February 26, 2007

An Immodest Proposal

In my previous post, O Theophilus, I wrote concerning what I perceive as the failure of the Episcopal Church to make an adequate, concerted, and persuasive case for steps in the direction of affirming persons in same-sex relationships. A number of people have commented on this post, and I have responded; but I would like to raise and address some of those concerns here before continuing with my proposals.

A few have suggested I have fallen into the liberal fallacy of “if only you will listen to me you will agree.” This was very far from my intent; in fact, it was this very liberal tendency I was addressing. I do not believe that reason alone will convince everyone of the rightness of my point of view; but I do believe it is incumbent upon me to make the best use of reason I can, in order to reach those open to such a reasonable approach.

It is the large number of undecided, moderate Anglicans who are hungering for a better case from the progressive side — and it is to these I am hoping we might address our arguments, as they are crafted and refined. There will be those who are beyond reason; real homophobia and bigotry — and let us be honest and acknowledge they exist — require therapy, not mere discourse.

At the same time, I by no means intend (as some have suggested) to abandon the “incarnational approach” that is so important in bringing people to a change of mind or of heart. (I was encouraged to hear our Primate reflect a similar note in her address to the staff at 815.) But I must point out that the incarnational approach — if it assumes, “once you get to know me you will accept me” is also false. I’m sure we’d all like to think, “To know me is to love me.” And personal presence can be a very powerful — and I would say essential — part of the ongoing process of engagement; but that presence must also be combined with a willingness to debate and defend on the topic at hand.

An incarnational presence is not always going to convince, even when it is accompanied by eloquent teaching. You will all recall, no doubt, that an incarnational presence can lead to a crucifixion. Moreover, Jesus noted, in his parable of Lazarus and the rich man, that those who have not heeded the weightier matters of the law inherent in such notions as “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the prophetic call to justice, will be unmoved even by the resurrection.

I can give one concrete example from my own experience. At the last General Convention I had an extended conversation with an English Evangelical who began the conversation by saying to me, “Some of my best friends are gay; but you are wrong, and you are going to hell.” My response was an aggressive: No, I am not wrong; but you are, and you will go to hell yourself if you persist in judging others; and here is why. As the evening wore on, I was able not only to reject his premise, but challenge every argument he brought to the fore — clearly not to the extent of convincing him, but to the extent of making him realize his arguments were not nearly so airtight as he had supposed.

It was also helpful to be able to say, “You are talking about me when you make these accusations.” However, if that is all I had said, I doubt it would have shaken his thinking; after all, he said right at the beginning that some of his best friends are gay; it’s just that we’re going to hell. It was the willingness to argue as well as be a presence that made the difference. He said he’d never been confronted in this way before, and made to think about what he was so blithely saying about who was going to hell, as well as a number of his other favorite arguments. I heard the next day from several people who know him that this conversation was profoundly important for him — and he was grateful for thechallenge as well as for the presence.

In short, we need to do both. We are in a Hillel moment here: it isn’t just about us, but about others, too. The “easy” ways at either end, capitulation or revolt, seem to me to lead in the wrong direction. How can we speak to and for the gay and lesbian persons suffering real persecution in so much of the world (far worse than not being allowed to be a bishop, or have their relationship blessed!) if we either give in completely, or separate off into our own private sanctum. “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” So what do we do?

A sketch of a response in four movements

1. Of the Process of Engagement

1.0. I have never cared for the language of “the listening process.” It sounds altogether too passive and casual. So I prefer to call for a process of engagement. This has several elements.

1.1 Assemble a theological critique of the current position on same-sex relationships. You will see that I do not frame this as a defense as much as a re-examination of the case made by the prosecution. I take as my basic stand the notion that guilt must be proven, not innocence; and as the Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged this week, in some even of the best of the traditional argumentation there are rather significant lapses in logic and theology. It is these lapses and inconsistencies that can and should be exposed and corrected, for in some cases the whole argument hangs by a slender thread indeed.

1.2. Develop a positive theology of human sexual relationships built on the unitive function of human sexuality (which is universal and lifelong and eternal) rather than the traditional approach based on procreation (which is neither universal nor lifelong nor eternal). There is ample Scriptural, traditional, and theological material to support such a theology.

1.3. Insist and mandate that in any discussion of the issue of same-sexuality, in any parochial, diocesan, provincial or international forum, gay and lesbian persons, both lay and ordained, be involved. It will be necessary for the Executive Council or the General Convention to assemble a team or bureau of such persons, equipped with the material produced in steps one and two above in order to carry out this mandate.

1.4. As these steps will require funding, I suggest that a portion of the funds formerly committed to the Anglican Consultative Council be directed to this effort. As the “listening process” is a mandate of the ACC, this use of funds is in keeping with the importance of addressing an issue that, if nothing else, is capable of leading to the utter collapse of the Anglican Communion as we know it. If the Anglican Communion is worth the effort, it is also worth the expense.

1.5. Insist that representatives of The Episcopal Church, or the church itself, not be threatened with dismissal or exclusion from any of the councils of the Anglican Communion, or the Communion itself. Such exclusion is both repugnant to the Gospel, and the common sense that if we are to reach a common mind it will only be through the meeting and engagement of those who disagree. Peace achieved through the excision or exclusion of persons with whom we disagree is reprehensible.

2. Of Lambeth and the Primates

2.0. I trace the current division and turmoil, and the beginnings of the tearing of the fabric of the Communion, not to the General Convention of 2003, but to the Lambeth Conference of 1998. There, through a manifestly disordered process, in which both members and the chair acted inappropriately, a resolution was adopted that did not represent the true mind of the Anglican Communion in its present lack of consensus. Moreover, since its passage, resolution 1998.1.10 — which itself uses the language of recommendation and advice — has been treated by some of the Primates and others as if it represented a unified “teaching” — rather than a statement of a traditional view that is no longer universally ascribed to, and which is under discussion. This unilateral transformation of the Lambeth Conference into a magisterial body is contrary to its charter, and lacks the consent of the various Provinces of the Anglican Communion. I therefore suggest:

2.1. The Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion be invited to express their repentance for having breached the bonds of affection that constitute the historic basis for this fellowship of autonomous churches, in having sought to substitute coercive constraint, violation of provincial autonomy, and threats of exclusion in their place.

2.2. That pending such an expression of repentance, The Episcopal Church continue to work with those Primates and Bishops who wish to continue in such a fellowship, in keeping with the historic constitution (in large part unwritten) by which the Anglican Communion has heretofore exercised its unique ministry in the whole Body of Christ.

2.3. That if it is desired to assemble a teaching body for the further exploration of a pan-Anglican doctrinal statement on any matter, and recognizing that not only do the ordinals of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church both confer the office of teaching to the presbyterate, but that many of the greatest theologians of the church’s past have been laity, and that the diaconate is charged specifically with bringing the needs of the world to the attention of the church: that any teaching body so assembled consist of priests, deacons and lay persons as well as of bishops; and that any decisions or positions reached by this assembly receive the assent of each and every constituent Province of the Anglican Communion (alike working through provincial assemblies consisting of all orders of ministry) before being considered to be “the teaching of the Anglican Communion.”

3. Of ordination and election of bishops

3.0. I do not believe anyone has a need or a right to be a bishop. I also believe that the episcopate is for the good order of the church. At the same time, it is unjust to exlude persons or classes of persons without good cause. I recommend:

3.1. That the Episcopal Church commend and urge its Bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees to withhold consent to the consecration to the episcopate of any person whose manner of life is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. Of the blessing of same-sex unions

4.0. The church teaches that the nuptial ministers are the couple themselves, whose vows are blessed, not constituted, by the church. One of the earliest western marriage liturgies, in the sixth century Gallic tradition, consisted of a blessing of the couple in their home. I therefore suggest that:

4.1. Until a wider consensus is achieved on the rightness of blessing same-sex relationships in an ecclesiastical setting, The Episcopal Church not proceed with the development of a liturgical rite, or its authorization.

4.2. Recognizing that priests are ordained to pronounce God’s blessing, and that no further authorization is needed for a priest to bless than there is to preach; and that the liturgy “The Celebration of a Home” in the Book of Occasional Services is authorized for use in this church, without further permission from the Bishop being necessary; and that this liturgy provides for the blessing of the residents of the household; that it be recognized that the use of such liturgy is within the ambit of pastoral care.

4.3. The the church include in its studies and discussion the issue of the role of the church in those civil jurisdictions in which same-sex relationships are licensed, and the larger issue of the interaction between civil and ecclesiastical law in this area.

I realize that this first draft of proposals may not please everyone. I am not sure it pleases me entirely. But it is a good faith effort to lay out a way forward that is, I think, far more in keeping with the traditional Anglican way of working than is evident in the statement from Dar es Salaam.


32 comments:

Paul (A.) said...

Can you point to the source for your statements in the second sentence of 2.0, for those of us new to the conversation?

This is a history that needs to be more fully known.

Tobias said...

Paul (A),
I don't have the information at hand, but I assume a web search could find most of it. There were several issues, IIRC, beginning with the fact that the final resolution bore little resemblance to the carefully crafted study document intended for adoption by the sub-group. The debate apparently reached the level of shouting from time to time; a number of bishops walked out in dismay; and the chair (ABp Carey) intervened in a very un-chair-like way at one point in the proceedings, over some objections.

As I say, I don't have the details at hand, but I think any thorough account of the debate will include them. I believe there was also a request to divide the motion, which was not allowed; but I may be confusing that with another time.

I would also add here that 70 bishops present at Lambeth 1998 voted against resolution 1.10, and some who voted for it agreed only with parts of it. In the period following its adoption, however, 182 bishops signed a Pastoral Statement distancing themselves from it. That is a significant minority of the Anglican Communion, and shows that the "teaching" is not one on which there is consensus.

Fr-Eric said...

Tobias -- I think you put the start of division twenty years later than you ought. This goes back to Lambeth 1978 and Resolution 10 of that Conference, which said in part: "While we reaffirm heterosexuality as the scriptural norm, we recognise the need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research." The division began when most Provinces failed to begin the "deep and dispassionate study" of which the need was recognized (but, one must admit, not recommended or required).

With regard to the ordination of bishops, do you seriously mean what you've proposed? Or are you engaging in hyperbole? It seems to me that your proposal would result in NO elections or ordinations of bishops -- no one's style of life fully "consistent" with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Other than that ... great work. I hope that gang in purple shirts takes it seriously.

Kristy said...

"It is the large number of undecided, moderate Anglicans who are hungering for a better case from the progressive side — and it is to these I am hoping we might address our arguments, as they are crafted and refined."

I know this isn't your point, but I couldn't let this slide. As a moderate, I'm really tired of the fact that moderate and undecided have become one and the same. Most of us have already decided where we stand in this whole thing, and we're sick of both conservatives and progressives treating us like either traitors or ignorant potential converts--or both in the same thought. We're not waiting for a better case. We're waiting for everyone to finish talking, so we can have a turn to speak.

Rodney said...

You're right that I don't love all of it, but there's far more that I do like very much than that I do not. Thank you for an excellent piece of work. It's a case in point why the teaching role is for the presbyterate.

Do you see a place for our liturgical theologians to participate in this conversation?

When TEC was asked to present its case to the AAC, the Council of Associated Parishes (of which I am a member) prepared and offered to the then PB a theological argument rooted in our liturgical praxis. Because I continue to believe there is no way to separate the current divide from the divide in our baptismal theologies, I wonder how my own discipline might be helpful.

R said...

Tobias,

This is remarkably helpful. Thank you! I remain uncomfortable with backing away from the development of authorized rites, however. Would it be a workable compromise to begin exploring model rites as a summation of the theological foundations undergirding same-sex unions?

For much of the church, how we pray reflects our theology and mission. Liturgical rites might speak a language that people would recognize, contextualizing (dare I say incarnating?) what the relationships look like in a Christian context, and putting a fuller framework in place for the incarnational witness and theological arguments.

I'm thinking "out loud" here. Would it be possible to bring together already extant model rites as part of the theological argument without moving them immediately into the authorization process?

My underlying principle is this: the alternative to the status quo will only be most viable as it is complete in development. That does not presume no further developments if it becomes part of the consensus of the broader Church, but it readily answers basic questions about practical application in the public rite.

I, of course, patiently remind myself, if no one else, that this continues to assume LGBT couples in our midst will be carrying a burden they may not be willing to shoulder for any additional length of time. Hence we are posed with the same faustian choice -- as much as I love the Book of Occasional Services' blessing of a home -- between a very insubstantial blessing on a relationship that truly defines "home" with a possible "guarantee" of continuing Anglican unity (assuming others will buy into the compromise) vs. moving forward with rites that might jeopardize that unity.

(I write, I hope without engaging in cliche, that I am consistently reminded in my own marriage, that my home is where my wife is, and, most days, she feels likewise. Blessing a covenanted relationship in the context of blessing a house seems to "bless the house" without recognizing and blessing the importance of the foundation, as it were.)

Most clarifying is your handling of Lambeth Resolution I.10. The mis-characterization and mis-application of the resolution severely undermines the credibility of the Primates' Communique. In my view, this should be loudly shouted from the rooftops.

Thank you again for much to consider, and for fleshing out (no pun intended) the interplay between theology and incarnational witness. The tying of the two together in an intentional way might prove incredibly helpful. The question remains one of practical application -- and that you have answered as well.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, whatever else the Primates may say, the real Communion is where the engagement is possible and is occurring. All the talk of "impairment" and walking away from Eucharist, etc., should only clarify where the true relationships are, and we need to bank on those, rather than on the institutional structures that appear at present to be over-inflated in terms of importance.

Dennis said...

not feeling brave enough to approve my earlier comments?

*Christopher said...

This is a start in a direction I could get on board with, as the Blessing of a Home is still public. I detest the private/public dichotomy as profoundly unChristian. Also, you go a long way toward questioning the meta-narrative of Lambeth 1998 in light of the historical record on the matter, which seems to have been greatly fudged in a move to redo our polity both internally and across the Communion. Bless you. I could say yes to this and continue in engagement. I might point out that if we use Benedictine models for "listening", a more robust understanding emerges than the wimpy understanding that has emerged of late.

*Christopher said...

One caveat, is there room in the "Blessing of a Home" for the couple to exchange vows? Without such, I would hesitate to want anything to do with such a rite. Blessing without public promises exchanged has always troubled me, hence, the development of a rite that did this without the need of a priest, which itself is within the realm of Christians living out their lives in the world. It would be like "Sacrament" without "Word".

*Christopher said...

Tobias,

The reason I say this is that for many of us such a service often serves to function as the only marker ritually of the couple, and our families and friends need this often as much as we do.

John B. Chilton said...

It is these lapses and inconsistencies that can and should be exposed and corrected, for in some cases the whole argument hangs by a slender thread indeed.

Clarify which "whole argument"?

obadiahslope said...

"The final resolution bore little resemblance to the carefully crafted study document intended for adoption by the sub-group"
Which means that the third world and other bishops declined to support what those who regarded themselves like TEC as the "leaders" of the communion, had drafted. This was a democratic outcome. You may not have liked the outcome, Tobias, but the bishops voted overwhemimgly for the motion.
People don't always vote the way we think they should. Evangelicals in TEC have had the votes go against them. Progressives have seen the same in the communion.

Tim said...

I think you're onto something; the debate thus far has stalemated with the evo-conservo-fundie-traditionalist wing saying "scripture is plain" as the only side to their "argument", while no voice has been heard saying "actually..." with an explanation based on higher criticism, for example.

I agree entirely with 3.0; the clergy's role, regardless of layer in hierarchy, is to serve, not to laud it over the laity or each other. (If you've read M J Borg, you'll know his take on "social domination systems" being contrary to the Kingdom of God, whether it's in the form of the Roman empire or pharisaic power-abuse.)

But 3.1 reads a bit strange, possibly too-minimalist. Yes it makes some sort of sense, insofar as it makes for very few criteria that are actually laid down in law, but in the process it throws open the issue of sexuality, not to "everyone who's now a liberal and doesn't mind", but rather to majorityism, which is not the same as rendering the issue neutral.

RiciaH said...

I notice that +Rowan Williams (of Monmouth, Wales) was a signatory to that Pastoral Statement.

(for some reason, Firefox blocked the word verification, I'm posting from icab instead)

Anonymous said...

As a staff officer at Lambeth '98, I, too, can verify the truth of what you have described. The entire proceeding was televised on closed cable for visitors in the Market Place exhibition area, which I directed. I think you will not need to dig too deeply to find the specifics to which you allude. LGBT officials in the UK may also be able to help - regrettably, I was under orders from the top not to allow them to have a presence in the Market Place, despite their being among the first to apply.

Reverend Ref + said...

Tobias+

You have given us a couple of excellent posts here (as witnessed by the lengthy discussion on the previous post). I haven't yet fully digested this current post, but I'm working on it.

You said,
At the same time, I by no means intend (as some have suggested) to abandon the “incarnational approach” that is so important in bringing people to a change of mind or of heart. . . But I must point out that the incarnational approach — if it assumes, “once you get to know me you will accept me” is also false. I’m sure we’d all like to think, “To know me is to love me.” And personal presence can be a very powerful — and I would say essential — part of the ongoing process of engagement; but that presence must also be combined with a willingness to debate and defend on the topic at hand.

This brought back a memory from seminary. I was considered by many to be the token white-male-conservative. There was a public forum in which I was asked to present an opposing viewpoint to what was considered the norm for that school. My argument at the time went something like, "If you are going to claim to be an open and inclusive institution, then you had better be willing to listen to people like me."

That must have touched a nerve because I was suddenly inundated with requests by liberals to have a conversation. They realized that they could be just as closed-minded as anyone else.

Personal, incarnational presence was indeed a very powerful part of those conversations. But so was the willingness to debate and defend our positions. In the end, I switched sides; but I have always hoped that my incarnational conservative presence allowed those people with whom I conversed to have a better understanding of how they might present their case.

The biggest challenge will always be in getting people to talk with one another on a deeper level than, "I'm right, you're wrong."

Tobias said...

Thank you all for the many comments. No time just now to respond to all of them -- this is a workday for me! I just want to note to Dennis that I don't know what comment he's referring to. As far as I know I've posted all of his comments I've received.

And Kristy, if you'll read carefully, you'll see I'm talking about people who are moderates and undecided. If you are a "decided" moderate, no one is stopping you from speaking. Though I don't know if you speak for "most" moderates. I've always found it best to speak for oneself and then see who agrees.

And John, I mean the "argument" that arrives at the conclusion: same-sex relationships cannot be blessed, and persons in same-sex relationships cannot (or should not) be ordained.

That's all I have time for just now. Blessings to all,
Tobias

Tobias said...

OK, just one more:
Obadiahslope, the subroup to which you refer was chaired by the Archbishop of Southern Africa. It was not a "first world" against "third world." Why do you persist in falling into the same false dichotomy you are so quick to condemn in liberals, i.e., "this is just an "African" thing"? Please, no more ad hominem reductions of the argument to being about where people come from.

Second: my point is the Lambeth is not a democratic legislative assembly. It has morphed into one. That is the problem.

And now, I really must go!

Nick Finke said...

A really very good beginning. Thank you.

With respect to the root causes of the current dispute which you refer to in 2.0, I would suggest that there is another force at work also which is exemplified by the following excerpts from Archbishop Williams' recent address to General Synod:

"It has raised, first of all, the painfully difficult question of how far Anglican provinces should feel bound to make decisions in a wholly consultative and corporate way. In other words, it has forced us to ask what we mean by speaking and thinking about ourselves as a global communion. When ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ fail, what should we do about it? Now there is a case for drawing back from doing anything much, for accepting that we are no more than a cluster of historically linked local or national bodies. But to accept this case – and especially to accept it because the alternatives look too difficult – would be to unravel quite a lot of what both internal theological reflection and ecumenical agreement have assumed and worked with for most of the last century. For those of us who still believe that the Communion is a Catholic body, not just an agglomeration of national ones a body attempting to live in more than one cultural and intellectual setting and committed to addressing major problems in a global way, the case for ‘drawing back’ is not attractive. But my real point is that we have never really had this discussion properly. It surfaced a bit in our debates over women’s ordination, but for a variety of reasons tended to slip out of focus. But we were bound to have to think it through sooner or later." (Emphasis added)

The problem is ecclesiological. If you accept the presumption that the AC is an organic entity, a "Catholic body," then pronouncements such as Lambeth resolutions can take on an entirely new meaning as the utterances of some form of the "Great Church." The crux of the matter is whether that "Catholic body" exists in any real way or whether it is a mere velleity, a form of wish fulfillment.

My background is Roman Catholic, so I recognize the assumptions that the Archbishop and others are using, and there is certainly a way in which I wish they were justified. I am afraid, however, given our history as a group of national churches, that they are engaged in petitio principii, i.e., assuming what they have to prove. The creation of this "Catholic body" is what the proposed Covenant is all about.

obadiahslope said...

obias,
You are right - Lambeth has many flaws from the point of view of democracy. One of these is that the rich white provinces (which include mine) are over represented.

The idea that these provinces should be required to elect lay and clergy delegations to a Lambeth assemby as you propose is an elegent example of democracy on paper that ignores the poverty of thesoe provinces which can barely afford to send their bishops. 1998 was notable for the fact that a large number of third world bishops got there. I support your theory, but it would take a lot of resources to make it happen - which your proposal does not provide.

At Lambeth 1998 the vote was overwhelming in favour of the motion you are uncomfortable with. The vast majority of the third world voted in favour of it. To point that out is not a ad hominem attack but merely to confirm the voting record. The class, race and cultural diversity within our communion need careful study and analysis and should not be dismissed.

It would be difficult to sustain a claim that the bisops voting were unclear on the issues after such a vigorous debate. The only substantial case against the chair is that he allowed motions opposing the study report - I can't see a problem with that. It was a truely overwhelming vote and you are right to determine it as the cause of the ripples we feel today.

Marshall said...

I share Tim's concern about item 3.1: if the episcopate is of the pleni esse of the Church, raising "the Gospel" as a standard only continues difficulty. Indeed, who lives up to the Gospel, for all have sinned and fall short. (Unless your point was precisely to confront us with this inconvenient truth....)

How about "the gifts and fruits of the Spirit?" That is concrete and apt. (Again, unless....)

Tobias said...

Tim, and Marshall, thanks for the comment. I am being a bit self-conciously droll at 3.1, but with very serious intent. One of the ways in which the current debate falls short is its fixation on one particular form of human behavior.

I am also consciously echoing the language of the Ordinal. Both deacons and priests are asked, "Will you do your best to pattern your life [and that of your family or household, or community] in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to..." and here the diaconal rite says "all people" and the presbyteral "your people." No such question is asked of candidates to the episcopate, so I thought it about time to consider raising the matter. (In passing, I also wonder what exactly is meant by "household" if it is neither family nor community. Roommates? Lodgers? Servants?)

To get back to the questions, I was able in good conscience to answer in the affirmative to both at my ordination to the diaconate and presbyterate, as the focus was on "the teachings of Christ" -- not Moses or Saint Paul. I do not pretend to be a perfect person, but I do attempt to "proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to fashion [my] life in accordance with its precepts," as the priestly ordination rite also says. (Nothing about this in the episcopal rite, either; though it does say bishops are to live a "pure, gentle, and holy life.")

Perhaps this is precisely where we have lost focus, and I would very much like to see it restored.

Tobias said...

Richard, and Christopher:
Yes, there is plenty of room to add to the "Celebration of a Home" --- and I point out it is "Home" not "House." In the first part of that section I was alluding to the fact that the vows are the business of the couple -- they "make" the vows, and keep them, so they have the blessed responsibility for them. As a practical matter, I think the "Celebraion of a Home" in all that it means -- as a public proclamation of being casado (as the Latinos helpfully and wisely observe!) is in some ways much more powerful a statement than our rather clumsy and kludged-together marriage rite.

Which brings me to Rodney's comment. I do think we can learn a great deal from a "liturgical theology" perspective. This was the basis for my own initial exploration, and I commend my thesis on the subject, Lawfully Joined to your attention. It's a decade old now, but I think the sections on the comparisons of the various liturgies holds up. Few liturgies have changed as much as the marriage rite of the Anglican tradition. The 1789 BCP version is particularly interesting for its movement away from language of procreation.

More later,
Tobias

Tobias said...

Obadiahslope,

I don't suggest the "doctrinal assembly" consist of all bishops. A few from each province, along with representative laity and clergy, particularly those with some understanding of theology, would be sufficient.

I don't think you are aware of how many "developing world" bishops at Lambeth are supported by the "developed world." My own diocese has assisted a number of bishops from India and Africa and Asia over the years. I think it goes without saying that other bishops have also found support from other dioceses within the Episcopal Church.

If you will read up the list of comments a bit you will see further clarification on the disorder at Lambeth 1998 from someone who was actually there. The chair's primary offense was not in disallowing motions, but in speaking to the motions. as I understand it. There is a parliamentary way to do this, but it involves relinquishing the chair for a time. As with the debate and action on B033, the church is not well served by hasty and disorderly actions.

You are suggesting that doctrine is revealed in a political majority. I suggest that the model I've laid out requires a greater consensus before any "doctrine" can be promulgated. This model is, in significant respects, similar to the conciliar model practiced in real Orthodoxy: until all of the autocephalous churches agree to a change, it remains provisional. This is why the Eastern Orthodox do not yet recognize Anglican orders: two of the autocephalous churches refused to accept the proposal.

As I can sense a question rising to some minds, let me address the idea that TEC adopted some new doctrine. In fact, TEC did not authorize any rites, nor, in electing and consenting to the election of Gene Robinson, do anything that hadn't been done hundreds of times before. We simply acknowledged the reality of what we were doing, with no suggestion that anyone else needed to do the same.

obadiahslope said...

Tobias,
Lord Carey is not a good chair. I agree . It is a side issue, though.
I suspect your last post betrays frustration at the state of the communion - even my poor brain can see the joins in the argument.
Suffice to say the the Canadian church's report found that moving to gay blessings was a doctrinal change - not creedal, but doctrinal none the less.
To add another sleight of hand argument to the current debate - by saying the TEC has changed no doctrine or performed any new act - will not serve your cause well IMHO. The first sleight of hand being the authorise/allow debate that has been settled decisively by the +ABC.
I would think statements by TEC leaders including TSOHOC, make it clear that a "new thing" has been done. I rather think the horse has bolted on that argument.

Allen said...

let me address the idea that TEC adopted some new doctrine. In fact, TEC did not authorize any rites, nor, in electing and consenting to the election of Gene Robinson, do anything that hadn't been done hundreds of times before.

It seems to me that even where bishops have authorized rites for blessing same sex unions, there is no new doctrine. (Nor do I see new doctrine in the New Westminster's Rite for the Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Covenants.)

Allen Mellen

Grandmère Mimi said...

I was able in good conscience to answer in the affirmative to both at my ordination to the diaconate and presbyterate, as the focus was on "the teachings of Christ" -- not Moses or Saint Paul.

Tobias, I am so pleased that you mention this. "[T]the teachings of Christ" - well - isn't that what all of us are called to answer to in the affirmative? Why, indeed, should not the bishops be called to "proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to fashion [their] life in accordance with its precepts".

Focusing on the Goepels - at least, for simple-minded me - concentrates the mind wonderfully in all churchly matters.

Marshall said...

This has me thinking. I think we need to do some basic brainstorming in the process of making suggestions to our bishops. Yours is a wonderful start. I've also had some thoughts over at my place.

todd said...

Tobias,

My apologies if I have misread you, but it seems to me that early in your post you create a dichotomy between those moderates and "undecideds" who will response affirmatively to a stronger progressive case for same-sex blessings (etc) and those who will not so respond because of bigotry. It would appear that the conclusion to the argument, or at least the disposition of those engaged in the discussion, is assumed from the outset. If this be so, then aren't you espousing a slightly more nuanced version of the "liberal fallacy"; viz., "if only you will listen to me and are rational and open-minded you will change your mind"?

I have remained - despite, perhaps a decidedly conservative position on the matter at hand - in The Episcopal Church in part so as to be teachable, awaiting more theologically sound and biblically faithful arguments in favor of the Church's blessing committed homosexual relationships. (cf Ephraim Radner in Hope Among the Fragments on this point of teachability). But while I am teachable (though not undecided, if that distinction make sense), given that catholic consensus is against any alteration in our teaching on the moral state of any sexual relationship outside marriage between a woman and a man, I have grave doubts the possibility of constructing the "theologically sound and biblically faithful" arguments the teachable await.

(I wrote out some of my own thoughts along these lines a while ago: http://reader.classicalanglican.net/?p=386 )

Does this mean that, if in the end I (or better, the Church catholic) remain unconvinced by the best progressive arguments, that I and those like me are among the impenetrably irrational and hopelessly bigoted?

Tobias said...

Dear Todd,
No, I fear you have misunderstood me. I think it is quite possible to have an ethical / moral / theological system that consistently condemns same-sex sexuality entirely based on reasonable bases. I would say that the Roman Catholic Church, in its teaching on sexuality, comes close; although even there one can find seams in the argument that offer a way towards a reasonable re-revaluation. (For example, the focus on procreation is undercut by the permission for infertile couples to marry, and the provision for so-called natural birth control.)

Anglicans have a much harder time, given the open approval (even recommendation, per Lambeth) of artificial methods of birth control; and, of course, by provision for remarriage after divorce. These are, it seems to me, rather gaping holes in the logical / rational structure. I think many "reasserters" are coming to see this, and while occasional defenses of remarriage after divorce are raised, one senses a certain half-heartedness in those arguments; and I think none has gone so far as to assert that remarriage after divorce is anything other than flawed and "less than ideal" -- in short, no one will say it is "good" unambiguously, I think.

At the same time, it is possible for "feelings" to coexist with "principles" -- and it may be that feelings can prove an obstacle to clear thinking. That can only be addressed on a person by personal basis, as feelings are personal.

Hope this helps clarify.

Kathryn said...

Tobias,

I'm not sure if I'm getting through to post a comment
on your blog. I understand you must approve comments
first, but I'm having trouble getting the software to
take both my password and the mystery code thing.

Anyway, I don't know if this is really worth posting,
but if you find it helpful (and you haven't already
received it), and if it isn't too horrifcally long,
feel free to post it:

I followed the exchange between Naughton and Harmon
and was intrigued with the notion that communiqué must
"mean" something in particular. From one perspective,
all that it can mean is how the parties act in
response to each other. If TEC responds one way,
carefully crafting its language as it did at GC2006 so
as to preserve the so-called loophole Jim has
identified, and if the result is that TEC stays in
communion with Canterbury and most of the AC, then, in
that sense, it does not matter whether some thinks the
communiqué demanded more and some did not.

What I understand you to be saying here is that TEC
needs to stop thinking in those terms and instead must
proceed to formulate a response based on full
disclosure and "clarity." I tend to agree. But I
can't help but notice that the difficulty all along
has been forging a consensus on either side (TEC and
the AC).

My understanding has been that GC2006 went as far as
the majority of the HOB and House of Deputies were
willing to go to retain full membership in the AC (and
even then, many thought that was too far), and that
what most everyone understood the GC2006 resolution to
mean was precisely the loophole Jim described -- a
moratorium on consecration of same-gender partnered
bishops and on authorizing public rites for such
partnerships, leaving room for local "pastoral"
options which would allow bishops to choose to allow
priests within their dioceses to offer prayers for
partnerships, as has been done in practice in some
places for quite some time.

What has confused me greatly since is what happened to
the GC2006 peace offering. +++ Katharine's report
from the Primates meeting suggests that she thinks
that pretty much the same deal is on the table, that
the committee who studied the TEC's response to
Windsor said that we were in compliance (even though
some primates disagreed), and that what we really need
to do is to be "clear" that we are willing to actually
do what was asked -- no more non-celibate GLBT bishops
and no authorized rites (but allowing for local
"pastoral care.")

If ++ Katharine has read the situation correctly (and
if I have read her correctly), then, despite the calls
for definitive statements against homosexual
relationships called for by American conservatives and
the Global South, there are still many both with us
and within the murky middle ground among the AC who
are willing to accept far less than what the
conservatives are calling for, and that if we just
keep batting the negotiating ball back and forth,
sooner or later either the Akinola crowd will split,
the rest of the AC come around, or we can just proceed
as we must once we have settled our affairs at home
and are fully ready to go it alone, if need be. In
other words, there is a tacit agreement among many of
the primates that if we somehow state more clearly
what we meant all along then, maybe, we will stay
within the Communion, at least as for long as it takes
to adopt a Covenant or finally decide to scuttle the
whole Covenant idea.

On the other hand, I think Kendall’s point of view is
bolstered by the fact that the communiqué essentially
said that our response at GC2006 was not clear to many
of the primates. That suggests that some or maybe
even the majority want us to offer up something more
than we did before. It could simply mean that we need
to be more specific about what we meant at GC2006
(although it seems strange to me, because it was no
secret that what we meant was, indeed, the loophole).
But if it is more, I do not understand what that might
realistically be or what ++Katherine or anyone else
here thinks it might be, since I don’t see any body of
the TEC willing to declare homosexual relationships
and conduct as inherently sinful and unbiblical or to
refrain from ordaining priests in same-gender
relationships.

For various reasons, it may well be time for us to
state clearly and unequivocally for own sake what
exactly the church stands for and what it will and
will not agree to do – which is what I gather you,
Tobias, are saying. Unfortunately, that is precisely
what the conservatives, at home and abroad, have
demanded all along so as to enable them to proceed
with their plans to create the kind of polarization
that will spilt the TEC apart (or, in some quarters,
to take it over) and to claim that TEC has not
responded as required by Lambeth and the communiqué
(Windsor now being shunted aside). I do not think
that in the past there has been anything necessarily
dishonest about sticking to generalities and, that
sense, some degree of ambiguity for the sake of
consensus or even just biding time. However, now it
may well be time to give up that strategy simply
because the parlaying has become just too confusing to
regular folks both in the pews and outside the church
to the point where it has become necessary to be
crystal clear as to what TEC is really willing to
sacrifice (if anything) for the sake of “unity” and to
draw a line in the sand saying what it will not do,
under any circumstances. I just hope we can do so
without letting the conservatives frame the issue in
terms of complying or not complying with this or that
communiqué or pronouncement. As far as I can see,
there are no clear terms being asked for. But that
should no longer matter if we can just come to some
kind of consensus within the TEC so we can cogently
state our position, let whatever consequences ensue,
and get back to the everyday work of the church.

Kathryn

Tobias said...

I wnat to post here a link to a wonderful sermon by the Rev Lucia Lloyd. It's a blessed narrative, and a good reminder of listening with fresh ears. New wineskins all round.... Tobias