Friday, June 4, 2010
Is the PB's Letter Persuasive? Let's See
For the Presiding Bishop's Pastoral Letter to work as a 'rebuke' (as commented on my post below), it needs, I submit, a good argument in its engine room. After all, the ABC commands the centre ground and retains the respect of moderate Anglicans. His letter is centrist and moderate. It does not ask the centre ground to reject or eject TEC, simply to accept that too much difference between TEC and its fellow members of the Communion exists for TEC to be given a full say in crucial faith and order decisions, and in representing the Communion ecumenically. (And, lest we forget, ditto, other moratorium breakers). Why would moderate Anglicans at the centre of the Communion not follow this modest (but significant) lead of the ABC?
Whether the PB realises it as clearly as this or not, the engine room of her letter needs a good argument to turn the ABC's argument around. He is the captain of a decent sized ship (the SS Communion) and has proposed a slight change in course. No need for the crew to mutiny. She is the captain of a tugboat racing alongside the SS Communion, trying to prevent the change in course. What is going on in the engine room of the tugboat?
Some things are happening there which are distractions, in my view, as arguments. They look like auxiliary engines, but they actually contribute no extra horsepower to her main engine. These distractions include her words about past events in church history such as the Synod of Whtiby and the spiritual violence done there in the name of 'uniformity'. I do not think the average Communion minded Anglican wakes up worrying about that. More likely is the thought that it is a jolly good thing that the date of Easter got sorted out for British Christians and their spiritual descendants! Nor is it helpful to talk about 'singular' understandings being imposed with a colonialist critique. On the one hand it is the proper aim of theological discourse to seek to arrive at an agreed understanding, that is, at singularity. On the other hand it is simply impossible for arguments to be received as persuasive outside the United States which critique others in the world for colonialist or imperial proclivities. No, we need to go to the engine room of her letter. I think it is here:
"The baptismal covenant prayed in this Church for more than 30 years calls us to respect the dignity of all other persons and charges us with ongoing labor toward a holy society of justice and peace. That fundamental understanding of Christian vocation underlies our hearing of the Spirit in this context and around these issues of human sexuality."
In my next post I will explain why I think this is the engine room of her argument and why it does not amount to an argument with sufficient persuasive power to change the course of the Communion. The least difficult thing to then show is the fact that, in the end, I think the Presiding Bishop of TEC, ++Katherine Jefferts Schori understands that, and thus her letter, finally, is a recognition that the Communion will move ahead on the course the ABC is charting.