Skip to comments.” . . . but by the grace of God, they . . .” [on the APLM Statement]
Posted on 05/06/2005 10:25:48 AM PDT by sionnsar
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far awaywell, when I was attending college on the upper West Side of ManhattanI took a course in the English department across Broadway at Barnard College. It was one of my more memorable college classes, and I stayed in touch with the professor, who wrote a recommendation for me to graduate school and with whom I shared certain interests. She told me once of an uncle who, although not particularly religious, had visited Mount Athos in Greece. I dont recall if she told me when he did this, but it must have been some time before I was born.
Mount Athos, or the Holy Mountain, for those who dont know, is a mountainous peninsula on the Aegean coast of Greece and for over a thousand years the heart of Eastern Orthodox monasticism (it is also, by the way, the worlds oldest continuously functioning democracy). It has over twenty monasteries, as well as many sketes and kellia (very small communities) and cave dwelling hermits.
Some of its many monastic treasures were exhibited in 1997. However, apart from such exhibitions, the only way to see the icons, manuscripts, carvings, et cetera, is to go there, and men do. Women, however, are not allowed to set foot on Mount Athos. Period. This has been the rule from time immemorial (although women refugees were sheltered during the Greek civil war), and is still in force. Moreover, the prohibition extends to female animals. No cows, et cetera, lest, I suppose, the monks get a whiff of the wrong sort of pheromone.
Anyway, my professors uncle visited the Holy Mountain and stayed at one of the monasteries. One day, however, he noticed what he thought were chickens. When he was served what he was sure were eggs, he decided to query one of the monks. Are those, um, er, chickens? he asked.
There was a pause, then the monk replied. They are roosters, he said, but, by the grace of God, they lay eggs.
The monk, of course, was pulling his leg. The prohibition on female animals is, in fact, not absolute. Female cats are allowed on Mount Athos, and chickens are there to provide the yolk for painting icons and to feed guests.
I was put in mind of this story when I read A Statement of The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission addressing The Scandal of Impaired Fellowship in the Anglican Communion. The statement was released in April, and you can find links to the text and press release (in pdf) here, as well as the text alone (in html) here. On May 4, The Living Church published an article online which stated in part
We believe we would have no difficulty backing up what we say with scripture, the Rev. Donald Schell told The Living Church. Fr. Schell, who is APLM president and rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco, said the council sought to address the request for a theological justification that was made in the communiqué from primates meeting in Newry, Ireland last February [TLC, March 20].
In their eleven page theological justification, the authors state (emphases mine)
It is our conviction that lesbian and gay Christians manifest the same gifts of grace as heterosexual Christians in their covenant relationships of faithful love, reflecting the same divine blessing. (Our marriage rites are clear that child-bearing, although it is also a divine blessing, is not the foremost blessing which we celebrate in marriage.) We have come to this conviction not because we have abandoned our convictions regarding the sanctity of marriage but because we recognize that same sanctity in faithful same-sex relationships, when two people are united in love as Christ is united with his church. We have learned to rejoice in the richness and diversity of creation, and not to call unclean what God has created clean.
There are several symbols of union between Christ and the church used in Scripturethe vine (John 15), the olive tree (Rom 11), the body (i.e., the single organism) (1 Cor 12:12), and the physical union of husband and wife:
He who loves is wife loves himself. Fr no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we ar members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and moth and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I mean it in reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32)
It is presumably this physical unionto which the authors of the Statement refer when they state over and over that they witness that same sanctity in faithful same-sex relationships,when two people are united in love as Christ is united with his church.
Ordinarily, of course, it would be impossible for gay unions to be truly the same as heterosexual marriage. However, as we know, all things are possible for God. Thus presumably, or at least as near as I can tell, what the authors of Statement appear to be saying is that, if you ask with just whom, say, Louie Crew or Gene Robinson are trying to achieve a sacramental union, their answer would be,
They are men, but by the grace of God they . . .
Well, you fill in the blanks. The problem, of course, is that theyre not kidding.
All of their remaining argumentsthe givenness of homosexuality; the hermeneutics of sexual relationships; slavery; and (would you believe it) Donatism (again! Aaaarrrgh!); et ceterasimply illustrate a point I have tried to make before, that we are just talking past each other. Quoth The Living Church,
The Church desperately needs to have a respectful conversation, according to Fr. Schell. I dont think we are currently having a sane discussion, he said, but he is hopeful that under the right circumstances, the APLM statement might prove to be a starting point.
Starting point? Starting point?! Where has this guy been? Mars? Every single one of the various points raised in the Statement has been raised, discussed ad nauseam, and been demonstrated to be utterly bogus. Nevertheless, when the Statement was posted on titusonenine, it prompted a thread of comments that reached over two hundred. Rather than add to that, I will try, in the next post or two, to comment one more time on a few of the items in the Statement. After that, however, I quit, unless and until I see something genuinely new, which this Statement most definitely is not.
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