11/03/2009

Changing Attitude's challenge to Anglican Churches

The Changing Attitude blog proclaims, "The Anglican Communion is committed to the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people."

I think it should read, "The Anglican Communion is perhaps committed to the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people."

Colin Coward argues with some persuasion, that Lambeth 1998 and the Windsor Report cast their statements "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture," (Lambeth 1.10) and calling "for a moratorium on all such public Rites (of blessing), and recommend that bishops who have authorised such rites in the United States and Canada be invited to express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached by such authorisation" (Windsor Report) against a wider backdrop of pastoral care and inclusion of LGBT people.

Coward states, "The Anglican Communion has already given full support to the inclusion of LGBT people in every Province of the Communion – not full inclusion in every order of ministry and with equality in relationships, obviously, but inclusion nevertheless. We LGBT advocacy groups have been slow to see this."

Well, on the one hand he is right, particularly when one remembers that Lambeth 1998, 1.10 also commended "to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality," a report which was more clearly in support of inclusion and pastoral care, and the Windsor Report was careful to demand that care be taken that gay and lesbian persons be accorded respect.

By comparison to the law being considered in Uganda and the continuing civil prejudice against all matters pertaining to the gay and lesbian members of various states, the Lambeth Resolution and the Windsor Report come up smelling like roses. And, if we were to hold the Church of Uganda and other churches to the full import of Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report and accountability to their broader spirit, then perhaps yes, we could say, "the Anglican Communion is committed to the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people."

The problem is, of course, that that is no more true than it is that "the Anglican Communion" has spoken in Lambeth 1.10 in a definitive way when the Lambeth Conference says, it "cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions." All resolution 1.10 can say is that the majority of the bishops at that conference "cannot advise..." They cannot advise, but they cannot order either. The Anglican Communion is not the sort of thing that can have commitments or not. The churches of the Anglican Communion have such commitments, come out in support of the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people, etc.

Changing Attitude (CA)is a wonderful organization and Colin Coward is a person of great patience and prophetic abilities, and perhaps he is speaking in a way that will turn the minds and hearts of the Church of Uganda and other churches to the truth that Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report contain affirmations of the place of LGBT persons in the church and the pastoral care they deserve. Lord knows they get neither in many places - neither affirmation nor pastoral care.

Perhaps the CA's carefully written essay will cause some to realize that they have misread or misinterpreted the mind of the bishops at Lambeth or the writers of the Windsor Report, and that they need to receive the word with greater care. Inclusion and pastoral care ARE both implicit and explicit in the wordings of Anglican Communion documents. The admonishments to inclusion and pastoral care are in many of the member churches simply ignored.

To the extent that there is any such thing as the Anglican Communion it is represented through the "instruments of Communion" - the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meetings. As Colin Coward stated,

"The Communion has never understood what it committed itself to in the fullness of resolution 1.10. Conservatives think they won a victory over any accommodation for gay people in the Communion. That isn't what Windsor, Lambeth 1.10 and Lambeth 1978.10 committed the Communion to. All three documents provide absolute authority and support for the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people in every Province.

This is why the proposed Ugandan and Nigerian legislation should be opposed by the Anglican Church in both countries with support from every Province and Primate.

The Communion should be working to revoke all residual colonial legislation which criminalizes homosexuality.

If I had been more alert to the authority given by Lambeth 1.10 and Windsor, I would have been challenging the Communion to respond to words spoken, action taken and legislation proposed which failed to protect the safety and pastoral care of LGBT people.

The delay, prevarication and silence over the Ugandan and previously the Nigerian legislation, I now see as a deliberate failure to act on the commitment voted for by a majority of bishops in 1998 and by the Primates in endorsing the Windsor Report."

The Changing Attitudes statement ends by stating, "Windsor and 1.10 have committed the Communion to an affirming attitude to homosexuality. This must be the basis of Anglican policy."

It is a powerful claim on what have become central documents in the conversations among Anglican churches. More importantly the demand that the churches speak out against the repressive legislation in several countries is a demand that must be heard.

I just wish we could make demands that don't rely upon documents that can only recommend or advise against this or that behavior or action.

Perhaps the demand is based on something like this: "In as much as you have done it to the least of these my sisters and brothers, you have done it to me."

If we condone the killing of our GLBT brothers and sisters we do it to Christ. If we insult, or demean or allow to languish in prison the least of these, we insult, demean or imprison Christ. At least that's how I read it. And I believe those words carry a bit more weight than do the very imperfect words of resolutions that "cannot advise" and "reject."

And yet... the essay has great power. Read it HERE.

16 comments:

  1. "Pastoral care" can mean a number of things, and so can inclusion. Those who hold to conservative teachings on the issue of same-sex sexual activity on the whole mean the following:
    1. We are all sinners, and no one will be perfect in this lifetime. In addition, every person has particular areas of temptation he or she struggles with, and these struggles may continue long after any sinful behavior has been overcome. Thus, all are welcome to participate in worship and other activities of the congregation, because in order to overcome temptation and to grow in faith in obedience, we need the support of the Christian community.
    2. Leadership, however, is to be restricted to those who have demonstrated consistency in dealing with temptations, particularly their own "besetting sins," and who are growing in obedience and in Christ-like character. (That this ideal is often not lived up to, even among conservatives, does not mean that it is a poor ideal.)
    3. Pastoral care is not simply helping people feel the best about themselves that they can and encouraging them to live out their dreams even when it is difficult. Pastoral care also includes helping people to see their failures and faults. Doing an intervention with an active alcoholic is pastoral care - while assuring an alcoholic that "everybody drinks" and its OK is not pastoral care. If the Bible says that same-sex sexual activity is wrong (which it does, linguistic gyrations to the contrary notwithstanding), then the pastoral care of those who have a same-sex attraction is to help them to repent, to encourage them when they fall to keep at it, to pray with them and for them, and in general to help them stop (or never begin) the activity which God says is wrong. The goal of pastoral care of those with same-sex attraction is not to end the attraction, but to end the activity - and to help the person find a godly, appropriate way to meet the underlying need which the person is seeking to meet in an inappropriate, sexual way. It is also to help the person to grow in Christ-likeness. Some ex-gays find that they are now attracted to the opposite sex, some do not - but what matters is the commitment to obedience and to trusting God to meet the underlying need in a way that honors him. A dependence upon grace is needed in all this; obedience is not sought to win God's favor, but rather mercy and grace are thankfully received and growth is sought because it honors God and because living according to his teachings is indeed what is best for us.

    The majority of the bishops who voted for Lambeth 1.10 had this idea of pastoral care in mind - the kind of pastoral care that shepherds sheep into following the Shepherd more fully.

    It is a shame (and a sin) that society at large, and Christians of all sorts, can and have used social pressure, name-calling, and other negative means to repress behaviors of which they do not approve. That is not the way of Christ. Conservatives can be legalistic and harsh - and liberals can be mushy and antinomian. Liberals can also be harsh - I have been called a number of less than flattering things, and kept off committees, etc, because of my conservative views.

    If "progressives" think that "pastoral care" means that in the long run, we have to give those who are sexually attracted to members of their own sex exactly what they want, they are mistaken. Pastoral care is not about feeling good, it is about growing in grace and in thankful obedience.

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  2. John-Julian, OJN4/11/09 2:00 PM

    Thanks, Fr. Mark.

    I find myself absolutely astounded that there has been not one word about the Ugandan legislation from either +Canterbury or our Presiding Bishop. They seem willing to comment on just about everything else on earth, but why their dead silence in the face of such horrendous and barbarous homophobic actions of Uganda.

    What a terrible hell LGBT folk are living with in Uganda! I have two good gay friends there, and I can tell you that they are truly terrified.

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  3. As usual, Hiram, you have no idea, zero, none, absolute absence of any idea about which you speak and babble endlessly about unrelated nonsense to cover it up!

    We don't want your "pastoral care" nor your ridiculous ideas about what gay is or isn't. You have no idea, no capacity for learning, and no place speaking for anyone who does understand. You have no place trying to "minister" to anyone, given this garbage you've regurgitated here.

    Absolutely useless tripe on your part, as always.

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  4. Hiram
    So encouraging people to grow in grace and thankful obedience is achieved by imprisoning them and putting them to death?

    John-Julian
    I agree with you, and although all the major Anglican blogs have now picked the Ugandan crisis up, for a long time there were only a very few courageous ones who did. My medals for trying to stir interest go to Wormwoods Doxy, Telling Secrets, Wounded Bird, and in the UK to Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church who started up a proper PR campaign. Apologies to any I may have missed.
    As for bishops - one can only weep!

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  5. "If "progressives" think that "pastoral care" means that in the long run, we have to give those who are sexually attracted to members of their own sex exactly what they want, they are mistaken. Pastoral care is not about feeling good, it is about growing in grace and in thankful obedience."

    Even if we have to lock up and kill the filthy perverts!

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  6. I should have said something about my opinion of the situation in Uganda, since the Changing Attitudes essay spoke of it (although I have not read the essay, only Mark Harris' post). The proposed law in Uganda is horrifying and has no place in any body of law anywhere. It is completely unjust to punish people for something is simply a characteristic about them. That law is no more just than a law punishing people for having red hair would be. I agree with Fr Harris that all Anglicans should be working to see that this law is NOT passed.

    Of course, although I omitted remarks on the proposed law in Uganda, Mark Brunson, Erika Baker, and Counterlight all took my silence on the matter to mean full approval.

    In my comments here, at "Telling Secrets," and "An Inch at a Time," I have never answered someone's arguments by saying that they were blind or ignorant. I have sought to speak to what they actually said. That is, I believe, what dialogue and listening is supposed to be about.

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  7. "If "progressives" think that "pastoral care" means that in the long run, we have to give those who are sexually attracted to members of their own sex exactly what they want, they are mistaken"

    I love the idea that you think you have the power to sit in judgement and "give" or "deny" lgbt people anything.
    You're on the same level, not on a higher rung, and you have absolutely no jurisdiction over another group of human beings, whatever you might be dreaming about.

    It really is time you realised that you have absolutely no power to give anything, but that lgbt people are simply living in your neighbourhood, leading normal family lives and going to church - and all without asking or needing your permission.
    You may disapprove, but you cannot stop it, you cannot change it.

    Time to stop swaggering.

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  8. Dear Hiram...I wouldn´t let you near anyone I loved or cared about, sexual orientation has nothing to do with your kind of ¨feel good¨ self-depricating pride...whew, you don´t even realize how YOU make yourself feel so righteous good...climb out of the negative black/hopeless rationaled space and into the positive light of DEALING with your own character defects.

    Dear Erika,
    I adore you I really do but I want to be patted on the head for ¨covering¨ the Ugandan (and Akinolan) hate/fear and pro anti-LGBT legislation/pogroms for well over a year (extensively) at my Blog...I´ve been fully aware of the sometimes sneaky, sometimes blatantly vicious actions of Orombi , Buturo, Gomez and Williams and their deadly accomplices for a very, very long time!

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  9. Mark writes: "I think it should read, 'The Anglican Communion is perhaps committed to the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people.'"

    Perhaps even better would be: "It is the teaching of the Anglican Communion that its members must be committed to the inclusion and pastoral care of LGBT people."


    Isn't this the characterization that is usually given?

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  10. Leonardo
    I apologise that I have forgotten to mention you - how could I?! You are one of those people whose moral courage I admire tremendously and you deserve a medal - as well as a nice new piece of chamoix leather to polish your halo:-)

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  11. It is very interesting to converse with you all. My original point is that what Colin Coward and others at “Changing Attitude” mean by pastoral care and what the majority of bishops who voted for Lambeth 1.10 meant by pastoral care are two different things. Have you noticed that distinction, or are you simply trying to dismiss me as an unfeeling lout?

    Of course, the bishops who voted for Lambeth 1.10, and the many clergy and laity around the world who agree with them do not have in mind charging about, seeking those with same-sex attraction (while ignoring their own sins, and many other sins in other people) and jumping on them with both feet, trying to make their lives miserable until they change or go back in the closet. They meant (and I mean) that a good pastor cares for his people, listens to them, loves them, and helps them in their struggles. Sometimes that means challenging them; if any of you have had a spiritual director, it is likely that your director has insisted on your facing something that you did not want to, in order to grow spiritually. A lot of what I briefly described above is the kind of thing that went on in the Methodist “classes” that met weekly, as people helped one another to grow in following Jesus. In Wesley’s time, those classes changed people – many historians say that what Wesley did transformed England in such a way that the bloodbath of the French Revolution was not repeated in England.

    If you will note, the first point I made was “We are all sinners.” You seem to think that I included parenthetically, “except for me.” Not at all. I know all too well that I am a sinner. Some sins I recognized as I read Scripture. Some sins I recognized from daily life – things going wrong, etc. And some I recognized because a trusted friend or pastor pointed them out to me, gently but insistently. When I first encountered such care, I resisted it, but my friend loved me, and Jesus, too much to let me explain my sin away. I trusted my friend, listened, repented, and found both forgiveness and positive change. Now I value such challenges, although they can certainly be painful. It can also be difficult to change; a long-term pattern is not easily set aside – but with prayer, the support of fellow Christians, and the power of the Holy Spirit, growth comes, and with it, joy.

    The fundamental question of Christian growth is, “Do I love Jesus enough, and do I trust him enough, to do what he asks, even if it means giving up something I love for his sake?” If he is truly our good shepherd, he will only ask us to give up something if giving that thing up is what is best for us and what makes us more like him. And he does ask us to give things up: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” When I choose to sin, I am choosing to love my sin more than I love Jesus. It is stupid to do that, and as time has gone by, I have knowingly chosen sin less and less often. And then Jesus turns my attention to another area that needs work. It is a lifelong process.

    In his mercy, Jesus accepts us as we are, warts and all. In his grace, he works in us and with us, so that we lose that within us that denies and distrusts him, and we grow to be more like him in character and in deed.

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  12. And of course, not a peep on T19 regarding this. (Mind you, the "elves" there have been known to ban people who try to raise issues like this.) However, I'm sure any response to it by those people would be along the lines of "Well, I guess those homosexuals shouldn't be killed or beaten up (even though they're asking for it). Of course, they're only being locked up. Those nasty Muslims would kill them. So they really should be grateful."

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  13. Hiram,

    Give it up.

    You can't convince anyone that you know what you're talking about!

    It would be amusing if it weren't for the lives you are trying, trying very hard, to destroy. Sorry, but silence is assent.

    You are not an unfeeling lout. You don't get off that easy. You know what you're doing and do it anyway! That's the horror of it. Listen, the fact is, everytime someone is attacked, or killed, or a law like that in Uganda is created - you are responsible because you perpetuate this teaching that you know causes this harm! You don't have the excuse of being an unfeeling lout. You're so much worse.

    Look, bigotry and ignorance are your cross. All we're saying is we're not playing Simon of Cyrene for you anymore.

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  14. And, you know Hiram, we do trust Jesus - not a book, or others' take on him - but Jesus, including the parts in which there were teachings they couldn't hear yet, and the part in which He promised to send the Spirit to each of us to teach and guide.

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  15. Hiram
    Yes, a good spiritual director makes you face what you don't want to.
    But a bad one insists that you don't know yourself at all, that he knows you much better, and that only his view of you can be right.

    You see, what you fail to understand is that we KNOW ourselves loved and accepted by God. Those of us lucky enough to be in loving relationships would never DARE throw this amazing gift back in God's face and reject it. Instead, we thank him with our whole heart every single day for the great gift of love he has given us.

    You may not see it yet, you may never understand it. Increasingly, people do see it and understand it.

    You may continue to call it sinful, but that's really quite irrelevant to us and is increasingly irrelevant to the many Anglican churches.

    New understandings of human truths grow slowly in society, but grow they do. Some never get them, and if they came back a few generations later, they'd be astonished to find that what they so fervently held true is then merely considered to be a laughable irrelevance.
    Continue to hold your views, by all means.
    Continue to feel very sure and righteous about them.
    It does not change the fact that they are wrong, and increasingly irrelevant to most gay people’s lives.

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  16. As I read the various responses to my original post and my two later ones, I see a pattern that seems to be the following:

    1 If you do not agree with us about the goodness of same-sex sexual relationships, you are on a moral par with those who advocate violence, legal or personal, against those with same-sex attraction.

    That seems to be the idea, even though I explicitly rejected the idea that those with same-sex attraction should be harassed for their attraction in any way. The assertion that I am guilty of advocating violence because I believe (as the Church has long said) that same-sex sexual activity is wrong makes as much sense as saying that someone who is not a missionary to Muslims with the aim of having them become believers in Jesus as Savior and Lord, or at least supporting missionaries to the Muslims, is morally equal to those who support the Taliban or Al Qaida.

    2 If I do not agree with you about the goodness of same-sex sexual relations, I cannot possibly understand you.

    While it is true that no one can understand Marxism in the same way as a convinced Marxist, that does not mean that I cannot understand a lot about those who are attracted to members of their own sex. I have known quite a few people with such attractions, and I have read widely, both pro and con, on the subject. I will never understand it as Mark Brunson and Erika Baker do, but that does not mean I do not understand same-sex sexual attraction.

    3 Truth is ultimately subjective. Mark: “And, you know Hiram, we do trust Jesus - not a book, or others' take on him - but Jesus, including the parts in which there were teachings they couldn't hear yet, and the part in which He promised to send the Spirit to each of us to teach and guide.” Erika: “You see, what you fail to understand is that we KNOW ourselves loved and accepted by God.”

    It is true that all our knowledge comes to us filtered in some way and that there is an element of the subjective in all that we hold to be true. But if knowledge is only subjective, then we are all in trouble. We would have no common ground whatever. If someone got a personal word of knowledge that all those with same-sex attraction should be lined up and shot, how could you say that such a person was wrong? You could say that you do not like that idea at all – but what would be the logical basis for saying that he or she was wrong? After all, he Holy Spirit might be introducing a new truth through that person.

    What I am saying is not based upon my random personal impressions. It is based on what the Bible, taken as a whole, and taken as inspired by the Holy Spirit (as Jesus believed it to be), says about what has told us is good and acceptable and what is not. Jesus, in Matthew 19, says that heterosexual marriage is the only appropriate place for sexual union and in Mt 15 speaks of sexual immorality (the Greek term used referred to all sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage) as being part of the evil that can flow out of the human heart. What I have said previously, I believe to be true – but I do not believe simply because I like it (in fact, I do not always like it) or because of some feeling that it is right. I believe what I have said based on what the Scriptures say, in their most natural and comprehensible sense. Scripture is not a smorgasbord of ideas from which we may choose what we like; it is a full course meal that we are to eat in its entirety.

    4 One final thought: I am judging no one. I am simply reporting what the Bible says – and what Lambeth 1.10 said. I have spoken in principles, and I have been replied to not with argument or logic, but with personal judgment and dismissal. A blog and its postings are not and cannot be a place to write full-fledged academic papers – but dealing with points raised rather than asserting evil on the part of the commenter carries more weight.

    Of course, we may be so far apart on basic principles and foundational convictions as to really have no basis of conversation at all.

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