At an initial level under the water, this is a debate about the interpretation and authority of Scripture. During their once-a-decade meeting in 1998 at Lambeth, the vast majority of Anglican bishops worldwide rejected "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture." Yet given that the Bible's clear teaching is against sanctioning this behavior, the Episcopal Church approved of its practice in its highest office, that of bishop. This is seen as the act of a church that is standing over Scripture and rebelling against its authority and direction, and that is very serious.
At the next level under the water, this is a dispute about marriage. Traditionally, marriage was understood to have four purposes: communion (joy shared is doubled, sorrow is halved), union (the two shall become one flesh), procreation (be fruitful and multiply) and prevention (marriage was actually understood to prevent sin - when was the last sermon you heard on THAT one?). A same-sex union cannot be unitive because physically the bodies do not fit together in their design, and it is unable to be procreative.
So whatever else you can say about the relationship Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire is now involved in, it is not marriage. His and other same-sex relationships are in search of a theology, and the doctrine of marriage is at stake.
At a third level under the water in this dispute is about authority in the church, about who gets to make decisions and how those decisions are made. In contrast to other Christian traditions, Anglicanism's way of determining things is conciliar - that is, it is focused on councils, whether vestries, diocesan conventions, General Conventions, Lambeth meetings or Primates meetings. For a conciliar church, the more important the decision, the more widely you consult. And with regard to the decision in Minneapolis in 2003, all four Anglican Communion instruments of unity said that this decision should not be made. Yet we not only made it, but we did so without consulting them, as we promised in our 1991 General Convention to do.
Thus, the decision made is widely perceived around the Anglican Communion as a unilateral and arrogant act of American imperialism, and this, also, is serious.
At the deepest level underneath the iceberg, this debate is really about the gospel itself, about the message Jesus asked his followers to bring to the world. At Minneapolis, the will of the father to draw all people to himself through the cross of his son was replaced with a new and different gospel where a therapeutic Jesus embraces people where they are. A new gospel of affirmation somehow replaced the New Testament gospel of salvation and transformation.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
The complaint of the reasserters in summary
The Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon: