Tom Wright weighs in on the American Episcopal decision


Here’s the link to Tom Wright’s response to the The Episcopal Church (USA).

Our friend David Neff, at Christianity Today, an Anglican, is saddened (by the American Episcopal’s church decision)[saw this on his twitter account].

Any thoughts here?

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  • AHH

    Since I don’t see any link to David Neff, do you mean that he is “saddened” by Wright’s response, or by the action of the Episcopal Church (USA), or what?

  • David Crawford

    It is a sad day for the Episcopal Church. They have decided to go the way of the world. With only 700,000 now attending worship they have been reduced to a mere cult.With a theology that only removes itself further from the faith once delivered,they have been left void of hearing the voice of the Lord. Lawsuits, power, and money now are the rulers of the church. They complain that other members of the Anglican Communion have invaded their territory. But they claim 16 church’s in other area’s such as Asia and Central America. They want their cake and eat it to. Losing TEC will be the best thing to ever happen to the Communion.

  • I appreciate Wright’s recognition of the fact that there are so many Episcopalians that do not agree with the decision of the bishops, as well as the fact that the decision was not unanimous (although it was, apparently, decisive).
    A common criticism I’ve heard conservatives make, which I’m reluctant to agree with, but feel that I must, is how the leadership often seems out of step (theologically, at least) with the rest of the people. While I want to respect the desire for justice, and recognize that justice often REQUIRES going against the popular sentiment, this decision that will almost certainly lead to greater schism saddens me greatly.

  • Good, good words by Bishop Wright. Good for that communion, now being broken, and good for us all!

  • Colin

    It seems more of a problem to me that Bishop Robinson claims to cross his fingers behind his back and say “watermelon watermelon watermelon” while confessing the creeds. It’s too bad that the first openly gay Bishop is proud to be heterodox rather than a confessional Anglican. I have a lot less problem with LGBT people in committed relationships than I do with open heterodoxy. One person put it this way nicely – some are totally obsessed with upholding the form of the religion but completely empty of the content. It’s unfortunate, because there are fewer and fewer places for confessional protestants with liturgical preferences to go, particularly if you are, like me, politically a leftist.

  • Doug Allen

    The issue dovetails with several others recently discussed here. For example, some agreed last week that the widespead belief, especially here in the Bible Belt, that evolution is incompatible with Christian belief and practice is detrimental to both Christian evangelism and to science. After living in SC for two years, I’m convinced of that. Many young people go off to college and loose respect for the Christain teaching they received. Others go off to college and avoid and distruct science and critical thinking. Similarly, many young people, often even before they go off to college, loose respect for the Christian teaching they received about sexuality, almost always delived culture-war-style down here. Sure, some others youngsters become enthusiastic neo-reformed church goers and proclaim a set of belifs that are contrary to my sense of Jesus’ teachings.
    I think Tom Wright’s above comments about sexual orientation are ingenuous and unhelpful. And his profile of Jesus as promoting the sexual status quo is certainly not how I understand Jesus’ teachings. To sum up, if respect for evolutionary science and respect for committed relationships by homosexuals are unChristian, I wonder how many Christians there will be a few decades from now.

  • GA

    The Bishops were in no way out of step with the rest of the church. Our house of deputies (made up of layman, deacons and priests) voted on this as well (Episcopal leadership is bicameral) and it passed overwhelmingly with them as well. Around 2/3rds. There is a very vocal minority upset and many countries int he rest of the communion that are as well.
    As to the rest… eh. I don’t find much in these comments or Wright’s comments worth discussing. The issue of communion is important, but if they ‘kick us out’ then it’s THEIR decision to do that, not ours. The passed legislation also renewed our commitment to the communion, but also said we were not where the rest were.
    We’re not going to just march along to make the rest of the communion happy, and we shouldn’t. It was absolutely the right thing to do and I’m thrilled we do it. What point is there in being the Church if we are not acting godly? The Episcopal church feels this was the gracious, godly decision to make and we made it. Should we try to placate Nigera? Perhaps we should get rid of our women priests and our female bishops and :gasp: presiding bishop! And then we can start writing letters suggesting imprisonment for people who witness gay weddings.
    We didn’t threaten to kick out Nigeria or other countries in the communion for acts we felt were unChristian, horrible, or just generally immortal… and neither should they hold that sword above our heads. That is not the way to behave in the Church. If they do.. so be it. We are trying very hard to discern what the Spirit is saying to our church and walk the line between strong action and “waiting” – if you look at the text of this particular piece of legislation, it is not NEARLY as exciting as people would have you believe.

  • CT

    “But saying ‘we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules’ is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.”
    Harsh words there. And they will have predictable results. As numerous parents of gay sons or daughters will tell you, one often lives to bitterly regret such inflexibility.

  • GA

    I found this post:
    Discussing the issue, and find it to be very on target in how Wright has distorted the issue and a more accurate description of the bill and what is saying and what it isn’t, and what our critics have been doing.

  • Mark Chenoweth

    Equating the acceptance of the legitimacy of evolutionary science and the acceptance of homosexual sex (not orientation mind you)is comparing apples and oranges.
    As far back as Augustine, and Origin, there were doubts as to whether these days in Genesis were literal. And the description of God’s creation of the world is clearly very general and leaves room for much speculation scientifically. Conservatives like Bruce Waltke, Derek Kidner, Henri Blocher, Gordon Wenham, John Walton, N.T. WRIGHT!!, William Lane Craig, Alister McGrath, Billy Graham and others all have no problem with evolution. But never in my wildest dreams do I see these men saying that nowhere in scripture does God not condemn homosexual behavior.
    Guys like I. Howard Marshall, who have come out against Inerrancy, and my professor at Malone, who believes all of Genesis 1-11 is inspired myth aren’t really anywhere near saying that homosexual sex is A OK.
    Unfortunately, I think the “compassion” of McLaren, Jones, and others has lead many down the path of pure acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. There’s a difference between being compassionate toward homosexuals, and helping them live with their orientation in a way that honors God or possibly even changing it, and simply affirming homosexual sex as good and right. I actually wish McLaren admired Wright more than he claims to, so he would take Wright’s position on this issue.
    I applaud Wright on his frankness. I’m sorry if that offends some people.

  • Pastor Ed Dobsen is a great example of one who did what we Christians need to do. He has a good relationship with the gay community here in Grand Rapids (Michigan), Calvary Church when he was pastor worked with them, a number of gay men with AIDS came there and found faith in Christ. I met one of them. Yet they knew that he believed that homosexual sexual activity is a sin.
    We need to show compassion, because indeed, none of us have arrived. But we need also to be clear where sin is sin, if people are to find salvation from sin.

  • I not only misspelled one of whom I am privileged to call a friend, but it just sends you to a general Facebook site (I’m new to that). But his picture on Facebook is worth the effort to see.
    Here’s a better link of Ed Dobson
    , beard much, much shorter!

  • Rick

    I appreciate Bishop Wright’s words. He has been very careful in his statements (and criticism) in the recent years regarding this controversy. Therefore, this strong statement from him really speaks to the severity of the situation.
    I do think he should have mentioned the deeper issue, the differing views of orthodoxy, authority, etc… that exist within the Episcopal Church and parts of the wider Anglican Communioin. This is the same church that allowed Spong to be a bishop. Are we then surprised that they are taking these steps?

  • Though I am split within myself over this issue, I think Wright’s point that it breaks with the wider Anglican Communion is the clear issue. The Episcopal Church acted against the rest of the Anglican Communion, and I don’t see this panning out well for them.

  • JW

    Wow, frank talk from a widely read and respected thinker. How refreshing. Clear, powerful, this is most welcome–Thanks Tom!

  • Kristen

    I’m leaving aside the question of “which side is right on the sex issues” and focusing on the issues of schism which in my mind are more important.
    I care about church unity more than just about anyone I know — and yet that simply has to be reciprocal to some extent. It does not do for a concern for unity to simply mean that the most intransigent faction always gets a trump card.
    In this case, there has been a significant exodus of (most though not all) of the conservatives, which was a big reason the current resolution passed by such a wide margin. Tom Wright (whom I usually adore) is taking the posture of “TEC is taking decisive action to leave us.” The liberal elements of TEC make the same point about the American Anglicans who left TEC to form a more conservative body. After the conservatives already left, well it’s clear that trying to conciliate them is just not on the list of options anymore. So why should the more liberal faction refrain from doing what they see as right? A former Anglican, John Henry Newman, was asked to lead a toast to the Pope and replied “I will drink to conscience first and the Pope second.” It’s probably not that much of a stretch to extend that sentiment to denominational bodies in general. Treasure the wider body — but at the end of the day you simply have to do what you have to do, as painful as that may be. We will drink to conscience first and to Windsor second.
    Now I’m not Episcopal or Anglican or anything so arguably there’s no reason for me to put my oar in here. But when has that ever stopped me? It seems to me that one of the most pressing questions for any church is, how do we “drink to conscience first and second” (which I firmly believe is absolutely necessary to live with integrity before God) without just shattering into individuals-alone-before-God rather than a church body (which is no answer at all). This is a tough tightrope to walk. What makes me so sad is (again looking from the outside) neither side seems to be trying to thread that needle.
    Now that I’ve gone on too long about matters that do not concern me, and mixed my metaphors, long past time to stop.

  • Doug Allen

    My wife and I are no longer Episcopalians though other members of our family still are, and we are most supportive of the stance our brother and sister Episcopalians took. I think a large part of this judgment is preferring your owe sins to the sins of others. I am reminded of Mathew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” So many churches and Christians, including Tom Wright, have no problem with a divorced and remaried pastor, and that sin is much easier to pin down as Biblical than is a committed homosexaual relationsghip. I think the whole spirit of Jesus’ teachings is love and compassion, not judgment. I probably won’t be alive twenty years from now, but as I said before, I wonder how many of today’s youth will want to embrace a judgmental version of Christianity that so many of us find contrary to Jesus’ message.

  • George

    I found Tom’s best line to be “Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace.”
    The GLBTG lobby has spent so much time on the issue of their right, that to oppose them is a civil rights issue. But who declared that ordination is a right that can be offered to all? God is the one who calls and ordains and it is not a right that just anyone can have.
    Ordination is not a right for everyone to participate in; only a few are called and the problem with many in the church-not just Episcipalians- is that we are more concerned about giving everyone rights.

  • Adin Eichler

    A short note to N.T. Wright from Martin Luther:
    “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

  • Alan K

    Can you state what is unconvincing for you? Will you engage in actual theological discussion regarding what constitute authority and what constitutes the human being? We have no idea whether you are a good or poor reader of scripture or if you are a clear or unclear thinker? Bishop Wright’s reading and thinking have taken place publicly in a careers that are both ecclesial and academic. So far you public speech has mentioned scripture and reason but really has only put forth mood. Not a very solid footing for belief.

  • Bill S.

    Reading all this reminded me of a 2007 article in the Washington Post by The Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness. Their point seems to be that the division in the Episcopal church is not really about the headline issues (homosexuality, ordination of women, “leftward” drift of the church, etc.), but is really about a widening difference in core theological beliefs.
    I found the article here:

  • RG

    NT Wright is a bishop and a scholar. He leads a flock and is an academic. He is faithful to Tradition and to the Scriptures. And he is not into hermeneutical gymnastics. He does not even go into Leviticus, but to Paul and the implicit teachings of Jesus himself. To take the idea that Jesus didn’t explicitly condemn homosexuality (to justify it) is like scratching your head when your driving instructor didn’t explicitly tell you not to kill anyone during your driving test. In other words, it was a given.

  • RJS

    As many above have already noted – the root of this problem is not sexuality or even sexual sin of any sort.
    How is it possible for those who confess belief in God to maintain communion with those who are willing to concede such belief as optional at best and obsolete at worst?

  • Kristen

    George #18 —
    It is true, of course, that no one has a right to ordination but such a calling is a gift of grace. No argument.
    Still it seems to sidestep the issue. What we have here are people who believe that God has in fact endowed them with that particular grace and the institutional church is blocking that. To say that no one has a right to ordination is missing the point.
    This is of course an argument used routinely against the ordination of women. I firmly agree that ordination is a special gift of grace endowed on a few (I have a higher view of ordination than is really okay in most Evangelical circles), and I further agree that this gift is not one I have received — but this has nothing to do with the fact that I have two X chromosomes. To simply say no one has a right to be ordained and to celebrate the value and importance of lay ministry — all that would be true but does not answer the question at hand.

  • I must apologize for my misrepresentation of V. G. Robinson’s heterodoxy. Here is a quote from an interview:
    Gunn : Tell me a little about your own journey into the Episcopal Church. What appealed to you about the Episcopal Church expression of faith?
    Robinson : “I grew up in the Disciples of Christ denomination in a very, very religious family. [It was a] fairly fundamentalist congregation of the Disciples Church – although as a national denomination, it is not fundamentalist. I took Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was 12 or 13 and was baptized. Yet, by the time I graduated from high school, I had begun to question the narrowness I had experienced.
    “By the time I went to college [at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.], I found that not only were my questions tolerated, but applauded. I was generously and hospitably welcomed into the religious community there and helped with my journey. I had an assistant chaplain there who, when I was ranting and raving about how much of the Nicene Creed I didn’t believe, encouraged me to just drop out when I got to a phrase that I didn’t believe. And participate in however much of it I did feel comfortable with.
    “And I [thought], a religion that can be that undefensive about itself is the place for me. I gradually said more and more of the Nicene Creed until I did believe it. I found [the Episcopal Church] to be this amazing community where people were not afraid to use their minds, where people were not afraid to read and believe the scriptures, and did not seem to be forcing on anyone else its own beliefs in the way that I felt the religion that I grew up with had been doing.
    “By the end of my time at Sewanee, I felt a calling to the priesthood and went on to [General Theological Seminary in New York, N.Y.] from college.”
    Gunn : How much of the Nicene Creed do you believe today?
    Robinson : “I believe all of it. The two things that the Episcopal Church gave me that I did not have in my former denomination were history and liturgy. One of the reasons I love all the historic creeds is that it ties me to believers who lived so many centuries ago. While I have no doubt that I might articulate the meaning of the Nicene Creed differently than would have been explained 1,000 years ago or 1,700 years ago, saying those same words connects me with this whole company of the faithful who have experienced God and believed that Jesus Christ was his very incarnation on this earth. So I love saying those ancient words because it connects me with all of those people who have been faithful throughout the years.
    “And, of course, the liturgy: The thing I loved about the ‘new’ prayer book in 1979, which is now 25 years old, is that it’s not so much new as it was ancient. While it was new to our ears, most of the Eucharistic liturgies were older than what we had been using. I find it thrilling to say the words that have been said for countless centuries by other believing Christians.”

  • Who are the real “fundamentalists” here, who take their stand on “absolutes,” and won’t tolerate other perspectives?

  • Karl

    As a former Episcopalian now Anglican, the ECUSA vote didn’t surprise me. I sat in diocesan meetings in the 90’s and early 2000’s where the strategy was being laid for this to be the end result and disagreement with the party line risked one’s being ostracized as a fundamentalist. One church leader said “The fundamentalists have to realize that they can’t keep their head in the sand. People are already out there living in all kinds of unions other than heterosexual marriage and if we don’t find a way to bless those unions we will become irrelevant.” I kind of thought she was missing the point as far as what the criteria should be for whether the church blesses something or not.
    I welcome Bp. Wright’s forthrightness. The revisionists in the EC have been working in this direction for a long time, but this particular issue is just one hot-button symptom of a deeper and more important division.
    RG in comment #22 makes what I think is a pretty important point. Tom Wright isn’t a culture warrior but rather a bishop and highly respected NT scholar. He is trying to be faithful to his Lord and the church. He has no political axe to grind.
    On Jesus’ implicit condemnation of homosexuality: Wright makes a point that is too often ignored when people say Jesus never spoke on the issue of homosexuality. Speaking to a Jewish audience, he condemns “porneia.” Any Jew of that time hearing that term (or any Jew – like Jesus – who used the term) would understand it as referring to the OT teaching on sexuality and what constitutes sexual sin. In that context the porneia that Jesus speaks against includes homosexual sex, as well as various other expressions of sexuality outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage. There wasn’t a need to single out each of the specific acts.

  • Patrick

    I have the greatest respect for NT Wright as a biblical scholar, but I think he is wrong in condemning what the Episcopal church (of which I am a member)has done. Kristen has stated my position already, so I’ll just say I agree with her. And thanks Colin for pointing out that theologically Gene Robinson is creedally orthodox. Those who equate support for same-sex couples or gay clergy with fuzzy liberal theology are out of date. On the contrary, what we have seen in reent years in my church is a resurgence of serious commitment to core doctrines–not least on the part of gay theologians themselves.

  • Alan K

    Is it wrong to condemn the breaking of the bonds of communion? Is it wrong to get upset at Americans being utterly “American”, and doing whatever they want regardless of the feelings and convictions of people elsewhere? Is it wrong to protest an anthropology that rests largely upon biology and psychology and ignores theology? Someone needs to tell the TEC that heaven and earth could be quite different than the way they perceive it. Who should that be? Who will they or you listen to if not the ABC or Wright, two men who combine faith and scholarship in a manner that is unequaled anywhere in the Anglican world?