Tonight I read the Bishops With Law Degrees Statement.
I had thought about doing a somewhat serious analysis of the thing, but then I couldn’t get past this statement from the first page:
“We do not want the Anglican Communion to become defined by juridical ecclesiology.”
Golly. Has anyone told David Booth Beers? In fact, they go on to do just that. This document is all about “juridical ecclesiology.”
I did try, though, to take notes, write things in the margin, but could not get this from the first page out of my mind:
“Our legal training and experience drives home this analytical axiom: the most important factor in any scrutiny is the correct identification and definition of the issues, together with – and this weighs just as heavily – the elimination of wrong, irrelevant, or improperly formulated issues. If the issues are identified and defined correctly, then all else can and should follow to the proper result. If they are not, a waste of effort, time, resources, and an unfortunate result will follow. Sometimes, even with the finest of goals and intentions, the result can be a disaster for justice and order. We believe that the issues that have been held up as the cause of the crisis within the Anglican Communion have been incorrectly identified. This statement is an effort to redefine the issues, and to begin a more respectful, non-polemical, conversation among faithful Anglicans who disagree over matters of grave importance and passionate concern.
The North American Churches are told that the conflict is over misbehavior: that there is an attempt to change traditional Anglican doctrines regarding human sexuality and the authority of scripture, and that these Provinces are acting by themselves without appropriate consultation with, and respect for, the Communion, therefore forcing the majority of the Provinces to take preventive, even disciplinary, action. That is not, in our opinion, a clear or definitive identification of what is going on, or of what is at stake.”
That basically sums up the entire document – they want to “redefine the issues,” to suit their own purposes,just as they “redefine” the scriptures and revelation to justify the actions of the Episcopal Church and everyone who disagree with them are idiots. There is no remorse, no regret, no nothing for nearly a hundred pages. The entire document is an brazen (and not very well written) attempt to justify how Fundamentally Right the Episcopal Church Is And How Definitely Wrong You Are If You Don’t See Things Their Way, Dr. Williams. The Snob-o-Meter is off the scale as you read this “statement.” I kid you not. And by the way, please don’t show it to any Roman Catholics or Baptists either – it won’t be pretty. Their air of superiority is ghastly. Not only are American Episcopalians superior, they are, in fact, Superior Anglicans, Enlightened and Educated As They Are. Didn’t you know?
The Statement is filled to the brim with strawmen wrapped up in sweeping generalities that assume that, since they are so learned and obviously you are not, they rule the day for their enlightened institutionalism and redefined juridical ecclesiology. There is so much straw in this thing we think there’s enough to stuff a Scarecrow. Or two.
If they only had a heart.
Read it for yourself. As you do, we present the Song of The Day (by request):
And the Old Ogden’s Fire Whiskey is on the house tonight. You are going to need it by the time you are done.
Dr. Leander Harding has written – in record time – a very good and insightful analysis of the statement here.
Another interesting read comes from Bishop William Wantland (Ret.) who answered Sarah Hey call and wrote this. Read this whole thing – thanks, Sarah! Also, read Ephraim Radner’ comments at StandFirm (but the pointer to both comments is found at TitusOneNine) here.
SUNDAY AM: Brad Drell has written an excellent paper on the Bishops With Law Degrees Statement. The whole thing is a must-read, not only in addressing the fatal flaws of the statement, but also as a warning of other issues it raises outside of the statement, including the rise of clericalism. Here’s an excerpt:
One other interesting thought in the paper that is on the lips of just about everyone defending the actions of the Episcopal Church, and that is the younger people are going to demand the theological innovations happening now from the Episcopal Church. The problem is that younger people, including my generation, really aren’t coming the church much. The Episcopal Church is shrinking; denominations that are far more traditional in theology and on issue such as sexuality are far more in demand. More importantly, it has been Baby-Boomers and the generation immediately before them that have been demanding changes regarding women’s ordination and sexuality. Moreover, the idea that the Episcopal Church is becoming more baptismal in its ecclesiology rings hollow when the issues have surrounded who gets to wear a purple shirt or a collar. Clericalism continues to dominate the Episcopal Church and its ministry. Further, clericalism was one of the issues the confronted the retired Bishop of New Jersey and was one of the problems that led to his resignation. I suppose it is of no surprise that he does not see the issue as applicable or problematic to his postition, and the paper later claims that alternative Episcopal oversight and border crossing eat away at the Episcopacy as a symbol of unity and cites clericalism as one of our presenting issues standing in the way of Baptismal ecclesiology which, for Doss, centers to a large extent on who gets to be a cleric. However, during the struggles of the early church, border crossings were precisely how doctrinal disagreements were handled and ultimately resolved, which allowed competing theologies to preach their message, and, ultimately, one would win out. I suppose I can’t really fault the good Bishop for arguing for the value of purple shirts, since he has one. However, Baptismal ecclesiology has to center on empowering the laity for ministry including added responsibilities for governance by the laity; otherwise, it is merely a shift in power from one party to another but is otherwise clericalism, just as Nazism and Communism otherwise fit into the Orwellian Oligarchical Collectivism of the novel 1984. People can claim that there are different ideals at play, but as to the people living and working under these systems, there is no difference.
The paper does recognize the un-Christian attitude of western churches to those of the global south, yet does not propose to do anything about it but continuing dialogue. While the paper preaches humility to the West, it doesn’t ask the West to do anything about it. The next part of the paper expresses great dismay at submitting to authority to be given the Primates Meeting in the proposed Covenant but provides no alternatives for mutual accountability among the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Largely, the paper argues for a lack of accountability because it suits allowing TEC to do what it wishes, rather than any inherent overall good.
Read the whole thing here.