Sunday, July 5, 2009

If you think I am tough on TEC, try Damian Thompson!

Actually Damian's latest post is focused on remarks of Bishop Michael Nazir-ali, but he takes the opportunity to have a go at various aspects of Anglican Communion life ... is he right? Not about TEC, ++Rowan, and Gothic churches in Britain's inner cities, but that our inner turmoil and angst over homosexuality is a waste of time and energy and the real challenge for Anglicans lies in a different direction?

Read the post - cited in full below, so no colourful turn of phrase is missed, and see what you think! You may comment here, but if Damian is right you, and I, should be out and about preaching the gospel instead of posting on blogsites!!

"I doubt that Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester is bothered by the fact that his latest denunciation of homosexuality - “repent!” - coincided with the Gay Pride marches. Judging by the homely leather queens, shirtless pretty boys and giggling lesbians (yes, I was surprised, too) dancing down Oxford Street, repentance was the last thing on their minds. Sunday morning, on the other hand, could be a de profundis moment, depending on how many pints they sank, or what was in those pills.

No: Bishop Michael has his eyes on the General Synod, which is meeting in York next weekend. And, with fiendish cunning (his enemies would say) he has pulled the ultimate weapon out of his arsenal: the clear verdict of the Bible that homosexual acts are wrong, presented in the context of 2,000 unbroken years of Christian teaching.

Now, you can try to get round this awkward fact by setting aside the teaching: that was the route taken by Dr Rowan Williams on more than one occasion when he speculated that same-sex relationships were acceptable to God. And the Anglicans of the semi-schismatic “provinces” and “coalitions” that oppose gay relations remember this very well. (If you want some homework done on an opponent, ask a born-again Christian.)
Rowan’s withdrawal of support for gay ordination is also a sore issue in the semi-schismatic, semi-skimmed latte “Episcopal Church” of the United States (TEC), which reckons that the Bible was just plain wrong about homosexuality. Nearly every liberal Episcopal theologian has produced an unreadable tome on the subject, plus a picture book for a multi-ethnic playgroup.

I’m so tired of all this. There was a time, 15 years ago, when I knew the name of every Anglican faction, but that was before the C of E threw itself at the mercy of an international “Communion” in the advanced stages of theological schizophrenia.
My colleague Jonathan Wynne-Jones does a grand job of explaining what’s going on, but my basic reaction is: this is so over. The Anglican Communion does not have the structures, the consensus, the money or the guts to police the boundaries of doctrinal diversity. Soon, it will become - at best- a federation of independent Churches.

And the C of E? Yes, I think it will survive, but in a stripped-down, protestantised form: the great Anglo-Catholic parishes are collapsing like a souffle, letting out exotic but slightly stale smells as they sink. If the Church of England is lucky, an Archbishop will emerge who will proclaim striking evangelical teachings and concentrate his energies on fighting anti-Christian Islam, not some nebulous secularism. That will play well with the public, who are not even aware of the existence of a few (often saintly) diehards who perform self-taught liturgies, episcopi vagantes-style, in big empty churches.

Mark my words, in five years’ time, many of the Gothic revival parish churches of our inner cities won’t be offering Anglican Sung Mass at 11 on Sunday mornings. Nope, Friday will be their busy day. And they won’t be called churches any more."

Incidentally, for those who do not know of Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph he is also Editor of the Catholic Herald, a conservative Roman Catholic newspaper. His sympathies are sometimes with us Anglicans, but his allegiances are with Rome!

What would a federation of independent churches mean for ACANZP? Would our three tikanga church split into three tikanga churches? Is there another way? Father N. J. A. Humphrey points out that different episcopal traditions can worship in the one church, citing an example of Episcopalians-and-ACNA/Anglicans, and Episcopalians-and-Roman Catholics:

"The second article, entitled “Reaching a Godly Consensus,” recounted just the sort of ecumenical, out-of-the-box thinking that I wish we had more of in The Episcopal Church and throughout the churches. This article recounts the discernment of Blessed Sacrament Church in Placentia, California. The rector reports, “Most of our people will remain in The Episcopal Church…A significant number of others will align with the emerging Anglican Church in North America but continue to worship—as Anglicans—with the Episcopalians of Blessed Sacrament. A few—perhaps fewer than a dozen—will enter the Roman Catholic Church and receive sacramental ministrations there while also retaining their participation at Blessed Sacrament. All ministries will be done jointly/ecumenically. In this way, the parish is intentionally expanded rather than divided.” The rector now refers to his church as a “diversified parish.”

I was delighted to learn of the results of this parish’s discernment, because it has the hallmarks of, as the article’s title asserts, “a godly consensus.” It reminded me of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a joint Episcopal/Roman Catholic parish that shares the Liturgy of the Word but maintains separate altars for the Eucharist so that “Roman Catholics in good standing may receive from the Roman Catholic priest; all other Baptized Christians in good standing with their own church may receive from the Episcopal priest.” This parish is sponsoring one of the seminarians who is doing field work at my own parish, St. Paul’s, K Street in Washington, D.C., and I was intrigued to hear of how this congregation presents a way for Roman Catholic/Episcopal couples to maintain their ecclesial integrity while also not ignoring the painful symbol of separate altars—a scandalous reminder of the reality of schism and its implications on the local level, implications that we can conveniently ignore when separate altars are enclosed within separate buildings. The liturgy of the Eucharist that has developed there, however, apparently allows for as much convergence during the consecration(s) as possible, with the principle of “waiting upon the other” so that at crucial points, the priest on one side of the church waits for the priest on the other side of the church before proceeding. I cannot describe it adequately since I have not experienced it first-hand, of course; perhaps I shall sometime soon."

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