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Friday, November 26, 2010

Again: Obedience to God and to the truth

The other day I posted something, then deleted it, but thought I'd post it again today.

I'd been reading the comments to a post on the missal translation at Pray Tell, and saw comments there by Philip Endean SJ (Worship and power) that struck me.

They reminded me of a statement made by Rowan Williams a couple of years ago in which he defended having disparate private beliefs [expressed in personal letters] and public beliefs [expressed at the Lambeth Conference] on religious issues (Rowan Williams: pragmatism and belief). At that time I'd so disliked his stance that I'd written a post about it, even dragging in The Grand Inquisitor :).

Anyway, I deleted my post from the other day because the two examples don't exactly match, and also because I didn't want to seem to be pitting Fr. Endean against the ABC. But I did really like what Fr. Endean had written, so here it is again ....

We need pastors to be honest in the sense of expressing what they really think. So much of our malaise as Church comes from people saying what they think they ought, rather than their reasoned and conscientious convictions .... Obedience to human authority is not a virtue, but a conditional means to an end: obedience to God and to the truth. And I advocated that people should speak out of their reasoned, conscientious convictions, not just spout out what they happen to be thinking on a wet Wednesday afternoon. The point is: honesty about our own convictions is the first, and an indispensable, step in finding good practical decisions under God.

After Rowan Williams had made his statement explaining why he believed it was ok to have both a private and public viewpoint on religious issues, NT Wright and some other bishops made a statement too backing him up ...

[...] the Archbishop has said repeatedly, as he did in one of the letters, that there is a difference between 'thinking aloud' as a theologian and the task of a bishop (let alone an Archbishop) to uphold the church's teaching .... It expresses what Jesus himself taught: the fundamental and deeply biblical teaching on the vital importance of church unity and of working for that unity by humility and mutual submission.

I just don't get this. Am I wrong in thinking that if Jesus had believed church unity was more important than pastors saying what they believed to be true, there'd be no such thing as a Christian church in the first place?


Blogger Matthew said...

>if Jesus had believed church unity was more important than pastors saying what they believed to be true, there'd be no such thing as a Christian church in the first place?

Ha! Agreed.

But remember, Jesus was allowed to do things like that because he was magic.

11:26 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Matthew,

Magic :)

5:22 PM  
Blogger pendean said...

Interesting conjunction, Crystal, especially as ++Rowan was my doctoral supervisor.

Strangely, I don't mind bishops themselves sincerely thinking that church unity considerations trump what they would otherwise think--especially from a Primate who has to lead the flock at the rate he or she thinks it can go. My real complaint is that deference and institutional thinking can so befuddle an individual's mind that they lose the ability to have independent personal convictions at all.

There's a paradox here that I need to think about some more.

7:40 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Fr. Endean,

Thanks for the comment.

Interesting what you said about individuals being able (or not) to have independent personal convictions - I remember Cardinal Pell, who's on the missal committee I think, speaking against people informing their consciences - link

3:41 PM  

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