8/30/2006

The Global South Primates Meeting in September: Promises and Reality.

“Some may even say, the future of the Communion hinges on the views of the Global South leaders at Kigali.” So writes Michael Poon in an article that appeared today on the Global South Anglican web pages. (Kigali is the venue for the next meeting of the Global South Primates.) “Daybreak at Kigali…” is Dr. Poon’s personal effort to slice the bird and read the entrails. I’m glad we don’t do too much of this divination by sacrifice stuff. It is not a pretty sight.

He starts by giving a history of the growth of the Global South Primates meetings, one that leaves out the very important point that the Global South Primates and the Global South Anglicans have selected out dioceses and Provinces from the Global South that do not share the views of the leadership of the Global South Anglicans meetings. While it is not so stated, we can assume that the Province of Brazil will not be invited, just as it was disinvited to the Third Global South meeting in Egypt. Other “global south” provinces and dioceses – Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Ecuador Central, Ecuador Literal, and the Episcopal Church dioceses of Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic were not present in Egypt, one supposes because of unclean tainting by the Episcopal Church. But what that means is that the “Global South Primates” did not, and probably will not, include Mexico, Central America, or Brazil in their mix. Then again, perhaps I am mistaken.


Dr. Poon says, “Global South Anglicans are not anti-revisionist (which has taken to mean anti-homosexual) and anti-conciliar (which has evolved to mean ‘anti-Williams’). Global South Anglicans are churches in the non-Western world that makes the Anglican Communion a universal reality. They insist on two matters: the historic faith and on fundamental structural reform to reflect that the Communion has come of age.”

To call the Anglican Communion a “universal reality” is a bit of a stretch. I suppose if the Anglican Communion is a “thing” or a “object of interpretation” one might say it is a reality. And, I suppose if it were one thing, and one thing only, it might be considered a ‘universal.’ But “universal reality” adds nothing to the value or notion of the Anglican Communion. I think what Dr. Poon means (but am not sure) is that he believes the Anglican Communion is what it is because of the churches in the non-western world.

Well that’s true enough. The Anglican Communion is certainly a richer, deeper and more fascinating sort of group than ever because it includes so many different peoples. But I think Dr. Poon also means, quite incorrectly, that the Anglican Communion is a “universal reality” sort of like, say, the Roman Catholic Church, a church that is everywhere. He repeats the same mistaken notion that The Archbishop of Canterbury has been known to utter: “The Anglican Communion itself has come of age: it has become a worldwide church.” That is just not so. It remains a "fellowship of churches." It may be what Dr. Poon and Archbishop Williams want it to become, but it is not that yet.

The three “urgent issues” that Dr. Poon believes the Global South Primates need to address at their meeting in September, to “work with Canterbury” to promote unity in the Commuion are :

“1. to provide a coherent arrangement for alternative Episcopal oversight for the dissenting minorities in North America
2. to draft the Anglican Covenant…
3. to redesign the agenda of Lambeth 2008 that the bishops may be able to discuss the fundamental issues facing the Communion.

The Global South Primates have no business involving themselves in alternative Episcopal oversight in the Episcopal Church. That has already been taken up by the Episcopal Church, been commended by the Windsor Report. Perhaps Dr. Poon is thinking of this strange new idea of “Alternative Primatial Oversight,” an idea that should have been strangled at birth.

The Global South Primates may indeed have some ideas about an Anglican Covenant; fine, the more ideas the better. But “to draft the Anglican Covenant…” is not theirs alone to do.

I am sure the design team for Lambeth will be less than pleased to know that their work might be dumped, just as the original report on human sexuality at Lambeth 1998, by a takeover. Perhaps Dr. Poon is right in believing that the Global South Primates ought to do this. I hope they do not.

The essay concludes, “Rowan Williams may well find his fellow Primates in the non-Western world to be his staunches friends and confidants in the coming days.” Well, Archbishop Williams (I like to refer to him by his title) needs all the friends and confidants he can get, so I hope he finds some among the Primates in the Global South. Still, the “fundamental structural reform” contemplated by Dr. Poon should be no comfort to the Archbishop. That reform might well replace the Archbishop of Canterbury as the “focus of unity” with the Primates, whose voting power has shifted to the South.

I must also say I found one comment in Dr. Poon’s essay quite revealing: “How Schlori (misspelling his) referred to Mother Jesus in her first sermon as the newly elected Presiding Bishop was insensitive and unnecessarily provocative. The contrast with Rowan Williams cannot be starker. Primates are by definition not champions of causes. They are guardians of the historic faith. I wonder whether Schlori has decided to walk away form the Primates’ Meeting as well.”

Well, perhaps the gloves are off now. Now we are getting suggestions that the “walk away,” already announced by the realignment crowd extends to the Presiding Bishop and the Primates Meetings. Will there soon be a call (perhaps from the Global South Primates?) that the Presiding Bishop be disinvited from Primates Meetings. After all, they did it to Brazil in the Global South Anglican meeting, why not in the Primates Meeting itself? Of course then it will be hard to see how the Primates Meeting is any sort of focus for unity, or for that matter, for communion.

Let us hope that this "walking away" language is just a testing of a very bad idea.



21 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great analysis of Dr. Poon's essay and for all of your reflections. I think you are absolutely correct for the most part. As much as he pretends otherwise, he has taken the gloves off and is just trying to hit below the belt. He comes across as being quite arogant as he tries to intimidate TEC with the global south's new power.

    You argue, though, that the Anglican Communion is not a Church as you have in other essays. I would like to understand your theology of Church that lies behind your claim. Does an organization have to have a centralized government to be a Church? In my own view, our Anglican Tradition, relationships, and Communion structures are more than enough to consider ourselves a Church, however decentralized in power and authority.

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  2. I was especially struck by the comment, "The present Communion crisis starkly reveals that the so-called Anglican Way leads nowhere. The Communion has not yet found the Way!" Is he suggesting that the proverbial Three-legged stool won't play in East Asia? Is he suggesting that Anglican latitude on interpreting the faith doesn't provide enough clarity? Is he suggesting that the ecclesiology of interdependent, autonomous provinces doesn't provide enough cohesion?

    In fact he seems to believe all three. His comments about Archbishop Williams serving as a "Servant of Unity of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic CHurch," in a context that seems to exclude North American churches and calls for a uniformity that elevates Canterbury from primus inter pares to an almost Patriarchal position, suggests that strongly.

    There were many interesting points in his earlier article, "Till They Have Homes," and especially the recognition that really sharing the Gospel among all nations requires local missionaries determining how that works in local cultures. I fear, however, that if Kigali has the results he desires, that very flexibility and local sensitivity will be the first thing to go.

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  3. Wou know, if these people want a rigidly dogmatic worldwide church with a mediaeval approach to the world and an all-powerful hierarchy that rules from the top down, well, there's already a church like that.

    It's hard to imagine anything less Anglican than all this business about a "covenant" and a curia and a pope.

    Sure, Poon and Akinola and the others imagine that they now have great power and they can't wait to lord it about, but do they really have any power at all? If the U.S., Canada, and enlightened elements in the U.K., (non-Sydney) Australia, etc. decide that they aren't so keen on having a pope, then the so-called Global South will not even be able to pay its bills, much less make any credible claim to being a worldwide church.

    It's time to call their bluff.

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  4. Bill Carroll31/8/06 7:35 AM

    By draft a covenant, I assume he means, draft an ultimatum. The absence of dissenting voices from the South would undermine any legitimacy the meeting has.

    Mother Jesus, deliver us.

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  5. It has become clear to me that you really do not believe in something that we profess in the Creed- a catholic church. You seem to be splitting hairs in a desire to justify the split the TEC has made from the rest of the Communion's theology, and that is indeed a sad state of affairs.

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  6. David Huff31/8/06 9:33 AM

    Fr. Mark wrote, "Let us hope that this "walking away" language is just a testing of a very bad idea."

    On the contrary, I hope they mean it. I am sick unto death of all the threats and the vitriolic nastiness from this crowd. As we say here in the South, "it's time to fish or cut bait."

    Let's, as anonymous suggested, call their bluff...

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  7. Bill Carroll31/8/06 12:45 PM

    Those who think Catholic means uniform in theology might do best to seek another way to be Christian. Not even the Windsor Report goes that far, though it does go too far in that direction.

    I don't know why the idea of a small handful of bishops setting a single teaching without any regard to local context would ever be appealing to anyone. Unless one wants to elevate sexual practice to the level of dogma.

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  8. Bill, et al.

    I don't think anyone (except of course DV and those far right and maybe the far left) is wanting to elevate sexual practice to the level of dogma. I do think what the bulk of the sincere (if I can use that word about the non-extremists who are willing to live out their obligations as presented by the WR to listen and to refrain from crossing borders) communion is asking us to do is to provide some reasoning and diaglogue as to why we think we should bless what the Bible seems clear (to them)in its claim and the Church for 2000 years has held to be a sin. And since bishops are concecrated for the whole church, the elevation of Bishop Robinson (because he is not repentant of his practise) touches all and should have been discussed by all. Besides, for all our democratic polity, even we do not do that!

    The difficulty exists, of course, in getting each side to hear the other. Hooker and Cramner were steeped in Aquinas, as were their writings, so the fable of a three-legged stool might not work in parts of the communion where classical Anglicanism is more the norm than our version, as Marshall questions.

    Should the Episcopal Church jettison the Anglican world that disagrees with us, as many of you suggest? Part of me wishes that you would. But I also recognize that some of you here are sincerely (I know, bad wordsmithing) trying to live out your lives and ministries in ways which you think are (and may well be) faithful. So just as it might be easier for me not to read thoughts/posts by Bill or Mark or others (God knows I yell at the screen sometimes--lol), I do think I am better honed for the real world. Maybe our church should consider that side of the argument before we jettison the bulk of our worldwide body as well . . .

    Peace,
    JB

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  9. Bill Carroll31/8/06 5:21 PM

    We won't jettison the Anglican world but it may well jettison us. I think we meant what we said when we expressed a desire to embrace the process of developing an Anglican Covenant. We also meant what we said when we rejected any moratorium on same sex blessings. Any Anglican Covenant which would force us to betray our conscience would be rejected. The question of whether there will be a covenant is not nearly so interesting as the details of said covenant. Do we really want to have to run all our bishops by the Anglican Communion for approval? This seems like a very, very, very bad idea. We are being asked to take steps that we cannot, will not, and should not take toward the creation of a central magisterium. I'd rather remain a fellowship of autonomous churches, even if those who want something different end up breaking fellowship with us.

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  10. >>>since bishops are concecrated for the whole church

    Does this mean that we can throw a veto on the despots and polygamists that the various African branches of the church insist on elevating to the episcopate? The ones who wander the grounds of Lambeth with their harems in tow, the ones who encourage their flocks to massacre other communities, the Malangos and Kunongas who gladly climb into bed with murderous dictators, the former Archbishop of Kigali, a participant in the Rwandan genocide, and so on....

    If so, then maybe a "covenant" will not be such a bad idea. Someone certainly needs to do some moral housecleaning in Africa, and it appears that the region's own "orthodox" churchmen are far too preoccupied with Gene Robinson's bedroom to deal with such trifles as mass murder.

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  11. You get no argument from me, anonymous, on keeping any non-repentant sinner from any authority in the church, but then I am one of those people who would argue that Paul was divinely inspired when writing to Timothy! ; )

    I would be curious as to which bishops are traipsing their harems around, especially in England these days. Every church to which I am familiar with in Africa (admittedly only Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda, so a very small part of Africa) requires the men to have only one wife to seek a leadership position in the church (i.e. multiple wives=no vestry, no ordination). Of course, they are not allowed to simply abandon the wives accumulated prior to their conversion to Christ. They must provide for them until they find a husband for them. I am sure that there are some abuses where man "can't find a good husband for the wife," but the women (again, admittedly a small part of the whole) seem to enjoy the emancipation which comes with the Gospel of Christ.

    Peace,
    JB

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  12. >Wou know, if these people want a rigidly dogmatic worldwide church with a mediaeval approach to the world and an all-powerful hierarchy that rules from the top down, well, there's already a church like that.

    I came joyously to the Episcopal Church from the Roman Catholic tradition. I cherish the acknowledgement of reason as a gift from God that we are expected to exercise. I love the bells, smells and reason, the reality of the holy spirit working through reason to make a new thing.

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  13. "Anonymous said...
    >>>since bishops are concecrated for the whole church

    Does this mean that we can throw a veto on the despots and polygamists that the various African branches of the church insist on elevating to the episcopate? The ones who wander the grounds of Lambeth with their harems in tow, ...."

    I am no fan of the Akinolaist wing of the non-Global South. But, in all fairness, this is simply over the top. It is true that some converts in places where polygamy is common have been able to bring their wives with them. Three things should be noted:

    1) The simple fact is that Jesus preahed against divorce not polygamy. Psuedo-Paul's comments in Timothy are specific to candidates for bishops. Being divorced for any reason in much of rural Africa is an effective death sentence for a woman. Surely that is not what the Spirit had in mind when it called us to preach the gospel!

    2) The African churches make several things very clear when baptizing a polygamous family. Among them is the obligation to take care of all of the women and kids, and the absolute prohibition on any additional wives.

    3) None of the African provinces permit a polygamous husband to seek leadership positions. The men who come to the church with multiple wives cannot be candidates for ordination.

    I do however love the idea of an American vote to confirm/disafirm the next primate of Nigeria! Now there is joint responsibility at its best!

    FWIW
    jimB
    eternally lurking in Chicago

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  14. communion is asking us to do is to provide some reasoning and diaglogue as to why we think we should bless what the Bible seems clear (to them)in its claim and the Church for 2000 years has held to be a sin.

    JB, for umpteenth time, I have gone looking for some kind of analogy, by which I can respond to this framing of the situation. The one I've just now come up with may be no more useful than any others before, but let me try, anyway---

    Suppose TEC were, by means of its canonical processes, pass resolutions calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons (actually, I hope it has! *g*)

    What if the majority of the rest of the AC were to respond (bear with me, here) "For 2000 years, the Biblical witness is that nuclear weapons are clearly part of God's Plan. What else is all that 'fire and brimstone' falling from heaven? Ergo, TEC's doctrine is clearly departing from historic Christianity, and walking way from the Communion!"

    Now granted, this may sound a little too obviously, well, BONKERS.

    ...but for Episcopalians (especially LGBT ones!), who've read the Bible in a decent translation, the statement "the Bible seems clear (to them)in its claim and the Church for 2000 years has held to be a sin", when applied to committed, monogamous same-sex (and Christian!) couples, sounds no less *nuts*. [A retrojection of "homosexuality" into Scripture, being virtually AS anachronistic as a retrojection of "nuclear weapons"!]

    So, does TEC continue to "enter the delusion"? (FWIW, a workshop I once attended on dealing w/ homeless mentally-ill, counseled never to do this, UNLESS one's life was in danger!)

    Or do we go about our business of following Christ's Great Commandment and, calmly and with conviction, refute the delusion when it's in our faces? Ala, "I appreciate your faith-claims, but that's simply NOT what the Bible says?"

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  15. James in Houston2/9/06 10:30 AM

    All this makes me wonder why we are spending so much time and energy working on our relationships with "conservative" Anglicans, when progressive (I would say orthodox) Anglicans have so much more in common with progressive Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Congregationalists. Although I recognize that we are called to reconciliation with our conservative brothers and sisters if possible, I wonder if the gospel if progressive protestants were more united. I realize that liturgy and history and tradition and apostolic succession are all obstacles, but surely Jesus would understand if we put the substance of our faith (that is, our call to experience Christ's healing and to bring Christ's love to suffering people of the world) ahead of issues of style.

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  16. James in Houston2/9/06 1:45 PM

    Correction: Although I recognize that we are called to reconciliation with our conservative brothers and sisters if possible, I wonder if the gospel would be better served if progressive protestants were more united.

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  17. James in Houston,

    I am a progressive Episcopalian, but the last thing I would want to be is a Protestant. For me, the Gospel is as much the fullness of the Church with its Tradition and Sacraments as anything. We've got a great thing going -a branch of the western Catholic Church that is intellectually flexible rather than rigidly dogmatic. I see no reason that we should have to give that up.

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  18. James in Houston3/9/06 4:44 PM

    JJ,
    Forgive me. I did not mean to suggest that we should abandon tradition or sacraments, or in any way retreat from being fully catholic and fully reformed, in the richest senses of both terms. What I suggest is that we expend more energy than we do on visible and meaningful unity with those with whom such unity is possible.

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  19. JC:

    OK, JC, I will take the bait. The issue of nuclear weapons is a horrible analogy, and I think I understand what you (as a group) are trying to say. Your argument that we (as a group are "anachronistically reading back into Scripture" is, I think a poor argument. To claim that the ANE had absolutely no idea of what committed homosexual partnerships were like completely disregards the body of evidence to the contrary. Plato by himself discussed it in three dialogues still preserved (and I think makes the best argument for the case of the left in secular society), so did Thucydides and a few other Greek writers. I cannot comment on Assyrain or Babylonian literature. Maybe some well versed in ANE literature can comment more upon that. I do believe that God inspired the writing and collecting of all the Scriptures. Among those subjects which reflect holy or sinful living is our sexual activity. Holy sexual activity seems, at least as far as many of us on the right can read, to be confined either to marriage between a man and a woman or celibacy. It is true that God works through a number of sexual sins to accomplish His plan of salvation (David's, of course comes to mind), but the Bible seems awfully clear as to what it is saying or not saying.

    The claim that is taken by some, that Paul made up the word "arsenokoitai" and we cannot know what it means for sure seems awfully weak. Paul seems to be quoting directly from a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which had no spaces between the words as we do now (arsenos koitan gunaikos). As all the testimony of his contemporaries suggest and his writings, Paul was intimately aware of the Greek Scriptures and of their meanings.

    The left side is, of course, correct in asserting that Jesus never said anything about it. But His teachings with respect to marriage seem to tighten the noose rather than loosen it. He quotes Genesis 2:24 when discussing marriage and then asserts that even lusty thoughts are a sin before God. Many of us on the right side consider Jesus to be part of the Trinity and the One in whom all things (including sexuality) were made. As such, we tend to think that Jesus would have provided the teaching. It certainly is not like He was bashful at correcting their mistakes back then.

    All this invariably leads us to discussing feelings or how God made us. The problem with that line, at least for the discussing and engaging people on my side of the chasm, is that there seems to be an ignorance of Genesis 3 and the impact of sin on sexuality as well as everything else. God did not make any of us the way were are. We are not in full communion with Him, yet. Further, if sin did not impact sexuality and the G or L expression of sexuality in a committed relationship and did not help contribute to Christ's crucifixion, those on your side of the current chasm are still left with the logical difficulty of defending the B's & T's by asserting - what, God made a mistake or could not make up His mind?

    Do I understand how those on your side of the chasm feel about sexuality? I think so. I have sins which seem so comfortable to me that I wish God did not consider them unholy or unrighteous. Heck, all of us who were hetero-teens helped create the need for His crucifixion by lusting after nearly every girl in high school. Further, every single that I know hates a sermon on our reading for Ephesians last week because sermons on the reading tend to be "how to's" for marriages. If one is single, one feels left out.

    I am content to get on with ministry, and am willing to discuss this (and hosts of other ecclessialogical or theological topics) in the background of the church. I do think too many on my side of the chasm seem to think that +Robinson is the only problem with regard to our theology of sexuality and marriage while ignoring the just as "clear teaching" on divorce and remarriage--particularly among church leaders. I also think that if we are not careful, we incite people to violence on this issue, forgetting that Christ bore the penalty for this and every other sin. I am even willing to consent that I may be wrong. I am certain that Paul (before Damascus) and Gamelial and a host of others were quite shocked when they found out the errors of their thoughts. Our current problems, however, are brought about in the way we want to perceive ourselves and for the world to perceive us. We proceeded with an action which the vast majority of not just the Anglican world but the Christian world said was a mistake (at least at this time). We (ECUSA) want to believe it is prophetic. It may well be, but for classical Anglicans (Hooker et al), I think the other side is going to have to provide the scriptural basis for there to be an acceptance of marriage as not being between one man and one woman.

    I am also mindful, JC, of our readings today. I have tried not to defile by things coming out of my mouth (fingers really). As I said earlier, I am certainly willing to engage this topic (though maybe Mark would prefer us to go elsewhere--lol) as civilly as possible given the difficult nature of the subject. Nevertheless, I think it is a good discussion to have. One side or the other (and perhaps, both) is doing tremendous harm to some of God's sheep. We need to figure it out before we all earn some millstones!

    Peace,
    JB

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  20. Anonymous wrote: ”Your argument that we (as a group) are "anachronistically reading back into Scripture" is, I think a poor argument.”

    It’s a fact.

    “To claim that the ANE had absolutely no idea of what committed homosexual partnerships were like completely disregards the body of evidence to the contrary.”

    This is repeatedly repeated by for, example Robert AJ Gagnon, but who exactly claims this?

    “I do believe that God inspired the writing and collecting of all the Scriptures. Among those subjects which reflect holy or sinful living is our sexual activity. Holy sexual activity seems, at least as far as many of us on the right can read, to be confined either to marriage between a man and a woman or celibacy.”

    This may be found in “all Scriptures”, but certainly not in the Bible. It’s Neo Platonism, Hellenism, Indo European Philosphy.

    ”The claim that is taken by some, that Paul made up the word "arsenokoitai" and we cannot know what it means for sure seems awfully weak.”

    Regardless of what it “seems” to you, the word is not found before Paul. The simplest explanation is that it is Corinthian slang re-used by Paul.

    “Paul seems to be quoting directly from a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which had no spaces between the words as we do now (ársenos koíten gunaikós).”

    This was only made up in the 16th century by Dr Johannes Calvinus. It’s nonsense.

    Arsenokoîtai is not ársenos koíten.

    Nor do 2 words in one context make a “compound” out of a different word in a different context in a different text several hundred years later.

    ”The left side is, of course, correct in asserting that Jesus never said anything about it.”

    What about Luke 7 and Matt 8?

    “But His teachings with respect to marriage seem to tighten the noose rather than loosen it. He quotes Genesis 2:24 when discussing marriage and then asserts that even lusty thoughts are a sin before God.”

    Mark 10 with parallels is not about marriage, certainly not about o u r Modern mutual marriage which did not exist, but about divorce – and not even about our European divorce which did not exist in the Middle East, but about Middle Eastern (Egyptian) repudium; the one-sided repudiation of one or several wives by their husband under Polygamy (still around in most Islamic law, for instance).

    Also, Matt 19 is not Matt 5… nor do they come from the same source – not to mention, that Adam and Eve had no parents ;=)

    “… we tend to think that Jesus would have provided the teaching.”

    Well, it would seem that you are mistaken. There are hosts of things not mentioned in the Bible.

    ”The problem with that line, at least for the discussing and engaging people on my side of the chasm, is that there seems to be an ignorance of Genesis 3 and the impact of sin on sexuality as well as everything else. God did not make any of us the way were are. We are not in full communion with Him, yet. Further, if sin did not impact sexuality and the G or L expression of sexuality in a committed relationship and did not help contribute to Christ's crucifixion, those on your side of the current chasm are still left with the logical difficulty of defending the B's & T's by asserting – what, God made a mistake or could not make up His mind?”

    It is your side, Calvinism, that claims that Creation is a mistake – and that comes from Indo European philosophy: Demiurge, Vale of tears, Karma, Mocksha and the lot.

    But then, sexuality only enters the fray in Genesis 4, not in Genesis 1 and 2…

    So the late-modern inversion of 2nd Millennium academic morality from anti-heterosexual to anti-gay is not the tradition of the Church, not even of Academia – but invention. Anti-modern Social Politics.

    ”Do I understand how those on your side of the chasm feel about sexuality? I think so. I have sins which seem so comfortable to me that I wish God did not consider them unholy or unrighteous.”

    Please don’t project that on others.

    “Heck, all of us who were hetero-teens helped create the need for His crucifixion by lusting after nearly every girl in high school.”

    Again.

    ”… while ignoring the just as "clear teaching" on divorce and remarriage…”

    As I said: it is not about “divorce” but about repudium. And the “remarriage” thing, along with the present Anglican theology on marriage in its entirety, is a post Tridentine invention of the Oxford movement.

    Not the tradition of the Church.

    ”I think the other side is going to have to provide the scriptural basis for there to be an acceptance of marriage as not being between one man and one woman.”

    This formula was un-known before – say – 1970. Not the tradition of the Church.

    “We need to figure it out before we all earn some millstones!”

    Too late, I’m afraid.

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  21. Does it make me a hopelessly wicked person that I chuckle inside every time I see "Dr. Poon"?

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