Monday, 15 July 2013

By what authority do we throw over authority?

An article from the New Oxford Review of December 2005 by the continuing Anglican priest, Fr Robert Hart has been recently brought to our attention. 
His argument is important, particularly for those of us who now belong to increasingly 'disobedient' ecclesial communions, because - yet again  - it has never been satisfactorily answered. Fr Hart sums up the fundamental objection which, for many of us,  lies behind our continued opposition to (historically) recent and radical departures from traditionally accepted apostolic norms, whether it be in the case of holy order or moral theology or the (related) threats to credal orthodoxy.
Here is an excerpt: the full article, entitled 'Question Authority,' can be found here
"...In August 2003, within minutes after the approval to elevate Vickie Gene Robinson to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church, the news was flashed across the world that a divorced and openly "gay" man, living with his homosexual lover, was going to be a bishop. An Episcopal priest who was present at the General Convention in Minneapolis that had done the deed by majority vote, stood beaming from ear to ear as he answered questions put to him by Bill O'Reilly of Fox News.
"What about the biblical injunction against homosexuality?" asked O'Reilly.
"The Scriptures aren't the final authority in Anglicanism," said the cleric, "the Holy Spirit is."
From the many apologetic responses that were subsequently issued by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, and by others, it is clear that what this priest said to O'Reilly was the simple version of their defense. In the final analysis, they were claiming to have been led by the Holy Spirit to overthrow 2,000 years of Church teaching from the Bible. Any such claim only makes sense in light of the promise that Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles, "When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth" (Jn. 16:13).
In an ecclesial body which claims for its validity the Apostolic Succession, this promise of Christ has to be connected to a claim that that body is at least part of the "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." As such, when they insist that the Holy Spirit made them do it, it means that their very liberal-sounding agenda is that we must question every commandment of God and the whole authority of the Church in a Tradition going back past the Apostles to the Lawgiver of Sinai. And, also, that this anti-authoritarian agenda has been ordered by the Highest Authority. So that now "Question Authority" is clearly seen to be the command that it is, and a command from on high no less.
A further irony is that a change of Tradition in an ecclesial body that claims the Apostolic foundation is impossible without adding to itself the exclusive title, The One True Church. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy make this claim, and each has reasons for doing so. But Anglicans have never made this claim about their whole Communion, let alone one national church -- until now. What was alleged to be simply another General Convention of the Episcopal Church resulted in this rather shrunken little denomination acting as if it were holding the Ecumenical Council -- in Minneapolis, of all places.
And this was not the first time. This Council should properly be called Minneapolis II, because the "First Ecumenical Council of Minneapolis" should be the name by which we remember the General Convention of 1976. It was held in the same city, and was seen to have exercised the same authority to question authority concerning that other milestone "leading of the Spirit," women's "ordination." Hear the word of the Lord: Thou shalt question authority.
If we take a close look at the policy of the Episcopal Church in the years that followed, we see that the situation grew from one in which dissent was not only tolerated, but treated with provisions out of respect for the consciences of parishes and dioceses, to one of outright intolerance of challenges to its authority. The Diocese of Quincy and the Diocese of Fort Worth found themselves under pressure from the headquarters of the Episcopal Church in New York to find a way to accept women "priests" in order to come into uniformity with the denomination as a whole. The fact that these Anglo-Catholic dioceses, and their respective bishops, could not conform without violating their consciences became unimportant.
In 2001 Acting "Bishop" Jane Dixon of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., had sued St. John's Parish of Christ Church in Accokeek, Md., in order to force out its Rector, Fr. Samuel Edwards. This because he was known to be opposed to women's "ordination" and could not, therefore, accept her position as a bishop in the sacramental sense, even though he had declared his willingness to accept it as a fact of Episcopal Church Canon Law. This is not the only case in which the promoters of the liberal agenda acted in a very authoritarian manner to force their will through legal power or through denominational pressure. The liberals are not very liberal, especially when it comes to issues of power.
The Episcopal Church is a very easy target to strike, and lest it seem that this article is unfair for picking on a little denomination, let me point out that this problem is wider in scope...."

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