CEN: Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil says Scripture is ”˜not relevant to gay debate’

Those portions of Scripture that condemn homosexual behaviour as sinful are not relevant to the mission and ministry of the Church today, the Brazilian House of Bishops said in a Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality.

Divine revelation is an unfolding process that makes itself known to the community of believers as it is played out across time, the bishops said following their December meeting in Porto Alegre. There is no single truth, they argued, but a process of culturally conditioned truths that reveals itself through a collaborative” process of the church “using its ‘sense of reality’ and ‘good common sense’ formed by faith and by life experience.”

“This principle defines that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world in himself.’ Anything the Bible says that is not related to the essence of such Revelation is secondary, which means it is part of the culture and customs of those who were instruments of God for writing Scriptural texts,” the Brazilian bishops wrote.

“To us, the Bible is the Word of God in the sense of a message from God and not something dictated by God. And that is why, throughout the centuries, the Church discerns what is essential and what is secondary – what is Divine Revelation and what is human mediation, always connected to each time and culture.” Because this “discernment is not simply done through the opinions of individuals or groups,” the decision by Brazilian evangelicals in the Diocese of Recife to withdraw from the Brazilian Church over the majority view of scriptural interpretation was un-Anglican, they argued.

The Brazilian bishops condemned those “among us schismatic and disaggregating elements that cannot admit that there are in the Anglican Communion streams that diverge from their way of thinking.” While they respected the courage of their convictions, the “virtue of tolerance” and “full inclusion” could not permit dissent from these mandates, they argued. Because the question of human sexuality had not been conclusively settled, they believed, the church must foster a “respect for differences of opinion related to questions that are not essential” to the life of the Church.

In a second letter released following the House of Bishops meeting, Archbishop Maurício de Andrade stated that he had told the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, that he was willing to establish a “conversation” with Recife Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti in order to reconcile the breakaway diocese. However, “nothing happened,” the Brazilian archbishop said. When queried by The Church of England Newspaper, Bishop Venables confirmed that he had spoken with Archbishop de Andrade about the Brazilian schism during the Dar es Salaam primates meeting, but the Brazilian church had so far declined to engage with Dr. Cavalcanti.

–This article appears on page 6 of the March 14, 2008 edition of the Church of England Newspaper


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Anglican Provinces, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

61 comments on “CEN: Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil says Scripture is ”˜not relevant to gay debate’

  1. Chris Hathaway says:

    And these bishops are going to Lambeth while the orthodox bishop of Recife isn’t.

    That tells you everything you need to know.

  2. jamesw says:

    A prominent San Francisco liberal TEC parish has the following comment as part of its purpose statement:

    Listening openly for God’s word in the Bible, with the help of accurate critical scholarship, as well as in Christian teaching and experience, in each other, and in God’s friends of other faiths.

    What is clear in both the Brazilian bishops statement and in the above quotation is the belief that while some of Scripture is “God’s Word”, not all of it is, and it is up to the church to sort through the Scriptures and declare what is God’s Word and what isn’t. That’s a pretty arrogant statement.

    Applying this to the Anglican context, the liberals are equating the discernment of a very small fraction of Anglicanism with the discernment of “the Church.” This too, is pretty arrogant.

    I think that this is one of the crucial bedrock differences between the liberals and conservatives in both Anglicanism and Christianity in general.

  3. jamesw says:

    I would add to my post above, that the quotation I include from the SF TEC parish, also implies that not only is much of Scripture NOT “God’s Word”, but that there are other things, namely experience and other faiths, that ARE “God’s Word”. Thus experience and other religions ought to be more determinative of Christian belief and practice then much of Scripture.

  4. Ad Orientem says:

    Further evidence that much of the AC has become little more than liturgical unitarianism.


  5. Br. Michael says:

    Well, if revelation is ongoing and the bible is not a product of God’s revelation (or does the Holy Spirit change his mind every couple of years, or can’t see to far into the furure?), then Jesus is not God’s final revelation either (which means that he died and was not resurrected so we are still in our sins and living a fraud). So what are we left with? Jamesw pretty well sums it up.

    This simply is not Christianity, but a new religion.

  6. drjoan says:

    I don’t think TEC has necessarily become Unitarian. Rather, they are in the same catagory as the Mormons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They both hold to revelation that has come [b]since [/b] the canon of Scripture has been closed. Moreover, they hold that theirs is the ONLY true church with the ONLY interpretation of these new revelations.
    Come to think of it, they sound like Muslims, too, with their acknowledgment of both additional revelations and the position of Jesus as a great man but not necessarily the way to salvation.

  7. Mike L says:

    Once again it seems rather than adjusting our “experiences” to conform to the Word of God, we are adjusting the word of god (and yes the smaller case is intended) according to our ever changing “experiences”.

  8. azusa says:

    A Potemkin church with a strongly homosexual tinge, paid for by Tec, and attended by, well, virtually no-one in a country of 180 millions.

  9. dwstroudmd+ says:

    The Gordian has it correct: a wholly-owned subsidiary of ECUSA/TEC/GCC. No surprises here.

  10. Ross says:

    #4 Br. Michael says:

    …then Jesus is not God’s final revelation either (which means that he died and was not resurrected so we are still in our sins and living a fraud).

    OK, I know that we’ve gone around on the nature of Scripture before and aren’t likely to agree; but I’m not following your reasoning here. Can you expand on it? If Jesus is not God’s final revelation, why does that mean that he was not resurrected?

  11. Intercessor says:

    So I guess that Salvation is not relevant as well. As my Grandfather used to say to me ” ever notice how there are so many more horse’s asses than there are horses?”

  12. Grandmother says:

    If Jesus was NOT God’s final revelation, then there was not much of a point in resurrecting him was there? Following the thought, then surely there would be other “prophets” to come?

    Gloria in SC

  13. libraryjim says:

    to: Brazilian House of Bishops:
    We beg to differ.
    (signed) 99% of world-wide Christians

  14. cddemaree says:

    While I understand that BHoB statement goes too far for some, it does point to the real question which I’ve not seen adequately answered here on T19 or anywhere else:

    What, if anything, does sexual preference have to do with salvation?

  15. Br. Michael says:

    Ross, rephrase your question and I and the others will attempt to answer it. It comes down to “Who do you say that I am?” There was a lot packed in my comment for brevity.

  16. drjoan says:

    Nothing: Sexual preference has nothing to do with salvation.
    Which is exactly what we’ve been saying all along: This is NOT a battle over sexual preference but a battle over interpretation of Scripture. We are told in scripture that God desires us to live according to his word, NOT according to our experiences or emotions or desires. For the person who is saved, that means looking to Scripture for guidance as to how he should then live. And Scripture is clear about homosexual [b]activity [/b]: it is an abomination. And Scripture is clear about marriage: it is a covenant before God between one man and one woman. And Scripture is clear about leadership in the Church: the leader is to be the husband of one wife (and I might add, the wife of one husband.) And Scripture is VERY clear about the “conditions” of Salvation: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

  17. Choir Stall says:

    So, is AEC of Brazil now Mormon?

  18. Br. Michael says:

    13, do you accept Jesus or not? And how do you act on that receptance? Look at the parable of the rich young man. Jesus told him what he needed to do and the young man turned away. We can reject God. If God has a view on sex then sexual preferance can have a great deal to do with salvation. You might as well ask, “Does serial murder have anything to do with salvation?” Does God have a view on murder?

  19. Br. Michael says:

    15, you said it very well. Pax.

  20. Ross says:

    Br. Michael:

    OK, let me rephrase it like this: Suppose that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, fully human and fully divine and all the rest of the traditional formulae, and is thereby the greatest and most profound revelation of God to God’s creation. Suppose further that Jesus did truly die on the cross and was truly resurrected on the third day.

    My question is, why should this make it impossible that there could be further revelation of God to God’s creation that happened after the Passion (as we finite creatures view time) and/or is not contained in the canon of Scripture?

  21. libraryjim says:

    The simple answer is that: God does not contradict Himself. In other words, where God has spoken one way on something, then a later revelation, to be genuine, will not contradict that first revelation.

    So if God has spoken that marriage is a covenant, between a man and a woman, and that relationships of an intimate nature between same-sex individuals is an abomination before Him, then He will not turn around later and say “Oh, sorry, science shows that I was wrong. It’s ok now, go ahead. All that ‘abomination’ stuff — just joking.” Won’t happen.

  22. Ross says:


    Alternatively, when God speaks one way on something, then if it contradicts a previous revelation it proves that the previous revelation was not genuine.

    But that was not really what I was asking… I already know that I have a very different view of Scripture, and the inspiration and authority thereof, than does Br. Michael. There’s not much point in rehashing all of that again. But I was struck by his statement that if Jesus was not the final revelation then there could be no resurrection. I didn’t understand the connection, so I asked him to clarify.

  23. Philip Snyder says:

    I wonder what other “sins” we can justify by searching for “the canon in the canon.” I thought that it was received Anglican teaching that “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant ot another.” (Article XX)

    It seems that while the AEC of Brazil may call itself “Anglican” it does not hold to the Anglican Formularies. Saying that “Scripture is not relevant to the gay debate” is saying that those passages of Scripture that talk about faithfulness in marriage, rule out fornication (=[i]pornea[/i]) and adultery or talk about marriage as an image for God’s relationship with Israel and the Church have no meaning. Does this now mean that marriage is irrelevant?

    Second, I thought we had settled the issue of sexual practice. One man, one woman, for life. Period, end of story. That was settled a long time ago. More recently, the Anglican Church advised that homosexual practice was contrary to the Word of God in 1998. It seems that we are trying to resettle issues that used to be settled. I call it the reappraiser shuffle.
    1. Begin with a desire to change the teaching of the Church without saying that you are changing the teaching of the Church (pick a topic that has been settled)
    2. Work to get people who support your view into positions of power and authority
    3. Start questioning the received teaching of the Church
    4. After a few years of questioning, point out that many people are questioning this teaching.
    5. After a few years of pointing out this questioning, begin to act on the “new” teaching with the rationalization that it is not a “settled” issue
    6. When there is an uproar, point to the uproar as evidence that the issue is not settled.
    7. Work until you can get a body with legislative or moral authority to support your view “on a trial basis” or “until we settle the issue” or “for pastoral reasons”
    8. Continue twisting arms with whatever resources you may have.
    9. Enact legislation (or a “gentleman’s agreement) that makes your view the view of the Church, but allows for descenting opinion.
    10. After a while of descenting opinions, point out that it’s been a long time since we allowed for the “new” teaching.
    12. Outlaw any teaching but the new teaching because the old teaching discriminates or is not inclusive.

    We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. This monster rears its head on a regular basis and we need the Church to recognize it and work to defeat it.

    Phil Snyder

  24. cddemaree says:

    I completely agree with your first and last sentences, and in giving Faith it’s proper place as our primary responsibility then all else becomes secondary. That point is not meant to diminish scripture or be a license to sin in any way; it’s a simple statement of priorities.

    I would argue that the current battle is not truly over scripture, but unfortunately has more to do with power, position, and prejudice. There are very important discussions around those issues dealing with difficult theological differences, but the true problem with the AC right now is one of posturing and non-reciprocal pontificating.

    Yes, we are told God desires us to live according to his word, but I take exception to your statement that this must be in contrast with our experiences, emotions, and desires. True faith should lead, fulfill, and inspire us according to the Word, and scripture is an excellent place to start, but it is incomplete in and of itself. The church is the embodiment of the Word, and as you were implying, is therefore about action. My caution is that action and judgment are not the same thing.

    Scripture does judge homosexuality as it does a myriad of other “lifestyle” choices dealing with diet, hygiene, occupation, entertainment, and marriage, but there is always a context for their decree, an explanation or justification. The commandments, as summarized by Jesus, are given no situational context. These, and the new commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you,” are the only true irrevocable judgments from God.

    That doesn’t mean I reject the guidance of scripture, but I do recognize that it is unavoidably open to levels of interpretation, and my primary role as a Christian is one of acceptance, not judgment, towards others. By all means, we should live our lives according to what we have discerned to be right for us and be examples for others, but the presumption that everyone else must think, feel, and act as I do is not only misguided and impossible, but for me comes much closer to impinging on those unassailable commandments than a lifestyle choice does.

  25. Bill Melnyk says:

    1. The Bible was written by human beings inspired by the Holy Spirit to record the ups and downs of their search for God. There is holy stuff in the Bible, and horrible stuff, just as there is in human nature.
    2. The Bible was NOT written by God. (Come on, rememberb the catechism you grew up with that says God has not “body, parts, or passions”?)
    3. The Bible as a canonical collection of Books was created by votes for the Church. It is the Church’s Book, and the Church can do with it what the Church will.
    4. God made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. To call the Bible “divine” is to practice idolatry. Only God is divine.
    5. Grow up people. There is more to the faith than what you learned in the first three years of Sunday Schoiol.

  26. Bill Melnyk says:

    Arrrggghh. That’s what I get for typing too fast.
    1. Drop the “b” from “remember” in line 3.
    2. In point 3, it should read “votes BY the church”

    But you get the point.

  27. Br. Michael says:

    Ross, my answer is that the resurrection validates who Jesus is. It continues through the age of the apostles and closes the canon. That canon was recognized and closed by the Church.

    If further revelation continues then all the preceeding is a lie and all proceeding is a free for all. That may in fact be what seperates us forn non-messanic Jews. WE believe that Jesus is the fulfillmant of the Scriptures, they do not. That is what makes us Christians. We believe in Jesus as God’s final revelation.

    If you don’t believe that fine (so to speak), but you are not Christian. Are you a follower of Yesuha or not? yes or no! And Yesuha claims to be God! A madman, fool, or the Truth. You say.

  28. Br. Michael says:

    Bill, if I am not mistaken, you are a druid? Oakwise, right?

    [i]Not sure you should make the assumption that this “Bill Melnyk” is the “Famous” Bill Melnyk. I don’t think we elves have asked or checked (at least I haven’t). PLEASE do not start focusing this thread on other individual commenters. Certainly questions to get clarification of other commenters’ beliefs are fine, but there’s a fine line between such questions and ad hominem accusations. There looks to be much potential that this comment could divert the thread. Please be forewarned we’d really like to avoid that![/i]

  29. cddemaree says:

    Br. Michael,
    Your logic is… not. Simple point in fact, there is a book of Revelation which was written after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

    The point I believe you are trying to make is that Jesus is the Messiah, and speaking for myself and, I assume most everyone here, that is what we believe. That does not mean; however, that God is finished revealing his will and Word to us.

  30. Br. Michael says:

    Bill, more to the point, if you are correct, then why give any credence to the Bible. Let’s all go our own way. Only what we ourselves can enforce. Only what the god in us calls us to do, right?

  31. Br. Michael says:

    28, I believe that Jesus, as revealed in scripture, was God’s final revelation. The Holy Spirit gives us illumination, but not revelation so as to contradict scripture.

  32. The_Elves says:

    [i] We seems to be straying off topic. Please return to a discussion of the original post. [/i]

    [i]I agree! And just left a similar warning on a comment above. –elfgirl[/i]

  33. Br. Michael says:

    Is that not putting God in a small box? No. That is the way He chose to do it. Otherwise why did He not chose to reveal Himself in the 1st Century, using 21st Century quantum mechanics so that we would understand Him, but they would not?

  34. Br. Michael says:

    Elves understood.
    In obedience I will not pursue this

  35. Ross says:

    #26: I think I see what you’re getting at. But I still can’t see a contradiction between accepting Jesus as the supreme revelation of God, and still allowing for later (but lesser) revelation.

    Put another way: you seem to be asserting that believing in Jesus as God, and accepting as supremely authoritative the canon of Scripture determined by the early church, are a package deal; one necessitates the other, and you must have both or neither. I disagree; I think it is quite possible to accept Jesus as the Son of God (etc., etc.) while yet regarding Scripture as a human creation containing the usual proportion of human error and bias.

  36. Ross says:

    Oops, posted and then saw the Elven warning. My apologies.

  37. The_Elves says:

    Thanks Ross & Br. Michael.

    Not actually wanting to stifle substantive debate about the understanding, interpretation and authority of Scripture. That IS on topic to this thread.

    Just didn’t want it to become too much a back and forth focused on one specific commenter or one specific comment.

    And with that, I’m signing off for the night, but I think elflady may be around a bit longer. G’nite

  38. cddemaree says:

    I believe scripture to be both revelation and retrospection, and I do believe the Holy Spirit enables us to better understand. I also believe, supported by my experiences, that the Spirit continues to reveal God to me. He is beyond our comprehension; we need continual guidance, a companion on our journey, and He has provided all of that.

    To relate this back to the original post, I would argue that the BHoB is inaccurate in their statement that there is not “one truth.” I absolutely believe there to be only one truth, but the degree to which each of us (and the church as a whole) understand that truth will always be in question. And I would argue our capacity for that truth is currently being limited by our cultural (and other) differences.

  39. Larry Morse says:

    The trouble is this: There are in the gospels passages where Jesus is clearly wrong. He is certain that the last days are upon us. He says so more than once and in several ways. He was clearly wrong. What then? Do we simply ignore this? This cannot simply be a matter of different “readings” of the text, can it? Or do we declare what is core doctrine and allow that which is not to fall into a separate class of authority? What is the answer here?

    Now Andrade’s declaration is scented with intellectual vanity which fragrance A and E bequeathed us. I find this cavalier treatment of scripture more irritating than I can say, but the point remains before us all: Is there core doctrine which may not be doubted and is there secondary material for which human experience, common sense, tradition, and church practice makes malleable? Is the clear expression of homosexual acts as abominations core doctrine or a permeable membrane? If Jesus can be wrong once, can he be wrong twice? Is it the case that core doctrine can only be that which Christ alone has said and done? This seems logical and reasonable, and yet, I suppose no one agrees with this essential position because it leaves, e.g., Paul, out of the establishment of core doctrine.

    I do hope someone will address this issue because it has baffled me for years and continues to baffle me. Moreover, I do NOT want
    the Brazilian bishops to be right because the result of their argument leaves scripture as nothing more than a reflection of each reader’s wishes and desires. This is contemporary solipsism raised to a new and corrosive level.

    I continue to think that the core problem lies with us (who read) rather than with Christ (who speaks) and the “us” includes MML and J, who wrote down what oral traditions transmitted to them and that the Christ we wish to see and hear is most certainly there, but is obscured by his audience, which includes you and me as well as MML and J. Seeing Christ is like the sun on a March day, such as I have now every day: Even when I cannot actually see the disk, I can see the snow melt on the roof tops and the asphalt, and I know the cause though it is beyond my senses. What is this, that asphalt can know with certainty what I can know only second hand. LM

  40. drjoan says:

    Who are you to say that Jesus is wrong? To do so is to set oneself up as superior to and thus able to judge God.
    And–less an elf person interject–I say that this is exactly what this debate is about: God’s creations (men and women in leadership in the Anglican/Episcopal Church) holding out that their opinion or experience or whatever is superior to God’s own revelation in Scripture.
    Don’t get me wrong: there is a LOT of Scripture I cannot understand or reason. But that doesn’t give me the option of saying that I judge those parts to be wrong; I figure that simply means that God will have the opportunity to shed light on those parts at some time–maybe in this life, maybe in the next.

  41. Shumanbean says:

    cd… et. al.

    It’s late, and I this may not seem very cogent, but I assure you, it’s well meant, and sent with prayer.

    You may want to start a discussion about scripture by saying that we disagree and will never agree, and therefore we can’t discuss the nature and authority of scripture, and besides, this isn’t about the nature and authority of scripture. But then I have to ask why we’re talking at all. For the entirety of the problem is found in differing beliefs concerning the nature of scripture, and its authority in our lives. And to once again bring up the notion that this is really about power, position and prejudice not only obscures the discussion, it’s condescending, insulting, and judgmental…and it is often used as a way of “shouting down” those who disagree with “progressives.” But getting back to the point…

    Without objective authority, scripture becomes worth nothing more than any good fable with a moral. If I say that some parts of scripture are based solely on human prejudice, while some are based on true revelation, then that is to say that none of scripture is trustworthy to be the word of God, except the parts that I give that authority to…very subjective, don’t you think? And with no objective authority, why should, why would anyone give any of scripture any credence…for who’s to say what has authority, except the individual?

    Also, I think you have a shallow view of the Bible. Perhaps I’m wrong, but you seem to miss the point that the Bible is a complete package, from Genesis to Revelation. It is organic, and built upon continuing revelation that came to an end. If you want to add to or subtract from that canon, you’d have to have a far more representative committee than GC. But there’s the rub.

    In the case of TEC, a relatively small group of people who comprise a triennial council meeting in one of the smallest denominations in all of Christendom have presumed to decide which scripture has authority, and which hasn’t. But because we are in a communion…or better yet, a Church Militant, even if “progressives” are in the majority in TEC, it’s still a matter of individualism, because such a small sampling, and one that was quite skewed for a time, made those decisions. Add to this the fact that certain members of the HOB, and certain Rectors often don’t follow some of the disciplinary rules of that very small group that has decided which scripture pertains to real life, and there just doesn’t seem to be any authority at all…except in individual minds. Am I wiser than God, or has God simply not revealed himself? Herself? Itself? Y’all want your cake and to eat it, too. But it just doesn’t work that way…unless, of course, you say it does.

    You may accuse conservatives of biblioidolatry, but from where I stand, y’all seem to be making yourselves into little gods…or at the very least, nephilim. And if you believe scripture, God doesn’t seem to care for that.

  42. Shumanbean says:

    I should rephrase that last bit…it sounds far too personal, and isn’t meant to be. A progressive might accuse a conservative of bilbioidolatry, but by claiming subjective authority over scripture that the majority of Christendom, and maybe even TEC, believes to be the inspired word of God, progressives might be in danger of putting themselves in the position of gods, or at the very least…
    Sorry about that.

  43. RMBruton says:

    Poor South America, first they had to endure the onslaught of Liberation Theology and now Gay Liberation Theology. Bring on the Morris Dancers.

  44. The young fogey says:

    [blockquote]Divine revelation is an unfolding process that makes itself known to the community of believers as it is played out across time.[/blockquote]

    That’s what the Angel Moroni told me on the hill last night when he gave me these golden plates with hieroglyphics on them and these magic glasses to translate them.


  45. The young fogey says:

    [blockquote]Well, if revelation is ongoing and the bible is not a product of God’s revelation (or does the Holy Spirit change his mind every couple of years, or can’t see to far into the furure?), then Jesus is not God’s final revelation either (which means that he died and was not resurrected so we are still in our sins and living a fraud). So what are we left with? Jamesw pretty well sums it up.

    This simply is not Christianity, but a new religion. [/blockquote]

    Apparently the Holy Spirit reads the same books and journals as upper-middle-class white folks so s/he can better serve them (like a genie). Who knew?

    [blockquote]A Potemkin church with a strongly homosexual tinge, paid for by Tec, and attended by, well, virtually no-one in a country of 180 millions.[/blockquote]

    There’s a point here: Brazilians are famous for being relaxed about sex including homosexuality yet nobody there’s interested in changing even their nominal affiliation with the big, bad, backward, rule (of law)-bound Church of Rome for the enlightened modern Protestant Christianity of the North Americans. Why not?

    Even poorly catechised people in a Catholic society know they can’t bend the church to approve sin. They may sin, and boldly (true in lots of Catholic countries… the home of the Mafia for example), but know better.


  46. Larry Morse says:

    Who am I to say? I merely report the obvious. Christ said the final days were upon us and they weren’t. That’s all. He was wrong. This is simply stating a fact. What then? See #40’s third paragraph. What of this? This debate is crucial, central, and it should be unavoidable, especially among conservatives whose hearts want the texts to be sound and somehow incontrovertible and who want the Brazilian bishops to be dead wrong. But what to do? Cry, “Have faith Brother and faith alone is sufficient?” So much for objective evidence?

    Is there really a core which whose structure cannot be falsified and then the class “everything else”? It certainly can’t be the 39 Articles.

    Shumanbean is right, from beginning to end, the Bible is an organic whole. It is a long novel, a long poem, and should, i submit be treated that way, that is, the way we read a poem, for in both cases – particularly the NT and a poem – language is used to say things that words cannot do: ” A poem should be palpable and mute/ As a globed fruit/ Dumb/ As old medallions to the thumb….” Archibald MacLeish understood the indirection of deep knowledge, truth available only by watching out the corners of one’s eyes, so to speak. Mere words are profoundly limited, symbols step into the other world of knowledge, and we are damned lucky that words can be symbols or we would be speechless beyond the literal.

    I don’t mean to say that the NT language cannot be clear and straightforward. It can, and so we simply read what it has to say about homosexuality and marriage and we accept these as true statements because they are literal and meant to be. Still, none of this alters the fact that Christ’s assertion that the end times are upon us is simple false. LM

  47. Violent Papist says:

    Can anyone explain to me why there is an Episcopal Church of Brazil or Southern Cone Province in the first place? I can understand the purpose of the Anglican Church of Belize or Guyana since they were colonized by the British. But, aside from the Falklands, that is not true for Argentina or Brazil. Were these churches meant to serve British/American ex-pats or for some other purpose?

  48. Bill in Ottawa says:


    How do you know these aren’t the last days? God speaks allegorically in Genesis, therefore it is open to God in the person of Jesus to speak allegorically as well. The timing of the end is still open, but we are commanded to live our lives as though this is the last day of creation. As I am not a literalist, I don’t see a contradiction.

  49. Br. Michael says:

    Larry we would say that we are in the last days, but they are not here in their fullness. The “already and the not yet”. The Kingdom of God was inaugerated on the Cross but it will not receive its fulfillment until the Second Coming of Christ. I do not think that Jesus was wrong about this.

  50. cddemaree says:

    My comments about the true nature of this argument were not exclusively aimed at the conservatives. I think both sides are doing a bang-up job of talking past each other.

    An objective authority for on-going scripture, liturgy, morality, etc. was provided for in the apostles. Christ was very clear in their appointment, but that has not prevented dissension, interpretation, or even changes over time. The church, as it has historically, must muddle through and to the best of its ability reach a consensus. It’s not pretty; it’s not perfect, but it is possible and appropriate.

    The complete package of the Bible is an assembly, a compilation, of numerous writings which the church has selected and arranged. Even in this there is dissension. Just look at the apocrypha and the numerous translations/versions. The point isn’t really that scripture is fallible, but that it cannot be taken, at all times and in all ways simply as literal. Without interpretation and application it IS simply fable. 1 Corinthians 14 can be [i]interpreted[/i] to apply:

    [blockquote]26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.[/blockquote]

    I do not presume to have an authoritarian interpretation nor do I accuse anyone of bilblio-idolatry. I accept that either extreme is wrong, but I also believe it is our responsibility as Christian witnesses to be subjective authorities (albeit imperfect) on the scripture and faith we espouse.

  51. The young fogey says:

    46: I think the Southern Cone province was set up for English expats – many at least used to live in Argentina – and the Episcopal Church of Brazil was originally a missionary plant by then-conservative Protestant-minded North American Episcopalians to win the [i]brasileiros[/i] from Rome. Rather like the Portuguese (Lusitanian) and Spanish Anglican churches were fostered in the late 1800s by Protestant Anglicans in Ireland.

    There’s an old joke that had some truth to it that an Argentine is an ethnic Italian who speaks Spanish and thinks he’s English.


  52. Dale Rye says:

    Re #46: Brief history of why there is an Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil: the Church of England founded its first chaplaincy in Brazil in 1810. Ministry was focused on expatriates until 1889 because of the close association between the Brazilian Empire and the Roman Catholic Church (Protestant evangelism was prohibited by law). With the proclamation of the Republic, Anglicans were free to seek the conversion of Brazilians of indigenous, European, or African origin; the Brazilian slaves had just been freed. The same reaction to Vatican I that promoted the Old Catholic Movement in Europe created a pool of Brazilians who were seeking a non-Roman alternative. As a result, a Portuguese-speaking church grew under the supervision of TEC. In 1964, this became an independent Anglican church; it now has 9 dioceses and 1 missionary district. The most recent statistics (2007) claim 40,000 Baptised, 25,000 Confirmed, 8000 Communicants, and 10,000 regular members.

  53. Dale Rye says:

    This is probably idle curiosity, but how many of you who have been commenting above have read [url=http://www.ieab.org.br/documentos/c_past_sex_07_eng.pdf]the actual text of the Pastoral Letter[/url], as opposed to the summary in the strongly Evangelical [i]Church of England Newspaper?[/i] The quoted passages are not quite as stark in their original context. This letter actually says very little about sexual ethics as such, other to commend a [url=http://www.ieab.org.br/documentos/c_past_sex_97_eng.pdf]1997 Pastoral Letter[/url] calling for further study of the issue while condemning promiscuity and sexual violence. Neither letter expressly approves of homosexual conduct, although both do seem to see this as an open question.

  54. The young fogey says:

    Interesting how Old Catholicism, including in its longtime American form among descendents of a few Polish immigrants, has always seemed limited to north-central Europeans. The Spaniards and Portuguese inclined that way went with Protestants in the Episcopal Church and Church of Ireland instead.


  55. Shumanbean says:

    I certainly didn’t mean to point any fingers at you, so far as any mention of biblioidolatry. In fact, I’d hoped I’d gone the extra mile to keep it general. I was actually responding to several postings, and maybe trying to put out some thoughts that I’ve hesitated to speak on a blog. And so I apologize if I’ve caused you hurt.
    Being conservative doesn’t necessarily include extremist…neither does liberal. There’s probably a lot on which we could agree. I do agree that scripture must not be taken literally in all places. Granted, not all conservatives would agree with that, but I think that the vast majority of trained conservative exegetes would agree that hermeneutics is a science that involves great care in placing scripture in proper context over several categories, and that proper linguistic interpretation is vital to truth. And only after that, should we value experience in applying it. Proper application therefore, depends upon careful exegesis.
    While I can certainly appreciate your comment about the authority of apostles in interpreting scripture, if I’m reading it rightly, I think you seem to have a higher view of apostolic teaching authority than of scriptural. In order to support what I interpret as your view, and feel comfortable about the authority of any given bishop in any given time and place in the interpretation of scripture, I’d feel the need to embrace that the whole of apostolic succession has been divinely inspired, uninterrupted, and completely uncorrupted. I have a terribly difficult time with that, and could cite several examples of what make me uneasy. Further, I don’t think that lay people should be deprived the opportunity of correctly interpreting scripture; in my mind, one of the wonderful gifts of the continental reformation was putting the bible in the hands of lay people…whether we handle it carefully and thoughtfully is the question; good stewardship of scripture (study to show yourselves approved…) makes all the difference in the world.
    As for the councils of the Episcopal Church having the authority to interpret scripture by consensus, even if it’s purely on behalf of American Episcopalians only, I still find it to be a difficult position to hold, simply due to the exclusivity of the sampling of people interpreting, and the fact that many who are influential in this process have a vested interest in the outcome.
    While I can appreciate the reasonableness of your position, I just don’t know that I can agree with the idea that merely muddling through is necessarily all that possible…let alone appropriate, especially while I still believe that we have a divinely inspired book of scripture that seems to speak clearly to presently muddled aspects of church life in which we find ourselves mired. I have a friend who is a scholar and seminary professor who has gained the respect of people of both sides of the current issues. He once told me that it wouldn’t be the worst sin in the world to normalize same sex relationships in the church. I’m sure he’s right…it wouldn’t be the worst sin, but it would still be sin, if we believe that scriptures are inspired by an unchanging God and that their meaning has no expiration date. And so I guess I’m back at the beginning again…what do I believe about the nature and authority of scripture? You seem like a nice and thoughtful person. Who knows, outside the blogosphere we may even know each other and are famous friends. If we differ, so be it…we may never agree on this extremely important point. But I will still bless you as I go my own way.

  56. William Witt says:

    [blockquote]Christ said the final days were upon us and they weren’t. That’s all. He was wrong.[/blockquote]

    [Not meaning to contravene the elves’ request, but I’m hoping that a quick intervention will not be out of line.]


    This was the standard interpretation of Jesus’ eschatological message for about fifty years following Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus. Jesus was a failed apocalyptic who pronounced the end of the world–which didn’t happen.

    Schweitzer’s claim caused the collapse of the first quest for the Historical Jesus, and was a major choking point for theologians and biblical scholars for much of the twentieth century.

    Since the 1980’s, biblical scholars have generally dropped Schweitzer’s “consistent eschatology”–from those on the far left (like the Jesus Seminar) who deny that Jesus had any eschatological vision whatsoever, to more conservative theologians like N. T. Wright who agree that the Kingdom of God was central to Jesus’ message, but that Jesus did not predict the end of the world in his lifetime.

    A good conservative discussion of the issues can be found in Ben Witherington’s Jesus, Paul and the End of the World. (IVP, 1992).

    If the current scholarship is anywhere near correct, then Schweitzer was wrong, and Jesus did not predict that the final days (meaning the “end of the world”) were upon us. So, Jesus wasn’t “wrong” after all.

  57. Violent Papist says:

    Thanks for the information about Argentina and Brazil Anglican Churches. The history of Brazil is something which is not too familiar to me.

  58. cddemaree says:

    No hurt taken and I wholeheartedly reciprocate your blessings! The direct response to you should simply be taken as my appreciation for the intelligent discussion I believe we are having.

    I also believe we have several similar views, including your concerns about apostolic succession and the importance of laity. The true problem as I see it is, and you pointed out, is that the “muddling process” is being applied not as a whole communion, but in distinct and separate factions with only token acknowledgment of the larger community; and yes, both sides are guilty.

    I suspect we will have to agree to disagree on the sinfulness of homosexuality; but granting that it is a sin, I find it not nearly so contrary to my personal beliefs and understanding of scripture as I do divorce. The church as a whole has been relaxed with regard to divorce most of my life, and I would argue that to be a MUCH more significant threat to marriage than same-sex unions, but it has not generated the same level of outrage. I can only infer that the prejudice against homosexuality is the true driving force behind the outcry rather than the sanctity of marriage, and I find my inner voice urging me to defend against such prejudice. This was not an easy or instantaneous decision on my part, but I am quite certain it is part of my personal Christian identity.

    As for the unchanging God you and others have mentioned in this thread, I would hold up that God [b]has[/b] changed His mind, method, and message in the past through covenants and as a result of intercession from prophets. Is something similar at work here? Only patience (and prayer) will tell.

  59. libraryjim says:

    [b]a parable:[/b]
    Miss Harley, take a message:
    To Shumaker, Polish, and Shine,
    Sirs, we thank you for your interest in our company, and we assure you we take your interest seriously. [i]Miss Harley, add information on how our companies have worked together in the past, and are looking forward to working together in the future[/i]
    Again, we express our heartfelt gratitude at your interest.
    I Can Duit, esq.

    Now make three copies and send them to each of the people mentioned, and one for the files.
    [b]end parable.[/b]

    Question 1) Who penned most of the letter, Miss Harley, or Mr. I Can Duit?
    Question 2) when Shumaker, Polish and Shine receive the letter, who will they say wrote it? Miss Harley, or Mr I Can Duit?
    Question 3) Who really wrote and is responsible for the letter, if questioned by the CEO of the company?
    Final Question: Who REALLY wrote the Bible?

  60. Shumanbean says:

    I’m not certain you’ll see this…its been a day or so. Thanks for your kind response…I believe we could be friends. Like you, I’m more concerned about other sins, especially abortion, than I am about homosexuality. I’m more upset about the unilateral coupling of our denomination with RCRC, and the subsequent unwillingness of the GC to address it, than I can express. However, I’m also of the opinion that extremists who wish to empower their social agenda have used the church for their own ends…whether those ends are justified or not…and that things have snowballed terribly, due to lapses in leadership. But that still doesn’t diminish my belief in the divine inspiration of scripture.

    However, your point is taken…it is perfectly reasonable to believe that God changed his method, and perhaps his message, and that it might indicate a change of mind, (and I’m thinking of the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom). What keeps me from jumping on board is my own theological training. I’m not a Calvinist, or at least not a very good one, but I studied Covenant Theology under a guy named Gerard Van Groningen…who was a prodigy of Cornelius Van Til…absorbed some of it, and am of the belief that the unified aim of the Holy Trinity has never wavered, from beginning to now, and that we are members of the final of seven covenants…all of which had one goal, to lead humans to faith in Christ, and everything that comes with faith. I know this is a bit simple and sketchy, but this is a blog, after all.

  61. cddemaree says:

    Jumping off thread a bit here; but as you point out it’s been a few days:

    The problem I have with most Christian apologists is their insistence that others think, or more accurately reason, as they do. From my wonderful experience blindly trying to instruct teenagers it is apparent to me that the human mind works in many different ways and the swaying argument for any individual tends to be… almost random! My own theory is that we have a number of different apologist paths specifically because they each have their own appeal. For me, the presuppositional approach is too close to circular logic for it to work as a “reasoned” argument; I understand it’s emotional appeal perfectly. If I am to pick an approach, I definitely lean towards C.S. Lewis and the appeal to a universal morality.

    Back to the thread, and likewise keeping it simple/sketchy, I guess what all that means is that while I do believe scripture to be divinely inspired, my interpretation of scripture is such that it does not contradict the moral basis which my experiences have led me to accept and believe in. To be clear, my morality does NOT trump my conviction in the Trinity or most (if not all) aspects of Covenant Theology, especially Christ’s death, resurrection, and our means of salvation. If anything it simply means I put extra emphasis on the new commandment; “Love one another…” If that makes me a bleeding heart, so be it!