Thinking Anglicans

news from Trinidad

John Gladwin wasn’t the only person recently affected by the policies of the Province of the West Indies.

From the Trinidad and Tobago Express a profile this week of the American priest who had her invitation to return to her native country withdrawn by the local bishop, God loves Gays.

Ifill’s attitude of inclusion-expected, of course, from a priest-landed her in the midst of a local controversy last month, when she became the second cleric from whom an invitation to speak here was withdrawn. The Trinidad and Tobago Anglican diocese cited conflicts between its and the invitees’ views on homosexuality. (The other rejected priest was UK bishop John Gladwell.)

Ifill says media headlines referring to her as “pro-gay” distorted her views on the issue. Her stance might best be described as open and non-condemning.

“I still struggle with the issue,” she says. “Every day you see scientific research and evidence contrary to what we think might be someone taking on (homosexuality) because it’s a fad or because they feel to go this way.”

Ifill tells the story of praying and crying with a suicidal gay young man who had been ostracised by his church and family. The painful experience had a great impact on her outlook.

“It’s very, very hard for me to come hard and fast on any particular side,” she says of the conflict that has been rending the international Anglican community.

But Ifill is certain that her role in dealing with gay parishioners is the same as dealing with straight, that is, to counsel, comfort and-above all-accept.

“The church is called to reconcile all people to God and to each other,” she says. “The church has a mission in this world to preach the gospel and we cannot be about alienation.”

Ifill’s moderate position was close enough to the church’s liberal extreme—concentrated in the USA, Canada and the UK, which supports gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions, to alarm local bishop, Calvin Bess.

He, like other West Indian Anglican leaders, believes gay relationships are a contravention of God’s laws and therefore not consistent with Christianity.

“The whole question of homosexuality has been pronounced upon by the word of God,” Bess says in a phone interview. He cites biblical passages some believe prohibit homosexual acts. One, Leviticus 18:22, reads: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.”

“Who am I to go contrary to the word of God and stay a minister?” says Bess.

Reassurances from Ifill that she would not preach anything contradicting the West Indian position weren’t enough.

“She had a number of programmes in schools,” says Bess. “How would she know the kinds of questions those children were going to ask? I cannot allow myself to be seen as somebody who is saying one thing and doing the opposite. I would look like a madman.”

Ifill is regretful of Bess’s decision and the rift in the worldwide Anglican church.

Here’s the earlier reports of her disinvitation, Anglicans blank another foreign priest on gay issue and West Indies Withdraws Invitation to American Missioner.

For good measure, here’s a recent piece by Angela Infill, What Is Expected of the Baptized?.

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peter
peter
16 years ago

Once again we see a good and faithful priest of the church villified by someone like Bess trying to score points with a the home crowd. When Bess says: “I cannot allow myself to be seen as somebody who is saying one thing and doing the opposite. I would look like a madman,” what he really is saying is: “I am unwilling to stand up for the Gospel and tell the people who hate gays ‘you’re wrong’.” Which of these two, Angela Infill or Calvin Bess, will be remembered as having stood up for the Gospel? Hint: Not the one… Read more »

bls
bls
16 years ago

I don’t really see the problem. As a lesbian, I totally agree with Leviticus 18:22 – lying with mankind as with womankind is definitely an abomination – and I follow it to the letter.

Next?

R. Fletcher
R. Fletcher
16 years ago

The kind of attitude that Bess is showing makes a sham of any agreement to dialogue and study the issues of human sexuality.
How can you dialogue and study when you won’t even let the other point of view near you?
It gives me very little hope for the future of the Communion. For their three years sitting in the corner, the American and Canadian Churches may receive nothing, or very little in terms of being either heard or understoood if bishops such as Bess continue in this way.

dmitri
dmitri
16 years ago

“Who am I to go contrary to the word of God and stay a minister?” says Bess. and then cites Leviticus 18:22 The future of the Communion cannot be based on such a dead end way of reading Scripture. If everything in Leviticus is the Word of God unchangeable then Jesus, Paul and all the saints are unfit to be ministers of God. I know of no Christian community that doesn’t go contrary to the Word of God as found in Leviticus unless it is some very observant Jews for Jesus congregation. The conservatives need to show the communion how… Read more »

sean
16 years ago

It would indeed be an absurd position, if the Leviticus text were the only relevant text in the whole of Scripture – but it is not. This is not to say I agree with Bess’s decision, which seems pretty tragic.

bls
bls
16 years ago

It would indeed be an absurd position, if the Leviticus text were the only relevant text in the whole of Scripture – but it is not.

I’m delighted you feel this way.

There is at most one passage in the entire Bible that speaks against female-female sexual activity – and several important theologians (among them Augustine and Clement of Alexandria) did not read Romans 1 this way.

Since I’m a lesbian, I will henceforth consider the anti-gay position to “absurd,” using your own criterion. Great! Now let’s move on to feeding the Lord’s sheep, as He requested.

Sean Doherty
16 years ago

Hi Bls – sorry, we appear to have a breakdown of communication between what I meant and what you took me to mean. Sorry if I didn’t express myself very clearly, or perhaps you’re simply using what I said to make a cheap debating point. It was hardly as if I was saying that you have to find more than one text in the Bible to say something before you can take it as true… as if working out Christian teaching was a matter of totting up proof texts. That would indeed be absurd (although unfortunately that is the practice… Read more »

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

No, Sean, it is an anti-gay position. Those who are gay but still hold it are simply those who suffer from internalised homophobia, a primary cause of which are religious delusions. Incidentally, I don’t know which psychologists or psychiatrists you know, but its a pretty well-established and accepted definition. Maybe your friends prefer the position of NARTH, whose members have been thrown out of every respectable organisation within their discipline. I feel very sorry for them, but relieved that so few people are dragged into that particulartype of anti-gay thinking. There will be fewer still in the future, as coming… Read more »

dmitri
dmitri
16 years ago

Sean Doherty, I agree that Paul and the Gospels are much more improtant than Leviticus for teaching Christian morals. Jesus’ discussion of marriage says nothing of homosexuality but clearly forbids divorce and remarriage. Yet no one in the conservative wing of ECUSA seems much troubled by second marriages even among the Episcopate. Why is a loose interpretation of Romans 1 considered to be Communion-breaking while a loose interpretaion of the Gospels is insignificant? For that matter, Paul spends just as much ink insisting that women keep their heads covered when they pray as he does worrying about homosexuality, but no… Read more »

Sean Doherty
16 years ago

“I look forward to welcoming you to freedom sometime in the future.” Feel free but you will be disappointed. I have found real freedom, in Christ, as opposed to the drab and ultimately futile life which is offered by the autonomy of the self (i.e. sin). Jesus has given me forgiveness and meaning and hope and there’s no way I’m exchanging that for the mess of pottage which is the ‘right’ to choose your own morality. My views are NOT an anti-gay position, any more than your views are not an anti-Sean position. I do not think you bear me… Read more »

ian_waye
ian_waye
16 years ago

“The view that gay sex is not right is not an anti-gay position.” I agree. As I see it, gay sex is wrong. But it is very unfair to proclaim that those who sincerely hold this view (which comes, as we see it, from the Bible) are in any sense “anti-gay.” Such an allegation seems to come almost invariably when one declares where one stands on this issue. I’ve met and continue to meet with several gay people, and have no “anti” feelings towards them whatsoever. Please, please let’s bury this notion – it is what we perceive the Bible… Read more »

Annie
16 years ago

It seems absurd to me that she is being ostrasized for believing that homosexuals are also children of God and believing they are worthy of pastoral care. This belief, if I understood the findings of the Primates in Scotland, is germain to the pronouncement that persecution and denial of homosexuals to pastoral care are an anathema now in the worldwide communion. There is no scripture that justifies treating anyone as unworthy of God’s love. Of course, I have always been somewhat mystified by this debate. Well, more power to her … she has been persecuted for the kingdom of God,… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
16 years ago

Merseymike is not correct here. There are rational positions and emotional (e.g., fear-based) positions. They are (obviously) not the same thing. On a given topic one’s reason may lead one to the opposite conclusion to one’s emotions on a topic. There are plenty of possible examples: (1) A person is aesthetically attracted to, and emotionally attached to, the elegance of evolution theory, but compelled to reject it for lack of empirical evidence at key points. (2) Conversely, someone may be rationally convinced by evolution theory but emotionally repelled by its consequences for human dignity. (3) Someone may have homosexuals as… Read more »

Owain Jenkins
Owain Jenkins
16 years ago

Mike, thank you for your professional judgment on NARTH. When it comes to psychiatry and psychotherapy we must not listen to those charlatan professors Satinover, Socarides and Nicolosi. Dr Robert Spitzer of APA has clearly shown that same-sex attraction is immutable.

Dismas
Dismas
16 years ago

Leviticus 18.22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind”
Aah, but can one lie with womankind as with mankind? 😉

More seriously, I find it sad that someone like Angela Ifill is condemned because she hasn’t condemned. This polarising attitude sees people as either for or against, instead of perhaps questioning or trying to be a bridge.

Sean Doherty
16 years ago

“It seems absurd to me that she is being ostrasized for believing that homosexuals are also children of God and believing they are worthy of pastoral care . . . There is no scripture that justifies treating anyone as unworthy of God’s love.” Well said Annie – regardless of my other thoughts on this matter I think you are 100% bang on the mark here. Owain – Robert Spitzer’s study found the precise opposite of what you suggest. I do think it is a highly selective study and not at all the concrete evidence which the ex-gay movement would like… Read more »

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

Oh, I haven’t been convinced by the bogus ‘love’ of evangelical Christians for me , for a long time. I prefer to receive the genuine love and friendship of those who affirm and accept me and my relationship.

Not the conditional judgment of book-worshippers. I feel sorry for them but many do grow out of it – there are so many ex-evangelicals about, like virtually everyone else I knew during my two evangelical years,many moons ago…

Simeon
16 years ago

dmitri wrote:
“Yet no one in the conservative wing of ECUSA seems much troubled by second marriages…”

Noticed that, have you ? 😉 Indeed, the AAC mega-church here in town, which has one of the most vociferous “orthodox” rectors anywhere, is chock-full of divorced parishoners. And nary a complaint from said rector to be heard. Heck, *he’s* divorced and remarried, too (www.christchurchplano.org)

But who needs that pesky Gospel, anyway ?! Not when you have a highly questionable interpretation of Paul to guide you…

Annie
16 years ago

Mersey, There is a genuine reason to be clear about what happened here and the difference. I did not see that she is gay affirming at all. From the story, however, I saw that she is a person of compassion and, whatever her judgements, has offended by being inclusive in her ministry. I clearly see that there are three factions and one of them is teaching something so contrary to scripture, something so vile, that we should stop at nothing to stop them as they work to destroy all the good in the world. Yes, I believe it is that… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
16 years ago

I hate to fixate this thread on “gay sex” but, once again, when gays are the subject, it’s what those who oppose our equality ALWAYS fixate on. What the heck do you, sean and ian, mean by “gay sex”? (as in “gay sex is not right”/”gay sex is wrong”) *Is whenever two people of the same gender touch each other “gay sex”, or only if they’re attracted to each other (i.e. homosexual orientation)? *Or only if the love each other? *Or only if they receive pleasure in touching? *Or only if their “naughty bits” touch? (How naughty? Erogenous zones vary… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
16 years ago

Hmm…
Falling back on the fact that definitions are difficult (as they generally are, as well as being circular) is a favourite obfuscatory device. But it is purely negative, and therefore of little value unless some positive way forward is also recommended.

Sean Doherty
16 years ago

“What the heck do you, sean and ian, mean by “gay sex”?” This is a good question, reflecting a deep ambiguity in our culture: boundaries between sexual and non-sexual relationships, physical touch, intimacy, love and affection etc can be very blurred. In the instances I used the phrase “gay sex” I meant simply sexual intercourse between members of the same sex – I didn’t intend it to mean anything more broad than that. Obviously it’s not just any physical touch between members of the same sex just as when a man and a women hug or shake hands it’s not… Read more »

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

Which is fine if thats what you have convinced yourself, Sean, but I find conservative/traditional Christianity utterly unconvincing . I mean, I have a choice between following an outdated an intellectually bankrupt approach to faith which would condemn me to a loveless life, all for pie-in-the-sky promises based on literal readings of a 2000+ year old book which the same realigionists read all sorts of supernatural mumbo-jumbo into – even though we really ought to know better by now! Or I could have a living faith which takes account of the reality of science and contemporary knowledge, is rooted in… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
16 years ago

No, Sean, sex isn’t necessary. . . . but LOVE is, and I believe that in your version of Christianity (which, as I understand Scripture, Tradition and Reason, I do not share), love is *defined out*. “Thanks but why are you sympathetic? It’s not as if I’m unhappy!” I’m not talking a shallow “happy”, Sean. I’m talking right relationship w/ God. “At the end of the day I have a choice between ignoring my understanding of the teaching of the same book in which I meet and am transformed by that man” Sorry, Sean, but I’m just not buying it:… Read more »

Sean
16 years ago

Mike I can’t be bothered to point out all the straw men in your comment (on a cursory reading I count a minimum of 6) but suffice it to say that given a choice between your vague faith in a God who is barely capable of action and my experience of forgiveness and freedom in Christ I know which I’ll pick (this is based on what I understand of your faith from our past interactions). It seems to me that your faith is far more like pie-in-the-sky than mine! Without a living, active and dynamic God who redeems real people… Read more »

bls
bls
16 years ago

“[Incidentally I would be fascinated to follow up the texts in Aug and Clement as I haven’t come across their readings of Romans 1. Please could you provide references for me to look up?]” Here, Sean, is an article by James Alison, a priest in the Catholic Church, that discusses Romans 1 (and the relevant passage “For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural….”) Here’s the relevant quote from that article: A quick show of hands in any English-speaking country nowadays would probably agree to the following statement: ‘This quite clearly… Read more »

bls
bls
16 years ago

“I believe that we need love. But are you really going to tell me that the only way one can find God-given love is in a sexual relationship? And if it’s not in some sense a sexual relationship, how does it differ from a good old-fashioned thing called friendship?” I think the sex part has been blown way out of proportion. Sex is the expression of love, not the other way around. And sex – really, now! – takes only about 10 minutes out of the average person’s week, give or take. (That’s an exaggeration, of course, but you know… Read more »

bls
bls
16 years ago

I guess this site doesn’t accept HTML, so I’ll just give you the URL for the page that contains the citations: http://www.othersheep.org/clobber4.htm

And here’s the page that contains the James Alison article: http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/Romans1.shtml

Sean
16 years ago

BLS – thanks very much for those links. I haven’t read much by James Alison before so it was good to read his in particular. He’s a very engaging writer. I remain pretty unconvinced about the whole “exemplary rather than prohibitory” argument in Romans 1 though. You said: “The rest is about partnership, support, love, relationship . . . But the Church forbids two people of the same gender, who love each other and want to live and die together, from entering into a “marital” relationship like this: “to have and to hold, for better or worse, in sickness and… Read more »

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

Sean ; you forget that any amount of you telling me about your faith will really make no difference. Having been an evangelical for two years, I came to the conclusion that it is essentially delusionary. Nothing has happened in the twenty years since to change that opinion. I’m sure you really do believe what you say, but then, so do people with all sorts of religious and other opinions. Its simply not convincing me. Its also the case that there’s really nothing about conservative Christianity which I find appealing – when I returned to faith, it was to liberal… Read more »

Sean
16 years ago

I haven’t forgotten any such thing; I am perfectly well aware how entrenched you are! Obviously, your wealth of experience as an evangelical means you are completely qualified to pronounce on the delusionary nature of my faith. Perish the thought that I might have thought about it myself but come to different conclusions to Merseymike!

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

Which no doubt you have. But, nevertheless, because you regard your experiences as real and genuine, you look askance on Christian viewpoints which would not fit that experience in terms of application of the bible and belief in direct intervention. I mean, I could reverse what you say and apply it to me, but you wouldn’t regard that as equally valid. So why do you expect me to do the same for your viewpoint, which utterly defies my experiences as you appear to think mine defy yours! The point remains that I don’t believe your religious viewpoint has anyhting very… Read more »

ian
ian
16 years ago

Mike, what you are in effect saying is that you don’t like what an evangelical believes, therefore you will make up something along your dispositions. You have in this thread alone made some pretty damning comments not only on evangelicals per se, but also even on the Bible, which even the most liberal would accept has at least some bearing upon the Christian faith!

You must forgive me being blunt, but I’m left wondering whether you have any faith at all, other than a libertine approach that permits one to do whatever one wants and believe whatever one wants.

bls
bls
16 years ago

“BUT I would add that I think it ought to be celibate, because it would be a covenant of friendship not of marriage, and I would add that it could not be exclusive, for the same reason. I would love it for my friendships to reflect that kind of level of love and commitment. What on earth could be wrong with that?” I’m not at all opposed to something like this. But the fact remains that the relationship is not permitted to exist at all. Friends don’t make these kinds of vows to one another; marriage partners do. If gay… Read more »

bls
bls
16 years ago

And the question asked above, the one that asks “what actually do you MEAN when you talk about ‘gay sex’,” is very pertinent, IMO. Where does this “gay sex” thing actually begin and end? Are you really asking that gay people never go out on a date? Never even experience a kiss? I knew I was gay when I was about 10 years old. Should I have accepted, then and there, that I could never date or hope to fall in love? Isn’t it a little weird to expect this of a 10-, or a 12-, or an 18-year-old? And… Read more »

bls
bls
16 years ago

(Anyway, I promised myself I wouldn’t argue about this topic anymore, so I’m going to cut myself off and get going now. So long.)

Sean
16 years ago

Mike: obviously. I’m not particularly posting here to try and get you to change your mind. I freely admit that my position isn’t readily acceptable or perhaps even comprehensible to somebody whom doesn’t believe major aspects of historic Christianity, e.g. a personal God active in human lives today and the (moral and other) authority of Scripture over Christians. At least you are highly consistent. I guess I am confused more by people who seem to be situated in historic Christianity yet set aside the authority of Scripture. NB this is not to say that all revisionists do this, since some… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
16 years ago

But bls, you make all my arguments so much better than I do! {smooch}

Pray for Nottingham, y’all!

Christian Fellow
Christian Fellow
16 years ago

I teach Special Needs children, Autistic, Down Syndrome, Pervasive Developmentally Delayed, Physical Support etr. Over the years I have had several gay students. You tell me how a high functioning down syndrome child chooses homosexuality over the conforts of a straight life and I”ll be happy to come to your church. This isn’t a learned behavior. I don’t believe its a choice. I see young people every day and I can say they’re more interested in being like the hero’s or dressed in Abercrombie and Fitch or having an IPod. They want to fit in and be like everyone else.… Read more »

Christian Fellow
Christian Fellow
16 years ago

I forgot…. I did post this on Titusonenice but the dear good father deleted it. I was dissapointed since I was hoping to at least be heard and considered. Is thinking dead? Reflecting? Maybe changing? I pray not.

Dave
Dave
16 years ago

Ian Wrote to Merseymike: “You must forgive me being blunt, but I’m left wondering whether you have any faith at all, other than a libertine approach that permits one to do whatever one wants and believe whatever one wants.”

Yes, I’ll be very interested to hear Mikes reply to that one.

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

Sean ; Your position is certainly comprehensible to me, but I think the divide is so profiund that there isn’t a good deal of common ground. A question. Given that I am not about to change my mind or leave my partner, is your aim to see people with my views and within gay relationships removed from the Church of England? Or do you agree with me that a parting of the ways should take place simply because the current climate and ongoing argument is neither feasible nor helpful in the long term? What concerns me is that there clearly… Read more »

Dave
Dave
16 years ago

Come on Mike, tell us what you DO believe about meaning and Christianity..

Sean
16 years ago

Bob/Christian Fellow: I appreciated your comments. Certainly some Christians believe that homosexuality is a choice. I certainly do not believe that it usually is. Mike: I certainly do not see people in same sex relationships as removed from the church. I certainly would never pronounce on their relationship to God or their eternal destiny, as some seriously presumptuous Christians do even though Jesus explicitly told us not to. The simple reason is that we all sin and homosexual activity is one sin amongst many and indeed I know many gay people in relationships who are far more Christlike than I… Read more »

Merseymike
Merseymike
16 years ago

But I don’t believe it is a sin, Sean – so I would be a hypocrite if I said that was the case.

Christian Fellow
Christian Fellow
16 years ago

Sean: Nor do I (believe it is a choice). I’ve taught too long and watch very carefully students grow up and boom, puberty hits. For many it takes the form of Heterosexuality but for some no. I almost can tell for certainty from before puberty who many of the kids will be gay. After so many years you get a feel for these things though not always right. I feel it’s just as natural for the “gay” person to feel the way they do as a straight person. I am tommorrow getting a letter of transfer from my home parish… Read more »

Christian Fellow
Christian Fellow
16 years ago

I don’t think Gay is a sin! If it’s a sin and it’s not a choice then are we saying God made them gay so they could be alone for the rest of their lives with out hope of being in a relationship? Thats like saying that because I’m Black I should abstain from a relationship because of my colour. This isn’t a choice. What what a white straight person say if they had been told,”your white and your straight and you’ll have to obstain from sex or a partner because God made you white and straight. Its a double… Read more »

Sean
16 years ago

But why should it necessarily be right to act on one’s innate desires? Please note that innate and natural are not necessarily the same thing. bThe fact that one desires something proves nothing about the legitimacy or otherwise of fulfilling that desire. This is a big hole in your argument.

Tony
Tony
14 years ago

When one becomes saved the old man is dead and a new man is created in Christ! Alive unto the Lord and dead in the flesh! Pretty simple solution to many questions of right and wrong!

Tony

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