11 November 2007

Oversight is Important

I generally try to keep away from commenting on the issue of whether or not homosexual acts are in and of themselves sinful. Mainly because, as I've said before, I don't think that this is a gospel issue that should split the church.

However, I'm getting more and more concerned about the theology of Anglicans who are putting themselves under the oversight of bishops who support the imprisonment of gay people. I don't think that this is a pendantic point in the slightest. How can any Christian support this kind of theology let alone put themself under the oversight of someone who supports it?

Conservative Anglicanism is shooting itself in the foot theologically by - ahem - getting in bed with these bishops; it's indefensible for a Christian to advocate such action. The people in Jesus' time thought that lepers and prostitutes were a dangerous threat to society and Jesus touched them and ate with them. Christians simply cannot hide behind purity laws to justify such beliefs.

12 comments:

Bob MacDonald said...

Pam

I have linked to your post here

I appreciate your insight into this issue as noted on Peter's blog.

mike aubrey said...

I think there's a middle ground between imprisoning homosexuals and embracing such activity as permissible.

PamBG said...

Bob, thanks for the link.

Mike, I agree with you that there is a middle ground. But the middle ground are not, to my knowledge, pointing out that the schismatics are putting themselves under the oversight of those who promote imprisonment for gay people.

I hear the middle ground talking about the unAnglicanism of schism and the 'illegality' of schism in Anglican terms. I don't hear them, however, pointing out that there are bishops and Anglican churches advocating the imprisonment of gay people - in conditions where the risks of being in prison are higher even than in the West.

If the middle ground have been pointing this out, then forgive me for my ignorance and may I join them in their protest. If they aren't pointing it out, why not? For me, personally, that crosses the boundary between legitimate difference of opinion and persecution.

Peter Kirk said...

Pam, for a start let's see some evidence, at least a link to a reliable story, that any particular bishops "support the imprisonment of gay people".

I am also concerned about the theology of Anglicans who are remaining under the oversight of bishops who support the expulsion of faithful ministers of the gospel from their jobs, homes, pensions etc for being faithful to biblical teaching on homosexuality as traditionally understood. In my opinion "it's indefensible for a Christian to advocate such action".

Then consider how many Anglicans are actually "putting themselves under the oversight of bishops" in this first group. I think you have in mind a particular set of African bishops. Yes, perhaps some Anglicans consider this to be a lesser evil than being under the oversight of the second group of bishops. But, it seems, the majority of the those who are wishing for a change of oversight are looking carefully at various alternatives, and many are more likely to choose the British-born Presiding Bishop Venables of the Southern Cone (of South America). I don't know Bishop Venables' views on imprisonment of homosexuals, but I would be surprised if it is what you described.

PamBG said...

I think you have in mind a particular set of African bishops.

Sorry, I'm confused here.

You agree with me that the Anglican church in Nigeria supports the imprisonment of gay people, but you want me to prove it? Will the church’s own website suffice? Twice?

Here is a A pdf file of the Nigerian ‘Same Sex Marriage Act’ which the Nigerian Church supports. Note the 5 year prison sentence at the bottom of document. As I've 'witnessed, aided, and abetted' a same sex marriage of a Nigerian citizen, I presume that I'm liable to a 5-year prison sentence in Nigeria, should I ever wish to visit that country.

I'm not sure what you're saying.

I'm saying that the Nigerian Church is supporting the imprisonment of gay people in Nigeria. I'm saying that American Anglicans are putting themself under the oversight of the Nigeria Anglican Church. I'm saying that this steps across a line in my opinion and I don't understand how any Christian could ever defend this as the lesser of two evils.

Peter Kirk said...

Pam, thanks for the links. I never said that I agreed with you, except perhaps for the purpose of argument. On the basis of the evidence you give, I accept that a committee of the Church of Nigeria chaired by Archbishop Akinola has expressed its support for a certain government bill. This bill does not make homosexual activity illegal, although it does outlaw same-sex marriage, gay clubs, and public display of homosexuality, and makes these punishable by imprisonment. I would not personally support this bill, but I would not agree that it is "indefensible for a Christian" to support it. I would also say that it is the lesser of two evils to put oneself under Akinola rather than Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. For the one who has stepped across a line is Jefferts Schori, for example by personally supervising persecution of faithful Christian ministers.

PamBG said...

Peter, you are entitled to your opinion. I have to say that I'm astounded. If other moderate Christians share your moral views, then I'm prepared to be a full-fledged, campaigning liberal on this. I think your view that this is the lesser of two evils is totally unspportable theologically.

Peter Kirk said...

Pam, let me first ask, do you condone the way that Jefferts Schori is persecuting faithful Christian churches and ministers, by dragging them through secular courts of law in specific defiance of the Apostle Paul's teaching as well as of the requirements of her fellow Primates?

PamBG said...

Peter, I'm not familiar with the details of what you are talking about so I think I'd need to know the details first.

What I'm aware of is congregations wanting to leave the denomination with all the congregational assets, including church buildings. That, to me, seems a complicated judicial situation.

I still think we're comparing apples and oranges here.

As I'm sure you've probably heard, a minister here in town in which I live[*] in took half his congregation with him into a congregational free church over the gay issue. It's caused a lot of hurt but they are now free to do as they like; I don't know whether the congregation supports him finanically or whether he has a job. But was he 'persecuted' by not being allowed to take the building and the stipend with him? I'd say not.

In terms of 'liberals should behave like Christians'; I'd say both sides need to behave like Christians and that patently neither side has been doing that for a long, long time.

[*] I'm not trying to debate this particular event and therefore don't want it to be a hit on a search engine.

Peter Kirk said...

Well, Pam, the question in these lawsuits is, as reported here, does The Episcopal Church have "every right to retain properties they neither built, owned or possessed", or do they belong to the congregations who built and occupied them? I accept that this is a difficult legal issue. But the denomination has made no attempt to negotiate an agreed settlement and has (on Jefferts Schori's personal instructions) rejected offers by the congregations to buy the properties, instead they have gone to secular law courts. See also this article.

Meanwhile another question for you. I don't know if you consider polygamy to immoral or not. But it is currently illegal in the UK. Suppose that, as part of a general review of marriage law, a new proposed law in the UK reaffirmed the ban on bigamy and that bigamists or polygamists could be sent to jail, as is currently true. I don't ask if you would support this law. I only ask what your reaction would be if the leading Methodists in the UK were to support this law. Would you consider that "it's indefensible for a Christian to advocate such action"? But what is the difference in principle between banning bigamy and banning same sex marriage, with possible jail terms in both cases?

PamBG said...

But what is the difference in principle between banning bigamy and banning same sex marriage, with possible jail terms in both cases?

Strange question. It seems to me that imprisoning bigamists - and adulterers whilst we're at it - is a position you'd need to advocate. Don't forget that it needs to be in a context where there is a high risk of bigamists and adulterers being maimed or killed.

But the denomination has made no attempt to negotiate an agreed settlement and has (on Jefferts Schori's personal instructions) rejected offers by the congregations to buy the properties, instead they have gone to secular law courts.

If that's indeed true, then it's wrong. Is it worse than imprisoning gay people in a context where there is a high liklihood that they will be maimed or killed? No.

It's possible, you know, to say that two opponents can both be wrong.

It would even be possible to advocate an anti-gay position whilst denouncing the imprisoning of gay people. But people would probably think that one was soft on homosexuality.

Maybe the liberals were right when they told me that conservatives didn't really 'love the sinner' as they claimed. Maybe once again I've been naive and it's actually wrong to see conservatives as people who care about human beings. :-(

PamBG said...

Sorry for the somewhat petulant post last night.

As I see it, there are three options:

1) Stay in the Anglican communion; clearly not an option for those who feel strongly that they cannot be associated with those who disagree with them.

2) Put oneself under the oversight of a bishop, denomination or association who is still willing to defend the moral and civil rights of gay people even whilst saying homosexual acts are a sin.

3) Put oneself under the oversight of a bishop, denomination or association who advocates the imprisonment of gay people.

I do not understand the argument that 2 is clearly not an option and that 3 is the best of the options. Under category 2, we can discuss the rights and wrongs of not allowing a congregation to take their assets with them.

As our conversation stands now, you seem to be saying that depriving a minister of his stipend and a congregation of their assets is morally more despicable than depriving a gay person of their right to free association, speech, liberty and possibly their life.

Or to put it personally (because it always involves real people) your argument implies that my friend deserves to be imprisoned in Nigeria for daring to enter a civil partnership and that her liberty and freedom is worth less than the stipend of an ECUSA minister's stipend and the congregations assets. And the reason that her life is worth less than someone else's stipend and assests is solely because she is a lebsbian.