Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tradition, and my tradition?

Is it really time to talk about a divorce? Some say yes:

"This is an issue of theology, not sexism," [Father Wolfgang Krismanits, of St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Sonora] said. "We must be more concerned with what the Bible says rather than what culture seeks."

In the Episcopalian Church, women have been allowed to become priests and bishops for the past 30 years, but Krismanits can find no reference to that in scriptures.

"It is the goal of the church to show people there's a better way to live — the Bible way," he said.
Which, of course, means we should be following the laws of Leviticus. Unless of course, "the Bible way" means the parts we choose from the Bible. And since it is clear Jesus had women in his entourage (who comes first to the tomb? Who first hears the news of the resurrection? And then there's the witness of Luke 8, and Paul's letters mentioning the women who preach with him). But really, the simple issue is: which is more important? Tradition?

And some speak of the possibility that God is still active in human history and is, as he said to Isaiah, "about to do a new thing."

"He doesn't always give us what we want. God gives us what we need," [Father John H. Shumaker, of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in San Andreas] said. "Maybe he's saying we need to deal with this."
Maybe. But some will; and some won't:

Alternative primatial oversight and pastoral care will not affect our legal relationship to the rest of The Episcopal Church nor the juridical authority of its future Presiding Bishop as granted her by our constitution and canons. But it will enable those bishops and dioceses who uphold the biblical and sacramental understanding of communion to appeal to a designated primate or chief pastor in sympathy with their position for pastoral guidance and leadership in mission. Also, through an alternative primatial oversight, the relationship between a particular bishop and his diocese with the rest of the Anglican Communion will be enhanced and solidified.
Which is simply to say: we will define ourselves against the PECUSA, and decide for ourselves what is sacramental, constitutional, and biblical, since no one else around here seems to agree with us. But we'll still be "Episcopalians" because...well, because we say so. This one is even more interesting, though, because it is by the Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Fort Worth. His main arguments seem to be:

By the actions of our latest General Convention, this biblical and sacramental basis of Communion has not just been impaired but broken. The convention broke Communion biblically by refusing to vote on the resolution affirming the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and by encouraging same-sex partnerships. It broke Communion sacramentally by choosing a Presiding Bishop whose Orders cannot be accepted by many Episcopalians, including those in the Diocese of Fort Worth, nor by the majority of Anglican provinces worldwide, nor by our chief ecumenical partners – the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
So the problem is: she's a woman, plain and simple. Woman are ordained into the priesthood of the PECUSA (my church has two, and a female deacon), but apparently they shouldn't be. Apparently they shouldn't be bishops, either. But someone needs to tell the Roman Catholics the Communion is broken:

Roman Catholic Bishop Edward Clark of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the impact was made 30 years ago when the Episcopal Church chose to ordain women as bishops. "With a woman bishop now becoming Presiding Bishop, I don't see that adding any complications to our relationship," he said.
The other problem is, she's familiar with medieval theology:

Both aspects of this Broken Communion are embodied in our new Presiding Bishop-elect. By her actions as Bishop of Nevada, in her statements during General Convention, and in her first sermon after her election, she has made it pointedly clear that she intends to pursue an agenda that patently ignores the authority of Scripture, is contrary to its plain teaching regarding overt homosexual relationships, and affronts the church’s Trinitarian doctrine and biblical witness by turning Our Lord into “Mother Jesus.”
Apparently Canon Heidt has never read the Shewings of Julian of Norwich, or is not familiar with metaphor in medieval theology. A third possibility is that he just doesn't consider that a part of any tradition he wants to uphold. It would be nice, though, if he could explain why. Perhaps Trinitarian doctrine has become more "traditional" since the 14th century. Or perhaps I should let PB Schori speak for herself:

To those who accuse her of heresy for referring to a female Jesus, she responds with a typically learned disquisition on medieval mystics and saints who used similar language, including Julian of Norwich and St. Teresa of Avila. "I was trying to say that the work of the cross was in some ways like giving birth to a new creation," she said. "That is straight-down-the-middle orthodox theology."
A disquisition so "learned" the Times of London picked up on the source of it. But not the Canon Theologian of the Fort Worth Diocese. And it is clear from Canon Heidt's remarks that she is right about this:

"Most of the bishops who protested have been protesting for years about the presence of ordained women in the church," she said.
So I'm sure there's some good faith in both sides of this argument. I'm just not sure how much is truly disagreement, and how much is simply discontent.

Which I'm sure the Anglican poet Eliot would say were simply "two [more] conditions which often appear alike."

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