Showing posts with label COMMENTARY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label COMMENTARY. Show all posts

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Autonomy does not excuse apostasy

Over and over and over again at this Lambeth, we've heard the constant protestations of jurisdictional autonomy. From the very first day, in which ++Williams reminded everyone that Lambeth has no jurisdictional authority, through all the indaba discussions and press converence, throughout the discussion of the Covenant... over and over and over the "autonomy bongos" have been banged. Talk all you want, but don't tell anyone what to do, because everyone can do whatever they want. Anything else would be un-Anglican.

One little problem: THAT'S WRONG.

Yes, provinces have autonomy in their governance -- organization, representation, and so forth. Fine and proper. But they do NOT have autonomy over the faith. That was never an Anglican belief... at least, not until the last few decades when PEcUSA started pretending it was.

You see, provincial autonomy was never intended to extend to matters of belief, for that belief is in something greater than each province and beyond its capacity or authority to legislate. Until recent years, that's been universally understood because it is so blazingly obvious and common-sensical.

If you want to abandon basic Christian faith and order for some other "Christianity lite" or non-Christianity -- if you want to deny the divinity of Christ or have gaia-worshiping masses or have practicing Druids or Muslims among your clergy -- fine. But don't go pretending that it is an acceptable exercise of your "autonomy" to do so. That's apostasy, not autonomy. That's not independently organizing your jurisdictional life within a Christian denomination; that's abandoning Christianity altogether.... And, dude, there's a difference.

Appropriate and independent adaption of the organization of a church is one thing; ceasing to be a Church is another. Adjustments in the administration of a body which guards the faith is one thing; adjustments to the fundamentals of that faith is another. Judicious alterations in the form of worship is one thing -- abandoning belief in the essentials of WHOM you are worshiping is another.

Yet PEcUSA and its apostate allies are constantly citing the "independence" and "autonomy" of jurisdictional organization and administration to justify independence and autonomy from Christian faith and order. They are like the stewards of the parable who, left with the responsibility to guard the vineyard (and the autonomy of administration to do so) have rejected the authority of the owner and announced that they own the vineyard themselves, beating the Owner's messengers and daily killing his Son by their apostasy. Heck, they're pulling up the metaphorical grapes and replacing them with briers.

That's not autonomy; that's mutiny.

Here's how the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral puts it:
the principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence; which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men.
Even today, despite decades of revisionism and apostasy, the Constitution of PEcUSA still reads:
a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
And the much-revised Episcopal '79 BCP (or, perhaps more accurately, Book of Alternate Services, given how much it has abandoned the Prayer Book tradition) still reflects this fact in that it contains the initial justification and description of the first American BCP:
It is a most invaluable part of that blessed "liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free," that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire.
(Give PEcUSA another revision or two, and all vestiges of such fidelity will be expunged, as they already have been expunged from the BCP's services for baptism, confirmation, ordination, etc.)

And this theological underpinning doesn't operate in a vacuum -- it underlies everything a Church is supposed to do and be. The "mission" of a Church cannot be independent of this theology and identity; it must be grounded in it... or you have nothing except (as I said before) "Greenpeace with bishops." And the most recent word from the Anglican Communion (back in 1998, since no new Lambeth resolutions are being offered this decade) said just this, resolving that
all our mission springs from the action and self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ and that without this foundation, we can give no form or content to our proclamation and can expect no transforming effect from it. [We] reaffirm our faith in the doctrines of the Nicene Creed as the basis of what is to be believed, lived and proclaimed by the churches of the Anglican Communion; [we] accept the imperative character of our call to mission and evangelism as grounded in the very nature of the God who is revealed to us.
And it is not un-Anglican for member provinces to require of each other obedience to that faith which they have all received, and to which they are all, under God, accountable.

But the liberal bishops engineering the Lambeth Conference would have you believe otherwise; that Anglican "mission" is independent of ministry or identity or theology; that it doesn't matter if Anglicans don't share a Christian faith, as long as they're happily indaba-ing each other and focusing on the MDGs.

And a liberal and theologically ignorant press -- hardly surprising, when so many liberal Anglican bishops are also theologically ignorant -- buys it. And thus it portrays ++Williams' studied failure to address the true issues or to preserve the Christian identity of Anglicanism -- focusing instead on a mission without theological grounding exercised by a church without a commitment to Christ -- not as a betrayal (as archbishop Orombi rightly characterized it) on the most fundamental level of his spiritual and pastoral responsibilities (one which has all but guaranteed the continued disintegration of the Anglican Communion)... but as a diplomatic triumph:
By focusing on the Anglican Communion as a Christian community and not as a political organisation, he has ensured that the bulk of the discussion has been on those issues where Christians believe their message to be vital: poverty, global harmony, faith, prayer and charity.
No matter that there is no longer one faith within the Anglican communion (so that it is no longer a Christian community, but just a community which happens to include some Christians); or that the god to which some are praying (if they're praying at all) is the not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; or that the "charity" being offered by some leaders is the "charity" of leading their flocks into spiritual damnation. Of course not! Far better such incoherence and spiritual death than that anyone's jurisdictional independence might be infringed in any way... or that Lambeth might possibly suggest that anyone's theological views, no matter how widely they deviate from the unchanging deposit of faith, are wrong.

The simple and obvious fact -- that while each province has autonomy in jurisdictional organization it is supposed to obediently guard, as "stewards and trustees", the unchanging faith committed to its care -- seems to have gotten completely lost in the politically-correct nicey-nice can't-we-just-be-friends indaba rumba going on right now at Lambeth.

A classic example of liberal Anglican HUTA syndrome... filling your head with the products of your own internal navel-gazing.

Lambeth welcomes all sex positions

Let's get one thing straight (pun intended): it's not about homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a "flashpoint" issue -- one which arose because of changes in first world culture coming into conflict with Christian tradition... and because proponents of that lifestyle targeted the Episcopal church as a vulnerable target to exploit -- to gain social and cultural "legitimacy" for their sexual behavior.(*)

But any other anti- traditional Christianity issue could have had the same effect. (Indeed, it has: back in the mid to late 70s, the ordination of women -- also a culturally-fueled abandonment of traditional Christian belief and practice -- had very much the same effect, though not on a live-blogged international stage.)

It's not about sex -- it's about the fundamentals of faith. And not because sexual morality is, in and of itself, such a fundamental (not like, say, Christological issues) but because it serves as an index to a more primary, fundamental issue: i.e., what defines the faith? Is it Scripture and Tradition... or is it personal feelings and contemporary culture? The way Anglicans have dealt with the homosexuality issue is simply one instance of that more essential question being answered in a specific case.

As bishop Anis, primate of the Middle East, puts it:
I see that a big wall still divides us. It is big because it involves the essentials, the foundation of our faith. We are not divided by mere trivialities, or issues on the periphery of faith. We are finding it very hard to come together in the essentials. This diversity of opinion is about the heart of our faith, the faith which we received from the saints.
Those who embrace the homosexualist heresy have done so by abandoning the essentials -- have done so because, for them, those essentials are no longer essential. Accepting homosexuality is simply one ramification of this abandonment. And it's not just me saying so -- that's what the majority of Anglican bishops think and how they view the current division:
Every bishop I have spoken with, who is not from the USA, says that departure from the norm, or new development of the faith is not the issue here. The issue is the Scriptural teaching that Christians do no indulge in the culture, but live apart from it. Homosexual orientation or proclivity does not require indulgence. We are called to chastity, higher standards in moral and ethical teachings and encouraged to live holy lives. This applies equally to men and women of any persuasion. The Biblical and Christian norm is for sex to be confined within the boundary of the marriage of a man and a woman – there perfect freedom is found.

Scripture and Tradition explicitly reject homosexual activity. (They also, by the way, reject pre-marital sex, polygamy, remarriage after divorce, and adultery. It's not just "gay people" who have their predilections curtailed by Christian morality!) Go take it up with Dr. Gagnon if you want to kick against the pricks of those historical and theological facts (pun, unfortunately, again intended). My purpose here is to explain the conflict, not to defend one side or the other.

So here's the key question, the one which underlies the crisis in the Anglican communion (be it the divisions over homosexuality, or the ordination of women, or the toleration of divorce, or whatever): is Christianity (including Anglicanism) a faith which can constantly re-interpret and re-present itself with an infinitely malleable dogma (sort of like Mormonism) -- changing its teaching on sexual morality, or Christology, or whatever other issue happens to come up -- or is it a faith which has a central deposit, statements of eternal truth and its application, to which Christians are beholden?

If Scripture clearly says something, if Tradition clearly upholds that understanding, but if contemporary culture says something different, are Christians to obey Scripture and Tradition and themselves be transformed... or do they get to jettison or rewrite Scripture and Tradition to make them conform to this world? Do Christians follow and obey Jesus and that which He endorses... or do they take what they themselves "naturally" endorse, paste a "Jesus" sticker on it, and announce that they are, thereby, Christian? Is the Christian faith, as bishop Ackerman puts it, a "gift" entrusted to believers for them to defend, protect, and pass on... or is it just a gimmick? Or, as primate Anis asks, "Should we allow culture to pressure the Church or should the Church be distinctive, light and salt to the world?"

Whatever you think of the issues, whichever side you fall on, nevertheless THIS QUESTION -- not homosexuality -- is what is dividing the Anglican Communion: the question of Christian authority and identity. This is why bishop Beckwith said that the two sides are so far from being on the same page, that they're not only not in the same book, but they're in entirely different libraries. This is why archbishop Anis complains of the divide between traditional Christians and the first-world liberals and apostates, because the latter
find it very difficult to say that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. They do not say this difficult issue should be driven by Scripture, not the culture. They say our morals should by shaped by the culture. If we allow this, we loose our distinctiveness as a church. Jesus called us to be light to the culture and salt to society.
The homosexuality issue is merely the tip of the iceberg... what is sinking the Anglican Communion is not the homosexualist tip, but the massive theological differences which ride under it.

That being the case, you would expect Lambeth -- trying to solve the current crisis -- would engage the real issue in its indaba-dabba-doo sessions about sexuality. Expect it to ask whether or not there are any unchanging theological and moral absolutes in Christianity and, if so, whether or not sexual morality is part of those absolutes. Because, after all, that's the essential question and the heart of the crisis.

Then again, if you've been paying any attention to this decade's Lambeth, you probably aren't expect anything so sane, clear, or common-sensical after all. If you were expecting something sensible... well, you'll be disappointed.

So what did the indabas on sexuality accomplish? Not much.

Certainly, the polarization hasn't vanished. In the press-conference about the discussions, archbishop Aspinall said "I'm not aware of any bishops who have changed their minds." No, the most that can be said is that "I am aware of bishops who have thanked bishops who take a different view for helping them understand the issues better helping them understand what's at sake better." So what did all the talking accomplish? "Some people have nuanced their positions." Nuanced. Wow.

Nothing here like resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998 -- perhaps the most ignored and impotent statement ever to come out of a Lambeth Conference. (Doubtless there's be even more greatly ignored statements this year... but, oh yeah, no resolutions are being made this year. How convenient). ++Williams continues to say that 1.10 represents the "majority" position in the Communion, but since "the process used last time didn't help the church move forward", 1.10 isn't being revisited. Newsflash -- the problem wasn't with 1.10 or the process by which it was obtained, it was the total and abject failure to do anything about it afterwards that was the problem.

No; this time 'round, instead of saying that the Anglican Communion had a position to which its member jurisdictions were accountable, or even saying that the Communion has no position or accepts all position, lip-service was given to the pretense that there was still an "official" position, but all that actually happened was that bishops talked to each other about their own experiences.

And what has this accomplished? -- the "commitment we continue to make is that we are continuing to engage in indaba... we are now 'in indaba'... we are really truly talking to one another." In indaba, eh? Is that anything like being in denial?

Aspinall contrasted the 1998 Lambeth, in which bishops hissed and booed each other, to what he saw in his indaba group this time 'round; when, after all their talking (no doubt the usual 2.5 minutes per bishop over the course of 2 hours) there was the
same degree of difference in the views held by the bishops -- but at the end of the indaba group, bishops from different ends of the spectrum on the issues actually embraced each other and thanked each other for helping them understand better what was at stake in these issues."
I'm sure its wonderful that the bishops are forming friendships and nuancing their positions and hearing about others' experiences and being in deep indaba and hugging. Peachy keen. I feel all warm and fuzzy now. (Though, frankly, they could have accomplish the same thing with a few good bottles of scotch and skipped the whole expensive Lambeth thing.)

But how does hugging bishops help the Anglican Communion?

Seems to me what you've got there is people on the Titanic comparing notes about their personal iceberg experiences... and those who are chatting on the deck, "nuancing" their iceberg position, are going down with the ship just as surely as their fellow interlocutors who are denying that there is an iceberg, or arguing that it's really just a bunch of icecubes and offers no threat to the vessel's seaworthiness. I'm sure those nuanced views about icecubes will be of great comfort to them as they're sucked down into the frozen, black, abysmal depths.

And yet, when pressed on what these indabas accomplished, the existence of these conversations and relationships was still the only accomplishment of the day which Aspinall could cite.
Q: We're hearing a lot about process... it's all very nice about how well you're getting along in indaba, but it looks like navel gazing... are you actually going to say anything to the outside world about human sexuality?
A: Significant steps are being taken in relationships between the bishops, and growth in understanding is occurring... we might not have reached consensus, in fact we certainly haven't reached consensus, but I believe people are feeling that significant growth is occurring.
Nothing about the fundamental issue has been addressed -- not on the question of sexuality, not on the underlying and critical divisions, not on the normative authority of Scripture and Tradition -- but merely that "significant growth" in the "relationships between the bishops" is occurring.

Rescuing the Anglican Communion -- one hugging bishop at a time. Puh-lease. Give me a break.

The problem is not whether or not the bishops like each other. The problem is that they have incompatible views on the meaning of Christianity itself -- not just the disagreements over sexuality, but over a whole host of issues which arise from fundamental disagreements over the authority of Scripture and Tradition: i.e. over the very definition of the faith!

And, I'm sorry, but on that score, hugs just don't cut it.

But, since Lambeth refuses to deal squarely with the real issues, the complete incompatibility of world-views remains. Liberal +Johnson of Toronto said of the sexuality discussion: "it unreasonable to expect a full resolution to an issue that's a continuing conversation within the life of our whole world."

Um, bishop, even a first year catechist knows that Christianity teaches: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed" -- we are not to wait to see what the "continuing conversation" in the secular world decides and then announce that that's what Christianity really means... we are to accept and preserve Christianity's basic theological and ethical statements (e.g.: "among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people") even if the world teaches differently. And if the world doesn't like it? Well:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15
If you can't even grasp or teach the difference between the Church and the world -- or, worse yet, if you have thrown your lot in with the world, accepting its teachings and rejecting Christ's -- then you not only shouldn't be a bishop, you shouldn't even be confirmed!

But alas... no such clarity or relevant discussions from this Lambeth! No, we just get interminable conversations and embraces. Which is why the liberal Episcopal press can happily conclude:
Left wing inclusion mongers should feel pretty good about this afternoon’s press conference on human sexuality at the Lambeth Conference. The bishops are sharing their views respectfully, speaking from their hearts, disagreeing vigorously, but forging real relationships despite their differences.
And why an increasingly liberal and apostate Episcopal clergy -- who see no place for themselves in a Communion which could issue a resolution 1.10 -- feel as if perhaps (provided they don't have to give up their homosexualist or other heresies) there's still some purpose for the Communion; as one Yale Div School brainwashed indoctrinated corrupted trained priest said in response: "perhaps there's still some miles left in this old Communion of ours."

Give that man a hug.

So what positive or constructive signs did Thursday, the day set aside to deal with the most divisive and fraught issue, give us? Johnson again:
Where consensus has critically gathered is in terms of around the environment, ecology, and the MDGs... the critical additional issues in our world which are MDGs.
Oooo... consensus on environmentalism! Not on the Gospel of Jesus Christ; not on the authority of Scripture; not on the nature of the Church; not on the transcendent and eternal glory of God and His Word; not on the Good News of the resurrection; not on the pattern of life, love and relationships which He has expressly given us.

Nope, it's all about the MDGs.

So if you expected this Lambeth to address the crisis, or say something definite about human sexuality, or articulate some Anglican or Christian norms or, quite frankly, do anything constructive and helpful for the current situation... well, think again. Because apparently the Anglican Communion under Rowan Williams and his indababble has nothing to say on the Gospel, on theology or on morality... for it seems that the Anglican Communion is nothing more than Greenpeace with bishops.

Well, if that's all the Lambeth Anglican Fellowship is, you can keep it. If I want to support the ecology or the MDGs I can contribute to Greenpeace or the United Nations directly and get to sleep in on Sundays to boot! If I want to find Christ, spiritual truth, sacramental grace, and moral guidance.. then I'll go to a church.

But, obviously, not an Episcopal one!

(*) On this, skim through the book After the Ball (reviewed HERE), a 1989 manifesto on how to "mainstream" homosexual lifestyles (which reads like a playbook for the last 15+ years of, among other things, Hollywood's agenda) which has been described as proposing the use of "tactics on ‘straight’ America that are remarkably similar to the brainwashing methods of Mao Tse-Tung's Communist Chinese -- mixed with Madison Avenue's most persuasive selling techniques." It targeted both the Episcopal and the Roman Catholic Church as "soft targets" for conversion to support of the homosexualist agenda, thereby gaining the lifestyle "religious" approval. (Obviously, things worked better in the Episcopal church than the RCC -- largely because, without any jurisdictional or theological accountability to other parts of the world, the Episcopal church could compromise with its American culture without any counterweight from the majority of Anglicans, found elsewhere in the world.)

Homosexuality has become an issue in the Anglican world because the homosexual movement chose to use the Episcopal church as part of their campaign to "mainstream" their lifestyle to the point of making it a "hate crime" to publicly express any other point of view, even in a theological context -- a situation which already obtains in Sweden, Canada (also this), and elsewhere. And it has started happening in the U.S. -- with grandmothers being jailed and fined for exercising their rights of free speech; a photographer fined for not accepting a job to film a homosexual wedding, etc.

Enforced approval of homosexuality has -- unlike any other issue in our culture -- started to trump the basic civil rights of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, a situation which ought to outrage any sane American, regardless of their personal beliefs on issues of sexual morality. It is as fascist to prohibit basic freedoms in this way and on this issue as it would be on any other issue -- just as un-American is it would be to, say, sue, fine, and imprison those who spoke against and insulted (as so many people do) Christianity.

LBGT agitators like to accuse traditional Anglicans of treating homosexuals as "pawns" or "bargaining chips" in their ecclesiastical disputes -- as Katie Sherrod did in the Lambeth press conference yesterday. In truth, however, it is the LBGT movement itself which has victimized these individuals, by using them as pawns in their own efforts to legitimize their lifestyles, take over the Episcopal church and destroy traditional Christianity, critical as it is of their sexual activity, worldwide. It is not Anglicanism which has been insensitive to homosexual individuals -- it is the homosexual movement which has victimized them by making them the "wedge" in its campaign to conquer or destroy Anglican Christianity. And, thanks the the doctrinal spinelessness and spiritual bankruptcy of many of Anglicanism's leaders, not to mention the tacit complicity of the current archbishop of Canterbury, that movement has succeeded.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The "Inside Strategy"

Apparently bishop Howe is celebrating the existence and work of the ACI's CPP (or "Communion Partners Plan") -- the approach to which he now seems to be giving allegiance, having bailed on +Duncan and the CCP (or "Common Cause Plan"). I swear, is it a rule of Anglican organization creation that you have to pick a name that generates the most confusing possible acronyms?

Anyway, Baby Blue is blogging, feeling greatly encouraged by it, that Howe reports:
It was very clearly recognized that these two approaches are complimentary, CP is an "inside" strategy, and CC an "outside" strategy to attempt to maintain and further an orthodox witness and ministry in North America.
Um... excuse me?!! And just how is this, I mean CPP... going to be an "inside" strategy to "further an orthodox witness and ministry in North America?!

First off, the CPP is all about catering to those "within our dioceses and in congregations in other dioceses [who] seek to be assured of their connection to the Anglican Communion". In other words, it is inherently INSTITUTIONALIST. The only "way forward" that may be considered, for them, is one remaining inside PEcUSA. Not just the Anglican Communion, but PEcUSA.

Even other alternative Anglican Communion solutions, like CANA or the AMiA (which are - unless you measure it by Lambeth invitations -- still fully constituent parts of national Anglican jurisdictions), are rejected... indeed, that's precisely why Howe bailed on the CCP -- er, sorry, CPP -- to switch to the CCP. No, hang on, wait, I mean the other way around. Anyway... as their own members say:
We are also firmly committed to remain in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, respecting and honoring the proper authority of our Bishops and working in concert with them to strengthen our voice within the Church.
This, of course, assumes that it is even possible to "maintain an orthodox witness and ministry" while remaining in communion and jurisdictional union with heretics and apostates. Anyone who uses the word "orthodox" in a theologically and historically meaningful way, rather than as just a catchy buzz-word, realizes how absurd that claim is.

Indeed, I would argue that the very fact of remaining so unwaveringly in full communion and jurisdictional union within an organization which has committed itself to heresy and apostasy is, de facto, "capitulat[ion] to [an] agenda that runs contrary to the authority and traditional interpretation of Holy Scripture", despite what the ACIers would have you believe. Not to mention that it sets itself solidly against the CCP... -- er, CPP... er, the other one -- by insisting upon remaining members of the very organizations which even GAFCon has rejected as apostate and without authority (never mind the genuinely orthodox Anglicans of the Continuum).

But leaving that issue of institutionalism and orthodoxy aside for now (on which I'm sure to say more eventually in some other post), lets take a look at just how this proposed plan will help ensure "orthodox witness and ministry". First, in itself it does nothing to change the apostate direction or official teachings of PEcUSA. Rather, it's just another DEPO (Delegated Pastoral Oversight) plan. It tries to work around that "oversight" issue by arguing that there's no oversight to be replaced:
in contrast to the Episcopal Visitors notion mooted after New Orleans, the Partners idea required nothing from the ‘national church’ and did not envision requests for visitations as needing to pass through the Presiding Bishop. Indeed, it might have considered such an idea inappropriate. Similarly, ‘oversight’ was never envisaged in this plan as it is not something the Presiding Bishop has at present, and so is not something for which an ‘alternative’ could be granted. In recent times it has appeared that new understandings of the office of the Presiding Bishop are being (formally or informally) contemplated, including suggestions of metropolitan powers (archiepiscopal crosses and insignia; cathedral consecrations; dismissals of Standing Committees, and such like). This would be to introduce notions into the self-governing life of the Episcopal Church that are inappropriate and untrue to the self-understanding of this church.
But other than objecting to Shori's new aping of "primatial" powers, the CPP does nothing to address those problems. And, in fact, the objection above is merely a position paper written by one of the ACI members, not an official statement of the CPP (CPP? yeah, that's right, CPP) signatories. (Indeed, I don't think all the signatories have even bothered to object to the illegal depositions and dismissals of Schoria Law alluded to above.)

Instead, as far as I can tell, the CPP seems to be about nothing except merely inviting certain other Anglican bishops to come visit particular parishes from time to time. Presumably, this is how it intends to advance "orthodox witness and ministry"... it doesn't do anything about the heretics or apostates, it doesn't even cease to be in communion and fellowship with them, it just gives an alternative (or addition) to having the more notorious among them show up at your parish. That seems to be it: nothing but the already existing practice of inviting an extra-diocesean bishop to come make a visit.

Nor does this visiting bishop have any power or authority to protect you from your diocesan bishop. He has no jurisdictional authority, and you still have to check with your diocesan before inviting the visitor. Indeed, since the CPP expressly doesn't challenge the authority of PEcUSA bishops, the local bishop still has all the rights and powers to say what "legitimate" Anglicans may or may not minister in his diocese, and to exercise his authority over his parishes to prevent them from receiving those of whom he does not approve. Oh, and of course this is all only at the sufferance of Donnette Schorlione, whose ringing endorsement of the plan consists in not having forbidden it yet.
The Partners idea received a ‘no objection’ from the Presiding Bishop and in this sense, the appropriate limits of the office of Presiding Bishop were acknowledged.
Oh, and it's still just a proposal.

Williams has been consulted about this proposal, and apparently will endorse it, at least in principle, if Schori confirms that she's going to permit it. Or at least not expressly forbid it. Actually, I can't imagine she would forbid it -- after all, this whole CCP CPP arrangement accomplishes absolutely nothing except to make an organization with a confusing acronym devoted to implementing already existing policy. I mean, come on, how useless is that?

Should it come as any surprise, then, that not much seems to divide these CPP bishops from the rest of the Episcopal mob? Fr. Hart on the AnglicanContinuum blog reports that:
Bishop Howe voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services at the General Convention in 2000, and consented to the consecration of Gene Robinson at the 2003 General Convention. Stanton voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services in 2000, but he was very much against Robinson’s consecration in 2003. Jacobus voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services in 2000, and consented to Gene Robinson’s consecration in 2003. Little voted for both same sex blessings and Robinson’s consecration. Wolf also voted in favor of both. Adams also consented to Gene Robinson’s consecration. MacPherson also voted in favor of same sex blessings in the Book of Occasional Services, and consented to Robinson’s consecration.
In other words, even if we ignore all the other issues of theology, communion, jurisdiction, etc, and look ONLY at the cause celebre of the homosexualist heresy, the CPP bishops have STILL failed to uphold an "orthodox" witness and ministry.

What it comes down to, then, is that the ACI and the CPP propose nothing more than an empty sign which
allows Episcopalians—Bishops, Dioceses, Parishes—a means of identification, a way of foregrounding Communion membership and wider Anglican belonging.
Nothing to do with upholding standards of orthodox belief, nor of following the advice of the majority of the Anglican Communion, nor even of resisting the homosexualist heresies and other apostasies in PEcUSA. This is nothing but a gesture to "foreground Communion membership." It is, quite simply, a pat on the head for slightly-uncomfortable institutionalists so that they will remain in PEcUSA. And this is supposed to make any difference?

Rev. Levenson -- defending the policy of staying in PEcUSA come hell or... well, more hell -- writes:
what if -- what if those who have left in the last decade had stayed...continued to fight the tide of revisionism?
Rev, I can tell you EXACTLY what would have happened... they would have made just as much difference as they did for the preceding two decades in which they didn't leave (and criticized the Continuuers who did) and attempted the inside strategy... absolutely no difference whatseover. And they, at least, were offering and attempting more than your mere novel acronym for confirming existing power structures and policies.

Now, you probably thought, from this image I started with, that I was going to say that the "inside strategy" makes about as much sense as people in prison for life without parole claiming that they are staying in there as part of a pro-active campaign to assert their freedom and innocence. And that's true enough... and a good description of the "inside strategy" of the last two decades.

But in the case of the CPP, we have something even more absurd. For what we have is a claim to be standing up for "orthodox witness and ministry" while doing absolutely nothing, save to re-affirm the continuing existence of some sort of affiliation with some sort of Anglican Communion. Those who are truly imprisoned by this CPP are any laity or clergy who will be fooled into thinking that their involvement with it will protect them from PEcUSA, stop the apostasy, or do anything to advance orthodoxy.

Because, you see, the CPP is not an "inside alternative" to the same project being attempted "outside" by the CCP. These are not "moderate conservatives" (as Ruth Gledhill of the Times characterizes them). Rather, the CPP is an alternative to the radical revisionists who don't mind breaking from the Anglican Communion as they pursue their apostasies and heresies. The CPP are the "moderate revisionists". They (or at least many of them) don't object to the homosexualist or other heresies in PEcUSA...
...they just don't want to officially break with the Anglican Communion in the course of tolerating and implementing (and even advocating) those heresies.

Well, bishop Howe may think this is a wonderful and exciting and praiseworthy goal and organization. And various observers may think so as well. Me? I think its worse than nothing, for it has the potential to deceive the unobservant into wasting time, effort and resources on yet more futile and ineffective gestures.

It is, in short, just more of the same.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lambeth 3 - Indababble

In my last post, I touched on the fact that the ABC seems to take Lambeth so very very seriously. It seems to be his cornerstone for a coherent Anglican future.

Attendance at Lambeth seems to be how he measures a "desire for unity":
In spite of the painful controversies... there remains... a very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together. The fact that about 70% of bishops worldwide have already formally registered for the Conference, with a number of others who have signalled that they will attend, shows something of this desire.
(I've noted elsewhere fact that this 70% of bishops represents roughly only a third of the Communion and he has been dis-inviting bishops right up to the last minute.)

Moreover, the challenges facing this oh-so-important Lambeth are great... though he tries to downplay them somewhat in his opening remarks, Williams must still admit, in his presidential address, that "we all know that we stand in the middle of one of the most severe challenges to have faced the Anglican family in its history" -- though he hastens to reassure us that "we shouldn't assume that this is the worst of times."

Thus, in the face of this crisis, he has announced that one of the two key goals of the Conference is to "strength[en] the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops from around the world." Indeed, he describes recussitating the Communion as something of a divine mandate:
God has not only entrusted to us the task of sharing in his mission; he has also entrusted to us one particular way embodying and serving this mission. He has entrusted to us this extraordinary thing called the Anglican Communion. And in our time together he is asking us, more sharply than ever before, perhaps, what we want to make of it -- how we use the legacy we have been given for his glory and for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Serious words indeed!

And yet, having outlined in such stark terms what the challenges for Lambeth are, he also makes sure to remind us how powerless Lambeth is.
The Conference has never been a lawmaking body in the strict sense and it wasn't designed to be one: every local Anglican province around the world has its own independent system of church law and there is no supreme court.
And, indeed, the archbishop rejects as undesirable any attempts to create a "a centralized and homogenized Communion" which "becomes a confessional church in a way it never has been before."

(Oddly, his choices to exclude not just the CANA, AMiA and other such bishops, as well as acting to undermine the Windsor Report and primates council in a way guaranteed to alienate nearly all the "conservative" bishops within the Anglican Communion from attending seems to fly in the face of this supposed reluctance -- everything Williams has done, and failed to do, over the last several years seems designed precisely to create a "homogenized" Lambeth... but I've touched on this already.)

So, given the real difficulties facing Lambeth, both in the magnitude of the challenge and the inadequacy of the tools, what has Williams brought us? Indababble and the Covenant. In this post, let's take another look at the indababble groups and what Williams claims they will accomplish.

If you think the indababble process is about getting answers, think again.

Of course, that's apparently what the real indabas do. They make sure all voices are heard -- but, more importantly (for this is why people are there to be heard in the first place) -- they reach a conclusion. "In African society, tribal leaders will converse until they come to a type of consensus... they have come to a point of agreement on the substance; the core issue and the potential of a way forward." Yes, there are still differences, but a common mind has emerged to provide a working solution. And, to do this, they take all the time required: "local Indaba groups meet for hours, and if needed, several days." Moreover, they do this starting from a point of already holding a great deal in common: "indaba is a group of people who speak the same language, live in the same village, share the same culture, and have known each other perhaps for decades."

This is not the case with Lambeth's indababbble. We have bishops there from very different cultures, with vastly differing theological views (even though most of the conservatives have been dis-invited, one way or another), and, in many quarters, very little trust.

Nor will they bishops be talking and listening for days to reach a consensus, or even a common understanding. Various people have pointed out that -- with each indaba session being 2 hours long among 40 participants, each bishop will have a mere 3 minutes to express his views. Probably more like 2 in practice. And each of these 2 hour sessions is supposed to cover topics like Biblical interpretation & Hermeneutics, Anglican identity: the role of bishops, Evangelism and Mission, and so forth. Gender and Sexuality is only one of the 2 hour sessions. (In fact, the only topic on that list that could reasonably be done in such a 2 hour session is the MDGs! Let me save you some time, bishops -- read this statement, then move on to more pressing matters: "These are laudable goals, and Christians should be encouraged to support them where sensible, but they are not the primary mission of the Church, which is to preach the Gospel and nurture the spiritual and sacramental life of its members. As bishops, let's focus on those ecclesiastical and episcopal rather than on those "secular" ministries and missions -- which are far more effectively addressed by secular charitable groups and organizations anyway. We should support the laity's participation in such social work, but let's make sure we stay focused on guarding and nurturing their participation in Christ, which is our special charge.")

Already reports from Lambeth tell us that
Many of the Africans are saying, "This isn't 'Indaba' at all! First of all, we are not a village, and we don't know each other. And secondly, we are not attempting to solve a problem; we are talking in small groups about minor issues of little consequence."
And even Williams doesn't pretend that the indababble is actually going to produce a substantive outcome: "The indaba process is meant to clarify what the real questions and concerns are, so that everyone comes to have some sort of shared perspective on things, even if they don't yet agree."

Of course, the ABC has been confronted on this fact. And his reply is a non-reply:
Quite a few people have said that the new ways we're suggesting of doing our business are an attempt to avoid tough decisions and have the effect of replacing substance with process. To such people, I'd simply say, 'How effective have the old methods really been?'
In other words, when asked "won't this be ineffective" his reply has been "well, other things are ineffective too". (Frankly, this makes me think of Senator Obama's campaign -- propose some new (often incoherent) change or idea -- one often untested or even irrational -- whose only merit is that it represents "change". Never mind that there can be change for the better OR change for the worse! And with indaba, like with Obama, you're getting the latter!)

After all, what has been the problem with past Lambeth Conferences? It's true, they haven't been effective. The ABC himself points out that
at the very first Lambeth Conference, the assembled bishops passed a resolution asking for some kind of supreme canonical court in the Communion which could settle points of dispute in provinces
reflecting their desire to
make sure that Anglicans around the world acted in a responsible way towards each other and stayed faithful to the common inheritance of biblical and doctrinal faith.
Well, obviously that didn't work... given that it is precisely the Communion's failure to ensure such fidelity which has led to its disintegration today.

But does this failure of past Lambeth Conferences mean that -- as Williams seems to have concluded -- the whole process of making resolutions and upholding standards is fundamentally flawed and must be replaced? No. Because the fault doesn't lie in the process by which consensus was reached and expressed, but in the fact that nobody is accountable to it. The Sudanese archbishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul, makes an impassioned plea that these past resolutions and consensus be respected:
Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we appeal to the Anglican Church in the USA and Canada to demonstrate real commitment to the requests arising from the Windsor process. In particular: To refrain from ordaining practicing homosexuals to bishops or priests; To refrain from approving rites of blessing for same-sex relationships; To cease court actions with immediate effect; To comply with Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference; To respect the authority of the Bible.
THIS is what needs changing -- not diddling and indabbling about with process, but having some sort of follow through, so that the hard-won and much-discussed resolutions already in place can have an effect. Why even the chair of the Windsor Continuation group (hardly a radically traditionalist group), bishop Clive Handford, "painted a grim picture of deteriorating relationships in the Anglican Communion" precisely because "the gap between promise and follow through seems unbridgeable."

But don't expect any support or help from Williams on this score. Indeed, not only did he actively destroy the effect and credibility of the whole Windsor process, but he seems to completely dismiss any weight or force to that last Lambeth resolution as well, saying that we have now "a new doctrine and policy about same-sex relations, one that is not the same as that of the vast majority at the last Lambeth Conference". The resolutions of the past Lambeth aren't normative, aren't relevant, aren't even to be enforced... they're simply baggage which is causing pain because they conflict with the new doctrine and polity coming into force today... despite the fact that the new doctrine and polity (like so many of PEcUSA's innovations and revisionisms) are the exact opposite of the norms of the Christian and Anglican tradition!

Nor is any of that past consensus or the seemingly infinite numbers of meetings, consultations and statements of any weight either... because, apparently, we still don't know "what the real questions and concerns are", which is why we need indababble.

So what is all this indababble supposed to accomplish from Williams' perspective? It isn't giving anywhere near enough time to any issue. It isn't reaching a consensus. It isn't honoring past resolutions or consensus. It manifestly isn't going to produce a common mind, not without total conversion of the apostates to Christianity or the apostasy of the remaining Christians at Lambeth. What's the point, then?

Apparently, it's all about being heard. (Even if only for 2 minutes). Williams defends the indababble saying it will help "to guarantee that everyone's voice has a chance of being heard" so that, regardless of what is or isn't agreed or done, they "can still be confident that they haven't been sidelined or silenced." (Of course, the un-invited, dis-invited and actively repelled two-thirds of the Communion which isn't represented at Lambeth has been sidelined and silenced, but that's another issue.)

And, through this Lambeth indababble -- a far cry from any real indaba and a doomed and impotent enterprise from the get-go -- "the greatest need of the Communion" will be met... "transformed responsible agreement and search for the common mind, in constant active involvement in the life of other parts of the family." (I know what PEcUSA means by "transformed relationships" and "other parts")

So the whole philosophical underpinning of William's Lambeth philosophy -- the way in which he intends to take on the divine task of preserving the Anglican Communion -- is a notion that if you just get everyone talking long enough, no matter how diametrically opposed their theologies are, transformed relationships will emerge to ensure that a miraculous new way forward is found that allows everyone to live together in one harmonious communion, feeling that there is a "deeper seriousness about how we consult each other" and "recogniz[ing] and accept[ing] each other's ministries in the conviction that we are ordaining men and women to one ministry in one Body." (Goodbye all traditional Christians objecting to the heretical ordination of women and of practicing homosexuals!)

Somehow... I don't think you're going to get there through indababble. If that's really where you want to get, then you do need the "preparatory books and many resolutions," as Williams put it in a clear side-swipe at GAFCon. Whatever its flaws or failings, at least GAFCon is an attempt to solve the problem in an effective way -- change for the better, not an Obama change for the worse! -- by articulating standards and devising mechanisms to hold people accountable to them. For it was in accountability -- not in coming to and articulating consensus -- that former Lambeth Conferences have failed.

But Williams has rejected those options.. and continues to labor to build his Tower of Indababel.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lambeth 2 -- Including everyone worth including

So today the ABC kicked off the official Conference program by telling atendees and reporters just what it is they're up to.
The Conference this year has two key points of focus: strengthening the sense of a shared Anglican identity among the bishops from around the world, and helping to equip bishops for the role they increasingly have as leaders in mission, involved in a whole variety of ways in helping the Church grow.
Now, this is odd. It seems to me that, over the past ten years, it's become quite clear what the single biggest obstacle to a "shared Anglican identity" and to "helping the Church grow" has been -- the revisionism, homosexualist heresy, and apostasy that has been tearing the Communion apart.

But Williams is rather dismissive of this issue: "there's nothing so very new about a Lambeth Conference meeting in a climate of some controversy" he says. Indeed, he hastens to reassure his listeners, there remains a strong desire to stay together:
In spite of the painful controversies which have clouded the life of the Communion for the last few years, there remains, as many people have repeatedly said, a very strong loyalty to each other and a desire to stay together. The fact that about 70% of bishops worldwide have already formally registered for the Conference, with a number of others who have signalled [sic] that they will attend, shows something of this desire.
It would appear that registering for Lambeth is what proves a desire for unity... abandoning basic Scriptural teaching and Christian belief and practice are just trivialities.

And it would appear, too, that the figure that matters is the number of bishops -- ooo! 70% -- not the percentage of the Communion they actually represent. Apparently, American bishops, representing less than 3% of the Communion, will make up 25% of the bishops present. No wonder the ABC is counting heads, not counting souls! If we, further, get rid of the "fake" inflated numbers in the US and England, and count PEcUSA as having only about 1.5 million actual members (an extremely generous estimate) and the CoE as having 2 million (even more generous), then we find that these "70% of bishops" at Lambeth represent only one third of the Anglican Communion! If the ABC really wants to hear the results of "purposeful conversation" from a majority of the Anglican world, he ought to be paying more attention to GAFCon and less to his indaba-daba-da party!

But ABC has made it clear that, to his mind, such meetings or statements of Christian belief don't really matter. Because, ultimately, it is not the abandonment of Scripture, nor the ignoring of the Windsor Report by homosexual ordinations and marriages, nor the jettisoning of the resolutions of previous Lambeth conferences... but not coming to this Lambeth Conference which is what truly is destroying the Communion! Apparently it doesn't matter what you believe, preach, or practice... as long as you show up. As was put in that paper Williams had revised and circulated especially for the Conference:
it is the special collegial responsibility of the bishop to be at prayer for and with fellow colleagues. This is particularly relevant for those bishops who are in conflict with one another. Their failure to attend fervently to this ordinal vow weakens the body of Christ for which they have responsibility. This in turn weakens the bonds that all the baptised [sic] share with one another.

How strange, then, if attendance at his Lambeth is the ultimate be-all and end-all of restoring communion, the only place where differences can be worked out, that the ABC keeps uninviting or ignoring certain Anglicans. The AMiA and CANA bishops never got their invitations, and +Schofield and +Salmon have been disinvited. (It seems strange that not wanting multiple bishops from one diocese was given as one excuse (+Lawrence from SC and Lamb from PEcUSA's illegal and uncanonical San Joaquin puppet diocese), when co-adjutors and suffragans are welcome.) And all this is especially strange in that Williams appears to believe that it is only by participating in Lambeth that one is able to have a "voice incorporated" into the shaping of the Anglican Communion's future... if that is the case, certainly more bishops should be invited, not fewer!

Moreover, if Lambeth attendance really is so fundamental to Anglican identity, if it is the only way to participate in the "conversations" that Williams thinks so essential, then why has Williams himself acted in a way to exclude two-thirds of the Anglican Communion from representation at the conference? Remember, the non-attendance of many GAFCon jurisdictions is no surprise... it did not come out of the blue. Remember that, in 2006, CAPA issued this statement:
We have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened. There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity. We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.
And the situation only got worse as Williams announced that he would not be inviting CANA and other bishops, treating them as equally guilty as those who had precipitated the crisis and were tearing apart the Communion. Wait, not equally guilty, but more guilty, for, despite what CAPA had said, Williams went ahead and invited the PEcUSA and Canadian bishops to Lambeth, he did so while they had still not replied adequately to the primates. He actually went out of his way to work against the elaborate processes carefully worked up to keep the Communion together -- undermining and destroying the effectiveness of the other "instruments of unity"!

In other words, he silenced the voices of the Communion's majority in order to invite the minority to Lambeth. Thus, in a Q & A session yesterday:
Follow up question: CAPA bishops said they would not come if the consecrators were invited and their voices represent the majority of Anglicans in the Communion. How did you make that decision?
I told each of them that their voice matters and we need to hear from them. I can’t invite the bishops of 70 million and not invite the bishops of 2 million. We don’t have that kind of parity or power politics in the Communion. Every voice counts.
EXCUSE ME?!! I guess he's got a bridge to sell you too. He did not tell them that "their voice matters and we need to hear from them"... he told the CAPA bishops, representing the majority of the Communion, that their voice DIDN'T count -- that, regardless of what the primates said or the processes, established by the Communion, called for, he was going to ignore their voices and invite the apostates to Lambeth. Maybe he can't invite the bishops of 70 million and not invite the bishops of 2 million (really only 1.1, if truth be told)... but he can, apparently, invite the bishops of that 1.1 million (and falling!) and give the metaphorical finger to the bishops of the 70 million!

This is why, at GAFCon,
Akinola made little mention of Bishop Robinson, or even of those involved in his consecration. The focus of his attention was the attitude of Lambeth Palace. “To our utter dismay, it became apparent that our sober resolutions were, in the aftermath, trivialised by some of our most respected leaders. As if that were not bad enough, our corporate identity was abused, and the pains and concerns shared so open-mindedly [were] ridiculed and betrayed by the flagrant compromises of those entrusted with the responsibility of guarding divine and eternal truths.” Archbishop Akinola was bitter about the invitation of US bishops to the Lambeth Conference before the September 2007 deadline for clarifying their stand on gay consecrations and same-sex blessings had passed. “At this point, it dawned on us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.”
If two-thirds of the Communion isn't represented at Lambeth, that fault lies not with Akinola and his fellows, but with Williams himself.

You see, Akinolaa and the majority of the Communion has twigged to the reality -- despite the rhetoric, Lambeth is not about having everyone's voice heard, it is not about including everyone and finding common ground... it's about hearing only certain voices. It's about letting apostate PEcUSA's bishops, representing less than 2% of the actual communion, speak 25% of the time (or, knowing them, probably more). It's about banning the Anglican voices of the AMiA, CANA, the other Global South missionary parishes in the U.S. and Canada, the legitimate bishop of the real diocese of San Joaquin, etc. (And certainly no inclusion of those who have been the most traditional and faithful Anglicans in upholding Anglican faith, order, and theology for the last 30 years -- the Continuing church Anglicans!)

If Williams really did care, first and foremost, about including all the voices and working together in a "conversation" which would help gain greater understanding... if he really did want to disinvite those bishops who threatened the unity of the Communion and the comprehensiveness of its "conversations", then he ought not to have started with Marty Minns or John-David Schofield or Ed Salmon -- or even Gene Robinson. He ought to have started with himself!

But, of course, that won't happen. For Lambeth isn't about including or hearing everyone. Only about hearing those who Williams -- who already sabotaged the Windsor Report and ignored the primates councils -- decides are worth hearing.

For it seems that what Williams is after is not meetings or councils or statements or even conversations which reflect the will of the Anglican Communion as a whole -- rather he is attempting (by sabotaging Windsor, by ignoring the primates, by selective invitations to Lambeth, by inchoate indaba groups) to create a "Anglican Communion" which will parrot back to him what he has already decided he wants to hear... no doubt looking forward to the time when what he says "as an office holder" will be the same as what he believes as an individual.

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!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Death to St. Vincent -- the Naitnecniv Canon

Many readers are probably familiar with the "Vincentian Canon" -- the statement of the fifth-century bishop Vincent of Lerins of the Church's responsibility to hold fast to the apostolic Tradition:
Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,' as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality [i.e. oecumenicity], antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.
By this, St. Vincent did not mean that truth is decided by majority vote, though some have tried to cast it that way. Rather, truth was given in revelation by Christ and the Holy Spirit to the apostles, who in turn - through both their written statements recorded in Scripture and their teaching and practices preserved in Tradition - passed on that deposit of faith to their own disciples and the Church throughout the ages.

Accordingly, from the beginning, the Church received revelation from God. Subsequently, errors arose not by God's act but by man's. Yet because they were subsequent and particular, these errors were not "universal" as the initial deposit of faith was. Suppose, for example, a heresy were to arise in fifth century Germania, and two differing theological teachings or Biblical interpretations of some issue were to be found there. But suppose only one of those interpretations appeared in Spain and Thrace and Egypt, and that that same interpretation was that perseved by the Fathers from the previous century, whereas the other one were localized to just fifth century Germania... well, then it's a fair bet that it is that more "universal" or "catholic" interpretation, not the Germanic novelty, which represents the original teaching of the Church. This is the reasoning behind St. Vincent's statement -- that that which has been universally received, taught and preached in Scripture and Tradition is normative, whereas the heresies peculiar to a particular time or place are deviant.

Thus, when various heresies arise (Gnosticism, denying that the one God is creator of heaven and earth; Arianism, denying that Christ was truly God; Nestorianism, denying that Christ was truly one Person; Monophysitism, denying that Christ was truly Man; etc) -- heresies which are contrary to the established interpretation of Scripture and to the Traditions of the Church -- the "Vincentian Canon" alerts us to the fact that these novelties are, in all likelihood, erroneous. Thus the condemnation of these errors -- and so too the condemnation of iconclasm, of the denial of the Real Presence, etc.

Now, this is not to say that new articulations - or new applications - of the fundamental truths do not arise. Of course they do. For example, the New Testament teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. At one time and place, a particular culture might advocate polygamy. The Church, encountering this practice, would see that it violated that Scriptural norm and condemn it. At a different time and place, a culture might advocate homosexuality, or bestiality, or marriage to kitchen appliances. In all these cases, the Church would turn to the same teaching of Scripture to evaluate the cultural practice and condemn it. Sure, the situations might be new -- none of the apostles wrote about carnal relations with electric mixers -- but the faith, the norms of belief and morality, by which the new situations are evaluated remain those eternal truths of revelation.

This means, also, that what is true and established remains true and established. The fact that new issues or occasions or clarifications arise in the life of the Church does not mean that the faith, that Scripture and Tradition, have changed, or been abrogated, or been replaced by some new Third Covenant. It simply means that a new articulation is required. If the Church says, in first century Palestine, "Jesus Christ is Lord" in Aramaic, then in 7th century Rome the Church says in Latin "Jesus Christ is Lord", not "Jesus Christ is Merely a Philosopher". The language and cultural context have changed -- the message remains the same. And this is true of both theology and morality. And if murder is a sin in 4th century Milan, then murder is a sin in 21st century Dehli. The circumstances may change -- but the truth? The truth endures.

Yet various modern churchmen and academics would have you forget all this. Of course, it has been trendy in academic circles for some decades now to deny that there is any objective truth. And one can play very entertaining intellectual games - and have some remarkable discussions - playing around with these ideas. Yet I guarantee you that the most adamant advocate or such relativism will stop at the street corner to let the cars go by... he may claim in the seminar room that "there is no objective truth", but he still believes it to be objectively true that those cars exist, and that they will hit him if he jumps in front of them, and that it will hurt! Unfortunately for theologians and churchmen, the equal spiritual dangers of denying the truth of the faith are not quite so apparent in this life.

And so, day after day, we encounter people throwing out rationality, objectivity and faith. To pick just one recent example (found simply by a quick google search) we get an episcopal candidate in PEcUSA saying:
I am committed to work toward the reconciliation of our church [there's that "reconciliation" buzzword -ed]... I believe the Episcopal Church is called to bear witness that God is doing a new thing among us, to share our experience of God’s blessing through the gifted ministries—both lay and ordained—of our gay and lesbian members. And yet, both scripture and history teach us that whenever God does new things, we mortals are slow to learn.
Slow to learn, is that it? Seems to me that people are awfully slow to learn that while God may do new things, he doesn't do contradictory things. And yet this is what PEcUSA leaders would have you believe -- homosexual activity is explicitly condemned by Scripture and Tradition and the practice of the Church for centuries... but now it's suddenly okay. Out with the Vincentian Canon... God is doing a NEW THING! Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him? Hey-hey! Not any more! God is doing a NEW THING!!!

This same kind of thinking infects academia as well -- the notion that there is no objective (or obtainable) historical truth; that because truth is unknowable or non-existent, there's no point in treating historical evidence as objective starting-points for an investigation into fact; that history merely provides the raw material for rhetorical constructions advocating your own opinions, preferences and policies; that a historian's job is to re-create the past to support their image of the future... rather than (as St. Vincent believed) obediently to discern the truths preserved in the past to safeguard them for the future. Of course, academics are not charged with defending the truths of revelation and the faith of the Church. Nor are they required, by their offices, to believe them. (Unlike the case with clergy... well, unlike what is supposed to be the case with clergy, not that you'd know it from PEcUSA's leaders!) But this doesn't stop them from advancing revisionist history about the Church.

Ruth Glendhill gives us a preview of an upcoming article, claiming it is Christian tradition to ordain women. Now, the article isn't published yet, so it's a bit irregular of her to blog about and quote from it. And, of course, a proper evaluation of the article would require seeing the whole thing and checking its sources... who knows, perhaps this author has uncovered a radical and huge cache of evidence which will overturn the clear historical facts and precedents.

But, judging from what Gledhill quotes, I don't think so.

Here is an excerpt from the article (at least, so Gledhill presents it) which gives a preview of how this radical claim is to be defended:
The Council of NĂ“mes, held in 394, noting that “women seemed to have been assumed into levitical service,” ordered that “such ordination should be undone when it is effected contrary to reason. It should be seen that no one so presume in the future.” It is quite likely that the ministry of women to the Eucharist was being discussed here, although some scholars have argued that it was the diaconate rather than the presbyterate that the Council intended to forbid. Ninety years later, in 494, Pope Gelasius in a letter to the bishops of southern Italy and Sicily also spoke out against bishops who were allowing women to serve at the altar. Gelasius had heard that “women are confirmed to minister at the sacred altars and to perform all matters imputed only to the service of the male sex and for which women are not competent.
This is supposed to convince us that it's okay to ordain women... because this evidence of condemnation shows it was done before.

Hang on there just a sec, buddy. We're not asking if it was done before. Lots of things have been believed and done before. The divinity of Christ has been denied before, as has the Virgin Birth, the resurrection, the Real Presence, and all those other teachings which Spong and his Episcopal buddies regularly deny. Nothing new there. And just about any behavior you care to think up, no matter how deviant, has got its own historical precedents as well. Whoop-de-doo.

But not only have these things been believed or done before... they have been consistently condemned by the Church as heretical, apostate, and damnable. Sure, people - even churchmen - have done or said things contrary to Scripture and Tradition in the past. And, because they are contrary, the Church has condemned them (as in the fourth and fifth century examples above). Condemned them because, since such teachings and practices "depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed," these beliefs, interpretations and policies are WRONG. They were wrong then; they are wrong now. The medium might change (English rather than Aramaic; internet rather than papyrus; 21st century culture rather than 2nd century culture)... but the message, the truth, remains the same. THAT's what the Vincentian Canon has to say about these revisionist innovations and recycled heresies.

Of course, you can guess what the modernist liberal/heretic/apostate response will be:
Oh, but that was the real truth which was viciously oppressed by all those misogynistic homophobic fundamentalist bigots (like St. Paul) who wrenched control of the Church away from Christ and the Holy Spirit within the first months of its existence and have rigorously suppressed the truth in their vast right-wing conspiracy (burning documents, hiding evidence, and crushing dissenters and freedom fighters) until, finally, in our day, the real truth has been rediscovered [be it by a new examination of well-known documents or the prophetic voice of homosexual activists or the pseudo-scientific babbling of retired clergy] and restored to the world! The fact that there is so little evidence of these practices, and that when they do show up they are consistently condemned, just PROVES that these are the true, original teachings and practices of Jesus which those demonic right-wing patriarchs have been suppressing since day one!
Or something like that.

In other words, what we have being preached by PEcUSA and its allies today is the exact inverse of the Vincentian canon... the Naitnecniv canon!

I.e. if something has ever been done or preached by somebody in (or claiming to be in) the Church, and especially if that practice or belief was criticized and condemned -- and even more so if it's a behavior or teaching which only appears rarely in a few isolated, out-of-the way spots -- then those isolated examples justify our mimicry of them... for their very rarity and historical rejection proves that they MUST be the truth!

And so there's nothing to do for it now but impose these "new things" on the rest of the world and to persecute all those who disagree... those who uphold traditional Christian teaching and practice. It is, after all, their turn now, those evil repressive bigots!

Long live Saint Naitnecniv!

Friday, July 18, 2008

++William's impotent frustration

The Archbishop of Canterbury may be running a bit low on charity. Or, at least, on chairs.
The word he uses to describe himself is “frustrated”. He even admits to having “kicked the furniture a bit over the last few weeks”.
And this is because some Anglicans don't seem to be taking him seriously any more:
“There are also issues of perceptions of power or influence. And there is a great deal of — not unfounded — anxiety about where decisions are made in the Communion, which we are unclear about.” Dr Williams is careful to convey that he takes the concerns of those who attended GAFCON seriously. Our conversation is peppered with references to these “serious concerns”; but GAFCON’s Jerusalem Declaration, and its inherent attack on his authority, is clearly a significant source of his frustration.
And just why might that be? Seems to me, in light of the history of action (or inaction) during his tenure as ABC, the one individual most responsible for undermining Williams' authority is.... you guessed it!... Williams himself!

After all, elected into his position in a Communion-wide crisis which called for clear direction, firm statements, moral leadership and enforced accountability, Williams proceeded to display precisely the antithesis of every one of those qualities.

What the Communion needed was the upholding of the norms articulated by Lambeth 1998's 1.10. What it got was more committees and incoherence undermining them.

What the Communion needed was a meeting in which divisions were addressed and commitments honored. What it got was the Windsor Report, which Williams himself was among the first to ignore. (Beat to the punch only by his buddy Schori, who repudiated it within days of agreeing to it!)

What the Communion needed was a leader willing to take a stand and hold people accountable. What it got was a milquetoast who spends more time explaining that he has no authority than actually exercising what little he has.

What the Communion needed was someone who upheld and represented basic Christian and Anglican teaching. What it got was a former (at least) homosexualist-supporter who refuses to take sides at all, and seems more interested in telling us how wonderful Islam and Sharia law are -- and how offensive some Christians and Christian beliefs are -- than in upholding basic orthodoxy.

What the Anglican Communion needed was an Athanasius. What it got was a Liberius or Clement VII.

And so, after all this, why is Williams now kicking the furniture over?

Because no one takes his leadership seriously any more... and because, having exhausted all other options and tired of waiting for him, various Anglican primates and bishops are starting (and far too late to save many victims of the apostasy!) to take matters into their own hands. To exercise the primatial and episcopal authority and responsibility which is theirs... to effectively lead Christ's people and defend the faith as their offices require of them. And, because Williams has consistently refused to aid that effort or to offer any effective alternate possibilities, to do so without waiting for him any longer.

And because -- the horror -- they don't seem sufficiently to value the one bit of "authority" he has chosen to exercise... the mailing of gold-trimmed invitations to a month-long indaba-fest in the English countryside. It said RSVP... and some bishops weren't P.ed... P.O.ed, perhaps, but not P.ed! The affrontery!

So, yes, there are "issues of perceptions of power or influence". And, yes, there are increasing problems "legitimacy for all in the Communion." And, yes, there are bishops who think that GAFCon is more relevant that the Lam-indabadabadoo-beth. Yes, there is an implicit "attack" upon his authority.

But if Williams wishes to look for the source and reason for that attack, he ought not to be glowering at GAFCon, or scowling at empty seats around the indaba tables, or glaring at the "illegitimate" bishops of the AMiA, CANA, or San Joaquin.

He ought to be looking in the mirror.