Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Curmudgeon's Manifesto

I shall have to stop blogging about the "Anglican Communion" -- an entity which exists, after all, in name only. My recent efforts to chronicle its "Current Issues" have consistently drawn the lowest number of visits to this blog.

No one cares what the Anglican Communion Council is doing, ever since the debacle that was ACC-14 showed how it was so easily misled as a group. (The definitive critique of the ACC's inherent inability to represent the "Communion" as a whole remains this post.) They have now announced that ACC-15 will convene in 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand, but reactions to the current meeting have ranged from "Irrelevant!" to "What Do they Think We Are" to "Not One Dime for Support." I would say that the Anglican Communion Council has talked (indabaed) its way into obscurity -- which is shown by the most recent news that, before making any unsettling recommendations (pace, Fr. Harris -- that's all the SC can do, is make recommendations), its "Standing Committee" will wait for the results of the continuing indaba discussions to be held in various quarters across the "Communion". Those discussions, of course, are being designed so as minimize and deflect the "divisive content" of hard scriptural passages such as Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

Once, when we had spent four days in Venice, and were leaving on the train to return to mainland Italy, I explained to my seven-year-old daughter that if she ever returned to Venice as an adult, it might not be the same as she had seen it on this visit -- and indeed, that unless smart people found a way to stop it from sinking into the Adriatic, Venice might not be there altogether. Her response was classic. Looking back at the diminishing skyline of Venice, she said: "Ah, Venice is sinking. Well, X-off Venice." Mutatis mutandis, we now could say: "Ah, the Anglican Communion is sinking. Well, X-off the Anglican Communion."

And indeed, why should anyone any longer care? The Anglican Communion has devolved from a State-church led union of national churches, sharing common doctrine and worship, into a cacophony of scattered voices, the loudest of which proclaim "doctrine" which would make Archbishop Cranmer despair that his own noble witness to the Anglican cause (as it then was) had been utterly in vain. As others have observed, there is today no longer a "Communion", but a "Dysunion."

The-Communion-that-was has, through its Orwellian-named "Instruments of Unity", given up the Geist to the Zeitgeist. There can be no turning back, but only a continued devolution, because the Zeitgeist is defined by the Zeit, and not by the Geist -- Heilige or otherwise. (For the non-German-reading visitors, "geist" means "ghost", "zeit" means "time", or "age", and "Heilige Geist" is the "Holy Spirit".) The tragedy of our age is that the nominal leader of the "Anglican Communion", one of the most brilliant theologians in the Church, has thus far been incapable of resisting the invasions of the Zeitgeist. This age calls, sadly, not so much for a ++Rowan Williams, as a ++Thomas Cranmer, who well knew -- and superbly emulated, in his liturgies for the Book of Common Prayer -- that tradition to which he recognized his Church was indebted.

There will be today no dramatic burnings at the stake, for witnessing to either truth or lies. Instead, the Anglican Consultative Council, once a more or less democratic institution that is now replaced in legal function by its undemocratic "Standing Committee", will become a largely irrelevant group of member-trustees who are alien to the least sort of risk (financial or evangelical), whose days will be occupied in reviewing summaries of indaba groups, and in affirming meaningless and toothless resolutions. The aforesaid "Standing Committee" will morph into a conveniently newsworthy synecdoche for the Communion itself -- which is to say that all the relevant news about the "Anglican Communion" will soon be encapsulated in reports of the Committee's comings and goings. And people will very soon forget that there is any kind of parent organization. The word "Anglican" itself will cease to have any referent, and the word "Communion" has already become an oxymoron.

There will be a significant vacuum thus created: what will fill it? Turn your eyes to the Global South and its leaders. There is a new "Communion" aborning in the wings -- the communion of all those whom ECUSA has marginalized, rejected, and calumniated, and to whom +Cantuar, by failing to lend it sufficient support, has become functionally obsolete. That new Communion will define future Christianity within the Anglican tradition, while ECUSA and its supporters will just as plainly define the "Church of Me", or what should be termed "Egonanity." Egonanity (or maybe it should just be "i-nanity") will compete with Global South-led Christianity, and the former will atrophy as the latter flourishes.

There is no mystery to this: it has been ever thus since the days of the Apostles. The Gnostics, the Arians, the Nestorians, the Marcionites -- they have all flourished in their time, and then succumbed to their own in-directedness. That is to say, instead of relying upon an eternal God to whom they submit themselves in the faith of Christ, and from whom they draw the sustenance of the Holy Spirit, the various heresies of the past depended primarily on the resources which they themselves brought to the fray -- and as history repeatedly has demonstrated, those resources do not last. (These are the limitations of the Zeitgeist again on display. It can do nothing other than appeal to the resources of its own age from which it springs and sustains itself -- for a while.)

Today we are engaged in seeing whether a new heresy -- the heresy that declares equal all forms of creaturely love -- can long endure. The outcome of the conflict cannot be in doubt, although the endpoint is yet blurred and indistinct. What Saint Paul warned Christians about so long ago was not a temporary phenomenon, peculiar to that age. The one who claims so is the Zeitgeist speaking, and not the Heilige Geist. How can I be sure? The answer is simple: Paul was delivering a message that had been revealed to him, and on which he staked his own life. If you think that Paul spoke only to his contemporaries, then you are making Paul a servant of the Zeitgeist, and not of the Heilige Geist. And you thereby marginalize Paul for all subsequent believers, which is to deny the timeless essence of Christianity.

No, there is no passage in the New Testament which records Jesus explicitly condemning same-sex acts. To grant that fact, however, is not to succumb to the message of the Zeitgeist. To the contrary -- if you deny or attempt to marginalize Paul's testimony, by arguing it was addressed only to his contemporaries, you take it upon yourself to transform Paul from a founder of Christianity into just a first-century interpreter of its timeless message. And with that transformation, you have transformed the timelessness of the message into the current Zeitgeist, which privileges itself to decide anew, in each age, the fraction of the original message which it will take to heart as true.

I thus declare an anathema upon the Zeitgeist. No longer will its anemic representations of the human spirit be sympathetically received or entertained on these pages, except only for the purpose of contrasting and exposing its follies with the acid of truth. I am done with trying to convince, through reason and logical argument, those whom it misleads. A good example is the best sermon. That means speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- so help me God.

Honi soit qui mal y pense.


  1. Mr. Haley,

    Thanks for being a watchman on the tower calling the warnings clearly. Thanks also for your work as a church lawyer. I would assume that it's extremely frustrating to watch those who ought to act with probity as servants of the living God instead be the ones with their thumbs pressed down hard on the scales of justice.

    Speaking of scales, Daniel 5:25-28 sums up God's response to the Indaba and Lawsuit Factory formerly known as the Anglican Communion nicely:

    "This is the inscription that was written:
    Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin

    "This is what these words mean:
    Mene : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

    Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

    Peres : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

    Thanks for giving wise counsel to all of us in the manner of a Daniel. It has been edifying and encouraging to those of us who know right from wrong but are less schooled in the lawyer's art.

  2. I suspect we'll live to witness TEC, Presbyterians, and Lutherans clutching onto each other to avoid sinking into the quicksand of popular culture.

    I can't imagine a worse strategy.

    Like angst-ridden high school girls yearning to be accepted, they will have tossed away their collective morality in return for the attention of fickle and opportunistic rakes and libertines.

  3. For all your well-founded curmudgeonliness, your pointing out the larger arc of the story of Christianity through the centuries is reassuring to those of us, especially of the younger generation, who are increasingly frustrated and disheartened by "the state of the Church and the world".

    While I do have a responsibility to do what I can, I don't have responsibility for the final outcome, and God's will will eventually be done in the end.

  4. Dear Curmudgeon,
    Being from Australia, I have found your writings on the broader communion much more relevant and interesting than your forensic examination of the TEC legal macchinations, important as they are for your US based readers. I'm not sure if anyone else has examined the (lack of) credibility and transparency of the ACC with as much diligence as you.
    On the ACC, while that particular instrument of communion is heading into irrelevance, the issue will be can the other instruments bring it back into line? The Primates are trying to increase their representation on it to do just that. The sad part is that the ACC is the only non-episcopal instrument, ie represents lay people and priests. It's a shame it needs more bishops to sort it out.
    The other point to note is that this instrument is the one that recommends amendments to provinces of the AC, ie adds/removals. If ACNA wants to be formally part of the AC, it will need to get the ACC to recommend its inclusion to the Primates, of whom 2/3 must agree. So, it remains an important player in terms of formal recognition or removal of provinces.
    I think you are right in that informal structures and recognition will probably overtake the formal procedures in the AC. The Global South, GAFCON and other similar groupings will recognise some provinces and not others. What will be interesting is whether over time these informal structures will win out and become recognised formally.
    Andrew Reid

  5. Two or three days ago, during my devotional time, I read the following verses from the book of Isaiah 3:8-12 (NIV). While directed against the apostasy and sinfulness of pre-exilic Judah, they also seem to me to resonate when applied to the present situation of ECUSA. I would be interested to hear what other people think.

    8 Jerusalem staggers,
    Judah is falling;
    their words and deeds are against the LORD,
    defying his glorious presence.

    9 The look on their faces testifies against them;
    they parade their sin like Sodom;
    they do not hide it.
    Woe to them!
    They have brought disaster upon themselves.

    10 Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
    for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

    11 Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them!
    They will be paid back for what their hands
    have done.

    12 Youths oppress my people,
    women rule over them.
    O my people, your guides lead you astray;
    they turn you from the path.

  6. It is a cause of grief that we cannot reason with the Zeitgeist. I pray that we can find ways to promote how the "regenerate man" flourishes in his freedom from the Zeitgeist's siren song. Still, in the fight against it, there will always be the need for a curmudgeonly counselor for the defense.

  7. Well said, well said, well said.
    And I hope you have ten thousand THOUSAND comments who chant the chorus: well said.

  8. Although Fr. Matt Kennedy and others will shoot me for going all allegorical, this week's MP lessons from Joshua included the information that God left some pagan territory unconquered by Joshua to provide a test of subsequent generations' fidelity to the Covenant.

    Your summary of church history shows that God allows apostates, heretics and pagans to exist side by side with the church. Paul even acknowledges factions within as a means to show which are the sincere of faith.

    To resist, expose and hopefully restore is not easy. Add to that maintaining our own Christian character in environments that are, as Fr. David Baumann put it, "corrosive."

    How fitting that this week's Collect pleads for us to "pass through things temporal without losing the things eternal."

  9. On measuring readership -- I read your posts on Google Reader and only visit the actual website maybe 20% of the time to read comments or leave a comment. So, you have more readers of your posts than are showing up as visitors.

  10. Hi A.S.,

    I empathise.

    If you haven't read the following, here's a very eloquent article written some time ago by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon titled "The Beached Whale.

  11. The very first verse of Peter's first epistle, addressed to members of the infant church throughout what is now Turkey, calls the recipients 'strangers in the world'.
    That's how they expected to be in the early church - not in society, but separated from it. Zeitgeist, however, is the complete opposite. Should our mission bend to suit it? Both Peter and Paul had a few strong words on that subject and the more the church goes down that road, the more irrelevant it is regarded as being. Why worry about the church, when it becomes indistinguishable from the rest of society?