Theo Hobson, writing in the Guardian, has done a careful analysis of the issues that underlie the present tensions in the Anglican Communion:
“The essential development of the past few years is the discovery of the impossibility of liberal Anglicanism. This is an amazing discovery, for theological liberalism used to be the heart and soul of this tradition. It was the centre of the Anglican church, far more powerful than the Protestant enthusiasm on one side and the Catholic enthusiasm on the other. The average bishop, priest and man in the pew were sceptical of the zeal of both extremes. What the current crisis has established beyond any doubt is that this liberal middle ground is dead and gone.
…By attempting to bounce the church into reform on [the ordination of glbt people], the liberal Anglo-Catholics revealed their fatal flaw. Their rhetoric of church unity and authority was exposed as mere rhetoric. Real Catholics do not pursue reform that endangers the unity of the church. They feel the church’s authority as terribly real; the church is their “spiritual mother”.
Williams has learned this the hard way: that Catholics cannot afford to be liberals too. A Catholic has very publicly sacrificed his or her belief in the moral rightness of ordaining homosexuals, for the sake of the church’s unity. He or she is playing Abraham, who was ready to sacrifice his beloved son, on divine orders. Kierkegaard called this the teleological suspension of the ethical: committing a moral crime for the sake of a cause that transcends human morality. Williams is performing the ecclesiastical suspension of the ethical: renouncing the moral good for the sake of the unity of the Church. This is what a Catholic must do.”
The full article linked below is definitely worth the read. (Thanks Jim Naughton for the pointer.)
I do have a fairly major quibble with one of the conclusions though. I don’t think that the issue is “moral conviction” vs. “church unity” – I think the issue would be better expressed as “immediate action on moral matters” vs. “allowing consensus to develop before acting.” As I read the Archbishop’s call for a Covenant, which would bind members to an Communion-wide collegial decision making process, this is the choice specifically being asked of us.
Frankly that particular vision is compelling. As an American and as a former academic, I find the best decisions are made in an open, consultative manner. Doing things this way in the Episcopal Church has always seemed to me to be the primary gift we have brought to the Communion and to the Church. I’m struggling to understand why now it is that there are voices within the American church that are unwilling to consult. If we think it good to do inside our Province, why should we not think it better to do on the larger stage of the Communion?
(Before anyone makes the obvious objection: Yes, there would have to be some distinction drawn when we’d be asked to wait between issues that involve danger to others versus issues. E.g. waiting for consensus to develop on the issue of killing or imprisoning people because they are glbt is not something that would be defensible. Waiting for consensus before ordaining more glbt priests as bishops would be.)
Read the rest here: Comment is free: Sowing the seeds of change