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AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

We are told by our church’s leadership that there’s ample room for traditionalists and “orthodox” moderates in the fold, that we should “stay in and fight”, an unfortunate metaphor for Christians, and “take our place at the Table.” We are even told that traditionalists are valued and appointed to commissions and committees of the National Church and of General Convention, although the evidence for such a deliberate policy is perhaps less than obvious.

I am associated with a very bright and positive group of clergy and laity at the “Covenant-Communion” web site. Some of them are engaged in post graduate studies at excellent seminaries. One wonders whether there will be a place for them on the faculties of our seminaries? I lament our loss of Dr. Ephraim Radner to the Canadian Church. Wycliffe Seminary was far-sighted enough to appoint him to their faculty along with the Reverend Dr. Christopher Seitz. Fr. Ephraim is a world class theologian, the author of some splendid books, recognized as such by the Archbishop of Canterbury and unsung in our own church. So much for inclusion.

What seems to be the case is that those of us who are firm in our Anglican ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) and believe that without its unity, as far as we may experience unity in the divided Christendom, justice, mercy, compassion and reconciliation are impossible, are invited to remain, grumble, grouse, and get nowhere!

This isn’t entirely the fault of the Establishment -who still believe and yell that they are a minority – although I would suggest that most theological liberals, firm in their righteousness, find it utterly impossible to get into the minds and hearts of those who still believe with Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626…yup an old guy!) in Anglican authority based on “One canon…two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of Fathers in that period…determine the boundary of our faith.”

The major problem theological liberals have with the rest of us -maybe we are the silent majority but the silence is deafening – is that our religion seems archeological, the dead voice of tradition. Well they also oppose such a “belief system” because it offends their sentimentalism. Many seem to walk through this world blind to evil and the suffering and the destruction evil brings, confident that the eradication of poverty – a worthy and splendid cause -will usher in a brave new world. Not believing in “our father below” and all his works, dysfunction in families and societies and the world at large is attributed to social and psychological pathologies. They may well be right, but what lies behind such pathologies? To suggest that evil lies behind dysfunction is taken by many to suggest that dysfunctional people are necessarily evil. Some may be, but to the orthodox, so are we all prone to be evil without God’s grace in Christ mediated in Word and Sacrament. The living tradition so teaches.

Notice this sudden obsession with the theory that a National Church creates dioceses which are part of that structure and whose property is held in trust for that structure? Now it may well be that our National Church by its missionary zeal did forensically create most of the dioceses in the USA. It is also true that the National Church was itself created by delegates from existing Anglican churches in the colonies, who organized themselves as dioceses and elected delegates to the first General Convention. But in Anglican ecclesiology the diocese and not the national church, the bishop surrounded by priests and deacons and laity at the altar table, constitutes the essential unit of a “Catholic” church. Why? Because that is how the early church began as episcopal-“men” like SS. Timothy and Titus were sent to establish the first Christian churches. From them, in various ways, with a very few exceptions developed the form of a bishop and his “parochia” or family of Christians. As these “parochias” grew they subdivided into “parishes”, eventually pastored by episcopal delegates or priests and extended outward into “Provinces”. The term “National” Church is anachronistic, expressing the emergence of the Nation State in the 16th. Century, a concept any true modern global liberal will want to alter if not abjure!

It’s marvellous how an old-fashioned idea like the “National Church” can catch on again when property is in danger and dioceses split off. One cannot help a degree of cynicism.

Back to incomprehension! It is also true that theological conservatives often cannot get into the minds and hearts of theological liberals. They prefer to create safe bastions of faith, either in internal or external schism, into which may be attracted like-minded people. If the early Evangelicals and Tractarians had decided on such a policy -it is so like the Puritan paradigm of the church Anglicans firmly opposed in the 16th and 17th Century – their extraordinary transforming effect on the Church of England and the American Church would have been impossible. In this respect the Establishment challenge to traditionalists and “orthodox” moderates is cogent. “Make yourself heard”. “Be fruitful and multiply.” “Speak as true prophets to the church.” A prophet says nothing new or novel, proclaim no developments as do many among us who claim the prophetic mantle. The task of prophets is to say “Thus says the Lord” and call the church back to repentance, conversion and new life. St. John the Baptist was a prophet, and he said “Behold the Lamb of God” and called the Church of Israel to repentence and newness of life.

Yet perhaps after the extraordinary battering traditionalists have experienced during the past forty years in TEC, the time has come to call for “affirmative action.” Let us hear ourselves affirmed by the TEC leadership. Find places for us at the Table in churches, seminaries, Conventions and commissions. Listen to us. When that happens we will believe the burble about inclusiveness and comprehension, and not until!

2 Responses

  1. I waited to let this percolate before I commented.

    Seems to me that the “bad boy” antics of the “conservatives” have been most damaging, not to the liberals, but to the mass of faithful conservatives. (Please see my previous blog posting about the distinction between conservatives and “conservatives.”)

    These antics have doubtless created an atmosphere of mistruct – and possibly even some paranoia – on the part of some of the liberal leadership.

    From my observations, the mass of bishops, liberal or conservative, have been prepared to respect and honour the diversity of Anglicanism – just as Anglicans have done for so long.

    I’d also be curious to see how liberals in Pittsburgh or San Joaquin see the current state of play.

    In terms of affirmative action, it is probably worth noting that, during the first attempt to confirm the election of Mark Lawrence, the Presiding Bishop took the (possibly uncanonical) decision to extend the deadline for consents by a day (or was it a whole weekend).

  2. Isn’t it funny — it’s not since the Prayer Book revision 1979 that I’ve heard “traditionalists” baying at the moon so much. Before that, it was ordination of women. It seems to be people who don’t like their applecart upset, rather than those with serious theological concerns, who are decrying anything recent (meaning GC 2003, which is actually a continuation of ECUSA/TEC polity and policy over at least a hundred years of inclusivity).

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