Saturday, December 1, 2007

+Gregory Argentina and All Canada

Over the past few days, we've seen further schismatical actions and pronouncements from the "conservative" presiding bishop of the Southern Come of America, who now apparently fancies himself the Primate of All Canada as well.

My Lord of Argentina has issued a pastoral letter including a series of specific responses to the real Primate of All Canada and the real Metropolitans of the several Canadian ecclesiastical provinces. An astounding degree of revisionism, really.

The pastoral letter is just the same old angry cant. It includes a few real howlers. For example:
Christianity is specific, definable and unchanging. We are not at liberty to deconstruct or rewrite it.
Curiously, My Lord of Argentina assumes that the only authentic understanding of Christianity is one which is, in every detail, precisely the same as his. The prospect that his human perception may be less than exact is not to be considered.

The fact that the Church, over the preceding two millenia, has reinterpreted her understanding of slavery, of usury, of divorce, of any number of issues is irrelevant to the English Prelate in Buenos Aries.

The simple reality that some number of Anglicans in Canada disagree with him on one issue is justification for what is clearly and unequivocally an act of schism.
[I]t is not schism.
Of course, in the Orwellian language of the "conservatives," nothing they do could possibly be wrong. They are justified in any outrage because they claim to be right. Just as the Puritans were right when they beheaded Archbishop Laud, no doubt.

The pseudo-Argentine prelate himself offers us a reasonable definition of schism:

Schism is a sinful parting over secondary issues.
Yet somehow the sleeping arrangements at the episcopal residence in New Hampshire have become the primary issue in a Christendom. This issue, on which our Lord said precisely nothing, on which there are only a handful of references in scripture, all of them ambiguous, is suddenly the core issue over which Anglican Christianity must be rent asunder.

Ah, but the revisionism (or, to use the proper theological term, lies) continue.

If Jesus was the Son of God yesterday then so He is today and will be forever.
Problem is, Greg old pal, that the Canadian Church has never denied this. You and your schismatical allies repeat this canard over and over and over again. That does not make it true. It makes you liars.
One of the ironies of it all is that the closing comments from Venables purport to write off the considered and moderate pastoral letter from the Primate and Metropolitans of Canada.

This pastoral letter is a much different thing. For one, it doesn't tell lies about what other people believe.

But it is interesting to consider who these five signatories are.

  • Two of them (Primate Hiltz, Lawrence of Moosonee and Ontario) are generally seen as moderate liberals on "the" issue.
  • One of them (Stavert of Quebec and Canada) participated in the controversial consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, which I guess would make him a liberal.
  • One of them (Clarke of Athabasca and Rupert's Land) is generally seen as a moderate conservative.
  • One of them (Buckle of Yukon and British Columbia and Yukon) is seen as a hard line conservative, and indeed was part of the controversy early on when he offered to take on pastoral oversight of dissenting congregations in the diocese of New Westminster.
Inevitably the schismatical foreign prelates will lie, as they always have. They will pretend that the Canadian Church is a monochromatic juggernaut of heresy from which "conservatives" must be protected. This is the same lie they tell about the United States. This is merely an expansion of the same hate-fueled strategy. The US and Canada. Doubtless the Church of England is next.

Conservatives in the Canadian Church are just fine, without any dubious "help" from ambitious foreign prelates from the Southern Cone or elsewhere. Otherwise, why would the conservative Metropolitan of Rupert's Land and the very conservative Metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon have happily signed off on a letter telling Venables et al to mind their own business?


Anonymous said...

Hello Malcolm.

Joseph pointed me your way, so I thought I'd come for a look-see.

What should I say? As I am one of your lying schismatic extremist types, I guess I do not expect much in the way of a friendly response, but I've been known to masochistically drop the odd comment on 'liberal' blogs from time to time.

From my perspective, the time for talking on the Current Unpleasantness is past. As you quite adequately demonstrate, there is no love lost here. What I would like to see is whether a seperation could be amicable, or whether we will go through a messy divorce. What do you think? I would prefer the former, but suspect the latter.

On Abp Buckle, you are quite right, there is a difference in approach between 'Federation' and 'Network' minded folks. However, I wouldn't be mislead that Abp Buckle does not see another side to this - as the comment here shows:



Malcolm+ said...

I see a world of difference between honest dissent and disagreement on the one hand and self-righteous adventurism on the other. And likewise, I see a world of difference between saying, on the one hand, "my friend there believes xyz and I believe my friend is wrong," and on the other distorting, misrepresenting and, yes, lying about what the "other side" has said.

Presiding Bishop Venables has clearly and unambiguously done the latter.

You are quite right that Abp Buckle is no liberals, and possibly not even a moderate in his conservatism. The fact that he was prepared to sign this without cavil is itself proof positive of the bankruptcy of Venables attempted invasion.

As to separation, amicable or otherwise, it is well established that individuals may sever their relationship to the institution. Constituent parts of the institution may not.

Anonymous said...

Malcolm, which "same hate-fueled strategy" would you be referring to?

You speak rashly of matters you do not understand.

"Curiously, My Lord of Argentina assumes that the only authentic understanding of Christianity is one which is, in every detail, precisely the same as his. The prospect that his human perception may be less than exact is not to be considered."

Would you care to support this charge with actual evidence?

The Sheepcat(For some reason I haven't been able to log in, despite several attempts, but this is who I am.)

Amie said...

To a large extent, we all speak of matters we don't understand.

For instance, a common statement thrown at me (a "liberal" due to the fact that I wholeheartedly support full inclusion) is that I don't base my faith and understandings on the scripture. If someone were to make the same claim about me to my congregation, which is fairly traditional theologically, they would probably disagree. I know that I disagree because my support comes after 20 years of bible study, meditation/prayer, and questioning. And in most ways that count (ie. I can say the creeds without crossing my fingers, I believe in the Incarnation, I celebrate God as creator etc.) I am "traditional" in my understandings albeit sometimes a little of the wall in my expressions of it.

We all speak rashly of matters we don't understand based on sterotypes and preconceptions. We don't dwelve underneath to truly understand where it is the "other" is coming from because that is too threatening to our own understandings.

The same is as true for Presiding Bishop Venebles as it is for me and for those who judge me non-Christian. He makes statements and judgements without fully understanding. That is one of the reasons why a number of us take exception to his statements recently issued regarding the Anglican Church of Canada.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Malcolm+ said...

I pondered my response to Peter, and while I don't dispute anything I said there, I did miss one important thing.

Peter, I have no wish to be "out of communion" with you, with Venables, with Akinola, nor even with "The Sheepcat" (whoever he might be).

That's the thing. The conservatives and the "conservatives" can certainly go if they feel they must, but I'm not asking them to go. Neither are most of the rest of the liberals or the "liberals."

I do take umbrage when some of the "conservatives" tell lies about me - that I don't take scripture seriously, that I am non-Trinitarian, that I'm some sort of pantheist, etc.

That doesn't mean I want the accusers to leave communion. I just want them to stop lying about me.

Let us dispute this issue passionately and even angrily. But let us do so with a scintilla of integrity. Not every liberal or "liberal" is John Shelby Spong - and as importantly, not every conservative or "conservative" is Peter Akinola. And frankly, if either John Shelby Spong or Peter Akinola want to worship God without doing physical or emotional violence to the people they disagree with, then I'm quite happy to worship with either of them - or better yet with both of them.

As to brother (sister?) Sheepcat, I will point to a series of lies and distortions from a handful of leading "conservatives," including Venables's implications that Canadian Anglicans and our heirarchy do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Sorry brother (sister?), but I must call that what it is - a lie. Talki about "speaking rashly of matters you don't understand."

I must admit, your fall back to that sort of silliness does point to a certain vacuousness. According to much of the "conservative" leadership, those who disagree with them are easily sorted into two categories, the evil and the stupid. I suppose I should take comfort that Sheepcat considers me merely stupid. (See Anne Marie's blog for more on this issue.)

Sheepcat, I think you are wrong on the issue. I have no reason (so far anyway) to consider you either evil nor stupid. I just think you're wrong. (I also think you're a bit rude, but then I am likewise afflicted by that.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your civil response.

I thought that linking to my home page would be sufficient introduction to anyone who was curious about my identity, but perhaps I took too much for granted about the ways of the blogosphere. We are indeed brothers: I am a forty-something single man, formerly committed to gay activism and now living in obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church as closely as I can manage. By the grace of God, it is coming up to eight years since I last had sex with anyone.

You tell me, Malcolm, that you think I am wrong on the issue. In my comment, I made but one assertion, namely that you speak rashly about matters you do not understand. That I stand by.

You repeat the charge that Venables has lied about you. I honestly don't know where he or his associates have said you are non-Trinitarian. Perhaps you allude to the point in his letter where he says, "If Jesus was the Son of God yesterday then so He is today and will be forever.

"This is about the foundational certainty of our very existence and is not something we can amend to suit our circumstances or personal opinions and preferences."

To this, I would like to think you would simply say Amen in the face of manifest other differences rather than perceive it as an accusation. But perhaps you refer to something else.

What I probed about, and so far have not seen a direct explanation of, was your allegation that the only authentic Christianity in his view is one that is identical to his. Catholics certainly differ from him in a number of significant beliefs; does this mean we are not authentically Christian? How on earth do you presume to know what he considers about the limits of his own perception?

I know that my own perceptions are fallible; but that does not mean that I can know nothing with certainty.

In my day, I denounced many a conservative Christian for being hateful towards gay people. I now know some Christians who are intemperate and insensitive on the issue, but hateful ...? This was a hard thing for me to understand, that most Christians' intransigence (as I saw it) on the gay issue was motivated by genuine concern for me and my eternal salvation. That's not hatred, it's tough love.

Sleeping arrangements, as you put it, have historically been a matter of some importance, as the example of John the Baptist shows. And while our Lord is not recorded in the Bible as saying anything about The Issue, neither did he say anything per se about rape or carpet bombing. He did say he came not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it. He did say a man will leave his father and mother to be united with his wife and they will become one flesh. As for reinterpretation of Christ's clear teaching on divorce, the parallel with the reinterpretation you urge may pose a tricky problem for conservative members of some Protestant denominations that have bowed to worldly pressures, but it cuts no ice in Rome.

Finally, I don't think it's terribly helpful to think of people as evil. We all have our failings, sometimes minor and sometimes grave. But your words, to be frank, in fact I thought were evil.

I did not, however, intend to suggest that you were stupid. For any offence taken on that score, I ask your pardon.

The Sheepcat

Malcolm+ said...

Civility isn't always the easiest thing to manage.

The blogosphere, or the 'net generally, can be a difficult place to have a civil conversation because of the tendency to lose a great deal of nuance in the points being made.

The "conservative" tactic throughout this controversy has been to paint a wild caricature of those who believe there is room for the Church to re-examine the issue of same sex relationships. We, collectively and individually, have bee accused of pluralism, of denigrating or ignoring scripture, of rejecting the doctrines of both Trinity and Incarnation. The cases of some troubled or confused individuals (the priest who became a Hindu but had never told his bishop, or the priest who became a Muslim who was subsequently put on leave by her bishop) are offered up as a false depiction of the norm among liberal church folk.

The implication of Venable's sentence ("If Jesus was the Son of God yesterday then so He is today and will be forever") is not the least ambiguous. He is charging the lot of us who don't agree with him on sexuality issues of rejecting the doctrine of the Incarnation.

Well, I haven't. The Anglican Church of Canada certainly hasn't. The Episcopal Church certainly hasn't. And I have no evidence that any of the bishops of New Westminster, Niagara, Ottawa, Montreal or New Hampshire have either.

It is a canard. A false charge. A slander. While it's consequences may be less severe, it is the moral equivalent of either the Nag's Head fable or the anti-semitic blood libel.

As a narrative, it is very convenient for those, like my Lord of Argentina, who seek to use the current dispute as a wedge issue to expand their own power. It is, nonetheless, a complete fabrication - a lie.

You may note in a subsequent blog post I explain my distinction between conservatives and "conservatives." It is worth noting that many conservatives have taken to distancing themselves from Venables, Akinola et al. Conservatives like Ephraim Radner and Terry Buckle, for example.

Some "conservatives" have, indeed, offered up harsh and hateful approaches on sexuality issues. The number of slanders against Gene Robinson are worth noting. Likewise the death threats prior to his consecration.

Similarly, Akinola's support for legislation in Nigeria which can only be described as draconian and, yes, as evil. Homosexual acts are already criminal offences in Nigeria. The proposed legislation would have made it illegal for a person in Nigeria to advocate against the criminalization of homosexuals.

You make a point regarding the different teachings on divorse and remarriage. Rome (for all that I may find her unattractive) has at least operated with some consistency here. Thing is, the "conservative" realignment crowd have not. They claim that their interpretation of the bible regarding homosexuality is immutable. Yet many accept revised interpretations on issues such as divorce and the ordination of women. And those who hew to a more consistent traditional view are quite prepared to wink at their revisionist allies, so long as they are consistent on this one score.

There is intellectual bankrupcy here. My Lord of Pittsburgh accepts that scripture can be reinterpreted on divorce and the ordination of women but denounces anyone who says the same might be true for gay relationships. My Lord of Fort Worth, who holds a more consistent view, demands an end to commiunion over the one issue while pretending that the other two don't matter quite so much as he once said they did.

By what measure do we argue that this one issue is so uniquely significant?

At the end of the day, I don't think it's really about sex at all. I think it's about power, as such disputes usually are.

Karl Rove, who apparently doesn't give a hang about sexuality issues himself, has found that gays are a useful villain. Fearmongering about "the gay agenda" is useful to sustain the electoral dominance of the Republican Party.

Greg of Argentina and Peter of Nigeria have merely taken a page from his book.

Anonymous said...

Again, Malcolm, thank you. (I'm late in responding as I've been away from the computer.)

I share some of your concern over how many Christian communities have (to put it no more strongly) defended certain elements of Christian tradition with much less vigour than has been the case for the prohibition against homosexual acts.

By no means do I consider this one issue of homosexuality uniquely significant.

That said, I repeat that I have not yet seen an explanation of your allegation that the only authentic Christianity in Venables's view is one that is identical to his.

Malcolm+ said...

The entire case for Dr. Venables actions is the argument that the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church in Canada are not authentically Christian - and they are not authentically Christian because we disagree with him on this one issue.

It is the language of his "pastoral" cruise missile - er, letter - which claims that his actions are necessary to defend the proposition that Jesus is the Son of God. Not that we're wrong on gays, but that Jesus is the Son of God. Since Jesus being the Son of God is a pretty basic thing in authentic Christianity . . .

Venables et al are arguing that because we disagree with him on gays, we therefore do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

The entire line of argument from the "conservatives" (as distinct from the conservatives) is that those who do accept gay unions, or who would even be open to the prospect, thereby reject every clause of every conciliar creed. They aren't arguing that we're wrong. They're arguing that we do not believe in Christ because we do not agree with them.