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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Say what you mean, mean what you say

Nope, that's not just a Moody Blues song, it's related to why I've been so intrigued by the Lambeth Conference. I mentioned the other day that the Archbishop of Canterbury released a statement about the dichotomy between his personal beliefs and public ones, and at the same time, a number of Anglican Bishops, including NT Wright, basically supported his stance. You can read the championing of having both a public and private opinion on truth at America magazine's blog here.

I first started blogging back in 2003/4 because a writing friend who was a Quaker asked me to join his group blog. I didn't know a lot about Quakers and I asked him if someday he wanted to be a priest or minister. He told me that Quakers don't have priests/ministers and that one reason was that the priests came to believe one thing but preached something else. I was shocked and said that wasn't so. I was naive.

This reminded me of The Grand Inquisitor by Dostoevsky. In it, a priest, the grand inquisitor, explains to Jesus why he made a mistake in telling people the truth, and of how much a better job the church is doing than Jesus, by misrepresenting the truth to Christians. I believe the grand inquisitor was wrong and that we in the pews look to people like Rowan Williams to be sincere. We are done an ill if they roll out the party line instead, while keeping what they believe to be the truth to themselves.

Here below is something on this subject by Jim Naughton in The Guardian. I think it's really good and worth a read .....

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The archbishop's hands are tied, not ours

Extensive research has proven that I am not the Archbishop of Canterbury. Neither, in all likelihood, are you. These facts, in hand for some time now, acquired new significance yesterday with the revelation that Rowan Williams, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, believes, what a great many Anglicans believe, namely: "that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might ... reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness."

As archbishop, Williams might feel that the proper execution of his office requires that he puts aside his personal convictions. Juggling numerous concerns and multiple constituencies, he may have reason not to speak out boldly on behalf of one marginalised audience for fear of alienating another. Equipped with a variety of subtle ways to move the Anglican Communion toward a fuller understanding of human sexuality, he can initiate imperceptible advances on one front while publicly taking a hard line on the other. There are wheels within wheels, and he can make them all spin. He is the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But I am not. And neither are you. We can either speak our truth - which as it turns out is also his truth (and more important, we believe, His truth) and organize ourselves to reform the Churches we love, or we can sit back, beg our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to be patient, and hope that somehow the Communion will arrive at a new consensus on homosexuality without anyone seeming to have so much as nudged it in that direction.

I can just barely imagine embracing the latter of these two strategies if I were the Archbishop of Canterbury and privy to the secrets of Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion office.

Were I the archbishop, though, I would have to acknowledge that the nature of my dispute with liberal Anglicans — particularly those in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada — must now be understood in a new light. We do not differ over essential matters such as the nature of Jesus or the mechanics of salvation. We do not differ over sexual ethics, or the interpretation of Scripture. Rather, we differ over the proper response to a belief we hold in common.

What is most objectionable about Williams' recent machinations are his efforts to construct a Communion in which only one response is permissible. He has sacrificed his opportunity to act on his convictions because he believes that his office demands it. One may disagree with that choice, but one can respect it. What one cannot respect, and must not accept, are his efforts to impose a similar sacrifice on those who believe that their offices — as pastors, as friends, as Christians — demand a different conclusion.

Under Williams's leadership, an elitist view of history is acquiring the force of doctrine. One may believe that the world needs examples of gay and lesbian couples living in what he refers as "covenanted" relationships before it will readily adapt to the notion of gay marriage, but those who act on this belief face consequences. One may believe that social movements are driven from the bottom, by the men and women affected by existing discrimination, but one must behave as though such change is legitimised by ecclesial elites.

As Anglicans, we have fallen into the habit, lately, of holding lengthy meetings, from which prelates emerge with fresh pronouncements about how we are to regard people we have lived with and loved for our entire lives. We are to abide by these pronouncements or accept that whatever happens next is on our heads.

Through these meetings, Williams is gently, adroitly, yet unmistakably coercing people who wield none of his power to make his compromise with conscience their own. He is asking Churches and their members to pay a price — in lost relationships, lost vocations, lost credibility, lost integrity — that he has deemed acceptable, with the promise that it will facilitate some greater, slowly-materialising good. I might do the same thing if I were the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But I am not, and neither are you. And we must do what we must do.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Beryl Simkins said...

My first visit to your site, nudged by Mad Priest. Your statements are thoughtful and provocative.

I believe we must be real. Not by ourselves, but as a church, we are Christ's love in the world, and that is all about integrity, ... "Say what you mean, mean what you say.

9:35 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Beryl. Thanks for visiting and for the kind words :)

12:09 AM  
Anonymous fear not said...

I too came here via the Mad Priest.

A person loses all credibility when they dissemble.

I thought for fun it might be interesting to sketch out a "model seminary" for this new twist on Christian ministry. But I find myself unable to bend my mind that way - even for humor!

If anyone else cares to try...

8:34 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Who is the Mad Priest and why has he sent people this way? :)

8:39 AM  

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