Monday, October 03, 2005

Heroes of the Akinolist/Winger Narrative

Is the Episcopal Church, properly speaking, defined by its relationship with the Anglican Communion? It sounds to me like assorted North American Akinolists have made this an article of confession. Of course, I do not think they really mean it, or have thought it through seriously. While they make the claim with less than jocular levity, it does seem to me so disasterous, symptomatic of a truly deplorable ignorance, that charity requires seeing their move as something other than a product of calm deliberation.

The Episcopal Church is defined by its relationship with Christ, period. Is the fact not basic? Even properly basic? There is a relationship R* from the Church to Christ that is both necessary and sufficient to constitute its members as part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. That is not to say R* holds only between Episcopalians--or even wider group, Anglicans--and Christ. Salvation can be found outside the Anglican Communion. Nor am I necessarily suggesting that R* is only an abstract relation without implications for the lives of Episcopalians here below--I believe quite the contrary. But nothing more than R* is needed.

The very existence of an Anglican Communion is accidental to the existence of the Episcopal Church--in view of the history of ECUSA's formation, how could anyone think otherwise? The ugly Akinolist desire to unchurch faithful ECUSAns is evident here, but facts are stubborn things: the very same entity which became ECUSA existed without interruption here from before the Revolution, and for a time was not part of the Church of England. The apparent passionate proclivity of Akinolists from Duncan to the vestry of Christ Church in Savannah for denying facts and embracing contradiction smacks of postmodernism. I expect in response to be told in prolix obfuscation the equivalent of "the relevant facts do not fit our narrative; therefore, they are irrelevant."

Why the rush to replace Christ with creatures, God with man? Why, indeed, are the Akinolists so anxious to usurp the proper role of Christ in constituting the Christian Church? Is it true, to speak in metaphor, this international mob (following Augustine, without justice, there is no genuine society) has come together reversing Genesis 11 to build a great tower with which to storm heaven? "We set our trust in the AC" or "we set our trust in Akinola" is a far cry from "We set our trust in Christ"--the difference is decidedly not morally neutral.


At 11:48 PM, Blogger Caelius said...

A. From what I know of the early history of (P)ECUSA, it is debatable whether PECUSA as a formal entity ever was not in communion with Canterbury. Indeed, what would constitute breaking of communion? I suppose the election of Seabury without the King's conge d'elire would violate "Ut liberae sunt elecliones totius Angliae" of 1214, and since this act predates the passage of Connecticut into the domain of the Crown, it would be valid in Connecticut. Moreover, since Seabury's election predates the coming of the Treaty of Paris into force, the statutes concerning the erection of dioceses and elections were violated.

But as far as I am concerned, any break between Anglicans in America and Great Britain only dates to the refusal of the Church of England to consecrate Seabury until the agreement to consecrate White and Provoost. And PECUSA as a truly formal entity didn't exist until 1789. It's hard to build our happy independence on three years when we were fighting desperately for recognition. All "good" schisms require mutual anathemas...

B. I also would beware of basing anything on the mystical and involuntary union we have with another through Jesus Christ. I believe it but I'm not entirely sure to whom it extends. It's beautiful, good, and true, but it doesn't soften very many hearts.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thank you for your well-argued comment; I am obliged to clarify.

Two senses of "communion" are at issue here--(A)communion-as-country-club-membership; the relation in question is one we constitute at will among ourselves; (B)communion-as-koinonia, constituted by a certain kind of relationship with God. Communion-(B) is not a relation we constitute at will among ourselves.

I think the vestry of Christ Church in Savannah and Bishop Duncan have moved from communion-(B) to communion-(A) by seeing ECUSA constituted or defined by a relation whose relata are merely creatures. In effect, they are talking as if being a member of the Church is like being a member of a country club. I disagree.

I pointed out above that the Church in the American colonies (call it "C*") that would become ECUSA and had been the CoE existed for a time without communion-(A) while being in communion-(B). That is to say, C* was genuinely part of the Christian Church without being part of the Anglican Communion. Why? My hunch--I have not backed it up yet, alas!--is that a single, formal body in that duration did not exist that could be, or even could have been, a part of a communion-(A)/ the Anglican Communion.

That brings me to your second point about the mystical union here below with one another through Christ. To the best of my reckoning, Baptism normally institutes the relation between a human and Christ that makes that human a member of the Church. Nothing more, like membership in the Anglican Communion, is required (and I find the AC mentioned nowhere in the rite itself). Baptism, being sacramental, essentially operated via matter--it is meant to be accessible to the senses in a community rather than circumscribed in the mystic's invisible, personal experience. That is, the relation constituting us as members of the Church is public, and not tied to mysticism.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Caelius said...

1. You have no need to back up your point about the existence of the Anglican Communion to me. The Communion as formalism that you term A clearly postdates 1867. As far as B, I believe that the koinonia worth having dates to the Last Supper or to Pentecost.

2. A mystery in the sense I mean is a faith that trusts matter to be more than matter but also professes the inability to comprehend the process. Paul knew there was some analogy between matrimony and the relation between Christ and the Church (and surely the reality of this analogy was founded on material relations), but he did not comprehend its exact workings. This leads to interesting paradoxes in which I sense eucharistic and baptismal koinonia with the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and the Lutherans, and yet this koinonia is not really expressed in formal institutional structures. What is the phrase? "I intend to die in the faith of the Undivided Church."

At 4:36 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

OK--you are obviously very right about the AC; I do not know why I didn't just make that point. 1867? Oops indeed--but thank you for the apt reminder.

Baptism might be sufficient for placing one in koinonia/communion-B without being the only means by which one arrives in communion-B. So I agree with your point about Penetcost, and perhaps even the Last Supper. That is, Baptism is sufficient but unnecessary.

When I contend that it's normal, I mean that the exceptions of Pentecost etc. do not establish a norm for initiation; Baptism remains the norm.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger Caelius said...

I didn't mean Pentecost in terms of the exception, but I see what you mean by that. I mean that after Pentecost, it was unambiguously possible to say that the one could be "born from above" or "with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Now, in my experience, what the Pentecostals call "Holy Ghost baptism" and what the evangelicals call "being born again" is mediated among Anglicans, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox in Holy Baptism. Thus, when people ask me, "Have you been born again?," I very honestly can answer yes. This is how I understand the Episcopal baptismal liturgy when it is said, "...we thank you that by water and the Holy have raised them to the new life of grace" and similar things are said elsewhere.

Thus, I agree that baptism must be the root of our koinonia-B and that the eucharist should strengthen it, though some fence the table in a variety of ways. Yet this kind of koinionia-B is not obvious. Otherwise, people wouldn't fence their tables...

Ah, well. It will be a rough time ahead. There's too much court intrigue in the royal priesthood.

At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two little differences between us and the Akinolans:

*Making idols unto themselves, the Akinolans then are NOT free to be in relation to/communion with anyone who does not bow down and worship the same idols.

*But because, as you say Scoty, "The Episcopal Church is defined by its relationship with Christ, period", it is then FREE to be in communion with anyone . . . even the idolaters! (which is why +PJA will continue to be welcome at ECUSA altars---which are, of course, Christ's---even if we Episcopalians are not welcome at Nigeria's).

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Contarini said...

Unquestionably the communion that counts is the communion we have with Christ and all Christians through baptism. But if we take that communion seriously we must seek to embody it in practical structures of accountability and consultation. You can sneer at this as "country-club membership," but such sarcasm accomplishes nothing except to accentuate the fears of conservatives that liberals are really Gnostics in disguise.

Of course the Anglican Communion in and of itself is hopelessly inadequate. What counts is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I'm forever astounded by the way liberal Episcopalians invoke the schisms of the past (such as the Reformation) as an excuse for merrily charging on in the path of further schism. The fact that we are not in communion with Rome, with the Orthodox, and for that matter with Presbyterians and Baptists and Pentecostals, should be a source of great grief to us. We should not be pressing on blithely to create new divisions.

And before you say it, I entirely agree that both conservatives and liberals are at fault here.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Alas for right-winger fears that liberals are cryto-gnostics! I wish I knew how to jump start dialogue with them--but portraying the AC as something that it is not, as more than it can be, seems to me a poor way to begin indeed.

For instance, why say we Anglicans are not in communion with Rome? In a sense of "communion" yes, but not in the sense that really counts.

This is not to say Anglicanism should disappear--it has a vital role in the catholic Church. But let us not confuse the AC-in-its-mighty-externals with Anglicanism; the latter is a much more delicate entity, neither coextensive with teh AC, nor with the big-c Church.


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