Friday, December 14, 2007

More on Cantuar

Portrait of +Rowan Williams by David Griffiths
Further responses to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advent Letter to the Primates:

In comments at Thinking Anglicans, Charles William Allen writes:
I do question what may sound like the continued characterization of my and others' reading of Scripture as a "Radical change in the way we read." Is it so radical, or are we simply insisting on applying the same standards of responsible and faithful scholarship to the "clobber verses" that we apply to other, similarly tangential comments in the Bible?

Our readings may be PERCEIVED as radical, but if so, what does that say about those who are perceiving them in that way?

Furthermore, I find it very odd to say that these readings of the Bible are "determined by one group or tradition alone." Is there a way to isolate a group or tradition here that is not question-begging?

These readings are shared by faithful scholars from all sorts of traditions and confessions. It is no longer a radical innovation to view the Bible as a diverse collection of quite fallible human testimonies to a God who dares to come to us on our terms and draw us into a common life. It was a major shift in understanding at one time, but not now, and certainly not for the ABC.

And once that shift is made, no one should be surprised if some of us do not see a scattered assemblage of tangential remarks as especially binding when we are making sense of relationships rooted prayerfully in mutual love.

There is nothing radical here, only a perception of radicality.

To which I say, EXACTLY! Hear, hear!

Gõran Koch-Swahne writes:
"The Instruments of Communion have consistently and very strongly repeated that it is part of our Christian and Anglican discipleship to condemn homophobic prejudice and violence, to defend the human rights and civil liberties of homosexual people and to offer them the same pastoral care and loving service that we owe to all in Christ's name."

Yet not a word on the proposed Nigerian legislation, not a word on Uganda and Rwanda, not a word on Homophobia in Africa in general, and not a word on the situation in Central Africa and Kenya re Zimbabwe.
David Bayne writes:
If I understand the narrative it goes something like:
1. This is a beastly mess.
2. It's all the fault of the American liberals - and they haven't apologised nearly nicely enough.
3. Splitting TEC is OK, but not in an "uncontrolled" way.
4. Clergy and laity don't count. In all matters ecclesiological Bishops have the "decisive voice". (Subtext: And Primates trump Bishops.)
5. The sacred Book of Windsorreport (now to be found tucked into the flyleaf of the NT) decrees that our way to salvation lies through a covenant, and so a covenant we shall have.
6. Meanwhile, we must all continue to pretend to be nice to gays in public, while acknowledging quietly among ourselves that Leviticus 20.13 is still our "standard of faith" on the matter.
7. If we all pray very hard through Advent perhaps it will all have gone away by Christmas.

There's no English word that adequately describes how I feel: the Scots word is "scunnered".
Which to my eyes matches what Rowan wrote, even if it reads between the lines.

I really like this bit by Malcom+:
I've been convinced from the start that the proposal for a Covenant is a piece of well intentioned stupidity. If we can meet, no Covenant is necessary. If we cannot meet, no Covenant will help. [emphasis mine]
Matty H. says this in a comments thread at An Inch at a Time:
After over 200 years of a polity recognizing the charism of discerning doctrine imbued unto all the baptized by the Holy Spirit, TEC still threatens the imperialism of the Church of England! Give me a break. In effect, WE started the Anglican Communion as we sought a church non-encumbered by narrow English colonialism. Those Churches who decolonialized later should look to us as an example, rather than as a threat.
Tobias Haller comments:
The Archbishop still does not appear to grasp that the House of Bishops in the Episcopal Church is an equal partner with the House of Deputies in the General Convention. They do not have any "decisive" power to operate contrary to the decisions of that Convention; although as part of that Convention they do hold an absolute veto power over any decisions of that Convention (as, of course, do the Deputies). If this is what the Archbishop means (that the Bishops alone can hold the line at GC 2009) then he is spot on.

But if not, it appears the place of Bishops in our governance is one of those things that simply will not penetrate the Archbishop's psyche. They are not the primary theologians of the church; and in the Episcopal Church they are only one strand of its governance. At least the Archbishop has finally acknowledged that this may be a matter in which there is a difference between what TEC believes and what he thinks is believed "elsewhere in the Communion." And yes, it does need to be addressed. [emphasis mine]
Counterlight says this over at Fr. Jake's:
As far as I'm concerned, we were always on our own. To repeat the point made by finer minds than mine, The Episcopal Church is NOT the local franchise of the The Church of England. Our first bishops went to Scotland to be consecrated, not England. Our polity from the beginning aspired to be as different from the polity of the Cof E or of Rome as possible. Canterbury never played a large role in our Church affairs, until very recently.
Paul (A.), also at Jake's:
Abp. Williams: "How then should the Lambeth Conference be viewed? It is not a canonical tribunal, but neither is it merely a general consultation. It is a meeting of the chief pastors and teachers of the Communion, seeking an authoritative common voice."

"authoritative common voice"?

Where has this "scholar" been for the first hundred years or so of the Lambeth Conference?

And also this: "If their faith and practice are recognised by other churches in the Communion as representing the common mind of the Anglican Church, they are clearly in fellowship with the Communion."

Anglican Church?

There is no Anglican Church!

Did he completely sleep through Anglican Communion 101 in seminary?
Perhaps he did (sleep through class, that is). The ABC makes some statements and implies some assumptions in this letter addressed to his fellow primates that seem disingenuous at best and erroneous or fatuous at worst. There is clearly no place for the voices of lgbt persons to be heard in any process he outlines in spite of the long history of saying the church should listen to those affected, those victimized, those shunned, those oppressed.

I am one of the rare folks who actually has gone back (not recently, I admit) and read the results of previous Lambeth Conferences from the beginning to the present, so it can hardly be said that I have not taken them seriously. Not as canon law but as a guide to the thinking of bishops in the Communion, as some indication of where the Communion stands on things. As with other forms of guidance (moral, psychological, vocational, etc.) some counsel is better than others, some more apt than others, some more useful than others, and some perhaps belongs in the dustbin. Some is timely when given but outdated and no longer relevant later on. Some needs adaptation or rejection based on further information or later developments. But it is nonetheless wise to listen to counsel. One learns, whether one agrees with the advice or follows it or not.

I am a believer in organic development. This means I do not favor radical change with no, or little, continuity because I do not think we are meant to be rootless and unrelated to our context. Neither do I believe in stasis, in remaining the same and doing things the way we always have. While I believe the character and purposes of God are unchanging, our understanding of them is constantly evolving. As my namesake wrote: now we see in a glass, darkly. I do not believe everything new is good nor everything old to be irrelevant. Neither do I believe everything new to be evil or everything old to be of eternal value. It is all a mix, it is all in flux, it must all be constantly evaluated and re-evaluated. We cannot merely preserve. We cannot merely innovate. We can and must evolve. Or die. So with the Church. Its divine foundation and Christ's promises are our assurance of what lasts and our call into more than we can yet ask or imagine. Its human embodiment in space and time is our assurance that it is subject to all manner of limitations and errors and will always be groping toward that high call given us in Christ.

I think that to some extent I do understand how some folks think progressive approaches to Bible and ethics are "new" and discontinuous. It is because their focus is on the Torah and the Epistles. These are the folks I grew up with (different denomination, same mindset). The folks I run with now focus on the Prophets and the Gospels. You get very different emphases and trajectories, very different visions of holiness. Both are appealing to tradition. Both, when not sidelined with a desire for power or consumed with fear, seek to be faithful.

We who confess one God should also see this one God as the source of our yearnings for holiness and the goal of our journeying and might do well to trust God more and criticize our fellow humans less. (I preach to myself here, because I am as hurt and pissed and uncharitable as most these days.)

I think dialogue is a good thing. I don't see how Rowan's calling for it now will help much given how badly it has failed over the past thirty years. And if those most affected are not allowed to speak, then let's call it a bloody sham right now and not waste our time.

The former bishop here was definitely on the conservative side of things and his view of human sexuality, from what I heard him say, was definitely right out of the Vatican magisterium. Nonetheless, he spent an evening listening to lesbians and gays speak out of their experience, their pain, their hopes, and their journeys in Christ and in the community of faith. He did not agree with our positions but he remained our chief pastor and he did not shun, denounce, or excommunicate. He practices love and forbearance and provided pastoral care. At the beginning of this month he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He did not take any congregation with him. He resigned and left on his own. Those of us who disagreed with him on just about everything were, and are, fond of him. +Jeffrey Steenson was a "Windsor Bishop," one who abided by the listening part of Windsor and Lambeth. Most of those denouncing TEC are choosing not to listen, which means they may call themselves Windsor bishops but are not; they may say they are upholding Lambeth, but they are not.

It is clear that I am quite pessimistic about the future of the AC as we know it. It is also clear that I really don't give a damn any more so long as Gospel is proclaimed, lived, and Christ can draw the world into God's boundless love and life. I found a home in the AC and wish to continue being a Christian in the Anglican tradition. I would prefer for us all to "get along" but I have to trust God for that to happen. I have no faith in the Primates, quite frankly (with a few personal exceptions) or, after 1998, in Lambeth, or, after the confirmation of this Advent letter, in the ABC. But then, my faith is not in them, nor should be. It is in God the Holy and Lifegiving Trinity.

POSTSCRIPT:
I keep a daily collection of electronic clippings, mostly political but also humorous, cultural, and ecclesiastical. I e-mail it to my best friend who skims as he feels led. He does not want to deal with church politics, so I put the following header on such items, which are currently quite frequent. It is his warning label. Thought y'all might be amused. General license to use it elsewhere hereby freely granted.


--the BB

5 comments:

craig said...

There is a great deal to reflect on here, but for the moment let's only consider

... if those most affected are not allowed to speak, then let's call it a bloody sham right now and not waste our time.

I question the presupposition here that "those most affected" are glbt Anglicans. At worst it would seem that they might be denied ordination; note that among the Romans, upwards of 75% of adult members could not be ordained, either because they are female or because they are married. This does not seem to bother them very much, since the Roman Church continues to grow apace (even in Britain).

On the other hand, the perhaps 97.5% of adult Anglicans world wide who are straight will find their faith rejected out of hand when they attempt to evangelize the unchurched, or in many cases violently attacked (as has occurred in parts of Africa). They will find their faith ridiculed by the two billion or so other Christians on the planet. They will find themselves without any theologically credible defense of what will have become the major distinctive of their faith. They will, in short, find themselves completely isolated in a once-respected Christian tradition that has overnight become a dying wacko sect.

So I'm afraid I have to take issue with the implicit assumption of your statement. "Those most affected" are not the constituency of the glbt activists; they are their victims.

Paul said...

Craig, you needn't buy any of my assumptions, conclusions, or the line of reasoning in between. This blog is not one of the big venues of debate and persuasion. I just toss out my thoughts and never expected to be quoted on Titusonenine or linked on Episcopal Cafe.

I don't think "which of us is the bigger victim/martyr" is a very fruitful path, though I would suggest that ridicule is not on a par with historic burning at the stake or being criminalized for who you are. Nor do I think straight males are likely to grasp the issue until they are told that who they are makes them ineligible for ordination, but I have yet to hear a woman or gay person propose that, to the victimization playing field is far from level. What Rome does or does not do means little to me unless it commends itself on its own merits. Mormons and charismatics have met with great success in Latin America but I do not choose to adopt their styles or theologies.

How can one be without any theologically credible defense just because others mock? Has there ever been a time when the world has not found the Gospel simultaneously offensive and nonsense? Has there ever been a time in Church history when Christians have fully agreed? (I have studied Church history, so let me help you here: no, there has not.)


If two billion fellow Christians ridicule my faith there are several ways to view it. (1) Most Christians are way off the mark or (2) I am--these seem to be the most obvious takes though I always hold out for more options than two. I actually have a rather high faith in Jesus' promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church. If something labeled Christianity is a dying whacko sect, I doubt it is either what Jesus had in mind (and thus deserves to survive) or that it got that way overnight.

I happen to believe that the community of faith one hundred years from now will look very different from what it has been for the past few centuries, but I see that as hopeful because I trust Jesus and the workings of the Spirit and the power of the Gospel. Institutions are only instruments of God's workings and subject to modification in the unfolding of history. We clearly are not the church of the first century, eighth century, or fifteenth century, nor should we be. We don't live then. We live now and have to seek how to be faithful today.

Your faithfulness is not likely to look like mine. We live and minister in different subcommunities. I don't find this threatening. If we must be faithful in one and the same manner no matter what our context, then I find it antithetical to the Incarnation. The Spirit gives both unity and diverse gifts. The gift of communion, which comes from God and not our own efforts, is not the same as conformity.

We are all affected, and in that I agree with your taking issue with me. But while some of the most vocal conservatives may feel sidelined, their representatives are still part of the Primates group. So long as discussions take place only there or at Lambeth (without Bishop Robinson), then it is the lgbt voice that has not been invited to be heard. That's all I'm saying. And yes, the whole body of Christ is affected. not just one part or one party.

The Sheepcat said...

Paul,
I came by via TitusOneNine and have been pondering what to make of your remarks. I write not to defend Anglican conservatives per se--in the end, I believe, their enterprise, having diverged long ago from the fullness of the Christian faith handed down from the apostles through the Bishop of Rome and his successors, is unable to withstand the pressures of modernity. But if your assumptions and conclusions and line of reasoning are true, then why needn't Craig buy them?

So your blog isn't one of the biggies--what does that have to do with anything? You're clearly not completely shying away from debate here, and yet I wonder.

As for dialogue, while looking for a quote on its place relative to proclamation of the Gospel, I came across a most interesting statement from the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue. Though its stated focus is dialogue with non-Christian religions, many of its principles and concerns apply with equal force to dialogue among all those who share the grace of baptism.

There is a need for discernment, certainly.

"Sincere individuals marked by the Spirit of God have certainly put their imprint on the elaboration and the development of their respective religious traditions [not excluding TEC]. It does not follow, however, that everything in them is good." (30)

So I'd ask, Paul, how what you propose with regard to same-sex relations is an example of organic development. How do you harmonize your readings with those by the Church Fathers?

Someday, perhaps very soon, I hope to describe how I myself tried to reconcile the revisionist interpretation of the "clobber passsages" with the rest of Scripture. Tried and failed, for which I am grateful to God, because it has been through repentance that I have found a depth of peace I truly did not know before.

I think I have some understanding of your frustration with the Anglican Communion. There's a solution to that, all right, and without intending any condescension I say that as long as you keep looking to the Holy Trinity, you will find it.

For some reason, I have been unable to sign in to Blogger, but this is my site:
The Sheepcat.

Malcolm+ said...

Nice to be quoted, thanks.

I make some further observations on this topic at my blog - simplemassingpriest.blogspot.com

Assuming you have no objections, I shall add your blog as a link on mine.

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.