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Models of Communion: Performing Our Anglican Identity
The Anglican Communion Institute ^ | Sunday, 19 August 2007 | Craig David Uffman

Posted on 08/26/2007 4:14:42 PM PDT by Huber

The ACI has long hoped to encourage the reflection and writing of developing scholars and theologians, much as SEAD, in a previous era, did through its conferences and occasional journal The Harvest. In an effort to renew such a path, we have begun to place on our website the work of some newer voices, and will continue to do so.

Craig David Uffman is a senior M.Div. student at Duke Divinity School. A former businessman, he has a passion for church-planting and recently toured and studied in some significant areas of the Global South where evangelism is being vigorously and faithfully pursued within difficult contexts.

The following essay, as Mr. Uffman explains, grew out of reflections on this learning, carried out at Canterbury.

For more convenient viewing, you may download an Adobe PDF version of this essay here . - The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner



The essay that follows was begun a month ago and has a context about which I must be clear. I wrote from a particular location and for a particular purpose, both of which shape the way I hope my words will be understood. The location was the Canterbury Cathedral, where I spent three weeks this summer as Canterbury Scholar. These were the days leading up to and during the ACN meeting. At the time I was a postulant for holy orders outside the official structures of TEC, hopeful to be ordained as deacon following my graduation from the Duke Divinity School in December. These two factors are crucial to the interpretation of this essay. First, the gift of time as a Canterbury Scholar - having worshipped in the cloisters St. Augustine built 1,400 years ago, having prayed in 22 languages by candlelight with my fellow Anglicans in the shrine of Thomas Becket, having sung the song of the Ugandan martyrs with my African brothers during the Cathedral's Eucharist service, and, at Oxford, having stood on the spot where Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were martyred - has reinforced my sense that our Communion is a gift from God that we rightly treasure. Second, this essay was borne out of a struggle to understand rightly the character and purpose of our Communion's Instruments of Unity, in the midst of a deep and wrenching controversy among conservatives as how best to find freedom from TEC's ‘heresy and oppression.' It is therefore rightly received as a reflection of my own agonies through which I made the decision that I could not follow a course that willingly accepted global schism as the price for such apparent freedom - agonies which have resulted in a difficult decision to seek holy orders within a current diocese of the Episcopal Church. In that sense, what I share is my own wrestling, in the hope others, similarly struggling to navigate, may benefit. & Two points arise from this context. First, I wrote not for the blogosphere (or ACI), but for myself and for those like me who seek a renewal of the evangelical center but feel torn in their efforts to act in a theologically rigorous way while "pursuing vigorously a right order in the body, including in terms of teaching and discipline." And I wrote while at the International Study Center at Canterbury in the shadow of the cathedral. That explains the admittedly academic genre found here and also my purpose. Second, as I read my essay today, my own criticism is that I perhaps have not given sufficient voice to this last duty, and I fear that others may infer that I see our duty of table fellowship (a key theme of my essay) in opposition to our duty to pursue vigorously right order and discipline. So let me be clear: if I understate this latter duty, it is solely because it seems to me a ‘given,' a duty so clearly handed down to us by those forebears in whose footsteps I walked this summer at Canterbury, that I cannot imagine Spirit-led bishops like Bishops Duncan, Iker, Beckwith, Jenkins, Smith, Stanton, and Wimberly (and many others) abandoning it. I fully expect and count on them to stand firm. My concern in this essay is with the course advocated by those who, in my view, are still too quick to relieve the tension inherent in our duties of table fellowship and discipline. Accordingly, what follows is something I wrote as one who believes our Communion is a gift from God that we reject only at the risk that, in our quest for "truth," (borrowing from Stanley Hauerwas) we underwrite forms of violence that put our salvation in jeopardy. My prayer is that others, wrestling as I still am to make sense of all this, will benefit from my own efforts to work through this theologically.

- Craig Uffman August 17, 2007


Models of Communion: Performing Our Anglican Identity

This essay is about our Anglican identity. In particular, what does it mean to "stand firm in faith; be persons of courage; be strong. Do everything in love" (1 Cor 16:14)? There is much talk these days about the hard facts that require conservatives to abandon hope for a future that includes communion with TEC and even Canterbury. Indeed, in some circles, it is an accepted commonplace to speak of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the harshest terms, declaring him a weakling, a quisling, untrustworthy, and faithless. Schism, in the judgment of some, is more godly than maintaining communion with those they judge to be heretical or apostate.

While I acknowledge the hard facts of our reality at this moment, and I, like many, suffer much distress about my own ecclesial future as we navigate this difficult time together, I disagree profoundly with those who counsel despair and rationalize abandonment of Canterbury and global schism. I agree that the issue at hand is our Christian identity, but I suggest that a militant politics of "liberation from TEC" ensnares us in behaviors that contradict our identity in Christ and therefore lead us astray. Part 1 reviews lessons from the mission field of Islam to introduce the practical significance of an identity founded on relational receptivity. Part II develops this concept by examining closely J. Kameron Carter's study of Frederick Douglass to show that the militant identity advocated by some may well actually repeat the self-destructive performance of Christian identity of those from whom it is claimed we must seek liberation. Following Carter, I propose that the cause of our Anglican identity crisis in the West is a "modern" theology, the core of which is shared by both liberals and "orthodox," that is insufficiently paschal, charismatic, pentecostal, and spiritual. Drawing heavily upon the work of Carter and Kenneth Bailey, in Part III, I conclude by offering a rough outline of how our Anglican identity might be alternatively understood and performed.

Part I - Mission as Relational Receptiveness

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of Nigeria, who was recently commissioned as a "Six Preacher" at Canterbury Cathedral, is one of the Communion's experts on the encounter of Christianity with Islam. While a student at St. John's in Durham, he dedicated himself to the life of a missionary to the Muslims who constitute the majority of Nigeria's population. He shared his "lessons learned" recently in four days of lectures to priests, deacons, and postulants participating in the Canterbury Scholars program.

Fearon traces the history of Christian missional approaches to Islam to illustrate the self-destructive nature of a politics that begins with the rejection of "other." From Eulogius (who began by identifying Muhammad as the ‘anti-Christ') to St. Francis of Assisi (who challenged the Sultan of Egypt to Elijah-like tests of power) to colonial-era missionary efforts (which saw Islam as fatalistic, superstitious, and backward), the common thread in evangelistic efforts to Islam was the presupposition that Muslims are hostile, contempt-worthy savages who must be conquered on behalf of Christendom. As a result of such evangelism approaches, buttressed by Western military power, Muslims worldwide equate Christianity with the Western culture that must be resisted. This resistance has oftentimes been the harvest of the whirlwind for the great powers of the West, and especially for Britain and its successor on the world stage, the U.S.

Fearon understands well the colonialist condescension towards non-Christians, for the missionaries who brought Africans Christianity, particularly in its Anglican form, condescended similarly to non-whites. He is able to critique their approach while at the same time praising God for sending God's Word via the missionaries. For example, he notes that, in spite of their inability to speak prophetically against the excesses of colonialism, the missionaries did leave a legacy that includes important blessings today. Chief among these, Fearon counts the proliferation of Christian schools and hospitals where the body of Christ continues to be visible to all the people of Nigeria. Yet, the overwhelming legacy of the church in the colonial period is a theology of difference that engages non-whites, and especially Muslims, in a power dynamics in which strength is defined in terms of one's ability to resist the counterclaims of "other" about "Truth" and about how the common life should be ordered. Fearon notes that it is this theology of difference, which rationalized the West's use of force in conquering the colonized peoples, that also guides the West's instinctive approaches in today's encounter with Islam.

Fearon credits Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952) with the doctrine that reversed this traditionally confrontational missionary approach to Islam. Zwemer insisted that Christians should see Ishmael, the son of Abraham from whom tradition claims Muhammad is descended, as the prodigal son. That is, in the encounter of Christians with Islam, the Christian should engage the Muslim as a brother returning from the tragic descent into sin common to all humans - a brother who ought to be greeted with sympathetic understanding. We are all prodigal sons and daughters. In stark contrast with early performances of Christian identity in the encounter of Islam, Fearon notes, such sympathetic understanding is the way of Christ.

"Sympathetic understanding," or, to borrow John Milbank's more descriptive phrase, "relational receptivity," is the approach Fearon has learned to take in leading the encounter of Christians with Islam in the volatile frontier of such encounters from his cathedral at Karduna. However, it is a lesson he learned the hard way. After a long period of frustrating sterility in his efforts to bring Muslims to Christ, he looked in the mirror one day and stared at a T-Shirt he wore emblazoned with a slogan often found in orthodox Christian closets in the West: "Repent or Perish!" The Spirit was with him that day, however, and led him to ask of that slogan the question that guided his ministry ever since: "where is the gospel in this? Where is the good news?" He realized that day that his missional harvest was barren because his theology was barren.

Today, the Archbishop's methodology of evangelism is patterned on the Lukan account of the walk to Emmaus. Fearon explains that the goal in engaging Muslims should be to help them find "the missing Christ." Because Islam recognizes Jesus of Nazareth as a great prophet, the problem Muslims have is not with "Jesus the Man." Just like most of us, the problem Muslims have in encountering the Gospel is with "Jesus the Christ." The risen Christ is a stumbling block for them, just as it was for those disciples who encountered him on the road to Emmaus. The Nigerian methodology is patterned on how Jesus engaged those disciples. Though they did not recognize him, he did not confront them and did not try to force them to see the truth in their midst. Instead, he walked with them. He walked with them a long way. Indeed, he "overaccepted" them, continuing with them in dialogue until they reached their true destination. It was only in the sharing of bread with him that they were given eyes to see it was Christ who fed them.

Fearon uses this story of Jesus to note an important distinction between Christianity and Islam. The encounter with Christ is for all humans a lifelong pilgrimage to Emmaus and not an event. And during that pilgrimage, the unchurched seeker learns slowly what it means to participate in the community of faith who walks alongside him, until given the gift of the new creation "in Christ." This leads to Fearon's distinction. We are the people "in Christ" and Muslims are the "people of the Book" (the Koran). Ours is a personal relationship with the triune God. This distinction makes a world of difference. For it is only when the seeker understands what it means to encounter God in the Person of Christ - to seek revelation through a personal relationship of rest "in Christ" - that the words in a book are recognized as "revelation."

In making this distinction between "the people in Christ" and "the people of the book," Fearon intensifies the authority of the Bible for Christian life. The Bible is for Fearon not to be reduced to mere "revealed morality" that is so easily relativized by autonomous reason. It is to be understood as the story in which Christians live, the written Word through which we learn who we are. When the Bible is understood as the story of the household of God, the reading of Scripture together becomes "a subversive form of politics" that shapes the local church into a community of hope capable of living in peace with each other, and especially with Muslims. For Fearon, the creation of such communities is an urgent necessity for the Anglican Communion.

Fearon's approach to evangelism to Muslims begins with the observation that Christians and Muslims share an understanding that God transformed chaos into order in creating the universe. Thus, the first thing upon which Christians and Muslims can agree is that our natural state is one of peace. Authentic personhood incarnates peace with sisters and brothers. Furthermore, Fearon claims his role is not to confront and convert, but rather to incarnate this peace-giving Word in his relationship with Muslims. That Word is one of love, which for Fearon begins with accepting and understanding Muslims in their context. He speaks Arabic and has made himself an authority on Islam, and, through extraordinary sensitivity grounded in this knowledge, is able to actively affirm them without compromising the Gospel. By living in solidarity with them, by acting out the Gospel first, he evokes the questions that are his permission to proclaim it verbally. Thus, true mission looks like the walk to Emmaus. It remains alongside in the dialogue of receptive relationship, trusting that Christ is revealed in the sharing of bread and wine together.

My allusion to the sharing of bread and wine with Muslims is intentional. Bread and wine are Christian symbols of the abundant providential grace of the Creator God, who, through sun and rain, sustains all that is. Table fellowship with our neighbors is therefore an essential means by which we celebrate the gifts of Creation and witness to the love of the Creator. When we dine in friendship with our neighbors, be they saints or notorious sinners, we enact the Good News we are commissioned to proclaim. In table fellowship, we simultaneously receive and share the blessings God intends for all creation. Table fellowship thus epitomizes mission as relational receptivity.

However, when the cup and loaf of creation are consecrated in the presence of the Spirit, mere wine and bread become what Irenaeus of Lyons described as "the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ." The Eucharist is a prism, refracting the light of the triune God - Father, Son, and Spirit - by which all creation is sustained. It is therefore a uniquely Christian celebration. Because we believe the celebration of the Eucharist unites us with the risen Son through the Spirit, we make peace with God (through confession of our sin) and with each other (through declaration of the "peace") before we enter God's presence. Put another way, if we are not at peace with God (through repentance of sin) and with each other (through the biblical ritual of reconciliation that leads to peace among neighbors), then we are not yet prepared to enter into the risen Christ's presence together in thanksgiving, and therefore we abstain from sharing the Eucharist together. This is the "discipline" of the Eucharist.

Table fellowship and the sharing of the Eucharist are thus distinct habits through which humans encounter Christ. Both are related to Christ's commands to us. As Billy Graham explains, the Gospel can be summarized with Jesus' commands to "Come!" and to "Go!" In the Eucharist, we "come" into Christ's presence and are given all we need to be friends with God and each other. Only then is it possible for us to "go." Nourished, we obediently "go" into the presence of those for whom Christ is "missing" and incarnate the Christ in our ‘walking alongside' and in our table fellowship.

For Archbishop Fearon, it is essential that Anglicans are clear about this distinction between table fellowship and Eucharistic practice, or, more to the point, the distinction between our duty to love our neighbors as Christ loved us and our responsibility to discipline each other so that Christ is formed in our community. We are never relieved of our duty to incarnate the Gospel in our relationships with others, whether they deny Christ (apostate), follow a false teaching (heretic), or are faithful disciples. But what is the body politic to do when its common life is corrupted through sin? Fearon observes that our only non-sinful response is to perform ‘the law of Christ.' The ‘law of Christ' (Matt 18:15-18) is fundamental to the resurrection community because it is the means instituted by Christ by which the people of God perform Christ's work of reconciliation, discernment in communion, and restoration. Jesus called it binding and loosing, rabbinic terms that emphasize that restoration is grounded in the interdependent imperatives of reconciliation and moral discernment. The hope and prayer of the community - the purpose of this liturgical action - is not to punish but to restore the community to wholeness.

Fearon illustrates this distinction between table fellowship and Eucharistic discipline in discussing candidly the problem of bigamy in his own province. Because the church always has the duty of asylum, the church must make a space for such ‘notorious sinners.' The duty of table fellowship assures their space in the community. Nevertheless, Eucharistic discipline demands that bigamists not be allowed to hold office in the church and that they abstain from the Eucharist, by episcopal directive if necessary. However, like table fellowship, the purpose is to unite the separated; such discipline is not an act of raw power, and not a choice between "desert and non-desert" of the heretic. Eucharistic discipline is not punishment, but the community's act of goodwill and solidarity. As John Milbank observes, it is properly unifying at-one-ment, an act of communal forbearance by which the community "acknowledges that an individual's sin is never his alone, that its endurance harms us all, and therefore its cancellation is also the responsibility of us all."

The thrust of the Gospel, the Archbishop concludes, whether in the "coming" to the Eucharist or the "going" to the frontiers of mission, is always uniting. Fearon therefore has little patience for those who divide in the name of Truth. Truth, Fearon suggests, is not something one proclaims and protects, but something one performs. When we perform truth, we recognize it by our unity.

Part II - Transcending the Enlightenment Heresy

How is it that Christian missionaries - indeed good Anglican missionaries of the CMS and USPG - could baptize coercive engagement with non-whites and still see themselves as following Christ? Indeed, why is it that many Christians today affirm a confrontational engagement with Islam? Why is it that some worry that Fearon "compromises" the Gospel by accepting Muslims, who deny the deity of Christ, as sisters and brothers? Theologian J. Kameron Carter provides some helpful insights in his re-reading of Frederick Douglass' 1845 autobiography in Race, Religion, and the Contradictions of Identity. Through a reading of Douglass' theological assumptions in the account of his struggle for freedom and his resort to violence in service of that freedom, Carter shows that his villain, "modern theology," sanctifies the violent engagement of ‘other' as a result of theological error grounded in its understanding that human identity is achieved through struggle, rather than the Easter understanding of human identity that is gifted in Christ and Pentecost.

"Modern theology" refers broadly to the theology which grew out of the German Enlightenment; it refers more specifically to the various theological schools descended from Immanuel Kant which have dominated Christian thought in the last two centuries." According to Carter, a student of John Milbank and who now teaches at the Duke Divinity School, the theology that justifies the West's confrontational approach to non-whites that Fearon laments can be traced to Kant's notion of ‘autonomous man.' The life of ‘autonomous man' consists of an earnest striving to live according to ‘pure reason,' which means that all who seek to impose a conflicting external authority must be resisted. This "oppositional logic," deeply embedded within modern theology, pits humans against each other in competition for honor, dignity, and freedom, the scarce goods that ‘autonomous man' acquires in his quest for worthiness.

Carter shows that the concrete acting out of the Easter story as narrated by modern theology conceals an inherent white racism while simultaneously serving its cause by "enacting the truth of raw power and its supposed ultimacy." Modern theology thus funds and sanctions cultural orderings by which an autonomous people (such as the society dominated by white male Germans) affirms itself in the encounter with those who are ‘other,' whether that difference is of nationality, ethnicity, race, or culture. In the case of the German Enlightenment, modern theology sanctified the isolation of Jews as ‘other.' The civilized, rational, white German Christian male exemplified "autonomous man," while the ‘barbaric,' ‘irrational' Jew exemplified his antithesis whose counterclaims about how life should be ordered must be resisted. It is this religiously buttressed ordering of society and the political economy according to an anti-Jewish cultural ideal that leads Carter to describe modern theology as a theology of "whiteness." It is a theology in which power is the measure of progress towards rationality, a measure that demarcates the godliness and civility of nations and peoples. And, for Carter, it is a theology that is too often a Kantian construction that sees white male rationality as the spiritual telos of humankind. For the "white" theology that justified the Enlightenment era isolation of Jews in Germany and the colonial confrontation with Muslims by British missionaries in Africa also baptized enslavement of Africans in America decades after William Wilberforce's successful abolition efforts in England.

Frederick Douglass' autobiography of 1845 narrates his movement from slavery to fame as an abolitionist and intellectual. Douglass' agenda in publishing his narrative is, first, to unmask the way the Gospel was used by whites to rationalize slavery, and, second, to put forth a different vision of religion and race in order to restore black dignity and identity. He presents this vision literarily by presenting his own story as representative of "black man" and mapping that story metaphorically to the Passion narrative. Douglass' blood, spilled by the cruel slave master, Covey, is the slave's participation in Christ's blood, and Douglass' ultimate liberation from bondage is his participation in Christ's resurrection.

In the climactic moment - the moment he maps to the Resurrection - Douglass gains his freedom by conquering his cruel slave master, Covey, in a reversal of the violence he had himself experienced. Yet, in Carter's reading, that moment of victory is the location of Douglass' tragic failure:

For now it is Covey, not Douglass, who is bleeding, and it is Douglass, not Covey, who brandishes in his bare hands the lash. Indeed, Douglass's fingers have become instruments of the very violence he once received and reviled.... By repeating the oppositional logic at work in the discourse of race within the American myth of national identity, Douglas mires himself even deeper in the very structures from which he most vehemently struggles to extricate himself.

Carter's engagement with Douglass' autobiography shows that, rather than resulting in the performance of an alternative politics that transforms the world, the Paschal story, once refracted through the lens of modern theology, can be transformed into in a politics of "raw power and its supposed ultimacy." For, when carrying one's cross and participating in the resurrection is identified with conquering oppressors to achieve autonomy and freedom, "power is the truth of things; it is the story of being as such." Power - and not divine love - becomes "the meta-narrative of existence."

Carter's project is to offer a constructive theology that addresses Douglass' tragic failure by unmasking and transcending the errors inherent in modern theology that sanctify the violence at the roots of slavery, colonialism, and the Western engagement of Islam. Carter's use of the phrase "white theology" carries rhetorical force in the analysis of our colonial legacy, but his most valuable contribution is the recognition that modern theology, like Islam, ensnares us in a theology of coercive power rather than cruciform powerlessness. To correct this, he begins by pointing to an "Easter identity," an identity he contrasts with that presupposed in the "`white' theology" of the West, which he defines negatively as anti-Jewish, and "insuf-ficiently paschal, 'charismatic', 'pentecostal', and spiritual."

Paschal In narrating the Easter story in light of German anxieties about the Jews within their own culture, German Enlightenment thinkers denied or de-emphasized the essential Jewishness of the Easter story. But when the Easter story is re-told as discontinuous with the history and destiny of Israel, the identity given God's people through the election of Abraham, fulfilled in Christ, is lost; shorn of its essential Jewishness, Christian identity becomes self-constructed ("I must become...."), and oriented towards others in a contest for power ("I must overcome....").

In contrast, the Easter identity is inextricably linked with the history and destiny of Israel. Through the lens of Pentecost, Carter re-narrates that history to reclaim the essential Jewishness of the Easter people. In his exegesis, Israel's post-Fall story begins with the Tower of Babel, when God scattered humankind, allowing peoples who did not understand their true identity (their relation to God and each other) "to remain trapped within their various self-enclosed political and cultural boundaries." God reverses the judgment of Babel by gathering a people, "the seed of Abraham," to whom he promised a "pivotal" role "in the process by which nations and the peoples of the world would be delivered from the enclaves of their various national and cultural identities." God elects Israel "to be a non-nationalistic nation, a different kind of people-the people of God" chosen "by God to mediate creation's re-creation." Israel's role in reversing Babel "reaches its crescendo in Jesus of Nazareth," through whom "the world in its entirety becomes conscripted into Israel's destiny in and for the world." Jesus fulfills Israel's mission of rendering articulate the inarticulate speech of the nations, for "Christ becomes translated into the languages of all nations." The gathering of a new people "inaugurated by Christ thus proceeds by way of the early Jews... returning to the nations from which they came and continuing to speak the truth of the God of Israel in the languages of their non- Jewish host nations." Jews and, through Christ, Christians, are therefore recipients of the promise made to Abraham, in continuity with ancient Israel, as God continues to gather a people to deliver the nations from the incoherent speech of their self-constructed cultural identities.

Charismatic By charismatic, Carter refers to the essential giftedness of human identity. This charismatic understanding of identity has profound implications. It means that who we are and how we are to relate to others is not a matter of becoming and striving, but of being and receiving. It means that the Easter people both receive the gift of identity and denote the Giver of that identity so that others might receive it, which, in turn, means that Christian existence is never about self and always for ‘other.' It means that selfhood is a gift that "is known in, through, and as another," and that all humanity is to be received as part of the over-abundant giftedness of creation. Finally, it means that authentic personhood is open to the 'other' (e.g., other people, different from us) and that our self-constructed, protective, "self-enclosures" are "impotent" because they inhibit our inherent "inter-humanity" that is part of the Spirit's gift of identity. This charismatic theology that receives "other" as gift is the heart of Fearon's mission strategy to Muslims.

Pentecostal Carter points to the Pentecost event of Acts 2 to demonstrate that "human conformity to the Cross" is not a human achievement, but the gift of the Spirit by which "creation is... given "spiritual" ears to hear in Christ the language of God's triune love." Just as "speechlessness, inarticulacy, and illiteracy are the unique markers, the signs, of the loss of self," pentecostal denotes for Carter the re-creation of human identity through Christ's gift of "a new, inflamed, Pentecostal tongue." Christ achieves the "'pentecostalization'" of the world" through the Spirit who "school[s humankind] in a new mode of speech and identity" by drawing humankind into "Christ's incarnate, "Passion-ate" way of existence." The miracle of languages in Acts 2" inaugurates "the unfolding of Christ's existence in history as an eschatological move-ment towards the Kingdom of God." A theology that is sufficiently Pentecostal thus grounds the question of human identity, not in the striving of "autonomous man," but rather "within the ultimate horizon of creation's destiny; namely its divinization in Christ through God's Spirit." A sufficiently Pentecostal theology relates to others not as "lost" or "heretic" but as humans in whom Christ is slowly being formed. To be clear, "lost" or "heretic" may be fruitful descriptions of a person's location at a point in time, but a sufficiently Pentecostal theology distinguishes between human location and human identity, redirecting firmly the path of those lost in the "now," while seeing and loving in them the Christ "not yet" formed.

Spiritual Carter's claim that modern theology is insufficiently 'spiritual' brings into view his contention "that modern theology is a kind of neo-Gnosticism." Modern spirituality is merely "manly" existence symbolically represented in the language of the Easter story. Because "manhood" is the "crucial spiritual commodity," modern theology's account of the spiritual life is expressed in terms of "self-reliance, virile articulacy, and liberated identity." By co-opting the Easter story to validate the prevailing social and economic ordering, "white theology" presents a false spirituality that is in fact purely human. As in the accounts of colonial engagement of Islam and slavery in America, it masks white racism while baptizing it.

Carter points instead to a truly pneumatic existence, "the form of life, the style of being, that is an aesthetics and ascetics of God's triune love." This "practice of the Passion" is about existing "dispossessively" and not "powerfully," an existence that imitates Christ's "dispossession, impoverishment, and powerlessness" on the Cross. Easter spirituality is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of dispossession that enables disciples to possess "the their ultimate destiny." The Spirit, rather than humankind, is the true agent of transformation. Easter spirituality makes it possible for disciples to understand human identity as gift, and thereby to understand how "another reality sacramentally and iconically might bear the presence of God." Easter spirituality makes possible Fearon's strategy of relational receptivity.

Implications for Our Anglican Identity J. Kameron Carter's insights into the interaction of racial, gender, and national identity and modern theology have important implications for our Anglican identity. The positive implication is that our identity is given in our baptism into the Cross and Resurrection of Christ: we are the people who have received our identity from the Holy Spirit as gift and on that basis entered into the Father's promises to Israel; and, as the body of Christ, we are "the concretization of what gift means. In being the gift, we bring all others into the gift we bear witness to. In being the concretization of what ‘gift' means and in thus being the concrete witness to the ‘Giver' of the ‘gift' of existence, we are the concretization of the meaning of crea-tion in its relationship to its Creator."

Perhaps this is Archbishop Fearon's point in insisting that the correct response to those who fail to comprehend the Christ in Jesus is to be the Christ in their midst. If our mission is to bring others into the gift to which we bear witness, following the example of the risen Christ on the walk to Emmaus, we do that by taking the risk of walking alongside those for whom Christ is missing as long as it takes, actively and concretely receiving them as Christ receives us. The ‘missing Christ' becomes visible only when we reflect in our relationship with them the active, receptive love of the Creator for all creation.

The negative implication of Carter's insights is an urgent call to repentance. Carter's unmasking of the "whiteness" inherent in modern theology suggests that it is time that we grapple as a Communion with the still present implications of our colonial past. A turn from the "white" theology that perpetuates the "oppositional logic" of the colonial era is necessarily an urgent matter if we are to embody fully the post-colonial Pentecostal richness that signifies the presence of the Spirit. This is a concern not just for our engagement of Islam, but especially for our engagement with each other as Anglicans. In particular, repentance requires re-learning what Jesus taught the Pharisees: that we are never free of the commission to table fellowship, and that holy discipline can never be an act of raw power, and never a choice between ‘desert and non-desert.'

The way to grapple with our colonial past - the way to transcend the heresy inherent in our colonial theological inheritance - is to be the Communion. As John Howard Yoder reminds us, "Because God the Spirit speaks in the meeting, conversation is the setting for truth-finding." By ignoring the pleas of the Instruments of Unity with regard to issues of sexuality over the last several years, many in TEC have shutdown the conversation and declared TEC a lonely prophet. This is their error. For shutting down conversation is the power tactic of Caesars and paternalists. Words of prophecy become empty nonsense when spoken by bishops of the wealthiest nation on earth persisting in flagrant disregard of the counsel from their sisters and brothers of the former colonized lands. To deny their concerted voice about the common life, like my own white grandparents suppressing the voices of African-Americans with literacy tests and poll taxes, is to claim a "neo-colonial" privileged voice that reserves for itself the finest pews in the church while sending the slaves to the balcony. In so doing, TEC perpetuates non-violent violence, and thereby tears her prophetic utterance from its roots in the common life that distinguishes the people of God.

Yet the same is true of those who embrace global schism as the price all of us must pay so that they may distance themselves from TEC's apostasy. For all schism is violence. To respond to TEC's prodigal ways, her oppression of conservative priests, and her enactment of raw power by severing the bonds of affection ourselves is to make ultimate our freedom rather than our faithfulness. For our post is at the table. Standing firm paradoxically means walking alongside the prodigal - as long as it takes - until we dine together in Christ at Emmaus. A militant politics of "liberation from TEC," even if we consider TEC apostate or notoriously heretical, ensnares us in behaviors that contradict our identity in Christ and therefore lead us astray. We will stand above the corpse of Communion, brandishing in our bare hands the lash. Such a course, such a yielding to the discourse of raw power, will mire ourselves deeper in the very structures from which we most vehemently struggle to extricate ourselves. It will be our tragic failure to transcend the Enlightenment heresy of our roots.

Part III - Performing Our Anglican Identity When one listens closely to the testimonies of Archbishop Josiah Fearon and Dr. J. Kameron Carter, it becomes apparent that they sing the same song from the same sheet of music but in their distinctive tongues.

Both remind us of what scientism, nihilism, and secular humanism would have us forget: that peace - the unity of being - is both the origin and destination of our journey. Unity is both our natural home and our far off country. But our Christian vocation - our lifetime pilgrimage - is to move always towards that far off country.

Both understand the Bible as the shared story of the family of God that is the compass for our journey, the story that subverts our power politics by shaping the church into a community that actively receives all creatures as gift and thereby fulfills its identity as witness to the Giver.

Both call us to reckon with the implications of our colonial past - our inheritance of a theology that sanctions the exercise of raw power in service of autonomy, and that conceals its "whiteness" while maintaining "whiteness" (and masculinity) as its ideal in the encounter with ‘other.' Rather than modernity's politics of difference, they call us to a Christian walk with "other" in relational receptivity modeled on Jesus' walk to Emmaus.

Both understand courage not as the strength to overcome resistance in order to hold on to truth we possess, but as a Spirit-enabled, self-emptying that unites with ‘other' and receives ‘other' as gift in spite of our anxieties about fate, death, condemnation, and failure. Indeed, the exercise of such courage is what it means to ‘stand firm in faith with courage and love.' Our self-dispossessing, self-emptying weakness in order to unite with another constitutes our participation "in Christ" and thus constitutes our faithfulness to Christ. In so doing, we both imitate and denote the Supreme Love of the triune God. Such faithful weakness in spite of our concerns for survival is the very essence of courage. In other words, both agree that such faithfulness means seeing others as prodigal sons and daughters rather than as opponents, even though that relational receptivity always carries with it a vulnerability to failure and uncomprehending rejection by others.

But what does such ‘standing firm in faith' - this paradoxical courage to be weak in Christ - look like in real terms today? The first step may be to recognize that our instinctive responses are conditioned by a defective "white" theology that causes us to engage "other" as either friend or foe, rather than as "gift." This is not self-evident. Like fish who are so immersed in water that they can't tell they are wet, we are so immersed in modern theology that we are likely unaware how it conditions our responses.

The second step is to be clear that the call to be strong in weakness is not a call to be passive in the face of apostasy. The suggestion here is by no means a claim that there is no place for resistance or opposition in Christian life. To the contrary, the politics of Jesus shape the body of Christ into a community capable of and called to articulate resistance. However, we must be clear about the rightful object of our resistance. We are not to resist but to receive "other" as one who is given in some way to bless us in our movement towards enjoyment of God. We - as the community of faith - are to resist our own tendency toward idolatry - our own tendency to cling to anything other than God. Idolatry is the proper object of our resistance.

The third step is to recognize that prodigal sons and daughters do not threaten our Christian identity, except to the extent that they may tempt us to respond to them by surrendering ourselves to idolatry. Our challenge, then, is to perform our Christian identity in spite of prodigal power plays against us; our challenge is to be the Church. How do we this? As Archbishop Fearon and J. Kameron Carter teach us, we set aside "white" theology's hermeneutics of difference and embrace instead a hermeneutics of peace. In practical terms that means doing ourselves what the bishops attending Lambeth '08 will be doing each day: performing morning and evening prayer together, sharing the Eucharist together, reading Scripture that addresses the tough questions that separate us together, sharing table fellowship together, and taking long "walks to Emmaus" together. Our role is not to confront and convert, but rather to incarnate the peace-giving Word in our relationship with each other; our faith is that, in that encounter alone, the Spirit converts. Why this form of politics rather than a more "realistic" politics that punishes prodigals? Because, as Fearon observes, the proper response to those who stumble over the "missing Christ" in Jesus is for the community of faith to be the Christ for them. And it is precisely in our sacramental life together that we are assured that, through the Spirit, Christ is present (with the necessary caveats about worthy reception; as Augustine wrote of John 6.55 and 63: "If you have understood Christ's words spiritually concerning his flesh, they are spirit and life to you; if you have understood them carnally, they are also spirit and life, but not to you").

There are those for whom such a politics of peace smacks of Neville Chamberlain's tragic appeasement of Hitler. Indeed, some misunderstand Archbishop Fearon's approach to evangelizing Muslims that way. I concede that walking alongside those we believe have "walked apart" puts us on the boundaries of accepting behaviors, persons, and things that may horrify us. This is a risk, I maintain, that we must take in faithfulness to Christ. And here we come full circle to Fearon's point about receiving the "other" as prodigal sons and daughters. Relational receptivity is the risky but essential work of faithfulness. It takes great courage to be so weak.

Venerable New Testament scholars Kenneth Bailey (Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15) and Bishop N.T. Wright (Jesus and the Victory of God) depict this portrait of risky faithfulness in service of unity in their provocative accounts of Jesus' parable of the prodigal sons (Luke 15).

In the 21st century West, the end of this parable never fails to generate furrowed brows. We hear it as a simple morality tale that confounds our sense of justice. We, who were weaned on a concept of calculating justice that gives to each his just deserts, quickly categorize it as just another fable about forgiveness, although we frown when we try to fit the older brother into that category. After all, it is easy to empathize with him. He was neither apostate, heretical, nor a notorious sinner.

According to Bailey's reading, the first century Jews would have heard it differently, for it was their story, albeit with an unexpected ending. Bailey's first key insight is that a first century Jewish son who demands of his father the fruits of succession commits emotional patricide. By demanding his inheritance, he asserts his independence and his father's irrelevance, as though declaring his father "lost." It was and is a profound offense. One can easily imagine Tevye of The Fiddler On the Roof exploding in rage at such a breach, ejecting the transgressor from his life with words of finality, "Go! You are dead to me!" Instead, the father accepts the insult and divides the inheritance between the two boys. The younger boy gathers all of his belongings and soon departs for a distant land. The first century Jews would have understood the censure inherent in his departure; he had turned his back on his father and had no alternative but to leave his father's land in disgrace.

In the new land, he squanders his inherited gifts on self-indulgent, fleeting pleasures and then confronts the random nature of life, in the form of a famine. He sinks to the lowest state possible for a first century Jew taught to maintain Jewish ritual purity: he envies the pigs he feeds for a pagan master. Through the fog of despair and in fear of starvation, he recognizes that his only hope is to return to his father a failure.

It is tempting to believe that the younger son's return was grounded in true remorse and humility. If he is truly repentant then the welcome he receives is less offensive to our own notions of justice. But if we hear the story that way, we miss much of the tension in Jesus' story. For the son's actions are rooted not in humility, but simply more politics of power. He rehearses the speech he will make to his father, "I have sinned against heaven and before you." These words sound to us like words of humility, yet, as the Pharisees in the audience no doubt recognized, they are the words Pharoah said to Moses in similar desperation when trying to get him to stop the plagues. The son's aim is to be free of hunger, and, as with Pharaoh, empty words of contrition served that purpose. Moreover, the son's aim was not to heal the bonds of affection he had broken; on the contrary, his vision was neither to be restored to sonship nor to serve his father humbly like a slave, but rather to extract from his father the capital needed to set up shop as a craftsman. He would return a failure, but, by manipulating his father, he would achieve an identity of honor by earning a living in a vocation that excludes sonship.

So although the son arose from the muck of pigs and went to his father, it seems he took a bit of the pigsty with him. As he approached his village, he is not worthy to be called son. Indeed, as Bailey notes, the boy shames his father a second time by returning, for on the tip of every tongue of every village is talk of the disgrace, once banished, that returns.

A father's fury was his due. Bailey notes that a first century Jewish audience would have recognized the right of the community to stone the younger son. This observation leads to a second key insight. As Bailey imagines it, the father sees the son returning and runs toward him, not just to welcome him, but to protect him from the stones he knew would be the community's rightful greeting. The father thus runs to place his back between the son and the town so that any stones would hit him instead of the son; he runs in his robes in an act of public self-humiliation, sharing in his son's shame and sheltering him from harm. With reunion, there is resurrection. The father, receiving the son who disgraced him, throws a party, and not just a family affair, but a celebration of the exuberant, "let's roast a calf in the front yard!" variety. He joyfully accepts his son in spite of his unacceptability. Amazing grace, indeed!

The first century Jewish peasants listening to Jesus must have wanted to celebrate themselves at this point in the story, for it was filled with promise for them. For they would have recognized the younger son as the Israel of David and Solomon who had turned her back on the Father and fallen in disgrace into continuing exile. It was Israel who had squandered her gifts. It was Israel who still lived in misery serving pagan masters and who yearned to return to the Father she had forsaken. And Jesus was announcing with his words and festive meals that the time for celebration was now, that the Father was running, like Esau accepting Jacob, to embrace his people, that the sin of Israel was forgiven, and that in Israel's restoration was a new beginning.

Yet, there stands the older brother, ill treated, indignant, and resistant. He had paid his dues. While the youngest had gone astray, he had stayed, loyally serving the father his brother had rejected. He had taken Scripture seriously. He deserved better. His brother should get his just deserts, and so should he. Giving way to his anger, the older brother also disgraces the father by challenging publicly the welcome of the returning younger son. And here Jesus' parable finds its edge, for his allusion would have been clear to a first century Jew. For in the story of Israel, those who had remained when the Jews left in disgrace and who had resisted their return to Jerusalem were the Samaritans, the Tobiads, and the Jewish 'people of the land' who were not among the elite sent into Babylonian exile. In the eyes of the Pharisees, all of these were either beneath contempt or, at best, second-class citizens to be avoided, for all were of impure blood and habit. They were the apostate and the heretics. Yet, Jesus was announcing that the true exodus, the restoration to God's favor and forgiveness, was happening here and now. The prodigal Israel was reuniting with the Father from whom she had been separated all too long, and those that challenge that reunion - notably the orthodox Pharisees themselves - were in the same position as the Samaritans they abhorred - they stood as sinners before God.

So, Jesus responds to the grumbling of the Pharisees with a parable that subverts their politics of power. They lack ears to hear and eyes to see the new beginning that is happening before them. Jesus is enacting the restoration of Israel and therefore is welcoming home all of God's prodigal children. Not just the orthodox Pharisees, but prostitutes, tax collectors, and the unclean, too. Object, Pharisees, and you cross the line that marks you as a contemptible Samaritan. Oppose, and you are a first century Pharaoh frustrating the true exodus. Challenge, and you are the older brother disgracefully resisting the reunion of God's family. In short, the Pharisees grumble, and Jesus responds with a parable that transforms the relationship to him of all who hear it. They can join him or they can oppose him, but if they oppose him, they are warned that, in so doing, they oppose God. In first century Palestine, it was the kind of message that could get a guy crucified.

Indeed, in our century such talk appears to be the kind of speech that can get a person crucified, as well. For modern theology teaches the church that power is the overarching story of existence. It teaches the church that truth is an object we can possess, and that faithfulness consists of guarding the boundaries in defense of that truth. It teaches that faithfulness means standing firm against younger, fallen brothers. Yet, as Jesus' parable reveals, its voice expresses the inarticulate speech of the older brother.

As the Primates Meeting at Dar el Salaam ended, I was struck by the words of Archbishop Orombi on a video just as he departed the hotel. When asked about ++Rowan's role during the meeting, his response belied the commonplace claims of ++Rowan's betrayal and abandonment of the conservatives and orthodox. When the reporter asked, "You mean he was like a father figure?" Archbishop Orombi replied, "He takes us all on board.... He was a reconciler. He plays the role of the reconciler." Such a claim today will be shouted down angrily by those who claim disgust at ++Rowan's ‘weakness' and ‘failure to lead.' Yet, I make the claim nonetheless. For, observing from afar the actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, I am reminded of the words of his pupil, John Milbank, in the preface of Theology & Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason:

Since we are created, we are received, even as ourselves, before ourselves. Likewise, in order to exercise strength we must first be sensitive and attentive, which always involves a vulnerable exposure to risk, failure, and the tragic misrepresentation by others of our own ventures (as Rowan Williams has repeatedly stressed in his theology). Negation is not inevitable, yet it is always going to be involved in a fallen Creation. And this situation reveals that power itself has a precondition in relational receptiveness which can in-deed mean, as the Bible teaches, that it is the ‘weak' who will turn out to be strong, for mostly unNietzschean reasons.

Near the Refectory of the Duke Divinity School, there is a statue that depicts the parable of the prodigal sons called "Reconciliation." The artist captures well the reality that there are two prodigal sons whose bonds of affection are broken. And there stands the father with his hands on both, faithfully striving for the reunion that would restore and transform their broken family. "Reconciliation" is the icon of what it means to stand firm in faith. It is the icon of our Anglican identity.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: anglican; anglicancommunion

1 posted on 08/26/2007 4:14:49 PM PDT by Huber
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To: ahadams2; blue-duncan; brothers4thID; sionnsar; Alice in Wonderland; BusterBear; DeaconBenjamin2; ..
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 08/26/2007 4:15:50 PM PDT by Huber (And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. - John 1:5)
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To: Huber

A long read, which I do intend to read, however this phrase from the introduction causes me to wonder:

“our Communion is a gift from God that we reject only at the risk that, in our quest for “truth,” (borrowing from Stanley Hauerwas) we underwrite forms of violence that put our salvation in jeopardy.”

Aside from wondering what the “forms of violence” he’s talking about are, if communion with Christ has already been rejected by those controlling the human “Communion” what REAL Communion with them is left? What fellowship has darkness and light? My first suspicion is we have an evangelical seduced by the communion-above-all-else mentality. BUT, I need to read the whole thing to confirm or disprove such a hypothesis.

I for one cannot imagine submitting myself for holy orders today with TEC—such seems an oxymoron.

3 posted on 08/26/2007 10:32:58 PM PDT by AnalogReigns
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To: Huber

Finished. An interesting read, especially the alternative version of the parable of the prodigal son. Still, this essay is typical-for-theological-papers vague; I bet he got an “A” on it in his seminary...

Lots of talk of “white theology” which in my opinion, seems to be an exagerated straw-man of 19th Century common prejudiced assumptions, which infected even the best Christians of that era, like missionaries, and, seems to affect the revisionists a lot more than the orthodox today. I can’t say I hear radical voices for destroying the Communion, except by those who feel they are “prophetic” in pushing pansexuality.

If by refusing to go to Lambeth—because their own missionary bishops were excluded—the African Bishops bishops are doing “white theology,” I for one cannot see it.

It would appear in his paternalistic power playing, ++Rowan, you know, that powerful white guy heading the establishment in Canturbury, is doing that.

4 posted on 08/26/2007 11:35:47 PM PDT by AnalogReigns
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