Saturday, June 23, 2018

GAFCON and (or "versus"?) LAMBETH reflections

The GAFCON III Conference is over and below I give a link to the Final Communique and make some comments.

But before getting to that, a couple of posts on the question of whether the Anglican Communion/conferences is about GAFCON or Lambeth [which is bishops only] or is there room for both?

On the Lambeth Conference, whether it was or is or could be a "synod", or otherwise lead?
Also Archbishop Moon Hing - a man I have met and admire tremendously - speaks up on the value of the Lambeth Conference.

And Kenyan Archbishop Sapit makes some subtle but important distinctions and commitments. I like what he says!

On GAFCON and the Anglican Communion New Service: fake news? fun and (stealth) games? (Though I note that ACNS has not yet linked to the Final Communique, 2 pm Saturday 23 June, as I write.)

GAFCON III Final Communique: Letter to the Churches.

Eternity (Australia) has a news report here.

Via Twitter I made the following three comments last night:




We who were not at GAFCON must reflect deeply on what it means to be in mission as Anglicans, to evangelise as Anglicans, to envision a renewed Anglican Communion. How might we work with GAFCON, in what ways has GAFCON made working with GAFCON difficult, if not impossible (e.g. for TEC, SEC, even ACANZP)? Surely no one reading here thinks belonging to some kind of remnant Communion is a good thing? How do we form and inform ourselves with mainstream Anglicanism in the 21st century?

Nevertheless, a caveat: what does GAFCON working within the Communion ("we are not leaving") and against the Communion (disinvite these provinces, welcome ACNA, exclusion not inclusion, either/or rather than both/and) mean? Are we at a late 18th century moment when one form of Anglicanism (= Methodism) and another form (established Church of England) parted ways? Or are we at a Catholic renewal moment when (say) the Franciscans work mightily for renewal within the Catholic church?


It is all very well for GAFCON to say it is not leaving the Communion and that it is working for its renewal but that staying effectively asks others to leave unless they repent. What if they want to stay also? There is no sense from GAFCON of an inclusive Anglicanism, of a willingness to live with profound disagreement, of an openness to the actual state of global Anglicanism which is that more than one view of homosexuality exists among us. GAFCON is absolutely assured that there is only the GAFCON view, that that is the genuine Anglican view, and there is no place for dissent from this view. There is an unfortunate totalitarianism in this approach to difference which seeks to exclude those holding different views. (I use the word "totalitarian" advisedly. As I have followed GAFCON this past week I have been struck by the strength of the party line on homosexuality and the lack of any sense of critique and debate about it. It is quite extraordinary in this day and age of theological enquiry that no sign has emerged from GAFCON of a responsible critical consideration of matters here, including an ecclesiology which seeks to exclude on the basis of difference of view).


Following on from the comment above, the Communique offers no sense of how same sex couples might exist in the renewed Communion unless repentance occurs and I can only assume this means the break up of such relationships. Nor is there any sense that "pastoral care" for homosexuals means listening to their experience. The sense rather is that homsexuals will be told what is good for them. Perhaps that is right and proper but that is out of step with what many Anglicans around the world, not only in the West, think and feel about these matters.

In the end, where will this all end? I am not sure. I am not going to make a prediction. I am hopeful! I am glad about staying and not leaving: that creates shared space for conversation, that keeps alive possible futures which are not as divisive as the present, that offers time to reflect.

In the meantime, the organisers of Lambeth 2020 will have their work cut out: to ensure maximal attendance possible and to ensure that the event does not become a pale shadow of the colourful, energetic reality of GAFCON III. (Spoiler alert: ACNA bishops, don't bother packing your bags on the basis that TEC and SEC will not be invited).

Your thoughts?


Friday, June 22, 2018

What does it mean for Christians to be in the world but not of the world?

On the theme of living within the culture of our world but also not being subsumed by that culture, two posts of recent days are worth a read:

Tim Keller, speaking to British parliamentarians, here. Tim's major point is that post-Christian culture is much, much more Christian than most post-Christians realise. In explaining the difference Christians made to ancient Rome/Greek "shame-honour" culture, he offers insight into how we might make a difference today.

Ian Paul, writing about women speaking/being silent in church, here, makes a great point about a so-called "historic" reading of Scripture (in this case 1 Timothy 2). It may not be an historic reading. It may, in fact, be a modern, innovative reading, driven by a cultural bias in the way we think Christians ought to live today. If we do not actually want to read 1 Timothy 2 in an "historic"manner (and Ian gives some citations from that reading which, surely, no reader here would want to subscribe to), in what manner will we read it so that we are "in the world but not of the world"?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Engagement key to remarriage?

Previously I have noted an important survey of NZ attitudes to faith and today the NZ Herald makes a report, here.

I see no need to extensively comment on the report - it has engaged some key NZ thinkers and shakers on these matters and I commend their comments to you. You may wish to comment further here. In a time of crisis, all ideas welcome!

Two comments from me:

1. We were once a society in which, metaphorically, church and society were married, joined together. Through evangelism Maori became extensively Christian in the 19th century. Through intentional settlement in the mid 19th century Otago was a Presbyterian settlement and Canterbury an Anglican settlement. Churches old (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Baptist) and new (Brethren, Associated Churches of Christ, and, in the 20th century, Pentecostal) were planted through our islands, in city and in rural areas. Census stats showed a highly Christianised country. Now we are moving through phases of separation, even into divorce (cf. news this week re a court challenge to the teaching of Bible in Schools). Within the article Chris Clarke talks about the need to "re-engage" with society, but in different ways to former times. Others cited effectively say "Amen" to new engagement. That engagement is the key to any possibility of remarriage.

2. In a week when a significant number of lay and clerical Kiwi Anglicans have travelled to Jerusalem for GAFCON 2018, a conference which deep down is driven, among other things, by opposition to Anglican acceptance of same-sex couples, we are reminded again in the article of  sobering statistics:

"Most New Zealanders positively connect Jesus with love. Perceptions towards Jesus are often quite positive; non-Christians suggest he is relatable, approachable and gracious.But there are major hurdles.Church "teaching on homosexuality" is the biggest blocker to engaging with Christianity, cited by 47 per cent. Almost as many are influenced by the idea that a loving God would allow people to go to hell (45 per cent)."

That is, internally, we Anglicans are engaged in a debate about the theology of homosexuality (what does the Bible say, how do we understand it, what does the constitution of our church permit, etc) but externally, should we not be debating, How do we engage Kiwis with the gospel of God's love, forgiveness and welcome? And, How do we Kiwis find the language (not only words but ideas, images, actions) which communicate the Gospel over the hurdle of the 47% who will not listen because of "teaching on homosexuality"?

Among conservative Protestants, including among fellow conservative Anglicans, could we find words which at least say what Cardinal John Dew says? These are his words, relevant to the external challenge (my bold):

"Cardinal John Dew, the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington and vice-president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC), said the Catholic Church and its counterparts were mindful of the challenge posed by declining attendance."However, the study also points to opportunities for faith communities, with recognition among both non-Christians and Christians that the Church is involved in areas of social good and that faith too has a role in contributing to the wellbeing of our society."Dew said the members of the NZCBC, which co-ordinates the national activities and ministries of the Catholic Church, "humbly acknowledge our shortcomings, especially with regards to particular groups in society, such as the LGBT community who have felt a very real sense of rejection through the Church, or perhaps in falling short in fully meeting the needs of our recent migrant communities"."We hear, too, the call of those who want to see our actions speak louder than our words, by living out the values that Jesus represents."The findings from this survey speak to Pope Francis' latest exhortation, in which he says 'we are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves'.""

[I won't publish comments which re-run our churches' "internal" debates and arguments. I am happy to publish comments which reflect on the external challenge we face as churches re the society we live in, the nature of the gospel and how we communicate it to 47% who are unwilling to listen.]

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lest it be said

... that ADU makes no mention of GAFCON 2018, let's mention it!

David Ould muses on his blog whether the Anglican Communion News Service will get around to acknowledging that the largest Anglican gathering for 50 years is taking place this week in Jerusalem.

I cannot speak for the ACNS but I can speak on this blog. GAFCON is happening. And ACNS should recognise that it is happening. GAFCON is the major global movement of Anglicans today. I cannot imagine any other part of the Communion announcing a conference and getting 2000 people to gather from the four corners of the earth. (Later: ACNS has a story!)

And I am doing my bit - leading services in a parish while its priest is at GAFCON!

GAFCON news can be followed on Twitter (@gafconference ); also via the Twitter hashtag #gafcon2018

For a feel for what GAFCON generally and GAFCON 2018 is about, read Archbishop Glenn Davies here.

Quite rightly ++Glenn states what is the sole driving force for GAFCON's existence as a separated set of Anglicans who, nevertheless, wish to remain at the heart of the Anglican Communion. It is all to do with this, the first sentence in his article:

"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the momentous resolution concerning human sexuality adopted by the 1998 Lambeth Conference of bishops from around the Anglican Communion."

It is difficult to imagine that GAFCON would exist without the motivating force of difference in the Communion over sexuality.

Nevertheless ++Glenn argues otherwise when he writes near the end of his article,

"They [the 1100 who met at the first GAFCON Conference in 2008] believed the gospel had been compromised by the renunciation of the doctrine of Christ, and specifically Resolution I.10, plainly seen in the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first bishop living openly in a same-sex relationship.  

Yet the movement did not form solely for this reason. It is mission focused."

I agree that GAFCON is mission focused; that once it had come into being as a movement, it has readily embraced a mission focus rather than a sexuality focus. Though the sexuality issue is not far away: not agreeing with change in Western Anglican churches is becoming a significant identity marker for many Anglicans, both in the West and not in the West; and energy for a different form of Anglicanism - it seems to me - is being derived from the conflict over sexuality.

I suggest that if, generally, an Anglican conference on "mission" was announced, and if there were no conflicts among us, then there would not be 2000 Anglicans motivated to travel across the world to conference over mission.

So GAFCON represents Anglican rumblings, it is a sign of godly discontent about the state of the Anglican church around the globe, or perhaps it is only discontent about the state of the Western church.

That at least is one reason why ACNS should be reporting on GAFCON 2018: the conference represents not just a very large number of Anglicans, it also represents a future direction for global Anglicanism. That this direction is not (so to speak) under the control of the ABC, the ACC, or the Primates makes it more newsworthy rather than less!

From an historic perspective this direction is fascinating. We know that early Reformational and post-Reformational Anglicanism involved tension between Puritan tendencies, (in the language of the day) Papist tendencies, and the Hookerian vision of a Church of England which was neither. Largely the Hookerian approach has driven Anglicanism so many Anglican provinces have successfully incorporated, in more recent terminology, evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism, to say nothing of moderate as well as progressive Anglicanism.

GAFCON, it strikes me, noting the drivers of both sexuality and mission, is a fusion of both Puritan and evangelical tendencies, as well as a strongly missional Anglo-Catholicism, with the latter closer to Roman conservatism on sexuality than its modern counterpart, liberal Anglo-Catholicism.

To the extent that the Anglican Communion remains committed to a Hookerian vision of Anglicanism as a grand coalition, it has its work cut out (e.g. in the run up to Lambeth 2020) to gather all members of the coalition in one place.

Conversely, it is reasonably clear that GAFCON is not committed to that Hookerian vision. GAFCON has willingly fostered and supported Anglicans breaking away from (so to speak) Hookerian-vision Anglican provinces. Thus GAFCON represents an evolution or development in what it means to be Anglican.

What fellow Anglicans must eschew is any talk of "unAnglicanism" in respect of this development. Hooker's writings as the Elizabethan settlement settled during the late 16th century were themselves a development of the stringency of the Edwardian Reformation. Laudianism was another development. Anglicanism is a history of such developments and only history determines which developments survive (e.g. by becoming, as evangelicalism, Anglo-Catholicism, and liberalism have done, embedded in the mainstream of Anglican life).

GAFCONism and (so to speak) non-GAFCONism will jostle along through the next decades. The future of Anglicanism may not be a new Hookerian holding together of the two directions. The future of Anglicanism may be what might have happened in the 16th and 17th centuries: the Puritans and the Papists dividing and heading in quite different directions.

UPDATE: important reflection on GAFCON in the Communion here.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

I agree

A recent letter to Latimer Fellowship members (available here) raises some intriguing questions about ecclesiology as the (unnamed) author proposes that while the decision of the GS re blessings is a first order issue (and thus one might depart ACANZP because of that magnitude) it is a second order issue whether one chooses to stay or go.

"While the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and the need for repentance for sexual sin is a matter of first importance (for salvation depends on us repenting of our sin), I would argue that the decision of if and how to leave or stay, is a secondary matter."

Ecclesiologically, this statement begs questions about who decides what is of first and of secondary importance, as well as who decides what sexual sin is. After all, the letter is premised on disputing a decision of the General Synod, so a question of relevant authority is involved here!

On the matter of first and secondary importance I suggest the argument here is an argument we Protestants are happy to make but a Roman Catholic would not necessarily be so sanguine about a first order matter having a discretionary second order response.

There is also a soteriological question to consider along the way: is salvation dependent on our repenting of our sin? And that is a genuine question: we can marshall, say the example of Zacchaeus into discussion, we can consider whether "repentance" becomes a Pelagian style "work" when expressed as a sufficient condition for losing salvation and we can ask whether repentance is something we do in order that we might be saved or whether repentance is something we do as we are being saved.

But back to ecclesiology. The author of the letter writes this re the life of the church and working through secondary importance differences:

"These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways."

I agree.

I would extend the scope of the sentence to include the decision of GS itself. It is precisely a decision about brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to the Bible and yet are able to respond in different ways.

The greatest grief in my heart right now is that decisions are being made about congregations departing ACANZP which are unnecessary.

And they are unnecessary precisely because of the brilliant statement in the letter being overlooked in congregational deliberations:

"These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways."

It is Anglicanism 101 that we believe this, practice it and live together in the one tent.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Did Jesus speak Greek?

The article linked to below is fascinating around a number of questions which biblical scholars are interested in: including

- did Jesus a Galilean Jew, speak Greek?

- was Josephus an accurate historian of his contemporary world?

- what was life like for Jews under Roman rule in first century Palestine?

The article is here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Questions and Answers re ACANZP after Motion 7 (29) at GSTHW, May 2018

The following is a document I have written in response to some questions which a colleague has raised with me. The responses are personal (I am writing as one priest, as one member of General Synod, not on behalf of, e.g. the Diocese of Christchurch). I may be wrong. I am biased, in favour of making what we decided work. I am keen to see parishes engage with Christian Communities (CC) rather than contemplate departure.

A question of protection for individuals and individual parishes when there is disagreement with the bishop

In principle, a willingness to live within this church, under its 2018 constitution and canons, and, for licensed ministers, under the authority of the local bishop, will first mean a willingness to live with disagreement generally and secondly be the grounds on which disagreement with the local bishop is worked out.

Prior to Christian Communities being formed, and even if a licensed minister did not join a Christian Community after formation, every minister has “protection” because no minister can be disciplined (let alone have their licence taken away) for continuing to believe and to teach what has been consistent with the Doctrine of Christ expressed through the formularies. A disagreement with the local bishop is a disagreement but it is not grounds for the bishop to change his or her attitude or approach to any licensed minister under their authority.

Adequate protections under CCs now and in the future?

Such a question begs another question, what is meant by “protections”? Given the general thrust of what has been decided is to protect (e.g. from discipline) those who teach against (or for) same sex blessings, the question of protection is likely to be about future ministry rather than present ministry. Can a parish be guaranteed succession in ministry so its next vicar or priest-in-charge shares its values and theological commitments? Where that parish is part of a Christian Community which itself has such values and theological commitments, that guarantee can be given. Will a new candidate for ordination from a parish in a Christian Community be accepted for ordination (all things re call/gifts/experience being equal)? The legislation does not insist a bishop accept any candidate for ordination. But we could ask, why would a bishop (or the bishops generally) starve Christian Communities of ordained ministers? Any such policy would be self-defeating for the bishops who usually like to see parish vacancies filled rather remain annoyingly vacant.

How will individuals and parishes be treated if they decide they are unable to remain part of ACANZP?

If Anglicans, including licensed ministers are no longer able to be part of ACANZP, there is general goodwill for the process of departure to be handled with practical love, grace and generosity. Those departing, conversely, should understand that the responsibilities of ACANZP continue to include provision of ministry in ministry unit territories from which Anglicans are departing, even when departure involves formation of a new local church.

Is theological work yet to be done which might address questions such as whether a service of blessing of a same sex civil marriage is scripturally supported? (Thus, might we move from such services being excluded canonically from being consistent with the constitution?)

Yes. Currently there is no specific plan for this work to be done. But such work would build on a series of hermeneutical hui and theological hui held in ACANZP within the past 10-12 years. It would likely require a willingness on the part of the church to acknowledge that such work should be done and would be welcomed with an in principle willingness to agree to its outcomes. The current situation of not requiring services of blessing to conform to the constitution is a recognition of division within our church about the scriptural basis on which such services might be welcomed.

On the specific question of whether GSTHW 2018 has contradicted Article 20, the answer requires a determination – if one was formally sought – by the appropriate doctrinal and legal bodies of our church.

I’m confused over the comments “no one was happy with motion 29” – yet you also say that “many clergy and laity believe that blessing same sex relationships accord with Scripture

OK, so “no one” might be an exaggeration (since I am pretty comfortable with it!). The point made at GS along those lines was that we were not pretending that Motion 7 (29) was a motion which in all its parts a reasonable number of people were happy with. Few if any are happy with it as a whole and many are unhappy about specific proposals BUT, also the point made at General Synod, it is a proposal that a majority were likely to vote for; and we did.

Yes, at the core of the motion, is an acceptance that many clergy and laity believe that blessing same sex relationships accords with Scripture, and thus GS is confident that a majority vote for the principle at the core of the motion, that permission might be given for blessings, is a majority representative of our church as a whole.

The failure in leadership in allowing this informal teaching (i.e. through past years that loving, faithful, permanent same sex partnerships might be blessed) and practice (i.e. that in previous times, such partnerships have been blessed) to continue informally for such a long period of time.

I do not see a failure of leadership because leadership is an expression of the body of Christ as a whole. It has been clear for a long time – in my estimation, at least since around 2004, probably earlier, to the reaction in 1998 against Lambeth 1.10 – that informally in ACANZP Two Views on same sex partnerships has existed, in some parishes one view being advanced and in other parishes the other view being advanced. For bishops to have sought to suppress one view in favour of the other (except in, say, the Dioceses of Nelson and Polynesia) would have been to invoke a theological civil war and, as a consequence, even more synodical time being taken up with discussion of these matters and the appointment of even more working groups to consider them.

On the matter of “practice”, since the events of 2003 (the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop and reaction in the Communion to that event), there has been a moratorium in ACANZP on blessing of partnerships and ordination of persons in a same sex partnership. (No doubt some exceptions can be brought up, but generally this moratorium has held. Partly, in my view, out of respect for the feeling of the Communion and partly out of recognition of the need for this church to do work on these matters (which it has done through hermeneutical hui, theological hui, Ma Whaea Commission and two working groups).

Why is it is okay for ACANZP to defy Lambeth?

There is nothing to defy. Lambeth is not an authoritative body which promulgates rules for Anglican provinces to follow. A more accurate question would be to ask why ACANZP is now ignoring the guidance and recommendation of Lambeth resolution 1.10 having hitherto, more or less, followed it. I don’t think it is for me as one individual to attempt a definitive answer, since I assume there are multiple aspects to the answer, but here are my suggestions:

-          Over 20 years questions about general recognition of same sex partnerships in the life of our church have become stronger; and certainly have not abated;
-          We are now, in Aotearoa New Zealand, a nation which has first advanced in civil legislation, civil unions and then civil marriage for same sex couples, and thus the particular question of what formal, liturgical response we might make to civil unions/marriages is alive in a way which was not the case in 1998.
-          We see that across the Communion a variety of approaches are being taken to changes in civil society and in civil legislation and that in response the Communion is developing ways of advancing Anglican relationships which are robust in outlook but which are not about a straightforward division of the Communion into fragments: this seems to mean that we can navigate our way through choppy external Anglican waters as we proceed with our internal agenda re same sex blessings.

The matter of GSTHW contravening our constitution (if you don’t think it has in law, then morally/ethically or in spirit?)

I hesitate to say that GSTHW has NOT contravened our constitution in law because someone might take up a legal case about this and prove me wrong! What I am happy to say is that constitutional matters are not only about words in writing, they are also about the will of the people bound by the constitution. (For instance, the wording of the American constitution offers no literal justification for the proliferation of firearms currently seen across American society but the will of the people on this right to bear arms even when not being part of a militia is so strong that regular massacres do not empower politicians to make much needed legal changes re gun ownership and gun use.) The will of the people of ACANZP, as represented at GSTHW, is for some accommodation to be made between the strict wording of the constitution, the meaning of the Formularies as documents expressing the Doctrine of Christ and the desire to offer permission for public blessing of same sex partners committed to a lifetime of covenanted love for one another.

Has, thereby, the constitution been contravened in moral/ethical or spiritual terms? That seems to be very much a matter of whether one thinks blessings are harmonious with the lifegiving nature of the gospel or not; and that brings us back to Two Views. For myself, I am somewhat agnostic!

If GSTHW has allowed two opposite views to be held, where one individual practices the blessings of same gender relationships whilst another doesn’t because it is leading others in sin, how are we to understand Jesus in terms of Mt 18:6 (i.e. the warning not to place stumbling blocks before disciples)?

I suggest we understand Jesus in Matthew 18:6 as asking searching questions of us all in our public words about same sex partnerships. Are our words creating, for instance, an environment in which young people feel the church is hostile towards them? Are our words leading young people into sin? Into responsible, ordered relationships? Are our words confusing others, inside or outside the church or both? Are our words creating stumbling blocks to hearing the gospel as good news for all people or (in perception) only for heterosexuals?

Questions about the new assent (i.e. declarations required of licensed ministers and office-holders)

There are limited options for changing the nature of assent in a church. If (as conservatives argued in submissions to the working group) it is no longer acceptable to submit to the authority of General Synod then there remains a need to assent to the constitution and canons of the church (otherwise one would be saying the rules of the church do not apply) and to the lawful authority of the diocesan bishop (otherwise there would be no one able to insist on the keeping of the rules). In short, the new assent is a minimum requirement for the good order of the church.

Perhaps there are two related questions here, concerning whether the canons can all be obeyed and whether the bishop has authority when we disagree with him or her.

Canons: no canonical change decided by the General Synod requires any licensed minister or office-holder to change their practice or their teaching and thus no assent to the canons of our church implies possible disobedience later on; providing, of course, that it is accepted that changes to the canons offer the possibility of permission for others to do things differently to previously.

Bishop: a bishop, even one we disagree with, cannot require anything other than lawful obedience to the constitution and canons of this church. A bishop can ask us to use the prayer book and expect us to obey that instruction. A bishop has no power to ask us to desist from using the prayer book and any bishop doing so would be issuing an unlawful instruction. On the specific matter of the blessing of same sex civil marriages or civil unions, no bishop can ask a priest to conduct such a blessing nor ask a priest to desist from teaching against blessings. (By contrast, a bishop can insist that no blessings will be conducted in her or his diocese. The “bias” of the changes are in favour of a conservative approach by the bishops.)

Comments: you are welcome to make comments; and to ask questions of clarity; but I am going to be out of time this coming week re offering responses to points you wish to argue ... but someone else among the commenters may take up the challenge!