The public perception of the church

I’m writing from Oxford, where I learned that–once more–the Anglican communion is in turmoil.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has affirmed the Church of England’s 1998 ruling that named gay sex as sin and also declined to seek the authority to punish provinces that fail to uphold that ruling.

To be a tad tongue in cheek, this is taking the via media (“middle way”) a little bit far. It’s akin to what some states Attorneys General have done post overturning of Roe v. Wade, they’ve declared that they will decline to prosecutor doctors and patients who provide or receive abortions.

Both are, of course, an untenable places in which to stay for long. But do offer a short term solution that seems to allow the Archbishop (not to mention the AGs) the opportunity to have their cake and eat it too.

The calculus behind Welby’s decision appears to be that of cultural sensibilities or perhaps witness.

The Guardian reports Welby’s rationale for retaining the current resolution as follows:

“In many countries, [it] would make the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For many churches, to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

At the same time he acknowledged that in progressive democracies, failing to recognize same sex marriage could make the church “a victim of derision, contempt and even attack”.

The question this rationale raises, of course, is to what is extent is the public perception of a Christ’s church a legitimate guide for the way in which she conducts herself?

I hope to spend some time considering this question later this week. Stay tuned.

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