Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The lack of desire for certainty in an uncertain world

Ruth Gledhill's post on the FCA event reports that Bishop Keith Ackermann said,

"'If you write that this is about homosexuality and the ordination of women, I will want to meet with you afterwards. What a misrepresentation. This is not a coalition of affirming catholics who are neither affirming nor catholic, nor liberal evangelicals who seem to be uncertain about just how certain is the gospel of Christ.'"

Funnily enough that happened to be a bit I heard on the Anglican TV live stream. I think it gets to the heart of the difference between FCA and the rest of the Church of England at this point in time. Not difference over homosexuality, women priests, but difference in temperament over the certainty of Christian truth in times which celebrate lack of certainty, doubt, pluralist perspectives on just about anything except one's tax bill (the government's view being so absolute it will legislate for it!).

Reading the comments below Ruth Gledhill's post bears this point out! There is a castigation the FCA leaders for this that and the other thing (often prejudice of the bigoted kind) but it boils down to this: 'I thought being Anglican was more of a lovely muddle than FCA's speakers strong, sure theological prescriptions for the church.' Some of this yearning fails to understand that FCA itself is a reaction to a different kind of strong and sure prescriptive theology.

Perhaps our times need a slightly softer form of this prescription - a tempered recognition, for example, that not all not-conservative Anglicans are miscreant liberals in the making, but may genuinely want leadership from theologically assured priests and bishops which warmly acknowledges the post-modernist character of our times and how that affects ordinary Anglicans. Affecting us, for example, with a desire for discussion as much as for doctrine, for exploration of difference more than for excommunication of dissenters. It's possible to be 'sound' while also being 'open' to what the world is saying ... to be faithful in belief is to be in a place where one can be fearless in facing the world. Sometimes conservative Christians (IMHO) act as if fear drives us more than faith, and as if the possibility is incomprehensible that true Anglicans might lack a desire for certainty in an uncertain world.

A lovely reminder of where some uncertain Anglicans are at Down Under, in Sydney but not of it, so to speak, is in this article by Eleanor Massey published in Eureka Street, entitled 'The wobbly Anglican'. A taster opening paragraph only, here:

"The little church on the Yarra is dressed for Lent. There are three parishioners, the locum and me. The vicar's gone. Years ago, he arrived from Sydney, with tambourines and a direct line to God. The old-timers bolted, the vestry emptied, the bills piled up, and now the diocese is talking foreclosure, the waiving of debts and disbandment."

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