The Anglican Communion has been asked to participate in three “moratoria” in order to bring some order and unity into relations between Provinces, which are presently divided from one another .
From the position of the Sacred Scriptures, their reading and interpretation in the Church over long centuries, and from the tradition of moral theology based on the Bible (and on natural law in some cases) what is being called for in two of the three “moratoria” is nothing less than the setting aside, the rejection, and the repudiation of immorality. For sexual relations between persons of the same sex are condemned outright in the Bible: in the New Testament it is stated that anyone involved in them will not enter the kingdom of God/heaven.
If the same-sex relations themselves constitute a sin before God for which the remedy is true repentance, what kind of an “act” is that of the local “Episcopal” church, which claims, in the Name of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, to bless these persons in same-sex “covenanted” partnerships? The answer used to be understood to be simple, but not easy for us to face: it is a blasphemous act: it is taking the Name of God in vain; it is making the God of righteousness into the God who blesses immorality and wickedness; it is a religious act of such a serious nature that those performing it deserve immediate divine condemnation.
And, in similar vein, the Bishops of a Province or National Church (by whatever means, legal or illegal) who elect or approve a person in a same-sex relation to be a Bishop, and then proceed to “consecrate” that person, likewise commit a blasphemous act, taking the Name of God in vain, making the God of righteousness into the God who tolerates sin and wickedness, and making of a mockery of the Church’s Ordinal!
Now, if it be the case--as some modern very liberal scholars claim---there is a way to read the Bible, to study Christian Tradition, and to interpret Moral theology, that makes their united and persisting voice against this supposed “sexual immorality” questionable, or even null and void, then, of course, the situation has changed! You can now proclaim both the rightness of same-sex relations and of the church to approve and bless them in various ways! In general this is what many in The Episcopal Church now seem to do. They proclaim that there are different ways of reading the Bible and that their way yields the results which they follow!
[To understand this, See the book, To Set Our Hope on Christ, that was produced for the Anglican Consultative Council by a high level Episcopal theological team, led by the last Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. This attempted by novel interpretation to neutralize the Bible’s (supposed) clear witness and justify the innovations of TEC: I replied to it in Same-Sex Affection…, available at www.anglicanmarketplace.com or from 1-800-727-1928].
From a traditional perspective—and here classic Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist agree—sexual relations between two persons of the same sex is sinful and any approval or blessing by the Church of such a partnership is also itself sinful—more sinful than the sin of the persons in the partnership! Thus we see that position of the liberal progressives in TEC and other mainline Churches is wholly innovatory and religiously is a most serious matter before God the Judge of all.
But what of CROSSING PROVINCIAL OR DIOCESAN BOUNDARIES?
At first glance, most would judge that the question of the rightness or wrongness of crossing boundaries, without formal permission, is not in the first place (and probably not in the second!) a moral question at all. And the reason for stating this is usually this: there is no Biblical commandment that specifically relates to such a matter, and that is true. We all know that it is only—centuries after the time of Jesus— that there is in place an elaborate structure of church polity and organization; only then are there provinces with dioceses existing alongside other such entities, and having rules to govern the relations of dioceses to dioceses within a Province and then between autonomous Provinces.
However, when the body of rules (CANON LAW) of a Province are in place, they are obviously and necessarily of varying kinds and importance. Some of them are treated as if they were moral law: this is because such rules are based upon and spell out the content of actual moral law for life in the church. Yet others may relate to, say, the dress of the clergy and, though important for good order, are not of the same importance as those touching on the moral behavior of the clergy.
So does the Provincial rule/canon law that says to the clergy of one province: “To minister in another Province, you must be properly invited and approved” have moral force? Yes, it does and in this specific sense. The peace and good order of the Church is part of its genuine life and witness s required by the Lord, and any act from outside, that has the effect of disturbing this good order, is contrary to the commandment to love the brethren, and against the the koinonia (communion)of the Gospel and Church.
However, the whole scene changes when the entry is into a Province where it is clearly the case that heresy and immortality are being taught and practiced, and where a godly laity with its pastors are being persecuted and are calling for help. Here there arises immediately both a spiritual and a moral duty for the “orthodox” Province to seek to do whatever is within its power to assist the forces of biblical orthodoxy and holiness in that neighboring Province. Yet, so that this is done decently and in order, such an intervention by one Province ought to be after prayerful consultation with other godly Provinces that have similar concerns about the erring Province.
In terms of the three so-called “moratoria,” we may conclude that the two of them, relating to sexual relations, most clearly belong to the moral realm of the revealed Law of God and his Righteousness, and so the total avoidance and complete rejection of them by baptized Christians is wholly required and pleasing to God.
However, in terms of the third “moratorium,” the non-entry into another Province expect by invitation, this may be seen as belonging to the moral realm if, and only if, we have in mind two biblically-orthodox Provinces alongside each other. And love of the brethren is the moral basis by each of the two Provinces for not disturbing fellow believers in the other Province.
In contrast, entry is required as a moral duty by one Province (or several as the case may be), if and only if, another Province is teaching and practicing heresy and immorality, and there is a cry of “Come over and help us!”
One notes that in the official talk at Lambeth 08 about the “moratoria” talk of the moral duty of driving out heresy and immorality from the life and witness of a Province was generally taboo! And that is why there had to be a GAFCON in June, and why the GAFCON mindset and spirit will continue in one form or another alongside the official Lambeth 08 position, as the Anglican Way struggles to remain a consistent and meaningful part/branch of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God the Father.
St Bartholomew the Apostle & Trinity XIV, 2008 Dr Peter Toon firstname.lastname@example.org