Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back on Oahu and Reflections on Current Events

Just got back from a week on Maui, capped off by a truly amazing performance of Ulalena at the Maui Theatre. Ulalena is a live-action theatrical presentation of the mythical creation story of Maui through the immigration of people from Tahiti, forced immigration of Chinese and Japanese people to work in the sugar cane fields, and the emergence of European influence on the islands. As I watched the show, I was reminded that the interaction of native people with European explorers, missionaries, and others has often had a less than positive result, to say the least. It is interesting to be a tourist and to see so much native culture on display, often at "touristy" events (luaus, etc...) On the plus side, the Hawaiian culture seems to have permeated the general culture of the Hawaiian islands much more than Native American culture has permeated the culture of the mainland. Unlike mainlanders, it is nearly impossible for residents of Hawaii to ignore native culture. The fact that such native culture is part and parcel of the tourist industry is perhaps a mixed blessing.

On a somewhat different topic, the "fun" continues with Fr. David Anderson reacting to the following quote from the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu:
…I haven’t found that in Ecusa (sic) or in Canada, where I was recently, they have any doubts in their understanding of God which is very different from anybody. What they have quarrelled about is the nature of sexual ethics.
Fr. Anderson's response is that Dr. Sentamu just hasn't been looking hard enough. Citing Bishops Jefferts Schori (Presiding), Spong (Newark, retired), Bruno (Los Angeles), Bennison (Pennsylvania), and Borsch (Los Angeles, retired) he says that the real battle is over core doctrines, not sexuality.

The Diocese of York published a response a couple of days later, which essentially says that such citations are from the fringe of the Episcopal Church, not its center, and restates the Archbishop of York's orthodox credentials.

I would certainly agree with Fr. Anderson that there are several instances in which The Episcopal Church (TEC) has refused to discipline those who actively refute core doctrines of the Christian faith (Bishop Spong) and that many, many congregations practice "open communion" in violation of the canons. However, the Diocese of York's response is good, particularly the following:
By using such a broad brush to attack the Episcopal Church as a whole, Canon Anderson conveniently whitewashes the testimony daily offered up by all those faithfully reciting the creeds and liturgy that bear evidence to those doctrines which he alleges have been abandoned. The orthodox voice of the multitude is drowned out and ignored in Anderson’s analysis in favour of selective quotation from the fringe.
I have several difficulties with this entire argument. The first is that we have not, to my knowledge, had a prolonged and exhaustive discussion of the core doctrines of Christianity, nor do I believe that there has been a wholesale abandonment of such doctrines by significant portions of the Episcopal Church. I simply haven't seen that. Second, as much as folks talk about how sexuality isn't the real issue, it appears to be the pressing issue of the day. Archbishop Akinola is not debating the doctrines of the Incarnation, Resurrection, etc... with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori or other bishops in the Episcopal Church, he is focusing on the issue of homosexuality. If that is not the issue, then why does it keep coming up? Last, why does Fr. Anderson simply quote a string of bishops? I know many, many priests and laity who are far more theologically grounded than many bishops (I was taught at Virginia Seminary by some of them). In simply rattling off a string of quotes from bishops, even prominent ones, Fr. Anderson seems to fall into the trap of thinking (or asking the wider Anglican Communion to think) that TEC is run and controlled exclusively by bishops.

As I look at the wrangling currently at work, I find myself reflecting on the Episcopal Church and our core Anglican identity and liturgy. My stint at the Church Development Institute in Seattle earlier in my Sabbatical has given me a new respect and appreciation for that identity and liturgy. As I also read Diana Butler Bass' book Christianity for the Rest of Us, I am struck by the rush to claim the Anglican moniker. As institutions and denominations matter less and less in many congregations, liturgical and theological heritage becomes increasingly more important. Perhaps rather than wrestling and wrangling about who gets to stick a shield or a compass-rose on their sign, we might more profitably go more deeply into what uniquely makes us Anglicans and do so on a congregation by congregation basis. Perhaps in knowing and valuing our own identity, we might more easily claim that identity.

No comments: