Conservatives and their alphabets

What is it with conservatives and their love of the letters A, C, and N? Is this some sort of gnostic cabal among lovers of all things anti-gay? I can’t even keep track of the endless procession of new Anglican groups. There’s CANA, ACNA, AAC, and dozens more. Now USA Today reports that Lutherans are getting in on the act.

Last week, a conservative Lutheran group announced its plans to establish the North American Lutheran Church, a new denomination that will recruit dissident congregations. Rather than setting up a clear-cut choice, though, even some critics of the ELCA’s new policy say the move could further confuse already splintered Lutherans at a time when Protestantism in general seems to be moving away from a denominational model.

“North American Lutheran Church” — NALC. So Lutherans will be able to choose among ELCA, LCMS, WELS, and NALC. Apparently E, S, M, and W were judged too liberal. Patterning themselves after Anglican secessionists (can cranky dissenters establish a parallel “full communion” across Lutheran/Anglican lines?) these people will soon be slapping new church signs up with lots of Ns, As, and Cs.

These folks will complain about a “confused” faith even as they sow confusion. Mostly though, what this means is more bruising for the Body of Christ as people declare “our way or the highway” to fellow Christians. Pray, as Jesus did, that we might all be one. Surely we CAN all agree on that?

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7 Responses

  1. Ethan Gafford says:

    In the main data points you’re citing, the letters in question stand for North, America, and Church in both cases. So if it is a shadowy conspiracy, their devious plot would seem to consist mostly of being a worshipping body on our continent.

    Clearly, this must be stopped at all costs. 🙂

    In terms of the “all be one,” it’s hard; go too far that way, a worshipping body will lose the Creed and any real right to call themselves Christian. Go too far the other way and you end up with a sniper rifle in a bell tower somewhere, likely after starting some litigation over the ownership of said bell tower. Choosing which of these is worse only serves to drive you to the opposite error, and I hear tell that Temperance is a cardinal virtue.

    This is just me, and you don’t have to care, but it saddens me to read these kind of posts on your blog. What I’d love to hear here, rather than yelling at conservatives, is some thoughtful, scripturally-based theological rebuttals of their positions, including deconstructions of the conservative arguments. Ranting is fun, and sometimes even necessary to maintain sanity, but I very much doubt anyone is going to read this post and decide that on account of it, they’ve realized the importance of protecting the unity of the One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I’ll admit that even if you write eloquently and faithfully on why the present Episcopal stance is valid, you might not get any converts from ACNA, but I suspect the venture might be better-received in Heaven.

  2. Scott Gunn says:

    Ethan, thanks for your comment. For what it’s worth, there’s great variety in the words for which the letters stand, including, Council, Convocation, Anglican, and more. For a while, the N in CANA stood for Nigerian, but then it was changed.

    I’ll agree that the prayer for unity can mask problems. Still, it should be the prayer of every Christian, in my view — even as we name heterodox belief and practice. (And, of course, recognize that the definition of heterodox changes over time, in some cases.)

    My intention was less to yell at conservatives than to have some fun with them. I have also been know to have fun with progressives. There are not a few conservative folks who read this blog, I think because I seek to be deeply respectful if playful. The vast majority of what I write is provided with tongue lodged firmly in cheek. That said, humor is often in the eye of the beholder, and I’ve been known to go over the line.

    As I reread this, the only critical thing I see was my charge that they are sowing confusion, which is really a rebuttal of their claim in the quote. Progressives do plenty of ironic/comical/annoying/offensive/heretical things too, and I’ll write about that here at times. When that happens, it’s likely to be with a light approach.

    I have less interested in engaging in deconstructive writing, since the interwebs are full of that. Occasionally, I do this, however, as the fancy strikes me. What the Anglican blogosphere is generally lacking, in my view, is a faithful humor, willing to poke fun at one’s self and at others. While that is the niche I try to fill, I’ll be the first to admit, it is not without risks.


  3. Ethan Gafford says:

    That’s cool. I just see, in this whole kerfuffle, a lot of yelling and finger-pointing and talking about “Them” and not a whole lot of theology on any side, and sometimes I wonder what upshot the various posts about the evils of the hardcore secessionist/conservative wings of the Anglican Communion and ECUSA can have. I’d be really interested to hear your perspective on how they are constructive. I’ll gladly grant that humor can be an excellent deflator of pride and misplaced zeal, but it’s not all, or even mostly, humorous on 7WD when it comes to schism politics. What do you hope to happen from this sort of post? I’m honestly curious, and can see a few good answers.

  4. Pastor Mack says:

    I think you’re right about the Anglican blogosphere. There is a great deal of smugness, a kind of Jon-Stewart-does-theology approach, but little humor and less humility. But then, most of the Anglican bloggers I’ve come across are, much like the ones I knew in seminary, snarky upper-crust white guys. But I’m probably just a biased, middle-of-the-road Methodist.

    As far as the Lutherans, the splintering is sad. I hope it doesn’t happen to my own denomination. I’m truthfully not sure what I’d do. I am not sure I’d want to stay, but I doubt I’d be comfortable with the breakaways either.

  5. Scott Gunn says:

    Ethan, thanks again for another comment. You are of course right to point out the problems of us vs. them thinking. At the same time, we can’t obscure real differences either. The key is to engage in whatever we do in a spirit of charity. Again, I thought this post was funny — still do, in fact. It tickled my funny bone (a lot) when I found the coffee cup to go with the post.

    I suppose you are right that the humor quotient goes down here on 7WD when the topic is secession. Probably that’s because I find a massive amount of distortion and demonizing in what many secessionists say. Sure, tell me the Episcopal Church has made a series of grave errors, but do NOT say that no one in TEC is Christian. When I hear junk like that, I am likely to call people on it. Why? Partly because I think people need to know what’s being said.

    Recently, for example, I wrote a whole series in advance of General Synod. My principal audience for that series was Synod members, many of whom were believing the fiction that ACNA was driven out of TEC by zealous persecutors. That series was written in a snarky tone, I suppose, but I was careful with language so as not to be vindictive. Some of this will be in the eye of the beholder.

    Here’s why I write stuff like this post:
    1. To let folks know what’s going on. In this case, that the same sad pattern is happening to ELCA that went on in TEC.
    2. To amuse people — maybe a chuckle or two.
    3. To suggest that unity should be our prayer.

    Again, I don’t write too much serious theology here; I’m not competent to do it well. There are lots of places to find that, though not enough from the progressive point of view (on this one, the conservatives are spot on in their criticism). Anyone craving serious theological discussion will quickly learn that it’s not going to show up here. Anyone looking for silly things such as Captain Kirk climbing a mountain or fun had with people who take themselves too seriously will find their fill here.


  6. Scott Gunn says:

    Pastor Mack, thanks for your comment too. Please let me know when you find smugness here. Sadly, I let that happen sometimes.

    I don’t know what the right answer is for Methodists, but I can imagine it would be painful to decide what to do.

    What’s really interesting to me, and I have yet to see a convincing argument, is why sexuality becomes such a central issue. Why do progressives push this one so strongly? If it’s about justice, where’ all the action on the rampant racism and sexism that still pervades mainline churches? Why do conservatives object so strongly? If it’s about biblical faithfulness, where’s the outrage about divorce or economic exploitation which are much more prevalent than any “gay problems”?

    I suspect both side are whistling past the graveyard, as mainline protestantism slides into oblivious due to crushing lack of obedience to God’s call and the mission we’ve been given.

    But what do I know? And why did I start up that rant in response to your short comment?

    Enough on this one. Must prepare for tomorrow.


  7. Malcolm says:

    Scott, I’m inclined to the view that the bizarre centrality of the sex issue is a tactical question.

    Jim Naughton has done an excellent job of detailing the use of money from the extreme right invested in destablilizing mainline denominations in the US. Their goal, pure and simple, was to marginalize the influence of those denominations because they (TEC, UCC, UMC etc.) spoke about uncomfortable issues like economic injustice and exclusion.

    For the far right, both religious and secular, the gay issue is a useful wedge. It is a means to rile up folk. In 2004, on the secular side, we saw non-religious Republican activists working very hard to get anti-gay questions on the ballot in swing states because those measures drew likely Bush voters to the polls.

    Their agenda of destruction isn’t about religious faith or “orthodoxy” at all. It’s about destroying institutions that speak on issues the political far right do not want discussed – issues of exclusion. Gay sex and so-called “orthodoxy” are merely the tools.

    In other words (at the risk of going all Godwin), it really is comparable to Germany circa 1932 when the economic powers began aligning with the National Socialists. Fearful of the possibility that the broad mass of people might turn against their real class enemies, they changed the narratuve from “we’re being screwed by big business” to “we’re being screwed by the Jews.” Today, it’s the gays and the women and the actors and . . . . .

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