22 October 2008

Dunan the new Luther?

An article appeared in the Washington Post written by George F. Will. You’ll find it here. The article is very favourable to Robert Duncan, former bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Will makes a number in interesting points and the article is worth a read. There are some things, though, that he doesn’t quite get correct.

The Rev. Robert Duncan, 60, is not a Lutheran, but he is a Luther, of sorts. The former Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh has, in effect, said the words with which Martin Luther shattered Christendom and asserted the primacy of individual judgment and conscience that defines the modern temperament: " Ich kann nicht anders" -- I cannot do otherwise.

That’s close, but not exactly correct. Martin Luther asserted that his interpretation of scripture was the only interpretation possible. That is different from stating that the individual’s conscience supersedes all other opinions in defining modern temperament.

I spent three years in Lutheran Catechism. I grew up half-a block away from a Swedish Lutheran Church; I know Luther’s doctrine. Luther never said that an individual’s conscience was a factor in any theological debate. In fact, he backed up the state and helped develop Lutheranism as a state religion in Germany.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recently became the second diocese (the first was in Fresno, Calif.) to secede from the U.S. Episcopal Church since, but not entirely because of, the 2003 ordination in New Hampshire of an openly gay bishop -- Gene Robinson, a classmate of Duncan's at General Theological Seminary in New York in the 1970s. Before the Robinson controversy, other Episcopalians, from South Carolina to Southern California, had disassociated from the Episcopal Church and put themselves under the authority of conservative Anglican bishops who serve where the church is flourishing -- often in sub-Saharan Africa, where a majority of Anglicans live.

What I cannot understand is why some journalists do not “get” that a diocese cannot leave the church. The people in the diocese may leave, its bishop may leave, but the diocese does not. Certainly the journalists cannot be that ignorant of facts. But, remember, we are dealing with journalists whose main job is to get people to read their postulations. So, they have to make it the most sensationalist version of the story possible. One thousand people moving out of state is not as shocking as “Montana leaves Union” would be.

It is not the secessionists such as Duncan who are, as critics charge, obsessed with homosexuality. The Episcopal Church's leadership is latitudinarian -- tolerant to the point of incoherence, Duncan and kindred spirits think -- about clergy who deviate from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity of Christ, the authority of Scripture and the path to salvation. But the national church insists on the ordination of openly gay clergy and on blessing same-sex unions.

Then why is it one cannot talk to a fundamentalist for three minutes without the subject of homosexuality being introduced. In Schofield’s PR article last week, he brought it up three times. There was no reason in that article for it to have been mentioned. The same is true for all the fundamentalists – they have to bring homosexuality into the discussion, and not just the attraction, but what the gay people “do.” I believe it was at the consecration of Bishop Robinson that someone rose to give a graphic account of same-gender male sex. I haven’t heard on TEC leader doing that.

I’m seriously beginning to believe that there is an immense amount of repressed homosexuality in the leaders of the fundamentalist movement.

Duncan became a bishop in 1995, at age 47, in an Episcopal Church already roiled by dissension about the ordination of women, revision of the prayer book and other matters. But, Duncan says, "I wish it" -- the issue that finally precipitated secession -- "had been some other issue." He means some controversy, other than Robinson's ordination, turning on scriptural authority.

But it was, Mr. Duncan; it was and is lust for power.

The shrinking Episcopal Church (2.4 million members, down from 3.5 million at its peak in 1965) is a small sliver of the worldwide Anglican communion (at least 77 million and expanding rapidly). Its travails are, Duncan says, yet another lingering echo of the 1960s.

The Anglican Communion once was a "via media," a middle way, between Catholicism and Protestantism. Now, Duncan says, the national leadership of the Episcopal Church thinks of itself as a bridge between Protestantism and the culture. Duncan and other protesters agree with the late Flannery O'Connor, the Catholic novelist: "You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."

Every 10 years there is a Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, presided over by the archbishop of Canterbury. This year only 650 of the nearly 900 bishops attended -- 150 of them representing only the tiny U.S. communion. The bishops from three of the Anglican communion's five largest provinces -- Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya -- boycotted.

That last bit isn’t true. They did attend, they just didn’t participate. They were in Lambeth continuing to plot their usurpation of the Anglican Communion. (Is usurpation a word?)

Today, the typical Anglican is a middle-aged African woman. The burgeoning Nigerian church says that it has 20 million members; Duncan believes it may have 25 million but perhaps chooses to underreport so as not to exacerbate tensions with Nigerian Muslims.

That’s true—if one lives in Africa. The typical Anglican in England is a middle-aged white woman. I don’t know what the typical Anglican in Australia is – probably a woman, though. Naturally, Duncan believes there are more Anglicans in Nigeria – the fundamentalists are experts at inflating their numbers and deflating other numbers. It’s part of their math laws.

"I think," Duncan says, "the 21st century will be for the archbishop of Canterbury what the 20th century was for the royal family." That is, an era of diminution.

Because Protestantism has no structure of authority comparable to the Vatican and because it does not merely tolerate but enjoins individual judgments by "the priesthood of all believers" concerning beliefs and obligations, all Protestants are potential Luthers. Hence it is evidence of spiritual vigor that Episcopalians in Quincy, Ill., and Fort Worth will vote on disassociation from the U.S. communion on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, respectively.

Ah, Mr. Duncan, the Royal Family is as popular as ever. Their role has nit diminished. There is your fundamentalist math at work again.

One of the crowning glories of Anglicanism is that there is no structure of authority comparable to the Vatican. Thank God for that. The fundamentalists want that though, because they think that, if such a structure is implemented, they will be at the apex calling the shots and tell everyone else who is and is not Christian.

The Episcopal Church once was America's upper crust at prayer. Today it is "progressive" politics cloaked -- very thinly -- in piety. Episcopalians' discontents tell a cautionary tale for political as well as religious associations. As the church's doctrines have become more elastic, the church has contracted. It celebrates an "inclusiveness" that includes fewer and fewer members.

I’m not sure where Will got the “politics cloaked – very thinly – in piety.” That certainly fits the fundamentalists to a “T.” They are using political manoeuvring to get their ways and they are funded by a very political machine. It’s their modus operandi.

Their brand of false Christianity just as dangerous to the world as is just as dangerous as the fundamentalist Muslim version of Islam. Fundamentalists of any ilk want only one thing: world domination by any means possible. In the case of the GAFCONites, they want the church first and then to force their version of Christianity on the world.

So, who is George F. Will? Well, he was editor of the National Review. He is a conservative Republican who says he is an agnostic. He was a staunch supporter of Ronald Reagan and was implicated in an unethical bit of politics. He was accused of supplying a Carter “briefing book” to Reagan prior to the Reagan-Carter debate. He admitted that he had seen the book, but found it a “Crashing bore and next to useless.” He was also accused of using that book to help prepare Reagan for that debate. Years later, he had to retract a statement he made that China and Cuba were in cahoots and drilling for oil off the coast of Florida. He is a Cubs fan and has written a couple of best selling books on baseball. One thing is sure, he knows how to turn a phrase.

It is easy to see his bias on the subject of the Duncan article. But no one is without bias, especially those who say they are not biased. Some of us are just up-front about it.