Not a Worldwide Church, but a Fellowship

A snippet from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lenten letter to the Primates: “I hope that we shall be continuing to think and pray about the challenges that face us as a worldwide church.”

Perhaps this is part of the problem we face: the Archbishop of Canterbury believes there is a worldwide church called the Anglican Communion, rather than communion among a worldwide fellowship of churches. The difference between the one and the other is clear:

If one believes that the Anglican Communion is a worldwide church, then matters of ecclesial life are indeed central. If there is such a worldwide church, such concerns as constitutions, ordinances, covenants (as between persons and institutions) and the exercise of power by persons or groups ordained by God or ordered by commonwealth, state, or ecclesial power provides the final arbitration of inclusion or exclusion in membership.

If to the contrary “communion” in “Anglican Communion” is not simply part of the name of a church, but rather a description of relationship, and if on the contrary the Anglican Communion is not a worldwide church but rather a fellowship of churches, then matters of commonality are of vital importance, and matters of ecclesial and hierarchical powers of no importance at all.

The Anglican Communion as a “worldwide church” would be no more and no less an example of the fractured principalities and powers that corrupt the body of Christ than is the Church of Rome and any other such organ of the body. Who needs it?

The Anglican Communion as a fellowship of churches at least has the vitality and possibility of being a community drawn together and pulled apart both by the many layered connections of family likeness, common faith, and uncommon experience. Power in such an environment is dispersed, and sometimes even confused. It is certainly unlike power and authority as exercised by worldwide churches. Indeed, power is less interesting and less compelling then the possibilities of relationships of loving kindness and broken relationships of mutual distrust. In such relationships there is at least life, abundantly and shared.

In all the wringing of hands and wagging of heads about the possible breakup of the Anglican Communion we have come to believe what the Archbishop let slip…that we are a worldwide church on the brink of fracture.

Perhaps we have missed the abundance of God’s grace to us… that we are not a worldwide church at all, but rather a fellowship. This is abundance because we are not one thing but many things, held together not because we are one in ourselves, but because we are one in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it interesting too that the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed concern that the Anglican Communion might end up being a fractured federation rather than a communion. This concern seems to make of Communion a parallel to either English empire or commonwealth, and federation parallel to some sort of unseemly amalgam of German principalities, each with its own potentates, (thus the reference to the Lutheran world federation) or worse a federation (like, say the Federal Government of the United States.)

Fair enough: I am not at all sure that honest Empire (which is after all the end reach of worldwide bodies politic, spiritual or temporal) is any worse or better than dishonest Empire under the guise of a gargantuan federal system that runs roughshod over the world (as the US or the Episcopal Church is accused of being.)

But if communion is about the actual, real and entirely local participation in communion (and there is no other) neither the open aspirations to worldwide ecclesial authority nor the de facto exercise of such power is relevant.

I believe communion (as in the Anglican Communion) has as its final proof of being the genuine, immediate, incarnational activity of sharing the Meal. The proof of the vitality of the Anglican Communion will continue to be seen when Anglicans seek out one another in that special way that old friends, family and even old enemies do, to have that one last meal together before the onslaught of the day.

I believe we must learn again and again to understand who we are for one another against the backdrop of the future, not the past. The past only provides division, power and the foolishness of princes. We must know one another as in communion because we eat today the bread of tomorrow.


  1. Amen, Mark. Fellowship=Communion=koinonia.

    As far as Williams is concerned the question seems to be whether the center can hold. The question we should be asking, as I did in the Anglican Theological Review, is why there can't be more than one center? Except, of course, for God/Jesus, who is equally present everywhere, in an unmediated fashion. Jesus Christ alone is the center of the Anglican Communion, and no person or text can speak for him in an unqualified way. Nor can any one of the instruments of unity, nor any provincial synod or General Convention. If General Councils can err, so can Lambeth, which is neither a council nor general.

    Even if there were a center like the one that Williams thinks exists (why? vestiges of a colonial mindset? Anglo-Catholic fantasy?), could it really hold together the forces that are on the ground? More importantly, should it? Our communion is found in God's grace, which is utterly non-coercive, or else communion just becomes coded language for imperialistic suppression of difference.

    The actions of General Convention in 2003 were not just permitted, but required by the Gospel.

  2. Amen to ye!

    (I'm a Lutheran ;=)

  3. Whith your kind permission I pinch this for my own blog.

  4. (Dave)
    One bread
    One body
    One Lord
    One faith
    One holy, catholic and apostolic church
    His call that we might be One

    Who would have thought that there are no such things and that what He really meant was "local option" and all paths lead to the same place? When he called us to be one, He only meant for us to mouth the same words but not to share the same belief. I learn something new every day.

  5. Mark --

    Excellent piece -- explicating what I had always thought everyone took for granted -- obviously I was wrong -- I also thought Anglicans didn't have to agree about everything to stay together -- wrong, again, apparently.

    Nowadays I am reminded of the old joke, "There are two kinds of people; those who divide everything into two categories, and those who do not."

    Except now it is, "There are two kinds of Anglicans; those who want to stay together in spite of disagreements, and those who do not."

    The ABC also seems to be assuming that resolutions from Lambeth are now to have legislative force throughout the Communion -- an far more innovative step than a gay bishop who decided not to stay in the closet!

    Also first rate comments from bill carroll & gören (I see you are expanding from you confinement to "Thinking Anglicans" at a rapid pace!

  6. Bravo. As a friend in the parish said not long ago, "I'm not an Anglican, I'm an Episcopalian."

  7. (Dave)
    For D.C.
    Quoting friends in my parish: "We are not Episcopalians, we are Christians."

  8. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism…

    You won't hear any disagreement from me. This argument begs the question, who gets to decide about our common faith? A non-coercive process in which there is some decentralized authority seems just as likely to preserve our common faith as the proto-curial alternative regrettably proposed by Windsor. What if part of our one faith involves not lording it over one another?

    I repeat Bishop Jewel's question: in what way have we departed from the ancient Creeds?

  9. Thank Mark, and Bill, for continuing to press this point, which I my small way I try to do as well! There is a worldwide church already: and we are part of it by virtue of our baptism. The Anglican Communion (a fellowship of self-governing churches -- as the definition says! -- please note the plural) is simply one part of this larger body, and each of the independent provinces are joined by bonds of affection, not law. More law, less grace, as far as I can see.

  10. (Dave)
    Bill Carroll asked: "in what way have we departed from the ancient Creeds?"
    And I, in turn, ask why is that the issue? Do the creeds repeat the injunction against murder? Do they enjoin stealing? If it is not in the creeds is that somehow made irrelevant to the apostolic faith?
    And as to the comment by Mr. Haller (Father Haller if you prefer and assuming that is accurate), the AC is not going to kick TEC out of the Body of Christ, just out of the particular "fellowship of churches" in which it now claims membership. If bonds of affection are what hold the fellowship together and those bonds have been dissolved, it seems only logical that TEC would welcome the chance to join with those with whom such affection may be found.

  11. Yes, there are things that aren't in the Creeds that matter and which perhaps should divide the Church. Support for torture, for example, or for aggressive war. But does every same sex relationship, regardless of context, rise to this level? And who gets to decide? Windsor proposes one solution, which is not convincing. Anglicans should reject this solution, or do the honest thing and consider reunion with Rome. I believe that too many of us fantasize about Roman Catholic models of authority, but would be unwilling to accept the real thing.
    What local option and respect for conscience does is to create spaces for the Spirit to do new things. Eventually a new consensus will emerge, but there is no smooth path from here to there. Those who claim this is without precedent are misreading the history of women's ordination. Windsor tries to gloss this history, so as to support its position. No historian I respect thinks that this a responsible interpretation. Sometimes God acts and waits for us to catch up. Jesus of Nazareth is one example of God doing this, and I fear that the Church hasn't yet caught up.

  12. Anonymous Dave
    Bill - I respect that your position is borne of conscience and conviction. You have every right to reject the Windsor Report and its recommendations and, if you can convince the Ab of Canterbury, remain in communion with him and with those with whom he is in communion. Despite never-ending accusations of homophobobia, fundamentalism, proof-texting, etc., I say that my rejection of GC2003, same sex unions, etc. is also borne of conscience and conviction. Who gets to decide about such relationships? You do and I do. And the Ab does. From your perspective, God has already done this new thing and we are too dense, uninformed, stupid or evil to see it. From my perspective, God has already closed the door to this and local option simply means acceptance of a new and different Gospel. There is no middle ground on which to build compromise and no way to pretend we are one church.

  13. Dave,
    To date, only a handful of provinces of the Anglican Communion have formally "dissolved" their relationship with TEC. That is a simple fact. We are still part of the AC. The AbC just sent a letter to all 38 primates about Lambeth -- us included. More importantly, it will take a vote of 2/3 of the present member provinces' Primates (including the US) to "expel" the US or Canada from the Anglican Consultative Council by amending the roster of membership. At this point the ACC is the only canonical body of the "instruments of unity." As I count it, there are fewer than 1/3 willing to take that step, perhaps less than 1/4. You may be reading the situation differently, but for all the noise from Nigeria, Uganda, and the Southern Cone, the "Global" "South" does not have 2/3rds of the Primates on its side.

  14. Dave,

    I'm pretty certain I didn't call you stupid or evil. I have stated my understanding of what the Gospel requires There is good and evil in each one of us, including me.

  15. From my perspective, God has already closed the door

    And from my perspective, Anonymous(Dave), I wish you could hear how very sad this sounds (a sadness I don't find in the Gospel. The Gospels: y'know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?)

    [*NB: Yes, "JC" are my parent-given initials. If "delusional"---take it up w/ them! ;-/]

    As to the subject of Mark's entry: I confess a certain ambivalence. Call me guilty of a bad case of "Papist Envy", but I admit having devotion to a vision (far from realized) of organic unity for the Church. As recently as the halcyon days (1995) of Ut Unum Sint, it was possible to (that word again) envision a future time when there might be a united Church, w/ a common center (note, "common", not "single". And "united", not "reunited": there never WAS a Golden Age of a Past United Church---but I didn't think there couldn't be one in the Future!)

    [Oy vey: I'm remembering my "ecumenist" past---the one I got that G_d-awfully expensive doctoral degree for! :-0]

    Don't get me wrong. Koinonia: first, last, and always "unto ages of ages."

    But koinonia AND organic unity: isn't our God truly GREAT enough to, miraculously, provide us both?

  16. (Dave)
    Your comments suggest you see this as an issue of politics. Who has the votes? Who has the power? And that is why many folks on "your side" can't understand the significance, to us, of the issues. I thought, from the very outset, that there was one way forward. Either TEC would approve some form of parallel province, preserving some prospect of future reconciliation, or we would dissolve the ties that have bound us together. I recognize there are other pieces to it, but what I see are bishops more concerned over territory, assessments and power than about "unity" or the future of a church rapidly sinking into oblivion. And so the "game" has been fought politically by both sides. Parishes torn apart. Clergy deposed. Mission suffering. And plenty of blame to go around. My wife is a priest in TEC and feels called to stay. We spent years trying to find a place where both of us could be (her RC background and my evangelical) and thought TEC was it. And now, I am ashamed to be a member of the church in which she is a priest! So even families being torn apart.
    No one in the pews cares about the ACC and its membership. If the Ab says the American bishops are not welcome at Lambeth, that they have chosen to walk apart, then everyone who has stayed in the hope of finding a way forward will be face to face with the reality that TEC has become just one more in a long list of tiny denominations.

  17. Dave,
    You said, "From my perspective, God has already closed the door to this and local option simply means acceptance of a new and different Gospel."

    A new and different Gospel? You amuse me, Dave. It is you who dismiss the teachings of the Gospel! There is not one written word in the Gospel(s) on the sin of men laying with other men and yet you so blithly dismiss our Lord's own prayer in the garden the night before he died. It is you who have redefined the very definition of Christianity! Have you no faith in him? No faith in his grace? No willingness to acknowledge the gift of the Holy Spirit and the love of God? I tell you, the most profound teaching in all the Gospels is that he lives! And that he died for the sins of all, praise be to God!

    And where does he say that you should allow such a disagreement to come between yourself and your wife? No, you have the great commandment and the second. You must love him enough to desire that his will be done and trust him to bring it about and you must love your neighbor as yourself. Not one stroke will ever vanish from the Law.

  18. Your post Annie merely confirms my belief that we have such radically different understandings of God's call on our lives that we cannot be yoked together. 2,000 years of teaching and the overwhelming concensus of Christendom are swept aside in the blink of an eye, yet those who hold to those teachings are dismissing the Gospels?
    And don't really worry about my wife and me. We are on the same page as far as what GC2003 and TEC have done - we just don't agree on how to properly respond to it. She would stay and keep working within the TEC whereas I cannot/will not.

  19. "...not because we are one in ourselves, but because we are one in the Lord Jesus Christ."

    Mr Harris,

    How can this concept of oneness be defined without reference to doctrine? I cannot be "one in the Lord Jesus Christ" with someone who denies either His deity or His work.

    If one man says to me "Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not divine - he was just a man" I have no unity with that man. If another says to me "Jesus is a way to God, but he is not the only way to God" I have no unity with that man.

    Yet both attitudes are prominently displayed within the current walls of ECUSA. Just two days ago I attended a service at an ECUSA church which was explicitly (and proudly) unitarian. Sitting in the church, I knew had no unity with those around me. They worship a different god.

    Where then is this 'oneness' to which you refer?


  20. Dave,
    You are the one who talks about being or not being a part of the Anglican Communion -- which is an ecclesiastical entity with a particular polity. To that extent it is about votes. As to what the people in the pews think about the ACC vs Lambeth, I can only speak about the people in my pews, in my parish. About 80% of them come from provinces of the Anglican Communion that are on record as opposed to the actions of the Episcopal Church: the West Indies and Nigeria. So I have real live Nigerians in my parish who tell me that Akinola does not speak for them -- on the contrary, they hold him in some considerable disregard. (Part of this is related to tribal issues: Akinola is Yoruba, most of my parishioners are Igbo. The Igbo tradition is that Yorubans are full of bluster and hot air. As one Nigerian priest told me, "When a Yoruban tells you he's going to kill you, you need have no fear. If an Igbo says it, watch out!") The West Indians in my congregation have a similar low regard for Abp Gomez; and no doubt the inter-island rivalries come into play.

    Now, we have an Anglican Communion flag by our side altar; we take up offerings for the Good Friday Offering, and support ERD. But for most of my members, the actions of GC, let alone Lambeth, are but distant concerns. They come to church to worship and fellowship.

    However, these are all subjective matters -- how people feel about this or that. No doubt there is strong feeling on all sids. I do, as a matter of fact, understand how difficult it must be for a "conservative" Episcopalian these days. But can your for a moment imagine what it must be like to be a gay Anglican in Nigeria? And then compare the two?

    As to parallel jurisdictions, I have in fact argued that this might be a possible solution, as much as I also recognize that it is less than ideal. I think that +Rowan is alluding to as much; and I am simply putting the cards on the table that if and when it comes to a vote of the ACC, or to attendance at Lambeth, if TEC is still at the table when all is said and done, a certain portion of the "Global South" will choose to walk away, taking with them, on my estimate, no more than 10% of the Episcopal Church -- including many of those who have already departed.

    As I say, I may be mistaken about this. I still hope some accommodation can be reached to prevent a schism, including some temporary form of "marriage of convenience for the sake of the children." But that will require some moderation from extremists such as +Akinola, who appear perfectly content to, and have already said to Canterbury -- "we have no need of you." (It's ironic that TEC gets accused of saying this when Nigeria actually has!)

  21. Oh, we do, do we, Dave? Reread that. The subject was unity. Not your little "issue". And yes, you have twice now said that you are opposed to your wife's willingness to work toward unity. That means that you are opposed to her decision.

    The sum total of being a spiritual person is that I do know that it is not OUR will, but God's will that must be done. It is in unity--and yes, the scriptures say a great deal about it and how we are to treat each other--that eventually, through the grace of God, his will will be revealed. This is the heart of the Gospel. Not very many people realize that, I suppose. I keep trying to figure out what they think God is that they have to do it all themselves! The scriptures do not answer your prayers ...

  22. (Dave)
    Annie: You have not listened to what I said. Where did I say my wife was staying to work toward unity within TEC? She is staying because she has people to whom she ministers whom she believes need her ministry more than she needs to escape.
    And as to the argument that "there is not one written word in the Gospel(s) on the sin of men laying with other men and yet you so blithly dismiss our Lord's own prayer in the garden the night before he died," there is likewise nothing in the Gospels (to my recollection) that prohibits a son sleeping with his mother or a father with his daughter. Neither is incest mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Should we conclude that their omission would allow the TEC to authorize and bless that behavior? Or to consecrate as bishop one living in that kind of a relationship? Not even Jack Spong has proposed that abomination.

  23. It is not in the Gospel, Dave. Therefore you cannot claim that it is the Gospel. It isn't. Jesus did teach what he wanted us to learn and I do live by his words.

    BTW, I did recommend Spong to my son this evening. And Borg, too. ;)

  24. Fornication is mentioned in the Gospels. "For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person" (Mark 7:21-22, also Matthew 15:19-20). The Palestinian Jews of the first century would have understood porneia (fornication) to include the whole list of sexual prohibitions in Leviticus 18. (Do the research, and you will find this is true.) This would include both incest and homosexual activity.

    I find it interesting, however, to discover that there are only four books in many liberal Episcopalians' Bibles. You may be interested to discover that the rest of us have 27 books in our New Testament, all of which have bearing on the Gospel (not to be confused with the four "Gospels", as has been problematic in this discussion), and 66 books in our Bible (not including the Apocrypha).

    Concerning the actual subject of this discussion, the ABC is aware of the desire to define the Comunion as a "fellowship" or federation, and comments on it:

    "There are other world churches, the Lutheran Reform Churches, which get on with a federal pattern. There’s always been, I think, a higher expectation in the Anglican Communion, that we, we have more, more at stake than that. And of course what that means is that if there is rupture, it’s going to be a more visible rupture, it’s not just going to settle down quietly into being a federation. And, I suppose my anxiety about it is that if the Communion is broken we may be left with even less than a federation. [...] And there will have to be an awful lot of bridge-building, absolutely decades to restore some sort of relationship there." I dare say that +++Rowan is in better touch with these other members and knows them better than we do.

    My sense is that the other members of the Communion were more interested in the "mutual responsibility and interdependence" of a communion than the autonomy of a federation or "fellowship". This vision of the AC as a "fellowship" will be a tough sell. I don't think, ultimately, it will serve Episcopal concerns well either. After all, the arguments against Kenyans and Nigerians planting churches over here fall to pieces if we are not a worldwide church. Only such a structure can legitimately assert claims about territory.

  25. MRI cannot be used to mean what conservatives take it to mean without breaking every canon of interpretation. It does speak rather directly to boundary violations.

  26. A sunny Saturday weaving of
    Moments of Mystery:

    Sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Memphis

    Reading your last line "We must know one another as in communion because we eat today the bread of tomorrow."

    Young female songstress gospelly belting out "I'll Fly Away"

    Tears about yesterday

    Smelling tomorrow's bread baking

    A light gracious laughter about it all!

    Thank you.

  27. RB,
    The assertion you make about porneia in the Gospel being understood as covering all sorts of other sins listed in Leviticus simply doesn't bear up to close examination. The word is not used in the Greek version of Leviticus, for one thing. The very few times it comes up in the LXX version of the Torah, it means "whoredom" either real or figurative (i.e., unfaithfulness.). (It is later applied to Jezebel, for example, and more generally to "harlotry"). It is also commonly used as a figure for idolatry.

    A Palestinian Jew, such as Paul, shows no evidence of considering homosexuality as coming under this word as indicated in 1 Cor 6:9 -- where, if the nonce words commonly held to refer to homosexuals are such, they are distinguished from pornoi by the use of a neither/nor construction.

    I realize this is very far from the topic of this thread, and apologize. But this claim concerning the proper interpretation of Scripture comes up now and again.

  28. And while I'm straying from the topic... let me add that the Hebrew root behind porneia / pornoi etc., znh, when used in Torah only has two meanings: either actual harlotry, or figurative harlotry (seeking after other gods, idolatry).

  29. Very helpful, Mark. I will need to link this to my own comments on the Archbishop's statement at http://episcopalhospitalchaplain.blogspot.com/2006/03/can-we-talk.html.

    I can indeed live with a fellowship. I think I could live with a federation. I will not be happy to live with lost fellowship, lost because of those who walk away from me and then accuse me of "walking apart."

  30. mark,
    I know this is a blog, and each entry does not have to follow logically from the last. But it might be fruitful to explore the possible tension between this post and your last.
    In the last one you said "The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada need to immediately demand that the Church of Nigeria end its activities in developing the Convocation for Anglicans in North America, and that if it does not do so that it be held accountable to the rest of the Communion for such actions."

    In this one, the communion is held together simply by grace.

    Now you might say that there is no necessary contradiction, that accountability is simply by expressing the collective will of the communion.

    Which is sort of what the theory is now I guess. And what the primates statment in 2003 tried to say.

    Yet I wonder if on the days you talk about accountability you mean a little more, and on the days you talk about the ineffable lightness of communion you mean a little less.

    May just be a different stress in each post i guess.

    Certainly if there is more than one centre, then the idea of accountability you wrote of last time becomes a question of accountability to which centre and does several centres which i think is a helpful idea of Bill's mean parallel provinces? i think it probably does. In which case the Nigerian move is baking tomorrows bread to borrow your metaphor.

    I think you were hard on the commonwealth which only exists as a talkfest for politiocians and the Commonwealth games which ostatrt on Wdenesday.
    personally i think anything that geta first world and third world countires talking is likely to be good.
    The singular difference between communion and commonwealth is that of two slightly ridiculous organisations on includes the USA and the othet includes Mozambique instead.

    (year I know Mozambique was a Portuguese colony but they asked to join the games okay).

  31. Just jumping on the "Bravo, Mark!" bandwagon -- well said, nicely done, hear-hear, cheerio!

  32. (Dave)
    Rev. Haller: I am neither a Greek nor a Hebrew scholar but would you at laast acknowledge that your position is a minority view and not one that is supported by the great weight of NT scholarship?

  33. Dave,

    The simple answer is "Yes and No." The "spread" in the meaning of "porneia" -- which at its root involves prostitution -- to a more generic "sexual immorality" or even the unbiblical concept "sex outside of marriage" is an aftereffect of a general prudishness about sex and discomfort with precise language about sexual matters. That this "spread" is still commmon, even among some scholars, is a sad testimony to the endurance of such notions in the face of the evidence. On a specific matter, that porneia applies to incest (sexual relations within the prohibited degrees enumerated in Leviticus) is a minority opinion that is widely rejected by scholars. I would add, that the leading Jewish scholar on Leviticus, Jacob Milgrom, suggests that the prohibition on male same-sex relationships only applies within those same degrees of kinship; this is not widely accepted, but it is a possible reading of the text's reference to the "lyings-down of a woman."

    The word is also generally recognized as distinguished from the proper word for adultery. From my side of the argument, there is simply no positive evidence that a Palesitinian Jew would have associated this word with the prohibition on male same-sex activity in Leviticus. The Aramaic word used for "porneia" is related to the Hebrew word for "harlotry" -- which does not occur in any sense other than the narrow ones I mentioned before. It is also, on the basis of the parallel LXX usage, doubtful that a Hellenistic Jew would have so broadly understood this word. The argument that the word, as it appears in the Gospel, somehow requires this "spread" is tendentious and unsupported. The further suggestion that the plural is significant in this regard (a point raised by Gagnon) is unfounded: all of the items listed in Mat 15:19 and Mar 7:21 are in the plural -- compare the KJV with more modern translations that use the singular -- the plural here indicating specific actions rather than generic crimes.

  34. I can't pretend to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar either, but I don't agree with you on the use of porneia, Brother Tobias. It is true that the Hebrew eqivalent meant "harlotry". However, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed. Kittel) notes that in later Judiasm, porneia -- and its Aramaic equivalent -- does broaden out to include fornication, adultery, incest, same-sex intercourse ("ye will commit fornication with the fornication [porneia] of Sodom," Testament of Benjamin, ch. 9 -- and no, the "fornication of Sodom" is not equivalent to consensual, committed same-sex relationships), etc. The meaning of the word changed over time. There are plenty of examples given, which I'd rather not quote. But one statement: "In later Rabbinic usage znt [Aramaic, and my transliteration may not be accurate; my Hebrew was never good] applies not merely to all extra-marital intercourse but also to intercourse in marriages which run contrary to Rabbinical decisions" (6:589). So the word became actually broader than our English "fornication", which we usually don't apply to marriages not approved by the church.

    Since you note Paul's use of the word in 1st Corinthians, perhaps you should examine 1 Cor. 5:1: "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality (porneia) among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife." Surely you will concede that the word here does not indicate "harlotry," unless it can be shown that the father's wife was also a prostitute. The Greek word's meaning here, then, must be broader than what you have given it.

    As for the example you give in 1 Cor. 6:9, if Paul means to clearly distinguish between pornoi and homosexuals, then he also means to clearly distinguish between the "thieves" and the "greedy" (v.10). I find this unlikely, since greed is a very common motive for theft, and many thieves are presumably greedy. The "neither / nor" construction is natural enough for a negative statement, and the point of the statement is something quite different than to simply distinguish between various kinds of sins.

    I think obadiahslope has made an excellent point, though somewhat obscured by his reference to "commonwealth games". (Is he referring to that sport which non-Americans have misnamed "football"?) If we have this lovely fellowship, with several centers, and utterly non-coercive, then how can we demand that Nigeria, Kenya, Southeast Asia, Uganda, and the Southern Cone not sponsor churches over here, or make any kind of demand at all?

  35. Tobias Haller said: “no doubt the inter-island rivalries come into play”

    Well, the island were my family has its cottage, is one of the “Swedish” islands. They speak ill of the “Norwegian” islands a little to the north. And they speak ill of the people in the island 200 meters to the east, Crows they call them (they pronounce it in Norwegian ;=)

    The island is called Styrsö, stearing island, some say it’s because it’s formed lika croissant, other that the name comes because ships had the big cairn on top of the island as a mark, when heading for the slave market in Brännö, the island behind the spray.

    When they speak their dialect, I don’t understand a thing. And when the people in Vrångö, the wrong island (the surrounding skerries are very treacherous) 500 meters to the south, speak in their dialect the others don’t understand a thing ;=)

    So much for “us” and “they”, for Communion.

  36. If I may add to the (falsified) linguistics…

    RB said: The Palestinian Jews of the first century would have understood porneia (fornication) to include the whole list of sexual prohibitions in Leviticus 18. (Do the research, and you will find this is true.) This would include both incest and homosexual activity.

    This is wishful thinking, a claim based on void.

    There is nothing to support this claim but poor philosophical Filo of Alexandria, desperately trying to make himself accepted by the anti-semitic fellas at the Museion, and that double treacher “Flavius” Josephus, né Cohen. Not a word.

    The language of the Bible is specific, concrete and material, not general, abstract and moral as in later academic theology. The “spreading out”, the generalization, the sexualization of concepts is a 2nd Millennium phenomenon for the purposes of social disciplining and church politics. Theology in the service of the State.

    Porneía means sacral prosititution, 1st Commandment: not have, not worship, not serve, it is not “sexual immorality”. Sacral prostitution was not about sex, but worship. Other gods. Judaism is not anti-sex. Never was.

    In scriptures up to the 1st century, the word is nearly alwas concrete; pórnos/pórnoi, the persons, in the 2nd century it becomes abstact; porneía.

    Leviticus 18.6ff is about protecting the unequal distribution of Power in a pre-modern Household, not about forbidden degrees. These (= modern incest) were invented by Emperor Louis the pious and forced on the coucil of Paris of 829.

    The symmetric categories of “Homosexuality” and “Heterosexuality” date from 1892. Not in the Bible. Only put there by fraud from 1947 onwards.

    All this bruha is quite new, a new mix-up of theology and State, not the tradition of the Church, not 2000 years, not overwhelming consensus.

    One must shun any dictionary calling itself theological, dogmatic & c. using several different dictionaries in different languages instead; Greek-Latin, Greek-French, Greek-Italian, Greek-German, and so on (beware of the English ;=)

  37. Dear RB,

    I am familiar with the critical material on this subject. What I find lacking is any clear evidence for the assertion of a broadening in meaning by the first century that would include same-sex relationships. There clearly is some broadening in the "later rabbinic" material, as there was in the contemporary Christian patristic period, in the applcation of "znt" to irregular marriages -- but not evidence of application to same-sex realtionships, which usually are referred to in Rabbinic sources as "mshkvei zkur."

    Extensive broadening in meaning does not appear to take place by the time of Paul -- unless perhaps the reference in 1 Cor 5 is to the irregular nature of the relationship -- again, a precise legal concern, with no overlap to same-sex relationships, but a species of incest. More on this below.

    As to the Testaments of the Patriarchs, and the rabbinic material in general, the "fornication" of Sodom is just as likely simply prostitution (real or figurative). The rabbinic texts refer to Sodom as guilty of idolatry and fornication -- a combination that crops up numerous times in the LXX; this seems to be the primary range of meaning for the "porneia" words.

    No usage of "porneia" in the NT need be translated any more broadly than "harlotry" or "whoredom" (real or figurative). I agree that the reference in 1 Corinthians 5 may connote a slightly broader reading, though it is still possible that Paul is referring to some other quality or character of the relationship, perhaps with a mercenary overtone; or perhaps there is something else about the relationship that is not elaborated -- Paul is presumably talking to people who know the details. Some critics suggest that the man's father's "wife" may have been his father's concubine or mistress -- which would be the simplest reading to explain "porneia" without stretching it further.

    When we come to the plural form, porneiai, which was the basis of this discussion, it only comes up three times in the whole Greek bible: 2 Kings 9:22 -- the "harlotries" of Jezebel; and the Matthew and Mark lists of sins that "come from within." It seems to me to be a considerable stretch to press this point as you and some others (R. Gagnon) have done, to address the assertion that Jesus never said anything explicit about same-sex relationships. It is certainly not explicit; and doubtfully implicit.

    As to the 1 Corinthians 6 list, and the "neither/nor" construction, I think you miss a very important distinction between theft and greed. It is the same distinction made in the eighth and the tenth commandments. Theft, after all, may stem from other motives than greed.

    So, on balance, the case for applying "porneia" to same-sex behavior is far from established.

  38. (Dave)
    Isn't this discussion about porneia etc., a bit beside the point? If someone could definitively prove that Leviticus means what the church has generally understood it to mean over the years and/or that Paul understood and meant that very same thing, would it change one opinion? Would it change Mark's or that of Tobias? I suspect not. Some of us simply cannot believe that a God who loves His creation would create someone with an attraction for another of the same sex unless He also meant for such person to act upon that nature, i.e., "God don't make no junk!" The rest of us believe that we all partake of a sinful nature - that God calls us to rise above that nature - and that acting upon same sex attraction is part and parcel of that fallen nature. Do we worship different Gods such that no manner of dialog can produce reconciliation?

  39. Dave,

    A quibble: we are not sinful by nature. Even for Augustine, sin infects our will but not our nature.

    Nevertheless, isn't the issue here whether same sex attraction is always an expression of the will's perversion, i.e. its turning away from God? I believe that we are all prone to sin and that the Holy Spirit can transform our disordered loves. I just don't believe that same sex attraction as such is disordered. There are ways that people who have these attractions can act on them and be doing God's will.

  40. Dave,

    If someone could prove that the prohibitions on same-sex sexuality to which scripture attests (you see, I acknoweldge there are some there!) actually represented the will of God, then of course I would accept them. However, I see no evidence that these few portions of Scripture are necessarily reflective of more than the cultural attitudes of a particular culture, or rather several particular cultures. I say evidence not simply assertion. There are very few scholars who would deny that the Scriptures contain at least some cultural baggage: the issue is deciding which matters are clearly reflective of the "essence" of God's will, and which are "accidents." We are in the midst of that untanglement at present, and it is beginning to appear to no small number of Christians that the essence of the divine will is towards loving fidelity, not heterosexuality as such.

    Reconciliation is possible through a suspension of judgment. This was Jesus' mandate; it would be nice to think a church might finally take him seriously in this regard. We are called to accept one another as Christ accepted us. That is how reconciliation can happen. I have always said that Archbishop Akinola is welcome at my altar; he is the one who would restrict me from his. So who is the obstacle to reconciliation? I place no conditions on other Christians other than that they should seek to follow Christ as best as they are able -- and it is not my responsibility to judge their sucess or failure.

  41. It strikes me as amazing how fast we have moved from the first Primate's meeting on the issues of our day shortly before +Gene was consecrated, which included the question of what the communion was and if it were or should be moving towards being a church, and the blithe assumption that it is a world wide church that is somehow headed by the ABC or someone, and legislated for entirerly by bishops.

    If that entity exists, I think it good if the ECUSA not be a member of it.

  42. (Dave)
    "Reconciliation is possible through a suspension of judgment"
    I think not. Jesus did not suspend judgment regarding the money changers in the temple - nor of the scribes and pharisees - nor in scores of other places. We are not to exercise God's judgment, but we certainly must exercise judgment. We do it all the time. Don't you exercise judgment in deciding if a couple is ready for marriage? Have you never spoken to a parishioner about destructive conduct in which he is engaged? How can anyone be transformed by the power of God's love unless he/she discovers areas in his/her life in need of transformation? Would you give the pulpit in your church to Pol Pot simply because he asked for it? God warn us that we will be judged by the same measure we use to judge another but if we were to never exercise judgment, we would be of no earthly use to one another.

  43. If someone could definitively prove that Leviticus means what the church has generally understood it to mean over the years and/or that Paul understood and meant that very same thing, would it change one opinion?

    I honestly don't know if it would change my opinion, vis-a-vis how I live my life. I do know, that I would not presume to tell adherents of a book *I* didn't believe in, how they should believe it! [i.e., Anonymous(Dave)---as it is, you're still stuck w/ me! ;-p]

    God warn us that we will be judged by the same measure we use to judge another

    . . . and therein lies the rub: I believe you oughtta FEAR, Anon(D), being judged by God the way *you* judge LGBT people (merely for "acting upon same sex attraction" in the same way that heterosexuals act upon opposite sex attraction).

    As for the proper exercise of judgment (ala Jesus and the money-changers)? I think +Akinola's criminal incitement of violence towards Muslims is a deserving candidate for that sort of judgment!

  44. (Dave)
    J.C. - You pose an interesting dilemma. If you are right, I have failed to understand the "new" thing God is doing and I have been stubbornly mired in the teachings of the church fathers who reject that "new" thing. If "I" (actually the opinion of better minds and hearts than mine) am right, then you are helping to condemn a group of people and encouragoing them to cut themselves off from God's redemptive grace. I see you as loving LBGT people to death when we should be loving them to life.

  45. Dave,
    Three things: 1) judgment (as Christ refers to it) is a judicial notion: a sentence of condemnation. It is not the same thing as discerment and counsel. He is able to act in both capacities, we are not.
    2) In your comment to JC you allude to people being cut off from grace by their behavior. God's grace is not conditioned by our behavior. If it were there would be no point. Grace comes to us when we are sinners -- which is when we need it.
    3) I would not invite Pol Pot into my pulpit, but I would invite +Akinola -- indeed, another Nigerian bishop has been a guest preacher in my church during my incumbency. And, since he stuck to the gospel rather than the peculiar points of controversy that have become so "hot" of late, there was no need for a rebuttal!

  46. (Dave)
    Tobias -
    1. Your comment about judgment is exactly my point. You said to me, reconciliation is possible by suspending judgment. I can't and don't judge (in the sense of condemning anyone) Not my job. The judgment about which I spoke was discerning/counseling.
    2. God's grace is a gift and like all gifts, it can be accepted or rejected. Why would we need a savior if there were no consequences to our personal actions? Does God call us to repentance? If so, then we must be willing to talk about that of which he calls us to repent. If I suspend "judgment" about that, am I not encouraging my brother to continue to wallow in his sin when I know that God is ready, willing and able to lift him up and out of it?

  47. Dave,
    It all comes back, then, to the fundamental disagreement between us: you believe (along with the tradition) that all same-sex sexuality is sinful. I, on the other hand, along with many others, have come to the conclusion that this is an "error" in the church's teaching, and that some same-sex relationships are no more sinful than the equivalent mixed-sex relationships. This is a debate which is ongoing, and I very much doubt that either of us will change our minds on the subject.
    That being the case: is reconciliation possible? Can you accept within the church people who do not accept your beliefs about their sins. I can accept you in the church, even though I know you must also be a sinner -- and may indeed be sinning in your judgment concerning others' sins, even though you believe yourself to be justified in your judgment. (And I realize that in passing judgement on you in this regard I may well be adding to my own sins!)

    But that is where the grace comes in: no one is refusing grace. Some of us may be mistaken in what we think are our sins or not, and failing to repent thereof -- especially if we don't believe them to be sins. But this is why we pray to God, "Lord, deliver me from my secret fault."

    So the point of reconciliation comes in accepting sinners -- each other, sinners all, for what we are aware of and repent, and what we are unaware of but are forgiven by the one who said he forgave those who "know not what they do" -- and getting on with the work of the church. The church is a society of sinners saved by God, still imperfect, but nonetheless equipped by him to do the work he gives us.

  48. I see you as loving LBGT people to death when we should be loving them to life.

    If you would but "test the spirits", Anon(D), you would see that this is fundamentally hogwash.

    Don't you *know* any longterm same-sex couples (especially Christians)? If you did, you would see the grace manifested in their lives, through their committed relationship!

    To see these relationships---supporting them, as we do w/ all other marriages---as "loving them to death"? Yet see as "loving them to life" when you call our LGBT selves "disordered" and that acting upon our love is ALWAYS sin?

    "We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep"


    Yet wisdom is justified by *all* her children! :-D

  49. (Dave)
    Your last reply goes to the very heart of the matter. I have no trouble accepting that my sins are no better than any one else's. I have no trouble recognizing God's call on me to love another sinner - for that is how God loves me. What I cannot accept is the church teaching that what God says is sin, isn't. The consequence of that is to encourage disobedience of God. The church is no longer a hospital for sinners (I desperately need that) but you would make it a training ground for sinners. So how do we reconcile that? I don't want you or anyone else barred from the church. But when you teach and/or encourage rejecting God's Word, I don't see a way to move forward together.
    JC - Thanks for the reply but I think you and I can't communicate on this without it degenerating into something ugly. I am sorry you see my belief as hogwash, but you are entitled.

  50. Dave,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I don't have an answer to your dilemma. I could point out that Jesus committed to his church the power to bind on earth -- or to loose, and that what the church pronounces not to be sin is not sin.

    However, I don't think we need go that far. You appear to be 100% sure that you are correct in your assessment about same-sex realtionships; and it is fair to acknowledge that you have the weight of tradition on your side, along with at least a little bit of the Scripture. I would say that when it comes to reason the case is less clear. The other "test" I would apply is the "fruits of the spirit" test: Jesus taught that bad trees can't bear good fruit. So, objectively, looking at the many positive contributions that gay and lesbian persons have made to the church and the world over all these years, might it not be possible that they are not entirely without their "goodness" -- in spite of their human imperfection and sin?

    As I say, this answer is very parital, and may not be sufficient for you to come to a place of toleration, let alone approval. Ultimately that is your decision, as I'm sure you know. If the church's failure to continue to condemn as sin what you belive to be sin is a central concern for you, then you will act in accord with that belief. My core belief is that the church's task is not predominantly condemnation, but forgiveness; and that it has the power to come to a better mind about its past judgments and decisions, including those governing sexual morality. I realize this is probably just another way of describing the differences between us, but the ability to do so is not, I think, a total waste of time -- as indeed this may be the only way to any form of coexistence, if not reconciliation.

    In the peace of Christ,

  51. (Dave)
    Tobias -your statement "So, objectively, looking at the many positive contributions that gay and lesbian persons have made to the church and the world over all these years, might it not be possible that they are not entirely without their "goodness" -- in spite of their human imperfection and sin" is the classic straw man, set up to be knocked down. Of course gay and lesbian people are capable of and do contribute to the church and to society. Without in any way trying to equate the two, many a church has been built with the fruits of dishonest labor, witness mafioso contributions over the years. And Mussolini made the trains run on time. The dilemma remains. I can respect a person's dignity while disagreeing with him. But I won't watch him teach my children (or someone else's children) that God blesses the very thing God hates. And when the church encourages that behavior, it can't be about the business of forgiveness - it denies that there is any need for it.

  52. Mark,

    Will you soon comment on the recent questionnaire sent to members of the House of Bishops by former AOC George Carey and a previously unknown organization that seems to have ties to All Saints, Chevy Chase? Thinking Anglicans has documented this work, and I wonder what you know and what you think about it?

    Peter C

  53. Over on Thinking Anglicans, I was accused of saying that my opponents speak either from a place of malevolence or ignorance . . . and I had to admit that that was true.

    I wish there was another word, Anon(Dave). A word that described a murkiness in another human heart that I can't really penetrate, combining some mix of ignorance, malevolence, and utter sincerity (conditioned by past experiences which shape a perception of a Supremely Hostile Divinity...)

    But I don't have that word and so, unfortunately, I utter painfully vulgar terms like "hogwash". :-(

    But I won't watch him teach my children (or someone else's children) that God blesses the very thing God hates.

    At long last, sir, HOW can you believe this??? How? How is it possible, to imagine the Bible says this, or the Church teaches it? For the Love of God, How???

    "I think you and I can't communicate on this"

    I'm afraid you're correct. Your beliefs are incomprehensible to me.

    . . . but not to Jesus, who knows you far, far better (perfectly) than I could ever hope to.

    If only we could both be drawn unto Him, and his perfect love, and all our problems of incomprehension would vanish.

    That's my prayer for us both. God bless, Anonymous Dave.

  54. I think it's hilarious - and that Saint Hilary is most definately the Patron of our wretched age.

    (have to look him up ;=)


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.