The Bishop of Dudley offers some Lambeth 2008 Reflections

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I read and study my bible habitually, prayerfully and hard, learning both from the insights the Holy Spirit provides me and from the long tradition of piety and scholarship within which I am continually formed and reformed. My personal conclusion is that what St Paul and the Old Testament are condemning are not faithful, loving and stable same sex relationships as we see them today but rather matters of cultic sex, sex as the expression of a particular power relationship, and promiscuity. The other main argument, that God didn’t create Adam and Adam, collapses into a narrow form of Thomism (in which every “thing” can have only one good and natural purpose) that is explicitly rejected in the Prayer Book (and its revisions) marriage service and therefore cannot be claimed as Anglican.

Nonetheless, if I ever thought this issue could be “adiaphora” (something a local church can determine without needing to heed others) I no longer do. The consecration of a bishop in an active same sex relationship has certainly helped some Christians in North America to feel more fully accepted by the church, official liturgies and blessings for such partnerships have done the same for the couples involved and their friends. But the price is being paid elsewhere, particularly in places where Christians are on the defensive or in a minority in relation to Islam, and are often seen as slack on topics such as the consumption of alcohol. In countries like these male homosexual activities are often still criminal. There is no way they can tackle these issues at present in their contexts nor could they defend themselves by saying that “it’s not us, it’s just the Americans”. Indeed the very fact that it is the USA (in many parts of the world I doubt Canada is adequately distinguished) leading that plays into the anti-imperialism and hatred of America that is so strong across the globe. Invasion by American cultural values is no more popular than invasion by its troops.

As a C of E bishop I recognise that were I to insist on carrying out the consequences of my own views on this subject rather than upholding what Synod and the House of Bishops have agreed then I would have to resign. But my Anglican ecclesiology and catholic spirituality teach me to be obedient to the collegial will, properly expressed, not least because I might well be wrong. Equally, I believe that any individual church that claims to be Anglican needs to have a polity which gives full weight to the whole communion. It’s here where I find I am looking over the next few days to my American brothers and sisters for reassurance.

Read it all.

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Posted July 28, 2008 at 6:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Randy Muller wrote:

He reaches the right conclusion for many of the wrong reasons, and when his pro-homosexual allies call it dysfunctional—they are right.

July 28, 6:48 pm | [comment link]
2. COLUMCIL wrote:

Please look hard for that reassurance and when you find it, please, also, let us know where you find it.

July 28, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
3. Larry Morse wrote:

I should find a rational response to this, but my real desire is to give him a whack on the head. Is there nothing and no way we can rid ourselves of T EC and creatures like this? This man’s response is surely the result of a soul that has become thoroughly corrupt, completely tainted, so this essay smells like chowder left in the sun, or roadkill at the end of the week. T here can be no defending this, no compromising, no indabarating, inclusivity-izing. Nothing. He is with Robinson. Period. Will we scour this dirty bowl clean or will we put it on the shelf to draw cockroaches? When do we make up our minds that we have had enough and too much?  Larry

July 28, 8:47 pm | [comment link]
4. Cennydd wrote:

BINGO, Larry!

July 28, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
5. MargaretG wrote:

My personal conclusion is that what St Paul and the Old Testament are condemning are not faithful, loving and stable same sex relationships as we see them today but rather matters of cultic sex, sex as the expression of a particular power relationship, and promiscuity.

I wonder what else is going to depend upon the bishop’s “personal conclusion”.

It seems strange to me that whenever Jesus or the disciples were moved to change the old ways of the Law they managed to clearly say what they meant, but whenever they talk about homosexuality it “must have been” something different to what they said. I am sure that when Paul was drawing up his list of unacceptable behaviours and went to put homosexuality on it he could easily have added (except in faithful, loving relationships) after it or “cultic or promiscuous” before it. He managed such parentheses everywhere else -as we know from some of his convoluted sections - but missed them repeatedly whenever he mentioned homosexuality.

What a strange argument this man makes! It makes me wonder if he actually thinks.

July 28, 11:36 pm | [comment link]
6. Peter dH wrote:

I am sure that when Paul was drawing up his list of unacceptable behaviours and went to put homosexuality on it he could easily have added (except in faithful, loving relationships) after it or “cultic or promiscuous” before it.

In his defense, you can’t argue this point from a translation, only from the original Greek. The point is not whether Paul expressed himself clearly or not. He no doubt did. Rather, the point is whether we are right to translate the word “arsenokoites” simply with “homosexual”; in technical terms, whether the semantic field of the Greek word is really the same as that of the English we use to translate it.

Having said that, like you and like most scholars, I disagree with the bishop. The cultic meaning has been debunked, and adding “power relationship, and promiscuity” to that is a fig leaf that isn’t convincingly supported either. The links with discussion of homosexuality elsewhere in scripture, with the same word in extrabiblical text, and the parallel between the word’s derivation from “arsen” (male) + “koite” (bed) and that of similar words like “metrokoites” (incest with the mother) all suggest that “homosexuality” is a pretty good translation. See the BDAG Greek-English lexicon for a potted discussion and references.

July 29, 3:56 am | [comment link]
7. John Wilkins wrote:

Unfortunately # 6, the notion of “identity” that we have is is not quite equivalent conceptually.  What scholars have to unpack is the myriad of signs that particular acts convey (say of empire, rape, dominance, power, etc).  This moves away from the abstract discussions about genital activity, which are only, in fact, known in pr0nography.  When we talk about the qualities of relationships, the discussion becomes much more clear.  I continue to be puzzled by the reasserter’s reduction of homosexual relationships to sex.  I would hope that this was not done to straight relationships.

What is interesting is that this bishop is someone who reads and studies the bible prayerfully and comes to a different conclusion than reasserters.  Instead:  Katherine and others impugn his motives.  This is unfortunate:  an demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice the person, and unwillingness to offer mercy to the bishop himself.  Again, we make the mistake thinking that what we want, is what God wants, which is contested between gay people who know they are not sick or disordered, and those people who insist that gay people are “insults” to God.  As Drummie has eloquently stated.

July 29, 11:31 am | [comment link]
8. Connecticutian wrote:

I sort of agree with John Wilkins’ conclusion.  I think it’s unfortunate that someone with his bias was elevated to bishop in a Church that officially disagrees with him.  However, he’s thinking theologically, and he’s explicitly submitting himself to the wisdom of the Church.  That wins points in my eyes, and describes what others have labelled “Worthy Opponents.”  We can discuss, dialog, indaba, and do mission with people that question with honor and mutual submission.  The real problem is with those who make end runs to establish facts on the ground before the theology is there.

To me, this is where we start to apply biblical concepts about wheat and tares vs. shunning.  Both are encouraged, but perhaps for different applications?

July 29, 12:18 pm | [comment link]
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