Published by DWMon July 17, 2008 (See link below).
Cynthia at Per Caritatem pointed to a couple blog posts on recent affairs in the Anglican Communion. She also asked for other links to Anglican reflections. Besides my link to NT Wright’s article on GAFCON, there were a couple comments on the state of affairs. I suggest you read the comments yourself as I won’t be quoting directly.
In any case, as an Episcopelian theology student and instructor who considers himself to be practicing orthodoxy, I’m getting a little tired of the straw-man claims that TEC and the Anglican Communion have been possessed by the heresy demons. It seems that there’s an implicit understanding that what constitutes orthodoxy among a communion necessarily includes not only no women in the episcopate, but also, if you will, a “roman” idea of infallibility amongst the decisions makers. So, the reasoning goes something like this: the C of E has necessarily made a mistake in affirming women in the episcopate, and we all know what kind of blunder TEC made with Gene Robinson and their apparent unwillingness to repent and atone for their sins, their resistance to the work of the Spirit via the splinter factions/alternative oversight from the southern cone, and let’s not forget Abp. Williams’ “failures in leadership” as one commentator so charmingly put it. All of this equals a failure of orthodoxy, or again as one put it today, a tolerance of heterodoxy in the name of catholicity.
Yet, this reasoning errs on two levels, I think. First, the church has never been comprised of a 100% orthodox episcopate. Orthodoxy has always resulted from the decisions of councils when faced with risky moves by theologians and by changing demands in the world. This necessitates at least two sides, usually more. One side often gets labeled heretical, and more often the not the winning side even gets chastened a bit. To borrow methodologically from William Desmond, orthodoxy is not a mediation determined by one side at the expense of the other. Rather, orthodoxy is a true mediation of the spirit, and is therefore a truly theological, and therefore is a spiritual/liturgical practice. In other words, Arius and Athanasius were both involved in a community of right spiritual practice (orthodoxy). Both were necessary to the process.
Second, the above view also errs in its omission of the orthodox and often conservative views of Bishops like Tom Wright and many of the southern cone bishops. Often this view acts as if orthodoxy in the communion is an aberance and must come from outside the communion. This fails in seeing that theologians, like priests, bishops, and lay people are all formed by their participation in the communion of practice. They don’t develop their ideas in a vacuum or apart from the church, despite how much they try. And this is not an excuse for heretical theology, but rather a realistic description of the contexts in which both orthodox and heterodox theology is formed. Once we’ve recognized this, it becomes harder to relegate an entire church to heterodoxy or failed catholicity pell mell.
Lastly, this view errs in its ability to locate orthodoxy in anything but polity decisions at a second or third order levels. if we go with a traditional understanding of orthodoxy starting in first order theological issues (Trinity, Christology, etc..), and then second order (soteriology, harmartiology, angelology, anthropology, etc..), and then third order stuff like polity decisions, one fails to see the crisis of orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion. Show me a lack of Orthodoxy among leaders in the communion like Apb. Williams, the Abp. of York, and NT Wright, and maybe then I’ll start to concede to something like Lambethgate. Until then, you Rush Limbaughs of theology, chill out.
The Land of Unlikeness