December 22, 2005

Art for the Seasons

Happy to report that one of my paintings, Walsingham Windows, has been included in the current "show" of The Episcopal Church & the Visual Arts: Venite Adoremus. All the richest blessings of this holy time of year be yours.

December 1, 2005

On the Plainness of Scripture and What to Do with It

as a Rabbi might put it...

That which is plain to you
— and concerns you —
That is righteousness.

That which is plain to you
— but does not concern you —
do not demand of others.
That is judgment.

That which is not plain to you,
and pray.
That is wisdom.

Tobias S Haller BSG
And I think you know which Rabbi I mean...

November 23, 2005

The Anglican Triad

Anglicans are familiar with the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral: the statement of four doctrinal and ecclesiological principles that chart out the boundaries for dialogue between churches wishing to join in closer common purpose and mission. The Quadrilateral thus describes the essentials, from an Anglican perspective, for church union or reunion.

I would like to suggest that alongside the familiar Quadrilateral we consider another structure that for want of a better term I will call the Anglican Triad (with apologies to those who use this term for what is often known, incorrectly, as “Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool.”) This Triad consists of three elements which are particularly characteristic of Anglicanism — not necessarily unique to to it, but together constituting a unity which I fear is at present very much under assault.

For shorthand I will call these three elements Humility, Provinciality, and Variety. They stand in the via media between Humiliation, Provincialism, and Chaos at one extreme, and Pride, Centralism and Uniformity at the other. All three are well attested in foundational documents of Anglicanism (The Articles of Religion, the Prefaces to the English and American Books of Common Prayer) and in the work of those who first focused the Anglican vision, such as Richard Hooker. I’ll limit my citations here to the Articles themselves, by number.

1. Humility: “The church... hath erred.” (19,21)

The admission that the church makes mistakes is profoundly revealing of the nature of the church as we understand it. It reflects the Pauline judgment that “our knowledge is partial”; and it asserts an attitude of faith and hope — and one hopes, love — rather than of certainty and judgment. This admission of uncertainty renders all but the most fundamental dogmatic matters to some extent provisional. It has been called by the rather high-falutin’ title “epistemic humility,” but I think that plain old humility says it just as well. Understood in this way, Humility is not a weakness, but a strength. It stands between abject humiliation and overweening pride.

This acknowledgment that the church makes mistakes is followed by a corollary: mistakes can (and should) be corrected. The church is not trapped within an immutable legal structure such as that attributed to the Medes and Persians. This is why Anglicanism can embrace and advance the development of doctrine and moral theology. This does not mean that every development will necessarily be correct — as the principle notes, the church makes mistakes. But the ability to admit to mistakes is the first step in correcting them. (Those familiar with 12-Step programs will at this point I hope recognize a resonance with the Serenity Prayer. It is very easy for the church to become addicted to the need to control, especially to control others through the claim of unassailable infallibility of judgment — to which Humility is a counterpoise and corrective.)

Humility stands as a meek (which does not mean “weak”) witness against domination by so-called consensus. As the Articles testify, since individual human beings may err, there is no guarantee that an assembly of such errant beings will not also err. (21) Humility points out that even an overwhelming consensus can be quite profoundly mistaken — Galileo can testify to that! So consensus by itself cannot form a term in an argument when a given proposition is being reexamined: this is simply a form of begging the question. Consensus, after all, means a “common mind with little or no opposition” — so the moment opposition appears, consensus ceases to exist, and the new proposal must be examined on its merits against the possible errancy of the formerly unchallenged position. (This is, by the way, why Hooker rejected tradition as an authority in and of itself.)

Anglicanism thus humbly rejects concepts of inerrancy and infallibility; even the Scripture itself is “sufficient” for the end for which it was intended: salvation (6). Human understanding, even of the Scripture, is fallible, and subject to a constant review as the church bears its responsibility as the “keeper of Holy Writ.” (19)

Humility also stands as a warning against the tendency to adopt unanimous statements for the purpose of apparent unity, in spite of serious disagreement with one or more parts of the adopted document. This sort of curate’s-eggery produces the appearance of agreement that cloaks underlying division. Better humbly to acknowledge the division, as the collect for the feast of Richard Hooker puts it, seeking comprehension for the sake of truth instead of compromise for the sake of peace. For as solutions such as Lambeth 1998.1.10 and the Primates’ Communiqué from Dromantine show us, such peace will be no peace.

2. Provinciality: “The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.” (37)

Few things could be clearer than that the Church of England reasserted its ecclesiastical independence from Rome at the Reformation. It thought itself competent to do this, and believed it was returning to an ancient principle that had been more successfully preserved among the Eastern churches than it had in the West: the basic unit of the church is the national church or province. (It is sometimes suggested that the diocese is the basic unit of the church; however, a diocese cannot be self-sustaining in terms of the episcopate, and requires the participation of the bishops from other dioceses in order to maintain its existence. The diocese is an organ in the body of the province, and cannot subsist on its own.)

In Anglicanism Provinciality is expressed through provincial autonomy. Now, autonomy has gotten a bad name in some circles recently. It does not mean being able to do anything one likes. True autonomy should be understood in terms of the rights, powers and responsibilities exercised within and for a national church in terms of its ability to govern itself. It relates to the concept of subsidiarity: things should be done at the lowest level at which they can be accomplished. Thus priests are ordained by the diocese for the parishes; bishops by the province for the dioceses.

Provinciality is tempered by Humility, in that while each province asserts that it is fully the church, yet it does not assert itself as the only church. Rather than a “Branch” theory, this represents a more holographic understanding of the nature of the church’s fullness: it is complete within each province, as Christ is fully present in every eucharistic celebration, and in each fragment of the broken Bread. The external divisions between Christian churches constitute a scandal in that they impede the mission and work of Christ, and a failure to recognize that we do indeed share one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; but it is not necessary that a single world-church institutional structure take the place of a fellowship of independent and self-governing provinces. Instead of a human-instituted system of authoritative government, the provinces are called to a work of service and mission, in the recognition that the church is already “One” through its faithful response to the dominical command to baptize all nations. It is to be hoped that all Christians may one day recognize this baptismal unity, and remove the various obstacles they have set in place that prevent our sharing in the one Bread at one Table. This unity in the two dominical Sacraments forms an essential element of the Quadrilateral.

Humility and Provinciality taken together reveal the process by which development is both possible and limited within the Anglican Communion. Newman believed that development of doctrine could only take place under the watchful eye of the Bishop of Rome — and this in spite of Rome’s demonstrable errors! Anglicanism broadens the scope for the source of correctives to the whole communion, the various national churches and provinces themselves being the determiners of what and how things are to change or remain the same: each determining for itself those matters that concern it. If I can offer an analogy: the Roman Catholic Magisterium is like a boarding house where you eat what is set before you or go hungry; the Anglican approach is more like a restaurant with a finite but various menu from which to choose; and the fact that I like mushrooms and you like asparagus should not keep us from eating at the same table.

Provinciality means that changes and developments may be made within a province that have no direct effect upon the governance of any other province. One example of this was the decision of the Episcopal Church to move forward with the ordination of women to the episcopate. No other province was forced to recognize or approve this decision, and it had no impact upon the governance, rights, privileges, or responsibilities of any other province. As time passed, other provinces chose to adopt — or not adopt — this innovation: this is the process of reception, and it is not complete even now: there is at present no Anglican consensus on the rightness (or wrongness) of the ordination of women to the episcopate. In the meantime any difficulties that arise — such as the inability to license a visiting woman bishop to function as such in a province that does not ordain women to the episcopate, or to license or transfer clergy ordained by a woman bishop — are readily dealt with by the canonical provisions already in place within all of the provinces; it is a matter of record keeping that need engender no ill will or severance of communion, and the evocation of Gamaliel’s advice to the Council can avoid excessive friction.

The principle, What touches all shall be decided by all, upon which I’ve reflected elsewhere, comes to play under the rubric of Provinciality. “Touches” does not mean, “having an opinion about” or “creating a situation which might lead to difficulties with a third party.” The legal principle, as Althusius pointed out, is about rights, privileges and authorities of each province that can only be restricted by each province’s individual consent. Thus, Lambeth 1998.1.10.e would be seen as overstepping its bounds if it were worded as more than the advisory that it is, since it would place a restriction on the right of provinces to ordain and bless whom they choose — and these are rights pertaining to each province that must be explicitly foregone by each, and which cannot be takenaway even by all of the other provinces combined. All, save even one, is not all.

Provinciality thus provides a balance and a means to implement development in conjunction with Humility: it allows innovations to be tested locally before anyone considers implementing them globally. This is, of course, how the church has generally functioned through the ages. One could note, for example, that the adoption of vernacular liturgy by various national churches at the Reformation finally after several centuries had impact upon the very Roman Catholic Church that so bitterly opposed the development. Going further back in history, the emergence of the Gentile church began in isolated communities, and it took some while — even after the conference of the Apostles in Jerusalem — for the church more widely to accept this innovation. After the collapse of an old consensus due to the action of the church in one place or a few places, a significant period of reception will be necessary before a new consensus is established. Ultimately, this movement from particular to universal is reflective of the Incarnation itself.

3. Variety: “Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority.” (36)

It must be admitted that Anglicanism has always experienced tension between uniformity and variety; however as another example of the importance of Provinciality, this citation from the Articles demonstrates (and a reading of the Preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer will support) that the concern is for uniformity within a national church, and permitted variety among them.

The matters currently causing distress in the communion concern rites and ceremonies: in particular ordination and marriage, neither of which “have any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God” (25), and so appear to fall within the rubric of permitted change. It will quickly be pointed out, however, that the limit on Variety in this regard is established by “God’s Word written” (20,36)— and some contend that the present innovations have crossed that boundary.

The question is, Who is to make that determination if not the national church? If the rites and ceremonies in question concern only a given province and its governance — for any other province is free to reject or refuse these rites and ceremonies, in principle or in the persons of those who take part in them — then as with all such matters the error is limited to the province which has erred. Are rites and ceremonies — even if errant — matters over which to break communion — as a number of provinces have done, not just with the individuals immediately representing the innovations, but with any who even approve of them? Are these matters over which to shun Christ’s table, as some have done? I believe not; and hope that there is yet time for them to reconsider their breach of communion.

Tobias S Haller BSG

November 22, 2005

More on those herrings...

I suppose my greatest confusion in this discussion of the propriety of divorce and remarriage is the argument (or perhaps I should say assertion) that the existence of two narrowly stated exceptions to the general prohibition against divorce (infidelity and paganism) somehow open the door for other exceptions as well.

This seems to me to be a very odd way of thinking. I mean, look at the situation as described in Matthew 19. The Pharisees ask Jesus if divorce is permissible for any old reason at all (which the Law permitted). Jesus says, no; the only reason is infidelity. To transform this restriction into a license hardly appears to be taking the “clear meaning of Scripture” very clearly — or seriously. It strikes me as something like saying, “Cars may only use the left-hand lane for passing; and since they can use the left-hand lane (for passing) they can use it just to drive in, too.”

So this “exceptions” assertion strikes me as deeply flawed. In fact, it reminds me of the caricature of the progressive position on sexuality concerning Leviticus, dubbed “The Shellfish Argument” by Canon Harmon of South Carolina. As he describes it, “You have noted that Leviticus is against same sex practice, but Leviticus says we should not eat shellfish. So how could we possibly listen to Leviticus?” This is, as I say, a caricature; the real argument of the progressives is not that we need pay no heed to Leviticus at all, but that we need to look at Leviticus as a legal code containing some laws that are no longer relevant, and determining which are which.

It is also argued that the existence of the two exceptions for divorce played a large part in the debates and discussions leading to the gradual liberalization of the Episcopal Church’s marriage law. This does not seem to bear up under close examination. This is laid out in White and Dykman’s Annotated Constitution and Canons, pages 399ff. A few tidbits: The 1916 General Convention joined most scholars in seeing (as most still do) that the “exception” in Matthew is not likely from Jesus (being an inclusion on the part of the redactor), and thus was not relevant to determining Jesus’ thought on the subject, which admitted no exceptions in the Gospel parallels. The report to the General Convention of 1937, rather than citing the “exceptions” argued that Jesus’ teaching against divorce representated an ideal, which many fell short; so a pastoral solution should be provided. The mechanism by which these changes ultimately were made was exactly on grounds of “fairness” and “not punishing the innocent” — beginning with the allowance of remarriage to the injured party — all in all a pastoral response to a difficult situation. (One can agree or disagree with this very loose handling of Jesus’ teaching, but this appears to have been the process, in spite of claims to the contrary.)

Finally, let me raise two more parallels that I did not include in my earlier list.

1. Some appeal to the “clear teaching of Scripture,” the historic tradition of “what we have always believed for 2,000 years,” and the unity of Anglicanism: yet surely they realize that on the subject of divorce and remarriage the Episcopal Church was innovative and “unilateral.”

2. Some decry the idea that “local option” should be allowed on sexuality matters; yet this is precisely what we have with divorce and remarriage: it is up to the local bishop to determine if a divorced person can remarry in his or her diocese, and the bishop is free to use whatever rationale seems right — a bishop could forbid any second marriages, or allow them all, and no one could gainsay the decision.

You know, I would perhaps not have raised the relevance of the divorce and remarriage issue to the broader sexuality debate were it not for the fact that so many of the traditionalists cite the passage from Matthew 19 as if what Jesus was addressing was homosexuality, rather than divorce. In this, it seems that the assertion is intended as a protective against accusations of inconsistency at best, and hypocrisy at worst. When I see the “reasserters” more generally reassert the traditional doctrine (as some, such as Dr. Peter Toon, have actually done), and call for renunciations that might well deplete their ranks of some of their most ardent spokesmen, then perhaps they will be taken seriously in this regard.

Tobias S Haller BSG

November 21, 2005

No Red Herring

I would like to respond to a recent comment I heard, similar to one that I’ve heard before: that the way the church has responded to the issue of divorce and remarriage is entirely different from the way it should deal with blessing same-sex relationships — and that to raise divorce/remarriage as a parallel is to serve up a very large red herring.

I disagree, and would like to offer the following bare-bones schematic as a rationale for why I see the issues as related.

Jesus says, divorce violates God’s will for sexual expression in humanity by putting asunder that which God has intended to remain united.

Some say, same-sex relationships violate God’s will for sexual expression in humanity by seeking to unite that which God never intended to be united.

Jesus says, marriage after divorce is equivalent to adultery, a capital offense under the Law of Moses, and a violation of one of the Ten Commandments; so that the blessing of a marriage of a divorced person constitutes blessing sin.

Some say, same-sex sexuality is a capital offense under the Law of Moses, so that the blessing of a same-sex couple constitutes blessing sin.

Jesus says, the sole exception for allowing divorce is infidelity.

Some say, this sole exception opens the door for other exceptions, including marriage for those divorced.

I say, since the only biblical law (strictly speaking) concerning same-sex sexuality is limited to Jewish males, lifelong monogamous same-sex relationships between Christians may be taken as an exception.

I hope this helps explain why I see the matters as related.

November 17, 2005

More from the Global South... and Less

Please visit Thinking Anglicans for some interesting byplays of the Global South's response to Archbishop Rowan's visit.

Seems the letter signed by 14 of the Primates, with three absent before the signing, has now to be reduced by one, as Archbishop Hanford of Jerusalem has said he did not sign, nor is he sympathetic with, much of what appears above his name.

Also important to note is Canterbury's response to the Global South Primates' apparent belief that the case is closed. What the GSPs do not appear to realize is that +Rowan does _not_ consider the sexuality matter closed or settled: nor does the Windsor Report. While some may hold to belief in an "Anglican Consensus" it is a consensus in the process of collapse or at the very least reexamination. The Lambeth Response to the "Letter of 17, er, 16... uh, make that 13" is a clear warning shot across the conservative Primates' collective bow:

17th November 2005
Lambeth Palace has issued the following statement following the publication of a letter from Primates of the Global South to the Archbishop of Canterbury:

'The Archbishop of Cantebrury has made it clear since before the time of his enthronement that neither he nor anyone else has a mandate to change the teaching of the Church by fiat. He is committed to the process to which all the primates committed themselves and their provinces in the Primates' response to the Wondsor [sic] report, contained in the communique following the meeting in Dromantine.

"If this letter is a contribution to that process of debate, then it is to be welcomed, however robust. If it is an attempt to foreclose that debate, it would seem to serve very little purpose indeed."

Tobias S Haller BSG

November 7, 2005

The Myth of the Catholic Church

Some weeks ago I came across a comment on an Internet blog that has been rattling around in my head ever since. It was made by a former Episcopal priest who has since departed our pleasant quad for the more open expanse of the Roman campagna. (Even having set his hand to this particular plow, he spends a great deal of his time looking backward.) The substance of his comment was that if one truly wants to be a catholic one must either be in communion with Rome, or in communion with the sees of the East. The problem, of course, is that exceptional monosyllable or.

The Roman Catholic Church declares that the church subsists in those who are in communion with the heir of Peter. The Eastern churches make a similar claim. Neither of them would, within their own doctrine and discipline, recognize that monosyllabic exception: it is not a question of either/or — and certainly not both/and. Rather each of them claims, ultimately and separately, to be the institutional incarnation of the body of Christ on earth. It is true that their language has cooled since the days of the Great Schism, and has even waxed fraternal; but when it comes down to institutional structure, and most importantly that evocative but ephemeral word communion, the gap is as wide as ever it was. They are not in communion with each other.

It continues to amaze me as I read the comments of various Episcopalians set on jumping what they wrongly perceive as a sinking ship, weighing the various advantages and disadvantages of these two options for purported catholicity, without recognizing the inherent contradiction in being able to make such a choice. These are competing claims: both cannot be “the catholic church” — either one is and the other isn’t, or as I believe, neither of them is, at least not exclusively. This Katholic Kafeteria (with its sparse menu of only two items) is a perversion of what it means to be catholic.

And so I come to the myth of the catholic church: no single institutional church can rightly claim that title. One can’t even make those little lists of “branches” so dear to Anglo-Catholics of a former age, who clung to the myth of short-list catholicity: Rome, Constantinople, and Canterbury — the latter somehow desperately clinging to the fringes of the formers’ garments, as they might rightly say, Who touched me?

No, my friends, this is not where the church catholic subsists. The church catholic subsists in the body of all the baptized, for the church is one and holy as well as catholic and apostolic. There is only one holy catholic and apostolic church — and all the rest are just denominations, just the promontories and peninsulas of the mainland, the denominated seas of the boundless ocean, even Rome and Constantinople, and yes Canterbury too, and for that matter (on this the feast of Willibrord) Utrecht, and Geneva, Wittenberg, and Uppsala and Calcutta and Tokyo and all the countless places where the word has been preached and the bread has been broken, and the water splashed, and the voices raised, and God glorified. This is the catholic church — that curious and contentious caravan of wayfarers who though they fail to recognize each other, will one day discover they are long-lost children of one Father in heaven.

October 31, 2005

More on that idea

Picking up on a comment I made in the discussion on slavery with Todd Granger:
Obviously the parable of the origin of human sexuality (as the Jewish culture understood it) had greater impact on the course of the Jewish experience than did the story of Noah and his sons in terms of Canaanite slaver — at least for Jews. As you noted, this myth became a driving force for American slaveholders and racists.
I by no means speak as an expert on this subject, but my impression is that a greater “mandate” is attached to the commandment, “Be fruitful and multiply” from Genesis 1, than to the more plainly etiological story in Genesis 2. The commandment from the first chapter is regarded as “the first commandment” and is one of the reasons that celibacy is generally deprecated in the Rabbinic tradition. It is also one of the reasons advanced by the Rabbis for mandating the divorce of a sterile wife. (Mishnah Yebamoth 6.6) Neither of these teachings would find support in the Christian tradition, and represent a significant departure on Jesus’ part. In his teaching against divorce, Jesus appears to favor the importance of the permanence of the unitive function of the interpersonal relationship (Genesis 2) over the procreative function and law of Genesis 1.
Moreover, one of the striking features of the Genesis 2 story is that for the most part in the Jewish tradition, men did not in fact leave their parents’ household and join themselves to their new wife, but rather brought the wife into their household. (The operative Hebrew word for marriage, as still present in our marriage ceremony, is “lacach” = “take”). Some have suggested, given the overall apparent archaicism of the Genesis 2 narrative, that this represents a relic of an earlier age in which matrilocal marriage was the rule. In any case, I am not aware that this passage, unlike the earlier one, gave rise to much Rabbinic discussion. While Genesis 1 comes up a number of times in the Mishnah, Genesis 2-3 are passed over. This may reflect the fact that the passage in Genesis 1 is seen as a commandment, while the passage in Genesis 2 is seen as descriptive.
I suppose at the end I am forced to conclude that the material in Genesis 1-4 does not represent, as is commonly suggested, a strict mandate for “God’s plan for human sexuality” but rather an etiological reflection by a particular community upon its social origins and customs, assembled from various sources by various hands, not without certain tensions and contradictions, and more importantly, interpretations (some of them also at odds with one another) down through the ages.
If I can also take the opportunity to highlight another problem text, Romans 1: it is vitally important that this chapter of Paul’s letter be read in the context of Wisdom of Solomon 12-16, a Hellenistic Jewish reflection on the evils of idolatry and its consequences. One of the consequences of the Jewish linkage of male homosexuality with idolatry was a tendency for the Jewish community to blind itself to the presence of same-sex affection within its own community. As the Talmud says, “Israel is not suspected [of this kind of behavior]” while Gentiles universally are. This sort of cultural blindness is a well-known phenomenon even to this day; certain communities vociferously deny the existence of same-sex relationships within their population, and either render them invisible by calling them something else, or insisting, when they do become evident, that they are foreign intrusions, or an aspect of an “alien culture.” My point here is that Saint Paul carried this cultural bias as much as any of his fellow Jews; he no doubt saw any same-sex sexuality as a sign of corruption and degradation attendant upon an abandonment of God: because that was the only place he saw it.
—Tobias S Haller BSG

October 30, 2005

Slaves to an Idea?

An interesting discussion has been talking place over on Brad Drell's blog, concerning the place of slavery in Scripture and church history. I commend it to your attention. Here is my closing comment as of today:

A brief further comment: I certainly see your point about [the curse of Canaan in] Genesis 9 being an etiological myth, i.e., This is why the Canaanites are suitable as slaves. But the generation of such myths is, if I can express this in sociological terms, one way in which a culture justifies its behaviors -- essentially giving itself a kind of "historical mandate" whether as a command from God, or as in this case, an ancient curse from the (second) progenitor of all people.

But let me press the matter a tad further, bringing it to issues of more note (and division) than whether slavery is wrong or not. If Genesis 9 preserves an etiological myth, what about Genesis 2-3? Certainly that is a reading common among OT scholars: we are not reading literal history, but rather a parabolic (I prefer that word to mythic which some folks find upsetting) explanation for "Why things are the way they are." Why do men leave home and set up households with their wives? Why is childbirth such a difficult and painful phenomenon? Why do we die? Why do we experience shame? Why do we have to work so hard? and so on.

The problems we are facing at present in the Anglican Communion, I would humbly suggest, come in part from asking the wrong questions of these parables; or perhaps asking questions they were never intended to address; or accepting them as universal answers to all questions globally, rather than as particular reflections (within particular cultures) on a limited range of concerns as those cultures understood themselves and their world.

October 27, 2005

My brain... no surprises here

Your Brain's Pattern

Your brain is always looking for the connections in life.
You always amaze your friends by figuring out things first.
You're also good at connecting people - and often play match maker.
You see the world in fluid, flexible terms. Nothing is black or white.

October 25, 2005

Wisdom from Wales

Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan has a number of very well thought-through things to say about Scripture and Sexuality. In particular, he offers a more nuanced look at Lambeth than is common in the midst of the heated discussions going on. I commend this long and thoughtful essay.

The Discontinuing Church

Fascinating article on a meeting of the various fragments of what calls itself "The Continuum." It is amazing to see how people can clothe pride in the mantle of abject humility, and endow chaos and obdurate contumacy with the corona of obedience and fidelity. I can only hope that this group takes the advice of Mr. Moyer:

Asked what can be done that has not been done before to unite orthodox Anglicans, Moyer said leaders of the various bodies should "seclude themselves in fasting and prayer until it is accomplished."


October 23, 2005

SPREAD-ing Division

Yet another organization has appeared on the scene: The Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Anglican Doctrine, or S.P.R.E.A.D., led by Bishop Rodgers of ... well, I can't keep straight in my mind what he's bishop of. Anyway, this document appears to call for the division of Anglicanism along familiar lines.

Personally, I've never gotten used to these lower-fat spreads. This one sounds too much like "I Can't Believe It's Not the Gospel!" It looks like the Gospel, and a little bit of it even sounds like the Gospel; but it leaves a sour aftertaste; and in spite of the assurances, I don't think it is really all that good for the heart.

October 21, 2005

An Immodest Proposal

After listening last week to the interview with the Nobel-prize-winning economist and game theorist, and his reflection on how game theory provides a way to maximize positive outcomes for all concerned in competetive situations, it occurs to me that a little game for the Anglican Communion might not be out of place. So instead of the "compromises" offered by most of the Conservative/Reasserter folks out there (i.e., "If you stop doing what we don't like we won't [a] throw you out or [b] leave...") let me offer this vision for an Anglican Covenant:

Each province shall govern itself in all matters pertaining only to itself. This includes the interpretation of the historic faith and order as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer of each province, by the superior synod of each province (in our case the General Convention; in Nigeria's case, their synod.) This way, some provinces might have same-sex unions, women priests, or gay bishops, but another province doesn't have to allow or accept them either in principle or as individuals. This draws upon the already existing Anglican notion of provincial diversity in matters of rites and ceremonies, and the provision for the local adapation of the historic episcopate as described in the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

No decision affecting all of the provinces shall be acceptable unless and until all provinces have approved such an action, through their particular superior synods. This would essentially give each province an absolute veto over any action that would force it to take a position with which it disagreed. (This is, more or less, how the Orthodox do things: recognition of Anglican orders was held up because of the veto by two of the autocephalous Orthodox churches, if I recall correctly.) Such actions and decisions would be, I take it, very few and far between, and on matters of such import the church would move very slowly; and more importantly, together.

Lambeth and the ACC would function as conferences and consultative bodies rather than as legislatures, meeting only to address such questions as mission and program. This might actually accomplish something and allow them to serve more as instruments of unity than as forums for division.

This would, IMHO, solve a lot of problems, except those of the people within the Episcopal Church who simply cannot abide the fact that they are in a minority, and are unwilling to abide by the decisions of our General Convention, or work to change them through proper legislative means.

Preamble to Change

I'm sure many will recall the conversations last year concerning the Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church. For those who don't, the Preamble states, in part, that the Episcopal Church is "a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury..."

Some, such as the Anglican Network, hold that if the Episcopal Church were to cease to be part of the Anglican Communion, or no longer be in communion with the incumbent of the See of Canterbury, it would in fact somehow cease to be the Episcopal Church, and the Network, or perhaps some other pretender to the throne, would step in upon its recognition by Canterbury to become the "real" Episcopal Church. Such a mode of thought is laid out in the Network's bylaws, and in numerous comments by their leadership and supporters.

I have argued on the contrary that the Preamble (adopted in 1967, before which there was no Preamble) is descriptive and historical. It records that the Episcopal Church is one of the "regional Churches" that joined to constitute the Anglican Communion as it emerged in the 19th century. That is what the word "constituent" means: The Episcopal Church existed before there was an Anglican Communion, and was integral in its formation. Contrary to the assertions of the Network and others, there is no fiduciary language in the Preamble; the Episcopal Church does not exist for the benefit of the Anglican Communion, it does not "represent" it as if it were a subsidiary or franchise, and it is not dependent upon the Anglican Communion for its existence, since it existed before there was an Anglican Communion.

So what is odd at this point is the silence on the part of so many who were so outspoken last year about the Preamble and the role of Canterbury in determining Anglican identity, in the face of the Church of Nigeria's recent excision of reference to Canterbury from their Constitution. In place of Canterbury (as what the Anglican Consultative Council calls the "focus of unity" for the Anglican Communion) the Nigerians have adopted a confession focused on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (complete, apparently, with its seriously deficient Eucharistic prayer), its Ordinal, and the 39 Articles of Religion, with Nigeria as the sole arbiter and interpreter of the same — at least as far as Nigeria is concerned. Nigeria is prepared to "walk apart" — if need be — from Canterbury.

I can well remember the hue and cry that arose from some of these same folks last year at the merest suggestion of disregarding, amending or deleting the Preamble to the Episcopal Church's Constitution.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile "South-to-South" encounter will take place next week, in a gathering of "like-minded" Anglicans from part of the South and some of the North, along with that same Archbishop of Canterbury whose mind, like it or not, may or may not be made up, or subject to change. And the gilded butterflies will talk of who's in and who's out, who loses and who wins, and the great ones will work out their packs and sects that ebb and flow by the moon.

Tune in next week for the BBC broadcast of Lear with +Rowan in the title role, and +Gomez and +Akinola as Goneril and Regan. I will be glad to play the Fool if asked.

September 22, 2005

Shadows of Unity

When I was in seminary I wrote a paper for R. William Franklin's church history course, in which I compared the lives and views of Dr. William Reed Huntington and Fr. Paul Wattson, founder of the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor. The essay was later published by the Society of the Atonement, with two responses, addressing my sometimes pointed critique of Fr. Paul's concepts and direction.
It occurs to me that we are engaged in a similar discussion at present as to which model for unity or communion is best, and so I'm providing a link to this essay for anyone who might be interested in a historical perspective.
Here is the precis of the paper:

In this paper I will examine two men and the models for church unity they proposed. This is a study in contrasts and shadows. The men themselves are shadows of each other: each perceived in the other a distortion of an ideal; each reacted to the divisions within the Episcopal Church in a different way, one by seeking common ground, the other by escape to higher ground. The models for church unity they proposed reflect their different backgrounds and outlooks, and respectively present an ethos centered in community and an ethos built upon authority. As such they reflect the ongoing tension between koinonía and episkopé that has marked the church from the days of Paul and Peter. The models have changed and been adapted over time by those who have adopted them, but the end of unity for which they were to serve as means seems still as shadowy as ever.
The first part of this paper compares and contrasts the lives and philosophies of the two men: one viewing the strength of the church welling up from the parish, the other looking to the See of Peter as the fons vitae for the health of the body. The second part summarizes the origins and development of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Church Unity Octave. A brief concluding section comments on the current state of ecumenical affairs, and describes one glimmer of hope among the shadows of unity.

Read the rest at Shadows of Unity

September 16, 2005

The Other Shoe

So as many have noticed the Church of Nigeria has amended its constitution, in exactly the way expected. But I think it is very important to note that the Church of Nigeria has not quite disassociated itself from the Archbishop of Canterbury... yet.

Note the wording from the press release of earlier in the week:

The hierarchy of the Church of Nigeria has not ruled out a major constitutional amendment to give legal effect to some new positions likely to be adopted by delegates to the General Synod.
So only the first shoe has dropped at this point: the Constitution has been amended in a major way. Reference to Communion with the See of Canterbury as a defining characteristic of the Church of Nigeria has been deleted, replaced by a list of requirements involving conformity with the Articles of Religion, the 1662 BCP, and so on, such conformity to be determined, it seems, solely by the Church of Nigeria.

However, unless something happened at the Synod that has not yet been reported (or that I have not yet seen, to be more precise) the other shoe still remains to be dropped. What "new position" remains to be adopted? Nigeria no longer requires itself to be in communion with Canterbury, but has yet to place itself out of communion with Canterbury. If and when they do that, we will all have to wrestle with the concept of what it means to be Anglican in a communal, rather than in an historical sense.

I have noted elsewhere that I see this as a movement from a Communion of autonomous churches sharing a common heritage, into an international Confessional Church. Some may think that to be a very good thing. I do not.

Rather, I favor the good old Anglican minimalism that keeps confessions neat and concise (like the Creeds) and bears with them lightly. I have no beef with folks who want to be part of a Confessional church in the strict sense; or a church that emphasizes a central authority as the determiner of "who's in, who's out" (as King Lear said). But I prefer the elastic charity of classical Anglicanism. I think when the dust has settled we will find the bulk of the present Anglican Communion still willing to abide by that principle. If not, it will be a sad day for the loss of a church bold enough to admit that churches make mistakes.

In the meantime, watch out for falling shoes.

August 4, 2005

Lost Shepherds?

I am fascinated by the following paragraphs in the C of E Bishop's Pastoral on Civil Partnerships:

2. It has always been the position of the Church of England that marriage is a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace. Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society. It continues to provide the best context for the raising of children.

3. The Church of England?s teaching is classically summarised in The Book of Common Prayer, where the marriage service lists the causes for which marriage was ordained, namely: ?for the procreation of children, ?for a remedy against sin [and]?. for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other.?

I trust I may take advantage of my position as an Episcopalian (and Anglican pro tempore for the forseeable future) to note some of the difficulties with and consequences of this assertion.

1) There is a problem with the phrase "creation ordinance." The teaching of the Church of England has been that marriage is an honorable estate "instituted" by God in the time of man's innocency." Ordinance (the part of marriage that is "ordained") only comes into play with the ends or goods or "causes" of marriage. (About which more at 3 below).

2) "Means of his grace"? I quote here the pungent assessment of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, in the article on Matrimony, "St. Augustine... did not see in matrimony a means of grace. The reluctance of the BCP to entitle it a Sacrament... arises from the same hesitation of theologians to recognize as such a rite which did not appear to be manifestly productive of grace."

3) When we come to the "causes" it is good to be reminded of the second one (which our own BCP has omitted) -- "a remedy against sin." The "traditional teaching" is that heterosexual sex, far from being good in itself, only becomes tolerable within the context of marriage. That is, the sexual behavior itself is not the locus of morality; rather it is the status of the parties' relationship that determines the rightness or wrongness of the sexual act. This raises interesting possibilities, no?

House of Bishops Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships - Church of England

July 10, 2005

Inside and Outside

A reflection on Moral and Ritual — Tobias S Haller BSG

At my most pessimistic I sometimes feel that the utility of Scripture in helping us better to understand our current situation may have reached its limit. Over the last several years I have grown weary of seeing texts tossed back and forth, twisting in the air as they fly, stretched beyond their capacity, or shrunk to insignificance. When I consider how little the Scripture actually says about the presenting issue, and how much of what it says is in a limited vocabulary of half-a-dozen Hebrew and Greek words — some so rare they are only understood by conjecture, others so capable of a range of figurative and literal application that they can mean almost anything one wants — and then take account of the energy of the debate, I begin to despair of Scripture’s providing us with a settlement to the matter.

I agree with Luther when he said that we cannot simply make any word of Scripture mean whatever we might like it to mean. But at the same time I have to affirm that the meaning of any given passage of Scripture is necessarily subject to interpretation; that the process of understanding what a text means isn’t optional — on the contrary it is the object of the exercise.

Contrary to those who assert the doctrine of sola scriptura, the Scripture does not (indeed cannot) interpret itself, although we may use one portion of Scripture better to understand another. But Anglicans do not allow the Scripture to stand alone, apart from reason, and the record of the church’s wrestling with those sometimes difficult texts. As Hooker put it,

The force of arguments drawn from the authority of Scripture itself, as Scriptures commonly are alleged, shall (being sifted) be found to depend upon the strength of this so much despised and debased authority of man. Surely it doth, and that oftener than we are aware of... Even such as are readiest to cite for one thing five hundred sentences of holy Scripture; what warrant have they, that any one of them doth mean the thing for which it is alleged? Is not their surest ground most commonly, either some probable conjecture of their own, or the judgment of others taking those Scriptures as they do? (Laws, II.7.8)
I do, however, think that there is a hermeneutical key to unlock the treasury, so that old and new can be brought forth. It lies with Jesus, and he left it to the church. Jesus was confronted by a number of religious questions concerning right and wrong. Some of it was presented in ways designed to trip him up; others seemed genuinely interested in finding the right way. So how did Jesus apply Scripture to these questions? As the wristband puts it, WWJD?

When Jesus set aside the dietary laws this was not simply meant as an end in itself. The dietary laws symbolized for him a whole approach to discerning morality that was based on “the outside.” (It should be noted that although Mark understood Jesus as “declaring all foods clean,” the question that was presented to him actually had to do with hand-washing, not food.) In any case, Jesus used this incident as an opportunity to reflect upon the locus of morality. Morality, he says, is not about what goes into one from the outside, but about what comes out of one, from the heart. In this, Jesus is advocating an ethic of disposition or intent, as opposed to an ethic based primarily upon a list of externally exercised do’s and don’ts, which finds its most primitive form in moralities based on taboo and purity. As I also noted in an earlier comment on God’s Shellfish Argument, this contrast was addressed in Peter’s miraculous vision of the sheet let down from heaven; and he rightly understood that this was not about a change in the dietary laws, but about how people are to be treated — not as unclean because of practice or nation, but as capable of receiving the love of God. It is abundantly clear that Jesus had little patience with the focus on external purity as a means to please God; and Saint Paul continued this teaching — see Col 2:21-23 and 1Tim4:3-5 — although, given his Pharisee training even he occasionally slipped from grace into law!

The other locus classicus for Jesus’ teaching on morality resides in the summary of the law and the “Golden Rule.” Jesus reduces the specifics of the Decalogue to the love of God and neighbor, with the rather subjective touchstone of doing as one would be done by. Even his critics recognized the wisdom in this approach.

So, bearing these two keys in mind, when I return to the actual text (this is the vitally important task) and look at the passages that are traditionally advanced against any allowance for same-sex sexuality, I have to ask, are these moral prohibitions, based upon the disposition of the heart, or are they rather primarily ritual or cultic matters related to external acts? Do these prohibitions take account of either the love of God and neighbor, or the subjective judgment of mutuality and responsive care, or are they simply absolute and categorical?

If I may give one last parallel example, How did Jesus relate to the question of the sabbath? The text of the law is rather abundantly clear; it is explicitly categorical in listing all the categories! Yet Jesus recognized circumstances in which this clarity was forced to bend to charity — the rigorous interpretation that one could do no work of any kind is bent to allow the doing of works of love and care. The sabbath exists not as an end in itself, but as a means to the rest and refreshment and betterment of human beings.

This is where I and some of my colleagues have been trying to pitch the discussion. The various arguments from a surmised “complementarity” of the sexes are still to my mind too much concerned with the “outside” — the sexual dimorphism that we share with most of the animals and some of the vegetables — rather than with the “inside” which is what truly makes us human, and wherein resides our similarity with God: in the capacity to reason and to love. The dismissal of all same-sex relationships, without regard to anything other than the gender of the parties, the explicit declaration that all this talk of love is irrelevant to the question, does not strike me as being in keeping with the ethical world of Jesus Christ.

Although I am loath to add to Scripture, the following application of what I’ve said above occurs to me, purely as an imaginative exercise:

Some lawyers came to Jesus and said to him, Teacher, we found two men who have set up household and live together after the manner of a man and wife. Shall we do unto them as it is written in the law of Moses? And he said unto them, For your hardness of heart Moses gave you this law. But it was not so at the beginning, when God made companions for Adam and allowed him to choose the one suitable to him, the one who was most like him. And they said to him, but was not that Eve, the mother of all living? And he said to them, Do not be deceived, ‘the Lord does not see as mortals see’ — you lawyers and Pharisees look only to the outside, and do not look to the heart. But God knows what is inside a man, and it is from inside that true love flows. And do you not know that when Jonathan looked upon David his soul was bound to him, and he loved him as his own self, and gave up his life for his friend? David spoke rightly when he said there is no greater love than this. If these two should set up their lives together, what is that to you? Love the Lord your God, and do not judge.

As I say, this is purely imaginative. But it does strike me as in keeping with the Gospel.

July 6, 2005

God’s Shellfish Argument

A number of reasserters have critiqued those who point out inconsistencies in the church’s application of the laws in Leviticus with what Kendall Harmon has dubbed “The Shellfish Argument.” He summarized this argument as, “You have noted that Leviticus is against same sex practice, but Leviticus says we should not eat shellfish. So how could we possibly listen to Leviticus?”

Now, of course, no one I know of is suggesting we throw out all of Leviticus, or very much more of it than has already been thrown out (which goes well beyond the dietary regulations). After all, as Kendall rightly notes, Leviticus contains the last half of the Summary of the Law. No, as far as I can see, the matter comes down to two troublesome verses addressing certain male homosexual acts.

The “shellfish argument” came to mind this week as the Daily Office lectionary rolled around to Acts 10. It is an instructive story, and should give one pause before dismissing the “shellfish” argument entirely; since it appears that this is precisely the argument with which God confronted Peter, when he showed him all the unclean animals and told him to eat. Peter rightly understood that this wasn’t really about food, but about people, and how one ought to treat them: not as unlcean, but as loved by God — and thereby opened the way of salvation for all of us Gentiles!

So it isn’t about shellfish, dear friends; it isn’t about food and drink; it is about respecting the dignity of every human being as much as God does, and considering the possibility — as difficult as that may be — that the church has had it wrong for all these years, and missed the point God made, and Peter understood.

July 1, 2005

Episcopal Church Against Scripture

Erik Nelson has contributed a fascinating and typical work on behalf of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD): fascinating in its use of false analogy and the slippery slope, and typical in its disregard for the actual text of Scripture, and unsupported assertions and generalizations.

For example, take the reference to Plato's Symposium. Nelson is referring to Aristophanes' famed description of the origin of sexual orientation in the splitting of primeval beings into halves. There is no evidence that Saint Paul was aware of this work, which, since it contradicts Genesis he would no doubt have dismissed out of hand. It is also abundantly clear from Romans 1 that Saint Paul did not believe in intrinsic homosexual orientation (which is "explained" by the story in Plato), but rather saw it as a perversion brought about as a consequence of idolatry. (Paul presages the Talmudic notion that this is a Genitle problem, not a Jewish one; a similar phenomenon exists in Africa today, in which homosexuality is rendered socially invisible. These come together in +Malango's recent comment that it is absurd to suggest that David and Jonathan may have had a sexual relationship because they were "married men." Apparently the "down low" is a phenomenon with which many wish to remain unfamiliar!) It is not difficult to believe that Saint Paul would reject the notion of intrinsic sexual orientation in the first century when there are plenty of "reasserters" out there right now who do the same, even in the light of abundant evidence to the contrary.

As to the changing nature of "morality" which Nelson seems to find so troubling, even his examples fail. Slavery is not simply tolerated in Scripture. It is mandated in certain instances, and approved in others. After all, Adam was created as God's "eved" -- the ambiguous Hebrew word for servant or slave -- and God's liberation of the Israelites from Egypt was not absolute -- it was because God was reclaiming his rightful property, whom he "bought" or "purchased" -- as Christ did the church! The language of slavery is intimately bound up with the mystery of salvation. It is true that by the time of Paul we get a more luke-warm tolerance of human slavery but note that Paul analogizes slavery with the proper relationships of obedience between the believer and Christ, in much the same way as he analogizes the relationship between husband and wife. But nowhere in Scripture is slavery condemned as immoral in itself. It was not until the 19th century that the challenges rose to the level of condemnation, denying the right of any person to take possession of another.

Ultimately it comes down to the question: What is moral? I can perfectly understand some folks who read, for example, Leviticus 18 and 20 and come away saying "These are eternal moral Laws to govern humanity forever." There does seem to be a tendency to group anything having to do with sex under the category of "moral." The problem is that some people skip over the laws they don't like to think about, or which would demand more of them then they desire to give. And I'm not talking about what Kendall calls the "shellfish" laws -- although one should note that the Christian distinction between "moral" and "ritual" is not in itself an OT idea; God told the people to obey _all_ of the Law.

Now of course, Jesus made distinctions about the law: quite obviously the "dietary" law. But he also touched on other of the Laws of Moses, for example concerning divorce. He held that the Law of Moses in this regard was a concession to human hardness of heart, and not part of God's original intent. Now that's quite astounding, don't you think, if you are going to regard everything in the Law of Moses as always reflecting God's will (or "being God's word"). Doesn't it raise a question in your mind that there might be other "moral" matters on which Moses' law is an _imperfect_ and all too human reflection of God's actual will for human beings? I'm not saying this "proves" anything, but it should give one pause before talking about "Scripture" as if it were a uniform body of laws all of which are equally valid and equally eternal and unchanging.

Let me give another example: a man divorces his wife and she marries another man. The second husband dies. Would it be "moral" for the first husband to remarry her? (This actually happened to my paternal grandmother, so it is close to home; she and my grandfather divorced, and then my grandfather remarried her largely because he wanted to be a real father to his biological son, my father, as he was growing up.) I think most people would find no problem with this from a moral perspective. Nor, as far as I know, would the church forbid such a remarriage. Yet the Bible does, and in no uncertain terms. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 even goes so far as to call this an abomination (using exactly the same terminology applied to certain male homosexual acts in Leviticus. (See also Jeremiah 3:1)

I think one of the problems is that people tend to see anything having to do with sex as "moral" -- when it can actually be cultic or cultural or even social. In the section of Leviticus dealing with incest and homosexuality, for instance, a man sleeping with his wife during her period is harshly condemned and entails a serious penalty. (Ezekiel continues the refrain on this wickedness.) But I doubt many people today would regard that as a _moral_ question, even if they find it distasteful.

So it is evident that some things about morality do change over time, and from culture to culture; and contrary to Nelson's slippery slope argument, it is not true that if one thing changes then everything must.

Christ gave us a standard for morality: it is called the Golden Rule. And he gave us the charge not to judge others, but to do good to others, in accord with this principle. This is the touchstone for morality from the mouth of the Son of God. We do well to hear what he says, and see all else through that lens of understanding.

Nelson's article is at Episcopal Church Delegates Argue Against Scripture, Not From It

June 20, 2005

Newman and Development -- briefly

Blogger Rather Not Say has made the following comment concerning something I said on another blog. He wrote:

It has been explicity suggested that permission of homosexual relations comes under the heading of the "development of doctrine," and the name of Newman himself has been invoked (by none other than Tobias Haller himself). Apart from the extreme irony of invoking Newman in defense of an innovation, it is forgotten by those who use the idea of "development of doctrine" that Newman's argument presupposed an infallible authority to sort out legitimate evolution from theological error, or true development from corruption. How many of those who promote same-sex "unions" as an example of "development" want any of the infallible authorities (Orthodoxy, Rome, sola scriptura, etc.) currently on offer? And if they don?t want any of these, what alternatives do they suggest?

RatherNotBlog ? Blog Archive ? Well Said

However, in the citation referenced, I made the point RNS accuses me of "forgetting," concerning who has the final word on the limits of the development of doctrine, in Newman's eyes. In my response to Pontificator's "Hermeneutics of Private Judgment" I said:

'And you[r] final point summarizes exactly my question as to the limits of "revision" as you call it, or as Newman did, "development" -- which he felt only was possible when Rome did it.'

The point is that Newman recognized that doctrine developed. He rejected the concept behind the Vincentian Canon. To this extent he is doubtless correct. But in his moving beyond this point, to the opinion that only Rome could offer the final word, that is where I disagree. In short, I reject the notion of some "infallible authority" not as a matter of preference but in principle. In doing so I embrace the Anglican principle that even a Council may err -- and that the church finds its way in hope and not in certainty.

For those who prefer to align themselves with an infallible authority, I say well and good. Pontificator (Al Kimel) has already made his decision on this matter, and I wish him well. I have nothing but respect and admiration for many Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox folks, who should, I think, act in accordance with their beliefs. But I confess that I do not believe as they do concerning either papal or conciliar infallibility. This is, in my opinion, one of the things that distinguish Anglicanism from these traditions. It is, ultimately, one of the reasons Newman left England for Rome. That I can agree with Newman on some of his evidence, but disagree on his conclusion, is, I hope understandable.

More from Dr Witt

I am responding here to a series of assertions made by Dr WIlliam Witt concening Let the Reader Understand. In addition to misrepresenting (I hope due to misunderstanding) the essay in question, Dr Witt fails to offer a logical response to its fundamental assertions (the the Church has interpretative authority concerning the Scripture, including the authority to set aside certain of its "plain teachings"; and that this authority is located in the national or provincial church) but rather relies on a "slippery slope" argument.
Ironically, in doing so he (once again) suggests that a national church is incapable of doing something which the Church of England has already done: amend the canon of Scripture. I have asked Dr Witt this question before, and he has not answered, as far as I can find. "Did the Church of England have the authority to amend the canon of Scripture or not."

First, however, to the misunderstanding: LtRU does not suggest that indivudual dioceses have the authority of a national church or province. I have always upheld the authority of national synods in this regard, based on the principle established at the English Reformation. I have also written extensively in opposition to the notion that individual dioceses represent the "basic unit" of the church. Enough said.

That being said, national churches (within Anglicanism) do make (and have made) decisions to "set aside" Christian moral teaching, and to interpret the Scripture -- the changes in policy on birth control, remarriage after divorce, and so on, all bitterly debated in the last century, testify to this reality.

Finally, the "slippery slope" -- the leap from "moral" to "non-moral" (which, by the example he gives, I take Dr. Witt to mean "doctrinal" in a larger sense). As I note above, the Church of England unilaterally (though with sympahty for the Continental Reformers) altered the canon of Scripture itself (by deletion) at the Reformation. (Note that there is no uniform canon between the East and West in any case, so this is a somewhat "local" distinction). There were a number of reasons for this decision, including an appeal to the Hebrew Scriptures (as opposed to the LXX), but it was also the case that certain passages in the OT Deuterocanonical books were used to support Roman Catholic doctrines about which the Anglican Reformers were doubtful (e.g., invocation of saints).

When we come to the homoousios -- well, this was a result of a synodical action, and some opposed it at the time because the word was not Scriptural, an "addition" to the text; while others, rightly, argued that even if the word itself was not Scriptural it represented a truth that had been taught consistently. However, dare I raise the question of another difficult word in the Creed -- filioque? Who had the authority to add it? And who to take it out? Clearly this must be a decision of some comptent body, and it would appear to rest at the level of the national church or province. (Actually Lambeth said exactly that some years ago, making the "decision" to affirm provincial autonomy in this matter.)

So the question remains: does a national church have the authority to make decisions concerning moral issues (leaving the canon and the Creed aside for the moment) on the basis of its collective reading of Scripture, including the possibility that a moral teaching appropriate at one time in human history might give way at another time? The examples of slavery and the blood prohibition have been offered in my essay. Although Witt notes Augustine's argument that the Biblical mandate and permission for slavery was eventually overturned because it came to be seen as representing a distortion of God's original intent for humanity as established in Genesis, he has yet to offer a similar argument concerning the blood prohibition -- which would be difficult, since the blood prohibition is also recorded as a part of God's original intent for humanity in Genesis (indeed, the original intent was for vegetarianism; the allowance of meat with the maintenance of a blood prohibition is post-deluvian; and the blood prohibition was maintained up through the New Testament and in the canons of the conciliar church). Has the church erred in this matter?

I will leave it at that for now.

Witt writes:

The document [Let the Reader Understand] claims that it is particularly the local or national church that has the right to make these decisions about which biblical prohibitions are binding or may be set aside, claiming for a local diocese the authority to set aside the moral teaching of the universal Church, and the Scriptures. One cannot help but ask where this principle could lead. Would the local church be free to set aside non-moral principles as well, e.g., the Nicene affirmation that the Son is homoousios with the Father? Could a national church or local diocese decide to add contemporary materials to the canon? Or omit material from the canon that did not conform to contemporary sensibilities?

RatherNotBlog ? Blog Archive ? Well Said

June 1, 2005

A Review of Canonical and Rubrical Restrictions on Admission to Communion

Tobias S Haller BSG

Introductory Note

The purpose of this brief essay is not to forestall discussion of the administration of communion to those not [yet] baptized, but rather to provide some historical context and background to inform such discussion. Note as well that it is not within the scope of this review to examine the issue of excommunication or refusal of communion for disciplinary reasons. Nor is it intended to address the spiritual restrictions and requirements contained in some of the Prayer Book texts of exhortation and invitation (i.e., being in love and charity with one’s neighbors, intending to lead a new life, repenting one’s sins) since these are largely subjective, and not externally verifiable criteria, and therefore are ill suited to canonical regulation.

Scripture and the Early Church

Scripture itself provides no unambiguous or explicit guidance on the question of communion of the unbaptized. It might well be argued that the question never arose. However, baptism clearly plays an important and foundational role in the community which gathered around John the Baptist and later Jesus. It appears that baptism came to be understood by the apostolic church as an adaptation of Jewish ceremonies for conversion as a step towards (or substitute for) circumcision, which admitted one to the Passover meal (Exo 12:48). Given this understanding (not only for remission of sins or repentance, but as a sign of incorporation) baptism becomes significant in light of Paul’s declaration that Christ is “our Passover.” It is therefore understandable that the apostolic leaders believed that incorporation into Christ’s Body (the church) through Baptism enabled one to “keep the feast” which is the sacramental celebration of that Body.

Jesus’ own teaching presents a mixed witness: the harshness with which the man who shows up at the wedding banquet improperly attired is treated (Matt 22:12) stands in marked contrast to the apparent openness of his table fellowship with outcasts. On the other hand, the lack of any clear demarcation between such table fellowship and the more intimate gatherings of the apostolic band, as well as Paul’s apparent willingness to “give thanks and break bread” with unbelievers (Acts 27:35), appear to offer a conflicting message. So I confess that I can find no “plain teaching” on this subject in Scripture. (The “unworthy” or “improper” reception of the eucharist in 1 Cor 11 does not appear to have to do with baptism.)

There is, however, no doubt that by the patristic era church law and liturgy are abundantly clear on the matter of admission to communion. The liturgy of baptism itself included reception of communion as its climax. Nor was there any question of the unbaptized being so communed — they were not even allowed to remain after what we would now call the Liturgy of the Word. Communion — as well as offering communal prayer — was reserved for “the faithful” — that is, the baptized (seeDidache, and the Apostolic Constitutions). (One wonders if the legend of Saint Martin of Tours might not represent an early rebuke to an overemphasis on the restriction of participation in the Body of Christ to the baptized: Martin, still a catechumen, encounters the living Christ, and his act of charity in giving half his cloak is held as exemplary.)

Because many if not most were baptized as adults, early church laws assumed (and later required) preparation for baptism and the reception of communion which served as its culmination. This preparation involved a period of education (the catechumenate) and involved prayer and fasting, prior to subsequent participation in the church’s liturgy. Though fewer in number, those baptized as infants received communion at baptism, just as did adults.

Infant Baptism and Adult Confirmation

In the period between the fourth and fourteenth centuries, however, infant baptism became the rule rather than the exception. While the Eastern churches continued to commune infants, a changing theology of the eucharist in the West led to a gradual withdrawal of communion from infants, and admission to communion came to be restricted to those who had reached “the age of reason.” In addition, a separate rite of confirmation developed in the West, and in England this led to an additional change in the canonical regulation of admission to communion.

Many of the faithful apparently were not bringing their children for confirmation at the appropriate time. In order to encourage confirmation, the Council of Lambeth (1281), chaired by Archbishop Peckham, changed church law to require confirmation for admission to communion.

This injunction, not originally intended as a restriction on communion but as an incentive to confirmation, was later enshrined in the “Confirmation Rubric” of the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), where it appears at the end of the rite for Confirmation. “And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed.” In 1559, the rubric was expanded slightly: “And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he can say the catechism, and be confirmed.”

The 1662 version added an additional notice at the end of the baptismal rite: “It is expedient that every person, thus baptized, should be confirmed by the Bishop so soon after his Baptism as conveniently may be; that so he may be admitted to the holy Communion.” However, the 1662 Prayer Book softened the Confirmation Rubric itself, removing the requirement concerning the catechism, and adding at the end “or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” This rubric accommodated those who were unable to be confirmed during the unsettled period of the English Civil War. It was retained in the first American Prayer Books where it met a similar pastoral need: there were no bishops in the colonial church, and many American church members were not confirmed, though presumably “ready and desirous” to be so. This phrase allowed for considerable pastoral flexibility even after confirmation became readily available throughout the Anglican Communion, and given this pastoral leeway, the rubric remained in versions of the Book of Common Prayer throughout the Communion.

At the same time, an increasing movement developed to recover the ancient custom of admitting children to communion at their baptism, even though limitation of communion to the confirmed (or those ready and desirous of confirmation) remained in the rubrics of the American Prayer Book. The House of Bishops issued a recommendation in 1971 that young children, after “being instructed in the meaning of this Sacrament,” might be admitted to communion in the context of worship with their family, before confirmation.

Beyond the Confirmation Boundary

Eventually the Confirmation Rubric was dropped altogether in the revision of 1976. With the adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, restriction of communion to the confirmed was formally removed. There was, however, still some question if this change opened the door to infant communion, so in 1988, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution stating,

Whereas, the Church teaches that Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as children by grace, and makes us, at whatever age we are baptized, members of Christ’s Body, the Church; and

Whereas, the practice of the Church has evolved since previous statements by this House [in 1971 and1972] on the subject of communion by young children, so that a statement of the current mind of this House may be useful; therefore be it

Resolved, That the mind of the House of Bishops is that:

Those baptized in infancy may, as full members of the Body of Christ, begin receiving communion at any time they desire and their parents permit; and that the following pastoral principles are recommended to guide the church in communicating those baptized as infants:

1. That the reception of communion by young children should normally be in the context of their participation with their parents and other family in the liturgy of the church;

2. That instruction is required for adults and older children before their baptism and first communion; instruction is also essential for young children after they are baptized and have received communion in infancy, that they may grow in appreciation of the grace they have received and in their ability to respond in faith, love, and thankful commitment of their lives to God;

3. That pastoral sensitivity is always required: in not forcing the sacrament on an unwilling child, in not rejecting a baptized child who is reaching out for communion with God in Christ, and in respecting the position of the parents of a child in this regard; and

4. That the practice of some parishes which customarily give first communion to infants at their baptism, then next offer them communion when they and their parents express a desire that they receive, is seen to be an acceptable practice in the spirit of these guidelines; and be it further

Resolved, that the Committee on Theology be instructed to present a report on this matter to the next House of Bishops meeting.

It is therefore clear that the Episcopal Church now regards baptism as the sole canonical criterion for admission to communion, at least for persons who are members of the Episcopal Church or a church in communion with it.

Admission of Non-Episcopalians to Communion

However, a second issue that arises is the appropriateness of admitting non-Episcopalians to communion. This is not a novel question. Even in the time when the Confirmation Rubric was in effect, the prevailing opinion was that occasional communion by a baptized non-Anglican was not forbidden by the rubric.

As the Lambeth Conference of 1920 noted, the admission of baptized non-Anglicans to communion was a matter of essentially local pastoral discretion under the guidance of the bishop, and “the priest... has no canonical authority to refuse Communion to any baptized person kneeling before the Lord’s Table (unless he be excommunicate by name, or, in the canonical sense of the term, a cause of scandal to the faithful).” The Conference urged that if there was further question as to the propriety of such cases, “the priest should refer the matter to the Bishop for counsel or direction.” (Lambeth Conference 1920, Resolution 12.C.ii.)

The General Convention of 1967 adopted a resolution that permitted baptized non-Episcopalians (who had made public profession of faith in their own traditions) to receive communion in the Episcopal Church “where the discipline of their own Church permits, not only at special occasions of ecumenical gatherings” but whenever so moved by spiritual need. Similar to the Lambeth resolution of 1920, this action was not felt by the Convention to require any change in the canons or rubrics, the apparent tension with the Confirmation Rubric resolved by the fact that since the Episcopal Church at that time did not recognize any equivalent to Confirmation in many non-Episcopal churches, whether such a person could be considered “ready and desirous to be confirmed” was irrelevant. The primary intention of the legislation appears to have been a desire to discourage “what is commonly known as ‘Open Communion”’ — which is to say an open declaration that communion is open to all who are baptized, from whatever tradition. The emphasis here was on the discipline of the church of which the person was a member.

In 1979, the same year that formally made communion available to all who were baptized in the Episcopal Church, including infants, an expansion and clarification of the resolution of 1967 was adopted. While acknowledging the renewed understanding of Baptism as “the sacramental prerequisite for receiving Holy Communion,” and the centrality of the eucharist in the church’s new liturgical formularies, this resolution also expressed the need for “sensitivity to the constraints of conscience on those whose churches officially do not approve of this sacramental participation.” The resolution presented this standard “for those of other churches who on occasion desire to receive Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church”:

They shall have been baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and shall have previously been admitted to the Holy Communion within the church to which they belong.

They shall examine their lives, repent of their sins, and be in love and charity with all people, as this church in its catechism (BCP p. 860) says is required of all those who come to the Eucharist.

They shall approach the Holy Communion as an expression of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice once upon the cross was sufficient for all mankind.

They shall find in this Communion the means to strengthen their life within the Christian family ‘through the forgiveness of (their) sins, the strengthening of (their) union with Christ and one another, and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet...’ (BCP p. 859-60).

Their own consciences must always be respected as must the right of their own church membership to determine the sacramental discipline of those who, by their own choice, make that their spiritual home.”

The Episcopal Church since 1979 authorized “occasional communion” for baptized members of other Christian churches who are already admitted to Communion in their own churches, who meet the Episcopal Church’s own Prayer Book requirements for all who come to the Eucharist, and who are in basic agreement with the Episcopal Church’s own eucharistic doctrine. It emphasized, however, the individual right of conscience as well as respect for the sacramental disciplines of the other churches.

Many did not feel that the restrictions in this resolution were in keeping with the intent to clarify that Baptism is the sole criterion and means for membership in the universal church, and that all members of the universal church are eligible to share in the Holy Eucharist as an outward sign of that membership, and of the unity that transcends denominational limits. With the growing practice of infant communion the question arose as to the appropriateness of requiring a particular eucharistic doctrine of anyone receiving communion.

In 1982, therefore, the Standing Liturgical Commission brought to the General Convention a resolution amending the membership canon (at that time Canon I.16, now Canon I.17), in order “to bring the Canon into conformity with the concept of Christian initiation and Church membership implied” by the relevant sections of the Book of Common Prayer. The new canon marked a major change in the way membership in the church would be understood, and it also had implications governing admission to communion.

The opening section of the proposed canon recognized that “All persons who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and whose baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church, are members thereof.” The closing section of the Canon read, “No person who has not received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

The proposed resolution, and another similar to it, were referred to and amended by committee and came to the floor of the House of Bishops with two significant changes. The opening clause was clarified to read, “All persons who have received the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, whether in this Church or in another Christian Church, and whose Baptisms have been duly recorded in this Church, are members thereof.” The added phrase emphasizes the universal nature of baptism, transcending denominational divisions, and is in keeping with the Prayer Book’s affirmation that baptism “is full initiation... into Christ’s Body the Church.” The effect of this new canon was to clarify that baptism makes one a Christian, and that recording that baptism in the Episcopal Church makes one an Episcopalian.

The closing section of the canon was simplified: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.” The Bishop of Rio Grande moved to amend this clause by the addition of the word “regularly” at the end of the sentence. This amendment, which would have permitted occasional reception of the eucharist by one not baptized, was defeated. This canon clarifies that baptism, previously defined as to form and matter, whether performed in the Episcopal Church or another Christian church, is the sole canonical requirement for admission to communion.

Due to the substantial change in policy governing confirmation and membership, a final clause was added to the resolution, stating that the new canon would take effect on January 1, 1986, rather than on January 1, 1983, when all other canonical changes would normally take effect. Thus, by 1986, the Episcopal Church had canonically reestablished the ancient linkage between baptism and eucharist as sacraments of the universal church, stressing the former as prerequisite for admission to the latter, and that all who are members of the “People of God” are welcome to share in “the Gifts of God.”

The question arises as to what extent invitation to receive communion should be made, in addition to the exhortations and invitations already in the liturgical texts. While not wishing to invite a Christian of another tradition to disobey the rules of that tradition, neither should the Episcopal Church be placed in the position of enforcing someone else’s rules. This is particularly so when the persons’ presence at an Episcopal eucharist (in itself a possible breach of their denomination’s rules) may indicate a desire and need for pastoral care.

In addition, an increasing number of persons attending church services are not [yet] baptized. Some may innocently feel they are welcome to receive communion, since the liturgy itself does not specify baptism as a requirement for admission to communion, and appears to issue a number of invitations to all who are present. Therefore a brief announcement to the effect that “all who are baptized are welcome at the Lord’s table,” has become customary in many parishes, while a few others have boldly acted contrary to the canonical and rubrical limitations, and issue a general invitation to any moved to receive. Thus we come to the present debate on the advisability of such a change in policy and practice.

Further extensive analysis of the issues surrounding Confirmation, and Infant Communion may be found in Ruth A. Meyers, Continuing the Reformation: Re-Visioning Baptism in the Episcopal Church (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1997). The Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright’s “Who May Receive Communion in the Episcopal Church”(Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications, 1980) includes a detailed description of the background to the 1979 General Convention Resolution, and its implications for the church at that time.

April 22, 2005

Some Issues with Some Issues...

Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A guide to the debate. London: Church House Publishing, 2003.

A review with comments by Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

A bit over a year ago, I was asked by my Bishop to take a look at the publication from the Church of England, Some Issues in Human Sexuality, and to offer some detailed comments on it. I would like to share my observations in this forum. I wish I could be enthusiastic concerning this publication, as it is clear that a good bit of work went into it; but I’m afraid that on the whole it is extremely disappointing. I say this not simply because the document reaches a status quo conclusion, but because in large part it appears that that is what it was designed to do: it is a particularly good example of “begging the question” — the conclusions are assumed as premises. Over and over when objections to a traditional view are raised, they are first to some extent misrepresented, and then “refuted” largely not by argument but by an appeal to the very consensus they challenge. The so-called consensus or mainstream thus becomes unassailable, and always has the last word.

Another major problem is the tendency to cast the net very broadly to find anything against a more liberal view of homosexuality, while presenting a very selective, and not very representative or well-represented response from the “revisionist” position. (I note in passing I’m also troubled by the use of certain code words such as this; “lifestyle” is another.) This is typical in the work of Robert Gagnon, who takes a maximalist view by reading an anti-homosexual meaning into texts few before him ever read in that way, and heaping criticism (sometimes fallacious and often irrelevant and ad hominem) on the various straw men he sets up, as well as the scholars whose work he misrepresents (or at least misunderstands) and impugns.

On a related note, one of the major flaws of this book is simply poor scholarship: it has the appearance of scholarship (footnotes, bibliography, citations, etc.) but the footnotes and citations often do not refer to the subject at hand.

I’m also troubled by the “soft” anecdotal “Voices from the debate” — these subjective elements add little to the discussion, and Bishop Forster, an ardent supporter of ex-gay ministries, sees to it that this aspect of the debate receives a disproportional representation, along with all of the demonizing language of “the strategy of the enemy.” In addition, although I understand the rationale for lumping bisexuality and transsexualism into the debate concerning secular issues and civil rights, I find that the attempt to deal with these issues in the present volume clouds the theological debate, as the issues are rather different.

My Notes on Some Issues in Human Sexuality

1.1.5 the last sentence articulates the mythology of the universal consensus on sexual morality through Christian history.

1.1.10f the use of “lifestyle” in this argument is insulting and beside the point

1.1.16 wrongly suggests that the industrial revolution is a major cause in the “breakdown of traditional forms of socially imposed morality.” Adultery was both common and condemned long before the industrial revolution.

1.1.23 this whole section about autonomy fails to address the Christian notion of love as the gift of one person to another.

1.2.7 states that the Protestant reformers argued for “equal importance of marriage and celibacy as forms of Christian discipleship.” The English reformers at least were not as enthusiastic about either as their catholic predecessors; they were suspicious of celibacy, and tolerated marriage as “an estate allowed.” The idealization of marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon and derives from largely secular sources (“marriage as the basis of society” etc.)

1.2.9 here we get the first reference to the problematical notion of complementarity. The definition of complementary as “differences between men and women ... intended for the mutual good of each” is not particularly truthful, nor does it relate to the dictionary definition of complementary as the lack of one made up by the other.

1.2.17 Aquinas’ argument is only hard to follow because it is a circular argument; it also partakes of an “ends justifies the means” ethic

1.2.21 again misrepresents the Protestant view of marriage and celibacy; Karl Barth harshly criticized celibacy in Church Dogmatics III, particularly celibacy in community, which he saw as a rejection of the “opposite” this is a misreading of Ephesians 5.32; the great mystery is the relationship between Christ and the church, as Paul says (“but I speak of Christ and the church”).

1.2.25 this is the first of several misrepresentations of Boswell’s thesis. Boswell’s conclusion was not about the intent of the rites so much as how they were used. That variant sexual relationships have been tolerated (if not affirmed) at various times in Church history is obvious. That the rites Boswell describes were used for same-sex blessings is evident in that this is one of the main reasons given for their suppression. Note also an example of faulty scholarship is SIHS: the footnote refers to a book published 12 years before Boswell’s work was published. While a number of scholars have disagreed with Boswell’s conclusions, SIHS fails to recognize is that that’s what scholarship is all about: scholars often disagree about any number of things but that doesn’t necessarily settle the question; on many of these issues the jury of history is still out. The search for consensus is at fault here. In cultural history (as in science of all sorts) the mainstream or consensus often awaits correction by the new discovery and understanding.

1.2.26 it is typical of a Roman Catholic document to say that tradition has always declared something which was only stated explicitly in the 1990s, i.e., that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

1.2.34 the forward thinking American BCP of 1785/89 also challenged the reasoning behind the so-called ends of marriage by removing reference to them from the rite

1.3.6 Gagnon has not advanced beyond the point of seeing the sexual organs as some kind of proper fit; in reality they aren’t particularly “well-fitting” as any woman whose husband knows nothing of sexual relations beyond “insert tab a into slot b” will attest; moreover, there is a whole field of science dedicated to the evolution of the form of the sexual organs, which in many species are intended to make fertilization difficult, not to promote it

1.3.8 it is interesting to see that the British in 1954 were aware that national servicemen “living in a predominantly male service community” might need some protection from each other.

1.4.11 needs to ask why “the official teaching about homosexuality in both the Church of England and the Anglican Communion in general has remained more conservative than it has on other subjects connected with sexual morality.” Might that not be prejudice rather than adherence to some pure truth?

1.5.2 how true for instance that “on some issues, for example, the need for faithfulness within and abstinence outside of marriage, its (the Anglican Communion) beliefs have not changed” except to the extent the provision for divorce and remarriage constitutes what many of those who opposed it considered a formal blessing of adultery.

2.1.4 it should be noted that authority as such is not in the Scripture but in the interpretation and explication and application of the Scripture.

2.2.15 what Hart fails to recognize is that even those who think they are doing type 1 interpretation are really doing type 2, because meaning does not reside in text.

2.5.12 citing Article VII on rites and ceremonies, I simply note that ordination and marriage are exactly that

2.5.16 it is not at all evident that the requirements of the council in Acts concerning food strangled or blood or meals associated with idolatry “relate to specific cultural and historical circumstances that have no direct parallels in this country today.” Scripture assigns these conclusions to the Holy Spirit, not societal or cultural pressure.

2.6.5 “the final point we need to note is that we cannot simply reduce the Bible’s ethical instruction to the command to love” suggests that Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about when he did exactly that.

2.7.4 Barton’s suggestion that “rather than biblical interpretation preceding and shaping Christian ethics and practice, it is the ethics and practice of the Christian community that needs to (and in reality does) precede and shape its biblical interpretation.” This seems a truism; we know the community came before the Scripture was written, and subsequently interprets what it wrote; only a certain class of biblical fundamentalists imagine the Scripture is the source rather than the product.

2.7.6 notice in this translation of 2 Timothy 3.16-17, the whole clause is in apposition to what precedes. “Every Scripture inspired by God is suitable for instruction....”

2.7.9 how to determine what reading is true to text? Whether The Merchant of Venice is a comedy or tragedy depends on whether you are Shylock or Portia.

3.1.2 “the biblical text nowhere identifies the image of God with some inherent human capacity to be or to do certain things.” On the contrary, the Johannine tradition locates this precisely in the capacity to love. (e.g. 1 John 4:16)

3.1.3 Genesis 1 analogizes the creation with the construction of a Middle Eastern Temple, in which the image of the deity is placed in the sanctuary in the center of the Temple. Thus God creates humanity in his image as the finishing note in his work, just as the builder of a Middle Eastern Temple would create the image of the god to place in the sanctuary.

3.4.7 John Stott disregarded the plain sense of Gal 3.28 because the plain sense of it would require of him something that he would find too difficult, that is, to overlook sexual differences within the church, including in its ministry and in its rites.

3.4.8 notice the disappearance of the idea of each person being made in the image of God from the previous section.

3.4.9 again this begs the question by saying that the Genesis accounts established something permanent about human sexual relationships rather than about their beginnings; this transforms a Creation account into a settled "thus and always so" (c. Titus 1:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:4)

3.4.17 the 2 quite distinct Genesis accounts (which are incompatible from a narrative standpoint) have been blurred together; that Jesus did this as a midrash to make a point about the indissolubility of the marriage bond is no reason to do it on a narrative level

3.4.23 the import in Genesis 2 is not that Eve is female but that she is human — it is her “likeness” to Adam, not her difference from him that is important

3.4.27 one could just as easily add same-sex covenant to marriage, community, etc., as a means of dealing with the fact that it is not good to be alone

3.4.35 circular reasoning: of course Anselm couldn’t have been homosexual because Anselm couldn’t have been homosexual as he understood homosexuality; so therefore all of the language he uses, that to any other person would mean homosexuality, couldn’t possibly mean what it appears to mean when Anselm uses it

3.4.50 this section is very poor; it stresses complementarity when Genesis 2 is about similarity

3.4.53 repeats the old heresy (yes, from a Christological standpoint) that “from now on neither is complete without the other. The man needs the woman for his wholeness, and the woman needs the man for hers.” This ignores the fact that Jesus Christ is perfect man complete in himself. Each human being is created in God’s image, and each person is complete and full in him or herself: the Chalcedonian definition declares that Jesus derives his human nature entirely from Mary, and she could not bestow what she didn’t possess, which is a full and complete human nature in all its perfection.

3.4.65 another circular argument

3.4.72 the married state is not exalted, even in the here and now, in the NT

3.4.74 it is specious to generalize that the first three chapters of Genesis provided some kind of “basic conceptual framework within which to understand and assess all that follows in the Old Testament” largely because the first three chapters of Genesis date from a later period than much of the rest of the Old Testament and can hardly be held to be constitutive. Otherwise those who composed the older sections of the Scripture wouldn’t have understood what they were saying! (This is a kind of pre-critical thinking here; surely the SIHS authors know the Scripture wasn’t written in the order in which we now have it bound in a single volume.)

3.4.75 the exclusiveness of the union between Adam and Eve is a result of the fact that there wasn’t anybody else. There is no suggestion whatsoever in the Old Testament that polygamy is sinful, though it may fall short of an ideal. It is explicitly provided for in the Law of Moses. (Dt 21:15f)

3.4.76 this does not answer Vasey’s critique. Jesus’ teaching is not pro-monogamy but anti-divorce; he is most likely responding to the rebbinic tradition that mandated the divorce of infertile wives (after ten years) in fulfilling the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply”

3.4.77 the New Testament does not affirm monogamous marriage; it allows it. The references in Timothy and Titus to one wife refer to being married only once; it is a proscription of remarriage in widowhood

3.4.78 if marriage is relevant within the context of “the new community created in by Christ” then where are all the married couples? There is no case in which marriage is seen as preferred rather than as allowed.

3.4.79 what Genesis 2 teaches about marriage is that it is permanent, not that it is the only human relationship

3.4.80f all of this could apply to same-sex couples as well

3.4.83 back to the circular argument

3.4.89f this pattern of argument is repeated: a good point versus opposition based on specious arguments

3.4.91 rejects “other forms of family life” as “at variance to God’s plans for human life” — why then did God choose to become incarnate in such an irregular variety of family life --- a woman pregnant (not by her husband) prior to marriage, and foster-fatherhood?

3.4.92 “the traditional pattern of family life is the best environment for the raising of children because it provides them with the greatest degree of security and stability.” Not only is this not borne out by studies but it overlooks the rich Christian metaphor of adoption --- starting with Joseph. The biological family is sometimes not the best place to raise a child. This is another example of the tendency towards misplaced and ill-informed idealism that afflicts this whole study.

3.4.93 now we are on to the well-being of society as a whole; this is plain and simple utilitarianism

3.4.96 here we have Karl Barth’s heresy in full, “real man, genuine fellow humanity, man and woman as they truly are.” Overlooking that Jesus Christ is true and perfect man. A man and woman do not become more complete as creatures through sexual union.

3.4.98 fails to meet the standards of Gal 3.28 — all that stems from race, status, or sex is of no import in Christ.

3.4.100 celibacy is not an option; it is presented by Christ as eschatological sign of the Kingdom

3.4.103 we get some real confusion here about the difference between singleness and celibacy. In this paragraph we seem to see a difference between the provisionality of singleness and the permanence of celibacy. But then celibacy is seen as something where marriage is “often” permanently renounced. Temporary celibacy is singleness.

3.4.108 now singleness is being talked about as a vocation. This language of call returns in 3.4.10, 3.5.5

3.5.4 assumes the mainstream interpretation must be right, ipso facto

3.5.8 obviously it would be much easier if gay and lesbian people didn’t exist since they are so hard to “fit into this picture.” Maybe the picture is wrong, or the viewers of it?

3.6.11 overlooks the fact that the same-sex relationship that is faithful without the external needs of a family or society might in fact be morally exemplary and superior to the “ends”- based marriage that stays together because of the external concerns such as the children, the house, the business, etc.

3.6.36 I don’t understand why Coakley is brought in at this point; the argument seems irrelevant.
Chapter four, voices: at the end of citation two this poor young man seems not to be able to distinguish his own “stubborn intellectual integrity” from the “willful interpretations” of the people who might have led him to some kind of healing or reconciliation. Who, in short, is willful here?

4.2.3 the traditional Jewish understanding of the visit to Sodom has nothing to do with homosexuality; this is clear from the Talmud
4.2.7 this time the consensus or the mainstream does appear to be on the liberal side. However...

4.2.8 it is now convenient to undercut this consensus with specious arguments. The unambiguous verb for sex is not yada but shakav.

4.2.9 the sin of Sodom was antecedent to the visit of the angels — so the sin for which the city suffered was not homosexual rape

4.2.11 here we have Gagnon at his worst; the Ezekiel passage simply because it uses the word abomination must be referring to homosexuality, even though Ezekiel never uses the word abomination in this sense elsewhere. As to Jude and 2 Peter texts — they refer to slander and malice, not sex. “Going after someone’s flesh” is a metaphor for slander, not lust. (For example, in Daniel 3:8 and 6:24/25 the idiom is simply accepted as such by the translators, and the colorful image of the Chaldeans “chewing on the Jews’ parts” becomes simply, “they denounced them” and those “who chewed on Daniel’s parts” becomes “who accused him.”) The slander of “the glorious ones” — whether angels or the rightful leaders of the congregation, is the focus of Jude’s rhetoric.

4.2.14 in an astonishing misuse of evidence, even though they state that “the texts we have just looked at say nothing directly about this topic” they immediately refer them to “sexual relationships that fall outside the limits the God has laid down”!

4.2.16 this whole section completely misreads Leviticus and its context

4.2.21 only raises one of Milgrom’s three objections; the others are more significant

4.2.23 totally misrepresents the use and significance of the word abomination; the citations from Proverbs are irrelevant — this is wisdom literature not legal code, from an entirely different era, and figuratively expands the concept of abomination; it is only in Proverbs that the phrase “toevah adonai” is used; and all other uses here are metaphorical as in “righteousness is abominable to the sinner”

4.2.24 completely overlooks Milgrom’s very serious observation that lesbianism is not covered by this commandment; while the commands on bestiality do cover both men and women. The complete absence of a Levitical proscription on lesbian sex should indicate that this is a social/cultic matter, not a divine command, unless one wishes to take this literally and believe that God only forbids male homosexual acts (between Jews in Israel, as Milgrom notes)

4.2.25 fails to observe the difference between ritual and cult

4.2.27 it is not that “Commandments regarding human sexuality are intended to prevent the violation of the boundaries between natural and unnatural laid down by God in creation.” It is because they were practiced by the Egyptians and the Canaanites. That’s what the text says. If we take the text literally, then, there is nothing unnatural about lesbianism.

4.2.30 Deuteronomy 25.5, raises the whole issue of the levirate law. I take it there is not desire to affirm this part of God's ordinances. (Note to England: this is an issue of some relevance to Henry VIII.)

4.2.33 whatever else it is this is clearly a cultic regulation

4.2.28 Gagnon is wrong again: the rejection is not of homosexuality or of prostitution but of cult; the verses are about men and women, hetero- and homosexual, and the only common factor, which is the reason for the condemnation, is the cult. Milgrom notes (Lev 17-22; p 1789) that Temple prostitution is a bad translation for this phenomenon

4.2.39 it’s not homosexual prostitution that is condemned, but cult prostitution by either sex

4.2.40 appears to reach a conclusion when it hasn’t understood the evidence

4.2.41 what does Deuteronomy 25.5 say about God’s intention for human sexuality?

4.2.45 is begging the question ever valid?

4.2.49 the Old Testament is severe because it is protective of the cult; the cult preserves the cult-ural division of Israel from its neighbors

4.3.2 the whole section on Romans 1 confuses punishment and crime

4.3.6 the very important observation of the rhetorical relationship between chapters 1 and 2 is never taken up again until page 264 in section 8.4.17; this rhetorical device is crucial to the proper understanding of Romans as a whole

4.3.12 other recent scholarship supports the view that the "unnatural" female sexual activity referred to irregular heterosexual intercourse. This was Augustine’s view. (De nup. 2.20)

4.3.14 Barrett rightly notes that the sexual practices are a consequence of idolatry

4.3.17 when Paul talks about shameless acts in Rom 1.27 if he was thinking of Leviticus 18 and 20 as Dunn suggests, he would not have been thinking about the abomination; the shameless acts (aschemosunen) described in Leviticus are heterosexual. Aschemosunen means “making naked” — the “uncovering of the nakedness of your mother, sister, etc.”

4.3.21 Gagnon again — para phusin may simply mean “alternative use”; and all of this talk about the glove-like fit and the lack of mutual pleasure is simply ignorance. Not all penile-vaginal sex is mutually pleasurable, and there are numerous forms of sexual behavior practicable by homosexual and heterosexual people alike that are!

4.3.23 the section ends without noting the significance of Romans 2 for the impact of the rhetorical argument

4.3.28 would St. Paul have appealed to the law?

4.3.29 Hays cites Scroggs but then misuses his argument

4.3.33 note that Genesis 1 and 2 might well be qualified as Jewish myths. Neither will stands as a literal historical account --- and they cannot stand together as literal because they are contradictory in detail, narrative and sequence.

4.3.37 Orthodox rabbis precisely narrowed the meaning of the critical proscription to anal intercourse

4.3.39 male homosexual acts would not constitute adultery under Jewish law. A man can only violate someone else’s marriage.

4.3.41 implies that somehow only the same-sex regulations of the old covenant are still binding on God’s people under the new covenant, without explaining why

4.3.52 the refutations are extremely weak and offer no real evidence

4.3.60 it is not a “logical conclusion” but a reductio ad absurdum

4.3.61 Gagnon once more makes a false summary: “No first century Jew could have spoken of porneai (plural) without having in mind the list of forbidden sexual offenses in Leviticus 18 and 20.” In Mark 7.21 all of the sins are in the plural, it is the NRSV that renders them as singular. No Jew would read Leviticus 18-20 into porneai: even the root of the word is rare in the Torah (in the LXX), and in Leviticus it only refers to actual prostitution. The LXX only has one use of the plural form of which Gagnon makes so much, in 2Kgs 9.22 — the “harlotries” of Jezebel -- which are metaphorical.

4.3.63 utterly fails to understand celibacy not as a mere option but as an overturning of the first commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.” In this Jesus “undoes” Genesis’ first mandate to humans, because he is inaugurating a new creation for the new humanity.

4.3.64 Gagnon again: there is no “uniform opposition within the Judaism of [Jesus’] day” — homosexuality is hardly mentioned in rabbinic Judaism. And remember there is nothing whatsoever in the Torah against lesbianism. Rabbinic Judaism does not treat a married woman caught in a lesbian relationship as an adulteress. She is punished for disobedience, but not executed.

4.3.71 the lifestyle again; what about the prostitute it Luke 7

4.3.77 the Acts Council is not about accepting certain people, it is about not restricting certain actions.

4.3.78 begs the question

4.3.79 but we don’t observe the blood prohibition which is one of the four specifically binding rules on the alien: Leviticus 17.10; see also 24.16: Lex talionis is binding on all.

4.3.81 tries to have it both ways; it is hard to read the Jewish attitude towards homosexuality into the apostolic ban since it isn’t part of the apostolic ban.

4.3.82 the blood prohibition is not one of the Jewish food laws; it is in a different class altogether; it is Noachide in origin and thus not “Jewish” and held (in Rabbinic Judaism, derived from Genesis) as biding on all human beings. And if the food laws aren’t important (as in binding on the alien) then why did the authors bring them up at 4.3.70?

4.4.3 since “this general agreement has ceased to exist,” where is the so-called consensus

4.4.5 offensive use of the phrase “takes seriously” as if other views don’t

4.4.10 apparently to “take seriously” means to take the traditional view

4.4.21 because it is convenient to argue that the idea that “there was no awareness in the ancient world of the idea of homosexuality as an innate or congenital orientation,” the authors attack this straw-man. But what could all of the “change” language that they take such pains to develop in sections 4.3.16 to 22 possibly mean — Paul’s language of change. Change from what? If Paul did not believe that people were naturally heterosexual, why would he have all of that language of how people had changed their natures.

4.4.23 “While we should certainly take people’s sense of themselves with the ‘utmost seriousness’ it would mark a radical break with the Anglican theological tradition if it were to be accepted that this should be given priority over the witness of holy Scripture when making moral decisions.” God forbid we should actually believe people's accounts of their own experience! This contradicts the part of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 that called for listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people. If the evidence of personal experience is to be dismissed beforehand as irrelevant, or even more insultingly listened to and then ignored, then why bother? Indeed, some have expressly rejected this portion of the resolution.

This is not just about some alleged new leg to the “three-legged stool” called “experience.” The issue here is the nature of revelation: the initiative is entirely from God’s side, but the perception/reception is entirely on our side, thorough and with human experience. The Holy Scripture itself is the result of human response to God’s revelation. Whether the burning bush, the resurrection appearances, or Paul on the road to Damascus, the experience of the individual in the face of God’s revelation is the primary evidence whose authority we either trust or dismiss: they become the entry points for God’s action in the world.

The church is badly in need of an Emmaus experience to have its heart warmed and eyes opened. Otherwise the church falls into the trap it did when the Apostles refused to believe thewomen who had personal experience of the risen Christ: “But it seemed to them to be an idle tale.” (Luke 24:11) How many resurrection appearances does it take before a “consensus” is reached that Christ is truly risen?

4.4.24 listening to people, it appears, is simply an “attempt to relativize the witness of Scripture” — again notice that people who disagree with the premises of this paper are assumed not to take Scripture seriously. But why do we listen to the witness of the people who wrote the Scripture in the first place?

4.4.26 while they seem strained to “admit that there is an element of truth in his argument” actually it is evident; the Scripture emerges from a sexist and heterosexist milieu and worldview; it is not above and beyond human culture. It is no more troubling to think that those who recorded the Scriptures lacked a full and complete understanding of human sexual dynamics than to admit that they had a less than perfect understanding of human reproduction or the solar system.

4.4.27 “the biblical vision for the relationship between men and women is fundamentally patriarchal in nature; patriarchy is as much about fertility as it is about power” — the question is not hierarchy but procreation. They really want to have it both ways, missing the fact that you can’t say marriage is for procreation and then say that it isn’t about patriarchy, which in the world of that time only knew that as a way of determining parenthood.

4.4.40 is needlessly obtuse. Although Christ comes to us mediated through the Scripture he also comes to us in the sacraments and the teaching of the church. This section veers dangerously close to sola scriptura

4.4.43 more begging the question: “I think homosexuality is a sin and God came to deliver us from sin and that includes homosexuality.” That is not a conservative approach to the debate; that is a tautology.

4.4.48 “once we accept that gay and lesbian people are the objects of God’s creative activity this means there is no fixed order of creation in the light of which we are called to live.” Unless gay and lesbian people are indeed part of that fixed order, but those who wrote Genesis were not aware of this reality. What if God’s fixed order has nothing to do with the sex of people? How “fixed” is it if in Christ there is “no more male and female”?

4.4.49 we are in the world here of “any change in the moral teaching” equals “no fixed morals.” This slope isn’t just slippery, it is vertical. This seems to be innocent of awareness of much of the change in moral teaching over the last century. To change something does not necessitate changing everything.

4.4.51 confuses Alison’s reading of the text with the text itself. It is ultimately only God and not any part of creation that is natural in every sense of the word.

4.4.52 once again we hear how important Jesus’ teaching about men and women being meant to be “joined to each other as one flesh for life.” One wonders why this paper isn’t about divorce rather than about homosexuality.

4.4.53 by placing our concept of what is “natural” in the place of God we commit idolatry — that is Alison’s point

4.4.57 I would say that the existence of controversy is exactly why we cannot always have unequivocal teachings about the subject. The fact is, “that some people have either misread them, or simply do not wish to accept what they are saying.” However, I believe it is the conservatives who have misread and do not wish to accept the true reading which is even now emerging as greater understanding is brought to the texts.

4.4.60 while “the jury is still out on the causes of homosexuality” — whatever the causes, homosexuality is natural, for it exists widely in nature. As someone once said, if you can do it, it is natural. We don’t know what “causes” heterosexuality either.

4.4.66 why in these discussions do they always talk about “other human problems, such as drunkenness and violence” — this begs the question by assuming that homosexuality is a problem. Why not talk about other human gifts, like musical talent or the ability to be charitable?

4.4.70 “taken to its logical conclusion it would mean that the Bible would cease to have a normative function in our ethics and merely be used to affirm what we already believe on other grounds.” Ironically, the authors here have named the very process by which they are working, and by which the church has always worked. The church always ignores the things it no longer finds convenient. The Bible does not, in the life of the church, have normative function: rather, the church uses selective portions of the Scripture to validate what it wishes to enforce in each era. This is how earlier generations were able to justify slavery and condemn divorce.

5.2.18 “the right to pursue personal happiness in this way has come to be widely regarded as integral part of people’s human rights” — maybe it makes sense then, given the Declaration of Independence, which substituted “pursuit of happiness” for Locke’s “property,” that Americans should take the lead.

5.2.22 “as we noted in Chapter Three, Christians have held that the traditional pattern of family life is that which is most conducive to the flourishing society as a whole.” Putting aside the question as to whether the traditional pattern of any life is in fact the most beneficial to society, Jesus and Paul both supported celibacy as opposed to the traditional family. Where your heart is, there is your treasure! If it is the family you idealize, that is where you will worship. This is simply a statement of a kind of revisionist secular humanism. The authors see themselves justified “in rejecting patterns of sexual relationship that they see as undermining family life.” A good look at divorce would be in order -- but faithful same-sex couples can only help to build up society by their fidelity.

5.3.38 now they’re defining complementarity as “equality in difference” — this definition, which differs from the one at 1.2.9, is no more reasonable than the one outlined there.

5.4.6 we got this far and there’s been no mention of David and Jonathan.

5.4.7 finally Boswell’s claim is articulated correctly, that the “brother-making ritual” had functioned as a same-sex union.

5.4.8 this misrepresents Boswell’s claim that the rite functioned — for some — as a means to sanctify their relationship — whether erotic or not.

5.4.24 not proven; the passage about women in Romans 1 may refer to anal intercourse, or to a woman in the “dominant” position.

5.5.10 I’d rather take the minimalist view and look only at particulars rather than generalities. There are ultimately only persons. This is the difference between spirit and law. The spirit looks to individuals as such, the law sees only classes of behavior — not the persons made in Christ’s image in whom there is “no more male and female” i.e., no more of that “Genesis stuff.” Christ does not simply restore paradise, he makes a new creation. See below on 5.6.2

5.5.18 human care is indeed the litmus test for holiness. And it is always specific: it is no coincidence that a casa, while a home, is also a case — an actual occasion

5.6.2 Paul explicitly uses “no more male and female” in Galatians 3:28 as a direct rebuttal to Genesis 1:27; his is speaking of a realized eschatology. If the church is not to be the sign of the eschaton — which is end both in terms of goal and accomplishment --- what use is it? It is then just a benediction of secular society. (Is the establishment role of the Church of England showing here?) I’m sure the authors of True Union in the Body would not like to think that the nuptial imagery in Revelation describes bestiality — the marriage of the Lamb with the New Jerusalem could hardly be described as “one man, one woman marriage.”
The available evidence supports Freud’s claim; in reality most people are capable of bisexuality and culturally geared towards heterosexuality. The British Public School system, as C.S. Lewis described it in his autobiography, is a good example.

If we don’t insist on some component of friendship in marriage, then what about marriage after menopause? If we only see marriage as the means for the fulfillment of external ends (children, a good society, etc.) rather than as the locus for the self-giving love exemplified in Christ and the Church, in which the beloved is the end and not the means to some other end, then we have an ethically defective and essentially mercenary view of human relationships.

The authors see “the danger that a focus on friendship as a controlling metaphor for God will lead to a sidelining of other biblical images that stress the sovereignty and authority of God over human beings” — in response I note that it was God’s idea to become our friend, as spelled out in John 15:15. Some people would rather have the stern disciplinarian rather than the loving Father.

6.4.3 again disvalues personal experience, as if reality should have no impact upon our understanding. When reason trumps Scripture, reason wins. Always. And so it should.

6.4.8 the slippery slope argument appears once again; if we allow for bisexuality it “means moving to a position in which all forms of sexual activity are to be accepted if they meet the needs and desires of the people concerned.” That is not what is being said. We see here again the ongoing struggle between idealism (which soon becomes idolatry) and realism — the latter is based on the Incarnation, the former on too much reliance upon a “doctrine of creation” which overlooks the significance of the new creation in Christ
Chapter eight, “Voices” page 252: the quote that ends at the top of the page is from an ex-gay who notes that not all gays are able to “be healed” — “in the end healing is a mystery, and we must trust in the righteousness of God’s way for each individual.” — unless of course God means the person to be gay. Could it be that God intends some people to be gay?

In the next to the last quote we have the unfortunate language about the “strategy of the enemy.”

8.2.7 betrays the logical slip between bisexuality, and bisexual sexual activity.
The final point, about sexually active relationships among the clergy being rejected: another circular argument

8.3.5 Vibert says, “Paul is calling for a greater exemplification of the one standard amongst those who were going to lead the flock, not a lower standard for the laos.” But doesn’t it amount to the same thing: if one is higher then aren’t the others automatically lower, whether you’ve lowered them or raised the other? It is all relative.

8.3.6 again it is assumed that those take a liberal view are “ignoring biblical principles” — what it all really depends on which biblical principles you are talking about

8.4.17 “there is a need to avoid the hypocrisy of singling out homosexuality as a particular bar to participation in the life of the church while conveniently overlooking forms of sin to which others in the church may be subject.” This is however exactly what has happened regarding ordination.

8.4.19 Atkinson can only state that the first word a homosexual person “seems to hear from the Christian Church is one of moral rebuke.” Seems?

8.4.24 the Catch-22 reappears: a more liberal approach conflicts with the majority of Christian opinion. Perhaps the majority opinion is mistaken.

8.4.25 “the line on sexual morality taken in Issues in Human Sexuality still reflects the consensus of typical scholarship and the prevailing mind of the Church of England, and it would be both wrong and impossible for the church to move officially to a more liberal position as long as this remains the case.” But to what extent — as in this document — is the mere existence of a tradition used as a means of perpetuating the tradition.

8.4.27 Genesis 1-2 does not mention the civil phenomenon called marriage.

8.4.31 note that the question in the ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer calls upon the ordinand to frame his or her life according to the doctrine of Christ, not the doctrine of Saint Paul

8.4.39 to allow faithful homosexual relationships on the basis of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.9 would be in line with what Paul may have meant, since civil marriage is the only marriage that existed in his time; in verse 7.10, 28, 34, 36 and 39 gameo can apply to the wife as well

8.4.43 indeed, if the church has weakened on divorce given the greater explicitness of Scripture and tradition, homosexuality should be easier, not harder

8.4.44 unfortunately we are back to the Catch-22; paragraph b completely misses the fact that only male homosexual acts are referred to as an abomination; and not “before God” by the way; and in the last line in this paragraph Sibley engages in mind reading about what St. Paul’s original intent may or may not have been

8.4.45 “the Bible and the Christian tradition allow for the possibility of divorce and even remarriage, whereas they give no such support to same-sex relationships.” How easily the camel enters the gateway of an open mind! No citations, no argument, just an assertion of a notion contrary to the tradition until about fifty years ago.

8.4.47 now it’s only “perhaps the majority” who regard Jesus’s teachings on divorce as clear

8.4.72 this paragraph is a consequence of confusing mandatory abstinence with charismatic celibacy

8.4.74.a confuses revelation with one’s own understanding

8.5.4 homophobia is not just about violence, but about a psycho-social attitude, much like racism

9.3.2 fails to notice that because opinion “remains divided” on the subject of homosexuality it can scarcely be “a position” — one cannot claim to have the consensus one lacks, unless the consensus is that we don’t agree.

9.3.4 refers to “those who accept the authority of Lambeth” — a very important point, since Lambeth from its very foundation rejected taking the position of authority

9.6.3 this whole section is simply an embarrassment, and seriously misrepresents postmodernism

9.6.8 Postmodernism is not self-refuting; there is a difference between a logical conclusion and a reductio ad absurdum. In the third paragraph the authors have confused the distinction between context and substance — not surprising since they are in fact essentialists. The point of postmodernism, that “timeless truths” are not necessary, is incarnational: truth exists in every time suitable to the time and to the occasion. A close reading of the church’s record, and how many “timeless truths” have later been shown to be in error, is in order. Galileo would remind us that it is all about worldview.

9.6.59 there is significant debate as to whether “ex-gays” were ever really gay, and to what extent those who were gay are really “cured.” Some conservatives even deny that there is a "gay identity" and that is it only a lifestyle choice. Mere choice should be easier to change, and the fact that it isn't easy to change seems to point to the fact that this is not a mere matter of behavior.

9.6.62 “those who take a more conservative approach would note, however, that there is also a danger of confusing the spirit of God with the prevailing attitudes of contemporary culture.” The point is that God has given us a way to tell the difference — the fruits of the spirit. And what of those who confuse the spirit of God with the prevailing attitudes of past cultures?