Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Tacit Liberal Triumph at Tanzania

My opposition to the Communique is based on the moral turpitude of scapegoating homosexual Christians, and follows from a Scriptural case consistent with the general strategy of canonical criticism popular on the right. Here I would like to see myself in medieval terms, carrying on their transformation project (hat tip to Wolterstorff) with respect to blessing SSBs, i.e. transforming mere belief into knowledge a la Augustine and to a lesser extent Anselm.

But that opposition has limits drawn by an overriding pragmatic consideration: bringing SSBs into the liturgy of the BCP, here and throughout the Anglican Communion, and even further abroad in the formal worship of all our Christian relations, so that we might see some day a Pope presiding over same-sex blessings. Argument has its place, yes, and we are obliged to carry on in part for the sake of those who are open to argument but also for those who are closed; it is not for us to decide, and we would be unable to tell anyhow. In any event, even if the soil proves too rocky and the birds too hungry and the weeds too many, we can see argument at least as part of a more modest transformation project among ourselves.

For the moment,I am awfully impressed by what seems to be an utter rout in the Anglican left's favor, one that has not been sufficiently attended to, and which may point the way forward on SSBs. I mean the place of women in the Anglican Communion: the fact ++Schori was seated, remained seated, celbrated Eucharist so successfully at Zanzibar, and entered a high office of the Communion pretty much shows that opposition to women's ordination is functionally dead in the Anglican Communion. Strident FIFNA-types will continue to protest, but their battle is lost. With ++Schori enfolded, there is no discernible future for resistance in the Anglican Communion to women's ordination. Before Tanzania, there might have been a question; a slender opening remained to the opposition if ++Schori could be turned away for some reason. Now her presence is an ongoing repudiation in praxis where it counts, laying the foundation of precedent and setting up facts on the ground enabling still further gains elsewhere. That is indeed a great victory for the left, if not the victory they were hoping for most of all.

Note several things about the victory. It didn't really have a whole lot to do with theological argument. Yes, more or less heavy theology did go on for and against WO, but its relevance to ++Schori's acceptance was peripheral. Practical considerations in the Communion led to now probably irreversible results favorable to ++Schori and WO. The same might work to normalize SSBs and ordination in the life of the AC: find a greater danger to distract and unify against. Maybe there is some X against which homosexuals could gain? Or maybe there is some other effective realpolitik strategy? The point is, there is reason for hope for change that has nothing to do with convincing the recalitrant and obstinate. Who knows? Maybe the Spirit favors subtle blindsiding to full fisted arguments? The Communion just moved mightily to the left in spite of itself, and it could be made to do so again.

And the victory is to a large extent, but not by any means wholly, ours: a victory of the Episcopal Church. The entire Communion has just been made to benefit--at our expense--insofar as women everywhere have ++Schori's shattering example as a precedent. And ++Schori's example came at great expense to the Episcopal Church in terms of international outrage and internal division. But this victory is also a vindication of what ++Schori refrerred to recently as our charism, our prophetic ministry to the Communion. Nobody should have any doubt as to that ministry's concrete reality and its potential for surprising and even unexpected success. That is, there is reason to believe some similar success is in store for our advocacy of blessing SSBs and ordaining homosexuals to the episcopate; the for-all-we-know real accessinility of such success gives excellent reason for hope if any were needed.


At 2:49 PM, Blogger Dirty Davey said...

While the AC itself recognized ++KJS as the primate, the insistence on providing "alternate primatial oversight" is effectively a statement that American dioceses can still reject women's ordination.

In some senses I believe that is the real problem; the "conservative" bishops are unwilling to put themselves "under" a woman's leadership. If the consecration of Gene Robinson were the real issue they would have demanded APO as a substitute for Griswold. But he was a man.

I am a bit perplexed by the actual on-the-ground nature of this "alternate primatial oversight", though. Aside from the process of consecrating a new bishop, what services will an APO diocese get from (and what responsibilities will an APO diocese owe to) the "primatial vicar"? Has anyone clarified that?

At 7:25 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Tolerance for homosexuality is blamed for a number of things it has not caused; perhaps most relevant is its being blamed for undermining heterosexual marriage (witness US debates over state and federal marriage amendments)--silly. By your understanding, an incidence of scapegoating.

More to the point, homosexuals seeking inclusion are blamed for the impending breakup of the AC. Again, that is unfair. Another instance of scapegoating.

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First let me state, you have an interesting web site.

Now let me say this, “Utter rout” and “tacit liberal triumph?” You sound like a Latin priest circa the 13th century thinking the Christian sack of Constantinople was good, because it inflicted a "defeat" on the Greeks.

I did not read the results of this meeting the same way you did. I took it to mean a deadline had been issued to the American church. I fully expect it to comply, or be expelled from Anglican Christendom, and rightly so.

As to scape-goating, that is a straw-man argument, primarily used by those on the theological left, to prevent debate from the theological right (i.e. they're hateful and bigoted and shouldn't be listened to.) No one is being scape-goated, except the orthodox minority in America, who have seen their churches seized and their priests dismissed in revisionist dioceses because they choose not to perform rites not born out by Scripture.

If it turns out, the current plurality running things in the American church opts to go arrogantly into the wild after 8 months; it will be a sad thing – for all parties. But if demography is destiny, it will also be short lived. Bereft of any growth, and indeed, shutting down the churches we have now, there won’t be much to fight over in the Episcopal Church. Where will the dioceses of Los Angeles and New York and Newark and Pennsylvania get their worshippers from? That has to be the funniest thing of all, watching liberal bishops suing to get hold of orthodox churches, and finding they don’t even have enough people to sustain the churches they already allegedly control, much less the empty buildings their snatching through the courts. The financial legacy of the previous generations of Episcopalians will only sustain you for so long.

Let me ask you this, Scotist. If the General Convention voted away the divine nature of Jesus, would that make it the new truth? Or further, let me ask you this. If someone was claiming the Holy Ghost was moving them to bless poly-amorous relationships, polygamist arrangements, or other forms of human sexuality, would this make it valid?

This whole fight, as it seems to me, is about those who wish to redraw the boundaries of Christianity to affirm their lifestyle and politics, and those who are trying to make sure their politics and lifestyle are Christian.

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to read of an example where a church was seized "because they choose not to perform rites not born out by Scripture."

I just don't buy it. I've never heard of even the wackiest of wacky liberal bishops telling a church "Marry these gays, or else!"

At 8:48 PM, Blogger bls said...

I just don't buy it. I've never heard of even the wackiest of wacky liberal bishops telling a church "Marry these gays, or else!"

That's because it's never happened.

At 12:13 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


When you say
"This whole fight, as it seems to me, is about those who wish to redraw the boundaries of Christianity to affirm their lifestyle and politics, and those who are trying to make sure their politics and lifestyle are Christian"
how can you be so confident that we are redrawing boundaries? I just don't get it--why do you say things like that? You are not alone, of course, in elliding material and formal heresy. But do you even realize anymore that what your are accusing us of is malice aforethought with regard to the substance of the Faith? We have not accused you and your comrades of that.

There is a dangerous asymmetry between our sides. You must attribute bad motives to us--that we are out to deliberately distort and obfuscate. Are you even cpapble of recognizing that things might be otherwise with us?

It seems to me that here is one of the real poisons of our current discourse.

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the Scotist, I do agree, the seating of ++Katharine Jefferts-Schori at the primates meeting was a coup for women, but I have a concern. The concern is who or what body had the right to assert such authority?
Archbishop Williams claimed that attendance was hers by HER right as primate of TEC. The African bishops claimed that the AC had no right to invite her without consulting them. So for me, there are many questions about "right" and "authority". It appears to me that, at least in regard to her searting, the primates from Africa lost, but, I ask, how did they lose, was a vote taken? Did the AC simply tell them that it was his call and they assented? And, of great consequence to me, in the decisions that followed, it is clear that the primates abrogated to themselves certain "rights" They, for example, have set criteria for TEC's continued membership in the Communion, seemingly without regard to the other instruments of the communion. If we assert, a victory on the ground for women, because +Katharine was seated, are we also implying we accept that the primates have the right to make such decisions? Or, since I don't really know how the seating was made, the AC has the right to make such decisions? If +Jefferts-Schori attended the meeting "by her right as primate" as argued by AC, would she then also be invited to Lambeth for the same reason? Or, given that the criteria for Lambeth and a delgation from the US is "invited", is it simply in the capacity of the AC to not invite the US and that is the end of it? In him alone is the convening power for Lambeth? If the AC were to invite the US and those of the global south disagree, could they "overide" the AC or would they simply refuse to attend?

As a female, I am very aware that the "facts on the ground" regarding the status of women did change in Tanzania, but I am very uncertain by whose authority and to what extent such "authority" can be exercised in the future?

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