Thursday, 12 July 2012
"We are abandoning all forms of giveness": discernment and communion
So counsels Oliver O'Donovan - almost certainly contemporary Anglicanism's greatest moral theologian - at the conclusion of his A Conversation Waiting to Begin, addressing Anglicanism's debate over same-sex relationships. Contemplating the meaning for those in same-sex relationships of the mystery of the gift of the human sexuality, the reality of our sexual brokeness and the Church's calling to live out truth in love, calls for the serious patience O'Donovan urges. The moratoria called for by the Instruments of Communion and the conciliar teaching of Lambeth 1.10 provided Anglicanism with the means to exercise such patience.
While the Communion seeks to wrestle with how same-sex relationships fit into the vision of human flourishing and ecclesial life set out in Scripture and Tradition, TEC's General Convention - which has already rejected the call to exercise patience-in-communion on this matter - has unilaterally decided to reject the need for patient discernment-in-communion on another issue which raises even deeper questions for the Church's tradition of moral reflection than same-sex relationships - transgender identity.
In his response to the General Convention's actions on transgender issues, +South Carolina stated:
The whole range of transgenderism goes contrary to the gay and lesbian debate. We are abandoning all forms of givenness.
These are profoundly important words. They not only point to the significance of 'giveness' in the Church's tradition of moral reflection on sexual love (and see the Indianapolis Statement on this). They also emphasise that transgenderism raises a radically new set of questions for the Church's moral teaching, different in kind to those posed by the experience of same-sex relationships. For example, +New Hampshire's statement in the TEC House of Bishops' debate on transgenderism suggests an understanding of the physical, of the flesh, which radically overturns the Church's theology of the body:
Gender identity the particular identity of what I am is not a physical manifestation.
The issue has barely begun to be significantly reflected upon by moral theologians, by the Communion or by our ecumenical partners. TEC's General Convention, however, has seen fit to bypass the serious patience required for discernment-in-communion. +South Carolina's words - "we are abandoning all forms of giveness" - summarise not only the moral theology espoused by TEC but also its understanding and practice of the ecclesiological context for the process of moral discernment.
Posted by BC at 23:44