Friday, July 31, 2009

The difference leadership makes

Our national, three tikanga seminary is the College of St John the Evangelist, situated in Meadowbank, Auckland. Commonly it's known as 'St John's College' or just 'the College'. Confusingly, because of its three tikanga character, it contains within it three constituent colleges, Te Rau Kahikatea (Maori), the College of Polynesia, and the College of the Southern Cross (Pakeha). The last-named has recently installed a new dean, Jim White.

During this year Jim has been working from his position of leadership to introduce some changes to the College. Back on the menu (so to speak) are community lunches (with good hot food). Re-timed is the College weekly eucharist, 11 am on Wednesday's to flow contiguously into lunch. Thus much restored are aspects of student and staff community life whose loss (for various reasons over the past years, mainly due to the complexities of lecture timetables at Auckland university) has been much lamented.

I have been at a meeting at the College these past few days and have been the recipient not only of the new lunch blessings, but also of a brand new approach to hospitality, with the group I was part of treated to a College dinner with staff on Wednesday night. Never has this group been so welcomed and so royally treated in the nine years I have been part of it!

There is more ... the eucharist on Wednesday morning (the second I have attended this year) shows small but significant signs of attention to detail leading to a new standard of consistency with the rubrics of our prayer book. Personally I take much heart from the faithfulness of these services to the contents of our prayer book. (Theological colleges sometimes work on an 'experimental' or 'cutting edge' approach to liturgy which may have its place in the overall scheme of things, but which can confuse ordinands as to what the liturgical standards of their church actually expect of them when in parish ministry!)

These changes illustrate that leadership can make significant difference to an institution. Now, what else in our church needs changing ...?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Train crash averted, several wagons diverted down second track

At last our Wonderful Leader has spoken ... and spoken well, if, for example, we take John Richardson of The Ugley Vicar's respectful response as a guide. Archbishop Rowan's long-awaited response to GC 2009 waits no more, his 3000 odd word dissertation available for all to read.

Kendall Harmon at Titus One Nine cites these three paragraphs so they will be worth copying here too:

"7. In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.

8. This is not our situation in the Communion. Thus a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole. And if this is the case, a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires.

9. In other words, the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle. (There is also an unavoidable difficulty over whether someone belonging to a local church in which practice has been changed in respect of same-sex unions is able to represent the Communion's voice and perspective in, for example, international ecumenical encounters.)"

Things I like: ++Rowan recognises that:

-the GC resolutions and subsequent explanations have done nothing to allay Communion anxieties (2),

-the issues of homosexuality and the church are not merely about human rights, but about whether the church itself has the right to change its teaching on marriage (6, then see 7-9 cited above),

-the church has absolutely no business fostering prejudice against gay and lesbian people (5, 10),

-the local church, even in a Communion-which-is-not-a-church, can be wrong in its assessment of an issue as not requiring the agreement of the 'Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole' (13, see also 7-9 cited above; also note 16-18, which highlights how (e.g.) Sydney's possible move to lay presidency is as undermining of the unity of the Communion as TEC's moves with the effect of changing the Communion to a federation),

-the Communion has a choice: to remain a Communion or to become a federalist, pluralist entity (19), but the Covenant has been a bold effort to remain a Communion (20),

-the Covenant is not about centralization of the Communion but of intensifying our sense of mutual responsibility to each other (20),

-the Communion of the Covenant, in the light of TEC's GC 2009, will almost certainly mean a 'two track' Communion (with efforts to call this first and second class acknowledged but 'two track' clearly preferred - I am saddened that Ruth Gledhill chooses to reinforce the language of 'first and second class' ... the point of ++Rowan's reflection is not that there are two classes of Anglicans like awards of a university degree but that two different journeys are being taken by people who think they are on the same train!),

-the 'two track' Communion, of Covenanted provinces and associated local churches, should not be one of 'competitive hostility' (ACNA and TEC take note!)

Things I do not like: ++Rowan makes the bold statement that "no-one is seeking a risk-free, simple organ of doctrinal decision for our Communion" (15) when at least one exception to that statement exists (smile), and, joining quite a few others at this time, is disingenuous about the schismatic character of the situation. Thus he says towards the end (my italics),

"23. ... But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.

24. It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion. It should not need to be said that a competitive hostility between the two would be one of the worst possible outcomes, and needs to be clearly repudiated. The ideal is that both 'tracks' should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency. It is right to hope for and work for the best kinds of shared networks and institutions of common interest that could be maintained as between different visions of the Anglican heritage. And if the prospect of greater structural distance is unwelcome, we must look seriously at what might yet make it less likely."

Maybe we are not strictly speaking heading into 'schism', but we are heading into a separated walk apart inasmuch as whatever 'co-operation in mission and service' occurs between the two tracks, only members of one track will participate in ecumenical dialogue and the like as full representatives of 'the' Anglican Communion.

That word 'ecumenical' is key to understanding the document, as Anglican Curmudgeon very helpfully draws attention to in this post. ++Rowan has his eye on the world unity of Christianity which must involve Anglican conversation with Rome and Constantinople. He will not give away a Communion which is in this conversation for a federation which will be excluded from such conversation. Yet he will not excommunicate TEC so the only option available is for TEC to be in a different relationship to the Communion, in short, associate membership, not full membership.

I am wholly supportive of ++Rowan's ecumenical vision as the bigger picture the Communion must not lose sight of as it struggles to deal with local autonomies. There will be implications for my own church, ACANZP, as a result of this statement, since we have not resolved our commitment to communion with Canterbury which is in tension with our own desires for autonomy.

So, much to like; some reality confronted; some prospects set forth; a little to dislike. The train crash may be averted if some wagons can be diverted to the alternative track. D025 and C056 appear to be couplings beginning to be loosened, the fork in the track looming into sight.

PS If in a foul and masochist mood this morning, and would like a completely unenjoyable cup of coffee, why not make your coffee and read the vitriol being poured upon our Wonderful Leader by commenters on the left (Thinking Anglicans) and on the right (Stand Firm).

As ++Rowan drinks his own cup of coffee he may be in a chirpy mood, realising that something might just be right about his statement if it earns such high praise (not) from the edges of the Communion!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unequivocal meets Episcopal

Writing in the Washington Times, Bishop Michael Nazir-ali, is unequivocal in his statement of biblical teaching on marriage, sexuality, and discipleship for those whose same sex attractions do not lead to marriage. I notice that he eschews the word 'repent' which led to many headlines recently after +Michael spoke on these matters recently. H/t to Baby Blue Online. Here are some paragraphs, with the whole article here.

The unequivocal opening statement

"The Episcopal Church in the United States has done it again. Having marched out of step with the majority of the worldwide Anglican Communion, American Episcopalians have declared their intention to walk even further apart."

The unequivocal dismissal of the issues being adiaphora or a matter of indifference

"Let it be said, straightaway, that this issue is not a second- or lower-order one on which Christians can agree to disagree. It profoundly has to do with how men and women are created together in God's image and together given a common mission in the world. This mission they fulfill in ways that are both distinctive and complementary."

The unequivocal declaration of biblical teaching on sexuality

"No Bible-believing Christian can say that "men are from Mars and women from Venus." They are not distinct species but have been made for each other in their distinctiveness and complement each other. This is the burden of the earliest chapters of Genesis that are strongly and unambiguously affirmed in the teaching of Jesus himself. As a whole, the Bible's teaching on human sexuality clearly affirms that the proper expression of our sexual nature is within the context of married love. The alternative, for those who have this gift, is dedicated singleness in the fulfillment of God's purposes.

In the pagan world, in which the Bible was written, such a view was vigorously countercultural. Many of Israel's neighbors tolerated both heterosexual and homosexual practices that are rejected by the Bible because they violate the holiness of God, the order of creation and respect for persons."

The unequivocal summary of pastoral care and guidance for gay and lesbian Anglicans

"As to same-sex attraction, there may be a predisposition toward it, even if we do not know all the reasons for it. That does not mean it must be gratified. Not every desire can or should be given active expression.

There may be relationship issues with a parent or a seeking of the man or the woman "I want to be" in others of the same sex. Those in such situations need to be cared for and to know that God loves them. They need to be helped so they can conform their lives to the stature of the fullness of Christ.

As they are welcomed to church and hear God's word, they will meet with Christ and be transformed by the renewal of their minds, spirits and bodies. They will be nurtured by word and sacrament but also by friendship.

Again and again, people say it is the affirmation of Christian friends, the role model of a wise, perhaps older Christian and the fellowship of the church family that have brought them to a new place in their discipleship."

The unequivocal hope that one day, all will be well in the Communion

"In all this, those who remain orthodox in faith and morals will need to remember that any disruption of fellowship is for the sake of discipline and the eventual restoration of those who have chosen to go their own way to the common faith and life of the church. It is for this that we must work and pray."

I am always intrigued how these articles get to be written. Does +Michael have an inspiration one day along the 'What if I take it to the Episcopalians in their own territory' line'? Does the Washington Times editor think, 'How can I squeeze some more juice out of this particular sour lemon of a controversy? I know, I'll wind the Episcopalians up by asking Darth Vader to get his sabre pen out'?

+Michael's article presents at least two significant challenges for all Anglican churches to consider, not least Down Here, where the Washington Times plops on no driveways:

Is it possible to be equivocal about the issues in human sexuality that are wedging our Communion and individual member churches within apart?

+Michael does not seem to think so. Many bishops, clergy and lay people in TEC would agree with him on that point even as they disagree with him on nearly everything he has written in this article. ++Rowan's difficulty (many would presume at this time) is that an equivocal strategy to resolving the schismatic tendencies at work in these times is fast coming to an end. Almost certainly he has to be unequivocal about the immediate future for TEC in the working day life of the Communion. +Michael's approach is such that being unequivocal about what the Bible teaches about sexuality he can be more readily unequivocal about the Communion's response to TEC after GC. ++Rowan's approach is such that being equivocal about what the Bible teaches about sexuality makes it (in my view, but also in the view of many who actually know him) that much harder to be unequivocal about the Communion's response to TEC folowing the GC.

Is +Michael's summation of the Bible's teaching on human sexuality correct?

If +Michael is incorrect in what he says, if the Bible permits more 'wriggle room' for affirming the possibility of the blessedness of same sex partnerships in God's great plan for the world and for the new creation being established through the Spirit's renewing work, or even simply permits such blessedness period (e.g. because it is plain wrong on homosexuality), then he should be roundly condemned for publishing such untruths.

The difficulty for those who would wish to condemn +Michael as wrong is that they are a very small minority within world Christianity, indeed within the orbit of all religious thinking. As he also says in this article,

"The moves [by TEC at GC 2009] also will further damage ecumenical relations with other churches, such as the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox and various evangelical and Pentecostal bodies. Interfaith dialogue, especially with Muslims, also has been adversely affected, with dialogue partners asking how what they have hitherto regarded as a "heavenly religion" can sanction a practice that most religions do not permit."

A further difficulty for Anglican critics of +Michael is that the only guide to the mind of the whole Anglican Communion on the correctness or incorrectness of what he states in regard to the Bible's teaching on sexuality remains Lambeth 1:10 (1998). I imagine he would have a ready response to those who stress that no resolution of Lambeth is binding on member churches, that the process of arriving at this resolution was flawed and what was being voted for was misunderstood: would the Anglican Communion meeting today in some widely representational way (i.e. much better than the shambles that is the ACC) arrive at a different understanding to Lambeth 1:10?

In a way the Episcopal church has done the Communion a great favour through D025 and C056. Notwithstanding some equivocal wording, it has fooled no one, least of all itself, about the unequivocal direction it wishes to take in respect to its understanding of human sexuality and the application of that understanding to it's liturgies and ordering of ministry. Thus it has renewed its criticism of Lambeth 1.10 which has percolated through the last eleven years. TEC may be correct and +Michael incorrect, or vice versa. The Communion's challenge includes working out how it confirms which is which, and whether or not it can walk inclusively with views which go beyond diversity to outright incompatibility.

ADDENDUM: OK, slight correction to the last paragraph. Bishop Pierre Whalon is "fooled" by what happened at the GC. I wonder what readers will make of his reflection on the GC? Is this article disingenuous? One possible example: a triumphant note is struck about the agreed statement on religious dialogue as evidence of TEC's orthodoxy. To a point it is, but this statement which affirms 'Jesus is Lord' cannot bring itself to affirm the corollary of 'Jesus is Lord', that our missionary task is to convert people to this Lord. Is the latter not a concomitant part of orthodoxy? Another possible example: Bishop Whalon says in one sentence that there is nothing new in C056 and then in another that there is something new there, because there is now a new situation in the United States (i.e. some states have legalised civil same sex unions/marriages) which needs addressing. But why does it need addressing with pastoral responses? I think my feeling that this sort of thing may be disingenuous must have something to do with being Kiwi grappling with American culture! I find a similar thing going on in the debates over Obamacare. His brilliant, inexpensive solution to America's health woes is another politician's disaster in which a tsunami of funds flows from the government into a black hole! Where does the truth lie?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The eighth sacrament

Thanks to the Diocese of Niagara (Canada), and to Thinking Anglicans and More than a via media for drawing it to my attention, we can reflect on the introduction of the eighth sacrament to Anglicanism. Let us hear no more about Anglicans only having two sacraments according to the 39 Articles. Nor are we to be limited by the numerically constrained vision of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches with their seven sacraments. It is time to move with the times. The more sacraments the better equipped we are to respond to changing seasons in the life of the world :)

Here is the announcement on the Diocese's webpage:

"Niagara Rite of Blessing of Civil Marriage

The Niagara Rite is intended for the voluntary use of priests who wish to offer a sacrament of blessing regardless of the gender of the civilly married persons who wish to receive the blessing of the church and wish to affirm their life commitment to each other before God in the community of the church.

As such it does not imply nor is it intended to suggest that those who do or do not make use of this rite are excluded from the economy of God’s salvation. The rite is a means for the church to extend affirmation, support, and commitment to those who present themselves seeking a sign of God’s love in response to the love and commitment they express for each other and have already affirmed in a civil ceremony.
It is designed for the blessing of any couple who have been civilly married. It may also be used for the blessing or renewing of marriage vows for a couple celebrating a significant moment in their married life together.

Effective September 1, 2009, permission will be granted by Bishop Michael Bird for the use of the Niagara Rite as outlined in the protocols that are included."

Three things stand out here in response to the phrase 'sacrament of blessing':

(1) Does the Diocese of Niagara (and/or the Canadian Anglican church) understand that formal Anglican theology knows of only two sacraments, and those are not expandable, being determined by our Lord?

(2) Even if we permit the thought that there is a widespread Anglican talk, much influenced by Anglo-Catholicism, that speaks readily, if theologically loosely, of seven sacraments (including the sacrament of marriage), the question arises, is 'the sacrament of blessing' a new sacrament (i.e. an eighth sacrament) or a form of the 'sacrament of marriage', and if the latter, what theological justification is offered by the Diocese of Niagara for understanding the partnership of two people of the same sex to be a 'marriage'?

[Note: on the Niagara site a PDF concerning theological background to the rite of blessing offered is made available here. But it's focus is on how one might theologically support same sex relationships and not on the theology of sacraments, nor on the theology of marriage per se].

(3) The fact that the first two questions can be raised gives rise to a third question: is the Anglican Communion in disarray, not only because we disagree on certain matters, but on other matters we do not even share a common understanding of basic elements of Anglican theology?

PS: I acknowledge that there are actions which some might wish to discuss as candidates for the 'eighth sacrament' such as The Holy Kiss, and Foot-washing. Note that these candidates are squarely and clearly grounded in Scripture, in one case in the instructions of St Paul, and in the other case in the example of our Lord himself. This is not the case for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

Update: The Anglican Journal (of ACCan) reports on the breaking controversy re Niagara within Canadian Anglicanism here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Just one more on TEC's GC

Richard Kew is always thoughtful. He has been in the States while the GC has been on. His reflection builds from many previous participations in GCs! Here is one paragraph:

"Yet the truth really is, as you look around the world, that those who are pushing this worn out postmodern melange and calling it Christian are increasingly the has-beens. They seem to have tied themselves to the coat tails of the last dribblings of the least attractive side of the Enlightenment, and it is entirely likely that they will disappear down the drain with them. I say this as an Episcopalian who lives in England and now functions as part of the church under great pressure."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Is Q a gospel source or a quirk of scholarship?

One of my interests, aside from the quirks of Anglicanism, is the question of the composition of the gospels. I have a leaning towards the theory that the parallels between Matthew and Luke, where neither follows Mark, is due to Luke copying Matthew, rather than each drawing on a common source, nicknamed by scholars as Q. (Q stands for Quelle, or source, not for Quirk)!

But Q might stand for Quirk in some theorising about Q. Recently I received a book notice as follows:

"Rethinking the Gospel Sources, Volume 2: The Unity and Plurality of Q by Delbert Burkett

This work examines three disputed issues in the study of Q, the hypothetical source common to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke: its existence; its unity as a document; and the plurality of its wording. It evaluates the arguments for and against the existence of Q and concludes that some form of the Q hypothesis is necessary. It presents new evidence that most of the Q material existed as a single written source unified by recurring features of style and theme. Finally, it argues that differences between Matthew and Luke in the wording of Q were caused most often when one Evangelist replaced or combined Q with parallel material from another source.

Paper $35.95 • 296 pages • ISBN 9781589834125 • Early Christianity and Its Literature 1 • Hardback edition"

Umm, would it not be simpler to propose that Luke copied Matthew, than to invent 'another source' which both gospel writers had access to which, either replacing Q or combining with Q, explains differences between Matthew and Luke in Q passages?

I guess I shall have to read the book to check the whole story of this particular justification for Q!

But on the face of it, Q scholarship, and not for the first time, looks a bit quirky in seeking to uphold the hypothesis of Q by resorting to yet another hypothesis rather than considering that the Q hypothesis is past its use by date.

Communion with Canterbury

More than a via media, noting views to the contrary, to the left and to the right, makes the point that to be Anglican is to be in communion with Canterbury.

I agree with this point, for this reason. The Anglican church's claim to exist as an expression of God's true and genuine church involves two suppositions. One, that we are a church founded on and faithfully expressing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Two, that we are a church continuous with the church Jesus Christ founded through his apostles. In one phrase, we are a reformed and catholic church. I hope to post on the first supposition soon. The second supposition, cramming a lot of history into a sentence, cannot escape the fact of history that the unification of varying streams of Christianity in the British isles stems from the establishment of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, itself a result of a mission authorised by Rome, one of the leading, if not the leading bishoprics of the undivided church of God. Our continuity with the church Jesus founded runs through the Archbishopric of Canterbury.* To divorce ourselves from Canterbury, whatever reasons presented to justify such a break, is to fundamentally alter the understanding of being 'Anglican' as a church. In fact any such church becomes a 'post Anglican' church.

A post Anglican church may have much to commend it. It may over time survive and the Anglican church wither on the vine. But it will not be an Anglican church as long as it is cut off from its root in the Archbishopric of Canterbury. It is also likely that a post Anglican church will not be united, that is there will be more than one post Anglican church, for, as when first established, so also now, the Archbishopric of Canterbury is a force for unity of Christians in communion with Canterbury.

*Our continuity with the church Jesus founded also (i) runs through the Bishopric of Rome, and (ii) runs through the historic connection between the first British Christians (most likely slaves brought by Roman forces, and soldiers of those forces) and the first Christians of the Mediterranean world. In the first instance that continuity would be strengthened by renewed communion with the Bishop of Rome, which itself would be an obedience to Christ's own wish, ut unum sint. Towards this goal Anglicans have been working, and should continue working, but achievement of that goal requires agreement in terms of the first supposition above, concerning the gospel character of the church.

ADDENDUM: read this post by More than a via media ... for the via media!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wait, there is more ...

I guess there will be no end of post GC comment, but I will squeeze this post in and then try very, very hard to move on!

Preludium alerts me to this thoughtful piece of appreciation and criticism of TEC and the GC from one of TEC's priests, who was at the GC. It's by Canon Dr Neal Mitchell. I take heart from it, because it underlines my own critical observations. For example, on the matter of TEC's decline, Neal Mitchell says,

"Clearly, a denominational structure that served 3.6 million members that now serves 2.2 million members has to be reorganized. However, the decisions made at General Convention fails to show whether the leadership is really acknowledging that changed reality."


"TEC has lost 10% of its average Sunday attendance since 2003 (the year when the bishop of New Hampshire was consecrated). At a time when TEC is in significant decline due to conservatives leaving the denomination, the decisions to allow partnered gays to serve as bishops and to bless same sex unions—while it may bring some people into Episcopal churches—the overall effect will be to cause more theologically and culturally conservative people to leave TEC and will make TEC an even less attractive church for other theologically and culturally conservative people to consider joining."

Then Ephraim Radner probes the impact on the GC of recent and not so recent departures of conservative voices, as well as the impact on the conservatives of no longer being part of a diverse church. His conclusion is sobering for every Anglican at this time!

"As traditionalists leave TEC, consensus decision-making will prove more and more devoid of accountable divergent thinking, and the decisions made will become less and less informed and representative. This spells danger and self-destruction for the Episcopal Church. Alas, though, the same is true for the exiting groups. From the perspective of decision-making, the loss of divergent thinking will affect traditionalists who leave TEC as negatively in their own sphere as the liberal church they have left behind: alternative views will be suspect as “extreme” and councils “buffered” from their effects; small groups of decision-makers will prevail over the engagement of broad participation; and, just as importantly, the existence of multiple and available choices will spur exit over loyalty. American Anglicanism has never appeared so vulnerable as now (Canada is just a few steps behind).

A warning, then, a warning to all world Anglicans! All you who pass by! Do not touch the American disease! Too many choices, too many fears, insecurities and enmities, too few loyalties. The Anglican Communion cannot turn into an enclave. That is not what Christian communion embodies. Yet, should it simply split apart, it will become a set of enclaves, spreading their little seeds of insularity."

There is a grave danger that the Communion's future, and the future of some of its member churches is being defined by one issue. We will die if this is so.

PS Slightly away from the starting topic, but related to it, because it reminds us that there are other corners of the Communion which are troubled by division ... and also challenges us, I suggest, that the Communion being a church, with some agreed leadership structure, might be a good thing ... is this post by (Roman Catholic) Damian Thompson.

ADDENDA: Not unexpectedly Jordan Hylden offers a superbly written essay on GC 2009, its interpretation and its implications:

"If present trends hold, in the not-so-distant future many of [TEC's] members will be either in nursing homes or cemeteries, with devastating effects on the numerous small dioceses and parishes that are just barely holding on. And in far, far too many places, especially the seminaries, theological depth and immersion in the Scriptures and the catholic tradition is a thing of the past."

Then Austen Ivereigh offers an insight into the 'real issue', and the consequent likely future of the Communion, which I have not previously seen expressed before in this way:

"The point is, "schism" is not the right word for what is happening. A schism refers to a part of the Christian body separating from another. But the TEC is insufficiently united in itself to break away from the wider Anglican Church; and the Anglican Communion is insufficiently united to constitute something that can be broken away from.

It's much more complex, and messy, than schism. It's full-on balkanisation.

But out of chaos, order is emerging. Anglicans are splitting into two camps: a core of Anglicans -- those committed to the Covenant process -- are coming closer together, under Dr Williams's leadership, while the rest are spinning away from Canterbury and from each other.

The real split is not over homosexuality but between "Catholics" and "Protestants", the key historic tension within Anglicanism. The fissures do not run cleanly between provinces and churches, as the Anaheim rebels show. But this crisis is forcing people to choose. This is the real division: between those who believe in a Catholic ecclesiology and those who do not.

The "Protestants" -- divided between liberals and conservative evangelicals, in radical disagreement over homosexuality, as over much else -- cannot, by definition, come together, and will continue to fragment, leaving the "Covenant" Anglicans to come together around a firmer, more Catholic ecclesiology. Within the "Catholic" camp there will remain strong disagreements over homosexuality, but those are less important than the shared conception of Church.

Rome, of course, is firmly behind Dr Williams and the Covenant process: they know that at the end of it there is the prospect of an Anglican Church they can seek unity with. It'll be a lot smaller, necessarily, than the current Anglican Communion. But the prospects of unity will at last be real. It'll take years; maybe none of us will see it in our lifetimes. But my bet is that the before the end of Dr Williams' term the foundations for Catholic-Anglican unity will have been laid -- even as he is depicted as having helplessly overseen the disintegration of the Anglican Communion."

(An alternative view, that ++RW is effectively finished as leader of the AC and the AC is bust, is presented by Adrian Worsfield here. I think Adrian Worsfield misses the point that a Catholic ecclesiological drive through the middle of the Communion takes with it a great bulk of people in the moderate middle; people who are not constantly on the blogosphere fervently expressing their views, often extreme, from some clear edge of the church, but are faithfully in church each Sunday, a local church they appreciate belonging to a diocese and a diocese they appreciate belonging to a wider worldwide church).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Four letters and an essay

OK, let me see, a couple of letters from Presiding Bishop Schori and President, TEC HoD, Anderson to the ABC on resolutions D025 and C056 (here and here), one from the Communion Partner bishops to the ABC (see here), and one to the whole Communion from Archbishop Duncan (here). Mark Harris at Preludium reports on Duncan's letter here and offers an essay of his own on the future of the Communion here.

That is quite a lot to digest. I wonder what ++Rowan will make of it all? Here is what I make of it all!

(1) TEC really does want to remain in the Anglican Communion and it really does want to be able to confirm the election of a gay or lesbian bishop (should one be elected) and to make pastoral provision for same sex partnerships. But it knows this may not be possible. (Whether the two TEC leaders are worried about this situation is hard to say. My hunch is that they are prepared for TEC to be told it is suspended or even expelled from the Communion).

(2) For the both-and of TEC's wishes it needs a Communion which is, in Mark Harris' essay's phrasing 'a community of mutual regard' rather than 'a moral community'. The former is capable of adjustments to emerging differences between members of the community, the latter is not. (As an aside, we might note that TEC itself faces the challenge in succeeding years of whether it will be a community of mutual regard (e.g. in which conservative voices such as the Communion Partner bishops are respected) or a moral community which will not tolerate dissent from its pro-gay and pro-lesbian stances).

(3) The Communion Partner bishops are worried. Their worry is that TEC will be expelled or suspended for a long period from the Communion, and thus their attempt at a both-and, loyalty to TEC and loyalty to the Communion will be at an end ... unless the Communion permits what ++Rowan once hinted at, but Communion polity does not yet permit, that individual dioceses may be in communion with Canterbury even when their province is not.

(4) Bob Duncan is not worried. He is glad that TEC's 2009 GC can be interpreted as proving ACNA's analysis is correct: TEC is another religion, preaching another gospel. I sense that ACNA would like to be in the Communion, but if the Communion wants to follow TEC then ACNA is happy to find company elsewhere (i.e. GAFCON). The win-win for ACNA could be a Communion which clearly signals its unhappiness with TEC while offering welcome to ACNA.

But these assessments leave open the question 'what response will ++Rowan give to the letters he receives?' (A better question might be this, 'what response will the next significant Anglican Communion committee meeting give to the letters +Rowan receives?').

I do not know ++Rowan so will not attempt to second guess his mind, but the second best thing to propose is this, if I were the Archbishop of Canterbury for a day, and an autocratic one to boot, who did not need to discuss business with any committees, this is what I would do!

Mark Harris' essay is the key. I would propose that the Communion is indeed a flexible community of mutual regard rather than a fixed moral community, and thus it is an organic body, capable of adapting to changing circumstances. In particular, I would remind all and sundry of the following changing circumstances: the potential of D025 and C056 to not restrain TEC from further non-compliance with Windsor, and the existence of ACNA.

I would accept Bob Duncan's analysis that within the life of world Anglicanism 'Jerusalem' and 'Babylon' are firmly present, but I would refrain from accepting his equation of TEC with Babylon, proposing instead that judgement be suspended on which city is which church. I would refuse to countenance the expulsion or suspension of TEC from the Communion, but solely on the grounds that doing so would be to expel Windsor compliant Anglicans.

Then, on the grounds that the Communion is an organic body capable of adaptation, I would welcome ACNA into the Communion as a full member of the Communion. I would then ask that we all get on with our respective missions according to the gospel as we understand it, and meet together in one giant Anglican Congress in 2028 (2018 Lambeth having been skipped, and the funds saved put towards the cost of 2028).

In 2028 it should be clear whether TEC is on death watch (as Bob Duncan's analysis implies), ACNA has imploded (as many pundits cheerfully predict), or Islamists have taken over the world as we know it. :)

Anglicanism, liberal or conservative, or ...?

First, an excellent commentary from the Anglican Communion Institute on the meaning of the TEC resolutions D025 and C056. (Remember, ACI's general thrust is, Support TEC, Not support ACNA, Encourage TEC to comply with Windsor etc - a conservative strategy within TEC).

Its conclusion is:

"Whatever one makes of the resolutions of the last two General Conventions, it is clear that TEC has now charted its own course and no longer considers itself bound by previous undertakings and Communion moratoria."

In short, that course is being charted is in an explicitly 'liberal' or 'progressive' direction, relative to the innate conservatism of the Communion.

Many things can be said about such a direction, from cheering it on to condemning it. But whether our passion is to move forward in a progressive or conservative direction, extremes should be avoided (common sense suggests). Thus readers might find this column by leading US political commentator David Brooks sobering. In it he makes the point that the Republican party has lost its way because it has lost touch with middle America ... and the Democratic party is rapidly going the same way with its 'don't care, won't listen' attitude to increasing the deficit and the tax take! Each party seems bound to the extremes, rather than guided by the middle.

Lessons to be learned for world Anglicanism?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


One of the reasons I think ACNA deserves a place in the Anglican Communion fold is that I trust its leadership, and I trust those who have made the decision to walk from TEC (and ACCan), that in their judgement the best way forward for Anglican mission in North America is to not be a part of a church which has made its particular decisions in respect of homosexuality. This trust is partly on the basis of what I have been reading over the years, it is also partly, and importantly, on the basis of personal knowledge of some Anglicans in ACNA.

Clearly there is another way forward in mission, as each of ACCan and TEC believe. Also clearly there are conservative Anglicans in each church who believe it is viable for them to remain as a minority within each church.

I realise the remaining presence of conservatives in TEC and ACCan raises the question whether the ACNA departees needed to depart since, apparently, it is viable to remain as a conservative in TEC. But I suggest that the 'viability' of remaining will vary from diocese to diocese, church to church, and from person to person. Some churches will not be pressuring their clergy to lead them out of TEC; others will have done so, or be currently doing so. Some clergy will have a different staying power to remain in a difficult situation.

The fact is, for all sorts of reasons, some of which are less laudable than others (one supposes), a significant major new grouping of Anglicans has been formed in North America. It is keen to remain Anglican in structure, tradition, theology, and liturgy. It is particularly keen to be in communion with the Anglican Communion. Though some think it a fly-by-night operation that will fall over at the first dispute, there are grounds for thinking that this new formation will not just survive but thrive. It has, for instance, some pretty solid leadership, some good theologians, and some strong support from the Communion of which it is not formally a part.

By contrast, TEC, which remains a very strong Anglican church numerically and financially (for the time being, see my post below), is out of kilter with much of the Anglican Communion. Being out of kilter is not grounds for expelling it from the Communion, but might it be grounds for considering the claims of an alternative Anglican province which is thinking and acting significantly in harmony with much of the Communion? Including TEC and ACNA (and ACCan) in the Communion would be a way of including a balanced Anglicanism from North America in the Communion!

Some might say that it is unprecedented to have two such provinces operating in the same land mass. Apart from the response that it may not be completely unprecedented when one observes the two dioceses of Europe, are we not in unprecedented territory in any case with Anglican churches making formal moves to accept the ordination of gay and lesbian bishops and to provide pastoral resources for the blessings of same sex partnerships with the explicit authorization of the General Convention?

The future of TEC

I am not forgetting a promise to post soon on why I believe that both TEC and ACNA have a place in the Anglican Communion sun, but time is not quite available to me yet. A moment or two is available to observe that interesting questions emerge from the GC at Anaheim about the future of TEC (as, indeed, they do about each western Anglican church these days ... we all seem to struggle with falling numbers and diminishing funds). But the TEC future is at least especially interesting in this way: there is a view I have come across that goes like this, the hesitancy of the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a strict application of the Windsor Report, Primates communiques and the like, is due to the (understandable) hesitancy of the Anglican Communion leadership to bite the hand (TEC) which feeds it. So if TEC's future is blooming and rosy, it is likely to share the blessing with the Communion. But if there is a different future ...? Indeed, paradoxically for critics of TEC, the controversial resolution D025 includes commitment to TEC's financial support of the Communion.

What of the future of TEC? A church with a budget of $141,271,984.00 (for the next three years) is not going to cease existence before its next triennial convention! Nevertheless, this budget figure, astronomical for a tiny church such as my own, is much diminished on its initial draft of $161,791,177. The difference between draft and final budget has seen various national ministries cut, including TEC's office of evangelism. I assume some of this diminishment is due to the recession's impact on investments. Some I also assume is due to diminished expectations about parishioner's contributions in weekly offertories.

A.S. Haley at Anglican Curmudgeon makes some careful observations about the situation. Here I present three of them. (Incidentally, he has a special interest in his blog on the litigation cases proceeding between TEC and departing churches, so the costs of litigation in the budget receive repeated attention below).

Will TEC's reinforcement of openness to gay and lesbian bishops, and to sanctioned blessings of same-sex couples grow its numbers or decrease them?

"5. With the collective change in mind, the commitment to restraint is now solely on a bishop-by-bishop and standing committee-by-standing committee basis. The confirmation of the election of a practicing LGBT to the episcopate in ECUSA will happen when it happens --- but it will happen; and the blessing and celebration of same-sex unions will continue at a now-quickened pace.

6. The acid test of this outcome, brought to you by Integrity and the other activists in ECUSA, will be what happens to the attendance figures by the time of GC 2012. Susan Russell+ claims the numbers will increase; Father Tim Fountain is already reporting exactly the opposite. We shall see, and the numbers will not lie (unless they change the method of counting by then)."

The costs of schism are real costs: litigation and sustaining of re-constituted dioceses are included in the budget.

"7. The budget for the triennium 2009-12 is reduced by $23 million, but still includes $3 million earmarked for litigation against departing dioceses and bishops, and still more money earmarked for support for the remnant groups who cannot sustain themselves as Dioceses on their own."

TEC's final budget is such a reduction on the draft budget that the question of a possible downward trend cannot be avoided:

"8. The thing to notice about the numbers is their trends. The budget is shrinking overall, as are the expected contributions from Dioceses from 2009 to 2012. Meanwhile, the Budget Committee was compelled to increase the item for litigation over the next triennium from $1.8 million to $3 million, and the financial support required for the remnants to hang on while their litigation is being carried on for them will increase as well. The staff of ECUSA is losing 37 positions, but Goodwin Procter is hiring more attorneys, and the Presiding Bishop is not cutting her own personal litigation consultant --- whom she has to help her in addition to her Chancellor."

If more parishes and dioceses leave TEC, their litigation and support-for-re-constituted dioceses are likely to increase, and contributions decrease further. None of this means the imminent demise of TEC, but surely there must come a point when TEC support for the Anglican Communion is affected by these developments? I imagine that TEC's national office will be intensely interested in attendance and giving figures over the next three years. Another $20 million reduction in its budget would be a sobering prospect, not only for the ministries that would be curtailed, but also for the questions which arise about whether the direction in mission it is pursuing through resolutions such as D025 and C056 has been correctly chosen.

My interest in these things in respect of ACANZP is this: I believe that if we formally pursue through General Synod resolution a similar course to TEC we will lose parishioners. Sometimes it is right to stand the potential loss of parishioners through standing for what is right and true. But in the particular case of ordination and liturgies for people in same-sex relationships, it is not crystal clear that this is a matter of what is right and true. It is also possible that a church could pursue such a pathway of 'inclusion' in respect of such matters that it goes out of existence. At that point all are excluded! Is that the right and true thing to do?

The converse is important here. Very important. If TEC can grow its numbers (and increase its budget) then it offers hope not only to itself, but also to its admirers (and, in broad terms, I think ACANZP is one of those). Hope, that is, that a particular liberal, progressive course of action in respect of inclusiveness is a fruitful sowing of gospel seed.

Thus the future of TEC is a matter of great interest abroad!

PS On the recurring question of whether TEC is orthodox or not, I note this paragraph in the blog report of the Bishop of Nevada, Dan Thomas Edwards:

"We had some opportunities to depart from the traditional faith of the church. There were resolutions deleting the word “virgin” from descriptions of Mary in our prayers and authorizing alternative forms of the Baptismal Covenant. We did not do these things. The bishops and deputies were emphatically orthodox."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Schism is for losers, winners preach the gospel

The big picture. At a time like this it simply has to be kept in view, otherwise we Anglicans are going to run around like headless chooks. Philip Jenkins, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is here to help us.

Introducing the question of schism and Anglicanism

"For a decade now, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) has been bitterly divided over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy. The matter reached a new intensity this past week when the church's triennial convention ended the ban on gay candidates serving in ordained ministry. After years of protesting ECUSA's liberal policies and doctrines, seceding conservatives have now organized a rival church -- the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA -- which claims 100,000 believers, compared with two million in ECUSA. This week's dramatic decision is sure to widen the rift even further, causing what church historians might officially label a "schism."

The presiding bishop of the mainstream Episcopal grouping, Katherine Jefferts Schori, predictably condemns ACNA, protesting that "schism is not a Christian act." But it is not wholly clear who is seceding from whom. In approving gay bishops, ECUSA is defying the global Anglican Communion, which had begged Americans not to take a move that could provoke believers in other parts of the world. The Anglican Communion, though noticeably "progressive" in its American and British forms, is a world-wide church of 80 million. Indeed, the majority of Anglicans today live in African and Asian countries where progressive views are not so eagerly embraced. For American conservatives, it is Bishop Jefferts Schori's church that has seceded from global Anglicanism."

Schism, in the end, is a verdict of history, not normally applied to the breakaway movement which flourishes

"Although the recent Episcopalian saga might seem to have been going on for a long time, it may actually be in its early stages: Churches normally agonize for many years before coming to the breaking point. Western Catholics and Eastern Orthodox jousted with each other for well over a century before plunging into the Great Schism of 1054, at which point they became, in practice, two distinct churches. American Protestant denominations debated the slavery question in the early decades of the 19th century, culminating in a series of traumatic splits in the mid-1840s. Schism is considered such an ugly development that it is usually avoided at all costs -- until tensions become intolerable. Even then, it is preceded by patched-up compromises and interventions. We may well see a process like this in the Anglican world over the next four or five years.

But is schism truly so awful? A lot depends on the outcome. If a new movement fails, it enters the history books as "schismatic"; if it flourishes, it simply becomes a new church or a new denomination."

Good can come from an action some predetermine to be unChristian

"But some dissent ends up being far from trivial. The Anglican Communion itself began in schism, when England's King Henry VIII broke away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. And his new Anglican church itself produced at least one wildly successful breakaway: The Methodist movement of the 18th century emerged within an Anglican framework. Its leaders, including John Wesley, were desperately eager to avoid any break with Mother Church, but the inevitable schism occurred after Wesley's death in 1791. Today, Methodists count around 75 million followers world-wide. Both Anglicans and Methodists would be shocked to hear their origins described in terms of schism."

Posing a question re ACNA which actually applies to all churches!

"So will America's new Anglican breakaway succeed? A church, like a business, will grow if it can draw consumers whose needs are presently unmet and if it can present its product, its message, in singularly attractive ways. It remains to be seen whether the Anglican Church in North America can appeal to mainstream Episcopalians who are uncomfortable with its strongly evangelical-charismatic flavor."

In other words, the 'big picture' here, for all Anglican acronyms (ACNA, TEC, C of E, GAFCON, FCA, ACANZP, ACCan, CANA, ...) is as much 'can we get along?' as 'do we have a message which will convert the world?'

Methodism was a movement begun with preaching the gospel, and continued with missionary endeavour (particularly notable in the South Pacific islands). The Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic church are worldwide churches because both won converts through preaching the gospel, not merely because colonization spread a whole bunch of European people through the world. (I think one could argue that the post-1054 Eastern Orthodox church is only now waking up to its responsibility to preach the gospel - its presence in the world beyond Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, is largely a product of emigration). TEC is a missionary church. ACNA will be one. But the gospel messages each preaches in the course of the next 50 years will have differences. Time will tell which is better attuned for Americans shaped by the specific flavours of American 21st century culture (and sub-cultures).

ACNA's special challenge will be to avoid the decline of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a breakaway movement from TEC in the 19th century which we can now (I suggest) judge to be a schism:

"One of the rare survivors is the Reformed Episcopal Church that seceded in 1873, but today it claims a mere 13,000 members."

TEC's special challenge will be to stay the course and prove they are following God's will. As Jenkins observes, with respect to the so-called Gamaliel principle, "If these troublesome dissidents are following their own human interests, they'll fail; but if they are following God's will, nothing can stop them and others should not interfere." In this case the application of the principle concerns TEC as 'dissidents' relative to the Communion, but, naturally, it also applies to ACNA relative to TEC, the FCA relative to the C of E, etc.

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we Anglicans do not, in my view, spend sufficient time thinking about our 'product' or our 'message'. Actually, it is not just Anglicans who are not addressing this issue!

PS For a nuanced, sensitive accounting for the actions of TEC at the GC, read Jim Naughton's post in the Guardian.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

TEC's faith: Jesus is Lord

In the turmoil of comment and reaction to the General Convention (which, I remind overseas readers, is reported on our NZ newspapers, and is noted by our church members, who engage their vicars with 'what's going on in this church to which I belong?' type questions), we can forget that TEC is an Anglican church with a creedal faith. One resolution at the Convention just finished is A074 which affirms that Jesus is Lord. I would like to be able to reproduce the resolution in full, but the link to it is broken (as I write; is there another one?).

UPDATE: the link is working. Read the resolution in full here. The relevant paragraph is this: "We affirm the foundational Gospel proclamation that "Jesus is Lord" (I Corinthians12:3 NRSV here and hereafter) , and therefore' Summary of God's Law: "love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your souls, and with all your minds, and to love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:29-31; BCP, Catechism, page 851). For this reason we reach out in love and genuine openness to know and to understand those of other religions." The confession is weakened, however, by a distinct failure in this resolution, when it speaks at some length about evangelism, to say anything about the imperative to win people from other faiths and no faith to Christ. END OF UPDATE.

However I have come across this post about the resolution which I share with you:

"Resolution A074 is from the General Convention Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue. This is a Committee of which I am a member and I also serve on the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious which has worked on perfecting this document for over five years. It is still not perfect, but it is a superb document that seeks to articulate a rationale for the Episcopal Church to enter into interreligious dialog. It explores who we are as The Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion and why we are interested in interreligious relationships. The core of the document begins with the words, “We affirm the foundational Gospel proclamation the “Jesus is Lord.” We are committed to share who and whose we are and to know all of God’s children. This document is for those in congregations and Diocesan Committees who want to have a theological and practical context in which to engage in interreligious dialog. One other aspect of the document is its understanding of sharing with each other. This work is important as the world we engage continues to become more pluralistic and we encounter more people who are not Christian. It is my hope that this is an area that we as a diocese will be able to engage more fully."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Breaking news: C056 confirmed in HOD

By a two-thirds majority the House of Deputies has passed C056 which gives carte blanche to bishops and dioceses to develop pastoral responses for same sex partnerships (i.e. same sex blessing liturgical resources).

Between the two resolutions, D025 and C056, TEC has, more or less, by a two-thirds decisive majority signaled that it continues on a pathway of response to homosexuality which is at variance with all published indications of the mind of the Anglican Communion (Lambeth 1.10, Windsor, Primates Communiques).

The Communion must now either break fellowship with TEC (for a season at least) or rapidly articulate an agreed manner of walking with one of its members while in profound and widespread disagreement with that member. Either way must require some kind of meeting together of ... well, that is one problem we have, is it not? When it comes to decisive action we are neither papal nor conciliar!

This is not a moment for triumph (pace those who have said, 'We have told you this was coming, why did you not act before?) but for careful thought and much prayer. At the core of this dilemma for the Communion is not a simple question of rules, members, and discipline for infraction of the rules, but a search in the post-modern age for a theologically sound response to questions of human relationships. In this case that search includes understanding tradition and Scripture in a shared fellowship of Anglicans determined to find the mind of Christ together. We are not 'together' at this point in time.

Has TEC discovered the mind of Christ in a progressive manner, years, even centuries ahead of the rest of us? Or, has TEC mistaken the mind of Christ, the knowledge of which is securely lodged in those parts of the Communion which are more in step with Rome and Constantinople than Anaheim?

For a devastating critique of the actions of the PB and the President of the House of Deputies writing letters to the ABC and the Primates, suggesting various ways in which these letters dissemble while also betraying an anxiety about future relationships with the Communion, read Baby Blue Online's post. For the record, Baby Blue is at Anaheim, a first-hand witness!

No clearer about lack of clarity than this

The Presiding Bishop of TEC and the President of the House of Deputies have written to the ABC offering an explanation of the context of D025 and providing a response about its actual meaning in the face of so many interpretations around the globe. Read the letter here.

Intriguingly the letter includes this paragraph:

"Some are concerned that the adoption of Resolution D025 has effectively repealed Resolution B033. That is not the case. This General Convention has not repealed Resolution B033. It remains to be seen how Resolution B033 will be understood and interpreted in light of Resolution D025."

Now if one does not repeal a law or resolution or guideline but acknowledges that because of another law or resolution or guideline it is not now clear how the first will be interpreted in the light of the second, it is quite unclear what the effect of the first will be from now on, and it is quite possible that the effect of the second will nullify the first.

In other words, that there is a lack of clarity about the effect of D025 can be no clearer than this: the two most powerful leaders of TEC have said, We do not know how this will pan out!

Arithmetic of dissent

One fascinating observation re the GC at Anaheim concerns some numbers for dissenting votes and stands. Recall that once D025 passed there has been widespread debate as to whether this resolution means the end of the moratorium (2006-present) on ordaining gay or lesbian bishops. The vote in the House of Bishops was 99-44. Given that the resolution was a carefully crafted descriptive statement of where things stand in TEC, it was only objectionable inasmuch as it was perceived to also be prescriptive and/or liable to be perceived by the Communion as going against the requests of the Communion, it seems reasonable to interpret the 44 votes against as 44 bishops concerned to hold the line on the moratorium. Or, is it?

You see when the House of Bishops voted on C056, the resolution concerning the GC approved exploration and experimentation with pastoral resources for same sex partnerships and marriages (with specific reference to US states amending their laws to enable such things to happen), the vote was 104-30-(2 abstentions). Given that this resolution also constituted a moving away from the wishes of the Communion, it intrigues me no end that 44 bishops has diminished to 30+2=32!

Now we have news of the 'Anaheim Statement', a statement drafted by a bishop which has secured other signatures (I will give the total in a moment). This statement sets out to demonstrate that for one group of bishops within TEC they are personally committed to these reaffirmations:

"We seek to provide the same honesty and clarity. We invite all bishops who share the following commitments to join us in this statement as we seek to find a place in the Church we continue to serve.

We reaffirm our constituent membership in the Anglican Communion, our communion with the See of Canterbury and our commitment to preserving these relationships.

We reaffirm our commitment to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them (BCP 526, 538)

We reaffirm our commitment to the three moratoria requested of us by the instruments of Communion.

We reaffirm our commitment to the Anglican Communion Covenant process currently underway, with the hope of working toward its implementation across the Communion once a Covenant is completed.

We reaffirm our commitment to “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” which is foundational to our baptismal covenant, and to be one with the apostles in “interpreting the Gospel” which is essential to our work as bishops of the Church of God."

How many bishops have signed up to this statement? 29 according to this report. Arguably the 29 are more or less the 30 who voted against C056 (say, one got on an early plane home) ... except that the same report suggests that two of the 29 voted for D025 and C056!

Obviously some bishops have thought and felt differently between each of the two resolutions and the invitation to sign the Anaheim statement. Any which way the figures are interpreted, it seems that less than a third of the US bishops are committed to doing whatever it takes to remain in full communion with the Communion, and more than two-thirds are willing to move into a future in which continuing full communion is at risk.

The Anaheim Statement, incidentally, is interesting on several fronts:

(a) the respectful way in which it has been received (e.g. at Preludium) is a reminder that TEC is a church which values its conservative voices.

(b) its expressed commitments to communion with Canterbury implies these bishops will be working on ways to be in communion with Canterbury even if TEC itself moves out of, or is removed out of communion with Canterbury.

(c) it enables the wider communion to remember that conservative Anglicans in North America are not solely found within ACNA. Conservatives working on inclusion of conservative North America Anglicans in the Communion need to work on a solution which includes all conservative Anglicans. One such solution, of course, is to include ACNA and to not exclude TEC!

Friday, July 17, 2009

For and against the inclusion of ACNA in the Communion

A voice for inclusion, none other than the Church Times:

"But unless the Communion can embrace ACNA, whose views are no different from many African provinces, and the US Episcopal Church and its web of global sympathisers, it is not trying hard enough. The great challenge of the 21st century is how people of different faiths can live together. If Christians cannot find the love that transcends differences within their own Church, how can they speak about unity to others in parts of the world where it is a matter of life and death?"

The whole editorial is worth reading ...

Then Midwest Conservative Journal is not so keen on the idea:

"My major problem with a parallel province is the theological incoherence such an arrangement will necessitate. Official recognition of both the Anglican Church in North America and the Episcopal Organization will mean that international Anglican Christianity will contain member churches that preach two mutually-exclusive ideas.

Allow that and you’re asking for a repeat of all this down the road somewhere, sooner rather than later. Because TEO will, sooner rather than later, come up with another “prophetic” invention which will shake the Communion to its foundations again. Better to lance that boil right now.

Can a parallel province work? Sure it can. TEO will still attempt to sue ACNA parishes and dioceses out of their real estate and the Communion won’t do anything about the legal attacks on its parallel province but that hopefully won’t matter too much as long as ACNA maintains its zeal for true Christian missions and church planting.

Will a parallel province work? Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m not hopeful."

On this occasion I will stick with the Church Times.

Will the train crash?

Car crash or train crash, the imagery of where the Anglican Communion heading is not particularly life enhancing! To reiterate my own position, even if it is held by a minority of one, the Communion ought to hold together with TEC in it, and ACNA brought into it. Despite many jaundiced comments against it, based, it must be said, on appearances to the contrary, TEC has not actually repudiated the creeds or authorized liturgy worshipping other gods. To do this would be a challenge, and would involve some walking apart, for a while at least. The analogy, since we are talking about sexuality in the church of Henry VIII, would be that some separation might be necessary for the relationship between TEC and the Communion, but divorce does not need to be the outcome.

Realistically, however, there will be people with aspirations to be train drivers keen to get onto the locomotive, with a view as to the destination the train ought to end at. Steer a train off the rails and there will be a crash! See Ruth Gledhill's post, for example, to get a sense of prognostications being made. Will God be gracious and assist us to keep the train on the track? Here are my set of talking points for their Graces the world over to consider:

(1) Did God ever give up on Israel? Will he ever give up on the church? God did not. God will not. We should not either!

(2) We can, with God's help, love TEC with a love not only as deep and broad as the ocean, but willing to understand each aspect of their decisions, including the aspect of care for the human dignity of gay and lesbian members of their church. Out of that love we can find a way to live with disagreement - a way that will, for a time at least, be different to the way the Communion has been till now. (Note: to not love TEC because they appear not to love their African sisters and brothers is childish).

(3) We should focus in our own member churches of the Communion on our own processes for engaging with the reality of difference in our midst. Where we think TEC has taken the wrong pathway for welcome and inclusion of gay and lesbian people, what is the alternative we are offering which is theologically orthodox and graciously loving?

(4) We must face squarely the challenge of being truly inclusive. This inclusion is both about those supporting same-sex blessings and those not, those supporting the ordination of women and those not. One critique of TEC is that it has included one group of people at the expense of another. If the Communion cannot do better, then we shall split!

(5) One sign (but only one) of a different breadth of inclusion by the Communion would be to hasten the full membership of ACNA in the Communion. (However ACNA would need to drop all talk of aspiring to replace TEC and ACCan). Note: once ACNA was included, 'cross-border' excursions by bishops should fade away as ACNA elects its own bishops.

(6) Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report should be reaffirmed by the ABC and the Primates so that the Communion is clear that TEC's continued membership is precisely acknowledging of their disagreement with Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report, rather than pretending otherwise.

(7) A new climate of appreciation of GAFCON, FCA, and the like should be encouraged! The health of the Communion depends on communication and relationships. Let the conservatives meet together with joy and not suspicion. Likewise the liberals and the moderates, the Anglo-Catholics and the evangelicals. But let all such meetings dismiss talk of separation and talk instead of how their particular perspective can enrich the life of the Communion.

(8) Learn from the Roman Catholics! We seem so frightened of things which might help us, such as 'alternative episcopal oversight'. For centuries Roman Catholics have lived with 'alternatives' in their midst: Marist priests and parishes, for example, mingling side-by-side with diocesan priests and parishes. To be sure there is only one bishop of the diocese, but they are not completely in control of all their appointments!

(9) Commit and re-commit to study, to listening, to learning about Scripture and being human. This point is brilliantly made by More than a via media.

(10) Let God be God ... gracious, loving, forgiving, patient, merciful beyond our conception.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's a home run

Do D025 and C056 mean business as usual for TEC and thus for its relationship with the Anglican Communion? I think not, and I am not alone. Mark Harris of Preludium is in a particularly chirpy mood with a post celebrating the passing of D025 and looking forward to the House of Deputies confirming C056. The post is entitled One Two Buckle My Shoe.

In this post he clarifies his conviction that D025 means no more moratorium:

"The general assessment of what D025 means took several forms today: (i) these are the facts 'on the ground' and we love the Anglican Communion, our gay and lesbian companions, and oh yes, the moratorium (if there ever was one) is now a matter of individual conscience and not church wide pressure. (ii) Sure these are the facts on the ground and yes we do love the Anglican Communion but we are not sure that other Churches love us and oh yes, the moratorium is as much in place as it ever was as a call to restraint. (iii) D025 is a fudge and was not particularly honest, just compromising.

All in all I side with the first view. And I believe it is an important stepping stone on the way to stating with greater courage that we are inclusive of gay and lesbian people. We have no business in being overly proud of our inclusivity, but we might be beginning to scrape by. It's a start. So, time to put on those shoes and walk. Later we can run, and later crawl."

I think he is right. I particularly think that D025 is no compromise: if it were the vote would have been much more decisive than the 2:1 majority in the House of Bishops.

What to do? Mark Harris anticipates the possible reaction tomorrow to the passing of C056:

"If that happens, sure as the sunrise the day after tomorrow the howl will rise from those who have decided that that's the last straw, the Communion is broken, the end of all things Anglican has come, and it's all those damn Episcopalians' fault."

I wonder if we can do better than howl? I wonder also if we can avoid blaming people. Mark Harris predicts Episcopalians being blamed. But Midwest Conservative Journal places the blame squarely on Archbishop Rowan Williams shoulders. Swinging blame around like a cat in a hotel room achieves what?

Is it time to grow up as a Communion? TEC has made its future direction clear. Many will not like this. Probably more than those who do like it. Many will be angry that a lot of patience and generosity has been shown to TEC in the hope that it's direction might conform more closely to the Communion majority, to the mind of the Communion expressed in Lambeth 1.10 (1998). That is not to be. But does that mean howls and tantrums, splits and schisms must follow? Anger may be justified in the morning, but we should not go to our beds angry! It is going to take mature adult behaviour to handle this situation, to remain in relationship even with those we disagree with most severely. And the relationship may well change for a time, more an email and text relationship than an intimate face to face friendship.

For those conservatives most disappointed with TEC at this time, there is the challenge of remembering just who agrees with us: many who are still in TEC as well as those in ACNA. That is reason enough not to walk away from TEC even if for a time we feel the need to walk apart.

We might, incidentally, at this time congratulate Archbishop Rowan Williams for having the steel to walk this far with TEC, knowing, surely, that it would end this way, with American autonomy intact and the Communion, should foolishness prevail, in tatters.

Like a snowball rolling downhill

D025 is now joined by C056 as a landmark resolution of GC. As far as I can tell, this is the resolution agreed to by 104-30 votes (2 abstentions) in the House of Bishops, cited from Stand Firm:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological, and liturgical resources and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consulation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further

Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further

Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort."

Is it a problem that no limits are put on "theological diversity"?

Why is the vote in the House of Bishops on this matter more decisive than for D025?

Is the church in any sense compelled to create new liturgies to follow a country's revision of its civil laws pertaining to relationships?

The dilemma we are in

This video may be a bit long to watch in toto for busy people ...

... but it is interesting in a couple of respects. One is that listening carefully to some comments I realise that TEC is not as clearly and confidently the 'gay church' (of Bishop Gene Robinson's description) as some conservative commentators observe. But it is getter closer to being so.

The second point of interest is the utter confidence and certainty that gay is okay for the church expressed by some of the more famous TEC voices, the epitome of which might be this point in Bishop Barbara Harris' sermon:

"“Don’t initiate someone and then act like they’re half-ass baptized.”"

That's got me thinking a little.

Across the Communion (and ACNA) we have a range of views re homosexuality from the certain it's okay to the certain it's not okay with variations in between, some of which would emphasise 'the need for more study', others the general ambiguity of understanding God's will which is clear on the dignity of all human beings and clear on the prescription for people desiring to be obedient to that will, 'marriage or celibacy'. Then there would be others (including myself) who worry that saying 'yes' to gay relationships necessarily means a significant revision of Christian doctrine of 'marriage'. Still others can accept a place for TEC in the Communion and places for pro-gay clergy, local churches, and theologies within individual member churches of the Communion, but worry that by not making this place together, the Communion will be irrevocably torn asunder. Lastly, but not exhaustively, we might note those who believe a pastoral response can be made to gay and lesbian Christians which falls short of affirmation of same-sex blessings and denies that this constitutes an expression of homophobia!

But let me here focus a sentence or two on the ones who are 'certain' of their views (on one side and the other). Would it be impertinent of me to raise the question whether each side understands carefully and creatively the other side? When one side slings the arrow of 'homophobia', is that a response which exhibits true understanding of the theology, motivations, and depth of love of God and of fellow human beings of the targets of that word? Conversely, when one side slings the arrows of 'heresy' or 'unbiblical', is that a response which exhibits true understanding of the theology, motivations, and depth of love of God and of fellow human beings of the targets of those words?

Could we resolve the dilemma we are in as a Communion if we listened to each other, with as many blinkers and blindspots removed as possible?

D025: will we only know what it means when we see the next Genes?

Running round the internet this morning the arguments about D025's true meaning continue. Preludium thinks Canterbury too quick off the mark, and emphasises the great sadness of TEC's re-affirmed commitment to the Communion being ignored. George Conger at The Living Church provides a very useful report of what many bishops said during the debate. When some think D025 does repeal B033 and some do not, there is reason for both cases to be advanced by others. More than a via media, noting the Conger article, highlights the arrogance of Bruno of Los Angeles claiming that no more theological study is required on homosexuality. Then (H/T to a commenter) there is a thoughtful, sane reflection by Bob Chapman at Writing while on a VTX which is well worth reading.

I am beginning to see that debate on the meaning of D025 is becoming a waste of time. We simply wait for the coming of the next Gene Robinson to determine that the +Toms and ++Rowans are right.

On a slightly different note, Ruth Gledhill reveals that it was she who asked +Tom Wright to write his Times piece that is creating more than a few waves for observers to surf on. (I note this presumptuous comment which mentions NZ: "PS. While I do not think that the state should enforce belief, I do think that if the Church of England decides to go into schism with Anglicans in the US, Canada, and New Zealand, *over the issue of homosexuality*, then it is indeed time for the CoE to be disestablished. We cannot have as a state church an institution which has made homophobia into a doctrine. POSTED BY: PAUL HALSALL | 15 JUL 2009 16:39:14". Great.) Gledhill's post also mentions a side-and-to-the-north issue the C of E is having about the Church of Sweden's moves to rewrite marriage doctrine - a church with which the C of E is in full communion. The key letter is here.)

Finally, I said in a post below that I respect Mark Harris who is at the Convention. I also respect Kendall Harmon. This is what he has to say on D025:

"The passage of Resolution D025 by the General Convention of 2009 is a repudiation of Holy Scripture as the church has received and understood it ecumenically in the East and West. It is also a clear rejection of the mutual responsibility and interdependence to which we are called as Anglicans. That it is also a snub to the Archbishop of Canterbury this week while General Synod is occurring in York only adds insult to injury.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the BBC, the New York Times and Integrity all see what is being done here. There are now some participants in the 76th General Convention who are trying to pretend that a yes to D025 is NOT a no to B033. Jesus’ statement about letting your yes be yes and your no be no is apt here. These types of attempted obfuscations are utterly unconvincing. The Bishop of Arizona rightly noted in his blog that D025 was "a defacto repudiation of" B033.

The presuppositions of Resolution D025 are revealing. For a whole series of recent General Conventions resolutions have been passed which are thought to be descriptive by some, but understood to be prescriptive by others. The 2007 Primates Communique spoke to this tendency when they stated “they deeply regret a lack of clarity”on the part of the 75th General Convention.

What is particularly noteworthy, however, is that Episcopal Church Resolutions and claimed stances said to be descriptive at one time are more and more interpreted to be prescriptive thereafter. Now, in Resolution D025, the descriptive and the prescriptive have merged. You could hear this clearly in the floor debates in the two Houses where speakers insisted “This is who we are!”

Those involved in pastoral care know that when a relationship is deeply frayed when one or other party insists “this is who I am” the outcome will be disastrous. The same will be the case with D025, both inside the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

D025 is the proud assertion of a church of self-authentication and radical autonomy.

It is a particularly ugly sight.

--The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is Canon Theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Does D025 supersede B033?

Some say Yes. Some say No. A commenter on a post below suggests I, Bishop Tom Wright and all are too hasty in assuming that B033 days are numbered. I turn therefore to Mark Harris of Preludium. I respect Mark. He is at the Convention. He says this:

"It is helpful to remember that B033 was itself not a clear moratorium, but rather a church-wide cautionary urging. It was as close as the last convention could get to a moratorium and was understood to make it virtually impossible for a gay - in - relationship bishop elect to get the required consents from bishops and standing committees of dioceses. What D025 does is to return the matter of restraint to the diocese and its bishop, and retains the canonical provisions for election to the Episcopate in place. The end result is that bishops and standing committees are free to exercise their conscience as always."

I understand this to mean that it is possible that TEC might continue to observe a moratorium in the sense that each and every diocese will choose not to present gay and lesbian candidates. However we can observe that such candidates were presented for election in the past three years. What Mark Harris says is also consistent with the possibility that if and when a gay or lesbian bishop-elect is presented for confirmation to the whole church, the majority of bishops and standing committees might choose to accede to the spirit of B033 and not give consent.

But when Mark says that B033 was not itself a clear moratorium and that D025 makes a change to the situation ("return"), I fail to see that B033 has any legislative power to restrain TEC should its mood be to move beyond the spirit of B033. In other words, a TEC spokesperson can say that B033 remains in place, but the effect of D025 means that it cannot be confidently said that it remains in force. Not least because it never had any force in itself, although it did give voice to a wish of TEC to restrain from ordaining further gay or lesbian bishops.

I am sure +Tom Wright and many other commentators who share my view that restraint is at an end with D025 will be happy to be proven wrong!

Why a walking apart will take place, even between TEC and the C of E

Building on some posts below, I attempt to explain why a walking apart between TEC and many Anglican churches, even moderate ones such as the C of E is likely. (I focus on the episcopacy because that is the area of church ministry where the Windsor Report called for restraint, and was the area in which TEC had committed itself, over the past three years, to a moratorium).

In essence what has been confirmed with resolution D025 is this: TEC has solved the problem of whether candidates for episcopal office in same-sex partnered relationships live holy lives by redefining what characterises a holy sexual relationship: a non-celibate candidate does not need to be in a marriage (between a man and a woman) but in a relationship marked by fidelity, stability, permanence, and love. Other Anglican churches either reject this solution outright, or remain as yet unconvinced of the validity of the solution, and continue to require celibacy or marriage of their episcopal candidates. Here then are two points of divergence in walking together: point 1 being TEC's assumption of authority, independent of the Communion, to redefine Christian doctrine on an issue that matters to the Communion; point 2 being the application of this authority to yield a different and, in many places, objectionable, standard of conduct for its bishops.

But the divergence is extended as observers realise that significant tracts of theological thinking within TEC challenge a variety of other points of orthodox Anglican theology - it is not as though TEC thinks the same as the rest of us, except in the one area of human sexuality. [Original sentences at this point omitted in light of comments suggesting I am misunderstanding things re a resolution on the uniqueness of Christ which was lost on a technicality and not substantively.]

Despite many concerns being raised over the years by other churches in the Communion, the leniency of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, inasmuch as he is argued to have undermined various resolutions of Primates' Meetings and the like in order to present TEC with 'yet another chance,' the sheer passage of time so that TEC might revise its revisions of common Anglican understandings of holiness in respect of the episcopacy, TEC has now - at last, many on all sides might say - made its definitive, utterly clear stand. It will not turn its back on Bishop Gene Robinson, and it is completely open through its processes to there being many more Gene Robinsons.

Even for the Church of England, even under the leadership of Archbishop Rowan Williams, this stand, I suggest, is too far from it's own approach for warm support, hand in hand walking together to take place with TEC in the future. This is now not just about ++Rowan placating the extremists, doing whatever he can to avoid schism. This is about the C of E identifying that a gulf in theology has opened up between the 'hard left' of TEC, and the 'centre-left' which the C of E is trying to steer along. Now ++Rowan need no longer play a 'wait and see what TEC's decision will be, it might be okay, folks'. No, the decision has been made and ++Rowan can be clear with his flock: our pathway will be this, not that. As well, he and his General Synod can seriously entertain dialogue with ACNA. The distance between the C of E and ACNA is now less than between the C of E and TEC.

Whatever we think about the decisions of this General Convention, whether we are passionate supporters or unrelenting critics, we should be able to agree that TEC has knowingly made a decision to walk a pathway which most of the Communion will not support at this time, and in the foreseeable future. Just what that lack of support will mean is something I do not wish, today, to guess at in respect of people not turning up to Communion meetings and the like. But I sense that it will, unexpectedly, mean that a warm welcome awaits ACNA from a number of Anglican churches. For ACNA now stands more closely aligned in doctrine with the majority of Anglican churches than does TEC. When sufficient churches make their welcome, ACNA will be included as a full member of the Anglican Communion.

In the meantime it might be helpful to ACNA's cause if it spoke nicely about TEC and the dilemma it has placed itself in.