Thursday, October 12, 2006

No Safe Place: “Interpretation” and Trust (and the Archbishop of Wales)

Being at the mercy of people you cannot trust is no safe place to be.

Those who “interpret” everything to get their way regardless of the clear meaning of what is being “interpreted” cannot be trusted.

Those two statements cover a lot of ground. But in the interests of keeping this post short and readable, let’s take those as given. (Those who disagree are welcome to say so. Comments are welcome and desired, especially in this “No Safe Place” series.)

Liberal church authorities have time and time again shown themselves to be people who “interpret” not only scripture, but church constitutions, directives, and more to their own ends. I put “interpret” in quotes, because it’s really twisting or even ignoring.

It’s like an erstwhile teenage son. Dad tells him he has permission to drive the second car only to school and back. But Dad later notices the odometer on the said car has gone up 2000 miles in 10 days. He confronts the son, who then says, “You didn’t say what roads to take.”

That’s an interpretation problem . . . that is actually a trust problem.

When you have church leaders who act like that son, you really have a trust problem.

One such church leader is the Anglican Archbishop of Wales. His recent presidential address is the case in point. He served on the Windsor Commission and says the Episcopal Church is complying just fine with the Windsor Report:

As a member of that Commission, we did not have in mind a covenant that was prescriptive and detailed and intrusive. What we did have in mind was what ECUSA did at its convention in July when:
_ It re-affirmed its abiding commitment to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and sought to live into the highest degree of communion possible.
_ It reaffirmed that it was in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.
_ It went on to make a commitment to the vision of inter-dependent life in Christ, characterized by forbearance, trust, and respect, and commended the Windsor Report and process as a means of deepening understanding of that commitment.

I won’t do into details of Windsor, but ++Wale’s interpretation of it would be laughable if it weren’t a betrayal of the long suffering of those who have patiently allowed the Episcopal Church three long years to comply with the Windsor Report only to see the travesty of General Convention ’06. Further, his speech completely ignores the Primates’ application of the Windsor Report, namely the Dromantine Communique, as Matt Kennedy points out.

In short, the method here goes like this: TEC isn't in keeping with Windsor/Dromantine? Well, just ignore Dromantine and reinterpret Windsor and, voila!, TEC is complying just fine!

An all too familiar variant goes thus: Has the Communion clearly stated that your innovation and your persistence in it are unacceptable, out of line with the mind of scripture and of the Communion? Just go ahead anyway and interpret it as "conversation" that’s part of the “process” of “dialogue”. Oh, and say nice things about your supposed “commitment to the vision of inter-dependent life in Christ, characterized by forbearance, trust, and respect” and the like while you’re at it.

We shouldn’t be surprised at such “interpretations” that provoke distrust. At least not anymore. It’s like a bad movie that keeps showing up on cable. And the unpleasant, repetitive plot is this: if one acquires the habit of twisting God’s word, one will be soon be willing to twist and say just about anything.

At the risk of understating the obvious, it's very hard to trust church leaders who act in this fashion.


And should you have the misfortune of having such church leaders in authority over you, you are in a precarious place. For if they wish to twist, say, a church canon to kick your congregation out on the street and take your property, they may well do just that if they can get away with it. And if they wish to ignore or reinterpret past church policies of tolerance toward orthodox views, they’ll do that, too.

I hope none of you are so foolish to entrust your car to a son who acts as above and has not repented. Why then entrust your congregation to church leaders who violate trust by using similar methods of “interpretation”?

Epilogue: Thanks be to God, the Archbishop of Wales’ viewpoint and methods of interpretation are unlikely to prevail in the Anglican Communion as we know it. So I am not saying the Communion is no safe place.

Also, I want to spell out that I’m not necessarily talking about willful dishonesty here. Postmodernism, deconstructionism and the rest have so clouded people’s ways of thinking and made truth so inaccessible that some could act in completely untruthful and untrustworthy ways without intending to. In short, some wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them on the mitre.

It’s not completely unlike the young child whose mind is so clouded by his weak, unformed grasp on truth that he believes his own lie. I remember telling my mom that a babysitter, not me, took a crayon to a white vinyl couch. And in a way, I believed it.

Nevertheless, statements such as the Archbishop of Wales’ engender distrust. And should leaders such as him gain control of a church, it becomes no safe place for the orthodox – as I’m sadly sure events will give me ample opportunity to illustrate in the future.

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