I wasn't at General Convention. But I offer a few thoughts.
The real issue is not sexuality. Nor is it only about authority. My impression is that we are reacting to a world that is rapidly changing, "global," a consequence of late capitalism. Do I love the changes? Not really. But gay people are simply the current object of our general anxiety.
Those of us on the progressive side might remember that for all the conservative things our bishops say, the economic liberation of women will continue breaking up the traditional patriarchy of our faith. Remember, also, that trying to force the institution to change won't matter if we aren't trying to relate to congregations on the ground.
The reasserters still have not demonstrated that they have a clear understanding of sexual behavior within marriage. What do we do with the problem, for example, of the "strap on" when a woman takes the male role during sex?
Progressives must also remember that, for plenty of people in the rest of the world, our little escapades into Iraq are connected to our sexual libertinism.
1. God is the author of same-sex attraction by an act of special providence that includes biological and social-psychological secondary causes. Because we know through reports of the spiritual experience of same-sex attracted people that God is the primary author of these experiences, inquiry into the relative contributions of nature and nurture to same-sex attraction is of no significance for the church’s moral teaching or pastoral care.
Obviously, it is worthy to explore the nature of desire or attraction. I am skeptical, however, that God has much to do with romance, and it is precisely the practical experience of pastors with gay people that led to the reconsideration of the church’s ethics. The fruits of the spirit, however, are explained in scripture.
2. This recognition of the source of same-sex attraction in the direct intention of God means that the categories of “Gay” and “Lesbian” are part of God’s order of creation in the same way as male and female.
Obviously there are men and women. One does not need to be religious or a Christian to assert such. This fact is not necessarily the primary aspect of being a Christian, who is clothed in Christ rather than gender or ethnicity.
3. Bisexuality is also created by God as an act of special providence through a combination of biological and social-psychological secondary causes.
I’m not sure if anyone was saying this, but goodie for them. Twice as many possibilities. But you are hitched once.
4. It is likewise irrelevant to the church’s moral and pastoral response to this phenomenon to inquire into the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the development of this sexual orientation.
If we were to inquire into the phenomenon, what would we find? Perhaps homosexuality might be God’s way of healing people who have been abused? Perhaps it is one way of resisting the fusion between a mother and son? It might be interesting. But it is probably useless. It does remind me, a bit, of Schockley.
5. The recognition of the source of same-sex desire in the original intention of God for the creation and humanity is a revelation of the Holy Spirit in our time.
Actually, no. The spirit merely revealed that homosexuals are in our midst and included in God’s plan. God reveals our desires and reveals that they may be good. He may or may not put them there. This is profoundly disturbing to those of us who witness these revelations. It is as if we are in the midst of an earthquake.
6. The General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 are witnesses to this new revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Only time will tell, but it is possible.
7. The Holy Spirit has not yet revealed what amendments in the church’s received sexual ethic will be necessary to accommodate bisexual and transgendered people but we can expect further leading by the Holy Spirit in this regard. In the meantime such persons should be considered fit candidates for Holy Orders.
There is nothing special about bisexual or transgendered people that make them fit for ordination. If a church calls them out to be priests, then that is the best evidence we have for their fitness. Churches make mistakes, but this is also evinced with the number of talentless straight, white, male clergy.
8. Certainty in moral or theological judgments which is based on an authoritative reading of a text whether that is the text of the Bible or any other part of the dogmatic tradition of the church is inherently an example of over-reaching.
Unfortunately, this is a philosophically troubling statement. Most epistemologists would want to be careful about what we consider “certain” and when talking about the supernatural, we are on intrinsically difficult ground. In the public sphere, certainty gets in the way of the greater virtue, humility.
Second, to talk of “authoritative readings” requires that there be, first, an “authority.” Alas, we have not decided who that authority will be. Nigerian bishops? Why? The Archbishop of Canterbury? I vote for the tallest bishop with the most guns or the most organized wife. Or the one who can “pop and lock” like Michael Jackson. Jesus - then by bishop - would be the most logical authority, but I don't think there is any agreement on what Jesus' orienting hermeneutic was [although I have my suspicions...]
9. Contemporary reports of personal spiritual experience by same-sex attracted people and their supporters about the spiritual blessedness of same-sex relationships provide a basis for moral and theological certainty on this question which the scriptures and the traditional teaching of the church cannot by virtue of the nature of the documents provide.
Paul notes that while all things are lawful, not everything is
beneficial. He also notes, in several places, the fruits of the
spirit. Mere attraction is not the main criteria. Gentleness, peace
and joy are better criteria. Reasserters render themselves irrelevant
to most Gay Christians by insisting on a policed celibacy: the result
is secrecy or exclusion and promiscuity. Reexaminers have the ability
to conceive of a gay relationship that brings the fruits of the
spirit. Of course, this merely demonstrates the reexamining
proposition that the scriptural writers would not have imagined that a
gay relationship contained the fruits of scripture.
10. Christians who feel bound by the scriptures should understand that the fact that there are different interpretations of the scriptures which touch on same-sex attraction means that no single interpretation can possibly be authoritative.
Christians who feel bound by the scriptures should understand that other people, who feel bound by scripture, interpret scriptures differently. They might have some humility in the face of other interpretations [as scripture says, walk humbly]. Harding here separates a theoretical hermeneutic from a person making the hermeneutic. Yet, interpretations require a person making an interpretation.
There are some better interpretations than others. But it requires
another argument to say that we will be judged on our interpretation of
scripture. My belief is that prayer matters more than interpretation.
11. Since the scriptures cannot possibly be authoritative on this issue and since self-reported spiritual experience provides the only reliable certainty on the subject, any objections to same-sex blessings on the basis of scripture are irrelevant a priori.
Shame on reexaminers for saying such. Scriptures offer criteria for a new context: how do our relationships make us into Christian people? If someone desires a person of the same sex and it reduces their anger, frustration and violence, then it looks more like a Christian sort of relationship. If a heterosexual man is seeking lots of boo-tay for the sake of boasting then it does not satisfy the criteria.
There are plenty of reasons, based on scripture, reason and experience to reject all sorts of relationships. It is merely imprecise, inaccurate and false to assume all same-sex relationships are the same, or are the same to God. But as happened to Peter, God does break in and break the rules.
12. Exegetical discussion of specific texts which seem to forbid blessing same-sex erotic behavior can only be for the benefit of quieting the consciences of people who take the bible literally. At the end of the day the inherent uncertainty of the scriptures must give way before the certainty of the personal spiritual experience of the same-sex attracted and their supporters and the felt experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in two succeeding General Conventions.
We should have more exegetical discussion of this, but it should be honest and it should be accurate. The problem is not about human experience, but whether homosexuals are truly disordered heterosexuals. In the biblical world, where semen was a precious resource, survival was tough, and children were precious commodities, heterosexuality created wealth and homosexuality was a waste. An exegetical discussion doesn’t mean we ignore relevant literature, archaeology and anthropology we have to understand the real context of the biblical world-view and then contrast it to our own.
13. The most meaningful dialogue in which the church can engage is dialogue that allows same-sex attracted people and their supporters to share their perceptions of the ways in which God has blessed individuals and specific Christian communities through covenanted same-sex relationships. Actual argument about scripture or the teaching tradition of the church or the state of the scientific question could never produce any legitimate objections to the new thing the Holy Spirit is doing.
Sure it can. More recently, one scientist has argued that sex in many species is not only about procreation but about play, communication and pleasure. But one has to allow that science might challenge the reasserting view, and not merely reaffirm it.
14. The experience of people who describe themselves as having been cured or freed from same-sex attraction is irrelevant and the church should not give such people a serious hearing. They either were never really same-sex attracted to begin with or are deluded about their claim to be freed or cured. The personal religious experiences of such people are not of the same quality and reliability as the experiences of the same-sex attracted in the church. These experiences are not to be seen as legitimate experiences of the power of the Holy Spirit in spite of all claims to the contrary. Likewise scientific reporting of the overcoming of same sex attraction is deeply suspect as ideologically tainted and can with confidence be dismissed without a serious reading.
Yes, Leander, perhaps we should look at these studies. But let’s look at all of them.
But all we could say is that for some gay people becoming straight is a blessing and for others it isn’t. If a gay person is troubled by being gay, then let them be straight. If a gay person acts out by pretending to be straight, then let’s open up the closet!
15. Same-sex attraction and same-sex relationships should be recommended to our children as entirely equal to and as preferable as marriage between a man and woman. If any young person feels any same-sex attraction it is by God’s express intention and not to act upon it is to dishonor God. To discourage young people to act upon same-sex attraction is to dishonor God’s intention in the creation. The question is not whether young people should act on their same-sex attractions but when and under what circumstances. Young people who are experiencing same-sex attraction can be helped by being mentored by older same-sex attracted adults and the church should be proactive in facilitating these relationships.
Heh. Well, when my parents recommended that I not date that hot Latina, I chose to ignore them anyway. I don’t do well when people recommend women to me, and I doubt that would change if they recommended men. The point, however, is that we should love young people for who they are and give them the tools to choose relationships that give them deep joy, confidence and love. When my parents tell me that Almyra’s smoking body is just too hot for a priest, it is their problem, not mine. And God works through beauty, let me tell you.
My point, young people tend to learn from each other - more so when we assert our own desires upon them.
16. It is wrong for the Episcopal Church to dictate to any other province of the Anglican Church what its policy on same-sex relationships should be.
No. Until the Episcopal Church starts sending troops to other provinces to enforce their decadent, uberliberal, ultramarxoid views on the poor, hapless, illiterate colored folk, TEC’s dictation is irrelevant. As it should be. Unless they take our money. Then they could at least shake our hands and say "thank you."
17. It is wrong for any other province of the Anglican Communion to interfere with the leading of the Holy Spirit in this province. What the Holy Spirit demands at any particular time must be determined locally.
Harding does demonstrate we need a stronger Pneumatology. The answer to the question depends on the quality of interference. Akinola’s clear contempt of homosexuals, his willingness to break his own canons regarding the election of Bishops, and their eagerness to cut the American church off, in spite of our generosity, indicates that the “interference” does not carry the sort of interference that would be justified: and interference rooted in love of Christ and other Christians. There is no evidence that reasserters can act out of love with reexaminers, whereas the reexaminers will share the supreme example of love with the reasserters: the eucharist.
But otherwise, if it does not effect the international church, the issues can be settled locally. Why don’t Harding or other reasserters examine the problems inherent in global communication – or the problem of translation? Or show a basic understanding of semiotics?
18. What the Holy Spirit is demanding must be determined provincially. Those dioceses which are members of the Episcopal Church and which resist the new teaching cannot legitimately be thought to be led by the Holy Spirit and must be resisted with all the canonical and legal means available.
“Must” is a bit strong. Local dioceses do not need to accept, or
ordain, gay clergy in their dioceses. +Robinson need not preach in
Fort Worth, nor does he need to stand next to +Iker in the lunch
19. A variety of interpretations of scripture can be tolerated in the church. The canons of the church especially with regard to the territorial integrity of Episcopal jurisdiction allow for no variation in interpretation.
Interpretations vary from person to person. Even in my own small parish. One person doesn’t believe in the Virgin Birth but doesn’t want a gay person to be a Bishop. It is not a matter of whether they “can” be tolerated. The Anglican church has recognized that, since people get mean and nasty over rival interpretations, common prayer is a better place to start.
Fortunately, the Canons of the church can be changed. If we want to change them, follow the process. Such a process allows us to do the least damage to each other, while honoring each other’s integrity. As always, we are called to follow the rules with charity and love. If you can't follow the process, then pay the consequences.
20. The proposal of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a new Anglican covenant and for churches to choose constituent or associate status in the communion represents a dire threat to capacity of the church to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It represents the prospect of a quenching of the Spirit.
Maybe. But we don’t know. Why would we assume the spirit only works through institutions?
21. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has been uniquely privileged to hear from the Holy Spirit in a way that has been denied to the rest of world wide Anglicanism, The Roman Catholic Church, The Orthodox Churches and Protestant Evangelicalism. The Episcopal Church must at all costs maintain its witness to the unique agency of the Holy Spirit in its midst. Those who oppose the new teaching are enemies of the Holy Spirit who are making an idol of the past at the expense of the future to which God is calling us.
Possibly. Given the state of the Church of England, the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, the collaboration of some Orthodox Churches with totalitarian dictatorships, I think there might be some reason to wonder if the Holy Spirit works through churches at all.
I would not say they are making an idol of the past, but they have to argue why "we've always done it that way" is intellectually credible. Why must we assert that the literal is intrinisically more worthy than the allegorical? Why must a bureaucratic reading of scripture triumph over the poetic? I invite Leander and other reasserters to first examine their own presumptions.
When I find the person who is instinctively pro-blessing, but has been changed by scripture, I will have something to think about.