Total visitors right now: 91

Click here to check your private inbox.

Welcome to Stand Firm!

Ephraim Radner & Andrew Goddard: Human Rights, Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion…

Friday, November 24, 2006 • 4:38 pm

Human Rights, Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion Reflections in Light of Nigeria
(hat tip: Titusonenine)


The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, for instance, made the following statement in a Washington Post Op-Ed piece (26 February 2006) entitled ‘A Gospel of Intolerance’:

“The archbishop’s [Akinola’s] support for this law [the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2006] violates numerous Anglican Communion documents that call for a “listening process” involving gay Christians and their leaders. But his contempt for international agreements also extends to Articles 18-20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which articulates the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, association and assembly. Surprisingly, few voices - Anglican or otherwise - have been raised in opposition to the archbishop. When I compare this silence with the cacophony that followed the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives openly with his partner, as the bishop of New Hampshire, I am compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings.”[5]

Have Anglicans failed?
Is this charge fair? In its first part, it probably is. The question of human rights and gay people, in a world riven by violence and the trampling of civil liberties, is morally too important and politically substantive to evade, especially as it finds itself exposed right in the middle of a major and historically critical theological debate within the Communion regarding sexuality. Many African nations where the Anglican Church is active, in fact, legally prohibit homosexual activity, and accompany conviction of such crimes with a range of sanctions that are often quite severe by Western standards. It seems not only odd, but scandalously irresponsible, that these political and humanitarian realities have not been confronted openly in the course of the present debates, despite pleas from many that this happen.[6]

The second part of the charge - that this failure to discuss sexuality and human rights among churches, including African ones, amounts to a moral complicity in abuse, as in Nigeria - seems difficult to uphold in its bare meaning. This is largely because the charge assumes the discussion’s conclusion, that is, that the legal status of homosexuals in many African countries where the Church is active itself equates with abuse. And this kind of assumption is precisely what cannot be embraced at this stage. The issues of legal rights for gay people and the church’s teaching and moral duties with respect to the state on this topic are complex, and certainly far from consensually resolved at this point, in the West as much as anywhere. It is not at all clear, for instance, what the theological value of a category called “homosexual” or “gay” might be, just as historically and biologically there is currently much dispute over the etiology and substantive reality of a “homosexual identity”. In the Christian discussion of human “rights”, furthermore, such rights are normally seen to adhere to a person qua human creature, not primarily to a person as a member of a human subgroup, however ordered. (Hence the Roman Catholic Church tends to speak of “persons” with “homosexual inclinations” rather than of “homosexuals” as a common type of human being.) Distinguishing something called “gay rights” is therefore highly problematic.

78 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook

The revisionists are completely ignoring the precarious situation in which Akinola and the Nigerian church exist.  Islam and Christianity live uneasily side by side in Nigeria, with frequent eruptions of violence. Islamic radicalism is an ever-present threat: they are imposing shari’a on everyone including Christians, and to many of them homosexuality is an offense punishable, not by jail, but by execution.

It’s all very well for Western liberals to be LGBT advocates: no one’s going to burn down their churches or hack their heads off with a machete.  Perhaps Akinola should speak out for the rights of persecuted gays and lesbians.  But I really wonder how long he’d live if he did.  And of course it would mean the end of Anglicanism in that country, as it would be viewed by Islamists as a mouthpiece for Western decadence.

[1] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-24-2006 at 06:02 PM • top

Always nice to read a pithy article.

Someone send me the Cliff Notes.

[2] Posted by Going Home on 11-24-2006 at 06:55 PM • top

St. Anonymus,

I, too, thought that this was another example of the American Nanny Nag wagging her finger at those benighted African animists. While I do not believe Dr. Radner meant it in the way I have stated, it is nevertheless the case that it could come over sounding like that. I do believe that Christians do have a duty to protect those on the margins of society, not by condoning their actions, but by insisting that their humanity be respected and regarded, no matter how vile and disordered their behavior may be.

Archbishop Akinola does walk a fine line. It is also the case that we do not know of how courageous he might be against the Islamicists in other areas. After all, I don’t keep up with the news from Nigeria that closely, and I doubt Dr. Radner does either.

[3] Posted by Allen Lewis on 11-24-2006 at 11:44 PM • top

“After all, I don’t keep up with the news from Nigeria that closely, and I doubt Dr. Radner does either.”

Dr. Radner was, of course, a missionary in Rwanda, just before the catastrophic civil war.  As one of the chief contributors of the Anglican Institute, he is in constant contact with people like Archbishops Gregory Venables and Drexel Gomez.  Radner and Andrew Goddard have both written position papers for the ACI at the requests of various primates.  I would imagine that Radner is more aware than most clergy of the international situation, including Africa.  I don’t know that is an expert on Nigeria.

And, of course, he is not a revisionist by any stretch of the imagination.  He is one of the good guys.

[4] Posted by William Witt on 11-25-2006 at 06:29 AM • top

No doubt this lengthy statement is interesting.  My question is:  “Do the ACI types write anything short?”  How about a Reader’s Digest version.

[5] Posted by PapaJ on 11-25-2006 at 07:21 AM • top

Dr. Radner was, of course, a missionary in Rwanda, just before the catastrophic civil war.  As one of the chief contributors of the Anglican Institute, he is in constant contact with people like Archbishops Gregory Venables and Drexel Gomez.  Radner and Andrew Goddard have both written position papers for the ACI at the requests of various primates.  I would imagine that Radner is more aware than most clergy of the international situation, including Africa.

So he can’t plead ignorance as an excuse, then.

The tone of this article is smug, self-righteous and patronizing to a degree.  I would like to see its authors spend one day in Akinola’s shoes.

[6] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-25-2006 at 09:48 AM • top

Someone asked the Viennese why their music, their Mahler symphonies as an example, were so long. The answer given was short: We like music.

Dr. Radner likes theology.
...and he’s good at it.

[7] Posted by Stefano on 11-25-2006 at 10:24 AM • top

Dr. Witt,
I was not claiming that Dr. Radner was one of the bad guys; I do keep up with Who’s Who in the Episcopal Wars enough to know that he is a fellow if the Anglican Communion Institute!! I cannot remember if I had read about his ministry in Rwanda. If I did, I have obviously forgotten it. But it is the case that I perceived a bit of the “arrogance of the Westerner” in what Dr. Radner wrote.

Here’s the point I am trying (obviously very poorly) to make: we do not know (or at least I don’t know) how much worse the legislation was before its present form. We do not know how much influence ++Akinola had in the crafting of it. Perchance it was much more draconian than it is and ++Akinola effectively lobbied to ameliorate some of that. Maybe not. The fact is, we do not have that information.

Nigeria could hardly be called a “Western style” democratic government. Yes, its government was based on what the British Empire left behind (rather abruptly, I might add). Culturally, the Nigerians have no roots in Western governmental philosophy, so to insist that their country be governmentally structured as if they had is a bit silly and naive. There is also the fact that militant Islam is part of the mix in that area. That, certainly, does not help in the formation of a more liberal - in the classic sense - democracy.

If it sounds as if I were impugning Dr Radner’s motives, I apologize for my lack of clarity. That was not my intent. I was merely trying to point out that a lot of background information regarding the history of the legislation in question is missing, or at least not presented. Without it, we have no real clue as to just how good or bad Archbishop Akinola’s support of it really is.

I do agree with the main thrust of this article. Regardless of whether “homosexual” is a proper identity or not, it is the case that the rights of human beings, no matter how their sexuality is ordered, should be protected and upheld. As Christians we do have a duty to work toward that goal.

I hope this sufficiently explains my position.

[8] Posted by Allen Lewis on 11-25-2006 at 12:10 PM • top

Lightfoot says:

No doubt this lengthy statement is interesting.  My question is:  “Do the ACI types write anything short?” How about a Reader’s Digest version.

Those “ACI types,” as you put it are, after all, Anglicans and Anglican theologians at that!  When has any theologian - particularly an Anglican one - ever written anything short!!!


[9] Posted by Allen Lewis on 11-25-2006 at 12:14 PM • top

Stefano, if the ACI wishes to effectively communicate, it will need to write in a concise fashion.

[10] Posted by Going Home on 11-25-2006 at 01:13 PM • top

Those who write for ACI need a good editor. Good theologians can write clear, pithy, and coherent sentences. The ACI folks seem to believe that a sentence of 50 or more words, modified by several adverbial and adjectival clauses, has depth of meaning and covincing argumentation. Having read the statement, I found myself asking, as I do when I have read previous ACI statements, “OK, now what am I or others supposed to DO?”

[11] Posted by Dan Crawford on 11-25-2006 at 05:30 PM • top

Hmm.  Wasn’t trying to defend or critize Ephraim Radner.  Just pointing out that he does care about Africa.  He has written that the Rwanda situation has touched him deeply. 

It is true that Ephraim’s style is turgid.  The first paragraph above seems to me not so much to blame Africans as to set up a plausible objection: Do homosexuals have the same civil rights in Africa that they do in the West? (Answer: No.  And this is regrettable.)

The second paragraph answers the plausible objection by qualifying it.  Are African churches morally complicit in abuse of homosexuals?  (Answer: No. And the plausible objection has phrased the question in the wrong way.)

At least that’s my reading.

Allen Lewis,  my statement that Radner is not a “revisionist” was addressed not to you, but to st. anonymous.

The ACI did have a good editor in Rusty Reno, who wrote an understandable version of Ephraim Radner’s arguments not to leave ECUSA.  Rusty then swam the Tiber.  He’s a great loss.

[12] Posted by William Witt on 11-25-2006 at 06:49 PM • top

On second thought, turgid is probably not the right adjective.  Dense?

[13] Posted by William Witt on 11-25-2006 at 06:57 PM • top

We should pay careful attention to Ephraim Radner and Andrew Goddard on this issue.  Their essay is a brave one, but it is also (as they say) belated, for the topic has been neglected by Reasserters.  This is a time when many are linking themselves to the Nigerian church—or thinking of doing so.  We are therefore reluctant to find any fault with the church’s assent to the Nigerian law that denies ordinary civil rights to people identified as homosexual.  Of course, the authors are correct that no people should go to prison for their speech and assembly.  It is a very serious issue, and I wish Bishop Akinola would speak up for their human rights.  It is true that the concept of human rights, even in a civil context, has deep Christian roots.  I know how bold and faithful the Bishop is on other issues, but it is right to point to this injustice.

[14] Posted by Paula on 11-26-2006 at 12:15 AM • top

Someone asked for a Cliffnotes version.  I am not too proud! If it furthers substantive discussion, here’s a try:

The Nigerian Church has good theological and pragmatic reasons for seeking to restrain homosexual activity.  But how is she to do this without at the same time promoting the violation of the human rights of homosexual persons? Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, after all, uphold such “rights”, and teach that homosexual persons should not be mistreated. 

The clear implication of this teaching, in the context in which this it has been given, is that homosexual persons should not be thrown into prison for years on end because they have homosexual sex.  Nor should people who talk about homosexual sex in a positive way be thrown into prison for years on end.  The Anglican Communion, in at least one statement that the Archbishop of Nigeria himself signed, called such mistreatment “anathema”.  There is a strong theological tradition behind this teaching. and it cannot be dismissed easily. 

Therefore the Nigerian Church is wrong in supporting, as she does, proposed civil legislation that would throw homosexuals and their advocates into prison for years on end. 

That leaves unanswered how the Nigerian Church can seek, in a godly way, to restrain homosexual activity, in the church and in its surrounding society.  Alas, neither liberal nor conservative Anglicans have made much effort or taken the time to engage, let alone resolve this dilemma, to the sad detriment of our Christian obligations to homosexuals and of our Communion itself. 

The above is a summary, not an argument.  For the argument, read the paper, turgid though its style may be.  The topic is important and our Anglican failure to confront it honestly has, I believe, been undermining our Christian credibility in the eyes of many onlookers for some time.

[15] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 11-26-2006 at 12:22 AM • top

Thank you for the Cliff Notes. I agree with what your conclusion that it was wrong to support legislation that would put homosexuals and their advocates in prison for years on end. 

I also acknowledge the complexities of being a positive political force in a nation such as Nigeria; and the growth of Islam and imposition of Shia law in some areas, resulting in execution of those that break the moral code.

[16] Posted by Going Home on 11-26-2006 at 01:50 AM • top

“The topic is important and our Anglican failure to confront it honestly has, I believe, been undermining our Christian credibility in the eyes of many onlookers for some time.”
—Ephraim Radner

I think this is just as serious as Ephraim Radner says.  It could make one hesitate to have ever firmer ties with the Church of Nigeria, and no doubt it has had that effect on many.  I realize that it is another culture and that the influence of Islamic law makes the matter particularly complex, but we can sometimes appreciate the Episcopal Church’s strength in human rights issues.  It is too bad this seems its one main strength any more—secular rights—but secular human rights are not to be despised, even so.

[17] Posted by Paula on 11-26-2006 at 07:33 AM • top

In the West today the popular belief is that homosexuality is inborn.  To prosecute a person for being  homosexual, therefore, makes as much sense as to prosecute someone for being dark-skinned, or for being female.  According to this interpretation, the jailing of homosexuals is an outrageous violation of human rights, and illogical to boot.

The Africans, on the other hand, believe that homosexuality is a voluntary behavior.  Jailing homosexual persons is therefore like jailing cocaine users, or people who drink and drive.  The penalty can be easily avoided by refraining from the illegal activity.  We must also remember that Africa is currently struggling with an AIDS epidemic, which may cause homosexual activity to be regarded as extremely high-risk behavior and a threat to public health.  (Even in the West AIDS infections are soaring among young gay males, despite the benefit of higher education and awareness.)

Science has provided no definitive answer to date on the question of what makes a person homosexual.  Some studies have suggested it is inborn, but these findings have been challenged by other experts.  The Radner piece touches on this ambiguity.  Yet its premise—that jailing homosexuals is unjust—is clearly predicated on the Western view that homosexuals are born not made. 

Even if you believe homosexuality is a free choice, you can still argue that the legislation is excessively harsh, punitive, and not in line with Christian compassion.  But demonizing Akinola et al is not the answer, either.  To form any kind of counter-argument we must first understand their reasons for pursuing this course of action, and then argue against those reasons.  Otherwise we’re just babbling away in two different languages without a translator.

[18] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-26-2006 at 09:53 AM • top

St. Anonymous’s post is dead-on.  I’ll add—

1)  In my view, none of us sitting here in the West can truly elaborate what it’s like to have to live side-by-side with radical Islam.  Excellent point—understand Nigeria’s reasons for doing what it does prior to criticizing or judging it.  That said, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with questioning their actions in order to learn or enact change if need be. 

2)  I find the Nigerians very devout and dedicated Biblical scholars.  The scientific bases for homosexuality notwithstanding, as Michael Flynn said in his great sermon at Bill Love’s consecration, the Scriptures are very clear in speaking against sexual idolatry, both in the Old and New Testaments.  The definition of sexual idolatry/porneia could be another post, lecture, or theology class, but, while the Bible could be considered somewhat ambivalent on divorce or the ordination of women, this point is not true when it comes to discussing sins of the flesh.  It is not much of a stretch to see why ANYONE, especially members of the Global South(many of whom I believe to be way better Biblical scholars than us) would have a problem with the supposed “advancements” of the West. 

A wise NT scholar once said to me, “the language of civil rights has no place in ecclesial decision-making” and I agree with him.  I’ve had DEAR black friends in the South(also devout Biblical students) become highly angry and indignant when their struggle with civil rights is compared to the present-day wranglings with the Scriptural definition of sexual sin.  In my view, they seem to consider it apples and oranges, and greatly dislike comparing the two. 

3)  I think it behooves us to remember that “rights” is a Democratic, western concept/experience.  Say that to a Radical African Islamist, and he just might laugh in your face before he shoots you. 

4) To also walk all over the board here—despite the biases of the West, there still is no true scientific support for the fact that homosexuality is “inborn”.  I’ll also reiterate that we all know there is a difference between orientation and action, i.e. desires and acts. 

In closing, I also agree with Dr. Witt in giving Dr. Radner a break.  By no means do I consider the latter’s writing “turgid”—yes, it is dense and academic.  But, if I don’t want to read “dense and academic”, I won’t read anything written by PhD’s. 

There’s nothing wrong with “dense and academic” as long as it undergoes a good edit.  For example, Andrew Goddard’s paper on the Anglican Communion(“Fulfilled or Finished”) was also dense but there was not a wasted word in the whole thing. 

Be nice, folks—a lot of these gentlemen are volunteering their time to educate us.

[19] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-26-2006 at 12:16 PM • top

Would someone be kind enough to pass on one or two sources that discuss this issue?  In particular, I would like to know what ++Akinola says about homosexuality, his support of government legislation, and also perhaps any examples of church/government collusion that have resulted in imprisonment.

[20] Posted by Bill C on 11-26-2006 at 02:27 PM • top

I agree, D. O.  Especially in light of the contemplation by many of ever closer ties with Nigeria, we should learn all such details of Bp. Akinola’s position and consider them in our hearts.  Whether or not civil rights DO have a Christian heritage, as Ephraim Radner says (and as I consider true), we surely don’t mean they can be dispensed with.  Agreed that the situation is complex and that we have (I have) little information regarding it, but Radner does know a good deal more about Africa than most of us.  (See some of the previous posts about his experience.)

[21] Posted by Paula on 11-26-2006 at 02:52 PM • top

I’d like to add my voice to those requesting more background info.  There must be considerable documentation of the situation, but I haven’t yet been able to track it all down.

[22] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-26-2006 at 02:57 PM • top

According to a statement made some months back by Bishop Duncan, ++Akinola has been steadfast and courageous in opposing the Sharia punishment for homosexuals (death by stoning).  I think we all understand that he does even this at great risk to himself and his community.  So it is at least possible that the imprisonment laws are as good a deal as he can get—that is, he may have been able to insure that homosexuals wouldn’t be executed only by agreeing to back stiff prison sentences for them.. I, too, would like to have more background on his real views—I’m sure they would still seem harsh by our standards, and perhaps rightly subject to criticism.  I also think, though,that he should regularly be given credit for his stand against Sharia.

[23] Posted by In Newark on 11-26-2006 at 05:17 PM • top

According to a statement made some months back by Bishop Duncan, ++Akinola has been steadfast and courageous in opposing the Sharia punishment for homosexuals (death by stoning).

This leads to a question I have gotten a couple of times when talking with people in my parish about the issue of homosexuality. I say that we as Christians ought to obey the Bible, and they ask “Why don’t you stone adulterers, then?” The same would apply to homosexual acts, which I think were also a capital offense under the Mosaic law. I agree that the death penalty should not be imposed, but I can’t express my reason quickly and clearly. Is there inconsistency in asserting that the actions are still wrong, even if the punishment is no longer applicable?

[24] Posted by kyounge1956 on 11-26-2006 at 05:43 PM • top

There are three categories of Levitical law: purity/ritual, theocratic and moral. Only the last category—moral—was intended to stand eternally. 

The Purity/Ritual Levitical Laws
The purity/ritual laws have to do with tabernacle and temple. They were introduced by God to reinforce the concepts of holiness and bodily purity. The rules and regulations associated with the temple no longer apply to Christians for the very good reason that Jesus Christ, in his body and through his blood, has fulfilled and replaced the temple, as the writer of Hebrews makes clear in chapters 9-10 and as Peter’s vision makes clear in Acts 10:9-23. Christ is our purity and our sacrifice.

The Theocratic Levitical Laws
The theocratic laws had to do with governing the people of Israel during the time of the judges and kings. They were intended to reinforce the concept of Israel being set apart as a holy nation and people. Because of rebellion and idolatry, those kingdoms were taken away. The new Kingdom of God introduced in and through Jesus Christ has superceded the old theocratic covenant, and therefore, the laws regarding governance in the Promised Land no longer apply.

Jesus did not come to change these laws, but rather, as he put it, to fulfill them. As the representative Israelite, he fulfilled the mission in and through the law that Israel as a nation failed to fulfill. In obedience even unto death, he became the light to the nations and the glory of God’s people Israel . With Jesus’ death and resurrection, the people of God have been given an eternal purity in his blood and have been ushered into a new sort of theocracy, the Kingdom of God, that includes all who call Jesus Lord. The old has passed away, God is making all things new.

Notice, however, that this fulfillment, this new creation, was initiated and begun by the sovereign Lord and verified and authenticated not apart from the law and the prophets, but through and according to them. This new covenant in blood was not voted on or dictated by the Sanhedrin or by popular demand, but it was handed down and authenticated by God himself at the resurrection and ascension. Moreover, the NT writers themselves, inspired by the Holy Spirit, attest to all of these things.

The Moral Levitical Laws are Eternal
Now we come to the third category, the moral law. These have not been superceded or changed. In this category you will find the Ten Commandments, the laws regarding sexual morality, and the laws regarding the poor and the foreigners. These laws are consciously alluded to and purposely mentioned by Jesus and the NT writers as absolutely binding in the new Kingdom.


[25] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-26-2006 at 06:05 PM • top

The present debate has centered upon whether or not the sexual regulations listed in Leviticus 18 are to be categorized as purity/ritual laws or moral laws. It is clear, however, from the fact that the prohibitions against all forms of sexual behavior outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage are consistently and clearly condemned in the NT, including implicitly and explicitly homosexual conduct, that Jesus and the apostles considered these laws to be moral laws established at creation and in force until the end. That the NT writers considered them to be moral in nature should be clear from our discussion of Romans 1 and 1st Corinthians 6:9 above. That Jesus understood these laws to be moral rather than purity/ritual is clear from his discourse in Mark 7:9-23 (discussed below). That the early church held and enforced the same understanding is clear from the instructions to Gentile believers found in Acts 15:20.

Jesus does not address homosexual behavior as distinct from other illicit sexual behaviors, but he condemns it all the same by his negative application of the word “pornia” in Mark 7:21-22 and Matthew 15:19. The Greek word “pornia” in the context of first century Judaism referred specifically to the Levitical laws found in Leviticus 18 (homosexuality is specifically mentioned in 18:22).

The rabbis of the first century often used shorthand phrases to refer to the law, as we saw with the phrase “the law and the prophets” which refers to the Tanahk. “Pornia” was another shorthand word that, again, was used to refer to all the acts and behaviors listed in Leviticus 18 from incest to bestiality, from adultery to homosexuality. Therefore, when Jesus says, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander . . . ”(Matt 15:18-19), he indicates very clearly that all the acts considered sexually immoral in the Levitical law code, from heterosexual promiscuity to homosexual partnerships, are to be considered immoral by his disciples as well. They are, in other words, moral in nature and thus eternal.

The very same word, “pornia,” is used in Acts 15:20 by the church council in Jerusalem. They command Gentile believers to abstain from “pornia,” again, a direct reference to and a clear endorsement of the Levitical sexual code.

In sum, throughout scripture you will find not one positive or even neutral word relating to homosexual activity. When referenced, the homosexual drive and the homosexual act are always and everywhere referenced as sins consistent with and arising out of the fallen-ness of humanity. To paraphrase Dr. Gagnon once again, homosexual behavior is a behavior that is proscribed by both testaments implicitly and explicitly, pervasively, severely, absolutely and without shadow or shade.


[26] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-26-2006 at 06:05 PM • top

With all due respect to Dr. Radner, I don’t believe this is quite the smackdown on civil rights that we might believe here in America.  At least, no more than Nigeria infringes on all civil rights, all the time. Remeber, Nigerians ALREADY throw homosexuals in prison - as is noted above, they stone them, too, and Abp Akinola has objected to such measures.  Do we know whether or not other sexual sins are treated in the same way?

As I posted on T-1-9:
“If one actually reads the law in question, one notices immediately that the issue in question is one paragraph:

“Prohibition of Registration of Gay Clubs and Societies and Publicity of same sex sexual relationship
(1) Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations by whatever name they are called in institutions from secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular and, in Nigeria generally, by government agencies is hereby prohibited.
(2) Publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria.
(3) Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.”

Sorry, gang, but all this says is that you can’t register a club devoted to what is already illegal in Nigeria & you can’t publicize it as such.  This is not “speaking on behalf of homosexuals” as such; this is about registering and promoting clubs. (By the sound of it something akin to the American 501(c)(3) organizations.) Same reason you can’t get a non-profit license for a Joint Club & you can’t advertise it with marijuana leaves here in the good ‘ole USA.

The rest of the act in question - the other whole 6 points of it, I might add - have to do with same sex unions being illegal for religious institutions.  Of course the Archbishop would endorse such a thing!

Reprehensible on many counts by American standards?  You bet!  Glad I don’t live there.  But hateful to condemn the legal registration of clubs promoting illegal activity?  Nope - no reasonable person could really say that it’s unreasonable.”

One thing that is painfully clear here - Westerners see our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction as a “sub-set” IE gay, a completely natural occurance, while Nigerians see this same attraction as a disorder, period, and in fact a crime.

I think the more appropriate question would be, how, as Christians, do we love our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction, fully opening our hearts, while at the same time not embracing sin, either sexual or the sin of pride, in EITHER of these extremist communities (Western or Nigerian)?

[27] Posted by MJD_NV on 11-26-2006 at 06:25 PM • top

Leviticus = the Liberal’s Best Friend. tongue rolleye

Whenever their innovations are challenged by references to scripture, the revisionists’ tactic is to bring in Leviticus with its harsh penalties and demand why reasserters don’t also follow these to the letter.  It’s a mendacious tactic, because they know full well that Leviticus—and much of the Old Testament—doesn’t apply to Christians and never did.  For instance, the Mosaic dietary laws forbid the consumption of pork or shellfish, whereas Christians were told they could eat anything but blood or sacrificial offerings.  And we are instructed to “turn the other cheek”, not take an eye for an eye.

So next time a revisionist tries to hit you with a Levitical “clobber passage,” look him/her in the face and say, “You know as well as I do that those passages apply to the children of Israel, not to Christians.  Don’t insult my intelligence, please.”

[28] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-26-2006 at 06:26 PM • top

Fr Kennedy, I am still at a loss. In Leviticus 20:13 the prohibition of homosexual acts and the penalty to be imposed (death) occur in the same verse. If this verse is part of the unchanging moral law, how do I argue that the prohibition is still in effect, but the penalty is not? I am not trying to promote the revisionist position, but the responses to their question which I have heard so far or have thought of myself, do not seem to me to fully refute it. Thanks.

[29] Posted by kyounge1956 on 11-26-2006 at 06:53 PM • top

Lev 20 is the penalty phase of the kingdom code.

homosexual behavior had already been identified as a moral sin in lev 18. Lev 20 is merely detailing the punishments to be exacted for the crime in the old kingdom.

The moral transgression has already been identified. Lev. 20 is helpful in that it clarifies the relationship between moral and punitive/kingdom laws.

[30] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-26-2006 at 06:57 PM • top

In the same way, incest is identified as a moral transgression in one section of the law and the penalty for incest detailed elsewhere. One identifies the crime as a moral transgression, the other, as part of the kingdom code simply gives the punitive measures required.

Thus, even though the punitive or kingdom aspects of the law have been fulfilled, the moral transgression remains.

[31] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-26-2006 at 07:00 PM • top

It seems to me that they are treating the issue consistently.  It’s not like homosexuality is treated any different from other moral crimes such as adultery.  And isn’t that still a crime in the US of A? 
The difference is in the attitude towards homosexuality.  Don’t you think if our death rate from AIDS was as high as it is in Africa that even the perpetual spin machine of the GBLT lobby would bog down?

[32] Posted by JackieB on 11-26-2006 at 07:25 PM • top

I am glad that some discussion is beginning here about the issues themselves.  In response to some of the comments:

1.  To those requesting more “background”:  there isn’t much.  The Communications Officer of the Church of Nigeria, Canon AkinTunde Popoola, has engaged in some conversation over on the site “Thinking Anglicans”.  Unfortunately, it has been sporadic and has raised a number of questions that have never been answered on several levels.  As far as I know, other than a few public statements, there has been no other clear engagement by the Nigerian Church leadership of the question of current or proposed legislation against homosexual behavior and advocacy, despite requests. 

2. The argument has been made that support for the proposed legislation is actually support for sanctions that are “lighter” than current legislation on the books.  That argument appears to be false, according to international experts in human rights law, since the proposed legislation is in addition, not in place, of current sanctions. 

3.  The argument has been made that support for the proposed legislation is actually an attempt to temper more severe Muslim sanctions against homosexual activity.  Personally, the argument doesn’t carry much weight with me.  The Christian Church in Nigeria has stood, in some cases, quite strongly against the imposition of Sharia law vs. adulterers (in one case, I believe, a Roman Catholic bishop even volunteered to take the place of a woman sentenced to death for adultery).  In what way, from a Gospel point of view, is the case of homosexuality different?  The question is one of consistency.

4.  The vast majority of cases of HIV/AIDS in Africa are due to heterosexual sex – what we would call “adultery” or “fornication”, in which the disease is often then passed on to a marriage partner and to conceived children, or to other partners.  The argument that strong penalties are needed against homosexual sex to help stop the spread of AIDS is not consistent with this reality.  If it were, teenagers having heterosexual sex should also be sent to prison for 14 years.

5.  Nigerian society has, as we argued, a legitimate interest in restricting homosexual behavior – this on the basis of its local social standards.  The question is how it does this in a way that is consistent with “universal” standards of human decency.  The Christian Church, for its part, has not only an interest but a duty in persuading and witnessing to its society just what these universal standards, in God’s eyes, might be.  If someone wishes to argue that the sanctions against homosexual sex, participants in same-sex unions, or advocates of the same on the books and proposed in Nigeria are consistent with such standards, this is an argument that has yet to be made in a compelling form (or even made at all in the present debate).

6.  The category of “human rights” is most definitely not a construction of “secular democratic” thinking.  It is rather the product of specifically Christian thinking, most fruitfully from the Middle Ages and 16th century (although it begins far earlier), around the “natural law” established by God in creation, and with respect to human beings, with their creation in the “image of God”.  Thinking in terms of human rights is a gift of the Christian Church to the world, and it is a gift bound up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Of course, what various political groups and societies have done with this gift has varied.  The Christian conception of the “common good”, for instance, since it is based on a religious vision of God’s purposes for human beings, is often in tension and even sometimes conflict with what have become the values embodied in certain secular “civil rights”.  This is the case with homosexual sex, as we know.  But this tension requires careful thinking and persuasion on the part of Christians, as we have argued, not the throwing out of the category of human rights altogether, which would amount to a turning against the Gospel.

more in next post….

[33] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 11-26-2006 at 07:43 PM • top

.... continued from previous post

7.  Many Africans (and African Christians) have struggled mightily and at great cost for the establishment of local governments that might respect human rights – for political opponents, journalists, and accused and convicted criminals—in their societies.  Far more valiantly than many of us in America in our day. Many African churches have done the same.  It is morally repugnant to me to imply that these witnesses and martyrs have been dupes of some “western” and politically relative secular set of values.  Nonsense.  The question at issue is whether this struggle should be supported on behalf of people whose sexual “attractions are ordered towards members of their own sex”.

8.  As we argued, the question of human rights in this case really doesn’t depend on whether or not one considers homosexuality a matter of birthed identity or not.  This strikes me as a red herring.  How we treat people as people, given what they do, is the question.  And there are minimal standards the our churches have been teaching us apply – though not clearly enough, it seems – with respect to those who practice homosexual sex (or who are “gay”, depending on your definition of identity).

9.  Archbishop Akinola, along with all the Primates (African and otherwise), have committed themselves publicly, via e.g. their Dromantine Communiqué, to oppose the “victimisation” and “diminishment” of homosexuals.  The paragraph in question states:  “We also wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”

One of the great questions that many around the world have posed is how such a commitment is consistent with support – tacit or open—for sanctions currently on the books and proposed against homosexual sex in Nigeria.

10.  To question and even challenge the views of someone is not to “demonize” them, as one poster above suggests.  To say such a thing is rhetorical overkill, and highly misleading.  No one on this thread, as far as I can see, is doing such a thing, and I for one have on many occasions affirmed my deep admiration and respect for Archbishop Akinola, which I maintain.  In this case, however, I think he is making a mistake, and a mistake that is hurting the credibility of Christians who believe that God’s creative purpose for human beings lies in their marriages or accepted singleness for the sake of the Kingdom – a Kingdom that also embraces “mercy” as an aspect of its intrinsic character.  Unless Christians are able to find a way to to the reality of such purpose and such mercy together, few will see the Gospel rightly presented in our example.  The paper Andrew and I wrote was intended as an open invitation into such a task, not as an attack.  I am grateful that the invitation is being accepted by some and hope it will continue to be.

[34] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 11-26-2006 at 07:44 PM • top

“So it is at least possible that the imprisonment laws are as good a deal as he (++Akinola) can get—that is, he may have been able to insure that homosexuals wouldn’t be executed only by agreeing to back stiff prison sentences for them..”
So, it is clear that ++Akinola has courageously stood against sharia law which is no small step considering that through Nigeria there runs a line separating Muslims from Christians that is tenuous at best, that there is pressure on both sides to move the line and that violence is all to common.  But my question is still not answered.  Granted that ++Akinola took a stand against Sharia, what is hi position with the government?  Does he have a strong say, does he help formulate laws, does his influence temper the the legislative process, is he a strong voice of opposition?  All of these are unknowns, the answers to which I believe are important to help us respond to revisionist criticism.

[35] Posted by Bill C on 11-26-2006 at 09:10 PM • top

I meant to comment about the quote I used that referred to the possibility that the ‘imprisonment laws being as good a deal as ++Akinola could get’.  But there again we are talking about ‘possibilities’,
‘may have been able’.  Even these statements are qualified.  It seems strange that while most of us greatly respect, admire and are encouraged by ++Akinola and his words (as I certainly am), I hear enough criticism that I’d like to be able to respond.  Now, I could say the same about that arch-villain, the wicked +Bob Duncan who is full of truth.  I know the truth and I can very easily respond about +Duncan (that he’s an ok kinda guy, etc!!!) but I’d like to be able to say the same about ++Akinola.

[36] Posted by Bill C on 11-26-2006 at 09:21 PM • top

A few points:
1.  Congrats to Drs. Radner and Goddard for their insightful and provocative article. It was very useful to me learn the history of both the Roman and Anglican churches in their efforts to maintain the tension between affirming all of God’s children and pointing to the Scriptural witness regarding holiness in the area of human sexuality.  I had the sense that much of their ethical framework can be re-directed for analysis of the North American situation.

2.  My cliff notes of their essay includes an allusion to Rowan Williams interview with a Dutch reporter this summer on the issue of sexuality: As Christians we make a distinction between ‘welcome’ and ‘inclusiveness.’  The duty to be like Christ to our neighbor commands us to welcome all, for we are all sinners.  But once those we welcome join us and become part of the body of Christ, transformation is expected. The body of Christ welcomes in love all humans, but does not include all behaviors. The issues raised by Radner/Goddard seem to me to center on the question of ‘welcome.’  What constitutes fulfillment of our duty to love all humans as God’s children in the specific context of Nigerian persons who are homoerotic? Radner/Goddard also seem to be saying that the church has spoken conciliarly through the instruments of unity to indicate what is minimally expected of Anglicans globally.  In other words, our version of a magisterium - our instruments of unity - have settled for us the question of exegesis of Scripture’s demands on a question that bears ethically in the Nigerian context. 

3.  I want to jump in on our word study of pornia and add to the comprehensive responses here a reference to 1 Cor 6. Following both Barth and Richard Hays, I suggest that pornia really includes any sexual activity outside of the holy spiritual relationship between a woman and man and God that we call holy marriage. As Paul points out, the problem of pornia is not simply one of performing actions that are forbidden.  The problem is that Christian bodies are no longer ours; they have been redeemed by God and belong to God.  Our bodies are to be temples of the Holy Spirit.  “What I do with my body doesn’t matter” they say. “If I need food, I get it.  If I need sex, I grab it.”  Paul says “No!”  If you are hungry, eat; but when two of the same sex or when a male and female cleave to one another in an unholy union, the essence of “who they are” and “whose they are” is at stake. Pornia occurs whenever we turn to another - in body or mind - merely for the satisfaction of our sexual needs. Whenever we view another person - even when we are married to them -  as no more than a tool of pleasure, we view them as something less than human. In other words,  we dehumanize them.  And that is where we locate the sin in pornia.  For when we dehumanize another person, we refuse to see them as God sees them.  We turn against God. I propose that we really don’t need to defend Lev 18 at all, but simply remind those in our parish that Jesus did not set aside the Law, but called us, as Paul and Bonhoeffer remind us, to a deeper, more radicalized embrace of the Law.  We abhor pornia in all its forms not because of Lev 18 or any legalistic reasoning, but because we follow Christ through the Spirit, and following Christ means being like Christ to our neighbor, or seeing our neighbor through Christ’s eyes.  Pornia dehumanizes its objects, and therefore is incompatible with one who sees through Christ’s eyes.

4.  I want to offer the following references for those who want to study what Scripture says about the issue of homosexuality in some depth.  The first is chapter 16 of Richard Hays’ “The Moral Vision of the New Testament.”  The second is a short book that offers a dialogue between two scholars who disagree on the issue and offer thorough reasoning from both sides.  It’s called “Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views,” by Dan Via and Robert Gagnon. Via is emeritus from Duke Divinity School, and Gagnon is a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

5.  What does the Radner/Goddard article say to us evangelical Anglicans in North America?  I spend a lot of time with baptized Christians who are openly homoerotic.  They presume that I cannot love them as soon as they learn I am an evangelical Anglican.  Is not the same question that this article raises before us? Are we meeting the standards of welcome and pastoral care set by our instruments of unity?

[37] Posted by Craig Uffman on 11-26-2006 at 09:47 PM • top

The argument that strong penalties are needed against homosexual sex to help stop the spread of AIDS is not consistent with this reality.

Dr Radner, I really hope this isn’t in reference to the post that I made earlier on the two opposing viewpoints re homosexuality.  I outlined these viewpoints in order to illustrate what I believe are the two separate rationales espoused by the opposing parties in this debate.  I suggested that the Africans may see homosexual activity as a threat due to their already epidemic levels of AIDS.  This does not mean that this view is scientifically accurate, or that I personally believe it to be.  I’m simply trying to understand what reasons they may have for their actions—a necessary first step if any civil debate on this subject is to be attempted.

To question and even challenge the views of someone is not to “demonize” them, as one poster above suggests.  To say such a thing is rhetorical overkill, and highly misleading.  No one on this thread, as far as I can see, is doing such a thing

Dr Radner, the demonization of Akinola and other Global South leaders (including at least one instance of possible libel) is happening on some revisionist websites.  I won’t provide any links to these as I don’t want to stir up trouble.  But most people here know to what sites I refer.  I find the attitude on those sites non-productive, and quite likely to fuel the fires of schism even further.

[38] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-26-2006 at 09:49 PM • top

big surprise Do I believe my eyes?  I cannot believe this came from Dr. Radner.  I am shocked to say the least.

As has been so often done in the past, let us make a word substitution into Dr. Radner’s words by placing incest or bestiality in place of homosexuality.  The change is shocking.

“The question of human rights and incestuous people, in a world driven by violence and the trampling of civil liberties, is morally too important and politically substantive to evade, especially as it finds itself exposed right in the middle of a major and historically critical theological debate within the Communion regarding sexuality. Many African nations where the Anglican Church is active, in fact, legally prohibit incestuous activity, and accompany conviction of such crimes with a range of sanctions that are often quite severe by Western standards. It seems not only odd, but scandalously irresponsible, that these political and humanitarian realities have not been confronted openly in the course of the present debates, despite pleas from many that this happen.“

With just that simple change, Dr. Radner’s argument certainly sounds like a revisionist one.  I can certainly understand why someone reading this might conclude that Dr. Radner is a revisionist.  The problem here of course is that this argument relies on the presumption that “gay people” are simply wired that way at birth and are incapable of controlling their behavior.

I am absolutely shocked that this came from anyone from the ACI, much less one so esteemed as Dr. Radner.  St. Anonymous is right.  Sorry Dr. Radner, I cannot even begin to swallow this line of thinking.  Furthermore to issue the charge of “scandalous irresponsibility” is well in my mind a bit off course.  That charge lies elsewhere.  shut eye  Sorry Dr. Radner, but as everyone knows, I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

[39] Posted by Spencer on 11-26-2006 at 10:09 PM • top

Your thought experiment proves exactly the opposite point to me.  A key theological point made by Drs. Radner/Goddard and the primates is that we are called to a particular attitude towards all humans precisely because of who WE are,not because of what behaviors others exhibit.  The fact of their creatureliness - their humanity - is the basis of our duty to them.  We are to see them with Christ’s eyes.  That is not to say that we affirm their behavior, whether it is homoeroticism, sadism, bestiality, or incest. Nor did Dr. Radner suggest that in any fashion; indeed he made the distinction between sin and the sinner very clear.  Are we to respond with compassion and due pastoral care to one trapped in sin manifest as bestiality or incest?  Absolutely!  One of the Radner/Goddard points is that we make a categorical error when we speak of homosexuals (or, in your examples, the incestuous and bestial) as ‘types’ of humans.  They are simply humans, belonging to the same genus as us all.  Our duty to those to whom we point with such language springs from their humanity, not their behavior.  That’s why your experiment fails to support your thesis.

Dr. Radner’s point is in no way ‘revisionist.’  Your word substitution experiment reminds me of theologian Dr. Stanley Hauerwas’ point that part of learning to live as God’s forgiven people means being willing to accept the possibility and live as though you might meet the most evil person you can imagine in heaven. If we really believe that, we can substitute any behavior we want into the paragraph, and it makes no difference in terms of how we understand our Christian duty.  That’s not revisionism.  That’s not blindly embracing the sin of the sinner.  It’s seeing past the sin to the sinner.  It’s grace.  And reminding us of our duty to live grace-filled lives is classically Anglican, and certainly within the evangelical tradition.  Bravo, Dr. Radner!

[40] Posted by Craig Uffman on 11-26-2006 at 10:52 PM • top

I am deeply troubled by the inroads that (flawed) political correct thinking has taken a hold of far too many Christians.  The entire concept of homosexual rights begins with the a priori judgment that same sex attraction is a fixed aspect like eye color and being able to thrill one’s “R’s”.  Out of that flows various correllaries (sp) that condense into the following axioms:

1) Sexual activity is necessary in order to be a person.  I guess that means that people who are chaste and/or celibate are less than full human beings.
2) Maximum genital pleasure, regardless of the forms of exoticism that pleasure takes is a necessary to life as food, clothing and shelter.
Etc., etc., ad nasueam.

It’s distressing when Christian theologians buy into the Western preoccupation with sex.  It’s a pity that so much that was good and uplifting has been destroyed in favor of someone getting to do whatever they please with their gentalia.  What ever happen to the valid notion that people can live full and productive lives without being sexual active?  No wonder our kids are so messed up!

I am sick to death of Western baby boomers who are stuck in emotional and intellectual adolescence!!  I’m with you on this one Spencer.  Dr. Radner, would you and your kind please grow up!

[41] Posted by Gayle on 11-26-2006 at 10:52 PM • top

Wow—I took two of my kids to dinner and a movie, came back and found you all had been BUSY!!!  grin 

I’ll try not to be too convoluted in my addition here; what you all have noted is great. 

To answer Jackie, personally I do equate “sins” like adultery and homosexual acts—due to the lack of definitive scientific/psychological evidence on the etiology of the latter, I feel it’s not my job to really decide if it’s a “sin” or not, that’s God’s job.  But, based on the revealed Word of God in Scripture, were I a clergyperson, I would note that it seems to me that God IS defining it as a sin, and thus I would refuse to perform a gay “wedding” or blessing(and I don’t agree with the consecration of Gene Robinson).  Based on liberal defenses I have heard, the “opponents” to your statement would probably tell you that the “sins” are not equal, because adulterers should control their desires but homosexuals cannot.  I find that sort of argument to be both hypocritical and heretical, but my view there is rather beside the point. 

Dr. Radner is thoroughly right that a truly Christian, pastoral response to homosexual desires needs to be theologically delineated.  Above, Craig rather reiterates that.  Personally, I have said in the past that if homosexual activists want to make a case for the “rightness” of homosexual acts, they need to attempt to challenge the Greek meaning of “pornia”—I’ve spoken to at least 4 NT scholars on that point, and everyone, including me(I could not be considered a scholar because I don’t have that level of training or education) agreed that if one tries to go there, the revisionist argument does not have a single leg to stand on, which is why they avoid it and lead the discussion into other arenas(love, compassion, inclusion, welcome, etc.)....Matt did the work of illustrating why, in reality, the Bible is not “nuanced” or “ambivalent” or “open to interpretation” when it comes to the description and prohibition of sexual sin. 

My only question for Dr. Radner is(and it may be simplistic and totally off-base; I have not visited Nigeria), would Archbishop Akinola’s changing his tune or “relaxing his standards” or making a firmer Christian stand on human rights in his context produce an environment where more Radical Islamists are thus given another reason to exterminate Christians?  I don’t seek to undermine Christian courage(I note Jesus’s example), but sometimes as a human leader you must be patient and espouse a “greatest good for the greatest number” type of mentality, with a hopefully gentler edict to come later. 

Back to the need for a truly Christian, theologically sound pastoral response to homosexuals—I believe this necessary but I’ll admit a sour bias with regards to its outcome.  As a member of one of the most screaming liberal dioceses in the country, I can tell you that whatever it is(or turns out to be), IT WILL NOT BE ENOUGH FOR THE REAPPRAISERS. Even if you succeed in outlining and describing something great as, say, a Lambeth resolution(and good practice), if it falls short of open season for gay priests, gay bishops, and gay marriage, IT WILL NOT BE ENOUGH.  “Welcome”, “inclusion”, “pastoral care”, etc. is not fulfilled unless it’s ordination, consecration, or marriage.  End of story. “Sanctuary” has to equal “sanction” and/or full validation or it’s not sanctuary. 

Recently a fellow parishoner of mine was asked, “where do you go to church”?  “X”...“Oh, is that a welcoming parish?” Reply:  “Well, yes, I think we try to be very welcoming”.  “Do you do gay marriage there?”  Reply:  “No”.  “Well, then it’s not a ‘welcoming’ parish.” 

Craig’s recommendation of those two books is well-founded.  Years ago I sold a copy of Hays’s book to George Carey, who later came back and said it was the best book he had read in 20 years.  The Gagnon/Via book does an excellent job of outlining both “arguments” on the current subject.  Personally I think Via gets it in the chops Scripturally, but the book is very good, and a much quicker read than Dr. Gagnon’s academic volume on the subject of homosexuality and Scripture. 

Again, we surely don’t do Christian thought or theology to simply satisfy a single group of humans, but, still, in my view, you won’t be able to do anything good enough for, for lack of a better term, the far theological left, unless you toss in the towel and validate it all with “carte blanche”. 

I, too, thank Drs. Radner and Goddard for opening this discussion, because it’s a necessary and valuable one.

[42] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-26-2006 at 11:21 PM • top

Quick addendum, to add to my points above(and I hope I don’t open up any cans of worms… grin

Just so you all understand(I do not imply at all that people posting here “don’t get it”; it’s hard to determine tone in stuff like posts and email) the nature of the radical revisionist argument, note this: 

One actively homosexual member of my parish spread it around that all baptized members are entitled to full sacramental equality.  Thus, if you’re both baptized members and guys, and guys want to marry guys, then that is and should be ok.  The priest should be there to provide said function/sacrament.  The traditional definition of the sacrament of marriage notwithstanding; that should just be changed or ignored because it’s so “heterosexist”...someone else’s words, not mine…

Dr. Radner makes excellent points, but what I find “morally repugnant” is an overblown, arrogant, Western sense of entitlement, as if “I want” are supposed to be the two most important words in the English language…

[43] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-26-2006 at 11:41 PM • top

I certainly agree Craig that our response as Christians toward ALL people is to be loving and forgiving.  I certainly don’t condone executions and indeed I do not believe in corporal punishment for any transgression.  Yes this sort of punishment does seem harsh to our western eyes and yet we also execute people here in the US for various crimes.  I did not intend to imply that I was condoning harsh unforgiving treatment to anyone.  I do not. 

However, Dr. Radner’s argument was based on “human rights and equality”.  His argument was clearly a revisionist “social justice” type argument.  He clearly argued that homosexual practice was a “civil liberty”.  It is not.  I also find this western sense of “entitlement” to be “morally repugnant”.  It is to this my above comments were focused. 
I remain under whelmed. long face

[44] Posted by Spencer on 11-27-2006 at 07:34 AM • top

I would like to address one of the points that Dr. Radner made above.  I do this, while not having answers to many questions regarding the proposed Nigerian legislation that I would need to have in order to come to some further conclusions. 

But I do want to challenge point #9. 

“9.  Archbishop Akinola, along with all the Primates (African and otherwise), have committed themselves publicly, via e.g. their Dromantine Communiqué, to oppose the “victimisation” and “diminishment” of homosexuals.  The paragraph in question states:  “We also wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”

One of the great questions that many around the world have posed is how such a commitment is consistent with support – tacit or open—for sanctions currently on the books and proposed against homosexual sex in Nigeria.

I’m not certain how creating legislation that prohibits sex with the same gender prevents “pastoral support and care of homosexual people” or prevents loving or valuing them.

We have laws against all sorts of activity in America—for example, against stealing things.  But it is perfectly possible to have a law against shoplifting yet provide “pastoral support and care of kleptomaniac people” and love and value “kleptomaniac people”.

Creating a law that is opposed to a certain behavior does not mean that one cannot love or value those who may be inclined to that certain behavior. 

Closer to home, we have people in this country whose “affections happen to be ordered towards people” in the same immediate family.  Literature and culture are full of the tragic stories of brothers and sisters who have erotic love for one another. 

But having laws against incest does not mean that we cannot provide “pastoral support and care of [incest-attracted] people” or that such laws prevent loving or valuing them.

Furthermore, loving or valuing incest-attracted people or kleptomaniacs does not mean that we should encourage clubs for the promotion of incest or kleptomania.  Laws against the formation of such clubs are a prohibition on free speech and assembly . . . but then . . . we have such laws regarding *some moral sins* that we as a society deem to be very harmful.

[Please note that I am not saying that I approve of the legislation.  I do not.  But my disapproval is not based on the concern that one cannot love homosexuals if one creates a law against same sex behavior.]

[45] Posted by Sarah on 11-27-2006 at 08:15 AM • top

I may not have been clear in my earlier comment.  I do not support the stoning or jailing of homosexuals or adulterers.  The point I was trying to make is that consistency in the punishment aspect of their laws seems to indicate that they see homosexuality as a crime equal to other areas of violation such as adultery.  Forget for a moment that we are talking about a subject that involves Archbishop Akinola.  Let’s equate this to say - Singapore.  I believe their laws are much too harsh.  Public caning for graffitti seems a bit much to me and that’s one of their less punitive laws.  Stealing is a limb losing proposition.  If in fact this is a discussion about the harshness of laws and not a debate to “normalize” homosexuality, then where is the outrage at laws such as you find in Singapore?  This statement is being made notwithstanding the fact that when an American is caught in Singapore, the volume is definitely ramped up.  I am talking about the everyday non-American who suffers these punishments.

I don’t live in Africa but I have dear friends who do.  I know that they are under constant pressure from the Muslim influence.  One example given to me is they take turns carrying the Bible as that is the person most likely to be targeted. 
With all due respect to Dr. Radner, I believe the criticism being directed at Dr. Akinola is seeking to relieve the pressure in the US - not Africa.  We in the US have bought into the argument that sex is a right.  I have read where Bishop Akinola has said that homosexual sex is an abomination.  So does the Bible.  I have read where practicing homosexuals are denied communion but then so are those who practice bigamy.  In doing so they are not denying that these individuals are children of God, just that they are not in communion with them due to their actions.  I guess my question back to Dr. Radner would be why should Bishop Akinola or any other church leader become active in opposing a law that opposes the formation of a club? 
I end this by saying that I am a sinner who needs God’s grace daily.  I need the Church to help me find my way all too often.  I lament that ECUSA has ceased to be that moral compass in America.

[46] Posted by JackieB on 11-27-2006 at 08:59 AM • top

I was startled to read Gayle’s implication that the ability to roll or trill (it was written ‘thrill’) ones “R’s” was a fixed or genetic trait. Could you provide some substantiation for this assertion? I have always thought phonetic abilities were learned or reinforced extinguishments conditional on the language environment of ones upbringing.

[47] Posted by Stefano on 11-27-2006 at 09:29 AM • top

I agree with Sarah in this regard. I am not familiar enough with the legislation to comment but I found the same section of Dr. Radner’s post troubling.

[48] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-27-2006 at 09:29 AM • top

This(my view, here) is beside the point a little, but Sarah outlines my thoughts on the current discussion/disagreement throughout Anglicanism. 

E.g., the “left” wants to say that actively gay bishops and gay marriage are perfectly ok because Jesus loved all, was compassionate to all, was inclusive of all, and routinely sat down and ate with thieves, murderers, and prostitutes.  Yes, he was and did, but he did not say it was ok and blessed to steal, kill, and sell yourself.  “Go and sin no more”, like the translation of “pornia”, is just one more thing we’re supposed to twist, change, or ignore.

I’m not saying I agree with the legislation, either.  I’m saying I do not know enough about the context of Nigerian culture, specifically the challenges of Christianity and (sometimes) radical Islam living side-by-side, to accurately comment. 

Dr. Radner probably knows way more about Africa than I do, and I understand and agree with his concern regarding Christian theology and human rights.  I believe part of his point, too, is that fulfilling our Christian commitment to compassion for the gay community is not only a correct thing, it will also improve Christian relations with the gay community.  That “follows”, but I submit again, that, for some factions of the radical Northeast USA(and otherwise), from whence a lot of this corruption and reappraising has come, it will not be enough.  What will be enough is no less than full sacramental equality, full validation, and full “legitimacy”—heck, you can even go further to the “polyamorous justice” of Marvin Ellison and call that blessed, too—-

Also, in my view, in our own Christian culture, what started all this was something along the line of, “Well, what’s wrong with a committed, loving, monogamous homosexual relationship?” That’s one thing, but I don’t believe it will eventually stop there.  Thus, there’s a reason why the Catholic faith is wary of Anglicanism and refuses to lower the bar on things like celibacy and married priests.  For some it’s a theological thing, but you also could not convince me that it has nothing to do with what I would call the “Domino Effect” that some of us have sadly and misdirectedly emulated.  I believe said Effect violates the Historic Christian Faith, and those espousing it should have hit the bricks and founded their own religion a long time ago.  To me, that is what would have shown much more “Integrity”.  But, I guess they like liturgy, even though Liturgy without Scripture is a rather nonexistent concept. 

All I can do is pray for compassion and that a power higher than me, and/or also humans way smarter than me, can work all this out.  Meanwhile, some days, for me, it pays to forget about the squabbling and sit down with no more than the Scriptures and the Daily Office—That which all the cranky humans have not created or corrupted.  Hence my comment in the past that spending time with God can often be a lot more comforting/rewarding than spending time with church…As the Stomach Turns, and all days, God help us all…

Cheers grin

[49] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-27-2006 at 09:38 AM • top

Ephraim Radner and Andrew Goddard cite the Dromantine communique’s statement that “the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.”  Agreement ought not to be difficult on the condemnation of victimization and diminishment.  But the phrase “happen to be ordered” is an unfortunate one, suggesting as it does a natural ordering.  Compare, e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church, at 2358, which while requiring acceptance of persons “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” speaks of the inclination as objectively disordered.  Or compare Lambeth I.10’s more neutral reference to “persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation.”  Notice how often Bishops Griswold and Schori have picked up and attempted to leverage this reference from Dromantine.

A discussion of limits on freedom of advocacy seems somehow incomplete without reference to what is happening in the United States, where advocacy regarding same-sex relationships is ostensibly unlimited, but if the advocacy is against creation of new rights and turns out to be effective, we see courts striking down the results—from Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Romer v. Evans, with its manifest illogic and accusations of animus, to the Goodridge case in Massachusetts and Lewis v. Harris in New Jersey.

Finally, I have tried to think of any sense in which the first sentence in the essay’s concluding paragraph can in any sense be accurate.  (That sentence being, “It is a part of the tragedy of the current division among Anglican Christians, among others, that these two choices - unrestrained advocacy of ecclesial and social blessing of homosexual relationships or harsh legal sanctions against the human personhood of homosexual people - have been offered as the only practical alternatives within the current debate.”)  I now have it. Read literally, the sentence says the two choices have been offered _by someone_ as the only two alternatives, not that they are the only two alternatives on offer.  But one wonders how that squares with the next sentence which is supposed to follow from it.

[50] Posted by Mike Watson on 11-27-2006 at 09:48 AM • top

It appears that many posters here do not buy the notion that there is something called “human rights” that is (in theory) measured by a divine and therefore universal standard – despite what popes and councils have taught in recent years.  Or at least that it does not apply to those who engage in homosexual sex.  I wonder why not?

However, I admit that – apart from what popes and councils have recently taught – there are some real questions to be grappled with here.  In the 16th and 17th centuries, there was, for instance, a strong Reformed view regarding civil sanctions that said that Moses and Jesus represented the outer limits of what was permitted in terms of punishment for crimes, and that the choice within this continuum was purely local (“culturally relative”, as we say today).  So, in the case of homosexual sex and adultery, the range of permitted sanctions was capital punishment (Moses) or forgiveness with admonishment (Jesus):  it all “depends” on where you live.  No more severe than Moses, and no more lenient than Jesus.  I have a sense that this is the default position for many here.  And if not, why not?

The issue of “human rights” in this case is precisely the question of “penalty”.  Andrew and I have argued that churches and civil societies have all kinds of appropriate justifications to restrict certain forms of behavior, which may include homosexual behavior (e.g. “gay marriages”).  That is not at issue.  The issue is exactly that of “how”, and whether or not certain forms of restriction are “inhumane” in a specifically Christian sense.  The issue is not whether bestiality and incest are to be “permitted”.  (I will point out, however, that the definition of “incest”, like it or not, has been variously given by the Church herself over the centuries, often in concert with local political needs – a fact that is not without relevance to how one determines the character of “penalty” in this regard.)  From a purely historical perspective it is obvious that the response to appropriate “penalty” has changed culturally over time and space.  The question is whether there has been any substantive divine “learning” in this change, as the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches have generally taught that there has been (hence Catholic teaching regarding capital punishment).

It is the case that neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Anglican Communion as a whole has defined precisely what constitutes unjust “discrimination” (although it seems to include employment according to some Catholic documents) and “victimization” of homosexuals.  Hence, as Ms. Hey remarks, it is possible to say that 14 years imprisonment may well be considered a “loving” and “pastoral” response to those who engage in gay sex, or at least provide an acceptable framework for such loving pastoral response.  However, part of the purpose of our essay was to examine, in a cursory way, the context in which Catholic and Anglican teaching about these matters has been given, and this context seems quite clearly to rule out this kind of evaluation.  And if one thinks it doesn’t, one should have good reasons why not, because the weight of international agreement would appear to move in another direction – agreement in which both church communities put great store.

[51] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 11-27-2006 at 10:33 AM • top

It appears that many posters here do not buy the notion that there is something called “human rights” that is (in theory) measured by a divine and therefore universal standard – despite what popes and councils have taught in recent years.  Or at least that it does not apply to those who engage in homosexual sex.  I wonder why not?

I continue to be confused as to what “human rights” has to do with a country making homosexual activity illegal and applying penalties for that behavior.

Does any American think that there is no interest in “human rights” because our country believes that humans should not steal and when they do so are thrown into jail?

Again—I am opposed to civil laws making homosexual activity illegal—but not at all for reasons related to “human rights” since an argument that “making an activity illegal” and establishing penalties for violation of that law denies people their “human rights” necessarily is hopelessly broad.

We cannot simply state—as an argument—that any action that makes another human behavior illegal and establishes penalties for it is a violation of “human rights”.

Making laws with penalties concerning certain human behaviors does not necessarily mean that said laws are “violations of human rights”?

“Human rights” is simply too broad a basis for making these arguments.

What about “human rights” for kleptomaniacs . . . . for “It appears that [Ephraim Radner does] not buy the notion that there is something called “human rights” that is (in theory) measured by a divine and therefore universal standard – despite what popes and councils have taught in recent years.  Or at least that it does not apply to those who engage in [kleptomaniac behavior].  I wonder why not?”

If the issue is indeed merely one of “penalty” regarding a country that sets laws concerning behavior, then what penalty would any of us recommend that Nigeria apply for such a law concerning homosexual behavior?

RE: “And if one thinks it doesn’t, one should have good reasons why not, because the weight of international agreement would appear to move in another direction – agreement in which both church communities put great store.”

Not in Nigeria’s case . . . and not in other country’s cases either.

So I’m not certain that the “weight of international agreement would appear to move in another direction” at all.  Given the growing Islamic influence on various countries, I think that the weight of international agreement is moving radically and speedily in the other direction.

Since I don’t care a whit about “international agreement” however, in either direction, I remain convinced that one should not make homosexual behavior civilly illegal.

[52] Posted by Sarah on 11-27-2006 at 10:58 AM • top

Dr. Radner - Your last post is confusing. 

Are we seeking to debate the issue of taking a stand on legislating morality (of any kind) or homosexuality as a human right?

[53] Posted by JackieB on 11-27-2006 at 11:38 AM • top

I don’t agree with some of Archbishop Williams’s behaviors, but Dr. Radner is a lot like him in that he thinks(and writes) on another plane, and I mean that as a compliment. 

To be simplistic, I personally don’t agree with throwing homosexuals in jail for their behaviors, but I also don’t have to live side-by-side with radical Islam and/or Sharia law. 

Dr. Radner, I think the problem here is that you need to define, as you say, “human rights” from that universal, Divine perspective.  Bill Witt would probably “get” what you’re talking about here, but it’s somewhat beyond my level of education(theological/historical/philosophical). 

Defining said topic may require another paper like the one you wrote with Dr. Goddard.  I certainly don’t seek to give you another “homework assignment” for your spare time, but if you wrote such a paper, I, and probably many others, would be willing to read it. 

Thanks to all for the lessons and great conversation. 


Jen grin

[54] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-27-2006 at 12:37 PM • top

I continue to agree with Sarah and the rest.  The only “Human Right” that I am willing to promote with such a broad brush as to be available to all people no matter what is the right to “Life”.  Even this is not a “right” technically.  Life is precious but any one of us could loose our lives at this very moment.  There simply is no guaranteed “right” to even life itself.  We all die, so even life itself in not a given.  However, I believe God’s command to not Murder is self explanatory.  There is a prohibition on “taking a life”.  To argue “Human Rights” is simply not biblical.  Jesus even as God did not claim any “rights”, he instead laid down his life.  Once we start asserting rights that we are entitled to, we cease to be a part of God’s plan.  I will repeat again Jen’s comment that this western entitlement attitude of our society is “morally repugnant”.

The question is simply, how are God’s people to act in the world they live.  If civil governments want to enact laws to protect the society, then that is certainly their choice as a common people living in a civil society to protect and promote the common good.  Are such laws consistent with the moral law found in scripture?  How Christians should respond to such laws is an entirely different question.  All life is indeed precious and all are loved and have worth in God’s eyes and God desires all people to be restored and redeemed, so as Christians should likewise promote those same values.  No one however is supposed to assert their rights.  Perhaps the question Dr. Radner intended to address was how we should respond to civil laws, however the outcry here is certainly indicative that it did not read that way.  With that in mind, perhaps Dr. Radner could revise this to express himself differently so that his intended message is received.  As it stands, the message received seems to be an Akinola bashing revisionist argument in support human rights specifically the right to homosexual behavior.

[55] Posted by Spencer on 11-27-2006 at 12:41 PM • top

PS—Yes, defining “human rights” from that universal, Divine perspective and describing how those “rights” relate to the standards set out in Holy Scripture, in my view, would clarify a lot of things for a lot of people here. 

Many thanks—


[56] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-27-2006 at 12:42 PM • top

I agree with the other posters that greater clarity is needed regarding “human rights” since the definitions have varied so widely.  Activists for same-sex marriage declare it to be a “human right”, despite the fact that even heterosexual marriage has never been defined that way.  Similarly, advocates for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs base their arguments on “human rights” and decry the imprisonment of drug users and dealers.  Who says what’s a right and what isn’t?  Whose definition do we use? 

I feel that the language of rights and entitlements is simply not appropriate in a Christian context.  This is why I object to the phrase “Claiming The Blessing.”  No one can “claim” God’s blessing, as it is His gift given by grace and is no one’s by right.  We come to God not as citizens demanding our rights, but as children requesting love and compassion from a beloved parent.  We desire mercy not only for ourselves but for all other human beings, because they are our brothers and sisters.  Let this be our argument—and let the secular world wrangle over what’s a “right” and what isn’t.

[57] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-27-2006 at 02:09 PM • top

Now I really am confused.  There is no such thing from a divine perspective as “Human Rights”, there are only God’s blessings.  We are God’s creation.  Can the clay say to the potter you must make things thus?  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord!  Can anyone find even one scripture reference that says man deserves or is entitled to anything?  What we all deserve biblically speaking is death.  Such are the consequences of sin.  To be quite frank about it, the only “right” we have is to die and go to hell.  Everything else is God’s grace.  Freely He gives, but we are “entitled” to nothing.  To make any argument about “human rights” is simply not biblical.

Yes, Dr. Radner, please do explain what divine “rights” we are supposed to have.  I certainly do not buy into that because it is not biblical.  Perhaps my ideas are more along those of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but I simply believe that way because it is biblical.  Now, this thread has got me wondering why any orthodox Christian would buy into a theology of human rights.  This is quite puzzling indeed.  confused

[58] Posted by Spencer on 11-27-2006 at 02:18 PM • top

AMEN St. Anon!

[59] Posted by Spencer on 11-27-2006 at 02:20 PM • top

ITA with both Spencer and St. Anon. 

Sarah, I respectfully disagree with you statement regarding making homosexual behavior civilly illegal.  Just as my position on WO has been changing over the course of these past three years, so is my conclusions regarding other elements surrounding human sexual behavior and identity.

Looking back over the course of my adult life, I have witness the hubris of the so-called sexual revolution in the U.S. and Western Europe.  I see absolutely no good that has come from it, and for my part in it, I beg God’s forgiveness.  The living adolescent fantasy that has become the norm in sexual behavior has damaged both church and state. 

I am convinced to the core of my being that the normalization and main-streaming of homosexuality will be the rack and ruin of Western civilization.  And I say this as a student of history.  Maybe the Africans are onto something, maybe they believe (like I have come to) that de-criminalization of homosexual behavior is just the beginning step in the eventual normalization of it. 

Stefano, regarding the trilling of the r’s being genetic, I’m just passing on what I learned from a very brilliant liguistics professor.  I studied classical Greek for two years with him and at the time he knew 30+ languages.  He was teaching himself Sanskirt so that he could read the Rig Veda in the original.  He was the one that said that being able to trill one’s R’s is a given.  He said that a person can fake it, but either you can or you can’t.

[60] Posted by Gayle on 11-27-2006 at 03:58 PM • top

Perhaps we should think about the civil criminalization of the different behaviors in terms of the victim of the “crime”.  It sounds like the Nigerian law sees society as a victim somehow when someone engages in homosexual sex.  I don’t see it, but that is often the case in “common good” types of laws.

Adultery, theft, child molestation, even bestiality all have victims - either the spouse or the owner or the child or the poor creature.  The average homosexual sexual encounter may not have a primary victim, if we are referring to consensual sex between adults.  There may be a spouse, but then it is a second offense - adultery.  I imagine you see where I am going.  If we’re going to look at “how BAD is this crime”, we ought to talk about those who are hurt by it.  I don’t think that anyone here wants to legitimize or condone homosexual sexual behavior, but moving it into a “victimless crime” category might be a good start.

And, to reiterate - the kleptomaniac does not HAVE to steal - that person may be driven by urges or dysfunction or something to steal, but it is not a crime to BE a kleptomaniac, it is a crime to steal.  There is a huge difference.  If someone were to organize a club for kleptomaniacs to go out and steal stuff together, that should probably be against the law too….

[61] Posted by GillianC on 11-27-2006 at 04:05 PM • top

Great discussion, all.  Pardon my uneducated intrusion.
1.  Re Human Rights

It’s true that we fallen men and women deserve to receive the penalty of damnation—from God—and that our salvation is His gift.

Human rights isn’t about how God ought to treat us, it’s about how we ought to treat each other.  And _that_ is something Scripture has a great deal to say about. 

2.  Re loving people who we think should be imprisoned

I haven’t read the law, but it sounds as though people are sort of talking past each other on this one.  If I’m understanding correctly, the law has to do with homosexual *behaviour*, not homosexual *attraction*.  No?  The Church as well as the Government of Nigeria thinks that homosexual intercourse is wrong—and since the Church thinks that the actual penalty for any unrepented mortal sin is, ahem, a bit worse than jail time, it seems that we all walk together further than we may wish to admit. 

Nobody seems to be defending the idea that celibate or married people who merely have homosexual desires should be punished—we’re talking about _behaviour_ here.  Hence the many posts comparing homosexual intercourse with stealing, or incest, or what have you. 

When we discuss human rights in a Christian context, I think we need to bear in mind that Church teaching throughout history has been that unrepented mortal sin leads to eternal damnation.  Th question of whether the state should apply sanctions against a given sinful behaviour ought to be seen in this light.  I don’t know if jail time or the threat of it makes people more or less likely to repent; one can probably argue both sides.  Whatever “pastoral support and care” for any of us sinners may mean, surely their salvation is the pre-eminent consideration?

C. S. Lewis thought it a significant point in favour of capital punishment that the condemned man was much more likely to make a good end on the gallows than in a prison hospital forty years later.


Phil H

[62] Posted by gone on 11-27-2006 at 04:18 PM • top

I may as well give my impression of Dr. Radner’s argument for Christian-inspired “human rights.”  I thought he appealed not to the innateness of sexual orientation but to the indelible quality of God’s image in every human being, even the most fallen.  We must necessarily love our fallen fellows as Christ has loved us in our fallenness.  Of course, this does not preclude consequences,  but let us use our God-given compassion in each case.  We have to admit that we do not ordinarily put adulterers (for instance) in prison for years, nor do we advocate it, nor did Christ.  “Go and sin no more” is the right response; this is not without moral judgment, but it does disperse the violent punitive powers and does not collude with them.  Thank goodness that God is the true judge because only He will know for sure what is needed for amendment of life.

I thank Dr. Radner for raising these issues to such a level of discussion.  I thought that some of our responses were not quite up to his argument, in its entirety and its solemn purpose, or were not true to the fullness of Windsor or Dromantine or Lambeth 1.10.  Could it really be true that some of us do not approve of the parts about giving pastoral care, and assurance of God’s love, to those who may have same-sex desires?  Surely not.  Surely we don’t just heed favored parts of these documents, as seems all too common among Reappraisers who ever mention them at all.  And a truth should not be discounted just because Reappraisers sometimes quote it.  It is true we none of us have deserved our salvation, but yet Christ calls upon us to see each other through His eyes.

[63] Posted by Paula on 11-27-2006 at 05:06 PM • top

There is always a victim.  All sin is damaging.  We have laws against prostitution which, like homosexuality, is also consensual sex between adults.

No intrusion.  All are welcome.  Thanks for your comment, and I agree.

The problem I have with referring to the subject of “how Christians should treat each other” in terms of a “human right” is that once you do, people start expecting and demanding those rights.  Our civilization was founded on the “common good” over any individual rights, but now because of so much emphasis on rights, we have become a society where the individual who demands his “rights” is holding the society hostage and the “common good” is quickly evaporating. 

The world may speak of human rights or civil liberties and this is fine, but from a Christian standpoint, I believe we need to avoid defining our treatment of others as human rights.  Rather, we need to emphasize loving our neighbors as ourselves.  If we define our Christian love in terms of rights, then the giver is now under obligation rather than freely giving and the receiver comes to demand rights so that the end result is that neither giver nor receiver is happy.  One is overburdened with the guilt of not being able to love perfectly and the other is constantly offended and feels victimized because no one but God is able to live up to their expectations.  One can’t forgive himself and the other one can’t forgive anyone else.  God is certainly not glorified in all of this puffed up pride and works righteousness. 

I believe when we speak of how Christians should treat one another we need to use the language of love, grace, forgiveness and mercy.  I believe the failure to do so is one reason our western culture is in such a mess.

[64] Posted by Spencer on 11-27-2006 at 10:41 PM • top

I was one of the few vocal dissenters in 1996 at a Diocisian Convention considering an Integrity promoted resolution urging the adoption of “hate crime” legislation.  My point was, of course, that all actionable violent assaults are a result of hate or anger, and that the hate crime law campaign was less of an effective crime fighting agenda than it was just another tool advancing the overall activist cultural agenda (marriage, adoption, ordination, etc.)  I was accused of supporting violence, which of course was false.

[65] Posted by Going Home on 11-27-2006 at 11:46 PM • top

One final comment,
I thought it was implied in what I said earlier, but I just wanted to make it clear that theologically speaking, to speak of “human rights” ultimately if you follow it to its logical conclustion is a denial of the doctrine of “the fall”.  I thought that that was understood, but I just wanted to clarify.

[66] Posted by Spencer on 11-28-2006 at 07:07 AM • top

RE: “Sarah, I respectfully disagree with you statement regarding making homosexual behavior civilly illegal.”

Hi Gayle,

Sorry to take so long to respond—got wrapped up in study all day yesterday.

I suppose this gets into issues of what you deem the government/state’s responsibility is.

I personally believe in a firm distinction between State and Church. 

For instance, I do not believe that it is the State’s job to regulate “morality” but rather to assure the country’s Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.  But I *do* believe that it is the Church’s job to regulate morality for Christian believers.

Furthermore, I really don’t believe that there is a whole lot of reason why non-Christians should follow the “restrictions” [to my mind they are freedoms] of Christian belief and thought.  Why should they?  Without Jesus’s Holy Spirit infiltrating their thoughts and wills and hearts, there is little motivation or reason to follow Jesus’s way.

So I take a rather “libertarian” approach to State intrusion into other people’s moral choices. 

I personally believe that, as long as a person’s actions do not interfere with the freedoms of others as laid out in the Constitution of our country, they should be allowed to perform those actions.

In some ways, I come across as alarmingly strict.  For instance, when a person who claims to be a Christian believer continues in public scandalous sin, I believe that the *Church* should discipline that person.  And if that person continues that public scandalous sin, after correction, they should be assumed to no longer be a Christian and the benefits of the Church should be withdrawn.

On the other hand, I can be pretty lax in regards to non-Church functions.

[Here I’m afraid I will have to offend some sensibilities—sorry!] For example, human beings unfortunately engage in an array of sexual behaviors that God clearly did not intend.  Some of them have “shoe fetishes” or other fetishes.  Some of them engage in *consensual* sado-masochism.  Some of them engage in homosexual behavior.

But I believe that the State should not attempt to regulate such sexual behavior because 1) it does not work, 2) it requires of individuals behaviors or non-behaviors which are not lead by the Spirit and thus inoculates and hardens them to heart-change [the example that is the saddest is the second and third generation of the Puritan state, which utterly failed in producing converted believers in large part due to the admixture of strict State/Church regulations—there were of course other reasons], and 3) it expands the function and role of the State into being the “parent” of individuals, which our Constitution simply does not allow for.

My rather strong beliefs in this regard may lead to some interesting other conclusions.  For example, I believe that the right to private property—a touchstone of our nation’s freedom and prosperity—also means that people should be *legally* allowed to behave with less than Christian values [remember, I do not believe that the State should regulate morality—its function should be with guaranteeing our Constitutionally allowed freedoms]. 

For example, I believe that a private restaurant should be legally allowed to discriminate against those the owner does not like.  The owner of a private restaurant may decide that he does not like Southern Anglican females who have dark hair and are tall.  That would exclude me.  But because the restaurant [or apartment, etc] are *private property* [and not publicly or State owned] I believe that those owners should be allowed to make those decisions of use and function in keeping with their ungodly values.  ; < )

Of course, as we know, restaurant owners are not allowed to discriminate in this country.  But for the same reasons why I do not believe that the State should intrude on the moral decisions of those who have sex [unless denying the Constitution’s expressed rights to life and liberty and property ownership], I also do not believe that private property owners should be forced to use that property in a manner that violates their own values. 

Those reasons again were: 1) it does not work, 2) it requires of individuals behaviors or non-behaviors which are not lead by the Spirit and thus inoculates and hardens them to heart-change [the example that is the saddest is the second and third generation of the Puritan state, which utterly failed in producing conversion in large part due to the admixture of strict State/Church regulations—there were of course other reasons], and 3) it expands the function of the State into the “parent” of individuals, which our Constitution simply does not allow for.

[67] Posted by Sarah on 11-28-2006 at 09:51 AM • top

In conclusion, I recognize that Christians have a very wide array of theories and beliefs about how State and Church should work.  Of course, Great Britain, for instance, combines both. 

So I would not deem this matter to be something that is vital to a person’s faith or the Christian gospel . . . [though I do deem it to be the best way to work out these matters].

[68] Posted by Sarah on 11-28-2006 at 09:51 AM • top

Whatever may be the shortcomings in how people (or even United Nations agencies) think of and apply the concept of human rights, Dr. Radner is surely right in what he says in paragraph 6 in the post above at

[69] Posted by Mike Watson on 11-28-2006 at 09:53 AM • top

Mike, my understanding of the Western concept of human rights and equality is that it traces back mainly to Magna Carta (the first document curtailing a monarch’s power over the people) and to a lesser degree the ancient Greeks’ invention of democracy.  Therefore, it is primarily a secular concept, not a religious one.

Christianity may have contributed to this by declaring all humans to be the image of God, and by requiring us to love one another.  But Christian teaching is primarily about the common good, rather than the entitlements of the individual.  I just don’t see how avoiding modern secular language and concepts in Christian debate is “rejecting the Gospel.”

[70] Posted by st. anonymous on 11-28-2006 at 10:22 AM • top

There are some here, it seems, who reject “human rights” as a reality that ought to determine Christian (and human) behavior.  That is their choice;  but in doing so, they need to know that they are rejecting the teaching of Christian tradition as it has developed over the past 1000 years especially, and what is now the official teaching of both the Roman Catholic and many Protestant churches. 

Human rights are powers (or rather gifts of capacity and vocation) – and their correlative duties – conferred on human beings by virtue of their creation by God.  They are intrinsically characteristic of what it means to be a human being irrespective of the Fall.  They reflect the divinely ordered “dignity of the human person”, as Vatican II put it in a grand Declaration by that name, and they are thus “universal”.  Genesis lays out some of these rights in the story of creation:  the right to “life” itself, to the fruits of one’s labor and of the proper stewardship of the earth’s resources, to sexual union and procreation, and the raising of a family, and so on.  These fundamental rights have been clearly defined by Church councils and teachings.  In addition, rights associated with human “freedom” have become increasingly important in religious discussion over the past few centuries (and decades), based on the understanding that human beings are created to love God “freely”.  Hence (in John Paul II’s words) a human being has “the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth”.  Obviously, the right to “religious freedom” is foundational to this.  This is not about “entitlement” in a legal sense;  it is about God’s purposes and the means he has granted to all people for the fulfilling of these purposes.  Legal consequences ought to follow, of course.

For rights (and their correlative duties) are not only individual, but also collective and social:  they apply to “peoples”, nations, and groups.  Clearly, many disputes will arise in this arena as one tries to figure out the proper relationship between individual and collective rights.  But the very intimate relationship between the concepts of “international law” and “universal human rights” – based on the reality of a divine “natural law”—was already being examined, in a specific way, by the great Reformed jurist Hugo Grotius in the 17th century.  How societies deal with what is judged to be “evil” or simply “disordered”, and how they punish criminals, has always been seen as a part of the divine gift that is expressed by the term “human rights”.  For instance, freedom from “torture” is viewed by all churches as a fundamental human right, based on a range of Scriptural and theological truths, including Jesus’ own formulation of the so-called “Golden Rule”, or the “measure given = measure received”, not to mention his own teachings on divine mercy and its calling (that is why current debates within the US over torture in the struggle against terrorism is a Christian concern, and not just a civil political concern).

[continues on next post]

[71] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 11-28-2006 at 10:42 AM • top

[continued from previous post]

One of the elements of human rights that has always been central in this area is that “punishments should fit the crime”, as it were, and at the same time (while guarding the “public good”) should contribute to the maintenance and furtherance of the full spectrum of rights granted the individual criminal as a human being (freedom of conscience, freedom to seek the truth, freedom to turn to God without coercion, etc.).  That is why, on the one hand, Churches like the Roman Catholic Church, have come to the conclusion that civil “tolerance of error” is desirable if the common good is not overly threatened (because it avoids the moral quagmire of coercion), and that in general the punishment of criminals should, if at all possible, lead to amendment of life and what we like to call “rehabilitation”, and not simply restraint.

Within this very broadly sketched outline, it should be clear that there will be many areas of dispute, even if one accepts the premises (which apparently many people don’t!).  The question of sexual behavior will be one of these disputed areas, because of disagreement over what constitutes public and private danger with respect to sexual behavior (even if there is agreement about what counts as a “sinful” behavior).  It was never our intention to claim, in the case of human rights and homosexual behavior that this is not the case, least of all with respect to diverse societies including Nigeria’s (in fact, we argue the opposite). Rather, our purpose was first, to argue that, as Christians (and in this case, Anglican Christians), we are duty bound to investigate and reflect upon these matters at least in these terms and not simply assume that it doesn’t matter what this or that nation and church does;  and second, that in fact, the weight of church teaching and the direction of its concern today point to the fact that throwing people in prison for many years for engaging in homosexual sex or for even advocating for its permissibility violates the “rights” of the human beings in question by imposing a punishment that is inhumane.

While I am not aware of numerous cases where current Nigerian laws against homosexual sex have in fact been implemented, the topic is not without wide pertinence.  The treatment of accused and condemned criminals, and the definition of criminality itself, is a matter of grave consequence both in the United States and around the world.  (I have much personal experience with this, both in Africa and America, as do many others.) There is an imperative for Christians to engage realities and disputes about this openly and seriously, whatever our disagreements, since we are talking about the purposes of God for his creation, in a world where – I think everyone will agree here – the very apprehension of such purposes is rapidly fading.

[72] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 11-28-2006 at 10:43 AM • top

Human rights are powers (or rather gifts of capacity and vocation) – and their correlative duties – conferred on human beings by virtue of their creation by God.  They are intrinsically characteristic of what it means to be a human being irrespective of the Fall.  They reflect the divinely ordered “dignity of the human person”, as Vatican II put it in a grand Declaration by that name, and they are thus “universal”.

Dr. Radner, thank you for your words here and elsewhere. In reacting to the Episcopal Church’s current approach to homosexual behaviour, which flies in the face of Scripture, I think we are sometimes in danger of forgetting that such behavior is a sin, not THE SIN.

[73] Posted by oscewicee on 11-28-2006 at 11:19 AM • top

I agree completely (almost).  The only thing I would add is that the state may choose to regulate certain behaviors that are destructive to society as a whole.  The role of the state is not to regulate morality, but to create a healthy and stable environment for the common good.  To my mind, the state can regulate any behavior it deems as destructive to the common good.  So, I think we certainly agree in principle.  We do this with illegal drug use for example, which “in theory” only hurts the individual who does the drugs.  In recent years, we have learned the destructive effects of tobacco and so laws are coming into place to regulate that activity.  Not for moral reasons, but to promote the common good.

So, while a state cannot regulate morality, it can and must come to some common set of laws for its own protection and preservation.  If a majority believes that chewing gum is a detriment to its society then it is perfectly OK to pass laws which outlaw gum manufacturing, gum sales, possession of gum, gum advertising and even gum chewing activist groups.  We need to be clear that the basis for such regulation is not because of morality, but because it promotes civil society.

As we apply this to homosexual behavior, in my mind this is a behavior that is destructive to the common good.  This is just my opinion.  For you, I guess you may not agree and I respect that.

One final comment regarding Church and State…  Although we cannot legislate morality, as Christians, we believe that God’s law is perfect and that by living in accordance with His will, we ultimately prosper.  Therefore, I do believe that Christians should be a flavoring influence on the state’s determination of what is good for society toward a Christian ideal.  As such, I think Christians should be involved in politics, etc.  We leave this to the secular world at our peril.  This is a grey area however.  As you said, there are many views on church/state interaction and just how much influence the church should have on the state is certainly debatable.

[74] Posted by Spencer on 11-28-2006 at 11:33 AM • top

We should do well to remember that in Vatican II the first arguement was “Error has no rights! Error has no rights!” The rebuttal came ‘error has not rights, but people do.’

That does not say the Catholic Church accepts all positions as valid, but those who hold to “errant positions” have rights as love creature made in the image of God.

They didn’t softed as much as some might think, but Trent’s ‘anathema’ is less fierce than it once was enacted. I believe you see VC2 spirit embodied in John Paul II, a beloved figure who always reached out, but when you read his encyclical, they are not compromising the position of Rome.

[75] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 11-28-2006 at 11:36 AM • top

Perhaps there is a need for definition of terms -and without getting to particulars - states commonly legislate morality and in the US and elsewhere morality is frequently cited in secondary materials as justification for legislation, from offender notification laws to changes within tax codes.

Perhaps one issue is recognizing that the moral frameworks of, say a ruling oligarchy or of a democratic government, may not align well with the morality of traditional Christian teaching.  Perhaps another issue is that the moral framework of some laws do not align well with the moral framework of the governed, complicating enforcement (e.g., certain drug laws).

[76] Posted by tired on 11-28-2006 at 12:28 PM • top

It’s not my plan here to start a debate on the separation of church and state, but note that our Constitution says nothing about the separation of church and state. 

Dr. Radner’s posts clarify a lot.  In “theory”, I agree with them, but I do not live in a Nigerian context or environment.  It would be interesting for Nigeria to weigh in on this.  Is it not true that Canon Popoola has been silent on these matters?  Maybe it’s just possible that they have good reasons for what they are doing, or they should have worded their statements more carefully. 

Sarah, if they don’t let women into restaurants who are tall and dark, then you and I would be sitting outside together.  I’ll leave you all with a funny story I read several years ago, American laws notwithstanding. 

I believe this happened in a small town in Montana.  A restaurant there was the epicenter of the community; lots of people went there to socialize and eat the great food.  The waiting line was routinely backed out the door. 

One evening, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner showed up.  They informed the hostess they expected head-of-the-line privilege, because they were Jane Fonda and Ted Turner.  The waitress asked them to have a seat. 

Other people continued to be called ahead of them.  One of them went over and discussed this with the hostess.  The hostess said they would have to wait.  They asked to speak with the manager.  The manager told them the same thing.  They then asked to speak with the owner.  The manager asked them to sit down and wait for a minute.  The manager went and got the owner.  The owner came out, and said, “I understand you have a problem waiting”.  They explained their “situation”.  Then the owner explained his—“Well, why don’t we just make this easy?  I really don’t care if you are Jane Fonda and Ted Turner.  You are not entitled to head-of-the-line at my restaurant.  Frankly, I am a Vietnam Veteran and I don’t care to serve you at all, so I’ll just ask you to leave”...and, as I understand it, they did. 

Well, Spencer, there’s at least one case where the American sense of entitlement did not get served.  And, the common good did get served, because all the “regular” guys and gals at the restaurant that night got to eat in order and hang out with their friends. 

grin grin 



[77] Posted by Orthoducky on 11-28-2006 at 12:54 PM • top

LOL Ted is a bit older than I, but I used to go sailing with his son a LONG time ago back when I lived in Atlanta.  Of course we didn’t keep in touch through the years.  Perhaps I am not very wise, but I’d much rather sit down with that restaurant owner and buy him a few drinks than to have dinner with Ted and Jane.  I don’t know why, but Ted reminds me of Rhett Butler and frankly darling I don’t give a d**n for sharing his company.  wink

[78] Posted by Spencer on 11-28-2006 at 02:39 PM • top

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.

Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere about the crisis in our church. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments that you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm, its board of directors, or its site administrators.