Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Just don't call it a divorce... yet!" - As mentioned elsewhere, Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, had every reason to believe that her recent trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania would be less than pleasant. As the newly installed Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA), her meeting with the other Primates of the Anglican Communion certainly had its moments of high stress, as was noted by the L.A. Times.

Seven conservative archbishops snubbed the head of the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Church during a crucial meeting of the church leadership here Friday [February 16, 2007], refusing to take the Holy Eucharist with her to protest her support of gay bishops and of blessing same-sex unions.

The men called their action in boycotting the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, "a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion," according to a statement posted on the website of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

The group included Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who has created a rival network of conservative churches in the United States.
The Times also commented that this was not the first time that conservative clerics refused to receive communion from an Episcopal bishop, noting that a dozen Anglican Primates refused communion from Dr. Schori's immediate predecessor, Rev. Frank T. Griswold in 2005.

But Dr. Schori's time in Tanzania was not without its moments of redemption. Towards the end of her stay, it became apparent that she would avoid censure for ordaining V. Gene Robinson as an openly gay bishop, and that U.S. and Canadian dioceses that allowed for blessings of same-sex unions would escape discipline. And perhaps as part of an effort to extend an olive branch after her confrontation with several of her colleagues, the Primates elected Dr. Schori to the Anglican Communion's Standing Committee, which places her at the center of the church's policy-making. The Primates were also able to develop an Anglican Covenant, under which they hope to unite the Communion. The Covenant summarizes church doctrine and establishes that churches that "choose not to fulfill the substance of the covenant" will be required to undergo "a process of restoration and renewal."

While it appears that Anglican leaders have avoided a devastating rift - at least for now - the fact remains that the matters of ordination of openly gay clergy and blessing of same-sex unions are hardly settled within the Episcopal Church. And as such, the gulf between conservative and liberal elements within the Anglican Communion will remain as wide as ever. In a communique summarizing the meeting, the Anglican Communion noted that "
[a]t the heart of our tensions is the belief that The Episcopal Church has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by the Communion," and goes on to comment that "we as a body cannot support the authorisation of [same sex unions]."

As a point of personal privilege, some clarity is in order at this juncture. As I have stated at various points here and there, my personal opinion is that within Christiandom, prohibitions against same-sex marriage or ordination of gay clergy are not founded in either faith or reason. However, I would also submit that the current stance of the Episcopal Church, which has been to pay lip service to the authority of the Anglican Communion - even as individual Episcopal churches reject the authority of the ECUSA - is untenable in the long term. At best, the Episcopal Church will be riven by internal divisions as conservative parishes break off to join with more traditionalist leadership; to date, several parishes have already formed alliances with a network formed by Archbishop Akinola.

At worst (and perhaps more likely) whatever remains of the ECUSA will split off from the mother church, and will join its mainline Protestant brethren as yet another repository of a liberalism that exists at the peril of religious dogma. Perhaps this is the rub, that the Christian Left only pretends to genuflect before traditional orthodoxy, while undermining any real notion of orthodoxy (beyond what is convenient at the time) at every turn. To be true to itself, the ECUSA should seek the earliest opportunity to split off from the Anglican Communion, so that it can freely and openly espouse what it has thus far advocated in secret.

The double-minded behavior of the ECUSA speaks volumes about the tactics of the Left more generally. As long as the tenets of liberalism "lurk rather obscurely in the background," it presents an appealing alternative to the sometimes harsh message of conservatism. For progressives, the difficulty comes when liberalism's ends are made known for all to observe, for that is when the culturally bankrupt nature of liberalism becomes most apparent. In that progressives would upend classic social mores in order to bring their designs to fruition, they reveal themselves to be anti-civilization.

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