May 4, 2009

The Peril of Musical Chairs

The Anglican Consultative Council has managed to engender a tad of controversy just at the beginning, as the Joint Standing Committee have declined to seat a substitute clerical member at the nomination of Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi. At issue is the fact that the proposed substitute wears two hats, one Ugandan, and one American. The Rev J P Ashey is both a priest of the Church of Uganda and the COO of the AAC (American Anglican Council). The Archbishop has bristled at the rejection of his substitute:

The appointment of Rev. Philip Ashey to fill a vacancy at the last minute provides the Church of Uganda with a strong voice of a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Ruwenzori. It is also a voice for the almost 100,000 orthodox Anglicans in North America who have been persecuted by TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, who will not be represented by their delegations to ACC-14, and who will not otherwise have voice or seat at the table of the ACC.

It strikes me that Abp Orombi goes too far in this, and lays too many of his cards on the table.

By affirming that Ashey [really] represents an entity as yet not-a-member of the ACC, he demonstrates precisely why Ashey is not entitled to a seat. (Representation on the ACC is only accorded to the listed member bodies that make it up.) Although a priest in good standing in the Church of Uganda, which is such a member body, Ashey has no right to serve as a representative of a group not [yet] entitled to representation.

Had Orombi simply stuck by the authority to appoint a substitute to fill a "casual vacancy" he might have some defense; but by grandstanding and dramatizing the plight of the supposedly persecuted, he (or whoever it was composed this letter) undercuts his own position by revealing what is really at play: a desire to give a place at the table, and a vote in the assembly, to the still inchoate grumbling masses of Americans and Canadians who find fault with the respective churches of which they once were part.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


John-Julian, OJN said...

Those of us who are old enough to remember the controversies of the 50's, 60's, and 70's when we all fought over chasubles vs. surplices, missals vs. BCP, invocation of saints, reserved Sacrament, high-church vs. low-church, etc., etc. have been noticing the significant difference in these contemporary controversies.

Today's conflicts seem no longer just competitive or combative, but - simply said - devious, manipulative, sneaky, underhanded, and deceitful.

One wonders if these tactics were to succeed, would the practitioners then consider themselves triumphant winners of a moral high ground (regardless of the tactics they employed), or would it be a solely political triumph -- and would that be enough to satisfy them? Would the "destruction" (rather than merely the defeat) of their enemies be a true victory?

We never wanted to "harm" our opponents in the olden days or declare them apostate or curse them to hell.

One wonders if merely "winning" (with one's opponents bloodied and cast into outer darkness) is now somehow seen as the ultimate moral victory.

Where does this new scorched earth approach come from? Is it really just colonial degradation now turned about and directed at the one-time subjugators? And it is so curious that the moral positions of the degraders seem, in fact, to be the positions actually held and taught to them by those very despised colonialists.

So much sorrow.......

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear John-Julian, thanks for these thoughts and questions. Frankly, the last time I can recall the anger running so high and the language so low was during the heated discussion of the ordination of women in the early 70s.

As to the present -- I think in some regard the Internet has exacerbated the vitriol by giving wider voice to people who in earlier days had little avenue for publicity than those hateful mimeographed tracts that used to pop up from time to time. It seems clear to me that there are a number of pot-stirrers at work in the present controversy, and the Internet provides them with a forum for expressing their views.

From the most extreme side of the "conservative" end of the spectrum, it really is about damnation, apostasy, heresy, and so on. Although one hopes they have an interest in converting the "apostates" -- until and unless those so judged repent and recant they will continue to cast this as a church-dividing (nay, dividing the true church from the non-church or faux-church which they believe TEC has become).

I am still inclined to believe that this goes back to the difference in view of the nature of salvation between the evangelical (personalist, individual) and the catholic (ecclesiastical, communal) embodied in the two mission agencies that served Africa: CMS and SPG -- and those approaches have borne the fruit of a point of view that remains somehow intractably linked to the mode of thinking in those places from the time of the missions to this day.

There is, to me, no doctrine so wrongheaded as the one that says that a chief joy of the elect lies in contemplating the suffering of the reprobate. Yet such sentiments appear to be alive and well in certain circles.

Prior Aelred said...

Tobias -- I wish I knew who was reported to have commented that Lambeth 98 was the revenge of CMS -- witty &, IMHO, largely true (which, I suppose, is why it is witty ...)

OT -- it seems to me that the main purpose of the Draft Covenant is to induce schism (OCICBW)

See you in Anaheim?

John-Julian, OJN said...

Well, those are ancient sentiments! Even biblical!

I worship many days at Nashotah House (using the library almost daily) and It seemed curious to me that they ALWAYS use Suffrages "B" at the conclusion of the Daily Office -- I checked it out and discovered Suffrages "B" are all about personal sins and begging for mercy and forgiveness, etc. Suffrages "A" are about justice and the needy and the nation, etc.

As you say, it all finally does go back to corporate vs personal and communal vs. private (i.e, Evangelical vs. Catholic). And we can probably thank Church Missionary Society for that!

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, dear Prior. I think that says it all.

Fr J-J, that seems to capture it. The genius of the Elizabethan Settlement was to keep both sides happy with such parallelisms (aided in no small part by Cranmer's tendency to think and write in doublets!).

And let me say I have nothing against personal religion as such -- but I do find the catholic approach to be more centered and connected with the larger life of the church's faith, as opposed to the more individualist focus on personal salvation ("getting to heaven") one finds in the evangelical tradition. As I said once in a sermon on the man let down through the roof, None of us comes to God except we are carrying or being carried...

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment that the vitriol used in the discussions has been fueled by ready availability of a form of publication through the internet. I also agree that we have not seen this level of anger since the discussions around the ordination of women.

I am concerned, however, by something more that seems to be happening which has not happened in my memory: the absolute ruthlessness of one side in using every means available, legal, journalistic and others, to deliberately and viciously cripple the church and her ability to deliver our lord's message.

It seems to me that there has been a long line of actions that go well beyond vitriol and emphatic speech, and enter the realm of simple bad faith.

This would include the entire line of actions from the deliberate defamation of Robinson during his confirmation, the conspiracy from the beginning of the legal dispute over property, the apparent theft of property from and vandalism of the churches in Con. and Wyoming when legal cases are at last decided against them.

These and a seemingly endless list of other actions all go well beyond vitriol in argument and step over into clear deliberate bad faith, untruths and distortions of the Episcopal church's positions.

It seems clear that some of these folks don't really believe many of the things they are saying about the Episcopal church nor can they, at this point, seriously think they have a legal case on retention of the church's property.

These are not arguments or legitimate expressions of belief expressed in strong language or even vitriol, but clear and deliberate attempts to sabotage the church and her ability to effectively preach the gospel.

Their actions seem to be aimed at a deliberate "scorched earth" policy in which they are so desperate to cripple their "opponents" that they will do and say anything that they think will serve their ends, without regard to truth or even logic.

Forgiving them is one thing. From a psychological point of view, I think we can even understand why they are doing what they are doing (some). But how can they ever be brought away from this obsession with a single issue? Even more, after such a long series of deliberately ruthless actions, how can we Episcopalians, in good faith, ever trust or be reconciled to these people ever again?


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, bookguy. I concur with your assessment. In a passage from Richard Hooker which I cited in a comment on another thread, the whole point of government is to settle disputes; and once something is decided, it is not for private individuals to ignore those decisions. And I can affirm that applies to liberals who ignore rules as much as to conservatives.

But I think we have seen significant bad faith from that side since the smear campaign against Gene Robinson, followed by rank disobedience, and even at the mildest, appeals to a surmised (but not agreed to) "higher power" -- and efforts to make up rules after the fact, or to transform non-binding statements of a conference into what Hooker would call "the most exact form of law." It is, to some extent, a case of sore losers writ large.

I am also dismayed at the form of Schadenfreude displayed at certain conservative blogs, hoping for further "fresh hell" (as they name it) from TEC so that they can rejoice in their offended outrage. (i.e., "I want them to do something bad so I can relish my righteous indignation." I'm not making this up: witness some of that tribe who want to see KTF confirmed as a bishop just so they can say how God-forsaken is the Episcopal Organization, as they call it. And who then simultaneously say that if he isn't confirmed it's just a political ploy. One simply cannot win with folks who are this far gone in their own twisted world of gods and monsters.)

This mode of living and thinking is toxic and pathological, yet this high-carbon fuel has been driving the most extreme wing of the anti-TEC movement for some time, polluting the general atmosphere, and doing no one any good -- least of all themselves.

Prior Aelred said...

One bishop told me that some "conservative" (including retired) bishops boasted that they had voted for Bishop Katherine for PB to "prove" how "unorthodox" TEC is -- I think that action has turned & bitten them, but that's just me ...

I agree that it is impossible to believe that this people are acting or will in future act in good faith.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Gambling, at Ricks! I'm shocked.

JCF said...

some of that tribe who want to see KTF confirmed as a bishop

I hope this wasn't your point, Tobias, but I refuse to condemn KTF just because of Viagravillain disingenuity (which smacks so much of the Bushian "We must do WHATEVER is the opposite of what Al Qaida wants!"---nevermind that Bush usually got THAT wrong, too)

While I *still* trust the process, I'm more and more of a mind that I hope KTF is confirmed. Someone who can write this (PDF)---some of the most beatiful theology I've read in a long while---is someone I want informing the meetings of the HofB. JMO, per usual.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

JCF, I hope I have not "condemned" KTF in any way. I do find his theology to be lacking (the present document, were it all we had from him, would be largely unobjectionable -- but taken in the light of the other extant material from his hand I did not find it persuasive of a real change of heart. OCICBW.)

I have tried to take this all on the basis of the evidence. The lies and misrepresentations from the folks at SF I have noted, but I hope they have not influenced me in his favor just because they are slanderous. They slander anything they don't like: waterless clouds, disobedient children that they are.

At the same time, I will not run screaming from the table should KTF be confirmed at the end of things, which he may well be. The "No" votes seem to he stabilized; and unless there are a lot of pocket vetos out there (which there may be) he may be confirmed. This will give the SF folks the fuel they need to leave -- oh, but then, most of them have already left! But I would not want any such sentiment to impinge on my responsibility as a member of a standing committee to vote on the basis of the evidence, not on the basis of some desired or feared outcome.