(CA) Stephen Noll–“Living in Love and Faith”: Tree or Billboard?

A colleague sent me a link to the “Living in Love and Faith” report to the General Synod of the Church of England, which is meeting later this month. For the uninitiated, the “Living in Love and Faith” (LLF) project is a massive exercise by the Church of England to tackle the thorny issue of human sexuality. The general supposition is that the LLF results will be forwarded to the Lambeth Conference in 2020, to be discussed in table groups (indaba), which in turn will conclude that Anglicans have a mixed bag of views on sex and marriage and that they have agreed to disagree. Such a result will in effect nullify the clear teaching of Lambeth 1998, which has been a touchstone for the Global South churches….

Despite its likening a book to a tree trunk, the entire report manages to avoid quoting the Book, the Bible, anywhere. Instead we get vague allusions to “creativity” and “hermeneutical understandings” and “situatedness of the gospel” and “ecclesiology in the context of difference.” The report makes no reference to Lambeth Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality and suggests that it will produce a deeper understanding of the interplay of “inherited teaching” on marriage and singleness with “emergent views.” (The word “deep” seems a favorite of the authors, reminding me of this ditty from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience: “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”)….

It seems that the current controversy in the Anglican Communion and Lambeth 2020 comes down to branding rights. On the one hand, I would commend the 1998 Lambeth Resolution on Human Sexuality (300 words), the 2008 Jerusalem Statement and Declaration (2400 words) and the 2018 Gafcon “Letter to the Churches” (2500 words) as clear and concise statements of biblical teaching in the Anglican tradition. On the other hand, we have the ponderous Windsor Report (93 pages), the 2008 Lambeth Indaba (44 pages) and we are looking oh-so-so forward to the weighty multi-layered Oxbridge-endorsed LLF Project. Which of these “brands” will be fruitful for the future of the Gospel and mission of Christ to the nations?

The LLF likens its work to a tree. Well, it is a good metaphor. God’s Wisdom is “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her” (Proverbs 3:18), and as noted in Joyce Kilmer’s verse: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

But somehow, given this present update, I doubt the final Living in Love and Faith Report will be lively, lovely, or faithful. I suspect it may function more like the billboard in Ogden Nash’s “Song of the Road”:

I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I’ll never see a tree at all.

Read it all.

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Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Marriage & Family, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

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