Wednesday, 7 September 2016

After Grantham

There has been a lot of media coverage of the news about the Bishop of Grantham, first reported here.

This news report by Madeleine Davies in the Church Times incorporates many of the responses to the news from other people or groups: Bishop of Grantham: ‘I hope to be a standard-bearer as a gay man’.

The full text of the letter from the Bishop of Lincoln to his parishes can be found here.

The full text of the GAFCON statement can be found here.

Statements from LGCM and LGBTI Mission are also available.

ACNS has Secretary general clarifies view after gay English bishop “outed”

Anglican Mainstream has a convenient compendium of links to responses from a variety of perspectives.

Some other viewpoints from the blogosphere:

Vicky Beeching The first openly gay bishop is a huge step forward – but it’s not enough

Beth Routledge The Church of England, and The Sex In Sexuality

Kelvin Holdsworth Sexuality, Celibacy and Bishops

Savi Hensman A gay bishop and loving everyone: the dilemma of church leaders

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 11:25am BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

K Holdsworth says he wants to know what the good Bishop thinks about Issues. But hasn't he already clarified that? The Guardian certainly has him and the others involved say he is declaring himself within the present teaching.

Don't shoot the messenger here. Just read his own comments.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 12:34pm BST

The Bishop of Grantham has declared himself within the present absurd teaching of Issues.

I am indeed interested in what he thinks of Issues which is very different. But, as I said, not until every other bishop has been publicly asked if they agree with it too.

Diocesan Synods provide an ideal environment for the question to be asked and answers recorded.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 1:09pm BST

Christopher Seitz: not attempting to shoot you at all, but, the remarks by the bishop simply repeat what the present situation is and confirms that he abides by it. It simply doesn't report what he thinks about the present situation. But we are very aware that, with perhaps one or two exceptions, we have little idea what bishops think about the present situation as there is a rather obvious agreement of silence about the whole matter. The number of questions that the bishops comments beg are considerable

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 1:45pm BST

"...what the good Bishop thinks about Issues... he is declaring himself within the present teaching."

Christopher, obeying teachings and agreeing with them are two different things. I'd suggest the bishop may have 'put up' with the rules imposed on him and all other gay and lesbian priests, but that doesn't necessarily mean he endorses them as the permanent 'best outcome' for the future.

He, of course, and other bishops, must state their own views on gay sexuality. And so must all priests and lay members of the Church. I hope we're not so infantilised that we think the bishops 'know best'.

The individual consciences of priests and lay people are hugely significant, and become part of the future development of the Church. Indeed, obedience itself is a two-sided sword, which can (positively) support orderliness and service; and (negatively) be used to crush opposition, to dominate theologically, and to impose the dogma of a ruling clique on the consciences of everyone else.

As was the case in the Civil Rights movements in the US, there comes a time when 'obedience' has to move towards resistance, and that dynamic can have positive outcomes, as well as respecting the dignity and justice that people deserve.

To say to a whole group of people: you must remain celibate and obey our views on sex... and gay sexuality falls short of heterosexual ideals... as Issues suggests in an open-ended way that wasn't at the time intended to be finalised doctrine... is arguably to crush and diminish people's lives, priests and lay as well, and in the case of priests to dictate that they should be celibate, even though they may have no calling to celibacy, and - like most of the human race - have it integrally within them to love and cherish partners tenderly, and intimately, in ways that lead to mutual closeness and flourishing.

I simply do not believe that the Bishop - as a gay man in a gay relationship - believes that as a class of people, this repression of decent sexuality is right, or that the present line should be maintained indefinitely.

Like Issues itself, we are engaged in a process, which has yet to run its course. And it is a process that involves justice, full humanity, flourishing, dignity, and love.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 3:02pm BST

Read two good essays now by Ian Paul and also Wes Hill. The latter describes himself as a Gay Christian and is opposed to sexual relations between members of the same sex. He is probably known to this blog. He surmises that the good Bishop thinks about celibacy as he does: as a way to avoid conduct that Christ has not warranted. I can't say that we have read that thus far in this particular case, but who knows what will be said in time.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 3:09pm BST

cseitz,
I understood the bishop to say he complied with Issues, not that he agreed with it.
Our current sexuality debate proves that it is perfectly allowed to have different opinions about this.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 3:09pm BST

Kelvin Holdsworth might do well to read the Wikipedia article on celibacy before he claims pedantic - and inaccurate - distinctions between celibacy and abstinence. The Wikipedia article, drawing on authorities, observes that celibacy means either refraining from marriage or refraining from sex, and not the narrow meaning Kelvin tries to ascribe to it.

The rest of his article is equally muddled, indeed so muddled I find it impossible to say anything sensible about it.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 3:20pm BST

cseltz

I comply with Issues, I certainly do not agree with it. Actually, I cannot think of anything else I resent quite as much.

Posted by: Lorenzo on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 5:41pm BST

"I found it impossible to say anything sensible..."

Kate, I'll leave that assessment to you.

Personally I found Kelvin's article intelligent and coherent.

Intercourse, blow jobs, sex toys, kissing, sexual embrace, cuddles, masturbation in private... what constitutes 'celibacy'? In biblical terms, none of the above are envisaged as 'being celibate': celibacy is setting oneself aside for God, instead of another close personal relationship.

But the Church is only fixated with what people do with their bits, and for the sake of its rules for priests, if you're not having intercourse, and you keep the rest of it quiet and hidden, then you are 'celibate enough' to carry on being a priest and the Church can 'save face'.

The point is, the Church puts itself in a ridiculous position if it tries to police what goes on in people's personal relationships in their bedrooms. As Kelvin says, if the Archbishop of Canterbury has to become the 'Chief Inspector of Sodomy' then things have reached a sad and sorry state. If sex is only for procreation, do we quiz heterosexual priests about whether they self-pleasure or have anal sex?

'Celibacy' as applied by the Church of England as a rule for gay priests = intercourse. That's their bottom line. It's an arbitrary technicality and pretty much a nonsense.

I find nothing 'sensible' about Church of England policy: it is ludicrous, intrusive, contradictory, inconsistent... and discriminatory.

And Kelvin makes good sense to me. He has plenty of sensible things to say. When celibacy gets elided to 'intercourse' we're basically ignoring or glossing over what Paul was really trying to say. There is a whole lot more to sexual relationship than insertion. Hijacking the concept of celibacy (an entirely different calling) as a one-sided way of policing gay lives and relationships is theologically arbitrary, and a policing not applied to heterosexual lives.

As Kelvin said: "England will not be won for Christ whilst the structures of the Church of England make Christianity look like a religion for narrow-minded fools."

Indeed. Many decent and right-minded people are astonished, bemused or appalled by the Church's almost obsession with how people express sexual love. To most ordinary and sensible people, there are far more important things that need to be addressed, than whether I cuddle, w**k or f**k in the privacy of my home.

The integrity of lives of love and service, for a start.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 6:38pm BST

I read Kelvin Holdsworth's post carefully and didn't find it anywhere near as muddled as Kate does and my view seems to be shared by other commentators on his blog page. It would be helpful if Kate would spell out just why she finds it so muddled.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 6:57pm BST

Kate, As a teacher-librarian, I always told students to take Wikipedia with a pinch of salt and NEVER to use it as a reference.
As usual I find Kelvin Holdsworth's article to be spot on. The Church of England is a laughing stock and the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot lie straight in bed. To ask any person, bishop, priest or layperson to divulge what they do in private is insulting and demeaning. After 65 years declaring I was a Christian to the amazement of most of my friends, straight and gay who almost never enter a church, I have recently joined them and declared that my so called decision for Christ at the age of 7 was the worst decision of my life. There are many Christians doing good works but also many outside the church doing the same. Generally history shows that the Church has been one of the greatest blocks on the development of human rights.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 9:53pm BST

"The Wikipedia article, drawing on authorities, observes that celibacy means either refraining from marriage or refraining from sex, and not the narrow meaning Kelvin tries to ascribe to it."

Not sure Kate that you have interpreted the Wikipedia article correctly. The key differences between celibacy and abstinence have to do with celibacy being a voluntary state, the result of a sacred vow. Others would add, as I do, that it is a response to a calling from God, and is based on religious conviction. If you regard celibacy as only meaning abstinence from sexual activity, then the question is what is the basis for this state. IIHS compels abstinence from sexual activity. That is not celibacy, although it does produce the same goods as celibacy in terms of denying genital acts. The whole issue with the the Church's traditional teaching, that all homosexual acts are sinful, is that is compels gay and lesbian priests (in particular) to lead lives that are abstinent. That is a fundamentally different position from that which heterosexuals find themselves in, with the freedom to marry, remain single or, of course, yield to a calling to celibacy, but with the opportunity not denied for all time to enter into a covenanted relationship (marriage). I was very careful in my essay in Journeys in Grace and Truth to use the correct term. There is a clear difference and it is that which inter alia Kelvin was highlighting.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 10:19pm BST

I am content to be compliant with neither Issues nor Wikipedia.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 11:15pm BST

"...a way to avoid conduct that Christ has not warranted"

Flying in airplanes? Investing in the stock market? The list could go on and on, but it seems an odd way to judge the value of something, to say Christ has not actually warranted it. There are many things He did not mention, and homosexuality, with all the power any sexuality has for good or ill, is one of them.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 11:29pm BST

People seem to know exactly what the bishop thinks about Issues. Here is what he said. It sounds closer to Wes Hill and Ian Paul's take on the matter than what one reads here.

Chamberlain said, “I don’t think we’ve reached a position where the church is going to be marrying same-sex couples,” he said. He declined to express objections to the C of E’s celibacy rule for gay clergy. “My observation of human beings over the years has shown me how much variety there is in the way people express their relationships. Physical expression is not for everyone.”

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 6:55am BST

"Declined to express objections" is wonderfully diplomatic.
I think at the very least we'd need some further clarification of whether that meant that he agrees with it or that he simply refuses to criticise it in an interview with the Guardian.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 9:28am BST

"I am content to be compliant with neither Issues nor Wikipedia."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between a writer and a social media pundit.

Thank you, Kelvin.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 9:50am BST

I'm sorry, but the more I see of conservative Anglicanism, the clearer it is to me that they really, really, really, really *hate* (a word I use very rarely and with full emphasis on its actual content) GLBT's, even if they are GLBT, and consider us a sort of lower life form from which neither wisdom nor sense can come.

So, why are we worrying about communion with them, again?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 10:39am BST

Mark Brunson - institutional unity ....why? Because the big wigs want to be part of a big global thing with air travel to poor places....to look concerned?

Posted by: S Cooper on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 3:48pm BST

good lord. when did the gospel become a rule book?

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 3:59pm BST

Issues teaches that sodomy is un-Scriptural. It doesn't impose anything (nobody knows what gay couples do in private). Gay clergy are expected to though to publicly affirm the teaching of the Church - just as straight clergy are expected to affirm the teaching against sex outside marriage even though we all know of clergy who don't feel bound by that teaching either. And while some disagree, Scripture is surprisingly clear in its prohibition of sodomy.

The celibacy provision in Issues doesn't stop same sex couples engaging in any other form of sexual intimacy.

Stretching the definition of celibacy to include all other forms of sexual intimacy, to include marriage and even any romantic relationship falsely makes the celibacy provision look monstrous. That's hugely disingenuous because it avoids tackling the issue of Scripture clearly not supporting sodomy for either gay or straight couples - so there's also no inequality. So I do think Kelvin's argument is muddled because it relies upon an idiosyncratic meaning of celibacy while ignoring the elephant in the room of what Scripture says about sodomy as an act. Then people are muddling things further by talking about the gift of celibacy and saying not everyone has it. The Bible doesn't though talk about the gift of celibacy it suggests that not everyone is called to singlehood which is different.

Then Kelvin characterises ABC as the "Chief Inspector of Sodomy". So sodomy gets a mention by way of ridiculing the ABC rather than engaging with the Scriptural issue. And, again in this inaccurate characterisation he ignores that the Church doesn't really care what clergy do in private so long as in public they support the teaching of the Church. Along the way he seems to be using an historic (and clearly lapsed) objection to syncretism to argue against the traditional teaching on same sex relationships which is another muddle.

@cseitz
As I have said before I don't think we should parse the Bishop of Grantham's statement to try to deduce his personal view on Issues or the meaning of celibacy but I would agree there's nothing in it which is inconsistent with a traditional interpretation.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 7:20pm BST

"Kate, As a teacher-librarian, I always told students to take Wikipedia with a pinch of salt and NEVER to use it as a reference."

Brian, with respect you are wrong in your emphasis. Wikipedia is part of Web 2.0 and is a primary reference in relation to the common understanding of the meaning of words which is necessarily something best reflected by social media. At best dictionaries are a lagging authority and most students don't consult (or have access to) the latest addendums to the OED but rely on what are, in essence, outdated references. This is the way in which I used Wikipedia and I did so because I expressly selected it as the reference most likely to be authoritatively current.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 7:40pm BST

"Not sure Kate that you have interpreted the Wikipedia article correctly. The key differences between celibacy and abstinence have to do with celibacy being a voluntary state, the result of a sacred vow. Others would add, as I do, that it is a response to a calling from God, and is based on religious conviction. If you regard celibacy as only meaning abstinence from sexual activity, then the question is what is the basis for this state. IIHS compels abstinence from sexual activity. That is not celibacy, although it does produce the same goods as celibacy in terms of denying genital acts. The whole issue with the the Church's traditional teaching, that all homosexual acts are sinful, is that is compels gay and lesbian priests (in particular) to lead lives that are abstinent. That is a fundamentally different position from that which heterosexuals find themselves in, with the freedom to marry, remain single or, of course, yield to a calling to celibacy, but with the opportunity not denied for all time to enter into a covenanted relationship (marriage). I was very careful in my essay in Journeys in Grace and Truth to use the correct term. There is a clear difference and it is that which inter alia Kelvin was highlighting."


Anthony, I think the relevant Bible passage here is the parable of the Widow's mite. Her circumstances prevented from giving large, ostentatious sacrifices but her mite was more worthy than those large sacrifices.

By comparison then, those who are celibate through circumstances not choice can still make celibacy a sacrifice. It might be for instance that those who are perforce celibate might make a sacrifice of trying to avoid lustful thoughts and that this would be their own widow's mite. Or maybe their sacrifice is just quiet acceptance.

So I think the distinction you (and Kelvin) are making between celibacy and abstinence is a false one for Christians. It's another reason I struggled with Kelvin's article. He takes the difference between celibacy and abstinence as a lemma but overlooked while there might be a difference in lay terms it is inapplicable to his argument or, at the very least, needed careful justiciation first.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 8:55pm BST

S Cooper: With you, I think that the desire for unity facilitates some less-than-admirable "wants."

But I would include among them the desire of the UK and its Monarch to be at the centre of a worldwide Commonwealth.

Surely the Communion is part of that post-imperial project.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 9:28pm BST

"To say to a whole group of people: you must remain celibate and obey our views on sex... and gay sexuality falls short of heterosexual ideals..."

This is yet another aspect of the muddled thinking. It's why I struggle so much with Kelvin's article which is an amalgum of such muddles - a veritable muddle of muddles.

Firstly recall that Anglicanism has a history of creative ambiguity. If you go back to Elizabethan times, the parallel was the Presence in the Eucharist. Physical but not metaphorical transubstantiation was ruled out but the rest was left vague so people made of it what they will.

The parallel to today is that sodomy is against doctrine but instead of Issues speaking just of sodomy it uses the word celibacy so that conservatives can take comfort that when a bishop is celibate it *might* mean he is celibate according to a very strict interpretation but the hypothetical bishop himself might just mean he refrains from anal sex.

Then you are suggesting teaching against sodomy is direct discrimination against LGBTI people. It isn't. The teaching applies to everyone, gay lesbian, bi or straight. The discrimination is actually very narrow - gay men are expected to declare their fidelity to church teaching on sex but, so far as I am aware, straight men and all women are not. That IS discrimination and is manifestly unjustified and unjustifiable but for me your characterisation of the situation is entirely unrecognisable.

It also doesn't matter if some people say that celibacy means more than that. You support people following their conscience and they may conscientiously express their view. That doesn't change the fact that any cleric may truthfully say they are celibate according to a very narrow meaning of the word.

I might add that the Ten Commandments enjoin us not to bear false witness but don't tell us not to lie. There's a difference. Again, according to their conscience someone might say they follow Issues when they don't. To say that Issues "imposes" celibacy is itself an exaggeration. All it requires is that clergy don't publicise that they do something which rocks the very shaky compromise which has been crafted to keep the church together. It's very narrow and the resistance to that part of Issues is, in my opinion, totally overblown so long as we move to a don't-ask-don't-tell approach to the matter.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 9:46pm BST

Kate, I still don't understand why you think that Kelvin Holdsworth's post is muddled but we will hav to disagree. Given that some commentators on this blog are, for example, members of the US Episcopal Church(TEC), the Anglican Church of Canada, the SEC, in whch church Kelvin Holdsworth is a priest, it is worth remembering that 'Issues in Sexuality' is a specifically Church of England document which was a statement made by the House of Bishops to Synod in 1991. It has no force outside that church unless it has been adopted by another member of the Anglican Communion

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Thursday, 8 September 2016 at 10:49pm BST

"He surmises that the good Bishop thinks about celibacy as he does: as a way to avoid conduct that Christ has not warranted." - cseitz -


Nor did Christ deny its possibility, Christopher!

One of the problems now is that many rigorous conservatives do not believe that it is possible for anyone to live together in a same-gender committed relationship without having sex - despite Bishop Nicholas' testimony to the contrary. I guess we who are more liberal about all this just can't win this argument anyway.

I personally, can at least testify that it is indeed possible for a homosexual to live in a loving partnership with a heterosexual partner, in a marriage without sex. Now, what do you think of that possibility, Christopher?

We are all different, and God made each one of us - to love and be loved. Deo Gratias!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 1:11am BST

Ron Smith--my comment was a digest of what Wes Hill said. He is a Gay Christian. He does not believe sex between two men or two women is what Christ allows. I thought that was clear.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 7:29am BST

"I personally, can at least testify that it is indeed possible for a homosexual to live in a loving partnership with a heterosexual partner, in a marriage without sex. Now, what do you think of that possibility, Christopher?"

That is one of the most wonderful things I have read on TA in many a month. Someone who has been able to look past their own sexual orientation when choosing a partner and testimony that sex is not an essential for a loving marriage.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 10:18am BST

@cseitz, I'd never heard of the Bishop of Grantham until this story broke. I have no comment on his situation. I have no familiarity with, nor any particular interest in, the C of E's internal polices on matters like this.

However, I notice that your views often mirror those of the Communion Secretary. Similar script, different venues. His views are often found in the house organ ACNS (see linked story above). Your views may often be found here, where many GLBTQ folks, and those of us who support them, also post.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 2:28pm BST

"Scripture is surprisingly clear in its prohibition of sodomy."

and

"but the hypothetical bishop himself might just mean he refrains from anal sex."

Kate, you seem to have a more interesting Bible than mine. Can you point me to where anal sex and /or sodomy appears in the scriptures?

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 9 September 2016 at 3:45pm BST

Mr Gillis -- you made the exact same comment at another blog. I responded there.

I didn't see +Josiah I-F passing on quotes from the Guardian, but perhaps I missed something.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 7:39am BST

My recollection is that sodomy, i.e. the sin of Sodom is condemned. The tricky bit is that the sin of Sodom is that her people were haughty and well fed, and did not help the poor and needy (paraphrasing Ezekiel).

Posted by: Jo on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 10:51am BST

"My recollection is that sodomy, i.e. the sin of Sodom is condemned"

Jo, you are correct the sin of Sodom is condemned and that sin taken to be variously haughtiness, violation of hospitality norms or forced sex with angels. 'Sodomy' with its specific meaning in English i.e. anal intercourse - is not mentioned in the Bible in either hetero- or homosexual contexts.

Quite how the Scriptures can be 'surprisingly clear in its prohibition' of something they don't actually mention I don't know.

Some parts of the scriptures are arguably not very happy with same-sex intercourse though to suggest that this amounts to a 'clear prohibition' of any particular practices is not warranted.

Some argue the clobber texts refer to very specific things- temple-based prostitution etc; some a blanket ban on same-sex sex. If you were to take this latter view, you'd be wrong of course, but then you might argue that scripture prohibits sodomy for same sex couples in that it prohibits *any* sex for same sex couples. That's the only way I can see the practice being considered to be prohibited by scripture, though as it isn't mentioned as such and wouldn't by that reckoning be prohibited for heterosexuals it's hardly 'clear'.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 1:06pm BST

@ cseitz, "...you made the exact same comment at another blog. I responded there."

Yes I did. You made one comment there consistent with the several you made here.

"I didn't see +Josiah I-F passing on quotes from the Guardian, but perhaps I missed something.'

Quod scripsi, scripsi

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 10 September 2016 at 2:06pm BST

"Quod scripsi, scripsi".

Thank you Pontius Pilate. But what was your point? Lots of people have similar views -- Ian Paul, Wes Hill, +JI-F, myself and on it goes. That we would respond similarly means only that we haven't changed our minds recently. Selah.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 7:56am BST

Ezekiel 16:50a refers to committing to'evah. This isn't inhospitality and it isn't sex with angels. I think it is wiser to say the Bible is wrong than to try to make it say something else.


וַֽתִּגְבְּהֶ֔ינָה וַתַּעֲשֶׂ֥ינָה תוֹעֵבָ֖ה לְפָנָ֑י

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 8:32am BST

"Ezekiel 16:50a refers to committing to'eva'

A word which is without a good English equivalent (though often translated as 'abomination') In the hundred or so times it appears in the Hebrew OT it most often refers to foreign cultic practices (e.g. Deut 7: 25-26; 18:9-12) particularly iIdolatory (Ez. 5:11, 6:9, 6:11, 7:20, 14:6, 20:7-8, 22:2, 44:6-7, 44:13) etc.

Not in a single instance does it refer to anal sex.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 1:15pm BST

So how are you translating that word and on what basis?

Posted by: Jo on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 2:10pm BST

@cseitz, "Thank you Pontius Pilate."

lol! That's always the comeback I get when I use that phrase. (I used to quote him whenever I was conscripted to take minutes for one or another of our clergy meetings).

Pilate, as one of the gospel dramatis personae, has only a few lines, but they are such good lines, don't you find? ( as an aside, is he speaking with divine inspiration do you think?) Anyway, that line one seemed good to me in the current context.

"That we would respond similarly means only that we haven't changed our minds recently."

That does not rule out your comments, on GLBTQ friendly blog sites like this one, seeming from time to time as a kind of surrogacy for those of the Communion Secretary. ( In the politcal sense of the term, as I glean its current use from press coverage of the American election campaign).The fact that those views might be shared, simili modo, in whole or in part by others is hardly surprising.

Like old fashioned princes of the pulpit, each of us commentators has more or less one sermon.

I suppose someone has to play the role of preaching to convict we saucy advocates of aggiornamento?

salut, -Rod

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 11 September 2016 at 4:49pm BST

Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”

Abomination: to'evah.

As I said, it is a wiser move to reject the Bible when it says things like this than to try to make Sodom about bad table manners and inhospitality.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 7:42am BST

Dear Mr Gillis

I have known +JI-F for many years and count him as a friend. He helped run a conference on Islam we sponsored a couple years back. He is on the faculty at Wycliffe in Toronto.

Since he took up this office he seems very busy. I do not have any even informal "surrogacy" vis-a-vis the Communion Secretary. As I said, that many people share a common view on the character of marriage ought not to be a surprise. Even Gay Christians like Wes Hill.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 8:30am BST

"Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, ...

Abomination: to'evah.

As I said, it is a wiser move to reject the Bible when it says things like this than to try to make Sodom about bad table manners and inhospitality."

Fairly feeble logic here, surely you can't be proposing this? Leviticus says and lying with male is to'evah; Ezekiel says Sodom was to'evah therefore the sin of Sodom was male on male sex?

If man lying with male is to'evah in one verse it doesn't mean that every time to'evah occurs in the OT it's referring to a man lying with a male. If it did, that would make most of the occurrences of to'evah seriously bizarre. If I think the hymns of Fanny Crosby are wonderful it doesn't follow that every time I use the word 'wonderful' I'm talking about Fanny Crosby's hymns.

Rather than rejecting the Bible when it 'says things' [sic] it's a wiser move to reject conservative misreadings of the Bible that try to make Sodom about homosexuality.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 9:09am BST

Fr Andrew

Read any commentary on Ezekiel written from time immemorial. The reference to to'evah in Ezekiel is taken to mean what it means in Leviticus and in a vast array of other places.

You seem to be saying it has some special exotic meaning in Ezekiel: they committed sex with angelic beings or had inhospitable halitosis.

As I say, better to just reject Leviticus and Ezekiel and say these texts are wrong.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 1:09pm BST

While it is clearly possible to apply the use of to'ebah in Ezekiel 16:50 to sodomy via a selective transition from Leviticus, that seems unlikely to be the author's intent for a number of reasons; most importantly the larger context of the chapter. The address is to the many abominations of Jerusalem, which have exceeded those of her sister Sodom. Note two things: Jerusalem and Sodom are portrayed as women throughout, so a suggestion of a link with males lying with males seems unlikely. Nor is there any suggestion in the text that Jerusalem is guilty of that particular activity (if "she" could be). On the contrary, the rest of chapter 50 characterizes Jerusalem's faults as rather X-rated heterosexuality in as blunt terms as Biblical Hebrew can muster.

It is far more likely that the "abomination" referred to is idolatry, which is the way the word "to'ebah" is used in the vast majority of occurrences (outside the few in Leviticus, and the male cult prostitutes -- if that is what they are -- in 1 Kings). Other portions of the prophetic denunciation of Jerusalem indicate that idolatry was an ongoing fault.

So a contextual and canonical reading suggests idolatry is the issue, not a specific one of the many sexual sins denounced in Leviticus as to'eboth. That is not to say it is an impossible reading -- many read it so -- but it is hardly a necessary or contextual reading.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 4:13pm BST

@cseitz, "...that many people share a common view on the character of marriage ought not to be a surprise." Correct; but I think there is more to the current tempest in a teapot.

Again, I have no opinion on the existential situation of the Bishop of Grantham.

What one takes note of is the response from officialdom, and those who share officialdom's concerns via whatever relationship. There is no better summary of this than the opening paragraph of the ACNS article (linked above):

This kind of thing, whether from the Secretary or from kindred spirits, is not so much about the individual in the middle of controversy as it is about crisis management, which is always about the institution --especially after the warning shot from GAFCON.

One notes that the General Secretary is now on the naughty list of the very conservative Anglican right. One notes what is being written about him on some of the conservative Anglican blog sites especially by some of the apoplectic Anglicans who comment there. Of course it is the Bishop Grantham really gets worked over in the comments sections.I won't link the sites so as not to add to the gossip quotient; but they are not numerous or difficult to find.

Finally, a small point re "Mr. Gillis". Not to make too big a fuss, but I find that mode of address somewhat common room or midshipman like. It was my practice to encourage my parishioners to call me Rod, a diminutive of the name I was given at baptism. Otherwise, my posting moniker Rod Gillis will do nicely.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 4:14pm BST

Leviticus 20:13: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.”

In 21st century Anglicanism, on whom does this verse impose the requirement to kill all gay men violating this verse? Archbishops? Bishops? Seminary professors? Archdeacons? Priests? Any person in the pew?

It seems to me you can't require a literal reading of the first half of the verse without requiring a literal meaning of the second half as well.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 12 September 2016 at 5:32pm BST

I think the main point is that if Ezekiel said

"they acted haughtily and engaged in same sex activity and even had marriage equality blogs"

surely it wouldn't matter in this discussion. If one is in favor of LGBTI causes, he or she is not going to change their view no matter what Ezekiel or Leviticus says. "Sodomite" may be a term rooted in history, and it may be how Ezekiel 16 has been consistently read--of course to make the point that Jerusalem's sins were greater--but in the face of today's cause, these are irrelevancies.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 at 7:51am BST

You gotta watch Ezekiel, with Ezekiel as with the institutional church, there are wheels within wheels.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 13 September 2016 at 2:31pm BST

Thank you, Fr. Tobias, for demonstrating your ability on this blog to exceed the qualification to get past Christian Ethics 101. Also, thank you for your knowledge of both Greek and Hebrew - as well as showing a lot of common sense and Biblical compassion and proficiency in interpreting.

The proper use of the Bible is surely to inform us on God's relationship to us; not to 'clobber'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 8:00am BST

Surely wouldn't want Ezekiel around. His entire vocation was to tear down and clobber! He is given a scroll so terrible to eat that God provided the means by which at least for him it would be sweet. So that thereafter he and Israel and the whole world could lean into visions of utter loveliness and new creation!

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 10:05am BST

You want to talk about Ezekiel and use it as a proof text for the condemnation of gay sex?

The Book of Ezekiel is astonishing. Different people will draw different things from it.

For myself, three things:

1. The catatonic reaction to the presence of the living God and God's message. A state of shock, awe, surrender of power. (3:15)

2. Warning of the judgment of God: this is hugely needed in every age. "Give them warning from me" (3:17 and 33:7)). Without recognition of judgment, each of us risks remaining recalcitrant, each of us risks losing out on the fire and tenderness of God's judgment, and the breaking down of our pride and independence from God.

3. That judgment is not legalistic: it is the affairs of the heart. It is the conversion (metaphorically speaking) of a heart of stone into a heart of flesh (11:19 and notably 33:25-6). It is the new birth, the resurrection in the Spirit, the opening up to the God who dwells within (37:27).

The heart of stone is the spirit of independence from God, from God's feelings, from God's love. It involves an individual or a societal turning away, that is deeply distressing to God because of the sheer wastage of our divine caacity: "how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me." (6:9)

What turns us from God is the idolatry of the heart (14:5). This idolatry may be physical idols, but it is also the idolatry of wealth, the idolatry of power, the idolatry (even) of the scriptures if they harden our hearts in dogma rather than love.

Jesus did not come nit-picking about the law, like we sometimes see people nit-picking here at Thinking Anglicans. He came to address the issue of the human heart itself. And taught that what is needed is the Spirit in our hearts, to touch, to change, to empower us.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 11:27am BST

What comes across so strongly in Ezekiel is the distress of God, and the love of God for God's dearly-loved people (15:8-14) - and the sheer wastage God sees as they harden their hearts and turn from God. All that wasted blessing, all that lost potential, turning the internal and the external to waste. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and God weeps over us, when our hearts fail to open to the compassion, the grace, and the love... because of so much waste, and the prostitution of the much-loved bride (16:25-6). Ezekiel 16 is about sin far deeper than Sodom's. It is hearts shut like iron against the tender love of God.

This is not about gay sex. It is about the human heart itself. About idolatry, hardness and how we shut the door on our tender-hearted God. It is about an appeal for us to turn, to open our hearts, and it is the gospel of Jesus Christ pre-figured in God's passionate outpouring (18:31).

It is about the rebuilding of the ruins of our hearts, the raising of dry and dusty lifelessness to life, and the coming of the Spirit of God, like breath, as our hearts are wonderfully opened (37:9 and 14); so that God, our God within us, may be known - and the glory of our God may fill the temple, the temple of our innermost heart and soul (43:1-5).

"And the name of the city from that time on will be: GOD IS THERE" (final words of Ezekiel).

Even so, come, holy God.

Open our hearts so we may know you there, and be touched, and healed, and be called into the wholeness of who You know us to be.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 11:33am BST

Ms Clark -- the question was whether Ezek 16 has in view sexual crimes, and so uses the same term as Leviticus. Typically scholars note the close proximity of Ezekiel to soi-disant "P".

This was being denied. Sodom was about bad hospitality, failure to honor the weak. Etc. The prophet referenced Sodom and to'evah but meant just inhospitality.

I hope this won't be taken as anything but a small observation, in the sociology of knowledge if you will. I have taught Hebrew for 35 years and Ezekiel as well. The blogosphere has flattened all claims to something like expertise or teaching experience or holding a Chair. Obviously if one worried about that one wouldn't bother to comment, as I do.

I'd wager this change has happened within a 15 year period at most. What I see with younger colleagues and students I teach now is a real questioning of whether hard work and scholarship is worth it. I never asked those kinds of questions when I was 25 and beginning my career. We have succeeded in killing off the idea of 5 years of comparative semitics as being worth much, or learning the history of critical methods, and yet they aren't dead entirely, but just available through Wiki and google searching.

I was once surprised to learn that a student who took an ordination exam I gave wondered why mistakes were really all that important. If he had the questions ahead of time, all he needed to do was search for the answers online.

The presidential race in the US and the general culture of academic discussion has so deteriorated that one wonders what will be next on the horizon. My strong sense is that grasp of history and internalizing it will be seen as irrelevant, except for some eccentrics!

Ah well, I am much closer to the end of my teaching career than when I first began. It doesn't exempt me from taking my students' concerns seriously, but I does feel like an entirely new battle.

grace and peace.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 2:50pm BST

Thank you, Fr. Ron. As to consistent -- or largely consistent and traditional -- readings, one of the reasons we continue to study the Scripture is the awareness that traditional readings, however consistent, may be mistaken, and are subject to review. If they weren't, there would be little reason for continued study.

The Hebrew word to'evah means "hateful" -- it describes the reaction towards the object of hatred. In Genesis it is applied to shepherds and food (and is not used in reference to Sodom). In Leviticus to a long list of forbidden sexual practices and relationships (including males lying with a male as with a woman), and child sacrifice. In the rest of Torah we have an odd assortment of unequal weights and measures, remarriage to a divorced woman married to another in the interim (apposite to the imagery in Ezekiel 16!), cross-dressing, and other cultic matters. Throughout the rest of the Hebrew scripture the word is o9ften applied in an almost generic sense for any weighty wrong, though most often with a cultic overtone.

These are the data. Different folk come to different conclusions when presented with them.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 3:42pm BST

http://livingchurch.org/covenant/2016/09/14/young-traditionalists-in-a-progressive-church-searching-and-remaining-for-salvation/

One of our strongest recent PhD graduates.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 6:48pm BST

Susannah
Absolutely it is about hearts. When God has told us in Ezekiel and Leviticus what upsets him, that our hearts don't lay that aside because it is inconvenient to us or because it upsets other people, but we embrace it and say, "Your will, Lord". And if we are anything less than 100% certain individually and as a church that gay sex isn't something which upsets God, then we should avoid gay sex and teach other Christians that if is wrong. So absolutely this is about hearts, hearts which are brave enough to put the Lord first even if our desires are pulling us in a different direction.

@cseitz And in that context you are right. A substantial number of people are saying that LGB (this isn't a TI* issue) sex and relationships are good for LGB people so they should be allowed - without as you say worrying about the Bible or whether gay sex is pleasing to God. But that isn't as you suggest everyone or the only argument. There are those of us who believe that the New Testament teaches us to transcend sex and sexual orientation so that marriage, sex and relationships should be gender neutral so that we support same sex relationships not because we believe in LGBTI rights but because we believe we honour God by doing so.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 14 September 2016 at 8:46pm BST

Having read Seitz's link, I would say he's right - the level of academic discussion has deteriorated depressingly, if that's one of the strongest PhD candidates!

"I'm not safe because things might CHANGE!!!!"

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 5:16am BST

"There are those of us who believe that the New Testament teaches us to transcend sex and sexual orientation so that marriage, sex and relationships should be gender neutral"

I know this is what you believe.

It also makes a certain sense. If sex is happening between those who are identical in gender, then those so engaged will not believe gender difference means much of anything. I get that. "Sex and relationships should be gender neutral."

But "gender neutrality" is not in a "should" category for those in traditional marriages or those who believe these represent God's creational purpose. For them, gender difference--and not gender neutrality--is the essential reality to be faced, embraced and worked at.


Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 6:44am BST

Mr Brunson, he wrote a dissertation on Henry Mansel (mid-19th c. Anglican philosopher of religion, whose book on Scripture “Limits of Religious Thought” was controversial). Under Radner.

I thought we were all meant to be listening to each other. The link was to his sense of things in N Ontario and the ACoC after a difficult and acrimonious summer.

Have a good day.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 12:52pm BST

Regarding the article in the The Living Church by The Rev. Dr. Dane Neufeld via the link provided by Christopher Seitz ( above at 6:48 pm), it is fascinating.

I'd like to suggest that Thinking Anglicans cue it up directly under a round up of opinion or such like.

I suggest folks read it. I read it not as an academic argument for or against something, but rather as a reflection by the author on where he finds himself as an Anglican who has found his way into our Communion, like so very many others have, from elsewhere--in his case, from the Mennonite Church.

Neufeld writes: "What does it mean to change denominations? Can we simply change who we are? These are troubling and difficult questions."

I would love to have a conversation with Dane about the specific issues he is raising.

His existential situation resonates with me as one who became an Anglican at age twenty, after having been raised an active Roman Catholic in the "one true church".

One thing I would want to contribute to a conversation with some one like Dane is how long it can take, in my experience, to truly integrate into a tradition of one's choosing. It is a lot like immigration. Citizenship is one thing. Acculturation is quite another.Gandhi noted that "conversions" risk the development of alienation from one's roots.


I would simply say to Dane that acculturation following call or conversion is a lot like trying to assimilate the classics. It takes a very long time, requires patience, is probably always a moving horizon.

I still find Anglicanism aggravatingly amorphic theologically. Having left, intentionally, the hierarchical authoritarianism that characterizes Rome's teaching office with regard to sexual ethics, I recoil at the ascendancy of something similar in our Communion. I have come to cherish our messy synodical decision making with all its raucous and sometimes polarizing repartee. In that regard, I'm on the flip side of the coin from Neufeld--but it is the same coin.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 15 September 2016 at 3:40pm BST