Radner, Seitz, and Turner of the ACI, as well as others.
These four points are taken by the progressive defenders of the actions of TEC as an adequate guarantee of its integrity, its adherence to the apostolic tradition. However, at each of the four points, the progressive leadership of TEC gives a remarkable spin to their interpretation. Thus, for example, the claim that The Holy Scriptures contain “all things necessary for salvation” and are “the rule and ultimate standard of faith” is qualified (if not contradicted) by the common assertion that revelation is “ongoing” in a way that makes available new truths either not previously known, not properly understood, or in direct contradiction to well established tradition. The witness of the Holy Scriptures is further qualified by claims that there are truths of reason and/or experience that may contradict the seemingly univocal witness of scripture. (Thus, for example, the assertion that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life is contradicted by the experience of God in other religions just as the univocal scriptural condemnation of homosexual relations is contradicted by the experience of loving relations between members of the same gender.) In short, within TEC, tradition, reason, and now experience can operate independent of and in contradistinction to the witness of the Holy Scriptures. Further, novelty in respect to doctrine and practice receive generous license because (so it is claimed) the Holy Spirit acts most normally in doing new things—things that need not accord with former things!
Similar issues arise with the claim that the integrity of TEC is assured by the continuing authority of the historic creeds. However, the progressive clergy who now hold the levers of power within TEC insist vehemently that the creeds are not to be used as binding confessions that exclude from fellowship people whose experience of God or whose beliefs about God are different from or even contradictory to those normally associated with the creeds as tokens of Christian identity and sufficient statements of Christian belief. The progressive position in respect to the creeds is that Christians in the U.S. now live in a pluralistic society; and, in response to this fact, its advocates agree with our former Presiding Bishop who is fond of saying we should tolerate the contradictions because they will find a final reconciliation within the pleroma of divine truth. The prevalence of this view recently received vivid illustration when a Priest of TEC announced that she is now both and Muslim and a Christian. The response of her bishop was that he welcomed her decision because it would do wonders for interfaith relations!
A more fundamental problem arises when one looks hard at the meaning and use of the two sacraments on the part of TEC’s clerical leadership. It is no secret that in a significant number of dioceses and parishes Baptism is no longer thought to be a necessary precondition for participation in the Supper of the Lord. To be sure, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord are sacraments found throughout the dioceses and parishes of TEC. However, use is changing the meaning of both in ways most Christians within the Anglican Communion and within the other churches would not recognize as faithful to Christ’s intention. How is one to understand this remarkable novelty? One can come the Supper of the Lord without Baptism because one does not have to die and rise with Christ in order to come to the Father. As a consequence, Baptism is not an effective sign of dying and rising with Christ and the Supper of the Lord is not a participation in that death and resurrection. Both sacraments are simply ways of offering hospitality to a diverse humankind and so manifesting the welcoming love of God to all.
We now come to the fourth element of the quadrilateral—the historic episcopate locally adapted. With its arrival, we are presented not only the question of Episcopal authority but also the question of diversity. How is the truth of the Gospel of Christ to be proclaimed and lived faithfully in circumstances very different from those that obtained in first century Palestine? And how is the common life of the church to be ordered within the tensions produced by the meeting of the truth about God made known in Christ Jesus and the particular circumstances in which Christians witness to that truth? The answer given by the leadership of TEC is, at the moment, through allowing the greatest possible autonomy not only on the part of each province of the Anglican Communion but also on the part of the various dioceses and parishes of TEC. Within TEC this is known as local option. Each province, diocese, parish and mission is to maintain loving relations with all others, but each is to pursue the truth of God in Christ in its own way and in its own place. In short, the historic episcopate which once was thought to guarantee that Christians throughout the world held to one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all is now to see that the particular way in which the Gospel is received and lived in his or her particular location is not threatened or impinged upon by Christians from beyond the borders of a particular jurisdiction. The locally adapted episcopate within TEC has become thoroughly local in all matters save a range of moral imperatives that enjoin hospitality, mutual aid, mutual respect, and love, but not common faith and practice. On this view, bishops function in large measure to enforce not the belief and practice of the church catholic but local canons that protect diocese or parish from foreign intervention or defection by anyone who oppose the progressive views of those who hold office.
Unfortunately, however, I am pretty sure an Anglican Covenant is going to be rejected by TEC. That will ultimately lead to a breed of confessional Anglicanism and a breed of liberal Anglicanism, and the Anglican Communion will be over as we know it. The main problem – in all of this – is the fact that everybody pretty much does what they want and don’t worry about who else it bothers, citing conscience. Anglican conciliarity may not be dead yet, but the old boy is barely breathing. I know my Bishop is a big believer in it, as I know the good folks at the ACI are. For my part, however, I am cynical, when conciliarity is essentially akin to capitulation in most people’s minds. Further, the ACI essays mention the bounds of diversity, and while a Muslim Episcopal priest may get asked to stand down for a year, we have no discipline in TEC to enforce the bounds of diversity, only the canons and the will of those in leadership. BLD