Monday, June 15, 2009

Doctrinal Diversity in the Episcopal Church

In a piece on opposition to the possibility of Kevin Thew Forrester's consecration as bishop-elect of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, E. E. Evans draws on the journalistic work of Frank Lockwood (religion editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Bible Belt Blogger) to point out that there are currently at least six different doctrinal groups within the Episcopal Church:

Doctrinally speaking, the denomination is by no means monolithic. It includes at least this many subsets.
  1. Doctrinal conservatives (though a shrinking number) who disapprove of gay ordination and often women’s ordination.
  2. Doctrinal conservatives who are OK with ordaining women but find ordaining gay’s a bridge too far.
  3. Some who consider themselves orthodox according to the creeds (and this one is probably hardest for conservatives to fathom) who approve of ordaining gays and allowing the blessing of same sex relationships.
  4. Liberals (which certainly includes some bishops) who think a little ferment is good for the church and don’t mind losing a few phrases of the Nicene Creed.
  5. Liberals who would like to rewrite the Creeds (which apparently includes Forrester).
  6. Then there is a group who are hard to pin down on creedal orthodoxy but can’t stand bad ecclesiastical process (Forrester was the only candidate on the ballot).

And I know I’ve left some people out.

Read it all.

As I suggested in my previous posting, the response to the Forrester case shows that thinking of the Episcopal Church in the exclusively binary terms of Left vs. Right is, at best, a caricature that whitewashes the complexities of reality. The diversity represented by these six doctrinal groups is a reminder of that complexity.


Joe Rawls said...

I'm definitely a 3, and I think it's ok to drop the filioque from the Creed, so I guess I'm a bit of a 4 as well. Seriously, there's a big wide theological spectrum in the Episcopal Church, but everyone seems to be talking in terms of mutually exclusive factions.

Bill Carroll said...

I'm certainly a 3.

plsdeacon said...

I would say that I am a 2, but only if we say that we should not bless same sex unions nor ordain men or women involved in homosexual realtionships.

I have no problem ordaining a celibate man or woman with homosexual attractions (with all other qualificatoins for ordination being fulfilled).

Phil Snyder

oy vey said...

Hey, you left me off the list! ;-)

I find the ordination of women abhorrent to the plain sense of scripture. Indeed, this practice "overthroweth the plain sense of scripture" in the words of the 39 Articles.

But same-sex orientation is not mentioned in the Bible, and the references to male anal intercourse are in such texts and contexts as render them unusable for purposes of condemnation.

Try this on for size: the future of the Church is two men being married by another man, out of a Prayer Book where *those* pronouns are italicized...and not those in the ordination rites.

In other words--TEC fell for the loudest lobbying group, and has already so badly violated the Apostolic Succession that it's just going to be a bunch of unitarians in pontifical drag before long.

Furthermore, the ban on divorce was tossed aside by King Henry VIII. You can hardly claim a biblical basis for this entire exercise in independent Catholicism.

BillyD said...

I'm a 2 1/2 - I have no problem with women's ordination or gay ordination in theory (although I don't care for the political way that either has been carried out in the Church) but don't really care about SSB or religious gay marriage. Civil gay marriage is another thing.

BillyD said...

"But same-sex orientation is not mentioned in the Bible..."

Sorry, but this is a lame argument, especially for someone who believes in the Apostolic Succession or the necessity of an all-male priesthood (also not mentioned in the Bible). If those in favor of changing the rules don't acknowledge that what we're doing is changing the rules, we're being dishonest.

"Furthermore, the ban on divorce was tossed aside by King Henry VIII."

And in a world where doctrinal issues are settled by the sovereign, this might hold water. The approach of the CofE towards divorce after Henry's time shows that it doesn't.

The Underground Pewster said...

As a 1 and 1/2, and recognizing my past as I have moved up and down, I am left thinking about a model that would lead people, by word and example, upward on this list.

Anonymous said...

I'm a "1," but I agree with Phil, who makes an important distinction about attractions vs. actions.

If I, as a married man, see an attractive woman, my mind and desires may go where they shouldn't. But I don't act on those desires. Should I be denied the opportunity to pursue a vocation for this reason?

eric said...

Paint me - and from my obervations, most young Anglicans - a three.