Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year's Message

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has released a New Year's message in both text and video formats.

Techno-amateur I am, I don't know how to embed the YouTube video here, but it is at the bottom of the text page.

I particularly like the emphasis on God's faithfulness in relationships.

Perhaps that is why his Church has always viewed schism as a bad thing.


theiconoclast said...

It is surely one of the wonderful attributes of our God that He is faithful in his relationship to us. I might add, however, in an oblique reference to the question of schism, that hand-in-hand with this faithfulness in relationship goes His faithfulness in His promises...and His expectations of us. Revisionism is always something to be approached with caution and never more than when that revisionism is directed towards sacred text. Having said this, it is also true that interpretation has been with us from the beginning and not because of failings in the interpreters peculiar to them. On the contrary, few of us could stand comparison with them in terms of commitment, honesty, humility, or any number of other virtues. No, the need for interpretation is the inevitable result of the differences amongst Christians, historical and otherwise. Nevertheless, if God if faithful then there is a universal core to the Word that transcends interpretation. When what we consider to be that core becomes so general and so diluted that the difference between Christianity and Buddism (or whatever) becomes little more than a choice between chocolate or vanilla, then I think we have gone off the strait way and are in grave danger of missing the narrow gate.

Malcolm+ said...

"When what we consider to be that core becomes so general and so diluted that the difference between Christianity and Buddism (or whatever) becomes little more than a choice between chocolate or vanilla . . ."

I'm not sure exactly where you're coming from, but this reads much like the accusations one finds on some of the more toxic sites of the "conservative" Anglican blogosphere.

Those accusations are based in the assumption that, if one does not agree with their particular view of scripture, then one does not believe in scripture at all. Likewise, if one does not agree with their particular interpretation of what is credal, then one is denying the whole of the creeds.

The Church throughout the ages has interpreted scripture. And from time to time, the Church's interpretation has changed - as we have seen with issues as diverse as slavery and usury.

That the Church has amended her view on these issues is no proof that the Church would be correct to amend her view of the present issue. But it is proof that revision of interpretation is legitimate of itself.

theiconoclast said...

Extract a sentence,---and an incomplete one at that---from a statement and it is amazing how 'toxic' one can make it sound! Perhaps the writer is so accustomed to fending-off attacks from his beloved 'conservatives' that he jumps too swiftly to the attack himself. The point is simply that when engaging in re-interpretation, one must be careful that while the form is brought up-to-date, the content, remains the same; that none of the content, the core, is lost. After all, God is unchanging---faithful---throughout all eternity. Scripture was written in a socio- historical context which obviously gives it a form that will not be entirely applicable today and therefore,calls for interpretation. Indeed, even when Christ walked, we are told His words required interpretation and sometimes this was not so easily accomplished, even by those closest to Him. However, to suppose that we, the living, possess a unique and superior insight into the Lord's Will that allows us to ignore whatever traditional understandings happen to be inconvenient shows more hubris than wisdom.

Malcolm+ said...

As I had said, I wasn't sure where you were coming from. I didn't intend to accuse you of toxicity. I apologize for not being clear about that.

I agree with you that "when engaging in re-interpretation, . . . that none of the content, the core, is lost." I thik a reliably Anglican view of the Reformation would suggest that, in conducting their more radical reforms, the continental Protestants had "thrown out the baby with the bath water," while the more cautious reforms in England had tried to preserve the best of what Rome had bequeathed.

In terms of the present issue, the common liberal argument from slavery and usury shows that the Church has the capacity to reinterpret the teaching on sexuality - but it does not prove that the Church should necessarily do so, or that the proposed new interpretation is correct.

Many of us on the liberal side of the current argument are, at some fundamental level, very conservative in our approach to issues. The tradition of the Church must be taken seriously. The traditional interpretations of scripture must be taken seriously.

Like many moderate liberals, I think the American Church acted imprudently and precipitously. If I might riff off St. Paul, even if what they did was lawful, it was not helpful.

That said, I'm not sure that it would have made any difference. Assorted "conservative" American bishops had stopped attending House of Bishop's meetings years before Gene Robinson's name ever appeared on an episcoapl election ballot. The framework of schism was already being set in train. Sleeping arrangements at the Bishop of New Hampshire's house were less a cause than a wedge.

Anyway, back to the substance - indeed, that which has gone before should never lightly be set aside. Although the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth - including some new apprehensions of truth - it does not follow that every impetus is Spirit driven.

On this, we are agreed.