Saturday, 20 June 2009

A Response to David Ould.

This began as a response to a comment in the previous post, but I'm laying here in bed with the 'flu (don't worry - it's not Swine Flu!) and what began as a brief reply ended up becoming War & Peace. So rather than just delete it I decided to make it into an open letter, and give it a post of its own.)

David - Calm Down!
Your interaction here and elsewhere is greatly appreciated, and believe me you are respected for taking the time to do so. I realise it's not easy: sometimes it seems to me as if both sides of the divide are talking in different languages, and please understand that what can sound quite quite innocuous on one side of the church is actually very offensive on the other. That you've taken the time both here and on your own site to try bridging the gap is something for which we are all grateful, and stands as a testimony to you own faith and passion for all to know Christ.

Still - I can't see anyone here, especially any locals part of "the Sydney Opposition", crying "fundamentalist". To the contrary, I see a prominent Sydney blogger describing you and your approach as reasonable. Yes, he also calls for "conservative hypocrites" to be brought to account - as they well should be; so should liberal hypocrites and very other shade of hypocrite in between. If his use of this phrase seems harsh to you (or anyone else concerned) I've no doubt he'd be only too happy to explain why he chose to use it, and knowing him I can say with certainty he didn't make that decision lightly.

Remember that Jesus also used some pretty harsh expressions to criticise those using religion as an excuse to treat others as inferior. Elsewhere I've seen allegations of incompetence (with which I'm inclined to agree), duplicity (with which I don't) and a cover-up (jury's still out: I'll try to be more patient and wait until Synod). But fundamentalist? No, I don't believe I have.

Ok; the obvious exceptions are Father Christian and Father David Heron, but given that they're (a) satirists, and (b)quite often down-right weird, I'm not sure many people take them literally. At least I hope they don't: don't forget Father Christian recently called me an "outrageous, wicked apostate Vegemite-encrusted son-of-perdition", and any Sydney leaders taking him too seriously probably don't have the requisite social skills to be in ministry in the first place. In any case: throw those two at me & I'll match you with David Virtue and the Midwest Conservative Journal. Then I'll raise it by asking if you've ever tried disagreeing with anything at Craig's Place? That's the internet: robust, often rude, and frequently downright cranky. But in between the thorns I've had the privilege of finding great truths, and making friendships of a type once inconceivable. The world of the pamphleteers that thrived in the wake of the invention of the printing press wasn't much different, and it's largely due to them that the era of mass literacy came to be.

Given the things I see you saying here, along with suggestions I've heard you make at your place, I'm not sure you realise just how excluded from the processes of power those those in the Sydney "opposition" are. Clergy whose careers are blocked, or whose license is only renewed on an annual basis (and then frequently only after it's expired for a month or two). Requests for support that don't even receive a reply. Programs attracting hundreds of unchurched young people (yes, I said hundreds) that never rate a mention in Southern Cross, despite being run at virtually no cost by an army of volunteers - when the neighbouring "orthodox" parish receives a grant for a full-time youth worker to minister to its two dozen Christian kids. Churches massively exceeding their "Vision for Growth" targets that could for all the encouragement they receive be on another planet. Do I need to continue?

The "more productive" ways of being heard simply aren't open to many of us on a different side of the church to your own. As someone who hasn't been a "Reformed Evangelical" for more than a decade I can't join the ACL without lying. Nor can those not prepared to lie about their sexuality. Parish synod reps from our churches all too often return deeply frustrated; not because their motions were defeated (they didn't expect otherwise) but because they felt they weren't even heard. So what other forums do we have? We can't preach because we're women, or didn't go to Moore, or are divorced, or married to people who have been, or are perhaps just plain suspect. Our letters don't get published in Southern Cross, and more than a few of us were kicked off the old SydAng bulletin boards. Letters to bishops are ignored, and phone calls don't get past personal assistants who say "I'll notify him of your call". So what avenues remain?

The media and the web. And sometimes what you call "a thoroughly unproductive way of going about things" is the only option we've got. Many of us, myself included, have tried being polite and quietly spoken - and we were ignored. So all that remains is to become squeaky wheels in the face of the big machine, and even then it's only those of us with nothing left to lose who can afford do that.

Fighting for the right of those excluded by the church to discover Christ's love, forgiveness, and compassion is never a waste of time. I also wish there was no need to resort to some of the more abrasive tactics: I dare say Jesus wished he didn't have to use a whip to evict the temple's money-lenders. But the temple needed cleansing, and nothing else worked...

20 comments:

David Ould said...

mate, I'm sorry to hear you're not well and hope you get better soon.

Others here may not consider any of my sentiments to be genuine but I am confident it is not that way with you.

What I'm reading is, ultimately, an apologia for unpleasantness.
Let me be clear: you have every right to air your greviances. You have every right to ask to be heard. You have every right to disagree. You have every right to be plain wrong when it comes to what the Bible says about doctrine, sexual practice and so forth.

But I don't think that's what you're arguing for here. You come across as, finally, arguing for the right for you (or for others, since you're actually commednably restrained) to be flat-out rude.

as for there being no cry of "fundamentalist", with all its perjorative overtones, here in Sydney - that is in the very least naïve, surely you must concede. The language is all over the complaints that you speak of. I hear it myself on a regular basis.

So let's have some honesty on both sides. Or, alternatively, lets be branding hypocrisy everywhere we see it.

No one is denying that there are problems. But even Jesus didn't swear his mother into embarassment when he was clearing the temple. Nor was He ever spiteful and malicious.

So I'm no fan of Virtue either. And one of the problems is that a lot of your colleagues don't want to know that truth. It gets in the way of the justification for their consistent unpleasantness. If you don't like ungodly behaviour, then criticise all of it.

David Ould said...

sorry that came across as a bit of a rant. Well, a lot of one really.

Trust you get better soon.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Apparently asking for accountability from people who ought to offer it without being pressed is deemed "flat-out rude."

Hmmm. Things must be very different Down Under.... (Thank God for the Internet!)

Pax,
Doxy

P.S. Love the "You have every right to be plain wrong when it comes to what the Bible says about doctrine, sexual practice and so forth." Back atcha, Mr. Ould. People who support lay presidency in the Anglican Communion don't have a whole lot of room to be throwing bricks at others about doctrine...

Grandmère Mimi said...

Acibiades, you are never boring.

David, what is so difficult to understand about a plea to be heard? If the way to a hearing is blocked through official channels, then what would you suggest? I have not known Alcibiades to be uncivil in his complaints. Is he responsible for all the incivility on the part of those who are more or less like-minded to him? Are you responsible for the incivility of everyone who is like-minded to you?

Is it possible for you to use your influence to give people of every shade of opinion in the church a forum within the system where their voices may be heard?

David Ould said...

Apparently asking for accountability from people who ought to offer it without being pressed is deemed "flat-out rude."
no. Asking for accountability is asking for accountability - and it is absolutely necessary.

Whereas being rude is just being rude. And I have now on a number of occasions made the distinction obvious.

David, what is so difficult to understand about a plea to be heard? If the way to a hearing is blocked through official channels, then what would you suggest?
I suggest using the official channels first. After that, I do not know. What I do know is that unpleasantness collapses a case. I also know that consistent polemic attitudes backfire when there is finally a real issue to be addressed.

I have not known Alcibiades to be uncivil in his complaints. Is he responsible for all the incivility on the part of those who are more or less like-minded to him?
You are right, he is commendably civil. But, you and he may wish to consider how much one is seen to endorse someone if they consistently affirm and frequent the one who is being unpleasant. There comes a point where if you hanging around with them, laughing at their jokes, sharing with them, that you have to take ownership of it.

I, for one, have made it quite clear to people like Virtue that I find their language and behaviour intolerable. I've done that privately and publically.

And now I won't link to them.

On the other hand, there are some who decry certain behaviour but how consistently link to other appalling language, and implicitly affirm it.

sauce, goose, gander. That's all I'm saying. Ungodliness is ungodliness. And when it's blatant and malicious then it's more obvious and the toleration of it, to my mind, equally obviously wrong.

So hear me correctly. People should complain as much as they wish. But those who claim the name Christian (more than anyone) destroy their argument when it comes laced in deliberately spiteful language and behaviour. We all have a choice about this. If we're going to claim the name of Christ then let's own it completely.

Alcibiades said...

Thanks for the wishes David - I guess the flu's what happens when you go mucking around with dogs in the rain, catch cold, and then don't take it easy. Hopefully I'll remember for next time ;-)

Again there's a whole post of stuff I'd like to say in response, but for now I'll fight the urge and stick to just three points;

(1) We also have an equal right to be plain right when it comes to what the Bible says about doctrine, sexual practice and so forth (can I add justice, compassion, grace and love on the end of that?). Just because some consider what for want of a better term I'll call the inclusive side of the divide mistaken doesn't mean it necessarily is. Reformed Evangelicals aren't the only ones with a tremendous respect for Scripture, or who spend a great deal of time studying it.

(2) Rudeness is all too often in the eye (and ears) of the beholder. One person's spite is another's wit. More so, the humour and language of the marginalized invariably offends those power: you see this in the Gospels and you see it today. Take offence if you want (and I won't deny that I find some of the stuff out there more than I'm comfortable with), but I'd rather try and find out why they feel the way they do than deliver the reaction that's predicted. Life is too precious to waste it feeling offended.

(3)> I really do hope your last sentence about "claiming the name of Christ" and "owning it completely" was a throw-away. We never "own" the name of Christ - instead we find ourselves owned by Him, through grace, by love, and always in spite of ourselves. We fail, fall terribly, and yet the Spirit blows where the Spirit will, calling us, redeeming us yet again, and sweeping us onward. As works in progress some of us find regeneration leading us in one direction, others in another, and yet in none of us is that process ever complete in this realm.

Such is life in the Shadowlands, and if there's one thing I've learned above all others it's this; when someone claims God's work in them is complete, or that they "own" the Name of the One who Owns creation, then run; run far away. Preferably while laughing at them as loudly as you can.

Brian R said...

Thanks Alcibiades for your support. I guess we can be rather vicious at times but then we are human. After a lifetime of rejection by the church in the Diocese of Sydney one gets a bit carried away when others make fun of it. However I also feel uncomfortable at some of the statements and have told them so on occasions. Father Christian Troll is so obviously over the top that no-one should take him literally. However when a church declares that half the population has no right to speak in church let alone be priested and another 10% are so beyond the pale because of their God given sexuality their ordination should be a cause for schism then also denies the priesthood to a person who has made a mistake in their marriage (no matter their own or the other's fault, probably a bit of both) it should not be surprised when a slipping of its self-righteous halo draws scorn and ridicule.
BTW when I was at university in the 60's fundamentalist was a badge worn with pride although it did not have the extreme connotations found today. I have only recently tossed from my book shelf the book "Fundamentalism and the Word of God" by J. Packer. An essential read for a person intending to enter the ministry in the Sydney Diocese in the 60's.

David Ould said...

sorry gents, long day at church. Glad to finally be able to get back to you.

First Alcibiades, in response to your points.

1. you misunderstand me. I'm not playing high and mighty with you. I assume that we each think the other is wrong, it's a little silly to think otherwise. I mean that you are free to hold your position, even though I think it wrong. Of course you think you're right. That's the point. But I'm not trying to silence you.

2. As for the understanding of rudeness. You and I both know what a playground bully looks like. You and I both know what is spiteful and what is not. You and I both, I would hope, do not buy the lie that "I never intended it to be hurtful" when it comes from someone who is clearly trying very hard to wind someone up or who uses language that is deliberately derogatory and intended to demean. So please reconsider your "rudeness in the ear of the beholder" line. You know very well the blogs that I have in mind and you know very well what their intention is and how it is perceived. You are, after all, consistently reminding me that some things are very hurtful if repeated. How much more when those things are intended to be hurtful.

3. As for "owning" the name of Christ, how about you read what I wrote again and respond to the point that you know I am making, rather than chasing down the semantics of "owning"? I raised a serious issue of Christian behaviour. If you mean to dialogue with me then would it not be better to actually dialogue? It is clear what I was communicating. Perhaps you would address my actual point?

Brian,

once again you have assumed a number of things about me that you actually have no possible way of knowing are true, or not (as the case may be).

As for your specific points:
However when a church declares that half the population has no right to speak in church
I know of no such church. Which one were you thinking of?

let alone be priested
you do, of course, understand the rationale behind that position, don't you Brian? For clarity, could you lay it out? I just ask because it has struck me that whenever I hear people criticise the complementarian position when they attempt to articulate what they are opposing I never recognise it. It would help me to hear how you understand the conservative position on this, to see if you're actually critising what is actually being argued.

and another 10% are so beyond the pale because of their God given sexuality their ordination should be a cause for schism

I know of no church at all that makes such a claim. Could it be that you are vastly over-egging the pudding here? I thought we were trying to understand one another because, frankly, if I so misrepsented the liberal theological position I would, frankly, be ashamed of myself.

then also denies the priesthood to a person who has made a mistake in their marriage (no matter their own or the other's fault, probably a bit of both)
well, perhaps you have a specific instance in mind, or perhaps this is simply more hyperbole. I trust the former because that could actually be engaged with. Otherwise you're just venting in an unhelpful way and nothing constructive can come of it.

it should not be surprised when a slipping of its self-righteous halo draws scorn and ridicule.
But is the scorn and ridicule justified? Is it acceptable?
If so, then why? Why when the Scriptures are regularly warning us to place a guard on our tongue and to be wary of any unhelpful language.

If it is not acceptable, then will you speak out against it?

That's all I'm arguing for - some consistency and, dare I say it, integrity. If we are going to own the name of Jesus (and it is quite clear in context what I mean by that) then let's live up to that claim.

Grandmère Mimi said...

There comes a point where if you hanging around with them, laughing at their jokes, sharing with them, that you have to take ownership of it.

Jesus himself hung around with all manner of undesirable types and was roundly criticized for it, to which he replied, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."

Lapinbizarre said...

"Father Christian Troll is so obviously over the top that no-one should take him literally." If you think that, Brian, time to go back to Fr Troll's and dig a little - his truth, and there's plenty of it, lies just beneath the surface.

Brian R said...

David, I do not know your particular views. However there are a number of churches in the Sydney diocese which do not allow women to even read the lessons.
Although not clearly stated, I worshipped weekly at St Alban's. Leura for at last 5 years and never saw a woman read. I was this year told of the furore created in a parish (I think Helensburgh but may be wrong) when the Locum priest finding weekly sermons, being retired, difficult suggested his wife fill in occasionally. A dear friend who is a deacon and has been a capable assistant in a number of Sydney non-evangelical parishes has been told she cannot preach in her local parish in north-west Sydney while her husband, still in training has been invited. This is not the place and I am not a theologian (that career path was denied me) but I will state that I believe it is a crime in this day and age to refuse women the priesthood because of their sex. But then you and I probably have a completely different view of the importance of scripture and its interpretation. I am a traditional Anglican believing in the equal 3 stools of Tradition, Scripture and Reason.
I also know one priest personally (I was his best man in the 60's) who divorced and remarried in the 90's. The result was he needed to complete his ministry (he has now retired) in a non-Anglican church. I believe there are a number of other cases.
In the case of homosexuality. You cannot deny that Archbishop Jensen has been a leader in the campaign to discredit Bishop Gene Robinson. The Primate, Archbishop Aspinall was willing to meet with him, yet criticised for even doing this by Jensen. In Sydney he and his partner worshipped at St James and I had the great pleasure of meeting with him. However his presence was not even acknowledged in the service. Read his book and listen to his sermons and he would fit very well into the Sydney scene except for his sexuality.

David Ould said...

Brian,

David, I do not know your particular views.
Then, Brian, I have to ask why you would publically on your blog set out your specific opposition to what you thought were my views? Seems slightly bizarre that you would oppose me so fiercely if you didn't know my views at all. How could you be certain of a negative welcome if you don't know me?

However there are a number of churches in the Sydney diocese which do not allow women to even read the lessons.
Although not clearly stated, I worshipped weekly at St Alban's. Leura for at last 5 years and never saw a woman read.

Well, I find that utterly bizarre and have never come across it myself. Yesterday we had 2 different women read the lessons and a third led the prayers.

So, if you're in a parish where women are treated that way then leave. Write your resignation letter and leave with as much grace as possible. I would do the same.

I was this year told of the furore created in a parish (I think Helensburgh but may be wrong) when the Locum priest finding weekly sermons, being retired, difficult suggested his wife fill in occasionally. A dear friend who is a deacon and has been a capable assistant in a number of Sydney non-evangelical parishes has been told she cannot preach in her local parish in north-west Sydney while her husband, still in training has been invited.
But Brian, you are aware that this is a different issue to women reading lessons or similar. At least recognise that there are shades of authority understood in those different roles and so if you want to engage in any meaningful way you have to at least engage with what is being said, not lump it all together.


This is not the place and I am not a theologian (that career path was denied me)
But you ARE a theologian. As soon as we seek to speak about God we are theologians. Now, whether we are good theologians is a different matter. But we are all theologians when we talk about these things.


but I will state that I believe it is a crime in this day and age to refuse women the priesthood because of their sex. But then you and I probably have a completely different view of the importance of scripture and its interpretation. I am a traditional Anglican believing in the equal 3 stools of Tradition, Scripture and Reason.
I think you are very wrong in stating that such a position is "traditional Anglican". The allusion to Hooker, much favoured in the late 20th century by liberal theologians in the Anglican Communion, makes a number of basic errors.
1. it misquotes Hooker himself who would not have dreamed of placing tradition and reason on an equal footing with Scripture but, rather, rightly saw them as necessary helps in understanding Scripture.
2. it is not the "traditional" Anglican view. The "traditional" Anglican view is that set out, surely, in our constitution. the constitution of the Anglican church of Australia states that our doctrine and worship should be that of the 39 Articles and BCP. That doctrine is quite obviously one of sola scriptura, guided by tradition and reason.

cont...

David Ould said...

...cont.

I also know one priest personally (I was his best man in the 60's) who divorced and remarried in the 90's. The result was he needed to complete his ministry (he has now retired) in a non-Anglican church. I believe there are a number of other cases.
Well, it depends upon the divorce. But there is a problem here in the diocese. One very good man I know married a divorcee. She was abandoned by her husband and yet he is now barred from ordination.

But here's the thing - the amazing thing about him is that he didn't demand his "rights". He recognised that those were the rules he had to work under here and now he is a well-loved assistant minister in a parish - he's just not a rev.

In the case of homosexuality. You cannot deny that Archbishop Jensen has been a leader in the campaign to discredit Bishop Gene Robinson.
Can you point to something Jensen has done to "discredit" Robinson? He has, of course, opposed his consecration but the reasons for that are well known. I haven't seen any personal attacks on Robinson himself, just a rejection of his lifestyle as something that is holy. That's not "discrediting".

The Primate, Archbishop Aspinall was willing to meet with him, yet criticised for even doing this by Jensen. In Sydney he and his partner worshipped at St James and I had the great pleasure of meeting with him. However his presence was not even acknowledged in the service.
But what are you expecting? Many of us do not regard his consecration as valid. We can hardly then be expected to recognise and affirm him as a bishop, especially when he goes on one of his many publicity raising tours.

Read his book and listen to his sermons and he would fit very well into the Sydney scene except for his sexuality.
I've read some of them. I think you're wrong. He has a very very different view of the authority of Scripture and how one discerns truths about God.

Brian, thanks for writing. You could very easily have just ingnored me. I appreciate you making the time and effort.

Brian R said...

Then, Brian, I have to ask why you would publically on your blog set out your specific opposition to what you thought were my views? Seems slightly bizarre that you would oppose me so fiercely if you didn't know my views at all. How could you be certain of a negative welcome if you don't know me?
I was not clear, I was referring to your particular views on the role of women in the church. While I feel strongly on this issue, it does not affect me personally.
However I do know your views and you continue within this response on the views of openly homosexual priests and in particular Bishop Gene Robinson. As a homosexual man myself whose life was made much more miserable due to growing up with the views espoused by this diocese, I would feel no more comfortable in your church than in an Islamic Mosque.
If claiming a person's same-sex monogamous lifestyle is not 'holy' is not discrediting him, then I do not know what is. At the age of 65 I am no longer going to try and worship in a place where I know my very inner self is claimed to be 'not holy'. This is not an intellectual discussion but something which goes to the very heart of my existence. At the moment I am able to worship in a church where Bishop Robinson was welcome (he and his partner stayed in the house of our diocesan lay reader, a man who this month was honoured in the Australian honours list, who regularly affirms me as a gay man from the pulpit). However I feel so strongly about this I am planning to emigrate to another nation and diocese where an openly same-sex partnered man is ordained and presiding within the cathedral - Dunedin, NZ.
I do not think our discussion need continue a we are miles apart in our views.

Alcibiades said...

Sorry David, but I'm not playing semantics. I really don't understand the sense or context in which you use the expression "own", and I find it an alarming pointer towards an underlying Christology with which I'm honestly not comfortable.

Please also try to remember that Brian has been an active and faithful member of Sydney Anglican congregations for about fifteen times as long as you've been in the country. He's seen a great deal, worked alongside some of the current leaders in student groups while at university, and I dare say could fill a book with the names of people he's seen brushed aside over the years.

I think you'll find it was the Tractarians, not the Liberals, who are most responsible for Hooker's 20th century return to prominence, since by proceeding from Aquinas and the Scholastics he provided a surer footing for the claims of branch theory and the via media.

Regardless, I fail to see how the context in which Brian was citing Hooker's famous metaphor contradicts either the 39 Articles or the BCP. Unlike - & I'm sorry but I can't resist being mischievous here - lay presidency, cross-border, "church-planting" or the free-for-all approach to liturgy rampant in our diocese.

Lastly, I know that discussions like this are very painful for you Brian, since they strike at what is at the very heart of who God made you to be, but it's only through the difficult business of dialogue that the reality of the human beings dearly loved by God - like yourself - who live behind behind these arguments can break through.

I profoundly respect the courage of both of you for engaging in that process, just as I respect +Robinson for continuing to meet with his critics, and do not respect +Jensen for having snubbed Lambeth.

Please do talk again, both of you - if not now then at some future point.

Lapinbizarre said...

".... our doctrine and worship should be that of the 39 Articles and BCP."

"Many of us do not regard his [Gene Robinson's] consecration as valid."

Article XXVI: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament.

?

David Ould said...

Sorry David, but I'm not playing semantics. I really don't understand the sense or context in which you use the expression "own", and I find it an alarming pointer towards an underlying Christology with which I'm honestly not comfortable.
I find it extraordinary that someone who repeatedly exhorts me to understand the other now falls back upon "don't understand" rather than seeking to understand. Can you not attempt a generous reading, assume the best, and have a go at understanding me?

David Ould said...

Article XXVI: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament.

?

Article XXVI tells us that an unworthy minister does not hinder the effect of the Sacrament.

I didn't argue that a sacrament administered by Robinson would not be valid so I don't see what you're getting at.
Can you explain your question further?

Alcibiades said...

Ok David - so you find it extraordinary. If I'd taken an ungenerous reading, or not leaned towards a bemused tolerance you'd know - but I didn't. Which still doesn't change the fact that I hear it generally used in a sense indicative of a way of a understanding faith with which I'm not comfortable, nor see as Biblical.

David Ould said...

well how about having a crack at a generous reading. Why not rephrase my statement to say what you think I'm intending to communicate.

I honestly find it hard to believe you don't know what I'm intending to communicate.