Friday, October 19, 2007

Absolutely Must Read

Father Jake has posted on his website (see the column to the right) a major extract from an essay by the Rev. Canon Dr. Joseph Cassidy, Principal of St. Chad's College at Durham University. He's absolutely right -- an absolutely must read. The full text of the essay is posted on InclusiveChurch, I commend it enthusiastically.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Swimming the Tiber

One of the notable events during the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans last month was the announcement by the Right Rev. Jeffrey L. Steenson, Bishop of the Rio Grande, that he intends to resign from his office and from the ministry of The Episcopal Church and to join the Roman Catholic Church. Accounts have been widely posted on the usual blogs; an interview with Bishop Steenson was published in The Living Church (

I was very sorry to read his announcements, and I do hope he will reconsider. I do not know Bishop Steenson personally, but I believe he has given this matter long and hard thought and prayer, and if he believes that his conscience requires him to take this step, I wish him Godspeed and every blessing. His graciousness is exemplary.

However, I do have a question about his understanding of Anglicanism. He said in his Living Church interview that the meeting of the House of Bishops last March was “a profoundly disturbing experience for me. I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association. This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England … honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.”

I also was formed, I think slightly before Bishop Steenson, in an Anglicanism inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival, but not quite like what Bishop Steenson describes. When has The Episcopal Church not been autonomous? Granted, we speak better when we talk about “interdependence,” but ultimately we are an independent national Catholic church. If our relationship to the wider Anglican Communion is not by “voluntary association,” then what should it be? An involuntary association dictated by Canterbury, or the Primates (heaven forfend!), or the Lambeth Conference (something which the LC has never claimed to do)? I’m not sure what alternative Bishop Steenson is proposing to “an autonomous and independent local [sic] church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association.” It is true that many Catholic Christians believe it is the esse of the Church that there be a central ecclesiastical authority with a clear universal magisterium. That is the position of the Roman Catholic Church. (Oddly enough, that also now seems to be the growing position of many self-identified Anglican “evangelicals.”) I believe it is not the position of authentic Anglican tradition. I believe we have (for the most part) taken very seriously the admonition of Jesus about the use and abuse of authority: “It shall not be so among you.” Does this mean that Anglicans may go wandering off in strange directions? Yes, and we have done so, and we doubtless will again. But we also find our way back, by God’s grace. We are, after all, not saved by our own theological orthodoxy. One problem in a church with Roman-style (or “evangelical”-style) authority is that correcting errors becomes much more difficult. Being an Anglican may often seem like being in a frying pan, but diving into the fire is not the solution.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Reflection on the House of Bishops meeting

There has been a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the House of Bishops’ response to the communiqué from the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Dar es Salaam in February, on both sides of the issue. (Well, there has been some real disappointment expressed on one side, and a great deal of ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth from the other side.)

The HoB’s statement has been posted on various sites on the Web, including EpiScope:

One part of the statement that attracted some criticism from “progressive” commentators was the following:

The House of Bishops concurs with Resolution EC011 of the Executive Council. This Resolution commends the Report of the Communion Sub-Group of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion as an accurate evaluation of Resolution B033 of the 2006 General Convention, calling upon bishops with jurisdiction and Standing Committees "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (1) The House acknowledges that non-celibate gay and lesbian persons are included among those to whom B033 pertains.

A point of criticism was that the statement notes the reference of GC 2006 Resolution B033 to “non-celibate gay and lesbian persons,” which, although clearly implicit in B033, had not been stated explicitly until the HoB statement. Well, it’s not like there was anyone who didn’t already understand to whom B033 pertained! But what hasn’t received much mention, and what some of us wish the HoB had also explicitly noted, is that B033 pertains not only to non-celibate gay and lesbian persons, but also, presumably, to other “candidates to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” Unfortunately, there are many whose manner of life presents a challenge at least to me who have already been consecrated to the episcopate, and I guess it’s too late to do much about that now (although there are a number of purported bishops-elect to whom this might still apply). Here are what I consider some “challenging manners of life”:

notably failing to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and to “strive for justice and peace among all peoples, and respect the dignity of every human being” (granted, this language is specific to the Baptismal Covenant in the American Book of Common Prayer and as such is not common to all Anglicans, but any Anglican, or any Christian, who cannot vigorously respond “I will, with God’s help” to these vows desperately needs to find another religion);

making hateful (not just critical, but hateful) public statements about other human beings, some of whom are fellow Anglican Christian human beings, and dvocating their prosecution and incarceration even for simply discussing homosexuality;

actively invading another diocese in another Province, by consecrating bishops and claiming jurisdiction over congregations not only without the consent of the bishop of that diocese and the Primate of that Province but in total contempt of that bishop and that Primate, and indeed in contempt of the Archbishop of Canterbury;

arrogant condemnation of another Province for alleged nonconformity with certain provisions of resolutions of the Lambeth Conference and subsequent documents while flagrantly refusing to conform with other provisions of the same resolutions and documents;

unwarranted and unsubstantiated accusations of heresy and apostasy against the Primate and the Bishops of another Province;

violation of clear biblical morality, specifically as set forth in Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20.

I am disappointed that the House of Bishops did not also enumerate these instances of “a manner of life [that] presents a challenge to the wider church.”


Back to the Blog

I started this blog a few weeks ago and then got sidetracked! I was following the news and blogs leading up to and during the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans in September, and every time I thought of Wise Comments events would overtake me and they were always obsolete or superseded before I could get them posted. Probably just as well.