-->

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Streetwise: Rowan Williams on the church's authority and obedience

‘Theologically speaking, an appeal to the Church’s charter of foundation in the saving act of God, rooted in the eternal act of God, can never be made without the deepest moral ambiguities, unless it involves an awareness of the mode of that saving act as intrinsic to its authoritative quality and as requiring its own kind of obedience. That is to say, the God who works in disponibilité, vulnerability and mortality is not to be ‘obeyed’ by the exercise or the acceptance of an ecclesial authority that pretends to overcome these limits.’

Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition, p. 239

Labels: , , , ,

4 Comments:

Blogger Thunder Jones said...

God working out in 'justice' seems to appeal to the same free church logic that creates the problems with Evangelicals splitting from church. Both fringes seem to have no need of the episcopacy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008 4:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hey Thunder!

Thanks for this - but I must admit I am somewhat nonplussed. Could you say a bit more, to help me understand how this might respond to or expand the Williams comment?

Thursday, June 19, 2008 5:04:00 PM  
Blogger Thunder Jones said...

That is to say, the God who works in disponibilité, vulnerability and mortality is not to be ‘obeyed’ by the exercise or the acceptance of an ecclesial authority that pretends to overcome these limits.’

From this as a segment, I took it to be a discussion of the means by which we are bound to ecclesial authority (i.e. the episcopacy). We are not bound by threats or fears, but by our obedience to one head that has revealed itself to be disponibilité, vulnerability and mortality. The love and affection of the triune God and each other bind us together into God's church.

Given the current meltdown in Anglicanism and the threats of schism by some and the acts root in perceived justice that violate canon authority by others, we see actions that are not bound to obedience by the church. Conservatives think the only solution is to exile those whom they disagree with and whom they believe disregard Christian tenets. Liberals disregard their deep need for a full body of Christ and act in provocative ways that harm their conservative brothers and sisters.

This whole passage seems to be about authority bound only by disponibilité, vulnerability and mortality, not by power. Both sides look to exercise power over each other instead of expressing the aforementioned characteristics.

I may be taking the passage out of its fuller context, but from the quotation offered, that's what I took.

Saturday, June 21, 2008 3:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Yup, thanks, that's helpful.

Williams is, I think, trying to specify the character of the church and (particularly) its leadership, as not intended to be different from the character of its Lord. If the church is self-involved, impervious, with pretensions of escaping human contingency and demanding 'obedience', well, that ends up being a real problem.

So I think that this does not merely problematise the positions of those on the various sides of our current disputes, but it also specifies the shape of the way forward.

Not that I am generally keen to 'enforce' an exact following of context or authorial intention, if a 'misunderstanding' or tangential musing can give rise to something instructive or illuminating - I just genuinely didn't 'get' what you were up to in your initial response!

Monday, June 23, 2008 4:15:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home