Archbishop Williams Erring
Recently, in response to a question, do you believe that same-sex sex can be holy and blessed? If so, on what authority do you base this belief? Williams replied
[A] The church overall, the church of England in particular, the Anglican communion has not been persuaded that same-sex sex can be holy and blessed. [B] Were it to decide that by some process unimaginable to most of you it would be by an overwhelming consensus. [C]Only at that point would it be possible to say in the name of the church, this is holy and blessed.
So I take my stand with the church of England, with the communion, with the majority of Christians through the ages. I have in the past raised questions about this. I was a theological teacher for 17 years and along with other theological teachers raised this issue and discussed it. I have advance ideas on this in the past, but the fact remains that the church is not persuaded, and [D] the church is not William’s personal political parties, or any particular persons. [E] I am loyal to the church which has asked me to serve, and I myself hold if I am asked about doctrine and discipline, this is what the church upholds. So, the authority that I accept has to be the authority of the whole body and that part of the body which is the church of England and the Anglican communion has made its determination.
I’ll add two things to that. [F] One is to welcome the statement that we should never use language that demeans another human being. In London, we have had another extraordinary brutal murder of a gay man in the last couple of weeks by a group of extremely violent people. I am loathed, indeed I cannot bring myself to use any language which could condone such behaviour and I’m sure that is true for all of you. That is something which I have to take very much to heart. The second is, I think I need to put on the table, is theologians will go on discussing this and it would not, I think, be possible to stop them. We ask theologians to look at difficult questions. They come up with different answers. For nearly a century in the 4th century in this country of Egypt, the conflict over the doctrine of the trinity raged between theologians and bishops and was not resolved overnight. But I distinguish as clearly as I can between a question a theologian may ask and an action or determination the church may take, or only the bishop may take. I think that is a necessary distinction for the life and health of the church. It would be a tragedy if the church sought to suppress questions. [G] But it is equally a tragedy when the church create facts on the ground that foreclose discussions and reflections on such questions.
I've added the letters in brackets where I felt it necessary to comment.
Take point [D]: the church is not the party of any particular person. That is, I hope you will agree, completely false. Provided you agree that the church has exactly one head, in relation to whom alone it can exist at all, namely Christ, you should concede that the church is the party of a particular person, namely Christ. The church in no way is bound to any doctrine or action where Christ would have us do something different--even if the overwhelming majority of the church throughout its history here below stood in agreement on a point contradicting the will of Christ, Christ would be right, and the church wrong. That should be a no-brainer for Williams, but he misses it.
Now take point [E] in light of his error in point [D]: which church is Williams serving? Evidently not the one headed exclusively by the person of Christ, but a "church" with another head, perhaps made up of bishops, etc. Evidently he is serving the wrong church--quite apart from questions about the possible holiness of same-sex unions.
But let us address points [A] to [C], which take up the issue of same-sex unions. How are we to determine that of which the church has been persuaded? Given Williams' conception of the church and its "head" you will not be surprised to find him speaking of "an overwhelming consensus" as determining the mind of the church. Buit that is wrong--the mind of the church is not determined by the persuasion of a super-majority; rather, it is determined by the mind of Christ. Christ's determination is the standard to which we are to bring ourselves in line--and it is an objective standard, not open to being altered and mutated by human preference in the church here below.
To make his argument, Williams would have had to establish a necessary connection between overwhelming consensus and the mind of Christ--which he would seem to be unable to do, as he holds out the possibility in [B] however unlikely of such a consensus shifting (which Christ would not do). In short, Williams' position is incoherent.
Contrary to [C], it follows rather that one may speak in the name of the church, even against a consensus to the contrary, provided the minority speaks for the mind of Christ. The leading question should be not "Where is the consensus now?" but "What is the mind of Christ on this question?" Shall we govern the church and determine its doctrine here below by opinion polls?
To the extent that Williams departs from Christ as a standard, he becomes thoroughly confused--an object lesson. With that in mind, consider points [F] and [G]. What kind of viscious abstraction conceives a human person apart from the love of that person, that designs to separate person and character? Can this be done with the divine persons without violence? How can we abstract the homosexual from the love in which that homosexual lives his or her life? Yet this is what Williams would have us do in consigning their love to mere sin while prescinding from demeaning them--the person left over after the sinful love is removed is somehow pristine and whole. A new mystery.
And finally, [G]--which seems hardly to stand long enough to fall down. His point cuts both ways: are ECUSA and Canada creating facts on the ground? Or are those provinces in the Anglican Communion creating facts on the ground by their resistance to blessing gay unions, their condemnation of homosexuals, their avid pursuit of schism? Williams displays a mindset here that should be vigorously rejected, the same sort of mindset that would tell black Americans in the Jim Crow south to wait a bit longer for equality, and above all not to stir up the anger of their segregationist neighbors by actively protesting the status quo. The status quo is itself a "fact on the ground" that is hardly morally neutral to the extent it is unjust; rather, by the very fact it is the default mode of life of the majority of the AC it continues to develop dispositions to injustice in those members of the AC affected by those facts so as to support the status quo. Why, when the status quo involves a manifest injustice contrary to the mind of Christ, is it wrong to create new facts on the ground, a new mode of life: justice in accord with the mind of Christ? It seems to me Williams has erred.