Here at Covenant, we’re posting links to the developing conversation around the report of the Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage. If you’re aware of any material we’re missing, please do send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are posting notices to material, as we become aware of them. We hope this gathering of links may serve as a resource to the Episcopal Church.
Fully Alive has just posted two new essays on “Scripture and Sexuality,” responding to the Episcopal Church’s Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM). They represent an exchange between Dr. Garwood P. Anderson, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Nashotah House, and Dr. Wesley Hill, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry. Wesley Hill writes:
I simply want to note the bewildering and enticing fecundity of the “traditional” view—and to note its almost complete absence from the TFSM’s paper. Neither the “revisionist” nor the “traditional” camps are static entities or simple “givens.” Our interest in typologies and categorization (“Which view is the liberal one?” “What are the features of the conservative view?”) may blind us to the way in which engagement with Scripture, whether on the more progressive or conservative side, is a never-finished task and one that is far more complex, demanding, and interesting than the TFSM’s description might suggest. What’s needed now, in our current crisis, is fresh attention to this material. We need better, deeper, more serious engagement with Scripture and its Christian interpreters—engagement that seeks the “face of the King,” Scripture’s unifying thread, as Irenaeus recommended. The invitation to such engagement lies open before us, and we are in danger of missing it, I fear.
Garwood Anderson writes:
I confess, however, to a mischievous hypothesis: is it not the case that the Bible of the TFSM is ultimately a fundamentalist Bible? […]
[I]f the messy candor of the Bible’s narration and the prophylactic, non-utopian character of Torah are cited as evidence of the Bible’s confusion, are we sure that the confusion does not actually lie with the Bible’s unsubtle readers, approaching the text with precisely the wrong expectations? What imagines itself as a kind of brave and sophisticated acknowledgement of the Bible’s complexity is actually just an extraordinarily flatfooted hermeneutic, a culpable naïveté parading as acumen.
I also want to acknowledge the feedback we’ve been receiving over the last couple days, from various quarters. Some would like us to quit talking about gay marriage; others are quite happy that we are. Some are disappointed with our discussion; others are heartened by it.
The simplest thing to say is that we are hoping to jumpstart an actual conversation on, among other things, Scripture and sexuality, while not pretending to lack a position on the questions at hand. The Episcopal Church has always talked a big talk about having such dialogue. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons I joined TEC several years ago, why I determined to pursue a vocation to ordained ministry within the context of Anglicanism.
But I don’t think it is controversial to say that TEC has not been especially good at actual, substantive discussion. Grandstanding, vote-casting, and poisonous rhetoric are our preferred methods of engagement with difficult issues. Theological debate is not. I have gathered this sense from many friends and partners in ministry, “progressive” and “conservative,” across the geographic spread of TEC: from Dallas to Cambridge, Mass., from Orlando to Chicago to Kansas City to Los Angeles.
I have a few thoughts about why this is the case, and I hope to write a piece on them in the next couple weeks, Lord willing. But I hope that readers of Covenant will continue to stay tuned and not be worn out by our coverage. We need to have endurance, hope, courage, and honesty to foster actual conversation as a church. These are difficult virtues to foster, and it is so much easier to disengage.
The featured image was uploaded to Flickr by firemedic58. It is licensed under Creative Commons.