Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Culture From APLM

That's the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, a sixty year old group associated with ECUSA which started out as a body for liturgical renewal. Well, they seem to have branched out.

It's not up on their website yet, but in The Witness there is a statement from their April 2005 meeting in Estes Park CO. It's all about homosexuality, and while some of it makes cogent comments, some of it walks right into Christ and Culture problematic theology.

Consider this passage:

It is no coincidence that most of the bishops and provinces of the Anglican Communion who oppose the ordination of homosexual persons, or the blessing of their faithful relationships, are opponents of the ordination of women and the welcoming of infants at the eucharistic table as soon as they are baptized. All of these practices upset the hegemony of men in the church, and are painful for those who cling to privilege and power. No one likes to relinquish power, and it is never easy.

That curious word: hegemony. To someone of my age, someone who paid any attention to this stuff in college, it sets off an alarm. It's the language of the politicized radical chic of a quarter-century ago. Now, GC and the people who formulate positions for it-- people like the members of APLM, as it happens-- are in the hegemony business, if anyone in the church is. It also seems to me that I hear an certain frustration that they can't extend their hegemony over, say, Anglican churches in Nigeria.

But more of an issue is this language in its totally secular usage. It was, after all, the preferred language of radical feminism. In that context, it was never accurate. Individual men do not gain hegemony simply by being male; individual women are not utterly barred from power over men simply by being female. This language was always subject to the criticism that it legitimized institutional elitism, because it was indifferent to the actual differences in power among actual men and women.

In being imported into theological language, this business about giving up power was added to it. This added a note of hypocrisy to the whole endeavor, because the acts of those who espoused this line of thinking, when it came to General Convention, was not only very much to wield power, but also to spread alarm about the danger of the opposition getting power back!

Likewise, the various struggles over parishes which have hit the papers over the years have largely been about demonstrations of episcopal hegemony as exercised by liberal bishops. In the Diocese of Washington, for example, the issue was Jane Dixon's instance on a show of her power in forcing visitations upon parishes. She even said as much.

Now, I don't like the Donatist edge to this either. For better or worse, Vickie Gene Robinson is a bishop. He may be a bad bishop, and a scandal, but for me he's not on the same level of scandal as Spong. Nevertheless the conclusion of the statement borders on the disengenuous. The problem is that the theological innovators are determined to use the power structures of ECUSA to advance their positions, whether or not the rest of the communion objects. Being cut off from the rest of the communion is the natural result of this. (I think their invocation of the Donatists is overstated, BTW: I see no sign that the communion is broken any worse than it is broken between ECUSA and the Catholic church.)

No comments: