Why Kevin Holdsworth didn’t like Archbishop Justin Welby’s Monterrey, Mexico, Sermon

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is deeply unhelpful of the Archbishop to use language which appears to suggest that the risk that those who wish to affirm gay people present is one of a lack or loss of core beliefs. That just isn’t true and is a nasty slur against fellow Anglicans. The US and Canadian churches are not places where God is absent and if the Archbishop needs to find that out, he needs to go there and meet them, something that his predecessor seemed to find impossible to do.

People will read the sermon in the US and Canadian churches and take immediate offence. (I find it offensive here in Scotland, but there it will appear to be a judgement on their national churches). Those who wish to affirm the place of LGBT people do so because of their core beliefs as Christians and as Anglicans, not because of any lack of belief or loss of God.

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury not have anyone on staff from the US or Canada or someone who knows those churches who could look at this kind of stuff and say, “hang on a minute, Father, that might not go down too well?”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of CanadaScottish Episcopal ChurchEpiscopal Church (TEC)Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyTheology: Scripture

Posted August 27, 2013 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. samh wrote:

All due respect to Kevin Holdsworth, I don’t think how well his statements will “go down” is a big factor in what he says. Nor should it be.

August 27, 9:59 am | [comment link]
2. Catholic Mom wrote:

I actually pretty much agree with everything that this guy said—starting with the extreme muddle of the original metaphor.  (“Do cliffs have two sides?”  But maybe he’s thinking of a ridge running to the summit of Mt. Everest with deathly drop offs on either side.  Anyway, it just gets messier and messier the more you try to straighten it out). 

Secondly, as I said on another thread, I think he completely mischaracterized both sides.  The one side does not lack “core beliefs” and the other side is not being cruelly intolerant and exclusive.  So that just more obfuscation.  You’ve got a very specific presenting issue and its not lack or core beliefs and/or intolerance.

It is the opinion of this Archbishop (and apparently that of his predecessor) that to hold the Anglican Communion together, you want to say as little about this issue as possible.  In fact, you don’t even want to name the issue and you certainly don’t want to make any black and white statement about it. 

You know, when the pharisees asked Jesus “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” he didn’t say—“Well, you know, there is a very narrow path there that we have to walk between the cliff over which you get to change wives every day and the other cliff where you never get to change wives under any circumstances.  [Although that doesn’t actually characterize either a pro- or an anti-divorce viewpoint.] So I think the best thing is to just keep walking this narrow path—whatever that’s supposed to mean, it’s a metaphor so you figure it out.”  Instead he gave them an actual answer. 

Even if this Archbishop does not want to give an answer (and this would make one wonder what the point of being an archbishop is) it would at least be nice to see him actually name the issue and try to give a reasonably fair and accurate statement of the positions of the opposing sides.  And also to acknowlede that there probably is no compromise position that will hold everybody together.

August 27, 10:19 am | [comment link]
3. tjmcmahon wrote:

I believe Mr. Holdsworth needs to get out to the hinterland of TEC where the Nicene creed is optional, Jesus is “a way” to “enlightenment”, where believing in the theology of the ‘79 BCP makes you suspect and eliminates you from consideration for episcopal office, and believing in the theology of the ‘28 BCP leads to deposition.
The ABofC did not do a very good job making his own point.  To read the sermon, you get the impression that what he is seeing is TEC and the liberal churches are on one side, all of Gafcon and GS, along with conservatives churches in the west on the other side, and he along with a few true believers walk the “narrow path,” but had a bit too much sherry.
What I think he actually meant was that there are some elements on the left (and in his case, he means to the left of gay marriage- as he has made clear in England that he is ok with it, just doesn’t see it as consistent with scripture, which it isn’t, but he isn’t going to make a fuss or enforce the doctrine of the church) who really are Universalists or atheists, and on the right, there are a few who really are Puritans.  And both of these two minorities have very large and loud pulpits. 
To any rational analysis, the “wacky” (to coin a word once used by a friend in England to describe TEC bishops) element on the left has actually taken control of the churches in USA and Canada, even though the majority in the pews would still affirm the Creeds without crossing their fingers, even if they do buy into gay marriage (and I am not sure they do, but they keep electing deputies who do).  So, in that sense, he is directly addressing the leadership of TEC, while I think his point to Gafcon is that they should guard against stripping the altars and tearing out the stained glass windows, or being directed for political purposes by elements from the west, or their own governments- which I think, given the breadth of theology within the African Churches, and wisdom of the leadership, they will indeed guard against.

August 27, 10:33 am | [comment link]
4. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “Those who wish to affirm the place of LGBT people [actually “behavior” but no matter] do so because of their core beliefs . . . “

I actually agree and, unsurprisingly, in his zeal to attempt to 1) create a “fringe” of both sides, 2) demonize those “fringes” and then 3) attempt to spin the situation into something that can be resolved by his and a few others majestic moderation and sense, Archbishop Welby is wrong.

This *is* about “core beliefs” and both sides on the chasm have core beliefs in spades.  One side believes their own foundational worldview and values—their gospel—and the other side believes the Gospel.  Neither are “fringy” in the Anglican Communion [except as regards the Christian faith], both have very strong, although mutually opposing and antithetical gospels, and there will be no “reconciliation” of such worldviews by brilliant moderation and “walking a narrow line” or whatever silly phraseology he came up with.

The only option is a broadening of the chasm, and that broadening can be a 1) formal recognition or 2) an informal reality which Archbishop Welby is utterly unable to stop from occurring.

August 27, 10:57 am | [comment link]
5. Sarah1 wrote:

What’s so fascinating is that many people on both sides of the chasm recognize and acknowledge the two disparate and opposing foundational worldviews in play.  It’s mostly in the bizarre rhetorical contortions of people like Archbishop Welby who are attempting to pretend otherwise and salvage anything other than a divide, formal or informal.

Welby has chosen, so far, denial, rhetorical gymnastics . . . and an informal divide, just like his predecessor.

Ah well.

August 27, 11:00 am | [comment link]
6. pendennis88 wrote:

Well, I suspect that the writer of this blog, not being an American, has simply not had much opportunity to see up close the universalist, marcionite and other current TEC beliefs that are today more the norm than an exception in almost every TEC parish, particularly those in the cities.  That is not to say there are not those on the revisionist side who do not have more of a tendency toward traditional Christian views on some topics than others, but it is a rapidly shrinking group.  I would say that is because they are on an intellectual slippery slope, but in any event, I don’t think where the majority of TEC stands or where it is headed is really open to question, other than by those like the current TEC bishop of Virginia who believe that John Dominic Crossan is orthodox and worthy of an invitation to preach in his diocese when Packer or NT Wright, apparently, are not.

However,  one thing in this post that I tend to agree with is the following:

“What might help would be if they could come out and say, “Well we don’t agree about this but we still respect one another and work together and that is the answer to the Communion’s problems – Anglicans of different views are part of one organic whole, we need one another and are getting on with it”. That would be honest, helpful modelling of how to manage conflict.

It might be.  It might have been helpful in 2003 or 2004.  But it is TEC and the Archbishop of Canterbury that refused any adequate alternative oversight to the orthodox.  It is TEC and the Archbishop of Canterbury who scuttled the efforts in Dromantine and Jamaica to be “inclusive” of orthodoxy.  It is TEC who has been deposing bishops and priests by the hundreds and suing every parish that has sought the alternative oversight once held out by the Archbishop of Canterbury and then withdrawn.

I find the quotation to be naive.  That door has been deliberately closed, by TEC and the prior Archbishop of Canterbury, who thought it “would all blow over”.  The current incumbent might try to reopen it.  He might recognize ACNA as a province and invite them to the next Lambeth, if there is one.  He might go to GAFCON II.  After all that has happened over the past decade, though, any effort to include both TEC and the ACNA/global south in the communion has been made very difficult, and I won’t go into the arguments against it now.  But if the current Archbishop continues to practice the politics of exclusion of the orthodox in the US and the marginalization of the global south as his predecessor did, the communion will simply devolve further.  It is time for the Archbishop to recognize that the “facts on the ground” have changed.  Any mature response to the current problems of the communion will involve drawing the orthodox back in on their terms, not TEC’s, or it will be doomed to failure.

August 27, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
7. tired wrote:

“who wish to affirm gay people…”

Maybe just a reflection of my posting moniker - but such puffery does lead me to question the core (Christian) beliefs of the speaker.  His reasoning turns back on itself, only to swallow its own tail: if behavior is irrelevant and natural proclivity to sin is to be affirmed, then why differentiate among the many various sins? To this fellow - we are identified by our sinfulness, and that is to be celebrated and affirmed.  Otherwise, he should simply assert a secret knowledge about a new morality that rejects biblical teaching.  Seems pretty core to me.


August 27, 2:06 pm | [comment link]
8. Adam 12 wrote:

It intrigues me that Welby has not yet made an official visit to TEC. That will be telling…

August 27, 2:37 pm | [comment link]
9. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

I find myself closest to Sarah among the previous commenters so far.  Among other things, I seriously doubt that the Scottish Episcopal Church is really much healthier than TEC.  Anyone else remember +Richard Halloway??

Nonetheless, I welcome it when people speak as forthrightly and clearly as Kevin Holdsworth does here.  There’s no ambiguity at all.  But there’s also no real attempt at producing an argument and making a case, just the same old typical assertion of a point of view.  Because for him, the truth of the position he espouses is simply axiomatic, because it’s part of the taken-for-granteds of the relativistic (indeed antinomian) worldview that now dominates the Global North (GN).

So yes, Sarah and others are right that there is no lack of “core beliefs” in this wearisome debate over sexual ethics and biblical authority, etc.  Rather, the problem is that only one side can rightly claim to be upholding core beliefs that are compatible with the teaching of the Bible and of the Christian Church for two millenia, and it’s not his side.  He sneers at the idea that the “progressive” pro-gay position is flatly contrary to Scripture, and he takes offense at it, but the fact remains that the pro-gay stance is manifestly and totally unbiblical, as some honest Liberals candidly admit (among them Walter Wink, Dan Via, and Bernadette Brooten).

We have to continue pounding home that truth, no matter how offensive it is to many GN people today, including ecclesiastical bureaucrats who are desperate to prevent an official, formal breakup of the entire Anglican Communion.  But the bitter fact is that we’ve already passed the point of No Return.  The Rubicon has been crossed, and there’s no going back for folks like Holdsworth, or the self-deluded leaders of TEC and the ACoC.

However, being the irrational optimist that I am (according to my wife), I’ll offer a bit of hope.  Despite this lousy homily, I am FAR more hopeful about the tenure of ++Justin Welby than I was about his predecessor.  Welby is instinctively on the right side of the fundamental dispute, whereas Rowan Williams was on the wrong side.  My hunch, and I could be wrong, is that ++Welby is taking the stance that he does for TACTICAL reasons, instead of for STRATEGIC ones (as ++RW did).  As an “Affirming Catholic,” RW fell into the deadly trap of trying to appease the dominant culture, rather than confronting it head-on.  In the end, I think, or rather I hope against hope, that ++Welby will come to his senses and recognize that there is no future in prolonging the futile attempt to “keep everyone talking at the table.”  That’s not what bishops are for, and certainly not archbishops.  We’ll see…

David Handy+

August 27, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
10. Catholic Mom wrote:

The problem with the “why can’t we all just get along in order to get on with it” argument is simply that both sides define IT in almost mutually antithetical ways.  What specific “it” is it that both sides should seek to get on with?  Both sides regard the prevention of the spread of the other viewpoint (or at least the practical application of those viewpoints)  as part of the “it” that they have a divine mission to get on with!

August 27, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
11. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

P.S.  Let me try to reframe the whole question of how “core beliefs,” or the supposed lack of them, is involved in this bitter, intractable controversy.  The real question is whether ANGLICALNSIM has any CORE doctrines left, and if so, what they actually are.  I think that’s very close to the heart of the whole problem.  The delueded leaders of both TEC and the Canadian church (ACoC) have convinced themselves that affirming the Sexual Revolution in no way violates any “core doctrine” of Anglicanism.  The infamous dismissal of charges of heresy against TEC’s +Walter Righter in the mid 1990s was made on that basis, and similarly the notorious St. Michael’s Report of the ACoC reached the same predictable but utterly fallacious conclusion in the middle of the last decade.

On one level, of course, that seemed plausible.  How can such a peripheral matter as homosexuality be a CORE issue for any Christian body?  After all, it’s rarely mentioned in Holy Scripture.  That’s how our liberal foes reasoned, and it seemed plausible enough to take in many moderates and institutionalists.

But of course, such a whitewashing of something that’s strongly condemned with absolute consistency every time it does come up in Scripture avoids facing the FACT (and it is a fact, not an opinion) that there is simply NO biblical basis whatsoever for the pro-gay position.  Zip.  Zilch.  None.

And my point is that if there is ANY core doctrine in Anglicanism (which so many observers doubt, both inside and outside Anglicanism), then the pre-eminent, supreme, foundational authority of Holy Scripture as the Word of God is such a core doctrine.  Just consider the solemn ordination oath that all of us clergy took before hands were laid on us, i.e., that we hold the Scriptures to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary for salvation, a solemn oath that we all had to sign in writing in front of the worshipping assembly.

IOW, IF in fact I’m right (and Holdsworth is wrong) that the pro-gay position, and all other forms of moral relativism likewise, are obviously contrary to biblical teaching, then the whole pro-gay cause is ruled out from the start, because it clearly and inexcusably contravenes the authority of God’s Word written, and that is ALWAYS impermissible.  Because the authority of Scripture is the most foundational of Anglican core values, or core doctrines.

Unless, of course, the Broad Church, Latitudinarian types are right after all, and the only actual core doctrine that Anglicanism has ever known is the supreme importance of tolerance.  According to them, and many historicans outside of Anglicanism, our only theological consistency has been our vagueness and inconsistency.

But that is manifestly unacceptable to anyone who takes religion seriously.  As one prominent convert to Catholicism put it (+Kinsman, early 20th century Bishop of Delaware), in justifying his move from Anglo-Catholicism to Roman Catholicism:  “A church that tolerates everything teaches nothing.”  Nothing except tolerance itself.

In the end, I sure hope that ++Welby’s Low Church, Evangelical side triumphs over his Broad Church, Erastian side.

David Handy+

August 27, 4:47 pm | [comment link]
12. Cennydd13 wrote:

8.  Better that ++Welby should make an unofficial visit to the ACNA, and on our side of the Pond; something that for some reason he hasn’t chosen to do.  But, that might open his eyes, mightn’t it?

August 27, 6:49 pm | [comment link]
13. Militaris Artifex wrote:

New Reformation Advocate,
In writing [emphasis added]

I hope against hope, that ++Welby will come to his senses and recognize that there is no future in prolonging the futile attempt to “keep everyone talking at the table.”  That’s not what bishops are for, and certainly not archbishops

In my humble opinion the bolded portion of your comment is perhaps the most concise, direct and honest description of the immediate source of the problem in the heterodox parts of Anglicanism which I have read since 2003. The purpose of επίσκοποι is to be the teachers (both in their words and their actions), not the mediators, facilitators, nor any of the other modern innovations designed to avoid making anyone uncomfortable with their own opinions/ideas/stances/positions. And, to put the exclamation point on it, it doesn’t model how Christ acted inn teaching his disciples. He was loving, but didn’t mince words. A paraphrase from my Naval experience comes readily to mind for all of the continuing tergiversations of the past forty and more years:

The Commanding Officer (i.e. Christ) has spoken, the time for discussion is ended. Make it so!

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

August 27, 7:12 pm | [comment link]
14. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Thanks for the kind words, MA/Keith (#13).  Much appreciated. 

Amen to your apt naval analogy.

David Handy+

August 28, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
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