God the Holy Spirit and “being led into all truth”

June 7th, 2010 Posted in TEC, Theology |

Rev. Professor Christopher SeitzRev. Professor Christopher Seitz, ACI

A reflection on the Pentecost Letter of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

The central teaching of Jesus Christ in John’s Gospel concerning the Holy Spirit is found in chapters 14 and 16 of the Fourth Gospel. The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is representative of the view that the Holy Spirit (or “the Spirit”) is responsible for endorsing a new understanding of sexual relationships as appropriate for members of the same gender. The warrant for this view more widely held is John 16: God the Holy Spirit is ‘leading the church into a truth’ the church has not known until now, and continues not to know elsewhere, as God has spoken this to The Episcopal Church (“The Spirit does seem to be saying to many within The Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God’s good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones”). This could either be a matter of timing – so technically God the Holy Spirit speaks only one truth on this matter, and so those who have not heard the Holy Spirit will hear the Holy Spirit leading them into new truth eventually (“Above all, it recognizes that the Spirit may be speaking to all of us, in ways that do not at present seem to cohere or agree. It also recognizes what Jesus says about the Spirit to his followers, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” [John 16:12-13]) – or it could be that the Holy Spirit endorses diversity of hearings (“That growing awareness does not deny the reality that many Anglicans and not a few Episcopalians still fervently hold traditional views about human sexuality”) . This latter understanding seeks grounding in the Presiding Bishop’s understanding of the Pentecost event of Acts 2 (“Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit”) as contrasted with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reading of Pentecost as a “single understanding of gospel realities”(as she puts it) in a letter to which she is responding in defense of her own position.

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