Saturday, January 08, 2005

Anglicans, Episcopalians & Insanity

"Why might not whole communities and public bodies be seized with fits of insanity, as well as individuals? Nothing but this principle, that they are liable to insanity, equally at least with private persons, can account for the major part of those transactions of which we read in history." (Bishop Joseph Butler, died 1752)

If it were true in 1750 that not only individuals but also groups of people were liable to insanity, it remains true in 2005. We can point to more examples in 2005 than was possible in 1750 for we have seen the ravages of National Socialism & Communism.

With respect to the Anglican Church, of which Joseph Butler was the distinguished Bishop of Durham, England, insanity appears to be evident in 2005 not only in the leadership of not a few bishops and synod-persons but also in national and diocesan synods & councils themselves. The Episcopal Church of the USA provides the clearest examples but it does not stand alone. Even the ancient Church of England displays this insanity from time to time, while the Anglican Church of Canada walks behind the Episcopal Church.

Unsoundness of mind due to brain/mind disease has characterized the synods of Anglican provinces in the West/North since the 1970s and more especially over the last ten to fifteen years. And, as is often the case with brain/mind disease, those suffering from it are blissfully unaware of their strange and crooked thinking. Indeed they see themselves as prophets and pioneers, blazing a trail for all to follow, and failing to appreciate why they are followed by so few outside their own circles.

The nature of the disease lies in the adoption by the mind of individuals leaders, and then of the group-mind, of structures or paradigms of understanding and interpretation which are wholly different from the classic, received heritage of understanding prized within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God. Precisely how the mind (singular and plural) catches the disease is difficult to state but where it comes from is easy to see – from the secularized, modern and post-modern culture of the West. Thus, to state it in the simplest terms, instead of the paradigm governing the mind being God-centered (Holy Trinity centered) it is humanity-centered and this a humanity which vaunts its autonomy, dignity and self-sufficiency over against God as the LORD!

The effects of the disease are total (what Calvinists used to call “total depravity”) and thus everything that makes up what we normally think of as the Church, her worship, her prayer, her mission, her doctrine, her polity, her discipline and her morality is profoundly affected – not in the same degree and at the same speed in all areas but yet, nevertheless in all areas.

Worship becomes the celebration of an immanent friendly God and autonomous human beings; prayer becomes the building up of the self-sufficiency and self worth of androgynous humanity; mission becomes a political and social program of justice & peace with human rights; doctrine becomes the adding of the word “God” to the tenets of modern ideology; polity becomes the means by which the program is effectively introduced and executed, and morality becomes the norms and mores of modern, secular culture, again given the prefix of “God”.

So a new “Church” is created, and though much of the ceremonial, ritual, music and socializing continue much as before, it is a Church that – in comparison with say 1950 or 1900, or 1850 or 1800, and in comparison with Anglican provinces in the South – is insane.

Happily insanity can be cured, not instantly but slowly. The mind of Anglicanism needs to drink deeply of the water of life from the fountain of the LORD and to eat fully of the bread of life which is Christ Jesus and his written Word, the sacred Scriptures, so that the mind is regenerated, renewed and reformed.

The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon January 5, 2005

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