The reason ADU takes great interest in TEC is twofold: (a) it is a pioneer in a new style Anglicanism, full of novelties; (b) some key leaders in our church seem bent on taking ACANZP down the same path that TEC has pioneered.
TEC is, indeed, something of a trailblazer - whether we deem such trailblazing to be prophetic or heterodox. A certain type of Anglican liberalism which is present in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand is dominant in TEC. So, consider TEC to see what North Atlantic and Australasian Anglicanism would look like if this particular expression of theological liberalism became dominant in these provinces also.
+Mary Glasspool to some extent personifies such trends. Her consecration to the episcopate signalled TEC's definitive rejection of the moratoria called for by the Instruments of Communion. It gave expression to the ecclesiology of autonomy/Manifest Destiny shaping TEC's self-understanding, rather than the communion ecclesiology of the Windsor and ARCIC processes.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Bishop Glasspool addressed the issue of same-sex marriage. Doing so, in the words of Episcopal Cafe, she "considere[d] the sacramental dimensions of marriage equality":
In the Episcopal Church, marriage has traditionally been treated as a sacrament. The outward and visible signs of the sacrament are the rings and vows that two people make to each other. The inward and spiritual grace is the reality of the relationship the two people already have given by God.
As a priest friend in TEC recently pointed out to me, some in TEC may wish this was the case - but it's not. The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage in the BCP 1979 is quite explicit that gender is a given part of the sacramentality of marriage. The Catechism similarly defines the sacramentality of marriage:
|Q.||What is Holy Matrimony?|
|A.||Holy Matrimony is Christian
marriage, in which the |
woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their
vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace
and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.
The point at issue here is not the cases for and against same-sex marriage in civil law. Nor is it even about the provision of a liturgy of blessing for same-sex relationships. It is, however, about the Anglican understanding of the Church's sacramental economy and its expression in the formularies of Anglicanism in general and TEC in particular. Judged against these formularies, Bishop Glasspool's definition of the sacramentality of marriage is significantly flawed. Now, it may be after General Convention 2012 this is no longer the case. At present, however, TEC shares with the rest of the Anglican Communion a definition of the sacramentality of matrimony in which gender has significance.
For Catholic Anglicans, the sacramental economy is no mere matter of ordinances, rites or functions. It is instructive to recall that Article 27 begins by declaring that Baptism "is not only a sign of profession" and Article 28 declares that the Eucharist "is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves". Rather, Baptism is a sign and instrument "of Regeneration" and the Eucharist is "a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death".
The sacraments (both the two "generally necessary for salvation" and the other five which serve and promote the Church's communion) are the life-giving gifts of the Crucified and Risen One, the means by which He enables us to share in the life of the Triune God. It is worth noting here that Bishop Glasspool's view that in celebrating the sacraments "we are recognising God's gift of grace in others" falls considerably short of a catholic understanding of the sacraments.
The debate over how the Church responds to the contemporary phenomenon of committed, same-sex partnerships should be reflected upon within the contours of the sacramental economy, shaped by these gifts the Bridegroom has bestowed upon His Church. But increasingly this is not what is happening. Instead, the sacramental economy is being regarded not as gift but as property, shaped not by what has been received from the Crucified and Risen One, but by that to which early 21st century postmoderns aspire.