Sunday 31 May 2009

Another Perspective

A few things have happened I might have commented upon, and then I had that realisation that I have nothing to say on the two recent topics to appear. The first is the choosing of a lesbian bishop in Sweden and my response is so what and what can be added.

The second is the publication of names to chew over the well chewed over Ridley Cambridge Draft Section 4 of the intended Anglican Communion Covenant, and one wonders what difference their chewing will make. Let's see what they actually do, by November apparently.

Yet the two topics curiously come together.

The further effort with the RCDC Section 4 can be seen as Rowan Williams wanting to keep both sides going that bit longer, rather on the grounds that Conservative Evangelical John Richardson lectures about. I did listen very recently to the three pieces he presents with a large measure of agreement, except he misses out why Rowan Williams has a more action view of Incarnation and that is because the theology is not just about reconciliation but essentially narrative and novel-like, if into the detail. Our embodiment as people is in that we, as biological beings, do things with one another, and put it all into story form too - we are walking biographies. Accidents are also the stuff of life and turn events, and a theology of the cross from narrative must be part accident, part choice.

So it is possible, occasionally, to agree with a Conservative Evangelical! Anyway, I rather have more time for the stance of someone like Elizabeth Stuart, who would hope that her Queer Theology can bridge a gap that gay and lesbian theology apparently cannot. Her argument is that both sides have argued themselves to a full stop (and perhaps Rowan Williams ought to take note: once you have argued to a full stop, keeping two sides together is neither here nor there). For her, lesbian and gay theology has taken its categories too readily from liberal theology and from lesbian and gay politics. Such fixedness faces the fluidity apparent of the Conservative Evangelical side (about gay people and an ability to be ex-gay, so it becomes a forced heterosexuality). She would make the categories far more fluid too - Queer Theology she calls it - but one that affirms such different ways of loving, and where, in any case, baptism is the main identity and the remaining identity when it comes to salvation. It is not that gay and lesbian Christianity is a mistake - she says that the divine speaks through all forms of knowledge - but that it has come to a halt - and that through liturgy the Church contains a divine logic to be queer. See Stuart, Elizabeth (2003), Gay and Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions with Critical Difference, Aldershot: Ashgate, 3-4.

I rather like Elizabeth Stuart's approach, and note that she is the Archbishop of the Liberal Catholic Church International, an inheritor of nineteenth into twentieth century liberal theology, in its combining of individual experience leaking into Theosophy (and therefore with interfaith characteristics) and the individual consumption of romanticised liturgies that also led to Catholicism and Liberalism meeting (as in Charles Gore's 1899 Lux Mundi). Plus Bishop Charles Leadbeater was something of a magick man too when it came to understanding eucharistic acts (premodern!).

I am also drawn to her use of Joerg Rieger's four theological movements of the twentieth century (page 4 of Gay and Lesbian Theologies). I need to alter these so called 'turns', but I will use them I think with the church In Depth group. I agree with her that they are not turns, but now run alongside each other (page 6).

  1. The first is the liberal, though surely this goes back into the nineteenth century, as I have been discussing recently with In Depth.
  2. The second movement was the neo-orthodox, with Karl Barth and others - and I would argue that all of the modern theologians of the twentieth century reacted against the liberals (including Tillich) and here I will place Bishop John Robinson. I know this surprises some of my church friends, but the whole point of my little course is to show that not all first appearances are what they seem.
  3. The third movement is liberation theology, which might be experiential again but unlike the liberal is experiential of power and collective responses. It also stretches into education and the self is addressed through classes and their facilitators.
  4. The fourth movement is the postmodern, with both liberal and conservative forms, the liberal being collapses into writing and expression (Mark C. Taylor, Don Cupitt) and the conservative being a fantasy bubble of orthodoxy as with John Milbank on the Catholic (Anglican?) side and Yale postliberalism on the ecumenical Protestant side, which freeze and absolutise culture.

I'm a liberal postmodern, according to these four types.


Doorman-Priest said...

A combo of 3/4 here.

Good for Sweden.

I'm just off to gloat on Conservative Lutheran websites.

Anonymous said...

In knee jerk Anglican fashion, I would acknowledge all four streams, and tilt against letting any single one of them completely box me in as a witness or discerner. Each offers potential language resources for speaking up, and each offers its own set of risks or dangers to be borne and perhaps moderated or avoided altogether. My cry, Lord save me. Or, Here is Jesus as Lord. These do not save me, God saves me, and the only bottom I can touch is grace, not law. Yet upon reflection as I rummage through the modern best practice tool kits, grace is not a bottom to touch as one sinks down, but rather more like a way of swimming through all tides and temperatures, a way of becoming a spiritual sea creature, denizen of the graceful deeps, air breathing nonetheless. drdanfee