April 1, 2005

The Real Absence

The Primates of the Anglican Communion have requested the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to consider withholding their representation at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. The ACC is the only one of the four “instruments of unity” that is legitimately constituted, in that it was constitutionally ratified by a majority of the individual member churches of the Communion as a consultative body. This request will be taken up for consideration by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, which is canonically responsible for electing the three U.S. representatives to the ACC.

I think this request is unethical and immoral in addition to being, technically, illegitimate. Such a request, even were it to come from the ACC itself, absent due process, would be the same. I find it appalling that people who profess themselves Christians could countenance such behavior, especially when they would hardly consider doing so themselves if the shoe were translated footwise.

For instance, Ft. Worth and Pittsburgh and a few other dioceses are in a dissenting minority on some of the issues before us. These dioceses have actually taken steps that appear to neutral eyes to be unconstitutional (rejecting the legitimate governance of the church of which they purportedly form a part, as they choose, and qualifying their accession to the authority of the Episcopal Church). Would it be acceptable to these dioceses to be told that they should voluntarily refrain from sending Deputies or their Bishops to the next General Convention? (They've already withheld their money.) Would they find that honorable or reasonable, to say nothing of prudent?

I think, pace Stephen Sykes’ essay on the subject, that it is immoral and unethical for the US and Canadian churches to absent themselves from a Council in which their voices are crucial. I think that trading peace for communion (difficult as it may be) is immoral. I do not, in this case or in any other I can think of, accept the doctrine of pluriform truth. (I do think there are some things the truth of which is incompletely known, but that is about epistemology, not reality).

It is neither humble nor prudent nor decent nor honorable to submit to tyrrany in an effort to preserve a specious unity that is in fact destroying the very institution it purports to preserve.

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