Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More on the Anglican Vocation

We are pleased to present some additional commentary on Dr. Ephraim Radner's essay, "Vocation Deferred: The Necessary Challenge of Communion."

A friend directs us to Deacon Ormond Plater's blog, where he has published "Communion In Christ: A Liturgical-Theological Reflection," from the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission (APLM). It bears upon Sargent and Woodward's "Radner Redux" as it addresses the proposed Anglican Covenant and the issues of church unity. Here is but one snippet:

To try to effect an artificial unity of the Body of Christ through doctrinal enforcement will only lead to yet another scandalous division in the Body of the Lord. It is also idolatrous, substituting a written agreement for the saving work of Christ on the cross, and the living, catholic call of the Gospel to incarnate Christ’s ministry in all places and in all times.
Click here to read the APLM's entire reflection.

Brother Tobias Haller offers a more direct response to Dr. Radner's essay in his "Rearranging the Chairs." Like Sargent, Brother Tobias takes issue with Radner's dichotomy of "confessionalist" vs. "localist." He suggests the significant dichotomy is between systemic change and renewal in accordance with the founding charism of the community. He begins:

In an otherwise well-thought out essay, the always well-worth-reading Ephraim Radner makes, in my opinion, an unhelpful dichotomy. He refers to two models for the church as “localist” and “confessionalist.” At issue are the political structures of and between the various churches; this is all about politics, about who relates to whom, and how they do so, and how decisions are made and enforced. In short, our present turmoil is about ecclesiastical polity, the form of church (or inter-church) government.

The main problem with this current essay is that Dr. Radner’s categories aren’t based on the real division, and I find he creates a distinction without a difference. Read his confessionalist definition and I would say it applies equally to the localist — that is, the church is entire wherever the forms and structures are intact, the sacraments administered, and the gospel preached. That’s the traditional Anglican definition, and it works for me as it has worked for Anglicanism up until very recently — it is the holographic model by which the church subsists entire in each particular provincial instance, much as Christ is truly present in every fragment of the loaf. The fact that Dr. Radner avoids the classical language in his first definition (and uses it in his second, thereby tipping his hand a bit) only makes it seem that the definitions are different.

But, of course, this isn’t the issue. Both of Dr. Radner’s “sides” would agree on that. The problem is “How do these various parts remain united under (or within) a form of governance?” The difference of opinion plaguing us at present is not about the nature of the church (local or universal), but about the day-to-day realities of recognition of orders, cooperation in mission, common worship, and so on. It is not about what the church is but what it does and how it does it.

The real difference is between federalists and unionists: those who want a dispersed authority based on autonomy of and cooperation by the interdependent members of the communion (what we’ve had in Anglicanism since the mid-19th century), and those who want a centralized authority based on a consensus of leadership with the authority to excise from membership those who buck the consensus (the impetus towards a superior synodicality).

In the "comments" section of Brother Tobias' blog, he and Dr. Radner engage in some further dialogue. Click here and read the entire analysis.

Addeddum 05.17.07: Many thanks to Marshall Montgomery (in the comments below) for pointing us to his two posts, which engage both Radner's essay and Haller's response. His posts are here and here.


Blogger Marshall Montgomery said...

I've written two posts on this topic, both of which also engage Tobias Haller's reflections. You can find my posts here and here.


5/17/2007 5:08 PM  

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