Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Long Road to Nowhere

It has been good to have a holiday from blogging, and I come back to posting resolved to post my opinions a little less this year while reserving a right to post lots of news items, should there be any.

To be honest life is a bit depressing at the moment, Anglicanwise. A sharp set of shocks on Boxing Day seems to have set back restorative hopes for some of our Anglican parish buildings in Christchurch. For reasons I won't go into here I am more rather than less worried about a bright future for the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. As for the Communion, nothing is looking good from my Down Under viewpoint and to make matters worse I had an epiphanic moment which implies the future of the Communion is very dim indeed.

My epiphany for Epiphany is this: a council denied authority to disapprove also has no authority to approve.

TEC is stoutly resisting any and every attempt to have its Communion dividing decisions judged by the Communion. It denies authority for any Instrument of Unity to make such judgement, save possibly for the ACC which it is doing its best to control. Where Anglican leaders have given up on an Instrument of Unity, bishops staying away from Lambeth and primates from the Primates Meetings it holds its hands up and wonders why such choices are being made when All is Well because the canons and constitution of TEC have been scrupulously observed. A war is being waged on the Covenant, well led by leading TEC pundits, with the likely outcome that the Covenant will be approved in such a manner that it will have no effective authority where it counts: calling into Communion coherency those member churches which have moved away from coherency of doctrine and practice.

But if the signs pointing to a TEC victory, a Communion with no council to disapprove its actions, become reality, we are then left with a frustrating future. TEC will be a pioneering member of a Communion which has no conciliar means of approving TEC's ground-breaking decisions as properly part of Anglican lore if not law.* In our life as global Anglicans we will have a serious alteration to Anglican doctrine of marriage occurring which is neither disapproved nor approved. Further, we will be tied in knots as to how we might organise ourselves to become decisive. Naturally some will make even more of a virtue of being indecisive, but many will wonder what kind of Communion disables itself from making decisions!

I suggest this will prove, over time, to be unsatisfactory on all sides of the Communion. Why are we unable to risk a conciliar disapproval of a decision in order to seek conciliar approval? That smacks of a lack of courage and of resolve to find common ground together. The effect will be further disaster for the Communion, as we will have journeyed further down the road to nowhere as a Communion with a name which means something (common doctrine and practice). Or, alternatively, we will be further down the road to a Communion with a name which means nothing (uncommon doctrine or practice cannot be restrained).

PS For the assuaging of doubt that TEC is embedding change to Anglican understanding of marriage as a covenanted relationship between a man and a woman into the fabric of its life, you might like to read this Episcopal news service report of an episcopally presided event repeatedly described as a 'marriage' involving one of the best known Episcopalian theologians.

*I am more than well aware that TEC, as other member churches do, makes decisions according to its canons and constitution which are properly made (and am also aware that some of its decisions may have been improperly made, according to commentators such as The Anglican Curmudgeon). I am not here talking about whether TEC by its own lights has made decisions it is entitled to make, but about whether on some matters of wider Communion interest it has made decisions which might be recognised as contributing to the development of Anglican doctrine and practice around the Communion. Further, my ongoing point on this blog is whether 'Communion' means a body of Christians with some things in common which go beyond a shared heritage in the Church of England or not, and whether we have any real accountability to one another or effectively are a body of observers of one another's claims to be genuinely Anglican.


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

Peter, good to see that your back to blogging and Happy New Year!

I will ponder what you say here more before deciding whether or not to comment on specifics. But in the meantime, I note that when you click on the link in the last paragraph of your posting (hyperlinked with the word "report") it says: "The URL is not valid and cannot be loaded."

Peter Carrell said...

Whoops! Will attend to that wrong link ...

Anonymous said...

Peter, I am sorry to read you sounding so downbeat (hmm, will that be the new name for the blog - Anglican Down Beat?)but maybe reality is like a basin of cold water in the face - which can also waken us up. I have said for a while that those claiming to be led by the Spirit in their New Truth are Neo-Montanists, and the lesbian "marriage" in Massachusetts - which revisionists MUST approve of, to be consistent - is simply the logical outworking of the new, revisionist principle that homosexual desire is not a defect but a divine purpose, for some at least.
Isn't this what 'Hermano David' and Howard Pilgrim and Suem have been saying on your blog for some time?
If so, then we are fundamentally re-thinking the nature of marriage, in which the dimorphic character of being humans is no longer important.
Read what Stephen Noll had to say on this in his little book of a few years ago, 'Two Sexes, Onwe Flesh'.
Forget about Tec. Don't take their money or their blandishments. Build up a Gospel Coalition with Gafcon and Latimer Fellowship. Preach the Word.
Happy New Year!
Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

I am going to try hard in 2011, Al M, to focus more on what being Anglican means than what the state of the Communion is!

Suem said...

I read the report and it gave me great joy. I was particularly moved that Lloyd was attended at the event by her adult children from her marriage. Perhaps you might take some moments to reflect on the journey that woman has been through to reach self acceptance and the grace and love shown by her children. So many families are split up and destroyed because parents are told they must not accept gay children and vice versa.

It also contrasts with an account I heard of a ceremony here recently. A gay couple at a church I know had a civil partnership and wanted it blessed in church. The priest swore them to secrecy because he was afraid of his bishop's reaction if he found out. They have lots of friends in the congregation who accept and support them, but only two "trusted" were present at this event. Other members of the congregation have been saying, "Why don't you have a blessing in church?"- the answer is the vicar is too scared, but they can't say that! I am sure it was still joyful, but I would prefer openness myself.

Why not just let this issue go and accept there will be differences and there are more important things to vent moral outrage upon - injustice and atrocity, poverty and greed - rather than that two people love each and other and wish to be committed?

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Happy New Year and God's blessings to you for the year ahead!
I agree things look grim don't they. Here in the Middle East, there's attacks on churches to deal with too. On the Communion difficulties, I like to think back to Athanasius, who suffered 5(?) banishments and a whole lifetime of fighting against error (including against the emperor) before the orthodox faith finally won the day towards the end of his life. A lifetime of proclaiming the truth boldy, suffering persecution resolutely and an obstreporous nature was just was God's people needed at that time. Definitely a stay and fight strategy rather than a withdraw and split strategy!
Andrew Reid

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem and Andrew
Thank you for your respective yet differing comments.
There are more important issues to worry about and I hope I will do that across the course of this year. Why people bomb other people (and why more of those bombed seem to be Christians than Muslims in some countrie) is one of those more important issues.

Suem: the point of my post is that if TEC's way is both wonderful and right, how would the Anglican Communion approve and commend that way?

Brother David said...

the point of my post is that if TEC's way is both wonderful and right, how would the Anglican Communion approve and commend that way?

That is sort of the point of every post that you make on this subject. You are fixated upon this being necessary. So until you either manage to let loose of this hobgoblin who has you held tightly in its grip or come up with a solution you shall not be at peace.

I would want you and those like you to let it go. I will expend just enough energy on this topic to keep you and yours a bay, otherwise I am at peace and I am continuing in the Lord's faith and message to the least of these.

Anonymous said...

Re Andrew Reid's comment.
I've been making the same comparison with Athanasius contra mundum for some time- though it's worth noting that Athanasius was battling away when the Emperor was offically Christian and the Empire was becoming (nominally, at any rate) more Christian. Western polticians now blow hot and cold on matters of Christian faith, while the cultural underpinnings have been systematically dismantled. But the point is true that the battle went on for decades, even beyond 381, as the Vandals that wrecked the western empire were officially Arian. We have different theological vandals to deal with today.

Suem doesn't seem to understand my point about Neo-Montanism and how the 'new' Tec doctrine of sex (which is as old as the opinions expressed in Plato's 'Symposium') undermines the Christian doctrine of marriage. Personal 'happiness' (which could also be achieved through adultery or concubinage) is not the same as Christian faithfulness. Didn't Yoko Ono keep her John happy by supplying him with prostitutes? Christ does not call us to 'happiness', he calls us to blessedness.
To embrace the Tec heresy is to surrender any claim to being part of the Church Catholic. Do you understand this, Suem?
Al M.

Suem said...

By accepting TEC as their brothers and sisters in Christ and facing and repenting of the homophobia and hatred of gay people in other parts of our communion, Peter?

(Oh, sorry, I forgot, I was meant to say "by setting up a Covenant to discipline them under the guise of a shared mind".)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Communion is riddled with homophobia and hatred of gay people (you will understand that many Anglicans do not think this is actually so), what Communion body would speak with authority, recognised across the Communion, especially in North America, declaring that repentance must take place forthwith?

The answer to that question might then give us a clue as to what Communion body might work on a common doctrine of marriage for the Anglican Communion to which we all acceded!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
My fixation would cease the moment the Anglican Communion ceased to call itself 'Anglican Communion'!

Brother David said...

So all that we need is a name change for you to be happy Peter?

How about Anglican Dumbtwaddle? It has no known meaning, so it cannot make you unhappy that we are not what it means to you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
If 'Dumbtwaddle' means 'not pretending to be a Communion' then that could be a helpful name change. But my increasing preference would be for 'Federation' to replace 'Communion'.

Suem said...

I don't really have your perception, Peter, that "authority" or prophecy necessarily comes from the top of an institution. I think solitary souls, such as Luther when he spoke against the whole weight of the established church, can be a vessel of divine truth. I think the spirit moves at the grassroots and among the despised and frowned upon as much as, if not more than, among consultative councils,standing committees, bishops and Archbishops. I certainly do not think the spirit checks that "all accede" before he moves individuals and groups to repent and see with fresh eyes. I often think truth is more a voice crying in the wilderness than something everyone wakes up to one morning and rubber stamps.

If you are honest, you know this too.

I do not think that the Communion is riddled with hatred and homophobia. However there is a degree of that and in some places, such as Uganda, LGBT people face a high risk of hatred, even violence and murder - tacitly supported by its church and condoned passively by the mother church.

I do not think TEC is beyond reproach either. I don't think any part of the church is irreproachable.

The problem is that both sides want "unity" - but only on their own terms. TEC is not going to retreat and conservative provinces are not going to tolerate them.

"Liberals" say, "you MUST accept us and our beliefs even if you don't agree with them personally." Conservatives say, "you MUST conform if we are to accept you."

It really is as simple as that - at the extremes an immoveable force meets an unstoppable force!

But I am hopeful! The church belongs to God, not to you or I and nor is he even remotely confined or defined by the sorry outfit we call his Church! Praise God for that, for what a sorry thing he would then be, and he is pure glory!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
There is much I am entirely in accord with in your comment just made. Of course! But even loan voices in the wilderness and marginal movements in which the Spirit is at work need some kind of recognition if they contribute to the whole organism of the church. Otherwise we simply have lots of people doing their own thing (as we experience in ACANZP in respect, say, of diverse liturgical approaches to services of worship)!

In the particular case of TEC/Communion I am trying to take care personally to not shut down the possibility that God is (as TEC claims) at work in a prophetic and pioneering way that the rest of us one day will catch up to. Nevertheless I am, as you know, trying to discern the good sense of the Communion as a whole, looking for signs whether it is or is not discerning God's Spirit at work in these matters.

Suem said...

I am not sure TEC is that much of a lone voice? I see a huge diversity of attitude across the Communion ( on a range of issues actually.)
But I am glad you are open and listening. If I thought the covenant was about "the listening process" I would feel more positive about it. What happens when we "listen" to each other - on either side - rather than try to force each other to concede?

Brother David said...

I will strongly disagree with you in one regard dear Suem, I know of no folks who proudly identify as Liberal who demand or say that anyone must accept our position. That is a bit antithetical to what we are about.

What Liberals have said at times in TEC and ACCanada is that it has been a long while since this became the status quo in our province, so even though we accept that you do not accept this, you need to provide accommodation now to those in your midst who do.

Anonymous said...

RE: "TEC will be a pioneering member of a Communion which has no conciliar means of approving TEC's ground-breaking decisions as properly part of Anglican lore if not law.*"

Hmm -- I think you are mistaking a *feature* [in the eyes of the current TEC leaders] for a bug. ; > )

They don't give a hoot in the holler that there is no "conciliar means" for the AC to approve TEC's decisions. Remember -- the philosophy of current TEC leaders is a sort of Nietzschean will-to-power. What they will to do, they do. And they have no need to convince anyone at all, but merely to will and to act. Occasionally they'll throw up a few sophisms, but if you'll notice they try that rhetoric less and less, since they have no need to mouth the language of the Christian faith and since, frankly, fewer and fewer Anglicans are deceived. Think of how far, for instance, the bishops of the Anglican Communion have come in their understanding of the nature and values and gospel of the current leaders of TEC -- it's a HUGE improvement over 10 years ago, thanks in part to just this sort of thing happening with great publicity over the past 7 years, along with all of them having to get to meet TECusa bishops at Lambeth [we couldn't have paid for better "education" than that event]. Formerly moderate AC bishops left Lambeth significantly more "aware" shall we say. And the years since then have only heightened the awareness!

The Committed Traditional Blonde Buddhist

Anonymous said...

RE: "In our life as global Anglicans we will have a serious alteration to Anglican doctrine of marriage occurring which is neither disapproved nor approved."

I'm a little more sanguine about this, I think. For what you're really talking about is what an "Anglican" is. Of course, anyone may form their lips and tongue into the syllable of the word "Anglican." So "Anglican" may be used by Buddhists and there's not much that anybody can say about it. I myself -- while happily proclaiming that I do not accept the Four Noble Truths, could just as easily call myself "a committed traditional Buddhist" and there's not much *they* can say about that either!

That's why the membership in *particular Anglican organizations* is so very important -- and not the least to the current TECusa leaders!

Because all of us recognize that somebody can say "Anglican" -- but not everyone can be in particular Anglican organizations.

Ultimately we'll have various large [as opposed to the smaller] Anglican groupings. And I expect the world in general will adjudge fairly accurately which group or groups are actually Anglican.

Folks will smile over TECusa calling themselves "Anglican" -- but I suspect that even TECusa won't actually use that word for much longer than the next decade -- and even during this decade in a radically declining fashion.

RE: "For the assuaging of doubt that TEC is embedding change to Anglican understanding of marriage as a covenanted relationship . . . "

Again -- I don't think TEC ultimately has the power to "embed change to Anglican understanding."

They're embedding change to *their* rather niche and teensy minority group's understanding.

And believe me -- the vast vast majority of not just Episcopalians but Americans put little quote marks around the word "marriage" in regards to these two anyway. All of us understand that it was a faux ceremony and one which only a teensy percentage of people over here recognize as their interesting definition of "marriage" [sic].

The larger point, though, is that I don't think the future vision or definition of Anglican will include much of anything that the current leaders of TEC are promoting.

Of course -- the upcoming decade will be rough for all of us as the Communion divides out into the various groups -- it's saddening to see the end of something that was truly wonderful. But ultimately I think it will all shake out satisfactorily for the Gospel.

The Committed Traditional Blonde Buddhist

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Sarah,
I am heartened by your hope for the future of the gospel in contexts named 'Anglican'!

Do you personally know the Dalai Lama?

Anonymous said...

RE: "Do you personally know the Dalai Lama?"

I have read a number of the Dalai Lama's works, and -- while of course in their contexts I'm sure that they are helpful to the impoverished and somewhat pre-modern natives over there in India or wherever [Israel? Pakistan -- somewhere "easternish"? -- who knows I haven't been able to keep track of these more minor details with my environmental work] -- over here in America we have re-imagined them to suit our particular needs and society's progressive movement towards a new and shinier future.

As you know, the Four Noble Truths are a very fluid thing. For example when he [or rather they, over a period of centuries, who were at one time "Buddhas" during the time that they were patching "his" "writings" together] says "life means suffering" I think we can safely understand that in those contexts -- where life involved, you know, maybe not having much food and some occasional flies -- life *meant* "suffering" -- but must it "mean suffering" now! Whoa -- not so fast Nelly! "Suffering" really is a premodern and primitive concept. But if we recognize that "life" in those days meant "little food and the occasional flies" than we can certainly see that "life means suffering" means no such thing here in the 21st century, but still maintain the Spirit of the concept in our hearts, in a metaphorical sense. That is "Life -- [in old-timey, less-modern days back before wifi] -- meant suffering" and this I feel sure that we can all agree with.

The Buddha really had no conception at all of The Modern Era and all the things that would happen that would make our civilization as refreshingly lovely as it is. Like . . . science, you know. And . . . genes. And stem cells and blackberries and such.

I believe that a faithful witness involves keeping our minds and hearts open to the possibility that the Buddha -- and the Four Noble Truths itself -- is still speaking to us.

I call my vision of the Four Noble Truths an "unfoldment of the Spirit."

While it's true that a number of senseis have expressed a strong [and frankly, irrational and rude] dislike of my reconceptions, I have invited them to dialogue with me about this fresh and more expansive vision in the coming New Year.

The Committed, Traditional, Blonde Buddhist on a journey of dialogue with The Other

Brother David said...

My, my, my, but she does ramble on! Peter, please do not ask anymore questions.

Could we get a translation of that last comment, or at minimum an unraveling of the poor use of the English language for those of us who speak it as a second language.