While the latest episode of "As The Anglican News Spins" focuses on elevating the comments of the Bishop of Exeter to the ECUSA House of Bishops from personal perspective to Anglican authoritative let's not forget there are a variety of perspectives represented "across the pond" on the choices and challenges facing our Anglican Family. Here's what Marilyn McCord Adams has to say:
Face to faith: "Liberal Anglicans should not sacrifice their beliefs in order to hold on to church unity at all costs"
Marilyn McCord Adams
Saturday March 25, 2006
[From the Guardian]
Liberal tolerance is easy even for liberals to misunderstand. Liberal societies do and should respect the right of citizens to hold whatever beliefs they like and to organise groups around them, so long as they do nothing to jeopardise the life, liberty, health or property of outsiders. Typically, however, liberal tolerance does not extend any entitlement to set public or institutional policy. In the US for example, the Ku Klux Klan is still a legal organisation, whose members meet to reinforce one another's racist beliefs. But the government's respect for their conscience does not grant them any right that schools be segregated.
In recent Church of England controversies over women priests and bishops, the notion of conscientious objection looms large. Conservatives insist that they could not, in conscience, stay in the C of E, if it makes them accept the offices of women priests and bishops, or even of male bishops who ordain women. Knowing that liberals have a soft spot for tolerance, conservatives demand respect for their conscientious convictions in the form of institutional accommodation. Knowing that liberals have a penchant for inclusivity, conservatives confront advocates of women bishops with a forced choice: either stop pressing your convictions, or split the church.
Even liberal bishops are congratulating themselves after February's general synod, on their steering "a via media between clarity and charity".
They boast that the endorsed scheme for transferred episcopal arrangements will forward the process of ordaining women bishops, while changing ecclesial polity to guarantee parishes in dioceses with female bishops or male bishops who have participated in the ordination of women the option of working instead with male bishops whose hands are clean. Inclusivity has been secured, albeit by a move that will compromise the symbolic authority of liberal and women (but not of conservative male) bishops.
Certainly, conservatives have been "wise as serpents" in setting up the dilemma. But in trying for the "innocence of doves", liberal leaders have betrayed their own cause. Liberal beliefs - that conservative positions on gender and sexuality evidence the grip of oppressive taboos - are also conscientious. Sacrificing such beliefs in order to hang on to already impaired communion with those who will remain only if you do what they tell you sends the message that dividing the church is more sinful than misogyny and homophobia, and more important than first-class ecclesial citizenship for women and for homosexual Christians. Conservatives thereby win a double victory: not only do they co-opt the church's institutional structures; they confirm the widespread suspicion that liberals do not have enough backbone to be conscientious at all.
There is no health in this, because "going along to get along" is not the gospel. The synoptics virtually guarantee: because the reign of God stands in judgment over any and every human social system, its coming by successive approximations is sure to violate our socially constructed identities repeatedly. Our part is to discern for all we're worth and to live up to the light that is in us. Because we are fallible, we are not entitled to make undermining other people's lifestyles our ends or chosen means, but we have to accept that it may be a known but unintended side-effect of putting our conscientious convictions into effect. Refusing to do so shows no charity to the oppressed whose cause we feel called to sponsor. Nor can we consistently believe that it shows charity to those who are dug in against us, because our considered opinion is that they are imprisoned by illogic and taboos.
Finally, liberals must not make an idol of unity. In institutions, as in biology, differentiation and division may be in service of richer and more mature integration. John's Jesus prays for unity, but the Jesus-movement precipitated a schism within Judaism. It was not his first choice, but it is how the gospel spread.
-- The Rev Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius professor of divinity and canon of Christ Church, Oxford
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006