Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 18 November 2023

Neil Elliot NumbersMatters A question of position: CofE stats 2022

Adrian Thatcher ViaMedia.News Vile Bodies?

Ray Gaston ViaMedia.News Reclaiming Orthodoxy

The Guardian view on the C of E and same-sex relationships: love finds a way
“A decision by the church’s governing body to trial standalone blessings for couples is a significant moment”

Simon Parke Five questions to ask the prospective bishop

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Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Ray’s article is really very, very good. I am so impressed by the logic and analysis, and the way it draws on the foundational years of the Church of England as a handle, drawing a distinction between Hooker and puritans who wanted to box up what they claimed was ‘orthodoxy’ in a package of bolt-on extra conditions. It’s an impressive article because it not only sets out to ‘reclaim’ orthodoxy, returning it to creedal basics, but it makes us reflect on what makes the Church of England distinctive from fundamentalism or other more puritanical churches. The Church of England is not… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

I enjoyed it too, Susannah. As some of you have guessed, my own theology is, at base, reformed Puritan. Like a good many folk, my knowledge of church history is limited, and somewhat lopsided in its sources, so its helpful to hear from someone who knows a bit more than me. It is very difficult at times to know who to believe – and in another age wanting ‘certainty’, fundamentalism offers it – but its a false god. Community and commitment have to be to the supreme God, father, son and spirit, not to any one particular set of literally… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
4 months ago

I think one can have a puritan’s love of the Bible and call to holiness, without embracing the more ‘boxed in’ aspects that more rigid puritans insist are certain requirements, appropriating the gospel to a smaller, purer clique. I’m not sure God really does ‘boxed in’. I see the Love of God as ‘Flow’ – streams of living water as the Spirit flows through us with love for others. But that does not stop a person treasuring the Bible and drawing out countless words of wisdom and deeply profound themes and narratives. That’s why I still identify – in part… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Susannah Clark
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

I think it’s easy to caricature the Puritans, although personally I find Archbishop Laud every bit as unattractive. The only Puritans I’ve actually read are John Milton, John Bunyan, and Matthew Henry, and I actually quite enjoyed them.

Last edited 4 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

Fair point about the risks of generalisation. As for Milton, I last read Paradise Lost 54 years ago and I’ve never been tempted to re-visit that dreary tome! I’m descended from the Stuarts, so I might be biased of course!

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Do please try it again, you might be converted coming back to it at a different stage in your life. It is not a young person’s book.

There’s a fantastic edition with an introduction by Philip Pullman.

Last edited 4 months ago by Simon Dawson
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Thank you for your encouragement, Simon, but I am inclined to read George Herbert and John Donne instead!

David Rowett
Reply to  John Davies
4 months ago

An excellent exegesis. It is interesting how terms like ‘Traditional,’ ‘Conscience’ and ‘Orthodox’ have been appropriated by a particular mindset in the Church. It has long exercised my mind, and it does rather feel as if those who control language can have rather more control over a discussion than their methodology might warrant.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
4 months ago

I would argue that the theme of Adrian Thatcher’s essay can be boiled down to the fundamentalist idea that ALL bodies are “vile”. It is the assumption that deriving pleasure from bodily functions (of any kind, from sex to eating and drinking) is a sin, placing the material above the spiritual.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

The idea that ALL bodies are vile goes all the way back to St. Paul’s epistles, in my opinion, and to such early Christian thinkers (I bet there were early Church Mothers as well as Church Fathers) as St. Augustine who made distinctions between the noble spirit and the evil body, the pure heavenly realms and the evil Earth. This dualism, I believe, is what not only allowed Christians to enslave peoples they considered beyond salvation, but allowed people to use Christian theology to exploit the Earth’s resources with no regard for the people on whose land the resources were… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

‘vile bodies’ (Philippians 3.21 KJV) is not so translated in modern versions, which leads me to assume that the word had a different meaning in 1611. Paul’s contrast is not between the vile body and the noble spirit, but between the ‘body of our humiliation’ (because it is subject to corruption and death) and the ‘body of his glory’ which all NT writers assume is ahead for us on the day of resurrection. ‘He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

Paul also spoke of our bodies as ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit’, which places a very high value on our physical being.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

Coincidentally I re-read Romans 5 to 8 just before finding Adrian’s piece; taken at face value, as we’re encouraged to do, Paul doesn’t have a very good opinion of humanity, denouncing the ‘flesh’ and the ‘body’. Indeed, he expresses similar thoughts about subordinating his body to the spirit in other letters. Given that degree of authority, the idea that our bodies are degenerate and vile is all too easy an idea to embrace. The trouble is, again the limitations of our language. ‘Flesh’ is used both literally and figuratively several times during the same passage, both in Romans, Corinthians and… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

As I understand it ,theologically, marriage requires the two persons to vow life-long relationship and fidelity before a group of witnesses. They are the ministers of the sacrament. The priest witnesses and blesses the union. Consummation is the expected norm although when nonagenarians marry that might be negotiable as would be the production of babies. In any case single sex couples can no doubt physically consummate accordingly, in their particular way. I am struggling to see why Aunty C of E is coyly allowing same sex marriage but pretending that it is not marriage. Time to bite the bullet and… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

Marriage vows are far from universal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_vows

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

And…..?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

And nothing. You said ‘marriage requires the two persons to vow life-long relationship and fidelity before a group of witnesses.’ Historically, that’s not the case. Marriage vows have not always been required as part of the service, and are not universally required today.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

Purely as a matter of interest in the context of a civil marriage ceremony, Section 44 of the Marriage Act 1949 (as amended) provides these two alternative forms of vows:

Sub section (3): “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, AB, do take thee, CD, to be my lawful wedded wife [or husband]”:

Sub section 3A) … and as an alternative to the above the persons to be married may say to each other “I [name] take you [or thee] [name] to be my wedded wife [or husband]”.

The Act applies to England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate legislation

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

Indeed, an Orthodox wedding consists of a nuptial Mass said over the couple, with no vows made. I once conducted the blessing of the wedding which had taken place in the groom’s home village in Greece. The couple were keen to say the vows because there had been no opportunity to do it before. I obliged, of course.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

Universally is quite a catch all.
Pair bonding for life…OK.
But in this context marriage vows seem part of the norm?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

Marriage vows are the norm in England and at least some other western countries, but that has not always been the case here and is not the case everywhere. Thus, ‘theologically, marriage requires the two persons to vow life-long relationship and fidelity before a group of witnesses’ is a debatable statement.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

I think it is bog standard theology…or it was in 1968

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

Yes, bog standard in the UK since the Middle Ages. But for a belief to be ‘theologically required’, it ought to be universal. And the requirement for marriage vows isn’t now, and never has been, universal among Christians.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

I think it in line with the Summa Theologica

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

But we are not Roman Catholics. Nor are the Orthodox, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

The Summa kind of transcends all that silly squabbling.
At least, one might hope

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

Well, no. It isn’t regarded as authoritative by every denomination – only one, in fact. And it came rather late in the day to define what is ‘theologically required’ re marriage. The New Testament says nothing about marriage vows, but a lot about marital behaviour. And that’s what matters.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Indeed the legislation to forbid clandestine marriages points to previous marriage practices that did not involve consent – and actually there are also practices described in the Old Testament (eg marriage following rape) when a marriage could apparently be enforced with the consent of neither party. The marriage practices described in the book of Ruth seem to involve at best limited consent as we would understand it today.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

Amen and thank you!

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

According to English law same sex marriage does not need to be consummated in any way – there is no annulment for non-consummation, nor is there an equivalent of adultery as grounds for divorce. In short same sex marriage in English law does not require sexual relations.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  T Pott
4 months ago

As always I’m open to correction, but the ‘bar’ to adultery as a ground for divorce or dissolution of a same-sex marriage or civil partnership is the statutory definition of adultery involves its being by consent between a man and a woman. A moot point whether it might be a ground if the offending party had committed adultery with a member of the opposite sex, but, in any event, that would certainly qualify as ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
4 months ago

With no-fault divorce now the norm I suppose it may no longer be necessary to give a reason. I believe you are right that adultery is between a man and a woman.

But the point seems to me that those who disapprove of homosexual activities ignore the fact that same sex marriage does not, under English law, inherently or necessarily entail homosexual acts to take place.

That is the usual expectation but the couple are under no obligation except optionally to each other, to have sex.

I think this point is overlooked by conservatives.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  T Pott
4 months ago

This depends of course on how you define a “homosexual act”. To define it only through sexual activity is too limited, and is a legacy of having homosexuality defined for us for decades by straight scholars, going right back to Havelock Ellis There are any number of men who will happily have sex with other men, but deny vehemently that they are homosexual. But ever since Plato there have been people who would define homosexuality much more as a propensity to fall in love with someone of the same sex, and a desire for lifelong loving companionship. So a loving… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Simon Dawson
Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  T Pott
4 months ago

I think sexual relations are quite a good thing but of course my reflections were on theological understandings of heterosexual marriage .
I am aware that English law in those cases does not require consummation unless one party or the other declines to consummate following the betrothal and that was not made clear prior. Then there could be a case for annulment.
I was unaware of regulations for same sex marriage but do hope consummation is respected if desired by both parties.

Graham Watts
Graham Watts
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
4 months ago

By which you mean sexual intimacy?
The CofE couldn’t bring itself to define how same sex marriage could be consummated.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Graham Watts
4 months ago

How right you are!! The Church may have sex on the brain but cannot get involved in the visceral aspects. For that we could be grateful?
However sexual intercourse of all kinds is hardly a spectator sport and there are many possible ways and means, or so I understand!
Some things are best left to the participants rather than to archbishops.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
4 months ago

Embedded in para. 6 of The Guardian article is a link to Bishop Steven Croft’s essay (see below). No doubt most commentators here from the C of E have seen it previously; but it is new to me. TA readers outside the C of E should give it a careful read. Croft masterfully pulls together contemporary insights, pastoral and cultural considerations, and theology. The section on biblical theology beginning on page 25 is worth the read as a stand alone section. And not to trivialize Croft’s excellent essay but I got a kick out of the reference to the fictional… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

I appreciate this excerpt from Adrian Thatcher’s column, “His blood be on us and on our children’ (Matt. 27.25), cited Christians, as they hacked innocent Jewish people to death in the name of Christ.” I bet that during the Crusades, as the Crusaders engaged in warmup exercises and rehearsals for the main event by slaughtering the Jews of what is now Germany, that verse was cited, The most noble and blessed clergy carrying out the Spanish Inquisition cited it. As recently as 30 years ago, after the Holocaust/Shoah, after major churches looked at the logical end result of centuries of… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

The thing I never understood about that verse is that surely it’s merely an idle bit of bravisimo, a sort of emphatic exclamation that is not intended to be taken literally. And even if it were, why on earth would you see that verse and jump to “and therefore I can kill Jews with impunity”?

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Jo B
4 months ago

In my opinion, it is crucial to understand the time most of the Gospels were written in, and that was during and after the Judaean Revolt of 66 – 70 CE in which the Jewish rebels were crushed by the Romans, the destruction of the Second Temple, the decision by a lot of early Christians to not get involved, the anger of Judaean Jewish survivors as a result, and the expulsion of the early Christians from the synagogues by rabbinical Jewish authorities as a result of this and the early Christians’ continuing deviation from the Jewish faith. Divorces are often… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  Jo B
4 months ago

People are always looking for excuses. If for some other reason one is already a racist, stumbling across this verse gives one a handy proof-text for one’s racism. Now, of course, such an interpretation is at least wrong and at most heretical, but it does give one a handy excuse, and a means to popularise one’s racism to a wider audience who might take scripture seriously but not quite understand the context.

It’s all politics really; the scripture is just a means to an end.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  FearandTremolo
4 months ago

“..the scripture is just a means to an end.” The history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian antisemitism cannot be waived away like that. See, for example, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism by Rosemary Reuther. The author addresses the antisemitic implications of that particular verse in her chapter, Estrangement and Rejection of the Jews in the New Testament. ( p.94). One finds blatant antisemitism in classical Christian liturgies–some of which has only recently been corrected. There is little doubt that antisemitism has been embedded in Christianity. There is little doubt it is a huge problem with regard to… Read more »

Marise Hargreaves
Marise Hargreaves
Reply to  Rod Gillis
4 months ago

David Kertzer has also written excellent books about the role of the Roman Catholic Church and the rise of modern antisemitism using recent full access to the Vatican archives since the death of John Paul II. Blood libels, the linking of Communism and Jewish people simply because they are Jewish, the active propagation of anti semitic tropes and creation of ghettos etc, as well as the open support of fascism to defend the church against its enemies – namely the Jews. Mussolini and Hitler both quoted back to Pius XII they simply carried out what the church had been teaching… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Marise Hargreaves
4 months ago

“There are many lessons to learn and much to be repented of regardless of denomination.” Completely agree. There are some very interesting critical studies on this issue post WWII. NT scholar Krister Stendhal’s voice was an important learned positive one when I was a theological student decades ago. I’ve attached a link to a 2019 article by Marc Zvi Brettler one of Stendhal’s Jewish colleagues. Additionally there has been a significant critical re-evaluation, post WWII, of protestant Pauline scholarship with a coming to terms with how anti-Judaism and Christian antisemitism in conventional Pauline scholarship and Christian theology in general misinterpreted… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
4 months ago

The Ray Gaston article is well written and clear minded. I glean from the Viamedia.news comments below it that the author understands his position as somewhat conservative. I tend to agree. Gaston writes: “The Nicene Creed is a setting of the boundaries for exploration of an understanding of God’s work, particularly in Jesus, and how we understand that.” I thought of the line from the character Hobie Doyle in the Coen brothers movie, ‘Hail, Ceaser!’ i.e. “would that it were so simple.” One wonders how well boundaries are holding. They are certainly under strain from the perspective of contemporary philosophical… Read more »

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