Sunday, November 30, 2008

Outstanding argument in support of the new North American province

Not, perhaps, from the source you would expect ... hat-tip to Thinking Anglicans for the link. An excerpt from an article by George Clifford:

"Until two weeks ago, I strongly advocated the Anglican Communion refusing to establish a new province in North America and mandating that provinces cease violating provincial boundaries by conducting ministries or establishing congregations within the Episcopal Church’s jurisdiction.

Then I read that the Episcopal Church had spent in excess of $1.9 million in 2008 on lawsuits connected to the departure of parishes and dioceses from this Church. Daily I read about critical needs for healthcare, food, sanitation, and shelter in the United States and abroad. I see the spiritual illness and death that afflict so many. I remember that Anglicans have wisely never claimed to be the only branch of the Christian Church.

I started to wonder, Was I wrong? Why not another North American province?

Geographic boundaries, I realized, are not as sacrosanct as we who value tradition might wish they were. Within the Anglican Communion, geography has historically defined provinces and dioceses. The same is true of Anglican parishes in England, although not in most other provinces. Yet nowhere in Scripture can one find a God-given plan for the organization of parishes, dioceses, and provinces. Indeed, the whole concept of provinces seems extra-biblical. The geographic model for parishes and dioceses emerged naturally because of physical proximity, administrative practicality, and political identity."

Read here for the remainder

Saturday, November 29, 2008

An overpowering bleakness

When will the madness end and the terror be over?

Cricket is pretty important to me, but does not make many appearances on this blog! There is a great site called Cricinfo which enables me to keep up with scores in matches all over the world, and to read some great cricket writing. The site's editor is Sambit Bal. Here's an excerpt from a piece he has written on the terror in Mumbai:

"I was on the streets of Bombay covering the communal riots in 1992, and the serial bomb blasts in 1993. I have seen a mob with swords chase a man and sever his arm from his body; I have seen rioters set an old man alight after garlanding him with car tyres; and I have faced the prospect of being burnt alive myself. For days I left home kissing my small child goodbye with thoughts of the worst. Those days return to haunt me sometimes even today.

But somehow I felt I understood what was happening then. I couldn't relate to it, but I understood the thirst for retaliation and revenge, the hatred and the frenzy that temporarily consumed ordinary people. I even wondered about a foreseeable future when I could sit down with some of the rioters and talk about what drove them to such madness.

But this is simply beyond my comprehension. Every time I see the photograph of the young man - who looks not a lot older than my son - dressed in jeans and t-shirt, carrying a machine gun as casually as he does the satchel over his shoulder, bearing a sinister glee in his eyes, I am reminded of Barack Obama's words about the killers of 9/11: "My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with such serene satisfaction." "

Read all of it - no knowledge of cricket required, just love for humanity!

PS Followers of NZ cricket generally have some insight into Sambit Bal's theme, An Overpowering Bleakness.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hooker's purple prose

Every so often I dip into Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. He is good for the soul, especially one's Anglican soul, bracing up flagging spirits with faultless logic and penetrating insight into God's holy mysteries.

In the midst of a section in which he elucidates the understanding of Anglican eucharist, steering a clear path through the challenges of Lutheran, Roman and other understandings he says these things in such a manner as ranks him 'up there' with the greatest of writers in the English language.

'... they saw their Lord and Master with hands and eyes lifted up to heaven first bless and consecrate for the endless good of all generations till the world's end the chosen elements of bread and wine, which elements made for ever the instruments of life by virtue of his divine benediction ... They had at that time a sea of comfort and joy to wade in, and we by that which they did are taught that this heavenly food is given for the satisfying of our empty souls, and not for the exercising of our curious and subtile wits.' (5.67.4)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Benedict edges Rome closer to Anglicanism

Work it out for yourselves whether rapprochement between Rome and Canterbury is closer following this report in the NY Times:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI may change the sequence of the Catholic Mass, including the sign of peace exchanged between worshippers, in order "to create a more meditative climate" of worship, a senior Vatican official said.

Cardinal Francis Arinze said the pope had asked all bishops for their views on whether the sign of peace, which is currently shared before Communion, should be moved to an earlier point in the Mass.

Arinze, who heads the Vatican body in charge of liturgy and sacraments, made the announcement in the Saturday (Nov. 22) edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.

"The meaning of this gesture is often not fully understood," Arinze told an interviewer. "It is thought to be a chance to shake hands with friends. Instead it is a way to tell those nearby that the peace of Christ, really present on the altar, is also with all men."

Under the contemplated change, Arinze said, the sign of peace would instead take place at the "offering of the gifts" when the Eucharistic bread and wine is brought forward.

Pope Benedict has more than once expressed concern about the disruptive potential of the sign of peace when performed in an inappropriate fashion.

In a 2007 document, he called for "greater restraint in this gesture which can become exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly before the reception of Communion."

Arinze gave no indication of when Benedict might decide on the possible change. [END]

We all know that night follows day, and summer follows spring. The prophetic foresight within me sees validation of the content of our Anglican liturgies following this acceptance of our liturgical order. Validation of our ministerial orders is just around the corner ...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is the Anglican Communion a church?

I guess until recently my mind was a little hazy about whether the Anglican Communion is a church or not. I think I would have said 'yes, of course, it's the worldwide Anglican church.' But increasingly I realise this is not so. (Yes, some of my friends would remind me that they pointed this out to me ages ago)! The Communion is a fellowship of Anglican churches. Each of these churches has a constitution and a governance structure, including a means of securing legally binding decisions around matters of discipline and doctrine. Each of these churches thus has the means of being a church in the sense of Article 19, 'The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.' That is, the constitution, governance structure and means of securing legally binding decisions around matters of discipline and doctrine ensure that each Anglican church preaches the 'pure Word of God' and duly ministers the Sacraments, albeit according to the understanding of each church.

But the Anglican Communion has no constitution, governance structure and means of securing a legally binding decision. It has the semblance of a constitution and governance structure through its 'Instruments of Communion', at least to the extent that individual member churches of the Communion comply with the lead of the Instruments. But it has no means of legally binding any member church (let alone individual Anglican). So in the end the Communion cannot ensure that the pure Word of God is preached (having no means of declaring authoritatively what an impure Word might be) and the Sacraments duly ministered. It is not a church though it might reasonably be called an ecclesial community or ecclesial body.

The push towards a Covenant is, ultimately, a pressing of the question, Will we become a (world) church? And that question inevitably raises the question of authority: who will be our governors? Those agin such governors readily put the question, 'Oh, so we are going to have a Curia, are we?' Useful to invoke our anti-Roman Catholic heritage when it serves us!

Its been very painful to have to consider these questions in the last decade, but, in hindsight its easy to see that the questions needed to be put at some point. A generally expanding Church of England on the back of colonialism with a series of ad hoc decisions along the way about setting up Synods not subservient to the British Parliament and appointing bishops not signed off by the British monarch, along with a series of fortunate developments such as the Lambeth Conference, and a huge amount of goodwill have taken us so far ... but they have not established a world Anglican church.

Do we want to become a worldwide church?

That's not an easy question to answer. But if we either say 'no' or put off answering, then there are some consequences. First we simply have to accept as beyond legal redress, the 'provincialism' which has led the Diocese of New Hampshire with the support of TEC in one direction and the Diocese of Sydney in another in respect of previously unchallenged aspects of Anglican order (i.e. on the one hand that bishops will be celibate or married; on the other that only priests and bishops will preside at communion). Secondly, there will be ongoing competition by different groupings within the Communion (and beyond it) to assert either 'we are the best expression of Anglicanism' or 'we are the true expression of Anglicanism'. Thirdly, there is no reason not to accept the right of two or more Anglican churches to exist in the same territory. Neither is accountable to some higher Anglican world authority; each may enter into fellowship with other Anglican churches as is mutually agreeable; each may claim to be the 'best' or the 'true' expression of Anglicanism - the sole judge with any kind of authority will be the popular following they gain. Indeed each may be valued by the wider Communion as valuable expressions of Anglican characteristics otherwise submerged if contained within one Anglican church.

But the hardest to measure consequence will be to the mission of God in the world. Will it be helped or hindered by the Anglican Communion not becoming a church?

Finally, if we do not become a church, it is by no means guaranteed that the Anglican Communion will continue more or less as it is. The inauguration in early December of a new province for North America will pose a very sharp challenge. Will the Archbishop of Canterbury recognise this new province? If he does there may be an eruptive reaction from TEC; if he does not there may be a (complete) loss of confidence in the office of Canterbury by GAFCON and Global South churches. How does the Anglican Communion proceed if (say) half its provinces recognise the new province and half do not? It may be able to live with the ambiguity (a specialist Anglican trait)! But it could prove to be a bridge too far in attempting to join the disparate streams of Anglicanism together.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jensen on ministry of word and sacrament

To be fair to the Diocese of Sydney re some recent postings here by me (and some comments elsewhere) it is important to keep reading and thinking about the issue of lay presidency from all sides. Here is an excerpt from a longer address by Archbishop Peter Jensen:

"It is commonly suggested that the development of lay administration of the Holy Communion is contrary to the very being of Anglicanism. Certainly it would have to be agreed that non-priestly administration would be quite contrary to some expressions of Anglicanism. But the assertion that it is contrary to the ethos of the Anglican Church really speaks for one side of the Church only. It suggests that one particular view of priesthood and of communion, and one only, is of the essence of the Eucharistic theology. Without going into the question of whether there is only one valid opinion, it is empirically true that at least two views have been evident in the Church for a very long time. According to the thinking of one such view, lay administration is impossible. Accordingly to the other view it is possible, although opinions differ as to whether it is advisable. From my point of view, the second opinion is a genuine and legitimate development of the theology of the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles. Admittedly, however, that depends on your reading of Anglican history.

The magisterial biography of Cranmer by Diarmaid MacCulloch locates our great Archbishop thus:

‘Standing as he did in the developed Reformed tradition of Europe in the 1550s Cranmer’s conception of a “middle way” or via media in religion was quite different from that of later Anglicanism. In the nineteenth century, when the word “Anglicanism” first came into common use, John Henry Newman said of the middle way (before his departure for the Church of Rome) that “a number of distinct notions are included in the notion of Protestantism; and as to all these our Church has taken a Via Media between it and Popery.” Cranmer would violently have rejected such a notion: how could one have a middle way between truth and Antichrist? The middle ground which he sought was the same as Bucer’s: an agreement between Wittenberg and Zurich which would provide a unified vision of Christian doctrine against the counterfeit being refurbished at the Council of Trent. For him, Catholicism was to be found in the scattered churches of the Reformation, and it was his aim to show forth their unity to prove their Catholicity.” (617).

As far as the Eucharist is concerned, he identifies the mature Cranmer with a variety of Reformed theology which he labels (following B A Gerrish), ‘symbolic parallelism’. He quotes the Archbishop:

‘And although Christ be not corporally in the bread and wine, yet Christ used not so many words, in the mystery of his holy supper, without effectual signification. For he is effectually present, and effectually worketh not in the bread and wine, but in the godly receivers of them, to whom he giveth his own flesh spiritually to feed upon, and his own blood to quench their great inward thirst’ (614-15).

In Cranmer’s thought, the word of God is that which gives the sacrament its power and substance, and this in its turn shapes the ordinal. Word and sacrament belong indissolubly together, and that is why it is reserved to the priest who is the preacher, indeed, the priest who is ordained to be the pastor of the congregation, the one responsible for ‘the cure of souls’.

The question of who administers Holy Communion is one of order: ‘As in a prince’s house the offices and ministers prepare the table, and yet other as well as they, eat the meat and drink he drink; so the priests and ministers prepare the Lord’s supper, read the gospel, and rehearse Christ’s words, but all the people say thereto, Amen. All remember Christ’s death, all give thanks to God, all repent and offer themselves an oblation to Christ, all take him as their Lord and Saviour, and spiritually feed upon him, and in token thereof they eat the bread and drink the wine in his mystical supper’ (Cranmer, 350).

Holy Communion is not a priestly act as such, but an ecclesial one. This is the significance of the absence of any direction about who is to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The Eucharist is an activity of the whole congregation; the Lord himself is the focus as he was in the Last Supper; We focus on the priest, Cranmer on the congregation; we focus on the elements, Cranmer on the eating and drinking; we think of Christ coming to us, Cranmer thinks of us going to Christ in the lifting up of our hearts.

Our understanding of the BCP ordinal is that it grants recognition and authority to those who are ordained priest by the Bishop to exercise a pastoral – as opposed to a sacerdotal - ministry of word and sacrament in a community setting. That is to say, the role of incumbent, of the cure of souls is the end to which the service points, although priesthood may be exercised as an assistant, and it may be exercised across parish and Diocesan boundaries. This also reflects the first hundreds of years of Christian leadership, where ordination was not thought of as a priestly mediating ministry, arising from an ontological change, but a ministry arising from the community:
‘We may therefore conclude that a situation in which a community was unable to celebrate the Eucharist because there was no bishop or presbyter present was unthinkable in the early Church…On the basis of the right of the community to the Eucharist, the leader of the community also had the right to lead in the Eucharist…If there is no leader, it chooses a suitable candidate from its own ranks.’
(Edward Schillebeecx). In other words, priesthood must be understood in connection with the Christian community which is being served."

The link to the full address is part of a whole web page developed by the Diocese of Sydney called 'Whose Supper?'

There is a lot to be discussed here but, causa brevitatis, I will confine myself to a few observations!

(i) there are undoubtedly merits to the Jensen case: notwithstanding the non-equivalence of the ministry of the word and of the sacrament, there is no doubting the Cranmerian concern to keep the two ministries close together, and thus permitting lay people to preach raises a real and serious question of why lay people may not preside.
(ii) attendance at a Roman Mass yesterday reminded me of one response: that we (like the Romans at eucharistic services) only permit priests to preach!
(iii) I do not see any recognition of what it might mean to be part of the Anglican community (noting the emphasis on 'community' at the end of the excerpt): being part of that community might mean those keen on lay presidency constrain desire for it out of love for our anglo-catholic brothers and sisters. A similar point is made by acknowledging that although in theory the Cranmerian via media between Geneva and Wittenburg might have led to lay presidency, in practice it did not: the path of Anglican history led away from it and not towards it and thus the 'order' of our ministry became fixed around priestly presiding, even as it became flexible around preaching.
(iv) the argument for lay presidency is framed as an argument against a sacerdotal priesthood, but (I suggest) it is unaware of a (presumably) unintended consequence, that the point of a separate ordained priesthood is undermined. In its place would develop a (kind of) licensed priesthood (i.e. licensed lay presiders).

I appreciate that Archbishop Peter Jensen here puts forward a theological argument for lay presidency which can be considered on its merits, out of context of other Anglican matters. But when we look at the context of other Anglican matters, and observe that essentially only one diocese in the world is pushing publicly for lay presidency, the question arises about the nature of Anglican structures: are provinces and dioceses able to decide matters germane to core characteristics of being Anglican without reference to the wider Anglican church? If Sydney seeks an affirmative answer to that question then I struggle (as a fellow conservative) to see how that answer cannot also apply to (e.g.) TEC approving Gene Robinson's consecration or New Westminster approving liturgical blessing of same sex partnerships. (This point, please note, does not involve the fallacy of equating a moral issue with a non-moral issue. It involves the observation that in different places Anglican local authorities are seeking to vary accepted Anglican order.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Battling for the soul of Anglicanism

Here is a taster from a larger - technically demanding - article by eminent British historian Jonathan Clark in the Church Times:

"CONTROL of the Reformation means control of a commanding height of the historical economy. The early Reformation continues to be a battleground, and the polarity between Diarmaid MacCulloch and Eamon Duffy seems on the surface to reassert an older conflict of opposites. Yet, when examined more closely, the two are saying similar things.

Professor Duffy presents a deeply Roman Catholic populace on whom the Reformation was imposed. Pro fessor MacCulloch explains how far-reaching were the intentions of early Refor mers, especially Cranmer, and emphasises the extent of the transfor mation they effected. Both argue for a radical discontinuity, and, by implication, for a wholly new Church.

Yet, arguably, Professor MacCul loch has won: many more Anglicans now see the Reformation as a new departure, a licence to pursue a per son al spiritual pilgrimage, uncon strained by scripture or tradition.
Two generations of historians, from Patrick Collinson to Peter Lake, have argued for the deeply Calvinist nature of the later Reformation and the Church it created. Professor Collinson has termed the idea of the Church of England’s treading a via media a “persistent myth”.

This interpretation leads naturally to the Civil Wars, now widely viewed — thanks especially to John Morrill — as wars of religion, triggered by militant sectarianism. This moves the 1640s away from the old secular story of parliamentary liberty defended and vindicated, into a lurid scene of bigotry and fanaticism: many 17th-century Anglicans seem to have had much in common with the Scots Covenanters.
Two English literary figures have been displaced in the opposite direction. Most controv ersially, Wil­liam Shakespeare has been presented as a covert recusant or “Church Pap ist”; Samuel Johnson has been depic ted as a Nonjuror. If so, the Church of England has lost two of its greatest icons.

From being loyal, patriotic, deeply English (and so, by implication, sound churchmen), they now stand to some degree outside English society in their day, offering coded critiques of it. The more that figures of this calibre aff irmed alternatives, the less Anglican ism looks like the natural, timeless bedrock of national consciousness and character it once seemed.

TRUE, much was restored in 1660, and the continuum that lasted into the early 19th century now appears as one characterised by the long-delayed intellectual hegemony of the Church. It was the era of sound scholarship, especially patristics, the clergy of the Church of England deservedly win­ning the accolade stupor mundi. But this formidable intellectual and social foundation was broken down, begin ning in the 1830s. Why?

Political historians have illumin ated Protestant Nonconformity’s part in swamping an Anglican hegemony in 1828-32. Anglo-Catholicism now seems more a political response to this social bloc than a plausible assertion of a powerful Catholic strand within the Church of England. Increasingly, 19th-century liberal ism looks like Nonconformity mobil ised for action, a challenge to which the Church of England failed adequately to reply.

Peter Nockles’s influential account has recast the Oxford Movement. From being an expression of the continuity of a Catholic element in Anglicanism, the Tractarians are now presented as indebted to pre-Tractarian High Churchmen, reas serting key elements of their hege mony of c.1660-1832. It all looks less securely Catholic, and more political.

Appropriately, there has been renewed interest in John Henry Newman from scholars such as Ian Ker and Sheridan Gilley.

Historians have emphasised the emergence of parties within the 19th-century Church of England, and the lasting importance of this dynamic; but High Church, liberal, and Low Church or Evangelical parties now seem locked in a civil war that gravely damaged each party rather than ex pressing a happy pluralism."

For more views/responses go to Thinking Anglicans for links.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Insights from opportunities

I find that when given the opportunity to speak on something I learn and receive new insights and gain a new perspective on a matter. Last night I had an opportunity to address a meeting at a local parish on the topic of the Anglican Communion and Sexuality. This morning I had opportunity to join with Archdeacon Robin Kingston to speak to a conference of Diocesan Secretaries/Registrars from Australasian dioceses about the Communion and developments within it. Out of those two occasions, including the inevitable post-delivery conversations, I have been led to reflect on two (possible) keys to the future of the Communion.

One is the need for some of us to become a little broader in our theology, churchpersonship, interpretation of Scripture, and general openness to others (including that they may be right and we may be wrong). A case in point is the vexed relationship between CEs (conservative evangelicals) and OEs (open evangelicals) within the Church of England. Last Saturday at an important consultation (NEAC) something went badly wrong with an attempt to gain support for a motion seeking to support beleaguered Anglicans (read the plethora of comments here to get the flavour). Admittedly from a distance, the attempt seems to involve a narrow outlook which would have been successful with a bit more width.

Another is a need for some of us to become less broad in our theology etc, and to acknowledge constraints and limitations to the diversity appropriately, if not also legitimately containable within Anglicanism. A case in point is the cause of Anne Holmes Reading, an Episcopal priest of some 25 years standing who is on the way to being defrocked because she is also a Muslim and sees no incompatibility with also being a Christian. I say 'cause' because Anne herself is being disciplined by TEC - though the cynic in me wonders if this would have been so, say, 10 years ago. That cause is now taken up by St Matthews-in-the-City, a notable if not controversial Anglican parish in Auckland, NZ. Thus Glynn Cardy in a thoughtful piece takes up the cause, as does at least one other Anglican priest in the comments which follow. At the core of the case advanced is an unwillingness to recognise ultimate difference between Islam and Christianity. Oddly, of course, such refusal is scarcely possible from the Islamic side of things! Now all sorts of things can be said at this point, and I am sure Glynn would capably respond to them. My simple point is that an Anglicanism this broad is not an Anglicanism that is going to find an agreed solution to its present difficulties.

Neither will an Anglicanism as narrow as that experienced last weekend at NEAC when a motion was proposed and opportunity to amend it was denied!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Further confirmation that Sydney is out on a limb

Hat-tipping to Stand Firm: Sarah Hey, incorporating comment from Dan Martins, further confirms that Sydney re lay presidency etc, has made a very bad move, with little or no support from those in North America who saw New Hampshire etc as a very bad move. Along the way, David Ould's attempt to justify Sydney's action is given short shift!

Sarah points to an excellent response in a comment posted by 'boringbloke' on David Ould's article re the Sydney notion that preaching is equally important as the sacrament so if lay people can preach then they can also preside. I particularly like this sentence in the comment:

"If you feel so strongly that you have to proceed with this, then form your own new church rather than rewriting the rules of ours".

As Sarah Hey points out, that church has already been formed and is called the Plymouth or Open Brethren!

Incidentally David Ould simply does not get the objection to Sydney's decision which is that it is contrary to the BCP Ordinal which is expressly upheld by the Jerusalem Declaration - a commenter makes this point but his response is inadequate.

Final note: lay presidency is not an opening up of the presbyterate to the laity but a replacement of the presbyterate. If Sydney Diocese proceeds on this path it will be a 'new' church.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What does it mean to be Anglican in North America?

In early December it is almost certain that the accumulation of parishes and dioceses which have been breaking away from TEC and ACCan will formally announce that they have formed a new Anglican province in North America and that this province will be recognised by GAFCON's Primates Council. An important question will then be whether the new province is recognised as a province within and fully in fellowship with the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Technically such recognition requires the assent of the Anglican Consultative Council and the consent of the majority of (all the) Primates.

(As per a recent posting on the Fulcrum Forum) I support this new formation, albeit with some reluctance, including some wariness about the agenda within GAFCON and the limitations of its vision for Anglicanism, and with a simultaneous continuing support and admiration for conservative Anglicans who remain committed to working within TEC and ACCan. I personally know conservative Anglicans on both sides of this particular equation and want to trust the judgement of those who are breaking away and will be forming the new province. My general sense is that they are worn out by the continual process of both North American churches forwarding a liberal agenda without regard for how conservatives, minority though they undoubtedly are in respect of voting numbers, might be honourably included within their fellowship. (This, of course, is to say nothing of the pursuit of this liberal agenda in the face of countervailing opinion in the Communion, in the presidential addresses of the ABC at Lambeth 2008, and in the general thrust of the tradition of Anglicanism and the universal church since the days of the apostles).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What does it mean to be Anglican?

In my most recent post I join with many Anglicans who think that its difficult to be 'Anglican' and subvert our orders of ministry as hitherto understood. But there are many other challenges these days concerning what it means to be Anglican. Bosco Peters in a recent post [latter addition: raises questions which could be construed as offering support to] a thesis congenial to many that the Anglican church is logically committed to blessing same sex partnerships, indeed should allow such partnerships to be called 'marriages'. I disagree: as Anglicans we have defined marriage through our liturgies through the centuries as a relationship between a man and a woman - the fact that (say) the emphasis on the procreative potential of marriage has changed does not diminish the significance of marriage as that which joins the diversity of male and female into 'one flesh'. Further afield, as various machinations, almost daily, take place on the North American stage, towards the establishment of a new Anglican province there, the sense that being Anglican is about being 'catholic' (as well as 'reformed') is taking a battering.

But yesterday I was privileged to be part of a eucharist in Bishopdale Chapel (here in Nelson - the chapel was once the chapel of the Bishop's residence in Nelson, now it is a chapel available for occasional services), held as part of a gathering of diocesan secretaries from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. Together, saying the well worn and worthy words of the Gloria, Creed, Lord's Prayer, hearing the Scriptures, praying, and breaking bread together, we affirmed this at least about what it means to be Anglican: it is to worship God together with words and actions which join us with the prophets and apostles, with all the saints, and with Jesus Christ, united under one ordained president, but without accretions and additions unfounded in Scripture.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More on Sydney tearing the fabric of the Communion

Have been able this morning to catch up a little on Communion news and views. Sometimes in my posts I feel that I may be sticking my neck out re the conclusions I reach, so I am always grateful when I find someone somewhere confirming something I have said!

Hat-tips to Fulcrum (for first alert), Stand Firm, Titus One Nine etc:

Here is Bishop Jack Iker on the significance of Sydney's recent declaration re lay presidency being valid for an Anglican Diocese (I have emboldened some words):

Greg Griffith: Moving from the general to the specific, one recent and troubling development has been the decision by the diocese of Sydney to authorize lay presidency. That appears to contradict the Jerusalem Declaration by GAFCON, of which Sydney is a member. Two-part question: 1) How easy is it going to be for a Jack Iker to live with lay presidency, and 2) What does this portend for unity within GAFCON in particular and the orthodox movement as a whole?

Bishop Iker: Well, obviously lay presidency or diaconal presidency of the eucharist is not Anglican, and I regret to see them moving in that direction, because it does mean further division among the orthodox. That's not something that Anglicanism is able to accept or affirm. So in a sense, Sydney is causing a similar kind of tear in the fabric of the communion as the Episcopal Church did by moving ahead with ordaining a practicing homosexual as bishop. So I hope they pull back from that, but it's not something that a reformed, catholic religion can affirm or accept. We've always said that the Anglican church is a reformed, catholic body owing to the unbroken faith and practice of the historic church, and this is certainly a departure from that.

Greg Griffith: If Sydney does not pull back from lay presidency, and if it's true that Sydney is tearing the fabric of the communion in a way that's comparable to what TEC has done, and if the GAFCON primates continue to agree to have Sydney as one of its members, doesn't that undercut GAFCON's objections to the actions by TEC and Canada regarding homosexuality?

Bishop Iker: I suppose the difference between the two is that one is a moral issue, and the other is not - it's more of a sacramental/theological issue. But the effect is the same - to break communion and cause division.

Greg Griffith: What is your suggestion to your colleagues - to your fellow American bishops, to the GAFCON primates - as to how to address that?

Bishop Iker: I think we just have to speak the truth in love, to say that this does not further our cause, our unity, our mission; and to ask Sydney to reconsider that development. I don't know that it's restricted to Sydney - there may be other parts of the communion where evangelicals are more supportive of that development - but you wouldn't find that support obviously among any of the Anglo-Catholic bishops or dioceses.

One objection to my initial posts re the Sydney decision was that it was 'just a motion'. But it is not so, as this correspondent on Titus One Nine makes clear:

"norton wrote:
The Archbishop of Sydney has already authorized Diaconal and Lay Presidency! Here is a posting by the Rev’d Adrian Stephens, Rector of the parish of Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney (

“During Synod 2008 a particularly dishonest motion was carried which purported to be a statement of policy concerning Lay and Diaconal Presidency at the Eucharist. The motion was presented on the basis that it was not meant to permit any particular activity, but rather simply stated what Sydney Diocese believed.

The end result is this. The Archbishop has been quoted as stating that he would not license any Lay person or Deacon to celebrate the Eucharist. However a letter was immediately despatched by regional Bishops stating that Lay presidency was problematic, but Diaconal Presidency would be approved by regional bishops on request. Sadly I received such a letter from our regional bishop."

For the record my point in posting on this matter, at risk of diminishing respect and affection for the great Diocese of Sydney, is this:

Scripture may permit lay and diaconal presidency (being unclear on precisely who should preside at the eucharist), local synods may have authority to vary matters of Anglican practice, so, as an Anglican well aware of the potential of Anglicanism both to embrace considerable diversity and of the importance of respecting local autonomy, I do not object to Sydney acting in the way it has as a distinctive Diocese following its unique heritage. BUT I do object to inconsistency: I find it difficult, if not impossible to reconcile Sydney's commitment to GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration with its recent Synod decision re lay and diaconal presidency, since its decision is inconsistent with any plain reading of the meaning of the Jerusalem Declaration, and the commitment of its bishops to proceed with diaconal presidency is at variance with the demands of GAFCON fellowship which requires solidarity with fellow Anglicans about widely agreed matters of Anglican theology and practice. Logically I must, and will gladly withdraw all criticism if Sydney does the honourable thing and withdraws either its resolution or its membership and involvement with GAFCON. If Sydney wants to pursue its particular vision of Anglicanism, fine; but please do not think it's compatible with also supporting conservative Anglicans around the world!

Friday, November 14, 2008

We live in interesting times

How did America manage to elect (so it is argued) its most liberal senator to be President? Why is our Maori Party (here in Aotearoa NZ) on the verge of agreeing to support a National Party-led government? How come in recent days we learn from America that its much debated, election turning decisions about government financing of dodgy mortgages are to be revisited ('they know not what they do'?!). We live in interesting times with challenges which are beyond 'interesting' since they are part of a new development in the story of the Western world - a story which can feel a little scary since we do not quite feel authors of our destiny and freely wonder if the eschaton lies over in the next page.

For the church in the West this is a hugely challenging time. Our greatest challenge (IMHO) is to renew our understanding of the gospel of the kingdom and to translate it into the language of our times. Just as John translated 'kingdom of God' into 'eternal life' for Ephesus in the 80s and Paul proposed 'in Christ' as its meaning for much of the Mediterranean of the 50s, we need to translate the gospel for the 2000s. Our translation needs to key into the inclusiveness of 'in Christ', the stability and permanence of the 'kingdom of God', and the hope and promise of the better day of 'eternal life'. From Luke's Gospel we can especially draw on Jesus' critique of wealth. From Mark's Gospel we can witness to the transformative power of Jesus.

Like Obama, we need to audacity to hope and the ambition to bring transformation to the world!

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Our ACANZP Taonga website has published an edited address to his annual Synod of a retiring diocesan administrator. This edited address includes the following comments in respect of the blessings of same-sex partnerships and the indiscriminate selection of gay and lesbian people for church ministry:

"If I am good enough to have undertaken a ministry of financial management and overall administration of the Diocese – and to have been affirmed in this – then I'm good enough to be considered for all forms of ministry in this church."

"Is it not a supreme irony that the church is the only institution in our society that has an exemption from the Human Rights Act? The church that once led on human rights, social justice, relief from oppression and discrimination, now has a mandate to practise abuses of human rights and discrimination against gay people in church and in other churches and religions, even against women."

"that when I come back to the Diocese I will find two things:

• Firstly, that it will have found the courage to come up with a blessing for same-gender couples. After all, we have blessings for dogs and trees.

• Secondly, that the Diocese will have a policy which makes clear that being gay and in a stable relationship is not a barrier to ordination."

A little barb to prod the church to make progress is this observation:

"And many of you will wonder why the church is seen as increasingly irrelevant to so many."

Let's start with the observation cited just above. A society which wholly and enthusiastically embraces same-sex partnerships will find the church increasingly irrelevant (if it has not done so already). But we can query whether society has been so enthusiastic! Over in California, for example, this week, a proposition forbidding 'gay marriage' has been approved in a referendum. The margin was not terrific; one could say that California is divided on the issue. Tonight we may find in NZ that we have a National Party-led government: if so, that in part will be a reaction to our current Labour Party-led government's 'social engineering'. If our church is ambiguous on homosexuality, perhaps it more evenly reflects the temper of Western society than is implied in the barb above!

As for the rest of the case made above, I find it raises more questions than it appears to resolve.

Is the church another social institution which needs bringing up to date with the remainder of society in respect of 'rights'? I would argue that the church is a social institution with a distinctive set of beliefs not wholly in harmony with the general beliefs of our society around (e.g.) employment and the distinction between private lives and public offices. In church ministry an important question is whether the way we live 'pleases God' (cf. one possible lectionary reading for Sunday 9 November 2008, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). It is simply insufficient engagement with the teaching of Scripture to assert that living within a same-sex partnership should be inconsequential to acceptance for ordained ministry, or that such a partnership should be blessed without further ado. The church as an institution is precisely a body gathered around the Word of God, existing in the first place because people have heard and responded to the preaching of Scripture. To impose upon it a mandate unfounded (or, not yet agreeably founded) on Scripture is to force an internal contradiction into the very rationale which makes the church what it is.

Should the church be exceptional when measured against conventional understanding of 'rights'? The case made above is that it should not be exceptional. (The case made above also stretches to a condemnatory and unjustified attack on the church as thereby 'abusive', but I shall set that aside here). The difficulty with the case made is that it involves its own (so to speak) doctrine of exceptionalism. Measured against the church's tradition, inherited not only from apostolic times, but earlier in the life of Israel, that followers of Christ should live celibately, or in marriage, the claim that same-sex partnerships should be blessed, and that one or more partners applying to be ordained should not be discriminated against because of that partnership is a claim that stable same-sex partnerships are a valid exception to the church's tradition. But in asserting this exception, without further argument, the question arises, why only this exception? A church engaging with this possibility cannot escape consideration of other candidates for exceptional status: a stable heterosexual partnership which is not a marriage ... polygamy (a 'live' issue at least on the African continent) ... an 'open' marriage ... From the perspective of 'rights' the church could not make one exception without making all. The church is hesitant (I suggest) to make one exception because it feels responsible not only to safeguard and uphold its tradition, but also to avoid discarding it completely through allowing one exception which must lead to all exceptions being accepted. Thus it has some reason for its hesitancy, rather than some phobia it cannot get over.

Then a final question concerns the extent to which the argument about the church being unexceptional vis a vis 'rights' is being applied. I find it is very, very rare in these kinds of discussions for the state and status of the Roman Catholic church to be included. Their policy of celibate male priesthood is discriminatory (from a 'rights' perspective) against married men, married women, and single women (to say nothing of recent moves being made to ensure that not even celibate gay men are accepted into the priesthood). But we hear few if any voices asserting that the Roman Catholic ministry should be brought to heel. If the Roman Catholic church is excepted from our discourse on these matters, why cannot the Anglican church also be excepted? We have our own tradition to uphold and as much 'right' as the Roman Catholic church has to do so!

In our search for a way forward through the moral controversies of our time we need better arguments than proffered here if we are to unite behind a significant change to our received tradition.

As for dogs and trees being blessed ... some of us have never done so and have no intention of beginning to do so!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

None dare call this orthodoxy!

Here is the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katherine Jefferts Schori, on matters salvific:

"Others questions addressed theological matters, including the issue of whether Jefferts Schori had suggested there are ways to salvation other than following Jesus.

"That's not what I said," Jefferts Schori said, explaining that she has noted in the past that "most Christians believe Christ died for all, as savior for the whole world."

She said she has also cited the Bible's record of God's promises to the Jewish people and other promises that "were not broken by Jesus' life, death and resurrection."

"Therefore, Jews have access to salvation without consciously saying 'Jesus is my Lord and savior.' I didn't do that; God did it. I also see that God made promises to Hagar and Ishmael, whom Muslims claim as their ancestor," she said. "I don't think God broke those promises when Jesus came among us."

Jefferts Schori had touched on the question during her sermon, noting that "Episcopalians and other Christians wrestle with how broadly to understand the family of God, and whether non-Christians are included, for we can certainly point to holy examples who show us what God at work in the world looks like -- people like the Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi."

She suggested that "it seems more fruitful to remember that Jesus' saving work was and is for the whole world, and that our baptismal promises are about living holy lives, together, in community." "

Does this mean, dear Christian sisters and brothers in the Islamic world, martyred for your faith, that you have died in vain? The PB seems to imply, dear Islamic brothers who have given your life for the cause and taken the lives of others, including, on September 11th 2001, several thousand fellow citizens of the PB, that Jesus respects your soteriology and will honour it according to the promises made to Hagar and Ishmael. And, should the PB and St Paul ever have a conversation, does this mean she would say to him, 'Nice work in the Mediterranean, but you did not need to go to all the synagogues ... fancy not understanding the full implications of your own thinking in Romans 9-11'?

The error in the Presiding Bishop's thinking about salvation is a misunderstanding of the fullness of God in Jesus Christ. 'Salvation' is not an inoculation which ideally is taken by injection but some can receive it through ingesting pills. It is a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, in whom God alone has dwelt in all fullness, in whom God became incarnate and through whom alone salvation is received, because salvation is new life in Christ. The glory and scandal of the gospel is the calling to follow Christ, and Christ alone.

Will ++Rowan, the ACC, and other Anglican Communion leaders see and understand? TEC is a different religion, promoting 'another gospel', at each and every turn diminishing the uniqueness and status of Jesus Christ.

Will TEC implode under its theological confusion? Possibly ... though we should note that Unitarian Churches in the States have shown a surprising resilience over the years!

POSTSCRIPT Interesting that the PB has a confident view of what God has said according to the Pentateuch, "I also see that God made promises to Hagar and Ishmael". I recall God saying some other things in the Pentateuch which are not so confidently affirmed by TEC!!

No religion in our politics!!

Congratulations to Barack Obama! I do not like his politics around abortion, and I am under no illusions that the rhetoric of the campaign will not translate completely into a new reality (economic restraints and all that) but he is the outstanding personality of this generation of political leaders.

Here in NZ - a small note for overseas readers - our political arena has little or no religious factor. Last night we had a TV debate between the two candidates to be prime minister after this coming Saturday's election. Here is a report on one point in the debate:

"Both said they did not believe in God or in an afterlife, and that it was a woman's right to choose on abortion."

Oh, well, at least we Christians can make our choices purely on the basis of policy considerations!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Stay or go? Where the faultline runs through the Anglican Communion

Reflecting further on recent developments and discussions in Anglican life I am seeing the Anglican Communion in this way: there are contented Anglicans and discontented Anglicans.

In the discontented Anglican camp are the Diocese of Sydney and fellow travellers who seem to think the Reformation was prematurely stopped in its tracks and it is their calling to finish the job; many Anglo-Catholics who see Rome as the rock from which they are hewn and the Reformation as an unfortunate mistake; much of TEC and its fellow travellers who have no regrets for jettisoning the Thirty-Nine Articles and make no apology for the consequences of doing so.

In the contented Anglican camp are ... the rest of us! Content, that is, with the Anglican Communion being reformed and catholic; comfortable with the main lines of our thinking following Hooker's reasonable, traditional, and Scriptural approach; and happy to accommodate some different emphases (evangelical, liberal, catholic) so long as they do not seek to change the comprehensive character of Anglicanism as shaped by the historical shaping of the Church of England through the 16th and 17th centuries.

One thought I have, if it be accepted that there is a fault-line through Anglicanism between the discontented and the contented, is that a lot of the fighting energy for the current controversies is found on one side of the fault-line and not on both. Another thought is this: if there is to be a division in the Communion then all the discontented should go, otherwise the contented are lumbered with discontent for a further time.

But there need not be division! We could recognise that true communion involves holding discontented and contented together; that is, holding all the discontented together, not making choices as to which one of the discontented should stay and which should go.

The creative possibility flowing from the Sydney Synod is that we recognise that there will always be Anglicans, for one reason or another, from the 'left' or from the 'right', who wish to turn Anglican polity upside down. Thus we should learn to live with such 'revolutionaries' rather than work out how to dispense with them! At first sight diaconal presidents and gay bishops may not have much in common when stemming from Sydney and New Hampshire respectively. But both are 'dis-ordered' measured against traditional Anglican order. We could reject both. But we could also take the risky step of accepting both - not so much as a new Anglican order but in recognition that order can live with a little disorder.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The value of the Jerusalem Declaration?

Here is the Jerusalem Declaration (of GAFCON) clause 7:

We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

Here is the 'classic Anglican Ordinal' on deacons duties:

"to assist the Priest in Divine Service, and specially when he ministereth the holy Communion, and to help him in the distribution thereof, and to read holy Scriptures ...'

Difficult to see where presiding at Communion is specified there.

So, in the light of Sydney's approval of diaconal presidency, what is the status of the Jerusalem Declaration? Is it authoritative? Is it a 'pick and choose' document?

We really need some guidance here! And soon, because the non-conservative Anglican world is bemused by what conservatives are up to; or just laughing at us!

PS After I wrote the above, I noticed this thread on Fulcrum in which the point I am trying to make is also made.

Views on Sydney and GAFCON and all that

Giles Fraser puts his finger on a few issues regarding where GAFCON's future as an attempt at an alliance of conservative evangelicals and anglo-catholics might go.

So does John Richardson. I think he underestimates the danger of the course Sydney is charting. But the whole of his article is worth reading, especially for its rebuttal of 'private judgement' and its assertion of the need for systematic theology.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is Sydney pulling the plug on GAFCON?

The more I think about the extraordinary decision of the Sydney Synod recently to affirm the principle of diaconal presidency AND to assert the right to implement the principle in practice on a point of grammar (albeit with precedent within the Oz Anglican context), the more I think they will pull the plug on GAFCON if they proceed.

GAFCON's pretext or presupposition for existing as an Anglican body with some punch and some power, so that, for example, it has arranged its life to be led by a 'Primate's Council', and it is party to talk of promulgating a new province, is that it represents 'orthodox Anglicanism'. But what is 'orthodox Anglicanism'? It is a mixture of Scripturally sound theology in tune with the ancient creeds, the decisions of the first four ecumenical councils, and expressed through the BCP, the Ordinal, and the 39 Articles, and of traditional Anglican practice in harmony with the mainstream of Anglican practice stemming from ancient apostolic times, reformed through the 16th and 17th centuries, developed in the anglo-catholic movement of the 19th century (itself, however distant from the intent of the reformers, a desire to re-find and renew ancient practice), and, if it recognises one modern innovation, or at least professes (as GAFCON does) to be indifferent to one new thing, that is the ordination of women. But even that ordination of women introduces no difference into the usual understanding of the ministry of deacons, priests, and bishops.

Now there are some variances in understanding of the precise nature of Anglican ministry, mostly around the ministry of deacons (church facing or world facing? temporary apprenticeship before priesthood or permanent state?), but there is no variance of normative Anglican orthodox around eucharistic presidency: this is the ministry of priests/presbyters and bishops.

Sydney's decision, should they not realise the impact and implications of it and revoke it forthwith, is a departure from Anglican orthodoxy. It may be the right decision according to Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and pragmatic needs of the Diocese, but that is not the point here! The point here in this age of GAFCON is that there is Anglican orthodoxy and there are those charged with revisions of it to the point that there is a feeling that the Anglican Communion would be better off without the revisionists. But for one of the leading players of GAFCON to itself embark on revising Anglican orthodoxy at this time is to undermine the very foundations on which GAFCON stands as it makes its judgement call on Anglican revisionists.

Is Sydney pulling the plug on GAFCON? If it denies that it is doing so, on what grounds is GAFCON to argue that revision should not take place within the Anglican Communion? It certainly cannot be on the grounds that local bishops and synods ought to consult the wider body of Anglicanism before instituting an innovation in doctrine or practice, for that is precisely what one of its key players has itself just done!

There are times when one admires Australian independence and insularity, but this may not be one of them!