Thursday, 31 July 2008

Lambeth: Tom Wright's talk

Fulcrum has the full text over here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 10:43am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Lambeth Conference 2008

Good heavens.

Does Jesus agree with these priests?

Jesus, who actually can talk to God, the Shekina, Levi, Adam and Eve, Moses, Elija, John the Baptist, the Daughter of Zion, the prophets, the saints and the apostles.

How can priests credibly claim Jesus agrees with this dribble and then that Jesus is the "complete and perfect" fulfillment of scriptures when they claim he is not for peace, or counselling or comforting, and that he never got around to redeeming the feminine or binding up the broken hearted.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 11:33am BST

Well there are bits to agree with, disagree with, and agree with in part but develop. But what pomposity he carries:

"There is much more to say, as Jesus himself said in the Farewell Discourses, but you cannot bear it now."

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 1:10pm BST

I find it hard to comment levelly on Tom Wright.

I think it's rhetoric-heavy, content-lite, incredibly egotistic, and evasive to the point of dishonesty on crucial issues (postmodernism and Gnosticism are straw men for serious engagement with really difficult things). Everything he writes and says is like this.

It's obviously impossible in a context such as this to substantiate these criticisms. They need substantiation. I certainly believe this is a very serious matter. I'll have a go at it in our parish magazine.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 1:28pm BST

That is a fantastic message for both sides to hear. It's a shame Nigeria, Uganda, etc aren't there for it.

At least (most of) the bishops in TEC and other similar provinces have heard it.

Cheryl, I have to point out that NT Write hasn't really claimed any of these things. Although I understand that his repeated emphasis that ethics are not decided by those who scream the loudest might make you uncomfortable.

Posted by: James on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 1:57pm BST

Tom Wright's got a weird take on Empire here. He seems to have bought into a sloppy reading of history, and a shallow understanding of his own British society, suggesting that the "gay crisis" in the Anglican Communion is an example of American imperialism.

This is a shockingly wrong thing to say. TEC had to gain its independence after clumsy handling by imperially-minded 18th English bishops, whose successors have been patronising Episcopalians ever since; TEC has not been the perpetrator of historic imperialism so much as a victim of it.

Neither TEC nor the Canadian Church is currently trying to gain territory at the expense of any other national church, although I know dozens of liberal C of E clergy who are asking "how can we become Episcopalians, as the C of E is becoming such a nightmare for decent people to work for?"

Tom Wright should be trying to keep his feet on the ground in the very liberal English society in which he lives (when not gallivanting to appear as rent-a-gob all over the place); and which is crying out for some church leaders who can speak sense, instead of merely mouthing ancient prejudice, in our diversity-affirming culture.

I wonder whether what is being played out now is not about modern imperialism, but rather the consequence of a 19th century British culture of sexual hypocrisy, which we, to our shame, exported to many quarters of the world, and which some of our bishops seem to still pine for.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 2:51pm BST

In my opinion +Wright does a fine job in this article. His emphasis seems to be to negate the methodology of each side's extremists and explore how they both need to see a bigger picture. I suspect that his critics primarily come from those extreme ends which would rather spend time spitting at each other than seeking to honor Christ.

Posted by: Ch Steven Rindahl on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 4:18pm BST

Bishop Wright seems content to assume that, in the entire 13.7-billion-year history of the trillions of solar systems in the cosmos, the pivotal events occurred in just a few thousand years, in the travails of one small tribe of humans, supposedly culminating in the execution of one of their number and the events immediately following.

It's as though all we have learned since that time about the universe and its history is of no consequence to "the narrative."

Such thinking betrays a curiously-exaggerated sense of the importance of humanity; or as Paul Zahl might put it, an unjustifiably-high anthropology.

Posted by: D. C. Toedt on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 6:26pm BST

The more I read and hear of Tom Wright, the more my mind is drawn to a well-known movie quote (here adapted for the present circumstance:

"Pay no attention to that man beneath the mitre!"

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Thursday, 31 July 2008 at 8:27pm BST

RE: Bishop Tom Wright
Why is it that I and many others are drawn to the Dalai Lama whose spirituality and compassion and calls for justice are convincing, while arguments against gnosticism, postmodernism and empire are marshalled to make an exclusive claim for Christianity--- which is supposed to be about the love of God and neighbor?

And why is it that the bishop does not mention homosexuality as an expression of the diversity of creation but resorts to the alleged complimentarity of male and female as somehow normative for all? With as many homosexual people in this world, not to mention all the expressions of it among other species how is it that loving the otherness of God's creation does not include heterosexuals accepting homosexuals and honoring their uniqueness and dignity as children of God?

While criticizing post modernism, the bishop continues as though the biblical literature were somehow exempt from serious examination of its assumptions and its naivete about the complexity of creation and its changing diversities.

Most of all, in the attempt to find common ground it does seem strange that the Conference excludes the very people who are the source of the division. How would it be, for example, if the Conference sought to find unity around the inclusion of black people in the Church, and on one side were those who believed blacks were created inferior to whites and should not be given positions of authority or allowed to intermarry, and on the other were those white folks who believed that black people should be given at least a chance to prove themselves worthy of such privileges?

I dare say that the conservative African Anglicans would find that insulting and demeaning. Why should not gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians draw any different conclusions?

Sarah Flynn
Burlington, VT

Posted by: Sarah Flynn on Friday, 1 August 2008 at 4:28am BST

Good heavens. What a jumble. Half a dozen things and more are shoehorned into the Bishop's use of the word Gnosticism -- Christian mysticism, pop psychology, Pelagianism, the Enlightenment, science, Manichaeism, and deontological approaches to ethics among them.

And postmodernism? Just a straw man, as John has noted. Like existentialism before it, Postmodernism is an already fading philosophical fad of a generation -- a happy road to tenure for a few philosophers and very many literary critics. Bishop Wright never really tells us what he thinks PoMo is, but, hey, this is not really his fault, as anything that is known by what it isn't -- "post" or "not" modern -- quite reasonably resists clear explication. From philosophy, to literary criticism, to religious studies (see Huston Smith, Beyond the Post-Modern Mind, where PoMo is developed with just the opposite meaning and intent of Derrida), "postmodernism" is a big, squishy word. But what a great tool for obfuscation; what a great weapon!

And what's this about empire? America is not an imperial power -- the underpinnings of every republic historically have been oligarchical -- as such, republics have primarily sought economic hegemony, and it seems to me that this is what the US has been attempting in the aftermath of the Cold War. Even so, it is not the TEC that is walking with the hegemons -- TEC is a rare prophetic counterbalance to the currently strong hegemonic tendencies in its native national culture. But what a peculiar twist Bishop Wright has given to this, making TEC Bush's Wormtongue, while the culturally conservative "orthodox" are the ones whispering in Theoden's ear.

Posted by: Peter of Westminster on Friday, 1 August 2008 at 12:39pm BST


He does protest too much! One has the sense that if bp Wright had followed a more simple line of thought here the criticism would be that he did not recognize the complexity of the situation (regularly the response here to more direct statements). Arbitrary and therefore baseless criticism.

In cotext it is quite right to say "America is an imperial power" exercising great power over others beyond its own shores (and not always against the interests of those others!). So if you are into quibbling please yourself.

This is a hoot, "TEC is a rare prophetic counterbalance?" Since when? Probably like all those Dems who voted for the Iraq war and then climb onto the next bandwagon coming along.

Ben W

Posted by: Ben W on Friday, 1 August 2008 at 3:28pm BST

The usual (and worn) anti Modern prejudices about the Enlightenment… unconscious ideas of Power and submission, a cavalcade of negative etiquettes (Culture, Gnosticism, the anti Modern canard “Post-modernism”), generally misunderstood…

Novel? Original? Striking? or Sancho Pancha charging his Windmills?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 1 August 2008 at 5:22pm BST

"In cotext it is quite right to say "America is an imperial power" exercising great power over others beyond its own shores (and not always against the interests of those others!)."

Ben, you and I are so often on opposite sides of the fence, acrimoniously so, I'd thought I'd weigh in to say that I totally agree with you on this point. It is an economic and cultural empire rather than one based on conquest, so it is harder for some to recognize, but it's an empire none the less.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 1 August 2008 at 5:24pm BST


Well, at least you let me have my terminological quibbles. But with this:

"This is a hoot, "TEC is a rare prophetic counterbalance?" Since when? Probably like all those Dems who voted for the Iraq war and then climb onto the next bandwagon coming along."

haven't you provided evidence of my last point?

Posted by: Peter of Westminster on Friday, 1 August 2008 at 10:43pm BST
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