A Response to the Rev. Dr. Leander Harding

July 6, 2006

I don’t know this man (note that it was not Rev. Harding that sent the email to Susan), but he posted a series of questions here, and then someone else posed the questions to Susan Russell via email.  She asked me if I would respond as she is busy with parish life.  Since it was sent to her in an email there are a few extra questions at the beginning.  And by the way, I, in my own “Fifi” like self (inside joke for those of you that read Susan’s blog), took my very sweet time in answering to make sure that I was clear (but not, maybe, very concise).  So it is a rather lengthy response.  Here we go:

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Dear Susan,

I would welcome your response to Harding’s assertions below that currently appear on his blog. How could one possibly respond to rhetorical points that implicitly preclude experience and revelation of the Holy Spirit as valid criteria for institutional innovation and renewal? I would hope that you might respond on your blog or at the Integrity website.

Also, have you read Dean Linder’s (Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, SC) opinion piece (http://www.thestate.com/mld/state/news/opinion/14974617.htm) in which he gratuitously truncates the LGBT community of the Episcopal Church by stating the following:

“…extreme liberals keep pushing the envelope of human sexuality further. It is now not just about gays and lesbians, it is also about bisexuals and transgender persons. Are they asking the church to argue that God creates people as bisexuals as well as of the incorrect sex?” 

Jeff’s Response:  I believe it has never been just about gays and lesbians, although we frequently use those terms as “shortcuts” which is unfortunate for our bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.  Psychological and medical evidence has repeatedly shown that human sexuality is not a “toggle switch” but is instead a spectrum.  In the words of the American Psychological Association, “Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality.”  (http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html).  Therefore God creates us all in a place somewhere along this continuum, and does not always make us excluively straight nor gay, but sometimes somewhere in the middle.

Transgendered issues revolve not around sexual orientation but around sexual identity.  In other words, while straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual orientations identify primarily the person that one is attracted to, transgendered people have a different identity within their core being that differs from the physical manifestation of self (e.g. they “feel” like a woman but may have a man’s body).  This is an emerging area of research in the medical and psychological community, but note that just because it is in its infancy in the scientific community does not invalidate the need for a warm, loving, inclusive, and pastoral response to those persons in this position.

All of God’s people, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, are created in God’s image.  I believe the church, at the very least, is asked to include all of God’s children in the full and equal claim to all of the sacraments, rites, and liturgies that she has developed.  At most, and ideally, and what Jesus preached, is for the church to bring those on the margins– those who are oppressed, who are least understood, those whom the religious authorities would cast out– to the center of our life.  The church, to be true to Jesus’ teachings, must love unconditionally, must not be an instrument of judgement, but an instrument of God’s Grace, and must make room for all at the table of the risen Christ.  To do anything less is to recreate the reign of the Pharisees and the Saducees, the Scribes and the Temple Authorities.

Your commentary would be most welcome!

Blessings.

Do I understand?

More Reflections On General Convention 2006
Do I understand what you are saying?
An Open Letter to Bishops and Delegates Who Participated In General Convention 2006

I was able to observe the House of Bishops and House of Deputies briefly first hand during the convention and I have followed closely the proceedings on the internet and through the media. Below are some conclusions I have developed as a result of my observation both by following the official deliberations and through more informal conversations. I wonder if I have heard correctly, and I welcome remarks from bishops and delegates about whether I have an accurate take on the center of opinion in the national leadership of The Episcopal Church. What follows are statements that I believe reflect the consensus of opinion in the national leadership of The Episcopal Church, particularly as reflected in the General Convention that just met in Columbus, Ohio. Do I understand correctly? As I hear it you are saying that:

1. God is the author of same-sex attraction by an act of special providence that includes biological and social-psychological secondary causes. Because we know through reports of the spiritual experience of same-sex attracted people that God is the primary author of these experiences, inquiry into the relative contributions of nature and nurture to same-sex attraction is of no significance for the church’s moral teaching or pastoral care.

This is a profound misunderstanding of the issue at hand.  We are all products both of our environment and our genetic make-up.  It is my firm belief that religious zealotry and fundamentalism are not a religious problem today (that is, they cannot be solved through religious means– although they are religious problems), but instead are sociological and psychological problems with many complex causes.  I believe that your belief- your reluctance to believe in a non-judgemental God comes both from a genetic predispotion to certain personality traits (let’s say, stability), combined with environmental reinforcement of an ideology that teaches that God is limited to transactional Grace (you accept me and I’ll give you Grace).  I don’t accept that limitation; it is neither in my genetic composition nor in my environmental upbringing to believe that God exists in that way.

Now, that is fine.  You believe what you need to believe based on your nature and nurture, and I’ll believe what I need to.  The problem is that you don’t seem to be ok with my belief existing separate from your belief.

Similarly, the nature/nurture argument for homosexuality follows.  You neither need understand how I was created as gay nor live your life in my shoes as a gay man.  You need only walk on a separate, parallel path in your experience of God as you understand yourself to be called to do.  There is a big difference between accepting that I can be created as a gay man while you are not and trying to understand what it would be like if you were to have been created as a gay man.  I can understand no other reason why the nature/nurture discussion is helpful.

Again, quoting the American Psychological Association, from the same web page as above:  “The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.”

2. This recognition of the source of same-sex attraction in the direct intention of God means that the categories of “Gay” and “Lesbian” are part of God’s order of creation in the same way as male and female

Yes.

3. Bisexuality is also created by God as an act of special providence through a combination of biological and social-psychological secondary causes.

Yes. 

4. It is likewise irrelevant to the church’s moral and pastoral response to this phenomenon to inquire into the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the development of this sexual orientation.

I think you already asked this in question number 1.  If you ask in order to understand how to respond pastorally in the healing of the spiritual violence that has been perpetuated on GLBT people, then by all means, ask- although know that the answer is that there is no single answer.  It is both.  If you are really interested see the APA’s webpage for more info.  If you ask in order to try and “change” people, then see my earlier response. 

5. The recognition of the source of same-sex desire in the original intention of God for the creation and humanity is a revelation of the Holy Spirit in our time.

Yes, otherwise God would not have created it so-  would not have created us so.  Again, you do not have to walk in my shoes.  You do not have to be gay- in fact you cannot because you were created straight.  I think a big misunderstanding here is that many people believe that homosexuality is a behavior.  It is not.  It is an orientation.  Again quoting the American Psychological Association, same web page (http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html):  “Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors.” 

6. The General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 are witnesses to this new revelation of the Holy Spirit.

If you believe that the Holy Spirit is alive today, what choice do you have but to believe it is so?  The Holy Spirit moved in the Council of Nicea.  The Holy Spirit moved when our church was created with Henry and Elizabeth.  The Holy Spirit moves daily.  The Holy Spirit moved in both those conventions.  And for the record, I believe it moved even when it approved the legislation of B033 and wrote discrimination into our history against LGBT people- an act I have a hard time understanding- but that I also trust, because I know in my soul that the Holy Spirit was moving and has plans.  I know that the Holy Spirit always, over time, bends the arc of history towards justice.  And I don’t know how that is going to happen yet, but it is going to happen.

I may not be called to win the struggle for justice in my time, but I trust that it will happen, knowing that I am called to play a part in that struggle.  And that is the way the Holy Spirit works.  I see very little trust on the other side.  I see only idolatry of selected “clobber passages” in scripture.  I do not see how the Baptismal Covenant, which requires us to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being, is being honored.  Trust for me is big, and what I see on the other side is not trust, not faith, but a yearning to hold on to something that is less ambiguos, a willingness to make something clean-cut that is not clean-cut- God doesn’t make everything nice and tidy.  God is messy.  The Holy Spirit is messy.  It just isn’t all cut and dry, and that’s the trust that I believe is required of us- that the “messiness” of life will somehow, through the wonder of the Holy Spirit, all come together in the end to glorify God.

That doesn’t excuse us, but it means we are all called to do our best.  And I don’t think that means that when we have this kind of disagreement that we are best suited by fighting to the death over it.  I think what is required is not to judge each other, but to put it aside and say “ok, we don’t agree on that, how about we work together to feed the poor” or “how about we see how we best increase the visibility of our church in the secular public and increase attendance” or whatever.  But to wedge further and further apart because of judgement isn’t anywhere in the Baptismal Covenant.  Nowhere does it say “go out and crucify for God.”  No.  It says “resist evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.”  That isn’t a call to crucify or condemn.  That is a call for personal accountability.  I believe I am personally accountable to God.  If my personal accountability doesn’t suit you, nowhere in the Baptismal Covenant does it say that you have the right to come and crucify, coerce, or correct me.  It is my relationship with God that is in the Baptismal Covenant, and the communal response is not to whack me on the head, but instead only to strive to ensure that justice and peace, and the dignity of every human being is maintained universally.  I am not able to reconcile that with the actions of the orthodox.  It is, however, consistent with the actions of the Holy Spirit.  It is, however, consistent with the GC03, and of most of 06.  I cannot say with surety that I understand all of GC06, but as I say, I trust that it is the Holy Spirit acting in the broadest possible sense to do what is best. 

7. The Holy Spirit has not yet revealed what amendments in the church’s received sexual ethic will be necessary to accommodate bisexual and transgendered people but we can expect further leading by the Holy Spirit in this regard. In the meantime such persons should be considered fit candidates for Holy Orders.

Yes.  I am not sure why it would be any different from that of straight folks.  We need rites for marriage that allow two loving people to marry regardless of gender, but I believe that we (at least most of us) have gotten past that to look at the substance of the relationship as we imagine God might look at it rather than whether or not any specific liturgy has been performed, given that the current liturgical and civil rites are discriminatory.

8. Certainty in moral or theological judgments which is based on an authoritative reading of a text whether that is the text of the Bible or any other part of the dogmatic tradition of the church is inherently an example of over-reaching.

I’m not sure I understand this question or point- it is not worded as a complete sentence- something which often happens to me when I am writing and my mind gets ahead of my hands.  If the question has to do with the authority of scripture or other traditional documents and how to interpret them, then my response follows.  I believe that the Bible has authority.  However, I do not believe that the Bible is the end of the story.  I believe the Bible is the beginning of the story.  Much like a guidebook should be used when visiting a new city, the Bible should be used on our journey.  It is for inspiration.  It is not something you pick up and go and try and do line for line, cover to cover.  If you did that with a guidebook in a new city you would ruin your whole experience from exhaustion and confusion.  The Bible is authoratative in the sense that it is the historical experience of the people of God.  God, however, is not contained within it.  If anything, we know from it that God started at the beginning of the text to be a rather limited God, and grew threw the old covenant of Abraham, through the journey of Moses and Israel, into the New Covenant and Jesus, and through the Epistle.  I say “grew” but it wasn’t God that grew.  It was the human understanding of God.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that the human understanding of God stopped growing when the canon closed.  We know this; church teaching has continued to change over the past 2000 years since Jesus ascended.  We have had major movements- the creeds, the reformation, the end of slavery, women’s ordination, etc.  We know more about God than Moses did.  Than Paul did.  To say that the Bible fully explains God is idolatry of the Bible.  None of us, and nothing, fully knows God.  To hope otherwise, is again that part of us which looks for that “clean-cut answer”- that part which avoids the “messiness” of God.  I hope that answers the question. 

9. Contemporary reports of personal spiritual experience by same-sex attracted people and their supporters about the spiritual blessedness of same-sex relationships provide a basis for moral and theological certainty on this question which the scriptures and the traditional teaching of the church cannot by virtue of the nature of the documents provide.

I disagree.  The “clobber passages” which are so often used to refute homosexuality are the wrong place to start on this issue, and I think that the GLBT lobby has fallen into the trap of the right by allowing it to be framed this way.  The more approrpiate theological context in which to view this issue is to first look at the Bible in a more holistic context, using it to build up a theology of inclusion, love, accpetance, and liberation.  I’ve done this in small bits and pieces on my blog (https://leaningtowardsjustice.wordpress.com, just click on the “Bible” or “Theology” categories).   Once we have that foundation, then we can look at the clobber passages within the much richer context of the full picture of the Bible.  As you must know, noone can take the whole Bible completely literally.  It contradicts itself over and over again.  Jesus says “I come not to abolish the law” and Paul says “We have no need of the law with Jesus.”  Jesus says he comes not for the Gentiles, but then much of the Epistle is dedicated to the conversion of the Gentiles.  Jesus says “Judge not lest ye be judged” yet Paul has no problem talking on the one hand about judgement and on the other hand about not judging.  We all pick and choose.  The Bible is complicated.  There’s no doubt.  We have to decide what we know about God, what we know about Scripture in order to find our path forward.  I wholly reject the idea that Scripture does not provide compelling evidence to support inclusion and full acceptance of loving, monagomous, compassionate relationships between two consenting adults.

10. Christians who feel bound by the scriptures should understand that the fact that there are different interpretations of the scriptures which touch on same-sex attraction means that no single interpretation can possibly be authoritative.

Yes and no.  There are interpretations which can be authoritative as to the author’s original intent and cultural context.  Those are hard to come by, and difficult to agree upon because of the depth of the level of Biblical scholarship needed in order to arrive there.  Then there are the broader themes of the Bible, which we must piece together carefully, looking not so much at the individual passages but the overarching movements of God through time and space.  Those don’t come as easy and there are multiple interpretations by their very definition.  Some arrive at a God of judgement.  Some, like me, arrive at a God of grace and love.  I don’t believe there is an authoritative answer to this question, and I believe that is on purpose.  I believe it is because the answer, the conclusion, which a person comes to- is wholly dependent on trust.  Can I trust that God loves me that much?  Can I really believe that love is that free?  I told a story on my blog the other day- A man put a refrigerator out on the street that he needed to get rid of.  He put a sign on it that said “Free”.  It sat for days.  Frustrated, he put a sign on it that said “$50”.  It was gone in an hour.  We, as humans, have a hard time trusting that anything valuable is free.  We are transactional.  We cannot trust.  But that is the beauty of God.  The beauty of the Scripture is that it is open-ended enough that it allows us to be wherever we are on our journey– and inspires us to continue to move forward. 

11. Since the scriptures cannot possibly be authoritative on this issue and since self-reported spiritual experience provides the only reliable certainty on the subject, any objections to same-sex blessings on the basis of scripture are irrelevant a priori. 

I think it is an important discussion.  I think it is important for dissenters to feel like they have a voice at the table.  I don’t think we should confuse having a voice with having control.  Particularly when having control means excluding someone.  It would be one thing if the GLBT side of the fence was arguing to throw the conservatives out of the church- then I would have a different answer.  But it is the opposite that is true- the conservative side is saying that the GLBT side does not have full and equal claim on Christ’s table (a table they don’t own, incidentally).  Because of that I think it is important that you have the ability to air your views, but also important that you understand the distinction between living in a balanced tension of loving disagreement rather than hateful schism. 
12. Exegetical discussion of specific texts which seem to forbid blessing same-sex erotic behavior can only be for the benefit of quieting the consciences of people who take the bible literally. At the end of the day the inherent uncertainty of the scriptures must give way before the certainty of the personal spiritual experience of the same-sex attracted and their supporters and the felt experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in two succeeding General Conventions. 

I think I’ve already answered this.  The only other thing I’ll add besides reminding you that I’ve already said that I think that our continuing experience has broaded our understanding of God quite substantially is that the “clobber passages” you refer to only discuss specific promiscous acts.  They do not contemplate loving, caring, same-sex relationships.  It is difficult to know what the full cultural or historical context was to which the authors wrote these texts in order to fully understand them.  I am sure that homo-normative relationships did not exist nor would they have been blessed by the authors, however I do not think that means that they are excluded by God.  We have had continuing revelation of God’s will unfolding since the canon was closed.  Slavery is tacitly approved, oppression of women, and so on.  This is just one more.  I am sure that when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in Germany there were quite a few exegetical discussions that were had.  Have them.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  Just have them with an open mind.  Have them with an open heart.  And pray about it.  Approach God with your heart truly open and pray for guidance.  You don’t need me to tell you what is right and what is wrong when you have a direct pipeline to the “horse’s mouth”, so to speak.  But you have to do that in honest humility and openness, or your resoluteness will prevent you from seeing any other path.  I don’t mind the honest dialogue because I am trust God enough that I know in time justice will prevail on this issue- for that reason I think the more dialogue we have the better.  And you just need to keep yourself attuned to the will of God rather than the will of self.  That is what I try to do, anyway.  That means being completely open, honest- naked to God in your prayer life, in all of your honest questions, fears, regrets, hopes, dreams, and wishes- even when you hear something you don’t like.  Humility is hard.
13. The most meaningful dialogue in which the church can engage is dialogue that allows same-sex attracted people and their supporters to share their perceptions of the ways in which God has blessed individuals and specific Christian communities through covenanted same-sex relationships. Actual argument about scripture or the teaching tradition of the church or the state of the scientific question could never produce any legitimate objections to the new thing the Holy Spirit is doing.

That just isn’t true.  I think I’ve already answered this several times above.  Again, honest dialogue is always helpful.  But you have to come with open hearts and minds.  As the Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly mentioned, this dialogue has become politicized in a way that isn’t helpful. 

14. The experience of people who describe themselves as having been cured or freed from same-sex attraction is irrelevant and the church should not give such people a serious hearing. They either were never really same-sex attracted to begin with or are deluded about their claim to be freed or cured. The personal religious experiences of such people are not of the same quality and reliability as the experiences of the same-sex attracted in the church. These experiences are not to be seen as legitimate experiences of the power of the Holy Spirit in spite of all claims to the contrary. Likewise scientific reporting of the overcoming of same sex attraction is deeply suspect as ideologically tainted and can with confidence be dismissed without a serious reading.

I’ll refer you again to the scientific community.  Here is a quote from the American Psychological Association’s website (http://www.apa.org/topics/orientation.html) again:   

 ” Some therapists who undertake so-called conversion therapy report that they have been able to change their clients’ sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Close scrutiny of these reports however show several factors that cast doubt on their claims. For example, many of the claims come from organizations with an ideological perspective which condemns homosexuality. Furthermore, their claims are poorly documented. For example, treatment outcome is not followed and reported overtime as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.

 ” The American Psychological Association is concerned about such therapies and their potential harm to patients. In 1997, the Association’s Council of Representatives passed a resolution reaffirming psychology’s opposition to homophobia in treatment and spelling out a client’s right to unbiased treatment and self-determination. Any person who enters into therapy to deal with issues of sexual orientation has a right to expect that such therapy would take place in a professionally neutral environment absent of any social bias.  “

Now, I’m fully aware that those on the orthodox, fundamentalist, or whatever side don’t like this information.  The fact is that out of the entire GLBT population, very few people have entered reparative therapy, and fewer still have exited it “successfully.”  The most likely guess I have that these programs can have any success at all is not that they are successful in changing the orientation of their participants, but that they are successful on capitalizing on the internalized homophobia of their participants.  They do this to such a degree that the self-loathing that most “pre-coming out GLBT people” have can make some surface level changes that last for some period of time, long or short.

If you cannot take the APA’s position, I would submit that you are not applying reason in your application of the scientific/medical communities’ view on this issue- do your own research to see the failure rates- independent of what Exodus (a so-called “ex-gay ministry”) and the like publish and you will see for yourself.  Again, you do not have to take my word for it, nor the word of the LGBT lobby.  You can do it yourself.  I think that in and of itself says much of the lack of credibility of so-called “reparative” therapies.  (Note:  these ministries have “hired guns” that claim to be experts in mental health- they may try to refute specific facts.  These “experts” are outliers.  Do not mistake them with the greatest bodies of mental health professionals that do not believe in these treatments.)  The facts do not lie.  Listen to them.

15. Same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships should be recommended to our children as entirely equal to and as preferable as marriage between a man and woman. If any young person feels any same-sex attraction it is by God’s express intention and not to act upon it is to dishonor God. To discourage young people to act upon same-sex attraction is to dishonor God’s intention in the creation. The question is not whether young people should act on their same-sex attractions but when and under what circumstances. Young people who are experiencing same-sex attraction can be helped by being mentored by older same-sex attracted adults and the church should be proactive in facilitating these relationships. 

There is a myth that gays are pedophiles, so let’s just dispel that right-off.  There are more heterosexual pedophiles than homosexual pedophiles.  Again, from the APA’s website:  “Another myth about homosexuality is the mistaken belief that gay men have more of a tendency than heterosexual men to sexually molest children. There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuals are more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.”

So if this question is asked out of a fear that somehow gay men are dangerous to children, that is incorrect.

Now, if this question is asked out of a concern of how to give genuine pastoral care to GLBT youth, that is a different matter.  It should be noted that adolescence is a difficult time anyway, and for GLBT youth it is doubly so.  GLBT youth can feel doubly isolated due to their diferences from mainstream society.  They may feel like they are the only ones in the world who feel the way they feel, the only ones who have ever gone through what they are going through, and that there is no hope for them to ever fit into society given that God created them to exist in this special way.  As a result, the suicide rate among GLBT youth is much higher than it is among their straight counterparts.  We are called, therefore, to give special pastoral care to our GLBT youth, to ensure that they have strong role models in the GLBT community- in the church community- for whom they can look up to, aspire to be like, and follow.  Note that GLBT role-models have nothing to do with sexual behavior- this is about role-modeling.  Just as African-American youth need African-American role models, Latino youth need Latino role models, and so on, so do GLBT youth need GLBT role-models.  We are beginning to see them in society.  We have gay and lesbian entertainers.  We have gay and lesbian leaders in the church.  It is not easy to find them, but with an intentional search it can be done.  We do need to make it an easier process so that we can give our GLBT youth hope.

16. It is wrong for the Episcopal Church to dictate to any other province of the Anglican Church what its policy on same-sex relationships should be. 

Yes.  That is not to say, just as I have been saying here, that we should not be in dialogue with the other provinces on matters of sexuality.  But it is quid pro quo.  They should not tell us who we can consecrate as bishop, and we should do likewise.  The essence of healthy relationship begins and ends with open dialogue and trust.  The Holy Spirit must have room to work within that context. 
17. It is wrong for any other province of the Anglican Communion to interfere with the leading of the Holy Spirit in this province. What the Holy Spirit demands at any particular time must be determined locally.

Yes, as I said, quid pro quo. 

18. What the Holy Spirit is demanding must be determined provincially. Those dioceses which are members of the Episcopal Church and which resist the new teaching cannot legitimately be thought to be led by the Holy Spirit and must be resisted with all the canonical and legal means available.

This is a more difficult subject, because it is mitigated by the manner in which those dioceses have resisted.  Had they resisted in good conscience, remained at the table, and legitimately tried to work from within to be conscientious objectors they would have my respect.  But from what I have gathered, they have withdrawn, acted in anger and vitriol, not participated in common life, and tried as deparately as possible to be seen as victims rather than as working for the good of the church.  (I realize that the same could be said of my side of the aisle at times- however, I’m going to ignore it for now.)  That makes it much more difficult to have sympathy for them.  Again, I think there seems to be a lack of trust to allow the Holy Spirit room to move- it has become political, a quest for power.  That makes it difficult to understand how to find a path forward.

Personally, I would allow dissenting parishes the ability to take their property and leave while encouraging them to stay in love.  I know that if my parish did not want to be a part of a new entity emerging from this, I would want to be able to take the church property with me.  I would personally accord those who dissent the same respect.  But the vitriol and disrepect shown by the dissenting clergy to their bishops as they have left has heightened emotions on all sides, and there are also logical and rational reasons not to do that which I understand.

19. A variety of interpretations of scripture can be tolerated in the church. The canons of the church especially with regard to the territorial integrity of Episcopal jurisdiction allow for no variation in interpretation.

 Scriptural interpretation serves a different purpose than canonical law.  Canonical law seeks to be the “Robert’s Rules of Order” of our common life together.  Anglican life, since the days of Elizabeth, has not been about a uniform theology.  She, in her wisdom, brought together the Catholic and the Protestant.  Our source of community was in our worship and liturgy, not in our theology.  That by definition allows for a variety of interpretations of scripture.  The church canons govern how we go about that common life.  So yes, canon law by its nature must govern how we act in community, and scriptural interpretation by its nature and by our tradition and history is something we have agreed to live together with differences so long as we do it together.

20. The proposal of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a new Anglican covenant and for churches to choose constituent or associate status in the communion represents a dire threat to capacity of the church to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It represents the prospect of a quenching of the Spirit.

I’m not sure yet.  I think the idea as he has proposed it is problematic not for the reasons you have outlined but because it elevates certain members and denigrates others.  It is inconsistent with the tradition I have just reviewed of agreeing to live together in community with our differences so long as we do it together. 

21. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has been uniquely privileged to hear from the Holy Spirit in a way that has been denied to the rest of world wide Anglicanism, The Roman Catholic Church, The Orthodox Churches and Protestant Evangelicalism. The Episcopal Church must at all costs maintain its witness to the unique agency of the Holy Spirit in its midst. Those who oppose the new teaching are enemies of the Holy Spirit who are making an idol of the past at the expense of the future to which God is calling us.  

While you may be right for Anglicanism proper, it isn’t true of the total experience of the Holy Spirit.  At the same time TEC was taking action, the Presbyterian Church was opening ordained ministry to gays and lesbians.  Methodists have been struggling with the same issues, and moving closer and closer (although more slowly) towards inclusion.  We all know of the loving inclusion that the UCC brings to the table.  Lutherans too show movement.  The only ones who have not moved at all have been the staunch religious right- the fundamentalists and the Catholics, as well as the Anglicans of the southern hemisphere.  I believe that to be for a clear purpose- the place where fundamentalists are on their journey requires a stability of purpose that does not allow change.  I respect that – they are where they are.  AND I cannot allow that to interfere with me moving forward on my journey.  I also believe that I have a call to ensure that the marginalized GLBT people of the world do not suffer at the hands of spiritual violence as a result of someone else’s place on their journey- an “entrenchedness” in a place where change cannot happen.

These numbered observations above are my take on what the dominant party in the leadership of The Episcopal Church is saying. If I have not got it right I would like to know.

The Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.
July 4, 2006 

In closing I would just say this- I know that it is discouraging to see the church turn in a direction that you do not like.  That is the same pain that we GLBT folks felt as B033 passed in GC06 – in fact for many years prior to now as we lived our lives in silence, in the dark corners of the world in pain and suffering.  The pain of not getting the direction from the church that you want is not an excuse to leave.  It is not an excuse to become bitter.  God calls us to do two things above all else:  Love God, and love our neighbors (Matt 22:34-40).  On this everything else hangs.  We must always ask ourself what our motivation is for our actions, as Jesus calls us to view everything through this lens.  If we cannot trace the motivation of our actions and behaviors- including those to our brothers and sisters within the church- back to love, then we have failed Jesus.  There is ample failure all around us in the church.  Not failure in theology, not failure in answering this question or that question the right or wrong way, but failure in how we are treating each other as we go through this journey of discovering God together.  It is there that the real quest lies.  It is there that we find the real God.  It is not in a set of rules about sexual behavior.  It is not in our bedrooms.  It lies in our hearts.

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80 Responses to “A Response to the Rev. Dr. Leander Harding”

  1. Susan Russell Says:

    Bravo!

  2. FrMichael Says:

    FWIW I’ve had some difficulty posting at your site: the paucity of comments may not simply be the fault of lazy readers.

    There is way too much here to offer a detailed critique. Obviously your approach to Scripture and Tradition is antithetical to 2,000 years of Catholic Tradition. I would like to point out, however, your response to point #12. Homo-normative relationships, as you label them, were known to the ancient pagan world among which the ancient Jews lived: namely the Greeks and the Romans. Israel and the early Church, however, were allergic to any and all manifestations of that school of thought and behavior.

    The idea that the only experience ancient Jews and Christians had of homosexuality was of promiscuity is an idea I consider to be an undocumented assertion. I would refer you to Dr. Robert Gagnon’s work on this issue. I can’t refer you to Catholic documents about homosexuality since we share no common presuppositions about God’s presence in the world or about human nature. Your comments here about Sacred Scripture and the nature of public revelation are clearly heretical from the Catholic point-of-view. On the other hand, Dr. Gagnon, a Presbyterian, works very much out of Biblical texts, which you claim to as well.

  3. Rick Harris, O.P. Says:

    Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful response, Jeff. You have managed to persuade me that Dr. Harding is essentially correct in how he has characterized the views of the Integrity wing of our church, with the exception of his assertions on how you all view the nature vs. nurture issue, which he appears to have gotten wrong.

    In your response to No. 21, you left out that the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Christianity has also failed to move in the direction you would like, in addition to the ones you mentioned, Roman Catholics, Southern Hemisphere Anglicans, and American and European Evangelicals. And you very mistakenly refer to the conservatives in the Episcopal church has fundamentalists. Fundamentalism was an actual American religious movement that was antagonistic to Z(among other things) the catholicism and liturgy practiced throughout the Episcopal church today– no true Fundamentalist would be caught dead in an Episcopal Church, or in any Anglican Church, for that matter.

  4. Jeff Says:

    To Fr Michael –

    It could well be an overstatement to say that there was no exposure to homo-normative relationships in Biblical times. I believe that what I said was that in any event, Biblical authors would not likely have approved of them. In any event, the texts speak not of homo-normative relationships but of sexual acts.

    AND, just as the texts speak tacitly of slavery being acceptable, and of the denigration of women being acceptable in the church (something the Roman Catholics certainly are behind on), it does not prove in and of itself to me that God is against it. It simply proves that at that point in time, the authors did not know that piece of God’s nature.

    Again, the point is to be looking at the overarching theme of the Gospel. Was Jesus’ message- were most parables- aimed at telling the people in power to keep things the same? Or were they aimed at showing time and time again that Jesus’ love was radical, that it was bigger than the establishment would have liked? That loving our neighbor is the imperative that we are to live by? Again, there is nothing out of Jesus mouth that ever says “go out and beat people over the head.” Jesus reserves judgement at the most literal reading, but never says for us to judge each other.

    So with that, it is largely irrelevant as to whether or not the authors knew or didn’t know of homo-normative relationships. Certainly I have studied some of my own “people’s” history and know of the rich legacy that GLBT people have had through history. The speculation as to the nature of the relationship between David and Saul’s son Jonathon is part of that legacy.

    It is your choice whether you take the commandment to live in love as Jesus loved or not, and to ignore the instruction of Jesus not to judge. After all, Jesus tells us directly that all the law and propets hang off of love.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Rick –

    I stand corrected on the Fundamentalist issue. However, not being an expert I will venture a guess that the Fundamentalist theology does share more in common with the orthodox theology (and vice versa) than it does with my theology.

    I think that is a shame, because from my point of view I have far more in common with my orthodox brethren in the Anglican church due to our common bonds of tradition- our rich liturgy, our shared history, our love for what has brought us to where we our, and our belief in a wonderful Trinitarian God who extends beyond our comprehension.

    Hopefully, I am wrong and we agree that we share that much in common.

    j

  6. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael –

    Also, if you’d like send me an email to jeffhaukguard-blog@yahoo.com with whatever problems you’ve been having posting and I’ll see if I can get them taken care of.

    Thanks,

    j

  7. sara L Says:

    Jeff, thank you for your thoughtful, well-reasoned response. I live with deep doubt and questioning in my heart, wondering if maybe they’re right, that God doesn’t want my partner and me to be together, that our realtionship is not, in fact, blessed at all. Your response to these questions reminds me that I am not alone and that there is a place for all of us at God’s table, that the Gospel is indeed a message of love, justice, and inclusion, a message of radical acceptance of one another.

    Love them anyway.

    s

  8. Jeff Says:

    Thanks, Sara. All the best to you and to your partner.

    To Rick, I have thought a little more about your comment and would like to add another thought.

    I suppose I don’t really know that I could categorically say that I agree or disagree with the 21 points at a literal level. The problem I have, as I think I have pointed out, is that the literal level isn’t the place of relevance. It is this “clean-cut” approach that is inherent in Rev. Harding’s composition that I have a problem with. There is a sterility in the composition that seems to forget the humanity of those people whom he is describing. God is not this clean-cut. God works in messy ways. And so, while you may be able to extract and dissert agreement, or lack of “disproving” his 21 points, I think the fundamental premise is misplaced. That fundamental premise is that there is something which needs logical dissection and analysis rather than pastoral care, compassion, and love. Trying to box God into a corner, in the history of religion as I understand it, has always failed. I understand these 21 points to be an attempt to do just that- to try and box God into a corner- nice and tidy.

    It just isn’t the point, nor is it the essence of God’s love. That’s the lesson that Rev. Harding hasn’t gotten in the composition of these 21 points, and I think it is the lesson that the orthodox repeatedly miss when trying to construct or learn the theology of inclusion by trying to force fit it into their framework.

    I realized that when I wrote this, and rather then critique it directly I chose a more subtle approach.

    But I chose now to more directly approach the subject, because I think it a mistake for you to think that the 21 points are valid and “declare victory” over winning any kind of debate (I realize that isn’t what you said, but I don’t anyone else to read that into it). To do so would be only a loss for everyone. It would be a loss for me because it would further alienate you from understanding what I believe, it would be a loss for you because it would further shut you down from understanding what I believe to be the God of love, and it would be a loss for the church because the dialogue would be further dampened by a misunderstanding and lack of true communication across the divide that separates us.

  9. Catherine+ Says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Jeff. And I don’t think anyone could have made it any clearer either. Now if the reasserters don’t “get” this, then so long folks. WE are staying to carry out the mission of Christ and to help make into reality the Reign of God.


  10. I find it amusing that some churches think they are God’s penis police. I didn’t read everything above but it seems the Episcopal church is not lowering themselves to be genital police and I applaud them for it.

    Jesus never said one word about penis policing. He did mention many other things that Christians should do and He is being ignored.

    Maybe those other misguided churches thought Jesus said genitals not gentiles.


  11. Thank you for taking time to respond to my article. My name is Leander and not Leonard. In I think #8 above you think I have written an incomplete sentence. I disagree.

    My take on your response is that I have gotten it basically right and that if I am in anyway dismayed by the opinions I am describing it is due to a rigidty of character and a tendency toward judgmentalism and lack of sympathy for the experience of others that is due to a combination of genetics and upbringing. You suppose that this basic tendency of mine is exacerbated by a fundamental ignorance of the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation. You likewise suppose that I am unaware of the position of the American Psychological Association on same-sex attraction and have made no serious study of science of human development.

    To all of the above I can only say that I do not think you have understood what I am saying.

  12. Jeff Says:

    Hi Leander,

    Thank you for responding. I will make sure to correct your name and apologize for the oversight.

    I’d love to get it right if I’ve misunderstood you on #8 or any other part of it.

    I suppose I think that factually you probably have it right. But again, I don’t think it is the “facts” that the General Convention have acted upon- I think it is the theology of the inclusive, loving God.

    And it is in this spirit that I have tried to respond.

    I think I have understood you to try and categorize this theology into a statement of facts – a catechism of homosexuality, so to speak. I know that for folks who take a more orthodox position on theology that such a black and white position can be helpful in sorting through the debate.

    My point is that the “statement of theology” in your 21 points focuses much more on sexuality than it does on God, and I hope I have articulated that well enough to get that point across.

    If I have implied that you have an ignorance of historical biblical interpretation, than I apologize- it was not my intent. I did not assume one way or the other on your knowledge of the APA’s position, however I think it extremely important to root oneself in the medical facts when discussing human development. I have written a post on this topic this morning, if you are interested.

    On understanding what you are saying, I thought you to be summarizing what TEC was saying and not making a statement of your own? Maybe I have misunderstood then. Again, I welcome your feedback to help further the dialogue and listening process on both sides.

    j

  13. Jeff Says:

    Dr. Harding-

    Also note that I posted a comment on your blog yesterday linking these comments to your original post. Perhaps it has escaped your attention, but it has not approved moderation yet.

    In the spirit of cooperation and dialogue, it would be a sign of cooperation and hope if you would approve that comment so that folks could see and reflect on both sides of the story.

    j

  14. FrMichael Says:

    Jeff–

    Your comment

    “It is your choice whether you take the commandment to live in love as Jesus loved or not, and to ignore the instruction of Jesus not to judge. After all, Jesus tells us directly that all the law and propets hang off of love,”

    was most telling.

    In your responses to Rev. Harding (and me) you create a dichotomy, exemplified above, as if your opponents don’t love as Jesus loves because they disagree with your position. That is as insulting as Archbishop Akinola’s reference to TEC as a cancer.

    There were multiple variations on the theme: the “reasserters” don’t trust (God, I assume) as much as the progressives; the God of judgment vs. the God of love and inclusion; and of course the little paragraph I just quoted.

    Seems to me that your “arc of justice over time” is simply a dodge to avoid troublesome New Testament Scriptures. As I interpret your phrase as applied to human relationships, it means that consenting adults have the freedom in Christ to autonomously determine the parameters of their relationships. Even a short glance at the Gospels proves that wrong: Mark 10:1-12 with Jesus’ condemnation of divorce is a far more restrictive norm than that of the Torah. In certain aspects it is harder to be a good Christian than a good Torah-obeying Pharisee in daily living.

    I think I do understand your way of thought. It’s not so different than the general non-judgmentalism one encounters everyday in America. Unlike the correspondent above (Catherine) who seems to think we don’t “get” your argument, I tend to think we do in the main, as Rev. Harding’s exercise demonstrated. We might miss some of the nuances but I think it’s clear from his list that he has a pretty good grasp of the LGBT theological point-of-view within TEC. It’s good to know that all this time I have been pouring over this blog and others, the Integrity website, Claiming the Blessing, Louie Crew, et al., that I have learned something. But understanding doesn’t imply agreement (and that works both ways). Fundamentally, it is clear that two radically different conceptions of God exist within TEC. It is no wonder that you fight like cats and dogs.

  15. FrMichael Says:

    Masteral–

    There was a reason why Jesus said very little about sexuality during His public ministry. And it is the same reason He said little about idolatry. Because human sexuality was something the first century Palestinian Jews had figured out (through the work of the Spirit) correctly. In the time of Jesus they had finally got beyond their recurrent OT problem of idolatry and they had rejected the Ancient Near East norm of polygamy in favor of God’s orginal plan for the human race as expressed in Genesis 2-3: heterosexual monogamy.

    Jesus had enough pressing problems to deal with– no sense reiterating that which the Jews got right.

  16. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael –

    You have it partially right. I am not, however, questioning whether or not those who disagree with me love Jesus.

    What I ask them to do is to question their own actions and motivation for their actions, to determine if each step is taken in love and not in judgement.

    Again, the church has a role to play in ensuring that justice and peace and the dignity of every human life is upheld. We have work to do- genuine hard work. It just isn’t in beating people over the head to ensure that they are being personally accountable for their journey in places of genuine disagreement.

    j

  17. RudigerVT Says:

    Fr. Michael, if fidelity to NT scripture is so important to you, then why aren’t you focused on erradicating divorce?

    As to what the Jews got right, one could take that argument and say the same thing about slavery, another noteworthy omission.

    LPR

  18. tony Says:

    Just one small comment, Jeff. You refer repeatedly to the APA, while agreeing with Harding that the debate in ecusa and the AC is politicized. You do not mention the politicized nature of the change of position of the APA regarding homosexual psychology. This has been very widely reported, and if you are going to object to the politization of the discernment process in the AC, you ought to even-handedly admit the politization of the APA decisions related to homosexuality. Of course, if you were to do this their statements would sound far less authoritative than you currently make them.

  19. Widening Gyre Says:

    Jeff and Leander,

    Without commenting directly on each of your posts, let me say that this sort of dialogue is in my opinion very helpful. I just wish more folk on both sides had a chance to follow along.

    For far too long, each side has been operating under the (mistaken?) assumption that it understands what the other side is all about. Rather than issuing press releases that conclude “Side X is opposed to issue Y because they don’t believe theological point Z,” I prefer this approach of “Here is what I think you are saying” (with a healthy dose of charity from both sides recognizing that this is a work in progress).

    The image that springs to mind is that of one sculpter trying to recreate another’s work. It will take the other scultper’s hand to chip off what was wrongfully added and add on what was wrongfully omitted until we get the final copy.

    Now, Jeff, if I might direct a comment to you. At least for me, GC 2003 (not 2006) was an event which profoundly damaged my trust in my bishop and in my diocesan leadership. While folks who were committed to radical inclusion might say (correctly) that GC had been heading this way for some time, it fails to recognize that most average pew-sitters in the church really did not follow what was happening at GC. Just as folks on the liberal side like to say before GC 2003 most pew-sitters had never heard of the Anglican Communion, the same could be said of General Convention itself.

    Back to my point, a problem that our diocesan leadership is having is (i) recognizing that some in our diocese have lost the ability to trust our bishop and (ii) figuring out how to or even attempting to repair this breach in trust.

    By loss of trust, I mean a sense that who I believe Jesus to be and what I believe Jesus’ work accomplishes/ed is not the same as the belief of my bishop and the other diocesan leaders. I am perfectly willing to allow for differences in belief in many, many areas of Christian faith, but it starts to get extremely personal and very uncomfortable when the differences appear to be over the “author and perfector” of our faith. I’ll grant you the room to disagree over new perspectives on Paul on justification, but denying that Jesus stretched out his arms upon the cross and offered himself a perfect sacrifice for the whole world is a real punch in the gut.

    Let me be quick to say that I’m not saying this is what my bishop (or other pro-GC 2003) bishops think. But from my experience, my bishop has shown an absolute unwillingess to engage in any meaningful dialogue in order to repair the loss of trust.

    Peace.

  20. Jeff Says:

    Tony – While I do understand there to be some concern about the motivation of the original action of the APA in the late 60s culminating in the removal of the diagnosis of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1974, I believe that much ado about nothing has been made of that controversy by conservatives as the controversy has been challenged and refuted by successive actions of the APA later in 1980 and 1987. The APA has taken more significant, inclusive steps even since then to eradicate homophobia, and as such has eliminated any doubt of the original perceived “political nature” of the original decision of the 1974 decision. No writings I have seen focus on any subsequent action of the APA other than the 1974 decision. All of those actions resoundingly conclude that homosexuality is not a disorder but a natural condition to be embraced as a part of the human condition.

    To say that the APA’s position exists entirely based on a politically engineered platform is a little like saying that the Declaration of Independence of the United States was written because we didn’t like the tea that the British were sending over. It is tunnel-vision; and revisionist thinking to force a preconceived and hoped for conclusion that simply isn’t the case.

    j

  21. Jeff Says:

    Widening Gyre –

    I can relate to what you are saying about being not relating to your bishop.

    I think that the entire church- the entire Communion, in fact, has suffered from a massive breakdown in communications.

    I don’t know which diocese you are in, but I think that particularly in our country and due to our heritage we pride ourselves on our independence. My guess is that due to that heritage, of which we are very proud, our independent nature helps contribute to the problem. We don’t always like to picture ourselves as part of something larger, or which we have no control.

    As such, we may be oblivious to the Communion, or to the Convention. Our bishops, and especially our rectors, may reinforce this independence as they struggle to hold on to their congregations. I’m not blaming them- I’m just making an observation about human nature.

    And, maybe that out-of-touchness has lead us here.

    I don’t buy the argument that we didn’t consult with the rest of the Communion prior to GC03. I remember reading what seemed to be nothing but dire predictions from bishops who had talked with “our brother bishops overseas” and said that this action would break the church. Everyone knew what we were doing and had time to give input.

    That isn’t to say that average pew-sitters here had the full understanding, as you say. I don’t think anyone did. I don’t think it had to have the full impact that it has had.

    Again, from my perspective what has made this schismatic isn’t the break in orthodoxy but the vitriolic response to the change in tradition. Bishops refusing to share Eucharist with other Bishops. Clergy leaving the church without providing ample notice to their bishops of their intent- without providing for some process to allow reconciliation to work.

    The same goes the other way. Your bishop should have allowed some listening process so that he could see where his diocese was before and after GC03. I’m sorry if that didn’t happen. If I were advising your bishop, that is what I would have told him or her.

    j

  22. RudigerVT Says:

    Tony, et al. you’re confusing your APAs. There’s the “little-big” American Psychiatric Association. They publish the DSM, which — in the USA — is the de facto standard, when it comes to diagnosis. The position statements referenced above, however, are (I believe) from the “big-little” American Psychological Association. More members. Different training. Far less rancor, ever, about the ‘question’ of homosexuality.

    Slaves who sought freedom were also, at one time, considered to suffer from a psychiatric disorder. b-l APA’s analogous change in policy (gay people are gay: we’re not crazy) is also a matter of primarily historic interest. Yet only they who condone slavery would ever point back to those good old days.

    In addition, as anybody who knows jack about the DSM would tell you, the whole thing is an intensely political document reflecting opinion-leader consensus around extremely difficult-to-quantify issues of behavior. Not impossible, at least in terms of coming up with something reasonably practical. But quite problematic at best: it labels people. Just have this conversation with somebody labeled schizophrenic to get the gist.

    Singling out homosexuality for its uniquely political nature simply belies an ignorance of the realities of psychiatry in particular, medicine and science, in general. And attempting to raise these issues of history (beyond saying that it was, like many issues, controversial at the time, and some individual members continue to disagree with the outcome) is pure diversion, adding nothing, really, to the issues at hand.

    LPR

  23. Abu Sahajj Says:

    Ahlan,

    It seems that there are so many words for such a simple matter, or is it? I am by no means a scholar yet I am a devout Muslim and I feel that it may be good to give some input here from a Muslim perspective.

    Firstly, if you are a Jew, Christian or a Muslim you must rely and follow your Holy Book. If you do not trust your Holy Book to be true, then how Holy is it really?

    Secondly, the lifestyle of the Prophet and or Apostles that contributed to your Holy Book should be the ideal for every man, woman and child. Their tradition and ways of conduct should be the pillars of human decency. If they are not… then what?

    What I am reading here to me seems like heresy. However, I am not exactly part of this community, you may in Christianity have an overwhelming number of homosexual activity where it must be addressed in a particular fashion as not to loose its practicioners.

    With that said I would like to know what general opinions of the following text:

    `Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.` (KJV: I Corithians, 6:9-10)

    Likewise these passages from The Holy Qur’an?

    ‘What! Of all creatures do you come unto the males and leave spouses which your Lord created for you? Assuredly, you are a people who transgress the limits.’ (Al-Qur’an, 26:165-6)

    And

    ‘Do you approach men in lust rather than women? You are a people that are ignorant.’ (Al-Qur’an, 27:54-5)

    I look forward to responses… However, I offer my deepest apologies if my comments are not welcome. It was my sincere interest to bring another school of thought to the table.

    Wasalaam.

  24. tony Says:

    Jeff, you overstate my case here:
    To say that the APA’s position exists entirely based on a politically engineered platform is a little like saying that the Declaration of Independence of the United States was written because we didn’t like the tea that the British were sending over. It is tunnel-vision; and revisionist thinking to force a preconceived and hoped for conclusion that simply isn’t the case.

    Comment: And the conservative side in ecusa has tried to take out the politics that have been injected into the homosexuality debate and focus on the theological. But Integrity et al know they can’t win on theology, so they have kept pushing this as a political debate (e.g. Crew’s website, organizing tactics of Claiming the Blessing, etc.). The WR and others in the AC have rightly asked why the actions of GC03 happened before a theological rationale had been given. Why hadn’t any theological rationale (like the insipid Setting Our Hope on Christ) undergone “peer review” before GC acted. The left has always been about politics, and unfortunately, as of late, very weak on theology.

  25. D Hamilton Says:

    I we discard John 14:6 as so many at 815 have, then Abu needs to be answered …. for his faith and Prophet and Book hold validity in many parts of TEC leadership.

  26. J Says:

    Thank you, Jeff, for sharing a very gentle, loving and well-reasoned response.

    JR

  27. Jeff Says:

    Abu –

    I’m afraid I have nothing but my own ignorance to blame for being unable to respond to the Qur’an. It is something I do hope to overcome in the future, for what I do know of your great religion and those who hold true to its tenets is inspiring.

    However, I can respond to the Christian text you have cited- actually I think I already have.

    See my reference to #9, above, about the “clobber” passages. It is only in the fullest context of Biblical intent that we can understand God’s will. Do we read passages about slavery and then justify hiring slaves? No. Do we read, also in Corinthians, about the degridation of women in the church and then do so, refusing to treat women with equality and respect in the church? No. We have come past that place. We have done so because we have come to understand a fuller context of God.

    Hopefully some day I will know enough of the Qur’an in order to respond to your quotes from those scriptures in like context.

    Salaam,

    j

  28. Jeff Says:

    D Hamilton –

    I don’t discard John 14:6 at all. In fact, I love it. I probably read that differently than you- while you might read it as some form of transactional grace, I don’t limit Jesus in that way. I don’t presuppose to know all the different ways Jesus might work to bring folks to God. That’s not my job. I only know how he brings me to God. I also know that I am called to do what is in my power to do what I can to share the good news of Jesus’ radical message with others that they may be inspired to find some meaning, some hope, some path to Jesus that I may or may not have traveled as well.

    j

  29. Jeff Says:

    Tony, for the facts on the APA I don’t hold myself to be a psychologist nor psychiatrist.

    I do hold myself to be a rational, thoughtful person.

    I discussed the focus of the conservatives on the political process of the American Psychiatric Assn rather than the helpful info of the American Psychol. Assn in depth in my post this morning, here. I’d be interested in your thoughts on that thread, if that is your primary concern.

    j

  30. D Hamilton Says:

    Yikes … two different realities! May you have many adventures on your spiritual journey – I’ll be taking the “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” path and sticking to a much more literal view of John 14:6. Praying it all comes out well for you.

    D

  31. tony Says:

    Jeff, in my last comment I focused on the politics of the left in ecusa not the APA. I thought our back and forth on the APA was sufficient. I would be interested in your comments on my last comment above.

  32. Jeff Says:

    Tony –

    I just strongly disagree that the left is the only one playing politics. From my point of view the politics of the left are much weaker politics than the politics of the right. It is difficult for me to start to respond because my point of view is so different. I’m not sure whether your point of view in reference to Louie Crew, CTB, Integrity, et al- is based on a span of time over the past three or so years or thirty.

    From my point of view they were formed in response to an increasingly hostile and vitriolic conservative movement, resistent to any real listening or dialogue process similar to what we (mostly) here in this forum. Of course there are elements of the broken-ness of humanity at both ends of the spectrum- I realize that and it is unfair to categorize all the actions of either side as wholly pure and good or wholly evil and based on an ulterior motive.

    Having said that, from my point of view the introduction of the AAC and the ACN brought a new political element into focus that was not necessary. The organization of these factions was done, at least from my point of view, not with the intent to work within the context of the extant provincial church and her canons (as I believe was Integrity and the other organizations you mentioned), but instead seem to have been organized to see how to subvert the canonical processes given that they don’t like the direction of the rest of the church.

    I think that is particularly true of what I perceive to be propaganda put out by the AAC and ACN on homosexuality- the half-truths and distortions (like the info on the politics of the APA and mental health profession on homosexuality) in the never ending quest to be proven right, gain ground politically and seek to become more powerful through polarization. The video the AAC or an affiliate produced- “Choose This Day” is the name of the one I have watched- is an example of the attempt at this polarization. (At the risk of sounding condescending, the only big “a-ha” I had when watching the video was wondering if the conservatives have any people of color supporting them, and also if they have any women who can do anything other than what their male clergy tell them to do. It was not a very diverse group of people; they all seemed to be cut from a very similar mold which was interesting to me.)

    Now- all of that is not to say that I think that the dialogue has been done perfectly on the other side either. I, for one, think that there has NOT been enough emphasis on theology. I do not think that means that the inclusion of GLBT people needed to wait for such justification- I only mean to say that I don’t think it has been helpful to say “We think the Spirit is calling us this direction” without also saying what the theological basis for that movement is, and doing it in a way different from refuting the “clobber passages” as I mentioned in my post. I am disappointed in that. I also think there have been some attempts in this area, but I think that even if there had been more they would not have been taken seriously because, as we are learning, we speak two different theological languages.

    The difference I hear- and I’d be interested to hear more input on this from others- is that the inclusionary theology is open to parallel existence with the orthodox theology, which the orthodox theology is not content to coexist with any other.

    That, to me, is problematic. At what point do we as Christians- as Anglicans, draw the line on what we have to agree upon? Must we agree on this? Must we agree on the days in which to celebrate the liturgical calendar? Must we agree on the various forms of prayer books that exist, and which ones to use in worship? Why is this issue of such vital importance in the common life of the church? In my theology it is much more important to live the life of Jesus- a life of love and compassion- than anything else. Can we agree on this? Must we?

    So yes, the debate has become politicized. I don’t agree that it is the GLBT side that has done “the most” politicizing. I’m not sure it really matters who has done “the most” anyway- nobody is keeping score. It only matters that it needs to stop.

    It is time for an honest listening process. Threats on any/all sides to leave, withdraw, call for alternative oversight, or whatever, are not helpful in the listening process. They reflect an end to the listening process, which in my opinion has not even begun. Both sides must come to the table with open minds and open hearts. Again, that requires that both sides set aside their hopes for “political” victory. It requires going to the table only in hopes of hearing, listening, understanding.

    If that has happened, I am sure I do not know about it.

  33. steve smith Says:

    The Word says that homosexuality is a human condition caused by humanity’s love of the created rather than a love for the Creator. It is a result of sin.

    We are faced with a choice – the APA or the Apostle Paul. I suggest if we go to a Church named after St. Paul, we might ought to value St. Paul’s teaching.

    If we think that the Holy Spirit is better revealed in the pronouncements of the APA, then maybe we ought to throw off all of this religious hocus-pocus and commit to psychoanalysis rather than the Eucharist.

    I think I read above that “we know God better than Moses and the Apostles.” How much hubris can our culture acquire. This is the epitome of self love. We continue to worship ourselves.

    If St. Paul is right about homosexuality being an effect of self love, It is no wonder that homosexuality is advancing – our love of self appears to be a cultural zenith.

  34. Jeff Says:

    Steve –

    I don’t find your arguments convincing, but that’s not surprising.

    I refer you to my post this morning, “Why I Don’t Get It,” for a more complete explanation of my position. The short answer is that I don’t believe that medical advances are in conflict with God’s creation, as God created medicine- at least in my view.

    j

  35. Jeff Says:

    Note that I’m leaving to start a new journey and unable to post and/or moderate comments that might get stuck in the filters of the blog; to read more about it please see the post here.

    j

  36. Jim Says:

    Jeff – the argumentation here is quite intriguing and provocative but somewhat “non-value added.” I’m reminded of Jesus’ return to his hometown and the fact that his neighbors rejected his teachings in the local synagogue. (Mark 6:1-6) They, like many “rule-minded” people, de-valued God’s incarnate abilities to re-define pre-conceived notions of how God works and who Jesus truly is in the world.

    It’s no surprise that Jesus was amazed by the unbelief of his townspeople. What did he expect; acceptance from people who were shamed by the radical nature of his Gospel? I am likewise not surprised to observe how your well-reasoned wisdom and understanding of scripture isn’t playing out well in the hometown of your own blog with those persons who cannot or will not willingly strive to see the work of Christ in coincidentally historical and prophetic ways.

  37. FrMichael Says:

    RudigerVT–

    Quick response to your questions:

    “Fr. Michael, if fidelity to NT scripture is so important to you, then why aren’t you focused on eradicating divorce?”

    You probably aren’t aware that I am a Catholic priest, so Church-sanctioned divorce isn’t something I deal with very much. I try to eradicate divorce by conducting thorough marriage preparation. So far, none of my 240 couples have gotten divorced, so I feel like I am doing my part (along with my preaching and teaching) to fight the American Culture of Divorce.

    “As to what the Jews got right, one could take that argument and say the same thing about slavery, another noteworthy omission.”

    I wasn’t aware that first century Galilean Jews owned slaves. Once again, slavery was something that the Jews as a people had left behind.

  38. Rick Harris, O.P. Says:

    Jeff,

    Despite my broad and very serious disagreements with some of your premises, I thank you for this forum and for the openness you have exhibited and the obvious hard work you have done in responding to so many posts. Many blog meisters on both sides of these quarrelsome issues could benefit by your example. You appear to be very seriously trying to devote yourself to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    You mention, more than once I think, something you call, “transactional grace,” and contrast that with your belief in a non-judgmental God. It is interesting to me that you also seem so devoted to the idea of justice. I challenge you whether you think it is possible to have justice without judgment.

    I say that Dr. Harding has essentially gotten it right, and by that I mean that the actual position you and others in our church espouse is certainly more nuanced, but his characterization of them is not utterly inaccurate. You are claiming a new revelation by the Holy Spirit. The reasserter position on whether this is possible might be characterized by phrases such as, “The faith once delivered,” and “Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today, and forever.” I think those are mutually exclusive points of view. Both sides’ views are more complex and nuanced of course, but one side does seem to be saying that God’s truth is evolving and the other is saying that there are certain eternal and unalterable truths.

    I agree with you that grace is not a transaction– there are no quid pro quos with God. I cannot enter into a contract with God as if God and I are equals. I cannot say to God, if I do this for You (worship You, obey You), You then must do this other thing for me (admit me into heaven, forgive my sins). Grace is indeed a free gift. But I would say there is still some judgment. It is just not God who is the one doing the judging. We in effect judge ourselves. He offers us a doorway into heaven, but we must walk through the door. God gave us free will. We can accept Him or reject Him. The doorway is the cross of Jesus Christ.

    Another way to think of it is to remember that God is absolutely almighty, and absolutely pure and holy. Nothing impure or unholy can possibly abide in Him. To enter God’s kingdom is to abide in Him. But we are all, to a person, impure and unholy, that is to say, incapable on our own of abiding in Him. We simply could not stand before His throne. It is not a question of judgment. It is a question of whether something that is the tiniest, smallest bit of unholy can live inside God. The answer is that it cannot. How then can we possibly get to the kingdom? Before any of us can stand before God with any hope of not being utterly swept away by His almighty power and utter holiness, we must be cleansed. God has in His mercy provided us with a perfect cleansing agent, the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s not a transaction. It’s a gift. But it is a gift we must accept or reject. And if we reject it, we reject God, and having done so, we cannot abide in Him. Jesus was Himself very clear that there are serious consequences that flow from our choices. He mentioned hell (Gehanna– a fiery place of torment) more frequently than any other character in Scriptures.

    You do appear to accept the idea that we all have choices, and that those choices have consequences. For example, you say to Fr. Michael, “It is your choice whether you take the commandment to live in love as Jesus loved or not, and to ignore the instruction of Jesus not to judge.” I would say that Jesus did not so much instruct us not to judge as He warned us that there would be consequences if we do judge. That is, He was not really giving us a new law or commandment as much as he was describing a fundamental character of creation, something akin to the “law” of gravity.

    Oswald Chambers offered what is to me the most complete, and most convicting, explanation ever given of Matthew 7:2:

    “Whatever judgment you give, it is measured to you again. There is a difference between retaliation and retribution. Jesus says that the basis of life is retribution – ‘with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’ If you have been shrewd in finding out the defects in others, remember that will be exactly the measure given to you. Life serves back in the coin you pay. This law works from God’s throne downwards (cf. Psalm 18:25-26).

    “Romans 2 applies it in a still more definite way, and says that the one who criticizes another is guilty of the very same thing. God looks not only at the act, He looks at the possibility. We do not believe the statements of the Bible to begin with. For instance, do we believe this statement, that the things we criticize in others we are guilty of ourselves? The reason we see hypocrisy and fraud and unreality in others is because they are all in our own hearts. The great characteristic of a saint is humility – Yes, all those things and other evils would have been manifested in me but for the grace of God, therefore I have no right to judge.”

    There are, however, huge differences between judging others, which we do at our own tremendous peril, and teaching others what the Scriptures say and what the Creeds say and what the traditional Christian understanding of an issue has been. We reasserters often say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” You seem to be saying this is impossible, that homosexuality is not a specific act but an identity. But you would argue, I’m pretty sure, that same sex sexual activity is not a sin, or at least not necessarily a sin. It is a point of disagreement between us.

    You might call this a, “clobber passage,”s but the fact is, Jesus did call “fornication” (that’s the word used in my RSV translation) a sin, and He did quote approvingly quote a passage from Genesis to the effect that God made us man and woman and it is for this reason that we have marriage. If we assume that the Gospel of Matthew is accurate, and accurately translated, and if we assume that Jesus knew what He was talking about, then it becomes awfully difficult to reconcile His teachings with a church practice of marrying two people of the same gender, or elevating to positions of leadership those of any gender who live together in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. And I would, by the way, agree with you on the subject of divorce. I don’t think that divorced and remarried people are fit candidates for the clergy. I was as troubled by the confirmation of the new bishop of Northern California as I was by the confirmation of Bishop Gene Robinson. You can say that all of this needs to be read in the context of the entire Gospel message, but what is that message exactly? I’m not sure that you and I would agree.

    You quote passages that you seem (to me at least) to think summarize the Gospel message– Jesus telling us to love God and to love our neighbor. (Of course, when Jesus said that, He was not issuing some new comandment. He was answering a question put to Him by a Pharisee, a religious lawyer. The question was, Teacher, which is the greatest commandment? Jesus answered with the Shema, a pronouncement that observant Jews were required to recite daily. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One God, and you shall love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The Shema comes from Deuteronomy. Then Jesus added a quote from Leviticus. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”)

    Martin Luther thought that John 3:16 was the best summary of Jesus’ message. He called that verse the Gospel in miniature. Personally, I think the Gospel message is, “Abide in Me.” It is, “Without me you can do nothing.” If we do not abide in the true vine, we wither and die. If we do abide, we produce much fruit. The command is to submit ourselves to God. Our choice is whether to worship ourselves or to worship God. It is for me to decide that I will serve God, and obey Him, no matter the cost, but because that service will itself be a greater reward than anything I can possibly garner on my own. If I do not choose that, then I necessarily choose to serve my own ends, my own goals, my own idea of justice.

    My belief, and I think my belief is consistent with traditional Christian teaching, is that there is but one source of real justice, and that source is also the Way, the Truth, and Life. The poor we will always have with us, until Jesus returns to us in glory. On that day, perfect justice will at last begin its reign.

    And, by the way, I would be afraid to ask God for justice for myself. Justice for me would mean I go to hell. Better to fall on my knees and begging for mercy.

    Blessings.

  39. Milton Says:

    Jeff, I have not ignored our disagreements (I hope gentlemanly ones) on other threads on Inch At A Time and I have followed this series of comments with much interest. When I (and others) reply to your comments, you often seem to set up strawmen, knock them down, and believe you have answered the issue. I think you are not doing this intentionally, but it seems ingrained. God shine light on my own blind spots and have mercy! I will let Rich Harris O.P.’s post above of July 8 speak for me to you far better than I probably could do and certainly far better than I have the emotional energy to do at this time. Grace and peace to you, and good luck on the move and starting seminary!

  40. Mike Watson Says:

    Anyone who regards the statements of the American Psychological Association cited by Mr. Martinhauk as grounded in science rather than political correctness should consider _Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm_, edited by Rogers H. Wright and Nicolas A. Cummings. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415950864

    Both editors are distinguished psychologists. Dr. Cummings is a former president of the American Psychological Association (APA) as well as its Divisions 12 (Clinical Psychology) and 29 (Psychotherapy). Dr. Wright is also a past president of APA Division 12.

    Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit) and his wife Dr. Helen Smith have an interview with Dr. Cummings in which Dr. Cummings discusses this book. The interview may be accessed directly or as a podcast at http://instapundit.com/archives/029167.php

    See also the review by Dr. A. Dean Byrd at http://www.narth.com/docs/destructive.html.

  41. RudigerVT Says:

    Milton, et al., if this forum is so reliably disappointing, in terms of the persuasiveness of the argument, then what brings you back, over and over and over and over and over? Is it not enough to declare victory and go home, or go away?

    LPR

  42. Milton Says:

    RudigerVT, as a reasserter, I don’t go to Jeff’s or Rev. Susan’s or any other reappraiser’s forum to be pleased or disappointed, much less to “conquer” and declare victory. I go to read the thoughts of people with whose theology I disagree with and try to see things from their point of view in their own words, and to engage them in respectful, issue-focused, non-ad homineum dialogue. I don’t expect to find many points of agreement with you or Jeff or Rev. Susan or any of the regular commenters on these blogs. But neither do I consider any of you as enemies nor do I have any personal ill-will towards you.

    Of course, if you want me to “go home, or go away”, that speaks volumes about your inclusiveness and toleration of opinions that differ from your own. But otherwise, I won’t assume that’s what you meant. Grace and God’s peace to you!

    As for my “coming back over and over and over”, the first sentence of my comment to Jeff about “not ignoring our disagreements” referred to an exchange or two we had in comments on Inch At A Time, which a busy couple of weeks for me personally prevented me from continuing. Just letting Jeff know I hadn’t gone away mad and was not ignoring him by not replying later as I said I would do to his comment. So actually, I have not been around in a while as far as comments go, and I know Jeff is out of pocket for a while with a move to Texas and starting seminary, so I didn’t expect speedy replies from him, either.

  43. RudigerVT Says:

    I guess I’ve seen very little evidence of seeing things from the POV of people with whom you have serious, well considered disagreements. Most of what I see is, essentially, restatements about how their/our arguments fail to be persuasive. I guess it’s respectful. But it also seems to lead nowhere.

    People who have spent a lot of time thinking about a particular topic are, in general, highly unlikely to have a change of opinion as a result of continued interaction with the other side.

    So that’s very nice (I guess) that you don’t consider us to be your enemies. I think Jesus invited us to love them. But yeah, given the goals of “reasserters,” in terms of proscribing the nature of my relationship to God, because of what you imagine I do with my genitals, then yeah, if that doesn’t make you my enemy, I don’t know what would. That’s not to say I don’t love you well, or shouldn’t: that’s my problem to work on. But we’re not both going to get what we want until somebody adjusts their expectations. I won’t.

    I’ve just failed to find value or meaning the repeated attempts to set rhetorical traps, parse every phrase, and otherwise (yes!) reassert your position of heterosexist privilege. And I didn’t say I was inclusive or tolerant. Tolerance of intolerance is no virtue. Inclusion of the exclusive preference of heterosexists is also, in my opinion, a decidedly counter-productive stance.

    So, at the end of the day, you don’t want glbt people to be ordained, called to leadership, or parties to relationships blessed and sanctioned by the ECUSA. What else, really, is there to say?

    Frankly, I just get sort of creeped out by adamantly straight people who insist on spending so much time and energy wanting to get to know me (or people with whom I agree or affiliate), largely *because* I’m gay (or rather, when the real topic at hand is gay sex, and how wrong it is).

    LPR

  44. Jeff Says:

    Rick –

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    I’m sitting in a motel room on my way to Austin, so I don’t have time to respond at length, but the few things that come to mind I’ll put down quickly.

    One is that I do think there can be justice without judgement. The missing piece is compassion. When my children are fighting, and my 4 year old gets angry about something and doesn’t know how to express it so she hits her brother, I work with her on it. I ensure that she stops hitting him, and that there is a consequence to the action. The consequence is not so much a punitive measure though as it is a learning tool. When we don’t use our words we have to go to time out. That is the message. And I talk to her. And I have compassion, because I know that at four years old her capacity to articulate her feelings and emotions is limited. She simply can’t use her words to fully describe the range of emotional needs and wants and state of being that she is experiencing. That helps me to understand where she is and why she sometimes hits instead of talks. I don’t judge her for hitting, I simply take corrective action. Thus, justice without judgement. Apply that on a grander scale and we have a call for justice and loving our enemies. I am talking of course only about our call – I do not presume to know how God works.

    As for the “love the sinner, hate the sin” bit – I get the premise but I don’t think that it works that way in practice. Because we humans are not perfect, we often get that message confused. As we see many times on these blogs, the vitriol, anger, and confusion over those who are not like us runs out of control, and I think Jesus understood that. For my part, I think fornication is a sin. I think our disagreement lies in two areas: what is fornication, and how serious is the sin.

    Fornication to me does not consist of two loving people in a relationship consisting of fidelity, monogamy, and trust participating in their own private sexual activity behind closed doors. That, to me, is nobody’s business but their own, and is certainly not fornication. I don’t think that is what Jesus, nor Paul for that matter, had in mind when talking about fornication or porneia.

    I do believe that much of what I would consider fornication- casual sex, sexual addiction, etc.- comes from the same place that much of the other “sins of the flesh” comes. Drinking too much, drugs, etc. When we have a hole inside, when we do not feel good about ourselves (maybe because society tells us we are not good enough in the case of GLBT people), when we are running low on self-esteem, we- are at least some- people try to fill that hole with some of these things- booze, sex, drugs. Again, I return to compassion. Are these things bad? Yes. Is the response to love the sinner hate the sin? Not for me. My response is to get at the root of the problem. Why do these people feel unloved? How do we refuel the emptiness inside so that the desire to do these things is gone, and then we don’t even need have the conversation about the “fornication”- or if we do it need be a much easier one? Talking helps- but it must be done in love. That just isn’t the rhetoric I hear from the “love the sinner, hate the sin” camp.

    On the “Gospel imperative” – the choice of what is “most important” in the Gospel is an interesting one. I am getting ready to begin an exercise inspired by this forum where I do some work in this area. Hopefully it will be ready in the next day or two and I’ll post it here at my blog.

    That’s all I’ve got time for for now. It ended up being more than I had time for, actually!

    Peace,

    j

  45. Jeff Says:

    To Mike Watson, a copy of what I have just responded on Susan Russell’s blog:

    As I think I have mentioned, there are clear outliers from the American Psychiatric Association’s position and the American Psychological Association’s position.

    Backing both of those association’s positions are the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

    As I have stated on my blog, I believe most reasonable readers will understand that there are outliers. The references you cite here are some of those- despite their credentials. Outliers do not, in fact, prove science. In fact, outliers in scientific and statistical analysis are to be discarded, as I understand it, as aberrations- deviations. You can still find outliers that do not believe in evolution despite the clear-cut scientific facts to support the conclusion.

    Instead, reasonable readers will deduce that the number of medical associations taking anti-homophobic stances on this issue speaks for itself. Outliers will remain, just as they do for evolution.

    I am sure, would we look hard enough, that we could find a scientist or two that would still tell us that the earth is flat. That does not mean that it is so. We must not fall into the trap of looking for the answers that we want to hear. I believe that is the problem with orthodox Christianity. We are not allowed, if we are to follow our calling, to go “shopping” for answers. We must listen, pray, and follow.

    Again – I ask you to open your heart and pray to God to ask for yourself what the answer is here. Ask God to open your eyes where you are blind, to reinforce you where you are strong, and to make you humble where you are proud. That is the essence of Christian life, in my opinion.

    j

  46. vicki Says:

    Jeff, I’d challenge you to a battle of wits, but you appear to be unarmed!

    You are wrong theologically.
    You are not a theologian.
    You are wrong scientifically.
    You are not a scientist.
    Your only arguments are political -christophobia-bibliophobia
    -homophobia-heterophobia-phobiophobia-
    whatever.
    Political arguments a resolved in the ballot box.
    You are a political activist.
    I presume that is why Doctor Harding
    disengaged. He is both a scientist and a theologian
    Good luck
    Go in Peace

  47. Jeff Says:

    Vicki –

    You’ve made some rather large assumptions in your post. I’m not sure where you have gotten some of your information.

    What I am sure of is that your post is not helpful to the listening process. To declare summarily that one side or the other is “wrong” is to preempt any chance of reconciliation; of healing. It says about you that you do not want reconciliation or healing. It says about you that you prefer a rift in the body of Christ over learning about your brothers and sisters in Christ that have different points of view than yourself.

    Paraphrasing what Lincoln once said, it is better to pray humbly that we find our way to God’s side than to boldly proclaim ourselves to be on God’s side.

    I hear you proclaiming very loudly that you have the answers. Among all that noise it must be very difficult to hear the voice of God. What if, perchance, that voice were ever telling you something different than what you were saying? How would you be able to hear it?

    Peace,

    j

  48. Milton Says:

    Vicki, Dr. Harding did not actually say in the comments above that he disengaged from the discussion, I know he and Jeff had some discussion on Dr. Harding’s blog, though I didn’t follow through reading all the comments.

    Jeff, a gracious answer to Vicki’s difficult comment, hat’s off to you!

  49. Bill Says:

    Jeff, you seem to know as little about Methodism as I do about the Episcopal Church (though let me emphasize how much I appreciate your response to Dr. Harding with all it’s helpfulness for my own journey).

    Methodism is actually moving the other direction, as celebrated in a recent talk by Mark Tooley of the IRD. (I very much appreciate their sincere points of view, I must also hasten to emphasize, even as I acknowledge that their posts were my point of departure in finding you.) He points out that the voting trend is away from changing the language in our Social Principles (that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching”) and will be definitively so when the Ivory Coast church is fully represented at our General Conference in 2012.

    I have learned a great deal from your dialogue here, and I give thanks for all the posters (even Ms. Vicki…it wouldn’t be like church without the likes of her! I am always grateful when people honestly speak their mind, because it encourages me to do the same though I hope in a less clobber-like way…which hope often founders, I confess.)

    But setting aside for a moment all cheap jibes we Methodists save for our Episcopal friends, I find it so sad to witness what is going on in your denomination.

    My sub-apostasy is that I think it is for those of us with homosexual orientation to first show humility and back down. We may point out what we perceive as wrong, but we must have great deference to the larger body. I would never want to see Methodism in schism again because of me. If I have failed to convince my church of my worthiness to be a part of the body, it is my mission to continue to try. I might very well fail, but the Master I serve also failed in his mission. God’s ends were not defeated because of it, however. What was most important was the trust, faith, and positive attitude of Christ as he faced the cross. Can we go and do likewise?

    I believe the Light of the World, as it continues to shine, will finally illumine the truth of this matter, and I believe there will be much shame and seeking of forgiveness by those who bedevil homosexual persons today. I know what it is like to witness such a volte face, and I know the blessing it is to be able to joyously forgive. At fifty-six, I may not live to see that day, but I will die knowing that “Whosoever believeth in me…” is all I need to know.

    The United Methodist Judical Council has recently affirmed a pastor’s (heretofore unknown or long forgotten) right to deny membership to a homosexual man. I would still attend Methodist services even if my membership were revoked. The “Truth” will set me free not the General Conference, and I will stay with Methodism because it is how I found the friendship of Jesus and where I belong no matter what the church body might believe. Nothing can separate me from the love of God, even the Judicial Council.

    Besides, as Quentin Crisp said, the cure for intolerance is not enlightenment but boredom. I figure people will eventually get bored despising me with their coldness, hostility and hairy eyeballs, and they will finally see the love of Christ as I seek to embody it.

    I do pray for your denomination, as I love my Episcopal family and friends (oh, please, just one cheap jibe…but no.)

    Thanks for your gracious gifts of the spirit on this blog.

    Bill

  50. Jeff Says:

    Bill – I stand corrected, at least for the time being. We shall see what happens in the long term, for at least in my mind the struggle continues, and the movement continues to have its mometary ups and downs, but we do not yet know where it will land for the Methodists.

    Ultimately, actually, I think we do. I think we shall see that all religions, denominations, and sects will land on the side of justice because (at least I believe) it is God’s will– but that will happen in God’s time and I don’t know how long that will take.

    And, in the meantime, I believe the continued struggle is a sign of movement, progress, and a sign that things continue to change.

    We will not win every battle, but the fact that the battles are being had is good news indeed. We need keep up the good work of shining the light of justice on the dark corners of oppression and our work will be done for us.

    j

  51. Bill Says:

    Jeff, do you posit “battle” as a continuation of “dialogue” by other means? I don’t mean to be flippant, but would you forgive me if I point out that this seems to be a viable characterization of the evolution of your comments here?

    Those who have overcome impossible odds (e.g., Ghandi, Dr. King) haven’t used the war model. While I am no pacificist (as Jesus was not (viz. John 33:36), I don’t believe this is either the pragmatic or the spiritually defensible model to serve the Light in our project.

    God has ordained that we humans learn very slowly, and the change you and I both pray and faithfully believe will inevitably be gloriously realized will surely be, but we must be prepared for the wait. We have come a long way since the middle of the last century. Let us be thankful for that, first of all. We have been given much to work with. Now, the question becomes one of our wise stewardship of this legacy.

    Patience is the product of love and humility. We won’t win a battle, but I know as you do that we will see justice for our kind…from this life or the next.

    The French say “to understand is to love”. My work is to love those who consider me a second-class human being or an abomination, and I work at that by trying to understand them.

    If you are not familiar with the Courage Web site, give it a look here http://www.courage.org.uk. I would direct your attention particularly to this post: http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/change.shtml, as well as this one: http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/righteous.shtml. But one of my favorites is the review of Brokeback Mountain by Tony Cross here: http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/article.asp?id=57. Note his nuanced and insightful explanation of the underlying dynamics of homophobia. “To understand is to love.” And note, as well, his compassionate inversion of the disease slur relative to homophobia. From everything I gather about you from your Web site, I don’t believe you find it difficult at all to love those who suffer in illness, even if they take it out on you.

    Let us, in all humility, seek to understand so that we might truly love our neighbor and let the Light shine through us in the process of this daunting task.

    Blessings,
    Bill

  52. Warren Says:

    I am curious just how inclusive you believe the church should be.

    For example, what is your view of people who actively practice bestiality? Should we be as non-judgmental toward them as we should be toward GLBT people? Should they also be included “in the full and equal claim to all of the sacraments, rites, and liturgies that [the church] has developed”?

    What about practicing pedophiles? You have adamantly disassociated GLBT people from pedophiles. Are they somehow less deserving of inclusion by the church?

    Should people of these other, less popular, sexual orientations be allowed to become priests and bishops? Should the church bless unions between them and their partners?

    Don’t your arguments for the church embracing GLBT people apply equally well to these people? If not, in what way are they less deserving of inclusion?

  53. Jeff Says:

    It is always so fascinating to me when this argument comes up, so thank you for asking.

    I just don’t understand how people jump from a loving, committed relationship between two caring and consenting adults to having sex with a goat. It’s just not a mental jump I can make.

    Nor can I make the jump to my family, where my existence as a gay man who loves my children and does everything I can to protect them from sexual predators somehow implies that I validate the right of sexual predators to carry out their vile desires? I don’t think so.

    It is not comparable. It is in no way comparable. So let’s just state that up front. Pedophilia and bestiality or not orientations, as you have stated. And that is the flaw in the premise of your question. You won’t find psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, or pediatricians (or at least many) willing to say so. On the contrary and as I’ve listed repeatedly here- you will find many medically trained people willing to say that gay and lesbian people are that way by orientation, and not by behavioral choice.

    The pedophiles and the “bestialitors” are harmful to others- be they animals or children- and are sinful states of being. That is not the case with gays and lesbians. Our orientation is innate. As I’ve mentioned, nature or nurture is irrelvant, but we are created this way by God. As such, there is no justification in our exclusion from leadership in the church or from marriage in the church based on that status, in my opinion.

    Now, exclusion from participation in the church is quite another matter. I believe that the church is called to be wholly inclusive. We are to welcome all. All. All. We are all sinners. We cannot decide whom Christ welcomes into the Body of Christ. All. That includes pedophiles, people practicing bestiality, and things that are probably much, much worse.

    That is not to say that we do not work within the confines of love to coach them into a better relationship with God. We are called to do that without judgement- judgement and punishment is the problem of the civil courts in this case.

    Our job is to love them, because lack of love is likely what caused them to fall in the first place. They need a relational fellowship in which to find ground to pick themselves up and find strength to correct their behavior. Without that backing, they will never succeed in becoming all that Christ calls them to be.

    j

  54. Jeff Says:

    It seems to me like a lot of the readers here would also enjoy/like to contribute my post comparing progressive and traditional scriptures, found here. I’ve done my best to present both the scriptures that are most meaningful to me and the what I have understand as the scriptures important to the orthodox folks.

    j

  55. Deborah Says:

    On an inconsequential note … actually, #8 *is* a complete sentence. “Certainty” is the noun, the “which” phrase which follows modifies it, the phrase that follows the “which” phrase modifies the “which” phrase, “is” is the verb, and the phrase that follows is the object. [“Certainty … is inherently an example of overreaching.”] It is a very complex sentence, but it is in fact grammatically complete.

  56. Jeff Says:

    Deborah –

    Yes, after rereading #8 I did understand it to be a complete sentence. I didn’t feel that my answer needed to be modified, as felt as if it still responded to the most of the point.

    The only other thing I will add is this: God is infinite; we are finite. It is an eternal problem of humans that we look for certainty in the infinite God. How can we find a finite certainty in the infinite? It seems to me that the very notion is contradictory by definition. I believe that what we can find in Scripture, as I have said, is inspiration- direction. Not the certainty of destination, or the Holy Grail, or the fruit- but the uncertainty of journey, the quest, and the unplanted seeds.

    It is from that point that we rely on faith to move us forward. The presupposition of certainty pushes out our ability to live in faith. It is human to want to live in certainty rather than faith. It is our call to try and live in faith rather than certainty.

    That is my belief, at least, and that is how I try to live my life.

    j

  57. Warren Says:

    Thank you for your response to my questions. I hope you won’t mind if I ask a few follow up questions. But first, I would like to clarify a few things:

    > I just don’t understand how people jump from a loving,
    > committed relationship between two caring and consenting
    > adults to having sex with a goat.
    > …
    > It is not comparable.

    I made no “jump” here. I made no comparisons between GLBT people and “bestialitors” (to use your term) or pedophiles. I simply asked what your thoughts were about those people (hereafter referred to as “BP people”) and their status in the church.

    > Pedophilia and bestiality or not orientations, as you
    > have stated. And that is the flaw in the premise of
    > your question.

    I am sorry if I have misused the term “orientation”, but that has nothing to do with my question. My question is, at its most basic, “Do you believe that BP people should be granted the same status in the church as GLTB people should?” Your answer appears to be a resounding “No”.

    I also asked what reasons you have would have for saying “no”. If I understand you correctly, you state only two reasons:

    1) BP people are harmful to others.
    2) God created GLBT people the way they are.

    Speaking to the first reason, if I were to state “GLBT people are harmful to others”, I am certain you would label me as being judgmental, and probably a homophobe as well. So how can you then turn around and state unequivocally that “BP people are harmful to others”? Isn’t that being hypocritical?

    Also, are you seriously contending that all BP people are harmful to others and that all GLBT people are not harmful to others? Assuming your answer is “no”, then how can you exclude an entire group of people based on your perceptions of what their “kind” is like?

    As to the second reason, I can only assume from this statement that you believe that God did not make BP people the way they are. Do you have any proof of this? I refer you to your own statement “All of God’s people, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, are created in God’s image.” Why do you believe that BP people are not “created in God’s image”?

  58. Jeff Says:

    First – to the person who continues to post links to web sites promoting illegal behavior, please stop. They will not be accepted on this site.

    Second, to Warren – I am not insisting that all GLBT people are not harmful to others. I am simply stating that the GLBT orientation, in and of itself, is not harmful to others. Neither are the caring and compassionate relationships that arise out of that orientation.

    Contrast that with the pedophile relationships you are talking about- which are clearly harmful to the children involved.

    I am not familiar with the “BP” acronym; I assume you mean bestiality and pedophilia. I do not advocate for the acceptance of bestiality nor pedophialia as an acceptable practice in society. Neither do I claim to understand it or to be an expert in it. What I can do, though, is to be a compassionate and loving ear to listen to the experiences of those people who have these experiences and pray and listen for God’s direction in how I may best serve them pastorally.

    I see no correlation to bestiality or pedophialia with GLBT issues.

    j

  59. D Hamilton Says:

    It appears that once studied, pedophilia may be just as biologic and/or genetic an orientation as any sexual orientation. The correlation of the orientation and left-handedness is a first start. I’ll let you look up the site. It’s not too far a leap to figure an attraction to animals might also be in the same realm. Psychologically they both appear nearly untreatable, only abatable.

    Additionally, reading the outlook and writings of pedophiles, it is not an orientation they choose but feel they are given.

    Therefore, using the GLBT outlook on Leviticus and leadership suitability, then the queries of Dr. Harding are directly suitable for BP oriented individuals.

    It is an uncomfortable and slippery slope.

    D.

  60. Jeff Says:

    D Hamilton –

    Your comments ignore everything I’ve said.

    I am not an expert in pedophilia or bestiality, but I do know this- they are not harmless. They are not relationships between two caring, consenting adults.

    Pedophiles may well feel that they are given an orientation towards children, but children are not developed enough to know whether their relationship with a grown adult is healthy or not. It is not comparable to gay and lesbian relationships.

    Bestiality isn’t even a relationship. It is a sexual act- not even between humans.  It is not comparable to gay and lesbian relationships.

    Again, there is no comparability between GLBT issues and these issues. Dr. Harding makes no reference to bestiality nor to pedophilia, I assume because he understands that there is no relationship.

    Homosexuality may be uncomfortable for you because you yourself are not gay, but it is not a “slippery slope.” There is simply no relationship between these issues. Not everything dealing with sex or sexuality is applicable to gay and lesbian issues- it is not fair to lump them all in together.

    I get that you are uncomfortable with gay and lesbian issues, and I don’t condemn or judge you for it. But I also believe you are called to move beyond the “comfort zone” in the same way Christ called the Jews to move out of the “comfort zone” and work beyond your standard assumptions.

    Attempting to merge bestiality and pedophilia in with gay and lesbian issues has been a repeated and unsuccessful attempt to change the subject- to change the framing of the gay and lesbian issues which face us, because ultimately most people understand that fairness and equality towards gays and lesbians is in God’s plan, and when that doesn’t work the extreme right has turned to this tack of pedophila and bestiality. It is a red herring. It is inappropriate and irrelevant. It is as relevant to the gay and lesbian issue as poverty, homelessness, or any other issue that exists in our world. There is simply no basis for linking these issues. We must, if we are to work together in the listening process, move past issues that do not relate in order to come to a place where we can hear each other.

    j

  61. Fr. Doug Says:

    Thanks, first of all, to Leander Harding for his excellent summary of the GLBT argument. Thanks, too, to Jeff for affirming, in the main, that Dr. Harding’s got it right. And thanks to Rick Harris whose July 8 post (“justice without judgment?”) is exceptionally lucid.
    The most revealing comment for me was Jeff’s original piece that identified God as “messy.” This, it seems to me, is a decisive shift from an earlier belief that the ways of God are inscrutable to us. Now, it is no longer we who cannot see (due to moral blindness and human ignorance) but God himself who is, in some sense, confused. This conforms closely with the worship of self that is so evident in Jeff’s writings: certainly the fault of our confusion is not ours; it’s God’s own messiness we’re up against.
    Then there’s this: Jeff assumes that Leander is referring only to “clobber passages” in his references to Scripture. Romans 1 and 1 Cor. 6 are important, certainly, but only in so far as they fill out a much larger and richer narrative about human sexuality beginning with the creation of man and woman in Genesis and continuing through the New Jerusalem descending like a bride adorned for her husband in Revelation. All this Scripture, in fact the Scripture’s whole gendered quality (Israel as God’s unfaithful wife; Christ as the husband of his Body, the Church) is dissolved in the facile GLBT claim that God doesn’t care what we do with our genitals “behind closed doors.” (By the way, that’s a new twist for folks who pray to a God from whom no secrets are hid. It’s Anthony Kennedy, not the Bible.) Remember, “genitals” and “genesis” come from the same root. Some of us reasserters see ourselves as fighting for proper humility before the mystery that is our creation as male and female, a mystery that is responsible, let’s not forget, for our very existence in this continuum of God’s grace known as human history. It’s a rather larger way of obeying the commandment “Honor thy father and thy mother.” For Jeff and others to assert that humanity’s reception of that fact in the institution of marriage–and Jesus’ and the Church’s adornment of that manner of life–amount to nothing more than prejudice and injustice is, well, as breathtaking as his assertion that we know God better than Moses. It’s downright frightening to run into such hybris and “self-esteem” draped in the unctious tone of humility.
    As Chesterton pointed out last century, classical Christians understood that God has spoken clearly about right and wrong; they just doubted their own ability to live up to his Word. Now, it’s just the opposite. We are extremely doubtful whether God has or even can speak to us about right and wrong, but we are supremely confident that we are good, right and worthy of praise.
    Harding’s exactly right: spiritual experience of gays and lesbians? Perfectly revelatory of God’s will. Scripture? A muddle of incongruous half-truths awaiting the vivifying breath of our wondrous, holy, life-giving, covenantal same-sex relationships.

  62. Jeff Says:

    Fr. Doug –

    What an interesting misinterpretation of everything I’ve said.

    On humility, I have done my best to have patience with those who disagree with me, without resorting to sarcasm and denigration. I am trying very hard to do that in this post, as I think most posters here have maintained that standard in this forum- even the ones who agree with you but have found better and less divisive ways to express their opinions than you have chosen.

    On Scripture, you said:
    Scripture? A muddle of incongruous half-truths awaiting the vivifying breath of our wondrous, holy, life-giving, covenantal same-sex relationships.

    That isn’t what I said at all. If you will look through my blog you will see that many of my posts are scripture-based. I would refer you to my post here where I have been spending time trying to reconcile the views of both my own and orthodox views on theology using scriptural language.

    Finally, to keep this short, you said:

    Harding’s exactly right: spiritual experience of gays and lesbians? Perfectly revelatory of God’s will.

    The short answer here is yes. But the problem is that the orthodox who are looking for a short answer are missing the point. The point is not the short answer- the point is the dialogue and exchange of stories and experiences. Not only me telling you who I am and why my spiritual experiences are valid, but you telling me the same about you. That is what binds us together as Christians. That is the “messiness” of God that you mock. I’m sorry you don’t understand it- but if you choose not to have that dialogue instead opting for a “clean and short” answer of “yes” then I am truly sorry, because we are both cheated of the experience of that dialogue when you do that.

    j

  63. Jeff Says:

    Fr. Doug –

    I have written a whole post in response to some of your comments as my blog for today. Read it here.

    j


  64. […] I had a commenter yesterday on the increasingly lengthy comment section to my Response to Leander Harding’s piece who had misunderstood two key points of my response: […]

  65. Warren Says:

    Another clarification:

    > I am not familiar with the “BP” acronym; I assume you mean bestiality and pedophilia.

    Yes, as I said in my previous post, “I simply asked what your thoughts were about those people (hereafter referred to as “BP people”) and their status in the church.” I was using “BP People” as a simple shorthand for “people who practice bestiality, and pedophiles”.

    In both of your responses to my posts, you have devoted a great deal of effort in defending the position that GLBT people and BP people are different. I don’t know if this is a misunderstanding on your part of what I am asking, or an intentional dodge to try to avoid answering from my questions. However, I have not said anything to indicate that I believe that GLBT people and BP people are alike, that the sexual issues involved are alike, or that the two groups are in any way related. I am not equating the two groups, I am asking what your opinions are about this *different* group of people. As I stated in my previous post, what I am asking is basically “Do you believe that BP people should be granted the same status in the church as GLTB people should?” And additionally, “If not, why not?”

    From your responses so far, it appears that your answer to the first question is “No”, but you really haven’t answered the second question. So let me try a different approach.

    If a candidate for bishop were found to be practicing bestiality, would you oppose his election? If so, why? What would be your specific reasons for opposing him? What arguments would you make? In particular, I’m curious about what arguments you would use to oppose him that have not been used to oppose the election of a gay bishop?

    And, just to avoid confusion, I’m not saying that electing a gay bishop is the same thing as electing a bishop that practices bestiality. They are two different things. What I’m curious about are your reasons and arguments.

    If you want to take the time to answer the same questions about electing a bishop who is a practicing pedophile, that would be interesting too. But I understand that time is limited and you have already devoted a lot of time to answering my previous two posts.

  66. Jeff Says:

    Actually, Warren, I think I have answered why not – because they are not harmless, and are actually harmful:

    I am not an expert in pedophilia or bestiality, but I do know this- they are not harmless. They are not relationships between two caring, consenting adults.

    Pedophiles may well feel that they are given an orientation towards children, but children are not developed enough to know whether their relationship with a grown adult is healthy or not. It is not comparable to gay and lesbian relationships.

    Bestiality isn’t even a relationship. It is a sexual act- not even between humans.

    Since I believe that sex is an act that is intended to deepen committed adult human relationships, I don’t believe that a person abusing that act by participating in it with an animal should qualify as a bishop.

    j

  67. Bill Says:

    Dear Jeff, you ARE on the front line here. You’re doing a great job. I’ve just checked back in and I want you to know how much I appreciate your hard work. If it ever gets you down, may I offer a slight comfort? One very good reason our tormentors seize on only ONE abominable act in the Holiness Code and on only ONE forbidden act in the lists of those that Paul denounces in his texts within contexts…is because it is one they mostly feel pretty safe they won’t ever be accused of violating. It’s so transparent. If they took what the founder of our religion said as seriously they want to take this, I suspect they would end up in lives they wouldn’t begin to recognize as it is so radical. (I’ll just say “scapegoat” and leave it at that.)

    Cheers,
    Bill

  68. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for the words of encouragement.

    While that may very well be the case, I think that for some it may not be a consciously held opinion/attempt to scapegoat but a deeply held belief which is very hard to change- for some the environmental forces around them may in fact make it impossible for them to change. We have to try to be patient with them while also insisting that we have our right to exist despite their belief that we shouldn’t. That’s a hard line to walk and requires lots of patience and hope and faith.

    It is my hope that in a forum like this we will all remember what inclusion really means and accept all of God’s children, even those with whom we disagree, so that we can dialogue without judgement.

    j

  69. Bill Says:

    Jeff, you are doing what you hope to do. I agree that it is not always conscious scapegoating and that there are many profound psychological and social reasons some people find it difficult to change and some will never change. However, I remind my family of what Jesus said: “The Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth.” Trouble is, you can’t be guided anywhere if you aren’t willing to move.

    Hang in there!
    Bill

  70. Warren Says:

    > Since I believe that sex is an act that is intended to deepen
    > committed adult human relationships, I don’t believe that
    > a person abusing that act by participating in it with an
    > animal should qualify as a bishop.

    So if a person believes that sex is something more specific – say for procreation within marriage – couldn’t that person use the exact same argument and say:

    “Since I believe that sex is an act that is intended to deepen the marital relationship between a man and a woman, and for the procreation of children, I don’t believe that a person abusing that act by participating in it outside of marriage and with a member of the same sex should qualify as a bishop.”

    That argument appears to be identical to yours. Why is your argument valid and this one invalid?

  71. Jeff Says:

    Warren –

    That person can believe whatever they want to.

    What we are talking about here is the right of the church to enforce doctrine on others.

    If that person wants to believe that sex is only for procreation, only wants to have sex in marriage for the purpose of procreation, wants to ignore Paul when Paul tells spouses to give their bodies to each other, then they certainly have the right to do that.

    But I don’t believe that person has the right to enforce that belief, or to try and uphold a candidate for bishop to that standard because I don’t believe that standard is genuine.

    j

  72. Warren Says:

    From your response, I assume you read only the shortened version “procreation within marriage” and glossed over the “deepen the marital relationship between a man and a woman, and for the procreation of children” part. I intended the dual purpose of the latter, and apparently over abbreviated it in the former. Does that change your answer?

    > But I don’t believe that person has the right to
    > enforce that belief, or to try and uphold a candidate
    > for bishop to that standard because I don’t believe
    > that standard is genuine.

    So does that person have the right to enforce some other belief (perhaps one that you agree with), or are you saying that nobody should be allowed to enforce their belief?

    Also, what standard *does* that person have the right to “try and uphold a candidate for bishop to”? Who defines this standard?

  73. Jeff Says:

    My children were conceived in a same-sex union (perhaps not in the way that you are thinking, but we definitely brought them into this world very intentionally through a surrogate), so I did “gloss-over” that piece of your definition because I don’t discount same-sex couples’ ability to raise healthy loving children.

    I don’t think I glossed over the deepening relationship part; I believe I addressed deep relationship of same-gender couples in the original post. I just skipped the man/woman part because obviously that isn’t a necessary part of the equation as I have discovered through my experience. If you feel it is necessary, more power to you- and don’t go marry another man. But to limit my experience because you don’t want to marry a man seems to be a little like trying to prevent me from having a turkey sandwich because you don’t like turkey.

    I think that the church does need to enforce a commonly held belief about marriage. We are in the middle of redefining that word right now and the church (The Episcopal Church) has clearly said that monogamous same-sex relationships are not to be discounted. I understand that lots of people in TEC and the world don’t understand that. I pray that with time they will.

    The definition of matrimony as agreed by the church does not match the definition as you propose:

    Q: What is Holy Matrimony?
    A: Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.

    Book of Common Prayer, p. 861.

    A same-sex blessing has the same elements as this relationship except for being between two same-gendered persons, and we voted at GC06 to work against the Federal Marriage Amendment to limit marriage as defined by a man and a woman while continuing to allow same-sex blessings.

    So to answer your question, the church defines the standard. The church is defining the standard- in fact the church has defined the standard. The church will continue to define the standard. The better question is: How do I as a member of the body of Christ decide which leaders I can follow?

    I think that is what you are asking. I think the answer is always that we have to ask ourselves, prayerfully, which leaders will challenge us to go the direction God is calling us, both individually and as a church. See my posts from today and yesterday on change.

    j

  74. Warren Says:

    > Since I believe that sex is an act that is intended to deepen
    > committed adult human relationships, I don’t believe that
    > a person abusing that act by participating in it with an
    > animal should qualify as a bishop.

    – and –

    > But to limit my experience because you don’t want to
    > marry a man seems to be a little like trying to prevent me
    > from having a turkey sandwich because you don’t like turkey.

    How can you on the one hand say that a person practicing bestiality should not be allowed to be a bishop, and on the other hand say that one person shouldn’t limit another person’s experience based on their own beliefs?

    > So to answer your question, the church defines the standard.

    “The church” is very ambiguous in this context. I doubt that you are speaking of all Christians worldwide, as the vast majority of that group appears to hold views contrary to yours. I assume also that you are not speaking of the Anglican Communion, since again, the vast majority of that group also appears to hold opinions in conflict with yours. So I must assume that you are speaking of TEC. In particular, I must further assume that you are not speaking of the laity of the church, since again, it seems the majority of the general population of the United States appears to disagree with you, based on the recent passage of laws banning same-sex unions. I must therefore assume that you are speaking of TEC leadership, in particular the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. If I am wrong in this assumption, please elaborate on exactly who you are talking about when referring to “the church” in this context.

    With that assumption in place, do you believe that several years ago, when TEC’s standard was that GLBT people should not be in the clergy, was it “right” (i.e. correct, just, in line with God’s will)? If, in another few years TEC decides that BP people should be allowed in the clergy, will it be “right” then?

  75. Jeff Says:

    Warren –

    I think we’ve been through this several times now.

    Bestiality is not a relationship. It is not harmless to all involved. There is a very big difference between a deep, caring, relationship between two consenting adults and a sexual act between a person and an animal. That’s the part you keep forgetting. How do we know that the animal involved wants to participate in this act? How do we know that it isn’t somehow scarred by this act forced upon it? I don’t think there is a good answer to that question.

    On your second point, I think I already addressed that as well- you don’t need to make assumptions about what I meant– I said specifically that I was referring to The Episcopal Church, which is the body that defines who gets to be a bishop within it.

    I think the question about bestiality is a red herring, and I’m not going to dignify the question with an answer. The broader answer is this: I believe that the actions of the church as it has been established are generally guided by the Holy Spirit. I believe the Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways that we do not understand. I believe that in the biggest picture possible, the Holy Spirit ensures that the arc of history bends towards justice and righteousness– thus the name of this site.

    j

  76. Craig Goodrich Says:

    #13 —

    … Actual argument about scripture or the teaching tradition of the church or the state of the scientific question could never produce any legitimate objections to the new thing the Holy Spirit is doing.
    That just isn’t true.

    I’m not sure I understand your answer here. This amounts to a “metaquestion” — Could there be any legitimate objection to all this based on scripture, tradition, or science?

    And I think your answer is “No, there couldn’t.” So in essence it seems to me that Dr. Harding is batting a thousand here; you are fundamentally agreeing with every one of the propositions he puts forward.

    Thank you for the effort of responding to these points; I found your discussion illuminating. Best wishes and God bless.

  77. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

    My answer, when phrased the way you put it as “Could there be any legitimate objection based on scripture, tradition, or science?” Is, “of course.”

    The way Dr. Harding stated it was factual: “Actual arguement…could never produce objection.” My response was, “That just isn’t true.”

    The key to me is in the first part of the question/statement: its all about the dialogue. The most meaningful dialogue is not only the dialogue that allows gays and lesbians and their supporters the opportunity to state their views, but also allows orthodox folks the opportunity to state their views.

    The key, though, is dialogue without debate. We all have to come to the table with open hearts and minds– not trying to change the other but to understand the other. To let down defenses long enough to hear– knowing that we can walk away choosing to keep our own positions and that we commit to do nothing more than listen– really listen– to the other.

    Too often what happens is that we debate– always looking for holes in arguments, trying to find a way to “win” and, even if only for ourselves, try to prove the other “wrong”. That isn’t the way to dialogue. We all lose when we get in that mentality.

    And that is why I don’t like the “batting a thousand” metaphor.

    The point of my response wasn’t to dissect Dr. Harding’s response and “shoot it out of the ballpark”. The point of my response was to do exactly what your last paragraph indicated– illuminate. To make it human. To hopefully have both sides realize that we are talking about human beings, with real feelings and real souls, and real lives. It is much harder to be dismissive, no matter which “side” you are on, when you take that into consideration.  It may not change minds, but it may make us a little less harsh in issuing judgements too.

    And that human-ness- that re-humanization- is what I think we have missed in this “dialogue”. That is what I think we need to focus on.

    Unfortunately, the “sides” seem to be continuing to square off into their respective camps, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be choosing sides. I’m afraid there doesn’t seem to be a very large window of opportunity for real dialogue before people start taking action. If that’s the case, I’ll lead wherever the spirit guides us.

    Thanks for posting.

    j

  78. Craig Goodrich Says:

    There seems to be some confusion, or equivocation, or at any rate missed communication here with respect to what we’re all doing and why. It’s related to the pastoral/doctrinal distinction, or psychology/logic, or art/science, or something similar.

    When you suggest a dialogue, with careful listening, respectful interaction, and so on, this is unexceptionable; I agree completely that we need to start there. (We need to listen carefully to _everyone_, and in many cases it seems that in this discussion precious little real listening has occurred — on either side.)

    But once I have listened to you, understand why you hold your point of view, respect your feelings, and so on, I’m only half done. If I’m trying to determine what is actually true, I need now to separate the propositions you have advanced from any emotions and underlying life experiences connected to them, and on the basis of available evidence and classical logic determine for each of those propositions how likely it is to be true.

    Because, for example, if you believe that the Earth is round, that is only a fact about you — not about the Earth. So I abstract the question “Is the Earth round?” from its you-context and look at the field of astronomy, physics, and so on to determine whether your answer is supported by the facts as best they are known.

    If my conclusion is that your belief is (demonstrably) false, I may or may not communicate that to you, but I will put down in my mental book of facts about you, along with notes on your witty conversation and ability to make a superb mince pie, the notation that at least one of your beliefs is demonstrably wrong. If I know that you hold this belief very firmly and react badly if it is challenged, I will in all likelihood refrain from mentioning the subject while we’re together. But the mere fact that you hold this opinion strongly does not make it objectively true.

    But if I’m involved in a discussion aimed at clarifying or determining the actual shape of the Earth, I must bring to bear logic and evidence. My feelings about the Earth and its shape are completely irrelevant. So are yours. What is, is.

    Dr. Harding’s propositions were not intended to produce pastoral insights; they were intended as summaries of truth claims, and as such susceptible of confirmation or refutation. So unfortunately I’m still not quite sure what your response is here.

    Best wishes,

    Craig

  79. Jeff Says:

    We must remember that the “truth” we are speaking about here is very different from your example.

    Your example– the earth is round- is provable. We can look at it; or at least we can have pictures of it; lots of us can fly far enough round it to understand that we will not get to the edge, and so on.

    The truths under debate in theology are not provable. That is the disconnect. Your assumption, when you make note that “I am wrong” doesn’t work, in my book, when discussing these issues.

    You may make note that “my truth doesn’t work for you” but you cannot prove that I am wrong in the same way you can prove that the earth is not flat.

    That is why dialogue is important. We learn from each other. We each hold pieces of the truth. In community, God reveals more of the truth to us. Not only through how we interpret scripture, but also in how God has worked through us in our own understanding of truth.

    See this post for my complete explanation.

    j

  80. Jeff Says:

    I’m just re-reading this as I have finished about half of my seminary experience. This past semester I studied many of these topics (experience, revelation, sexuality) in several classes in seminary and I think I have a better basis for responding to Dr. Harding theologically. I can see why he was a little dismayed by my response.

    At any rate, I think the answers were still helpful to many people and they are not invalid just because they could have been more helpful to one person in particular.

    Perhaps sometimes when I have time I will make an update.

    j


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