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Gays and the Future of Anglicanism [book review]
Anglican Mainstream ^ | 10/26/2005 | Chris Sugden

Posted on 10/26/2005 5:43:49 PM PDT by sionnsar

Edited by Andrew Linzey and Richard Kirker

O Books, 2005, 338 plus xxxvii pages. £17.99

Review by Chris Sugden

The presentation

The presentation of the material is illuminating. On opening its covers we are presented first with nine full pages of the academic and publishing curriculum vitae of its writers, a collection of highly placed academics mainly in British and American elite universities. We see that few have experience of actually growing, building or leading churches and communities of Christian disciples; none live outside Europe and North America; and only one appears to have lived for any length of time outside those cultures, who unfortunately spells ex-patriot thus rather than expatriate.(p.266). This point matters because one of the main thrusts of the book is an attempt to delegitimise the Lambeth Conference, the Lambeth Commission and the Primates Meeting by contextual argument. Thus it is argued that the primates of the Anglican communion, the members of the Lambeth Commission and the church as a whole “needs to find a way to put the reality of Anglicanism in different parts of the world back into the debate, to engage with real people and real situations rather than abstract ecclesial notions.” (p 272). Further, it is claimed that scriptures which present the traditional teaching emerge from “a historical context that was prone to allow dominant human beings to exploit and humiliate and subordinate people in a society that was generally violent, patriarchal and exploitative of slaves.” ( p 309). So context is all-encompassing and inescapable. We are, apparently, all prisoners of our postcodes. No access to truth or consistency about God is possible. Indeed the reasons for impaired communion are attributed to “the possibility [that] exists that a loathing of lesbigay people and their sex lives is the real source of impaired communion” ( p 277). All truth, moral judgement and decision-making is reduced to “boo”.

Some of these authors write with clarity and force. Others hope to show that “scripture’s intertextual allusions, multivocality, and self-conscious reflections on its own dynamic reinterpretation in new contexts may provide a useful and responsive hermeneutical model for contemporary readers engaged in ecclesial debates.” ( p 31). If they mean that different parts of the bible help us understand other parts especially in current church discussions, then why not say so?

The fundamental arguments

The fundamental argument is about an ideology - that there is such a thing as Anglicanism, which is characterised by Martin Stringer as “the particular gift that Anglicanism offers to the wider church, the ability to encompass diversity of theological opinion while maintaining unity of institution.” (p 271). So the focus is on the institution defined in terms of its ideology.

The crisis we face is this – either the institution remains united and incorporates into itself divergent views on the nature of the Bible and in particular on its teaching on same-sex relationships, or the institution will divide. In the Bible there is a close connection between believing, belonging and behaving. The important emphasis on unity can be disrupted by false teaching or by various kinds of sexual or other sins (see 1 Cor 6 9-11). Fellowship is disrupted by false teaching and immorality of all kinds without repentance.

The judgement of the writers is that there is an –ism, an ideology called Anglicanism which, as they define it, has a greater claim on the loyalty of Anglican Christians than the teachings that have been received and passed on by the universal church in the last 2000 years. This is because the basis of those teachings, the Bible, has been shown not to teach what has been supposed about homosexuality. For example, the centurion’s servant was probably his boy prostitute, Martha and Mary, David and Jonathan, and Jesus and the beloved disciple could well have been lovers ( p 49-59) and Jesus never said a word against homosexuality (p.301). (See to discuss this Bishop Peter Lee (South Africa) on So while the writers claim that the Bible is to be taken seriously in affirming homosexual relationships, they also argue that the Bible has no real legitimacy for deriving current Anglican teaching since it emerges from very different and questionable historical contexts and in places contradicts its own requirements ( p 39-47 and see above). They cannot have it both ways.

A whole group are of course excluded from this volume, and would be excluded from the Anglicanism the authors would like to see, namely those who describe themselves as people who hold to the church’s historic view on sexuality despite present or former struggles with same-sex attraction. (see for example Why, if the emphasis is on listening, and dialogue, and patience, and experience, is it prohibited to listen and dialogue and hear their experience? This question has not been satisfactorily addressed. Further, there have been many responses to the Windsor Report, some by the very conservative Christians that the authors find fault with, but these appear not to have been read or listened to. (see for example

The Anglicanism they would like

So what is the Anglicanism that the authors want? Clearly one that they personally are comfortable with, one that sits well in the world of books and institutions of higher education, one that does not regard the faith and experience and teaching of churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America as being part of the authentic Anglican heritage. The heart of their problem is this: “The liberal, middle of the road Anglican, would never have seen the point of mission, and therefore left the conversion of the empire to the more conservative extremes [of anglo-catholic and evangelical missionaries]. …The mission and colonial heritage of Anglicanism has left conservative churches, and conservative Christians, scattered throughout the empire, and these churches are now coming back to challenge its liberal heart” ( p 263).

Here is the nub of the argument: the claim that the real Anglican and Anglicanism is a liberal Anglican of the late nineteenth and twentieth century, and that the authors of this book are the bearers of this liberal Anglicanism which they now define as inclusive of divergent and even contradictory views on scripture and sexuality. What was disseminated throughout the world in the nineteenth century was a distortion of this Anglicanism which must not be allowed now to redefine its liberal heart. For it is a “greater priority for the leadership of the Church of England to be attending to the dynamics of the Christian life and mission in England than to be attempting to co-ordinate that life and mission with the practice of churches operating in very different social and cultural situations. In this regard, the experience of the other churches of Britain and of north-west Europe generally, catholic and protestant, is likely to be the most fertile ground for finding a larger and better understanding of divisive issues.” (p.146).

A rewriting of history.

This collection presents us with a re-writing of history. What nineteenth century missionaries from England, and other countries, actually disseminated was not Anglicanism, but Christian faith in the Reformed Catholic tradition. The origin of this mission from England from the 1830s was a concern from those who led the abolition of the slave trade to repay the debt to Africa for centuries of the exploitation of slavery. The missionaries preached not Anglicanism as a system of Church governance, but the historic Christian faith. The churches that resulted from their work believed that the faith which they had received could be shaped within their culture and could be shared globally, because it was the truth of God for all people. Henry Venn of the CMS was concerned not to plant little Churches of England, but to bring people to faith and when there was a community of believers the Church of England should determine “how to enter into spiritual relations with them.”

The Reformation of the Catholic Faith in England was precisely that it be expressed and taught in the English language, and not ruled by Italians. Thus at the heart of Christian faith in the Anglican Catholic tradition was that it be English, or Nigerian, or Ugandan, or Indian. This has led to robust national churches. These are shaped by their own national ethos but they all uphold the received Catholic faith as believed throughout history and by the vast majority of Christians. They are also reshaping that tradition. For example the United Churches of India and Pakistan are not Church of England Churches in those countries but full, authentic members of the Anglican Communion.

To argue therefore that these developments are “extreme” and are challenging the liberal heart of Anglicanism is to claim that one particular expression of Church of England Christianity which developed in the aftermath of the horrors of the First World War in reaction to evolutionary optimism and imperialist triumphalism is in fact the heir, guardian, and arbiter of what Christianity in the Anglican tradition has to be.

To argue that the Anglicanism which the authors prefer- liberal, and rooted in North-West European Anglo-Saxon culture - is inclusive and liberal while excluding by definition as extreme the developments of Christian faith in the Anglican tradition among 45 million Anglicans in Africa, Asia and Latin America seems to strain the language of liberalism itself.

Indeed such an argument appears to be the language of a group which is out of touch with the reality of the churches of the Anglican Communion but lives on the memory of a falsely imagined or even reinvented past. The group appears to feel its place is threatened because it defines out all who disagree with them. The group survives because it is protected by an ecclesiastical establishment which regards the group and its concerns as a good cause - and thinks that by supporting it the establishment will gain credibility in the eyes of the masters of surrounding culture.

On my reading of scripture, Paul rebuked Peter for supposing that it was possible for Jews to have table fellowship apart from the newly converted, semi-pagan Gentile Christians. (Galatians 2 11-14) On the view of Anglicanism that is preferred in these covers, Christianity would have never left Jerusalem. What we are confronted with in this collection of essays is Judaizing Anglicanism.


TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: bookreview; ecusa; homosexualagenda; homosexualbishop

1 posted on 10/26/2005 5:43:51 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 10/26/2005 5:44:22 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar

Gays ARE the future of Anglicanism. My hope is that all the good Anglicans can reconcile themselves back to the Catholic Church, maybe into Anglican Use parishes, and let the rest of the sect rot away.

3 posted on 10/27/2005 5:33:30 AM PDT by Conservative til I die
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To: sionnsar
and Jesus never said a word against homosexuality


Jesus warns of a fate worse than Sodom and Gomorrah if one refuses to receive His word. He says that dozens of times in the Gospels.

4 posted on 10/27/2005 7:02:16 AM PDT by Clint N. Suhks (If you don't like Jesus, you can go to hell.)
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To: Conservative til I die
"My hope is that all the good Anglicans can reconcile themselves back to the Catholic Church,"

My advise to Anglicans is to not put their children anywhere near a Catholic priest!

5 posted on 10/27/2005 8:23:56 AM PDT by Clint Williams
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