By their fruits you shall know them

September 7, 2006

Catherine Thiemann, a member of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, has written a piece entitled By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them:  An Analysis of AAC and Network Activities.  It makes an excellent companion to my last post on The Many Faces of Christ.

For me it highlights the effects of what happens when extreme elements begin to make assumptions that their perspective is right for all; that because they have seen Christ from one angle that all others must see Christ from that same angle.  The brokenness implicit in the mischaracterizations, lack of transparency, and hostility that appears when faced with the other faces of Christ parallels to me so closely the journey of Jesus through the religious hierarchy of his time and the single-minded viewpoints he worked so desparately to overcome; the message he preached over and over again to love God and neighbor more than law.

We are all broken.  We all have work to do.  Let us pray that we all are granted the vision and clarity to find within us the strength, courage, and ability to meet Christ in the place where we are called so that we do not make the mistake of assuming that we have all the answers for others, but instead continually search to deepen and strengthen our own relationship with Christ, thereby allowing us to work together in community to deepen and appreciate our bonds of affection towards one another without needing to attempt to force the other onto a road of our choosing but rather to walk together in solidarity knowing that we all march towards the same destination.



9 Responses to “By their fruits you shall know them”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    I don’t know that the conservative agitators in TEC are “extreme elements.” By their stated beliefs they are far closer to the majority of Christians worldwide on moral issues than the mainstream of TEC. However, the fundamental problem for them is that what they imagined TEC to be– a church with a common Christian belief system– it is not. It is a church united by common Christian public worship and an episcopal structure. This pipe dream of remaking TEC into a church based on Christian orthodoxy will do nothing but enrich lawyers over the inevitable property disputes. It is also a near occasion of sin (at the very least) as the conservative Episcopalian leaders covertly scheme to break-up TEC. IMHO that is the problem with many of the leaders of these various conservative bodies: they are bishops and priests of TEC, yet they seek the institutional destruction of that same church.

    I would be outraged if Catholic bishops and priests plotted to do the same to the Catholic Church.

    Seems to me the honorable thing to do would be to resign from Episcopalian offices and join another Anglican church– seems like Nigerian, Uganda, and others are getting in the act in the US. There is no lack of opportunity and plenty of conference rooms and underutilized churches to rent to house new Anglican congregations belonging to other jurisdictions.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Hi Fr Michael, good to hear from you –

    I suppose on the “moral issue” question it depends on what you mean by moral values. I think that Christian moral values are evident in the fruit of the spirit (Galations 5:22-23)- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and temperance. In my mind, these “extreme elements” do not outwardly manifest these moral values.

    If, as I suspect, by “moral values” you mean something else that is more qualified by arbitrary standards of behavior without regard to whether or not they allow the fruit of the spirit to grow, then you may be correct. I fear that many Christians in the world do not judge their standard of living by the fruit of the spirit.

    I completely agree with your conclusion. It is here that my main point lies; when a group of people become so preoccupied with pushing their view of Christ on others that they cannot see that perhaps the best thing to do is to quietly go a separate way, or better yet to agree that Christ has different faces and that Christ is big enough to shephard all of us together so there is no need to leave; that is when the fruit of the spirit has been completely rotted out and something else is growing in its place.


  3. obadiahslope Says:

    I wonder if you agree with Fr Michael that conservatives in TEC should “resign from Episcopalian offices and join another Anglican church”, you believe there should be parallel provinces in the US? Fr Michaels statement implies that the conservatives can leave TEC and still be Anglican. I was surprised that you “completely agree[d]” with his conclusion.
    Or do you believe that the US conservatives should leave the anglican communion?
    On your more general point do you think that members of the TEC majority “make assumptions that their perspective is right for all; that because they have seen Christ from one angle that all others must see Christ from that same angle”? 

  4. obadiahslope Says:

    that last post comes across as argumentative. Sorry. I was just surprised you agreed with Michaels staement.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Hi Obadiah-

    Thanks for catching my slip. I read too fast and assumed Fr. Michael had said that he thought they should have left to go to another church. There are plenty of non-affiliated “Anglican” churches here which do not have formal ties to any Ecclesiastical bodies because they hold different values than TEC; perhaps even then other provinces. Regardless; if one is more intent on dogma than on communion, one should quietly leave and focus on one’s dogma. If, on the other hand, one is focused on communion, one should be happy to dialogue with others about commonalities and differences– embracing both. It isn’t possible to be in communion and be without difference, and as I’ve blogged before I think that trying to define those differences is problematic. Pretty soon somebody’s upset because they don’t like the height of the candles, and you don’t have communion at all any more but just a bunch of people who used to be a part of a body but are now just severed limbs. Much better to be in communion in my book and agree that we will live together with what we’ve got.

    On the second point, I do not think that TEC majority make assumptions that their perspective is right for all. It sounds like you have something specific in mind, so if you’ll spell it out exactly, I’ll be happy to respond.

  6. Catherine Thiemann Says:

    Great dialog!

    Fr Michael’s point is at the heart of my article: that the Episcopal Church, and in fact the entire worldwide Anglican Communion, is bound not by the fine points of orthodoxy, but by shared practice.

    Jeff’s point (dogma vs communion) is also excellent. If we take Christ as our example, we must strive for communion, which is why I continue to hope for genuine dialog between those whose opinions differ, and for reconnection and healing of those “severed limbs.”

  7. FrMichael Says:

    I should remind everybody here that I am a Roman Catholic priest, not Episcopalian. As an outsider, it seems to me that the current problem within TEC is inherent to Anglicanism as a whole, given the Elizabethan Settlement (as I understand it from various blog discussions) and the provincial autonomy of your Communion. My biggest surprise is that this flashpoint was over a gay bishop rather than the introduction of women priests. Seems to me that provinces and dioceses that don’t recognize each other orders would be death to the idea of common worship. Theologically, the ordination of a morally unworthy bishop would be easier to take than the invalid ordination of women. Bishop Robinson could be seen as an aberration reflecting a different moral theology. Women priests go to the validity of Eucharist.

  8. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael –

    I can see how as a Roman that would be hard to understand.

    We have been doing it for quite some time with women priests and bishops, as you allude to.

    I really think this is not a flash point over ordination, but rather over Biblical interpretation and theology. How does one read the Bible? What does one do with those interpretations? These are the real questions, and they are manifested in different ways. The “boiling point” just happened to be gay consecration of a bishop.


  9. obadiahslope Says:

    Spot on. This dispute/dialogue/ is about Biblical interpretation and theology. You have that exactly right.
    While the idea that Anglicans are held together by practice not theology is a widespread one in TEC and elsewhere, there are many of us in the communion who believe that we are held together by common beliefs about Christ and the salvation wrought on the cross. These are expressed in the creeds, which form part of the quadraliteral.
    For some of us the 39 articles are authoritative as well.

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