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Oct 11, 2004


Todd Granger

Actually, John, I with you that the leading questions the Anglican Communion Network offered are leading and not particularly helpful.

But neither are your questions helpful for the present circumstance, because they are nearly without context; viz., you do not ask the Presiding Bishop to give an account of himself in view of a catholic reading of the Scriptures. (Yes, you refer to "Christian witness" but you give this no content or context.) This, I hope you would agree, is a necessity in a bishop who claims and hopes to stand in apostolic succession - unless he simply means by that claim some sort of theory about the imposition of magic hands without reference to the content and context of the catholic apostolic faith.

John Wilkins

We could always ask what is the content of apostolic succession? Or, what is the role of a presiding bishop in the protection, teaching or order of the faith of the faith.

The term "catholic" has been bandied about quite a bit, I think, so I've been happy with the historic "Christian Witness."

Todd Granger

Can you define that "historic Christian witness"? Doesn't an understanding of actual historic Christian witness necessitate its being catholic in the Vincentian sense? Or at least, our living under the schismatic condition in which the Church has existed since the 11th century - a broken state furthered by the schisms of the 16th century and later - shouldn't Presiding Bishop Griswold be answerable to the "historic Christian witness" as Anglicans worldwide and through time have received that witness?

It is not enough simply to define "Christian witness" according to one's own lights, or in some limited national denominational sense; e.g., liberal Episcopalianism.

John Wilkins

The Christian witness is defines the Jesus event as decisive. I don't think there is a single Christian Witness - even, in my view, holy scripture has different voices. This is appropriate, because humanity, made in God's image, is itself varied. The catholic church was not the only historic witness. I understand apostolic succession purely sacramentally and don't think a single person's views either for or against, homosexuality, or any theological issue are reliable when it comes to authority. Authority, possibly, is merely a matter of public performance.

We could ask what are our sources regarding homosexuality? Both Luther and the Catholic Church defined Christian witness with attributions to Augustine, who was still not canonized [and thank God for that!]. The Anglican church has often attributed its polity to the pre-Nicene era, and in practice has permitted greater variety within its own church.

So is "Christian Historic Witness" perfectly neat? No. It is, unfortunately, diverse. Thus, this issue becomes more about polity and political authority than actually about what the tradition says, but instead who determines what the tradition says. I don't think +Robinson's ordination truly challenges the Christian witness any more than women's ordination did, but it does reveal a lot about the inadequacy [or adequacy] of our theological-political structure.


What a refreshing discussion. No anger, resentment, finger-pointing. You two are proof that we can have our differences and continue to show love for each other.

As an observer of the dialog, I might point out that it's probably a predestined disappointment to expect a human (prelate or not) to have views that will stand exposure to revelatory thought and discovery for very long. Jesus has held up pretty well, but his supporters tend to fall short from time to time.

Todd Granger

A couple of questions, John, and a comment.

If the "Jesus event" be decisive, what is the "Jesus event"?

Regarding the authorities to which we may appeal with regards to same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate men and women (gay or not), can we say that the witness of the ante-Nicene Church - apostolic, subapostolic, or patristic - is really pluriform with regards to sexual ethics? (Please, no recourse the old canard about the privileging of virginity and the denigration of marriage in patristic writings. Ephraim Radner answers that (false) claim, with plentiful citations, in his latest book, Hope Among the Fragments.)

I would say that it is fortunate, rather than unfortunate, that the historic Christian witness is diverse. It bears pointing out that this diversity exists within the broad outlines of what we would recognize as orthodox catholic teaching, and that diversity within that witness is not enhanced by recourse to teachings and practices that have, by centuries of discernment within the Church and by successive councils, been deemed subchristian or outright heretical (if that be the drift of your appeal to the ante-Nicene Church).

John Wilkins

Tood, I think of sex much differently, I suspect, than most people. I consider it a form of communication first. My understanding, in a comprehensive sense, is that the biblical writers simply assumed that sex happened and the many stories around sex convey much more information than simple propositional statements.

I think, also, that sexual ethics had more to do with paganism, property and the status of women than with homosexuality per se. In so far as homosexuality is pagan, then it is unChristian. I've gotten the gnostic charge, but I don't think that's perfectly correct.

I'm still materialistic about the communication, but I think intent [the inside of the person] is more important than the act itself.

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