"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Is it right to leave?

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I was asked (a surprising number of times) in the past few weeks as to my response to the possibility of General Synod 2016 passing a resolution to amend the marriage canon. Specifically, most asked if I would be motivated to leave the Anglican Church of Canada, to join another movement, like ANIC, manifested in Christ the King parish here in Edmonton.

My thoughts on the recent Marriage Commission are public domain both here and on the commission’s website linked above.  Most significant in my concerns is the departure from a theological approach to the question, to one that is purely legal in nature.  Oh, the report uses lots of theology to attempt to make its point, but the fundamental shift in perspective has been to move from the theological to the canonical.  I think that most clearly demonstrated in the lack of engagement between the commission and the previous work done by the Primate’s Theological Commission.

That commission conducted an in-depth theological analysis of the question of same-sex marriage.  The St Michael Report (while not without some problems) is a good theological analysis of the major questions.  If you read my prior comments about that report, you may note that most of my concern related to how the theologians had opened up a canonical loophole.  General Synod 2006 drove right through that opening, which was created by the assertion that the question was one of doctrine, but not core doctrine.  My primary objection was that this created an entirely new class of doctrine (doctrines of adiaphora) which had never before existed in traditional theology, and particularly not in catholic theology.  That’s all water under the bridge.

The second report, The Galilee Report of 2009, specifically addressed the question of whether such a recommendation could be made.  The Primate’s Theological Commission (PTC), which was highly representative of the diversity present in the church, concluded that it could issue no recommendations because the mind of the PTC reflected that of the greater church: that is, there was no consensus perspective possible.

I recall reading that report and thinking, Hallelujah, finally someone has named the elephant in the room.  There is no consensus in the mind of the church.  That, to a theologian, is a clear sign that it is time for prayer and reflection, and not a time for action.  It is difficult to speak of the Spirit leading us in new directions, when there is no such direction apparent in the study of an expert commission.  Now, this is why the new Marriage Commission has departed from a truly theological approach and reverted to one that is based in canon law…which has little to do with theology.  The law is a different conceptual framework, with its own method and fundamental assumptions, which has little in common with the theological method.  That, I believe, is the reason the national church opted to move toward such an approach, because the thresholds are much lower.

Now, back to the starting question.  What would my reaction be after the General Synod made such a decision?

The first assumption that I need to dispense with is that I am a member of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC).  I’m not.  I am a member of the Body of Christ immanent throughout the world, locally represented by my parish community of St John’s.  We happen to exist within an Anglican Diocese, within the ACC, which is a temporal framework which exists to manage matters of common concern.  That temporal framework has little to do with my community of faith, and the greater Body of Christ.

What informs that approach is a realization that the history of Christianity throughout time has been people leaving in order to preserve a community of like thought.  That starting point is almost always doomed to failure, because it begins through the fracturing of the Body of Christ.  I am not convinced that the call of the Spirit is to divide the One Body in order to preserve one community’s holiness.

I’m also informed by the reality that ANIC has inherited all the problems that we have in the ACC, so it should not be a surprise that power and authority are issues which keep popping up.

The fundamental building block of Christian community is the worshiping community.  That might be a house church, a small group, or a parish community.  Historically, that has always been the case.  That we have put management structures in place around those fundamental building blocks to look after things like buildings and property, does not change the reality of the fundamental building block of the Body of Christ.  It is also true that there is a wide range of perspectives even in my present community, perspectives that continue to challenge us as a group of Christians…in short, we don’t have to look external to St John’s to find doctrinal differences.

With that perspective, it is clear to me that my concern about doctrinal issues centers around the worshiping community, and not the business structures in place to manage groups of those communities.  Doctrinal issues are not the domain of the business side of the church, even if that business side presumes to rule on such matters.

With that perspective, I admit I’m almost indifferent to the happenings of General Synod.  What that means in practical terms is that General Synod could pass a resolution that was overtly heretical, and it wouldn’t really impact my faith community.  Even if the national church apparatus decided to enforce an overt heresy, the call would still be to remain to witness to the one faith.  In short, I could only conceive of changing communities in one case: where it was a clearly God-led imperative to move.  That may come in the future, but I have trouble imagining that it would come as the result of General Synod’s (nearly irrelevant) resolutions.

I’m also aware of Lewis’ statement, that the only time we can be entirely sure we’re doing God’s will, is when we’re doing the exact opposite of what our will leads us to do.  If my human urge is to leave to preserve doctrinal purity, it is likely I need to re-assess what God is calling me to do.





Written by sameo416

December 31, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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