Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Containing the uncontainable?

One reason for working on a united church is that it holds us together while we are far apart in the present and allows for a natural coming together at a point in the future when we are closer together.

We often comment on how close Methodists are to Anglicans which begs the question why the bishops of the 18th century C of E allowed Wesleyanism to spin off into a separate church.

We note the closeness of Vatican 2 Catholicism to 20th century Anglicanism (i.e. an Anglicanism that in various ways has refound some Catholic dimensions) and wonder what might have been if the Bishop of Rome in the 16th century had been kinder to the socio-political realities of England.

One question before us today, both globally as a communion and locally in (say) the CofE and ACANZP, is whether our differences should be contained by whatever means it takes because an historically informed prophetic eye can see the future point when we will not be so stretched in our diversity.

On the one hand there is a sociological insight that as our respective societies become used to change we will conflict less over change. Here in NZ we might note that we once used to have a law which criminalized sodomy and today we have no one within the Anglican church pressing for its reinstitution. Arguably, however we understand the dynamics of theological difference in our church today, at a future point the dynamics will be different, likely with less angst and more agreement.

On the other hand there is a history-of-theology insight that as our churches engage with contemporary currents in thinking various radicals proposals to depart from traditional orthodoxy capture headlines, even whole seminaries, but eventually we come to our senses and re-assert that (say) God is Trinity, Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and Mary was a virgin when she conceived her son Jesus.

My prediction is that 100 years from now the dust from the present storm will be well settled and any break in our church would be much regretted. How the dust settles will be of interest to future bloggers. I also predict that it will settle in ways that both liberals and conservatives alive today might find unsettling!


Anonymous said...

"My prediction is that 100 years from now the dust from the present storm will be well settled and any break in our church would be much regretted. How the dust settles will be of interest to future bloggers. I also predict that it will settle in ways that both liberals and conservatives alive today might find unsettling!"

Barring any imminent breakthrough in cryogenics, you are not likely to be called to account for the veracity of your prophecies, Peter. It would be salutary to dig up some of the prophecies made in 1913 about the brave new world of the 20th century that had just dawned - most of which would have been proved bloodily wrong. Do you not reckon with demography and the real likelihood that NZ Anglicanism will be 90% extinct by that time? - like the churches of North Africa and Syria and Cappodocia?

It looks very much that the tragedy of Tec's apostasy and self-immolation is being repeated in NZ.
What did Coleridge say about those who loved their denomination more than Christianity and truth?


Bryden Black said...

Your prognostications Peter prompt me to ask if a reminder is required of the way I tried to assess our present divisions earlier ...?!

I likened our own cultural moment to that of the 4th C Arian controversy; but not just as a doctrinal debate, but as a sea change in cultural mood and premise (which BTW is how it has been viewed for some years now in Patristic Studies).

Now I’d go even further, and ask via a perspective prompted by Alasdair MacIntyre’s trenchant critique of emotivism’s arbitrary imposition of its will over others without any capacity for rational moral judgment whether such a baseless western will will, in the longer term, survive, notably against the rise of Asian economies and cultures during the 21st C, let alone African ones ...

Just as Jerome remarked, “The whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian” (as of 360), even “progressive westerners” might well be groaning by 2060!

Peter Carrell said...

I quite accept, Bryden, that we may be in a sea change akin to the 4th century etc and that by 2060 (I might still be alive then, 101 Not Out!) we will find the world VERY DIFFERENT to the one we experience now.

Anonymous said...

Oh, depend on it, Peter! Even 20 years ago, the Internet, google, wikipedia, cell phones, laptops, iPads, kindle, jihad, same-sex 'marriage', medically assisted suicide, Facebook, Twitter, AGW, the New Atheism, mass immigration from Asia, 9/11, rise of China etc etc either didn't exist or played no part in people's mindscape. The cultural tide is *immense. I wouldn't like to bet what the world will be like in 20 years, let alone 100. But an implosion of NZ Anglicanism in dioceses like Dunedin and Waiapu looks pretty likely on demographic grounds alone. Yet more liberalism will not save NZ Anglicanism.

Janice said...

I invite you all to read Selling Homosexuality to America, by Paul E. Rondeau, which describes how, in the West, acceptance of homosexuality as normal was achieved by a public relations campaign built on desensitisation, the silencing of opposing thought and the use of propaganda.

Some snippets:

Buying the homosexual idea, in place of one's own beliefs, family teachings, or those taught by Christianity and other faiths is a high price indeed, but gay rights marketers have found a way to exact that high price by their own version of emotional pricing. Exaction pricing is unsupported by facts, logic or proof. With the help of the media, they portray those who refuse to buy, and especially any who dare to publicly oppose (competitively react to), the gay rights idea as bigots, homophobes, heterosexists, ignorant, hateful, intolerant and so on. They position the accused in the same category as racists, sexists, elitists and other pejorative classes. ...

[I]t was strategized that the gay "campaign should not demand explicit support for homosexual practices, but should instead take antidiscrimination as its theme." That would "[g]ive potential protectors a just cause.…Make gays look good.…Make victimizers look bad." In fact, that would make the very expression of anti-homosexuality beliefs so socially unacceptable that even the most intransigent opposition would ultimately be silenced in public. ...

Hate speech and hate crime, homophobia and heterosexism, oppression versus tolerance, diversity versus discrimination, ignorance versus education, fear versus safety—all of the old and new "cists" and "cisms"—are the thematic vernacular found in all homosexual persuasive communication. Homosexuals are innocent victims. Dissent, even by homosexuals, is always due to ignorance, bigotry, or some variant of homophobia.

Some of that will sound familiar to regular readers of this blog.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

While we should strive for unity, I'd like to provide a counter-example from Australia of where organisational unity led to disaster. Back in the 70s, the Methodists, Congregationalists and some of the Prebyterians joined to form the Uniting Church of Australia. Those Presbyterians who didn't join were lambasted as holdouts, nutty conservatives. Unfortunately, the UCA since that time has taken a rather lowest common denominator approach to theology and ended up on the whole as a rather wishy-washy mix that is rapidly declining numbers wise. The continuing Presbyterians have maintained faithful orthodox belief, and are at least holding their own numbers wise. These issues do require God-inspired discernment and wisdom, because we certainly prize unity and oneness in Christ's body, but not when we have to sacrifice gospel essentials to achieve it.

Just on alternative episcopal arrangements, Australia also has a Bishop to the Defence Forces (hosted in Diocese of Canberra/Goulburn), a National Indigenous Bishop and a Bishop of Torres Strait (both hosted by Diocese of Nth Queensland), so the "1 Bishop for 1 Diocese" rule held as gospel by some is already varied for special circumstances.