Thursday, November 10, 2005

can someone explain the persistence of the 'donatist!' cry?

In Pittsburgh, several bishops will perform on-the-spot confirmations during Saturday's closing ceremony, mostly for conservatives who do not desire the ministrations of liberal bishops in their home dioceses.
ACN spokesman Douglas LeBlanc said confirmands have already been vetted by their pastors and local ACN representatives.
"We realize that some [liberal] bishops may be annoyed by this pastoral care," he said, "but we did not create the problem that requires it."
The Rev. Ruth Meyers, professor of liturgics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., said Episcopal conservatives may be unwittingly agreeing with Donatism, a fourth-century heresy.
"It determined that the validity of a liturgical act depends on the minister who administers it," she said.
The early church refuted Donatism, she said, and St. Augustine, she added, "would have said the unworthiness of a minister does not affect the validity of the sacrament, as the true minister is Christ."

Read the whole thing here.

Via Titusonenine. This accusation of Donatism is persistent and ridiculous. As far as I know, no one is contesting the validity of the other party's sacraments. They're just being careful about the sacrament. One doesn't want to mock or blaspheme the sacrament by receiving it with / from those with whom one is out of charity. And please note that I am NOT saying that one or the other party is correct. I am only saying that the conservatives are not Donatists just because they refuse the ministrations of some party.

19 comments:

J-Tron said...

WB,

I've heard numerous evangelicals make the case that Gene Robinson is not really a bishop because of his homosexuality (I've even once heard the argument that Frank Griswold is not really a bishop for ordaining him). Those folks are potentially falling into Donatism, although it is perhaps secondary to their having an entirely heterodox sacramental theology in the first place.

But no, I have not heard any Anglo-Catholic arguments that are expressly Donatist, IE directly questioning the sacramental validity of the sacraments administered by liberal bishops. It is, however, fun to call people out as heretics under ancient names. I'm still looking for a way to work Nestorianism into an objection to flashy-colored clergy shirts.

Anonymous said...

Heck yea this is a donatist assumption at work here- although "liberal" bishops may not function validly as pastors, they can certainly effect the valid sacramental reality needed for confirmation, and "bishop shopping" asserts to the contrary on its face. Not good!

Adam said...

Well, to be perfectly honest, there is some Donatist thinking at work in SOME of these cases. I'm not saying all cases, but yes there is some of that.

Paul Goings said...

While certain of those who wish to have themselves or their children confirmed by Network bishops may subscribe (perhaps unwittingly) to the donatist heresy, I would suspect that the vast majority of them are merely doing so because they derive some consolation from receiving the sacraments (or sacramental rites, if you're not an Anglo-Catholic) from bishops who espouse the faith in its entirely.

This is, strictly speaking, not really desirable, but makes a good deal of pastoral sense in an ecclesial community like ECUSA where bishops can openly apostatize (like Bp Spong) and not come under any discipline. O tempora...

Thorpus said...

There may be a much more protestant ecclesiology at work behind the Evangelicals' hesitation to accept the leadership of liberal bishops. I think it has less to do with sacraments and more to do with the ability to trust your pastoral leadership. Who wants to hear a sermon by someone who you don't think actually knows God or believes His word? Who wants to be baptized by such a pastor or announce your communion with him by partaking of the Blessed Sacrament? I had huge problems like this at seminary: it wasn't that the sacraments being offered weren't valid - what bothered me was the act of spiritual communion with a Christian body that, for the most part, did not hold the same faith as I did. Isn't the idea of 'communion' all about common faith, anyway, at least as much as it is about common apostolic leadership? And when you can go anywhere to get valid sacraments, but not everywhere to find spiritual fathers you can trust, sure, I'd be hesitant to take from someone with whom I don't really share a common faith.

Johnny Awesomo said...

I would like to hear DDX on the subject before I decide...

DDX said...

Jesus instructs His listeners (Mat 23:1-12)to respect the authority and position of Scribes and Pharisees who, though spiritually unworthy, sat "in the seat of Moses" which I believe refers to a postion of oversight in the synagogues. After these twelve verses another twenty-seven are devoted to pronouncing woes and condemnation upon these "blind guides--hypocrites--serpents, etc." We know that Jesus, the apostles and early church continued their participation in the Jerusalem temple despite apostacy in the priesthood.

I don't think we can receive or refuse what God has given us, whether by word or sacrament, because the deliveryman is unworthy.

Though I hate UPS and their degenerate driver...it doesn't taint what's in the box.

DDX

DDX said...

I'll give one other similar more thorough illustration: Our "mailman" is a lady. I don't believe women should be mailmen and mailwomen are not found in literature (scripture) or history (tradition). With today's daily load of heavy mail order catalogues it's inconsistant with "reason."

Our mail lady is a patient of our chiropractor. If I talk with her in his waiting room and discover she has no belief whatever in medication it will have no effect whatever upon my blood pressure pills she delivers from Medco every month. They will be just as effective and I'll take them without regard to her or her misguided disbelief. Qualified or not, she's still the link between me and Medco and absolutely bound to fulfill the duties of her post. She and her superiors are answerable for that, not I. I just want the pills.

Though I am not particularly sacramental in my theology, I think this illustrates my counsel to those who are. As St. Paul say's, "We are called to Peace." Shalom Y'all

Johnny Awesomo said...

I'm not sure that the Matt 23 reference really does the work of illustrating an "anti-donatist position." I rather think that it indicates something closer to the opposite, i.e. the Pharisees have right belief but insufficient moral character for leadership.

This also brings to mind related passages in 1 Timothy where Paul is instructing Timothy on the qualifications of a true leader.

For once, WB is right. The donatist cry is neither here nor there in relation to certain Episcopalians not wanting to take sacraments from heterodox priests. Its not that they (by "they" I mean me and my friends at St. Pauls) consider such a Eucharist invalid, but that they understand that implicit in taking such a sacrament is an acknowledgment of leadership and moral authority on the part of the celebrant.

JA

PS. women cannot be mailmen.

Johnny Awesomo said...

I'm not sure that the Matt 23 reference really does the work of illustrating an "anti-donatist position." I rather think that it indicates something closer to the opposite, i.e. the Pharisees have right belief but insufficient moral character for leadership.

This also brings to mind related passages in 1 Timothy where Paul is instructing Timothy on the qualifications of a true leader.

For once, WB is right. The donatist cry is neither here nor there in relation to certain Episcopalians not wanting to take sacraments from heterodox priests. Its not that they (by "they" I mean me and my friends at St. Pauls) consider such a Eucharist invalid, but that they understand that implicit in taking such a sacrament is an acknowledgment of leadership and moral authority on the part of the celebrant.

JA

PS. women cannot be mailmen.

SK said...

Johnny,

Why did you post twice? Can't you figure out how computers work?

In Nihilio,
SK

A Slave To Christ said...

What is always left aside about the Donatist controversy is that Augustine had no problem with their persecution, even though their sacraments were valid.

wyclif said...

Thorpus wrote:

There may be a much more protestant ecclesiology at work behind the Evangelicals' hesitation to accept the leadership of liberal bishops.

Yes, there is a "protestant ecclesiology" (horrors!) at work here. That's because Anglicanism is essentially Protestant: see the Articles. The Church of England rejected Rome's claim of Papal infallibility, Transubstantiation, some of the Marian dogmas, &c.

So you see, there should really be no surprise that Protestant theology should guide Anglicanism.

father wb said...

Wyclif wrote:

"The Church of England rejected Rome's claim of Papal infallibility, Transubstantiation, some of the Marian dogmas, &c"

All of that is true of the Eastern Orthodox. Are they therefore protestant?

Re: Articles. The Articles are not Anglican dogma. The acceptance of the Articles is compulsory for no one except C of E clergy; and since Tract 90, right-thinking clergy have had a palliative for their consciences.

father wb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wyclif said...

All of that is true of the Eastern Orthodox. Are they therefore protestant?

A fairly large logical fallacy, don't you think?

The Articles are not Anglican dogma.

But they don't need to be dogma in order to be formative or compulsory to be foundational. And I think you'd better check with Archbishop Akinola before you think for a minute that the evangelicals are going to forget that even though Anglicanism is not a confessional church, there is the problem that the Church has defined itself as essentially Reformed in character.

since Tract 90, right-thinking clergy have had a palliative for their consciences.

It depends on which "right-thinking clergy" you're talking about. Certainly the "right-thinking" clergy in these parts aren't terribly impressed by Newman's doctrine of development, and can dispatch it fairly easily in a purely Catholic context.

father wb said...

Logical fallacy?

I quote again:

"That's because Anglicanism is essentially Protestant: see the Articles. The Church of England rejected Rome's claim of Papal infallibility, Transubstantiation, some of the Marian dogmas, &c."

Are you not citing the C of E's rejection of "Papal Infallibility, Transubstantiation, and some of the Marian dogmas" as sufficient to show that "Anglicanism is essentially Protestant"?

But they only show this if you mean something like:

IF a Church rejects doctrines X, Y, and Z, THEN that Church is Protestant. The C of E has rejected doctrines X, Y, and Z. Therefore, the C of E is Protestant.

My point is that the Eastern Churches have also rejected doctrines X, Y, and Z. So, if its true that "if a Church rejects doctrines X, Y, and Z, then that church is Protestant," THEN the Eastern Churches are protestant. But the Eastern Churches are NOT Protestant. It therefore must not be the case that "if a Church rejects doctrines X, Y, and Z, then that Church is Protestant.

To formalize, your argument:

A -> B
A

Therefore, B.

(Where A = "The C of E rejects doctrines X, Y, Z"; and B = "The C of E is Protestant".)

Simple, straightforward Modus Ponens argument.

To formalize my argument:

A
~B

Therefore ~(A -> B)

(Where A = "Eastern Orthodox reject doctrines X, Y, and Z"; and B = "Eastern Orthodox are Protestant").

Shall I prove the above?

1. A (Premise)
2. ~B (Premise)
3. A -> B (Assumption)
4. B (from 1, 3; Modus Ponens)
5. ABSURDITY! (From 2,4)

6. Therefore: ~(A -> B)

Since we have found an instance of a Church rejecting doctrines X, Y, and Z and yet not being protestant, we have shown that it is not the case that "if a Church rejects doctrines X, Y, and Z, THEN that Church is protestant".

It may still be that Anglicanism is essentially Protestant, but it can't be because they reject the doctrines you cite. (Its not even clear to me that they DO reject the doctrines you claim, since there are lots of Anglicans who embrace them, even among the upper echelons of the hierarchy.)

J-Tron said...

WB,

You are smart. I want to be like you when I grow up. And you are right, Anglicanism is not Protestant and is not Donatist. Except for St. Paul's which is both. Gay people make me cry. I like cranberry sauce.

In Solidarity,

+Robert Pittsburgh

Mike the Geek said...

I think the original issue has gotten completely lost here. Of course Gene Robinson, Frank Griswold, and all their associates are valid bishops and therefore "their" sacraments are valid. That doesn't mean most of us are willing to validate them or to expose ourselves to heretical teachings by participating in ecclesial activities with them. We don't trust them; we don't trust those they embrace. Nothing Donatist about it.