An Evangelical Review of C. of E.’s ‘Shared Conversations’

Martin Davie: Grace and Disagreement – [Justin Welby’s Shared Conversations on Sexual Immorality]

Posted by The_Elves –   A Review by Martin Davie. [from here]

An Executive Summary of a paper commissioned by Church of England Evangelical Council.

[from the conclusion]

How evangelicals should respond.

Firstly…Evangelicals need to say loudly and clearly that, for the reasons explained above, the shared conversations are a deeply flawed process supported by deeply flawed resources. They are in fact an object lesson of how a church should not go about handling a serious theological issue.

Secondly, Evangelicals need to be aware that the shared conversations are only the ‘warm up act.’ It will be in the General Synod, probably in the session in February 2017, that a substantive debate will take place that could change the Church of England’s theology and practice. Such a debate would be proceeded by discussions in the College and House of Bishops so Evangelicals need to be ready for the lead in to the debate to begin as soon as the shared conversations have finished in the summer of 2016.

Thirdly, since it is clear that, whatever criticisms are offered, the shared conversations process is going to take place Evangelicals need to ready to keep on making the following key points during the process:

1. The position of the Church of England has not changed…The burden of proof is on those who want to change the Church’s position.

2. In considering its teaching and practice in relation to human sexuality the Church of England has to base its approach on the teaching of the theological authorities specified in Canons A5 and C15, namely the Bible, the teaching of the orthodox Fathers and Councils and the Historic Formularies of the Church of England (the Thirty Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer and the 1662 Ordinal)…

3. The reason a gap has opened up between the Church of England and the belief and behaviour of many people in this country is not because the Church’s teaching about sexuality has been shown to be wrong, but because increasing numbers of people have forgotten about God or are unwilling to live lives that are obedient to what God says.

4. In thinking about sexuality it is important not simply to focus on those biblical texts that directly address the issue of same-sex relationships, but to set those in the wider context of the fact that the Bible everywhere presumes a heterosexual norm for sex, marriage and family life on the basis of God’s creation of human beings as male and female.

5. No one has yet succeeded in successfully challenging the fact that the Bible takes a universally negative view of same-sex sexual activity in all its forms, a truth acknowledged by many who would like the Church to change its position on sexuality.

6. It is important not to let our experience determine our reading of the Bible. Rather we must interpret our experience in the light of biblical teaching.

7. The question of sexual orientation is a red herring. There is no agreed account of the cause(s) of same-sex attraction, studies of sexual attraction indicate that in a large number of people who they are attracted to sexually is something fluid rather than fixed and even in the case of those who have a life -long attraction to those of their own sex whether they choose to act on this attraction remains an act of voluntary choice for which they are morally accountable.

8. The issue of human sexuality is not a secondary issue on which we can simply agree to disagree…The Bible is clear that unrepented sexual sin cuts people off from God in this life and in the world to come…

9. The Church of England has a responsibility to take into account the effect that any decision that it makes will have on Christians in other parts of the world, particularly in those places where the Church is facing persecution.

10. It is not enough simply to say ‘no’ to same-sex relationships. The Church of England needs to take seriously the pastoral needs of those people who experience same-sex attraction and it needs to honour those who live lives of Christian holiness in the face of such attraction.

______________________________________________________________

An intriguing article on Kendall Harmon’s web-site, featuring Martin Davie’s dismissive review of what is happening in the Church of England’s attempt to get to grips with the phenomenon of Same-Sex Relationships and institutional homophobia, in its process of ‘Shared Conversations’ that has been launched in that Province of the Anglican Communion – on a matter of primary importance, not only for the Church of England but also  for Anglican Churches around the world.

Mr Davie expresses his concern in this statement, occurring in mid-flight:

“8. The issue of human sexuality is not a secondary issue on which we can simply agree to disagree…The Bible is clear that un-repented sexual sin cuts people off from God in this life and in the world to come…”

With this degree of unwillingness to engage in any further discussion on the subject of the Bible’s lack of insight into intrinsic homosexuality, Mr. Davie is expressing an out-dated  conservative mentality consonant with that of the Gafcon Primates – from the Global South – who really believe that the phenomenon of homosexuality is a human aberration, rather than a normal variant in human sexual development.

With such an antiquated view of gender and sexuality, no wonder the  world-wide Anglican Communion is in conflict – on a issue that the outside world considers to be for too long a situation in which injustice needed to be addressed, to counter a long-standing cultural and social misunderstanding of creation, born of prejudice.

n.b. ‘Elves’ are normally renowned for the mischief they are prone to make for ordinary human beings. This article, it will be noted, is published by an entity known as The Elves.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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8 Responses to An Evangelical Review of C. of E.’s ‘Shared Conversations’

  1. Michael Primrose says:

    Hi Fr Ron,

    It is interesting to look at the original version of note 8, rather than just the abbreviated one. In the PDF of the Executive Summary note 8 reads

    “The issue of human sexuality is not a secondary issue on which we can simply agree to disagree. First, this issue is a litmus test of whether we are willing to accept God’s account of who we are and how we are meant to live in consequence or whether we insist on trying to live on the basis of a view of who we are and how we should live that simply reflects our own preferences. Second, this is an issue to do with salvation. The Bible is clear that un-repented sexual sin cuts people off from God in this life and in the world to come (see Matthew 5:27-30, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 22:15)”

    the comment “or whether we insist on trying to live on the basis of a view of who we are and how we should live that simply reflects our own preferences.” when read in conjunction with note 3

    “The reason a gap has opened up between the Church of England and the belief and behaviour of many people in this country is not because the Church’s teaching about sexuality has been shown to be wrong, but because increasing numbers of people have forgotten about God or are unwilling to live lives that are obedient to what God says”

    would imply that an increasing number of people are finding the Evangelical, and also the current 50-cents each way of the Anglican Church, viewpoint on human sexuality less and less relevant to their everyday lives and existences, and thus are turning away from the Church if not from Christ. The Evangelical response to this seems to be a return to even more primitive discipline and observance, which I can hardly see will have the disillusioned flocking to the pews.

    And interesting, if unduly cynical thought crosses my mind, that if, as this report says, my un-repented sexual sin cuts me off from God in this life and in the world to come, then the Evangelicals will be more than happy to forego the monetary contribution I make to the Church or any other activity I may do, on a voluntary basis, in association with the Church.

    I realise, along with the Emperor Vespasian that “Pecunia non olet”, but I would hate to taint their hands with unclean money. After all, if there is all the brouhaha over whether a woman’s hand has been in the Apostolic Succession, then I hate to think how they would interpret making use of money from someone who is cut off from God Eternally.

    Perhaps there could be a special Evangelical Service to purify any money given to the Church of the taint of an unrepentant sinner.

    In Friendship

    Michael Primrose
    Christchurch

  2. Fr Martin Davies says:

    Fr Ron, you might like to note, and correct, the author of the piece here is Martin Davie, not Martin Davies. Being an Anglican in Sydney has challenges enough, without adding one of mistaken identity.

    • kiwianglo says:

      A momentary blip, Martin. Sorry. You see I am so used to hearing your name – although I would never have accredited you with the pusillanimity of the featured article! Cheers, Ron.

  3. John Marshall says:

    It is interesting to contrast the negativity of Mr Davie’s dismissal of the conversations with the very positive experiences of those who took part in the first set of meetings. Minds seem not to have been changed about the issues and their resolution, but there does seem to have been an unexpected sea-change in interpersonal relations. In the light of today’s second reading at Mass I rather think that counts for more.

    cryptogram

  4. kiwianglo says:

    Thank you, John, I. too, having read articles by Rose and Erika, on ‘Thinking Anglicans’, have some hope for reconciliation. However, the big guns in the biblical input into the conversations seem to be people like Ian Paul, who is definitely not a friend of LGBT people in the Church. There will a a need for a more balanced view of the hermeneutic. Agape, Fr. Ron

  5. John Marshall says:

    In the end I’m not over worried about the likes of Ian Paul. He is hardly in the front rank of biblical scholarship. No, it’s the fresh approach to how the problems are to be dealt with which interests. It’s rather like the original ARCIC conversations, which approached issues from a different angle. I recall as an area dean in the late 1980s presiding at a synod meeting when we were asked to approve the ARCIC 1 reports. One of the clergy spoke and voted against. He said he didn’t begin to understand the documents, but thought that if Anglicans and RCs had agreed, the truth must have been compromised. There will be similar reactions this time in this issue from those unable to see the wood for the trees. The real issue is summed up in that verse from yesterday’s reading – 1 John 4:20 – and we need to remember that “hate” in the NT Has a much wider spectrum of meaning than in common usage today. Alleluya for those who begin to recognise that that person of different sexuality is my brother or sister and not simply someone who can be written off as a reprobate sinner. In the end, those who live by proof-texts which prove nothing will be recognised to be avoiding the challenge to love, rather like my colleague of all those years ago. Blessings. John of the cryptogram

  6. kiwianglo says:

    Thank you, John, for this comment. I, too, am not too worried about Ian Paul’s input – believing that at some point in the process, there must be a proven N.T. scholar who will have a more enlightened understand of the anti-gay ‘proof texts’. What some con/evos seem to completely miss, is the fact the Jesus Christ is The Word that became flesh. He has overcome all the negativity of The Law; bringing, in his own person, the New Law of Love – by which, he said; his disciples would be known.
    Agape, Fr. Ron

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