Church in Wales – Homosexuality
Find below the report from the Standing Doctrinal Commission of the Church in Wales on Same-Sex Partnership.
I’ll post a fuller analysis later, but two things stick out straight away.
First, the report has an inadequate theology of the Fall. For example, sections 49 to 51 read,
If further, more extensive research is found to support the above hypothesis, it is possible that for some the scientific studies will prompt a redefining of the theological enterprise â€“ so that the imperative is not â€œhow can homosexual desires be modified?â€ but â€œwhat did God mean by making the world like this?â€Â This question has been articulated in various ways.Â For example â€œGod creates homosexuals as such but does not permit any homosexual acts.Â This amounts to a serious problem because it is not self-evident why God would do that.â€ Or â€œDoes homosexuality have a divine purpose?â€
Science cannot and should not dictate the mind of the Church.Â Nevertheless, any scientist who has a Christian world-view will have an understanding of his or her work as participation in a tiny yet privileged part of Godâ€™s continuing self-revelation to humanity.Â As we wonder at new scientific discoveries and as these discoveries in time integrate themselves into our world-view, they are bound to have an impact on our understanding of scripture.
When we read in Genesis 1 that God created man in his own image, our scientific studies may lead us to pose the question of how a particular human characteristic pertains to the image and the creative intent of God.Â When we read in Romans 1 that â€œmen gave up natural relations with womenâ€ (and if our scientific studies lead us to conclude that for some men the abandoned relations would themselves have been unnatural in the first place), we will want to consider the historical context into which Paul spoke and ask how he might have illustrated a deviation from the natural if he spoke into the particular chaos of todayâ€™s world.
The notion that homosexuality may be genetic in partÂ and yetÂ still part of the Fall and therefore not to be endorsed is not really explored. There is a danger that the Commission is utilising the concept of “Imago Dei” too widely.
Secondly, the trap is sprung in suggesting “Blessings, not marriage” as the middle ground. Theologically there is actually very little difference between the two and the Church of England recognises this in not permitting even blessings.
Have a read for yourselves and I’ll write more later when I have the time.
If they’re talking science, they should ditch the attempts to slot “the fall” into an evolutionary framework, since the doctrine presupposes a literal Eden and fall from a state of grace, rather than a billion year progression driven by genetics and adaption. It’s a myth born of lack of knowledge: poetic myth, certainly, so treat it as poetry, not dogma.
I can see a big problem with your idea of treating Genesis 3 as ‘poetry, not dogma’ – you seem to misunderstand what poetry is.
Many people dismiss poetry as mere decorative writing, the sort of thing that people grow out of, but at it’s best it’s far more than that – poetry can speak speak truth in a way that is far more insightful than prose, ‘history’ and indeed scientific reports. Newspaper reports of the Charge of the Light brigade may be factually true, but it’s Tennyson’s poem that captures the pathos and emotional resonances as well. Likewise few people who read Seamus Heaney can fail to be moved and sometimes discomfited by his insights. Poetry and truth aren’t alternatives – poetry is often truth in a intensified form.
Does it matter if you are a ‘Creationist’ or scientific ‘Evolutionist’?
Whichever is your preference the theological point is the same. We each have freewill and may choose how we behave. I grant some choices are more challenging than others for a variety of reasons. The key question for each of us is do we seek ‘Thy will be done’ or ‘My will be done’?
Whenever I read these types of commissioned reports, I look for the ‘hinge point’. It’s where groupthink causes the discourse to veer away from the line of earlier objective reasoned statements and introduces a non sequitur.
This point occurs in paragraph 49. In relation to the hypothesis that LGB orientation is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment, it states: ‘If further, more extensive research is found to support the above hypothesis, it is possible that for some the scientific studies will prompt a redefining of the theological enterprise â€“ so that the imperative is not â€œhow can homosexual desires be modified?â€ but â€œwhat did God mean by making the world like this?â€
Yes, it may well prompt some to re-define the theological enterprise, but it would not be a logical consequence.
1. The evidence of compatibility between a LGB orientations and ‘normal mental health and social adjustment’ does not alter the theological implications regarding how that orientation is expressed in actual behaviour. One might also argue that normal mental health and social adjustment is compatible with any other number of sexual predispositions.
2. The theological enterprise wanders into the very territory of complicit determinism that sT. Paul mentions in Romans: ‘One of you will say to me: â€œThen why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?â€ But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? â€œShall what is formed say to the one who formed it, â€˜Why did you make me like this?â€™â€¯â€
3. ‘When we read in Romans 1 that â€œmen gave up natural relations with womenâ€ (and if our scientific studies lead us to conclude that for some men the abandoned relations would themselves have been unnatural in the first place), we will want to consider the historical context into which Paul spoke and ask how he might have illustrated a deviation from the natural if he spoke into the particular chaos of todayâ€™s world.’
St. Paul’s concept of the natural is aligned with the evidence of God’s power and deity through the natural world. Nature, for St.Paul, is about self-evident purpose: ‘being understood by the things that are made’. The workmanship of the thing that applies distinctive shape to each aspect of creation is the evidence that reveals its purpose (Paul uses the example of utensils worked by the fabricator into different forms for specialised purposes).
To consider what is nature is not simply to review compatibility with ‘normal mental health and social adjustment’, i.e. it’s impact on how the individual relates to themselves and fits in with social norms. It is also to ask how the intended function of human specialisations intelligently relate our human forms that have been assigned sexual characteristics, regardless of how we might be predisposed to use that form otherwise.
Hinge point 2. Trying to throw the fight of faith.
’81. The argument for blessing same-sex partnerships is clear and consistent. It begins with the pastoral reality of those members of the Church who fall in love and form partnerships. It is important for them and for society that such relationships are publicly recognised, affirmed and contribute to the stability of society.’
It may be clear to those convinced, but it’s hardly consistent. We also have the reality of polygamy and adult close-family relationships. Why should these not also be publicly recognised, affirmed and thereby contribute to the stability of society?
The worst leap of illogic is that the authors survey the UK, USA, Canada, one diocese in Australia and a doctrinal commission in New Zealand and on this basis declare a similarity to the process by which women’s ordination was received. The comparison with a ‘won’ argument is a rhetorical boost to a flagging argument:
87. What this survey shows is that in many Anglican provinces across the globe where same-sex partnerships are accepted in society, Anglican bishops and diocesan and provincial synods are considering the issue. They move at differing speed, for this is a great change. Nevertheless, the momentum is there, just as it was for womenâ€™s ordination in the 1970-80s. Many of them ordained women long before Wales did so, and a similar story could be told on the blessing of same-sex partnerships. The theological argument is that this is a process of reception by the Anglican Communion’.
Let’s consider this idea. One of the best explanations of reception is to be found in GS1557: ‘Women bishops in the Church of England?’ p. 105.
‘If, as a result of these debates, the Church of England decides to proceed with the ordination of women, its decision will not be contrary to the guidance of the bishops of the entire Communion as set forth in the resolutions of the 1978 Lambeth Conference.’
How should we approach the issue? That decision will still have to be tested in the dioceses of the Church of England. In the course of such testing, sensitivity to those who remain opposed is essential. And care needs to be expressed through detailed safeguards to ensure that people are not forced to accept the ministration of a women against their conscience.
Even if the reception process is completed by the Church of England, the decision still has to be accepted by the entire Anglican Communion and indeed by the universal Church before it can be deemed to be the will of God.’
Reception is a process of active discernment, it does not by itself deliver a theological argument. So, contrary to the report’s use of reception as a ‘theological’ argument, that process per se does not lend credence to the blessing of same-sex relationships.
The fact that relatively few of the worldwide Anglican provinces have either adopted or are reviewing these innovations (some of whom have treated those opposed to them with patent contempt) shows that a lot more needs to happen throughout the Anglican Communion and beyond before the church blessing of same-sex relationships could be argued theologically as undergoing a similar process to the reception of women’s ordination.
The reception argument is just more cleverly veiled rhetoric.
Hinge point 3. Sexual Elision.
In the argument for blessing same -sex relationships, the report proceeds to elide the fact that they are prohibited by scripture. Through elision of the sexual aspect, we can then categorise them with covenantal friendships that are affirmed by scripture.
For instance, those writing in favour of the proposed blessing states, ‘They are friends, but a friendship marked by a particular kind of intimacy.’ Again, ‘Blessings express the covenant relationship of the Creator, and bind people together in a covenant relationship.’ and finally, that as a covenantal relationship, it can: ‘bear witness to the creating, redeeming, and sustaining love of God.’
They can only jump from affirming intimate friendship to a blessing that binds people together in covenant, to bearing witness to Christian redemption by eliminating the unregenerate behaviour. The couple so ‘blessed’ can only testify to a redemption that belittles the purpose of sexual differentiation.
The writers go even further to advance Mark Jordan’s position who ‘therefore argues that it is time for the Church to do a genuinely new thing: to create liturgies of blessing that speak to their subjects (lesbian and gay people), relate to the social rituals which they also participate in, and ask the blessing of God on their relationship.’
In other words, the notion is that the church liturgy is obliged to adopt even antithetical social rituals in order to deliver meaning. What next? ‘Hip-Hop Holy’ communion with Gin and Juice? Kabbalah koininia. What the writers miss is that liturgies must also call people apart to discover the God who is Himself apart.
The clergy who wrote this are desperate to be relevant. They restore the practice of male circumcision if they thought it would win converts. Yet, what would make them truly relevant would be to lose the ‘dog’ collar and engage with us as ordinary people.
Certainly there are plenty of cases of morally wrong homosexual behaviour, just as there are of morally wrong heterosexual behaviour. But even conceding, for the sake of argument, that â€œthe Fallâ€ as traditionally propounded is a concept that really makes sense, what reason is there to suspect that homosexuality as such, whatever one chooses to believe about its supposed cause(s), is any more part of it than heterosexuality as such is? I must confess that I see none â€“ at least none that I find convincing.
The liberal Christian arguments for blessing homosexual relationships are based on such pathetic exegesis. Its as if they don’t care what God has already revealed to the community of faith… Dooh!