13. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
Thanks again, Dr. Seitz (#12).
I’m sorry for introducing the confusion, and I’m glad you set the record straight. Of course, I shouldn’t have called you and Dr. Radner “friends,” either. We were barely acquaintances.
And if that sounds a bit odd to some readers, i.e., how fellow conservative Anglicans could spend time on the same liberal school campus while having little relationship, I’ll further explain that when I was at YDS I was already married, whereas you, Dr. Seitz, and Ephraim were single and living in a different part of campus. Not to mention the fact that in those days, YDS was quite large, with about 450 students (not counting the doctoral students like yourself), of whom well over 100 were Episcopalians. Plus, you guys were older than I was and so we hung out with different people.
But yes, I think we can agree that VTS in 1979, or YDS in the early 1980s, now seems like a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Which takes us back to the main point after this long detour off-topic, i.e., that religious institutions and movements, slow to change as they notoriously are, nonetheless aren’t static. They are perpetually evolving and getting either better or worse. Alas, in the case of TEC, or VTS or YDS, they have grown much worse, as the gangrene of heresy and immorality has progressed farther and farther. OTOH, I firmly believe, however naive it may seem to many outside and inside Anglicanism, that the parting of the ways was both inevitable and indeed necessary, so that the true and false gospels and worldviews that have been contending for dominance in the Anglican Communion could be clearly distinguished and kept apart. A firewall has had to be built, or a bulkhead established, to contain the intolerable heresy of theological and moral relativism and prevent it from infecting the whole of Anglicanism.
The great DSC has toiled mightily to put such a firewall or bulkhead in place, but TEC has now said, in effect, that no such firewalls are going to be permitted. How inclusive of them!
Please let all note: It’s not that I’m saying to our “progressive” foes in TEC, “Well, good riddance! I shake off the dust from my sandals and leave you traitors to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.” No, I’m filled more with grief and pain than anger and bitterness. Hence my frequent allusion here on T19 to the famous lament of the future King David over King Saul’s death, “How are the mighty fallen!” Despite my allusion above to the “Negro” Spiritual “Free at Last,” while I do indeed rejoice that +Lawrence and the DSC are set free at last from the futile task of trying to stay in TEC while remaining sufficiently differentiated, I do NOT rejoice over the obvious demise of TEC, which I long loved and served.
Nor for that matter am I rejoicing over the ever-increasing signs that the tear in the fabric of the Communion has passed the point of no return and is unrepairable (at least humanly speaking). Despite how it may appear at first sight to some, I am not rejoicing over the fact that the old polity wineskins (again, especially at the macro or international level) have now been shown to be obsolete. They served us well for a long time and I don’t despise them. But I value the wine of Anglicanism as a unique Protestant-Catholic hybrid much more than the venerable institutional wineskins that have held and helped preserve that potent wine for so long. And yes, for me personally, that includes ALL FOUR of the Instruments of Unity that were supposed to protect and promote the unity of worldwide Anglicanism, but instead have done just the opposite. And yes, I do mean the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as the other three that +Rowan has effectively vitiated and manipulated in a scandalous and reprehensible way. I can foresee a New Anglicanism that dispenses with any need for the ancient see in Kent that was founded some 1400 years ago. Not a bad run, and much longer than any Lutheran or Reformed church body can claim.
But in the future, the Archbishops of Abuja, or Kampala, or Nairobi, or even Juba, will matter more than whoever sits on the stone throne of Augustine of Cantaur. That day isn’t far off, and may be here sooner than even I imagine.
Let us recall that when the Master warned us not to try and patch rigid old wineskins that no longer were supple enough to contain fermenting new wine, he humorously noted the futile and misguided attempt to repair the one wineskins would result not only in the loss of the precious wine after the old wineskins inevitably burst under pressure, but that the old wineskins would be lost as well.
What I’m trying to say is that the institutional wineskins of the Anglican Communion (again, with the all-important qualification, as we have known it heretofore) need to be retired with honor, like the jersey and number of some star athlete like Michael Jordan’s #23 Bulls uniform. Not thrown away like disposable trash, but retired with honor. Because what really matters is Anglicanism itself. We got along for centuries without a Lambeth Conference, or an ACC, or a Primates’ Meeting, and we can do so again. We can even do without the Church of England being legally established as the state church or the CoE being the central hub of the worldwide Anglican family of churches. We can do without English being the native tongue of most Anglicans. We don’t have to be Anglophiles or Erastian to be Anglicans. But we DO have to cling faithfully to the core verities: including the authentic gospel, the supreme authority of Holy Scripture as interpreted by the consensual teaching of the ancient Catholic fathers and as supplemented and partially corrected by the Protestant reformers (especially with regard to justification by faith), plus adhering genuinely to the classic ecumenical creeds, the classic sacramental system, and not least to the classic three-fold ordering of the Church in terms of bishops, priests, and deacons (especially the real kind, the permanent or vocational deacons). We DO have to remain Prayerbook Christians, no matter which version of the classic 1662 BCP we prefer. There may be other things that are essential and non-negotiable elements of authentic Anglicanism, that’s certainly debatable and will continue to be vigorously debated among us.
But my fundamental claim here on this thread is that Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion aren’t interchangeable, as we often used to suppose back in the old days when our orthodox brothers and sisters in the REC were presumed not to be really Anglican whereas notorious heretics like +Pike or +Song inside the Communion were regarded as in the fold and invited to Lambeth. No, it is high time that we Anglicans learned to distinguish carefully and cautiously between authentic Anglicanism and its possible institutional incarnations, some of which are legitimate and some of which aren’t.
But of course, that all takes us back to the Achilles Heel of Anglicanism, which I see rather differently than Dr. Turner of the ACI. For in the end, IMHO, our real Achilles Heel is not just our theological vagueness and even incoherence on some crucial points that go all the way back to the Elizabethan Settlement, and the artful compromises found in the 1559 BCP and the 39 Articles of 1571. No, bad as that is, the real problem is even worse. And that problem is the gaping authority vacuum left at the very center of Anglicanism, even at its best as an ism.
That is to say, our ultimate Achilles Heel is that we simply have no final authority in Anglicanism that can settle prolonged and bitter disputes over fundamental matters of faith and practice. For in the end, it always comes down to the authority issue: Who gets to make the final decision that is binding on everyone who claims to be Anglican? Alas, ever since the English monarch ceased to be the Supreme Governor of the CoE and hence over all Anglicans (a drastic if necessary change which effectively happened when England became a constitutional monarchy with the overthrow of James II and the ascent of William and Mary, Calvinistic Protestants that they were, to the throne under Parliamnet in 1689), we Anglicans have failed to come up with anything to take the place of the English monarch as a final arbiter for all things Anglican. Mind you, I’m not a Royalist and I don’t bemoan the fact that Anglicanism is now liberated from the control of the English monarch. Rather, what I lament and bewail is the plain fact that nothing has since been created to fill the authority vacuum left when royal control of Anglicanism ceased. And the inevitable result has been the sheer theological chaos and institutional anarchy we now see on every side. It is that chaos and anarchy that are killing us, and we have to put an end to that intolerable state before it brings about the death of Anglicanism itself, as well as the end of the Anglican Communion.
Nonetheless, I remain an eternal optimist. The courage shown by +Lawrence and other fine leaders in the great DSC is only one of the many signs of hope that encourage me to remain confident that, as I asserted above, “The best is yet to come” for Anglicanism.
And that’s precisely because the wheat is increasingly being separated from the tares and the chaff. It turns out that this fateful separation doesn’t have to wait until the angels do it at the end of the age. It’s happening how, if front of our stunned and uncomprehending eyes. The all-important separation of the orthodox from the heretics, the upholders of the true gospel and biblical morality from its relativist perversions, the sheep from the goats, is happening right now, in a tentative way, of course, that is always subject to divine reversal at the Last Judgement.
October 24, 4:15 pm | [comment link]