N.T. Wright Reacts to Gay Ordination Decision
The Bishop of Durham says ordination is a gift not a right.

The leadership of the Episcopal Church has voted to remove any restrictions on the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships. The battle over gay ordination has been fierce within the worldwide Anglican communion for years, but this new development may finally lead to the schism many have been predicting. Writing in The Times of London, Bishop N.T. Wright has reacted strongly to the American church's decision. Here is an excerpt:

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means "treating everybody the same way", but "treating people appropriately", which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant "the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire".

Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of "identity" parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the "gay community" much postmodern reflection has turned away from "identity" as a modernist fiction. We simply "construct" ourselves from day to day.

We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other - a distinction regularly obscured by references to "homosexual clergy" and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may "love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise". That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel.

Read Wright's entire editorial here.

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July 21, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 13 comments

Matt

July 30, 2009  10:03am

To Sheerahkahn I agree. We are missing the point. What we as the evangelical right are trying to protect (the future of our culture) we have lost if we do not love G-d and our neighbor. We have built a crusade based what emphasis we think Jesus puts on one sin over the other. I do think that the Church should hold high standards for leadership and that N. T. Wright is dead on with his comments regarding justice and ordination is a gift of grace. But, it’s the crusade mentality that throws out our supreme focus of loving God and neighbors. Be careful pastors of how we address issues of the “culture war”. Don’t try to find balance between commandments one and two and the “war” make sure our pleas to respond to who G-d is and how to see the needs of our neighbor overwhelms what is said about the “war”. We are His by our love.

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sheerahkahn

July 29, 2009  12:13pm

Hmm, intersting. I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the Christian church in America is...at best...confused...at worse, heretical. When Christians begin dealing with their own hatred, materialism, greed, and most of all their lack of Love for both G-d and their neighbor then I think they'll have a something to say about people involved in homosexuality. Until that is addressed...the Church has nothing to say...even to the culture at large. As for the issue of ordaining homosexually active clergy...well, if you ordained heterosexually adulturous clergy then the standard of quid pro quo is met...why worry about what the bible says at this point? Go! Do your own thing! It's America, right, land of "do what feels right!"

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David

July 28, 2009  1:39pm

One has to wonder where Christianity gets it's direction from these days. To say that homosexuality is not condemned in the bible is delusionary at the least and downright disingenuous. In the piece posted there isn't even a quote from the book that "Christians" are supposed to base their lives on. Are we too frightened to tell the truth? Le 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. There will be those that will say that the O.T. is "old fashioned" or "doesn't apply" today, but the N.T. says pretty much the same thing. Ro 1:26* For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: Ro 1:27* And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. I have to wonder what part of these verses these people don't understand! Is this the Word of God, or just a bunch of suggestions that we can take on board if we see it as convenient. So sad really.

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Joe James

July 27, 2009  1:27pm

Don't really wish to comment on this particular issue, because I think Christians could stand to exercise a good deal of silence and prayer and reflection before voicing their opinions. However, I would just like to point a certain ethical flaw in the popular response to this issue among mainstream conservative Evangelicals. That is that everything they do, say, preach, and teach about the gospel promotes a very individualized, privatized, "just me and Jesus" type of spiritual life. Then, when it comes to homosexuality, they want a civil religion and the power to reign in morality. Of course, they don't realize that "secular" culture is very aware of the divorce rates and other marriage problems among Evangelicals as a group. Their public rhetoric is going in one ear and out the other with the general population. But somehow, I highly doubt they have the discipline or the self-control necessary to just be silent and trust God and love people. And I highly doubt that they truly care to know that their witness the world is all but ruined in the West. In one sense I am sorry for the critical tone - in another sense, I think the best thing we can do for those we love, is be critical where critique is necessary. I mean, one of the reasons I go to church is to make myself available in such a way that I am open to being critiqued by my brothers and sisters in Christ. This is how "iron sharpens iron".

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still

July 24, 2009  5:58am

Here’s an excerpt of a comment on N. T. Wright’s editorial by James Moore who, (as C. S. Lewis wrote in the Preface of his book “The Problem of Pain”), no one can say, “He jests at scars who never felt a wound.” “Regardless of how homosexuals and those like me may "feel" personally about our own attractions, we need to remember that what is shown throughout the New Testament is an overt willingness by those who have chosen Christ to throw off all that has hindered them previously in their lives, things that they may have had deep rooted desires for. There's a call there for some personal sacrifice on the part of the believer. Worshiping Christ has always required sacrifice.” George MacDonald in “Unspoken Sermons, First Series” wrote: “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their suffering might be like His.” James Moore’s comment bears witness to Oswald Chamber’s exhortation on justice: “We are always looking for justice, yet the essence of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is â€" Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.”

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ericpo

July 23, 2009  7:08pm

Well words do mean something. I think that we are in the birthing a new protestant movement. One which will divide along liberal/conservative lines. I don't see this however as a sad event. The pain and hurt inflicted on pew dwellers from both camps makes one wonder if simple cruxifiction would not be a better solution. Ultimately, there will be two formal camps and we can get back to the work of bringing Christ to lost in their own unique ways. But lets be clear here...a separation is going to happen or the Church will spin into irrelevance and God will raise up a new thing.

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David Zook

July 21, 2009  10:56pm

I like the way Wright has gone about his argument. Redefining terms like justice or marriage has vast consequences. If left untouched everyone will redefine many other terms when they do not get their way and claim that their "rights" are being violated. Words mean things.

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Dave

July 21, 2009  7:36pm

I must say, I am completely blown away by a few of the comments over at the Times website. Particularly, Hans N. wrote: "No moral person could remain in a church that holds the beliefs expressed above. For that reason, if the Anglican Communion refuses to come to its senses, the only responsible thing for the Episcopal Church to do is leave. I am shocked and saddened to hear such appalling, hateful sentiments from a bishop of my own church, but it convinces me that the Episcopal Church is in the right." and Dora Smith wrote: "1. I am a member of the Episcopal Church of the U.S. I was raised to believe I belong to a church in the United States, NOT the Church of England. 2. Rev. Wright needs to jump into Boston Harbor with the tea. We threw the British out of here 300 years ago, and if need be, we'll throw you out again. You have no overlordship over us. 3. With all his high-handed preaching and talking down to people, Bishop Wright needs to review what's a moral principle, because he has no clue." How can people say these sort of things when a man is simply standing for the Scriptures and it's obvious teachings against homosexuality? I must, on the grounds of scripture, completely agree with Wright on this.

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Liz

July 21, 2009  3:43pm

Wright says: Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”. No one said that Justice meant the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire. The point was that there was not evidence that same sex relationships were sinful and therefore there was no reason to keep said people from being ordained. Obviously the problem that Wright has with the ruling is that he believes same sex relationships are sinful. Why didn't he just come out and say that and tell us why he believes such.

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Kurt

July 21, 2009  2:00pm

From said article: "...a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition." I agree.

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