09 August 2007

More Lambeth posturing

Today Ruth Gledhill writes:

The deadline for bishops to respond to their invite to the Lambeth Conference has been extended, according to a report in the Church of England Newspaper tomorrow.

The extension comes after Sydney's six bishops told the Archbishop of Canterbury that they could not reply to the invite until they knew the response of American bishops to demands made by Primates in February at Dar es Salaam.

I certainly don't have enough information to have a fully-baked opinion, but that never stopped a blogger. So here goes. It seems to me that, if true, this delay reinforces a very unfortunate trend away from Anglican Christianity and toward a rigid, extremist Christianity.

Let's take the "worst case" scenario. Suppose the ECUSA House of Bishops does not comply with the requests of the Dar es Salaam communique at the September meeting. It seems to me that rather than shunning those with whom we disagree, it would be better for people to speak with one another face-to-face. Jesus invites us to be reconciled, and we can't do that when we're pouting in the corner. Reconciliation requires engagement.

My own country has perfected the art of the either-you-are-with-us-or-against-us stand. High handed unilateral behavior is never the path to peace. It saddens me that this tactic has been adopted by others in the world, and it grieves me that our church is devolving into many sects of theologically "pure" believers, unwilling to look into the faces of their sisters and brothers in Christ.

My understanding is that many bishops of diverse points of view have accepted the Lambeth 2008 invitations, and that even bishops whose primates are part of the so-called Global South are planning to come. That's surely a good thing, and I hope it helps ECUSA understand how our actions have been hard for others. I hope it helps others see that ECUSA is full of faithful people, seeking to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I don't imagine that ECUSA has all the answers, nor do I imagine that the criticisms coming from +Akinola are all wrong. I hope the dissenters could admit that they might have some room in their hearts for conversion, and that they might be willing to share their perspective with ECUSA and Canada.

The only way it makes sense to stay away from Lambeth -- or to threaten to stay away -- is if one imagines one is 100% right and that the direction of the Anglican Communion is 100% wrong. The Gospels should provide ample warning to anyone who imagines they have all the answers. God help us all when we think we can no longer grow in Christ, and may God give us the grace to help others grown in their discipleship.


Chris H. said...

"I hope the dissenters could admit that they might have some room in their hearts for conversion, and that they might be willing to share their perspective with ECUSA and Canada."

Do you have room in your heart for conversion? Is there anything that could be said or done that would convince you that the progressives are wrong? If not, why continue the charade?

I really don't understand "progressive" people,including Robinson, who say they want conservatives to stay,that conservatives are valuable when they have no intention of being swayed by them. It just seems that the progressives want them to stay and "listen" until sheer exhaustions makes them give in and become progressive and that doesn't seem a very honest way of winning the debate.

What have conservatives taught you or convinced you of, and what points are you wavering on that they might be able to convince you of? Why does a progressive church need people who believe it is going the wrong way? Who insist on old fashioned, even discriminatory practices?
I'd really like to hear some specific examples of the value some centrists or progressives claim to find in them. The words ring very hollow to me.

West Coast Cleric said...

Scott, I read and occasionally comment over on SF, where I encounter your occasional well-considered comments. I confess it is my blog of choice. But I am intrigued by commenters such as yourself who stand on the opposite side of the fence from me and don't lob cowpies. I, for my part, try not to lob same.

The primary issue from the 'dissenter' side, as I see it, is that we feel we have "been in conversation" for so long and have seen it as a tactic to simply keep us talking until we are overcome by events. The problem is that we are dealing with a hardcore values conflict that cannot be resolved. The rhetoric gets thick, but the bottom line is that we do not believe Christian thought has room for those who, it seems to us, deny the very tenets--the very definition--of Christianity as held for nearly two millenia.
Hence the "conversation" can only be something along the lines of: "Hey, Joe, it's dark in here!"
"No, it's not, Fred. I can see perfectly!"
"No, it's dark. Utterly pitch-black. Can't see the hand in front of my face."
"Are your eyes open?"
"Yup. Wide. Nothin'."
"OK, well, I'm going over there to the river--someone is beckoning me. Don't bump into anything. By the way, is that your dog?"
"What dog?"
"Never mind. See ya."
"Is that a 'blind' joke??"

Whether it is dark or not, there is simply no common ground for any further discussion of the light or lack thereof. So, while I (and others, I presume) may appreciate your desire--and I believe it to be sincere--to continue in conversation, there are simply things that cannot find a compromise position. Joe could sit with Fred in the dark, but he has places to be. Fred can only try to convince Joe he can't see--a futile attempt at best, because Joe knows he is seeing. Neither one would agree that there was just a little twilight. Granted, if Fred is willing to consider that he actually might be able to see, given some repair to his optic nerve or healing from hysterical blindness, it might be of some benefit for Joe to stay and talk with him. But Joe pretty much feels, after decades of conversation, that what Fred really wants is for Joe to join him in the darkness.

I am not trying to make a judgment statement using the "dark/light" illustration. I am only trying to offer a picture of why "conversation" is more or less a futile hope.

But then, I guess I am involved in conversation...

May we both have eyes to see.

Blessings in Christ,
Don White

Scott Gunn said...

Chris and Don,

Sorry I didn't respond sooner. My email notification of comments broke, and I didn't see that you had commented.

I do, in fact, believe that I could be wrong about lots of things, and I for one listen sincerely when I speak with conservatives. It is clear to me that progressive teachings on human sexuality are innovations. I happen to think they are warranted scripturally and theologically, but I do not take this teaching lightly.

While the conversation has been happening in this country for several decades, that is not true globally. I even agree with the oft-spoken conservative charge that ECUSA's establishment is liberal-minded and not particularly open to hearing from conservatives. Too often, I agree, the "conversation" within ECUSA has been one-sided, left preaching to right.

On the other hand, the conversation hasn't even started within the Communion. Despite requests from Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, not one openly GLBT person has addressed the Primates or the Lambeth gatherings, I believe. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Many provinces have not begun to hear from GLBT people or to study the possibility that the church could discern a change in this area of our moral theology.

So, to both of you, I agree that we need to work on having a real conversation in this country. Both progressives and conservatives (which is exactly what I meant) need to have open hearts -- as do all Christians. But I hope you could agree with me that the Anglican Communion also has work to do.

Jesus had plenty to say when he encountered religious leaders who fancied that they knew everything. I think those words should haunt zealots on both the right and the left (including myself, at times).