From The Living Church via TitusOneNine:
Posted on: January 25, 2010
What do 250 Anglicans talk about when they gather in one of the most majestic antebellum ecclesiastical structures in the South?
They talk about sex, but also about broader social questions. The theme for this year’s Mere Anglicanism conference, which met on Jan. 21-23, was “Human Identity: Gender, Marriage, and Sexuality — Speculation or Revelation?” The annual Charleston-based conference, which moved this year from the Cathedral of St Luke and St. Paul to the larger St. Philip’s, addressed modern culture from the perspective of balanced, traditional, biblically based Anglican theology.
Participants discussed how the institution of marriage is struggling amid a sexually permissive society. Statistics show that today the number of cohabiting couples has risen 600 percent since the 1970s. Gay marriage, while still disapproved of by the majority of the population, has become legal in several states and is increasingly accepted by mainline churches, including the Episcopal Church.
Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that scientific research has not established any genetic causation for homosexual orientation. When asked if his paper might appear in The American Journal of Psychiatry, he smiled and said, “No.” Americans, he said, have become such victims of the “politics of deviance” that objective scholarship is brushed aside in favor of what is deemed to be politically correct.
Robert Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of The Bible and Homosexual Practice, addressed the argument that St. Paul condemned only exploitative or pederastic homosexual behavior and he knew nothing of homosexual orientation or partnerships among peers. Dr. Gagnon argued that both were well- known in ancient Greece and Rome, and — while tolerated — were often condemned even by pagan writers.
Edith Humphrey, the William F. Orr professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, critiqued the writings of three theologians: Carter Heyward, Sarah Coakley and Eugene F. Rogers, Jr. Dr. Humphrey was especially critical of Dr. Rogers’ comparing human sexual intimacy to the relationship among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, recently retired bishop of the Church of England’s Diocese of Rochester, spoke on theological differences between Christianity and Islam. The bishop cited Yale scholar Lamin Sanneh, a convert from Islam, who argues that the Bible, in contrast to the Quran, has an innate “translatability,” and therefore impels believers to shape their own cultures. The Bible’s very plasticity invites engagement with each new culture rather than retreat.
The Rev. Mario Bergner, an Anglican priest and former college drama teacher, described his journey out of homosexuality and into a new life as the married father of five. Speaking of how online porn presents a new challenge to Christians, he confessed that he has a lock on his own computer that is monitored by his wife and others to whom he is accountable.
Other plenary speakers highlighted the importance of marriage and the need for churches to confront the divorce culture and the growing epidemic of cohabitation.
Michael and Harriet McManus, founders of Marriage Savers, urged churches to help couples prepare for marriage. Churches in more than 200 cities have committed themselves to a common marriage preparation program.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, Bishop of South Carolina, preached at the closing Eucharist on how God removes layer upon layer of sin from Christians’ lives in order to set them free.
Next year’s conference will be in honor of the Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, retired Bishop of South Carolina and a member of Mere Anglicanism’s steering committee.
(The Rev.) Peter C. Moore