Thursday, January 26th, 2012
Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Churmosqagogue, the Church of England’s Spongian wing, attempts to refute a pro-Anglican Covenant paper, “Anglican Covenant – Bishop’s Council” by Peter Doll(PDF file), Canon Librarian at Norwich Cathedral, and falls flat on his face. Selections follow. The bolded quotes in italics are from that paper. Everything else in bold is Clatworthy’s ludicrously inept and thoroughly mendacious response:
There is more than an element of cultural imperialism in these American attitudes. Ironically, they resonate strongly with the gung-ho combination of domestic isolationism and foreign interventionism of American political life which so many American liberals deplore, and yet they don’t seem to be able to see the parallels here.
As it stands this is a common criticism of American culture. However it loses its force when one remembers which American action is being condemned. The imperialist intervention, in this case, is the refusal to condemn same-sex partnerships. It is difficult to imagine anything less imperialistic, and less interventionist, than the refusal to condemn other people’s lifestyles.
“The refusal to condemn other people’s lifestyles” had and has absolutely nothing to do with the Current Unpleasantness. The fact that one branch of the Communion unilaterally changed Anglican theology without so much as a by-your-leave from the churches with which they claim to be in communion is the crux of the matter and Clatworthy knows it which is why he had to so ineptly change the subject.
The American church is not prepared to accept further consultation or dialogue over this issue nor to wait for the rest of the church to catch up with its own understanding of the place of same-sex relationships in the life of the church. Whatever is acceptable and right in a particular American cultural context must be universally applicable to every other culture and context.
This complaint, though often made, misinterprets the nature of the Anglican Communion in two ways: firstly by describing it as a church when it is in fact a communion of churches, and secondly by presuming that what is decided in one part of this ‘church’ must also apply in the rest of it.
The Episcopal Church (TEC) made no attempt to make its actions ‘universally applicable’ or apply them to ‘every other culture and context’. Its understanding of Anglicanism was (correctly) that other churches, like TEC, were free to make their own decisions. It has no intention to act in an imperialist manner towards other churches, but conversely it does not want to be itself the victim of imperialism by other churches.
Interpreting the American actions as a pan-Anglican change was a mistake by TEC’s opponents, some of whom are uncomfortable with the prospect of a group of churches being in communion with each other while having different policies on some issues. If Doll wishes to resist imperialistic impositions, he should address his complaints not to TEC but to its opponents.
Oh my dear Lord. If Clatworthy actually believes those words, he is a sociopath, a liar or both. It is Clatworthy who has no Earthly conception what Anglicanism means. Or he knows full well what Anglicanism means and so he desperately needed to invent a mythical “Anglicanism” to cover his tracks.
“The Episcopal Church (TEC) made no attempt to make its actions ‘universally applicable’ or apply them to ‘every other culture and context’?” Guess what, Clatworthy. They did too. The Episcopalians knew exactly what they were doing.
Under the rules of the Anglican game, Gene Robinson became an Anglican bishop the moment he received his pointy hat and hooked stick. There was no opt-out clause and the Episcopalians never considered providing one.
If they had, things would have been different. If the Episcopal Organization had declared, “The consecration of Bishop Robinson has no meaning outside the State of New Hampshire. Gene Robinson is the Bishop of New Hampshire and only New Hampshire and will take no part on Communion affairs,” I might still be an Episcopalian today.
But they didn’t and the idea never seems to have occurred to them. TEO expected the rest of the Anglican Communion to roll over, play dead and meekly accept Robbie as an Anglican bishop regardless of what the rest of the Communion thought about it. Thus their shocked surprise when much of the rest of the Communion didn’t accept Robbie at all and began cutting all ties with the Episcopalians.
The fact that then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold signed his name to this statement, went home, consecrated Robbie anyway and started all the trouble completely cuts the ground out from under Clatworthy’s idiotic claims about “imperialism.” By the way, we don’t have “different policies on some issues.” We have mutually-exclusive theologies.
The Episcopalians imposed Gene Robinson on the rest of the Communion, Clatworthy, which really is a “pan-Anglican change” whether you believe it is or not. And when the Episcopalians did that, then under the rules of the Anglican Communion, 2,000 years of Christian teaching were jettisoned without the input of the churches with whom the Episcopalians claimed to share a tradition. That is what actually happened, Clatworthy, not your deliberately hallucinatory version of events.
America is a self-referring cultural power; it does not occur to most Americans to consult others, politically or spiritually, to arrive at an understanding of truth and right.
Again this is a common criticism of American culture. It characterises empires at their height; a hundred years ago the British thought of themselves as the pinnacle of civilization, thereby convincing themselves that the brutalities their troops were inflicting on others would benefit the victims. In this instance, however, the boot is on the other foot. Given that the criticism of Americans is centred on their toleration of same-sex partnerships, any serious attempt to consult others must surely pay close attention to the experiences of gays and lesbians. It is the Americans who have done this, and it is their opponents who exclude the supporters of gays and lesbians from Anglican decision-making bodies.
Once again, Clatworthy evades the question. As difficult as this might be for Clatworthy to accept, the Episcopalians did not consult the rest of the Communion before imposing Gene Robinson. They just established a fact on the ground and essentially told the other Anglican churches around the world to deal with it.
As for this notion about paying “close attention to the experiences of gays and lesbians,” a question. How does Clatworthy know that other Anglican provinces haven’t done it? Perhaps they have and decided that “the experiences of gays and lesbians” does not and should not trump the clear Word of the living God.
The matter is simple. Jonathan Clatworthy and the rest of the Anglican left know that they are obviously right about The Issue and people like me are obviously wrong. Therefore, “consultation” means that we keep talking until people like me realize that.
True consultation, on the other hand, means that both sides must be willing to admit that they might be wrong. I’ve said in this space many times that if the Episcopal left ever provides me with a solid, Scriptural case for consecrating an unrepentant sinner as a bishop, I’ll go back to my former Episcopal church this coming Sunday. But they never have and they never will because they never saw the need to.
What with being right and all.
The great American literary scholar Harold Bloom, a secular Jew, has argued that virtually all Americans, whatever their religious disposition or denominational label, are Gnostics. What does he mean by this? 1) That there is no higher religious authority than the private individual. 2) That every individual can reach religious truth by his or her own efforts. 3) External expressions of formal religion (churches, worship, creeds) are unnecessary, and potentially a harmful block to true spirituality. 4) Any attempt to tell me what to believe is a threat to religious freedom.
However, when Doll appeals to the weaknesses in early Reformation theology he should take care whose side he is on. Today the different Protestant theories have polarised into two opposing camps, usually called ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’. It is those who are opposed to same-sex partnerships who still defend the view that God’s will can be ascertained by individuals reading the Bible, without needing support from other Christians. It is those who accept same-sex partnerships who appeal to new insights arising within Christian communities where believers share their understandings and consciences with each other.
If you have a few minutes, Clatworthy, read the one about Elijah at Mount Carmel.
The Episcopal Church has in practice refused to be bound by communion-wide restrictions. I would argue that if the principles of communion are right, if the Gospel calls us to be subject and accountable to one another, then we must be obedient and patient and trust in the rightness of the outcome under God and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It may mean that we won’t have what we want when we want it.
This text illustrates Doll’s rhetoric at its most inventive. The ‘communion-wide restrictions’ which TEC refuses to be bound by do not as yet exist: the Anglican Covenant would create them for the first time. To say that ‘we must be obedient and patient and trust in the rightness of the outcome’ means no more than ‘we must accept the Anglican Covenant’, and ‘through the guidance of the Holy Spirit’ means, of course, ‘through the guidance of the Anglican Covenant’. This text is an excellent example of the rhetoric oppressors use to persuade the oppressed that they have a moral duty to accept their fate. When we notice that the repeated word ‘we’ in the last sentence really means ‘gays and lesbians and their supporters’, the argument loses its devotional aura; instead it is revealed as just a way of telling people to do as they are told.
Body of work. The Episcopalians treated the Windsor Report and the various primates communiqués as so much toilet paper. As for the rest of that paragraph, Clatworthy, which, once again, has absolutely nothing to do with what Canon Doll wrote, you could feed a very large herd of cattle for a year on all those straw men of yours.
Bottom line, Clatworthy. The Anglican Covenant is a weak, flawed and probably useless attempt to declare that for the first time in their 500-year history, Anglican Christians actually believe something. Not everything.