Thinking Anglicans

Windsor Report: can Americans listen to each other?

Earlier this month, AKM Adam wrote a highly pessimistic blog article entitled How Would We Know in which he said:

I’ve been surveying the usual suspects, web sites that comment on the present unhappy controversies in the Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion. Although I respect and sympathize with Archbishop Rowan Williams, I have the sinking feeling that his hopeful outlook may not be as well-founded as he seems to think.

This was a reference to RW’s Advent Pastoral Letter. AKMA continued:

I wish I thought we Anglicans could keep together. I will be overjoyed to find that I’m wrong, and I will grieve deeply if “churches will go their different ways, even to the point of competing with one another.” What causes me unease lies in the tone of the observations I find on the various contending sites, and especially on the unwavering confidence the various speakers reflect. I’m especially uneasy when I ask myself, “How would we (or ‘they,’ however ‘we’ and ‘they’ get constructed) know if we (or ‘they’) were wrong?”

For it seems, on the face of things, that of two people saying mutually-contradictory things, one or the other will probably have erred. And if I’m right, if there’s no evident way one or the other party discerning that they might be wrong, how would either recognize their error and seek correction? The disapprobation of the preponderance of Anglican provinces won’t demonstrate that the (majority of the) U.S. church is wrong about sexuality, any more than it demonstrated that the (majority of the) U.S. church was wrong about ordaining women. Since the Windsor Report seems to treat the process leading to the ordination of women (which has become at least a tolerable difference) as exemplary, the U.S. church has some reason to think that its course leading to the consecration of Gene Robinson may mark a parallel path.

But if the (majority of the) U.S. church has gone fatally astray, how are they to know it? One can’t simply repeat that the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals is non-biblical; plenty of what has become common practice was once deemed unbiblical. One can’t invoke the Vincentian canon quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (“that which is believed everywhere, at all times, by all”), not unless one wants to roll back the ordination of women and the possibility of remarriage after divorce (to name but two prominent non-universal points). And even the Windsor Report allows the possibility that the Spirit might effect radical change in the church’s course. That concession obviously doesn’t require that anyone think sexuality constitute such an instance of Spirit-led radical change; at the same time, it evidently holds open the possibility, the mere possibility that the (majority of the) U.S. church’s understanding of sexuality does represent such a surprising change. That being the case, what would count as a reason for the (majority of the) U.S. church to reverse course?

Very recently, the Anglican Communion Institute has recently published a new lecture by Philip Turner, former Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. This was delivered to a meeting in the Diocese of West Texas.

“THE WINDSOR REPORT: A “SELF” DEFINING MOMENT FOR ECUSA And The Anglican Communion”
(published 23 December)

(Dr Turner is also the author of Shall We Walk Together or Walk Apart? (published 10 November), a talk which has considerable overlap of content with the later version.)

Although Dr Turner holds views which are unequivocally on the conservative side, he is a strong supporter of the Windsor Report:

As my colleague, Oliver O’Donovan, said recently, when placed along side most Anglican Documents, the Windsor Report is decidedly “up market.” In contradistinction to a number of contrary judgments, I agree; and the burden of my remarks will be designed to show that, despite certain omissions and errors (some serious) the report provides a credible way forward both for ECUSA and the Anglican Communion as a whole.

And he has some strong criticisms to make of extremists on the right as well as of those on the left, which bear repeating here in full:

It has become painfully clear to me in the past months that there are those on both the left and the right who, though they would probably deny it, have made a choice to walk apart. The prophets on the left claim the backing of divine providence that has placed them ahead of the pack. They are content to go it alone and simply wait for others to catch up. The prophets on the right claim to be the champions of orthodoxy—charged with maintaining a faithful church in the midst of “apostasy.” They are content to go it alone and await the vindication of God. WR maps a more arduous and painful way forward – one that seeks to create a space in time within which very serious divisions within this portion of the body of Christ can be confronted and overcome.

My starting point is that of WR. I want to map a way forward that keeps Anglicans together as a communion. I want to show what it might mean for ECUSA to make a choice for communion rather than denominationalism and federation. I am consequently saddened by the reaction of those on the left – one that expresses regret but makes it clear that they will motor on despite the wreckage they may cause. I am saddened also by reaction of those on the right who seem to exert more energy thinking about a way forward after ECUSA rejects WR than it does seeking to bring ECUSA to a considered and charitable response to what I believe to be an extraordinarily fine ecclesiological statement.

And again, when discussing the WR’s account of the Anglican “communion ecclesiology” that has shaped recent Anglican ecumenical dialogue, he says:

From my perspective, one can only hail this starting point if for no other reason than the authors of WR feel bound to the ecumenical commitments of the Anglican Communion; and in so doing do not (as is now so common) act as autonomous agents utterly unencumbered by either history of social ties. Nevertheless, it must be noted that many on both the left and the right do not begin their ecclesiological discussions here. Many on the left begin with the church as a prophetic vanguard commissioned to fight within various political systems for the rights of those who are disadvantaged by those systems. Many on the right view the church primarily as the guardian of certain saving truths contained in Holy Scripture and in various creedal or confessional statements. These perspectives, different though they are, lead those who hold them to similar visions of themselves; namely, as advocates and/or guardians who must, before all else, hold to principle.

Where, I wonder, are the leaders, on both the “left” and the “right” in ECUSA, who are able and willing to listen seriously to each other and find a way forward?

17
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
17 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
9 Comment authors
Bob WebsterDaveDavid HuffJ. C. FisherChristopher Shell Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Perhaps its because some people recognise, or have concluded, that if there is sincere disagreement, unless we can allow both positions to have parity of place, then one ‘side’ or another is going to be viewed as ‘winning’

And i’m not convinced that there is really the space to allow such different opinions to both be regarded as equally valid.

Annie
Guest
Annie

I liked the WR. It at least had the right tone about reconciliation. We should walk in love. But I’m not seeing any willingness for concession either. If winning is the objective, we’ve got it all wrong!

J. C. Fisher
Guest

I *try* to listen fairly to Dr. Turner. But then I come to this statement: “I am consequently saddened by the reaction of those on the left – one that expresses regret but makes it clear that they will motor on despite the wreckage they may cause.” I extend my hand in friendship—companionship, _within_ the Body of Christ . . . yet it is slapped away. But it is *_I_* who have “caused wreckage”? How am I to understand those who *define* my life/my love as a wreckage (presuming to declare that their _own_ definitions are _Biblical_ ones) . .… Read more »

Derek Olsen
Guest
Derek Olsen

I’m not a cradle Anglican–actually I’m a fairly recent transfer from the Lutheran Church. The major Lutheran writings are, of course, focused on justification by grace through faith and the implications thereof. Thus, the major works by the great Lutheran writers and thinkers are works of and on dogmatic theology (using the term with no negative connotations). One of the very first things I noticed upon starting to look at the classical Anglican texts is how different the focus is. Hooker’s great work is _Of the Lawes of *Ecclesiastical Politie*_. The majority of the Tracts for the Times are not… Read more »

Joseph Farber
Guest
Joseph Farber

The Orthodox Christian News Service has recently published a 1937 article by Nikolai Berdyaev, entitled, “Concerning Fanaticism, Orthodoxy and Truth.” The full article can be found at: “http://www.orthodoxnews” under the “Editorials and Opinion” heading. Berdyaev contends that, when we surrender ourselves to competing “orthodoxies” and draw our lines in the sand, we neglect the ultimate orthodoxy, the ultimate truth that “Man”, — including those persons on the other side of the argument, — “is the Image and Likeness of God.” “If the Pharisees put the Sabbath higher than man and were denounced by Christ for this, then also every man,… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

If all reading is equally interpretative, and all interpretation is equally subjective, then it’s important that we should close down all universities at once, since there is no such thing as the pursuit of knowledge, no criteria for identifying an advance in knowledge.

But if everything is really that uncertain, then why state the principle ‘Everything is subjective’ with such certainty either? That principle too would be just as uncertain as anything else.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“If all reading is equally interpretative, and all interpretation is equally subjective, then it’s important that we should close down all universities at once, since there is no such thing as the pursuit of knowledge, no criteria for identifying an advance in knowledge.” _Au contraire_, Christopher. You should open up the universities as widely as possible . . . because it’s always the *next* subjective interpretation which, this side of heaven, gets you that much closer to the Truth! To often, the “pursuit of knowledge” gets translated into “(authoritatively) tell me when I know enough, such that I don’t have… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Sure – but the point is: if what we are learning might be wrong, then that isn’t ‘learning’. Do you really buy into radical subjectivism – or where do you draw the line?

J. C. Fisher
Guest

I’m not about “ism” labels, Christopher. I just believe in having some humility before God (the One who “draws the line”). I judge “rightness” or “wrongness” only by ALL the info I can get (recognizing I know more than I did yesterday, less than I will tomorrow). . . . which is why, I can’t be sanguine (unlike too many on both “sides”) about “you go your way, I’ll go mine.” I *need* +Peter Akinola’s viewpoint—his membership in Christ’s Body—even as *he* needs +Gene’s (maybe even mine?). At the end of the day (the end of all my days, and… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Annie ‘If winning is the objective…’ In one sense, winning is always the objective. Don’t misunderstand this. It doesn’t matter (a) which person ‘wins’ an argument, or (b) whether I or you happen to be on the winning side or the losing side. But it does very much matter that (c) the truth should ‘win out’. Sometimes people turn up for a debate imagining that a fair result will involve equal ‘concessions’ to both parties. This assumes that both parties have a precisely equal number of good arguments on their side. Which is not only (a) an unwarranted assumption,… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Yes, but… we are really very unlikely to learn anything so earthshatteringly new about humankind, God or the foundations of Christianity that they would affect most of the issues of disagreement between liberals and conservatives. J.C.Fishers posts sound to me to be saying “I want you to discuss with me using my (liberal post-modern humanist) concepts and discourse”. Is that much different from a fundamentalist who says “show me where it says that in the King James version”? He who controls that discourse controls the arguement of course, but if you want to understand, communicate and persuade, rather than bludgeon… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

{sigh} My hair turns grayer by the second, when I see the endless looping going on here (my howls in the wilderness lost in the _Sturm und Drang_?) My first comment on this thread: “I extend my hand in friendship—-companionship, within the Body of Christ . . . yet it is slapped away. But it is I who have [citing Turner] “caused wreckage”?” Then we come down to Dave, responding to my posts: “if you want to understand, communicate and persuade, rather than bludgeon and intimidate” . . . and once again, *it’s all about the language of victimization!* How… Read more »

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

JCF makes the point much better than I, but here it is again: GLBT people are *actually* being persecuted (yes, as in persecuted in the *real* world, in *real* ways). The “orthodox” are not, they are simply being disagreed with.

This distinction bears bears repeating. Disagreement != Persecution, and to claim that it does is horribly disrespectful to those who suffer from *real* persecution. Please get over yourselves.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Hi JCF and DH. Aren’t those posts exactly what I’m talking about ? Trying to attack me by suggesting that I’m not sympathetic to LGBT people who are persecuted or victimised? I, like you, would always try to defend EVERYONE who is persecuted, regardless of whether I agree with, or approve of, what they are persecuted for. Suggesting otherwise is not helping understanding, communication or persuasion. However, also like you, I would think that it is ridiculous to assert the “equality” of everything I disagree with (for instance neo-nazism or communism) or everything I disapprove of (for instance incest or… Read more »

David Huff
Guest
David Huff

Dave, not that it matters much, but I’m a happily married, straight, middle-aged guy with a family. And no, I wasn’t necessarily saying that *you* were “not sympathetic to LGBT people who are persecuted or victimised.” I had no idea what your feelings were in that regard. I was simply trying to shed some light on the liberal use of the language of persecution by the “orthodox” when they speak of how they perceive themselves to be treated during the current unpleasantness. In most cases, these folks have no idea what *real* persecution is, as being members of the powerful,… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

David, my sexuality isn’t relevant to the claim of God in Christ on me and my whole life. My ideal is to become like Him; to live in the way that He and His apostles taught us to live (sex included).

What I’m saying is that you can want to protect LGBT people from persecution, while not believing that LGBT sexualities are good!

Bob Webster
Guest
Bob Webster

I enter this dialogue with some trepidation since I have so often battered my head against this wall. Dave I can totally agree with your statement about your ideal. I too, as a gay man seek to be like Christ and live as He demonstrated and as I witness His followers struggling through issues. One of the instances which gives me hope is the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts in which the decision was made to carry out two branches of ministry: one with the Jews headed by Peter and one with Gentiles headed by Paul. We need to understand… Read more »