THE FUTURE FOR ANGLICANS IN
J.K.E. Tunaley, Huntley Parish,
Whether you agree or disagree with the blessing of same sex
unions (“gay blessings”), there is about a 50 percent chance that the person
sitting next to you in church this Sunday will not share your position.
Moreover, by engaging in a polite conversation about it, the odds are that you
will not change his/her mind. Yet, on the basis of quite flimsy arguments and
in spite of the Lambeth moratorium, the leadership of the Anglican Church in
Canada (ACC) has been advocating gay blessings. The moratorium was issued to
prevent a schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Now we have been told
that the diocese of
Because the ACC has expended a great deal of energy and resources on pushing for gay blessings, it is legitimate to ask why and what outcomes are likely. The ACC has applied professional strategies to advance their case, so they are quite serious. On the other hand, the benefits seem to be minor compared to other more pressing issues and the costs are likely to be enormous. It is doubtful whether the damage already done to the Anglican Communion can be repaired easily and at least 14 parishes have seceded from the ACC. These events cannot be dismissed as small perturbations in the overall picture.
The Church leadership comprises rational human beings. However, the disparity between future benefits claimed for gay blessings versus the eventual damage done to the foundations of the church, the schisms and the bleak financial prospects suggest otherwise. This problem is reconciled if we assume that much more is at stake. A plausible explanation is that the leadership wishes to acquire the means to makeover the Church. The existing foundations of Scripture, Tradition and Reason are to be dismantled to permit far reaching doctrinal changes. There will be few obstacles to outright heresy. In the meantime, the changes will permit gay blessings and we can expect them to be extended to gay marriage, the ordination of practicing gay priests and their promotion within the Church.
If this trend is not stopped, we shall soon be faced with an irreversible process of schisms and doctrinal confusion; this will badly hinder Christ’s work and is not in the interests of churchgoers whatever their inclinations.
In all probability the
Though congregants typically hold strong views on the issue,
gay blessings have not loomed large and many churchgoers have not fully
considered their implications. In contrast, others in the Anglican Church
believe that it is sufficiently important to risk a schism in the worldwide
Anglican Communion or to leave the established Church and set up an orthodox
competitor. It can be argued that the Communion is presently going through the
later stages of schism as the Anglican Church in Canada (ACC) seems to have no
intention of compromising in spite of the Lambeth moratorium on gay blessings. The
fact that at least 14 parishes (two in
Therefore anyone with a stake in Church life and regardless of their opinion on gay blessings must ask whether the issue is worth the downside and whether it is the tip of a much larger iceberg that will sink the Church as we know it.
There have been numerous articles written by proponents on both sides of the gay blessing issue but most of these are not very helpful to the discerning reader because statements are often dressed as facts and cannot be supported by any credible evidence. Because the situation seems to be inherently murky, anyone wishing to understand the processes through which the Church has arrived at this juncture should compare all arguments with other evidence as well as with common sense. It should be emphasized that the Internet and many books are unreliable; as a scientist, I can confidently state that even the scientific and professional communities are suspect when they try to deal with sensitive and important issues involving human behavior.
It has been generally accepted that the Anglican Church is
built on three pillars, which are Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
Some 50 years ago not just gay blessings but any form of gay advocacy was a problem for the Church. This was because it conflicted not only with Scripture, Tradition and possibly even with Reason but also with the prevailing secular moral climate. Since ancient times homosexuality has usually been regarded as a sin both by the civil and Church authorities and this has continued until quite recently.
A straightforward interpretation of the Old Testament reveals
that its authors were against homosexuality as anyone can check by Googling
“Bible homosexual” for references to appropriate passages and then reading the
passages themselves in the Bible. The New Testament also regards homosexuality as
a perversion (e.g. Romans I, 24-27), though according to the Gospels, Jesus had
nothing specific to say on the matter. It is perhaps reasonable to believe that
He concurred with most Jewish teachings as they appear in the Old Testament,
including those referring to homosexuality. However, it must be noted that some
writers regard the Old Testament and the letters of
It is not hard to appreciate why homosexuality was regarded as a sin. In the times before condoms as well as antibiotics and antiviral treatments, homosexuals engaging in homosexual acts must have been very predisposed to disease. Also, until fairly recently it was necessary to discourage activities that did not lead to reproduction. Therefore homosexuality was regarded principally as a public health issue and gay advocacy was not consistent with Reason. In many parts of the world, if not all of it, it is possible to argue that this is still true.
This background raises some important questions:
The answers to these questions are linked and I will deal first with the second question on implementation; this sheds light on the other two questions.
To achieve its aims in this conflict, the Anglican Church of Canada has adopted well-known strategies. These are derived from military experience and described by military strategists such as Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz. They fall under specific headings.
Soldiers will fight most effectively when they believe in a cause. Therefore, as well as the physical high ground, the politicians and generals always try and take the “moral high ground”.
Similarly the Church has to be seen as a moral force and changes have to be consistent with perceived morality. Thus the Righteous strategy is a natural fit. When the proposed changes do not fall on the high ground, the solution is to change the public perception of what constitutes morality.
This became possible when attitudes within civil society
changed and gay advocacy led to a de facto acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual
acts. Rather than stand firm on its former principles, the
The main arguments for gay blessings are as follows:
The first argument is perfectly valid and was equally valid prior to all the discussion about gay blessings or the changes in public attitudes; we should all accept it. The ACC’s attempts to broaden the argument to cover gay blessings have led to the present situation. It would be interesting to know what effect the introduction of gay blessings will have on church attendance by gays and their participation in Church life. While it would be quite easy to survey the gay community to establish the effects, the Church seems not to have disseminated any information arising from such studies.
The second argument seemed to be valid prior to the AIDS epidemic that is sweeping through some parts of the world. While AIDS is a problem for both hetero- and homosexuals, it has been noted in many articles that the per capita incidence of disease among homosexuals can be much higher. This is because of the mechanics of the acts. However, when researchers dig more deeply, the waters are again muddied. This is partly because of the climate of political correctness and the influence of interest groups as well as the interests of funding agencies relative to those of the researchers themselves. Nevertheless, evidence for a relatively high incidence of STDs does seem to exist and this is consistent with common sense.
Therefore it is understandable why most of the Anglican
Communion, which lies in
The third argument has problems because the proposed changes reach far beyond women’s ordination. As far as I am aware, though in the past women have been regarded as second class citizens, being a woman has not been seen as a sin and engaging in normal womanly pursuits has not been seen as any more unseemly than men engaging in their pursuits. It can be argued that the ordination of women only required a revision to the Tradition pillar of the Church. In contrast, gay blessings would seem to undermine at least two of the three pillars that form the foundation of the Church.
The fourth argument is generally based on the statement that science has shown that homosexuality is inherited and is genetically based or that most scientists accept this. In fact this has not been proven and it is doubtful that the majority of scientists would agree to this type of extreme statement. The situation can be understood from the controversy over what proportion of the population is gay. Numbers from one percent to 10 percent have appeared in the literature. The huge variance is typical of a situation where scientists cannot even agree on a satisfactory definition of homosexuality. Therefore it would be unwise to give credence to any extreme statements about its cause. Common sense and experience suggests that, as for other human and animal traits, there is a spectrum of homosexual factors and behavior; in a small proportion of cases homosexuality is mainly attributable to genetics and is effectively hard wired while in others it is an option.
The fifth argument is problematic because the Holy Spirit is
guiding most of the Anglican Communion in the opposite direction. It is definitely
a logical inconsistency that would have concerned
Along with the Righteous strategy, military generals find it helps boost morale among the troops by demonizing the enemy and categorizing them as stupid, cruel, vindictive and evil. The idea is to separate friendly and enemy forces as far as possible in the soldiers’ minds so that one’s own forces appear to be solidly anchored on the winning side of good.
The counterpart in the current attitudinal shift within the Church is the labeling of dissenters as fearful of homosexuals or homophobic. Dissenters are often classed as hurtful, inconsiderate and insensitive. The war of words includes choice phrases designed to emphasize the rightness of the cause. An example is the use of the phrase “blessing church” to refer to a church in which gay relationships are blessed. This carries positive connotations in contrast to the implied “non-blessing church”, which is clearly negative and sounds distinctly unwelcoming.
Another up and coming word is “prophetic”. In the
Divide and Conquer
A good strategy is only to fight battles that you are certain to win. At the beginning of a campaign it is prudent to isolate and attack weak nations and appropriate their assets. This tends to increase the power and resources of the aggressor and enables him to graduate to larger stronger targets and defeat them.
The current Ecclesiastical campaign is “top down” in that it is a creature of the Church leadership. It has been easy to handle opposition from the grassroots by isolating them. This has been done by placing buffers from the existing Anglican hierarchy. At the top is the Primate of Canada, followed by the bishops responsible for each diocese. The parishes fall under the bishop and the congregations are technically under the priest along with the vestry. The day to day decisions are made by the priest and the parish council.
The first hurdle for a congregation is the priest but the vestry and the parish council are also important. Since each priest is beholden to the bishop for his career, it is easy for the bishop to impose his ideas on the priest and, depending on the independence of the vestry and the parish council, for these to flow down to the congregation.
In the case of gay blessings, isolation of congregations has been subtly encouraged by discouraging debates and discussions on the topic and replacing these with “conversations”. The problem with conversations is that participants rarely raise disturbing topics for fear of being cast as hurtful and uncaring. Therefore the bias is in favor of the proponents of gay blessing. Moreover, there are never any hard conclusions that are passed upwards to the leadership from the grassroots. Of course, this provides the leadership with a justification for promoting their agenda.
Another technique is to load task forces and committees with one’s own supporters. This is especially easy to implement when individuals are reluctant to raise disagreeable topics publicly.
Negotiate While Advancing
Successful military generals even before the time of Julius Caesar have employed this strategy. The idea is to enter useless negotiations with the enemy to occupy them. At the same time, one’s own forces keep up the pressure and continue to advance against the enemy so as to gain an advantageous position.
Protracted meetings and conversations have been taking place
Perfect Economy Strategy (of Small Bites)
In this strategy, the general minimizes the cost of the war by waiting for opportune moments to attack small targets; the process is applied slowly so that the enemy feels no urgency to enter into alliances that could thwart the campaign. This is known as taking small bites. Big bites are apt to raise “red flags” and provoke a significant response.
In the current controversy and apart from the
During a military campaign a commander will often send out
small forces to probe enemy resolve and defences. Similarly the ACC has allowed
The “local option” strategy, in which gay blessings may be approved by the bishop, is another attempt to push revisionist concepts at the diocesan level. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has stated that this will erode Anglican Communion.
Two of the main tools of dirty warfare are deceit and propaganda. Propaganda is conducted according to certain principles. It can range from a mild spinning or distortion of the truth to outright lies.
There are some inconsistencies in statements from the ACC leadership
that could be interpreted as propaganda or, to be charitable, as wishful
thinking. The principal tool that is in use is a denial of the downside.
Therefore the impression is given that the secession of a number of churches is
not important. The fact that, if afforded the opportunity, about half the
congregations would vote against gay blessings is entirely disregarded. The
potential impact of a total schism in the Anglican Communion is ignored. Any dissenting
person or organization, such as the Anglican Network in
Though its fundamental arguments are weak, the ACC has
expended much energy and resources to orchestrate well thought out strategies
to support the blessing of gay unions. It may not be coincidental that the
However, all this energy has been expended to achieve a
result that has not been quantified and appears to be of minor importance. Gay
blessings are inconsequential when compared with much more pressing issues,
At the last Synod it was stated that the
In some respects, the difficulties within the Church can be
regarded as a dispute between those rationalists that model their thinking on
It is difficult to see how the advancement of gay advocacy in
the Church can preserve any of its three pillars. Their destruction will usher
in a period of liberalization and doctrinal inconsistency and confusion.
Relationships and understandings with other
The key to understanding why the conflict is happening lies in the ratio of the value of the benefits to the cost of the downside. By any reasonably objective measure, this is very small. The only satisfactory conclusion for this apparent irrationality is that gay blessings are just the tip of a very large iceberg. The underlying reasons for gay blessings have to fall into a few categories. From our collective experience of human motivators, there are only a few likely options:
Depending on your point of view, perhaps the first reason is the least unseemly and most plausible, though there may be significant contributions from others. The way the campaign has been implemented and the large gulf between the value of the objectives and the likely value of the outcomes suggests that the ACC leadership wishes to makeover the Anglican doctrine and presumably to introduce sweeping liberal reforms.
Therefore we can expect more hypocrisy and downside denial and that gay blessing will expand and rapidly morph into gay marriage. Opportunities for extreme changes in doctrine are boundless. It is difficult to see how any of this could be helpful to any serious churchgoer outside of special interest groups.
Though the outlook appears to be poor, there are reasons for optimism. Firstly, the ACC is a large unwieldy organization that is very slow to react and this gives time for dissenters to make a difference. Secondly, there are very effective reverse strategies that could be applied to prevail over the current trend. These simply require a mobilization of rational thinkers on both sides of the issue.
 R. Greene, The 33 Strategies of War, Penguin, 2006.
 Sun-Tzu, The Art of War, Translated by R.D. Sawyer, Barnes and Noble, 1994
 C. von Clausewitz, On War, Princeton U.P., 2004.
 For example: R D Maw, J H Connolly, K McFerran, J N McKirgan, T A McNeill, J D Merrett, and J D Russell, “Sexually transmitted diseases, T cell subsets, and sexual practices in homosexual men attending an STD clinic”. (Abstract) Genitourinary Med. 61(3), pp 197–201, June 1985.
Also see: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html for a pertinent discussion of homosexual activities and many references.
 For articles, Google: homosexual genetic.
 The Anglican Church is not a democratic organization but it has a distributed autocracy.