02 March 2008

Acceptance versus redemption

This article by Philip Turner is about the Episcopal Church in the US, but it might just as well be about the Anglican Church in Canada: An Unworkable Theology. Especially relevant is the tendency of those favouring controversial innovations in the church's faith and life to invoke the Holy Spirit as a way of stifling opposition:

Indeed, it is important to note when examining the working theology of the Episcopal Church that changes in belief and practice within the church are not made after prolonged investigation and theological debate. Rather, they are made by “prophetic actions” that give expression to the doctrine of radical inclusion. Such actions have become common partly because they carry no cost. Since the struggle over the ordination of women, the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has given up any attempt to act as a unified body or to discipline its membership. Within a given diocese, almost any change in belief and practice can occur without penalty.

Certain justifications are commonly named for such failure of discipline. The first is the claim of the prophet’s mantle by the innovators—often quickly followed by an assertion that the Holy Spirit Itself is doing this new thing, which need have no perceivable link to the past practice of the church. Backed by claims of prophetic and Spirit-filled insight, each diocese can then justify its action as a “local option,” which is the claimed right of each diocese or parish to go its own way if there seem to be strong enough internal reasons to do so.

According to Turner, the Episcopal Church is divided by a theological chasm, "one that separates those who hold a theology of divine acceptance from those who hold a theology of divine redemption." In such a context it is not surprising that those unequivocally standing for the latter are being vilified as "fundamentalists" by the former.

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