Monday, July 14, 2008

GAFCon predictions from June

Back in the first week of June, before GAFCon met, a thread on the MCJ digressed into exchanges between people wondering what that (then still upcoming) meeting would bring. In light of what emerged at that meeting and reactions in the subsequent weeks, I'm going to copy/paste some of my posts from that thread over here, as the issues raised therein have actually become more, not less, relevant since they were first posted. I've color-highlighted some pertinent phrases.

Submitted by LP at 6/7/2008 11:35:19 AM
Technically, they'll be in communion with Canterbury. In functional and practical terms, they won't be. They'll have nothing to say to Rowan or his successor until such time as CoE repents and brings itself back to the Gospel.
Given that the Anglican Communion isn't actually a "communion" in any meaningful theological or spiritual sense of the term, the GS primates actually have an opening.

They can affirm that their "membership" in the "Anglican Communion" will continue to mean all it ever did mean -- i.e. a fraternal non-binding fellowship of independent churches with a common origin but no mutual accountability or overarching standards or authority. They can continue to be "friendly" to ++Williams but pay him and pointless Lambeth resolutions precisely as little heed as PEcUSA now pays them. They'll still be "in" the "Anglican Communion" just as much as ever; just as much as PEcUSA and AciC are.

As a "sub group", on the other hand, they can form their own genuine communion, with standards of theology and ethics, of ecclesiastical practice, sacramental recognition, clergy interchange, and of mutual accountability. They can create and enter into this actual communion independently of the Angloapostates and focus their energy and attention there, where it will be of some use.

In essence, therefor, they can implement the "two tiered" solution -- but rather than a system in which Canturbury is in tier one and groups which are even more un-Christian and un-Anglican in tier 2, the would view the CoE itself as a "tier 2" member -- i.e. "tier 2" = the "Anglican Communion" as it's currently constituted: i.e. just a friendly fellowship of historically related independent jurisdictions, not a real "communion" at all -- while "tier 1" members would be those who actually maintain genuine Anglican Christianity and which actually have real intercommunion, one based on a common faith, shared sacraments, and mutual accountability based on a clear and express Covenant.

Submitted by LP at 6/8/2008 6:15:51 PM
a collection of all the speeches from the opening convocation of the Episcopal Synod of America twenty years ago.
I believe that several of the big churches in that group -- i.e. the ones with the funds and the clout to be able to survive for a decade or so while the smaller or less solid parishes in their midst were suborned or their people and clergy driven off -- formed a big part of the nucleus of the AMiA.

It's interesting to note that the largest and most organized "fight from within" group of the 80s and 90s managed to accomplish less than nothing (i.e. fight just to survive with many of their parishes lost in the process) until they broke from PEcUSA.

The die-hard institutionalists have learned nothing from history -- the "fight from within" mindset has been tried and has failed utterly. And things are even more stacked against "traditionalists" now than they were in the 1980s.

Frankly, the institutionalist "fight from within" mindset is merely a variation on the "head in the sand" mindset... the latter pretends there's not a problem; the former pretends the problem isn't nearly as seriously as it so obviously is.

Submitted by LP at 6/9/2008 7:49:41 AM
LP: "They can continue to be "friendly" to ++Williams but pay him and pointless Lambeth resolutions precisely as little heed as PEcUSA now pays them."
Honestly, that really seems to lack integrity from the "orthodox" GS/GAFCON just as much as the lack of integrity from revisionist TEc when it ignores Lambeth (especially 1.10).
Perhaps... but perhaps not if they publicly announce that, given the history of the past 40 years, this is what they understand the "Canturbury Anglican Communion" officially to mean, as this is all it has, in practice, ever meant. Which would be far more honest than PEcUSA's typical double-talk.
Two, suppose GAFCON forms this "subgroup" as you call it without formal announcement and proclaiming that it is still in full formal communion with the See of Canterbury... In your theological opinion, does this possess full ecclesiastical, biblical, and God-honoring integrity?
As Antique pointed out, GAFCON may not be the place where this could happen. It might be, however, the place where a number of people get together and decide it will happen. But this would require substantially more backbone and cahones than even the G.S. has shown in past years. Which isn't to say that they won't or can't... just that it would represent an "escalation".

As for your question, if the "Genuine Anglican Communion" were to have any meaning, it would have to make clear its difference and division from the "Canturbury Anglican Communion"... the latter a mere fellowship, the former genuine sacramental communion. It would, thus, be pointless to form such a formal subgroup without it having a clear sacramental identity -- i.e. that the members are in full communion with each other but not with non-members; that membership in it requires breaking off any sacramental communion with PEcUSA or anyone in communion with PEcUSA; etc. (Otherwise, it's just another more or less sacramentally meaningless "sub group", which the Canturbury Anglican Communion already has plenty of... e.g. the Global South subgroup itself.)

This is, I fear, unlikely to happen -- for two reasons. First, the waffling of various dioceses within PEcUSA. There's an understandable desire to make "common cause" with those "traditionalists" still within PEcUSA... but when this includes full sacramental communion, it is effectively cutting their own case off at the knees. (Or higher).

For such a "real communion" to have any meaning, it has to make a clean and full break with the apostates. The proper response to those -- like +Duncan -- who share their principles but are still in communion with (and members of) apostate jurisdictions is to say "we'll welcome you with open arms, once you are no longer a member of an apostate jurisdiction and have broken off all sacramental ties with it. Until then, we cannot count you as a full member." This also means saying to the CoE (and ++Williams) "while we certainly continue to share a friendly regard for you because of our common heritage, and while we'll certainly be willing to continue in various Anglican-tradition meetings and consultations, like Lambeth, nevertheless, because you are in sacramental commuion with apostates, and because you yourself do not measure up to the "mere Anglicanism" of our Covenant, we are not in full sacramental communion with you -- even though we remain in the 'Canturbury Anglican Communion' (which isn't - and never has been - a "real communion" anyway) with you."

This would be a break from how the G.S. has operated to date -- since, for all its occasional strict messages to PEcUSA and the AciC, has continued to try to straddle two ultimately incompatible positions.

Secondly, all this talk of "sacramental communion" and its implications -- although it reflects the implicit ideals of Scripture as well as the practice and teaching of the undivided Church for a millennium, as well as the Western catholic and Eastern orthodox traditions since then, not to mention the Anglican teaching and understanding at least until the last century -- is, to greater or lesser extent, alien to modern Protestants.

In a stereotypical "Protestant" view, there's little or no difference between "fellowship" and "communion", and the Eucharist is just a symbol and acting out of an existing "fellowship", rather than the sacramental bond which creates the spiritual reality of "full sacramental communion" that is more intimate and substantive than the mere Christian "fellowship".

Accordingly, insofar as parts of the G.S. are more "Protestant" on this score, they may lack the theological and ecclesiastical understanding to make such a distinction -- friendly (or even not-so-friendly) "fellowship" with the CoE and others VS full sacramental communion with the genuine Anglican Christians -- in the first place. Now, that's making it black and white -- there are "intermediate" positions (of varying degrees of coherence) between those poles, and it may be that many of the relevant G.S. jurisdictions are "catholic" enough to make the distinctions.

But whether the G.S. jurisdicitons share enough common ground on (and respect for) catholic (and traditional Anglican) sacramental theology & its implications so as to support the two-tiered approach... I don't know.

Submitted by LP at 6/9/2008 12:33:54 PM
Also keep in mind there are several layers of Communion in the AC. Most of the GS are, right this moment, either in "impaired communion" or "broken communion" (the latter being Episcobabble for "not in communon") with the heretical Provinces.
This is symptomatic of the problem. Any theological understanding of "communion" which is based in Scripture and Tradition -- rather than being used as just a synonym for a Protestant ideal of "fellowship" -- recognizes that it is a "yes or no" situation. You cannot be "partly" in communion with someone. You either are, or you are not. And it is a transitive property: if A is in communion with B, and B is in communion with C, then A is in communion with C.

The mistake made by the "Protestant" mindset is that "being in communion" basically means "sharing some basic beliefs with" or "sharing Christian fellowship and history" with. That is wrong.

Sharing beliefs and fellowship are a good thing - don't get me wrong - and the closer the beliefs, the greater the possible fellowship. But "being in communion", in the Biblical and patristic sense, means, essentially, being one church. It doesn't just mean that you agree with some of each other's theology, it means that you share the fundamentals of belief and that you recognize each other's sacraments and clergy.

Accordingly, this whole idea of "impaired communion" is, ultimately, incoherent. It is -- in my view -- nothing more than a timid palliative; a way of saying "we don't have the guts to break off institutional affiliation with Canturbury but we want to express our distaste with your theology." It's sound and fury, signifying nothing.

If the CoE is formally "in communion" with PEcUSA, then that means not just that the CoE recognizes that everything PEcUSA teaches and practices is acceptable -- that it's theology is viewed as orthodox and its practices viewed as unobjectionable -- but also that the CoE views all of PEcUSA's clergy as valid and all its sacraments as assured. That's what "being in communion" means -- the teaching is accepted, the practices are appropriate, the clergy and sacraments are valid. Practices may vary, of course -- matters of liturgy, discipline, local customs, etc. "Being in communion" doesn't require being identical. But it does require agreement in theological and ecclesiastical basics.

This means that anyone who is "in communion" with PEcUSA has, by that very fact, stated that they believe nothing that PEcUSA teaches errs on fundamentals and that PEcUSA's ecclesial acts (sacraments, ordinations, etc) are all valid. Anyone "in communion" with PEcUSA thus, by that fact, states that they believe women can be ordained, that homosexual activity is not sinful, and that ordination and marriage of the homosexually active is acceptable... even if their own jurisdiction doesn't share these practices. It also, by the by, means accepting PEcUSA's institutional support of abortion and various "positive" heretical statements.

Now, in practice, I don't think most of the Global South accepts any of this. In which case, the only coherent reaction is to anathematize PEcUSA -- to be "out of communion" with it, at least until it repents and reforms. (yeah, right.) However, the CoE and other bodies which have refused to break communion with PEcUSA have ipso facto stated that all of PEcUSA's official teaching and practices are acceptable. They may not share those teachings and practices, but by not breaking off communion they say, in effect, that those differing practices do not matter -- that PEcUSA has, by them, not abandoned anything essentially Anglican or Christian. The only response to such affiliated jurisdictions -- those which are, as it were, accomplices to the murder of Christianity -- is also to break communion with them. Because the "Christianity" they teach is one which has also abandoned the fundaments -- because it says compromise on these funamentals is acceptable. Acceptable because communion is maintained with those who have abandoned the fundamentals. Meaning these affiliated jurisdiction don't think those things are, actually, fundamental after all.

To date, the Global South hasn't had the cahones to do this. And the reason, as far as I can tell, is not wanting to "leave the Anglican Communion"... even when staying in that Canturbury Club means abandoning an insistance upon the fundamentals of Anglican Christianity.

(Which is, by the by, why the position of people like +Beckwith and +Ackerman, even though they claim to be "catholics", is fundamentally incoherent and non catholic... regardless of how laudable their teaching of Trinitarian theology or sexual ethics might be.)

This is where I was coming from in my earlier post about the fact that "the Anglican Communion isn't actually a communion" gives the G.S. an opening they ought to -- but, to date have been too timid to -- take. What, frankly, they ought to have done from the get-go rather than perpetrating this nonsense about "impaired communion"

I.e. for them formally to state the de facto reality that the Anglican Communion isn't a "communion" in the theological or spiritual sense of the word, but merely a fellowship of losely affiliated but completely independent jurisdictions. And to state that, while they're prepared to remain in a lose "fellowship" or "affiliation" with these other jurisdictions, they do not believe that such a fellowship means "being in communion" -- since being "in communion" requires shared theological and ecclesiastical beliefs and practices which the "Canturbury Anglican Communion" does not require.

In short, they can be out of communion with the apostates -- and with those who continue "in communion" with the apostates -- and still be "in the Anglican Communion" with them (and with the apostate-enabling CoE) in every sense that "being in the Anglican Communion" now has. No need to throw around incoherent ideas like "impared communion" or illogical suppositions of non-transitive communion relationships.

Submitted by Truth Unites... and Divides at 6/12/2008 4:03:51 PM
[Crossposting LP's Excellent Comment. Maybe someone will look at all the blogosphere discussion on SPREAD. And LP's comment is completely relevant.]

lol... take it easy guys. :-)

The "catholic" (and, historically, Anglican... and of course Roman and Eastern) understanding of schism and unity is this:

The ideal is to be one in the faith. One faith; one Church; one baptism. But this unity is in the faith. It is, ultimately, an expression of unity in Christ. If that oneness in Christ isn't there, then the unity is as meaningless as membership in the Audubon Society... it is an "institutional" unity of a sort, but because it's not based on oneness in Christ it is, therefore, not the "spiritual unity" which is the sort the Church is charged to seek out.

Thus the Biblical and Traditional reason for schism -- such as when Simon Magus was ejected by the apostles; when the patristic fathers broke communion with the Arians, etc -- is the necessary response when someone has broken off that unity. If someone says "I reject Christ" and you say "I'll remain in spiritual communion with you" you have, thereby, said that that "communion" is not based on unity in Christ. The proper response, by contrast, is to say "you have, by abandoning Christ, abandoned the ground of our union and communion."

That apostate has, in effect, performed the schism. The orthodox response, separating himself from the apostate, is not creating schism but recognizing that the apostate has already created that schism. To stay "in communion" with the apostate is not avoiding schism -- it is participating in it. Confronted with apostasy, the choice of the orthodox is not "schism or no schism" -- the choice is whether to participate in that schism, or to avoid it by separating from - and anathematizing - the apostate.

In this sense, the "Anglican Communion" is schismatic. It is schismatic in so far as it has -- in refusing to separate itself from the apostates -- joined their schism from Christ. Refusing to separate doesn't avoid schism... it participates in it. "Unity in Christ's Church is all important" -- fair enough. But when you include apostates in your "church" you have ipso facto broken away from "Christ's Church" and joined the schism.

Of course, it is ONLY those actions which genuinely separate one's self from Christ -- genuine apostasy and heresy -- which require this remedy. Differences of pious practice, of interpretations within acceptable norms, etc... in all these, believers have freedom. Those difference which are not theological & ecclesiastical do not merit such separation. Right there, you probably have removed the reasons for 50% of the more-or-less undifferentiated "vanilla Protestant" denominations to be separate. (And, truth be told, for many of the Continuing Church jurisdictions' separations as well.)

Further, it's when a jurisdiction has embraced heresy and apostasy -- as PEcUSA has -- not when this or that individual in it has that communion between jurisdictions must be broken. Every group has its wackos... the issue is not what the wackos say (wackos who, hopefully, will be properly disciplined within their own jurisdiction) but what the jurisdiction as a whole officially teaches and practices. Thus the reason to break from PEcUSA is not because of Pike or Spong or Vicky Gene -- but because of the institutional teaching and practice as a whole. (The flip side of which is that the presence of more traditional bishops -- such as Ackerman or Duncan -- isn't adequate reason to stay. The institution is still schismatic, heretical and apostate.)

Nevertheless, the fundamental point is this: the Anglican Communion is, as a whole, schismatic because -- in refusing to separate itself from apostates -- it has abandoned its foundational unity in Christ and, thus, joined the schism. It has placed "jurisdictional affiliation" over preserving the faith -- and that is heterodox.

There are different possible remedies -- getting the group, as currently constituted, to eject its apostate members (which seems unlikely); forming a separate jurisdiction requiring and preserving that unity in Christ (and consecrating new bishops & forming new jurisdictions where needed -- e.g. a new CoE with a new bishop of the see of Canturbury); etc. No doubt there are others. But the current "status quo" is not among them -- for, right now, the Anglican Communion has abandoned its unity in Christ (and, thus, abandoned any spiritually meaningful "communion" and "unity") because it has ceased to make unity in the faith a requisite for membership.

Just remember: separation and anathematization are not, per se, misguided or improper. When confronted with apostasy, they are the only way to avoid joining the schism. The only way to preserve the unity in Christ which is the whole point in the first place.