10 March 2008

Anglican matters

One hates to keep harping on the slow but steady decline of the Episcopal Church south of the border, but these three items are unmistakable signs that all is not well: Bexley Hall to Close Rochester Campus; Seabury Western ceases residential MDiv program; and Episcopal Divinity School enters university partnership.

While we're on the subject of Anglicanism, David Yerushalmi has written an intelligent piece on Archbishop Rowan Williams' now infamous speech on sharia: Why the Fuss About Shari’a Law?
The fuss is about the elephant in the room, or, better yet, the wolf in sheep’s clothing that some Americans fail to acknowledge. Put simply, not all foreign or religious laws are equal. Most foreign laws, be they sourced in secular legal codes or religious ones, are not predicated on a doctrine of world domination and holy war. But what if a legal system is founded upon the goal of conquering the world through holy war when persuasion and subjugation are not immediately successful?

In other words, should a society lend legitimacy to a legal system whose raison d’être is the destruction of that society? Moreover, how should a society treat a legal system that obligates its faithful to use violent jihad to accomplish its goals?

These are, of course, good questions that do not admit of easy answers, although Yerushalmi would do well to acknowledge that there are different interpretations of sharia within the diverse muslim community, some of which may be less bellicose than he assumes.

Finally, Jim Skillen has his own view of the matter, as indicated here: Civil and Religious Laws in England. Skillen writes:

What the Archbishop should be (and perhaps is) trying to argue, it seems to me, is that diverse religious communities, including Muslims, who give allegiance to God beyond allegiance to Crown and Church, should be equally free to live in Great Britain. Moreover, public “secular” law should recognize the right of British citizens, who are members of these different religious communities, to engage in diverse practices in the nongovernment spheres of marriage, private finance, education, and more. However, the foundation of such religious freedom and social pluralism is that all citizens, as members of the same political community, must abide by the public laws of the nation. If they want to change the laws that stipulate the obligations of citizenship, that protect religious freedom, or that articulate the identities and freedoms of nongovernment organizations, they will have to participate in the open democratic process to try to do so.

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