Category : Pastoral Theology

(Fulcrum) Andrew Goddard–Synods, Sexuality and Symbolic and Seismic Shifts

Jayne Ozanne posted on Facebook that what had happened in Synod was “a seismic shift – inclusion is now mainstream!”. Whether or not that is the case and if so what is meant by “inclusion”, or, in the Archbishops’ words, “radical new Christian inclusion in the Church”, remains to be seen. We simply do not know the consequences if her hopes as to where this will lead prove accurate. However, there are signs that if they are realised then this could presage a fundamental realignment in Anglicanism including in England.

On the same day as Jayne’s FB post, Sean Doherty, the proposer of the failed amendment to her motion, posted “Here are two words I have not heard at #synod this weekend: Anglican Communion”. While not strictly true (it was briefly mentioned in relation to the Teaching Document) it does appear the Communion was largely forgotten. That is even more surprising, bordering on denial, given another Synod that took place only a few weeks before – that of ACNA. Although not part of the Anglican Communion, many leaders of Anglican Communion provinces were present and, even more significantly, they consecrated, against the wishes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, an English clergyman, Andy Lines, to serve as a missionary bishop within the British Isles. The symbolic, perhaps seismic, significance of this has it seems yet to sink in. It means we now face the prospect of a growing number of churches in England which, although clearly not part of the Church of England, self-identify as Anglican and have a very credible claim to such a designation as they are served by a bishop recognised by a large number (perhaps even the majority) of Anglicans worldwide. If the CofE continues to appear to be shaped more by its surrounding culture than theology and particularly if its bishops fail to clearly teach the sexual ethic supported by the wider Communion and summed up in the Higton motion then it may be that the ACNA Synod will come to be seen as representing an even more seismic shift than that which some hope and others fear occurred at General Synod.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(TGC) Tim Keller: The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: A Review Article

A third line of reasoning in these volumes and others like them involves recategorization. In the past, homosexuality was categorized by all Christian churches and theology as sin. However, many now argue that homosexuality should be put in the same category as slavery and segregation. Vines writes, for example, that the Bible supported slavery and that most Christians used to believe that some form of slavery is condoned by the Bible, but we have now come to see that all slavery is wrong. Therefore, just as Christians interpreted the Bible to support segregation and slavery until times changed, so Christians should change their interpretations about homosexuality as history moves forward.

But historians such as Mark Noll (America’s God [Oxford, 2005] and The Civil War as a Theological Crisis [University of North Carolina, 2006]) have shown the 19th-century position some people took that Scripture condoned race-based chattel slavery was highly controversial and never a consensus. Most Protestants in Canada and Britain (and many in the northern U.S. states) condemned it as being wholly against the Bible. Rodney Stark (For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch Hunts, and the End of Slavery, 2003) points out that the Roman Catholic church also came out early against the African slave trade. David L. Chappell, in his history of the civil rights movement (A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, 2003), goes further. He proves that even before the Supreme Court decisions of the mid-1950s, almost no one was promoting the slender and forced biblical justifications for racial superiority and segregation. Even otherwise racist theologians and ministers couldn’t find a basis for white supremacy in the Bible.

So we see that the analogy between the church’s view of slavery and its view of homosexuality breaks down. Up until very recently, all Christian churches and theologians unanimously read the Bible as condemning homosexuality. By contrast, there was never any consensus or even a majority of churches that thought slavery and segregation were supported by the Bible. Chappell shows that even within the segregationist South, efforts to support racial separation from the Bible collapsed within a few years. Does anyone really think that within a few years from now there will be no one willing to defend the traditional view of sexuality from biblical texts? The answer is surely no. This negates the claim that the number, strength, and clarity of those biblical texts supposedly supporting slavery and those texts condemning homosexuality are equal, and equally open to changed interpretations.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) England’s unique national experiment–Free Talk Therapy to anyone who desires it

England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses.

The rapidly growing initiative, which has gotten little publicity outside the country, offers virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics throughout the country: in remote farming villages, industrial suburbs, isolated immigrant communities and high-end enclaves. The goal is to eventually create a system of primary care for mental health not just for England but for all of Britain.

At a time when many nations are debating large-scale reforms to mental health care, researchers and policy makers are looking hard at England’s experience, sizing up both its popularity and its limitations. Mental health care systems vary widely across the Western world, but none have gone nearly so far to provide open-ended access to talk therapies backed by hard evidence. Experts say the English program is the first broad real-world test of treatments that have been studied mostly in carefully controlled lab conditions.

The demand in the first several years has been so strong it has strained the program’s resources.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

The Living Church article on the panel draft decision about Bishop Jon Bruno

In a scathing rebuke of the Bishop of Los Angeles, a disciplinary hearing panel of the Episcopal Church has voted to suspend the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno from ministry for three years….

According to Title IV 14.5 of the church’s canons, the presiding bishop is charged with reviewing this sentence and then pronouncing it or lessening it.

In a 4-1 decision, the panel wrote that “the scope and severity of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct … have unjustly and unnecessarily disturbed the ministry of a mission of the Church. St. James the Great is a casualty of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct.”

Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer for the Episcopal Church, said late that evening, “This document is marked as a draft, and that is what it is. We will offer no comments as the Hearing Panel’s work continues.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

(Christian Today) Clergy burnout: Why stress affects church ministers, and what they can do about it

The BBC series Rev was brilliant but at times silly and, doubtless, wildly inaccurate. But there was one memorably authentic scene in which the vicar, Adam Smallbone, really is at rock bottom. Tears roll slowly down his cheeks as Smallbone, played by Tom Hollander, lies slumped on his dishevelled bed. Exhausted and alienated from his wife, Smallbone clings on – just – to his faith by reciting the Beatitides. The moment serves as a momentary glimpse into the apparently unusual concept of clergy depression.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the debate on clergy wellbeing at the General Synod earlier this month, he made headlines – but he also won the hearts of many a church minister when he recalled that he was at his most stressed when he was a parish priest.

‘The hardest work I’ve ever done and the most stressful was as a parish priest – mainly because it was isolated, insatiably demanding and I was on the whole working without…close colleagues, particularly in the first few years,’ Justin Welby said.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(BBC) Church of England ‘withdrew emotional support for abused’

Victims of abuse by clergy have criticised the Church of England’s close relationship with the insurer advising it on compensation claims.
They said the Church had cut contact and emotional support from them on the advice of Ecclesiastical – which has a senior clergy member on its board.
An independent reviewer said in one victim’s case “financial interests were allowed to impact practice”.
The Church said it aimed to separate pastoral care from insurance issues.’

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Violence

(TheArda) David Briggs–Studies: How clergy can help believers die a ‘good death’

One of the studies was a national survey of more than 1,000 clergy. The other involved in-depth interviews with 35 ministers from five states. The research raises three critical areas of concern:

• Too much faith in miracles: More than three in 10 clergy in the national survey said they would strongly agree with a congregant who said, “I believe God will cure me of this cancer.” Eighteen percent affirmed the belief that every medical treatment should be accepted “because my faith says to do everything I can to stay alive.”
• Lack of knowledge: In the in-depth study, spiritual leaders showed little knowledge of end-of-life care, including the benefits of palliative care and potential harms associated with invasive interventions. “Many grossly overestimated the benefits of aggressive medical procedures at the end of life,” researchers reported in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Three-quarters said they would like more training in end-of-life issues.
• Fear of overstepping boundaries: The default position of many clergy, even those who personally believed it was against God’s will to suffer unnecessarily, was to merely support the decisions of dying congregants and their family members.

But even such passivity has consequences, researchers said, in that it can enable congregants to seek potentially nonbeneficial treatments that are associated with increased suffering.

The larger problem was summarized by one study participant: “We have not done a good job…on preparing people to die–that they don’t need to live the last days of their lives under terrible and excruciating pain.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(OC Register) Episcopal panel recommends suspension for L.A. Bishop J. Jon Bruno, return of Newport Beach church to locked-out congregants

A panel of officials from the national Episcopal Church issued its recommendation on misconduct charges against J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, on Friday, July 21, nearly ending a two-year battle during which he tried to sell the St. James the Great church in Newport Beach and displaced its congregants.

Panel members voted 4-1 to suspend Bruno for three years, restore the congregation and halt efforts to sell the 40,000-square-foot building and surrounding property at 3209 Via Lido, which includes a rose garden where the ashes of 12 former parishioners are buried.

The decision comes after panel members presided over a three-day disciplinary hearing in March.

Read it all.

Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

(Catholic Herald) Andrew Sabisky–Conservative Anglicans are close to despair. Is the CofE about to split?

Anyone with a lick of sense can see that the Church of England is in serious trouble. Congregational decline, child abuse scandals, and financially desperate cathedrals are just the most obvious symptoms of a very broad disease. As an Anglican, I have been confident that the Church would manage to turn things around in a few decades. After the most recent meeting of General Synod, however, I am no longer so confident.

On the face it, the Synod’s changes were all fairly minor. For all the fuss, the proposal to write official liturgies affirming the new gender identity of transgender people may well be ignored even by Church’s own bishops; and the changes on regulation of vestments merely rubber-stamps what already takes places across swathes of the Church.

But the most significant thing about the Synod was the manner in which it was conducted. The bishops stayed largely silent as Synod did theology by endless anecdote. The only notable episcopal contributions came from the liberal northern prelates (especially Paul Bayes of Liverpool). An outburst of anti-capitalism from the Archbishop of York provided comedy value amongst the general dour air of neo-Puritanism. The monotonous drumbeat of socialism and sexual liberalism was only broken by the ecumenical contribution of Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who warned Synod that it’s bad for PR and the soul to spend so much time talking about sex. His plea fell on deaf ears.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Australian Anglican leader to seek Church apology to domestic violence victims

The head of the Anglican Church in Australia says he hopes the general synod in September will apologise to victims of domestic violence, and for any failure from the Church.

On The Drum, Anglican Primate of Australia Archbishop Philip Freier read out an unequivocal apology written by an Aboriginal priest, Father Daryl McCullough, who heads a parish in western New South Wales.

“I want to finish this by simply saying sorry. As a priest in the Church of God I’m truly and deeply sorry if you or anyone you love has been the victim of abuse and found the Church complicit in making that abuse worse,” Father McCullough wrote on his blog.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia, Australia / NZ, Church History, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(Church Times) English same-sex couple among those to wed in Glasgow cathedral first

St Mar’s Cathedral, in Glasgow, has become the first Anglican cathedral in Britain to offer same-sex couples the opportunity to marry.

The cathedral is already taking bookings from such couples on its website, including one from an English pair who cannot get married in their Church of England parish.

In June, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod passed a motion to permit clergy to conduct gay weddings…. The legislation came into effect on Tuesday.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Scottish Episcopal Church, Sexuality

(CEN) Archbishop Welby outlines plans for exhaustive review of sexuality

Hannah Grivell (Derby) asked whether the House of Bishops had considered advising Diocese Directors of Ordinands to stop using Issues in Human Sexuality in the discernment process of new ordinands until a new teaching document is available, ‘given that it was never intended for use in this way and is 26 years old’.

To which Bishop Hardman explained that this is one of the questions that will be put forward to the pastoral advisory group ‘with some urgency’.

Jane Charman (Salisbury) asked if the House of Bishops intends to learn from the Scottish Episcopal Church and their deliberations on the matter.

The Archbishop of Canterbury responded explaining saying “we will certainly be seeking to learn from all the provincesof the Anglican Communion’, which could include Canada, New Zealand and Australia as well as other provinces who have taken a different view to those mentioned.

“They will be learned from, there’s a lot to learn from the experience around the Communion,” he added.

Read it all (may require subscription).

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Is The Church of England General Synod competent?

There are several reasons why these two motions should never have been debated. The first and most obvious is that both issues will certainly be addressed in the teaching document that the Archbishops have commissioned, so the motions are trying to short-circuit a wider discussion. The second is that both take the form of false binaries; essentially they say ‘Do you agree with me—or do you hate gay and transgender people?’ No matter how faulty the wording, failing to pass either motion would not have looked like good PR, and there would have been howls of protest from various quarters. In the voting, it was evident that the bishops were acutely aware of this, and taking both motions by a vote of houses (so that they had to pass separately in each of the bishops, clergy and laity) which would normally make it harder for a motion to pass, in fact made it easier, since the bishops could not afford to be seen to be the ones who were blocking.

The third reason was the poor wording of both motions. The PMM talked of ‘conversion therapy’ but used this as an ill-defined catch-all which made proper debate very difficult. Every single speaker, including those who proposed and supported significant amendments, agreed that any form of forced or coercive treatment of people who are same-sex attracted (whether they are happy with that or not) is abusive and must be rejected. But another part of Jayne Ozanne’s agenda is to have significant movements in the Church, including New Wine, Soul Survivor, HTB and Spring Harvest labelled as ‘spiritual abusive’ and therefore illegal. This is why the motion was seen as a Trojan horse. Her motion was also asking Synod to ‘endorse’ a medical opinion, and a controverted one at that, which is simply not within Synod’s competence to do so. But suggesting that Synod ‘does not have the competence’ to express a view is like holding up a red rag to a bull (or any colour rag—bulls are colour blind). In the end we passed an amended motion that ‘endorsed’ a different medical view—but few had read the details, still less understood the issues within it, and such endorsement is meaningless except as tokenism.

The transgender motion asked for the bishops to ‘consider whether’ they should formulate some new liturgy, and in one sense that is an empty statement; they might well ‘consider’ it for five minutes and decide not. But to even raised the question of liturgy, before we have any consensus of understanding on the issue, is putting the cart so far before the horse that the horse has lost sight of it.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in - Anglican: Analysis, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Nathan Smith–On sex Before Marriage: Our grandparents were right, and we are wrong

On the other side is the glory of marriage, and while there’s more to that glory than the selfish genes can explain, they shed an important light on it. For when two people marry, “leaving father and mother” as the Bible says and committing to lifelong monogamy, their genetic interests are united, at least approximately, creating a harmony of instincts. Ordinarily, our instincts put us in competition with our fellow human beings. In marriage, instinct is on the side of love.

Children are the large, obvious reason why marriage is good for society and why premarital sex isn’t. Sexual relationships always absorb a lot of people’s energy and attention, so they impoverish society unless they give something back. Marriage makes the next generation, under the most favorable conditions. Premarital sex is usually not intended for procreation, and if it does result in children, they enter life at a disadvantage because they lack stable parental commitments to raising them.

But even compared to childless marriage, premarital sex has an unwholesome character because, by failing to address genetic conflicts of interest through marriage, it allows competition, exploitation, and fear of betrayal to penetrate into the heart of the most intimate human relationships, not stealthily, but openly and as if by right. There is no way to make premarital sex promote the good of society or of the individuals involved. The world would be a better place if it never happened at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Teens / Youth, Theology: Scripture, Young Adults

(CEN) Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden: Double Standards in the Church?

Forced resignation goes beyond the public humiliation meted out by the church authorities. Media seize on the word ‘collude’ and vilify Lord Carey for supposed implication in the crimes of Peter Ball. Invitations to minister in Churches in England and America are suddenly withdrawn. He has committed the unforgiveable sin – systemic mistakes were made, which he admits, on his watch, so he personally has to carry the public opprobrium.

Meanwhile his successor, Rowan Williams, and all the episcopal and legal advisers involved, suffer no penalty. Lord Carey’s penalty bears no relation to safeguarding: at 82 he is a threat to no-one. He carries no authority to permit any one to minister. His penalty can only be punishment which the Church feels necessary to preserve its place in the public square.
On the other hand the past few years have seen a procession of clergy, some highly placed, deliberately flout the teaching of the Church of England which they have sworn before God to uphold, and its canons which they have sworn to observe in obedience to the office of their bishop.

Some in high office along with members of General Synod deliberately question and oppose the teaching of the Bible and of the Anglican Communion on marriage and sexuality.
Others have placed ‘facts on the ground’. For example, under the leadership of its dean, Southwark Cathedral advertises availability of prayers for a civil partnership, while noting the Church has no authorised prayers or service of blessing.

One dean has called on the Church to embrace gay marriage, revealing that he has previously held services of blessing for same sex couples at another Cathedral and would consider doing the same again. Did he seek permission from the Archbishop of York before going ahead with the ceremonies? (See further below)

A parish clergyman entered into a same-sex marriage, specifically forbidden to members of the clergy, and remained in post. Both the deans and the vicar remained on General Synod which makes the laws of the church. Yet calls are made to remove Lord Carey from the Lords because a lawbreaker cannot be a lawmaker.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology