anthills–Episcopalians & the Anglican Communion

March 27, 2006


Filed under: ECUSA, Uncategorized — anthill @ 4:27 am

A comment-question on her blog gave Susan Russell the opportunity to test a short speech for General Convention. Russell is not a Deputy herself, but will be busy guiding strategy and tactics as President of Integrity. Someone will make this speech.

It is a perfect summary of the argument made by Russell and others in Nottingham, defending the ECUSA actions of GC 2003.

For a revealing look back at that event, see this item from titusonenine (I searched for the original on Integrity’s website, but couldn’t find it). Check the first comment for an important analysis of Integrity’s claims.

It may look like I’m pick, pick, picking at Susan Russell. But, she keeps saying things that need to be taken account of. After all, she is President of Integrity.

In a comment on Russell’s March 08, 2006 blog tribute to Prof. Urban T. Holmes, “hiram” asked: “Why are you so sure that same-sex relationships are acceptable to the Lord?”

Russell’s answer / GC speech follows:

“Why am I so ‘sure’?

“1] Because of my lived experience of the spiritual fruits of love, peace, joy, patience and compassion I have seen lived out in the relationships of couples of the same gender.

“2] Because I believe the Holy Scriptures I inherit as a Christian and believe to be the Living Word of God calls the church to be as open to changing its mind on what is clean and unclean as God called Peter to be open when Cornelius came knocking on his door.


3] At the end of the day, my faith isn't based on being ‘sure’ or even being ‘right.’ Here's what Verna Dozier—one of the great 20th century Anglican saints—had to say about that:

"Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today."

If you are a GC deputy, this is the argument. Mark my words.

Commenters might imagine being the next person at a mike. Don’t rant; answer this.

[Timestamp changed from 3/16/06 to keep this post in view]



  1. “1] Because of my lived experience of the spiritual fruits of love, peace, joy, patience and compassion I have seen lived out in the relationships of couples of the same gender.”

    Here, we’re placing, formostly, experience above Scripture. We are placing it primarily above the Tradition that comes from the time of Genesis. We can see that she is not into the Natural arguement at all. We all know the Natural argument and its precepts that must be followed in order to be the fullest call of any minister of God. Naturalness of a relationship produces the turest sacrament.

    “2] Because I believe the Holy Scriptures I inherit as a Christian and believe to be the Living Word of God calls the church to be as open to changing its mind on what is clean and unclean as God called Peter to be open when Cornelius came knocking on his door.”

    Here, we see plainly that Russell desires to stay in the way that she finds herself. Nevermind the truth that the church has espoused as good and holy for all these thousands of years…it must now change to suit her lifestyle. The truth of the matter is that when we are called by the Spirit of the Lord, we are called to change. It turns our notions that the world has indoctrinated us into upside down. Suddenly we are called to come out from that that would make us mere secularists into a deeper understanding that is trumpeted by the Church. It is not we that need to change the Church, but entirely the opposite, it is the Church that must to change us.


    “3] At the end of the day, my faith isn’t based on being ‘sure’ or even being ‘right.’ Here’s what Verna Dozier—one of the great 20th century Anglican saints—had to say about that:

    “Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine”

    By this statement #3 above and her quote of Dozier along with it, she is stating that she is moving…no matter what. Faith in Christ makes us stand up for ourselves against the world for the first time. Faith also opens us to the Community of all believers. It places us within Community. GC2003 decided to act against all the counsel the Anglican Communion could provide. It acted autonomously. It did not act in any manner as if it were a part of a larger Communion. To walk faithfully, as Susan Russell is asking us to do, we need to walk also WITH the Anglican Communion. That Communion asks us to repent of what has caused us great division. Let us no longer walk divisively, but with the mind of the Church. Let us enable the Church to continue to call for change…not the Body of Christ to our likeness, but ours to the likeness of Christ…covering the entire horizontal and vertical vision…from the Natural perfection instilled within humanity and the created order to the deepest Spiritual reality that raises us to brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

    Comment by Milton Finch — March 16, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

  2. Milton,

    Thank you for the thoughtful argument. You have highlighted several of the arguments for the historic view.

    At GC, same-sex advocates will emphasize the Scripture of God doing a radically new thing through Peter with Cornelius.

    Experience will then speak on that basis and say: We have seen this very thing with homosexual relationships.

    Comment by anthill — March 16, 2006 @ 11:25 pm

  3. I’ll give it a shot: Point 2 is a good place to start. While I will not suggest that Susan Russell+ does not take scripture seriously, or does not read it with piety, I do think that the example she cites exhibits inadequate epistemology and hermeneutics.

    One point for now: She seems to appeal to a concept of doctrinal development grounded in the scripture as a “living word.” What is not adequately dealt with is how we discern between true and false development. Arguably, the fundamentalism of the Southern Baptist Church is a development of biblical Christianity. But I am relatively certain that she would not accept this as an authentic development of the Christian tradition.

    I might assume that the authenticity of such development is to be tested by her first point, “[her] lived experience” of homosexuality and that of others. But is individual experience an adequate arbiter of true development? If a Mormon Fundamentalist in a polygamous relationship experiences the same “spiritual fruits” as does Ms. Russell+ in her sexual life experience does that affirm that polygamy is an authentic development of the tradition?

    Ultimately, an epistemological appeal to experience will deconstruct. What we call “truth” in this matter is merely the aggregate of discrete individual experiences. Thus there can be no overarching appeal to truth outside of the exercise of power. Hence the pitched battle on these issues not for the hearts and minds of the Communion, but over where power resides, General Convention or Lambeth and the Instruments of Unity. The debate over Windsor pretends to be about theology, but it is about politics, which is about all we can expect from the epistemological ground upon which the battle is being waged.

    Comment by Richard — March 16, 2006 @ 11:32 pm

  4. Richard–A blockbuster analysis. It got my college philosophy motor jump-started. Rather than comment further here, I’m going to post the core of your comment as a new post.

    Comment by anthill — March 17, 2006 @ 12:07 am

  5. Yes, for the record, not Kew. Thanks.

    Comment by Richard — March 17, 2006 @ 6:10 am

  6. [anthill editing: Milton–I’ve added the link to the pdf file to avoid questions about copyright for such a long quote. The reply by the co-author of the book Gagnon reviewed is here, plus a second conservative article on pastoral practice. I plan to work this up into one or more posts to get them in better view.]

    This is from Gagnon’s book, Why the Disagreement over Biblical Witness on Homosexual Practice, A Response to Myers and Scanzoni, What God Has Joined Together (starting at page 70 of the pdf file).

    2. Acts 10, circumcision, and the Gentile inclusion analogy

    The second argument that Myers and Scanzoni use as a model for heading off divisions on the homosexuality issue is the oft-cited analogy of including Gentiles in the church without requiring circumcision (Acts 10:1-11:18; 15). Just as seeing the evidence of the Spirit in the lives of uncircumcised Gentile believers led the early church to challenge the applicability of circumcision laws for Gentiles, so too today, allegedly, “getting to know devout gay and lesbian people of faith” should cause the church to reconsider “our Creator’s intent in creating humankind as male and female and providing the institution of marriage.”155 Although I have already dealt extensively with the Gentile inclusion analogy in several places, Myers and Scanzoni are either unaware that any substantive critique of the alleged analogy exists or inclined to leave readers unaware.156

    There are at least seven reasons why the alleged analogy is unworkable, some of which have already been suggested.

    a. Ignores creation grounding. Jesus grounded the two-sexes prerequisite for marriage in the will of the God established at creation—a fact that gave it preeminent significance for him (Matt 19:8: “but from the beginning of creation it did not happen in this way”). Circumcision is not grounded in creation structures. Paul correctly understood this, alluding to Gen 1-2 as background for his remarks against homosexual practice while contending that circumcision was nonessential (Rom 1:24-27; 2:25-29; ch. 4; 6:19; 1 Cor 6:9; 7:18-19).

    b. Confuses a Jewish ritual prescription having minimal effect on the body with a universal sexual proscription having maximal bodily effect. The alleged analogy treats as comparable distinctively Jewish ritual requirements that affect the body superficially and universal moral standards for sexual ethics that affect the body holistically. The comparison is especially problematic in view of the fact that both Jesus and Paul rejected it, as noted above. While Jesus gave diminished significance to diet and Sabbath regulations, he intensified God’s demands in sexual ethics, predicated his view on marital ‘twoness’ on God’s creation of two complementary sexes (Mark 10:5-9; Matt 5:27-32), and specifically rejected an equation between food entering the body and desires for prohibited sexual conduct proceeding from the body (Mark 7:14-23). Paul likewise contended that immoral sexual behavior—unlike food, days, and circumcision—could not come unreservedly under the slogan “all things are permitted me,” for the former alone affected the body holistically and could lead to not inheriting God’s kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-20; 7:18-19; cf. Rom 13:13-14:23).

    c. Confuses persons and behaviors. The alleged analogy confuses what Acts 15 clearly distinguishes: welcoming persons and accepting behaviors. The Apostolic Decree forbade continued participation in porneia (15:20, 29; 21:25) and did so with the sex laws in Lev 18 in view. Paul similarly welcomed Gentiles into the household of faith while commanding them not to live like Gentiles, especially as regards engaging in sexual behavior that Scripture categorically forbids (1 Thess 4:3-8; Rom 6:19; cf. Eph 4:17-24; 5:3-5). Although Gentile life was viewed as typically, but still only incidentally, sinful, same-sex intercourse (like incest) was treated as intrinsically sinful.

    d. Confuses very different degrees of scriptural support. The alleged analogy between prescribing circumcision and proscribing homosexual practice overlooks the degree to which Scripture and the putative new work of the Spirit are in tension. Embrace of uncircumcised Gentiles has some significant OT precedents157 and uniform NT support, whereas embrace of homosexual practice constitutes a radical departure from Scripture in both Testaments. Given how far affirmation of homosexual practice would have to override Scripture, claims to the Spirit’s authenticating role must be considered highly dubious from the start.

    e. Overlooks limitations of a Spirit-possession /fruit-bearing test. The premise of the alleged analogy is that evidence of the Spirit’s outworking in one area of a person’s life necessarily validates other areas, even if the latter entails a severe violation of Scripture’s core standards in sexual ethics. But the premise is naïve. Obviously, a person can both give generously to the poor and engage in immoral sexual behavior, without impugning the former or validating the latter in God’s sight. People are very good at separating off or compartmentalizing various aspects of their lives, bearing moral fruit in some areas while having moral difficulties in others. It is possible to have the Holy Spirit and even to live in the Spirit’s power at points while doing things that do not honor the Spirit. The incestuous man at Corinth appears to be a case in point, whether or not the incestuous bond was committed and loving (1 Cor 5). Certainly Paul regarded Christians who engaged in homosexual practice as another case in point (1 CorNew Testament,159 worked for overriding circumcision only because, even for many first-century Jews, uncircumcision did not automatically disqualify a Gentile from being considered “righteous.” However, engaging in same-sex intercourse or any other sexually immoral act would have had precisely that effect.

    f. Sidesteps the reason for the proscription. The alleged analogy sidesteps completely the reason why Scripture regards same-sex intercourse as wrong: a dishonoring of the integrity of the sexual self through attempted completion with what one already is as a sexual being. It implicitly treats the very notion of a formal or structural prerequisite for sexual activity as obsolete.

    g. Confuses ethnicity and “sexual orientation.” It is a mistake to equate a sexual impulse with ethnicity. On the one hand, ethnicity is a feature of human existence that is (1) entirely heritable, (2) absolutely immutable, (3) primarily non-behavioral, and (4) inherently benign.

    On the other hand, same-sex attraction as an impulse may be (1) only partly and indirectly heritable (as, for instance, pedosexual attraction or alcoholism); (2) susceptible to some change (at least reduction in intensity, if not redirection) given cultural variables, incremental choices, and therapeutic intervention; (3) primarily behaviorally directed (an impulse to do something), requiring an assessment of the behavior; and (4) not inherently benign (many impulses of a deeply ingrained sort are sinful).

    The Gentile inclusion analogy would only be a strong analogy if one ignored, as Myers and Scanzoni do, the seven problems with the analogy cited above. But one cannot ignore these problems. Homosexual practice is not the circumcision,diet, and calendar issue of today. It is more like the incest issue of today.

    Comment by Milton Finch — March 17, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  7. […] – PREVIEW OF A SPEECH for GC2006… (anthill) […]

    Pingback by CaNN :: We started it. — March 19, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  8. I still am puzzled by the fact that both VGR and SR were both married , had children, and thus had at least some attchment to a member of the opposite sex sufficient to foster vows and set up a family together.

    that is a part of boths ‘lived experience”

    Comment by KC — March 20, 2006 @ 11:37 am

  9. KC–I think the way that discussion goes is that experience, like “our truths” change and grow. The former connections (slight pun) might be seen as early, inauthentic efforts to conform to society. Gene Robinson has said as much. I don’t know anything about SR, but it could easily be the same.

    In a way, it doesn’t seem to matter. The church debate is about all cases of gay unions.

    Comment by Hilltop Cemetery — March 20, 2006 @ 3:00 pm

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