The Washington Times recently quoted Bishop Lee of Virginia about divisions in his diocese over the consecration of Gene Robinson. Heresy, said Lee, is to be preferred to schism.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto) recently quoted Archbishop Hutchison of Montreal on divisions in the Anglican Church of Canada over the blessing of same sex unions. Unity, said Hutchinson, is ‘one of the great challenges’ facing the Church, but ‘unity is not a goal in itself.’ The main priority of the Church is mission. Hutchinson was confident that a revision of the Church’s attitude to homosexual cohabitation would set forward that mission.
A pattern is emerging. Schism, it appears, is only a sin when committed by the orthodox. So it is a sin for a parish, in a revisionist diocese, to refuse the ministry of its bishop. But it is a sign of missionary zeal for a revisionist diocese to ignore the pleas and admonitions of the majority of Provinces of the Anglican Communion.
This paradox is sublimely Anglican. The Church of England, after all, like the other churches of the Reformation, began by exalting private judgement and ended by persecuting dissent.
It is the tragedy of the liberal revisionists that they cannot break out of this persecution paradigm. As they see it, the only way they can be free to act according to their own conscience is to shackle the consciences of others. With them what is permissive today will be obligatory tomorrow.
But there is a more excellent way. If they were only able to stand back from the excesses of single-issue fanaticism, the Liberals might learn – at last – to be liberal. In claiming their own freedom to interpret the Gospel, they might come to respect the right of others to interpret it differently. That might, of course, require ‘structural solutions’ for both the local and the world-wide Church – separate jurisdictions, a federal constitution. Such, however, would be a small price to pay for the miracle which would ensue. ‘Heresy’ would then diminish into mere ‘disagreement’, and ‘schism’ would transform itself into ‘amicable separation’.
But don’t hold your breath.
Torquemada, I fear, is alive and well and a member of GRAS.