February 11, 2011

After Dublin—Part 2

As I noted in my last post in this series, Peter Carrell has suggested that the Anglican Communion must choose between interdependency and independency for its constituent churches. Peter fears that the effect of the Dublin Primates’ Meeting is to move the Communion in the direction of independency and away from what is his preference, interdependency.

Peter’s alternatives are not really as disjoint as he implies. I can argue for the independence of The Episcopal Church without insisting that Episcopalians not participate in Anglican bodies or asserting that the concerns of other churches never be taken into account. Interdependency within the Anglican Communion used to be about coöperation and mutual respect, not about doctrinal uniformity across the Communion. (See my post “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence.”)

It is the former and more benign understanding of interdependence that I wrote about in “Musings on Communion Agreements.” That interdependence—“interdependency” and “independency” sound odd to the American ear—need not imply the absence of autonomy or independence is implicit in the Episcopal–Lutheran agreement “Called to Common Mission.” I quoted from that communion agreement in “Musings,” and it is worth quoting again here. I won’t say more about it; the passage speaks well for itself.
We therefore understand full communion to be a relation between distinct churches in which each recognizes the other as a catholic and apostolic church holding the essentials of the Christian faith. Within this new relation, churches become interdependent while remaining autonomous. Full communion includes the establishment locally and nationally of recognized organs of regular consultation and communication, including episcopal collegiality, to express and strengthen the fellowship and enable common witness, life, and service. Diversity is preserved, but this diversity is not static. Neither church seeks to remake the other in its own image, but each is open to the gifts of the other as it seeks to be faithful to Christ and his mission. They are together committed to a visible unity in the church’s mission to proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments.
Like it or not, however, in contemporary Anglican parlance, “interdependent” means committed to a doctrinal uniformity that avoids offending the sensibilities of some ill-defined Anglican majority. (Jim Naughton called this “governance by hurt feelings.”) It is assumed in many parts of the Communion that achieving this type of interdependence is a good thing. I believe otherwise.

The Anglican Covenant and Interdependence

The Anglican Covenant, whose adoption has become the Archbishop of Canterbury’s raison d’être, begins curiously, with an Introduction that, according to Paragraph 4.4.1, “shall always be annexed to the Covenant text, is not part of the Covenant, but shall be accorded authority in understanding the purpose of the Covenant.” The Introduction is clearly intended to be a theological justification for the Covenant, and its odd status allows it to assert that justification while discouraging serious scrutiny of the argument.

There is a good deal of scripture cited in the Covenant draft, and nearly all of it occurs in the Introduction. (See “Scripture for the Ridley Cambridge Draft,” which is an introduction for my compilation of all the Bible passages cited in the penultimate draft of the Covenant.) Given the political nature of the Covenant, this is not surprising.

Reading the Introduction for the first time, I was immediately put off by the verses with which it begins, 1 John 1: 2–4. I could not identify the Bible translation from which the text was taken. Virtually every translation renders koinonia (κοινωνία) as “fellowship,” whereas the text in the Covenant draft renders it “communion.” Whereas such a translation is not unreasonable, it is surely manipulative. The word “communion” is intended to invoke, if only subconsciously, the Anglican Communion.

In fact, I believe that no strictly theological argument can be advanced to support a specifically Anglican agreement to achieve doctrinal uniformity. One can perhaps use scripture to support an argument for unity—however one wants to define that concept—among Christians generally, but for Anglican unity? What book of the New Testament addresses Anglicanism? Anglicanism, in fact, is a Christian strain born in schism, the antithesis of unity and interdependency.

But surely doctrinal uniformity within Anglicanism would be a good thing! On one hand, it would strengthen Anglican witness to the world, and, on the other hand, it would make Christianity, though still divided, somewhat less divided.

The first argument comes to us from the fifty-million-Frenchmen-can’t-be-wrong school. In fact, fifty million Frenchmen will be wrong if one of them is wrong. The argument for orthodoxy, “right opinion,” presupposes that one can identify with certainty the opinion that is right. If you can’t, and if you insist on uniformity, everybody may well be wrong. This is a major argument for diversity over uniformity. Of course, those who argue for uniformity usually are convinced that they know the truth. But, allowing diverse opinions about doctrinal questions that are not easily resolved actually increases the probability that somebody is right and that, if there is any ultimately right answer, the Church eventually will discover it.

Likewise, the second argument isn’t as strong as it seems to be. If one accepts that there should be a single Church, unified in all its beliefs, then all of Christianity should be involved in determining those beliefs. Insisting on determining truth within any subgroup—within the Anglican Communion, for instance—could well make defining common doctrine among all Christians more problematic, as the distribution of opinion within the subgroup might be quite different from that within the larger Church, thus skewing the ecumenical dialogue.

I believe that the vision of a universal Christian Church possessing all truth is an arrogant fantasy, the modern equivalent of building the Tower of Babel. God’s truth is infinitely more complex and subtle than we can imagine. It is all we can do to aspire to discern God’s will for the here and now!

Anglicanism and Interdependence

In many ways, Anglican churches are much like the churches of other Christian denominations. (I’m not going to get into the “we’re not a denomination” argument, which is a special form of Anglican arrogance.) Many churches that look much different from our own accept the authority of Scripture and the relevance of the creeds. Some even have, if not bishops, at least people who perform what we consider episcopal functions.

What is it that makes Anglican churches special? One is hinted at in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral; the other is not even mentioned there. The unnamed characteristic of Anglicanism is its emphasis on corporate, liturgical worship. Besides its connecting us to our past, this saves Anglicanism from self-righteous (and self-serving) personal piety and from the natural human tendency to attach ourselves to charismatic leaders with insufficient regard for the reasonableness of what those leaders do and say.

Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Anglicanism, however, is its recognition that both ecclesiology and theology need to be adapted to particular peoples and eras. It is this fundamental Anglican insight that the advocates of Anglican uniformity are seeking to destroy.

This last point is more important than is commonly acknowledged. When I was a computer science professor seeking to be a more effective teacher, I became aware of the body of literature about differences in the psychological makeup of students. Those differences result in students’ preferring different styles of learning. I despaired, however, of providing each student with the learning experience that would prove most effective to his or her educational progress.

Churches, on the other hand, do a much better job than colleges and universities of catering to human variability. The proliferation of diverse churches that so many Christians decry actually manages to provide the mechanisms to proclaim the Gospel to all people, not just people like you and me. Whereas I cannot imagine worship without our rich heritage of Episcopal hymns, I know people who hate hymns—hate music, even. Those people should not be Episcopalians. They can be fine Christians in some other tradition, however, and I thank God that there are others who can take the Gospel to them.

I freely admit that the Church of the Province of Uganda is not ready for gay bishops. (It doesn’t even seem ready to oppose the execution of gays or the punishment of straight people for befriending gays. I pray this will change over time.) The situation in America is different, however, and Anglicans in Uganda should have little to say about it and much to learn from it. If Episcopalians do not lead the movement for social justice for sexual minorities—do not uphold the dignity of all human beings—Episcopalians will be diminished thereby, and the moral leadership of The Episcopal Church will likewise be devalued.

The Episcopal Church and, I would hope, other Anglican churches should resist the misguided call to interdependency in the Anglican Covenant, at least to the extent that it is intended to reduce diversity in the Communion in favor of uniformity. As I have said elsewhere, we should commit to saving Anglicanism at all costs and to saving the Anglican Communion if at all possible.

No Anglican Covenant

Get your No Anglican Covenant merchandise at the Farrago Gift Shop.


  1. Lionel, thank you for your attention to the varying understandings of the meaning of interdependency. The quote from the Episcopal-Lutheran agreement is an eye-opener, all right. - "interdependent while remaining autonomous". What's so hard to understand about that?

    I checked several different versions of English translations of the Bible, and I found none that use "communion" in the verses from the first letter of John.

  2. Hi Lionel,
    Too much here to engage with in a brief comment!

    My quibbles: does seeking greater commonality of understanding (the mind of the Communion) necessarily involve 'uniformity'? It could simply involve 'limits to diversity'. Anglo-catholics who did not follow Newman to Rome presumably did not feel they had to be in uniformity with their evangelical counterparts; and that both lay within the (then) 'limits to diversity.' Newman, perhaps, felt there should be uniformity and, in the end felt that was only attainable in communion with Rome.

    Next quibble: another comment.

  3. Hi Lionel,

    You have written:

    "Likewise, the second argument isn’t as strong as it seems to be. If one accepts that there should be a single Church, unified in all its beliefs, then all of Christianity should be involved in determining those beliefs. Insisting on determining truth within any subgroup—within the Anglican Communion, for instance—could well make defining common doctrine among all Christians more problematic, as the distribution of opinion within the subgroup might be quite different from that within the larger Church, thus skewing the ecumenical dialogue."

    My thinking is almost directly opposite! (1) It would be good if (somehow) all of Christianity was involved in determining orthodoxy. (2) Anglicanism should be moving towards common belief with other Christians. As it does that it need not fear queering the pitch on future unity. Rather it would be hastening the day.

  4. Admittedly, “seeking greater commonality of understanding” need not imply seeking uniformity. Section 4 of the proposed Anglican Covenant, however, is an invitation to enforce uniformity through the application of “relational consequences.” In Pittsburgh, we take such threats seriously.

    As for moving toward a common understanding with other Christians, I can see it as positive. On the other hand, I expect to reach common understand with, say, the Roman Catholics, when hell freezes over. I see ARCIC as a complete waste of resources; first, because there are some irreconcilable differences between us and second, because Anglicans have such differing views themselves on issues. I can assure you that my own church’s General Convention is not likely to feel much obligation to be bound by any agreements emerging from ARCIC.

  5. Peter, the problem is simple. Some people are "adding" to the creeds, which were designed to establish the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy. The creeds represent the sufficient statement of the faith. Surely the burden of proof must lie on those who claim that regulations concerning sexuality and marriage and ordination are part of the corpus of non-negotiable orthodoxy. Marriage customs have varied considerably within the history of Christendom.

    Can you demonstrate why it is possible to have quite different eucharistic theologies, or theologies of the atonement, as we do not only within Anglicanism but in relation to the other major traditions, but must draw some sort of line on our understandings of marriage --- which the reformers did not even consider a sacrament? Why is a single mind needed on this but not those?

  6. Tobias,
    "Why is a single mind needed on this but not those?"
    You raise an important question. As a member of TEC you will have many insights into the events of North America I don't have.
    I am sure that in your diocese you do have ministers with quite different views of the atonement serving quite happpily in parishes side-by-side, and it is possible that either one of them could be considered for election as convention deputy or bishop. You might be able also to point to bishops of TEC with different views of the atonement serving together in your HoB.
    So as you say, people holding these different theological positions can live quite happily within your canons and constitution.
    I wonder whether in the case of Same Sex Marriage those opposed anticipate something a little like what those opposed to women's access to all offices in your church experienced.
    As I read your canons (and please correct me if I am wrong), they allow for the full inclusion of women and other minority groups such as gays, immigrants etc, to all offices in TEC. Access to the discernment stages to become a priest is mandated. To take up office in TEC one has to swear or affirm that one will uphold these canons.
    It may be that some may not be able to do that for reasons of conscience.
    A second reason may be, as Bill Carroll once pointed out to me, that the 1979 prayerbook makes it difficult to hold an evangelical theology in TEC. This is too nuanced an argument for here, but a democratic church like TEC may from time to time make decisions some members have difficulty living with, I would have thought. We have no Elizabethan settlement today to ensure that all/most opinions are catered for in changes any diocese or province may make.
    John Sandeman

  7. Terrific job Lionel.

    I think too, that it is simplistic and preposterous to assert that the understanding of the content, much less the meaning, of "The Gospel" was, has been, or is uniform. The same goes for the Roman Imperial imposition of manageable and legalistic orthodox uniformity onto the previously counter-cultural Christian movement. The Church was co-opted and assimilated through the highly political ecumenical councils, and their development and promulgation of scriptural canon and the creeds. All certainly a more Roman process than either catholic or apostolic.

    As a case in point, I think it is terribly important that one carefully consider written sources and then struggle with the fact that any depictions of a crucified Christ are absent from Christian sacred art, until near the turn of the first millennium, arising in northern, continental Europe, in the aftermath of brutal Carolingian conquest and occupation.

    The theology of the death of Christ and of atonement was very different, in content and priority, through the different stages of the first millennium, and since, of the Church. It continued to change in the second millenium, through Scholasticism, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and the modern rise of Fundamentalism, and is changing as we read and write.

    Such basics of Christianity were, have been and are in flux. So to contend that mere matters of moral theology and church discipline are settled is the stuff of narrative, perspective, agenda, persuasion and the contention for power.

    I realize that I'll likely be taken to task for this, but to be perpetually bound uncritically to products of such questionable influence and objective is frankly irresponsible, and I think un-Christian. I think we are obliged to struggle with our legacy and redeem it where needed, not merely acquiesce to it lock, stock and imperial barrel.

    I think it is fairly clear from canonical, and even the non-canonical, Gospels that Jesus challenged moralism, sanctimony, and particularly the institutionalization and the subsequent gaming of religion at the expense of people, and especially at the expense of people with little power and influence. Furthermore he ate and drank with sinners (of uncertain natures) and tax collectors to the scandal of the religious establishment and mainstream activists alike.

    The question is: whose impulses and proclivities will influence your theology and ecclesiology, those represented by the characters of the Priests, the Scribes, the Sadducees the Pharisees, and the Romans, or with the Disciples, the People, the Sinners and Jesus?

  8. John, I've heard that argument before (i.e., that uniformity on issue such-and-such will eventually be mandated.) It is at present not accurate to say that holding that the process of discernment for ordination necessitates belief in the ordination of women. No bishop can be forced to ordain someone they choose not to ordain. "Access to discernment" is explicitly restricted, and the canon states that there is "no right to ordination."

    On the marriage issue, the canons also defend the right of any presbyter to refuse to solemnize any given marriage. This is a right of conscience that is explicit.

    Speaking practically, these positions remain largely untested as the conservatives in general have shown they do not wish to be tolerated, and so have departed. Playing the persecution card when one is not persecuted is a time honored ploy on virtually all sides of this discussion. (I cringe to hear liberals cry persecution when they are merely inconvenienced.) However, in the present case look to other parts of the Communion to see real persecution.

    You'll have to be more specific about evangelical theology and the 1979 BCP, as I don't see the problem you reference. To be fair, there are things in the BCP I do not necessarily care for -- and I assume the same may well be true for others. But I think we have a very big tent indeed, and do wonder what the problem is in some cases. It seems to me to be more fear of unforeseen requirements than actual demands on the table (or in the Canons).

  9. Tobias,
    I am sure you have heard my argument before, possibly to the point of weariness.
    I am sorry about this, because I think that if we are weary of each other we are truly at the point a schism.
    I agree no bishop can be forced to ordain an individual, but it is at the level of someone becoming a bishop that the difficulty arises. If someone believes that women should not be priests, can they undertake to uphold canons that forbid discrimination on the basis of gender?
    You and I might have to disagree whether that rules people with that view out of high office in TEC. It is clear however that TEC has not elected and confirmed a bishop who opposes women's ordination recently.
    In theory a bishop can say I will admit women to discernment but never priest them, but is that "letter of the law" approach acceptable?
    I was talking to Dr Michael Youseff, of the Church of the Apostles, Atlanta, recently (primarily about Egypt). But he described howjavascript:void(0) he came to leave the cathedral in Atlanta. It was clear that as a conservative he would be "tolerated" - he could plant a church a long way out of town. But to plant a church in the centre of Atlanta was something his bishop would not tolerate.
    The issue for many of the conservatives who have left TEC is not whether that will be "tolerated" but whether thay would be allowed to thrive.
    A common sticking point in a (small e) episcopal system is where ministers are allowed to go to train. Access to evangelical seminaries is key to maintaining evangelical churches, but the bishops have a good deal of say in this and as with ordination, they have discretion.
    Tobias, I suspect you will go on believing that TEC is a big tent. And I will go on regretting that unlike most of the Anglican Communion it misses having a strong evangelical wing.

    John Sandeman

    John Sandeman

  10. Anglicanism should be moving towards common belief with other Christians.

    Peter, the Episcopal Church and the Moravian Church here in the US recently celebrated coming together in full communion. It's being done.

  11. John,

    In the U.S. the Evangelicals have a place to go. Their theology is safe and sound in many, many venues, and perhaps growing due mostly to high input versus slightly less high outgoing. What is not safe from this compulsive Borg of acquisition and assimilation by a rampant Church-Militant Triumphalism is a liturgically-focused, reflective community free of a Curia (with its attendant components, e.g., a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), etc., and that is also free of an rigid, procrustean, moralistic, draconian, proselytizing juggernaut.

    A great percentage (though I couldn't find the stats yet, so anecdotally) of the people comprising the growth of our relatively small Church either came from or came through Evangelical churches, or Roman Catholicism, and are socio-spiritual refugees from those phenomena.

    Making the TEC more like every other Evangelical congregation down the street, or more like other, less-democratic Churches in the AC, and/or making the AC more like the RC, are all grave mistakes.

    This uniformity-compulsion and the itch to acquire more and more, in this case souls, is a Greco-Roman, imperialistic problem. Sorry, but it's a post-modern world, now. Which does not obliterate the preceding paradigms, abiding still in this world are hunter-gatherers, pastorals, agrarians, tribal and feudal societies, industrializing, post-industrializing socities, etc. This post-modern, Emerging Church advent just adds another layer that accompanies human life as it goes forward.

    Some of us then are about the task of building this airplane while in-flight, while trouble-shooting, identifying, quarantining and repairing or deleting the damage done by these historical, socio-eco-political infections of Christianity.

    So, let the Evangelicals have their own very safe, burgeoning venues. Let not another Curia spawn at Lambeth. Let people go where they will, so long as they leave the stuff and the keys. And let the chips fall where they may. Some of us are willing to take responsibility for our prayerful, reflective and hard-won conclusions about what Jesus' life, ministry, death and resurrection asks of us.

  12. A great percentage (though I couldn't find the stats yet, so anecdotally) of the people comprising the growth of our relatively small Church either came from or came through Evangelical churches, or Roman Catholicism, and are socio-spiritual refugees from those phenomena.

    Brian, our church is the same. I am a refugee from Roman Catholicism, and I did not choose the Episcopal Church to watch in dismay as its governance becomes a carbon copy of the autocratic governance of the Roman church.

    The members of my congregation, who come from fundamentalist churches do not want to go back to their confines, either.

  13. Hi Tobias,
    It is possible that marriage was not part of the creeds because no one in those centuries envisaged the developments of the 20th and 21st centuries, but if they had then ...!

    I, and I imagine about a billion other Christians, find it quite unpersuasive re sexuality and marriage that the burden of proof falls on those upholding the tradition of the church rather than on those changing it!

    Finally here, I also find it unpersuasive to frame an aspect of the issue in these terms: 'Marriage customs have varied considerably within the history of Christendom.' Christendom has never varied its understanding of marriage as a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman. (It has varied its understanding of what happens when that relationship breaks up. It has varied its understanding of the basis on which a man and a woman are joined together (once upon a time, we are assured, it was about property and not love!). It has varied its understanding of the role of the church in the declaration that a marriage has taken place. In some places it has tolerated polygamy while teaching on monogamy took root.)

  14. Hi All,
    I appreciate that if we remain focused on the virtues and vices of this church and that church we can find ready justification for belonging to one and not another.

    But is that sufficient response under God to God's great plan for unity in all things (Ephesians 1), for Christ's prayer for unity (John 17), to say nothing of Paul's plea, undergirded by profound christological reflection, for being on one mind (Philippians 2)?

    Are we too easily giving up on entering into the depths of the ecclesiology of the New Testament because of nervousness about 'uniformity', concerns about dictatorial bishops and the like?

    Perhaps all expressions of God's church are under judgement for failure to grasp the vision of being both body and bride of Christ!

  15. John, I never weary of our discussions! ;-)

    To take your case in point, I agree that it might be difficult for a bishop militantly opposed to the ministry of women either to be elected or confirmed, human nature being what it is, and the state of things in the US being what it is. This is part of the hard reality of the democratic process, and people with views of all sorts who are out of touch with majorities may not be popular with the voters.

    That being said, a bishop with such views who was elected would not be under any legal duress to ordain anyone he did not approve of. Such a bishop could not be charged under our canons. This is a real situation, and ways around the difficulty have been found in those cases -- usually through the person being ordained in another diocese or by another bishop. I think that is not only the letter but the spirit of the law, which explicitly recognizes that access is not in itself ordination.

    I don't know the details of the Atlanta priest's story, but surely you know that under American Canon law one cannot simply start a congregation anywhere one chooses. That is not just the bishop's concern, but the existing parishes, whose consent is required before any new congregation can be established. As to "thriving" -- the urban parishes in the US are often the ones suffering most, and suburban and rural parishes can grow and thrive in a less competitive environment.

    When it comes to training, I can only attest that there are clergy from every sort of background serving throughout the US. I know some bishops have strong preferences.

    I suppose what bemuses me, however, in all of this, is a kind of evangelical exceptionalism that wants its own way regardless of what the church says. Perhaps this is an element in the more "personalistic" or individualistic theology underpinning evangelicalism, particularly in its 19th century forms. I really don't know. I certainly don't see opposition to the ordination of women as a particularly "evangelical" position -- quite the contrary in the US. So I'm not really sure what you mean by "evangelical" --- I'd be interested in a tick-box list of things you think highlight evangelicalism as you understand it; I had always thought it had to do with salvation by grace through faith, high regard for Scripture, and opposition to "works."

  16. Here in the post-modern world we, thankfully, are not beset with the problems of the developing world, e.g., will we eat; will it be enough; will we drink; will the water be safe; will we be safe from disease and violence, etc.?

    Like those before us, having arrived and come into possession of a land flowing with milk and honey, we are beset by other inescapable problems and dangers that come of stability, power and wealth. The issue center largely on issues of justice and compassion versus oppression and apathy.

    Here we heirs of safety and affluence atop a food chain/pyramid scheme that rests on the backs of and is greased with the blood, sweat and tears of the vast majority of humanity - the other.

    One of the others are the sexual minorities, who for the convenience of the majority are oppressed in a variety of ways. The oppression is buttressed by the gaming of religion in favor of the entitled, and distaste for what is not their inclination, and labeled sin and unnatural, which enables the continuation of oppression in "good conscience".

    But, for anyone who has taken the time and effort to as much as possible attempt to understand what it is like to be one sort or another of other the injustice of the oppression cannot be tolerated.

    In such cases, there is no justification of the cavalier dismissal of another's problem of finding love in a primary relationship, with the off-handed suggestions that the other needs to align themselves with the way of the majority, or to simply go without. All essential for the nice, tidy comfort of the complacently powerful. There is no appreciation for the impossibility of this changing around; no deep consideration of the grace of a straight orientation having come in the mail at puberty, nor does there seem to be any grasp that, if say the current majority orientation were to fall out of favor and become oppressed, one could not by counseling, force of will, prayer or penance change one's own orientation to meet the needs of such a society.

    To put it more clearly, without deep existential distress and pain, the straight could scarcely get past kissing another of the same gender, much less past that, even if it were the way of the world. Yet we ask such from others, and oppress and punish them at every turn and across a continuum of severity and cruelty for doing what we could not do ourselves if we were in the same position. This is what is known in the parlance of the internet as a moral FAIL, an epic FAIL of compassion and justice.

    So, "No," for those of us who having imagined walking in these moccasins much more than a few steps, the conscience genie is out of the bottle and shan't be stuft back in. "No, no, no," to the smug moralism, sanctimony, appeals to fear, appeals to authority, etc. "No," also to fruits of closeted reaction-formation, psychological splitting and secret acting out, etc.

    This whole business, of inclusive ministry to all the baptized, to all orders, and to marriage eqaulity, is a major sticking point against unity. It is not the only one, along with the status of women, racism, as well as economic and development justice, but it is a major one, and it is emblematic of the post-modern problem of taking Christianity seriously and maintaining all of the legs of Hooker's three-legged stool.

    Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen. - Martin Luther.

  17. Hello, Peter. Thanks for your response.

    You are side-stepping the issue here, and it would be good to see you offer a defense for the creedal centrality of heterosexual monogamous marriage. I'm not asking for a defense of marriage as such, but as to its being of central doctrinal importance, an issue over which to divide or submit, and on which differences of opinion cannot be tolerated or allowed. It is apparent that the subject didn't come up in time to be addressed by Nicea; but now that it has come up it is necessary to address it; and I'm sorry, it is not enough simply to say, "We've always done it that way," especially when we haven't. There are several different theologies of marriage in Scripture, and in the church -- and it is no good ignoring them or pretending an unchanged tradition in something so markedly changed.

    It is also odd to me that you continue to use language of "persuasion" regarding your position. I don't regard that as "argument" but merely a polite form of contradiction. Perhaps if you could indicate exactly what is unpersuasive, and why, something approaching dialogue could take place. Begging the question by citing either tradition or numbers is, if I may say the same, unpersuasive. Why? Traditions can and do change, and I find it somewhat amusing that you make the claim for marriage and then follow it with a handful of alterations and exceptions, to which many more can be added! That alone should open the door to reevaluation. And as to the billions, large numbers of people can be and often are wrong.

    The arguments ad verecundiam or ad antiquitatem, as well as ad populum or numerum are logical fallacies that add no content to the discussion. Again, if you wish to make a case that same-sex marriage is a doctrinal issue over which the church must either divide or be of one mind, please make it: then we would have a thesis to discuss. For if the church is able to maintain its unity while having differences of opinion on this subject (which my experience in Indaba conversation shows me) then your real goal has been achieved.

  18. Hi Tobias,
    I myself am not sure whether same sex marriage is a church dividing issue as in 'would I divide off, for that reason?' but I am trying to be respectful rather than dismissive of brother and sister Anglicans who think it is a dividing issue.

    Concerns about marriage are often made in the New Testament. Jesus and Paul both attend to 'issues in maariage'. Always marriage between a woman and a man (and that goes for the several theologies of marriage in Scripture). I think it not unreasonable to think that both biblical writers and creedal composers would say something in response to the suggestion that marriage could be same-gendered. But even if you dismiss such thoughts, there is a strength of conviction permeating Scripture that marriage is between a man and a woman that undergirds the present conviction for some Christians that it is a dividing issue.

    I assume it is okay to consider dividing from other Christians for non creedal reasons! After all Anglicans and Baptists are divided over something not stated in the creeds.

    I suggest that numbers matter when 'the burdon of proof' approach is taken. Someone has to accept the burdon of proof and I cannot see those billion Christians taking up that challenge.

    In the end I wonder if you are facing the challenge of the situation in respect of unity: it is not a mere matter of difference of opinion we are talking about, and thus why cannot Anglicans of good will sit down together, even share eucharist together. Among conservative Anglicans is a conviction that a sexual relationship outside of marriage is a sin (or, an ongoing sinful behaviour). That conviction means the difference is at a different level to 'you believe Jesus died as a penal substitutionary atonement, I believe he died as an exemplary sacrifice.'

    Either conservatives are going to suspend judgment on whether sin is involved, or recant fullstop of such a view, or other changes take place but until they do so, it is very difficult to see how unity in the Anglican Communion will be reached.

    I know that you know that conservatives can be challenged about the 'sin' line ... lots of people sin and turn up for meetings and are not turned away, etc. But my experience of conservatives is that they/we can be stubborn!

  19. Brian,
    Is a possibly inconvenient truth that many of the world's Anglicans are evangelicals. (But please remember that "evangelical" does not carry the same political baggage outside the USA. Plenty of evangelicals vote Labour in the UK and Labor in Australia.)
    So in saying "So, let the Evangelicals have their own very safe, burgeoning venues." you are saying that evangelicals who are Anglicans in other parts of the communion should not expect to find their kind in a TEC church.
    Thats an odd way to be in communion, surely? And should I be saying In Sydney "the progressives have a place to go?"

  20. Tobias,
    the Atlannta story goes that the Bishop said to the the evangelical priest "go ahead, plant your church".
    Then changed his mind. But the priest said, "Its too late we had 400 at our first meeting. We've already started." Which is why the 3,000 member Church of the Apostles is not part of the TEC diocese.

    John Sandeman (who also replied to Brian, just above)

  21. Some very interesting questions have been raised here. I find one of the more interesting ones to be the question of what causes a group to leave a church to form another, whether this takes place in a single congregation or on a larger scale.

    The presenting issues are, I suspect, often non-creedal. (The Methodists were mostly about reform, for instance). Often the issue seems to be power—a minority feels disenfranchised and wants more control over church affairs. Power was at the heart of the ACNA departure.

    A good reason for maintaining separate churches is simply the difficulty of governing very large or very diverse bodies. Just imagine the logistic problems were the Anglican Communion to become a unified Anglican Church. Meeting frequently enough would be expensive and cumbersome. (Of course, the Roman Catholics solve this problem through dictatorship, but this is not a very Anglican solution.) Imagine trying to develop of Communion-wide prayer book!

    Does anyone want to address what you consider to be legitimate reasons for splitting?

  22. Lionel here's some that come to mind:
    In the case of a state church (eg CofE) where
    • Part of the state/empire becomes independent -example, TEC, most of the Anglican Communion in fact
    • The state interferes in the church
    - example J H Newman leaves for Rome
    • A race group is ignored by the main body of the church
    - Church of the Torres strait leaves Anglican Church of Australia after a bungled diocesan amalgamation that imposed a liberal bishop on the Torres Strait islanders
    - Black churches in some states of the US
    • A new movement is not provided for by the parent church
    - Methodists in the US elect their own bishops after the Church of England fails to provide bishops for them. (They needed to have ministers ordained to serve their congregations and the church was not going to help)
    • And here's a controversial one!
    – radicals are kicked out: the Colenso affair where the first Lambeth Conference supports the creation of the see of Pietermaritzburg in the same geographical space as the see of Natal

  23. John,

    I believe it is a matter of numbers, theology and worship style. There are very few Episcopalians in the U.S., versus a very much larger Evangelical population. I'm sure there a low-church congregations that go about their liturgy and mission in similar fashion to an American Evangelical congregation. However, for the broad church and the high church, I don't see a fluid compatibility among them.

    Now, just to be clear, is there a ambiguity between each of our own use of the term Evangelical?

    Here it generally describes churches (many of which are non-denominational and congregational in organization, but the largest denomination would be the Southern Baptists) that stress
    * The need for personal conversion (or being "born again").
    * Actively expressing and sharing the gospel of salvation through atonement by Christ's death.
    * A high regard for biblical authority, especially biblical inerrancy.
    * A focus on being saved by grace and not by works.
    * An emphasis on teachings that proclaim the expiatory death and resurrection, and versions of the return of Jesus, literally and concretely culminating in a war resulting in the defeat of Satan, an end to this world with final judgment of the living and the dead, and the establishment of unopposed dominion God.
    * The latter two lead to a focus on sin, and a deep disengagement with the world, except where it may lead to conversions.

    There are about 2 million Episcopalians in the U.S., and just counting the Southern Baptists alone there are over 16 million.

    I see our liturgical worship that is eucharistically based as being not their cup of tea. I believe they would not be happy among us till it changed to their liking, which would make it not longer Episcopal in character, but rather an Evangelical clone.

    When group of a markedly different theology collude to infiltrate into a small congregation, and overwhelm the numbers of the original congregants, and thus take over the congregation's preaching, teaching, worship and ministry as well as its property, we have a term for that here: steeple-jacking. I believe bringing in Evangelicals into the Episcopal would have similar results, if not process.

    Do the progressives have well over 800% more congregants outside the Anglican church in Australia, or are they to be found largely within its confines?

  24. [A] bishop [opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood]who was elected would not be under any legal duress to ordain anyone he did not approve of. Such a bishop could not be charged under our canons. This is a real situation, and ways around the difficulty have been found in those cases -- usually through the person being ordained in another diocese or by another bishop.

    That doesn't completely solve the problem for a diocesan bishop who's opposed to the ordination of women, at least not if the newly ordained female priest is going to remain in his diocese. There's an ongoing relationship between the bishop and the priests (and deacons)in his or her diocese. If the bishop cannot recognize the validity of her orders, doesn't that make the situation untenable as much for her as for him?

    As you have pointed out, the TEC canons explicitly allow a priest to refuse to marry any couple for any reason. However, if a priest were to have a stated policy of, say, not marrying mixed-race couples, shouldn't s/he expect some pressure from the Right Reverend to abandon that policy? So even if a priest who declines to perform a mixed-race (or same-sex) wedding won't face a presentment, aren't there other ways that the bishop can pressure her/him to change her/his ways?

  25. Brian,
    Its natural I guess for you to think that its normal for say the Anglican/Episcopalians to be more progressive than baptists. Guess what? In my diocese its round the other way.
    "When group of a markedly different theology collude to infiltrate into a small congregation, and overwhelm the numbers of the original congregants, and thus take over the congregation's preaching, teaching, worship and ministry as well as its property, we have a term for that here: steeple-jacking. I believe bringing in Evangelicals into the Episcopal would have similar results, if not process."
    There are plenty of people who think that letting progressives into conservative parts of anglicanland would have a similar effect.
    What we have is mirror images of each other.
    I can see why and how you think evangelicals should not be in TEC. The difficulty is that you are saying in effect to member provinces in the Anglican Communion who happen to be evangelical - we don't want people like you in our church. So why be in communion with them?
    Its a complex issue.

  26. Well, stay away for a day and the thread goes on!

    This seems to me to have wandered a bit wildly from the original theme of unity vx uniformity, though there remain hints of it. Paul Powers note highlights this for me: as it seems to suggest, to me, a kind of craving for uniformity and unwillingness to live with the reality of "difficulties" -- as in the case posited of a bishop against WO having to deal with a woman priest in his diocese. My question: why can't he just "deal with it"? Same with the priest facing "pressure" from a bishop over a racist policy. Yes, that might be difficult, but the Law protects him. In both cases there is a law which someone may not like but which one is sworn to uphold. Obedience only really is tested when one is in that position. And isn't that part of life when one is out of step with the majority-- and that goes for being out of step to the left or the right.

    Perhaps because I've lived with being in a minority for so long, and accepted that status under obedience, I'm a bit bemused by the outcry from some quarters about having to deal with disagreement. This is why it seems to me that an urge to uniformity is in fact hiding under the petticoats of unity. The decontextualized misuse of "Can two walk together unless they agree" by some in the GS is part of that dynamic.

    This relates to the questions raised by John and Peter: ultimately only time will tell if WO or SSB are going to lead to long time schism. I think they are both adiaphora, but as I've noted elsewhere adiaphora normally only become apparent after the fact: the rule is "it seemed important at the time." That vernacular liturgy, the common cup, double predestination and bishops vs presbyters have been church dividing issues but are now largely footnotes (or adopted by those who originally opposed them!) show the pattern at work.

    So ultimately the question for the present is: can the church live with the particular tensions it is facing, or not? Some will find it intolerable, others merely difficult. No doubt some will part ways. But the responsibility, from my perspective, lies on the shoulders of those who insist that communion must be broken. The fact that others do not believe that shows that the "necessity" resides in the hearts of those making the move to separate.

  27. Hi John,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I think your observation that our respective Churches are mirror images of each other, with respect to theology together with the context of its socio-political spectra, is surprizing and very interesting, even illuminating.

    Not to be rhetorical and torque your observation into a counterpoint against what I take to be your position, I really mean the following with the utmost sincerely.

    I would say that your observation represents evidence that our Churches are remarkably different in core features of composition and process. I think it lends credence and support to the notion that the pastoral care, guidance and ministry of each Church is most appropriately developed and determined within its jurisdiction, being most appropriate to each Church's particular locality, history, people and situation. Furthermore, that such autonomy should be deeply respected, and that evaluations and interventions should be deemed as intrusive, inappropriate and presumptuous. My understanding is that traditionally such has been the overriding norm, until apparently these days. Contextualized in this way, perhaps this indicates a confusion or myopia with respect to concerns, priorities and energy that merits further consideration.

    I think this inappropriate minding of the other's business itself poisons and weakens our established ties of communion.

  28. Brian,
    I guess one could live with an Anglican "Communion" where people who move from country to country have to search out a different church: an anglican from a conservative province might not be at home in TEC, and a TECan may not be at home in some of the conservative provinces. It's a bit odd, but no different to how the Anglican Church of Australia often works.
    But I wonder if you really want a strict non-interference policy with "the pastoral care, guidance and ministry of each Church is most appropriately developed and determined within its jurisdiction, being most appropriate to each Church's particular locality, history, people and situation."
    This would mean that the Church of Uganda will have a policy opposing gay inclusion and TEC would be hands off. Would TEC lobby groups like Integrity stop working with Bishop Christopher Senyonjo? Would TEC Bishops have to stay silent?
    I suspect you would not want a strict non-intereference policy. Seems to me both sides want to work with the odd deposed bishop (Senyonjo and Duncan)?

  29. Hi John,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Actually, I can take responsibility for the position of autonomy over uniformity with all its irritations and contradictions. As you say, broad diversity already has existed and does exist throughout the AC. For instance, I may go to Kenya in the next year on a medical mission, and I have already looked into it and found that in fact I would not be comfortable personally attending services within the Anglican Church of Kenya. However, this does not mean that in response to my disagreement I would withdraw from the mission, withdraw my professional service,or my personal ministry, nor does this mean I would break our larger, historical and more at-arms-distance fellowship through the AC. Such is the way of kinship.

    There is growth to be gained for all of us by remaining steadfstly in relationship, and resisting the tempation to summarily resolve the terrible tension of deep difference by disowning or divorcing the other. There will necessarily be some sacrifices, some death to ego involved - of certainty, of smugness, of complacency, of comfort, of willful ignorance, of neglect, of disengagement. This matyrdom* promises to be transformative of each, in perhaps unlooked-for ways, but in that fact I have the utmost faith. The alternatives of evaluating, manipulating, coercing, punishing, withdrawing are the ways of this world, and are not the ways of charity and of the Kingdom of Heaven.

    *Martyr, from Middle English, from Old English, from Latin martyr, from Ancient Greek μάρτυρ (martyr), later form of μάρτυς (martus, “witness”).

  30. Brian,
    If the Anglican Communion was strong, it would be possible for you to go to Kenya and attend a church which was both alien and like home for you at the same itime. Presbyters and Bishops could serve interchangeably - in fact that is one of the hallmarks of Communion. In the US, ELCA and TEC ministers can share parishes - because those two churches are in communion.
    The truth is that The Anglican Communion is really not in communion.
    What we have is a fragment. I think we shall see a complicated mix of networks - some formal, some not, -be set up in the future. There may not be sharp boundaries - but I suspect that some provinces will clump together in what looks very much like full communion (TEC, ACoC) in various combinations. It will be someway short of divorce.

  31. Again thanks for your reply, John.

    I fear you are right about how it will turn out. Perhaps it's for the best. There is a part of me that says, "amen," wishing to be done with the whole, messy, painful business. However, I have an abiding reticence and lingering reservations about this whole self-sorting process you suggest.

    One case in point, to wonder about relationship and diversity. In my own very radical (relative to the the mean and median of the AC, and therefore problematic as well, but rather milk-toasty and ho-hum when gauged against several other, national-level, mainline traditions) Diocese of Massachusetts there are parishes in which I would not feel at-home, others in which I would not feel comfortable, and one parish in particular, where I do not think I would go without some extenuating reason. It's not so much shunning, but rather it's just material that is a dime-a-dozen in secular and religious America, why would I go out of my way to get more of what I've already considered and found wanting, and in my estimation to be erroneous.

    However, here we all sit in that coven of witches and den of demons, the Diocese of Massachusetts, no rumblings of impending schismatic processes, or availing of special outside pastoral care.

    So, maybe interchangeability is not a key criterion to communion.

    I continue to say, let us all continue along in prayer, reflection, study, civility, speaking and listening. Let people come and go as they are moved and lead. Let things play out over time. Some things just simply take time to be worked through, personally and in community. There is no emergency in this. There's no arterial bleeding, no respiratory arrest, no asystole, just pain, and fear, and anger, and confusion. Not that these symptoms don't need care; they are just different in character and nature from emergent or "life-threatening."


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