2/21/2007

Gradualism is trembling ground.

This article in the Guardian, titled, Unity over integrity, ends with the following:

"Dr Williams' gradualist intention is to manage this divergence of beliefs. But there is nothing uplifting about the consequences. In the end he can do little to stop the separation, as the nominal figurehead of a movement whose members have acquired a confidence that has moved beyond their roots in the British empire. Anglicanism is evolving into two forms of protestantism: a scriptural conservatism and a more free-thinking search for modern spiritual guidance. Both have their adherents. Neither pays much attention to Dr Williams. He may not have to struggle to keep them together for much longer."

Mark Chapman notes, "Different churches across the globe can develop very different ways of thinking about God and his relations with the world. With its history of autonomous action and its absence of central authority, except at a very rudimentary level, Anglicanism has always been particularly prone to ever-increasing diversity." (Anglicanism, a Very Short Introduction ,Oxford, 2006, p 12).

The possible separation may reflect the genuinely felt differences in "thinking about God and his relations with the world." If so integrity lies there. There is no shame in coming down on one side or the other of such a fault line…it runs through here, and indeed through every church community. The shame may be in trying to make unity the place where one's integrity is lodged.

Archbishop Williams is a quite remarkable person and carrying a load no one ought to bear. It seems he feels he has been placed where he is to bear the marks of suffering for unity. That suffering has become, it seems, his integrity.

But unity has already been established in Jesus Christ. The unity of the Anglican Communion as a regulatory agency is not the unity that Our Lord prayed for. That unity is relational, not confessional. The Creator and The Annointed One are one in relation. Surely the Archbishop's integrity of person and position can be relational as well. Unity is not the cause for which he must suffer. My prayer is that he can let it go.

The unity of the Anglican Communion may be let go of as easily as breathing out. When it came into being, it was relational. It has existed relationally. Perhaps even in its disunity it can still be relational.


8 comments:

  1. "The unity of the Anglican Communion may be let go of as easily as breathing out. When it came into being, it was relational. It has existed relationally. Perhaps even in its disunity it can still be relational."

    Amen. Let it go, and let us move forward.

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  2. christopher+21/2/07 12:28 PM

    Notably, the very Godhead - the Blessed Trinity - is a Unity in Diversity, ever One yet distinctly Three.

    Because we are invited by God into relationship with God and neighbor, it would seem we are invited into a unity that by definition - theologically and anthropologically - requires and affirms diversity.

    We humans are clearly incapable of such unity on our own terms, and so we place our hope and trust in God.

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  3. "That unity is relational, not confessional." Sorry, Mark, but this is a false either-or. While there are varying degrees of looseness in what we confess, we are, as our shared liturgy makes plain, a confessional church. People have been bewitched over the generations to think that we have no shared and normative understandings of the faith. Granted we are not a confessional church in the way that some presbyterians are, or the RC is. But this kind of sloganeering 'we're not confessional, we're relational' just doesn't help things.

    The fact is that we hold (confess) certain things as true, and ought to hold (confess) certain things as true. We are divided about what those are. Attempts to get beyond this by kicking it up another level, only reduce our integrity. What I also find troublind is that while embracing Anglican comprehensiveness once meant allowing for different understandings and rituals of the Christian faith, all of which has some signficant cognitive content, we now have many in leadership positions who believe in a wholly non-cognitive view of religion, and thus of our faith. So we are asked to stretch our comprehensiveness to cover extreme options. I don't buy it.

    And, surely good relations, if you want to speak about relationality, must bear some relation to intents, truthfulness, policies, etc., and this, again, is what is at issue. John 2007

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  4. What kind of “unity” would it be if TEC were to accept, under threat of expulsion, a foreign authority and a reactionary theology that most of us don’t believe in? That’s not union, but coercion, a shotgun wedding that deserves only annulment.

    The Primates’ Communique and the draft Anglican Covenant envision an Anglicanism that is nearly unrecognizable to me.

    Where is the affirmation, foundational to the Church of England, of freedom from the machinations of foreign bishops?

    Where is the wisdom of the Elizabethan Settlement, the understanding that our unity is nurtured by, and expressed in, our willingness to worship together despite our theological differences?

    Where is the recognition that the genius of Anglican theology lies, in the famous words of Urban T. Holmes, III, in doing “theology with the left hand,” i.e., with abstract and creative right-brain processes, rather than through biblical literalism and appeals to hierarchical authority?

    Where is the insight that we learn from each other’s experience, as we all seek to better embody the Gospel in our own cities, towns and neighborhoods?

    What I see in these documents is the imposition of a hierarchy whose function will be to judge and control. We have already seen ample evidence that it is likely to be a hierarchy that is most responsive to the most strident and reactionary of bishops. All that I value most in the Anglican tradition is absent from the vision laid out in these documents.

    There is certainly more integrity in remaining true to our own values, than in abandoning them for the mere appearance of unity. I think the time may finally have come for TEC to cut the apron strings, strike out on its own, and become an unabashedly prophetic American church.

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  5. With a tip of the hat to Ben Franklin:

    Those who sacrifice friends and principals for unity will have none of these.

    It is time for us to go.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  6. cSo far, the two extreme reactions to the communique I've been hearing have all amounted to the same thing: a vote for disintegration. My fuller relfections are here: http://communioninconflict.blogspot.com/2007/02/on-reactions-to-communique.html

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  7. To Doug, I can only say that there are some very capable theologians at work among the Primates, and Rowan himself of course, who know that theology is not a game, and know also that popular slogans about Anglicanism while somewhat helpful must hold up under theological scrutiny. That you cannot recognize Anglicanism in the communique might force you to ask some important questions about the relationship between Christianity, or God, and the Anglican communion. I know that sentence sounds condescending, and I don't mean it to be, but surely one of the big issues here for us as a communion is that we have come to a point where we do have to decide what limits we put on certain things, what tolerances we allow, and what it means to be minimally united.

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  8. ++Rowan has a statement on why the WWAC is important here:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opini...2/23/ do2301.xml

    Sadly, it persuaded me that it is time to stop trying to hold the dysfunctional family together -- it will only continue to cause more pain & suffering.

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