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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Schism: The Handmaiden of Heresy

Communion in Conflict: Schism: The Handmaiden of Heresy

Marshall Montgomery has been ruminating on schism and heresy, too. (Although, unbeknownst to me, before I did.)

He expounds on three theses:
Schism generates heresy.
Schism perpetuates heresy.
Schism reinforces heresy.

He takes a slightly different tack on it, but I quite think we are in basic agreement. While I maintain that they are both aspects of the same thing, he envisions something more of a cause-effect relationship. I don't think I object to seeming them complexly related as cause to effect, so long as the relation is not only in one direction.

In any event, he sifts through the issues well, and it's worth a read.

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4 Comments:

Blogger PdB said...

I confess I didn't really see how those 3 statements were supported by what he wrote.

But I appreciated the link.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bud said...

I'm really not trying to be a bastard, but it seems to me that this argument could be turned against the Anglican Communion itself. If schism generates heresy, what does that say about the C of E, whose very existence is grounded in a schismatic act? The answer to this question could seemingly follow two lines. First of all, Anglicans might argue that schism, though always tragic, is sometimes necessary. Once one entertains this idea, however, then it becomes impossible to criticize the present-day "schismatics," who see their own actions as right and necessary in light of certain theological developments, solely on the grounds of being schismatic. At that point, the argument turns to a theological analysis of the matter(s) that stirred up the debate in the first place, and also whether or not the issue is serious enough to warrant a division.

The second path that Anglicans might follow is to attempt to argue that the actions during the time of Henry VIII were in fact not schismatic. According to this perspective, the Anglican Church would then be viewed not as a schismatic group, but as the legitimate institutional bearer of Christianity on the British Isles. In my opinion, this is a strained argument, but, even if one were to grant its validity, this would not seem to settle the present wrangling in the Anglican Communion. In this case, the question would turn to the issue of who represents the authentic bearer of the Anglican tradition. I'm assuming that, as a priest, you are well aware of the fact that those whom you are identifying as schismatics self-characterize themselves in precisely the opposite way. And, at this point, it appears to me that the verdict on this question is still out.

I guess what needs to be clarified, then, is what constitutes communion in the Anglican Communion. For instance, would those whom you are calling schismatic continue to be schismatic if the instruments of unity (Lambeth, the ABC, etc.,) eventually side with their position. On the surface, at least, it seems that the "schismatics" have more readily submitted themselves to the discipline of the Communion. Also in their favor is the fact that leaders from those parts in the world where Anglicanism has its greatest numbers have vocalized their support for the "schismatic" cause. If one were to want to settle things purely in terms of representation, I would guess that the majority of the communion would fall on the conservative side of things. Furthermore, the "schismatics" have taken sufficient steps to ensure unbroken episcopal succession.

Maybe for you (and Marshall Montgomery) none of this matters. I do understand the problems associated with cross-jurisdiction and with trying to establish a new province within an existing province. Still, it seems to me that the matter can't be solved simply by charging one side with being schismatic. If one wants to do this, though, she or he will have to attempt to do so in a way that takes into account the very history of Anglicanism--most notably, its division from historic Christianity and its appeal to the authority of the English monarch over and against that of the Bishop of Rome. Roman Catholics can point to apostolic succession and can locate the Church as those communities who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. I don't know... maybe Anglicans want to make a similar claim in regard to the ABC. If they do so, however, I wonder how the liberals would narrate their status if the "schismatics" end up being the ones who are more clearly in communion with Canterbury. On a related point, could the center of Anglican authority ever experience a geographical shift? In other words, if one does want to locate communion as being inherently connected to Canterbury, what theological reasons would one set forth for doing so? Since, historically speaking, the center of authority for Anglican Christianity was shifted from Rome to Canterbury, wouldn't it be misguided to rule out a similar shift (say to somewhere in Africa) at some point in the (near?) future?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 6:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Pamela and Bud,
I am taking some time to respond to this, so I will only say a couple things here, to clarify:

Bud says at one point: 'those whom you are identifying as schismatics' -- it bears mentioning that I haven't identified anyone in particular as schismatics. What I am saying is intended as commenting on schism in general. (How do we make sense -- theological or otherwise -- of the divisions of Christianity?)

And also, Bud, contrary to your hypothetical, these issues mean a great deal to me, as a priest, as a baptised Christian. (Although MM speaks eloquently enough for himself, I believe I can say confidently that they are vitally important to him as well.) What I/we are trying to do is to be discerning and faithful. If -- again, speaking in the abstract, and not about any particular proposed course -- both heresy and schism are ruled out as faithful options, then what? Not an easily answered question.

And I don't think we should be satisfied with easy answers, although I notice that many proponents of the various sides in our present debates (in the church and the world, not merely ECUSA) seem pretty happy with them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Bud said...

Just as a point of clarification: I wasn't downplaying your concern about these issues. What I meant with my hypothetical is, "Maybe from your perspective the arguments of the schismatics do not hold water." I also wanted to let you know that I'm not one who is satisfied with easy answers--though I do think we can speak with clarity and truthfulness even in regard to these particularly thorny questions. Finally, I apologize if I jumped to a misguided conclusion regarding the identity of the schismatics. In the context of the present debate in the Anglican Communion, the term "schismatics" is regularly used to refer to a specific group. I naturally assumed that you were operating within that linguistic framework; again, I'm sorry if I was wrong to do so.

By the way, like yourself, I am also trying to be discerning and faithful. Recently, under the influence of Newman, I have begun to lean heavily towards the conclusion that faithfulness might actually entail concrete submission to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, overseen by the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome. Some of what I was trying to articulate in my earlier post have pushed me in that direction. Honestly, I'm looking forward to your response.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 4:13:00 AM  

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