Thursday, February 20, 2014

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or, “Complete Waste Of Time Watch.”  The Episcopalianization of the Church of England continues.  Someone named Jemima Thackray, a Church of England chaplain for some reason, thinks that the Creator of the universe is a sexist douche:

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that so many people with modern liberal values are rejecting the church, unable to square their own sense of what’s right and wrong on issues like gender and sexuality with teachings taken from a book written over a thousand years ago. The irony is that the church is increasingly being seen, no longer as a repository for ethical guidance, but as a force for immorality in society.

Stop taking this crap literally.

This is inevitable when there are still so many Christians who read the Bible like a car manual or a science textbook, rather than the collection of historical writing, poetry (and, dare I say it, fiction) that it is. There are many intelligent people of faith who would never dream of reading a poem or even a newspaper, thinking that what they’re reading is 100% empirically true then and forevermore; yet when it comes to the Bible they throw all their God-given interpretative faculties out the window, because they believe that scripture is divinely inspired in such a literal way that it’s as if the ‘truths’ of the Bible have been dropped out of heaven, completely intact and written out word-for-word.

Don’t get Jemmy wrong.  She really thinks that the “divine spirit” inspired all this.  Really.

I too believe that the divine spirit guided the writers of the Bible, so that indeed it has special weight and resonance for humanity, but not so that this wipes out the influence of each of the individual writers’ contexts, personal circumstances and struggles. What we read in the Bible is the story of profoundly human writers who are all on a journey, often a tortuous one, towards a greater understanding of the entity we call God – a journey that we can learn from and is probably all the more useful for being unfinished.

It’s just that God didn’t know what we know now.

Part of this learning is being prepared to acknowledge that parts of the Bible are hugely misogynistic, not because the men who wrote the words were particularly bad guys, but because they were writing in contexts such as first century Judea in which women were not simply discriminated against, but downright brutalised. Seen in this light, the passage above (written by the Apostle Paul) that contains the phrase ‘women should learn’ becomes actually quite revolutionary given that the instruction was issued within a society which didn’t educate women.

Whatever, Jems.  Moving on, the Church of England’s House of Bishops just issued a “pastoral teaching” on homosexual marriage and it’s about as useless as you’d expect.  It opens with a feigned respect for Anglican teaching.
  • The Church of England’s long standing teaching and rule are set out in Canon B30: ‘The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.”
  • The Book of Common Prayer introduces the Solemnisation of Matrimony by saying, ‘Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee…’
  • The Common Worship marriage service, consistently with the Book of Common Prayer, says, ‘The Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means to grace, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh…’ The House of Bishops teaching document of 1999 noted that: “Marriage is a pattern that God has given in creation, deeply rooted in our social instincts, through which a man and a woman may learn love together over the course of their lives.
  • The Lambeth Conference of 1998  said ‘in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage’ (resolution1.10) This remains the declared position of the Anglican Communion.
With the usual caveats.

The same resolution went on to acknowledge ‘that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’ It went on to ‘condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.’

Believe it or else, it actually quotes a Primates’ Communique.  Dromantine 2005:

We …. wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”

For the record, Dromantine also said this.

We then proceeded to our own reflections on these responses. There are a number of things which are quite clear. Many primates have been deeply alarmed that the standard of Christian teaching on matters of human sexuality expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10, which should command respect as the position overwhelmingly adopted by the bishops of the Anglican Communion, has been seriously undermined by the recent developments in North America.

Back to the C of E bishops.  It’s not like any of this means jack anyway.

20.   The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who registered civil partnerships. The House did not wish, however,  to interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances.   The College made clear on 27 January that, just as the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice also remains unchanged.
21.  The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it. Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.

Church of England?  Before you die your well-deserved death, could you do me a favor?  Take an actual stand about something.  Piss somebody off.  This splitting-the-difference crap is getting really old.

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