August 1, 2006

The Split [Still] In Our Future [?]

I wrote the following in October of 2004, in a note to the now famous House of Bishops/Deputies List. I am posting it here at this point as a “check” on how things have fared in relation to my sense at the time, just prior to the publication of the Windsor Report. I do so in part in response to the continued expressed hopes — and I have myself expressed them, most recently in an essay in Episcopal Life — that the Communion might still find a way to hold together in spite of the many tensions and disagreements we face.

The final question still stands.

The Split in our Future

Given the recent statement ("Drawing the Line") from the Anglican Communion Institute and the comments and actions of Archbishop Akinola, it appears to me that a split in the Anglican Communion is almost certainly assured. Neither Akinola nor ACI will be content with any form of Communion in which the Episcopal Church (and one assumes the Canadian as well) are allowed to be at the table in any meaningful sense of the word. A "parallel jurisdiction" in which parishes and perhaps dioceses of the "Network" would be recognized in addition to the Episcopal Church (assuming such an arrangement could be worked out) will not be satisfactory to ACI. Akinola and others have openly opined on a new "center of unity" apart from Canterbury, should he not comply with their demands for the discipline and exile of the Episcopal and Canadian Churches. Akinola has been explicit in his rejection of participation in any synod or conference in which those who consented to Bishop Robinson's election and consecration are seated, and to date has been true to his word.

I will make no prognostication on the contents of the Windsor Report, nor Canterbury's response to it, but it appears that we will either see a temporary split in the Anglican Communion (if the American and Canadian churches are exiled from full participation in the "instruments of unity" until they have undone what others believe they ought not to have done) or a permanent schism (consisting of perhaps most, but not all, of what is called the "Global South" and a number of sympathetic parishes, and perhaps dioceses, scattered through the rest of the present Communion) if those concerned do not find the solution Canterbury eventually adopts to be acceptable.

Am I misreading the signs of the times?

— Tobias S Haller BSG (October 2004)


9 comments:

Tim said...

I don't see `under discipline' as an exercise in saving face. One job of members of the wider Church is to build up its brothers & sisters. Perhaps someone could point me at where these Global South churches have practically demonstrated their duty of care and attempted to persuade the Episcopal churches of the "error" of their ways. Otherwise, I conclude the publicity over the last couple of years points at a lack of due *Christian* process - a move from nothing to pointing the finger, declaiming "BAD!" and gagging for separation.

Tobias said...

Thanks for the comment, Tim. I was reflecting earlier today about the difference between "liberals" and "conservatives" -- and have come to the conclusion that these political titles do fit in with the current religious or ecclesiastical divide after all (pace Kendall Harmon's efforts to introduce "reappraiser" and "reasserter").

Both liberals and conservatives believe themselves to be "right" in some real sense. The difference lies in how they treat those who do not agree: liberals in general are tolerant of dissent (though there are instances of some who claim the name but don't walk that walk!) while conservatives tend to believe that those who do not accept their view are in some way outside the pale. In religious circumstances this leads to the accusation of apostacy or heresy directed against the innovators, and a concomintant unwillingness to do more than, as you say, wave a chiding finger.

Anonymous said...

(Dave)
If you admit the existence of heresy and/or apostasy, how are you any different from those "bad" conservatives? At some point on a continuum of beliefs and practices, you would be forced to say that someone's claim to be a follower of The Way was simply untrue and that his/her claim to membership in the church was also a lie. You would just draw a line in a different place.
If Bishop X taught human sacrifice was consistent with God's revelation and necessary to salvation, how "tolerant" would you be of his/her claim to be part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church? All you have "proven" is that on one particular issue, you don't draw the same line as "conservatives." How many "progressives" have been demonizing Peter Akinola?

Tobias said...

As usual, Dave, you seem to miss the forest for the trees. Did I ever claim that heresy and apostasy don't exist? No. Do I draw the line -- differently than some others -- obviously. And there is even no need to bring up fantastic hypothetical cases; though I would still say that Bishop X is guilty of error, and crime -- which might not be heresy or apostasy (technical trems with specific definitions, much tossed about inappropriately of late).

Moreover, I did not say that the "conservatives" were "bad" (that would be a judgment); I am simply pointing out that their action consists of marking those with whom they disagree as apostate, heretical, etc. Do you deny that?

And I know of no progressive who has "demonized" Archbishop Akinola, though there have been some very strong critiques of his actions. On the other hand, while Akinola has saind some especially harsh things, some of his associates (such as the Archbishop of Kenya) have specifically demonized the West by referring to "Satan" having entered the Church. Now that's demonizing; or don't you agree? I've never said that Akinola is a heretic, apostate, or possessed; I simply think he is mistaken, and deeply so.

Finally, before we wander completely off-topic, as your comments often tend to do, do you not agree that Akinola and his friends are unlikely to wish to remain in an Anglican Communion that continues to welcome the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada -- just as they are (that is, without a recantation of the actions that have caused offense)? This is the question before us. If you wish to add to the discussion along these lines, please feel free to do so, but I reserve the right to moderate posts that go off topic. (You are welcome to start a blog of your own, signed or anonymous, if you like; but here I would like to keep the discussion focused if I can.)

Anonymous said...

(Dave)
I doubt I have missed the forest. In your reply to Tim, you characterized the difference between liberals and conservatives as one of a willingness to tolerate diversity of view point. I say liberals are no more willing to tolerate such diversity if it impinges on things they hold "sacred." For example, calls for presentments against bishops who won't ordain women. I happen to think that is a non-issue and I am content to live with folks on both sides of that question. How many on the "progressive" side have called for a presntment or some other form of discipline to be imposed against Bishop Iker?
I am certain that much of the Global South will refuse to remain in communion with TEC and Canada absent repentance. That is where they have drawn the line. You would not draw a line on that issue but as long as you would draw ANY lines, you are no more "tolerant" of differences than are they.

Tobias said...

Dave,
I'll try this one mroe time, but then I will have to move on.

You continue to raise hypotheticals, which I have already said is not germaine to the discussion. "Tolerance" of diversity does not necessarily mean tolerance of absolutely anything. Your argument here is similar to the false argument made by the ACI and its associates that when one questions any scripture that means all scripture is up for grabs. (What they incorrectly call the "Shellfish" argument.)

As you clearly see, liberals are by definition more tolerant than conservatives == that is they will tolerate a wider range of diversity. That doesn't mean they will tolerate everything -- and no one, apart from you, is making such an absurd claim.

The issue here is that I am willing to tolerate Archbishop Akinola but he is not willing to tolerate me. We have no need of hypotheticals.

The issue concerning Iker, Schofield, et al., is not about toleration of diversity, but compliance with the oath of conformity to the Discipline of the Episcopal Church. It is also not about the ordination of women -- but the amendment to diocesan canons and constitutions to "qualify" accession to the Episcopal Church's governing documents -- which is a violation of canon law. It is also apparent that this move is in accord with an effort to co-opt property. This is not about "diversity" but the good order of the church, and the ability to abide by constitutional structures even when one disagrees with them.

Anonymous said...

(Dave)
I have never seen you object to Network bishops and their supporters being described as Donatists. Am I mistaken, but isn't that an accusation of heresy? Whether or not you in particular have objected is not really the point. That is the charge made by so-called "progressives" against those with whom they are in disagreement about the validity of VGR's consecration.
BTW - I did not accuse you of a willingness to accept anything. I merely suggested that so long as we draw any lines (you or me), the only difference we have is where we choose to draw that line. It is a difference of degree, not substance. But if you want to characterize my comments otherwise, it is your blog.

Tobias said...

Dave,
Thank you for your comment. Now we are beginning to get somewhere, I hope productive.

Donatism is not a heresy, but a schismatic movement. Check out the article in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church for the details. You will find that although the specifics are different, the present day separatists who deny the efficacy of Gene Robinson's ordination bear a number of common features with this movement. Here is part of the text from ODCC:

"Theologically the Donatists were rigorists, holding that the Church of the saints must remain "holy"... and that sacraments conferred by traditores were invalid.... The Donatists... went so far as to assert that all those who communicated with traditores were infected, and that, since the Church is one and holy, the Donatists alone formed the Church."

I do not think you would have to search far or long to find language similar to that advanced by the Donatists coming from the AAC concerning the Episcopal Church.

I have no objection (though I disagree) with those who say that Gene Robinsoon should not be a bishop. But those (such as Drexel Gomez and Peter Jensen who claim that he is not a bishop have indeed crossed over into a contemporary form of Donatism -- and, more to the point, are in conflict with the 39 Articles which contain an explicitly anti-Donatist clause.

Tobias said...

Posted too soon, without addressing your second comment. It seems then that we are in agreement that as you say the difference between liberals and conservatives is "a difference of degree, not substance." It seemed to me that in your earlier comment you were confusing liberalism with a kind of antinomianism or utter anarchy. I am glad to see that is not what you are about. So I'm not sure what you thought I was saying other than that liberals tend to be more tolerant (as a matter of degree) than conservatives. They will, by definition, tolerate a wider range of behaviors -- but not necessarily all behaviors.