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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Charity, sweet charity

The Primates have finished their meeting in Dublin. What this one part of the four so-called "Instruments of Unity" will have accomplished in the name of unity remains to be seen.

There is no fixed agenda at the Primates meetings and there are no formal votes on resolutions. The meetings are held rather to agree on guidance and set the general direction of the Communion.

It is the ultimate expression of the pragmatism which is one of the central, unifying focuses of the Spirit of Anglicanism.

They have studied their role as Primates - despite the boycott of several Primates whose absence called into question the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ability to fulfill his role as gatherer of the Communion - listened to reports of the horrific worldwide manifestations of gender-based violence, opined on the situation in Haiti and the global effects of Climate Change, and issued daily reports on their activities and thoughts, including a surprisingly strong condemnation of the brutal murder of Ugandan LGBTQ activist, David Kato.

The Primates of the Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa, the Southern Cone of Latin America, and South East Asia all boycotted the meeting in protest against the attendance of Katharine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the US.

The Primates said that liberal parts of the Communion had “torn the fabric of our life together” and that they could therefore “no longer maintain the illusion of normalcy”.

This will, no doubt, embolden the Archbishop of Canterbury to increase his campaign for the Anglican Covenant which he believes will provide the means by which the Anglican Communion can stay together.

When I'm not furious at the man, I actually feel sorry for him.

The Anglican Covenant may pass a majority of dioceses and provinces in the Anglican Communion, but I believe it will prove to be an unenforceable and therefore irrelevant document produced by an Archbishop who longs for relevancy in his leadership but remains utterly clueless about the true Spirit of Anglicanism.

And so, The Anglican Covenant will fail miserably, doing untold violence to the essentials of the unity of the Anglican Communion in the process.

Here's but one example of Blessed Rowan's cluelessness: At the press conference at the end of the Primates meeting, Dr. Williams indicated that he is planning a global tour to mend fences to, he said, in his very own inimical way (Are you ready for this? Okay, here we go), "find a synthesis between the thesis of sexual orthodoxy and the antithesis of homosexual practice".

Honestly, I don't think Jesus understands what Rowan is trying to say.

If Dr. Williams didn't hate Americans so, I should think he had taken a page from Ronald Regan's book. I'm old enough to remember when "Uncle Ronnie" defined ketchup as a vegetable for school lunches. The Tea Party is now trying to define "forcible rape" - which leads one to ask, "What, exactly, is 'non-forcible rape'?".

1984, anyone?

Don't even get me started about +++His mixed messages on the brutal murder of David Kato.

The man giveth and then the man taketh away.

The so-called "orthodox" folks at GAFCON (Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans - I know, the words don't match the letters of the acronym.) - the folks for whom the Covenant was written in the name of "unity" - have already rejected it in favor of something they call The Jerusalem Declaration.
Chicken Little - founder of "The Sky is Falling" School of Theology

Those bloggers who consider themselves "orthodox" (by which they mean 'right'), have recently made dire predictions about the decline of the Anglican Communion. One graduate of the "Chicken Little School of Theology" wrote that
". . . .orthodox Anglicans worldwide will increasingly coalesce around GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration as the Covenant flounders and fails to unite Anglicans. It might well be true that Rowan Williams' day is also done with a communion now in total shambles."
No, I'm not going to give you a link to that. My virtue would be imperiled.

Matt Kennedy as drawn by The Pluralist
Yet another stood firmly and said,
"This will not be “the end of the Anglican Communion.” It will not even be the beginning of the end. Don’t expect any dramatic provincial breaks with Canterbury or any calls for a new official Communion center. Do expect the theological and relational ditch presently separating the conservative provinces from Canterbury, the Communion Instruments, and the liberal/moderate provinces to steadily widen to a chasm, a gulf, a deep dark ravine of healthy differentiation. But think of it as a separation rather than a divorce."
David Anderson as drawn by The Pluralist
David Anderson, former priest in The Episcopal Church and now Bishop in the American Anglican Council has never been one to pull rhetorical punches. He can always be relied upon to pepper his messages with militaristic, violent words. Here's his take on the Primates' meeting (emphasis mine):
The Anglican Communion is a wonderful global family that has some real dysfunction, and as is often the case, the heart of the dysfunction sits in the center. The heart of the dysfunction is not TEC, nor Bishop V. Gene Robinson, nor Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. That these have perpetrated grossly unbiblical misconduct and deserve to be severely punished is clear enough, but to posit the blame on all of them gives them entirely too much credit and feeds their sense of importance. The blame properly falls on the spiritual father who should have disciplined the miscreants and is now unable to act for the well being of both the miscreants and the rest of the family. To be effective, discipline needs to be clear, redemptive in nature, and prompt - all of which Dr. Williams is unwilling and unable to fulfill.

In a more perfect world we could announce, "NEXT!" and pick a new one. As it is, the process will be unsure, open to failure, possessing unforeseen collateral effect, and take much more time. Will the Anglican Communion survive? Possibly, but most likely not in the form we have known. Perhaps there will be a healing of the orthodox Global South stress fracture, and a new way forward will be found. Fortunately, God is still sovereign, and the church still belongs to him, and in time he will set right what man has over turned.
He's a real charmer, that one, isn't he?

This is not the first time the history of Western Christendom that there have been allegations of a heresy or schism that threatens to "tear the fabric of our life together". Not the second or the third time - or even the 9,999,999th.

Conflict and crisis are in the DNA of the organized religion known as Christianity.

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have faced many a crises before. And, we've handled them very, very differently. No "reports" from Windsor or Jerusalem or even Canterbury. No "high commissions". No "covenants" - except for the one we say at Baptism.

That was back in the day before we had "Four Instruments of Unity" Then, we had the Book of Common Prayer to keep us united.

I should note that The Instruments of Unity only came into being in 2004, as articulated in the Windsor Report.

I was doing some reading for my course in Spirituality, and discovered the essay, "An Anglican Interpretation of the Christian life", by Owen Thomas, in a book entitled, Christian Life and Practice

Thomas begins by defining what Anglicanism is not. Generally, it does not focus on a confession of faith, although it is included in the service of baptism and the recitation of the Creed at Holy Eucharist.

Neither does Anglicanism emphasize a particular kind of experience. Yes, we do have "Charismatic" and Evangelical Anglicans among us who gather together around a shared experience of a "personal Savior," but that is not the emphasis of the Spirituality of Anglicanism.

Anglicanism, however, does focus on practice - on doing what the church does as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer. "Lex orandi, lex credendi" is the guiding principle of the Spirit of Anglicanism. "The law of prayer is the law of belief" and we pray on the via media - the middle way of Anglicanism - which is wide enough to gather us together in our great diversity and unify us in the glory of prayer.

Ultimately, it is prayer that unites us. Always has been. Always will be.

Which makes the defining characteristic of Anglicanism one that is ultimately highly pragmatic.

In this way, Thomas asserts, "Anglicanism follows the practice of rabbinic Judaism, the primitive church and Eastern Orthodoxy."

Thomas offers a classic example of this pragmatism in The Episcopal Church by offering a segment of the report of the Advisory Committee regarding the censure of the Rt. Rev'd James A Pike in 1967 when he was charged with heresy.

It matters not what you think of Pike's theology. I remember a story told by Paul Moore, the former and now sainted Bishop of New York, wherein a certain Bishop of the Church of England had declared that he no longer believed in the Resurrection.

Upon learning of this, a group of concerned seminarians stormed the office of the Dean of a certain Theological School in England and lamented, "The Bishop of Whatever has said he no longer believes in the Resurrection! Whatever will happen to the Church, now, m'Lord?"

The Dean took a long puff on his pipe, looked up at the befuddled lads and said, "Boys, just remember that one day, the Bishop of Whatever will die."

Last time I heard, Bishop Pike had died. In an Israeli desert. And, the church lives on. So does my faith, and the faith of millions Christians, including Episcopalians who are Anglicans.

The House of Bishops stated that the Report "establishes a position which we welcome and generally share. The report states:
"When Episcopalians are questioned about their supposed orthodoxy or heterodoxy of one of their members, their most likely response is to ask whether or not he wishes - sincerely and responsibly - to join them in the celebration of God's being and goodness in the prayers and worship of the Prayer Book. Assuming his integrity, they would not be likely to press the question beyond that point.

....We would say that the willingness of a person to share in the worship of the Prayer Book, with a consenting mind is, for most purposes, an adequate test of his right to claim the privileges of the community."
Thomas adds, "This approach has been put in a different way in a statement about doctrine:
What is required is essentials in unity, in non-essentials, libertality, and in all things, charity."
Admittedly, if one likes one's religion "straight up, no chaser," one quickly discovers that what Anglicanism provides is very much an acquired taste.

However, for those who like the subtle bouquet of pragmatism with the aged, tart yet fruity blush of an ambiguous finish on the palate, Anglicanism provides a mature, balanced communion wine with flashes of brilliance unique to this part of the Vineyard.

We - especially Dr. Williams - seem not only to have lost our taste for Classical Anglicanism, we seem to have developed a certain spiritual amnesia about charity.

We didn't need a Covenant after the so-called heresy of Bishop Pike. Neither did we need one after the so-called heresy of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy.

We don't need a Covenant after the so-called heresy of Bishop Gene Robinson or Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

We need the confession of our Baptismal Covenant and the Creeds and the uniting prayer of the life-giving diversity of the Book of Common Prayer.

Oh, and charity. Yes, in all things, charity. Especially as we struggle to define that which is essential to our unity.

We certainly don't need what one so-called Anglican who stands firmly called "nothing short of firm, unwavering, discipline (to) restore the health, wellbeing, and unity of the Communion."

And, we don't need what +Anderson calls, the "discipline" of "the miscreants."

Charity, sweet charity, is what the Anglican communion needs now.

As long as we look to the institutional "Instruments of Communion" - the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' meeting - for our unity, we'll never find it.

For Christians - especially those of us who claim to be Anglican - the impulse for unity arises from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17) whose consistent petition was that we all be made one, as He and God are one. (John 17:21)

That impulse is nurtured and fed by our common prayer, as we experience it together in community, in the Book of Common Prayer.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry's "The Little Prince" reminds us of the secret of real leadership: "Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."
"Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Perhaps the Princes of the Church need to remember this essential of the unity of our faith.

It is not to be seen in mitres and crosiers, rochet and chimere, purple shirts or ornate golden pectoral crosses.

Neither is it to be found in reports and statements, communiques or covenants.

Perhaps - just perhaps - if they spent more time together concerned about that which is "seen and the unseen" in the Anglican Communion, they just might discover a pathway to the essentials of the unity of the faith - and the faithful - they are charged to guard.


June Butler said...

Will His Grace grace us with his presence in his global tour to mend fences and "find a synthesis between the thesis of sexual orthodoxy and the antithesis of homosexual practice"? Lawd 'a' mercy!

Ah, I fear if Rowan comes once again to our shores, his purpose will be to scold us - again. Or, he may choose to visit with the schismatics, rather than the flock in the Episcopal Church. Or, if we're lucky, we'll be left entirely off his travel itinerary.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mimi - I'm not holding my breath expecting anything but scolding from +++Himself - whether from near or afar. He's totally clueless.

Jim said...

If he comes here I think ++Katherine should tell him he cannot wear a miter because we do not consecrate incompetents or homophobes. Of course that would not apply in South Carolina...


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well said, my brother.

Revd. Neal Terry said...

With you all the way Elizabeth. Your sentiments are redolent of thoughts expressed in my last sermon. Still it is difficult at times not to believe that we have a diferent bible to his nibs.

it's margaret said...

Mimi --if he is looking to mend broken fences, I would put money on it that he visits only the schismatics. I mean, after all, continued demeaning statements and double-speak need no apology.

Elizabeth --you are a keeper of the fire. You keep it hot and you keep sharing the light. Keep blowing on the coals dear sister.

Lapinbizarre said...

Excellent post. He's completely clueless.

Only the lower half of South Carolina, Jim. Bishop Waldo of Upper SC has called a theological council (April 7/8) "to engage in substantive biblical and theological dialogue on norms for how we are in relationship with one another and to practice these norms in a dialogue on human sexuality" and has just appointed as his Canon to the Ordinary Tommy Tipton, a priest from the Charleston-based diocese, on whom Sarah Hey has compiled a file of which the KGB could be justly proud. I give its URL ( so that readers who wish may see how very different Bishop Waldo & his diocese are to the diocese and bishop south of the border, and so that they may, should they be so inclined, admire Ms Hey's diligence.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Me - We have the same bible. We just read it differently.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Margaret - You are one of the lights of my life, sweetie. Sometimes, when I write, I think, Oh, Margaret is gonna love this!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey there Lapin. Thanks for your visit.

DBW said...

Interesting take on Bp. Pike. He was my grandmother's cousin. When he was consecrated, she started integrating her maiden name "Pike" into her name to draw attention to her illustrious relative. Then one day she turned on the TV and saw him participating in a seance and her jaw dropped and she said "that purple bozo" and from that point on, and now its a term our family uses to refer to bishops we don't care for.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dale - Great story. I will have to "borrow" the phrase, "that purple bozo". I can think of several very appropriate applications.

walter said...

..What is it supposed to mean “a synthesis of a thesis of orthodox sexuality and the practice of homosexuality”! A “thesis” in biblical spiritual studies as a term must always finds its dynamic roots in Luke’s Gospel “theoria” which in contemporary English is rendered with the Cross of Christ. Any other thesis is but polemical rhetoric and does not bode well for any spiritual practice. Dr Rowan Williams’ setting of the dichotomy is an example of polemical rhetoric thus does not bode well for any spiritual practice; it is not genuine and its repressed subconscious aim is to serve the neurotic fear of losing adepts-followers.

The renewal of the Civil Right Movement’ tradition already bodes well in the discernment of a new elected people (Walter Vitale, Parson Kaeton, Lesbian Riley) aiming at the growing edge of European American inclusive Catholicism whom eventually will reach North America, may be by the allegory of NE corridor, and it will gradually call to the overcoming of dogmatic Roman Catholicism and the abomination-practices of its distorted sexuality. Remember, sins against the Holy Spirit are unforgivable. The Holy Flame fanned by The Soffio Vitale is already burning a decadent Church.

Behold, behind Parson Kaeton’ Incarnational Faith there is theologically the genuine synthesis of the Christian doctrinal dogma of the incarnation and the Jewish-cabbalistic dogma of the doctrine of the divine self-limitation. Parson Kaeton is the best non-gender-specific form of Christian clergy. It is from a long time that I and my Brother have left denominational fragmentations on their own and have decided to find our own musical Churches-Taverns-Think Tanks while in the meantime utilizing the best clergy spiritual luminaries available. Behind the non-gender-specific Parson Kaeton, after the potential upon agreeable EVOO anointing (and mourning the recent death of Maria Schneider – remember her beautiful performance in the cult movie Last Tango in Paris?), there is the God of Life Inherent and the God-Life Inherent of Sexuality even though Christian immortality is not natural but God Gift.

I promise I will deliver on Valentine Day 2011 Ccing Elizabeth personally, by the completion of an audio four part series, the ultimate religious-anthropological-conversion. In the name of the One who keep us centered and focused and truthful, Jesus The Christ. This is not a polemical cult movie But Love and Beautiful.

Walter Vitale