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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Things are going to get squirrely"

I remember that bit of warning-as-advice just before Lambeth 1998. At the time, I was working as the Canon Missioner for The Oasis in the Diocese of Newark.

At the time, Jack Spong was my bishop. That was his prediction about what we were about to experience across the pond.

He was absolutely right.

I won't rehearse all the 'squirrely' things that happened a decade ago. Truth be told, I still want to keep most of it in the dark, inner recesses of my memory.

Squirrely? Some of it was downright bizarre. Like, when an African bishop and his wife tried to lay hands on one high-profile LGBT activist to 'heal' him of his homosexuality while the print and electronic media from around the world caught the event on tape and film for posterity.

Squirrely? You betcha. And, that's not even the most bizarre of the stories. But, let's not go there right now. If I think about it too long, I just may lose my resolve to be at Lambeth in a few weeks.

We seem to be entering into the same sort of behavior. The recent GAFCON Conference in Jerusalem is certainly one dark and dismal example.

Initially highly triumphed by their own press releases and publications as the beginning of the formal 'schism' in the Anglican Communion, it ended with a dizzying spin of a term: 'realignment' - AWAY from Canterbury as the historic spiritual center of Anglicanism.

Excuse me? Schism by any other word would smell as sour.

Wikipedia says this about schism: ( /ˈsɪzəm/ or /ˈskɪzəm/), from the Greek σχίσμα, skhísma (from σχίζω, skhízō, "to tear, to split"), means a division or a split, usually in an organization or a movement. A schismatic is a person who creates or incites schism in an organization or who is a member of a splinter group. The word is most frequently and usefully used about a religious division that occurs with a religious body with a defined organisation and hierarchy.

Okay, so it's not "The Great Schism" of 1054 which 'realigned' the base of power between Western (Latin/Rome) and Eastern (Greek/Orthodox). Let's just name that tune "The Anglican Schism in Key Minor."

Indeed, in probably one of the most honest if not overly enthusiastic proclamations to come from the neo-Puritan, uber-Calvinistic blogs was this: "We have a new Province!"

Never mind that said 'novo province' has not yet been recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. If you recall, GAFCON also proclaimed that Canterbury was not the center of Anglicanism. Which leads one to believe that this particular proclamation is the function of one of three possibilities: naive optimism, incredible ignorance or blatant arrogance.

In this particular case, being as generous as I know how to be, I would say it's a combination of all three.

Schism? Realignment? I say, 'squirrely'.

It's also a clear indication to me that the Lambeth Conference will be nothing less than "The War of the Wor(l)ds."

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued one of the strongest rebukes ever of the shenanigans of the so-called "orthodox" Right.

Oh, it's sugar coated in pleasantries and preceded by being all dressed up in the language of deference, but he asks a "very serious question" about a "non-geographical province": "how is a bishop or primate in another continent able to discriminate effectively between a genuine crisis of pastoral relationship and theological integrity, and a situation where there are underlying non-theological motivations at work?

Thanks be to God, "no foreign curia," one of the cornerstones of the Anglican Reformation, remains intact.

And, he says, "I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel. This is not the case; it is not the experience of millions of faithful and biblically focused Anglicans in every province."

Clearly, this is a man who has been straining near the end of his rope.

While this has obviously not pleased some of the sisters and brothers of the "Not-Yet Novo Provence", whose comments begin to sound like a Pink-Floyd lyric ("We don't need no education. We don't need no thought-control. All in all it's just another brick in the wall."), they have at least treated him with a modicum of respect.

Not so with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, whom they refer to in such adolescent taunts as "The Presiding Squid," or "Presiding Pestilence." Here's the first sentence of her response to GAFCON:

"Much of the Anglican world must be lamenting the latest emission from GAFCON."

If you couldn't hear the rest of what she had to say, that's because the howling started at the eleventh word.

That's right: "emission."

I know. Can you believe it? I just checked one of the more nefarious "orthodox" blogs. As of this morning, there were 199 comments posted in reaction to her statement, most of them having to do with crude references to flatulence.

Never mind that the woman is a scientist with an earned doctorate and knows things about the scientific theorum of 'emission' and lots of other stuff these bozos haven't learned and no-doubt won't learn in their pathetic lifetimes. Never mind that she was commenting at all on an event which really ought to have been ignored. Never mind that her words were remarkably fair and balanced.

No, let's jump up and down on one word so we don't have to pay attention to the rest of what she has to say. Remember her very first sermon after being elected Presiding Bishop? Sweet Mother Jesus, they did the very same thing!

Ah, I can hear the comments of some of our Not-Yet-Novo Provence now: "She needs to get a copy editor! She should not say provocative things like that and not expect people to be upset!"

Cue Pink Floyd: "We don't need no education. We don't need no thought control."

One of those who commented, who describes himself as a 'progressive' (and some of his credentials would certainly lead one to agree), somehow found the antics of these clowns in this Schismatic Circus irresistible and joined in, adding - incredibly - that he thought the Presiding Bishop should apologize for the use of that word.

I would give a link to his blog, but I think that in a few more years, he's going to want to forget that he ever made that comment. The less people who know, the better for his reputation.

I don't pretend to understand all of this. I could offer Great Thoughts and Important Theories (and, you know I have them). All I can think of is one word:


All in all, it's just another brick in the wall.


Unknown said...

And, squirrelly or not, this will be the first Lambeth with the new canine and feline bishops in attendance. You can expect good solid leadership from us to enforce the "afternoon naps" requirement, with perhaps some ball and frisbee playing led by +airdale and +rowan. +maya has promised to withhold her pastoral judgement until the end of the conference (or until we are all kicked out, whichever comes first).

While we would fervently hope that we can work with the human bishops at Lambeth, we are not promising that we will not form an animal preserve within the church, where the dogs and cats can feel safe and protected from those nasty human bishops. Don't think of our movement as a schism, but rather a separation of the sheep and sheepdogs. We shall endeavor, whilst there, to be a living illustration of the peaceable kingdom.

And, luckily, back in the average parish (including those in my own diocese of Pittsburgh) most people will completely ignore whatever happens there and go on working in small and humble ways to follow the Way of Jesus.

Unknown said...

Their childish antics and lack of civility convict them without need of trail. While my sainted ancestors would hunt squirrels with guns, I rather think this lot unworthy of the ammunition.

Lapinbizarre said...

As to the obsession of the "orthodox" with emissions and flatulence, as we say in the N of England, "if the cap fits, wear it".

Padre Mickey said...

A great post, Elizabeth. A bit off topic, but you have been given an award ¡Felicidades!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

+Clumber - I am counting on you to set the pace for the rest of the Princes/Princesses of the Church.

I have a bag of gourmet doggie cookies waiting for you at Kent.

Padre - I am shocked, stunned and honored. Oh, my.

J. Michael Povey said...

GAFCON claims to be "A Church within the Church"?

Well there is nothing new about that.

Evangelicals in England with their Church Society, and their patronage trusts (Church Pastoral Aid Society, Simeon Trust etc) functioned as such in the C of E

Anglo-Catholics did as much with the old Anglican Congresses and their own Patronage Trusts.

I am sure that good friend Andrew McGowan has seem the same in the Australian Church, not the least in his Diocese of Melbourne.

In fact much of the English Missionary endeavour in Africa was "Church within a Church" depending whether you were an SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) Diocese, a UMCA (Universities Mission to Central Africa) Diocese, a CMS (Church Missionary Society)
Diocese, or God help us, a BCMS (Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society) Diocese.

Tanganyika was one of the few places where Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals o-existed - albeit in Catholic or Evangelical Dioceses. \

(Do remember that one of the great Anglo-Catholic Bishops was Frank Weston of Zanzibar, an organiser of the aforementioned Anglican Congresses.)

Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined to form Tanzania.

(Years ago my home City of Bristol had three Evangelical Seminaries. Dalton House (for women who were training to be "Parish Workers") , Clifton Theological School) (CMS) and Tyndale Hall

When the English Church decided to "rationalise" the Seminaries the late and great Dr. Oliver Tompkins, Bishop of Bristol (and no evangelical) knocked their heads together and got them to merge (as Trinity College)

(In the desolate enough Diocese of Bristol he wanted at least one seminary!

So there was "always" been a Church within the Church.

What is breathtaking is how the Gafcon statement is so
"Reformed/Protestant/Calvinist" It takes us back four centuries!

Would I be right in thinking that Peter Jensen (In theory the Archbishop of Sydney, in reality the Presiding Elder of the Classis/ Synod of Sidney) has out outmanoeuvred American reactionaries, and that the new "Church within the Church" (Gafcon) is in fact Jensenite?- i.e. Calvinist at its heart.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I dunno, I think "emission" is the perfect as in nocturnal...that whole conference turned out to be one big ol' wet dream!

Paul Powers said...

I don't know +KJS, so obviously I could be mistaken, but I suspect that as a well-educated woman with an earned doctorate (and for whom English is her native tongue), her use of the word "emission" was deliberate and with full awareness of its different connotations. Whether it was the best choice of words is something that other people can debate. Actually, her statement (with or without that word) doesn't particulary bother me one way or the other. I wouldn't be surprised though if she was deliberately trying to shake people up. I have the same suspicion about her "Jesus our Mother" statement, which didn't really bother me either because there's a long line of men and women of particular holiness who have used that metaphor (including our Lord himself, who in Matthew [I think] compares himself to a mother hen).

What I find more troublesome are speeches like her latest Easter address, which makes only a passing reference to Jesus's resurrection and devotes itself instead to a call for environmental stewardship that would have been excellent for Earth Day but was wildly off topic for Easter. Or her Pentecost speech where she refers to the gift of "Holy Spirit," instead of _the_ Holy Spirit, which makes it sound like she's talking more about a commodity than one of persons of the Holy Trinity.

I'm not suggesting that she's a bad person, a bad Christian nor even a bad Presiding Bishop. I just wish that my primate's discourses expressed more explicitly a belief in such core doctrines as the incarnation, the resurrection and the Trinity.