Jonathan Clark responds to Dr. Goddard: Could we lament together our inability to remain united?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There’s a dynamic of divergence in the Anglican Communion. It is absolutely clear to most people in the Anglican / Episcopal churches in North America that the gospel demands the full inclusion of gay people. It is absolutely clear to those who speak for most churches in the developing world (though not all) that this inclusiveness merely dilutes the gospel. It provides evidence that the churches in North America – and the UK is under intense suspicion as well – are falling into a decadent decline. They just can’t be trusted; the only thing to do is to change the whole structure radically, either from within, or through a totally new structure. The first is preferable of course, as it means you inherit the resources; but either is preferable to the status quo.

The thing which is the obvious gospel imperative for one side is for the other side an equally obvious sign of the opposite. Blessing same-sex relationships is an unavoidable call of faith – or a clear rejection of Christian values. Planting new churches is mere obedience to the call to proclaim the good news – or an obvious rejection of the body of Christ in the churches already present.

No wonder a moratorium can have no effect. But what can anyone then do? Maybe giving up blaming the ‘other’ would help: no-one can be asked to act against their conscience, however misguided any of us might think it is....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of CanadaChurch of England (CoE)Episcopal Church (TEC)Global South Churches & PrimatesInstruments of UnitySexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessingsWindsor Report / Process* TheologyEcclesiologyPastoral Theology

14 Comments
Posted January 27, 2011 at 7:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Br. Michael wrote:

Sure.  We can overlook that they are heretics and they can overlook that we are bigots.  We can then concentrate on what unites us like ....what?  The coffee hour?

January 27, 9:22 am | [comment link]
2. frdarin wrote:

This article proceeds from the usual place argued by those who are convinced that the revisionist view on human sexuality is God-given.  It seems that personal “opinion” is elevated to the level of inspiration.  Can’t we have differences of opinion on these important matters and still worship at the same altar?  I’ve heard these very words on a micro level, and over extremely important issues:  the historicity of the Resurrection first and foremost.  And the answer is no - we can’t.  Especially when the witness of the Scriptures and the church Catholic are so univocal. 

Darin+

January 27, 10:28 am | [comment link]
3. Ross Gill wrote:

It is absolutely clear to most people in the Anglican / Episcopal churches in North America that the gospel demands the full inclusion of gay people. It is absolutely clear to those who speak for most churches in the developing world (though not all) that this inclusiveness merely dilutes the gospel.

Note the subtle difference in the two statements?  The first says “It is absolutely clear to most people in the Anglican/Episcopal churches in North America…” which suggests that the matter is settled in North America.  The second says “It is absolutely clear to those who speak for most churches ...” implying that that the people they are speaking for may be of a different opinion.

January 27, 11:01 am | [comment link]
4. Sarah wrote:

Nice pickup Ross.  And further, it’s not at all absolutely clear to “most people in the Anglican/Episcopal churches in North America.”

I personally don’t think the current TECian leaders will have the majority in *opinion*—but they own the levers of power, and so disagreement will have to be demonstrated by money and attendance.

January 27, 11:06 am | [comment link]
5. Daniel Muth wrote:

Simply using words like “gospel imperative” does not eo ipso establish that one is expressing what those words signify. One has to be able to demonstrate an understanding of their meanings - meanings that derive, in this case, from the received Christian revelation and the community to which it has given rise over the millenia of the Judeo-Christian heritage.  In this case, the words are empty inasmuch as they are not connected to the Gospel proclaimed by either the first century Jewish Rabbi who was also God incarnate, nor by the theological community that produced Him, nor the community that He established, nor in the divinely inspired scriptures that act as both record of and means for His self-communication to that community and to the world that it is in but not of. 

There is no possible theological defense to be made of this purported “gospel imperative” of treating same-sex couplings as if they were marriages; the raw material from which it might possibly be constructed is utterly lacking.  You cannot make bricks without clay.  The mindset that denies the need for such material or purports to be able to construct it whole-cloth it itself likewise theologically indefensible.  One may as well proclaim that stuffing jelly beans in one’s ears is a “gospel imperative”.  The fact that one sports a degree, a pointy hat and good intentions has nothing whatever to do with the veracity of one’s claims with respect to “gospel imperatives.” 

Breaches of ecclesial discipline made in response to such lobotomized faithlessness may well be regrettable, and, as in the case of AMiA, may well be met with opposition by those who, despite sympathy with its goals, nevertheless cannot countenance the action.  To make abundantly clear, as the Primates did in 2007, that such breaches are of a different and lesser order than the excrescences that occasioned them is simply a matter of seeing the situation clearly.  Reconciliation of the main body with AMiA is a fundamentally different thing and involves a fundamentally different order of repentance that does reconciliation with TEC and ACoC.  The former involves little more than removel of the offense that occasioned the breach of discipline and acknowledgement of fault on the part of the organizers of AMiA.  The latter will require a far more complete change of heart on the part of the offending parties.  It will take considerable humility to acknowledge the error and a great deal of effort and no little expense to mend what has been so badly broken.  The experience of the Church is that, whole such complete change is possible, it is extremely unlikely across such a large and hard-hearted group.  In the meantime, shunning is increasingly clearly the only possible - and most charitable - course.  It is a sadness.

January 27, 11:06 am | [comment link]
6. Ralph wrote:

“...full inclusion of gay people.” OK, I’ll buy that. A “gay person” is not necessarily a self-avowed, practicing, and unrepentant sinner.

However, the Gospel - in the words of Jesus who is God - states with clarity that porneia (sexual immorality) brings about defilement.

The absolute Biblical prohibitions against homosexual practice have only one “target audience.” To a heterosexual, they are irrelevant. To a homosexual, they are life-giving.

January 27, 11:15 am | [comment link]
7. phil swain wrote:

This “lamenting together” is a typical TEC mode of operation.  TEC counsels abortion and then they lament together the loss of the child; TEC counsels divorce and then they lament together the loss of the marriage.  The pattern is do what you wish and if someone doesn’t like it then we’ll lament together.  It the same thing as the earlier Bishops’ “regret”.  We regret that you’re upset by our actions.  You could call it the faux lamentation.

January 27, 11:24 am | [comment link]
8. Paula Loughlin wrote:

“no-one can be asked to act against their conscience, however misguided any of us might think it is….”

I may be mistaken but I was under the impression that Christianity asks that of us many times.  My own understanding may too often lead to sin, especially the sin of heresy. 

So yes, if somebody’s conscience is telling them to believe or behave in contradiction to God’s Truth revealed in Scripture we are called to ask them to go against their conscience. 

The assumption that self revelation trumps a rightly formed conscience is a notion that has done much damage to the Catholic faithful and I sure as heck hope that notion does not spread.

January 27, 11:45 am | [comment link]
9. Timothy Fountain wrote:

Would be easy if we simply disagreed.  The constant manipulations, misrepresentations and unilateralism of the LGBT faction has created the massive mistrust pointed out by ACI, among others.  We could just as well be mourning together about our division had TEC refrained from innovations, and probably building more empathy and bonds of affection in the process.

January 27, 1:39 pm | [comment link]
10. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

“It is absolutely clear to most people in the Anglican / Episcopal churches in North America that the gospel demands the full inclusion of gay people”.

Nobody, including straights, has a right to “demand” the sacrament of marriage—and, even if he/she did, he/she can demand it AS IT IS CURRENTLY DEFINED.  Since when does inclusion denote automatic redefinition?  If it does, maybe I could say I consider the “original” limiting, and demand that it embrace my heterosexual polygamy—why have one husband when I could have three?!!  Wow!! 

Inclusion, fine—but you’re having a little trouble getting around the porneia-thingy.  And bullying, “majority rules” and “because we feel like it” doesn’t cut the mustard.  Not to mention, funny how “majority rules” in TEC, but majority is not allowed to rule(Thanks, Rowan) in the Worldwide Communion.

January 27, 1:46 pm | [comment link]
11. driver8 wrote:

It’s pretty standard Catholic doctrine that one ought only to pursue that which one genuinely considers to be good. It is the church’s task and the work of God’s grace to inform and purify our consciences such that we share more deeply in what truly is good (that is, what God has willed). Thus, there is a sense in which “asking” people if what they consider good (that is the product of their conscience), really is good, is at the very center of the church’s ethical responsibility.

For it is also the case that:

1. One may be profoundly wrong about what really is good. (That is, one’s conscience may be profoundly, even potentially damnably, in error).

2. One may not simply be wrong but culpably wrong, if one reasonably ought to have had a well formed conscience. For example, if one knows and ignores the teaching of Scripture that one ought to have trusted.

3. Those who ought to have known what is good, but culpably do not, and teach others to share their errors, are of course held to account by the Lord. Or so Jesus teaches.

Hence the church has a great responsibility to teach about what is truly good and to rebuke and correct when they see error.

January 27, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
12. MichaelA wrote:

Jonathan Clark writes:

“Remember – the Anglican Mission in the Americas (affiliated to Rwanda) was, in 2000, already moving towards establishing a separate province, after the irregular consecrations of John Rodgers and Chuck Murphy. That’s three years before Gene Robinson was consecrated as bishop of New Hampshire.”

Excellent attempt at ‘spin’ Ellen. Try to pretend that the attempt at wholesale takeover by liberals of the church in North America only commenced with Gene Robinson’s consecration in 2003! The liberal push of course began many years before that. It was only after many years of provocation that the orthodox began to take active steps to redress the situation.

Nor are you correct in describing the establishment of the AMiA in 2000 as “moving towards establishing a separate province”. Think of it rather as a warning. Liberal fools in TEC failed to heed that warning. Instead they pressed ahead with their foolishness - they consecrated Robinson in 2003 and THEN they publicly repudiated the warnings graciously handed out to them by the Primates at Dromantine in 2005 and Dar Es Salaam in 2007.

It was only after this grossly recalcitrant behaviour by the liberals that the extreme step of forming ACNA as a new province-in-the-making was taken, in 2008. The primates repeatedly made clear that this step could have been averted IF the liberals had heeded the warnings handed out to them.

If the leadership of TEC act in a childish manner, they can expect to be treated like disobedient children. The same goes for the liberals in CofE who seem to think they are immune to discipline. The wheels may move slowly, but they do move.

January 27, 7:43 pm | [comment link]
13. driver8 wrote:

#12 It sometimes feels as if there is a strategic adoption of particular arguments depending upon the context. That they are at least in tension if not contradictory seems not to matter.

1. Thus when the suggestion is made that TEC has acted precipitately then the argument is made, “But we’ve been underway on this for 40 years”.

2. When one wants to suggest that the “orthodox’ acted precipitately then one argues, ’ See, AMiA was formed before we took any actions at all.”

January 28, 1:05 am | [comment link]
14. art wrote:

At first blush this is a reasonable, perhaps even necessary, riposte from Rev Clark-King.  But what if the “dynamic of divergence” betrays something even deeper than she dare articulate; for perhaps she does not even see it. 

Rather than lamenting an end to an organizational unity - we have already ensured that kind of thing nearly 500 years ago, and previously too, as Christians - perhaps she needs to acknowledge that what enables Christians to “remain” in C/communion one with another is not to be found in such historical, organisational forms at all.

Even when the NT appears to display forms of diversity (theologically, culturally), what grants them due communion is their common confession of Lordship, a confession that reached consensus even in the Church’s acknowledging the various diverse witnesses to that Lordship to embrace a common canon.  Such a view of Lordship simply does not appear to exist nowadays.  Instead, other kinds of criteria loom large.  And another term for such aggrandizement is idolatry. That is appropriate theological speak, the final logic of the Psalter, in its resolute drive to PRAISE YAHWEH!

January 28, 5:30 am | [comment link]
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