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mourning becomes mcbrien

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 19, 2007

Now this is a collector's item: Father Richard McBrien in sky-high dudgeon, indignantly defending the value of doctrinal unity. How did that come about? Because it concerns doctrinal unity in the Anglican Church, of course!

First, the storm of controversy within Anglicanism should at least put an end to the "cynical" taunts of some conservative Roman Catholics. Doctrines and morals do matter to the Episcopal Church and to Anglicans generally, now almost 80 million strong.

It is simply calumnious to accuse our separated sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ, and specifically our Episcopal brethren, of having no sense of responsibility toward matters of Christian faith and morals. All the evidence is to the contrary.

Simply calumnious, eh? All the evidence is to the contrary, you say?

Then perhaps, Father, you could explain for our benefit the views expressed on the First Things blog by communicant Episcopalian Jordan Hylden, who brings to our attention, among others of his co-religionists,

Marcus Borg, an influential Episcopalian biblical scholar, and John Shelby Spong, the outspoken former bishop of Newark. Neither Borg nor Spong believe in doctrines such as the Resurrection, the Atonement, the authority of Scripture, or the divinity of Christ. Spong, in fact, does not believe in God. ... In [the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Katharine] Schori's new book, A Wing and a Prayer, it seems that she does, in fact, affirm doctrines like Christ's divinity and resurrection. But for liberals such as Schori, such matters are relatively unimportant. For Schori, disagreement on such issues is possible, even desirable, within the Church. The only nonnegotiable doctrines have to do with the Church's new central mission, defined as matters like gay rights and the UN Millennium Development goals.

In a later post, Hylden presents us with a comparably grim analysis of the conference that recently took place in Tanzania, zero-ing in on the crisis that McBrien so fervidly claims does not exist:

Each week, Christians confess in the Nicene Creed their belief in the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church," which among other things means that the Church ought to be united in professing the teachings of Christ and the apostles. But the Episcopal Church by its actions had called this into question. Unity in truth, it in effect held, no longer mattered. The situation was described quite accurately by Bishop N.T. Wright, a leading Anglican intellectual, as "doctrinal indifferentism."

"All the evidence," McBrien sputters, "is to the contrary." He was obviously rattled by George Weigel's column of the previous week forecasting "the end of the Anglican communion." Nor is this surprising, when you consider that McBrien's own notion of "responsibility toward matters of Christian faith and morals" is indistinguishable from that of Frank Griswold and Katharine Jefferts Schori, and he's in the acutely embarrassing position of an ecclesiological engineer watching his pet project fail under stress testing and disintegrate before his eyes. Few Catholics are in a worse position to lecture on the unifying value of belief, nor is our man making a general plea for tolerance. As shown by the scolding he gives Archbishop Akinola below, McBrien has no qualms about criticizing those Anglicans who -- paradoxically, it would seem -- join us cynical Catholics in calumniating liberal Episcopalians as insufficiently concerned with that faith & morals thing:

There is [writes McBrien] nothing to be said in support of the African bishops who have meanwhile been fishing in troubled waters, looking for additional Anglicans to bring under their canonical jurisdiction, whatever the gravely negative consequences for the unity of the Episcopal Church and of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Such behavior is pastorally reprehensible, whatever one's views on homosexuality and the consecration of openly-partnered gay bishops.

To recapitulate: we conservative cynics are guilty of calumny against Anglicans in claiming the Episcopal Church is doctrinally flaky, and those Anglican bishops who agree with us and who try to fly in some doctrinal support -- i.e., to those layfolk who also agree with us -- inflict a pastorally reprehensible injury to the UNITY of the world-wide Communion. Clear, I hope?

Please stand for a creed. Any creed.

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