Monday, March 05, 2007

the pb's address the other night

A few days ago Schori addressed ECUSA via a webcast orchestrated by Trinity, Wall Street, the richest church in the world. Watch the whole hour-long thing here, if you can bear it. There is also a transcript of Schori's opening remarks (the first fifteen minutes or so of the whole thing) here.

Some people I love and respect found Schori's remarks encouraging. I don't share that sentiment.

First of all, and perhaps most distressingly, given yet another opportunity to clarify her attitude to Jesus being "the way, the truth, and the life" (with the definite article), Schori again affirmed that she believes Jesus' rightful place to be in the pantheon of pagan gods, one among many equally true (though mutually exclusive... how does that work exactly?) ways to what she calls "the divine." Schori emphatically asserts:

"Jesus is not the only way to the cross."

I think this statement is too absurd even to be false. What could she possibly mean? Without Jesus, the cross is just a tree. Trees are great. They provide oxygen and shade; you can build houses out of them; they provide a home for birds; some of them bear tasty fruit or nuts. But they don't save you from sin and death. Only ONE TREE, according to the universal witness of our two-thousand years of teaching, offers salvation. And the ONLY REASON it saves is because on it Jesus Christ, uniquely perfect God and perfect man, gave his uniquely divine life for us in uniquely perfect obedience to the only eternal Father. ONLY CHRIST is capable of this perfect obedience (cf. Hebrews 5.8). The cross without Him is totally lifeless and frankly uninteresting. Forget about women's ordination. As far as I'm concerned, Schori can't be a bishop because she's not a believer.

Next Schori hints at the reason she is interested in staying in the Anglican Communion: because doing so holds out the possibility of "converting" the whole Communion to ECUSA's detestable enormities:

"Conversion of understanding," she says, "is the most essential piece of what we're about."

As far as I could tell there was, by contrast, no humility on Schori's part, to say nothing of regret as requested by the Windsor Report. I mean to say, one would expect that innovators within the Church ought to be willing to admit that they could be wrong. After all, that is the whole point of apostolic councils, the sensus fidelium, etc. "New things" (and liberals have assured us that "the Spirit" is doing just such a "new thing" in ECUSA) will be confirmed by the Holy Spirit through such avenues. That's how it has always been. In Acts 15, when a dispute rose up about whether Gentile converts to Christianity had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to ask the the Apostles and Elders. The Apostles and Elders, under their Primate (who by the way was James, not Peter), decided the question, and all agreed to be bound by their verdict.

This is what must happen in Anglicanism. We all must agree to be bound by the verdict of our Apostles and Elders in council. Since there has been an Anglican Communion, this has been the operative assumption. The problem, as has been brought to the fore by ECUSA's actions at the General Conventions of 2003 and 2006, is that this has only been an assumption, it hasn't been explicit (thus the need for a Covenant -- more on this matter anon). What has happened in our case is that ECUSA has gone to our Apostles and Elders (for example at Lambeth 1998) about the question of whether Christians with a homosexual orientation must keep the Church's discipline with regard to sexual activity. The Apostles and elders have given judgment on this matter, and ECUSA (unlike the Christians at Antioch in Acts 15) have refused to be governed by the Godly judgment of our Apostles and elders.

Lastly, a very disturbing statement that belies ECUSA's good faith in the councils of the Communion, Schori says about ECUSA's stance: "we are called to pause, but not to go backward." It seems to me that both repentance and the moratoria called for by Windsor, Dromantine, and now Dar es Salaam, require backing up a few steps. If ECUSA is so intractable, if she will not conform her life and practice to Anglican doctrine on principle (which I understand actually: for liberals this is a matter of principle), then why insist on remaining in the Communion? What's the point? You're bringing everyone down! As Schori has said with regard to "dissident" dioceses within ECUSA, it makes more sense that ECUSA should depart from the Communion in peace. ECUSA and the Communion have different doctrines and different practices. What basis is there for unity? Why insist on it without foundation? On this point I agree with the liberal activists.


Anonymous said...

One cannot say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. Where does this place the PB?


The Ranter said...

Don't be too downcast... this is a heretical period we need to survive if the church is going to survive. The problem is that the baby boomers are in power now. There is a future, and the church has weathered storms before. It is not the church of our childhoods... it is a constantly evolving expression of Christ's imperfect body on this flawed and sinful Earth.

mmbx said...

I repeat: "Be strong and courageous, do not tremble or BE DISMAYED. For the Lord your God is with you WHEREVER you go!" One of the Baby Boomer/Aging Hippies

timothy said...

"Detestable enormities"! Now there's a great phrase. It'd be a great band name, or perhaps, the title for your memoir. Either way, truly a mot juste.

DDX said...

To borrow a phrase from a distinguished (perhaps now former) episcopalian, Dr. Kenneth Boa, "When religious leaders repackage ambient cultural agendas in spiritual language, parishioners no longer receive the milk and meat of the Word, but become spiritually and morally emaciated on the husks of the world."

That's how we got here.

father thorpus said...

The only way I find her remarks encouraging is that, as far as my own career and pension go, things will be much less complicated for me financially if TEC 'stays at the table.'

And actually, I did find it encouraging that she was able so fairly to state the situation she finds herself in. I found her summary of the primates' views to be fair. This is not something you find in most, and certainly not in the most radical, TEC liberals.

Of course, watching the PB writhe like this in conflict between the ideal of catholicism on the one hand and the ideal of prophetic progressive sexuality on the other only puts me in mind of something we predicted on Whitehall some time ago: that this conflict would come down to the Catholic liberals vs. the radical progressives; those who will sacrifice, to some degree, the progressive agenda for the sake of Anglican unity, and those who will not sacrifice one jot or tittle for any reason whatsoever.

I'm still not sure who will win.

J-Tron said...

First, many thanks for the love and respect. Allow me to return those sentiments.

I agree with your analysis of the problematic stance that +Jefferts-Schori continues to take in relation to the uniqueness of Christ. I don't think that it comes from a desire to change the faith so much as a lack of concern for theological consistency (which in some ways is worse).

I also agree that there is a lack of humility in the way that she is presenting her case, just in the way that you say. She states a goal of bringing conversion on the issue of human sexuality to the wider Communion. I have no problem with that sentiment, so long as it is coupled with an understanding that we too are open to conversion, open to the possibility of being wrong. Alas, I've heard little if any of that type of humility from any on the fringes, be they progressive or conservative.

So yes, her statement is problematic. And that is not surprising.

But there is something to be said for the fact that she has understood the situation facing the Church and that she has been willing to engage in compromise, even if it is formulated as a "pause" and not as the absolute reversal that you would likely prefer. There seems to be an opening there for greater listening, for movement. I realize from where you sit this doesn't seem like much, but from where I sit, watching both extremes in this insipid conflict counter-anathematizing each other until they are blue in the face, it's a miracle. And I thank God for miracles, no matter how small.

koenigsfreunde said...

Perhaps my Barthian streak is too deeply ingrained into my soul, but I take a very pessimistic view of Schori's continued denial of the uniqueness of Christ for salvation. Her statements are certainly superduper clear evidence that she's apostate. Her statements are clearly church-dividing.

Her stance is worse than a lack of concern for theological consistency (pace J-Tron). It's worse than the fact that she's not qualified to be a bishop (pace WB). (Mind you, I agree with both of their claims.) It means that the time is now. Choose this day whether you will follow an obvious heretic or remain faithful to Christ. It seems to me it's time to split. Even Anglo-Catholic liberals, if they're serious about their Christology, ought to jump ship from TEC. Surely no amount of appeal to the tradition can overcome St. Paul's clear words in Galatians that anyone who denies the gospel is anathema. What more evidence can one ask?

It really ought to go without saying - but for the mindless drivel that pours out of the media and those beholden to their media image - that KJS's lack of a high Christology is an entirely separable issue from her stances on same-sex blessings.

father thorpus said...

But, KF, what about my pension?!

seriously, though, I agree that her deplorable Christology is a huge problem. It should disqualify her from holding such a high office in the Church of God.

However, there is a distinction to be made between the teachings of TEC and the public statements of our PB. TEC is still catholic in doctrine, as defined by the creeds and the Holy Scriptures. The PB does not speak for the entire group on doctrinal issues. The thing that should worry us more, KF, is what General Convention has said in regard to orthodox Christian teaching, or rather what it has refused to say when given the chance. General Convention DOES have the authority to change the content of TEC's doctrine, where the PB can only make headlines by spouting her own ideas. Gen. Con. can change our ecclesiology both on the local and international levels, and it can enter into ecumenical agreements, and it can revise the Prayer Book, and it can make definitive prouncements about how closely we hold to the historical tenets of the faith. The fact that the orthodox have completely lost control of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (where we've been systematically undermined in committee placements) should frighten us. Having been to the Convention and observed the group-think that drives both houses and the iron politics that PB Griswold found so effective to control them, that's what makes me afraid. PB Schori can hem and haw as she likes. It's the legislative assembly that determines who we are.

J-Tron said...

I agree with Father Thorpus. +Jefferts-Schori cannot determine single-handedly the doctrine of TEC, though she can certainly damage the morale of the faithful.

Furthermore, KF, while I agree that her position is inappropriate, I don't know that it necessarilly betrays a lack of high Christology. This is why I say that her main problem is theological inconsistency. I've heard many colleagues repeating her sentiments, that Jesus is the way for us, that other paths are valid, but then they turn around and say that Jesus is fully God and fully human, as has been believed through the centuries. And when you try to point out the obvious contradiction between these two sentiments, they look at you puzzled. Perhaps that's not the case with +Jefferts-Schori, but I would guess that it is. I don't think she's a non-Christian. I think that she is unable to understand that the two positions she holds simultaneously are utterly incongruent.

Now that I think about it, perhaps it is less a failure of theology than a failure of philosophy. Many in our church today, including seminary educated clergy, lack the philosophical background that is needed to really understand theological inquiry. Perhaps what she needs is to read Plato and Aristotle again before returning to the gospel.

koenigsfreunde said...

All I need to establish my concern is to point out that the Christology of TEC is inadequate (or will likely to be inadequate). If it is likely to be inadequate, then that's a good reason to leave.

So why think the future of the expressed doctrines of TEC over something basic like the person of Christ will look dim?
Granted that KJS as PB cannot change TEC's official doctrine but GC can, then she might seem harmless. But you write: "The fact that the orthodox have completely lost control of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (where we've been systematically undermined in committee placements) should frighten us. Having been to the Convention and observed the group-think that drives both houses and the iron politics that PB Griswold found so effective to control them, that's what makes me afraid."

This still raises eyebrows. If KJS runs both houses the same way Griswold did, it seems to me the handwriting is on the wall. Within the next decade, we should not be surprised if the Prayer Book gets "rewritten" under her presidency. I'm not optimistic about the likely end product.

You're a better man than me if you keep holding out hope that KJS is a Christian. But I think we're all agreed she should not be in a high office like PB.

Perhaps a mild dose of philosophy is needed in Anglican theological training. It's not unprecedented. Unfortunately, I'm not so sanguine, because a lot will depend on the content of the philosophical training that is proposed. The problems you point out are a byproduct of unclear thinking, stuff that I mark my undergraduates down by a letter grade. So while I think Aristotle & Plato are helpful for understanding some of the patristics (and certainly for the medievals), it really doesn't take that much to think clearly. All folks really need to do is pay attention to what they're saying, address obvious objections to their position, and expect people like you to notice when things don't hang together.

In closing, I must say that I respect KJS for being a straight shooter. No more Anglican fudge in the good ole USA.

father thorpus said...

Well said, KF.

I think both KF and J-tron have raised the point that PB Schori and many others drivng 'progress' in TEC are simply not concerned to think clearly or consistantly. My own observations definitely bear that out.

In explaining the relationship between TEC's polity and doctrine, my purpose and perhaps J-tron's, too, was certainly not to pretend there's nothing to be worried about with TEC's doctrinal future. There is, as KF has pointed out, much to fear, both from a PB who isn't careful with preserving the faith and from a GC which dislikes the faith and prefers a new version thereof. Combine that with the power the GC has to enforce the doctrine it has already beleived for at least a decade, and there's much to fear.

However, leaving TEC is a more complicated matter. Cowards flee their charge when they fear. For many of us clergy (and it is also true for laity, though almost no one thinks of it thus in this age of church-shopping and what's-in-it-for-me churchmanship) TEC is our charge. Until it dies, there is hope. The line in the sand is catholicism, and I think that stands or falls with the status of TEC's communion with Canterbury. As long as TEC is in communion with Canterbury, we are a catholic church, though one battling corruption. And as the custodians of TEC's catholicism, both clergy and lay are bound to stay in the battle and fight. (I use the metaphor of war not to suggest the use of violence upon those who disagree, but to communicate the profound significance that our current crises bear - they're a matter of souls living or dying.)

As our souls' health depends upon the catholicity of our church, neither clergy nor lay can afford to simply join another denomination, especially if there are real barriers between us and the other denominations with catholic claims, particuarly RC and Orthodox. Where else can we go? The Church has the words of life, and the only catholic, Western, non-RC church in America is TEC - as long as it's catholic, even nominally.

The only other option would be to join an international Anglican 'intervention', such as CANA. I can't justify to myself going there as long as there is a TEC to fight for. That may not be much longer, but i can't leave the fight until it's over.

I ain't heard no fat lady.

J-Tron said...

I don't get to say this very often, so please allow me the distinct pleasure of saying it now:

I agree with everything that Fr. Thorpus has just said.

father thorpus said...

J-tron, I wuv you, too, man.