Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Who says?

++Robin Eames is presently speaking at Virginia Seminary on the 'reality of communion' and will have two or three more lectures following this one. There is the recurring question at the end of this lecture that IS the question that continues to come back to all of us again and again. At the closing of the lecture, ++Eames leaves the hearers with these questions:
As far back as 1920 the Lambeth Conference concluded:

"The Churches represented in (the Communion) are indeed independent, but independent with the Christian freedom which recognises the restraints of truth and love. They are not free to deny the truth. They are not free to ignore the fellowship."(1)

The Windsor Report(2) took this question and commented:

"This means that any development needs to be explored for its resonance with the truth, and with the utmost charity on the part of all – charity that grants that a new thing can be offered humbly and with integrity, and charity that might refrain from an action which might harm a sister or brother."

Since the publication of Windsor I have personally given much thought to what all this means for the meaning of 'bonds of affection'. In the course of that consideration I have found myself returning to the whole question of limits to diversity. Are there essentials on which there must be universal acceptance if Provinces are to be in complete communion? Are there issues which diversity protects, on which there can be disagreements, but which are not essential to full communion? If there are to be different levels of essentials or non-essentials in this sense – who decides into which category any action by an individual Church should fall?
Who decides? That's the ultimate question that continues to come back and scream in all of our ears when dealing with all sorts of differences. There are indeed times that individuals decide on issues that are indifferent as we see in Paul's letters to the Romans in the fourteenth chapter. But, concerning the "restraints of truth," who decides? Who decides what is true? The issue of authority is the ISSUE and will always be the issue since it is pride that is the most destructive sin in any and all relationships. The sin of pride affects all of us and is deeply rooted in the depths of the ugly side of humanity. All sorts of questions about the nature and attitude of submission come to my mind when I read stuff like ++Eames' lecture. What does it mean to submit to authority and what attitude does submission display when asked to submit to God or those whom God has given authority? Leave your comments.


Blogger Karen B. said...

Jeff, you've asked the $64,000 question, of course.

When you ask about the nature and attitude of submission, I instantly think of Philippians 2 --

Phil 2:3-8
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

Rereading the Rowan Williams' letter to the Primates from July 2003 yesterday, (before ECUSA's General Convention) I was struck by this section:

But what does it mean to be a Communion rather than a federation? It means that provinces recognise each other as true churches of Christ, so that the apostolic ministry of one local church can be exercised freely in another local church. It means that we have ways of being accountable to each other, so that decisions in any one local church are not taken without consultation and awareness of the consequences a decision may have for other churches.

ECUSA chose not to care about others' interests. They put self-interest above unity. ECUSA's actions seem the epitome of selfish ambition and vain conceit: showing the rest of the world how "enlightened" we are. Declaring that we alone have special revelation ("God is doing a new thing" and we are the only ones who understand it...)


7:22 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...


Thank you for your comments they are always very encouraging and helpful. I too see all of this as tragic for our Communion and I have no idea how they will answer that question but it has to be answered doesn't it? We'll see. I think there is an attitude to submission that Paul defines as a joyful submission. That means we don't submit begrudgingly or complaining about it the whole time. I don't think that is what the Apostle intended. That does not mean we must sin in our submissions either. Christian conscience is very important and we need to protect that with TRUTH. What I think lacks integrity and truth is to place some sort of stigma on those who disagree and find the happenings in the Church to be without merit as the unloving ones in the bunch. That simply does not meet the mark and when you do not have a debate to counter a challenge ad hominem becomes the tactic. G.K. Chesterton was correct, "We quarrel because we do not know how to argue." Thanks for coming by and commenting.

7:40 pm  

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