Monday, July 21, 2008

"Anglicans and Orthodoxy" from the Land of Unlikeness Blog

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

7 comments:

Death Bredon said...

Haven't the triumvirate mention all endorsed the Windsor Statement, which states that Women's Ordination has now been received in Anglicanism?

Isn't this at least problematic?

Dan said...

Why is women's ordination problematic? Cynthia and I discussed this with Al Kimmel months ago on her blog - percaritatem.com - and I still haven't heard a compelling reason why this is counter to orthodoxy the way I describe it (orthodoxy) in the above post. Yes, Card. Kaspar has made the case that it goes against tradition, that it will erode relations with Rome. However, this has not be the overwhelming response from the Orthodox who don't themselves see the cause for women's ordination, and yet don't see it as a barrier to catholicity, but rather the opposite, that catholicity can in fact embrace such a thing. See the Cyprus agreed statement "The Church of the Triune God" particularly pages 54FF in which the two churches mark the areas of first theology -Christology, Trinity, soteriology..- over which they come to fundamental agreement. They document that based on such agreement, the disagreement about women's orders comes as something of a secondary or tertiary issue, and hence not one of Orthodoxy as I think it is traditionally understood.

So, I am firmly against considering women's ordination to the priesthood or episcopate as problematic, although I doubt I understand what you mean by "Problematic"

Death Bredon said...

OK, I understand your position. I just do not agree with it.

IMHO, clerical orders (which have always been exclusively male in THE Orthodox-Catholic Tradition) are a primary matter of orthodox polity and hence on nearly an equal level of importance with primary dogmas (as if a proper understanding of human sexuality could ever be seen as somehow a secondary Revelation!)

I am NOT saying that all those with non-catholic polities or orders are damned or not Christian, just that I have strong doubts about their catholicity in St. Vincent's sense of the word.

Consequently, I find that the Continuum (warts and all) is a vastly superior option to TEC and Canterbury (money and all).

Dan said...

Death Bredon says: "clerical orders (which have always been exclusively male in THE Orthodox-Catholic Tradition) are a primary matter of orthodox polity and hence on nearly an equal level of importance with primary dogmas (as if a proper understanding of human sexuality could ever be seen as somehow a secondary Revelation!)"

Death: are we talking about sexuality or polity, b/c it sounds to me like you're talking about polity and trying to sneak it in under the guise of sexuality. Talking about male only order or both sexes is a polity conversation, whereas trying to get a bead on human sexuality is itself an entire topic of its own, and, by the way, one over which the church has historically been at odds. Consider the different takes Ireneus and Nyssa have over the origin of human sexuality. Yet the orthodoxy of both is undoubted. Why? Because human sexuality, its origins and order, is not a 1st order theological issue. What is 1st order in Human Anthropology is the imago dei. And therefore if anyone in this debate has a right to make orthodoxy claims it's those that make their case from the imago dei.

No, this is a polity debate, and polity even in the RC is understood as second order. if it wasn't, Pius XI, Benedict and JP II wouldn't have been able to recognize the orders of the Anglicans and the Orthodox.

I might be bold enough to wager that polity is logically secondary to and contingent upon doctrine, and not the other way around.

BTW: your comment about sexuality not being secondary revelation misses the point of the distinction I make about different levels of theological orthodoxy. If we defined orthodoxy as you seem to do by primary and secondary revelation, then you'd be decrying all sorts of non-roman catholics to heterodoxy.

Dan said...

Death says: "I am NOT saying that all those with non-catholic polities or orders are damned or not Christian, just that I have strong doubts about their catholicity in St. Vincent's sense of the word."

If they're non-catholic then why have doubts about their catholicity? seems obvious. Seems like your reasoning tautologically.

energeticprocession said...

Ah, but Dan, you forgot your dialogues with Joseph Farrell now, the link between Economy and Theology, between Triadology and Ecclesiology. And the filioque resulting in the Polyarchy and Anarchy (ie. non-personal source in the Godhead). It seems like the names of God can be swapped out in this fashion and the Godhead's Patriarchal status diminished (i.e. the Father as personal source).

Photios Jones

Third Mill Catholic said...

Hey Photius,

Wrong "Dan." The Dan in this thread is not me, but the guy who wrote the article over at The Land of the Unlikeness blog.

I haven't forgotten my talks with the great one. My head, however, is very much spinning at the moment with admittedly conflicting thoughts, and I would really appreciate some off-line conversations with you.

Contact me. Thanks.

Dan (Third Mill Catholic)