The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Akinola's Advance

I know, I promised an essay on Henry Scott Holland on faith--and I will give a few thoughts on his contribution to Lux Mundi, which is cogent and reconciles seemingly disparate traditions and scientific knowledge that still holds today.

But, Peter Akniola, the self proclaimed Primate of All Nigeria (what, like there's a primate of Southwest Nigeria to confuse him with?) had to go and spoil the mood:
The Church of Nigeria is not interested in territorial expansion. The failure to
resolve these dual crises has been at the heart of the decision by our Church
and a number of other Global South Provinces to offer encouragement and
oversight to a growing number of clergy and congregations in the USA. These
pastoral initiatives are not and should not be seen as the cause of the crises.

Although they have variously been described as “interventions”
“boundary crossing” or “incursions” -- they are a direct and natural consequence
of the decision by The Episcopal Church (TEC) to follow the path that it has now

These pastoral initiatives undertaken to keep faithful
Anglicans within our Anglican family has been at a considerable cost of crucial
resources to our province. There is no moral equivalence between
them and the actions taken by TEC. They are a heartfelt response to cries for

Well, thankee. So what about the fact that the Council of Nicea explicitly forbade such border raids?
It has been suggested that our actions violate historic Anglican polity and
early church tradition with particular reference made to the Council of Nicea.
This assertion is both hollow and made in bad faith since those who make it are
more than willing to ignore historic biblical teaching on the uniqueness of
Christ, the authority of the Scriptures and the call to moral obedience.

Wait a minute--what does he mean about ignoring the uniqueness of Chist? Where's that come from? And whose call to obedience? That of Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report? Because I have to tell you, Akinola's not doing so well there, as the same Lambeth Resolutions that the Episcopal Church is under attack for allegedly violating by the consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson, and by several diocese’s blessing same-sex unions, also requires churches in the Anglican Communion to participate in both a listening process with gays and lesbians (who are simply denounced in the Nigerian report as part of the Windsor process--you can see it here:, which does not constitute compliance) and to support human rights laws, which Akinola clearly does not. See Lambeth Resolution 1.1; Windsor Report at par 146, et seq.; Appx. III.

In short, Lambeth has become a door that swings only one way–against the Episcopal Church, but not against a prelate who uses the Church’s influence to legitimize legal persecution, and boasts of it in the "Listening Report".

More details at Father Jake's helpful compendium:

Akinola's power play is clear--he wants the Global South Primates to seize control of the Anglican Communion, enforce a Covenant and expel those who do not surrender to his vision of Christianity--a call to obedience to Akinola, and Akinola alone. Christ need not apply.


Unknown said...

In answer to your questions --

what does he mean about ignoring the uniqueness of Chist?

Don't you think affirming the uniqueness of Christ "puts God in an awfully small box"?

Where's that come from?

Our universally adored PB.

And whose call to obedience?

Jesus' -- Quoting Dr. Gagnon: "It is historically untenable, to the point of being ludicrous, to suggest that Jesus secretly supported a form of behavior that (a) conflicts with his own use of the creation texts and other texts in context; and (b) was strongly rejected by his Scripture, the whole of Second Temple Judaism, the man who baptized him, and all his followers for centuries to come."

Jake said...

Our Presiding Bishop's comments were in complete agreement with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church, among others. The accusations of heresy lodged against her are a smear campaign launched by a handful of disgruntled Anglican extremists.

Dr. Gagnon had arrived at certain conclusions (erroneous ones, according to other scholars) before he even started writing. Consequently, his work is quite bias,and cannot be considered a worthy contribution to the discussion.

Scripture has much to say about lust (which is the topic of all 5 of the "clobber verses"), but not one word about two people of the same sex in a committed relationship rooted in love. Attempting to insert such a claim into the teachings of Jesus borders on blasphemy, it seems to me.

Unknown said...

Jake --

1) Nope. If you read the whole interview, it's abundantly clear her position is NOT that of the RC church (and many others), but universalist. Sorry.

2) What specific conclusions, and what scholars? Odd that no detailed refutation of Dr. Gagnon has ever been published anywhere; there have been any number of ad-hominem attacks but nothing substantive. Links?

Unknown said...

Also, I hope you're including every use of the term "porneia" in your count of verses, since it was universally understood that all forms of homosexual activity were included under that rubric, regardless of any other circumstances. It rather strikes me that a ludicrously tendentious and pettifogging reading of Scripture, completely unsupported by any current scholarship, is closer to blasphemy than the very simple claim that the teaching of the Church on some subject has been quite correct for two thousand years.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

There is no use of porneia in either the LXX or NT that can conclusively be demonstrated to have any connection with homosexuality. This is one of Mr. Gagnon's many inflated claims.

Anglocat said...

First, I'd like to thank all three of you for your thought-provoking comments. I'm especially delighted to welcome Fr. Jake and Tobias, whose work in the Episcopal blogosphere helped inspire me to start this blog.

Now, Craig, to your answers to my questions:

First, I do not question the uniqueness of Christ, nor do I think that such a belief "is to put God in an awfully small box." But, with respect, I don't think that the PB thinks that either, because that is not what she said. She answered the question posed her--"is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?" by saying that "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.",9171,1211587-2,00.html

As I read this, the PB does not question the uniqueness of Jesus in the Incarnation, but rather whether the statement in John 14:6 that "No one comes to the father but through me" would exclude from salvation all those, however grace filled, who did not in life embrace Christ by name, and knowing him as Jesus of Nazareth.

The PB's position on this point is reminiscent of W.R. Inge's acknowledgement of Plotinus as his spiritual master, and his statements that mystics may attain union with God, partaking of the Body of Christ through mystical participation therein may be saved, even though they use different thought forms to interpret their experience. See Inge. Philosophy of Plotinus vol 1 at 7, et seq. (1918); Personal Religion and the Life of Devotion (1924).

C.S. Lewis writes that God doesn't always play fair when the rules inhibit his efforts to save us (Henry Scott Holland implied this as well in "Faith" in Lux Mundi), and of course the story of the workers in the vineyard supports that point. So I think that the PB, whether or not you agree with her, is hardly outside the scope of Anglican mainstrean thought. (Lisa Fox has rounded up some examples from the Synoptic Gospels in support of the argument as well, See:

What, in God's eyes, constitutes approaching the Father through Jesus is, thank heavens, not for me to decide--but, surely we mere mortals should treat this passage like Jesus's other "hard saying", that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God--and bear in mind the answer He gave when the disciples exclaimed that nobody, then could be saves: "With men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." (Mt 19:26).

2. As to Dr. Gagnon's exegesis of "porneia", I am (as I said two entries back) unable to evaluate who has the better of the argument as a matter of textual interpretation. But, even ceding the textual argument to Gagnon--although Jake and Tobias have responded here in capsule form, and elsewhere at greater length--I stand by analysis below.

But again, Craig, I appreciate youir willingness to engage with me in a civil fashion, and your pressing me to defend and refine my views.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind words, Anglocat; I also appreciate the opportunity to explain my profound misgivings about recent theological developments within TEC.

As to Mrs. Schori, it is of course possible to interpret what she has said as within the Catholic view that even those who are unaware of Christ may be saved by the Grace of Christ, due largely to her vagueness of expression, but her rhetorical emphasis seems consistently to point in another direction. Consider her NPR interview with Robin Young (Oct. 18, 2006):

KJS: Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. That is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through -- through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus.

RY: So you're saying there are other ways to God.

KJS: Human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them... with the ultimate... with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. That doesn't mean that a Hindu doesn't experience God except through Jesus. It says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus.

I submit that it's quite a stretch to dig anything other than some sort of subjective syncretic pluralism out of all that.

As to porneia: The Greek term is used in LXX to translate zánáh; both words literally mean "harlotry" or "whoring around". This might give some support to the (long-discredited) "ritual prostitution" argument (which at one time or another both FrJake and Fr Haller have presented) until we notice that in the Old Testament the term is used to describe incest, that in second-century Talmudic commentary the term was understood to cover all the sexual prohibitions of Lev. 18, and that the Eastern Church, whose native language was Greek, has always understood the term that way (as has -- and does -- the Church Universal). Kenneth L. Barker, one of the translators of the NIV and Executive Director of the NIV Translation Center wrote in 1995:
According to the standard New Testament Greek lexicon, or dictionary [footnoted as Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans., ed., and rev. W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker (Chicago: U. of Chicago, 1979), 693], porneia is used of any and every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, including prostitution, unchastity, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and, in their words, "the sexual unfaithfulness of a married woman" in the references above [Matt 5:32, 19:9]. We translated it "marital unfaithfulness" so that it could include not only fornication and adultery but also any other kind of unlawful sexual activity, such as homosexual and lesbian practices.

Given the overwhelming weight of scholarship and the universal acceptance of this interpretation (for nearly three millennia), it's rather fatuous of Fr. Tobias to claim we lack "conclusive demonstration" -- the burden of proof is here overwhelmingly on those who claim that the universal consensus is mistaken, and this burden they have not even begun to address. Indeed, nearly all the scholars I know of who support same-sex blessings and "full inclusion" have abandoned the effort to defend the position scripturally, moving to other arguments.

Blessings and best wishes,


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I certainly don't hope to convince you. But I've reviewed the evidence you present with some care and do not find it convincing. That a translator of the NIV agrees with you is hardly evidence; rather it merely expresses an opinion. I note you have not addressed my specific challenge, which is to show conclusively that any use of porneia in the LXX or NT is referring to homosexual acts. The notion that it includes everything in Lev 18 is particularly nonsensical, since zonah only occurs in Leviticus in reference to the two primary meanings attached to it: harlotry and idolatry.

Far from there being a "universal consensus" I suggest you check a few of the other Greek Lexicons. The TDNT gives a much more expansive explanation of the real breadth of the situation than the BDAG. It mentions the broadening of meaning in late Judaism, though it gives no citation for its assertion that same-sexuality is included, apart from cultic prostitution or association with idolatry. Which is, in fact, my point.

Of course, if you want to follow Gagnon, or think that Barker's summary of what the BDAG actually says, that is fine. But you do not convince me in the least. A single concrete example would suffice --- though that would have to be weighed against the predominant usage of the word-cluster, as shown both in the BDAG and TDNT. (BTW, Barker's citation is typical of the kind of questionable scholarship indulged in by folks like Gagnon, who ignore the wide range of evidence in order to highlight their pet issue.) The BDAG points out, for example, that there is significant scholarly debate as to whether porneia applies to the "marriage within prohibited degrees" described in Leviticus 18; and some reject the assumption out of hand as not necessary. So there is no "overwhelming weight of scholarship" in defense of your position. Sorry.

Unknown said...

Fr Tobias --

"The TDNT gives a much more expansive explanation of the real breadth of the situation than the BDAG. It mentions the broadening of meaning in late Judaism, though it gives no citation for its assertion that same-sexuality is included, apart from cultic prostitution or association with idolatry."

In other words, TDNT also asserts that same-sexuality is included in the meaning [presumably of "porneia"], which broadened in late Judaism, though it does not "conclusively demonstrate" this to your satisfaction.

OK. So TDNT confirms the meaning I quoted (indirectly) in Bauer. St. Paul and Jesus were both within the culture of "late Judaism" -- or at least quite close to it. So I find your post rather more confirmation for my point than otherwise.

And as to "overwhelming weight of scholarship", could you provide any link that, using the conventional hermeneutics of academic Biblical exposition, makes a strong case from internal evidence that "porneia" does not include any and all homosexual activity, and/or that under certain circumstances homosexual activity is perfectly acceptable?

I stand by my point that the burden of "conclusive demonstration" rests with those proposing a revisionist reading, rather than otherwise.

[Out of deference to your charming cat, you may have the last word.]

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


Thanks for the further comment. My cat appreciates the comment too!

I think you may be falling into what might be called the "dictionary fallacy." Just because a dictionary reports (in this case without citation) a word might have a certain meaning in a some text does not mean -- especially when the word has multiple meanings -- that it must mean the same thing in another specific text.

Thus I can rather confidently opine that when Paul and Jesus use porneia, it is very unlikely they are using it to cover "same-sex acts" as this was not the most common use of the word-cluster.

Indeed, it appears to be very rare in this sense (if it actually exists at all: as the dictionaries don't give citations I can't well check. This in itself raises my suspicions that we may be dealing with Victorian Broadening phenomena). I think the best evidence concerning Paul's usage is in 1 Cor 6:9, where the vice list begins with "pornoi" but also includes "arsenokoitai" and "malakoi" separated by "oute" -- neither. If "pornoi" included the latter categories, Paul would hardly need to mention them, especially not separated by "neither." This is about the only precise window we have into Paul's thinking on the subject, but it does seem suggestive that he regarded these as different sorts of things; in this case, I would suggest, "johns" (that is, men frequenting prostitutes) and male prostitutes whether active or passive. (Among, of course, the other things in his list.) I know that some think "malakoi oute arsenokoitai" simply covers all homosexual activity -- but that is a different question, and doesn't concern the use of the "porne-" word class. Which here, since Paul also singles out adulterers (sometimes also purportedly included under this cluster), seems to indicate he is using it in its narrowest, rather than its broadest lexical sense.

I would also suggest that the use of porneia in the list of prohibited to Gentiles in Acts probably does not include same-sexuality (other than prostitution) since it is a reference to those things legal under Roman law but which in the interests of harmony Gentiles would voluntarily forgoe in the interest of being in communion with the church. There was no need to forbid incest or adultery, as those were illegal under Roman law; but prostitution (whether hetero- or homosexual) was legal. I would also add that all of the items in the list concern idolatry (except perhaps the "blood prohibition") which is, of course, the major complaint in all of this; idols being the source of all evil under the late Jewish understanding.

Again, I will not convince you on any of this, but I think as well that you will not find me moved by scholars such as Gagnon who notoriously take evidence out of context. When it comes to the meaning of words, context is among the most important factors in correct understanding.

Anglocat said...

Thanks again for the very illuminating comments, Tobias, and Craig, I appreciate your willingness to engage--and I agree with your comment re Tobias's cat. And, as the Anglocat, such courtesyis very agreeable to me...