Bill Mehr Chimes in

According to historical Anglican tradition, the Episcopal Church, like America itself, welcomes diverse points of view within a broader set of canons. The problem for Mr. McManus’ orthodox is that they constitute a minority that is frustrated they can’t impose one viewpoint upon the entire church.

Their strategy is to claim a majority within an international Anglican Communion, but that association carries no binding authority over the Episcopal Church in America.

If individuals feel they want to attend a church with a narrower theological doctrine, they are free to exercise that choice. There are no provisions, however, for whole entities like dioceses or parishes to leave. There isn’t a diocese or parish in the U.S. where everyone wants to secede.

What about freedom of choice for those who want to stay? That’s the focus of the lawsuits.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts

10 comments on “Bill Mehr Chimes in

  1. Sherri says:


  2. Irenaeus says:

    “According to historical Anglican tradition, the Episcopal Church, … welcomes diverse points of view within a broader set of canons.”

    Remarkable that reappraisers keep getting away with equating “Anglicanism” with extreme Latitudinarianism.

    If the Episcopal Church of the 19th century had consisted mostly of Latitudinarians, it wouldn’t have bothered to found a “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society” (the national church structure now controlled by reappraisers averse to traditional evangelism).

  3. Philip Snyder says:

    The “diversity” that Bill Mehr touts is diversity in expression – not diversity in essentials. There was never an officially sanctioned belief that Jesus was one way among many to God. There was never officially sanctioned belief that what constituted moral behavior was up to a majority vote.

    We express the faith differently. The content of the Faith has always been relatively settled.

    Phil Snyder

  4. William Witt says:

    To quote myself at length:

    The appeal to diversity and pluralism in the Episcopal Church by those who support a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex relations is incoherent in that it does not clearly distinguish between . . . various kinds of diversity. The implicit logic seems to be that because societal diversity is a good thing that diversity is always and everywhere good in itself. But the advocates of Robinson’s ordination, despite their talk about the value of diversity, cannot logically embrace directional diversity as a good in itself. They cannot believe that the Episcopal Church would be better off if the traditionalists in ECUSA continued to believe that homosexual activity is sinful. Rather, they believe that their position is morally and intellectually correct, and they consistently act as if they believe that the traditionalists should come around to believing the same thing.

    At the same time, one can begin to understand something of the anger of traditionalists if one understands that even a golf club must have rules. One can imagine the irritation of members of a golf club who were suddenly told that their course must now allow motorcycles on the grounds because motorcycles, like golf carts, are wheeled vehicles. How much would the anger intensify if the golfers could only hire caddies that were provided by the motorcycle club, caddies who themselves were not golfers, but motorcyclists, and who ridiculed golfers as “golfamentalists”? To compound the irritation, imagine the new motorcycle club insists that it is really still a golf club, insists that the original golf club members continue to pay their dues, and insists that die-hard golfers should attend constant dialogues where they are forced to hear about the virtues of motorcycling. This is not far from the reality of what is called the virtue of “diversity” in today’s Episcopal Church.

    What has happened in the Episcopal Church is that an uneasy truce that allowed for a certain directional diversity within a single ecclesial body has broken down. Historically, Anglicans have identified themselves as a reforming movement within the Western Catholic Church. Anglicans have differed on the extent of both their understanding of Anglicanism’s catholicity and on what in the Medieval Church needed reforming. Nonetheless, Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals, and even historic Broad Church Anglicans were united in a commitment to the priority of Scripture as interpreted by the historic Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds, to the authority of the ecumenical councils of the undivided Church of the first few centuries, to worship using the forms of the Book of Common Prayer, and to the historic episcopacy. Even this diversity within historic Anglicanism was exclusive of certain positions. It excluded those Christians who rejected Episcopacy and those who rejected infant baptism, as well as those who insisted that communion with the bishop of Rome be necessary for Christian identity. And Anglicanism was capable of maintaining its identity amidst the diversity resulting from genuine disagreements between Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals and Broad Church types because all agreed to embrace the minimal instruments of unity, and none of the three groups insisted on foisting its distinctives on the other two.

    The introduction of Liberal Protestantism into this mix complicated the nature of Anglican diversity, for Liberal Protestants did not value the historic instruments of Anglican unity. They did not believe many of the items in the historic creeds, did not consider the ecumenical councils binding, and held to an understanding of Scripture that was at odds with the way that Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics, and even Broad Church Anglicans had affirmed its primacy. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it became commonplace for Liberal Anglicans to reject belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ (William Sanday), the deity of Christ (The Myth of God Incarnate), and even the existence of God (the Sea of Faith Movement).

    It is perhaps debatable whether Liberal Protestantism should have been allowed to be included as simply another party in the Anglican mix, given that liberalism denied several of the key tenets of Anglican identity that enabled Anglicans to stay together despite party differences. Nonetheless, it could be argued that liberal Anglicanism could be included in the mix precisely as a dissenting movement, and as long as it was realized that liberal Anglicanism did not alter the Church’s public faith. Since liberals were willing to worship according to the Prayer Book, to say the Creeds and affirm the importance of Scripture (even if taking neither “literally”), and to respect the office of bishop (as a political role, if nothing else), they were able to function within the limits of historic Anglican identity.

    What could not be allowed if Anglicanism were to maintain its identity amidst diversity would be for any one of the parties who shared its sometimes uneasy truce to impose their distinctive differences on the Church as a whole. If, for instance, Anglo-Catholics were to succeed in having the Angelus introduced as part of the Office in the Book of Common Prayer, Evangelicals could no longer pray faithfully as Anglicans. If Evangelicals were to succeed in introducing statements denying the reality of baptismal regeneration or of the real presence of Christ into the baptismal or eucharistic liturgies, Anglo-Catholics could no longer be practicing Anglicans. Even more so, it would be inconceivable if Liberal Protestantism were to become the official theology of Anglicanism, for Liberal Protestants by definition reject key tenets of Anglican self-identity. As recently as 1978, Stephen Sykes could write: “[S]o far as I know, no-one has ever suggested that the modernist movement is really the core of the Church of England . . .”

    But this is precisely what happened at General Convention 2003. In the name of Anglican diversity, the Liberal Protestant party within the Episcopal Church made its own party position the official doctrine and teaching of the Episcopal Church. By agreeing to ordain a bishop involved in a same-sex relation, and by voting to allow blessings of same-sex relations in liberal dioceses, General Convention endorsed a theology of sexuality at odds with the plain sense of Scripture, and thus repudiated both sides of Anglican identity that hitherto had made Anglican diversity possible. In dismissing the primacy of the authority of Scripture, General Convention rejected Anglicanism’s Reformation heritage. In ignoring the universal tradition of the Church, and the unanimous request of the Anglican primates to defer from its action, General Convention turned its back on its Catholic heritage. And, in making these moves, it made it impossible for either the Catholic or Evangelical parties in the Episcopal Church to continue to participate in good conscience. In the name of diversity, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church effectively imposed a monolatry that destroyed the very diversity that had made the stability of Anglican identity possible.

    From here:
    Reflections on Non-theological Interpretations of General Convention and an Alternative

  5. dwstroudmd+ says:

    What hath logic or reason to do with reappraising the Faith?
    It’s all about “feelings”.

  6. Grandmother says:

    Dr.Witt, something a bit wrong with the link above, would you fix it please?

    Thanks much and Blessings

  7. Dr. Priscilla Turner says:

    William, your website is ever so pretty as well as well-stocked.

    I searched in vain for an email address; so I must post here in public that I think that you meant to write in the above excerpt (a) “the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds” (b) “the unanimous request of the Anglican primates to refrain from its action”.

    Often we write “the Apostles Creed” without any possessive apostrophe, and it is so written in all the BCPs that I have ever seen. The Apostolic connection is tenuous, but a plural is meant, as we see from the Greek and Latin names in the tradition.

  8. Militaris Artifex says:

    Dr. Witt,
    Thank you for a marvelously clear and compelling statement of the problem. Your statement “puts paid” to the outraged and outrageous claims of those who loudly proclaim their commitment to diversity while simultaneously using GC and their offices to mandate operational agreement with their views.

  9. William Witt says:

    Priscilla Turner,

    You are correct on both accounts. It is “Apostles” (pl.) and “refrain” not “defer.” I am my own worst proof reader. My wife works as a proof reader for a living, and when I proudly hand things over to her to peruse, she inevitably returns them all marked up, much to my chagrin. And my mistakes are always the kind of obvious ones that I should have noticed, like “Apostles.”

    Yes, I have no email address listed, something I need to correct. I’ve begun putting things on my blog so that people can comment, but anything written before the last five months has no comments.