Tuesday, 18 September 2007

NCR on Anglicans again

Sister Joan Chittister, OSB has written a column titled We all need the Anglicans right now. Here’s an extract:

…So the question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church, that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?

The struggle going on inside the Anglican Communion about the episcopal ordination of homosexual priests and the recognition of the homosexual lifestyle as a natural state is not peculiar to Anglicanism. The issue is in the air we breathe. The Anglicans simply got there earlier than most. And so they may well become a model to the rest of us of how to handle such questions. If the rate and kinds of social, biological, scientific and global change continue at the present pace, every religious group may well find itself at the breakpoint between “tradition” and “science” sooner rather than later.

Theological questions driven by new scientific findings, new social realities, new technological possibilities abound. How moral is it to take cells from one person for the treatment of another if all human cells are potentially life generating? Is that the destruction of life? If homosexuality is “natural,” meaning biologically configured at birth, why is it immoral for homosexuals to live in homosexual unions — even if they are bishops? After all, isn’t that what we said — in fact, did — when we argued “scientifically” that blacks were not fit for ordination because blacks weren’t quite as human as whites? And so we kept them out of our seminaries and called ourselves “Christian” for doing it. Without even the grace to blush.

It is not so much how moral we think we are that is the test of a church. Perhaps the measure of our own morality is how certain we have been of our immoral morality across the ages. That should give us caution. We said, at one time, that it was gravely immoral to charge interest on loans, that it was mortally sinful to miss Mass on Sunday, that people could not read books on the Index, that the divorced could not remarry. And we brooked no question on any of these things. People were either in or out, good or bad, religious or not, depending on whether they stood at one end or another of those spectrums…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 18 September 2007 at 11:15am BST | TrackBack
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Coming from an Evangelical tradition, I don't typically consider continuity with church tradition and continuity of the church as an institution. Sr. Chittister thus makes a very important point.

Posted by: Weiwen on Tuesday, 18 September 2007 at 6:10pm BST

Her ending paragraph is wise "From where I stand, we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that."

There are some who claim that if we do not take a totalitarian line, then all will become anarchy.

Yet, God again and again demonstrates that God wants humanity with all its foibles, sentience and free will. The scandal of giving humans autonomy to make decisions that could be for better or for worse. The scandal of humans choosing to retain their individuality and yet subscribing to a collective identity and common covenant. Outrageous. No wonder God had the Shechina hide the Jews in the Clouds of Glory whilst they entered into the covenant at Mt Sinai, and then shelter then with clouds by night and fire by day whilst they molded themselves into a people. Like a fetus from conception until birth, sheltered in a womb, until the lungs and organs had developed sufficiently so they no longer needed the placental manna but could survive and flourish in the larger world. (e.g. Micah 7:15-20)

Scandalous, the God who sent Jesus to form a new people, who brought forward the best of Judaism but gave birth to a new paradigm as manifest in the tearing open the veils so that all could have access to God independently of "pure" Jewish priests.

Scandalous that God would send prophets down the ages to reaffirm that God still loves and wants humanity and wants the best for all Creation. Scandalous that the bible contains the seeds of a future based on peace, tolerance, diversity and free will; where we work to bring out the best in ourselves and draw out the best in others in a gentle hospitable manner. (e.g. Zechariah 3:10, Jeremiah 31:34)

Let Anglicanism win in this experiment, repeat God's traditions of the past of creating a new paradigm that has the best of the past integrated with the thinkings that will give us safe level paths into the future.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 18 September 2007 at 10:14pm BST

God bless sister joan, she always makes me think, pray, and give thanks yet again - for the challenges of our global journeys. Can we elect her to something, quick? Like chairing or facilitating the next Primates Meeting? Or taking over the covenant design group leadership from the sadly compromised and appallingly partisan/fixed agenda Gomez?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 18 September 2007 at 10:28pm BST

God bless sister joan, she always makes me think, pray, and give thanks yet again - for the challenges of our global journeys. Can we elect her to something, quick? Like chairing or facilitating the next Primates Meeting? Or taking over the covenant design group leadership from the sadly compromised and appallingly partisan/fixed agenda Gomez?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 18 September 2007 at 10:28pm BST

Yes, I'll second this !

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 19 September 2007 at 12:39am BST

"If homosexuality is “natural,” meaning biologically configured at birth, why is it immoral for homosexuals to live in homosexual unions — even if they are bishops?"

The answer conservatives would give for this is "Because it is." Or perhaps "Because God says so." Surely this is the point of the debate. A good paper, but conservatives must get awfully frustrated with liberals continually asking this question. For them, understanding is not required, obedience is all that matters. It seems for the other side, the situation is the reverse. I don't believe we can ever fully understand God, so I don't think there's much benefit in trying to understand WHY He says what He says. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Likewise, I have little respect for the idea that the Gospel is a law meant to be followed mindlessly, or even mindfully for that matter. Such an attitude has clearly produced a bizarre "message" that has taken an image of God as a loving Father who becomes one of us in order to save us, and changed it into a begrudging niggardly God who deigns to love us if we grovel sufficiently, and who is willing to negate His own great saving acts of self sacrifice because our failings, which He calims to pity, so set off his mercurial temper.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 19 September 2007 at 1:22pm BST

While I too would love to have Sr. Joan running certain things Anglican, let us keep in mind that she is a faithful Roman Catholic. Furthermore, she is a faithful Roman Catholic who has had the guts to face off with the "Old Boys Club" at the Vatican and win! She has no reason to leave Rome and no desire to so either.

But if she can defy the Vatican, think of what she could do to our puffed up Primates? It is "...a consumation devoutly to be wished."

Posted by: Deacon Charlie Perrin on Wednesday, 19 September 2007 at 2:58pm BST

First time I've encountered the writing of this religious. I assume that she's a Roman Catholic, in which case, I'm nonplussed when she writes: "We said, at one time, that it was gravely immoral to charge interest on loans, that it was mortally sinful to miss Mass on Sunday, that people could not read books on the Index, that the divorced could not remarry." Don't at least two of the four remain forbidden for Roman Catholics?

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Wednesday, 19 September 2007 at 4:24pm BST

But Ford - are you also making up a god who is very easygoing on certain sins (despite all he has said for millenia)?

I find I agree with you up to the point where you become unwilling to challenge those who say it is suddenly ok to do certain things which the church has long understood the scriptures to say God prohibits.....and most of the church in the US as well as the GS still thinks this is what He said and what He means. So, let us stop making up our own gods and return to His word?

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 20 September 2007 at 9:51am BST

"are you also making up a god who is very easygoing on certain sins (despite all he has said for millenia)?"

No. How am I doing this? The problem is that you understand redemption and salvation in terms of getting away with breaking the Law. We're not even talking the same language.

As to this:
"challenge those who say it is suddenly ok to do certain things which the church has long understood the scriptures to say God prohibits"

I have repeatedly pointed out to you how this has occurred time and again in the Church. It is not justification for anything. It is instead a question: Why do you think that you actually have the right to accuse others of this when you directly enjoy, or are in a position to enjoy, the fact that the Church has done this already? That's the point, you go getting all indignant that someone somewhere is breaking the Law as you seem to think it is when you yourself benefit from previous breakings of that Law. You can't accuse people of "fudging" the Gospel when you benefit from similar fudges. You can't accuse others of ignoring the bits they don't like when you do the same thing. That just brings the Gospel into disrepute. And remember, NP, we will be judged as we judge. You insist on rigid adherence to the Law, a Law which our religion teaches us was good but not perfect, which does not make us holy, and which God came to free us from. As they drag me off with the goats, I expect to hear the Voice from the Throne say, "Now, then, NP, you condemned everyone who didn't obey the Law, so you shall be judged according to your obedience to it." Give thought to that while you have time to do something about it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 20 September 2007 at 2:46pm BST

Thanks for your reply, Ford.

Now, again, I have to say that many passages in the bible (eg 1 Cor 5:12 as just one example) tell me we must make judgments.....even though we are sinners....and the standards for those judgments are not to be mine or yours but God's revealed will.

We are never taught by the Lord or St Paul or anyone else of God to tolerate, respect, accomodate teaching contrary to God's revealed will.....as you know.

I see TEC/VGR teaching something contrary to scriptputre. I am not alone! It is not just +Duncan and a few mad people who think TEC is breaking with scripture, tradition and reason because it is dominated by a small minority who put their rights above scripture and the unity of the AC. No, it is also all the Primates of the AC who seem to agree with me if you look at TWR or the Tanzania Communique......they have also made judgments on the "mind of the Communion" and what is biblical or not. I know or two of them are capable of saying yes when they mean no... but most of them listen to the one who said "let your yes, be yes"

When we see people in leadership positions going against scripture, what would you have us do, Ford? Nothing....out of respect and because we are sinners too? This makes no sense.

St Paul was quite clear that we should have nothing to do with such false teachers - was he not? He did not say we have no right to judge what is and what is not false teaching....he encouraged great care to be taken in assessing the truth or falsehood of teaching and the rejection of false teaching.

Once again, even if you were right that I benefit from non-biblical innovations (which I do not accept), still there would be no logic in saying that therefore, we should allow more.

http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=1+Cor+5-6

Posted by: NP on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 11:05am BST

NP,
The Spirit doesn't guide YOU into all truth, nor me neither, She guides US into all truth.

It is funny that you actually use the Bible to contradict the teachings of Jesus Himself! Do you not realize how that makes you look? Jesus tells us not to judge others. Paul tells the church to judge doctrine. You want to judge others, so you place St. Paul above Jesus, and misinterpret what he said to justify your own need to judge others. You get all in a lather at the idea that people might be guilty of the first bit of Article 20, but you happily make yourself guilty of the second bit!

I had a lot more, but deleted it all, trying to reduce the impact of what is becoming a Friday tradition for you and me.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 21 September 2007 at 5:25pm BST

"It is not just +Duncan and a few mad people who think TEC is breaking with scripture, tradition and reason because it is dominated by a small minority who put their rights above scripture and the unity of the AC."

Ahhh--there's the nub of the matter. It's those darned gays demanding "rights"...just like those darned women did 30 years ago...and those darned negroes before that....

See, here in the USA, we are under the belief that those rights come from our creator...and cannot be taken away by any human authority--including the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 September 2007 at 2:19am BST
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