First published June 4, 2004, on Classical Anglican Net
Last night, following Evening Prayer, nine Bishops of the ACC who remain faithful to the Scriptural teaching on sexuality stood up before General Synod. They issued a statement of regret and exhortation to the Anglican Church of Canada, for which they have been unjustly criticized. I am thankful for their forthright assertion that the "opinion" of the current Synod was "in error," "contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the tradition of the undivided Church," "the Lambeth Conference of 1998," "the … ecumenical consensus of the Church," and "the 1997 Guidelines" of the Canadian House of Bishops. Unfortunately, customary Canadian politesse has led my dear friends and our leaders to call for restraint while the house is on fire.
Resolution A-134 was bad enough:
1. It settled for a three-year extension to a discussion that has gone about as far as possible, ending in theological impasse between irreconcilable positions.
2. It implied that the issue of blessing homoerotic relationships may well not be a matter of doctrine—that is to be decided.
The imported last-minute amendment to "affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships" is downright darkness. Indeed, it uses a theological term ("sanctity"); this means that the final resolution has already determined how the three-year discussion will conclude. For if something is deemed holy, who is the church, or any church council, to forbid it? Indeed, any synodal permission to "bless" is simply icing on the cake. Those currently blessing these so-called "unions" will continue to do so, undisciplined, for they are simply "affirming" what "God" has already accepted; those parishes and dioceses desiring to begin this practice will do so unencumbered, for they have seen that even the orthodox in the Canadian Church have no stomach for anything stronger than "regretting" such actions.
Last night the orthodox Bishops said that Synod’s actions "may be causing confusion in the Church." In fact, the whole week, entitled "catharsis and switch" by one shrewd analyst, is already a major stumbling block. The hemorrhage of the ACC has begun: those who stay have as much to fear as those who seek refuge from this schismatic province. Is there a fearless leader to the south or the global south who will offer protection? Will protection, if offered, be accepted? Let us pray so.
Would that our cautious leaders had not simply expressed thanks to the Bishops of the Global South, and support for the ACiNW! Would that they had emulated those courageous Bishops directly to their south, who last August stood "filled with sorrow!" Those U.S.A. pastors (admittedly in an un-Canadian style) roundly rejected the action of ECUSA’s General Convention as an act that "divided itself from millions of Anglican Christians around the world." Surely the Canadian synod has likewise departed from the historic church, and from those who hold to the truth amidst dangerous conditions, even by speaking out of both sides of the mouth. Though this synod has not agreed to bless same-sex unions, nor to consecrate a Gene Robinson, it has called such arrangements blessed, smiled on "gay" and pro-gay schismatic leaders, and suffered its newest Primate to criticize his orthodox Bishops as divisive. Confusion reigns supreme.
Article XXI, cited by the Bishops, may offer a certain comfort, since it is true that the Church has seen hard times. But why should we think this province has simply "acted unwisely" and that it is "still the Body of Christ?" Has any prophet seen the candlestick still upright? Theologians with the acumen of Pannenberg and Packer have called this a communion-breaking issue. It is true that homoerotic sin is no graver than any of the iniquities that would bind us all. However, not to discipline those who have acted without reference to the rest of the Church, to assert that this state is blessed, to set up a constitutional quibble about whether this is a doctrinal issue, and to malign those who dissent from the decision, because they agree with the Holy Spirit – these acts are deadly.
How can faithful Canadians continue to be complicit with those who are determined to lead the Church away from the truth, or spend more time in synods that doubt biblical, historical and ecumenical teaching? To continue discussion would be to engage with the enemy in his "Hath God said?" rhetoric. Many faithful Anglicans in Canada must now choose between their well-meaning leaders, who have asked them so to engage, and their conscience. Perhaps the international community will intervene in our confusion and timidity, whether or not we deserve it.
Is this a "doctrinal issue"? How can it be otherwise? The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) considered debates about eating non-kosher food theological, and called on the churches of God to act together. If food matters to catholicity, how much more does our sexuality! Sexuality has to do with our doctrine of humanity (anthropology). Anthropology is directly related to the doctrine of the church, and to the doctrines concerning our triune and holy God, in whose image humankind (male and female) has been created.
In the wake of ECUSA’s apostasy, the ACC has veered off the way of the Lord. It has taken its candlestick to an alien altar. It is colluding with the spirit of this age. May those Canadian shepherds who still hear the word of the Lord on this issue wake up, and hear God’s voice, "Come out of her, my people, lest you partake in her iniquities." And may they take counsel with the whole people of God to decide how best to do this.
Edith Humphrey is Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. An Anglican layperson, she served as Professor of Scripture at Augustine College, Ottawa, Canada, from 1997 - 2002. Prior to her departure, she served as Dean. Before her service at Augustine College, she had an extended career as Lecturer at several colleges and universities in Canada. Her Ph.D. is from McGill University, Montreal. As well as being the author of numerous articles, she is the author of two books, Joseph and Aseneth (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), and The Ladies and the Cities, Transformation and Apocalyptic Identity in Joseph and Aseneth, 4. Ezra, the Apocalypse and The Shepherd of Hermas (JSOT Press, 1995). She is a co-author of Longing for God: Anglicans Talk about Revelation, Nature, Culture, and Authority (ABC Publishing, 2001). She was a member of the Canadian Primate’s Theological Commission, and the New Westminster Dialogue on Sexuality.