Comments: 72 synod members write to the bishops

Suggests to me Gary Waddington 18 th July below might be right

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 1:28pm BST

There's a certain absurdity in calling for more study (entirety sensible and legitimate) but then completely misrepresenting 1 Corinthians. If one reads the full section it is clear firstly that Paul is writing this section from his own understanding as a teacher, and not urged by the Spirit as a disciple. That immediately lessens the impact. Next, he is saying he would prefer men and women to remain chaste like him but, if they really can't cope with that, then marriage is better than sexual immorality. There's nothing to suggest that marriage should not be same sex - he was just illustrating his commentary in ways in which it would most easily be understood.

Read more strictly, as the letter writers propose, it would be equally wrong for a wife to say to her husband "not tonight, dear." I wonder how many of the ladies who have signed the letter realise that?

Posted by Kate at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 1:56pm BST

The biblical study has already been flogged to death – we’ve been debating the biblical issues for over 30 years!

The Church will continue to have members opposed to gay sex and supportive of gay sex. There is, and will be, no agreement over the issue. But there can be agreement to differ and co-exist. We can maintain unity even with widely different views on sex, if we love one another and focus on service and mission.

Conscience on the issue should be protected on either side, and instead of trying to impose a false uniformity, we should strive for ‘unity in diversity’ with huge emphasis and priority on love.

If a local church, its PCC and priest, in interaction with its local community, wants to affirm and bless gay relationships, then it should be given the freedom of conscience to do so. That respect of conscience would reflect the reality of opinions within our church.

Equally, if the signatories of this letter, and their churches, cannot subscribe to gay sex, then they too should be given freedom of conscience to withhold from such blessings and affirmations.

The problem, and the potential schism comes from two sources: (a) trying to impose uniformity against many people’s consciences; (b) insisting on uniformity to your own view, or threatening to walk out if you don’t get your way imposed on everyone else.

We could be doing ‘biblical study’ for another 100 years, and there would still be different approaches to scripture. We’ve flogged this subject for decades.

Meanwhile, LGBT lives are put on hold (‘it’s okay to have the attraction but just be celibate’), the more generous-spirited nation looks on with in confusion and disgust, and LGBT people are told they are loved and welcomed, but clearly not for the whole of who they actually are, which can’t simply ignore the intimate love and devotion, sensuality and sexuality, consolation and joy which any other human relationship is afforded.

They are ‘welcomed’ under scripture: a scripture that – it is argued – condemns their most precious expressions of love, regards them as abomination before God, limits them from ministry, marginalises their ministries, expects them to hide signs of personal affection, in a kind of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach.

Bible study will simply accentuate the differences we have in how we understand the bible. We need ‘unity in diversity’ and an end to imposed uniformity.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 2:00pm BST

One other thing: more than three times as many men as women signed this letter: if that anywhere nears representation in the General Synod, it is pretty disappointing. Alternatively perhaps it reflects the possibility that men fear gay sex more than women do.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 2:10pm BST

Para 2 says much more biblical study is needed before Synod may make theologically informed decisions. Para 4 makes clear that the signatories already know the decision should be no change. I can only conclude that the point of the biblical study is to bring Synod into line with their own views. That’s a poor model of corporate Bible study, since only through the Spirit, open to each other, should we expect to hear God’s word.

The clergy signatories are 33 male, 1 female. The male/female ratio in the House of Clergy is about 2:1.

Posted by Mark Hart at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 3:00pm BST

Some early responses to this letter:

http://therachelmannblogspot.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/personal-response-to-open-letter-to.html

https://theore0.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/in-response-to-the-group-of-72/

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 5:49pm BST

"The problem, and the potential schism comes from two sources: (a) trying to impose uniformity against many people’s consciences; (b) insisting on uniformity to your own view, or threatening to walk out if you don’t get your way imposed on everyone else."

Actually the problem is that we are appointing bishops and archbishops to be managers rather than theologians who can lead us to a uniform view of Scripture through teaching and writing. It's truly sad.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 8:36pm BST

This is a most interesting letter (or at least the signatories are). It will have little impact, but it does tell us quite a lot about the composition and mind of Synod. As to the background, this was an initiative of the Committee of the Evangelical Group on General Synod (EGGS) (a group of which I am a member). The email to all EGGS members of 25 July indicated that the letter would be sent to the College of Bishops if at least 50 members supported it. The letter was not therefore issued on behalf of EGGS, but by ‘members of General Synod’, given that a substantial minority of its members would not have been able to sign it. It is interesting to note that one member of the Committee did not sign the letter, for whatever reason. There were also a number of signatories from the TradCath/FiF grouping.
As noted above, in part, an analysis reveals there are 72 signatories; 34 clergy (representing 16.8% of all the clergy on Synod – elected, ex-officio and appointed) and 38 laity on the same basis (representing 16.5%); 33 dioceses represented. Nil signatures from Newcastle, Carlisle, Truro, York, Durham, Leicester, Sodor and Man, Worcester and Liverpool. Only one woman priest signed; 15 women laity signed (40%); 17 dioceses produced no signatory among the clergy; 15 dioceses produced no signatory among the laity. The highest proportions of signatories per diocese were Coventry (50%), Chelmsford (36%) and Oxford (35%). London was surprisingly low at 18%.
The bar is set very high in terms of doctrine. As a litmus test of opinion, the first we have seen, it suggests that few Synod members are in the status quo camp. However, the $64,000 question is how many more members might have signed it if they had had the opportunity. My sense is that there would have been more, but not many more (perhaps 20 or so). It would be most interesting if a polling organisation was to take the content of the letter and solicit views from across the whole Synod.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 12:40am BST

Re more "biblical study", conservatives ought to ponder the old saying, i.e. be careful what you pray for. One smiles as well at the false dichotomy of the bible v. [modern] culture, as if the bible were not ancient near eastern culture in a suitcase.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 1:44am BST

Schism can only be undertaken by that part of a group totally unwilling to acknowledge the right of ther rest of the group to exercise its legitimate conscience on any matter. Schism is not ever undertaken by anyone willing to engage with the significant 'other' whose views are different.

Therefore; if schism is undertaken by these people who have written to the House of Bishops - contrary to the Church of England's ethos of 'Unity in Diversity' - then they, themselves, will be setting up another (their own) Church community that is not traditionally Anglican. In fact, they could just join up with AMiE, another schismatic group with similar outlook and provenance.

"Where Charity and Love are; there is God!"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 2:18am BST

Interesting article in the New York Times,Is God Transgender? Perhaps a good "study question" for synod bible studies?

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/13/opinion/is-god-transgender.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region®ion=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region&_r=0

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 2:36am BST

"Actually the problem is that we are appointing bishops and archbishops to be managers rather than theologians who can lead us to a uniform view of Scripture through teaching and writing."

That's a bit of a hit one, miss one type of statement, Kate.

Yes, we are enduring a period of frankly unimaginative managerialism from many Anglican bishops in England and beyond.

Yes, bishops *should* be theologians. It would be nice if that part of more bishops' personas could emerge. Some of them might benefit from thinking through the maxim that sometimes it is better for the Church to tolerate heresy (for the sake of argument, = diversity of strongly held views) than to end up in schism.

But no, 'a uniform view of Scripture' is simply not possible in any century or through any type of teaching, whether by bishops or anyone else. Seeking just that is really what has created generations of trouble starting way back with Bishop Colenso, arguably the unwitting father of the modern structures that make up the Anglican Communion. Allowing equality of integrity to a diversity of views might be a better path, but that would require leaders endowed with the gift of imagination...

Posted by Victoriana at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 4:42am BST

"the historic understanding of the church as expressed in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ (1991) and Lambeth Resolution 1.10. [1998]"

Ah yes, the historic weight of 25 year old (or less) documents. /s

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 5:38am BST

"...as if the bible were not ancient near eastern culture in a suitcase."

Those poor and brave leaders in the life of the church who were so benighted, who would have dismissed such a statement out of hand. Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Cyril, Augustine, Cassiodoros, Aquinas, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Bellarmine, Cranmer, Donne, Herbert, et al.

And what a funny doctrine of providence: God left the church in darkness until the proud moment when wise moderns could declare "as if the bible were not ancient near eastern culture in a suitcase."

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 9:34am BST

Kate Over a lifetime in the CofE and I cannot recall a time when people did not moan that 'bishops today' no longer have the character, theological depth and distinctive leadership skills they used to have. There was a golden age somewhere back there but I have yet to track it down. But this a very soft target to aim at. And what is the measure of it - if only weight of angst over the pressing issue of our own day? Are we really climbing that bishops in, say, the 1950's would have handled the ordination of women or 'equal marriage' so much better?

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 10:19am BST

Rod, an interesting article but I am sceptical about its conclusions. The article muddles transgenderism and intersex and if it gets that simple matter wrong, why should we trust its deeper conclusions?

Victoriana, we pray, "Thy Kingdom come" and when it does one aspect of that will be that we then have a united understanding of Scripture, being in the glorious presence of the Almighty. To give up attempts to be as united as possible in our understanding of Scripture before then while we await the new Kingdom seems wrong, indeed sinful to me.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 10:44am BST

Victoriana, your remarks really chime with me:

"...sometimes it is better for the Church to tolerate heresy (for the sake of argument, = diversity of strongly held views) than to end up in schism."

Totally agree.

"But no, 'a uniform view of Scripture' is simply not possible in any century or through any type of teaching, whether by bishops or anyone else."

There has never been uniformity of dogma - that's why we have so many denominations, sects, divisions, and distances between Christians... because uniformity was demanded, and was a justification for breakaway by the 'pure remnants'.

"Seeking just that is really what has created generations of trouble… Allowing equality of integrity to a diversity of views might be a better path"...

And there, in that last sentence, we have the crunch point: people can hold diverse views with integrity. We don't have to dominate them or demand uniformity. There will never be uniformity. Even if we do theology on human sexuality for 1000 years. Diversity may even be a driver for good - in that it demands love and grace and toleration between us, it demands us to fall back on love, and look for something other than dogma in a person.

'Unity in diversity' is so obvious, and yet there always seems to be a 'my way or the highway' mentality, among to many Christian leaders. What we actually need, far more than uniformity, is the opening of our hearts to grace, to love for one another, to the service of the poor and lonely, to the actual business of 'doing love'.

And in our unique natures, and huge diversity... even though we are different from one another... we STILL have unity in Jesus Christ.

The Elizabethan Settlement, as the dust began to settle on the early Anglican Church, attempted to hold some (not all) catholic Christians within the Communion. Anglicanism was not a Geneva-style Protestantism, it was not simply puritanism... it was more. And it was richer for being more.

It was more, and a distinctive Christian tradition in history, because it allowed a little difference, even as people came to the Eucharist, and drew close to Christ. Because in the end, the love of Christ is worth more than a thousand 'pure' and holy sects.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 11:06am BST

Whether we like the idea or not, the Bible is a collection of ancient writings of widely differing types and viewpoints, none of them written in English and all marked by the cultural and religious assumptions of their authors. To ignore this, and the lengthy procedures by which the Church selected the contents of the Bible, and to adopt an uncritical approach to those writings, must eventually reduce the Bible to a magic book completely detached from the historical process. Would it help if we were to adopt the custom of referring not to the Bible but to the Scriptures, making clear that this is not a unified volume with a single point of view?

Secondly, to repeat what I have said before on this site, Issues in Human Sexuality was intended to be a discussion document. By some devious and unofficial means it has been elevated to the status of an official statement of the C of E - despite the fact that shortly after publication its negative comments on same-sex relations were holed below the water line when the chairman of the committee which produced it, Bishop John Austin Baker, stated publicly that he had changed his mind and was fully supportive of same-sex couples. There can be no justification for treating this outdated publication as though it were an official amulet against the evil spirit of change.

Posted by Barry at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 11:15am BST

Kate, when the kingdom comes I suspect arguments over biblical hermeneutics will be moot.

The mission of the Church is to live as if the Kingdom is NOW. So we can hang the arguments over biblical hermeneutics, who's in and who's out, and get on with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner and healing the sick. Remember who we would be serving when we do these things?

And the selection criteria for who we serve are what, precisely...?

Posted by Victoriana at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 1:01pm BST

It is not that the component of what we call 'history' was unknown to the history of interpretation, but that they saw this through the lens of a coherent providential hand. Hence, figuration and divine linkages in time.

We do ourselves no favors when we think of ourselves as so wise because we have recourse to a category we call 'history.' What needs interrogation is whether this produces a false perspective and also heightens our sense of superiority and self-wisdom.

The "cultural and religious assumptions of authors" were taken to be part and parcel of what gave them a special lens within the cultures of their times. The scriptures themselves reflect on this. The dial tone they have is, in Christ, for those without God in the world (so Ephesians 3) now a 'party line.'

But of course if one believes 'God' is generally available without need of a privileged lens, prophets and apostles, obviously then we are just speaking of generic culture trying to throw darts at the sky.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 3:16pm BST

@ cseitz, "Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Cyril, Augustine, Cassiodoros, Aquinas, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Bellarmine, Cranmer, Donne, Herbert, et al." Right, I suppose taking a selfie in the pantheon of Christian thinkers is one form of argument. ( :

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 3:40pm BST

@ Kate, "...an interesting article but I am skeptical about its conclusions." Sure enough. I'm skeptical of some of the author's textual assumptions; but it is an interesting jumping off point. Some of the comments are interesting.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 3:50pm BST

Surely you are mistaken David Runcorn? Could you please name the best academics and theologian bishops of today? There seem precious few to me and nowhere nearly in the same proportion as in former times. Even recent times.

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 3:58pm BST

"Suitcase" is perhaps too brusque, but as Barry points out, there is cultural baggage in the Bible. More importantly, an authority not on the list of worthies cited above, but important for Anglicans -- Richard Hooker -- affirms that Biblical laws, including those given by God, can, and sometimes should, be set aside. (Book III.x) This is particularly true when the reason for the law has either been accomplished or has ceased.

Granting (pace John of Damascus and others) that the first cause for marriage is "to fill the earth," and that this cause has been amply accomplished if not exceded, the second cause, companionship or society, and the third, the prevention of fornication, remain. The question is whether the amendment of the institution opening it to same-sex couples can meet these causes. The church has changed its teaching with regard to the first cause (there was a time when the Fathers called for couples past childbearing to abstinence; and more recently tolerated, and even encouraged, means to prevent conception). The church can ask if a same-sex couple can fulfill the secondary and other causes for the institution. And it appears that the answer is Yes.

Not to be a mere progressive in reaction to an appeal ad antiquum, but there are things in latter times that were not understood in former times -- and may not be well understood by some for years to come. But as Hooker observes, “Laws, though both ordained of God himself, and the end for which they were ordained continuing, may notwithstanding cease, if by alteration of persons or times they be found unsufficient to attain unto that end.... God never ordained any thing that could be bettered. Yet many things he hath that have been changed, and that for the better. That which succeedeth as better now when change is requisite, had been worse when that which now is changed was instituted.” This is all the more true when a law or institution has multiple causes or ends.

The question before the church at present is not whether change is possible — it is — but whether it is right.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 7:01pm BST

"It would also undermine our ability as members of General Synod to offer support and lead to a fracture within both the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion."

Garbled syntax ("offer support ... to a fracture") aside, here we have it yet again--the argument that Synod must perpetuate discrimination within the Church of England because Anglicans abroad insist on it.

There are two flawed premises here.

First, Synod governs the Church of England. That being so, it should put English interests first. Synod should focus on what is best for people in Kent, not in Kampala.

Second, do Anglicans abroad really insist that the Church of England discriminate? From Lambeth2016 and the recent ACC, one begins to suspect that if same-sex marriages take place in England, most of the Anglican Communion won't care.

Synod must not allow fundamentalism abroad to dictate discrimination at home.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 7:08pm BST

Thank you, Tobias, for again being the most authentically Anglican voice of reason.

Yes, we certainly know more now than writers from a pre-scientific age. And the Bible is a document of its time and culture. We must never forget that Scripture has been misused to support slavery, misogyny, racism, anti-semitism, and the burning of heretics (often "uppity women"). We must never forget that those awful things are part of our "Tradition" as well - it is strong enough to require us to question all traditions.

With all due respect to Wisdom of the past, we have the Wisdom of continuing Revelation, in science and in our relationship with God. This is why we hold Reason in high regard. And we don't believe that Revelation stopped millennia ago, that Sophia, Holy Wisdom, the very Breath of God continues to inform us, to open our eyes and soften our hearts.

These 72 writers simply want what they want - the right to oppress others, the right not to have to live with difference, the right not to love ALL of their neighbors, and their personal right to be gatekeepers for God, as if God needed a gatekeeper.

I find the faith and vision for God severely limited in these writers. It is not the Good News for anyone. How are they going to explain themselves to the Incarnation who came here to be the Good News for all people every where?

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 2:04am BST

@ Tobias Haller, " 'Suitcase' is perhaps too brusque..." Sure; but I prefer to think of it as verbal kuzushi. ( :

My point was intended as a rejoinder to the kind of thing below taken from the C of E story (see "published" embedded in the article above) and which one hears often:

"One of the signatories, the Rev Alistair McHaffie ...told us that ... 'I think as Christians, we need to be governed by scripture rather than culture and I fear that the debate is going along the lines of following culture rather than scripture' "

This kind of thing is a double error. Much of the impetus for a sea change on sexual ethics actually comes from folks advocating what they understand to be a scriptural perspective--though not a propositional one for example. Indeed even secular perspectives may owe something to Christian values or otherwise be compatible with them. Conversely, the sacred text is steeped in culture. Wrapping one's self in the flag of biblical orthodoxy and declaring questions closed will not stem the flood of questions from new scholarship raised by articulate voices previously suppressed.

"The question before the church at present is not whether change is possible — it is — but whether it is right." Agreed. One of the things that Bernard Lonergan noted is that a classicist is someone who perceives of culture as normative and his culture as the norm.

The debate over the nature of historical consciousness and competing historiographies continues, is controversial, and will not be resolved by blog posts. All one can do is point to one's assumptions, remind others that differing assumptions exist, and they determine the courses of diverging trajectories.

Regrettably perhaps, 'brusque' one liners are more likely to be read than more detailed rejoinders like this one. Besides, I see the good but choose to do otherwise. ( :

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 3:32am BST

"there are things in latter times that were not understood in former times." Unremarkably, yes.

But the obverse is also true.

That is where I see little recognition. Instead we have the whig account of history (lightly seasoned with the coue method "everyday in everyway I'm getting better and better").

It was possible to believe that the greatest achievements lie behind us, not in us now or in the future. But this kind of thinking seems absent in New World progressivism.

It wasn't absent in Hooker, btw.

Posted by cseitz at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 7:35am BST

Neil. You miss my point. I was not claiming a measurable 'fact'. I was offering an impression, from long CofE memory, that each generation of the church has tended to bemoan the present paucity of its episcopal leadership in comparison with previous eras. But since you ask, I am not sure how to measure the theological weight of the house of bishops in any age - counting doctorates or numbers of chairs? Does that prove or guarantee anything? What makes an academic theologian an effective bishop? And the measurable decline of the church actually began a long way back into the very era you seem to find many more academic/theologian bishops.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 9:50am BST

In the later Thatcher and then the Major years, Labour overcame its historic difficulties with the EU/EEC because they realised that European law provided an avenue for progressive causes which wasn't available via the UK legislature. To misquote Clausewitz, "EU Courts were the continuation of politics by other means."

The same appears to apply, mutatis mutandis, to evangelicals and Africa. Twenty or thirty years ago, few evangelicals in Kent (to take Jeremy's example) would have been able to find Kampala on a map, and even those that could would not have been particularly interested in the readings of the Bible found there. But now, Africa is the main focus of their concern and interest, and you can't hold a meeting without someone proposing some allegedly African facilitation refracted through airport management speak ("the Akan concept of sankofa served as a guiding framework"). But the real appeal of Africa to evangelicals is that it allows them to say "I'm not opposed to homosexuals myself, you understand, but my new friends are, and you wouldn't want to upset them, would you?"

This is offensive on so many levels. Firstly, if people are wrong, that they are in some other regard oppressed is irrelevant: they are still wrong. Secondly, it's the racism of low expectations: it essentialises Africans as African (and a particularly colonialist vision of Africa rooted in noble savage discourses) and implies that this "culture" is incapable of change; British attitudes towards homosexuality have changed beyond all recognition in the less than fifty years since the Sexual Offences Act 1967, and it is wrong to assert that "Africa" (what, all of it?) cannot also change. And thirdly, it again essentialises Africa Christian leaders as conservatives: Desmond Tutu is on the phone, he'd like to register his disagreement.

I don't for a second believe that evangelicals respect the wisdom of Africa (leaving aside the deeply problematic nature of that idea). Their own homophobia is discredited and makes them look like bigots, but they've now cottoned on to the idea that by ascribing their views to "Africa" (when the reality is far more nuanced anyway) makes it fresh, new and unchallengeable. They are acting in entirely bad faith.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 1:44pm BST

@Rod Gillis: I appreciate the rhetorical panache. And I am fond of epigrams. :-)

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 5:58pm BST

'Twenty or thirty years ago few evangelicals in Kent (to take Jeremy's example) would have been able to find Kampala on a map'. Well I would not begin to defend conservative evangelicals here or in Africa on their response to homosexuality. But this rather patronising statement shows large ignorance of the practical, informed and strategic missionary vision that has long been a feature of the evangelical tradition in this country.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 5:59pm BST

"This kind of thing is a double error. Much of the impetus for a sea change on sexual ethics actually comes from folks advocating what they understand to be a scriptural perspective"

Yes, yes and yes. It's why it's an own goal when some advocate change but don't firmly pin their call on Scripture.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 8:55pm BST

@cseitz As I mentioned, I reject both the Norman Vincent Peale notion of Progress and the fallacy of Traditionalism. There are good and bad ideas old and new, and neither novelty nor antiquity prove the worth of any premise.

I will observe that knowledge, if not wisdom, can be cumulative -- though in the course of time some things are lost or obscured. (We don't know how to make Greek Fire, but we can split the atom!) Sadly, the church was responsible for much of the loss, in its zeal to wipe out "pagan" cultures in both the Old World and the New. We literally do not know what has been lost.

I also acknowledge the pervasiveness of the idea of a Golden Age from which the world declined through various less precious metals down to feet of clay, in works ranging from classical Greek to the last chapter of the Rule of St Benedict.

But I suppose the ultimate irony is to realize that the notion that "things were better in the good old days" is a trope characteristic of those good old days.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 9:23pm BST

I agree with David Runcorn that many evangelical churches have long links of service with communities overseas.

My family's home church is a typical example. We had a saintly vicar and his wife who both served many years in Uganda. We had a link missionary there as well, who worked in education for I estimate 30 years. We were blessed by visiting Ugandan priests and lay people who came and stayed, and shared their experiences. And my own daughter lives and works in the slums in Uganda, sharing lives with a community of the extremely poor, who nevertheless have given her more than money can buy, simply in shared humanity in the face of desperate privations, tragedies, joys.

I think Kampala and Uganda are fairly well known, not for championing campaigns against gay sex, but as places where English and Ugandans have shared lives together, tried to learn from each other, and serve together.

Yes, historically there was obviously a colonialist dimension and mentality to that, but my experience has been that the main emphasis has been years of anonymous service and largely unseen common humanity, sharing in the sorrows and celebrations of day to day life, and the deeply impressive hospitality and kindness of people, even in sometimes brutal poverty.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 15 August 2016 at 1:29am BST

"We don't know how to make Greek Fire"

As Dresden and Vietnam show, we have a limitless capability to produce incendiary weapons, whether based on magnesium or petroleum or any number of other things. We just don't know which of a range of possibilities the Greeks used, and it's unlikely we ever will.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 15 August 2016 at 7:05am BST

Indeed so, IO; hence my perhaps too veiled reference to Hiroshima.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 15 August 2016 at 3:23pm BST

The difference of the nature of theology and scriptural authority - its extent, its provenance, etc. - is too widely variant.

The schism HAS happened. You may acknowledge, separate and move on, or play the old ecclesiastical games of empire resulting in a house divided and, ultimately, bloodied and bowed.

Your choice, of course, but the split is done. It's over. I, for one, see unhealthy emotional dysfunction in a church that will not recognize this, and refuses to acknowledge the harm done - if nothing else, in maintaining a pathway for those of the two functionally-separate belief systems to hack and stab (thankfully, only verbally, these days) as we see in these very threads in which even clergy look for the opportunity to spread pain and poison.

To separate, utterly and without further contact or acknowledgement, is the only wise path. Only in that way can healing for actual cooperation *eventually* take place. We have reached base-level disagreement, and two different views of reality. There is no compromise or convincing of one another, only separation.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 16 August 2016 at 7:02am BST

MB at 7.02am:

Having followed this and other ‘progressive’ blogs I believe we are beginning to see the lineaments of three distinctive views all on the ‘progressive’ side of the debate.

1)There are two positions. One is objective, truthful. The other is deranged and dangerous. The tribes and sachems of these two groups need to separate and now. This is overdue. It is morally cowardly for the truthful side to continue to engage the deranged side.
2)There are two positions. One side believes the other side is wrong. Engagement is useful so as to persuade the other side of their error. Blogs give opportunity to dialogue and debate and this is good to move the correct side into a place of final persuasion and triumph, even if this takes a grand march of time.
3)There are two positions. It is important to give room for them both to co-exist in a zone of love. Arrangements need to be found to make sure both groups can co-exist. How this will happen is not clear to exponents or detractors (individual conscience; diocesan integrity; parish-by-parish ‘Missouri compromise’; time limited libertarianism).

Can progressives get behind one position or does it actually matter that they do? Generally speaking, if the cause is right, then agreement and larger coherence in argument isn’t really necessary. So perhaps position 1) is the only one that will struggle. 2) and 3) aren’t in a hurry. 3) can lean on hopefulness and no need to provide a clear plan that accommodates the two positions in a fair way acceptable to all. 2) likes to debate in the nature of the case!

So good luck Mr. Brunson. You will have your work cut out for you with 2) and 3). Unless I am missing something. Or am deranged...


Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 1:57pm BST

@CSeitz, I don't think you are missing anything, and this is an accurate portrayal of the situation on the progressive side. I would only note that the same range of opinion exists on the other side: there are among 'conservatives' those who urge total separation or expulsion, continued debate with formal toleration, or comprehension with assurances of respect for minority views.

Moreover, even after the superior synods of each of the constituent member churches of the communion reach their decisions, it is likely such divisions will continue, with the exception of those choosing the separatist or absolutist course. We see a similar process in politics: there are ranges of opinion within the various parties, but in the end the election happens. But even the election does not stop further discussion, except in totalitarian regimes.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 3:35pm BST

Dear Mr Haller, can you show where these positions (on the conservative side) are so efficiently in one place, so that we may view them?

I ask because my hunch is that most conservatives simply believe the "burden of proof" for changing a teaching and practice is not for them to establish, as this has existed through the centuries.

Those wanting change, however, must deal with the three divergent positions above.

I can quite prayerfully resist 1), and also 2) and 3), as not being consistent with what the church has taught and continues to teach, and find myself in wide and majority company across Christendom East and West.

In this place, Christians can disagree about many things but not about how to deal with novelty.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 6:36pm BST

*I ask because my hunch is that most conservatives simply believe the "burden of proof*

A burden of proof implies you believe the case to be arguable. Conservatives have already decided, a priori, that there is no argument for same-sex marriage that can possibly be made which will convince them. Talk of burden of proof is disingenuous: if you say to a conservative "what would it take for you to agree that same-sex marriage is legitimate?" (and that includes, in most cases, legitimate in civil contexts which are outside the churches' remit) you will get a long piece of flannel which boils down to "no such argument could possibly exist, as it is not legitimate, full stop".

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 12:04pm BST

CSeitz, I don't know of any one place where you can find the range of views on the conservative side expressed. (Apart perhaps from comment threads on some of the blogs!)

However, I know from my own reading that conservatives have expressed each of the views I have described:

1) the absolutist or impossibilist position: "this can not change" as the truth is all on one side, the other is "apostate" if not "demonic";

2) the "engagement" position: while the truth is on one side, continued argument may yet win those in error over to that truth; and

3) the comprehensive position: acknowledging that error has triumphed (locally) but so long as those who still hold to the truth are not coerced or condemned an uneasy truce can be maintained, with hope that sanity will be restored in time.

I think it fair to say that position (1) can be found expressed in at the Stand Firm website, and in parts of the Global South.

It seems to me that your colleague Ephraim Radner (with whom I have had productive conversations over the years) is in the second grouping, in that he is willing to engage in discussion though he is himself secure in his own position.

And I think you will find in the third category some of the Episcopal bishops who have taken advantage of the options presented to them at last year's General Convention. As I served on committee with some of them, I can attest this from personal experience; though I think their public statements are also on record.

Similar lines existed in the debates over the ordination of women (still opposed by the majority in space and time).

I agree that the burden of proof lies with those advocating change, but what constitutes sufficient "weight" varies on the receiving side.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 3:38pm BST

Of course, it may be that some would say that any "conservative" who could be swayed by any amount of proof is "no true conservative."

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 3:45pm BST

"A burden of proof implies you believe the case to be arguable."

No, not necessarily. It simply means the burden is not to be borne unless one wants to seek a novelty, and so must try to make a case.

That is not a place where the vast majority of Christians worldwide are. They believe the tradition and scripture are clear, as well as reason (as Hooker meant that).

Others can make arguments (so 2 and 3), or they can view this position as deranged (1).

And so they do!

Holding to a given and seeking a novelty present asymmetrical challenges. I don't think this is disputed.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 4:18pm BST

Mr Haller

I suspect people like Radner simply accept that, within the pockets of Anglicanism they work (TEC and ACoC), there is no point in further debate (position 2). The progressives have won. The arrangements that presently exist to feint toward 3 will time out. Surely there is no further doubt about this. 'Individual conscience' will time out because dioceses will come under new TEC teaching.

For people in his age category, it is simply a matter of working toward retirement with integrity and finding a way to support Anglicanism where one has missionary commitments, as he does.

So are there 3 positions in conflict with one another on the same terms and with the same final concerns as progressives, within Anglicanism in TEC and ACoC? No. In these places 'conservatives' have lost. They have therefore left TEC, changed affiliations toward Rome or Geneva or elsewhere, or gone into retirement.

Who believes the diocesan apparatus necessary to support conservatives in discernment, education, ordination, and fruitful deployment will exist in ten years? TEC will have moved on. The small cadre of CP Bishops remaining will have retired and their successors will be in the new TEC.

This isn't a matter for despair but for honest acceptance.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 5:03pm BST

*That is not a place where the vast majority of Christians worldwide are. They believe the tradition and scripture are clear,*

That's wildly overstating it. The vast majority of Christians, and everyone else, don't really care. There are a long list of issues which affect their lives, be those issues religious, political, economic, whatever, and same-sex marriage is at most one of those, and a not terribly significant one. It excites a small clique of conservatives for whom it's a huge deal.

To tear a community to pieces over an issue that matters might be regarded as a sacrifice worth making. But same sex marriage? So what?

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 5:42pm BST

Dr Seitz, I did not claim that the concerns or terms were the same, but that there is a range of formal argument (or non-argument in case 1) on both sides. Argument requires at least two sides, and takes many forms on each side. You appeared to suggest, above, that because progressives have engaged multiple formal positions in the debate, this creates some kind of problem for them. I believe that the reciprocal problem -- if it is one -- exists on t'other side.

Obviously the "concern" or substance of one side is to promote change, and that of the other to resist it. I take that as a trivial truth. The point is that, in their engagement, the formal attitudes are the same on each side, throughout the range from absolutism to comprehension. With a change in the object or substance of concern from change to stasis, your original (17 August 2016 at 1:57pm) tripartite division can apply to both sides.

Unless, as I say, you wish to deploy the "no true Scotsman" argument that no real 'conservative' will ever be moved to accept the novelty, but will, if defeated, retire or elope. That is, in my view, position (1).

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 7:22pm BST

Regarding the question of onus of proof, this is something of a mug's game. It is a form of controlling outcomes by attempting to control the parameters of the conversation.

It tends to a kind of political syndrome in which social conservatives, via the deployment of a form of circuitous argument, need never accept what comes into view in a new horizon because of their demand to limit the conversation to only those insights and theories that existed in a previous horizon. It is called curtailing evidence based considerations.

In this fashion conservatives attempt to place advocates for marriage covenant equality in the same predicament as that of Albert Camus' character Meursault (L'étranger) i.e. guilty by virtue of detachment from the assumptions and demands of one's opponent.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 9:58pm BST

Why tear the community apart?

Separate. Have nothing more to do with one another. Surely no one can enjoy this viciousness, back and forth, on both sides.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 19 August 2016 at 5:06am BST

"Who believes the diocesan apparatus necessary to support conservatives in discernment, education, ordination, and fruitful deployment will exist in ten years? TEC will have moved on. The small cadre of CP Bishops remaining will have retired and their successors will be in the new TEC."

I do not consider this position 1.

I do consider it an example of the asymmetry.

It is #4: 'defeated' and no longer able to make any difference inside the ecclesial institution.

Not despair. Honest acceptance.


Posted by cseitz at Friday, 19 August 2016 at 7:11am BST
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