We might immediately take leave of O’Donovan by noting that what we really have to offer here is a new round of listening and theological debate to be carried out by a new commission to be appointed by the next General Conference. There is no chance of that option being proposed or implemented. We have already been down that road, and we are not about to turn the clock back and try that option one more time.
Ecclesial managers may understandably want to hold out for this option, but the days of ecclesial management are over. “Progressives” and others may publicly be in favor, but serious observers may legitimately see this as equivalent to one more attempt at stalling while more boots for change can be put on the ground. However, this is much too abrupt a way of disposing of what we might learn and conclude from an engagement with O’Donovan.
Let’s agree for the sake of argument on several of his observations and proposals. First, in the emergence of the gay movement, we face an unprecedented moment in history. Second, this recognizable novelty calls for sustained engagement with this new consciousness as understood from within the gay world that is inhabited by gay Christians. Third, Christians who are gay should be free to articulate and work through the description and assessment of their experience theologically and morally. Fourth, it may well be that, in the future, their deliberations will offersignificant improvements in our understanding and practice of mission. Fifth, it is indeedimportant to not only read carefully our biblical texts but to read carefully how we should apply such texts to our current cultural situation. However, once we get beyond these important insights, matters become much more complex and contested. For my part, I find O’Donovan’s critical comments on “liberal” forms of Christianity generally accurate as applied to the issues in hand. “Liberal” versions of Christianity have no monopoly on truth or intellectual virtue. Hence it is vital that Christians who are gay not follow their lead uncritically and embrace solutions that short-circuit debate by simplistic appealto immediate moral certainties or that reach for the first weapon of defense that lays to hand. Thus appeals to analogies with women’s ordination, or with racism, or appeals to generic moral notions like equality, justice, and liberation are not enough; we need deeper moral analysis and reflection. While I would provide a more robust role for intuition in the epistemology of ethics, I would entirely agree that we need to reach beyond intuition and try to understand the potential rationales, if any, which inform and undergird our intuitions. There are in-house, epistemological issues here that need not detain us. Having said all this, I recognize that many will disagree with this assessment of “liberalism….”
— TheChurchCatholic (@_ChurchCatholic) November 23, 2014