25 July 2007

Global imperative, or legerdemain?

Chris Sugden has written a piece intended to justify the proliferation of parallel jurisdictions now sprouting up in the US. Not counting the so-called "continuing" Anglicans, we're at five overseas-bishop-supported arrangements and counting.

I find Sugden's rationale troubling. First, he cites +Drexel Gomez as warrant for declaring ECUSA to be "apostate." That's alarming on all sorts of levels. One person can now declare a church to be apostate, and then anything goes? I don't think we want to head down that road.

Sugden also cites contemporary business practices in his argument:
But it is no longer possible to subject all state institutions in one geographical area to one jurisdiction. International companies, the internet, international networks such as the European Union are an expression of the globalisation that has rendered boundaries that were set by how far people could conveniently travel obsolete.
This surprises me. Shouldn't he be giving us a biblical view? Isn't we progressives who are accused of being rooted in culture? Most international companies now offer equal treatment to gays and lesbians, so shouldn't the church follow that example too? I happen to be an old-school progressive who believes that the church should not be defined by culture -- and certainly not by the practices of multinational companies.

Geography is no longer the sole consideration when thinking about the space that we occupy. We live in global and universal space which is occupied by networks of people with values and commitments. In the church, we are now experiencing the church as envisaged in Acts 15, where Gentile and Jew ( different races and classes) are engaged closely together.
Fair enough. I agree that geographical boundaries within the church should not be sacred cows. But I also think this is a clever tactic to get us to look the other way, while schism is the goal. Under the current ethos practiced by +Akinola, +Orombi, +Venables, et al, the church should apparently split whenever people can't see eye to eye. So rather than establishing the vision of unity in Acts, we are creating a compartmentalized Christianity of people who are theological clones.

Let's be clear. Anglicanism has had theological diversity since its inception. Christianity itself has had theological diversity since its inception (read Romans and then read James, for example). To insist that Christianity must be uniform is innovation of the worst kind -- it is innovation that drives division. There are certainly limits within which orthodox Christians must stay. The Nicene Creed, or even the Lambeth Quadrilateral, provide excellent boundaries. One can plausibly disagree on all sorts of things and still be an orthodox Christian.

Let's not get distracted by an argument that drags in globalization or the unity of Acts. Sugden is pushing an agenda of division. It is tearing the fabric of the church. We should be spending our energy repairing divisions, not justifying new ones.

(The Lead pointed me to this piece.)

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