Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It is not just a question of orthodoxy

Bear with me.

Accept, for the moment at least, that 90% of Anglicans in ACANZP believe the creeds, including the bodily resurrection of our Lord. That is, with some notable exceptions of clergy and others who publicly proclaim their doubts and uncertainties, we are an orthodox creedal church.

Imagine that the vote(s) at General Synod in May reveal - surprise, surprise - a divided church on human sexuality, and for arguments sake let's suppose it is a deadlocked synod re blessings of same sex relationships at 50:50.

Has our church suddenly become unorthodox because on this one matter of how we understand the gospel in relation to homosexuals we cannot subscribe to a traditional line on sexual morality?

In my perambulations around the intersphere, sharply so in a Twitter exchange last night, I have been reminded that many Anglicans deem holding to that traditional line a matter of "orthodoxy".

I want to suggest here that doing so is simply unfair, unjust and lacking compassion and appreciation for the concerns and care which lies behind proposals to bless same sex relationships.

Yes, I can name one or two Anglicans in our church who are wildly "liberal" on various doctrines and for whom the support of blessings is one more step along the way we go to embracing change, affirming the zeitgeist, etc.

But only one or two. In all my years of conversing about these matters the length and breadth of our church, the overwhelming experience I have had is of people concerned about their gay children, their lesbian sister, their best friend who has recently and bravely "come out." Concerned, that is, to be part of a church which shows in word and in deed, in "headline" message as well as in not so public messages, that our church is a church which is compassionate and caring AND ORTHODOX.

There is no conspiracy, deliberate or accidental to de-orthodoxify our church. All the believers in the bodily resurrection of our Lord who also propose that we bless same sex relationships will continue after May to believe in the bodily resurrection of our Lord.

I earnestly ask readers here to take care in what we think about the "other" in these matters.

This request works the other way: it is very unhelpful, and not particularly Christian when proponents of same sex blessings zoom to judgment on those who oppose such blessings, using terms such as homophobia and bigotry, and presume that opponents lack compassion and concern for the GLBT community. That, likewise, is unfair, unjust and lacking compassion and appreciation for the concerns and care which lies behind opposition to blessings.

Again, my conversations over the years have revealed colleagues who oppose blessings with close family members and lifelong friends who are gay and lesbian. Their compassion has not changed one whit because, after long and serious consideration of the matter (including, let us never forget, consideration of the salvific issues at stake), they (I) continue to hold that the church cannot claim that God blesses such relationships.

So, as debates intensify in the next few weeks (and, no doubt, thereafter) could we please:
- refrain from charging proponents of blessings as "unorthodox"
- refrain from charging opponents of blessings as "unloving".

Thank you. I know you will rise to the challenge!

16 comments:

tachesterton said...

Well said, Peter. Thank you.

Tim C.

Liturgy said...

I also thank you, Peter (yes - a fascinating "twitter exchange"). And agree with you.
But am I right then: you do not see blessing committed same-sex couples as a first order question (using that model)?

Easter Season Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Increasingly I am coming to a conviction that we are dealing with a first-order issue with a difference. That difference is that it is (arguably) a first-order issue of a kind that we should not walk apart over (because it is an issue which (a) concerns all the vulnerabilities and frailties which mark us as sexual beings and thus calls us to unusual sensitivity and compassion, and (b) challenges us to think with unusually deep insights so that, for instance, conservatives might see those who oppose conservatives (e.g. on the basis that it is a second-order issue rather than a first-order issue) as working on the basis of compassion and care rather than on some slippery slope of an agenda to progressively liberalise the church in all its doctrines).

But in saying that, I want to carefully note that there have been ways in which these matters have been "forced" on Anglicans so that walking apart has seem like the only option before them. I pray that those of us working to hold this church together do not find we are working for a church which forces this church into schism.

Peter Carrell said...

DEar Ron
I am only prepared to publish the first part of a comment you have submitted on this thread. Do NOT discuss other people and their innermost beings on this blog. Do it on your own blog, be sued for doing so if you will, but do NOT do it here. It wastes my time!

COMMENT FROM RON, expurgated:

""There is no conspiracy, deliberate or accidental to de-orthodoxify our church. All the believers in the bodily resurrection of our Lord who also propose that we bless same sex relationships will continue after May to believe in the bodily resurrection of our Lord." - Peter Carrell

An excellent point you make here, Peter. People to whom I have spoken on this issue are mostly loyal and worshipping Anglicans,content to recite the Creeds, respond to the call to confession at the Eucharist, grateful for their absolution, and keen to get on with the exigencies of life with a lively faith in God and a belief that God is merciful. Some even, like myself, understand that the mother of Christ really did say: "All generations will call me Blessed".

[excised]
"

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I am surprised that you chose to excise what I thought was perhaps the most important point of my response to you on this issue. However, as I have said before - your blog; your decision.

Christ IS risen, Alleluia. He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

May I just say that all of the conservatives present must have learned something valuable from the input of the Oxford Speaker. Something which, I hope, will have affected their stance on the innate grace of our human sexual nature.

Pageantmaster said...

The problem is that it does matter, and the reason is that it is not possible to change the church's teaching without doing spiritual violence to the Scriptures. In order to pave the way for change, some way has had to be found around a clear reading by adding either additional constructs or by changing the way we regard Scripture and that leads to a reduced place and authority for them in our lives. It leads to an undemanding and less powerful witness, and a God who blesses what we decide He will bless, rather than the other way round. It comes down to the question Christ asks St Peter: "Who do you say that I am." Are we prepared to say that: "you are the Christ?" and obey Him, or will we say: "Did God really say?"

I feel that it is a pity that this is the presenting issue, but one needs to be clear that a lot more goes with change than liturgy in His Church.

Prayers for your church as you discern these things.

Brian Kelly said...

"The problem is that it does matter, and the reason is that it is not possible to change the church's teaching without doing spiritual violence to the Scriptures."

Pageantmaster is correct, and periodic concerns about niceties of language and 'civility' must not obscure the matter. Truth - biblical truth and theological truth - is SYSTEMIC: try taking away one clause of the Creeds and see what happens to the rest. It will fall aprt like flatpack furniture (at least, the kind I used to buy). And it's no good saying to a patient, 'Don't worry, the cancer is only in your leg, the rest of your body is fine.'

If any of my beliefs or teachings are demonstrably false, I should certainly be called unorthodox; and if I fail to love *as Christ loved us* (which I do every day), then I deserve to be called unloving. But remember also that the clearest definition of Christian charity is "to will and act for the good and glory of the other" (as that defrocked-and-disbarred-from-the-ministry Anglican theologian Jim Packer has defined it somewhere). It is not 'loving' to confirm a person in sinful ways. I once knew a retired missionary lady (ex-OMF, China) who was known for saying at least once: 'Young man, I must warn you, if you continue the way you are going, you will end up in hell.' Was she unloving or just tactless?

Father Ron Smith said...

"But remember also that the clearest definition of Christian charity is "to will and act for the good and glory of the other" (as that defrocked-and-disbarred-from-the-ministry Anglican theologian Jim Packer has defined it somewhere). It is not 'loving' to confirm a person in sinful ways. I once knew a retired missionary lady (ex-OMF, China) who was known for saying at least once: 'Young man, I must warn you, if you continue the way you are going, you will end up in hell.' Was she unloving or just tactless?" - Brian Kelly -

1. I wasn't aware that Jim Packer had been 'de-frocked and disbarred from Anglican ministry'. Peter, can you confirm that?

2. " the clearest definition of Christian charity is "to will and act for the good and glory of the other" - Jim Packer via Brian Kelly -

And where does sexism or homophobia fit into that premise? Obviously these do not fit in with the requirement of 'loving asist loved us".

3. It also is not 'loving' to 'confirm' what you see as the 'sinful ways' of another person. You may conceivably be wrong in your judgement. Indeed you could be committing the sin of presumption by arrogating to yourself the right to judge another's 'sins', when you are not immune to sinning yourself. Let God be the Judge. He alone can condemn - or Redeem. Humility in this matter is a wonderful charism - not always easy to practice, but a blessing to be aware of. Jesus was quite cklear in his injunction: "Do not judge, lest you be judged yourselves!"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron, Brian, Pageantmaster,
Yes, all these things matter.
Also matters that the church does not fracture unnecessarily, does not fracture over a molehill it has made into a mountain, or over something which we are genuinely divided on in terms of conscience and conviction.
As far as I know Jim Packer and others are debarred from ministry in the ACC and treated as though they are not clergy any longer.
As for unravelling the creeds, Brian, let's not hastily unravel,our commitment to one church!

Pageantmaster said...

My recollection is that New Westminster Canada former Bishop Michael Ingham [also English] purported to remove the ministerial status of JI Packer. Of course JI Packer was ordained a priest in the Church of England, so no one in the CofE or Anglican Communion took any notice of it, any more than they did of the late Presiding Bishop's purported renunciation of the ministry of English Bishop Henry Scriven.

Pageantmaster said...

I see that JI Packer now serves as a priest and theologian emeritus in the Anglican Church in North America [which covers Canada too].

Bishop Henry Scriven serves as the Mission Director for Latin America in the Church Mission Society [CMS] into which the South American Mission Society [SAMS] was merged.

Father Ron Smith said...

Pageantmaster said...
"I see that JI Packer now serves as a priest and theologian emeritus in the Anglican Church in North America [which covers Canada too]."

Ah! That makes sense now. ACNA's Theologian. Thank you, Pageantmaster.

williamp said...

Sometimes it may be helpful to get back to basics, as I believe something Pageantmaster has done in his principal comment. If Truth never changes, then any dissembling of a particular Truth that's clear in Scripture will be accomplished at a high price. Thus, the issue reduces to one of belief, not of "judging" another. Obviously, parties in "all sorts and conditions" of relationships are deserving of compassion that seeks to reflect the wide love set forth in the Gospel. The beginning words of a beloved hymn: "Christ for the world we sing", reflects this scope of this compassionate work which can and should be done without falling into a trap that may indeed be appealing but also unwise.

TrevDev said...

Thanks, Peter. I see most of those who are on the side of blessing same-sex relationships in the same way you do, and I think there are arguments on that side, based in the revelation of the Kingdom of God, that many on the conservative side have dismissed too quickly or not considered at all. I also agree that there is much unwarranted stereotyping in the way each side views the other. That's why we must keep the dialogue going, if at all possible.

Trevor

TrevDev said...

williamp says, "If Truth never changes, then any dissembling of a particular Truth that's clear in Scripture will be accomplished at a high price." The problem is, though, that those on the pro-blessing side believe that there are other truths which are equally clear in Scripture and which have the power to show the church that it should, in certain circumstances, modify its rules regarding same-sex relationships. The issue is not one of "dissembling" but of how to rightly apply some scriptures in the light of others.

The pro-blessing people (with whom I sympathise) may be wrong and ultimately come to recognise it, or so may the conservatives, but I don't believe that, as God looks down on us as we debate this issue, He sees intransigent fools on either side of forum - just faithful but flawed believers trying to discern the course of action that is most obedient to Him.

Trevor

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, TrevDev. Your view sounds pretty balanced in the circumstances.