Two events this past weekend ran together to illustrate what is, for me, the central dilemma of living in this world–the fact that authority no longer reflects what we know to be true.
Let’s start with the church. In reaction to my posting of George Conger and Kevin Kallsen Put a Wrap on the Anglican Consultative Council’s Process About the Covenant, Abu Daoud replied as follows:
Not sure why this has been so dramatic for me, but I feel like the AC is really, finally over. I’m just not sure where me and my family can go now. I mean, no doubt for several years we’ll just float along and “legally” remain Anglican and go to Anglican churches now and then. But still, I will not being able to consider Anglicanism a genuine expression of catholicity–it has no ability to enforce discipline–and that is a mark of the true church.
This really hit me because the ability of a church to stand for the truth and make it stick was one big reason why I “swam the Tiber” many years ago. It evoked emotions that I don’t normally give vent to any more, because in the course of subsequent events I saw that willingness sidetracked by things that didn’t reflect what the church taught.
In the case of the Anglican Communion, there were so many things going against giving TEC its just desserts that it’s amazing things have gotten as far as they have.
Obstacle #1 was Rowan Williams himself. It has been his idea that people of same-sex attraction be incorporated into the full life of the church. He has furthered that agenda as only he can, by “gumming to death” his opponents with manoevres such as the one he pulled in Kingston last weekend. He was an unlikely standard bearer for real orthodoxy in the AC. Unfortunately Anglicanism’s propensity to obscure real issues in the name of “comprehension” clouded the simple truth.
The second obstacle is even less obvious to many: the Church of England is a state church. Even with the procedural protections supposedly in place, there is no way that any government, Labour or Tory, is going to allow its state church to take an agressively anti-LGBT stance, which is a necessary prerequisite to disciplining TEC and ACoC.
As an aside, students of Roman Catholic history will remember that, although many in the church think of the days when the RCC was the official church in all (or most after the Reformation) of Western Europe as the high point of the church, the interference of the state compromised the church’s ability to exercise its authority on many occasions. Topping the list of states with others ideas than Rome was France; we need only recall things such as the régale, the papal captivity at Avignon, the round and round of the Jesuits and the Jansenists, and the whole Gallican movement. It isn’t an understatement that the best thing that ever happened for the authority of Rome in the church in France was the French Revolution.
The third obstacle was the desultory nature of the AC itself, which I have likened to the “rickety chandelier” of old British Leyland (soon to be replicated on these shores.) The Covenant was an honest attempt to fix that problem, but owing to the first two issues (and others, including TEC’s funding of the AC’s “instruments of unity”) it was an uphill fight.
The best thing to happen at this point is for GAFCON to adopt a “Third Rome” position, like the Russian Orthodox Church did. The first two Anglican “Romes” (Canterbury and New York) are in the hands of infidels, so it’s necessary for a new one to emerge. It’s not complete satisfaction, but, as was the case with the Russians, it’s the best we can manage for the moment.
Let me now turn to the country, and this, the controversial performance of Wanda Sykes at the Correspondents’ dinner:
(YouTube video was subsequently removed)
It really wasn’t funny, and Obama showed more than he meant to in laughing at it. What it is, though is a statement of new liberal orthodoxy: the country is embodied in the government, so if you are disloyal to the government, you are disloyal to the country, thus you are a traitor.
First, I wouldn’t have said (like Rush) that I hoped that Obama would fail. What I have said is that I think he will based on basic economics, a subject that he and many others on the left are seriously challenged by.
Second, tying together loyalty to government with loyalty to country has been a conservative thing for a long time. Big problem with that is, when the country goes liberal, conservatives have the rug pulled out from under them.
What conservatives are going to have to face is twofold.
First, that this country is in reality an ideal, one embodied in its Declaration of Independence.
Second, that this republic, with its accretions of law, special interests, and style of mind of much of its people, is no longer a suitable vehicle for that ideal.
The sooner conservatives figure this out, the better. The big problem with this is that only Christians will be able to take advantage of this without making a complete mess of this continent, because our first ideal is heavenly, which in turn transcends the vagaries of this life.