Saturday, September 22, 2007

God's Grace Given Sacramentally

Episcopal Life Online has posted video coverage of the Friday press conference online. There was one interchange that – as far as I can tell – nobody else has discussed or highlighted. It occurs about ¾ of the way through "Part 2" of the conference.

Some dissidents have left the Episcopal Church, aligning with other Anglican provinces. Truro and The Falls Church in Virginia got a great deal of attention when they aligned with the Church of Nigeria (Anglican). A member of Truro Church, Mary Ailes (who blogs at Baby Blue), was present at the press conference. I was struck by her question and the response from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here is my transcription of the online version.

[Remember this typography is mine alone. I've transcribed the words – word by word – but it's difficult to know where all the commas and periods and quotation marks belong. It's difficult to translate spoken English into written English.]

Q (Mary Ailes): My name is Mary Ailes. I'm with Good News magazine. And I'm a member of Truro Church in Fairfax. My question has to do with one of the things that we have heard often from the Episcopal leadership is that we are free to go but we have to leave the buildings behind and how that often comes across to someone like me is "We have no need of you, but we have need of your building." What would you say, your Grace, to those of us who are wanting to remain Anglican but cannot at this time – in good conscience – remain Episcopalian? What would you say?

A (Archbishop Williams): Two things. First, I would say, "Start by looking for arrangements and situations within what's there," because the grace of God is given even through very, very imperfect organizations, and even if you think the Episcopal Church is a hopelessly imperfect organization – like many others – the question I would want to ask is, "But isn't God's grace still given sacramentally there? Isn't that presence active?" So I'd be rather slower than I think some of your friends have been to look for solutions elsewhere.

Here are the things that strike me about this interchange.

Isn't the Archbishop challenging the conservatives to consider that they may be committing the Donatist heresy? When he raises the question of the validity of the sacraments, that is what I hear.

Isn't the Archbishop telling Americans that he cannot support their flights to other provinces of the Anglican Communion? That is what I hear, in his encouragement to "start by looking for arrangements and situations within what's there."

It seems that Mary Ailes was asking the Archbishop to give approval to those who "want to remain Anglican but cannot … remain Episcopalian." And it sounds to me like the Archbishop gave no quarter on that point.

How do the rest of you "read" that part of the press conference interchange?


Blogger Jeffri Harre said...


9/23/2007 8:40 AM  
Blogger Davis said...

Not having heard the rest of the interview, I'd say he was remarkably clear (for ++Rowan!) that we all need to work this thing through - together.

9/23/2007 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I think two things:

1 - You are correct.
2 - People will hear whatever they want to hear.

Astute observation.

9/23/2007 6:27 PM  
Blogger Muerk said...

I'm a Catholic conservative (so other side as far as theology goes) but as I'm not Anglican I don't have a stake in this personally.

But I agree with Lisa, it sounded to me that AB Williams said "Stay."

9/23/2007 9:16 PM  
Blogger Muerk said...

I just popped over to "Baby Blue" and Mary Ailes would agree with Lisa's take on RW too. I quote from the comments where she says:

"His answer to me is that I should remain in the Episcopal Church and dismissed a plea for conscientious objection. He thinks we took refuge too early."

So I think Linda McMillan was mistaken in her second thought, people did hear exactly what what Rowan Williams said.

They didn't like it, but they heard it.

9/23/2007 9:26 PM  
Blogger Muerk said...

Sorry to multiple post, but I just noticed this. A blog that Midwest Conservative Journal linked to:

Newbie Anglican heard the same thing, and also didn't like it. But he heard it.

9/23/2007 9:31 PM  
Blogger June Butler said...

I read a transcript somewhere, and I interpret the exchange just as you do.

Certain of the conservatives appear to think some sort of contamination takes place when they associate with folks with different views.

9/23/2007 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Lisa, that's what I heard too. I remember thinking about how unbelievably clear his statement was and wondering how many would actually get its meaning.

9/24/2007 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it can be heard as an awfullly supportive response. I hear, "This will be resolved. Trust God. Trust your leaders." It's like anything in life, a roller coaster without clear cut answers. We all need to make our own choices regarding what we need. With or without validation.

9/24/2007 10:21 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for your comments. And thanks to Muerk for pointing me to comments I hadn't heard.

But the two dominant conservative sites are TitusOneNine and StandFirm. It surprised me that neither of them seemed to pick up on it (as far as I have seen).

9/24/2007 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa, you just highlight the problem with hyper sacramentalism. Ex Opere Operato - the work itself is effective. But the work has components - one of which is the priest performing it. So the priest does come into the picture after all. You, or RW surely wouldn't maintain the Eucharist would be valid if administered by Bozo the Clown. Scratch that, bad example. You surely wouldn't consider it valid if administered by a robot with a synthetic voice, or a priest in the church of satan. When liberal Episcopal Bishops lip-sync the Nicene Creed (you know who I'm talking about) and disregard Biblical teaching, they have forfeited their orders, and they ought not be allowed to administer the Eucharist.

In a sense, you shouldn't bring Donatism into this - that dealt with priests who apostatized but then repented. The controversy should have been about the validity of repentance (which the Bible addresses very clearly), not about 'ex opere blah blah'.

9/26/2007 10:12 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

"Anonymous," you need to take this argument to the Archbishop of Canterbury -- not to me. He's the one who said the schismatics are behaving falliaciously.

9/26/2007 10:29 PM  
Blogger Frair John said...

The Synod of Arles handled the Donatist controversy. Hiding behind the (initial) issue doesn’t obscure the over arching decision. Its cannons are quite clear (as are the Articles, the Council of Trent and most other documents) the moral character of the Minister and his/her standing as a sinner do not affect their ability to perform the sacraments. Your other arguments are non sequitors in that none of the people you describe are validly ordained in the Christian faith. You follow a road of ,reducto ad absurdum to abfuscate. I also hasten to add your side remark about “lip syncing” the Creed only points out your ignorance of the situation. Just because a person’s theological language and use of the Church Mystics gives you pause, it doesn’t mean they are outside the bounds of the Church.

9/27/2007 9:06 AM  

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