Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The House of Bishops' Theology Committee releases its report to the Church on Same Sex Relationships

"Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church" is the title of the 95 page report, presented to the House of Bishops on retreat at Camp Allen this week and posted online a few minutes ago.

You can download the whole enchilada here ... but here's a sneak peek at the Table of Contents:


Same-Sex Marriage and Anglican Theology: A View from the Traditionalists
A Theology of Marriage including Same-Sex Couples: A View from the Liberals
The Traditionalist Response
The Liberal Response
Postscript, from the Theology Committee

This study document was presented to the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church at its spring meeting in March 2010. It has been edited in several places following the discussion. The responses of several pan-Anglican and ecumenical theologians will be added to this study in the summer, along with some further editing, before a final edition is published.


I haven't had time to read it yet. And frankly the week-before-Holy Week is not exactly brimming with time to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what this committee has to say.

However, on VERY first glance:

  • I'm wondering what it says from the get-go about a report that contextualizes itself as "traditional" vs "liberal"

  • I wonder about "several pan-Anglican and ecumenical theologians" to be added later (but not named here). Maybe that's covered later in the document but if not, is smells of the same back-room secret-committee nonsense that many were so concerned about in the beginning of this process.

  • And I wonder enough about the part I have read ... The Preface (by committee chair Henry Parsley) to reprint that below. I've "bolded" the parts that made me go "hmmmm?":

For a generation and more the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have been engaged in a challenging conversation about sexual ethics, especially regarding same sex relationships in the life of the church. The hope of this work is that serious engagement in theological reflection across differences will build new bridges of understanding.

The Lambeth Conferences of 1988, 1998, and 2008 have urged the churches of the Anglican Communion engage in an intentional process of listening to the experience of gay and lesbian persons and exploring our pastoral ministry to them. There have been sharp disagreements. Communion has been strained. There have been repeated calls to listen carefully to one another, to undertake serious theological work and scriptural exegesis, and to repent of prejudice and injustice towards homosexual persons in church and society, as well as calls to uphold the classic teachings of the church on sexual ethics and marriage.

These two papers and responses are a contribution to this on-going process. This project was commissioned in the spring of 2008 by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, to be overseen by the Theology Committee. The committee subsequently appointed a group of eight distinguished theologians to undertake the study. They represent a broad spectrum of viewpoint and intentionally include a variety of theological disciplines, gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships, and both single and married heterosexual persons. The panel has met several times since the fall of 2008, shared a number of papers, and engaged in sustained dialogue.

Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church is their work. It is designed to be a distinctively theological document, bringing to bear on the questions before us careful scriptural exegesis enlightened by reason and the witness of the theological tradition. It seeks to be faithful to the Anglican way of searching for truth and seeking the mind of Christ.

All debates have at least two sides. Honest dialogue enjoins to listen to both viewpoints with genuine attention and respect. Such an approach has been employed by faithful Christian persons over the centuries, and is the way theological discernment is engaged by the church. Its purpose is both to encourage mutual understanding and to provide wise counsel to the church for its mission.

In this vein, after much conversation, the eight theologians formed two affinity groups consisting of four theologians each and have prepared two main papers. One adheres to what it understands to be the church’s traditional ethical and sacramental teaching about marriage. The other revisits this teaching in order to call for the church’s recognition of faithful, monogamous same-gender relationships. Each affinity group has then prepared a formal response to the other’s work. Their study has been accomplished with a remarkable degree of mutual respect and charity.

The purpose of this project is not to create a new consensus or make a recommendation to the church. It is rather to express as fully as possible two contrasting theological views, both rooted in the teaching of the church and in Holy Scripture, in order that we might listen to and learn from both sides of the debate. In keeping with our Lord’s parable about the scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven, the theologians have brought forth from their treasure what is new and what is old. (Matthew 13:52).

The Theology Committee is very grateful to our distinguished panel of theologians for their extraordinary and graceful devotion to this project. Very special thanks go to Dr. Ellen Charry, convener of the panel and editor of the work, and to the Rt. Rev. Joe Burnett, consulting bishop. We are indebted to the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation in Europe, for suggesting that we undertake this study, for which he owes us all dinner in Paris one day. A number of ecumenical and pan-Anglican theologians have agreed to read and comment on these papers. The final edition will include their contributions.

We offer this work to the church for reflection and response and in the hope that it will both help us live together more faithfully in the midst of difference and contribute to our corporate discernment in these matters. We trust that these papers will make all of us think carefully, regardless of our point of view.

In this, as in all things, may we have the “power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. . .” (Ephesians 3.18-19).

The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Jr.
Chair, Theology Committee of the House of Bishops
Lent 2010


JCF said...

Like you, Susan, I'm saying "Hmmm."

Did not Bp. Parsley KNOW, in advance, that he was essentially choosing TWO groups? Why are they (the two sides) balanced in number then, when that is NOT the balance as represented at GC? [I'm reminded of the "Bipartisan Senate Health Panel" of a year ago: 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, from a Senate that was 60-40! No wonder that committee was USELESS!]

But begging the question of "Every argument has two sides": isn't the whole point, is that "The Other Side" is amply represented throughout the AC? Shouldn't this Theological Committee JUST represent (the democratic-majority of) TEC?

...and don't get me started on "One [side of the Theology Committee] adheres to what it understands to be the church’s traditional ethical and sacramental teaching about marriage": talk about question-begging!

I'm shocked, shocked: the bishops we've heard from about this, say "Nothing new was said." This was the opportunity for TEC (again, as represented by our democratic-majority) to give its position to the World (starting w/ the AC, and its "Instruments of Communion"). Instead, that effort seems to have been handcuffed from the start, by putting AC-majority (so-called) viewpoints to form HALF of our committee!

We KNOW what they say: when does our side---grounded in Scripture, Tradition and Reason---get to speak (by God's Grace) FOR ITSELF???

IT said...

How many times do you ahve to keep doing the same thing before theyget it, do you suppose?

Jeff @ James Hill said...


Go ahead and read the document. Although I found the main sections droll, I think it is in the responses that you will find most value.
I have no concerns with the Preface. I think you might be over- (or Mis-) reading Bishop Henry's words. I find that he is talking about the whole of the documents, and not about his slant on the documents.
I am a communicant in the Diocese of Alabama, and I can assure you +Henry is our friend. He is very much a broad churchman, and he has always walked the via media. He does not allow anyone to disrespect my dignity.

Paul (A.) said...

I also go "hmmm" at Dr. Charry's foreword: She brings up repeatedly "dividing" the church, which the Traditionalist response says they mentioned in their original part, but if so I've missed it.

Is she somehow on retainer to Truro et al.?

MadPriest said...

John Goldingay was a tutor of mine. I can tell you that he consistently taught that very little in the Old Testament actually happened. In fact, I would find myself taking a more conservative stance on scripture than he did. How he can appeal to scripture with such a "critical" attitude towards it, I have no idea. Although, from what I remember, he could be quite a hypocrite. No doubt that is how he managed to end up at Fuller.

IT said...

My comments on one aspect at Friends of Jake.