Weapons of Mass Suspension

 If both The Times and The Daily Telegraph are right, and the Commission really is going to recommend the suspension of ECUSA until such time as it has no practising homosexual bishops, then we are, I think, in for an interesting time.

Interesting, first of all, in the churches of North America.

Nothing could be guaranteed to antagonize the liberal ascendancy in those churches more than discipline from the Communion at large. They will instinctively blame the traditionalists in their own church for what will be seen as a public humiliation. They will flex their autonomy, punish the supposed malefactors and offer them no concessions. The Lambeth Commission, you see, can provoke the anger; but it can do nothing to mitigate or assuage it. It will have expended its ultimate and only weapon.

Things will get interesting, too, in the Communion at large.

Any suspension of ECUSA will demonstrate conclusively that Anglicans have finally abandoned two of the principal planks of their ecclesiology: the charge to the bishop in the ordinal ‘to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word’; and Article XXVI of the XXXIX (Of the Unworthiness of Ministers which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament).

They will have exercised the first formal discipline of a member church in the history of the Communion, not as a result of doctrinal deviation but of bedroom activity.

Gene Robinson is no more heretical than many a North American bishop – and more orthodox than Jack Spong. Yet he, and not they, will have occasioned this unprecedented action. Even when Spong, with his Twelve Theses, strove heroically to be banned from Lambeth 1998 by denying simultaneously every major doctrine of the Catholic Church, he was nevertheless invited and cordially received. But Robinson’s election will have sparked the exclusion of an entire continent.

In the face of such a flagrant anomaly, and such unhappy but unintended consequences, it is hard to see how another such Archbishop’s Commission could ever be convened.

GK

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