Sunday, August 09, 2009

Detestable Enormities?

In this era of Anglican fissiparation--something really quite unprecedented since Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy in 1534--the temptation to articulate some sort of Anglican taxonomy is almost irresistable. Communion Conservatives, Federal Conservatives, Institutional Liberals, Ideological Liberals, WWAC, ACNA, AMiA, CANA, TAC, CP--no wonder the secular media are so confused. We need a scorecard by which to tell the players.

Of course, it is tempting to wax nostalgic about a simpler era when all we had to keep track of was High & Crazy, Low & Lazy, and Broad & Hazy. There were some fuzzy borders between these three Anglican world views, and a fair amount of breadth within them, but there seemed to be certain assumptions and pre-suppositions about each that we could take as axiomatic.

When I embraced Anglicanism (and the Episcopal Church) some 35 years ago, I entered, so to speak, through the High & Crazy door. This no doubt affected my ecumenical outlook, particularly in the direction of Rome and the Eastern Rite churches. They were our "Catholic cousins"--you know, the old "branch theory" ecclesiology from the halcyon years of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism. The Church of Rome was our Mother. The Reformation may have been necesssary, but it was a necessary evil. Any schism is evil. And in England, of course, it was as much (or more) a political event as a religious one. Since the Catholic Revival of the 19th century, and in the light of Vatican II, there is more and more convergence between Anglicanism and Rome, and with a little more patient endurance, we can look forward to organic reconciliation.

So went the narrative, at any rate. Sadly, it appears to have been a high water mark in ecumenical relations that will probably not be equalled in my lifetime. As I monitor cyber-traffic, in fact (which I do a fair amount of, though I know there are those who process much more), I am disturbed to notice a resurgence of anti-Roman polemic among some Episcopalians. It doesn't come from the traditional source, however, which would be the Low & Lazy contingent (i.e. Evangelicals). No, this time it emanates from our Broad & Hazy friends (aka "progressives").

Most recently, Episcopalian anti-Roman bile seems to be in reaction to reports like this one, which calls attention to the subtle but unmistakable Romeward ecumenical gestures that are present in the Archbishop of Canterbury's post-General Convention reflections. I can't help but notice the irony in listening to Episcopalian liberals wrap themselves in the rhetoric of the Reformation as they protest (thus making them, generically, "protestants") what they perceive as Archbishop Rowan's inappropriate fawning toward the Holy See. Invariably, it isn't long before they bring up the sexual abuse scandals that have made headlines over the last decade, as if that anomalous dysfunction can negate everything else that the Roman Catholic Church is and stands for. One expects the next General Convention to entertain a resolution that the petition "From the Bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities, Good Lord deliver us" be restored to the Great Litany!

Balderdash.

I have often said that I am a Christian by call, a Catholic by conviction, an Anglican by preference, and an Episcopalian for the sake of expediency. That is to say, in terms of the subject at hand, that I choose to be an Anglican because I believe myself to have, if there is such a thing, an "Anglican soul." The temperament, the ethos, the spiritual tradition of Anglicanism seems to me to have the best prospect, over time, of making me holy and fitting me for Heaven. And since I am "Anglican by preference," I can't actually be some other kind of Christian, including a Roman Catholic Christian.

But I have nothing against Roman Catholicism. I do not believe it to be a false religion, something to be eschewed or avoided. I hold that Church in the highest regard, and am a huge admirer of the present Pope and his predecessor. I have not exhaustively read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but I cannot imagine that there is anything of substance in it that I could not wrap my mind and heart around if it were necessary for me to do so. Although I don't expect to see it happen, nothing would give me greater joy than to be part of some body of canonical (that is to say, Canterburian) Anglicans that is sacramentally reconciled with the Holy See before I die.

Moreover, I would contend that my own position is not on the margins of Anglican thought, practice, and ecclesiology, but, rather, squarely in the mainstream. The kind of Rome-bashing that is going on in some quarters of the Episcopal Church is inherently un-Anglican in character, and not worthy of those who purvey it. Beyond making awfully strange bedfellows of American TEC liberals and Sydney-style evangelicals, it's just a smokescreen for the trenchant refusal of the General Convention majority to understand autonomy as having meaning only in the context of accountability-in-communion. It's much too Catholic a notion for them.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Father. There are a few others of us out here in Southern California (emphasis on few). I recoil at the anti-Catholic nastiness displayed not only on the internet, but also among the clergy and in parishes here in LA. It is almost like having a flashback to hearing Presbyterian relatives speak of Catholics with a scorn going back hundreds of years. Actually, that almost tribal hatred wasn't as ugly as the smug anti-Catholicism of liberal Episcopalians who wrap themselves --tastefully, of course-- in the trappings of Catholicism while disparaging the Church and its faith.

God bless your witness and thank you for voicing some sanity amid the craziness of today's Episcopal Church. You remind me why I was baptized and some twenty years later ordained in this church; its good to have company.

Sure wish I'd met you at General Convention-- maybe in Indianapolis.

Again, God bless you, Father.

LA priest

Jerry said...

Considering your current employment, does "Christian by call, a Catholic by conviction, an Anglican by preference, and an Episcopalian for the sake of expediency" suffice as a resignation letter? We Episcopalians would really prefer having a rector who is fully invested in our faith and not in his own political hobbies. Maintaining your employment at the expense of your integrity cannot be a long-term solution.

Dan Martins said...

Jerry,
At the risk of misunderstanding you by restating what I took to be obvious: There is no conflict between my statement and my "current employment." Do the math--Christian, Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopalian are categories than can be understood as concentric circles, with "Christian" being the largest and "Episcopalian" the smallest. Hence, all Episcopalians are Anglicans (so far, at any rate), all Anglicans are Catholics (by virtue of our liturgical formularies and our participation in the historic succession of bishops), and all Catholics are, of course, Christians. Does this help?

Jerry said...

In your mind they may be concentric circles, but in your words and deeds, they are a hierarchy with Episcopalianism at the bottom. Hence your dismissiveness of the progress made at the General Convention - since your Anglicanism is always given preeminence, you are unable to accept the path of inclusion and love that God has put our church on. At a time when we could and should be welcoming gay people to our church (who are figuratively and literally shunned by the other churches in our community), you're busy making sure the world knows how Catholic and Anglican you are. Your parish is left without a spiritual guide because in your mind you've already left the Episcopal Church. By physically leaving now, you can move to your next job and we can get back to being Episcopalians.

The Underground Pewster said...

Jerry,

Please, please get back to being Episcopalian. ;-)

Would you like those of us who rather like Fr. Dan's position to leave as well? Or are we to stay only if we agree with the path of the GC 2009 majority?

Jerry said...

I believe that parishioners can be led to a life of faith, love and compassion - having a local leader who is willing to lead in that direction can make the journey more fulfilling along the way. Our parish, in particular, seems to need an infusion of understanding and love for one's fellow man.

The Underground Pewster said...

Jerry,

Are in Fr. Dan's parish? I am not, but I know the feeling when one's rector's position conflicts with one's own.

I have always taken comfort in the protection the scripture, liturgy, and worship give me even though I disapprove of the sermon or politics of my priest.

Educate me on why you feel Fr. Dan has (in his mind) left the Episcopal church because I did not get that impressin from this post.

The Underground Pewster said...

Oops, I meant to type "impression."

Dale Matson said...

Actually, I would not find myself in the same camp as Jerry but understand and agree with his impression that the CP Bishops and Rectors do see the Anglican Communion as the context for their ministry and have mentally left the Episcopal Church. I have stated the same thing on another blog. That is why they want desperately to be able to sign on to the Anglican Covenant whether TEC does or not.

Dan Martins said...

Jerry, I must decline to accept the premise of many of your remarks, which is that only those who side with the majority of the recent General Convention are in a position to coherently be loving, compassionate, tolerant, and welcoming of gays and lesbians. It is my desire and goal that the parish you and I share be all of those things. It is also my desire and goal that the parish you and I share remain part of the Episcopal Church. I would invite you to consider the perils of thinking exclusively in binary terms. I realize that it is good for my soul to be in the same church with people of your "progressive" views. I see Christ in you and am more complete because of what I see. I would, in humility, suggest that it is also good for your soul to be in the same church with people of my "traditional" views. My desire and goal is to love you so much and so well that you find it impossible to see me as a one-dimensional icon of intolerance and therefore feel justified in righteously dismissing me. And it is probably good for both of us that neither position can claim complete victory, because the holiness without which no one can see God is perfected only the the ambiguous and agonizing struggle for Truth.

James H said...

As a Catholic Father thank you for this post. It convinves people "currently" in the TEC have not lost their mind

Anonymous said...

Ah, the Dark Lord of Inclusivity has banged his mailed fist on the altar. Submit, Fr., or you will be "loved to death" by your betters!

The bisectional vocalist said...

I don't recall anyone using the term 'betters'to describe the "liberals". And, I can certainly think of worse ways to die than by being loved to death.

Tom said...

"I have often said that I am a Christian by call, a Catholic by conviction, an Anglican by preference, and an Episcopalian for the sake of expediency."

Well said and me too!