Monday, December 18, 2006

The Episcopal Schism

As has been widely reported, this weekend two large and affluent Virginia dioceses voted to leave the Episcopal Church and instead place themselves under the authority of Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria.

In prior drafts of this post, I made a vain attempt to give background on the history, theology and governance of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, but it ran awfully long despite being oversimplified and was probably of zero interest to anyone who reads this blog. All of that is readily available elsewhere, anyway.

Instead, I want to talk about this word “Communion.” The “Anglican Communion” is the second largest body of Christians in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church. Traditionally it has sought a “middle way” between Catholicism and the more severe Protestant ideas.

“Communion” is a sacrament; it is the ceremonial distribution of wine mixed with water, representing the Blood of Christ, and unleavened bread, representing the Body of Christ. Christians believe that on the night before he died, Jesus celebrated the Passover (which itself commemorates God’s liberation of people from bondage) with his disciples, and he gave them wine and bread and instructed them always to eat and drink “in remembrance of me.”

The Greek term for this sacrament, still in use, is “Eucharist,” which means “thanksgiving.” “Communion” is of Latin origin, the same root as “community,” meaning “to share.” Along with baptism, this idea of a shared community meal in remembrance of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has been a pillar of Christian practice since the earliest days of the faith.

Christians refer to “The Lord’s Table” when they speak of the sacrament of Communion. Unlike Catholics, Anglicans don’t accord themselves authority over who is invited to the meal. In Catholic Churches, only Catholics may partake of the sacrament, and priests have the power to excommunicate – disinvite anyone to God’s meal; in most Protestant churches, any baptized Christian may come. At the church I am attending, anyone, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey, is welcome. We don’t believe in putting barriers between seekers and the God they are searching for. We believe that everyone is invited.

Throughout the Gospels, there are many references to meals and banquets. Jesus’ first miracle is turning water to wine at a wedding party. Matthew gives us the parable of the king who gave wedding banquet for his son, but the invited guests did not show up; so the king sent his servants out into the streets to invite everyone they saw, “both good and bad.” Luke tells us about the dinner where the Pharisee decided Jesus could not be a prophet, because he allowed a sinner to anoint him. In Matthew, the Pharisees ask, “Why does your teacher eat with sinners?”

The point is, in the Anglican view, it is Jesus’ invitation to a party to which all are welcome. Let Jesus do the healing, if healing needs to be done.

The churches in Truro and Falls Church, Virginia, have gotten up and left the table.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

it was my understanding the anglicans recognised the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ,similar to the catholics, and not just symbolic.
has this changed? or did i have it wrong all this time?

Andy said...

Well, as all aspects of Anglican doctrine, it's complicated. The founding documents included this statement: "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions."

Nevertheless, in typical Anglican tradition of "the middle path," while most Anglicans don't believe the bread and wine are the "literal" body and blood of Jesus, they do believe that the moment of sanctification they become something "more" than mere bread and wine, capable of affecting an ontological shift in the recipient toward godliness, whether they believe or no.

Anonymous said...

coming from my catholic perspective:
doctrines are defined.

this is where i have issues with understanding the problems anglicans face concerning the gay issues.
i would think something like this would be a unity of faith issue. "marriage is defined as ----"

in my faith, such topics can never be brought to the fore in any serious manner. they have been decided already, long ago.

there are requirements, doctrinal ones, that decide whether a congregation is part of us or not. good intentions are not enough.

sometimes i get the impression the anglicans dont really believe in anything at all, but believe what they want, individually.
the whole concept is just so foriegn to me, ya know?

the anglicans were always traditionally viewed as a very traditional church. now it appears, to me anyway, the only traditional thing about them is that they were at one time traditionally viewed as a traditional church.
know what i'm saying?

what used to be 'catholic light' isnt anymore.

is anglican faith really the free for all i get the impression it is?

The Law Fairy said...

That's an interesting take on Communion... I never really thought of it that way.

I've sort of always thought of Communion as the communion of the believers -- thus, the Anglican Communion is something anyone can choose to belong to, but like you say, it's a choice, just like believing in Jesus is a choice. My church back home in Colorado, I am pretty sure, invites Baptized Christians to partake but not others.

Of course, I have been to other Anglican churches that invite anyone. But then, there's a lot of difference these days from church to church in U.S. Episcopalianism.

It'll be very interesting to see what happens to the church in the upcoming years... it makes my heart ache that there is such discord among Episcopalians. I love my new denomination so much, and its traditions have enriched my spiritual life so much, that it deeply saddens me to see it splintering over politics.

I believe that God continues to divinely reveal himself today as in the past. Nothing in the Scriptures indicates to me that there was some set "stopping point" where divine revelation and inspiration simply stopped occurring. I certainly don't think we can take doctrine as it was determined by the Council of Niceae and say there's no possibility God could reveal his will to us further. It's sad to me to watch a church that has so often served as mediating presence, to find itself tearing apart at the altar of political extremism.

Andy said...

is anglican faith really the free for all i get the impression it is?

Free for all? Because we ordain women, because we believe that both men and women were created in God's image and were declared "good" at the completion of Creation? Because we believe Paul was wrong to say that women should have no authority in the church? That likewise many of us believe the Biblical passages about homosexuality are rooted more in ancient prejudice than a reflection of God's will as shown to us in the Gospel? Because we choose to acknowledge what is right there in front of us, that gay people testify that they did not and would not choose a homosexual orientation, that gay people desire and have long-term, committed monogamous relationships that they desire to have consecrated before God, that throughout church history, there have been gay members of the clergy whose orientation was absolutely no impediment to their understanding of God or their ability to minister? I'd say that's hardly "anything goes." I think instead, if anything, that is a stricter, more challenging reading of the Scripture than most other people are willing to deal with.

LF, GREAT comment, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Andy--

I’ve never compared/contrasted the words, “Eucharist” and “Communion” before. Fascinating. Why did Greek Christians stress the “Thanksgiving” dimension of the sacred meal and the Latin Christians “Sharing?” Why did those dimensions supersede the “Sacrifice” dimension when the time came to bestow official titles upon the rite? All this could turn into a marvelous research project! Well, I’m sure it already has. Somewhere.

Maybe you SHOULD do a separate post on Anglican history, theology and governance. I’d certainly be interested in your take on it. And it might make things clearer to people like Gino. Of course Roman Catholics don’t “get” Anglicanism. We don’t “get it” ourselves a lot of the time. It probably all ties in with the clash between the “constitutionless” spirit of British Common Law versus the minutely legislated Napoleonic Code of Roman Catholic countries, which descended from the laws of the old Empire in the first place.

Jarred said...

Personally, I would be interested in a "background" post such as you described at the beginning of this one.

Actually, scratch that. I'd prefer a series of such posts, as I hope that spreading the information out over time would cut down on the amount of oversimplification you would have to do.

Anonymous said...

Gino—

I don’t blame you for shrugging off Anglican doctrinal, er… fluidity. It is perplexing. Arguing, disagreement and refinement started right at the beginning of the Church’s institution and has never ceased.

In the pews, the doctrine of Real Presence is not and never was unanimously believed. Today some Anglicans believe in Transubstantiation, some don’t and many of the rest believe something in between. (I gather the situation is the same for Roman Catholics.) But the formulation, “Real Presence” has been a flag behind which all Anglicans could stand. That is the essence of the via media ("middle way"), the Anglican institutional ideal.

Queen Elizabeth I, renowned for her sound bites, spent her reign trying to stem violent doctrinal disagreement between Roman Catholic and Calvinist factions, for peace in the realm and holiness in the Church. Doctrine was a matter of life and death, not just name-calling and “You can’t worship in my parish anymore” or “We won’t pay annual assessments to your crappy bishops anymore” attitudes. The via media is and was an uncomfortable solution, but it created a Communion and much charity bloomed from it.

Now the realm is no longer the point. Now it’s about a weird, sick mixture of (debatable) holiness, property holdings, and political appearances. The via media has been stretched to the breaking point. Yet again. I've heard it said that Roman Catholics can bear schism but not heresy, and Anglicans can bear heresy but not schism. There's a mind-bender for you.

Anyway, to give you a flavor of the “good old days that never were,” here are two quotes attributed to Queen Elizabeth I that Anglicans like to smile about during Catechism classes. We regard them as doctrinally sound, though possibly hard to defend.

About Holy Communion:
Christ was the word that spake it.
He took the bread and brake it;
And what his words did make it
That I believe and take it.


About making Confession:
All may. None must. Some should.

Anonymous said...

WHOOPS-- whoa, hold the presses. I meant to say,

In the pews, the doctrine of Real Presence is not and never was unanimously believed THE SAME WAY.

But I'm pretty sure all Anglicans can get behind the doctrine of Real Presence as proclaimed.

Sigh. Anyway, I don't think I made much of a defense for anything. Sorry, Gino.

DJRainDog said...

At first read, this made me sad. The more I think on it, the more I become enraged. That any church in the Anglican Communion should choose to cast off the episcopal oversight of its own diocesan bishop, and indeed of our newly-ELECTED (that's important) primate Katharine Jefferts Schori, without first waiting to see what will develop under her leadership is offensive. That ENTIRE DIOCESES should choose to do so is not only unconscionable, but rude, as these dioceses presume that the entirety of their membership is in agreement with this schism, and given the high concentration of wealthy homosexuals in Northern Virginia, I dare say they are not. (Of course, I imagine Virginia itself will eventually once again secede from the United States, believing it knows better than the rest of us. As a native Virginian, frankly, I think we should simply cast the state out. Few things would make its residents, by and large, happier, and certainly the propensity for reason and the average IQ of the nation would improve as a result.) More heinous, though, is the fact that these dioceses should choose to align themselves with the corrupt bully Peter Akinola, whose rhetoric and behaviour has been far more suited to a tribal warlord than an Anglican bishop, and who is an embarrassment to all of us who call ourselves Anglicans. I'll allow readers to do their own research on this one.

The Anglican Church has become, at its best, so much more than its origins, but at its worst, as evidenced in its splintering over issues which are, in the grand scheme of things, of so little importance, it may well be a source of pain and shame to the loving heart of Christ Himself.

Gino: I am what's technically called an "Anglo-Catholic", and as such, I can tell you that I (and others who embrace that term and its history) take offence to being called "catholic light", as in both form and content, we frequently resemble Roman Catholics more than the vast majority of today's Roman Catholics do. We do NOT, however, as the Roman Catholic tradition seems to do (kr pdx being a glaring exception...Where ARE you?), swallow spoon-fed dogma without question. We tend to be extremely well-educated and to spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation on both holy texts and what the great scholars of the last couple of millennia have written about them. And we do not hesitate to speak out when we think (a crucial verb for us, as we do a lot of it) that some of what is handed down from His Holiness in Rome is bullshit, particularly when it controverts Christ's basic teachings (What IS the greatest commandment of them all?!) or is based upon texts of historically dubious origins (a lot of us have problems with some of the texts attributed to "Paul"). Our faith is indeed not a free-for-all, though it is certainly free to all, and should you ask us what we believe, we will very likely first refer you to the Nicene Creed. That pretty much covers it, in a nutshell.

Law Fairy: Great comment, indeed. Especially that last paragraph. I believe, as the United Church of Christ has put it in their recent campaign, that God is still speaking. The nativity and ministry of Christ were events which had massive impact in changing humanity's understanding of God and His will and nature; I'm fairly certain we can continue to advance our relationship with Him and His goodness, if only we're listening.

Andy said...

Awesome, DJ and Huomiseksi.

As for KR, well, it's 5 days before Christmas and she's a mother of 3 with 1 on the way, so my guess is that my blog is fairly low on her priority scale right at this moment.

kr said...

Hey everybody -- cool stuff!

I also live on the West Coast and have a kid in school and two more to make breakfast for (fight over breakfast about, in this case, since I won't feed them the gingerbread house until they eat "real food") ... this is like the time I wondered where Andy was when it was Friday night in Manhattan ; ). (And by the time I finished this I've also read several books for them and helped the 4 year old make lunch ... . )

I am not up to defending piecemeal doctrines today, and refer anyone who wants to explore (or fight) to the professional lay apologists at catholic.com. You can call them (it's not free, though) or email them (which is free).

Andy:
1) well, I'm sure you upset the Mormons, claiming Anglicanism as the second largest Christian sect ; ).

2) Although I agree, I had to laugh at your presentation that the Middle Way is between Catholicsm and "more severe" ideas ; ).

3) Passing note, "sacrament" is apparently defined differently by your folks than my folks. Not just spiritual goodness present, but God personally present in our lives, to give a quick impression.

4) Catholics don't "accord themselves authority," Jesus did: 'what you hold bound is held bound, what you hold loosed is held loosed'--that whole thing. Traditionally understood (I think right up until that set of Protestants that taught themselves the Bible--the Anabaptists?) to apply to the Twelve, and, by demonstration in Acts and the Letters, specifically to Peter, and by example in Acts and the Letters, to their specifically hands-laid-upon succesors. There are several passages where Jesus specifically commissions a few folks with more authority/responsibility than the rest of the crowds that are recorded as following him. There is no Biblical support that I can think of for it being general? Hmm, maybe that fellow who was casting out demons in Jesus name but was "not one of us" that Jesus didn't stop ... hmmm. In any case, not arguing that said authority is obnoxious if you don't agree with it.

5) Invitation to the party: and all the people who should have known better were stupid and all the people who had no hope were more open to the Big Duh that it was a good idea to go get fed ... but even at the table, you chose whether or not to accept the "food", no matter which faith tradtion you seek Truth in.


Some bits and pieces:

Eucharist/Communion/Transsubstantiation:

that Gospel thing, 'he who doesn't eat my body and drink my blood cannot have life within him' (hey, I'm Catholic, don't expect all that web-linked citation stuff ; ) --besides, I'm not savvy enough to understand links just yet; I'm still pretty excited I can italicize) ... the word "eat" is actually in the Greek something like "gnaw on"--very visceral ... probably part of why bunches of his followers 'turned away and left him' in digust and confusion at that point, according to the story ... and he didn't call them back to correct their disgust, but instead asked the ones who stayed 'why don't you also leave?'

lots of arguments on the interp of "remembrance" being more "reenactment" rather than our modern concept of "think of it" ... think this relates also to the Hebrew understanding of the celebration of the Passover, but cannot remember ...

there are some very interesting videos from the early 1990s exploring the (almost completely unheardof, mostly European) Eucharistic miracles (the wine cup overflowing on the altar and blood pouring off the front and down the stairs, the bread bleeding, that sort of thing) ... just to get a bit midieval on y'all ; ) ... I guess they still have relics of some of the stuff ... be interesting to run serious diagnostic tests on it, but probably not a lot of funding for silly stuff like that from labs capable of it (still kindof wish I'd gotten my rosaries that turned gold tested while I still had them and had a chemi prof who wanted to do it ... but at the time I couldn't decide if having them tested would be an act of unbelief, nor how to work out the Transubstantiation set of questions that would be inherent ... now I would totally do it ... but both of my current rosaries are wooden, so if THEY turn gold I won't freakin' need to have them TESTED!!!)

men+women: PJPII very into equality but not equivalence, extremely down on denigrating or devaluing women

priesthood: as mentioned last week(?), although women clearly had important roles during Jesus' ministry, those roles were not the same--as were not the roles of the majority of the men following him--as the role(s) of the few that were for whatever reason understood/known only to Jesus especially pulled out/chosen as his Apostles. They were all men. The Gospel writers who made such a point of Jesus consorting with sinners and Samaritans and tax collectors and the Centurion and the woman with the perfumed oil (who may or may not have been MaryM and it doesn't really matter does it?), who recorded culturally horrifying teachings like the uncleanliness rules don't matter and the poor shall inherit the earth and touching (and God forbid carrying on a conversation with) a woman was not so awful it needed "cleansing" ... these writers, recording this so revolutionary (in his culture) man, record The Apostles as twelve MEN. Recognizing that many Christians find it the height of illogic one way or another, I don't myself see why it is such a big deal to ony have male priests, and do see justification in the Gospels.

I think some of the (questionably) Pauline stuff has really screwed up what the all-male priesthood might have been : (.

But some of it is still in the doctrines and laws. As mentioned a few days ago, priests are not allowed to celebrate mass without at least two other people participating (and if they do, it is not only a sin--I assume of Pride--but also the Church believes that the Transubstantiation that would normally occur does not--the priest cannot, in fact, not just in policy, celebrate "Communion" sans Community, and Communion would of course be the thing that most sets apart the Catholic priesthood from the layity or anyone else). The priesthood is NOT supposed to be AT ALL self-sufficient, but fundamentally part of and in union with the community.

Some of the hopefully more actually Pauline stuff (no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no woman or man--that stuff more in line with the Gospel Paul was theoretically defending and teaching) points to egalitariansm of some sort ...

I'm of late weirded out by why we say "The Twelve" and then call Paul "The Apostle Paul" ... some Jesuit must've written a dissertation on that at some point ... just to complicate the priesthood question ; ). It is surprising people in a time of numerology accepted 13 Apostles ...

That heresy/schism thing mentioned earlier--so totally true. Most Christians accept the Creedal concept that there should be one church. Catholics see that One Church defined by truths--and some truths that are hard (supported by passages like that "gnaw on" bit--Jesus invites everyone, but if you don't choose to believe What He Said, he won't stop you walking away, even if it makes him sad). Many other denominations see the One Church as the self-defined Christians in fellowship (I hesitate to use "communion," since in my faith tradition that connotes doctrinal unity, which the Anglican Church does not consider necessary, although obviously I don't object to Andy using the term as per his faith tradition).

Revelation continuing: Chruch position is that Jesus came to give us everything we needed ... but we don't expect to ever stop gaining better understanding thereof, including study of creation, development of philosophy, gerenal scholarship, etc. The problem of course comes when something suggested by current scholarship cannot be successfully reconciled to the traditional understandings, which sometimes leads to refinement of the traditions and sometimes leads to at least temporary rejection of the scholarship. (Would that the US Church leadership had rejected, for instance, that set of psychological scholarly thought that taught that child rapists could be cured by counseling ... I suspect that that history of trusting too far some of the psychology/science stuff that was deeply in error in the early and middle 20th c is probably a LARGE part of why the heirarchy hesitates to accept the "homosexuality is healthy" set of scholarship, which, as I understand it, originated with the psychological community ... but that is just a personal side impression. It does illustrate the reason the Church is so conservative that many call it reactionary--which it sometimes is.)

---

DJR, lots of Catholics think. Like Andy choosing to give credence to the Bible, we choose the Church because it shares our experience/helps us live better lives.

Please consider that the same set of arguments I've made about severe moral failings of specific professed religious people: what percentage of Americans actually "think," to your satisfaction? (Answer, from what I understand: damn few ; ). ) Should it surprise you that most Americans who are Catholic don't think, to your satisfaction?

Should it surprise you that you rarely run into a thinking Catholic (especially since you have lots of reasons to assume we generally can't think, so why would you even be looking or noticing)? In college, when people found out I was Catholic, they almost immediately started treating me as if I as intellectually inferior, no matter what or how long their prior experience of me. The only times I've been near IQ tested people, my IQ in comparison ranges around 160-175 (I've never had the tests myself). Your personal assumptions/anger/hurt may be severely limiting your experience/impressions of Catholics--and of course my life might be affecting my impressions the other way ; ). (When I was in high school it took a couple of the serious students a couple of years to realize I was an academic powerhouse, because I dressed like a hippie ... despite the clear fact that I beat them at essentially everything we set our hands to. I was flabbergasted at their perceptive illogic when I was told several years later.)

Just because you do not agree with some or even many tenets of the Catholic Church doesn't mean they are wrong--but more pertinently, it doesn't mean they aren't thoroughly (exhaustively--ridiculously(!), in most cases) Thought Out. Wrong thinking, maybe. But at 2000 years old, intellectual attacks against every little thing are hardly new, and defenses have been intellectually mounted to refute those attacks (hence all that lawyering that people knock on ... people wanted "answers" and we recorded the damn things so we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel every hundred years! also useful for checking intellectual and logical continuity) ... at least the last two popes elected have been specifically scholars ...

And the most externally revered Catholic Saint, St. Francis of Assissi, was not only suspicious of scholarship, but actively denigrated and discouraged it (and the people who revered it). I suppose he is easier to deal with because he doesn't "argue." The world maybe needs to decide if it wants answers ot not ; ). Certainly the more attractive spiritual paths are about living instead of thinking ...

If you want to get into specific topics that I haven't focused my attentions on (many and multiferous, the world is a big place ; ) ), again, Catholic Answers (catholic.com) has folks who study every little thing. (Well, except energy healing, maybe ... and they are very cautious discussing the (related?) charismatic gifts.)

Anonymous said...

andy:
yes, free for all.
not because you believe in all those things that i myself may, or may not, beleive in, but because two very opposite beleivers can still be considered properly and theologically anglican.
it was a question, not an accusation.

huomiseki: spot on! thanks for explanation and clarity. it helped a lot.

djraindog: 'catholic light' was a term i first learned from an episcopalian, and used it to explain himself.

kr: ((big hug))
but not in a sexist, marginalizing,objectifying way. ;)

kr said...

gino: ; ).

DJRainDog said...

gino: My apologies: I took offense to a phrase that wasn't meant to be offensive. My (righteous?) anger with the dioceses of Northern Virginia and their decision to cleave unto a man whom I believe to be a wolf in sheep's clothing spilled over into my thinking about differences (which are actually few) between Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics. Mr. Huomiseksi might be better equipped than I to address some of those, as he's older, and I believe he's considered himself one for longer. (I may be wrong.)

Ah, kr, THERE you are! (Happy Christmas to you and yours!) While you are correct in that I do not believe most Americans think well enough to be allowed to vote, I certainly did not mean to imply that I believed Roman Catholics to be incapable of serious thought. (I'm a big fan of Karl Rahner.) I just think that historically, they've bowed to their leaders a bit more than they ought, and I've seen the damage that certain dogmas have done to quite a number of people, the worst of which seems to be alienating them from the Church and from God entirely, which grieves me greatly. (Yes, I'm grinding a few very specific axes here.) In no way did I mean to insult you or your people, nor did I mean to imply that Anglicans hold a monopoly on discernment of the Word. (I do think that the whole "hold bound...hold loosed" statement has been misinterpreted; likewise the "eats my body...drinks my blood" bit. He was NOT known for his ease of interpretation, and frequently stumped everybody and didn't bother to explain himself, ya know?)

kr said...

DJR: : ). Yes, there is that Mystery of how the Wisdom of the Ages could come to earth and NOT know that He needed to be a weeeeee bit clearer for us ; ). Perhaps more evidence that he wanted us to Use Our Brains ; ).

As for historical sheepitude, since everyone everywhere culturally expected to acquiesce(?sp) to authority, I think the proud history of Christians listening closely enough in Church/studying enough to demand answers about social questions that didn't jive with tbe "truths" being taught is actually kind of cool. (It's all in what you focus on ... since I have for many years been approaching my study of the Church and the effects of its teachings from a primarily feminist viewpoint, the last 2000 years trend extremely positive, from the baseline cultural stuff I've read.)

But of course I absolutely see your point as well ... living in Portland in a very untraditional Catholic household, I only got the teachings and logic and hardly any of (what remained of) the pre-Vatican-II American or Old World Catholic cultures. Visiting NYC, Buffalo/Niagara, San Fransisco ... I think I had my eyes opened at least as much about perceptions (and realities!) of my Church as I did about the cities themselves. And I became glad that my NYC godmother and my SF godfather hadn't had as much input on my cultural upbringing as they probably thought they had ... assumptions that the priests were inherently holier than the people would be just the start (and we of course know where that led, for thousands of children). One advantage to having no Catholic friends, I suppose.

And yes, certainly, thought deviation was(/is) discouraged in traditional Catholic cultures. For America, colonies tend much more conservative culturally (we speak English more like Shakespeare than the English do), because they feel the need to (rabidly) protect the shreds of culture they chose to bring with them ... and certainly Catholics were under active theological, political, and sometimes physical attack here in the States from Day One, and being under attack is a major reason a social group will circle the wagons ... Vatican II was actually partly because the Church recognized that they had been reactionary (all over the world), and that wasn't healthy, especially in the long run.

So no, I know you know there are thinking Catholics, and that a Catholic from 100 years ago would probably (as long as they didn't know about your non-work life!) consider you more Catholic than most professed Catholics. If you have specific bones to pick, though, you should maybe avoid tarring the entire church, and its culturally embedded members. (As I have to remember myself, considering some other faith groups, when I get up in arms ; ). )

Sometime (your blog?) you could expand on your perceptions of misinterpretations--I wasn't sure which folks you thought had them wrong ; ).

I hope your holidays are blessed :).

kr said...

query: didn't clever reasonable Elizabeth order bunches of people (Catholics) imprisoned and killed?

(Don't get me wrong, I think she was a great Queen and is the only reason Britons have built themselves into a modern, civilized people in an awful lot of ways ... but she came off a little over-positive, above, I was thinking ; ).)

kr said...

OK, to the post at hand:

So, what I'm understanding is that these dioceses decided someone or other in the leadership was wrong and changed affiliation to a different leader (who is strongly disliked by people here who know more details).

As a Catholic, I do have to wonder at the offense people take (that schism/heresy thing, I suppose) ... if you don't make that obnoxious claim to being the One True Table, and your church exists because of a choice like this one (King Henry, you know, being a great person and theological leader), where's the logical justification for being SOOOOOO offended when some other small but significant group repeats your history? Isn't it, really, inherent in the thought structure of your church? Should it not be logicaly ASSUMED that if there is a major disagreement (cultural/theological/?) with the leader they have been subjected to unwillingly (hem hem, the pope, cough cough), that they SHOULD leave, or at least consider leaving?

Am I totally misunderstanding the situation here?

Andy said...

Yes and no.

This is why I was tempted to put in all this background on history, theology and governance of the Anglican communion.

Yes, absolutely, Anglicans -- and especially Episcopalians -- believe that part of the essence of real faith is the ability to follow your conscience wherever you believe the Holy Spirit is leading it, and if you believe your church leadership has abandoned fundamental defining beliefs, then perhaps yes, you actually have no moral alternative to leaving.

BUT

This isn't some break over fundamental theological ideas. We're still all in agreement on the Nicene Creed. Christ is supposed to be at the center. He holds us together, regardless of anything else. That's what makes the Anglican Communion, we don't have to agree on these peripheral questions of women and gay people. We agree on Jesus, and that's supposed to be enough (for the most part).

Archbishop Akinola and his supporters here in the U.S. simply don't want to be part of a church that is open to women and gay people. That's why I put this post in the context of "The Lord's Table." They won't even sit down with us. They want to go off and have their own party, to which we are not invited. I don't think it really is about Jesus and the Gospel, I think it's about power and the desire to cling to prejudices as a strategy for maintaining and accruing that power. Part of me wants to say, "Good riddance, then!" But it also makes me sad, because I just don't believe that they are really acting in a spirit of holiness. Of course, they probably say the same about me.

kr said...

But the Creed, like the Bible, is hardly clear and specific enough to answer all of our daily questions. If you lack a unified understanding of the Creed, you court this sort of thing.

And these people might actually consider their choice credally based.

One God, the Father, the Almighty ...
Lots of room for male superiority/power structure there ...

Creator of Heaven and Earth ...
Where a person or group draws the line on what was created and what happened to creation as a result of our sin(ning) is pretty much at the heart of the debate about the nature, or lack thereof, of homosexuality, isn't it?

the Virgin Mary ...
Man, I just figured out last year that ultratraditionalists (they still exist) think this means "she had an unbroken hymen," and wasted ink and time for like centuries trying to argue out how that worked out with the fact she gave BIRTH ... I guess they finally settled on "God Miraculously preserved her hymen" ... all in the name of being true to the Creed.

So you just never know what people are thinking when they recite the Creed, and it is not too hard to take the Creed in directions that would logically necessitate a break with your version (the majority version) of Anglicanism.

'S why Catholics are naturally suspicious of this whole believe what you want, Middle Road, theory ... logically and historically it can only lead to disunity.

(Now, of course, the degree to which we (Christians) are responsible for unity vs. it really being God's job? Well, now, I'd have to say the Church has often thought too highly of itself in many venues ... .)

Gino said...

was it a quote by calvin? something along the lines of mary remaining an 'intact virgin' even through childbirth.
its possible.
as all things are with God.
but the status of her hymen is not what was, or is, important.

and now i feel dirty...
talking about hymen and Mary in the same sentence.

Andy said...

Yes, KR, but there's supposed to be room in Anglicanism for these discussions and flexibility for disagreement when Scripture, as it so often does, fails to conclusively support only a single argument. For example, God the Father: well, if God is a "male," why then does Jesus in Luke 15 say God is like a woman (!!!) who rejoices when she finds her lost coins? Does not a man also rejoice when he finds lost coins? Of course. But Jesus said God is like a woman. Does that settle the argument? No, but it's a significant point. Does disagreement there mean we disagree that Jesus is the Son of God who died, rose from the dead and is coming back? Not really.

DJRainDog said...

Andy: "...and is coming back"

"Won't you tell Him please to put on some speed / Follow my lead / Oh, how I need / Someone to watch over me."

Interesting application of Gershwin, no?

Or better yet, as the BCP has it, "Hasten, O Father, the coming of thy kingdom; and grant that we thy servants, who now live by faith, may with joy behold thy Son at his coming in glorious majesty; even Jesus Christ, or only Mediator and Advocate."

Amen. (Appropriate for Advent, too!)

kr said...

Andy, I don't disagree with you; I trust your and DJR's general instincts/impressions of the situation, as I probably would trust them on a wide range of situations.

It just seems odd to be offended when someone decides you are so wrong they need to leave, when it is a natural outgrowth of assuming everyone is at least to some degree wrong ("supposed to be room ... for ... flexibility" ; ) ) ... eventually someone(s) somewhere will get far enough out that they can't live with the others, and there is less of a social/intellectual check to cause them to reconsider.

God is also refered to in the OT as a mother hen, and of course the Genesis "male and female" contributes to any worthwhile discussion ... I wasn't saying "this is right," I was saying, "it is not hard to get there from this, the very first set of Credal assertions." It's not like the slavers using OT yuckiness to justify themselves ... it's right there in the Creed, that most definitive of "Christian" word-collections.

What's funny, though, Andy, is that non-Christians seem to have way fewer issues with a male single diety than they have with the whole Jesus thing or the whole died and resurrected thing ... ; ).

In any case, if something is in the Creed, it must be dealt with, because it was specifically designed to be definitive of Christianity.

Gino, for God's sake, it's just a body part, and a fairly extraneous one, despite the ridiculous emphasis placed upon it for thousands of years. I won't gross out the male multitudes with the many ways that a hymen can break besides sex, but they are many. Surely, God could have preserved it, but that would waste (in my humble opinion ;) ) a miracle as well as the later ink and time ... since in theory not even Joseph* was ever going to check it out, and Jesus was supposed to be human--born of a woman in a freaking stable and attended afterwards by shepherds, for goodness sake! It's not like God was setting up a glorified birth! (*OK, salacious-minded: have YOU ever seen an angel? Remember how Gabriel says "Be not afraid" before anything else? Yeah. Well. Whatever plans Joseph might have had ... well. And, there is outside evidence that some sects of Judaism did have dedicated girl-virgins, that married sworn-off older men to meet the societal need for them to be married, anyhow, even discounting the Fear of [the Voice of] God aspect of the Holy Family narrative.)

Andy said...

KR: And I don't disagree with you, either. (Although, let's be honest, if the original reformation is to be used as justification for the present schism, the reformers had, I think, far more theologically significant beefs with the Pope than the ordination of women and gay people. Frankly, I think the fact that the church I attend offers Communion to anyone, even the unbaptized, falls more squarely into horrific heresy than a gay bishop. I myself am not completely comfortable with it, but I am convinced of the sincerity of the intention behind it.)

I can't put it into words, largely because the whole situation has been so technical and so distasteful that I haven't really followed it closely. So this could just be my own prejudice speaking, but the little voice inside my head says that this split really is about wealth and power and prejudice, and not about sincere concern for the Christian Body.

Andy said...

KR: by way of Father Jake, a quote from Bruce Bawer that better phrases what I've been stumbling over here:

For though they beat their breasts over their fealty to "traditional values," these secessionists have demonstrated quite dramatically that they don't know the first thing about Anglican tradition - which from the beginning has called on the faithful to focus on what brings them together, not on what divides them, and whose glory is not a book of discipline but a book of common prayer. They call themselves orthodox, but in an Anglican context they're anything but. They thunder that their denomination has been taken over by gays and their supporters; the fact is that third-world Anglicanism has largely fallen under the sway of reactionary demagogues who have left Anglican traditions and values far behind.

Marc said...

I do not agree with the principle of transubstantiation. As you have noted, it can't be proved by the Holy Writ. For that matter, the scriptures say nothing of the Eucharist, either. From my study of the scripture, the Communion is meant to be used as a remembrance of the death of Christ, a reminder of the sacrifice that grants eternal salvation for those who believe.

That being said, if a person is a believer in Christ, then that person should be allowed to take Communion. But the believer may not believe as the others believe (in transubstantiation, for instance), so there isn't "communion" or agreement on that tenet. So the Catholics exclude those from Communion who don't believe as they do, and it sounds as though the Archbishop is determining that he will only commune with those who believe as he does.

As written in Matthew 26:25-27, Mark 14:21-23, and Luke 22:18-20. Christ instituted the supper to remind his disciples that his blood and body were sacrificed for them for the forgiveness of sins. To me, if this is what you believe, you are sharing a common belief in the deity of Christ, so you should be allowed to commune. Isn't that the common belief that unites all Christians?

Naturally, Jesus ate with sinners. His life's work was about bringing people to the realization that he was the Way to salvation. He did not preclude anyone from making a choice to follow him. However, the scriptures would clearly lead one to conclude that the act of communion clearly was established for those professed believers of Christ; the elect.

I always enjoy reading your blog and the diverse thoughts of your readers.