Friday, April 18, 2008

Answer Me This

I don't really have time to blog, but I'm undergoing some sort of logical disconnect that's irritating me as I grope towards morning awakeness and sanity.

The Gospel of the Church of Self Affirmation just doesn't make sense to me. At some point, if you're an average priest or church leader or social activist in a church like TEC, do you reach the bottom of yourself and find that there's nothing there? That there's not enough? And when you get there, what do you do? More work?

Because one of the best things about being a Christian is the extending gracious transformative nature of the Gospel. You look inside yourself, honestly find that you fall short, that you have a dark rotten mess for a heart and guts, throw yourself on the mercy of God, find that he forgives you, covers you with his righteousness and gives you the Holy Spirit. So that the next time you look down into your heart, you might still see the dark rotten mess, but you also see the power of God making it better. So when you come to a point of not having Enough, of not being able to Save yourself, God gives you the measure that you need and you actually get to rest, not do more work.

But since this isn't available to so many clergy in TEC, having to be good on their own power, in themselves, what takes them that extra distance?


Anonymous said...

"what takes them that extra distance?"

One would suspect that church officials would care about the spiritual well being of their priests and bishops. Sadly the ACoC and TEC come across as drill sergeants keen on bullying those in their command regardless of their performance. It is the Spirit that maintains us. Some time ago I was rescued from a life of sin. Not by my fellow man, who cared less, but by God who had a plan, one apparently I had ignored.

I find myself on the road to priesthood, propelled by the fire of the Spirit and a wonderful Bishop who is also my friend and pastor. They are days when I recognize that my name tag says Anglican I am a servant of God first. Living to His standard is my goal not a set of administrative Canons.

Malcolm+ said...

Why is it that so many controversialists on BOTH sides of the present divide refuse to deal in reality, preferring to knock down straw men.

It's very easy to "win" when all we are engaging is a caricature of what other people believe.

Jeffri Harre said...

What is interesting about this post, Anne, is that I've heard this same thing said by those on the liberal end of the spectrum about clergy on the conservative end. I didn't buy it when they said it either.

Jane R said...

Where in the world did you get the idea that people in TEC don't believe in grace? (I'm not being snarky.) We might not all have a Calvinist understanding of it, but I haven't run into any lay or ordained people who don't have a sense of God's gracious initiative. I do think TEC and the Anglican Communion have within them some significant divides, and some of them do involve soteriology, but I think that is different from what you are saying. Are you saying TEC leaders are all Pelagians? Or don't pray? (Actually, Pelagians and semi-Pelagians do pray, but that is another conversation.) Or don't rely on God in their daily lives?

Anonymous said...

well Jane R, the principle argument for ssb's articulated by the PB herself is distinctly pelagian.

1. Some people are born genetically/biologically predisposed toward homosexual behavior

2. God created all things

3. All created things are good

4. Homosexual orientation is a thing and, therefore, created.

5. At least some Homosexual orientation as a created orientation is, therefore, good.

Notice the complete and total absence of the Fall and its effects in this formulation. One halmark of pelagianism is a thorough rejection of the fall and an assumption that what exists, exists as it was created to exist.

Malcolm+ said...

Well, at least Anonymous's straw had some clay in it.

Because one argues that the Church should reconsider the issue of human sexuality in light of modern science, it does not follow that "all" inclinations are thereby justified.

It is supremely silly to argue that anyone who opposes position x must therefore hold to position y.

You haven't presented a case that the presiding bishop is a pelagian. You've presented a case that, on this particular issue, a pelagian might agree with the Presiding Bishop.

Agreement on one issue, of course, is not agreement across the board - and agreement on an issue does not even mean that the shared position flows from the same reasoning.

So to claim that the Presiding Bishop is pelagian because a pelagiam would agree with her on this issue is like arguing Michael Moore agrees with Fred Phelps since they both oppose the current US adventure in Iraq.

Anonymous said...


There is no need for what you call "reconsideration". The scriptures are clear with regard to homosexual behavior.

The point of my previous post is that those who recognize the falleness of humanity are not so quick to call inborn predispositions "created" dispositions.

Moreover they are far less willing to trust their own untethered opinions about such matters.

There is no reason to question the science. There is every reason, in light of biblical revelation and the fall to question the dogmatic conclusions TEC draws from the science

Matt Kennedy(I was anonymous above unintentionally)

Anonymous said...

Moreover, the claim is that one of the key pelagian positions, heretical by both scriptural and traditional standards, has been adopted by the PB. It is not that she is pelagian but that she has adopted one of the heretical positions of the pelagians.

Matt Kennedy

Grandmère Mimi said...

Anne, I know that I often fall short, and I know that I am in need of God's saving grace every single day of my life, but, honestly, I don't look inside myself and find "a dark rotten mess for a heart and guts". Jesus became man and lived and walked among humans just like us. He taught them and healed them and loved them. Then he was nailed to the cross and died and rose again giving to them and to us who follow him the victory over sin and death. I am redeemed by Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am God's beloved. How can I look inside myself and find what you describe? What is redemption, then? What does it count for?

Malcolm+ said...

Well Matt, the scriptures were clear about slavery. The Church reconsidered.

The scriptures were even clearer about usury - clearer than they are on homosexuality. The Church reconsidered.

Which is not, I note, an argument that the Church SHOULD reconsider any particular issue, sexual or otherwise, merely that she has the capacity to do so.

And sorry, old bean, you have failed to provide evidence that the Presiding Bishop has adapted a key position of pelagianism. You have merely proven that a pelagian could have come to the same conclusion.

You clearly consider homosexuality an abberation. So did the Nazis. Does it logically follow, then, that you are a Nazi? Certainly not. (Besides which, I have no desire to lose the argument by Godwin's law. Note, I am arguing that such a comparison is NOT valid.)

Anonymous said...

Not really Malcom+. The only possible way for the PB's oft repeated argument for ssbs to work, and she has articulated it quite often, is to reject the doctrine of the fall. She doesn't even attempt to explain why or argue for the idea that homosexual orientation is created, she simply assumes that it is based on the fact that it is extant. This is simply heresy.

As for slavery, what a canard. The scriptures nowhere approve slavery or describe it as if it were a good thing. The Old Testament texts dealing with the institution treat it as a negative rather than positive, proscribing it within limits among the Hebrews(as they do divorce and other human institutions resulting from our hardened hearts) and only permitting it to exist in perpetuity when it applied to the enemies of Israel for whom God reserved his just wrath. The New Testament texts treat it as something that, when inescapable, is to be endured as Christ endured the passion, or, when escapable, from which to seek escape.

For masters, the command was always either to release or to treat with generosity and kindness.

Slave traders are condemned as hellbound...strange for a book that supposedly embraces the institution.

Why on earth do you think Wilberforce, an inerrantist, fought as he did?

In the Episcopal Church slavery was largely supported by the High Church and Anglo Catholic parties and opposed by the evangelicals for just those reasons.

Really Malcom+, you should do better than that.

In like manner, but worse, in every instance that homosexual behavior is mentioned or alluded to, it is met with the most radical condemnation. The scriptures are uniformly and consistently negative. There is no hint of "blessing" only clear condemnation.

As for usury, divorce, etc...I agree, but would ask...that the Church has failed to uphold one aspect of the law, ought it, on that basis, then to proceed to disobey another? What sort of argument is that?


Anonymous said...

Oh and Malcom+

The argument is not:

1. PB does not believe in the fall
2. The Pelagians rejected the fall
3. Therefore the PB is a pelagian

so your Nazi illustration does not quite work.

The argument is that the PB is a heretic for the same reason the Pelagians are heretics, both deny the fall. She has fallen to that aspect of the Pelagian heresy.


trog said...

"But since this isn't available to so many clergy in TEC, having to be good on their own power, in themselves, what takes them that extra distance?"

Identity and fear. Identity in that having a plus or plus-plus in front of one’s name is more important than what the symbol signifies. Perhaps like a politician who, once gaining office, focuses all effort of keeping the office rather than discharging the duties of the office in good faith.

Fear in that union with God is frightening: if God is all and I cast over my freedom, intellect, effort, and soul in to God’s hand, what then am I? Where is my identity?

Grace is available. Perhaps is it rejected, perhaps it is blocked, who knows but the one who gives that grace?

Malcolm+ said...

Having read comments from the Presiding Bishop referring to the fallen word and fallen humanity, I find it difficult to believe that the Presiding Bishop does not believe in the fall.

Regarding usury and divorce - one can take one of two positions: the Church was right to reconsider these or she was not. Any other position, it seems to me, is a derivative of one or the other.

If one accepts that the Church was wrong to do so, then your argument stands. But as someone who is divorced and remarried to a woman who is similarly divorced and remarried, and as someone who is collecting (not very much) interest on some investments, I don't really have that option. If, therefore, one accepts that the Church was right in those reconsiderations, it supports the position that the Church can reconsider other issues.

Regarding slavery - the witness of the Church for some centuries had been that scripture supported slavery as an institution. You can now say (and I with you) that it does not. But that was the near unanimous view until the last few generations. We (the Church and you and I) have reinterpreted scripture. Personally, I think we were right to do so.

IN any event, Matt, no point burining up your wife's bandwidth on a discussion where neither of us is likely to change our mind but where one or the other or both of us is likely eventually to lose our temper.

Go with God.

Anonymous said...

Usury is an OT civic law, and as such no longer applies.

trog said...

Perhaps this will inform as to what the Church believed vis-a-vis chattel slavery prior to 1533:

Malcolm+ said...

Kate (is this my same friend Kate S?),

Usury was an offence against ecclesiastical law until John Calvin "reappraised" the question in Geneva in the 16th century.

Ann Marie said...

Dear Anne,

I am a more "liberal" priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. I look in my heart and never do I find that I am even close to being wholly good. I am well aware of how often I fall short of what I preach. And yet, I can look in my heart with joy and thanksgiving because I know that, inspite of the fact that I consistantly fall short, I am truly loved by God. On the days that I get it right, I celebrate with great joy and thanksgiving that God is able to work through me. On the days I get it wrong, I mourn where I have fallen short and ask God's help to do better. Never do I look in my heart and find nothing. God's love is always present albeit imperfectly in this very human vessel. Never do I claim to be good under my own power nor am I aware of any of my colleagues with similar theology doing so.

There is a very real danger of stereotyping people. There is also a danger in not understanding the meaning of the language they use. I have often found that there are many similarities between my more "conservative" colleagues and me when I fully understand what the meaning behind the words they use.

I once had a difficult conversation with a former parishioner (before my time here) that had her so hot under the collar that she was about to phone my bishop and complain about me. As I persued the conversation a bit further, I found that it wasn't the conversation was about that had her mad, it was the way she misunderstood a word that I used. To each of us, that word had a different meaning.

I think that if we took a bit more time to understand each other's meaning, we would find that we have much in common. Because a number of the clergy I work with are rather more "conservative" than I am, I have had to take the time to learn. I find that is an invaluable gift from God for I have also found that although we may differ a fair amount, the basis of what we believe and what we do is often very similar. I am leary of making sweeping statements about them because I can see where those statements are judgemental and do damage.

Like ++KJS, there are many times when Pelagians and I might agree on something but as much as I joke about being Pelagian on the basis of that, I am not. I have far too strong a sense of God's grace for that. As much as I joke of not being at all like Augustine, that same sense of grace causes my colleagues to laugh at me and tell me I am more Augustinian than I think. Labels of heresy do not hold nor do labels of orthodoxy for that means that humans only come in two categories and negates the great diversity with which God created us.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the more such bishops and clergy express themselves, the more people like myself decide they're irrelevant. Doesn't it occur to them that when they tell us that all of creation is good and worthy and the answers to life's questions and decisions can be found within oneself, they are then irrelevant?

What reasonable individual would look to the revisionist bishops and clergy of TEC for help in dealing with difficult people, struggling with moral questions (that don't have to do with the environment), or being faithful to Christ? If they're leading by example, then the lessons are that those who disagree with you should be sued, moral questions are relative to the point where you can claim all sorts of things as "holy," and Christ represents just one of many equally valid paths to God.

May they be blessed in their irrelevancy. The rest of us will go where we are fed and helped, not "affirmed" and lied to.

Malcolm+ said...

And it's back to caricatures and straw men.

Ann Marie said...


I had a post all typed up to respond to what you had written and then realized - this is not my blog and not my place to ride my hobby-horses so I erased it. Suffice it to say, I disagree and have, indeed, experienced the very opposite of the irrelevence in your paragraph.

In regard to your second paragraph and the sueing - I can only say that as we adjust and understand the situation more - both ends of the spectrum - we will be more tempered in our responses. We are in a world of chaos right now, trying to make sense of all that is happening. We will grow with this experience into a more Christ-like response - both sides of the spectrum and those in-between.

In regard to the other points - it's easier to make over-generalizations or take things at the extreme than it is to take the time to understand the meaning behind the words being used. It's easier to make generalizations than it is to take time to know the diveristy.