Friday, September 19, 2008

A Violation of the Steinfels Rule

In a piece we admired below, Peter Steinfels warned reporters against using "orthodox" carelessly.  Here's a case in point, from the U.K.'s Telegraph

The Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, was on the verge of leading his diocese out of PECUSA and into the Southern Cone.  In what must have been a very dramatic meeting, the Episcopalians voted to defrock him.  Martin Beckford, whose byline identifies him as the Telegraph's "Religious Affairs Correspondent," writes thus about Duncan:

The Rt Rev Robert Duncan, the Bishop of Pittsburgh, is the head of a group of orthodox clergy who turned against the Episcopal Church of the USA after it elected an openly gay bishop in defiance of scripture and tradition.

Really?  He's "orthodox"?  Is Beckford prepared to defend that claim theologically?  Because, while schismatics are not necessarily heretical, church history views most of them with considerable doubt.  In the case of Anglicanism, it can be argued that such orthodoxy as Anglicans enjoy is rooted -- absent a strong tradition of doctrinal theology -- in two things: liturgical uniformity and institutional unity.  Again, we point to the Elizabethan Settlement, in which parties that disagreed violently on doctrine agreed to be united by worship (sort of) and by a chain of authority.  A bishop who breaks communion with the church in which he was raised must provide a strong argument, which must convince the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities, if he is to be called orthodox by these criteria.

In the particular case of the Episcopal Church, there is also the argument that Bishop Robinson was elected not in defiance of Scripture and tradition, but because of a strong commitment to them, as understood by those who elected him.   Others may disagree, but the dispute is a matter for theologians, not reporters -- and has not yet been resolved by the Anglican Communion's internal processes.  

So unless Martin Beckford of the Telegraph intends to surrender his journalistic objectivity and  take sides in an ongoing internal Anglican dispute, it seems to us that he is well-advised to avoid making judgments on the orthodoxy of either side.

1 comment:

mark said...

Of interest: