Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A Fine Mess

There was an interesting article on the front page of my local newspaper today -- it seems the Archbishop of Canterbury sees difficulties ahead for his church. "The question is not whether we can avoid mess, but whether we can hang on to common convictions about divine grace and initiative” This in an article by the archbishop in New Directions magazine. He is, of course, referring to the recent ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, in New Hampshire. This vote this past summer has presented the ECUSA with the very real possibility of schism, not only within the ECUSA, but within the Anglican communion as a whole. It seems the Archbishop's solution is reorganization.

Williams writes that this might be "worth looking at structures in Anglicanism that don't either commit us to a meaningless structural uniformity or leave us in mutual isolation."

I'm not sure exactly what the archbishop means, but he seems to be saying, "well fellas, instead of splitting in a nasty schism, lets split officially. Let's just put a wall between the liberals and conservatives so they don't have to get together too often, but we can all still call ourselves Episcopalians (and keeping those funds coming in)." It seems to be this is not an entirely satisfactory solution.

On the one hand, it represents a failure to face the problem, and a severe problem it is, of whether the Bible is to be believed or not by Episcopalians. It ignores the question of whether or not there are any limits to human moral conduct. It seems to be a sort of sweeping the problem under the rug. The problem for the Episcopalians is not in the organization, it is with some of those within the organization. It seems to me that simply creating more structures within the Anglican community now presents large difficulties in the future. What do they do when some small minority within the church decides it is fitting and proper to ordain practicing pedophiles to the priesthood? Do they then create yet another reorganization, made up of yet smaller groups? And what of the issue after that? Can they become cell-like and divide infinitely?

On the other hand, it seems to me that a real solution is structurally almost beyond reach of the ECUSA. The solution would be that the Archbishop of Canterbury, assuming he were so inclined, step in and nullify the silliness that took place in the United States this summer. He should step up and insist that what happened at the ECUSA convention goes beyond all known Biblical norms and is, therefore, invalid. The problem is, though, that he has no power to do this -- there is no final teaching authority within the Anglican Communion. In effect, they lack adult supervision, and thus are doomed to an endless cycle of child like self-indulgence on whatever happens to be the latest social trend. There's no stopping them.

All of which reminds me of the profound sense of gratitude Catholics should bear to our Holy Father and the Magisterium of the Church. This represents, not a "meaningless structural uniformity", but the guaranty by the Holy Spirit that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Jesus' Church.

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