June 10th, 2010
09:33 AM ET
Think the issue that’s threatening to tear the Anglican Communion apart is a debate over homosexuality? Author Diana Butler Bass says you’re wrong.
Bass offers a provocative take on the “real reason” for the Episcopal Church’s clash with the Anglican Communion on her Beliefnet blog.
The divide burst into public view in 2004 when the Episcopal Church confirmed the ordination of its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson. The chasm widened last month when an Episcopal diocese in California consecrated a lesbian bishop.
Now the head of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are engaged in what Bass calls a “first-class theological smack down” through dueling public letters.
Archbishop Rowan Williams (pictured), the nominal head of Anglican Communion - the worldwide association of churches that includes the Episcopal Church - urged a diminished role for Episcopal leaders in the communion after they accepted the lesbian bishop.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop for the Episcopal Church, reacted to Williams’ decision by accusing Williams of being a “theological dictator,” Bass says.
But Bass says the debate over openly gay bishops is really a debate over two rival versions of Anglicanism.
One form is a top-down vision of faith that concentrates power in the hands of ecclesiastical guardians who enforce Anglican rules, she says.
The other is a bottom-up version that views the practice of faith in a more democratic, parish-based model, she says.
Bass, author of “A People’s History of Christianity,” says she knows how this smack down will ultimately end:
What do you think? Are those who are fighting against the Episcopal Church’s decision to accept openly gay and lesbian bishops fighting against the tide of history, as Bass claims?
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.