Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Patagruel Interviews McLaren

I've now been through my rector's "emerging church" seminar, and in poking around I've come across an interesting interview in The New Pantagruel.

Brian McLaren (associated with Cedar Ridge Community Church, about two miles from my house) seems to be both an important spokesman (a term I think he might object to) and lightning rod for whatever "emerging church" is (again, the taxonomy of this thing is disputed). One can start from the interview and read a few more traditionally analytical criticisms of the whole idea in general and McLaren's writing in particular, and while these are of some interest (and make, I think, some valid points) the interview is, to me, more interesting because of the way that Dan Knauss (the interviewer) interacts in a way which seems more acceptable to McLaren. More acceptable, and yet probing.

At this point I don't know what more I should say, so I urge you to read the interview and post some of your immpressions in the comments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Future, Part IV

This time from Ask the Priest:
My guess is, General Convention 2006 will probably maintain the status quo. It will agree to a moratorium on Episcopal consecrations of people in same-sex unions until after Lambeth 2008, it will restate its position on local-option on same-sex blessings, and it will express regret for the breach in the "bonds of affection" around the consecration of Gene Robinson. This will fulfill the letter of the Windsor Report - at least until after Lambeth.
Well, maybe it will, and maybe it won't. This is at least plausible. The question is whether the liberals will be able to restrain themselves from enacting gay marriages. I disagree that the status quo is approval of local option on this; we have local option, but it's because neither side has the power to enforce discipline, not because anyone wants the current situation. I tend to believe that the Windsor Report will get a "Thank you for sharing, Victoria. Now put your head down" courtesy resolution and will be otherwise ignored, and that spiting Akinola will be the prevailing mood. The liberal anger that he would dare to pass judgement on them is openly expressed all over the internet, and GC is the perfect place to realize that anger in action.

But if they do manage to forestall the divorce, then Lambeth? I'm not sure why I am supposed to believe that Akinola thinks he can "win" by threatening a boycott, when he can win much more commandingly by attending and getting the conference to vote ECUSA out.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Future, Part III

Canterbury Trail has another response to the post in Kenesis on the future of ECUSA:

I think that we need to go back to our roots and reaffirm some basic doctrines and beliefs. This does not mean that we make any less room for those who question, or who doubt, or who see things differently. Welcoming, and listening, and affirming the different ways that God speaks to us is in our DNA…but I believe that we still need to have some sort of foundation…some sort of fundamental commitment to a form of “mere Christianity,” if we are to offer a cohesive witness instead of a noisy din of dissonant voices.

I think there is going to be a lot of resistance to doing this. It's hard for me to imagine an ECUSA stripped of its traditionalists and summoning up more nerve to anathematize the next Spong.

But the other issue is more basic. Actual teachings of Jesus from the gospels and actual teachings of the epistles are gravid with moral dictates. Commitment to the Quadrilateral by the bishops is mostly easy, therefore, because the four principles do not make reference to any moral issues. It is also therefore mostly meaningless. To the Catholic and Orthodox, catholicity and orthodoxy do not end where moral teaching picks up.

And indeed, the issue is likely to back up into basic creedal issues because the gender/sexuality issues which are driving the split now are also driving an effort to make fundamental changes in God-language. I question whether ECUSA could ultimately resist, for instance, the urge to reword the creed in language which Orthodox and Catholic believers, in conformity with their traditions, could no longer say. That would in effect abrogate the quadrilateral, but when push comes to shove I have to suspect, if not claim, that the liberal moral vision would prevail and that ECUSA's claims to any kind of orthodox faith would be increasingly open to challenge. In ECUSA, I do not think that 'mere Christianity' is safe; I think that in a conflict between it and liberal morality, the latter is likely to win, with the church paying no more than lip service to orthodox belief, while in reality positively rejecting its tenets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Future, Part II

Bouncing around the end-of-year posts, I came to a few more links prognosticating What Will Happen.

So, here we have Bishop Swing, in an article contemptuously titled This Mutiny Will Fail; the Church Will Abide:
What they don't realize is that the Episcopal Church has more staying power than they suppose. When our bishops, priests, and deacons took a solemn oath at ordination vowing to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, worship of the Episcopal Church, we meant it.

Come now, Bishop, to whom do you think they'll have more loyalty: you, or Jesus? Isn't it just possible that every cleric will take any release given to the network bishops as a liberation from their loyalty oaths? And suppose Pittsburgh calls your bluff, and three quarters of the diocesan clergy and vestries simply get up and walk away from their properties. Do you really think that their former parishioners are going to be so loyal to you as the representative of the national church that they will stay?

Has anyone ever noticed that this is a Protestant church, and that loyalty is earned in direct proportion to the perception that the church honors and serves the gospel? "Mutiny" is such a telling word, as though an Anglican bishop somehow can claim the sort of absolute despotism that obtains on shipboard. It is a deeply self-righteous word, under the circumstances. The one thing that I take away from this article is that the liberal establishment intends to fight, tooth and nail, to force the Network and whoever joins them to walk away with nothing more than their clerical collars and their MDiv deplomas.

I had seen Thomas Bushnell's speculation on What would +Rowan do?, and I continue to believe that ECUSA establishment confidence in Canterbury endorsement is misplaced. When he says that
And we know, with dead certainty, that the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Wales, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland (and plenty others) will all be in the same group when push comes to shove.

... well, I'm not counting on that. It's pretty clear that Canada and ECUSA will end up in the same boat; it's immediately obvious to me that the situation in the Church of England is not so clear-cut. Ordination of women in the USA was resolved by a single vote, thirty years ago; in England they are still sorting through the polity of it.

But what I do see here is, again, this emphasis on making sure that the liberals end up with all the assets:
Duncan and Iker are smart men, and they know as well as I do that this is the upshot when all the dust finally settles. This means that all their noise is not an attempt to achieve some other (essentially impossible) result, but rather an attempt to simply carry away as many toys as they can in the end. It is up to the rest of us, who don’t intend any leaving, to decide how many toys we are willing to let them steal.

This is utterly in contradiction to the sentiment expressed in Kenesis:
{The new Episcopal Church] will be leaner and less encumbered by the bloated budgets that come from maintaining old buildings and expensive real estate.

As I remarked before, I don't for a moment see this happening. What I see is that the liberal establishment seems to intend the bitterest divorce possible.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Literally Stupid

Over at titusonenine I seem to have missed a hilarious resolution from the Diocese of Vermont for a "Episcopal Coalition to Abolish Biblical Literalism" whose purpose would be to
free our Episcopal and Anglican Church from the slavery of Biblical Literalism which might be used to separate us from our sisters and brothers made in the image of God and used to marginalize persons who may be different from us: persons of color, women, and gay and lesbian persons

As at least one commenter says, it's hard to distinguish this for parody, and as one John B. writes:
This is the sort of thing that makes traditional Christians believe that reappraisers in ECUSA are acting in bad faith when they promote “diversity.” As this resolution shows, once reappraisers are in power, they really don’t want diversity.

It wouldn't be the first time, of course; the canonical changes to force ordination of women on every diocese is a precendent.

Looking for biblical literalists among the Anglicans is, naturally, a pretty pathetic affair, and the hunt for them is an exercise in "cheap shot" theology. In this particular resolution, the operating principle of "we'll not have the bible teaching us anything about sexuality, thank you!" is obvious; if liberalism is a problem (and in ECUSA I don't think it ever is) then this resolution is the preposterous overreaction in the other direction.

What is utterly obvious is that serious discussion of sexuality is impossible, if so inane a principle is even to be given a hearing.