Monday, February 23, 2009

Bishop Epting on "'Open' Communion"

From here:

The point being, we have ecumenical covenants and commitments that we have made over the last forty or fifty years which are predicated on our commitment to certain basic sacramental practices. When these practices involve the most basic sacrament which unites all Christians together, regardless of our other differences, surely we run the risk of being considered unreliable ecumenical partners when we make these changes with virtually no theological conversation among ourselves and certainly none with our ecumenical partners.

And, of course, any priest who formally and publicly invites the un-baptized to Holy Communion is in direct violation of canon law and subject to discipline for that.

But, hey, who cares about that, right?

Well, yeah-- who cares? I mean, canons are only for the bad guys, like the renegade dioceses and parishes. The "radical" in Radical Inclusion means not having to bother with rules, right?

I share Bishop Eppings's skepticism over how genuinely radical this inclusion is. This isn't about hospitality to the genuinely religiously hungry, for they as a rule can understand that there are some things which are reserved to the initiated. What it does instead is open the door to those who profane the sacrament by not caring about it at all, or those who profane it by reworking it in their own minds into whatever fits their private spirituality. On the other side, those who can read scripture or who are aware of the ancient tradition of the church may well be put off by being told to communion with unbelievers.

What particularly bothers me about the latter is that the tinge of being deliberately offensive has increasingly colored the liberal side, to the point of an increasingly conspicuous hypocrisy. How can you tell that you're being radical? Because someone complains. Therefore, you aren't truly radical unless you're offending someone. On that level, "radical inclusion" is an impossibility, because offending people isn't inclusion. Well, okay, I suppose one can try to wash over this this by saying one can't include people who don't want to be included. But still, there's that nagging need to have people to offend. In practice, the radicals of ECUSA will always have those nasty "fundamentalists", which increasingly means no more than "anyone with a real theology", to set themselves against. But the problem then becomes that doing any real theology becomes impossible, because having theological commitments leads to exclusions. And it's very obvious that the "inclusionists" have such commitments, and that they extend beyond a general inclusion into some very specific inclusions. And it's also very obvious that they are basically having not only to stop reading scripture before they get to the Letter of Paul to the Romans, but also to skip over some things that Jesus is quoted as saying in the gospels. So now the exclusions extend very much into making sure the power structures of the church don't express these contrary-but-scriptural expressions of exclusivity. And that leads us back into the old paradox of rigid latitude that has been a marker of the powerful liberals for a very long time.

And pretty soon, in the interest of not offending, the creed has to be put on the shelf, and indeed, practically anything except that specific set of inclusion causes has to be jettisoned. And then, why bother calling us Christian?

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