To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
In proposing a way to resolve culture wars, Jeffrey Stout explores what holds modern democratic societies together and what threatens to divide them. He probes the sources of traditionalist discontent and notes that traditionalists are united by a suspicion that modern democracies devalue historic forms of belief and practice while claiming to adjudicate equitably among competing truth claims in pluralistic circumstances. Instead traditionalists seek a fixed way of life grounded in a certainty that only tradition of one sort or another can guarantee. They argue that Liberalism offers false reliance on reason that promises a universally valid outlook it fails to deliver. Stout accepts this view when he notes that the Liberalism of John Rawls proposes a theory of justice grounded in individual and group rights. This approach exacerbates the problem of finding a universal standpoint rather than resolving it. But in Stout's view Traditionalism also falls short. The stance of a leading traditionalist, Stanley Hauerwas, illustrates the problem. Hauerwas argues not for a comprehensive view of social whole as Stout would like, but for the church as a community distinct from the rest of society. His position appears susceptible to the trap that ensnared Rawls because Hauerwas privileges one social form rather than suggesting how divides might be overcome. His view reveals the logic by which traditionalists would withdraw from larger social worlds: persuaded that society was dismissive of their sentiments and could not be redeemed traditionalists might create their own enclave within which their ideals of belief and practice could be rigorously enforced.
In 2003 the well-known culture wars that had challenged North American life for a generation escalated dramatically. On August 5 of that year the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church confirmed the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man living with a partner, as Bishop of New Hampshire. The Episcopal Convention's action followed approval of the blessing of same-sex unions granted by the Anglican Church of Canada's Diocese of New Westminster in 2002, and the first instance of such blessing in May 2003. By that time the Church of England had come close to consecrating its first openly gay bishop when it was announced in the spring of 2003 that Jeffrey John had been appointed Bishop of Reading. But John's resignation of the appointment shifted the focus of the issue to North America. Though only one diocese of each church was immediately involved, the entire American and Canadian churches became embroiled and, in the eyes of some, responsible for the controversy.
The furor that resulted took global proportions, plunging the Anglican Communion into acrimonious debate. Amid indications that the church would split, the pace of events quickened. With public interest high the agendas of Anglican meetings shifted as the issue of homosexuality claimed center stage. Ominously no hint of resolution was forthcoming. The battle lines among Anglicans had been forming for years and seemed firmly entrenched.
Liberalism turned toward Progressivism as it lost faith that society would someday embody the Kingdom of God. The devastation caused by World War I and later economic, social, and political crises in the global North transformed Liberalism's optimism. Instead the emerging progressive outlook sought glimmers of the Kingdom in the experiences of those society had devalued and found renewed purpose for the church in creating hospitable space for them. If society could not resemble God's eventual Kingdom, then the church must do so. Uplifting the experiences of particular groups in society, the church would model what the larger world must be, and would be faithful to its calling. The progressive intention became a natural extension of the Liberalism that had defined church life. But far from securing God's Kingdom, Progressivism encouraged church divisions along ideological lines.
If war and social crisis eroded the old Liberalism and advanced Progressivism's rise, another kind of sober awakening jolted conservatives and elicited the rise of a new, activist Traditionalism. In October 1868, not quite two years after being consecrated assistant bishop in Kentucky, George David Cummins attended the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. What he saw there shocked him. Upon entering the New York church where the Convention would worship Cummins saw on the altar a brass cross three feet high as he estimated it, and two brass candlesticks of similar height.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the Church of England was not in fact what it claimed to be in theory. The church's privileges and role in the nation were legally enshrined; but the achievement of religious establishment was far from complete. A wide swath of church leadership sought a balance between the ideals of comprehension and holiness to permit church life that was both co-extensive with the nation and faithful to the gospel. A broad ecclesiastical framework touching all sectors of society, standard forms of worship that were pervasively used, and widely held theological principles suggested that establishment had been achieved, the reality of dissent notwithstanding. Indeed the ideal of establishment and the way the Hanoverian church construed it left lasting marks on Anglicanism, especially the intention of both mirroring and guiding national life. But establishment was an unfulfilled ideal. Despite the church's intention of uniting various religious sensibilities it fell short. The Non-Juror schism and its legacy were but one instance. A notable Tory religious party sustained an alternative sensibility within the church. Challenges from local contexts also began to outpace establishment's ability to absorb new influences. In the second half of the eighteenth century the combination of religious restlessness and establishment inertia led to efforts to reform the religious landscape. In this chapter we consider how church reform arose, the forms it took, and how it became a lasting Anglican ideal.
The Christian tradition arose unevenly from one place to another, often by disputation and even dissension. It came to be defined from grassroots localities outward with forms of local experience fueling a search for overall consensus. At first there was little sense of church center. As a sense of center arose, religious belief and practice were clearly entwined in cultural garb and buffeted by political and social forces. To be sure, the broad marks of Christian tradition were and are beyond dispute: the New Testament, the centrality of Jesus, the church as the locus of Christian fellowship, and the key roles of worship and ministry. But these central aspects of the Christian faith have continuously been debated as localized variations in meaning and practice have arisen. Two thousand years after its origin, Christianity is characterized by various approaches to tradition reflecting streams of experience that have arisen in differing contexts.
The tradition of the Church of England is hotly contested ground in the Anglican dispute over homosexuality. For traditionalists the Church of England historically has affirmed the essential core of biblical and apostolic belief. In their view, the Church of England not only has upheld key apostolic forms of worship and ministry, it has joined practice with belief in a way that is both faithful and distinctive.
Few persons could acquire more vivid images of Anglican life than an archbishop of Canterbury. Holding that office when he did, George Carey saw with particular clarity the rise of the conflict over homosexuality. Recalling his first visit to the United States as archbishop, Carey lamented much in the Episcopal Church. English bishops, he concluded, “had the edge … in terms of theological ability and intellectual vigour.” Even more, the English bishops were better able “to work as a united body, in spite of differences of outlook and theology.” He expressed admiration for then Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning, but noted that in his “great desire to express an inclusive gospel, Ed led with his heart.” Time and again these qualities in the American church proved troubling to Carey: less than desired theological substance and a tendency to lead with one's heart. Above all, the American church seemed at a loss to find an adequate approach to unity. Carey was troubled by this insufficiency.
Carey found much to praise in the Episcopal Church and counted himself as its friend. His memoir bespeaks a man who felt at home in the United States and probed thoughtfully beneath its surface. Repeatedly Episcopal churches and their leaders were praised for their warmth, but even more, for the substantial programs they maintained. But American religious attitudes could surprise Carey.
In her Pulitzer Prize winning book Imperial Reckoning historian Caroline Elkins describes how in the twilight of colonialism in Kenya the British confined thousands of Kikuyu in prison camps. The arbitrariness of incarceration under horrific conditions belied British claims of guiding a liberal democracy that was combating Mau Mau terrorism. Elkins' depiction of the Anglican Church is of special interest. On the one hand missionaries permitted to minister to detainees intensified their cynicism about British Christianity and deepened their loyalty to indigenous practices. The missionary message urged cooperation with colonial government and emulation of British decorum. On the other hand some clergy, such as Canon T. F. C. Bewes of the Church Missionary Society, became noted in the early 1950s in Britain and Kenya for criticism of British policy toward the Mau Mau. Bewes drew upon twenty years service in Kenya and extensive contacts there to become convinced that charges of British brutality were justified. Yet Bewes, like other missionaries, felt the church needed good relations with colonial authority. He moved cautiously in public while pressing his concerns quietly through official channels.
Long before the twilight of empire in the mid-twentieth century the colonial branches of the Church of England faced similar tensions though rarely in the face of repression. Colonial Anglicans genuinely intended to create indigenous ecclesiastical offshoots. But their manner of doing so relied heavily upon British assumptions about the nature of order and British prerogative in guiding its development.
The Anglican split over homosexuality is often depicted as unprecedented, and some dimensions of the conflict are unique. There has not been religious division over homosexuality on a global scale. The extent to which Anglicans have formed ideological coteries threatening the Communion's unity also lacks precedent. But since the earliest years of Christianity there has been tension over matters of morality that have reflected divergent ideals of church life nurtured in different social contexts. In the fourth century such a divide resulted in the Donatist schism. Although it concerned the character of church leaders after Roman persecution, the Donatist conflict took a form that eerily resembles current division. Accusations of moral compromise by leaders prompted the rise of alternative church order. The impulse to separate on the basis of presumed moral purity that is apparent in the conflict over homosexuality has precedent.
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world but was not the source of conflict in the church. The sort of apprehension that fuels alarm over homosexuality today surfaced throughout ancient times and later Christian history. At various points homosexuality has been strongly condemned. But the religious energies that now focus on homosexuality found other sources of alarm in previous Christian eras and other Christian contexts. Donatism has been only one among a number of such conflicts. In each case similar ideals of church life surfaced in various local settings. In comparable ways the church seemed imperiled by compromise with the world.
The creation of Anglicanism in colonial contexts required adaptations of unforeseen sorts. Profound questions about the church's relation to society and the appropriate forms of governance challenged the church's leadership to balance being faithful with being effective. Although in most cases the church enjoyed the advantages of colonial authority, if not actual religious establishment, duplication of English circumstances was not possible. Even in England establishment fell short of realization. By the later decades of the eighteenth century pressure for reform could not be ignored. The political nation expanded, offering proof that comprehension on Anglican terms was not possible. But the energies of Evangelicalism injected a new emphasis on mission into the church and proved instrumental in crafting a new consensus about the role of religion in English life. Morality became a key barometer of society's state and of the church's faithfulness. Increasingly Anglicans saw their task in practical terms dictated by the need to unite society along moral lines. In time uncertainty about the church's moral ideals and their proper expression would threaten church unity.
The first glimmers of challenge surfaced as the church became indigenous in new cultural circumstances. Beyond the ability of colonial authority to control, Anglicanism developed novel patterns of life and leadership that were especially apparent in Africa. The form of the church's historic offices of ministry and worship largely retained continuity with their English origins.
The Anglican conflict over homosexuality has drawn worldwide interest and divided the church. However, conflict within Christianity is not new. This book traces the steps by which the crisis emerged, and reveals the deeper debates within the church which underlie both the current controversy and much earlier splits. William L. Sachs contends that the present debate did not begin with opposition to homosexuality or in advocacy of it. He argues that, like past tensions, it originates in the diverging local contexts in which the faith is practised, and their differing interpretations of authority and communion. In the aftermath of colonialism, activists and reformers have taken on prominent roles for and against the status quo. The crisis reveals a Church in search of a new, global consensus about the appropriate forms of belief and mission.