Monday, November 26, 2007

Go Ahead: Five Short Questions for Critics of the ABC

First, is the Iraq war a just war? Explain your answer briefly.

Second, if the Iraq war is not a just war, should participants in its violent acts be barred from the Eucharist under the rubric banning notorious sinners from the Altar? Note, the second question could be answered Yes even if the first were answered Yes.

We might ask third, even if the Iraq war were just, should participants in its violent acts be barred from the Eucharist under the relevant rubric?

Fourth, if participants in the violent acts of the Iraq war were to be barred from the Eucharist, what impact should that have on our preaching and liturgy?

At the least, one might say preachers--Right wing or Left wing--should already be Crystal Clear about their answers, especially in front of their congregations. How many have spoken in the open to such grave issues? Surely there is a great need whatever the preacher's view may happen to be, as even my narrow focus on liturgy might show.

More: it might well be that congregations arrive at troubling wide notions of "participant", or decide that a special Mass for participants is required in the interests of reconciliation. But that leads to a final question:

If a Mass were carried out for participants, what kind of repentance would be called for?


At 3:36 PM, Blogger Chris Ashley said...

The word "notorious" in the rubric is troublesome to me. Not all grave sin is notorious; not all notorious sin is grave, or even (perhaps) sinful. There are several levels of decisionmaking in play in questions 2-ff, not all of them about the sinfulness, on the merits, of participation in an unjust war.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Taylor W Burton Edwards said...

The phrase "notoriously evil life" COULD be seen as problematic IF if were being used historically or etymologically as a synonym for "grave." But it is not.

It refers to what it refers-- a person who is WIDELY KNOWN to have participated in sinful activity. No judgment is offered about the gravity of the sin involved, simply how well known the sin has become.

What is the principle behind this kind of rubric? Why make distinctions on the basis of notoriety and not on the basis of relative gravity?

Largely, I think, because Anglican moral theology appears to have dodged casuistry. It is, and generally has been, far less interested in deciding which sin is worse or by what degree, and for more interested in ensuring the general good of the community. Non-notorious sin, assuming it does not involve the commission of a crime for which one is obligated to involve legal authority, can be handled in a more confidential manner. Sin that is already in the open simply cannot-- because the awareness of it continues to create harm in the larger community that is aware of it until it is more publicly addressed. Though the conversation between the priest and the sinner in this case is still private in the rubric, the effect of that conversation is in fact public-- refusal to admit a person to the public ritual of receiving Holy Communion OR some clear fruits of repentance (perhaps a public ritual of reconciliation) and amendment of life (which would also become publicly known and verifiable).

Now, as to whether a given Episcopal parish could live out these rubrics in this way with soldiers who are known to have killed people in an unjust war, or even in a just war... that would be a harder matter. It would require, I would think, The Episcopal Church or at least the bishop of a given diocese to make a clear declaration that a given war was unjust, based on classic principles of justifiable war, and further to resume the historic practice of refusing communion to persons who had killed others or committed other violent acts in wars even declared just by said Bishop or by TEC itself, until acts of confession and repentance were completed.

A priest MIGHT try this, that is a priest might try to set this standard for his or her parish, but in our current political climate in the US, said priest may or may not receive support from the bishop for making this call without the bishop's support beforehand.

Perhaps a wiser course, even if the bishop's support may seem forthcoming, would be for the priest to be sure to have pastoral conversations with the person returning from war, to ask how it is with his or her soul, and to offer a confidential ministry of hearing confession and offering absolution for anything the one returning needs to "get off one's chest." Good chaplains may have offered such ministry on the field. But more may need to be offered now.

That said, it cannot hurt to ask one's bishop for a ruling about the justice of the Iraq war on the basis of justifiable war principles (which is to say, actually, as well, on the basis of classic international law!), and about how the bishop would advise priests and parishes offer rites and processes of reconciliation for those who participated directly or identify themselves as participants.

Advent can be a time for repentance and renewal. The Feast of the Incarnation could be a time for baptismal reaffirmation and celebration of Christ among us all, at font and Table. Preaching through this season could remind all of the discontinuity between the promised (and present) reign of God in Jesus Christ and the powers of this age-- as well as the promise that even where we find ourselves unwillingly entangled by such earthly powers, indeed precisely in such times, God chooses to pitch tent among us to offer new life, new hope, and new community that makes the wounded and wounder whole.

Taylor Burton-Edwards

At 11:49 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


That sounds like wise counsel. One would have hoped that bishops would have already made their voices clear on the justice of the Iraq war and provided guidelines for pastoral and liturgical reconciliation.

Indeed--rectors going it alone, esp. against bishops who might support the war effort will have a much harder time, and even may be taking risks with their positions in the church.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Can you give an example of a notorious sin that is not sinful?

In fact, it seems one could only find examples of Grave sins that are not Notorious by falsely construing the eucharistic community to include only those persons physically or naturally present in the congregation or at the liturgical celbration in question. But if you have a counterexample....

On the other hand, one might try to say "notorious" only has the meaning it was intended to have in the production of the BCP '79.

However, that view of meaning is almost certainly false, and even if it were--per impossibile-- true, that would still be insufficient to make the case to which you gesture.

11:55 AM

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

My initial thoughts:

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

BTW: It seems we have two Christophers here. I am not the Christopher to whom you asked questions regarding notorious sin.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

That said, I guess I'll present myself alongside the soldiers who identify themselves as participants in acts of violence committed in Iraq.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Chris Ashley said...

Oh dear, confusion. Terribly sorry, other Christopher. I'm the first one who posted on this thread.

Scotist, I had in mind a situation like that of a gay couple. In some settings, they would be perceived as living in open, notorious sin; in others, they would be celebrated; and in still others, everyone would know what was going on but nobody would talk about it. The last case is the really troublesome one for questions of "notorious sin", because it allows the following scenario:

a) The rector privately considers homosexual activity sinful, but allows other considerations to trump that belief with regard to parishioners.

b) The couple feel tolerated, but perhaps not fully welcomed, such that (for example) they would not feel safe adopting children together and bringing them to church.

c) The congregation are, essentially, partners in preserving a falsehood: No gay folks here, no possibility of division.

Even aside from the question of whether they are engaged in sin or not, the question of whether their behavior is "notorious" is problematic.

I suppose I don't understand the way you're using the term. I'd think that something like adultery, which is often known only to the participants, is a grave but not a notorious sin.

To be clear: I'd certainly rather be able to stand behind my church's rubrics. This is simply one I don't understand. I appreciate your questions; maybe they'll help me understand it better.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Caelius said...

The issue of the notorious sinner will require reflection, but since I did take communion with those who may have been involved in violent acts during the Iraq War, let me remind you of the English version of Article XXXVII, which legitimates wars under the auspices of a legitimately constituted civil authority. In the case of the United States, the only combatants I would consider to be notorious sinners would be the ones the civil authority was prosecuting for violating the rules and customs of war.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Taylor W Burton Edwards said...


Of course, the American edition eliminates all of that. I doubt this was an attempt to say that its was NOT lawful for Christians in the US to bear arms and serve in wars.

But note, too, that the term used is "lawful." That does not mean either "just" or even "justifiable." One of the limits of justifiable war theory was reached precisely in England when the Crown was given chief authority in both church and state throughout the realm. That, in effect, gave carte blanche to the Crown to declare any war it liked to be justifiable, at least on the grounds that it was declared by a duly established authority (the first of the "justus ad bellum" criteria).

That had not been the situation prior to Henry VIII. Wars still needed or at least received the clearance of Canterbury (or whomever the relevant ecclesial authority may have been) to establish the justifiability of engaging them. After that time, though the Crown normally consulted Canterbury for a time, it was clear that at least in theory it need not do so.

The situation prior to Henry VIII (and throughout medieval Europe) was that the church's role was not to say a king could or could not go to war-- which was, indeed, a temporal matter. Rather, it was to declare, FOR THE CHURCH, what the SPIRITUAL judgment was about the justifiability of the war, AND to thereby determine the SPIRITUAL judgment to be imposed upon those who engaged it. Again, the principles of justifiable war, as spiritual principles used by the church, were NOT in place to call violent actions in war not sinful. Such actions were always deemed sinful, so sinful that confession and penance were required to receive Holy Communion again.

The question remains whether The Episcopal Church or any church is interested in reclaiming the wholeness of the justifiable war tradition precisely as such a spiritual discipline, a discipline for the care of the souls of all involved. And if so, how it might go about doing so.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Friends, the text, the text! It doesn't say "notorious sinner" but "notoriously evil life." There is a difference between "sin" and "evil" -- a big one -- which I hope I need not elaborate among such an astute body.

That being said, I would not ban a soldier from participation in the Holy Eucharist if she participated in the rite in accord with its demands: that she be repentant and in love and charity with his neighbor. That might be hard for her to do, but it is what is needed. I do not think participation in an unjust war is necessarily evil -- though it could be. And there was a time when soldiers were denied baptism -- see Hippolytus for that one. As Caelius notes, things were changed by the time of the Articles (actually based on the Constantinian settlement). I agree with Caelius that an external standard (criminal acts) might be appropriate to judge by.

But I'm not really interested in judging. All of us participate in the evil systems of this world to a greater or lesser degree. It is not for me to judge my neighbor, but to welcome her to turn to God and share in the grace of God's forgiveness.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Ha! Multiple christophers! Tangled discourse! Ambiguous identities !?

Who's who? How can I be sure you're not all the same "person"? We've taken leave of aesthetic modernity in spite of "ourselves"--perhaps.

Will a drink help? All I have is lousy bourbon: no scotch at all. And a massive headache from (too much?) caffeine.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Can the notoriously evil life be distinct from the notorious sinner? Does it hover in the distance like a ghost, sometimes on its own, sometimes merging with a real person? No, that's not what you meant of course.

These are distinct in meaning as you point out--no doubt. But they are equivalent too, in the sense that every notorious sinner leads a notoriously evil life, and every such life is led by such a sinner.

It seems, in other words. that prying them apart in real life introduces an impractical separation--and ad hoc to boot.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

My sense is that sin is inescapable in this life; even when one wants to be free of it, and through repentance and grace finds some relief, the Old Adam is still there pulling us to self-ward rather than in a Godward and neighbor-ward direction.

Evil, on the other hand, seems to me to be a kind of resolution to sin, a choice to do wrong consciously and willfully, not merely under the pressure of the human tendency to selfishness, but taking delight in doing what the actor knows to be wrong.

So I suppose what I am saying is that all evil is sinful, not all sin is evil -- though all sin is capable of becoming evil (even a "little" sin) when it is chosen and embraced, fed and nurtured like a viper in the bosom. I suppose I'm showing my early exposure to C.S. Lewis here. And while I'm at it, did anyone else notice the relative blogospheric silence concerning him, on the anniversary of his death last Thursday?

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


Suppose the only the rector knows Q is a serial killer of young children and a necrophiliac cannibal; Q qualifies as a notorious sinner whom the rector may barr from communion, even if only Q and the rector know.

It would be better if the congregation knew as well, but their eucharistic community includes Christ, the Father & Spirit, hosts of angels, and perhaps even separated souls of the saints--all of whom might well know all about Q.

You might say their knowledge does not count--but that seems anti-credal et al; if the community is real their knowledge would seem to count for something, as it does elsewhere in the Eucharistic rite (e.g. at the beginning--"to whom no secrets are hid").

The term "notorious" need not be read as setting an unspecified numerical standard, but seems instead to indicate a certain severity in the type of sin committed. E.g. as if all sins bring death, still serial murder of children followed by necrophilic acts and cannabalism trumps onanism (or cheating on taxes).

At 7:11 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Maybe some sins are worse than others, and some barely merit mention, having no special names for themselves even in our age of proliferating taxonomies.

Maybe too you refer to God's power in bringing good even from sin, even atrocity.

I'll go so far as to admit that perhaps not all evil is sin: the Lisbon earthquake that excited Voltaire probably was nobody's fault, though it was horrific, even evil.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


It might turn out that the Articles are one voice among many in the long discourse on just war. It could be circumspect--if one thinks anything serious hangs on it--to take account of other voices, especially ones that might offer a more systematic discussion. As it turns out proof-texting the Articles might carry little weight.

The criterion you provide, sc. "the ones the civil authority was prosecuting for violating the rules and customs of war" seems especially inapt, since [a] the nomoi surrounding legitimate and criminal conduct in war are in flux, and the ones we happen to land on might themselves be illegitimate, and [b] the criterion might show misplaced confidence in the "civil authority" inasmuch as the entire issue might simply be...outside their jurisdiction.

That is, I'd wager most crimes among the military at war are prosecuted by military authorities--not civil authorities.

And more importantly, in this war we have permitted a category of combatant--the Blackwater et al mercenary/contractor immune to normal routes of civil AND military prosecution. But you take no notice of that fact whatsoever.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Over at Christopher's I suggested use of the Litany of Penitence, normally used on Ash Wednesday but rubrically allowed at other times -- since we got started on all this because of a rubric!

At 7:30 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


In the end, at least so far as I can tell from central Florida, the soldiers I know and am related to went off to this war with a measure of hope and idealism--and with the support of families and friends and congregations all alike.

Whatever certain individuals have done, many more are complicit in the violent acts performed in the war--and this includes civilians out of uniform, it includes families, whole congregations. It includes me--who in spite of the clear example of Thoreau and others continued in bad conscience to pay taxes for--what I consider to be--a hopelessly unjust war. And I will in all likelihood continue paying in bad conscience for years to come, decades (the whole sordid affair will cost more than a trillion some credible soursces have claimed). And I benefitted from tax cuts. And I have sacrificed next to nothing at home while so many are sacrificing so much overseas. And I have hardly raised my voice againstthe war--or even in the defense of the soldiers being sent away again and again and again and again to it on tour after tour after tour,separated from spouses, children, jobs, etc I spoke not for them at all. Is that sin? A sin of a special severity borne from Sloth, from Avarice, from Callous disregard for Iraqi lives and soldiers' lives? Have I not turned my back on Christ a thousand times without a second thought in this?

Well, what about you?

And what about your congregation? Can you say "Well, we did enough. 53 care packages should just about do it"?

Singling out individuals is one course, but seems a poor one when the much of the congregation is likely guilty in varying degrees as well.

Leaning on the usual liturgical provisions for sin seems invidiously self-defeating. The sin needs a name for the sake of the common good, and the whole congregation may need to name their disavowal for the sake of their own souls. Best to err on the side of caution.

The church might institute a special Mass for the People at War, on the assumption that participation should have a wide reading to include most of the adults in the church, as a part of its Advent or esp. its Lenten discipline.

Or, in fewer words: the Iraq war has made notorious sinners of many, many more than anyone first thought.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Taylor W Burton Edwards said...

Back to that rubric and the important distinction between sin and evil that you have identified, Tobias...

If we go Greek here (as in NT Greek), sin is probably something like "hamartia" (missing the mark) while evil would be "poneros."

These are two rather different, though related, things.

Sin (hamartia) can be described either in a particular fashion (i.e., the sin of doing X, or a particular instance of so doing) OR in a more collective sense (as in "the sin of the world.")

Evil does not appear to apply to specific acts as much as to a system or syndrome (which may be replicable and communicable) in which those acts may be committed. It may refer in an individual to something like "a bent toward sinning," but in a culture or society would be related to the Pauline concepts of the repeating destructive actions of something like powers and principalities. And in the Lord's Prayer, we pray that we may be delivered from either evil (as system) or the evil one (as personfication of the same).

The baptismal covenant may provide some clues to help decode this a bit more. The action related to evil there in the first three questions involves a renunciation-- an abrogation of allegiance. That is a clue that we are talking about some sort of a connection to a power structure, a system that expects or demands allegiance of us.

The renunciation is in three forms-- of Satan and spiritual forces of wickedness, of evil powers of this world that destroy and corrupt (processes designed to inflict suffering), and "sinful desires" (internal systems, presumably) that draw us away from loving God. All of these reflect some measure of captivity to powers beyond our control, and yet, the baptismal liturgy presumes, capable of being renounced.

Later, in the covenant proper, an additional question is asked. "Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord." Resisting evil and falling into sin are related, but separate. Resisting evil amounts to continuing to live out the renunciations already pledged. Resisting evil is about keeping faith with Christ. Falling into sin seems to recognize that at times we do not make good on our pledge-- we miss the mark.

So, what might a notoriously evil life look like, given all of this? (I'm trying not to prooftext here, but to read the language in the larger baptismal context).

It may involve some sort of evident re-alignment with evil or with evil forces. Rather than missing the mark, it may involve becoming an agent for those very forces that support and reproduce evil in the world, at whatever level of world one might be speaking (spiritual, political, interpersonal or infrapersonal).

Now the question in this case becomes whether participation in the Iraq war, one that clearly fails any standard account of justifiable war principles, as a soldier or mercenary or even as a payee, amounts to a notoriously evil life.

As has been mentioned elsewhere (on the second Christopher's blog) by Tobias, I think, the community or individuals responsible for Apostolic Tradition appear to have thought so. Participation in warfare, more specifically in any act of killing under pledge to an army or even continuing in authority to order any act of killing, did represent a refusal to renounce evil, a selling out to the evil powers of this world.

Justifiable war principles have looked at this differently. While always granting the killing was sinful, even if defensible on other grounds, sinful enough to warrant immediate excommunication until acts of confession and penance were completed, it is not clear that in this instance the sin involved rises to the level of being understood as collaboration with evil. If the war could be shown to be justifiable (using whatever current standards of jus ad bellum and jus in bello were in play) the discrete acts of killing by soldiers could be reified, extracted one might say from the environment of evil, and dealt with as specific instances to be dealt with like other sins in their own right. Justifiability, in other words, became the standard of judgment regarding evil, while the sins involved in the prosecution of the war were not thought to partake of evil so long as the war was justifiable.

That is why non-justifiable war could not be accepted-- because non-justifiable war would be precisely a renunciation of Christ, a handing over of oneself and all involved into the hands of evil.

Which brings us full circle.

This war does not meet standards of justifiable war that the church has ever accepted. Therefore, it could be said to be a participation not only in sins, but in evil itself.

And therefore, participants in it, in their sinful acts of killing (as are all acts of killing) can be said to be engaging not only in sin, but in evil. And notoriety in this case is not difficult to prove, not matter how one defines that term, even if it means "widely or publicly known."

The question remains... is a parish, a bishop, a diocese, an ecclesial body of any sort with some competence to speak on ths matter willing to consider reviving either the Hippolytan or the Justifiable War standards and make such a claim-- that in participating in this war, one is participating in evil itself in a notorious way, and therefore subject to the first Disciplinary Rubric?

Or if not, as The Scotist has continued to ask, what sort of spiritual rites or practices may be needed to handle what appears at the very least to be something like dating the devil? Or put another way, how can we in ritual and concrete action take seriously the moral and cosmic nature of what participation in this war has done metaphysically in the life of the nations and the world?

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I have to say, Taylor, that your account here reads a little bit ex post facto. If we were to move in the direction you propose, the silence of our bishops in not declaring this war unjust from the beginning and making clear the consequences of participation by soldiers of this Church reads to my mind an assent itself to an unjust war. If we want to play legal, as Roman law suggests, silence is consent. Otherwise, it seems to me we cannot simply and easily move ex post facto in this regard and I would suggest the bishops and our priests handle this in the more personal pastoral approach you offered after a longer bit on a public approach in your first comment here:

Perhaps a wiser course, even if the bishop's support may seem forthcoming, would be for the priest to be sure to have pastoral conversations with the person returning from war, to ask how it is with his or her soul, and to offer a confidential ministry of hearing confession and offering absolution for anything the one returning needs to "get off one's chest." Good chaplains may have offered such ministry on the field. But more may need to be offered now.

That read as pastoral. What the Scotist proposed and you initially proposed read primarily as public politicizing in a situation where we cannot so clearly discern that those who went off to war did so in bad faith (given I would hazzard a very cursory knowledge of Just War criteria by most laity)especially given a lack of clarity on the part of the leaders of this Church, bishops and priests alike. While some of us laity left-right-and-center were marching in the streets, nary a bishop was to be found.

I am all for pastoral approaches to the realities that war does to folks. Remember, my father was a Vietnam vet. I know something about how war destroys those returning home, but what I have mostly read here is not about healing and providing care to those already most likely to suffer from actions we are all in part responsible for.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

And I'll say it again, when our Church gives up its tax exempt status and our priests surrender their housing allowance protections, I'll be more convinced of any stances of the moral high ground in this regard, otherwise, I would suggest a more care-full and personal approach in dealing with real-life human beings who may already be quite on the edge or fragile upon their return here.

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Taylor W Burton Edwards said...


I would agree at this point that what I am describing with respect to the original post is, by definition, ex post facto. It cannot be anything else, precisely for the reason you described, which is that there wasn't nearly enough done up front by any ecclesial body I know of to say, in a strong admonitory way, "What's about to happen here is unjust by all standards the church has ever used."

That's why I've continued here and on your blog to emphasize pastoral responses as well.

But I don't let go that easy. It seems to me that BOTH issues need to be in play here-- and the The Scotist has invited just that to happen. Namely, that there are ecclesial disciplinary issues to be addressed here AND there are pastoral issues to be addressed here. It's a both-and for me.

At this point, I would suggest that technically, from an ecclesial disciplinary perspective, the only way forward is liturgically, because there wasn't anything done early on to address these issues by other means. This does not mean, for me at any rate, singling out returning soldiers or other vets for special negative public liturgical treatment. Rather it means, as I've tried to suggest in my last post here, that there is SOME sort of ritual response that addresses the notorious evil into which, as I concur with the Scotist, nearly all of us in the US may have fallen in this instance to one degree or another.

This isn't about punishment, but about redemption. It's not about singling people out, but about admitting where we've gone astray-- not simply in this instance into sin, but indeed into evil itself-- and seeking God's healing mercy to bring us back to our true allegiances.

Something that might be learned from this, ex post facto, would be to make such declarations earlier, to work harder up front to help each other and the nation resist getting sucked into evil as it presents itself to us again, and to decide or discern how cases where people are sucked in in this way may be handled-- both pastorally and disciplinarily-- and that time, NOT ex post facto.

I'm trying to understand, I suppose, how something like that would be problematic from your perspective.

Is it your perspective that only personal pastoral responses are generally acceptable, and not also whatever corporate acts or discernment around such matters might be done? And if so, why?

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Christopher said...


I am not opposed to public liturgical admonition, discipline, and confession by all, nor even in certain cases for individuals, but this is a case where I do not think we can do public for a few only as you note in your last comment. All of us are implicated. I'm willing to accept discipline thusly alongside everyone else, including our bishops.

The Scotist's post began with what reads like singling out and your comments have veered from this approach to a more pastoral approach to now a public approach for all with pastoral care for individual persons, which was not how you began at all and to which I responded in my own post about the realities of all of us being in need of being disciplined in this case.

I can live with the this public discipline for all given the failures at the initial stages by our shepherds and theologians, and think it would do us all good as we've all been broken by this, but the former which you started out with in going immediately to rubrics (before offering a wiser pastoral approach) struck me as itself wanting to mete out discipline to a few without the reality that in this case all of us, including bishops, are in need of said discipline. Our shepherds remained silent while many of us in the pews spoke out, in my case, precisely because this war did not meet Just War criteria. But in my experience, few laity know such criteria, and apparently so too few bishops and priests.

A corporate repentence by all makes perfect sense given that reality as does providing for personal confession, but the initial comments here struck me and still do strike me as self-righteous and wanting to mete out discipline in ways that are not healing nor meant to redeem precisely because they were not clear that all of us have fallen into evil in this situation and that those who have borne the burden of all of us having done so are the ones that this initial post asked to bear the full weight of discipline though they are most likely to be the one's most numbed and torn up by our failure.

I get this is about redemption, not punishment, but it will only be so in this case if the pastoral is done alongside a disciplinary action that confronts and redeems all of us. That is what I did not read here until halfway through when the Scotist began to implicate himself.

Also, having been on the receiving end of public excommunication for being gay, I'm just a little bit leary of arbitrariness in such matters. In this case, discipline of the few rather than all would be arbitrary precisely because proper procedure in lining things out at the start did not occur.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Well, I hope this is not the first time you guys have had such an exchange, esp. on this topic, and I hope you will continue in the future. We should have more such conversations throughout the Church.

A few observations:
(1)I'm pretty sure there is no politically neutral position which any church can occupy in wartime.

Thus, christopher's phrase "read primarily as public politicizing in a situation" seems to imply the impossible--as is the de facto silence he rightly observes across much of TEC is not already "public politicizing".

In view of the fact iot cannot be avoided, is all public politicizing bad?

Does Christopher mean to imply the church should have no place in the Public Square, or only no place in time of war?

(2)Bad faith may come in degrees and varieties.

As the concept and simlar notions of ideology and false consciousness have been developed in Freud, Sartre, Kierkegaard and Marx, and in view of the long pedegree such concepts enjoy--think Thrasymachus in Bk I Plato's "Republic", there seems nothing especially unsual in employing the concept in a general way that does not presuppose specialist knowledge (e.g. Lacan's mature take on Freud, or Lukacs' early work on reification).

One would hope, then, we could agree: congregations, bishops, families and even soldiers could act in bad faith even if they did not act in full, conscious awareness of the moral contradictions implied in their consent and action.

Or: conscious awareness is not like a uniform light shining forth everywhere with exactly the same 100 watt brightness, leaving no shadows anywhere in the room.

(3) The U.S is a democratic republic of sorts, not a feudal society where responsibillity for waging war might meaningfully be confined to a narrow caste.

Clergy and laity have no business pretending that citizenship comes with no civic responsibility, and that acting on a habit of Sloth--or whatever--so as to disregard that responsibility may come without deleterious consequences.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Taylor W Burton Edwards said...

Re: "no politically neutral position the Church can occupy..."

Perhaps this takes us back, to a degree, to the question of at what LEVEL of church life discipline is lived out...

I'm thinking of what I understand of the Orthodox Church(es) at this point (as in, Eastern, not as in "theologically correct!")

Typically, the Orthodox Churches AS CHURCHES do not take political stands, even on issues where they have serious ethical concerns, such as abortion, for example. That also means there's no uniform set of rules (no canons or rubrics) that specifically direct what is to happen in cases where people in the church act in ways inconsistent with what the church (as a community in community with its priesthood and bishops) in each place understands to be critical. How exactly any disciplinary action gets lived out is thus precisely at the level of the congregation, in the context where the person or persons involved live in Christian community.

There are some parallels between that model and Disciplinary Rubric 1 in this instance. TEC is not a peace church, and it is not clear to me at least that it has positioned itself as a "just war" church. The church as such does not provide advice on how to interpret actions of war with respect to this rubric. But a priest might, while keeping the bishop informed-- and so apply it in any variety of ways as may seem fitting in the local context.

The history of the set of Disciplinary rubrics here is very ancient, of course-- one can trace parts of it (about not being reconciled in particular) as far back as the first century (if Didache is taken as typical), and decisively in the stream of teaching that includes Didascalia and Apostolic Constitutions. The connection to the bishop in this regard is likewise ancient. The bishop would have been directly involved in addressing these issues in the larger life of the community.

But the role of the bishop then and now isn't quite the same. Nor are the community connections implied in the titles. Bishop then is much more like Rector now. Bishop now is much more like Metropolitan then (where that title, or something like it, existed). Discipline as envisioned in the rubrics then was essentially a matter for the bishop then-- not the metropolitan.

I think issues of discipline in general are relevant almost only (but not entirely only) in the light of the concrete, real, flesh and blood relationships/community of actual people with whom one is working and living out the Christian faith-- and the further away from that one gets, the more abstract and potentially the more arbitrary and destructive disciplinary pronouncements or policies MAY have a tendency to become.

Which actually gets me around to basic premises about discipline and Christian unity. If we think that the metropolitan level needs to set a standard for discipline in a variety of matters, and that Christian unity (in this case, across something like the Anglican Communion) is dependent upon the agreement about that discipline at THAT level primarily, then we seem to be describing both the way the Primates, especially in the Global South, seem to be responding to TEC and the drive to form an Anglican Communion Covenant to establish unity at that level. We might call this an imposed disciplinary unity.

IF, however, we look at Christian unity as a GIVEN, more or less, based on the real, live interactions among people and groups who may approach discipline differently in their local contexts, but who are at the same time committed to looking for points of contact between their disciplinary discernments for common work and building up bonds of affection, that's a very different thing. I might call that an emergent disciplinary unity.

Both are valuable, but at different levels and for different things. Imposed disciplinary unity is very valuable when there's a real and perhaps very large (like, worldwide) crisis and people need to act on the spot to address it. Maybe if such a thing were possible to achieve, an imposed disciplinary unity that declares war that isn't justifiable by commonly agreed standards to be participation in evil would be a very good thing for all. The Church in the West DID have that kind of solidarity on that point, to a degree, in earlier eras.

Emergent disciplinary unity, though, is probably what is needed in most circumstances. Imposed disciplinary unity can provide a platform and program and guidelines for action. Emergent disciplinary unity can provide the "sensus fidelium"-- not just in an abstract, intellectual way but rather as the deep awareness and feeling of real comradeship in common efforts, even if our approaches to addressing them in our contexts are very different.

Again, thanks to all for the opportunity to have some conversation around these issues and those related to them.

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, all.

Kenneth Kirk discusses "notoriety" on pp. 244-245 of Conscience and its Problems, as part of a discussion of "refusal of communion." A sin is notorious if (1) the person involved has admitted to it; (2) the person has been condemned by a competent civil or canonical court; or (3) the person has been caught flagrante delicto. He cites a number of authorities to conclude that "the curate's right to refuse communion on his own initiative is to all intents and purposes confined to the cases of persons who have been found guilty of an offense against the Christian moral law either in a secular or in an ecclesiastical court" (244). As no Anglican ecclesiastical court (and certainly no civil court) could find someone guilty of commiting a crime in the ordinary course of duty with the armed forces in Iraq, no priest can use such participation as a pretext for refusing communion. "The open discipline of the Church is in other hands than those of the parish priest" (246).


Post a Comment

<< Home