Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Back to Business

Having been at this thing for a while, I thought it might be useful to compile some of the writings on this blog about GC2003's presenting issues: ordaining Robinson and blessing SSUs.

Oddly enough, the controversy brought me to active membership within the Episcopal Church once I saw that the decisions of GC2003 were rooted in what I thought was a persuasive, antecedently developed theology. It seemed--indeed it still seems--that controversy raged without serious theological engagement, despite what seemed to be an obvious opportunity. Now I would say with more confidence that the dearth of engagement from critics of GC2003 is deliberate, and not a matter of ignorance or oversight.

Some links:

Episcopal Argument & my Argument
An Older Version of my Argument
the Oldest Version
& Subsequent Debate:

Charles I

Against Kendall Harmon's "Sex Without Form and Void"

Reply to Witt

Against Harding's Critique of the Episcopal Church's Argument

On "Claiming our Anglican Identity"

Kennedy on Heresy

the homosexuals/ homosexual activity distinction

homosexuality and the Holocaust

the church and the ordination of active homosexuals


sexuality and personhood

reconciliation and SSUs


Seitz on plain sense

the AAC and plain sense

Nigeria's laws

Lambeth 1998 1.10

Lambeth 1998 and epistemic humility

epistemic humility

defending epistemic humility against Harding

reading Romans I:26-7

plain sense and metaphysics

ACI on plain sense

more defense of epistemic humility against Harding

Against Gagnon


At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me Scotist's desire for some attention to argumentation could be applied to +Gene as well. (I am conscious of covering some of the same ground as Scotist's posting of August 3, 2006, and in general of repeating things we have been saying around the blogosphere for years.)

Even if same sex unions are objectively wrong (not a premise I in fact accept), it would seem that, under the principles of casuistry advanced by +Kenneth Kirk in Conscience and its Problems, +Gene Robinson is nonetheless not morally culpable for living in such a union. +Kirk distinguishes cases of error (where the individual conscience and the teaching of the Church are irreconcilable); cases of doubt (where the conscience is undecided and the teaching of the Church tends probably, but not certainly, toward one choice); and cases of perplexity (where the conscience faces two or more conflicting claims). Supposing that belief in same sex unions and the teaching of the Church are irreconcilable, then, if +Robinson has made a thorough and prayerful examination of the matter, so that he has an informed conscience, and still believes in same sex unions, he is in error. And what must he then do? Submit his conscience to the judgment of the Church? No. On the contrary, he must, ultimately, follow his conscience. We may argue--+Kirk does argue--that in a case of "occult" error (one which would not otherwise be known), +Robinson would have an obligation make his conscientious position known to his confessor, his bishop--someone, so that the Church could react. But +Robinson's conscientious position is hardly unknown. So +Robinson is doing the morally correct thing by openly following his informed conscience even if it is in error; he is, as +Kirk says, "not adding sin to sin." In such a case, certainly, the Church would be within its rights to exercise discipline to enforce its position: this is precisely what happened in the case of +Paul Jones's "error" on the matter of pacifism (on the other hand, given the dramatic reversal of the Church's position in that case, the Church may also think itself justified in living with the error for the moment, lest it be embarrassed when +Gene Robinson is added to Lesser Feasts and Fasts).

It would be, as has been often noted, Donatism to claim that, if +Robinson's behavior is immoral, then there is something defective in his episcopal (and presbyteral and diaconal) acts. But beyond that, we cannot, on good Anglican principles, even claim that his behavior is immoral for him, although we might without contradiction continue to teach that such behavior is wrong in general. Again, I don't think it is wrong, and I don't think that we should say so: but whether it is or is not does not correspond to the moral situation of the individual. If the Church said I were free to be in a same sex union and my informed conscience told me otherwise, I would be morally culpable for entering into such a union, even with the Church's blessing.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger LKT said...

Scotist, don't post anything new for a while! This is going to take some reading and pondering.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

4 May 1535+,

Thank you for bringing Kirk in--your point seems sound and very well put.

If I may ask, where have you posted your other writing?

At 10:19 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Thanks, but I am afraid a good deal of it is rather off-the-cuff. I hope you find it stimulating--at least a means to further thinking.

At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Scotist--

My actual training is as a historical theologian, but I have been posting here and there--Preludium, Thinking Anglicans, Pluralist Speaks, and In a Godward Direction--on a more strictly historical point (which I imagine people are by now tired of hearing), that Anglicanism is distinguished, fundamentally, by lay supremacy in independent national churches. I've also been pointing a lot, lately, to the fundamental error of Prof. Norman Doe in choosing the "weak" rather than the "strong" sense of autonomy in his report for the Eames commission.

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don’t find your proof to be as convincing as do you. My disagreement comes, first, in your step 3: “In the world to come, the members of the Church will bear a new real, reciprocal relation to Christ; call it R.”

In the undivided, patristic teaching of the Church, there are two flaws in this step. The first is that “relationship to Christ” is not an adequate description of the life of the believer. What the Church teaches, rather, is that, through Christ – because He is the recapitulation of humanity – the believer is able to participate in the life of the Trinity. Note that: the Trinity. This is the real meaning of salvation. (The second flaw, though I’m not sure it matters, is that the relationship will only be established in the world to come. Christ has already redeemed all things, and the relationship can exist here and now.)

Therefore, ‘R’ is not necessarily a sufficient analogy to marriage. If we are to, instead, use the real relationship we enjoy, we would end up making the argument that a marriage should consist of three persons (or four, if you count the Persons of the Trinity plus the believer). You might want to make the objection that the divine Persons are one in essence and undivided and should therefore be treated as only one entity. My counter is that, even in a marriage, we say the two become one flesh, yet we continue to recognize two distinct people. In the same way, we must recognize the three distinct Persons of the Godhead.

Even if we accept your original analogy, we would have to admit, for example, a marriage of a man to a seven-year-old girl (or boy, this being ECUSA), as valid. After all, the seven-year-old can have a relationship ‘R’ with Christ in the same way as a 37-year-old.

You’ll undoubtedly say there are other factors to consider. Sure, there are – just as there are when we consider marriage more broadly. We consider, most importantly, the univocal voice of Scripture through to the Incarnated Lord Himself that marriage is a relationship of a man and a woman, and this forms a boundary condition that has to be imposed on any model we create to understand marriage.

In the end, of course, this is all you have proposed – a model, not a logical proof. And, as any engineer or scientist will tell you, the model is not reality. It can be quite helpful in helping us understand reality, but we should always take care to remember that, in the end, it isn’t, and can’t be a complete description of the thing we wish to study. Your model will not bear the weight you wish it to hold.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger bls said...


Sheesh. Just try the readings from last week, Phil, which start out like this, from Genesis 32:22

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

I realize you folks think we're stupid, but we actually are paying attention. I mean, let's get real here.

(P.S.: For literally the millionth time, Christ was answering a question about divorce, not about heterosexuality vs. homosexuality. And if you think the takeaway from Genesis 1 - or Genesis 2, whichever mutually-incompatible Creation story you prefer - is that "penis + vagina = good," I have to say that you don't really seem to understand the point of that story.)

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, BLS, that's a good point. (I didn't say you were stupid.) It, however, neither impacts my argument nor advances yours. There is no contemplation of a man "marrying" a man in scripture. We might even say, per your example, that despite the fact many forms of union are contemplated, one - unfortunately for you - is conspicuously not.

At 11:11 PM, Blogger bls said...

Really? No contemplation of it, you say?

Try this:

"1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house.

3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. "

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, really.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger bls said...

Well, OK. Putting your fingers in your ears is certainly one way to deal with the issue. We're certainly used to the deaf, dumb, and blind legalistic approach by now.

I do wonder why we don't allow polygamy, though. What's the rationale for that? Polygamy is certainly Scriptural, and nowhere forbidden; all the big boys of the Hebrew Bible did it, after all. And concubines! Why not concubines, too? Jacobs "maids" also bore him children, and of course there were lots of concubines everywhere in the Hebrew Bible. If the idea is that "marriage" involves "some number of penises + some number of vaginas" - if heterosexuality, no matter what its form, is God-given and perfect and right - well, what are you waiting for? It always astounds me that the so-called "orthodox" never argue in favor of polygyny in one of its many Scriptural forms. How come not?

(I realize you can't conceive of the idea that David and Jonathan were in fact gay partners - but there's certainly nothing there that says they weren't. In any case, it certainly is odd that the so-called "orthodox" think nothing of breaking gay partners apart and destroying their love for one another - when "love" and "faithfulness" are allegedly the essence of the church's conception of marriage.

But I do realize that there are some for whom (a phony) legalism is the rule.)

At 10:10 AM, Blogger bls said...

(Really, we are paying attention to these things.

The glaring contradictions in the so-called "orthodox" position are evident to just about everybody by now. The selective reading of Scripture; the belief that the takeaway from Genesis is that "heterosexuality is blessed by God" (!); the quoting of Christ out of context (as meanwhile we don't see a great push to get divorce banned again). Most of all: the mechanistic approach that says that sexual organs - of all things! - are the sine qua non of Christian marriage is getting a good look from everybody at this point. And it ain't pretty, believe me.

What's interesting is that it seems that many people haven't the slightest idea of what the essence of Christian marriage actually is. I mean after all: atheist men and women get married, too. Are their marriages Christian, then, automatically, because the equipment is "right"?

Anyway, you'll thank us in the long run, I'm certain, for this clarifying reminder as what the nature of marriage really involves.)

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BLS, I'm not sure I'm following you. I stand with the undivided, continuous teaching of the Church that sex is only valid within a union of one man and one woman. The "anything goes" scenarios you throw out are the necessary results of your institution's thinking, not mine.

Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is God Himself incarnate, told us that "sexual immorality defiles a man." Considering the source, this takes on an importance somewhat higher than an interesting angle to consider as you work through your own thinking. If you want to argue about what constitutes "sexual immorality," go ahead, but that it's viewed negatively by the King of Creation isn't in dispute - again, if you confess Christ to be who Christians say He is. To my mind, sexual immorality, however we end up defining it, is a function of how we go about it and who we go about it with. In other words, yeah, there's a role for the sex organs in there. If that makes you uncomfortable, you'll have to take it up with Somebody way above my pay grade. Don't shoot the messenger, OK?

At 7:26 PM, Blogger bls said...

Ah. Now it's "Tradition," rather than "Scripture." Well, I don't blame you; the "traditions of men" are really all you've got to go on at this point.

And your argument about Christ's statement in re: "sexual immorality" is terrifically circular, since that is precisely the point at issue here.

It really seems that you haven't any idea about what "my institution" has to say on this matter. Are you not an Episcopalian? If not, why are you here arguing about this? And if so, why don't you know what the Episcopal Church's position on gay partnerships is? Wouldn't it be better to actually know what you're speaking of?

Here, for no doubt the hundred-thousandth time, is what "my institution" has to say on this topic:

"Resolved, That the 74th General Convention affirm the

1. That our life together as a community of faith is grounded in the saving work of Jesus Christ and expressed in the principles of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral: Holy Scripture, the historic Creeds of the Church, the two dominical Sacraments, and the Historic Episcopate.

2. That we reaffirm Resolution A069 of the 65th General Convention (1976) that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church."

3. That, in our understanding of homosexual persons, differences exist among us about how best to care pastorally for those who intend to live in monogamous, non-celibate unions; and what is, or should be, required, permitted, or prohibited by the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church concerning the blessing of the same.

4. That we reaffirm Resolution D039 of the 73rd General Convention (2000), that "We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God," and that such relationships exist throughout the church.

5. That we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.

I bolded point #4. And this is why nobody's listening to this kind of argument anymore, Phil. It isn't truthful or accurate; it isn't even interesting. It is based in false claims (about the "univocal voice of Scripture," for instance); it contradicts itself in a hundred places; or, as here, it feels the need to portray its opponent as "anything goes," when it's easy to show that exactly the opposite is true.

I'm sorry, but the so-called "orthodox" are just not credible on this topic anymore - and to be honest, at this point I find "orthodox" arguments about anything quite difficult to believe.

At 7:36 PM, Blogger bls said...

(I'm still interested, BTW, in hearing your answer to the polygamy question.

Do you have any explanation? Why does the church ask that two people be faithful to one another, when 99% of Scripture doesn't argue that at all? Don't you realize how foolish it sounds to us when the so-called "orthodox" go on and on about "the holy and eternal institution of matrimony defined as the union of one man and one woman"? It complete baloney.

I'd really be curious to know why you think monogamy is important. I don't think the so-called "orthodox" really even know, themselves - which is why this episode will be, as I said above, clarifying for them.

The lesson of the Garden of Eden, isn't, I really hate to say, that "heterosexuality is blessed by God." That's purely modern American.)

At 7:43 PM, Blogger bls said...

(Actually, now that I think of it: David and Jonathan (and Ruth and Naomi, too) are far better examples of faith, hope, and love - especially of faith - than most of the married people in the Bible are.

Oh, well. I do like the Bible anyway; it's much more interesting than these tired old arguments are. The best characters are the ones who wouldn't get a foot insde the church doors these days, too!

Did you know, Phil, that there are several "fallen women" in Christ's ancestry? Oooh....)

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BLS, let me address a few points.

You seem to think, maybe because you suppose it makes a good foil for your arguments, that everybody who opposes you is a fundamentalist, Baptist-in-Anglican-clothing, Biblical literalist. Of course, this requires you to ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians, that is, the Roman Catholics and Orthodox – or, put another way, the anti-evangelicals – vehemently disagree with ECUSA’s redefinition of marriage and associated moral teachings. This is where I’m coming from as one who was born and raised an Episcopalian in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

So, in the first instance, I’m not switching to “‘Tradition,’ rather than ‘Scripture.’” Catholic Christians are neither sola scriptura nor sola tradition (whatever the Latin is for that).

I do think there’s authority in what the undivided Church teaches on a matter, or, in this age of division, in the common consensus of the apostolic Churches. What authority does ECUSA have in this matter? None, really. As a supposed proponent of the “branch theory,” and, as a supposed believer in the Nicene Creed, the Anglican Communion is hardly competent to alter a foundational teaching in this way; still less ECUSA; still less, the triennial collection of hard-left political activists known as “General Convention.” Even so, you might want to consider these other statements by the ECUSA Magisterium:

1991-A104sa Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirms that the teaching of the Episcopal Church is that physical sexual expression is appropriate only within the lifelong monogamous “union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind” “intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord” as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer; and be it further, etc.

1994-B1001 Resolved, That the House of Bishops, affirming the teaching of the Church that the normative context for sexual intimacy is lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage, and pursuing our Anglican tradition of historic truth encountering contemporary life, offers Continuing the Dialogue: A Pastoral Study Document of the House of Bishops to the Church as the Church Considers Issues of Human Sexuality to the Church as a way for the Church to continue the dialogue on human sexuality, etc.

You see that, in these years at least, your own church, or major elements of it, disagreed with you. You see also, coming to the resolution you cited, that ECUSA changes its mind essentially in accord with what MTV chooses to air in a particular season.

In short, General Convention has no moral claim on the believer’s conscience such that I must accept it as “teaching” anything related to the Faith. It has an opinion, just as I do, and its opinion, by its (General Convention’s) own faulty design, is no more authoritative than mine.

What we have to go by, in contrast, is the logical result of ECUSA’s trajectory. Sadly, based on what I’ve gotten from ECUSA’s leaders and their blogosphere defenders – who denigrate Tradition, relativize the Scriptures and follow the secular world – that result isn’t what you quoted. That may be a way station, but that isn’t where this all stops. As it stands now, to the 19-year-old college student who says (correctly) that he was created to hook up with other willing partners, ECUSA has no answer – or, at least, no answer that can’t be dismissed just by reviewing the Integrity playbook.

Two other points:

1. If the idea of a “holy and eternal institution of matrimony defined as the union of one man and one woman” is “complete baloney,” can you tell me when the Church taught anything different?

2. I’m aware that “there are several ‘fallen women’ in Christ's ancestry.” So were the Fathers (see St John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, for example). So what? It always amazes me that otherwise intelligent people don’t get (don’t want to get, truthfully) the distinction between accepting sinners and glorifying their sins.


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