Daily Archives: October 26, 2009
What [Bonnie] Anderson has achieved in this formal letter to South Carolina is a demonstration of what happens when General Convention undertakes to permit actions without bothering formally to amend the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church. A similar demonstration is being made in the Presiding Bishop’s recourse to a Canon involving renunciation of orders so as to deal with a problem it was never designed to address. The consequence of such action is the creation of a view of Holy Orders and a ”˜denominational regularization’ of them without any counterpart elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. The point is this. To use ”˜abandonment of communion of this church’ to refer univocally to TEC makes TEC into its own, private communion. If this be the case, TEC is defining itself and its orders in a way different from that of the Anglican Communion as a whole. For Anglicans, communion is not defined within the circumference of a single province and orders are not conferred within a single province alone.
By arrogating to herself the role of commentary, evaluation, and exhortation, the President of the House of Deputies adopts an authority vis-Ã -vis the Diocese of SC nowhere granted to her by the Constitution and Canons she claims to be defending. Was the President of the House of Deputies elected with a clear remit to function in this way vis-Ã -vis the Dioceses of The Episcopal Church? Naturally, the President of the House of Deputies might wish to write a letter to the Diocese of South Carolina and encourage attendance at General Convention. But here the intention is to speak on behalf of the Constitution and Canons as well as on matters of doctrine, church history and theology. Where do the Constitution and Canons grant her authority to address the Dioceses in this way, and is election to this presidential office intended to grant her authority as here presumed?
The questions are serious ones because it appears that the elected leadership of The Episcopal Church is now seeking a clear authority and hierarchy above the Bishops of the Church and also above the Constitution and Canons, without at the same time following the legal procedures necessary for adopting and exercising such hierarchy, constitutionally. If there are those within TEC who desire constitutional reform of TEC polity along the lines of a corporate model or the hierarchical structures of churches such as the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Churches, there are constitutional procedures to follow.
So to receive a notice from an elected official which purports to interpret doctrine, discipline and worship in this church, and to defend the Constitution and Canons, without an obvious warrant for doing so from the same Constitution risks exposing the very problem South Carolina and other dioceses have identified as needing address.
Last week, 200 leaders in the environmental movement gathered in New Orleans for the eighth ecological symposium organized by the Orthodox Christian Church. Participants included leading scientists and theologians, politicians and policy makers, business leaders and NGOs, environmentalists and journalists. Similar conferences have taken place on the Adriatic, Aegean, Baltic, and Black Seas, the Danube and Amazon Rivers, and the Arctic Ocean. This time we sailed the mighty Mississippi to consider its profound impact on the U.S. and its fate within the global environment.
It may seem out of character for a sacred institution to convene a conference on so secular an issue. After all, Jesus counseled us to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Climate change, pollution and the exploitation of our natural resources are commonly seen as the domain not of priests but rather of politicians, scientists, technocrats or interest groups organized by concerned citizens. What does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul?
We have heard a great deal about our unique polity in the Episcopal Church over the last several years. Polity is just a fancy word for how we do things ”“ what rules and principles govern our corporate actions, and what structures are involved in governing. Perhaps more pointedly, the Greek word from which we get our English term connotes the rights and obligations inherent in being part of a larger body. St. Paul uses this very term when he describes the Gentile Christians. Once, he said, we were excluded from citizenship (politeia) in Israel, excluded from the covenants of promise which God had made to them. But now, in Christ, we are made fellow citizens (sumpolitai), fellow members of God’s household.
So what characterizes this “unique polity”? Bishop Garrett understood this polity, this citizenship, in a particular way. “Every Diocese is an independent and sovereign state.”
It is evident that Bishop Garrett did not see this striking statement as something new. Indeed, he looked back to the founding of the Church by her Lord and its spread as the basis for the statement. “Responsibility,” he said, “involves power.” It would have been a vain thing if Jesus had commanded his Apostles to go into all the world and to proclaim the Gospel, if at the same time he did not commit to them the necessary authority to do so. He gave them the right and the power “to teach, ordain, confirm, place, support and [discipline]” within their places of responsibility. This was the mode of operations in the earliest Church ”“ a community of men and women carrying out the work of their Lord in each location, but joined in their common sense of mission.
Sovereignty, the power or authority to work and order a common life in a territory, was based both upon the mission of the Church and in turn the practical necessities of the Church. The mission was to proclaim Christ and to make his saving work known.
The news media have portrayed this rightward outreach largely through the lens of culture-war politics ”” as an attempt to consolidate, inside the Catholic tent, anyone who joins the Vatican in rejecting female priests and gay marriage.
But in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind ”” not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.
Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.
“This is a response to overtures that had already been made ”“ it’s not as if the Catholic Church had gone ”˜poaching’ or ”˜fishing’ as some media may have claimed,” said Father Robert Imbelli, associate professor of theology at Boston College. “The Apostolic Constitution has not yet been issued and that will be the key document. It will set the parameters for the reception. It sounds as if it represents an accommodation to the Anglican tradition, which reflects the appreciation of the richness of that tradition. It has been the ecumenical discussions that have led to this new appreciation.”
The Anglican Church, by comparison, has gone the way of the world. In many ways, they’ve ceased to be counter-cultural or a “sign of contradiction.” In that sense, they have a good friend in the media. They’ve jumped into the same water and are floating downstream together.
One of the few things standing against that cultural current is the Catholic Church.
“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it,” the great British journalist and convert G.K. Chesterton used to say.
Married Anglican clergy would pose two problems.
At the moment when a Catholic priest retires, the church only has responsibility towards him.
But what if the priest was married, has a wife and family?
Where would they go if they had to vacate their parochial home? What would they live on? What would happen to clerical widows or, even more distressingly, orphaned children?
Secondly, how could the Catholic Church maintain its stance on clerical celibacy?
There is little clarity yet on either side. The Vatican has not spelled out the conditions of the “Apostolic Constitution” to accept Anglicans who want to join Catholicism while maintaining some of their own traditions. Additionally, there are varied faces of Anglicanism, which in its dogmas and practices stands somewhere between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions such as the Lutheran or Reformed churches. This will clearly take a while to work out.
The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, played down any problems when the offer was announced. But several reactions from Anglicans to Tuesday’s announcement, including from some inclined to make the switch, have begun to trace the outlines of the looming doctrinal debates among Anglicans worldwide and between the Vatican and Anglicans knocking at its door.
Bishop Donald Harvey, moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), posted a succinct summary of sticky issues on his group’s website….
The Vatican made waves last week with a controversial overture to disaffected Anglicans upset over the ordination of gays and women. Under the new plan, entire Anglican congregations could switch their allegiance to Rome, while still keeping their own traditions. Some conservative Anglicans welcomed the Vatican’s actions, while the mainline Episcopal Church in America called it an affront.
Host Guy Raz sorts out the decision and its impact with a range of Christian thinkers: Episcopal Church spokesman Jim Naughton; Archbishop Robert Duncan, of the breakaway conservative Anglican Church in North America; Jesuit priest Thomas Reese of Georgetown University; and former nun Karen Armstrong.
Massachusetts Episcopalians and Catholics this weekend weighed the Vatican’s invitation for traditionalist Anglicans to become Catholics, with some vehemently rejecting the idea and others saying its impact is unclear until more details are known.
This step by the Holy See is in response to a number of requests received in Rome from groups of Anglicans seeking corporate reunion. The application of the new Provision recognizes the desire of some Anglicans (Episcopalians) to live the Catholic faith in full, visible communion with the See of Peter, while at the same time retaining some elements of their traditions of liturgy, spirituality and ecclesial life which are consistent with the Catholic faith.
The larger problem is that the Anglican Church, along with most mainline Protestant churches, has lost its identity. In a well-intentioned but misguided effort to soften its image, the Anglican Church has embraced a big-tent strategy that has driven away its traditional members and made itself even more irrelevant to potential worshippers. The crowning example of this confused strategy came in February 2008 when Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, told a British radio program that the adoption of some parts of Islamic Sharia law in Britain “seems inevitable.” Though this can be considered as much an indictment of the present depressed state of British politics and society as much as of the Anglican Church, nothing in Williams’ tenure suggests he has committed himself to lifting the Anglican Church out of its decline.
So what must the Anglican Church do to avoid its demise?
First, it must be Christian and unapologetically so.
The Vatican’s invitation to disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church sends a “terrible message” to gays and women, a local Episcopal priest said.
The Rev. Paul Bresnahan of St. Peter’s Church in Salem said he is troubled by the Catholic Church’s unexpected overture this week, which appeared to be aimed at conservative Anglicans who have become disillusioned with their church, in part over its acceptance of openly gay bishops and female priests.
“It sends a terrible message to the gay community,” said Bresnahan, the father of two gay sons. “It says, in effect, you’re not welcome here. To me, that slams the door shut in your face.”
The decision by Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to Anglicans, who split from the Catholic Church in the 16th century and are currently facing deep discord, is also an affront to women, Bresnahan said. Many conservative Anglicans oppose the ordination of women, a position also held by the Catholic church.
A 500-year religious divide may be getting closer to being bridged. Earlier this week Pope Benedict announced new efforts to re-unite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church.
The decision was reportedly reached in secret by a small group of Vatican officials and will make it easier for Anglicans to convert to Catholicism and was greeted with eagerness at one local Anglican church.
St. Luke’s in Fruitland Park was only formed two years ago, but its leaders say a departure from long-standing traditions in their faith have made these new overtures more welcome.
“The problem at the current time is the leadership of the Episcopal Church in this country and, to some extent, the Anglo church worldwide have gone off in a very liberal, protestant direction,” said St. Luke’s pastor, Father Dean Steward. “This has disturbed a lot of people.”
Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.
–J.I.Packer, Knowing God