Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Towards a Motion 29 Working Group 17 November Submission

So, I have been posting here that I think the recommendations in the Interim Report of the Motion 29 Working Group are a "beautiful accommodation" (here, here, here, here) while also noting that not all share that view (here, here, here, here).

Here is another beautiful accommodation:


This is a Tesla electric car. It is beautiful in design and it is an accommodation (electric motor requires generation of electricity by some means or another, batteries which add weight to the car, it saves the world re oil consumption but destroys the world re ingredients required to make batteries, it costs much more than "equivalent" petrol or diesel powered car, and, while it goes further than any other battery powered car, you still need to think where you will end up for the night in order to charge it). In short, because it is a beautiful accommodation that does not mean it will work as a car to save the world's environment - certainly not on my stipend!

In other words, having pushed hard (in blogging terms) for a reception of the working group's proposal as a "beautiful accommodation" it is reasonable to ask whether it will work.

So I am now turning my mind in a different direction, aided and abetted by comments here, posts elsewhere and our own Synod discussion a few weeks back. That different direction is towards questions such as:

- what are shortcomings of the proposal, and can they be overcome?
- what will actually work for our church?
- what if we took more time than "we must have a decision by end of GS 2018"?

And yet, some recent experience has left me wondering why we cannot be a church which is accommodating re SSB? Recently I met an Anglican woman and discovered we both had something in common: both of us have wives! I also discovered a bit about her parish church, which welcomes and celebrates the lives of gay and lesbian persons. It got me thinking about the (potential) capacity of Anglican churches to incorporate breadth of theology, liturgy and experience. Incorporation in Anglican life does not require validation or endorsement but it does mean there is tolerance, space and willingness to exist together in a large enough room for conversation to continue.

That notion of the Anglican church as a large room - "you have set my feet in a broad place" (Psalm 31:8 NRSV) - was first conveyed to me in a lecture by Bishop John A.T. Robinson, on a visit to Christchurch in the late 1970s.

And it was a large space which enabled John A.T. Robinson, author of both Honest to God and numerous less controversial volumes of biblical scholarship, to exist in the same church as (say) John Stott, Jim Packer, Michael Green, Michael Ramsay, Desmond Tutu, etc.

Here's a question,

Would permission for SSB in the life of our church represent a matter beyond the already "broad place" in which the Lord has set our Anglican feet?

Some thoughts about questions posed above

- what are shortcomings of the proposal, and can they be overcome?
- what will actually work for our church?
- what if we took more time than "we must have a decision by end of GS 2018"?

Let's take the last question. I wasn't at the last two General Synod, I will be at the next one. I have assumed that in 2018 we must make a decision to make some change to the status quo.

Perhaps we do not have to. Perhaps - following some comments here and elsewhere - we really need to do theological work which has not yet been done (on blessing, ordination, marriage). It is not as though no theological work has been done (there have been several Theological and Hermeneutical Hui a few years back) nor as though no theology is involved in the various working group reports (there is always at least an implied theology to everything the church does). But are we settling for less than adequate work?

Might such work open up dimensions not yet considered by us? In recent days, for instance, Bowman Walton in comments here has raised the possibility that we should be considering House Blessings rather than Same Sex Blessings.

On the matter of shortcomings, there does seem to be a groundswell for clarity around the state/status of ordinands, ordained persons and licensed persons in same sex relationships. There is also the matter of episcopal relationships: between a bishop and those who are in dispute with that bishop over giving permission for SSBs (or refusing it), ordaining persons living in an SSB (or refusing to do so). Summarising, the proposal provides for an "additional bishop" to support those who are in dispute but there seems to be a groundswell for that additional bishop to also be an "alternative bishop."

But, to come to the middle question above, what is workable?

Without attempting anything like an evaluation of alternative episcopacy where it exists in the Communion, is it workable (and, in particular, would it be workable here)?

Does it work to put off a decision while more theological work is done?

If we accept that the proposal is geared towards safeguarding conservatives on the matter of SSB being permitted in a Diocese, does the proposal actually provide a viable route for progressives wishing for SSB to be permitted in a Diocese which otherwise is against SSBs?

Then there is the question of whether everything about the proposal depends on the bishop of the day not changing his or her mind and the successor of that bishop being of both similar and unchanging mind to his or her predecessor ... unless the electing Diocese specified that it did want a changed mind ...

One thought not much thought through by me is this ... I will air it here for critical review ...

I ask that the idea below is considered against the background of the "broad place" Anglicanism noted above, along with the fact that in the past few decades, despite same sex partnered clergy being part of the life of most dioceses, no bishop has been taken to a disciplinary tribunal for licensing these clergy.

My thought re an improvement to the proposal is to pare it back and slim it to a minimum set of changes:

(1) our declarations are changed in line with the proposal

(2) clergy and ministry unit office holders may determine without fear of discipline whether or not blessings of same sex relationships will be conducted within the ministry unit

(3) bishops have discretion to accept a person in a same sex marriage or civil union as a candidate for ordination or appointee to licensed ministry position.

Notes:

I think (2) and (3) are the minimum we would need for space to be given for SSB (or, indeed, House Blessings) to be conducted in our church and for bishops to lift the moratorium on accepting candidates for ordination etc.

I suggest (2) would remove bishops from disputes with clergy who do not think they should be giving permission for such to happen or approving forms of service for SSBs. It would also enable the possibility of SSBs to occur in a ministry unit in a Diocese which otherwise generally held the view that SSBs ought not to happen.

Obviously (3) could lead to disputes with bishops, but would it lead to differences of view between bishops and their clergy which are not already in existence?

 What do you think?

102 comments:

Anonymous said...

Or, Peter, one could conclude from the absence of unified support for SSB, and indeed from the presence of permanent opposition to it that it is not a viable option for the Church. Full stop. The question may be, not *why won't people just agree with this evidently wonderful thing?*, but rather *what EXACTLY is the problem that this fanatically supported solution is supposed to be solving?*

As I understand the situation in the blessed isles where everything is better than here--

(a) Civil SSM exists in NZ. Good.

(b) There are gay clergy in ACANZP. Not intolerable.

(c) There are gay clergy in civil SSM in ACANZP. Tolerable.

(d) There is broad understanding, however distasteful to some, that not all in ACANZP agree on the nature of marriage, and that this (not homophobia) is what puts agreement on SSB and SSM out of reach. Essential.

(e) Both between the usual sides and within each side, there is some polarisation by cultural register. That is, most who care mainly about marriage as a fetish of pop culture cannot understand why others care so much about it as a part of magisterial teaching on sexuality, and vice versa. Temperament, ignorance.

(f) The matter is complex, some things not known today will affect judgments tomorrow, minds will change at their own pace, and the totality of of all such changes is not knowable today, especially not to militants who stopped thinking several years ago. Reality, human nature, known unknowns.

From a centrist point of view (eg Richard Hays in The Moral Vision of the New Testament), this is exactly where an early C21 church should be. Considering all that we do not know, it can hardly be anywhere else. And so long as the facts on the ground are like that, the most compassionate thing to do amid votes and rumours of votes is to remind all that both opinions and divisions are somewhat provisional, and that solemn proceedings cannot make them more than they are

What is the use of pretending that there is, can be, or even should be more agreement than there is? And why should anyone down there be ashamed of, or even angry about, the reasons why others of different temperaments and formations think differently? A church is a family, not an institution, and you are fortunate to have many spiritual relatives who try hard to do the right thing, but who cannot easily agree in the face of profound cultural change. There are much worse problems. So why not just ring bells, sing Te Deum, thank God, hug a gay person in Christ, and go in peace to talk about something else?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Even a family faces situations where it needs some clear and agreed guidelines if not rules (are ex-spouses welcome at the Christmas party etc!).

In our case I think your (otherwise very welcome and helpful) assessment misses the following:

(1) A need for formal means of clarity re responding to situations such as https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/weddings/97206722/it-pains-us-to-say-no-church-refuses-to-marry-kpiti-couple . Currently there is a formal means and that leads to the "No" given to that particular request. But there will be other requests like that and the pressure will rise in our church for some flexibility to say "Yes".

(2) We do not seem to be a church which meekly accepts that because we are not agreed on SSB therefore we should not proceed. Those looking for formal permission will not ever give up.

(3) We are nearly unanimous on finding some kind of compromise. (But not nearly unanimous on what that compromise would consist of, though the route to unanimity might be through provision of alternative episcopal oversight.)

(4) (IMHO) there is a majority in our church for SSB and likely a good-ish minority for SSM.

(5) There is only so long that (4) and (3) will guide us forward. If there is no change then I expect (4) to prevail at the expense of (3) and consequences to be deemed "collateral damage."

(6) In particular, I understand that two of our Three Tikanga are happy for change to occur. (They would then, in their own way either do something or nothing and/or keep their own conversations alive). It is only within Tikanga Pakeha that we are not agreed on the way forward.

(7) In short, there is a strong element of the train has already left the station ...

Stu Crosson said...

Hi Peter,
I have been in the USA for a couple of months and after a few weeks back, slowly catching up on local politics(civic and religious). I am heartened by your questions in this post. The pre-synod comments at my archdeaconry meeting revealed deep disquiet with the interim report, from both pro SSB and agin SSB folk.
I absolutely endorse your comments about doing the theology first. I think your own Bishop said something similar 4 years ago? Likewise the falsely imposed 2018 deadline.
Love is patient.
To rush into pragmatic compromise with such division on this across our church is far from being faithful or loving. I think there are some people who are weary of the debate and just want to move on. Bowman's comments above cannot be simply dismissed as an outsider miss-reading our context. IMHO. you are talking thru a hole in your hat when you say there is a majority in our church for SSB. I can assure this is not the case in my church because I have surveyed them. 29% have stated they will leave the Anglican church if the national church endorses SSB. you might say St Matthews is an evangelical outlier on this subject but I think we will find this type of opposition equally in Gore and Oamaru and Balclutha and Mosgiel as here in Dunedin.
I think you might be right in terms of a majority of synods reps being in favour but that is quite a different thing to folk in the pews. (Synods reps attract a particular type of folk dont you know!).
I am willing to be convinced otherwise by a coherent theological argument that makes sense of our image bearing functions as human beings in this matter, but the Way Forward Report made me think this is a tall order if scripture, tradition and reason be our guide.
So please keep asking the theological question Peter. If the train has left the station where o where is it heading and who is actually on it?
Blessings, Stu

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Stu
Perhaps we could have an arm wrestling contest between the vicars and parishioners of St Matthews-in-the-City and St Matthews-on-the-corner-of-Hope-and-Stafford-Streets? That should sort things out!

To be quite clear: I am very comfortable with the majority of our church voting (by one means or another) to maintain the Scriptures and tradition of the church and, in doing so, to continue to walk in step with the vast majority of today's Christians around the world ... though, and this will seem contradictory, I wonder if we could nevertheless have some room - as we have always had - for parishes "on the edge" ...

I really hope Synod reps are listening to their dioceses but that works both ways, as some dioceses seem to be very much in favour of SSB.

Could we wait and do the theology? Dare I say that that might take the bishops giving us a strong and united lead on the importance of that being done, and patiently.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I am 88 years of age. I really do want to see the Church accepting the fact that gay people are part and parcel of the Church - whether or not they meet the criteria of 'Special Sinners' in the minds of the minority or not.

The arguments have already been long and distressing for some. I think minds are already made up, and to defer a decision about whether or not committed Same-Sex relationships could/ought be accepted and blessed by the Church would change very little by reasoned argument.

Marriage existed before the Church came into being - largely as a result of needing to produce children and to settle family property rights. When one of these two requirements is irrelevant - e.g., in the case of S/S couples or maturely-aged couples - the Church is still not necessarily involved to form a legal relationship.

In fact, many couples - even young couples producing children - seem to manage very well without even civil; marriage, let alone a religious one. Even this state is still regarded a 'de facto marriage'.

In an environment where the Church seeks commitment from couples living together in relationship by entering into a marriage arrangement; (Saint Paul himself said it was 'better to marry than burn'); would it not be better for the Church to encourage a faithful, monogamous S/S relationship - rather than implying that such a relationship is no better than promiscuity?
And surely the best way to encourage faithfulness in any relationship - whether hetero or homo - would be to seek God's blessing upon the measure of faithfulness involved? After all, is not LOVE the word, rather than LUST?

Anonymous said...

No, Peter, I had your tour d'horizon in mind in suggesting that (b) be substituted for (a)--

(a) When will the defeated minority surrender to the sovereign will of the majority? Winning through intimidation.

(b) What *exactly* is the problem that this fanatically supported solution is supposed to be solving? Problem, experimentation, solution, negotiation, consensus.

My point is not so much that (a) is faithless, wrong, suicidal, or trumpish-- although it is all of those things-- as that the impasse you mention arises from the failure even to try (b).

This is basic to negotiations; you get to an enduring "yes" when the negotiation is framed as a search for solutions to problems that both sides own. If a negotiation is instead framed as one side's unilateral demand on another, each side will seek to intimidate the other into believing that it has the *best alternative to negotiated agreement* (BATNA), and can therefore do what it wants without an agreement with the other. In that way, each puts pressure on the other side to accede to its demands while it can still get something in return for doing so.

The present case is just what we would have expected. Proponents brought a unilateral demand for SSM/B to the opponents. As usual, the debate is tacitly or explicitly about who has the leverage of not needing an agreement. Proponents claim the BATNA of just breaking unpopular rules and daring opponents to enforce them; opponents claim the BATNA of leaving or inviting invasion from overseas. You, from time to time, tell us which threat your spies find most convincing.

Those who, like yourself, value unity are trying to avert those threats by seeking a compromise. But so long as the search is about the same fixed demand, the dynamic will be the same, although perhaps slower. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent a *munich*-- both sides agree to compromise, they each take the gains from it that they can, and then the fight to get more begins.

All of this follows inevitably from the choice of (a) over (b). And we need to see that clearly to engage fruitfully in the search that you describe in the present OP.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, may God grant you joy, peace, health, length of days, and many years!

The Church should indeed "accept the fact that gay people are part and parcel of the Church," but SSB/M turns out not to be a viable vehicle for that acceptance, does nothing for gay (or other) people struggling in the single state, and is not in fact a sign of inclusion in the Church.

Conversely, house-blessings can begin whenever you are ready to start, includes the households of single people as well as couples, and is directly a sign of inclusion in the Church.

Bowman Walton

Rosemary Behan said...

You say, "And yet, some recent experience has left me wondering why we cannot be a church which is accommodating re SSB? Recently I met an Anglican woman and discovered we both had something in common: both of us have wives! I also discovered a bit about her parish church, which welcomes and celebrates the lives of gay and lesbian persons. It got me thinking about the (potential) capacity of Anglican churches to incorporate breadth of theology, liturgy and experience. Incorporation in Anglican life does not require validation or endorsement but it does mean there is tolerance, space and willingness to exist together in a large enough room for conversation to continue."

Who are you going to represent at General Synod Peter, after the above wilful bit of implication. I'm a conservative as you know, and you are implying here that I have no toleration for lesbians or gays, no room for them in my church. You further imply that you .. who are soooo Holy .. don't agree with SSB, but you .. and you alone, never us .. have room in your church to 'allow the ongoing conversations. Shame on you Peter, who do you represent .. and who will you represent at General Synod. It's completely insufficient to say 'unity' .. what is unifying about the above paragraph???????

Stu Crosson said...

Hi Peter,
I think St Matthews north of Bombay are now Greens HQ. aren't they!
It would indeed be refreshing to have our Bishops engage and wrestle with the theological implications of same sex blessings for our understanding of: creation, Humanity, church, marriage, blessing etc. And then share with us what they see is truly gospel for all people. Sadly I don't see much expression of that from our bishops north of Taupo. I would happily seek out the services of the Otago University department of Theology to help them in this exploration. But do they really what that or, are minds made up? Lets move on? Lets do this!
I would be very keen to see your bishop pursue her call to let praxis follow theology. Isn't that what the church has always done in her better moments? Perhaps you could support +Victoria in this? Perhaps my new bishop could help?
what I find totally unacceptable is the attitude of implement and accept.
Stu


Stu Crosson said...

I think Peter,
what might come as quite a shock to Bishops and synods reps, if the interim report is implemented as it stands, is the rupture within and without, of a significant number of even the more moderate evangelical parishes such as St Matthews( Dunedin).
If I believe in unity as I do, and nearly a third of my parish have said they are gone if this goes through, as their pastor, I have to ask some pretty big questions about where my ministry should be and under whose authority. I work pretty hard down here to make our place a spacious place ( Psalm 18:19) but the New testament picture I see is one of profound welcome to all and the call to deny ourselves.In other words there are boundaries to this spaciousness and my people are telling me we are about to step outside of it.
Right now, it doesn't look quite so beautiful to me!
Stu

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bowman, thanks for your good wishes (blessing?). I do get your point. I do think that house and family blessings are a jolly good idea. The only problem for me is probably one of public recognition. Would the blessing of a same-sex couple via the blessing of their home be seen as (a) a 'real' blessing (in which case the militant conservatives would object to it), or (b) - a 'fudge', which some of them may see as a dangerous ploy on the part the 'revisionists' which they would seek to discredit.

Blessing 'by stealth' has its own problems for both sides of the arguments.

(Mind you, Bowman. I'm all for blessing rather than cursing loving relationships).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
No comment was intended by me in respect of the multiple ways in which congregations in parishes around our church and other churches welcome, support and care for all kinds of people, including those who identify as gays and lesbians.

The particular parish I am talking about - an overseas one - would possibly have as its closest NZ equivalent St Matthews-in-the-City, Auckland. If you are happy for the width and breadth of our church to include St Matthews and the many theological (heretical?) causes and moral crusades it has championed over the years, as well as the hospitality it gives to the Auckland Community Church, then we are on the same page in respect of acknowledging that the Anglican church might be a broad place.

As for representation at General Synod, I will do my best to represent the whole of the Diocese which elected me. I doubt I will do a great job at that and so am glad that we will be a team of eight and trust that between us we can do that great job of representation. I also hope I can represent the concerns of Stu Crossan commenting here ...

Rosemary Behan said...

Wow Peter, you really DO speak with a forked tongue. I’ll repeat my question, how can you, who do not on theological grounds, believe that SSB/M is God’s Will, represent those conservatives who believe the church SHOULD have boundaries .. like those people Stu Crossan has in his congregation .. when you want to include those who do believe in SSB/M with no boundaries,

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, in this thread you could take comfort from the quite interesting comments of Rosemary and Stu. Rosemary is indignant that Peter is suggesting that her opposition to SSB/M means that she does not accept gay people in the church. Stu's third that will not accept SSB/M has otherwise accepted a ministry that is strikingly inclusive. Why not celebrate this progress?

The true story on the ground seems to be that in the '70s and the '00s gay activists picked a goal that made sense to them at the time, but that is self-defeating in the different circumstances of today. Then, campaigning for SSB/M was a plausible vehicle to political change; today, we already have that change, and it makes no real difference to our governments what our churches do. Then, the obstacles to mainstream social acceptance of gay people seemed formidable; that turned out not to be the case.

Today, insistence on SSB/M is dividing people who would not otherwise be divided. House-blessing is a superior rite anyway-- even for the original goals of gay activists-- and following the example of Jesus may not be as controversial as following the confection of yet another working group. Conservatives have their own reasons for liking the idea. Best of all, it is action rather than talk. Why not give it try this weekend?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not going to publish a comment you submitted last night. It contributes nothing to the debate of the issues and the use of a phrase such as "puritanical fringe" does nothing to foster relationships of good will in the life of our church. (Ditto, on another thread, comments about Cardinal Raymond Burke which Nick challenges).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I am not sure which part of my tongue is speaking!
When we approached the Synod debate recently about the cathedral I was willing to move the initial motion re Options A (reinstatement) and B (new build) because I could see the good in both options. But once Option C (giving the building away) was introduced I withdrew my offer to move the motion. I disagreed heartily with that option and in conscience could not move a motion with an option in it that I could not find goodness in it. I guess you could say that my tongue could only fork two ways and not three!

In our church we are trying to find a way forward which enables (e.g.) the third of Stu's congregation to remain and gay and lesbian Anglicans on the verge of walking if there is no change to also remain. I would hope to speak to a way forward (the final report, yet to come) which enables that to be so. Of course the final report may not, in the end, be agreeable to me; and, if it is agreeable to me but not to our Synod (which will discuss it on March 3rd 2017) then I will be doing my best to represent our Synod's views to the GS.

In all likelihood our Diocese will not have a uniform view let alone a unanimous one and thus it will require a certain skill in forked tongueness to represent the diversity of views in our Diocese!

More seriously, I believe our Diocese wants to (a) remain unified, and (b) be part of a province which is unified, and I am sure that I will, along with the other Chch reps, being doing my best to secure that outcome.

Now, what about my question: do you believe the width and breadth of the Anglican church in our islands can and should continue to make room for St Matthews in the City as well as St Matthews in Dunedin?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Frankly, I can only go so far with your proposal.
Ron makes a point: (which I will put this way) If I marry my same sex partner civilly, might not the church offer a prayer of support and thanksgiving for that relationship as well as for the household we are setting up?
I think that a reasonable question to ask.
I also think (my point now) that that question is being asked by ordinary people and ordinary families about their loved one. It is not about "activists" at work with political agendas but about pastoral care for people living their lives in a changing society.
Now, I am with you in reminding the church that all prayers are political (i.e. about how we view the organising of our lives and especially about how God views the ordering of our lives) and thus a disunited church should not be permitting prayers which should not be made in the name of God.
An implication of this may well be that we could be/should be offering house blessings, no more and no less.
But that is not actually on the agenda of our church at this time and what is on the agenda is much more flowing from the hearts of people than from activist agendas thrashed out in smoke filled rooms overseen by posters of Marx and Gramsci!
The most activist Kiwi lesbian Anglican I know currently is inactive in the Anglican church - more or less having given up on it. The most involved gay Anglicans I personally know in the life of this church are so polite and cautious they are best categorised as diplomats and not as activists!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Stu
It would be good to learn a little more about why your third of a congregation objects to the current proposal being considered in its interim form. What is it about the proposal which would lead to people leaving? Given that the doctrine of marriage would not change, that much would depend on the bishop you have elected recently and is now installed to lead you, and that were one or two parishes granted permission for SSB to be conducted, the actual situation on the ground in Dunedin would be little different to say c.2003? (One hears things through the years ...!)

Further question, do the third of your congregation who might leave understand that there are others in our church who might leave if there is no change? (And, in my experience, there are those who would (re)join our church if there is change).

Part of my motivation to support either this "beautiful accommodation" or an even more beautiful one is that I would prefer not to play the politics of numbers (how many people might leave if we do X rather than Y) let alone of the emotions of potential departures (our body is ruptured and wounded if anyone leaves) but rather work with the possibility that we might stay together.

However, as I often say, in order to demonstrate I am not completely nuts, we may not get there, there may be no way forward which does not cause pain.

It is worth trying to find it if possible, is it not?

Anonymous said...


Peter, this is where we tend to disagree: proponents of SSB (eg Father Ron) believe that what is dividing your church on That Topic is the wicked homophobia of those who will not acknowledge the transcendent beauty of committed same sex relationships, but I think that you (and the English and we ourselves) are in fact divided by an entrenched disagreement among *heterosexuals* about the Bible, sex, and the sexes that shows no sign of being resolved soon. (BTW wearing monocles, as they must, gay diplomats saw *marriage extension* as a far simpler idea than it actually is, and failure to understand that is inspiring a lot of groundless ill will.) Now if the proponents are right, then there is nothing for them to do but battle their wicked, homophobic fellow Christians, vote by vote. But if I am right, then building on unity and extending it as one can is not only more scriptural but also more likely to build respect and peace.

"If I marry my same sex partner civilly, might not the church offer a prayer of support and thanksgiving for that relationship as well as for the household we are setting up?"

If that is really all anyone actually wants, then peace is at hand! A petition in the prayers of the people at the Sunday liturgy should suffice. But although that is as solemn as Christendom can get, I doubt that the hearts of people would really be content with it. And I do not blame them.

But solemnisation has been a sex license for several centuries. Given the controversy, try something truly different.

"...a disunited church should not be permitting prayers which should not be made in the name of God."

A "disunited church" that believes in Christ should begin praying in the unity that it already has, trusting that the Holy Spirit will expand that unity with time. As our unity comes from God, not synods, is this not the faithful thing to do?

So if gay Christians want inclusion, then give it to them! Use the rite of inclusion that you already have! And while you are at it, include the half of adults in most churches who are unmarried by nearly all definitions. If house-blessings prove to be somehow inadequate, then reflect on that, and maybe do something about it. But in the meantime, it is absurd to let the dream of a perfect rite be the enemy of a good rite you already have on the shelf.

"An implication of this may well be that we could be/should be offering house blessings, no more and no less."

You should be blessing houses for a dozen reasons besides the calming of tensions over That Topic.

"But that is not actually on the agenda of our church at this time..."

Churches do not really have agendas, but persons who think that they do are somewhat useful to them.

"The most activist Kiwi lesbian Anglican I know currently is inactive in the Anglican church - more or less having given up on it."

Activism in churches just burns people out; Christians believe in God and so they believe in providence. But I'll bet she would be delighted if Father Ron blessed her house :-)

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- The late modern disintegration of the Church's ethos for sex is analogous to the early medieval disintegration of the Church's discipline for penance. In the latter case, a replacement paradigm was fashioned, not by a working group in Rome, but on the edge of the world in rural Ireland, and it spread to other provinces of the West, less by formal adoption than by informal imitation. In the present case, I think that Christians will follow the best practises of saints and great pastors, as they are able to meet them and weave their examples into the fabric of daily life, but that they will not bet their spiritualities on the resolutions and reports of central institutions. Paradigms are big.

So I view the synodical processes that we have as important mainly for the conflict they engender in a situation that they cannot help. I like people; I like meetings; I enjoy politics. But I cannot see this moment in history in any other way, and that determines a low view of synodical processes with respect to That Topic.

As a consolation, I also see Christians far from any power in churches as being in the right sort of place to read scripture, pray about it, experiment boldly, and reflect honestly. The Holy Spirit will not leave any church without a few who are getting things right. We may read about some of them here.

BW

Stu Crosson said...

Morning Peter,
Fair questions and to be clear, I am not trying to play a numbers game when I mention how many of my flock have indicated departure over SSB. Merely to communicate the likely outcome of this train departure and the tension I feel as their pastor.
Surveys are a blunt instrument so I can’t really answer your question as to why they would leave. A question we asked was simply “If the national Anglican church endorses the blessing of same sex relationships would you leave the Anglican church?” (on top of the 29% that said yes another 27% were unsure, 44% no). Its kind of like MMP only the stakes are higher!! Am I Winston Peters or Bill English)
I think the reasons for departure would be many and varied but would basically come down to a sense that Anglicanism was no longer being faithful to the doctrines of Christ. I sense that my people don’t make a clever distinction between a civil marriage and a religious ceremony to bless that relationship and they are pretty clear that marriage is between a man and woman.
Can God bless anyone? Of course. Can God bless relationships contrary to his word. My people would say no (Psalm 5:12) and this is such a relationship.
For me personally, it comes back to the gospel. What is the truly good news for my brothers and sisters who experience same sex attraction? I have been challenged by the Wesley Hills and Sam Allberrys of the church who advocate for celibacy and spiritual friendship. I don’t think their voice has been particular well heard in this debate.
Your final question: is it worth trying to find a way forward? Absolutely. But not at any price. Not at the price of 30% of my flock’s convictions. Not at the price of the gospel revealed in God’s word.
I am asking for patience. 50 years is not a long time in matters of doctrine that have profound implications upon our theology of humanity, marriage, church and scripture.
Blessings,
Stu

Rosemary Behan said...

I struggle to understand you Peter, I really do .. but whichever way I look at it, you don’t make sense .. sorry.

You say, “In our church we are trying to find a way forward which enables (e.g.) the third of Stu's congregation to remain and gay and lesbian Anglicans on the verge of walking if there is no change to also remain.”

So what is your premise here? You SAY that SSB/M is theologically not correct, but you REPRESENT those who believe it IS correct. [I say that because you referred to an Anglican woman who has a ‘wife!!!!!] I mean congregations, and I represent a pew sitter here, have all their lives [thousands of years] accepted in their midst the greedy, the fornicator, the same sex oriented and you could go on and on, but they accept those people KNOWING that the preaching and teaching from the pulpit .. representing God .. would convict everyone, giving everyone the chance to repent as the Bible teaches. You seem to be saying we must do MORE than that, we must accept that God accepts sinners but has no wish to convict them.

You say, “then I will be doing my best to represent our Synod's views to the GS. In all likelihood our Diocese will not have a uniform view let alone a unanimous one and thus it will require a certain skill in forked tongueness to represent the diversity of views in our Diocese!”

I take this to mean you have no boundary either way is OK with you. So I ask AGAIN .. hoping for some leadership from a leader in our Diocese .. WHO do you represent .. or don't you represent anybody?

You ask, “Now, what about my question: do you believe the width and breadth of the Anglican church in our islands can and should continue to make room for St Matthews in the City as well as St Matthews in Dunedin?”

I know nothing about either of those establishments, but if their interpretation of Scripture has no boundaries .. if there is nothing we need to repent of .. then no I don’t.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter, as my recent comments on this thread have not found your acceptance (thus countering Rosemary's insistence that you are in some way biased against her view of S/S Blessings/Marriage), I will not waste your time or mine on further participation in this particular dialogue - not for want of trying, but rather for lack of facilitation by you. I hope Rosemary is in some way appeased by my abstention on this thread

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You are always welcome here to comment on issues but I cannot welcome comments here which are less than respectful of commenters or fellow Christians.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Stu
That is excellent clarity - thank you!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
Thanks for clarity about the breadth of our church.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding our church but our church - as I understand it - includes the following groups of people:
- those who think as you do and there are many spread across our church (on this particular issue, "conservative" could be a good description)
- those who disagree with conservatives, that is, would not think a blessed same sex partnership was sinful and thus would not think that the blessing of such relationship involved the blessing of sin ("progressive" would seem to be a good description, since wanting to make "progress" on this matter; and there do seem to be many progressives in our church, though possibly not as many in our Diocese as in other Dioceses)
- those who (a) are conservative re SSB but do not mind if SSBs are permitted in our church; (b) do not know what to think; (c) those who hope the issue might, somehow, go away, and we can all get on with being Anglican (might I call such Anglicans, "moderates"?)

This is the reality of our church is it not? I look around my friends and colleagues and see people opposed to SSB and people in favour of SSB [all, by the way, loving and caring for gay and lesbian persons]. I know people who are celibate gay/lesbian persons and gay/lesbian persons planning their weddings. Somehow as a church we are either going to get along or we are going to split. It may be incomprehensible but I am trying hard - probably unsuccessfully! - to work on the get along rather than the split.

My representation of the Diocese at General Synod, I assume, is the representation of conservatives, progressives and moderates. I have been elected (as each of the other representatives have been elected) to represent the Diocese.

Nevertheless I don't think anyone who voted for me thinks of me as a progressive Anglican. I imagine some think of me as conservative and some as moderate.

Finally, leadership: yes, I am trying to offer some leadership and I think it is pretty clear, leadership towards a unifying solution.

But, here on this blog, it feels like my leadership in that direction is quite a failure!!

Anonymous said...

"I sense that my people don’t make a clever distinction between a civil marriage and a religious ceremony to bless that relationship and they are pretty clear that marriage is between a man and woman." --Stu

"...congregations, and I represent a pew sitter here, have all their lives [thousands of years] accepted in their midst the greedy, the fornicator, the same sex oriented and you could go on and on, but they accept those people KNOWING that the preaching and teaching from the pulpit .. representing God .. would convict everyone, giving everyone the chance to repent as the Bible teaches. You seem to be saying we must do MORE than that, we must accept that God accepts sinners but has no wish to convict them." -- Rosemary

Once in a while, I read something that sounds like it came from the pews. I am no populist, and I do not agree with everything in either statement. But these concerns are not unreasonable, and they will not be fixed by working group reports.

BW

Rosemary Behan said...

Peter, for the sake of ease of conversation, I will accept your classification of conservative, moderate and progressive. But you are severely wrong if you believe that not one of the conservatives, nor one of the moderates, believes you represent the progressives .. I believe they all do. You represent the progressives Peter, your every breath, never mind numerous posts and replies, says so.

Father Ron, I haven't once addressed a comment to you, nor have I considered your position here which must be very difficult. However may I assure you that I welcome you as a brother in Christ, we share a belief in the Resurrection of Christ, all else is debatable.

Anonymous said...

"Finally, leadership: yes, I am trying to offer some leadership and I think it is pretty clear, leadership towards a unifying solution. But, here on this blog, it feels like my leadership in that direction is quite a failure!!"

Blessed are the peacemakers, Peter! But in the Church there is no such thing as a "unifying solution." You cannot fail at what cannot be tried.

Unity comes only from an allegiance to Christ enabled by the Holy Spirit and visible in the Body of the faithful. It does not come from man, from synodical dealmaking or social engineering etc. Churches depend less on leadership for their unity than on prophecy.

You can usefully explain-- and have-- how it is that some persons are uncertain where others are certain, and vice versa. Those explanations block the exit out of a unity from which there is no excuse.

And a church that wants unity cannot conduct its business in a divisive way, as I have explained above--

"This is basic to negotiations; you get to an enduring "yes" when the negotiation is framed as a search for solutions to problems that both sides own. If a negotiation is instead framed as one side's unilateral demand on another, each side will seek to intimidate the other into believing that it has the *best alternative to negotiated agreement* (BATNA), and can therefore do what it wants without an agreement with the other. In that way, each puts pressure on the other side to accede to its demands while it can still get something in return for doing so.

"The present case is just what we would have expected. Proponents brought a unilateral demand for SSM/B to the opponents. As usual [in negotiations with that opening gambit], the resulting debate is tacitly or explicitly about who has the leverage of not needing an agreement [ie which side is strong enough to defy or walk out on the other]. Proponents claim the BATNA of just breaking unpopular rules and daring opponents to enforce them; opponents claim the BATNA of leaving or inviting invasion from overseas. You, from time to time, tell us which threat your spies find most convincing.

"Those who, like yourself, value unity are trying to avert those threats by seeking a compromise. But so long as the search is about the same fixed demand, the dynamic will be the same, although perhaps slower. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent a *munich*-- both sides agree to compromise, they each take the gains from it that they can, and then the fight to get more begins anew.

"...And we need to see that clearly to engage fruitfully in the search that you describe in the present OP."

There is no way to get from a unilateral demand to a peaceful, unified outcome. Once we see why this is so, then no matter where our sympathies lie, we cannot see the quarrels over That Topic in the same way.

If SSB/M remains the centre of attention, stalemate is inevitable. To advance, proponents should retreat. To defend, opponents should offer a more popular counterplan. To free a church from a debate far in overtime, peacemakers should defend a consensus accessible to nearly all.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman, Rosemary
Thank you for challenging, searching comments - they are weighed and evaluated by me.

Bowman: I think we are on more of an evolving, Spirit-seeking journey than you are characterising. I also do not think we are being presented with unilateral demands. We are being asked to consider whether the breadth and freedom of the Anglican church at prayer might extend to praying for and giving thanks for same sex couples. It is a persistent request but I am not personally experiencing it as a demand.

Some think the breadth does so extend, some do not think so. How do we resolve this? Synod is the logical place because synod is the meeting place of the people of the church and what better meeting to consider the lead of the Spirit. I think increasingly I am at loss to understand why synods are viewed in such lowly light by youself!

Nevertheless I do accept that so far our synods (diocesan and General Synod) seem to have been loath to face the fact of disunity for what it is: a sign that we do not yet have the mind of the Spirit for it is reasonable to expect that mind to be discerned by a church which is agreed.

Jean said...

I am pondering after your post which would be more useful to me a husband or a wife, in typical stereotype fashion looking at my today I have thought it would be useful to have both a guy to do the heavy labour jobs and a woman to cook dinner and clean house : ) ... a pity stereotypes are just that!

This is the sort of issue that goes round in my head like a water in a washing machine and my clarity lessens the more thought I give it. Ultimately I still long for a sound theological basis for going forward. I have read the theological arguments for SSB/SSM around to date but still I find the convincing argument left wanting. I acknowledge the difficulty, pain, trials and tribulations faced by those who are same sex attracted and Christian and realise how a subjective experience can be far different from an objective one. Still for me to endorse the practice in practice as a sacred rite (and by this I am not referring to caring for or about people of all persuasions) I need to be persuaded it is within the bounds of what God considers good and holy for his people to partake in.

So long story short, yes for me also the theological dimensions is crucial if not more so than the practical one or as you put it broadening the landscape Peter. As Bowman indicates that broad net really exists already in a sense within the church in terms of viewpoints and people but if I found myself in a position where the Church I was attending conducted a SSM at the present time it would make me question whether or not to stay there.



Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Jean
Certainly emerging through this thread of comments is the question whether we have got the theological horse leading the practical arrangements cart or not.
It does not appear that we have that.
So I am going to reflect on whether any further submission from me ought to be more in that direction than what I have proposed above.

Andrei said...

". I acknowledge the difficulty, pain, trials and tribulations faced by those who are same sex attracted and Christian and realise how a subjective experience can be far different from an objective one."

But pains, trials and tribulations are the human lot Jean - all people have desires that cannot be met and have to endure things we would rather not exist but cannot wish away

Think of the pain of having a child with cancer and watching the horrendous treatments that child undergoes only to die anyway - all the Church can do in that situation is to provide prayer, comfort and support

The institution of Marriage as we have received it is sacred for reason and the celebration of a wedding is a profound and solemn thing not because it is the denouement of a Mills and Boon romance but it is the start of "pains, trials and tribulations" as the protagonists go on to hopefully raise their children to be worthy members of society.

The secular world has successfully trashed marriage and in so doing marginalized the Church. And the reason you are having this debate is that some believe, falsely, that making accommodations with the secular world will demarginalize the Church. It wont.

The distraction provided be engaging in this debate is in fact leading to the church not fulfilling its mission to the world to some extent

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; do you think impatience from the other two Tikanga and a fair chunk of yours will lead to the recommendation from the working group being accepted? From a friend in another tradition, this has probably preoccupied all sides for too long already. I doubt there will be any appetite for delay. Of course asking for details might be palatable.

Nick

Father Ron Smith said...

Good morning, Peter.

Here at last, according to today's report from ACNS, is some good news about the Church of England's increase in priestly vocations, where obviously, the C.of E.'s recent pro-active attitude towards new initiatives towards the LGBTI Community has brought a positive (and not a negative) result in recruitment of more female and younger clergy to its Gospel Mission. See here:

https://goo.gl/CaxWHz

This is Good News indeed!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
That is good news but I am not sure that it is "obvious" re the link you make!

Sam Anderson said...

Hi Ron,

Peter put it lightly: exactly where do you see the causal link between 'proactive initiatives towards the LGBTI community' and the 14% increase in the number of ordinands?

The article cites the Renewal and Reform programme which, while encouraging black, asian, and other ethnic minorities into senior leadership positions, makes no mention of LGBT issues.

Anonymous said...

"It is a persistent request but I am not personally experiencing it as a demand."

Perhaps not, Peter, but others who hear talk of irregular ceremonies, people leaving, etc might experience those as threats, and consequently the request itself as a demand. And although the offline conversations that you hear may be warm, collegial, and kind, that cannot be said of the online conversations that all the rest of us hear at ADU and elsewhere. Anyway, semantics and tone are not that important to my point.

The predictive power of the model is extremely important. Polarised group processes have an inexorable dynamic, and assemblies that conduct business by majority rule institutionalise it. Campaigning to build a majority to get a proposal enacted is nothing like contributing to the open-ended and unpolarised discussion that true problem-solvers use to find and improve ideas. The history of That Topic in the Anglican Communion illustrates this again and again.

Wisely-- faithfully too-- Quakers never conduct their own serious business as majoritarian combat, and your local Presbyterians have adopted synodical procedures that do not make winning and losing faction but do enable the emergence of broad consensus in a whole synod. Anglicans everywhere would be much better off if we did likewise.

While he was ABC, Rowan Williams was again and again surprised by the power dynamics that emerged in the Anglican Communion. Reflecting on that surprise towards the end of his time in office, he realised that, having come up through the Church of Wales, he had assumed that the whole Communion would act with the sweet and forbearing reasonableness of a small village church. In retrospect that seemed very naive, but it was a natural mistake to make.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...



Sam, the report does not have to mention 'special issues' as the reason for getting more clergy into the system. What it DOES indicate, is that more women and younger clergy are signing up to be a part of the modern Church of England.I suppose I have to leave it to your imagination as to why this is happening. Anyway, these new recruits don't look like they are signing up to create a climate of schismatic withdrawal from the Church on account of its Inclusivity. For this, I give thanks to God. This may be a lesson for ACANZP.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
My understanding of the series of working groups which we have asked to do work between General Synods is that we might - fingers crossed - get to a point where we vote unanimously as a General Synod on something broadly agreeable to our church.

Now, we may not get that unanimity and that may mean we settle for majority rule. But currently I think we are involved in a process with the peaceable intention of settling the matter harmoniously.

Obviously this blog and its many comments highlights that we are not particularly heading towards unanimity ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
There is impatience but I suspect we may be heading for a situation somewhat akin to the aftermath of an MMP election: votes need careful counting and evaluating.

So: a few of scenarios of many possibilities:
(1) If from our recent rounds of synods there emerges a strong view towards further theological work then I think that would help us to be patient.
(2) If the emergent view from synods and submissions leads to a final proposal which is broadly acceptable then we will decide and the question of patience will not arise.
(3) We could find ourselves at GS with no clear view on any which way forward ...

Anonymous said...

Peter, an analogy between your SSB process and a start up is stuck in my mind. It follows.

Start ups usually fail because even entrepreneurs with a winning idea know much less than they think they do about ideas critical to its implementation. Conversely, start ups that have been huge successes (Microsoft, Apple, Facebook) had founders who experimented their way to knowledge that they did not know that they needed. Business schools used to warn founders that without elaborate advance plans they were doomed to fail. Now business schools warn that grand plans made in ignorance waste precious capital, and encourage methodical experimentation instead.

Discussion about the synodical process for SSB tends to be about What Fuzzy-Minded People Might Really (Not) Want. Might it be the case that there is simply too little experience to inform their desires, and that many small but indicative trials would reveal more than another report?

That is one salient advantage of blessing all new households in say, January. House-blessings may not be the fulfillment of every heart's desire, but they are worth doing anyway, and a lot would be learned without further procrastination at low cost and risk. There may be other such experiments to be tried as well. Theology is certainly well worth doing-- put Bryden in charge-- but without such experimentation, one might do a lot of deep reflection about the wrong things. Also, the heart must have its reasons as well as the head.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Possibly Bowman!
But what I do not see is the "mindset" for the trials to take place.
To develop that mindset is not impossible - people could read this blog :)
But I think we need some sort of growing expectation.
There were computers before Jobs and Gates got going: there was (though no one knew it) a market being primed for the PC and Macintosh.
I am not sure that we have that situation here - not least because the market indicators are heading in a different direction (cf the article link the other day re request for wedding in a church).

Anonymous said...

"Jesus preached the kingdom of God, but it was the [denomination and its institutional politics] that came." --apologies to Alfred Loisy

Peter, I missed the link "re request for wedding in a church" that you mention. Could you supply it again?

"I think we are on more of an evolving, Spirit-seeking journey than you are characterising."

"But what I do not see is the "mindset" for the trials to take place."

"But I think we need some sort of growing expectation."

This is why, despite your conservative theology, Rosemary sees you as a progressive: your taste in organisational dynamics runs fast to the Grand Whoop-Dee-Doo that progressives like, not to the incremental, decentralised, low stakes, continuous, evolutionary change that conservatives trust, sometimes.

So far as I can see, you and I have reached the same conclusion about SSB itself-- would not do it, but believe that others who would do it could have faithful if provisional grounds for doing so. But I imagine SSB as... well... as an incremental, decentralised, low stakes, continuous, evolving remedy narrowly tailored to a pastoral use that may be only temporary. That is, once your diplomats stop chattering and the dream of a Grand Whoop-Dee-Doo finally dies, then others with our conservative view will occasionally meet with couples to whom they cannot minister without doing something that looks rather like blessing though nothing like solemnisation. And so, in some way unforeseeable today by any working group, that is what they-- eg Sam and Stu- will do. It would be good for the intrinsic authority of *bishops* to *oversee* this to be recognised. But the coming future needs no more diplomacy in its behalf than the gravity that pulls water downhill, and indeed, working groups trying to keep hope of a Grand Whoop-Dee-Doo alive are damming the river upstream so that nothing real can happen downstream where people live.

Conversely, I really like house-blessings-- did anyone bless a household this afternoon? if not, why not? don't you want your people to feel included in the Body?-- because visiting homes as Jesus did is kingdom of heaven REAL, and not a Grand Whoop-Dee-Doo. Prayer is always incremental. Since no two houses can be blessed in quite the same way, house-blessing can never be wholly centralised, and will always be happily fraught with the incidents and accidents, improvisations and accommodations of real life. House blessing is low stakes because, so far as I know, nobody is threatening to leave if pastors do it. House-blessing is more continuous with the Galilean ministry of Jesus than anything else we could do, with the possible exception of exorcism. House blessing is evolving because households are evolving, something Orthodox clergy have often mentioned to me.

Speaking of the Orthodox, have you ever wondered how the Orthodox came to have married priests and monastic bishops? The Orthodox often do because there is no ancient canon that actually requires this, and St Paul famously urged that a bishop be the husband of one wife, yet no married man has been consecrated since about the C13. Orthodox bishops have been monastics for about eight centuries because when the Mongols devastated the brilliant cathedral culture of West Asian cities from Constantinople to Xian, it was the monastics throughout the countryside who were enthroned in place of the martyred dead, and they have not been willing to consecrate any who have not learned the spiritual disciplines of monks. The Christians being driven from the "Middle East" are the spiritual descendants of those whose faith survived the loss of every mere institution, every Whoop-Dee_Doo of the Byzantine and Monophysite commonwealth. How can we deny the perfection of so much of that ecclesial culture? And yet God used the Mongols to put something wilder in its place.

Bowman Walton

Rosemary Behan said...

Conservatives like myself have tried and tried to get Peter to see this, but he won’t. I have offended him in my efforts to get him to see this, for which I’m sorry, but the post we are commenting on drives me to it. Peter says ..

“Recently I met an Anglican woman and discovered we both had something in common: both of us have wives!”

For thousands of years we have welcomed women who shared their lives and their homes into our church .. less frequently men. But if one of the women brought up that she sees her partner as her ‘wife’ .. well that changes the whole equation. Sex is brought into it. Not a single conservative that I have ever met could refer to a woman’s partner as her ‘wife.’ Therefore, Peter is a progressive. QED

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman and Rosemary

Bowman: the link is https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/weddings/97206722/it-pains-us-to-say-no-church-refuses-to-marry-kpiti-couple . The difficulty you again overlook is that we had that decentralised, evolving situation pre 2003 when informal blessings and ordinations of same sex partnered persons were occurring here and there. Then your countryman Gene Robinson blew your ideal situation out the water and a moratorium set in. How are we to get out of the moratorium without some kind of formal decision at synodical level?

Rosemary: probably nothing I say will change your calling me "progressive" but I might have been a little bit ironic with that remark. Though perhaps the situation is too serious for humour? Theologically I do not think a woman can have a wife (nor a man a husband) despite what the law of the land permits.

Father Ron Smith said...

I've always liked the term 'Spouse' - as in Christ being espoused to the Body of Christ, the Church. No connotation here of gender or sexuality. I am hoping to be an integrated partner at the 'Marriage Feast of The Lamb'.

Rosemary Behan said...

Peter said, "Rosemary: probably nothing I say will change your calling me "progressive" but I might have been a little bit ironic with that remark. Though perhaps the situation is too serious for humour?

Humour Peter? Irony? You go on to say this .." Recently I met an Anglican woman and discovered we both had something in common: both of us have wives! I also discovered a bit about her parish church, which welcomes and celebrates the lives of gay and lesbian persons. It got me thinking about the (potential) capacity of Anglican churches to incorporate breadth of theology, liturgy and experience. Incorporation in Anglican life does not require validation or endorsement but it does mean there is tolerance, space and willingness to exist together in a large enough room for conversation to continue."

Sorry, but I don't think either irony or humour cover it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
You have shifted the goalposts somewhat!
I responded to your specific quotation on the basis of which you called me a progressive.
Now there is a fuller quotation and perhaps a fairer basis for calling me a progressive.
However that is not the basis on which I am commending the breadth of our church (that we might progress towards it).
Rather I am making the point - or trying to, perhaps badly - that the Anglican Church has a history of breadth, of tolerance at its edges for things the middle are not comfortable with.
I am asking whether we might continue that breadth.
A breadth, let us recall, which led no one to seek schism when the previous vicar of St Matthews in the City put up all sorts of provocative billboards questioning credal doctrines.
A breadth we might recall which led no one to seek schism in past times when same sex relationships were blessed pre 2003
Now, if asking whether we might be a broad Anglican Church makes me progressive then I cannot escape the charge.
However, how progressive are all those Anglicans who do not blog and do not declare their public support for such breadth.
Are they closet progressives?

Rosemary Behan said...

I don't know the answer Peter, I can only answer for myself .. and at the time all those things were happening, and yes, I was aware of them, I was waiting, waiting and am still waiting, for the leadership of our church to put a stop to it. Was there really complete silence on those matters? After all, they weren't then .. and still are not .. legal.

Sam Anderson said...

Hi Peter,

I have been trying to formulate a reply to your thread for a few days, but it's been difficult and, to be honest, I'm still at a loss to know quite how to respond.

I'm just very confused. It seems that, after all the careful, thoughtful, intelligent words you have written in the past weeks, you've retreated to the 'broad church' and the 'why now?' arguments. And you wonder 'whether we might continue that breadth.'

And, this causes me to wonder if you really understand conservatives. Discussion about divorce and remarriage, or toleration of St Matthew in the City, or failure to act in pre-2003 SSBs, has absolutely no traction. Quite the contrary. This conservative (and others I know) laments that the church has got this far without action being taken: to talk of continuing to allow it because we haven't acted int he past only strengthens our resolve that this must end now.

Father Ron Smith said...

This sounds like threatening kanguage from you, Sam. What do YOU plan to do if 'this' does not end now?

Anonymous said...

Peter; from your posts over several years, I would not have said that they were progressive, but they do indicate a willingness to accommodate SSB. For myself (and it may be that others on this thread do not agree), same sex relationships intrinsically miss the mark. The two halves cannot (despite all wishful thinking ) make a whole and I am not prepared to confirm others in what I believe to be folly; albeit the folly of those who simply want to enjoy the sexuality that they have. With this in mind (and I suspect that there are others on this thread who do agree with me), true love requires us to identify the folly and renounce it, not pretend that there are valid different views. IMHO, if we think that something is sin, we will commit a worse sin by confirming people in their folly, particularly when they are vulnerable. Far from showing love, we will condemn them to the consequences of sin.

Nick

Glen Young said...


Broad is the path to destruction.

Father Ron Smith said...

" I was waiting, waiting and am still waiting, for the leadership of our church to put a stop to it." - Rosemary -

Dear Rosemary, I thought that you, by now, would have recognized the way by which our Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia is governed - not by fiat from above, but by the will of our Synods. These are composed - not only of clergy and bishops (your notion of leadership?) but also by the accredited lay-people, representing the whole 'Laos' - the People of God.

We are not Roman Catholics, governed by a 'Vatican', but by the constant movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of the Church in Synod. Yes, the Holy Spirit is still alive and well in the Church. There are those who go along with Her promptings and those who resist. This is how (and why) dissenting organisations like ACNA, AMiE, FoCA and GAFCON separate themselves out from the Body and become their own entity.

Sam Anderson said...

I'm not sure who you think I'm threatening, Ron. There is no threat being made. There is only conviction that I must act in accordance with my conscience, and hold with integrity that which I believe the Scriptures to teach.

I know what I plan to do if the recommendations of the working group's report are accepted by GS2018. I have communicated this to my wardens. But I do not feel this is the time or place to make it known publicly.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Sam
I keep meeting different people!
As I understand it, the Diocese of Sydney, fervent and fearless though it is inthe espousal and expansion of conservative evangelicalism nevertheless has at least two high church/Anglo-catholic parishes. The breadth of the Diocese of Sydney may not be terrifically broad (on any Anglican estimation!) but it has just enough room for a little bit of exception to the rule.
That sense of exception to the rule is what I am raising here, noting that even if as a church we vigorously defend and maintain the status quo, we will still have parishes where same sex couples will get involved, we will still have clergy who believe in their heart that they should be able to bless such relationships.
What are we to do?
The sense I get from your comment is that we should both maintain the status quo and impose the iron hand of strict discipline. No exceptions allowed. No bishop discretion allowed re not pursuing a priest who did perform an SSB. An example must be made in every case.
But that sounds more like the Puritanical Church, the one the CofE in the late 16th and 17th centuries steered as far away from as it was steering away from the Papal Church - the via media!
Sure, I don't want our church to be as broad and lax as it has been in times past; but I am quite uncomfortable with it being as narrow as - choosing my words carefully here - some remarks made here seem to imply (even if the makers of those remarks do not intend such a Puritanical Church to come into being).
This is partly why I am raising in my most recent post on these matters, which has attracted hardly any comments, that we might do some more theological work and that such work might include ecclesiology: what kind of church do we want to be?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
I might be progressive in the Franciscan sense of the word :)

Yes, it is unloving to confirm people in their sin and to mislead them about the eternal consequences of their continued sinning.

But that, in itself, does not help the leadership of churches to work out how to accommodate differing views on what is sin, when those views affect the majority of church members (e.g., and just one example, 66% Australian Catholics not opposed to changing the civil law on marriage there), and - particularly relevant to Anglicans- wha to do when the leadership itself (both bishops, clergy and synods) are not agreed.

Is there room for dissent? Exercise of conscience? Even if one does no want to bless the sexual component of a relationship, might one offer prayers for faithful love and companionship for two people? Does Bowman's idea of House Blessings fit the situation best?

One of the things which continues to inform my Anglican mind on these matters is the English Catholic example of a distinctive mass for gay and lesbian Catholics (and, yes, I know that until a few years ago that mass may have been a bit, shall we say, lax re the church's teaching and thus more recently the English bishops' conference has imposed a tighter discipline on it). My understanding being that the church in this way seeks to journey with its gay and lesbian members towards a holy lifestyle rather than expecting that lifestyle to be in place today.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Sam.
Dear Commenters
I will not publish any comments which speculate directly or indirectly on Sam's second paragraph in his comment immediately above.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Sam.
Dear Commenters
I will not publish any comments which speculate directly or indirectly on Sam's second paragraph in his comment immediately above.

Sam Anderson said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Yes, there are a several 'stole parishes' in Sydney. And 'broadness' has some virtue, but only to point. For there is a major difference between the illegal observance of some 'catholic naughties' such as the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the official declaration as Blessed, that which the scriptures and tradition deem to be sin.

No, I don't think we should maintain the status quo and impost discipline. That horse has bolted!

The only way forward is a planned and careful dismemberment. That way, the progressives can liberalise to their hearts content--forget SSBs, surely they want more than that? And the conservatives can carry on as they wish to, without any changes. And, those in the middle, well, they will have to make their call with whom they will be in fellowship.

Anonymous said...

I wish that Sam and Stu would comment here more often.

BW

GlenYoung said...


Neither the Creation nor the Church are our's. We were given stewardship of both within specific guidelines {Christ's Revelation of His Fathers's Will, both as the LOGOS and our CHRIST;Old Testament and the New} Do you really want our stewardship of HIS CHURCH to be as terrible as stewardship of HIS CREATION???????.

Who are we to be defining what SIN is or is not ????????? "SIN IS ANY ACTION OR THOUGHT WHICH WE HOLD TO BE OWN THAT IS CONTARY TO THE FATHER"S WILL". Leading people to believe that their lifestyles are in conformity with the Will of God, when we know that is not the case; all for the "UNITY of the CHURCH" is SHAMEFUL. CHRIST,Himself said that the final decision to follow HIM,would divide families.How do we think that we can unify a church which can't understand what what is SIN as defined by GOD'S REVELATION and What is not.Sadly,at some point of time,families must decide whether they stand CHRIST or their family member..They either are honest enough to lead them to CHRIS and ETERNAL LIFE or they confirm them in their sin and eternal death. Bonhoeffer called this COSTLY GRACE. "COSTLY,because it cost CHRIST His LIFE".

So, the question is Peter;when you and G.S. vote on this issue,"what has it cost CHRIST ?????????


All the bleeding heart and subjective emotion which the PROGRESSIVES want to inflict upon the ETERNAL CHURCH OF CHRIST cannot undo the "IF YOU EAT OF THE FRUIT OT THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE,YOU SHALL DIE..

Anonymous said...

"...the Anglican Church has a history of breadth, of tolerance at its edges for things the middle are not comfortable with. I am asking whether we might continue that breadth." -- Peter

*Fringe* or *margin* around a centre might be more accurate metaphors than *breadth*. And the change of metaphor brings a change of perception.

Anglican bishops generally recognise that sound believers respond differently to social changes affecting all of us. Accordingly, they have often tolerated both some who adapt to it early and some who never adapt to it at all. That probably accounts for the cases that Peter mentions. This toleration neither exemplifies a norm nor reflects the main body of practise. Indeed, both the eccentricities and the toleration tend to be ephemeral. The billboards are probably gone by now.

I think that this forbearance is wise. In Fulcrum, I have mainly invoked it in arguing for generous provision for those resistant to the consecration of women to be bishops. Here, I have invoked it for persons who (a) hold the traditional understandings on sex, (b) believe (rightly or not) that present day same sex attraction is not what the Six Texts were about, and (c) exercise pastoral discretion to minimise sin and promote sanctification.

However application of forbearance in this situation is complicated by the perception that allowing SSB at all is precisely the setting of a new norm for everyone at the centre of the Christian ethos for sexuality. Because happy warriors on both sides promote this view-- both believe in a slippery slope, point to polls, etc-- it is hard to merely tolerate SSB as one might tolerate a provocative billboard.

It is also impossible to overlook the evil partiality that makes provision for homosexuals with civil SSM but none whatsoever for the unmarried. Conservatives content to merely hold the line against SSB are damanably at fault there as progressives pushing SSB. Lambeth I.10 says so.

The way forward is probably backward. Until it is clear that the ethos itself is sound and secure, it is unlikely that there will be any conservative support for forbearance for SSB in any form. On the other hand, if the scientific case for (b) strengthens with time, then so too will future sentiment for a forbearance at the margin that is more easily accepted even by conservatives. Distasteful as it may be for them to recognise this, the more progressives push for SSB, the more they ensure division or invasion.

Indeed, unity in ACANZP may actually require working through some ideas from the conservative margin (eg the three distinct practises of celibacy; Stu alludes to one of them). So my own position here has been-- (1) to push hard for a far more *traditional* ethos at the centre; (2) to reiterate the settled position of the Anglican Communion, and the uselessness of synodical speculation to circumvent it; and to explore pastoral approaches that help (3) young people with same sex attraction and (4) all those not in a recognised marriage. And lately, I have begun to rethink (5) the office of the keys, since remarriage has begun to figure so prominently in this discussion. These promote a healthier centre that may safely allow forbearance of something like SSB under conditions (a), (b), and (c).

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- In rich countries, the Church is slowly passing from a paradigm in which the most faithful were usually in lifelong, procreative marriages to an as yet undefined one in which many of the most faithful never marry, and even those who do spend about half of their lives in some single state. (There is a distant analogy perhaps in the Byzantine ideal of a youth spent in a good marriage and an old age spent in a good monastery.) This supposes only that demographic trends continue and that Christians do not give up entirely on sexual self control, which seems unlikely and would be counter-scriptural.

Although it does the heart good to do wisely and well by the 3% with same sex attraction, homosexuality in the Church is fated to pass from being marginal to faithful procreation to being marginal to faithful celibacy. In that respect, the mainstreaming and *marriage equality* that has quite rightly happened in our nations has no closely analogous process in the Church. Some future parishes may be little clubs of married couples, some straight and some gay, with a vicar who talks about his five-year old and his spouse too much. But the future Church will also have-- may even predominantly be-- some street-level presence in which being single is understood to be a rather long phase of life, and with a style of spirituality, community, and leadership appropriate to that reality.

BW

Father Ron Smith said...

"All the bleeding heart and subjective emotion which the PROGRESSIVES want to inflict upon the ETERNAL CHURCH OF CHRIST cannot undo the "IF YOU EAT OF THE FRUIT OT THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE,YOU SHALL DIE.."
Glen Young - October 1, 2017 at 3:52 PM

The Jerusalem Bible has this useful note in its 'Introduction to the Pentateuch':

"Genesis sets the history of the ancestors in a background of primordial history. The early chapters visualise the situation of all mankind (sic) in the persons of Adam and Eve and see the origins of human history in an increasing wickedness which brings the flood as its punishment".

"Throughout, the hands of the Deuteronomic and Priestly editors are often to be observed 'ANNOTATING and ADAPTING" - an indication of the Holy Spirit's work in the minds of the human writers of The Scriptures.

If one remains in the understanding of the order of creation (for instance) one has to choose between 2 different versions contained in Genesis.

Biblical interpretation has been a constant 'work in progress'. This would seem to be the greatest problem for the literalists.

God's Creation is a continuing process. To believe anything other than this would be to limit the working of God's Spirit to the dawn of Creation. To limit one's theological speculation to Genesis, would be to deny the coming of Christ at the Incarnation. God's Incarnate Word was doing a new thing in Christ. His redemptive action was to turn the religious world upside-down: "Behold, a New Commandment give to you - that you love one another!". This is why Christ was crucified - at the behest of the Legalists.

Anonymous said...

Peter; the differing views on the sinfulness of same sex relations are recent, spanning the last 30 years or so. Although Fr Ron sees a new move of the Spirit, that is likely his wishful thinking in my view. Any such move has been a very long time coming and one might reasonably have expected God to have acted before now on something so apparently important. Christ has always been clear on the equality of women; why did he forget same-sex sex? After a number of years listening to and reading the arguments (often on this site, where even the erudite Ratner and Haller have contributed), it is really time like a judge to close off the argument and decide whether the progressives have made a convincing case. In so far as they have made any case, it hasn’t been that convincing and I would have been happy to have been convinced. We all like playing Father Christmas and I had my red suit ironed. Please let’s now call their case what it is; why dignify error with the pretense that it is worthy? You mention the apparent 66% of Australian Catholics unopposed to SSM. Catholics can’t have a valid secular marriage without episcopal permission, so your example is limited. On conscience, if you use it in the Newman sense (it is stern and steers the sinner to repentance), I have no issue. I suspect you are referring, however, to the subjective self-talk that we all use to justify our own evil. You then ask whether Bowman’s house blessings would work, but how can we offer prayers for faithful love when we think the faith is rebellious and the love is sin? There are severe consequences for encouraging sin in the vulnerable. The Archdiocese of Westminster did-possibly still does-have LGBIT masses. I hope they work well. I cannot really comment, but perhaps many people just go up for Eucharist. It is the responsibility of the Catholic to go to reconciliation. Perhaps they go. Peter, in many respects, I wish I had come to different views, but I think it’s time to call a spade a spade. There are too many important issues to indulge this distraction any further.

Nick

Sam Anderson said...

Bowman, I appreciate your comment about me and Stu. It makes me wonder what you appreciate about our contributions, particularly? (I'm hoping that doesn't come across like I'm fishing for compliments!)

Nick: I totally agree with your comment above, and the previous one at 11:59. You put it well.

Ron: Do you really think it is necessary to put (sic) after the word 'mankind' as if it is some kind of error? It shows an anachronistic snobbery, and misses the point of using sic, which is to aid clarity, rather than to display one's superiority (despite the fact that it is often used in this second sense.)

Anonymous said...

Sam, I appreciate a few things.

Others commenting here who are conservative on That Topic have been content to oppose, oppose, oppose. I understand the impulse, but mere repetition is boring and unhelpful. In contrast, you and Stu have both said or implied more about what ACANZP should actually do. I find that refreshing.

Most making conservative comments have crossed the line dividing respect for Peter from disrespect. Both you and Stu have shown Peter more collegiality.

You and Stu (and now Nick) have shared you inner thought processes more than other readers have done. This is important to readers who have no idea how the other side thinks, only how they try to win arguments.

You and Sam may not agree with me-- my position is complex, and few can quite understand it-- but I do agree with both of you on your main points. SSB proponents and opponents are working from pastoral differences greater than their necessary theological differences, and so, with you, I find alternate oversight eminently reasonable.

Stu is also right to worry that the mere consideration of SSB marginalises serious thought about how to support celibacy and the single life. My comments about house blessing reflect that concern among others.

Bowman Walton

Sam Anderson said...

HI Bowman,

Thanks for your reply--it was helpful.

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who finds your position a little difficult to 'get'. I've tried, unsuccessfully to put you into several boxes, but you never seem to quite fit!

I find some of your writing does require patience, but is often thought provoking. Yet, I couldn't summarise where you come from to my wife when she asked me to (it's wonderful that she is interested in all this stuff!)

Unrelated point: do you know you can sign your post with you name, rather than 'anonymous' and then your name at the bottom?

Father Ron Smith said...


Sam, I thought you would have been more aware of the modern understanding of the complementarity of gender language - where the word 'mankind' is now more suitably expressed as 'humankind'. This recognises the fact that the male of the species is not the only gender represented in the created order. (God made them male and female).

I guess some people are still locked into the patriarchal preference that is being challenged in the modern era - by 21st century social anthropologists

Andrei said...

"Sam, I thought you would have been more aware of the modern understanding of the complementarity of gender language - where the word 'mankind' is now more suitably expressed as 'humankind'. This recognises the fact that the male of the species is not the only gender represented in the created order. (God made them male and female). "

Indeed he did Fr Ron - Male and Female and not LBGTI....

It is so hard to keep up with all the new genders the "modern understanding of gender" is coming up with these days, so many in fact the English alphabet has run out of letters to describe them all...

...and yet the ancient understanding that a child has exactly one Father (male) and exactly one Mother (Female) remains as true as it was when the book of Genesis, from which you quote, was first written

Father Ron Smith said...

Sam, I think you need to be a little more rerspectful of Bowman's way of signing in to this blog. He - and many of us here - have been commenting on ADU for some years now, and have grown to recognise asnd respect Bowman's input. As a relativbe newcomer, I feel you are be8ing too critical of ther process which has found acceptable to P.C.

Nick, I find it quite fascinating that you coninue to pontificate on our Anglican situation - especially in your so-obvious disaffection with your own Roman Catholic Church's current opening up under the influence of Good Pope Francis - whose obvious ministry is a continuation of that of Good Pope John XXIII. Is there a Christian community with which you could feel at home? I really am interested in your response

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters (through the last 24 hours in particular)
Thank you for a rich vein of thoughtful and thought provoking comments ... planned dismemberment ... a spade a spade ... patriarchal preference ... singleness ... how to sign in for making a comment ...

Two brief responses (albeit they may be at odds with each other!):

(1) I am particularly taken with Nick's line above about Jesus not having offered any clarity about same sex persons: "Christ has always been clear on the equality of women; why did he forget same-sex sex?" [No, Ron, anticipating a possible reply. Jesus on eunuchs does not offer clarity on same-sex sex]. At the heart of these discussions is the reliability of God's revealed Word to us through Holy Scripture: if blessing same sex relationships is so vital to the progress of the gospel, why is there not one Scriptural word which supports that? There could have been ... the gospel went out from Jesus and Palestine into the Graeco-Roman world in which loving same-sex sexual relationships were not unknown. In our world today there simply is not a uniform, universal response of the faithful to a change on this matter. Progressive Anglicans may "protest" about this [in the 500th year since Luther nailed his theses], but they are scarcely protesting on Scriptural grounds and there is no way to tell if the Spirit is at work among them. A synod here or there suggesting the Spirit is at work is not a "catholic" or universal sign of the Spirit speaking to God's church (cf. Bowman's comments re synods).

(2) And yet, and yet, and yet. We are in an unusual rhetorical situation. Our words have capacity to persuade people beyond the presenting ethical issue (is X right or wrong?). We know that in a majority heterosexual world (or set of worlds, of which the church is one), a continued upholding of the Christian standard on these matters creates more than a shared conviction about what is right and what is wrong. Our words have capacity to persuade people to be ashamed if their sexuality does not fit in, to be silent in the face of what they reasonably can expect people to say.

And in that shame and silence there appears to be an increase in the possibility of one or both of (1) likelihood of self-harm, including suicide; (2) rejection of the church because it is a rejecting community (notwithstanding protestations y ourselves in our churches of accepting people as they are, loving the sinner not the sin, the fact is, many gay and lesbian persons leave the church of the upbringing and keep well away from it).

So my questions to ourselves are these:
(1) Are we who are conservative in outlook here aware that the consequences of our words about same-sex partnerships may have consequences, deadly consequences beyond those usually associated with vigorous ethical debates?
(2) Would Jesus - our merciful, sensitive, bruised-reed-not-breaking Saviour and Shepherd - be quite as tight on this issue as some commenting here imply? Call me progressive, but I wonder if Jesus would find a way forward that reached out more to the reality of 21st century life than - to be frank - I find some comments here are doing?

I keep thinking about the Samaritan woman at the well and her dodgy domestic situation which Jesus knew all about and yet never asked her to change it.

Father Ron Smith said...

Andrei, why are you so fixated on the terminology of the Genesis writers? Were you not aware that creation is still going on? Even a superficial knowledge of genetics would tell you that all species are subject to ongoing modification - not least, homo sapiens. Animal behaviourists would also help you to understand that there other species that do not conform to your strict binary sexuality idea, being capable even, in some instances, of self-propagation! I know. Shocking isn't it?

Peter, with all due respect to your dismissal of Matthew 19:12 as a basis for the possibility of God's creation (in the womb) of intrinsically homosexual human beings; there are accredited theologians who allow of this possibility - in their assessment of the economy of Creation. Because this variance in the human condition is not noted by the writers of Scripture, that does not mean that it does not exist.
Modern science has discovered many things that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible - because the knowledge of such thngs is, by nature, unfolding.

After all, if Noah had known about submarines, he would probably have built one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; although I agree that we must be careful how we say things, there are conservative LGBIT scholars who do not believe in SSM/SSB. We must not get into the situation where they are allowed to give views, but we cannot. Obviously, you do not want your site to cause anyone to stumble, but there are plenty of affirming places for people of progressive views. I wonder whether your question 1 might be slightly sensational, though I accept it is an honest concern. As for question 2, I agree with the conclusion that I think you have come to. Of course He would have found a way to minister pastorally. Indeed, it may be that we need to focus on how we support those whom we cannot in good conscience allow to marry. This is perhaps similar to Catholic groups who support women who have rejected abortion and it may be what Bowman hints at above. Finally, to Fr Ron, he is usually keen to point out that there is only one church catholick. Consequently, I am commenting on our situation, not yours. Fr Ron cannot argue denominations when it suits him. In any case, he only accuses me of pontificating because I do not agree with 99% of what he writes. As for my position, I have made it clear that I remain loyal to Francis like any conservative Catholic by definition will. Francis is not my favourite Pope, but I am not disaffected. My local bishop knows me by name and I am very active in my Vatican 2 parish. There really isn’t an NZ Catholic blog as good as this one, which is a credit to Peter.

Nick

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not dismissing that possible connection at all.
What I am dismissing is the possibility that those words of Jesus make a "clear" (i.e. obvious, unambiguous, straightforward) connection between "eunuchs" and same-sex sexual relationships.
A possible connection there may be and I am sure scholars will continue to ponder the possibility. But will a possible connection with learned analysis to make the connection ever amount to clarity for the ordinary reader of Scripture?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Thank you for your kinds words!

Father Ron Smith said...

"A possible connection there may be and I am sure scholars will continue to ponder the possibility. But will a possible connection with learned analysis to make the connection ever amount to clarity for the ordinary reader of Scripture?" - Dr.Peter Carrell -

Couldn't agree with you more, Peter. "Possible connections" in Scripture are often ambiguous. But this doesn't stop the nay-sayers on S/S relationships from asserting their own conclusions. I guess this is why we Catholic Anglicans value the quantifying/qualifying brakes of Tradition and Reason to our understanding of the Scriptures. God-breathed they may be but some of their interpreters seem to cloud the issue with their own aspirations.

One of the foremost writer/prophets of the N.T., Saint Paul, has, in the end, to say that he is not always right: "Why do I do (say) the things I ought not to do; why do I not do (say) the things I ought to, BUT, thanks be to God for the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ! God only has sinners to proclaim the Gospel!

I am acutely aware, too, of Our Blessed Lord's tendency to teach through the medium of the parables, whereby only those meant to really hear what is being said may understand. ("You read the Scriptures and you still do not understand..." - Jesus)

Anonymous said...

"I'm glad that I'm not the only one who finds your position a little difficult to 'get'. I've tried, unsuccessfully to put you into several boxes, but you never seem to quite fit!"

That Topic has several interrelated subtopics. I have drawn unusual, though not idiosyncratic, conclusions on several of them. There are also a few subtopics that only I have considered salient. Putting them together results in a position that is coherent-- at least to me-- but that could not be reached by taking a strong position on just one subtopic and bending every other thought to fit it. Understandably, the latter way is the way most people decide most things, so a few strong positions result in a few very full boxes.

Here are a few sample subtopical conclusions to which almost nobody here would agree--

(1) Sex: I have updated and broadened rather than dropped the traditional view that the created telos of sex was procreation.

(2) Ethics in Scripture: St Irenaeus of Lyon and Martin Luther were right to find answers to questions about *what is good?* in protology but answers to questions about *how should I decide what to do with my life?* in eschatology.

(3) Ethics in Scripture: St Paul's ethos is far closer to being an account of the virtues of a soul being transformed in Christ than to being a body of positive law that makes sense apart from that transformation.

(4) Orientation: As with many teleological life processes, it is probably an organic mental process invisible to introspection and encapsulated from volition.

(5) Celibacy: It is not the absence of sex, but a transformation of sexual desire undertaken as a fruitful vocation in the Church.

(6) Tradition: The Holy Spirit's proper works include the occasional ripening and designation of ideas and practises that enable the sanctification of souls in the Church, which by scripture recognises and by grace cultivates them.

(7) Tradition: The Reformers' critique of the innovations of the High Middle Ages was mandated by God for the good of the Church but does not entail rejection of the tradition of the first millennium.

(8) Authority: Because the Holy Spirit saves souls through tradition, the recognition and cultivation of the body of it is the principal exercise of authority in true churches, and both individual charism and official processes are necessarily dependent on, and subordinate to, that work.

"I couldn't summarise where you come from to my wife when she asked me to"

Where I come from is a metaphor with many degrees of concreteness. My ancestors settled Virginia-- Englishmen in the Tidewater in the early C17, Germans along the Blue Ridge in the early C18-- and I grew up there, mostly in greater Washington. Childhood religion was a roughly equal exposure to conservative Pietism and mainline Protestantism. I was educated in several things at several universities-- along the way, Reginald H Fuller was my confessor, Bart Ehrman and I chatted over coffee and doughnuts, there were friendly ties to the Cowley Fathers, and the reality of the Resurrection was vividly illumined-- but I finally finished at Harvard. My evangelicalism is complemented by my ecumenism, and I have absorbed far more from Luther and the East than is usual in our tribe. In the past century, Karl Barth was the best systematician since St Thomas, but the most useful and reliable ones for Anglicans were Thomas F Torrance (CoS) and Robert W Jenson (ELCA). I have a particular interest in theology and clinical psychology. Does anything in there help?

"(it's wonderful that she is interested in all this stuff!)"

Yes, Sam, I am very happy for you both!

"Unrelated point: do you know you can sign your post with you name, rather than 'anonymous' and then your name at the bottom?"

Yah, but I set up very few social media accounts. Disqus is a parasite.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

"(5) Celibacy: It is not the absence of sex, but a transformation of sexual desire undertaken as a fruitful vocation in the Church. " - Bowman -

I remember, Bowman, during my time as an Anglican Franciscan novice, being informed that what you are writing about here is called 'sublimation'. In the Chambers dictionary described as:

"1. (in psychosomatic theory) to divert or modify (an instinctual impulse) into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity.
2. transform into a purer or idealized form."

There is also a third (chemical) explanation: "a solid deposit that has been sublimed"

While hesitating to apply the third aspect; one might well question the perpetual wisdom of the first two - on the grounds of the undue suppression of the natural instincts.

However, sublimation is possible - more possible to some than others. But I do note that those conservatives in the Church who would like homosexuals to sublimate their natural sexual impulses by perpetual celibacy (maybe in a religious order) are often loth to sublimate their own heterosexual impulses by deciding to join an Order or the Roman Catholic priesthood.

See how many of the critics of gay people are heterosexually active, while yet denying sexual activity - even in a monogamous loving relationship - of
homosexuals.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Father Ron, that is why my retrieval from scripture of both procreation and celibacy is distinctly different from "conservative" positions far to my left that retrieve only the man/woman dyad. It is also why house-blessings-- available to both the single and the married-- are a more apt sign of inclusion in the local church than solemnisation.

BTW while I do not object to psychological speculation about how a discipline of celibacy changes personality, I do not defend the older psychoanalytic theory of *sublimation*. Other hypotheses could be advanced.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Bowman for your latest response to my last comment. I know Peter isn't keen on my mentioning the Mathean passage in Chapter 19 on the subject of eunuchs - especially my reference to thr possibility of the 'one who is so from his mother's womb'. However, as an intrinsically gay person myself, I am in the unique position of attributing this saying of Jesus to my own sexual orientation (over a life-time of being who I am, it is my only satisfactory scriptural explanation for my own reality).

What amazes me, though, is that many of the 'purists' about homosexuality resist the possibility that God might just be calling THEM into a state of abstention from their heterosexual activity - that they, too, could be eunuchs (for the sake of the Kingdom - as Jesus puts it). This would certainly help to make their case for insistence on homosexual abstention.

As for the thought (Iknow you do not think this way) that the Bible presents human sexuality as solely for the purpose of procreation; this is counter to the erotic text contained in the Song of Songs - though the purists seem not to have seen this aspect of the Scriptures, which is obliquely referred to in the BCP in the Marriage Service, describing the purpose of marriage as: "for the mutual society and comfort of one another". This is what one might call a polte reference to the Marriage Bed.

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, vv 10-12 of St Matthew 19 seem well worth closer study. Offhand, I take it that vv 11-12 are a response to v 10 and an anticipation of vv 13-15, so that it does refer to those who might otherwise marry. But Jesus's inclusio about those who can receive the saying about eunuchs makes its application a matter of vocation that must be discerned. What is to be discerned is whether the saying has been given to one, and a mark that it has been so given is that one is able to receive it. As you know, many a monastic meditation has been drawn up from that well, which is very deep indeed.

In our time, most people would be struck by the contrast between vv 3-9 and vv 10-12. With the Pharisees, Jesus seems to be laying down an *objective* law transparent and applicable to all. With the disciples, he seems to be revealing a *subjective* higher obligation that is applicable to only a few. Before anything else, many will be uneasy that our obligation in sexuality is not all one or all the other.

And why has God so ordered things that objectivity is for the married but subjectivity for the eunuchs? The interesting report of the TEC Task Force for the Study of Marriage-- with which I disagree-- argues that marriage is a matter of vocation. Jesus seems to be saying just the opposite here-- marriage is God's general and manifest intention for humanity, but some are called in secret to be eunuchs-- but why? How does this fit the totality of his teaching?

Bowman Walton


Peter Carrell said...

[From Bowman, for whom the submitting process did not work ...]

"I know Peter isn't keen on my mentioning the Matthean passage in Chapter 19 on the subject of eunuchs - especially my reference to the possibility of the 'one who is so from his mother's womb'. However, as an intrinsically gay person myself, I am in the unique position of attributing this saying of Jesus to my own sexual orientation (over a life-time of being who I am, it is my only satisfactory scriptural explanation for my own reality)."

Fathers Peter and Ron, I do not see where you disagree on St Matthew 19:12.

Ron takes "one who is so from his mother's womb" as a clear reference to a man disoriented from procreation from well before puberty. Those with SSA may not be the only ones so disoriented-- there are also the intersexed-- but they do seem to be among them. This is important if it establishes that Jesus himself recognised that there are at least some who are born outside of the procreativity of Genesis 1:28.

Peter pushes back that this may not be clear to the dull and the ignorant. I think he's right about that-- they probably have no idea what "eunuch" could signify-- but the point of Jesus's inclusio seems to be that it is never clear to any but those who can receive the saying.

Where is your disagreement?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman and Ron
I remain open to but not yet convinced by the interpretation Ron puts on the eunuch passage.

Nothing will dissuade me that the ordinary reader in the pew is going to strike that passage and say to her or himself, "Clearly that is referring to gays and lesbians."

That isn't going to happen.

What might happen is that informed, educated readers might begin to take for granted that that passage is so referring. But there would need to be reeducation for every succeeding generation of Christians.

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, Peter; you are a 'Christian Educator', are you not? However, I suspect you are so far into the Evangelical certitude about the binary sexual theory that you would prefer not to become responsible for this particular understanding. Teaching the Faith, after all, is a great responsibility. Even Pope Francis will recognise that fact. I, myself, have to be very careful and take my responsibility very seriously. However, I am not infallible!

Anonymous said...

Peter, was Jesus speaking to the ordinary reader in the pew in vv 10-12?

My mind is open.

BW

Sam Anderson said...

Thank you, Bowman, for the time you took to reply to my comments. I can't say that I see the connection between many of the subtopics and That Topic but I am, 1. but a babe and 2. three days into my caffeine-free October and it is not going well!

You perhaps, and I suspect knowingly, took my words too literally when I admitted to not knowing where you 'come from' :) What you wrote was somewhat helpful. What I was really asking, however, was what you would think that we, the ACANZP, should do in the face of our current issue?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Male and female he created them.
The Bible is binary in its description of gender.
I think if we start disputing that we may as well give the Bible away.
I notice that the modern discussion of gender fluidity is pretty binary in any case: men wanting to become women, women wanting to become men, men dressing as women, women dressing as men, those who feel a bit of both, those who feel they are on a sliding scale between male and female.
It all boils down to reference to masculinity and femininity.
I don't even think one has to be evangelical to think this way.
Most Catholics I know also think this way!

Peter Carrell said...

PS Ron
The other thing about the binary construct of gender is it perfectly explains human life: without a mother and a father I would not exist in order to be able to hold to the binary construct ... or dispute it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Whether or not Jesus was speaking to the ordinary person in the pew, my dispute here is about the "clarity" of the passage, a measure of which is whether or not the ordinary person in the pew would "get" the meaning straightaway.

If Jesus spoke very obscurely about homosexuals via speaking about eunuchs in an elliptical way, then I do not see how I could do anything other, if and when in direct discussion with the Master, than to ask, "Why?"

Sam Anderson said...

Hi Ron. With regards to you drawing attention to Matthew 19, would you mind explaining a little more how you understand this to be a part of the argument in favour of SSB/SSM?

When I read it I see that Jesus could well be referring to those who are born with same-sex orientation, or biological misinforming. But it seems that they are in the category of those who should not marry, but rather receive the grace that God gives them to remain celibate i.e. all eunuchs regardless of how they became that way.

Father Ron Smith said...

It's all, Sam, in the mind! Some of us have remarkaby closed minds to certain things, and some more open. I guess this is why Jesus cautioned his hearers that what he was saying about marriage and about eunuchs would only be understood by those who were disposed to hearing it. Otherwise, why would Jesus have added this so important codicil to his teaching? ("He who has ears to hear, let hi hear what The Spirit is saying to the Church!" - is read on many churches after the reading of Scripture).

Anonymous said...

Well, Peter, everything is better in he blessed isles, including the lectionary and the people in the pews. So I expect that the latter listening to the former would hear Jesus talking about the one flesh, explaining where eunuchs come from, and then praising children. The flow of topics could sound a lot like--

One Flesh ---> Children, EXCEPT Eunuchs (3 kinds!)---> Kingdom of Heaven?

So at the reception after the service, they would sidle up to one of the parish eunuchs and say something like:

"George, I had no idea that there were three kinds of eunuchs! I thought that there were only the... you know... that kind. The kind that carried little jars out of the Forbidden City. Which kind are you? (You don't have a liitle jar, do you George?)

"Why was Jesus telling us where eunuchs come from? (And for God's sake, who wants to know?) Anyway, He says that there are three kinds-- born eunuchs (no jars), made eunuchs (painful, maybe jars), and self-made eunuchs (painful and crazy too, definitely jars).

"George, I really hope that you can assure me that our senior warden is not a self-made eunuch!

"And another thing, George: what did the Lord mean when he said-- twice-- that not everyone could receive his teaching?"

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Very droll, Bowman!

Father Ron Smith said...

Bowman. Her is something else the Blessed Isles have now to commend them - A Franciscan liberality in the Gospel Mission:

http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/News/The-Communion/frans-lead

Anonymous said...

"...one could conclude from the absence of unified support for SSB, and indeed from the presence of permanent opposition to it that it is not a viable option for the Church. Full stop." BW

"What I was really asking, however, was what you would think that we, the ACANZP, should do in the face of our current issue?" SA

My best answer to that, Sam, is implicit in the first sentence of the thread: (a) reaffirm that a real church has *substantive working unity*; (b) promote the causes of the unity that you actually have in Christ; (c) discover, reduce, and if possible end the causes of disunity; (d) close debate on SSB forever or until all agree to reopen it; (e) graciously excuse those who will not obey decisions reached in unity and negotiate a warm ecumenical relationship with them; and (f) take the consequences of doing all this with faith, hope, and love.

This answer comes more from prayer than from any strategy or calculation. I have no idea who would win or lose if these steps were taken. But there are problems to which erudition and cleverness, even if we have them, are not equal. "Some demons," Jesus said, "can only be cast out by prayer."

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- It is plausible to me that we are seeing the fading of the liberal tradition in Anglicanism, and that this is both an opportunity and a problem. Against this background, it is hard to give any liberal agenda much attention at all, although humanly, one does owe something to the last words of the dying.

The opportunity is that of weaving the several strands of the tradition back into a whole seamless garment of Christ. As long as we have been debilitated by the epistemological dodges dear to liberal pragmatists, this has been an unlikely hope. But their gradual fading has already enabled some Truth-centred ministry with more oxygen for souls that actually believe without tricks, dodges, and crossed-fingers. The challenge is to cook the intellectual harvest of the past generation into something that can be served up to more in the pews.

But the problem is that Anglican evangelicals are not yet up to that task. The long polarisation between the catholic and reformed streams-- the polarisation that empowered liberals in the first place-- left the latter with only a partial grasp of the whole. And although the liberals in decline no longer have a useful vision for *the Church in society*-- that indeed is the main reason for their decline-- we cannot do without some such vision, even if it is just to work out the implications of the Benedict Option. Which some of us might oppose. Finally, in the church as in the state, effective opposition parties are often bad at the task of leading, governing, cultivating those beyond their militant bases. Much of Anglican evangelicalism is unprepared for its coming responsibility for souls very unlike themselves.

So when Sam asks what the ACANZP should do, This Situation rather than That Topic is what seems urgent.

BW

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I am very pleased to see that there are prayerbook Franciscans in the Blessed Isles. Are there many? Do they meet?

BW

Sam Anderson said...

Thanks again, Bowman. Also, interesting analysis of the state of play. Your comment on evangelicals in opposition is thought provoking.

Sam Anderson said...

I'm afraid your reply didn't really help much, Ron. It seems that you're saying that only those who understand will understand, which is all rather circular...

And I don't think that's what Jesus meant when he said 'He who has ears, let him hear.' I think, as the Holman translates to, 'Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!' That is, pay attention to my words, all of you.