Friday, January 9, 2009

victory for some conservative Episcopalians

From World...

11 congregations which split from the Episcopal Church and formed the "Anglican District of VA" (ADV) will be allowed to keep their property as they realign under the "Convocation of Anglicans in North America"-- part of, ironically, the Church of Nigeria.

A Virginia judge ruled Dec. 19 that the churches were covered by a state statute dating back to the Civil War that allows the majority of a congregation's members to leave without giving up church property. The Diocese of Virginia claims the statute is unconstitutional and has vowed to appeal...

Unconstitutional? And is it worth it to keep going even if you think you're right?

Not sure what I think about this, but it's interesting on a number of levels: what means are ethical and practical toward the chosen ends; free trade and direct investment (working with Nigeria!); the theological differences inherent in this conflict; the biblical call/principle to keep such things out of the courts (at the least, as possible); and so on.


At January 9, 2009 at 9:31 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

In other jurisdictions, such as in California, Episcopal dioceses have been able to keep their church buildings.

It should be mentioned that the Church in Nigeria is headed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, who is known for having extremely harsh views on homosexuality. Not only does he support the current state of criminalization of homosexual relations in Nigeria, he supported a proposed law that would criminalize social gatherings of gay people—even two gay people meeting for lunch at a restaurant. The proposed law would also have criminalized speech defending homosexuality, with a punishment of 5 years in prison.

At January 9, 2009 at 10:28 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Ouch! Even seeing homosexual conduct as sin, that approach to government cannot be justified Biblically. (I've written about this in my book on Christianity and public policy.)

At January 9, 2009 at 11:10 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

William Lang is incorrect regarding the Anglican primate of Nigeria. The Archbishop of Nigeria is in good standing in the Anglican Communion and supports a biblical view of moral behavior. As we all know, the law Mr. Lang refers to got shelved. Ever wondered how that happened?

In fact, the Anglican District of Virginia is joining - along with 100,000 other Episcopal/Anglicans the new Anglican province, which will be before the Anglican Primates meeting next month. Prayers are appreciated.


At January 9, 2009 at 1:44 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

BabyBlue, I stand by my comments concerning the Archbishop of Nigeria. (All I asserted is that Akinola supported the law under discussion; I did not say the law was enacted. Nor did I assert he is not in good standing with the Anglican Communion. For my specific assertions, please see the NY Times article by Lydia Polgreen and Laurie Goodstein of December 25, 2006, At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian.)

You should be aware that in the Anglican Communion, teaching authority is not based only on the Bible ("sola scriptura," the common Protestant/Evangelical teaching), but instead on the Bible, tradition and reason. The major, relevant scientific and medical professional organizations no longer recognize homosexuality as a character disorder or a mental illness; they regard homosexuality as a normal, natural human sexual variation. Consequently, based on the clear Biblical principle of love and compassion, many Anglicans/Episcopalians, including myself, believe that persons in loving, committed same-sex relationships should be accepted in the Church. This requires disregarding about six verses in the entire Bible, but again, the clear principle of love and compassion override those several verses that reflect a long-obsolete view of sexuality. In this way, reason along with tradition and the scriptures serves as our guide.

There is a precedent for this. It is typical of Evangelical churches, as well as mainline Protestant churches (including of course the Episcopal Church), to perform marriages for divorced persons. The justification for this is of course love and compassion. But this was a fairly recent innovation in Christian practice; in the early 20th century, this was not generally approved. (The Roman Catholics still bar remarriage for divorced persons.) Not to put too fine a point on this: Jesus himself directly and specifically barred remarriage after divorce (except in cases of unfaithfulness). But Protestants, including Evangelicals, now typically allow remarriage for divorced persons. If we can accomodate marriage for divorced persons, why cannot we accomodate marriage for gays or lesbians?

At January 9, 2009 at 3:21 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

BabyBlue may want to respond on his own. In the meanwhile, a few thoughts from me...

"Sola Scriptura" is an oft-used and tired phrase. In fact, everyone uses the Bible, tradition and "reason" to draw inferences. (Or to quote Kyle from a sermon awhile back, for Evangelicals, Scripture could be seen as "the ultimate authority", not "the only authority".)

The differences between people cannot be reduced easily/well to such a formula. What one might be able to say-- which is both more complex and more accurate-- is that we use different mixes of those criteria.

In this context, some people are willing to finesse the many passages on homosexual identity and conduct-- using "reason" and tradition. Some are not.

For whatever it's worth, "principles of love and compassion" don't take one very far. Such can be used to justify all sorts of things.

Your comment on divorce and remarriage is interesting. That's a topic that would require a much longer discussion with not-altogether clear (or concise) conclusions.

In any case, I clearly agree with you on one thing: many churches and believers have bent quite a bit on that-- in a way that makes it more difficult (perhaps prohibitively so) to reject "Christian homosexual relationships".

That said, even if the church allows re-marriage for divorcees, it does not follow that it ought to do the same for same-sex couples.

Finally, relying on "reason", we might come to support same-sex unions (especially through the State), but not "same-sex marriage".

At January 10, 2009 at 9:30 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

>the many passages on homosexual identity and conduct

There are actually only about six verses in the Bible that appear to address homosexual identity or conduct: Genesis 19:1-14, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, Corinthians 1:6-9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. This of course doesn't count various passages that refer to marriage between man and woman, etc. But only these verses appear to directly refer to same-sex sexual behavior.

Now some of these verses can be finessed (e.g., Genesis 19:1-14, the story of Sodom, is more about rape than about homosexuality). But not all of these verses, and I would be the first to acknowledge that if homosexual relationships are to be accepted as normative by Christians, it can only be by disregarding certain portions of the scriptures. As you know, I'm not a believer in what Southeast Christian Church refers to as "plenary verbal inspiration," and I put more weight on "reason" (modern science), so this is not so troubling to me.


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