Thursday, July 31, 2008

SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES PART IV

IV. The Hellins Lecture: And Now For Something Completely Different

As you may recall we left off the discussion at the point of words – liberal, orthodox, conservative, high churchman, low churchman, Anglo-Catholic, and Evangelical to name a few. The Reverend Greg Cameron has been discussing the Compass Rose including where it came from and how we Anglicans have come to use it and how the purpose has changed over the years. We have applied some of this to the situation in the United States and specifically here in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. In this installment we continue to look at the changing globe as the discussion focuses on the global south. Specifically, we will examine the perceived need for the global south to move the Anglican Communion to a new and better interpretation of the Holy Scripture.

We begin with the words to a song written and performed by Emerson Lake and Palmer (for those who may not know think Peter Gunn with a driving base guitar)

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
There behind a glass stands a real blade of grass
Be careful as you pass, move along, move along

Come inside, the show's about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
Rest assured you'll get your money's worth
The greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth
You've got to see the show, it's a dynamo
You've got to see the show, it's rock and roll, oh

Right before your eyes see the laughter from the skies
And he laughs until he cries, then he dies, then he dies

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Cameron says, “Increasingly the Churches of the South have asserted their identity in the Anglican Communion, and this is an identity which is uncompromising in its commitment to the supreme authority of the scriptures as God’s Word written; which is content to see the Thirty-Nine Articles as the benchmark of Contemporary Anglican life; and which sees itself contending for the salvation of souls in the face of a lively Pentecost and a militant Islam.”

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We here in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin heard this mantra for years. A priest that ultimately went to the Southern Cone would talk about the three legged stool and how the scripture leg was longer than any other leg. Can we picture a stool of that nature? But I digress. This is another issue upon which Mr. Schofield built his current Southern Cone domain. The Bible tells me so – or so the song goes. But wait, this is not new and it is not insurmountable. Let’s go back to our History of the American Episcopal Church by William Wilson Manross. Within the liberalism movement there was a belief that “the scientific investigation of the original sources of the Biblical narratives with a view to ascertaining their relationship to the actual events described and their consequent reliability.” (pg. 307). This was, as it seems to be today, regarded by many as likely to undermine the Christian Faith. Due to this up and coming process for studying the Bible there were a series of Essays and Reviews written by a group of English Churchmen. While this collection of essays was not always cohesive it was recognized by all as individuals expressing their own viewpoints. Nonetheless the theme of these tended to accept a general tendency to “take a scientific attitude towards Christianity and try and fit it into the general scheme of historical development.” (pg 307,308). This whole approach took on the form of the American Church Congress, The object of this new fangled organization was “to obtain a free discussion of issues which were before the Church, in an assembly which was not, like General Convention, compelled to take definite action. For this reason, it naturally sought the participation of men from all parties, but its original sponsors were most of them Liberals.” (pg 309). The resolution of this issue for us in America came in two ways. In a series of essays by Canon Charles Gore (an Anglo-Catholic) called Lux Mundi determined that much as the English Church had determined “the literal inerrancy of Scripture was not an official teaching of the Church and that its ministers were at liberty to undertake a critical study of the Bible, provided their doing so did not lead them to deny doctrines that were supposed to be officially approved.” (pg 312). The second issue was in actuality the passage of time. Liberals were ordained and as time passed the controversy dropped to a simmer. At least until now.

We could both here and abroad resurrect this age old discussion but we (world wide) have already hashed this out. Whether we use the three legged stool metaphor or some other dialectical methodology to arrive at a more complete relationship with our God we have agreed to allow that to happen – at least within the confines of our Creeds and our other documents. Perhaps we need to refresh everyone’s memories but I am hopeful that this is an issue that neither side needs to “fall on their sword over”.

For Love of It All
Noel Paul Stookey

And so we are marching to 'to give peace a chance'
Brother and sister as one in this mystery dance.
Long ago on a hilltop where now the curious crawl
A man on a cross paid the ultimate cost
For the Love of it all
For the Love of it all
We are gathered by grace
We have followed our hearts
To take up our parts
In this time and place.
Hands for the harvest,
Hear the centuries call:
It is still not too late to come celebrate
The Love of it all
"Eli, eli, lemana shabakthani"
The Love of it all

4 comments:

fear not said...

Thanks for your series, Fred.

Fred Schwartz said...

hang in there because I am long winded, there are two more parts wit ha surtpirse ending!

fear not said...

ok. great.

Scott Hankins said...

Hi Fred. I'm reading your series and was thinking I'd wait 'til you were done to comment - but you've got more coming! (giggle)

I think you're pulling a helpful thread through this history. I remember the days when all these different labels for different kinds of Episcopalians had devolved into pretty much a matter of worship style - despite the fact that, as you are saying, those styles had their roots in some fairly serious questions about sources of authority in TEC. I still would rather just call myself "an Episcopalian." If, as you suggested back there somewhere, if we were all just to drop the labels at the door and come together to the table (whether the Lord's or less formally for conversation), I think that we would find a mutual appreciation for the natural breadth of our Church. My sense is that this is what is happening among most of the Bishops at Lambeth, and I surely hope so.

As far as the WWAC and this question you are dealing with here goes, I find myself wondering lately if we are going to find ourselves trying to have "ecumenical dialogue" with one or more groups of former Anglicans, and I also wonder if those groups will not even regard us closely enough to have "ecumenical" relations. My suspicion is that, if they were to have dialogue with us at all, they will probably call it "interfaith dialogue." That's sad, but it feels as if the level of rancor between us and, say, GAFCON is so high I might be tempted to call it "interfaith dialogue", too.

Anyway, I look forward to the next installments. Press on!