"It is clear that the continued exclusion of the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, in spite of their open, honest and generous responses to the Windsor Report and the Primates’ request is a contradiction of the words of St Paul."
I'd be careful about quoting St Paul, Giles, like he was some kind of authority for today - you don't know where that could lead ... Anyway, I thought Ecusa and ACCan weren't excluded, they voluntarily withdrew. So what's the problem? Did Ecusa and ACCan *listen to the Primates in October 2003 and at Dromantine?
"Monochrome interpretation of scripture..." That is putting it kindly. "Monolithic" and "pre-critical" might be more apt adjectives to describe the position of the neo-puritan reasserters.
On "keeping the mean between two extremes":
We all like to think of ourselves as moderates --I know I do-- and our opponents as extremists. Those who share the same discipline of sexual expression and the same interpretation of Scripture that the overwhelming majority of other Christians do, around the world and across the centuries --rightly or wrongly-- are now the "extremists". Pray tell, who would be the "extremists" on the opposite side, if the re-appraisers' program is "moderate" or "middle of the road"?
Should we apply the same reasoning to other variations on sexual discipline? Are polygamists "moderate" and one-spouse- advocates "extreme", "old-fashioned" and "narrow-minded"? And what about those terribly judegmental people who want to exclude pedophilia from authentic Christian chastity?
John Henry: Spatial metaphors and descriptors like 'moderate' and 'extreme' are apt to tell us more about the user than the content of an actual belief. Who would not want to be 'extremely' faithful to Christ? Is it not desirable to be a genuine 'liberal', freely considering all views - even when you have to decide in the end which is nearer the truth? Aye, there's the rub. The issue is really truth, whether and how it can be known. What is wrong with being 'old fashioned' if the new fashion is fascism? Long ago G K Chesterton (now there's a bracing read!) warned of the danger of chronological snobbery, 'believing something because it's Thursday and not Tuesday'. Remember also that most descriptors like 'Puritan' or 'Methodist' were originally negative until they settled merely as a group term. 'Fundamentalist' has done a different journey from its rather precise sense in c. 1915 and is largely a swearword now, generating more heat than light in usage. Anyway, to describe a reading of Scripture as 'pre-critical' or 'monolithic' is to imply that a later reading (how late?) carries better judgment than an earlier (why so?) and that Scripture is being wrongly read as a unity without regard to distinctions ('monolithic'?) - or perhaps even conflict or contradiction. These are basic 'modernist' (i.e. 19th/20th C.) assumptions, which really go back to Troeltsch's view of history and a basically naturalistic view of Scripture, namely: that special divine acts in history (miracles) do not occur; that the Bible is not God's Word Written; that the Bible contains passages that are immoral and/or untrue (because thay are unscientific, unhistorical or ignorant of the wider world). Walter Wink, Michael Hopkins, Jack Spong etc are quite open and clear about this and do not play verbal tricks, pretending that the problem lies with our reading rather than Scripture's meaning. The meaning is clear enough; the question is, is it true? John Henry, have the courage of your convictions to say, along with Michael Hopkins, 'Scripture does say these things - but it's wrong.'
In order for there to be dialog there has to be listening on both sides. Unforunately the delegations from ECUSA and Canada came to Nottingham, not to listen to the concerns of the Anglican Communion but to inform it that they were right and that everyone else would simply have to fall into line.
By any realistic assessment they are the ones who have jeopardised the unity of the Body, having pushed generosity and inclusion beyond reasonable interpretation. Now that they are perched at the end of the branch, they are sawing it off.
I also worry about where we draw the line as far as interpreting scripture. I have always considered myself a moderate, but where does the church draw the line in regard to sexuality? In five years from now do we accept a bishop that is a pedophiliac, just because we do not want to exclude anyone from the church? I am having a real moral struggle with this, because I cannot justify the fact that I do not want to discriminate, but I would have a real problem accepting an openly gay priest or bishop.
Surely the fact that the specific changes which are proposed just so happen by coincidence to be exactly those which have recently happened in society should show us what the big picture is here. We all know that the main predictor of a person's beliefs is the society which they are born into and/or live in. Whereas when it comes to truth, social convention is not a factor at all, but an irelevance.
Why these constant comparisons of faithful gay partnerships with pedophilia?
If people truly believe that an "openly gay priest or bishop" is in any way equivalent to pedophilia (the rape of children, after all!), then the problem is certainly not ours.
"Whereas when it comes to truth, social convention is not a factor at all, but an irelevance."
Then why is it so difficult for traditionalists to accept the fact that some people are gay, and that faithful gay partnerships ought to be encouraged, not discouraged?
Perhaps it's because the conservative prejudice against gay people is simply a product of the society into which most conservatives were born, and takes no account of the "truth" of the way things actually are.
BCP 1662 Preface: "IT hath been the wisdom of the Church of England, ever since the first compiling of her Public Liturgy, to keep the mean between the two extremes, of too much stiffness in refusing, and too much easiness in admitting any variation from it."
This was talking about flexibility in use of liturgy... how do "LiberalChurch" manage to interprete that to mean flexible morality ? ... OK, interpretation was never their strong point!
I think that the authors would have put "blessings" of gay relationships into the following category in the preface: ".... of the sundry Alterations proposed unto us, we have rejected all such as were ... of dangerous consequence (as secretly striking at some established Doctrine, or laudable Practice of the Church of England, or indeed of the whole Catholic Church of Christ)..."
I have some sympathy for your reaction regarding homosexuality and pedophilia, but I believe that the slippery, revisionist, slope will get us (you!) close to that position. The heresy, and sin, that the revisionists are preaching is the one regarding "sexual orientation". If the heretics would be honest this, "orientation", should include polygamy and also small minorities who prefer their sibling or mother/father as their sexual partner and perhaps even make some room for those who prefer non-human relationships (as long as they will not violate any animal rights laws). Even if you include that the relationship must be of mutual concent between "adults", it would still mean that the 55 year old "Bishop" could marry his 16 year old daughter (as his second wife). My guess is that the polygamists et. al. are a to small minority and/or at least not as well organised and funded as the lobby for the 3-4% of the population who's preferences are homo-,bi- or transexual.
Dear BLS: Hello again. You ask, "Why these constant comparisons of faithful gay partnerships with pedophilia?"
Because--however different the two things may be in important ways--you are unable to demonstrate to us how a Church that tolerates homosexuality will resist pedophilia. Some on this site have even brushed off such questions with the observation that this is "not my issue". (Translation: I don't care about pedophiles or their victims; I don't care what the Church does about pedophilia; and people who think like me are not going to take responsibility for constructing a defensible ethic.)
It's a simple question: How will you resist pedophilia? Simple, but difficult. The advocates for homosexuality won the day by dismantling the authority and perspicuity of the Scriptures as our rule of faith and practice; and we can't imagine how there will be ANY enforceable rules in their deconstructed world.
Do you really doubt that the NAMBLA types will be lining up at the door, in hopes of tolerance, respect, and "inclusion"? Don't doubt it; they'll be there. And how will the Church resolve their appeals? By sentimental invocations of principles such as love and commitment and mutuality? Some of the pedophiles will insist that they have all those things in their relationships. Others will question why these principles are the right ones. You will find proof-texting rather tough in the world you have created.
How will you resist the pedophile? For that matter, how will you resist the homosexual who wants sex outside of a "faithful gay partnership"? Some people (he'll observe) are simply not called to "committed", life-long relationships; but should these people be denied sexual pleasure? Why must sex always be sacred and spooky and long-term? Why can't it just be unregulated fun? Because "the Bible says so"? You tossed that tool out of your toolbox.
This is why we keep bringing up pedophilia and other sexual misbehavior that you disclaim. It is a CURRENT problem; it is obviously one of the very next battles the Church will face; and we're quite sure you can't hold the line. Prove us wrong. Please. --David
I certainly don't regard myself as a moderate. I think its about time we liberals reclaimed the insult of revisionist, for its clear enough to me that Christianity needs revision in order to be anything else than an outdated set of superstitions and book-worshipo.
Wink, Hopkins, Spong - excellent stuff.
Martin Hambrook: Chesterton's concept of "chronological snobbery" has always seemed to be to be a quite valid observation. However, herein lies my difficulty with how that concept is all-too-frequently deployed in debates on The Current Anglican Troubles: There always seems to be an implication (including by you in your post above, unless I am misreading it, as I very well may be) that the *reverse* is in fact true, a sort of "contra-chronological snobbery," if you will -- in other words, that Tuesday must always be considered privileged above Thursday, merely because Tuesday came first.
Such an idea might come as a surprise to physicists being told that they should not consider Einstein's physics to be an improvement in understanding over Newton's, for after all, Newton's came first. Likewise with biologists being told that it's "snobbery" to consider Darwin's explanation for the origins of species to more accurate than that derived from a literalistic reading of Genesis (as indeed was the state of "scientific" understanding for quite a long time).
In other words, neither the old nor the new should automatically be considered to be more privileged than the other. Now, one might argue that at least a *presumption* of accuracy should go to any traditionally accepted understanding, whether scientific or theological, and in fact that is usually the way it works in practice in any field. However, too glibly subscribing to Chesterton's "chronological snobbery" concept can result in too facilely dismissing the value of the learning and insights acquired over time that have resulted in any "innovative" new proposed understanding -- and there should likewise be some sort of presumption -- not that we definitely *have*, but that we may well have learned more since Tuesday -- that works in favor of approaching newly proposed understandings with enough openness that one does not just dismiss them merely because they contradict what Ptolemy or Newton or, yes, even traditional ways of reading the Bible have previously told us.
Surely no one would propose that Einstein and those whose work he built upon were should have been dismissed because they did not accord with Newton -- nor that Newton, after one accepts an Einsteinian universe, was flat-out "wrong," instead of merely being incomplete albeit as correct as one could get within the limitations upon knowledge that he faced; nor that Einstein's "Thursday" should not be deemed open to being superseded by what we learn between then and the "Tuesday of the following week."
So I suppose that what I'm after is that I would hope that the "chronological snobbery" concept would be used in a more circumspect way, i.e., one which allowed that, yes, at least sometimes, we really *do* know more, and understand old knwoledge better, on Thursday than we did on the Tuesday before it.
"Surely the fact that the specific changes which are proposed just so happen by coincidence to be exactly those which have recently happened in society should show us what the big picture is here. We all know that the main predictor of a person's beliefs is the society which they are born into and/or live in. Whereas when it comes to truth, social convention is not a factor at all, but an irelevance."
Dr. Shell, it seems entirely likely to me that this actually works in both directions. In other words, even "traditionalists" are often more reflective of a social/cultural viewpoint within the larger culture than they are necessarily continuous in their concerns -- or views -- with all those who preceded them within the Tradition. (Examples might be drawn from early Church teachings on "quickening" and ensoulment at 3 months that tend to be ignored by modern Roman Catholic and other advocates against all abortions, or from Reformation-era claims that practices or teachings were being retrieved from the patristic era when in fact they were wholly innovations of the Reformers.)
Moreover, you imply that an influence blowing into the Church from "the larger culture," or that arises within the Church simultaneously as within that larger culture, can *never* in fact be a work of the Holy Spirit. I'm not sure if you're a supporter of women's ordination, but if you are, surely your reasoning could eqally well be applied to show that that too was of the culture and not of the Spirit. Likewise, while doctrinal matters were not per se involved in, say, the ordination of the first bishops of African descent -- whether in America or in African missionary regions -- or other racial issues within the Church, it would be difficult to argue that the English-speaking world's better understanding over time on such matters -- a far cry from original CoE and PECUSA attitudes -- had learnt nothing useful -- indeed, Spirit-inspired -- from the larger society.
So I assume you don't mean to say that the Church can never, under any circumstances, learn something of value, something indeed holy and revelatory, from "the larger culture"?
1 Corinthians 5
Immorality Must Be Judged
9I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person.
I have no problem saying that Scripture says some WRONG things (all that cr*p about menstruating women being "unclean" for one).
. . . but condemnation of "homosexuality" (or "homosexual sex") simply isn't one of them.
To Chris McM, who asked:
"Pray tell, who would be the "extremists" on the opposite side, if the re-appraisers' program is "moderate" or "middle of the road"?"
"Nothing is permitted/Everything is permitted" are flip-sides of each other: both are unfaithful to God *and* our brothers&sisters.
LGBT Christians (and our straight allies) find ourselves walking a tight-rope (the via media again) between theist puritans and atheist/apathetic whatever-works-for-ME nihilists. We're popular with neither, though the nihilists usually just ignore us (too busy partying) while the puritans attack.
[Though you might not know it from reading me here, I spend a great deal of my time explaining Christianity to the latter group: it's difficult to find a common language . . . especially when, seeing "Christian" as synonymous the puritans, they tend to want to dismiss me outright.]
FWIW, I find the Inclusive Church statement to a very perceptive analysis of the peril Anglicanism is in right now.
John Henry: please tell me if I've got your views wrong. This is the nub of the question - everything else is beating round the bush.
"conservative prejudice against gay people "
Here we go again. This kind of talk has become almost a mantra on this web-site, as are the ambiguous terms "conservative" and "evangelical" as if they are people to be shunned. Funny, because the same people who use these terms in a derogatory sense are the first to argue for inclusivity.
The issue, all along (as it seems to have been forgotten) is the place and authority of the Holy Scriptures. It is NOT, per se, any feelings one may have against gay people. What many of us are struggling with is the understanding that we have that the scriptures portray the practice (as opposed to orientation) of homosexuality as a sin. It worries many Bible based Christians that there is enormous pressure to declare what is a sin, as something that is NOT a sin - and that's where the divide occurs. It worries us, not only in respect of the homosexual issue, but where we draw the line. Will, for example, a thief, in years to come, be welcomed into communion, on the grounds of inclusivity, but with the assumption that he/she can carry on as before?
I do so wish that people who are worshipping this sacred cow of inclusivity (but mind you, not to these nasty evangelicals of course!) could recognise that this constant accusation of prejudice against gay people is deeply unfair. We are all sinful people (unless this also is in the process of being repudiated) and welcome all who love the Lord. But in respect of actions which are contrary to scripture, we would urge people to follow what the Bible states, not just come in and carry on as before. Jesus didn't condemn the woman who was about to be stoned for adultery. But He also said "Go and sin no more."
If those who are pressing their case against this are going to dismiss these awful evangelicals as prejudiced and anti-gay, it strikes me that we will just continue to go round in circles. Argue that perhaps we are misinterpteting the scriptures, by all means, and let's debate this. But please do not cheapen the argument by saying "If you don't agree with me, it's because you hate gays." That is to be deeply offensive, hurtful and cheap.
Sorry, Robert, that old chestnut of trying to separate 'practice'and 'orientation' just doesn't wash.
Its also not backed up in the Bible, which has no concept of sexual orientation. A conservative , literalist reading cannot make the separation you do - and indeed, the church did not, at one time, and could well have made this shift in order to appear less bigoted in the light of social change.
Quite simply, if you do not regard gay people and their relationships as the moral equivalent of straight people and their relationships, amnd wish to discriminate against them legally, socially or institutionally, then you are anti-gay. Conservative theology is endemically and irredeemably anti-gay. Any amount of whining about how you don't really discriminate doesn't wash. Just about every piece of progressive legislation to give equal citizenship to gay people has been opposed by conservative Christians. Not surprising, as it reflects their anti-gay stance.
Quite simply, believing that gay relationships are 'sinful' is an anti-gay position. You follow an anti-gay religion.
There will always be positive things one can learn from the surrounding culture, simply because the surrounding culture is full of millions of things. Some of those millions of things are bound to be positive.
But they are not positive by being part of the surrounding culture, but by virtue of being intrinsically beneficial. Whereas trends and beliefs tend to follow the surrounding culture (or the culture that is being pressed on them by those with the wherewithal to do so) simply because it is the surrounding culture, because it is fashionable, because it is what people do and believe here and now. Which does not amount to an actual reason for doing anything.
Not for the first time, Merseymike, you are either misinterpreting or seeking to misrepresent what I said. I know perfectly well, and do not need to be told, that the Bible says nothing about sexual orientation. Actually, I only made the distinction because it is the gay community who often bring this distinction up when one refers to what the Bible says about homosexuality. It is the practice of homosexuality that we believe the Bible to declare as sin.
It's not what I choose say that matters in the slightest, Merseymike. It's what the Bible says. If the Bible says that something is wrong, that ends the matter as far as these much despised conservative Christians are concerned. It is you who choose to declare this to be an anti-gay attitude. What arrogant generalisations you make! I know and work alongside several gay people and in social contacts make not the slightest distinction between them and straight people. Not for a tiny moment. There is NO discrimination, but you choose for your own purposes to declare that there is.
As far as what you term "progressive" legislation in respect of gay people, that's a totally different ball-game. How non-Christians choose to live, what their life-styles are, is their affair. I have made no objection to such legislation. That's the secular world.
But when people come to receive Christ as their saviour, they (as we) are enjoined to follow the Bible's teachings. And this means change. It doesn't make one "anti-gay" by saying this. If you choose to come to Christ on your own terms, that's between you and God. But it's totally wrong to seek to impose upon all Christians a redefinition of Christianity by declaring that something the Bible classes as not in accord with the will of God is not a sin. How convenient!
I insist that to adhere to the teachings in the Bible is not in any way an anti-gay stance, and that what some of us are seeking to do is to avoid having our faith hijacked by a watered down sociologically-based faith of sorts where from now on, anything goes.
As I said earlier, argue that perhaps we are misinterpteting the scriptures, by all means, and let's debate this. But it seems that you won't or can't, hence your resorting to phrases such as "conservative theology is endemically and irredeemably anti-gay."
But there we go. I doubt you will be in the slightest convinced.
Scotus: thank you for your comments on my piece. As you wonder about my own views, you do me the service of making this Thinking Anglican reflect and express them here. So -
1. Yes, quite often I will prefer 'Tuesday' over 'Thursday' - if Tuesday (maybe I should say Monday!) is understood as the original apostolic testimony to the risen Christ and (less authoritatively but still very valuable)the sub-apostolic period covering thosae who knew and were taught by the apostles (Ignatius; Clement of Rome; Polycarp etc). The NT doesn't have a privileged place in Christian theology because the apostles were naturally brighter and better than all other men before and after (they were not) but because they were privileged to have fellowship with the incarnate Son of God who guaranteed them the gift of His Holy Spirit to faithfully teach His message (John 16).
2. The comparison with Newton and quantum mechanics doesn't really work when we consider that Newton was describing comparatively large objects at comparatively slow speeds, while QM is to do with sub-atomic particles at high speed. Both seem to be true in their own spheres. But - and this is the issue here - if people want to assert here that the Apostle Paul knew nothing of 'loving committed homosexual relations', I have to say this is very unlikely (and the onus probandi is on those who claim this): such relations were comparatively common in the ephebophiliac Greco-Roman world and are praised in Plato's Symposium. The data on this is heavily documented in Robert Gagnon's website; if you think he is wrong, Scotus, you need to refute him.
3. I do not see Thursday as trumping Tuesday (Monday) but rather (at best) faithfully explicating its meaning. So I am happy to affirm the Catholic creeds because I believe they explicate the meaning of the NT more faithfully than Arius, Apollinaris etc.
4. To continue the analogy, I can see that there are later teachings (Wednesday?) which have very little biblical basis; most Marianism comes into this category, and so does a lot of eucharistic theology. So church tradition in itself is not adequate grounds for accepting something. Rather the cry here is 'Ad fontes!'
5. The problem arises when someone decides on Thursday that what they believed on Tuesday was simply wrong - e.g. that Jesus was born of a virgin (standard liberalism); that He performed miracles ('Unmoeglich' - R. Bultmann); that the Son of God's blood was shed as a sacrifice for the sins of the world ('Cosmic child abuse!'); that He rose bodily and will return in person etc etc ('Mythology' - Hich et al). Such thought calls itself 'progressive', which literally means 'moving forward' - but to what? How do the proponents of these views know that this takes us closer to the truth? (Hint: they don't.)
'Sorry, Robert, that old chestnut of trying to separate 'practice'and 'orientation' just doesn't wash.
Its also not backed up in the Bible, which has no concept of sexual orientation. A conservative , literalist reading cannot make the separation you do - and indeed, the church did not, at one time, and could well have made this shift in order to appear less bigoted in the light of social change.'
Mike, I appreciate that you are a plain speaker and don't usually obfuscate or 'do nuance'. Unfortunately, you don't do theology either. The term 'sexual orientation' presumably means 'the direction of one's erotic desires', and the Bible has in fact a great deal to say about desires and temptations. Never does it say that the presence of desires or temptations is in itself sinful - rather the problem lies in yielding to them, as the Apostle Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 10:13; cf. Matthew 4:1-11). This is of course basic Christian teaching - but real confusion emerges when the ambiguous political coinage 'sexual orientation' is used interchangeably to cover BOTH desires AND behavior. To identify and denominate a person both by his/her subjective desires or feelings (which, like religious or political beliefs, may be weak or strong and may come and go) and by his actions, is a political move, and itself obfuscatory, since in many cases we don't act on our desires. Contrary to what you say, the Bible does distinguish between desires and acts - and it also notes that cultivating desires will lead to actions - for good or ill, depending on the origin of such desires (Galatians 6:7-10).
David Golden has given me an idea. Why not embrace paedophiles as well. Actually, they have more a case than gays, because I can confidently say that the word does not feature in the Bible.
After all, we must be inclusive, musn't we!
But why stop there? Why do we not make a list of all the sins we can think of, and declare that in the interests of inclusivity all these cease to be sins.
That will shorten the Sunday service, as there won't be anything to confess. And Jesus Christ becomes redundant because He came to save sinners, and such people don't exist now.
Now, that sure would be progressive.....
Two adults members who are in love request that the Church bless their relationship. They have been in a committed relationship for many years. Their love and devotion to one another is evident to the entire community. On what basis do we tell them no?
Are we really suggesting that we can tell this couple that the love they experience, sometimes their only experience of love in their life, is not of God?
The couple will have two choices; either run from the Church, never to return, or accept a twisted undersanding of love.
Tossing in things like pedophelia is really an absurd argument. Sexual sin is defined by that which causes harm (unless you want to include the laundry list in Leviticus; if so, I think most heterosexuals better get in line for confession). Promiscuity causes harm; the gift of human sexuality is twisted into nothing more than satisfying desires. Pedophilia causes harm, as the children are innocent victims.
Will someone please point out to me the harm in allowing two adults to choose their life companion?
You are quite right, Robert. I'm not in the least convinced. The Bible has an anti-gay stance, and as far as I am concerned, it is neither inerrant nor infallible. I do not bel;ieve that one is obliged, as a Christian, to read it in the literal and conservative way you do. But you know that already.
One thing which I do share with some conservatives is a belief that conservative and liberal Christianity are really totally different beliefs. Thats why, again, unlike some on both sides, I wanrt to see a split in the CofE as well as the Communion. It makes no conceivable sense for us to be within the same denomination.
Maretin ; I certainly don't do your sort of theology, I grew out of it 20 years ago when I gave up conservative Christianity. Being gay is neither solely a desire or temptation, any more than being heterosexual is. It is part of what we are as humans, and I think needs to be understood both in terms of relationship, and within social and cultural context. Unfortunately, your bibliolatry doesn't allow for that sort of thing, which is why it is really so irrelevant and unhelpful.
'One thing which I do share with some conservatives is a belief that conservative and liberal Christianity are really totally different beliefs. That's why, again, unlike some on both sides, I want to see a split in the CofE as well as the Communion. It makes no conceivable sense for us to be within the same denomination.'
You need to learn some theology, Mike. Gresham Machen did write a book in 1920s called 'Christianity and Liberalism' in which he stated that they were indeed two different religions, and insofar 'liberalism' here denoted anti-miraculous, anti-incarnational unitarianism, this would be true. But most 20th C. liberalism within Anglicanism, such as Hensley Henson's, has not been so extreme, and has usually held to some belief in the Trinty and the Incarnation - though not in most of post-1970s Ecusa. Whether a liberal is still a Christian is really a matter of degrees: some are, while others, like Richard Holloway, have left the orbit of Christian faith, so to speak, and he at least has the honesty to say so. But since Anglicanism has never renounced these beliefs, it actually makes no sense for YOU, Mike, to continue within this denomination whose beliefs *you* don't share - as you've made plain in many a post. Instead of perjuring yourself by repeating a 'fairy tale' creed, you should be an honest man - like Richard Holloway is - and join the MCC or something similar where your beliefs (whatever they are) and lifestyle will be sincerely welcomed. And despite your insistence on essentialism, I repeat that your desires are NOT your identity, any more than mine are - unless, of course, we decide to make them that way by assenting to them and acting on them. I go by the St Andrew Day Statement (1990), penned by Professor Oliver O'Donovan (Regius Professor of Moral Theology) and other Oxford theologians, that a Christian's identity is found in Christ and not his affections (read: 'orientation'). But that's biblical-Augustinian theology, not cultural marxism. Of course you can dismiss that as 'bibliolatry' if you like, but actually it's nothing other than classical Christian orthodoxy. Please, Mike, be consistent and honest and join the MCC where you will be loved and welcomed. Anglicanism does not exist for your political projects.
Dear me, Martin. All this 'you should learn some theology' stuff - its getting a bit boring. What you really mean is 'you should think the same as me'. Still, I have never claimed to be a theologian, sociology is my subject.
Having said that, I am familiar with the references you have given, but it isn't only the liberals who have changed. The conservatives have too. Certainly, the 'don't ask, don't tell' compromise with regard to gay people really doesn't work in a society where to be openly gay is no longer problematic. But the acceptance of liberals within the fold by the conservatives has also lessened, as they have become more and more extereme, and, frankly, far from the reasonable, broad-church tradition of the Church of England.
Now, you may have noticed that I made no comment as to you and those like you leaving Anglicanism. I see no reason why you should. There is no reason why the split could not be a reasonable and amicable one, leading to a largely moderate-liberal and largely conservative Communion respectively.
However, what your agenda appears to be is in the realms of fantasy - that somehow hordes of liberals have infiltrated your beloved conservative denomination. What nonsense! If there were no liberal Anglicans, then this site - which you appear to post on so regularly, would not exist. Liberal theology has had its place within Anglicanism ever since liberal theology was developed. Thats why I remain a communicant member of the Church of England, along with many others who are also, not beholden to a conservative orthodoxy.
Now, you may wish to force us all to leave. I think the likelihood of that happening is small. I think it would make more sense to have a civilised split - which is a little different from your suggestion. After all, I could have bustled in and suggested you joined one of the many fundamentalist denominations available to you, but thats not really a very constructive suggestion, so I thought better of it.
As for the MCC, its never interested me. I don't particularly wish to inhabit a ghetto. You may not wish me and others like me to remain an Anglican, but I'm not planning to go anywhere soon, whilsy liberal Christianity has a place within the Church of England.
And the comment on cultural marxism was hilarious. Groucho or Karl? My sociological colleagues would find the thought of my affiliation to Marx of some amusement....
I have to say my need for a dictionary and technique of re-reading have to be employed here quite frequently. I thank you all for that. I have a few questions.
Why do gay folk want to come to church?
Why do conservatives not want Gay folk in church?
Who is to be the judge of what is right or wrong?
Weren't scriptures written in committee?
If the Holy Spirit can be present when the church was deciding on what was to be included and what was to be excluded from the Bible, Why couldn't the Holy Spirit guide those people who said yes to +Gene Robinson ?
I"ve asked this of several of my conservative priest friends
"have you seen evidence of the Holy Spirit working through +Gene Ronbinson?"
they answer "yes, but"
But by inhibiting him and others who are gay are we not denying the Holy Spirit a vessel through which to work?
Wish the Bible was more clear on this whole matter!
Well, Mike, I'm glad I made you laugh. I assumed you knew what I meant by 'cultural Marxism', which is to be distinguished from the economic and political theories of that unlamented prophet. If you are not at all inspired by Adorno, Fromm, Reich and Marcuse, my apologies for misinterpreting you.
I will ignore your rhetorical flights about 'hordes of liberals infiltrating etc' which serve no purpose other than to avoid answering my points, and your ad hominem assumptions about me and my 'agenda'. I do, however, agree with you that the normalization of homosexuality in society puts pressure on 'conservative' or traditional Christians. It certainly does - just as the growth of Islam in the West puts pressure on the public status of Christianity - and on you gays, as the unhappy state of Holland testifies. (Very strange, then, that it appears that the Left in Europe is making some alliance with Islam!) I think, for example, of pastoral cases affecting people I've known in churches: a woman who left her husband and children to begin a lesbian relationship, or a vicar who left his wife and children to live with a man. You may know that in Canada the gay movement is actively pursuing conservative Christians through the courts and driving people out of their jobs for the sin of criticizing homosexuality in letters to the editor. You may approve of this, Mike, in which case I hope you are confident of your righteousness on the day you will appear Christ - not that you believe in that fundy rubbish, do you?
And that's the rub of my complaint. You are always talking very vaguely about 'liberal theology' and 'its place within Anglicanism' but you never specify what you believe, only what you don't (I avert to your unretracted comment about 'fairy tales'). Unlike me, you don't appear to actually believe in most of the doctrines of Anglicanism, which are fairly precisely described in the BCP. So I conclude that you stay for a political purpose, not because you believe (as I do) that it's a sure way to salvation and eternal life. But if I'm wrong on this, please tell me I have seriously misunderstood you. Richard Holloway was honest and consistent, and I encourage you to be so as well. I agree that you have the cultural and political traction now and you are keen to use it. But this is not the first time the Church of Christ has been persecuted, and if this is the Lord's will for us, may it be to His glory.
I liked the blurb cited above concerning Newton etr.
I do believe in the Nicean Creed, i.e., virgin birth, resurrection of the body et al. I would be someone who say "yes," to inclusivity but no to those whom want to classify "that He rose bodily and will return in person etc etc ('Mythology' - Hich et al)." There are those of us labeled as liberals who do believe the creed and biblical authority.
What I wrestle with is what do we do with Gay folks? I have, through my profession as a teacher, recieved a great deal of information about homosexuality and I don't believe its a choice. What do conservative folks want me to say to my gay students or co-workers?
I truly can't subscribe to some of the statments like " Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria has described homosexuality as "an aberration unknown even in animal relationships (BBC)." This is one of his more tame comments. I also have heard +Duncan, leader of the NACP call homosexuality an illness (NPR). These kinds of actions taken against gay folk isn't right.
Even if you don't believe the bible word for word, the most important part of it is the message of love and kindness that Jesus calls each of us.
I confess, MM, that I am not at all sure that *our* theology is the same . . . it is the historic charism of Anglicanism, however, that IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE. (If someone can recite the Creed in worship, I neither know nor care what is "in their heart", when we both---equally undeserving---come to the altar. That's for God to sort out!)
Are liberal and conservative Anglicanisms different faiths? I honestly don't know. It is my (S, T & R-informed) *gut instinct* that many conservatives have their "orthodoxy ABOUT Jesus" . . . but simply don't KNOW the guy (Our Lord). How could their hearts be so *cold* and *hard* if they knew Jesus? Fed on him in their spirits (and not just a wafer on the tongue)?
But I'm just another weak sinner: I don't know anymore about them, than I do about MerseyMike. (If they will have *me* in their AC, I'll be glad to have them in mine)
"The issue, all along (as it seems to have been forgotten) is the place and authority of the Holy Scriptures. It is NOT, per se, any feelings one may have against gay people."
This, Robert, is precisely NOT the issue. Rather, it is the feelings (negative) one has about gay people (esp. gay males, w/ the common Ick Factor), which are then READ INTO Holy Scripture (and then, as if by magic, 2500 year-old words referring to *pagan rape* suddenly mean that the loving *Christian couple* praying in the pew next to you shall be not only denied the Sacrament of Marriage, but also ordered to sunder their relationship---lest love include loving-touch).
Could someone answer Jake's question, please?
In answer to two of your responses about my earlier statement about the neo-puritan reasserters' use of scripture, may I refer you to a seminal book by a reputable NT scholar and author of a Bible commentary in the Anchor Bible Series (#35A), Luke Timothy Jonhson, professor of NT Exegesis at Emory University, Atlanta, GA? It is entilted, Scripture & Discernment: Decision-Making in the Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983/rev.1996), which deals with hermeneutical issues, and how the Church in history, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, made decisions - inclusion of and table-fellowship with Gentiles, leadership role of women in the Church, homosexuality in the Church, stewardship and the sharing of possessions by the Church. How do we listen to the narratives of faithful men and women who, as result of reading scripture in certain ways, were excluded by the Church?
Another good book to read is Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (1982/rev. 2004). In that book the Archbishop of Canterbury is very biblical but not in a monochrome sense.
JCF ; I actually think that liberals have changed far less than conservatives,many of whom have veered alarmingly towards a narrow intolerance of other parts of the broad Anglican church. Many of the historical references they use are exactly that - part of Anglican history - and almost all have been firecely contested at one time or other. Liberals, as one would expect, are sensitive to social and cultural influence and far more able to be responsive to new revalation, not being beholden to the aspects of bibliolatry which lead to worship of the mores of the first century and before.
Martin ; once again, your invective fails to note that I am not asking you, or anyone else to 'leave'. There is, I think, a lack of logic in the CofE remaining as a single denomination unless we are able to live with our differences. Our exchanges show that to be unlikely. What is the case, fortunately, is that as gay and lesbian people become far more mainstreamed, the occurrence of gay and lesbian people marrying opposite-sex partners will decrease, which I think everyone would agree is a good thing, given the hurt and upset which can result.
Given that you spend so much time on this site, which is actually a liberal site, Martin, I am sure that you don't need a beginners guide to liberal Christianity. Mind you, the use of a politically loaded term such as 'cultural marxism'
which means nothing outside the hysteria of American political and religious conservatism pretty much demonstrates your own position
Incidentally, Richard Holloway has not said that he is not a Christian per se, nor has he formally left the Church.
John Henry, I repeat my question which you avoid answering by referring to Johnson's book, which isn't available to me.
'Walter Wink, Michael Hopkins, Jack Spong etc are quite open and clear about this and do not play verbal tricks, pretending that the problem lies with our reading rather than Scripture's meaning. The meaning is clear enough; the question is, is it true? John Henry, have the courage of your convictions to say, along with Michael Hopkins, 'Scripture does say these things - but it's wrong.'
When all is said and done, there really are only 4 possibilities (I think - can you think of others?):
1. 'Scripture on this topic means X - and I accept this as true.'
2. 'Scripture on this topic means X - and I reject this as wrong.'
3. 'Scripture on this topic means X - but this has nothing or little to do with our situation Y.'
4. 'I don't know what Scripture means on this topic.'
Position 1 is the traditional Catholic and evangelical view. 2 is Spong, Wink etc. 3 and 4 are relatively common in Ecusa. Which of these sums up YOUR approach to the question in hand?
Whether the Ap of Cty is 'very biblical and not monochrome' depends of course on how you take the word 'biblical'. If you stop some of his wonderful rhetoric in mid-flow, you can find yourself asking, 'Does that passage *really mean what he said it does?' Barth is also 'very biblical' but scholars like Blocher who've examined it in detail question a lot of his exegesis. And Garry Williams (in a Latimer monograph available on line is pretty fierce on Williams' approach to Scripture - google Latimer House Oxford to download for free this theological critique which no one to my knowledge has ever answered). Perhaps the most sophisticated exegete in the evangelical world is Don Carson who could never be called 'monochrome' because he is very conscious of the multi-textured character of Scripture.
So, John Henry - since I don't have Johnson's book, please tell me: which of these four positions is YOURS?
Mike, please read me carefully!
1. I am perfectly aware that you have never asked me to 'leave' Anglicanism. Why should you? I've been an Anglican for many years, involved in many kinds of leadership and ministry in different countries and fully persuaded of Anglican teaching. What I asked was, why do YOU stick it out since you seem to believe so little of its 'fairy tales' (your term for its doctrines)? Your repeated calls for a split in Anglicanism seem really quite un-Anglican to me.
2. My OED defines 'invective' as 'abusive rhetoric'. Please tell me where my language has been abusive (as opposed to just 'ignorant' or 'wrong-headed'). I don't think I have labeled my opponents as you have; I have never accused anyone of hysteria or hate, and I try to avoid ad hominem arguments.
3. I didn't learn about liberal theology from this site but through years of post-graduate study. I don't need a beginner's guide on the subject, but I have written one. I think I qualify as a 'thinking Anglican'.
4. I don't think the term 'cultural Marxism' bespeaks 'hysteria' but rather sums up fairly accurately where Adorno, Marcuse, Fromm and Reich have come from : it denotes the translation of Marxian anthropology and concepts into the context of 20th C. America and applied to the categories of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, using the concepts of oppression, resistance, liberation and community. I understand all this. What's wrong with that? And what's 'hysterical' about this observation?
5. Richard Holloway is on record as explicitly denying that Jesus is the Son of God. No adult making this (non-) profession would qualify to be baptized in the Anglican Communion, let alone hold the order and title of Bishop. What he say or does, formally or not, is neither here nor there.
Merseymike: "which is actually a liberal site"
I was once informed that the site may have a leaning to liberalism by virtue of those who post messages, but that it was an open site for those who feel they come under the category of "Thinking Anglicans." Does your craving for inclusivity not extend beyond the realm of those who agree with you? Or are you inferring that conservative Christians, by definition, are incapable of thinking?
In any case, I would have thought that, in the interests of healthy debate, you would welcome and respect those who adopt a more conservative stance, so that we could seek to learn each others' point of view. Nothing would be more sterile than a website forum which only those who agreed with you could visit, because all that would do would be to reinforce one's prejudices.
"Liberals, as one would expect, are sensitive to social and cultural influence"
Since you refer so often to sociology, do you back this up by philosophy as well? I ask, because sociologists (and out of respect for you I discard those with a chip on their shoulder!) are good at analysing trends, but (in educational studies anyway - which is my speciality) they tend too readily to assume that all trends are beneficial to society. Catering for a trend only accelerates it, and we need to examine first whether the trend is good. In short, sociology by itself is a flawed discipline if it is not backed up by a philosophical approach - ie is this trend good and beneficial or not; if not, do we counter it?
I would suggest that it would be somewhat arrogant to infer that liberals are the only ones who, to use your words "are sensitive to social and cultural influence." They are - only they do not use this as the SOLE source of objectives.
Finally, may I make a plea that we avoid terms and phrases designed to demean someone? The term "invective" is more insulting than helpful. You may or may not agree with Martin, but swipes of that nature say more about you than he. At least he has taken the trouble to outline, with references, his case.
1. I choose to stay within the Church of England as I think it has space for those of liberal theological disposition. Should that no longer be the case, then I may look elsewhere
2. Perhaps it may be helpful for you to realise how your style may communicate itself to those of other views?
3. Fine. Then even less reason to ask questions to which you already know answers.
I don't have any need to prove myself to you, Martin. I'm not answerable to you. Incidentally, under what name do you write, as I'm not aware of such a guide being composed under the name Martin Hambrook?
4. In your opinion.
5. So my point remains, that Richard Holloway has neither said he is not a Christian, nor left the Church. The two are not synonymous with holding to conservative orthodoxies.
Actually, I think these sites tend to polarise very quickly. There isn't a great deal of learning, because very few people are actively looking to alter their position, and that goes for both 'sides'. There is also little genuine common ground or shared approach or assumption in which to have a debate which takes us somewhere. I think that this debate is about the way that the Bible is regarded, and I have no interest in adopting a conservative approach.
Dear Jake: You say, "Two adults members who are in love request that the Church bless their relationship. They have been in a committed relationship for many years. Their love and devotion to one another is evident to the entire community. On what basis do we tell them no?"
Let me add a detail: They are a heterosexual couple, and they are biological brother an sister. They have commitment, love, devotion, and blah blah blah. On what basis do we tell THEM no?
Let me guess your answer: "This incest question does not interest me." Or "It's not my issue." Or "How dare you compare our lovely relationships with this other execrable thing that we all know is wrong--but for reasons I can't think of!"
The pro-homosexualists fail and/or refuse to take responsibility for articulating a consistent ethic. They just want a blessing for THEIR thing, and they don't care what issues trail in their wake. I cannot tell whether this failure results from a conscious or subconscious fear that their position can't fit within a coherent ethic, or from a true nonchalance about these other perversions, or both. Or something else.
Please prove me wrong by explaining how adult incest can be resisted under your system. Please. I will be delighted to be wrong. --David
Merseymike, I note your comment about few wishing to discover more, in case they need to revise their position. What a pity. I visit other sites from time to time, and have learned and benefited from this. I find myself always on a learning curve - sometimes quite steep - and the thought that this site was set up solely to give vent to one's thoughts with no thought of seeking the other person's point of view makes me quite sad.
But, contrary to what you implied earlier, I would like to think that this site is for all Thinking Anglicans, and that the "inclusivity" bit which is so often mentioned here isn't just a mere facade. I would like to think that even I am welcome.
I read sociology some moons ago, but after some time I came to doubt that it was a valid discipline in itself, but perhaps more correctly a branch of social psychology. I also became increasingly concerned that many of my fellow-students tended to be people who needed to sort themselves out, let alone sort out the world! My conclusion (and admittedly this is in educational studies solely) was that it actually has little to offer unless it is unpacked along philosophical lines as well. It needs an anchor. And for me - and I well accept that you do not agree - the Bible provides that anchor. I believe it to be the Word of God - and can see you don't. I totally disagree with your assertion that the Bible has an anti-gay stance, and suspect that even your liberal friends might hesitate to be so dogmatic. They would perhaps suggest that we misinterpret the Bible, or else put what they call reason above it. But not, I think, anti-gay; that is not, I feel, the kind of terminology that one should be using about the Holy Scriptures.
Re: brother and sister, paedophilia etc.
The point is that the same sex relationships being talked about are healthy committed adult same sex relationships. There are good medical reasons why incest should not be - the genetics are too dicey, plus there is a very real possiblity of an imbalance of power. Paedophilia is very definitely an imbalance of power as well as being an issue of power rather than love and committment. To constantly throw out the red herring of - if we allow blessing of same sex unions these other things will happen is irresponsible and is relying on sensationalism to make a very weak point. I fully support same sex unions (and by the way - I did so before there was a movement in society to do so - so the idea that society has influenced me in this matter cannot be used either) but there is no way that I would ever support incest or paedophilia or whatever else is being used to bring a reaction on the emotional level rather than the rational/spiritual level.
Dear Christian (aka GB Chris): You ask a few questions. Some of them are not mine to answer. (E.g., "Why do gay folk want to come to church?") But here are my responses to some of the others:
+ "Why do conservatives not want Gay folk in church?"
I must dispute your premise most emphatically. We urgently want "Gay folks" in church. We want ALL folks in church. Church is where we they will hear the Gospel, where they will learn to repent and believe. I know the joy of sins forgiven, and I want other sinners to find forgiveness also. The "conservative" church is a veritable menagerie of sinners, or rather a hospital for them. We even want the scoffers and the impenitent, the hard-hearted and the sneering. We want the hateful, the racists, the abortion doctors, the drug pushers, the advertising executives, even the tax lawyers. Who knows but that they will confront the grace that teaches the heart to fear and then relieves that fear? Come one, come all!
+ "Weren't scriptures written in committee?"
Some books in the Bible present overt indications of multiple authorship (easy example, 1 Thess. 1:1), and some present overt indication of compiling (easy example, Prov. 25:1). And the early Church did determine, by consensus, which NT books were apostolic (and therefore canonical).
+ "If the Holy Spirit can be present when the church was deciding on what was to be included and what was to be excluded from the Bible, Why couldn't the Holy Spirit guide those people who said yes to +Gene Robinson ?"
Certainly the Holy Spirit can guide a Christian group to consensus. (Easy example, Acts 15:28.) The question is therefore NOT whether the Holy Spirit COULD have guided the group that approved Robinson's election, but whether He DID guide them to that particular decision. If we think that the Holy Spirit of God inspired the Scriptures, and if we think that God cannot lie or change, and if we think that the Scriptures condemn homosexual acts, then we have to conclude that it was not the Holy Spirit that guided that group to contradict Holy Spirit-revealed truth.
+ "I've asked this of several of my conservative priest friends 'have you seen evidence of the Holy Spirit working through +Gene Robinson?' they answer 'yes, but'
But by inhibiting him and others who are gay are we not denying the Holy Spirit a vessel through which to work?"
The NT indicates that Judas Iscariot was able to perform miracles along with the other disciples. This was a testament to God's grace, not to Judas's good standing. The High Priest who collaborated in Jesus' execution unwittingly spoke prophetic truth. (John 11:51.) Jesus warned that, at the Last Judgment, some would say to Him, "Did I not cast out demons and do miracles in your name?", but Jesus will say, "Depart from me! I never knew you." (Matthew 7:22-23.) Even if we are correct in discerning that Spirit-empowered work is going on, we can't infer therefrom that God is pleased with the worker--or even knows him.
The New Testament says that someone who is to serve as a bishop "must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. He must not be a recent convert .... He must also have a good reputation with outsiders...." (1 Tim. 3:2-7). Any of these required qualifications could be said to "den[y] the Holy Spirit a vessel through which to work." For example, someone who is "given to drunkenness" might be in many respects a talented and competent person--but the Spirit has instructed us (in your phraseology) to deny Him that person as a vessel. Likewise, by Scriptural standards, Gene Robinson is not "above reproach", not "the husband of but one wife", not "temperate" or "self-controlled" in this important area of life. We therefore understand that the Holy Spirit Himself has decided to forego this vessel for this use.
+ "What I wrestle with is what do we do with Gay folks? ... I don't believe its a choice. What do conservative folks want me to say to my gay students or co-workers?"
Say to them what you would say to anyone: If anyone would come after Jesus Christ, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23.) Of course our homosexual friends face a special challenge--chastity in the unmarried state, presumably for life--but everyone has his cross to bear, and mortification is the calling of every Christian. The rewards for obedience will be very great. --David
DGus - how are the two situations related? To me, its like comparing , or trying to compare,two utterly unrelated issues. I think that issues should be judged on their own merits, not by means of saying how much they are like or unlike something else.
After all, incest is not a sexual orientation, so to me there is no obvious comparative.
Sociology has very little connection with social psychology - some branches of it which were particularly popular in the 70's may have appeared that way at a surface level, but the disciplines are very different.
I see the Bible as a book. Containing much of use, yes, but a book nonetheless, and I would say that your conclusions with regard to my own view are correct. I would tend to look at the Bible as a social construction in itself, reflecting largely the outlook and preconceptions of its human authors.
I tend to think that liberals have been rather too - well, wishy-washy, wanting to try and see both sides so much that they fail to state where they stand and why. There is some evidence that, given the brave stance of ECUSA and their supporters here, that is starting to change.
Dear Merseymike: Fine. Assume that the two situations (homosexuality and adult incest) are absolutely and utterly unrelated, so that no one would ever think of them in the same discussion. Pretend that homosexuality never came up, and I just asked you this easy, easy question: What's wrong with adult incest?
Your post criticizes those who "fail to state where they stand and why". So tell me where you stand on the question of adult incest, and why. Assure us that, if we follow you, we won't find that we've been led into moral chaos.
Prediction: You won't answer this in your next post, any more than you answered it in the last. Your view gives you no place to stand from which to criticize adult incest; you've thrown out from your toolbox all the tools you could use to address this problem.
But, hey--prove me wrong. --David
Merseymike, I really wonder whether you think of Christianity as a sociological phenomenon rather than as a set of beliefs, values and behaviours.... that would explain why you think that folk like Richard Holloway can still be Christians, even though they have explicitely stated that they do not believe Christian propositions.
If you see Christians as purely a sociological group within society, then we aren't even arguing about two versions of a religion (or two religions). We are discussing two completely different phenomena: A belief system versus a social grouping.
But the Christian grouping gets it's sense of identity, and defines itself, based on beliefs, values and behaviours: primarily on it's perception of the historical figure of Jesus Christ (as the self-revelation of God in human form), and also on the Bible (particularly the NT) as the primary source of divine revelation against which all the group's beliefs, values and behaviours are tested.
If you diminish these assumptions, you also undermine the identity of the group.
"Christian" must have little or no meaning to you.. religious or sociological ?
DGus ; just maybe a God who decides that some of us, at random, have a 'special challenge' is not one any gay person with a modicum of sense would want anything to do with.
Fortunately , I do not believe that sort of God exists, other than in the mind of conservatives.
Thanks Dgus. I do appreciate your help in answering those questions. I have a hard time equating +Gene Robinson with Judas Iscariot. I've been reading about translation of words in reference to Leviticus and I'm also trying to read "to set our hope in Christ." I do want to ask what do we do with people like ++Akinola whom refer to gays using "ghastly language,(ABY)?" I find the one thing that concerns with the conservative leadership is the ghastly language I here. I live in Duncan's Diocese and have heard him do the ghastly languagetoward gays in person. I was horrified and embarrassed. I'm not saying that the liberals are beyond reproach but I have a hard time following the conservative leadership. I"m truly considering my father's family church, the Russian Orthodox in America. I understand for the
English folk that Lord Tavener converted to RO (composer of " the Lamb."
I do enjoy the discourse here, when its civilised.
No, I wouldn't sanction the marriage of brother/sister . . . but I wouldn't sanction the marriage of brother/brother or sister/sister, either.
Why do same-sex couples get compared to EVERYTHING *except* their only true analog: married opposite-sex couples? (Only people who don't actually *know* any same-sex couples---particularly Christian ones---could see them as qualitatively different from het couples. All the *same* strengths and weaknesses, folks!)
DGus - why should I muddy the waters by telling you my views on another, unrelated topic? It really is such a diversion, and one which is only ever used by conservatives in order to try and create a link between two unrelated matters. And whatever I answer, you will then turn my answer back to revisit the invalid comparison. Not playing your underhand conservative games - sorry. JCF has got it right.
Dave - all human groupings are social phenomena. The term covers a very wide range of beliefs and outlooks. I wouldn't and don't relate to conservative Christianity, but nevertheless share the same denominational space with them. The same is true for you. That is one of the features of the Church of England - that it covers a wide range of theological approach, and that is part of its identity. I'm sorry if you feel undermined by those who differ from you, but thats something for you to sort out.
DGus: seems you were right in your prediction. The laws against incest are spelled out in Leviticus 18:6-18 and form the basis of the table of 'prohibited degrees' for marriage. Nor is the issue wholly hypothetical: Christian missionaries did come up against the practice of royal incest, as Michener's novel 'Hawaii' famously reminds us. Since the SCOTUS ruling on Bowers (2003) that the state has no compelling interest in the private, consensual conduct of adults, it is only a matter of time before a challenge to the constitutionality of state laws against adult incest is made. JCF has stated he's agaisnt incest, but he can't tell us why, and Mike won't tell us. Well, it's a free country ... or is it? (North of the 49th, Sven Robinson is watching you.)
My mistake: I meant Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The social arguments against incest are generally clear (although secularists are becoming increasingly unable to see them): among other things, it does violence to the family and the individual's soul when familial intimacy is sexualized; and natural law has recognized this throughout the world. (Of course,'incest' is not an issue as regards animals, among which siblings or even parent and child may regularly mate.)
"JCF has stated he's agaisnt incest, but he can't tell us why"
Because I don't have to. The issue of incest (like pedophilia, bestiality, adultery, et cetera, ad nauseam) has NOTHING to do with why some people---whom God in God's Wisdom made queer---are second-class citizens in still too-many nation-states (like my own), or second-class baptized members (denied marriage and/or ordination) in the Church. [And don't waste my time declaring "because the Bible says so," when it does NOT]
I am, quite frankly, sick and tired of having these fatuous arguments w/ people who are simultaneously using abusive POWER over me. Quit standing on my neck, please, and *then* we can move on to "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" or whatever?
Dear J.C.: Well, you DO have to tell us how you'll hold the line against the proponents of these other perversions, unless you want us to conclude--as I am in fact in the process of sadly concluding--that some or all of the following must be true:
+ that the homosexualists just care about their own issue, and to hell with anyone who is concerned about anything else?
+ that the homosexualists know they don't have a coherent ethic that could resist any other bold perversion, so they work hard to avoid the harsh glare of analysis and deliberate thought?
+ that the homosexualists pretend to get the vapors with the mention of these despised perversions, but in fact they don't really care all that much if these perversions do become more widespread? and IF they do, it's a small price to pay for getting the desired outcome on homosexuality?
+ that the homosexualists use terms like "committed" and "life-long" and "monogamous" when they're around church people, but when they're to themselves they snicker and shuck off these bourgeois concepts?
But by all means, prove me wrong. I really mean that. I'm ready to be corrected.
Dear Merseymike: You refuse to talk about incest because (you say) it is an "unrelated topic". Please understand that I know what this means: You can't account for this subject in a manner that would work in a context that is remotely Christian, so you refuse. I hear you.
So maybe you'll admit that non-"committed" homosexual sex (or non-"committed" hetersosexual sex, take your pick) is related enough to be discussed. Can you please address that?--
If we accept your position and resolve that committed, monogamous same-sex unions should be approved of by the Christian Church, what will you say to the person who wants approval of sexual activity that is not constrained by such commitment or monogamy? He'll say,
"Not everyone is called to life-long union. I'm not. Why should I be deprived of sexual pleasure? Why must my sexual activity be archaically and artificially confined to one partner with whom I set up house? Sex is obviously for pleasure, and we propose to use this God-given gift for that God-ordained purpose--pleasure. Why must sex be 'holy'? Other bodily pleasures (such as eating, drinking, and sleeping) are pursued without straining to find a rationale for calling them 'holy'. The Church should move into the 21st Century and accept the goodness and beauty of sex without archaic constraints of 'monogamy' and 'commitment'."
Do you have any answer for this free spirit?
Dear Merseymike: In answer to a question by "Christian" about what to say to a homosexually-inclined friend, I said, "Say to them what you would say to anyone: If anyone would come after Jesus Christ, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Jesus. (Luke 9:23.) Of course our homosexual friends face a special challenge--chastity in the unmarried state, presumably for life--but everyone has his cross to bear, and mortification is the calling of every Christian. The rewards for obedience will be very great."
You replied, "just maybe a God who decides that some of us, at random, have a 'special challenge' is not one any gay person with a modicum of sense would want anything to do with. Fortunately, I do not believe that sort of God exists, other than in the mind of conservatives."
I assume you'd agree (but you correct me if I'm wrong) that we do not pick or choose a god, but must acknowledge the reality of the true God as He actually reveals Himself. You just think that "conservatives" are mistaken about the nature of the true God. Right? But I can't tell the nature that you propose that the true God actually possesses. Are you saying–
+ that the true God warrants that no one should be profoundly unhappy?
+ that the true God declares that every individual is entitled to sexual fulfillment according to that individual's preferences?
+ that the true God does NOT call on each follower to "take up his cross"? (The cross was an instrument of torture and death. Why would a loving God ask his children to take up a cross?)
+ that the true God wouldn't discriminate by having some people face special challenges and hardships that others do not face?
I wonder what you'd say to someone who is physically disabled, or who has a spouse with Alzheimer's, or who wanted but never found a mate. I wonder what you'd say to my friend the convicted pedophile (in prison until 2010) about his situation. Since pedophilia is said to be incurable, I would say to my friend that he faces a special challenge, but that God will give him grace to accept the challenge, and his rewards will be great. I guess you, however, would say otherwise, eh? You'd say no pedophile with a modicum of sense would want anything to do with this God? But this is the only real God there is. And He is calling us all up the steep road to true holiness.
Wait, I forgot--you refuse to talk about pedophiles. I started to write, "I guess they can rot in prison and then rot in Hell", but I know this must surely not be your attitude. --David
Actually, DGus, I don't see why you should assume that gay people necessarily have any one view about unrelated moral issues, any more than i would expect anyone else to.
You obviously haven't heard of situation ethics, which is at the heart of liberal theology.
And clearly you don;t know many gay Christians, either. I've lived with my partner for 13 years plus. I have been arranging our civil partnership for next year this afternoon. Do you really think we would be so bothered about partnership recognition if we weren't interesated in relationships? Indeed, I recognise that many conservatives oppose their recognition as they realise that it will mean more gay relationships, of greater stability
And I don't think that non-monogamous, casual sex is within the values I recognise as Christian. I don't know where you get all this stuff about 'sexual pleasure' from. Its not part of my argument at all, and if you knew me better, then you would know that I wish to promote monogamous and faithful relationships within the gay community, and think that gay Christians have a role in helping to do so.
Dear Merseymike: I assume nothing whatsoever about the monolithic opinions of gay people, nor about you, nor about the arguments you would make in favor of or in opposition to anything--except that I know you can't simply quote rules from the Bible, since you've thoroughly discredited that method of authority. I invited your explication of the rationale for your sexual ethics, and here's the sum total of what you gave me:
"[N]on-monogamous, casual sex is [not] within the values I recognise as Christian."
I sadly inform you that this argument will surely not carry the day against those inclined toward casual sex. It's amazing to me that a rebel and a scoffer like yourself can imagine that the rest of the world out there is filled with docile and compliant people ready to restrain their own sexual impulses because of "values" that YOU "recognize". Promiscuous heterosexuals and homosexuals alike will be undeterred and unaffected by that sermon. The incestuous, the pedophiles, and the sheep-lovers will laugh at you and wink at each other. You will preside over moral anarchy, and--if you really care--you will grieve at how unavailing your "promot[ion of] monogamous and faithful relationships" will be. A church that follows your lead, but is armed only with your arguments, will soon find itself blessing things that you profess to find repugnant. --David
If you have reduced the Bible and the Christian faith to a set of laws governed by a rule book, then the term Pharisee may mean something to you.
And I don't think its my duty to 'carry the day' for other people. It seems clear anough to me that there are gay people around who want to either marry or register their partnership, and that gay Christians are in a good place to help work towards this. If people don't want to listen to me, then, looking at, say, the evangelical divorce rate in the USA, I'm only in the same sort of position. Enabling gay people who wish to do that will make no impact upon the general status of sexual behaviour.
It will, however, promote the value of lasting relationships and commitment, though given that divorce rate, heterosexuals havent done all that well with regard to a model for us to follow.
As for your last sentence, I see no reason why. Look at a relationship for the intrinsic values within it, and there's no reason at all why anything other than faithful and committed relationships should be blessed.
A last comment before I leave this thread. Bishop Peter lee has written a very succinct piece on (among other things) Jesus and homosexuality / using the Bible (including on Leviticus and incest)/ the meaning of porneia as Jesus use it / nurture and nature. Mike and JCF should engage with Bishop Peter Lee here for arguments of theological substance.
This covers many of the topics raised in this thread. The URL is:
Dear Merseyful Mike: Well, I hope I have not, as you say, "reduced the Bible and the Christian faith to a set of laws governed by a rule book". I don't think I have, but it's a helpful admonition and reminder. So what DID Jesus say to those Pharisees? Oh, yes--
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, WITHOUT NEGLECTING THE OTHERS." (Matthew 23:23.)
And then there's this other teaching of Jesus:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:17-19.)
This teaching of Jesus reminds and admonishes us that the Good News is NOT that all rules of right and wrong are abrogated. Anyone who has confused "Gospel" with lawlessness, or who thinks that, because grace has abounded, we can "continue in sin" (see Romans 6:1), might ought to look up the term "antinomian".
I can't tell how serious your last sentence is--"Look at a relationship for the intrinsic values within it, and there's no reason at all why anything other than faithful and committed relationships should be blessed." Pardon me, but this reflects a stupendous failure of imagination. You are obviously in the habit of assuming a set of rules and traditions as a given, and then criticizing it and lobbying for your own pet changes. Your attitude reflects no experience of having to be the one to defend traditions against those who attack them.
You assume with arresting nonchalance that everybody will agree that apporoval ought to be given only to relationships that reflect "instrinsic values", and that everybody will share your notions of what things constitute "intrinsic values". It's just not so. Wake up. The barbarians are at the gates.
To engender approval for same-sex relations, you have saturated the ECUSA with a general disregard for tradition, you have cast out the Bible as any sort of a coherent authority, and you have taught that everyone is entitled to fulfillment of his urges. Congratulations: You won, I lost. But you really can't pretend that issues of sexuality are now resolved in the ECUSA. The Church's enlightenment on this subject has barely begun.
When you "committed, monogamous" homosexuals later turn to address the promiscuous, the pornographers, the ephebophiles, the pedophiles, and try to explain to them that their perversions are still wrong, and that except for allowing same-sex marriages things are still pretty much like they were before, you will be like poor Lot preaching belatedly to his nephews in Sodom: "he seemed to them to be jesting." (Gen. 19:14.) In fact, even to ME you seem to be jesting. But I'm not laughing. --David
I've got to say that I think you have hit on an important issue when you point out that Merseymike and co. cannot bring forward ANY coherent theology to (re)define sexual morality.
Even in the tract on homosexuality "permanent faithful stable" by the famous Jeffrey John, he seems to find it impossible to condemn anyone who gets involved in any homosexual act. For instance, he notes that the majority of people who are prosecured for "lewd acts" in public toilets are married.. but uses this only to support his theory that there are many repressed homosexuals, not mentioning the inherent unfaithfulness (which I presume that he, like MM, would claim to "not recognise as christian"), or mentioning that this could show examples of heterosexual people indulging in a perversion of their "heterosexual orientation" (which is the other side of the arguement he would make to justify homosexual relationships - that homosexual people are orientated towards people of the same sex and are therefore indulging in natural sex, not perverted sex).
I think that we will just continue to get unthinking chants of "gay is good" from our liberal friends. And "no statement" on consistent sexual theology....
I suspect there is no real liberal thought of a consistent defencible theology on sexual morality; it's all just "deconstructionism".
My assessment is that the real philosophy behind it is just the spirit of the age - ie 1960's "do what you want, as long as you don't hurt anyone". Which is why there would be no sexual morality in LiberalChurch .
This whole series of posted commentary back and forth simply strikes me as almost entirely amazing. I do not doubt that conservative religious people are genuine in their alarm, their palpable disgust, or in their equally palpable sense of worry that if we investigate or follow any modern alternatives to their views, Anything Goes.
When did you last see a new conservative post about homosexuality that wasn’t brimming over with panic and alarm that the sky was falling in, on our following of Jesus?
When did any and all negative analogies between homosexuality as something dire and nasty in the human condition, and another dire and nasty thing in the human condition, not get posted to support – even to evoke and heighten traditional fear and disgust?
When are fears of what is mistakenly tagged secular humanist modernity, along with willful ignorance of some sector of modern knowledge - biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and sexology – and, oh don’t’ forget, our real history - not implied or connoted in so many these so-called biblical positions? And, in explicit or implicit favor of finding all the biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, and sexology we will ever need – by adopting this closed new conservative manner of reading scriptures?
Drumming up all this palpable fear and disgust and ignorance, and claiming that alternative Christian believers must be scary and disgusting and permeated by peculiar forms of modern blindness as to their scope and their methods – all in summary mainly because those alternative modern believers are not in agreement with conformed new conservative thinking in these matters – well making this sort of claim as loudly and rigidly as possible is simply NOT the equivalent to demonstrating that this sort of claim is actually true.
Preaching loudly does not serve to critically demonstrate to us that these notions must be true. Given the new conservative repugnances and apparent confusions about exactly what constitutes modernity, if anything – we might all gratefully inquire into that matter, drawing upon every good resource we could access to achieve a provisional, workable understanding. I think we would find that much of what gets called secular humanism, indeed, did arise from partly Christian religious roots, plus probably ancient sources, plus probably our distinctive modern empirical or other critical habits of inquiry. I personally find it quite difficult to discern the modern notion of equality, for example, solely from its ancient Greek City State sources and origins – and I do see that various contributions of Christian religion probably fueled the modern presumption that equality is bedrock, and universal, if it means anything good.
So. Preaching scary things loudly in various types of new conservative religious short hand does not mean we actually have reasons to be so afraid.
Preaching disgusting sounding things loudly does not mean that the intellectual and ethical and faith alternatives to the new conservative positions are, actually, filthy and vile and disgusting.
Preaching that your base community alone owns the right to read the scriptures will only get us back to a repeat of part of what was at stake in the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and elsewhere. There used to be a time, remember, when the official position of the holy, Roman Catholic Church was that it would be grievously sinful for any scriptures to be translated into any contemporary vernacular. Lest the average believer read the Bible, and go off on his or her own tangent with it. The believer could not supposedly be trusted, and so that believer must be protected from himself or herself by constraints upon anything not already approved by the church of the time.
Puritans, remember, took a similarly closed and authoritative view of religious authority, with the difference that they did what modern new conservatives often appear to urge us to do – go sola scriptura, or protect your following of Jesus via a conformed confession.
Historically, Anglicanism has been a great and flexible Via Media path between these two extreme positions about religious authority. Oddly, that flexibility and leeway in church life was authoritatively set by royal fiat during the reign of Elizabeth I of England. Oh that she were still with us to help set a common framework for continuing to live and worship together as a diverse believing community.
From her point of view, a whole lot of highly unseemly peering and poking into human souls is going on, mostly in the service of urging us to let a neo-Puritan redaction of Anglicanism dominate everybody else, and sometimes in the service of urging us to let a neo-Catholic redaction dominate.
Even the Archbishop of Canterbury seems comfortable with a new and dominating combination, enacted through just the sorts of changes the Windsor Report recommends to us, so that we shall in near future have an Anglican Communion which is a total new Puritannical version of a conformed Catholic worldwide, confessing church. In other words, we are urged to anticipate a wonderful new, totalitarian hybrid church which is ready to adopt both neo-Puritan and neo-Catholic means of domination and conformity.
This is a much greater change than letting gay priests or bishops speak honestly. Or than letting gay couples and gay families with children live honestly among us. Why? Because it dramatically affects everybody, via its totalitarian vision, via its utter conformity.
I am also quite puzzled that it seems oddly essential that a modern habit of keeping informed, and openly sorting through how best to grow and be satisfied in one's bodily life - especially as our biologies and technologies of the human body race ahead into entirely new and unprecedented territories of choice and possibility and thriving - should be tossed out completely, in favor of the most traditional sort of fear and disgust and ignorance about our bodies and about our bodily living, singly and together. In this brave new conservative world, I can expect my doctor to be informed about modern understandings of human sexual orientation, and also my psychologist or family counselor. I can even expect my potential employers to respect my basic human employment rights, construed in a typical modern democracy.
But I chuck all that when I go to church, worship among other believers worldwide, and get pastoral care or guidance from my priest? I think I am getting the picture here. I just can't live inside it, because I end up the loser by new conservative religious Anglican fiat. Apparently, Jesus died and made them God. They say they are brother and sister believers, but really they are God because they alone know how to read the scriptures that curse me, up and down, and sideways.
Want another example? If I am a lesbian woman who is working out getting pregnant or with our adopting so that we can add a welcomed and valued child to our little gay family, I can speak in great detail with my doctor, and with my attorney, and with my employer's benefit officers, and with the state department of social services if I am adopting; but I dare not breathe a word of this gifting to my believing community or to my priest or to my bishop, because they will run in horror at the sheer filthy uncleanness of it all, and so be scandalized?
Yes, that is how the conservative hybrid church is going to look in the near future, if the conservative campaigners get their dominating way.
Good Elizabeth I rejected both Puritan and Catholic dominations, as well as rejecting the royal highways of British confessional conformities. She wisely advised us to let conformity stop at common prayer, as rooted in what later got recollected (in 1888, I believe) as the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Only the neo-Puritans could still argue that this core consensus is a total and comprehensive and absolute limit to all Anglican life and spiritual pilgrimage at every level of heart and mind and body. Well, no, the Quadrilateral is a true and effective touchstone, affirming what we have in common as shared bonds of Christian affection, as worship, as witness, and as service in the hurting world. The Quadrilateral is abused and violated when we make it the totalitarian vision that is urged upon us in this new hybrid conformist preaching.
Common sense tells us that there is more to a vital, functioning plant than its roots. But we are urged not to trust, unless everything lives and functions exactly in conformity with what our Anglican Christian roots are. But we are solemnly told that Jesus has cursed the queer fig tree for being without fruit, and it is doomed to wither in comparison with the sheed, bedrock godliness of all heterosexual living. Well, not all, straights after all invented topless bars and pole dancing. But surely you get this drift, don't you? It means to say that straight people are still on top, in complete religious charge of anybody who isn't straight like the masters of the cosmos were ordained to be by God.
But the New Testament Jesus tell us: You will do greater things than I have done. Or, Jesus tells us: I have many things to teach you in the future, which you are not ready to hear and understand now. Either we have been holy in the total sense of standing still, ever so still and conformed over the long past Christian centuries; or we have been lessening and diminishing and growing frailer as our New Testament origins receded from us; or we have been growing in witness, service, worship, faith, understanding – and without doubt empirical knowledge of ourselves and our cosmos.
My legitimate Anglican heritage tells me we have been growing, not standing still, and not going downhill from the high mountains of an Apostolic Age.
While we wait for Elizabeth I or someone like her, it would help our conversation a lot I think if new conservatives could stop their loud recourse to what reads like modern high pressure marketing tactics.
Constantly and loudly, so many new conservative religious positions are stated as two-sided options between which we must choose, now, or else. Their position is categorically absolute and true and right, so they are always wearing nothing but the white cowboy hats. Count on it. Their six-shooters will never run out of bullets, because God keeps their guns loaded thanks to their singular and complete apprehension of each and every significant mystery of our faith.
You can bet that all other conversants of varying and diverse points of view are believed by the new conservatives to be wearing black cowboy hats. Any pauses to reload, to check one’s methods or one’s critical sources, or even a puzzled pause to catch one’s breath (probably accompanied by a quick question to oneself about why in the world Anglican Communion bonds of affection have sunk so low as to devolve into this shoot-out at the Not Okay Modern Corral) will be interpreted as confusion, weakness, or at least a strategic opportunity for firing upon the alternative believer.
That is to say – biblically construed according to the preferred conservative frameworks – your pausing, your methods, your thinking, your believing are presumed to be weakness, confusion, and fake. By definition.
But being afraid that if I do not subscribe to their particular view, then in fact I do not and can not pledge my mind and body and soul allegiance to any solid, coherent or viable position is not the same thing as demonstrating that point, according to reasonable best practices of modern inquiry.
Uh-oh. Well, then. Ah.
Loud preaching of the contemporary new conservative religious positions do not, in fact, make them the only intellectually trustworthy path to, and into, and through the Kingdom of God that Jesus announces has come upon us all – disciples and Gentiles alike – in the New Testament.
As an educated modern person, I do truly have more than just these two faked, forced, false – and false urgent - choices. The compelling and important discernment I am called to make as a modern, educated person is NOT simply between: (1) a single, solitary good and complete conservative religious view - the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, praise Jesus; and (2) everything else which is plural, provisional, contextual, historical, informed hogwash.
I do wish conservative religious people would do themselves and all the rest of us a favor and try to preach their views in something besides this sort of nuclear-meltdown crisis, explained and described by their typical Either/Or message. This gospel amounts to them, as God's voice: saying: It is my way, or the highway. Or to hell with you.
As an educated modern person I don't for a second put up with this characteristic high pressure marketing as I try to make informed choices in other important parts of my daily life. Indeed. The moment I hear this loaded marketing Either/Or, when it comes, say, from a modern international global corporation – like Enron? like Big Pharma? like anybody else who is trying to sell me something by manipulating me? - my citizen alarm bells go off, because already the high pressure marketing cues suggest that somebody is trying to get over on me, in order to benefit themselves at my expense.
These high pressure marketing techniques are deliberately intended to diminish my intellectual capacities to inquire or investigate. Then to diminish my emotional capacities to freely be curious, attentive, exploratory, and interested. Then to hedge me into two mutually exclusive choice categories, vigorously demonstrating for me that only one choice makes absolute, total, wonderful, glorious sense. But now. Operators are standing by. Don’t lose out on the bargain of a lifetime.
My handy set of modern consumer marketplace skills do not suddenly disappear or become irrelevant, the moment that some piece of new conservative preaching starts up, yammering at me as loudly as possible, voicing a totally crisis-oriented Either/Or through the megaphone of the moment. In gentle surprise, I suddenly realize, Oh, I know exactly what this is, I know pretty much what pressures and manipulations and skewed or biased representations are being made – and about to be further made – to me. This is all about selling me something, pretending to be factual and objective and simple: Stop the infomercials, please.
So far as religious authority goes, we have been down far too many of these new conservative roads before. In a great many areas besides sexuality, we have already followed out the claims of sola scriptura, or of exclusive rigid papal authority, or of conformed confessions as core church authority. None of these new conservative claims are new news. We have a lot of historical knowledge about how these claims – these ways of gathering a community of people together who follow Jesus – actually tend to work over the long run.
We can look, for example, at how sola scriptura was used, both to support slavery and to question slavery. We can see how, and to what historical and intellectual and ethical extent, any conformed church confession supported or hindered – or even noticed – the nineteenth century abuse or neglect of children. We can investigate yet again how papal authority responded to the discovery of the solar system, from its top down, institutionally speaking.
Having legitimately inherited these and many other lessons of our centuries-long church life together as a believer, I refuse out of ethical and Christian commitments to reduce living with my Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu neighbors to the saved/damned categories of an Either/Or.
A person’s own sense of their own hamartia – their own falling short of the mark – is a moment of self-discernment, not a social or church definition preached by force, backed up by threats of hell fire and eternal damnation, and enacted in laws which criminalize any alternative religious thinking. Traditionally, most of us have believed that this crucial moment of self-discernment in which a person sees how he or she has fallen short of the mark – is due to the Good News of the witness of scripture, the faithful ethical examples of a remarkably loving community of Jesus followers, and that most mysterious element – the quickening work of the Holy Spirit that suddenly brings both something good from scripture, and something loving from the community, home to the self-discerner in his or her moment of clarity.
Real repentance, then, simply cannot be forced. Nor is repentance true and good, only when it seems to result from loud decibel, fire and brimstone preaching. Nor is all true repentance the foregone conclusions of a rigidly conformed external religious life. Following Jesus is not about conforming to papal authority, to sola scriptura frameworks, or to any single absolute and comprehensive church confession as such. The other way besides these three is simply the Anglican Way.
Of course I took a look at these other forms of religious authority and of church life when I was growing up. I couldn’t really find any papal authority in preaching solid content, or in observing due process mores of very fair play, that did not also seemingly want to reside in the cardinals, and the bishops, and the monsignors, and the priests, and the lay readers, and the entire rest of the congregations of followers of Jesus.
I couldn’t really find any sola scriptura form of religious authority that didn’t end up being hermetically sealed off, self-contained – as sola scriptura folks often say – privileged. But modern best practices of inquiry cannot agree to absolutely seal off a sacred text from all best practices of inquiry and understanding, without promising ahead of time to lose a great many of the modern means of understanding and of intelligibility in reading and interpreting.
The alternative modern approaches to carefully reading scripture involve starting with the best available consideration of the text itself, its translation history, and a comparative textual and historical effort to responsibly and reasonably reconstruct as much as its origins and original meanings as possible under a given set of modern occasions of reading that text. This critical approach to scripture is fairly recent. Perhaps we could date the alternative reading approaches from 1785, when Jean Astruc first publicly reported that a reasonable scholar could infer different original oral source traditions which were eventually edited together into what we now have as the written text of Genesis. Or maybe we could date a critical scholarly start from 1805, when the doctoral thesis of Wilhelm De Wette was accepted at Jena, involving his investigation of Deuteronomy and King Josiah’s reforms of Judaism.
As a professional person who must daily stand or fall in my quality of services to others, partly on the changing foundations that put me, squarely, within our growing flood of new information and new understandings in biology, psychology, sociology, and so forth – I simply cannot agree ahead of time to any basic framework that closes off inquiry, cuts overlapping communities of discussion and commentary short, and mainly serves to enforce a new conservative Status Quo. Empirically considered, the enforcement of any intelligent and fair and practical Status Quo is an unavoidable, yet provisional, imperative.
Yes, we have to do the best that we can with what we know at any given point; but we cannot take that reliance to narrowly and exhaustively mean that we indeed know all that there is to know, nor understand all that there is to understand.
Inquiry – and the corollaries of inquiry, public dissemination of research results, public dissemination and testing of repeatable methods to confirm findings, and a great deal of open commentary and discussion – simply cannot be ruled out ahead of time so that our sola scriptura presumptions lay exclusive claim to all.
I discern that sola scriptura fails me, consistent with two other grounds for declining to bear it’s a priori burdens.
First, I find it quite important that the forms and limits of sola scriptura that are presently being urged upon me as a follower of Jesus, so loudly and so often as a crisis of faith, are of equally recent origins as the rest of modernity.
I admit I was at first surprised to learn how recent the contemporary sola scriptura commitments really are. I had inadvertently been mislead, it would appear, by the explicit and implicit claims that modern sola scriptura partisans often make, speaking, preaching, and otherwise carrying on as if their framework for reading scripture were the recovery of something from the early C.E. believers, or from the glorious heights of Medieval Christendom, or something equally valiant and glowing and now threatened by being lost to superficial and self-interested modernities.
Ah, not so.
The contemporary sola scriptura approach to reading scripture would have been quite unknown to anybody in the early C.E. period of Christianity. Indeed, as we well know by now, many of those early believers were Gnostic Christians, later killed in both pagan and internal Christian persecutions. Probably, a modern sola scriptura approach would have struck them funny. Then I looked around a bit at that era to see what else I could find that reasonably suggested a comparison. Was any approach to reading sacred texts in the early C. E. period seemingly functioning, akin to how a modern sola scriptura framework seems to consistently operate among us in this century?
Well, yes, maybe. The sola scriptura approach of the early C.E. period that seems closest to the modern one now being urged upon us, is simply that of keeping the Jewish Law. That was akin to a sola scriptura that was actively and widely considered among the early believers.
Even the plainly read texts of the New Testament inform us how that Hebrew Old Testament sola scriptura approach was examined and declined in the early Christian communities. Rejecting circumcision for Gentile male believers, along with anything else the Jewish Law commanded, was not a small or passing matter to believers in those days. It was a particular stretch for Jewish Christians of the time, for their religious taboos forbid them from even eating with Gentiles who were not – as we would say today, Keeping Kosher. Therefore eating together was abomination, unclean. Therefore what we Anglicans nowadays call The Eucharististic Meal would have been extremely problematic, because a sola scriptura approach clearly defined that eating together as abomination, as unclean.
Later, church councils – enforced in historically passing into the conformed church-state future by violent purges of alternative believing Christians, carried out by other early believers who claimed a superior orthodoxy – enacted a new and violent institutional conformity under the Emperor Constantine. A reasonable estimate tells us that more alternative believers were killed in persecution by other orthodox believers, between, say, 425 C.E., and 525 C.E., than had been killed in pagan persecutions in the prior century. (See H. A. Drake, Constantine and the bishops, Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.)
So this brought me to realizing a second consideration which buttresses my provisional refusal in good conscience to take a modern sola scriptura approach to following Jesus. That is the two-fold connection: (1) Constantine’s use of violently enforced orthodoxy to shore up his own political and economic power as emperor; and (2) the handy uses of such orthodoxy as a basis for violence.
Before I subscribe to any religious approach which has these two sorts of strong connections, I shall at least be called in good conscience as a follower of Jesus to discern in quite thorough and investigatory detail – exactly what am I getting into?
So, to recap.
I find the consistent categorical Either/Or presentations of some conservative orthodoxy to be way too close to what I know as a modern citizen of modern high pressure sales marketing and propaganda techniques.
I do not have to buy this conservative religious edifice, right now, lock and stock and barrel, or else.
When I pause to look into the marketing and the high pressure of this religious offer, low and behold I think I find that the urgent sense of crisis is being manipulated and manufactured, consistent with all the known techniques of propaganda and influence-peddling and consumer persuasion.
When I pause to look even further, low and behold I find good historical evidence that suggests this crisis approach to converting me into a new conservative believers is manipulating and manufacturing real world religious history, in favor of its own marketing and persuasion agenda.
(Small wonder that to this crowd, the rest of modernity looks like an agenda. These folks ought to know, except that they think we cannot see them, and their agenda, too.)
When I pause to look even further, I find real history which renders me even more cautious and distinctly uneasy as a follower of Jesus in the 21st century. First I find that even the New Testament reports how the early church rejected something very much like a first century sola scriptura approach, related to the controversial and consequential conversion of the ancient near eastern Gentile worlds, along with the related key matter of Jewish Observance. If this early church rejected its own sola scriptura, why should I fall into the traps that are laid ready for me in the modern sola scriptura? If this early church could discern their sola scriptura as putting their scriptures where Jesus as Risen Lord reigned, why should I commit myself to an analogous and apparently equivalent form of substitution and displacement.
Indeed, sola scriptura in the early eras looked way too much like a pat piece of encouragement to idolatry. In order to achieve absolute reliability in religion, why not read and observe all of the Jewish Law handed down to us by God? The Old Testament can be read by sola scriptura believers as nothing more than a conformed preamble to the New Testament, but that in fact does not exclude my having to consider other reasonable options for my reading of scriptures.
My provisional choice so far?
Well, I think that all the scriptures point to Jesus as Risen Lord, and to the Kingdom of God that is appearing among all of us, right now, right here, all around our planet. Do I find the scriptures sufficient? Yes, as witness to truth. Do I find the empirical sciences sufficient? Yes, as witnesses to truth.
I see no real need for my urgent adoption of the modern conservative sola scriptura, - or confessional, or papal approaches - to basically require me to repeat the fundamental processes of discernment that we all went through, discovering that the solar system existed instead of a flat earth.
That long and difficult – that politically and violently fraught - process of collective Christian discernment taught me an enduring lesson that is still useful in dealing with changed understandings of sexuality, human nature, and homosexuality.
That is, just as I do not have to find my cosmology in the scriptures, I do not have to find my modern biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, or history – only in the scriptures, and in nothing else. Finding out that a solar system existed, contrary to the orthodox readings of scripture that prevailed at the time does not mean, in my view, that the witness of scriptures to God and to Jesus is undermined or flawed or compromised.
Pondering the Theory of Evolution Of Species does not have to contradict or undermine or compromise my reading of Genesis.
Pondering equal human rights for women, and the corollaries of child protection, simply does not compromise my accurate reading of scriptures in which, patently, women and children were property in an ancient near eastern tribalized range of Jewish cultures, as well as in an ancient near eastern series of royal pagan high civilizations.
Modern empirical data strongly suggest to me that homosexual people are a more or less stable minority in large human populations. Recently we have discovered truckloads of new animal data which demonstrate the presence of same sex interactions and even pairbonding among many different species. Scripture simply did not predict this animal evidence, nor did church life and tradition. Therefore, why would I allow that deafening silence to be my final word?
Biology, psychology, and sociology demonstrate for me that it is highly likely that sexual orientation variances are neither a defect, nor a form of human incompetence. So far, no data from an adequately controlled empirical study demonstrates that sexual orientation variance is a sufficient or necessary cause of any particular ethical failing of which we have knowledge.
The circular reasoning of conservative religious folks starts out with a definition of sexual orientation variances as innately immoral. The current Vatican still likes to harangue us with calling it gravely disordered, despite all the contrary evidence that this variance is not a disorder of biology, of personality, or of social relations. That is, when it comes to considering the new evidence, religious people are still too often asserting what amounts to a flat earth theory of sexual variance.
Now, to some limited extent I sympathize with their shock and their surprise, and even to some limited degree with their sense of alarm, of crisis.
That is what unexpected new data does to us. That is especially what unexpected new data does to us, when our Status Quo has absolutely predicted just the opposite of what we find in so many different empirical areas connected with investigating sexual orientation variances. Conservative repeats of deductive reasoning clamor to reassert the traditional – but mistaken – categories, more absolute than ever, more privileged than ever. Or else we are told, the very sky will fall in upon us.
Calm down, we might then say. This new data is astounding, but only so long as we try to make it the end-all and be-all of our faith.
That is the terror and the tragedy, in my view, of the vigorous campaigns among us to reassert the Status Quo by tying a traditional negative understanding of sexual orientation variances, to everything central and basic under the conservative religious sun. This is pretty much what happened at first, when the religious leadership sought to reinforce Ptolematic Cosmology in the face of the new data from Copernicus, Bruno, Galileo, and, later, others.
All the new conservative campaign is really doing is increasing the likelihood that one of two things have to happen to us in our near future. Either we have to all buy the high pressure product that is being so relentlessly marketed to us as the final, absolute, total solution to everything. In which case we will expect to find our cosmology, biology, psychology, sociology, and history exactly written into our scriptures as we read them.
Or, people will continue to be persuaded by the empirical inquiry and the ongoing critical discussions that have already brought us – modern astronomy, modern medicine, our modern new biology, psychology, and so forth. In which case, the close tying of core Christian pointers, whose deep witness is to God and to Jesus, with negative traditional views of all minority non-heterosexual people, only sets up us for a further round of discrediting of the witness to God and to Jesus.
Clinging to flat earth theories of human nature, sexuality, and sexual behavior/orientation variance in human and in animal populations will only do what clinging to an old flat earth theory did among us, once upon a time.
We may hesitantly anticipate a repeat – awful and sad at the same time – of: (1) violence in church and in society against alternative ideas, and equally important, against any people who contemplate or subscribe to those ideas; (2) using political, legal, and economic means of reinforcing this or that particular Status Quo Orthodoxy at the expense of anybody and everybody who could possibly get in the way; (3) Conformed, totalitarian modes in church and in society; (4) putting religious centers in charge of science and the humanities; (5) failing in the long run to achieve a success for flat earth theory.
This is way too close for comfort, for me, to classic definitions of religious idolatry.
Orthodoxy as now promulgated by the new conservative religious campaigns asks me to make its particular graven images of God, into the only possible God I know. It asks me to agree that its picture of Jesus is the only real and possible and true picture. It solemnly informs me that if I do not accept its picture of Jesus, I can neither follow Jesus on earth, nor can I expect to participate in the present breaking in of the Kingdom of God that is now, nor can I expect recognition and welcome in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
How can it high pressure market its idolatry to me as the full, absolute, and complete truth? Well, the claims are pretty much the three classic authority claims. Sola scriptura. Ah, no thanks. Papal authority. Ah, no thanks. Confessional conformity. Ah, no thanks. I have looked at the historical trials of all three of those entirely familiar options in religious life, thank you very much, and I see how they seem to work well for some believers, but I see equally clearly that they involve me in limits and burdens which I do not really believe are so nearly core or central to following Jesus.
Thus, I became Anglican. Thus I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church USA, during college. The Via Media middle way of the traditional Anglican Communion is indeed loose – offering believers a generous leeway for belief and pilgrimages which tend to shift and grow and change over the years of following Jesus.
Few Anglicans are content to believe or understand in their sixtieth human year, only and exactly what they believed or understood at the age of sixteen, or twenty, or forty. This leeway is not sola scriptura. This leeway is not confessional conformity. This leeway is certainly not papal authority. But that is not the end of our leeway as believers, because this Anglican leeway is pilgrimage.
The Via Media middle way of the Anglican Communion is indeed diverse.
God and Jesus are important in ways that none of our theology or our ethics or our liturgies can finish exhaustively exploring, describing, preaching, praying, and living.
The church life analogy that comes to mind - that seems operative - is akin to a flourishing global ecology of diverse plant, animal, and human life. These are not by any means all the same, all utterly conformed. Indeed, we notice sometimes what looks like the church life equivalents of the documented and complex symbiosis among plants, animals, humans, and habitats.
For example, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, while animals and humans typically breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. It looks liked human and animal waste helps replenish the soil, thus helping to fertilize plant life. The plants’ waste product – oxygen - actually nourishes and sustains us, as well as the other animals. That comparison begins to poetically suggest how traditional Anglican diversities could inter-relate in a diverse and complex and nourishing symbiosis of believers, held together by recognitions of our shared varieties of habitat – i.e., one planet with dwindling resources, and the possibilities of equal access to resources, as well as equal opportunities for all.
In order to make progress in realizing this very traditional Anglican Communion ecology, around our whole planet, we simply shall have to realize that all do not metabolize exactly the same sustenances in rigid, strict ways which never vary.
Now, here the implicit comparison of planetary ecologies with Anglican Communion ecologies begins to fray and threaten to break down. Why? Because the heated arguments among us involve different ways of approach to the issues of human diversity. The question of just how diverse human nature, naturally is – well that is a basic empirical question, which also gets asked and answered religiously. We can hardly escape the empirical, natural forms of asking and answering the question. Nor can we escape the religious and ethical forms of asking and answering the question.
The conservative urgencies now being high pressure marketed to me as a believer seem too much like obliterating ecologies, and exterminating this or that species of difference, all in the name of the great cause of saving ourselves.
But I am not at all sure that a conformed theocracy is going to save us, or the planet.
If this urgent offer only can construe a fatal crisis of modernity, then it would appear that it aggregates to itself a clear capacity to function as a classic idol functions. Once it goes total, absolute, and rigidly conformed – then its holy likeness of God and of Jesus – mistakenly becomes idolatrous the moment it has to claim that it is all of God and of Jesus – synonymous in itself with God and with Jesus. (Known only and absolutely as sola scriptura? As confessing church conformity? As papal authority?).
Then I am doomed and foolish to bow down to any mistakenly totalized religious claim, because it will in the end take over everything, just as an ancient near eastern pagan idol took over everything, not to free and give life and support thriving and growth, but to dominate, demand sacrifices, and force its worship upon ever new unbelievers who must be conquered and subdued in war, blessed by that god or goddess who is the idol so identified.
Okay. No, then. Not today, thank you very much.
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