Words are no longer what they used to be in the post-Windsor Anglican Communion.
Am I just being nostalgic or can I really remember a time when we more or less knew the meaning of words across the Church?
Now it seems we are locked into a war over words as much as a battle of theological ideas. The Windsor Report pretty much started this by delivering an imprecise, committee-driven document by which words like ‘regret’ as opposed to more traditional ones like ‘repent’ were carefully inserted in order to secure agreement around a process, rather than a conclusion.
We saw this early on when Katharine Jefferts Schori first became Presiding Bishop and talked about how words are metaphors and metaphors change. Here's what she told the Washington Post in July 2006
"All language is metaphorical, and if we insist that particular words have only one meaning and the way we understand those words is the only possible interpretation, we have elevated that text to an idol. I'm encouraging people to look beyond their favorite understandings."A fact in the story of my own conversion is that I've had to go, word by word, and learn the meaning of the words in their original context from the redefinitions I was taught in Christian Science and why I sometimes refer to myself (only half in jest) as a "recovering Christian Scientist." Words have meanings.
We see more of this redefinition of words in the controversy over the bishop-election in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. In fact, StandFirm has now published excerpts from Thew Forrester's sermons here that are a study in the redefinition of words.
A highlight of the trials in Virginia over the church properties has been the judge's determination to define the words. Trial days were spent over defining the meaning of words, or lack thereof, as the judge in the trial noted in his April 3, 2008 opinion regarding Dr. Ian Douglas' expert testimony on behalf of The Episcopal Church to define the word division:
"Dr. Douglas also testified that he did not perform any historical research, nor did he consult any historical reference books in order to formulate his definition of division."
The word meant whatever he wanted it to mean to further the aims, only that didn't work in the Virginia court of law.