My Photo
Location: United States

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NT Wright and TEC

The Times has an op-ed piece by NT Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, on the recent approval by the Episcopal Church of D025. Here's part of it .....

The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.

Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled ....

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire” ....

Contrary to some who have recently adopted the phrase, there is already a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”. It is called the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is now distancing itself from that fellowship. Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level.

I think he's wrong on a whole number of levels, from his reference to scripture (which is an interpretation and there are other interpretations just as worthy), to his dragging in of Jesus at the very end to justify the merits of exclusion over inclusion and tradition over justice.

But there's a rebuttal to Wright's Times piece that is much more detailed at Seven whole days, a blog by Episcopal priest Scott Gunn -
When Tom Wright gets it totally wrong…

Here is just the last bit of Scott's post .....


But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. - from Wright's Times article

Whaaa? One begins to wonder if Bishop Wright ever read the bits before Matthew in his Bible. Or if he is aware of the practice of polygamy in Muslim cultures. Sure, Medieval Christianity decided that lifelong marriage between one man and one woman was the ideal, but those same Christians taught clerical celibacy. I encourage Bishop Wright to read his Hebrew Scriptures before he says that Jewish and Christian teachers have “always” taught his view of marriage. I wonder if he still adheres to Jesus’ teachings on, say, divorce? If you want to look more broadly, I wonder if Bishop Wright sold all his possessions and gave the money to the poor when he became a follower of Christ? Mostly, I’m astounded at anyone who cites a “Biblical view of marriage” as if that settles it. It’s all much more complicated than that. It’s about love, fidelity, and faithfulness, mostly.

Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. - Wright

So I guess that would make racism or slavery A-OK. Both racism and slavery are very Biblical, by the way. No, I’m afraid Jesus didn’t put any asterisks on the Great Commandment. It is not “love SOME neighbors” but love all neighbors. I find it fascinating that Bishop Wright here argues for contextual or situational ethics and then pretends to cite timeless cross-cultural values in another sentence.

Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level. - Wright

Ah, now the punchline. This was all a justification for supporting the supposed conservative victims. The problem with the fiction of pastoral provision for conservatives is that they are not, in fact victims. No one has ever asked them to leave. No one has said women priests or straight priests have to be in every congregation. Congregations are free to call lesbians or WASPy men, as God guides them. No one will have to perform same-sex blessings. Seminarians can go to Nashotah House or EDS.

But it’s much more convenient to justify schism if one plays the victim card.

Let’s all be clear about two things. First, the Episcopal Church is (imperfectly, to be sure) trying to answer God’s mission imperatives in this place and in this time. Second, we are committed to our bonds of affection with our sisters and brothers overseas. To say otherwise is to distort the truth and to refuse to listen to what our General Convention and our Presiding Bishop have repeatedly said.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dare I question Bishop Wright. He is obviously a scholar--I, a simple layman. But I believe the ancient Greek classical definition of "justice" was giving to each man his due. So all Wright has done is to say, in his opinion,LGBT's are "due" less than others. He is simply answering his own question by saying LGBTs are inferior. Jack

7:28 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I have to read more about justice, but with the idea of justice as giving people what they deserve, it seems there's so much room for error (who decides what they deserve?) - I prefer an idea of justice as equal opportunity/compensation.

In the gospels, there are parables about God giving people not what they deserve but giving to them equally and generously, whether they are seen to deserve it or not (the laborers hired at different times during the day, but all paid a day's wage).

9:50 PM  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

A Bible scholar like NT Wright should know better than most that Biblical commandments cannot simply be applied to life today without due consideration of context. To suppose as he does that anyone in any way involved in the writing of the scriptural prohibitions of homosexual acts had committed same-sex relationships in mind is simply preposterous.

That he should suggest that "including active homosexuals in Christian ministry" is the same thing as asserting "the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire" is simply breathtaking.

Wright's biggest problem with his commentary on ecclesiastical affairs is the same problem that afflicts his scriptural scholarship: he'll think critically about some things, but not all things, and not the things he really needs to think critically about.

6:57 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


Well said. I've read and liked much of his writing but on the subject of religion and homosexuality he seems determined not to consider any other points of view.

11:05 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home