Generous Orthodoxy  

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The vote at General Convention 2009

It is hard to know what to think about the state of the Anglican Communion after the actions of General Convention. As one who, at GC in 1976, observed at close range--sometimes sympathetically--the distress of those in the Episcopal Church who opposed the ordination of women, I think I can make two comments: the trauma of that time was less pervasive and less grievous than it is now; and the debate was more scriptural and more theological than the debate about the current issue has been. I could be wrong about this, but that is certainly my impression. The depth of the biblical and theological discussion was considerable in 1976. The essential appeal was made on the basis of real scriptural evidence. The foundations did not seem to be shaking then as they are now.

I suppose some will say the decisions of 1976 were precursors of what is happening now, but on balance there was a great deal of scriptural support for women's ordination (which had the effect of counterbalancing the passages that seemed negative). There was much less talk of civil rights and cultural shifts than there is in 2009. A significant number of ordained women, then as now, could be counted among those who subscribed to the Nicene faith and could be counted on as colleagues in more evangelical circles.

It is different now. The liberal/revisionist (hate these words!) sweep is almost total. I wrote a Rumination a few weeks ago that fits the picture we now face:

I am myself of two minds about same-gender marriage, ordination, and the rest of the issues clustered around sexual identity and styles of life. I remain open to being convinced, but the arguments all seem to rely upon secular, cultural factors and a blurry "Jesus loves everybody" theology; he does indeed love everyone, as his life demonstrated, but there is more rigor in his love than we are admitting today. The high frequency of divorce, and its almost casual acceptance by those who choose bishops, rectors, and ordinands, seems to me a pressing issue. Not so very long ago, a once-divorced bishop would have been unthinkable, let alone a twice-divorced one. Many clergy families include unmarried couples living together. Why are we not giving the nature of marriage more attention? and why is there not more support for traditional marriage?

(In any case, the complaint I have about Bishop Robinson is that he deliberately and consciously makes public statements to the effect that he does not believe the Christian Scriptures to be uniquely authoritative, and does not claim a unique role for Jesus Christ. His remarks at the time of the Obama inauguaration made that quite clear.)

The Anglican Communion has been my life. I have always been so proud to be an Anglican abroad. However, it was the Book of Common Prayer that held us together. Now, there is no book of common prayer. Wherever one goes, it is a roll of the dice as to what sort of liturgy there will be, and what sort of theology or anti-theology one will find at services. What is there to hold us together now? One gets the impression that the ruling elders would be glad if all of the evangelicals left for good. There are so few places left for us to stand in The Episcopal Church. Do the ruling classes (I use that term advisedly) even care? They aren't reading this blog, that's for sure.