Friday, June 29, 2007

A Correction in my case for CWOB

Looking over what I have written in favor of CWOB and various objections made to it, it seems I should confess as openly as possible that I have had to rather reluctantly back off some stronger formulations of my case in order to present something defensible.

First, in the post On Open Communion, steps 4 and 6 hold that the hope for universal salvation is obligatory. Likewise in the post Dear Caelius premises A3(1) and (2) speak of an obligation to hope for universal salvation. There may be such an obligation--but maybe not. Nothing in my argument shows something so strong as an obligation, so far as I can see. I have rather to settle for a less exciting point: hope in universal salvation is merely permissible. One might just as well not hope for universal salvation--that is, so far as we know, permissible as well.

Mere permission is sufficient, however, for my argument to go through, though to a somewhat weaker conclusion. That is, if a congregation is permitted to hope for universal salvation, then it is permitted to act on that hope, and it is permitted to offer CWOB. that part of my argument I am happy to maintain.

However, it follows too--less happily in my opinion--that a congregation that declined to hope for universal salvation would be quite within its rights to decline CWOB as well. And so some of what I have said loses its "fire" or urgency, e.g. that closed communion should be eradicated--a conclusion which requires the stronger obligation be shown. My apologies to Caelius (and anyone else) wronged by my error about being able to show an obligation to accept CWOB.

Second, it seems I am very close to "overplaying my hand" on baptism. In Communion and Salvation I said that being baptized is sufficient for counting as part of the people of God for whom the Body and Blood of Christ are intended, but in Dear Caelius I said that baptism would be insufficient to confer permission to partake of the Eucharist if it so happened that being baptized, the candidate for reception were damned. That is a much more interesting tension than the one about obligation and permission above. For it seems that the Dear Caelius position is forced on me by conceiving the Eucharist primarily in eschatological terms. If being baptized is in fact sufficient for reception, but the damned--among whom may number the baptized--are to be forbidden, there seem to be only a few ways out of contradiction:

(A) it happens that none of the baptized actually are damned; how? Perhaps because all the baptized are saved. Why? Either baptism is, in fact, sufficient for salvation, or perhaps universalism is true;

or (B) while the damned are forbidden from eating at the table, there is no way for us to tell who--if anyone--is damned here below. That is finally only up to God, and there are no signs from which we can read the outcome here below. Either the problem is merely epistemic--the outcome is somehow now already settled, but we cannot know it here below--or the problem is more than merely epistemic--the outcome is now somehow in play. But whether the problem is merely epistemic or not, we would be permitted to regard baptism as sufficient due to our incapacity to tell--and our hope for salvation.

Thus, while regarding the Eucharist as primarily eschatological produces tensions, the tensions do not imply contradiction, so far as I can tell. Given a choice between (A) and (B), I think (B) is better. (A) seems to rest on items we cannot know here below: that universalism is actually true or that all the baptized are actually saved. (B) seems compatible, on the other hand, with epistemic humility.

But nowhere in any of this does universalism need be taken as true--it need only be taken as a possibility. Even if it turns out to actually be false, and some are damned, it would still have been true that universalism was possible. It would remain an unactualized possibility.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Communion and Salvation

What does communion have to do with salvation? After all, we might agree that no sacrament alone or in combination with anything else is necessary for salvation. And it would sound funny, at the least, to say communion is alone, or with baptism, sufficient for salvation. What of it, then--a relation between two items, neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for the other?

Communion, it may be said, is eating Christ (in some sense whose determination I leave aside for the most part). We should, I think, say Christ is really present in the bread and wine:

The Gifts of God for the People of God.

And right here we come to the crux of the issue of CWOB. Who are the people of God then, for whom the body and blood of Christ are intended? Surely the baptized are among them. One might venture to say that baptism is a sufficient condition for counting as one of the people of God. If it were also a necessary condition, then the case of CWOB would be closed--in my opinion. That is, CWOB would be forbidden. But we have good reason for being extremely hesitant about presuming to restrict the number of the people of God to those who have been baptized.

The most important reason is rooted in the very nature of God; being omnipotent, he does not need baptism as a means of counting one among his people. He may do so by his sheer fiat; if he can create sons of Abraham from stones, why not people of God in these latter days too? In short, I see absolutely no reason to take baptism--clearly a sufficient condition--as also a necessary condition.

If there is some disjunction between the people of God and the baptized, then holding the body and blood of Christ apart from the unbaptized would--pretty clearly--contradict the performance of the ritual. The ritual would be incoherent in practice. Whatever else that might imply, it surely could not be a rite in the service of Truth.

Note well the words accompanying the distribution of bread and wine:

The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words

The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee,
preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat
this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on
him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee,
preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in
remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be

or with these words

The Body (Blood) of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in
everlasting life. [Amen.]

or with these words

The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]
The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]

That is, the bread and wine are distributed with a particular intent: that the recipients be saved. The text of the Eucharist itself implies a close connection of some sort between communion and salvation with this hope that distribution will go with salvation; let it be so. It seems to follow that the hope expressed in the Eucharist is that the people of God be saved. There is no implication that the recipients will in fact all be saved, just as there is no such implication about baptism.

The connection postulated in communion between distribution of the body and blood of Christ and salvation is reconciliation with the Father. All of the eucharistic prayers we have imply the problem is our estrangement from the Father, and that the distribution of Christ in our ritual meal is a means of overcoming that estrangement. In effect, the rite enacts what Paul or his students wrote in Ephesians (1:7-10):

7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

I cannot help but draw your attention to the phrase "through his blood" which to my ears alludes to--among other things--some such rite as may well be our Eucharist. But note what the Father is said to be doing with the blood of Christ--gathering up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth. Perhaps some other time we may reflect on the quantifier "all" and wonder whether that is really what Paul meant.

What is important to see here for the moment is that the blood of Christ is a means the Father employs to reconcile the wayward to himself. But also, there is a time at which this will be finally carried out: in "the fullness of time". The reconciliation effected in passing by means of the Eucharist is to be effected finally in the fullness of time--the two are not exactly identical, but the Eucharist is part of the movement of reconciliation in history here below. It is not sundered from the Eschaton, but points to it--what it is about is finally achieved at the Eschaton.

In that sense we may say the Eucharist should not be sundered from the eschatological reality to which it points. And our practice of it should not so sunder it.

The point of all this with respect to CWOB is if that eschatological reality just might include the reconcilation of all to the Father--and esp. of all human beings--then our practice of the Eucharist here below May express that possibility. For it seems to me something to be hoped for that Leviathan be finally bound, that the power of God be made manifest in glory by turning every ounce of evil to good, that even the Hitlers and Pol Pots be reconciled with God and their victims--with no remainders. The issue, so far as I can see, need be nothing more than what is permitted: congregations should be permitted the practice of CWOB. There are, after all, very good reasons behind it.

To criticize[edited] CWOB, one might turn to I Cor. 11:

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For all who eat and drink* without discerning the body,* eat and drink judgement against themselves.

I am not sure where baptism is implied as required for discerning the body or eating Christ in a worthy manner. Baptism surely could not seriously be thought sufficient for that. At best, it would have to be accompanied by something else--like a catechumenate.

But then, why would baptism be thought necessary? Presumably the Eucharist comes after confession, the reading of Scripture, prayer, and preaching. Is it possible that any of these might suffice for satsfying the pauline requirements of worthiness and discernment? If it is even possible, then Baptism cannot be necessary for that satisfaction. To suppose that God cannot effect worthiness and discernment by those means--even without Baptism--seems to me arbitrary in the extreme. Does God even need those means? Might there be some counted worthy and discerning who had never heard the name "Christ" or as much as a verse of Scripture? Might the infant/toddler Mary have satisfied those requirements?

Discernment is the tricky word--but if you place the bar too high, you end with absurdity. It is better to place it (safely) low; keep discernment light on cognitive content and high on personal involvement. It might be that what is essential to proper discernment is "seeing" the love of God in the congregation, an effect of Charity that shows union with the Father in the Spirit through Christ--even to a toddler. And it may be that worthiness counts as "seeing" that love selflessly as good in itself, and desiring it selflessly--something only possible for us in this state via the indwelling of the Spirit. But then I see no reason why a toddler cannot be inspired to selflessy desire the love it discerns in the Spirit moving the congregation to union with the Father.

But if it--even unbaptized--sees and desires in this way, communion is a natural concomitant. In fact, witholding would seem a perversion, something against nature.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

If God is Omnipotent, God can save all

One might wish to see the connection between omnipotence and the possibility of universalism; the connection is not esoteric. The argument is pretty straightforward:

1. Suppose God is omnipotent.
2. If (1), then whatever God does by means of a creature, God can do immediately.
Thus, (3) whatever God does by means of a creature, God can do immediately.

It might be of interest to note that Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham, among others, hold to versions of (3)--though (3) did not go without challenge from some quarters. Still, (3) is by no means an oddity in the tradition of Christian thought. What is its significance?

Considering God's ordered power, we might say that this or that sacrament is efficacious in sanctifying or leading to some condition, C. Likewise, we might say that God saves, on condition of one's accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. In each case, God is doing something by means of at least one creature: operating through sacraments or through one's consent. Such operation, I should think, is the normal order ordained from eternity by God.

But the normal order ordained by God does not bind what God can do. Speaking of God's power absolutely, God can save without operating through sacraments and without any creature's consent. And likewise for any contribution made from the creaturely side.

I suppose it is true that (X) we have sufficient knowledge of the normal order--so that the church can carry on here below--but that (Y) we do not comprehend the normal order. (X) and (Y) are logically consistent, and together imply that the church cannot be sure whether or where God acts beyond what we know of the normal order.

of course, one point that might still be made in all this: there is a connection not just between forbidding CWOB and stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds on the nature of God, but also between denying the possibility of universalism and stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds on the nature of God.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

P.S.: Some Quick Replies to Caelius

* Caelius seems to say the issue conceived under Christian tradition represented in the Articles is one about whether "to bar unsavory persons from the waters of regeneration" and whether a priest should "deny the unrepentant but honestly earnest" the Sacrament of the Altar. Indeed,
parts of the church long ago fought about whether to admit the lapsed to sacraments. It was decided long ago--with the help of Augustine--that the lapsed should be admitted, the church being a mixed body. For not all the lasped were for that reason damned, e.g. the church's sacrament of penance remained efficacious.

But it is simply wrong to think the eschatological perspective was irrelevant to these controversies about whom should be permitted sacraments; it is rather to the point that we do not have now the relevant eschatological viewpoint from which we might be permitted to sort the saved and damned. For through the sacraments God is even now at work. From the temporal viewpoint of the church here below, the main issue--salvation--is still in play.

*He writes that "when we offer communion to the baptized, we say nothing about the verity of their election, which is between them and God. Instead we recognize their potential for election...." At this I wished to pull my hair out--if we offer communion to the unbaptized, are we not also recognizing their potential for election? Why may we not do so for the unbaptized? If he is willing to admit this much--what issue does he have against CWOB?

* Caelius notes the Gospels speak of teeth gnashing, outer darkness, etc--but these texts do not imply there are humans damned. They are consistent with a number of other readings incompatible with damnation: e.g. it may be that they are in the outer darkness for a time, even for a very long one. It is making them say something they do not say to read into their silence on duration a definite disambiguation. An argument would do more than a gesture.

*Thus, when he says "I cannot admit...we are mandated to hope for somethig that is contrary to the promises of the Scriptures" the case for contrariety has yet to be made with any force. He gestures at Romans--but if he really likes Paul so much, I think he should read Ephesians.

Dear Caelius: More On CWOB

My argument might well go something like this:

[A1] (1) If CWOB is forbidden, God is not omnipotent.
(2) God is omnipotent.
Thus, (3) CWOB is permitted.

I. On the Argument
I take it (3) follows (MT) from (1) and (2), and (2) is relatively uncontroversial. Yes, I realize that on divine omnipotence, being sympathetic to Aquinas, I am a bit of a dinosaur. Plenty of open and process theists would take me to task for holding to God's eternity, impassibility, immutability, and so on. But (a) I am pretty sure I can make Aquinas come out and hold his own, and (b) it is nice to be able to claim tradition on omnipotence--which I do here for (2) shamelessly. That is, I take it (2) is implied by the first article of the Nicene Creed; stepping away from impassibility, immutability, and in short omnipotence a la Aquinas is in effect stepping away from the cognitive content of the Creeds. Even for Episcopalians.

Sure, perhaps the open/process crowd is right and I am wrong. Even so, let us agree that if I am wrong about omnipotence, so are the creeds. And perhaps stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds is inevitable (Virgin birth?); even so, we should realize the gravity of stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds on the nature of God. That is, I should think, no light matter.

The real sticky part of my argument then is (1): What is the claimed connection between omnipotence and CWOB? I should be mighty surprised if I could claim mainline Christian tradition for (1); in fact, I do not. But I do claim to be developing doctrine within the mainline Christian tradition, in the technical sense of "development" softened somewhat from Newman for Anglican consumption. E.g. I would expect the entire communion of saints departed is in favor only of CWOB, and as they wash their robes before the throne, they ask "How long, O Lord, before CWOB is universal practice? O how long?"

II. How Long, O Lord?
Here is another argument, intended to hold [A1] (1) up:

[A2] (1) Suppose CWOB is forbidden.
(2) If CWOB is forbidden, then God cannot save all human beings.
(3) If God is omnipotent, then God can save all human beings.
Thus, (4) God is not omnipotent.

There is, then, a clear and logical connection between forbidding CWOB and God not being omnipotent. Of course, it follows there is a clear and logical connection between forbidding CWOB and stepping away from the cognitive content of the creeds on the nature of God.

I take it (3) is very weak, and though many might balk at it, it can be given a very strong defense--in fact, it strikes me there are a number of ways (at first blush, a la Banez, a la Molina, and a la Ockham) of mounting a defense. I'll save that for my next post; my point is I do not anywhere have to appeal to Origen. People, please!

The trouble with [A2] is (2)--the purported connection between forbidding CWOB and God's being unable to save all human beings. Here is another argument, this one meant to uphold [A2](2):

[A3] (1) If God can save all humans beings, we are obligated to hope that God does save all human beings.
(2) If we are obligated to hope that God does save all human beings, then CWOB is permitted.
(3) Suppose CWOB is forbidden.
Thus, (4) God cannot save all human beings.

There is, as [A3] shows, a clear and logical connection between forbidding CWOB and holding God is unable to save all of us. The heart of the matter is stated in [A3](3), I think: if we have to hope that God saves all of us, then we may open up the Eucharist to all. That is to say, the church must live with a certain hope, a hope for something possible to be sure, and its sacramental practice should be consistent with that hope. If indeed we are to hope all things, we will hope that each person is to be saved, and as such we will hope that they have a place at the communion table with us.

Why go so far? And it is, truly, going far. Note well that we are in a position with regard to ourselves baptized that is exactly the same as the position we have with regard to others unbaptized. In neither case can we be sure of salvation. Just as I cannot tell whether another is saved or not, I cannot tell--nobody here below can tell--whether I am saved or not. Surely baptism does not imply salvation--is that a position upheld in tradition? Nor does failure to be baptized imply damnation. Yet only salvation is relevant to determining permission for sitting at the table. I am permitted to hope that I am saved, and that is the basis on which I approach the table, vices and all. Baptism alone would be insufficent to confer permission if it happened that baptized, I were--alas--damned. Baptism may or may not regenerate; even so, it does not imply salvation, much less knowledge of salvation. Just so, I am permitted to hope that another is saved--baptized or not--and on the basis of that hope permit the other to approach the table with me.

Another way of putting the heart of the matter, so far as I can see, is that Eucharistic practice should look forward to the end of all things. Sacraments participate--to use heavy, Platonic-sounding language--in another reality which is not yet fully present. Moreover: they derive their entire signifiance for us from a full presence not yet fully present, but only partially with us. Our practice is maimed if it refuses to look forward with hope--but this is to say it is maimed if it refuses to look forward with hope that all humans are saved. And that is to say it is maimed if it refuses to hope that all may have a place at the table together.

[ADDED: For what it's worth, much of the last bit of my argument here--which I have spent some time defending in rather roundabout prose--can be formalized this way:

(1)If the church is permitted to hope that all humans are saved, then it is permitted to act on the hope that all humans are saved.
(2)The church is permitted to hope that all humans are saved.
Thus, (3) the church is permitted to act on the hope that all humans are saved.

I take it not to be too far to reach to say that open communion--i.e. CWOB--is a type of action the church would undertake, hoping that all humans are saved.]

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Common Cause Coalescing?

Sure, it could well happen: we could see a union of sorts between various para-Anglican entities like CANA, AMiA, NAAC, and whatever else comes down the pike between now and then, as well as whatever parts of the Continuum, the AAC, or the Network that wish to jump on the wagon. That would be preferable to the alternative: a profusion of fragments, a benighted metastasis of chaos. What might a conservative College of North American "Anglicans" mean?

(1) The realignment movement holds on; the dream of kicking the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion and replacing it with a new Province under one Archbishop/ Primate gets another wind.

Of course, a College is not yet a Province; a college head is not yet an Archbishop. There might not be an alternative province to be recognized as such for some time, as the various participants shall have to hammer out a polity and surrender their autonomy to what emerges. But it has happened before--think of how the Episcopal Church itself came to be in a roughly similar process--and it could be done again given time.

Meanwhile, the college members would likely seek recognition as genuinely Anglican, as full members of the Communion--the kind of recognition denied them form the time being by Archbishop Williams. Indeed, as I see it, Williams means to make their membership in the AC contingent upon their achieving peaceful relations with the Episcopal Church. In other words, Williams would rather not have the Episcopal Church kicked out of the AC, whether a new Anglican polity is globally recognized by the AC in the US or not.

Williams is unlikely to get his way--I cannot imagine the Common Cause partners ever reconciling with TEC to seek a peaceful coexistence, period. That might take a generation or more--at least 15, 25 years until the current leaders are gone and younger ones have come up wondering what the fuss was all about.

(2)So Williams will have to be moved off his current position--which may seem like not a very hard thing to do--or the Common Cause partners will have to wait their turn for a new, more conservative-friendly Archbishop.

But I think Williams has enough English evangelicals with him and the cause of unity in the CoE now. He will not be moved unless he wants to move. Why? The installation of Minns confirms--for enough in the CoE--that Akinola and others' immoderation exceeds that of TEC.

Many in the CoE may indeed think that TEC has been immoderate, and by that immoderation has damaged the church's essential ministry of reconciliation. But it may be that the installation crosses a red line--it too damages the cause of reconciliation, but in a special aggrevated way, as if damage were being sought, as if damage were a desired outcome. TEC thought at GC2003 it was doing God's will in bold, prophetic obedience to the call of the Holy Spirit. Well, not all were convinced. Akinola et al are doing damage when alternatives they proposed were available, when some form of unity could have been negotiated between the poles DEPO and a PV scheme.
To put it briefly: the damage Akinola etc seek is Realignment, and they have never suspended it as an end, whereas TEC and Canada have never sought Realignment as an end.

Either TEC shall have to be provoked to immoderation exceeding that of Akinola at al, or the Common Cause partners will just have to wait for a new, friendlier Canterbury.

(3) Here is the rub: the very formation of a Common Cause confirms the aim is and has always been Realignment, regardless of rhetoric to the contrary. It makes what might have been sincere chaos look more and more calculated and deliberate. That is, it makes it seem clearer and clearer that the partners have never sincerely joined Williams and the other Primates in seeking reconciliation--it was all a sham, and the others were being used with malice aforethought.

What then? The success of the Common Cause faction is the likeliest route to the de-Anglicanization of its members. Here's one way it could happen: They will become a huge entity nominally Anglican that goes unrecognized by the AC--at least for a time. As the rest of the AC goes its way, it will grow in seditious wrath to the point it will not be able to resist formally separating from the AC. Again, a confirmation of unstable immoderation.

Should anyone in TEC oppose the formation of a Common Cause faction?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Open Communion

[Step 1] Suppose that the Last Supper, and the ongoing practice of Eucharistic communion, looks forward to the union between Christ and all the saved at the end of all things, and through it, the union of all the saved with the Father at the end of all things. Who should have a place at the table with Christ here below? All and only those who will be there with Christ at the end of all things. Surely others might be there here below, as Judas shared the Last Supper with Christ, but they ought not to be there; there is something incongruous in their presence.

[Step 2] Should it indeed come to pass that all people are saved, then all people here below have a place at the table with Christ. Yes, they may have a place to be taken only in good order, but that "only" in the preceding clause has no ultimate significance. It is, at best, only conditional--and the "only" used in this very sentence does, in fact, have ultimate significance. From the point of view of eternity, all would be God's children, all predestined to salvation--even now.

So should one ban a known mass murderer--surely a notorious sinner--from communion? Yes, in certain conditions, but not necessarily in all. Yes, if he has not repented; but then, what if you are a pastor on death row, and the mass murdering criminal faces execution the next day? The "no" enabling the smooth functioning of parishes in middle-class districts might reasonably give way in certain circumstances. After all, the "no" is a tactic at best, meant to aid a larger effort which alone gives communion any meaning it may in fact have. And there are genuine tears shed, from time to time, at communion.

[Step 3] But in fact do we know universalism--say, the doctrine that all are saved at the end of all things--is true? I do not think so. Nevertheless, Scripture leaves room for us to hope that all might be saved. That such a hope is intelligible and permissible--let alone obligatory--requires the possibility of universalism. It is not like a hope that there be square circles or a hope that God might after all not exist.

So we may claim to know that universalism is possible, which is in the end to say whatever actually occurs, God could have brought about the salvation of all. It is within his absolute power, even if not within his ordained power. Since universalism is possible, it is permissible to hope for its truth.

[Step 4] If such a hope is permitted, it is obligatory: there is no permissible alternative, and hope is obligatory inasmuch as to love our neighbors we must hope the good for them. For the Church to actually hope that none are saved, or only some and not others is repugnant to Christian morality.

[Step 5] Thus, to deny that universalism is possible is to deny the existence of a God who could save all. More: it is to say that such a God is impossible. However, the ancient faith of Christianity recognizes only a God Omnipotent--in effect, one who could in his absolute power have saved all.

[Step 6] The Church--obliged to hope for what may never come to pass, sc. the salvation of all--is obliged to open communion. It must here below live into its hope that all shall be saved. To hold that the Church is permitted to deny open communion is to hold either that the church is permitted to prescind from living into its hope here below, or that it is not obliged to hope that all be saved, or that God is just not powerful enough to save all, or.... That is, one is committed--so far as I can tell--to at least one of a number of tenets antithetical to the substance of the faith.

Friday, June 01, 2007

What the Anglican Centrist Noticed

In a recent post, the Anglican Centrist noticed an oddity about the various para-Anglican groups coming together in the upcoming Common Cause meeting to be led, presumably, by Bp. Duncan:

The odd thing is that this group will be overwhelmingly dominated by evangelicals of the Richard Turnbull definition, whose defining doctrinal marks are still based on three calvinist slogans: sola scriptura, substitutionary atonement, certainty of hell for those who do not profess Christ. I say this is odd not because I'm surprised that the conservative evangelicals are dominant, but because they are going to be dominant in an organization which will still uphold the 1662 Prayer Book, 39 Articles, and a powerful episcopate. Historically, conservative evangelicals in the Anglican tradition have had lots and lots of problems with those three foundational elements of Anglicanism -- for they have a pronounced 'catholic' bent to them.

And I think Rev. Jones is right: this combination of conservative evangelicals (a) cut adrift from the Anglican Communion and (b) swearing allegiance to Stuart high-church formularies is extremely odd: I would go further and say "incoherent". They are the very formularies that the evangelicals of Stuart England revolted--and revolted violently--against. Now, on the eve of Lambeth '08, we are on the cusp of another evangelical revolt--this one thankfully nonviolent--this time in favor of Stuart formularies. History as farce? Well no; there is reason and coherence in all this.

Stuart formularies are of importance not so much for what they say and contain, as concern with all that would threaten the integrity of Turnbull's PCA-style calvinism. Rather they are important inasmuch as they provide a set of emotionally charged signifiers constituting a symbolic order. The intent of that symbolic order--at least in part--is to reign in potentially chaotic and (from their perspective) heretical imaginary notions about atonement, Scripture, the Christ, et cetera. Remember conservative high and low church parties have been stung by changes in doctrine and lax discipline over decades--from the mid-'60s at least, and longer for the REC. A charged symbolic order cannot just be made up on the spot; it has to already be invested with power if it is to serve effectively.

As to the symbolic order's content, I bet submission to the authority of the Common Cause episcopate will be of great importance. I predict there will be tendency among the Common Cause partners to move sharply away from what will be seen as the extreme of TEC's General Convention governance to a centralization of power away from laity and to clergy & especially bishops. The formularies--including the BCP 1662 and Scripture--will mean, in effect, whatever the bishops say they mean, period: dissent=formal heresy, and persistent dissent=apostasy. E.g. one might have thought that if--if--the Common Cause bishops were serious about invoking the Stuart episcopate, they would not be undermining the episcopate in forming CANA and calling for congrgations and rectors to defy their bishops. That implies not just a formal violation of catholic principle, but the development of a concrete disposition antithetical to episcopal authority. But coherence is not the priority; centralization is.

Will it work? Does father really know best? I.e. Has the old symbolic order enough juice to bring the Common Cause group together under the banner of a new evangelical Anglican communion? We'll see.

Say what you want about the attempt to deploy the old symbolic order; there is something admirable or even courageous about it all, even if I take a dim view of its prospects. If it works, wouldn't we wish it success? American evangelicalism might well be ripe for change in tone. And it provides a more inspiring and edifying spectacle than Rowan Williams' recent attempts to forge unity.

For Williams, it seems in practice Christian unity in the AC is to be grounded on reference to the sacrifice of one man. And the man to be sacrificed for the church's unity? Why Bishop Robinson, of course. You see, it's not an issue that is divisive, and needs to be driven off into the wilderness; it's not a vice or type of moral failure; it's not a bunch of unruly Primates and others in their angry arguments back and forth; it's a human being, and a particular one at that. If he can be named, if he can be singled out, if attention can be focused on him and his all too human failures, if he can receive the dreaded, shameful bad treatment and finally stay buried and for a time at least forgotten, then just maybe the rest can function together in the great institution. Now, even if Williams' ploy works, is there anything admirable or courageous about it? Do you discern the Gospel or genuine catholicity in it? And do you wish this particular rite Williams is improvising on your behalf, this burial, success?

Well, there you have two spectacles where fractious bands try to pull together and achieve some kind of more perfect union in which they might be able to better function. Which is closer to the Christian rule?

I know what I say in reply; there is no doubt in my mind: Bishop Duncan and the Common Cause, where somehow they know, at least most of the time, that one human sacrifice is enough: the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. No evangelical I have read or heard called for Robinson to be singled out this way. Carey came closest to the best of my knowledge, singling Robinson out. But even Carey did not call on Robinson to bear the brunt alone. As I recall, they want the whole American HoB who supported his ordination to get kicked out, and that would have been a qualitatively different kind of response. And oddly enough they are right; that would have been better. One hopes those in the HoB who stand with Robinson would concur, even vocally and visibly, with the conservative evangelicals--and by that fellowship transform Williams' rite of Spring into something of which we need not be ashamed.