Wednesday, 30 July 2008

No Creed but Christ

In post-mediaeval times, English Christians boldly blazed a via media, or 'middle way', between Catholic Creedalism and Protestant Confessionalism. That way was deceptively - erm - delightfully simple, being both comprehensive (or in the modern idiom, 'inclusive') and perspicacious (or in the modern idiom, 'pluriform').

In a word, Anglicans bequeated to Christendom - to coin a label -
Christomonauteparchism, a concatenation.
  • Christomonism (Greek:Christos|English:Christ + Greek:monos|English:alone; cmp. Latin solus Christus, Martin Luther: 'By Christ alone'). Christ alone is Anglicanism's tacit theology.
  • Auteparchism (Greek:autos|English:self + Greek:eparchia|English:province; cmp. Latin:sui iuris). Provincial autonomy is Anglicanism's tacit modality.
Yet in these post-modern times, the Lambeth Conference, a halcyon event indeed, is now talking about something completely different: Anglican 'Covenantalism'.

That vexes me a mite. 'Covenant' sounds, well, not to put too fine a point on it, rather binding. For as the Rev'd Frederick Quinn avers,
Covenants just aren't Anglican, any more than Creeds are Baptist. What in the world happened to the Open Evangelical Anglican summary of the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth:

Believe in me and you may believe whatever you like.

'But what about the Trinity? Isn't the Trinity a dogma?' you might be tempted to ask. Well, speaking in my official capacity as a licensed Christomonauteparchist, i.e., a politically correct Anglican clergyman, I may only say what our secularised society expects of me.
Like all so-called dogmas, the Conciliar Decrees defining the Trinity are merely doctrines of men. Men. I mean that literally. Males. Alone. Male Bishops alone debated and defined the Trinity at the so-called First and Second General Councils (325 and 381, respectively) . Rather suspect don't you think? After all, 'General councils may err' (Article XXI). Well they must have done if only men were allowed a voice and vote!
But still, it doesn't really matter. According to Christomonism, Anglicans must only believe that Christ (or Christa) is our personal Saviour (or Sophia). Depending on your brand of Evangelicalism (i.e., permutations of Bible Christianity), He (or She) may also be your Lord (or Lady, an uncontested title since Evangelicals will not grant it to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 'Mother of Jesus' [sic])

So if you're an orthodox (i.e., Christomonist) Anglican, and you wish further to believe in the uncivil, gynophobic doctrine of the Trinity, you certainly may, or at least for the moment.
Gynophobic religious language is not yet a statutory offense in England, nor does Parliament have immediate plans to authorise a new Book of Common Prayer.

I'll just carry on with my politically corrected form of modalism:
In the name of Gaia: Source, Sophia and Wellspring [sic, sic et sic]
in keeping with our
Anglican socially constructed form of modality (i.e., Auteparchism).

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

It's Politics All the Way Down

Anglicanism was, is and ever shall be a political religion. As such, Anglicanism is ideally the most 'politically correct' religion. Civility, in all its sundry social permutions, is Anglicanism's sole criterion of authenticity. Therefore it can comprehend all popular beliefs.

What it cannot comprehend is any particular belief.

That's a real problem for some Christians, from some Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, who hold particular beliefs. Those bodies, individual and ecclesial, will doubtlessly have creeds, confessions, catechisms, or some other type of binding teaching.

Even were Lambeth2008 to produce a 'Covenant', its content would be necessarily confined to contentions, i.e. conflict resolutions, in the necessarily political sense. There shall be no other resolutions, nor shall said promulgated 'conflict resolutions' be binding in any adjudicatory sense on any Anglican province. Suchlike, again, just isn't Anglican.

But as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, that's really not a problem for Anglicans: world without end.

Because it's politics all the way down.

Monday, 21 July 2008

TAC Seems Set to Succumb to the Tyranny of the Obvious

The crackup of the Anglican Communion is at hand, evangelical bishops attending the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury tell Christianity Today, and to them, the 400-year-old Anglican project appears over. (Timothy C. Morgan, Christianity Today)

I must say I find it nigh unto impossible to disagree. The dissolution of The Anglican Communion (TAC) seems almost inevitable. Our polity presently has no means to deal with the severity of the conflict. The Windsor Report lays out a framework, which could work if something solid were build around it.

Alas the present Lambeth Conference seems committed to being irrepressibly irresolute.

Like all ecclesial communities, TAC has no global adjudicatory authority. That's the unintended but unalterable consequence of Sola Scriptura. Everything is down to private judgement, i.e. the Tyranny of the Obvious: 'The Bible obviously says/means thus-and-so based on such-and-such an interpretation'.

So TAC will in all likelihood split into two or more bodies, each claiming to be the 'true Anglicans'.

The two guys mentioned in the opening CT article are from the Evangelical wing of TAC. They are what one might label 'Conservative Evangelicals'. Liberal - or as they prefer, 'Open' - Evangelicals tend to avoid discussing moral issues. Those are 'matters of personal opinion'. OEs make a great fuss of focussing on one thing that is needful: 'Mission'. The Open Evangelical Message must therefore logically contain no claims about objective moral truth. This might be in keeping with the subjective soteriology of Evangelicalism as such: the 'saved' will subjectively and automatically - or rather, pneumatically - avoid sin.

Of course, there are also self-proclaimed 'Liberal Catholics' who tactitly agree with the 'Open Evangelicals' about avoiding morality, focussing instead on their own sine qua non, 'Social Justice'.

Here's another excerpt from a former colleague's blog, who comes from TAC's 'Conservative Catholic' wing, with whom you might suspect I most identify. The Rev'd Canon Dr John Heidt is a former Rector of the Dallas parish where I was priested. He shall have the last word..
The source of Anglican authority must lie beyond the confines of Anglicanism if we are to survive as an authentic Christian communion of churches. Only two options are open to us. Either we embrace ARCIC's report: The Gift of Authority and move on from there, or else we revert to an individualistic form of Protestantism in which the ultimate source of authority resides in the individual. If we take the former course we shall move further into communion with the whole Catholic Church East and West. But if the latter, what remains of our present "bonds of affection" will degenerate into an uneasy toleration of unacceptable opinions and a pluriformity of contradictory dogmas, a juridical communion with no-one holding universal jurisdiction, a mission with no message to proclaim. (A Question of Authority, hyperlink mine)

Friday, 18 July 2008

A Blessing in Disguise

Two vicars got married in their local parish church. This isn't a joke.

Nor is it unusual. After all, General Synod authorised the ordination of women as priests way back in 1992, many moons ago - at least by Post-Modern Reckoning, or PMR. What is unusual about the recent case is that both the bride and groom are - erm - men.

This has not gone unnoticed.
  1. Pessimists call it further evidence of the secularisation of British society.
  2. Realists call it compulsory compliance with civil rights legislation.
  3. Optimists call it not just a blessing of a couple of guys in smart dress, but a blessing in disguise for a Church that's in distress.
True enough, the call for same-sex blessings is anything but business as usual for the Church of England. But one thing the Church - itself a rather successful 'startup company' founded by the ever-entrepreneurial realist King Henry VIII - isn't doing is burying her head in the sand, at least her head for business.

And business is exactly what the Established Church must be about these days.

Learned dialogue isn't called for here. Anglicanism has always played a more political than theological game when deciding Matters of Great Importance. That is its genius. Anglicanism is professedly non-confessional and veritably non-creedal - not even the existence of God, let alone the doctrine of the Trinity, are enforcible dogmas. In actual fact, Anglicanism - and empirical facts are what matter most to most Anglicans - quite uniquely amongst all Churches and ecclesial communities, has never concocted anything resembling an original theology.

Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, also has observed the Church of England's exquisitely political métier. He commented on General Synod's recent move toward the consecration of women to the episcopate, considered by most English Anglicans (i.e., those whose parents had them 'done') to be merely a matter of civil rights, and thus long overdue.
Earlier this year, on the day that Dr [Rowan] Williams met the Pope, Cardinal Kasper told a meeting in Oxford, that Anglicans needed to “clarify” their identity. He said: “Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong? Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox - or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions."
Times Online, 16 July 2008
Which simply proves the point really. Cardinal Kasper just doesn't get it. If Theology and Canon Law may be said to define the universal Church of Rome, Civility and Common Law define the national Church of England. Put in sociological terms, the Church of England is a 'civil religion'.

But labels are always ancilliary, beside the point - especially when there isn't one (theologically)!

Now here's the rub. Civil partnerships are now gender-blind in the Common Law statutes of England. It is patently inevitable, even juridical, that the Common Worship rites of England will soon follow suit.

But will its inevitable affirmation of gender-neutral marriage bode well for a Church beset by deficits? After all, there is a shortage of available clergy, and money to pay them if there weren't.

In a word: infertility.

Childlessness is utterly unnatural for those who opt for opposite-sex marriage, especially those who opt to procreate. Abortion-on-demand makes infertility even more difficult since so few babies are available for adoption. Yet few can argue against the justice and logic of natural selection, and fewer still on its behalf.

Alternatively, contrary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (cf. CCC 2357), gay and lesbian unions are normal, and childless ones are happily natural. (Anglicanism is of course as non-catechetical as it is non-confessional and non-creedal.) Indeed a gay or lesbian couple might opt to adopt, which is meet and right so to do, arguably moreso than childless different-sex married couples who've been wounded psychologically by chronic infertility.

I call it the 'broodless breeders syndrome'. That's my prerogative because I have experience here. And experience makes it meet and right so to do.

But childless same-sex couples have fewer professional (children) and psychological (infertility) impediments and are thus eminently attractive to employers but especially an understaffed and underfunded Church. Though clergy in the Church of England are allowed to have a family, based on its sole moral criterion of civility, they are forbidden ever to let family events interfere with parish events.

After all, in these times of decreasing clergy and coffers to pay them, the last thing needful parishioners need is their 'breeding' vicar to insist his daughter's first piano recital is more important than attending the Mothers' Union AGM.

And God knows that civil statutes like the UK's Working Time Regulations have no place in parish priesthood.

Ask any married vicar with children, and he or she will tell you. Church and children are more often than not an untidy and very unhappy mix.

And what sort of priest is least likely ever to use children to justify not working weekends and fourteen hour days? Gay and lesbian ones of course! And especially those married with the Church's blessing upon their naturally non-procreative intentions.

Of course none of you who is an Anglican at heart would notice any contradiction in my argument.