Saturday, July 29, 2006

Anglican Moderation: Alan Jones

I do not expect Alan Jones will change many minds with Common Prayer on Common Ground. It lacks the tone of aggressive apologetic; it lacks trenchant argument. In fact, it may seem on the surface to be a rather delicate read, a bubbling over of fine sentiment rather untimely in our age of raised voices and unashamed invective. But he has an important point to make, one strong enough to fend for itself once he lets it loose.

I. Seeking a Middle Way

Jones professes to be an Anglican moderate, neither liberal nor conservative, and he invites us to join him there, apart from either pole. The liberals "believe the church--with its stand on inclusion and its radical vision of hospitality--is becoming more prophetic" while the conservatives believe the church "has lost its way and the liberals mistake pathology for prophecy" (1-2); "both sides" says Jones "need to repent" (2).

Liberals, he is worried, mistakenly elevate human moral autonomy as a good and picture Christians as individual atoms (4). They are losing their sense of divine transcendence as well as their respect for Christian tradition (5). He warns them (31) "the opposite of absolutism is not open-mindedness but relativism," which will undermine the Christian life. He believes conservatives, not able in practice to reconcile certainty and tolerance, are vulnerable to an "unworkable and disastrous" temptation to bring back an idealized past (31). Anxious to anchor faith to the right set of propositions they tend to forget "We need poetry and metaphor to express these great mysteries" (28) of the Christian faith.

Both sides have been affected and indeed overly-impressed by what Jones calls "scientific rationalism," an orientation of basic trust in science's ability to meet human need, especially that for intelligibility in terms of discrete propositions. Scientific investigation delving further and deeper into the mechanisms behind our closed, merely material reality will "get to the bottom of things," and its standards are the standards for legitimate inquiry and knowledge (14-15, 18-19). Thus we find that conservatives seek a formulation, indeed the single legitimate formulation of the faith in terms of propositions while liberals take on board science's mistrust for religious mystery--each camp in its way has yielded too much to the spirit of the age, and that very fact contributes to our current unpleasantness.

II. Anglican Orthopraxis

But they should not have such trust in the standards of scientific rationalism--for one thing, science fails to deliver the intended goods, Jones notes, on its own grounds. There is simply no way to extricate myth from human life, even from scientific investigation. Science must always be carried on from within a "big picture" which in turn cannot be established by scientific method; this is true even in the case where one holds "there is no big picture". For then "The sory is that there is no big-picture story" (29). Thus, "A vision of the whole and communion within it is built into the fabric of things" including science (29). If we are not self-consciously critical about the big-picture within which we carry on, we will end up accepting one by default--e.g. refusing religious myth merely lands one firmly within the "market myth" of materialistic consumption. Moreover, the idea that scientific investigation can proceed from a stratum of neutral, uninterpreted facts is simply naive. No such items can serve as standards against which to falsify or verify human truth claims. Like it or not, we must leave room for myth, and the mystery that goes with it.

Christians should not be ashamed at beginning from "the awesome mystery of God, which cannot be put into words" (20). The creeds, referring to incarnation, redemption, and communion, do not attempt to pin down and comprehend the mystery of God and what God has done, but rather "initiate a never ending conversation, a journey into mystery" (20). Christians are drawn into relationship with the Person of Christ, not an abstract Idea (21)--the reality of that Person cannot be finally expressed in any collection of propositions. This insufficiency in the face of divine reality is what God's revelation as "transcendent mystery" implies (25).

The proper response to God so revealed is reverence, worship. Anglican tradition takes orthodoxy "as affirming a mystery that elicits worship..." (20); indeed, worship is part of "a moral response" that God's revelation to us demands. Thus, "Since we can say true things falsely, the test of anyone's orthodoxy lies in orthopraxis"--right belief will result "in the development of a certain kind of character" (20). Such development within teh context of worship is part of the Spirit's work (34-35), so we can affirm "the kind of orthodoxy that takes no account of the moral life but only of verbal assent is obscene" (19).

The community of Christian worship, united in the practice of worship and the formation of moral character that proceeds from worship, takes priority over the propositinal correctness of belief. Since propositional correctness will always elude us as a community, our worship must call us into continuing together in humility. Jones writes, "Anglican tentativeness before mystery--rooted not in muddle but in awe--is a sign of strength, not weakness" (16). We should "stay together patiently in love, resisting the urge to parade convictions and go off" to do our own things (8), each sude acknowledging to the other that in the questions currently dividing us "...we may be wrong. We are open to correction. We long for civil and, if need be, contentious conversation" (23).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Leander Harding's Use of Michael Polanyi

You might not be familiar already with Michael Polanyi, a scientist with broad interests encompassing the philosophy of science; in philosophy circles he is probably best known for his '52 Gifford lectures (a very prestigious lecture series) which became the book, Personal Knowledge. But he has alot of other stuff: Science, Faith, and Philosophy, Meaning, Tacit Dimension, and Knowing and Being are all ready to hand. He is associated with Hayek's effort to mount a defense of the free market, and that would seem to mark him as a classical liberal. Yet he influenced Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, an ur-text for all manner of radical projects decidedly anti-individualist. You might ask, how much distance is there really between Polanyi and, say, late Wittgenstein or Lyotard? Here is a short article setting out how Polanyi's fundamental concept, "tacit knowledge," has been developed in contemporary circles.

Much of the gist of Polanyi's work is consistent with the theology of TEC worked out by Westerhoff and Holmes in Christian Believing and Griffiss in The Anglican Vision. Both works presume an obligation among Christians to epistemic humility, implying that some of our convictions cannot be formulated in propositions that in turn might be proven or disproven. We have, as Polanyi would put it, a tacit knowledge embodied or incarnate in our practices as a community. This practice is what Griffiss et al would have called primary theology: the worship of the church. Propositional formulation can always only be secondary and dependent on worship. Indeed, no final articulation in propositions can exhaust the primary practice: in principle, all confessional covenants consisting of propostions can only defectively state the articles of Christian faith. Prima facie, someone should quickly pack up collections of Polanyi's collected works and send them off to Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Lagos and Lambeth Palace.

Dr. Leander Harding, however, uses Polanyi to infer, presumably with TEC in mind--though I am only guessing:

(1) ...the churches of the established Christian homelands have deeply accommodated themselves to the world view of what Polanyi calls Objectivism and that a profound skepticism about tradition has infected the churches of the West with a loss of confidence in their own truths as anything but private beliefs and values; and so [t]he task of evangelizing post-Enlightenment culture cannot go forward as long as the churches’ guiding theologies are so deeply compromised by this syncretism with the epistemological pessimism of Objectivism.

and (2) The second implication is that this combination of moral passion and skepticism about traditional morality and teaching helps to explain the current interior dynamics of the churches.

Inference (1) is false: TEC's epistemic humility does not proceed from methodological doubt or any skepticism proceeding from an expectation that all knowledge conform to canons of Objectivism. TEC's never been positivist; indeed, that can hardly be pegged as an Anglican vice given the priority of worship-in-community among our churches.

(2) is false as well. It is not skepticism about traditional morality that drove GC2003 and GC2006, et al, but moral conviction proceeding from the practice of worship, worship centered around the Baptismal Covenant. For instance, no prominent TEC theologian I know of promotes emotivism or non-cognitivism as the only way to handle moral claims.

But there is some good news here. Common ground is not far off; if Harding has mis-diagnosed TEC's condition, nevertheless he seems to share some of its primary aims. As Harding says, The idea that there is no dependable truth leads only to the destruction of our inheritance and the loss of our humanity. It is the discovery of the truth that sets us free and indeed guarantees our freedom and humanity. I think most Episcopalians in favor of GC2003 would agree that there is dependable truth, of course: Christ the Lord who is the Truth and the Way. Moreover, they would agree with the connection between that Truth and liberation, being set free as Harding has it. In fact they might proclaim that GC2003 was just such an instance of coming into the liberating presence of Truth. Thus one should agree with an "Amen" when he says The thirst for truth must be reawakened by a renewed confidence in the possibility of truth and this will be as much by the witness of living as by argument. I would assure him that thirst was alive at GC2003 and 2006 in the witness of living.

Interesting: there is a real foundation for unity here. Properly viewed, TEC has been living into a version of Polanyi's religiosity for some time. It seems there is significant, very significant common ground between Harding advocating Polanyi and the mainstream of TEC. Let it be so.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What to do?

The evil of war in its immensity envelops mere individuals and even societies; trying to roll it back looks foolish. But insofar as we are called into fidelity to Christ, we have no choice but to act, foolish or no. What to do? Where to begin? Once you begin to look around, you will find, I think, an embarassment of riches--we simply have no excuse not to be involved in some community Christian or otherwise actively pursuing the end of these wars and their slaughter of the innocents.

One might look over the sites for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, the Catholic Peace Fellowship and the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. But also see: the Interfaith Center for Peace, the Institute for Peace and Justice, an excellent site from the American Friends Service Committee (i.e. from the Quakers), the Baptist Peace Fellowship, the ecumenical Churches for Middle East Peace. This site aims to undo trade in arms, while this international site supports "war resisters." There are many others.

On the other hand, we should also look to the parish level; how can the order of praying express our desire for peace? How many parishes are silent about this stuff, even in their intercessions? How would one preach peace and mercy from the BCP or RCL lectionaries?

One might date the numerical decline of TEC and other mainline denominations from the time of the Vietnam War, when resistance in the churches began to split congregations and encourage some on the left and right to leave. Is that sort of decline necessary to the ecclesial pursuit of justice? Or is there some intentional course that might prevent it, say rendering lucid the requirements of Baptism to the faithful? I do not know, but we surely already have to face up to such questions.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Through the Gates of Hell

Let me be the first to admit my soul is already numbed to all this. As another blogger put it,

We are a nation of nonpareil separators, those who play the degrees of Kevin Bacon game with the comforting, obscene litany of morning cup of coffee, underpaid Wal-Mart bagger, local Republican fundraiser, idiot savant warmongering crony politician, multinational weapons manufacturer, theocratic aggressor state, shrapnel torn infant. I separate myself from that child now, as I write these words and plays these clever, charming games of intellect and wit. How can a word like sin be so tiny, so terrible, so true?

To the left, a decapitated toddler from Lebanon. What would an Amos or a Hosea say to us, as our munitions are so used from our aircraft?

On the lower left, a child murdered in Baqaba, Iraq (circa 7/21) by an airstrike; to the lower right, an infant in Lebanon was murdered by shrapnel penetrating into the womb, tearing through its flesh.

I have nothing to say--words fail me. So I turn to the same blogger who speaks

Only this simple truth: we are responsible. For each dead child, for the living hell in which billions suffer, for the maiming and the bombing and the endless horror. We must take up the ownership of the authors of terror, cast our gaze upon the literature that justifies them, accept the tender for the mechanisms that power them. “We are the world,” and indeed so we have made it. The world is ours, to rape, to pillage, to destroy, to consume. And so we do, from the cloying comfort of our spacious shelters, with the practiced ease of the most rapacious carnivore, in the complacent tones of the righteous, buoyed up by the knowledge that our God of victimhood protects us with his loving hands.
The time has come for we on the left to accept that we have long since past the Gates of Hell, and forgo our urge to cling to the comfort of lost hope.

"Lost hope" brings to mind the words of Jesus:
I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.” You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

He is knocking; he is pounding on the door.

His use of "conquer" is especially bitter for us mindlessly savage Laodiceans--it has nothing to do with using munitions and warfare.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What Say You to This?

GC2006 approved "Eucharistic Sharing" [Warning: link to Titusonenine] with the United Methodist Church, stopping short of full communion including interchange of ordained ministries, but clearly intending such full communion and interchange some time in the future. We already have full communion with the Lutherans of the ELCA, and recently their Assembly approved "Interim Eucharistic Sharing" with the UMC. On the face of it, these three churches seem to be drawing together, and full communion between them cannot be far off.

Of the TEC/UMC move, a TEC representative said,

...we can stand together at the Eucharistic table, but not interchangeably. There must be ordained members of both churches at the table.

However, he claimed "The ultimate goal, as with the Lutherans, is full Communion and interchangeability of ministers and ministries."

Some objected at GC2006; Bishop Ackerman of Quincy said (same link as above) "I cannot comprehend that we can be serious about this;" the Methodists, he noted, deny the Real Presence. Having never studied Methodist doctrine on the Eucharist, I cannot second Ackerman's concern (if you have more time to read carefully than I, here is a UMC link to a PDF giving their eucharistic doctrine).

We seem to be living out Huntington's dream partially, at least--or at least we could do so. If we can hang on to our catholic doctrine long enough we might be an adequate bridge between Protestant and pre-Reformation Christianity. But of course, can we hang on to our catholic doctrine? For instance, might there be a way of reaching full Communion while getting the UMC to admit Real Presence? Or at least its possibility and cogency? Or does it make a diffrence? What say you to this?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Ordination of Women

Canon Heidt has made it very clear that he cannot accept the validity of orders conferred upon women--and you can find various reasons, such as they are, for Fort Worth's position. You will find, I think, heavy use made of the notion of a need to "act in the person of Christ" (p. 15), the relative novelty of "ontologically equal" sexes with "differing roles" (p. 12), the curiousity (p. 19) of "ontological sexual identity" and a real boner ("no asexual human nature"--implying men and women don't share a species; whoops). Disappointing: as if they rushed to carry whatever they dug up in the back yard into the living room so as to be able to say "Look--a reason!" For we find ourselves prima facie in the 21st century carrying around a tradtion--the denial of Orders to women--without a reason. How did it come to this?

Whence this still very popular belief, that women cannot be priests, much less bishops? Perhaps one key text comes from Aquinas:

I answer that, Certain things are required in the recipient of a sacrament as being requisite for the validity of the sacrament, and if such things be lacking, one can receive neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament.

Other things, however, are required, not for the validity of the sacrament, but for its lawfulness, as being congruous to the sacrament; and without these one receives the sacrament, but not the reality of the sacrament.

Accordingly we must say that the male sex is required for receiving Orders not only in the second, but also in the first way. Wherefore even though a woman were made the object of all that is done in conferring Orders, she would not receive Orders, for since a sacrament is a sign, not only the thing, but the signification of the thing, is required in all sacramental actions; thus it was stated above (32, 2) that in Extreme Unction it is necessary to have a sick man, in order to signify the need of healing. Accordingly, since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order.

The key point: women as such lack a measure of perfection; as women they bear an ontological defect--this is implied by their being "in a state of subjection." He means women are monstrosities, on the order of two-headed calves and dogs with eight legs:

If it were not for some [divine] power that wanted the feminine sex to exist, the birth of a woman would be just another accident, such as that of other monsters.
Nisi ergo esset aliqua virtus quae intenderet femineum sexum, generation feminae esset omnino a casu, sicut et aliorum monstrorum. De Veritate 5, 9, d. 9.

They wouldn't be around--God would not have created such degenerate life-forms, Aquinas is saying, if we didn't need to reproduce. He thinks this way in party because he has a lousy understanding of human reproduction, inherited from Aristotle; he thought women made no active contribution, but were like passive vessels for the motions of development initiated by male semen. I think everyone, even Canon Heidt and assorted like-minded denizens of Fort Worth, would reject that particular line of reasoning from Aquinas.

That leaves a question of course: Surely Canon Heidt and these other guys don't think women are monsters; but what about Akinola and the rest? If so, let's just come out and admit it in the open. If he is married, did he wed a freak of nature? No? "Of course not" Akinola would say.

Quick, what did we just learn? We saw the virtue of subjecting traditional beliefs--and there is a looooooooong tradition behind this sort of idiotic regard for women as defective(right up to Immanuel Kant even, and beyond)--to critique. We would not want to be fools carrying a bag of bricks over millennia for nothing.

But we also should be wary of treating traditions with a respect they do not deserve and did not earn. At least part of the long duration of the tradition behind denying women orders was simply void of sound reason. To count these years toward that tradition's favor seems perverse, a willing embrace of ignorance and false witness that can only be unnatural to human beings. Indeed, I wager much ancient and medieval thought about sexuality, gender and marriage is similarly afflicted. Doubt me? Browse through this stinker and get back to me.

What else does Aquinas have? Let's leave aside his "argument" from hair (seriously: The woman’s hair is a sign of her subjection, a man’s is not. Hence it is not proper for a woman to put aside her hair when doing penance, as it is for a man.” Summa Theologica Supplement , qu. 28, art. 3 ad 1). Women, you see, are fools by nature, incapable of manly rationality:

Subjection is twofold. One is servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit; and this kind of subjection began after sin. There is another kind of subjection which is called economic or civil, whereby the superior makes use of his subjects for their own benefit and good; and this kind of subjection existed even before sin. For good order would have been wanting in the human family if some were not governed by others wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discretion of reason predominates. Nor is inequality among men excluded by the state of innocence, as we shall prove (96, 3). Summa Theologica I, qu. 92, art. 1, ad 2

That, my gentle readers, is what Aquinas is referring to when he speaks of women being in a state of subjection--the comparative lack of "the discretion of reason" in women. The upshot is not everyone was equally made in the image of God:

The image of God, in its principal signification, namely the intellectual nature, is found both in man and in woman. Hence after the words, "To the image of God He created him," it is added, "Male and female He created them" (Gn. 1:27). Moreover it is said "them" in the plural, as Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iii, 22) remarks, lest it should be thought that both sexes were united in one individual. But in a secondary sense the image of God is found in man, and not in woman: for man is the beginning and end of woman; as God is the beginning and end of every creature. Summa Theologica I, qu. 93, art. 4 ad 1

This is embarassing; Scotus does little better:

Woman however possesses a [state of] natural subjection with respect to man. Therefore she ought to have no degree of eminence over any man, because as much by nature as by condition and nobility women are more ignoble than any man; whence after the fall, the Lord subjected her to the rule and power of the man. But if she were able to receive some [Holy] Order in the Church, she would be able to preside over and to have authority, which is contrary to her condition.

And hold your nose:
1. Timoth. 2. ‘Let the women learn in silence’, and ‘I do not permit them [women] to speak or to teach’, where a gloss [reads], ‘not only I but also the Lord does not permit it’;and this is so because of the weakness of their intellect, and the mutability of their emotions, which they commonly suffer more than men. For a Teacher ought to have a lively intellect in the recognition of truth, and stability of emotion in its confirmation.

Pathetic. But millions and millions of Christians are held in thrall to such "reasons" or ones no better--this dreck is celebrated all over the world and even, alas, in the Episcopal Church. You should stop by the pro-woman unofficial Roman Catholic site "Woman Priests" and see for yourself what kind of arguments Fort Worth and those similarly minded can muster.

I've concentrated on Aquinas and Scotus to show you how hollow the tradition behind denying women ordination truly was, even as represented in the thinking of Rome's best theologians. This is one strand of Anglo-catholicism that should finally die out. Dear indeed may be the hoary tradition hallowed by age, but dearer still, O brethren in Christ, is the Word and the Truth.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Against Canon Heidt's Justification

Father Heidt's recent paper purporting to explain the prima facie mysterious nature of so-called Alternative Primatial Oversight sheds too little light in the gloom. We may presume as Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Fort Worth, he speaks the sense of Bishop Iker's action, whatever sense it may have.

The piece is thin gruel. Instead of an explanation of what APO is and its relation to the canons and constitution of Fort Worth and ECUSA, we read a series of sheer assertions without explicit justification in theology or any canon law:
These appeals in no way affect our membership in The Episcopal Church, but simply recognize that someone who is instrumental in breaking the Communion of its bishops, both biblically and sacramentally, cannot be our chief pastor. We have therefore had to look elsewhere.

Alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care will not affect our legal relationship to the rest of The Episcopal Church nor the juridical authority of its future Presiding Bishop as granted her by our constitution and canons. But it will enable those bishops and dioceses who uphold the biblical and sacramental understanding of communion to appeal to a designated primate or chief pastor in sympathy with their position for pastoral guidance and leadership in mission.

Even assuming these pronouncements come bona fide, it still may be that Bishop Iker's action affects the relationship of Fort Worth to ECUSA. What seems so to Bishop Iker et al may not, for all Heidt's protest, in fact be so--this is why Canon Heidt is obliged to exert himself a little more to provide some sort of argument, some measure of clarity. What on earth is APO, and what is its status in relation to the canons? What on earth did Bishop Iker think he was doing?

For example, take a best case scenario. It may be that Bishop Iker has unwittingly negatively affected the relationship of Fort Worth to ECUSA through some violation of canons or constitutions. Heidt's emphasis on what seems right is not enough, for the very fact of Iker's being oblivious to the harm he has already caused is a sufficient reason for impeding him from taking any further action that will harm Fort Worth. Such an action would be a virtuous instance of prudence, a laudable exercise of external restraint on Bishop Iker's innocently immoderate use of episcopal power.

Of course, Canon Heidt--without any evident sense of irony--finds some justification for Iker's act in the election of Bishop Schori to the office of Presiding Bishop, and some more over wrangling concerning the Windsor Report. But his reference to Schori's election is especially troubling. He claims her election

broke Communion sacramentally by choosing a Presiding Bishop whose Orders cannot be accepted by many Episcopalians, including those in the Diocese of Fort Worth, nor by the majority of Anglican provinces worldwide, nor by our chief ecumenical partners – the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

The irony? By rejecting the Orders of females, Fort Worth and Bishop Iker have already given ECUSA sufficient grounds for deposing Bishop Iker--he persists in flouting resolutions of the General Convention obliging him, as a bishop of ECUSA, to accept the validity of female ordination. That is, Heidt tries to justify Iker's appeal and defend the notion Iker has not affected Fort Worth's relationship with ECUSA by referring to action violating resolutions of the General Convention. More than ironic, it is absurd.

Quite simply, Canon Heidt's is not a serious document, and certainly not one suited to address the gravity of the actions of his diocese and bishop.

For Derek's Carnival, Pt. I

I. Canon
Remember--the Bible is nothing. That is, it is not something you can hold in your hand, it is not paper with ink scratches on it, it is not what monks copied down painfully word by word into their manuscripts, it is not what you translate in N.T. Greek 101: just like this--"1"--is not the number one.

The Bible only exists in relation to a reader. That is not to say the reader can make it up as she goes along, though very many do just that. Rather, the Bible is like a symphony that only truly exists when performed; just so, the Bible only exists when it is "performed," when it is read. But not all readings are alike. There are lousy readings and brilliant readings, but even reading is not something between the individual and a text.

For any reading activity is necessarily embedded in a practice of reading, a practice which does not occur all at once in any single reading, whose significance stretches out beyond any particular reader reading a particular text at a particular time. Reading must be social--this even when the reader is alone in his room, say, with his book.

The Bible as literature is not the Bible as canon, though they are not disjoined; i.e. "Bible" is not purely equivocal here, but something like equivocal pros hen. For many Christians, reading the Bible as canon exerts a prior claim on the performance of reading the Bible; it is the focus point from which any reading of the Bible derives its identity. This is disputed, of course; other critical reading styles will read from different foci. These readings produce real variety in the items read.

To read the Bible as canon is to read it within the church. But the church is church only as holy, as related to God so as to be set apart for God's use, to be available to God from having repented and entered the process of conversion. Thus, no reading of the Bible as canon apart from a community in communion with God is a genuine reading. Other readings constitute different though related objects, but doing genuine Bible reading requires right relation to God. For Anglicans, that means the Bible as canon is read embedded in worship, in liturgy.

Griswold is right to insist on the priority of communion (see previous post): Scripture is impossible without it.

A Retrospective: Presiding Bishop Griswold

Looking back over some of PB Griswold's public statements around homosexuality, communion, GC2003, etc I am impressed at his firm grasp of Anglican theology as articluated by Westerhoff, Holmes, Griffiss, et al, pace the caricature of his views on the Anglican right. Again and again, he makes points that are dead-on, without effect despite the fact that they remain unanswered. It is as if he is our Cassandra, seeing truth and danger but going unheeded to our detriment. When you read these, ask yourself what Bishops Duncan or Iker or Howe have said, or even would say, on similar topics; I think you will quickly come to appreciate Griswold's understanding.

From Transcript: Presiding Bishop supports listening process, writes to primates (2006):
...the thing that strikes me most in this present situation is that common creeds, common recognition of the Lordship of Christ, his full humanity, his full divinity, the Sacraments and the rest that we see as the shared tradition of the church; the fact that all of this is subordinate to the question of views on human sexuality. I find it very unsettling that views on human sexuality trump classical theology and people can find no common ground beyond do we agree or disagree on issues of sexuality, when in fact there is this profound shared tradition of belief and practice that we call Anglicanism. So I would hope that we could at least balance the preoccupation with sexuality against the fact that those that disagree share Jesus as Lord and Savior, a common belief in our being reconciled to God through the cross, a common belief in the fact that baptism draws us into intimate union with Christ and one another and the Eucharist renews that reality week by week. So some of this I think needs to be reclaimed as our true unity.

From Agreement Not Necessary (2005):
Reconciliation involves the purification of our desires. What do we truly desire? Do we genuinely wish to encounter Christ in the one who seems so distant from us, so utterly “other,” and who may even threaten our sense of order and rightness?
True reconciliation has very little to do with whether we agree or disagree. It has everything to do with whether we truly wish to discern the presence of Christ in one another below or beyond our divisions and varying opinions.

From A word to the Episcopal Church(2004):
One of the distinctive characteristics of Anglicanism across the centuries has been its ability to make room for difference within a context of common prayer. In worship our various perspectives and understandings of the gospel are brought together. Our differences are reconciled not by our cleverness or ability to compromise but through our common adherence to the risen Christ who meets us in word and sacrament. It is for this reason that common prayer is particularly important in our Anglican tradition.

The diverse center can live with difference, knowing that not one of us has the fullness of truth, and that we each perceive different aspects of truth. This is so because, for the Christian, truth ultimately resides in the One who is the truth, namely the risen Christ.

From A Word to the Church (2004):
My first reading shows the Report as having in mind the containment of differences in the service of reconciliation. However, unless we go beyond containment and move to some deeper place of acknowledging and making room for the differences that will doubtless continue to be present in our Communion, we will do disservice to our mission. A life of communion is not for the benefit of the church but for the sake of the world. All of us, regardless of our several points of view, must accept the invitation to consider more deeply what it means to live a life of communion, grounded in the knowledge that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself."

I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry. Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are.

From A statement from the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, USA (2003):
We have heard people on both sides of a number of contentious questions say that their particular view is in accordance with Scripture, whereas the opposing view is not. There is no such thing as a neutral reading of Scripture. While we all accept the authority of Scripture, we interpret various passages in different ways. It is extremely dishonoring of the faith of another to dismiss them as not taking the Bible seriously. Let us be clear that we can all agree that, in the words of the ordination oath, “we believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation.”

This decision [the elevation of VG Robinson to the episcopate] does not, in my view, resolve the issues about homosexuality in the life of the church. What it does do is place squarely before us the question of how a community can live in the tension of disagreement. So, it is now our challenge to take up the difficult and holy work of living with difference. We must live with the consequences of addressing conflict and facing squarely difficult decisions. The fact that we are willing to do this work in a public way that is honoring of one another says a great deal about who we are as a community of faith.

From For the Primates of the Anglican Communion(2003):
This election, though profoundly disturbing to a number of Episcopalians, is not surprising given that increasingly in our part of the world there is an acknowledgment that some men and women find that their deepest affections are ordered to members of the same sex. Our church has a number of lay persons and clergy for whom this is true. Some have chosen the path of celibacy and others live within the context of a sustained relationship. In this latter case we are not talking primarily about sexual behavior which – in both its heterosexual and homosexual manifestations – can be profoundly sinful and little more than the compulsive pattern of lust so soundly condemned by St. Paul. What we are talking about is the core of the personal identity of men and women who share with us in the risen life of Christ.

And on the nature of communion:
Communion involves not only our relationships to one another on earth but our being drawn by the Holy Spirit into the eternal life of communion which belongs to the Holy Trinity. Communion on this earth is always in some way impaired, both because of our limited understanding of God’s ways and our own human sinfulness. Because we have been baptized into one body through the death and resurrection of Christ, we cannot say to one another “I have no need of you.”(1 Corinthians 12:21) This means that maintaining communion is a sacred obligation. It is not easy and involves patience with one another, ongoing conversion, and a genuine desire to understand the different ways in which we seek to be faithful to the gospel. Declarations of being “in” or “out” of communion with one another may assuage our anger or our fear, but they can do little to show our broken and divided world that at the heart of the gospel is to be found a reconciling love that can embrace our passionately held opinions and transcend them all.

And on the Anglican Communion:
Over these last five years I have continually reminded our church that we are part of a larger reality called the Anglican Communion, and that what we do locally has ramifications both positive and negative in other parts of the world. At the same time I am mindful that each of us has to interpret the gospel in our own context and within the particular reality of our own Province; there is no such thing as a neutral reading of Scripture. While we all accept the authority of Scripture, we interpret various passages in different ways.

From Encountering Christ: (2003)
There are provinces within the Anglican Communion in which being the church is understood largely in terms of fidelity to a direct reading of Scripture. For other provinces, sacraments are the ground of self understanding: baptism, which unites singularities in one body, and the eucharist, in which our differences are reconciled by sharing the one bread. It is the interplay of the sacrament of Scripture and the sacraments as enacted Scripture that produce something of the creative tension we describe as the Anglican Way.

From Toward General Convention: (2003)
In this increasingly polarized world and nation it is so essential that the church, the community of the named, transcend these polarities and speak a word of authentic and integrated truth. We can only do so if we are willing to seek the highest good: that which most respects the compassion and reconciling love of the shepherd, who having been lifted high on the cross, seeks to draw all to himself.
Fear, suspicion and mistrust, that host of destroying angels, are constantly at work in the life of the church. And Satan, as Paul tells us, delights in masquerading as an angel of light. Knowing this, we are called to conscious examination of our actions and defensive postures born out of fear or suspicion or mistrust. These destroyers make it impossible to receive truth that may be present in another, particularly when we have marked them with some dismissive label.

From For the Primates of the Anglican Communion: (2000)
I have been profoundly disturbed by the caricature that has been presented of the Episcopal Church in the United States as being disregarding of scripture and the classical doctrines of the church. To be sure there are divergent views on the question of human sexuality which are supported by different readings and interpretations of the biblical texts, but in no way is the biblical record treated as other than the word of God "containing all things necessary to salvation."
And also:
Let us not be deflected from the larger concerns of genocide, crushing poverty side by side with inordinate affluence, and the dangerous fundamentalism - both within Islam and our own Christian community - which threatens to turn our God of compassion into a idol of wrath.

From Human Rights for Homosexual Persons: (1999)
I have read with alarm and deep concern accounts of statements by the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe which have become a provocation for the harassment and persecution of homosexual persons. Here I am put in mind of the Lambeth resolution which reminds us that homosexual persons are "loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ."
Within the Anglican Communion we are seeking to discern a common mind on the issue of homosexuality in the life of the church. However, regardless of one's views on the matter, there should be no debate among us about human rights for all people - which are enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

From A Statement from the Presiding Bishop on the Death of Matthew Shepard: (1998)
The fact that Matthew was an Episcopalian makes our grief no more sharp, but it does give us a particular responsibility to stand with gays and lesbians, to decry all forms of violence against them - from verbal to physical, and to encourage the dialogue that can, with God's help, lead to new appreciation for their presence in the life of our church, and the broader community.
I pray that this unnecessary tragedy will make plain why we cannot be silent in the face of intolerance, or quietly accept the climate of hate and fear of "the other" that makes such a crime possible. May we accept anew our responsibility to be agents of the healing love of the risen Christ.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Two Crumbs: What does it all mean?

I. The Data
First, the office of the ABC has voiced disapproval of Minns' (from Virginia's Truro parish) accepting Akinola's offer of the purple:

"This is not a welcome development," said Jonathan Jennings, spokesman for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, about Wednesday's election of Canon Martyn Minns of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax as bishop for the Anglican province of Nigeria. "It's neither timely nor constructive," he said. "It further complicates an already complex situation."

Second, Fort Worth's Bishop Iker claims he did not notify or discuss ALPO with Archbishop Rowan Williams prior to making his appeal. Iker says:

Once we decided that we had to do this, I notified Bishop Bob Duncan, and he faxed a copy of our appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury the following morning so he would know about this before we made it public.
The Network had no discussion about making such an appeal prior to the General Conention, nor was the Archbishop told in advance that such an action might be taken. Since the conclusion of the Convention, each Diocese making an appeal has acted on its own terms, without any central coordination of efforts.

II. Tentative Conclusions
Iker's comment, if true, may put to rest notions that Williams somehow tacitly cleared these appeals for ALPO before they were made. That would be good news indeed, upholding a welcome distinction between Williams and Akinola.

Still, it is unfortunate that parts of Williams' missive might have encouraged other parts of ECUSA to appeal for ALPO after Fort Worth--and that is bad news, implying Williams lacks a firm grasp of the polarized power politics playing out on the Episcopal right. For instance, it is not as if these appeals should come as a surprise after the Chapman Memo and recent comments by the AAC's Canon Anderson to the effect that the right wants "the franchise".

ECUSA should not look to Williams for protection from the antic maneuvers of the AAC/ACN crowd--Williams will only "play catch" up post factum. That is, if ECUSA means to protect its parishes and dioceses from further harm, it will have to take the lead, getting out in front of Williams and the AAC/ACN crowd. Do our shepherds in the House of Bishops have the intestinal fortitude? Let us hope so.