Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Deal or No Deal"

There is always a certain "opening night" energy at this point of General Convention: the volunteers' aprons are crisp and bright, the greetings of friends and colleagues not seen since last convention sincere and energetic and the vendors and booth tenders are busy unwrapping their wares and arranging their buttons and pamphlets. So here are some quick musings on this first day of Getting-Convention-Going:

I've been here since Friday and today the Exhibit Hall opened, credentially began and it was my first foray into the cavernous convention center which will become very much our home-away-from home for the next ten days. As for us, we've spent most of our time so far getting volunteers organized, our work center and booths set up, and tracking the errant Fed Ex delivery -- (scheduled for by 10 a.m. Saturday now promised by "sometime" Monday. We'll see!) I'll leave momentarily for a briefing for bishops and deputies on the pending legislation and our hopes for this convention.

What's our "agenda?" I couldn't say it any better than Michael did in his sermon last night ... and the words that keep echoing from me from it are "We speak of what we know ..." There's some calming reassurance in those words from John's gospel ... "we speak of what we know."

Nobody's asking us to do anything other than speak of what we know. Speak of our lives made fuller and more holy by the Spirit of God present in them in and through the Episcopal Church. Speak of a church enriched and enlivened by the work and witness of LGBT Christians who want nothing more than to serve their Lord and live out their lives in relationship with their beloved and in communion with the saints. Speak of the mission and ministry of the church we love -- and how sick unto death we are of having it hijacked by those determined to scapegoat LGBT vocations and relationships as expendable bargaining chips in the game of Anglican global politics.

What we know is that we are here in Columbus ready to move forward in mission and ministry while others are intent on drawing lines in the sand issuing ultimatums and piloting an Anglican version of the ridiculously popular game show, "Deal or No Deal."

Here's what we know: the Episcopal Church is smarter than that, more faithful than that and more determined to live out its historic commitment to the Gospel imperative than that. That's what we know.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful summation, Susan. Blessings and prayers for all of you there working on behalf of all of us.

Anonymous said...

Alas, we need to know what the mind of Christ is as revealed in His Body the Church throughout the world, not merely the gnostic aspect of supposed individual revelation nor the cumulative mass of those revelations in a minority member of the Anglican Communion. The "Deal or No Deal" aspect you refer to is clearly the unilateral action of ECUSA in the face of the Anglican Communion, the Roman Communion, the Orthodox Communion, and the Independent Churches. Someone certainly needs to hear what the Spirit is clearly saying, as He has for 4 millenia. The GC2006 needs to hear what God has clearly stated via His Body apart from the "prophets" of ECUSA's GC2003. GC2006 clearly needs to undo the errors it has made and which it has been duly warned of on multiple occasions. To this end, we pray daily for all members of the GC2006 that they may hear the voice of the Lord in the Communions noted above saying, "No deal."

Eric Swensson said...

Jeff: By what criteria then would you like this situation to be judged?

Anonymous said...


I think that depends on whether one thinks adiaphorically or anachronistically or both, since the provincial arrangements in Jesus' Incarnancy were different! In any event it is ECUSA who has made the play for "Deal or no deal" as the history demonstrates. The rest of the communion has made the path clear. Will ECUSA choose to walk apart or correct its clearly identified errors? It is ECUSA's decision. ECUSA set the line in the sand in the face of Lambeth 98. Now the line is a move of the spirit and revelation that God has withheld from all other Christians for millenia - no hubris there at all, is there? No one hears but ECUSA and everyone else has it wrong. I rather doubt that. To err is human, to forgive divine. May ECUSA claim the latter gift having erred.

Jim Strader said...

I spent a bit of my time on my blog yesterday discussing the nature of the unified but distinctive natures of life within the Holy Trinity as well as within the Body of Christ. There are natural and divine tensions within the Holy Trinity just as there are within the members who reside within the Body of Christ. Neither of these theological tenets is either static or concretized. God continues to love and act inside and outside of human experience. Context provides each of us a basis for comprehending God's presence in our personal and parochial lives. 
 The Church has spent its entire history discerning God's nature through the experiences of God's people. Trinitarian theologians and church leaders alike have sought and discovered words and awareness of God’s Spirit’s presence pointing to the unknown and revealed nature of God. There are still a variety of theological interpretations regarding the nature of the Holy Trinity. We seem to remain in communion as Anglicans with each other despite a lack of agreement or consensus on God’s nature. And yet, the nature of human sexuality and the overt discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has now become the wedge issue "orthodox" Christians use to make a mockery of "broad" Anglicanism. This issue of human nature and God's presence in diverse sexual orientations, rather than Christ's call to common mission, is held up as the defining issue that will end the Anglican Communion's member church's ability to exist in peace as much as possible with one another. I for one reject any notion that the issue of human sexuality has to be a deal-no deal resolution. The Episcopal Church may or may not adopt certain resolutions regarding its position on the adoption of same-sex ceremonies, the election of gay and lesbian persons as bishops and so on. Regardless, the Holy Spirit, as did our Savior in his work, and the Creator God who has blessed all of creation, continues, in scripture, history, and reason to welcome the possibilities of change and new creation within the Body of Christ. This tenet of Anglican incarnational theology was true in the 1st Century CE, during the 16th Century reformation, and will be true regardless of who leaves, remains, or whatever occurs in terms of resolutions. I applaud Susan, Michael and others who will not be silenced or rebuked at the altar rail or on the floor of General Convention '06. I pray that their willingness to speak clearly will manifest the truest nature of the Holy Trinity whose presence we celebrated yesterday

Anonymous said...

Jeff, it's a shame that you must divorce experience from biblical revelation in order to make your point. The Spirit has spoken in Scripture and when your experience tells you something different, it isn't the Holy Spirit that is informing you.

Eric Swensson said...

Thanks for a clear answer guys!

Anonymous said...

The question is which is more authoritative? Scripture or new revelation and/or experience? Anglicanism has held that scripture is the authority for most of our history and most of our provinces. Seems to me that TEC might be taking a new path here.


Jim Strader said...


The premier systematic Anglican theologian Richard Hooker did not privilege Scripture as the singular authority Anglicans should use to determine the movement of the Church. Hooker's writings were assuredly a response to the literal interpretative actions of the Puritans of his day. I would ask you, or anyone, to provide me evidence of any period in time when Anglicans broadly valued the scriptural leg of the "Anglican three-legged stool" as being markedly longer than the legs of history and reason.

Anonymous said...

Experentia docet, eh, Jeff? Very well, I say that the experience of the Church over 2 millenia and of our Jewish brethren over 4 millenia trump the last 50 years rather nicely.

And, I really ought not have to remind you, but the Church is not equivalent to trees or grass or animals, not even civilizations. She will outlast them all. It's that Resurrection/Ascension thingy and the Lord of it all.

Your take on Scripture, Tradition, and reason suffers from a severe case of chronological snobbery. But most intriguingly, your discernment about the issue assumes the validity of your time and understanding as superlative. This degree of dependence on "experience" is not a new phenomenon and has been around since John authored his Letters and the Gospel. It was known then as G-N-O-S-T-I-schism and the experience is repeating itself. But to claim absolutely the validity of current experience over all of Church tradition as the major interpretive point is patently absurd.

It is a justice issue, after all. One must do justice to 2 and 4 millenia of understanding. Not simply eschew it.

Anonymous said...

"the Episcopal Church is smarter than that"

If the ECUSA was so smart it wouldn't be in a crisis. I think you might need to rethink that line!

Anonymous said...

Hooker himself put scripture ahead.
“What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason over-rule all other inferior judgments whatsoever” ( Laws, Book V, 8:2; Folger Edition 2:39,8-14)

Lorian said...

As Jeff pointed out, our understandings and interpretations of scripture have changed radically over the past two millenia, with the church's response to slavery being an excellent case-in-point, and one which also takes into account the issue of "majority rules."

As firmly as some conservatives believe that the Bible forbids homosexuality in any and every context, so equally firmly do I believe, based upon my own study and that of respected theologians, that the Bible in fact does not even address the question of committed, loving same-gender relationships.

Why should this be so incredibly controversial? Why are we so ready and anxious to condemn and ostracise homosexuals, while blithely bypassing the question of divorce and remarriage as being a non-issue settled in another schism a few hundred years ago? Fact is, while Jesus never once saw fit to even so much as mention homosexuality in any of the four canonical Gospels, he had quite a bit to say on the subject of divorce and remarriage. And yet, we are not arguing over whether to grant Holy Orders to divorced/remarried persons or whether to bless the unions of those who divorce and remarry (not that I am suggesting that we should be). So why is it that we are so incredibly "het up" over GLBT persons and their involvement in the church? It smacks of some serious hypocrisy to me.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Jim, I want to be charitable here and assume that you have read Hooker. Hooker does most assuredly privilege Scripture over Tradition and Reason. If you want to see the Scripture leg as the longest leg, you need only read Hooker. Hooker, by the way, did not invent the three-legged stool and Hooker never said that all three legs (of the stool he never mentioned) are the same length. The equal authority gambit is an extremely new one in Anglicanism.

Tony Seel said...

The definitive Hooker quote on Scripture is above, in the last obadiahslope post (thanks to the poster). The following one is from Quote of the Day at Bishop Stanton's blog with his note:

Richard Hooker (1554-1600)

" . . .we are to know that the word of God is his heavenly truth touching matters of eternal life revealed and uttered unto men; unto Prophets and Apostles by immediate divine inspiration, from them to us by their books and writings. We therefore have no word of God but the Scripture."

The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book V.xxi.2

Note: Richard Hooker is widely regarded as the first and greatest of the Anglican theologians. He is also regarded as the "inventor" of the so-called Anglican "tripod" of scripture, tradition and reason. But Hooker himself regarded scripture as the foundation of the Christian faith and, where it was necessary, reason and tradition would help us understand it.

Catherine said...

I am in full agreement with barbaroni, Susan+, you are as articulate as can be, and, you lay it all out with intelligence and razor-sharp wit. May the Holy Spirit, in all Her divine wisdom, continue to guide you and speak to your Christ-inspired heart!

And Cheers! to you Dcn. Strader, for your equally astute observations and knowledge. Great site by the way!

Lorian said...

Well-said, Jeff. No one is denying the validity of scripture here. What we are saying is that the "tradition" leg of the stool is being allowed to outpace "scripture" itself, and "reason" to boot. No one is suggesting that the story of Sodom be snipped from the pages of Genesis. What we are suggesting is that this story (and other passages) have been mistranslated and misinterpreted by "tradition" over the course of centuries, and are being used to bludgeon a group of God's children (the LGBT community) who were never meant to be the object of those passages.

When scripture is used to support and perpetuate injustice, clearly reason must be employed to reassess tradition.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that a consensus is forming here that Hooker has been misread by liberals (Fr. Jim being the latest proponent of a false reading). Now, if you'd like to argue about tradition we can do that. But first, explain to me how ecusa gets to choose how to interpret tradition in defiance of the rest of the Anglican Communion, plus the Orthodox, plus the Roman Catholics, plus many Protestant bodies.

africantrekker said...

Susan -
On this third birthday of my entrance into the Episcopal church, I hope that the wonderful Spirit of disruptive Grace will bring more people like me from their living rooms watching CNN and deep into the arms and heart of this big Anglican family.

Thank you for the work you do!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I am no more selectively reading your comments than you mine. I have not addressed the institution of the church nor its changes. I have addressed the Tradition of the Church and the Jewish tradition. It is singularly amazing that the consistent witness of the written Scripture and the traditions of Judaism and Christianity are precisely the opposite of those you articulate in the matter of homosexuality. The recorded traditional understanding is simple, direct, and consistent from Old Testament and New Testament. It shows not one whit of variance from Pentateuch to Apocalypse. It is the basement understanding which Paul uses to show the inversion of God-given differentiation. It was so patently clear that the Martyrs of Uganda gave their lives rather than submit. So, while I know God's inclusivity is available to all sinners, I find no remarkable reason to exclude any class of homosexual relation from the categories of abomination and detestable to the Lord, right along with theft and adultery,etc., in the apodictic moral law. That the sinners are loved is also a basement reality proclaimed by the Tradition. What is not changed is the fact of the nature of the sin and its proscription. That is what you insist is open to change and for which there is no warrant. The fact that Western culture has changed its mind on slavery is, I believe, an outgrowth of the social consequences of the Good News in our particular civilization. But slavery is far from expunged from the world. Should slavery be reintroduced into the Western world, the moral requirements for treating the slaves would remain unchanged.

God has continually been revealing Christ to the world through the Holy Spirit but at no point has contradicted the moral law. Theft, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lying, gossiping, and the whole host of moral laundry lists have not changed. Regardless of the changes in civilization, the Church has proclaimed the moral law. The Church applied the same across the millenia and it has been culturally important. AT no time, however, do I mean to suggest that the application by the Church in any given civilization, culture, or subculture has held entire sway. The characteristic cultural ethos of each civilization has played its part in the manifestation of the moral law in that time period.

It is the permanence of the moral law across the time periods, despite the differing emphases put upon it, that demonstrate the apodictic character of that moral law. And it is to this proclamation and its catholocity that I must call your attention.

No doubt the individualistic ethic and conceptualization of individual freedom we are so influenced by in our current culture, coupled with an abundance of assets and mechanistic advancements, seem to many to make our world qualitatively different and, therefore, not subject to these laws. But that is an accident of history and not a true change in the character of humanity. The chronological snobbery of which I spoke earlier has been present in every age, but the particular concerns of each age have not been the same. Therefore, it behooves us to pay attention to those ages in civilization not so besotted with our snobbishness. Their characteristic errors, not being ours, may well shed light upon our discussion and the moral law. But only if we are able to hear it by listening.

So we belong to an age in which the individual's expression of chosen behavior is deemed sufficient warrant for that expression. But here the moral law checks us. Individuals do have responsibility for not only themselves, but also their contemporaries and those to come after them, their community. Mere licentiousness of behavior then cannot be tolerated even on the ad hoc theory of morality. But the moral law does not allow that licentious behavior even when society would tolerate it. And those who practice it bear the consequences in their bodies, souls, and spirits. For that is the way law works. Thou shalt not is rather more than I would rather you did not - and for good reason. It damages the person(s) involved, though I do not deny that sin has its pleasure for a season. Thus the fornicator, the adulterer, and the homosexual stand under the moral law.

That moral law is not changeable nor culturally derived but of God. That is why, however much the church may change, she has never contradicted the moral law. That is also why this issue is not optionally changeable by the church, even if it were so desired by the universal church.

The secure witness of the Tradition is a work of the Holy Spirit. Since we believe that God acts in history and makes Himself known in history, it seems rather unlikely that He would contradict Himself absolutely. It is, in fact, nonsense. And nonsense, even when spoken of God, or by anyone in His name, remains nonsense.

Thus the Tradition universally attested. ECUSA has neither the warrant nor the power to change that. Oh, ECUSA may kick against the goad and persist in error, I have no doubt. But that persistence will bear its own consequences in ECUSA as any sin does in the sinner. When grace will not be adhered to, law acts. We live in a moral universe and God has made those laws known. We have history to illustrate their actions.

ECUSA must turn from her error. If not, she will inherit her choice's moral outcomes as inexorably as gravity and the conservation of momentum in the physical world.

Lorian said...

Inked, simply saying "because that's the way it's always been" has never been an acceptable excuse for carrying on with discrimination. And to say that, just because a passage of scripture has always been interpreted in one particular manner, that is the only possible understanding we may obtain for that passage, is equally untenable.

Countless examples come to mind, in which the Church has taken heavy investment and yet has had to backtrack as science made clear that the traditional understanding was simply incompatible with the reality of God's creation. The flat earth. The existence of dinosaurs. The geocentric universe. God's endorsement of the practice of slavery.

Which brings up another point. The church's support for slavery went far beyond a simple declaration that slaves should be treated humanely. Many, many churches actively supported the institution of slavery, preaching against abolition from the pulpit. Common doctrine prior to the mid-19th century held that blacks were "sons of Ham," descended from Noah's son Ham, and the conditions of their slavery were due to the punishment God visited upon Ham and his generational offspring for disrespecting his father's nakedness when Noah lay in a drunken stupor.

It sounds ridiculous now, doesn't it? And yet it was a traditionally held doctrine, based upon a combination of passages from scripture which had been interpreted a certain way over the course of centuries. Did that make it right? Of course not.

Christians are not the only ones reaching these conclusions. Many Jews are rethinking their "traditional" interpretations of "anti-homosexuality" passages, as well.

Jim Strader said...

Tony,I havein fact read Hooker. It seems that my exegesis of his work, just as my exegesis of scripture, is pointedly different than yours. My interpretation of your reply to my comments, to me, exactly makes my point and supports a reading of Hooker that I have proposed.

Scripture may in fact be foundational but it is not singular, nor constiutive. It is within the contextual, historical, and rational experience of Anglicans, in a historical sense, that the Anglican Communion and its churches have sought to interpret and apply scripture to the Church's ecclesiology, liturgical practices, and missiology in the world.
Obadiahslope suggests that Scripture is plainly speaking about the matters before GC '06. It's my impression that the meager references to homosexuality in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are far outweighed by the scriptural references to the inclusive nature and radically hospitable nature of Jesus Christ's gospel. Regardless, differing interpretations of scripture have not necessarily been the measuring stick in the past by which Anglicans have elected to reject communion with one another.

Anonymous said...

as an evangelical christian my reading of scripture is provisional in that I should always be open to correction from my brothers and sisters as to whther or not I am reading it right.
I need to balance my reading of one part with another as you suggest. To be Anglican for a moment - article 20 is helpful here: I should not "so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another".

Anonymous said...

Fr. Jim, I thought I was clear, but apparently I was not. Scripture in Hooker's interpretative scheme is paramount and not singular. Scripture is read through the lens of tradition and reason. The three are not equal to Hooker as the two quotes provided make clear.

Please don't pit "the inclusive nature and radically hospitable nature of Jesus Christ's gospel" against the law that is also from God. I'd hate to think that you are a Marcionite. The same inclusive Jesus also says that there will be some who will be told "depart from me, I never knew you."

Anonymous said...

I hope that all Inchers have read Bp. Tom Wright's essay that is posted on TitusOneNine. He is clear, as Langrish was at the HOB, what is expected of ecusa.

Tony Seel said...

Susan, why haven't you posted my comments about hijacking?

Tony Seel said...

Thank you, moderator; it is sometimes hard to keep track of all the threads!


tony ... because this is the first minute I've had to take any kind of look at what's going on on this blog ... we're pretty busy here making Convention happen -- not a lot of time to websurf!

Anonymous said...

Responding to the news conference:

"Chicken Little theology"

No, and it is in the Scripture and it has been broadcast widely: choose you this day.

Anonymous said...

To Susan: understood. I've been following the action through TitusOneNine and Stand Firm in Faith and it is obvious that the pace at GC06 is something else.

Anonymous said...

That you have ANY time to deal with us on your blog at this time is amazing. Thankyou.

Anonymous said...


It is in fact to the moral law that you make your appeal to call actions of the church into question.

That the moral law may have been broken is conceded.

What you propose is a remaking of the moral law in the image of the "enlightened 20th Century" ECUSA. My response is that as the Church of Rome, Jerusalem, and Antioch have erred, so has ECUSA.
That is what the WR, Dromantine Conference, and Primates have been at great lengths to point out. ECUSA has acted in such a way that if it continues, it will not just have begun but will knowingly walk apart.

WR thinks it just the AC, but it is far deeper than that, actual schism from the Universal Church into the church of the enlightened in the 20th Century.

I for one do not prefer the church of chronological snobbery and misuse of science and "newspeak". That is why if ECUSA refuses to awaken from error and to walk apart, I shall remain Anglican:reformed, evangelical, catholic.