Saturday, October 31, 2009

An odd situation in Christchurch

My life is in a bit of upheaval at the moment. Through this year I have been keenly desiring a change in ministry work. Some doors have had the handles turned on them, but they have remained shut. One has opened, and Wednesday just past it was announced in the Diocese of Christchurch (NZ) that I will be its new Director of Education*, working on the staff of Bishop Victoria Matthews, beginning late January 2010. It is with much regret and mixed feelings that I leave my current role in the Diocese of Nelson - it has been a great and wonderful journey these last sixteen years, nine of which in my role as Ministry Educator - peopled by colleagues who have been friends and friends who have been colleagues. But when it is time to go, it is time to go.

Anyway, months ago, before it was at all clear that I would seek this appointment, let alone that I would be successful with my application, I agreed to lead a workshop on Preaching Luke's Gospel in Christchurch. As it began yesterday I became aware of the irony of the situation: within 48 hours of being appointed to the Education role those appointing me would have opportunity to regret the appointment!

Thanks be to God the workshop went well. The sun even shone warmly today (it does not do so as frequently there as up here in Nelson). All will be well.

*The Director of Education role will include responsibilities for theological education of lay and ordained (co-ordinating some courses, leading others), oversight of the Diocesan Ordination Training and Post Ordination Training programmes, in service training, and being part of the Bishop's executive staff team. For those knowledgeable of the "NZ scene" the role incorporates and extends the previous role of Director of Theology House. See also here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hey, bishop, don't trash our church

Titus One Nine has posted the following, from here:

"Bishop [John] Broadhurst said that Pope Benedict has made his offer in response to the pleas of Anglicans who despair at the disintegration of their Church. “Anglicanism has become a joke because it has singularly failed to deal with any of its contentious issues,” said the bishop.

“There is widespread dissent across the [Anglican] Communion. We are divided in major ways on major issues and the Communion has unraveled. I believed in the Church I joined, but it has been revealed to have no doctrine of its own. I personally think it has gone past the point of no return. The Anglican experiment is over.”

In an emotional closing speech on Saturday, Bishop Broadhurst used the metaphor of the frog and the boiling pot to describe the current Anglican status."

Bishop John Broadhurst, by the way, is an Anglican bishop. Why is he trashing his own church with talk about 'the Anglican experiment'? Should he be sacked on the spot?

If he isn't, his statements stand rather exposed for shallowness of thinking thinner than a drop of paint in a bucket of turps. Think with me:

'The Anglican experiment is over'? Not this Sunday. Pretty much the usual millions will be in church across the world. Even in England the usual numbers in the pews will still be there. Bless them, faithful ones all!

'Anglicanism has become a joke because it has singularly failed to deal with any of its contentious issues.' That would be the same joke being played out in a number of churches which live with lively issues which do not go away because that is humanity? (Rewritten) Has the RCC 'dealt' with all issues relating to a celibate priesthood, including falling numbers of priests in many countries?

We might go onto observe that that particular church, which Broadhurst appears keen on, cannot say it has dealt with any issue the Anglican church is currently facing. At best it can say it is keeping these issues at bay!

'the Communion has unraveled' Really? Unraveling here and there, yes; but past tense? No, I do not think so. Certainly not in this fair corner of the Anglican world.

'I believed in the Church I joined, but it has been revealed to have no doctrine of its own.' So Anglicans have no doctrine of our own? And that's a problem? Is not doctrine, true orthodox Christian doctrine, truth which belongs to all? Does he mean we have absolutely no doctrine period? (We do). Does he mean we have no distinctive doctrine to call our own? (I hope a church which is rooted in the undivided church and then reformed according to the best teaching of the Continental Reformation has no distinctive doctrine of its own).

Kiwi cartoonist take on Benedict's kind invite (T. Scott)

For the record, I do not agree with Tom Scott's characterization of the situation. But it's a great cartoon!

No, really, Hans, feel free to speak frankly

Hans Kung, speaks, one German to another, to the Pope and his minions about the offer to Anglicans. Reading Kung, and knowing the Pope's nickname, I am having trouble working our who is the rottweiler! Here's a sample of the Kungian bark:

"Since the Second Vatican Council in the 60s, many episcopal conferences, pastors and believers have been calling for the abolition of the medieval prohibition of marriage for priests, a prohibition which, in the last few decades, has deprived almost half of our parishes of their own pastor. Time and again, the reformers have run into Ratzinger's stubborn, uncomprehending intransigence. And now these Catholic priests are expected to tolerate married, convert priests alongside themselves. When they want themselves to marry, should they first turn Anglican, and then return to the church?"

Read it all here.

Be Anglican boldly!

John Richardson of The Ugley Vicar has a post which says things dear to my heart about being Anglican and evangelical. I think what he says is quite challenging to many Anglican evangelicals/evangelical Anglicans, especially of the 'it's a good boat to fish from' variety ('so long as it doesn't leak faster than the bilge pump works I'll stay on board'!). Here's a sample:

"In the face of this, the natural response of traditionalist Evangelicals has been to withdraw both physically and mentally from the Church of England. The more they have done this, however, the worse —oddly enough —the problem has become. The answer advocated by most is increasingly to formalize this distancing from the institution. The answer I am advocating is that we reverse the process entirely.

"I remember once listening to George Carey, before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, describe himself as a Christian first, an Anglican second, and an Evangelical third. At the time I was distinctly unimpressed. I now want to suggest he was right, albeit for the wrong reasons. I now want to suggest that those who currently think of themselves as ‘Evangelical Anglicans’ should see themselves as Christians first, Church of England second, and Evangelicals only as a distant and carefully nuanced third.

"How can I, as a hitherto-dedicated Conservative Evangelical, make such a suggestion?

"The first reason is that, at the time of the Reformation, the Church of England committed itself to the principle that Scripture is its final authority in matters of faith. The formularies of the Church of England (to which incidentally it is bound by the law of the land), declare that the Scriptures are sufficient for salvation (Article 6), and that whilst the Church itself has “authority in Controversies of Faith” it cannot “ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written”. It is this commitment, above all, which makes me glad to be a member of that body which bears the name ‘the Church of England’.

"In his magnum opus, Bishop Stephen Neill wrote that the theological essence of Anglicanism is this:

'Show us anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture that we do not teach and we will teach it. Show us anything in our teaching or practice is clearly contrary to Holy Scripture, and we will abandon it.' (Anglicanism, Pelican Books, 1965, p 417)

"Yet, as some will point out, this is exactly what Evangelicals would claim for themselves. Why not, then, go on being Evangelicals within Anglicanism?

"The answer lies in the fact that evangelicalism no longer has —if it ever had —a unifying theology. The Church of England, however, has at its core precisely that, for it is still (by the grace of God!) tied to the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Thirty-nine Articles. It is bound to these by law, and it is rooted in them historically via the Reformation itself."

I especially like the quote from Stephen Neill. Read the whole here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now that's interesting

... shows how much I know about the church in Sweden when quite a bit of the detail in this article by Andrew Brown is complete news to me!

It begins thus:

"The Church of Sweden's decision to make no distinction in its marriage service between straight and gay couples is not as straightforward a triumph for liberal attitudes as it may seem. For one thing, half the church's bishops signed a letter condemning it; but the extraordinary decision-making structure of the Swedish church means they have no special voice in its decisions.

The church is run by an assembly that is elected directly – in theory by all its members. In practice, the turnout is about 10% and the great majority are elected on the tickets of secular political parties. This is great for the political parties, who thus get another way to reward their members with office and a chance to practise getting out the voters. Before the last church assembly elections, Mona Sahlin, the leader of the Social Democrats, announced that party members have as much of a duty to vote in these as in any other elections. Sahlin is not herself a member of the church, nor a Christian."

Read it all here.

... shows how much I know what is going on in Benedict's grand plan, but Ross Douthat suggests that the real aim of the Anglican invite from B16 to join the fold as a separate flock is less increasing the acreage of Rome, and more keeping the growth of Islam at bay:

"But in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind — not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.

"Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

"Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

"By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

"There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

This could be the real significance of last week’s invitation. What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe."

That's the end of the article. The beginning is brilliant. Read it all here. (H/T B Thomas)

Are Pitcher and Global South on the same page?

George Pitcher writing in the Sunday Telegraph has an optimistic view of the future of the C of E, for which I am grateful. He ends his column with this:

"It may not have been his intention, but not a few [gay] Anglican priests will have had their bluff called by his generous offer. If they really object to women bishops so much, they are going to have to leave their partners.

"But that is not their only choice. The Pope's initiative could serve to move the Church of England in a mysterious way. It could concentrate all our minds on what it means to be a tolerant, broad church in the Reformist tradition. An unintended consequence of the Pope's offer could be the recognition of a rich tradition that can accommodate all kinds of churchmanship. And, crucially, all kinds of people on equal terms, whatever their sexuality or gender. There was fighting talk from Anglo-Catholics at the weekend that "the Anglican experiment is over" and that "to stay in the Church of England would be suicide". But I suspect that they, and even the Pope, would concede that rumours of the death of the Church of England are greatly exaggerated."

He pitches it right when he says, "It could concentrate all our minds on what it means to be a tolerant, broad church in the Reformist tradition. An unintended consequence of the Pope's offer could be the recognition of a rich tradition that can accommodate all kinds of churchmanship." That after all is our history and what leads many of us to join and/or remain Anglicans. (His next sentence is an aspiration, whether we can get there from our history is another thing).

The Global South Primates Steering Committee has this to say by way of pastoral exhortation on the occasion of the Pope's announcement:

"4. At the same time we believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant sets the necessary parameters in safeguarding the catholic and apostolic faith and order of the Communion. It gives Anglican churches worldwide a clear and principled way forward in pursuing God’s divine purposes together in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Jesus Christ. We urge churches in the Communion to actively work together towards a speedy adoption of the Covenant.

"5. In God’s gracious purposes the Anglican Communion has moved beyond the historical beginnings and expressions of English Christianity into a worldwide Communion, of which the Church of England is a constitutive part. In view of the global nature of the Communion, matters of faith and order would inevitably have serious ramifications for the continuing well-being and coherence of the Communion as a whole, and not only for Provinces of the British Isles and The Episcopal Church in the USA. We urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to work in close collegial consultation with fellow Primates in the Communion, act decisively on already agreed measures in the Primates’ Meetings, and exercise effective leadership in nourishing the flock under our charge, so that none would be left wandering and bereft of spiritual oversight."

Not a word about being tolerant or broad! Yet Pitcher's approach, if taken literally, must take account of the concerns of the Global South statement. An Anglican Communion, and a C of E which is genuinely inclusive of "all kinds of churchmanship" must account for those of us concerned for "matters of faith and order" while offering effective pastoral leadership "so that none would be left wandering and bereft of spiritual oversight".

Global South, of course, is making a subtle point in the last sentence cited above. There are Anglicans who have taken to unusual episcopal arrangements in order not to be bereft of spiritual oversight - a matter which does not seem of sufficient concern to some Anglican primates. So GS critiques this omission. But "effective leadership in nourishing the flock", precisely, is what the Pope is offering to those Anglicans who will take up his offer. GS primates are giving their fellow primates a rev up over the same issue that the Pope is using as reason for making his offer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What, if anything, has all this to do with Jesus?

I wonder what Jesus thinks about the shenanigans in world Christianity these days?

From Anglican activists supporting the death penalty for homosexuals in Uganda to Peter's successor forbidding his priests to marry (despite Peter himself having a mother-in-law) while welcoming into his fold married ex Anglican priests to be ordained as (married) Roman priests. From people dividing the church up into sides 'the alliance of woman hating, gay hating conservatives' or the 'uber liberal pan-sexualists' to the general internet habit of mocking one another (See these Christians on the internet, how they mock one another!).

Is there nothing we hold in common as people bearing the name of Christ? Is there no part of 'love one another' which applies when Christians disagree? Why are there so many strict unbreakable rules in some churches, when Christ our Lord made it his mission to challenge religious rules and their imposition?

Is there something about the heart of the gospel which our hearts do not understand?

Distinctively Anglican

To read some of the post Benedict Personal Ordinariate offer commentary one could be forgiven for thinking that at one stroke he has blown the Anglican Communion apart, its future now determined to be two incompatible entities, one shaped by a dour Calvinist Puritanism, the other by a flamboyant anything goes North American liberalism. That is, Benedict will draw the best, brightest and most orthodox among us away from a church which we now see with the brilliance of hindsight to be a patch up job cobbled together under various political exigencies of the English landscape. Time to farewell the bold, brave and ultimately futile experiment called Anglicanism.

There is always the small matter of considering where the truth of Christianity lies! This is a difficult time for Anglicans, and the difficulties may or may not be helped by Benedict's creative compassion to distressed Anglicans, but there is no reason to become jelly-minded about what it means to be an Anglican!

It is a good time to recall Bishop Jewel's words:

"We have returned to the Apostles and the old Catholic Fathers. We have planted no new religion, but only preserved the old that was undoubtedly founded and used by the Apostles of Christ and other holy Fathers of the Primitive Church."

The distinctive contribution of the Anglican Communion to the world ecclesial scene is to be a church in continuity with the undivided church yet reformed of unwarranted accretions. That we ourselves these days might need quite a bit of reforming, perhaps more in the direction of restoring things we have lost than removing accretions, does not change the basic shape of Anglicanism in relation to other churches.

Notwithstanding all we may admire about the personal characteristics of Benedict as a leader, and about much Roman theology which we are agreeable to, not least because it is scriptural, the unwarranted accretions of Roman theology remain. The goal of communion between all churches, including between Anglicans and Romans remains a worthy ecumenical goal. Benedict's offer does not draw us closer together on that score, and the communion it promises Anglicans who cross over to the new arrangement is still a communion based on signing up to Roman theology.

There is another element of Anglican distinctiveness worth noting. Some unhappy Anglicans look the other way, to Eastern Orthodoxy. Again, there is much to admire there. But some things are unsatisfactory. I have in my possession a copy of the recently published Orthodox Study Bible in English. Browsing through it I have been intrigued to find that it includes a piece of bad scholarship: it conforms the text of the Lord's Prayer in Luke 11 to the text of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew's Gospel. The footnotes acknowledge this. But there is no basis (I am aware of) in scholarship for doing this, though undoubtedly there is a basis in E. Orthodox tradition. Anglicans have been distinctively honest and rigorous in our biblical scholarship.

Finally, Anglicans have also been distinctive (as a church valuing continuity with the undivided church) in our readiness to engage contemporaneously with the culture around us, a consequence of embracing what it means to be a national church in each nation. In contrast to the Eastern Orthodox in particular which generally does not engage with cultural change (though curiously in Russia manages to keep close to whomever rules), but also with greater speed than the Roman Catholic Church, we have acknowledged change in society, culture, philosophy and politics. Our debates today are not necessarily a church going the wrong way so much as a church engaging with change before our Roman brothers and sisters do so. Those Anglicans drawn to Rome because they do not like the idea of women priests or partnered gay clergy actually have no idea what the Roman view of these matters will be at the end of the 21st century. (One brief lesson from modern church history: the RCC once rejected critical biblical scholarship then did a volte-face a few decades later).

As an aside I am aghast at the cheap shots being made about those Anglicans who might take up Rome's offer - accusations that Rome is pandering to homophobic, woman-hating Anglican conservatives - that is unfair (have these Anglicans been personally surveyed?) and shallow (there are many good theological reasons for viewing Rome as a true interpreter of the gospel, even if those reasons are disputed by those of us who value the Reformation).

An ongoing contribution to the truth is ours as Anglicans to make - but not if we give up and fold into the lives of other churches!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A tear in the robe of Anglicanism, a stretch in the robe of Catholicism

Round up time ... Mark Lawrence has been leading his diocese, South Carolina, in a convention to determine its future in TEC. His address is here. Decisions are reported here. It will not be business as usual, but it will not be secession either. I like Mark Lawrence, and I like his communication: its clear and concise. He nails down the big issue: is there a moral equivalence between same-sex marriage and marriage or not.

BabtBlueOnline, incidentally, has a succinct sentence re South Carolina's decisions, with a note of sorrow in its observation: 'The break-up of The Episcopal Church continues, bit by bit.'

TitusOneNine and Preludium report that Ian Douglas has been elected Bishop of Connecticutt. Ian is a leading TEC member of ACC and, shall we say, the antithesis of the kind of Anglican being offered hospitality by Ben.

It's always embarrassing when an invite to a party is issued and no one takes it up. Even Jesus told a parable about that once (or twice)! But Ben need have no fear, as the Daily Telegraph reports.

As always Tom (Cranmer reincarnate) has a word or two of the wisdom of the centuries to offer on the Roman romance of angst-ridden Anglicans.

For two contrasting British Sunday newspaper opinion pieces. Try Diarmaid MacCulloch in the Guardian here, and Peter Stanford in the Independent there. MacCulloch is brilliant, but questionable on his take on what this brouhaha is all about. Stanford should be fired, or least have his fee cut in half, for this palpably false opening paragraph:

"For 470 years, since Henry VIII broke with Rome, the Church of England has been walking a careful middle line, halfway between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. This week it has effectively given up the struggle, or, more to the point, been manoeuvred into defeat by the Vatican."

My thinking today? I still think the big news is the quality of leadership shown by Pope Benedict XVI in making his offer: generous, decisive, innovative, visionary, and utterly motivated by Scripture (one Lord, one faith, one church, one truth undergirding 'legitimate diversity').

Some are commenting that it highlights poor leadership (dithering etc) on the part of ++Rowan. I think that is unfair: a leader can only lead according to the authority granted him or her ... and not much is given the Archbishop of Canterbury as leader of the Communion, so what is highlighted by the Pope, in respect of the Communion, is the poor set up we have. (I reserve comment on ++Rowan's leadership as Primate of the Church of England).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is it Rome's or TEC's diversity which is legitimate?

Pope Benedict's recent announcement of special arrangements for Anglicans coming under Roman oversight and rule stretches Roman understanding of diversity, not least because this is the most overt inclusion of married priests in Roman presbyteral ranks in the West ever.

Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, comments:

"... Moreover, the many diverse traditions present in the Catholic Church today are all rooted in the principle articulated by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: 'There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism'.

"Our communion", the cardinal added in conclusion, "is therefore strengthened by such legitimate diversity, and so we are happy that these men and women bring with them their particular contributions to our common life of faith". (Emphasis added)

That phrase 'legitimate diversity' strikes a chord with me as I have long worried that we Anglicans have embraced diversity without much sense of constraints on that diversity.

Here is another bishop speaking about diversity, Catherine Roskam from New York:

"We appreciate the welcome the pope extended to those in the Anglican Communion who are disaffected," New York Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam said in an emailed statement. "We for our part continue to welcome our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, both lay and ordained, conservative and liberal, who wish to belong to a church that treasures diversity of thought." (Emphasis added)

But how does one 'treasure' diversity of thought unless it is valuable, and on what basis is it valuable? Presumably something to do with its 'legitimacy' according to Scripture (as argued by Cardinal Levada). So, presumably, Catherine Roskam is also talking about legitimate diversity, like the Cardinal.

It would take too much to argue one diversity is actually legitimate and the other not, or to argue that both claims are correct (which would have the unfortunate implication that a terrible misunderstanding has existed between Romans and Anglicans for a long time now)! There is also the interesting possibility that both are wrong!

But Catherine Roskam seems to have missed the point that the Roman church, at least in its particular way, is a church which treasures diversity!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Responsive notes to Rome's quest for Anglicans

(1) This kind of thing is repeated repeatedly: "Two years ago an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth, leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion which claims to represent 400,000 worshippers worldwide, went to the Vatican to seek terms for his flock to be accepted into full communion with Rome. Part of the Roman Curia received him sympathetically, but the dominant group of Vatican bureaucrats were against him."

Where are these 400,000 worshipping Traditional Anglicans? In ACANZP we might have some 35,000 worshipping Anglicans? Does TAC really have 400,000? If so, what is the presenting evidence?

(2) When brilliant, bold papal decisions are made - bear with me if you are not particularly enamoured about this one - I am reminded of a principle in church ministry I hold dearly: leadership matters, in the end one person must be leader of any group. This principle underscores episcopacy quite well, but, to be honest it also underscores, on a world scale, the papacy. Should Anglicans be more sympathetic to the Petrine claims?

Of course, one objection is that there is a long history of silly, weak papal decisions (as we were learning in church history recently in respect of Rome's responding to the post-Enlightenment world in the 19th century by attempting to deny the reality of change, and then in the early 20th century shutting down the French-led 'Modernist' movement in biblical scholarship only to backtrack a decade or two later). Another objection is that a better model might be a primatial bishop-in-council, which leads us Anglicans towards the Covenant ...

(3) We should take a very long-term view of Rome's offer. Perhaps only a few will take up the offer. Perhaps it will turn out to be to advantage for Anglicans who refuse it - some pundits are suggesting this is a Good Thing for the C of E because it could take many of the objectors to women bishops away. (Although others (of conservative evangelical variety) we should hasten to add are a little alarmed: take those objectors away and the ranks of objectors are thinned down to conservative evangelicals opposed to women bishops (which is less than the sum total of conservative evangelicals).

But here's the thing: in many, perhaps even all Western countries, Anglican attendance is on the wane and Roman Catholic attendance is either stable or rising. It is my view that an Anglicanism in the West which maintains a love affair with progressive theology will continue to lose adherents in the long-term - the only stemming of the tide will be the engagement of Western Anglican churches with a genuine evangelical theology of missional church. This could happen, but there would need to be a transformation in attitude by Western hierarchies to evangelical theology.

Thus, over the long-term we could see (a) Roman numbers increase (b) Anglican numbers trickling over to Rome (c) Anglican numbers declining through attrition in a secular age to the end point that Rome's dominance of episcopal Christianity in the West is complete.

Factor in steady improvements in relationships between Rome and Constantinople and by the end of the 21st century we could see a Rome-led world Christian communion, dominating West and East, the Americas, though perhaps not Africa and Asia, quietly triumphant about answering the prayer 'ut ubi sint' ... achieved, in the end, without the midwifery to which the Anglican Communion has aspired in the birth of such ecumenical hopes.

(4) A reminder here of why no Anglican need either swim the Tiber or a purpose built swimming pool beside it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Understanding Benedict's message to Anglican bishops

Reading, quickly, quite a few posts on Rome's amazing offer of grace to Anglicans, I sense many are missing the main message in what is being proposed! (Though Kendall Harmon, cited in the post below, comes closest). The message is not 'on the face of it this will affect many, but in reality it will be a trickle not a flood taking it up' (so, many posts), nor is it 'Ah, check the fine print, its not really about Anglicans being Anglican in a Roman context, it's about Anglicans signing up to Roman contracts, becoming more or less RCs in the process, but being allowed to say their Anglican prayers and have an "ex-Anglican" as their Ordinary' (so, other posts).

No. The message is this: in a time of great difficulty for the church, decisive leadership is possible and, by God's grace, can be given; problems can be solved in a manner which enhances the unity of the church.

Pope Benedict has grasped an Anglican truth (strange though it may seem): Christians can be in fellowship together across their differences by accommodation. How can we assist Anglicans rent by division? How can we draw them into our fold while respecting their special character? By accommodating them with a special arrangement.

At one stroke of the pen Benedict has done what (say) ++Katherine Jefferts Schori, ++Rowan Williams, and others have failed to do: to find a way to accommodate those who share the faith but differ in practice.

++Katherine Jefferts Schori, I suggest, comes out particularly badly in the light of Benedict's luminous wisdom: litigating one's way through the courts of America is singularly divisive. Where has been TEC's hierarchy's bold, gracious offer of some form of accommodation to disaffected Episcopalians as an expression of intention to enhance the unity of the church? Why has the determination to expend money and energy on litigation not been matched by an 'extra mile' determination to arrive at an accommodating special arrangement for disaffected Episcopalians?

++Rowan Williams, surely, must be now reflecting carefully on the inability of the General Synod of the Church of England to find a bold, gracious means of accommodating the real differences between proponents of and opponents of ordaining women to the episcopacy - an inability exposed by Benedict's cleverness and courage.

++others: some of us need to look very carefully at whether, for the best of doctrinal motives, to be sure, we have failed to work out whether, in the end, an accommodation of difference might be possible in our contexts (conservative of liberals, liberals of conservatives, straight of gay, etc). [In an earlier version of this post I noted the case when +Peter Selby, as Bishop of Worcester, and Charles Raven of Kidderminster could not find an accommodation - Doug Chaplin in a comment below offers an explanation of the reasons for the failure to find a mutually satisfactory accommodation]. Nothing is easy here: but is life less difficult after splits, schisms, and divisions?

Yes, just before you comment, I am aware that Benedict's proposal involves a doctrinal unity (i.e. signing up to RCC teaching) lacking in various Anglican situations. But, then, for Anglicans, that lack of doctrinal agreement has not always been a barrier to accommodation of difference!

Benedict's game plan is the unity of all Christians, East and West (as Kendall Harmon astutely observes). What is ours, dear Anglican bishops?

Roaming wisdom from John Richardson and on his site, and elsewhere

I think 'measured' is a good word to describe the general quality of the posts on John Richardson's blog The Ugley Vicar. Today he offers a measured reflection on the recent Roman announcement of hospitality to Anglicans. Measured, not least, in the sense of getting a feel for the width and the quality of the cloth being offered by Rome. In doing so he answers one of my questions, would an individual Anglican here and there wanting to take up the offer be drawn into a Personal Ordinariate? Probably not, because a Personal Ordinariate would be offered where there was 'demand'! Incidentally I think John has the best headline for a post or news story I have seen, The Papal Bull in the Anglican China Shop!!

Yesterday John offered a reflection from someone else, Richard Bewes an elder statesman of Anglican evangelicalism. Please read it - if nothing else as a brilliant example of 'appreciative review', the ability to find the good in two opposing points of views. Excellent!

PS By contrast Ruth Gledhill offers something tantalising with the headline Will Michael Nazir-ali Go To Rome? Read on and you will soon find that she thinks this unlikely because married bishops will not be bishops in a Personal Ordinariate. Self-contradiction? Possibly. Hiding but hinting at inside knowledge? That's ALWAYS possible with Ruth!!

As for other comment - is there any Anglican blog or news site NOT commenting on this remarkable 'apostolic' initiative?

OK - one stands out for a mention here. Not unexpectedly it is from the very sage Kendall Harmon at Titus One Nine. I shall reproduce it in full, along with a very interesting comment posted below it.

The post:

"I have a slew of emails and telephone calls asking what I think of this latest development. Herewith a few thoughts for starters.

(1) It represents a huge indictment of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Many people question Rome's motivations, but I believe Rome, which has been watching Anglican developments like a hawk in recent years, wanted Anglicanism globally to succeed. Their response to the Windsor Report, for example, was quite favorable. This move to me shows they do not believe the Anglican moment in history to help global Christianity can take place sufficiently under Rowan Williams.

(2) It represents a sweeping judgment on Anglicanism in particular. Rome believes, as John 17 says, that the world may know the gospel if Christians are one as Jesus and the Father are one. Such a unity is only possible through a church with catholic order and evangelical faith. Rome has watched global Anglicanism evolve and has seen the Instruments of Unity be used repeatedly, over a period of time, and they have judged that Anglicanism itself is not and will not work for the cause of real global Catholicism going forward.

(3) It repesents a judgment that the real story going forward is between Rome and the East. Do not underestimate the significance of the fact that in this present unusual "arrangement," if I may call it that, Rome has drawn the line at Episcopal celibacy. That is a gesture Eastward, among many other things.

(4) It represents a sense that only an external action will have any benefit to Anglicanism going forward. Let us not kid ourselves. Rome put a lot into ecumencial conversations with Anglicans because they believed that more internal mechanisms and persuasions were possible. Now, in their judgment, they are not. They don't see a future of greater Anglican unity they see one of greater Anglican splintering. At this level, it represents a shout which one wonders if any Anglicans will hear--KSH."

The comment (with emphasis added by me):

"4. rickk wrote:
The short answer to the question, is this:
Benedict XVI has just done what the Archbishop of Canterbury has rightly admitted, for the last 5 years, he, as primus inter pares, has no authority to do: create an new province, unite the church, and teach with authority the truth of the catholic faith. Benedict has proposed an answer to the question of authority for Anglicans, whether and how many accept will be decided. He has consequently illuminated the heart of the confusion and disarray within Anglicanism itself in its incapacity to right the ship on its own terms. The grace of this development is that the Pope offers to Anglicans, in their own terms, an extraordinary option, to participate in the communion of the faith of the Apostles.
Those who are already complaining about this gesture because it requires too much of Anglicans, fail to recognize that the giver of the gift is the one who determines the nature of the gift and the terms upon which one may receive the gift. And furthermore, they miss the point of the Gospel that receiving any gift requires metanoia."

PRC: Yesterday I drew attention to Mark Harris' critique of Rome's offer: they are not the master at the table to let the crumbs fall to the Anglican dogs; God is. Nevertheless the point remains, as Kendall Harmon reminds us, where in the Anglican Communion do we find 'catholic order and evangelical faith'? Until yesterday it seemed impossible to find that in relationship to Rome except on the (usual) Roman terms. Today it seems possible to find that in relationship to Rome on terms with a latitude which is unexpected (though not, of course, of such a degree that a reformed protestant Anglican would find them acceptable). That unexpectedness is a grace from (so to speak) one of the stronger dogs under the master's table, allowing one of the other dogs to come closer to the place where the crumbs fall (within the Petrine perspective of 'crumbs')!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cheeky Thought about Anglican Personal Ordinariates

Has Benedict XVI shown Anglicans the way forward out of our crisis? Now that Personal Ordinariates are firmly in the tradition of the church, why not use them within the Anglican Communion? Let me see:

ACNA could be granted a Personal Ordinariate by TEC and by ACCan: communion restored. (I know, I know, it won't be that simple: ACNA might prefer to be boss and TEC and ACCan to be Personal Ordinariates of it ...)

Liberal Catholics within the C of E could be granted a Personal Ordinariate by the English powers that be (parliament? House of Lords? The Queen herself as Governor?): communion maintained.

Similarly, a Personal Ordinariate for those opposed to women priests and bishops within the C of E could be just what the Doctor ordered.

Sydney already has a kind of Personal Ordinariate within the life of the Anglican Church of Australia (in the sense of being in communion while also being different), but the Anglo-Catholic parishes within Sydney might like to come under new episcopal arrangements.

Then there is the intriguing question of whether our Three Tikanga arrangements in ACANZP constitute three Personal Ordinariates (noting that these PO thingies have an element of 'non-territorial episcopacies' about them, thus not infringing Nicea and all that).

Either way, come on ++Rowan and ++Katherine and ++Peter and co, if you cannot think as cunningly as Benedict, at least you could steal his ideas!

Are any evangelicals concerned about what is going on in Uganda?

Elizabeth Kaeton (h/t to Mark Harris) observes that while Rome's solution to homosexuality troubles in the Anglican Communion is to offer a form of refuge to conservatives willing to accept the RC doctrine, Uganda's response to being troubled by homosexuality is to propose a law which permits the death penalty for homosexual behaviour. She goes on to observe that there is a resounding thunderclap of complete silence from Lambeth Palace etc. But, oddly, she makes a mistake in declaring that Rick Warren has written a published statement against the proposed bill. The link she gives takes the reader to a blog which reports that an organisation has drafted a letter which they are asking Rick Warren to sign! (I cannot see anything on Rick Warren's own site which indicate he has published such a statement whether drafted for him or anyone else).

Thus the question remains, will Christians, conservative, liberal and in between, speak, write, blog against Uganda's parliament passing a law leading to executions for homosexuals (to just name its most draconian part)?

In my view, no matter what we think about sexual behaviour, the worst penalties of the state should only apply for violent crimes against people not consenting to be victims (and there will always be debates about whether the death penalty should ever be applied to any crime).

It is difficult to conceive of any reason why the state (any state) should penalise sexual behaviour between consenting adults.

Uganda: stop now, and withdraw this law!

Evangelicals speak up about this ...

UPDATE: I note a Fulcrum thread on this topic here.

Swimming pool being built beside the Tiber

There will be no need to swim across the Tiber for Anglicans unhappy with current controversies. Instead the Pope is offering to build a swimming pool at the side of the river for Anglicans to be in communion with Rome while using (approved) Anglican liturgies, remaining married, etc.

Ruth Gledhill writes here, with links, and includes ++Rowan's hasty response, having been caught in the headlights of Benedict's speeding Mercedes.

We had better see what Damien Thompson's overflowing joy looks like here (so overflowing he has multi-posts on the matter).

(Later) Bosco Peters on Liturgy raises some very good questions about this proposal. I have a few myself. Here is the main question: to which Anglicans is this proposal aimed? To all who are interested, whether ones and twos scattered here and there? Or, to a sizeable group of Anglo-Catholics in England and the USA?

Mark Harris offers a telling critique of the pope's action, pointing out that he is not the master at the table to be offering us crumbs!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Australians appeal administration ambitions

Via Titus One Nine based in the States I see that an appeal has been lodged against Sydney Diocese's move in its synod last year to permit both diaconal and lay administration (i.e. presidency) at the eucharist (though, for the sake of clarity, please understand that ++Peter Jensen has not subsequently permitted any lay person so to preside).

An SMH report is here.

And I understand better why Mark Thompson yesterday made a point about lay presidency there.

From the SMH report:

"... The highest court of the Australian Anglican Church, the Appellate Tribunal, has been convened to decide on the contentious issue of whether church law allows deacons or church workers to preside over the Lord's Supper, a duty exclusively performed by ordained priests and bishops.

"Eight diocesan bishops from Wangaratta, Bathurst, Bunbury, Riverina, Rockhampton, Grafton, North Queensland and Willochra, and 20 clergy and laity from 13 dioceses around the country outside of Sydney have applied for a legal ruling. ...

"...Three Sydney rectors - all from the Anglo-Catholic tradition - have also joined the legal fray against their own synod, arguing that bishops and priests should continue to have the exclusive right to preside over this central sacrament.

"The rector of St John's Church, Gordon, Father Keith Dalby, said diaconal and lay presidency contravened the type of church services and ministry role as prescribed in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which is the ultimate standard of worship in the Anglican communion.

"''By allowing for diaconal and lay presidency you collapse the office of deacon and priest into the one order so you actually effectively destroy the traditional threefold order of deacon, priest and bishop, that has been upheld way back to 110AD.''

"The Melbourne Anglican Dr Muriel Porter, one of the 28 signatories to the tribunal's reference, said who presided at Holy Communion was not a ''trivial in-house issue'' but one ''at least as important as women's ordination and gay clergy''.

"''Who presides at Holy Communion - the central worship service for Anglicans - is about who are the leaders in the Anglican Church, who is authorised to lead,'' she said. ..."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Diocese, Province, Communion: will any two of the three do?

Howard Pilgrim has (gently) challenged me to comment upon a post by Mark Harris of Preludium entitled 'A Fourth Way Revisited'.

Howard himself sums up the essay, and extends the critique a little with these words which engage with my own remarks below about 'Anglican tragedy':

"that in the Anglican tradition, the largest effective ecclesial unit is the diocese around its bishop, and that beyond that, at the levels of Communion, and even within provinces, the relationships have always been based on hospitality rather than control. I tend to agree, the powers vested in general synods notwithstanding. For instance, here in New Zealand the diocese of Nelson has always exercised a considerable degree of independence, and that has been OK with the rest of us, as long as we are not expected to follow Nelson's lead. We all get to choose how far to recognize and embrace the faith and life of other dioceses. Even within a diocese, the unity generated by "canonical obedience" to their bishop promised by licensed clergy still allows for generous freedoms for parishes to differ.

"It is an interesting argument, and I would like to see your response (to him not me). If he is right, then there are no "rights" in conflict, only responsibilities carried out differently in our service to Christ. The lack of some international magisterium is no flaw, but the way we have always operated quite satisfactorily. And the only train crash in the offing is a mirage generated by all the hot air coming from those who demand we all do things their way or they will throw their toys out of the cot."

Just a brief response is all I can manage:

(1)I think doctrine, what Anglicans believe, matters, and that being the church is not simply a matter of hospitality, vital though that is. Hospitality is an expression of doctrine, not a replacement for it.

(2)Dioceses are not perfect; they can make mistakes. Is the wider church responsible for offering correction in such a situation, or is that beyond its brief?

(3)Yes, the Anglican Communion could be an ecumenical fellowship rather than something with aspiration and momentum towards becoming a world church. Would it not be in the spirit of ecumenicity to then invite all Anglicans to this ecumenical fellowship, including ACNA, AMIA, CESA, and other networks and churches currently debarred from the Communion?

In short, when Mark Harris draws attention in another post to the argument of Bishop Bruce Mcpherson, one of the so-called 'Communion Partner' bishops, that at this time it is not possible to be both provincially-oriented (towards TEC) and Communion-oriented, I find his critique deficient inasmuch as he offers no way forward for dioceses within a province that feel they have more in common with the Communion than with their own province, other, that is, than to put up. But a true ecumenical spirit would, I suggest, encourage fellowship in all kinds of ways within the ecumenical fellowship of Anglicans.

It is my view that in our church, ACANZP, we are a long way from any one of our dioceses feeling they have more in common with the Communion than with our own province!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anglican tragedy

Christopher Hitchens is an outstanding essayist. Writing a withering piece on Roman Polanski he speaks of tragedy with this observation:

"But the types of tragedy that really deserve the name are of two main kinds, the Hegelian and the Greek. Hegel thought it was tragic when two rights came into conflict. The Greeks thought it tragic when a great man was undone by a fatal flaw."

Is the Anglican Communion in its perfect storm because it is simultaneously experiencing both kinds of tragedies? Two or more rights are certainly in conflict - the right to change doctrine and the right to maintain tradition. There is (I suggest) a fatal flaw in the Communion through having (depending how we interpret the Instruments of Unity) either no form of magisterium (teaching authority) or a form of magisterium unable to respond to the present questions.

Back from Totaranui

The school camp I was at these past non-posting days was held at Totaranui, one of the most beautiful places in NZ, even by NZ's very high standards. Its a perfect half crescent golden sand beach with bush and verdant pastures near at hand, the pastures available for camping and not for animals, save for sandflies and mosquitoes. Here's a pic:

Here's another, not of Totaranui - but of a similar beach, Anapai, not far away to the north:

That photo was taken on a walk to Separation Point (between Tasman Bay and Golden Bay) which got me thinking unexpectedly about the Anglican Communion (smile) , as well as the place of Christianity within Western culture!

Speaking of separating - the sheep from the goats and all that - Jack Spong's razor sharp axe-pen is at work in judgment upon many of us, as both Ruth Gledhill and BabyBlue report. There are some advantages to being beyond the Spongian pale with Rowan Williams and others. A higher level of discourse and a sounder grasp of the principles of free speech, for instance.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Both Preludium and Thinking Anglicans draw attention to a published talk by +Peter Selby, now retired bishop in the C of E. It can be found here. It is a thoughtful argument against the Covenant, and includes critique of Archbishop Rowan's arguments in favour of the Covenant. I find it to be convincing in its arguments for the human dignity of all Anglicans being well treated. I also agree that the process we are engaged in is about a conversation which needs keeping alive rather than being shut down. What I am less sure about is that in a globalized world (e.g. instant internet news transfer across member churches of the Communion), how the Communion has worked out its differences in the past is a reliable indicator of how we should operate in the present and in the future. Any thoughts?

Please note that I am shortly about to embark on a mystical journey to the third heaven (i.e. go on a school camp to an impossibly beautiful beach and bush reserve called Totaranui) sans laptop, so all comments after departure will be moderated on return!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Word of God is the Word of God not a project of conservatism

I think I did notice this mentioned elsewhere (it was here) but my attention has been drawn this morning by world renowned economist Paul Krugman to an [insert your exclamatory adjective here] project of conservatives associated with Conservapedia to produce a conservative version of the Bible.

It's hard to know where to begin critiquing a project that has a problem with,

'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing' (Luke 23:34),

and with,

'shrewdly' as a description of the Dishonest Steward in Luke 16:8,

to say nothing of the absence or negligence of the conservative word 'volunteer', which is found, we are told, 'only once' in the ESV (widely viewed as one of the most conservative translations currently available).

There is a lot more which is disastrously wrong with this project. In fact there is so much wrong with it that my hunch is that this is a spoof - inserted by liberals naturally :)

Anyway, that's why theologians should read economists - its a reliable way to keep up with key developments in the world of Bible translation!!

POSTSCRIPT: I now realize that this farcical version of the Bible could be a project of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, for in one instance they are trying to rewrite history and in another they are trying to write the future!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What is the Word of God?

Tonight I have a class on Old Testament prophets. One interesting matter which comes up is the question of the differences between the Hebrew text (MT) of Jeremiah and the Greek text (LXX) of Jeremiah. In some places these differences are significant and thus raise the questions such as which text is (closest to) the original text of Jeremiah, was there an 'original' text of Jeremiah, and can two different texts bear witness to the one Word of God through a single spokesperson whose name is associated with each of the texts?

I am no expert on Jeremiah, let alone on the Hebrew and Greek texts of Jeremiah, but a quick observation to make is this: the four gospels are four variant witnesses to the one Gospel of Jesus Christ. We accept them all and believe that God's Word is spoken through them all. Could we accept that God's Word is spoken through both the Hebrew and Greek versions of Jeremiah?

That question leads to a couple of others. What would people make of buying Bibles that included translations of both versions of Jeremiah? Mostly we accept that the prophets of the Old Testament were inspired spokespersons of God: could we accept that the scribes and translators of prophets such as Jeremiah were also inspired?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do we make Romans too complicated?

Somewhere in the midst of all Anglican troubles and tribulations is the very important question of whether God is judge of the world or not. Will there one day be a day when we will be called to give account for our lives to God or not. We do not talk much about this, indeed it has the feel of a prohibited subject - one dare not talk about judgment in the church of the twenty-first century, but the New Testament (to say nothing of the Old Testament) talks quite a bit about it, in both Gospels and Epistles. Indeed much of the Bible revolves around God's forthcoming judgment. If there is a day of judgment then, like an exam at the end of a course, or an appraisal after a time in employment, or an election in a democracy, or even an appearance in court to answer a charge (see, we humans have quite a bit of experience of judgment!), being able to pass muster is - presumably - important.

If God is not going to judge the world, perhaps because, as atheists allege, there is no God, or there is no possibility of anyone failing God's judgment, as universalists propose, then a whole lot of issues have something of a different perspective on them. But if God is going to judge the world then that might - to give but one implication - inspire us Anglicans to take Scripture more seriously as the chief means by which God has spoken to us. After all, Scripture gives us a clue or three about how to prepare to give account to God!

At the epicentre of Scripture's talk about judgment is the Epistle to the Romans. It is right and proper that one of the major storm centres of biblical scholarship today concerns how we understand Romans (and Galatians). Great arguments - as reported on this site once or twice before - are reverberating around the Christian world about whether Paul meant this (the Old Perspective) or that (the New Perspective) or something else (some mixture of the two). One question I have is whether we make Romans too complicated. It is a dense piece of theological work, and it contains many verses over which one can ponder much, indeed write a whole doctoral thesis on a phrase here or there. But, reading through it as a whole, rather than verse by verse, I wonder if some things emerge more straightforwardly than appears to be the case reading current Romans scholarship? I put this thought forward very tentatively!!

Reading this morning in Romans 3 I noticed these words in verse 19:

"... the whole world may be held accountable to God ..."

Looking up the Greek we see that the word translated in the RSV/ESV as 'accountable' is upodiko which is, literally, 'under judgment'. It is a word found only on this one occasion in the New Testament.

Romans and the debates about it are often worked out in terms of the word 'justification'. Who or what justifies us? How may we be justified before God, or by God? Are we justified by righteousness given by God, or belonging to Christ? In any case, what is 'righteousness'? The focus on 'justification' has yielded a great controversy over whether justification is something 'imputed' to us or 'imparted' to us, with a great deal of suspicion falling on any Protestants who sign up to a less than 100% commitment to the imputation version.

But (it seems to me) it is possible that we could think, slightly differently, that Romans is an attempt to work out how we might give account before God at judgment, that is, what answer might we give to the charge against us that we are not righteous (3:10), have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (3:23), knowing that the wages of sin is death (6:23)? Then (and here my suggestion that we read Romans as a whole comes into play) we find that Paul develops an answer, or an account which we might give to God which is satisfying as a whole, but not in its parts. For in the flow of Paul's writing subsequently we find talk of justification, righteousness, faith, faith of/in Jesus Christ, 'reckoned to him', 'justified by faith', peace with God, free gift, demonstrated love, 'baptized into Christ', 'old self was crucified with [Christ]', 'set free from sin', 'no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus'.

These are the parts of the answer, and Paul never stops long enough with any one of them to nail down which is definitive (to our incontrovertable satisfaction, at least). But the whole of the answer is clear by the end of Romans 8: if we account for our lives by claiming in faith what Christ has done for us through his death on the cross and rising again from the dead, which includes Christ being in us, and us being in Christ, then we are safe: absolutely nothing 'will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (8:39). In summary the account we give to God which will pass muster is simply this: Christ!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why not go to the top and read the best?

Christopher Johnson of Mid West Conservative draws attention to a sermon by Kallistos Ware and to the encyclical Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI.

He also makes comparison between the profoundness observable in these pieces and the lack thereof in some other places! We live in interesting times as Anglicans ...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Anglican priesthood and eucharistic presidency (2)

Following up on an initial posting here, I have some further thoughts on eucharistic presidency, beginning with some clarifications from the first, in response to some comments.


Scriptural underpinnings

In some ways I can only state that not everything about being Anglican is 'scriptural' if, by that, one means that we do nothing without clear Scriptural warrant. It is part of historic Anglicanism that we did not accede to Puritan tendencies to become a bibliocratic church.

But this, we might observe, is not weird with respect to the Reformation! A recent read of a paper on Calvin's eucharistic theology, "Union and Communion: Calvin’s Theology of Word and Sacrament" by MICHAEL S. HORTON in International Journal of Systematic Theology Volume 11 Number 4 October 2009 (h/t to my friend Bryden Black), reminds me that no less a person than Calvin, seeking in his predictably intelligent and learned way to develop as error-free a theology of the eucharist as possible (i.e. avoiding some of the pitfalls that Luther and Zwingli fell into) found his way as much by digesting the subtleties of Eastern Orthodox eucharistic theology as by absorbing the participationist understanding of St Paul himself (1 Corinthians 10). In taking up the former subtleties, Calvin was very much in favour of the epiclesis - the calling of the Spirit - which is about as 'unscriptural' as one can get when reviewing important aspects of eucharistic theology and practice

Change in Anglicanism

When some moot change in Anglicanism, and others respond that change should be through consensus rather than unilateral action, a swift response often cites the case of the ordination of women, which was introduced to the Communion through unilateral action (although reasonably quickly received and accepted as a viable change even though not unanimously agreed with).

My argument re consensus being required for the introduction of lay presidency is that this is a more significant change to Anglican orders of ministry than the ordination of women (which, after all, did not introduce a new order of ministry) and arguably requires a greater degree of agreement than for the ordination of women. But I use the word 'arguably' advisedly: there is an argument to be had over whether any one province could decide for lay presidency and not cut itself off from Anglicanism.

A key issue

One of my correspondents to the first post raised the practical question which, across the Communion, must often arise: when a priest is not available to be president at a eucharistic service, why cannot another person such as a deacon or a lay leader be authorized to preside at communion until such time as a regular priest is available? One tension in modern Anglicanism is between the desire for weekly eucharist (rather than, say, weekly Morning Prayer and monthly or even irregular Holy Communion) and the supply of priests to fulfil the role of priest-in-charge or vicar of a parish (to say nothing of priests to preside at eucharists across a multi-centre parish). It certainly seems like a good idea to appoint non-priests to preside when priests are not available.

One response to such an idea is to make the point that presiding at the eucharist is a special task, in particular a special task of leadership. The eucharist is not a mere recitation of prayers in thankful remembrance of Jesus' death, followed by distribution of cup and bread. Rather, the eucharist is a gathering of the community of the faithful with the risen Christ in their midst, with the intention of feeding and drinking of Christ in accordance with his teaching and his commandment. Over this event which lies at the centre of the life of the church one ought to preside who is discerned and recognized as an appropriate leader to do so: eucharistic presidency is a special task of leadership (according to long and unbroken Christian tradition from the days of the apostles). This leadership is associated with episcopacy and eldership (bishops and presbyters or priests, in terms of church office set out in Scripture). On this line of thinking, a deacon or lay leader authorized to preside would logically be authorized to be a temporary presbyter.

In turn this would raise questions about whether (a) temporary presbyters are a good idea (they might be) and follow a concept known in Scripture (that, in my opinion, would be difficult to substantiate), (b) people can become presbyters on the basis of either authorization (without ordination) or ordination which has only temporary effect (either is possible, but neither, as far as I am aware, has precedent in the tradition of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican churches).

Certainly it is true that Anglicans in different parts of the Communion have raised the question of lay presidency over several (or more) decades now. Various commissions have looked into it, reports written and recommendations made. The Diocese of Sydney seemingly has been within a hair's breadth of promulgating lay presidency for time beyond remembering. It may be an idea whose time will yet come.

But it is also true that it is the task of Anglican churches to discern priests, and the role of bishops to ordain priests and to appoint priests to communities of faith in order to ensure that eucharistic worship is conducted 'decently and in order'. A church working in this way is acting consonant with Scripture.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dioceses supporting the Covenant

According to The Living Church's report the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,

"has welcomed an endorsement of the first three sections of the Anglican Covenant by the Diocese of Central Florida’s board and standing committee".

Presumably ++Rowan will also be pleased to learn that the Synods of the Dioceses of Nelson and Christchurch in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia have resolved as follows:

"(1) That this Synod notes the Ridley Cambridge Draft (RCD) of the Anglican Communion

(2) That this Synod notes the Resolution of ACC 14, held in Jamaica, May 2009:
Resolution 14.11: The Anglican Communion Covenant - Resolved, 08.05.09

The Anglican Consultative Council:
a. thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular, for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;
b. recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to
strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;
c. asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Standing Committee;
d. asks the Standing Committee, at that meeting, to approve a final form of Section 4;
e. asks the Secretary General to send the revised Ridley Cambridge Text, at that time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them as The Anglican Communion Covenant;
f. asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant.”

(3) That this Synod:
(3.1) Supports in principle the Anglican Communion Covenant process as initiated by The Windsor Report (2004);
(3.2) Commends the Ridley Cambridge Draft as it currently stands as the practicable means available to make the Anglican Communion Covenant process become effective in the life of the Anglican Communion;
(3.3) Conveys this Synod’s commendation to our General Synod Secretariat and the Covenant Working Group by the Feast Day of All Saints, 1 November, 2009."

Provinces sign up to the Covenant, but provinces are made up of dioceses. The more dioceses queuing up to endorse or commend the Covenant the better for those concerned that provinces reflect grass roots support rather than the views of those who can afford the time to be at general conventions and general synods!

Conversely, those not supportive of the Covenant - remember, that includes those on the 'left' and the 'right' of Communion life - are committed to the life of the Communion and will be keenly aware of any momentum generated through diocesan synods and the like which begins to give a clear sense of the mind of the Communion on the Covenant.

Anglican priesthood and eucharistic presidency (1)

A few posts below a stream of comments has been generated around questions of Anglican priesthood, with specific reference to presidency at communion and whether it is necessary to have a priest preside.

Last night, catching up on the internet, I noticed a comment along the following lines (wording deliberately revised so you cannot google this person!), "Anglican ordination is coming up for me soon, but it's not my understanding that a priest is required for eucharistic presidency. Hope no one finds out before I am ordained (despite me giving my diocese and my first name in this comment)."*

Here, for what it is worth, is a brief and beginning reflection on the reasons for priestly presidency, from an evangelical perspective:

(1) Many things Anglican, including priestly presidency, have been inherited unreformed from the undivided church of the apostles, first bishops, and church fathers. To reform them now should be on the basis that we now have sufficient grounds to judge that (a) the English reformers were wrong to pass this reformation by, and (b) our ancient forbears in the undivided church were wrong. I suggest that sufficient grounds should include a Communion wide consensus for change. I do not detect such an emerging consensus, do you?

(2) Evangelical Anglicans have many options to progress the cause of evangelicalism, including leaving the church for another, or founding a new church, as has happened on many occasions in the past (Puritans, Dissenters, Methodists, Brethren, etc). If the strength of concern over priestly presidency is sufficient to seek change without consensus then the door to departure is open. Conversely, evangelical Anglicans who remain in the Anglican church need to squarely face the fact that our church is a church in which many Anglicans are committed to priestly presidency, unlikely to change that commitment, and thus it might be a better investment of time and energy appreciating why we have priestly presidency rather than arguing against it!

There is a subsidiary note to this observation: as I understand the way other denominations work, the number of non-Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox denominations which permit 'lay presidency' at the eucharist is less than the number of non-Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox denominations! That is, it is not uniquely Anglican within the Protestant wing of the worldwide church to have a high view of the connection between 'the minister' and eucharistic presidency!

(3) The fact that many Anglican churches permit lay preaching but not lay presidency is not a very good argument for permitting lay (or diaconal) presidency. The premise seems to be this: the ministry of the word and the ministry of the sacrament are equal, so if one, then the other. But such argument cuts another way: if the unintended consequence of sharing the pulpit between lay and clergy is pressure on eucharistic presidency, why not prohibit lay preaching?!

That's enough for today ... more to come on another day.

* I am not sure which is the more egregious misunderstanding: re Anglican eucharistic presidency or the public nature of internet comments :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Covenant critics covet uncovenanted Communion

Back from off-line leisure to find the Covenant is twisting and turning on choppy waters. "Lord, save us"! Mark Harris points us in two important directions.

(1) The ABC confirms that Dioceses may endorse the Covenant but only Provinces may formally adopt it. Check here.

(2) Bruce Kaye, Editor of the Journal of Anglican Studies, leading Anglican thinking, fellow Anglican down under (resident across the Tasman from me), has come out against the Covenant. Read here.

I will post further when I have read the article. UPDATE: The article promises a more detailed future exposition which I shall look forward to. In my own comments on the article, in summary, I raise the question what, if the Covenant is a "bad idea for Anglicans", are the better alternatives? The point about the Covenant is not whether it is the perfect solution, even the "Anglican" solution to our present difficulties, but whether it is the best solution!

Incidentally Bruce Kaye has posted this article on a newly noticed blog he has started, called World Anglicanism Forum. I shall add it to my bloglist!