Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 22 June 2019

Marcus Green ViaMedia.News Does the Bible Really Say…that St Paul ‘Hates Gays’?

George Sumner The Living Church Why should Anglicans want to be a Communion?

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church John Smyth and the question of Anglican membership

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CRSSusannah ClarkTobias Stanislas HallerAndrew GodsallKurt Hill Recent comment authors
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Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

“Hmm,” replied my friend, with the kind of dismissive air that would make any self-respecting evangelical spit their tea out, “well I just think he’s wrong.” That’s my position too. ‘Wrong’ may be nuanced, because what is defined as ‘unholy’ in Paul’s society may not be the example we’d use to define ‘unholy’ in our own society – and stepping back from the text, the real concern seems to be around living holy lives, and to Paul (I am pretty convinced) men having sex with other men was an illustration to be used of what (in his culture and times)… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Thank you for this sensible post. Contortions do no one any good.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Kind of you. But please, Dr Seitz, don’t appropriate my comments to suggest we are in fundamental agreement over Christians and gay sex. My rationale is that the whole paradigm of having to squeeze conscience and belief into conformity with the Bible is an outdated and failing paradigm, if we are setting up the Bible as some unassailable authority; whereas what we need is a new paradigm that treats the text more maturely and intelligently, and says, yes, it’s fallible… yes, it’s written through cultural filters… yes, it is limited by science that had not yet emerged… and yet… also… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

” what we need is a new paradigm that treats the [Bible] more maturely and intelligently, and says, yes, it’s fallible… yes, it’s written through cultural filters… yes, it is limited by science that had not yet emerged… and yet… also communicates encounters with God, and helps open our hearts to God in our own encounters.” Spot on, and I couldn’t agree more. It also helps to recognize that the Bible is such a huge literary text. with multitudes of texts and authors from very different times and places up to a millennium apart, virtually all people (dare I say… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

I always choose my words with care. And when less is more, less is more.

CRS
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CRS

Just back from mass at the local Catholic parish. Lessons are read and then announced is “parole de Dieu” just as anglicans say “The Word of the Lord.” For avoidance of doubt–“the Word of the LORD” is pretty unnuanced–one might prefer “potentially useful religious opinion from the past” at the conclusion of the scripture reading. That way people wouldn’t be misled into thinking they have just heard “the Word of the LORD.” And they wouldn’t have to have lots of mental gymnastics at the ready. “Here endeth the lesson” may even be a bit too prescriptive. Romans 1 doesn’t teach… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

I apologise for reposting a note similar to this below. I thought this one went missing do to multi-tasking chez moi.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

I’ve no problem thinking of it as the word of the Lord. But I also understand it not to be the infallible word of the Lord. So we don’t omit saying “this is the word of the Lord” when a woman reads 1 Cor 14.34. And we don’t gloss over the fact that Paul and Peter disagreed. The word needs discerning and unpacking and interpreting in each generation. That is why we have sermons. The mental gymnastics required to treat every phrase of scripture as literal is enough to break us all.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

“Romans 1 doesn’t teach a lesson nor is it instructive. Paul is wrong. Move on.” That, Dr Seitz, would lack nuance. Romans 1 teaches us about the good news of God in Jesus Christ, and the exhortation to lead holy and devoted lives. The second half of Romans 1 is about avoiding things that may separate us from the holiness of God. So taking a step back, to get perspective, it’s not primarily about ‘the gays’. It’s about leading holy lives, which is what we should hope to do, as vessels of God’s Holy Spirit who lives within us. Now… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The Roman Rite also uses the words of administration, “The Body of Christ”. The Roman rite is, to use your term, ‘unnuanced’ here as well, grounded as it is in the doctrine of transubstantiation. (Does the possibility of receiving at mass create a crisis of conscience for Anglicans who adhere to our traditional formularies, I wonder?). Or, can one live with the poetic ambiguity of such phrases as ‘The Word of the Lord’ and “The Body of Christ’, and ‘The Gospel of Christ’, recognizing that good liturgy is transcendent for the gathered people of God.

CRS
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CRS

It is not me who says “Paul is wrong. Move on.” Or “human fallible opinions.” So I am quite content with “The Word of the LORD” — poetry and ambiguity playing no role. The question being posed is how or why this phrase comports with views of the scripture as constituting human views locked in time and fallible. It does not capture this holding well. It confuses, overstates, misleads. As for your first point. No. “The Body of Christ” is precisely the same four words used by Anglicans (and Lutherans). If you ask your Catholic friends in the pew what… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

““The Word of the Lord” cannot logically extend to “Paul is wrong. Move on.” Nor should it. ” No argument. Paul was not wrong…for his time and place–and assuming, always, that his words have been accurately translated. If the translation uses the word “homosexual” for instance, then it is not an accurate translation, because the psychological concept of “homosexual” and the word itself did not exist before the 19th century. Paul would have had no idea what was meant by the term, other than an understanding of its Latin roots. But the Holy Spirit moves on…and gives us new understanding…unless,… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

I’m confident the right language will come along. “That was a word of the Lord” (in its day) presents some interesting theological and philosophical problems. On the other hand, liturgical time being what it is, “The Word of the Lord” means something in the present. I’d favor “Paul’s inspired word in his day” and just leave God out. That way neither God nor Paul have much responsibility for what’s being read. Paul could just be right, but not right in any essential sense. And God could be free of constant timing out and becoming new as we need it, where… Read more »

Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

“Does the possibility of receiving at [a Roman] mass create a crisis of conscience for Anglicans who adhere to our traditional formularies, I wonder?)” Why would it? “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ that was given for thee…” I am happy to receive the Blessed Sacrament from Roman (or Eastern, or some Lutheran) clergy who offer it to me even if their hierarchy frowns upon this. Frankly, though, I decline to communicate at Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. parishes because to do so would “create a crisis of conscience” for me. Besides, Transubstantiation is only one doctrine/theory of the Real… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

I agree.

(And as well when the RC “hierarchy” does “not frown on it” — insofar as their expectation is that belief in Real Presence is sufficient).

Let’s not denigrate the scope of ecumenical generosity in the name of hardening lines so as to score points.

We are now at a point where stiffening backs on “what RCs really teach” does no one any real good. It depends a lot on context. Such is our late modern moment.

James Byron
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James Byron

I’m not about to start lobbying the Curia to rewrite Catholic liturgy. As for the Anglican kind, well, put it like this: “word of the Lord” doesn’t make every jot and tittle of the Bible perfect, any more than prefixing dates with anno Domini makes every year an annus mirabilis. Whatever its source, its expressed by thoroughly human conduits.

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

Actually i think “The Word of the Lord” is rather more nuanced than “This is the Word of the Lord ” which we have in the C of E. There is obviously sone discomfort in this. I have noticed (even in a cathedral) that “For the Word of the Lord “is being substituted.

CRS
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CRS

Fascinating. Changes are already afoot.

BTW, what does “For the Word of the Lord” purport to mean? It does not sound like English.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

It means a lot more when people respond “Thanks be to God” and of course we are eternally thankful for that Word who is a person and not a collection of writings.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Correct

Tim Chesterton
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The exegesis does seem a bit strained at times. Mind you, that often happens when we’re hearing a different line of interpretation from what we’re used to. Still, all in all, I think Karen Keen’s ‘Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships’ does a much better job. (to be fair, it’s book-length, and I haven’t read Marcus’ book)

James Byron
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James Byron

Of course, since exegesis is the polar opposite of eisegesis.

Paul was a brilliant and fearless writer. If, by some miracle, he cast aside his entire cultural and theological understanding of homosexuality, he would’ve made it plain and justified himself at length. His relying on tortured interpretation would in itself gravely harm the doctrine of biblical authority. Just say he was a man of his time who was wrong and move on.

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Thanks for teaching me a new word.
Of course, a lot of people engaging in eisegesis insist they are engaging in exegesis.

James Byron
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James Byron

Well said. The affirming side do themselve no end of harm by wallowing in tortured and embarrassingly ahistorical eisegesis: evangelicals, rightly, dismiss it out-of-hand; and worse, it implicitly concedes that case for biblical authority. Why on earth does any progressive Christian want to do that? If the price of affirmation’s submitting to a paper pope, our victory’s gutted.

CRS
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CRS

I also think it is high time to quit turning Richard Hooker into some kind of modern. “What scripture plainly delivereth” is, as you note, only by un-plain distortion made to do duty for revisionist position. Paul/____/____ “was wrong, move on” is far more honest.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

As John Barton has indicated elsewhere Hooker supports the view that scripture is sufficient but doesn’t cover everything. How could it. So we have to extrapolate. And it’s possible to say “I and society think this is ok now so surely God must too” on the one hand or “I think this is disgusting so God must too” on the other. And every position in between those two poles.

CRS
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CRS

Barton prefers the Hooker that is amenable to his form of liberalism. He completely ignored–for good reason–“what scripture plainly delivereth, to that is the first allegiance due.” Paul clearly delivereth. He is wrong. This has nothing to do with sufficiency, a fine reformation era formulation.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

CRS (and others here) Well yes and no … On significant issues the church does not follow the ‘plain teaching’ of scripture. Nor should it. I am also in no doubt that the current debate on sexuality is rightly and helpfully challenging how we read and interpret the bible. But I am concerned that unless the statement ‘the bible is wrong’ is used with more care (Susanna’s ‘nuance’?) it can do as much damage to a proper Christian confidence in the scriptures as literalist readings are undoubtedly doing. Those who then ask in what way a bible that is ‘wrong’… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Take it up with those who wish to state it this way, not me…I am contented with the formulation of Hooker cited above and have published several essays on it. “Reason” meant for him “perspicuity and natural sense making” as against appeals à la Trent to a magisterial “second source” of authority necessary alongside Scripture. This idea, while heavily butressed about at Vatican II and in the earlier statement of 1943, and then followed in Dei Verbum and PBC statements, is nevertheless still in place. Anglicans, the Reformed and Lutherans famously opposed to this the clarity of scripture and its… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Since I’m a liberal who’s fundamentally opposed to the concept of deciding truth by authority, and want the contents of scripture to judged by their merits, not their source, I can’t see much to be gained from nuance here. If I can disagree with Paul of Tarsus, I can certainly disagree with the Virginia report!

Evangelicals of course disagree. We can be allies on affirmation of same-sex relationships while getting there by different routes.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Good observation. Anglican theologian John (Ian) Macquarrie is insightful on this point. “Though we might gladly be rid of it, the historical problem is part of the Christological complex and will not go away. But what is arguable is the extent to which historical questions are determinative for christology, and whether in some way yet to be clarified we have to acknowledge two sources for the knowledge of Jesus Christ–the testimony of the past and the experiment of the present.” NB: Macquarrie taught at Union and Oxford. He was an internationally recognized expert on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. The… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

“On significant issues the church does not follow the ‘plain teaching’ of scripture. Nor should it. ”

Bizarre and unfounded, though stated with a certain liberal certitude.

Like what? What significant issues?

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

CRS
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CRS

You will have to clarify. I do not recall the OT/NT providing a single unitary view on D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Well here’s a few – dietary laws, genocide/ethnic cleansing, death penalty for adultery/Sabbath breaking and a range of other offences, slavery, race, disability, women silent in church/as legal witnesses/not teaching/leading men, male headship in marriage …. And this is not just ‘liberals’ here. Can we skip the labels?

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

Thank you David and I agree wholeheartedly. I was called ‘ignorant’ on a recent thread for suggesting these very same things so I do hope Christopher will respond more appropriately this time.

CRS
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CRS

“On significant issues the church does not follow the ‘plain teaching’ of scripture. Nor should it.” How does your list help make this point? Are you saying the church has adopted a position on these matters untouched by scripture? That is bizarre and unfounded. All of these issues have been matters of the proper interpretation of scripture. Just choose any controverted issue–should Christians observe the sabbath–and you will chart a long history of trying to make application from the ‘plain sense’ of scripture. If you want to know if it is OK to fly in an airplane, or move from… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“If you want to know if it is OK to fly in an airplane”…well, if I want to do it from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, the OT is pretty clear that it would be a violation of the Sabbath. Ask any orthodox Jew. But we Christians, generally, have decided, long ago, that that particular proscription is no longer operative…just like the ones about hair length, beards, food, and various barbaric punishments.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

“Just choose any controverted issue–should Christians observe the sabbath–and you will chart a long history of trying to make application from the ‘plain sense’ of scripture.”

You make the point very well for us Christopher. What we are saying is very simple. On those issues we have changed our view about how scripture might be interpreted. The same will be true of loving same sex relationships. The parallel is direct and simple.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

CRS I am at a loss to know your problem with what I (and others) are saying here. Unless you are writing this from prison I presume you do not feel biblically mandated to stone adulterers or sabbath breakers. ‘Are you saying the church has adopted a position on these matters untouched by scripture?’ Of course not. Did you read my quote from, and comment on the Virginia Report? But having had discussion posts twice dismissed as ‘bizarre and unfounded’ does not predispose me to pursue this further with you.

Cynthia Katsarelis
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“On significant issues the church does not follow the ‘plain teaching’ of scripture. Nor should it. ” “Significant issues” are issues that are significant to Christopher. That is the only way that I can see that he so readily disparages David Runcorn’s points (and Andrew Godsall’s). Plus, in the OT polygamy was common and women were chattel. Is that the “traditional view” that we should all be embracing? Also, Romans is not clearly anti-gay. There is a lot of scholarly handwringing over those “clobber passages,” and for good reason. This is the crucial issue, it’s very easy to project our… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“All of these issues have been matters of the proper interpretation of scripture.”

Or in the alternative, given that we rightly find the teaching unpalatable, an improper interpretation. The exegetical contortions necessary to set aside a direct command from Jesus in order to remarry no-fault divorcees in church is something to behold!

CRS
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CRS

When you place ‘plain sense’ in quotes as you do, I may (wrongly) assume you have knowledge of its conventional usage. Plain sense does not mean univocality. Luther thought the scripture was plain when he argued for consubstantiation (a matter of significance). But he argued for that, on that basis. The very fact that others held to other positions could be put down to disagreement over the plain sense (as did Zwingli, based upon last Sunday’s reading). Others appeal to the church’s continuous teaching (even if wrong about that) in conjunction with scripture’s plain sense. And so forth. Your statement… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
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Daniel Lamont

I am disappointed that a scholar of Dr Seitz’ reputation should use the word ‘revisionist’. It is much used in Evangelical circles, primarily as a means of ‘othering’ that is, lumping together people who have different views and thus dismissing them. Its use is less usual outside Evangelical circles. Its original usage referred to a movement in revolutionary Marxian socialism favoring an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary spirit. Decoded as used in these current Anglican debates, it means ‘an interpretation of a biblical text which is different from the user’s and is therefore wrong and thus can be disposed of… Read more »

Wm. Bill Paul
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Wm. Bill Paul

The use of “revisionism” is neither mocking nor outside academic usage. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. See, for instance, the works of Edward Farley, (Divine Empathy and Good and Evil, come to mind) who uses this term of his own positions, as I recall, to refer to the way in which Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment norms demand a revision of, let’s say, classic forms of Christian thought and life. And, again, as I recall, Farley lays out maybe half a dozen norms that drive his revision. So, for him and others, “revisionist” is not necessarily a term of… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

For many the word is used with pride. I did not know you were an exception.

Daniel Lamont
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Daniel Lamont

An exception to what, may I respectfully ask? As I haven’t met or corresponded with Dr Seitz, he is not in a position to know anything about me. The word ‘revisionist’ is frequently used in a pejorative sense in a number of Evangelical contributions to blogs and social media to ‘other’people with whom they disagree. and it has been thrown at me in person in that sense. I entirely take the point made by Wm Bill Paul that ‘revisionist’ is used in academic circles and I am perfectly comfortable when it is used in the way Edward Farley does. However… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

I am sorry but your comment isn’t clear. You said the label “revisionist” was perjorative (“I am disappointed that a scholar of Dr Seitz’ reputation should use the word ‘revisionist’). You then went on a bit of rant about marxism. I said it has not had that connotation for many who use it in my own academic context/s. But perhaps you were an exception to that… I doubt one can be so confident about what words mean. I think the term “cisgender” wins the award of the millenium for neologist nonsense, but that does not prevent people from using it… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“The Scriptures are the uniquely inspired witness to divine revelation….”

This is the crux of the matter…and is, perhaps, the answer to CRS’s comment above about “The Word of the Lord”. Yes, the men (I’m unaware of any tradition that says any of the authors were women–correct me if I’m wrong) were “witnesses”…and we all know that witnesses, no matter how well-meaning, often get things wrong, or miss details, or misinterpret what they have witnessed. Why should the Bible’s authors be any different?

James Byron
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James Byron

Yes, well, I’m no fan of the politicized Hooker recasting either. He was a 16th century Protestant, so of course he gave primacy to scripture. If that doesn’t track neatly onto three ecclesiastical tribes, tough. If Paul could be wrong, Richie certainly can!

CRS
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CRS

Thank you for the clarity of your view.

Matthew
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I think the plain teaching of the Bible is that slavery is a legitimate institution. The OT and the NT are in agreement on this point. The modern church has rightly taken a different view from the Bible on this issue. This was mainly because the abolitionist gave a higher priority to central texts like ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’. Of course the abolitionists took a contortionist approach to the individual texts on slavery, as they tried to show that the whole Bible was in line with their… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Please explain how Leviticus speaks of stealing other people and enslaving them as a death penalty offense? The OT knows nothing of chattel slavery (except as praticed by powerful nations like Babylon and Egypt/England and the US). The plain teaching of the Bible is not that slavery is fine, institutionally or otherwise. Paul thought not — read Philemon. Or read the biblical case gainst slavery as mounted by Wilberforce. Contortionist Wilberforce…

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Leviticus 25:44ff appears to countenance at least one form of chattel slavery (in which the slave is owned as property and passed along as an inheritance). Some modern translations seem to weaken the language a bit, but the Law instructs that one can enslave aliens and sojourners as property. There is no reference to stealing, and given the proximity in the text concerning Israelites, this may well refer to people who sell themselves into slavery because of debts or other insecurities; but in doing so they become the property of their owners.

CRS
Guest
CRS

My understanding is the word “chattel” means a form of slavery in which a person is captured or otherwise sold by slaveholders who have rounded up populations, defeated them in war exchanges, or sold/bought them on a market (as with examples familiar in Africa, Britain, the colonies in american frame of reference). Leviticus clearly condemns this and speaks of death as a penalty.

Hagar as chattel on these terms? No.

CRS
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CRS

PS–as you doubtless know, bond slavery is different than chattel slavery. I suppose anyone with a mortgage is a “bond servant” of the bank. People became bond servants to pay off debt or because they needed employment, housing, food etc. The OT is full of reference to this widespread reality in the ANE (and everywhere else — except where chattel slavery was in place — wealthy, warfaring nations like Babylon, Egypt, Assyria). It also regulates it and provides laws of redemption. Apologies for speaking of the holiness code of Leviticus rather than the legal material in Exodus: “Whoever steals a… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“The OT knows nothing of chattel slavery….” Are you suggesting that Hagar was paid to be Sarah’s handmaiden? Or that she had a choice when Abraham slept with her to provide himself an heir…and then disposed of both her and Ishmael when a legitimate son was born? Why does the Bible, at least in translation, seem to use “slave” and “servant” interchangeably? Why was it so easy for slaveholders in both the UK and US to use the Bible to justify their positions?

CRS
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CRS

Your last two questions are important ones. 1. Even if the english words “slave” and “servant” were not simply interchangeable words, it would not resolve the issue you appear to be grasping, viz., that bond service was a widely practiced reality, and that Israel sought to regulate it generously (“remember you were once (chattel) slaves in Egypt”) and there was alongside this the kind of slavery most modern people immediately think of, due to the practices of the 18th and 19th century with which we are familiar. 2. It was easy for all the reasons sin is easy and people… Read more »

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Chattel means property. It does not specify the means of acquisition, but condition as possessions of their owners. This is the state of the alien / sojourner slaves in Leviticus 25.44ff, in explicit contrast to Hebrew slaves. As a further note, the author of Philemon does not argue for an end to the institution of chattel slavery. He gently urges Philemon to treat his former slave Onesimus — now that he is baptized — as a brother, and not as a slave. This echoes (whether consciously or not I cannot say) the distinction in Leviticus 25 between the chattel slavery… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

So would you say your single reference to passing on a servant across generations is in fact a good case for the OT endorsing chattel slavery?

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

I am not interested in making a case, merely responding to an assertion that there is no reference to chattel slavery in Leviticus. As the assertion rested on a misunderstanding of the meaning of “chattel” I see no further need to comment.

If you are interested in a case for slavery on biblical grounds (rife with additional citations), I commend Bishop of Vermont (and Presiding Bishop of PECUSA) John Henry Hopkins’ 1864 work on the subject. It is now (as it was to some then) rather an embarrassment, but it is part of our history.

CRS
Guest
CRS

I will take that as a single reference to a possible subset of chattel servitude lingering in a law code of Leviticus, vastly overshadowed by the bond service references in the OT, in Deuteronomy, Exodus, et al, some of them extremely enlightened/positive, measured against chattel slavery in the US and in Britain.

I’ll leave the volume you refer to in your archive, thanks. Bad biblical interpretation has sufficient contemporary testimony.

Tobias Stanislas Haller
Guest

Chattel slavery in Exodus 21:21 — the slave owner whose slave dies one or two days after being beaten suffers no penalty other than the “financial loss.” Deuteronomy 20:10-15 provides for enslavement of women and children in a conquered city. Gibeon in Judges provides an historical example. But in terms of law, Torah permits (and regulates) chattel slavery, tout court. The moral offense in slavery is not merely bad treatment, but ownership, which Scripture begins to nuance only WRT fellow-Israelites and Christians. Efforts to minimize passages that are inconvenient to a thesis appear to me to be an exercise in… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Well quite… many assertions in the Bible, which were made in specific social and cultural settings, no longer apply. The idea that Adam had no ancestors… no longer applies. The idea that Eve was made from Adam’s rib… no longer applies. The idea that genealogical descent can be traced from the first human to humans today, in the generations confidently asserted in the Bible… no longer applies. The idea that a boat carried every single species of animal, and humanity was reduced to less than 10 people… no longer applies. The idea of a Great Flood higher than the mountains…… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“I think the plain teaching of the Bible is that slavery is a legitimate institution.” Even the exceptions you point to here would not endorse this statement, with which the thread began. Most moderns simply have no idea of bond servitude and reflexively believe that what transpired in recent memory–terrible slave trading– is what Israel was involved with tout court and on the same terms. Close reading of the OT in its entirety will not bear this out. Christian opposition to slavery in our era argued against the idea, and successfully, that “the plain teaching of the Bible is that… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Why rush to declare the Bible wrong?

Rather than declare the Bible wrong we should praise God that He attempted to keep gay men safe until condoms were invented.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Are you saying that only gay men required protection from diseases transmitted through sex?

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

Stephen Parsons says in his ‘John Smyth’ article: “Those of us who have looked at Smyth’s crimes have been sickened at the detail. The accusation that there are clergy who in different ways are hiding these crimes by not sharing information is one that needs to be answered. The reluctance of the Church of England at the highest level to take an active role in seeking resolution to the criminal activities of John Smyth is a running sore that will not go away. The motivations of the well-connected church people who provided the large sums of money necessary to spirit… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I agree with what you say, Richard. However, deflection and avoidance are not ‘the new normal’; unless by ‘new’ you mean ‘within the last 50 years or so’. At any rate deflection, avoidance and denial have been the way the Church has handled all sorts of tricky matters for all of my nearly 40 years in it. There are honourable exceptions of course, but too few.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

You are right Janet, Church “deflection and avoidance” – in recent times – is not evident when it comes to Sexual Abuse – but I would maintain it is still very much in evidence when it comes to Non-Sexual Abuse – categorised as (and hidden within) ‘Other’ Abuse by the ecclesiastical statisticians….and those ‘Other’ uninvestigated statistics are astonishingly high according to the recent Data Report (Figure 2), and “deflection and avoidance” is built into the system (which is centuries old)

Anon
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Anon

As someone who experienced and then tried to raise an issue that was relatively low-level (non-sexual), I concur entirely. The way it was dealt with was awful. In fact, I’d say it caused more damage than the original circumstances and, in retrospect, I’d have quietly walked away. The instinct to deflect and avoid is strong. It was even explained to me that the reason is theological – the health of the church corporate, which matters more than the well-being of the individuals of it. While I’m able to understand the complex balance of different parties and needs that may need… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“The instinct to deflect and avoid is strong. It was even explained to me that the reason is theological – the health of the church corporate, which matters more than the well-being of the individuals of it” I am reminded of the wartime words written by C.E.M. Joad [1891-1953] – very much a fallible human being as well as a fallible Christian philosopher…by his own admission: (“The Principles of Peace” – The Spectator – August 1940)(substitute ‘State Church’ for ‘State’) 1. The individual is entitled to respect as an end in himself, with a right to happiness in this life… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

One month on from the words written by C.E.M. Joad, Bishop George Bell of Chichester – no stranger to the subject of abuse – wrote in the Fortnightly Review September 1940: “The Church’s Function in War-time”: “This matter of functions is vital. The State has a function, and the Church has a function. They are distinct. The State is the guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses to a Revelation in history. It… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Anon, that’s awful, and all too common. They don’t seem to have read Jesus’ parable about the good shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one which is lost and vulnerable.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I’m sorry, Richard, I didn’t make myself clear. What I meant was that deflection, avoidance and denial are the norm, but are not new.

CRS
Guest
CRS

“Though our provincial Books of Common Prayer show many variations, they all witness to the creedal center of our faith: the triune God, the divinity of Christ, His atoning death for the forgiveness of our sins, His bodily resurrection and ascension, and the Holy Spirit’s work in the Scriptures and the Church’s life. There is agreement, furthermore, in most of the Communion about the received, traditional teaching concerning the nature of marriage, which is in accord with Scripture. It found expression at Lambeth 1998 in Resolution I.10.” This surely describes the dominant reality. But of course there is massive discord… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

It’s essential to recall what Lambeth 1998 actually said: “We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand. We request the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to establish a means of monitoring work done in the Communion on these issues and to share statements and resources among us. The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

With regard to human sexuality, this is not the ‘dominant reality’ of belief in the Church of England, where more and more church members accept gay sexuality – in line with British society – and affirm the right of gay and lesbian couples to live together. This is further backed up by the legal reality of the land. As you know very well, Dr Seitz, the Church of England is divided down the middle over whether to continue the status quo about human sexuality only being expressed inside heterosexual marriage, and those who in increasing numbers (probably over half) believe… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“There is agreement, furthermore, in most of the Communion about the received, traditional teaching concerning the nature of marriage, which is in accord with Scripture. ” I would say, rather, there is agreement among the hierarchy in most of the Communion…which is in accord with their reading and interpretation of Scripture. We really have no idea where the laity in the pews stand (or sit) regarding this issue…or really any issue…absent a statistically conducted poll or survey of the laity. And I include the laity of my own TEC in this. Even though our bishops and GC representatives are elected,… Read more »

Will Richards
Guest
Will Richards

Stephen Parsons says ‘Common-sense tells us that this ability in law to vote for the churchwardens at the Annual Parish meeting does not make someone a member of the Church of England.’ Well, may be, especially if you have swallowed the congregationalist ecclesial polity hook, line and sinker. But the Elizabethan Settlement was not designed to be ‘common sense’ but to provide a broad and generous ecclesiology where Reformed, Catholic and Puritan could achieve ‘differentiated consensus’ (to use an expression from current ecumenical theology). It was important then as a device to undermine sectarian tendencies; and, Lord Knows, it is… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Thank you for this post Will.As a DDO 1996 to 2008 i was often concerned that many ordinands had little rootage in what you call the traditional styles and rhythms of parish life and frequently wondered how much was done to correct this in ministerial formation. As someone who taught church history i was particularly concerned that there seemed to be less and less church history being taught. It amazed me especially in these difficult times for the Church of England how little some ordinands knew about the Church they were entering apart from the (often rather untypical) church they… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Will and Perry – spot on. Thank you. I recall J Spence telling a story early on in Welby’s reign of how he (JS) dealt with someone who had crossed him in his rise to the heights. I caught a whiff of revenge that to my mind said a great deal about him. I thought it unedifying, though he seemed pleased enough. “Harden not your hearts”. I feel like Professor Godbole in A Passage to India – nothing we say or do wlll make the slightest difference – as long as the current politburo is in power.

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

Perry, as you know, I tend to agree – as one training the ordinands. Reader candidates seem more rooted in Anglicanism…. We are under pressure to get ordinands through training and into curacies quickly. If they are designated church planters, then there is a suggestion they should do short curacies (a year is what I was told by one senior person from another diocese). Well, I started out teaching in TEIs by being a visiting lecturer on the Northern Ordination Course. We had a star ordinand – Chris Brain. He was the model student. We had no clue he was… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

If it is true you are “pressured” to get ordinands though training quickly (weren’t we meant to be about “formation” now???) then I am further disheartened! I wonder what has happened to the paper Prof Dan Hardy wrote signaling the need for “formation” rather than “training” that I had to precis in 1987 when i was one of 3 people interviewed to be Theo Sec of ACCM as it was then? Hardy called for greater clarity in the C of E’s understanding of holy order/ministry as a necessary pre-requisite for this change. Later GOE was abolished. Colleges were given greater… Read more »

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

The notion of being a member of the Church of England is like the notion of being a member of the NHS (National Health Service). It is there for us all, and we may all use it, whether or not we individually make alternative provision.. However Rev Parsons view that if a charity or trust has trustees who are ordained then the trustees are, or ought to be, under episcopal control runs counter to the very nature of trusteeship. Trustees have responsibilities and the buck stops with them. Re the election of Churchwardens, at present citizens of the European Union… Read more »

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

I expressed this badly. Citizens of Malta and Cyprus can, of course, vote. But their right to do so follows from their status as Commonwealth citizens and not merely as EU ones Brexit cannot affect their rights..

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

If John Smyth preached in Anglican churches, as has been suggested, that fact should have been recorded in the register of services of the church(es) concerned. Finding the details would be another matter (whether those registers are forwarded to the Diocese for archiving is not within my knowledge). I suspect that if this happened there should be people who remembered his preaching. Of course there are occasions when non-Anglicans can preach, so the evidence would not necessarily establish his denominational standing. I met John Smyth once, in an entirely different context, in the Winchester County Court. I think that was… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

I’m a bit unclear about George Sumner’s argument. He seems to present clear reasons for continuing the Anglican Communion in its present form (more or less) and helpfully reminds us of Stephen Sykes’ point that tension is somehow a given in the Anglican form. What he doesn’t present us with is any way of dealing with the particular tension presented by the issue of human sexuality. Perhaps what he needs to say – which is perhaps implicit in his piece – is that we have been through significant tensions before and it’s worth holding on in there. Or as Winston… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re:your query about George Sumner’s argument, you may find the article in the link below of some help. It is written by Christopher Brittain, who teaches Anglican Studies at Toronto School of Theology. The article is titled,
A position in search of a theological rationale: Symptoms of evangelical Anglican disarray on same-sex marriage.

https://www.abc.net.au/religion/evangelical-anglican-disarray-on-same-sex-marriage/11247900

Simon Sarmiento
Admin

And the article by Ephraim Radner which he is discussing can be found here:
https://www.wycliffecollege.ca/blog/christian-marriage

CRS
Guest
CRS

The new Dean of Trinity’s essay does not involve the polity of the anglican communion, which is the subject of Bishop Sumner’s essay. As to the question as stated of “any way of dealing with the particular tension?” — I suspect Sumner is asking for the Lambeth Conference to meet and see what kind of progress could be made, in the light of his stated themes. Andrew Goddard has suggested tiers of anglicanism as a way forward. I like your quote by the way. We are indeed in some version of WC’s “going through hell.” Keeping on going will, as… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Thanks Christopher. If that is what George Sumner thinks then maybe he could be encouraged to write more clearly? But it is fraught with problems – and perhaps that is why he is obscure. He will need to recall what Lambeth 1998 in Section 1.10 actually said: “We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand” If that was the thinking 21 years ago then things have hardly become clearer. As for… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

I have my own responses at TLC. I do not see much hopeful future for an AC as presently organised. If the default is just lots of national church entities of various description, that isn’t a Communion since many are no longer in, well, communion. It would not be much of a stretch to regard this as the final “Lambeth Conference.” Nothing much happens anymore anyway. It will be interesting to see who shows up. The ACC has serious financial problems, unlikely resolvable. The Primates are not as even 15 years ago; too much Lucy and the football. The CofE… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Dr Seitz, when I go to church, and when we share life with the community around our church, I don’t feel we’re “going through hell”, though many people in ordinary life and poverty may be. Participating in the Anglican Church in the UK is pretty much privilege and full of grace and joy, certainly in the church I go to. And when I hear from my daughter in Uganda, they don’t regard the church as “going through hell” either. Their worship and fellowship is full of joy and dedication. Most people at grassroots aren’t wracked by these theological battles. They… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

The phrase was from Mr Godsall.

I suspect that the GS will want to retain what has been a genuine global Communion. Others will prefer independent national entitites that maintain wider fellowship in their own way.

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Mr Godsall was my father and I’m not sure he used the phrase. I am Andrew. It was Winston Churchills phrase and you need to take it in the context I used it. It was about Lambeth 1998 and what that conference actually said and not just what conservatives think it said. A reminder again as it is essential : “We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand” The ‘hell’ is… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Admin

I am holding back from approval several comments on this article because they include what I regard as ad hominem remarks about other commenters. Please moderate your language…

CRS
Guest
CRS

Thank you.

I am a bit surprised there has not been more comment on the Lambeth Conference remarks of Sumner and some GS colleagues.

Simon Sarmiento
Admin

I’ve now cleared some comments, and don’t plan to approve the earlier remainder. Let’s move on, and please would you all try to be courteous in your comments.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

The question of John Smyth has its own particular facts, but it points to an issue which to my mind needs further analysis. It is possible for the same person to be part of a church and be active there, to be involved in running a youth group or camp, with its own management committee and board of trustees, and to work in schools in some form, which would be under the supervision of the school. Each of these organisations will have its own safeguarding protocols and training and officers and the like. But the person concerned may have interactions… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

You make a very perceptive point, to which I can’t think of an easy answer. Social workers don’t seem to figure very much in these discussions on TA, yet they are the people who have a statutory safeguarding duty which is all-encompassing. But, of course, they only become involved when the risk has become apparent, i.e., specifically brought to their notice.

Do other TA contributors have ideas to carry your suggestion forward? That would be far more helpful than the frequent criticism of the church (however much that might be justified) on TA.

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“That would be far more helpful than the frequent criticism of the church (however much that might might be justified) on TA” Criticisms of the church (and helpful suggestions for solving the problems the institution faces) must work alongside these other suggestions. ‘As the Church Times reported this week (“Peter Ball, disgraced former Bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, dies, aged 87”, the IICSA published its report on the diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Ball. It stated: “The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Frequent criticism of the church”, alongside other suggestions, is critical if the Church is to make good this unholy mess. Stephen Parsons: “My initial reaction was to say to myself, I have nothing further to say about Peter Ball. I commented on my blog every day last July during the IICSA hearings when for five days the focus was on his offending and the way the wider Church dealt with it.  The Peter Ball event is, however, bigger than the man himself.  It continues to represent a crisis for the whole Church which needs to be faced and dealt with… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Guest

“Frequent criticism of the church”, alongside other suggestions, is critical if we are to take seriously the words of Revd Graham Sawyer: “The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words… Read more »

Kennedy Fraser
Guest
Kennedy Fraser

This sounds remarkably like the Named Person system proposed by the Scottish Government, but which is currently ‘parked’ under review due to opposition (not least from Christian groups):

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-35752756

https://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/adoption/named-person-scheme-unlawful-rules-supreme-court

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

As I understand it, this is where mandatory reporting comes in. Not mandatory reporting of clearly obvious crimes, but mandatory reporting of low level concerns and suspicions which don’t (yet) pass the threshold of obvious criminality. Social services hold the central files, and a report from a church may be one piece of a jigsaw that meshes with existing jigsaw pieces in a child’s file from school, hospital, neighbor and youth club. Schools and hospitals have a mandatory duty to report such low level concerns, and liaise with social services. As a nurse I received clear training on this duty.… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Thank you for that helpful and constructive reply. Subject to correction, I believe the current ‘instruction’ is to report abuse (or suspected abuse?) to the diocese, in the expectation that the DSA will notify social services and the police as appropriate. But I’m not sure that this is quite the same scenario as ‘low level’ concerns.

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

“I do not recall the OT/NT providing a single unitary view on D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”

It doesn’t, of course. There’s the “Moses” view. And there’s the “Jesus” view. Matthew 19.3-9.

Does that mean Christians are free to pick one view or the other? Apparently so since so many Christians, including “conservatives,” seem to pick the “Moses” view.

CRS
Guest
CRS

There is also the Pauline view.

And in the light of all this, one cannot simply say that D-I-V-O-R-C-E has been allowed because of a source other than scripture. Which was the original claim.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

CRS No one on this thread claimed this.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Exactly. However, if one wants an example of the Church reversing itself on a hitherto-fore allegedly biblical teaching, for Anglicans re-marriage after divorce is an instance. Classical Anglicanism held (in theory at least) for the indissolubility of marriage. Provinces changed this ‘biblical’ teaching over time, largely due to pastoral concerns and social pressure. See, just for example, Lambeth 1920: Resolution 67 Problems of Marriage and Sexual Morality The Conference affirms as our Lord’s principle and standard of marriage a life-long and indissoluble union, for better or worse, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Not sure this helps your cause much. The first two sentences are classically biblical argument.

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

The “Paul” view adopts the “Jesus” view except he adds a discussion about couples where one is not a believer and separates from the other, a view that he admits is not from the Lord. (Well, more than that but that seems to be the only case where divorce is arguably permitted.) Churches now look the other way from divorce and remarriage in cases other than “porneia” and a non-believer separation. Except theoretically the RCs but if you’re rich and persistent you can get an annulment. Or you just take communion anyway. Is this biblically based? Probably not. But virtually… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The Church of Rome also made canonical provision for re-marriage after divorce under the ‘Petrine Privilege’. What better way than casuistry if a church wants to escape its deontological absolutes. It’s been a serpentine thread. I think I will start the forthcoming Canada Day holiday long weekend early. Salut!

CRS
Guest
CRS

Exactly. The Roman position — fought against by Luther and then Chemnitz, yet hammered down at Trent — entails the idea of two sources of authority. Vatican II, Dei Verbum, Verbum Domini all seek to finesse that by speaking of a single source with two streams.

This has not been the position of Lutherans, Anglicans, etc and it played no role in discussions about how to handle the tragedy of marriage breakdown amongst Christians, or to use your typeset, D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

Enjoy Canada Day.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Probably not?

It might be worth actually looking at the nature of the discussion as it unfolded in debate. That scripture played no role and that the matter was framed independently of it?