Fr. Will Brown on Abp. Ramsey, Unity and what it would mean for Anglicans to be Calvary-centered

Fr. Will Brown is one of the bloggers at Covenant, and he has a deep and thought-provoking blog entry posted simply titled “Ramsey and Unity.” The title might cause many to overlook the piece, but Fr. WB has some very interesting reflections on the current crisis, and questions for those of us on both / all sides of the current divide. Here’s the excerpt that most caught this elf’s eye:

[Note: The portion we’ve excerpted here in no way begins to do it justice (we’ve skipped over the meaty theological reflection and jumped to the conclusion, I confess… But the reflections on the meaning of the cross are particularly interesting given that ECUSA’s lectionary this week included 1 Cor 1:18: [b]18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.[/b]]

Anglicanism has become factious in the extreme, and one cannot help but wonder if the spirit of Christ-like gratuity, of self-effacement for the sake of the Body, has been quashed by a climate of hyper-self-consciousness. One wonders whether TEC might not be given pause by the non-recognition with which its “gifts” have been met by the one Body. One winces at the self-awareness of TEC’s rhetoric: “our church law”¦ our canons”¦ our autonomy”¦ our Constitution”¦ our founding principles”¦ our own liberation from colonialism”¦” etc. (cf. the TEC House of Bishops “Mind of the House” resolutions from March 2007). One would do well to ask whether TEC has not “succumbed to the peril of thinking of these gifts as possessions of their own and interpreting them in terms of human wisdom, knowledge, and individual ownership” (51) ”“ terms born of the spirit of Anti-Christ, as we have seen, inimical to the life of the Body.

Neither has TEC given an adequate theological account of how her innovative gifts bear witness to God in Christ. There has been much talk of “justice” and of the making-possible of our gay and lesbian brethren’s appropriation of what is theirs by right. But if the sexuality between persons of the same gender is to have a place within the one Body, it must be accounted for in terms of the given life of the one Body. It is not enough that it should be accounted for in terms of the autonomous life the Body’s members. We know something of the iconography and sacramentality of the gift of human sexuality. But the one Body has rooted human sexuality in the differentiation and complimentarity of the sexes, which our Lord himself placed under the rubric of creation and grace in one of his very few explicit teachings on the subject: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ”˜For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”¦?” (Mat. 19.4). And as intimated by St. Paul in Ephesians 5, the Body has known the gift (the datum) of sexuality within the one Body as complimentarity within differentiation, as iconographic of the mutual self-gift that takes place between the different but complimentary natures of God and man in the one flesh of Jesus Christ, the theanthropos ”“ the consummation of which is constitutive of the Body’s life.

How might Anglicanism gesture “toward the question mark of Calvary at the center of its teaching” (4), even amid the difficulties and disagreements we face? Here are some far-fetched ideas:

1. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the liberals are right:

If, as TEC seems to be claiming, the gift of sexuality must be revised or elaborated, let this revision or elaboration take place within the context of the common life of the one Body, within the spirit of mutual recognition and self-gift which alone characterizes the love by which our Lord said we would be known (Jn. 13.35). Let TEC offer her gifts in patience and humility, knowing that love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way (1 Cor. 13.4-5) ”“ knowing that in autonomy she is nothing (1 Cor. 13.2). And if it is true that TEC’s interlocutors in the Communion at large are blinded and ignorant, as many within TEC have suggested, let TEC bear the burden of their brothers’ and sisters’ blindness and ignorance, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6.2). Let TEC bear it “with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.2).

2. Assuming, for the sake or argument, that the conservatives are right:

For the conservatives’ part, let them listen in humility for the voice of the Spirit in their interlocutors, knowing that the Spirit’s groanings are too deep for words, even traditionalist words. Let them be willing to suffer at the hands of the litigious. Let them be eager to be defrauded to keep the scandal of factionalism away from the consciousness of the unbelieving world for whom the Lord suffered and died. Let the conservatives prefer to suffer injustice for the sake of the souls of their brethren; let them know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5.20).

Here’s the full entry.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Identity, Biblical Commentary & Reflection, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, Theology

11 comments on “Fr. Will Brown on Abp. Ramsey, Unity and what it would mean for Anglicans to be Calvary-centered

  1. RalphM says:

    “Let them be willing to suffer at the hands of the litigious. Let them be eager to be defrauded to keep the scandal of factionalism away from the consciousness of the unbelieving world for whom the Lord suffered and died.”

    Shall we add: Let the souls of their children and grandchildren be led astray? Too high a price….

  2. Craig Uffman says:

    First: [i]mea culpa.[/i] The correct title is actually “Evangelical Catholicism: The Ecclesiological Vision of Archbishop Michael Ramsey” but a posting snafu enabled yours truly to offer the feeble title you mention above. However, that is now corrected….
    Second: Personally, rather than RalphM’s suggestion above, I suggest we simply echo Will’s last paragraph, not shown above:
    [blockquote] In any event:

    Would that this difficult season of disagreement in the Anglican Communion were characterized by Christians competing with one another only to give the most extravagant gifts of self, to be the most gratuitous in their outpourings for the sake of one another. Would that the secular media told stories about parishes and dioceses attempting to give away their property to one another, rather than seeking to hold onto it at almost any cost, like ravenous dogs snarling over scraps. Would that when Anglican Christians sat down to eat, they might wait for one another, that the world might know that the Father sent the Son[/blockquote]

  3. The_Elves says:

    Thanks Craig for your correction. But ah, we’re in for it now! 😉 There’s a reason I left that last paragraph off…! Let’s just say, it’s not gonna be popular with the home crowd. I didn’t want to prejudice our readers before they’d had a chance to read the rest of what Fr. WB has to say.

  4. Craig Uffman says:

    Ah, wise one. I see your point. That’s why you get paid the big bucks…. Well, I pray that any of those who would be so moved will take your advice and ignore mine….because this is simply excellent Christian writing, well worth reading whether you agree or disagree with all of its content.

  5. RoyIII says:

    You do not think we should read the last paragraph and take it to heart?

  6. Craig Uffman says:

    I posted the last paragraph above (#2) because I find it a blessing. I hope everyone who reads it is able to receive it as such, for that is surely what Fr. Will intended.

  7. Phil says:

    Unfortunately, Craig, RalphM’s suggestion – “Let the souls of their children and grandchildren be led astray?” – is reality, and, once again, we have high-minded rhetoric that fails to address it. Give our property away to one another? I can be convinced that’s sacrificial and Christ-like humility. Give my children’s salvation away to unitarian nihilism? I would be damned myself for allowing one of these little ones to have a millstone hung around her neck.

  8. wvparson says:

    Isn’t it odd what vestiges of our former incarnational aproach to structure we hang on to, and naturally they are the most immediate. For many the “immediate” is a building in which perhaps our real family, or at least our church family has roots and memories. In the Anglican tradition, as demonstrated in our Canons, the building is symbol of a territorial mission to the neighborhood claimed by the Church. However far we may have strayed from that canonical vision in our modern “denominationalism’ it remains there in our heritage and our mission.

    That being said, I would not for a moment think that our children’s faith depends any more on a present building than on one which a separated congregation may erect as a rival in mission. Neither side can logically be expected to renounce such a mission and thus it is perhaps to be expected that strife over real estate goes deeper than mere “ownership.” Father Will, devastatingly has applied toe Gospel to our situation and it stings and hurts and we frantically seek the small rint to get us out of the ageement, normally of the order, “they did this, so we are free to do that.” Many of our “liberal” bishops are chanting this mantra today.

  9. Father Will Brown says:

    A great example of what I have in mind is All Saints Anglican Church in Peachtree City, Georgia. It used to be Saint Andrew’s in the Pines Episcopal Church. They voted overwhelmingly to leave TEC and the Diocese of Atlanta, and at the same time abandoned all claims to their property.

    Their children seem to be doing just fine. They are growing in the knowledge and love of the Lord, and will come of age having been set a wonderful example about what it means to leave everything to follow Jesus.

    That church is a very compelling example of discipleship.

    Jesus said “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”

    I’m not even saying THAT much. I’m just saying “And everyone who has left HOUSES… for his name’s sake….”

  10. Phil says:

    Father Brown – I was responding to RalphM’s last sentence and Craig Uffman’s (seeming) disagreement with Ralph’s extrapolation of your remarks. On your example given in #9, I am in complete agreement.

  11. The_Elves says:

    Fr. WB, loved your piece, but was put off by your snarling dogs line in the closing paragraph. I really think that was over the top and unfair in regards to many of the current disputes. I’m most familiar with the VA situation having close friends at a number of those parishes. Truro, Falls, etc. were very willing to PAY for their properties. They invested much in working towards a peaceful negotiated settlement.

    Also, it’s not easy in some cases to walk away. Truro and Falls have large campuses that are used 7 days a week, probably 12 hours per day. Truro has a pre-school, has a building it owns which hosts many missions organizations, has English classes for international students and immigrants, youth groups, LARGE Alpha courses, and of course all the normal stuff of a large thriving parish.

    It’s not just about finding some school gym to meet in on a Sunday. In the Washington D.C. area inner suburbs where would such mega-churches go? By leaving Truro and Falls very possibly would cripple the ministries of their churches. I don’t think you can claim that every parish that is trying to stay in its property is a snarling dog. Not when they wanted to settle and were willing to pay millions. The kind of walking away you talk of is a powerful witness, to be sure. And the right choice for some, I’m sure. But I don’t think you can paint with such a broad brush. I think there is also a witness in terms of staying and taking a stand. Certainly I hear that Truro, and I imagine Falls too are filled with visitors who want to come see why these churches have taken the stand they have made.

    –elfgirl speaking purely personally, not as an elf!, but too lazy to log out and comment under another name