Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anglican Conclave tells American Episcoalian Church to ban the Blessing of Same Sex Unions

In what can only be called a stunning rebuke of the American Episcopal Church, it was given eight months to ban the blessing of same sex unions or face a reduced and censured role in the world's third largest Christian denomination-- the Anglican Communion. Here is the link to this morning's story, in the NY Times.

In an additional surprising move an separate council with a vicar was established to deal with the concerns of more conservative Episcopal dioceses in America who have felt alienated and betrayed by the recent ordaining of a gay bishop and pressure to accept same sex unions by the American Church hierarchy. Surprisingly, the newly anointed head of the American Episcopal Church Katharine Schori agreed to this arrangement, accepting an attenuation of her powers, at least for now.

Conservative Anglicans see this as a reassertion of the primacy of Scripture and the centuries old Anglican tradition on such issues over the claims of 'current' experience. This decision clearly enough was taken to prevent the world wide Anglican communion, which involves some 77 million people from splintering into several denominations, because only the American Church with just over 2 million members was out of line with the majority of Anglicans leaders everywhere else in its recent decisions. What this decision most reflects is the fact that now, and increasingly, worldwide churches, such as the Anglican communion, find that the majority of their members are no longer in the northern hemisphere, or in the more socially liberal 'West'. This puts other such worldwide communions on notice that the rest of the world church is more socially conservative than its American branches.


Justin said...

Thank you for pointing that article out, Dr Witherington. My family and I are a part of a new (independent) Anglican church HERE in Manhattan. We had the pleasure of having Bishop Donald Mtetemela speak out our little (but growing) church here in NYC last year. I hope that you and your readers keep the communion in your prayers.

Shea said...

Alister has some great books on Dawkins
"Dawkins' God: genes, memes and the meaning of life" I just started reading it and it is quite superb..
Also if you google Alister McGrath audio.. you will turn up some other audio stuff in response to Dawkins..
Francis Collins book is good as well, though there are some questionable parts.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks Shea: And go Miss. St. Dawgs...

Ben W.

E. I. Sanchez said...

These are great news, Prof. Witherington...

I am also glad the laity is speaking up, and not worried about the inquisition :-)...

Let's keep praying for unity in the Essentials.


Evolutionist said...

Mr. Witherington, I find puzzling your enthusiastic endorsement for the condemnation for homosexuality, but you ignore the sections of Scripture that deal with the second-hand status of women and slaves. On homosexuality, you are a literalist.

On women, you have much more liberty with the text. It's simply impossible to make the claim that the writers of your Scripture held the elevated view of women you do even with the several friendly verses used by Biblical egalitarians. It's more honest to say, "That may have been the view of that culture or those writers, but these beliefs needed to evolve and translate into something better over time." It's great that Paul elevated the status of women and slaves, but it was even better when modernists demanded real equality for women and persons of color.

You are not willing though to grant homosexuals the same consideration. That's unfortunate, and shows that homosexuals cause even normally intelligent and fair minded people like yourself to cast off all reason and consistency. Society needs to move forward, not backwards. Taking moral cues from an ancient god who commands genocide, bigotry and favoritism is most counter-productive for anyone who truly wants to look forward.

Daniel said...

Evolutionist, while Dr. Witherington may be a 'traditionalist' as far as homosexuality activity is concerned, the primary issue with the ECUSA is submission. As Christians we are not called to demand our rights, rather we are called to be mutually submissive to one another, and more importantly, to those God has placed in authority above us (within the Church).
One could be affirming of gay unions and yet still argue that the ECUSA should submit to the requests of the worldwide Anglican communion.
My two cents.

Matthew Miller said...

Dr. Witherington

With the beginning of Lent and Easter approaching I thought you might enjoy and perhaps find useful this short video I put together about how modern movies proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ.



Mike Mitchell said...

To evolutionist:

Your perception of being a biblical literalist about the sinfulness of homosexuality but not about women's place in the church is far too simplistic.

A discerning reader can see that there were cultural factors at play in the role of women in NT times, and such factors should shape the way we understand the passages on women's roles. If such factors applied to our understanding of prohibitions on homosexuality they should be considered; but they do not apply.

One thing central to Christian ethics is that human sexuality is an inherently moral behavior, with an ideal, God-ordained form.

What those in favor of homosexuality want us to believe is that there is no ideal. That consent is the greatest moral criterion, and that our sexual urges, no matter how perverse, are validated simply by the fact that we are born with them.

Ralph Hitchens said...

I disagree with Mike Mitchell; it is incumbent on everyone to temper their sexual urges in accordance with an "ideal," which should involve commitment and reciprocity.

Can there be any doubt that the Anglican majoritarians are cherry-picking scripture to support their position? Much of Leviticus has been quietly jettisoned over the last millenium, and few mind the loss. As Christians we have been taught to believe that the Law was fulfilled in Jesus, who had nothing to say on the subject of homosexuality but a lot to say about love.

Mike Mitchell said...

To Ralph:

But Paul proclaims that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and that homosexuality is sin.

What if the "commitment and reciprocity" you speak of exists in polygamous or incestuous or "trans-generational" relationships. Would these be acceptable then? Are there any boundaries?

Ben Witherington said...

And frankly Ralph, its simply false to say Jesus said nothing of relevance on homosexuality. He called all single person to celibacy in singleness-- the word 'eunuch' makes as clear as it possibly be that single person are not supposed to engage in sexual activity, whatever their inclinations or proclivities. You need to rethink Mt. 19.1-12.


Ben W.

Jeffinoh said...

"Inclinations"... "proclivities"... again... sigh... While you may believe Ralph needs to rethink Matt. 19, others would say you need to have a fuller understanding of sexual orientation. I realize that for some, Biblical certainties always trump other information, but it's hard to be taken seriously by actual LGBT persons and their allies when you use archaic terminology.

John+ said...

I often hear the argument that the language is "archaic". I think this argument is nothing more than a red herring. Is "resurrection" archaic? How about "life everlasting"? If the language is archaic- should the church jettison centuries old theological terms in order to appease those who feel the language is no longer relevant? Patently it should not.

I think a big thing has been over looked by the militant LGBT community. And I say militant because I know many homosexual and bisexual folk who would not agree with the assertions made by the militant wing that represents their sexual orientation. The thing that has been overlooked is if you change what Holy Scripture has said- where does it end? If we finesse the scripture in to permitting homosexuality, do we also allow it to permit murder? How about life everlasting? Maybe we got it wrong about that, too?

The greatest temptation the modern Church will have to face is whether to bow down to the golden calf of societal norms. No person, and David Virtue- I hope your listening, is permitted to slander or hurt another. Christ did clearly say to "love one another." That means the church welcomes all and serves all. Of this there can be no question. However, Christ also said "Go and sin no more." The church clearly has not authorized, nor has it been lead to believe that homosexuality/bisexuality is acceptable in the Christian faith- just as single persons are called to live into celibacy until they are married. Sexual activity is reserved for those who are married. Period. And, at least in Mark 10:7-9 Christ is pretty clear that it is one man and one woman.

Just my 0.02.


John+ said...

First off sorry to the language folk- there is one "your" that should be you're.

And proclivites and inclinations are quite common used words here. Nothing archaic about them at all.


Theo said...

To Jeffinoh,

Archaic Terminology?! Dr. Witherington has used the words "inclinations" and "proclivities" because they are precisely defined and he intends to be precise about what he is saying. Now, I am an engineer, and to some small extent a mathematician, and in these fields we have a saying, "You live and die by definitions." This is because when one is doing proofs, and all good theology and philosophy is proof based, it is very important to know precisely what you are talking about and to make sure that everyone else knows precisely what you are talking about. This is why in the fields of mathematics, science, philosophy, and theology one finds that words and definitions either don't change over the centuries, or if they do change they change very slowly (For crying out loud we still use the Pythagorean Theorem by that name in spite of the fact that the theorem and the name are at least a couple millennia old). I would encourage you, if you wish to engage in serious discussion, to learn the terms that are used and their definitions.

Jeffinoh said...

My objection to words like 'proclivities' and 'inclinations' is not rooted in their precise definitions. Of course these are words in common usage and therefore not 'archaic' in that sense. They are archaic in that actual gay and lesbian persons (who I assume evangelicals wish to reach) would find them irrelevant in re: to their sexual orientation, which is what we're discussing here. It's like the term 'sexual preference.' No one who is gay simply 'prefers' one gender over the other. Sexual orientation is more deep-rooted and far reaching that that. Words like "proclivity" and "inclination" do not begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be a gay/lesbian/bisexual person (I'm leaving transgender out of my remarks since that refers to gender identity, not sexual orientation and is a different discussion.) When someone refers to my orientation as a gay man as an 'inclination' it tells me that the speaker or writer has not done much recent research or had much personal experience in re: to the topic of sexual orientation. Since it is an outdated way of speaking of orientation, I chose to use the word 'archaic' in my post. Seriously, if you are straight, do you think of your affectional orientation toward your spouse as just an 'inclination' or a 'proclivity?'

Derek said...

I'd say anyone's affectional orientations toward spouse or lover, and the commitment they attempt thereof, stem from their "inclinations". We make decisions, and lately, form our identities based our on such inclinations. Perhaps the word isn't strong enough for the passions we tend to give ourselves to in love, but if so, what word should we rather use? Any word, inclination, proclivity, persuasion, will all fall short if we view sexual orientation as immutable. But Christians aren't inclined to believe that anything is immutable with God.