Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tim Chesterton on Williams and Wright

Tim Chesterton is Rector of St. Margaret's in Edmunton, Canada:

Unlike many of those who are commenting on recent statements about the future of the Anglican Communion by Rowan Williams and Tom Wright, I have no wish to enter into theological controversy with them. On the basic issue, I agree with them (well, with Wright, anyway; even now, I'm really not sure exactly what Williams' personal position is, because of his previously stated conviction that his role as Archbishop of Canterbury requires him to attempt to speak for the Anglican Communion as a whole, rather than giving his own personal views).

I will say, though, that I don't think Rowan Williams takes any personal joy in outlining this particular view of the Anglican future. I suspect that, in his heart of hearts, he is still enormously sympathetic to gay people and would prefer to preserve a big-tent Anglicanism in which a diversity of viewpoints on this issue is tolerated. But this is not the political reality of the Anglican Communion, and Rowan has to deal with the reality, not the ideal. The majority of Anglicans worldwide have said that a decision to continue down the road of same-sex blessings and gay ordinations is a decision to walk apart from the rest of the Communion. Whether he likes it or not, this is the political hand that Rowan has been dealt.

Tom Wright, however, disappoints me. I say this as a person who has great respect for his enormous scholarship. His books about Jesus and Paul (including The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, What St. Paul Really Said, and so on) have had a huge impact on the way I read the Bible, and have really helped me understand the life and teaching of Jesus in its proper context in the first century world. Tom Wright as New Testament scholar is an inspiration to me, but Tom Wright as an international ecclesiastical politician repels me. This is because he really seems to relish the cut and thrust of the debate and the imagining of future ecclesiastical realities in which he is cut off from erstwhile friends and colleagues in a new two-track Anglican Communion, simply because they disagree with him over one issue. He sees the future in terms of new configurations and new excommunications and possible new instruments of unity between the two tracks. What is absent in what he has written is how he sees the future for gay and lesbian couples who love each other. He is dealing with an issue, not with individuals and couples.

I repeat, it pains me to have to be so critical of one from whom I've learned so much in my reading of the New Testament. But I must say that one of the strongest arguments against the Church of England's system of crown appointments is the appointment of Tom Wright as Bishop of Durham. He should have stayed in the world of biblical scholarship and resisted the temptation to become an ecclesiastical grandee. His growing image (justified or not) as a mouthpiece of the Anglican right wing is only going to hurt the image of his scholarship, and in my view this would be a tragedy.

I repeat, I do not disagree with his view of same-sex unions or gay ordinations. Nor do I doubt that he and his friend Rowan Williams have read the mind of the Anglican Communion correctly. What I miss in their writings, though, is a tone of regret that things should have come to this.

After all, is it not a shame that people with a professed high view of the authority of the Bible and the consensus of the early church should have chosen to take their stand on this particular issue, to have drawn this particular line in the sand?

They could have chosen a couple of other issues, on both of which the Bible is every bit as clear (more so in my view), and which are every bit as relevant to the struggles of people in the modern world.

The first is the issue of war and peace. It is acknowledged by most people that, for the first three centuries of Christianity, the infant church was overwhelmingly pacifist in its interpretation of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. The early Christians believed and taught that followers of Jesus must not kill others, even as soldiers in war or as magistrates imposing legally-sanctioned capital punishment. This position began to soften later in the post-apostolic period, and when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire in the fourth century A.D., it was not long before a new position emerged, based on a marriage of pagan philosophy and Old Testament teaching: the so-called 'just war' view. But when it was first proposed this was a novelty, an innovation as startling to the early Church as acceptance of same-sex unions is to traditional Christians today.

So why not draw this line in the sand, if we're going to draw lines? After all, the biggest threat to Christian unity is not when Anglicans and Roman Catholics disagree about papal authority or who is or is not a real priest. The biggest threat to Christian unity is that, in many places in the world (recent tribal conflicts in Africa come to mind) it is considered quite acceptable for Christians to kill their fellow-Christians out of loyalty to their own ethnic group. Pacifist Christian groupings such as the Mennonites are sometimes classified as 'sects', but surely this is the ultimate sectarianism: the division of worldwide Christianity into national churches or ethnic churches which then legitimise the killing of fellow-Christians.

So if we're going to draw lines in the sand, why not this one? Early Christianity agreed that Christian faithfulness excluded violence and war. Those who are willing to go along with the early consensus of Christianity in its interpretation of the New Testament could be in track one of the Anglican Communion; those who accept the revisionist interpretation of the just-war position could be in track two.

Or if we want another issue, how about usury? Most Christians today don't even know what that word means! But the Bible is unanimous in disallowing the lending of money at interest; everywhere the practice is mentioned in the scriptures it is condemned. Furthermore, for the first fifteen centuries of Christian history, this was the view of the overwhelming majority of Christians, a view that was not challenged until the Protestant Reformation gave more of a green light to capitalism.

Now, granted, there was a certain amount of hypocrisy in the way that this view was applied in medieval Christendom (Christians weren't allowed to lend money at interest, but kings needed those loans anyway, so they made the Jews the investment bankers of the medieval world; it's unclear to me how Jewish people squared this with the Torah, which is where the strongest condemnations of usury are found). Granted, also, many modern scholars question whether the sort of money-lending which the Bible condemns (taking advantage of your neighbour's poverty by charging him interest on relief loans when he's down and out) is exactly the same as the provision of loans for homeowners and businesses today. But then, isn't this exactly the same sort of argument that gay and lesbian Christians make, when they say that biblical references to homosexuality do not refer to couples who want to live in lifelong monogamous faithful unions? So if we allow one 'revisionist reinterpretation' (the legitimising of usury), why not another (the legitimising of gay unions)?

So why isn't the Anglican Communion making this the line in the sand? Surely it's a huge issue today; it can be argued that usury has condemned millions of people in Africa to lifelong poverty with no hope of relief. Why isn't the Anglican Communion worldwide standing up and saying, 'Acceptance of usury is unfaithful to the teaching of the Bible and it perpetuates poverty and injustice in the world today, so those who accept it will from now on be relegated to track two of the Anglican Communion'?

I have a nasty suspicion about the reasons why the Communion is not going to take a stand on these two issues of war and usury. I suspect that the reason has a lot to do with the fact that taking this stand would have an enormous cost for huge numbers of us. Many Anglicans are in fact investment bankers, or stockbrokers, and many, many more take advantage of the modern capitalist system (which is based on usury through and through) to get loans to buy houses and cars and to start businesses and so on. Dissenting from this all-pervasive system would have enormous economic and social consequences for us. And in a similar way, we all depend (or at least, we think we do) on our armies to keep us safe from international rogue states and terrorists and so on. Making a decision to follow Jesus in loving our enemies and refusing to strike back against them would inevitably have deadly consequences: after all, it led Jesus to the Cross, and he assured us it would do the same for us ('take up your cross and follow me').

Sadly, for the vast majority of Anglicans the issue of homosexuality does not carry that personal price-tag. Most of us are straight; we aren't the ones who would be bearing the cross if the church as a whole agreed that same-sex unions are not a legitimate part of a life of following Jesus. Gays and lesbians are an easy target, because there aren't many of them (tho' more, perhaps, than some Christians would like to think).

Personally, I think it's a tragedy that we're drawing these lines in the sand at all. Historically, it's not been our way as Anglicans. On the (equally clear) biblical teachings about war and peace and about usury, we've allowed for a variety of biblical interpretation. Why is homosexuality so despicable that we don't make similar allowances?

For me, a two-track Anglican Communion would be a tragedy. As I've said, my own view on the subject is traditional, but there are many people with whom I disagree on this issue but agree on almost every other facet of the Christian faith. Contrariwise, there are people with whom I agree on this issue but strongly disagree on many other elements of Christian faith and practice.

So to go back to Rowan and Tom. I think it's a tragedy that Rowan's role as Archbishop of Canterbury requires him to play the role of an ecclesiastical politician in planning the future structures of a divided Anglican Communion, and I think it's sad that Tom seems to relish his role in these global machinations. Maybe they think that (in Luther's terms) 'Here I stand, I can do no other', but if that is the case, I wish they would reflect on why they think they can do no other; is it in the service of God, or is it in the service of the Anglican Communion? Because, of course, these are not necessarily the same thing.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Whither Thou Goest

By Eric Von Salzen

Several years ago, my wife and I were in London, and we spent a few hours in Southwark, the formerly slummy, but now trendy, area on the south side of the Thames, and of course we had to see the great Southwark Cathedral. As we wandered through this ancient edifice, we noticed a little side chapel dedicated to John Harvard, whose name adorns my alma mater. We went in, just to look around, but a moment later, a vested priest and a couple of helpers entered and we found ourselves participating in a midday Eucharist. Although we were in a foreign land, we felt entirely at home with the service, because, after all, it was the same service we have at home.

It’s good to be part of an international communion. It’s good to know that wherever you may go in the world, if English is spoken there, it’s likely there’s an Anglican church in the vicinity.

Still, though, when I was confirmed at the Washington National Cathedral 18 years ago, it was the Episcopal Church that I understood I was joining, not the Anglican Communion. Oh, of course I knew that the Episcopal Church was a member of the Anglican Communion and that, in some sense, at the tip top of the clerical totem pole sat the Archbishop of Canterbury. But that fact didn’t make me feel that I was becoming an “Anglican” rather than an “Episcopalian”, any more than the fact that the United States is a member of the United Nations makes me think that I am a citizen of the world, rather than an American.

I recalled these experiences recently when I read the post-Anaheim reflections of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rowan Williams described two “conceptions” of the Anglican Communion: one, “essentially a loose confederation of local bodies with a cultural history in common”, the other, “a theologically coherent ‘community of Christian communities’“. That’s nicely put, but what surprised me was Williams’ insistence that the latter conception, the theologically coherent community, is what the Communion presently understands itself to be, and what it has understood itself to be, particularly during the last half century. Until I read this, if you had asked me to free-associate “loose confederation of local bodies with a cultural history in common”, I would have responded, “The Anglican Communion.” If you’d said “theologically coherent Christian community”, I’d have said “The Roman Catholic Church”.

I thought it was a point of pride to Episcopalians that we don’t insist on theological cohesion, that we worship together even if we disagree with each other. And I thought that was an “Anglican” feature of our church.

How could I have been so wrong?

The second surprise to me was the Archbishop’s assertion that the forthcoming Anglican Covenant will demand that the component churches of the Communion choose between these two “conceptions”. The purpose of the Covenant, Williams says, will be to “intensify existing relationships”. Those “whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way”, who favor “a more federalist and pluralist” approach, will not be cast into the “outer darkness”, but they will not be part of the “‘covenanted’ Anglican global body” either. I think he’s saying they won’t be part of the new Anglican Communion.

I had been under the impression that the Covenant drafters had been moving away from an authoritarian model under which agencies of the Communion could evict provinces from the Communion if they failed to conform to the theological cohesion. I was hoping we would see a kind of “Mere Christianity” covenant that would remind us of those things on which we agree, and to which all Anglicans could comfortably subscribe.

Have I been wrong about that, too?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mind The Frost

Robert Frost is the first poet I ever studied. My parents were very fond of Frost, and he was quoted from time to time around the house. Like many Americans who studied English literature in high school and college, I had to commit a number of poems to memory, but sadly, to this day, The Road Not Taken, and the first verses of The Canterbury Tales are all I remember.

Perhaps Bob Duncan also knows only two poems, for in his recent open letter to the entire Anglican Communion, he has called Frost's Road into the service of his stark vision of the on-going tales of Canterbury.

The first and founding Archbishop of the newly formed Anglican Church of North America, with its 69,000 members in the United States and Canada, has proof-texted Robert Frost in the service of his claim that The Episcopal Church/Anglican Church of Canada are on the bad road, which must be avoided, and that the Anglican Church of North America is on the good road, which must be taken if righteousness is to be followed.

What is bizarre, of course, is that Frost's poem is not at all a reflection on dualism between good and evil. No, of course, Frost's poem asserts that there are two roads, each with its own merits, with much in common, and that while the road chosen was the one less frequently travelled by, it was not necessarily or inherently 'better' than the other. A bright twelfth grader, who actually did his homework, could see that this poem has absolutely no bearing at all on whether or not one road is 'Blessing' or another 'Curse.' Yet, Bob Duncan makes this very mistake.

But he doesn't just get Robert Frost all wrong.

Duncan begins his epistle of division by recalling Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. What is particularly galling about this is that Dickens was by any contemporary standard that Bob Duncan would employ a liberal Anglican broad-churchman. Dickens, who for so long was a Unitarian, fond of the Boston Transcendentalists, and an advocate of broad toleration of all Christian denominations in the establishment minded England of his time, dedicated Tale of Two Cities to Lord Russell, who was also very much a tolerance-minded liberal Christian.

Duncan then goes on to enlist the great St. Augustine of Hippo, by again taking the dualism of the City of God, and applying it to what he sees as the duality between The Episcopal Church/Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of North America. Again, this is patently absurd and erroneous. Augustine was an ardent opponent of the Donatists, that African-based schismatical sect which sought to purify the church, and argued that within the church there would always be a mixed body -- both wheat and tares. It seems patently obvious that Bob Duncan is asserting that the cause of purification has led him and his allies to create a new, pure, orthodox, and true church, departing from the ways of the old, impure, heterodox, and false church. Even the Pardoner, in his Canterbury tale of greed, and in his own fallen state, conveys the Augustinian response to the Donatists asserting that even sinful clergy can be means of God's grace in sacramental ministration.

Rowan Williams once said that when Jack Spong posted his "Twelve Theses" calling for a radical new reformation of Christianity they looked like the questions a bright senior in high school might pose. In the same way, Bob Duncan's bold call for radical reformation of Anglicanism along a 'Two Ways" dichotomy between blessing and curse, purity and mixity, and his use of literature to make his point, reminds me of the sort of argument I might expect from a bright 12th grader, who has neither read, or understood, the works he cites.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Imagining Our Future

Now that the General Convention has largely stated where The Episcopal Church stands in regards to the welcome we offer to gay Christians to full membership and leadership within all orders (whether celibate or in a nuptial union), I wonder -- what will we talk about with equal passion in the years to come?

While it was abundantly clear at the recently concluded General Convention that the overwhelming majority are going to support such inclusion, I wonder if we will have either such a large degree of unanimity on other questions -- or -- whether those who have essentially joined arms for this matter will remain together for the next matters?

Specifically, I am concerned that we begin to look beyond the question of applying a uniform sexual ethic to all persons regardless of orientation (celibacy or nuptial union) and focus on other matters like, prayer book revision, and our practice/policy regarding sacramental issues of baptism, confirmation, communion, confession/absolution, etc. I personally am very much more concerned that the great treasures of the faith which I see amply and beautifully attested to in the language of the 1979 Prayer Book, the catechism, etc., be put forth with great gusto in our worship, preaching, teaching and mission.

So I'm wondering - is there the same degree of passion or agreement on controversial points like 'communion without baptism' -- or the full-scale reworking of the Prayer Book -- or doing away with confirmation -- etc., etc.?

On this blog, I have gathered that we tend to be a group of folks who are 'catholic' on the essentials pointed to in the quadrilateral, and generally very interested in preserving the maximal degree of traditional verities and gifts as we can. I also have gathered the sense from this blog that many of our readers are very well informed in theology, church history, biblical study, etc.

What do you all think? Are we looking at the beginning of a new moment, when for once we will not be as focused on questions of including persons of different sexual identities, and may begin to refocus on other questions of sacramental theology, church practice, worship texts, etc? Is there a degree of variety on these questions that does not really any longer exist on the question of including glbts?

Please let me know. Frankly, I'd be very interested in our going into the next generation clearly proclaiming the Gospel as currently testified to in the 1979 Prayer Book/1982 Hymnal -- with but few emendations or modifications to certain pronouns and whatnot. I see absolutely no strong case for the reversal of the canons on communion without baptism - or the age-old argument that we should be phasing out confirmation. As well, I see absolutely no strong case for adding to or deleting any of the six eucharistic prayers (Rite Ii and ii; Rite II abcd). The idea that we need anything more than a very lightly modified post-millenium update of 1979 is very suspect to me.

Moreover, I'd be much more interested in seeing our diocesan and general convention be focused a great deal more, and with equal gusto, in prayer, worship, mission strategy, church growth training, and discussion of partnership with other Christian bodies with whom our separation is a complete waste of time (and the Gospel itself.)

Please chime in -- let's think about the next chapter in our common life -- and what the big issues are.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eliminating Evangelism

I published this on my blog last night, but I think it's too important to not share as widely as possible.

I was disheartened to see this on Fr. Terry Martin's blog:
A drastically reduced budget has been approved by General Convention. Among the cuts are various programs at the Episcopal Church Center.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that the entire Evangelism program, including my position, has been eliminated from the budget.

Other program officer positions eliminated include Worship and Spirituality, Women's Ministries and Lay Ministry.

All together, 37 positions at the Episcopal Church Center have been cut. No explanation has been offered as to why these programs were chosen for elimination.

One of the most frustrating things about this unexpected development was that it follows right on the heels of the positive time I spent last week with the Evangelism Legislative Committee as they carefully crafted various resolutions. There were plans in place to host evangelism events with our ecumenical partners, create an innovative evangelism "toolkit," and develop training programs for evangelists, among other things. All these resolutions passed both Houses.
To think that "the entire Evangelism program ... has been eliminated from the budget" of the Episcopal Church! And with "no explanation given"?

We Episcopalians love to tout the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer. As we should. So what about the Baptismal Covenant promise to "proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ" (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 305)?

In light of how often during the year we typically renew this covenant promise to be evangelists, as well as the general ineptitude of most of us in the Episcopal Church when it comes to claiming and living out what it means to be an evangelist, what does it say that we will not be putting our money where our mouths are?

If, as Jim Wallis has often pointed out, "a budget is a moral document," then the values expressed in a budget that cuts the entire Evangelism program are crystal clear. It says that evangelism is not sufficiently valued at the highest level of our Church to merit funding. Which means it's just not that important, period. Sorry, folks, you'll just have to figure this out on your own at the provincial, diocesan, or parish/mission level.

So what is more important than evangelism? Perhaps this report from The Living Church, which shows that litigation funding was dramatically increased, suggests an answer:
Virtually every department saw a reduction in funding from what Executive Council recommended with the exception of the Presiding Bishop’s Office, especially legal funding. Legal Support for reorganizing dioceses was increased 900 percent to $3 million over the next three-year period. Title IV and Legal Assistance to Dioceses was increased to $4 million, an increase of 122 percent. These items are all categorized under the Presiding Bishop’s Office, whose overall budget increased 15 percent.
This suggests a strong maintenance as opposed to mission mindset. The message this sends is that we will protect the institutional Church at all costs, even if that means failing to do the most basic work the Church exists to do: effective proclamation by word and example of the Good News of God in Christ.

All of this renews my concern that the leadership of our Church has failed to heed the wake-up call issued by C. Kirk Hadaway, our Director of Research for the Episcopal Church Center, in the recently issued "Episcopal Congregations Overview: Findings from the 2008 Faith Communities Today Survey," as well as the report submitted to General Convention by the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. Both of these documents very clearly show the crisis we are in, a crisis which we are failing to adequately address. As I've noted on a previous posting, that crisis can be summed up as follows:

Aging membership + conflict + declining financial health + little interest in or understanding of evangelism = no viable future.

It sounds like we are responding to the reasons why we are losing membership and money by not funding efforts to deal with the loss of membership and money.

There may be an elephant in the Episcopal Church living room ...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What Does it All Mean?

With the passage of D025 and C056, many are wondering: What does it all mean?

In a nutshell, it seems to me that what D025 and C056 mean is that The Episcopal Church has told the truth about who and where it is on the controversial issue of fully including gay Christians living in nuptial unions into all orders within the priesthood of all believers. It also tells the truth about where the Episcopal Church is as regards our desire to remain in full communion with the other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The truth on both questions is this: we are not exactly sure yet.

We are not exactly sure what the future will bring for us on both things. We recognize that within our own body is a degree of opinion that varies from staunch support/opposition to staunch ambivalence. As such, D025 essentially upholds a degree of local option on the question of ordaining Christians in same-sex marriage-like unions. It does not in any way guarantee that all or any dioceses will be open to calling and ordaining such persons. (Yes, God calls through the Church.) It does say, however, that the discernment for such is entirely entrusted to dioceses provided they conform with those national canons which are pertinent. In other words, the resolution affirms the status quo ante (before 2006) of how discernment for clerical orders is done.

Does D025 have the effect of 'over-turning' B033? Hard to say in actual fact. B033 was not a 'rule' or a canon, it was a form of urging. Likewise, D025 is not a law either -- it simply reaffirms the sufficiency of the canons vis a vis discernment processes. When it comes right down to it, if a priest were elected to the episcopate whose 'manner of life' was likely to cause difficulty globally, D025 would not have any necessary effect on whether or not said person was consented to by the Standing Committees/House of Bishops and/or General Convention.

Does D025 have the effect of 'looking like' a repudiation of the so-called 'moratorium' sought by Windsor? Of course it does. And likely, in a way, so does C056, which has to do with marriage equality -- which similarly brings us back to a kind of status quo ante 2006 [*see Christopher's important critique of this point in comments below]. Again, it is a resolution which suggests that we support local pastoral options, and are continuing to examine what if any liturgical/canonical revisions would be made at the General Convention level down the road a stretch.

Both of these resolutions, however much they basically reset the clock to somewhere around GC 2000 (with its D039 resolution that triggered the AMiA formation), will be perceived globally as some kind of repudiation of the Windor moratoria. The real question though is, "Does this matter?"

If D025 and C056 represent an effort for the Episcopal Church to tell the truth about where we are (as messy as that is) then truth-telling is called for as to the state of the Anglican Communion.

Facts on the Ground
The fact is that those who most demanded the Windsor moratoria did not accept that we had abided by them -- and they have never made any sincere attempt even to look like they were abiding by the moratorium that applied to them. Indeed, when it comes to facts on the ground, the movement that has never done a single thing to abide by Windsor, has many more of them. If The Episcopal Church has one openly partnered gay bishop, and an ongoing practice of local option regarding blessing same-gender couples' unions, the GAFCON movement has created dozens of separatist/schismatic bishops, and have created a continent-sized new province which is actively soliciting recognition by the Church of England synod to be fully recognized as a province in full communion with the See of Canterbury.

Moreover, if we are telling the truth, whereas The Episcopal Church has essentially gone not forward but "back to where we once were" -- with D025/C056 largely looking like a return to the kinds of resolutions which passed in 1991-2000 General Conventions -- the GAFCON movement has gone way off into an anachronistic future whereby the faith is expressed according to the epistemological, theological, cosmological mindset of late 17th century Britain. Notably, we have seen the full-fledged launch of what will likely be an alternative Anglican communion devoid of those developments in Anglicanism which have arisen since the Oxford Movement.

To be sure, The Episcopal Church is not an exemplary model of the Gospel and the catholic church either. I still hold that we are now, perhaps more than ever, a church convinced of the priority of our autonomy - and I find that troubling at times.

On The Other Hand
Then again, on the other hand, I also recognize that while neither salvation nor discernment of God's will are individualistic endeavors -- there is a part of the process which requires the individual (person or church) to perceive God's vocation even against the opposition of other perso's who likewise are seeking to be faithful.

I do believe that the witness to Christ given by many gay Christians (in various orders of ministry) is a fact in our midst. Their witness to so many of us in the Episcopal Church is also available to many around the Anglican Communion -- and I do believe that people will increasingly come to see that they are proclaiming Christ -- born, crucified, risen and ascended. By being a place where such witness is fostered, the Episcopal Church is, I believe, doing the hard thing (in fact) by standing for a discernment of God's will which does not yet meet easy and widespread approval.

In this, of course, it will remain to be seen whether we are doing something prophetic, or not. If we have decided to stake our selves, our souls, and our bodies on this sense that God is indeed calling for a new thing, (thereby we are perceiving ourselves to have a prophetic vocation), then of course we must do what we believe God is calling us to do. We may of course know that it won't be well or widely received by all. We must of course know that there will come pain and reaction. We must know that -- unlike the people whom Jonah spoke to -- the whole place will not immediate change their ways. We must be willing to receive the reaction against what we perceive to be true -- and to do so graciously and humbly.

Indeed, if we are acting in any way prophetically by passing D025 and C056, we must be prepared to turn the other cheek when the slaps come, and continue to maintain the posture of faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, who was born, died, rose, ascended and will come again as part of the fulfillment of God's plan before the worlds began, to make all things well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MUST READ: Schism Peril in Anglican Church (c. 1914)

From the New York Times (January 3, 1914)

Small Incident in East Africa Threatens to Cause an Irreparable Conflict --
All Over the Communion -- Admission of Methodists and Others to the Service Excites a Fierce Controversy at Home

London, Jan. 3, 1914 -- The famous Kikuyu controversy, which appeared as a cloud no bigger than a man's hand on the East African horizon last summer, is fast becoming a storm that threatens to shake the Church of England to its foundations, and on many sides fears are expressed that the controversy may result in a schism which will rend the Church in two.

For weeks many letters on the subject have been appearing in The Times, but not till this week has the controversy assumed alarming proportions. Now the newspapers are printing columns of letters daily as well as leading articles, and, if the amount of space devoted to the subject be any criterion, the Kikuyu controversy is one of the burning questions of the day, eclipising even Home Rule, David Lloyd George's land policy, and "votes for women."

Even those who seek to minimize the danger to the Anglican Church agree that history is being made, and that "Kikuyu" may become one of the significant and crucial names in the annals of the Protestant Church, marking one of the important stages in its evolution.

The cause of the threatened schism is as extraordinary as it was unexpected. The Moslem faith had been advancing rapidly in East Africa, and, to stem its advance, various Christian sects combined and held a meeting in the little town of Kikuyu in June. The sixty missionaries who assembled could have had no idea of the storm of controversy and heated feeling that would be engendered. Their object was merely to consider how the denominational missions, working in the same field, could act jointly so as to present the solid front of Christianity to Mohammedanism.

The conference was eminently successful and fraternal feeling was so strong that at the close a united communion was held, the Bishops of Uganda and Mombassa officiating.

It was the admission of the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and others to the communion administered by Anglican Bishops according to the order of the Anglican prayer book, which excited the fierce disapproval of a portion of the Church. The Bishop of Zanzibar openly accused the Bishops of Mombassa and Uganda of heresy and sought to impeach them, demanding a formal condemnation by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Then begun what has been called "the hurly-burly of the Bishops," and a flood of letters to the papers. The discussion quickly widened until now it embraces the whole subject of Christian unity. It is the general sense that the decision of the Bishop of Zanzibar's action may affect far deeper religious and ecclesiastical interests that those of the African mission field.

In a striking letter to the press, Dean Hensley Henson, Canon of Westminster Abbey, says that the appeal now is to the English people on the question as to whether the English Church shall remain Protestant or become Roman Catholic.

Lord Halifax, one of the leaders of the High Church wing, while admitting the gravity of the situation in a letter to The Times, says:

"I pray to God that the controversy may not occasion a schism which shall rend the Church in two. The dangers are only too obvious and can hardly be exaggerated. They involve consequences, affecting not only the Church of England, but the whole of Christendom."

Writing to The Times the Bishop of Oxford says he doubts if the cohesion of the Church of England was ever more seriously threatened than now, and adds:

"The reason for this is that three sections of the Church are pursuing their own principles to a point where they become really intolerable to the main body."

He concludes that unless the great body of the Anglican Church can again speedily arrive at some statement of principles, such as will avail to pull it together again, it will go on the certain way toward destruction.

The Archbishop of York in his New Year's letter to his diocese, says that unless the issues raised by the Kikuyu affair be wisely handled they will set back the course of Christian unity if only by endangering the unity of the Anglican Church.