Monday, December 05, 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury blind to historic Anglican comprehensiveness?

The evidence grows that Rowan Williams is itching to revision the historic comprehensiveness of Anglicanism into something tidier and more manageable. In his Advent Letter to the Anglican Primates -- a thinly veiled opportunity to bemoan (once again) the lamentable communion-wide resistance to the ill-conceived proposed "Anglican Covenant" -- Williams asks:
"If the moratoria are ignored and the Covenant suspected, what are the means by which we maintain some theological coherence as a Communion and some personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ?"
Seriously? The question coming from the Archbishop of Canterbury this Advent 2011 is how do we "maintain theological coherence?" And the answer is a moratorium creating sacramental apartheid for LGBT Anglicans and a covenant that institutionalizes a profoundly un-Anglican response to the classically Anglican dilemma of living into our historic ability to hold in tension the challenge of being a both/and people (catholic and protestant) in an either/or world?

If "theological coherence" had been the presenting goal for our Anglican forbears there would have been no Elizabethan Settlement and the Tower of London might at this very moment be full of heretics waiting for their turn at the stake.

Maybe the lectionary cycle is different across the pond -- but I can't help wondering this morning if the Archbishop would have written the same Advent Letter if he'd heard the reading from Matthew 25 we heard on the Last Sunday After Pentecost ... the one where Jesus gives "the final exam" where the essay question is NOT "did you maintain theological coherence" but "did you minister unto the least of these?"

And don't get me wrong. I'm all FOR "personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ" ... which at the end of the day IS a hallmark of classical Anglicanism. What I'm NOT so keen on are the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and others) to throw out the baby of Anglican comprehensiveness with the bathwater of global Anglican politics.

You cannot achieve "personal respect and understanding as a fellowship of people seeking to serve Christ" by scapegoating LGBT Anglicans within the church and leaving as strangers at the gate the LGBT un-churched yearning for a spiritual community where they can live their lives in alignment with God's love, justice and compassion.

The Great Anglican Experiment -- for all that it is untidy and at times somewhat unmanageable, disorganized and downright messy -- remains for me a desperately needed "both/and" light shining in the darkness of an "either/or" world. And "maintaining theological coherence" seems a pitiful bowl of pottage to trade for our Anglican birthright.


William F Hammond Sr said...

The question is not "How do we maintain theological coherence?" but rather "How much theological coherence do churches in the Anglican tradition need?". Certainly there is a base in the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888. Can the question be approached by adding to the Quadrilateral items parallel to those already there? For example, perhaps it is necessary to assert that the Summary of the Law, which both comprehends and extends The Law,is the rule and standard for Christian ethics. Perhaps it is necessary to assert that theological certainty is elusive, that disagreements are to be expected, and that, to the extent that we formulate doctrine, we make intertwined use of Scripture, reason, and tradition, as outlined 400 years ago in Hooker's "Lawes".

LGMarshall said...

Here's how the Anglican Tradition can maintain Theological Coherence -- by sticking to this Doctrine, Scripture, & Reason ..."I am the Resurrection and the Life! He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"


#1 -- It's traditionally Scripture, Tradition and Reason and

#2 -- I sticking with what Jesus said in the Temple to the "what must I do to inherit eternal life" guy: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets."

At the end of the day I'm convinced Jesus is whole lot less interested in what we believe that He is in what we do about what we believe.

uffda51 said...

Perhaps the simple recognition that thousands of years ago the Biblical writers knew less about human sexuality that the current GOP presidential candidates (if that's even possible) would help. If capitalizing a few words makes bigotry legitimate in your theology, then perhaps your theology needs a reboot.

Muthah+ said...

Perhaps the greatest problem I have with +++Rowan is that he is doing the bully pulpit thing re the Covenant. In those dioceses of the UK where materials opposed to the the Covenant were distributed, there have been NAY votes. Where the dissemination of only pro-Covenant documentation and little or no discussion of the issue, it has been passed.

This reminds me more of Rome than it ever has of the Anglican tradition.