Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Posted on: January 29, 2008
The Diocese of Central Florida is “poised for a new round of significant growth,” after three months of tense negotiations with clergy and lay leadership from nine congregations seeking to leave The Episcopal Church, according to Bishop John W. Howe.
At the conclusion of the diocesan convention Jan. 25-26 at St. James’ Church, Ormond Beach, Bishop Howe told a reporter for The Living Church that though exhausted, he was pleased with the negotiations.
“We are on the best of terms with all those leaving,” he said. “And we are committed to rebuilding where there have been losses.”
In his address to convention, Bishop Howe said the last three months had been the worst period of his life. However, amicable solutions had been reached with the members of the eight congregations who sought to withdraw from the diocese.
“There are those who simply have to leave The Episcopal Church for conscience sake,” he said. “I understand that. I don’t agree, but I don’t believe we should punish them. We shouldn’t sue them. We shouldn’t depose the clergy. Our brokenness is a tragedy. The litigation that is going on in so many places is a travesty. And although some seem to be trying to do so, I don’t think you can hold a church together by taking everybody you disagree with to court.”
During the business portion of the meeting, delegates passed the first reading of an amendment to Article III of the diocese’s constitution, designed to strengthen the diocese’s ties to the wider Anglican Communion.
The resolution “does not change the constitution,” the Very Rev. Eric Turner told the convention, but “clarifies what once did not need clarifying.”
Proposed by the diocesan board, the resolution appended a sentence to the constitutional article defining the diocese’s “purpose,” stating the diocese was a “constituent member” of the Anglican Communion.
The amendment defines the Anglican Communion as a “fellowship of those duly constitution Dioceses, Provinces and regional Churches in Communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”
The Rev. Thomas C. Seitz, Jr., rector of Good Shepherd, Lake Wales, endorsed the resolution, saying it “more accurately reflects who we are and have been.”
The Very Rev. Donald Lyon objected to the amendment. He said he was a “constitutional minimalist.” As there “was not an explicit need to state this,” he counseled against adopting “unnecessary” language.
After a half hour’s debate, a roll call vote by orders was called, and the resolution passed among the clergy 89-66 and in the laity 139-91.
(The Rev.) George Conger
From the Living Church Online:Bishop Chane ‘Sick of Reports of Decline’
Posted on: January 29, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
By David W. Virtue
VIRTUEONLINE: Dr. Packer, you sit in Vancouver, British Columbia. You have seen the collapse of a united Anglicanism in your city and area and it is a microcosm of what is going on in many places. How do you read the present fractures and controversies within the Anglican Communion?
PACKER: It is true that the Diocese of New Westminster is where the modern Anglican troubles began. They began with the decision of the bishop to accept the request of his Synod to start blessing gay unions and drawing up a liturgy for the same. When he did this, he was able to claim "local option" in way among Anglican provinces of settling questions about what Diocesan policy should be. Local option is a corollary from the principle of subsiduarity originally focused on the Roman Catholic fence. Another name for local option is pluralism in practice and there was a time when Anglicans thought that such freedom of thought was Anglicanism in practice. That opinion was revised when applied to blessing gay unions in the Anglican Communion. It is by no means one. The Lambeth '98 Resolution 1:10 declared categorically that such unions were off limits, so when New Westminster opted for gay unions it was like throwing a stone into a pond. The ripples went out to the edge of the po! nd in all directions. The impact of New Westminster's actions was increased by the action of New Hampshire diocese, electing Gene Robinson. Accepting and consecrating Robinson was Bishop Michael Ingham who was prominent among the consecrators of the wider Anglican Communion. The orthodox became increasingly antsy and the southern hemisphere Primates, the South by South community protested in stronger and stronger language. One reason they did so is that they had a straight forward evangelical faith and they were up against Muslims who saw homosexuality as absolutely off limits and they could foresee what the Muslim world would say to the community as if it were preached as a form of holiness.
VIRTUEONLINE: What happened in practice, and was the response strong enough?
PACKER: In North America both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada were asked to withdraw from Anglican Consultative Council, and a body of theologians produced the Windsor Report which reviewed the whole situation and along with the four instruments of unity imposed a moratorium on affirming homosexual behavior, blessing same-sex unions and consecrating gay priests and bishops. The moratorium was not honored in North America. Homosexuals were put up for election, a lesbian in Chicago was honored in the breach rather than observance. Ingham maintained that churches already blessing gay unions could continue and said he was maintaining the spirit of the moratorium on no gay unions pro tem. The rest of the Anglican Communion did not agree and it was being discussed at the primatial level. The Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) said the communion should not be hasty in action, more talking needed to be done. This is what liberals always say and they gain ground every time no action is taken or enacted, and the reason for that is they have more time to get people used to their ideas and drill people in their preferred practice. It is a transparent political calculation. The present situation is something of a stand off. The ABC is desperately seeming to try and stave off the day of further decision against the blessing of gays. He is showing himself to be more and more clearly a liberal with an Anglo-Catholic top dressing expressed in his active commitment of the Affirming Catholic movement. Increasingly, what makes him tick is a liberal perspective on theology rather than the catholic heritage which is robustly against condoning homosexuality. Is he really a catholic with his mind entreating liberalism, or is he a liberal with a catholic top dressing? That's the question. Since the Primates of the Global south discovered politically, they now have more clout with a working majority. Unhappily, politics has entered into the whole situation and such action as Akinola's concerning the constitution of the church of the Province of Nigeria to remove all reference to Canterbury is seen as ventures into power politics. That's a mistake rather than a step forward. It is reducing an issue of truth to a matter of power politics; it takes people minds off of the question of truth. I am not interested in power politics.
VIRTUEONLINE: Can you be more specific about Jerusalem (GAFCON) and Canterbury (LAMBETH)?
PACKER: A political jobbery has entered into the debate and the GAFCON gathering of primates, bishops and leaders in Jerusalem in June, before the Lambeth conference, inevitably looks like an attempt to upstage and defuse the Lambeth Conference. A number of bishops are not going to the Lambeth Conference -- they see Rowan Williams as too compromised. Williams is trying to meet their needs by organizing Lambeth as a study conference with Bible study and topical study without serious resolutions emerging. But the general consensus is that that isn't an answer. We are not going to attend Lambeth and put our heads in the sand. We are not going to not discuss this question about gay unions and holiness with licit linkings fit for blessing. If Lambeth doesn't deal with these issues, Lambeth is not worth coming to. The unity of the Anglican Communion is so impaired at the present time that any Lambeth agreement would be hollow. That is why bishops are not coming. I see GAFCON as an attempt to upstage Lambeth by making policy decisions for the Anglican Communion, distilling policy guidelines for the Anglican Communion for Lambeth proper. The other side of the GAFCON conference is very important. In a good way, it will establish in advance of Lambeth, global policy principle as a fixed point. There is legitimate disagreement whether it is better to go to GAFCON or have GAFCON after Lambeth and encourage everyone to go to Lambeth. Archbishop Mouneer Anis is much wiser by saying we should go to Lambeth and constitute an evangelical phalanx. It would create a stand off position with each side is digging in. Rowan Williams is doing everything he can to judge its significance while the Global South through its Primates ensure that it won't happen. It is clear that at least one of the crucial issues involved in this debate is the issue of jurisdiction, which history has always affirmed mon-episcopal (whoever the bishop turns out to be) that pattern of jurisdiction is in process of being broken first by the action of Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone who is going to give Episcopal jurisdiction to churches in Canada as he did to Recife, and certainly in Canada that means parallel jurisdictions. It was earlier breached by Emmanuel Kolini who took AMiA into the Diocese of Rwanda. Second, it is being breached by the Common Cause negotiations for a third non geographic province for North America, a province that will take in US and Canadian churches. Those negotiations, they hope, will come to fruition in a couple of years. I don't think the principle of mon-episcopal oversight can ever be abolished.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you approve of the ecclesiastical intervention of alternative Anglican archbishops into Canada, and what is your overall view of diocesan boundary crossing?
PACKER: If the Anglican Church of Canada were clearly and unambiguously committed to the constitution of the Anglican Church of 1893 and appealed to the 39 Articles and to the 1662 BCP as standards, then I would discourage causing more trouble than it is worth for churches to leave the ACIC to come under their jurisdiction whom they liked more than their own bishops. Where as now the ACIC refuses to stick unambiguously to its constitution, the intervention of the primates, though regrettable, is much less regrettable than forcing faithful Anglican churches to continue in an unfaithful Anglican situation so there is no alternative save into a splinter group. We in Canada have carefully seen the acceptance of foreign episcopal jurisdictions as an emergency measure that we would not have accepted unless pushed upon us, and our hope is that the Anglican Church of Canada might come to its senses and halt its tentative sanctioning of gay unions by Synod. Now four dioceses have voted to ask the bishops to sanction the blessings of same sex unions, and bishops accede to it on some murky situational ethics basis with any complaint to the effect that leaving the constitution of ACIC falls on deaf ears. So some have declared the ACIC out of communion. Calls upon the bishops to repent of all form of sin falls on deaf ears.
VIRTUEONLINE: Three archbishops, one from the Southern Cone, one from Rwanda for the Anglican Coalition in Canada in Vancouver and one from Kenya, Bill Murdoch have, or will, intervene in Canada. (Murdoch is going there without invitation to a conference and will celebrate with the Eucharist March 2-3). What is your thinking about that?
PACKER: In an emergency, necessity knows no law. Any ordinary sanctions can, with impunity, be disregarded if necessity so requires. In this case, it does require that the ordinary rules be breached.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do the archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have sufficient experience and wisdom to make major decisions, which are leading to the break up of the Anglican Communion? PACKER: I think they have sufficient clarity of biblical understanding to see that treating gay unions as holy and blessing them is contrary to the Bible and to the gospel and cannot be sanctioned whatever. I think they are right, that when the gospel itself is impugned, it must at all costs be maintained. It is not a question of wisdom but obligation. People are pushing the acceptance of gay unions and blessing them accordingly.
VIRTUEONLINE: Do you think that personal animosity is driving it too fast and without sufficient reflection?
PACKER: If there are personal animosities, they are conscientiously discounted in their statements. Those arguments are at level of principle, so animosities have been stalled or suspended for the truth.
VIRTUEONLINE: Why can't the GAFCON folk wait till after Lambeth and then, on that basis say that they tried, reasoned, been patient and then make a big decision in August, than now?
PACKER: I don't know because I am not involved in GAFCON discussions and I am not sure I know all the reasoning that guided the GAFCON meeting in June.
VIRTUEONLINE: The Book of Common Prayer presumes that the Anglican Church in any one geographical area is one; this is presumed by the BCP. How do you explain in any American metropolis the presence of multiple Anglican jurisdictions? Is there a way of reconciling the multiplicity of jurisdictions with the Prayer Book and the 39 Articles in one church in one region?
PACKER: Realism says there are few liberal churches, if any, who hold to the 1662 liturgy in its ideal, none hold to the 39 Articles, so if there are separate jurisdictions, the stock piling of conservative Anglicans in a Third Province is necessary. The liberals only prove they will become more liberal and they will shrink and shrink. So the issue of parallel jurisdictions will resolve itself in 30 years.
VIRTUEONLINE: On women's ordination. CANA is opening up the subject and AMiA has opened up this subject, do you think that pursuing women's ordination as an issue will eventually bring schism and division among the orthodox?
PACKER: My hope is that the ordination of women will never bring about church division. This is not a part of the gospel, it is a secondary issue rather than a primary one and I would hope that an amicable arrangement, not to everyone's full satisfaction, but a workable arrangement, can be arranged that have differed historically can come together. It is hoped that 10 splinter bodies will come together in the Common Cause diocese.
VIRTUEONLINE: What do you think Anglicanism in North America will look like in 10 years time?
PACKER: First, I disclaim any gifts as a prophet. My guess is that the Third Province, the Common Cause province will have arrived. That reluctantly its presence will be accepted by the TEC and ACIC. That in the light of the situation, the ACIC and TEC will go forward in making liberal theology their standard and bless and accept gay unions. It will be the Common Cause churches that preach the gospel and teach the Bible. I expect congregations in TEC and the ACIC being fed on liberal theology will continue to wither on the vine as they have done for the last half century. Liberal theology, without the gospel, proves to be the smell of death rather than of life. While Common Cause are a minority today, that will change as liberal churches get smaller and smaller and become in turn a minority.
VIRTUEONLINE: Thank you Dr. Packer. ------------------------------
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Big insensitivity issue. Big inclusivity issue. Big diversionary issue for this Church. Howso? At the same time that Fr. Mark Lawrence will be consecrated the bishop of South Carolina in Charleston — where truly this Church’s attention should be focused — the two elected leaders of General Convention will be on display, in what could now be considered the uninvited intrusion of a bishop in another diocese, the business of Authority being unsettled. It may be the Prerogative of the Presiding Bishop to make visits to all the dioceses within her term of office, but not without the permission of the diocesan. I don’t know that she asked, and I don’t know if she got it, but I kinda doubt it.
So here is the most contemporary living symbol of the Episcopal Church being able to include within its life and leadership as a truly inclusive Church — I’m talking about South Carolina’s election, and the consent to the election by a majority of the House of Bishops and Standing Committees, and the scheduled consecration of Mark Lawrence to that office and ministry — being allowed to be oppositely and constrastingly scheduled against by these two other most visible leaders of the Episcopal Church. People in control of the calendars had to know what they were doing. South Carolina was on the schedule first. For months. Then came Remain Episcopal and Bonnie Anderson. Then today the Presiding Bishop. Bad form. Insensitive. Really rude. Other words.
The formal notice says that I did not refute the claim by the DNCY that I "abandoned the Communion of this Church" despite the fact that I told the Rev. Holly Eden of the Standing Committee in a telephone conversation that she initiated that I was transferring my orders to CANA. I guess this gets back to the illusion that pecusa is a communion unto itself. That must be what all the national flags were about at the General Convention last summer. pecusa was declaring that they are not a province of the Anglican Communion, but a communion themselves with their various overseas dioceses. It was pecusa's way, like the depostion I received, of acknowledging that they are in fact walking apart from the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, I will continue to serve St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Vestal, NY as a priest of CANA, under missionary bishop Martyn Minns, Suffragan Bishop David Bena, and Archbishop Peter Akinola.
This just goes to show that pecusa isn't any better at interpreting the canons than they are at interpreting the Scriptures. If you are still in pecusa and fed up with the dishonesty of the bishops, priests and elected lay leaders of pecusa, you are welcome at St. Andrew's Anglican Church, 1013 Front St. in Vestal. If you wonder why the items posted here are never (NEVER) mentioned by your rector as pecusa evolves into unitarianism, you may find yourself better suited to be among the saints of St. Andrew's. Despite what you may have heard, St. Andrew's is a warm and welcoming congregation.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Maybe the problem is that this Jesus is not the one proclaimed in area Episcopal churches and so the speaker was confused. Or is it just another example of the lack of inclusive love on the part of those who speak the loudest about inclusive love? It is strange that those who speak so often and fervently about inclusive love speak with such hate about our parish. People who come to us tell us about how warm and friendly they find us, but you wouldn't know that if your only source of information about our parish is a detractor who obviously doesn't really know all that much about our parish. And since we are no longer in pecusa, why should they care?
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
As Anglican Christians, both within and outside TEC, what are we to make of the disciplinary process against Pittsburgh's Bishop, Robert Duncan, now initiated by the Presiding Bishop? In brief, I would urge TEC and other Anglican bishops to pray for and take action so that this process pauses indefinitely. They should do this for the sake of genuinely seeking discernment and resolution as to the ordering of our common life as Anglicans. There is nothing that legally demands that the process be carried through at this point and in the manner now laid out. There is every Christian reason to work for some other outcome.
I. First, the engagement of the process itself appears to have been inevitable, at least once the various positions regarding the actions of General Convention 2003 were laid out, adopted, and embraced by different parties in the church. That is not in dispute. And once the complainants against Bishop Duncan formally made their charges to the Review Committee, an examination and determination as to Bp. Duncan's adherence to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons was necessarily demanded.
II. Second, the use of Title IV.9 - "abandonment of communion" - was reasonably applied in this determination, since at issue in the charges was whether Bp. Duncan was actively and deliberately working to disengage himself and his diocese from the legally organized life of the Episcopal Church, and the canon in question is aimed at a bishop who makes an "open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship" of the church. "Discipline" certainly includes such legally organized life and an "open renunciation" might well be interpreted as including active, articulated, and hortatory efforts at effecting a formal disengagement, for himself and his diocese, from such a life.
III. However, third, it is an open question as to whether "the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this church" are in fact being upheld and/or embodied by the current executive offices of the Episcopal Church. (Myself, I believe they are not; but that is not the point here.) The question is "open" because it has been in dispute, at least since General Convention 2003. It has been disputed in the explicit mind of a series of TEC bishops, theologians, clergy, and laity, as well as in the explicit mind of other formal leaders and members of the Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church is bound, by its own Constitution, to be a "constituent member". The dispute has been openly engaged, and has continued unabated, and in fact with growing force, despite attempts by General Convention 2006 and meetings by the TEC's House of Bishops to answer, in certain respects, charges as to the constitutional integrity of its executive life.
IV. Fourth, and to further explicate the previous point, this dispute is not an artificial or tendentious construct insofar as it touches the "Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of this church". The matter of "discipline" is bound up with a host of extensive theological and practical realities that, as we know, include liturgy and liturgical form, teaching, moral behavior, and the more narrow "disciplinary" matters of how clergy and bishops are directed, admonished, and corrected. When, as has happened in now literally hundreds of cases among clergy (and some bishops), an ordained Episcopalian declares that it is no longer possible to "keep" his or her "ordination vows" given the formal teaching, decisions, and actions of the executive leadership of the Episcopal Church itself, and on grounds that have been concretely enumerated in a host of cases and with respect to a host of matters, just insofar as this, the question of whether that leadership itself has openly renounced the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of this church has been formally raised. Raised and asserted, furthermore, by the departure of many thousands of the faithful.
V. Fifth, the Title Review Committee that received the charges against Bishop Duncan and formally "certified" his "abandonment of communion" simply and irresponsibly ignored this serious dispute in question and its constraining implications for their decision-making. They did not even make an attempt to assess the nature of the charges brought to them and argue for their pertinence to their judgment.
VI. Sixth, there has not yet been an agreed upon method for resolving this dispute both as to what amounts to the "Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of this church" and as to what constitutes its "open renunciation". There has certainly been no method accepted where each party to the dispute accuses the other of such a renunciation, and the very instruments of (quite limited) disciplinary adjudication within the church are governed by the very executive leadership who is an accused party to the dispute. If "interested parties", in the sense of those who actually stand so accused by one party or the other of such "open renunciation" were to recuse themselves from a decision in this matter, much of House of Bishops itself would need to stand aside, let alone a host of other members in leadership positions within the church. This fact makes the failure in acknowledging and analyzing our church's dispute and of carefully arguing a case by the Title IV Review Committee particularly suspect and egregious: they have failed to engage the actual disordered life of the church whose order they are duty-bound to uphold.
VII. Seventh, there are difficult and maddeningly slow formal attempts unfolding, yet unfolding nonetheless, within the Anglican Communion as a whole to begin to identify a means of getting through this adjudicatory impasse. It involves a host of synods, including the Lambeth Conference, and a proposed "covenant", among other things. Since no one has offered an agreeable alternative to these unfolding attempts, they remain the primary means, indeed the only means available to all parties in the dispute to move forward. They are, furthermore, in keeping with the long traditions of catholic order and deserve a presumptive respect. Yet because they are both slow, still imperfectly defined, and legally of untested strength, the ultimate usefulness of these unfolding attempts must depend on a host of other Christian realities that - most would agree - actually define the Church of Jesus Christ far more essentially, primarily, and profoundly than do simply the Constitution and Canons of this or that province or diocese (indeed, that latter are, in a Christian sense, legitimate only to the degree that they embody these prior realities). These realities touch upon the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit and the powers thereof that permit a clear following of the Lord Jesus Christ's own straightforward calling to specific forms of relational behavior. They touch upon matters of humility, patience, longsuffering, honesty and transparency, self-control, and much more. That is, both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion of which it is still a part and which it has, rightly or wrongly, so disturbed through its executive actions, have been thrown upon a complete dependence upon these gifts and fruit, in a way that must transcend, even while respecting for the sake of the world's order, particular rules and regulations.
VIII. Eighth, and proceeding directly from the above, it is a vocational imperative incumbent upon the executive leadership of TEC as well as upon those questioning its legitimacy, to defer to the burden and grace of these gifts and fruit during this time. This is a large part of what it means to be a "Christian leader". This must mean setting aside the legal - including canonical - strategies and manipulations designed to create new formal relationships of what used to be called "dominion" - "lordship" over property, goods, and persons. Ad hoc arrangements are inevitable during a "truce" - and the tradition of a "truce of God" (treuga Dei) for the sake a temporal space for resolution has real, if historically ineffective, roots in the Christian Church. But ad hoc arrangements should not trespass into areas of final legal and structural determinations. The poison of property's enslaving demand, transferred to new areas of personal "dominion", has long ruined most reform movements among Christians, and, whatever need there may appear to be to lay the legal groundwork for property "claims" through structural and formal disciplinary actions taken immediately and ruthlessly, such a pursuit of this need as we are now seeing is an affront to the Holy Spirit's own restraining, and thereby ordering and fruitful mission.
XI. Finally, and in view of the above, I would urge the bishops of TEC, when the matter of Bp. Duncan's status and discipline is raised before them, as now it must be, to vote to table it indefinitely. That is within their power; and it is demanded, I believe, by the evangelical needs of this church and her people. The bishops might then use the disciplinary energies and resources of our church, instead, to pursue and submit in patience to the task and outcome of our larger Church's resolution of our dispute. Having fulfilled her canonical duties in forwarding the Review Committee's decision, however ill-formed, to the House of Bishops, the Presiding Bishop herself should now use her persuasive and parliamentary powers to accomplish just such a vote to table the matter.
TEC is embroiled in a territory of adjudication precisely to the degree that her official leadership has pressed forward to "do a new thing" for which there is no disciplinary direction apart from what, in the past and within current Anglican Communion teaching and direction, has clearly forbidden this very thing they have done. As the Anglican Communion Institute has consistently argued, TEC's leadership cannot do this and then say they are in a position to judge anything, except by an intrinsically novel, and therefore communally questionable, standard.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Jacqueline Keenan, DVM
5246 Pommeroy Dr.
Fairfax, VA 22032
October 7, 2007
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori,
Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Dear Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori,
There is a matter of grave importance to the church that I would like to discuss with you. It appears that TEC's divisive direction is driven by the belief that for many people homosexuality is a biological given. Twice I have had important people in TEC's leadership claim that there is science supporting the biological or fixed basis for homosexuality, but neither would give me their studies when I asked for them. In this letter I will describe those incidents, hoping that you will present the science that supports their view. I also will outline some major issues that people have ignored when they cite studies. Hopefully, you will avoid sending studies with these issues, and that will save time.
To Set Our Hope on Christ based its understanding of homosexuality on the idea of orientation, which is an unbiblical concept from science. After seeing my article, "Why Theology Should Precede Change," an author of To Set Our Hope on Christ insisted that there was "other science" that she was considering. I sent her an email asking to see this science. I know that she got the email, because I called her to verify that she had it. That happened last spring, and she never answered me. Nine days ago I received an email from a senior bishop in the church. I had been carrying on a long discussion with him about the problems with the understanding of homosexuality as a fixed and genetic stereotype. In the email he said, "I hope in the future that you will, with your scientific background, pay close attention to the many people who study these matters who are learning that homosexuality is, at least in many instances, a given and not a choice." Of course, I had looked for science that shows a biological basis for homosexuality, and there had always been major problems with the science. I also had consulted with some very good psychiatrists who have followed the science and worked with homosexuals, and they too could not find any science showing a biological basis for homosexuality in anyone. I asked the bishop for his science, but he simply said that the fixed nature of homosexuality was the opinion of some psychiatrists. Yet he did not give any basis for that opinion. Are we talking about testimonials or research? Since even research done by homosexuals shows that so many people change attractions, please explain the scientific basis of the church's opinion that homosexuality is fixed. In one study the homosexual researcher found no characteristics to distinguish the 58% of lesbians who had changed after eight years from the 42% who did not. So how do psychiatrists determine that homosexuality is fixed for some people?
It is important to differentiate between issues that are truly fixed and issues that are experienced as not being a choice. One of the psychiatrists that I have talked to affirmed that early trauma or family dysfunction can lead to issues that are experienced as not being a choice. Issues from early childhood problems are not fixed, but are difficult to change. Since so many changeable behaviors are experienced as fixed, I think that we must differentiate between those things that are truly fixed because of biology and those things that people experience as fixed. These are different issues. The latter are subject to change through psychological therapy and through the grace of God.
The church's document To Set Our Hope on Christ claimed a biological basis for homosexuality. It is on that basis that many people in this church have been willing to bless homosexuality. If you are saying that the unverified opinions of some psychiatrists is the actual reason for the church's direction, please say so publicly to be fair to the many Episcopalians who were fooled by To Set Our Hope on Christ. But if you are arguing that homosexuality does have a biological basis, I request that you send me studies to that effect, and please be sure that they were not debunked in the literature years ago. To Set Our Hope on Christ is an example of proof texts from science. I spoke to the author of that part of the paper. He said that TEC has no good system for dealing with science. He indicated that although there is lots of science out there, he had no way of knowing which studies had been declared invalid. That is how Bailey and Pillard got into the paper as an example of genetics. So the church needs a better system for dealing with science, or it will continue to resurrect long dead issues. Hopefully, you will pay attention to the history of the studies that you claim support your position.
Another thing to watch out for in picking studies is the problem of confounding variables. The twin studies were a good example. If you have not read my article, you need to. It shows that the small concordance left after seeking unbiased samples is explained when the environment is examined. When the environment was not examined, the high prevalence rate in the twins showed an environmental effect, unless you believe that Australians genetically mutate at warp speed. One of the difficulties is that so many researchers ignore the environment. That problem seems to have arisen from the APA's 1973 vote to remove homosexuality from the DSM. In case you missed what happened at that meeting, I will give you an account that has been published and independently verified by people who were present. The research presented in the committee responsible for recommendations on the DSM consisted of the now discredited Kinsey data and some work done by a Dr. Hooker on overcrowded mice. In the late ‘60s Dr. Hooker had chaired a task force. She was an experimental psychologist who worked with mice, and she left out of the task force the clinicians who spent their lives studying homosexuality in people. That psychiatrists were aware of the excluded clinical research is evidenced by Bayer's poll showing that four years after the 1973 APA vote, 69% of the members of the APA thought that homosexuality was "usually a pathologic adaptation." One psychiatrist who was at the 1973 meeting said that for about six years the activists had so disrupted their meetings that they could not get their work done, and there was also a low turnout that favored the vote. The APA buckled to pressure. Because of this vote, it is politically incorrect to look at homosexuality as anything but another biologically normal behavior. Given the outrageous history of the APA, it is not surprising that there are psychiatrists who now want to claim by fiat rather than science that homosexuality is fixed.
As an example of how ignoring the environment affects research I will use the research showing that homosexuality is more common in younger brothers. Although this would only affect about 6% of the population, it could show a biological basis for some people. Researchers have hypothesized that there might be an immunological or hormonal change in the mother that caused the homosexuality. However, very good psychiatrists who work with Bowen systems theory have pointed out that this situation is also typical of family dysfunction. Birth order issues represent one of the eight basic concepts in Bowen systems theory. But the people doing this research have no interest in considering the environmental issues. Therefore, a lot of effort will be poured into looking for biological explanations all the while assuring everyone that the biological explanation exists, but just has not been found. So please do not cite studies that have multiple possible causes with biology as only one possibility. You are a scientist. You know what is required for real evidence. In this case the immunological or hormonal cause must be identified and verified.
It seems that the people of the Episcopal Church have a right to know whether you are actually basing your direction on real evidence of the fixed nature of homosexuality in some people, or the wishful thinking on the part of some individuals in the psychiatric profession. It is clear that opinion is not science or proof. Further, the people of the church should be aware of whether you have decided that the witness of scripture is wrong based on the opinions of some psychiatrists or based on real evidence. Do most Episcopalians believe that unsubstantiated opinions are more valid than God's opinion? The people of this church thought that decisions were being made on the basis of the science presented in To Set Our Hope on Christ, but that is seriously flawed. Perhaps you should have owned up to that and told them the real reason that you want to bless homosexuality, whatever that may be.
Since you are planning to bless homosexuality eventually although you must wait for now, please send me studies that show that there is any scientific basis for claiming that homosexuality is fixed for anyone. As one scientist to another and one Episcopalian to another, I ask you to show me the studies in order to engage in a real dialogue rather than innuendo. It is bizarre that I am forced to drag this discussion into the public eye in a church that prides itself on dialogue, but my experience is that private attempts at dialogue are unfruitful. Do the people of this church want to continue the destruction of a whole communion, if there is no biological evidence or other scientific basis for the unbiblical direction you are taking? Is there any evidence at all that demonstrates your position? We Episcopalians have a right to know the truth about this.
Yours in Christ,
Cc: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev. Ephraim Radner, David Mills, editor of
The Episcopal Church
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
October 23, 2007
Dear Dr. Keenan,
Thank you for your letter, and the concerns you raise. Let me recommend that, as a veterinarian, you might wish to begin with Bruce Bagemihl's exhaustive study Biological Exuberance. I cannot respond in detail to studies which are not cited.
Science is not the only basis by which many people in this church are coming to the conclusion that homosexual orientation is a given (a matter of creation) and that it may be possible to bless it as a reflection of God's image in creation. Many, many faithful people (of both homosexual and heterosexual orientation) have the direct experience of seeing the fruits of the faithful, committed, monogamous, life-long and life-giving relationships of persons of the same sex. That mode is in fact the way in which many if not most Christians experience the reality of God at work in their lives - they see Christ-like lives in those around them.
You claim that those who come to such conclusions are taking an unbiblical stance. Many said the same of those who advocated for a more generous pastoral response to those whose marriages had ended in divorce. Even though Jesus had very direct words on the subject, the church as a whole changed its teaching and pastoral practice in regard to remarriage following divorce. The change had more to do with personal experience, and a broader understanding of the whole of the biblical tradition, than it did with one or two verses of the Bible. When we have, within the tradition, clear summaries of the teaching of that tradition as "love God and love your neighbor as yourself," many would find it possible to take a broader reading than what appears to be the plain sense of one or two verses.
May your ministry be a blessing. I remain
Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori
Dear Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori,
I did receive your letter today. The citations and the body of my argument are in my online article "Why Theology Should Precede Change." It is on many websites. Google my name and the name of the article. I cited the work of homosexual researchers in refuting the claim that homosexuality is necessarily fixed, so it seems that it is possible to make that claim and still love homosexuals. I have a close friend who is gay and likes to discuss this issue with me. He knows that I love him, but regardless of how he came to be gay, he also knows that I have some valid concerns about this not being a one size fits all issue. Yet many people in TEC are treating it that way. Because of the difference in women and girls, there is a high rate of homosexuality in American young women and girls. This rate is much lower in societies that do not claim homosexuality as being fixed and just another acceptable option. In my article I cited the work of a gay researcher named Ritch Savin-Williams, who is the best known expert on prevalence rates in youth.
I love my neighbor and I love myself. But for many years I carried a weed in my own heart that did not seem to be a choice, yet it was the worst possible sin. Because of abuse as a child, I quietly did not forgive people who hurt me. While I still carried that weed, I did remarkable work at church in our children's programs, the music programs, and education. People saw me as having wonderful fruits of the Spirit and I was very loving with the children. But when the Spirit did finally enter my life, the first thing that it did was start to pull the weed. That was very painful, and until it finally came loose, I doubted that I could ever change. In no way do the visible fruits of the Spirit testify to holiness regarding our other behaviors.
I particularly have love and care for our young people, who are led to believe that same-sex attractions are normal and unchanging. What science can do is to help us test the claims that are made about the nature of homosexuality. The notion that homosexuality is created is not being supported by research, and any revelation of creation should be supported by scripture. Scripture says nothing about homosexuality as being created by God.
I do not see a direct comparison with divorce. Hopefully, you agree that divorce is a bad thing. I hope that you do not intend to bless divorce too. For those who have divorced, I hope that you would not encourage them to continue to get divorced. These two issues are like apples and oranges in that one is being extolled and the other is viewed as unfortunate, but the church is dealing with divorce by supporting healthy marriages.
I am surprised that you have not kept up with recent understandings of homosexuality. I know that you are busy, but you cannot tell children that homosexuality is not a good option, yet if you take that option, we will bless it. As much as your stance reflects the dogma on TV and in the newspapers, it does not reflect what is being learned. The bibliography of my article would be a good starting place for you to educate yourself. Since attractions change so often, it makes a difference whether people choose to act on those attractions. Reinforcement is an issue, especially in women. Again, look into the articles that I cited. There has been some important new research done by some very fine researchers. Most of them are homosexual.
So I assume that your answer means that you have no new evidence that would show homosexuality to be biological or fixed. Therefore, you don't mind that I intend to point that out to the communion. Apparently, you don't need to know what is going on in the world of research, because you think that you have a revelation that counters the actual research and scriptural statements about homosexuality. At least people in TEC and the communion will know the basis for your direction.
Thank you for being clear.
Yours in Christ,
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 January 2008 )|
|Why Theology Should Precede Change|
|Written by Dr. Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan|
|Tuesday, 07 August 2007|
In August of 2007, we posted on the ACI site an essay by Dr. Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan. (The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. - Why Theology Should Precede Change ) In this essay, Dr. Keenan provided an overview of a number of recent scientific studies questioning the claims made by many that there is a biological basis to homosexuality that renders it an immutable condition. These claims have also been made by some leaders in the Episcopal Church as part of their defense of the church's affirmation of homosexual unions. They were made quite formally by the official response of TEC to the Anglican Communion's request for an explanation of the American church's reasoning in pressing for such affirmation, a response contained in the report To Set Our Hope On Christ. Dr. Keenan's essay, therefore, stood as a direct challenge to at least one important aspect of TEC's argument offered to the rest of the Communion.
In the ongoing debate about sexuality The Episcopal Church (TEC) has consistently looked to the medical and scientific community in order to understand human sexuality. This tradition was continued when TEC presented a theological statement in 2005 to the worldwide Anglican Communion in order to explain its consecration of a homosexual bishop in 2003. This theological document, To Set Our Hope on Christ, stated that "Altogether, contemporary studies indicate that same-sex affection has a genetic- biological basis which is shaped in interaction with psycho-social and cultural-historical factors. Sexual orientation remains relatively fixed and generally not subject to change. Continuing studies have confirmed the 1973 decision of the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from their diagnostic manual of mental illness."
Unfortunately, the bibliography that was cited in this document consisted of scientific articles that were written between 1970 and 1995. In fact none of the TEC documents on homosexuality include any studies after 1995. But research on homosexuality has continued, and later studies have produced new data in the areas of genetics, prevalence rates, and mutability of homosexual attraction. These studies also show that data regarding homosexuality in men does not apply to women.
Two months after TEC presented its document to the Anglican Communion, I sent evidence of most of the updated information that appears in this article to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Presiding Bishop of TEC. The information included abstracts of all but the two newest articles, but I had included an article from The Washington Post quoting the researchers regarding those studies. I received a reply from Lambeth Palace that was general, but that thanked me for my "constructive and thoughtful contribution to the debate". The letter from the Office of the Presiding Bishop said, "I hope you will appreciate that the Presiding Bishop himself was not the author of To Set Our Hope on Christ, which your letter seems to suggest in its first sentence." Even though he was not the author, he chose the authors and left out anyone with a background in science. In an earlier letter from his office I was told "I would like to convey the Presiding Bishop's appreciation to you for drawing his attention to the importance that science plays in issues facing the life of the church." He should have included a person with a science background.
Before any further discussion of the issues with TEC's theological document take place, it is important to present the research that TEC missed. Since many churches are struggling with the issue of homosexuality, the information is beneficial to most denominations. It seems quite probable that many churches are not up to date, because they use theological journals to present rigorous science. Although the Anglican Theological Review was interested in the information in this article, for instance, it would not have printed it before the summer of 2009, because of the lag time to publication at theological journals. By then the information would be out of date, and TEC's error of using old science illustrates the tendency to canonize bibliographies that take a long time to be produced.
One clear area in which recent research has challenged earlier assessments is the genetic causality of homosexual attraction. In 1991 Bailey and Pillard ("A Genetic Study of Male Sexual Orientation," Archives of General Psychiatry 48) published results of a study in men that suggested a genetic cause of same-sex attraction. It was largely on the basis of that report that To Set Our Hope on Christ concluded that homosexual attractions were based on genetic causes. But a 1994 article called "Homosexuality: The Behavioral Sciences and the Church" by Jones and Workman had already pointed out severe sample bias in that study. Further, a later study co-authored by Bailey did not support the 1991 results.
The 1991 Bailey and Pillard twin study on men looked at identical twins, fraternal twins, siblings that were not twins, and adopted siblings. Seeing traits significantly more often in pairs of identical twins than in the general population suggests heritability of the trait. The authors found that 52% of homosexual identical twins had a homosexual co- twin. Since that was much higher than the 2% rate of homosexuality in the general population at that time, such a large increase would indicate that genetic factors were highly likely. However, the subjects for this study were individuals recruited through gay publications. Besides the obvious problem of who would be likely to respond to such a solicitation, the data itself showed that even the adopted children in the study had five times the normal rate of homosexuality. A high rate in unrelated children indicates that the families of respondents were not typical of the general population. It is clear that the Bailey and Pillard study was subject to sampling bias.
In 1992 King and McDonald ("Homosexuals who are twins: A study of 46 Probands," British Journal of Psychiatry 160) did a twin study using an unbiased sample. It showed only about 25% of homosexual identical twins had a co-twin who was homosexual. This is still higher than the general population so it could indicate some heritability, but King and McDonald also did something else that any good researcher would do. They looked into the possibility that there might be environmental factors causing even this relatively low rate of concordance. They found that "genetic factors are insufficient explanation of the development of sexual orientation" because of social factors, including "a relatively high likelihood of sexual relations occurring with same sex co-twins at some time, particularly in monozygotic [identical] pairs." The identical twins were having a strong influence on each other.
In 2000 Bailey published a new study, this time co-authored by Kirk ("Measurement Models of Sexual Orientation in a Community Twin Sample," Behavioral Genetics 30.) This new study drew on a twin registry for the subject population instead of recruiting participants through gay publications. This new study also reported a much lower heritability rate for men than had the 1991 report, which Bailey had co-authored. This time heritability was only 30%. Yet a close look at the study shows that even this lower rate is subject to question. Once environmental factors have been described that interfere with results on heritability, they must be addressed in all later research. For some reason, however, the Kirk and Bailey study asked no questions about the social issues that King and McDonald found. As a result the study is fundamentally flawed in design.
Yet environmental effects became clear when the results of this same study were used in an article produced by Savin-Williams in 2006 ("Who's Gay? Does it Matter?" Current Directions in Psychological Science 15.) Savin-Williams produced a chart of prevalence rates of homosexuality in many countries and covering many age groups. The groups from Australia had markedly higher prevalence rates than any age groups in any other country. That seemed baffling until one noticed that the Australian population came from Kirk and Bailey's twin study. Now heredity does not increase prevalence. It only determines whether twins are concordant or discordant for the trait, but it does not cause an overall increase in the trait in the population. For example, if the prevalence is 2% and the trait is fully inherited, then 2% of the time both twins will have the trait and 98% of the time both twins will not. If it is not inherited at all, then of those twins with the trait, 98% will have twins without the trait. The greatly increased prevalence in the twins in the Kirk and Bailey study indicates a strong environmental influence, since prevalence is increased by environmental factors, not heredity.
At this point twin studies have not conclusively demonstrated the existence of genetic factors that precondition a person to homosexual attraction. On the contrary, they have pointed to the existence of social factors in determining sexual behavior. In addition, a 2002 review article on homosexuality co-authored by Bailey ("A Critical Review of Recent Biological Research on Human Sexual Orientation," Annual Review of Sexual Research 13) said that "molecular research has not yet produced compelling evidence for specific genes."
That same review article also expressed concern for "a lack of research on women." By that time, however, L. M. Diamond was well under way to remedying the situation. Diamond published a paper in 1998 ("Development of Sexual Orientation Among Adolescent and Young Adult Women," Developmental Psychology 34) in which it was noted that a majority of lesbian and bisexual women failed to report at least one of the usual childhood indicators of sexual orientation. She then began to follow a group of nonheterosexual women over time because she found that "Previous research suggests that the sexual identities, attractions, and behaviors of sexual-minority (i.e., nonheterosexual) women change over time, yet there have been few longitudinal studies addressing this question, and no longitudinal studies of sexual-minority youths." The young women she followed were 16 to 23 years old when the study started. Most of them were lesbians rather than bisexual. After two years one-third of the women had changed their identity since that first interview. At the five year interview one-fourth of the women had completely relinquished their lesbian/bisexual identities. Diamond noted that the women who gave up their lesbian/bisexual identities did not differ from those women who retained their lesbian/bisexual identities. She found no way to predict who would change.
Finally, in 2005 she published a report of the interviews that took place after eight Years ("A New View of Lesbian Subtypes: Stable Versus Fluid Identity Trajectories Over an 8-Year Period," Psychology of Women Quarterly 29.) By then almost two-thirds of the women had changed identities at some point during the eight years. Since most of the population were lesbians, I will focus on what happened to them over time. Although these women started as lesbians, only 42 % stayed lesbians for the entire eight years; therefore, 58% changed. Diamond included a typical example of a lesbian, who changed over time. At the first interview the lesbian reported a 100% attraction to women. By the two-year interview she reported a 90% attraction to women. At five years she reported a 70% attraction to women. Finally, at eight years she reported a 50% attraction to women. In her interview at that time the young woman said that "currently I'm in a long-term relationship with a man that I find very, very ,very enjoyable and, um, fulfilling so it's hard for me to identify so therefore I kind of prefer not to identify." Again, Diamond could not predict which women would change over time, but clearly a number did change spontaneously.
It is probably important to note that Diamond is not a social conservative with a bias against gay and lesbian behavior. Researchers who question claims about the permanence of same-sex attraction are often suspected of anti-gay sentiments. Diamond identified herself as a lesbian in an interview in The Washington Post on January 4, 2004 (Partway Gay? Trying Gay for the Day: The Rise of the Heteroflexible Woman.) She along with several other researchers were being interviewed to gain an understanding of a great increase in homosexual behavior in young women. The Washington Post reported many examples of the phenomenon and said that "Social scientists say that 5 percent to 7 percent of young people are gay or lesbian." After discussing the results of her research, The Washington Post quoted Diamond as saying "As gays, we have predicated our acceptance by the culture on something we can't change. We say 'Oh look at us! We can't help it! That's what the straights want to hear.'" (Italics are my emphasis.)
A 2004 study by Otis and Skinner (An Exploratory Study of Differences in Views of Factors Affecting Sexual Orientation for a Sample of Lesbians and Gay Men," Psychological Reports 94) asked what homosexuals considered to be the cause of their sexual orientation. They reported that members of "the lesbian group were more likely to view positive relationships with the same sex to have a great influence on sexual orientation." This also suggests that social interactions may play an important role in formation of sexual identity. It also supports the report in the previously mentioned Washington Post article that studies indicate that women are more open to homosexual relationships than men.
The 2006 article by Savin-Willliams confirmed high prevalence rates of homosexuality in young people. He reported that rates of homosexual self-identification differed with respect to age. The rates of homosexual self-identification for females in the USA were 1% for adults, 4% for young adults, and 8% for youth. Further homosexual behavior was 11% for female youth. The rates of homosexual self-identification in males were 2% for adults, 3% for young adults, 3% for youth, and 5% for behavior in youth. This research also verifies the high levels of homosexual behavior in the girls reported on by The Washington Post. In addition, Savin-Williams' article reported results of a study of one group of adolescent boys who participated in a CDC health study. This study found fluidity in the sexual attractions of adolescent boys. Most boys who reported exclusive same-sex attractions in one interview, reported a change in attitude by the time of a follow-up interview a year later, including 48% who reported exclusive opposite-sex attractions. This information makes the practice of "coming out" early - and encouraging such "coming out" -- quite worrisome.
Further, all of this new information should have been considered before writing a theological paper based on a scientific understanding of how homosexuality functions in our society. By making a liturgical change before stating a theology, the opportunity for reasoned dialogue was lost. It is not irrelevant to note here that another principle of systems theory is that as the anxiety in a system increases, the ability to think decreases. When anxiety is very high, people just react without thinking. TEC is a very polarized and anxious body . My hope has been that if people could see how unclear our understanding of homosexuality really is, they would not pull the church off of its historic foundations in the Anglican Communion.
But the Episcopal Church that claims to hear all voices does not want to hear a voice like mine. The conservatives will not talk to the liberals about what worries them as I have, and the liberals have made up their mind, so all new information is suspect. However, fifteen months after Presiding Bishop Griswold received this information along with copies of the Archbishop's comments and ten months after 93 bishops in the House of Bishops received the same letters and comments, they apparently had not successfully rebutted this information to the Archbishop. When I sent a copy of my Anglican Theological Review article containing this information to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he wrote me a personal note. It started "Many thanks for your letter. I hope the ATR will print your piece." Since the American bishops would have been highly motivated to rebut this information to the Archbishop, it seems unlikely that they have been able to do that. It will be interesting to see if, at the upcoming House of Bishops meeting, they will see fit to offer, in the presence of the Archbishop, any theological response that takes seriously the scientific data that, until now, they have so broadly ignored.
Because the practical change in sexual norms within TEC has preceded the hard work of theological reasoning - one that must take into account scientific study -- , it now seems that the House of Bishops has decided to keep Episcopalians in the dark about the problems with their statement. So rather than having a discussion, we are dealing with a political situation. If there had been a discussion, the House of Deputies would have been informed. But in May of 2007 I sent an email about this material to Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies. Before I checked my email for a response, she had asked me twice for copies of my articles and the material that I had sent to the bishops in Feb. 2006. Clearly, she had not been informed of the scientific problems with TEC's theological statement. Whether knowing about these issues would have affected decisions by the House of Deputies at GC 2006 is doubtful. But there is no question but that in general we are now reaping the consequences of the bishops' silence.
Also this spring I spoke to two members of the House of Bishops Theology Committee about the need to clear up the problems with the church's original theological document. I sent them the most updated science that appears in this article. Therefore, they could see how serious the problems with their original document were. Instead of telling the people of the Episcopal Church about this issue, they left To Set Our Hope on Christ as the official statement of the church on this matter, when they published their theology statement for the communique on June 1, 2007. They did that even though one of the two bishops had written to me about To Set Our Hope on Christ in May 2006 to say, "I share your belief that the job could have been done in ways that paid better attention to both science and theology." So here was the opportunity to be honest with Episcopalians, but instead they kept their secret.
Christian theology and systems theory both recognize that secrets are divisive, cause distorted perceptions, and increase pathologic processes totally unrelated to the secret. Not only does the House of Bishops have a secret, the American Psychiatric Association has a secret. Not only was the APA's vote to remove homosexuality from their list of diagnoses in 1973 based on no science, but also they did not believe their own vote. Four years after the vote, a poll of the APA showed that 69% believed that homosexuality "usually represents a pathologic adaptation." (Bayer, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis, 1981)
A final reality, noted by practical experience and systems theory both, is that the person who reveals the secret will feel the reactivity and wrath of the system. But if learning to put reasoned theology first saves even one church, it will be worth it. In 2002 my Disciples of Christ congregation exploded over the matter of homosexuality. I went to an orthodox TEC congregation to hide. There is nowhere to hide. This article is not just about TEC. It is about all denominations, and the need to approach the challenge of change in a non-destructive manner.. Establishing "facts on the ground" without the reasoned agreement of the larger church has become the fuel today for the church's dismantling. State the theology of the change first. The discussion that ensues might be surprising for everyone.
Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan (BA [Math/Chemistry -- UVA], DVM [Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine]) is currently in an MTS program at VTS, focusing on family systems. She has been reading and studying human and animal medical literature for 27 years and studying homosexuality for six years.
|From the Anglican Communion Institute: |
|Written by Dr. Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan|
|Tuesday, 15 January 2008|
| In August of 2007, we posted on the ACI site an essay by Dr. Jacqueline Jenkins Keenan. (Why Theology Should Precede Change ) In this essay, Dr. Keenan provided an overview of a number of recent scientific studies questioning the claims made by many that there is a biological basis to homosexuality that renders it an immutable condition. These claims have also been made by some leaders in the Episcopal Church as part of their defense of the church's affirmation of homosexual unions. They were made quite formally by the official response of TEC to the Anglican Communion's request for an explanation of the American church's reasoning in pressing for such affirmation, a response contained in the report To Set Our Hope On Christ. Dr. Keenan's essay, therefore, stood as a direct challenge to at least one important aspect of TEC's argument offered to the rest of the Communion.|
Over the past few months, Dr. Keenan has attempted to gain clarity regarding the Presiding Bishop's own understanding of the "science" behind her support for homosexual unions. The main part of this correspondence is printed below. We note that, some days after the exchange the exchange copied here (and some other brief emails), the Presiding Bishop's office requested that her letter to Dr. Keenan be kept "private". This after-the-fact request is one Dr. Keenan and the ACI have struggled to evaluate. The public nature of the correspondence was noted from the beginning, both in the general terms and copied recipients in the original letter, and later explicitly in an email. Only several days after sending her response did the PB's office - and not she herself - ask that her letter not be shared with others. We are now, furthermore, in a situation where the PB has gone before the public herself, criticizing others in the Communion for a lack of willingness to discuss these kinds of matters openly. Having weighed these factors, and given the importance of the subject and, frankly, its unproblematic content - in which nothing personal, pastoral, or inherently secretive is being communicated - we have decided to go forward with the originally communicated plan to share these concrete discussions about this difficult subject with the people who need and deserve to follow such conversations - the people of the church.
"The Episcopal Church lives in a society that values transparency, increasingly values transparency, in all kinds of operations, not just within the church. To have other parts of the Communion express distress at having to have conversations about sexuality, is certainly understandable in terms of different contexts, yet that is where this church has felt led to be and felt led to have conversation, to bring these issues out into the public sphere where we can do public theologizing about them." - Presiding Bishop Schori in a January 1, 2008 interview with the BBC.
Editor's note: this is likely something different than you will hear if you attend a Eucharist in a pecusa church tommorrow, the Feast of Phillips Brooks. R. R. Reno was once an Episcopalian but has converted to Roman Catholicism. This review is from First Things, August/September 2004.
by R. R. Reno
On a trip to Boston a few years ago, I made a pilgrimage to one of America’s most famous Episcopal churches, Trinity Church, Copley Square. I went, in large part, for architectural reasons. I have always admired H.H. Richardson, the architect whose plastic historical imagination is so well represented in the design of Trinity Church. I had my own theological reasons as well. Trinity Church had been recommended to me as something of a Boston anomaly: a vibrant urban parish with a flair for orthodoxy.
Trinity Church’s good reputation stems directly from that of its first and best-known rector, Phillips Brooks, who oversaw the construction of the Richardson building and who preached there from its consecration in 1877 until his election as bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. One of the most famous preachers of the Gilded Age, Brooks (1835-1893) was the archetypical Episcopalian of his time: utterly derivative and extremely influential. He was a man who neither thought through any difficult theological issues nor broke any new intellectual ground. What Brooks did instead, as GillisJ. Harp’s Brahmin Prophet so effectively displays, was to embody and facilitate the changes in spiritual sensibility that would come to define the liberal Protestant establishment.
The first and most important change occurred in what we might call religious epistemology. As Harp’s fine study shows convincingly, Brooks was greatly influenced by nineteenth-century Romanticism. The effect was to turn him away from doctrinal systems and toward religious feelings. In his influential reflections on the task of preaching, Brooks argues against expository preaching that relies upon doctrine. Instead, for Brooks, the essence of good preaching is “truth through personality.” The authenticity, sincerity, and honesty of the preacher serve as the core of evangelism. The preacher does not just bear witness to some creed—he bears witness to the truths that live in his heart and, in so doing, communicates these living truths to the hearts of others.
This emphasis on feeling and personality naturally led Brooks to discount the fine doctrinal distinctions that had characterized Protestant theology since the Reformation. The consequence was a second change: from a sharply defined confessional faith to a vague and open communion of common sentiment. As Brooks put the matter, “The Church does not remember [Christ]. It feels him.” In his youth, Brooks shrank from the doctrinal controversies that became increasingly fierce in nineteenth-century Protestantism, controversies that seemed to him intellectual jousting that distracted from the essence of Christianity. As he warned in his widely read book on preaching, “Beware of the tendency to preach about Christianity, and try to preach Christ.”
With a serene confidence that reflected, perhaps, the dominance of his own social class both in New England and in America as a whole, Brooks saw himself as above faction, and he frequently criticized the “party spirit” that would demand doctrinal uniformity. In his middle age, Brooks was largely unbothered by the emerging results of critical study of the Bible. In matters of textual criticism as in matters of doctrine, he felt that anxiety was unwarranted, because what mattered was the singularity of Christ’s influence, not the diversity of man’s analyses. One whose sentiments were integrated by, and suffused with, the warm message of the gospel could be trusted to navigate by instinct the old theological debates and the new intellectual challenges.
Closely related to Brooks’ lack of interest in doctrine and inerrancy was his commitment to religious liberalism. His Broad Church convictions were supported by the belief that a truth sought exerts a more powerful influence than a truth taught. A preacher, in his role as a congregational leader, needs to be free to articulate genuine doubts and to respond to the troubling questions raised by modernity. Only thus can the answer of Christ find a place in the center of the hearts and minds of those who honestly seek the truth. “Narrowness” was one of Brooks’ curse words, and he made a point of defending his more adventurous friends from accusations of infidelity. Conscience, thought Brooks, needs elbow room.
In these features—the priority of feeling, insouciance about doctrine, nonchalance about historical-critical challenges to scriptural authority, and commitment to religious liberty—Brooks, as I say, embodied the emergent spirit of modern Protestantism. This spirit is reflected, of course, in his sermons, which are mined by Harp in order to display for us the outlines of Brooks’ liberal theology: an optimistic anthropology that downplays the fall, an Arminian soteriology that emphasizes good works, a general shift from the Cross to the Incarnation as the central message of the gospel, and a plastic, minimalist ecclesiology.
To state these themes this way is helpful in locating Brooks on the theological spectrum but not so helpful in truly understanding him, for these are ideas, and Brooks’ influence was not as a man of ideas. Hazlitt once wrote of Wordsworth’s poetry that “it affects a system without having an intelligible clue to one.” Theologically, the same could be said of Brooks. It is easy to trace his leading ideas back to earlier, more systematic thinkers. The emphasis on feeling was much championed by English Romanticism. The turn away from Protestant scholasticism was given clear, systematic justification in the theology of Horace Bushnell. The presumptive liberty of conscience was championed by Emerson. Brooks neither formulated nor advanced any of these signal themes of Protestant liberalism; rather, he absorbed them. He was, to use his own terminology, a liberal Protestant personality (in our terminology, we might call him a cultural phenomenon), and his preaching and ministry testified to his generation that the new ideas that had captured the imaginations of many could, in fact, be lived.
Let us, then, leave the ideas behind for a moment and recognize, as Harp does, that to pursue the logic of Brooks’ leading themes will lead only to frustration. Brooks’ was a mind well stocked with theological thoughts, but he used them as his architect, Richardson, used the elements of Romanesque idiom in his Trinity Church—with a supple imaginative power that freely modified and arranged in order to achieve an effect. The effect that Brooks sought became the cliché of liberal Protestant seminary theology throughout the twentieth century: a faith for modern man. It is important for us to remember, however, that what is now a very tired cliché was, in Brooks’ time, an exciting and unexpected possibility.
The circumstances of Brooks’ birth and religious upbringing anticipate his central role in American Christianity. His parents were not particularly rich, but they were both from old New England families and were, by blood, part of elite Boston society. Contemporary readers are not likely to be able to imagine readily the smug self-confidence, the insular social attitudes, and the vast power wielded by the social class that was to earn the name Boston Brahmin, but Harp does an excellent job of inserting us into this exotic world. In the early nineteenth century the introduction of textile technology made eastern Massachusetts the Silicon Valley of its day. Vast fortunes were made and an already wealthy city became the ascendant center of power in the new United States.
This dominant social class was, however, marked by religious crisis, with that great Boston oddity, Unitarianism, constituting a rebellion against traditional Calvinist Congregationalism. It was in this context that Brooks’ mother, Mary Ann Phillips Brooks, became disenchanted with the Congregationalism of her ancestors and joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Moves like hers were part of a larger social transformation, not only of Boston society but of elite Northeastern culture as a whole, a transformation that her son would embody, articulate, and facilitate with remarkable effectiveness.
The transformation involved, for one thing, a striking change in the fortunes of the Episcopal Church. Never strong in New England prior to the American Revolution, Anglicanism in the decades following independence remained deeply compromised by its past Tory loyalties. But though it had been on the losing side in the Revolution, Anglicanism, reorganized as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, came to benefit from the social and religious ferment in pre–Civil War New England. The Congregational establishment had given birth to a radical, antidoctrinal movement, and it seemed locked in a fruitless war of attrition. The Episcopal Church flourished as the respectable, nonconflictual, seemingly orthodox alternative.
To a great extent, Phillips Brooks did little more than live out this social dynamic in his personal faith and ministry. His impact as a preacher and leader grew, as we can now see, out of his ability to soften the terms of the religious choices facing American elites. Brooks was greatly influenced by Horace Bushnell, and Harp provides numerous citations from Brooks’ correspondence that show him as antipathetic to the doctrinal systems of classical Calvinism. Yet, unlike Bushnell, Brooks did not lay out a systematic case against earlier forms of religiosity. Instead, he painted an alternative that allowed others to adopt Bushnell’s more experiential approach without clearly marking the break with the past. The same strategy can be seen in Brooks’ assessment of the historical-critical challenges that emerged in the final decades of his life. He affirmed the importance of modern historical inquiry, but he never seems to have allowed the results to pose a religious challenge to those who listened to his sermons.
One of the great strengths of Brahmin Prophet is that Harp restrains the altogether understandable impulse to criticize Brooks as a muddle-headed temporizing preacher who was either unaware of, or unwilling to recognize, the erosive consequences of his rhetoric. We can recognize that the emphasis on feeling has produced a remarkable spiritual self-indulgence in institutions such as the contemporary Episcopal Church. We can see how Brooks’ vision of preaching as an expression of “personality” leads to the arrogant posturing of “prophetic” preachers who parade their unreflective progressive sensibilities as oracles of the divine. We can trace the present doctrinal amnesia of now-superannuated Protestant “sideline” churches to Brooks’ easy slogan: Preach Christ, not Christianity. Richard John Neuhaus’ observation that where orthodoxy becomes optional it will eventually be proscribed is a shrewd diagnosis of the dangers that were present in Brooks’ seemingly unrestricted affirmation of the “rights of conscience.”
These observations, however, concern the path from liberal Protestantism to the post-Christian spiritual ideologies of the present. Phillips Brooks lived in the second half of the nineteenth century, and he helped to light, as Harp’s subtitle suggests, the path to liberal Protestantism. In that context Brooks, like the Episcopal Church in New England, might be seen, more positively, as a great delayer of the de-Christianization of American elite culture. By smoothing the hard edges of controversy he made avoidable in his generation and the next a choice that was looming for many who shared his education and social status: either the demanding Calvinism of their ancestors or the equally harsh rationalism of post-Christian secular thought. The blurring of alternatives and postponement of decision made possible what sociologists came to call the Protestant Establishment, that now-vanished but once powerful social consensus among ruling elites in America. In truth, the emergent Protestant liberalism that Brooks did so much to nurture may never have had any real future before it, if we may judge by its subsequent career. In our day, the artful, emotive reinterpretations of doctrine in liberal Protestantism that Brooks so effectively pioneered have metastasized into a positive animus against apostolic Christianity.
On the visit to Trinity Church that I mentioned above, I found an aroma of orthodoxy about the worship (solemn procession, conventional hymns, dignified liturgy), while the sermon seemed to be seeking the classic Brooksian goal: faith for modern men and women. The difference between our time and Brooks’, however, is that the strategy of delay has run it course. Our elite culture has been de-Christianized, and the notional faith that I heard preached from the pulpit in Trinity that day amounted to pure concession, Unitarianism in vestments.
How, then, should we balance the accounts? For all my bitterness over the contemporary betrayals committed by his deformed spiritual children, I am inclined to look kindly on Brooks. He made a signal contribution to a form of American Christianity that kept the ugliest forms of modernism at bay in our culture: Emerson’s latent Nietzschean mysticism of the will, social Darwinism, raw utilitarianism, Marxism, and more. The public square was even then, perhaps, ill-clothed, but it was not yet naked. A pallid Christian humanism, but Christian humanism nonetheless, was a real possibility. I am convinced that one might reasonably conclude that the influence of Phillips Brooks made it possible for Reinhold Niebuhr to reach such a broad audience in the perilous middle decades of the twentieth century.
Now we are at a turning point. We can look for no figure such as Niebuhr to put backbone into liberal Protestantism. It is dead and cannot be revived, because it loves its own death. Nonetheless, the choices we make will determine our future views of that great temporizing, muddled religious phenomenon called liberal Protestantism. If we should decide to hearken to John PaulII’s vision of the relationship between personality and truth, and to the Christian humanism outlined in his encyclicals, then we might one day look back and judge the hapless errings of liberal Protestantism to have been more quixotic than demonic. In that event, Brooks and his strategy of delay could be seen as having at least preserved a Christian possibility for other, more confident and vital voices of the gospel to inhabit.
R. R. Reno teaches theology at Creighton University and is the author of In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity (Brazos).