Response to Andrew Goddard

This is my response my response to The Anglican Communion: Mapping The Terrain by Andrew Goddard.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I read with interest Andrew Goddard’s latest analysis of the impending realignment of Anglicanism. In the midst of the very heated exchanges on this side of the pond I appreciate the measured tones of this analysis. From my view on this side of the Atlantic there are significant realities that are not registered in this analysis. I write as a parish priest of 25 years standing in The Episcopal Church and formerly the president of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Connecticut. I am now on the faculty of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge Pennsylvania where I teach Pastoral Theology. Trinity is thought by many to be the center of a great right wing conspiracy and to  be awash in funds from the family foundations of ultra conservatives. In any other place in the Anglican Communion and in any other decade the school would be seen as entirely in the mainstream of Anglicanism though particularly oriented toward evangelism and mission. I am still on the look out for the millions from the foundations but have not seen them yet.

 

Andrew Goddard describes four positions on homosexuality and the church. In his scheme there are two extremes. The extremes are unwilling to enter into any dialogue or reconsideration. There then are those willing to have the church enter into a period of dialogue and these are divided between those inclined to defend the traditional morality and those inclined to reinterpret it. In this country actual dialogue on this issue is nearly impossible. The actions of the General Convention and of numerous diocesan conventions since both the General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 make it clear that a majority of the leaders of a majority of the American dioceses are committed to pressing for “full inclusion” which they regard as a mandate of the Holy Spirit. There are eleven accredited seminaries of The Episcopal Church. Trinity is traditionally Evangelical, Nashotah House is traditionally Anglo-Catholic. Other than at these two schools it is very doubtful that a centrist in Goddard’s terms could get an appointment at one of our seminaries. In the majority of our dioceses it would be difficult to the point of impossibility for a candidate who was not perceived as a strong advocate for full inclusion to be elected bishop. There are very few centrists in Goddard’s terms in this country. As he notes dialogue in this country has not meant reasoned debate on theological and scientific grounds but the organizing of gatherings for the sharing of experience by people who self identify as Gay. Those who report healing from same-sex attraction, including members of the clergy are routinely excluded from these gatherings when they take place.

 

 Among my scholarly interests is the theological significance of studies in human development. I can find very few people including previous bishops under whom I have served or more liberal colleagues in the clergy who are faintly interested in really wrestling with the scientific and psychological picture.  I have published an open letter to the bishops that participated in the consecration of Gene Robinson asking among other things for examples of the scientific literature they found convincing in coming to their decision to risk the unity of the church over this innovation. There has been no answer. I have likewise had an open challenge on my blog for the citation of an article in a peer reviewed scientific journal which argued that same-sex attraction could be understood in terms of simple biological determinism. There has been no answer, though many attacks for posing the issue. Many who are proponents of the same-sex agenda regard the asking of such questions as an example of hostile homophobia. It may be possible to describe a sort of centrist geography where the issue of same-sex attraction could be discussed by faithful members of the church with different convictions. In this country I do not see more than a handful of people in this category. The actual facts on the ground are a massive majority in the bishops and clergy (the laity are clearly more conservative but not empowered despite posturing about a democratic church) who are enthusiastically pushing for what they consider the Gospel ministry of full inclusion and a small minority who are fighting a rear guard action against the new regime.

 

The overwhelming reality which must be taken into consideration in order to understand the American scene is that the dispute is not primarily about the proper theological response to same-sex attraction. It is about the nature of the catholic faith. It is very hard to explain this to those who are not living in this country. TEC has not changed its formularies. The Creeds are still recited in the liturgies Sunday after Sunday. The form is there but in a very massive way the Spirit is not. I think there is a real difference here between the English and American scene. You have in England with your tradition of scholar bishops (which we once had and lost) and with the gravitas of the great Anglican theological faculties at Oxford, Cambridge, Kings and Durham, to mention a few, a kind of theological ballast that the American church does not have. Our boat has tilted to the winds of the age to such a degree that its decks are awash. You have too much ballast for this to easily happen though the example ought to be a cautionary tale.

 

The fight here is no longer primarily about same-sex attraction. The Gay agenda is a done deal and irreversible in the American Church. The fight here is about whether there is any authority, scriptural, traditional, ecclesial, even scientific that trumps the new idol of experience. It is widely thought here that the scriptures are intriguing cultural artifacts of the religious experience of time bound cultures but certainly nothing more than clues to how contemporary people might work out and recreate their own religion. Increasingly it has become clear that the majority who do indeed embrace a new spirit based and experienced based religion are not able to tolerate traditionalists in their midst. Religion is seen by the majority as primarily about “radical hospitality” and “inclusion” and “liberation.” Traditionalists are seen as contemporary equivalents of slave holders and betrayers of the central tenets of the new religion. I find it very hard to make a case on the basis of the revisionist theology as I understand it for the inclusion of traditionalists. Slave holders can be tolerated for strategic reasons but not for moral or theological reasons. We perhaps can be allowed as long as we do not try to extend our influence.

 

In this country people on both sides of the dispute are really fed up. The revisionists are really fed up with the inability of traditionalists to get with the program and the traditionalists are really fed up with the real persecution and marginalization that has become their lot. There have never been more than perhaps a dozen out of more than a hundred bishops who would allow students to attend Trinity. In the diocese of Pittsburgh it has become clear that the best hope of keeping the flock together is to move toward realignment. Otherwise parishes will continue to bleed members weekly and clergy are caught between watching their parishes fade away or leading them in breaking with TEC.  

 

It is certainly possible to describe an ecclesial landscape in which there is a large middle ground between extremes. In reality that middle ground does not exist in this country. In my view there can be a real place of discussion and engagement in the church over disputed issues if there is a theological consensus that is based on the catholic creeds and the authority of scripture. Establishing such a common ground is I take it the vision of the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant. Such a vision has been rejected both explicitly and implicitly by the majority leadership in this country.

 

The hope for the communion now is that there be a realignment of the Anglican Communion around the covenant that the Windsor Report envisions. In America there will be only a few scattered dioceses and the continuing Anglican bodies of the Common Cause Partnership that will be willing and able to sign on. The covenant process must go forward quickly if the American scene is to be saved from utter chaos.

 

 

In Christ,

Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology

Trinity School for Ministry

Ambridge PA

 

Comments on the CAPA Communique

The CAPA Primates Respond to the JSC Statement on the Response of

The Episcopal Church House of Bishops Meeting in New Orleans

The Convocation of Anglican Primates in Africa have responded to the report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Primates or the JSC. The pertinent paragraphs are below.

4. While meeting in Mauritius we received a copy of the report of the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council. On first reading we find it to be unsatisfactory. The assurances made are without credibility and its preparation is severely compromised by numerous conflicts of interest. The report itself appears to be a determined effort to find a way for the full inclusion of The Episcopal Church with no attempt at discipline or change from their prior position.

My comment: This is a clear signal these leaders from the Global South who now represent the majority view in the communion will no longer accept artfully contrived language as a solution to the chaos in the Anglican World. They are wanting a demonstration of a good will in meaningful actions.

5. We are convinced that what is at stake in this crisis is the very nature of Anglicanism – to understand it simply in terms of the need for greater inclusivity in the face of changing sexual ethics is a grave mistake. It is not just about sexuality but also about the nature of Christ, the truth of the Gospel and the authority of the Bible. We see a trend that seems to ignore the careful balance of reformed catholicity and missionary endeavor that is our true heritage and replace it with a religion of cultural conformity that offers no transforming power and no eternal hope.

My comment: This statement refuses to accept the position of the TEC and others in the West that the substance of the church’s faith and order is not compromised in the current disputes which are narrowly about pastoral accommodation to evolving views of the nature of same-sex attraction. The ball is in the court of the innovators to prove that this is not so and protestations that no formularies are being changed are inadequate.

6. In our considered opinion, however, there is a possible way forward. The Anglican Communion Covenant is the one way for us to uphold our common heritage of faith while at the same time holding each one of us accountable to those teachings that have defined our life together and also guide us into the future. We therefore propose the following actions:

My comment: This is a reaffirmation of the Windsor Report and a restrained response to the chaos which the actions of TEC has created. The way forward is not by means of some part of the church “throwing out” some other part but by means of a church wide reassertion of that which is essential to its apostolic witness and the opportunity for local churches to define themselves in or out of the Anglican Communion. This is the only way forward I can see and the only one which has been endorsed by the instruments of unity. There is real restraint here by CAPA for they go the extra mile and give all who will including the TEC the chance to determine to join the covenant and opt into the Anglican Communion. TEC would of course have to give assurances and conform its behavior in ways which are inconceivable. It seems clear that there is an anti covenant consensus in TEC.

a. Call a special session of the Primates Meeting. We believe that meeting together is essential if we are prayerfully to allow the Holy Spirit to work through our interactions and bring us to a common mind. We would need to:
i. Review the actual response made by The Episcopal Church – both their words and their actions.
ii. Finalize the Covenant proposal and set a timetable for ratification by individual provinces.

My comment: The cost of these endless meetings is to be regretted but this does seem a practical and necessary proposal for moving the covenant process forward.

b. Postpone current plans for the Lambeth Conference. We recognize that such an action will be costly, however, we believe that the alternative – a divided conference with several provinces unable to participate and hundreds of bishops absent would be much more costly to our life and witness. It would bring an end to the Communion, as we know it. Postponement will accomplish the following:
i. Allow the current tensions to subside and leave room for the hard work of reconciliation that must be done.
ii. Ensure that those invited to the Lambeth Conference have already endorsed the Covenant and so can come together as witness to our common faith.

My comment: This is meet and right. The ABC has been committed to a vision of getting as many people around the table as possible at the next Lambeth in the hopes of some new understanding emerging. That is a vain hope. If Lambeth is held as the ABC currently envisions it will be primarily a Western affair and be the visible expression of a broken and diminished communion. It will be a very bitter pill to swallow for the ABC but he should now accede to this suggestion by CAPA. A Lambeth that is called on the basis of acceptance of an Anglican Covenant will be able to draw American bishops including perhaps some still in The Episcopal Church. Such a conference could be indeed an instrument of unity. A conference called on any other basis will be a pointless exercise in disunity and will draw far fewer bishops from across the Anglican world than a conference drawn on the basis of Windsor compliance and Covenant endorsement. It is now clear that only a Lambeth drawn on the basis of a common covenant can be a truly inclusive and world wide Anglican conference.

7. We make these proposals in good faith believing that they provide an opportunity for us to reunite the Communion consistent with our common heritage and give us a way forward. We also stand ready to work with the various instruments of the Communion to ensure their success.

My comment: This is a cautious and gracious statement indicating continuing respect for the office of the ABC and the hope that he will yet use his office for the greater good of the whole communion and a signal of willingness to follow the leadership of the ABC in bringing to reality an Anglican Covenant and the mending of the tear in the fabric of the communion. It is also a signal that there is still patience with the Anglican Consultative Council in spite of its consistently disappointing behavior in the crisis. I can easily imagine more radical reactions from the frustrated bishops of the Global South. There is a real spirit of walking the extra mile here.

8. We are very much aware of the plight of faithful Anglicans in North America during these difficult times. We assure them of our prayers, support and full recognition until the underlying concerns are fully resolved.

My comment:

This is reassurance that CAPA bishops will continue to provide pastoral oversight for American congregations and dioceses but there is a signal that this is an interim arrangement and a signal that the ad hoc and emergency arrangements need to be regularized in a common North American jurisdiction and which looks forward to an end to these ad hoc arrangements by different African bishops.

Response to the JSC Report

Response to the Report of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Primates

On

The Reply of the American House of Bishops

The JSC has determined that the American HOB has responded adequately to requests from the Anglican Primates for clarification of their response to the Windsor Report both in terms of the approval of additional bishops in committed same-sex relationships and the approval of same-sex blessings.

The JSC concludes that a majority of bishops have committed themselves to withhold consents to election of candidates for bishop in same sex relationships. This is I believe actually the case. The meeting in New Orleans did express a consensus that consents would be withheld at least until after the next General Convention. I suspect that if there is a Lambeth Conference in the offing the HOB will in all likelihood refrain from giving the necessary consents until after Lambeth.

The JSC has accepted the declaration of the HOB that TEC has not authorized public rites for same-sex blessing though reserving the right for private pastoral response. The JSC makes clear that “we believe that the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of the private personal response envisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003, and that the undertaking made by the bishops in New Orleans is understood to mean that the use of any such rites or liturgies will not in future have the bishop’s authority, ‘until a broader consensus emerges in the Communion, or until General Convention takes further action.’”

At this point the statement becomes really an exercise in subterfuge. The JSC accepts the undertaking made by the HOB in terms that the HOB never set and which are contradicted by numerous facts on the ground and the explicit statements of many bishops. By saying that such blessings when they take place are “without the bishop’s authority” the JSC is replaying on the communion wide stage the comical picture of LA bishop Bruno denying that the same-sex blessing described in the New York Times announcement page was going forward with his knowledge or authority. This is an attempt to finesse an issue that even the secular press will find duplicitous. It is inconceivable the HOB would discipline any of its members for allowing public same-sex blessings. A real undertaking not to authorize would mean to discipline those who take unauthorized action. This seems an attempt to generate a legal fiction for the purpose of giving TEC a pass by virtue of living into a legal fiction that it did not in its deliberations agree to. Meanwhile the spirit of Windsor cooperation which is what is really needed has been simply repudiated. The JSC is trying to give the HOB a way of playing the character Sargent Schultz from the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. Schultz the German guard turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of the prisoners and when asked by his superiors about transgressions said famously, “I know nothing, I know nothing.” By its finesse and fine parsing of language the JSC is helpfully feeding the HOB this line. They are saying in effect, “we are going to say we take it in this way, you don’t protest and you will be able to say, ‘we know nothing.’”

The JSC also takes up the issues of alternate Primatial Oversight. It encourages the Presiding Bishop to consult further with dissenting groups but “we believe the Presiding Bishop has opened a way forward. There is within this proposal (the plan announced at NOL) the potential for the development of a scheme which, with good will on the part of all parties could meet their needs.” So they ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to use his office to bring together the leaders of TEC and the dissenting dioceses for further negotiation but put their prestige behind what the PB has put on the table. They suggest that possibly the Panel of Reference might be resurrected.

They encourage the ABC to use his office to discourage law suits on all sides. This is the single positive contribution in the report.

The JSC scold those primates who have offered emergency pastoral care to American parishes for not abiding by the Windsor Report and call for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end. They ask the ABC to convene talks between the intervening bishops and the TEC bishops of the diocese in which the interventions occur.

The JSC commends the listening process called for by Lambeth.

The JSC suggests that the there is an emerging consensus in the communion “which says that while it is inappropriate to proceed to public Rites of Blessing of same-sex unions and to the consecration of bishops who are living in sexual relationships outside of Christian marriage, we need to take seriously our ministry to gay and lesbian people inside the Church and the ending of discrimination, persecution and violence against them. Here The Episcopal Church and the Instruments of Communion speak with one voice.”

The essence of the JSC report is to try to sell on a Communion wide basis the American HOB fiction that because no new liturgies have been authorized and no new elections consented to the American Church is Windsor compliant.

There is a willful distortion of reality in this report that raises the most serious questions about whether the Primates can themselves be an instrument of unity and exercise meaningful authority in the communion. This report will not help the communion stay together. It is in every way a clever and artful (in the sinister sense of that word) document designed to deceive and cry peace where there is no peace. It can only seem odious to plain speaking people looking for plain talk about the really somber prospect of the break up of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The ABC and the Primates have been badly let down by this report. I look with anticipation for a minority report from Bishop Mouneer Anis.

Response to the HOB Sept. 25 Statement

My primary reaction to the HOB document is that the majority of the bishops do not understand the gravity of the situation in the communion and the fragility of the communion at this moment. The premise of this document is that a promise not to give consent for another bishop in a same-sex relationship before the next Lambeth and a promise not to change the formularies and authorize “public rites” for same sex blessings will buy a place at the Anglican table and enable the American church to participate in communion synods as advocate for the gay agenda by pushing the listening process. The fundamental dishonesty of the situation with regard to same sex blessings where the permission is given not to ask for permission has not been lost on the press. It is hard to understand why the HOB thinks the rest of the communion should not feel that this is simple insincerity. The provision of a separate paragraph for pushing to have Gene Robinson included in the Lambeth meeting is a stunning bit of denial. Clearly if Gene Robinson is present at Lambeth in any kind of official capacity the attendance of Global South bishops will be dramatically reduced. If Rowan Williams allows his name to be invoked with impunity as the sponsor of that effort it will be another and perhaps final blow to his credibility.

Especially disappointing is the refusal to consult with the dissenting bishops to arrive at a scheme for alternative oversight that would be acceptable to them. Rather than offering another take or leave it plan an invitation to the dissenting dioceses to put forward a plan of their own would have communicated some Christian charity. The majority in the HOB seems to perfect the art of being poor winners.

The resolution does empower the presiding bishop to consult with the primates on a plan but there is no good faith gesture in the report that gives ground for hope of a real negotiation. I am very sorry that Bishop Howe’s plan was not given greater consideration.

The HOB has clarified that it commits itself not to give consents to another election like Gene Robinson. It continues to claim that encouraging local option for same sex blessings shouldn’t be communion breaking as long as “public rites” are not authorized. This seems to me to be a claim that we should be able to violate our own rules as long as we do it quietly. I can’t imagine the primates buying it.

In sum the document brings the communion closer to schism. If Rowan Williams does not now disassociate himself from the American church leadership and its intransigence he will become irrelevant as a force for keeping the communion together and the break between the Global South and the rest of the communion will be accelerated.

Response to the Lawyer/Bishops

Response to

The Constitutional Crisis, 2007

A Statement to the House of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Honored Visitors

Six retired bishops of the house of bishops of the Episcopal Church have produced a lengthy document for the crucial upcoming meeting in New Orleans where the Archbishop of Canterbury and other international representatives will meet with the American house of bishops to hear their response to challenges presented to the American church by the Anglican Primates meeting in Tanzania.

The paper is presented in the form of a legal brief. I have read to date the summary and offer these initial reactions. The premise of the paper is that persons with legal training are practiced in identifying correctly according to a proven methodology the active issues in a dispute. The argument is that if the issues are incorrectly identified then it is not possible to arrive at a fair and just adjudication of issues. The six present themselves as uniquely trained to identify “the most important factor in any scrutiny. . .together with. . . the elimination of wrong, irrelevant, or improperly formulated issues. If the issues are identified correctly, then all else can and should follow to the proper result” (page 3). The authors identify the issue as the issue of the violation of “an unwritten and unenforceable but clearly recognized anciently respected Anglican Constitution.” (page 8). They propose that the acceptance of an Anglican Covenant would be an unwarranted constitutional revolution.

The authors are proposing the methodology of advocates in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of jurisprudence as the preferred means for adjudicating the disputes in the Anglican Communion. I will be interested to hear what other lawyers who are churchman make of this assertion. I believe that this methodology is a method which has been developed with the assumption that the primary business of the courts is to apply existing statues in a way that is fair and equitable. In other words, to try the case in terms of the laws that apply. It must be said here that aims of such a method are very limited. This is a system and methodology that is designed to restrain crime and punish wrong doing. Reconciliation and healing are not in view here and certainly not in view is a vision of building up the one body of Christ. In response to the assertion that the authors are uniquely equipped to address the crisis in the Anglican world because of their training, I ask “but does this method really fit and does the method invoked have among its aims properly theological and properly ecclesiological aims?” Can the method of the civil law developed to work within a well-defined system of statues and precedents really be the answer to a profound theological and ecclesiological crisis? Is not a more likely analogy the analogy of ecumenical negotiation around agreed statements of faith, order and mission such as the National Council of Churches document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry which the authors oddly invoke to bolster their case. I say oddly because the whole purpose of this ecumenical document was to be a prelude to growing ecumenical covenant.

The premise of the brief by these lawyers is that the method of legal argument which is appropriate to a system of settled statutes and case law is the best method to adjudicate what they identify as a constitutional crisis over a constitution that is unwritten and unenforceable. It appears to this non-lawyer that their method has quickly led them to a problem for which their method is in the nature of the case inadequate. The phrase “an unwritten and unenforceable but clearly recognized and anciently respected Anglican Constitution” seems on first reading an oxymoron. It is an enforceable constitution in the American case and an unwritten but enforceable constitution in the British case (nevertheless discernable through the tradition of common law) that makes the jurisprudential method the six bishops propose workable in its normal context. That the Anglican Communion is not able to enforce the most minimal communal discipline is exactly the crisis in front of us. To propose as a solution something that is unenforceable does not appear as a positive contribution to the crisis. Would not a status quo which enables radical and communion-breaking provincial autonomy be a kind of enforcement? The conclusion of the paper seems to contradict the method that is being invoked.

As the six bishops proceed with their argument they become more and more Orwellian. Traditionalists are “constitutional revolutionaries” and those who propose radical innovations in faith and morals and are breaking with the witness of the majority of the world’s Christians are somehow in the tradition of Vatican II and part of a coming “Ecumenical Reformation” and wish “to leave Anglicanism the way it is.” The tone of the paper is high-handed in the extreme and the actors are identified in a stereotypical way as conservatives who “unapologetically seek the utter defeat of the other” and want to “undo the use of reason in the interpretation of scripture” and who are part of a growing “fundamentalism” as opposed to those who “have rediscovered the church’s ancient baptismal theology” and seek to reform the church according to this theology and in a way that will finally make the church relevant to the society and culture it serves. This kind of rhetoric is very disappointing. One discipline that ought to prevail in these attempts at dialogue is the discipline to describe the position of the other side in terms that they can accept. To accuse your opponent of rejecting the role of reason in biblical interpretation while all the while you refuse to engage his careful exegetical arguments (for example N.T. Wright or Robert Gagnon or on the purely scientific front the NARTH researchers) is simply false witness.

The bishops propose as ingredients in the unwritten Anglican Constitution seven “interlocking traditions concerning Anglican Comprehensiveness, the Via Media and Lex Orandi Lex Credendi.” (page 11-12) They are listed below with my comments.

(1) The interlocking traditions concerning Anglican Comprehensiveness, the Via Media, and Lex Orandi Lex Credendi.

If the Anglican Communion reduces its comprehensiveness to a conforming set of confessional doctrines, and discounts the uniting force of worship, it will be a different church.

My comment: Posing the issue in this way represents a simplistic and reductionistic understanding of the relationship between doctrine and worship. The esteemed liturgist Geoffrey Wainwright has documented the complex relationship between the development of doctrine and the development of liturgy in his book Doxology. Sometimes liturgy governs the development of doctrine and sometimes doctrine liturgy. The original BCP is a revision of the received tradition along doctrinal lines. Famously Urban Holmes the former dean at Sewanee confessed that in his role in liturgical revision in the work on the 1979 American BCP his aim was to replace the “Tudor God.” This history of a church that has been held together by worship and not doctrine is an invented history that opposes doctrine and worship in ways that are not supportable either theologically or in terms of the explicit and documented aims of the Episcopal Church’s own councils.

(2) The authority of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. If the Anglican Communion decides to read scripture literally or impose conformity to a single interpretation without attempting objective regard for critical scholarship, it will be a different church.

My comment: The charge of having no objective regard for critical scholarship fits far better the revisors in this dispute. There is very little dispute about what the texts in question say even using the best historical and critical tools. The dispute is over application not interpretation. The idea that Anglicans have been free to read the Bible in the way that for instance Southern Baptists do with the “soul sufficiency” of the individual reader being the trump in all disputes is pure invention. The quoting of Lambeth statements on biblical interpretation is simply bizarre.

(3) Episcopal Oversight. If bishops are increasingly used in the church as a sign of division, or of conformity, rather than a sign of unity, it will be a different church.

My comment: How can meaningful unity be divorced from agreement in the faith? Is not the mission of the bishops to steward the apostolic doctrine, to keep us united to the rest of the Christian world and to the tradition? The bishop is the one who says, “ That is not what old Polycarp told me that St. John said.” Gene Robinson is exactly a sign both of division and enforced conformity for by his office he excommunicates those who in conscience cannot sign-on to the new theology.

(4) Baptismal Bonds and Community as Communion. If the Anglican Communion decides to allow Christians to refuse to worship and share communion with fellow baptized Christians, including collegial bishops, it will be a different church.

My comment: This begs the question of what it means to be baptized and to be in communion. It presents a rather magical view of the sacrament. The water and the ceremony appear enough without any regard to the confession of faith that should attend membership in the body of Christ. The idea that Anglicanism is doctrinally indifferent is gross revisionist history. An Anglican Church which viewed the sacraments as proposed here would be a different church.

(5) Jurisdiction and the Diocese as the basic and local unit of the Church in relation to congregations, the Province, and the Anglican Communion. If the Anglican Communion creates jurisdictions that cross provincial and diocesan boundaries in order to satisfy those within a given jurisdiction who disagree with the episcopal authority and the majority decisions of the duly constituted decision-making bodies of that jurisdiction,

or if it allows extra-jurisdictional episcopal authority to be exercised at personal whim, it will be a different church.

My comment: This is a pertinent observation. It begs the question of how theological lawlessness and whimsical exercise of episcopal authority by sitting bishops of TEC have provoked the mess we find ourselves in. However, bishops are bishops of the whole church with inter-Anglican and ecumenical responsibilities. The ethos of provincial autonomy on basic issues of faith and morals of TEC is not according to Anglican ethos. If the set up of competing jurisdictions in response to the current pastoral emergency cannot be resolved into a coherent Anglican Communion structure, the agents of reform will have likewise abandoned something crucial to Anglican identity.

(6) Provincial Autonomy. If the Anglican Communion creates a Communion-wide teaching office (magisterium) requiring and perhaps enforcing doctrinal conformity without regard to cultural and experiential differences among provinces, enabling it to overrule decisions duly made by a province, it will be a different church.

My comment: The lack of recognized magisterial structures is one of the main ingredients in the continuing fracture of the Reformation Churches. Anglicanism has had a workable magesterium in its prayer books. As the prayer books of the member churches have begun to diverge the need for a more well-defined teaching office has emerged. The proposed Anglican Covenant includes a vision of a synodical teaching office with checks and balances between the provinces and the instruments of communion. There is always some sort of magesterium at work. General Convention makes unapologetic claims for itself as the ultimate source of teaching. If we want to be truly members of a world wide church this is not enough. It is really the vision of extreme provincial authority in fundamental matters of faith and doctrine that is the innovation.

(7) The Mission of the Church, especially in terms of justice. If Anglicanism separates love of God from love of neighbor, separates spirituality, religious observance, and doctrinal adherence from the mission for justice, and separates vocation to creation from vocation to kingdom, it will be a different church.

My comment: There is an awful lot of code here for a revisionist theological agenda but at the least this argument goes in both directions. Understanding the mission of the church as primarily a search for justice separated from questions of doctrinal truth, spirituality and religious observation would clearly be the invention of a new religion that could claim no Anglican provenance.

Primates Communique

The whole thing is here. [Editor’s note: this link broken. We apologize for the inconvenience.]

The Primates have endorsed the Windsor Report including the call for stregthening the instruments of unity and the establsihment of an Anglican Covenant which they advise will be take a process of its own. They have pretty clearly opted for N.T. Wright’s fireproofing of the house. This is a very hopeful sign.

Continue reading “Primates Communique”

Blessed St. Edwin

Ed Friedman is probably the most comprehensively worshipped authority in the Episcopal Church. Rabbi Friedman was famous for applying the Family Systems Theory of Dr. Murray Bowen to congregational life and leadership. Liberals and Conservatives, Reappraisers and Reasserters may share little else but a reverence for Ed Friedman.

A central concept in Friedman’s opus was “leadership by differentiation of self.” This leadership posture was contrasted by Friedman to leadership by force of personality and persusasion, which he thought produced overdependent followers and a cult like ethos, or leadership through consensus, which he thought empowered the “emotional terrorists” and tended to produce “peace mongers.” (The vintage Friedman terms remind me of the wonderful combination of Sigmund Freud and Henny Youngman that the Rabbi was in person. He wowed his audiences including the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.)

Continue reading “Blessed St. Edwin”