Monday, July 21, 2008

Lambeth 1 -- Dancing and Damnation

With the Lambeth Conference officially underway, perhaps it's time to take a quick look at the news and quotes coming from across the pond to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing.

One of the biggest stories in the press seems to be the liturgical dance. "Shindig begins with ... half-naked dancers" the Times reports:
The gospel reading about the uprooting of weeds was preceded by a troupe of Melanesian dancers, wearing grass skirts and playing pan pipes. This seemed to have the desired effect of loosening up the atmosphere.
and the BBC reporter is shocked to discover, afterwards, that these were "monks and nuns" performing:
It was a shock afterwards to see the dancers, bare-breasted in the case of the men, in white shifts for the women, carrying their instruments, and dressed in their daywear as monks and nuns.
Personally, I've never been too enthralled with liturgical dance, but, hey, that's a question of taste, not theology. And I know nothing about the theology (either good or bad) of this Melanesian Brotherhood, though it sounds as if they may well provide an effective witness.

Though multiculturalism should not be of concern to Christians (the Church was multicultural from the day of her birth on Pentecost after all!), the growing multi- and polytheism (and, of course, atheism) rampant in much of the Anglican communion should be. The sermon was preached by a buddy of archbishop Williams (whom Williams selected to preach): bishop de Chicera of Sri Lanka, who, after calling on bishops to hold on to the "crux of Anglican identity and spirituality", gave his own demonstration of that "holding on" by concluding his sermon with a Buddhist chant, invoking (as bishop Duncan put it) "something other than the God we know." (Update: there appears to be some confusion about whether or not the chant was actually Buddhist. I guess we can assume that it was, if not clearly not Christian, at least not clearly Christian or, at best, Christian unclearly!)

Nor was this sermon's poly-religious overtones its only troubling sign for the upcoming Conference. For, yet again, that same-old same-old nonsense of sacrificing Scriptural integrity for institutional unity was trotted out: "I suggest we stay together and grow from our common heritage, regardless of our differences." You got it -- all we need to keep Anglicanism united is a common heritage. Doesn't matter if we're now Buddhists or Muslims or Druids or atheists. We've got a common heritage... so that makes us the Anglican Communion. Woo-hoo!

And, of course, in addition to this "common heritage" which overcomes our "differences" we are supposed to celebrate our "unity in diversity". De Chicera said "Here my dear sisters and brothers is an insight of what the Church is called to be: an inclusive communion, where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of colour, gender, ability, sexual orientation. Unity in diversity is a cherished Anglican tradition." In other words, it would seem that, according to this bishop, is a GOOD thing we have such diverse religions and moralities in the so-called Anglican Communion... especially since our "common heritage" is more than enough to provide the unity in that diversity. No wonder he figured he'd throw some Buddhism into his address. (Could have been worse... could have been Karl Marx and liberation "theology"!) And he's not the only one... PEcUSA's Top Kate says, likewise, "I think there is a long heritage that holds us together. There is a great passion for unity -- not necessarily uniformity."

I swear, it starts to read like a Monty Python sketch. It would be just funny if it weren't for the fact that some people -- some episcopal leaders! -- take it seriously... so seriously that they threaten the eternal salvation of both themselves and their flocks. Of course, though the right-thinking among us recognize such religious incoherence as both risible and damnable, folks like bishop Alexander of Atlanta find it moving and uplifting. Probably because he has very similar views... nothing like hearing your own heresies and apostasies preached back at you to give you that warm, fuzzy feeling on a Sunday morning!

For my part, I'll happily put on a grass skirt, beat liturgical bongos, and join the dancing procession if it means I don't have to join the apostates in their damning theological relativism!


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