Tuesday, November 9, 2010

++Rowan Answers My Question

Having posed a question in the post below about the character of Christian unity when not anchored to eucharistic communion with the successor of St Peter, I find that ++Rowan has offered a neat, concise answer (H/T Titus One Nine):

'I do see the Communion as worth working for because I believe that a model of real international unity by consent is a very precious gift to the Christian world at large.'

There you go the Covenant is about consent!

20 comments:

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Looking at John 17, I can't find anything about communion with the successor of St Peter there. What I do find is a remarkable prayer that believers will be one, in the same way that Jesus is in the Father that the Father is in Jesus (v.21). Later, the benchmark is in the same way that Jesus is in the disciples, and the Father is in Jesus (v.23). It's almost an impossible prayer, given the unity of Father and Son in the Godhead. This would suggest we want to maintain the closest possible unity, with no difference of purpose or action.

I would suggest that all believers in Christ already are united in one body, and don't need to "consent" to make that happen. The key question is given the reality of multiple denominations, how do we express that unity within each denomination and across them? I think within the AC we need to state a common expression of the apostolic faith as we have received it, together with a common understanding of how our church is ordered. Then, we need to develop a process for addressing the situation where member churches or dioceses of the AC are unable to remain within those common expressions of faith and order.

The covenant is a good attempt to do these things. But, I think there are polar opposite understandings of faith, order and fellowship within the AC that will prove impossible to reconcile.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
We are not in the body of Christ by consent. But if we are united in that body we might expect that we could agree because we share in knowledge of the mind of Christ. A non-consenting body of believers should be dissatisfied that it has not yet attained to the truth. Institutional expressions of the church (i.e. denominations) seem to fail to understand their provisionality.

David |Dah • veed| said...

I think within the AC we need to state a common expression of the apostolic faith as we have received it, together with a common understanding of how our church is ordered.

And many of us see that fulfilled in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.
1. The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;
2. The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
3. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;
4. The historic episcopate, locally adapted.

And for us, no amount of theologically mumbo-jumbled covenant can do a better job.

Bryden Black said...

Pursuing further some Johannine themes, Andrew Reid’s having kicked us off.

Unity among Christians and among their churches (back to this in a minute) surely has to be a function of faith (Jn 1:12, 20:30-31). Following furthermore a Barthian unpacking of faith as “acknowledgement, recognition and confession” (CD § 63), it seems to me that this kind of Johannine unity is more than just a function therefore of “consent”. True; such faith is strictly also expressed in a singular form of love (chs 13-17 and 1 John); a love that many ‘sides’ in the current struggle perhaps do not quite live up to ...

This said, the denominational branding of the Faith, which we westerners all too happily seem to assume, and therefore, for faith and love’s sake, seek to overcome (well; some of us do!), is a far cry from the Early Church’s notion of a necessarily visible Church that is one holy catholic and apostolic. That said, what kind of “unity” might therefore actually emerge from a consent process which is dogged by assumptions that permit partial and plural views of faith and love ...?!

All in all, a Covenant with a serious Section 4 would seem to be a bit more than just powered by “consent” - given the fact that if there were such a serious Section 4, quite a few churches might not even attempt to offer any form of “consent”, and just “depart” - ala those 1 John dissenters??

I cannot see ++RDW’s “vision” actually working ...

Peter Carrell said...

Perhaps ++Rowan might say that it is not consent to each other's (wild, weird, worrying) proposals, but to the God of love as discerned through the Spirit and the Word ... that consent is an agreeing that it is 'good to us and the Holy Spirit' and so a true communion of the body with the head.

But I fear something less than that is being sought, and thus I wonder with you, Bryden, whether it is workable.

liturgy said...

I am not so convinced about reading the modern construct of denominations back into Johannine texts. IMO, except for those whose livelihood and power are tied to denominational boundaries, unity in our post-modern context is more regularly found across those increasingly irrelevant lines. People move to a community where they find nourishment and fellowship, and are comfortable with theology and spirituality, and even musical style, regardless of official denominational affiliation. Such a reading translates, of course, to the “covenant” debate, which, from this perspective, is offering a modern solution in a post-modern context.

Andrew Reid said...

Hi David,
I agree that the Quadrilateral is a helpful statement of what makes us Anglican. I'm genuinely interested in your opinion about whether you think all parts of the Communion are genuinely committed to the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, and believe the Creeds wholeheartedly? I think part of where the Covenant is coming from is that different parts of the Communion have very different ideas about the role of the Scriptures and the Creeds in our life.
Andrew

David |Dah • veed| said...

different parts of the Communion have very different ideas about the role of the Scriptures and the Creeds in our life.

And in that respect the AC is but a macrocosm of the Church of England. The idea behind the Elizabethan Settlement was that we may all approach the Welcome Table with differing views, but that we could accept those differences as existing and not preventing kneeling together in common prayer and supping together at a common eucharist.

liturgy said...

"we may all approach the Welcome Table with differing views, but that we could accept those differences as existing and not preventing kneeling together in common prayer and supping together at a common eucharist."

Amen!

This is the Anglican insight we have lost/are losing IMO: unity in Christ around shared spiritual practice.

Signing a "covenant" will alter none of this - the Primates still will not have communion together as previously. The "covenant" will not act retrospectively according to Peter as a supporter (see our three Tikanga system is safe). So nothing changes...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco and David,

I suggest that the Elizabethan Settlement implicitly (if not explicitly, I am not an expert on the details, save to note that this was the era in which the 39A were agreed to) assumed a degree of common doctrine being shared by those joining in common prayer around a common table.

Precisely at issue with those who will not join around the one table as primates representing all the churches of the Communion is the degree of common doctrine to which we subscribe. (To head off some possible comment re it just being about 'gays', I suggest doctrines at issue concern christology, soteriology, as well as marriage).

The Covenant, as a matter of legal principle, should not be a stick to beat people up re the past, but as a matter of theological principles renewed it could be a carrot to draw us into renewed communion since those signing to it are signing to a new common basis upon which to share communion around one table.

If churches do not sign the Covenant is without effect. Agreed. If we all sign up I think better days are ahead for the Communion. A new settlement for a new age!

David |Dah • veed| said...

Peter, the Act of Uniformity of 1559 was indeed a very Protestant document. But after Parliament adjourned, Elizabeth and her Secretary of State promulgated the Royal Injunctions, which relaxed much of the anti-Catholicism of the Act.

That, and the fact that she reigned so long, IIRC, 40 years, allowed the development of the via media, a party within the membership of the Church of England, known as Anglicans. And it was the via media Anglicans against whom the Puritans warred and ultimately lost.

True Anglicans today are the descendants of the Anglicans who developed as a result of the Settlement. And anyone who cannot accept the broad church tolerance of differences, the via media, are but another puritan movement rising up to the self-appointed task of cleansing the Anglican Church of the very folk who in fact make it Anglican!

Anonymous said...

No, David, Hooker was very definitely a Protestant, not a semi-Catholic. He did not defend episcopacy on Catholic or sacramental ideas - he saw it as belonging to the bene esse, not the esse of the Church. Read Nigel Atkinson on Hooker. Puritans were of course memebers of the Church of England before first, Laud and then, the Restoration Parliament drove them out (1662 Ejections).
The 'via media' theory has nothing to do with the Elizabethan Church. It was one that J H Newman preeminently elaborated, before seeing it was historical and theological nonsense and converting to Rome.
Such historical revisionism does the rounds of Tec, but the facts are otherwise.
As for 'True Anglicans', lol! I must post my 'True Scotsman' joke ...
Al M.

Anonymous said...

OK, "True Anglicans" out there , here it is - not a joke but an instruction on logical fallacies from Antony Flew no less.

"Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again." Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing." [Brighton is not part of Scotland.] The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. [Aberdeen is part of Scotland.] This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing."
—Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking (1975)

Al M.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I also find your reading of Anglican history quite unpersuasive. Puritanism (of the past, and of the present varieties) has/is not always about 'cleansing'. It is also about renewal. Both the evangelicalism and the anglo-catholicism of the 19th centuries were in their different ways renewal movements in the life of teh C of E. Some felt, in the end, that they could not remain (Newman to Rome, Darby to Plymouth!). But for those who did remain, they have contributed to the meaning of being 'Anglican' and that meaning is not reducible to something like 'true Anglican is broad Anglican.'

I also find it difficult to take seriously the notion that broad Anglicanism is tolerant of differences. Of some differences, yes; but not of all. In the 18th century Wesley Methodism was not tolerated by the C of E and found itself outside, not inside that (allegedly) broad church. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand it was not the 'Puritans' who could not find room for a significant 20th century Maori prophet, Ratana, who founded his own church. In my own lifetime it was the broad Anglican church which insisted, until comparatively recently, that non-Anglicans could not receive communion.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Puritanism ... has/is not always about 'cleansing'. It is also about renewal.

How Peter, is any form of renewal in a Puritan movement not just a synonym for cleansing?

But for those who did remain, they have contributed to the meaning of being 'Anglican' and that meaning is not reducible to something like 'true Anglican is broad Anglican.'

If they have remained Peter, they have obviously elected one of two possibilities. Either they have been a part of the broadness of Anglicanism, living within the tension of folks praying and supping together while holding to different theological conclusions. Or they have become a sect within that has isolated itself from the rest of the church. The later are not Anglican Peter.

Perhaps Al, you should meditate a bit longer on my comment because you did not get what I wrote in the tiniest little bit! You respond to comments I did not make.

PS - It would be nice if this could stay on the main page until we have finished the conversation. Or at least this part of the conversation.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Not sure that this will remain on the main page ...

Further back in the thread you wrote: "True Anglicans today are the descendants of the Anglicans who developed as a result of the Settlement. And anyone who cannot accept the broad church tolerance of differences, the via media, are but another puritan movement rising up to the self-appointed task of cleansing the Anglican Church of the very folk who in fact make it Anglican!" I think this presumes too much. (1) It presumes that the broad church tolerant of differences is and will never be in need of some kind of 'cleansing'. It might be; some are arguing this is one of these times; others say it is not. But the proper response to pro cleansers is to argue that cleansing is not required rather than to argue that 'true Anglicanism' never needs cleansing. (2) It assumes that the only cleansing elements within broad Anglicanism are those who profess to be some kind of cleansing element. But when one sees certain developments in North America (including, now, a potentially divisive edict from the Bishp of Toronto), all in the name of broad Anglicanism, it is arguable that these developments are cleansing moves: cleaning out the conservatives! (3) It assumes that various movements within a broad church (e.g. anglo-catholic, evangelical, charismatic) are content to endorse broad Anglicanism. The reality can be that these movements work and pray earnestly that the remainder of the church would see the error of their ways and be converted to that movements way of doing things. Charismatic Anglicans, in my experience, would not shed a tear to find that the broad Anglican church had become the wholly charismatic Anglican church. They would think it marvellous!

David |Dah • veed| said...

Charismatic Anglicans, in my experience, would not shed a tear to find that the broad Anglican church had become the wholly charismatic Anglican church.

God forbid! ;)

I went to the Parish of the Holy Spirit in the Seattle area a few times, long, long ago when I was in seminary there. What a disjointed service! Follow the BCP. Put the book down and do a little praising and prophesying. Go back to the BCP service. Put it down and do a little praising and speaking in tongues. Go back to the BCP...

Anonymous said...

No, David, I think I grasped pretty clearly what you wrote and I don't buy your sophisticated historical revisionism, any more than I buy the cruder version peddled by that English canon Giles Fraser. 'Broad Church' Anglicanism is otherwise known as Latitudinarianism and it's more an 18th century thing, with a range of influences, esp. Enlightenment rationalism, English (and later German) Deism, and modern biblical criticism. The Elizabethan archbishops, including Bancroft, may have been anti-Puritan but they were also Calvinists and decidedly anti-Catholic. Someone like the former Christian scholar Diarmid McCulloch is clear on this. They were not 'inclusivist' and neither was the church of Laud or the Restoration - or the church of Wesley's day. Dissenters and nonconformists were imprisoned or excluded form public life by the Established Church.
Al M.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Al M, I give up. Your legalist mind is incapable of seeing what I wrote. It is my understanding that in English the convention is to use capital letters when discussing something such as an actual movement, such as the Via Media. However, when alluding to a concept such as broadness, one uses lowercase letters, such as to discuss a via media.

You are not arguing so much with me as also with Dr. Richey Hogg, my ordained United Methodist history professor at Perkins, SMU. Someone who has no dog in the Anglican battles, and was teaching me in 1984, a bit before the current troubles.

The seeds were planted in the Elizabethan church which lead to the Anglican party in the Church of England and have germinated and grown to the broad Anglicanism we have today. Of course, broad, inclusive Anglicanism did not spring up over night, fully mature. And yes, it was subject to evolution and development, as well as the prejudices of different eras of the last 400+ years.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Al and David,
I wonder if I might offer a mediating view of your discussion?
While I cannot cite chapter and verse, it is my understanding that there is a North American take on Anglican history which differs from a British take. I use 'take' intentionally as a softer, less aggressively critical description than 'historical revisionism' (used by Al to describe David's view).

IMHO the North American take (whether expressed by a Methodist lecturer or not!) broadly understands the broad church, sitting in the via media, exemplarily expressed by TEC through recent centuries, as the purely evolved child of the Elizabethan Settlement. The British take, I suggest, differs in its appreciation of several heirs claiming pure descent from that Settlement, the broad church being only one of them, and allowing that in time the evolution of the Anglican church may settle (!) on just one of those children's descendants (e.g. evangelicalism which is currently resurgent in the C of E), or remain as now on several. A further feature of the British view, I think, is that it hesitates (save in the writings of some, such as Giles Fraser) to express certainty about what 'true Anglicanism' is. The point being that we may not yet have sufficient perspective to make a judgement after just four post-Settlement centuries.

In sum, I would honour David's view as a reflection of a widespread view in North America, rather than describe it as 'historical revisionism.'