Comments: Lichfield Diocese approves Anglican Communion Covenant

Lichfield avoided even the appearance of even-handedness by having one speaker known as a campaigner for 'Anglican Covenant', and against lesbian and gay people.

I notice his talk explicitly linked the 'Anglican Covenant' with TEC & gay people.

So when it it says Goddard 'put the arguments for and against' I do not feel very convinced.

It is clear that the so-called 'Anglican Covenant' is becoming a way to be anti-gay without coming right out with it. Heterosexual majorities have always sought to connive at this kind of strategy where outright anti-gay attack has to be moderated; or covered over.

How very convenient.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 5:24pm GMT

Sigh. The Bishop of Lichfield is one of the six who supports Carey in complaining about British Equality law being anti-Christian - it was going to be a tough one.

Posted by Lesley Fellows at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 5:31pm GMT

"The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality"

An opinion not supported by the facts.

One more time: the "tensions in the Communion" were *deliberately instigated, worldwide* by anti-LGBT conservatives, who could not democratically get their way in their own national churches (mainly TEC). Their global agitations began well BEFORE SSBs in Canada, or the election of +Gene Robinson as bishop (the alleged "liberalising actions").

A repeated lie remains a lie.

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 7:03pm GMT

Are these ballots completely confidential I wonder ? If not, they are meaningless exercises in the manipulation of power (o'er others).

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 8:55pm GMT

Laurence: I have been a member of the Ely diocesan synod for 20 years. In that time I have never seen any suggestion for a moment that any vote be taken by secret ballot. All votes are taken by show of hands, or if necessary by division. On the most formal of occasions (e.g. when the women priests legislation was under discussion in 1991), members of each house queued up to record their vote at separate 'aye' or 'nay' stations.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 9:05pm GMT

So their Midlands pragmatism and British commonsense deserted them.

Posted by Laurence C. at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 10:21pm GMT

One speaker to outline the arguments for and against - hardly balanced.

This diocese is known as something of a 'backwoods' sort of place so the vote is scarcely surprising. Will it vote against women bishops next I wonder?

Posted by concerned anglican at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 11:11pm GMT

The Diocese of Lichfield is spouting some spectacular doublethink.

We have always been at war with East Asia:

The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality highlighted that there were no formal structures or agreements for handling disputes when they arise. The Covenant is designed to balance the need to define how the churches of the Communion formally relate to each other without creating a formal constitution or federation; continuing to hold the Communion together through mutual relationships.

So . . . is the Covenant a formal constitution, or is it a "continuing" mutual relationship? If we've always been using mutual relationships, then why do we need a Covenant?

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 11:30pm GMT

'Laurence: I have been a member of the Ely diocesan synod for 20 years. In that time I have never seen any suggestion for a moment that any vote be taken by secret ballot. All votes are taken by show of hands...'


Thank you Simon (K.

I find it very unsatisfactory; and do not see how democracy can be served. Very easy for people to fall in line behind the bishop and his chosen speaker -- or else ! (?)

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 12:18am GMT

"An attempt to adjourn the debate in Lichfield diocese so it could be referred to deanery synods was rejected with 47 voting in favour of an adjournment and 60 voting against."

So that movement towards allowing the local Deaneries to examine the consequences of the Covenant was soundly thwacked! By whom? one wonders, besides the Pro-Covenant Diocesan Bishop and his fellow Bishop Graham Kings?

These bishops are still pretty powerful in the Church of England, and local clergy - not to mention lay-people - would probably not be too popular gain-saying what these powerful prelates decide is best for them. One wonders whether free discussion within deanery synods (without bishops) was something the Bishops did not want to happen? Winchester will probably opt for the samne top-down decision-making.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 7:46am GMT

How the Liberals do squirm when they don't get their way! Three cheers for Lichfield. Implicit in some of the threads is the idea that the Bishop has somehow coerced the Laity and Clergy into their decision. They simply exercised their right to vote, which Liberals always make so much of when it comes to decisions in General Synod (cf Women Bishops). You can't have your cake and eat it too!! The coercion, if you ask me, is coming from the direction of so-called Liberals who operate as a kind of thought police. In other words, believe and think the way we do, otherwise it isn't valid or progressive.

Posted by Benedict at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 9:44am GMT

That roughly 45% of those attending favoured referring the issue to deanery synods, while less than 20% voted against the covenant, makes one wonder how many present felt that they were being railroaded. Would be very surprised if there was not a week of very hectic lobbying in the Lichfield diocese after the Wakefield vote. A second narrowly-divided diocesan vote on the Covenant might have precipitated serious consideration of the issue.

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 11:20am GMT

How long has the present bishop been in office? usually a bishop makes a diocese in his own image by importing clergy supportive of his positions and attracting clergy and lay people who are sympathetic. Those who are not usually go elsewhere of find themselves on the "outs". Speaking openly or even privately against the bishop's views can tend to affect one's career. Benedict's odious comments about "liberals" are to be deplored. He is hardly impartial and his anger and even hatred is palpable. I am not a "liberal" as he would define me and I don't wish to be demeaned for my views. Liberals can actually be Christians. With people like him around, any attempt to be even handed or reasonable is doomed. He's not really a good advertisement for conservatism either.

Posted by Derek Gagne at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 1:30pm GMT

Ron - Graham Kings may be responsible for many things you don't like - but as a suffragan bishop in Salisbury diocese I don't really see how he is connected with Lichfield's vote.

Posted by Jeremy P at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 1:44pm GMT

If the Covenant passes, then no one need ever bother to vote on anything again.

Posted by Counterlight at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 5:04pm GMT

Derek,I think you've gone slightly over the top in the terminology you employ. No, I am not impartial, yes I do have a view, but why should my comments be counted as odious, or the accusation levelled at me that I am hateful or angry? Surely I am allowed an opinion? Your response proves my original point!

Posted by Benedict at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 8:36pm GMT

Jeremy; was Bishop Graham Kings not invited (presumably by the Lichfield Diocesan Bishop) to address the Lichfield Synod on 'The Covenant' before the vote was taken? I would say that that was pretty 'influential', wouldn't you?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 8:57pm GMT

As the communications director for the Diocese of Lichfield, I am somewhat saddened by the accusatory tone of some of these comments.

Before an outside speaker can address our Synod the members have to give their consent (by two thirds) to suspend standing orders. The vote to suspend standing orders so that Dr Andrew Goddard could address the meeting on Saturday (in place of the previously announced guest speaker Graham Kings) was unanimous - a decision by our democratically and legally elected Synod.

And I’m struggling to believe that members of the Church of England are seriously suggesting that members felt manipulated or coerced to vote a particular way out of fear for the way the bishop would react if they voted in a way in which he disagreed. I don’t know what goes on in other diocese but such an accusation couldn’t be further from the truth to how we do business in Lichfield.

The reason for the difference in the votes for the proposed referral to Deanery Synods than for the actual motion is that the two are very different. A referral to Deanery Synods shouldn’t be seen as a success for those opposed to the Covenant. Some of those supporting the Covenant want as wide a discussion as possible so that the Covenant can be owned and understood.

A number of deanery lay chairs spoke against referral to deanery synods because of the heavy agendas which they and our diocesan synod have in coming months.

Finally, the vote on the covenant motion did not take place by show of hands, but unusually it was by a ballot with separate boxed for bishops, clergy and laity.

To say Lichfield avoided appearance of even handedness by having only one speaker misses the point – the speaker set the scene. The debate was conducted by members of our synod – with everybody who wished to speak able to speak; with a good balance between pro- and anti-Covenant speakers.

Posted by Gavin Drake at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 9:31pm GMT

Is it just possible, liberal sisters and brothers, for people to come to a conclusion different from ours without it being picked over so as to be dismissed by 'liberal' opinion?

People disagree! It's called 'life'!

Posted by Lister Tonge at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 10:15pm GMT

I would pretty much guess, not knowing Lichfield in any detail from across the pond, that Lichfield is solidly antigay. How can a vote not embody real Lichfield flat earth beliefs about queer folks? ... we are instructed this should ever be the case among all right-minded and big-hearted believers, often by the likes of speakers/leaders like Andrew G.?

So far the divisive change in Canada and TEC? ... what JCF said, ditto, ditto, ditto. Three sacks full. With a fourth sack containing Rowan Williams for all the usual reasons. Stay away from the children, then, please.

So far as Benedict's views? (Okay, not that Benedict, but then on second thought, yes that other Benedict, too?)

One, the negatives strongly propagated as holy truth about queer folks are, truly, flat earth idea systems, closed, period. So, to that extent, 60 years or so of empirical research, plus the fine ethical examples of so many real, live queer folks in society and in Anglican church life especially, are NOT really valid ... for Goddard/Lichfield and others. The peer-reviewed empirical research and the real, honestly lived ethical daily lives of real queer folks in our neighborhoods and in our churches amount to nothing at all among us as Anglicans.

Rule those two proximal authorities out as touchstones, and then, of course, one gets another Goddard/Lichfield sort of validity, indeed?

It seems even easier to conclude in common sense that these negative views are not progressive in any compelling degree. But again, one must allow that the touchstone of being able to change in response to real queer folks and real empirical data may not be the Goddard/Lichfield sort of corollary to how progressive ought to be understood in the context of Benedict's remarks.

Even if I remove the conservative/traditional religion/ethics/theology underpinnings for a thought experiment, I still fail to see how having a strong conservative Lichfield majority vote to continue preaching lies about queer folks, along with presuming church policies which put QFolks in their inferior places, especially the traditional Anglican Closets, could ever be common-sensically progressive.

I wonder how Goddard/Lichfield would like to have their welcome to worship and follow and witness be put to a vote, say, among global queer folks?

Get the basic idea?

Alas. Lord have mercy. Not going to Lichfield any day soon ... got to think about the children, doncha know?

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 11:05pm GMT

So Gavin, was it presented "TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada acted to empower the sinful sodomites, and the Covenant will stop them (or anyone else): Vote Yes!", *OR* "TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada acted to empower the sinful sodomites, but the Covenant is insufficient to stop them (or anyone else): Vote No!"

Do you see my concern? It's not, strictly speaking, pro or con on the Covenant, but ***how the Covenant is framed***.

I'm sick and tired of the Big Lie 1) re LGBTs in general, and 2) re LGBTs in churches (eg. TEC/AngChCanada) that affirm them AS GOD MADE THEM. Get rid of the Big Lie, and then conversation re (this useless) Anglican Covenant will reach its logical conclusion.

Can you assure me the Big Lie was not part of the Lichfield synod debate?

Posted by JCF at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 4:01am GMT

I disagree with the Anglican Covenant on principle. I think it is unAnglican to design structures intended to exclude. I don't think it will be effective, and - though not a natural conspiracy theorist - I am concerned that it is simply a means of kicking TEC out of the Communion.

However, I too am very disappointed by the tone of some of these comments. The Lichfield diocesan synod are as entitled to conclude that the Covenant is a good idea as their Wakefield counterparts were to conclude that it is a bad idea. If we believe in a broad church we have to be able to accommodate those with whom we disagree. In future, the Covenant might make that a harder thing to do, but we are hardly helping matters by adopting the superior, dismissive tone towards the Lichfield synod which is apparent in some of these comments, and for which liberals are so very often castigated.

Please, we might feel strongly about things, but this site is called _Thinking_ Anglicans.

Posted by Hannah at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 9:48am GMT

Dr Dan Fee's comments represent all that is wrong with the debate about the Covenant. The truth is that Liberals, progressives, whatever we wish to call them, are making a monopoly of the gay issue in this discussion. The covenant is about wider unease than that; it concerns a determined effort to ensure that provinces of the Anglican Communion retain at least some semblance of Christian teaching over a whole range of doctrines. Surely there must be a line somewhere, or are some seriously suggesting that the dictates of society ought to be the norm by which we frame Christian truth? If that is so, we are in great danger of peddling heresy.

Posted by Benedict at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 10:20am GMT

Nobody who welcomed the decision at Wakefield should now question why Lichfield did not send it to the deaneries, though in my book and in both cases, the Covenant constitutes such a profound change, it deserves to be debated in the most thorough form and agendas should be cleared to facilitate this.

I think what I and some others who regularly comment here would question is where there is a single speaker then one might hope that that person has a reputation for even handedness, both Kings and Goddard represent the Fulcrum/ACI axis. While Kings might be able to hide behind the lack of “Fulcrum approved” statements and says little himself apart from saying how “wise” his ACI allies are, Goddard has a different track record.

Andrew is able to give a detailed, if coloured, account of the process that has produced this Covenant, and I look forward to hearing his story. But what of those who feel that the whole process has been wrong-headed? Those deeply committed to the idea of the Anglican Communion working closely together, but who reject wholeheartedly this Covenant It is the product of a process that should never have been initiated and that has already failed to achieve any of its objectives, in this conclusion, at least Andrew and I are agreed. In a Communion already divided and fragmenting THIS Covenant is not what we need.

Andrew is a believer in “rule by Primates” - something the majority of Primates themselves do not hold to but Andrew has placed himself beyond the pale in his recent work where he says:
“”There needs, therefore, to be a recognition that if the Instruments are unable to make themselves “fit for purpose” and the see of Canterbury continues to prove unable or unwilling to act in ways that secure the unity in truth of the Anglican Communion then God in his providence may raise up one or more other Anglican metropolitans who are able to fulfil at least some of Canterbury’s traditional responsibilities in relation to the majority of the Communion.””

It's surprising the bishop of Litchfield and now the diocese would want to associate themselves with these views and the even more shrill views expressed by Andrew's mates at the ACI, in fact I'm astonished anyone who is part of the ACI team should be in this key role.

It was more than a bad or unfortunate choice.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 11:12am GMT

I was a bit surprised see see the following in a post:

'I would pretty much guess, not knowing Lichfield in any detail from across the pond, that Lichfield is solidly antigay. How can a vote not embody real Lichfield flat earth beliefs about queer folks?'

No detail at all? Then on what would this deduction be based?

I don't understand how someone can 'guess' from that distance and build such a huge assumption on the back of that guess.

English dioceses rarely have an overall 'flavour' as is more often the case in TEC. Anyway, Lichfield is a huge diocese covering three English counties (we only have about forty) with nearly six hundred churches in over four hundred parishes. (So area is not the point: TEC dioceses can outdo us easily on that score. But this is a huge area with an Anglican church in every community.) The idea of 'not going to Lichfield any time soon' would make passing through the centre of England at all a very difficult business. This is just to underscore the point that it is very difficult to 'read' the C of E from TEC (and v.v. of course). They are such different institutions and work in such different ways.

But it would be lunatic to think that there is a uniformly 'anti-gay' bias in such a large and diverse part of England.

It's also interesting that when Birmingham votes they way 'we' want they can be praised for common sense and Midlands pragmatism whereas its next door diocese can be casually written off for not agreeing with an opinion (mine!) on the Covenant.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 11:26am GMT

Two brief comments - one on Lichfield, one on the matter at hand.

Lichfield: is and remains a hub of church growth; the former Archdeacon of Walsall literally wrote the book (and the study course) on it; the suffragan of Shrewsbury is a former canon missioner who introduced Night Church in Exeter; the Bishop of Lichfield is Jonathan Gledhill, in post since 2003 - from 1997 he has chaired the Anglican-Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council and has been the chairman of the Governing Body of the National College of Evangelists. He has written "Leading a Local Church in the Age of the Spirit".

Now to the debate: if you believe in democracy in church, then you have to go with the results you get, whether you like them or not (votes against the Covenant, or votes to secede from TEC, for instance). It is also about the heart of Anglicanism: do you believe first of all in the basic doctrinal formulae of the Church of England or not? If you do*, then we can have a conversation about what to do with the secondary issues (men in ministry; women in ministry; how to worship; how to welcome LGBT people, and the rest (Paul's gossips, slanderers, murderers etc) and to communicate the transforming grace of the Gospel for all). As a part of that (and consequent upon it) is what to do with the Covenant - and whether it goes too far or not far enough.

*: if you don't, there remain other churches with different doctrinal viewpoints such as the Liberal Catholic Church.

Posted by Cornelius at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 11:35am GMT

Benedict said "Surely I am allowed an opinion? Your response proves my original point!" What point would that be? That he supports the vote in Lichfield? That is clear enough and this is his right. That would have been enough. But his real "point" was to rejoice and triumph that "liberals" are unhappy. So his point has litle to do with the actual issue and everything to do with taking the opportunity to indulge in liberal-bashing. If that's his real point. what's the point of discussing the issue if the real point is mocking and bullying those he doesn't like or agree with. Benedict, please stick to the issue without going on the attack. You have every right to an opinion, but please respect others-conservatives, liberals, moderates, and everyone else should do the same. The Gospel is not about grinding one's perceived enemies into the dirt.

Posted by Derek Gagne at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 12:37pm GMT

What Martin said.
I do think that Lichfield has the right to do whatever it wants (which is part of why I think the Anglican Covenant is such a very bad idea).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 2:20pm GMT

Benedict / Lister: I call Horse Hockey. If the Lichfield debate been conducted in a manner that was fair and above board, I would have no issue with the results however much I may be disappointed.

But Gavin, perhaps you could explain why Lichfield flatly refused to distribute any material that was not 100% supportive of the Covenant.

Perhaps you could also explain why, of the 60 minutes alloted for the Covenant discussion, the first 20 were given to an adamantly pro-Covenant guest speaker, followed by an additional five minute intro by an internal pro-Covenant speaker. Fully 25 minutes of pro-Covenant propaganda before a single Covenant critic was allowed to say a word - and then strictly limited to five minutes.

To claim that this process was fair is to be either dishonest or delusional.

The Covenanter strategy is clear. They know they cannot win after a free and fair debate, so they will do their level best to ensure that a free and fair debate does not happen.

I believe the UK slang is "stitch up."

Posted by Malcolm+ at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 3:24pm GMT

When Benedict says, “Surely there must be a line somewhere, or are some seriously suggesting that the dictates of society ought to be the norm by which we frame Christian truth? If that is so, we are in great danger of peddling heresy” he is making an important statement which should be pondered by advocates of both sides.

Speaking from the liberal side, I would like to posit that Christian truth needs to take in the discovery of “new” ideas, rights and/or abuses as they arise, be these women’s rights, labor relations, a solar-centric planetary system - or the recognition of abuses and exclusions aimed at those of God’s children who are homosexual in their immutable – and God-given – orientation. We must certainly guard against empty trendiness; but we must also remember that Christ brought us new things. As we grow in maturity discern things formerly hidden, we must guard against ignoring those new things, or refusing to in-gather them as well, and perhaps even more against legislating them out of our consideration and growth toward God.

There is danger in trendiness, but there is a danger as well in peddling the heresy of refusing to acknowledge growth and God’s ever-unfolding generosity and boundless love. The Covenant presents the danger of legislating inertia and limiting God’s inclusion of all people.

Posted by Nat at Monday, 21 March 2011 at 4:13pm GMT

"The covenant is about wider unease than that; it concerns a determined effort to ensure that provinces of the Anglican Communion retain at least some semblance of Christian teaching over a whole range of doctrines."

Benedict: Please specify these other doctrines that are a subject of controversy...what are they? What provinces have adopted or threatened to adopt policies, procedures or liturgies that invoke controversy, other than those involving sexuality?

The right wing always makes this argument...but when asked to specify what other issues are involved, they never have an answer.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 2:00am GMT

It is worth reading Malcolm+ (Oh! do dislike that addition!) on this matter. Click on his name above and be taken to his blog.

Interesting additional information on the other diocese where there is some information. I sat and listened to the bishop of Hereford's testimony in the Reaney case .... I am glad he was stopped in his tracks .....

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 7:55am GMT

Derek Gagne, I neither rejoiced nor triumphed, nor am I hateful or angry as you put it. You are simply just too sensitive and seem to have a persecution complex. I stand by my comments, and I ask the question why it is that I can be accused of lambasting liberals, when the tone of your own comments is hardly respectful, given the extremity of the language you choose to use?

Posted by Benedict at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 9:52am GMT

Nat; thanks for your comments - both wise and pertinent - especially in the present situation, where 'status quo' might just be insufficient to proclaim the Gospel to ALL people, at all seasons and in all places. We need to live in the present - not the past, glorious though it may once have been.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 10:05am GMT

What will happen about Sydneys Diaconal celebration under the Covenant?

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 10:51am GMT

"What will happen about Sydneys Diaconal celebration under the Covenant?"

Probably nothing...despite it being a far more radical change in liturgy than blessing a same-sex relationship.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 11:54am GMT

I guess it is a bad thing for someone to be "too sensitive" when they are maligned, not for their views on a particular issue, but for who they are and how they think. It's not you, it's me. You know you are not speaking rationally, but emotionally. Personal (ad hominem) attacks are the last refuge of someone who must win. If you are not hateful and angry (extreme language, I agree, but you will understand it), I would not want to encounter someone who is. You may think that you are the voice of sweet reason, but you know that you enjoy being an agent provocateur. There are plenty of places where you could vent your spleen and receive nothing but accolades. You accuse me of engaging in a tit-for-tat conversation (what you said is fine, because I said something like it)but your comments were made first. If you had limited your comments to your views on the Lichfield vote, that would have been sufficient, but you wanted more bang and saw the opportunity to excoriate people for who they are and what they believe. You take pleasure in this and then justify it by saying that my response is the problem, even using psychobabble ("persecution complex") to justify it. Now you are an expert in psychology as well, having made an effort to see into my psyche. You are acting like most bullies, who go on the attack and then blame the victim. (They deserved it.) When you attack my view on one issue, that is acceptable under certain conditions of fairness and politeness. But when you throw a grenade to burst in the faces of a group you generalize and dislike as "liberals", you are getting pleasure and going out of bounds. And I am not a liberal.

Posted by Derek Gagne at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 2:17pm GMT

Nat: Thanks much for your comment. Once again, I quote the former Presiding Bishop of TEC, Frank Griswold, who said that we are "situated in a universe where truth is progresive."

Posted by Old Father William at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 3:58pm GMT

When someone wants to destroy an enemy, they dehumanize them. Soldiers are trained not to think of the "other side" as people with lives and families, but as a collective group to be called by a demeaning name and to attack them as a whole. There is no feeling or emotion when destroying the enemy "other". They are not real people and they are a threat. So Benedict refers to "liberals" (and he is not alone) as the collective "other"-faceless ones, different than "we" are, who pose a threat and whose elimination would benefit humanity (or the Church.)Thus any attack is justified.

Posted by Richard Grand at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 7:40pm GMT

I note that, despite responding to other posts here, Benedict has not answered my question as to what doctrines are subjects of controversy other than sexuality.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 8:08pm GMT

Pat O'Neill, let's think about some of the excesses of TEC: blessing of same sex unions, denoting God as "Our Mother . . .", and other feminine slants on the bible, deviation from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity or maleness of Christ, and so the list goes on. And there will continue to be more, though if, as seems apparent, the Anglican Covenant is put in place, it may just stop such excesses. And Derek, again you have accused me of several things in your thread. I have not maligned you, nor have I used psychobabble. What about your own form of psychobabble eg: "You know you enjoy being an agent provocateur" "You wanted more bang" "You saw the opportunity to excoriate people" etc. You are reading far more into my comments than was ever intended. The whole thrust of my argument is that, yes, judging from the comments on this site many of those who would classify themeselves as Liberal seem to be very rattled at the Lichfield vote. There is no justification for that insofar as it was part of a democratic process. And to suggest that there was any coercion or that it means that, somehow, Lichfield is some kind of frozen, archaic diocese is frankly ludicrous.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 9:35am GMT

Benedict
of course we're rattled at the Lichfield vote. Giving the supporters over 40 minutes to present their case and the opponents 5 minutes hardly constitutes the democratic process you talk of.

And I believe your first comment started with "How the Liberals do squirm when they don't get their way! Three cheers for Lichfield!"... hardly a dispassionate analysis of the vote or anything betraying any kind of understanding of anti-covenant concerns.

God as Mother is an ancient concept, Julian of Norwich, anchorite and mystic of 14th century, talks of God as mother in her Revelations of Divine Love (www.vatican.va/.../spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html).

Maybe the Roman Catholic church should be told that they need a Covenant to eradicate this heretical teaching of one of Christianity’s most famous mystics. And the Vatican needs to keep a closer eye on its own publications.

As for the core doctrine of Christ’s maleness and divinity, could you please provide solid evidence when and where TEC has rejected this and put in place a new official doctrine?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 3:08pm GMT

Benedict:

Are any of the "deviations" you cite official stances of the The Episcopal Church as a province? Were any of them even officially adopted within a diocese? Not to my knowledge.

And since when is it a doctrinal error to acknowledge the fact that God has no gender? That it is just as correct to refer to the divinity as female as male? Maybe it is among some on the extreme conservative end of Christianity, where the idea of a non-male God causes masculine leadership to tremble, but it should not be so among Anglicans.

So, how DO you feel about far more blatant OFFICIAL "excesses," notably Sydney's diaconally celebrated Eucharists?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 3:13pm GMT

In response to Benedict -- TEC hasn't authorized any rites for blessing same sex unions (although it has authorized study of same) & neither the BCP nor The Book of Occasional Services nor Enriching Our Worship calls God "Our Mother" -- apparently the list of misrepresentations goes on and on ...

Posted by Prior Aelred at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 6:55pm GMT

I had no idea that 'Christ's maleness' is a Christian doctrine. I have never, ever heard it suggested till now.

Part of the story of Christ, yes of course. Maybe necessary for the mission at that time and place - but hardly a doctrine.

May be we need to re-tell or even, re-vision this great story for our times ?

But a well-rounded inner femininity and fullness, in order for Incarnation to be complete or perfect -surely ?

The more we contemplate that 'fullness of being'or are ourselves contemplated by it, the more earthed we may feel, and yet less sure of anything in the space-time continuum to which work-a-day life restricts us-- but beyond those confines a quantum theology maybe -

an ignition and lift off into incarnation, death-resurrection, and the beyond of ascension descent-parousia + a shattering of all known categories and all provisional loves.

May be we need to re-tell or even, re-vision this great story for our times ?

the greatest story ever told

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 8:16pm GMT

Erika, The theme of divine love recurs frequently in Julian's visions, but she compares these to motherly love, she does not claim God to be our Mother. His tenderness, concern and gentleness, rather, are so great that they remind us, pilgrims on earth, of a mother’s love for her children. And, anyway, would you rather claim Julian of Norwich's teaching as the norm for Christians, or that of the Bible? Three cheers for Lichfield, indeed, that the Synod members independently held their nerve and refused to bow to the demands of an increasingly liberalising agenda which sees everything in terms of society's mores and values. It comes to something when even the communications director of the Diocese has to enter this site to defend it against the erroneous accusations of some who have made contributions to this debate. Sometimes we just have to accept what the will of Synod is. At least, that's what we traditionalists are told time and time again in votes. So why should it be any different now for those of a different hue? As I stated earlier, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 8:36pm GMT

"God as Mother is an ancient concept, Julian of Norwich, anchorite and mystic of 14th century, talks of God as mother in her Revelations of Divine Love (www.vatican.va/.../spirit_20010807_giuliana-norwich_en.html)."

And the Pastorals (not by Paul)in 1 Tim 2:7 (trofós).

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 9:13pm GMT

I have now listened to Dr Goddards offering.

It is a travesty.

The main function of the Covenant is to give standing to these so called Instruments and all the juridical baggage that comes with them, they presently have no standing (with the possible exception of the ACC).

But these Instruments are not fully formed - they are in a state of flux and now is far too premature to recognise them.

Considering the bankrupt and diminished state Andrew believes they have all descended to under Rowan - the amazing thing is he can be advocate for the Covenant at all!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 9:38pm GMT

1. Martin, thank you for your kind words regarding my blogpost.

2. For another example of maternal language regarding the first person of the Trinitu, see Gregory of Nyssa, whom Orthodox East and Catholic West both regard as a Doctor of the Church. Extrapolating from his entirely orthodox view that "the divine nature totally transcends male and female and every other category of human thought. That, he believed, is why Scripture uses so many different names, titles, parables, analogies and metaphors when speaking about God." (For All the Saints; ed. the recently deceased Revd Dr. Stephen Reynolds)

The Prayer over the gifts assigned for Gregory's memorial addresses God as ""O Father, Womb of the eternal Word."

3. The people who accuse TEC (and to a lesser extent ACoC) of various alleged crimes against orthodoxy are not above miking s**t up to bolster their slanderous accusations. My personal favourite was the charge that TEC had "replaced" Jesus with the Millennium Development Goals. The "evidence" for this bit of bovine excrement was a picture of a closing eucharist from a diocesan covention. The sacrament was clearly being celebrated in the hotel ballroom where the sessions had been held. A poster about the MDGs happened to be behind the table which was being used as the altar.

The truly stupid thing is that there are so many hatefilled Brits and others who are so eager to hate Americans that they'll believe any old crap on offer.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 12:04am GMT

"denoting God as "Our Mother . . .", and other feminine slants on the bible, deviation from traditional church teachings" - Benedict -

You really are behind the times here, Benedict.
Quite apart from Dame Julian's "Father, Mother God", have you not read the gospel acount of Jesus saying, of his fellow Jews, that he would treat them as a mother hen would her chicks? The essence of the feminine is part of Creation, why not therefore, of the Creator? Do read a little more of the early Church Fathers and mothers on this very important topic. In any speculation about God as Person - you cannot exclude the feminine.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 5:47am GMT

Father Smith, it is one thing to say that God has feminine attributes, it is quite another to suggest that the Creator, or even his essence, is feminine. Again, as usual, you are rewriting Scripture, because the portion you quote quite clearly says AS a mother hen would treat her chicks, implying a comparison. Furthermore, how do you explain Jesus calling God "Abba", which is the equivalent, if you like, of "Daddy", and explain to me please, if you can, how the Old Testament constantly refers to God in the masculine? I wonder whether, next, you'll be spinning the Gospel accounts and questioning the maleness of Our Lord himself. You say read a little more of the Church Fathers and Mothers on this. Well I would suggest you go back to your bible too. Your view that I am behind the times derives from the fact that I simply cannot agree with such liberal interpretation of both Scripture and saintly writings. I have my view, you have yours. One interpretation as against another. End of.

Posted by Benedict at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 9:55am GMT

I particularly like the line, where Mother Julian, says, 'Jesus our Mother.'

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 4:36pm GMT

Benedict
before we accept your patronising "end of." we ought to just clarify once again that, while there clearly are people who are happy to call God Mother, you have provided not a shred of evidence that any doctrine about God or Jesus or any other doctrine, come to that, has been changed by TEC - which had been your original claim.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 5:29pm GMT

Given a choice between Benedict on the one hand and Gregory of Nyssa on the other, I would have no trouble identifying Gregory as the more orthodox.

Ben, in reference to Article I, one of the "parts" God does not have is a penis.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 6:24pm GMT

Erika, I regret that you think my comment was patronising. It certainly wasn't intended that way. There just comes a point where it's impossible to agree and that has to be acknowledged. Views on both sides are so strongly held that it seems well nigh impossible to come to a common mind. As to your point about TEC and change of doctrine, the Book of Common Prayer used to be harder to change than the transmission on your car. And yet the Episcopal Church was among the first of the main-line denominations to ordain women and homosexuals to the pastoral office. And How did that happen? First the practice changed. Once it was accepted that such things could be practised in the Church, a change in doctrine was quick to follow. We are now witnessing the blessing of same sex unions in TEC. You can bet your bottom dollar that a change in doctrine will soon follow, which sort of action is what the Anglican Covenant is ultimately seeking to redress.

Posted by Benedict at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 8:31pm GMT

So, having failed to produce evidence to support his slanderous charge, Beneddict now merely claims that it is inevitable that TEC (and presumably ACoC) will adapt an assortment of heresies regarding the nature of God.

Amusing, since the only heresy in this thread so far is his heterodox attempt to delimit God to mere maleness.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 9:24pm GMT

Dear honorable B.: If I presume the either/or you lay out in your remarks, then I guess my views will/must indeed be taken exclusively to mean that I have fallen headlong into the alleged-presumed secularist trap (Anything Goes, no structure, no accountability, no global communion, really).

Truth is, I question this often pitched either/or. Our choices are much more varied, so far as our best practice and pledged overt scriptural reading hermeneutics, not to mention how our three typical Anglican authorities (scripture, tradition, reason - not rigidly in exactly that order, always?) inform an overall discernment on hot button stuff like queer folks, signing/approving the covenant, and what sorts of power/structure/accountability are indeed best across/among global Anglican differences.

I stand outside your presumed either/or boxes. I am not a rigidly doctrinal conservative; nor am I an Anything Goes So What, liberal believer.

After sixty or so years of research, the traditional nasty religious views of queer folks are indeed inherited flat earth legacy systems - disconfirmed by the evidence under empirical scrutiny, disconfirmed by common sense everyday examples wherein very fine queer people lead what tests out to be exemplary lives, in love and at work and in parenting.

The narrative burdens now shift hard, back upon anybody at all who wishes to repeat traditionalistic legacy falsehoods about queer folks, about queer folks lives and work among us, about queer folks loving-kindness, about queer folks parenting. A widespread loving kindness it would seem, since inferiority and disenfranchisement are our rule for queer folks all around our planet.

Of course this shift is a shock, just as the failure of the Ptolemaic Cosmology and flat earth systems were a shock, way back when. The Vatican took several centuries to acknowledge that sea change, so queer folks are most likely in for a very long wait in connection with any Vatican acknowledgments of the empirical (let alone spiritual) truth about them as human beings.

One way to test/explore this new covenant is to ask ourselves how it would have assisted us to respond to well known historical Anglican controversies across our global differences. So far that outcome is either, No Help, or Outright Hindrance. Take condoms/contraception as a historic example? I'm pretty sure the covenant would not help us permit an Anglican exploration/testing of whether Gentile Christians who do not follow the Law are acceptable?

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 9:39pm GMT

Benedict
It's one thing to have strong opinions, it's another to make unsubstantiated claims.

Many provinces in the AC ordain women, it's quite commonplace, really.
Certainly, there is no indication that anyone finds TEC bishops or even female primates so scandalous that a Covenant is needed to stop them.

So the only other thing you could possibly be railing against is same sex sexuality.
Which is exactly where you and Pat started this conversation - him asking you to show whether there was anything else other than same sex sexuality that people were arguing, you claiming that there were other doctrines TEC kept changing - and you then being completely unable to provide any evidence for it.

It remains true that this whole battle is about gay couples.
Not a single further lofty theological or moral principle involved.

At least be honest about it and don't slander TEC where it isn't appropriate.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 10:41pm GMT

I understand now why Thinking Anglicans is described as containing blogs from a Liberal Anglican perspective (see Google). Whatever I say on this site I know other contributors will immediately attempt to shoot down in flames, since I am clearly in the minority here as a traditionalist. I am however staggered that I have been accused of heterodoxy, after asking the question as to whether someone can explain to me why God is described throughout the bible as "He" and "Him" and "Father" and "Abba". And none on the site has yet responded to my take on Our Lord's quote "AS a mother . . . " I really see no point in making myself an Aunt Sally any further, purely to give more opportunities for pointless and one-sided debate, so I respectfully wish you all well and God's blessings and hope you continue to enjoy endless hours of agreeing with each other, or not, as the case may be. The extremity of some of my own remarks was questioned at the beginning of the debate. I say again I regret if I have offended anyone. However, to those who sought to disagree with me, please do reread your own contributions too. All the best, Benedict.

Posted by Benedict at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 12:23am GMT

Benedict
We did answer, you just chose to ignore the answer and lecture me that it was wrong.
I refer to the Julian of Norwich link again:

"And thus in our creation God Almighty is our natural father, and God all-wisdom is our natural mother, with the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit. These are all one God, one Lord. In the knitting and joining he is our real, true spouse and we are his loved wife and his fair maiden."

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 2:25pm GMT

Benedict
We did answer, you just chose to ignore the answer and lecture me that it was wrong.
I refer to the Julian of Norwich link again:

"And thus in our creation God Almighty is our natural father, and God all-wisdom is our natural mother, with the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit. These are all one God, one Lord. In the knitting and joining he is our real, true spouse and we are his loved wife and his fair maiden."

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:44pm GMT

Erika: "in the knitting and joining HE is our real, true spouse . . ." I am a male but I can still possess feminine attributes or qualities. There is a difference between such attribution and suggesting that God is wholly female, which suggestion would fly in the face of Scriptural description. Where are the quotes in the bible that contradict the maleness of God? You will doubtlessly find many giving Him feminine qualities but none referring to Him as She or Her. That is what makes calling God our Mother heresy. Julian of Norwich never hesitated to speak of Jesus Christ as "our mother." In this, however, she was not supporting feminisation of God. She knew that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- eternally, and that this God dwells in Jesus of Nazareth. (Col. 2:9) In speaking of Christ as "our mother" Julian was merely likening the work of Christ to that of a mother. He gives birth to those who are "born again." Like a mother, he suffers for them before, during and after "delivery." He must patiently nourish, safeguard and instruct those who are born of him. In none, of this, however, was Julian anticipating the argument that God is "she." Julian was an orthodox Christian but she has many times been misused in debates to serve the ends of those who wish to promote the travesty of csalling God "Our Mother".

Posted by Benedict at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 5:45pm GMT

Happy Lady Day !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 7:33pm GMT

Benedict:

Perhaps I am confused but how can a being without form have a gender?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 12:15am GMT

I notice that Benedict won't address the matter of Gregory of Nyssa.

Much as he's stopped pretending the Episcopal Church is heterodox since he's been called on his complete lack of evidence.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 6:36am GMT

Benedict: "Whatever I say on this site I know other contributors will immediately attempt to shoot down in flames, since I am clearly in the minority here as a traditionalist."

Well, I'm a traditionalist too, and I don't get shot down in flames... I just don't think that persecuting gay people or excluding women are good or necessary traditions for Christians.

It would help if you wrote in a way that was more sensitive to the offence that can be caused by incessantly denouncing TEC as heterodox, for example, as many of us are profoundly grateful to the brave witness of TEC to real traditional Anglicanism, viz. an intelligent and inclusive Catholic spirituality, in a religion currently dominated worldwide by the unintelligent, the inward-looking and the exclusive.

Posted by Fr Mark at Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 8:02am GMT

"O Father, Womb of the eternal Word."
This is the cappadocian's defense--against arians--of the eternal generation of the Son by the Father, and what will become a traditional appeal to Psalm 109.3 (LXX) -- so Chrysostom, Augustine, Cassiodorus, Luther, Calvin, etc. The Son was not created/made, but begotten of the Father, 'before the morning star, from the womb I begot thee' (Ps 109.3). 'Therefore God, having his own Logos innate in his own bowels [Ps 109.3], generated him together with his own Sophia, vomiting him forth [Ps 44.2] before anything else' (Theophilus, Ad Autolycum II.10).
More time with the early Fathers, indeed.

Posted by seitz at Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 12:59pm GMT

"Whatever I say on this site I know other contributors will immediately attempt to shoot down in flames, since I am clearly in the minority here as a traditionalist."

I don't have any problem with traditionalists, although I disagree with much of what they stand for.
I do have problems with people who lie about others, who make false claims about them they are not able to substantiate and who then don't withdraw their allegations and apologise.

And I cannot understand what that has to do with traditional Christianity.

It is possible to believe that God doesn't like gay sex and that we should not use female language when referring to him without slandering a whole church in the process and claiming that it officially changed a number of important Christian docrtines.

And however complicated it may be to work out whether modern gay relationships are permitted or not, it is quite simple to work out that bearing false witness is a no-no.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 28 March 2011 at 8:14am BST

"There is a difference between such attribution and suggesting that God is wholly female"

- Benedict, on Friday -

Oh dear, Benedict! I suggest you read the words of Blessed Julian as provided here by Erika, where God is described as BOTH father and mother - not 'wholly female' as you here suggest. Really, a little more careful reading of people's p[osts would help.

Her word 'spouse' does not exclude (may rather, in fact include) the possibility of either gender representation - a much larger understanding than either just male or female. There can be no doubt though, that God in Christ assumed the physical characteristics of a male (he had a willy), but he also represented the whole of humanity - both female and male in his redemption of the whole human race - by the giving of himself on the Cross.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 30 March 2011 at 11:09am BST
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