Wednesday, July 29, 2009

La Strada Via Divisi

Background: From Randy Sly on 6/5/2008 at Catholic Online :
Anglicans have traditionally been called the “Via Media” or “the middle road” between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Depending on which way a certain Anglican group may lean, they could be described as Catholic Lite or Protestants with Prayer Books. Until the mid-20th Century, however, most of them stayed in the middle of the road together...
...In recent years, this Via Media declaration has taken on a new luster, where the middle of the road could now be considered the point between theological liberalism vs conservatism or even orthodox Christianity vs heresy.
I have heard the "Via Media" also used to describe a way to try live in the Episcopal church and to listen to both sides to find a common center. Insofar as the liberal wing of TEC has created a "Via Divisi," there is no middle way. I dedicate this post to those bishops and clergy who think that they can somehow keep one foot in the westbound lane and one foot in the eastbound lane at the same time.

More background information: I encourage those who did not pay attention to the goings on in Anaheim at the Episcopal church's General Convention 2009 to watch this excellent summary presentation by George Conger and Kevin Kallsen, it is about 30 minutes long. Mind you, the reporters were tired and anxious to go home.

h/t The Lobster Pot

Go to 3:00-4:40 to hear their take on the way the moratoria will be denied without being denied.

Go to 16:01 to hear the sarcastic support of "Bilhah and Zilpah" that one bishop rose to add to shut down debate on some foolish attempt to add Ishmael to our Eucharistic prayers.

Go 17:15 The reporters were not shocked that there was a resolution to remove the modifier "virgin" from you know who's name. They were relieved that the resolution failed.

There are several good take home points here to remember as your clergy and/or bishop try to put a spin on the two major resolutions, C025 and C056. The first important point is their accurate prediction of how TEC would spin the results. The second point is that in the past, spin control seemed to work, but this time it probably won't because the new media, the internet, the bloggers, etc. are more effective at getting the debate ball rolling than the TEC controlled services which in the past could control the debate.

Enough of the background, let's see how the spin game works here in EDUSC. A good example is how +Dorsey Henderson recently tried to spin the General Convention into some sort of wonderful love fest where there was, for the first time in his experience, an amazing unity. He writes:
"In short, common ground led to common joy in both bearing one another’s burdens and discovering more effective, comfortable ways of living into the Great Commission. Sounds like 'One Body, One Mission…' to me."

As result of the pre-existing "Via Divisi," there appeared to be a common ground at GC09, but it was a common liberal ground. The conservatives had given up long before this crazy convention. Many did not attend, and many attended with no intention of putting up a fight. One body my foot!

Speaking of via divisi, +Henderson himself seems to have split into two different bishops. One that agrees to accept all into the ordination process and another that won't allow certain "types" to be ordained. One that is in favor of a "generous pastoral response" to same sex unions and another that says, "Not in my back yard." Recall that he first tried to spin the result of his yes vote on D025 to mean that B033 is still in effect:
"It may come as a surprise to some that I voted “yes” on the final version of the resolution in the House of Bishops. I did so with powerful, mixed feelings, and my sleep during the night was not sound. My thinking is this: it is critically important that (1) we leave B033 in place, and (2) that we reaffirm our commitment to, involvement in, and support of the entire Anglican Communion, its life, mission and ministry. I do realize that some intend to use the language of the sixth resolve to advance an agenda for which I believe neither we nor the other churches of the Anglican Communion are ready to endorse separately or corporately. However, the content of the resolution, taken as a whole, is more helpful than not."
I recall George Conger saying, "We are not going to do what we just said we are going to do."

Bishop Henderson also voted in favor of C056, but did not post a justification at the time.
However, he then went and signed the Anaheim Statement:
The Anaheim statement is where he claims as a signatory that,
'We reaffirm our commitment to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them' (BCP 526, 538)

* We reaffirm our commitment to the three moratoria requested of us by the instruments of Communion."

So, Bishop Henderson will uphold the moratoria even though he gave permission for others in TEC to do otherwise. The Anaheim Statement continues:

"* We reaffirm our commitment to 'continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship' which is foundational to our baptismal covenant, and to be one with the apostles in 'interpreting the Gospel' which is essential to our work as bishops of the Church of God."

But didn't he earlier commit to C025's and C056's new way of interpreting the Gospel? I can hear the apostles rolling over in their graves.

Next, he tried to put the kibosh on any differing opinion in this report where he writes:
"Beloved, it is an understatement to observe that the "dust has not yet settled" from General Convention. I am astounded at how much erroneous information is being disseminated by the media-even some of the more responsible media. Unfortunately, it appears that some people are accepting media statements as Gospel, leaping to conclusions based thereon, and making decisions which are nothing less than precipitous."

Then he takes his own leap off the precipice when he writes:
"Don't leap to conclusions based on media coverage, whether public or private. (After all, we immediately discount media reports when they speak negatively about our favorite political candidates or party-why should we be any less skeptical when such negative reports are made about something as important as the Church?)"

I think he is saying, "Don't believe anything negative." Doesn't he also mean that I should "Believe the church's spin because I love the church?" Does he mean that it is okay for a pre-existing conclusion (or bias) to trump anyone else's opinion? Reversing his logic, I don't believe my own political party's spin, therefore I should be no less skeptical of the church's spin.

I am sorry +Henderson, but people are starting to see through your fence straddling. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be wagging his finger at us and saying, "Don't do this" when he wrote his post convention admonition on Monday 27 July 2009:
8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

Looks to me like +Henderson is attempting to straddle a divided highway. You know what happens when you do that? You end up getting run over not once but twice, dividing and breaking the body into unrecognizable pieces.

The future certainly looks worse and worse for the moderates. There is less and less vehicular traffic on one side of the highway to flag down. The bright shiney new vehicles on the remaining side are rushing by too fast to hear anyone else's opinion, and eventually, the moderates themselves will be considered to be on the other side of the via divisi.

So if moderates are irrelevant, and conservatives are silent, who is left who wants to go into the HoB as our next bishop?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analogy. "Get out of the road if you want to grow old" (Pink Floyd).

    I don't believe in the "via media" legend; nor does evangelical Anglican scholar Nigel Atkinson. I strongly recommend his book on Richard Hooker, which defines more clearly what the late 16th-century English Church was about.