Tuesday, February 5, 2008


By definition, extremists are extreme.

By nature, they are intolerant and unforgiving.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the newly installed soviets were as anxious to root out the mensheviks as they were to nab the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats. During the internecine religious wars in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, various shades of reformers spent as much time condemning each other as they did condemning the failings and abuses of Rome.

Today, we see vast swathes of conservative pundits condemning John McCain for being insufficiently conservative, and we see the US National Organization of Women accusing progressives of "betrayal" if they choose Obama over Clinton. (To date, we have largely been spared the accusation of racism against progressives who choose the opposite - but it's still a long way 'til the conventions.)

Over the past few weeks, we have seen the same tendency amongst our own Anglican extremists.

On December 26, the "conservative" element, led by +Akinola of Nigeria and +Jenson of Sydney announced the "Global Anglican Future Conference," to be held in Jerusalem a few weeks prior to Lambeth. For the purposes of this post, we can leave aside the issue of whether or not GAFCON (no, really, that's their own acronym) is part of a deliberate scheme to undermine the Archbishop of Canterbury, invalidate Lambeth and finalize the destruction of the Anglican Communion as we know it.

Since that announcement, a number of conservatives have been critical of the GAFCON initiative for a variety of reasons. Three of the most notable have been Bishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem; Dr. Michael Poon, a theologian much involved in the Global South Anglican movement; and Bishop Tom Wright of Durham in the Church of England.

As a result, all three of these conservative leaders have been pilloried on the "conservative" Anglican blogosphere.

  • Tom Wright has been accused of racism.

  • Dr. Poon received a pi$$y letter from "a Global South primate" telling he had no business asking questions and, when he revealed this online, was accused of lying.

  • Bishop Dawani, whose principal concern seemed to be that holding the Conference in his diocese would create a number of serious religious problems, was written off as an irrelevance - and then accused of objecting only because of financial support his diocese had received from the Episcopal Church in the US.

So, Bishop Tom Wright is a racist, Dr. Michael Poon is a liar and Bishop Suheil Dawani has been bought.

The "conservatives" have served up as much vitriol against these three people - who actually AGREE with them on the underlying issue - as they usually reserve for New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson and US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The underlying pathology here, it seems to me, is absolutism. If one does not toe the line absolutely, if one does not submit to every shibboleth, if one does not follow orders without question, then one is surely an enemy. It takes "who is not with me is against me" to an absurd level.

At a certain level, I am coming to thankful for who has emerged as the leadership of the "conservative" faction. If they aren't bright enough to realize that turning on their friends makes them weaker, not stronger, then they aren't bright enough to destroy the Anglican Communion.


Country Parson said...

You began your thoughts with a recollection that times of and revolution reveal every crack, open up every wound, and give opportunity to every extreme clique. The Church is now in such a time, and as I reflect on it, I think it began in the late 19th century and has recently come to it's climactic moment. We certainly have enough virtual theses nailed to virtual church doors. I wonder how it will turn out? What will the historians say. What kind of plays will be written and who will be the heroes and villains? I've got my own ideas about that.

Country Parson said...

I hate making mistakes. My first sentence was supposed to say, ...times of reformation and revolution...