Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anglican Adiaphora

The good Bishop of Durham discusses adiaphora in relationship to the problems of the American Episcopal corporation in the wider Anglican Communion.

And also internationally. We have for years in the Anglican Communion operated a tacit rule of agreeing to differ about many things but trying not to do or say things which will cause other Anglicans to stumble. The Lambeth Conference has been the main instrument of this process: broad agreement can be reached on major issues while the provinces retain autonomy in their own lives. Thus, for instance, the Lambeth Conference agreed that it was all right to admit children to Communion prior to Confirmation, which then opened up the question for any individual Province to discuss, as most now have. Our own General Synod repeated Lambeth’s point, so the issue was then passed down to dioceses. Our own Diocese in turn agreed, so the issue has now become a matter for individual parishes. That is a model of how you discern that something is adiaphora, and how you deal with the issue once that has been decided, respecting consciences all the way through. It highlights again this key point: the question of whether a particular issue is adiaphora or not cannot itself be adiaphora. It wouldn’t have done for the Parish of St-Muddy-by-the-Sea to decide independently that the question of unconfirmed children receiving Communion was adiaphora and then proceeding to take its own decision without reference to its diocese, its province, or the whole Communion.,


The principle of adiaphora was itself, in fact, a matter of life and death. The doctrine that some things are adipahora, and some aren’t, is not itself adiaphora. The decision as to which things make a difference and which do not is itself a decision which makes a huge difference. Some of the early English Reformers claimed explicitly that they were dying precisely for the principle of adiaphora itself, for the right to disagree on certain points (not on everything). That for which you will give your life is hardly something which doesn’t make a difference.

Read the whole thing here.

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