Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Episode 3: The Archbishop of York Strikes Back

As I previously reported,the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, gave an interview in which he suggested that the issues of sexuality now causing great strife within the Anglican Communion were not issues of "core doctrine." this caused great gnashing of teeth among the more orthodox who want to remove the Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. In particular, The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson
President, American Anglican Council and Secretary of the Anglican Communion Network, posted this response in the Church of England Newsletter:

Archbishop of York John Sentamu has been quoted as saying, “…I haven’t found that in Ecusa (sic) or in Canada, where I was recently, they have any doubts in their understanding of God which is very different from anybody. What they have quarrelled about is the nature of sexual ethics.”

John Sentamu hasn’t looked or listened hard enough. The battle, at least in North America, is over core doctrine and belief: who Jesus is and what authority Holy Scripture has. Although in a brief article there is not ample space for a full-length dissertation on the extent of the problem, let some of the North American and especially Episcopal Church leaders speak for themselves.

In an interview with TIME magazine, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori remarked, “We who practice the Christian tradition understand him (Jesus) as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.” When CNN questioned Jefferts Schori about an afterlife, she opined, “What happens after you die? I would ask you that question. But what’s important about your life? What is it that has made you unique individual? What is the passion that has kept you getting up every morning and engaging the world? There are hints within that about what it is that continues after you die.”

Bishop John Bruno, Diocesan of Los Angeles, in my presence and speaking to a church gathering said Jesus was a savior, his savior, but not the only one and other religions had their own way to God. His predecessor, Bishop Frederick Borsch had said much the same thing, also in my presence, cautioning that people in other religions had their own way to God and should not be evangelized with the Christian Gospel.

Bishop John Spong, retired Bishop of Newark remarked, “I would choose to loathe rather than to worship a deity who required the sacrifice of his son.” From Canada, Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster predicted “The next battle will move beyond sexuality to focus on the exclusivity of Christianity and the need to recognize Jesus as a way, but not the only way.” The problem for much of the Episcopal Church leadership is they do not hold an ancient and Anglican view of Jesus Christ.

On the topic of Holy Scripture, the Bishop of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev.Charles Bennison has remarked, “We wrote the Bible and we can rewrite it. We have rewritten the Bible many times.” The Episcopal Diocese of Utah stated, “Judgments about ethics by appeal to the Holy Scriptures alone are foreign to our Anglican traditions, which have always included other sources of authority in their deliberations… There is no single biblical morality…”

Some may wish to say that these voices are isolated instances but not representative of the core leadership of TEC. The remarks here included are from the Presiding Bishop of TEC, a bishop of one of the largest Episcopal dioceses and his predecessor, a retired senior bishop of TEC, a bishop of a major east coast TEC diocese, and a former dean of the officially established TEC seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hardly voices on the margin of TEC, their voices and other leaders who have said similar things have gone unchallenged from the main body of the Episcopal Church. Not only that at General Convention 2006, the House of Deputies refused to consider Resolution D-058 which declared the Episcopal Church’s “unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved,” and which acknowledged evangelism as “the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).”

Well, The Revd. Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the Archbishop of York, responded rather forcefully--and with a great of humor:

Most people who have ever entered into an online debate will be familiar with the concept of Godwin’s Law.

This law – formulated by Mike Godwin in the 1990s – suggests as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler becomes inevitable. This is not to say that the comparison will be right or justified, but rather that at some point the comparison will be made.

A rather similar law feels like it is taking shape in the debates over the future of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

As the discussions grow longer, the probability of a comparison with Bishop John Shelby Spong becomes inevitable. The comparison may be unjustified or incorrect but as debates rage, the invocation of Jack Spong becomes inescapable.

So it is that in his article criticising the Archbishop of York [http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/?p=1960] The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson dabbles in futility by turning to the long retired Spong in proposing a tortuous thesis that Dr. John Sentamu, on the path to the Lambeth Conference of 2008, has fallen in amongst a group of liberal bandits.

In furtherance of this claim, and in addition to Spong, David Anderson turns to another eminence grise called out of the retirement home in the shape of former diocesan Bishop of Los Angeles, Fred Borsch, who is quoted, along with his successor, in an attempt to demonstrate how The Episcopal Church has begun a slow shift away from a belief in the divinity and redeeming nature of Jesus Christ. Anderson’s article goes on to argue that there is a crisis of belief in TEC - not (for once) over sexuality which Anderson suggests elsewhere in his weekly update as no more than a “tertiary issue” [http://diocny.blogspot.com/2007/07/message-from-rev-canon-david-c-anderson.html] – but rather over “core doctrine and belief: who Jesus is and what authority Holy Scripture.”

Anderson’s beef is that there are senior figures in TEC who don’t believe in Jesus and don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Is it really such a radical claim to argue Jack Spong is among them ?

. . .

Canon Anderson’s objection to Dr. Sentamu rests on half of one sentence made in an hour long interview with the Daily Telegraph: ".I haven't found that in ECUSA (sic) or in Canada, where I was recently, they have any doubts in their understanding of God which is very different from anybody. What they have quarrelled about is the nature of sexual ethics."

Anderson’s objections lie not in the consideration of the mainstream of TEC but rather by reference, by and large, to its extremities.

By using such a broad brush to attack the Episcopal Church as a whole, Canon Anderson conveniently whitewashes the testimony daily offered up by all those faithfully reciting the creeds and liturgy that bear evidence to those doctrines which he alleges have been abandoned. The orthodox voice of the multitude is drowned out and ignored in Anderson’s analysis in favour of selective quotation from the fringe.

. . .

This ideological inconsistency between the critics of the Archbishop of York demonstrates that in their rush to say something (anything?) that will place TEC upon the top of a heretical bonfire, Messers. Anderson & Philips cannot even agree amongst themselves upon the importance (or not) of sexual ethics within the current malaise or upon what constitutes core doctrines of faith, belief or the Church. Until such time as they can, perhaps they would be better off refraining from making any comment at all.

Read it all here.

Is it just me, or is the Archbishop and his staff expressly more than mild irritation with the schismatic portion of the Anglican orthodox?

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