Thinking Anglicans

Welsh bishops statement

The Church in Wales: Bishops’ statement on homosexuality 2005
Official Press Release here

The Bishops of the Church in Wales recognise that its members hold a wide range of views on a variety of ethical, social and theological matters. One such issue is the Church’s approach to homosexuality.

For some time, we have recognised that there are honest and legitimate differences on this subject. The church needs to engage prayerfully in this debate with humility, generosity of spirit, reflection on biblical witness, mature thought and careful listening. The harsh and condemnatory tone, which at times has coloured this debate, is unacceptable.

We uphold the traditional Anglican emphasis on Scripture read in the light of reason and tradition. We recognise that the interpretation of Scripture is in itself an area of divergence among Christians. We are at pains to emphasise the need to respect one another and remind the Church that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God. Sexuality is only one aspect of a person’s humanity.

As with many issues there, exists a wide range of Scriptural interpretation within the Christian church. On same-sex relationships we acknowledge that the following fairly reflect the range of views held within the Church in Wales.

Some people, reading the Scriptures with integrity, reach the conclusion that the only proper context for sexual activity is marriage between a man and a woman in life­long union. Homosexual practice of any kind is therefore rejected.

Others, reading the Scriptures with integrity, adopt a more sympathetic understanding of homosexuality, but would not at present wish the Church to sanction homosexual practice.

Others, reading the Scriptures with integrity, conclude that orientation and practice are to be distinguished and that the Church can welcome same sex relationships provided they are celibate.

Others again, reading the Scriptures with integrity, conclude that the Church cannot dismiss as intrinsically disordered permanent and committed same-sex relationships; they believe that through their internal mutuality and support, these bring creativity, generosity and love into the lives of those within them.

Others, reading the Scriptures with integrity, conclude, in the light of a developing understanding of the nature of humanity and sexuality, that the time has arrived for the Church to affirm committed homosexual relationships.

The challenge and call of our discipleship is to live, worship and work together in all our diversity. Rejecting all forms of stigmatisation we commit ourselves to listening to people whose sexual orientation may be different from our own.

25 November 2005

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Christopher ShellGerard HannonJ. C. FisherDaveGöran Koch-Swahne Recent comment authors
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Gerard Hannon
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Gerard Hannon

What a blessing, from the Bishops of the Church in Wales.

Their statement is much more in the spirit of the Lord, and true to the historic Anglican tradition, than most of what I have been reading on this issue.

Well done, indeed.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

This is very helpful. “Some people, reading the Scriptures with integrity… [et al]” Is there any Anglican who would *disagree* with this—that this is an accurate description of the situation within the AC (and the range of opinions “with integrity” to be found therein)? [I freely confess that I *believe* that most Anglicans who “reach the conclusion that the only proper context for sexual activity is marriage between a man and a woman in life­long union. Homosexual practice of any kind is therefore rejected” *AREN’T* “reading the Scriptures with integrity” (because they consistently speak from a mindset of manifest *prejudice*,… Read more »

Alan
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Alan

After announcing that the statement is ‘very helpful,’ J.C. Fisher asserts that the first option is held by Christians who “speak from a mindset of manifest prejudice, not Scripture.”

He/she then creates a rhetorical escape hatch by saying, “I believe the first item in the range of opinion above is POSSIBLE.”

Do you think that’s what the Welsh bishops had in mind?

Anna
Guest

Many thanks to the Church of Wales, and amen to all its bishops have said.

Peter O
Guest
Peter O

Doesn’t say anything new, so why bother saying it? Just my honest reaction.

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

This is a document that’s very generous of spirit. Good for the Church in Wales! “Some people, reading the Scriptures with integrity… [et al]” To which JCF responded: “Is there any Anglican who would *disagree* with this ?” I’d hope not, but I’m very afraid there *are*. I could be convinced otherwise if Dave, Neil, steven, Dr. Shell, etc… would *ever* admit, while I may be wrong, that I read Scriptures with integrity. I just don’t see this happening – which is quite sad, as I’m willing to give *them* the benefit of the doubt that way (which is in… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

Finally…serious Anglican leadership! What a refreshing contrast to the likes of Ankinola, Duncan, and Co.

BrianMcK
Guest

This is a good summary of the state of understanding at present. Archbishop Morgan’s recent Autton Lecture was most helpful and positive. http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/archbishop/b0014e.html

But what do the Welsh Bishops propose to do in the light of this? Will they (or do they already) allow people living in comitted same-sex relationships to be ordained, for instance?

Dave
Guest
Dave

Even atheists would read the scriptures “with integrity” according to the arguement used by the Welsh bishop’s statement! Although I think that people in the AC hold a range of *views* on homo-sexual sex “with integrity”, I have yet to hear any exegesis of Scripture that convincingly supports the view that homosexuality is not intrinsically disordered, or that committed homosexual relationships should (or can) be blessed. The “pro-gay-sex” positions are always supported *starting* with arguements such as: > “in the light of a developing understanding of the nature of humanity and sexuality” (which is often reduced to the “homophobia” arguement)… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Whichever of the above options is the best one, it can’t be the last one which says ‘the time has come’. Because if it’s good and right now, it will have been good and right before now as well. Therefore the correct time is not now, but rather it will always have been the correct time. If homosexuality is biological and genetic, that is.

The very clause ‘the time has come’ suggests a more sociological / nurture / environmental view of homosexuality, which I thought was not characteristic of the pro-gay viewpoint.

Lois
Guest
Lois

To read the Scriptures “with integrity,” means, to me, reading them with an open mind and open heart, ready to learn and to perceive something new. So, from that perspective, yes, even atheists can read the Scriptures “with integrity,” and I have no doubt many do. I also have no doubt that many sincerely believing Christians do not do so. All any of us can do is to follow our own consciences, hoping we are being lead by the Spirit, and not by our own desires or prejudices; and to respect the fact that others can only do the same.… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

The Church in Wales is a tiny, dying, denomination with a large number of bishops per faithful (and a hegemony of liberals too, except for one or two). Whatever you revisionist liberals make out of this, it will have almost no impact on the Universal Catholic Church!

Tom
Guest
Tom

“We uphold the traditional Anglican emphasis on Scripture read in the light of reason and tradition.”

Sorry kids but this is utterly, utterly false! Scripture IS NOT subject to reason or tradition. It is the reverse, that reason is to be informed by Scripture. When are we going to stop rewriting history to fit our agenda?

Neil
Guest
Neil

David Huff, I wonder what is to be gained by personalising this, as you have above. I’m not aware of any of those you criticise saying anything remotely like you never read the Bible with integrity. How would they/we know? I am very willing to concede that many if not most Christians read the Bible with sincerity. I must equally assert that it is very possible to “read” the Bible wrongly – ie to understand it wrongly. Ultimately God didn’t reveal Himself and His truth in an ambiguous way – it is surely up to us to wrestle with His… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest

Peter O says there is nothing new in this. As an old and experienced hand in all that has happened in the last few years he means, I suspect, that Wales has no novelty to offer to the worldwide debate – he has seen it all before. But the people of the Church in Wales have not seen this before. Our Province has only recently begun to explore its understanding of the different views held by the faithful here. Gently our bishops have pastored us to open our hearts and minds on this matter with each other. So for us… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

This kind of mutual respect for honest difference of opinion is part of what drew me to Anglicanism in the first place — I’m glad it hasn’t completely disappeared from the Communion — yet…

“the time has come” does not mean that in earlier time slavery was right or that woman should have been treated as sub-human — just that patriarchal human society had not yet achieved what God is calling us too — we’re still not there, I suspect.

Stephen
Guest

I’m not an Anglican, but my mum is. Does that count?

I agree with Tom above on his comments on the following statement:

“We uphold the traditional Anglican emphasis on Scripture read in the light of reason and tradition.”

This is the root of the problem. This defines a world view. But God invites us to this: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. What he has said, therefore, matters above all, even the idols of Reason and Tradition.

Tim
Guest

Peter O writes:
> Doesn’t say anything new, so why bother saying it? Just my honest reaction.

Well, there’s a new generation born every 25yrs or something. And by seeking to understand not just one, but all, shades of opinion, they stand a chance of bringing the unity without need for uniformity that the anglican communion needs. This is wisdom in action – and frankly, I wish certain other leaders could see it the same way.

Tim
Guest

Neil asks: > I must equally assert that it is very possible to “read” the Bible wrongly – ie to understand it wrongly. Wrongly by whose standards? How do you measure them? (OK, I know “test the spirits”, but I was looking for matters of interpretation about the rest of the bible here.) > Ultimately God didn’t reveal Himself and His truth in an ambiguous way Really? The Jews, for all they had the OT to be going on, had no clue that there would be two comings (servant and saviour respectively), and tbh Jesus had his pretty cagey moments… Read more »

Ruth
Guest
Ruth

What if the phrase ” reading with integrity” was replaced with something like “reading with an understanding based on where they are spiritually at, at the moment”?

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

So… if one asks the Church in Wales what it teaches about a certain issue in human sexuality, the answer is – “make your own mind up”? Is the difference between conservative and liberal capable of being defined as a dichotomy between people who think there is no such thing as truth, only private opinion: and those who do see a revealed faith and morality in the bible? It does seem so, and if that is the case, there is little hope for the survival of a broad church Anglicanism, for there is no common ground or meeting point when… Read more »

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

Stephen invites us to join him in a place where scripture is all and the idols of reason and tradition are dethroned. It’s a nice idea, but such a place cannot exist. Scripture is composed of words and words are only capable of understanding first through reason and then through understanding the context (tradition) in which they have been written. Nor is there any refuge in some mythical notion of the “plain meaning” that the text reveals (with an acceptable minimum of reasoning) before one gets heavy with the reason and tradition stuff. An example may help. If one takes… Read more »

stephen
Guest

David, You are not being quite fair with me. I did not deny that reason and tradition are jolly useful tools. God gives reason and uses it with us – “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). It is a gift to be used wisely. Let me use another example as an analogy. Speech is a gift, but we are not to use it in an unconstrained way because used in this way it can do much harm. (See James 3 for this.) It is a gift seen at its best and most beautiful when it is subject… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

The arguments on this issue from the conservative side are set out very fully by Gagnon. But see where mere reason leads if it is given authority over scripture. “Mythical notions”? Does Bp Walker believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Will he celebrate Christmas as the birth of a famous rabbi, or of the Messiah? Does he believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? Does he believe that Jesus lives today and will come again in glory? How much of this, in his view, is simply private interpretation? Or will he say yes to all of these, subject… Read more »

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

I’m grateful for Stephen qualifying his earlier comment and accepting that reason and scripture have their place. I’m also grateful for him then quoting the second half of a phrase I used and attacking it without reference to its context, as this is indicative of the sort of use of text that conservative reflection on scripture often falls into (not that I claim my words have biblical authority!!). Shades of “hang all the law and the prophets”. Alan asks me some direct questions, the feel of which is to suggest I hold “liberal” doctrinal views. Here goes then… …As it… Read more »

Lois
Guest
Lois

Thank you, David Walker, and Amen!

RMF
Guest
RMF

I like and appreciate the statement of the Welsh bishops.

I wonder if all the comments poo-pooing them adequately understand the nature of Anglican and ECUSA polity.

I wonder too, if part of the seeming resistance to speak more often and forcefully for what the “Northern” churches stand for and have given the world and the Communion, is sometimes grounded in a sort of post-colonial apprehension.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Alan : I’d suggest there is plenty of blind faith and unreason in the traditional churches,and whilst you may see reason in the Bible, that is largely the product of blind faith.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Oh, here we go with the old whine about our “polity!” It has not ceased to confound me that those who rewrite the Faith under the guise of being prophetic become utterly thick-witted and hide behind the god of “polity” when it comes to cleaning up the mess y’all have made.

RMF
Guest
RMF

Tom,

Polity isn’t a whine, it’s the way things work in the Communion. It certainly isn’t a god! Anglican polity does structure how we come together to worship and pray and discern God’s will, though.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Sometimes I wonder if liberals understand Anglican “polity.” The fact of the matter is that this “polity” is not working. It’s broken, or as Benedict would say, kaput! Perhaps one could even say that it has been our “polity” which has gotten us into this mess. I stand by what I said above and will restate my opinion: if you are going to be “prophetic” about the interpretation of historic doctrine then you also need to be “prophetic” in addressing the problems that arise from those new interpretations. You cannot retreat into an antique “polity” that is centuries old. Think… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest
Counterlight

I’m a convert to the Episcopal Church; not a recent convert, but a convert. Among the many things that attracted me to Anglican Christianity was a certain implicit humility in its broad acceptance of conflicting points of view on matters of faith and most other matters. No one, not even the authors of the Holy Scriptures, has a direct line to the Mind of the Almighty (I suspect that the mind of such a hypothetical mortal would probably find such a direct connection unbearable and impossible to sustain). We are left with only our Faith and our wits to find… Read more »

Charles
Guest
Charles

Ok – Can I ask the Biblical Literalists to tell me what to do with the 6th commandment. Am I to believe the Jerusalem Bible’s version “Thou shall not kill” or am I to be believe the NRSV or NIV versions “Thou shall not murder”. Which translation I believe has a huge impact, because if I believe the Jerusalem Bible’s translation then Capital Punishment, War etc are all against God’s Laws, but if I believe either of the other translations, then Capital Punishment and War are ok, only murder is a sin. My point is – the Bible translation I… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Charles, you make the classic mistake of assuming that those you are interrogating are literalists, and go on yourself to frame a question which would embarrass a fundamentalist.

The English legal definition of “murder” is extremely complex, and the word carries some of those overtones even in a theological context, which may be why the JB chooses a word with a narrower register of meanings.

But why compare English translations? Why not look at the original text, with the help of several commentaries? That is what biblically-minded Christians do – rather than try to figure it out for themselves.

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Bishop David, I am delighted and thrilled to read your affirmation of faith. Thank you. Do you think that this can or should be accepted as the standard of faith among Christians? Or (to tease out the discussion) is it just your own “take” on christology, only as valid as the views of the man/woman on the Clapham omnibus? What I am trying to get at is this: do we still have as Anglicans a sustainable core of shared belief, morality and language, or in our desire to be a broad church have we relegated all authority claims to the… Read more »

rmf
Guest
rmf

Alan, You don’t think the 39 Articles in the BCP establish a clear and “sustainable core of shared belief and morality” ? As far as what “biblical-minded Christians are wont to do, I think it is safe to say that there are probably some diversity of thought as to what biblically minded Christians are, what they do, and what/how they read. I’d also think that there are biblically-minded Christians working on several translation teams. You don’t? I think it is quite possible to be biblically-minded and read the bible in English. In fact, the preface to the First BCP in… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Huh: Dave Walker is +Dave Walker—go figure! 😉 Alan, I’m mystified as to why you would ask +DW the above question: “Do you think that this can or should be accepted as the standard of faith among Christians?” Why would you turn so quickly from being “delighted and thrilled to read your affirmation of faith” (which I also share, FWIW), to querying +Walker as to whether he would *impose* that faith? Something I had thought was a charism of Anglicanism—a belief in *freedom*, and trust in its members (and their individual “private conscience”)—seems to me to be in danger of… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

RMF, I was talking about interpretation and exegesis of scripture, not about the Formularies. The XXXIX Articles, which are usually bound with the BCP and the Ordinal, are not actually part of the BCP itself. The Articles have given rise to considerable debate over the years as to what they actually mean, but they certainly do not have the same status as holy scripture, whatever the outcome of that separate debate. Subscription to the Articles was abolished in the Church of England many years ago, incidentally. Of course it is possible (and desirable!) to read English translations of the bible,… Read more »

Charles
Guest
Charles

Alan said – “But why compare English translations? Why not look at the original text, with the help of several commentaries? That is what biblically-minded Christians do – rather than try to figure it out for themselves.” I am not an ancient Hebrew scholar or a classical Greek scholar and nor are most “people in the pew”, so reading the original text is not really feasible. When I read the Bible, I do use several commentaries. But there’s the rub you see. The choice of commentaries will again inform my understanding in different ways. Borg and Crossan for instance have… Read more »

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

Alan asked me: “Do you think that this can or should be accepted as the standard of faith among Christians? Or (to tease out the discussion) is it just your own “take” on christology, only as valid as the views of the man/woman on the Clapham omnibus? “What I am trying to get at is this: do we still have as Anglicans a sustainable core of shared belief, morality and language, or in our desire to be a broad church have we relegated all authority claims to the domain of the private conscience?” I think we do have a sustainable… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Charles wrote: “My point is – the Bible translation I use, often shows the “theological” interpretation (bias if you want) of the translators, and so has already been informed by tradition and reason.” Well I, for one, wouldn’t say “informed” ;=) And in the light of Alan Marsh’s non-answer, I would like to point out that “murder” is by stealth, as is the word used in: Do not steal! The Commandment says: Do not kill! as the 10 Commandement (each tradition picks and chooses from them, omitting some, even) are written in the 2nd person singular masculine imperative, to the… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

The problem with JCF’s desire for absolute freedom of belief within the Anglican communion (he will correct me if I have misinterpreted this) is that it makes it impossible for the Church, corporately, to teach anything as “the Christian faith”. There will be some who accept the resurrection of Jesus in the full, physical sense (shorthand here, I know – this is a blog) and some who doubt whether he ever existed. It becomes impossible to say “this is the word of the Lord”, or “the Church believes euthanasia to be wrong” if there is no common core of belief,… Read more »

Alan Marsh
Guest
Alan Marsh

Charles, I was once shown a letter of complaint sent to an Archbishop by someone who had attended a public lecture at a local university theology department. The complainant was outraged by the claim that the King James Bible was not the original version of the scriptures, and she wanted the lecturer punished. If one wants to study the bible as thoroughly and exhaustively as possible, it is essential to learn the original languages in which it was written – at the very least the Greek used in the bible, in which the New Testament is recorded, and into which… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

RMF: At the risk of sending you and all of the “thoughtful” folks here into fits, effective governance would establish norms of belief to which all would subscribe (zut alors! Yes, who is “in” and who is “out”) and it would provided for correction or discipline of those who step outside those boundaries. Effective governance would not put our internal (Communion) or external (ecumenical) relationships at risk. What passes for polity in our denomination requires decisive leadership and a huge degree of self-control, which have been lacking for the past 40 years or so. This attempt to be all things… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

I will also note that I, a lowly, uneducated pew-warmer, will disagree with Bp. Walker and say that there is not a sustainable core of shared belief, morality and language within Anglicanism. We have indeed relegated all authority claims to the domain of the private conscience. We simply cannot have one priest preach Jesus, Son of God, while another preaches Jesus, the nice rabbi, with both remaining ministers in “good standing.”

RMF
Guest
RMF

Come come, this notion of a lack of sustainability, lack of this or that, etc, goes round and round itself.

The Canons of the CoE clearly say, what constitutes the faith and worship of the Church, are the various Creeds, the 39 Articles, the Ordinal, and the BCP itself.

And wouldn’t you know it, other Anglican churches say this too, with different wording but to the same meaning and effect.

And it has been so for a very long time. (It’s called Anglican.)

Charles
Guest
Charles

Alan said “It will help to inform your personal knowledge and understanding.” We agree. But I think you missed my point – my point was not about the specific text regarding kill vs murder. That was just one example of the problem. My point was that any true understanding of the Bible requires us to read commentaries and research the original texts, as you obviously agree. But then that requires us to use our God given Reason to inform our understanding. Too many times, we see quoted (in these forums) the Bible says this, followed by a quote, usually taken… Read more »

Tom
Guest
Tom

“Come come, this notion of a lack of sustainability, lack of this or that, etc, goes round and round itself.” What kind of answer is this? I think it’s a frothy dodge. If you think current polity is sufficient then, please, explain to me why the majority of the primates in the communion have declared themselves to be in impaired communion with ECUSA and the ACCan? Explain to me why Bishop Griswold stepped down from his position as co-chair of ARCIC. Why have our ecumenical partners in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches voiced serious reservations? In my opinion it is… Read more »

John D
Guest
John D

Tom, I may be a lay “pew-warmer” with you, but I can’t imagine why you feel a need for “correction” and “discipline”. Let the Spirit work with +Spong and ++Akinola and the whole Body of Christ, and I bet we’ll have new insights into the Grace of God that might lead us to furtherence of the Kingdom. American Anglicans, at least, overwhelmingly desire an ability to think, and even preach, in ways that might make us renew our lives of commitment to Our Lord. God is big enough to be with us in our struggles, and He doesn’t need an… Read more »

RMF
Guest
RMF

Tom, They are not “my” canons, they are the Canons of the church, and no, in America they are not subject to the whims of any one priest or bishop, nor are they so in the CoE. They are the Canons. If you feel they are not being adhered to in some fashion, well, ok, but to say they don’t exist and/or do not contribute clearly and historically to what it is to be Anglican, well, I don’t think that is supportable. As far as “ecumenical partners” goes, that does tend to need to be a two way street to… Read more »