6/01/2006

Hows Them Apples! Stephen Noll bites into his dream.

Stephen Noll, in the Church Newspaper online has written an article, a brief commentary on an Anglican Covenant, in which, in considering the time it will take for an Anglican Covenant to be developed and actually put in place, he offers the following provision or proposal:

“Until the Covenant process is complete, no Province will unilaterally violate an established Anglican article of faith and practice, in particular Lambeth Resolution 1.10. Any Province refusing to abide by this provision, will forfeit its role in the process and be replaced by an entity which is willing to abide by it.”

How’s them apples!

  1. Stephen Noll suggests that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference is an article of faith.

  2. He states clearly the dream scenario: That the Episcopal Church refuses to abide by this provision (jacking up 1.10 to an article of faith) and will forfeit its place in the Anglican Communion to another entity willing to abide by it. (Wonder who?)

The blurb on the Church Newspaper says, “The Rev Prof Stephen Noll is Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University and author of ‘The Global Anglican Covenant: A Blueprint.’”

The paper, “The Global Anglican Covenant: A Blueprint,” is worth the read. But this suggested “provision” is transparently wishful thinking, based on an awful idea, namely that any statement of any Lambeth Conference at any time could possibly be an “article of faith.” If membership in the Anglican Communion were to require this, we would indeed be at a moment of new reformation, needing to shed Lambeth 1.10 as we did the notion that the Pope as the Vicar of Christ can make statements are infallible.

This provision is just that - a vision looking for a right time coming. But that right time will not come, I think. Instead Noll has bitten from an apple of temptation and dream, and it will not nurish or sustain.




15 comments:

  1. Why is this such a problem:

    "If this is the viewpoint of the drafters, they seem to want it both ways: a theologically flexible Communion with rigid jurisdictional boundaries."

    Well, I can see where it is to the Revd. Dr. Noll, because he and his ilk want exactly the opposite: a theologically fossilized Communion with osmotic jurisdictional boundaries. Of course, only osmotic boundaries that allow conservative bishops and clergy to set up new parishes or perform oversight ministries in more liberal places--not allowing for progressive bishops and clergy to do the same in conservative dioceses.

    And why THAT is not equally problematic is rather weird. The purpose of a fluid boundary, such as the ACC not only promotes but practices, is to maintain equilibrium. The purpose of the more flexible boundaries here is to set everything wildly out of balance.

    Does this strike anyone else as equally problematic as elevating Lambeth 1.10 to the same status as other articles of faith as, let's say, the divinity of Christ or the forgiveness of sins?

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  2. It's interesting that the human tongue can turn itself in so many ways to say the same thing—"Get rid of the Episcopal Church!"

    I believe some of the statements lately approach self-parody on this issue.

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  3. Sadly, Dr. Noll has an understanding of education that I do not share. His concern is that the historical statements are not being clearly, faithfully, and accurately transmitted. My concern is that, having been transmitted, they're not being thought about. I have long wondered how one could read the latter half of Matthew 25 and not be a radical. On the other hand, in a given context one could be "taught" by rote the same passages, and only consider the examples of previous generations as to just who qualified as "least of these my siblings."

    This betrays (perhaps not the right word, since I don't think the good Dr. Noll would really want to hide this) an understanding of the Anglican Collegium at Lambeth as somehow parallel to the Roman Collegium at Vatican II. The purpose and self-awareness of the latter was to produce dogma and doctrines for the magisterium of that Church: specific positions to be defined specifically and taught authoritatively to members of the Church, as a previous generation had specified and taught Transubstantiation as the sole understanding of how God acts in Eucharist.

    That has never been the purpose or self-awareness of Lambeth Conferences. They speak, but not in any sense ex cathedra. They reflect, and call us to reflect - to consider and think for ourselves.

    God grant that they will remember that, those who show up, in 2008.

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  4. Thank you, Marshall. I also don't share the opinion that education is about an unchanging body of "stuff" that gets passed down, but about reflecting on it.

    I've done some work on tradition as theological method. Tradition is not about any unchanging stuff. I think Oliver O'Donovan summed it up brilliantly when he said tradition was "spontaneity in slow motion." (Not sure that he'd agree with me about which things should be spontaneously moving slowly, though!)

    It's also about taking what has come to us from the past and using it in new, creative ways in the changing circumstances in which we find ourselves. Like our family heirlooms that have come to us from loving ancestors, we use those things in new ways in new places, but they are still recognizable as authetically belonging to our identity.

    Will Lambeth 1.10 ever become a part of our "tradition"? Only time will tell, and there hasn't been enough time.

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  5. (Dave)
    Wendy asks: "Will Lambeth 1.10 ever become a part of our "tradition?" Only time will tell, and there hasn't been enough time"
    The whole point of the WR and the reason why most of Christendom has reacted so negatively to the actions of TEC is precisely because Lambeth 1.10 is the shared tradition of Christians from time immemorial. Now, there may be reason to break with that tradition, and time WILL tell if TEC's break with this tradition is of God or a cultural accommodation, but let us not pretend that tradition supports what TEC has done.

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  6. anoynmous dave

    I wonder whether your point about tradition is a bit incomplete given that your premise appears to be that if it is tradition it is right and proper and even essential of Christian faith. (Let's exclude for a moment the Creeds as the full expression of the faith.)

    There have been many traditions that through knowledge and experience have been shown to be in error. Are we to hold to them simply because they are tradition? By tradition we mean "this is the way I do it" or "this is my custom" but you seem to conflate it to dogma. Maybe I read you incorrectly.

    At any rate there was the fine tradition long held about the flatness of the earth. Then there was the fine tradition about the earth being at the center of the universe that poor Galileo was jailed for heresy on, heresy, even though nowhere in Scripture does it say the earth is the physical center of the universe. The correction by the responsible Church, took 5 centuries. That is quite a long time to issue a correction for false knowledge become a belief become a tradition become an article of faith, to base heresy on.

    Naturally I am not equating TEC with Galileo or Columbus (!) but how many times must it be noted that TEC acting in its GC and through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, has decided on this matter for itself? This matter has been loooked at in all respects through the structures used to examine and discern activity in all other matters. It is not forcing another province to discern or interpret this way but it is asking that two other traditions be observed—respect for its processes and polity, and that other pesky tradition, Anglican comprehensiveness.

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  7. (Dave)
    RMF - You have misunderstood my point. I addressed myself only to the implication of Wendy's comment that Lambeth 1.10 somehow does not represent the tradition of the church. While I don't agree with TEC's innovations, I certainly acknowledge and agree that tradition, standing alone, is an insufficient basis to maintain a course of conduct or teaching in the face of new and compelling evidence that leads to a different conclusion.

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  8. And Dave, you misrepresent what I said about tradition. Lambeth 1.10 does indeed represent a very small piece of tradition that is of questionable centrality to Christian faith. But it only represents it--Lambeth 1.10 is not yet itself "tradition".

    And tradition, if you notice, is more fluid and thoughtful than rote repetition of a particular few Bible verses. "Tradition" allowed the mediaeval church to persecute Jews and Muslims--thinking Christians have abandoned that piece of "tradition". "Tradition" did not allow usury--but conveniently, we've decided that wasn't an important prohibition.

    Rigid adherence to "the way we've done it" before, or "what my momma (Church) taught me", without reflection on who is hurt by it, and how/why, is the way of death. Yes, the "rigid" churches are growing numerically--but numeric growth doesn't always mean health and wholeness.

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  9. anonymous dave

    Insofar as you define Lambeth as defining a tradition leaving no room for different interpretations or not permitting examination of tradition; or insofar as Lambeth does this, or defines itself as a quasi curia with such interpretative powers, then I agree with Wendy, this is not our tradition. In fact, the language of the resolutions themselves bear this out.

    I'd hesitate to state too much what Wendy says since she can state it for herself. :)

    At any rate I have a few questions for you since you are raising the issue of tradition and fealty to Lambeth proclamations.

    #1. Only 10 years prior to I.10, Lambeth acknowledged recent scientific and biological knowledge as being important to inform our interpretations of Scripture vis a vis lbgt. The relevant portion said:

    "This Conference: 1. Reaffirms the statement of the Lambeth Conference of 1978 on homosexuality, recognising the continuing need in the next decade for "deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research."

    2. Urges such study and reflection to take account of biological, genetic and psychological research being undertaken by other agencies, and the socio-cultural factors that lead to the different attitudes in the provinces of our Communion.

    3. Calls each province to reassess, in the light of such study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation."

    Now given the fealty to "tradition," why must we ignore this instruction? Why as Episcopalians and Anglicans, must we ignore continuing to act in accordance with the tradition of reason and greater knowledge in this area, when Lambeth specifically acknowledges this continuing tradition?

    #2. The 1998 resolution under discussion appears under the section called "Called to Full Humanity." Part of the specific resolution you refer to also calls for a listening process. Note how the language of section c explicitly acknowledges gays as "full members of the Body of Christ:"

    "This Conference recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ"

    The Lambeth resolutions we are discussing, are not definitive in any one regard. On the one hand they state that homosexuality is inconsistent with Scripture. On the other they instruct to interpret Scripture in light of reason and knowledge and with the understanding that gays are full members of the Body of Christ.

    This is consistent with a Communion that is comprised of many autonomous churches who have adapted their practices locally in full recognition of the continuing authority of the Creeds.

    So I question, why do you point to Lambeth as indicative of one single tradition pointing away comprehensiveness when the tradition it is pointing to even on the face of its resolutions is one of comprehensiveness?

    Furthermore, contrary to the claim that it is decided once and for all that I.10 specifically sees the matter of tradition in general and lbgt specifically, as closed and received, it instructs a listening process. Now this listening process is not defined as sitting down with a gay person and listening to this person tell that she is gay and then telling her she must repent from sin because she is sinful, because a proposed resolution to I.10 labelling homosexuality a sin, was specifically offered, and specifically rejected.

    So a follow up question is, how by stating that lbgt are full members of Christ, and not committing sin, in accordance with Lambeth, is TEC departing from the tradition, when the tradition that Lambeth has laid out, itself states these very things?

    Now don't feel compelled to answer all at once or even quickly. :)

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  10. RMF - Your questions attribute to me statements and positions I never articulated. But for the sake of argument, I suppose the answers to your questions can be found in the language of the resolution. It speaks to orientation and not to conduct. It speaks to pastoral care, moral direction, the power of God for transforming lives and ordering relationships. Now that may mean different things to different people, but nowhere does Lambeth 1.10 even hint at same-sex unions, "marriage," or any other form of realtionships involving sexual expression. I don't feel the need to deny access to the church to gays or lesbians. I don't see how that can be consistent with our call to ministy and service so attributing that attitude to me is to erect a straw man, easily knocked down, but signifying nothing in the end.

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  11. anonymous/dave,

    You mentioned above that Lambeth 1.10 is the shared tradition of Christians from time immemorial and TEC is “breaking from this.”

    You stated this because you challenged “the implications” of Wendy’s statements about tradition. The questions I asked are not attributing to you anything more than that you stated Lambeth is the “shared tradition of Christians from time immemorial and TEC is “breaking from this.”
    I am simply asking you, using the language of the resolutions, to support your statement that Lambeth I. 10 lays out the "the shared tradition of Christians from time immemorial" and "TEC is breaking from this." As I posted, do not feel compelled to answer all at once or immediately. You have responded that the answers may be found in the language of the resolutions and I agree, this is why I have used the resolutions to formulate my questions. Nowhere, moreover, have I erected a straw man attributing to you a position, so that I may then break it down. (I am, after all, posing questions.) Your response introduces a distinction between "orientation" and conduct. What is the role of this distinction in the formulation of your response?

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  12. As I said, it is in the language of the resolution --abstinence except in marriage -- marriage as the unkion of one mand and one woman -- no blessing of same sex unions. This is what it says. Is there a different traditions to which you would like to point me? Lambeth 1.10 says:
    " in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;

    3 recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;

    4 while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;

    5 cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;

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  13. anonymous dave,

    Thank you for your reply. Excuse me, but I will in part repeat what I stated in my earlier post.

    The Lambeth resolutions we are discussing, are not definitive in any one regard. On the one hand they state that homosexuality is inconsistent with Scripture. On the other hand, in the exact same resolution, they instruct to interpret Scripture in light of reason and growing knowledge on lbgt, and with the understanding that gays are full members of the Body of Christ.

    The language in this resolution is consistent with a Communion that is comprised of many autonomous churches who have adapted their practices locally in full recognition of the continuing authority of the Creeds. That is, many autonomous churches who are not of a mind about this issue. These seeming incompatibilities existing together side by side, are in fact the tradition I am talking about, because they represent the fact of our shared Communion.

    So I pose the question to you once more. Why do you point to Lambeth I.10 as indicative of one single tradition pointing away from this comprehensiveness on the issue of homosexuality, when the tradition I.10 is pointing to even on the face of its own language, is one of comprehensiveness on this issue?

    Let me clarify once more. There is in this resolution a statement that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture. But this statement is not in isolation from the related provision in the resolution, to more fully examine precisely the extent of this incompatibility through a listening process that includes knowledge from other fields, including biology, psychology, and medicine. In this, it is very Anglican, because it looks to the fruits of our reason for guidance on interpretation of Scripture. It does not posit or demand a sola Sciptura approach nor an approach disposed by tradition, at least not the tradition you seem to claim it does. (In fact, as we can see from the resolutions of the conferences, this inquiry and incorporation of knowledge on this issue dates back to at least, nearly 30 years. So to claim that no work on this area has been done by any church, is not accurate.)

    Back to our other point, however. Lambeth specifically rejected a statement specifically stating, that homosexuality is a sin. In fact, this language of sin is not present in I.10. Those who continue to insist that Lambeth I.0 demands that TEC not act in some way because to do so would permit what Lambeth calls sin, are not correct. (I am not saying you state this, but there are some who say homosexual acts are unrepentant sin and point to I.10 because perhaps they assume that Lambeth I.10 says this; it does not state this and rejected stating this.)

    So my final question returns again to your first statement. How, by stating that lbgt are full members of Christ, and not committing sin, in accordance with Lambeth, is TEC departing from the tradition, when the tradition that Lambeth has laid out, itself states these very things?

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  14. I will try again:
    Lambeth 1.10 says the Communion cannot advise the ordination of those engaged in same sex unions - TEC ignored this and went on to consecrate a bishop engaged in such a relationship. It continues to ordain non-celibate gay and lesbian priests and blesses same sex unions. This aspect of the resolution not only states the tradition of Anglicans, but that of the overwhelming majority of Christians.
    Lambeth 1.10 states the Anglican and traditional Christian understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. TEC (or substantial portions of it) supports/advocates extension of marriage to same sex couples.
    Lambeth 1.10 implies that homosexual ORIENTATION is not sin. It does not say or even imply that same-sex relationships are not sinful. Quite the contrary, it affirms the traditional Anglican and Christian understanding that such conduct is contrary to Scripture and God's plan.
    Lambeth 1.10 affirms that God loves all of His creation and calls upon us, the church, to do likewise. That is not a novel teaching or break with tradition.
    In each of these aspects, Lambeth 1.10 is "definitive." It states quite clearly the tradition of the church.

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  15. anoynymous/dave,

    Your response illustrates my point well, that the resolution, in offering something allowing for different readings, keeps us all talking together. This is an important aspect of our Anglican tradition.

    I will return to one point, however. You continue to read the resolution as if it says either orientation or conduct is sin; it does not state this. The closest we come to it is "homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture." It also instructs us to balance this statement in light of new and growing knowledge in this area and that a listening process incorporating new knowledge on this, is to continue. These are all sections that contradict a one version reading of the resolution that you are offering. I am not stating that your reading is not permissible; I am stating it is one of the permissible readings. Indeed, the contradictions in the resolution points to this comprehensive solution. In your reading, this I.0 is a solution that does not permit ordinations. In mine it does, because following the process it lays out, that is the end result. (For more on this, see below.)T his is the point I am making. The resolution allows for this comprehensiveness, which is a tradition of our Communion. It allows it and even embodies it in the differing points in its own language. A reading refusing or not permitting this comprehensiveness anywhere in the Communion would itself be a break with our tradition. The I.0 resolution is not a final statement, because what it is proposing and recommending, is a framework for continued dialogue, understanding, and incorporation of new knowledge and experiences.

    On to the points you raised.

    “Lambeth 1.10 says the Communion cannot advise the ordination of those engaged in same sex unions - TEC ignored this and went on to consecrate a bishop engaged in such a relationship.”

    I.0 says it cannot advise it; so it doesn’t. Where does it say, it refuses to allow it? Moreover, are these gay and lesbians members not full members of the Body, as the resolution acknowledges? Do not full members have full access to the Church? Our relevant canons predating this resolution forbid discrimination against members based on their orientation. Does this resolution have the authority to unilaterally alter our pre-existing canons?

    “ It continues to ordain non-celibate gay and lesbian priests”

    The Church of England, for one, has gay and lesbian priests as well. In fact, it permits them to enter into civil partnerships, and has done so quite after the passage of this resolution. Our canons contained language banning such discrimination prior to this resolution.

    “and blesses same sex unions.”

    As does the Church of England; as do other national churches. Has TEC developed a prayer book rite for this or is it part of individual pastoral responses to situations in parishes, a long tradition in the Episcopal Church and other Anglican churches? Does not the resolution instruct us to “minister pastorally”?

    “This aspect of the resolution not only states the tradition of Anglicans, but that of the overwhelming majority of Christians.”

    My point is that there is more than one tradition at stake here. Comprehensiveness too is an Episcopal/Anglican tradition and this comprehensiveness too is part of this resolution.

    “Lambeth 1.10 states the Anglican and traditional Christian understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. TEC (or substantial portions of it) supports/advocates extension of marriage to same sex couples.”

    Again, has the church developed a rite for this? Is support or advocating change not consistent with the listening process that the resolution instructs us to continue? Even if it were not, I.0 is noting positively the definition of marriage. Is it stating that no one anywhere may hold a different view even if their church has not formally made such a change? That would be quite something! Why doesn’t it just state this, then?
    
“Lambeth 1.10 implies that homosexual ORIENTATION is not sin. It does not say or even imply that same-sex relationships are not sinful.”

    How does it imply that this is sin? Nowhere does Lambeth say that same sex relationships are sinful. Nowhere in the resolution does the word “sin” appear. The closest we come is “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture.” Nowhere in resolutions on this subject going back nearly 30 years does Lambeth use the word sin. This was specifically offered in 1998 and specifically rejected. Nowhere in the resolution, moreover, is it stated that “homosexual persons engaging in homosexual practices are not full members of the Body of Christ.” If your construction that same sex relationships are sinful is the only possible reading, then how is it that in the Church of England clergy in same sex relationships, may codify them into same sex civil unions?

    “Quite the contrary, it affirms the traditional Anglican and Christian understanding that such conduct is contrary to Scripture and God's plan.”

    Where does it state this? The resolution says homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture. It does not say it is contrary to Scripture, or contrary to God’s plan. It instructs us to use information from other parts of God’s plan to arrive at a fuller understanding of what we are reading. The question of Scriptural interpretation, in light of reason/the listening process, comes into play on this issue at this precise point in the resolution. How is homosexuality incompatible with Scripture? To what extent? In what circumstances? To what degree? In what contexts? In what parts of Scripture?

    The resolution is not stating what understanding of homosexuality emerges after this listening process and reading Scripture in light of this process. It does, however, point to this framework. Given this framework, it is certainly possible that some churches, as mine and others, will interpret one way; and that others, will interpret another. This would be a classically Anglican outcome.

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