Stepping In It

Well, the Diocese of San Joaquin has voted to disassociate itself from the Episcopal Church (and to associate itself with the Province of the Southern Cone), and some people are thrilled, and some people are furious, institutional authorities are figuring out whom to replace with whom on which charts of authority, very many people wonder what the Archbishop of Canterbury will do about the steaming mess freshly delivered to his doorstep, and lawyers are girding themselves to generate billions of billable hours.

Almost everyone who has spoken publicly on this development has deployed rhetoric that smacks of idolatrous fixation on Nikê, the goddess of Victory. Whatever may be dubious about somebody’s behavior, or language, or theology, or history, or legal reasoning, can be explained by the necessity of taking such-and-such a stand, now — or else what? Let them get away with that?

It is all well and good to stand up for gospel truth — God bless such testimony! — but so far as I can tell from reading the Bible, followers of Jesus are expected to work out their problems among themselves, and not wrangle or exercise coercive violence toward one another (or anyone). And if the Wrong Side were to get a temporal advantage that way, so much the worse for them; in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us.

The conflict sets people into odd contortions. People who advocate strict adherence to exactly what Scripture teaches will readily fight in court to possess the real estate they claim, despite Paul’s explicit prohibition of such action. People who advocate the exercise of pastoral sensitivity in the interpretation of Scripture espouse uncompromising rigor in the interpretation of canons. People are devising mind-boggling amalgams of catholic and protestant premises that support their claim to whatever is in dispute. Each thinks their own rationalizations are just and true, whereas their adversary’s rationalizations only serve their whimsical convenience.

If our charity were not already exhausted, we might have reached a settlement that recognized the good will and theological integrity of our discussion partners (misguided though we know them to be). Lacking charity, it seems as though name-calling and legal maneuvering will constitute the principal means by which a number of church leaders endeavor to glorify the gospel. For some reason, that doesn’t sound like good news to me.

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3 Responses to Stepping In It

  1. THERE you are!

    You got new software and your old RSS feed went silent. I thought you were on sabbatical or something. But then I said to myself… “That can’t be right!” and actually visited your site.

    Looks good, glad you’re still here.

  2. Caelius Spinator says:

    I hate baiting you, Fr. Adam. You’re so sweet. But let’s be honest. There’s nothing new in this. Ever since Chrysostom advocated lying for the good of someone’s soul and before, there is a long tradition of either discounting those who disagree with one as not one’s neighbor or believing that all sorts of cruelty can be a form of love. I’d bet there’s not a few clergy who look at a particular clause of their ordination vows as promises made to heretics.

    “Lacking charity, it seems as though name-calling and legal maneuvering will constitute the principal means by which a number of church leaders endeavor to glorify the gospel. For some reason, that doesn’t sound like good news to me.”

    In other words, we’re reverting to Reformation-era/Patristic-era etc. type.

    Thank God we live in an age where the fear and neutrality of the civil sword generally limits the bloodshed to a few cream pies.

  3. I can concede one point to your (broadly speaking) side: this is a canonical quagmire as long as both sides remain in the Anglican Communion.

    There are only a few inevitables in this row: some parishes will be split, some squashed and being expelled from Anglicanism wouldn’t affect most Episcopalians.

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