Thinking Anglicans

Scotland: an update

David McCarthy of St Silas Church in Glasgow is indefatigible in his efforts to make a big issue of all this.

He has created a website at www.scottishanglican.org.uk to promote the conservative cause. This contains the text of a press release, and also the text of an email sent to the bishops. Both are in PDF format on that site, but can be found in accessible format below the fold here.
The following further press coverage has resulted:

Scotsman Backing for gay priests could split Scottish Episcopals
Glasgow Evening Times Church split threat over gay priests
Glasgow Herald Retract gay minister stance, church urged
BBC Scotland Church divides over gay priests
Guardian Gay issue divides Scottish Anglicans

Meanwhile, over at www.changingattitudescotland.org.uk a press release says:

Members of Changing Attitude Scotland are surprised that the small, new grouping calling itself the “Scottish Anglican Network” have spent so much time o­n Easter Day debating homosexuality. Most of the Scottish Episcopal Church spent the day rejoicing in the news of Christ’s Resurrection.

The statement of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s bishops of 4 March 2005 does not represent a new innovation – it simply states what has always been the case.

Referring to the Bishops’ Statement, the Convener of Changing Attitude Scotland, the Rev Kelvin Holdsworth said,

“There has been a huge expression of support for the Scottish Bishops from within Scotland and all around the world. It is a joy and a delight that the Bishops have spoken warmly of their gay clergy colleagues. In making their statement, the Bishops have witnessed to a generous orthodoxy which is the norm for the Scottish Episcopal Church. The good news of Easter is for everyone in the church – gay or straight.”

“The Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church have called for discussion amongst those with different views. Those who are calling for the Bishops to withdraw their statement appear to be frightened of that discussion taking place. Members of Changing Attitude Scotland are looking forward to engaging in the dialogue which the bishops propose. We particularly enjoy discussing the authority of scripture and the ways in which we understand the Bible to be consonant with the view that gay people in relationships can live open godly lives within the Christian faith.”

Anyone moved to write to any of the Scottish bishops about all this will find all their contact details here.

For Immediate Release
Easter Sunday 2005
From the Scottish Anglican Network
A growing group of Anglicans in Scotland, concerned by the news that the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church are now publicly stating that homosexual practice is not a bar to ordained ministry, today announced the setting up of a website as part of the attempt by their network of churches and individuals to continue orthodox and mainstream doctrine on sexuality as the public teaching of the Church.
For more visit http://www.scottishanglican.org.uk
They hope that the bishops will choose to withdraw their statement of the 4th March 2005, thus returning the Scottish Episcopal Church to the orthodox teaching of most of the Anglican Communion.
Contact: Revd David McCarthy at david@stsilas.org.uk or on 0141 954 9368
—-ENDS—-

Public copy of letter to the bishops, sent by email 27 March 2005.

Dear Brothers in Christ,

Thank you for your willingness to meet with us on the 7th April. We continue to humbly pray for you and our church.
Having consulted with others who have shown great concern as to the present situation, (as widely as possible in the time scale), at our meeting on the 7th, we respectfully propose the following as our contribution to the agenda:

1. Do you feel able to withdraw your statement, and make it clear that it is not acceptable for clergy to be in a sexual relationship, outside that of a man and a woman in marriage?

2. If you are able to do this, how do you then propose to take discussions forward? We neither need nor desire protracted discussions. Both the Church and the world needs clarity on our position.

3. If you are not able to do this, how do you propose to organise the church in such a way that those holding orthodox and mainstream views on this matter, are able to remain, be cared for, and not be compromised?

4. What are the consequences of no change in your position?

We realise that this is a busy time for all of us but it would be most helpful and constructive if you could give us your considered response to these questions at this meeting. We too have been meeting with urgency this Holy Week, so that we can give you our responses quickly and clearly.

You can expect strong reaction from around the Anglican Communion in the weeks to come, and no doubt will have to publicly respond to this as well.
We pray that you will be courageous, for we know that if you now respond with orthodox teaching, there will be a backlash from other parts of the church.
However, in that event, you can be assured of our wholehearted love and support.
With loving concern in Christ,
Revd David McCarthy, Revd Canon Philip Noble, Revd Mike Parker

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Dr Christopher Shell
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Dr Christopher Shell

A rule of thumb is: Up with those who will debate (constructively & open-mindedly); down with those who won’t. Isn’t the position of the heterodox group on the Bible presented as (a) a bit too uniform and (b) a bit too fixed? The more so as this conflicts with their principles of flexibility in such matters. My suspicion is that one will find a correlation between different clerics’ actual attitude to homosexuals and homosexuality and their interpretation of the Bible. I still suswpect that what is really happening (despite protestations) is that the former is determining the latter. But in… Read more »

Derek Olsen
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Derek Olsen

Dr. Shell,

I completely agree with your rule of thumb and I think that you have correctly identified the issue as differing hermeneutics. Do your labels and caricatures assist open-minded and constructive debate?

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“My suspicion is that one will find a correlation between different clerics’ actual attitude to homosexuals and homosexuality and their interpretation of the Bible.”

As opposed to? Presumably EVERY “cleric” (not to mention layperson) will form their attitudes to *any* issue in reference to “their interpretation of the Bible.”

*My* suspicion, is that Christians with a contemporary prejudice, will continue to justify that prejudice by (anachronistically) reading it into ancient scripture (and that those Christians who don’t engage in this anachronism will be disparaged as “heterodox”).

Dave
Guest
Dave

JCF wrote: “*My* suspicion, is that Christians with a contemporary prejudice, will continue to justify that prejudice…”

Aahh.. more labelling (prejudice, anachronistic etc) – I really think that we should debate the *issue*, and where we use adjectives to describe our disagreement with other groups, try to avoid the variety which are shrill accusation, rather than actually descriptive. Or are we going to descend to the level of “knife attack” debate, where anyone we think disagrees with us is just attacked by any means possible ?

Dave
Guest
Dave

Changing Attitudes wrote. “…… It is a joy and a delight that the Bishops have spoken warmly of their gay clergy colleagues. In making their statement, the Bishops have witnessed to a generous orthodoxy which is the norm for the Scottish Episcopal Church. The good news of Easter is for everyone in the church – gay or straight.” Hey! Let’s not confuse issues here. The Good News of Easter is for everyone, liberal or conservative, gay or straight, male or female, rich or poor, married, single or living in a sinful relationship, respectable or social outcaste, law-abiding or criminal, adulterers,… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Sorry JCF, what I meant to say was that I suspected a correlation between (a) any views they might have had re homosexuality in advance of being confronted with the NT passages and (b) their interpretation of those NT passages.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Derek –

Yes, I agree. All Im voicing is an unproven suspicion not an allegation. I think the grounds for the suspicion are good ones, since the chances of a first-century document just so happening to voice twentieth-century views (and to be seen to voice such views only by precisely those who would wish that it did hold such views) – let alone on a topic like this – are so small.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“I suspected a correlation between (a) any views they might have had re homosexuality in advance of being confronted with the NT passages and (b) their interpretation of those NT passages.” Christopher, you’ve nailed the crux (Ouch! So that’s what those are for!) of my consternation. Do you SERIOUSLY think that “consistent ethic” Anglicans (chastity in singleness, fidelity in monogamous relationships) just wake up one day w/ that belief, and then discover this collection of books called the New Testament? “Hmmm, do you think Paul’s Epistles confirm my gay lifestyle? {They better, I’m meeting a hot date tonight at The… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

JCF, I guess your remarks are probably true for those who grow up in awareness of the NT text.

I dont know what things are like in America, but in Britain I very much doubt whether more than 1% of our youth would know what Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 say (as opposed to what Christians think on the topic).

Whereas the vast majority will have formed views on the morality of homosexuality.

That is why I think the latter precedes the former in most people’s life story.

Jamie Dow
Guest
Jamie Dow

It’s always our tendency to attribute our own views to good reasons, and others’ views to cultural factors, prejudice, and so on. I suggest that what’s needed is a move to debating the issue itself, perhaps the scripture passages, etc.. After all, that way, we treat everyone on the presumption that the reason they believe what they do, is that they have what they take to be good reasons supporting & justifying that viewpoint. I think that working on this assumption is a good way to honour people made in God’s image. So … There seem to be – at… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Good thinking Jamie.
Your proposed questions rightly bear in mind that mere ‘argument from scripture’ is circular. In any case, it’s not as though Romans or 1 Corinthians fell from heaven carved on stone: they reflect deeper and prior experience and thought. And Paul would hardly have felt himself controversial in penning these particular words.

It’s for this reason that I keep scripture out of it (though I do comment on others’ use of scripture). Less circular factors include:
(1) biology and nature
(2) STD-rates
(3) life expectancy.

Tim
Guest

Yes, to base oneself on Paul, one has to query what his reasons were for relevant statements. (Tangent: I find his arguments about head-coverings / hair-length rather dubious, myself.) One also has to consider just how authoritative the OT is – “taken away the old code with all its regulations and nailed it to the cross”, in the words of Col.2:14, or “not an iota of the Law shall pass away”? I’d like to comment about one phrase in all the above, though. This one: “can live open godly lives”. Let’s not forget that godliness, the process of *becoming* more… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

Jamie, Dr. Shell and I and some others did have a slight discussion on the issue on this board a few months back. While interesting and edifying comments were made and it sparked some collegial discussion, I don’t think that the issue was solved or that anyone’s mind was substantially changed. A broader question not addressed in your questions that we discussed then was not simply what does Scripture say but how does Scripture function in the Christian life; is it a set of static rules or is it a guideline that demonstrates how faithful (and unfaithful) people of God… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Jamie

I’d love to get a thorough debate going, though I’m not sure that Simon has designed his site for that…

Maybe we could use a more appropriate site, such as “anglican-mainstream.net” or “biblicalliberal.com” – there have been such discussions on both, though each is predominantly occupied by folk from a conservative or liberal viewpoint (guess which is which!).

Anyone else up for a full debate ?
.

Andrew Conway
Guest
Andrew Conway

I don’t always agree with JCF’s comments on this site, but on this occasion I think she hits the nail on the head (if she will excuse my phallocentric metaphor). Christopher maintains that ‘the heterodox group’ are allowing their culturally-determined views on homosexuality to determine their interpretation of the New Testament. To which I ask: why should they bother? It’s not as if Christians are under any great pressure to reinterpret the NT in accordance with contemporary social norms. Rather, they are under pressure to reject the NT altogether as being totally irrelevant to contemporary social norms. As Christopher points… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“I very much doubt whether more than 1% of our youth would know what Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 say (as opposed to what Christians think on the topic). Whereas the vast majority will have formed views on the morality of homosexuality.” Waitaminnit! So you’re saying you *agree* with me, Christopher? Only 1% have read Scripture, as opposed to something closer to 99% who have been *told* “what Christians think on the topic” [of homosexuality—and thereby had their morality formed by this . . . well, I would say “indoctrination”]? ***** Oh dear, I get to play Bad Cop… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

JCF – Whether the Bible does or does not say anything about ‘gay sex’ is not up for dispute. It clearly does, albeit the thought-framework is in some respects different from our own, which is inevitable. This doesnt mean that our thought framework is superior (or inferior), merely that it belongs to our own period of history. Andrew- I wonder about the idea that ‘contemporary social norms’ are likely to be something good, something that one ought to change in order to accord with. How can this be? They are neutral and historically contingent. There is no more chance of… Read more »

Andrew Conway
Guest
Andrew Conway

Not up to your usual standards of logical rigour, Christopher. “Whether the Bible does or does not say anything about ‘gay sex’ is not up for dispute”. Well, actually it is up for dispute. In fact it is precisely the point that JCF is disputing. I find your term ‘thought-framework’ misleading here, as it implies that the moral ‘thought’ stays the same even though the historical ‘framework’ may change. You don’t seem to be engaging with the relativist counter-argument, which is that we are not just dealing with the same ideas framed in different ways, we are dealing with radically… Read more »

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

Andrew wrote: “…it seems odd to suggest that liberal churchmen are selling out to a secular worldview, when the proponents of that secular worldview are profoundly uninterested in anything that liberal churchmen might think or say or do, except possibly for its comedy value.” Very well said! Almost lost my mouthful of morning coffee chuckling at that 😉 A terribly important point, too. Here in the U.S., moderate to progressive Christians with a liberal political bent (as I have on some issues) really get slammed from both sides. Conservatives tout the “great Liberal/secular humanist/political correctness conspiracy” while the majority of… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“Whether the Bible does or does not say anything about ‘gay sex’ is not up for dispute. It clearly does, albeit the thought-framework is in some respects different from our own, which is inevitable.”

Two words, Christopher: PROVE IT.

[A TA discussion thread isn’t a Primates Meeting, where you can dictate terms—and the burden-of-proof—to *this* Episcopalian!]

With prayers for the repose of the soul of Karol Wojtyla+.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Andrew Conway wrote “Not up to your usual standards of logical rigour, Christopher. “Whether the Bible does or does not say anything about ‘gay sex’ is not up for dispute”. Well, actually it is up for dispute. In fact it is precisely the point that JCF is disputing.” Andrew, Every time the bible’s writers mention men having sex with men it is condemned as sin. The translators don’t use the words “gay sex” but you may have noticed that male gay sex generally involves two men…. Andrew Conway wrote: “I find your term ‘thought-framework’ misleading here, as it implies that… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Dave, “Every time the bible’s writers mention _________ it is condemned as sin.” is a pathetically weak argument in the context of all the “mentioning” that goes on within the obsessively-ritualized (and ethnocentric) worldview of the Hebrew Bible (a worldview Christians view as *finished, via Christ’s completion*). And *that* is even where the “mentioning” can be *understood in contemporary terms* AT ALL! Of all the mention of sexual behavior (Old Testament OR New)—and vis-a-vis other types of sins, it ain’t much—the fact remains that we’re still just *guessing* at the meaning much of the time. (Someone possess some special Seer… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Gosh, this is a new one on me!! Ive heard all sorts of views on this topic, but never till now the view that male-male sex (ie gay sex) is never even mentioned in the Bible. I know this is being disputed (as one might dispute that grass is green etc) – but ppl are at liberty to dispute anything. It doesnt mean that the topics in question are really up for dispute or matters of contention. Well – I dont know – maybe Im wrong, but if I am wrong, what are the points in favour of believing that… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Christopher, the very notion of sex—ANY kind of sex (good, bad, gay, straight, ancient, modern, male, female, intersexed: w/ whatever plumbing, or none at all) is a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. The fact that you can just casually toss off an equation like “male-male sex (ie gay sex)” merely shows *your* construct, Christopher—not necessarily anyone else’s (much less the Biblical writers). Yeah, I’m sure you can just pish-posh this away again (Gosh—via your faux incredulity, for one!). After all just because JCF objects, “doesnt mean that the topics in question are really up for dispute or matters of contention.” (Easter Greetings from… Read more »

Andrew Conway
Guest
Andrew Conway

We seem to have stumbled on something important here .. a mutual incomprehension which may help to explain why constructive dialogue on this subject is so difficult. The problem with the term ‘gay sex’ is that it assumes a fixed and stable notion of sexual identity (‘gay’) expressed primarily through erotic activity (‘gay sex’). It is not obvious that these assumptions can be applied to the New Testament (because the NT writers may not have thought of people as possessing a fixed and stable sexual identity); nor is it obvious that they can be applied to modern gay relationships (because… Read more »

Jamie Dow
Guest
Jamie Dow

Interesting stuff, one and all …. I’m most appreciative of all this discussion. A couple of (slightly tongue-in-cheek) opening salvos: 1) I’ve always found the contention that ‘sex is always a social construct’ a rather amusing idea, and quite manifestly false …. er … does it really need explaining why?!! 2) Burden of proof. The BoP lies with anyone who takes a position on a topic to defend it. Burdens of proof don’t lie anywhere, as far as I know. Now, the main stuff. Hermeneutics: The following seems to follow from what has been said by JCF and others: >>… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Thanks, Andrew: you put things far more clearly than I can (And Everyone at TA said “Amen!” *g*)

However: “I’ve always found the contention that ‘sex is always a social construct’ a rather amusing idea, and quite manifestly false …. er … does it really need explaining why?!!”

. . . the distractions keep a-comin’. Think I’m gonna bail on this thread now, before my blood pressure gets the better of me.

Indeed, He is risen. Alleluia!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Andrew Conway wrote: “The challenge is to define the terms of the debate in a way that everyone can agree on — and if we can do that, then we may actually begin to make real progress.” Sounds good to me. Why don’t you make a proposal of the terms of the debate as you see them Andrew ?… Then we can start testing and working on something. But if you want to listen to what conservatives are saying you will have to not just discard our starting positions by making the following sort of assertion: “But careless talk about… Read more »

BH
Guest
BH

What is a sin? Is it something which is written in the Bible and is said to be sinful? For those who live in faith and with Christianity do we then live with what was written hundreds of years ago or do we move forward and live for today. Much of the churches world would not be what it is today if the readings in the Bible were lived out in an altogether strict (conservative) fashion. It is my hope that we can all learn to accept all of Gods creations in the fullest sense of acceptance. Those who accept… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

We can see the situation in terms of sets and subsets. The biblical passages are fairly sweeping – therefore they are more likely to be speaking of sets than of subsets. Likewise, the phrase ‘gay sex’ is a broad one, inclusive of all sorts of things. It’s a set rather than a subset. As I understand it, what is being contended is that neither is a set, and both are subsets – possibly even non-overlapping subsets. This seems unlikely. A second point: I do think that the fact that we have got into this amount of hair-splitting may itself be… Read more »

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Thanks all, once again. I think that those on this thread who have pointed to the relevance of our doctrines of creation – the dignity of human beings, and implications that this has for the respect and value and dignity that all those in God’s image deserve – are to be thanked. These are central to how we respond to people of whatever race, creed, colour, lifestyle, orientation, whatever. They are easily lost sight of. But these won’t answer our questions about sex ethics. I want to take issue with one apparently very plausible argument that runs as follows: QUESTION:… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

Homosexuality/same-sex whatevers/NH bishops are the presenting cases, not the root issue. The root issue once again seems to be a disagreemenet over hermeneutics. How do we interpret Scriptures, what are the boundaries, and who gets to call an interpretation in or out of bounds? Fundamentally as protestants it’s that last one that’s the kicker. We all formally agreed to disagree with the bishop of Rome and now it’s kind of a free for all. As most know this fight has been fought before–several times. Fundamentalism and modern biblical criticsm were the two tracks that emerged last time. We’ll see what… Read more »

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Derek Olsen wrote: “Fundamentalism and modern biblical criticsm were the two tracks that emerged last time.” I’d have thought that liberals might be a bit miffed to be omitted from your list of principal players, which seems to include only fundamentalists and mainstream-evangelicals. You are surely right, though, to identify the root issue as interpretation and authority in relation to the scriptures. (And you put it rather more snappily than I managed in my earlier post!) I’m interested that you include “who gets to call …” among the root issues. Why do you say that? I don’t think that’s any… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

The number of people actually qualified to interpret a biblical passage is (whether we like it or not) relatively small. Everyone has their six haporth of opinion – then on closer examination they turn out not to know Greek at all (or whatever).

That’s why I always say – Let’s go back to the big commentaries. Since the 1980s we have been blessed with several well-nigh exhaustive commentaries on all the books of the NT.

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Sure, Christopher, but really what you are saying is really concerned with interpretative *principles* (e.g. original language, original context, understanding of the conceptual background, etc.), which – only secondarily – has implications for who it is that ‘gets to call an interpretation in or out’. I’d agree with your implied view: anyone with the necessary ability to apply correct interpretative principles, gets to call. But I’d really call that a view on “how”, not “who”. As someone who’s academic life is spent working on some fairly well-worn ancient texts, I’m not quite as sanguine at the idea of exhaustive semi-magisterial… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

Jamie- I think I got most the whole crowd in there. the majority of Protestants and Catholics aknowledge and participate in modern biblical criticism to one degree or another. One of the traditional ways to describe it–with really broad brush-strokes–is that the more conservative traditions stick with the lower criticisms (i.e., text criticism, etc.) and the more liberal traditions put more emphasis on the higher criticisms (historical, literary, various flavors of modern and postmoder methods like structuralist feminist, womanist, etc.) A general rule of thumb is that the more liberal the church the “higher” the criticism they’re willing to accept.… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Derek – LOL, a ‘haporth’ is more correctly a ha’p’orth or ‘halfpenny-worth’. What I mean is: The big commentaries are, to date, our best chance of getting a reliable and balanced picture of the interpretative options on any NT passage. They may, in turn, be replaced by even better and more exhaustive ones. So, no, we shouldnt stop writing commentaries. Betz illustrates the situation perfectly: (1)On the one hand, Betz should be one of the first stops for anyone trying to interpret the SoM correctly. (2) On the other hand, even a big commentary like Betz is woefully incomplete. There… Read more »