Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reason or sentiment taking us down the line?

Last week I was embroiled in a vigorous conversation about Open Communion. Reflecting on that a week later with a friend I was intrigued to have this sentiment put to me (in my words), “It doesn’t matter how many reasons you put up for baptism-then-eucharist, I am convinced that Open Communion is the right and loving thing to do.” It has struck me that I am slow to “get” certain things (as indeed I am). Here is highlighted my continued determination to find reasons for actions and beliefs, when others are unconcerned about this. To coin a phrase, there are “twin tracks” to Anglican theologizing, reason and emotion, head and heart.

In my previous post I drew a distinction between the track TEC is on and the track the C of E is on (under ++Rowan’s leadership). Perhaps now I have a better understanding of the propelling fuel in each case. ++Rowan, for all he is castigated for being obfuscatory and oblique in his logic, is attempting a faithful rendition of the great Hooker for the 21st century: articulating each and every step of the Anglican journey with reasoned reflection on Scripture and tradition. TEC’s fuel will not run out (as I proposed yesterday) because it shows signs of poor reasoning based on bad exegesis. Rather, it’s real fuel is the powerful mix of heart and emotion, responding to the presence of homosexuality with a wide open heart and an openness to follow that heart wherever it may go.

So I take a step back, wonder what all this means for ACANZP, where we are definitely a railway company with two tracks (probably more!).

… and, just wondering, as all rationalists do, what the heart-and-emotion folk open to homosexuality say to the heart-and-emotion folk whose sentiment is against open expression of homosexuality in the church? A stalemate which can only be broken by the head-and-reason types?


Anonymous said...

I would counter that maybe you should be asking yourself, "What am I afraid of?" Perhaps your "rationalist" argument is more a cover for your fears.
Then you should ask yourself,"Is it the job of the Church to be static with regards to who is and is not acceptable? Who is or is not an heir of grace?"

Vashti Winterburg, Lawrence, Kansas

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Vashti
Ithink I am reasonably fearless.
But I do worry that a badly thought through decision by my church will decimate its ranks.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, I am interested that you highlight the important difference between what you call "head and reason types" like yourself and "heart-and-emotion" people, without implying that one is superior to the other...although you do naturally feel safer with your own kind! In Myers-Briggs terms this is a contrast between ST and NF temperaments (the former including most bishops and the latter most parish clergy, in a US survey anyway).

Me, I'm an NF and proud of it. This means I tend to mull things over using a mixture of intuition (N) and emotion(F) until I have a clear perception of what is the big picture, or most important value, or clearly preferred option, and then find reasons to justify my convictions. This makes me impatient with ST types who want to gather all the evidence and weigh up the conflicting principles at great length. It also makes me appear shallow and unreasonable to them, although they occasionally admit I have hit on a good idea, seemingly by chance.

OK, so let's apply this to the first issue you raised, open communion. Guilty, your honour, but in mitigation ... I came to ordination with a preaching and teaching ministry and then the eucharist grew on me through constant presiding over the years. For me it is a powerful encounter with the living God, a dramatic enactment of the gospel message. I came to experience it, through my NT process,as an offering of Christ to a watching world, as God's invitation to the divine feast. I was unable to see baptism as a requirement, a meal ticket to an insiders celebration of closed community. Baptism then functions as an obedient response to God's grace and a comittment to the celebrating community. All this comes, for me, from my intuition about what is at the heart of each sacrament, and my passion for getting that straight so that the gospel may be truly depicted in our life together. My reason has to grapple with the undeniable fact that this goes against the understanding of the broad Christian tradition for most of its history. Some justification is needed to relate to those who see it differently, including the "most bishops" cited above. I respect the need for that process. How I acted as a presider, well ...

None of this has to do with pastoral concern for the feelings of any who might feel rejected by a baptismal requirement. It is entirely about getting the intrinsic meanings right, so that the gospel may shine through us better.

I suspect something similar is happening with my beliefs about the sexuality issues we face together. I hear you calling for careful argument before we embrace significant change and others locked into their intuitive/emotional perceptions of what is right calling for us to get on with it or resist to the death as the case may be. Personality type has certainly got a lot to do with our inability to agree about the process.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
(Just a brief reply, it won't do justice to all you say) ... yes, personality types influence this and other debates; and yes, there are intriguing differences between episcopal and clerical personalities. I want to post more on open communion soon and that will pick up some of the questions/issues/explanations you offer!