Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another Moment

After my last post, in which I posited that the conflation of one's own political agenda with the will of God is a sure sign of hubris, what do I see (per Mark Harris) from the Church of Nigeria:
National Coordinator of Church of Nigeria Prayer Convocation, Rt. Revd Sosthenes Eze pointed out that Africa occupies a very important place in God's plan and purpose as he traced the involvement of the black continent from creation of the world to the death of Christ. He said that Africa provided the enabling environment for the purpose of God to thrive.

In an expository teaching, the cleric carefully x-rayed practical applications of God's dealing with Africa in molding the characters He used to bring about generational changes. From the generation of Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah to Christ, “God has always depended on Africa to bring about deliverance to His people. God specifically chose Egypt in his programming and ordination to preserve Jacob and his household.”

He asserted that the pivotal role played by the Church of Nigeria in defending the truth that has been distorted in some pars of the worldwide Anglican family is part of God's plan and purpose to preserve a remnant for Himself.
'Myes. Well. See my point, then?

Monday, November 26, 2007

"We Stand at Armageddon, and We Battle for the Lord!"

If, like me, you recognize the above quotation, you probably can't read it without wincing. It's the exact moment when my boyhood hero, Theodore Roosevelt, completely loses it, conflating his own political agenda with God's will. It's a moment of hubris, arrogance, and the frightful effect of certitude.

We're seeing a lot of certitude in the Anglican blogosphere, and among various schismatic bishops. We're seeing condemnations of the "Worthy Opponents" to hell, and a Church smugly boasting of its role in secular persecution of gays and lesbians, as well as any who would defend their civil rights. So David Virtue, ante, writes in defense of Archbishop Akinola:
Now if Akinola were an African-American, white liberals would never dare say the things about him that they do. They get away with it because he is ensconced in Africa and does not have access to America's legal system. Bishops Spong, Griswold, Shaw, Bennison et all have all said things about Akinola and his fellow African bishops that would be deemed racist and be subject to lawsuits were they spoken on US soil to a US African-American bishop.
Well, simply put, no. Akinola is, of course, free to bring a case--but under decades old settled caselaw, he hasn't got one. I'm not aware of any racist statements made by the above-named about Akinola, but the First Amendment protects criticism of Akinola, even if it were deemed racist, as long as it was not likely to bring about imminent violence. See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). Virtue is, quite simply, without a leg to stand on here.

The ersatz bishop, Martyn Minns, prefers to misrepresent the Church of Nigeria's position on use of the power of the state; in a statement issued shortly before the Truro parish vote to affiliate with CANA, he rejected as "not true" a characterization of Akinola as "an advocate of jailing gays." The statement used to appear on the CANA website, but has been removed; as of this writing it remains here. In the Listening Report, the Church of Nigeria states that
In Nigeria the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006 is passing through the legislature. The House of Bishops has supported it because we understand that it is designed to strengthen traditional marriage and family life and to prevent wholesale importation of currently damaging Western values. It bans same sex unions, all homosexual acts and the formation of any gay groups. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria has twice commended the act in their Message to the Nation.
Prior to Minns's statement, Akinola had sent out a similar one under his own name.

So, let's review: seething anger, co-opting the secular arm to enforce religious norms, misstatements of law (Virtue) and false reassurances to the secessionists to ease their consciences (Minns).

Love and truth be damned; they stand at Armageddon, and they battle with the Lord, after all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anglocat On The Aisle

Today, I was involved in my first service as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. We trained for about a half hour last Sunday, focusing on the meanings of the sacrament, and on how to administer it to people who "dunk", who won't take the chalice, who--well, you get the idea.

What we did not discuss, and in retrospect, might have been a good idea, was our role in the procession. We preceded the clergy, folowing the choir. In vestments. Carrying the hymnal and singing. Just before we went in, the Rector smiled, and clapped me on the shoulder, welcoming me. He teased, "It's Rookies' Day today," just as the music swelled.

I had been briefed on my seating minutes before we began the procession. What I had not realized was that I was flanked not by the other LEMs, but by clergy--including two new priests I had not met before. I was nearest the altar rail, and closest to the congregation.

I was somewhat disoriented by my new view of the Church--all the details that normally surround me in my seat among the congregation were fresh and vivid with my new perspective. I saw the beauty of the Rose Window as if for the very first time. And the congregation was large. Larger than I'm aware of when I'm in it. I began to feel nervous, afraid I'd trip on an altar step, or some other Clouseau-level fumble. (The fact that someone had helpfully given me the leaflet for the wrong service ddn't help much, either).

But I relaxed a little as the service went on, and when the time came to administer the Sacrament, I found it took up my whole attention--making eye contact, pausing for the older lady who had her hand in a cast, and needed to be sure of her grasp of the chalice, guiding the chalice to the lips of one lady who clearly expected me to do the work. I was helped by the fact that I was working in tandem with the Deacon (a friend, with whom I do some parish work), and we found a comfortable rhythm easily.

We later processed out--with which we three newbies were not familiar with, but we just faked it. And, that was that.

Except it doesn't communicate the exaltation of having done it--of having been a part of the team, and of having contributed to the service. And here's today's lesson for the Anglocat:

I'm very comfortable using my analytical skills, my intellectual abilities. But I'm not used to the spiritual side of life when it's not bound up in the intellect. I don't know how to be in the moment, when the moment isn't a moment of thought. Hence my nervousness--I was out of my comfort zone. But in a good way, I think. I have the same problem--not feeling assured--with some of my parish work, say in the homeless shelter. I'm too used to running in my familiar grooves. The acts--in the shelter, or at the altar--may be simple. Their resonance is profound.

More than most, I need to be mindful of
George Herbert's lesson:
All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture--"for Thy sake"--
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th' action fine.
I've a ways to go. But I think I'm learning.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Great Divorce

In the weeks since I started this blog, the pace of schism has accelerated measurably. We now have the Diocese of San Joaquin attempting to secede to the Southern Cone, joining Fort Worth's attempt. At least one Canadian bishop has followed suit, leading the Council of General Synod of Canada to fire a warning shot across the bow of the Good Ship Venables. Meanwhile, have we got litigation.

Clearly, the Anglican Communion is tearing, and "bonds of affection" have sundered. I firmly believe that the so-called "Reasserters" sought this chaos in an effort to create a more centralized curial body without the latitudinarianism and scope for amicable difference that has, until now, marked our Anglican Communion. They want, in my opinion, a more structured, doctrinally uniform world-wide church, and not a loose confederation. Hence the concommitant effort to force a Covenant that would for the first time empower the relatively new Primates Meeting to adjudicate disputes as to orthodoxy, and "in the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the covenant as understood by the Councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches." (Draft Covenant at 6.6).

In other words, discipline of formerly autonomous churches based on the will of the Primates as to what is orthodox and "core." We have seen what many Primates are prepared to do: seize property and power, and insist on their right to prescribe for the world.

Under this scheme, the Anglican Communion will cease to be, and will give way to a single, monolithic Church, which will impose uniformity at the whim of the Primates. The marriage, clearly, is dead. Our "worthy opponents" (to use their phrase) are not Anglicans, and are not interested in traditional Anglicanism. We should let them go, in peace. We should forgive their insults, and pray for them.

As to personnel and property, I think we should take a nuanced position:

1. Any clergy who does not apply to be released or transfer from the Episcopal Church should be deposed. Any clergy who applies, in proper form, for release or transfer should be granted it.

2. Any parish that seeks to leave as a unit should be denied such permission--people may leave, the parish remains. However, where there is such a supermajority of departing members and clergy, that the parish structure is temporarily not viable, the departing members and clergy should be encouraged to negotiate a lend-lease arrangement with the diocese such that services may continue during negotiations for both departing members and remaining members while negotiations go on over transition or sale of the property. (In other words, if the option is the historic church becomes a night club, sell it to the schismatics--better them than the Limelight; use the proceds to build smaller churches for our continuing members).

3. Restrict litigation to those parishes where the remaining Episcopal membership is viable, or no such negotiations can be pursued due to the "reasserters" refusal to bargain in good faith. Offer mediation before suing.

4. Depose any bishops who purport to take a diocese out of TEC. Period. If they seek release or transfer, be gracious. Treat parishes within their bishoprics on a case-by-case basis--loyal parishoners must be protected, and supported. It is not sufficient to tell them to saddle their own horses. (Pace, Bonnie Anderson). TEC must make sure that every loyal congregant is reached out to and provided with a place of worship.

5. If these steps (especially 4) require us to reduce our cooperative efforts internationally, that is regrettable, but we should do so. But we maintain our anti-poverty programs as a top priority; if we cut funding, cut Lambeth and other ecclesiastical subsidiaries first. We cut any support to church structure in provinces invading us. We send missionaries to such locations to sustain our brothers and sisters in such nations.

6. No more "fasting" from Anglican bodies' meetings. We show up, mindful of C.P. Snow's dictum, "Never be too proud to be present." We advocate for our members, and our brothers and sisters worldwide. If they expel us, so be it. We ally with Canada, Wales, anyone else who does not walk from us. But we do not sit passive while other provinces presume to sit in judgment of us.

7. Finally, we remain open--always!--to reconciliation.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blogging Lux Mundi: Henry Scott Holland on Faith

Henry Scott Holland's contribution to Lux Mundi, his essay entitled simply "Faith," is extraordinarily fresh for a piece of writing that dates to the Victorian Age. His concern with responding to Darwinian theory dates the essay only slightly, as his response of incorporating each new scientific datum into the worldview of the Christian is as applicable now as it was then. Indeed, it's perhaps especially timely as Holland's prediction--that the scientific models of his age would eventually wear thin, and faith would again confront the problem of increasing scientific knowledge upsetting the world-view that has domesticated and, if you will, digested, the scientific consensus, may be said to be coming true today--quantum theory, exploration into space and even into the human mind's own mechanics--all these threaten the world view of those who view each scientific discovery as shrinking the sphere of faith. Holland takes a different course.

For him, faith is not about knowledge, or even reason, although these are tools through which it works--it is that sense of "sonship" to the Divine, the relationship between ourselves and God, which creates in each of us a sense of our belonging to the world and its belonging to us. It is, to put words in Holland's mouth, an expansion of Descartes's solution to the solipsism of only being able to know that one exists as a thinking being--Holland points out that faith enables us to be in a world whose rough parameters we can know, and rely on, even though our knowledge of its mechanics and workings are so imperfect. And then Holland gets really interesting.

Holland points out that faith is beyond reason in the way all love, or chivalry, is--it involves a response (an act) in relationship to an other, God. And, like all relationships, it involves highs and lows, and growing (or declining) intimacy. So God threatens, warns, and then--pardons, seemingly in the teeth of his warnings. (Here is where I get my claim below that Holland implies that God's warnings cannot be viewed in isolation, and that God yearns for reconciliation, not for justice). Holland points to the continuing development of the relationship as a people through the millenia as a growing understanding away from our own culturally conditioned response, an evolution from the "imprecatory psalms" to the mercy and love of Christ. Each person, likewise, can grow in relationship through experience of God. Faith, in short, is a love story.

While it's not a comprehensive catalogue of belief, Holland points out, faith does come with the growing knowledge of the beloved--and that's how he grounds the creedal understanding of who God is, what we can grasp of Him even though we see "through a glass, darkly." To know, and to reason, are necessary--blind faith becomes superstition. But to experience faith, as love and in loving relationship, is paramount.

Holland's views can speak to us even now, and remind us of the place of doctrine, and that of knowledge, and even that of reason--important, each and every one, but in the end subordinate to experience, to living the relationship in, ideally, ever growing intimacy, as sons and daughters.

A Commercial (?) Message

In these times of liberal-conservaive tension, it's a pleasure to be able to reccomend a cross-divide work, in this case the admirable work The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visons by Marcus Borh and N.T. Wright (1999). A good review of the book, by Paul Copan from the June 2001 Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, may be found here: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3817/is_200106/ai_n9002484

Rather to my own surprise, I find myself agreeing quite a bit with Bishop Wright. I think Borg is convincing on certain issues, but Wright is particularly persuasive as to Jesus's own view of his messianic role, which Borg tries to debunk, but (at any rate here) is left to argue from probablility. By situating Jesus in the context of first century Judaism, Wright ably argues that messianic belief fits snugly within Jesus's core message, his call for a Kingdom in, but not of this world. (Copan's summary is the best I've found online that is readily accessible, but is rather slighting of Borg's contributions, and in fact proves Wright's contention that too many pproach discussions of Jesus with a pre-conceived outcome, whether from what he calls "the attic" (enexamined doctrinal faith) or from the dungeon (modern reliance on what Robertson Davies called "police-court" facts). The work really must be read on its own).

A particularly admirable feature of the book is the co-authors obvious affection for each other, and willingness to learn from each other. To take but one example, Wright handsomely describes Borg's treatment of Jesus's description of the Temple as a "den of thieves" as "illuminating" his own view of the messianic call to repentance within Israel. Borg is ikewise open to Wright's corrections. This book is a good example of what I meant in my first post when I said that liberals and conservatives (or reasserters and reappraisers; I'm not in love with either set of terms, to be frank) need each other, and need charity for each other.

While the book is not as in depth as would be ideal, it serves to introduce Wright's work to those who might not naturally gravitate to it, and the same for Borg's. That in itself has been an eye-opener for me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Akinola's Advance

I know, I promised an essay on Henry Scott Holland on faith--and I will give a few thoughts on his contribution to Lux Mundi, which is cogent and reconciles seemingly disparate traditions and scientific knowledge that still holds today.

But, Peter Akniola, the self proclaimed Primate of All Nigeria (what, like there's a primate of Southwest Nigeria to confuse him with?) had to go and spoil the mood:
The Church of Nigeria is not interested in territorial expansion. The failure to
resolve these dual crises has been at the heart of the decision by our Church
and a number of other Global South Provinces to offer encouragement and
oversight to a growing number of clergy and congregations in the USA. These
pastoral initiatives are not and should not be seen as the cause of the crises.

Although they have variously been described as “interventions”
“boundary crossing” or “incursions” -- they are a direct and natural consequence
of the decision by The Episcopal Church (TEC) to follow the path that it has now
chosen.

These pastoral initiatives undertaken to keep faithful
Anglicans within our Anglican family has been at a considerable cost of crucial
resources to our province. There is no moral equivalence between
them and the actions taken by TEC. They are a heartfelt response to cries for
help.

http://www.anglican-nig.org/main.php?k_j=12&d=130&p_t=index.php?

Well, thankee. So what about the fact that the Council of Nicea explicitly forbade such border raids?
It has been suggested that our actions violate historic Anglican polity and
early church tradition with particular reference made to the Council of Nicea.
This assertion is both hollow and made in bad faith since those who make it are
more than willing to ignore historic biblical teaching on the uniqueness of
Christ, the authority of the Scriptures and the call to moral obedience.

Wait a minute--what does he mean about ignoring the uniqueness of Chist? Where's that come from? And whose call to obedience? That of Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report? Because I have to tell you, Akinola's not doing so well there, as the same Lambeth Resolutions that the Episcopal Church is under attack for allegedly violating by the consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson, and by several diocese’s blessing same-sex unions, also requires churches in the Anglican Communion to participate in both a listening process with gays and lesbians (who are simply denounced in the Nigerian report as part of the Windsor process--you can see it here: http://www.aco.org/listening/reports/nigeria.cfm, which does not constitute compliance) and to support human rights laws, which Akinola clearly does not. See Lambeth Resolution 1.1; Windsor Report at par 146, et seq.; Appx. III. http://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/windsor2004full.pdf

In short, Lambeth has become a door that swings only one way–against the Episcopal Church, but not against a prelate who uses the Church’s influence to legitimize legal persecution, and boasts of it in the "Listening Report".

More details at Father Jake's helpful compendium: http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2007/11/nigeria-rejects-windsor-report-and.html

Akinola's power play is clear--he wants the Global South Primates to seize control of the Anglican Communion, enforce a Covenant and expel those who do not surrender to his vision of Christianity--a call to obedience to Akinola, and Akinola alone. Christ need not apply.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Conservative Response I

1: Anglicanism and Congregationalism

The response of American conservatives in seeking schism has been to essentially jettison the traditional hallmarks of Angicanism--a hierarchical church led by bishops acting in concert within the national province, loosely affiliated in a world-wide Communion bound not by a curia but rather by ties of sympathy. That's gone now; American conservatives are demanding the right, on the parish and even on the diocesan level to make their own policy, and to secede from the national church, while remaining the recognized Anglican presence within their geograpgical limits.

See, e.g., http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=6961;
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/7321/

At the same time, they grant the national church no such autonomy, hailing raiding forays from Nigeria and Uganda to try to displace the national church within parishes and even dioceses that have decided to bolt, and calling for Communion imposed discipline.

See, e.g., http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/7052/

This is a pretty peculiar form of churchmanship from a movement that was born in the creation of a national established church in England, quite frankly. Moreover, it has long been established that the unity of the national church was a high priority as early as the organization of the Conventions of 1785-1789. Indeed, the dictates of unity transcended national borders in the founding period; notably a major objection to the consecration of Bp. Seabury was that, by receiving his orders from the Church of Scotland, he had been guilty of schismatic behavior toward the Church of England. (Manross, A History of the American Episcopal Church (1935) at 194; 195-202)). As a thesis significantly antedating the present troubles makes clear, secession was not deemed an option throughout the Church's history from the Civil War until the present era. See J.A. Dator, Confederal, Federal or Unitary (1959), which is archived at: http://www.edow.org/dator/ (Hat tip: the inestimable Fr. Jake!)

Moreover, while conservatives argue that parishes and dioceses are free to secede from the national church at whim, they also insist that the national church should be subject to discipline by the Anglican Communion as a whole, acting through the Primates. This innovation would create an Anglican Curia, but also note the odd structure that results: the Primates become, absent any formal act empowering them to do so, sovereign over national churces--which themselves enjoy no such sovereighty over the individual dioceses or parishes, under TEC's polity. In other words, the national church has accountability without authority, while the local parishes and individual dioceses enjoy autonomy without accountability.


NEXT POST: Henry Scott Holland on Faith

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Discerning Development

It is frequently suggested (see, e.g. http://www.standfirminfaith.com/media/DESSERT.pdf ), that those who argue that the Church is morally required to modify its view on homosexual relationships are really replacing Christianity with a new religion, that they are willing--even eager--to discard traditional theology and Biblical Christianity in toto and replace it with an ethic of niceness combined with a social services agenda--that they are merely caregivers in cassocks. (Not all who hold this view are conservatives; Rumpole creator John Mortimer is known for his depictions of clergy as "wet" liberals with no real faith in God, from his Paradise Postponed (1986) to The Prince of Darkness (1978)).

While there may be some who really believe in the jettisoning of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and other foundational beliefs, I am, simply, not one of them. Not at all. My analysis is based within a traditional creedal Christianity, and I accept that Richard Hooker's "three strand cord" or "three-legged stool" does not equate Scripture, Reason and Tradition, but requires Reason and Tradition to be used in interpreting Scripture, within Scripture's purview, defined by Hooker as "Matters of fayth, and in generall matters necessarie unto salvation ." (Lawes III, quoted in Wm. Harrison, "Prudence and Custom: Revisiting Hooker on Authority, Fall 2002 Angl. Theol. rev., archived here: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3818/is_200210/ai_n9132703/pg_1) Hooker notably distinguishes between matters of faith and custom, including in the latter questions of Church governance--thus, the Anglican Communion has been able to reconcile a growing role for women despite Paul's discomfort with women speaking in Church in 1 Cor. 11, 14. (Of course, there is a strong rear-guard refusing to recognize ordinantion of women in an exercise of a rather simplistic Biblical literalism, but they are truly a rearguard).

Likewise, Charles Gore, in his essay "The Holy Spirit and Inspiration," in Lux Mundi argues that inspiration does not result in a line-by-line, unambiguous perfection of text, subject to simple application to real-life issues, but requires a careful perusal of all the Scripture in light of the level of theologiocal and/or historical understanding of the time of writing. Add to that the statement in John 16:12, and St. Paul's own warning, that perfect understanding is not ours yet, and what has been called a "clobber verse" approach is revealed as too literalistic and crude to provide an answer to the question.

So, I would use Reason and Tradition to seek to understand the Pauline prohibition of homosexual behavior. I would also view it in the light of two sayings, one of Jesus, and one by Paul himself: First, Jesus's statement that "By their fruit shall ye know them"(Matt 7:16), and second, Paul's own statement that "the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6). One classically Anglican synthesis of these passages holds that the gifts of the spirit may be known by their fruit.

Tradition, of course, has supported the Pauline prohibition. For most of Chritian history, homosexuality has been heavily stigmatized, known as recently as the late Victorian Age as "the crime that dare not speak its name" or, in the 18th Century, the "monstrous and detestable crime against nature." (Blackstone). Of course, the tradition can be questioned, as indeed can the translation of the scriptural passages at issue; see J. Boswell's controversial Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (1994); on translation see Rev. Goran Koch-Swahne, here: http://gkochswahne.blogspot.com/2006/08/from-chastity-to-heterosexism.html and here:
http://gkochswahne.blogspot.com/2006/07/shellfish-and-other-animals.html

I lack the background to evaluate either Bosewll's or Rev. Koch-Swahne's analysis, so I will merely resort to the third strand, Reason, and ask what the fruits of this prohibition have been: Pain and alienation stemming from an inauthentic existence for gays who enter heterosexual marriages because they are not called to celibacy, but wish to have socially acceptable family lives; the pain caused by these half-marriages to partners who cannot be loved as they want and deserve, and to their children. See, e.g., http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1589/is_2004_Oct_12/ai_n6247338.

Moreover, violence has been directed at gays and lesbians throughout the millenia, often in the name of Jesus Christ, even after the horriffic example of the persecution of them in the Holocaust. See, e.g, the life and career of "Rev." Fred Phelps, whose website's address is alone enough to condemn it: http://www.godhatesfags.com/; a short account of the Nazi persecution may be found here:http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10005261; the continued widespread phenomenon of assault against gays and lesbians just in schools, may be seen here:http://www.365gay.com/Newscon06/04/042606schools.htm

To me, this is all too reminiscent of the Christian tradition of anti-semitism, which drew scriptural support from St Matthew's Gospel, St. Paul, and St. John's Gospel; traditional support from Ambrose and (to a lesser extent) Augustine, the practice of the Catholic Church over centuries, and continued well into our own time.(A good account, if somewhat heated and personal, is Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews (2001)). Just as with anti-semitism, so anti-gay bias and its violence stand as a reproach to the Church, and are all too often deemed to be co-extensive with Christianity.

Just as that scripturally-based tradition has shown itself to be not a gift of the spirit, but a cultural misunderstanding of the text's implications, so too I would argue that our traditional understanding of the passages relied upon as a blanket ban on homosexual relations should be rejected. For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Introductory

So as schism accelerates (see http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/03/us/03episcopal.html?_r=1&oref=slogin), we Episcopalians are forced to question some of the most basic tenets of Anglicanism--who are we as a Church, what are the "core tenets" of our faith, and to what extent are we a "Biblical" church or a "progressive church." We're forced to examine these issues, as well as what we owe those who disagree with us on the issues which seem to be tearing our church asunder. At such a time of questioning, I feel impelled to start exploring my own positions and to join in the discussion within the Episcopal blogosphere

So, to begin my own small effort to participate in the discussion:

Who am I, and Why Should You Care?

I'm an Episcopalian who was raised Roman Catholic during the papacy of John Paul II, and gradually felt myself shoved to the fringes of that church by its increasing authoritarianism and marginalization of dissent within. I studied with the Marianists and the Jesuits when Frs. Hans Kung and Charles Curran went from respected progressive voices to silenced outsiders, and the experience of seeing the Jesuits threatened with dissolution didn't exactly endear what one author has termed "the authoritarian monolith of Rome" to me. (A quick summary of this history is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/pope/johnpaulii_2.shtml)

So, although I'm a liberal, I understand what it's like to be a minority within a faith community, and firmly believe that as long as core doctrine is not in question, the widest possible scope for discussion must be encouraged--for both liberal and conservative.

I became an Episcopalian in 1996--and have never regretted it. The two parishes with which I have been associtaed--St Bartholomew's NYC and Trinity Wall Street--have given me a stirring example of a place where faith is lived, not just preached, and where "radical welcome" is not merely political correctness, but an intergral part of the Great Commission.

I admire the traditional Anglican way of holding both liberal and conservative, catholic and protestant, wings of the Church together in a dynamic tension that prevents either from lapsing into complacency. To my mind, the erosion of this aspect of our Church is the greatest harm to be effected by our present-day schism.

Why an Anglo Catholic?

Beyond the fact that Anglo-Catholicism (that is, as I understand it, a stressing of the "Catholic" theology and liturgy from the original Prayer Book to the present one, in the tradition of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement of the 19th Century), tends to operate in a ceremonial that I'm comfortable with from my RC upbringing (even Rite II has more dignity than the rather awful prose used in parts of the Vatican II translations of the Mass), Catholicism properly understood steers clears of the two rocks of Bibilolatry and Calvinism that can drown the message of Christ in a fug of self-hatred and guilt.

Also, the Catholic tradition in the Anglican Church is more welcoming to mysticism, the raw material of religious experience, without reducing it to a quest for the paranormal or "altered state" for the jaded spiritual palate. (One of my Anglican heroes, William Inge, explains the development of mysticism in the Anglican tradition, stressing the rooting of faith in reason as well as revelation, and deploring the repressed emotional drives that can infect a purely emotional mysticism in his splendid study Christian Mysticism, which originated as the 1899 Bampton Lectures; you can read it online here: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14596).

Aren't Anglo-Catholics Conservatives?

Well, not always. I'm more Lux Mundi (Gore, et al. 1889) than Pusey or Newman; Gore, with Inge and with William Temple and Christopher Bryant are my sources of inspiration in the Anglican tradition.

The more conservative Anglo-Catholics and I might agree on matters of liturgy and worship, but would not on women's ordination, the diminished role of the laity some seem to advocate, and many social issues.

What's My Over-arching Position?

Frankly, I think that today's conservative wing is largely in the wrong in church affairs, in that they are unwilling to share fellowship with liberals who hold views which are defensible within the framework of Christian orthodoxy--that is, while liberals are adjusting to modern social realities, and are trying to discern the will of God today, some conservatives are all to eager to demonize those with whom they disagree--labelling Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori as a "finger of the claw of Mordor" (http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/7276/) speaks not ill of her, but of the commentator, in my opinion.

That the faith develops and evolves is not of itself heresy; it's predicted expressly in John 16:12--a verse deployed by Inge in explaining his engrafting of the thought of Plotinus into understanding mysticism, and is consistent with St. Paul's famous saying (1 Cor. 13) that we see now through a glass darkly--which Inge uses to urge caution in applying literalism to the Scriptures, as well as to the process of discernment. And that is my overall approach--fidelity in core matters, treating the Scriptures as inspired but not inerrant (because the writers had their own cultural lenses through which they interpreted the message) and careful in discernment, respectful of those with whom we disagree.

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