Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Liberal Brinksmanship Becomes a Reality, or, I Think I'm Getting Cranky

I'm so tired of the rhetoric of the brink. I've heard far too many times, "If this happens, the church is going to fall apart," only to find that after the fact nothing really happens. At least nothing more than the continued erosion of things like trust.

But it's usually conservatives who are the brinksmen*. But what, to my surprise, do I read yesterday?: liberal primate ++Andrew Hutchison reports, concerning General Synod possibly passing a resolution allowing the blessing of smae sex unions, that “another three years doesn’t do us any good. In the eyes of the Communion we will have crossed the Rubicon and what damage has been done will have been done.” (++Andrew is arguing against treating these blessings as doctrine, which would require two General Synods, hence the three years.)

Brinksmanship just bit conservatives in the butt!

Treating the blessing of same sex unions as a matter of doctrine, and taking the requisite time for discernment and deliberation, will only be of benefit to us and the Communion. Are we under threat of breaking communion with our fellow Anglicans around the world? To be sure. But treating these blessings as doctrinal will give us more time to do this right. (And it postpones the real brink by three years, because nothing will be categorically changed in our institutional practice until then.)

But don't mind me, I'm probably just getting cranky.

* There are probably brinkswomen, though I'm not sure I've ever heard one.


Blogger Marshall said...

It's been a while since I read the St. Michael's Report, and I've struggled to some extent with "doctrine, but not credal doctrine." Certainly, things "doctrinal" should probably be represented in canon. At the same time, changes to the official interpretation of canon may not require a change of canon. The notable (or notorious, depending on your perspective) example is the changes in the canons on orders in the Episcopal Church to permit ordination of women to the presbyterate (and, by extension, to the episcopate). The decision was not to change the language of the canon, but instead to clarify an interpretation of the existing canon to be read generically, and so applying to both men and women. Certainly, that was questioned by many at the time; but the gist of the theological change - that women as well as men were sufficiently human, and sufficiently reflected the "image and likeness of God" to be appropriate subjects for ordination - was reflected, if not explicated, by changing the interpretation rather than the canon itself.

I will refrain from speaking to the situation of the Anglican Church of Canada, being myself an Episcopalian, and so an outsider. However, having watched the responses of foreign prelates to what's happened in the Episcopal Church, I'd say your primate is accurate: it wouldn't really matter whether General Synod passed an enabling resolution or passed on first reading an enabling change of canon. Those inclined to be upset would be upset either way, calling for exclusion of Canadian bishops from Lambeth, and proclaiming justification for crossing provincial boundaries. Indeed, I think they will say that even if this passes, but by less than the recommended supermajority of 60%. Looking at the history of this issue in New Westminster, they will fear, and perhaps even expect, ultimate passage in 2010, and will act in response to their fear. So, while reflection on the issue itself, and even on how it will be received by the wider communion, is germane, it may not justify waiting to address a present pastoral need. And considering the CoGS's response to the Windsor Report and the Tanzania Communique, I wouldn't be sure folks would be inclined to wait.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 7:13:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

No doubt people will be upset if this passed a first reading; many calls will be made for exclusion; but the history until now is that the real breaks happen when things get put on paper or there is some institutional pronouncement is formalised to lasting effect. So, it takes New West formally allowing same sex blessings and an episcopal consecration to cross Rubicons, or fall off the brink. The doctrine route will take three years to formalise, and the Canadian church will have spoken more clearly on this issue. The doctrine route is the most sensible, and it also folows the reccommendations of the St Machael's Report. I am very suspicious about why our Primate and the CoGS would ignore a consultation that General Synod asked for and is called the Primate's Commission. We ignore theological reflection because it does not suit personal theological positions? I'm just plain dissappointed and disaffected by these kinds of maneouvres.

Friday, March 16, 2007 2:40:00 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

condi did her thesis on soviet that might be a brinkswomanship

Saturday, March 17, 2007 9:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul Lebens-Englund said...

Preston, good stuff you're chewing on here. Great to see that, lo these many miles now separating us, we're still wrestling with much the same stuff. Nice lead up from the "spiritual communion" piece, btw. Always very logical and ordered...if also, as Karen suggests, "opaque."

As an ecclesial sacramentalist (i.e. that the church is something more than a poorly functioning 'business'), I tend toward your concern for comprehensive transformation -- finding the core investment of those who love the church, and using that "tool" (in this case, 'doctrine') as the rally point for the choir and the unavoidable 'thorn in the side' for the rest. The danger, of course, in this tact -- "using the tools of the master" -- is that it inevitably slows the course of justice and can, at times, give implicit approval to the master's pathology (exclusion, abuse, etc.).

I can also appreciate your Primate's tact, for the same reasons Marshall lays out (re: women's ordination and the play with existing canons). Clearly, it's far more responsive to present concern, but also runs the risk of being pigeon-holed as a local expression of pastoral care and justice, rather than as an authentic expression of the faith and hope that lives in all of us.

What do the parables on mustard seeds and leaven have to add to this conversation (bottom-up)? And what about the legacy of imperial conversion and evangelism (top-down)? WWJD, man. WWJD?

I suspect, given the stories of Jesus healing and reconciling and the stories of him teaching the teachers, he'd have gone at it from both angles. Is it possible? Or do we teach the teacher in our doing something extra-ordinary?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 10:47:00 AM  

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