Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anglican tragedy

Christopher Hitchens is an outstanding essayist. Writing a withering piece on Roman Polanski he speaks of tragedy with this observation:

"But the types of tragedy that really deserve the name are of two main kinds, the Hegelian and the Greek. Hegel thought it was tragic when two rights came into conflict. The Greeks thought it tragic when a great man was undone by a fatal flaw."

Is the Anglican Communion in its perfect storm because it is simultaneously experiencing both kinds of tragedies? Two or more rights are certainly in conflict - the right to change doctrine and the right to maintain tradition. There is (I suggest) a fatal flaw in the Communion through having (depending how we interpret the Instruments of Unity) either no form of magisterium (teaching authority) or a form of magisterium unable to respond to the present questions.


Anonymous said...

There is no "right" to change doctrine, only the obligation to receive and believe what Christ has revealed through his apostles.
Contemporary Anglicanism suffers not so much (or not only) from a lack of magisterium but from the failure to exercise discipline against people like Jack Spong - and Katherine Schori and Gene Robinson - who clearly teach things you won't find in the New Testament and deny things that are taught there.
I have just been listening to an mp3 of a sermon by Don Carson on 2 and 3 John (you can find this on the website) on how the Apostle John handled the problems of itinerant false teachers (along with lots of excellent commentary on Christian humility and service). We have people like Spong and the Simple Country Bishop (TM) touring the world promoting their heresies among Anglican and other communities - even in Sheffield, England, where the new 'open evangelical' bishop is the Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft, who used to be in Durham, Peter.
These are the sowers of discord.

Peter Carrell said...

Either way there is a tragedy - a slow train crash happening!

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, while you were away enjoying the delights of Abel Tasman National Park you may have missed one of Mark Harris' most passionate and, to my mind, insightful posts - (BTW How can we insert a direct link into a comment?)
Mark Harris argues that in the Anglican tradition, the largest effective ecclessial unit is the diocese around its bishop, and that beyond that, at the levels of Communion, and even within provinces, the relationships have always been based on hospitality rather than control. I tend to agree, the powers vested in general synods notwithstanding. For instance, here in New Zealand the diocese of Nelson has always exercised a considerable degree of independence, and that has been OK with the rest of us, as long as we are not expected to follow Nelson's lead. We all get to choose how far to recognize and embrace the faith and life of other dioceses. Even within a diocese, the unity generated by "canonical obedience" to their bishop promised by licensed clergy still allows for generous freedoms for parishes to differ.

It is an interesting argument, and I would like to see your response (to him not me). If he is right, then there are no "rights" in conflict, only responsibilities carried out differently in our service to Christ. The lack of some international magisterium is no flaw, but the way we have always operated quite satisfactorily. And the only train crash in the offing is a mirage generated by all the hot air coming from those who demand we all do things their way or they will throw their toys out of the cot.
So, tell us what you think of Mark's article, please. I hope you find it as interesting as you did Bp Selby's.

Peter Carrell said...

I will think about that - but may need to be reminded, Howard: I must get the Luke material for Chch completed, a sort of Luke Vol 3 if you know what I mean, and the chapter sequence in the first two volumes is 24, 28, so I suppose I need to do 32!?