Ephraim Radner: How Shall we Hope for the Anglican Communion?

…the issue goes beyond an interchange of views. What has happened is that TEC has demonstrated repeatedly an incapacity or unwillingness to deal with the views of the rest of the Communion with actual Christian responsibility. Such responsibility is assumed in council and by respecting the decisions of council.

TEC will do this on several bases: Communion councils have no legislative authority, she says, and therefore do not require adherence; majority votes by global South patriarchs are intrinsically undemocratic, and so should not be granted power; the Kingdom of God favors diverse viewpoints, and so uniform actions in the Communion are actually unfaithful. But the main reason TEC gives for not deferring to the decisions of the Communion’s representative bodies is that she is being “prophetic”, and therefore is being called by God quite precisely to oppose and subvert these decisions.
The self-given prophetic mantle is a claim that is difficult to argue against, by definition. But it is worth noting that the convenience of this difficulty is itself a major part of the problem in the Communion: TEC has adopted a self-identity that cannot be questioned and overturned, and thereby she has become impervious to all reason. This is not just a matter of style, as though the point is “let’s all tone down our rhetoric” ”“ a suggestion one hears a good bit, as if talking more quietly would solve our problems. No: at issue here is that TEC has laid out a way of approaching disagreement that brooks no compromise, and therefore makes impossible constructive engagement altogether. On this matter, I commend a fine essay by Cathleen Kaveny in the recent volume Intractable Disputes about the Natural Law: Alisdair MacIntyre and his Critics (Notre Dame, 2009). Kaveny, hardly a right-wing shill, ably points out how reasoned moral discourse in America especially has been utterly eviscerated of common avenues of engagement largely because of “prophetic” commitments to ideological fixities that finally amount to self-blinding.

But there is more to this prophetic self-designation: its effect of moral intransigence is simply contrary to the specifically Christian vocation of deferring to the Body, a vocation that asks that we “not insist on our own way” (1 Cor. 13:5), and “count others as better than ourselves” (Philippians 2;3)….

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Anglican Primates, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ecclesiology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Global South Churches & Primates, Instruments of Unity, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Windsor Report / Process

11 comments on “Ephraim Radner: How Shall we Hope for the Anglican Communion?

  1. robroy says:

    A few points.

    Ephraim+ makes a call to engage Ms Schori. There are numerous New Testament warnings both by Jesus, Paul and John not to have dealings with false teachers. At what point do these injunctions kick in? How much falser than Ms Schori does one have to be?

    Of course, the reason for those injunctions is that “engaging” false teachers give them street cred and allows them to mislead more. The primates who vow not to participate with Ms Schori present understand this simple fact.

    Is the jibe against the “New Reformation” and the paraphrase of Lloyd Bentsen warranted? The Gafcon leaders are no Martin Luther but was Martin Luther a “Martin Luther”? His speaking out against indulgences seems all to common-sensible from a more modern point of view and he apparently was not the only one to do so. What made him remarkable was that he didn’t burned at the stake, which was more a function of his German prince protectors. Otherwise, Martin Luther was just another, among many, to call the Church back to orthodoxy.

    Our own “New Reformation Advocate”, Father David Handy makes a similar unremarkable call to return to Biblical orthodoxy. A much more important point that David+ makes is that what doomed the Episcopal denomination is that the pews were filled with neither warm nor cold pew potatoes and that there is a need for the TEC replacement to have highly participating members. The liberals who are busily unwelcoming conservatives are right in some sense – quality over quantity. Highly participating members would not have been swayed by the TEClubs false teachers.

  2. Blue Heron says:

    As I read Ephraim’s thinking, he seems to assume that TEC continues to be part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church – a church in error, but still part of the Church and therefore worth continuing to fight for. What I find myself wrestling with, however, is whether there comes a point that a church has so turned aside from catholic faith (if not order) that it ceases to have any claim to being part of the Church catholic. My instincts tell me that with the “in your face” ordination of a second openly gay bishop (and now with the very public same-sex marriage performed by the Massachusetts bishop), TEC has said basically “We’re content to be just another Protestant sect in America.”

    I also find myself wondering whether the ability to maintain discipline in terms of catholic faith and order is not an essential part of being truly catholic. In this regard, I fear that Anglicanism’s inability so far to exercise such discipline puts our whole tradition in jeopardy. Ephraim criticises the Gafcon primates for boycotting the upcoming primates’ meeting, but given the previous attempt to exercise godly discipline at Dar es Salaam that was so thoroughly sabotaged, I wonder if they are not attempting to exercise such discipline in the only way they now can – by saying essentially “When the rest of the communion decides to honor its commitments, let us know. Otherwise, we’ll sit it out and continue to be the Church we believe we have always been called to be.”

  3. SC blu cat lady says:

    What bothers me about these “TEC believes this or does that” statements is that it includes all of us including the few faithful remaining in TECUSA. We are brushed with the same “heretical” brush and that is just not right. Granted we are a minority but I wish authors would be a bit more careful in their wording. I get the meaning….. but still it hurts to be “branded” with the “TEC” label.

  4. pendennis88 says:

    Always have hope. But hope is not a plan.

    I, too, think that the criticism of the global south primates is overdone.

    Which of the separate hopes for these three bodies, if implemented by that body by itself, would resolve this problem even if the other two bodies do not change? I think the honest answer is the hopes for TEC and the ABC. Either one holds in its hands the solution. If the global south did all that ACI hopes for, nothing would change. Nothing. And because I am most forlorn for the hope for TEC, while the ABC can make his choice on his own, it is the ABC upon whom the most responsibilities lie.

    And further, I for one do not think the global south have said they would not meet in primates council again. I think they will be happy to meet again with other primates once the Archbishop convening the council is not seen as deceitful. And note that this did not begin with excluding TEC so much as to bring the orthodox in the ACNA into the communion. Once the ABC made the decision, set at Lambeth, that TEC bishops are in and the ACNA bishops are out and the global south had to choose who to be in communion with, I do not see how the global south had much of a choice – they are orthodox and wish to be in communion with orthodox bishops. And they have continued to do so. But don’t blame them for making their choice. It is the ABC who forced it upon them, in consultation with advocates for TEC’s innovations. For what it is worth, I continue to think that if the ABC had been so bold as to invite both TEC and ACNA bishops to Lambeth, it may have been rollicking, but the communion might be more intact today, and still have councils of the sort ACI would like to have. But he did not. That would have required a broader nature. He and TEC can answer for the results, I think.

    So what to do? I don’t know. What I think will happen is that the global south and other orthodox will just continue to go their own way, creating more honest structures if the ABC will not. Another Archbishop may heal the wounds in the future. Until then we have a communion in name only.

  5. KingDavid says:

    The very great, very disabling mistake of ACI is to brand the ACNA/Gafcon Anglicans as the problem in the Anglican Communion. This totally distorts their messages and inflicts wounds, not remedies, to the Body of Christ. This allows them to continue their defense (essentially) of TEC authorities when defense is no longer helpful to orthodox catholic faith itself. I used to be devoted to the ACI writings but have realized some time ago that they are simply off-track now for the reasons I mention; I (and mine) no longer pay attention to them. I wish they could see what they are doing.

  6. Daniel says:

    Remember the T-Shirts that came out in response to everyone being in a tizzy over the movie “Titanic?” The shirts had a picture of the ship going down and a caption below it that read “it sank, get over it.”

    I think this applies to the Anglican Communion unless somebody develops a serious case of ecclesia militans. If you have a theological sinecure and can afford to sit around over tea and crumpets while discussing deep thoughts, I suppose you can wring your hands endlessly over the Anglican “troubles.” For the those of us in the real world, that won’t work anymore.

    Instead of “TEC Welcomes You,” how about “TEC – Increasing Irrelevance for a Post-Modern World Still Trapped in Original Sin.”

    And yes, frustration with this whole situation breeds an excess of snarkiness.

  7. Mike Watson says:

    The writer of comment 5 says that he no longer pays attention to Dr. Radner et al., but at the same time says some fairly specific things in a comment addressing current writings of those he no longer pays attention to. It would be easier to overlook the inconsistency if the description of the content of the writings were accurate. It is not plausible to say Dr. Radner is branding the ACNA/Gafcon Anglicans as “the problem” in the Anglican Communion or that the ACI is continuing a defense of TEC authorities. It would be good for folks to try to look at what Dr. Radner has written objectively rather than reflexively and assess where the force of his criticism lies.

  8. KingDavid says:

    Of course I always read the ACI articles; I mean that I just don’t have that regard for them–that hope– that I once did. Their coldness to ACNA (not always explicit, of course), and often to Gafcon, serves the Episcopal Church in practical fact. ACI writers really have suggested at times that these bodies represent a fragmentation of the Communion that is part of the problem; the writers were not even completely happy with the splendid South-South Encounter in Singapore, which was so inclusive of orthodox Anglicans as to include some of ACNA. The present article is not on this topic, of course, but I am commenting on the ACI stance more largely–including comments that ACI leaders have written here on this blog. I have read every word of the ACI statements over the years, desperately looking for something to encourage people like me who are place-bound professionally (can not just move away) but who can not in good conscience attend their revisionist parishes in a revisionist diocese (after real but futile and costly efforts to make room for orthodoxy). I don’t think ACI has a real, practical understanding of that condition. The pity is that, as we know, Dr. Ephraim has high standing with Rowan Williams and might have represented us favorably but confines himself, in my opinion, to an ecclesiology that does not allow for that. You may say that it’s not his purpose to encourage me or people like me, but that’s why I say that I no longer regard his writings as I have done. His lack of understanding of the decisions of people like Mouneer Anis, not to attend this next Primates’ Meeting, is distressing and, I say again, that it gives a certain kind of support to TEC claims that a boycott is the real problem in the Communion.

  9. cseitz says:

    Thank you, #6, for indicating that #5 has not focused on the main burden of the essay by Radner, which is the topic of this thread. The GS is a major bloc of major leaders, and we can but pray that it comes together as a united force. If KingDavid wants to criticize Radner for not believing Gafcon is the way forward, he can as well criticize +Anis, +Chew, +Earnest and all the others who have not chosen this way forward. This article by Radner says very about ACNA at all and it is not the subject being discussed. One might also compare http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=106003 and Philip Turner’s essays. The point is for the conservative primates to understand as a group how best to challenge the mess we are in. Some believe that is to show up and stand firm (so Idowu-Fearon) as in councils of old, others to stay away. In either case, it is critical that the conservative unity of the Communion find a way to keep the communion from splintering into sub groups. That would be a serious loss.

  10. cseitz says:

    #7 — I might add, if you think Radner has no understanding of what it is like to be in a tough situation church-wise, you might read the exchanges with the Bishops of Toronto, where he serves as a Priest and teacher. Or, consider his role in a difficult diocese, like Colorado. It serves little purpose to paint him or others as ‘above the fray’ — this is simply factually wrong. You may disagree with him about how to challenge the present system, but not on the grounds that he fails to understand the realities or fails to have a ‘practical understanding’ — No, he has this up to his eyeballs at present in the Diocese of Toronto, along with a significant bloc of parish clergy and their people.

  11. KingDavid says:

    It’s true I wrote before reading the recent post from Toronto. I know that Dr. Radner’s article is one of his best, actually, pointing ultimately to faith in God. A few years ago, and maybe even before the new Standing Committee of the Communion was sprung upon us, I would have hailed his stance without reservation. No doubt I would be one of those he accuses of having lost faith now; to be sure, I no longer have faith in TEC/ACoC, but that doesn’t mean one no longer has faith in God. I think there is an assumption in the article that faith in God should necessarily be manifested by faith in the institution which, however, has failed in the North American context and far beyond. The Gafcon Primates have tried, over and over, the route that Dr. Radner favors, and I don’t see why they should come in for blame. By the way, I still don’t think many church leaders, including ACI, do realize the situation of those who have essentially NO other orthodox Anglican companion or presence in the region–no CP and no hope of one, nowhere to go in their community (unless it be the RC Church, as a bystander). There are such places and one feels abandoned by TEC and those who stand by TEC’s exclusive right to represent the Communion in this place. I say this with respect, #8-9, for I realize the great capabilities of those in ACI; some of you are my fellow academics and, of course, unusually gifted fellow Christians.