Leander Harding: A Response to the Lawyer/Bishops

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The authors are proposing the methodology of advocates in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of jurisprudence as the preferred means for adjudicating the disputes in the Anglican Communion. I will be interested to hear what other lawyers who are churchman make of this assertion. I believe that this methodology is a method which has been developed with the assumption that the primary business of the courts is to apply existing statues in a way that is fair and equitable. In other words, to try the case in terms of the laws that apply. It must be said here that aims of such a method are very limited. This is a system and methodology that is designed to restrain crime and punish wrong doing. Reconciliation and healing are not in view here and certainly not in view is a vision of building up the one body of Christ. In response to the assertion that the authors are uniquely equipped to address the crisis in the Anglican world because of their training, I ask “but does this method really fit and does the method invoked have among its aims properly theological and properly ecclesiological aims?” Can the method of the civil law developed to work within a well-defined system of statues and precedents really be the answer to a profound theological and ecclesiological crisis? Is not a more likely analogy the analogy of ecumenical negotiation around agreed statements of faith, order and mission such as the National Council of Churches document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry which the authors oddly invoke to bolster their case. I say oddly because the whole purpose of this ecumenical document was to be a prelude to growing ecumenical covenant.


The premise of the brief by these lawyers is that the method of legal argument which is appropriate to a system of settled statutes and case law is the best method to adjudicate what they identify as a constitutional crisis over a constitution that is unwritten and unenforceable. It appears to this non-lawyer that their method has quickly led them to a problem for which their method is in the nature of the case inadequate. The phrase “an unwritten and unenforceable but clearly recognized and anciently respected Anglican Constitution” seems on first reading an oxymoron. It is an enforceable constitution in the American case and an unwritten but enforceable constitution in the British case (nevertheless discernable through the tradition of common law) that makes the jurisprudential method the six bishops propose workable in its normal context. That the Anglican Communion is not able to enforce the most minimal communal discipline is exactly the crisis in front of us. To propose as a solution something that is unenforceable does not appear as a positive contribution to the crisis. Would not a status quo which enables radical and communion-breaking provincial autonomy be a kind of enforcement? The conclusion of the paper seems to contradict the method that is being invoked.


As the six bishops proceed with their argument they become more and more Orwellian. Traditionalists are “constitutional revolutionaries” and those who propose radical innovations in faith and morals and are breaking with the witness of the majority of the world’s Christians are somehow in the tradition of Vatican II and part of a coming “Ecumenical Reformation” and wish “to leave Anglicanism the way it is.” The tone of the paper is high-handed in the extreme and the actors are identified in a stereotypical way as conservatives who “unapologetically seek the utter defeat of the other” and want to “undo the use of reason in the interpretation of scripture” and who are part of a growing “fundamentalism” as opposed to those who “have rediscovered the church’s ancient baptismal theology” and seek to reform the church according to this theology and in a way that will finally make the church relevant to the society and culture it serves. This kind of rhetoric is very disappointing. One discipline that ought to prevail in these attempts at dialogue is the discipline to describe the position of the other side in terms that they can accept. To accuse your opponent of rejecting the role of reason in biblical interpretation while all the while you refuse to engage his careful exegetical arguments (for example N.T. Wright or Robert Gagnon or on the purely scientific front the NARTH researchers) is simply false witness.

Read it all.

Filed under: * TheologyEcclesiology

28 Comments
Posted September 15, 2007 at 2:30 pm

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1. Judith L wrote:

Welcome back, Dr. Harding.  I thought you had ceased blogging.  This is a must read.

September 15, 3:14 pm | [comment link]
2. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Dr. Harding writes: “The authors are proposing the methodology of advocates in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of jurisprudence as the preferred means for adjudicating the disputes in the Anglican Communion. I will be interested to hear what other lawyers who are churchman make of this assertion.

I don’t know that I’d characterize the lawyer-bishops’ statement in that way. On the other hand, while I don’t know whether I count as a “churchman,” I am a lawyer; I didn’t find the statement to be especially helpful, and I’m not sure it’s even useful.

The First Commandment requires us to face the facts as best we can — to deal with the universe as God wrought it, not as we wish it were. (My blog: The Questioning Christian)

September 15, 4:00 pm | [comment link]
3. the roman wrote:

“Understanding the mission of the church as primarily a search for justice separated from questions of doctrinal truth, spirituality and religious observation would clearly be the invention of a new religion that could claim no Anglican provenance.”

phhhhew….thhhhhhht..twang! Bulls-eye!

September 15, 4:02 pm | [comment link]
4. Baruch wrote:

What did the Bard say about lawyers???

September 15, 4:15 pm | [comment link]
5. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Baruch [#4], the Bard said, in a speech by the evil Dick the Butcher, that when the bully Jack Cade becomes king, they’ll first kill all the lawyers, so that Cade’s whims will then be the law. (King Henry VI, part II, act IV, scene ii, line 86)

The First Commandment requires us to face the facts as best we can — to deal with the universe as God wrought it, not as we wish it were. (My blog: The Questioning Christian)

September 15, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
6. BillS wrote:

Dr. Harding hits the nail on the head. We should all firmly reject the notion that the underlying problem is one of interpreting the Anglican communion constitution, such as it is. The problem is innovative interpretations of the Bible, and claiming that the Bible says things it clearly does not say.

I firmly reject the premise that somehow legal training of a few bishops gives them any special expertise in the matters that affect the future of TEC and the Episcopal Church worldwide. It does not.

Lawyers are trained in knowledge of the law, as doctors are trained in medicine, and engineers are trained to understand electrical currents and stress loads and such. None of these professions has any more competence as a result of their specialized training than any anyone else once they get outside of the bounds of their specialized training. Whether homosexual activity is sinful or not is outside of the bounds of specialized secular legal training.

The obvious strategy is to use the ruse that this is a legal issue, in order to determine the terms of the debate. Define the debate, and the reappraisers hope that they can define the outcome.

Lawyers are trained to be more adept than most of us to use words to obfuscate clear meaning. The words “separation of church and state” are found nowhere in the US Constitution, yet this phrase is the basis for eliminating prayer in the classroom. “Penumbras and emanations” are found and invented in the US Constitution in order to create a non existent right to an abortion.

It is not enough to argue the points that this piece of idiocy tries to make. The reasserter bishops must not concede the premise that Bishops who are lawyers have any specialized expertise in addressing the issues.

September 15, 4:43 pm | [comment link]
7. Albany* wrote:

#6 “The obvious strategy is to use the ruse that this is a legal issue, in order to determine the terms of the debate. Define the debate, and the reappraisers hope that they can define the outcome.”

Yes, Yes, Yes! Thank you.

It is important to thank Dr. Harding for the excellent quality of this work in an emergency time-frame. So solid, so helpful. Thank you.

September 15, 4:50 pm | [comment link]
8. Spiro wrote:

I will for ever remain thankful to Dr. Gagnon for making it abundantly clear that there is no valid theological (or even pastoral) support for same-sex intimate sexual relationship.
Everyone who is genuinely interested and open to finding the Christian truth on homosexuality and the Biblical/Christian viewpoint NEEDS go to:
http://www.robgagnon.net

Spiro

September 15, 5:05 pm | [comment link]
9. Philip Bowers wrote:

This is the best TEC has to offer?  TEC is a hoot a minute!  They are really really trying to play at Church, but it’s so hard to do when you think Christianity is determined by logical argument rather then the Word of God.  (And don’t give me any fluff about Christianity being decided at Nicea.  If that’s what you believe, read Pelikan’s volume 1, study the Chruch Fathers pre-Nicea, ...  Better yet, it that’s what you believe, why the heck do you follow such a construct of man?)

September 15, 5:11 pm | [comment link]
10. Alice Linsley wrote:

“That the Anglican Communion is not able to enforce the most minimal communal discipline is exactly the crisis in front of us. To propose as a solution something that is unenforceable does not appear as a positive contribution to the crisis.”  God love you, Dr. Harding, for pointing to the crux of the problem!  Anglicans have some tough decisons to make and better get going!

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com

September 15, 6:04 pm | [comment link]
11. D. C. Toedt wrote:

Communal discipline, Alice? Who ever agreed to that?

Some of our foreign cousins claim to be so upset with us that they’ll no longer sit at the same table with us. Fine; they can simply stay away from any future extended-family reunion dinners that we attend, and stop making so much noise about it.

Back when I did litigation for a living, I found that the lawyers to worry about were not the ones who blustered and threatened; those folks usually weren’t worth taking seriously. The ones to watch were the quiet ones who calmly did what (they felt) they had to do. Few of our vocal primatial cousins seem to fall into the latter category.

The First Commandment requires us to face the facts as best we can — to deal with the universe as God wrought it, not as we wish it were. (My blog: The Questioning Christian)

September 15, 6:25 pm | [comment link]
12. jamesw wrote:

I am legally trained (two law degrees), theologically trained (Masters in theology), trained in research (library degree), and I currently work as a legal reference librarian.  That and $5 will buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Let me say a few things.

1. There is a constitutional aspect to the crisis.  In fact, I would suggest that what is currently going on is primarily a constitutional crisis.  If it was purely a theological crisis, then everyone would agree upon what authorities could resolve the theological questions.  One of the differences between the CommCon’s and the FedCon’s is that the former believe that the constitutional crisis must first be resolved before the theological questions can be dealt with; while the latter believe that the theological questions can be dealt with first.

2. Having said that, this sham of a paper dresses itself up as a legal document - complete with legalese and the claiming of credentialed authors - but it is NOT a legal document.  It is a theological document, and a very poor one at that.  This paper does not seriously address the governing structures of the Anglican Communion, save for one very weak argument about the ACC’s constitution.  This document does not describe any real Anglican constitution at all, but rather it describes what liberal TEC ideologues would like Anglicanism to be.

3. The purpose of the paper - it is pretty clear to me - was to provide a supposed legal excuse for telling Rowan Williams that TEC would not and could not agree to the DES Communique nor to the Covenant.  It was designed to fool the majority of TEC bishops who were supposed to be shocked and awed by the legal jargon and legal training of the authors.  There is no doubt why it was supposed to be kept secret until the very end.  This is an exceptionally poorly written paper and once subjected to the light of day, it will be revealed to be utter rubbish.

4. I think we owe StandFirm a huge debt of thanks for exposing this sham, and for wise men like Christopher Seitz, Ephraim Radner, and Leander Harding for their quick and devastating responses.

September 15, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
13. Alice Linsley wrote:

D.C., so you also are a lawyer?  What is your view of the Law, if not that it protects the innocent, punishes the guilty, and preserves society for self-destruction?  And what of sacred law so old, so primeval, so intrinsic to the nature of things that you can’t escape it?

You’re wrong about the African primates blustering.  Far from it! They speak their minds and they hold to their convictions, and so far they’ve neither blustered nor hedged their statements.  “Bluster” is the term I would apply to people such as Fr. Jake, Jim Naughton, and Susan Russell, and certainly to their readers.

As to not being willing to recieve Communion with those who they regard as false-hearted, that is simply the Tradition of the Church, one which you clearly wish to change.

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com

September 15, 7:14 pm | [comment link]
14. Alice Linsley wrote:

Sorry, that should say: “from self-destruction” but you already knew that!

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com

September 15, 7:15 pm | [comment link]
15. KGL+ wrote:

I wish I had more time to comment and I may come back later but after months of staying away from commenting, I feel the need to give a few thoughts.  I just wish I had the time to be more detailed.

First a bit background information- I am a churchman almost finished with my training in law (with the intent of serving as a law professor and a priest).

Church- I am an Anglican (Episcopal… for now) priest. Law- I am a student at Yale Law School where I am focusing my study and writing on jurisprudence, church/state relations, judicial review of non-profits,  and Property Law and religious organizations).

Ok… Law need ought not be seen in legal realist terms or through the law and economics lens. Thus, I disagree with the statement,

This is a system and methodology that is designed to restrain crime and punish wrong doing. Reconciliation and healing are not in view here and certainly not in view is a vision of building up the one body of Christ.

Hart, Coleman, and maybe even Dworkin (who disputed positivism) would agree that the Law’s primary purpose is not about restraining action but instead is “power conferring.” Thus, even positivism (with all its errors) sees the law as power conferring and not as a system of punishing wrong-doing or restraining “bad” actions. It is about ordering society to offer guidance to a confused people (this would be Coleman). It cannot simply be about power, control (critical legal studies) or about a command issued by a property authority with a sanction attached (like a criminal statute… this is Austin’s view of positivism).

The natural law tradition (Aquinas, and perhaps Fuller) would certainly disagree that “law” is not a way to address religious issues because it cannot lead to reconciliation.
There are two issues- (1)can or does “Law” apply to things of God/Church (that is, does Law come from or lead to God) and (2) Does (or can) Law lead to reconciliation instead of punishment or restraint. I don’t have time to go into more depth but I would simply say yes to both.

Law is only law when it is moral and morality is nonsense if it does not come from the moral law giver (that is, morality is the very nature of God). Thus, morality and law go hand-in-hand within the natural lawyers worldview. Also, there is such a thing as an absolute law that applies always and everywhere (I believe this as a Christian and student of jurisprudence). So, can interpreting a constitution lead us into Truth? I think so, but that doesn’t mean that it always will. In the same way that reading the Bible won’t always lead us into Truth. We need a formed conscience and we need the Body of Christ- the Church. Not to mention the Holy Spirit.

As for reconciliation. Within the power-conferring view of law, it is certainly reasonable to see reconciliation as a result (or goal) of law. A Christian natural lawyer would certainly believe that reconcilation should be a goal of Law (this does leave open HOW to effect reconciliation). I think reconciliation can and ought to be a goal of Law. That doesn’t preclude punishment but I don’t have enough time to discuss a notion of punishment consistent with reconciliation (see Lewis or Aquinas). Practically, reconciliation can be (and sometimes is) an “end” of law. The (controversial) role of International Law (even customary international law) has occasionally been one of reconciliation. Would any argue that Truth and Reconciliation commissions throughout Africa (and I think to a certain extend elsewhere) weren’t both Law and interested in reconciliation? 

I write only because I don’t think the starting point objection to the writings of the Bishop-lawyers should be that the “law” cannot help with our dispute because it is fundamentally about precedent, restraining action, or “[try[ing] the case in terms of the laws that apply.” I don’t think this is a fair understanding of law. The laws that apply must come from somewhere- perhaps even from The Law (as a natural lawyer would argue). Statutes must be enacted by the properly authorized “sovereign” but does that mean that a properly enacted statute is moral or even “Legal.” Just look at the Nurenburg trials. Some statutes are rules but aren’t laws because they are in contradiction with The natural law.

Further, even adjudication is more about determining which laws apply rather than simply applying laws within the mathematical formula of a statute. A significant school of jurisprudence would argue that Law must be moral (that is, from God) in order to actually be law. This viewpoint would (and does, at times) lead to reconciliation instead of punishment or restraint. And one can be punished in order that one is led into reconcilation. I think our Scripture (see Paul) makes this clear. Thus, I think we should not argue about the applicability of LAW to our situation. The Philosophy of Law can help us in framing the dispute.  So I don’t think that law is the problem. The problem is that our ‘Bishop’-Lawyers have abandoned the notion of searching for Truth in both Law and Church.

Finally, I wuold like to address this statement-

In response to the assertion that the authors are uniquely equipped to address the crisis in the Anglican world because of their training, I ask “but does this method really fit and does the method invoked have among its aims properly theological and properly ecclesiological aims?”

.
I would answer that the heart of the issue is in the phrase “their training.” Their method may be faulty- but not because it is based on law.  It is quite reasonable to believe that Law, Truth, and Morality are inseparable.

Perhaps it is the “training” or the “their,” that is the problem.  A moral theologian/legal philosopher has much to tell us about how to handle our dispute. I believe that the thoughts of those trained in Jurisprudence can aid our debate and our decision making. In other words do we toss Aquinas when he speaks of law just because he is both a natural lawyer and theologian? In other words, is St. Francis better because he knew nothing about Law?

In think our current dispute is so deep because we have stopped seeing the connection between law and morality and we have believed the myth that law is secular and God is a purely personal matter. God should inform our views of law- from protecting the defenceless (human rights law) to prohibiting murder (criminal law) to conferring power on those who are accountable to the people (election law). Perhaps a return to natural law is the way forward.

We should not dismiss the writings of the ‘Bishop’-Lawyers because they seek to frame our dispute within the Law; instead, we should dismiss them because they seek to make Law into something it is not and they seek to remove Truth from both the secular and religious worlds (a dichotomy I use here for the sake of ease, not because I believe in it). 

So, I am not arguing in favor of the ‘Bishop’-lawyers particular expertise nor am I supporting their theology or jurisprudence (of which I cannot find much of either).

I am merely trying to say that if we say something to the tune of “the Law cannot inform our discussion because it is a method devoted only to secular matters” then we do ourselves a huge disservice because we are only supporting the idea that there is no such thing as absolute Truth or God’s law or even “moral law” which applies always and everywhere. If we believe in absolute Truth then I would argue that we must believe in natural law and we must work to make sure our rules are truly Laws by ensuring they are moral (as per the principles given us by He who is morality).  And as an aside to the liberal egalatarians amongst our brother and sister Episcopalians- moral law doesn’t mean religious rule it means that certain moral fundamentals must be respected in the law because they are absolutes. I hope we can take on both the Bishops and their statement but not expand the debate such that we throw out the baby with the bathwater (yes, that is a term of art in jurisprudence).

Ok- I may have been terribly unclear and I’ve typed furiously because I have to run but I hope I have at least presented a bit of food for thought that may inform the discussion without making too many errors. So I apologize in advance for any errors or admissions in this hasty comment. My prayer is that more of us will work to bring absolute Truth back into law and religion. (And of course, that absolute Truth is personified in the Truth that is Jesus Christ whom [even] lawyers are called to love and emulate.

So in the end, while I do want to defend jurisprudence, my purpose is not one defending a system of jurisprudence but instead working to bring people into relationship with Christ and praying for our bishops that they may be so moved by the love of God and sacrifice of Jesus that they return to the faith once delivered such that they stop leading the people of God astray but instead focus their desire to be “progressive” on to the truly innovative mission of bringing the whole world into knowledge and love of God.
Pax,
K+

September 15, 7:22 pm | [comment link]
16. Craig Goodrich wrote:

My comment at Dr+ H’s blog:


Thank you for this insightful analysis.


Two additional comments I think need to be made about the fundamental premises of this silly piece of transparently tendentious nonsense:

1) If we’re looking at the Baptismal theology of the early Church, do we have any evidence that the errant soul discussed in 1 Cor 5 was not baptized?  What does St. Paul recommend to the Corinthian church here, and why do these ambulance-chasers in purple not believe it applies to the current situation?


2) If in fact this situation amounts to a Constitutional crisis in the Anglican Communion, the closest historical analogy that presents itself is the case of King John’s flagrant abuse of his position as sovereign, contrary to long-established and well-understood but unwritten traditional principles.  This abuse became so blatant that at length John’s fellow feudal aristocrats banded together and forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which was at the time revolutionary only in that it made explicit hitherto unwritten constraints on the King and provided for some mechanism of enforcing them. 

 

Like the “bonds of affection” uniting the Anglican Communion, the traditional limits on the power of the King did not need to be formally specified until a self-interested and nihilistic power ignored them.  Or did the nobles who prepared the Magna Carta “misperceive the issues”?

 

<hr width=30%><font size=-2>“May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
—G. Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, August 1790</font>

September 15, 7:42 pm | [comment link]
17. LTN wrote:

Although I am a practicing churchman and lawyer, I’ll leave the substantive response to others who can devote adequate time for a qualitative response.

As I reviewed this document, I wondered why it was leaving such a strong and negative reaction by a number of theologians and practicing attorneys? I believe that I found the reason on page 37 where the authors admitted in part, “We are neither practicing attorneys nor professional theologians….” I believe this is the crux of the problem.

Theologically, the document reads like it was written by those with a rudimentary first degree in theology. Legally, the arguments are simplistic and lacks a good practitioner’s experience and sophistication.

September 15, 8:17 pm | [comment link]
18. Bill Matz wrote:

Concur with LTN. For all the learning these 6 (oops, now 5) bishops have, their paper displays a remarkable lack of logic, law, theology, and grasp of relevant facts.

Dr. Harding and jamesw have done a fine, comprehensive job reviewing the whole paper. I focus on one of the paper’s weakest points, that reasserters seek to “undo reason” as a source of authority.
As Dr. H notes this is simply not true. First, reappraisers have consistently misrepresented what Hooker meant by reason, as well as the lower weight Hooker accorded it as a source of authority (scripture primary, then tradition, then reason). When people who have studied a particular subject (e.g. church history) deliberately misstate things that they have studied, one can only conclude that they are motivated by some form of partisan advocacy, not a search for truth.

I thank Dr. Harding for his reiteration of the falsity of the reappraiser claim that reasserters reject reason. Despite reappraiser pleas for a “conversation” (per Lambeth ‘98), it has been clear for many years that what they mean is that reasserters need to listen to a reappraiser “re-education” monologue until they can acknowledge that reappraisers are right. As Dr. Harding notes, any attempt to offer contrary evidence is rejected out of hand. (“My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.”) Evidence of this is the total marginalization and personal demonization of Christian ex-gays by reappraisers at the same time they ask us to “listen” to the LG(BT) experience. Another example of willful blindness (documented on T1:9 a few weeks ago) was the refusal by the HoB even to look at scientific findings beyond @1995.

Curiously, the reappraisers are sharply divided on theology. Some side with Walter Wink and simply acknowledge that the Bible unequivocally condemns homosex, but then assert that theBible is wrong. Others engage in incredible mental gymnastics, including outright historical falsehoods, to claim that the Bible never meant to condemn “committed” relationships.

Finally, I would remind the bishops of an admonition with which they must be familiar, as it is given to virtually all law students: “You are fighting the facts!” I have been waiting years to see any reappraiser honestly engage these [particularly the scientific] points. But I have only seen dodge and fudge. This persuades me that reappraisers are not interested in truth, only prevailing politically.

September 15, 9:15 pm | [comment link]
19. nwlayman wrote:

A little off topic, I keep seeing the “Questioning Christian” comment.  Having read his blog, I can find nothing remotely Christian.  Not unkind particularly, not even controversial.  Just the comments of an unbeliever on a religion he seems interested in.  It would appear he is an Episcopalian.  Clearly utter disbelief is no barrier to being one in good standing, tho I don’t understand the reflex that gets him up every Sunday.  If I didn’t think this stuff was true I’d sleep in.  He might just as well have a blog called the “Questioning Zoroastrian” or “Questioning Hindu” for all the sense it makes.  How does he tell the difference, not believing one religion as opposed to not believing some other? Of course, it would run the risk of offending Hindus and such.  He seems to stick to trying to offend christians.  Suggest getting a life?

September 15, 10:44 pm | [comment link]
20. Irenaeus wrote:

I agree with Leander Harding that our traditional common-law “adversary system” of argument and adjudication is ill-suited to reconciling disputing parties. Indeed, our system has not traditionally sought reconciliation, leaving that to informal, out-of-court mechanisms.

I disagree with the notion that this system presupposes a “a system of settled statutes and case law.” In any system in which courts tend to follow judicial precedent, court decisions are a form of law. In deciding cases, courts routinely make law: e.g., because cases often present fact patterns that don’t neatly fit statutes and judicial precedents.

Common-law adjudication with adversary arguments and judicial lawmaking can work both in stable, well-settled areas of law (e.g., contracts and commercial paper) and in fast-changing areas (e.g., intellectual property). Indeed, in dealing with a new or fast-changing legal field, common lawyers often prefer to see the law develop case by case before the legislature attempts to codify it. Competent legislative codification can make the outcome of cases more predictable; poor codification can multiply confusion and make a mess. Why? Dealing with real disputes with real facts and parties can make for fairer, more rational outcomes—-and fewer unintended consequences—-than writing rules at a high level of abstraction based on limited practical experience.

But none of this justifies consigning an “Anglican Constitution” to case-by-case development. Who would decide? By what shared norms? We already know ECUSA’s ruling reappraisers see scripture and tradition as no real constraint on their agenda.

All in all, the lawyer-bishops have cooked up a recipe for continued North American unilateralism.

September 15, 11:21 pm | [comment link]
21. Larry Morse wrote:

It is probable that the lawyers are as deeply engaged as they are because TEC wishes to cast whatever problems they have as essentially matter of civil law, that is law that may be referred to the Constitution for justification and clarification. If they can frame their arguments thus, then the homosexual issue in its entirety can be cast as an issue of social justice and civil rights. In face, TEC hasa been saying this very thing, one way or another, for some time now, and the use of lawyers in theological matters is, for them, a practical step toward creating a constitutional referent, a point d’appui against which they can brace their feet and which most Americans can both accept and understand. It is a matter of small consequence that the document itself does not yield real substance. It is the polity - if that is the right word - which TEC wishes to establish.  Larry

September 15, 11:29 pm | [comment link]
22. John Wilkins wrote:

I believe that there is a tradition in which we believe that God does work through the law - including civil law. 

The polity we ascribe to is mapped out by Althusius, who is quite useful here.  Yes, there is an issue of biblical authority.  But the view of complementarity is as essential as the bible’s cosmological view.  Now if we want to talk about property, envy and rivalry - reasons why marriage protects families and societies - then we can see why the bible should be taken seriously.

September 16, 12:29 am | [comment link]
23. RoyIII wrote:

I am amused by those bishops who used to be lawyers and quit and went into their present line of work and then harken as to how they are lawyers, too.  Maybe not lawyers, or has-beens ‘legally trained’, but bolstering their argument by claiming the “training” from their past.  Maybe some of them even passed the bar, or practiced law. I don’t know or care, really.  I am a practicing lawyer, and I don’t think much of the bishops’ angle.  I’m a bit put off by their claim that they have some special cache because they jettisoned the profession I love a while back.  I am not impressed by their claim of ‘training.’  They should stick to what they’re good at.  It’s not law or they’d still be practicing.  Maybe they should work on their bishop-skills.  Maybe those are more useful for solving this probelm with the church.  Just my 2 cents.

September 16, 2:35 am | [comment link]
24. D. C. Toedt wrote:

nwlayman [#19] writes:

I keep seeing the “Questioning Christian” comment.  Having read his blog, I can find nothing remotely Christian.  Not unkind particularly, not even controversial.  Just the comments of an unbeliever on a religion he seems interested in.  It would appear he is an Episcopalian.  Clearly utter disbelief is no barrier to being one in good standing, tho I don’t understand the reflex that gets him up every Sunday.  If I didn’t think this stuff was true I’d sleep in.

nwlayman, thanks for looking at my blog, but you seem not to have read enough of it. Can I suggest you read some of the “Favorite Posts” cataloged in the right-hand column, just below the fold.

You may recall that Jesus said to the lawyer, concerning the Summary of the Law: Do this and you will live [eternally]. Some claim that’s not enough to make one a Christian; the Teacher seems to have thought otherwise . . . .

The First Commandment requires us to face the facts as best we can — to deal with the universe as God wrought it, not as we wish it were. (My blog: The Questioning Christian)

September 16, 3:35 am | [comment link]
25. D. C. Toedt wrote:

nwlayman [#19], since a cold is keeping me up (and in the study so my coughing doesn’t disturb my wife), let me add a postscript: I have no interest in offending “Christians”; what I am very much interested in is the effort to bring thoughtful nonbelievers and doubters to God, which is something at which the church could do a much better job.

The First Commandment requires us to face the facts as best we can — to deal with the universe as God wrought it, not as we wish it were. (My blog: The Questioning Christian)

September 16, 4:06 am | [comment link]
26. MJD_NV wrote:

My good brother Craig hits it in #16 - the problem is that the “Anglican COmmunion” has always existed on a gentlemen’s agreement.

The crisis is that the Left stopped being gentlemen.

If God is not Father, Jesus is not Lord, the Son is not unique, baptism is not necessary, the creeds are optional, repentance and sin are dated concepts and the atonement is marginalized or even rejected, where do we go from here? The faith remaining will be a very different faith from the Christian faith once delivered to the saints - and I, for one, am not going there!  ~ Bp. Miller, Church of Ireland

September 16, 9:57 am | [comment link]
27. Irenaeus wrote:

Lawyers and judges long were masters of MYSTIFICATION: impressing and intimidating outsiders with their recondite language (Norman French, Latin, legalese) and procedures (anybody for a writ of trespass de bonis asportatis?). All this has become much less fashionable over the past two centuries. Even traditional legalese is becoming unfashionable.

But calling in the lawyers—-and trotting out legal arguments—-is still used to mystify and intimidate. Regular T19 readers may recall my debunking of revisionist bishops’ argument that their “fiduciary duty” obligates them to fight departing congregations to the last crayon (a mendacious argument that reasserters commonly accept at face value). As the Revisionist Dictionary put it, “I’m sorry to throw them out in the street, particularly before a blizzard, but I have my fiduciary duty.”

I suspect that ECUSA’s leaders, in commissioning this report, sought a further dose of mystification. But fooling Abp. Williams about Anglican theology and ecclesiology willing be more difficult than bandying arguments about U.S. secular law.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

NWLayman [#19]: DC’s T19 comments over the years indicate that he is a gentle, thoughtful Christian with (moderate) reappraising views.

September 16, 2:27 pm | [comment link]
28. Ed the Roman wrote:

Back when I did litigation for a living, I found that the lawyers to worry about were not the ones who blustered and threatened; those folks usually weren’t worth taking seriously. The ones to watch were the quiet ones who calmly did what (they felt) they had to do. Few of our vocal primatial cousins seem to fall into the latter category.

At least we’re clear that you view them as opponents, without interests in common with you that are germane to the question at hand.

September 17, 6:01 pm | [comment link]


© 2014 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.

For original material from Titusonenine (such as articles and commentary by Dr. Harmon) permission to copy and distribute free of charge is granted, provided this notice, the logo, and the web site address are visible on all copies. For permission for use in for-profit publications, please email KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com


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