Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who are the Anglicans who will be signing the Covenant?

I hardly need to comment these days when More than a via media draws attention to vital and interesting matters. This post is headed Sydney's identity crisis. For those interested in the affairs of the Diocese of Sydney this post is very interesting, not least because it draws attention to a blog post by one Michael Jensen which raises interesting questions about the future character of Sydney Anglicanism. Joshua Bovis also posts on this.

However my own interest is piqued more by what MTAVM says re the role of liturgy in the life of the Anglican church. I agree with him.

Our identity is bound in our liturgy; denude ourselves of our liturgy and our identity changes. At first sight the change may not be apparent - for example a non-liturgical Anglican church may continue to call itself 'Anglican'. Also change may be complex: an apparently non-liturgical Anglican church may, in hidden ways, continue its liturgical tradition, for example via its staff using the daily office.

Anyway, in some parts of the world of churches named 'Anglican', there may be change occurring such that the name 'Anglican' has less and less meaning.

In this (long) essay, A better future for the Anglican Communion?, by Savi Hensman, and posted on Ekklesia, a clever critique is mounted, attacking by turns both Canterbury and the Covenant.

In the course of Hensman's essay the point is made that while some parts of the Anglican world may be agreeable to signing the Covenant if it is a 'discipline TEC' measure, they will be resistant to abiding by the Covenant if it is applied to their own situation!

Even a Covenant supporter such as myself must recognise that there are interesting questions about just which Anglicans are going to sign the Covenant and which ones will abide by the Covenant (these two groups may not be co-terminous)!

Then there is the question of the genuine Anglicanness of the signers: could an Anglican signatory find itself a few years later more or less 'no longer Anglican'?


Lurking somewhere in all of this is the question whether being Anglican involves interdependency with other Anglicans, and whether this interdependency extends beyond the bounds of national churches? Critics of the Covenant, even sophisticated ones such as Hensman, may be missing the point that this is God's time for the Anglican Communion to take an important step towards becoming a world church as well as being a world communion.

25 comments:

Howard Pilgrim said...

"Critics of the Covenant, even sophisticated ones such as Hensman, may be missing the point that this is God's time for the Anglican Communion to take an important step towards becoming a world church as well as being a world communion."

As an unsophisticated critic of the Covenant, I am certainly missing that particular point!

Please help me out a little, Peter. What is your basis for this dogmatic assertion about God's time?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
I guess I could "rescue" the sentence by substituting "may" for "is" so it would read "... may be missing the point that this may be God's time ..." :)

So, I will back peddle a little, away from a dogmatic assertion, but would point to various anomalies in the world communion of Anglicans which could be tidied up by the Covenant, including something I was reading before, about Kenyan Anglicans permitting deacons to preside at communion, as giving reason to raise the question whether this is God's time for an Anglican Covenant!

Anonymous said...

What about our own NZ practise of (enormously)extended communion and the grief felt by those who administer it when a priest finally comes along and takes communion (as they understand it) back from the people)?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
I am not quite sure of the point you are making in your comment.

Extended communion does not necessarily perturb the boundaries of Anglicanism.

Janice said...

Hi Peter,

Our identity is bound in our liturgy; denude ourselves of our liturgy and our identity changes.

About 2 years ago I was given the job of compiling our weekly church bulletin/pew sheet. That's when I discovered that there is such a thing as a lectionary.

I don't understand sacramentalism and I don't understand why deacons can't preside at communion when, as far as I can see, the original deacons were appointed to serve the meal.

I don't understand priesting as it is practised within Anglicanism. It seems to be a kind of generic job qualification that can be used to find employment wherever such is available rather than a recognition that one is called to serve in some particular place, or in some particular sphere, at some particular time. Who gets made deacon, and how fast they get made deacon, seems to depend on what positions are vacant where. But that's me looking in from the outside.

There's a great deal I don't know about Anglicanism even though I've been attending Anglican churches for 30 years (mostly on but sometimes off). It's not because I'm stupid. It's because I've never been taught.

If there is value in being Anglican why aren't the laity being taught what that is? If I had to say why I go to an Anglican church I could only say that I prefer sermons that have intellectual depth instead of constantly appealing to my emotions, where prayers aren't offered to dead people, and where there is an atmosphere that is, generally, less legalistic than one finds in other Protestant denominations (except for Sydney diocese where it seems that legalism of at least one variety seems pretty much du jour).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
I agree that there is much about being Anglican, including the way Anglican ministry is ordered, which is not routinely taught to Anglicans so lay Anglicans can be in the dark for many years over (say) the difference between 'priest' and 'deacon' or why a priest can be a vicar but not a deacon.

I am glad that you find good quality sermons in Anglican churches!

(In my understanding) priests preside at communion because that is the role given from earliest times (though this is not clear in the pages of the NT itself) reserved to the overseer or episcopos and then, as the church grew, shared with the presbuteroi or elders, but not with the diakonoi or deacons. 'Priest' is a contraction of 'presbuteros'. Thus Anglican priests preside as a continuation of a very ancient tradition of the church.

Burke's Corner said...

Peter,

Just to add to your point about deacon's presiding at the eucharist. There is perhaps a sense in which this would contribute to even further Anglican confusion about the order of deacons, directing us away from recovering the ancient understanding of deacons ministry of practical service to the Christian community.

The liturgical role of deacons as it developed in the patristic era gave expression to this ministry of service - preparing the Table, administering the chalice etc.

As for presbyters, presiding at the Table gives visible expression to their ministry of oversight (shared with bishops).

Brian.

In other words, the ancient tradition of presbyters and bishops presiding at the Table (a practice pre-dating the Creeds) does not have to be justified in the language of what Janice describes as "sacramentalism".

Howard Pilgrim said...

Peter, you have started a good discussion here. For me that extra "may" was more inviting, and allowed me to think more overnight about the issue of global Church versus global Communion.

So far I am firming up on the Communion side. Not being a naturally tidy person, by and large, I do have a preference for diversity over uniformity and a conviction that one of the essential characteristics of Anglicanism both locally and worldwide is our shared ability to maintain unity of spirit and identity amidst a wide diversity of belief and practice. We have done this so far as a worldwide Communion, allowing considerable local autonomy and diversity. Changing towards an international Church, like the Roman Catholicism in its ability to promote uniformity, is a major change, and I think it would involve more losses than gains.

A tidier Church would arise from some busy housekeeping. Canada, the USA and possibly ACANZP could be constrained from ordaining any more gay bishops or blessing faithful same-sex relationships. The Kenyans and Sydney could be brought back from the brink of eucharistic heterodoxy. Other innovative attempts to meet the varying real needs of churches engaged in mission in diverse cultural contexts could likewise be suppressed as they raised their heads. Great! We would feel like a real church at last after all these years and the Holy Father would be most impressed.

Who wants this, really? Would either the Kenyans or the Americans wish to trade off their freedom in order to suppress each other's innovations? Would either feel that in doing so they were preserving the truth and power of the gospel?

For me, in each of these two cases I believe that the gospel of Christ is expressed in the innovation rather than in the tradition it challenges. Twenty years ago in the Christchurch diocese I took a lead in arguing that diaconal presidency, properly authorized by the bishop, was more true to the biblical and patristic tradition than the emerging local shared ministry model that reduced priesthood to a theologically illiterate sacerdotal function: a reversion to pre-Reformation mass-saying priests. I still hold that view, and we are now seeing the fruits of the decision we made nationally. However, I would not get into a fight over that issue, and my new role as Waiapu's diocesan theologian is one way of trying to undo some of the damage done when we ordained so many priests without giving them a theological education.

On the matter of the full dignity of LGTB people within our midst, on this one I am more definite. Inasmuch as the proposed Anglican SuperChurch is arising to tidy my queer brothers and sisters away into their usual secret corner, I will label it as an evil to be resisted in the name of Christ. In fact, I will put it like this, following your lead ...

Critics of TEC and its worldwide supporters may be missing the point that this may be God's time for the Anglican Communion to take an important step towards fully recognizing and honoring the life and ministries of LGBT people, who have always been in our midst."

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard
I think the first, and simplest response to make to your post is: you may be right on all counts!

A second response could be this: 'Fine! Let there be no covenant, no tidying up, no restraint on diversity and let's see where this goes ... it could go well for the Communion ... but it could mean that, ultimately (say, in 100 years time), there is no actual communion in the communion because our untidiness has led to unraveling.'

A key presumption your approach carries is this: 'I do have a preference for diversity over uniformity and a conviction that one of the essential characteristics of Anglicanism both locally and worldwide is our shared ability to maintain unity of spirit and identity amidst a wide diversity of belief and practice. We have done this so far as a worldwide Communion, allowing considerable local autonomy and diversity.' But this is not true! We have not maintained our unity - we are seeing before our own eyes a significant peeling off of thousands of Episcopalians in North America, there are significant faultlines in the Communion, represented, not least, by the non-attendance of a significant portion of bishops at Lambeth. So I part company with you in the presumption that a non-Covenant Communion is the way to continue Communion life 'as usual'. It isn't happening and it will get worse. The Covenant might - no guarantees - just help the Communion to be a unity of diverse churches; but without a Covenant it is all but guaranteed that we will only be a unified body by becoming much smaller than we currently are.

In respect of the future of gay and lesbian Anglicans in our Communion, the Covenant's aim is to keep us talking in the same conversation, moving slowly forward keeping pace with each other. Agreed it will be way too slow for (e.g.) TEC. But the alternative, that TEC presses ahead with the speed at which it thinks change ought to happen, is fraught with difficulty.

Of course it would be good if the Communion recognized your emboldened point, that now is the time, etc. I humbly suggest that it is more likely to arrive at that recognition with the Covenant than without.

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert on the matter, but whether extended communion as actually practised in New Zealand has good Anglican historic origins seems to me open to question. And the point of the post is that a practice and understanding of communion as a lay celebration is fact growing up in local contexts, often in periods before a properly set up local shared ministry unit os developed. As for the 'what about' part of the question - well what about lifelong Anglicans coming to feel that, having administered extended communion, that they were actually celebrating communion. And weren't they? Do we really think that the authenticity of the communion lies in the consecration of the of the elements a week (or some weeks) before the celebration. Or in the celebration by believing Anglicans?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
A practice of 'extended communion' becoming a de facto 'lay presidency' raises a number of questions, including these two relevant to my post: (i) will our church de jure agree to such practice being approved? (ii) if an affirmative answer is given to (i), would a Covenanted Anglican Communion have something to say to ACANZP?

The pastoral concerns which your comment describes are real, heartfelt concerns ... but that does not alter the fact that at some point our church should either conform its canons to its practice or its practice to its canons!

liturgy said...

Greetings

I laud your seeing Anglican identity bound in our liturgy, and have long regretted that Anglicans have not articulated worship of God as central to the mission of the church. The unity of Anglicanism was once held in our shared spiritual discipline, and it comes as no surprise to me that with the abandonment of shared spiritual practice there is a yearning for the unifying propositional security of Protestantism or the magisterial homogeneity of Roman Catholicism. Your own claim is that the time has come (may have come) to abandon our ecclesiology and trading it for that of “becoming a world church”. Anglican ecclesiology shared with Eastern Orthodoxy and Old Catholics that the fullness of the catholic church is present in the local community around the bishop. Your concept of a “world church” is that held by the Roman Catholic church where the local church can only be considered “catholic” if it is indeed a member, part or portion of the world church, ie. in their case in communion with Rome. This, IMO, is a significant shift in ecclesiology. It may be a God-driven one as you say, but the significance of the paradigm shift needs to be acknowledged.

Speaking as if the Anglican Communion has been problem-free until now is not helpful. Women bishops could not lead as bishops in other provinces; male priests ordained by women bishops could not lead as priests in other provinces; Nigeria has removed communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury from its constitution; the primates could not celebrate the Eucharist together, nor even have the courtesy to be photographed together – the Anglican Communion is the platypus of Christianity and most are astonished that it exists at all. Like the platypus, I believe God made it. Some now want it to change into something more normal, more appropriate – a duck or an otter.

I applaud Howard’s and anyone’s attempts to undo the damage of poorly educated, trained, and formed clergy. It is clear, even within this post, that we have neglected to educate, train, and form laity concomitantly – or the issues around celebrating eucharist together led by a priest or bishop I am convinced would not arise. As one who daily sees young people thriving on committing themselves to challenges, it comes as no surprise to me to see that the years of lowering of the bar for ordination are the same years in which young people have less and less offered themselves for ordination.

Please could you point us to information about Kenyan Anglicans authorising diaconal presidency of the eucharist. I too am in favour of “diaconal presidency, properly authorized by the bishop” – this “proper authorisation by the bishop” is called “ordination to the priesthood.”

Blessings

Bosco
https://www.liturgy.co.nz

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
Your post raises more issues and at greater depth than I will respond to here. Brief comments:
- Kenyan diaconal presidency: a google search leads primarily to reports re Sydney's synod decision last year, in which its members were assured on the authority of Dr Gitari that Kenya practises lay presidency;
- my brief remarks re a 'world church' are not intended to shut down an important discussion as to whether the future Anglican Communion is like Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, or something else;
- the point about the fullness of the church being the local community and its bishop raises interesting thoughts (in my mind at least) re the possibility of dioceses signing up to the Anglican Covenant;
- absolutely agreed, the Anglican Communion was not problem free before 2003: the question in my mind is how the Communion responds in a responsible, non-colonial, godly manner to the fact that, post-2003, many provinces have said we are now in a new situation, different to pre-2003.

Anonymous said...

Bosco writes: "I too am in favour of “diaconal presidency, properly authorized by the bishop” – this “proper authorisation by the bishop” is called “ordination to the priesthood.”"

Anglicans believe in the priesthood (hiereteuma) of all believers. If it is acceptable for a 'lay' person to be authorized to preach the Word of God (no light thing, calling for discernemnt and preparation), then it must be equally acceptable for a 'lay' person to lead the congregation in communion prayers in sharing the 'verba visibilia' of the sacrament. Or is there a flaw in my reasoning here?
Anon1

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anon1
Yes, there is a flaw in your reasoning. Why can you not see it?
The Plymouth Brethren saw that such reasoning was inconsistent with membership of the Anglican church and acted accordingly!

Anonymous said...

Hello, Peter -
I don't know much about the Plymouth Brethren and other breakaway sects from Anglicanism, but you'll note that I said 'authorized', which means following the agreed rules of leadership and delegation, which in Anglican terms means bishops and synods. The Anglican Church authorizes 'lay' preachers; why not eucharistic celebrants? Is the reasoning ecclesio-political (to keep unity with Anglo-Catholics) rather than theological? It would seem to make sense in farflung communities - even on the We(s)t Coast?
Anon1
Darby, IIRC, considered the very notion of the clergyman 'a sin against the Holy Ghost', so he was playing a different ball game.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anon1

I draw your attention to this sentence in a comment above by Burke's Corner: "As for presbyters, presiding at the Table gives visible expression to their ministry of oversight (shared with bishops)."

I suggest there is a difference between the preaching of God's Word, which is a nurturing and feeding of God's people, undertaken by an appropriately qualified and authorised person, and presiding at the Table, undertaken by an appropriately ordered (ordained) and authorised person.

But, agreed, the distinction may be difficult to sustain theologically. I note, for example, that in Roman Catholic practice non-odained people may not preach at the Mass. If the distinction failed on closer examination by the Anglican Communion, then the appropriate path to take according to the tradition of the church, based in turn on 1 Timothy 3:1-10, is to refrain from using lay preachers rather than authorising lay presiders.

My personal preference is to explore the justification of the use of lay preachers but not lay presiders.

Anonymous said...

"I suggest there is a difference between the preaching of God's Word, which is a nurturing and feeding of God's people, undertaken by an appropriately qualified and authorised person, and presiding at the Table, undertaken by an appropriately ordered (ordained) and authorised person."
I think that's a distinction without a difference - except that I read you to be saying that preaching is a much weightier task than presiding. If so, I agree. I don't think it would be too difficult to train up prayerful local leaders of churches to be authorized to lead the communion prayers in a reverent way - just as Anglican readers have done for 400 years for matins and evensong. I do suspect the shadow of sacerdotalism hovers in the background.
Anon1

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anon1
My point about presiding is that it is not a role undertaken by prayerful local leaders trained up to say certain prayers reverently if we Anglicans are to remain, as we profess to be, in the great tradition of the universal church from the time of the apostles.
Rather, it is a role to be undertaken by people ordered (ordained) to be leaders of communities of faith on behalf of the bishop of the diocese. The Anglican way of authorising presiders is via ordination.

To do otherwise is possible, e.g. as an interpretation of the varieties of ways of offering ministry which the New Testament permits. But it would not be coherent with Anglican theology and this should attract a different descriptor ... the funny thing is this: I cannot readily name the denomination which fits your ideas here - apart from, possibly, the Plymouth Brethren, though even they are not a precise fit with what you propose - and that, I suggest, is because a number of Protestant denominations continue to think that the ministry of presiding is reserved to those appointed and/or ordained to the role of 'minister' (or, 'the minister') ... and is not something simply to be taken up by people trained to say prayers reverently! Not being overly familiar with the sacramental theology of such denominations I make no comment on whether the shadow of sacerdotalism looms over them :)

Anonymous said...

OK, Peter, I don't want to perpetuate this thread, but just to sum up my points briefly:
1. Anglicanism insists on a balance or symmetry of the ministry of Word and Sacrament. In theory it doesn't exalt one over the other. If the ministry of the Word is open to suitably gifted and trained lay people, why isn't the ministry of the Sacrament? A no-brainer, really.
2. To repeat 'this is the Anglican way' doesn't explain why. Exactly *why isn't it "coherent with Anglican theology", as you say? I understand Catholic theology reasonably well; they say the Mass is a sacrifice and their ordained ministry is a sacrificing priesthood re-presenting the offering of Calvary. So 'lay celebration' would be meaningless to Catholics. But that isn't Anglican theology at all, at least as Cranmer taught it.
3. Low church Lutherans also allow lay celebration, as do many Baptists, so it's not just the Brethren. I believe in order and authorization in worship. My point about 'the shadow of sacerdotalism' is really a suspicion that the restriction is a hangover from before the Reformation, when the ministry was indeed understood as a sacrificing priesthood (that also blessed the people and remitted sins).
Anon1

Peter Carrell said...

Fair enough Anon1, I may yet post on (something like) an evangelical Anglican view of priestly presidency! My starting point could be that Cranmer of blessed [!] memory did not, as far as I am aware, agree with lay presidency ...

Peter Carrell said...

From Bosco Peter's:

Greetings

Thank you Peter for your points. I cannot locate the information about your alluded Kenyan practice – you might email me the google search privately.

You have already highlighted some flaws in [omission] (Anon1) reasoning – might I add a couple more. It is unfortunate that he is happy to simply translate “hiereteuma” as “priesthood” and then equate that with the ordained presbyterate. This is not only sloppy theology, it is an oversimplification of translation. Ordination is not to the hiereteuma, but to the πρεσβύτερος presbuteros – elder – which our English word “priest” actually abbreviates (priest is presbyter writ short). The episcopos/bishop/presbuteros/priest is not merely reciting some prayer reverently, and YES there is “lay celebration” inasmuch as ALL are gathered around God’s table praying. That the bishop or priest is leading the eucharistic prayer has been the tradition of the church from the earliest. If the baptised priesthood (hiereteuma )is not experiencing that they are fully participating in the praying of that prayer then I return to my point of poor formation etc. both of clergy and of the baptised community.
Furthermore, I am a bit lost at the concept that the bishop or priest is presiding solely “at the Table”. The bishop or priest presides during the WHOLE of the service, from initial greeting to final dismissal. Again if that is not evident there is a significant issue of training and formation. The service, like a sentence, is a dynamic whole. We might distinguish, for particular reasons different parts of speech, subject and predicate, but similarly the bishop or priest is presiding over the dynamic whole of the service – what we might distinguish for particular reasons as Liturgy of the Word AND Liturgy of the Table. I do not understand why the bishop/priest here is even thought of not presiding at the Liturgy of the Word – where has s/he been that s/he was not then presiding? Leadership does not mean doing it all oneself – almost the opposite. Just as parts of the Eucharistic Prayer are proclaimed by the assembly, so others also take up particular tasks. Seeing the eucharistic prayer as merely praying a prayer reverently is veering close to turning it into magic. If that is all ordained priesthood is reduced to then certainly the reforms both of the Reformation and of Vatican II have been in vain.

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Anonymous said...

“It is unfortunate that he [!] is happy to simply translate “hiereteuma” as “priesthood” and then equate that with the ordained presbyterate.”
- No, this is sloppy reading. I said no such thing. My point was that the priesthood [sacerdotium] is of the whole people of God, and the Christian ministry is not a priesthood in that OT sense. But Catholicism does say it is sacerdotas.
“Ordination is not to the hiereteuma, but to the πρεσβύτερος presbuteros –
- [I think you mean presbutereuma] elder – which our English word “priest” actually abbreviates (priest is presbyter writ short).
Thank you, but I’ve known this all my adult life.

“The bishop or priest presides during the WHOLE of the service, from initial greeting to final dismissal. Again if that is not evident there is a significant issue of training and formation.”
Well, that may be the theory (whose?, I wonder – liturgical “theology” is such fun, but not exactly a “hard science”!) but it isn’t how a lot of Anglican parishes with lay worship leaders actually conduct public worship.
“I do not understand why the bishop/priest here is even thought of not presiding at the Liturgy of the Word – where has s/he been that s/he was not then presiding?”
Sitting down, listening (one hopes) to the preacher.
“Seeing the eucharistic prayer as merely praying a prayer reverently is veering close to turning it into magic.”
Au contraire. The magic (hocus pocus!) arises from thinking that if the prayer of consecration (everything else can be negotiated) isn’t said by an ordained priest it isn’t a real communion (or real transubstantiation etc, in some eyes).
Anon1

liturgy said...

Anon1 encourages “sloppy reading” by using terms such as “the Christian ministry” without being at all clear whether he is referring to the ministry of all Christians (as I and our NZ Anglican formularies would) or to the particular focus of presbyters/bishops. If Anon1 has known “all his adult life” that ordination is to the “presbutereuma” why his continued confusion with “hiereteuma”. [Help me here Peter, I think he means either presbuterion or presbuteriou?] “The priesthood is of the whole people of God” certainly – but that is not to be confused with the presbyteral/episcopal ministry of presiding. The Liturgy of the Word is much more than the sermon and even whilst sitting and listening, the presider is still presiding. Peter has already highlighted the Plymouth Brethren option. If that does not appear to fit what Anon1 is seeking remember protestant biblical “theology” is such fun, but not exactly a “hard science”! I’m sure that whatever his interpretation of the Bible there will always be some who are ready to join him. LOL.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
I assume that Anon1 either knows a word I do not or is coining one, i.e. presbutereuma, analogously to hiereteuma, since presbuterion has a meaning of 'council of elders' rather than 'eldership (= prebuterate or priesthood).

(I profess to be a student of Greek rather than a scholar so stand to be corrected ...)