Thursday, October 04, 2007

An Emerging Mainstream Consensus?

The remarkable, and incoherent, Joint Standing Committee report of the ACC seems to indicate and confirm movement away from service to the Separatist agenda among the "instruments" leading the Anglican Communion.

The report, like the HoB document, embodies an unresolved, destabilizing tension: commitment to moral principle essential to Christian life is combined with an acquiescence to failure about implementing the moral principle in the life of the church. Commitment to inclusion and civil advocacy for homosexuals already places them in a class apart from the reprobate and criminals; such normalization implicitly recognizes no sound reason for keeping homosexuals apart from the life of the church. When, in the next breath, these reports go on to promise to keep homosexuals apart, they set up the relevant tension so many have noticed, left and right. How can the promise be kept--given the moral commitment to inclusion? It seems inevitable that in time the promise will finally dissolve.

How much time? It seems the restraint of the HoB and ACC is pragmatic, a measure meant to achieve an end: keeping the CoE together and TEC in the AC. As a corollary, with that dual end achieved, work will continue toward implementing the moral obligation of inclusion. But again, how much longer? This sounds like opponents of Jim Crow (or slavery) who did not want to agitate but promised in time segregation (or slavery) would vanish from the South. Of course, slavery went on and on, just as segregation went on and on. And this cognitive dissonance between moral principle--what too many in the Communion already know is right--and failure to live out the moral principle could go on and on as well.

Easy objection: when the Separatists separate, the Communion will be able to live with moral consitency and integrity. I will concede the point. The Communion then will not have this Sword of Damocles over its head, and consequently will not feel obliged to accomodate its religious extremists and assorted fanatics. Thus, from a Communion-centered point of view, it makes perfect sense to cheer Duncan and Iker on--and whoever wishes to march behind them--to wherever they are going, provided they are going outside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. And it makes sense to cheer each and every ill-timed African ordination of a dissident cleric into some foreign province--especially if those foreign provinces gather together under some new banner somewhere else. In fact, one would hope for perfect efficiency here--a really big tent that could gather each and every mumbling, grumbling, fissiparous separatist. It could be better for them in the long run, and better for their Gospel witness--not to say ours as well. God bless!

But what are the chances of actual separation? Especially one clean enough to gather all and only the vehemently fissiparous? They are not that good. In fact, the JSC and HoB are set against such a clean break; these documents aim at prying modertate conservatives away from radical conservatives. Thus, even if there is another grand southern secession, it is unlikely to spread far enough to bring the desired peace. And we will have to live with, and live out, the tension embodied in these documents in some way that will bring integrity to the life of the Communion.

The good news in this is the widespread tacit acknowledgement of the very moral principle which can lead to blessing SSUs etc. There is a consensus around that--and a consensus too that a split so violent as to break apart the CoE should be avoided now as unnecessary. Surely the hope is that in time the split will lose force. Here, as before, the church is content to see its moral principles gradually implemented by the secular state before the church gets around to adopting them in earnest: Cyrus anointed to show us the way home all over again, again and again. So be it.


At 11:37 AM, Blogger bls said...

Scotist, this stuff - same-sex blessings and gay Bishops - is just not that important in the greater scheme of things. Not when gay people elsewhere in the world are persecuted and executed.

Far, far more important is the paragraph that seems to have gone completely unnoticed: the call for our "partners in the Anglican Communion" to dedicate themselves to eradicating violence towards gay people, and to including them in the life of their own church and country. The Church is supposed to be ahead of society on issues like this, not light-years behind. And the fact that Nigeria is using gay people as pawns in a battle with Islam is the worst thing going on, not what's happening in ECUSA.

Yes, the statement contradicts itself. Yes, I would have preferred them to have left out the offending statement about GLBT being "full and equal" members, blah blah blah.

But what about the horrific violence against gay people elsewhere? We don't need gay Bishops; we need equality. Now that it's in writing, it's time to put the focus there, and stop worrying about what's happening here. We have everything; they have nothing.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Good point; I'm glad you put it that way.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I'm going to disagree with bls just a bit, such things are signs of hope and give sustenance in the midst of struggle; that this Church can give nothing of the sort harms us more in the secular sphere than anything and when the secular sphere ultimately gives more hope, the gospel loses.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Supposing the church is quite often behind the curve relative to secular society, even when it comes to its own principles--what makes the church so obtuse and recalcitrant?

Not all parts of the church, of course: e.g. the UCC has a good track record of walking the walk. Better than ours anyhow. But the UCC is not typically thought available to sacramental and episcope-minded Episcopalians.

One guess: this hard-heartedness is precisely the price we pay for being an establishment church intimately connected with American power for so long. It turns out that was not such a good thing for us, and it has left us with a number of establishment-minded power-lovers who are willing to drag even the entire Anglican Communion down with them rather than contemplate the possibility that they are wrong.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger bls said...

No, I don't think so. This is where we should have started out, IMO: making a straightforward declaration promoting the civil rights of gay people everywhere, and working to impress this upon all members of the Anglican Communion.

That's the Gospel right there; it's just that the secular world is living it and the church is not. So I'm fine with people leaving the Church because of this; I'm glad of it, in fact. That's exactly what they should do. The problem, in fact, is that the church itself is the problem, in this instance - which is why it has to straighten itself out vis-a-vis the secular world, and worry about its own ordinands, and its own rites and rituals later.

People don't need the church; the church needs people. The church is the people, and its leaders had really ought to start remembering that at some point.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger bls said...

(Now, we need to start making the Bishops meant it.

And of course, all of this is very messy and things happen out of order, so I'm not really complaining. I'm just saying that we have to turn from our own "problems" at this point - which are hardly problems at all - to the greater issues at hand.)


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