to an understanding of church, and how anglicanism presents itself as a church.

I know this view is not held here.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 3:01pm BST

C Seitz:

Once again we have the argument of numbers...if the descendants of Abraham had taken this stance, we'd all be worshiping Baal and Isis today.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 7:21pm BST

Baal and Isis worshippers = the missionary spread of Christianity in its historical length and breadth, including as well the saints gone before?

Or are you now saying that the 7000 who did not bow the knee to Baal are TEC Christians and those with a new teaching on sexuality, and all the rest of Christendom is a vast predominating idolotrous mass of false worshippers?

To Abraham was promised not a tiny remnant of 'true believers' but descendents as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Was God's promise also an 'argument of numbers'?

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 10:53pm BST

And where does this strange idea come from that human rights, equality and the compassionate and fair treatment of everyone are "cultural" and therefor inherently less important than something loftily "spiritual" that is far less just and fair?

Did Jesus ever dismiss anything to do with the fair treatment of people in favour of some disconnected spiritual practice?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 7:48am BST

C Seitz:

Yes, but Abraham and his family were surrounded by millions of people who clearly rejected their vision of monotheism. Just as, today, those who believe in a more inclusive church and society are surrounded by millions who reject their vision. You would have us abandon what the Spirit has told us is right in order to satisfy those millions...what if Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac had done the same?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 11:36am BST

I have long suspected our friend, Christopher Seitz, of being something of a Gnostic. His last comment confirms this. His talk of 'the whole people of God' - being everyone except TEC - is somewhat mischievous and hardly helpful in the conversation being carried on here. However, what can one expect of an ACI academic?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 1:02pm BST

It would be hard to know where to begin. 'Fair' -- is it obvious to Christians (and others) everywhere that being gay is a) an actual class of individuals created by God as such, and b) is inextricably tied up with sexual conduct. Of course you believe the answer to these questions is Yes. But you will not understand the convictions of vast swaths of Christians unless you accept that these ideas are contested or rejected altogether. Indeed, they would simply point to the same Jesus you do and quote him in respect of marriage and sexual ethics.

Was Jesus being 'fair' when he underscored this sexual ethic? Was he being unfair when he said that the covenantal table could feed outsiders, when they said they would find crumbs sufficient?
'Go nowhere except to the household of Israel' --is this a 'fair' Jesus?

We are in many ways talking about incommensurate understandings of Jesus and Christianity. That is why what is obvious to progressives is far from obvious to Christians worldwide.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 2:56pm BST

"and all the rest of Christendom is a vast predominating idolotrous mass of false worshippers?"

The capricious cruelty attributed by the anti-gay crowd to their God is certainly not characteristic of the God of Israel, who is certainly not a sadist, and so in that sense they could be said to be worshipping a strange god.

Posted by: Geoff on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 5:46pm BST

C Seitz:

Let's try a little editing on your last sentence:

We are in many ways talking about incommensurate understandings of God and religion. That is why what is obvious to Abraham and his family is far from obvious to the rest of the peoples of the ancient world.

NOW do you see my point?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 6:57pm BST

"Was Jesus being 'fair' when he underscored this sexual ethic?"
More than some of his followers are, since he acknowledged that "not all can accept this teaching" and "some are born eunuchs."

"is it obvious to Christians (and others) everywhere that being gay is a) an actual class of individuals created by God as such, and b) is inextricably tied up with sexual conduct. Of course you believe the answer to these questions is Yes. But you will not understand the convictions of vast swaths of Christians unless you accept that these ideas are contested or rejected altogether."

But on what grounds can they be contested? There is no question that there is an "actual class" of such persons, that they did not choose this class and are not at liberty to leave it by force of sheer will. It is equally clear, I should think, that this characteristic has conjugal implications - after all, why else would people such as yourself be up in arms about it? The question then becomes, does God have good news to offer them? You and your party would say no - a life of abject hermitage is the lot of all gays, and yes it sucks to be you but "we all have our cross to bear" (though most of us are allowed the support of our families as we do so).

Unwittingly, you've summed up the position of the contras quite neatly - pissing against the wind and straining to contest the uncontestable. How long are we to be held hostage to the straightforwardly counterfactual?

Posted by: Geoff on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 7:38pm BST

Gnostics -- would that be those people who believe that real Christians (themselves) are an enlightened minority, that their small number is a signal of their special knowledge?

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 8:23pm BST

IS there a collective, overwhelming majority of "the rest of Christendom", around the world, who *understand themselves* to be explicitly anti-gay? You have said so, Dr Seitz.

I don't know---and you don't know, either. There simply hasn't been the kind of research by which to know.

I *do* know that, when it comes to following the God of the Bible OR "the principalities and powers" (see re Ugandan "Kill the Gays" bill), it doesn't matter.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 8:26pm BST

"What the Spirit has told you" -- and not told others. Again, this resembles the claims of enlightened Gnostics.

The millions who rejected the vision of Abraham -- these are Christians who do not accept the special spiritual knowledge of the enlightened?
What a strange effort at analogy.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 8:37pm BST

I've learned a lot about how those here think about the Gospel, the God of Israel, false worship, the Spirit's work, Abraham and those who reject his vision, and so forth. Thank you for sharing your views.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 8:55pm BST

Dr Seitz

The dividing line is not just between the Zeitgeist and Christianity though, is it. The dividing line is right among us and spiritual and genuine, deep, passionate and scriptural Christians are on either side of the debate.

Jesus didn't ever teach in a vacuum. The thing I absolutely love about the bible is that he knows the individual he talks to through and through and speaks right to their situation. And that we then find it is possible to extrapolate from that to what God wants for all of us.

You know the various liberal arguments in favour of same sex relationships better than I do, we don't have to rehash them here.

Here, we're talking about the undergirding principle. And, yes, Jesus was always fair. He had (obvilusly!) the most astonishing psychological insight that still holds true today.
Trouble is - everyone can interpret it differently depending on our own individual point of view - and we do.

And so I don't expect you to agree with me, just as I will never agree with you.

The big question is what do we do with that disagreement?

And I still haven't understood why it is so important that one side should have to "win", as though we could ever win before Christ, and why we cannot live side by side in difference, leaving the judgement to him.

We do it with everything else.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 10:35pm BST

Christopher Seitz, I don't follow that the majority gets to oppress the minority, in this case LGBTs and same-sex couples.


The accusation that liberals are merely following the culture can easily be made of conservatives, who seem to be following the culture of their grandfathers.

We need something in church which would be the equivalent of equal protection in American law. There has to be a check against the tyranny of the majority. In the American system the judiciary provides this balance. In church, alas, it seems as if traditionalism reigns.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Friday, 12 August 2011 at 7:11am BST

"But you will not understand the convictions of vast swaths of Christians unless you accept that these ideas are contested or rejected altogether"

- Christopher Seitz -

The 'You' you quote here, is obviously everyone except yourself (and your colleagues at ACI) whose own understanding, for you, is paramount.

The problem here, Christopher, is that you are not prepared to hear what new things the Holy Spirit might be 'saying to the Church'. You appear to be so blinded by your own mystical understanding that you are blind to what science might be saying about human biology that was unknown to those who closed the canon of the Scriptures. Gnosticism is not necessarily a Christian attribute, and a closed mind can be a barrier to enlightenment - which is progressive.

Even Jesus (as witness this Sunday's Gospel account of his treatment of the Canaanite woman)
needed to groww in the understanding that God actually cared for people outside of the elect, established Israelite community. God's mercy extends to all, not just the elite or what you may see to be 'the Elect'.

Also, 'the Whole People of God' is all who have been created in the divine image and likeness - not just those whom we might like to favour.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 12 August 2011 at 10:04am BST

C Seitz:

Oh, I think the Spirit has spoken to all of us on this issue...but a lot of us just refuse to listen.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 12 August 2011 at 11:27am BST

Gary Paul Gilbert alludes to a very important consideration.

The old saw is that those who are wedded to the age will find themselves widowed in the next. So the question is simple.

Are those who advocate for the full inclusion of LGBTQTS wedded to this age?

Or are those who advocate against full inclusions the widows of a previous age?

(Or perhaps, I suppose, are we all fallen humans who still haven't got it quite right?)

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Friday, 12 August 2011 at 3:14pm BST

As an American who recently joined the Episcopal Church from the Roman Catholic Church and remain very familiar with the latter, I find the assertions about the views of most Catholics on homosexuals to be simply inaccurate, and I'm talking not just about liberals and academics but people like my late parents. The Wojtyla toadies who make up the hierarchy, are of course, a different matter.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on Friday, 12 August 2011 at 11:29pm BST

Gene,

That was a much needed, extremely heartening, and profoundly appreciated reminder!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 5:10am BST

Hi, Christopher Seitz, thanks for participating!

You wrote, "The ABC appears to want a covenant as a means of ecclesial recognisability (or so he has said). That would not be a church you 'recognise' because it does not espouse your views. It would be a church recognisable to others, however."

It wouldn't be a church recognizable to me as a Canadian. I can't expect you to understand Canadian sensibility.... but we haven't come all this way to be told what to do by London once again... we're grown ups now... and happy to be partners at the table and shoulder our share, and more, of the load, and thankfully given our status as the only financially solvent member of the G8 we can still do that... but the days of Privy Council or Lambeth rulings governing the colonies are gone... and they ain't coming back.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 6:22am BST

Randal, although Dr. Seitz is an American (I believe), he shouldn't find Canadian sensibilities all that alien since he lives and works in the 416 as a professor at the second best Anglican theological college in Toronto.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Saturday, 13 August 2011 at 2:49pm BST

Fr French

I am Research Professor of Biblical Studies in the Toronto School of Theology, teaching PhD students. I am in Toronto for the purpose of AD seminars and PhD supervision (twice a year), and my office there is at Wycliffe College. Before that I was Professor of Old Testament at Yale University and Professor of Old Testament and Theological Studies at St Andrews (UK). I live in Dallas, TX, and am in charge of the Wycliffe College extension there, approved by ATS (Association of Theological Schools). We are also working on a major anglican initiative here in the metroplex. I enjoy being on staff when in Dallas at Church of the Incarnation, with an average Sunday attendance of about 1200. My adult ed classes are 250-300 on Sundays.

I have lived a good deal outside the US, having been a Priest in supply at churches in the American Convocation (TEC) and licensed in the Diocese in Europe (C of E). I was licensed for ten years in the Scottish Episcopal Church when I was in St Andrews.

I doubt I have a very good feel for Canadian sensibilities as I am only part of the year in Toronto, which in addition I suspect is not a good benchmark for things Canadian. It is an exciting multi-cultural setting, however.

If you are referring to Trinity College, I am preaching there in the Fall at the invitation of Dean David Neelands (my wife and I often stay in residence there) and we have enjoyed our Trinity stays. One can only pray that all schools, including Trinity (whose divinity component is now quite reduced), will be blessed by God in the mission and service of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your comment. Grace and peace.

Professor C Seitz

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 14 August 2011 at 12:36am BST
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