February 16, 2007

Those who walk apart

Seven of the "G"S Primates have refused to share in the Holy Communion with the rest of the body. They have issued the following statement, which I submit for your consideration.

Aside from the appalling self-righteousness, and the utter inversion of the principles of repentance and forgiveness (that is, it is only in one's own power to repent and forgive -- to demand either of others is not a Gospel value!), I suspect this may be the outline for any coming departure from the Anglican Communion to form some new coalition of national churches. The Anglican Communion, represented by the remaining Primates, will continue to do the hard work the Gospel demands -- which is to remain together in spite of our differences, as members of a body whose head is Christ.

I have observed elsewhere that the far-right coalition, both in the US and in the Anglican Communion, have missed or misunderstood the nature of our disagreements all along. They see the book as closed, as far as same-sex relationships are concerned -- they want repentance not so much for having breached the bonds of affection, but for having breached what they believe to be God's eternal and everlasting laws of nature. They are unwilling to see these supposed "laws of nature" as cultural artifacts, not universal values -- that even though they are "biblical" they represent cultural beliefs of particular times and places and peoples -- and they have been unable to prove otherwise, to a growing number of people throughout the world.

They do have the inertia of tradition on their side, and this has held the field in some quarters. Anglicans treat "tradition" with some significant suspicion, and are loath to give it the persuasive power to stand unexamined by reason. So it is that the Windsor Report itself envisions a possible eventual acceptance of same-sex relationships in certain contexts, as the church continues to explore and discuss the issue. Hence the use of such terms as "moratorium" -- which is a temporary suspension. The WR also alludes to changes in consensus, including, most importantly the lack of a current consensus on these matters as a reason for cautious dialogue rather than final action one way or the other (143); the Report also refers to the "current teaching" of the Communion, as an indication that such teachings can, and do change (69).

Indeed, if the book were closed, why would even Lambeth 1.10 have called for listening and dialogue? The Windsor Report goes even further not only in leaving the door open, but demanding that it remain open: "...[D]ebate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion. The later sections of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 cannot be ignored any more than the first section, as the primates have noted." (149)

This is not what the "reasserters" want to hear. They do not want debate to remain open, but to be closed. For them the issue was settled by Leviticus, and sealed by Romans. But what they fail to see is the growing reasonable reassessment of these texts, placing them in a cultural context that is no longer applicable to our present day. They remain stalwartly unconvinced by these reevaluations. But a sea-change is happening, and the tide is against them. Or perhaps they do see it, and are as keen as Canute in seeking to hold it back.

Meanwhile: Here is the unsuprising news from Tanzania: (From the Globalsouth Website, reported at Stand Firm)



SITTING AT THE LORD'S TABLE :

Statement from Global South primates

CONN/100207

A number of the Global South primates have not shared in the Holy Eucharist today with their fellow primates. They include Abp. Peter Akinola, Abp John Chew, Abp. Benjamin Nzimbi, Abp Justice Akrofi, Abp. Henry Orombi, Abp. Gregory Venables, and Abp. Emmanuel Kolini. They represent more than 30 million faithful Anglicans. They have released this statement:

"We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the Church has been torn further. It is a consequence of the decision taken by our provinces to declare that our relationship with The Episcopal Church is either broken or severely impaired.

Scripture teaches that before coming to sit with one another at the Lord's Table we must be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ) We have made repeated calls for repentance by The Episcopal Church and its leadership with no success. We continue to pray for a change of heart.

We are unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding, "Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith" (Book of Common Prayer)

This is a painful decision for us and also for our host and brother, the Most Rev¹d Donald Mtetemela. He understands our painful dilemma and accepts our decision. Pray for the Church."

Friday, February 16, 2007
White Sands Hotel, Jangwani Beach, Tanzania

23 comments:

Jane Ellen said...

Let's look at this again.

"Ye that do truly and
earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your
neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of
God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith..."


The seven primates in question were (and are) apparently not "in love and charity with their neighbors," and appear to have no intention of "leading a new life." So it would seem as though their choice was theologically and spiritually correct.

However, that action does not, as some would suggest (and the men in question seem to believe), reflect godly condemnation of those others at the table. Properly understood, it reflects concern over the state of their own souls.

There is the sad thing... that these seven are in such a spiritual state that they feel unable to accept the body and blood of Our Lord. Further, rather than quietly declining to receive (as anyone may do), they feel the need to proclaim themselves so publicly. How tragic.

Tobias said...

Perhaps you are correct in your reading, Jane Ellen. This would, then, no doubt be consistent with Archbishop Akinola's statement reported in the New York Times, "Many people say I embarrass them with my humility."

It is encouraging to see this as an act of public penance by the seven primates involved. It is up to the rest of the Primates then, to assure them they have been forgiven, and are welcome at the table, and that they have no need of further qualms or demonstrations.

Les said...

So seven of our GS brethren have supplied further evidence of just how perverted their reading of scripture is.

With respect to the Lambeth and Windsor Report calls for continuing debate on sexuality issues, there's a question that's been bugging me for some time. Why does ++Rowan feel that full inclusion of LGBT people by part of the Anglican Communion close off continuing debate on these issues, while blanket exclusion of these folks by the whole Communion would not?

Morningsider said...

more cruel and unreasonable are they than brute beasts, that cannot be persuaded to be good to their Christian brethren and neighbours, for whom Christ suffered death, when in this sacrament they be put in remembrance that the Son of God bestowed his life for his enemies. We see by daily experience that the eating and drinking, together maketh friends and continueth friendship; much more then ought the table of Christ to move us so to do. Wild beasts and birds be made gentle by giving them meat and drink: why then should not Christian men wax meek and gentle with this heavenly meat of Christ? Hereunto we be stirred and moved, as well by bread and wine in this holy supper, as by the words of scripture recited in the same. Wherefore whose heart so ever this holy sacrament, communion and supper of Christ will not kindle with love unto his neighbours, and cause him to put out of his heart all envy, hatred, and malice, and to grow in the same all amity, friendship, and concord, he deceiveth himself, if he thinks he hath the spirit of Christ dwelling within him. -- Thonas Cranmer, (Defence of the True and Catholic Docrine of the Scacrament, 1550

It appears to me that the seven primates sadly misunderstand the eucharist, not to mention the incarnation and atonement.

Allen Mellen

R said...

Tobias and friends,

I heartily concur, having posted similar sentiments earlier today.

Tobias, I am most struck by your analysis of the dynamics of the disagreement itself -- the hardened position that the "debate" is closed, that the question was never really a question to begin with.

It brings to my mind the Japanese proverb, "the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists."

It suggests to me we must beware of unyielding and inflexible theologies.

Tobias said...

UPDATE: the title of the release at the CON website has changed from "Statement from Global South Primates" to "Primates explain absence at Holy Eucharist."

I suspect this change in the heading may have more to do with the fact that the Primates were not supposed to be releasing statements or otherwise commenting on the meeting until after it was over. The rather late revision to the title in no way changes the fact that a statement was released, but it does seem to soften the fact that it is directly from the Primates by a tad.

Reverend Ref + said...

I made this same comment over at Mark Harris' blog, but I thought I would say it here:

This one I couldn't pass up. I posted about this whole mess over on my blog. It seems to me that these men have (once again) missed the point, as well as continuing to hold to a very narrow view of why they can't receive communion.

Someone should remind them of the Prayer of Humble Access.

brightereyed, bushiertailed said...

It's odd, Fr. Haller - while I completely disagree with you, so far as I can tell, regarding the moral and theological acceptability of same-sex relationship, and what it means for an item to be "biblical" or to be supported by "tradition," I can't help but concur in thinking this particular action of the GS primates both theologically misguided and uncharitable.

Fr-Eric said...

By this action and by their statement, the Primates of the Churches of Nigeria, Southeast Asia and Singapore, Kenya, West Africa, Uganda, the Southern Cone of the Americas, and Rwanda have made it clear that they are not interested in maintaining the Anglican Communion and it is they who have broken it.

Additionally, it seems to me that their understanding of what the Holy Eucharist represents is much more like that of the Church of Rome -- symbolic of a unity achieved by human ecclesial organization -- than that of the Anglican tradition -- symbolic of a unity into which God invites us.

Tobias, I believe your analysis of "hardened" and "closed" positions is correct, and that it will be well nigh impossible to soften and re-open some of these Primates' stands.

obadiahslope said...

In fairness I think it could be said that the Primate of TEC is unlikely to change her mind on, for example, the seating of +NH. There are closed postions on both sides, i believe.

Tobias said...

I included the last post from Obadiahslope for several reasons, even though it has strayed a bit from the topic.

First, because I have found Obadiahslope to be a reasonable interlocutor, even though our positions on many of these matters differ.

But more importantly, second, to highlight a phenomenon whereby it appears that folks seem to be unable to simply acknowedge wrong when it is done, without adding a "but you do it too" kind of kicker.

And I raise this in this particular instance because although it may well be true that the positions are "hard" on both sides, in no way have I seen behavior such as is described here on the part of the "reappraiser" side of the aisle. I know of no liberal who would do as these conservatives have done: shun the eucharist as a judgment upon other members of the assembly. This is, in fact, a major difference between these world views -- between those who see the eucharist (apparently) as a celebration of the righteous rather than as a grace to sinners one and all. Stated most concisely, as I have in the past, +Akinola would be welcome to come to my altar, but I would not be welcome at his -- and he would clearly refuse my welcome. These Primates have utterly inverted the understanding of the eucharist, and have enacted the role of the Pharisee, not the role of Jesus.

Whether both sides are firm in their opinions about other matters isn't my central concern. It is the inability of some to transcend their opinions and do as Jesus would have us do: not to judge others, nor to demand their repentance, not to obsess about their sins. But to forgive. In the end, it isn't about opinions, but behavior: about how well we treat each other in the name of Christ.

JCF said...

I know of no liberal who would do as these conservatives have done: shun the eucharist as a judgment upon other members of the assembly.

In all honesty, Tobias, I know some very angry LGBTs, who *have* done this (in a variety of ways, including one elderly gay man who's told me, proudly, of the time he spat the host back at his bishop. This was a very notorious incident, some 30-35 years ago or so).

While in all these cases (dramatic resistance, or merely voting-with-feet absence) I understand the anger . . . I still wish my queer kin wouldn't take it out on Jesus! ;-/

obadiahslope said...

It is a hard time to communicate across the divide right now isn't it? Can I make it plain that my earlier post was on the question of "hardened" positions rather than the issue of holy communion and so I guess I did wander from the main topic. Mea culpa, Tobias.
I was surprised, though, that such an incisive comentator as Tobias, seemed to be suggesting that "hardened" views are more previlent on my side of the fence, to the point of suggesting that this is an absolute difference.
I seems to me that there's lot's of "We've made a decision and we are not going back" rhetoric from within TEC. So a mention of entrenched views on the progressive side would have been a good balancing comment.
Let's face it. A lot of Anglicans, progressive, evangelical and other, have strong opinions on the issues that divide us. Unhappy divisions indeed.

Tobias said...

JCF,
I find that an appalling story -- and this is the first I've heard of it. I have heard of some RC gays who will stand in protest at the Eucharist and not receive -- and while I think that too is inappropriate, it is actually in keeping with RC policy that they not receive. Personally I think the only reasons not to recieve the Eucharist are laid out in exactly the texts the group of refusing Primates cite in this case: a lack of either charity or repentance for wrongs done against others; emphatically not as a judgement on the rest of the assembly.

Obadiahslope, thanks for your response. I did not mean to suggest, in any absolute manner, that firm opinions are all on one side. I don't think I said that. What I was pointing out was the tension between a large number of the "reasserters" over against the apparent openness not of "reappraisers" but of the Windsor Report itself. This is what many of the reasserters are denying. I think there are very few liberals who would say that their case is made, that the defense rests, and that the jury is in -- in their favor. Yes, there may be a few that feel that way, but if they actually believe this to be true, I think they are sadly mistaken.

I think Bishop Gomez' breakdown of positions is fairly revelatory of the proportion: TEC and Canada are clearly of a mind -- though not by any means 100% convinced even here -- that the subject is quite open and lean towards acceptance, and continue to make the case for change. Then there is a cluster of about 10 or so provinces that are less convinced, but equally feel this is no issue over which to split. Then there are the "impaired" group who feel this is really wrong, but who are willing to abide by the Windsor language about dialogue. But then there are the "hard" GS group who can't see -- in their own words -- why we are even discussing this question. They are the ones who claim the moiety of the Communion, so I cite their own allegation as evidence that the bulk of the "hard" position is on their side.

There is a difference between "strong opinion willing to continue discussion" and "strong opinion that walks away from the table." That is what I am talking about here.

Caroline Divine said...

Thank you, Tobias, for this fine reflection on Eucharistic theology and practice.

I have recommended it to several in my congregation and also, just now, to BabyBlue and her readers :-).

obadiahslope said...

On the question of holy communion this report from The Living Church gives an insight into the motives of the refusniks.
"The breach of Eucharistic fellowship in 2005 by 14 primates was with the person of Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, [a Global South leader] noted, arguing that this personal breach did not automatically extend to the new Presiding Bishop for all recusant primates. While sharing many of the views of his American counterparts, Canadian Archbishop Andrew Hutchison’s strong relations with many of the Global South leaders, had blunted a similar reaction to him, sources told The Living Church."

Weiwen Ng said...

"In all honesty, Tobias, I know some very angry LGBTs, who *have* done this (in a variety of ways, including one elderly gay man who's told me, proudly, of the time he spat the host back at his bishop. This was a very notorious incident, some 30-35 years ago or so). "

JCF, I know of a similar incident in my Diocese where my friend and one other man spat the host out.

I'm not sure if I'm trying to justify them or not, but I heard it said that in the 50s and 60s, the 3 greatest enemies of the gay community were the police, priests, and psychologists. they had taken a lot of abuse and insults. this is what drove that form of protest.

their actions, as well as those of the seven GS Primates, were supremely disrespectful. my friend, though, did come back to the church. he did engage with the church, and the church did engage with him. additionally, his actions were those of an inferior calling a superior to account. the actions of the GS Primates were those of equals disrespecting their equals. even if the action is unjustified, my sympathies lie more with my friend and his colleague.

I have to say, though, this exercise did lead me to see the actions of Abps Akinola, Chew, et al in a more compassionate light. I still intend to hold them to account as best I can, though: I have written Abp Chew; the letter is on my blog.

Weiwen Ng said...

addendum to my previous comment: Jim and his friend (who spat the wafers out), acting as inferiors confronting superiors, had no power to marginalize anyone. this was the most visible way they could demand respect, and they did so.

the GS Primates, acting as equals, do potentially have the power to marginalize the Episcopal Church. in fact, the Global South's numbers are far greater than the churches in the West. for me, differences in power do enter into the calculus. still not saying that either Jim and Co or Akinola and Co were justified, though.

Anonymous said...

I am, I guess, a "reasserter" priest in the Episcopal Church who has refused since 2003 and sometimes before to receive Communion at Diocesan events. Why? Because I do not recognize the God being worshipped as the one God and Savior of the world revealed in Jesus Christ. I try not to make my non-reception an issue with anybody and I often try to actually hide the fact that I am not receiving so as not to create a stumbling block for the "weaker brother."

For me, this is not quite the same as saying that I cannot receive with "sinners." Of course I can. Who else is Communion for, anyway? Instead, it's that the words and hymns being used suggest a distinct desire to escape from the particular God of Israel disclosed in Jesus. Some sort of life-force or god-sans-judgment is being worshipped--often his identity as "Father" is actively shunned--so that I cannot be sure that this is, in fact, communion in Christ.

I guess this is not the thinking of the refusing Primates as their statement seems to invert the roles and responsibilities in the question of Communion. It really is a confusing statement. All the same, we are solemnly warned by the Apostle "If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." (1 Cor. 5:11)

How would such an injunction have been put into practice in Corinth? Would it not have involved some members tremblingly, humbly, yet firmly making the judgment that others were not to be sat down with at table, certainly not at the Lord's Table? Would they not have clearly distinguished between those repentant sinners who, turning from their sins, were seeking God's grace and those who insisted, against the Apostle's clear direction, that their fornication, or idolatry, or coveteousness, or whatever was in fact some great new advance in human truth and beauty? How different, then, is the current situation from that?

Anonymous said...

Just saw instruction to anonymous posters. Sorry. Previous anonymous post is signed by
--Name withheld

Paige said...

Because I do not recognize the God being worshipped as the one God and Savior of the world revealed in Jesus Christ.

Are the words of institution in the BCP not used? If they are, then you strike me as being so close to Donatism as to be indistinguishable from that heresy...

Some sort of life-force or god-sans-judgment is being worshipped--often his identity as "Father" is actively shunned--so that I cannot be sure that this is, in fact, communion in Christ.

So focusing on what---the love of God?---bothers you? Do we have to focus on the mean-God-who-destroys-people-He-doesn't -like in order to have a valid Eucharist?

Kind of makes Jesus' "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" seem a little...wimpish...I guess.

And what difference does it make to *you* if people find calling God "Father" difficult? Is God literally male? Can you not understand that the "Father" image is problematic for a LOT of people---it keeps them away from God. Do you really think it hurts or demeans God to think of Him in some other way?

All the same, we are solemnly warned by the Apostle "If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." (1 Cor. 5:11)

And we are solemnly admonished by our Lord and Savior to judge not unless we wish to be judged by the same measure we use and to worry about the log in our own eyes before we worry about the speck in someone else's.

God will sort it all out, dear priest. But He has already pointed out that He is not happy with legalism and people taking His prerogative to judge.

Tobias said...

Thank you Paige, for your response to the anonymous priest.

I would also add that whoever refuses to partake of communion with his sisters and brothers, also closes himself off from communion with Christ. Obviously, if this a question of his own sense of guilt and unworthiness, there is ample mercy to be called upon; and so to refuse communion even in these situations seems to me to suggest a piety that rejects the very medicine prescribed for the malady, a kind of despair over his own unworthiness.

The other danger, however, is the poison of judgment, which places the judge over and against both the brother or sister, and against the Lord to whose welcome they have responded. I simply do not think it is our task to test the hearts of others who come to the Lord, and find them wanting. That, it seems to me, is the malady of pride.

Despair and pride, then, appear to be two sides of rejection. The only unforgivable sin is to believe oneself incapable of being forgiven, and the danger of pride and judgment is that we are assured we shall be judged even as we judge, and are forgiven only to the extent we forgive. It is no accident that the Lord's Prayer immediately precedes communion.

I pray that you will reconsider this policy, and set judgment aside and come to the table with all of the other sinners. If you are worshiping God in your heart, he will receive you, and you him, even in the depths of the pit; how much more among those with whom you share, if even not a perfect unity of faith, at least a Godward hope?

Anonymous said...

I thank both Paige and Tobias for their interesting responses to my anonymous post. It is anonymous precisely because I do not wish to turn Holy Communion into a shouting match. I'm not sure that either of you quite understands my point.

To Tobias: I am well acquainted with the sin of despair. It is deadly in the worst sense. I know it can lead to hell. Your warnings are thankfully received.

I'm not abstaining from H.C. because I feel myself unforgiven or unforgivable. However, I recognize that my abstinence might be what I do not intend, that is, a sign that I am indeed not in love and charity with my neighbors nor intending to lead a new life. That would in fact be the case if your other suggestion is correct, namely, that I am judgmental. I accept that as a possibility.

Here, though, I must clarify that I am not in any way judging anybody else's "heart." I am, instead, judging the outward words and policies of my bishop and fellow-clergy. Those (the words and policies) I judge to be twisted away from the revelation of God in Christ. I am not judging whether they are sinners or even whether they truly love the Lord or that they hope "in a Godward direction." I assume they are and do. I simply doubt that this is in fact the table of the Lord. I respect and love them. I just doubt that I belong to their "church."

I am surprised that a Catholic like you would argue for Christian unity based on nothing more than a subjective evaluation of whether I am worshipping God in my heart. Or that true reception of Christ in the sacrament requires only that we all share a Godward hope.

To Paige, whose comments are more pointed: The BCP's words of institution are used, but I don't quite know why they alone are the test of real Christianity. What if Apostolic Scriptures are ridiculed? What if Christ is directly refuted? What if the atonement is obscured, deliberately, so as to appease those who are offended by it? The words of institution, like the "Father" of the Lord's Prayer, stick out like wrong notes in liturgies that expend enormous energy to bury their implications.

Statements ridiculing the saving judgment of God by characterizing it as "mean-God-who-destroys-people-He-doesn't-like" are exactly the sort of thing that convince me that my fellow-worshippers are not even interested in the God of the Bible. Yes, I feel like saying to such types, I really hate God's loving everybody; I wish Jesus hadn't gone so soft with that penitent thief. Sheesh! You've demonstrated my point! Why wrestle with a God of love and judgment when I can just blow him away with bombs like that? I remind you that the other thief, the one who ridiculed Jesus, does not get saved.

No, I do not think that "the Father image" is something to jettison if A LOT of people find it difficult. Not when Jesus says, here's how you pray: "Father."

Finally, you demonstrate perfectly my point. I'm constantly running into clergy of the diocese who simply cross out verses like 1 Cor. 5:11 because they don't comport with their interpretation of "Judge not." Their quick and breezy declarations that God is all about affirming us and never about calling us to exercise some church discipline and, yes, judgment in our common life make me think that the "god" being worshipped is American optimism and pop psychology rather than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Would you say, "God will sort it all out" to an abused wife, or in regards to world hunger or global warming? No? Then I suspect you don't take theology very seriously. I do. It's about the truth.

The condescending pat on the head("dear priest") really grates. It so reminds me of the responses I often get from other, more "enlightened" clergy.

--Name withheld