Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Howlers from the Niagara Anglican

Two points from the January 2008 Niagara Anglican (in pdf here)

Eleanor Johnston, from St Thomas's, St Catharines, writes of an experience hearing Bishop Don Harvey preach at the cathedral in St John's: 'The sermon, by Bishop Harvey, was the most narrow-minded and hostile we had ever heard, both in terms of his tone of voice and the content of his message. He ranted at us about the sin of believing in modern theology. One line in particular I remember: "If you do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, you do not belong in this church!" We sat there, stunned.'

I mean, how could he? Doesn't he know that that could offend some people's theological sensibilities? Jesus doesn't really care if you believe his word or his Church as long as you're really nice to your neighbour, right?

Likewise, the Very Rev. Peter Wall, Rector of Christ's Church Cathedral and Dean of Niagara, chides us for not being accommodating enough of, erm, non-Christian Christians.

"Inclusive worship should also be a hallmark of our parishes and communities. Inclusive of different approaches and needs, of different preferences and experiences, of differing views and responses. A member of the Cathedral community said not so long ago to me that he had real trouble with The Holy Trinity—didn't think that he could believe in it, and struggled with the divinity of Christ. He translated that into a sense of unworthiness to celebrate weekly with the gathered community."

Good for the Dean! After all, people who don't believe in Christ's godhead (and thus, one assumes, not in the Eucharist itself) can still be good Christians, right? To think that one shouldn't partake in the sacraments just because one doesn't believe in them is so retro and self-loathing. Who's to say whether they are good Christians? (Maybe the Council of Nicea?)


Tay Moss said...

Well, I think the notion that "belief" is what makes one Christian is a dangerous product of the enlightenment. What makes one Christian is the operation of the Holy Spirit affected at Baptism and the ongoing sanctification of Grace. I'm sure belief is important in this, but it's not the essential thing. Otherwise, how can we say that infants and the mentally ill are saved? I don't know any "faithful" Christians who won't admit to have some dark moments of doubt (even Mother Theresa, we recently learned). The important thing, to my mind, is the continued engagement with God (present through Word and Sacrament) and not an over-emphasis on right-belief. That's a very Anglican way to approach this problem--lex orandi lex credendi, after all! -t

felix hominum said...

Interesting observations. I especially liked this comment further along in the first article: "Too many priests, although trained themselves in progressive theology, succumb to their congregation's insistence
on dated concepts."

I would humbly suggest, in reply to Fr. Moss, that belief as at least a major component goes back much further than the Enlightenment. Hence at our last GS we noted that the core doctrine of the Anglcan Church is creedal. The creeds of course are statements of bellef.

So I would suggest that the church itself re-affirms that belief in the core doctrine - creedal - is a necessary part of our common life.

Tay Moss said...

Of course belief, even "Creedal" belief, is important, but I just get nervous when people start to play the game of who's-orthodox-enough. The relationship between faith, belief, and community is very deep and is a fruitful thing to reflect upon. Unfortunately, many of our brothers and sisters flatten the debate to a very stark line in the sand that can only be crossed with an act of confession. But that act of confession itself (whether of Creed or of the story of one's coming to Christ) becomes a ritual with obscure reference. What do we mean by the terms of our Creeds? I suppose we mean that we can say certain things about the nature of God and the person of Jesus, etc., but on a deeper level we all must live into our beliefs as deeper and deeper mysteries that continually reveal themselves. We will never have correct belief in an absolute sense except, perhaps, in heaven! So I'm inclined to have mercy on Process Theologians and the like--people of good faith attempting to understand the revelation of the Gospel the best they can. -t