Friday, February 16, 2007

another anglican political blog post!

This blog is not known for it's comments on the political machinations of the Anglican church - but all of that's about to change...well at least for today. And I might even throw in a bit of theology too!
The Primates meeting - i.e. the global gathering of the leaders/archbishops of each province - has been going on the last few days in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania (on the left is a pic of Rowan - our beloved archbish and Peter Akinola - archbishop of Nigeria and one of the leading conservative voices in global anglicanism).
As you might have expected, the big topic of conversation was 'the gay issue' - and particularly whether or not the American church should get kicked out of the anglican communion for not towing the party line.

Now - my thought it this: why can't we just simply agree to disagree on this subject? Why do we have to do the typical protestant thing and walk away from each other if we don't agree? Monty Python fans out there will remember the famous scene - "splitters!" - from the Life of Brian which seems relevant at this point (an excerpt from the script is about a third of the way down this page if you need to refresh your memory!).

Some people in the anglican communion want to give full blessing to homosexuals - including same sex blessings and ordination of gay priests/bishops. Some don't. Why can't we agree to differ and preserve our unity?

I think the answer lies in the difference between first order and second order issues. If, for instance, you don't think this is a first order issue, you can probably find it within yourself to say, 'ok - we see this one differently, but let's keep the main thing the main thing and get on with the job'.

If, however, you do see it as a first order issue - alongside things like the divinity of Christ, the doctrine of the trinity etc., you will probably want to say something like 'it's impossible for us to maintain our unity because the whole basis of our unity is threatened'.

For the conservatives, it seems that it's not so much a case of the issue itself - i.e. is it 'ok to be gay' - that makes it a first order issue, it has more to do with what the issue reveals about how we handle scripture that is at stake i.e. 'the bible says quite clearly that it is not ok to be gay so those of you who say that it is do not give the bible it's proper authoritative place and therefore we have no basis for unity'.

But - to these conservatives (Akinola et al) who are pushing for a split - I would ask: are we sure that it's that simple? I mean, doesn't our progressive hermeneutic on issues like the bible's position on slavery or the place of women open up the possibility (I'm just saying possibility) that a similarly progressive hermeneutic on homosexuality is a possibility?

That, for me, firmly places the issue in the second order category, rather than the first, and enables me to adopt an 'it's possible to agree to disagree' position which also enables us to preserve our common bond.

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