Monday, 9 December 2013
yet more comment on the Pilling report
The Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, Chairman of the GAFCON Primates, has written an Advent Letter to the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends.
…The Church of England has just released what is known as the Pilling Report, the conclusions of a Working Group commissioned by the House of Bishops to report and make recommendations on issues of human sexuality. I am sorry to say that it is very flawed. If this report is accepted I have no doubt that the Church of England, the Mother Church of the Communion, will have made a fateful decision. It will have chosen the same path as The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with all the heartbreak and division that will bring.
The problem is not simply that the Report proposes that parish churches should be free to hold public services for the blessing of homosexual relationships, but the way it justifies this proposal. Against the principle of Anglican teaching, right up to and beyond the Lambeth Conference of 1998, it questions the possibility that the Church can speak confidently on the basis of biblical authority and sees its teaching as essentially provisional. So Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference, which affirmed that homosexual practice was ‘incompatible with Scripture’ and said it could ‘not advise the legitimisation or blessing of same sex relationships’, is undermined both in practice and in principle.
The proposal to allow public services for the blessing of same sex relationships is seen as a provisional measure and the Report recommends a two-year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ throughout the Church of England which is likened to the ‘Continuing Indaba’ project. This should be a warning to us because it highlights that the unspoken assumption of Anglican Indaba is that the voice of Scripture is not clear. This amounts to a rejection of the conviction expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles that the Bible as ‘God’s Word written’ is a clear and effective standard for faith and conduct…
Stephen Noll, the retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University has written The Pilling Report and the Anglican Communion.
Susannah Cornwall has written Some thoughts on the Pilling Report.
Symon Hill has written Why I’m Not Cheering The Pilling Report.
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Monday, 9 December 2013 at 12:51pm GMT
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Church of England
As Susannah Cornwall makes clear, the existence of people who are intersex and transgender disrupts the model of human dimorphic maleness and femaleness, and it is regrettable that Pilling did not address this. It would be good if, in any 'listening' process, more attention could be paid to the implications of these facts.
That's their Advent Letter? In the face of the Incarnation of our Lord in the most humblest of forms, their focus is on exclusion and denial of human rights…
Yesterday I worked at a downtown homeless shelter. The weather has been bitter cold, 0 Fahrenheit, -18 Celsius, with dreadful wind chills factors. Unbelievable harsh conditions for those without homes. Over 800 people came to find shelter and get services, like a hot shower. And warm clothes that have been donated…
I'm sorry. I am LGBT, but Incarnation of Our Lord in the midst of the poor, and for the poor, somehow seems a lot more important.
Here I sit reading ++Eluid's the often repeated threats of more giant/destructive Gafcon storms approaching in the clear blue night sky of Advent. Vast and positive, loving, Christian expectations of good touch our souls at the Body of Christ. ALL of our Souls.
Mostly unfrightened and untainted spiritual searching all wish for the promise of Peace on Earth. Peace and Joy for EVERYONE.
I believe we have read enough better-than-others "confessing Anglican" slurring to realize they are far more threatening and unwelcoming than wholesome. "Confessing" ought not be the "conveying" of the excluding and demeaning meaning of Gods "clear and effective standard of conduct" gifted to ALL of Gods children. All means ALL. Archbishop Eluid.
Cynthia, I fully agree.
I can't recall reading any English-language bible where Matthew 25:34 - 45 (one of THE clearest, simplest statements of our duty to social justice, anywhere in the bible, Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament or Christian Scriptures/New Testament) came with exclusions, exceptions, disclaimers, etc.
Maybe I've been reading the wrong bible. We'll have to wait for the GAFCON-authorized Version.
"the Church of England ... will have chosen the same path as The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with all the heartbreak and division that will bring."
Translation: "We in GAFCON (inc our wealthy funders) will attempt to ***bring division*** to the CofE, the same way we've tried to bring it to TEC and the AngChCan. If we succeed: get ready for heartbreak!"
Other than that: shockingly predictable. Kyrie eleison.
Stephen Noll's conclusion:
"There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger."
[I kid you not!]
Oh dear: I'm the tiger in Noll's scenario? Really?
Mr Noll must surely be expected to take the stance he has - on the Pilling report. After all he was part of the Anglican Church of Uganda which seeks to criminalise Gays.
And as for Archbishop Eliud Wabakula, it has become obvious that, of two archiepiscopal visitors he met around the recent Gafcon II conference, Robert Duncan, the ACNA primate, was more graciously welcomed. But what does that have to say about Gafcon's plans for the destabilisation of Anglicanism throughout the civilised world?
That this should be the whole text of anyone's Advent message, especially an Archbishop's, does seem odd and sad. It shows, I think, the extent to which the subject of LGBT sexuality is steadily transfixing the hearts and minds of some Christians to the exclusion of all else and is fast becoming for them the only touchstone of Christian identity and gospel faithfulness. It is perhaps the presenting face of a wider conservative evangelical anxiety about postmodern liberalism and religious decline. There's a good chapter about it in Volf and Katerberg's The Future of Hope.
Advent is more than a date on a letterhead. It is for Christians the occasion and context for a particular kind of spiritual reflection on our Lord's incarnation. As an antidote to Wabukala's, I tentatively offer mine. In his earthly life to the best of our knowledge our Lord chose not to embrace heterosexual coupledom just as he chose not to embrace wealth and status, authority and power. He stands as always in the company of those who most long to hear his message of liberating hope.
Marriage equality comes into force on 29th March 2014 with the first Marriages for same sex couples.
Pilling becomes more and more irrelevant.
"In his earthly life to the best of our knowledge our Lord chose not to embrace heterosexual coupledom just as he chose not to embrace wealth and status, authority and power. He stands as always in the company of those who most long to hear his message of liberating hope."
Thank you so much.
If either Stephen Noll or (stranger things have happened) Eliud Wabukala are reading, in the spirit of Pilling's indaba, I'd like to ask: how do you suggest we go forward?
The Church of England exists in a context where marriage is about to become gender-neutral. Your churches exist in a context where LGBT people can be jailed for expressing their sexual orientation. Given these two contexts, how do you suggest that the Anglican communion reaches a common mind?
Because I'd really like to know.
James, I suspect their answer from Noll and Wabukala would be two fold, 1) The culture/civil law may legally provide for any number of sexual partnerships or groupings that they name marriage or partnership or some other term. Such things are decided by legislatve vote according to the prevailing will of the culture. The Church on the other hand can only affirm and bless God's created order as good and holy. This precludes all all other sexual arrangements other than traditional marriage. And 2) those choosing to become Christians must repent of their sins (like sex outside of marriage), turn to God and live in obedience to his good purposes for them. Just as the Church fought against the culturally approved sin of slavery it must fight against the culturally approved sin of slavery to homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc. God's laws do not change with the shifting sands of culture.
Rob: Yup, sounds about right.
Given that the communion doesn't share their clear and unequivocal beliefs, I'd like to know how they expect this to work in practise. I'd be interested to see constructive suggestions from them. A lot more interested than I am in these conveyor belt denunciations of other provinces.
"And 2) those choosing to become Christians must repent of their sins (like sex outside of marriage), turn to God and live in obedience to his good purposes for them. Just as the Church fought against the culturally approved sin of slavery it must fight against the culturally approved sin of slavery to homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc. God's laws do not change with the shifting sands of culture."
Right, because we all know that sin and morality are about ticking off the right boxes and not about causing or alleviating suffering… You've explained it just right.
Does sin have anything to do with morality? Just asking…
"Does sin have anything to do with morality?"
I have asked the question of just where the immorality of homosexuality lies for a long time. I have not yet received any answer. Not even an unsatisfactory one.
Sex outside marriage is another one of those "sins" that does not appear to have any connection with morality, it's just an axiomatic unthinking "sin".
But when you cannot make a connection between sin and morality people will simply believe to be prejudiced and ignore you. Rightly so.
Regarding Rob's comments here; it does seem that Jesus distinguished between the sins of the flesh, e.g. adultery: where in the case of the woman 'caught in the act' was absolved by Jesus - and the sin of hubris, whereby the Pharisees who had judged her 'unclean' and would have stoned her, received his admonishment.
One suspects that Rob's list of sins (homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc.) were treated more leniently by Jesus, than the more insidious sin of self-righteousness that condemns the people guilty of those sins in Rob's list.
Rob must ask himself why Jesus seemed so often on the side of 'sinners' than that of the condemnatory self-righteous. This,of course, was why Jesus was suspect to vilification by the Scribes and Pharisees of his day.
Actually Rob, the church took an awful long time to come out against slavery. Paul's letters (including those probably not written by him) don't challenge slavery at all- quite the reverse. Funnily enough, those who accept Paul's imprecations against homosexual practice (and his comments on women's place) don't tend to accept his views on slavery. Any ideas why not?
As Helen rightly says, Paul not only accepted slavery, he told slaves (1 Cor. 7) to accept their lot, and make use of their condition. He sent Onesimus back to Philemon. Other books (1 Peter, Ephesians) are even more explicit about the obedience that slaves owe their masters. And Romans 13's sweeping command to obey all authority as God-given is more than enough to settle it.
The church, it should go without saying rightly, now thinks slavery is evil. Our ideas develop. Paul's opinions are as time-bound and flawed as anyone else's. Whatever view we take on biblical authority in theory, we recognize that reality in practise.
James Byron - I think the Global South's assumption is to root discernment in the plain meaning of scripture. The problem of course is that the liberal part of the Anglican Communion has a different basis for decision making. So there really isn't a way to come together.
Cynthia - I think to answer your question it would be helpful to define your terms for me. But I will answer from my definitions. Sin is anything against the holy and righteous will of God. Morals -- are a person's standards of acceptable behavior. These can be Christian morals and therefore pleasing to God or not Christian morals, some of which may be pleasing and some which invoke his just wrath.
Erika - this whole debate is about the standard of morality, God's as revealed in scripture or that of the culture. Homosexuality is immoral because it is a rebellion against the nature of men and women as God created them, against his intentions for sexuality, against his intention for procreation. Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body has a lot to say on this and much more. At least you have now been given an answer even if you think it is wrong.
Ron Smith - why must I ask myself this? I am in complete agreement with your point. Jesus came to save sinners by dying for us not to condemn us. But our sin is no little matter. it took his death to rectify. And yet he was harsh on the clergy of the church who should know God's word better rather than distorting it to their own intentions. I fear for those that toss his words behind their backs and fear doing the same.
Helen - Paul had more imminent hills to climb. All injustice will finally be done away at Christ's return. And yet in his time, God raised up William Wilberforce and the Clapham sect to rid British society of that evil. Wonderful Christian (and non- Christian) groups continue the fight against hidden slavery today. Have you never studied Philemon? Clearly within the context of Christians in the Church he pleaded for (and almost demanded) Onesimus' freedom though he had no legal right to. But in general, Paul had more important matters to address than the legal economic injustices of the day. That was not his calling. That God gave this calling to Wilberforce so many years later is a bit of a mystery. But then God has never been as interested in alleviating our suffering as using it to draw us to him, which is his ultimate concern.
-- Jude is a good epistle to study as well.
thank you for your answer. As you say, at least I do have one now.
And yes, I do think it's wrong.
It is in gay people's nature to be gay, we cannot possibly make firm conclusions on God's intentions for sexuality but we must assume that he doesn't make mistakes, and as not all straight people can procreate and as many gay people do have children, the procreation issue is not as logical as people would like it to be.
To determine whether something is moral or immoral we have to look at its consequences. By their fruit shall you tell them.
And there is not a single harmful consequence to the individuals or to society when gay people are partnered on the same basis as straights.
Whereas there are numerous and serious emotional consequences reaching as far as suicide, when they are prevented from living full lives.
I cannot believe in a God who has a moral standard that deliberately imposes harm on a group of people for absolutely no purpose other than some abstract "intention" that people project on to him.
That image of God is not consistent with Scripture, with everything we know about him.
And when an interpretation of God is not consistent with anything else in Scripture, changes are extremely high that the image is wrong.
Re Paul and slavery Rob that's a complete cop out. Paul had other things to do indeed! And you're wrong.
According to Roman law it was the duty of a citizen to return a slave to his master, and that's what Paul did. But according to Torah- and Paul as a Jew would have known this- an escaped slave is free and should not be returned. In obeying Roman law Paul obeyed cultural norms and ignored the higher moral obligation set by Yahweh. You might like to read other parts of the OT which indicate that Yahweh is much concerned with economic and social injustice. How come you think Roman law trumps Torah?
The notion that God thought slavery could wait 1800 years is just bonkers.
Helen, you might simply try to read Philemon for what is says. Paul is pleading for Onesimus' freedom and using his considerable leverage to do so, "I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus...but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that *your goodness* [proven in the act of freeing Onesimus] might not be by compulsion but of your own free will." Paul is pastoring Philemon as well, encouraging him to freely choose righteousness which is what a pastor does. To say this proves Paul's support for slavery is simply to twist facts without intellectual integrity.