Sunday, 19 February 2017

Authority in contention

An early start this morning with an eight o'clock celebration at St John's. As I was finishing, Fr Jesse from Caerau with Ely Parish arrived to take the 9.00am. He was a colleague in the Central Cardiff Team Ministry when I started there back in 2002. It's ages since we last met, although I took services in his Parish when he was on sick leave four years ago. So good to see him looking well now.

With plenty of time to spare after breakfast, a brief visit to Lidl's on the way to St Germans's for Mass, rather than call there on the way home for a grocery top-up. Clare had slow-cooked a fillet of lamb in a spicy tomato sauce for my lunch, enough for two days, as I don't eat much meat at a time, no matter how delicious it is. I returned with the last bottle of Baturrica Taragona Riserva 2010, Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon on the shelves, a family favourite vino from Catalunya. We over-bought for our Golden Wedding party in the summer, and enjoyed the rest for months after. We gave a few to Kath and Anto to take home. Days later we received a photo from them on the Bilbao Ferry, featuring one of the bottles they'd taken with them in their picnic basket for the road trip to Sta Pola. Talk about coals to Newcastle!

It's been an interesting week, with the CofE General Synod rejecting the House of Bishops report on sexuality, to put it at its simplest, falling short of the expectation that discussion and the report should include the voices of gay Christians, rather than discussion about them and their witness, not to mention the unsatisfactory conclusions it reached. Behind the ongoing debate on sexuality, is a conflict between adherents of different understandings of the bible and how it should be interpreted.

Christian tradition has always affirmed the central authority of scripture, but just like Judaism, it has never insisted exclusively on one approach to interpretation. This hasn't prevented conservatives of all kinds from affirming their views in church debate in a way that hints of trying to impose a dogma, rather than acknowledge mainstream Christianity's reluctance to do so on this matter. There's a great study of biblical passages that have anything to do with homosexuality, in both Jewish and Christian tradition and how ideas changed and diversified over millennia by American theologian Walter Wink. It thoroughly analyses and challenges conservative and liberal suppositions on evidence presented of continuing adaptation and change in attitudes and practice. To those who have adopted entrenched positions, it probably makes disturbing reading. I wonder if it was available to those involved in the recent conversations and episcopal report?

The church's Episcopate strives to build a consensus on matters of faith in a changing world,around which all can unite. On matters of sexuality this has proved hard to achieve, and shows just how divergently Christian communities are responding to change in the world of which they are part, due to different ways of reading and obeying scripture. I don't think there's any easy way out of this. During my lifetime, secular society has undergone a radical consensus shift about human relations and sexuality, more readily than the church. It's a stumbling block for some who want to believe and belong. Acceptance and respect for each other's positions and refusal to persecute and condemn those who disagree is vital, but can only mitigate the pain of division. Is all this upheaval a precursor to a real paradigm shift in understanding that will lead to reconciliation and growth? Time will tell. 

No comments:

Post a Comment