With a lead-in like that, you're probably thinking that I'm about to make some critical remarks, and ... well, you're right. My intent is to speak plainly and precisely, but not mean-spiritedly in any way.
Last week, Dr Anderson spoke to a conference of religion writers, and in the context of her comments she said this:
We believe that God speaks uniquely through laity, bishops, priests and deacons. This participatory structure in our church allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment.
The audacity of these claims cannot be overstated.
In this brief excerpt, she starts by using creedal language: "We believe...". She is purporting to speak veritably ex cathedra for the Episcopal Church here, as if what follows is a received article of faith. Then she goes on to name General Convention, in effect, as the vehicle through which such articles of faith are promulgated: "...God speaks...through laity, bishops, priests, and deacons."
But God doesn't just speak; God speaks "uniquely." The implication here is that every resolution that is eventually marked "concurred" in the General Convention journal is a divine oracle. This is the sort of language that both the Catholic and Reformed traditions have used of Holy Scripture itself. That it would be used of the synod of one small province of a communion of churches that ranks a distant third in size between the two big ones . . . boggles the imagination.
Dr Anderson continues with an assertion which employs phraseology that professional theologians tend to use only with great precision--namely, "fullness of revelation." This is language that the tradition of Christian theology is reticent to apply even to Scripture (!), preferring to restrict to the Incarnate Christ himself. Who knew that we could have the fullness of revelation just with a vote by orders?!
In the PHOD's defense, one could argue that she's a layperson, that she doesn't have a seminary degree, and that one should cut her some slack for using technical language imprecisely. But I don't buy it. If she's going to presume to discuss theology publicly (and rather complex theological issues at that), in her high-profile position, then she should be held to the same standard to which we would rightly hold an academic theologian or a bishop. And by that standard she has gotten in way over her head.
Do we really want to say that the Holy Spirit operates more reliably by majority vote in a democratically-elected and ordered synod than in any other manner? Are we in the Episcopal Church so full of hubris that we would claim Our Polity (all now genuflect) inherently superior to any other? Have a seat, Matthias, we're going to have a proper election before we recognize you as an Apostle; that casting lots business will never do. I would be, as they say, "shocked but not surprised" to find out that many Episcopalians, clergy and laity, would answer my rhetorical questions in the affirmative. It's rather an American thing. But it makes my blood run cold.
And I will suffer no tripe about it representing a legitimate point in the range of Anglican diversity.
Nonsense. It's faux-Anglicanism.
I note with some amused irony that, earlier in her published remarks, Dr Anderson takes on the Archbishop of Canterbury for suggesting that TEC bishops might start acting more like ... you know ... bishops. Complete with an authoritative teaching office informed by the faith of the Catholic Church and not the leave of General Convention. She writes,
I envision Archbishop Rowan pondering in, to use his word, "puzzlement" why these bishops of the Episcopal Church don't just stand up and exercise their authority as bishops like most of the rest of the bishops in the Communion do. Why would our bishops "bind themselves to future direction for the Convention?"It looks to me like she is making His Grace's own point for him, even as she takes exception to it. By playing sandlot softball in a Major League ballpark, she encourages the notion of leaving such things to the pros. Let bishops be bishops. They're the ones we set aside to do public theology. Some (many? most?) of them don't do it all that well, but it's nonetheless their job, and we should give them the space in which to do it. Anybody for taking a vote?