Simon Mein, who writes on his blog SimonSurmises very infrequently, has pulled off another fascinating feast for thought. Dan and I and many others may wander off into grump-land but Simon has landed on the other shore. He writes as an elder who discovers again and again with refreshing insistence that radical commentary is a lively and ongoing tradition in Anglican though. His essay, Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, is well worth the read. The introduction is a reminder that we still have preacher/teachers that believe that a twenty-five minute sermon is woefully short. I have heard Simon preach and I must say he pulls it off.
Simon introduces the claim that "outside the Church there is no salvation" and puts that in a context that sets the tone for the sermon that follows. The whole thing is well worth the read.
Then there is Dan Martins, over at Confessions of a Carioca. He published Friday an entry titled, Diachronic Koinonia," that I recommend for two reasons: (i) it is very well written and (ii) it fulfills one of the cardinal rules of curmudgeon - hood, namely the comment that things are going to hell in a hand basket. (See, I can use the word 'hell' in a reasonably preacher like fashion.) His version of the curmudgeon gripe in this essay is this: "This is the practice of diachronic koinonia. Until recent years, one could make a plausible case that such practice was in the DNA of the Episcopal Church. Lately, not so much. We are, in fact, rapidly mutating."
What I like about the essay is that Dan rightly points out a continuing issue for all of us - that we need to remember that we are part of a koinonia, fellowship, that includes past and future as well as present members.
I found Dan's examples of "mutating" unconvincing, although I believe there is plenty of mutating going on across the spectrum. His examples were these: "Bonnie Anderson's assertions (in her message to the House of Deputies this past week) that there is a theology behind TEC's polity, and that such polity is the vehicle for Divine revelation are among the signs of the ongoing mutation. The Presiding Bishop's Pentecost message that speaks not of the Holy Spirit, but simply of "Holy Spirit" is another. "
Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies, said this, which is as close to her saying there is a theology behind TEC's polity etc as I can find in her letter: "The input of the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church is especially important as the Anglican Communion considers the development of a covenant. In the Episcopal Church the belief that God speaks uniquely through bishops, laity, priests and deacons, enables our participatory structure and allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment. The joint work of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops is the institutional expression of this belief."
It is unclear to me just how this is a mutation of what we have heretofore believed. It is not a new idea that the people of the Church - all "orders" - have a unique role as a vehicle for revelation and insight as God speaks in and through them. And it is not a new idea that "the joint work of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops is the institutional expression of this belief." Granted, it is the institutional expression for this church, and granted there are other communities of Christians not part of the Episcopal Church. But we believe that we are informed not solely by one or the other "order" within the body, but by the whole body. I fail to see strange or new things mutating here.
The Presiding Bishop did indeed use the phrase, "Holy Spirit" without the article three times, and closed with a reference to "the Spirit." Dan may be on to something here. Perhaps the Presiding Bishop has been listening to Pentecostals who understand Holy Spirit to be sometimes "the" Holy Spirit, an outside agency, an sometimes speak of be a "Holy Spirit people" with that same spirit residing in us and exciting us and making us new. But I don't find her use of "Holy Spirit" in any way a denial of the objectivity of "The Holy Spirit." Rather I find it an interesting way of suggesting that we can be filled with Holy Spirit and set on fire for the Gospel of Salvation. This is an interesting use of language here to suggest a way of internalizing the Holy Spirit. It is not, I would suggest, a "mutating" of the faith received.
Dan Martins article is to be recommended not because of the grump at the end, but because of the reminder at the beginning, a reminder written with clarity and grace.
I am grateful to both Dan and Simon. They give a better tone to writings in Anglican Blog-Land than we often find, and what they say is provoking.