Thinking Anglicans

views around the Communion

Each of these articles deserves reading in full.

Beliefnet’s Deborah Caldwell has an interview with Frank Griswold which you can read at The Battle Rages On.

In some of the Episcopal Church-related blogs you were quoted last week as singling out six Americans for having “detrimentally influenced” church proceedings. What did you say?

What I said was that there were notices put on the tables in Ireland describing “acts of oppression” within the Episcopal church that were highly inaccurate and I got up and said, “This kind of information is untrue. It’s taking facts and slanting things from a particular perspective. And I said, ‘In scripture Jesus tells us the devil is the father of lies, and lying is his nature.’” Therefore this kind of material is really evil. And I said my sense is—and I didn’t assign it to any particular people—I feel that there is evil pressing on this meeting. And I said that any one of us can be caught in patterns of evil. Any one of us can misrepresent things to our own advantage.

I repeated it last week in Texas to the House of Bishops when I described my participation in the primates meeting. And I said there were several Americans in the hotel in Newry, including [Pittsburgh Bishop Robert William] Duncan—but I made no connection between those people and the piece of paper I was describing, and the misrepresentations on it…

Do you think the liberal movement within the Anglican Communion will win this battle?

Yes. When I look at the history of the church, I can see all kinds of dreadful moments when something was trying to happen, and it was just too much for the system at that moment. I look at Galileo. Teachings that supposedly were heretical and contrary to what everyone “knew was true” over time shifted or reversed themselves—and our truth was enlarged.

The other thing I would say is, if I may quote Jesus in the Gospel of John: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now; however, when the spirit of truth comes, the spirit will take from what is mine and reveal it to you.” This says to me that the truth in some way is always unfolding and being enlarged.

I find it curious that with no strain or difficulty we accept the fact that we’re learning more about the world we live in; we’re learning more about the human person—physiology, psychology, all of it. Why is it that we can expand our consciousness in every area other than sexuality, but when we come to sexuality everything has to be fully revealed and contained in scripture by one particular reading? You might ask why God didn’t just tell us in the beginning? For some reason God didn’t, and we have to grow into truth. And I think we’re always growing into truth. I look at the ordination of women in the Episcopal tradition; that was a break if you looked at it in terms of the past, but if you accept truth as organic and ongoing then you can say, “This is an enlargement of our understanding of ministry rather than a hideous break with what has been.”

Anglicans Online has an article by Pierre Whalon entitled The Ghost of Bishop Pike, Revisited.

…Furthermore, we are talking about the General Convention. Our system of government looks like the American secular politics we are so familiar with, but in fact, it differs significantly. The Constitution of the United States calls for a strong central government, while the Episcopal Church Constitution explicitly prevents one. We are a confederation of dioceses, essentially the same structure since Bishop William White designed our polity in the 18th century.

As a result, legislation is rarely binding upon all the dioceses. General Convention’s resolutions are non-binding, unless they change the constitution or canons, including revising the Prayer Book. Using the General Convention to effect change in the church is an ungainly process at best, not only because the balance of the Houses of Deputies and Bishops is not offset by a strong president and independent judiciary, but also because of the problems inherent to a body of nearly one thousand voting members.

And when it comes about, change by legislation creates a division between winners and losers. As a result, following a trend in secular politics, lots of interest groups have formed to influence the Convention in one direction or another. As the decisions of Convention have evolved, so have these groups, clustering together along the political spectrum.

These clusters of groups at either end of the spectrum curiously resemble each other. Their rhetorical style is similar, inventing lexicons of invective like “heterosexist” and “homoerotic.” They organize fundraisers to pay for campaigns to lobby Convention. Each, sadly, has invited the other to leave the church. Now since Lambeth 1998, both are involved in a struggle to persuade the larger Communion that theirs has the right to be considered the “real” American Anglican province. Our side must win and the other side must lose, even if we must involve the whole world. In style, at least, they are so similar…

Dale Rye who is a lawyer in Texas has written On Thinking with the Church.

…That brings us to the crucial reason: my personal opinion is irrelevant

In the case of Anglicanism, such matters are traditionally decided through the painstaking process of collective discernment described by Hooker, among others. This method expresses the Anglican doctrine of the church, our ecclesiology. Decisions are not imposed from outside or above. Instead, we engage in a Socratic dialogue that incorporates persons from every order of ministry and every jurisdiction (both all those linked vertically in a hierarchy and all those linked horizontally in communion). We ground our discussions on scripture, but we also give a role to common sense, both the historical common sense we call tradition and the contemporary common sense we call the consent of the faithful. Eventually, we either come to an agreement that defines the Anglican position on an issue and that forces those who cannot conscientiously live with the agreement out, like the 17th century Recusants and Separatists, or we agree to disagree while remaining in fellowship, like the Puritans and Arminians.

Some of the differences that Anglicans have agreed to live with hardly qualify as unimportant. The discrepancy since the 1840s between High and Low Church dogmas on the means of grace goes well outside the historical scope of tolerable adiaphora; they diverge as widely as Luther or Calvin and the Council of Trent. Except that both sides agree that the question is essential to salvation, their answers are incompatible and cannot both be true. Nevertheless, since the Church (my church, which is neither Lutheran nor Roman Catholic) has declined to condemn either view, my personal opinion that one side or the other is a heterodox betrayal of the Gospel is irrelevant. In this, as in all things, a loyal Christian submits his judgment to the authority of the Church.

That is why the process issue and the question of polity are so important to those of us who find ourselves in the middle of the sexuality dispute. We are anxious to believe as the Church teaches, but who has the human authority under God to teach in the name of the Church? What are we to do when our rector says “yes,” our bishop says “no,” our national church says “yes,” and the Primates’ Meeting says “no?” Anglicans have been lucky enough for 450 years to avoid this sort of divided loyalty (except perhaps during the English Civil War). That luck has enabled us to “muddle through” without ever facing the issue of who has the final authority to speak for our church during a dispute between two—or more—organs of the body, all of whose oversight we would normally heed.

The original Art. XXXVII declared that national churches should be free of foreign jurisdiction. Whatever Henry VIII’s motivation, subsequent Anglicans made this a theological principle. Men like Jewel and Hooker argued from the New Testament that each distinct cultural and political society should have its own church under native leadership responsive to their community’s needs. That is why the Church of Scotland could choose to be Presbyterian, while the Church of England remained Episcopalian, and why everyone took it for granted that there would be an autonomous Episcopal Church in the USA. As John Henry Newman insisted—both before and after his conversion—if the Anglican divines were wrong on this point there is no excuse for separation from Rome. The long-standing consensus was plainly stated by all the Lambeth Conferences from 1868 to 1988: any structures beyond the national churches (barring a genuinely ecumenical council) were only consultative, not authoritative.

Andrew Hutchison was interviewed in the Canadian Anglican Journal Primates call for breathing space.

In a candid interview with Anglican Journal, Archbishop Hutchison said he was disappointed with the boycott of the eucharist by some primates as well as with a “failure of leadership” on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury. On one occasion some delegates were not informed that a number of primates would not be able to attend the meeting because they were having a dinner party with some conservative U.S. Episcopalians who had been monitoring the meeting from the nearby village of Newry. “I think when primates come together to do their business they should be permitted to do that, without outside interference,” he said. “There was a feeling that we (primates) were not fully in control of our agenda.”
Archbishop Williams had known about the party but did not try to stop it, he said. “Virtually nothing was done about it except that following the exodus of those people, (he) did apologize to the whole plenary session and did state how inappropriate that had been.”
There were also moments, he said, when he was profoundly disappointed as some primates glossed over their own provinces’ struggles with the issue of homosexuality. Fourteen dioceses in the Church of England regularly allow blessings, he said, and “in one diocese alone, I suspect there have been more blessings than have ever occurred in Canada,” he said. “But it’s all done unofficially, in the shadows rather than out in the light of day. So there is a profound sort of hypocrisy here.”

The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed Henry Orombi in African Anglicans flex their conservative muscle.

“The language is flowery, the meaning is … we suspend you,” Orombi told the Herald yesterday. “But it’s put in the most beautiful language that the English would like to put it. It’s a polite way of saying, ‘please leave the room’.”

Orombi speaks from a position of growing influence, having helped channel discontent among conservative dioceses mainly in Africa and Asia into action against the US church that even the Archbishop of Canterbury was forced to accept with an air of resignation.

He also comes from a position of numerical strength, with the Anglican churches of Uganda and Nigeria making up almost 50 per cent of the world’s Anglicans.

As Orombi views it, it’s the US church and other Anglican liberals that are on the outside looking in. Anglican conservatives are mobilising worldwide, marking a return to the purity of biblical teaching and breaking free of the strictures of denominational consensus…

But there can be no reconciliation without the liberal North Americans repenting – and that means abandoning the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.

“If Gene Robinson is going to the next Lambeth [conference] then we aren’t going, and if we don’t go there is no Lambeth.”

Robinson’s sin is to be openly gay. While progressives argue a church tradition of inclusiveness, Orombi has taken a hard line on gay issues. In Uganda, homosexuality is a crime punishable by life imprisonment.

Homosexuality, the archbishop says, contravenes Biblical teachings that go back to the first God-sanctified man-and-woman union of Adam and Eve, and are reinforced in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the words of the apostle Paul. It was a “misuse of sexual organs” as God designed them, and society’s “stamp of approval doesn’t make it normal”.

But a Melbourne Anglican, Dr Muriel Porter, said yesterday that the “second-order” issue of homosexuality should not govern who is acceptable to the worldwide Anglican faith and it was time for “good people” in the church to speak out…

“I would like to ask the Archbishop of Uganda and his church if they have launched an all-out offensive against his Government to change the law so that homosexual people are not facing life imprisonment,” Porter says. “That is the very least they should be doing if they are requiring the US church to take action against Gene Robinson.”

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David Huff
David Huff
19 years ago

Well, at least +Orombi is plain spoken about his position (as cold-hearted and horrendous as it is).

I wish the AAC/”Network” would just come out and make a simple, definitive statement agreeing with this view. Then we could stop all this endless fussing about a “reconciliation” that the hardcore members of that organization don’t want, and have no intention of working towards, so we could all just GET ON with our lives…

19 years ago

David, I have posted a comment to TitusOneNine asking whether the “reasserters” do, in fact, agree with +Orombi’s full position on homosexuality. Interestingly, the excerpt from the article they posted omits the fact that Uganda punishes homosexuality by life imprisonment.

J. C. Fisher
19 years ago


When the schismatic parishes are restored to the Diocese of Los Angeles, +Jon Bruno really needs to hold an exorcism (at least conditionally): a *mouthpiece of Satan* has defiled those holy grounds! (Not that ECUSA should boycott Lambeth, just because that mouthpiece will be there)

Andrew Conway
Andrew Conway
19 years ago

” .. or we agree to disagree while remaining in fellowship, like the Puritans and Arminians” (from Dale Rye’s article).

Strange. I had always thought that Archbishop Laud had been put to death by his puritan opponents. But obviously not. They didn’t execute him, they merely ‘agreed to disagree while remaining in fellowship’ with him. So that’s all right then.

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