19 July 2010

Diversity as a problem

In his remarks before the Executive Council recently, Canon Kearon opined that the problems in the communion are a function of diversity. Unfortunately, the idea seems to be catching on. Lionel Deimel on his Web Blog says this:
I believe that a stable Anglicanism requires the limiting of liturgical diversity and a kind of don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to doctrine. It also requires that canonical liturgy (or liturgies) be seen as relevant and contemporary. Non-standard worship and extreme theology seem to go hand-in-hand. It is certainly true, in any case, that many of the congregations that have left The Episcopal Church, reputedly over doctrinal issues, worship in a style that would make the average Episcopalian feel uncomfortable and out-of-place.

Canon Kearson sees uniform culture and doctrine nostalgically, Lionel wants uniform liturgy. I think they are both wrong.

There has actually never been a moment when the church had no divisions. The great confession of faith, the Nicene Creed was not accepted by Arian Christians. In fact it was written to explicitly deny the Arians a place in the church. For the first 5 centuries of the faith the Ebonintes stood apart claiming Peter was wrong and one had to be a Jew to be a Christian. From the moment Paul started preaching to gentiles, the faith has been diverse. The Acts recalls the first general council of the church called to decide membership rules.

A tendency in viewing history, very human and understandable is to find a 'golden age.' Canon Kearson finds one in an Anglican experience by ignoring the fights between high and low; ango-catholic and evangelical; Calvinist and Protestant or modern and traditional members. He conveniently forgets that the Elizabethan settlement was never accepted by all. We should have shown him Plymouth Rock while he was here.

In Geneva Switzerland, there is a bridge that crosses a small stream flowing into Lake Geneva. A historical marker notes that this is where Calvin and his followers would drown dissenters. The history of the faith is the history of disagreement. And as one side or another gains more and more ascendancy, the level of repression and violence rises.

For 100 years, the icon of an Anglican polity was the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the use of a Book of Common Prayer. That book has almost everywhere allowed a great deal of the diversity in practice. All during the century, there have been schisms. The church split or spun off segments in South Africa, America, Scotland and Canada. The Methodists established separate identities in England, albeit linked to the CoE, Canada and the US. They then went on a missionary drive that set up independent Methodist communities in many countries.

We have never praise God, had uniformity in either doctrine nor prayer. If one wants to see how uniformity is maintained, one need only study the Inquisition.

What we have lost and need to recover, is the art of disagreeing agreeable. Rather than having someone tell us what the outcome of disagreeing must be or that we may not disagree, we need to set better ground rules. A basic rule should be that the presence of someone is not a valid basis for disagreement.

So, I have to join in dissenting from the idea that a fixed form of common prayer will solve all problems, or even most. The simple fact is we are all human, we have differing perceptions and we can and will see things differently. To all be one requires that we agree to disagree.



Lionel Deimel said...

Yipes! Do people really think I agree with Kearon? Well, I don’t. I am an Episcopalian because of its tolerance and diversity, not in spite of it.

Primarily, I was trying to make the point that those who walk away from The Episcopal Church and take the silver on the way out have generally shown a disdain for the canons of the church long before they make a run for it.

Our church has been too tolerant of its Chapmans, Ikers, and Schofields.

I don’t believe in witch hunts, but, when you get buzzed by someone on a broomstick dressed in black and a pointy hat, you should perhaps do something about it.

JimB said...

It sort of read that way. Or at least that from another side of the pothole, you slipped towards the same error.

A couple years ago, my son went to a wedding in what was then advertised as the Episcopal Church in West Chicago. Hands in the air, powerpoint projected on the wall, nary a prayerbook in sight. He came home and demanded to know what he had wondered into. The church folded itself out of the diocese and into AMiA (I think it was) some time later. At least they were honest folks and left the keys in the lock. They did not try to steal the property and while they were TEC if one paid attention the worship never violated the rubrics.

If we say that within the broad rule of the Prayerbook there should be enough liberty for anyone who wants to claim an Episcopalian / Anglican identity, I can agree.

If it comes to it, with someone like Bp. Iker; I don't know. On the one hand he hurt real people in the church, on the other one keeps hoping conversion will happen.

So perhaps the discussion we should be undertaking is two points.

1) Can we predict canonical violations and civil law violations from disregard for the BCP rubrics? And if so is there an appropriate intervention?

2)Has TEC in an effort to be open and accepting perhaps tolerated bad conduct by some clerics too long?

I said in my post that we needed ground rules. Do you think one might be that the canons and rubrics set reasonable boundaries?


Lionel Deimel said...

That formulation works for me.

Vincent Murphy said...

Doctrine divides; and so it should. The more clearly we hold to our foundational doctrines - which are firmly reformed and protestant - the more rapidly will those who peddle heresies be forced to leave. It's better to have a church of twenty who believe in the doctrine scripture teaches than a church of two hundred who think the tradition of man or wild tales spun by past Popes to be on an equal footing to the Word of God itself.

JimB said...


You are enunciating the problem. That is precisely the idea of doctrine and opposition to diversity that is what is wrong with the communion.


JimB said...


I apologize. My touch pad laptop is a bit sensitive and I accidentally deleted your comment as I moved my stiff fingers over it this morning.

Let me enter it here and then offer you an answer. You asked, "What would I say makes a real Episcopalian, is it nothing more than sending the money to 815?

I think the point in both my post and the one Lionel wrote that led to it is that the answers are there.
1) Common Prayer. Not only the book although that is very important but also the action.
2) The elements of the Lambeth Quadrilateral.Here one must be it seems to me open to the idea that you and I may interpret one or more elements differently. That should lead to conversation, even arguments, or worse a spate of academic papers but not to a cessation of Common Prayer.
3) Yes support of the local parish which acts like it is a member of a diocese.
For Clergy, there is probably more. But that would do for me and should offer a basic starting point if you wish to discuss this further. And I will be more careful with the darn delete button!



Chris H. said...

I quite understand the slip of a finger causing chaos. Thank you for answering the question at any rate.

I simply don't believe that TEC will ever discipline the liberals who break the rules the same as conservatives. Several conservatives here broke away when the bishop refused their choice of priest because he'd attended Nashotah. They pointed out the new priest followed the BCP, liturgies, etc., the bishop just doesn't trust anyone who attended that school. With him as an "alternative oversight" bishop, I wonder why the conservatives said "No"?
The powers that be will defrock a priest for crossing diocese lines, but won't do anything about CWOB or liberal priests who don't follow canons or the liturgies. Why does it take two years to get rid of a Muslim priest?
Liberals aren't "ignoring the liturgy", they're "following the Spirit" or "being inclusive", etc. Until the rules are applied in both directions, conservatives will always believe that liberals are anarchists accepting everything except conservatives.

JimB said...


You make several points. Let me offer a few thoughts -- not sure they are on point, but I shall try.

On CWoB. I am on your side. So is my (female) rector and for that matter the diocese. In fact, in my part of the communion, I do not know anyone who does this.

For some years, my spiritual director was a Nashota House grad. He was conservative by any church standard and he had one of the larger parishes in Chicago. I was a postulant then and he was assigned by the bishop. So I have not had a problem with its grads.

I am opposed to any class discrimination. So in my view the bishop acted badly -- I would want to know that he interviewed the candidate if he had questions. But then, I never praise God! will be a bishop.

I only know the area where I live. Here one sees liberal bishops bending over backwards and ignoring clear canon violations to avoid conflict with conservatives. Of course this is not the galaxy but the simple fact is that no diocese is.

One reality is that we all experience the church locally. There is all this noise about "815" that I think proves mostly that when doing something unpopular, bishops know who to blame.

As I said, some thoughts. I do not know if I have done an good answering your initial question. I will continue to maintain that Common Prayer, not the book but rather the action, is the answer.


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