(RNS) Diana Butler Bass—When religion and spirituality collide

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, recently announced that he would step down by year’s end. A few days later, the Church of England rejected a Williams-backed unity plan for global Anglicanism, a church fractured by issues of gender and sexual identity. The timing of the resignation and the defeat are probably not coincidental. These events signal Anglicans’ institutional failure.

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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryArchbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams* Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture

5 Comments
Posted April 17, 2012 at 5:30 am

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1. driver8 wrote:

Archbishop Rowan failed because he was too authoritarian?

April 17, 11:39 am | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:

“All institutions are being torn apart by tension between two groups: those who want to reassert familiar and tested leadership patterns — including top-down control, uniformity and bureaucracy; and those who want to welcome untested but promising patterns of the emerging era — grass-roots empowerment, diversity and relational networks. It is not a divide between conservatives and liberals; rather, it is a divide between institution and spirit.”

Diane Butler Bass asserts that this is the primary or defining principle of the dispute in the Anglican Communion.  She is a long way off the mark because she misses a fundamental point:  The disappointment felt by many Anglicans with ++Rowan Williams, Katherine Schori and others is not because of some general disillusionment with “top-down leadership”, but because those leaders abandoned principles which they were expected to uphold.

This is not a change - its not like millions of Anglicans woke up one day and decided “I think its time we required our leaders to actively promote and defend the faith once delivered”.  It was always expected.

The following passage also demonstrates how Ms Bass just doesn’t get it:

“For centuries, faith was top-down: Spiritual power flowed from pope to the faithful, archbishop to Anglicans, priest to the pious, pastor to congregation.”

No it wasn’t. Faith was indeed top-down, but spiritual power (as Ms Bass puts it) flowed from GOD to pope to faithful, from GOD to archbishop to Anglicans, from GOD to priest to the pious, from GOD to pastor to congregation.  Pope, Archbishop, priest and pastor, were always considered accountable to Someone higher than they. Anglicans do not protest against those who tolerate (ABC) or promote (KJS) apostasy because of some new principle, but because of a very old one.

April 17, 7:19 pm | [comment link]
3. francis wrote:

A PhD is not a substitute for common sense.

April 17, 9:56 pm | [comment link]
4. AnglicanFirst wrote:

“A PhD is not a substitute for common sense.”

Bachelor’s degree-> broad education often geared to prepare student for a more specialized education.  It should be enough for a graduate to productively apply his education broadly and productively after graduation.

Master’s degree ->  a specialized education built (often) upon a student’s bachelor level education.

PhD -> a highly specialized education with a narrower focus that often results in its recipient being considered an expert in that area of focus.

But what is important is an individual’s ability to think analytically “out of the box” in an analytic and creative manner and yet not incorporate fiction into his thought process or to create fiction as a result of that process.

Some people have also said that PhD is an acronym for “pile it higher and deeper.”  This is probably the result of the pompous behavior that seems to afflict some PhDs who give a bad reputation to their peers.

April 18, 8:43 am | [comment link]
5. Abbo wrote:

#2 MichaelA: You’re spot-on. Bass (again) entirely misses the mark. Reading her article, it almost seems as though she is talking about about something completely other than the matter at hand, namely the ABC Williams…as #1 noted, Williams is not at all noted for his authoritarianism. Someone who is, however, is PB Schori. And she has no problem strengthening and employing the full force of the “institution” against the “spirit” of the people, i.e. faithful, orthodox Anglicans. Then again, I can see a whole other interpretation, which may be more in keeping with her own theological/ecclesiological commitments: Given the tension between ecclesiologies and leadership styles of Schori and Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies, I can almost imagine that Bass is using Williams’ defense of “institution” against the “people” as stand-ins for Schori and the laity, i.e. the House of Deputies. Is that too far off? The other thought I had was that, I wonder how much this “institution” versus “spirit” is the subject of her latest book? And is her assessement of Williams merely an attempt to promote her book, or at least the book’s methodology? Regardless, I think Bass’ article is a whole bunch of garbage that is not worth its use as toilet paper, to put it nicely.

April 18, 10:06 pm | [comment link]


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