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16 June 2008

Comments

Andrew T

I understand your pain, GV, it is not easy feeling that something you have given your all to for years is being wrecked before your eyes!

The homosexual lobby in many areas of life basically operates on a tactic of stridently putting forward their view coupled with knowing that their critics will be berated in the politically-correct media if they dare to stand up to them. Disingenuosly, they also pretend not to know the difference between people criticising the homosexual lifestyle and practice and outright hatred and malice towards those who struggle with the temptation of homosexual proclivities. Thus evangelicals are all tarred with the "homophobic" brush which is a catch-all term to shut people up!Remember that disgusting advert in "The Independent" showing a blood-drenched Bible along with some bunkum stats that were supposed to indicate religious motivation for homophobic attacks? Fortunately in that case many Christians lodged complaints and the advert was admonished but this is sadly one case among many.

I am not a member of the Anglican family and thus do not have an axe to grind on this issue other than to express my sadness at the way some are prepared to wrest scripture out of all recognition to accommodate their worldly views and wants. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this testing time.

Have a blessed time in Israel. I look forward to hearing about your trip which I am sure you will share with us all on your blog!

Coxy

I feel your pain and agree with everything you have said.

Tim

`someone who, rather than being a focus of unity, is the direct cause of so much disunity.'

Individuals are neither focus nor cause of (dis)unity. To say so is both a logical and an ethical failure, seeing a person as a means to an end, not as an end in himself.
He exists, made in the image of God; it is the duty of the church to deal with this fact.

You don't have to go along if you don't want. Then again, I welcome the idea of a "listening process".

Richard

GadgetVicar, I understand your need to make this point, but, in the first case, Gene Robinson is an ordained bishop and has every right to be an invited guest at St Mary's cathedral, and even the Lambeth Conference.

Secondly, as he is a homosexual person who has obviously had cause to think very deeply about the issues around his position as a christian and a member of the clergy, I don't doubt that he could be a blessing to all who come to hear him, even those who have taken the decision to struggle with their same sex attraction in a different way.

If thase weren't two good enough reasons to invite him, Gene Robinson is a person who can build bridges between the church and other parts of society which the church has so far managed to alienate. As such he isn't the problem, but it's clear to me that with God's help he could at least be part of the solution.


Coxy

"Gene Robinson is a person who can build bridges between the church and other parts of society which the church has so far managed to alienate..."

First; there are many homosexuals - who GV has mentioned - who decide not to engage in relationships believing it not to be 'compatible' (can't think of better word) with their faith. They are not alienated by the church, they are supported in their struggle. A person such as G.R. will actually do more to alienate these people as it will go no way to encouraging and supporting them in their struggle.

Second; I don't believe (and I think that scripture and history would support this) that it is the role of the church to bow to sin and see the only way that we can build bridges with society as being by an acceptance of that sin - whatever the sin is.

Philip

GV, can't you try to understand what it's like to be part of a minority who have been persecuted and imprisoned until very recently and even now is subject to abuse and ostracism? Can't you show some mercy and pity?

GadgetVicar

Philip - I'm for civil rights for everyone. I simply am not convinced that we have the right to change church teaching or reinterpret scripture. On the other hand we show mercy, pity, kindness and grace to everyone who comes our way. That's because God transforms and allows a new beginning, no matter how messed up our thinking or lives can be. We don't have to agree with people to extend that grace. Church leaders need to keep the faith however, and more than half the Communion don't think he has.

Looks like I'm one of a minority now.........

Ryan - I stand corrected. I should have typed, 'no reappraisers responded' (with the exception of your good self, of course).

Philip

> I simply am not convinced that we have the right to change church teaching or reinterpret scripture. <

Church teaching has been changed so often, and scripture reinterpreted so often, that this argument doesn't hold water. We don't follow Leviticus on diet or Paul on female headgear!

Once, there was an equality of sacrifice called for in order to keep the "seamless robe" of Christian teaching on sex: no divorce and remarriage, no sex before marriage, etc. Now divorced and remarried evangelicals are ten a penny and cohabitation before marriage is the norm. Why are homosexual people uniquely vilified and condemned?

Tim

`the role of the church to bow to sin and see the only way that we can build bridges with society as being by an acceptance of that sin - whatever the sin is.'

Of course this falls apart - you're mixing of two halves of the argument, such as it is. I don't believe homosexuality to be a sin. It is not the case that the partners being of the same sex necessarily makes the relationship wrong. (Other things, notably abuse, I consider *do* constitute blanket-wrongs.)

When you don't see it as a sin, you don't see "the church bow[ing] to sin" either - so much as coming out of the dark ages.

"A person such as G.R. will actually do more to alienate these people as it will go no way to encouraging and supporting them in their struggle"

I'm not convinced about this. Beyond existing and being appoint*ed*, what has VGR actually *done*? His voice is not often heard; I do not hear him championing "his cause" so much as everyone else having issues.

"african bishops speak and denounce homosexuals in a way that (call me a cynic) western evangelicals could not get away with but which are permitted on the grounds of cultural sensitivity."

This is a complex one. The cultural sensitivity is the fact that it was western missionaries who went out and *gave* them homophobia as part of colonialism in the (post-)Victorian era. Now we're getting it back, with feeling if not with thought.
I can clarify your hypothetical cynicism too: when ±Jeffrey John was in the news, some years ago, I attended a large evangelical church in central London. I was rather surprised at how the diatribe wormed its way from end-Zechariah to the "hot topic" of the day in order to appear "relevant", and fit in a rant in which the speaker judged his brother in Christ, whom I did not believe to be present in the church to answer any accusation. I left *deeply* distressed at this flagrantly non-Christian behaviour; it remains the only occasion on which I have ever written to a church to express my complaints afterwards. It also remains a highly formative experience in shaping my views: I am now alert to the hypocrisy of preaching something as fiery a message as "homosexuality is wrong" *in a manner* which itself goes against Scripture.

GadgetVicar

I hope that we condemn no-one.

We teach the truth (including where God says, 'I hate divorce'), and try to live grace. That is tough. Believe me, grilling someone who has been divorced and wants to marry a new partner is not easy, for them or for me. Likewise, challenging a church member engaged in sex outside of marriage is not easy, but we have done it and will go on do it.

Discipleship is about love, but it's also about obedience. I'm afraid we want the former, but not the latter.

Ryan


Philip - don't settle just for pity. Someone said (whose name escapes me, but it was in the Little Book of Gay Love) that "I'm not willing to just be tolerated. It wounds my love of love and liberty".

David - I would reiterate that I have spent (wasted?)the best years of my life subscribing to evangelical beliefs on sexuality; it's not like I didn't engage with the challenge.

Kimberly

David, as someone whom you would probably call a reappraiser, let me say quite clearly: The Scottish Episcopal Church needs churches like the one you serve.

It also needs places like the Cathedral. Disagreement and debate is part how we grow into truth, and sometimes that means the church needs to embrace apparently opposing positions.

Does it not, rather, suggest that what they believe is not universally held to be true?

I am glad that the bishop of New Hampshire is invited to preach in Scotland. He is one of many overseas bishops who will be preaching here this summer, not all of whom will agree with each other. Thankfully, we needn't agree either, but I hope we can value each other's presence in the church.

Philip

> Believe me, grilling someone who has been divorced and wants to marry a new partner is not easy, for them or for me. Likewise, challenging a church member engaged in sex outside of marriage is not easy, but we have done it and will go on do it. <

Well, congratulations for sticking to your principles! Usually, any heterosexual sinning is accepted and only homosexual sinning is castigated. I've no time for the sort of divorced and remarried pastor who is happy that his adult son lives with his girlfriend out of wedlock yet regards homosexual acts as the one sin that cannot be forgiven (yes, such people do exist). But you don't seem to have that tunnel vision and you are prepared to challenge heterosexuals about their conduct, too. I respect that.

Tim

Phillip writes: "Church teaching has been changed so often, and scripture reinterpreted so often, that this argument doesn't hold water."

I'd like to add here that it is not *merely* precedent that justifies deviation from Scripture; even someone in the evangelical camp would see that OT was a different set of covenant principles from NT, as their excuse for not mixing fibres of garments. It is therefore rather strange that something else in Leviticus should not be open to the same reconsideration.
Rather, the valid criteria are a combination of the cultural context with perspective.

Simon Varwell

A fascinating and informative discussion.

I would agree with the poster who suggested that it is not the individual that is divisive, but the issue. On the very few times I've heard anyone preach on homosexuality, I find those who argue a line that denigrates homosexuality or promotes intolerance or inequality towards them, offensive (and many others do too, especially I imagine those who are homosexual themselves). Should I argue that such preachers are divisive and not worthy of a pulpit? Of course not.

Secondly, I (and others with a better grasp of theology than I) would argue that those who would defend what Gene Robinson are doing are not reinterpreting scripture, but simply interpreting it in a different way. But that's a whole tangent...

I hope Gene Robinson is judged for the content of his sermon and the sincerity with which he preaches it... and not his sexuality, which nobody can categorically say is either endorsed or condemned by the Bible.

Briony

GV/David: I can well sympathise with your feelings at this point. Three years ago, after many years as a highly active Piskie, I joined the Eastern Orthodox Church (this had been brewing for 20 years, it wasn't just a single-issue thing). Now I monitor developments in the Anglican Communion with a feeling of slightly guilty relief - perhaps because I lacked the stamina to hang in there as you have done. Please don't lose heart: there must be many who think as you do, but feel they will be pilloried if they speak out. Keep up the good work!

Catherine

What surprises me is the weight the Church puts on this issue. I mean, we live in a world with wars, hunger, injustice - you get the picture. Where are the massive public debates on fixing these?

Even if you want to concentrate on personal morality, surely honesty, compassion, integrity and being involved in worthwhile work are all way more important than which gender we happen to prefer or whether it's OK to live with someone before marriage.

I'm not saying that whether homosexuality is right or wrong doesn't matter at all, simply that it is so far down the list of the things that matter I'm amazed any decent person, let alone the Church, has time to give it any attention.

Philip

> Please don't lose heart: there must be many who think as you do, but feel they will be pilloried if they speak out. Keep up the good work!

Pilloried metaphorically, perhaps, and that's never agreeable. But surely it's as nothing compared to the prejudice, bullying and violence still suffered by homosexual people today in our society, and the savage punishment and persecution they suffer in, say, large parts of Africa - injustice in which, I fear, the Anglican Communion is today making itself complicit.

GadgetVicar

Simon V.- Ah, but there is reinterpretation going on: the prophets, apostles and the church in the last 2000 years has universally taught that same-sex practice is sinful. I find Diarmid MacCulloch's analysis of this very subject in his 'The Reformation' helpful: "the only alternatives are either to cleave to the pattern of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong." He's not a conservative by the way! What's happening now is driven by experience as the main authority. One has to twist the Bible, or dismiss it entirely as MacCulloch suggests to derive any support for same-sex activity.

Catharine- One can't pick and choose what to obey: 'honesty, compassion, integrity and being involved in worthwhile work' are as important as sexual integrity. They are all part of the package for Christ followers. I'm off to Israel on Saturday. While there, yes, we'll pray and talk about the issues of the Anglican Communion, but also I'll be concerned to listen to and learn from both sides of the conflict that land faces. A week later I travel to Uganda to see how our church can help in the areas of education, AIDS and development. Our faith in Jesus is not narrowly focussed..........

Thanks for the comments everyone- very lively. Watch this space.

Christian

I wonder how the Canons of the Cathedral will respond to this invitation?

Philip

> "the only alternatives are either to cleave to the pattern of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or to say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong."

But surely you do this yourself? I can't believe that women aren't allowed to open their mouths in St Silas's, or are forced to cover their heads. Your own website shows lots of bare-headed women at worship.

This is not trying to score a cheap point. I genuinely can't see why, if our attitude to Paul's teaching on matters like this can change (and it undoubtedly has), it shouldn't change on loving homosexual relationships. 1 Corinthians 14 and Romans 1 are both part of the same Bible!

GadgetVicar

Well, we did try to get the women of the congregation to shut up and cover their heads, but they didn't give their permission for us to ask them to do it, so it all went horribly wrong. I am healing now, though.

Put simply (and I think this is McCullough's argument), nowhere in scripture is homosexual practice, blessed, or spoken positively about. That's about the created order. Five different texts, given to different groups of believers right across the Bible. The cultures around God's people knew all about same sex unions - indeed they gloried in it, so it must have been a serious matter for the early church to speak out against it. Very risky. Indeed, even riskier than it is today.

On the other hand there are women ministering all over the Bible, and Paul references many female leaders in his letters. The problem there seems to have been one of inappropriate behaviour (women giving men a rough time publicly, perhaps?), cultural affrontery ('imagine that, they don't honour God by covering their heads'). Is it a once and for all time thing, or does it point to a deeper meaning- we need to come to God in worship decently, in order, with reverence and respect for those around us? We need to keep the whole counsel of God in mind- scripture interpreting scripture if you like.

On Saturday, I'll be in Jerusalem. In some parts of the city, I'll cause great offence if I don't cover my elbows, or knees. Or drive a car on shabbat, etc. So I will try to be sensitive and give no offence, other than the 'offence of the cross', which causes us to bow the knee and confess, however hard I might find it, that the Lord's ways are not our ways.

My main point is this: let's be honest if we want to see same-sex unions blessed- we can't use scripture to justify it, only our experience.

Melissa

The bit about 'grilling someone who has been divorced and wants to marry a new partner' - turns out St. Silas has something in common with the Diocese of New Hampshire after all.

See #3 on the second page. http://www.nhepiscopal.org/artman/uploads/civil-unions-updated_pastoral-letter.pdf

Philip

> My main point is this: let's be honest if we want to see same-sex unions blessed- we can't use scripture to justify it, only our experience.

I agree with this. One can't use scripture to justify it in a positive way. One can, however (I think), use the process of "scripture interpreting scripture" to question the old prohibitions and ask if they retain validity. You and I would obviously agree that this can be done, since both of us have done it; we'd disagree, however, on the extent to which it could be done and the areas that might be open to reconsideration.

Both of us are in our different ways struggling to be faithful to scripture, but in the light of scripture (e.g. Galatians 3.28) I see this primarily as a justice issue, as I see (for instance) racial discrimination.

I don't think we're going to agree, but let's keep praying!

Cathy

David:))

St Mary's Cathedral have decided to invite this man to preach / lead the eucharist.

I guess that it is up to them as a vestry with the blessing under the leadership of the Provost/Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway/Primus.

It does upset me. I certainly wouldn't be able to go and receive communion there and that can't be right and I just hope that any dioscean quota is NOT being used to pay for his flight/accommodation

I will pray.

love
Cathy

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