Friday, April 29, 2016

ACANZP on verge of deconstructing itself in one GS hit?

I have woken up in the night to this absurdity of our GS papers (motions, bills).

Suppose everything in the papers is approved "as presented."

Then: we would have (by 2018 confirming votes)

ABOLISHED CONFIRMATION

CHANGED DOCTRINE OF MARRIAGE

RADICALLY REVISED DOCTRINE OF ORDINATION

That is three sacramental actions of our church (sacraments to the catholic-minded among us) altered in a direction which can only be described as a progressive departure from our catholic heritage and a liberal embrace of new ways of thinking about rites which are core to our identity as a not wholly Protestant or Catholic church.

There are no prizes for being the most liberal, progressive Anglican church in the Communion.

Actually, I suggest we would be more than the most liberal, progressive Anglican church in the Communion. I suggest that we would be the least Anglican church in the Communion.

We could significantly begin to deconstruct ourselves as an Anglican church if we decide to change what we believe about all three sacramental actions in one hit. (Some might say we would simply be accelerating a deconstruction already begun).

Instead of being the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia we would be the Evolving Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Through 2020 and 2022 synods we could work on the remaining sacramental actions and even have a go at the Dominical Sacraments of Baptism and Communion. After all, we are running out of water in NZ as we allow it to be bottled up and sold overseas ... but there is plenty of spare milk ... #justsaying.

On the other hand, at a pre General Synod meeting last night a good observation was made by one of Christchurch's GS reps (re the abolition of confirmation): constitutionally, can we actually make such a change? Confirmation is, after all, firmly embedded within our Fundamental Provisions.

Calling chancellors ... dialing now sir ... yes, they will take your call ... as soon as some other legal messes in our  amalgam of canons and formularies are solved :)

Seriously: what kind of (Anglican) church do we want to be? 

I do understand that each of the proposals for change of marriage, confirmation and ordination (via recognition of Methodist orders) has its own background of concern and desire to make progress on perceived and experienced difficulties or shortfalls in our life together, and that each has its own logic as a response to those difficulties and shortfalls. But I think it right to stand back from these individual proposals and ask the naive question what the accumulation of all three changes would mean for what kind of church we want to be.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A puzzling General Synod motion: is it a change of doctrine?

From the General Synod motions (here)

Motion # 21

Anglican-Methodist Interchangeability of Ordained Ministries

Mover: The Right Rev’d R Bay                    Seconder:

THAT this General Synod te Hīnota Whānui 2016:
(a)    formally affirms, accepts, and recognizes the validity of Methodist presidency and presbyteral ministries as effectively equivalent to Anglican episcopal and priestly ministries, such that interchange is possible without the requirement of re-ordination; and
(b)   in negotiation with the Methodist Church, and having attended to necessary enabling legislation, effects an act of reconciliation of episcopal ministries so enabling a full interchangeability of ordained ministries, in accord with the Irish Model, and
(c)    agrees that the reconciliation of episcopal ministry and the interchangeability of priestly ministry could take place in the first instance by a parallel or shared liturgical act (Act of Inauguration) wherein the Methodist Connexion and the General Synod assert and affirm the mutual recognition and acceptance of each other’s episcopal ministry; and similarly with respect to the mutuality of ordained priestly ministry.
(d)   Asks the Council for Ecumenism, in conjunction with the Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group, to attend to the preparation of the necessary legislation.


Notes (PLEASE ALSO REFER TO THE Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group report):

1.       Enabling Legislation
Appropriate legislative measures will need to be enacted in order to establish the interchange of ministries following which an act of reconciliation can occur. Such legislation would be brought to the 2018 General Synod te Hīnota Whānui. 
2.       Recognition and reconciliation of episcopal ministries
For Anglicans, the proposal means that we recognise, effect and affirm that, in the ordained presbyter in the Presidential team, there exists a valid episcopal ministry; an authentic episcopate, capable of interchange should that ever be desired.

3.       Establish the interchangeability of ordained (priestly/presbyteral) ministry.
Once enabling legislation is in place and the reconciliation of episcopal ministries attained, the interchange of priestly/presbyteral ministry may proceed.

4.       The Diaconate
This proposal applies only to the mutuality of episcopal ministry and the interchangeability of presbyteral and priestly ministries. There remain differences in respect to the structure and nature of the probationary period that occurs (usually) between completion of a ministry formation process and the priestly/presbyteral ordination.


There is further opportunity for our two churches to work together on a common understanding of the model and mission of the diaconate and so the future possibility of interchangeability.

PETER CARRELL COMMENT:

The Protestant in me is keen to see this kind of mutual recognition of ministry, not least because of strong and long Anglican and Methodist relationships, including many years of shared training together at Meadowbank. In a varying "churchscape" in which we have co-operating ventures and in which it is sometimes useful if a Methodist presbyter could preside at an Anglican eucharist, some kind of "interchangeability" of presidential/presbyteral ministry is logical to the Protestant in me.

The Catholic in me (yeah, yeah, some think it is so microscopic it cannot be seen) says, "What!?" Where is the episcopal laying on of hands via an episcope who is an episcope in an order separate to priests/presbyters, not by interpretation of "the  ordained presbyter in the Presidential team" as being "episcopal"? 

The Ecumenicist in me asks, 
- What effect would this approach to interchangeability of ministry have on our relationships with Catholics and the Orthodox? 
- Why, being consistent, would we not also work on something similar with the Presbyterians, who consider their "presbytery" to have an episcopal role, including in ordination of a presbyter?

The Once Was A General Synod Member in me asks,
- Should not such a motion begin with the "Anglican-Methodist Dialogue Group report" (found here) since this sets out the history building up to this motion and the arguments assumed into it?
- Why are the fuller and more helpful notes to the motion drafted in the report not the notes to the motion actually presented in the GS papers? (Those briefer notes offer technical terms and phrases which are either undefined or not clearly defined. The fuller notes in the report help us to see what changes the Methodists would also make in an "episcopal" direction.)

The Fundamental Provisionist in me asks, 
- Is this (however unintentionally) a change in our doctrine of ordination? 
- If it is, should this motion speaks as though it sets that change in place? 
- And, where this motion does speak in terms of future "enabling legislation", what kind of legislation should we have in order to change our doctrine of ordination? (Change of constitution? A formulary for recognising interchanged ministries? Let us not forget that the ordinals are part of our "Fundamental Provisions": ordination goes to the heart of who we are as Anglicans and what we believe.)

The Tui: Yeah, Right! guy in me desperately wants to ask 
- Whether we can equate our diaconate ("ordained a deacon") with the probationary period a prospective Methodist presbyter goes through following training and prior to ordination as a Methodist presbyter (no ordination as a probationer)? We can't even contemplate that can we? Deacons, we need your voice on this. The train is leaving the station!
- Also, once the enabling legislation is passed could we ordain a future Bishop of Somewhere who has been a Methodist presbyter (i.e. not previously ordained a deacon, and not previously ordained-by-a-bishop-in-the-order-of-bishops)? That would indeed be "per saltum" ordination, would it not?

Ecumenical relationships are vital, Jesus prayed that we may be one, this blog longs for Christian unity which goes beyond the "organic" or "spiritual" to real changes in our lack of inter-communion, recognition of ministries and so forth. 

Consequently I applaud the intention in this motion and acknowledge it comes from ecumenical work here in Aotearoa NZ which builds on associated work in other parts of the Anglican-Methodist world. I hope we can make progress through an amended motion which clarifies issues and responds to questions the motion-with-notes in its current form raises. 

I have no problem with the goal of "interchangeability" of ministries between Methodists and Anglicans providing we are clear about what we are interchanging and faithful to our own doctrine of ordination in respect of our understanding of "ordered" ministry. 

I think we should remember that, much as many of us long for closer relations with Rome, Constantinople and Utrecht (i.e. Old Catholics), we are closer to Methodist/Anglican mutual recognition of ministries than we are to Rome and Constantinople recognising our ministries ("null and void", lest we forget).

What do you think?

UPDATE: Bosco Peters, along with other GS matters, also tackles this motion here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Anglican Bits and Catholic Bites

Three items of note this morning:

ACNA sails very, very close to a moral and theological crisis here. Preludium offers a reflection here.

The Primate of the West Island reflects on ACC-16 here. (PS Have you seen that the West Island government is paying the French $50 billion to build submarines. Surely they are not expecting an attack from the seaborne power to their east?)

Catholics and Anglicans have been talking - again!! - about recognition of ministry, here. Having been at a joint Catholic-Anglican Ash Wednesday service this year, in the Catholic Pro-Cathedral here in Christchurch, at which Bishop Victoria Matthews preached,  I and many readers here want to say, "Let theology catch up with reality." Really, it is just about finding an aggiornamento which walks backwards into the void Leo's "null and void" Bull!

It is not as though things cannot change in the Vatican ... or can they? Our Prelatical friend from the West Island will need more smarts than an Ozzie Union leader caught with unexplained cash in his briefcase to get this audit completed!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Can we construct a better Way Forward?

Update A much simpler scheme is proposed by Bosco Peters here (among other GS matters).

Recap

My sense is that I and a few other bloggers are not alone in being dissatisfied with AWF. In fact, beating drums tell me that a number of people across many of our episcopal units are not satisfied that AWF is "the" way forward. My own summary of what we are most dissatisfied about is that, when all is said and done about the strengths and weaknesses of AWF, it does not propose a robust scheme for two integrities. Diocese by diocese choice and individual priests being able to refuse to do a blessing does not "cut it" when it comes to signing up via licensing procedures to what this church believes according to its formularies.

But I think we should pause and note that there is no particular reason to make that a great negative re the work the working group did. Let me explain: I am a great believer in arriving at the truth via failed efforts (!!), in line with Karl Popper's approach to finding by approximations what the truth is, such approximations getting ever closer on the basis of the latest approximation being falsified. If we collectively judge that AWF doesn't get us to where we think we want to be (let alone to where God wants us to be), that should be a spur to work from what has been falsified to a better position, always grateful for what AWF has illuminated for us along the way.

I think we can construct a better way forward than AWF does, and I think Trevor Morrison is correct to argue that we should. I also think he is correct to press for greater signs of mutual understanding of respective but different positions on blessings as well as to remind us that there was a vision in Motion 30 for "two integrities" which is not well developed in AWF.

At the end of the previous post I  suggested that the formation of FCANZ could be significant in finding that way forward. I said that because if we are to have a "two integrities" approach then we need FCANZ to engage with the development of the concept and to sign off on any new proposal in that direction. Ditto, observing some remarks made in the paper by Peter Lineham and Mark Hendrickson linked to here last week, a group inclusive of publicly self-identifying gay and lesbian people should also engage with and sign off on such development. That is, in a new proposal, we could see ourselves heading to towards a future GS with a settled feeling that we had negotiated a peaceful outcome. Remember we go to this GS with the AWF report declaring it is not an agreed report by the whole group!

Two Integrities?

Note that the simplest, clearest form of two integrities on the matter of blessing of same-sex relationships is for there to be a formal division of our church into two separately governed churches. A schism, in other words. But or BUT no one says they want schism, no one says they want ACANZP to divide. That, surely, provides a starting point for thinking about how we might have an undivided church with two integrities within it. That starting point being that we share a commitment to not dividing our church.

Can we find another point of common interest? Yes, we can, and that point is that we commonly recognise that there are three sides in this church on this matter of blessing, none of which looks like changing its collective mind any time soon.

One side: we want blessings to happen

Another side: we do not want blessings to happen

Yet another side: we are not yet sure on the matter and we don't want to be railroaded into one or other of the other two sides. This side, incidentally, has most to lose if our church divides.

In other words, we could have a common commitment to finding a way forward which neither divides the church nor requires one side or another to give up what they believe.

Incidentally, but not insignificantly, the three sides I describe above are present simultaneously in many of our parishes and, as far as I can tell, are present in all of our episcopal units!

Naturally some readers here will wonder why I am talking about two integrities and three sides, so why not three integrities? I see the two integrities in concept as a formal way of acknowledging the right of some in our church to explicitly believe one thing and the right of some in our church to explicitly believe the opposite. The "third" side I am talking about should have their right to keep options open simply by being part of our church without pressure to choose one integrity or another.

Key step?

It then strikes me that a key step towards two integrities within one church is securing agreement on what each integrity might permit the other integrity to believe and to perform.

A few weeks ago. Bosco Peters introduced the very helpful word "may" to the inter-blog discussion.

"May" is a great Anglican word because it implies a permissive (i.e. broad, liberal as in "open-minded") approach to matters of choice and of conscience.

My sense is that our church may hold together if

A. it can continue to permit require belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and

B. permits belief that a marriage-like relationship between two people of the same gender may be blessed providing the latter belief rests on a case* that conservatives can respect even if they do not agree with it. (A weakness of the AWF report is that it does not offer that case).

What kind of formulary?

Clearly two integrities within one church has the challenge of securing a way forward so that a blessing service is

(a) authorised for use by those who wish to use it
(b) expressive of what this church permits its members to believe concerning such a service.

That is the two integrities (however they are defined) need to act as cohorts within one church (through General Synod) in respect of (a) and (b).

My understanding of (a) and (b) is that this would need to be a formulary (i.e. a service agreed both by GS and by a majority of the diocesan synods and hui amorangi).

I am no expert so I may be out of (constitutional and canonical) line in proposing that Bosco Peters' "may" be part of any such formulary so that it is clear that the doctrine being expressed in the formulary is a matter of permitted belief and not of required belief. I invite constitutional and canonical experts to come out of their hermitages and comment!

Of course, if one reply is that "Peter, it would be unprecedented to have that kind of formulary" the easy response is "Well, Dr Expert, we are in an unprecedented situation so, just as we did with the Three Tikanga Structure in 1992, we need to invent a new way forward."

What kind of "two integrities"?

If a new way forward followed the line being taken here, two integrities would be much less about responding to a formulary for blessing a same-gender relationship and much more about how our church handles questions of ordination and appointment corresponding to two differing understandings of "rightly ordered" ordinands and clergy.

In one integrity the understanding of "rightly ordered" would remain what it currently is, in the other integrity the understanding of "rightly ordered" would be enlarged to include "ordered" same-sex partnerships.

(By "ordered" I mean, "according to some objective measure." The AWF recommends that measure be "a blessed civil marriage" but there has been criticism of that proposal and it may be that in a new proposal there is also a new proposal about what the measure should be (e.g. "a civil marriage, whether blessed or not") but here I am not going to offer further discussion on this particular issue.)

Now this is where things do get tricky and as we  try to work out a better way than AWF's "diocese by diocese" approach we can see that while it is easy to criticise this particular "way forward" it is a challenge to find a better way forward. (And I am by no means confident that what I outline here is that better way forward but I think it may offer a better sense of safeguarding of convictions for individuals and for parishes than AWF's "diocese by diocese" basis).

A first level of "two integrities"

Individual office-holders, deacons, priests and bishops may wish to indicate that they identify with one integrity or the other. This likely would impact on appointment in respect of the second level.

A second level of "two integrities"

Individual parishes and other ministry units may wish to indicate that they identify with one integrity or the other. This likely would impact on aspects of working together within the same diocese where a ministry unit's identification is different to the diocese to which it belongs.

A third level of "two integrities"

Individual episcopal units may wish to indicate that they identify with one integrity or the other. This may impact on candidates offering for ordained ministry and on applicants applying for licensed positions.

A fourth level of "two integrities"

I am going to put this level in terms of a question to be resolved rather than offer my resolution(s).

How would we work through the situation when a deacon or priest and/or  (a) (their) parish identify with one integrity and the licensing/overseeing bishop identifies with the other integrity?

It would take a lot more thought on my part and yours to work out whether these "two integrities" needed some kind of formality like a "warden" or a "council" to guide and facilitate each integrity. As I write I am inclined to think that the two integrities could be about making a formal note of some kind (individuals on a CV, parishes in a self-description on a website, etc). We already have these notes informally: Fred is an evangelical, St Swithin's will never have a woman as vicar, St Jeremiah's will only have a liberal theological priest who will wear a chasuble. Might we have them formally?

I have done my dash for this week. Your comments welcomed, especially any improvements.

Summary

If we were to start again while building on learnings from AWF and the process that has led to that report and its recommendations then we could consider:

- work on common ground between various sides, seeking before a GS (2018? 2020?) some agreement as to what the sides could be committed to, all premised on the promise of Motion 30 to find a way for two integrities to operate in this church;

- we take particular care that any resulting formulary expresses what people may believe and not what they must believe when signing licences and adherence to General Synod;

- we formulate an approach to "two integrities" which permits individuals, ministry units as well as dioceses to belong - if they choose - to one or other integrity or to neither;

- we attempt the very difficult if not impossible and answer the question I pose above re "Level 4";

*Appendix:

Briefly, my own suggestion for a respectable case in conservative eyes is one which (a) acknowledges different assessments of what the Bible says and does not say about homosexuality, (b) in particular acknowledges that while the Bible is clear in its prohibitions re sex between two people of the same gender, it can reasonably (but not necessarily) be interpreted as silent on the specific question of a marriage-like relationship between two people of the same gender committed to lifelong loving partnership, (c) assesses a permanent relationship between two people of the same gender as pragmatically better than either a series of impermanent relationships or an unbearable life of celibacy, (d) acknowledges that the church itself has opened a pathway to remarriage of divorcees which takes a generous, non-literal understanding of Jesus' and Paul's own teaching on remarriage after divorce and thus as a consequence acknowledges that some couple relationships do not fit neatly into what otherwise appears the clear teaching of Scripture, and thus (e) opens the possibility that in good conscience a marriage-like relationship between two people of the same gender might be both prayed for and given thanks for by bishops/priests subscribe to this kind of case.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Way Forward: Section 12: A Critical Review (9)

[The full report is accessible here. The section under discussion in this post is accessible here (12). In these posts I am aiming to work my way forward through A Way Forward report, posting on a new section each Monday in the weeks before General Synod, May 2016. Pagination refers to the PDF version of the report.]

Before we begin this week's review

I commend to you a blogpost by Trevor Morrison, entitled Two Ways Forward. His opening is brilliant and unerringly focuses all our minds on where our church needs to go at the forthcoming GS (his emboldening):

"Two ways forward lie before the Anglican Church in the province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. One way is to adopt the recommendations that have been made in the report of the Working Group that was formed in consequence of Motion 30 as agreed at the 2014 General Synod / te Hinota Whanui. To choose that way is to choose to divide our Church. There is not the slightest possibility that conservative parishes and clergy will agree to remain part of a body that had accepted the recommendations framed as they are in the Working Group’s report. Nor could any conceivable amendments make the recommendations acceptable. 

The other way is to analyse why the Working Group has got it so badly wrong and to start again and do it right this time. I hope that that is the path we follow, and so I offer my own preliminary analysis here."

The essence of his critique is that GS 2014 and Motion 30 were a hopeful starting point for finding and forming two integrities in our church on the matter of blessings, but AWF provides no fulfilment of such hopes. Not least, Morrison highlights, in my words, that AWF's failure is because it does not demonstrate an understanding of what a "conservative" integrity would look like even as it effectively argues for and seeks to establish a "progressive" integrity alongside of which conservatives are thrown a few bones such as the ability to refuse to undertake blessings.

This, among other points well made, is an astute one (this time my emboldening):

"The report that the Way Forward Working Group has produced contains some useful observations and findings. Nevertheless, it shows signs of the pressure of time under which it was produced. Its preliminary sections are one-sided, representing the view of the majority who are in favour of the blessing of same-sex relationships and failing to give respectful acknowledgment of the views of the minority who are not. If the Working Group’s recommendations are to form the foundation of the ongoing recognition of two integrities within the Church, surely its own proceedings and report should have modelled that very thing, but they do not."

I leave it to you to read the whole of his post. Better still, circulate it to your GS reps!

Section 12

First, I repeat my questions noted in last week's post:

"- why beat about the bush, why not name the rites so that we are clear which is which in respect of same sex civil marriages and differently sexed civil marriages, rather than "Form 1" and "Form 2" and use your magnifying glass to work out the difference between each?

- are they too wordy?

- do we get to trial them (as part of a considered process, likely longer than two years, in accord with how previously we have done good work in adopting new rites)?"

Secondly, I pick up a point made here (in comments, and, sorry, can't remember all who have made it in respect of one issue or another), that it is more than confusing, it is dangerously verging in disingenuity to proclaim in AWF that no change is envisaged to our doctrine of marriage and then to recommend acceptance of "proposed rites of blessing" that include the phrase "civil marriage" in their title, and include the word "marriage" in their main contents. There are at least three criticisms to consider at this point:

(1) To (Christianly) bless a civil marriage for which civil marriage is a necessary condition while also distinguishing "civil marriage" from "Christian marriage" looks awfully like blurring any meaningful distinction between a blessed civil marriage and a Christian marriage.

(2) To require the blessing of a civil marriage in order to consider one or more of the couple in respect of ordination or licensed ministry position to be "rightly ordered" is a change to our current doctrine of marriage because currently we consider a civilly married person (with or without blessing) to be rightly-ordered. 

(3) To require the blessing of a civil marriage in order to consider one or more of the couple in respect of ordination or licensed ministry position to be "rightly ordered" is a change to our current doctrine of marriage because it introduces the idea that a priest is requisite to a couple becoming married (i.e. "properly married in the eyes of the church") when hitherto we have understood that the couple marry themselves before God (with priest and witnesses attesting to this public marrying, and priest praying for the marriage to be successful. I may not have expressed this criticism well and you may be able to do it better.

Thirdly, the introduction of a formulary for such blessings demonstrates that our church thinks this is a matter of our doctrine but the simultaneous introduction of a canon which permits dioceses to choose whether or not they authorise the formulary for use confuses this matter because 

(i) it implies that dioceses may choose which bits of doctrine we believe and which we do not (which seems quite odd!, if not contradictory of Anglican governance);

(ii) it raises the significant question of whether we can via a canon do this kind of dividing of the church into two integrities on this matter: 

on the one hand a canon is easily changed, at one sitting of GS, without recourse to the dioceses* and thus such a decisive piece of governance is always at risk; 

on the other hand it is very, very arguable that we cannot actually do this kind of "canonical" shaping of our church, since the precedence for doing so (re canons currently governing aspects of marriage) is on shaky legal/constitutional ground (so Bosco Peters) and the logic of doing so is non-existent (how can a canon trump a formulary when one is of lesser legal weight than the other?).

**AWF does helpfully ask that GS offer a "twice round" process on this particular occasion to the canons it proposes so that they will go to the diocese for consideration along with the proposed formularies.

Fourthly, I do not, in the light of the three critiques above, wish to actually examine the formularies in any depth. We need to sort out what we are doing, what we understand marriage to be (and not to be) and work on what it means to be a church of two integrities (i.e. in only one of which would people actually being willing to say "this service reflects what I believe as an Anglican") before we worry about the wording of services of blessing.

But if you want to think critically about the formularies, as presented in AWF, then I suggest, as above, asking these questions:

- are they too wordy?
- should we be approving formularies without trial?
- do they get the relationship, important to Anglicans, between "liturgy" and "scripture" correct, with special reference to scripture informing liturgy? 
- what are they blessing? (e.g. note at the top of p. 34 = second page of Form 1 the emphasis on friendship, "best of friendships": if we are blessing friendships, does that provide a way forward?) 

Can We Be Constructive About A Better Way Forward?

I think we can and I suggest that the formation of FCANZ could be significant in finding that way forward. Come back Tuesday, and I will explain  ...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

AuGAFCONthentically Anglican?

"Authentic" might be the new cool word for Anglicans in 2016.

The GAFCON Primates have just met, and have issued a communique, with an appendix covering the recently concluded ACC-16 meeting.

The communique includes this sentence,

"We are a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion."

See yesterday's post for the use of the word "authentic" at the conclusion of the FCANZ (i.e. branch of GAFCON) meeting in Auckland.

[This paragraph updated slightly in light of Malcolm Falloon's comment below]. The communique is interesting as it tells is that there are ten provinces represented at the meeting and two branches mentioned (Australia and, now, NZ) [but see comment by Malcolm Falloon below re how many branches there are]. That is GAFCON represents about a third of all members of the Anglican Communion. What would be more interesting would be GAFCON drawing in further members, from the Middle East and from Asia. On the whole, GAFCON looks like it represents the more conservative end of the Anglican spectrum and thus cannot (yet) claim to be the broad future of global Anglicanism.

The appendix is interesting because it claims what TEC claims for itself (see David Ould, here), that it defied the Primates' January 2016 exhortation for TEC not to vote on doctrinal and polity matters at meetings such as ACC. This tells us that American arrogance has put at risk the unity (or, if you are critical of the Primates' Meeting, "unity") of the Communion at this time.The question TEC was invited to consider was not whether it understood the technical law of relationships between the Instruments of Unity but whether it understands the importance of mutual respect and gracious consideration of each Instrument in order to deepen our fragile walking together. Just as GAFCON Primates meeting together and making statements bit by bit sets up an alternative "Anglican Communion" and de-constructs the present Communion, so TEC is destructing the Communion bit by bit as it imposes its understanding of "authentic" Anglicanism on the rest of us, an understanding that is at once legalistic and insular ("you can't tell us what to do").

Here is the thing: in the long run of Anglican history, authentic Anglican life has been the broad life of the moderate middle, considerately drawing along with it the more conservative and more liberal Anglican movements. Yes, all can claim to be "authentic" Anglicans as GAFCON has done and as I am sure TEC does too, but not all Anglicans can claim to be fostering a vision for the largest, most inclusive authentic Anglicanism.

Right now we cannot say "what the future of the Anglican Communion needs is such and such a vision of authentic Anglicanism" because the Anglican Communion today may have no future as an entity of some 38 provinces. The future may consist of two or more communions/federations.

I sincerely hope that ++Justin Welby understands that despite his best efforts, the Primates Meeting in January and now ACC-16 in Lusaka may be the calm before the storm and not the calm after the storm.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Authentically Anglican?

The second of two FCANZ conferences has led to a media release from FCANZ which indicates that the conferees stand in solidarity with the West Hamilton Community Church, a congregation which formerly constituted the bulk of the West Hamilton Anglican parish in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki.

In the release (and its heading) the WHCC is described as "authentically Anglican."

On the one hand, we can understand the sentiment here: an Anglican congregation finds itself dissonant with the polity of the ACANZP (as WHCC did after the passing of Motion 30 in 2014) and leaves ACANZP and begins a new, independent-of-a-bishop life in a new location while continuing to believe what it has always believed and to practise what it has always practised. In ways marked by confession of faith, by custom of liturgy and by ethos and outlook, WHCC is authentically Anglican.

On the other hand, the phrase "authentically Anglican" as used here begs a number of questions about what it means to be authentically Anglican because "Anglican" speaks not only of what a distinctive group of Christians believe and practise as a congregation but also of how that group of Christians organise themselves as a church, as a set of congregations. Cue talk of bishops and synods, of constitution and canons, each of which aspect expresses the character of Anglican churches as continuous with the ancient church which found itself, post the apostles, continuing the ministry of apostolic leadership through bishops, synods, and formal rules which bound Christians into "church" rather than not-church.

As I currently understand WHCC's situation, it is a congregation without a bishop and without adherence to an Anglican synod.

Now, read me carefully, please: I do not consider WHCC to be authentically or inauthentically Anglican at this point in time in respect of relationship to a bishop and to a synod.

Simple charity and tolerance in our thinking should allow for this to be an "in between" time for WHCC while ACANZP works through its current situation at the end of which there may be an ACANZP which WHCC feels they could contemplate rejoining or an ACANZP which means that WHCC is joined by other "former parishes" or ... hypothesize your scenario! That is, it is early days for WHCC to work out how it might yet be authentically Anglican in respect of being joined with other Anglican congregations under a bishop and bound together in a synod.

But implied in my argument that now is an "in between" time is the point that sometime in the future, the description "authentically Anglican" will lose currency when applied to an independent congregation if it does not become part of an Anglican ecclesiastical polity. (As indeed has happened to the St John's Vancouver congregation of which David Short, also mentioned in the media release above, is minister: having left the Anglican Church of Canada, they are now part of the Anglican Church of North America).

A related general point re Anglican congregational life in NZ

There is a further point I feel bold to make, while thinking about "authentically Anglican", prompted by travelling and passing a church sign along the lines of "St Swithin's Community Church" [I don't know of any actual "St Swithin's" in NZ, so no critique implied if there is a St Swithin's hereabouts!]. A number of Anglican (and other denominational churches) in recent times have headed in this direction re public declaration of identity as a church. The driving force is missiological: how might our church best connect with people in the local community? Not by use of words such as "Anglican" or "Methodist" which (a) are incomprehensible to a post-Christian community, and (b) may be off-putting to the odd transitioning Christian without denominational allegiance looking for a new church.

But I wonder if the ecclesiological consequences need some theological discussion? Once I understand myself congregationally as belonging to "St Swithin's Community Church," do I not distance myself from the underlying Anglican polity of St Swithin's (the one to which, in actuality, the minister and office-holders of the church are legally bound) and (unconsciously) prepare myself to support the congregation leaving that polity if (suddenly, surprise, surprise) the congregation realises that the somewhat distant-to-them Anglican mothership is heading in an uncongenial direction?

Now there is a theological discussion to be had on this matter, both deep and wide.

Many Anglican parish churches (whatever their public nomenclature) are now gatherings of an eclectic range of denominational backgrounds.

- What does "Anglican" mean in this situation where a significant portion of the congregation has no particular loyalty to Anglicanism as "character" or as "organisation"?

Many parishes are struggling to connect well to their local communities and the "Anglican" character of their congregational life can raise sharp questions for minister and vestry as they engage with what their mission is.

- What does "Anglican" mean in this situation where the community shows no particular signs of being drawn towards Anglicanism as a form of Christian life?

That is, at a point in the life of ACANZP where we are contemplating one of the more significant questions of our life as a "church" (how do we decide things via canon/formulary? might we organisationally stay together or walk apart as a result of a decision or decisions soon to be made? does our constitution even permit us to make decision or decisions some are pressing GS to make?) we also have a significant question about our life as a "mission" (how should we be known in the community? what frankness do we have as a body of Christians as we disclose/obscure our underlying commitments and institutional loyalties? what is the character of Anglicans-in-mission and is it different to the character of Anglicans-in-church?)

Of all the things the 21st century is saying to the church in the world, the clearest message is this: we can only be church when we are church in mission, there is no either/or and we should not think and act as though there is.

What is ACANZP and its many hued congregations of varied names to do?

Answers in comments, please! 

And hurry, we do not have much time ...