Monday, November 19, 2007

TUTU: Time for Williams to take on homophobia

Ekklesia reports: Nobel Peace Laureate and South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu says that Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams should be tackling homophobia in the church and making it a welcoming place for lesbian and gay people.

In a BBC radio interview to be broadcast next Tuesday, 27 November 2007, Archbishop Tutu says that he is depressed by the Church's "obsession" with the issue of gay priests, and believes that its Gospel message is being undermined by "extreme homophobia".

Tutu says Christians should instead be focusing on global problems such as combatting prejudice, poverty, AIDS/HIV and the environment.
"Our world is facing problems - poverty, HIV and Aids - a devastating pandemic, and conflict," said the archbishop, who is now aged 76 and has survived ill health to continue his work for a more just world.

"God must be weeping looking at some of the atrocities that we commit against one another. In the face of all of that, our Church, especially the Anglican Church, at this time is almost obsessed with questions of human sexuality."

Read the rest here.
And here is the link to the BBC News article and here is the link to the BBC4 site where you should be able to listen to the interview on Nov 27th.


Anonymous said...

I have taken a lot of flak and have been deemed a heretic or worse on the conservative blogs (T19 & Stand Firm) for naming "homophobia" as the issue they have with gays. They refuse to look at, challenge or admit that actual homophobia may be at the core of their pomposity. Oh no.....they aren't homophobic. They just don't want them as their priests and bishops or sitting next to them in their pews. They obsess over sex acts to the point of dysfunction, if you ask me (some to the point that the latent homosexuality rings out like a cow bell). They justify this unChristian behavior by hiding behind their narrow interpretation of Biblical stories that happened in a world, long, long ago....having NO relevance today. They are smug. They are mean. And they are stupid. It's time we started naming this homophobia. Thanks to Acrhbishop we can. And I urge that we be reltentless about calling it as we see it. That is what Jesus did. That is what we must do.

RonF said...

Seems to me that the problems of HIV/Aids and the sin of sexual immorality tend to go hand in hand. Understand that I include heterosexual immorality as well as homosexual immorality in that. But if the Church wants to address things like poverty and HIV/Aids, then sexual immorality is one area that it should emphasize, not ignore.


ronf -- couldn't agree with you more, which is why I'm such a strong advocate for holding ALL baptized people to the same standards of fidelity and monogamy as articulated by the Episcopal General Convention as the standards of holy relationships. Imagine how much more progress we could make on THAT agenda if we could focus on the values that make up faithful relationships instead of obsessing about the genders of the partners pledging to love, honor and cherish til death do them part.

RonF said...

Fred, I can't answer for the blogs that you named, since I don't get on them, but speaking for myself I can say that I have no problem with homosexual priests and bishops, nor do I have a problem with sitting next to a homosexual in a pew or kneeling next to them at the communion rail. We're all sinners - "all have fallen short of the glory of God." I expect my clergy to set the best example possible in this regard, but I don't expect them to be sinless.

What I do have a problem with is proclaiming a sin as not a sin, but as something to be celebrated. If a heterosexual bishop found to be an adulterer proclaimed his or her sin and repented, I could accept them. But if they said that the Scriptural command against adultery was a "narrow interpretation of Biblical stories that happened in a world long, long ago .... having NO relevance today", I'd know I was hearing a false prophet.

You see, Fred, it's really not about sex. That's certainly where it's currently being expressed because of the issue at hand. But the issue is truly one of authority. Is the Bible the primary authority for Christians, or is it not? From the very beginning of the Church of England, we have been told that it is. The 6th Article of Religion (1563) says "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." And Hooker made it plain that reason and tradition depended on and were not even equal to (never mind could supercede) Holy Scripture.

But now a group of people have decided to set reason as independent of and equal to Scripture, and have thrown in experience as well. Then they have creatively misinterpreted science as justifying their position and have decided that loving someone means you can't call any of their sexual activities that are contrary to Scripture sin. Finally, they pervert the language such that "homophobia" means not an irrational fear of homosexuals but any position other than believing that homosexual behavior is perfectly acceptable and blessed.

It's not about sex, really. It's about Scripture and authority and how God speaks to us. Sex is where the dissenters from almost all of the members of the Anglian Communion's teaching (and that of pretty much the rest of Christianity) have chosen to fight the battle against it.

RonF said...

The problem there, Susan, is that you and I differ on what constitutes a holy relationship. The fact that a homosexual relationship can be monogamous and conducted with fidelity doesn't make it holy. I don't see anything in Scripture that allows one to consider a homosexual relationship as holy.


ronf ... no, we don't agree. But that isn't the point, is it? The point is the Episcopal Church has -- at its General Conventions in both 2000 & 2003 -- affirmed those standards of holiness in relationship can be applied to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

And that perception is, for many, based on their faithful reading of Holy Scripture.

The fact that "you" don't "see it" doesn't is, actually, rather interesting but irrelevant.

Finally, Read "To Set Our Hope on Christ" and then get back to me before I post up any more comments from you about how we've "abandoned" scripture and "replaced it with reason and experience."

Anonymous said...


You make my case. Oh no, you're not homophobic, not in the least!! But bang that Bible around about, and shout about authority. Baloney! It's selective literalism. Why do you choose it.... because you're a homophobe. Quit trying to sell yourself as anything but a homophobe.

Anonymous said...

I prefer the term "heterosexist" to "homophobic" because I don't think they're phobic. I don't think the ronf's of the world are afraid of gays. but they are biased the same way a racist thinks someone of a different race is necessarily of lower worth or intelligence:; t hey seem themselves and their worldview as the norm.


Anonymous said...

I would ask a small question: Is there one biblical example that is clearly homosexual and clearly holy, blessed by God? Every example I have seen on the issue is that it is wrong. The very first place it's mentioned (Gen 19); it's called a 'wicked thing'. This is before the Law of Moses or any of the other laws. All throughout the Bible it sees homosexuality as a sin. I can't find a single passage that exalts it.

Furthermore, church tradition has held that it is a sin for a long, LONG time. Are we to throw out, not only the biblical passages, but also our own traditions?

Concerning homophobia: This is completely different than racism. The Bible and church tradition has never stated that one race is inferior to the other. It is clear that all people are brothers and sisters. However, as I stated above, scripture and tradition has taught that homosexuality is a sin. Why must we change it now? Shouldn't we have very strong (i.e., biblical) reasons for changing almost 2000 years of tradition?

Lastly, I completely agree that this is not just a homosexual issue. All baptized people are to live holy lives. I wouldn't want an addict officiating, unless that addict realized that her addiction was a problem. I wouldn't want a sexaholic as a priest unless he knew that it was a sin and he was in a program battling his sin. AND I wouldn't have a problem with a homosexual bishop if he knew it was a sin and was battling his sin. I guess my problem is that we don't seem to want to label 'sin'. We don't want to offend anyone so we don't call sin 'sin' anymore.

One last point: To me good shepherds must be thinking of what's best for the sheep. Putting ones own needs before that of the sheep is not what Jesus seem to teach. Shepherd and sheep alike are to put aside their own needs for what is best for all.


anonymous 4:20am -- not a "small" question ... actually, a FAQ ... and one I answered specificially on this blog in February 2006:

Anonymous said...

anon 4:20AM - congratulations on being coherent at that time of day.

The presumption most traditionalists have is that they know exactly what "homosexuality" is, and that the same meanings and social situations applied in ancient Israel. Additionally, they presume that all sex-associated laws and ideals had banning certain types of sex as "impure, therefore hated by God" as the ONLY motivation. Sexuality is tied to property relations in the ancient world, a fact that seems to be difficult for moderns, raised on the romantic ideal, to understand.

A modern egalitarian marriage between one man and one woman would be profoundly shocking to the ancients.


Anonymous said...

Lets explain this to anonymous (why are they always anonymous?) in words of one syllable:

Your bible does not mention faithfully committed gay couples.

Your translation may suggest a view not in th eoriginal.

And it certainly does not operate with the benefit of knowledge o the 21st century. If you have a probelm with non-biblical advances, you can give up antibiotics and return lepers to being uncurable.

Somehow I suspect you are happy with many non-biblical advances, such as antibiotics, drugs for mental disease, divorce, women's suffrage, and the abolition of slavery and polygamy.

DO try to be consistent.


Anonymous said...

NancyP: While I appreciate the insight, and I agree in part (i.e., too often we are guilty of eisegesis), I find it hard to believe that all the biblical material that refers to homosexuality as sin, is 'presumption'. Why do we think our understanding in this area is 'different' than that of the ancient peoples? Simply because they are 'ancient' and we aren't? Or is it because we have some new insight on how things work? I think the New Testament stated that we shouldn't think more highly of ourselves that we ought. Would we conclude that the texts that state incest is sin as also being misunderstood by us today and that we should participate in this practice?

Concerning sexuality being tied to property relations: Not entirely accurate. A broad-brushed assertion like this doesn't help our conversation. We both know that while sexuality was used in this way doesn't mean that it was the way of all peoples. Something that could be considered is that 'sexuality...tied to property relations' was a 'twisting' (if you will) of YHWH's original intention of sexuality. I hope we both agree that this 'original intention' was not just limited to pro-creation.

IT: While I understand that those things are not in the Bible, I am talking about things that are mentioned in the Bible. Over and over again, homosexual behavior is seen as a sin. And I am fully aware that my translation is muddled. However, are we to conclude that every passage that mentions homosexuality is muddled? That, perhaps, they are really saying the exact opposite 'in the original languages'? This hasn't ever been the understanding of the church. I know that there are things that are difficult for us to come to grips with in the Bible, things that we don't like and would rather they not be in their (Luther commenting on James is the first thing that popped into my head), but that doesn't change the fact that they are there. We must deal with them honestly and, dare I say it, reasonably, traditionally, and biblically. Let's both consistently deal with what IS included in the Bible and not make a defense based on what's not.

Susan: Thank you so much for the link. I read it in earnest and downloaded the PDF. However, I do have a question. Didn't Hooker mean, when referring to reason, that our reason should be shaped by Scripture and not the other way around? If we come to Scripture with our own experience and reason, then I see we will be in the 'dangerous' place you put in your post.

Again, our history has stated that those passages have been understood as they read -- that homosexuality is a sin. How can we go against that? Shouldn't that be a very scary thing? It seems to me that two legs of our foundation (Scripture and tradition) is telling us one thing and the last leg (reason alone) is telling us another. How do we reconcile this?

I hope you understand my heart in this. I am not judging anyone here. Lord knows I have my own sins that I deal with daily. And, to me, there is not one bit of difference. However, I see my sins as just that, sin. How do I know this? From Scripture and tradition. Those two things shape my 'reasoning'. I am just as muddled as the next person.

Lastly, whatever the outcome, I loathe the separation that this is causing. That alone grieves me deeply. However, this is the position of the Episcopal church and I am standing behind her in this decision. I am just trying to understand it. Thank you so much for your grace in answering my FAQ's! I hope our conversation can continue.

Peace be with you.

RonF said...

Anonymous 8:41 AM;

First, I'm going to be presumptuous and ask that if you don't register for a Google ID, please put some kind of ID at the end of the post so that it can be distinguished from the other Anonymous posters.

As far as Hooker goes, it has been the fashion for quite some time to teach Hooker as a "three-legged stool". Amazingly, I actually heard one of the candidates for Bishop of Chicago use the phrase. Note that a 3-legged stool cannot stand if you take one of the legs away; it collapses. Whereas, as you point out, what Hooker was actually talking about was a chain of dependency. Scripture comes first; reason is used to interpret Scripture to see how it fits things that Scripture does not address; and then church tradition follows for those things that neither Scripture addresses directly and where reason cannot be used to interpret it to fit. Tradition and reason do not apply when Scripture is clear and addresses something directly, and even when reason is used, it is used by applying it to Scripture, not as an independent resource that is equal to and can be set against Scripture. The question then becomes, why would anyone then use the image of a 3-legged stool?