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Thursday, August 23, 2007

If a tree falls in a forest . . .

. . . . . . . . and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Even rank neophytes to the study of philosophy know this popular question.

It echos a Zen Buddhist 'koan' - a paradoxical question whose elusive answer is of far less significance than the exercise of meditating on the question.

A fairly well-known koan is: "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?"

If one is to screw one's courage, don one's best asbestos gear and Kevlar vest and stroll through some of the Orthodox "Fundgelical" blogs - oh, and do try to avert your eyes when you see an LGBT leader being technologically stoned; it's weekly entertainment in some places - it would seem there is a fairly passionate debate raging about what it means to be a "true Anglican."

I know.

Big surprise, right?

Add this to the debate over whose interpretation of the Bible is "authentic" and which is "counterfeit." Or, whether or not God loves or hates the diversity which God has made. Or, whether or not one of the marks of a "true" church is radical inclusivity or selective membership based on rigid criteria.

The particular debate du jour asks, "If the Archbishop of Canterbury does not recognize your church or your bishop, are you still an Anglican?"

Actually, it more accurately should be asked, "If you choose not to recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury as the 'first among equals,' are you still a member of the Anglican Communion?"

Bishop Bob Duncan, Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes started it, of course, in his
address to the Fourth Annual Council at Bedford, Texas, 30th July, A.D.2007, when he declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference - two of the so-called four Instruments of Communion within our tradition – to be “lost”.

Okay. I know. I don't buy into the innovation of ecclesiastical theology called "the Instruments of Communion" either, but let's just go along with them for a bit. It's become rather a bit of a lark to watch how the "fundgelicals' continually foist themselves on their own petard. Actually, they've become quite good at it, really.

Duncan has said that God is “doing a new thing” in "allowing these elements to flounder and be let go."

Yup. This is the same crowd that snears (and, almost always snarls) when it is said that "God is doing a new thing" in calling Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion.

I swear to God! You can't make this stuff up.

The "Duncan Declaration of Disassociation" caused long-time conservative theologian, the Rev'd Dr. Ephraim Radner, perhaps one of the more scholarly, reasoned and eloquent voices on the right, to disassociate himself from the Anglican Network the very next day.

He's also, unfortunately, a member of the
IRD, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, a now notoriously conservative organization which is the primary funding source for the resurgence of the fundamental evangelical movement in mainstream religious America.

No one should have been surprised by Moderator Bob's statement. In an
address to the Convocation of the stridently Anglo-Catholic (and just barely) Episcopal Seminary at Nashotah House, on October 25, 2006, he stated, “The future of Anglicanism depends on the shift of its systems and institutions from North to South, and from Anglo- to Afro-, Sino- and Latino-.”

Duncan also argued that Anglicanism has historically had a
"practical magisterium" - the Book of Common Prayer. Oh, but not just any old BCP - but most especially NOT the 1979 American version.

Get real! He means the 1662 version.

You gotta hand it to the man. He is nothing if not consistent. And, entirely predictable.

Then again, Dr. Stephen Noll has been writing about this for years. The Rev'd Professor Noll is a former Episcopal priest, retired, now active in the Ugandan Anglican Church where he runs a seminary there.

I spent a very long year one week in Edmundton, Washington with Stephen, in one of the first attempts to reconcile the schism which, even 10 years ago, seemed to be looming large on the Agnlican horizon.

This particular effort eventually gave birth to the New Commandment Task Force, an effort to which I willingly dedicated 5 years of my life, even though it came to no tangible good effect to stem the schism which is presently upon us.

When Steven steadfastly refused to participate in the closing celebration of Holy Eucharist, even after the beseeching of his conservative brothers, I knew we were in the proverbial handbasket which inevitably leads to the firey destination with which good intentions are paved.

In a letter he wrote to the Windsor Bishops on Easter Friday, 2007, but then circulated widely on
July 28th, he wrote: "Network bishops must unite behind Robert Duncan, and Common Cause partners must uphold him in his role as a “focus of unity” within the faithful remnant in North America. Let it be clear as day that our movement is directed toward true unity in the Body of Christ and not a fragmentation by personality and preference. Let our movement be truly catholic and ecumenical."

Other so-called Windsor bishops are doing just that, joining Duncan in asserting that one can be Anglican without being in communion with Canterbury.

Indeed, they are clearly heeding Noll's advice, and take it one step further, claiming to emerge the "true" Anglicans, especially if Rowan is . . . "manipulated", yes, that's the word they're using . . .by the Episcopal Bishops into swallowing their own batch of traditional "Anglican Fudge" when they meet with Rowan during the House of Bishops meeting in New Orleans in September.

In that Good Friday letter, Dr. Noll wrote, "Network bishops must prepare for separation as best they can and stay united in fellowship with each other and their Common Cause partners. Don’t wait for the “Windsor bishops.” Once there were 60 Irenaeus bishops, then 40 AAC bishops, now there are 20 “Windsor Bishops” and a dozen (and counting down?) Network bishops. Unless you are prepared to act and act in concert, you and your clergy and dioceses will be picked off one by one."

The Rt. Rev'd Fitzsimons Allison, retired bishop of South Carolina, recently
wrote,"Duncan and Common Cause will be an integral part of the Anglican Communion perhaps one not centered in Canterbury and whose Primate is not the appointment of a prime minister elected by an aggressively secularized Western post-modern culture."

With all due respect, your grace, I would say that anyone who is not centered in Canterbury might claim to have her theology centered in AnglicanISM but that same person can not claim to be part of the Anglican COMMUNION.

Bishop David Bena, formerly of Albany, currently Bishop Suffragan of CANA, recently
declared, "We are at a New Reformation, brothers and sisters. This age can be compared with the times of the sixteenth century. Those of us in CANA are attempting, with a spirit of humility, to stand firm in our biblical faith, the faith of Anglicanism."


Which, I think, creates a new spiritual koan for The Episcopal / Anglican Church, one which the bishops might choose to meditate upon as they prepare to gather together with the Archbishop of Canterbury in September:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury invites and there is Anglican Communion; what is the sound of Anglicanism?"


Lisa said...

It's good to hear you speaking on these issues again, Elizabeth.

And I say a hearty "amen" to your essay.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, despite some of us who have worked very hard to avoid "the near occassion of the sin" of schism, others have worked even harder to bring it about.

Some have decided that the only response to a percieved heresey is schism.

And so, it's a bit like watching an accident happen in slow motion.

After a while, there's little to comment on except, "Yes, it's going to happen."

There are so many other things in the world worth commenting on.

Bill said...

Hi Elizabeth, I see that you are back and well rested; possibly even feisty. And now, on to philosophy. As an ersatz poet, I would say that the sound of one hand clapping is loneliness.

But we as Episcopalians should not feel lonely. We’ve been on our own since 1789 and we have many Episcopalian hands clapping and we make a great sound. I know that there is fear over what is happening in the Anglican Communion but I don’t share in it.

I’m not sure why there is this need to be part of something larger, especially if the something larger causes nothing but consternation and anguish. I sometimes find it worrisome to be part of something so large and with one person calling the shots. Having been a Roman Catholic in a former life, I fear going in that direction. We don’t need a Pope. We don’t really need the ABofC and I could care less if he recognizes me or not.

As far as what the BCP says, one view will never be accepted by all. It’s an exercise in futility.

In my mind, the question becomes, do we serve our people or do we serve our leaders or do we just serve our own respective agendas. Truthfully, I’m more worried about poverty, the homeless, and myriad other social issues than who gets invited to what convention or what the right wing pointy hats are saying, or which version of the Bible or BCP is truth. The time we have on this earth is fleeting and soon we are all going to be standing before Christ trying to explain why we wasted that precious arguing and not “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth+,

The vegetative moral sense of the neo-puritans causes pain to so many.

They definitely need to re-read:

Fry and Thou by Martin Tuber

[I've seen you on Mad Priest's blog and, since he's on holiday, I thought a little pun might give you a smile. You don't need to post the actual comment since its off topic.]

Nicholodeon said...

For almost 20 years I corresponded with the Late H. Bonnell Spencer, O.H.C. He wrote time and again of his Anglican church, and I wish he were still with us.

He lives in my memory as a modern Anglican divine, and Rev EK, you and he would have got along so well together. Two voices raised in harmony.

Weiwen Ng said...

perhaps the appropriate question is,

If the Anglican Communion falls apart in the middle of the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?


Liz+ said...

Nope. Not a peep.