Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Due diligence

Recently I posted on women-and-ordination on Anglican Down Under. Some very long threads ensued. Perhaps I should have posted here. But here I do want to offer the observation that there is much to be gained from doing due diligence on what Scripture says and how we understand what we think it is saying. By 'due diligence' I mean painstaking, careful reading and reflection informed as far as possible by excellent and detailed scholarship. It is easy to slide from initial reading to proclaimed conclusion without examining steps in the reasoning process along the way. It worries me, however, that across the whole of our church at this time that we are neither ready for, nor aware of how much due diligence is required on the matter of Scripture and human sexuality.


  1. And very good threads they were, Peter. i admire your capacity for maintaining your equanimity in the face of hostile interogation from anonymous commenters.

    To your challenge here. It is certainly time for those like me who believe that changing attitudes and policies on sexuality are mandated by gospel imperatives to front up with some detailed expositions of our scriptural hermeneutics in support of our position. I intend to extend my own contribution to this debate with a new blog at hermeneuticsworkshop.com which I will launch any day now.

    However, I want to sound a caution about your application of the commercial concept of "due diligence" to Anglican polity regarding sexuality. In the commercial world this refers to the prudence required before purchasing a new product. Do your homework first, or don't buy. To accept this as appropriate in our current situation is to concede a point you frequently make, that moves by several Anlgican provinces to fully accept the lives and ministries of LGBT people constitutes a radical innovation, and that we should be far more cautious than we have been, in particular regarding what it means for our shared reading of scripture. In short, that we have no right to act so quickly because we have not yet done the requiured homework.

    My own reading of the situation is different. While full acceptance of LGBT people as fellow Christians and as leaders is something new, their presence among us is not. Now that we all know this, as we do in the Western world, a more urgent set of gospel dynamics comes into play mandating the official recognition of those who have always been part of the family, blessed by God. It becomes personal, and more urgent than "due diligence" seems to suggest. Some decisions have to be made intuitively (Yes, you belong among us) with the rationale arriving at a more leisurely pace.

  2. Hi Howard


    Yes, I understand the inadequacy of 'due diligence'. Perhaps 'careful community consideration' could be an alternative.

    I know we are in a situation where many think we should act now and do the study afterwards (actually that sounds a bit like Obamanomics, borrow now, pay later!!) ... but doing that could split the church apart surer than an axe laid into a log ... taking care could be a way to bring everyone together along the way, not leave some behind.

    I guess I am sounding a caution about your note of caution ...

  3. I have a lot of sympathy for where you are coming from Howard. My own reflection (and I am very much speaking personally here) is that we have put the cart before the horse. We seem to have been setting a bar for acceptance and welcome (which surely should be open to all, but sadly has been used to exclude and denigrate, including spiritually abuse).

    There is a gospel proclamation that each of us finds comfort in, that God loves, embraces and accepts us as we are. But the real challenge we all need to face is the challenge of discipleship and the ongoing work of salvation in the form of transformation. We all underestimate the need for transformation that is part and parcel of our witness as a church and the work of the gospel in itself.

    Seems to me there has been too much pointing at others and highlighting all that is perceived to be wrong in their manner of life (all too easy to do), and not enough self-examination.

    The exegetical and hermeneutical task then becomes less an attempt to settle political disputes and policies, and more a desire to hear God's word to his people anew.

    I'm not for a moment deluding myself that the way forward is easy, or that there are clear answers. It will certainly require courageous leadership on all 'sides', and the real challenge comes not with the welcome and acceptance of people as they are side of things (and I know evangelicals have much to ponder here), but in negotiating the values required of recognised public leaders of the church of God - it is in the latter (manner of life of public leaders) that I would urge caution while the church comes to an agreed expectation with 'due diligence', not the former (welcome and acceptance of people as they are, with the encouragement to grow as disciples) - which should be urged as a matter of urgency.

    Personal thoughts, and nothing more - but I certainly resonate with Peter's call for revisiting the need for 'painstaking, careful reading and reflection informed as far as possible by excellent and detailed scholarship.' Sounds good to me!

    Tim Harris