Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jordan Hylden on the HOB Meeting: “The Episcopal Declaration of Independence”

Over at First Things, Jordan Hylden has posted his usual perceptive analysis of the TEC House of Bishops meeting and its aftermath.

Now let me get out of the way my one quibble. I do not share his optimism, if you will, about the upcoming Covenant, that the Episcopal Church will not join it. He may be right. I certainly hope so. But in this post-modern fog in which words mean whatever one wishes them to mean and in which honesty is an artificial construct, I doubt it’s even possible to write up a document TEC won’t sign off on. It perhaps would have to explicitly proscribe pet apostate practices of the Episcopal Church. And that’s exceedingly unlikely.

But the rest of his piece isn’t so optimistic. And since he’s been rather optimistic in the past and is even now an aspirant for holy orders perhaps in the Episcopal Church, that’s saying something.

There’s so much worthy of comment and agreement in his missive, I hardly know where to begin. He sums things up well right at the start:

Last week, the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops met and let the world know just what they think of the rest of the Anglican Communion. The official text of their resolutions ran to several thousand words, but for the effect they are likely to have on the church’s relations with the rest of the Anglican world, the bishops could just as well have taken a page out of General McAuliffe’s playbook, saved everyone a lot of time, and issued a simple one-word response: “Nuts!”

And . . .

. . . the Episcopal Church apparently decided that it will be bound by nothing beyond itself—not Scripture, not tradition, not worldwide Anglican councils, not anything. And it said so with a vehemence that was surprising, even to many of its supporters.

That’s how I read it as well.

And he notes something revealing I had frankly missed:

Discouraging as all this is, it gets worse. This is the reason the bishops gave for their rejection of the Pastoral Council: “The meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church,” they solemnly intoned, “is determined solely by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.”

While that may seem opaque to the casual observer, it is actually a bold and sweeping statement that, if acted upon, will lead directly to a final split with Canterbury and destroy the idea of Anglican catholicity within the Episcopal Church.

To make clear the radical nature of the Episcopal bishops’ new claim, the constitution’s preamble is worth quoting: “The Episcopal Church . . . is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”

By stating that the meaning of this sentence is determined solely by General Convention, the Episcopal bishops are doing nothing less than claiming that what it means to be Anglican, what it means to be in communion with Canterbury, what it means to be a part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and hold to the historic Christian faith—that all of this is to be decided solely by the democratic vote of clergy and laypeople once every two years in a Marriott hotel convention room, with reference to nothing and nobody. It is breathtaking in its arrogance.

Indeed it is. It kind of reminds me of the U. S. Supreme Court. But I better not get started on that.

I also concur that the bishop's Blame the Primates line is also striking in its arrogance, “a long, churlish, and supercilious explanation of their actions.”

And some of you thought I was over the top for my recent porcine analogy.

He concludes by quoting a number of orthodox commentators who state that there is no longer a place left for conservatives in the Episcopal Church. And Hylden seems reluctantly to agree.

There’s much more. I commend his column to you.

No comments: