Friday, August 10, 2007

Not our Problem (Theuner)

by the Right Rev. Douglas Theuner

Perhaps many of you have already seen the recent essay from the Archbishop of Uganda, entitled "What is Anglicanism?" [Click here to read it.] It is important reading for those seeking to understand the behavior of certain primates of "the Global South" in the current controversies facing the Anglican Communion. In a succinct, rational, and well-presented manner, the Archbishop sets forth his position on the nature of Anglicanism. Like any good logician, Archbishop Orombi states the central piece of his rationale at the very beginning. Following a paragraph of introduction to the topic; he declares: "The long season of British hegemony is over."

This is clear evidence from the mouth of a protagonist of an issue about which I have written earlier: the current controversy in Anglicanism is not about homosexuality, but about the demise of the British Empire and its Commonwealth shadow. This is an issue with which American Episcopalians may well have some empathy, but we left it behind more than two centuries ago. Unlike so many things in today's global reality, this is just not our problem!

The issue of homosexual behavior is no more the reason for the impending breakup of the Anglican Communion than the matter of Jesus' criticism of the religious and imperial leadership of his day is the reason for his sacrificial atonement. That may have been the precipitating occasion, but it was neither the reason nor the cause.

The refusal of the blessed martyrs of Uganda to submit to the coercion of the King of Buganda (discussed by Archbishop Orombi in his essay) had only incidentally to do with the homoerotic nature of his intentions. Had the king been otherwise inclined, the martyrs could have been women of conscience, rather than men. Of course, given the times, to treat women in such a horrific manner might have been considered acceptable by the dominant culture (cf. the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah). Although the source of much anguish, the observation or ignorance of Jewish dietary laws was hardly the determining factor differentiating Rabbinical Judaism and Early Christianity; something much more consequential, in the long run, than the "Anglican Communion."

Archbishop Orombi reminds us of the impact in Africa of English evangelicalism. That is a movement of which most American Episcopalians are scarcely aware, its rise and influence in this country having been largely within Methodism. The Archbishop seeks to draw a comparison between the history of American Episcopalians and today's "Global South Primates." After the Revolutionary War, Americans in the newly-founded Episcopal Church were summarily ejected for a time from communion with the Church of England. But this was for entirely political reasons, over which church people had little control – a majority of those loyal to Canterbury having been Royal Loyalists. Archbishop Orombi seeks to compare that historical event with the present-day primates of "the Global South," who seek to distance themselves voluntarily from the Anglican Communion. Equating the two historical moments is absurd!

Like some of his compatriots in the "Global South," Archbishop Orombi has threatened to boycott the Lambeth Conference because someone else has been invited. What could be more dismissive of the Anglican Communion than a refusal to accept the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation to the Lambeth Conference on such shallow grounds? (At least Archbishop Akinola can plead that he's staying home because one of "his" bishops has not been invited.) Oy veh!.... Welcome to the sandbox!

I guess Archbishop Orombi has it right: "The long season of British hegemony is over." That's for him and Canterbury to fight out... It's not our problem.


About the Author: Douglas Theuner is retired bishop of New Hampshire. He has previously written for The Episcopal Majority in this essay.

28 Comments:

Blogger John Bassett said...

Yes, and it's also part of the ongoing conflict in the Church of England between liberal Catholics, who used to dominate the senior positions in the Church, and conservative Evangelicals, who believe that they should set policy now. The Evangelicals have made common cause with some of the African leadership to force people like Rowan Williams to either leave or to tow the line. This is also not our fight, but we American Episcopalians seem to be caught in the middle of it.

8/11/2007 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Johnson said...

I've got news for you, Doug. When you shoved Robbie down the throats of the rest of the Anglican Communion, it became your fight.

8/11/2007 1:47 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Dear Christopher Johnson,
Let's be clear about our history. Gene Robinson had been nominated for bishop in at least two dioceses before being elected by his own diocese of New Hampshire. The clergy and people of NH elected Gene because they knew him, knew his work, knew his leadership and trusted the presence of Jesus Christ they knew in him.
Bishop Theuner did not cast his vote in that election, nor did he advocate for Gene Robinson. He did join a significant majority of bishops in the House of Bishops who voted to confirm +VGR's election.
Gene Robinson's service to his diocese and to the national church and to several overseas dioceses was well known at the time. It was obvious to large numbers of Anglicans here and abroad that God had blessed Gene's ministry. That others don't is understandable, but that does not make them right.
Tom Woodward

8/11/2007 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not shallow grounds to refuse to accept those who teaching is heretical. In today’s world of photo ops, just being at the same meeting is made into approval.

The matter of homosexual acts has already been settled by the Bishops at the last conference. To have to sit as equals with those who do not take Holy Scripture seriously a good reason not to come.

The idea that this is about the end of the empire is most absurd.

8/11/2007 11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am thinking you had the power to have adverted the current meltdown. You could have saved the Anglican Communion much grief, pain, and expense. You could have done your duty and removed V Robinson from ministry for being an open and active sodomite, but you did not. All I can say is shame on you for not doing what was required of you as a Bishop.

Scott+

8/12/2007 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like some of his compatriots in the "Global South," Archbishop Orombi has threatened to boycott the Lambeth Conference because someone else has been invited. What could be more dismissive of the Anglican Communion than a refusal to accept the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation to the Lambeth Conference on such shallow grounds?

Bishop Theuner,

There are good reasons not to come if those who do not support Christian teaching are invited. One practical reason is that it will mean much of the time spent will related to discussion of topics which have been settled. Homosexual acts are sin and active homosexuals should not be clergy. That is a settled issue. But Doctor Schori has made it clear that she and others will be pushing for the inclusion of active sodomites in all aspects of church life.

Scott+

8/12/2007 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is clear evidence from the mouth of a protagonist of an issue about which I have written earlier: the current controversy in Anglicanism is not about homosexuality, but about the demise of the British Empire and its Commonwealth shadow.


Bishop Theuner,

I understand the logic that you have presented, but you cannot be more off the mark. I see from your writing, actions that you do not think that homosexual acts are sin. The current controversy in Anglicanism is not about homosexuality, it is about sin and those who choose to promote sin as holy. Make no mistake. Most Christians see you and others as promoting homosexual acts as holy.

It is true that the problems that resulted in the formation of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States were most political and secular political at that. But to equate the Global South’s rejection of sodomy as holy is nowhere near the same. The problems today are core to what it means to be Christian, that could not be said about events in the late 1700s.

You are throwing mud at those who want to stop your attempts to change the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church and Holy Scripture. You demean yourself and your cause in doing so. Your piece is a clear attempt to rewrite history to meet your own goals. Joseph Goebbels would be proud of you in this one, I would think.

Scott+


Joseph Goebbels: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

8/12/2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger David said...

Oh now that's just rich, Scott-plus. An over-the-top, anti-"sodomite" conservative ranting about the famous Goebbels quote... (to say nothing of Godwin's Law ;)

Sorry, but the AAC/ACN/Stand Firm/T1:9/"Vocal" South groups are the absolute masters of Goebbels' "tell a big lie, often enough" strategy.

Please be so kind as to peddle your (rather smelly) fish elsewhere.

8/13/2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger bls said...

Please be so kind as to peddle your (rather smelly) fish elsewhere.

Actually, I'm delighted to see Scott post his vitriol here.

It makes our case for us, far better than we could, that the anti-gay "orthodox" are indeed completely irrational about homosexuality. We're not having this discussion about divorce or about the lending of money at interest, after all, both considered serious sin by the church for 2,000 years. Matter of fact, as C.S. Lewis notes, the latter is the very basis of our economic system today. Never a peep from the so-called "orthodox" about that, though.

We're not having a discussion about the sin of consumerism, or about war. Interesting, really, that the only thing sexy enough to get everybody riled up is, well, sex.

8/13/2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger David said...

bls commented, "We're not having this discussion about divorce or about the lending of money at interest, after all, both considered serious sin by the church for 2,000 years."

Well, of course not :) Usury is sacred to the "God loves Capitalism" crowd who are convinced that their economic prosperity is a sure sign of God's special grace (a.k.a. the "Prosperity Gospel"). And if the formerly Episcopal, now "Anglican," mega-church I used to attend just north of Dallas is any indication - divorce is practically a sacrament of the church...

After all, it's only a horrible sin if it doesn't affect me and what I want, right ? ;)

8/13/2007 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue of sodomy is the issue only because it is sin which is being called holy. It is not that it is any worst than any other sin.

I stand by my statement about the big lie. The Pelagianism of Doctor Schori, the author, and others has lead to telling of lies men who take their responsibilities of being archbishop series. Of course they are in good company given the lies about Saint Paul.

Usury is sacred to the "God loves Capitalism" crowd who are convinced that their economic prosperity is a sure sign of God's special grace (a.k.a. the "Prosperity Gospel").

Come on folks, do you know a conservative Anglican who hold to the Prosperity Gospel? I sure do not. I have not done a study on this, but I would suggest that underpinning are hieratical. The implication of the comment is that capitalism is un-Christian and socialism is Christian. Socialism only works in a religious framework, it has been tried and found disastrous when applied in a secular context. As Christians we have responsibilities to the poor, this is not the same as holding a gun to the head of person with money and telling him he must aid the poor.


And if the formerly Episcopal, now "Anglican," mega-church I used to attend just north of Dallas is any indication - divorce is practically a sacrament of the church...


Get a life, has any one said that divorce is holy? The level of divorce is too high. This is a problem. It is a problem being less than fully addressed in part because of the Pelagianism of the Episcopal Church. It is not the conservatives who make divorce celebration part of Sunday service. Is this not what V Robinson did with his ex-wife?

If we were talking about a pastoral response to homosexual people, the comparisons between how divorced people and homosexual people are treated might be in order. But this is not the topic of discussion. We are being asked to call what Scripture says in sin, as Holy.

As to Godwin’s law. I am not calling anyone a Nazi, I am just saying the writer is using the big lie theory. The Nazi’s did all they could to destroy all those who were homosexuals.

That is all for now, there is much which could be written, but now is not time, and this blog is not the place.

Scott

8/13/2007 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are being asked to call what Scripture says in sin, as Holy.

Scripture says that remarriage after divorce is sinful---yet the church celebrates second and subsequent marriages, calling them holy.

I do believe a certain Rev. David Roseberry--a darling of the traditionalist crowd--is living happily in a scripturally-defined sinful second marriage that he has not renounced. I believe he would call his second marriage "holy," though scripture plainly states that it isn't.

So what's the difference between that and recognizing the holiness of same-sex relationships, Scott-plus?

And I'd be interested to know if you've written to the Rev. Roseberry to tell him that he's sullying "the faith once delivered" by his scripturally-defined sinful actions (in the same way that you come here to throw around offensive terms like "sodomite")? And encouraging him to resign his position as a priest for his blatant disregard for the commands of the Bible?

I'm not holding my breath on that one, of course...

Doxy

8/13/2007 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Scripture says that remarriage after divorce is sinful---yet the church celebrates second and subsequent marriages, calling them holy.

I do believe a certain Rev. David Roseberry--a darling of the traditionalist crowd--is living happily in a scripturally-defined sinful second marriage that he has not renounced. I believe he would call his second marriage "holy," though scripture plainly states that it isn't.


I do not know the conditions of marriage from Father Roseberry. I therefore will not debate if he should be in the position that he is found. I do know that he is in a second marriage. This to me is to distract the debate. Divorce is a matter of great concern both for society and for the Church.

So what's the difference between that and recognizing the holiness of same-sex relationships, Scott-plus?


If the rules for divorce and remarriage are wrong then where are the liberals in seeking to clean them up? I seem to remember there was little noise on the liberal side when a twice divorced and three times married man was confirmed by general convention to be bishop of a dioceses.

I do not see anyone on the conservative side who is calling divorce and remarriage as a desirable state. I will point out that on the conservative side there are those who have reservations about Father Roseberry, because of the remarriage issue. I would also point out that Father Roseberry is not in line to be a bishop.

And I'd be interested to know if you've written to the Rev. Roseberry to tell him that he's sullying "the faith once delivered" by his scripturally-defined sinful actions (in the same way that you come here to throw around offensive terms like "sodomite")? And encouraging him to resign his position as a priest for his blatant disregard for the commands of the Bible?

That is a most ridiculous question. I have not sent anything to VG Robinson so why should I sent something to anyone else.

Why is the term sodomite offensive? It is the historic term for those engaged in homosexual acts. If this is to be blessed, why run from the term?

I see not much has changed since I have previously ventured into the domain of liberal religion. (I have done this from time to time for at least five years.) When confronted with a problem, point out other faults. The attack is not against faults in their arguments, but their faults. This is what is being done when talking about Father Roseberry. You are attacking him and maybe his personal shortcomings. You are not engaging in the discussion of ideas.


I'm not holding my breath on that one, of course...


A difference between us, is that I am all for a return to the biblical standard. I might not happen over night, but we should strive for such. You seem to want move away from the standard. If I really though you cared about divorce and remarriage, I would engage more, but it is clear that you want to attack on this issue only to divert from the issue at hand.

I with this close, with the prayer that you and others here will come to know the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church. I do think you love the Lord, but your understandings of his teaching is in error.

Scott+

8/14/2007 12:40 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

Scott+,
I do not admire the absolutism with which you hold on to your belief that you know the contents of Christian morality for all time.
Our religion is based on faith in God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, isn't it -- and not some eternal moral code?
Our morality flows from our relationship of faith, it has not been set in stone (except for the 10 commandments which are expressive of our relationship to our Creator.
If Jesus was teaching a morality it was quite different from what we as a church -- even those who refer to themselves as "orthodox" -- believe or follow. His chief target was the religious authorities who put moralisms before human beings, obedience to codes before sacrificial love. I assume you do not teach his clear words about the use of violence to your congregation -- certainly not with the fervor you and others seem to have about labelling people as "sodomites," as though the way they express their love for another person is the only thing that can define them.
Would that more in our church had the eyes and the heart of Jesus Christ -- and fewer had the kind of moral absolutism divorced from faith that has captured those who mistakenly refer to themselves as "orthodox."

8/14/2007 8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is the term sodomite offensive? It is the historic term for those engaged in homosexual acts.

Where I come from, "nigger" is the "historic term" for a person with brown skin. We don't use it any more because it is an offensive term that denigrates people.

If you choose to continue to use "sodomite" to describe gays and lesbians, just know that you are essentially using the "N-word" against them. That, of course, will say a lot more about you than it does about them.

And, as Tom points out, you are boiling people down to what they do with their genitals---which hardly seems Christ-like to me.

Gays and lesbians are parents, partners, friends, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, taxpayers, altar guild members, and a million other things. If you want them to experience the love of Christ that you claim to know, I suggest that you treat them as human beings and stop labeling them in ways that you have been told are offensive.

As for the divorce issue...my point is that the church has made pastoral accomodations for the realities of people's lives. Jesus seemed to do the same thing when he saved his ire for religious people who cared more for the law than they did for other people.

Love God and love others. So easily said...so very hard to do.

Doxy

8/14/2007 8:33 AM  
Blogger David said...

Scott-plus asked, "Come on folks, do you know a conservative Anglican who hold to the Prosperity Gospel?"

Darn right I do, and by direct, personal experience. Practically a whole parish full of them in Plano, TX. A sickening level of conspicuous consumption and upper-middle class, white, suburban "privilege."

"Why is the term sodomite offensive? It is the historic term for those engaged in homosexual acts. If this is to be blessed, why run from the term?"

Because it's knowingly and deliberately offensive! Using your reasoning, the term "n*gger," being "the historic term" for African Americans, is OK to use as well. Come on, you're not fooling anyone with that "argument"!

8/14/2007 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not post the following paragraphs last night.

Scott


I am forced to think that those who attack conservatives and the various conservative groups because of the divorce and remarriage issue, have little concern about divorce and remarriage. It is a tactic taken out of secular politics. Attack the persons for not being perfect. Divert the discussion away from the issue at hand.

We are all sinners, likely we all have our own sexual based sin. That does not mean we do not strive to live according to God’s will. It was likely a mistake to have softened the stance on divorce and remarriage. But it was done and men who might have not become priests have become priests. Once a priest always a priest. This does not make it right to soften the stance on sodomy. The answer to an unBiblical stance is not to get more unBiblical.

8/14/2007 8:54 AM  
Blogger bls said...

To me, what this all points up is the very, very shallow understanding of human nature and human relationships that exists in our church - a result of the sola scriptura approach, I think. At least Roman Catholics recognize that gay love is love and that gay people are human beings; they have to turn logical backflips in order to condemn it. Conservative Anglicans, OTOH, reduce gay people to objects - i.e., "sodomites" - in order to make their arguments. It's much worse and much more destructive.

Here's a challenge, Scott: read I Corinthians 13 and see if you can tell me how gay love violates it. Here's something from Galatians that's similar: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law."

Against such there is no law; it's right there in black and white. Which is why people do in fact understand that gay partnerships that exhibit those fruits can indeed be called holy.

(And BTW, Scott: pointing out that there are other violations of Biblical law that the so-called "orthodox" pay no attention to is part of the discussion of ideas. We're making the point that there are church teachings that do indeed change, and that we have to argue each one on its merits.)

8/14/2007 4:44 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Amen, BLS!

I've spent much, much time in the past 48 hours with a lovely lesbian couple who have spent over 20 years together, raising children and helping to rear their grandchildren. Nothing could reflect the fruits of the Spirit more than did their obvious, profound care and devotion to one another ... and to all the others who come within their sphere.

Against such, there is no law.

8/14/2007 6:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Scott said upstream: "Most Christians see you and others as promoting homosexual acts as holy."

Pshaw!

Let me say clearly: Homosexual acts are not holy. Neither are heterosexual acts holy. The acts per se are morally neutral. When a man rapes a woman, the act is sinful, even depraved. So is the sexual act between homosexuals when it's is merely a grinding-together of body parts. Yuk! But when two adults, reflecting the love of Christ for one another, express that love and self-giving in a sexual act ... then, yep! that's holy.

Frankly, I'd like to see a lot more talk about holiness and a lot less obsession about which tabs and slots are fitting together in an act that even the lowest-order creatures on earth can replicate.

8/14/2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger bls said...

You might be interested, Lisa, in Rowan Williams' essay (from about 20 years ago): "The Body's Grace."

It makes clear, at least to me, at how superficial a level this whole argument usually takes place. It also hazards some interesting guesses about why the topic bothers people so much.

8/14/2007 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bid you all the peace of God which passes understanding.

Go with God,
Scott+

8/14/2007 10:22 PM  
Blogger JRN said...

What amazes me about this article is the arrogance of its author who repeatedly seeks to tell us what Ormbi "really means," what the conflict is "really about" and what "really happened" in Ugandan history.
It seems that Orombi is quite able to speak for himself including his motives, his beliefs and his experience. He has done so in the article the bishop is responding to. How condescending!

Jim+

8/15/2007 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that Orombi is quite able to speak for himself including his motives, his beliefs and his experience. He has done so in the article the bishop is responding to. How condescending!

You mean the same way that +Orombi and the other "Global South" bishops speak for the motives of those of us who believe full inclusion for GLBTs is the desire of God?

You mean how they (and people like you) say "They aren't *real* Christians"? You mean the way they insist that what we *really* want is to redefine the Gospel to suit ourselves---or, worse yet, to destroy the "faith once delivered to the saints"?

Is THAT what you mean, Jim-Plus?

Pax,
Doxy

8/15/2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grace said:

But, I wonder why so many GLBT affirming folks in the church also seem to be coming from the far left politically. God has a diversity in the church, I know. And, we're all one in Christ. But, are there no politically conservative, libertarian Christians out there who also would advocate for GLBT inclusion?
Grace.


Many libertarians that I have known came from the Ann Rand school of thought or Objectivism. I have not known many who are more than nominally Christian. Therefore, you will not find them part of this debate.

Politically conservative people tend to be more conservative in religion also. I think in part this is because if you believe in absolute rights and wrongs, you must base what is right or wrong upon something. The religion of conservatives is all over the denominational map. But whatever the denomination they tend to be on the more conservative side.

I have know several conservative Christians, who are political liberals on the other hand. These are sometimes people who have trouble finding a Church Home. However, some have found there home in three streams movement or in Traditional Anglicism.

I am inclined to think that the modern liberal movement, has it roots in the secular. That is why I think of the current error as coming from the same source as did Pelagius’ errors. Pelagius began with a notion of justice that he inherited from his culture. He brought this notion to Scripture and it blinded him to several important biblical notions.

Over simple for sure, but that is why I think most on the religious left are also on the secular left.

Scott+

8/19/2007 12:07 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Scott's taking a quintessentially U.S. approach in answering Grace's question. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but in much of Europe and South America, it's common for people to take what we consider a "conservative" view of religion and have political views that we consider "liberal." That is, religious conservatives have literal views about Scripture -- about the need for personal holiness and about the need to care for the poor, the "least of these." Sometimes, I think the rest of the world's Christians have a much more consistent perspective than do we in the U.S.

As Scott did, I'll acknowledge that I'm surely oversimplifying.

8/19/2007 1:16 PM  
Blogger Scott+ said...

I guess I am taking a USA approach, but I was thinking this is a USA-BASED blog. I think that in other areas of the world being a religious conservative and a political liberal might be easier, than it is here. The line between church and government is not as clear.

A liberal or socialist philosophy works in a religious setting, but most conservatives understand that it does not work without religious underpinning. Therefore, we reject socialism. Care of the poor is a private matter to the extent that it can be done. Those who can, should help the poor. However, government forcing the issue is something that runs against that which is know as the Protestant Work Ethic.

I was working a paper on this topic but never got too far. The sample of religious conservative and social liberals was too small to make general observations.

8/19/2007 7:31 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Scott says, "Care of the poor is a private matter." I think Jesus said care of the poor is at the heart of following Him.

8/19/2007 8:58 PM  

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