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Gay ordinations invalid?

A New Zealand Anglican bishop has waded into the murky waters of the Anglican gay debate and released an oil spill threatening extensive environmental damage.

This post has been updated June 14

Astonishingly, Bishop Philip Richardson, a self-professed “white, straight male” states:

I believe that General Synod needs to reach an agreed position on these three inter-related issues, in the following order:
First , whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity.

Is there anyone who would publicly suggest that “sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness”? If you wish to support that position in comments here please make sure you identify yourself completely (I am not interested in flaming and internet trolls participating on this site). I am willing to dialogue respectfully with those who are convinced that homosexual acts are sinful, but even those who hold that position do not subscribe to sexual orientation is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness.

Update (June 14): Rev. Edward Prebble has sent an open letter to Bishop Philip Richardson (full text of the letter here) in which he invites Bishop Philip to second the following motion at the next meeting of General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui :

That This Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui regards sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender as an expression of God given diversity.

Bishop Philip then goes on to conclude that if a bishop were to ordain someone in a committed, life-long, monogamous relationship with someone of the same sex a Title D process could be set in motion against the bishop, and “one result would be for a public determination that the ordination in question was invalid”.

This is shocking. It shows a basic misunderstanding of validity and if the bishop is correct it shows we can have no confidence in our Title D processes. (Title D is our church’s legislation dealing with standards).

A sacramental action can be invalid because of a defect in the matter, form, minister, or recipient.

Matter: we use water, not sand. Bread and wine, not chocolate and pepsi.
Form: if we say, “I baptise you in the name of the Christchurch wizard, our mayor, and the Hon Gerry Brownlee” the validity would be questionable.
Minister: A lay person does not ordain, a bishop does.
Recipient: “Baptising” a doll or a tree, the validity would be questionable.

The debate about the validity of ordaining women is in the category of “recipient”.

But the validity of an ordination is not affected by the degree of holiness or sinfulness of either the minister or the recipient. We worked this out as part of the fourth century Donatist controversy and the conclusion is reflected in

Article 26 – The unworthiness of Ministers does not hinder the effect of the Sacraments

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometime the evil has chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments; yet because they do not do so in their own name, but in Christ’s, and minister by His commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing the word of God and in the receiving of the sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from those who by faith and rightly receive the sacraments ministered unto them, which are effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they are ministered by evil men.

The references to a Title D challenge come from a legal opinion received from Judge Chris Harding in response to questions from the Waiapu and Auckland dioceses to General Synod Standing Committee. I am responding to the theological dimension of Bishop Philip’s interpretation, not the regularity or otherwise of such an ordination.

Title D Canon II “Of standards required of bishops” 4.3 has “All Bishops of this Church shall be liable to discipline for… Refusal or neglect to use authorised Ordination Liturgies.” Ie. 4.3 is about “form” (see above). Bishops can only use ordination liturgies authorised by our church – they cannot alter them, even if they think they have “jus liturgicum” (the disputed right of bishops to alter and authorise liturgies) in other liturgical rites.

I am aware of bishops in our church altering our authorised ordinal to include authorising e.g. an organist in the middle of the prayer of consecration/ordination, of ordaining a priest and a deacon within the same prayer of consecration/ordination, of inserting gestures and extra words into the prayer of consecration/ordination, of changing presiders half way through the prayer of consecration/ordination, of changing language in the middle of the prayer of consecration/ordination, of moving the place where the rubric has the laying on of hands in the prayer of consecration/ordination.

In each of these cases validity under Title D is questionable. This is an issue of form.

Whenever I have brought this up for discussion with a bishop I have always been treated as some sort of rubrical fundamentalist (which I am not!) But now enter the gay debate, and what is sauce for the heterosexual goose is apparently not sauce for the homosexual gander.

Bishop Philip Richardson’s full article reported here
Anglican worship chaos

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67 thoughts on “Gay ordinations invalid?”

  1. “First, whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity.”

    This bishop must not be very creative at all. I feel very sorry for His Grace if he can only see two possibilities.

    I wonder what this bishop would say about the type of sexuality that Jesus speaks against in the Sermon on the Mount, a man sinning in his heart.

  2. James O'Siadhail

    “I am willing to dialogue respectfully with those who are convinced that homosexual acts are sinful, but even those who hold that position do not subscribe to sexual orientation is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness.”

    Okay I’ll bite…

    I believe homsexual sex is sinful. I do not believe that a homosexual is sinful per se but rather that the act of homosexual sex is sinful in light of both the Old and New Testaments and also Church tradition. Where have I made the mistake?

  3. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco,
    I suggest there is an understanding of what +Philip is saying which is more appreciative of his use of the word ‘invalid’ than you give here (but I recognise that the word in the context leads to your response).

    (1) A determination that Y should not have been ordained by Bishop X would (or should) mean that no bishop in our church should license that person for ministry. No licence, no ministry: an effective invalidity of ministry (unless the person left for another jurisdiction).

    More a question here than a statement, but could:

    (2) the determination include a determination that the ordination was deprived (or whatever the worst case possible scenario is under Title D … I do not have the words in front of me? Would that not also be an invalidity.

    Incidentally I note that in some overseas jurisdictions ‘deposition’ means cessation of the ordination, the formerly ordained person being described as a ‘layperson’ … these days the offence might not be much more than disagreeing with the direction of your church and trying to hold onto local parish property. Does that person remain ‘validly ordained’ despite sinning against the canons of their church!?

    In fact a (3) occurs to me!

    When you write, “A sacramental action can be invalid because of a defect in the matter, form, minister, or recipient.

    Matter: we use water, not sand. Bread and wine, not chocolate and pepsi.
    Form: if we say, “I baptise you in the name of the Christchurch wizard, our mayor, and the Hon Gerry Brownlee” the validity would be questionable.
    Minister: A lay person does not ordain, a bishop does.
    Recipient: “Baptising” a doll or a tree, the validity would be questionable.” you do not cover a canonical objection which has nothing to do with biblical interpretation … suppose a bishop ordained someone who was 20 (our minimum age, for readers, is 23). Is that a valid ordination?

    (Answer: I suppose so … but the person ought not to be licensed … which comes back to (1) above.

    1. Peter, you are confusing “an effective invalidity of ministry” with Bishop Philip’s invalidity of the ordination. An ordained person may be so bad at ministry that they are detrimental to Christ’s mission – this may mean, using your words, I would use different ones, that they have “an effective invalidity of ministry” – but that does not mean their ordination is invalid. I cannot comment on your second scenario until it is more tightly, accurately expressed as you yourself acknowledge.

  4. I am not a theologian. I am not an ordained priest. I am not a lay preacher. I am, however, a Christian and the mother of a young gay woman and the sister of a gay man and friend to many GLBT people. How can I speak the word of the Lord and tell them that they will be loved and accepted in to the church I worship in, or the denomination I was baptised and confirmed in and align myself to (Anglican), when they see and hear the Church saying that being Homosexual means that they, should they be called by God and wish to become ordained, would be rejected as not good enough, be so sinful that God would not give them forgiveness as He gives the rest of us, or that they are not loved by other Christians. I feel embarrassed and ashamed, not for myself but for those who lead our Church and those Christians who hold such shameful viewpoints. My daughter and brother are not Christians. I would love for them to be so that they too can know the love of giving their lives over to Jesus but I understand why they are not. God help us all.

  5. Hi Bosco,
    I think +Philip has got two things right:-
    1. It would be better for General Synod to authorize the ordination of gay candidates in committed relationships than for diocesan bishops to continue doing so without wider authorization, as some do at present. You have given very cogent grounds for disputing the provided opinion that the current practice lays a bishop open to a Title D legal challenge. Even if it did, the challenge would be to the bishop’s behaviour, not to the validity of the ordination. I think +Philip has it entirely wrong in asserting that any bishops stepping out of line on this practice are in effect changing the church’s doctrine: rather their actions constitute interpretations of existing doctrine. A bishop ordaining a gay person in a same-sex relationship is exercising their responsibility to judge that the candidate is called to ordination and that there is no moral impediment within the bounds of the church’s current doctrine.
    2. The bishop may be mistaken in that interpretation, in the view of other bishops and the church in General Synod, which would then need to clarify an agreed position. Unlike you, I think his suggested agenda is helpful, especially that first item. If we were to agree that “sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is an expression of God-given diversity”, the fight would be as good as over, because the other two issues are founded on this one. Where he gets it wrong is in his dichotomy. The conservative argument is not that homosexual desire is a wilful choice, but rather that it is an expression of human depravity. The individual does not chose the attraction, but does chose what to do about it. In conservative theological terms, heterosexual desires may frequently be corrupted by the Fall, rather than pure expressions of God’s creative intent, and hence must be treated with a discipline of suspicion, but that homosexual desires are always corrupted and must always be resisted. Our liberal argument in the current discussion should be that both variants of sexual desire are equal as expression of God’s creative variety and as expressions of human corruption, requiring the same remedies but no other discrimination.

    1. Thank you for your wisdom, Howard.

      It may indeed be the case that it would be better for General Synod to authorize the ordination of gay candidates in committed relationships than for diocesan bishops to continue doing so without wider authorization, as some do at present. And, possibly, it may not. It may be the case that in our current context and situation, it may in fact be best to continue to leave the discernment to ordination in the hands 😉 of the ordaining bishop. I may be a strong advocate for church-wide standards of training, formation, study, and examinations prior to ordination and argue that it would be better for General Synod to set those standards than for diocesan bishops to continue doing so without wider authorization. But currently we continue in our context and situation without those church-wide standards.

      Updated: Now that Rev Edward Prebble has invited Bishop Philip to second at General Synod/Te Hinota Whanui the motion That This Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui regards sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender as an expression of God given diversity it will be interesting how your other point plays out.

  6. Like many other people I have spoken to, I was especially alarmed at the possibility put forward by +Philip that an ordination may be deemed invalid if the ordinand was Gay. I am not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the process of the church or the Canons generally but I struggle to see how an Ordination can be invalid if it meets the criteria above (Matter, form, minister, recipient.)

    I have seen the document prepared by Chris Harding and that was just as much of a shock to me as this proposed “invalid” Ordination argument. As far as I am concerned if a bishop lays hands on someone and ordains them, then they are Ordained. To propose invalidity as an even remote outcome of ordaining a Gay person just proves that sections of our Church are clutching at straws…a bad sign for the “Anti” part of the Church, but I say a good one for the “Pros.”

    1. Thank you, Christopher.

      It would be interesting to have the actual text of the document prepared by Judge Chris Harding to see if he mentions invalidity or if this is a theological interpretation brought to that document by Bishop Philip.

      Like you, I was rendered speechless by the suggestion of invalidity. ARCIC 3 has just commenced, co-chaired by the other bishop in Bishop Philip’s diocese. One of the significant issues for Anglican-Roman Catholic formal dialogue is the RC claim that Anglican orders are invalid. That an Anglican bishop questions the validity of some of our IMO-undisputed orders makes those discussions even less useful.

  7. You do well in quoting article 26, but I think you forgot to paste the rest of the article, which goes on to state:

    Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

    I agree with you that whilst a man is represented as a lawful minister of the church, there is no defect in his actions as regards the congregation – but if you thereby imply that this makes the situation acceptable I disagree. If any minister is found unrepentantly and openly engaged in sin, then most surely he should be called to repent of his sin; failing which to cease active ministry.

    However, questions do need to be asked if it seems that only some sins are singled out for this kind of action – but other openly expressed sins such as faithlessness or gossiping are left alone.

        1. So it didn’t help you, Stuart, when you followed my link to the Donatist controversy? In essence that was when the church decided that the ordination of those who had denounced their faith (which is not acceptable) was deemed valid. The Donatist controversy resulted in the church being quite clear that the ordination of a validly baptised person, so long as the proper ordination rite is used, is valid, even if the one being ordained is in a state of grave sin. Although both the recipient of the ordination and those who confer it may be regarded as committing a grave sin and committing blasphemy in such an ordination, the ordination is valid. The issue whether a committed same-sex couple is “acceptable” is able to be discussed, but whatever your conclusion about that does not affect the validity of the ordination. Blessings.

  8. Bosco, I appreciate your helpful analysis of Bishop Philip’s observations. There’s apparently a nod to Romans 1 in the remark “First , whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity.”

    Obviously Romans 1 has been flung at myself and every other gay Christian as though we were too ignorant to read and interpret it for ourselves.

    “…for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

    Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

    For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

    And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

    Each person will need to decide for themselves whether the gay Christians they know are “filled with every kind of wickedness etc. etc.”

    At the risk of labouring the point, the argument of this passage appears to be:

    1. People know God but do not honour God, and consequently worship idols and created things.

    2. God abandons these creature-worshippers to evil lusts for their own sex (noting that they were previously hetero- oriented: a phenomenon not commonplace among gay people)

    3. They also get bonus doses of a debased mind with a mind-boggling list of evil behaviours (OK, so gossip is not entirely unknown amongst the gays of my acquaintance).

    So it seems we should expect to find amongst homosexual persons who claim to be followers of Jesus the most astounding depravity as outlined with some relish by the Apostle. Is that, indeed, what we find amongst those ordained who are also gay and who resist compulsory celibacy?

    (Suggested reading: the (straight, Evangelical white male) Revd. Benny Hazlehurst’s story at http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org)

    The question General Synod should be asking is not the bizarre one that +Philip suggests, but the test suggested by Jesus:
    Can the church point to any fruit for the Gospel from the life and ministry of gay and lesbian clergy (whose licences have not so far been torn up)? I must go and bury mine in the ground at once!

    1. Surely, Paul is presenting the full-blown result, rather than an intermediate stage of that worldly ethos as evident from recorded history (perhaps even OT).

      Fruit is not always immediately apparent, but the ultimate result is unmistakeable: ‘The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.’ (1 Tim. 5:24-25)

      God’s wrath upon godless humanity, as he describes it, doesn’t attain that state immediately. Without the gospel, all of us bargain with God over the expression of our personal desires, but are progressively handed over to those that we simply can’t relinquish.

      In comparison with Paul’s unsparing denunciation, I’m sure Hellenic society considered itself civilised, informed, far from thoroughly barbaric, or depraved and generally quite fruitful. As do many good citizens consider themselves to be in our society and church today.

      1. David, I remind you: this thread is about validity of orders. I am happy to allow some ordinary conversation around that but there are plenty of other places online where this particular conversation is carried out. In particular, there is good exegetical variety available on the interpretation of Paul, not least what τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν might mean for a gay person. Blessings.

  9. Just wanted to say, I’m really sad this is even an issue today. Thought you weren’t supposed to judge until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes?

    Stuff like this alienates. I was brought up Anglican, and keep this up and I don’t want to stick around. Friends and some family fall into the category that this bishop is preaching against, and not only does it hurt them but communities around. This is painful to read, and precisely the kind of press that makes people out there question the relevance of religion.

    If people want to be so literal about interpreting the bible, go read AJ Jacob’s book. There’s plenty to choose from, and that should keep you busy in terms of being literal without judging others. He does have a talk available on TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/a_j_jacobs_year_of_living_biblically.html

    1. I understand pretty much where you’re coming from – Anglican (CoE) was always a background influence in my upbringing, and Anglican (SEC) was a chosen church of allegiance for a few years until recently. I do feel sort of let down by all the ongoing furore: even though it might not affect me personally, it does, because I see how it means some of my brothers & sisters in Christ get treated.

      The more it bangs on, the more I shuffle towards the edges of the Anglican Communion – how can I tell these people, `look, get a grip, stop living in a world where you get off on calling people “evil” or not, read Acts 10:15 and see IT’S ALL GOOD!’ ?

  10. I do not support practising homosexuals being ordained into ministry. Though RC and not Anglican I must condemn the sin and not the sinner. In scripture we are taught homosexuality is sinful. We must state fast to our traditional Christian values in the face of a world wherein anything seems to be acceptable.

  11. Hmmmmm. I suspect that repentance may be relevant (Vincent Murphy) though only insofar as we oftimes use our intelect to support our prejudice.

  12. My understanding is that no person on this earth is without sinfulness in some way, from God’s persepective! It’s not so long ago that women couldn’t be ordained, that disabled people couldn’t be ordained, that divorced people couldn’t belong to the church…

    It is becoming clearer over time that sexual orientation is no matter of personal lifestyle choice, and yes, I am aware that there are some people whose lifetime fluidity of sexuality will be pointed to in order to prove ‘choice’.

    But for example people growing up here in Texas will often have it drummed into them that they must be heterosexual, take a perusal of the ruling Republican Party manifesto for last year if you want an insight into the prevailing underwritten culture http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/excerpts-from-texas-republican-party-platform-2010/ even though Texas has a huge gay population and Houston has a gay mayor.

    People pay lip-service to these old-fashioned ideas just to win hard-right-wing support. It might take someone a long time to feel safe to become who they really are in such an environment.

    The Bible says many things which are no longer interpreted literally. I don’t understand the obsession within each generation to find a handful of Bible quotes and beat someone else over the head with them….that’s where the problem lies to me, the lack of compassion and acceptance of each other, not the absence of drawing up a set of strict rules to apply for all time.

    The code of Leviticus would once have been the just and fair rule for a people- read it thoroughly and note it is not an appropriate set of rules and behaviours for us.

    ‘Traditional christian values’ have not always been a good thing, allowing men to commit atrocities and hold inappropriate power over each other.

    Maybe that’s why Leviticus is in the Bible- to show us the progress of civilisation.

    At the end of the day we can claim all manner of spiritual status because of what we say we believe but it’s how we treat other people which represents God in our world. I believe that’s what we will ultimately be judged on, this world and the next.

    1. You are more than who you are sexually attracted to. God created male and female. You are either one or the other. There can be no “homosexual” since “homo” means “same” and “sex” means different. There is no such thing as sexual orientation. What there is is same sex attraction. This is a disorder. The individual is not disordered, the feelings are disordered. The sex organs were created and designed by God for the purpose of reproduction To use them in ways that men having sex with men and women having sex with women use them is against nature.

      1. Laura, I remind you again: this thread is about the validity of orders. Please stay on topic. Your dogmatic assertions without reference or explanation appear as bizarre as your etymology. Since when has “sex” meant “different”? And following your ethical system would mean oral pleasuring as part of heterosexual lovemaking “is against nature” and hence, presumably, against God’s design.

    1. Sue, IMO some of what Bishop Philip wrote is “silly”. I am about to update this post, as an opportunity is being offered for him to show he is not a silly man 🙂

  13. Rev. Edward Prebble forwarded to me an open letter addressed to Bishop Philip Richardson. I am grateful for Edward’s permission to place this on this site:

    Dear Bishop Philip

    An open letter

    Many thanks for the very helpful statement you have issued through Anglican Taonga. It is useful in the context of this controversy to have such a clear statement, which, though you make it personally, may be taken at least as reflecting the views of the Bishops of your diocese. I expect it applies to the majority of the Bishops of our Church.

    I hope I am fair in distilling two key points out of a finely nuanced statement, first that the authority for setting policy around these sorts of issues does, and must, lie with General Synod, and second that in the absence of positive sanction from that body, you or other bishops do not have the authority to bring about what you see as a departure from accepted practice.

    On the first point, I absolutely agree. That is why I and the late Professor Richard Sutton successfully brought to the 2004 session the following motion. That this General Synod/te Hinota Whanui
    A Acknowledges and honours the contribution that gay and lesbian Anglicans make to the life and ministry of our church,
    B Notes with concern the inability of the Anglican Communion to reach a common mind on issues relating to homosexuality, notably the ordination of gay and lesbian candidates, and the blessing of unions of those in same-sex relationships, and
    C Requests the Standing committee of the General Synod/te Hinota Whanui to establish an appropriate process which
    1. Makes a new study of these issues from an Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia perspective
    2. Enables the Church to listen actively to the opinions of gay and lesbian persons, both practising and celibate, about these and related issues, and
    3. Leads to a report on these issues, together with recommendations on policies for this church to the next session of General Synod/te Hinota Whanui.

    While acceptance of the motion was not unanimous, it was agreed without division [Bosco explains: a division is a vote by Houses (bishops, clergy, laity) and/or by Tikanga (cultural streams] by a very clear voice vote, and remains the last substantive statement by General Synod on this matter. So what happened to the motion? It became clear that we were so divided at every level of the church, including within and between each Tikanga, that we could not find an acceptable way of making progress. So we committed ourselves to the Listening Process (that motion also moved by me), to Respectful Conversations, Indaba processes, and three Hermeneutics Hui . I suppose that work would be seen as partially meeting the request at C.1. and just possibly C.2.

    But the widespread view became accepted that synodical processes are unsuited for a decision on such a controversial matter. I recall a particularly fraught and unresolved debate in the Waiapu Synod around that time, which persuaded John Bluck that synod motions were not the way to proceed. So ever since, we have avoided making Synod decisions. Lambeth 2008, while not a synod, is perhaps the most notable example.

    Which brings me to your second point. You have eloquently argued that a bishop is not free to act unilaterally based on an argument from omission. Your argument is similar to the argument from some Conservative Evangelical writers on such websites as the Latimer Fellowship, that biblical laws are proscriptive, i.e. a behaviour is forbidden unless it is positively permitted by scripture, rather than permissive, i.e. behaviour is permitted unless it is positively forbidden. Some of your colleagues and predecessors as Bishops of our Church have taken the opposite view. It was the view of successive bishops of Waiapu and Dunedin; it was certainly the view of Bishop Penny Jamieson when she ordained a number of gay and lesbian candidates. At least one of them was strongly encouraged in her sense of vocation by you in your earlier life as Warden of Selwyn College. This alternative view can be summarised as: Our Church has not declared sexuality to be a criterion for ordination, nor declared committed same-sex unions, as recognised by the State, to be forbidden. I have a candidate who is in every other way suitable for ordination, or a couple who present a godly expression of love and commitment. My understanding of the Gospel encourages me to proceed.

    I understand that this is not now your view, and you are certainly in good company in the restrictive view you are taking. But it seems to me that to say only General Synod can make these decisions, and that bishops cannot proceed without Synod’s authority, but we do not wish to force the issue by making Synod come to a decision, you leave gay, lesbian and bisexual Anglicans in a cruel Catch-22. That is why the people at St Matthew’s –in-the-City have some justification in calling this “White Collar Crime”.

    You state “I believe that General Synod needs to reach an agreed position on these three inter-related issues”. I agree, and also agree that the priority is the first one you spell out: “whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity”. Perhaps, after eight years, this is a matter whose time has come. I am quite sure that I could persuade one of my friends in the Auckland, Waiapu, Dunedin or Te Wai Pounamu delegations to the 2012 General Synod to move the following motion:

    That This Synod/ Te Hinota Whanui regards sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender as an expression of God given diversity.

    Would you be willing to second the motion?
    With warmest Pentecost greetings

    Edward Prebble

    1. Yes, Hilda, if you read the whole thread you would have noticed I already make that point and link to where I discuss that further. But, of course, following the same logic Roman Catholic orders are invalid since Vatican II. That leaves the Eastern Orthodox and Old Catholics I suppose 🙂 Blessings.

  14. Same sex attraction is not a sin, it is a disorder. This is not to say that people who have same sex attractions are disordered, but the feelings themselves are disordered. Acting on those feelings would be a sin. All sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sin. Therefore, these individuals are called to chastity just as any single, unmarried person. Having said that, how can any Christian church simply throw out all the verses in the Bible that make it very clear that men having sex with men and women having sex with women is an abomination? And let’s be honest, why is this happening now, when for hundreds and hundreds of years it was clearly understood to be sin? Because these churches want to fill their pews, they are afraid to stand up for the truth. If you are going to pick and choose which verses to throw out based on current fashion you may as well throw the whole book out.

    1. Laura, may I clarify: this thread is about the validity of orders. I’m presuming that you are consistent in not “picking and choosing which verses to throw out based on current fashion” so alongside the verses you allude to a quarter of the time men and women cannot sit on the same couch or lie on the same bed. And, of course, no intercourse until the wife has been cleansed after her seven days of the menstrual cycle each month. Etc. etc. etc. Blessings.

      1. I know I’m off-topic. I apologize. It’s not necessary you publish this. (I hope you’re ok after the latest earthquake.)

        I simply cannot let this pass (as a clinical psychologist) that same sex attraction is a “disorder”. Who’s diagnosed this? Because that “diagnosis” is GONE! Long gone! (there is no such medical or psychological “disorder”) Besides, a diagnosis does not prevent orders – as I think you’ve already clarified.

        (You know my real name, which, for professional reasons, I do not use on the web.)

        God has blessed all of us!

  15. Bravo Edward! If I’m there I will happily stand alongside +Philip as a mover or seconder!
    BTW in answer to a question above, the Harding Opinion (which is clearly not at all as confidential as I had thought) makes no mention of orders being declared invalid, just the potential for a Title D charge against the ordaining bishop and subsequent decision (to uphold the charge or not) by a tribunal.
    This is, of course, only one opinion, and does not match other opinions that (I am informed by a well placed Archbishop) were saught prior to previous ordindations.

    1. Thanks, Brian. I’m pleased to hear that the Harding Opinion does not rule on the validity of the ordination. This makes Bishop Philip’s interpretation even more astonishing. Furthermore, there have been plenty of opportunities to bring such a Title D charge – that not one has been made makes the Harding Opinion appear to have little traction in our church. As for anything being “confidential” – even the Archbishop of Canterbury, as you know, has recently discovered that his actions are not protected by “confidentiality”. The church (and other institutions) is struggling to catch up to the third millennium, internet world.

  16. With Gay people, through all my 60 years of life, the question is always about etiology: How did the (epithet) get that way?

    We don’t know. There’s no proof. There’s a lot of good medical evidence, which has nothing to do with human will – but there’s no proof.

    There’s no gene you can point to, no chromosome, no DNA strand, no nothing.

    If we did find proof of an objective cause that determines all human sexual orientation, which isn’t likely, the homophobes would simply shuffle their talking points and come up with something else: “It sez so RIGHT THERE in the Bible!”

    They just don’t like Gay people; it’s as simple as that. I’ve been called the epithets all my life – bullied in school, threatened on the streets, fired from a job in The Episcopal Church, been thrown out of the Church Army, all of it.

    The schismatic wannabe Anglicans, fueled by American fundamentalists, have had to shuffle their cue cards many times, but they’re right about one thing: This is about the interpretation of Scripture and the will of God.

    A faithful believer who’s GLBT finds far more instances of Gay grace in the Scriptures – love, generosity, inclusion – than those 7 mistranslated clobber passages: the Centurion’s pais, the Ethiopian eunuch to name two.

    I am not a eunuch. I’ve spent my whole life fighting back. But the desexualization referred to there is important; can a sexual variant be baptized? He asks explicitly, Is there any reason I can’t be?

    Philip doesn’t see any reason, so down to the river they go.

    The very extension of grace to the Gentiles – that’s us, folks! – came because Jesus found the Roman Centurion with the dying pais more faithful than anyone in Israel.

    That dying pais wasn’t just the waterboy, a member of the domestic staff who could have been easily replaced (by opening the front door and calling, “Next!”); the Centurion loved him and went to great lengths to seek the healing of Christ.

    The issue we have to deal with is what is the nature of Biblical writing? It has a thousand layers, a lot of it’s written in code. Jesus mostly spoke parables designed both to enlighten and confuse – to make people think, to seek the Holy One, to listen. Got any ears on that head of yours?

    I appreciate, Bosco, your bringing our attention to this latest outbreak of literalist homophobia because some jerk of a bishop can’t read between the lines. But after 60 years of public speaking, writing, organizing and marching in the streets for traumatized boys and girls, told their very existence is wrong, I’m not about to give up. Bring it on, bishop; let’s see who’s got the gonads now.

    1. Etiology, Josh, is an important part of Bishop Philip’s text and significant in the proposed motion. I have never been able to make sense of those who claim homosexuality is “a choice”. I cannot manage to choose whom I am attracted to, and I have not yet encountered someone who has managed that feat! Furthermore, I cannot get anyone to explain to me why one would have “chosen” an orientation that has been so persecuted, etc. as you describe. As to (ab)uses of the Bible, Josh you are here regularly enough to know of my series “The Bible says“. I have another post in my head for that series – I really must add it to the rest…

  17. If homosexuality is a wilful choice that somehow renders an ordination invalid, what about other wilful sins?

    Jesus spent a lot of time condemning wealth and materialism. In the NT, St. Mary says that the rich will “be sent empty away”. Jesus calls us to store up treasures in heaven, not on Earth, and tells a wealthy righteous man to give away his possessions. The poor understand the Gospel; the wealthy don’t. Yet the church has had very little to say about materialism and consumerism (which I may add does not only corrupt our individual and societal morals, but is arguably destroying the planet.) We certainly don’t turn away clergy who come from wealthy backgrounds and/or have married into wealthy families. Nor do we demand that they give away their possessions.

    There are certainly many divorced and remarried clergy, yet Paul says that the only moral options for anyone who separates are reconciliation with a first spouse or celibacy (1 Cor 7:10-11). Are all those ordinations invalid?

    Gay people are an easy target because they are the “other”, and have been the “other” for 2,000 years. But the commands in the Gospel make us all sinners in one way or another. If ordination is based on purity, then I’d argue that no one is eligible for Holy Orders and we might as well disband the church now.

    I’m gay. I’m a lifelong Anglican (and current Vestry member), but I hesitate to talk about church to my unchurched gay friends because of this kind of hypocrisy. Even if I was convicted to the belief that homosexuality is a sin, the way gay people are singled out while the more demanding parts of the Gospel are ignored renders the whole message moot in the eyes of many.

    People aren’t leaving the church because the demands of the church are too great. They are leaving the church because they pay attention to the demands of the Gospel and find the church’s message wanting.

    1. Yes, in NZ we had the first divorced & remarried priest in the Communion – after that he wrote one of the marriage rites in our Prayer Book. We had the first divorced & remarried bishop while in office – not a whisper from the selective Biblical literalists (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). I understand that one of our Province’s most vocal homosexual-acts-are-sinful clergy is separated from his third wife. Jesus said something about planks and specks and eyes… Blessings

  18. ‘we have suspended the licenses of heterosexual ministers living in relationships other than marriage (for example, in civil unions)’

    So, heterosexuals also fall foul of this ruling. Although it’s not just a gay discrimination issue, these suspensions were probably applied to demonstrate an even-handed approach.

    In fairness, it does make me wonder how a first-century pagan convert would fare under this bishop’s regime, if he or she remained partnered with an unbeliever. Paul simply affirmed God’s blessing on such monogamous relationships, ‘For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.’ (1 Cor. 7:14)

    I’m assuming that, in this case, since this scripture challenges the bishop’s position and advances the cause, it won’t be deemed a selective clobber verse. Hopefully, no further references to shellfish, menstruation, or mixed fibres will be voiced in opposition.

    1. No, David, that is a different issue. This thread is about the bishop’s claim that the ordination could be declared to be invalid. Suspending a license is different to declaring the ordination is invalid, though clearly the license would be removed from someone whose orders were invalid.

      And your assumption about selective Biblical literalism is wrong. Nor does your verse challenge the bishop’s position and advances any “cause” you are perceiving. Bishop Philip is not suggesting that being married to a non-Christian would invalidate your orders.

      1. The bishop’s position notes that a consistent reasoning undergirded the decision regarding the suspension of licences.

        In order to underline the first issue that he believes General Synod should agree, he states regarding the suspensions: ‘for exactly the reason that there is no agreed position in this church on the status of committed relationships other than marriage.’

        You may find it impossible to acknowledge a parallel between modern civil unions solemnized under secular authority today and unions established in the first century under secular authority before Christian marriage was established. The secular equivalence is valid.

        Yes, I do actually realise that ‘Bishop Philip is not suggesting that being *married* to a non-Christian would invalidate your orders.’

        1. The point remains, David, that just because Bishop Philip holds “that there is no agreed position in this church on the status of committed relationships other than marriage” this still does not lead to the conclusion that those ordained while in a “committed relationships other than marriage” might be invalid solely because of that relationship. Nothing you are writing moves me away from my position that Bishop Philip’s conclusion is wrong.

  19. I believe the argument could be made that Title D might come in because the vows within “The Commitment”. Considering that it is obvious that the doctrine around the ordination of homosexual individuals is not resolved but a hot debate within the teachings of the church. And that Bishop and ordinand have both entered into a vow within that context about the current teaching of the church. Within the context of that vow they then perform a sacrament, the ordination of a homosexual individual, which defies the lack of resolution to which they have just vowed. This would only come into play with the ordination of a homosexual individual because it is a direct defiance to the state of debate around the issue.

    As an aside but also relevant… the rhetorical defense “who would choose to be gay” needs to be realized for what it is “who would choose to have knowledge of a truth that living honestly and fully into means defying the injustice and intolerance of society”. As a gay man I was not given the choice of having knowledge of the truth of who I am wired to love. I, however, was given the choice of living honestly and fully into that truth or living falsely and partially away from it. Which path I choose when it comes living into that truth directly impacts my ability to live into the Truth of Jesus Christ. Which path the Church chooses does likewise.

    In the end what the Bishop has badly worded is framing the question in a Thomist argument. Is sexuality an acquired trait and malleable or a natural trait and inherent to the creation God has made. If sexuality is acquired then it is not an essential part of creation and can be dictated by the church for its adherents in the same way it dictates the times one can and cannot say Alleluia. If, however, sexuality is an inherent part of creation then its truth for each individual is essential and discovering that truth and living into it is essential for each individual if they are going to live fully into whom God has made them and have a viable relationship with the Truth, Jesus. At which point the church must help aide people in finding the revelation of the spirit as placed within them by the Creator for the sanctification of all; the church is suddenly dealing with a mystery from which they are governed not a passing practicality which they govern. I agree with the Bishop that having this discussion is essentially necessary.

    1. Thank you, Ben. I find this one of the most thoughtful challenges to my post. But it does not sway me from my position that the ordination is valid.

      To expand for other readers: prior to the ordination the bishop asks the candidate, “Will you set forth the doctrines of the faith as this Church has received them?” To which the candidate replies, “Yes, I will. My duty and my joy will be to witness to Christ crucified and risen.”

      1) You yourself regard the doctrine as not resolved. I posit that we are able to hold a variety of positions on unresolved doctrinal issues and be validly ordained. The St Michael report, chaired by the bishop of Christchurch, has same-sex unions as not a matter of core doctrine.

      2) If your logic followed, any departure from doctrine would invalidate the orders. Eg. If the candidate held to a modalist belief about the Trinity, your argument would have the ordination being invalid. Or if the candidate believed that the Holy Spirit proceeded solely from the Father, or that ordinations could be performed per saltum, …

      3) Your logic would apply if a heterosexual candidate was sexually involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage – such an ordination would now be invalid.

      4) Your logic focuses on “intention”. A classic expression of this is found in The Christian Faith by C B Moss, Chapter 63:

      The intention of ordination is that the bishop ordaining or consecrating intends to admit the candidate to one of the three Holy Orders of the Catholic Church. It is not necessary that his personal belief about the functions of those who are ordained should be orthodox; nor is the internal intention necessary, for if it were, we could never be certain that anyone was rightly ordained. (In Spain in the fifteenth century there were many bishops who were secretly Jews; the notorious Bishop Talleyrand, afterwards Napoleon’s minister, was an open unbeliever, but those whom such men ordained were held to be validly ordained.)

      Another is found in Theological Outlines by Rev. Dr. Francis J. Hall:

      The intention of a Sacrament is always the intention of Christ and His Church, unless the matter and form are so employed as visibly to exclude such intention, in which case the Sacrament is altogether invalid.

      If we abandon this approach, as your comment IMO tends towards, I think we are back in the uncertainties of the Donatists.

      Thank you for your thoughtful contribution. Blessings.

      1. Your Welcome. I want to be clear that the argument I put forward was not really a matter of personal opinion but simply my looking at the conundrum offered and attempting to contemplate any possible response that might hold validity. As you quickly pointed out even if one was to say that this could work the precedent it would create would malign the whole system, thus it does not work in truth…

    1. Thanks, Dorothy. Earlier in this thread I mentioned that I had ordered Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-sexuality That has now arrived. I had a quick scan of it over lunch. You’ll be aware we’ve had another series of significant earthquakes here, so unfortunately this is not a time for leisurely reading and reviewing of books, but it looks an ideal resource. He looks to be arguing for same-sex marriage. There is a website that comes with the book – a good place for discussions about related topics. I noticed, for example that the author addresses the “slippery slope” argument, that all this will lead to blessing incest or polygamy (pp 159-160).

  20. James O'Siadhail

    So is it right to ordain a man to teach God’s Word when that person continues to openly reject God’s Word? Can a homosexual man who engages in homosexual sex continue in ministry and then speak to others about the sin of sex outside of marriage? Or the sin of homosexual sex?

    What reason do we have of being Anglican if, after all is said and done, it does not matter if the church’s teaching contradicts scripture, or our priests teach what they want in spite of Scripture and tradition?

    If it is okay for an Anglican priest to tell me homosexuality is okay in spite of both Old and New Testament texts and Church tradition then who am I to say Rome was wrong when in spite of Scripture it said the Pope was infallible? or for that matter who am I to say that the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on salvation was wrong?

    I do apologise Rev but though you may try to box this off as a matter of “validity” it is not really as simple as that. It is a matter of the sinfulness of homosexuality and the issue of whether or not someone willfully engaging in sinful activity, even though they know it is forbidden in the Word of God, should be allowed into ministry.

    1. James, I am not trying “to box this off as a matter of “validity””. Nor am I suggesting “it” is “simple” at all. To put it into your terminology we all “willfully [engage] in sinful activity, even though [we] know it is forbidden in the Word of God”. Those of us who are ordained (what you term “allowed into ministry”) are sinners who are ordained. My ordination is not invalid because I am a sinner – or no ordination would be possible for anyone as we are all sinners. I have, in previous comments, provided ways in which those interested can take up some of the wider concerns of your “it”. This thread is dealing primarily with the validity of orders as introduced into the discussion by one of our bishops. Blessings.

  21. I see +Philip has declined to second Edward’s motion because he doesn’t believe it would be “helpful” to General Synod. Instead he refers to “certain constructive steps that the next General Synod can be encouraged to take towards resolving this matter”.
    I sincerely hope that these “constructive steps” do not involve any further hui, commissions or Indaba processes. We have had all these and appear no closer to a resolution. I repeat the question I have asked so many times before: how long?
    Oh, and I still agree with you Bosco about the silly suggestion of orders being declared invalid. Apart from being unable to get a license in Sydney (my heart breaks), my divorce and remarriage has had title impact on me efficacy as a priest and no one has as yet questioned the validity if my ordination.

    1. I am mostly busy involved with the results of Monday’s earthquakes here, so could you please point to Bishop Philip’s response. I’m confused why Bishop Philip now thinks it would not be helpful for General Synod to do precisely what he suggested General Synod needed to do. I hope his new text explains the reversal of his position. I also hope that his new text retracts his suggestion of doubting the validity of orders – but from your second paragraph that may not yet be the case. Blessings.

  22. James’ point is not about you being a sinner, since we all are. It’s about impenitence towards scriptural authority.

    The Donatist controversy related particularly to the notion that those penitent ‘traditores’ were considered unworthy to return and administer the sacraments. It was never in doubt that they were actually penitent. Of course, since the clerical jury is out on the issue of the sinfulness of homosexual acts, we’re expected to err on the side of a carefully worded licence agreement, rather than in the side of caution.

    Your assessment completely misconstrues James’ position regarding validity of ordination. Again, a selective approach towards scripture and tradition. Yet, you claim: ‘I am willing to dialogue respectfully with those who are convinced that homosexual acts are sinful’. How about meaningfully as well?

    1. David, I have no idea who the “we” is in your “we’re expected to err on the side of a carefully worded licence agreement”, nor even what your “carefully worded licence agreement” refers to – those words have not arisen in this thread.

      I can misunderstand and struggle to interpret a person’s points – as I have indicated with yours, but I certainly have not intentionally misconstrued James’ or anyone’s position on this thread.

      Since you do not find my dialogue meaningful, I suggest you do not waste your time here.


  23. Dorothy Busfield

    ‘What the Bible says’ on particular subjects – sorry Bosco, this is somewhat off thetopic – so feel free not to put it on the website.
    I look back at what we Christians used to think eg about slavery, about left-handed people, based on our interpretation of the Bible. I think about how it was not that long ago that, for example, we did not realise that what a pregnant woman ate or drank would be passed through the placenta to her baby. And I think, what is there that I today accept as a logical, relevant, ‘true’ interpretation of the Bible or understanding of the way the world works, that in 100 or maybe only 50 or maybe only 20 years time I, or the generation to come after me, will think ‘how on earth did they ever believe that? What could they have been thinking?’
    I do not have the arrogance to assume that what I believe today, even things that are commonly accepted amongst Christians, will be believed to be correct in the years to come.

  24. Many thanks Bosco for pursuing this latest round in the way you have, highlighting the issue of “validity”. However, as some other comments have already suggested, it is not quite the knock-out line of argument some might want it to be. We both know church history is full of attendant matters. You have already mentioned the N African Donatist controversy, and its ‘solutions’. Yet even here I would say we do not have absolute clarity.

    Take for example the contemporary Pentecostal movement, especially in the Two-Thirds world. In many cases there, the validity is evidenced by means of explicit charismata – miracles, healings, words of knowledge, prophecy. True; this is akin but only parallel to some more sedate western claims to inspiration, an inner conviction that such and such is “of the Spirit” – a new revelation even! [Let the reader understand …] So it is helpful to distinguish these two parallel sorts of claims to validity, and to ask too of their links with your own formal liturgical approach (as commendable and necessary as it is of course Bosco!).

    Being somewhat anachronistic, the claims of the 2nd C Valentinians highlight the needful distinction between the validity of orders – if we may charitably assume a number of their clergy were indeed genuinely ordained – and other theological issues. Just so our dear Bishop Irenaeus’ entire enterprise! Nor is this of mere academic importance. Even nowadays, despite the suggestions of BEM (1982), some Presbyterian ministers require formal re-ordination rather than a ceremony of reception: both options would appear to be in parallel operation globally speaking. And finally, as you and I well know, Rome’s “Apostolicae Curae” (1896) looms large still! The Reformation and all its quirks of orders plus theology are not quite over, despite the likes of ARCICs and Joint Declarations between RCC and Lutherans.

    Nor too might we dismiss too quickly the technical differences between validity and depositions (already alluded to in this thread), the former seemingly indelible and the latter more a supposed case of canonical debate. For where might the real power actually lie?! And during what time-frames and in what spaces exactly? North America currently is more than a case in point …!

    All in all Bosco; thanks again for the way you have set this up – responding of course to our local Bishop’s recent stimulus, and other prods. My point as ever is to point out once again the very form of the question will determine what kinds of answers might be forthcoming – and what not. Technical validity of orders is one necessary and dare I say it, valid, avenue of enquiry. But we both know that further issues of theology and morality will have to come into play – let alone the politics of any GS negotiations, and ours are threefolded! Do let us know how you fare with Haller’s “Reasonable and Holy” – especially with reference to which domain of ‘rationality’ he wishes to occupy (the reference is of course to MacIntyre’s “Whose Justice? Which Rationality?” and “Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry”, and all their attendant obstacles to clarification, especially for some/many among us).

    1. Thanks, Bryden. You are correct; someone from the contemporary Pentecostal movement in the Two-Thirds world understands the concept of “validity” differently to the way it is used by a first-world pakeha Anglican bishop. You, and I, and even Bishop Philip might be deemed to have invalid orders by that standard.

  25. Edward Prebble

    Hello Bosco
    +Philip’s “response” to my challenge was given to Anglican Taonga. It’s quite short, and Brian has summarised it accurately. The bishop was perhaps unwise, from the perspective of his own pastoral care, to issue his original statement at a time that he is on study leave, and doesn’t want to get into intensive public debate!

    He did respond to me at length in a private phone conversation. It is not for me to say what he has in mind, but don’t hold your breath, Brian – we may be in for another commission.

    How Long?
    With apologies to S Baring-Gould, and with apologies to over half the population for Baring-Gould’s non-inclusive language:

    “Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God
    Brothers we are treading where we’ve always trod.”

    1. Thanks, Edward. For readers here struggling to find the Anglican Taonga article being referred to, it is here. You may need to explain to me and readers here, Edward, why Bishop Philip’s own assertion that “General Synod needs to reach an agreed position … First , whether sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is a consequence of wilful human sinfulness, or an expression of God-given diversity” is now by Bishop Philip regarded as not the kind of motion that would be helpful to the General Synod. This seems a significant volte face.

      As for yet another commission…

  26. God help us (and I mean that literally)! This Church needs another Commission like it needs … well, perhaps best left unsaid. I am sure ++Moxon would like another Commission – probably into the nature of Marriage – but it seems to me that if we can decide that “sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender … [is] expression of God-given diversity” then everything else falls into place – and I still haven’t heard anyone say anything on that subject that hasn’t already been said many times.
    Far be it from me to suggest any form of delaying tactic is being employed, but I cannot see how another Commission will bring us any closer to a resolution?

  27. Edward Prebble

    No, Bosco, I’m afraid I can’t reconcile those two positions, because I agree with you – hence my original challenge.

    PERHAPS what +Philip is getting at – and please I have no desire to be his spokesperson – is that if a simple motion such as the one I proposed was mooted in the lead-up to GS, it would be immediately matched by something saying much the opposite, and the Synod would then need to reconcile two apparently opposite viewpoints and might need to appoint a commission anyway!

    I believe there is another way that he and other bishops could move us forward. He draws a close parallel with the process that led us to the ordination of women. One difference is that 30 years ago there were bishops like Johnston, Gowing, and Reeves who spoke out firmly saying our canons were wrong in theology and justice, that they wanted permission to ordain women, and were willing to campaign on the issue until a change was made.

    I am pretty sure from public statements that +Waiapu believes that “sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender … [is an] expression of God-given diversity”, and I am also pretty sure that +Nelson and +Wellington and +Gabriel Sharma do not. That leaves ++s Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki, Christchurch and Dunedin, plus all the Maori Bishops and two more Polynesian ones. I am sure that at least some of them have attended enough commissions and indaba processes to enable them to say, “I believe that sexual orientation towards those of one’s own gender is an expression of God-given diversity, and I want the canons changed accordingly”.

    Why is not one of them brave enough to do so? At least it would facilitate a proper debate.

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