Friday, August 15, 2008

Weekly AAC message from Bishop David Anderson, August 15

Via email, the weekly American Anglican Council message from Bishop David Anderson [boldface mine]:

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

As I reflect on the strange times we live in with regard to the Church and the Anglican Communion, I am preparing for another birthday next week. I will by year's end celebrate 64 years as an Anglican, thirty-six of them in Episcopal Church Holy Orders, and almost two years as a priest and then bishop in CANA (Nigeria), outside of TEC.

As early as 1988 I saw this conflict coming, but never imagined that it would be so worldwide or so bitter. Part of my amazement and disappointment has been with the duplicity of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, saying things in private that he has to act counter to in his public role. I could sympathize with his pain, but in reality the pain is of his own making. He can either change his mind over his privately held opinions, or he can step down from the office; either way his pain will go away. The fact that he has to espouse things publicly which the Anglican Communion is on record as believing and he secretly doesn't believe, does damage to his spirit and soul.

All of this could just be his personal burden and his personal pain, except that in looking at the decisions (and the lack of decisions) that have occurred since Dr Williams became the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is not hard to see that this personal conflict is affecting his work performance. He cannot bear to really punish the American and Canadian Churches because they are very close to where he is, though he can't say so. When the Panel of Reference failed, when the decisions of Dromantine, and Dar es Salaam, and the requirements of the September deadline were not met and we wonder why....it is because he can't bring himself to take action against those that are in fact his soul mates.

In Dr Williams' response to the controversy about the letters published last week by the Times, he stated, "In the light of recent reports based on private correspondence from eight years ago..." and then goes on to say that he still accepts the Lambeth 1.10 position. Dr Williams allowed that "In the past, as a professional theologian" he had "made some contributions" to the "study" of how the church should view homosexual relationships. This might pass muster, except for two circumstances: firstly, he wrote this most recently revealed private correspondence WHILE ARCHBISHOP OF WALES, not while in an academic ivory tower. He was then an archbishop and primate of the church, sworn to hold and uphold the beliefs taught by the Communion - just as he is now. Secondly, his work product as the primus inter pares indicates that his privately held beliefs ARE impacting his decisions about the breach of faith and discipline by America and Canada. These together nullify his claim of beliefs held only as an academic or theologian.

Attendant to that is the somewhat lengthy statement from Bishop Tom Wright of Durham, et al.: "...As bishops in the Church of England, we wish to protest in the strongest possible terms at what we regard as a gross misrepresentation of the Archbishop of Canterbury." Although they put forward five points to refute the opprobrium that came to Dr Williams attendant upon the release of the private letters, their arch collapses with their lack of proper dating of his attitudes. Their third point is a rehash of the defense that this occurred long ago when he was a theologian. They quote him in saying "that there is a difference between 'thinking aloud' as a theologian and the task of a bishop (let alone an Archbishop) to uphold the church's teaching." The problem with the third point, and hence their entire argument, is that these beliefs as made clear in the private letters were not his academic years' writings, but were communicated while holding the office of the Primate of Wales. Gentlemen, Dr Williams doesn't need your defense; he needs your collective good sense to unify his personal and public beliefs in conformity with the Anglican Communion's beliefs.

May I submit, from my own position far down the ecclesial food chain, that there is no longer theological space to be an orthodox bishop of the church and privately believe that which is contrary to what the Church teaches on core doctrine and moral discipline. To do so becomes, in the most benign situation, a form of mental illness where the individual experiences a bifurcation of mind, and in more extreme form, a spiritual illness representing a foot in each Kingdom. This time in the life of the Christian and Anglican Church calls for a clear mind aligned with and fully embracing the core teachings of the Christian faith, reformed and catholic. Full Stop.

Without seeing this as a condemnation, I would encourage readers to contemplate the truth that I am trying to describe about this conflicted situation and the pain of this bifurcation which is spreading system-wide.

Faithfully in Christ Jesus,

The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, Sr.
President and CEO, American Anglican Council

1 comment:

Perpetua said...

And they were written on the official stationary of the Archbishop of Wales. To claim they are personal and private is bizarre.