Sunday, January 10, 2016

Could Gramsci, Lenin and Trotsky offer way forward for Primates' Meeting?

With the profoundest of respect for the learning and acumen of the Anglican primates winging their way across the world even as I write the first draft of this post, I don't imagine they regularly dip into International Socialism: A Quarterly Review of Socialist Theory. Which may be a pity because a recent article by Mark Thomas holds an interesting clue to the way in which the Anglican Communion could hold together and even move forward on certain troubling issues.

I am sure they are even less likely to read this post, so I share the following thoughts for the benefit of dear ADU readers rather than our dear leaders! The article is a lengthy reflection on the recent history of the British Labour Party, the reasons why Jeremy Corbyn has become its leader, the pitfalls he must avoid if he is to remain and the challenges a left leaning Labour Party faces in achieving its objectives. I am not asking you to read all that, unless you are a political nutgeek. Bear with ...

Towards the end of the article, Thomas explores the essential limitation of the Labour Party from a revolutionary socialist perspective: Labour is a reformist organisation, constrained to work within the electoral system, destined to only seek change within capitalism rather than overthrow it altogether. In turn that raises the question whether revolutionaries can work with (mere) reformers. Revolutionaries, Thomas argues,

"insist that the battle for reforms is most effectively waged via self-activity from below and especially through the mobilisation of working class power at the point of production; that is, through direct confrontation rather than methods that rely on negotiation from above. The key arena is the class struggle outside of parliament."

This is at odds with the aims and goals of an electoral party such as the British Labour Party. But the author is emboldened by Gramsci, Lenin and Trotsky to encourage his fellow revolutionaries to persist in working with  the reformers.

He cites Gramsci following Lenin's advice (in a particular Italian context in the early 20th century):

"“Separate yourselves from Turati [the leading Italian reformist], and then make an alliance with him”—Antonio Gramsci, recalling Lenin’s advice to Italian Communists."

Trotsky gets a mention too:

"Leon Trotsky, writing in the midst of a sharp swing to the left by social democracy across Europe in the mid-1930s, argued that it was crucial for revolutionaries not to stand aside from reformist workers and denounce the hopes they place in left social democracy as pointless, but instead to identify strongly with their desire to challenge capital and fight for improvements in workers’ conditions without, however, giving ground to any notion that social democracy’s parliamentary orientation can deliver: “We share the difficulties of the struggle but not the illusions”. Trotsky translated this approach into the need for revolutionaries to pursue a dual approach, combining “ideological intransigence”—because we do not share the illusion in left reformism and must warn workers about its limitations—with a “flexible united front policy” because we want to share the difficulties, to unite in struggle and prove in practice how the obstacles workers face can be overcome."

By now you will be desperate to know how this fits in with the Primates' Meeting!

One difficulty going into the meeting is how the "revolutionaries" (in this case, GAFCON primates who, apparently, are willing to overthrow the Communion "system" and to work outside of it, if necessary) can find any kind of common cause with the "reformers" (in this case, moderate evangelicals such as ++Welby and ++Sentamu, along with primates from other provinces who are willing to work within the system rather than overthrow it).

There is also another significant and greater difficulty, that of how the "revolutionaries" might even talk with the "Tories" (in this case, TEC and ACCan), but the key to that I think is resolving the first difficulty. If the "revolutionaries" and "reformers" work together then the "Tories" will need to do their own hard work of finding how they can make accommodation with the majority of the Communion. So, back to the first difficulty.

The Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci line is that revolutionaries need to both carve out their distinctive place by claiming their "ideological intransigence" while scornfully informing the reformers of their "illusions" and to share with the reformers in the difficulties of the "struggle", even "to unite in struggle." Is there a way for the GAFCON primates both to carve out their distinctive place in the Communion and to share with other primates in the struggle of Christian life in a hostile world?

It seems to me that GAFCON to date has been very good at claiming its distinctive theological "intransigence" (the Jerusalem Declaration) while often commenting on the "illusions" of those who think ongoing dialogue within the Communion can square the circle on human sexuality. Is this week the week when GAFCON primates demonstrate how GAFCON might nevertheless continue to work with the remainder of the Communion and not walk apart from it?


Tregonsee said...

In the States, TEC has figuratively followed the solution which Stalin applied to Trotsky when it comes to even moderates, with draconian punishment to those who dare speak up.

TEC/ACC are lost causes, and I expect that ++Curry will play the General Convention card. That is, he will claim he can do nothing without the approval of GC 2018. Funny how TEC can do what it wants instantly, but never something it doesn't want to do. ;) I am more interested in how GAFCON will deal with that because it is an immediate issue, rather than bring along the few moderates which can be done over months and years.

Anonymous said...

"Yet the Lord, as he has done even from the beginning of the world, will preserve in a miraculous manner, and in a way unknown to us, the unity of a pure faith from being destroyed by the dissensions of men. And, those whom he has placed on his watchtower he wishes least of all to be inactive, seeing that he has appointed them to be his ministers, through whose labors he may preserve from all corruptions sound doctrine in the Church, and transmit it safe to posterity. Especially, most illustrious Archbishop, is it necessary for you, in proportion to the distinguished position you occupy, to turn your attention as you are doing towards this object..."

John Calvin to Thomas Cranmer, 1552.

"Is this week the week when GAFCON primates demonstrate how GAFCON might nevertheless continue to work with the remainder of the Communion and not walk apart from it?"

Peter, as I cannot pray and predict at the same time-- can anyone?-- I can only read your analogy from Marxism to Anglicanism for the pleasure of it, which is considerable. Whatever the Holy Spirit is doing in Canterbury, the types of *revolutionary* and *reformer* will be useful for a long time to come. However, because sex is not really the central concern of the revolutionaries-- Exhibit A: David Ould's disdain for *institutionalists* in the article at your link-- they will almost certainly not ally with the reformers.

The Old Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield attached a table to his Plan of Salvation (1905) that makes this graphically intelligible--

Evangelicals today detect several ironies in Warfield's famous chart, but it captures the present Anglican moment perfectly. Down one of the lanes on the far left, the most doctrinaire of your revolutionaries swim with old Prebyterians like Warfield himself. To his irritation, such Anglicans have always existed, usually as Amyrauldians; for clarity, let us call such Anglicans *particularists* as he does. Down the Anglican lane in the centre of the chart swim those *centrists* that you call *reformers*. You are already asking yourself, "where are the Anglicans in all the lanes between?," but for the moment, let's hold that thought.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Now, do you remember Kurt's comment that evangelicals in TEC "keep shooting themselves in the foot?" Patronising, yes, and not the whole story. But the grain of truth in it is a gem. In a *particularist* ecclesiology, the Holy Spirit ceased speaking to believers apart from scripture with the close of the canon, and therefore there is no space in such a scheme for deliberation beyond exegesis of God's last words. And in that professional exegetes are more authoritative than ordained pastors.

Inevitably this dictates, not just what one thinks that the Communion is, but also how it should operate and resolve disputes. If the Holy Spirit never ever speaks through the Church, then Communion dialogues, discernments, etc are as useless as reading entrails, and an ABC whose task is to facilitate this is a haruspex in the Sanhedrin. So of course particularists feel no shame in disrespecting his office, staging walk-outs etc to undermine deliberations, etc, just as their first cousins, the liberals, also do. Neither particularists on the left lanes of Warfield's chart nor naturalists on the right lanes believe that the Church as a distinct people of God should deliberate with unity because the Holy Spirit does not lead it. Particularists think the Holy Spirit inspired only scripture; liberals think the Holy Spirit inspires mainly society at large.

So when Ould's article dismisses centrists-- evangelicals who do believe that there is space for discernment-- as *institutionalists*, he is pulling the trigger on the particularist gun that shoots the ecclesial foot, not just in TEC (the Reformed Episcopal schism) or the Church of England (Martyn Lloyd Jones in 1966), or the Anglican Communion (Peter Jensen's GAFCON), but quite simply everywhere: because no particularist can accept that a church is more than just the sum of its elect individuals, who are blind apart from scripture, neither can it imagine a space for any deliberation but exegesis, and neither can it tolerate rival exegeses of the same texts.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Please note that the gun is not a high evangelical doctrine of scripture-- the Lutherans, Wesleyans, and Universalists nearer the centre of Warfield's chart all have this-- but a theology of particular election that cannot support a robust doctrine of the Church. Perhaps America's religious landscape is not a bad natural experiment. In the course of the C20, Lutherans, Wesleyans, and Universalists all moved toward increasing unity here, and the United Methodist Church is arguably the world's one global Protestant church. Meanwhile, the Presbyterians have remained splintered into tiny denominations by differences that one might need a graduate degree from a Reformed seminary to understand well. More interestingly, in a tradition that prizes discipline, the Reformed have relied much more on parachurch organisations to do the disciplinary work of the Church. For example, theological faculties and their trustees have drawn lines between orthodoxy and heterodoxy that are more influential than those drawn by presbyteries.

So those of your revolutionaries who are Warfield's particularists really are implacable. Their position is the culmination of two centuries of resistance to an Oxford Movement ecclesiology that is not finally reconcilable with their soteriology. They could never have conceived anything like the Anglican Communion on their own, but it was their good fortune that other Englishmen and some Americans could and did. SSM has given those with a fissiparous theology a once in a millennium opportunity to have their cake and eat it too. Perhaps evangelical Primates who do not normally care much about ecclesiology will rebound from TEC into a new communion dominated by particularists. But-- and this is my belated reply to Kurt-- evangelicalism is much broader than particularism, and even the contemporary Reformed have positions nearer the centre than that of eg Peter Jensen. Whatever the Primates do, this could be the year in which C21 centrists finally take begin to charge of Anglican evangelicalism.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Griswold, Jefferts-Schori, and presumably Curry have not been playing games about real limitations on the power of the PB of TEC. Nor presumably is Ntagali, who claims that he has strict instructions from his own church in Uganda. But then neither Curry not Ntagali is a real Primate able to speak both for his church and to it. Among the others, a voice maybe, but no vote.

There is ample precedent for this distinction. Lambeth Conferences have not regarded the PBs of the nine TEC provinces as equal to CoE or other archbishops on the grounds that, though they may speak for their provinces, they lack effective jurisdiction over them.

And that really is the key point. Other churches should not be in an arrangement in which TEC influences them through its Communion membership but cannot itself be influenced by them through that same membership. A change in that should be sufficient for anyone content with less than the battle of Armageddon.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman.
Your analysis is particularly (Particularistically!!) enlightening to this dim blogger. And I learned a new word, Haruspex, which I have turned into a Tweet, , thanks to you!
Let's see what the Exegetes and the "Charismatics" do this week :)

Bryden Black said...

Peter; on this analysis, one could also wait to see who purges whom ... Having actually seen Leninists in action, I have to demure from your entire analogy ... It is not worthy of the Church of God! Sorry!

Peter Carrell said...

All analogies have limits, Bryden!
(There may yet be purges ... and clearly some on either end of the Communion spectrum talk as though they wouldn't mind seeing the other end of the spectrum purged).
Seriously: I remain committed to my main point here, by way of question, might those who are radical enough to think little of the moderates nevertheless find it in their hearts to work, in some fashion, with the moderates? I would like to think that among Christians this might be a possible thought ... not least if, in other contexts, such a possible thought is entertained by the Gramscians, Leninians, and Trotskyites when we - for other reasons, including those dreadful purges - would not expect that of them.

Anonymous said...

Peter and Bryden, God's providence is unclear but usually breaks the hearts of purists. I tend to think that Peter's revolutionaries will do all that they think they have the critical mass to do, but could be slowed if reformers win over part of that mass to a tolerable, if unpalatable approach. Who could be won over? And to what?

It may be that non-GAFCON primates and bishops in the global south will be the *cross-bench lords* who decide this crisis. An interesting group of these-- in Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, etc-- are actually in TEC and did not rebel against the General Convention until last summer.

In theory-- voting in General Convention does not perfectly reveal who believes what-- they accepted TEC's accommodation of homosexuals until it crossed the red line of SSM and the infrared line of marriage theology that leaves heterosexuality behind. Even the ACC has hesitated at the infrared line, and in the CoE it is probably uncrossable. And as I have said elsewhere, there is understandable frustration that because TEC is effectively acephalous, its General Convention can influence the Communion but the Communion cannot influence it because its primate has no power. The Lambeth Conferences have always been limited to bishops who actually have jurisdiction.

So one balanced reformist alternative would be: (a) freedom to teach and preach the whole theology of marriage [(i), (ii), and (iii)] as a condition of membership in the Communion; (b) a Communion discussion about both civil laws for SSM and criminalization of homosexual acts; (c) independent participation in the Communion of TEC bishops in the global south; (d) recognition of ACNA and its primate; (e) TEC's primate is welcome, but is assigned observer status until he has some sort of authority in his church.

Bowman Walton

Kurt said...

“In the States, TEC has figuratively followed the solution which Stalin applied to Trotsky when it comes to even moderates, with draconian punishment to those who dare speak up.”— Tregonsee

The above is nothing but slander against the Episcopal Church! Anyone who writes this way cannot be taken seriously by anyone.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

I like your thinking Bowman!

Anonymous said...

Peter, we should not need to add this, but in light of my other comments probably should: (f) respect for the Instruments of Unity, their processes, and their officers, especially the ABC. We do not have a pope, but we do have a patriarch, and I would be happy to see any church that cannot live with that replaced with an Anglican one.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt // Tregonsee

Yes, the analogy is getting out of hand at that point (Stalin ordering the assassination of Trotsky ... and I kept Stalin out of the discussion I posted!).

But there have been some draconian aspects to Anglican/Episcopal life in North America, Kurt, not least the unusual negative treatment of Anglican congregations wishing to buy their buildings from TEC. In one case, selling to Muslims instead was (shall we say) somewhat purgative!

Kurt said...

"...Anglican congregations wishing to buy their buildings from TEC."--Peter Carrell

If that were simply the case, Peter, most of these congregations probably could have worked out a deal with TEC. Unfortunately, most ACNA groups wanted to walk away with the properties instead. This is where all the court actions have come from.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Peter, Tregonsee, Kurt,

I often wonder whether North American Anglicans would benefit from a *truth & reconciliation commission*, and more so when I see disagreements as polarised as the Tregonsee-Kurt comments above.

Persons we reasonably presume to be credible have described TEC actions that support the conclusions of Tregonsee and Peter. On the other hand, I know just enough civil and canon law to see that some of those actions have been under legal constraints that make it unfair to savage the motivations of persons quite as some critics have done. And since TEC is a sort of trade association for 99 + 1 fiercely independent Anglican churches, even clear facts may have complicated local contexts.

For example, conservative lawyer Haley hates liberal Bishop Burton--

--but is certainly credible on the plainly public facts of what Burton did. Still, since each diocese has its own state laws, church canons, and unwritten understandings for parishes, it is hard for anyone but an Anglican Angeleno (Tum ex Anglia et Angelum ;-) to know whether the bishop's action was reasonably customary or not.

Adding to the craziness is the fact that the TEC constitution is something of a cult object. Being both intensely localist (in reserving most power to dioceses, if not parishes) and grandiosely hierarchical (in having a Presiding Bishop in communion with somebody in England), it is perplexingly ambiguous to civil judges. "Are you people congregationalists or catholics?" Conservative localists and liberal hierarchs each regard the other as lying under oath when they explain it in court according to their own sincere convictions.

Under the Constitution of the Unites States, American judges have hated even the appearance of directly ruling on a religious matter, but in cases involving TEC, they are forced to rule on its ecclesiology as a matter of fact in order to settle questions at law about the ownership of church property. Cases involving the assets of departing parishes and dioceses regularly twist and turn as the courts take now one view of TEC, and now another. Indeed, depending on local law, the relation of the parish to its diocese in such cases can be just as ecclesiologically ambiguous and legally complex.

Both sides play rough. The Diocese of South Carolina made a relatively easy escape from TEC because it first quietly nudged South Carolina law in its favour, and then set a legal trap into which the Presiding Bishop, following her own legal counsel, jumped with both feet. American corporate law is ruthless, and both sides use it without apparent compunction.

So a further dimension of the mess here is that the legal maneuvering is not just about land, buildings, communion silver, seals, and sentiment. It is also about getting the rulings that will stand as precedents that make TEC appear, at least in the law of the land, what each side wants to believe that it is. Some believe it's a work in progress; I believe it's a mess.

Bowman Walton

MichaelA said...

"If the Holy Spirit never ever speaks through the Church, then Communion dialogues, discernments, etc are as useless as reading entrails, and an ABC whose task is to facilitate this is a haruspex in the Sanhedrin."

Bowman, "particularists" as you describe them, have been around since well before the protestant reformation. In terms of an actual correspondence with whether a church is conciliar in nature, the correlation is zero - often the more "particularist" the theology, the more conciliar the church. The existence of the presbyterians and congregationalists alone should put paid to that notion.

Nice theory, but try another one. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Michael, for the very interesting CAPA statement on the other thread. Is there more?

Warfield's bones are cursing me from his Old Princeton grave for using his typology as a heuristic in service to "sacerdotal" Anglicans. But since it has now successfully predicted an outcome that surprised most experts, it is probably worth further development into a hypothesis that can be further tested. Although necessarily *small n inference* from *case data*, causal inquiry refining categories of description is more revealing than debates about polemically-drawn stereotypes. Haters are boring, not by accident, but because a polarised mind has only one myopic eye.

Warfield's category of *particularism* is too deeply embedded in early modern theology for postdiction of pre-Reformation data to be meaningful. Most would expect Lutherans and Roman Catholics to have more continuity with the Middle Ages than Warfield's particularists. Also, of course, we care here about the present and future, not the remote past.

Few doubt that particularists are more fissiparous than other Protestants. Usually this is described, not absolutely, in terms of their hypothetical (dis)belief in conciliarism (cf Article XXI), but relatively, in terms of the concerns that break ties among particularists but not others.

The type is clear but its origin is not. Do suspicious purists choose churches with particularist beliefs, or do churches with particularist beliefs turn otherwise trusting, accommodating people into suspicious purists? Even if particularist beliefs and purist temperaments are correlated, the oxytocin arrow can point toward either or both.

Our particularist stream in Anglicanism is an historical outlier. As you say, most particularist communities resiled from archbishops and bishops centuries ago, becoming either presbyterians or congregationalists. They may trust councils-- do they in fact trust councils?-- but then they have many councils to choose from.

Caesar will introduce SSM to one Anglican province after another. Anglican churches will then debate a range of creative responses to the laws of their lands. Some will find almost any of them acceptable; others will draw distinctions that are critical to them but seem oddly arbitrary to others. In the years to come, it could be helpful to know more about why we disagree in the ways that we do.

Thank you for your interest. I will not say more about this until Peter posts on catholicity.

Bowman Walton

MichaelA said...

"But since it has now successfully predicted an outcome that surprised most experts..."

Or, it has been made to fit facts with hindsight!

And what is an "expert"? For most of us ordinary people, it wasn't a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your interest. I will not say more about this until Peter posts on catholicity.

Bowman Walton

MIchaelA said...

No problem - sorry I see that I overlooked that in your previous post.

Anonymous said...

Michael, thank you so much for your interest and your patience.

Warfield's typology was my heuristic for the analysis in my Fulcrum article High Stakes, Three Facts. This article anticipated the centrist compromise brokered in last week's meeting by ++ Mouneer Anis. As you imply, virtually everyone at that time expected a polarised outcome-- either a TEC victory and GAFCON walkout or else a GAFCON victory and TEC expulsion. Some indeed try hard to paint the actual outcome in polarised terms. But we now know that it was indeed a revolt of centre much like the one I proposed-- primates resiling from both TEC's SSM and GAFCON's fascination with disintegration-- who insisted on a middle way. Those who would understand how this came together should read ++ Mouneer Anis's blog post on the meeting very carefully.

Bowman Walton