Go and read the whole thing.
Another thing that's central to the report is the question of what is known in the trade as adiaphora, things indifferent. It has been a principle of Anglicanism, from the very beginnings in the 16th century, that there are some things which Anglican Christians can agree to differ about. The real question at the heart of much of this is, which of the things we can agree to differ about and which of the things we can't agree to differ about.
Again and again I hear people on both sides of the argument simply begging that question and assuming that they know without argument that this is something that we can agree to differ about, or assuming that they know without argument this is one of the things we can't agree to differ about. What we all have to do is to say about any issue—whether it's lay celebration [of Communion], whether it's episcopal intervention, whether it's homosexual practice—How do we know, and who says which differences make a difference and which differences don't make a difference? [Presiding Bishop] Frank Griswold and his colleagues make a great song and dance about difference and about accepting difference and respecting difference. That's almost the only moral category that is left within postmodernity, welcoming the other, which is actually a very difficult moral standard to implement right across the board.
The critical thing is there are some differences which would divide the church. For instance, if somebody decided to propose that instead of reading the Bible in church, we should read the Bhagavad-Gita or the Qur'an, most Christians would say this is no longer a church and that's a difference that we simply cannot live with. But if somebody says I really think we should never put flowers on the altar and somebody else says I think we should always have a bowl of flowers on the altar, most people would say that's an issue which we must not divide the church about. It's a local issue, which each church will have to decide for itself. And there's no point in getting in a lather about it.
Now the question is, all these different issues that we face, which of those two categories do they come into? How do you know? And who says? Until we have prepared to address the question in those terms, the thing will just remain as a shouting match.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
This is only a tiny (the last) part of an extensive interview with Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, Biblical Scholar, evangelical leader and member of the commission that produced the report. He brings up the very important subject of adiaphora and discusses the complexities attached to it. Clearly the modern notion that everything is adiaphora (except for qualities and actions that make you PC) won't work. Here's what he has to say.