Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Committed To An Absurdity

The blogosphere is buzzing with responses to GAFCON's final statement. They range from affirmation to excoriation.

Citing an assessment from the Rev. Dr. Leander Harding (Professor of Theology at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry), Cotton Country Anglican describes the statement as "a very good beginning" and expresses the hope that "the orthodox leadership ... [will] immediately pick up the torch that has been ignited at GAFCon and carry it high and always forward and, for the immediate future, directly to Lambeth" that "the light provided by the GAFCon torch [may] illuminate the minds and hearts of many of the Anglican bishops that will be assembled at Lambeth and who have been lulled into a sense of complacency. "

By contrast, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori slams it, characterizing the final statement as an expression of "the desire of a few leaders to narrow the influence of the gospel."

Fr. Jake joins the fray, characterizing the GAFCONites as "folks claiming to be Christians" and concluding that "The evidence suggests the possibility that you may be simply scoundrels dressed up in fancy vestments justifiying your theft of other people's property."

There are also centrist responses, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' measured but critical response, as well as a balanced response from Bishop of Durham N. T. Wright. Tony Clavier's take is also worth a look. As is Graham Kings' perspective.

Scott Gunn tries to turn the tables, saying that the GAFCONites are just as revisionist as any of the progressives - that they're basically reinventing and "redefining the very core of our Anglican identity."

Fr. John D. Alexander questions whether or not GAFCON's rejection of the necessity of Canterbury's recognition for Anglican identity constitutes schism.

And Bishop Alan says: "Very few faithful Anglicans will disagree with anything positive the statement affirms. It's pretty much what we all thought we were doing anyway. What disturbs is its claim to have the exclusive franchise on 'orthodoxy' and what this implicitly denies about those it tars with the 'heterodox' brush. Powerful Conservative instincts don’t equal truth."

For even more perspectives and analysis, check out the GAFCON roundup over at TitusOneNine.

Here's an excerpt from one of the more interesting negative assessments of that part of the GAFCON final statement called "The Jerusalem Declaration." It's by The Anglican Scotist:

Authority is a mark of the catholic church: if X is a church, X has authority, and if X has no authority, then X is not a church. It follows if TEC is a church, TEC has authority, and if TEC has no authority, it is not a church.

But it is permissible to deny that TEC has authority only if TEC has no authority. That is, anyone wrongly denying the authority of TEC ought to say otherwise. Since (13) [in the Jerusalem Declaration] commits GAFCONites to denying the authority of TEC, and presumably the GAFCONites mean well, it follows they are committed to TEC not being a Christian church as a condition of the permissibility of their denying TEC's authority.

But the Episcopal Church is a Christian church; the members of TEC are Christians who ordain and are ordained, who baptize and are baptized, who give thanks in the Eucharist and most importantly, in their worship they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Moreover, by remaining part of the Anglican Communion, GAFCONites remain members of an organization that recognizes member provinces--still including the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church--as Christian churches. If they disagree with that assessment, it would seem GAFCONites would be obliged to say so; they would be obliged to say the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada are not Christian churches. But they have not said so. Sure, they have come close, but merely coming close does not count.

So on the one hand, by denying TEC's authority, GAFCONites are committed to TEC not being a Christian church, but on the other hand, TEC is a Christian church, and the GAFCONites' continuing membership in the Anglican Communion confirms their agreement with the claim the TEC is a church and is Christian. That is, the GAFCONites are committed to an absurdity: TEC is a Christian church and it is not a Christian church. The same goes for the ACC.

That absurdity is manifest in the praxis promised by the Declaration: border crossing treats the Episcopal Church as no catholic church should be treated. The Declaration's pet praxis denies in action what GAFCONites have committed themselves to in words by their allegience to the ancient creeds. In effect, the Declaration rationalizes sin against the Holy Spirit--as the creeds name the Spirit as the agent of ecclesial catholicity--in the name of the Holy Spirit: perilious indeed.

While I sometimes disagree with The Anglican Scotist's take on things, and while I would not go so far as to charge the supporters of GAFCON with sinning against the Holy Spirit, I'm afraid he's right that there is a performative contradiction at the heart of "The Jerusalem Declaration."

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