Tuesday 18 March 2008

Goddard Schism

Interestingly the latest letter from Andrew Goddard to Giles Goddard covers the narrow area I have also been covering in commenting on Craig Uffman's latest piece.

It is now clear in his letter that Andrew Goddard also follows the Conservative Evangelical agenda and regards the acceptability of homosexual practice as schismatic.

Now let's get this clear (if possible): Craig Uffman regards the actions of the Conservative Evangelicals via GAFCON and all that as schismatic, but Andrew Goddard's letter regards the acceptability of homosexual practice as schismatic itself.

Now if the acceptability of homosexual practice is schismatic itself, then separation as a result of others having homosexual practice is not schismatic. Once again, the Conservative Evangelicals are right on this narrow understanding - which Andrew Goddard shares.

It was not long ago that Andrew Goddard seemed to promote a cultural argument regarding homosexuality. He said I'd understood him wrongly, and had to think on. Now he is clearly with the Conservative Evangelicals.

His use of Wofhart Pannenberg is from this article in Good News Magazine. Pannenberg's piece is even more restrictive. From a stance that Jesus promotes an absolutist view of marriage, all relationships should subsume to marriage, including that of the homofile.

The mere existence of homophile inclinations does not automatically lead to homosexual practice. Rather, these inclinations can be integrated into a life in which they are subordinated to the relationship with the opposite sex where, in fact, the subject of sexual activity should not be the all-determining centre of human life and vocation.

This nonsense is telling homosexual people that they should marry as if they were heterosexuals and put their inclinations into this. It is utter rubbish, of course. If this is the biblical witness, then the Bible is to be opposed.

However, Pannenberg talks about the unambiguous direction of scripture and this includes the opportunity it rejects to deal with homosexuality positively in a different culture - which could include ours.

Moreover, the biblical statements about homosexuality cannot be relativised as the expressions of a cultural situation that today is simply outdated. The biblical witness from the outset deliberately opposed the assumptions of their cultural environment in the name of faith in the God of Israel, who in Creation appointed men and women for a particular identity.

Well the statements didn't, did they? What they commented upon was a culture of responsive casual homosexuality that followed on from idolatry. It was not a comment on a culture including faithful homosexual relationships, as such did not exist there. He tackles this business of new evidence:

Contemporary advocates for a change in the church's view of homosexuality commonly point out that the biblical statements were unaware of important modern anthropological evidence. This new evidence, it is said, suggests that homosexuality must be regarded as a given constituent of the psychosomatic identity of homosexual persons, entirely prior to any corresponding sexual expression. (For the sake of clarity it is better to speak here of a homophile inclination as distant from homosexual practice.) Such phenomena occur not only in people who are homosexually active. But inclination need not dictate practice.

But this is not the central issue at all: the orientation of gay people is not the point - it is that they have honest, mutually giving relationships, and that those relationships are enriched through sexual expression. It is the give and take exchange symbolised in sex that adds to these relationships. Orientation actually is not particularly relevant here - obviously it matters as to who you choose for a relationship of depth and significance, but sexual expression is about enrichment. It is symbolic at a deep level.

Pannenburg simply has gone down a blind alley with his subordinating rubbish and cod anthropology. So the sexual relationship adds to faithfulness.

Now, on the other hand, we supposedly have these ancient rules - rules that Scripture on the narrow reading regards the practice and approval of homosexual activity as grounds for exclusion of the Christian until a point of repentance. Thus to approve gay relationships as well as to do them means schism. Now the Conservative Evangelicals schism - but here the tables are turned, and clearly from his logic Andrew Goddard must regard what the Conservative Evangelicals are doing as a removal because a schism has in effect already taken place.

So now we know. I will be charitable and say that the Bible has not tackled the culture of the faithful gay relationship. However, my view is different from this. It is that there is much in the Bible that is, frankly, rubbish, and there is much material that can be happily ignored even if texts do not offer ambiguity. The views of the Bible given by the opinionated Paul on homosexuality are, frankly, such rubbish, and whilst Jesus has a view against divorce (also ignored for practical, pastoral and human reasons) we really must not go and extend that view beyond which it will go.

However, if Andew Goddard really agrees with Pannenburg's article, then he must agree with the actions of those who have separated on the grounds that schism has already happened.

Let us be clear where this goes: given that the Anglican Covenant has received few responses and pretty much all were lukewarm to hostile, and that the Covenant now will not be able to exclude, as there is a such flow of opinion against this, there is no way that The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada will be disciplined or excluded for some time being and not by powers that this Communion will ever acquire as it cannot achieve the centralisation necessary. Furthermore the pressure is on by which more Anglican Churches (which have a broader and lighter touch view of Scripture than these evangelicals) will introduce more inclusive views of ceremonies and leadership.

So Andrew Goddard had better take the logic all the way, that the GAFCON project is actually correct if you take this view of Scripture. In the hardening division that cuts through the space occupied by Fulcrum, it is clear which side of the dividing line he is on.

For me, if the views of Andrew Goddard represent Anglicanism as a whole, then, ethically, it stinks. Fortunately he does not, but this is a mighty division now between this form of the religious and the ethical, and I know where I am. I am with people and not with those who have a magnifying glass up against black ink. The Bible was made for us, not us for the Bible. This really is a complete division.


Anonymous said...

you seem disappointed that there is no split between the so called "open" and "conservative" evangelicals.........have a read of John 17

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I am not disappointed at all - I see representatives of Fulcrum simply going into a back alley that has been made by GAFCON. The Fulcrum people have attempted to uphold the Anglican Communion for a role it cannot perform, but because the arguments are narrowing it is forcing a logic of association with the schismatics from the larger Church bodies.

As I say later, the Bible is made for people and not People for the Bible. I am not interested in bibliolatry at all, thanks.

Fr Craig said...

thank you, Adrian - well done, as usual

Doorman-Priest said...

Thank you Pluralist. Clear and articulate.