Comments: responses to the Presiding Bishop's letter

"Despite their smackdown, I think that Rowan Williams and Katharine Jefferts Schori might actually agree on the fundamental questions of identity, mission, and 21st century change. I also suspect that Rowan Williams would secretly find the "sweeping tidal change" more spiritually interesting than trying to keep the Anglican institutional ship afloat in the waters. But he thinks he's in charge - and he'll be captain of his Titanic until the last."

- Diana Butler Ross, 'beliefnet' -

Diana's insightful essay on the recent exchange of Pentecost Letters, featuring the ABC and the Presiding Bishop of TEC - though obviously from the point of view of a TEC afficionado - is quite an astute summarization of what might be at the heart of the present standoff between Canterbury and TEC.

The Archbishop of Canterbury - as different from his predecessor, George Carey, is not interested in furthering his own moral point of view on the issue of Gays in the Church. He is doing what the Church of England 'Mother Church' might conceive of as being the 'right thing' - in trying to give all sides of the argument equal consideration, while yet being aware of the cultural cringe which 'colonialism' has been tainted with in the past. He is, though, in his unique calculations, over-compensating for problems associated with the Victorian Missionary outlook which was the sad inheritance of some of the emerging Third World Provinces of the Communion.

As Bishop Katharine has rightly pointed out, North America was not immune to some of the consequences of early missionary shibboleths which sought to do away with native cultural and spiritual values; but has managed, by and large, to engage with a modern hermeneutic and theological process - to a point where the earlier inhibitions of paternalism have been overcome, opening up the local people to the full import of the freedom of the Gospel.

Rowan feels the awesome responsibility of the role that has been expected of him - not only by the Church of England, but by other quasi-dependent Churches of the former British Commonwealth which have not yet enunciated their own theology and praxis. The tussle between the values of the 'Old World' and the New has not yet been resolved - in both social and spiritual values. The present struggle for leadership in the Anglican Communion is thus a conundrum awaiting resolution.

What Canterbury needs to realize - perhaps more than any other factor, is that the former ethos of dependence has evolved into a more active and fruitful inter-dependence of equal relationships.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 4 June 2010 at 11:38am BST

I think these three Responses should be read widely by all Anglicans/Episcopalians. They frame the issues in a very useful way. Hopefully we can begin to learn the roots of our disagreements and then be able to fashion a culture of mutual understanding. We are not there yet.

Posted by A King at Friday, 4 June 2010 at 1:13pm BST

Thank you for posting these three thoughtful essays. Diana butler Bass does an especially good job of framing the background and the issues. I would commend her piece especially to people who are coming to this issue for the fisrt time, or who have kept only sporadic track of the events of the last several years.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 4 June 2010 at 1:59pm BST

A King:

The problem, as I see it, is that those opposed to TEC's position on these matters see no need to take anyone else's advice. They are firm in their belief that they are not only right, but on God's side of the issue...and anyone holding a different view is not just misguided but upholding evil.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 4 June 2010 at 5:06pm BST

I wish commentators would stop speaking as if gay marriages are already a done deal in the Anglican Church of Canada. Rightly or wrongly, they're not. Two dioceses have moved officially to allow the blessing of same sex unions, but no diocese has amended its marriage service to allow for gay marriage, and the Church as a whole has not made up its mind on the issue. So Diane Butler-Bass is quite wrong when she speaks of 'the Canadians (who let gay Christians get married)'.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 4 June 2010 at 6:52pm BST

You know, Tim, that much hangs on how we understand the emphasized word "formally." If Uganda once "formally" accepted North American congregations, have they "formally" changed their practice in turning those congregations over to ACNA? Had Uganda and others not acted, there would be no ACNA. If the Church of England has "formally" recognized civil partnerships for C of E clergy, is that somehow less important than that they have not "formally" allowed for blessing of those partnerships? (And, as both Bishop Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Hiltz have alluded, that such partnerships are in fact blessed much more often and much more widely, but not "formally," than in Canada?)

Actually, we won't have any idea just who Canterbury intends to exclude until there are invitations to be sent. In the meantime, many of us will be considering this action that hinges so much on the word "formally" in ways the Archbishop did not intend: a letter that seems more intent on form over substance.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Saturday, 5 June 2010 at 1:19am BST

The Archbishop of Canterbury supports a "Covenant" document which would in effect, marginalize and disenfranchise various Anglican communities with punishment for not adhering to new dogma that essentially devalues the glbt members of those various national churches. Call it what you wish but I see no other possible interpretation. Rowan Williams wants to centralize power and that is a Roman Catholic model which is experiencing major dysfunction and collapse. I realize their may be some historical inaccuracies in the Presiding Bishop's pastoral letter and these are being corrected through the various comments by posters to these various threads, but I still believe her heart is in the right place and at the right time for her words about INCLUSION rather than EXCLUSION. Exclusion appears to be the road The Archbishop of Canterbury is choosing. I trust the Presiding Bishop's pastoral letter, whereas, I reject many of the points in the Archbishop of Canterbury's pastoral letter. I believe the Episcopal Church in America is trying to reflect the inclusive love of Jesus where the Anglican Fundamentalist elements at play in various countries are trying to create an exclusive club which demands that all of its' members buy lock, stock and barrel their fundamental interpretation of scripture with no room for differing views and understandings. The Fundamentalist approach spells danger and disenfranchisement to many human beings. This is wrong. I therefore, trust the Presiding Bishop's pastoral letter and I distrust the pastoral letter published by The Archbishop of Canterbury. I do not believe either of these people are bad human beings. I am certain they are good at heart. I support the Presiding Bishop's point of view because I believe no one should be EXCLUDED from Christ's table. I also believe this will lead to a better understanding of the most basic of Christian beliefs: We must LOVE one another. We will survive this turmoil and be better human beings as a result.

Posted by Chris Smith at Saturday, 5 June 2010 at 2:04am BST

Tim is quite correct that the matter of same sex MARRIAGE has not even been broached in any official capacity in the Anglican Church of Canada. Even in the pair of dioceses that have authorized the blessing of same sex unions and in the handful more that appear to be moving in that direction, we are still talking about blessings.

That said, same sex marriage is now legal across Canada and, to be fair, I doubt anyone on either side of the blessings issue would not see the move to marriages as the next logical and inevitable step.

But as our Primate pointed out in his presidential address to our General Synod, there is no way Rowan or anyone else can argue that the Canadian Church has "formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria . . ."

I guess we have to keep going to meetings then.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Saturday, 5 June 2010 at 4:21am BST

In some senses Diane Butler-Bass is right about "the Canadians'. As a secular society legal same sex marriage is an accepted fact. Some diocese are allowing, under the House of Bishops guidance, a celebration around the civil marriage of a same sex couple. This celebration includes the Eucharist and prayers for the couple. So, in that sense we Canadians do allow gay Christians to get married and then we celebrate the occasion.

Posted by Rae Fletcher at Saturday, 5 June 2010 at 6:13am BST

Both Fr Malcolm and Rae Fletcher are correct. The picture of the current policy presented in the article cited is exaggerated, but it is true that there has been a shift from talk of "blessing of same-sex unions" to "blessing of civil marriages" and the current pastoral scheme of the House of Bishops has been used to some generous extents, including Nuptial Masses with the Justice of the Peace's bits sandwiched between the Liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist.

Posted by Geoff at Saturday, 5 June 2010 at 8:16pm BST

Both Fr Malcolm and Rae Fletcher are correct. The picture of the current policy presented in the article cited is exaggerated, but it is true that there has been a shift from talk of "blessing of same-sex unions" to "blessing of civil marriages" and the current pastoral scheme of the House of Bishops has been used to some generous extents, including Nuptial Masses with the Justice of the Peace's bits sandwiched between the Liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist.

Posted by: Geoff on Saturday, 5 June

Excellent progress made !

This is how it will come to be throughout the Anglican Communion and indeed the various denominations in due course.

The Quakers in Britain are pressing hard for this as it happens and are not alone.

Posted by Pantycelyn at Sunday, 6 June 2010 at 5:49pm BST
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