Sunday, 21 November 2010

My fluttering Pelagiometer

The Anglican Covenant may well not end up accomplishing as much bad or good as it is cracked up for, but the discussion around it has been worthwhile and fascinating, and at last something of a broader debate seems to be starting up, for example Andrew Goddard and Jonathan Clatworthy, here and here. People are still, however, often picking over the bones rather than addressing the big questions around having such a thing in the first place, and it seems to me those are where the action is. Many thanks to all who have offered comment on this blog for their clarity, honesty, and will to try and understand the whole picture.

If Christians are alienated from each other, culturally, sociologically and psychologically, how high a formal fence should they erect between themselves? Enough, surely to give reflective space to both and a chance to relate their partial interests in the whole gospel picture whilst they live in tension and await, in joyful hope, a new heaven and a new earth. But temporary fencing, as low and light as possible, has to offer the best way forward if it’s relationships that count.

The wall is too high if it prevents interchange, and dangerous if it resorts to cantonment — a strategy that promises much short term, but has been historically, literally, bloody disastrous all over the world in the 20th century — Ireland, Kashmir, Germany, Cyprus, Israel/Palestine, South Africa... the examples of how disastrous it is are obvious and I can’t think of a single example of it bringing long term peace. In the end, people have to get together, especially if we are all aiming for the New Jerusalem, the sooner the better, the more porous the boundaries the better.

Whatever the virtues of the Covenant text, or not, it is inconceivable that people will hold themselves accountable to something they never wanted in the first place and don't believe in. Many TEC people the Windsor process was aimed at see it as abusive and biased interference. Meanwhile Conservatives are increasingly seeing it as a Chocolate Teapot (e.g. here). Windsor is increasingly and profoundly tainted for both, and, cuts diminishing amounts of ice with either. Why bother, then, with a blow-up Windsor process? The only people such a thing would would work for are people who don't need it or care about it anyway. This is a profoundly Groucho Marx place to end up.

If this were The Apprentice, I would be underwhelmed by the Covenant marketing department. Vituperative defensive ad hominem spiel sounds hollow and does not answer the broader question above. Perhaps nobody needs Section 4, even in its current toned-down form. The whole idea that a few more primates’ meetings would do the trick is very improbable. There may have been all too many primates meetings, used for grandstanding as much as mutual personal and spiritual engagement. Perhaps we don’t need additional structure; just to learn from our recent history and move on, resolving to use what we’ve got more wisely before we try to grow the apparatus further from a tainted root.

Meanwhile, all this talk of declaring actions in or out of court, and impaired communion, has got my Pelagiometer twitching. My Pelagiometer measures how much personal energy I am investing in faith or works, in other words whether the things I do arise from grace, or whether my awareness of grace is being clouded by anxiety, fear or politics. It tells me when I am taking myself or my faith more seriously than the Holy Spirit.

When “impaired communion” was the relational consequence for everyone to discuss, I used to wonder with whom couldn’t I share Communion in the light of the cross, except for grave and urgent scandal (Book of Common Prayer) where hot anger would obscure and compromise the sacrament?

Whatever Anglicanism is, it is Augustinian in extraction and has to contend with Pelagianism in all its forms. My Pelagiometer is very sensitive, because I recallibrated it when I worked in a prison. I shared communion with “Graham.” He was convicted a major fraud, but for various reasons he sincerely believed he had been in the right to do what he had done, and had squared the transaction that was held to be fraudulent with his boss. He ended up going down for three years anyway. I don’t want to undermine the courts, or the ten commandments. “Graham” and I would probably have to agree to differ about whether he was guilty or not, but never in a million years would I have refused to sit down with him at the Lord’s table. Nor with “Andy,” who probably murdered his girlfriend, but claimed he hadn’t. I took a charitable view that it was the Lord’s supper not mine, and left the judging to God.

Those whose pelagiometers have been calibrated in more genteel environments may set the gauge higher, or use denominational conformity to set theirs. As a sinner saved by grace through faith, I have absolutely no will to start making judgments about my sister or brother, or the institutional churches to which they belong, that would compromise my ability to sit down at the Lord’s table with them, let alone put them out of the house.

The best way forward might be to pass sections 1-3, which are unexceptionable, but put Section 4 on hold and reflect on what we do need, then come back and see if something like Section 4 fills the bill. I’d be amazed if this happened, though. Yes there are tensions in the Communion. Leadership is acknowledging real tensions in an organisation that can't be resolved and leveraging them so that their energy works for everybody. This is often not possible, but that’s what we have to do, not corral people in separate camps. Our status as people baptized into Christ is infinitely more valuable and significant, than our membership of any other group, founded on anything less.

52 comments:

Erika Baker said...

Another outstanding post, thank you. Wish that more of us had your humility and your absolute focus on God in all of this.

One question, though. You say that Sections 1-3 of the Covenant are irremarkable. And yet, Jonathan Clatworthy writes:
"Firstly, the contents of Sections 1-3 would initially be accepted as a description of Anglicanism, but as soon as the Covenant was in force they would turn into a criterion of Anglicanism. Even if the authors of the text are right to think it accurately expresses what Anglicans actually believe, once the provinces have signed up to it it will then become possible to tell people that if they want to count as Anglicans they will have to believe it."

Would you agree that even Sections 1-3 might, just might sow the seeds of future strife?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

How ironic! How funny, but I seem to have done exactly what I was not too keen on others dong, and zeroed in opn the text in a way that underplayed its “relatoinal consequences!" :-)

Making a historical descriptor for exclusion is classic behaviour in cantonments. Using access to a sacrament to establish one's own rightness sends my Pelagiometer off the scale.

Why need we any more than the creeds we already have? The argument is that a handlist of classical anglican ecclesiological norms will help us relate to other churches more clearly, and I acknowledge it's a thought.

However there's nothing new in the Covenant secion to which you refer, and having road tested the concept on a few colleagues in an overseas Church over the weekend, they were perfectly able to negotiate Porvoo without such a handlist.

So if it isn't needed for that, a stronger impression is given that it will be used for other more nefarious purposes...

The genius of unintended consequences lurks in the background, smiling...

Ann said...

Yes about unintended consequences. The former Chancellor of Canada notes that the language and sections are so imprecise that more fights can be seen ahead about definitions. I think it will send us to a Humpty Dumpty world: “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” ala Lewis Carroll.
As to heresy -- my first thought is Donatism - where we try to determine who is worthy to do the sacraments - I thought that was fought years ago.

Grandmère Mimi said...

My default position is and always was NO ANGLICAN COVENANT. It's quite true that a good many people with better minds than mine, find fault with Section 3, too.

Some of my grandchildren attend Roman Catholic schools, and I go to the masses for the schoolchildren sometimes. According to the rules, I'm not allowed to take communion, but I do anyway, because I believe that the powers in the RCC have no right to refuse me since it's Our Lord's body and blood and not theirs. It's not for me or them to decide who may approach the Lord's table.

With regard to the covenant and the discussions surrounding it, I vacillate between thinking I'm in a Monty Python skit or in Lewis Carroll's world.

Anonymous said...

RE: "The wall is too high if it prevents interchange, and dangerous if it resorts to cantonment . . . "

Right -- but since increasing chunks of the Global South are [rightly I think] erecting that wall anyway on their own, it looks to me as if the Covenant proponents [and I'm one of the conservatives who doesn't think the current text is any good or helpful so I speak as an outsider in a sense] are stating that the Covenant is better than what is now happening -- which is the Global South erecting the wall and the chasms within the Communion growing deeper and broader.

It sounds as if you're saying "who cares -- let them go" but then if you do that, you can't really say "and further, the [Covenant] wall is too high." Well, you can -- but by comparison with the growing Communion divide, it's a touch sell.

Believe you me -- the Covenant wall is not as high as what good chunks of the Global South is building!

Of course, my comment above about walls doesn't really address the real issue which is the *question-begging* question that you asked in the body of the post: "If Christians are alienated from each other, culturally, sociologically and psychologically, how high a formal fence should they erect between themselves?"

As I suspect is obvious by now, those on the other side of the wall don't grant that the current leaders of TEC [of which I am a member] believe or preach the Gospel.

So the question has to be rephrased for people like me, and for the many many thousands of others like me in TEC, and of course for the leaders of many of the provinces of the Global South: ""If Christians are in an organizational entity which is led by people who do not believe the Gospel, how should they relate properly? And further, if Christians elsewhere are in a larger organizational entity, which involves leaders who do not believe the Gospel and in fact believe something opposing the Gospel, what can be done?"

Obviously, parts of the Global South -- increasing parts, too -- have decided what can be done.

I personally don't believe that the Covenant -- in its current form -- will help with any of this. Some of us -- not you, obviously, but a bunch of us -- have recognized that the leaders of TEC don't believe or preach the Gospel but in fact believe and preach another gospel entirely.

Operating from that stance, one has to come to some basic decisions as to what to do. And they're obviously not going to be the sorts of decisions that you come to, since you don't believe that the current leaders of TEC believe and preach another gospel.

But give the Covenant-proponents some credit -- they're trying to stave off a larger break and a higher wall. My guess is that you -- like KJS and others -- would say "who cares, that's their choice and nothing we can do about it." But the Covenant proponents are saying "let's try the Covenant."

That's my take on it, from the perspective of someone who does not share your basic views about the makeup of the TEC leaders or the revisionist activists here in TEC. Just an outside perspective, so to speak.

Sarah

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for taking this to some new places; Ann, we're back on how it's used. If people erect it into a legalistic text it will be interpreted one way and have one kind of effect; if they use it as a descriptive doctrinal toolbox they'll have another. Of course people will use it any way they darn well want, so it behooves us to think this through now, not once it's through.

GM, the gap between what is supposed to be going on and what does actually go on is one of the great signs of God's sense of humour. It annoys tidy-minded people, but often the Spirit seems to work very effectively in the zone between aspiration and reality.

Sarah, thanks for your comment and perspective. I sm no expert on the Global South, though I have experienced "global South" groups that were, quite frankly largely brought together, stage managed, and whipped into shape by leaders from the US and even England. There was one particularly notable occasion a few years ago when a laptop fell into a journalist's hands, revealing that a statement from a prominent global south primate had in fact originated in Washington and Oxford. So I always try to remember Global Douth is a frame of mind (as Billy Joel said of New York) not a place. AS long as some Americans insist on exporting their cuture wars to everybody else, this is the way it's going to be. When I unpack with the individuals concerned efforts to recruit majority world churches to come and sort out TEC, I meet bemusement most of the time from all but the political big guns in the gs movement.

As to what you are supposed to do if you believe your deominational leaders are pursuing an immoral or unethical course my best experience of thta recently has been in Germany, where there is consierable distance between lay people and the Roman Catholic hierarchy. I am impressed, however, by their critical but genuine loyalty to their Catholic identity in those circumstances, which strengthens both them and the Church, although it also builds up a considerable head of steam for change in future that may be too radical.

I don't particularly know the leaders of TEC or hold out any particular brief for them or against them.

I do thnk, however, that the reason these disputes arise is to test, in community, the genuineness of our faith as history unfolds around us and in us. And I believe this not because I don't care, but because I do, and that's what the Scriptures teach us these things are about.

Anonymous said...

RE: "I sm no expert on the Global South, though I have experienced "global South" groups that were, quite frankly largely brought together, stage managed, and whipped into shape by leaders from the US and even England."

Certainly it would be nice for one side to believe that the rejection of fellowship with TEC revisionist leaders by growing chunks of the Global South is actually something stage-managed by Wicked Conservative Americans. ; > )

I personally believe that involvement with the Global South by conservative Americans has actually **restrained** various repudiating actions from the Global South. But there -- we don't share the same values or theology so it would be understandable for me to suspect one thing about the Global South's rejection of TECusa revisionists and you to suspect another thing entirely.

I would just note that it is hard for me to believe that you really believe that the rejection of TEC's choices of bishops *for the whole Church* of the Anglican Communion is really all about "Americans . . . exporting their culture wars."

Choosing a bishop *is* a form of exporting the culture wars, since within the Anglican Communion a bishop is a bishop of the whole Church -- until the whole Church makes it clear otherwise. So it has been only natural for parts of the Global South to then reject that choice of bishop [now bishops, of course] as *not* a bishop of the *whole* Church, most particularly their own provinces. As long as you're in a larger organization where one group behaves in a manner not in keeping with the Gospel, it's incumbent upon the other group to make that crystal clear to the watching world and to the Christians within that group. So it's a pretty standard response, no matter the organizational entity, to say "you will not celebrate with permission in our province."

At any rate, obviously we won't agree about the causes of most of this. One side will believe the division to be inflated by Wicked American Conservatives, and the other side won't.

My only point is that no matter the impact of Wicked American Conservatives Exporting Their Culture Wars to Innocent Naive Global South Provinces . . . the Covenant proponents are attempting to stave off larger and broader and deeper Communion chasms.

As I've said . . . I don't think the current Covenant will manage that, precisely because I don't think the rejection of the gospel of the current TECusa leaders by growing chunks of the Global South is at all stage managed by Wicked American Conservatives [and thus possibly going away if only we could rid ourselves of the WAC].

So I think their efforts will be, ultimately, fruitless, as far as staving off the divide.

You could take some comfort in that, maybe. For whether the Covenant is enacted or not, the divide will continue to grow.

Eventually, we will have several formal entities within the shell of what we have called "the Anglican Communion." We'll have the chunks of the GS -- how many who can know but I expect it will be significantly more than the initial Gafcon Provinces -- coupled with various entities from the Americas. And then we'll have the COE with some various other Provinces. And then I think we'll have TEC, Canada, Brazil, etc . . . in another group.

All the groups sitting in various zones of the Communion, with less and less formal or informal interaction.

As to my own response to an organizational entity led by people who do not believe or promote the Gospel, I am satisfied and very content with that response. It is similar to that of the large chunks of the Global South -- they're not leaving the Anglican Communion, while being very clear about who they are, the nature of the TECusa current leadership, and with whom they will fellowship. God has blessed me greatly over the past several years, and I've been honored to be a part of all of this.


Sarah

Erika Baker said...

Sarah
If I understand you correctly you believe that some provinces are no longer Anglican, possibly not even Christian, that the Global South will in any case erect walls, that it is right to do so and that we should be lucky they are not higher.

I'm not quite sure I understand what you think the Covenant will achieve in that case.

If there is no genuine healing of relationships, if there is no genuine respect of the others, and if you're saying that the walls will be built regardless, then all the Covenant achieves is that it forces the "losers" to formally accept the superiority and rightness of the "victors".

“I will punish you anyway, either by getting my way or by evicting you, but I would feel better about it if you agreed to being punished” is not the psychology of healthy equal relationships and I do not see how it can ever be a tool for creating mutual respect and genuine Communion.

If that’s genuinely all that’s on offer, let them build their walls and exclude themselves without adding to the pretence that the more liberal provinces have only got themselves to blame for the failure of the relationship.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sarah,

I never said US Conservatives were wicked. There are Wicked and Virtuous US Conservatives no doubt, same as any other group. The organisation of a GS lobby, however, has not been without Western input, whatever one makes of it. I have some first hand experience of the intensity of effort that has gone into that; it's not speculation on my part, and I don't blame anyone for trying to organise people whom they believe will support their point of view, but it is a fact that this has happened. It's not the whole story, of course.

I think it must be very difficult to know what to do if you really believe the leadership of your church "do not believe or preach the Gospel."

I can entirely understand and appreciate your analysis that this Covenant won't get Conservatives to where they would hope the Communion needs to be, and why. Thank you for your clarity and honesty about that. In some ways your analysis all too accurately reflects where we are now, so the question becomes, how would the Covenant help improve understanding?

We come back, I think, to the basic question of what level and form of institutional life will keep people within any kind of relationship while these matters work their way out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Erica,

You have me correct in some broad brushstrokes but not in some details.

For instance -- I don't get into whether someone is an Anglican or Christian. I just note when people publicly promote something that is not the Gospel but is another gospel. That's what chunks of the Global South have done as well. I can't pretend to know the state of someone's soul or Anglicanism. I just note people public statements of belief.

I understand that there are other groups who don't believe that the current TECusa leaders are believing and preaching another gospel -- in fact they believe that they themselves *are* preaching the Gospel.

Hence the division. Both groups believe that the other's beliefs are a pernicious and destructive and untruthful gospel -- not the Gospel. For that reason, the Church in the Anglican Communion has divided, as neither party is willing to give up the Gospel, but the two versions of gospels are inherently antithetical to one another.

Honestly -- I don't blame either side for that -- although I think it rather foolish for those on the sidelines to wring their hands and demand that one side or the other cease promoting the Gospel! Obviously, both of the contending sides *recognize* rightly that it is the Gospel that is at stake -- and the two gospels in conflict are inherently and mutually antithetical.

RE: "I'm not quite sure I understand what you think the Covenant will achieve in that case."

I do not think the Covenant will achieve anything at all in its present form. I was simply explaining that those who support the current version of the Covenant are desperately hoping that it *will* accomplish something -- and that would be a cessation of the divisions, divisions which some like Alan Wilson seem to believe are ginned up, but which others [like me] believe are perfectly understandable and will continue and deepen.

RE: "If there is no genuine healing of relationships, if there is no genuine respect of the others, and if you're saying that the walls will be built regardless, then all the Covenant achieves is that it forces the "losers" to formally accept the superiority and rightness of the "victors"."

I think you are mistaken here.

1) Healing of relationships can occur -- and probably will -- when those in the conflict over the gospels no longer try to force those mutually antithetical gospels into one organization. I get along beautifully with many people in this world -- pagans, Wiccans, secular atheists, Buddhists, Christians in other denominations, etc. I think that healing of relationships will occur once the two antithetical gospels are not residing in the same organization.

It's a bit like a tennis club suddenly gaining an influx of skeet shooters. It's difficult for their not to be intense conflict between the tennis players and the skeet shooters, when the skeet shooters are shooting next to the tennis courts. That doesn't make the skeet shooters "bad people." Just skeet shooters determined to shoot skeet.

What would *inevitably* end up happening in such a situation is exactly what is now happening within the Anglican Communion. The tennis players go try to build courts elsewhere. Or try to go to the rule book and point out that skeet shooters shouldn't be at the tennis courts. EVENTUALLY, the tennis players will leave the "tennis courts" zone and go to another area of the tennis club and set up some new courts. They'll *distance* themselves as much as possible form the skeet shooters.

2) I think acknowledging the two gospels in conflict within the Communion is actually a sign of "genuine respect." I don't see that disagreements -- or a decision to move away from Communion with those who do not share the same gospel -- to be a sign of disrespect. I have immense respect for many people of all sorts of religions and careers and races and families.


Sarah

Anonymous said...

[I've divided up my response to Erica into two parts.]

RE: "it forces the "losers" to formally accept the superiority and rightness of the "victors"." .

Now see -- I'm not certain you see the Covenant working in the same way I do. All the Covenant is going to do is just sort of segment into groups the people who don't share the same gospel -- it will accomplish very little else that I can see. You'd have 1) those provinces who do not sign the Covenant and 2) those who do. But nothing happens to *either* group. Both continue to do the same old things, show up [or not show up] at the same old meetings, vote in increasingly emaciated "Communion instruments," etc, etc.

It is for this exact reason that conservatives like me don't see much good coming from the Covenant. We're already segmenting out people anyway.

BUT . . . as I was trying to point out above -- those who are *supporting* the Covenant think that the Covenant is the kind of thing that might hold the Communion together in a sort of loose way. The signers in one group, the non-signers in another segment and we all trundle on.

AGAIN -- *I* don't think that helps much at all. And various Global South Primates seem to think the same thing. But I was just trying to say -- in defense of those who support the Covenant -- that they are *trying* to keep the chasms in the Communion from deepening and widening.

After all, as one of the Covenant supporters asked -- is it really a good idea for the Primates Meetings to be bereft of many of the Primates, and the same for Lambeth and the same for the ACC? Is that really what liberals want? What is their plan to fix the problem?

My response to him was "yes -- that is what liberals want and they are perfectly happy with that state of affairs as long as they get to continue to do their own thing and work to change the minds of everyone else in the Communion to support their particular gospel. They don't see any problems with that."



Sarah

Anonymous said...

RE: "I think it must be very difficult to know what to do if you really believe the leadership of your church "do not believe or preach the Gospel."

It was initially heart-wrenching and very painful. But it has actually turned out okay. There are so many more of us than I had thought at the beginning and there has been some fantastic fellowship and working together among us all. I have felt great peace and joy at being where God has called me to be. Of course it's never nice to see an organization that one dearly loves led by such people. That would be the case for *any* organization, whether secular or religious.

The question for a faithful Christian is always whether God calls us to stay or leave such a corrupt organization. Christians have answered those questions in different ways throughout history. But God has blessed me and so many of my friends with great clarity about staying within the organization and doing what we can, even the small things, as best we are able and to the glory of God.

Ultimately, the organization here in America as we know it will be destroyed -- everything I've learned over the years about organizational health or disease, functionality or dysfunctionality, demonstrates that. I suspect that even some of the liberals who have worked within and analyzed corporate/organizational health out in the world know that in their hearts.

So the question after the organization's collapse from loss of members, money, and mission will be "what now"?

*That* will be a fascinating series of answers, different for everyone I expect.


Sarah

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sarah,

Thank you for explaining things so clearly. May I tactfully ask what you would recommend for those who entirely accept there are people for whom gay bishops are a cataclysmic gospel issue in the way you do, but cannot begin to understand why? That's about 95% of the Anglicans round here...

Erika Baker said...

Sarah
I could understand your analogy of the tennis court better if I saw any evidence that liberal provinces are trying to make conservative provinces act in the same way they do.

It strikes me that the shoot skeet players are quite happy to let the others continue to play tennis.

It's the tennis players who absolutely insist that no other game is being played anywhere.

If you are happy for tennis players and shoot skeet players to play their game each in their own courts, why then is there a problem when an American province does something in its own country that doesn't affect African provinces?

Anonymous said...

RE: "May I tactfully ask what you would recommend for those who entirely accept there are people for whom gay bishops are a cataclysmic gospel issue in the way you do, but cannot begin to understand why?"

Mmmm . . . I suppose the same things that we have done with those for whom non-celibate gay bishops are An Absolute Necessity and Worthy of Dividing the Church Over. Simply acknowledge that the foundational worldviews are cataclysmically different and opposing, both sides will continue to work for their cataclysmically opposing gospels, and recognize that not much can be done about it.

In other words -- there's not much at all that those of you who don't see it our way can do, nor those of us who don't see it your way can do, other than both sides continue to battle it out. My mind is boggled by what I could advise. But clearly you and I don't see Scripture, marriage, the sacraments, Jesus, sexuality, or much of anything at all foundational in the same way at all. I've long since given up trying to persuade others of what I believe once I realized just how vast the divide over foundational things was.

Might I tactfully suggest, though, that for you also the idea of non-celibate gay bishops is a "cataclysmic gospel issue" since you are determined that it is all okay and should happen, even with the intense resistance of others? So for you, as well, it's not a matter of the color of the church carpets, but is in fact a "cataclysmic gospel issue." The main difference is that you wish that those on the *other side* for which it is a "cataclysmic gospel issue" would stop acting as if it is a "cataclysmic gospel issue" now that your side for which it was also a "cataclysmic gospel issue" has won. ; > ) But I don't think that will really wash for the losers. The notion that "95% of" any group doesn't care about an issue doesn't really mean much. 95% of Christians, I'm sure, did not care about Arianism either -- but that did not matter to those leaders who were debating the heresy. And I suspect that amongst informed leaders in the COE you have a sight higher of a percentage who *do* care quite a bit about this particular issue. And then, of course, there are the opportunity costs of those who *do* care about the issue in the lay segment -- and have lost their enthusiasm for the COE as a result. Those are the "invisible" losses -- for now, anyway. Over here in TECusa, they are not "invisible" at all. One can see the effect of those losses parish by parish, diocese by diocese, and pledge card by pledge card.

Over here there is not much that our side can do with those who have their own gospel to inflict upon us. All we can do is make it crystal clear that we don't share the same gospel and move on about our business within the organization the best we are able.

You just have to accept that there are two mutually opposing gospels within the same organization and move on, I guess.

I certainly cannot try to convince you of anything regarding the Gospel in which I believe nor you the Gospel in which you believe. It is what it is.

It's a tough place for everyone and each side must do what their consciences demand of them.



Sarah

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sarah, I really appreciate your clearsightedness and honesty about the positon as you see it.

All I would ask of people who want to slug it out over this kind of stuff is that they spare a thought for us poor bloody infantry in No-Mans-Land who are in No Mans Land not because we don't care, but because we honestly believe God is infinitely bigger and more compelling than this whole argument, or anything that could possibly arise from it.

That sets us all free to acknowledge the depth and genuineness of each others' convictions in a rather maddening but rather Anglican Way... If people honestly follow their consciences that will guide them, I'm sure.

Grandmère Mimi said...

So the question after the organization's collapse from loss of members, money, and mission will be "what now"?

Perhaps collapse is the fate of all organizations. So far as I can tell, Jesus's plan did not include founding one or more organizations. He wanted disciples.

Kurt said...

Hey, Sarah, is it really true that you can see Russia from your back yard?

Anonymous said...

RE: "It strikes me that the shoot skeet players are quite happy to let the others continue to play tennis."

But surely you must see that it is very very difficult to play tennis when right next to you are the people shooting their guns! You cannot hear the ball strike the racket, or hear the score called out, or see for all the smoke -- not to mention when the machine misfires and the skeet ends up over our court and the skeet shooters then begin to bang away in our direction.

And then there is the fact that we all joined -- or thought we were joining -- a tennis club, not a skeet shooting club.


RE: "It's the tennis players who absolutely insist that no other game is being played anywhere."

Well, at the end of the day, though, the tennis players will go off way over yonder and begin building new courts.

Obviously, that's satisfactory for the skeet shooters. But they can hardly stand around and complain about how horrible the tennis players are and why can't we all just get along with the skeet shooters enjoying themselves shooting skeets next to the hapless tennis players who are trying very very hard to play tennis.

Further -- the tennis players had hoped to recruit more *actual tennis players*. But word has gotten around in the community that the tennis club is actually really a skeet shooters club, and none of the tennis players out there in the community wish to join it.

At this point in the conflict you have separate bands of tennis players over in a far section of the club proclaiming that they are indeed tennis players, not skeet shooters at all, and they are hopeful that other tennis players will come and join them. But in order to do that they've got to get way way way way way away from the skeet shooters who are blasting away with abandon.

Of course, as some of the tennis players have pointed out -- the skeet shooters actually have a desire to shoot far more than just simple skeets. They have other longings and dreams and hopes in their hearts too -- skeet shooting, as we all know, goes along with a cluster of other sporting interests as well.



Sarah

Savi Hensman said...

The border-crossing began about half a decade before Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop, and Brazil has also been a target. I do not think purging a church of openly partnered gay bishops would satisfy those wanting to 'purify' the Communion of those they regard as somehow contaminating it by our presence.

To achieve a deeper unity, I think it would be helpful to explore just why they do not want to eat and drink with sinners as Jesus did, and as Anglicans have done through the centuries. I remember the Prayer of Humble Access from my childhood: approaching Christ's table is not solely for the righteous, or those who believe they are! Repeated concessions by more inclusive churches, and ongoing invisibility for LGBT people in less inclusive churches, would not I think resolve the underlying issues.

Anonymous said...

Vinaigrette Girl here.

Oh, crumbs. Let's see. The married het priest who performed my marriage ceremony, in the States, ran off with his married female deacon. he's suing his former church over financuial issues and it's all very unseemly and my husband wonders - haha, joke - if our marriage is legal. Mission FTW! So that priest and the deacon are broken vessels.

I watched, with a mixture of dismay and amusement, a gay priest who was terribly polite but deeply uninterested in potential female ordinands darting his eyes around a not-very-crowded room and eventually going off to make conversation with teh trendy young male priest in the black leather jacket. So he's a broken vessel.

Some friends have just returned from another long posting in two African nations where they capacity-build with great success; they say the Christians are vying in the homophobia stakes with radical Islamists in the fight for adherents. So they're all broken vessels too.

There won't be anyone around with whom I can take communion at this rate. The paths to the table are littered with sharp-edged potsherds.

Tim Chesterton said...

This is a fascinating discussion to read. I have to say, though, that as a person of generally traditional leanings, but also with very close lesbian family members, I think Sarah's division of Anglicanism into just two camps is simplistic and naive.

I also find it fascinating that evangelical Anglicans have suddenly become obsessed with the idea of being in doctrinal agreement with their bishops. I have been an evangelical all my Christian life, and have read widely in the eighteenth and nineteenth century writings of the evangelical forebears - Simeon, Newton, Wilberforce etc. In the eighteenth century many of the diocesan bishops in England were Deists, but the evangelicals didn't lose any sleep over this. They accepted that they were a minority in a pluralistic church, and they got on with preaching the gospel as they understood it, basically ignoring the structures of the institution as they did so.

Bishop Butler's response to John Wesley is well-known 'To pretend to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Ghost is a horrid thing, sir, a horrid thing!' Newton had to look a long way to find a Bishop who would ordain him, and the Bishop of London would only consent to Lady Huntingdon using his horse and carriage to catch a ride to Thornton's rectory in Clapham as long as she would consent to be set down around the corner so that no one would see the episcopal carriage anywhere near that famous evangelical rectory!

This is the context in which evangelical Anglicans ministered throughout much of our history, and we never lost any sleep over it. So why it is suddenly so important for us to have bishops who agree with us is a mystery to me!

Erika Baker said...

Sarah,
you are clearly very passionate about what is right and what is wrong. I don't often get the chance to talk properly to people who believe that lines have to be drawn and walls have to be built.
So I hope you will answer a genuine question and help me to understand something I have never truly understood about people from your side of the debate.

What difference will it make to you personally, to your life in your community and in your parish church, to your relationships with other people and to your relationship with God, if TEC is no longer part of the Anglican Communion?

Tim Chesterton said...

Savi said:

To achieve a deeper unity, I think it would be helpful to explore just why they do not want to eat and drink with sinners as Jesus did, and as Anglicans have done through the centuries. I remember the Prayer of Humble Access from my childhood: approaching Christ's table is not solely for the righteous, or those who believe they are!

You know, I have a great deal of sympathy for those who want the church to be more open to gay and lesbian people (my family circumstances have a lot to do with this). However, I think this selective reading of the old BCP is a bit dishonest. Yes, the prayer of humble access does say that we do not presume to approach Christ's table on the basis of our own righteousness, but only in his goodness and mercy. Nonetheless, it also invites people to confess their sins with the words 'Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead the new life, following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth in his holy ways - draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort'. Furthermore, the old BCP had rubrics directing the circumstances in which the priest was to refuse to administer communion to those who were 'living in grievous sin' and to those 'between whom he perceives malice and hatred to exist' (two different categories, in the mind of the author).

So I think the idea that the traditional BCP is a totally inclusive document is a bit inaccurate. Yes, in the BCP communion is offered to sinners (who else could it be offered to?), but those same sinners are directed to repent before they come to partake of it. WHether, and how, we practice that approach today is of course a matter of discussion, and I'm not particularly stating a position on it. I just want us to be honest about what the BCP actually says.

Anonymous said...

RE: "To achieve a deeper unity, I think it would be helpful to explore just why they do not want to eat and drink with sinners as Jesus did, and as Anglicans have done through the centuries."

I'm not certain how we got off on the subject of eating and drinking with sinners -- something that all of us do every day. I thought we were discussing who should and should not be leaders in the church? Obviously there are *some* standards we all have -- it's just that we have *mutually opposing* standards. It really is rather facile to toss off the whole "you won't eat and drink with sinners" -- Vinaigrette Girl tries to make the same assertion -- when that is manifestly untrue all around. Why not deal with the actual issue -- one group, and it is a rather large group, of leaders within the Anglican Communion -- believes that others within the Anglican Communion do not believe the Gospel and are happily promoting to leadership *of the whole Church* others who do not believe the Gospel also.

Now -- that is obviously something that those in the latter group do not believe to be true. But at the end of the day, here we are, and neither side will be convincing the other that the other shares the same Gospel. Clearly organizations that have two competing groups of people who believe *mutually opposing* and intrinsically antithetical missions and values and goals have got a severe problem. Surely we can all agree with that.

RE: "I think Sarah's division of Anglicanism into just two camps is simplistic and naive."

Hi Tim, if you read my comments above closely you'll see that I mention three groups at least -- and actually I can count several more. What you've basically got right now -- with regards to the whole Covenant issue [obviously it depends on the issue as to what the groups are, but right now I'm talking about the Covenant issue] are 1) revisionist activists who despise and loathe the Covenant as a gross insult to their ability to shoot skeet and anything else they wish to pursue in the future [and my oh my they have lots of plans for that], 2) moderate uninformed people who would be happy to sign anything as long as it could all go away and they could settle comfortably back down in their pews -- among these are some who secretly actually think it's not a bad thing at all to promote to leadership people who are involved in same-gender sexual relations -- but they'd be willing to let that go too as long as the kerfluffle could just die down, 3) informed moderate-conservative leaders who think that the Covenant might prevent or just slow down the ghastly meltdown going on right now -- they're the ones who really think it's not a very good thing for 1/3 of the Anglican Communion bishops not to show up at Lambeth, or a largish group of Primates not to show up at the Primates Meetings, or for various and sundry leaders and laypeople of all sorts not to share Communion with those whom they recognize as false teachers [see NT texts on how one should treat false teachers who claim to be Christian leaders], and 4) informed moderate-conservative leaders who see the Covenant as a joke, since all it does is enshrine what already exists in a formal document and does nothing substantive to deal with the actual Communion divide, and 5) quite conservative leaders who loathe the Covenant almost as much as the revisionist activists because they never needed the Communion to hold together either, nor do they have the slightest interest in Canterbury, Lambeth, the Primates Meetings or whatever -- they're off doing their own thing!

Although I'm not a leader -- just a layperson -- I count myself in Group 4.

The problem for those in Group 3 -- the Covenant proponents -- is that they can deal with those in Group 1 and Group 5 -- just allow them not to sign. But if one loses the folks in Group 4, then one is left with the uninformed moderates and those in Group 3 signing the Covenant -- and that's simply not enough.


Sarah

Anonymous said...

[continued response to Tim Chesterton]

In regards to your idea that "evangelical Anglicans have suddenly become obsessed with the idea of being in doctrinal agreement with their bishops" -- I think you are making the same mistake that Alan Wilson made earlier. It's not a matter of doctrinal agreement among fellow Christians [although certainly that's always nice] but a matter of whether either side believes that the other actually even believes or preaches the Gospel. Obviously my side doesn't believe that we're dealing with people who believe or preach the Gospel -- and if you listen closely to the *other* side they don't believe it either about our side -- but they're just pleased that they won control of TECusa and so it doesn't matter so much for them. ; > )

Furthermore, things are different in TECusa -- clergy cannot "ignore the structures of the institution" because the bishops in question who do not believe the Gospel are busy forcing clergy to *not ignore* but to rather support in every way their structures, and that includes having to drag themselves off to mandated clergy conferences with Marcus Borg and Jack Spong, diocesan conventions with swirling Sufi dancers [check out the Glasspool consecration video for the latest of that sort] along with masses of other command support and boot licking. I understand that those in the COE just don't get it -- in regards to raving lunatic *and* fascist heretics, you folks are about 20 years behind us. Maybe by God's grace you'll never get there. But believe me, bullying bishops over here are a dime a dozen.

So once one has a raging heretic bishop as one's boss and "pastor" [sic] one is immediately in a heap of trouble if one is a clergyperson who believes and preaches the Gospel.

So you've got two things -- one of which is about whether those who do not believe the Gospel should be leaders in the church and the other of which is the practical effect of having for a bishop someone who is a bully *and* a non-believer.


Sarah

Savi Hensman said...

Sarah

I would be interested to know your view on the Church of England's position on civil partnerships. While of course campaigners for full equality find it disappointing, some Global South leaders have expressed the view that the C of E's stance is far too lenient. If the Covenant were agreed and some overseas bishops then called for the C of E to be disciplined, what would your reaction be?

Anonymous said...

Hi Erika,

RE: "I don't often get the chance to talk properly to people who believe that lines have to be drawn and walls have to be built."

Now see -- I'll bet you do. For example -- you probably talk a bit to yourself sometimes, and you yourself believe that on occasion "lines have to be drawn and walls have to be built." I'll bet you can think of a potential practice or belief from an Anglican Communion leader that would be outside of those lines and walls. ; > )

It's just that you and I don't agree on *which* actual actions and beliefs *should* be outside those walls and lines. And that has to do with very different foundational worldviews, values, missions, etc, at the core level which we do not share. That doesn't make you or me bad -- it just means that we don't agree on enough foundationally to be able to come to mutual consensi on practices and beliefs that should be outside of the Anglican Communion walls and lines.

But to get to your question:

"What difference will it make to you personally, to your life in your community and in your parish church, to your relationships with other people and to your relationship with God, if TEC is no longer part of the Anglican Communion?"

That is a *great* question.

First of all -- I would be absolutely *thrilled* for the Anglican Communion as a whole, since the purpose of TEC leaders -- the current leaders, that is -- is to use the Anglican Communion as a carrier or host for their own very destructive, and false, different gospel in a whole variety of areas. So just the joy I would have at the Anglican Communion's having established some good boundaries and good order and discipline would be huge -- I would be so happy for the AC's identity and future.

Of course, that would mean that my own parish would have to make some very hard decisions, since we do wish to be a part of the Anglican Communion. My hope would be that we could remain in TEC but have either our parish or diocese recognized as in-Communion. If that were not the case, it would be most tragic -- but I'd be willing to put up with that if it meant that the Anglican Communion itself could be released and have a clear and Gospel-based identity and could also have more internal unity amongst Provinces who believe and preach the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

[Continuing my response to Erika]


Were TEC to be out of the Anglican Communion I would work hard to find a parish that was recognized as in the Anglican Communion. Were that my local parish -- my word, the influx back of departed parishioners would be *huge* -- instant growth serum for an already fairly largish parish! ; > ) Plus, I'd be able to invite flocks of people who stand on the outskirts and email me about what's going on -- they're Anglicans theologically, but are not able to be a part of such a corrupt organization as TEC. One of my close family members could return. Many of my friends. The outreach possibilities would be immense -- I live in a conservative area of the country, and TEC parishes are simply not options for so many liturgical and sacramental and thoughtful Christians now. I can think of numerous friends to whom I could then say "y'all come on now!"

I do not believe that my relationship with God would change much -- I mean obviously I hope every day and every year it grows stronger and deeper. And certainly there would be great thanksgiving to God for what I could only see as a huge miracle, since obviously I think it *highly unlikely* that the Anglican Communion will so discipline and order itself.

Certainly it would relieve an immense amount of tension between the warring parties in TEC. Both sides could go their way and cease the recriminations and political fighting, since neither side would end up in the same organization. Although I care about the souls of the revisionist activist leaders in TEC, I hold them no personal ill will -- I'm sure we could enjoy drinking coffee together and discussing movies and books at some point were we ever to connect, although I would not want to engage in any ecumenical activities with them [though I could *definitely* see inter-faith activities of some sort]. We just don't belong in the same organization together, as we don't share the same mission, goals, values, foundational worldview, or belief in the same gospel.

I hope that answers your question -- I honestly rarely ever think of such a thing as I think it's obvious to all by now that TEC will remain in the Anglican Communion. Even were the Covenant to be signed by most Provinces [and I hope that does not happen, since I think it hurts us, and does not help us, but for obviously entirely different reasons from Alan Wilson], and TEC were not to sign the Covenant, TEC will happily remain and continue blasting away [to return to the skeet shooting metaphor]. So I don't think there is any hope at all that TEC will ever be out of the Anglican Communion.

What that necessarily means is greater and greater distancing -- farther and farther away -- and more differentiation [ie, "we're definitely *not* those types of Anglicans, we're this type over here"] between the tennis players and the skeet shooters in the tennis club. And that means massive division, disunity, conflict, and pain on all sides.



Sarah

Tim Chesterton said...

Sarah, for all your subtleties about 'five groups', you actually believe there are only two - those who believe your version of the gospel, and those who believe in a different gospel. And it seems that the deciding issue (this, of course, is the thing that has gotten everyone in the GS so concerned about us heretics in the Anglican Church of Canada and TEC) is homosexuality.

But why this issue? Let me pick a different one. Let me agree with the vast majority of Christians in the first three centuries of Christianity and say that participation in war is incompatible with Christian discipleship. This of course is the plain meaning of the teaching of Jesus, and for the most part Christians believed it until Constantine co-opted the church and it became inconvenient for the Empire to have a pacifist religion. But to most in the early church this would have been a denial of the gospel. So why aren't biblical literalists today worried about the dangerous revisionism of a church which has military chaplains and accepts the just war theory? Why aren't you denouncing them as believing a different gospel?

See, I think we all believe that God loves us so much he accepts us just as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there. We just aren't agreed as to which changes he wants to make in us. But if everyone who disagrees with my take on that issue is to be construed as believing a different gospel, I suppose the whole world could not hold the heretics who would suddenly spring up everywhere.

Tim Chesterton said...

Oh - and one more thing, Sarah - I think your use of the word 'Fascist' is extremely unhelpful, as well as being rather disrespectful of those who were victims of the real Fascists. No one in TEC has been carted off to gas chambers. You claim to be the one who is faithful to the gospel of Jesus here. It seems to me that he had some things to say in Matthew 5 about the words we use to describe our sisters and brothers.

Erika Baker said...

Sarah
thank you for your reply.
I must admit, I hadn't thought it would be possible to find anything in your own personal life that could change for the better if TEC was no longer a member of the Anglican Communion.
To me, it always seemed as though those who oppose gay people don't really have anything to lose or to gain other than a sense of self-righteousness.

And you're right, I do have lines, I do have walls.

I suppose, though, that I will also always try to respect the integrity of those who think differently.
If their choices don't cause actual harm, if they are arrived at following the due process in their own lawful organisation and if they are supported by a large body of serious theology (whether I agree with it nor not), then I would feel I would have to leave the judgement to God.

I do feel terribly sad that you are so passionate about being part of a pure church - pure in your eyes.
I think my understanding of church is different too.

And although I've said it here before, I'd like to mention again the man in my own parish who opposes everything I stand for, everything I believe and my whole way of living and who is very outspoken about it.
He has never refused to share the Peace with me, he kneels side by side at the altar with me, we pray together, we speak together.

Secretly, I suppose, we both hope to convert the other:-)

He and our wonderful Tim here are the only two people I know who can hold the tension of opposing something and struggling with how someone lives without having to draw lines and remove them from the gathering.

To me, that approach wins hands down any time as an example of Christlike living.

Erika Baker said...

Tim
I found your comment about the BCP prayer of humble access intriguing.

Yes, all those who truly repent are forgiven. That is one of the real miracles and the most humbling and freeing experience in anyone's life.

But to "repent" what you genuinely do not believe to be a sin would be hypocrisy.

Psychologically speaking, to say you're sorry when you don't really mean it doesn't heal you, it just adds a layer of stuff between you and the possibility of real healing.
Genuinely becoming aware of having done something wrong, or of wanting to change your life in a particular direction, can be the most healing moment in life, precisely because of the depth of the awareness and the intensity of the forgiveness.

It has, to my mind, nothing to do with "unless you all you say sorry you can't come to the table", but it is a "if you were to dig up within yourself something that is troubling you and allow me to heal it, you would be most welcome".

Or am I misunderstanding what you said?

Erika Baker said...

Sarah,
I have spent all morning thinking around your explanation of the tennis court analogy.
And I must confess that it still puzzles me a little. Because the Gene Robinson consecration was a noisy shooting event at the time and yes, you could hear it on tennis courts all over the world.
But since then, he has really wanted to be known just as a normal bishop. And from the example of Mary Glasspool we can see that there isn’t necessarily a huge amount of noise coming from the shoot skeeters. Isn’t it the tennis players who have made sure that the noise doesn’t die down and that it gets louder and louder so that everyone now has no choice but to get involved in the debate?

I can see that Bishop Robinson is a problem for any conservative Christian in New Hampshire. That’s a little like our anti-women priest people being appalled at the possibility that they might have a female bishop.
I can’t see that he is a problem for anyone in other diocese and particularly not in any other province at the other side of the globe.

It’s not as though this topic didn’t cut both ways.
You are very right to say that we emphasise different gospel values (I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we have different gospels). And from my point of view, much that is said by homophobic Christians is not only contrary to the gospel but positively harmful and therefore immoral. I genuinely cannot understand the moral compass of people who are not appalled at the suicides of gay teenagers and who don’t see their own responsibility for helping to create a culture in which these kids feel there is no other choice for them. And I genuinely don’t understand the moral compass of Christians who actively seek the death penalty for homosexuals.
Their actions have a very real impact on the lives of other people and to my mind, they carry a huge responsibility.

But there is no drive to kick these people out of the Communion, there is no liberal province complaining that they cannot get on with their own mission until these people have been removed.

Why is it that you are hearing the noise coming from one quiet gay bishop so loudly and so constantly that it drowns out any other noise around you and that you feel compelled to eliminate it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim . . .

RE: "Sarah, for all your subtleties about 'five groups', you actually believe there are only two - those who believe your version of the gospel, and those who believe in a different gospel."

Well seriously -- everyone in the whole world can be divided, if we must, into "only two groups" depending on the issue we are discussing. Not certain beyond that what you mean.

For the purposes of this discussion -- you know, the discussion on the evils or goods of the Covenant -- we *do* indeed have two groups. Those who believe that sex between same genders is holy and blessed and that therefore we should elevate the practitioners of such sexual relations to the position of leader in the church. And those who do not.

Or, we could have another set of two groups: those who believe the Covenant is helpful. And those who do not.

But I was merely responding to your protest that you "think Sarah's division of Anglicanism into just two camps is simplistic and naive."

And now you are complaining when I point out that one could actually come up with multiple groupings? You wish for me to return to pointing out that in essence, and for the purposes of this discussion, there are really only two groups? I thought you said that that was "simplistic and naive."

Oh well.

Certainly the *inciting* issue was that a province in the Anglican Communion decided to approve of a *bishop of the whole church* whom other provinces believe [and thousands, I should add, right here in TECusa] is in engaged in notorious, scandalous, and unrepentant sin. But investigation has demonstrated that the province in question has hosts of bishops who not only believe that gay sex is holy and blessed and that it's a good idea that some of those who practice gay sex should be elevated to be a bishop of the whole church . . . they also have with *that particular issue* a whole cluster of other issues that support such a belief.

Belief in non-celibate gay bishops comes with a variety of delectable other heresies -- they all run together, as we've all discovered over here in TEC.

But you won't have to take my word for that. Over the coming years, as the distance amongst the varying groups grows and deepens, the COE leaders will get to hang out most probably, with the TECusan leaders. You'll enjoy learning more, I'm sure, in the coming years as you observe their skeet shooting escalate and expand and broaden.

RE: "But why this issue?"

Well -- a national church's primary legislative body formally, officially, legally, nationally approved of elevating people engaged in scandalous and unrepentant sin to the leadership of the church.

Had the priest in question advocated open marriages, or embezzlement, or marriage of one's sister, or setting fires, or some other scandalous sin, then "this issue" would have been something else. But instead he -- and the entire church formally and officially and legally and nationally -- approved of *this* particular issue.

It does no good to say "why this issue" when this was the issue that got the formal, national, official, legal approval. One might just as soon said "why this issue" regarding Arianism -- but it was because that was the falsity being preached.

Anonymous said...

[Continuing my response to Tim]

RE: "I think your use of the word 'Fascist' is extremely unhelpful, as well as being rather disrespectful of those who were victims of the real Fascists."

"The real Fascists"?

Fascism is not a word that means "people will be carried off to the gas chambers." I feel fairly confident that nobody on this thread, in fact, thought that I was accusing bishops of carrying protesting traditional Christians off to gas chambers. Fascism is a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government and as such, I think it is an *excellent* word to describe the actions of vast numbers of the revisionist activist bishops over here on this side of the pond.

But it doesn't appear that you've kept up with the activities over here -- you don't seem aware of the clusters of heresies they believe [setting aside the whole gay sex is holy and blessed meme], nor their bullying. That's okay -- I don't expect that with people in any Province. You have enough of your own problems in your own Province to deal with to keep up with others.

RE: "It seems to me that he had some things to say in Matthew 5 about the words we use to describe our sisters and brothers."

Other than the fact that you're making the same mistake as Alan Wilson, actually we should be accurate, truthful, and descriptive -- but not ungenerously so -- not only for our "sisters and brothers" but for all of mankind.

I am satisfied that I have been so.



Sarah

Anonymous said...

Hi Erika,

RE: "I suppose, though, that I will also always try to respect the integrity of those who think differently.
If their choices don't cause actual harm, if they are arrived at following the due process in their own lawful organisation and if they are supported by a large body of serious theology (whether I agree with it nor not), then I would feel I would have to leave the judgement to God."

Hmmm . . . well, I won't argue with you about whether their actions "are supported by a large body of serious theology" [but have you read our TECusa leaders' dreadful and vacuous primary document purporting to support their actions theologically? It really is incoherent. Have you heard their speeches at our General Convention -- laughable if not so sad and shallow.]

And further, I won't argue with you about whether their actions "cause harm" -- but if anyone believes that sex between same genders is 1) sinful and 2) not God's best or holy intention for sexual relationships, then *necessarily* it is "harmful" to those persons within such sexual relationships. Indeed it is horribly damaging to them in every way imaginable, as all sin is for all of us.

But obviously, those who believe that sex between same genders is indeed holy and blessed aren't going to grant that it is, at the same time, intrinsically harmful. So it is hopeless for us to debate that.

But I actually cannot agree with your criteria in general -- even were I to grant that it is not harmful and is theologically well supported. If we're going to have an association, I think the last thing we would want is to contain all people who "don't cause actual harm," "arrived at following the due process in their own lawful organisation" and "are supported by a large body of serious theology."

Can you imagine -- really conceive of -- what those three criteria actually lets in to an organization of any sort, whether secular or religious?

Just to name *one* issue out of literally hundreds -- that would let in the Sydney desire to have lay people celebrate the Eucharist. As I said, there are hundreds of such issues out there that would fit your three criteria and that would transform the Anglican Communion into something unrecognizable.

RE: "I do feel terribly sad that you are so passionate about being part of a pure church - pure in your eyes."

Hmmm . . . again. ; > )

Do not fear.

Recall a few things about me. 1) I am still a member of TEC - -a church positively *riddled* with grotesque heresies far far far worse than the whole gay sex is holy and blessed one [that's just the tiniest tip of the iceberg]. If I had only wanted to be a part of a "pure church" I would have taken my parents' advice and left years ago. ; > )

2) Further, desiring that the church not accept heretical belief and practice *at its highest level* on a formal, legal, hierarchical, official, and national basis through our General Convention, is not in any way desiring "a pure church." After all, there are plenty of sins to take place *not* on a formal, legal, hierarchical, official, and national basis! My standards are actually fairly low -- practically rock bottom.

I don't think it's too much to ask that we not enact approval of scandalous sinful unrepentant practice at a formal, legal, official, hierarchical, and national level.

3) Finally, I think you are again not seeing the distinction between 1) Christians who do and believe things that are different from my theology and 2) people who don't believe the Gospel.

I can well put up with the former and having such people -- including me! -- does not in any way create a "pure church." But having leaders who opine that Scripture needn't be bothered with, nor tradition, nor reason -- let's all go out there and bless the present-day culture and get on with it -- is just not my idea of any sort of church at all.



Sarah

Anonymous said...

[Continued response to Erika]

RE: "But since then, he has really wanted to be known just as a normal bishop."

No -- I'm afraid not. He has traveled the world over promoting his own theology and promoting the idea that sex between same genders is actually holy and blessed and the church should happily affirm it. He has been -- by his own post-consecration actions -- "the gay bishop" non-stop and unceasingly and quite quite loudly.

Obviously, for someone who believes that it is sinful, scandalous, and harmful behavior, that is not acceptable. It is, in fact, exactly what was planned to happen and what we all knew would happen. He never was "just a bishop" -- he was and was meant to be an icon of the liberal activists' gospel and a revisionist political activist, which he has been with bells on.

RE: "And from the example of Mary Glasspool we can see that there isn’t necessarily a huge amount of noise coming from the shoot skeeters."

I'm not sure what you are meaning by this. There was a formal protest at her consecration, which in itself was a ghastly display [have you seen the video of it?], and more and more Provinces are now backing away and distancing themselves from TEC as a result, since they had mistakenly though that TECusa had committed to a moratorium on further non-celibate gay bishops, but which in fact we all told them for years that TECusa had no intention of ultimately honoring. As usual, we were right. And being demonstrated to be right over and over and over does end up having an affect on Provinces who had -- until the past seven years -- been very unaware of what actually the current leaders of TECusa believe about a whole host of theological issues.

Now granted -- for those for whom this theology is a good thing, all is well! But isn't that a bit rich? I mean -- *obviously* people who agree with this theology are going to say "see -- wasn't that great"?

RE" "Isn’t it the tennis players who have made sure that the noise doesn’t die down and that it gets louder and louder so that everyone now has no choice but to get involved in the debate?"

But Erika -- what *did* you expect the tennis players to do at the tennis club, when the skeet shooters began blasting away? I mean -- obviously, the revisionist activists in TEC claimed that "it was no big deal, nobody over here in TEC is really opposed, those who do are just a very very small minority, and it will all die away soon" -- that was back in 2003. But obviously -- it has not died away at all, and instead the conflagration has spread. Obviously, Christians and Anglicans the world over believe that this is a very very serious matter. And truth to tell -- those liberal activists in TEC believe it is a very very serious matter too -- and they are willing to divide the church over their gospel, it is so important to them.

So chastising the tennis players for not being quiet and for not stopping to protest something that they believe is very very serious -- and that the skeet shooters themselves believe also to be very very serious -- is coming on a bit too rich, isn't it? I mean -- if everyone had been silent, *then* you would have said "see there -- nobody really cared, just as we said."

Obviously a person being robbed, if he or she were silent, would convenience the neighborhood by not awakening it with his screams. But the person being robbed is going, perforce, to yell out, [unless a gun is being held to his head].


Sarah

Anonymous said...

[Continued response to Erika]

We can hardly blame people who are protesting quite loudly -- and will, believe me, continue to protest quite loudly for many many many years to come -- if this is something that is *very very important to them*.

Obviously, it is not important to you -- or rather, it is important, but your side actually won in TEC, so there is no need to protest on your part! But now stating that those on the other side should cease speaking and be quiet is rather . . . convenient for the other side, surely you would agree!

RE: "I can’t see that he is a problem for anyone in other diocese and particularly not in any other province at the other side of the globe."

I guess we don't share the same views on the nature of the episcopate.

Let me put it another way. If a bishop were elected who proudly proclaimed, say, the glories of open marriage, would this bother you? Or only the strange conservatives in New Hampshire should be bothered, but no one else?

I thought that all Anglicans were agreed that bishops are *universal* for our church -- the Anglican Communion. They stand as defenders of the faith and teachers of the Gospel -- for the whole church. They celebrate and administer the sacraments -- for the whole church.

But not any more. Numerous bishops from TECusa are now not allowed to administer the sacraments in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion or teach their gospel, so great is the theological chasm.



Sarah

Erika Baker said...

“Can you imagine -- really conceive of -- what those three criteria actually lets in to an organization of any sort, whether secular or religious?”

Yes, Sarah, I can.
It’s the Communion we used to have.
The one where people believing in the sanctity of life under all circumstances and people supporting the death penalty can live side by side. If the sanctity of life isn’t a gospel value, I don’t know what is. And yet, we are coping with very differentiated views on the death penalty, on war, on abortion, on euthanasia, on contraception.

It’s the Communion where people had different views on the gospel truth of slavery. Where people had different views on the gospel truth of black equality.
And make no mistake. At the time these battles were fought, people were just as passionate about them as you are about same sex relationships. Two sides claiming gospel truth for themselves, both sides believing the other to be immoral and acting against gospel values.

It’s also the Communion that can tolerate a Bishop Orombi who would introduce the death penalty for people regardless of their “lifestyle” simply for who they are. Celibate gay people, Sarah. Who do not even go against your definition of what is acceptable.
But I and those like me have managed to live side by side with those people. We have called them brothers in Christ although it has been excruciatingly hard at times and has cost us dear. It has cost our lgbt brothers and sisters in Africa even dearer.

I am not expecting any sacrifice from you that I’m not making myself.
I know it is possible to live with those you passionately disagree with. Not easy, I grant you. But possible.

As for my side having “won”. Just because I’m alright doesn’t mean everything is alright. As long as people commit suicide because they’re gay, as long as there is homophobic bullying, as long as people’s lives and freedom are threatened by the laws of their land, no-one has won and all of humanity is shamed and diminished.

Anonymous said...

It's been a long series of exchanges. I think I've spelled out fairly clearly the beliefs of a good chunk of Anglicans over here in TECusa and vastly larger chunks of Anglicans in other Provinces regarding the need for order and discipline, the consequences to the Communion when that order and discipline does not occur, and why some people are hopeful for the Covenant and others are not. My intention is not to try to convince others that same-gender sexual relations -- or any of the other theology that goes along with approval of such activity -- is a bad thing. I recognize that it's not possible for us to agree, since the foundational differences are so deep and broad.

All of that being the case . . . I'll continue on over here on my side of the pond, a member of TEC, full of joy and peace at where God has placed me, as long as He calls me to stay . . . it's a tough place, but it's the right place. And I'll continue at the same time to be very clear about what the stakes are, and what sorts of leaders are currently in charge of this church, and the differences between those leaders and those who believe the Gospel -- something which has, incidentally, been hugely unifying over here in TECusa for all of my friends and fellow believers over here. Nothing like running into something that isn't the real thing, to get all the other squabbling over the more minor issues out of the way amongst Christians. Believe me -- there are thousands of people just like me over here in TEC -- I just got off the phone with one of them just now. We're staying, and we'll continue to differentiate ourselves from the current leaders of TECusa, and resist their work, and publicly declaim against their gospel. We'll continue to ally ourselves with those in other Provinces who also share the same Gospel. And we'll distance ourselves as much as is possible from the current revisionist activist leaders of TECusa and their gospel -- it's the only thing that traditional Christians within TECusa can honorably do, other than leave, and remain people of integrity. That will necessarily mean intense and unceasing conflict and division -- for when two mutually opposing gospels are in one organization, that is what happens.

All of us over here [on the traditional side] recognize that TECusa as an organization is lost. That's why you'll see more and more deputies to General Convention from traditional dioceses simply no longer attending -- watch for that escalating trend in the coming years. In my own "moderate" diocese, out of the 8 deputies who are elected, there were two traditionalists who actually ran -- none of us wish to go to General Convention, and that is a trend now in *moderate* dioceses, not simply in conservative diocese. We recognize that the institution is lost now and that it is best to focus on places where some good can be done. There are plenty of us -- *plenty* to a majority -- of traditional Episcopalians in my diocese. But we aren't going to General Convention any more. As a result, all of you over in the COE will have the fascinating ability to observe the runaway train that is driven by the TECusa revisionist activists go much faster down the track at ensuing General Conventions. It should be interesting to observe, in kind of a sick and horrible way.

We're still in TEC and we will continue on. And we will cheer on any work that the Anglican Communion does to establish its boundaries, discipline, and good order.

Ten years from now, I am quite confident that many of you on this very thread will recall this exchange -- and having the benefit of further years to observe -- will recognize the truth of my description of TECusa's leaders. You can think of me -- in a church that is about 20 years "ahead" [if you want to call it that] on the hurtling train of theological insanity and incoherence -- as "the Ghost of Christmas Future." ; > )


Sarah

Anonymous said...

[Final comment -- blessedly for all!]

I think I've responded as best I can to the questions and comments, and I've monopolized this thread long enough, which is on a blog, after all, dealing with the COE and that Province's issues. Bishop Alan Wilson has been very gracious to allow this to go on as long as he has, and using his bandwidth at that.

If any of you are interested -- solely for cultural interest and not intended to persuade -- in the larger theological issues that Christians over here in TEC are concerned with, you can't do any better than to listen to Kendall Harmon's "Iceberg" talk. Kendall has a DPhil from Oxford, and is the Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina. The Iceberg talk well articulates our concerns and I think reveals why the divide between the two gospels will only grow, rather than shrink. It's around 45 minutes long, and you can find the audio files in order at the following urls:
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/26
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/27
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/28
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/29
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/30
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/31
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/32

Again -- I post the links to the audio version [they're in around 10 minute chunks] above not to try to convince you of our theology or gospel, but merely to allow you to understand why these issues are never going to be swept away or glossed over on our part, and to explain why the chasm is so deep and broad between the two groups.

I'll toddle away now to deal with some plaintive clients and their work.

But I've very much enjoyed the exchanges here and wish you all the very best, and the rich blessing of Jesus Christ.


Sarah

Anonymous said...

[Final comment -- blessedly for all!]

I think I've responded as best I can to the questions and comments, and I've monopolized this thread long enough, which is on a blog, after all, dealing with the COE and that Province's issues. Bishop Alan Wilson has been very gracious to allow this to go on as long as he has, and using his bandwidth at that.

If any of you are interested -- solely for cultural interest and not intended to persuade -- in the larger theological issues that Christians over here in TEC are concerned with, you can't do any better than to listen to Kendall Harmon's "Iceberg" talk. Kendall has a DPhil from Oxford, and is the Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina. The Iceberg talk well articulates our concerns and I think reveals why the divide between the two gospels will only grow, rather than shrink. It's around 45 minutes long, and you can find the audio files in order at the following urls:
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/26
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/27
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/28
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/29
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/30
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/31
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/?/sf/page/32

Again -- I post the links to the audio version [they're in around 10 minute chunks] above not to try to convince you of our theology or gospel, but merely to allow you to understand why these issues are never going to be swept away or glossed over on our part, and to explain why the chasm is so deep and broad between the two groups.

I'll toddle away now to deal with some plaintive clients and their work.

But I've very much enjoyed the exchanges here and wish you all the very best, and the rich blessing of Jesus Christ.


Sarah

Tim Chesterton said...

I'm trying to post a comment but grappling with a slow connection this morning (maybe our -27ºC weather here in Edmonton has something to do with it! (as you can see Sarah I'm not actually a member of the Church of England!)

I will not reply to Sarah's concerns as she says the discussion is over. Fair enough.

Erika, I agree that if you genuinely feel it is not a sin then it would be hypocritical to pretend to repent of it. Hopefully all of us (myself included) are continually trying to listen to the Holy Spirit to clarify our view of what is and is not pleasing to our loving heavenly Father.

About the prayer of humble access having more to do with healing than with who may or may not come to the table - well, i'd like to think so, but I fear not. Don't forget that the rubrics to the 1662 Communion service direct that if a person intends to receive communion, they're supposed to let the minister know of their intentions the night before, and it's at this point that the minister is supposed to warn the offenders I mentioned before not to presume to come to the Lord's Table until they amend their lives.

I think my own view would be closer to yours, but I'm not talking about my own view here - I'm talking about being honest about what Cranmer actually wrote. What we do with it in 2010 is another issue altogether - and Savi is probably correct to say that within living memory the default position has been a lot more open than Cranmer envisaged.

Anonymous said...

Wow.
VG here.

I'm sure, as one raised in the Ecusa, that their leadership has scored a lot of own goals. But I'm afraid that this has been part of the decline of discourse in the USA, anyway.

When I contrast people feeling affronted with people living under a "Christian" fatwah for their sexuality, as in Uganda,I know where my sympathies lie. Being affronted is not Gospel living.

My lovely little great aunt once drew herself up to her full height of 4'10" and putting on an air said in her best Sandringham accent, "Katherine, there is * one thing * I will NOT take !"

I replied, naturally, "What is that, Great-Aunt?"

and quick as a flash, she replied "Offence!"

just because a leadership offers offence doesn't mean it needs to be taken. Just because other people's private and committed sexual practices aren't what you'd choose brcause they're offensive to you doesn't entitle you to take offence at their existence or their spirituality.

I could take offence at misogyny, too, as it affects me every day. I could take offence at heterosexuality. I can take offence at most things and find a quote to support myself.

But it isn't Gospel living.

Erika Baker said...

Seems like we've left poor Alan speechless :-)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sorry, Erica. I've let the conversation run because I have to say it's been one of the most interestng I've ever seen, and far more incisive but charitable than pretty much any other. It was kind of Sarah to give us extended time and to try and respond to the points people were making, which seem to me the pertinent ones.

Often her words reminded me of the Stalwart Victorian Anglo-Catholics I worked through as a research student, and although the inflation of language is a considerable factor that needs to be allowed for, I do rather admire people who just say it like it is for them, even if I disagree with them about much of what they say. Confronted by, for example, being imprisoned, they did not whine that they were being driven out of the Church, and the will to stick with their concept of the Church through thick and thin had a noble root.

That said, I think I realise from this conversation how much I believe you have to see the Church as a delivery system for the Kingdom, full stop. Non-Conservatives have consciences too, and moral convictions, and passion, and energy. I work for equality because I believe in the sermon on the mount, not out of some kind of Liberal conspiracy. In some ways I am very conservative in outlook but God is far bigger than all this, and I glimpse that most clearly in points of view that allow for the existence of the Holy Spirit (seeking to discern rather than destroy development), the Incarnation (we need to be real in our context), and the overwhelming ove of God as our final hope and refuge, beyond our ability to speak or think about it.

Erika Baker said...

Thanks Alan,
You say that in many respects you are conservative and that got me thinking that, in a Christian context, Conservative and Liberal are not helpful labels. They may explain whether we tend towards the politically liberal or conservative on any given topic. But unlike politics faith is not about who wins and church is not about who has a majority in parliament.
I would say that people on all sides of the spectrum would say they take the Incarnation seriously, whichever way they may personally define it. And I am sure that everyone is certain they are trying to follow the Holy Spirit - whether they see him more in Scripture, moving in the universal church as a whole or in individual people’s lives.

I’m beginning to think that the real dividing line is empathy and that it cuts across all other categories.

Am I able to see the uniqueness, the otherness, the integrity of other people as people in their own right? Can I comprehend something about them even if I don’t share it? Do I truly recognise our common humanity?
Or do I see them only in terms of the impact they have on me, as two-dimensional, as representatives of theoretical issues and problems, as either obstacles or soldiers marching on “my” side?

Not sure where I’m going with this yet….

Ann said...

I often tell people that the church is like a car - it is supposed to take you places - it is not the place. However, it often needs a tune up and can be a wreck. When is purrs along the highways and byways - it can be so grand -- but it is still the vehicle.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Erika, I am entirely with you here. Every time I hear the terminology of "Conservative" and "Liberal" I wince, because it seems to be defining who we are by a synthetic value scale which means nothing in terms of faith or our tradition (in a positive sense.)

"The real dividing line is empathy" is a very powerful thought. It takes me to the parable of the good Samaritan, and the primacy of Love as a value.

Your one-dimensional two-dimensional modes of seeing other people are really thought-provoking, and suddenly I can see them all around the teaching of Jesus — the woman in adultery, the gathering of wheat on the sabbath, the exaltation of the child, Doubting Thomas — all these seem to show three dimensional thinking breaking in on a two-dimensional assumption and opening the way to a fuller life = salvation!

Ann said...

To me this is what taking up one's cross means -- seeing the world from Jesus' view from the cross, or leaning against Jesus' chest hearing the heartbeat of God and looking out into the world from there.

evensongjunkie said...

Sarah:

It must be awfully hard to be you.

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