Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Hon. Michael Kirby launches an Anglican book in Sydney which deals with scripture and sexuality.

The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG launched Five Uneasy Pieces – Essays on Scripture and Sexuality in the Chapter House of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne on 30 November... and he is to launch the book in Sydney on 22.2.2012, between 6pm and 8pm, at the Uniting Church in Paddington.

The Melbourne Anglican reports...The book, which includes an introduction by him (Hon. Michael Kirby) and a preface by the Dean of Melbourne, Bishop Mark Burton, is a book of essays by five Anglican scholars which look afresh at the bible’s key texts on homosexuality. The authors include the Dean of Bendigo, Dr Peta Sherlock; the Vicar of Christ Church South Yarra, the Revd Richard Treloar; and the Morna Sturrock Doctoral Fellow at Trinity College, Melbourne, Megan Warner. The book was initiated and sponsored by Fr Nigel Wright.

Mr Kirby, a retired Judge of the High Court of Australia, disagreed with the book’s title. “It’s not five uneasy pieces – it’s a book full of love and grace, and looks at Scripture with the bright eyes of Christian love.”

Describing himself as a “proud member of the Anglican strand of Christianity”, he said he had grown up in the protestant, bible-centred tradition. “And this is a very important book for the protestant tradition.

“Some very good people in that tradition have a problem with homosexuality because the bible texts have stood in the way of acceptance... But this book brings light where there is darkness. The religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of love, and this book strengthens that.”

He said ‘hermeneutics’ – the art or science of interpretation – was something “judges do – they interpret words.”

In his introduction to the book, he writes:

I am no expert in hermeneutics. But I know enough about legal interpretation of ancient texts to recognise some of the common features that exist in my discipline and in the more ancient discipline of unravelling the meanings of biblical passages. When I was studying law in Sydney in the 1950s, the tradition of the English law that we learnt was one that generally demanded a literal and verbal interpretation of binding texts. So unrealistic were the outcomes often produced by that approach… a new doctrine began to emerge. It has demanded attention not only to the text of words; but also to the context in which those words appear; and the purpose or policy which the words appear to reveal. Increasingly, in the law, we have come to realise that interpretation is an art, not a science. That values are inevitably important considerations for ascertaining meaning. How much more true must this be of Holy Scripture, as of the words of man?

He said that what he loves about Anglicanism is its diversity. “It’s a church of many mansions. There’s always been a space in the Anglican Church for everyone, which goes back to the Church’s foundations when it had to accommodate both the protestant and catholic wings – and that is a wonderful attribute.”

Speaking on behalf of the authors, Dr Sherlock said that “We all understand the complexities of hermeneutics and we want to create Godly conversation.”

Fr Wright said that some would relegate sexuality to a second or third order issue, but for him “It’s a first order issue of incarnational and redemptive theology.” He said the Church’s persecution of some groups, including Jews and homosexuals, throughout its history, had been “pernicious”, and its belief that homosexuality was evil had led to prejudice, hatred, and sometimes suicide and even murder.

Bishop Burton welcomed the launch of the book in the Chapter House as part of the process of listening to the experience of homosexual people, something which the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on homosexuality, he said, had required the church to do.

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