Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Has any bishop ever done the unpredictable or the unexpected?

I am sure there are bishops around about, and discoverable from Anglican history who have done surprising things, throwing the predictions of others into chaos or upsetting the expectations of others with an unexpected action. To an extent, of course, Archbishop Rowan Williams has, in the eyes of some, done and said unexpected things, especially if comparison is made between his Academic Self and his Episcopal Self - in the eyes of others, however, it should be noted, he is Hegelian in his predictability: thesis, antithesis, synthesis, anti-synthesis, syn-anti-synthesis, anything to keep the conversation going round and round and on and on. The only surprise would be a decision which stops the conversation!

Certainly my suggestion that bishops for the most part run along train tracks and grooves of predictability receives great support from two episcopal companions on the Anglican road (not that everyone wants to break bread with them). Some thought these companions had retired to the Great Rest Home for Bishops, fading away from our reckoning like the sun enshrouded by the mist.

But, no! They yet liveth. Did someone let them out for the afternoon? Did a Lambeth official give them a pass key to re-enter the public domain? Either way, they have blessed us with their predictability; they have not let us down by doing anything surprising or unexpected. They are utterly reliable, which is more than can be said for most New Zealand sports teams or the NZ Labour Party.

Drum roll for Bishop John Spong:

"In his address, Spong declared Christianity's "old symbols increasingly are bankrupt ... [and] the new symbols have not yet fully arisen so that they are recognized." He compared the present day with that of Augustine, Aquinas, or the 16th-century Reformers - a moment of "paradigm shift" that "calls for the death of what has been and the birth of what is to be - and that is never a comfortable time." In particular, he said, the titles "savior," "redeemer," and "rescuer" applied to Jesus in liturgies, hymns, and sermons have "become bankrupt, useless, and even distorted ... I think all of them have got to go." " [H/T Bryan Owen at Creedal Christian].
That man is perfectly predictable. Has he had a new and surprising thought since, oh, I do not know, about 1975?

Ah, dear reader, you are thinking to yourself, PC is, once again, having a go at the Anglican left. Indeed I am. But I can do balance, so drums at the ready for the next roll, this time in the direction of the Anglican right.

Drum roll for Archbishop Peter Akinola:

"Archbishop Peter Akinola, retired Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, has enthusiastically endorsed Nigeria’s anti-gay bill which would impose criminal penalties on same-sex unions and LGBT gatherings." [H/T Thinking Anglicans].
That man also, is perfectly predictable. Would it enter his head to offer something by way of a compassionate and humanitarian thought about his fellow countrymen and women?

He and Spong do not share that gene of unpredictability. Do not blame them folks. They have been made the way they are! Cue debate: did God make them that way? Is it a result of structural sin in the Anglican church constructing them the way they are? Is predictability of the esse of Anglican bishops or the bene esse? Should we blame their fathers? Their school teachers (rote learning?)?

If only that Lambeth official could find them and help them back into retirement. We need some excitement in the Anglican Communion and what could be more exciting than to discover an Anglican bishop saying something unexpected? Like ...

+Mark Lawrence: "I have invited ++Katharine Jefferts Schori to speak at our next diocesan convention."

++Peter Jensen: "Darn it, I will ordain Genieve Blackwell."

+Chuck Murphy: "I go out to the letterbox each day to see if further instructions have arrived from Rwanda."

++Rowan Williams: "Hegel? I have moved on. Ayn Rand is my new guru."


Bryden Black said...

For my money: Lambeth 2008 was an extended seminar along the lines of Gillian Rose, whose work has now been brilliantly written up by Andrew Shanks in Against Innocence: Gillian Rose's Reception and Gift of Faith. Even more intriguing (in light of recent events) is Giles Fraser's Forward ...! It offers the best assessment of what Hegelianism looks like in an ecclesial forum - apart from Lambeth 2008 that is! For all their brilliance - and they are brilliant reads - the problem is just this: there's nothing Hegelian about the Incarnation; it's very scandal is its unique particularity - period! For while Immanuel surely opens up vast vistas of unimagined newness, the old is utterly buried - period! And Hegel would seek to make this a system?!?!

I'd frankly like to see Bishops behave in similar ways to their Chief Shepherd's definitiveness.

Father Ron Smith said...

Do let us into your secret, Bryden. What on earth is 'Giles Fraser's
Forward (sic) ?

Peter Carrell said...

Edited comment from Andy S

"Well the Bishop of Auckland has been utterly predictable and [omitted ad hominem] for not dealing with Glynn Cardy's latest monstrosity - which has of course among other things bought anti-Catholicism to the fore in the Season of Good will toward all men.

What are bishops for if not to lead their flock and to deal with controversies.

Or is the whole purpose of the exercise to empty the pews - to drive the faithful away in despair "