End of the Canterbury tales

When I was an Episcopalian — that’s what we call Anglicans in America — it seemed to me the name summed up the core belief that held the church together: they believed in bishops. It was pleasant being a bishop, it should be pleasant being a bishop, and if you didn’t go along with that you didn’t belong and you should go someplace else. Of course, there was more to it than that. Episcopalians also believed in relationships. People should be nice to each other, and accept and affirm each other in their mutually affirming whateverness, so long of course as the various whatevernesses stayed mutually affirming.

The effect was that you could think and do whatever you wanted as long as you approved of everyone else thinking and doing whatever he wanted, and you otherwise didn’t make waves. The Episcopal Church was thus a religion formed on the model of the politically correct managerial consumer society. Everybody pleased himself by following his own pursuits, within a structure that ruled quite effectively without seeming to do so because nothing could ever become an issue. How could anything be an issue, after all, when everything was either private taste, amusement, happy talk about celebrating otherness, or arranged by higher-ups over whom there was very little control? The only real issue was how to redefine apparent issues as non-issues as smoothly as possible. To make anything else an issue was to show you weren’t really an Episcopalian, because you had violated “Anglican comprehensiveness.” And besides, it wasn’t nice.

All of which may be the true continuation of the traditions of a religious communion designed since the Tudors to quiet the people and make religion the unfailing support of the established order. Until there is a single order established worldwide, though, it’s going to be difficult to extend those traditions beyond native and affiliated societies. Hence the difficult problem presented by the dispute between faux-prophetic Americans, who believe that since “holy” means “other” “holiness” must mean “radical inclusion of sexual otherness,” and outraged Nigerians and others, who hold to the view that “holiness” must mean something beside “what somebody wants to do.” The dispute came to a head with the installation of Gene Robinson as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. The blue-ribbon 2004 Windsor Report, which recently came out, was supposed to find some way to calm the resulting uproar and “maintain communion” — keep the worldwide organization stable and prosperous. It did what such a report inevitably must do: make noises intended to make both sides feel they’ve gotten something, and then treat the problem as one of personal relations and mutual sensitivity, and thus substantively as a non-issue so everything can go on as before. If you’re still annoyed, the idea is, it shows you lack sensitivity, so the problem’s really your fault.

That’s pretty much been the universal Episcopalian and Anglican solution for everything, but this time it’s not likely to work, and non-Western Anglicans are saying as much. (If anyone’s interested, there’s more info in the comment section of the last piece linked.) It will be interesting to watch how this plays out. The American bishops like the prestige of the Canterbury connection, and making things nice for the bishops is the main point of the American church. On the other hand, homosexuality is a non-negotiable absolute for them, and it’s not negotiable for third-world Commonwealth churches either. So the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose job it is to keep things together, very likely has a problem he won’t be able to solve. He’s almost surely going to preside over the dissolution of the Anglican Communion, and I’m curious to see what name he finds to call it. [UPDATE: A straightforward example how Episcopalian “niceness” means everything has to be nice for bishops and nothing can ever become an issue: a well-known religion reporter asked Frank Griswold “would you do it again.” She was told she was “so rude,” and that ended the discussion.]

Posted by Guest Blogger on Thursday, October 21, 2004 at 05:32 PM in Christianity
Comments (4) | Tell a friend

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1

Posted by Fred Scrooby on October 23, 2004, 11:37 PM | #

Peter Akinola’s powerful statement puts fence-sitters to shame.  Look at these righteous words!:

”[The Windsor Report] fails to confront the reality that a small, economically privileged group of people has sought to subvert the Christian faith and impose their new and false doctrine on the wider community of faithful believers. We have watched in sadness as sisters and brothers who have sought to maintain their allegiance to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ have been marginalized and persecuted for their faith. We have been filled with grief as we have witnessed the decline of the North American Church that was once filled with missionary zeal and yet now seems determined to bury itself in a deadly embrace with the spirit of the age.”

In a document gripping throughout, this passage is especially moving:

“Why, throughout the document, is there such a marked contrast between the language used against those who are subverting the faith and that used against those of us, from the Global South, who are trying to bring the church back to the Bible?  Where are the expressions of deep concern for the men and women whose witness is jeopardized and whose lives are at risk because of the actions of ECUSA [Episcopal Church of the United States of America]?  Where are the words of ‘deep regret’ for the impact of ECUSA’s actions upon the Global South and our missionary efforts?  Where is the language of rebuke for those who are promoting sexual sins as holy and acceptable behaviour?  The imbalance is bewildering.  It is wrong to use equal language for unequal actions.”

Completely apart from Christian doctrine, violation whereof is already bad enough:  In Africa where Mohammedan mobs kill Christians on a monthly basis mererly for being Christian—where to be Christian rather then Moslem can be to risk your life—the news that their branch of Christianity now warmly embraces the radical homosexualist agenda can only further inflame the tensions Nigerian Episcopalians must deal with vis-à-vis their Moslem neighbors.  Yet, Canterbury expects the shepherds of these African flocks to just stand idly by.  The people in Africa who are on the front lines of Christianity, who never know but that they’ll be called upon to actually die for their traditional Christian faith, get slapped in the face by Canterbury for having communicated respectful expressions of concern—slapped on behalf of they who in comparison have no idea what “sacrifice” and “devotion” mean but are solely about pursuing their selfish comforts, their shallow, disgraceful, egotistical pleasures (so-called…).

It’s nauseating.

May God bless Peter Akinola and continue to guide him along paths of righteousness, and may God guide the Primates at the upcoming All Africa Bishops’ Conference in Lagos.  God works in mysterious ways indeed:  one trusts the document that will come out of third-world Lagos will surpass in intelligence, dignity, wisdom and godliness the moral cowardice that came out of first-world Lambeth Palace.  Who would’ve dreamt we’d see such a thing in our lifetimes?

2

Posted by Tim on October 24, 2004, 01:27 AM | #

Speaking of things religious, Sydney’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Pell in a column published today, has highlighted some of prejudices and assumptions of the “Christophobic” secular fundamentalists of the left.

Pell is reacting to the “shock, horror” reaction of many of Australia’s commentariat that a Christian evangelical based “Family First Party” has won a Senate seat in the recent federal election.

Family First is actually the first Australian political party lead by an Aboriginal woman, something that entirely escaped the attention of the usual flag wavers for such things.

His full column is worth a read and can be found here.
http://www.sundaytelegraph.news.com.au/story/0,9353,11164923-28783,00.html

“Recently, I was interviewed on radio about the role of religion in public life. The suggestion seemed to be that if you were irreligious, that was okay, that being secular meant you were fair and reasonable, but religious principles should not intrude into public affairs.”

“I pointed out that Christians had the same rights as anyone else in our democracy and could propose whatever policies they chose. If people didn’t like their policies, they could vote for another party.”

“The interviewer professed to be scared of the prospect of Christian political parties, although he didn’t say why. He then moved on to George W. Bush who, he claimed, not only set out to do God’s will, but claimed to be given special godly instructions or revelations.”

“I do not claim that all President Bush’s policies are prudent and right. They may or may not be. But he must not be condemned simply because he’s a serious Christian.”

“The interviewer conceded there was no evidence that Bush was claiming to hear voices, and lapsed into silence when I explained that for me, it was a consolation if a world leader was trying to do God’s will rather than setting out to do whatever he could get away with.”

“Isn’t it better, I asked, to have a leader who believes that in the next life, he will have to answer for the decisions he makes in the here and now?”

3

Posted by Fred Scrooby on October 24, 2004, 01:27 PM | #

In a predictable display of intransigence, radical-leftist former Anglican Bishop John Spong exhorts, in effect, the homosexualists to dig in their heels and not yield to what he keeps disdaining as “pre-moderns”:

“Would Anglicans in the Western world be asked to subscribe to a pre-modern mentality that opposes [Darwin’s theory of] evolution or demands that the Virgin Birth be interpreted as literal biology? Would we destroy the tradition of the great Anglican scholars of the past and try to place modern minds once again into the pre-modern straitjacket of the 39 Articles?”  (Emphasis added.)

He’s throwing down the gantlet; calling brazenly, unreservedly for schism with scarcely a regret.  With minds like his on one side—minds which don’t see that the “modernism” they’re so enthralled by really is precisely the backward, retrograde thing they accuse traditionalism of being—and minds who agree with Akinola on the other, one fears Jim Kalb is right in predicting Rowan Williams’ people will not be able to patch things up but will preside over the splitting-up of the Anglican Communion.  What will they call it, indeed?  What weak-kneed name for the event will they try to give the historians, to write down in their history books?

4

Posted by Fred Scrooby on October 24, 2004, 01:50 PM | #

The article linked in Tim’s post (5:27 AM) asks,

“Should Christians be allowed to form political parties? Is this prudent, and is it good for Australian life?”

The answer is Christians certainly should form political parties, because they’re being attacked continually by the liberal left which itself both functions as a religion and of course forms political parties.  And the sooner Christians form parties the better, so all that’s good, decent, and normal in life won’t have been thoroughly trashed by the left by the time Christians wake up to what’s going on.  (It’s not for nothing that one of the sayings most hated by the left is, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”)

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