Now Tom Wright adds his criticism
When the leading Bishop of Fulcrum, and a fully paid up member of the “Let’s have a Covenant” camp writes stuff like this, you know the game is up for TEC.
In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.
Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other â€œinstruments of communionâ€ that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future â€” the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primatesâ€™ unanimous statement that this would â€œtear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest levelâ€. In Windsorâ€™s language, they have chosen to â€œwalk apartâ€.
Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying â€œwe want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rulesâ€ is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.
And Tom strikes right to the heart of the debate we are having here over “permanent, stable, faithful”.
The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means â€œtreating everybody the same wayâ€, but â€œtreating people appropriatelyâ€, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant â€œthe right to give active expression to any and every sexual desireâ€.
Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of â€œidentityâ€ parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the â€œgay communityâ€ much postmodern reflection has turned away from â€œidentityâ€ as a modernist fiction. We simply â€œconstructâ€ ourselves from day to day.
We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other â€” a distinction regularly obscured by references to â€œhomosexual clergyâ€ and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may â€œlove the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promiseâ€. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel.
We are rapidly getting to the point where TEC is no longer going to be Anglican.