July 7, 2008

Wright Still At It

Bishop Wright of Durham is still fulminating against America while protecting Merrie Olde England to a fault. (I'm inclined to think that Fulcrum, with the implication of leverage, has still got the wrong end of the stick.) Wright still talks about an America I do not recognize — and an Episcopal Church that is the fabrication of the militant minority, who trot out the same tired and weary druids, wiccans, muslims and Spongs with dreary regularity, to prove the collapse of all good order in North America.

Wright describes

the almost incredible situations that people face for the sole crime of continuing to preach and teach the orthodox faith in Jesus Christ as the true and only Saviour, the final revelation of the one true God, and the standards of behaviour which Christians around the world have taught, and tried to live up to, for 2000 years...

and that he continues to stand by those who have "suffered much" for their stand in TEC. Suffered? Much? For being opposed to Gene Robinson? For not approving of same-sex marriage? For opposing the ordination of women? For criticizing the PB for saying things about Jesus that can be found in Vatican documents? Last time I looked, no bishop has been caused to suffer for not having consented to Gene's election; nor has TEC in fact approved of same-sex blessings, and any number of bishops have said there would be no such things done in their dioceses, and have suffered nothing for it.

Perhaps Wright is, as some suggest, simply spouting this nonsense in order to win back some of the Evangelical friends he has alienated. Others have suggested he is positioning himself to be next Archbishop of Canterbury. All I know is that his writing is verging on slanderous, and he is enough of a New Testament scholar to know that slander is among the worst of faults in the church.

Tobias Haller BSG


bls said...

By "suffered much," I think they mean that "others don't agree with us."

Malcolm+ said...

It doesn't so much verge on slander as it is slander. It is, in short, a bald faced lie.

The only defence for Wright is the possibility that he has believed the slanders of others without doing ay research of his own.

In otherwords, it is possible that he is a fool rather than a liar.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Yes Malcolm+ -- that is my sense of things. He has been moving in a small circle of like-minded people, and believing every negative thing they say, without any critical examination.

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

It's fascinating to watch as many conservatives and progressives set aside their differences to unite around the cause of beating up Wright. Oh my don't we have harsh things to say about this Anglican bishop and world-renowned biblical scholar: everything from charging him with slander (on the Left) and with mouthing revisionist slogans to suggesting that he has problems with reading comprehension (on the Right).

Perhaps the explanation is far simpler. Perhaps N. T. Wright really is an Anglican Centrist bishop who has declared his theological independence from the agenda-driven Christianity of the Anglican Right and the Anglican Left.

If that's true, it explains why both sides are turning on him like a starving dog on a pack of hot dogs: he's not towing their line.

June Butler said...

I read the fulmination, and had I not known that he was serious, I would have thought I was reading parody. I said that already at Malcolm's place, so folks are going to get bored hearing me say it. And irony of ironies, Bp. Wright says that North Americans are without irony - except for Stephen Colbert. Oh, and let us not forget that England does NOT have the problems that North Americans have.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

That Wright may be right and all his critics wrong is certainly a possibility. However, as I have pointed out, from my perspective (which Malcolm also cites) we are dealing with matters of fact and Wright's faulty interpretation of them. That he is a well-known NT critic is acknowledged; though even there he is not without his faults (I think he gets Romans 1 completely wrong, for example). But when someone is attacked by both conservatives and liberals, an alternative to his being correct is offset by the almost unanimous dissent. Standing in the middle of the road means being hit by traffic coming in both directions; and there is not Aristotelian "mean" to truth -- or accuracy.

WSJM said...

I think you've nailed it in regard to Wright, Tobias. After a day of feeling rather warm and fuzzy toward Our +Tom after his BBC interview, his last fulmination has me all annoyed again. I think the stuff he claims about the American Church must arise simply out of ignorance (though hardly invincible). But some of his fussing is simply stupid. J I Packer isn't being persecuted by Bishop Ingham; when one openly defies one's bishop one should expect to be disciplined for it. even if one is convinced one is right. (We call this "civil disobedience": we know how to do that in this country, and we understand what it may cost. There's been conversation about this on the House of Bishops/Deputies list.) I'm surprised he isn't claiming that Archbishop Jensen is being persecuted by Archbishop Aspinall.

The really depressing thing is what I perceive to be the substantial cognitive dissonance between a lot of the "political" stuff Wright has been saying lately (GAFCON, TEC, homosexuality, etc.) and what he writes in his books. (I really like "Surprised by Hope," for instance.) Perhaps the Kingdom of God would be enriched if he were to hang up his mitre and go finish up the "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.

David said...

I'm not a big fan of +Wright at the best of times, but he really went off his meds with this one...

Malcolm+ said...

I will disagree slightly with Tobias here.

The problem is not Tom Wright's INTERPRETATION of facts. The problem is is statements as fact of things which are utterly false.

In my Bible, there is a line about false witness - to the effect that false witness is not a bad thing.

Now, Tom Wright is a New Testament scholar, so perhaps he missed that obscure piece from the Old Testament (that summary of the "top ten" sins - can't remember the catchy name some people give it).

For the record, the previous paragraph is not irony, but sarcasm.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Bill, David and Malcolm. On the latter, I'm still trying (with shrinking success) to give Wright the benefit of the doubt; that he is basing his statements on misinformation. Of course, that is why I refer to slander or gossip, NT sins as well! I mean, New Testament. ;-) If he is going to repeat calumnies, he has a responsibility to verify them -- and when he sees he is mistaken, publicly retract them. I will in the meantime continue breathing.

Malcolm+ said...

I just noticed a clanger in my last comment. Obviously from the context, I meant "falce witness IS a bad thing."

I was probably editing on the fly and tryig to choose between "a bad thing" and "not a good thing" and ended up with a sentence that says the opposite of what I intended.

Apparently, though, the cotext made it obvious enough that everyone followed what I did mean.

I now await the prospect that one or another of the "conservative" dissemblers will use my typo to "prove" just how perfidious we nadty liberals really are.

June Butler said...

Ah, Malcolm, and now there's "falce". some days we can't win.

Malcolm+ said...

You may notice I also have a recurring problem with missing "n"s. The "n" keypad is missing on my keyboard, and if I don't hit the piece beloe exactly straight, my "n" goes awol.

But that doesn't explain either my previous clanger, nor my "falce."


Anonymous said...

Sigh...many years ago, I was one of N.T. Wright's biggest admirers, taking a class with him in Vancouver, recommending his books to anyone willing to listen, and advocating his Christological theories on Anglican fora far and wide.

Sadly, I've come to believe that his behavior since being elevated to a Bishop's chair is "Exhibit A" of the ecclesiastical applicability of The Peter Principle.

Anonymous said...

Standing in the middle of the road means being hit by traffic coming in both directions; and there is not Aristotelian "mean" to truth -- or accuracy.

Or, as the estimable Texas political commentator puts it "there's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to stay away from the blogs lately as I feel like all of this conversation over the last few years has done more to corrode my heart than to cleanse it. But I simply can't resist...

Three points. Take them as you will...

1) Respectfully, it's relatively easy for a group of folks who generally agree with the status quo to be unable to see suffering in their midst. It is extraordinarilly difficult to be orthodox in TEC today, let alone conservative. My friends who are more conservative than I am have been all but shunned by bishops, friends, and colleagues, treated as pariahs, and in some cases forced to accept ecclesiastical discipline. As for myself, I cannot say with any degree of seriousness that I've ever felt "persecuted." Given the very real nature of the persecution that many Christians suffer around the world, to call my own situation persecution would be laughable--even detestable. Nevertheless, I can say that I've often felt marginalized as a Christian striving for orthodoxy in the context of TEC. I face ridicule, condescension, and other threats on a regular basis because I take the creeds seriously. And frankly, I'm not all that conservative. This is not a left/right split, as much as we try to import such drama from the world of American politics. This is a conflict about how we see truth. To make a claim for "Truth" with a capital "T" in TEC today is a dangerous prospect, regardless of how you feel about any particular issue.

2) +Wright does not stand in the "center." Very few people stand in the "center." This makes it seem as if there is some place of balance where we can all sing kumbaya and drink tea together, a mid point between the radicals of revisionism on one or another end of the spectrum (and I consider all extremists to be "revisionist," regardless of whether or not they are "liberal" or "conservative.") What +Wright does exhibit is a classically Anglican approach to the faith. I would even go so far as to say it's a classically Evangelical Anglican approach. The truth of the matter is that classical Anglicanism lives in a place of convergence between catholicity and reform. If we are to live in tension, that is our tension. The contemporary notion that Anglicanism is simply a liturgical style that can house any theology that you like is neither historical nor tenable. And frankly, the fact that so many people today see TEC as "unitarianism with good taste" is even more embarassing than when we were viewed as the frozen chosen. At least then we were frozen into something.

3) May God bless us all. Pax Christi.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...


Thanks for these helpful comments. On your first point, I think part of what we are seeing is a tendency to project one's own experience wider than is reasonable. And that goes for all of us, I acknowledge -- but one must trust one's own experience to some extent. For example, I am well known to be rather conservative when it comes to creedal and liturgical matters. And yes, I have taken some flack for that from my more progressive friends. I've withdrawn from a number of listservs when I've felt my views were not welcome. So yes, I am familiar with how difficult it can be to take a "traditional" position on a point of doctrine.

But that being said, the only cases of which I am aware of clergy being actually disciplined arises not from positions on doctrine, but from refusals to comply with canonical restrictions and regulations. (I tend to be rather conservative on that, too, and deplore such things as CWOB and tinkiering with the BCP. I also took flack for taking the "minority" view on the deposition of the Bp of San Joaquin.) But has any priest actually been disciplined for proclaiming the truth of the Nicene Creed? Of for obeying the canons? There is a difference between feeling out of step and being actually persecuted. How much "suffering" stems from persecution, and how much from the feeling of being out of step, of being in a minority. Yes, that is painful. And I sympathize with the pain. But it is not "persecution." Or can you provide an example of real ecclesiastical discipline (a sentence of some sort) that has nothing to do with an action, as opposed to an opinion? I've heard of none. (And I don't count failure at preferment, or rejection as a candidate to be persecution. The church has responsibilities about who to ordain and appoint, and no one has a "right" to ordination.) I also admit that language of persecution often gets thrown about on the "left" as well -- and is also overblown. It is not "persecution" not to be ordained!

2) I think Wright is trying to stand in the space between the radical reasserters (GAFCON) and the "mainstream" reasserters (Windsor Bishops). I didn't mean to suggest he was trying to be in the dead center between the radical "left" and "right" -- he is positioning himself to be the next ABoC (as it's the Evangelicals' "turn") -- so he is pitching himself to the Evangelical mainstream, not its fringes, and certainly not to the "left."

As to the view that Anglicanism is a kind of liturgical unitarianism -- there is nothing new in that. Our humanist roots, and appeal through the Enlightenment, and up through the rationalism of the 19th century, has always pitched the Anglican tradition as a "reasonable" faith --- usually contrasting itself against parodies of RC "superstition" and Calvinist "rigidity." The fact is, this has never represented all Anglicans, and is a parody even for us. The accusation of Unitarian will hardly stick against most modern Episcopalians -- though it will on some.

Thanks again for the thoughts. We will muddle through, with God's help. But the main thing is to try to stay together.

Malcolm+ said...

I know of only one case in North America of a priest being disciplined when he had not violated any canon.

A liberal priest in the Diocese of Saskatoon was speakng to the legalization of same sex marriages in Canada. He said that, if asked, he would perform such a marriage. He also wrote the bishop to that effect.

Note, he had not performed such a marriage, nor had he been asked to do so. He was speaking to a hypothetical.

He had his license lifted by the moderately conservative Bishop of Saskatoon.

Now, in the wierd imaginary world where I might ever be a bishop (God save the Church from THAT prospect), I don't think that's the way I'd have handled it. I'd have been more likely to call him into the office and admonish him (perhaps formally) not to act outside the canons.

But neither do I think +Rodney's response was out of bounds either. The priest had said that he would (even if only hypothetically) step outside the canons.

Now, perhaps there is a case of a conservative priest being disciplined for holding conservative views. Certainly I have never heard of such.

Of course, I hold the obscure idea that declaring yourself out of communion with your bishop is uncanonical, so what do I know.

Anonymous said...

Tom Wright says:"Nothing that I have said pulls me back from
agreeing that the situation in US and Canada is appalling, that same-sex
blessings and ordination of practising homosexuals is an anti-scriptural
scandal symptomatic of major theological and exegetical unAnglican
innovation, and that we urgently need to address this whole situation. But
I do wish some US right-wingers would realise that the US and the UK are not
the same place, that England has NOT done ANY of the key things"

Tom Wright has expanded his onslaught in a letter to his Diocese. He seems to have it in for you!