Monday, July 27, 2009

While we are waiting for permission to take off... 3 things the Archbishop sez:

SOMEONE else who is going on retreat is still packing, so before we taxi away from the gate, here are some points from the Archbishop of Canterbury's response to the Episcopal Church:

1) He is clear that long standing and global Christian teaching does not support Same-Sex "marriage" or the ordination of active LGBT clergy:

...whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage.

In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.

This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences...

2) He seems to say that theology and faith trump other concerns when it comes to church unity, which is what traditional Anglicans have been saying for quite awhile:

To accept without challenge the priority of local and pastoral factors in the case either of sexuality or of sacramental practice would be to abandon the possibility of a global consensus among the Anglican churches such as would continue to make sense of the shape and content of most of our ecumenical activity. It would be to re-conceive the Anglican Communion as essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common, rather than a theologically coherent 'community of Christian communities'. (FWIW, even some of the more progressive folks at the SD blogosphere open house find Anglicanism's lack of a theological covenant bewildering - but then many here grew up Lutheran and they're used to the Augsburg Confession 'n' all.)

3) He opens the possibility that "elements" (dioceses? parishes?) could sign onto an Anglican Covenant even if the Episcopal denominational elite refuses:

It is my strong hope that all the provinces will respond favourably to the invitation to Covenant. But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.

I've not lived in the UK and frequently miss nuances of the language spoken there. So be sure to check out other Anglican blogs for other (and probably better) takes on what the Archbishop is saying. Also put your thinking cap on and read Sarah Hey's very good analysis of the limits of this kind of statement and options for Episcopalians who stand in the greater Christian consensus.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Merely words Tim....the ABC is just merely sending out words. I'm not betting on anything else from him.