1/03/2009

The Anglican Communion Institute on Patient Endurance

The Anglican Communion Institute, Inc. has posted an essay, “Patient Endurance - On Living Faithfully in a Time of Troubles.” It is worth the read. The full text is HERE. 
It continues to be worth noting that the Anglican Communion Institute (ACI) is essentially three theologians and a board. Which is not to say they need not be listened to, but rather that they are what they are, a think tank of a few. More than a blog of one, but not perhaps more than a blogsphere of many, whose collective credentials might weigh in with some gusto.
The artilce is worth the read. Here are few comments on the text: (text in red, comments in purple)

"When taken in conjunction with other remarks he has made, it is clear that the goal of the “outside strategy” with which Bishop Duncan is associated is in fact not a new province but a replacement province–one that will take TEC’s place within the Anglican Communion.  …"
 
That is true and affirms what I have been stating for some time: The object of ACNA is to replace TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada as the Provinces in North America part of the Anglican Communion. TEC, if it ignores this effort, does so at its peril.
  
“As we have viewed this discussion over time, it has become increasingly clear that the distinction between inside and outside strategies is unhelpful. It in fact has become both incoherent and obfuscating.

At one time this way of speaking was indeed quite accurate.  There were strategies and tactics designed to use meetings of the House of Bishops and the General Convention to stop TEC’s progressive march toward liturgical and even doctrinal Unitarianism.  It is now the case that the people we know do not see any near possibility of reform and they no longer pursue such purposes.  They have recognized the futility for near term of politically realistic change.  However, they do hold certain convictions, and they do have certain commitments that give shape to their present actions—actions that hardly qualify as passive.  These convictions and commitments are reflected in patient and enduring witness rather than in strategies and tactics designed to bring about desired future states.  They grow from trust that God will use faithful witness in his own time and in his own way to bring about his purposes—purposes that do not stem from our imaginings or our desires but from God’s justice and God’s mercy."
 
Just what are these convictions and commitments?  Here we must summarize a host of conversations to which we have been party over the past several years.  The convictions revealed are these:
 
The weakness and disarray of TEC (and indeed of the churches of the West) are best understood as the result of divine displeasure at pervasive misconstruals of Christian belief and practice coupled with a common life that blows neither “hot nor cold.”
 
About the “divine displeasure at pervasive misconstruals of Christian belief and practice," all I can say is this is a straw argument. The weakness and disarray of TEC is a product of late modernity and the traditional call to Christian belief, one that requires a disjunction between the operant beliefs and habit of ordinary life and the beliefs and habits of traditional faith.
 
About the second comment re blowing neither “hot or cold,” I could not agree more. TEC needs to blow hot more often, and recover or perhaps find a sense of missionary zeal.
 
“It is a form of delusion and disobedience to place oneself and ones friends outside the judgment God intends for the health of his church.  Rather, fidelity calls for acceptance of the judgment as both just and merciful.  It calls also for faithful Christians to live through that judgment to the end. This way is none other than the way Christ himself walked, believing not in a future state of his devising and constructing but in God’s power, through his death, to give life to the dry bones of his people.”

Yes.

“The pattern of Christ’s life suggests the necessity of a clear differentiation between a way faithful to his life and teaching and one that has simply assumed the form of the culture with which the leadership of TEC has identified.”
 
Rot. The charge of being part of the culture is simplistic and to a large extent simply wrong.

“The obedient form of differentiation suggested by the pattern of Christ is not separation but faithful persistence along a different path within the fellowship of the church that has nurtured one as a Christian but has, nonetheless, gone astray.”
 
Yes. Progressives have always known this.

“The commitments required by differentiation within TEC are these.
 
“Commitment to the Windsor injunctions to eschew (a) the blessing of sexual unions between persons of the same gender; (b) the ordination to holy orders of people involved in such relations; and (c) the unlicensed crossing of diocesan or provincial boundaries to provide Episcopal oversight.”

The Windsor Report has become an idol and its injunctions were never stated as such, but rather  in the form of recommendations.

“Commitment to an Anglican Covenant of mutual subjection in the Body of Christ that contains clear consequences for Provinces that do not choose to ratify the Covenant or do not abide by its terms once they have committed to them.”

Here the Anglican Communion Institute has staked its claim, that commitment to a Covenant is a necessity.  The ACI is in this instance simply wrong.  The Anglican Communion does not require a covenant in order to continue to be a fellowship of churches. It needs a Covenant in order to be a Church.
 
“Commitment to the historically established Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the effective symbol of the unity of a worldwide Communion of Churches.

Yes. 

“Commitment to the developed Instruments of Communion as the effective means of ordering the common life of the Communion.”

No. These are not “effective means of ordering the common life of the Communion,” rather these instruments are an effective means of conducting common work around agreed upon goals.

“Commitment to the evangelization and teaching of those who do not follow Christ as Lord and Savior, and service to those in need and distress.”

Agreed.

“Commitment to effective Christian formation of a new generation of well equipped lay and clerical leadership through new forms of theological education within the parishes and dioceses of TEC.”
 
That commitment is a common aspiration of all members of TEC.
 
 “Commitment to partnership (κοινωνία) in these goals with the various provinces of the Anglican Communion.”

Of course – given the reservations of these statements as goals. That is what the Anglican Communion has always been good for.

“The present conflict within TEC has brought these convictions and commitments into the full light of day and set them off from the strategies and tactics of separation.  It is in no way helpful to cover over the differences, but it is also very unhelpful to misrepresent or misunderstand them.  These differences are real and they stem from very different understandings of the nature and calling of the church and of the present circumstances of its life.  These are differences that call for careful thought and thorough debate rather than ill will and precipitous action.”
 
Right.

“It seems that those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America have decisively entered the path toward a replacement province.  The time for debate about this choice has now past.  Time and time alone will tell what future lies in store for this venture. "

Right.
 
“We shall not attempt to predict an outcome.  If our theology is right, such an attempt would be at a minimum presumptuous.”
 
Well, I will be presumptuous for you.  The outcome will be a sizable new world wide Anglican-like body, but one which will fracture within itself over purity issues.

Read the whole thing, HERE.


8 comments:

  1. Mark:

    I think the key is this comment you made:

    The Anglican Communion does not require a covenant in order to continue to be a fellowship of churches. It needs a Covenant in order to be a Church.

    There seems to be a great need, largely by folks with conservative leanings, to transform the Anglican Communion into the Anglican Church rather than continue it as as communion, or fellowship, of churches with a common ancestry. This is presumably because of a need to "purify" the Anglican Communion.

    The irony of this is, of course, that many of the Primates advocating this direction are also chafing at the lingering effects of being a church in a former colony. I would think it would be difficult to decry colonialism while advocating church centralization, but apparently not.

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  2. On the second province theory....I do not believe that it has ever been the intent of Duncan et alii to become a 2nd province. It has always been and continues to be a "replacement" province. (Cf http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/episcopal_church/report_of_the_house_of_bishops.php for a clear summary of the strategy and tactics of Bishop Duncan.) The interesting question is what I suspect is the "temporary" interim “2nd province” Hence the argument that there would be no "province boundary crossing" if ++Canterbury would simply acknowledge it. {Any who want to track Naughton’s sources should visit the Calvery Pittsburgh website which is helpful in terms of the history of its litigation which revealed +Duncan’s plans and provides links to the Allegheny Protonotary office where the litigation documents are posted}. EPfizH

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  3. Elegant writing, to be sure. Perhaps I can imitate the authors' style as I note the obvious omission in their list of "commitments required by differentiation within TEC":

    8. Commitment to a flat-earth, Pauline version of Christianity.

    Is anyone else humming "It's the Same Old Song" by the Four Tops?

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  4. The exclusive PLACE TO STAND...is in a swamp filled with quicksand...none of this gets better no matter how puritan zealots try and rationalize their scheming and excluding behavior away...mindaltering pontificating won´t cut it...patience or no patience, ready or not.

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  5. Fr. Mark,

    You quoted / wrote:
    {“We shall not attempt to predict an outcome. If our theology is right, such an attempt would be at a minimum presumptuous.”

    Well, I will be presumptuous for you. The outcome will be a sizable new world wide Anglican-like body, but one which will fracture within itself over purity issues. }

    In fact the new body wont come together before it fractures over what its most self-annointed-holy think is purity. Cf. Mr. Iker who already is in "impaired communion" with Mr. Duncan of all people! It appears Mr. Duncan is excessively tolerant of (submissive, homophobic) women. The N.A. super holy province wont make it to birth as a unity.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  6. The ACI labours under the illusion that TECUSA pays attention to them......

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  7. Nom de Plume5/1/09 11:22 PM

    Mark down this day. I agree with Observer.

    FWIW, I think there are two further points to note. One is that the goal of making the Episcopal Church a place that is unwelcoming to gays and is generally ruled by a legalistic reading of scripture, and a confessional approach to faith (if that is not an oxymoron) has not been abandoned. What the paper suggests is a shift of tactics from an aggressive posture to one of quiet, patient witness, coupled with an intensification of efforts to recruit more members to their ideological postion through education efforts. In other words, they have recognized that they don't have the critical mass to control the agenda, and that the previous aggressive tactics haven't worked. So they're advocating cooling down the rhetoric and working on gaining the necessary critical mass. Better than filing losing lawsuits (Hooray for the Supreme Court of California!)

    Second, the libellous suggestion that the Episcopal Church has been on a "progressive march toward liturgical and even doctrinal Unitarianism" must be answered. The charge is outrageous. The Episcopal Church is, in my experience, generally a doctrinally orthodox and liturgically orthoprax, progressive, inclusive, Trinitarian, Christian Church.

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  8. Just a few comments:

    Rot. The charge of being part of the culture is simplistic and to a large extent simply wrong.

    Meaning that to a certain extent it is actually true, though overly simplistic? Your refutation seems to lack a certain clarity or conviction.

    The outcome will be a sizable new world wide Anglican-like body, but one which will fracture within itself over purity issues.

    Yes, this is frequently predicted by the progressives. I think this new province owes a lot to these voices, in continually pointing out this danger. The fact that they have actually pulled a number of disparate groups together is quite remarkable, and may owe a lot to their opponents' expectation that they will fracture "over purity issues." I hope at some point they will give credit where credit is due.

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