The Archbishop of Canterbury Speaketh

December 14, 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury has finally released the long-awaited Advent letter, making his most direct statements ever (that I can recall) on the Anglican Church’s affairs over the past four years.  It can be found here.

Jake’s commentary is here; and Mark Harris’ commentary is here.

“Disappointed” is an understatement for how I feel about his grace’s Advent letter.  But it is hardly surprising.  +++Rowan has consistently taken the emerging neo-orthodox position that consensus counts for more than justice in the life of the Church. 

As an aside, I’m writing a paper at the moment on the effect of holding God’s power and omnipotence so high that humans are excused from matters of justice because God will set things right in the end — essentially using God’s power as an excuse to do anything.  It seems, perhaps, that +++Rowan falls into this category.  He seems, not just in this communication, but in much of his communication as Archbishop, to quote from the pastoral epistles often and ignore the liberating and compelling text of the gospel.  I can think of few places where Jesus calls for conformity with dogma over human relationships, with human tradition over the value of loving our God and our neighbor.  Certainly unity was a given for Jesus– he was a Jew arguing with Jews and never advocates a split of Judaism in the text, but he neither holds unity so precious that it becomes an idol.  It seems that this is our problem.  Justice– liberation– is held in bondage at the hands of unity.  The two do not have to be exclusive.  That is the message of the gospel.  That is the message the Church has ignored at her worst throughout the schisms of history.  That is where we are now.

Which is why Mark Harris’ commentary is so interesting.  He has linked the Archbishop’s Advent letter with his Christmas letter, found here.  They were both released today.  In fact, based on the posting time of the two articles, the Christmas letter was posted first.  The Christmas letter uses a Hebrews text in its proper context to tie into the Gospel message.  Why did Rowan do this?  Harris posits his own ideas.  I believe that the Christmas message is a not-so-subtle call for the listening process– listening on all fronts.

Nice.  But its hard to listen when you’re being threatened with excommunication.

Until GLBT people have a place at the table, I’m not sure that real mutual listening is possible.  Rowan thinks that we can’t have a place at the table until real listening has taken place.

Therein lies the dilemma.

It always amazes me when the enfranchised think they know the answers and presume that they can speak for the disenfranchised without their input.



2 Responses to “The Archbishop of Canterbury Speaketh”

  1. WmPaul Says:

    “Rowan has consistently taken the emerging neo-orthodox position that consensus counts for more than justice in the life of the Church.”?????? Rowan is obviously laboring for unity but that, among cons or neocons or neo-orthodox, is second to what we take to be biblical faithfulness. It is in no way unjust to uphold the traditional teaching on the place of sexual relation in marriage and marriage alone. There are, of course, untold number of ways to hold this position in a way that is unfeeling, uncaring, and ignorant of the difficulties, pain, and persecution that people with same sex attraction face. And it is one of life’s unfairnesses that some people (many people and not just gays) cannot enjoy marriage. But, for my money, this ought to move the church to support people in singleness more adequately so that they may, like the man in John 9, manifest the greater glory of God. Many people have down through the ages and, maybe, if we overcome the politicization of all thought and dialogue, many more will in the days to come and avoid the false hopes peddled by the left in TEC.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for posting, Wm Paul.

    While it may be your position that striving for biblical faithfulness is the key (certainly that is my point as well), the key problem is that +++Rowan defines biblical faithfulness as consensus around what defines marriage and GLBT life. That is where he trades off biblical faithfulness for unity.

    True biblical faithfulness provides for placement of the outcast first– a message he partially proclaims in his Christmas letter. What he has said quite clearly, though, in his Advent letter is that we shall, as a church, only define who appropriate outcasts are as a church by popular vote in the larger communion. Jesus hardly waited for consensus in order to have his changes accepted, and because he insisted on those changes he was crucified. Schism was never on the table because as a Jew it was not thinkable to “leave Judaism”- that had no meaning in his context. Unity was a given in the whole drama.

    Looking for consensus instead of relentlessly proclaiming the liberating message of the gospel, in my reading of the text, is not biblically faithful. It sounds like your hermeneutic is very literal, is deeply rooted in your own modern context, and is very focused on a very few number of limited texts along with some of the modern and post-enlightenment Puritanical layers of interpretation layered on top of them. The message of the text you want to preach is not liberating but enslaving.

    To my read, that way of reading Scripture is untrue to the larger narrative themes of the Bible and is in itself not Biblically faithful to the way the tradition has held Scripture up for reading/revelation prior to the modern period. It is not consistent with the way the authors of the texts created them under divine inspiration for use.

    So yes, I want Biblical faithfulness– that is the whole point of my post. What Rowan is doing is not consistent with Biblical faithfulness, nor is the position I hear you describing.


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