Thursday, February 22, 2007

what kendall harmon would have said on the newshour if he'd had time...

From the interview with Kendall Harmon and Susan Russell about the Primates' Communique on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Transcript here. In no way do I mean to imply that Kendall Harmon's responses were inadequate. I think he did a great job. I'm just taking a little more focused look at what Russell says because I think she displays concisely every fallacy behind the progressives' thinking.
MARGARET WARNER: Reverend Russell, do you see it as that serious a challenge, that really the American Episcopal Church is now, quote, "in the penalty box"?

REV. SUSAN RUSSELL, President, Integrity USA: I don't know if I'd use that analogy, but I agree we are in a very serious time in the church. From my perspective, the American Episcopal Church has now been very strategically and very intentionally painted into a corner by those in the American church who have been advocating for a schism for many years.

And we're now faced with what I would call a Sophie's choice of having to choose our vision of the inclusive gospel over our inclusion in the communion. It's a profoundly un-Anglican way to make decisions, given that historically we have been a people of God who have not required common belief in order to be in communion with each other.

So I think the greater challenge we face has much less to do with gay and lesbian people or bishops or blessings, but how we're going to be church together. I think that is really under attack by the radical religious right, who is willing to split this church if they can't recreate it in their own image.
Ok, where do we start? First, I think she's right. The primates are acting politically, not just pastorally, because that's how stuff actually gets done in human institutions. Yes, this is the culmination of a lot of political maneuvering by Americans who want not schism but permanently repaired relations with Anglicans worldwide (as well as historical orthodoxy). It so happens that TEC's innovations have created the possibility of schism, so schism from the schismatics is what may be needed for these American faithful. And let's not forget that in all of these political machinations, TEC had its representatives. At no point has any of the institutions of communion failed to lend an open ear to TEC. In fact, at several points TEC has been invited to make its case as well as it possibly can. If we've failed in that, let's not blame some vast (and by 'vast' we mean 'tiny, politically disenfranchised for 40 years') right wing conspiracy -- let's fess up to our own doings, here. Next, tell the Non-Jurors that it's 'un-Anglican' to force a choice between ideals and communion. What about the oaths of conformity that were required of all English clergy in the Reformation? Tell that to the dioceses within TEC who still don't ordain women, despite decades of pressure -- are their rights to their own opinion being respected? Next, what Christian group in the entire history of the Church has ever 'not required common belief'? We have creeds for that sort of thing. What Kendall Harmon did say here was perfect: the issue is about essentials vs. inessentials. Some differences of opinion are acceptable; others aren't. Next, let's stop all this 'create the church in its own image' stuff. What does it really mean? It's the hint of a biblical allusion but doesn't actually refer to any biblical concept. The church is never said to be made in God's image. If having a strong ideal and pushing for it to be accepted is 'making the church in your own image', then American conservatives aren't the only ones doing that. Russell herself calls it 'leadership' later on in this interview.
MARGARET WARNER: And yet, Reverend Russell, you said that you think the idea of not being able to tolerate these differences is somehow in conflict with what you said was the essential nature of the Anglican Communion. Explain what you meant.

REV. SUSAN RUSSELL: Well, absolutely. I mean, if we look at the historic roots of who we are as Anglicans, we have the same DNA. We come from the Church of England, which was formed out of the crucible of the English Reformation, and had at one point to decide whether it was going to be Catholic or whether it was going to be Protestant.
At a time when people were burned at the stake over such significant and foundational theological divide, the Anglican Church and the Church of England found a way to be both. And that's the heritage we've carried up until now. . .
Rev. Russell forgets that it was we Anglicans who were burning people at the stake for being Catholic, and vice versa. All this only stopped after the Glorious Revolution in 1688, when English society had simply run out of energy for any more revolutions or heretic-burnings. You might as well look at Good Archbishop Laud's kick-off of the English Civil War over the Scottish prayer book, and say that it's essentially Anglican to start wars over liturgical standardization. Is not this, also, the heritage we've carried up until now?
[Rev. Russell continues] . . . The fact is, the American church does hold a minority opinion on the blessing of same-sex unions and the full inclusion of all the baptized in the body of Christ. We know we maintain a minority opinion, but we maintain that that minority opinion is a leadership opinion, in much the same way that we've held a minority opinion on whether or not women should be bishops or women should be priests.
Historically, the rest of the communion has come along on that issue. We believe that lives lived in holiness, and fidelity, and mutual respect transcends the orientation of the people involved in the relationship. We believe God blesses those relationships, and so should the church.
The full inclusion of all the baptized in the body of Christ -- St. Paul didn't go for that. That's what excommunication is all about. If you support this kind of 'full inclusion', you've got to come up with some workable model for Christian discipline. good luck. And what Russell calls 'leadership' here, the Africans call 'imperialism'. That's part of our English heritage, too. And I don't know how you define a life lived in holiness if not by the scripture and Christian tradition. Those definitions don't allow homosexual activity to be defined as a holy behavior. If you want to do that yourself, fine, but you've got to explian why God has to honor your definition of a holy life.
MARGARET WARNER: May I ask you, Reverend Russell -- let me ask you, just as a practical matter, speaking of deciding, there's little more than seven months away before this deadline. How will the Episcopal Church of the U.S. go about making this decision, how to respond?

REV. SUSAN RUSSELL: Well, that's a very important question, but I do want to respond quickly to the idea that we are acting unilaterally. The American church has never asked the Church of Nigeria or Uganda or Rwanda or any of our other Anglican brother and sister churches to come along with us on our vision for where the church should be.
All we've asked to have is our understandings of holy scripture and how we live that out respected.
If what we are has no bearing on what the Nigerian Anglican church is, how can we say we're linked in communion? Rev. Russell forgets that where we go, the body goes, because we are members of the body. Unless we get cut off. Which might happen.

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