Tradition26 November 2020
The Church of England has recently published its report Living in Love and Faith, which explores questions around same-sex relationships. This has been the subject of much debate and discussion for years, with polarised views on all sides. The report presents the different arguments - in the words of the Church Times - "for and against same-sex relationships", which itself is a rather provocative way of presenting the matter. Much better would be to "disagree agreeably", because this is not a subject on which compromise is an option.
So evangelicals are now considering whether to seek "alternative solutions", including the provision of new provincial arrangements. This is what happened over the ordination of women to the priesthood, which scandalised clergy at the other end of the candle, the high church catholic wing. They now have their own province and their own bishops within the Church of England. They belong but somehow don't. What would the Church of England look like if the evangelicals go the same way? What is fascinating in all these eruptions is the dependence on either the Bible, Tradition or both. It's often been said that you can prove anything from the Bible if you look hard enough, and so all these parties at loggerheads call on the same foundations - Bible and Tradition - and come up with diametrically opposite opinions.
What we need to remember is that the Bible is not a textbook, it's a story. It's a story told over millennia from the very beginnings of the Hebrew people, and eventually written down over several centuries. The final edition, as it were, was not finalised until the 300s CE - Google "Canon of scripture" and see how complicated is the story.
We are wiser now. We understand more of how the world behaves, about how people behave, about how we are made and about how we interact. We know about medicine, energy, mental health and so much more - we have been Enlightened.
"You can prove anything from the Bible if you look hard enough." But the wisdom of Israel is from their ancient past; and what Paul said to his churches was said or written 2000 years ago, in a Middle Eastern culture from a relatively small nation within the Roman Empire. You can't just lift it from the past and drop it unexamined into the present.
Tradition has its place, of course. But tradition grows stale if it's not renewed and refreshed. It can so easily become just a habit - endearing perhaps, but also sterile. Tradition must be nurtured, not preserved.
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