Here is the sad truth (at least as I see it, and of course the way I see it is of the utmost importance, right?):
If you stand in a middle place where you can recognize the validity of arguments or positions concerning touchy issues held by opposing groups spanning the theological divide, you are called a â€œhereticâ€ by the howlers standing on the edges of the opposing ideological cliffs. The considered middle-way gets you little respect in war zones. It is hard to hold a position between hyper-individuality and group-think. You can’t win, at least as the world defines “winning!”
Anglicanism has traditionally straddled the divide between Continental Reformation and Roman Catholic ideologies/dogmas, and of course it has been skewered by both Protestants and Roman Catholics, by Evangelicals and Ritualists, by conservatives and liberals alike.
Anglicanism can’t “win” on the world stage because most of the world demands certainty, conformity, and capitulation – but we don’t. At least we haven’t, generally. Well, at least it has continued on fairly successfully up until now, and we don’t know what will happen next. Will we now capitulate to those that demand conformity and certainty, whether they are yowling on this or that cliff side?
Nothing says such things as democracy, rationality, love/good-will, or even good manners will rule the day. Anglicanism survives – not as the largest expression of Christianity, not as the smallest, but it survives uniquely.
I read stuff put out by both sides of the angry and bitter theological and pietistic battles going on in The Episcopal Church and Anglicanism. I hold positions and opinions that some will call conservative or traditionalist and that some will call liberal or innovationist. I could be wrong on all of them. When some demand that I “choose this day” with whom I will align unquestionably, I say, “No, I’m not going to jump onto a conformist, sectarian cliff.” I’m determined to remain an Anglican with strong opinions but without desire to boot those with whom I disagree. I still have choice.
I can agree with many conservatives who say that The Episcopal Church has been going down a path that leads it into a wilderness of quasi-Christian belief and experience. I agree that by going down this path we lose the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we lose our power – rather the power of God working through the Church to transform lives – and we loose whatever it is that compels people to want to find and experience God within our walls. People may find nice ideology or music, but they may be hard pressed to find God, despite the verbiage. So, put me on the rack.
I agree with those who say that we are not a dogmatic or confessional Church, and that we should not become one! I agree that we can simply (and I do mean simply) choose to stay together. I agree that ambiguity and doubt are not twin evils. I agree that there can be a generous orthodoxy, and that the messiness of Anglicanism that stems from its refusal to codify certain sectarian or dogmatic statements is not giving ourselves over to the culture. I believe I have not be blinded by Satan for thinking such things (I can still verbally pronounce “Jesus is Lord” without conflict, so there!). I believe there can be legitimate and honest differences of opinion over biblical interpretation and application or pressing issues (over issues of homosexuality or women’s ordination, for example) without giving up the faith or giving up our catholicity. Pull the ropes tighter.
I, for one, wish we would obey Jesus in his two great commandments to love God with all of our selves and to love our neighbors as ourselves. All those standing on the edges of opposing cliffs demanding absolute assurity of opinion and position would rather shriek across the divide “HERESY” with fang laden smiles than love their enemies. It feels better.
Well, here is a statement, or a quote, that I read this morning from the blog of Fr. Jeffrey Steel. The post is entitle, “The Old Orthodoxy and a Fight.” The blog seems to be of the kind that is a bit reactionary and “Catholic” (as opposed to the reactionary and “American-Evangelical” variety). I readily agree, however, with what is written. I see it.
“It can always be urged against it that it is in its nature arbitrary and in the air. But it is not so high in the air but that great archers spend their whole lives in shooting arrows at it — yes, and their last arrows; there are men who will ruin themselves and ruin their civilization if they may ruin also this old fantastic tale. This is the last and most astounding fact about this faith; that its enemies will use any weapon against it, the swords that cut their own fingers, and the firebrands that burn their own homes.
“Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church. This is no exaggeration; I could fill a book with the instances of it. Mr. Blatchford set out, as an ordinary Bible-smasher, to prove that Adam was guiltless of sin against God; in manoeuvring so as to maintain this he admitted, as a mere side issue, that all the tyrants, from Nero to King Leopold, were guiltless of any sin against humanity…
“We do not admire, we hardly excuse, the fanatic who wrecks this world for love of the other. But what are we to say of the fanatic who wrecks this world out of hatred of the other? He sacrifices the very existence of humanity to the non-existence of God. He offers his victims not to the altar, but merely to assert the idleness of the altar and the emptiness of the throne. He is ready to ruin even that primary ethic by which all things live, for his strange and eternal vengeance upon some one who never lived at all.”
I would not agree with Fr. Steel (or the original author), however, if he believes that to save the catholicity or orthodoxy or validity of this Church Anglican that there can be little allowance for differences of opinion over hot-button issues, resulting in the demand to capitulate to a sectarian certainty (be it Roman Catholic or American-Evangelical, conservative or liberal). That kind of attitude is to attempt to beat into submission Anglicans that do not hold to the same dogmatic certainty demanded by all those standing on the edge of their own cliff, all the while yelling, “give us our own freedom.” It just isn’t Anglican (or maybe it is too Anglican??).