Comments: Further reactions to the letter from William Nye

Anthony Archer's contributions on TA are very valuable but I fear I must disagree with his suggestion that we should add a parallel rite which does not change the definition of marriage.

The esse of Eucharist is... communion. The talk about forgiveness is perhaps better understood as acceptance. For as long as othering is a part of doctrine, Eucharist in the Church of England is broken. Looking round the table and thinking "Jane is not really a bishop" or "Andrew and Brian are not really married" is completely incompatible with the Eucharist.

This is why we need a proper theological response, not just to Nye, but for the Church as a whole. In Anglican tradition, the Eucharist is a sacrament; marriage isn't. We have to start with the Eucharist, not a consideration of marriage in isolation, and consider what that means regarding the unconditional acceptance of others.

The other two letters, worthy though they are, buy into the premises of the oppressors. Was it Rod Gills who made that observation on TA in a comment a couple of days ago? We should survey attitudes. Sure. Interesting... but irrelevant. The fundamental is that for effective Eucharist we have to stop othering some members of our communion.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 27 April 2018 at 5:00pm BST

Kate,
I don't think that surveying opinions is irrelevant. Ultimately, it is not us here on Thinking Anglicans who will change the church, but the members of the three Houses in General Synod.
While they fear that the majority of people in their churches opposes same sex relationships, they will not ever consider voting for change.
Once they realise that same sex relationships are fully accepted and supported by the majority of Anglicans (which is what other opinion research suggests), they will find it much easier to take a deep breath and have the courage to vote for change.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 27 April 2018 at 5:54pm BST

What’s missing in all this is a forthright statement that William Nye’s conduct was utterly unethical. He seems to confuse the role of policy makers (eg, the Archbishops COUNCIL) with the role of policy implementers (the Council STAFF). Sir Humphrey needs to be put in his place.

Jayne Ozanne relates a story of the Archbishops Council staff blithely overturning a carefully deliberated decision of the Council because of their arrogant belief that the Council has “got it wrong.” Clearly there is a cultural problem pervading the Church of England where the bureaucrats believe that they are and ought to be in charge.

Frankly, Nye should be dismissed for misconduct.

Posted by Malcolm French at Friday, 27 April 2018 at 10:40pm BST

Erika, I disagree. One of the fundamental charges of conservatives is that the Church is pandering to social attitudes rather than theology. Suggesting that a survey of attitudes is likely to change Church of England doctrine confirms those fears are correct and is likely to entrench opposition to change - and rightly so.

We should *only* change something so fundamental for theological reasons. Moreover, a change based on attitudes is likely to lead to the sort of regressive change Anthony suggested. It would be a very sad day if doctrine was informed by attitude surveys rather than mediation upon Scripture and discernment of the direction of the Spirit. If we believe that the Church should celebrate same sex marriages we should have the confidence to argue for it on theological grounds.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 27 April 2018 at 11:40pm BST

Kate, your comment seems to be freighted with the idea that the ordinary laity in the pews are not capable of being the source of theological discernment and faithful reflection. That seems a rather elitist, possibly clericalist, view to me.

Posted by Jo at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 8:39am BST

When Andrew Nunn recently received the Canterbury Cross, I was shocked to read this in the citation:

'For many years, Andrew took the minutes for senior staff meetings; they were always a highly entertaining account of what should have been said, expressed with his inimitable humour. The Canterbury Cross symbolises the affection in which he is held, and the gratitude owed to him by the present and former Archbishops of Canterbury on behalf of the Church of England.'

So we are openly rewarding highly placed staff for knowingly sending out inaccurate minutes of meetings?

Posted by Janet Fife at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 9:30am BST

There seems to be a surfeit of talk about who does NOT speak for the CofE. But equally no agreement as to who does:

1. sound theology emerging from what, a committee?
2. polls, "on the ground truth" however one might ascertain that...
3. Bishops
4. Synod
5. Prior consensus until changed (Nye)

No wonder there is equal confusion about the role of the CofE vis-à-vis the Communion and/or that of the ABC. Both inside the CofE and -- given claims made about it -- outside as well.

Jordan Hylden wrote and assumed someone could be on the address line. All we hear is who or what cannot be.

Posted by crs at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 10:03am BST

I don't think any one is suggesting doing doctrine by popular vote Kate. I agree it is about theology. But one of the accusations is often that the church is out of touch when it speaks. If we want a theological debate a priority is to know where people in the room are starting from and what they are thinking. Surveys are one way of listening and leading from a more informed position.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 10:24am BST

Kate, I agree that surveying members would not be very helpful here. A survey of membership would be prohibitively expensive and open to manipulation by minority groups (as elections to Synods etc. already are).

It is probably worth pointing out that William Nye’s original letter makes the claim that ‘for a majority in the... Church of England Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s will’. This unfounded assertion without corroboration is presumably why the issue is being raised. Of course, were such evidence to exist that this was indeed the dominant view from the pew it would merely demonstrate that a majority of people are in hock to dubious hermeneutics. The church might make rules, Holy Scripture can’t. The ‘No sex outside het marriage’ rule is eisegetic nonsense.

As Mr Nye’s letter also purports to tell us what he claims a majority in the RC church believe, It is timely to be reminded of one of Cardinal Ratzinger’s better statements: ‘the truth is not decided by majority vote’.

Odd that when conservatives reject the notion of listening to what a majority in society want, they then try to claim that what a majority in a denomination want is a killer argument.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 12:13pm BST

"It would be a very sad day if doctrine was informed by attitude surveys rather than mediation upon Scripture and discernment of the direction of the Spirit."

The quoted sentence confuses process, on the one hand, with evidence of result, on the other.

Attitudes, as reflected in surveys, may be the fruits of very deliberate meditation and careful spiritual discernment.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 3:19pm BST

FYI - The American liberal blog, Episcopal Cafe, has been covering all of this and the commentary has been minimal. In the past, there would have been numerous heated responses. I'm not really sure how to interpret that. It could be that we in TEC have grown numb, or that we've reached a stage of maturity that doesn't call for heated responses, or that we have other concerns in the age of Trump (like avoiding nuclear WWIII, and responding to racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia...).

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 6:03pm BST

Agree with Cynthia about the Episcopal Cafe (admittedly, due to the changes in its layout, I've not posted there in a while, but others continue to do so). If Canterbury expects the TEC to be up in arms, they'll be disappointed. The two churches have simply grown too far apart.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 7:14pm BST

Were I part of TEC's task force on marriage, I would conclude that Mr. Nye's letter isn't worth the paper it's written on, as an expression of actual CofE views.

Considering Mr. Nye's letter as an expression of the Archbishop of Canterbury, wearing his Communion-must-be-preserved-no-matter-the-cost-to-English-LGBTQ-people mitre, I would conclude this: We have disregarded you before and we will (correctly) disregard you again.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 28 April 2018 at 8:07pm BST

To Cynthia’s comment, and as I posted in the original thread, I’ve just lost interest. My expectations of the C of E is that it will behave toward TEC as if it were Chaucer’s “smiler with the knife.” Not all individual Anglicans, of course, but the institution, as Williams and Welby have made their political choice, and will pursue it to the end.

So no real point in getting worked up about it.

Posted by John Wirenius at Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 12:11am BST

"Attitudes, as reflected in surveys, may be the fruits of very deliberate meditation and careful spiritual discernment."

Underlying a number of reasonable responses (like that) to what I said is a very deep question, "How does God tell his church what direction to take?"

You would think that the Church would have theology on such an important question but it is another gap in the theology. One reason why evangelicalism is popular, I think, is that it is much more open to the idea that lay people might receive messages from God either in the form of Guidance or speaking in tongues. I agree with some above who say that lay voices matter. But we still lack a mechanism, as a church, to compile the various messages that God sends us as a Church. I don't think an attitude survey is that mechanism.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 8:10am BST

William Nye confidently claimed that the majority of churchgoers oppose same sex marriage.
Thatis the claim that needs to be verified, because all surveys to date suggest that it is false.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 29 April 2018 at 8:42pm BST

"But we still lack a mechanism, as a church, to compile the various messages that God sends us as a Church. I don't think an attitude survey is that mechanism."

Agreed. I think that mechanism is General Synod.

It certainly isn't the Archbishops' Council staff.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 30 April 2018 at 2:10am BST
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