December 18, 2009

Incarnation (?)

The official final version of the Anglican Communion Covenant (as it is now presumptively, not to say presumptuously, called) is now available for adoption or otherwise "entering into."

I've promised some further musings on the Covenant in days leading up to now, and as the final text is abroad I suppose I must put some effort into it. Fighting the ennui of the dim days leading up to the darkest of the year, and word of an impending blizzard, I will observe, in light of the upcoming feast of the Incarnation, that the main problem I have with the Covenant is that it incarnates the very problems it ostensibly is designed to solve. It is self-fulfilling prophecy, putting into turgid church-speak the stunningly obvious fact that those who want to get along with each other will get along without a Covenant, and those who don't want to get along with each other will fail to do so even if there is a Covenant in place.

Thus this whole Covenant business is really a form of adoptionism, rather than a real new incarnation or birth — christening our crises and diagnosing our dilemma without offering any real direction for maturing growth in community or treatment for what ails us — which at this point appears to be a form of auto-immune disease.

Section Four, even after reworking, strikes me as still much too much in the world of the ecclesiastical busybodies and perfectionists, the fixer-uppers of other people's failings, even with its suggested form of DIY discipline, consisting mostly of voluntarily dropping out of participation in aspects of the life of the Communion. That hardly seems churchly, except in the worst sense of Benign Neglect which the English Episcopate brought to a high art in the 19th century. At its worst it suggests too much the other classical English solution of Partition (though voluntary in this case) and so once again paradoxically points us away from each other rather than toward each other or to Godward — the root problem of placing the focus for Communion with each other not in Christ but in our own handcrafted Instruments, on none of which is the varnish even dry.

This is not to say we have no need of institutional structures, but this proposal, for all its lipservice, seems to replace autonomy-in-communion with a kind of heteronomy-in-diffusion, with nothing to keep people together in Christ except their own weak and fallible wills and mild threats of being sent to Coventry. What is really needed, I'll say again as I've said before, is the kind of oikonomy-in-commonality enjoyed by the Benedictines — each household committed to follow a common rule, without any necessary superstructure or power from above apart from that of God's own Holy Spirit. Let the Gospel be our Rule, Baptism our commonality, and our cooperation focused on the needs of the world, not on the maintenance of our structures.

In the long run voluntary discipline doesn't work when it is completely voluntary, does it? Those who are not able or not willing to discipline themselves will not frame themselves to someone else's idea of right and wrong, especially when there are strong differences of opinion at work as to just what is right and wrong. (Appeals to the mind of the Communion beg the question entirely, as the Communion lacks any authoritative instrument to determine what that mind is. Right now it is twitching like a brainless frog. It isn't just that the center cannot hold, but that there is no center. By taking our eyes off of God and Christ in each other we have begun to drift.) And external discipline is useless if its only punitive form (excision) is seen as a reward or at least as no big whoop; and we've seen more than enough of the "you can't fire me; I quit" mentality at work in the Communion (on several sides of our several divides) over the last few years to keep us for a while.

So, in short, I don't see the Covenant "solving" anything but merely putting the seal on the ultimate collapse of the Anglican experiment — or at least this phase of that experiment. This proposal neither preserves the old nor offers something truly new; it merely fixes us in our present state of tension (or "restraint") until time's ever-flowing stream does its work and the slow movement of consensus drags Anglicanism (some of it kicking and screaming) forward a few feet into the reality of a post-Christendom world. By the time it gets there, however, the world will have moved on, and I suspect few will be interested in anything we have to say.

And so... that being said...
Should the member churches adopt it? As I hope I've made clear, at this point I don't see it as accomplishing much of anything, but not damaging too much either. It all just seems so dilatory and passive. I would much rather a missional covenant based on a commitment to work together (come what may, for better or worse in terms of what we like or don't about each other) on common human issues. I suppose I'd rather see a loose federation that accomplishes something rather than a tightly linked communion that does little but obsess over its internal issues.

But as this Covenant will allow for getting back to work once we get it out of the way, signed and filed, perhaps the best thing to do is simply sign on and then be on about our business, as long as it is God's business. It appears, if anybody gets upset with anything anyone does that is "incompatible with the Covenant," the worst that could happen is some unnamed "relational consequence" — but whatever that is could hardly be worse than the current mess of unilateral communion-breaking and interference in the internal affairs of other provinces.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Grandmère Mimi said...

But, Tobias, if the Covenant doesn't accomplish much of anything, then it's a sham. To me, it seems dishonest to sign on to something that we believe doesn't accomplish much of anything, even if it does no harm? What's to keep us from going about our business of doing the work of the Lord without signing the Covenant?

Think of the bureaucracy that will follow to decide the "relational consequences" if a member church does anything that is "incompatible with the Covenant". Why would we want to be a part of that? Why not devote that time, money, and effort to missional activities?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

G.M., I see the Covenant as a token, with all the good or ill that implies. Tokens are common in diplomacy, which this is. I think we make more of the Covenant if we refuse to sign.

After all, if the worst that can happen is getting invited to leave, staying away accomplishes the same -- we're no worse off if we sign and then have to withdraw, than if we don't sign and never have a voice at the table.

I don't think the bureaucracy will be all that much, btw.

I'm going to be interested in seeing the reaction from other parts of the globe. The whole think may fizzle, and if that's what it looks like, then I'd say let's let it die. But TEC can't "adopt" at least until 2012, and maybe 2015 if a constitutional change is needed, so there is no rush about this -- which in itself will lead to some sifting out among the irascible...

WSJM said...

Does anyone know the difference between the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and the Busybody of Christ?

Neither do I.

Caminante said...

"But TEC can't "adopt" at least until 2012, and maybe 2015 if a constitutional change is needed, so there is no rush about this "

Despite those fear mongers who think we have to sign onto it NOW... totally ignoring our polity.

If only this thing had died a premature death.


Erika Baker said...

The question is what would the effect of the Covenant be on something like the election of the two women bishops in the USA?

What responses would it encourage from non-consenting Anglican churches, what red tape would it start to spin, and what would the final result of the ensuing process be?

And would it be possible to apply it to something like the Ugandan law?

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

One of your most brilliant pieces, dear Tobias.

Money quote "It is self-fulfilling prophecy, putting into turgid church-speak the stunningly obvious fact that those who want to get along with each other will get along without a Covenant, and those who don't want to get along with each other will fail to do so even if there is a Covenant in place."

Bryan Owen said...

The "money quote" from Tobias' piece cited by Göran Koch-Swahne could just as easily apply to the promises we make in the baptismal covenant. Is it not stunningly obvious that those of us who are willing to respect the dignity of every human being and who are willing to seek and serve Christ in all persons will do so whether or not we make/renew those promises several times a year?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

I agree (contra Phil Turner, btw) that in principle any vows do not empower their own keeping, but rather chart out limits and lines of definition.

Where I disagree however, is that the Covenant really gives such guidance, as ultimately the arbiter is not ones own behavior, but the "comfort level" of the various busibodies or ox-gored individuals or complainants. The covenant is, as I say, its heteronomous. That is, it is essentially a promise not to do something someone else finds problematical -- it fixes the "vow" if you will, in other people's reactions to what one does. The Baptismal Covenant, on the other hand, particularly the portions closely modeled on the love of God and neighbor, are theonomous in regard to God, and properly and "subjectively autonomous" (which is what I mean by oikomonous) in regard to neighbor -- loving one's neighbor "as oneself" (fleshed out in the Golden Rule with a further subjective criterion of what one would have done in regard to oneself). Thus the BaptCov is geared towards charity and love of neighbor, while the AngCov is geared towards placating the dissatisfaction of others. These are, to my mind, two very different moralities, at base.

Thus, I see these as two very different things. As a moral document, the Covenant steps backwards, in my view, from a Gospel-oriented form of ecclesiastical governance.

Grandmère Mimi said...

WSJM, I surely can't see the difference. Where did this busybody come from?

Fra Savanarola said...

I don't know much about the rest of the Anglican Communion (arising in schism from Rome), but the TEC (arising in schism from the CofE) has evolved (as a matter of "gracious restraint" I avoided the more accurate, and value-free, term "devolved") into a bi-polar mess with unconstrained congregational self-determination at the parish (or at least diocesan) level and litigious hierarchical posturing and property confiscation the most meaningful activities we all fund at 815.

I'm not trying to be judgemental or critical, just descriptive.

I like my parish.

We've got a big tent holding everybody from the ultra-orthodox to part-time wiccans.

And thank goodness our rector says there's no reason to believe any of those silly old creeds in the BCP (because, after all, according to him, modern scholars of latin now understand that "credo" is translated as "hold in my heart"), so none of us needs to be too concerned about what we, or anybody else believes about much of anything.

And our Bishop is quite pleased as long as we're paying at least a major fraction of our assessment to the diocese (turns out our semi-compliance in paying the franchise fee is better the rapidly diminishing cash flow from a lot of other churches in our district.)

But the Episcopal Church ceased to be a coherent body quite awhile ago.

Bruno, the PB, Duncan, the ABC, etc. really need to stop this passively aggressive attempt to deepen bonds (or share monies) by claiming greater commonality exists among an increasingly anarchistic bunch of congregational churches that share not much more than a red, white, and blue shield on the front lawn.

How about we all just sign an illuminated parchment affirming our continuing commitment to staying muddled and irascible. ?

afeatheradrift said...

Thanks for such a pointed and thoughtful assessment. I haven't read the document yet, but I suspect, from the murmurings I've heard, that you are spot on. It seems that Canterbury has taken its cue from our own Congress and health care reform. What comes out at the end is rather a "shrugging" of the shoulders and on to something else. This seems the way of all diplomacy these days, waterered down meaningless trivial nothingness that everyone can congratulate each other on "coming together" on and then go about their business.

F. Harry Stowe said...

A brief casuistry on the whole:

R said...

"Thus the BaptCov is geared towards charity and love of neighbor, while the AngCov is geared towards placating the dissatisfaction of others. These are, to my mind, two very different moralities, at base."

Dear Br. Tobias,

I heartily agree. The worst aspect of the proposed Covenant is that it feeds into the shadow side of Anglicanism: our tendency to avoid stepping on toes. I paraphrase, if you'll forgive me, your words at General Convention this last summer: Woe to consequentialists!

Oh, chastity, where art thou?

David |Dah • veed| said...

BaptCov, AngCov

Oh, please do not do that, you make us look to be Scientologists!

I am not sure what that bat guano Fra Savanarola is flinging about up there is about, so most of it makes no sense to me. Perhaps it is my poor English.

However, the schism was more between King George and the Continental Congress, not the CoE and an as yet nonexistent TEC.

As to the Covenenant, I hope most folks ignore it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Caro Fra Sav..., I have to agree with Dahveed about an alleged schism betw the CoE and TEC. CoE and Rome, clearly was about more than institutional governance, but also about issues of doctrine; while the early TEC was at pains to show to the CoE that no innovations in doctrine were intended, and the movement towards eccelesiastical independence was based entirely on a good Anglican principle of national churches, with particular attention to the difficulties created by the establishment in England and the complete disestablishment in the US. As to the rest, I'm glad you like your parish, in spite of the tendency in many places to parishes becoming "parochial" in the worst sense. There certainly are a number of free-thinking clergy out and about, as well as a few bishops. But your anecdotal evidence doesn't match mine, and I don't think on the whole that TEC has fallen into extreme congregationalism on the whole, though it clearly has in part, or parts. And I think it goes far afield as a matter of fact to state that litigation is the most meaningful activity funded at 815. The litigation constitutes only a very small percentage of the total budget -- though sadly necessitated by the deplorable congregationalism and misunderstandings of church law on the part of the few.

However, I agree with what I take to be your overall point about the lack of a specifically "coherent" or far less, "monolithic" understanding of what it means to be a church, and do think that big tent is as it should be. But in my travels, and in the networks within which I move, I do not see quite the chaotic anarchy you seem to think is abroad. As the acronym has it, YMMV. Mine certainly does.

AFAdrift, the analogy with the mess in health care is apt -- a seeming unwillingness to bite the bullet of reality and risk offending one side or the other in this multi-sided affair.

Thanks Fr Stowe! You've captured the complexity completely!

Yes, that dark side of the "need to possess or control" is hard at work in all of this. Which, as you know, is why that is part of our vow!

Dahveed, sorry about the acronyms, but Anglican Communion Covenant comes out as ACC, and there are already two of those out there. ;-)

I have a fairly strong sense this Covenant is not going to be widely adopted; or possibly widely adopted but then ignored or sidelined. It is clearly not the way forward for a new structure for Anglicanism, if anyone really wants that.

And now back to shoveling snow....

David |Dah • veed| said...

My downloaded copy is titled The Anglican Communion Covenant, so we could call it TACCy!

Christopher said...

The excellent historian, Diarmaid MacCulloch's letter says a lot. But I would add two things. The problem is not just the tidying up coming from those with an authoritarianism of Scripture--some Evangelicals, it is a problem coming from those with an authoritarianism of the episcopacy--some Anglo-catholics. Both groups have tendencies to lead us into sectarian and authoritarian tendencies that are at odds with Churches in Communion claiming to be common in prayer. And hence, my distancing from the Anglo-catholic label as time goes on. Benedictine, not Anglo-catholic, catholicity is closer to our heritage as a whole.

Archbishop Williams has done the Communion a great disfavor by pursuing his Roman project when he should be pursuing shoring up Anglicanism in its common prayer emphasis. His pursuing of his Roman Project has allowed for some of the worst tendencies to surface from the Reformed and Anglo-Catholic wings of the Churches.

Laurel said...

I recently read an old book called "The Archbishop's Test", published around 1916 or so. In it, Canterbury proposed that, instead of amending the Prayer Book, that all parishes follow the book's every detail for two years, and then the option of revising the Prayer Book would be taken up again. In the course of the two years, much changed, and for the good, and the revision was deemed unnecessary. I thought, when I finished reading the last page, "what a sweet vision, and how hopelessly romantic and dated." But today, as I read the comments on both sides of so many passionate and wise folks on this and other blogs, I am wondering if the idea is in fact so very dated, or if it is basically what we might be needing today. That, and really living the Beatitudes and our baptismal covenants, wherein God's love is sovereign. That would keep us plenty busy.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Dahveed. TACC it is!

Christopher, amen to a return to Benedictine roots, as I noted. And Laurel, I think this is in part what I am commending -- not the urge to "fix things up" but entering deeply into a period of prayer and reflection. Thank you for your testimony to that possibility. As I said to the Archbishop last summer, "What a wave of grace might sweep across the communion if we were simply to relate to each other as children of God, as we really are, and stop trying to make ourselves or each other into something we are not..."

Grandmère Mimi said...

"What a wave of grace might sweep across the communion if we were simply to relate to each other as children of God, as we really are, and stop trying to make ourselves or each other into something we are not..."

A good word, indeed, Tobias. Too bad the ABC didn't take your words to heart. Aaarrrgh!

I'm sorry. Rowan frustrates me so.

Lynn said...

Fra Savanarola,

The Church of England's role in the Reformation is much more interesting than you might think. If the seeds hadn't been planted elsewhere, Henry VIII wouldn't have been so successful, I think. My research interests tend toward the early Church universal, and the complicated history of TEC/CoE in Virginia. But clearly, how society and the Church changed during the reformation is a must for anyone who enjoys history.

I'd like to add my thoughts on your other comments. Every church has its tangled messes, all the time. The Church on earth is made of fragile and individual creatures, life gets messy in the parish, the diocese, and the world. Just because we hear more about it now doesn't mean it the Church hasn't always been full of dissent, failings, ambitions and troubles. But it has survived, and there's good reason to think it always will in some form. That's why we are all commenting here, isn't it? We know God's love endures, and so - the Church universal does as well.

Bill Coats said...

Tobias' thoughts are wonderfully to the point and as usual lyrical. Unfortunately they are beside the point. The point is NOT to sign this covenant nonsense precisely in order to save our church. While we debate this or that section of this hideous docuent, TEC continues to decline. My guess is we will implode in 50 years. Our best and last hope is simply to stop this romance with the AC and try all-out to make this church grow. Theological niceties are nice - if you have the luxury of a vibrant growing church. We do not!
Here Duncan et al are on to it. Their actions are not grounded in theological debate but in the view that they know how to grow and we do not. Until we can prove our mettle and start to grow all these arguments remain irrelevant.
Bill Coats

R said...


I agree with you in principle: the covenant is a distraction. But I'm not sure we should swap one idol (false unity) for another (church growth). Granted, growth of the church is desirable, but it is not -- to my mind at least -- achieved as an end unto itself, but rather is the natural outcome of faithful and authentic, vibrant labor and God's grace.

I also quibble with the "we'll be dead and gone in 50 years" assertion. It's a favorite trick of the media and our culture to draw a straight line from whatever the trend is at the moment . . . whether going up (i.e. a stock market or growth bubble) or going down (we're headed down. . .forever!) Population trends are rarely linear for very long. They are more cyclical. I believe we're still cycling off the post-war hay-day and back towards a more realistic "core" of faithful Christians in this country. That seems to explain the evidence we see across the board -- including the declines in the most evangelical "church-growth" oriented denominations. The unusual post-war social pressures driving people into denominational Christianity simply are no longer there. But that does not mean we are headed towards death. A number of dioceses and parallel jurisdictions in other denominations are starting to see stability in numbers, and given the aging of the general U.S. population, this actually is a good sign.

Again, here is where I think I agree with you heartily: the covenant distracts us from the task of being who we are called to be. The more we live into that, the more we are likely to grow. We should indeed not hang ourselves on discussion of a potentially spiritually deadly document.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Richard, I echo your response to Bill concerning the various trends in the size of the church(es). I also agree with the notion that further wishy-washiness (or mere submission to the lowest common denominationalism that the Covenant appears to favor) will hasten our irrelevance. The recent Uganda legislation and the local churches' enthusiasm for it make me wonder if it is coherent to imagine a communion that can only stay together by agreeing to disagree about matters on which the cultures in which they live are so very different. It is a sad truth that churches can grow by being adamant and judgmental, and one need look no further than the Friends or the UU to see that being open and flexible does not necessarily lead to popularity. But for me the question is not popularity or church size, but fidelity to the Gospel. So at this point I think the only use for the Covenant is to indicate that we are willing to be at the table, but not that we are necessarily willing to consume dishes we believe to be unhealthy. And if the heteronomy side wins out, then it is time to say a clear No to the Covenant. I have no wish to be part of a World Church that works contrary to the Gospel of Christ (as I believe certain segments of the WWAC do at this point). If I'd wanted that I would never have become an Anglican. I am happy to remain part of a wider fellowship with people with whom I disagree on such matters -- as indeed locally I work with Muslims and Jews -- but I will not submit to their domination at "the cost of my true self." Of what profit is the "whole world [church]..." if we lose our Gospel identity? To whom will we speak when we have nothing to say?

Anonymous said...

Ah Tobias, Forever "sensible" and assuring. We can indeed quibble over "trends" and dismiss certain "post-war" features, but the facts of steady decline are hard to ignore. And your attempt to sideline them won't do. We are decreasing by 6 - 8 percent a year and our demographics are against us. Moreover we have ceased adding youngsters (those in the past from Episcopal families). To be satsified with some base "core" is a form of dreaming. Nothing in America settles at some base point. You either grow or die. To be sure growth may hint at Evangelicalsim. I do not argue for that. In fact at present we do not know what it takes to grow (and certainly our bishops and our Presiding bishop - all in denial - are of little help here). I simply argue we should drop all else and learn how.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Anonymous (please use a name, even a pseudonym, in the future), your comment contains a number of assertions. I'm curious as to the source of your annual 6-8% figure. Six to 8 percent of what? Certainly not our active baptized membership! Fact is, from the peak in 1965 to 2006 the total decline in ABM is only 40% -- closer to 1% per year -- not encouraging by any means, but also far from 6%.

Do you have any evidence for the assertions that "you either grow or die" and that a base settling point is not possible? I mentioned the Quakers and the UU, and I could also point to a number of strands of Judaism as having reached a kind of low-level stability. Some things simply work best at a smaller scale, and the Episcopal Church, after the heyday of "The Power of Their Glory" may be finding its more natural level -- or if you disagree, can you explain why?

I do not, however, to discount the real difficulties we face, but I do not think it is quibbling to look at the broader picture of our culture and its overall trends, including the post-war shifts in populations. The Pew study of 2008 presented some sobering information for all Christian traditions -- including the RCC, which only maintains its size due to immigration, and that is in the process of changing due to the growth of pentacostalism and evangelicalism in Latin America -- so I think the charge is to look at overall increased secularization of our society, and to try to look at what the Episcopal Church offers (and provides) that other churches don't. I am convinced that if we are offering something worthwhile, most importantly the Gospel, we will find our appropriate level -- which without a doubt will be lower than it was in 1965, I guarantee.

I would welcome a concrete suggestion as to what you think we should "drop" and what we should learn. If the WWAC is an obstacle to the Gospel, I think we should drop it. Growth or not, it is the Gospel that counts -- and that's real Evangelism, not Evangelicalism (which is often the dark shadow of the Gospel of Christ!)

Bill Coats said...

Tobias, (Sorry about the anonymous - got confused) The figures for decline are on the web. And ominous. And note the demographics. You continue to miss the point. To chalk up decline because of post war trends, or secualrization or similar difficulties with the Romans are weak excuses which only cements my case. And to think some base point like the Quakers or Unitarians will do, is folly. You apparently don't get the agony this church is in. Check the decline of the seminaries and note the relentless (everywhere) closing of parishes. And to retreat behind Gospel bromides, well meaning as they may be, will in no way help us to learn how to grow. And again I say, In America it is grow or die.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Bill, I think this comes down in part to reality. I don't think I'm missing any point here. Can you be more precise in theses "figures on the web" and demographics. As I say, the Pew study from last year does not support the dire trend you describe particularly for TEC, but paints a dim picture for all religious bodies across the board, and some worse then others. I don't think reality "cements your case" at all -- to date I've seen only vague sky is falling assertions and no real "case" at all. And I dispute your reading of the present state of things (not all the seminaries are in dire straits, though some of them are -- GTS has I think lost sight of its vision) and in my diocese I don't think we've closed a parish recently, but have started several in the last few years. Not them some might not need to close, but that's another story.

But forget about all that. Can you instead of just claiming a dire fate awaits us, offer a practical suggestion or two of how you would see growth happening? I've offered mine: working out what we do best, offering people a place in which they can find joy and hope, and doing what they feel positive about doing in light of the Gospel mandates. And getting away from the controversies that beset us as soon as we can, to concentrate on mission. I think that's a practical plan. What do you offer? How exactly do we "learn how to grow?"

Bill Coats said...

Again simply go to the statistic from the annual Reports. And again to argue others are in trouble is no argument at all. And to say not all the seminaries are introuble is hardly assuring.
I confess learning how to grow is not easy. Few of us outside our own evangelicals have been taught how to do so.
I do not think your notions of joy and peace and positivity in this very aggressive culture will do (which is why the Fundamentalists - battlers all - seem to succeed). I suspect something from their play book (minus the literalism and the anti - this or that) will be needed. I also think something of old Stringfellow's biblcism may work. My point is to try virtually everything and learn along the way

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Bill, this has wandered far from the topic of this pose, but I think it worth the effort as I begin to see some convergence here.

First, the Parochial Report statistics show a decline, but not uniformly across all dioceses, and on average not at the 6-8% per annum you asserted. This is simply a question of facts.

And I must continue to disagree that the state of other church bodies is not relevant to providing an accurate diagnosis. If only TEC were on the decline, things would be different. But as the Pew study showed, there is a general decline across the board. Thus we are not dealing simply with an individual ailment, but an epidemic: and thus we must look at the wider situation.

And this is why it is so important to look at the culture in general, and note the common causes of decline before trying to pin all the blame on things TEC has done or failed to do.

Among the broader trends in the culture is a general shift from a time in which church-going was a social norm. Stores other than pharmacies were closed on Sunday. Sports events at schools were confined to the afternoon. This began to change in the 70s. At the same time we saw a rise in "private religion" or "spirituality" in which people felt less need for a worshipping community, or even "worship" at all.

One reason the Fundies have held on (though recent revelations of how the Southern Baptists have been lying about their membership figures should give us pause) is that they bucked this trend -- and the megachurches (also showing a decline recently) emphasized the community aspects of the religion, as well as a very experiential spirituality requiring a kind or "mob mentality" to build the emotions to a peak and then provide release (not unlike the older RC retreat techniques Joyce described in "Portrait of the Artist...").

So, what can we learn from this? It seems that people do hunger for a strong foundation for their faith -- and many who wander into "spirituality" ultimately discover that need. Can TEC provide a firm foundation? I think so: and I would willingly add a strong but informed Biblicism to the mix -- what I think of as a patristic approach (in an era when rationality was also being integrated with faith). People also hunger for community, and this is something we can work on. I would not want to give in to the dark side of the community built on "they are not us" so common (and successful) in the Fundie world; and BTW I think you dismiss or underestimate too easily how crucial that element is in the Fundie "programme" and a key to its success. (The greatest decline in the RC church began at the time they began to finesse the old teaching about being the "only true church"),

So I have to say there are some things I will not try, but I am willing to do those things that are congruent with the Gospel, and work for them, as I think they will lead to our continuation as a viable church in a pluralistic society.