Even the Pagans Can Tell

The clip above while humorous is illustrative of one of the major problems with Anglicanism. It is so bad and has been for some time that the Church of England has de facto ceased to be a professing Christian body. I ask friends of mine who hold out hope, what makes the CofE Christian?

I used to be Anglican. I was raised as one and I was deeply committed to it. It had much to offer and I still fancy myself something of an Anglo-phile. I don’t write much about the goings-on in Anglicanism, particularly with respect its continuing splits. I do not think that this will end any time soon. In any case, I don’t much concern myself with it for the simple reason that I converted to Orthodoxy. Knowing what I know now about Orthodox teaching, I would have become Orthodox even if Anglicanism had remained de facto Christian in profession. To be sure the change would have been more emotionally difficult, but I still would have converted nonetheless. I am not an Anglican in exile.

Some seem to think that this or that new provision will solve the problems of the past. GAFCON is the latest offering. But since it does not address the fundamental issue of women’s ordination, I can’t see how it will do anything but set the stage for more schisms. Make no mistake, the fundamental issue is whether sex constitutes the human person or not. If it doesn’t then my sex or my use of it can’t function as a bar to ordination. The fundamental thesis is that “I am not my body.” For the record I simply don’t think there is something called “gender.” The distinction as I take it is supposed to be the difference between my plumbing and my psychological disposition or how I view myself. Taking reality as a cue, psychology is irrlevant. Cut and reshape what you like, but a man is a man is a man, even if he is a psychologically errant one.

Further, if women’s ordination is heterodox then open communion with professing heretics is inescusable. If it is not heresy, then there is no substantial basis to break communion or require alternative bishops. If the former, following Athanasius, to be in communion with an open heretic is to be heretical. Communion is like sex, ironically enough. When you commune with others it is like sleeping with someone. You don’t just sleep with them, but with everyone they have ever slept with. It matters not what your local bishop or priest says, since he is “sleeping” with Spong or Williams.

This is not to say that in Orthodoxy there aren’t errant clerics, both morally and theologically. Surely there are, but there is nothing comparable to the frankly open and institutionalized heterodoxy. There does not exist a state of open and undisciplined heresy. Contrary to popular belief this is one of the benefits of not having a centralized authority. You have a whole legion of heresy sniffers such that the threat of being outed functions in a way similar to mutually and interdependent relations that reinforce professed orthodoxy.

Others hold out hope for this or that part of the Anglican tradition, whether the Anglo-Catholic variety or the more Calvinistic/Lutheran variety of the low church tradition. I have seen this before. Deployed are various arguments of the most intricate detail that Anglicanism really was such and so. Even if true, they are irrelevant since whatever vision is being argued for is now and ever more quickly becoming a piece of historical trivia. That Anglicanism is a peice of the past and not a feature of the present and certainly not to be part of the future.

This is not to dance on the grave of Anglicanism or rejoice in the demise of a fiction. It is a cautionary tale for the Orthodox (and Catholics too). Don’t be so smug. The “this can’t happen here” has been said all to often in other places. And history affords us sufficient examples that the papacy is no protection. Plenty of popes have been bad popes and not a view are good candidates at the least for being private heretics if not formal and open advocates of it. Further still there have been papal schisms and development of doctrine or not, there is no reason why such things can’t happen again.

If it gets to the point that the pagans can tell that your church is not a professing Christian body,  that your TV representatives are in it for the cash, and that your worship has become a modernistic wax nose for left wing political causes, then you are on the Titanic.

20 Responses to Even the Pagans Can Tell

  1. Roland says:

    Having written my dissertation on the topic of bureaucracy, I love “Yes, Minister” and its sequel – especially this episode.

    I too am a former Anglican – I was just chrismated last year after more than a dozen years as an Anglo-Catholic. (If you care about my reasons, look under the Apologia category on my blog.) In discussing the ordination of women with Evangelicals, I sometimes argued, “If women can be priests, then men can be brides.” You cannot logically uphold the ontological reality of sex for one sacrament and deny it for another.

    As for the concept of gender, I think it is legitimate and useful if properly understood. As it was coined by feminist intellectuals, it was an extension of grammatical gender. Most Indo-European languages assign gender to nouns, but it is a matter of social convention, not something inherent to the nature of the words (as demonstrated by the fact that a language might assign different genders to different nouns that refer to the same object). Gender was intended to be used in contradistinction to sex, enabling scholars to argue about whether a particular male/female distinction was a matter of sex (i.e., biology) or gender (i.e., socially constructed). I think it is pretty obvious that both sex and gender are at play in culture. The question is where to draw the line between them. Some feminist extremists argued, essentially, that sex was nonexistent and it was all gender, but this was a politically motivated lie of convenience. No intelligent person could take it seriously.

    Today, unfortunately, popular PC culture, ignorant of the real meaning of gender, has started to use it as a synonym for sex. In part, this is because they want to use sex as a euphemism for intercourse, so they need another word to refer to the male/female distinction. And in part it is because they have heard feminist intellectuals use the word gender and they want to imitate them, but they don’t bother to actually understand the feminist use of the term, so they end up unwittingly misusing it.

    Finally, I appreciate Perry’s warning against the smug “this can’t happen here” attitude that is all too common in Orthodoxy. If we do not maintain vigilance, it certainly will happen here.

    On a related subject . . . On Eirenikon, Photios recently referred to Perry’s essay, “Anglicans in Exile.” I have not been able to locate the essay on-line. Could someone here provide a link to it?

  2. Visibilium says:

    I think that feminism should take some credit for beginning the widespread use of “gender” in place of “sex”. It’d be kinda awkward trying to be serious about equal rights and other sex-neutral [ahem] gender issues when using the term “sex”, with concomitant copulatory images and such. A huge distraction.

    Replacing “gender” with “sex” may fulfill the purpose of rebelling against contemporary political correctness, and, from what I gather from the above conversations, the double entendre in the term “sex” is intentional in this theological discussion.

  3. […] to define. Hair length is discussed, but hair length does not a sex make. (I’ve learned on Energetic Procession and Wikipedia that ‘gender’ is more of a sociological word, and that ’sex’ […]

  4. Perry,

    I think there is more to this that could be helpful, but my brain’s a little too fried to try to articulate it yet. Next week is probably better.

    Blessed commemoration of the Dormition of the Theotokos to all.

  5. Andrea,

    You’re jumping ahead of me! You are on the right track though but this is an especially delicate matter. Sometime next week I might post some of my thoughts.

  6. Nathaniel,

    I appreciate your comments.

    So you are saying “sex” goes in the Person category, and that our common humanity belongs in the essence category. That takes care of becoming like Christ or Mary. We can be like them in our common humanity, according to our individual male or female personality. I think you’re right!

    Thanks. 🙂

  7. Wow, reading back over my posts I kinda sound like a fundamentalist. Sorry if I came across that way. I was much more “thinking out loud” than trying to come across dogmatic.

    Evan, see Behr’s “The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death” for a good discussion on Mary as icon of the Church.

    Andrea, pardon my thinking out loud here: Essence and energy are sexless, while persons are not. The same is true for humans: our common nature is sexless, while our persons are not. Communion is effected between persons through our activities. For instance, I bring my wife flowers and it helps our marriage. 🙂 So too with God our communion is the conjoining our persons via His energy with my activity (hence the synergy clause of the Council of Orange). We are not united to God’s essence, which is beyond being and unknowable. This is why, at least in Orthodox worship, the persons of the Trinity play utmost importance: we are entering communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. My understanding of “becoming conformed to His likeness” is that it is speaking of the human nature, which Christ has assumed. Thus, being “conformed” is roughly analogous of “being healed”: We were created in the image of Christ (our essence) and to that image we must be restored/conformed. Thus, Christ has become like us so that we may (again) become like Him.

    At least that is my understanding, forgive me if I have found my way into heresy.

  8. Iohannes says:

    And to think, that clip is from an episode of “Yes, Prime Minister” that first aired 22 years ago.

    One of the few benefits of Gordon Brown as PM is that he seems wary of meddling in the appointment of bishops (natural enough for the son of a Church of Scotland minister). Among his earliest proposals on assuming office was to curtail the government’s role in the matter. Still better (practically speaking) might be to leave things squarely in the Queen’s hands, without reference to the desire of the liberals to perpetuate themselves. But then that might be regretted when Charles comes to power.

  9. Robert says:

    I came to Orthodoxy via Anglicanism, while I am thankful for the time I spent in it, I still cannot think of it as a true Church.

    As the discussions I have had with my Anglican friends who always cry about Apostolic succession, when does excommunication actually mean anything if your Bishop can trace his ordination back to an excommunicated Bishop, but that still has no bearing on the validity of his orders.

    If your Bishop was excommunicated and he went and started his own Church and began to ordain priests and deacons, would you consider it a valid Church and their ordinations valid? If not, why not seeing your orders were obtained in the same manner? If its not the same, then explain how it isn’t the same? If the Roman church from which your bishops obtained their orders is a true Church, then why don’t you reconcile with it, or do you believe that the Lord is pleased with schism?

    It was as an Anglican that when I began to ask myself those questions that I could no longer remain an Anglican. I decided that I could either continue to hold to theories and hope that what I was doing was actually valid, or I could quit playing Church and actually join one.

  10. trvalentine says:

    I was always taught that ‘gender’ was a language distinction (non-existent in English) and that ‘sex’ referred to male and female. Using the term ‘gender’ in place of ‘sex’ was as wrong as referring to the number zero as ‘oh’. ‘What is your sex?’ was a proper question; ‘what is your gender’ was wrong.

    I guess I haven’t ‘caught up’ to the latest political correctness. But then I still think ‘paradigm’ means ‘example’ and is not a synonym for ‘world view’.

    Thomas the Curmudgeon

  11. I had not heard that gender is distinguished from sex, so I looked it up in Wikipedia,

    “Gender refers to the differences between men and women. Encyclopædia Britannica notes that gender identity is “an individual’s self-conception as being male or female, as distinguished from actual biological sex.”[1] Although gender is commonly used interchangeably with sex, within the social sciences it often refers to specifically social differences, known as gender roles in the biological sciences. Historically, feminism has posited that many gender roles are socially constructed, and lack a clear biological explanation. People whose gender identity feels incongruent with their physical bodies may call themselves transgender or genderqueer.”

    Besides the obvious anatomical differences, I wonder where male and femaleness fits in the Ordo Theologiae of Person, Activities, then Essence. I think essence is similar to nature. We all have a human nature, but would sex be a subcategory of that? We are equally human though so there is basicness to humanity that applies to both. And how much can an individual person mess with that? I do sense that there is a basicness to masculinity and femeninity that transcends activitiy, whether in manipulating their body parts, participating in combat, or whatever.

    If our humanity is in Christ’s humanity, then we all become conformed to His likeness, but he’s a man. And Priests are men and the feminine Church aren’t they? And Mary is God’s Mother, Sister, and Wife. This is probably why these inner doctrines are meant to be viewed with the eyes of the pure and spotless Church, and not fallen reasoning. Still, I’d like to sort out the Ordo Theologiae.

  12. Well said. As a former Anglican as well, I wonder how I managed for so long to see the fiction rather than the facts on the ground… until seen through the eyes of my kids. Thank God for children! They teach us more than we know… and their “Fake-dar” works much better than their polite elders.

    Ultimately, the diversity of Anglicanism’s vision of melding divergent, mutually incompatible approaches to God reached a point where tolerance extended to tolerance of error, and real theological deviation. Much of this was encouraged by Parliament’s management of one of the branches of Goverment – i.e. the Church of England – and the extension of equal rights policies to the Church by fiat as simply another area of oversight. Theology played no role. Elizabeth’s “We have no theology… ” bites back. Yes, it originally included some exculpatory language… like “of our own”… but in the end… it was just far simpler to drop these next three words.

    I find Orthodoxy affords a shift from formalism and religion to a real relationship with God as Trinity…. but that may be less Orthodoxy per se than the nature of my own journey at that point in my life…. and Orthodoxy simply offering to open the door. Here, the fuzziness drops out, the content rises, and the clarity and discipline of love without animus, pride or privilege is in practice, actually more liberating than all the blather of the “rights” crowd. The rights crowd seems to follow an ethic that differs from that of authentic Christian counter culturalism… rather precisely the opposite. And their efforts to obscure the distinctiveness of roles not in the name of equality, denies the individuality of the human person. In part, it belies that in truth they are far more interested in entitlement and privileges – and only seeking their turn at the helm. If their position holds, then I can’t blame them. But if not… and I think not… then I think Orthodoxy has within itself the ability to turn the whole on its head. And it is this ability that gives our faith its ability to transform the human spirit, and lift it up.

    In the end, I have to admit that William Tighe was and is far more on the mark than I was comfortable admitting… but Anglicanism is centered on earthly power, and … gulp… my biggest admission…. always has been. I wish them well and a true renewal in spirit. Ultimately, the struggles in my rear view mirror may lead them to unify their church in a coherent body. But it will be a far different place.

  13. Evan says:

    “It is in this highly sexual language that the priest MUST be a man, as he is an Icon of Christ the bridegroom, and the Church MUST be a woman, iconified by the Theotokos, the virgin bride.”

    “Bride of Christ” models of the Church are all well and good, as are Marian models… but might such a merging of the two as you have provided here create some severe problems for both Mariology and Christology? Apologies for the nitpicking- I agree with your point!

  14. Isaac,

    I don’t really expect them to capitulate, as a whole, to Byzantium. So to answer your question, I would say no its not wrong. I expect them to be Orthodox where they are.


  15. Isaac the Syrian says:

    Is it wrong to believe that the best hope for ecumenism between Orthodox and Anglicans is for as many Anglicans to become Orthodox as possible?

  16. The fundamental error of Anglicanism, and why they will probably never schism, is because the essential Anglican theological hermeneutic is political compromise. The roots of Anglicanism’s destruction are intrinsic to its very foundation: the via media. Anglicanism will probably establish two separate international hierarchies and yet remain in communion with one another. However, to use the imagery above, sex does not a marriage create. Neither will communion bring about the unity which they seek. Unity must come first, then communion. I would in fact argue that the sexual laxity of Anglicanism is in fact a by-product of their heresy regarding Church and communion… “If we can practice open communion with heretics, why not practice open marriage, polygamy (serial or parallel), homosexuality, or bi-sexuality?”

  17. Daniel,

    Me too, and I had thought the acquisition of SPCK bookstores in the UK would have helped, but it seems to have been grossly botched. See the comments http://solomonhezekiah.wordpress.com/2008/08/03/barry-george-unframed/

  18. Of course Communion is like sex. That is why in the canons, if someone is not in the Church and takes communion they are immediately to be baptised. Its why the Church is the Body of Christ, because we become one body through the consummation (communion) of our marriage with Christ. In fact, the Gnostics had a separate “sacrament” called “the bridal chamber,” but the Church refuted it saying that the Eucharist is our union with Christ. It is in this highly sexual language that the priest MUST be a man, as he is an Icon of Christ the bridegroom, and the Church MUST be a woman, iconified by the Theotokos, the virgin bride. To eliminate sexuality, to say that a person is ontologically asexual, is to undermine the mystical theology of the Church.

  19. I still hold out a small hope and pray for those professing Christian Anglicans (or whatever size they are) to form some sort of Orthodoxy.

  20. Catechumen says:

    Communion as sex is an interesting analogy. In that way it sort of makes sense why being received as a convert takes a long time. You need time to get to know each other, and in the case of conversion, time to convert.

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