Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Preliminary Thoughts on the Eames Report

Thoughts on the Eames Commission Report
I have been pondering the impact of the Eames commission report for some time now and what it might say, etc. Being at a somewhat liberal Episcopal seminary, there was much anticipation and collective wringings of hand. Likewise, on the other side, I knew some of my brethren Conservatives were smelling blood and going into, what I can only describe as a “burn the heretic” frenzy.
Now that it is here, I have to say that I think it is, frankly, pretty weak. I read on some blog (I think was virtuosityonline.org) which described the report as “underwhelming.” I would personally describe it as a theological tempest in a teapot. (Seeing as this in a church of the English tradition, I find that analogy especially appropriate.)
Essentially, as far as I can determine when reading the entire thing, I came to the inescapable conclusion “How English!” Frankly, I get the picture of the Eames Commission sitting around drinking Earl Grey tea, going, “Now apologize, (which I may add is different from saying you are sorry or, even more shocking, a true call to repentance) shake hands, and make up like good chaps...Now, isn't that ducky? We can now live happily ever after.”
The report was first called the Eames Report and then the Canterbury Report and then the Eames Commission Report and finally the Windsor report. I have dubbed this the “Good Chap” report, because of its English tone and because of its starry-eyed idealism. I do not want to sound like a pessimist, but I fear my Anglo-Calvinist streak has surfaced yet again. I do believe in a modified version of Original Sin, but more on that later. I just do not think this report takes into account man's inherent fallen nature, even in church settings. (And no, I am not referring to the homosexuality here. I am referring to the nature we have inherent in any church function as is our nature that we must deal with through grace and Christian charity.) People, even redeemed Christians if I may stoop to an Evangelical cliché, are not perfect. It is only by Divine Grace and repentance that we can achieve our place in the kingdom of God.
But that is neither here nor there. The fallacy I find in the report is that somehow if the ECUSA says they are sorry and the moratorium is enacted until Lambeth can magically figure out a solution, we will be magically transformed back to our happy-clappy Anglican paradise, dare I coin the phrase Angleden (a combo of Anglo and Eden). Though some vague threat is implied, none is enunciated and the one way that might create a solution (alternative oversight) is all but poo-pooed.
My realist reaction is that while this would be great if it works and we lived in an ideal world of Anglotopia where we can all forgive and forget and pretend there is no difference. But, let's be real...if you think the majority of the ECUSA is going to go along with this, you live in a fantasy world. The majority see themselves as martyrs for the cause of social justice (which I would argue is actually socialist justice which is different from true social justice, but that is yet another topic to be discussed later.) With the hardening of positions, or as it is known in political realms as polarization, barring a complete miracle of divine intervention and epiphany (not to be confused with Epiphany, the gay rights church group), I don't see how we can continue as a Communion and have the word “Communion” have any real meaning other than some vague esoteric definition of historical sharing of roots.
I hope I am wrong. I pray I am wrong. But every fiber of my Calvinist soul tells me that what is at issue here with the polarization is that people see sacrificing moral and systematic theology all for the sake of avoiding schism just is not worth it. Selling your theological soul to live in Anglotopia is no bargain. And, frankly, at this point, I do not know if I disagree with that. I hope there can be healing and some sort of reconciliation and “agreement to disagree” and that somehow, somewhere, a magical theological white rabbit will appear. But at this point, seeing what I am seeing with my liberal “we just thumb our nose at those backwards conservatives because we know we are right (or left as the case may be)” friends and vice versa said by the orthodox, I just do not see much hope for the future of the Anglican Communion as we now know it.
The only way I can see to salvage the situation without outright schism and divorce is0 to come up with a new paradigm to replace the entire Communion language. I mean, all this is dancing around the core issue of what does it mean to be Anglican and part of the Anglican Communion? And what do we mean by Communion? Ask ten Anglicans what it means and you will likely get ten different answers. I mean, frankly, its a meaningless word, its a theological straw man. We throw it around to feel good (that is, the term Communion not the straw man); I am in seminary and I do not know if I can even satisfactorily define what Anglican Communion means. I recommend changing the entire model to Anglican Confederation, which does not mean we have to get along and see eye to eye. It would mean we have the same theological and liturgical roots but it gives us the freedom to disagree with other provinces and bishops or to even like what other provinces are doing, but we are all still Anglican, we are still brothers.
I apologize for the disjointedness of my blog. I have been bouncing from point to point in my head, much like a diary. So, take all this for what it is worth. This is just my initial reaction to the unrealistic “Good Chap” report. I will probably amend or retract some of this when the smoke clears, but I wanted to get it down. Feel free to leave comments and tell me how much of a heretical schismatic Donatist I am. In my defense, I love the church and I hate to see what is happening. However, you cannot solve a problem with pie in the sky idealism that is bereft of reality, hoping everyone can be “good chaps”and apologize when neither side wants to play ball.
< / end > rant
And now, as Monty Python once said: And now for something completely different. My friend Kyle, whose blog I have listed below, gave me the link to the following satirical cartoon after i had written most of this rant. I found it on point:


Kyle said...

I have a particular problem with (con)federation language. What's the point of being in any kind of ecclesial relationship, loose or otherwise, with religionists who subscribe to an alternate "Christian" narrative that stands in utter contradistinction to the Apostolic proclamation?

If Anglicanism's claim to being a catholic church really is nothing more than empty pretensions, what's the point?

You say that if you ask 10 Anglicans what the Anglican Communion is (or for that matter, what it means to be Anglican) you will get 10 different responses. I don't think it would really be that many, as the majority (in North America) would affirm that it's a matter of agreeing to disagree, holding mutually exclusive contradictions in "creative tension" and a "forcefield of love." (Ah, Griswold.)

I will live out the vision of a comprehensive and reformed catholic Christianity. These modernist/enlightenment project values have no place in the Christian proclamation. They may be pretty and nice, but they sterilze the gospel of repentance and redemption.

And you're not a Donatist. Those folks insisted that the validity of the sacraments rested on the moral or doctrinal purity of the presbyters -- not even that, but that traditores, being permanantly excommunicated, could no longer perform valid sacraments.

To argue that Canon Robinson is not a bishop (the consecration was local, not catholic, as the chief consecrator has said) and that all Christians should adhere to a consistant sexual ethic derived from the apostolic proclamation of Jesus is not the same thing.

These liberals are not working from the narrative of God's redemption of all human brokenness and reconcilation of people to himself through Christ, but rather a liberation story that seeks label folks as "oppressor" or "oppressed" and simply invert the roles.

Beware the tyranny of the oppressed. Paybacks are a bitch.

Kyle said...

I liked what this guy had to say about the Donatist accusation:


The Archer of the Forest said...

Again, I am forced to agree. I don't think Confederation will really work either, realistically. But as I see it, if anything will keep the African Global South from breaking, that's the only possible thing I see at this point that might even have a remote chance of working.
I just hate what is happening; I guess I am just grasping at the last optimistic straw I can...