Monday, 5 June 2006

ECUSA/Windsor: two essays

First, Lionel Deimel has published a very substantial article entitled Saving Anglicanism: An Historical Perspective on Decisions Facing the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. This is available in PDF format from this page. See also his earlier analysis of the draft resolutions.

Second, Christopher Wells has written an article, which has been published by the Anglican Communion Institute, entitled Wounded in Common Mission: The Term of Inter-Christian Divisiveness.

Both essays have been welcomed by Mark Harris, the first one here, and the second one in an email which he has kindly allowed me to reproduce below the fold here.

I recommend both articles too.

Comment by Mark Harris on the article by Christopher Wells
…For me,(and this is my own read, not his) perhaps his most important push is for us to understand that provisionality, the ability to hold to what we believe, but not as absolute, against the day of greater revelation, is a peculiar gift to Anglicans. As with all gifts, it comes with its own built in “hook”: provisionality requires that we also be willing to suffer the consequences of not being able to make the claims of the righteous, namely that we are right. We have, at the very least, to say to our opponents, “Well, you may be right… and yet here is where I am.” Having done that, how then do we deal with the competing claims to rightness? What, as my friend Michel Krausz says, are the “limits to rightness?” If we given in to an either /or place, we give up our provisionality. If we make truly autonomous and binding decisions as a province, or even as the Communion, against other Christian communities, we run against the vision of the Church yet made manifest as one, known through our provisionality and the suffering that accompanies that stance. It is a puzzle. I have the sense that the way out of the maze is in coming to our senses (or perhaps some form of recapitulation), as in having the good sense and faith to live with hope in God’s call to us, in the light of which crises are not what they seem…

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Comments

I have begun to think that perhaps this unity we prize so highly is the visible unity of an institution, and not the demonstrated unity of mission. I have begun to think that being different "members of one body" may speak as much to faith communities as to individuals. If that is the case, I cannot Mr. Wells that visible unity has to be reflected in consistency of message nearly so much as on cooperation rather than competition in mission. It would ideally be reflected in table sharing; but in these in-between times while we wait for the Kingdom it could be reflected in our refusal to condemn others even when we can identify areas of disagreement. Denominationalism is less of a scandal in and of itself than our propensity to condemn and/or ridicule rather than to honor the successes and gifts of other faith communities - even those with which we disagree.

I reflect on this at greater length on my blog at http://episcopalhospitalchaplain.blogspot.com/2006/06/varieties-of-gifts.html.

Posted by: marshall Scott on Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 4:05am BST

Lionel Diemel has given us much to ponder. My immediate response was to wonder if "militant traditionalism" might be an institutional expression of co-dependance, where there is a group of people who have no other means of affirming their identity. All of those repressive attitudes have to emanate from somewhere, so I wonder what drdanfee might make of it!

Posted by: k1eranc on Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 9:40am BST

I join Chaplain MS in witness: Our Christian Differences are not the problem that believers who valorize the unity of believers seem to perceive them to be, nor the true source of the scandal that shames Christ. The true embarrassment is one group of differentiated believers shaming another by trying to exercise an absolute right to mistake who those other believers are, and what they are essentially doing among us. It is the current realignment campaign that is embarrassing, not because it pledges conservative believer-hood, but because it newly joins conservative believer-hood to customs of bearing false witness against LGBTQ folks, women, scientists, unbelievers, progressives or liberals, and even unbelievers. (This is particularly the case in USA, and seems to be spreading as the USA new conservatisms fund others who - surprise - are taking USA as exemplars.) My nominees for possible sources of shame or scandal includes any simplistic, categorical Either/Or tags for demonizing and mistakenly defining our many important differences. (Is this typical effect a result of using these frames to foundationally define our faith?) Whatever these habits of thought are, they do not seem to be allowing us to graciously receive one another, nor encourage common prayer.

Thanks to Christopher Wells for his hugely devotional essay. Reading it for me was rather like standing for a contemplative while in one of the world's great cathedrals, possbily even a Byzantine Rite one. I took it as an occasion to acknowledge how I am surrounded as a 21st century Believer by the Great Cloud of Witnesses. I have hardly read such an erudite devotional piece in quite a very long time.

That said, I also continue to have my pressing progressive worries and concerns. Aside from basking in the contemplative glories of standing with that Great Cloud of Witnesses to Jesus as Risen Lord - I have to ask myself what me and my generation are about. Typically, the answer is repentance, metanoia.

If I let the devotional glow and erudtion of Wells' essay subsume me, my brain turns off to great extent. As a reader I can hardly keep up with his erudtion, so why not let his thinking serve for all the thinking I need to do? I am tempted to let the hallowed glow of his devotional evocations similarly serve to subsume any heartfelt devotions I might otherwise feel to neighbors outside my believer's safety. All they have to do to be saved is join me, and be like me, standing here among this Great Cloud of Witnesses.

So I cannot just read the Wells' essay, but I also have to attend to the concerns that are raised in the Diemel commentary.

Then a still, small voice in the far back of all this devotion whispers to me that this lovely experience of dwelling in the glorified mystical church - altars, candles, creeds, gopspel, liturgy, witnesses - is just the setting in which I can confirm my ongoing repentance and discernment. I am undergoing repentance. Here. I can undergo repentance, metanoia, here.

Alas, no more Copernican mistakes where I simply have to define the truth of scriptures as being absolutely dependent upon the proposition that my sacred scriptures contain a modern science of sexuality and human nature. I continue to repent of the Copernican errors I have made in my life, even though I made those mistakes in the deepest sincerity of a believer's heart. Alas, no more Penal Models in my following. I repent of my distortions and my dimness in understanding that I am undergoing the liturgy of atonement. (Father James Alison has been hugely helpful to me in identifying alternative ways to begin understanding atonement and salvation, besides the major Penal views.) Alas. No more injustices against all my global neighbors - as I repent of my involvements with global big business, policies/practices that deny women or scientists or a huge spectrum of different Christian believers or world religion believers or unbelievers (or LGBTQ Folks) - that deny my neighbors so many good things.

Yes. Now I begin to see that metanoia is part of what I am receiving as I occupy, here, this historic devotional space.

Naturally, as I repent/change, standing here among this Great Cloud of Witnesses, I do valorize and give thanks, just as Christopher Wells so brilliantly evokes in his essay - and obviously, this great sacred space, so like a great cathedral space, belongs to all of us, not just to believers who are proclaimed conservative or traditional like maybe Mr. Wells is. Because it really, mystically belongs to Jesus, not to any subgrouping of us -not even the largest western or eastern churches. Nor even mainly or solely to the institutional churches as such. Nowadays God is raising up all sorts of people, in laboratories and research centers, in clinics and hospitals and healthcare vans, and their acts of service speak at least as loudly among us for the better, as any conformed sermon ever given anywhere at any time in any place. (I am reminded of that old Sunday School question: What is the church? That building down on Vineyard and Holiness Streets? Or the people who are following Jesus as Risen Lord?) When is our grasp in this world not provisional, and thus opening always towards historic Anglican comprehensiveness? Are we welcome here without first being all conformed? Are we mystically real together, even if or when we cannot yet agree to be the sort of conservative or traditional believer that we are being pressed to be? Is the uniformity/unity of conformed conscience really the whole mystical fulfillment of Jesus' prayer that we all shall be One?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 3:35pm BST

k1eranc:

Hmmm. Well, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. That would mean that militant liberalism is also a pathological byproduct. LOL I'm sure you'll go far in patching up things between the two sides with this not particularly unique liberal approach to the opposition/issues! (Sarcasm intended).

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 3:59pm BST

I have read Dr. Diemel's paper last night. I am trying to understanding the many ideas and statements that make up this paper. As an Anglican for 30 years, I have not seen any serious attempt by any of the American parties to come togther to discuss and resolve the Church's issues within the dynamics of the imperatives Biblical principals for truth and individual mutual respect.

Posted by: Daniel T. Palmer on Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 4:24pm BST

Closer to the beginning than the end of the paper Wells posited the question of whether the church is in battle against a "...a possible, putative enemy, an enemy that may or may not exist..."

The first time I found out that there was an Anglican element who did not wish to consider the question of whether the deceiver exists, is an enemy of Jesus and/or the church was when I was locked out of an online Anglican forum without notice in mid-2005. The administrator's shut down notice included this "While I am prepared to reinstate your account if you can tell me honestly you will stay within the boundaries we have discussed and not post about the connection between God/the bible and world events, anything that may be considered prophetic, the battle between God & Satan etc..."

I was amazed that this fundamental understanding of the bible was so offensive, I was raised that this was one of the fundamental themes of the bible, and in my recent reading of Jewish websites, this theological understanding still continues. In fact, the Jews consider one of the key functions of the Moshiach/Messiah is the redeeming of souls who Satan thought he had enmeshed and reduced to "husks".

Further, I see recent developments such as the move to amend the US constitution vis a vis heterosexual marriage, and the attempts to gag Jewish academics, as evidence of the deceiver and his minions desperately doing their best to sabotage God's reconciliation plans; by building the legal walls to snare souls and hinder access to bearers of this divine knowledge.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 8:49am BST

Christopher Wells' massive opus comes down to one question on page 21: "We should wish, however, that the report had also had the courage to face with candor the most difficult decision before American Episcopalians: can we commit, at the very least, to 'respect', as the primates said, Resolution I.10 of Lambeth Conference of 1998 as 'the standard of Christian teaching on the matters of human sexuality', that holds for Anglicans, even if we ourselves do not believe it to be true?"
As an American Episcopal priest, my answer is "NO, Never." To do so would be to claim that some superficial, and merely verbal form of "unity" is more important than the inclusive claims of Christ's love, and the demands of simple human justice. In America, there is a saying in the law: "Justice delayed is justice denied."
To ask good Christian men and women to put their conscientiously and prayerfully held convictions aside in the name of "Anglican unity" would violate everything the Church tries to teach about the conformity of thoughts and action.
Nor would our Lord tolerate such craven capitulation. I rather imagine He could have lived a much longer life, had He been willing to respect and obey principles which He did "not believe to be true." I can hear those who would have put the unity of Judiasm ahead of fidelity to Christ's teachings: "If he had just stopped eating with those tax-collectrs and sinners, and stop all this talk about tearing the Temple down, and building it up again in three days; and the business about the Prodigal Son and the workers in the vineyard, it threatens to tear Judiasm apart."
My hope is that General Convention will do what they believe to be morally right concerning GLTS issues, and let the chips fall where they may.

Posted by: The Rev. Douglas Warren Ph.D. on Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 11:53pm BST

Saving Anglicanism?

Or should it be allowed to evolve and change, even if it produces two Anglicanisms in formal terms in the process.

Saving the Institution is probably a more accurate description of the aims.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 8 June 2006 at 5:43pm BST

I am in agreement with Dr. Deimel, Merseymike:

We should "save Anglicanism and [nearly] all costs and save the Anglican Communion if at all possible." An important distinction.

Posted by: Marc on Friday, 9 June 2006 at 1:32pm BST

Hi Merseymike:

What usually strikes me the most is what I consider to be the sham piety of those that grandly state that they are "trying to save Anglicanism" (as they define it, of course). The truth here is that liberals in the U.S. are busy trying to isolate, disempower and eject traditionalists from their midst, while traditionalists are busy returning the favor at the international level. The underlying attitude (by both) of my side "uber alles" dictates the result here--a break-up the Anglican Communion as it presently stands.

This cannot be avoided unless one or both sides back-off, which they will not do. And, I am not saying that they should. What I do insist on is that since this is the way things are going to go (based on the irreconcileable differences of the two sides) they should at least try to make it a decent and amicable split.

This is a place where there can be an attitude of compromise without compromising principle. However, I see no sign of anyone in the liberal camp who is willing to acknowledge the inevitability of a split and to take the first steps to try and take some of the sting out. Is anybody listening?

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Friday, 9 June 2006 at 2:03pm BST

To be fair Steven, I think the same is true on both sides - as all I hear from the conservative camp is not talk of the sort of split we both think is logical and sensible, but a wholesale expulsion of liberals.

And here in the UK to even mention the word is simply beyond the pale. I haven't heard anyone of any seniority at all actually advocate an organised and reasoned split. It is always referred to by the loaded term of 'schism', for a start - rather than just a recognition that we really do have two entirely different belief systems.

Perhaps this will change on the liberal side after GC? Certainly I think if ECUSA did decide to move separately and openly advocated others to follow them, some undoubtedly would.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 10 June 2006 at 12:42am BST

Merseymike:

Agreed. And, I agree particularly with your observation on the use of the word "schism" to cut off any reasoned debate about the merits of, and the most compassionate way in which to, effect a division.

This is unfortunate. "Schism" has become one of those ultimate BAD words. So, like other ultimate BAD words in the past--"heresy" for example--it can be used to justify un-christian actions and attitudes just because the logical and compassionate alternative to those actions can be labelled SCHISM!!! I think it's not only a way of dodging the inevitable, its a sham and a cover-up to justify very UN-christian attitudes and actions that people want to take.

But, no one is listening by this point in the thread. (Which is not to say that they would have listened anyway).

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Saturday, 10 June 2006 at 3:13pm BST

Should the resolution I.10 of Lambeth Conference of 1998 as 'the standard of Christian teaching on the matters of human sexuality'be respected by the American Church?

Lets look to the resolution of the 1910 Lambeth Conference which resoundingly condemned birth control and exhorted all prelates to use the force of their Christian characters in opposing it.

Should that one be equally respected?

I just got back from visiting the Roman Catholic side of my family - my uncle and nine of his ten children.

Do Episcopalians in other non third world countries respect the 1910 Lambeth Conference decision by their actions??? I would guess not. Has the advice of Lambeth improved since 1910?

Thank God for our autonomous, national church not yet run by third world hegemony.

Posted by: John S. Morgan on Monday, 12 June 2006 at 12:03am BST
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