Saturday, April 01, 2006

ECUSA's Choice- Rev. Phillip Turner

Over this past week, I've been thinking about an article I ran into by Rev. Phillip Turner on the Anglican Communion Institute pages. Entitled ECUSA's Choice, it sets out an argument which I think is an important one. So, I want to spend a little time unpacking the argument a bit. I do encourage my readers to read the full article, but, hopefully, my comments will also be helpful.

The core of Rev. Turner's position is that, while we claim to act as a catholic communion, most of those who want to preserve that claim, 'progressive' or conservative, actually subvert and distort that reality beyond recognition.

'Progressives', while they are right to ask questions about what are and are not 'church-dividing' issues, presumes, in their concept of communion; a theological/ethical pluralism which suggests that "the demands of enculteration require adaptations in one part of the communion that may not be appropriate in other parts..." So, the key words emphasized by 'progressives' are love, service, respect (including dialogue in the face of disagreement) and hospitality. Doctrinal and moral agreement are, thus, not central to the basis and nature of communion. This encourages the autonomy of local churches and, hence, as I would suggest, the claim by ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada's claim that they can legislate on same-sex issues without consulting the rest of the communion.

On the other hand, Turner points out that conservatives identify communion with compliance with the traditional formulations of Anglicanism: THe Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, the Articles of Religion and Canon Law. So the focus is on the creedal, confessional, liturgical and legal content of communion.

Rev. Turner argues that both positions, while they have some justification, are flawed. He notes in respect to the 'progressive' arguments that he can't quite see how one can be in communion within the body of Christ and still be in intractible disagreement about what that common participation atually means or how members of one body can be so autonomous that they are unwilling to concede a discipline designed to ensure unity of witness and purpose in that body.

Traditionalists, Rev. Turner argues, are making a similar, if opposite, mistake in that they dismiss the human instruments of accountability for a particular form of doctrinal position. He notes that the choice between these two positions is a choice between "a committment to God's open future and...dedication to God's sacred past".

The Rev. Turner argues for a different approach. He dismisses the alternative of just hunkering down and waiting for the storm to past as, he suspect, most individual churches and church members are currently doing. He argue that we can't ignore the issue of what communion is because it is central, not only to to our understanding of church, but also to our salvation. As he notes "God is after the redemption of all things and the "unity, communion, and radical holiness" of his people are, as it were, the first fruits of this redemptive plan" As a result, Rev. Turner argues that the view of communion in the Windsor Report, while not without problems, is more sound than either of the above alternatives because Windsor tries to hold the relational aspects of communion (placing the good of the body over the individual parts) and the aspect of upholding a common confession in tension. The separation of either of these elements is damaging to any concept of communion and, certainly, does not agree with the concept of the church that we have been handed down to us.

What I like about this article (to which this summary has not given justice) is that it really is interested in trying to work out what communion means. Rev. Turner points out, rightly I think, that both sides have decided to 'walk apart' from each other and that the pathway to unity is a hard and narrow road. Rev. Turner calls on us to walk it and I pray that we, the Anglican Communion, learn how do that.

Peace,
Phil

12 comments:

Jim said...

Phil,

I have to confess some ignorance. What is Rev. Turner's background?

Thanks
FWIW
jimB

Phil S. said...

Actually, I just ran across that. It seems he is the former dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He is also a leading light at the Anglican Communion Institute (who I have quoted several times).

Jim said...

Thanks

I read the article and have spent a little time asking myself what a "catholic communion" looks like.

As the anniversary of John-Paul's death passed, I recalled that Orthodox clerics were invited to chant their prayers for his passing as part of the funeral rite. Since the Great Schism, these are churches that have agreed on only one thing: one and only one of them is the true catholic community.

I think most Anglicans I know would agree that both are in fact expressions of cathicity. I, and I think Lord Carey, would add in the Copts, Swedish Lutherans, and of course, us. There in, my problem with Fr. Turner's and your thesis.

If we assume that we have to define cathlicity beyound its credal base(all 3 creeds,) its sacremental emphasis and practice, and its fidelity to tripartate orders, I think we are in a world of difficulty.

I also think we quickly move beyound the binary paradigm. I have friends who are generally liberal, and opposed +Gene. I have friends who supported +Gene and are generally conservative.

I guess that is one of my major problems with the attempted defintions on which the essay rests. I know very few persons, and read very few expressions of theology that are anywhere near this binary.

There are no true Biblical literalists, there are only those who admit this and those who do not. The classic jokes about stoning neighbors who violate some Levitican injunction are expressions of a reality -- we all edit.

HDTSTY?

FWIW
jimB

Phil S. said...

Jim;

I'm not sure that I regarded Rev. Turner's article as being so very binary in the sense that he really is critisizing the extremists of both wings of the church fairly equally. What he seems to want to define is a third way which takes the best from both approaches. That strikes me as the only hope of a way forward through this morass the Anglican Communion finds itself in.

Nor do I think that I would disagree with you about the inadequacy of the terms conservative and liberal. I say this largely because both our interactions and others like you, who would usually be placed in the liberal camp, but really are rather closer to me than some of the more extreme conservatives out there. What we need is a third way, but the struggle is to figure out what that looks like.

Peace,
Phil

Jim said...

Phil,

I suppose that the real issue is the question of "correct belief." I think it should be limited to the credal formula and the sacremental liturgies. And, I am not real interested in saying that we must agree on what they mean. But(!) from both extremes, we hear the additional requirements, and the definitions that must apply. ;;sigh;;

By the by, you have the blogger comment system set up so that comments have time stamps, but not dates. It is a touch confusing. ;-)


Happy Easter!

FWIW
jimB

Phil S. said...

Jim;

I do see what you're getting at with the emphasis on correct beliefs. I must admit that I'm not as confident of the ability of the creeds to explain themselves nor am I quite confortable with relying on individual interpretations of them. The creeds do need explanation and context. Besides, I would argue that the creeds are not just individual statements of belief, but they are meant as a communal statement. Why else would we recite the creeds as the renewal of our baptismal covenants each time we baptise?

As for the date stamps, I was puzzled by that as well. I'll have a look at my settings and figure out how to get them on. I'm still getting used to this site. Thanks for pointing that out.

Peace,
Phil

Jim said...

Phil,

Catholicity, I claim, is about correct prayer. That is why we have a book of common prayer not a book of common belief. I agree we need some systematic amplification of the creeds but that is not the same as deciding that other items somehow have to be conforming standards.

I use the same blogger software. Under your Settings tab, is a "Comments" choice. About half way down the screen is the format box for the date/time stamp. Changing it to a format that includes a date will make things better. :-)

FWIW

Happy and blessed Easter celebration wishes from

jimB

Phil S. said...

I'm not sure that I would divorce worship and belief in the way that you are implying here, so this is probably why I don't have as much problem about creeds as a norm for belief. I'm not saying that we exclude people who can't quite believe the creeds as stated, but I am saying that an openness to hear them explained is what is needed here.

I'm afraid Easter dinner preparations beckon, so I can't manage much more than that today. Can I say that I'm grateful to see you on my blog? I've missed our discussions.

Incidently, I know you gave me the address of your blog a while back, but it seems I've lost the slip of paper it was written on. Would you be able to send it again (do you have my e-mail?).

Peace, Phil

Jim said...

Hmmm... I did not mean it to divorce them. Let my put it this way, the way we pray inevitably determines and reflects what we believe. An example in my family's history is the way the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod changed over time.

When my ancestors came here from Prussia (there was no Germany then) they looked very catholic. They had a sung German liturgy, they made signs of the cross at various points in their liturgy, and they knelt in parts of the liturgy that would be familiar to any catholic. They found themselves in a country that was extremely prejudiced against Roman Catholics.

The leaders began to take on a very presbyterian/methodist liturgical structure. The knealing stoped. The liturgy was spoken, never sung. The vestments became quite plan. And over time, Lutheran practice and dogma have become more and more like the conservative evangelicals. A significant schism a few years back began over sung liturgies!

How we pray, over time, wins over written theology. I do not see that as "divorce." I was perhaps falling in the failure to eschew obfuscation when I wrote above.

My blog address is: http://essaysbyjim.blogspot.com/

Mostly it is a collection of my short essays. My kids read it, but they never post responses, they call me instead ;-). I welcome your comments, if you are so inclined, or that matter most anyone's.

FWIW
jimB

Phil S. said...

Hi Jim;

Thanks for your blog address. I have it bookmarked now on my browser, so I can find you more easily. If you don't mind, I'll probably also place a link to it on this blog. If you object, let me know. I won't place the link until I've heard from you.

I see what you're driving at with liturgy and theology. I think we do agree that theology and practice are and must be closely related. Our differences tend to centre on how much theological room to manouver there should be. That one is one I'm sure we'll keep fighting out.

Peace,
Phil

Jim said...

Phil,

Sure, go right ahead and link it. I will do the same for yours if you wish.

I agree, that is where we differ. In a sense it is a microcosim of the church's problem.

FWIW
jimB

Phil S. said...

Great, I'll do up the link tonight and you're welcome to link me too if you like.

As for our differences, yes, they do represent a microcosm of the differences in our church, but, at the risk of self-congratulation, I also think that they also serve as a microcosm of hope. We have managed to continue a long and quite civil dialogue over the worst of the crisis in the last years. If the whole church could manage that, perhaps we'd get somewhere. Or not, of course.

Peace,
Phil