Thursday, July 16, 2009

Intitial Reaction to GC2009

Taking D025 in the context of C056, I think the Episcopal Church has decisively moved away from its earlier de facto moratoria on ordaining openly homosexual candidates to the episcopate and performing same sex unions. It is notable that the moratoria held from GC2006 until now; this suggests to me that GC2009's moves are deliberate ones, as circumspect as we can reasonably expect from such institutions as the HoB and HoD. There is no practical way of returning to a status quo ante.

Various schismatic Anglican movements will be re-invigorated by GC2009; what had been a rather disappointing denouement may turn out to be meaner-spirited and more divisive than anything we have seen up until now. Here is one well-informed comment from a priest who may be something of a conservative-moderate:

This convention (when the Deputies concur with the Bishops tomorrow) has abrogated every positive gesture it has made toward the Anglican Communion since 2003. Everything we did three years ago in response to the Windsor Report is down the drain.

Moderates who feel this way may find it increasingly difficult to remain moderate and not to join in some schismatic Anglican movement; they may find this to be a time of trial.

While I support these resolutions, having supported GC2003, I am haunted by a sense that the Church lacks the cognitive means at this time for conducting a debate on--or even for collectivelyruminating over--the issues these resolutions raise. I don't just mean the Episcopal Church, but all the Church's bits and bobs. We are living through an era of inescapable theological pluralism, where different parties in the Church operate from within different conceptual frameworks whose overlap on basic points does not preserve an overall common intelligibility. For instance, I might approach these questions from a Thomistic or Scotistic point of view--but nearly nobody else will, and the result is that I will not mean what most other Christians nowadays mean by "God", "Christ", "Trinity", "Incarnation", etc. We might be using the same words, but we will not mean the same things by them: we will be equivocating in the course of arguing with each other, or even discussing peaceably.

One upshot of this conceptual pluralism is that it is likely most people are wrong on every substantive question of theological detail. That is, most Christians will live out their lives here below in a state of material heresy on virtually every matter of dogmatic detail. Our sincere efforts will fall short in ways we will not realize, regardless of our sincere efforts.

This is worth keeping in mind when deciding how to react in days and weeks and months ahead, as the sounds of GC2009 reverberate throughout the Communion. Right practice will come to matter even more where right belief slips through our fingers. We just cannot quite manage right belief, but we must still live with each other, pray with each other, and commune with each other. It will help perhaps if we hesitate to regard each other as wicked--as formal heretics--because we disagree and cannot even meet each other on common conceptual ground. We should hope for the grace to mutually bear the burden of our all-too-human inadequacy.


At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Charlotte said...

I deny your major, Scotist -- I am afraid that Fr. Dan Martins' comment was much too reactive. The con evo blogosphere also went wild after D025 was passed, but their reactions had little to do with the measure that was passed. Con evos had the reactions they had determined in advance to have.

It may well be that schism is upon us, but nothing in what TEC did at the convention necessitates a schism.

Step out of the closed and fetid atmosphere of the Diocese of Central Florida and you will see what I mean. The views one gets there are very distorted and confusing.

At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Charlotte said...

As usual, Tobias Haller makes the point far better than I ever could:

At 10:08 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Ahh--the Dio of CF....It's been tough down here, but I have to admit I've not really tried as hard as I should have.

Even so, I am impressed by how well CF has done simply in staying within TEC, considering there were lots of loud voices wishing it would part.

One wonders: what now?

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