Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ties that divide

The American Episcopal Church seems to have indicated that its acceptance of homosexual clergy is irrevocable thus, in the words of the Times of London, making "Schism 'inevitable'":
A worldwide Anglican schism now seems inevitable after Episcopal bishops in the United States today backed the consecration of gay bishops.

Episcopal bishops approved a resolution passed earlier this week by the laity and clergy that allows “partnered gays” full access to ordination.

The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed “regret” over a decision by Anglicans in the US that represents a blow to his hopes for Church unity.

They took the step towards schism in spite of a plea by Dr Rowan Williams, who addressed the General Convention in Anaheim, California, last week.

The new resolution effectively overturns the moratoria on same-sex blessings and gay consecrations agreed by the last General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2006.

It means that it is only a matter of time before another partnered gay bishop is elected, following in the footsteps of gay-rights pioneer Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire. ....

Earlier Bishop Jefferts Schori “threw a hand grenade” into proceedings, as USA Today’s Faith and Reason blog put it, when she said that the tendency to focus on individual salvation in the debate over sexual ethics was “heresy” and “idolatry”.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, being Anglican meant affirming the Thirty-Nine Articles which in Article Twenty included this:
...[I]t is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. ....
Terry Mattingly recalls an old joke:
It may be time for that old, old Episcopal joke, again. This is the version that I heard in the mid-1990s.
The year is 2012, as the joke goes, and two Anglo-Catholic priests in the back of National Cathedral are watching the Episcopal presiding bishop and her incense-bearing lesbian lover process down the aisle behind a statue of the Buddha, while the faithful sing a hymn to Mother Earth.

“You know,” one traditionalist whispers, “ONE more thing and I’m out of here.”
You can tell that the joke is very old, because the Episcopalians who told it a decade or more ago did not anticipate the advent of same-sex union rites. Thus, the joke should say that presiding bishop and her lesbian spouse processed down the center aisle. Times change. ....
Of course, today, many of the traditionalists are leaving — or, perhaps, it is the Episcopal Church that is departing from Anglicanism.

Update. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham and New Testament scholar:
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. ....

.... Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.

That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition. .... [more]
Schism 'inevitable' after US bishops approve gay ordination -Times Online, Those ties that bind and divide » GetReligion, The Americans know this will end in schism | Tom Wright - Times Online

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