A modest proposal for moderates…

Centrists / Religion

I keep coming back to the question that Martha posed last week. “What is it that moderates stand for? Is it just that they want compromise?”

It’s a very deep question, and not one that I have a simple answer for.

I’d like to suggest that we, as this particular community, might commit ourselves to thinking this question through. To aid the conversation, I’m going to start collecting articles and ideas that speak to what it is to be a “moderate”. I’m going to collect them and post them under a new topic called “Centrists”. I’m going to go back and re-label some of the previous posts on this blog that do fit in this category.

I’d also call on you, the readers, to send me suggested articles and to participate in the comments section by vetting the ideas in the articles. I think we’re a small enough community that we might be able to make this work, but large and diverse enough that we can challenge each other if we get too comfortable with a bad idea.

I’ll go first and post some of my present ideas. These are likely subject to change – so I’m throwing them out to be “perfected”. (You can find them by following the link below:)

My first response is that what *I* want as a moderate is that the community be the primary place of decision making and not the individual. The more important the decision, the larger the community. Of course this guarantees that changes will happen slowly, if at all, but that to me doesn’t seem to be a bad thing all in all.

My second response is that we might think about drawing distinctions between what is adiaphora and what is essential. I’m of the belief that human sexual orientation is adiaphora. I’m also of the opinion that sexual expression can be adiaphora. I’m thinking then that my claim to be a moderate in the present debate in the Anglican Communion is because I hold this second idea in contradistinction to those who believe that sexual expression can not ever be considered adiaphora (whether they believe it must or must not be included in the Church.)

On the other hand, I do believe there are things that are not adiaphora in the Church. Things for instance, like salvation coming through Faith in Jesus Christ, that the Bible has a unique place and primary place in the Church, in the four points of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral… In those matters I am not a moderate.

Andrew, Jeffery, and Tony have all written bits and have shared other thoughts about what it is that moderates believe. Send me link or shoot me a note with your thoughts if you’d like to join in.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Posted for J. A. Frazer Crocker (who couldn’t post yesterday because of the server issues…)
    I think I’m a centrist–at least I cannot sign on to EITHER the Network or Integrity.
    I would say that the Church’s teaching on marriage as found in BCP p. 422 is NOT adiaphora.
    The Church’s pastoral response to those living outside that teaching (as I, a thrice-remarried priest–now for 29 years–am)
    IS adiaphora.
    Is there any centrist value in the distinction between Church’s teaching and pastoral response??

  2. Hi Nick,
    Forgive me if I have missed a posting that answers the questions I am about to ask. What is it the issue on which people who are calling themselves centerists have takena centerist position? Or is it rather than centerism is a movement or a sort, such as liberalism or conservatism?

  3. Hi Jim – I don’t think you’ve missed an answer at all. I think that’s one of the key questions. Some folks seem to be using “moderate” as a political party. (I do and I think +Peter Lee does when referring to the vote on B033 at GC 2006 – “the center has spoken”.
    I’ve seen others use it as a philosophical position as you describe (i.e. taking a moderate position on an issue). I’ve done that above when I talk about my own sense that sexual expression (within certain boundaries) is adiaphora.
    I don’t know if “centrism” can be both or not. I think it can – but I have to admit to a certain wariness about declaring that we should be “moderate” in all things…

  4. By the way folks, it looks like TypePad is still a little queasy this morning. I’ve got copies of the comments that were lost when the server went down yesterday, but at the moment I’m not able to post them.
    Hopefully I can repost them later on this morning.
    Technology. Aint it grand? Grin.

  5. Nick, this close to the feast of St. Benedict, moderation deserves to be celebrated. Moderately, of course.
    I have been trying to figure out whether I think the center spoke at the Convention. My tentative conclusion is that the center did speak, but not exactly in its own voice, and that the statement that it made has a very short shelf life.
    Without the pressure exerted from England, the center would not have been willing to go as far as it did. I think B033 got its majorities because people didn’t want to hurt the PB and the PB-elect, and they didn’t want to deprive their bishops of the opportunity to go to Lambeth (although, had the bishops said, “The heck with Lambeth, let’s do as conscience dictates, the HOD would have cheered and gladly followed suit.)
    The dynamics that produced B033 have already been altered by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflection, by the requests for ALPO, and by the statements of the Archbishop of Nigeria.
    My sense is that a new “Center” could coalesce if the Communion were to give the Archbishop’s covenant process a serious go. Without some document to work on, and some sense of the organizational structure that one is trying to create, it is difficult to understand how one would practice centerism.

  6. Jim – I think you’re right in your point about the votes garnerd by B033, at least in terms of the overwhelming support it received.
    But I’m not sure that a “center voice” shall be as fleeting as might be supposed.
    I’m taken by a comment on another blog that American’s tend to think in binary fashion because we have a 2 party political system. We’re not used to thinking about multiple parties working in concert to create a government.
    Even if moderates as a political party are seriously smaller than the vote on B033 suggests, the body of voices still may have significant influence as a tie-breaker if the wings of the spectrum are as evenly matched as they seem to be politically.
    (Here I’m thinking of the moderate republicans and democrats in congress who have used their combined votes to stand up to both their parties when they think they’ve gone too far. (Note the ++FTG stylistic reference. Grin.))

  7. Nick, I am not sure I agree that the wings are small. I think the right wing is small, but has made itself appear larger through skillful media work and the creation of international alliances. I think the majority of our bishops and deputies are to the left of center, at least in the American context. Jim

  8. Now – where did I say that I thought the “wings are small”? I actually meant to say just the opposite in my last post.
    If you mean that you don’t think the wings are equally sized (whether large or small)… o.k. I’ll agree with you on that (in terms of the folks elected to General Convention).
    I don’t know however that the particular distribution of views at Convention mirrors that of the typical parish. (Which may be why most parish priests don’t look forward to Convention years and having to manage the reactions of parishioners to what has happened…)

  9. I am an Anglican Moderate….

    Nick Knisely over at Entangled States asked me to write something on the idea of the ‚ÄúAnglican Middle.‚Äù I’d been thinking about this for a while – so here’s my stab: I am an Anglican Moderate. So what is an

  10. I am an Anglican Moderate….

    Nick Knisely over at Entangled States asked me to write something on the idea of the ‚ÄúAnglican Middle.‚Äù I’d been thinking about this for a while – so here’s my stab: I am an Anglican Moderate. So what is an

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