Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Donatism and the Episcopal Church

One of the reasons that we are given for blessing same sex unions or recognizing that homoerotic relationship are blessed is that people claim to see evidence of God's grace in those involved in homoerotic relationships.

I believe that this is what I call Reverse Donatism.

Donatims, if you will recall, is the heresy that states only the sinless can be ministers of God's grace. It comes from the aftermath of the persecutions in the Roman Empire. The donatists formed a very ethically religious church that would not allow clergy who had caved during the persecutions to continue as clergy. They stated that the Holy Spirit had departed from them.
This later came to represent the idea that only the sinless can minister God's grace or have leadership positions in the Church. Of course, this is not an Anglican concept. We believe the God's grace works through sinful people and if it doesn't we are all in deep, dark serious trouble.

But here is how I describe Reverse Donatism.
Let's take the behaviour at hand - homoerotic relationships. It could be anything, but this will do. First, we say that we see God's grace active in the lives of people involved in this behavior. The next step is to say that this is evidence of God's blessing on the behavior. In between these two steps is the unspoken (and wrong) idea that God's grace cannot be present where sinful behavior is present, therefore, the behavior in question cannot be sinful.

Thus, since God's grace is evident in the lives of people involved in homoerotic relationships, the homoerotic behavior itself cannot be sinful.

Again, if God's grace cannot act or be evident in the lives of sinful people, then we are all in very serious trouble. The problem with this is that it sounds so good and "right" or logical to us. We constantly look for signs that God loves us and approves of us. To see the greatest sign that God loves us, we need to look only at the cross. To see if God approves of our behaviors, we need to learn to understand God's self-revelation in Holy Scripture and in the Natural Law and we need to do that in community - the larger the community the bigger the chance that we will correctly discern God's will for our actions.

Phil Snyder


Grace said...

Hi, Phil,

Awesome to see that you have a blog. I'll be stopping by to visit.

God bless.

robroy said...

Your essay really should be self evident. Unfortunately, it is not. Nick Knisely is a priest in the Diocese of Arizona who has a PhD in Physics. This is taken from one of his blog posts:

To amplify these points: I have Gay and Lesbian friends and parishioners who I know are taking their faith very seriously. I am told by them that they find their lives being transformed. They are more honest, more compassionate, more loving, and more prayerful than they used to be. They show forth the gifts of the Spirit as listed by the Apostles Paul and Peter (1 Corinthians 12:8-11, Ephesians 4, Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4:11).

They remain gay and lesbian. They do now desire to express that orientation in a way accountable to the discipline of the Church (as do heterosexual couples). And no matter how many times people tell them that they are mistaken in their belief that God accepts them with their sexual orientation intact, they insist on following their own strong and informed conscience. By strong and informed conscience, I am using the terminology of Moral Theology. Another way to say this would be to say that the people who are having this experience are conscientiously and scrupulously presenting their whole selves to God, and are honestly asking that God’s will would be done in them and their lives. And that having done that, they are not experiencing a change in their sexuality.

Basically, they became Christians. Their same-sex attractions did not cease. Therefore God ordained their same-sex attractions and so we should bless them and then elect them bishop.

P.S. I very much appreciate your signatory YBIC.