7/28/2009

Archbishop blows his ecclesial horn: the last trumpet has sounded.

It took a week, several letters from the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Bishops, several phone calls from his associates to close associates here, and a solid round of disparaging remarks by such people on the right as Bishops Nazir-Ali and Tom Wright, and the barking dogs of various organizations with blogs to do it, but the Archbishop of Canterbury has blown his ecclesiastical horn at last.

In an article titled, "Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future" published on Monday July 27, 2009, the Archbishop nicely and in his usual nuanced style essentially said that no one is fooled: The General Convention of The Episcopal Church has strayed from the fold.

The whole essay is HERE.

The subtitle is, "Reflections on the Episcopal Church's 2009 General Convention from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion."

These are reflections by someone who attended only a bit of the General Convention. He did get around a bit: I saw him in the World Mission Legislative Committee meeting, he gave a good talk on global economics, although its contents were overshadowed by his awareness that his every word was going to be analyzed, he gave a meditation at the Eucharist. In that mediation he said,

"Of course I am coming here with hopes and anxieties – you know that and I shan't deny it. Along with many in the Communion, I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart."

This is called giving indirect directions.

As far as I know the Archbishop was not there for any of the debate, conversations, hearings and the like on any of the major resolutions that are such a cause for concern. There was a long distance phone calls from the Lambeth brigade the night after the vote on D025, on Episcopal Elections and the Anglican Communion. The general sense was that this "lifted the moratorium" that B033 had put in place last General Convention and that TEC was on its way to do its own thing once again. Since then there has been an attempt (failed obviously) to tell the ABC not to panic.

The essay is a mishmash of reheated sausage, dry toast and a dropped egg or two. Hardly a good breakfast here in the US, and for that matter a sorry mess of a breakfast even in England.

Much has been written on this essay and here are a few of my thoughts to add to it all:

Some of the more telling quotes from the essay, with follow-up comments from Preludium.

"1....There has been an insistence at the highest level that the two most strongly debated resolutions (DO25 and CO56) do not have the automatic effect of overturning the requested moratoria, if the wording is studied carefully. ...

2. However, a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces; very serious anxieties have already been expressed. ..."

Meaning, the requested moratoria have been overturned. Well, yes and no.

There are all sorts of ways to unwrap all this moratoria stuff, but the real problem is that General Convention 2006 did NOT pass legislation enforcing the moratorium on consent to the election of a gay bishop in a committed relationship. It could not. What B033 said (and this has been repeated until the horse died) is this:

"...Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion".

Yet later the bishops of TEC seem to have on their own determined that B033 directly addressed that issue and was indeed understood as a moratorium. Nice of them, but the Bishops alone do not have the right to make a "call upon Standing Committees and bishops" a moratorium. B033 is a call to class action, not a binding moratorium on action. If it were it would have read, "...Convention therefore requires that Standing Committees and Bishops with jurisdiction not consent..." B033 was a strong statement, and it lamentably worked, in that no gay person in relationship was elected, much less put forward for consents. Two, however, were in election processes and there are reasons to suppose that they were not elected in part because consents would have been difficult to come by.

As for the resolution on same sex blessings (C056), the resolution calls for work to be done and give bishops latitude to express "generous pastoral response." No doubt that means that within particular dioceses bishops may give permission for a variety of pastoral responses, including services of blessing.

The call of the Windsor Report was that

"...While we recognise that the Episcopal Church (USA) has by action of Convention made provision for the development of public Rites of Blessing of same sex unions, the decision to authorise rests with diocesan bishops. Because of the serious repercussions in the Communion, we call for a moratorium on all such public Rites..."

Windsor was incorrect about the first, namely that General Convention had made provision for the development of public Rites of Blessing. Nothing appeared at this General Convention in terms of a report on such development.

The issue as to what is a "public Rite" is still debated, but even C056 does not go so far as to name the end result of the study it recommends. In fact it suggests precisely the theological study that the Archbishop will later call for in this letter.

The Archbishop now turns to perhaps the most difficult of his ruminations, namely the moral issues related to same-sex blessings. He first sets up the straw-man for the argument - that same sex blessings are presented as a justice issue, when they are not only that rather a theological and faith issue.

"4...Appeal is made to the fundamental human rights dimension of attitudes to LGBT people, and to the impossibility of betraying their proper expectations of a Christian body which has courageously supported them.

"6. However, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage."

This he contends would be a major shift in Christian thinking.

"7... A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.

8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires."

Note here that the Archbishop makes reference to "the Church Catholic" and "the Communion as a whole." He pulls out all the ecclesial stops, the authority that derives from the ideal of a worldwide Church, universal in scope, of which The Anglican Churches are a part by way of being "The Anglican Communion." This is, of course, the argument from the position that the Anglican Communion shares with the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches sufficient cohesion and history to make a claim to ancient origins, catholic intentions and current cohesiveness so as to constitute a world wide "Communion." That has been the dream claim of at least some Anglicans who have sought parity with Rome and Constantinople. But it is mostly a dream.

It is a bad dream because it proposes that justice people live in a different room in the mansion than do Christian - manner - of - life people.There is also the terrible injustice of claiming that same-sex relationships are necessarily the same sort of relationship as heterosexual relationships outside marriage. Well it is true mostly that the church frowns on sex outside marriage and what we might call cohabitation with sexual privileges. But the last time I looked heterosexuals had the option of marriage, making it all legal and neatly boxed for proper manner of life usage. Homosexuals have until recently had no such option. The same-sex relationships are not uniformly like heterosexual relationships outside marriage. Period.

The Archbishop tries to explain that it is not at all simple:

9. ...the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. (There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.)"

Elizabeth Kaeton has a fine rejoinder to calling same-sex relationship a life style choice. See HERE.T

he issue of the "public teaching" being "at odds with their lifestyle" can be solved, of course not by denying blessing since it counters public teaching, but changing public teaching so that blessing is quite normal. To do that would be to re-examine the relationship between marriage as a contractual matter in the society and marriage as a christian vocation. The Archbishop is not interested in this possibility - by either changing the laws so that same sex marriage is possible or changing the "entry requirement" for blessing a vocation to life long union so that it does not require a ticket from the State. None of this seems to make it into the Archbishops notes here.

"Public teaching" in the South included the fact that the races should not mix. Presumably if an inter-racial couple were to present themselves to the bishop and one was seeking ordination this could be interpreted as having a lifestyle that was at odds with public teaching. Even in the North such sensibilities existed into the 1960's when one of the members of my seminary married a black woman. The difference between public teaching (even the quiet prejudicial public teaching of the time and place) and the "lifestyle" of two persons who loved each other but across the race line was a reality, and an unpleasant one at that.

The Archbishop then turns to the matter of "local church" decision making. By "local church" I gather he means the CofE, or TEC, or the Anglican Church of Canada, or whatever. He writes,

"The second issue is the broader one of how a local church makes up its mind on a sensitive and controversial matter...

12. When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church. Without this, it risks becoming unrecognisable to other local churches, pressing ahead with changes that render it strange to Christian sisters and brothers across the globe.

13. This is not some piece of modern bureaucratic absolutism, but the conviction of the Church from its very early days. The doctrine that 'what affects the communion of all should be decided by all' is a venerable principle...

Well, the Archbishop talks nice, but he knows, and we know, that with the possible exception of the early councils (the first four?) no such mechanism has operated for more than 16 hundred years. The doctrine sometimes put forward as "Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbari debet." covers a variety of civil and ecclesiastical ideas about proper governance.

When applied to the whole Church it is not about the Anglican Communion, it is not about Rome or Constantinople, it is about the whole thing... and that hasn't been possible in toto since the disciples got into a snit about the leadership of the early church. So it is applied downward to world wide churches. For this to apply to the matter of a local church - i.e. TEC - we would have to posit some greater church to which it belongs and to which it must give way. That we do not have although some are precisely arguing for it by way of the Anglican Covenant.

The Archbishop wants to argue both sides of the matter: That we are autonomous churches and that we are a Church where questions that affect everybody must be solved by everybody together.

The ABC then raises the cultural captivity question:

14....this should not lead us to ignore or minimise the opposite danger of so responding to local pressure or change that a local church simply becomes isolated and imprisoned in its own cultural environment."

The notion that TEC is captive to the culture in its efforts to be inclusive of gay and lesbian persons is prattled about, and we need to take it seriously as a possibility. On the other hand we might suggest that having excruciating practice at racism we are now a bit more aware of just how our sense of Christian manner of life has had nothing to do with the Gospel and everything to do with Nation, State, race and class. Perhaps we are trying to learn a bit from that experience. We don't need lectures from the "cultural environment" of English Churchmen to be reminded of the link between some aspects of culture, injustice and bad theology.

Playing the cultural captivity card here is a hasty overstatement at best and dirty pool at worse.

The Archbishop then turns to the nut of the problem:

"18. To accept without challenge the priority of local and pastoral factors in the case either of sexuality or of sacramental practice would be to abandon the possibility of a global consensus among the Anglican churches such as would continue to make sense of the shape and content of most of our ecumenical activity. It would be to re-conceive the Anglican Communion as essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'."

Assuming that it is the ABC, or one of the instruments, that is being asked to accept the priority of local and pastoral factors, who does the ABC think is doing the asking? The Episcopal Church is not asking the Communion to accept its priorities, or to see it as normative for the Communion, nor does TEC make any attempt to speak for the Communion. What it does contend is that it is called to consider these factors in its decision making and liturgical practice.

The notion that any one of the autonomous churches in the Communion is required to seek the consensus of all the rest regarding its life is patently absurd. I can not imagine the Church of England asking Communion wide consensus on changing its Book of Common Prayer or the appropriateness of its status as a State church. Its ecumenical full communion status with some of the Lutherans in Europe was not vetted by some consensus mechanism. And I can surely understand The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) in its assertion that it makes its own decisions and interprets its own canons without reference to consensus with anyone.

The problem is, the Archbishop in his last sentence accurately described what the Anglican Communion truly is, "
a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'."
He may be wrong about "loose" but about the rest, that's it.

The Archbishop then says,

"19. As Anglicans, our membership of the Communion is an important part of our identity. However, some see this as best expressed in a more federalist and pluralist way. They would see this as the only appropriate language for a modern or indeed postmodern global fellowship of believers in which levels of diversity are bound to be high and the risks of centralisation and authoritarianism are the most worrying. There is nothing foolish or incoherent about this approach. But it is not the approach that has generally shaped the self-understanding of our Communion – less than ever in the last half-century, with new organs and instruments for the Communion's communication and governance and new enterprises in ecumenical co-operation."

The reference to the last half-century is correct: all the "organs and instruments for the Communion" except the Lambeth Conference itself are a product of this period, a period marked in larger social organizations by the development of international corporations, global markets and world banks. Perhaps the move for global governance in the Anglican Communion is a product of bad modeling.

Now at the last he moves on to the matter of the Anglican Covenant. The Archbishop is not the best salesman for this project. He begins,

"20. The Covenant proposals of recent years have been a serious attempt to do justice to that aspect of Anglican history that has resisted mere federation..." They remain the only proposals we are likely to see that address some of the risks and confusions already detailed, encouraging us to act and decide in ways that are not simply local."

The Anglican Covenant is raised as an effort to resist mere federation (that is what we are now.) He says its the only act in town, so deal with it.

And he proposes a "twofold ecclesial reality" as a way:

"22...For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily. But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces."

Those who buy on will be members of the Covenant Anglican Communion, those that don't are members of the Association of Anglican Provinces, or some such thing. The Archbishop assumes, it appears, that The Episcopal Church will not be part of the Covenant Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop then helpfully clarifies a point: Those on the second track, the Associated Anglican Provinces, don't get to speak officially in ecumenical interchanges and processes, etc. This of course is nonsense. Who gave anyone the right to make this claim. If this is the Archbishop's dream, then fine. It is a dream. It is his dream and scheme. But his dreams are not our realities. He says,

23. ...perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom."

Sometime it may become important to remind the Archbishop of Canterbury that here he has no more power than any foreign bishop, a phrase whose tenor he ought resonate with.

Perhaps it is important to point out that The Episcopal Church, and any other Church in the Anglican Communion is empowerd by its own life to seek ecumenical interchanges on official terms with any and all it wishes, assuming that anyone wants to talk to us.

The Archbishop now addresses again the issue of who can sign on to the Covenant. He says, "...the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question."

For a while we might have though there was an answer. The ACC indicated that it expected Provinces to address sign-on, not dioceses. But the ABC, believing that The Episcopal Church will not buy on to the Covenant, is raising the issue again. His doing so is both a statement of his concern that TEC will not sign and a means of getting some portion to do so. This will be both meddling in the interior life of a Province in the worse way, it will open the possibility that the "list" of Anglican entities part of the formal Communion will consist of a list of dioceses, not provinces - perhaps some 6 or 7 hundred, not 38.

This will make being fully Anglican a direct connection between dioceses and the see of Canterbury, or the list of covenented diocese held by the ACC. The notion of a church of a nation or reigon will cease to be a marker of Anglican Church life.

And then the ABC wraps it up:

"26. ... If the present structures that have safeguarded our unity turn out to need serious rethinking in the near future, this is not the end of the Anglican way and it may bring its own opportunities. Of course it is problematic; and no-one would say that new kinds of structural differentiation are desirable in their own right. But the different needs and priorities identified by different parts of our family, and in the long run the different emphases in what we want to say theologically about the Church itself, are bound to have consequences. We must hope that, in spite of the difficulties, this may yet be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth for all who value the Anglican name and heritage."

The ABC seems to think the present structures have "safeguarded our unity." They have not. Our unity was never a product of those structures. His wrap up is a last sound of the horn. I believe the Archbishop of Canterbury is the end of the single thing called the Anglican Communion and the advent of at least two entities, with the possibility of conflict between them.

His vision of a two track future is a vision that finally ends any pretense of a moratorium on jurisdictional boundary crossing. The "formal" Anglican Communion would have precidence, of course.

This essay is the product of a disappointed and saddened man. It is unhelpful to those of us who believe that the future can be "both-and" not "either-or" - both justice and faith community, both local development in practice and core communion wide agreement in faith.


31 comments:

  1. There is a basic hypocrisy inherent in Williams' writing.

    He speaks of standing over/against cultural norms, being a counter-cultural agent, yet then wants to say that Truth must be decided by everyone, everywhere, all the time. I can scarcely imagine anything more positively guaranteed to ensure the status quo decided by general bias!

    This also goes directly against every writing in which he has said that Truth cannot be arrived at by a vote! Perhaps, he simply meant it couldn't be arrived at when universal suffrage of the non-purple-shirted was involved?

    Get us out of the AC and into real communion!

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  2. Like everyone on the Anglican blogosphere, I've been reading many blog entries on the Archbishop's essay and mulling it over myself. I think the thing that finally clicked for me after reading your analysis is that the Archbishop's article is not logical. In at least two instances, he uses false comparisons to prove his point.

    I keep going back again and again to the statement "a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond." I do not understand how he cannot see that couple A has no option for marriage however much they may want to while couple B does. That would make it...a different case. Thank you for stating that so clearly.

    Likewise, in the Anglican Communion half, the unhelpful comparison appears: he compares the issue of human sexuality to open communion, but I don't see anybody kicking anybody out of anything for offering communion to those not baptized. So how is that comparison helpful in determining how local churches should relate to one another? I would think it would be more useful to uncover why one causes huge rifts and the other doesn't and why they are treated so differently.

    Thanks for letting me think out loud. I knew something larger than "I don't like what he's saying" was bugging me about that essay, but I hadn't been able to put a finger on what it was.

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  3. Sir, thank you for your comments. As I have said for a long time, both sides of the argument in the AC are tormented by those who seek to constrain our consciences in the name of institutional freedom.....

    I think good can come out of the honesty of GC09 and the honesty of the ABC's statement re "the mind of the Communion". Perhaps the 2 track solution is merely realistic. It is better if we all follow our consciences and act with integrity in 2 tracks than compromise on our principles and pretend to be united when we have not been for many years, if not decades.

    A TEC-led "liberal" communion would attract many in England, Scotland and Wales.....I don't think the ABC should expect that some TEC dioceses may sign up to the Covenant without considering the possiblity of some CofE parishes or dioceses joining a TEC-led communion............

    GC09 was more honest than "institutionalists" hoped...but integrity requires honesty and while it is sometimes costly, good can come from it in the longer term - for all in the AC. I hope you can be more hopeful than sad about the AC and TEC, Sir

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  4. Deacon Charlie Perrin29/7/09 9:34 AM

    What if our Lord had subscribed to this "lowest common denominator" method for forming the Church? He "handed" Peter the Keys and said (in so many words): It's up to you Peter. Do what you believe is best.

    He didn't say: Wait until everyone is on board before you do anything.

    He didn't say: Don't offend anyone.

    He said: What you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven and what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.

    Why do we even care what this man says? He seems to have no beliefs of his own. He criticizes us for being held prisoner by our culture, but criticizes no one else for the same action (e.g. Nigeria)?

    Look; we are willing to be in communion with anyone who professes Christ. We compel no one. But the good archbishop seems to feel that communion requires more, not unlike the Romans who demand fealty to Bishop of Rome.

    I say that we do what we believe to be right, and let them do what they believe to be right, and be done with it. We do not follow Christ if we allow our beliefs to be trumped by the fears of others.

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  5. Fr. Mark,

    I have read many commentaries, and written my own on the ABC's letter to the Communion. For me, it boils down to whether the ABC will trust God, or will he continue to thrash about and put out convulted letters that on the one hand condemn violence against LGBT Anglicans... and on the other hand, feed the bigotry with making false analogies about my life and my place in God's kingdom.
    Thank you, as always, for your reasoned reflections. I just wish that the ABC, and those of like-minds, would take the time to be as reasoned.

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  6. So when does Rowan retire?

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  7. I find the subtitle the most amusing part. "Bishops, Clergy, and Faithful"-- 'cause bishops and clergy aren't faithful?

    As for the rest of it, well, I said my piece on my own blog yesterday. Every time +Cantaur talks lately, my congregationalist knee jerks.

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  8. I just "discovered" your blog. It's funny how perceptions can differ -- I'm in an ACNA parish, which I helped found after leaving TEC five months ago. I love my new parish and am very excited about ACNA, which gives me an opportunity to worship with people who share my faith. I was very pleased at Archbishop Duncan's letter to the Anglican Communion, which wasn't at all sad (as it appeared to you). It expresses our hopefulness and gratitude for our new church. I don't miss TEC at all. I wish you in TEC all the best.

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  9. thanks for your comments re: ecumenical discussions. I really hadn't thought all that through. To take a 'for instance,' if CoE made peace with Rome, does the ABC think for a moment that all the other covenanted provinces of the AC would go along with that? Sadly, this is more of the same blah blah that his Grace has saddled himself with in his role as preserver of 'unity' at any price. I respect and admire him, feel very sorry for his life in this tough place - but feel absolutely no need to worry about what he thinks... and that's too bad

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  10. Scott B... I am glad you have found a home in ACNA and appreciate your wishing TEC all the best.

    In the future your kind remark may be the norm on both sides. For now, however, you may find the doings on this blog a bit cantankerous (sp?) since I deeply resent the occasions in which the leadership of ACNA says that TEC is unChristian, not faithful, etc.

    Please visit often and contribute to the conversation.

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  11. Mark, I have a somewhat different take on Rowan's mind here. I think he is being more diagnostic than proscriptive. I'll say more at my own place, but I do appreciate your take on this, even as my own is a bit more optimistic.

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  12. +Rowan has been floating his two-tier/two-track proposal for some 3 years now, and I have yet to see a single taker, either on the left or on the right. Is this a dreamland of his own making, or a real possibility?

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  13. Dear Mark, et al,
    I've never been the brightest star in the constellation and somewhere in the Gospel and/or the ABC's long and involved commentary I seem to have missed an important truth. Is the ABC saying that Christian theology/practice lives in a different room than "fundamental human rights," and "human dignity?" Have I been repeating the Baptismal Covenant all these years, especially the last part about respecting the dignity of every human being, believing that this IS Christian theology and practice only to find out now that they're different? Apparently "appealing" to mere "fundamental human rights" and "human dignity" is to appeal to a lesser truth than "public teaching," which other commenters have rightly pointed out has been at times downright evil.

    To be honest, I'm not sure the ABC even believes his own words. I read the whole thing as another of his admirable but futile attempts to play both sides of the field and keep the Communion from falling apart under his watch. I think you're right that it's the last trumpet. The cause was lost long ago.

    Pat

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  14. "The notion that TEC is captive to the culture in its efforts to be inclusive of gay and lesbian persons is prattled about, and we need to take it seriously as a possibility...Playing the cultural captivity card here is a hasty overstatement at best and dirty pool at worse."

    Wow. Is that taking it seriously???

    "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
    ---
    Rowan Williams rightly compares practicing homosexuals* with co-habitating heterosexuals - both are having sexual relations outside of Christian marriage. Hence both should be disqualified from the ministry. Sexual activity outside of Christian marriage IS a choice. Doing it on an ongoing basis IS a "lifestyle."

    *Yes, I agree. "Practicing homosexual" or "non-celibate homosexual" are awkward, silly terms but so is "celibate homosexual". It would be far simpler if said that homosexuals are those who are "practicing", that is are engaging in same sex sexual relations on an ongoing basis rather than those that had a same sex attraction or had a same sex "fling" in college.

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  15. aintmary+Cantaur is too Anglican for us to take him at his word. The two tier talk is as much threat to TEC as realistic speculation about the "consequences" so that we'll get back in the closet. Rowan wants us to be like CofE where a higher percentage of GLBT clergy are still closeted than are in TEC.
    When he says "choices have consequences" he's not talking about choosing to be GLBT, he's talking about choosing to be GLBT AND OUT. Come out and stay out and you will be fed at the kids' table. Get back in the closet -- where all good Anglicans know to stay -- and we'll wink and nudge you at the "grown-ups" table. He is leaving us no other options.
    There's another unspoken piece to this. +Cantaur's only hope of a one tier AC is to keep the global south bishops at the table. Our repentant closeted-ness joined to CofE's well mannered reserve in these matters at least gives him some hope with the Africans who are currently keeping their own secrets about polygamy, slavery, and racism will be inclined to stay.
    All of this is offered in the form of good welsh academic muddleheadedness with just enough left unsaid so that +Cantaur can deny having given us permission to do anything but repent and abstain.
    I didn't know a Welshman could be so paternalistic. Wink, Wink.

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  16. Mark wrote: "I deeply resent the occasions in which the leadership of ACNA says that TEC is unChristian, not faithful, etc. "
    Probably no more than they resent being called thieves, homophobes, inciters of violence against gay and lesbian persons, schismatics, donatists, etc., etc. There is more than enough legitimate basis for resentment on all sides.
    George

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  17. Dan Hutchinson29/7/09 3:02 PM

    As a relatively new Episcopalian I have been perplexed for some time about why the Episcopal Church has allowed it's witness to the gospel to be so heavily influenced by the anger and threats of other national churches...particularly those in Nigeria and Uganda which are headed by bishops who seem captive to a spirit of hatred and fear. If that is what is required in order to be a member of the Anglican "club" then why would we want to belong? Other than an all expenses paid trip to Lambeth for the bishops every 10 years, what would be lost if we said that we are not interested in being a "observer" member of an Anglican Church whose leadership (all of the terrible liberals having been run out) undoubtedly will be in the mold of Peter Akinola

    On the issue of money, I am happy to have a small percentage of my donations spent to help an Anglican umbrella group, but I don't want a single cent sent to support the kind of global "church" envisioned by Archbishop Williams. Why don't we just say, thank you, no...we'd rather be in communion with those who practice the gospel and recognize us as fellow Christians?

    In terms of placing adherence to a man made covenant above living out the gospel in our lives, I must, as a Christian, follow the teachings of Jesus clearly laid out in passages such as Matthew 7 and Matthew 25:31-36.

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  18. The Archbishop's message was upsetting on several levels. I can't read his use of "lifestyle choice" terminology as anything but inaccurate, disappointing, and damaging.I keep rereading. the text hasn't changed.

    On a different note, what happens now ? Break-away churches are typically just that...break-away churches. They are free to break and go their merry way. Williams has interrupted and complicated this familiar narrative. What could have been your garden variety, schismatic sect now has a level of stature and a legitimacy it might not have had otherwise. He has taken the wrong template and tried to "fit it" onto the current situation. In doing so, he is dismissive of TEC, Schori, and General Convention. What will the results be ? It was clear to most in the U.S. that the reactionaries asked to get out of the car. Is Williams setting them up in a new automobile trying to vy for space on the same road--or worse yet, has he put them back in the same car and stated that the best way to drive is just to put in a second steering wheel ? I don't see how this is supposed to play out.
    I love hearing stories of parishioners who eventually "came around" to receiving communion from female priests. They are beautiful stories of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that can happen as we grow in worship and in relationship in our faith communities. Williams has said, however unintentionally, "You don't have to grow. Just walk out." Could the two-tiered system become a kind of ecclesiastically-sanctioned arrested development ?
    G.Brooks

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  19. Why doesn't God adopt the "LGBT" definition of human rights? Perhaps because, as one devout Episcopal priest often says: "He thinks He's God."

    In tbe Old Testament, Book of Numbers, Chapter 16, two hundred and fifty Israelites insist to Moses that they are just as holy as the appointed priests are, and that the Lord is among them too, and therefore they should be able to carry out priestly functions just like Aaron and Aaron’s family. When these 250 then appear before the Tent of Meeting with their lighted bronze censers, the Lord God Almighty vaporizes them. The Lord then directs Moses to retrieve the 250 bronze censers which are scattered amongst the remnants of the inferno, and to hammer them into an altar covering to remind the people of Israel that eligibility to perform priestly duties is defined by the Lord God Almighty and the penalty for disregarding that rule can be severe.

    Should we be surprised that the Creator operates on more complex levels of justice and order than some of his creations can easily understand?

    In telling the Lord how things are, perhaps we need to act with a bit more humility, fear and trembling.


    Mark Brown
    San Angelo, Texas
    July 29, 2009

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  20. More of the usual from "Robroy": Rowan Williams rightly compares practicing homosexuals* with co-habitating heterosexuals - both are having sexual relations outside of Christian marriage. Hence both should be disqualified from the ministry. Sexual activity outside of Christian marriage IS a choice. Doing it on an ongoing basis IS a "lifestyle."

    Well, there is a simple solution to the problem of gay and lesbian folk having all this sex outside of "Christian marriage". Let them have Christian marriages! God-willing, we're on the way to that now after TEC's latest GC.

    By the way, are Buddhist, or Jewish, or Zoroastrian heterosexuals sinning when they have sex outside of "Christian marriage," given that they have Buddhist, Jewish, or Zoroastrian marriages? Have you ever seen a couple who converted to Christianity from one of these faiths RE-married in a Christian ceremony? Robroy, if you study the witness of Scripture and Tradition, you'll find that the validity of a marriage does not depend on the Church's affirmation; it is God who brings people together. Faithful gay and lesbian couples who have been brought together by God are "married" according to the Creation Ordinance regardless of what the Church might say.

    *Yes, I agree. "Practicing homosexual" or "non-celibate homosexual" are awkward, silly terms but so is "celibate homosexual". It would be far simpler if said that homosexuals are those who are "practicing", that is are engaging in same sex sexual relations on an ongoing basis rather than those that had a same sex attraction or had a same sex "fling" in college.

    This is tiresome. Homosexual orientation is no more mere "attraction" than heterosexual orientation is. Certainly, there is such a thing as a "celibate homosexual." That's a person with a homosexual sexual orientation who chooses not to engage in sexual activity (for whatever reason). It's exactly the same as a heterosexual person who is celibate, and no less heterosexual. Our sexuality is part of who we ARE, not simply a matter of what we DO with our genitals.

    The fact the people continue to refer to homosexuality this way, as nothing more than a "tendency," "inclination," or "attraction," reveals that they haven't begun to listen to homosexual people as they have been repeatedly asked to do. It belittles and demeans us.

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  21. There is more than enough legitimate basis for resentment on all sides.

    No. That's actually not true.

    The orthodites still have no legitimate cause for their reaction. Sorry. Others may feel differently, but they're wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Mr. Brown,

    The last I checked, Brown wasn't a Levitic name, either, so . . . zap?

    Sorry, but the orthodites are no less claiming authority to speak for God than you say we are. It doesn't wash.

    And, if you think TEC's actions were done rashly, impulsively, without theological debate, without concern for the wider world, without reference to God, you either have been ignoring the whole situation or are completely new to all this.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "More of the usual from "Robroy":"

    Who must have a google alert every time the word, 'Episcopal' comes up so he can write something negative about the church. His (I am assuming it is a he) posts crop up EVERYWHERE. I am amazed at the amount of free time he must have to post in so many different places (I check comments on newspaper articles, expecting to find something from Robroy or Robroi).

    ReplyDelete
  24. The ABC's message was upsetting on several levels. I can't read his use of "lifestyle choice" terminology as anything but inaccurate, disappointing, and damaging.

    On a different note, what happens now ? Break-away churches are typically just that--break-away churches. They are free to break and go their merry way. Williams has interrupted and complicated this familiar narrative. What could have been your garden variety, schismatic sect now has a level of stature and a legitimacy it wouldn't otherwise have had..What will the results be ? He has taken the wrong template and tried to "fit it" onto the current situation. In doing so he is completely dismissive of the LGBT community, TEC, Schori and General Convention. It was clear to most in the U.S. that the reactionaries asked to get out of the car. Is Williams setting them up in a new automobile trying to vy for space on the same road--or worse yet, has he put them back in the same car and stated that the best way to drive is just to put in a second steering wheel ? I'm not sure in what possible way Williams thinks this will end well.

    I love hearing stories of parishioners who eventually "came around" to receiving communion from female priests. They are beautiful stories of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that can happen as we grow in worship and relationship in our faith communities. Williams has said, however unintentionally, "You don't have to grow. Just walk out." Not only has he interrupted what could have been a predictable narrative, but he has needlessly complicated spiritual maturation for so many people. Could the two-tiered system lead to a kind of ecclesiastically-sanctioned arrested development ?
    Jagger

    ReplyDelete
  25. Dear Mark Brown,
    I wonder how you are so confident about God's view of his "LGBT" children? Perhaps there is, indeed, some confusion about who is God here????

    Anyway, I'll see your dubiously relevant Old Testament story and raise you a New Testament one: have a look at Acts 10, where St. Peter learns not to call common what God has cleansed and then says, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:34-35). My suggestion: get to know some "LGBT" Christians, look at their lives, and then think about whether or not God has accepted them. It's disappointing to have to point this out to a brother Christian... but, Mr. Brown, we are no longer under the Old Covenant with its divisions between those who were more or less holy and more or less able to enter the presence of God. Now, as St. Peter says, "God shows no partiality." You might also have a look at the Letter to the Hebrews, where we learn that God has appointed a non-Levite Great High Priest, who has once-for-all broken the barrier between God and humankind.

    In telling the Lord how things are, perhaps we need to act with a bit more humility, fear and trembling.

    Yes, indeed. This is a message that needs to be heard by those who would exclude God's "LGBT" children.

    Mr. Brown, I would never presume to tell you that God has rejected or excluded you. As a sinner saved by grace I am no position to do so; what gives you the ability to tell others that God has rejected and excluded them?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hmmm...since I can't ever remember a time I didn't believe in God, it seems logical that faith has played a large role in my views on "fundamental human rights." I do know when I ask God to help me in conflicted times, the answers start coming when I ask Him how to handle the situation with love.

    At the moderately old age of 51, I realize it's unusual that as a teenager I knew gays who could be out in certain activities in my life. The younger you are when you learn how unimportant such things are, the easier it is to realize that the differences aren't lewd or sinful on a basic human level. And it certainly means I understand a "gay marriage" is grounded on the same good (or not so) principles as any other! Be practical, please! All good "unions" are filled with the same things: God, church, family, friends, helping the less fortunate, a safe and happy home, food on the table...and yes, sharing all those gifts and burdens with someone you love is a gift.

    I hope that those who feel differently from me (and others here) realize this isn't a "cause." We are ready to be judged by our Maker on this, and all other decisions for that matter.

    Reading scripture with an eye to culture and history brings great riches. So does reading it with today's eyes. But you must do both, and then ask for God's guidance when you find conflicts. God teaches us new things every day based on deeper understanding. Accept that gift, and you will find your in your relationship with God will always grow, and in wonderful ways.

    Shall we all pray for the Church in these divisive times? That God's will be done, not ours. One side is wrong, of course, and He is the only one guiding us on our path.

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  27. William:

    Thank you for your reply. Please note, however, that my post did not address “who” is excluded or rejected. Rather, it addressed the fallacy and danger of humans trying to dictate rules to the Lord God Almighty.

    Even under the New Covenant, I believe irreverence before the Lord still carries a harsh penalty. Acts 5:1-11 describes the death penalty suffered by Ananias and Sapphira. In Hebrews 12:28, St. Paul cautions us to approach the Lord with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

    With respect to St. Peter’s embrace of the Gentiles, I think it is crucial to realize that Peter was not responding to human philosophy, political activism, deconstruction of the Old Testament, or guilt. St. Peter embraced the Gentiles based on visible, spiritually-authoritative encounters with the Holy Spirit:

    (1) Peter had a vision
    (2) that was corroborated by a devout, God-fearing Gentile’s vision
    (3) that was corroborated by the Gentiles visibly experiencing the Pentecostal gifts. Acts 10:1 - 11:18.

    Have there been analogous encounters with the Holy Spirit with respect to whether sodomy is no longer sinful?

    ... Has a saintly person had a vision that God no longer views sodomy as sinful?
    ... Has that vision been corroborated by another devout person’s vision?
    ... Have those visions been corroborated by a number of sodomitically-active persons visibly experiencing the Pentecostal gifts?
    ... Has the spiritual authority of all those occurrences been evaluated?

    ... Has anyone had any contrary visions?
    ... What is the spiritual authority of those occurrences?
    ... Have they been corroborated by other spiritually-authoritative events?

    Mustn’t all these questions be answered before we can credibly analogize to the Gentile revelation that was so plainly communicated by the Holy Spirit?


    Respectfully,

    Mark Brown
    San Angelo, Texas
    July 30, 2009

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  28. I'm sorry, Mr. Brown, but all of that sounds like so much hot air!

    How do we know that Peter had any visions? The Bible? So?

    Look, our faith is in God, not in paper. Nor is it in some magical-thinking in which God comes down and points and says "Woohoo! Teh gays is aaaalllriiight!"

    Visions?

    Yes. We've told you about them. Then you told us about yours. Neither was convinced, but the greater claim is for those who've had living experience rather than mere tradition or scripture.

    Humans are fallible?

    Indeed! They are! That's why Jesus assured each of us the Holy Spirit as advocate. That fallibility extends back to the beginning, as well. Right back to the writers of the Bible, in fact. But, simply put, our "visions" are just as good as Peter's, our witness is just as good, the fruit has been just as good. On the other hand, the orthodite witness is no less self-righteous, self-serving, and self-indulgent than that of the "circumcision/purity party" of Peter's day.

    So, I'm afraid there's no ground to cover there that hasn't been covered already.

    And, yes, you're claiming the Mind of God for yourself. If we told you that gay is the only way to go, or that you are not allowed to hate gays, or that you cannot be Christian and turn your back on gays, we would be claiming the Mind of God for ourselves.

    You believe you're right, we believe we're right, so on we go . . . separately . . . and God will have mercy on all of true goodwill.

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  29. Mr. Brown,
    The short answer to your questions is that we are NOT Pentecostalists.

    By the way, the word "sodomy" appears nowhere in the original language documents of Scripture.

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  30. Mark Brunson:

    If you know of anyone who claims to have had a vision from God that is relevant, I would be most interested in seeing a detailed account of the vision itself, the context of the vision, and the background of the person who had the vision. Each report of a vision should be evaluated on its own merits.

    William K:

    If there are not any non-celibate LGBT folks who display the Pentecostal gifts, I think that is important and relevant evidence to whether the Gentile eligibility story from the early Church is analogous to non-celibate LGBT eligibility.

    Thanks.

    Mark Brown
    San Angelo, Texas
    August 1, 2009

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  31. Deliberately obtuse, Mr. Brown.

    Show me St. Peter's vision, show me Paul's vision - get them here personally to describe it, to show me footage of it - and you'll be on firmer ground than anyone who makes our claims; otherwise, you are simply part of a faithless generation demanding signs.

    ReplyDelete

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