December 2, 2020

The Archbishop Strikes Back

By Chaplain Mike

Maybe there is some fight left in the Anglican Church after all.

At Pentecost, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, sent a letter to the Anglican Communion encouraging a renewed focus on mission, and suggesting discipline for elements of the church that fail to abide by requests to avoid controversial decisions threatening the unity of the Communion at this time.

Here is an excerpt from that letter:

From the very first, as the New Testament makes plain, the Church has experienced division and internal hostilities. From the very first, the Church has had to repent of its failure to live fully in the light and truth of the Spirit. Jesus tells us in St John’s gospel that the Spirit of truth will ‘prove the world wrong’ in respect of sin and righteousness and judgement (Jn 16.8). But if the Spirit is leading us all further into the truth, the Spirit will convict the Church too of its wrongness and lead it into repentance. And if the Church is a community where we serve each other in the name of Christ, it is a community where we can and should call each other to repentance in the name of Christ and his Spirit – not to make the other feel inferior (because we all need to be called to repentance) but to remind them of the glory of Christ’s gift and the promise that we lose sight of when we fail in our common life as a Church.

Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation. There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round. It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this. And despite attempts to clarify the situation, activity across provincial boundaries still continues – equally dictated by what people have felt they must in conscience do. Some provinces have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor the Communion has sanctioned. In several places, not only in North America, Anglicans have not hesitated to involve the law courts in settling disputes, often at great expense and at the cost of the Church’s good name.

All are agreed that the disputes arising around these matters threaten to distract us from our main calling as Christ’s Church.

This week, the other shoe dropped.

On Monday, the U.S. Episcopal Church was officially barred from participating and having any decision-making power in ecumenical dialogues in which the Anglican Communion is involved. This disciplinary step was seen as appropriate by Dr. Williams because of the Episcopal Church’s rejection of three moratoria suggested at the last Lambeth Conference, putting on hold: (1) any further actions on the blessing of same-sex unions, (2) the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships, and (3) cross-border interventions regarding these matters.

The Archbishop contends that the Episcopal Church’s refusal to abide by these moratoria signals that they cannot adequately represent the views of the entire Communion in matters of doctrine and authority.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church called the decision “unfortunate,” and said Williams’ suggestion that the worldwide Communion is of one mind about issues of sexuality while the U.S. church is out of step is “misleading.”

I wonder if we have some Anglican or Episcopal readers out there who would like to comment. Give the rest of us some insight about this situation. Many of us who are evangelicals or from more conservative denominations have watched this from afar and have been shaking our heads for some time. It would be easy to cast stones from a distance, but I’m interested in some inside perspective.

Of course, this also brings up the whole matter of homosexuality and how the church will deal with it in the 21st century.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me, from my limited understanding, that this will be one of the top three public issues facing the church in the foreseeable future. It’s not going away. We’re going to have to be able to talk about this. Calmly. With one another and with folks outside the church. With respectful attention to differing views. Learning how to love our neighbors and our enemies in new cultural and political contexts. Learning how to handle the subject and real-life situations within our church families and denominations.

I’ll be honest—I don’t have a lot of answers at this point. I’m not sure I even know all the questions. As a Bible-believing Christian, I have certain doctrinal understandings that grow out of Creation, Law, and Gospel. It’s not so much what I believe that causes me concern. It’s how to proceed as a Christ-follower in the world that is rapidly adopting new cultural standards. How to “do justly, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” in church and community.

If anyone has this figured out yet, I’d like to know.


  1. It is impossible to do justice and love mercy while egregious crimes are being committed by the church against not only the gay community, but gay individuals.

    As for the Episcopal Church’s decisions, I can only cheer them on. Bravo for taking a stance against injustice, against discrimination and hatred.

    Homosexuality is not a sin. The Bible, in all its misunderstood glory, is just wrong on this issue.

    • Joshua – just checking – this issue inevitably leads to discussion of the authority of scripture, but before we go there – –
      Do you believe that everyone who disagrees with your opinion (that homosexuality is not a sin) is being discriminatory and hateful, just for holding that belief? … in other words, is the contrary belief itself an egregious crime?
      And if not, then why is it that you believe it is “impossible” for someone like Chaplain Mike to do justice and love mercy?

    • Dan Allison says

      When disagreeing with someone is an “egregious crime,” then we are truly living in an Orwellian nightmare. Please, Joshua, grow up.

    • The Guy from Knoxville says


      In the sense of speaking calmly I will do so here with this – scripture is not wrong! As humans – fallen beings – we are most definately wrong on a number of issues and scripture is there to help keep us focused on what is right. Now whether we accept that is another question altogether but, without apology, I say point blank…… scripture is not wrong. It is what it is and I really don’t see that changing.

      Before you tear me a new one – I certianly, without question, have my issues and there are things personal between me and God that I could never share at this point be suffice it to say that I have issues to deal with in my own life and many times scripture comes into conflict with it and I, in time, have to yield to scripture and ultimately to God and if I don’t, if I refuese to, then there is a consequence or several to deal with.

      No, I do not have any specific issues, as such, with gay people – that siutation is between you and God but to say scripture is wrong….. you just as well say God is wrong and that I can’t accept so back to my orginal positon – scripture is not wrong here. Love ya brother but, can’t let this one slide – I think that you are wrong in making that statement.

      • Reformer says

        Joshua: If you think Scripture is wrong on things — why do you even bother reading theological posts? Why accept anything in the Bible then, and why not just make up your own religion? Either the Bible is 100% correct, or we might as well be atheists. Man, I’m getting reminded of 2 Timothy 4 and 2 Peter 2…

  2. The worst moment in Christian history was the one when Jesus didn’t come back to keep the faith in a small enough box that it would be comprehensible.

    Funny thing.

    Gentiles are permitted to sit at the love-feast.

    Adulteresses are permitted to live.

    Paul scrupulously avoids appealing directly to the Torah to keep his Gentile converts’ sexual lives in line, preferring to rely on the Holy Spirit and the love he believed would reside at the center of the community.

    But with each passing moment, something leaks out of, or into, the airtight compartments of the Body as he envisioned it, and the Church must consult with itself in every generation to find the answer to the thorny problem, “How unimaginative can we be at the simple business of being the Church?”

    Instead of loving mercy, the Church learns to fear getting it wrong.

    American church is a horrible place to begin to look for a prophetic edge to Church discussions on sexual ethics, since the American church is ridiculously poorly equipped to understand anything like a universal community of belief. But on the other hand, the rest of the world had better listen to the Americans as they ask the simple question, “Why, exactly, is this discrimination against people of different feeling in place? What greater end of love does it serve?”

    • Wow. Spot-on, thanks for your insight.

    • Sigh. Yes, adulteresses are permitted to live. They are not, however, encouraged to continue adultery, and Jesus doesn’t propose a religious rite to sanctify the adultery.

      • Kozak, quite true.

        But the story of the adulteress in John, if it shows anything, shows that the Torah is written in dust, not stone, and if the Torah, then too the New Testament.

        Adultery is far more devastating in its implications for love than is homosexuality.

        The idea that homosexuality must be inherently sinful because scripture says so is to undo the force of that story in John 8.

        • Nooooo…..Jesus didn’t change the sinful status of adultery, he just suggested the penalty was draconian. Debating penalties is not the same as debating whether or not something is bad. Death penalty opponents don’t assert that murder is cool. BTW, the authenticity of that passage is actually in some dispute, although it certainly wasn’t out of character for Jesus.

          • Kozak: either scripture is inviolable or it is capable of being reinterpreted. Either it’s in stone or it isn’t. That’s the meaning of Jesus writing in the dust in John.

            Jesus demonstrates time and time again that he’s willing not only to debate penalties and argue definitions of “legitimate work” but to wipe out portions, for instance the dietary sections.

            You’re just deciding which portions of scripture _you’re_ comfortable with shifting. Penalties, oh, okay, but actual guilt? Not so much. So scripture IS violable, but only on your terms?

            While I’m perfectly able to understand why adultery merits a go-and-sin-no-more rather than an I’m-okay-you’re-okay, I’m completely flummoxed why, given the fact that they constantly interpret scripture through their own cultural lenses, conservative evangelicals draw the line at committed homosexual relationships. Who’s it harm?

            Which is why I think the American Episcopalian challenge to Anglicanism is one that requires a serious look, in spite of the rather tawdry way in which it’s offered: nobody’s offered a really good reason why scripture should be taken at its word here, but manipulated easily in other places and in other segments.

          • “Jesus didn’t change the sinful status of adultery, he just suggested the penalty was draconian”.
            I thought that the point was that we (Pharisees – if you like) were not in a position to judge or punish. Have I missed the point?

          • “While I’m perfectly able to understand why adultery merits a go-and-sin-no-more rather than an I’m-okay-you’re-okay, I’m completely flummoxed why, given the fact that they constantly interpret scripture through their own cultural lenses, conservative evangelicals draw the line at committed homosexual relationships. Who’s it harm?”

            Otter your above statement implies you believe adultery is wrong based on the fact of the harm it does to others. Although it is true that it does do great harm this is not at all the bases for which adultery is wrong. It is wrong because God said so. He has The Right, being the Creator and Sustainer of Life, to decide what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable to Him and what is sinful in His eyes. This is why adultery is wrong. It goes against the Creator to whom all persons owe respectful Obedience, whether we agree or not. If God made known to us either through His Written Word or through The Living Word, Jesus, that homosexual acts (not homosexual persons) were approved by Him and permissible and in no way sinful there would be no issue. Not because homosexual acts cause or don’t cause harm, but because of what the Creator makes known about them.

            As regards Jesus writing in the sand, NO ONE, therefore this includes yourself, knows what Jesus wrote in the dirt and therefore all thoughts about why he did it are mere personal speculation. The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus so that whatever way he answered they could “trap” Him into making a wrong Choice. Jesus trapped them in their own plot by making them aware of their own sinfulness.

            Mercy and love must always reign as Jesus’ life exemplified, but these are for Each Individual Person (whether homosexual or heterosexual), these are not qualities of the very Nature of God that wipe out the right or wrong of any action He our Creator deems sinful or not.

        • Daisey, I respectfully believe you’re mistaken in your notion of what makes “sin” what it is.

          The most breathtaking and significant declaration of the New Testament is that God is love and is reconciled to humanity.

          I’m not one of those who thinks that precludes justice of any sort, just so you know: all love of all kinds values a unique justice and balance.

          But what this means is that the nature of God is love, and the nature of sin is intrinsically social.

          It is quite true that there can be such a thing as a crime against nature: for instance, homoerotic acts dissipate sexual energy that is (or used to be) required for the survival of the community. So I don’t happen to believe that “homosexuality” is either biologically or socially the same thing as straight sex, and therefore I don’t really support the idea that gay marriage is a right (though it might be a legal privilege).

          But neither are homosexual desires “just wrong.”

          Thinking it through from a Christian perspective, things are wrong when they offend God, and God is love, not an arbitrary dispenser of rules.

          Well, he might be, but that’s not really a god worth worshiping.

          The god who is love might be.

        • Otter, if I may be so bold, while it’s true that Jesus is distanced from the law in John’s gospel – it’s usually referred to as ‘their’ law or ‘your’ law where the possessive pronouns refer to ‘the Jews’ – I’m not sure your interpretation of the significance of Jesus writing in the dust is quite so set in stone, if you’ll pardon the irony. Have a look around, you won’t have too look far.

          Also, if the OT is written in dust and the NT as well then why does John 8 have the force you think it does?

          You’re right about the importance of love, but love for us has to have to have a character, and that’s described for us in Christ, who comes to us from the pages of Scripture.

          We are not under law, but we are under the Christ who was pointed to by the Law and the Prophets, and witnessed to by his appointed apostles.

          • Matthew, maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

            The law that John 8 is dealing with is not “their [the Jews’] law as distinct from the Torah.

            It IS the Torah.

            “Moses commanded,” say Jesus interlocutors, and he essentially wipes out the portion of the (God inspired?) Torah that demands the death penalty for the adulteress.

    • Did Jesus hold God’s laws in contempt when he denied that any foods were unclean?

      • Apples and oranges, brother

        Jesus stating that ceremonial/social elements of the Old Covenant do not apply in the New Covenant makes no difference to sins that are actually condemned harsher and more explicitly in the NT than in the OT. I think you may have missed basic parts of the narrative of the Bible.

        Webb’s Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals is a good book dealing with OT/NT treatments of these topics and a good Bible overview can show the difference between old and new covenants.

        • Hmm sorry that was supposed to be a reply to Otter above.

        • Chad, your post introduces an extra-biblical distinction between “ceremonial / social elements of the Old Covenant [that] do not apply in the New Covenant” as though that obviated the fact that Jesus actually edits scripture.

          I’ve read Webb’s book, among many, many others that imagine that they can minimize the truth that scripture is a book that must be, and is, interpreted by human beings with agendas.

          I have no quibble with a community saying it has the Holy Spirit and so its intepretations are just “right.”

          But to pretend there is a principle there besides “I want this passage to apply, still, but not this one,” is a little disingenuous, I think.

          Take kosher foods.

          Whether or not Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark says he did, the Jesus Seminar might or might not know better, who knows), it was expedient for the new Gentile converts that he should have done so. To make it clear that this IS about Gentiles, Mark juxtaposes his declaration of foods being clean with the story of a Gentile “dog” who gets crumbs from the Jewish table.

          These passages reflect a very real anxiety in Semitic Christianity: What are we actually _saying_ here about Jesus, food, Gentiles, and (most relevantly) the scriptures that cannot be rewritten but are continually being reinterpreted?

          You can’t say about a scripture, “Well, it was ceremonial, not _serious,_” with one breath and then in the next assert the timeless force of every scriptural ethic.

          And when you read the Torah and its treatment in the Talmud, you aren’t looking at a work that makes a distinction itself between “ceremonial” and “serious” commands.

          No, your gospel as Christians (I assume you guys are Christians in some sense) is that God is with you in a way that is rooted in Jewish experience but which rewrites it.

          And if that is so, unless you arbitrarily close your canon and say that God is now text and not Logos (because Logos can _never_ be a text) you are still in the position of reinterpreting scripture.

          Deal with it. It’s your dignity and glory and freedom and awesome responsibility.

          You should jump at the chance and be held in check only by the awesome weight of history.

          But if your god could rewrite his own word, and he did if Jesus and Yahweh were both god, he’s not done yet, or you live in a totally dead faith.

          Well, a textual one. But that just amounts to saying you worship a god interpreted in your image, as the debates about homosexuality on both sides make abundantly clear.

          • Dang, Otter … I clicked on your name and it took me to your amazing blog. I think I’ll be reading you on a regular basis. Thanks for showing up here (if you’re new; maybe it’s that I’ve just noticed you).

            • Thank you, Eric. Brand new here. Linked by a good friend who has enormous respect for Michael, which I’m coming to share.

          • Perhaps using “contract” instead of “covenant” will help. The way I understood when I read the bible (as a lay person, I never went to seminary so I don’t know what they teach there) ….because there were “ceremonial” requirements in the OT does not make them “not serious”. They were very serious as required actions on one of the covenant members. Because this requirement is not carried over to the new contract does not make it unimportant to the original, now discontinued contract.

            • Yes, but I think you’re still in the same difficulty.

              The terms of the contract can be changed.

              And in a discussion of modern homosexuality, which is probably not exactly the same thing that Paul knew and understood, it’s worth wondering, “What is the point of the contract, and how is it best served?”

              • Yes they can be changed…but can we change them ourselves or does God change them? I’m personally going for the religion where God is in charge, not man……

                That’s what the inerrancy argument seems to come down to….is this is a man-made religion that we can change to suit our whims or can God establish his rules and guidelines even if we don’t agree with them?

                Many things in the Bible are not the way I would have them be and sometimes I think God must assert somethings in a “because I said so” kind of way (especially some of the OT prohibitions)

                • Chad, I’m having some trouble sorting out the form of the question here.

                  The Bible is a book. It might be much more than that, but it’s always a book.

                  Which means that it has certain features, one of which is that the reader has a tremendous importance in what comes out. I don’t mean merely that he is free to misinterpret, because good scholarship can at least minimize that. (Richard Hays, one of my old teachers, is quoted above and rightly establishes in that quotation how a good sense of the history of ideas anchors a reading.)

                  I mean rather that you are not a Jew.

                  Nor are you a first century Roman.

                  But you will carefully read and interpret the text, filtering what you think “translates” into your day and age.

                  You are not the original reader. You are looking over his shoulder.

                  In other words, you matter in this textual dynamic.

                  I don’t think that means you can lightly or for transient causes go shifting the boundary stones of your Fathers in the faith, but you are as much a part of (what they believed was) the living body of Christ as they were, as Paul and Athanasius and all the rest.

                  You inhabit a weird time. So did they.

                  You are confronted with strange demands. So were they.

                  But it’s sort of beside the point to say, “Well, only God can change the faith.” If you are a Christian, you believe God dwells in you (depending on your theology, that you being singular or plural). Seize that.

  3. I’m a practising Anglican and also training as a Baptist minister. I would describe myself as evangelical although I think this is probably means something different in the States than the UK where I’m based.
    Joshua – I agree with you. Being gay is not a sin. It is how God created you and He loves you as you are.
    I suspect we will part company however when I say that I find that the Bible is quite clear that engaging in sexual activity outside marriage is sin and I see no way of interpreting scripture to allow marriage to be same sex. I truly wish I could see it otherwise but I can’t – although I will keep on looking and praying that I can move from this position in the future.
    In the meantime I would like to respect and accept other Christians who disagree with me and worship with them – accepting that we have differences but are still ‘family’. The other side of the coin is that I would also like to be respected and accepted for holding my views. We may have to live within different church contexts in order to accommodate each other – we should still remain in fellowship with each other as far as we are able to.
    I heard Bishop Gene Robinson speak last year in the UK. It was clear that he handles and interprets scripture in a way that is very different from my own – it is this that sets us apart rather than his beliefs. If the hermeneutics of the Episcopal Church are not going to change then it would probably be better for us all to wish each other well and part with good grace. Different hermeneutics are always going to result in different convictions. There’s no getting round that.
    We can do justice and love mercy but too often we all seem to forget the last part of the verse from Micah 6: 8 – about walking humbly with our God. Paul says in Ephesians 4: 1-3 that in order to live lives worthy of our calling we have to live ‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ The fact that one group in this debate must be wrong should spur all of us to walk with increased humility with God and each other.
    Joshua – I regret that I cannot ‘cheer’ the Episcopal Church on for what they have done but the way you do something is often far more important than what you do – I do not see how anyone can publically celebrate something that is so divisive even if it is, personally, a relief.

    • Alis,
      I agree with you on sexual activity outside of marriage and the allowance of marriage between same-sex individuals. I would, however, disagree with your statement that “Being gay is not a sin.”

      Allow me to use my struggle with anger as an example for my argument against your statment. I am well aware that homosexuality and anger/rage are NOT the same struggle, but they are both engrained natural, physical, emotional urges which eminate from the core of our being.

      Based on my reading of scripture, I would say anger is a sin. As one example, in Colossians, Paul admonishes us to now “rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips…since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Yet, b/c of genetic mental health issues and environment, anger and rage is engrained within me. I was “created this way.” I don’t think God wanted me to be created this way, b/c the fallen nature of our world means the perfection and “goodness” is corrupt. But I was created this way none-the-less. God does love me as I am, but He desires for me to strive to change the sinful things within me, and by the power of His Spirit I gradually have made progress and pray I will continue to do so.

      I can be a Christian and struggle with anger and rage. But I probably can’t be a Christian witness and simultaneously teach that anger and rage are OK or even not sinful. I probably can’t be a Christian if I willingly “practice” anger and rage in my daily life. I suspect that the more I did so, the more harm would be done to my relationship with God.

      I view homosexuality the same way.

      The ekklesia is full of saved sinful people by God’s grace. How to both accept one another AND maintain integrity? I suspect it will be an ongoing question.

      Grace and peace.

      • nice post, and GOD help us all with whatever is broken in us, whether it be ‘genetic’ or whatever……

      • Thanks Erin for that. I think the reason why I would say that being homosexual ie being attracted to the same sex is not a sin is because I would regard it as a ‘condition’ that you are usually born with. I don’t see how it is logical to blame someone for being who they are when it was never their fault in the first place.
        Like your example of anger – being angry can be a good state – being angry about injustice etc is a holy response but being angry and reacting inappropriately is a sin. It is what you do with what is inside you that matters. Refraining from lustful thoughts or actions or anger whether you are married or otherwise requires self control – a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
        To condemn an action is very different to condemning the person. We all have the capacity to do good and bad – gay or straight. If I say being gay is a sin then I am saying that that person is inherently a sin.
        If being homosexual is a sin then I, Alis, am also a sin because my nature is also sinful. Yet I know that, because of Jesus, that is not how God views me. So I cannot agree with you that being homosexual is a sin. It is acting upon that nature that is sinful.

        • Alis-
          I understand your point. I don’t think I can fully agree, but I will probably ponder it for a while.

          Your response made me wonder, What is righteous anger? It seems like an obvious definition, but I don’t know that it is. Look at Peter in the garden. We easily understand his defensive rage as he struck back at those who opposed Jesus. “But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And He touched the man’s ear and healed him.” (Lk22.51) Anytime we brandish a weapon (tangible or not) in the cause of Christ, all we do is offend, wound, or make people deaf to God’s voice. Christ forbids us to defend His cause that way.

          The righteous anger is there. Is it sinful that it’s there? Maybe not, at least until we think, act or speak. Manifesting itself as hatred (thinking) would be sinful. Speaking with angry words or tone would be sinful (even if we want to only define it as “falling short”). And I could name numerous actions that would be sinful. “Righteous anger” might only be “righteous” when it doesn’t manifest itself as anger at all. “Righteous anger” is only righteous if the Spirit transforms it into loving. But then, is the righteous anger we like to defend so much, really even anger? If not, then I probably can’t defend anger itself.

          So, I can see what your saying, but I think it’s a very fine line. We like to say anger isn’t a sin. But rarely does anger remain just a benign “thing” within us. It always manifests itself in some way. If it were popular to vehemently defend anger as OK, I have to think it it would eventually become popular to defend anger’s natural human manifestations as OK, and so on and so forth down the slippery slope until….but the Church has never committed violent atrocities in the name of Christ, so no worries.

          The feeling of anger may not be a sin, but it is dangerous. It’s part of what comes “out of the heart.” Only when that heart is transformed will the things that come out of us reflect Christ appropriately.

          I will keep your words in mind. I’d not thought of the issue in that way before. I had reached a point where I could accept that a person could be a Christian AND struggle with homosexuality, in the same way that I am a Christian and struggle with anger. But to think of homosexuality itself as not sinful when our sin nature is sinful…..I’m not there now, but I will pray about it and “test” it. Thank you for the thoughts.

          • Thank you Erin. The question of righteous anger is tricky but I think that ultimately I see it as an aspect of loving. If I love my husband and he is harmed by a malicious act then it is not sinful to be angry about the sin that has been committed. In fact, it is because I love my husband that I am angry. Can love be love if it doesn’t demand justice and righteousness? I can be angry at the evil committed but not hate the person who committed it.
            When I read the Bible it seems that God gets angry and I think that Jesus also showed anger – at the temple (Mark 11:15-18), at the Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 11:42-52) and with those who tried to stop children coming to him (Mark:10:14). As you have pointed out already, when Jesus was wronged, he forgave his enemies. On the occasions he seemed to be angered it was with people who were hindering others from meeting with God. Maybe the answer to how we should view righteous anger lies in this distinction?
            (Not sure how this helps further along on what was the original issue of homosexuality though!)

    • AMEN

  4. ahumanoid says

    “Of course, this also brings up the whole matter of homosexuality and how the church will deal with it in the 21st century.”

    Some thoughts/questions:

    1. You’re right the issue of homosexuality is NOT going away. More and more individuals are coming out. Soon most people will have an openly gay relative. What I wonder is why the Bible does not address this issue in more detail, since such a significant number of individuals are gay?

    2. Are Christians really forced to hold that gay believers should embrace celibacy as the only option? What about those individuals who can’t stand the thought of going through life without a partner? What support is the church offering to individuals for whom celibacy is the only option (according to the church)?

    3. How can the church hold an unyielding position on homosexuality, yet ignore the divorce issue plaguing the church? How can Christians have such an obvious double standard when it comes to divorce/remarriage and gay marriage?

    • These are valid questions/criticisms. If you want to study homosexuality, divorce or transexuality etc from a theological angle there are overwhelming amounts of literature to study. If you want to look at singleness – there’s a pitiful amount. Bit odd considering Jesus chose to be single. Until the church stops holding up marriage as the goal to aim for it probably can’t offer homosexuals much except a role as ‘second class celibates’. Christians have got to grasp that this is simply not OK. It’s not just homosexuals who have this to grapple with – anyone who is divorced and believes marriage is for life, those who are seperated, those who are carers for incapable spouses, anyone widowed who can’t find a partner – isn’t it about time we stopped glorifying marriage and children as the ‘norm’ ? God has called some to marriage and some to singleness – both states have their own peculiar challenges and blessings.

      • As a Christian single I have always been surprised (and remain so) that there is so little acceptance of Christian singles, unless of course it is to stand in as free and available church workers and babysitters, or to marry of to that spare single that make the church feel untidy. I left the church (not my faith) for many years because I was tired of the burden of not meeting my Christian obligations by marrying and birthing more Christians. It didn’t matter who I married. Anyone would do. If it is a burden for me, I can only imagine the burden for those who experience this burden on top of others.

        I am a mother now, remain single, serve my God as He has called me (more than a baby sitter) and when I am feeling particularly irritated by the snide, judgmental, pitying, disappointed attitudes of those Christians in my life who response so negatively to my status as a single parent, I admit it is not always with love. While they are busy measuring me to make sure that I have (or not) ticked all the right Christian boxes, I do rub in salt. I tell them I actively, purposefully, prayerfully chose to be a unwed mother. I was called to be my daughters single mother by God. They don’t need to know that I am an adoptive parent and they can take it up with Him if they really feel that strongly.

        Thanks. Glad that is off my chest!

        • You’re right, Melanie. Singleness can be a blessing — with a cost, as all blessings seem to be, but still a blessing.

          I had a friend who was attending the deathbed of a gay man dying of AIDS. He said something that struck her very much (I’m paraphrasing here): “I’ve never wanted to be married, and I never was attracted to women. I got the idea from society that this was weird, and looking back now I think I forced myself to be gay as a way to fit into some category. But now that I’m dying, I realize that my lack of desire for women was a blessing and a freedom, and I could have done something great with it.”

          I find that heart-breaking.

          • I don’t mean to imply that this experience is typical of all gay people, but it may speak to some.

          • wow……and OUCH….. that deathbed conversation is worth thinking about: has the church’s nuttiness towards singles (esp. older singles) needlessly pushed some toward a category that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered ?? that’s food for thoght…..

          • Neuropuck says

            @greg R:

            “has the church’s nuttiness towards singles (esp. older singles) needlessly pushed some toward a category that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered ?? that’s food for thoght…..”

            I’m sorry. But the Church’s nuttiness toward singles has been nothing compared to its nuttiness toward gays. If anti-singleton church bias has forced some toward homosexuality (OH THE HORROR!), what has anti-gay church bias forced gays and lesbians to? Suicide? Worse?

        • Melanie

          As someone who, herself, was adopted, I can only look with admiration at what you chose to do. Being a single parent is a difficult enough task. Being an adoptive parent takes on it’s own set of issues depending on the circumstances of the child’s life prior to the adoption together with all the internal issues all adoptees have to come to grips with. Now, for you to choose to embrace both of these is an incredibly selfless act of love. The God kind of love.

          It is extremely sad to know there are those who would choose to be judgmental negatively of meeting a single parent. In you case, it is truly there own loss to not have eyes of love open to the gift of others, like yourself, that life and God puts in their path.

          My prayers are with you for many blessings.

          • alvin_tsf says

            But now that I’m dying, I realize that my lack of desire for women was a blessing and a freedom, and I could have done something great with it.”

            I find that heart-breaking.

            this is indeed worth taking in meditatively. it makes me realize how often i bring my own narrow thinking and prejudiced notions to the church. at the cost of limiting the blessings the Spirit wants to lavish.

            thanks Damaris and Melanie. it made me go back and see the immensity of God’s grace and His ways.

        • Here is something to consider. I may be single but I am by no means without a Husband. My beautiful daughter is by no means Fatherless. I don’t think I even need to quote scripture on this.

  5. If we read the bible through the redemptive eyes of Jesus, then we should show compassion towards the marginalised and outcasts. Homosexual people have been shown great hostility by some segments of the church. It is about time we reversed this. We do not necessarily have to agree with homsexual marriage to show compassion towards these people created in the image and likeness of God.

    I agree that this issue is not going to go away and needs resolution. Respectful dialogue is important. Treating others with dignity is essential to respectful dialogue. I find it a great pity that Christians cannot seem to accept a lot of diversity. Differences in hermeneutics, require us to listen to the other and to seek to understand why they have come to their position. I do not have any answers, but let us love one another

    • Translation–“Don’t call homosexuality sin and don’t call homosexuals to repentance”.

      That about sum up what you meant? Yeah, I thought so.

      • Enoch Chee says

        That’s not what I read John Arthur writing. I think he would like us to focus on loving the sinner, and I think the point is valid because that’s often missing.

    • But the homosexuals I’m aware of don’t want that; they want full acceptance, period.

  6. Mike McDonald says

    I’m a postulant in one of the oh-so-numerous traditional Anglican provinces. Traditional Anglicanism in the US, that is, Anglicans who broke away from the mainline Episcopal church over the years are themselves badly fractured & essentially unable to meld themselves together into a cohesive yet diverse province that stands for Chalcedonian Christianity using traditional Anglican liturgy. This continued fractured existence is exacerbated by “the purple shirts” who seemingly are more concerned over their individual positions and potential loss of prestige in a unified church. “Mitre envy” is a term I’ve heard used to describe the inexcusable refusal to unite.

    That said, the mainline body headed by Abp. Schori (I never was a part of that body so I have no real experience with that province) appears to be headed full throttle to be the 21st century version of the Unitarian/Universalist church. Every opportunity to move away from established apostolic practice seems to be taken. It’s a church filled with ceremony but the rituals are devoid of the meaning or origin of those rituals. The ’79 Prayer Book fully capitulated to modernist theology which has grown worse since then. Christ? Scripture? The NY Times editorial page has as much authority as Scripture & might be heard as one of the lessons. By their own admission Scripture is no longer the sole source of authority. They make it up as they go along.

    As I mentioned earlier, there have been defections over the years. But the problem is that when later groups leave, the line in the sand kept moving forward. I’m a part of one of the earliest provinces and those provinces use either the ’28 Prayer Book or most likely the American Missal. The ordination of women is absolutely out of the question. But for each succeeding defection, the distinctives get muddy. The ’79 BCP is OK or none at all, women are ordained, etc. Those from the early days say
    “See, we told you that if you stayed it would corrupt you.” The early groups, by and large, are very enamored with John Newman’s work from the 19th century and especially Tract 90. They are functional Roman Catholics and the ACA has actually petitioned Rome for some form of union & Rome has responded with an Apostolic Constitution that opens the door for a union. Details, as they say, still need to be resolved. (N.B.–I worship at an ACA parish) But, again, do the Roman leaning Anglicans (like the ACC, ACA, APCK, etc) really have the courage of their convictions like their future patron saint, Cardinal Newman, did? And, again, I’m not certain they will because “the purple shirts” have to give up their purple shirts (no married bishops in Roman or Orthodox tradition) and Rome is not keen at all at the idea of Western Rite churches with married clergy. Byzantines are OK but their practice is so vastly different as to keep them an extreme minority. But the bottom line for old line traditional Anglicans is provinces are lightly populated, scattered parishes across vast geographic boundaries. Bartonville be damned.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says


      I’m curious as to which of the “oh-so-numerous traditional Anglican provinces” you belong to. I’m a relatively new member of an ACNA parish, but I’d been keeping an eye on the developments for few years now. It seems to me that despite some points of disagreement (specifically, the issue of women’s ordination and on prayer book preferences), ACNA is mostly unified as well as a unifying agent for the various splinter groups of North America’s traditional Anglicans. As far as those points of disagreement go, the current stance is that the individual parishes or dioceses can make the decisions. Also, ++Bob Duncan’s recent letter suggests that some of these areas of disagreement are scheduled to be talked about in upcoming bishops’ councils.

      As far as Rome goes, B16 has pretty much opened the door for disaffected Anglicans to join up, even clergy. While Rome will not take married bishops or female priests as bishops and priests, there have been quite a few married priests and bishops who become Roman priests. In my city we’ve got a couple of Roman parishes that are being pastored by married priests who were former Anglicans.

  7. Stacey Anderson says

    As a Christian woman and wife, a practising Anglican in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and a pilgrim on this earth, it seems to me that while it is imperative that we act with justice, mercy and compassion, we must also remember that we are told to be holy as He is holy. I believe this means that we must wrestle with the hard questions of life, and that there are many things which, fortunately or unfortunately, do not fit within the parameters God sets for His people. This is the thing. God does expect us to act differently from the world. He expects us to set ourselves apart, to be in but not of the world. He expects us to make choices based upon His Word. As I see it, homosexuality is not ordained in the Bible. Either you take the Bible in its entirety as God’s divinely inspired word, or you chuck the whole thing. Even if it makes you uncomfortable. God’s word and His plan for living is not designed to fit in nicely with cultural shifts and paradigms. God’s word is above that. And it is hard to follow His word, impossible really, without His grace and mercy. Yes, respect is necessary for all people. No one should be belittled or devalued. However, within the church, which is supposed to be the Bride of Christ, the rules are different from the rest of the world. I think the Bible is pretty clear about gender roles and about what is and is not acceptable sexual union amongst God’s people. The church should not be expected to re-evaluate and adjust its role because it runs counter to the culture. It should be counter to the culture! The homosexual issue may not go away, and it may become more and more prevalent as the culture becomes more tolerant. However, the church is not supposed to be tolerant. Accepting and loving, yes, but still standing firm on God’s Word.

    • Stacey,
      Well said. When we allow any other “norm” to guide us over and even in place of the Scriptures then we begin the slide toward apostasy. As the church of Jesus Christ we must be a people who are, like Jesus, full of both grace and truth.

    • J.Random says


      “Either you take the Bible in its entirety as God’s divinely inspired word, or you chuck the whole thing.”

      This is a lie from the pit of hell.

      • Very strong words. Why, and on what bases, please do explain, do you say that Stacey’s statement about the Bible being the inspired Word of God, is a “lie from the pit of hell.”

        Do you not believe the Bible is the Word of God?

        • And where does one get the idea of hell if the Bible is not to be trusted?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “Either you take the Bible in its entirety as God’s divinely inspired word, or you chuck the whole thing.”

          Actually, that is the same justification (literally word-for-word) as another knock-down-drag-out that’s appeared in this blog: Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles.

          Every time I hear that (or its three-line sound bite “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It,” I always wonder if the speaker wouldn’t feel more at home in Islam. After all, wasn’t the Koran dictated divinely inspired word-for-word by God, and must be followed to the letter and punctuation mark?)

          • The problem with Stacey’s statement was clarified for me by an Orthodox priest, and boils down to a problem with Protestantism in general. With the stripping down of Church practice inititated by Luther and his followers, including the veneration of saints, who, by their example and lives, CONTINUED the gospel narrative in their own cultures and time periods, the Protestants left themselves with one thing- the Bible. The primary focus on the Bible was not without some basis, especially given the irrelevant and distorted practices by the Catholic Church, and the invention of the printing press. But that’s all they were left with, so they elevated it and made IT the object of worship and not God, who reveals Himself in ALL things, not just a book, no matter how inspired. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, but it is not a step-by-step manual and does not and should not negate the movement of the Spirit in the present.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Greg, my imagery on this is that the Protestant “Sola Scriptura” has made Scripture (TM) into nothing more than The Party Line, Comrades.

            I have been browbeaten by “SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!” and seen it used as a Thoughtstopper to slam down the wall in the mind too many times to even speak the word.

          • “The Bible is the inspired Word of God, but it is not a step-by-step manual and does not and should not negate the movement of the Spirit in the present.”

            Greg, we should always be open to whatever the Spirit of God is Speaking to us in all different ways, we should be open to whatever the Spirit of God is doing in our lives and the Life of the People of God and in the world itself. But, how do you, or I, or any church or denomination determine what is truly of the Spirit of God and what is not? How do you, or I, or any church or denomination determine what is the Truth within the Words of Scripture and what can be taken with ‘a grain of sand’ so to speak and be open to all different ways of interpretation?

            I am not stating my position on anything said within this section of this entire post. I am simply putting forth some questions that I believe need to be considered in light of what is being said here.

      • Calling something a lie from the pit of hell only spreads hatred and not the love of Christ.

        But the Bible statement is incorrect. As just one specific, non-abstract example, it assumes that I must either accept slavery as a part of God-ordained society or throw away the Bible. Great evil has been done by those who use this either/or logic.

        There was a NYT article this week on a study that over half of Americans now perceive gay and lesbian relations as morally acceptable.

        The big question is will the Christian position on homosexuality evolve to be more like our beliefs on slavery or greed? Meaning that slavery was something that was moral, but evolved to be seen as immoral, where greed began as something that was immoral but has evolved to be practically a principle American virtue.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Calling something a lie from the pit of hell only spreads hatred and not the love of Christ.

          Especially if God’s Anointed (TM) has a track record of crying “WOLF!” with previous denunciations and/or witch-hunts.

    • Neuropuck says

      “As I see it, homosexuality is not ordained in the Bible. Either you take the Bible in its entirety as God’s divinely inspired word, or you chuck the whole thing.”

      No. You do not get to define the terms of debate for me. You don’t get to do that.

  8. Greg Smith says

    I’m an Episcopal priest and can say that, indeed, the problem isn’t homosexuality, it’s the theological underpinnings in the Episcopal Church that precede sin being “alright”. In most diocese the use of the “confession” in worship has been removed — and perhaps that is the most telling reality of what is happening in our branch of the Church. We no longer officially believe that there is sin… and if we do… then we believe it is always someone else who is sinning… and if it feels like it might be us… well, then the Scriptures themselves must be wrong.

    The good news in all of this is that the super-majority of Anglicans don’t believe this… and thus are actually bringing a Cross shaped morality to a world in the Global South that needs solutions to Aids, poverty, and the mistreatment of women. They understand that those problems are rooted in sin… and the only way to get rid of the sin behind those actions is to run to the Cross.

    Homosexuality is recognized for what it is in the Global South… a super-internalization of the ideal of the self… selfishness personified… which has no place in a Cross shaped morality.

    • I do not agree with the view that homosexuality is ‘selfishness personified’. It is perfectly human to want intimacy; it’s a natural, God-given desire and joy. That’s the part of this discussion that always stops me in my tracks when reading comments critical of gay/lesbian people – why would God create us – all of us, even people who have always known themselves to be G/L – and allow only some (the straight ones) to have the joy of intimate relationship? Jesus’ life revealed most clearly the attributes of God that heal a broken world – love of God and service to neighbor, neither of which exclude committed human relationships.
      ‘Selfishness personified’ is arrogance in our certitude. The Cross was never about ‘morality’. It is about sacrifice and forgiveness.

      • From scholar Richard Hays:

        ” Paul, if confronted by a study demonstrating that (say) ten percent of the population favor sexual partners of the same gender, would no doubt regard it as corroborative evidence for his proclamation that the wrath of God is being made manifest in rampant human unrighteousness. Are there studies that purport to show that homosexual preference is a result of involuntary “orientation” rather than of free choice? It must be remembered that Romans 1:26-27 cannot be read as an account of how individuals become homosexuals. Given his understanding of sin as a power that holds humanity in bondage, Paul might well reply wearily to such studies, “I have already charged that all… are under the power of sin” (Rom 3:9). Paul’s condemnation of homosexual activity does not rest upon an assumption that it is freely chosen; indeed, it is precisely characteristic of Paul to regard “sin” as a condition of human existence, a condition which robs us of free volition and drives us to disobedient actions which, though involuntary, are nonetheless culpable (see especially Rom 7: 13-25). That is what it means to live “in the flesh” in a fallen creation.”
        (HT: Denny Burk)

        You wrote, “The Cross was never about ‘morality’. It is about sacrifice and forgiveness.”
        But it was also about holiness.

        That being said, the church has not always handled this issue well, and at times has overlooked other sins.

        • Enoch Chee says

          Thanks for the quote, I think it was brilliant.

        • Rick – Thanks for that quote – Richard Hayes nails it.

          Alcoholism and drug addiction are also genetically predisposed and drunks and junkies could just as easily argue “Hey man, we were born this way.” Does that make it Okay? Schizophrenia is another family predisposition / risk factor – does that make it normal or not a disease.

          Whether or not or the extent to which being homosexual is a free choice, a product of the environment or a genetic predisposition is irrelevant. Something less than 2% of the population is homosexual (the 10% is an old and inflated myth dating back to Kinsey) and that makes it abnormal by any definition.

          As mentioned we all are sinners and we all have our struggles with some particular sinful temptation. Homosexuality is perhaps different in degree but not in substance.

          • Whether or not or the extent to which being homosexual is a free choice, a product of the environment or a genetic predisposition is irrelevant.

            I’m always thinking and processing on this issue, but I’d say AMEN to this, and Rick’s post above. We are culpable NOT based on where the nature/nurture pendulum swings but in CHRIST and HIS redemption whcih cut thru BOTH. This does not make us ‘temptation free’, necessarily, the rest of our lives, but sin of any kind need not be our master.

            Or else GOD was just mumbling……

            nice post
            Greg R

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Has anybody ever considered that the reasons and pull and strength of homosexuality might differ from individual to individual?

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Fr. Greg,

      Are you part of the “Communion Partners” that are affirming the traditional view within TEC?

  9. When a church tolerates open, unrepentant sin, it should expect to experience problems. For instance, when this “church” decided to ordain openly practicing homosexuals to the priesthood they were making a decision to reject the clear teaching of scripture. All real Christians recognize that someone who lives in unrepentant sin of any sort (a serial killer, a bank robber, a thief, a homosexual) is no more of a Christian than they are an elephant. Pretend christians, on the other hand, believe calling anything a sin is hateful and that repentance from sin in not necessary.

    It’s reading stuff like this and the comments that help clarify for me what Jesus-shaped spirituality looks like. It leans very, very leftward and looks NOTHING like the Jesus revealed in scripture. Well, not the real Jesus anyway (II Cor 11:3-4)

    • Kenny Johnson says

      I believe homosexual sex is a sin, but I also think there is a better way to do church than to make homosexual sex a bigger sin than others. The church seems to be perfectly fine with openly prideful, greedy, glutenous, angry, etc people in their church, but if someone is gay, then suddenly the church loses its tolerance for sin.

      I think there is a way to both acknowledge sin and still welcome sinners. But it’s not easy. . . I loved the way Andrew Marin approached the subject and I think he’s on to something as far as how the modern church, who has made gays feels unloved and hated by the church, can begin to reconcile them with the church and with God.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The church seems to be perfectly fine with openly prideful, greedy, glutenous, angry, etc people in their church, but if someone is gay, then suddenly the church loses its tolerance for sin.

        We always reserve the anathemas and holy crusades for those sins we have no chance of ever committing ourselves.

        P.S. You forgot malicious Gossip; to a lot of Christians, “Thou Shalt Gossip” is the Eleventh Commandment. And the openly greedy tend to get rich quick (and if they’re smart, they’ll tithe big; never discount the clout of someone who can tithe 100 grand).

        • David Cornwell says

          Gossip and rumors. As a pastor I was constantly made aware of malicious gosspis and unfounded rumors that spread like a virus among Christians. And some prayer groups were the worse perps.

          • Gossip often appears under the guise of prayer. “Did you hear about so and so?” “No, what?” Then half an hour of lurid detail, ending with, “Well, I’m so glad you told me. Now I can pray for him.”

            Not to mention the listing of pet peeves and slanders in prayer: “And I pray that John will realize his error and stop coveting his neighbor’s wife and stop lying and resist the temptation to embezzle at work and learn to curb his tongue in Sunday school . . . Please bless poor John. Amen.”

      • I’ve heard this before, and I think it’s fiction. I have never known a church that was “perfectly fine” with greedy, gluttenous, or angry. Prideful is a tougher one. It’s also true that some sins are inherently easier to discover.

        • ahumanoid says

          “I have never known a church that was “perfectly fine” with greedy, gluttenous, or angry.”

          Wow. Where have you been!?

          Seriously, although church members might not come right and say greed or gluttony is ok, by there unquestioned acceptance of it, they sure don’t seem to have a problem with it (unlike homosexuality–it would never pass with unquestioning acceptance).

  10. I’ve rewritten this several times in an attempt not to attack anyone, but simply to ask a question. My apologies if it does come off as an attack or insult. Also, my view and question are mostly focused on the US, not the wider world.

    I’m not Episcopalian, although I do know that my one friend who is a member of the Church was very happen with the appointment of Gene Robinson and the decision to bless same sex relationships. I attribute this to the fact that, like me, she has many gay/lesbian friends.

    While I know that scripture and truth are not established via popular sentiment (and shudder to think of the world we would live in if they were), I would simply point to this poll: Americans’ Acceptance of Gay Relations Crosses 50% Threshold. Given this trend most of gay/lesbian friends have the view that they have the historical trend on their side when it comes to equal rights/marriage. This is generally viewed (by both them and me) as a generational change, as the older generations die and the newer ones come into adulthood, acceptance of homosexuals/homosexuality grows.

    I wonder, have you folks in the evangelical/post-evangelical communities/other deeply Christian communities seen a liberalization of the view of homosexuals/homosexuality in the past twenty years? Or has the creation of the culture war had the opposite result than general American society? Or has there simply been no change?

    • Catholic here and I can’t speak directly to the evangelical/post-evangelical groups, but from what I see among young people both in personal interaction and statistics for a large part I believe we are going to see pretty widespread acceptance of homosexual behavior in the next generation of Bible Christians. There will be some groups that will hold fast, but I think numbers wise the majority will be in churches that accept homosexual relationships.

      I don’t see how that can be stopped in the Evangelical world. Prior to 1930 all churches taught that contraception of sex within marriage was a sin, then that was relaxed for married couples in grave circumstances and then relaxed entirely and now except for a pretty small group of “the Quiver full movement” nearly all Christian couples contracept. Teaching about marriage and divorce have been relaxed to the point that not only is divorce and remarriage permitted without question, but most (including at least two fundamentalist pastors I know personally) don’t even consider divorce as actually even a sin.

      Then of course there were the misguided teaching of some churches against interracial marriage and participation of church leaders in promoting racism. These errors have fortunately been corrected (mostly).

      All of these lends a subjective and false but pervasive credence the popular myth of the arrow of progress. The Church used to be backwards about all these things,and finally got wise and so it will get wise about homosexuality as well.

      As the comments on this thread amply illustrate, the alternative are going to be framed as either compassion and acceptance or intolerance and discrimination. After all, we can’t impose our hermeneutic on other people. There will be no appeal for those who maintain orthodox teaching in this area because there is no where to appeal but scripture which will just be left to stubborn, backwards and bigoted hermeneutic.

      In the Catholic Church it will be mostly the same thing, and it will be roughly the same numbers. The arguments are already the same. This one Greek word is mistranslated. Scripture isn’t clear. Jesus didn’t actually say it. Comparison to slavery, and women not speaking in Church. I have faith and hope that the authority of the Church will not waver, but consider it very possible that anywhere from 20% to 75% of the next generation will abandon the Church as a result.

      All of this lends credence to the arrow of progress

      • GNW_Paul,

        The situation as you describe it sounds pretty hopeless. Can’t say i disagree with your assessment of things.

        Do you have any vision for a new way in which these seemingly impossible tensions between truth / interpretation / real life can be resolved (without compromise)?

        • Trust in God alone. Man isn’t going to engineer a fix for this problem. Even accepting homosexual relationships and clergy won’t solve the problem, even if it were God’s will. As noted in some comments, the denial of sin is behind this.

          In many ways I think this is a cultural phenomena well beyond our ability to control. It’s something that we will have to weather. At the same time we do need to evangelize and teach the Word, but we need to recognize 100% that we must be relying on the Holy Spirit.

      • Neuropuck says

        Yeah. This is awesome news. 🙂

  11. Whenever the subject of sexuality and unity of the church arise, it seems to me that the issue tends to be placed within the realm of theology or theoretical discussion (i.e. theologically, is homosexuality a sin?)

    Rather, I would rather ask whether homosexuality is destructive, along with divorce and other issues. If behavior is kept as an issue continually counched in theological safety, it is easy to accept it while “struggling” over what to do about it, all without every actually having genuine clarity.

    Can it be said that divorce is not merely unfortunate, but a cancer to the church?

    • Yes.

    • Excellent insights, here.

      And it should become obvious that divorce is a huge cancer everywhere, particularly in a faith that puts so much stress upon the concept of covenant love.

      I am not a Christian, but I’m really troubled that the question of homosexuality does not more often come down to this question: What specific damage does it do?

      In a survival culture, like the one that likely produced the Torah, homosexuality was a massive threat to the survival of the group. One’s sexual energies, expended on personal pleasure, were a wasted resource of enormous power.

      Most of us do not live in that culture, so it’s worth asking, What can homosexuals bring to the concepts of Christian covenant love that the Church needs? Are they capable of helping the church reimagining redemption in fresh ways consistent with its covenantal mission?

      I have no preconceptions about the answer: but I think the question is exactly right.

  12. “Many of us who are evangelicals or from more conservative denominations have watched this from afar and have been shaking our heads for some time”
    This is an issue for every denomination that tries to minister to ALL believers. The only Churches who shake their heads & say that it is not a problem for them have an atmosphere of meanness, hatred, & myth making about homosexuals. I don’t have the answer but I can sympathize with the anglican chruch. This is a painfully situation & needs lots of prayer & patience. I have always had respect for Rowan Williams and the way he has been handling this situation. I especially respect his crazy eyebrows also 😉

    • All real Christians recognize that homosexuality is a sin 100% of the time without any exceptions whatsoever. Deal with it.

      • Kenny Johnson says

        So the guage as to whether some is a Christian or not is whether or not they agree that homosexuality is a sin. . . not whether or not they put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

      • Enoch Chee says

        You’re rather confrontational.

        All real Christians have faith in Jesus as defined by John 3:16 and context. “…whoever believes in Him… ….has eternal life.” No mention of belief of homosexuality.

        Deal with that.

      • David Cornwell says

        What’s this bs about “real Christians?” I keep hearing that from pastors and commentators. Christians are Christians. I take it that Joe is “real”?

      • Neuropuck says

        “All real Christians recognize that homosexuality is a sin 100% of the time without any exceptions whatsoever. Deal with it.”

        You don’t get to decide this.

    • o-jay lackmon-bay says

      I have posted this but it’s hung up in “Comment awaiting moderation”. Let’s see if I can get past the filter, shall we?

      All real Christians recognize that homosexuality is a sin 100% of the time without any exceptions whatsoever. Deal with it.

      • Real & dealing !! 😉

      • In the past I have convicted of an action, attitude, or thought by the Holy Spirit through Scripture and prayer. Before I was convicted, I was in some ways unaware that what I was doing and thinking was sinful–it took time to come to that realization–even when some of those things were explicit in Scripture. Sometimes I was rebelling against something I knew deep down was true; sometimes I’m sure I just didn’t know my Bible well enough.

        Was I not a “real” Christian before I realized (recognized) and/or repented of that particular sin?

      • Just for clarity I think all sex outside marriage is a sin. hetero or otherwise. My point was all churches who are open to all sinners have to deal with this problem. o-jay lackmon-bay’s church will not have to deal with this issue because they scare away homosexuals with meanness & hatred. Does the same Church that scares away Homosexuals, scare away those who are divorced??? divorced & re-married??? living together w/o being married????
        ocasionally has sex with the oppisite sex??? I seriously doubt it. we are all sinners with differnent sins that affect us. we can’t be prideful that we are not as bad as Homosexuals because we have no homosexual desires. This is a painful issue that requires Love & patience. that’s all I’m trying to say. by the way sinners can be Christians —I’m betting my salvation on that!!!!

      • Christiane says

        Hi JOE,

        “o-jay lackmonbay ” ?

        C’mon Joe, you can use your real name here.
        I applaud that you can come and speak you mind freely here, thanks to Chap. Mike,
        HOWEVER, when you start (i.e. ‘deal with it’), you have to remember that there is a much wider field of opinion that comes here to blog.

        Surprisingly, if you are not ‘disrespectful’ in the way that sometimes only you can be (you KNOW it’s true), then people will read what you write and interact with you and excnange ideas with you. This is a good thing, Joe. Don’t mess it up.

        My favorite blessing for you: may you become someone who no longer wants to pick up the stones that are thrown at you. 🙂

        Be peaceful.
        Your friend, L’s

      • Er – how do you define a ‘real’ Christian? Are they only ‘real’ if they agree with you?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          That IS the usual definition in practice.
          Not only agreement, but 1000% agreement.

    • Briank: I was referring to the squabbles in the church and the way the whole process has played out, not a particular view of homosexuality

  13. Dan Crawford says

    Rowan Williams response to the doctrinal aberrations of the Episcopal Corporation disappoints because it came far too late for it to be effective. As it is, it is a truly insipid attempt at discipline – as can be seen by the response of the Corporation to what he has done. Mrs. Schori’s interview with Anglican Essentials and the spin of the Episcopal News Service (aka Episcopal Pravda) . Mrs. Schori and the ENS want the world to believe that the Corporation is truly a universal “church”, and that it has received a new infusion of the Holy Spirit in a New Pentecost – a “revelation” which trumps the entirety of Scripture and the ancient tradition of the church and like the original Pentecost turns the “world upside down”. Now the Holy Spirit requires the Corporation to resolve its disputes in civil courts, contradicts and supercedes Biblical morality, teaches a new doctrine and understanding of God, and shows the world that the Corporation can be more worldly, more fleshly, and more demonic. And the only thing Rowan Williams can do is dis-invite the Corporation from participation in ecumenical discussions. Such courage, such ernest fortitude.

    • Good point — there is, in fact, no attempt at discipline because there is no assumption of authority. Historically that has been the case with the Anglican church: it was founded in protest at Papal authority. Notice that the Archbishop uses language like “pleaded” and “attempts to clarify the situation.” In the first paragraph quoted above he even has to explain why he is speaking out against the strife and division within his church and justify a call to resolve problems. I assume Anglicans generally prefer this more collegial style of church management to a strong episcopal (meaning of bishops) authority, though it obviously has its pitfalls.

      I was an Anglican but left the church in 1980. I still think the Book of Common Prayer is one of the classics of Christian writing.

  14. o-jay lackmon-bay says

    I have posted this but it’s hung up in “Comment awaiting moderation”. Let’s see if I can get past the filter, shall we?

    When a church tolerates openly unrepentant sin in any form it should expect problems. For instance, when the Episcopal Church decided to ordain openly homosexual priests or to not discipline them when their sin became known it decided to ignore the clear teaching of scripture. All real Christians recognize that.

    I am thankful for this blog and these comments. It helps clarify for everyone what a “Jesus shaped spirituality” looks like–it leans very, very far to the left and has nothing at all to do with what is revealed in scripture. Well, maybe II Corinthians 11:4.

    • Your comments are simplistic and misguided. I specifically asked for comments from Episcopalians. Wouldn’t you expect some comments from those with more liberal views?

      • Greg Smith says

        Chaplain Mike… As and Episcopal Priest, I have to wonder what,exactly, is simplistic and misguided in his comments above? This would be the mind of the super-majority of Anglicans and what we point to as the problem with the Anglican (Episcopal) church in North America. Numerically The Episcopal Church had dwindled to almost nothing while the super-majority of Anglicans have grown and flourished. Why? They refuse to deal with the single most important issue of people’s lives… sin and its effects on individuals and society. Homosexuality is one of those areas… but The Episcopal Church (in America) doesn’t believe in sin at all anymore. Thus, it continues to die off.

        An inside joke we Episcopalians have… our church magazine “The Living Church” we nickname, “The Dying Sect”.

        • Greg, I was responding to this:

          It helps clarify for everyone what a “Jesus shaped spirituality” looks like–it leans very, very far to the left and has nothing at all to do with what is revealed in scripture.

        • As a fellow Presbyter of yours, I’d say his use of the term “real Christians” is simplistic and misguided, leaving aside his unfair swipe at this blog or at Christians who disagree with his litmus test. It takes a troubling degree of hubris to start parsing out who is a “real Christian” and who isn’t. We are called to use discernment and judgment in calling our brothers and sisters back to faithfulness certainly, but when we start questioning the fact of their faith (i.e. claiming knowledge of their hearts and their standing with God that we cannot possibly have) we find ourselves under the condemnation described in James 4:11-12.

        • Also, just to clarify, The Living Church is an independent magazine published by The Living Church Foundation and is not an official organ of the Episcopal Church (that would be Episcopal Life). The Living Church has intentionally broadened its coverage and focus to be pan-Anglican and even broader in focus, hence the new tag-line “Catholic, Evangelical, Ecumenical.”

  15. My wife and I are new Episcopalians. We joined the Episcopal Church this January. It’s a long story, but we grew up as Protestant Evangelicals with some Baptist, charismatic, and emerging all thrown into our journeys. We feel like this is where God is calling us. It does feel like home.

    A couple of thoughts on this.

    First of all, I think Rowan Williams is an amazing part of the Anglican Communion. He’s in an impossible position and it really saddens me how much bashing I’ve seen him take. Wanting him to do more or differently is one thing, but personal attacks seems like something we shouldn’t do.

    My wife and I really have had to have many conversations about sexuality ourselves. I think that for other parts of the Church it’s easy to not have to talk about sexuality because there is no involvement with the LGBT community. That is to say that the thought of relationships or worshiping with gay and lesbian people never occupies any of their thoughts and because of this, it can be easy for them to feel like they have the issue settled. But beyond whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong, I think it would really change how we approach this issue if we all stopped and thought about how we would handle LGBT people who would want to worship in our communities. What would that look like for our church? How would we handle that? What do we think about all of this?

    I grew up thinking (being taught) that positions outside of my conservative upbringing were either demonically inspired or were the result of those who “wanted to destroy the gospel.” I have to say that I do know sincere Christians who think that homosexuality is sin and I know sincere Christians who think that homosexuality isn’t. I think we have to be honest with that instead of demonizing differing views. And for me this has meant that I personally have friends who hold views that allow for more inclusion of LGBT people because of their commitment to Jesus.

    I will also say that the name calling, accusations, and uncharitable spirit I’ve seen from people on both sides of this issue has been heartbreaking and sad.

    • Greg Smith says

      I should probably clarify, as a priest, that we do not discriminate one sin as worse than another. Homosexuality is bad… and so is speeding… and so is racism… and so is my Taco Bell overeating.

      All sinners are welcome – but the Anglican Church (Episcopalians in the rest of the world) is/are simply critical of anyone who attempts to relegate sin to an antiquated concept not worthy of our modern sensibilities.

      LGBT people are welcome to any service at any time in our church (a large one in South Carolina)…

    • ahumanoid says

      “I think that for other parts of the Church it’s easy to not have to talk about sexuality because there is no involvement with the LGBT community. That is to say that the thought of relationships or worshiping with gay and lesbian people never occupies any of their thoughts and because of this, it can be easy for them to feel like they have the issue settled.”

      Touche. I also enjoyed the rest of your comment. If only more Christians would approach this issue with the same humility that you display.

    • Jamie,

      As someone who came to the Episcopal Church in my late teens from a much more conservative/rigid background, I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. I agree wholeheartedly with your observations about the name calling, accusations and uncharitable spirit–it has been a horrible witness.

      My own experience includes association with two congregations where a majority of members and clergy decided to split from TEC. Seeing the aftermath of such decisions, and they way it damaged the communities, led to people leaving church completely and fractured and strained old friendships, I can say that many folks are much worse off. I believe that far more people have been spiritual wounded and will probably stay away from churches for years than have been harmed by remaining in moderate to conservative congregations within The Episcopal Church. Others can of course write this experience off as anecdotal, but research seems to show that one of the primary common denominators in church decline isn’t liberal theology or conservative theology, it’s conflict.

      I should also add that I do not believe the establishing of new congregations that are not the result of a painful split in existing churches is in any way negative. My own dad attends an AMiA congregation in my home town, and I’m friends with the priest there. While the congregation contains some members who came from Episcopal Churches, for the most part it’s made up of people who were curious about Anglicanism or are new Christians, for which I am thankful. I think one of the reasons they are thriving as they are is that they have focused on mission, and have intentionally limited the influence of folks who are simply reactive and bitter about what has went on in TEC.

  16. As a mainline pastor, I have heard and participated in this conversation a bit. My greatest surprise has been how those who seek to change the church’s stance that homosexual activity is sin base their arguments on thin air or circular reasoning. I’ve already seen a few in the above comments.

    For example, labeling people as gay or homosexual. There is this assumption that people are “born” this way – that this is their identity. But is there any proper evidence that people are born this way – i.e. having sexual desire for the same sex? No. And even if there were, data must be interpreted. And how would we interpret this data? Through the lens of secular naturalism or through the lens of revelation? That issue is complex.

    And what about the claim that more and more people are accepting of homosexuality? That may be what it looks like on paper but it’s not like that in real life. It’s become “uncool” in many sectors to view homosexuality as sin as many fear coming across as “fundamentalists.” There was a spurt in T.V. programs containing homosexuality that has silently went away. On internet forums, T.V. shows and other media outlets, the phrase “that’s so gay” is still used in a negative manner. I think toleration will still be the politically correct position but culture can change in an instant. Also, the push to legitamize homosexual practice and ordination in the church has largely failed and those portions that have succeeded are divided and slowly dying.

    The best way to go forward is to deal with this issue on a basic level. Christians have nothing against men loving men and women loving women. In fact, it is our greatest command. But we have always held that men should not have sex with men and women should not have sex with women. This sort of sex ruins relationships, is harmful to those practice it, and offends God who created them male and female. People who struggle with the desire to have sex with the same sex should be treated the same as those who struggle with desires to have sex with multiple partners, watch pornography, etc.

    Our most loving message is to say to those who live with these desires that God loves them and can free them from bondage to sin.

    • If homosexuality is a choice, as you seem to imply, why would anyone choose it? Why would someone choose to be gay, in say Uganda, where homosexuality may soon carry the death penalty? Or even in the United States, where (despite the liberalizing attitudes towards gays/lesbians) the attempted suicide rate for gay/lesbian teenagers is 8 times that of their straight peers? As to how the data should be interpreted, I would argue that it should be in a way that most actively reduces the previously mentioned suicide rate. Life is sacred (my only uncontroversial statement here, I suspect).

      The normalization of homosexuality has been occurring despite the actions of cruel teenagers, both statistically (as I linked to above) and anecdotally. I work in an office in the Bushwick/Bedford-Stuyvesant part of Brooklyn. Bushwick is heavily Latino, Bed-Stuy is heavily African American. My office is very mixed racially. Despite this, everybody was completely open and amused by the stories my gay coworker was telling about his failed date with an editor for one of the comic book companies.

      I have a question for you- the type of love that Christian men are supposed to have for other men and women for other women is agape, right? Not eros? The church does not condone eros between men and eros between women, unless I am gravely mistaken.

      • I totally agree with you that is wrong to be cruel to others. I have worked as a youth pastor and I know firsthand just how cruel that age group can be.

        Do I believe that homosexuality is a choice? Well, I would never boil down human experience and causes to one simple statement such as “homosexuality is a choice.” But I will tell you this, I do not believe in naturalistic determination. I do not believe that genetics determine who a person is or who they are to be.

        Also, the data I was talking about scientific data. The trend has been to take scientific data and interpret it to mean what you want it to mean or whatever fits your political goals.
        You seem to imply this by saying that scientific data (I’m guessing that’s what you are referring to although it is not quite clear) should be interpreted so as to reduce suicide rates.

        Yes, you are correct that the church has always forbidden eros between women and women and men and men. And yes, it does forbid eros between men and women – outside of a covenant relationship of fidelity and commitment. Now, you might say, “Well, let gay people get married and everything will be alright.” But that’s not the case. Marriage is rooted in the creation story: God created man in his own image, he made them male and female so that they could join together and create more of his images that would fill a good creation. Sex in God’s story is more about family than it is about fulfilling sexual needs, intimacy, etc. It is something sacred that, like every good thing that God created, can be abused and transformed from a blessing to bondage.

        • Josh,
          You say you are a mainline pastor. What denomination are you a part of?

          • I’m a pastor in the United Methodist Church.

            Like those in the Episcopal Church, we also have a very democratic style of government. It’s nerve wracking at times, but it has forced us to sit down with each other and talk about our beliefs face to face.
            Also, since we are a global church it has been interesting (to say the least) to see the reactions of Methodists in Africa, Asia, and South America.

    • Josh,

      Thank you for your clear and loving view. May your church grow and feed many people.


    • cpilgrim says

      The question of whether or not homosexuality is natural or a learned behavior is absolutely unnecessary to any Christian discussion of the practice; I don’t know why so many pundits have latched onto this as an issue.

      First, the idea that anything that is natural= good is unBiblical and perhaps even pathologically wrong. Sin is natural. It is our natural state. So any admonition in the Bible to quit sin is an admonition to go against our natural tendencies. Murdered, child molestors are all born with a prediliction towards their sinful behavior. Doesn’t mean its not wrong. Wrath, gluttony, and jealousy are all natural behaviors. Still wrong.

    • Josh, whatever homosexual behavior is let us clarify, it is not sex. Their is absolutey no possibilty of reproduction in any and all circumstanes.

  17. textjunkie says

    I am intrigued that you quoted from the Abp’s letter, without giving the Presiding Bp’s letter equal space. Her letter certainly deserves it.
    Pentecost continues!

    Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit.

    The recent statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the struggles within the Anglican Communion seems to equate Pentecost with a single understanding of gospel realities. Those who received the gift of the Spirit on that day all heard good news. The crowd reported, “in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11).

    The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones. The Spirit also seems to be saying the same thing in other parts of the Anglican Communion, and among some of our Christian partners, including Lutheran churches in North America and Europe, the Old Catholic churches of Europe, and a number of others.

    That growing awareness does not deny the reality that many Anglicans and not a few Episcopalians still fervently hold traditional views about human sexuality. This Episcopal Church is a broad and inclusive enough tent to hold that variety. The willingness to live in tension is a hallmark of Anglicanism, beginning from its roots in Celtic Christianity pushing up against Roman Christianity in the centuries of the first millennium.

    One of the reasons I am an Episcopalian is because we don’t put a great deal of effort into defining what is a “real” Christian and what is not, who is in and who is out. We value unity in following a living Christ over uniformity of beliefs or interpretations. We allow for disagreement and differences while attempting to love the Lord with all our hearts and minds and souls, and our neighbors as ourselves. Doesn’t always work, but those are the values.

    • I’m all for “In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity”, and stuff.
      But if you don’t to some extent have uniformity over a definite set of essentials, then how can you possibly have any meaningful definition to the phrase “following a living Christ”?

      Does exactly who the person of Christ is have no bearing on that sentiment whatsoever?
      Should we never discuss what it really looks like to follow Him?

      If what is a “real” Christian is not worth defining, at what point do other realities become irrelevant as well?

      • textjunkie says

        Hi Miguel–I have to say “yes” to all your questions–yes, we have a set of essentials (Baptismal covenant, quite good stuff); yes the person of Christ is paramount; yes, we discuss what it really looks like to follow him. Absolutely!

        And what does or does not constitute a sexual sin is *very* important to discuss, given the importance of sex in a healthy life. One’s beliefs on that are not, however, in themselves a litmus test for whether one is “saved” or in a right relationship with God, at least not according to TEC. They are not part of the baptismal covenant directly (though to seek and serve God in all persons and to strive for justice and peace and to protect the dignity of every human being, are very much part of the covenant, along with the Apostles’ Creed).

        Thus it is not, in itself, an essential. How our beliefs about it play out in love, compassion, serving God in others, is very much an essential.

    • “The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones.”

      As opposed to what the Holy Spirit seems “to be saying” (breathed) in Scripture.

      What is considered authoritative is the problem, with the issue of homosexuality being a symptom.

      • What is considered authoritative is the problem, with the issue of homosexuality being a symptom.

        God has been telling me to blog less (esp. the talking part) and work more, and I’m not Epis/Anglican so I’ll be brief: This simple sentence above is really the issue behind the issue……did GOD say ??? I think everything else is window dressing compared to this, and interestingly enough, it’s the same line of logic for any number of sinful behaviors (including mine).

        Gutsy topic choice, there Chap Mike, when do we get to women in leadership ??
        Greg R

  18. Hello, all! I am an Episcopal priest and a regular reader (and irregular commenter) on this blog. I grew up Evangelical and became an Episcopalian in college.

    I would like to steer the conversation away from homosexuality for a bit to give a slightly bigger picture of some of the issues involved here.

    Most of the Episcopal blogs I’ve been reading today don’t think of this in terms of the issue of homosexuality, and I think it might be helpful for you to know some of the other ways in which this is being seen. Here are a few pieces that I think are in play:

    1. The structure of the American church The Episcopal Church has a very different structure from many (if not all) of the churches in the Anglican Communion. Although The Episcopal Church is still hierarchical, it’s also got a number of democratic systems in place that don’t match that of the Church of England. Lay people and priests have a lot bigger vote here than many places, and that’s something I think that causes confusion outside the U.S. I believe that ++Williams (and others) have been frustrated that the House of Bishops can’t just set policy by fiat, but the Episcopal Church also a House of Deputies, made up of lay and clergy delegates. It is through both houses that church policy is set at General Convention every three years.

    Furthermore, It is lay and clergy members of a diocese who elect their bishop, and a majority of bishops and Standing Committees (diocese Board of Directors) who give their approval. That is very different from other places where bishops are appointed from the top rather than the bottom. When the Archbishop writes to the American church to stop doing something, it involves getting a lot more people on board than simply announcing from the top that something is to be.

    2. The authority of women One of the often-unspoken tensions in the Anglican Communion is that of the authority of women. From my vantage point, the real catalyst for the departure of what we refer to as the “break-away dioceses” was not so much the election of Gene Robinson but the election of our current Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. I think it is no coincidence that the three dioceses I’m thinking of are also the three that still refused to ordain women 25+ years after the first ordinations in 1976.

    I got to meet the Presiding Bishop when she spoke to a group of clergy women a couple of years ago. She told us that when she received Anglican Communion email, all other primates are addressed by their clerical titles; she is addressed as “Dr.” A commenter above referred to her as Mrs. Schori. The Church of England only started ordaining women as priests in the 1990’s and still does not have any women bishops. It is a peculiar thing that the representative of our national church must do so among people who do not believe she has any legitimate ecclesiastical authority.

    3. The United States as a superpower One conjecture floating around the Episcopal blogosphere is that even though other Anglican churches break the moratoria the Archbishop speaks of, the U.S. is singled out because it’s the U.S. Certainly the Episcopal Church has an impact far outweighing its numbers; it provides the bulk of the money for most of the international Anglican Communion events (Lambeth Conference, etc.). Kudos to the Archbishop for being willing to lose that financial support. The thing that has many people scratching their heads, however, is why not treat all of the national churches equally. My conjecture is that, as much as we in the U.S. like to think of ourselves as one national church among many, we’re really the elephant in the room.

    4. The post-colonial mindset Conversely, from where I sit, the Archbishop seems tremendously reluctant to say boo to any Anglican church in parts of the world that used to be English colonies or have that kind of painful past. Although I can understand that as well, in the U.S. church there was considerable consternation that we received a warning memo within 24 hours after a partnered woman was elected bishop, but ++Williams (to our knowledge) never gave a direct response to the Ugandan church when that country was considering the death penalty for homosexuals (as indeed it still is).

    5. Honest differences of opinions seem to be punished while quiet hypocrisy is ignored I’ll end with this one. I think it’s pretty clear even from the comments above that there are a range of opinions about homosexuality. That’s just the presenting issue, here. One thing that sticks in the craw of a lot of Episcopalians is that the Archbishop is lecturing the U.S. church about homosexuality while it is commonly known that there are many gay Anglican clergy in England, many priests performing same sex blessings in England, and a gay bishop or two in England. I think many in the U.S. church are saying, “At least we’re being honest about who we are and what we believe and not trying to play both sides.”

    A friend and seminary classmate of mine put this in <a href=""her blog this morning:

    “all this that we have been through and that we are still in the throes of… this was not an argument about LGBTQ in the church –LGBTQ were just the convenient whipping post that would bear the brunt of this argument —and about which much fear and energy could be culminated. This was an argument about the twin sources of yeast: power & authority and how these two things are wielded and who gets to wield them…”

    I think that pretty much sums it up.

    Thanks for asking and for listening.

    • Thank you for your perspective.

    • Thanks for the big picture perspective from your point of view. It is helpful, but I must respectfully say that, to an outsider, it looks like you are avoiding a central issue that has to be resolved. If the church ultimately cannot come to agreement on what the Bible says regarding homosexuality, and if it cannot come to agreement on what is and isn’t appropriate pastoral and ecclesiastical policy regarding inclusion of homosexuals in leadership, what then?

      Wouldn’t it be better just to admit there is an impasse and then decide how to handle it, rather than get off on all these issues that distract from making some hard choices?

      • I totally agree with you. Yes it would. But I think these other issues get in the way of saying that clearly. And that’s what I wanted to point out. From an outside perspective it seems obvious. From an insider’s perspective, there’s a whole lot of baggage going on, most of it (I suspect) unacknowledged by the actors involved.

        • Thanks, Laura.

          • Greg Smith says


            Not only are you avoiding the issue of homosexuality – your view of the issues are so unique as to be quite strange to those initiated in the Anglican/Episcopal debate. Let me bring some perspective to your five points:

            1. The structure of the American church
            Certainly we give laity more voice – however, the Presiding Bishop has a large bully pulpit and can speak against homosexuality at any time she desires. She has, instead been an ardent supporter. Additionally her constant litigiousness and power grabs in South Carolina against other Bishops indicate that she does not believe that her power is all that limited.

            2. The authority of women
            I can’t think of anywhere that the authority of women has been mentioned in this debate. Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, etc… all have women priests without any continuing issue on the topic. They, indeed, have instructed the conservative Americans to keep an open mind on the subject. The only issue that is mentioned in all of the communiques from the Primates is the issue of homosexuality and cross-border interventions.

            3. The United States as a superpower
            You say, “we’re really the elephant in the room.” Indeed. And we pay vast sums of money to places like Congo to follow in our footsteps. (See comments from the last Global South encounter). Uganda has refused to take American money because it comes with too many strings… to the detriment of her people. Who is using their power as a club? Not Uganda!

            4. The post-colonial mindset

            You state, “we received a warning memo… but ++Williams never respon[ded] to the Ugandan church”. Apples and Oranges. The Ugandan Churches did not sponsor the legislation to which you refer – thus there was nothing to scold them about. The offered their support to the legislation (and took it away) but the Ugandan Church has no civil authority. The Episcopal Church DID something, that it had been warned multiple times not to do and which happened over months. The 24 hour turn around clock is disingenuous… as the election and consent process happened months before.

            Additionally – Uganda and others WERE punished in the Pentecost letter for their “Cross-Border” incursions. Which, I can personally guarantee they will stop if our two homosexual bishops will step down from office.

            5. Honest differences of opinions seem to be punished while quiet hypocrisy is ignored

            Perhaps this is why there is a constant and consistent call by the English Clergy for the removal of Abp. Williams?

          • Hi, Greg!

            Just to clarify, these are things I’m seeing in lots of different places; they are not unique to me, and I have my own (unique) slant on them. I wanted those curious about the question to know what is being said about the debate in some other quarters. And I really didn’t think this thread as a whole needed another person presenting their thoughts on homosexuality!

            For other examples of the themes I mention, you might want to read the following.

            re: structure of the American church


            re: women


            re: U.S. as superpower


            re: colonial mindset



            re: hypocrisy


            There are lots more. It was interesting for me to try to synthesize the different issues people are raising on this subject.

        • I have to agree with Greg here, the discussion of women’s roles in the current Anglican Conflict seems to be a common red herring floated by more progressive Episcopalians to make moderates think those who are conservative on issues of human sexuality are more conservative (dare I say radical in our context) than they are. Indeed, issues of women’s ordination are the place where progressives and very conservative folks can agree with one another and claim that the two issues (human sexuality and women’s ordination) are one in the same. However, as Greg has pointed out, women’s ordination has been recieved by several of the provinces that are most critical of the Episcopal Church, one of which sponsors the Anglican Mission in America.

          As a parochial example of this issue, when our diocese last held an Episcopal election a rumor was spread about one of the candidates that he would stop ordaining women because, folks said, they did not ordain women in his home diocese. Both of these claims were false (this person would not have stopped women’s ordinations and they DID in fact ordain women in his home diocese… such rumors displayed ignorance on both counts) but they did stoke opposition to his candidacy. Likewise, folks liked to claim the previous Bishop “didn’t ordain women” or did so begrudgingly. Indeed, he was so begrudging in his ordination of women that when one looks at the total number of people he ordained before he retired, he ordained one more female than male.

          Just goes to show how gender politics and fear have gotten so entangled in the current conflicts in our communion.

    • David Cornwell says

      Laura, thank you very much for this.

    • Big Chief says


      1 – The structure argument is true, but is also used for convenience sake, much the same way the autonomy of the diocese is used. While it is true that the House of Bishops can’t make policy alone, they could enforce the moratorium without needing to go to conventions simply by withholding consent themselves. The HOB can address and give guidance on issues, and does so when it suits them. When it doesn’t they feign powerlessness. That inconsistency is why I think the rest of the Communion gets frustrated with TEC.

      2 – Regarding Women’s Ordination (WO), it is certainly a point of tension, but I don’t agree it was the “real” basis for the diocese breaking away. Certainly Bishop Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who took a leadership role in forming ACNA, have no issues with it. There were schisms associated with WO, but I think it’s disingenuous to attribute that to the departing dioceses. And the “title” issue aside, I’ve never heard any comments from PB Schori or any Primate that questions her because of her gender. The Communion seems to have successfully lived with the disagreement about WO for almost 40 years.

      3 – I agree with much of what you say, but I don’t think the US has really been singled out for being a superpower. The actions of TEC have singled it out.

      4 – I couldn’t disagree with you more on this item. The Archbishop can (and does) comment on what a nation does (whether his own or another) but he should take action in regards to what happens within the Church.

      5 – I certainly agree with you on this last point. But I also think that the Communion has been consistent in this area. It certainly turned a blind eye to the actions in the US prior to Robinson’s ordination, and continues to do so in other places. I would like to see this change.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      It seems pretty clear to me that homosexuality hasn’t so much been the issue that created the conflicts within American Anglicanism as it was the became the straw that broke the camel’s back. That is, there have been some bubbling issues for a few decades now that came to a head with the consecration of ++Robinson. The consecration of ++Glaspool just proved that the 2005 moratoria were not going to be adhered to. But let’s face it, on both sides of the issues, didn’t we know that would be the case?

      It seems to me that the point of contention comes down to one of ecclesiology and authority rather than sexuality. The fact is, the dividing issues have not been discussed in the Anglican Communion as a whole. Instead, individual provinces have decided for themselves what constitutes “disputable matters” while those that disagree have been demonized.

      All that to say, ++William’s letter was not about sanctioning TEC for its stance but for breaking what it had agreed to at Lambeth 2005. As far as the other part of the moratorium (provinces fiddling in territories not their own), even though I sympathize with the Global South’s position, I do hope they face some consequences for violating that part of Lambeth 2005. E.g. my bishop should not be both on the bishops’ council in Rwanda and in ACNA. Of course, that dual-status for ACNA bishops seems to have been intended to be temporary. And ACNA is still less than a year old.

      • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        I should probably clarify a bit after rereading that! I totally understand why many ACNA bishops have dual-status as bishops in both ACNA and one of the Global South provinces. It was necessary in this transition time as ACNA gets on its feet. Also, I understand that many of the traditionalists who broke from TEC felt “alternative episcopal oversight” was better than either staying in TEC or going solo (which is NOT the Anglican way of doing things at all). I.e. it was the lesser of two evils.

        That said, I’d rather have seen everyone abide by the 2005 Lambeth moratoria and actually talk these issues out (like NT Wright said in my link below). That would have been the only way to avoid the schism that has come.

        Now that there is a new North American province, I really hope that the dual-status bishops either resign from their Global South bishops’ councils and commit 100% to ACNA or ACNA consecrates replacements for them in ACNA so that they can commit 100% to their missionary duties for their Global South provinces. Of course, that may take time. As I said, ACNA is less than a year old.

    • Laura,

      Do you think that ++Rowan Williams has finally come out with such a strong statement only because PB Katharine Jefferts Schori herself has drawn a line in the sand?

      In other word, do you think that the Archbishop has decided to cut his losses, that with the American church a lost cause within the worldwide Anglican Communion he’s finally going to side with the majority?

      I’m asking this because of his apparent silence hitherto. This is punctuated by the remark of a bishop friend of mine, who was frustrated by ++Williams’ lack of response concerning the election of +Gene Robinson: “Did he say or do anything during this turmoil? No! He went on sabbatical and wrote a book about Dostoyevsky!”

      So is this too little, too late? Or is it good that he’s finally said something? Too many questions. Sorry. I’m a Baptist fly-on-the-wall.

      • To be honest, I really don’t understand what motivates the Archbishop. His actions all along have confused me.

        I really do agree with what Chaplain Mike wrote above: I don’t know why we can’t just say we’ve reached an impasse on this issue instead of having these piecemeal responses and lengthy reports that don’t resolve anything as far as I can see. They just seem to complicate matters.

        • Thanks for the response. I like your blog, btw, and have not only bookmarked it but ripped off the church mice cartoon.

      • This is way late to the party, but I saw this today and thought it summed up the situation amazingly well.

        Regarding other circumstances (whether or not to have women bishops in the Church of England), a strange compromise has been proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. In a satirical explanation, one blogger explains,

        If passed we believe that the resulting chaos would help disguise the hurt and frustration that would be felt on all sides, much more evenly then than if a clear decision had been made and the pain was felt on one side.

        That’s about the shape of it.

  19. J.Random says

    Speaking as a gay man, I think of myself as a Christian because I have faith in Christ. But many commenters here make it clear I would not be welcome within their communion unless I first meet certain additional prerequisites. When there are so many more open-hearted Christians close by, I can’t imagine why I’d seek out these commenters’ communions instead of the others. They can have their doctrinal purity; I’d rather have support, acceptance and love.

    • How sad it is that doctrinal purity and support, acceptance and love must be at odds with each other. I say that any doctrine that does NOT produce support, acceptance, and love is an impure doctrine.

      But any doctrine that does not submit humbly to the Word of God, even if it involves a little bit of uncomfortable church discipline and tough love, is also impure, and ultimately, very hateful as well.

      • Do I read Christ’s letter to the church in Ephesus (Rev. 2) aright by concluding that it means that the Lord will remove himself from even a ‘doctrinally pure’ church if it does not produce love?

        • A good passage to bring up. What we have here is not necessarily an example of where correct doctrine failed to produce love. But there is a phrase there that says, “Therefore, repent, and do the works you did at first.” So while they had stood their ground on certain theological controversies by testing false apostles, they had also drifted from repentance. Thus they had sufficient doctrine for salvation purposes, but not perfect doctrine for a full incarnation of Christ like love. By forsaking their first love they were neglecting what Jesus himself had declared to be an accurate summary of the law (first part): Love the Lord your God with all your…. So while they may have maintained a veneer of creedal orthodoxy (no heretical views as far as the apostles creed type of stuff goes, understanding, of course, that it wasn’t exactly written yet), there lives were not reflecting a proper living out of God’s love in Christ. But doctrine, as teaching, ought to be purposed for instructing us in exactly that. The passage never explicitly credits them with “doctrinal purity”, but merely with a faithful testing of persons. False apostles and false teachings aren’t necessarily the same thing, though there is a strong correlation. Freedom from one does not necessarily always mean freedom from the other on all occasions.

          Anyways, that’s my stab at the issue as best I can reconcile it. Where doctrine and love seem to conflict I would even concede that love ought to win out. But apart from doctrine, how can we ever really have a tangible, rational, and consistent definition or understanding of what love is? Love is Christ. And that is a uniquely Christian doctrine.

      • very well said, it’s not an ‘either or” reg. truth and love.

      • Huh? I have no idea how this comment references what I’ve said. I never mentioned excommunicating anybody and I didn’t even touch the subject of sexuality. I simply commented on the interrelation between doctrine (theology) and love (practice).
        I don’t think that Jude is being un-loving in those comments. If somebody is heading to the burning fires of hell the most hateful thing that you can do to them is to say nothing.

        • Lol I think the comment I was replying to got modded and so my response is ambiguously stuck in the middle of nowhere 😛

      • ahumanoid says

        My friend, although its hardly worth mentioning, the above passage does not explicitly condemn homosexuality. The “unnatural desire” properly translated is “other flesh,” referring to the attempted rape of the angels. Just wanted to clarify things, because, although there are Biblical passages that do seem to clearly condemn homosexuality, this is not one.

        • What was the original intent of the rapist? Did they think the messengers were men?

      • J.Random says

        “I say that any doctrine that does NOT produce support, acceptance, and love is an impure doctrine.”

        Then the overwhelming evidence is that the current doctrine that “submits humbly to the Word of God” is impure.

        I say “overwhelming” evidence because I’m gay, I struggled through two years of ex-gay church ministries, I’ve got gay friends and I stay abreast of gay issues. The only people who think the doctrine you describe produces support, acceptance, and love are ideologues. To keep pure they maintain careful distance from gay people, even those in their own families. They are more committed to their theory of what God’s Word is than they are committed to real people in need of support, acceptance, and love.

        God damn the concept of verbal plenary inspiration. “Inerrancy” is the root of all this strife. Man’s stumbling words about God in a time and a place should not count for more than the Spirit of God at work today in hearts and lives.

    • David Cornwell says

      J, thanks for sharing. I’ve heard this story so many times and some of them are very sad indeed.

    • Good for you.

      I’ve always had the typical conservative evangelical mindset on homosexuality, but here over the past few months, I’ve started to see things a little differently.

      I guess I’ve decided that if I’m going to err, which I will, I would much rather err on the side of love than on the side of fear.

      • How about loving people by calling them to repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name.

      • J.Random says

        Thank you so much. I had to make a similar decision: live a life in fear of getting it wrong, or brave whatever mistakes come with the risk called love.

      • textjunkie says

        hear hear. We are going to err, so it is better to err on the side of compassion and charity than judgement and fear.

  20. Big Chief says

    I’m an “orthodox” Episcopalian in a very liberal diocese. Here’s my two cents on part of this issue. One of the old nicknames for the Episcopal Church used to be “The Republican Party at prayer”. This may have been a representative label in the first half of the last century, but it is certainly not true anymore. And while I think that’s a good thing, there is a problem.

    It seems that many in leadership in the Church now want it to become “The Democratic Party at prayer”. If you compare the platform of the Democratic Party with the resolutions at General Convention, I think you will find an amazing correlation in stances and language. Homosexuality is simply the defining issue for those engaged in creating this new Church, but it is not the only one. It doesn’t take much of a search to see that on almost any issue that many church leaders are working to redefine Democratic political stances into church stances, whether it be on health care, education, unionization, immigration, or abortion.

    So I think there will continue to be a problem with having an open discussion on sexuality within the Episcopal Church as long as it remains a code word for a larger agenda. I think it also makes it more difficult for those outside the US or North America to be able to discuss these issues because they don’t understand the larger context and why those who attempt the conversation often seem to be talking past each other. It’s also why I think the conversations seem to quickly devolve into the rancor more typical of political debate.

    I also think that this is true even beyond the Episcopal Church. Homosexuality has become the new defining stance for politics within our country. I think it has replaced abortion as the bell weather issue of our times.

    • Big Chief,
      Funny, I consider myself a “liberal” Episcopalian in a very conservative diocese! Should we switch places?

      I feel that since this is also a current matter of civil rights (re: marriage in general is not only seen as a sacrament but also a legally binding contract within the US, with tax bonuses, etc.), it naturally becomes political as well as theological. At this time, this is particularly unfortunate, given the polarized political spectrum (as you so well pointed out, “those who attempt the conversation often seem to be talking past each other.”).

      I remain happily where I am in the Episcopal Church, however, because it seems that we are the only ones really struggling with this issue- “bearing one another’s burdens” as it were, while other denominations either sweep it under the rug or similarily ignore it.

      • Big Chief says

        I don’t agree that the debate about sexuality within the church is “naturally” politicized because of the contract nature of marriage in the US. I’ve known priests who have refused to marry couples for a variety of reasons, though faith issues seem to be the leading one. There are many other places to get married outside of churches. I would be interested to know, in fact, what percentage of marriages are done in churches today.

        I also don’t think there’s any real “struggle” left in the Episcopal Church on this issue. The matter has been settled since the last convention and Glasspool’s subsequent ordination. The only struggle remaining is whether the Church can or will remain in the Anglican Communion. As for other denominations, the issue is certainly coming up quite regularly, at least among the mainline churches. I think that’s one reason why there is interest in what is happening in the Episcopal Church since the same forces are being felt, and addressed, in other denominations.

        • The point is that the concept marriage is recognized as a legal contract and a sacrament, which involves both government and religion.

          I’ll have to educate myself more on the issue of sexuality in mainline churches- honestly, I really don’t see much press about it.

          • Big Chief says

            I think you are correct about the sacramental and legal aspects be a point of some confusion for people.

            I think at about the same time as TEC’s last General Convention, the issue was also being addressed by the Presbyterians and one of the Lutheran groups (ELCA?). The UCC was years ahead of TEC in approving gay priests and I believe has already approved gay marriage within their churches. But almost no denomination has been immune from it.

        • The ELCA! Yes, you are right. (sigh)…time to hit the books before I post.

    • “Homosexuality has become the new defining stance for politics within our country. I think it has replaced abortion as the bell weather issue of our times.”

      I’m not sure I agree. The only place homosexuality is an issue is within Christiandom. Outside of the religious arena, it’s a non-issue. I don’t know of anyone who opposes gay marriage who doesn’t do so from a Christian perspective. As more and more people learn their friends or relatives are gay, they see that they aren’t evil depraved people after all.

      I went to my first gay wedding a couple of weeks back. I thought I’d be a little uncomfortable with it, but it turned out to be just as wonderful an experience as a ‘normal’ wedding.

      • Big Chief says

        I know people who are conservative, who are not practicing Christians, who are against it on a political basis (Team Red vs. Team Blue). I know of Muslims who are as anti-gay-marriage as you can find. I think my conservative Hindu friends would also be against it (though I can’t recall having discussed it in detail, they tend to be much more conservative about sexuality than westerners). I also know people who are against it because they are against any conferring any special benefits on couples or groups vs. people who are single – religion doesn’t even enter the conversation. So while it is an issue within the Christian community, it’s certainly not isolated there.

  21. cermak_rd says

    I honestly don’t think that it is possible to be a Christian who takes an inerrant view of scripture or believes in a Community of Saints and also accept gay folk into the common life of the Church.

    I have gay friends and family. As I struggled with this, I realized that 1. if I take Scripture as inerrant, then I cannot accept them as they are at least as fellow church members and I must try to get them to “repent” and change or be celibate. and 2. I could not in conscience do either that or accept being in a radical communion with Christians who believe that gay folk should be thrown in jail for advocating for their human rights (Uganda).

    This was 1 of my major theological sticking points with Christianity. The other was the place of women in society and in the Church. While I realize there are Christian egalitarians I do not think it right to simply jettison Paul from Scripture and still claim to be in Communion with other Christians.

    In the end, for my own integrity, I started to examine other religions. The one I found allows each person the autonomy to observe as much or as little as they want and (joyfully to me) to allow other people the same autonomy to observe as much or as little as they want. No pressure to judge others was an incredible freedom for me.

    • Interesting point. You are illustrating that it is not just gays and lesbians who walk away from Christianity because of the prevailing views toward homosexuality. If Christianity is seen to be inherently unjust then what does a just person do?

      As it applies to me, I don’t think I could be a member in good conscience of any denomination that rejected women from a pastoral role. If a woman is called by God, it is not for any man to deny her that role. I have often thought that the Word of God would be purer if we stuck to the words of Christ. Paul was a saint and a master theologian but he was a man nonetheless and a product of his time.

      • I’ve said it before in this thread – it all comes down to hermeneutics. As far as the position of women is concerned, reading the Bible in the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and placing the text within the context of its time enables a person of integrity to reconcile Paul’s contribution to this issue with their understanding of contemporary equality. I love Paul and believe that he supports equality rather than the opposite. It is not as clear cut as some people like to believe – dig deeper into the text and find out for yourself. Most of the people who have perpetuated the idea that women should not have a leadership position down the ages were men and also not Greek scholars!
        We’ve ended up with skewed theology and read the Bible literally when it was never written to be read like that. BUT – forgive me – this isn’t the right thread for a discussion on the ‘women’ Q although I do find it irritating that it seems to come up whenever homosexuality is discussed. It’s a very different issue. I also feel compelled to leap to Paul’s defence whenever he is criticised – sorry!
        I am intrigued that you seem to think that Christians are supposed to judge people – I can’t see where you would get that from scripture. (‘Do not judge so that you may not be judged…’ Matt 7:1-5 etc) Nor that Christians are supposed to try to get people to repent? Surely that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to tell people how wrong they are – when they meet Jesus they find out how right he is and adjust themselves accordingly. That change can take time.

    • This was 1 of my major theological sticking points with Christianity. The other was the place of women in society and in the Church. While I realize there are Christian egalitarians I do not think it right to simply jettison Paul from Scripture and still claim to be in Communion with other Christians.

      One doesn’t have to jettison Paul from Scripture to be an Egalitarian. One just has to read him differently than many are accustomed to reading him, a reading that Egalitarians would argue is the right way to read him, not simply a way to justify Egalitarianism. AFAIK, neither Ben Witherington III nor Scot McKnight nor Philip Barton Payne nor Craig Keener nor Gordon Fee, e.g., jettison Paul in their promotion and defense of an Evangelical Egalitarian understanding of the New Testament.

      • cermak_rd says

        While I admit you are correct, egalitarians don’t eject Paul from their Scriptures, the fact that none of the ancient branches of Christianity: Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Assyrian Church of the East, accept women priests tells me that that position is probably truer to ancient Christianity (and thus Paul) than the egalitarian position. Certainly a reading of the Church Fathers does not seem to suggest an equal view of women.

        • …probably truer to ancient Christianity (and thus Paul)…

          ISTM that it would be “truer…to Paul” if Paul held to the same ideas of the priesthood and the Eucharist as the churches you mentioned hold to and have held to. I think this involves answering a few questions: Did Paul teach the necessity/essentiality of the office/function of priest for a congregation? Did he teach the same things about the Eucharist/Lord’s Table, including the nature of the bread and the wine, that these churches teach? Did his teachings about these things, if he indeed taught them, specifically preclude women from these positions and functions or overseeing them? Etc.

  22. FWIW / FYI –

    if you want to read/listen to stories from persons who personally deal with this.

  23. Sometimes I wonder if Christians love their own shared communions more than God. Is it possible that Christains have made the church their own idol?

  24. I’m an actual Episcopalian, (unlike a lot of commenters).

    I’m irritated that the ECUSA has ignored the direction of the Communion. All we had to do was NOT GO FARTHER, but we did.

    The glory and the shame of the Anglican communion is that you can believe anything you want and still claim to be a member of the communion. We have chosen that path because we believe that communion trumps doctrine. I find that hard to argue with. But it is REALLY hard to see how ignoring the direction of the wider communion to just NOT GO FARTHER is in keeping with the spirit of Anglicanism.

    I’m not gonna leave my church any time soon, mostly because I make a concerted effort to NOT know what is going on at the political level of the church. I think what happens in my local church is a lot more important.

    The ECUSA forced this split by its refusal to just NOT GO FARTHER. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no going back. Sad really, but pretty predictable.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Yep. These issues should have been discussed and debated in a proper way at the full communion level. That’s what the Lambeth 2005 moratoria were about. But TEC (and some of the Global South provinces) said “screw you guys, we do what wanna do!” And this is the fallout.

  25. SearchingAnglican says

    I was received into the Episcopal church (grew up RC) about five years ago, under the spiritual leadership of decidedly evangelical priest who has since left (completely unrelated to his theological leanings). I am in a supposedly “orthodox” diocese, but I don’t really see much of that in practice.

    The (mostly) dying churches in my diocese operate like a bunch of congregationalists. From my place in the pews (and in the diocese), most people don’t really CARE all that much about what’s happening nationally, or internationally. “Live and let live.” “That controversy doesn’t pertain to OUR church.”

    When I joined TEC, I suppose I misunderstood the nature of its polity, and its relationship to the international communion. Perhaps better said, I assumed things that aren’t really true, at least according to current leadership.

    I LOVED the 39 Articles. I liked the fact that their was no pope because of my doctrinal/canonical issues with the RCC. I knew (and didn’t mind) that there was no magisterium or ultimate doctrinal authority, but the episcopate looked “close enough” in my book. I liked the fact that the national church was more democratic and involved the laity. I liked the fact that there was room around the table in matters of theology, such as in eucharistic theology.

    All the while, it appeared that these different Anglican expressions came together, seemingly unified in the essentials. I understood (or assumed) more accountability among Communion members than what actually exists.

    Here’s my long-awaited point. Regardless of what I (or anyone else) thinks about “new thing” the Holy Spirit may or may not be doing in TEC, I despise the fact that, again and again, the national church seems to thumb its nose at the cautions, pleas and recommendations made by its brothers and sisters in international communion, kind of like a petulant teenager, saying “You can’t tell me what to do” all the while playing the victim (“you intolerant homophobes”). Add to that the absolute doublespeak about abiding by the moratorium on blessing same-sex unions, all the while many, many churches are moving forward.

    Thanks for the clarity, TEC. I am glad that you’ve decided to stop being wishy washy (other than the lawsuits) and be what you feel called to be. Walk away from the Communion if you are in such profound disagreement with the majority of the Communion. Just stop deceiving yourself. And everyone else.


    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      That’s the way I see it also. So, kudos to TEC for clarifying its position. Kudos to Canterbury for doing the same. Now that a line has been drawn, let’s all take our position on either side of the line and get on with our Gospel mission.

  26. I’m not Episcopalian, but Lutheran. Our church recently pulled out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, losing 100+ per Sunday in the process, though many did not cite homosexuality as a reason for leaving.
    As I told a representative of the other side, homosexuality is a small part of the issue. Many otherwise orthodox people attempt to make this one exception for homosexuality, but find that once the door to superseding Scripture, decreasing its authority, or going “where the Spirit is calling me” is opened, it cannot be closed. It’s a package deal, and I know of no church which “affirms” homosexual practice and otherwise remains orthodox. The end result is always syncretism, universalism, even Unitarianism, as some commentors have said. Mission work in the sense of spreading the Gospel becomes generic service projects, missionaries are not funded, elements of other religions creep in, and “I am the way, the truth, and the life” becomes “I am a way, a truth, and a life”. This fact has pushed me in a conservative direction, as I seek fellow orthodox (small “o”) Christians.

  27. I can only weigh in by passing on the substance of what Doug Wilson once wrote in response to Brian McLaren (not an exact quote here):

    If you don’t know whether homosexual behavior is or is not sinful, then get out of the ministry.

  28. Kelby Carlson says

    I am not an Episcopalian, nor am I terribly familiar with the specific controversy–though the controversy at large is something that interests me greatly. i won’t air my political views on this subject (as they are irrelevant and in fact rather odd) but I will share my struggle with this. As a high school student, i know of several people who are eith GLBT or who are lobbying for them fairly vocally. Here’s the problem i run into: these people are normal. In fact, most of them are nicer than a lot of straight people I am acquainted with. I also have trouble taking a stance on this issue because, on the one hand I understand the conservative tehological standpoint but have little faith in its practicality and am not confident in it’s day-to-day truth. I look at homosexuality in a similar way I look at my own disability (and no, I am unequivocally not saying homosexuality is a disability) in that while it may be part of a fallen creation (like blindness) there is a possibility for it to be used for a redemptive purpose.

    Here’s a question I’ve been very curious about. Say you have two males (homosexual or straight is not relevant at this point) who lived together. These two are as intimate as two friends can be, and plan to remain together as “partners” throughout their lives. Now let’s say they never engage in a sexual act with each other, and let’s add the caveat that they are in fact homosexual. Are you starting to see my point? I think–and this is speculation so correct me if I am incorrect–that often it is more a desire for intimate companionship than the sex itself (though not being gay, I am not qualified to elaborate on this much.) I think it’s going to be virtually impossible for the conservative theological stronghold to stand for more than then next twenty to thirty years. i just don’t see it lasting, and my own perspective has undergone a drastic amount of liberalization the more thought I put in and the more life experience (little though it is) that I gain.

    • Yes, God can certainly bring good out of our weaknesses and our human condition. But as Paul says in Romans 6:1 “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” No.

      Homosexual acts are sinful and sin is harmful to the Church, The Body of Christ, as well as to the sinner. Repentance and humility and Faith in God are the keys to God using us weak humans to serve his good purposes.

      Your example of two men being committed friends is fine if it is a chaste relationship. It is the effort to consider homosexual “sex” as morally neutral or even positive and redefine marriage that is wrong.

    • David Cornwell says

      Kelby, you have some very valid points. Thanks. I agree with you that the next 20 to 30 years will mark a major shift. And it will be part of a titanic shift in the Church making the playing field totally different than it is today. It will involve demographic changes, sociological changes, shifts in stance in what’s left of mainline churches, and a total reshuffling of the evangelical framework. Of course there will still be fundamentalist strongholds (or should I say holdouts).

      And then again, I might be totally wrong. But there will be a new outlook on homosexual issues, for good or bad.

  29. Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I was baptized and partially raised as an Episcopalian, but spent none of my adult life in TEC. A few years ago when I was looking to return to my liturgical roots, I was hesitant to join TEC because of some of these issues. At the same time I didn’t want to join one of the traditionalist splinter groups because the idea of being a lone parish (whether actually or effectively due to officially being under the authority of an African province) seemed a step in the wrong direction for me. When ACNA formed, I saw it as an answer to some of my prayers. Since then I have joined an ACNA parish and am working on my Master’s of Christian Ministry with a hope of eventually entering into the priesthood.

    I think it was about dang time ++Williams took a stand. As I said earlier I’m mostly just happy that positions are being clarified. The years of ambiguity have done more harm and aided in the schisms rather than preventing them. I’m very surprised that his letter ended up actually having teeth. I honestly expected that his suggestions would be swept under the rug in the 2011 Primates’ meeting.

    While I disagree with TEC’s position on homosexuality and biblical interpretation as well as some of what ++Schori has said on issues of Christology, I respect their right to have an opinion. What I do not respect is giving the finger to the Anglican Communion by going back on what they had agreed to at Lambath 2005.

    NT Wright, in an address to his diocese recently talked about aidaphora, the concept of there being “disputable matters” that we can agree to disagree about in doctrine and theology. There are a couple of points he made that I think really sum it up for me:

    1) Whether or not an issue is aidaphora cannot itself be aidaphora. That is, there must be agreement in the Communion as a whole about the status of an issue as disputable or not.

    2) A “proper theological debate” in the Communion is needed on some of these controversial issues. We are not, however, very good at debating and reasoning today. Instead, at best we have “a postmodern exchange of prejudices.”

    A transcript of his full speech (delivered a few days before ++Williams’ letter) can be found here:

    Here’s a part I found particularly insightful:

    And I wish I thought that arguing cases on their merits was our strong suit just now. In fact, as the debates of the last decade have shown with worrying clarity, we are not very good at it at all. The postmodern malaise has eaten into us deeply, so that instead of real debate we have the exchange of prejudice, and instead of speaking of evidence, arguments and conclusions we speak of attitudes, feelings and aspirations. This generates a culture of victimhood where squeals of pain do duty for patient and reasoned discourse, and the creation of safe enclaves takes precedence over the hard and demanding disciplines of sustaining the whole Body of Christ. We are then at the mercy of those who say we must go with the spirit of the age and those who instinctively resist such a move, neither of which constitutes a good theological argument. We are, in short, not in a good place.

  30. I dont have time to read the comments in full [yet!] but wanted to know what the general consensus is amongst readers regarding;

    Is it okay to be ordaining homosexuals?

  31. I got lost about halfway down.

    I’m not touching this topic, but I will say this: A word exists for ‘female priests.’ It’s ‘priestess.’ Sorry…the English major in me couldn’t help it…. 0=)

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Here’s the real question: Do you address her as “Father” or “Mother” or something else? Usually I see female Anglican Presbyters simply addressed as Rev. ____________ .

      • I suppose “Mother” would technically be appropriate. “Father” would be a bit, well, like a queen wearing a fake beard to indicate she had the same authority as a king. (I heard Cleopatra did that; I have no idea if it’s true.) People probably just feel more comfortable with ‘Reverend.’

        • Greg Smith says

          “Mother” is the appropriate title — although that drives some people crazy. It’s the title that comes from Nuns in the Roman church and from women married to the priest in Orthodox churches.

          Fr. Greg Smith+

          • I figured. I mean, to me it’s just common sense based on proper language. Why does it drive some people crazy? (Just curious. I’m a bit unknowledgeble in this area..)

  32. I expect to see many repentant homosexuals in heaven but none of the clergy who think that sliding along with the rest of the culture is viable for a church called to be set apart. I’m amazed at how restrained Williams is in dealing with the issue. I would have severed the ties at this juncture altogether.

  33. Louis Winthrop says

    You know what this reminds me of? The ongoing struggle in Belgium, between (Dutch-speaking) Flemings and (francophone) Walloons. Rowan Williams would then be in the position of the Brussels elites, trying to preserve unity by any means necessary, fair or foul (but in their hearts leaning toward France). From the outside this makes him look balanced and moderate, but it could just as easily be read as self-interest–he wants the communion of which he is titular head to be as large as possible.

    Since U.S. Episcopalians are divided over fundamental questions (not just homosexuality, but the whole range of liberal vs. conservative cultural values), it seems to me that they would all be happier in separate churches where they won’t have to be offended by each other, or suffer one another’s attempts to hijack the communion. Of course there is the practical problem of dividing the “patrimonium” (to resort to more Belgian political jargon), but if Williams wants them to avoid the law-courts, he would be in a good position to propose an amicable division. As for which half would stay in communion with him…well, that’s his business.

    History question: When did the Archbishop of Canterbury acquire the right to issue binding directives on other churches in the Anglical Communion? I thought his was supposed to be a ceremonial, honorary position–primus inter pares, stuff like that. Did they smuggle in a pope after all?

    And now a cultural question: Do liberal U.S. Episcopalians care about their ties with Canterbury, and/or other churches in the Anglical Communion? Does this have any practical influence on them, such as determining who gets title to the property?

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      History question: When did the Archbishop of Canterbury acquire the right to issue binding directives on other churches in the Anglical Communion? I thought his was supposed to be a ceremonial, honorary position–primus inter pares, stuff like that. Did they smuggle in a pope after all?

      He doesn’t have the right to issue binding directives on other provinces. If you read his letter, you’ll note that what he has done is make two directives that are in his authority as the head of the Anglican Communion: 1) Prohibit those who violated the 2005 Lambeth Moratoria from representing the Anglican Communion in formal ecumenical discussions. 2) Members of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) who were from violating provinces would have that membership downgraded to the status of “consultants.” Both of these are directly in his authority as the ABC.

      Furthermore, his letter noted “other bodies [that] have responsibilities in questions concerned with faith and order, notably the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Standing Committee.” His letter goes on to say that the latter two of these three bodies he does not have authority over, and thus the appropriate governing councils would have to make the decision to back him or not. He doesn’t mention how he intends to deal with the Primates’ Meeting, which is something he hosts by invitation only. I.e. he has the power to not invite the Primates from provinces that have violated Lambeth 2005.

      It should be noted that TEC and the others who may be in trouble all agreed to the moratoria from Lambeth 2005.

      Hope that clarifies some of the polity/political details.

  34. Otter: In the grand scheme of this debate, this is only a minor point but re: Mark, Jesus and “Clean” Food…
    There is not unanimity on how Mark 7 should be interpreted and if Mark is arguing that Jesus declared all food (kosher and non-kosher) “clean”. Yes, the vast majority of evangelicals assume that’s what he’s saying, but there is a counter argument: that Mark 7:19 is actually arguing that Jesus declared ceremonial handwashing to be unnecessary to make already kosher food “clean” to eat. After all that’s the crux of the argument Jesus got into with the Pharisees.

    For Jesus to chastise the Pharisees for placing oral tradition above written torah, and then to contradict written torah himself…that’s a strange way of taking the high ground!

    For more, check out

    It may be a bit out of leftifield, but worthy of some attention, and may bring clarity to the issue of whether Jesus abolished or modified ceremonial laws at all.

  35. Greg Smith says

    Not sure if anybody is still reading this or not, but this might be helpful from one of the leading Anglican thinkers:

    From here:

    The point is that the Presiding Bishop begins with the tendentious claim that TEC’s action accords with Scripture and represents a new work of the Holy Spirit. Here is the tail (TEC’s action) that she then uses in an attempt to wag the dog (the weight of Communion teaching, procedure, and opinion).

    …What I mean is this. To sustain her position she launches an attack on the Archbishop’s response. She seeks to show not only that the Archbishop is acting to quench the Spirit, but also that he has taken a morally dubious course that violates longstanding Anglican tradition. A hallmark of Anglicanism, she says, is a form of “diversity in community” that manifests “willingness to live in tension.” This tolerance of diversity “recognizes that the Spirit may be speaking to all of us, in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree.”

    I have already noted that her view of the Spirit’s leading seems incoherent. I will leave it to the historians among us to assess her claims about the tolerant character of the Elizabethan Settlement, but it has never seemed to me that the Act of Uniformity was meant to put up a big tent, or that the treatment of Anabaptists (they were burned) showed great openness to contrary views of the Christian’s relation to the state. The fact of the matter is that “Anglican inclusiveness” serves more as a charter myth for legitimizing contested issues than a solid historical precedent for innovation. Anglican history, though not overly confessional when it comes to doctrine, manifests extraordinary caution when it comes to changing practice. If anything, caution in respect to changing practice is a “hallmark of Anglicanism.”

    The real issue, however, is not the claim about “diversity in community” or “willingness to live in tension.” The real issue is what Anglican’s are to do when the action of one Province, diocese, or person within the Communion takes an official action that others do not “recognize” as consonant with Christian belief and practice. The issue of “recognition” stands in the background of the first Lambeth Conference. There, the question of recognition centered on Bishop Colenso’s interpretation of Holy Scripture. Latterly, the question of recognition surfaced with the consecration by TEC of a partnered gay man. Now it has surfaced once more with the consecration of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.

  36. To emulate Christ, and be a loving and caring family to the community and ourselves.

    The mission statement of our local parish says it all. I’m an Episcopalian, and for me it’s all about what Jesus would have done. Not what the Old Testament holds in it, nor what his time here evolved into with all the different churches and all the bickering. I feel quite deeply that he would be appalled by what he would find in these current times after all he did for us.

    His time here was all about the common people – the outcasts, the afflicted, the dregs of society, Samaritans and Romans even… I have bipolar disorder and migraines, so I would surely have been on the edges of society back in those times. Heck, it still happens today. But Jesus would have accepted me and loved me, irregardless of the awful things the bipolar caused me to do. He would accept and love the men and women who have found love in a way understood only by themselves.

    People are so worried about other peoples own business, and who among you reading this have done anything in your community to help those less fortunate than themselves?
    Helped feed the homeless lately?
    Help build a house with Habitat Humanity?
    When I joined my church it truly turned my life around, and with that, and the help of a dear friend, there is now a group which meets every week for those of us having bipolar disorder or depression. We are available at any time for the group members to call us about anything – to talk something over that’s a problem for them, give them some advice from our own lives that might help them, and quickly get them over to the local hospital if they are feeling suicidal, or way to manic.
    That’s how I help my community. And something Jesus might just approve of.

    I’ll close with this.

    Who are we to think we need to judge anyone else besides ourselves?
    Who gave us the right to do that anyway?
    Are you sure you’re a better person in every aspect than the person your judging?
    After all, we all have something about us that someone else could find fault with.