Skip to comments.BISHOP SWING'S MOST EXCELLENT EURO ADVENTURE Great Moments in Ecumenical Understanding, ECUSA-Style
Posted on 09/16/2003 5:20:36 PM PDT by Polycarp
BISHOP SWING'S MOST EXCELLENT EUROPEAN ADVENTURE Or, Great Moments in Ecumenical Understanding, ECUSA-Style
Commentary Report By Lee Penn The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC) September 16, 2003
LIBERAL CALIFORNIA Episcopal Bishop William Swing hatched a plan in late 2002 to make a ten-day ecumenical pilgrimage to Canterbury, Rome, and Istanbul, in which he would be joined by (among others) San Francisco Roman Catholic Archbishop William Levada and Metropolitan Anthony, the city's Greek Orthodox Metropolitan.
Swing described this pilgrimage, which took place in April 2003, as having several lofty-sounding ecumenical objectives. Yet it appears that he and some within his entourage did not let ecumenical sensitivity stand in the way of their efforts to promote women's ordination during visits to the top officials of two major Churches which definitively reject the innovation.
In a rather eye-glazing explanation, Swing said he and the two other San Francisco church leaders set out on their journey "to...witness to the close bond of friendship that has developed over the past decades between the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican bishops in San Francisco; to build on a growing sense of unity whereby social issues have been addressed in common, ministries have been approached jointly, mutual hospitalities have been shared, and worship services have been held that included all constituencies; to demonstrate an earnest desire to become more knowledgeable and appreciative of each other's traditions; ...to show plainly that some religious communities are reaching out to each other; and to make our prayers at each one's spiritual home as we yearn for the day when we will share together Holy Communion and all the blessings that accompany the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ." The trip was to be a witness for ecumenical unity among Christians--a laudable goal, indeed.
Despite the war in Iraq, the trip occurred as planned this last April, complete with audiences for the prelates and their retinue with the Pope and with the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Holy Father gave a warm and welcoming message to the pilgrims, who in turn gave him two $50,000 checks for use in ministry to the poor. Swing wrote that the trip included a "grand reception" on the evening after the Papal audience, attended by "Cardinals and all sorts of other impressive people, [all] wanting to greet us. (Obviously Levada has a good name in this town.)"
Swing also met with British supporters of the United Religions Initiative (URI), the syncretic interfaith movement that he founded in San Francisco in 1995, and which now has 200 chapters and 15,000 members worldwide.
The bishop had posted a chatty diary of the pilgrimage on the Diocese of California web site. His meeting with the Pope and the Patriarch got equal time with his head cold, his excursions through Europe's hotels and restaurants, and his references to "young gypsy pickpockets," Oscar Wilde's arrest in a British hotel room for a "homosexual liaison," and a Turkish tour guide who called himself "Attila the honey."
And Swing's diary made clear that, throughout their journey, the bishop and other Episcopalians with him made repeated attempts to promote women priests:
--- Archbishop Levada led a Catholic Mass at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, where the lesson was read by Beth Hansen, "[maybe] the first woman priest ever to participate in a mass at the Basilica," Swing wrote.
--- When the pilgrims met Patriarch Bartholomew, Swing said that "we covered a wide range of subjects. When we hit on women's ordination, he had a deacon bring books on that subject to the three women in our group--Mary, Beth, and Lou. I mentioned that I have ordained more women than any other bishop in the history of the Church and would be glad to talk about my experience. He said, 'I don't want to know your experience.' That was that."
Swing also furnished 30 "footnotes and afterthoughts" at the end of his on-line diary. He regretted that church leaders have been "telling our flocks about other churches and doing so in prejudicial and unfair ways. Education founded on respectful education is needed."
Swing then offered these profound contributions to mutual respect among Christians:
--- "Cardinal Kasper said wistfully, 'Women's ordination is a hard issue for us.' My reptile brain wanted to say, 'Our women are a problem for you. And you should know that your men are a problem for us.' Restraint prevailed."
(But not for long: if Cardinal Kasper had gone onto the Internet, he could have read this statement from Swing's "reptile brain" on Swing's diocesan web site.)
--- "The statement that the Pope made on women's ordination was just one degree less than a Papal Bull. Were it a Papal Bull and thus infallible it would have closed the question of women's ordination for 300 years into the future. At the last second, that Pope insisted on a slight bit of restraint. Therefore, it is a minor issue," Swing concluded.
--- "Beth Hansen was brave to wear her clerical collar in an audience with the Pope and an audience with the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Pope didn't react. The Patriarch seemed slightly perturbed."
(Another great moment in Episcopalian diplomacy and tact!)
--- "Rome and Orthodoxy are very, very, very male. Also they both have high doctrines and devotion about the Blessed Virgin Mary. I find it difficult to utter the word 'Theotokos' in referring to Mary. Although I honor the devotion that Levada and Anthony have for Mary, I think that calling Mary the Mother of God moves close to idolatry. Jesus said, 'Who is my mother... ? Those who do the will of my Father in heaven are my mother, brothers ....' And if she is the Mother of God, what relationship does she have with the one whom Jesus calls Abba, Father? Popular Islamic thinking is that Christians are polytheists: God, Jesus, His Mother. I can see where their impression comes from."
(When push comes to shove, this Anglican prelate is more at ease with Islamic views than with the Christian dogma about one woman--Mary as the Mother of God--proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and again at the Council of Constantinople in 551.)
--- Swing said it is "obvious" that the Vatican and the Patriarchate "are structured so that the 'house' wins. I serve in the Church where the main concerns are social ministries and getting a new rector or vitalizing the youth group...In dealing with the Vatican and Orthodoxy, it is clear that time is on a different scale. They deal with centuries, mostly past centuries."
--- "There is no way that the Church in England could have broken away from Rome without the power of the King," Swing wrote. "The Roman Catholic Church is power bequeathed by Roman Emperors, inherited in lands and treasures, and endlessly propagating itself. It is a big Church with big Muscle. Going through St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum gives that message. Anglicanism could only start with the big Muscle of a King."
(Thus, Swing credited earthly kings for the establishment and maintenance of both Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.)
SWING SAID THAT the "most scintillating meeting" he had at the reception on the evening after the papal audience was with Francis Cardinal Arinze. "In the past we haven't always seen eye-to-eye on interfaith matters. Now he has moved on from Interreligious to Divine Worship so our paths no longer cross," the bishop wrote.
He was referring to the fact that Cardinal Arinze, when he was the head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, clearly rejected the URI. He told Swing in 1996 that the United Religions Initiative "would give the appearance of syncretism and...would water down our need to evangelize. It would force authentic religions to be on equal footing with spurious religions."
Sources: --- The Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, "2003 Ecumenical Pilgrimage to London, Canterbury, Rome, Istanbul," accessible through http://diocal.org as of 07/19/03. (The article had been on-line from April 2003 through July 2003, but was no longer on-line as of September 11, 2003) -- Bishop William Swing, "The United Religions Initiative," a document issued in April 1996 (at the end of Swing's global pilgrimage), p. 7 --- Permission to circulate the foregoing electronically is granted, provided that there are no changes in the headings or text, and this notice is included. To receive a sample issue of THE CHRISTIAN CHALLENGE magazine, please write to CHRISTIAN.CHALLENGE@ecunet.org.
Makes me want to send the patriarch a fan letter.
No it isn't, your Eminence. Nothing could be easier.
Point 1: the Holy See no longer issues "papal bulls".
Point 2: Not all papal statements, including those intended to be received as authoritative and conclusive, are intended to be received as "infallible". Nor need they be. I'd like to see "Bishop" Swing try to get business done back in California in the face of organised dissent demanding exclusively "infallible" pronouncements on every particular of his own communion's doctrine and policy. The idea that every papal remark must be officially infallible or else may be safely ignored is ludicrous on its face; its only function is to marginalise the pope.
Point 3: Infallible teaching is not subject to a statute of limitations.
BLECCHH! Sounds like one of those pervert sex tourists!
It just leaves me...speechless.