Friday, April 30, 2010

Do Thomas and John need to agree before world Christianity is unified?

Very interesting report here from Brett McCarcken in Christianity Today on two conferences in the States, both raising, in different ways, what it takes to achieve Christian unity:

' "Nothing justifies schism." This was the sober, stone-faced, and curiously truncated response by N.T. Wright when asked—at last week's Wheaton College Theology Conference—what might justify such action. The question wasn't theoretical: he currently serves as Bishop of Durham in the Church of England.
I attended the Wheaton Conference one day after attending another conference—Together for the Gospel (T4G)—which took place in Louisville and featured a who's who of "Young, Restless, Reformed" leaders/pastors for whom Martin Luther's ultimate schismatic act stands as one of the greatest, most heroic, God-ordained actions in Christian history.
The juxtaposition of these two sold-out conferences, which represent two of the most important strands of evangelical Christianity today (the neo-Reformed movement and the "N.T. Wright is the new C.S. Lewis" movement), made the question (problem?) of unity within the church impressively pronounced.'

The whole document is here.

Very interesting thinking whether we are most agreed when affirming our faith together or defending our faith together. And, what would it take to get Thomas Wright and John Piper to talk to each other, not past each other.

When Mark and Peter agree you have gospel truth

Interesting. A commenter on an earlier post draws our attention to Mark Harris of Preludium picking up on Archbishop Peter Jensen's "post-crisis" phrase in his Singapore reflection (also posted below a few days ago), along with an essay by Marshall Scott posted on Episcopal Cafe. Here is one paragraph of Mark's essay, but I encourage you to read the whole, which is nicely illustrated with maps:

"Two different readings, two similar conclusions: The Anglican Communion is broken. The crisis has not been averted and the consequences are at hand. The failure to communicate across cultural, social and theological boundaries is too great for the moment. Distrust makes the notion of a viable Anglican Covenant impossible or irrelevant. The Anglican Communion as we know it is no longer. It is time to get on with the work God has given us to do - no matter that now we cannot do it together. That is their conclusion and I believe they are probably right."

This is the money sentence: "The failure to communicate across cultural, social and theological boundaries is too great for the moment."

Romans in fifteen words

Hello. Problem. Revised and extended solution. Old/new solution reflection. Therefore live this way. Farewell.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The True Roman Church

Sometimes in conversation a remark is made that sticks in my mind for weeks after. One such recent remark concerned Romans 12:1-2 being the key to finding our way out of current controversies. A bit of thought is required to get from that remark to peace in the church! I won't attempt that here, but perhaps here is the beginning of an occasional series of reflections on Romans.

Various storm centres hover over Romans these days. Dark clouds which engulf those in the middle of them so it seems that some go into the storm over Romans 1 or 3 or 9-11 never to be seen again. But this epistle as a whole is worth an attempt at comprehension. Simply, it is the articulation of the gospel for all humanity, the announcement of a universal philosophy establishing a new way of being for all societies. To get stuck in Romans 1 or 3 or 9-11 is tragedy for the church. To understand why Romans 12:1-2 exists after chapters 1-11, as the foundation principle for a new way of being human, with effectively a series of notes of possible practical implications in 12:3-16:27, is to renew our vision of what it means to be 'church', the people called to be living sacrifices, transformed by the renewal of our minds, discerning the perfect will of God.

In our divided, fragile church today, whether we think of ecumenical divisions between major world churches, or disputes within those churches, or the emblazoned headlines telling the world of the sins of Christians, we appear to be a long way from the spirit of the Epistle to the Romans. We do not share its confidence of a new world order pervaded by the gospel, nor do we evidence a shared conviction that we understand the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

What is to be done?

We could re-present our bodies as living sacrifices, according to the injunction of the apostle in Romans 12:1.

But before that perhaps we should reestablish what we think the gospel is, according to Romans 1-11!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WW3 getting closer?

Not quite on topic re Anglican matters, but interesting re how unity-and-diversity works in other contexts, Walter Russell Mead analyses Europe's economic and political crises:

"As usual during the last 100 years of inexorable European decline, they missed the main event: Europe once again has blundered its way into a major crisis.

A pair of them, actually. Internally, the Greek problem is showing signs of mutating into a full scale crisis of the European project. Externally, the decisive shift of Ukraine into Russia’s orbit reveals the bankruptcy of European foreign policy and the inability of the 27 member European Union to formulate, much less carry out, a comprehensive foreign policy on matters affecting its vital interests.

The Greek meltdown is on the surface just another financial crisis: yet another delusional country pursuing the path of least resistance has made promises it can’t keep to public and private sector workers. Now the bill must be paid and the IMF called in to reorganize the national finances.

If that were all, it would not be so bad, but something much bigger and more troubling is involved." (Whole post is here)

OK, it's just my view of history and all that, but when economics goes bad, wars break out. And the economics here look very bad.

Biblical evolution of the Anglican Communion

Archbishop Peter Jensen is a wise and intelligent person. I commend him even to his critics! Here he speaks, from a GAFCON perspective on the Global South Encounter 4, at which he was an observer. For Communion observers what he has to say is worth careful attention. At the least he is signalling that he estimates GSE4 represents a majority of the Communion forming a New Communion, impatient of the old Instruments of Communion, annoyed at structural changes made behind closed doors, and wary of persistent Western revision of definitions. What do you think?

"The Global South to South Encounter

The Fourth Blast of the Trumpet

The image of the trumpet blast seems to be an over-dramatic description of the communiqué issued from the latest Global South Encounter. In fact, the response to it has been somewhat muted. But as a guest at the conference, I believe that it fully deserves the title ‘trumpet’ and will in time be regarded as an historic statement.

One reason why it fails to create a strong reaction is that it simply confirms the obvious. The crisis moment has now passed. Many of the Global South provinces have given up on the official North American Anglicans (TEC and the Canadian Church) and regard themselves as being out of communion with them. They renew the call for repentance but can see that, failing something like the Great Awakening, it will not occur. The positive side to this is that they are committed to achieving self-sufficiency so that they will cease to rely on the Western churches for aid. That is something the Global South has been working on for some time, with success.

In my judgment, the assembly was unresponsive to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s video greetings. I don’t think that what he said was obscure. It just seemed to be from another age, another world. His plea for patience misjudged the situation by several years and his talk of the Anglican covenant was not where the actual conference was at. He seemed to suggest that the consecration of a partnered lesbian Bishop will create a crisis. In fact the crisis itself has passed. We are now on the further side of the critical moment; the decisions have all been made; we are already living with the consequences. And it was in working out the consequences that the communiqué may eventually be seen to be historic.

The Global South Encounter could not in itself recognize the authenticity of churches. But the communiqué goes as far as is possible to recognizing the authenticity of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and declaring this body to be the true heirs of the Anglican tradition on that continent. This is precisely what the GAFCON/FCA Primates Council did in 2009, and it really means that the leadership of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion regards itself as being in communion with ACNA and out of fellowship with the other North Americans. This was symbolized by the part played by Archbishop Bob Duncan at the conference, especially when he presided at Holy Communion. Furthermore the welcome accorded to the two bishops from the Communion Partners demonstrated the Global South commitment to Biblical standards as a test of fellowship.

In the meantime, of course, there are those, notably in the West, who want to play by the old institutional rules. They would argue that ACNA cannot be part of the Anglican Communion because it has not passed the tests of admission via the Anglican Consultative Council. This is so artificial as to be risible. As the last paragraph of the communiqué observes, the unreformed ‘instruments of communion’ (who invented such an inelegant phrase?) are archaic remnants of a system which has failed. The Global South is vibrant with spiritual reality. It has taken a time for them to break the courteous habit of deference, but they have now chosen reality, not the artificial constructs dominated by the money and politics of western churches.

Which brings us to the covenant. The word ‘covenant’ was prominent in the lead up to the conference. Given that the Anglican covenant reached something like a final form in December it could reasonably be supposed that the Global South Encounter would regard this as its chief agenda and issue a statement urging all provinces to sign. In fact, the consideration of the covenant theme took a strictly biblical turn from Archbishops Akinola and Chew onwards, and it was scarcely if at all addressed from the platform during the Encounter. The paragraph on the covenant in the communiqué still endorses the idea of such a development, but it is also perfectly clear that work still needs to be done to produce a covenant which the Global South would be happy with. The two defects mentioned are that it lacks disciplinary teeth and that it gives monitoring power to the Standing Committee when it should belong to the Primates.

I suspect that a great deal more lies behind these criticisms. The very appearance of the body called ‘The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion’ was the cause of much private comment, for example. Even if it is a totally innocent development, it seems to fit with the frequent experience of the Global South that they are neither consulted nor listened to and that the deck is always stacked against them. The paragraph is consistent with the view that there is now a very considerable breakdown in trust and that new ways of being Anglican are being found. The praise for Archbishops Mouneer, Orombi and Ernest in their determination no longer to attend meetings with representatives of the North Americans is a further indication that the crisis point has been passed and that we are now in the era of consequences. It seems strange for anyone to be counseling delay and patience under such circumstances.

I am not attempting here to give a record of the Encounter itself, and these observations have no other status than that of an outside observer and one not privy to various of the key meetings between Primates and others. The conference contained a great deal else worthy of remark, including a high quality of presentations. I was especially impressed by the manifest desire to listen to scripture and to be obedient to scripture. But I conclude with a particular moment which had special significance for me and ties in with my comments on the communiqué.

It occurred in my small group meeting. In this group were representatives from Madagascar, Kenya, the Solomons, South Africa, India, Myanmar, and Burundi – a fair range representing the modern Anglican Communion and the very ones who value their membership of the Communion so highly. We were discussing covenants, and the issue of the Anglican covenant emerged. Very gently but firmly the group let me into a secret. It was all very well to have a covenant, but what if the people have different ideas as to what a covenant may mean? What if you were in covenanting with westerners, whose word could not be relied on? Of what use is a covenant then? Look at the state of marriage in the west. Consider the western capacity to use slippery words. What would a covenant be worth?

Right action demands that we understand our own times accurately. If I am correct, that we now belong to the post-crisis phase, we need to know what such a moment requires. Action in this phase is no less demanding. One thing is for sure: those who wait and do nothing will be playing into the hands of ideologues who have had such a triumph in the west. This is especially so for the orthodox in those churches in the west which have yet to come into their moment of truth. For them there can no longer be, ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…’ (Proverbs 24:33). Instead they must wield, ‘The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17), if they wish to survive. This is at the heart of what I observed in Singapore, and it is in this, as in the communiqué, that I believe that Global South, like GAFCON/FCA, is pointing to the Anglican future.

Peter Jensen
General Secretary, GAFCON/FCA

Who will be the next Archbishop of Polynesia?

Answer according to scuttlebutt in our church: no one knows, no one can guess, no one is placing a bet, it could be anyone!

Here is a report from the Fiji Times (H/T Titus One Nine, which is remarkably well informed about places faraway):

"REPRESENTATIVES from the different Anglican Church congregations in the Diocesan of Polynesia gathered at the Novotel Convention Centre in Lami yesterday to begin the electoral process for a new Diocesan Bishop.

Diocesan secretary and registrar Reverend Sereima Lomaloma said when the late Bishop of the Diocese of Polynesia, Reverend Jabez Leslie Bryce, died in February this year, his seat became vacant. "We usually have our synod, which is the parliament of the church, every three years," she said.

"But this meeting was already planned by the late Bishop Bryce in 2009 after he announced his retirement in 2008.

"This synod has to take place. It is an electoral synod where the electoral college of the church is going to sit and elect a new bishop of Polynesia. It's a process that the electoral college goes through and hopefully it will be over by Thursday evening."

The retired Bishop of Auckland John Paterson is the presiding president of the synod meet and the archbishops and primates commissary for Polynesia.

"When the bishop's seat becomes vacant, the archbishops will appoint somebody to be their commissary to look after the diocese until we have a new election," Rev Lomaloma said.

"Bishop Paterson took over in February until May where another Bishop will become that commissary until we install a new Bishop of Polynesia in August."

She said all proceedings within the electoral process will be kept confidential until a new Bishop is installed.

She said nominations from the synod meeting will be sent to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Once the nomination is sanctioned by other parts of the Church, a new Bishop will be announced.

The Synod meeting continues today."

Generous liberal support for Bishop of Durham's move

Ruth Gledhill and just about everyone else in Anglicanland is reporting that Bishop Tom Wright of Durham will resume his alter ego as Professor N.T. Wright, taking a chair at St Andrew's University, Scotland.

"The leading bishop for the evangelical centre, NT Wright, Bishop of Durham, is returning to academia, taking a chair at St Andrew's. He is 61 and could in theory have remained at Durham until he was 70. As one of the top five, he carries authority by virtue of his position but also has added value by virtue of his skills of communication and of intellect. He will be badly missed by his troubled church. Professor Ivor Davidson at St Andrews said, 'Tom Wright ranks among the most distinguished New Testament scholars in the world, and his profile as a churchman, writer and communicator is simply outstanding. I am delighted that he will be joining us at St Andrews, where he will further enhance the long-established reputation of the School of Divinity as a major international centre of biblical and theological scholarship.' So why is he going? Might it be because they the Church has decided to sell his castle? Read our news story here, with comments from Rowan Williams."

Ivor Davidson, incidentally, until very recently was professor at the University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ.

Bishop Tom/Professor N.T. Wright has led an amazing life and it could be a long time before we see his like as theologian, communicator, and leader seated again in a leading episcopal cathedra.

It is good to see some early signs of the generous and gracious support of liberal or progressive Anglicans for this move, not. This comment From a Leading Liberal/Progressive Anglican Blog:

"As a graduate of St Mary's College (the School of Divinity) of the University of St Andrews, I am dismayed at this appointment and note that it will adversely affect my donations to the college and the university."

Loving that liberal tolerance for the ideas of other people!

I do hope the C of E appoints another top scholar to Durham. It has been a great tradition which skipped an opportunity between Jenkins and Wright. It was my personal privilege to live in Durham when Jenkins was the bishop there. He had an amazing intellect, and I know his detractors rise up to condemn him even now for leading people astray over the resurrection (but he had defenders in Durham as I recall, evangelicals who appreciated his catalysing of conversations in pubs!), but he preached one of the most memorable sermons I have ever heard in my life!

Clayboy has an excellent rumination on this move: absolutely 'wright', biblical scholarship these days is mostly a factory churning out articles and books to satisfy measurement of academic performance by numbers; and some of it - just reading some the other day - is fashionable opinion dressed up in academic language.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Institute of New Anglicanism

Cherry-picking here, but why not? Tim Harris, commenting on Stand Firm (in response to Sarah Hey posting his comment made on Titus One Nine, but also in a post below), offers further thoughts on GSE4 and links it to developments here in NZ:

"Thanks for posting this Sarah. One of the interesting statements that emerged through the plenary addresses (I think by ++John Chew) was the need to get away from an idealised vision of ‘Anglicanism’ identified with its English expression. As the Global South gain in confidence as a significant stake-holder within the Anglican world, they appear to me to be increasingly frustrated with inheriting a global north agenda, together with the control of communion instruments to achieve the outcomes predetermined in the proverbial back room (probably a literal one for that matter).

The more positive focus and energy (while responding with clarity to AC ‘issues’ as per the communiqué) was much more in exploring what does it mean to be Anglican (or more specifically, an Anglican expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church) in the very divergent contexts as experienced within the global south. In their own words, this will require new expressions of being Anglican as necessary to meet the missional challenges of each context.

It is clear that this is not departing from the AC, nor providing alternatives to the Instruments of Communion, but it does signal that time, energy and precious resources will be given less to AC ‘Instruments’ and their associated initiatives, and more to Global South initiatives and the capacity to further the gospel mission affirmed (with passion) by the Global South.

Here in the Diocese of Nelson, and through our newly established and fledgling theological college, we have a joint initiative that we have named ‘New Anglicanism’. It is unashamedly ‘Anglican’ drawing on the radical and pioneering DNA that accompanied the formation of Anglican Church, but exploring how Anglican treasures old and new (see Matthew 13:52) can provide ‘deep church’ in our particular context. ‘New Anglicanism’ will focus on networking at grassroots level, and be particularly mindful that in a post-colonial age we are no-longer answerable to euro-centric masters. To be honest, I believe we in the ‘western’ church are still in our infancy when it comes to engaging with genuine theological and spiritual dialogue with non-western perspectives and experiences.

In many ways, the grass-roots networking mode of ‘New Anglicanism’ is very similar to the ‘Third Way’ discussions stimulated by Sarah’s post subsequent to GC 2009. If anyone wants to explore this further, you might visit the website for Bishopdale Theological College, and the link to the ‘Institute for New Anglicanism’. This is a positive and proactive initiative in seeking to get beyond to the reactive stance that we have been drawn into by events over the past decade.

To clarify: we are still ‘Anglican’ within the context of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, but seeking to be more intentional in addressing what it means for us in seeking (in God’s grace) to be Anglican in our context and in this point in history, while being faithful to our calling as members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

Theatre of the Absurd

H/T to Titus One Nine

"Parishioners never led away by church leader
Karen Wescott Mystic

Publication: The Day

Published 04/25/2010 12:00 AMUpdated 04/25/2010 06:03 AM

Recent articles regarding the Episcopal Church's lawsuit against Bishop Seabury Church are misleading. ("Bishop Seabury parishioners can continue to use building," April 16. "Episcopal Diocese is ruled owner of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton," March 20.)

Father Ronald Gauss has not "led" us away. He doesn't have a vote. The Episcopal Church radically changed its doctrine, and is demanding we support it financially and exclusively, or else. It was the parish's unanimous decision to also affiliate with the Anglican Church, which is in the same denomination as the Episcopal Church.
We haven't formally disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church. We added the other affiliation in order to obtain godly episcopal care. The opposition wants the court to order our Anglican bishops to not set foot in our building without their permission. The judge refused.

Also, 35-40 (not 25) of us attended court. At the most recent hearing, Father David Cannon - so-called "priest in charge" - had nobody with him except attorneys, because there are no dissenters in the parish.

In fact, the hearing was the first time parishioners saw Father Cannon. His attorneys claim to represent the parish, but the only people they represent are Father Cannon and his imaginary congregation, which does not exist."

If something keeps me blogging on ADU it is the hope that we might learn in foresight and not head down the absurd paths that others in Anglicanland are taking.

Outbreak of Communion discordant decision-making Down Under (2)?

(Continuing from the post below)

The resolution agreed to by Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke (within Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, i.e. one of the three tikanga of ACANZP) is cleverly composed. As an 'in principle' resolution it can claim that no practical consequences are envisaged for the time being, while offering the local pihopa (bishop) grounds for acting consequentially at any time! Further, by speaking about gay and lesbian candidates for ordination but saying nothing about partnerships, civil or blessed or otherwise, the resolution can be claimed to offer no specific guidance regarding non-celibate gays and lesbians. In short, a resolution with sufficient slipperiness to evade certain critiques, yet with sufficient substance to be the warrant for actions discordant to the life of our church at this time. Whether such a resolution is discordant to our Communion involvement is a genuine question: the Communion seems more concerned with the making of bishops than with ordination to the diaconate or the priesthood.

In the light of our church being involved in a process of hermeneutical enquiry into the Bible and same sex relationships (see my other blog, Hermeneutics and Human Dignity), it is intriguing that this resolution should have been made since one interpretation of the existence of the resolution is that it has prejudged the outcome of the process. (Even more intriguing when one of the movers is one of the presenters at the forthcoming hui for 2010!!)

Here is my most urgent concern about this resolution: will it build congregational life within Tikanga Maori?

The life of any church is often a fragile bloom. This is so of the congregational life of Tikanga Maori. Most Maori priests and deacons are either unpaid or paid by virtue of chaplaincy roles (military, hospitals, prisons) with many tangi (funerals to which communities gather in large numbers) duties added on top of that. In many parts of Tikanga Maori the emphasis in their ministry and mission is not on Sunday congregational life but on other aspects of community life. The kind of congregation building efforts we have seen within Tikanga Pakeha (European-origin Kiwis) in recent decades (church growth, Alpha Courses, beginning new style services, etc) are less emphasised within Tikanga Maori. The largest Maori or predominantly Maori congregations in Aotearoa NZ are in churches other than Maori Anglican churches.

I know I am an outsider, a Pakeha, just an observer, but nevertheless I raise the question whether congregational life within Tikanga Maori could be strengthened by a new ministry and mission strategy which unambiguously aims to build up congregations within Tikanga Maori. In my understanding, current strategy is differently focused. There are good reasons for that, and good things that result. But, again, in my understanding, congregations on average continue to remain small, few Maori clergy are paid unless employed (ultimately) by our government, or holding a ministry education position within Tikanga Maori, and the maintenance of governance and management of Tikanga Maori structures is a constant struggle with a number of Maori leaders holding multiple roles on committees and councils. If I am wrong, please tell me! It would be a matter of great rejoicing to find that I have overlooked many vibrant, dynamic large (200+) congregations up and down our land.

Congregational life is important to Anglican ecclesiology! Let's remind ourselves of ...

Article 19 - The Church

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome has erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

Here I do not wish to debate the danger of this Article, that in the hands of some it becomes a recipe for 'Anglican congregationalism', but simply to underline that in Anglican thinking about what the church is, congregations are at the core of its existence: people gathering faithfully, regularly, to hear the word of God preached and to receive the sacraments duly ministered.

Hence back to my question about the resolution at issue: will it build congregational life within Tikanga Maori?

Perhaps it will. It would be interesting to learn of reflection on such a question from within Tikanga Maori. Later: one commenter has already argued strongly that this resolution will lead to strengthening of congregational life.

It is certainly true that there are other statements the church (any church) can make, or be perceived to make, in the area of human sexuality which will deter people from coming to church. Our challenge (across all three tikanga of our church) these days is to find ways of being inclusive of people while not excluding people. A concern I have is that, bit by bit, resolution by resolution, ACANZP could become 'the gay church' of these islands, an inclusive church that excludes people by virtue of that reputation, with the consequence that we drastically shrink in membership/adherence in the next twenty-five years. Such a future is already being played out in other churches here and overseas.

My second most urgent question about the resolution is whether it builds inter-congregational life within our church within Tikanga Maori and between the three tikanga?

I have my doubts about that.

We face great challenges through these times. It happened this morning that I read the following passage. It touches on at least one of those challenges, how we encourage rather than discourage faith in the little ones of God.

Tena ko tenei, ka he i tetahi tangata tetahi o enei mea nonohi e whakapono nei ki ahau, nui ke te pai ki a ia me i whakawerewerea ki tona kaki te kohatu mira kaihe, me i pungaia ia ki te rire o te moana. Aue te mate mo te ao i nga take he! Kua tino takoto rawa hoki he putanga mo nga take he; otiia, aue te mate mo tera tangata e puta ai te take he! (Matiu 18:6-7)

May God grant us wisdom.

(Addendum for clarity re citing the passage above: all public discussion of human sexuality, whether discussing same sex partnerships in the church, the remarriage of divorcees, or the like, has the capacity to upset and/or to mislead people ("little ones") one way or the other. Hence my prayer for wisdom for God's church.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Outbreak of Communion discordant decision-making Down Under (1)?

The Episcopal Cafe reports this today:

"Maori resolution opens ordination process for gays/lesbians

From New Zealand, we have word of this resolution passing at the annual meeting of the Maori Anglican diocese which is in the East Coast of North Island in New Zealand. [CORRECTION: Te Manawa o Te Wheke is more central North Island (Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, etc) than East Coast which is Te Tairawhiti].

That Te Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke receives with thanks the report from Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa commission on Human Sexuality and moves in principle to adopt the statement on ordination provided that any gay and lesbian (takatapui) candidates/ordinands are carefully and prayerfully selected, supported and encouraged through their discernment process.
Moved - Moana Hall-Smith.
Second - Ngira Simmonds
It's an interesting development given that in the tripartite Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, each of the various groupings has historically shown great deference to its partners.

(The "constitutionally autonomous" Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia is a loose confederation of the three churches so named, each area having its own minimal canonical structure. The province's 1992 Constitution calls for each area to manage its business in unrestricted partnership with the other two, while "[ordering] their affairs within their own cultural context.")"

Caution is required here. This is one of five hui amorangi of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa moving 'in principle'. The sentiment here may or may not receive support in the other four hui amorangi. To place this report in a wider context of debate within Tikanga Maori at the level of the whole Te Pihopatanga meeting (Te Runanganui), this is Taonga's report on reception of the Tikanga Maori commission's report cited above, dated 10 November 2009:

"In June 2004, Archbishop Hui Vercoe declared that “there are no gay priests in the Pihopatanga”.

According to one Pihopatanga observer, that statement was capable of another interpretation. Such as: “If we don’t look, we won’t see”.

In 2007, in the wake of the turmoil surrounding Gene Robinson’s ordination, Te Pihopatanga decided to set up its own commission on the subject. It produced a report suggesting, in essence, that gay orientation should not be a barrier to ordination.

And judging by most of the speeches at 90minute session devoted to that subject at the Auckland hui, Te Pihopatanga is now pretty relaxed about orientation and ordination. Or as one participant told me later: “Ninety percent of our people are OK with it.”

Bishop Kito Pikaahu, who chaired that commission, introduced the session by having each hui amorangi sing their own versions of No 116 in the Maori hymn book: E Te Atua Kua Ruia Ne/O Purapura Pai (God who has sewn the Good Seed) .

Each sang the same lyrics – but each sang a tune distinct to their rohe. Bishop Kito’s point, perhaps: we’re all different. We’re all valued in God’s sight.

He spoke too, of the sense in which Te Pihopatanga felt pressured to come up with a definitive position on the sexuality question “when it’s not a priority issue for us.”

Bishop Victoria Matthews, from the Diocese of Christchurch, then traversed the history of the Communion’s grappling with the subject.

She’s ideally placed to do that – she was on the Canadian church theological commission which investigated the blessing of same-sex unions, and she’s a member of the Windsor Continuation Group which has been charged with addressing outstanding questions arising from the Windsor Report.

Bishop Matthews also spoke of the embracing love of God, citing the 1 Corinthians 12 passage about the hand being unable to say to the foot: ‘I have no need of you’.

And she outlined to the hui what was shaping her thinking: “I think that the hospitality of the gospel encourages us to say: yes, we are one fully, because of the saving acts of Christ.”

However, she later told journalists that the timing of any development “is incredibly important.”

Whenever a part of the church “sprints ahead” on any issue, “we revert to talking about ‘us and them’”.

The golden rule of New Zealand tramping had impressed her: you tramp at the pace of your slowest member. And the difference in tone between Lambeth 1998 and Lambeth 2008, she suggested, was proof of the gains that can be made when people are not rushed.

Several members of the Pihopatanga commission then offered their thoughts. Rob McKay, for instance, Tai Tokerau’s Community Theologian, told of how the congregation at Holy Sepulchre had itself had begun its own “Listening Process”.

So it was all sweetness and inclusivity? Not quite, because Tom Poata, vicar of St Faith’s Ohinemutu, then strode to the microphone and declared that he could have saved himself a trip from Rotorua – because he’d heard nothing he couldn’t have read on Google.

He wasn’t too impressed with the commission’s original report – he later described it as “a plethora of nice, plausible, enlightenment, postmodern expressions” – and was hoping for something more from the hui.

“A word like ‘abomination’ doesn’t go away easily,” he said.

“We’ve got to go back to the texts, and see if there’s any plausible, rational explanation as to why the writers have framed our understanding of homosexuality in the way they did.

“Whatever we find – whether it’s positive, negative, indifferent – we have a responsibility to do that work.

“We haven’t. It’s been skirted around, thrown around as being a cultural aberration, a Pakeha issue and not a Maori one – but it’s the church’s issue, and the church has a responsibility to address it head on.”

What’s more, suggested Tom, appearances can be deceptive:

“What you heard”, he said, “was an hour and a half of ‘from-the-bench’ talk. I know that most of those people there do not believe that homosexuality is appropriate for ministry.

“And many will not say it.”

Te Runanganui received the commission’s report."

Tomorrow I hope to post a reflection on Te Manawa o Te Wheke's resolution.

Are Global South Anglican churches compliant with 1.10?

Let me remind you of what GSE4 said a few days ago about the Covenant (my emboldening):

"21. Global South leaders have been in the forefront of the development of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ that seeks to articulate the essential elements of our faith together with means by which we might exercise meaningful and loving discipline for those who depart from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion."

Here for refreshment is Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998:

"Resolution I.10

Human Sexuality

This Conference:

a. commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
b. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
c. recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
d. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
e. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
f. requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
g. notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process."

I have emboldened some important phrases in the resolution concerning pastoral care for homosexual Anglicans.

Are all churches in the Global South (and those represented by observers at GSE4) compliant with these parts of Resolution 1.10?

The trumpet sound coming from Uganda and Nigeria recently "condemning irrational fear of homosexuals" seems to have been hard to hear. Indeed some have wondered if what we have heard has supported irrational fear.

As for listening to the experience of homosexual persons, would it be irrational to guess that for many GS churches this amounts to nil?

But my guess is that none of this will matter should the Covenant be signed to: compliance with 1.10, in reality, will mean compliance with 1.10 apart from the words I have emboldened.

To be clear: I think it a good idea that Covenant signers are compliant with 1.10. Such compliance would rule out member churches signing to the Covenant who practise the opposite of the teaching of Scripture expressed within 1.10. It would mean that those signing the Covenant were on the same page of understanding of Scripture and thus any future "Covenant discipline" would be about future departures from Anglican teaching and practice, not about our messy past. But I doubt that more than a few member churches are actually compliant with 1.10 in every respect. Indeed, it may be that there are no compliant churches at the moment. Of course listening processes could be instituted tomorrow, and statements condemning irrational fear of homosexuals could be made at the same time ...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Further from Singapore

Tim Harris has supplied the following for publication on Anglican Down Under:

Introductory note: this was not an occasion for carefully prepared text and argument, but largely reflections and personal comments. I had only a couple of lines of notes, and what is reproduced below is not word for word as spoken, but reflects to the best of my recollection (and without access to any recording) the essence of what I sought to convey - Tim Harris

"Kia Ora.

I bring greetings in Christ from brothers and sisters in the Province of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to be invited to join with you this week, and I value your welcome and hospitality. Speaking personally, I have been enriched and refreshed this week. Thank you for inviting me and encompassing me in your midst.

At the time of New Testament, independent city-states in the eastern Mediterranean had a goal in establishing themselves in competition with other cities, and in maintaining their distinctive character and values. There was a particular term used to identify this particular value or quality: ‘HOMONOIA - to be of one mind. The Latin equivalent was ‘CONCORDIA’ [as attested in coins and temples]. Being of one mind and in such agreement was urged as a matter of civic loyalty. It was to look to a unified city as an institution to avoid dissension and strife.

It is striking in the New Testament that that particular term is not used, although similar sentiments are explored. You won’t find it in St. Paul. When Paul urges struggling churches to stand firm in the face of competing cultures, his focus is not on being of one mind as the goal in itself, but more specifically to be of the same mind. And that mind is specifically the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). So, it is superficial just to be of one mind unless that mind is of Christ. It is in sharing the mind of Christ that we are taken into the fullness of the kingdom. All this is reflected in Paul – especially in Romans and Philippians – in the renewal and transformation of the mind as darkened human attitudes into the mind of Christ [note especially the contrast between Romans 1 and 12].

We have a choice before us in the Anglican Communion. Those who would pledge loyalty to the institution are like the city-states, seeking unity through the institution itself. Or those who cry out for a deeper unity: a unity grounded in sharing the mind of Christ.

The crisis in Anglican Communion is largely due to the theological mess we find ourselves in. It is not just theology as an academic exercise, but what is preached from pulpits and in the local church, and what is shared when asked to answer in simple terms ‘what do you believe?’ All too often answers run a whole gamut of opinions and fail to provide any clarity or coherence.

Our great need is for leaders, men and women who know God: God’s character, purposes and the counsel of his heavenly court. We need leaders to proclaim the gospel with a passion and speak of God with courage - to preach the fullness of the mind of Christ. These have been revealed in God’s grace, through the prophets and the apostles. We have the torah, God’s instructions. The Spirit empowers us and convicts us and leads us into God’s truth as revealed in his Word.

We need leaders who know God’s word, not guessing what God might be doing, offering opinions on this or that gospel truth, but going deep into God’s word as a means of grace to shape how we enter the mind of Christ. The crisis we face as a Communion is theological at heart, and needs to be addressed with theological depth.

This is the painful lesson in New Zealand: how damaging it is when the theological education of men and women in ministry brings doubt and confusion, especially in matters where the word of Scripture is clear. And the impact on our churches after more than a generation of such theological education has been devastating.

I read the report to the House Of Bishops in TEC regarding questions of same sex relationships and sexual expression. To be perfectly honest, and speaking personally from an academic perspective, the case put forward to justify same sex blessings and marriage is extraordinary in its treatment of various scriptures. Passages that are actually quite clear are made to say the opposite of their plain meaning. The logic and reasoning is strained and at key points quite incoherent.

As our sister from Uganda urged us yesterday, our responsibility is to be Elijahs – to have a concern for preparing for those who will follow, who will take up the prophetic mantle as leaders. The heritage needed for the future belongs to those who will be a light to the nations, a covenant grounded in God’s word and witness. We stand confident in what God has taught us by his grace, not councils and decisions which are grounded in loyalty to the city, culture and the institution, but the Word of God written. May the mind of Christ guide us. AMEN."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Conception or gleam in the eye

Does the GSE4 meeting, now concluded in Singapore, amount to the conception of an embryonic new Anglican structure? Not necessarily one which breaks away from the existing Anglican Communion, but potentially one which reformulates the current draft of the Covenant, and imposes a decisive condition on those signing up to it ('decisive' in the sense that it would not permit a church signing to it that was playing with the meaning of the Covenant). Or is it too early to tell?

Christopher Johnson of Midwest Conservative Journal has a thoughtful post around the implications of GSE4's communique.

The future of world Anglicanism is, I suggest, a little complicated to predict. I think we can now be clear that communion has broken down between TEC (and, probably, ACCan) and Global South (except that communion with Communion Partners within TEC is intact). But I cannot see two new Anglican communions (for want of better terms, let's call them Global South and Global North Communions) forming any time soon. That would mean the C of E making a choice and such a choice would split it down the middle. No. I think we will see the Anglican Communion continue, formally undiminished, but practically diminished as primates, bishops and delegates do not turn up for meetings, but also strained internally among those taking part, because the C of E will never be happy to be out of communion with most of Global South, yet neither will it be comfortable being out of communion with TEC.

Thus the C of E will be the link between TEC and Global South. Meantime Anglican churches in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand will also be torn between wishing to be in communion with TEC as well as with Asian and African churches of the Global South. Gradually Global South could construct an alternative, and very sizeable Global South Communion but there will be various ways in which communion will take place between Global South churches and Anglican Communion churches, to say nothing of some Anglican churches trying to retain seats at both eucharistic tables. Yet, in the end, some choices will be made, because there will be too many meetings to attend for those trying to be fully part of both.

Down Under Speaks in Singapore

Among the remarks made by observers at GSE4 are these from Timothy Harris, Dean of Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson, NZ (and formerly of Adelaide - a true Down Under Anglican!!) as reported by Cherie Wetzel:

"Rev. Dr. Timothy Harris, New Zealand. I have been enriched and refreshed this week. Thank you for inviting me and encompassing me in your midst.

At the time of New Testament, the independent churches had a particular phrase to uphold themselves against the culture. Hominoya: to be of one mind. The urging was to share in that one mind. It is striking in that New Testament that the phrase is not used. You won’t find it in St. Paul. Paul reports the to the struggling churches. He said not to be of one mind, but to be of the same mind and that mind is the mind of Christ. So, it is the superficial mind vs. being taken in to the fullness of the kingdom. This is premised on the renewal of the transformation of the mind into the mind of Christ. We have a choice before us in the Anglican Communion. Those who pledge loyalty to the institution vs. those who cry out to go deeper: to be of the mind of Christ.

The crisis in Anglican Communion is partly the theological mess we find ourselves in. It is not just what is preached from pulpit but clergy, when ask what do you believe, their answers run the gamut.

I hope the Global South will be a people who have the love and courage to preach the fullness of the mind of Christ, who know God’s word. Not guessing what people of God might be doing, but people who know. They have a clarity about God’ purposes and meaning.

This is the painful lesson in New Zealand: how damaging it is when the theological education of men and women in ministry brings doubt and confusion especially when the word of Scripture is clear. I read the House Of Bishops from TEC statements re: scriptures that mention homosexuality in the Bible. Passages that are clear came out twisted, until they say the opposite of how they are written.

The heritage of the future belongs to those who will be a light to the nations, a covenant grounded in God’s word and witness. We stand confident in what God has taught us by his grace, not councils and decisions which are grounded in loyalty to the city, culture and the institution, but the Word of God written. Christ be with us. AMEN."

See further here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

That mind of the Communion just won't go away

When does the Communion not have a "mind"? When some blogger dismisses the notion, pours scorn on it and denies it has credibility, plausibility, or laudability? No. It's when the majority of the Communion agrees it does not exist or forswears never to invoke the concept again.

Whoops. The majority of the Communion has just used the phrase "mind of the Communion" again. Here are the money clauses in the communique from Singapore's Global South Encounter 4 ('the fourth trumpet'): [my emboldening]

"11. We rejoiced to receive the report from the Global South Anglican Economic Empowerment Track that was established in the Third Encounter. We affirm the actions already taken in the past four years that focus on:
- Developing in each Province an Economic Empowerment Fund;
- Developing sustainable Empowerment strategy;
- Promoting biblically-based teaching on stewardship;
- Promoting regional partnerships;
- Networking and increasing active engagement of both public and private sectors in improving the economic livelihood of local communities.

12. The youth leaders from the Provinces of Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Southeast Asia met together to celebrate their Anglican heritage. We agreed that the future of the Communion lies in winning the next generation for Christ. We urge each region to adopt initiatives to better understand the needs and characteristics of this new generation so that we might better communicate the Gospel and Christian values to them. It is essential that the ethos and traditions of the Church be imparted to the youth in creative and dynamic ways so that they will be equipped to live for Christ for their generation and beyond.

13. During our plenary sessions, bible studies and small group discussions we were called back to a fresh vision of God, of the Church and of Christian leadership. We saw God in His stunning holiness and absolute sovereignty through Isaiah’s vision (Is 6: 1-13), and correspondingly saw our own ingrained sinfulness and utter foolishness in trusting man rather than God alone. We caught a “ big” vision of the Church from her role as ‘servant of the Lord’ (Is 42: 1-9) to bring God’s justice or ‘right order of living’ to the nations of the world. This established the absolute necessity and priority for the Church to disciple her members under the authority of the inspired Scriptures so that they may transform their societies and reach the nations with the Gospel. The fresh call upon the Church’s leadership, from the Servant of the Lord’s costly obedience (Is 50: 4-9), is to be courageous and fully confident of the Lord’s sustaining grace and final vindication.

14. Upon this biblical foundation, we looked afresh at the theological underpinnings of the Encounter’s theme, found renewed strength to pursue its practical outworking and renewed our commitment to network with one another for mission, prayer and economic empowerment strategies so that we might enlarge the capacity of our provinces and dioceses to fulfill the Great Commission.

15. As a sign of our fellowship and an encouragement to our purpose, at the beginning of our assembly God sent into our midst two Nepalese Anglicans, members of the new Anglican Church in this principally Hindu and Buddhist nation. They shared with us about new Anglican initiatives that are bringing the gospel to their people and the way in which the Word of God has brought life and hope and peace, along with suffering. We rejoice with them in their newfound faith and their determination to be obedient to the Word of God in a setting where such obedience is very costly.

16. In contrast, we continue to grieve over the life of The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and all those churches that have rejected the Way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture. The recent action of TEC in the election and intended consecration of Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles, has demonstrated, yet again, a total disregard for the mind of the Communion. These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved. Such actions violate the integrity of the Gospel, the Communion and our Christian witness to the rest of the world. In the face of this we dare not remain silent and must respond with appropriate action.

17. We uphold the courageous actions taken by Archbishops Mouneer Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East), Henry Orombi (Uganda) and Ian Ernest (Indian Ocean) and are encouraged by their decision not to participate in meetings of the various Instruments of Communion at which representatives of The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada are present. We understand their actions to be in protest of the failure to correct the ongoing crisis situation.

18. Some of our Provinces are already in a state of broken and impaired Communion with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada. Their continued refusal to honor the many requests made of them by the various meetings of the Primates throughout the Windsor Process have brought discredit to our witness and we urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to implement the recommended actions. In light of the above, this Fourth South-to-South Encounter encourages our various Provinces to reconsider their communion relationships with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada until it becomes clear that there is genuine repentance.

19. We were pleased to welcome two Communion Partner bishops from The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and acknowledge that with them there are many within TEC who do not accept their church’s innovations. We assure them of our loving and prayerful support. We are grateful that the recently formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a faithful expression of Anglicanism. We welcomed them as partners in the Gospel and our hope is that all provinces will be in full communion with the clergy and people of the ACNA and the Communion Partners.

20. For many generations Anglicans have lived together with a shared understanding of our common faith; indeed among our great gifts has been the Book of Common Prayer that has provided a foundation for our common life. In recent years the peace of our Communion has been deeply wounded by those who continue to claim the name Anglican but who pursue an agenda of their own desire in opposition to historic norms of faith, teaching and practice. This has led to a number of developments including the GAFCON meeting that took place in Jerusalem in June 2008.

21. Global South leaders have been in the forefront of the development of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ that seeks to articulate the essential elements of our faith together with means by which we might exercise meaningful and loving discipline for those who depart from the ‘faith once for all delivered to the saints.’ We are currently reviewing the proposed Covenant to find ways to strengthen it in order for it to fulfill its purpose. For example, we believe that all those who adopt the Covenant must be in compliance with Lambeth 1.10. Meanwhile we recognize that the Primates Meeting, being responsible for Faith and Order, should be the body to oversee the Covenant in its implementation, not the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

22. Over the last 20 years we have been distracted by conflicts and controversies that have kept us from effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While we have been so distracted, Christian heritage, identity and influence has continued to decline in the West. We believe that there is a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure; especially the Instruments of Communion and the Anglican Communion office; in order to achieve an authentic expression of the current reality of our Anglican Communion.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1,2)" [the full statement, including footnotes is here].

Plenty to discuss here. But (I think I have my maths correct here) a majority of the Communion's member churches have gathered, represented by their primates and have, once again, pointed out that the mind of the Communion has said one thing and some member churches have done another.

Notable also is a tightening of interpretation of the Covenant, cleverly avoiding entanglement with Section 4, instead focusing on 'compliance with Lambeth 1.10' as a necessary criterion for adopters of the Covenant. That would rule out TEC. (But, commenters will be quick to add, might also rule out those who have failed to engage with the 'listening process').

Most heartening in my view is the call for review of the Instruments of Unity. Timely. Crucial. Necessary for the chaos to stop.

Not so heartening, in my view, is neglect to speak of commitment to understanding and genuine gracious love for gay and lesbian Anglicans.

Intriguing is the mention of the Book of Common Prayer. It sort of hangs there in the way it is mentioned. In what way is it a foundation for our common life? (It does not, for example, play a central role in liturgical worship among evangelical Anglicans). Also interesting is this phrasing, "those who continue to claim the name Anglican but who pursue an agenda of their own desire in opposition to historic norms of faith, teaching and practice." A bit of definition is needed here. Quite a few of us have agenda, claim the name Anglican, and earnestly assert our continuity with historic norms of faith, teaching, and practice.

ACNA does not go away, nor the Communion Partners from the future of Anglican communion (deliberate small "c"). Global South is clearly in communion with ACNA and the Communion Partners. Others may huff and puff, and the ACO may dither round the question of ACNA membership of the Communion or whether dioceses such as Communion Partners can sign the Covenant, but Global South is clear here: we are in communion with them, they may sign the Covenant.

But we can tell you this: no departure of GS from AC

An initial impression created by an address of Archbishop Mouneer Anis was of a Communion-like structure being created with Communion-leaving implications, but Cherie Wetzel reports this as the actual facts of the matter (my italics):

"Couple that with the fact that the Global South bishops and archbishops are not creating anything new. Abp. Mouneer Anis reiterated this morning that the Global South has a structure that includes a Primate’s Standing Committee and an administrative team, newly elected at this Encounter. President: Abp. John Chew of Singapore; Vice President Abp. Henry Orombi, Uganda, (who is still stranded in London); Secretary Abp. Mouneer Anis of Egypt/Middle East; Treasurer Abp. Nicholas Okoh, Nigeria; at large Abp. Stephen Than Myint Oo, Myanmar and Bishop Albert Chama, Central Africa. The Global South has a structure for their own development only. They are not leaving the Anglican Communion and they are not forming their own communion."

Incidentally this is in a longer report on the outstanding quality of the Bible studies at GSE4, with details of one particular study.

On another note, there is an awful row going on between Stand Firm and David Virtue re reporting of GSE4. I refuse to give you the actual links because unsavoury, unChristian language is involved. But it reminds me that just because a bunch of Christians tell you they are all on the same page theologically does not mean they are all on the same page in respect of the language of love! Communion conservatives have reason to be more humble about the alleged righteousness of the 'cause' because there is more unrighteous behaviour among us than we seem willing to admit to the world of public news.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

There will be consequences, but cannot tell you what just now

Here is part of Archbishop Rowan Williams' message to the Global South Encounter 4 in Singapore. A cursory glance at the blogosphere tells me it is being blowtorched by the 'left' and the 'right'. Once again, if we may be allowed to use a label, we must wonder if ++Rowan has positioned himself, unexpectedly, in the centre of the Communion!

"Greetings to you all, in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour.


Covenant, as many people have said, is an extraordinarily rich word. In your discussions during these days you’ll have had many opportunities to think about the richness of that word in Scripture and in the theological tradition. But as I reflected on it myself, one of the texts that I looked to was the association that St Paul makes in Romans 9.4 between adoption¸ glory, and covenant. He’s speaking there of the Jewish people: ‘from them’, he says (v.5), ‘comes the Messiah’, the Lord, the Incarnate God. In their life they have discovered adoption as children of God, the revelation of the glory of God, and the covenant reality which holds them to God and to one another. And I would like to think that as we Anglicans together reflect on covenant, we think also about adoption and about glory.


So when, as an Anglican Communion we seek to bind ourselves in covenant, we’re not simply making a contract, we’re not simply trying to solve problems. We’re trying to find a way of grounding our mission in a new way, in the recognition of that inter-weaving of adoption and glory that all Christians share.


But of course we are reflecting on the need for a covenant in the light of confusion, brokenness and tension within our Anglican family – a brokenness and a tension that has been made still more acute by recent decisions in some of our Provinces. In all your minds there will be questions around the election and consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles . All of us share the concern that in this decision and action the Episcopal Church has deepened the divide between itself and the rest of the Anglican family. And as I speak to you now, I am in discussion with a number of people around the world about what consequences might follow from that decision, and how we express the sense that most Anglicans will want to express, that this decision cannot speak for our common mind.

But I hope also in your thinking about this and in your reacting to it, you’ll bear in mind that there are no quick solutions for the wounds of the Body of Christ. It is the work of the Spirit that heals the Body of Christ, not the plans or the statements of any group, or any person, or any instrument of communion. Naturally we seek to minimize the damage, to heal the hurts, to strengthen our mission, to make sure that it goes forward with integrity and conviction. Naturally, there are decisions that have to be taken. But at the same time we mustall—as indeed your own covering notes suggest for your conference—we mustall share in a sense of repentance and willingness to be renewed by the Spirit.


May God the Father bless you all, through the risen Christ, showering upon you the power of his Holy Spirit.
+ Rowan Cantuar:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Emerging church from the weight of modernity

The Anglican Communion is in crisis. This crisis itself is part of the unfolding crisis for Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries as the full weight of modernity crushes the churches of the West, if not of the East also. What will emerge from the pressure? Something or nothing? In respect of the Communion, will the Global South Encounter 4 in Singapore this week give the Communion a steer as to where the emergent Anglican future is heading?

I am going to take a break from blogging for a few days, but looking forward to having something to say after the Global South Encounter is completed at the end of this week.

Meantime some things of interest to read include:

(A) Walter Russell Mead on where mainline churches in the USA have gone wrong, mutatis mutandis, here in NZ also, I suggest:

"Why is churchgoing so important to you that you will not only go there no matter what — but that you will do everything in your power to encourage your friends and neighbors to join you? Why is church the daily bread you must have, not a lovely garnish on an already full plate?

A sustainable religion must have answers to these questions. Otherwise it will slowly fade away.

The mainline churches don’t have to give the same answers to these questions that Billy Sunday gave. But they must answer them; at the moment, too often, they don’t even try. I do not say that it’s a simple thing to answer these questions under contemporary conditions — but I do say that the failure to keep this in focus as the most essential thing that a church must do is a key to the spiritual weakness and, therefore, the broader crisis of the mainline church." (Whole essay here).

In my new role I am visiting different churches each Sunday for a season. One thing which has struck me with fresh force is the importance today of preaching a compelling message. What is the compelling message of Christianity in the amazing world of well fed, well housed, well empowered - generally speaking - Western society? I hasten to add that I have heard some compelling sermons! But this essay by Mead is, I think, critical reading for a church seeking to emerge from under the crushing weight of modernity.

(B) Quite different tack, but Andrew Goddard is engaged in e-publishing a serious, detailed history of Integrity, the key forum/lobby for change on homosexuality in TEC.

(C) Fulcrum (that well known open [label - people prefer not to use labels] organisation in England) has published a paper by Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough, on Doctrine and the Bible.

(D) A salutary riposte from Benjamin Guyer on the self-destructive tendency in Anglicanism to play out our criticisms in public media such as the internet. He is talking about bishops so I must be exempt :)

(E) But, perhaps this week, more importantly, it is possible to keep in touch with Global South Encounter as it unfolds in Singapore, mercifully free of the ash cloud over Europe! The official Global South site is here. I have also found this useful round up of Global South resources. It is possible that this GS Singapore site will carry actual news releases if and when made.

Cheers. Blogging break begins ...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Very very clever

OK nothing to do with being Anglican. But this is superb wit:

Iceland's last wish: to have its ashes scattered all over Europe.

H/T to Episcopal Cafe who got it from here.

PS I also picked this up off Twitter:

Message to Iceland: we said "send cash". Can't you read?

Two roads diverged ... and I took the one marked communio ecclesiology

Looking backwards to a golden past is a theme of some Anglican pundits reflecting on the future of the Communion. It all got lost in Elizabethan compromises, some think. Others acknowledge fair development of theology and liturgy through succeeding centuries, but mark the rot setting in with failure to stop the rise of the modernism which made Newman so anxious he went home to mother Rome. In fact there is no golden past for the church to turn to for future guidance. Squabbles and quibbles were there from the beginning and while Paul is justly famous as the great missionary genius of the apostolic church, he spent a lot of his writing sorting out disputes. The glory days are yet to come. In working out what it means to be Anglican, whether that includes valuing an Anglican Communion, and what shape that Communion might have, we do well to look ahead. What we will become can shape what we seek to be now.

That, for me, is a starting point for thinking about what ecclesiology might shape an Anglican Communion in the twenty-first century. What might drive us forwards is a vision of the future rather than a picture of the past. That future, vividly captured in the Book of Revelation, is eternal communion with God: Father Son and Holy Spirit. An ecclesiology of this kind is a ‘communio ecclesiology’. It looks well suited to be the ecclesiology of the Anglican Communion. But at this time it is not obvious that this is and will be the ecclesiology of the Communion in the 21st century.

At the heart of communio ecclesiology, driven as it is by a vision of future communion with the Trinity is a profound challenge: will we conform our life together in Christ according to our future as one, holy, catholic, apostolic church in eternal communion with the Trinity, or conform our ecclesial life according to some other agenda such as present needs of the moment, or national, or ethnic, or cultural concerns? The furore in the Communion burning away since 2003 has exposed a desperate need for the Communion to come to a decision about what it is. Michael Poon, in his recent Global South Encounter 4 preparation paper, expresses the question well,

‘To be sure, all Anglican Churches are willing to belong to the Anglican Communion. That is not the issue if “communion” is merely a matter of social fellowship between autonomous churches. National councils of churches and even Protestant Christian World Communions are such instances of communion. “Instruments of consultation” would do for these forms of fellowship. They are sufficient for fostering spiritual and social bonds of affection. What WCG has in mind is whether the Anglican Communion is at the verge of a historic decision. Are the Anglican Churches that are “in communion” with one another able to affirm they are indeed a Communion of Churches with one ecclesial identity?’ (Poon: paragraph 6)

Just because we are named as a ‘Communion’ means nothing: there is no intrinsic or compulsory commitment to being shaped by a communio ecclesiology. We could be a Communion in name only, a ‘social fellowship of autonomous churches’ in reality. Here I suggest that such a reality is not in accord with Scripture because the vision in Scripture for the church is for one body of Christ, united heart, soul, mind, and spirit in Christ, participating in one communion through one baptism into one Lord, in accordance with God’s plan for all things (Ephesians 1:9-10) and Christ’s prayer for his followers, ‘that they may be one’ (John 17). In that vision for the church the predominant spirit is not of autonomy but of interdependence and mutual accountability.

The current draft (i.e. final draft) of the Anglican Covenant is embued with this vision: ‘The Covenant operates to express the common commitments and mutual accountability which hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another. Recognition of, and fidelity to, this Covenant, enable mutual recognition and communion. Participation in the Covenant implies a recognition by each Church of those elements which must be maintained in its own life and for which it is accountable to the Churches with which it is in Communion in order to sustain the relationship expressed in this Covenant (4.2.1)’.

This understanding of the church, of how a communio ecclesiology might shape and direct the life of the Anglican Communion is concordant with communio ecclesiology seen through other (non-Anglican) eyes. Thus Poon cites,

“Conciliarity is not something which the Church has – it is what the Church is – an orderly communion of persons freely united in the Holy Trinity in truth and in love” (Thomas Hopko, "On Ecclesial Conciliarity," in The Legacy of St. Vladimir: Byzantium, Russia, America, ed. John Breck, John Meyendorff, and E. Silk (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1990), 224.)

But powerful forces are at work in the Communion arguing against the Covenant, not least because a vision for mutual accountability and interdependence could become a reality in which a member church has to account for its actions to the Communion. Characterizing such reality as “punitive” is unhelpful because it turns our eyes from a vision of becoming what we are meant to be.

There is an alternative at this point of decision. A social fellowship of autonomous churches is a distinct possible future for the Communion. In which case, we would likely be working with a silo ecclesiology: we are here, you are there; we live in this way, you live in that way; that is fine, so long as you do not expect us to leave our place for yours (though, of course, you are welcome at our place providing you share our common life within that place). Silo ecclesiology, incidentally, is often at work in the Anglican parish system, and is characterised in biblical imagery as me 'working in my corner of the Lord's vineyard'. A grave danger with ‘silo ecclesiology’ is that it leads to ‘salvo ecclesiology’: a rocket is fired from one silo to another!

But is this the way of God who is communion in Trinity, who creates out of Christ’s redeeming work ‘an orderly communion of persons freely united in the Holy Trinity in truth and in love’? Is not that way pressing the Communion to ask of itself, Are we evolving towards a worldwide church that is interdependent and mutually accountable? This worldwide church, within communio ecclesiology, would itself be a provisional step on the way to a true communion of all Christians, a becoming what we are intended to be on the other side of the gate of glory. Will we take that way?

Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 beautifully expresses communio ecclesiology:

"Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God."

Acknowledgment: this reflection flows out of a wonderful recent discussion with some local Christchurch theologians, that discussion itself being informed by their reading of communio ecclesiologists such as McPartlan, Zizioulas, Kasper, Ratzinger, Braaten, and Jenson.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

May only apply to Hyper Calvinists?

H/T to Sarah Hey of Stand Firm but here are a couple of papers re smoking out "Calvinists" in the context of Baptist churches ... Calvinisn has an honourable history in Anglican theological development so perhaps these apply more to what we might call Hyper Calvinism ...

Health Warning: please read these for a bit of theological humour. This post is not an anti-Calvinist treatise!!

There have been occasional Anglican vicars (and not necessarily Calvinist or Hyper Calvinist at that) for whom this was an apt description:

"Strict Church discipline is sought to grow the church down to the “true” church. Most SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] congregations can use a dose of church discipline; however, what is the true motive? Is it to help the straying Christian or to legalistically bring about the “true” church?"

Will this happen to Anglican Down Under?

"They love to write and blog about their reform theology and can form a theological swarm on the internet “blogging” against anyone who speaks or writes against their reform theology."

Sarah's own appreciation of these papers is here.

Belonging to the Anglican Communion

A few months ago I submitted a paper in support of the Covenant to our General Synod office. It has now been distributed to GS members with a range of other papers - the range covering 'for' and 'against' the Covenant. You can read my whole paper here. A taster is reproduced below:

"Some questions have arisen about the Covenant. Is it punitive? Will it stifle new initiatives? Will it affect the tikanga life of the Anglican church in these islands? Questions such as these are fair questions to ask, but they beg some other questions which we should answer first.

Is there value in being part of a global Communion? If so, how would we describe our common life together as members of a global Communion? How would we arrange our common life together so that we celebrate our differences and resolve our disputes? If we answer ‘Yes’ to the first question, and answer ‘the Covenant’ to the next two questions, then we could answer as follows to the questions in the first paragraph above.

Is the Covenant punitive? No, it is not a criminal code; but it does prescribe what may happen where our common life together is no longer shared by a member church.

Will the Covenant stifle new initiatives? Many new initiatives are possible which cohere with the common life of global Anglicans; some new initiatives are possible which do not cohere with that common life, but even then, only those initiatives which are protested about would be examined in terms of the Covenant, and they would only be stifled if it was agreed through due process that they were not appropriate to our common life.

Will the Covenant affect the tikanga life of the Anglican church in these islands? Our tikanga life is ultimately governed by General Synod, in accordance with our constitution. In so far as our common life as three tikanga is soundly Anglican and theologically orthodox the Covenant should enhance that life not diminish it.

There is one final issue to attend to. Some are saying that the Covenant is an un-Anglican innovation: we have never had a Covenant before and we should not have one now. That is a mystifying line of argument to take: lots of innovations have taken place in Anglican history, beginning with Henry VIII’s great innovation of dispensing with papal authority over the Church of England. It is also a contradictory line of argument: the possibility of a Covenant has arisen precisely because of the innovation of an openly partnered gay man becoming a bishop. Are some innovations to be allowed by these critics of the Covenant but not others?"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Alternative Covenant already operating secretly in AC

In less than a month ACANZP meets in its bienniel General Synod. Do not look to us, dear overseas readers, for an early rejection or acceptance of the Covenant. According to papers sent to GS members, the motion we are most likely to consider is one which we could call the "Daniel Carter" motion: kick it for touch! That is, the motion refers the final draft to the dioceses and hui amorangi for "study". Safe and sure is this approach so it is predictable that GS will vote for the motion.

But I have been musing, especially in response to a number of, let's call them "aggressive" comments on some of the blogs around the Anglican sphere, about the paradoxical way in which there is already an Anglican covenant at work (hereafter "Covenant" to distinguish it from the proposed Anglican Covenant) in the minds of some Anglicans.

Recall that some thinking about the proposed Covenant goes like this: the Covenant will bind signees together in a reformed Communion; it's implementation will likely lead to situations in which one signee complains about another signee, the gist of that complaint being that the other signee is "unAnglican" in some way defined by the Covenant; the outcome could include punishment such as suspension from the Communion; indeed the strongest theme in opposition to the Covenant concerns the capacity of its 4th section to be "punitive", and being "punitive" is something many Anglicans in Western liberal democracies are uncomfortable about. Allied with this thinking is a much vaunted prediction that an irresistible consequence of the Covenant will be a "curia" to administer it, and a "magisterium" to determine what thinking is "Anglican" and what is not.

But what is Anglican Communion life like now, according to some pundits? I suggest it goes like this: Being Anglican is a matter of sharing common values such as tolerance, liberality of spirit, openness to the leading of the Spirit, wariness about the imposition of scriptural injunctions, and respect for the autonomy of member churches of the Anglican Communion. Further, on the matter of whether member churches' autonomy takes precedence over accountability to the wider Communion, there is an absolute certainty that "no one tells us what to do": autonomy trumps accountability. Even further, there is widespread agreement among those thinking and arguing in this way that diversity of thinking and action among Anglicans is not only a good thing, but it is irreversible; so, in fact, there is very little held in common as members of the Communion. But, nevertheless, the Communion is fairly important, and, in fact it fulfils one very important function at least. That function is to authorise which are the official Anglican churches and therefore, by logic, to declare which are not the official Anglican churches.

Thus this set of ideas, which is held very very firmly and tightly by a number of Anglicans in the Communion, actually functions as a "Covenant", a covenant already secretly at work among us. Question this set of ideas, for example, and there are likely to be complaints against you (i.e. complaints made on the internet!). But it gets worse. Just as the proposed Covenant has (it is alleged) a punitive aspect, so this alternative "Covenant" has a punitive aspect. Suppose you leave a member church of the Anglican Communion, but leave determined and desiring to remain an Anglican. What will you find according to this "Covenant" at work in our midst? You will find that the door is shut on your desire. According to this "Covenant" it is only possible to be an Anglican if you belong to a member church of the Communion. You will realise this because you will be told that you are only "a claimant to the title 'Anglican'" or that you are a "wannabe Anglican" (even though you may have been a lifelong Anglican and continue to carry indelible marks of Anglican confirmation or ordination!!).

But what does this mean in respect of the Communion and its functions? Clearly the Communion functions to administer this "Covenant" and thus to declare who is an Anglican and who is not. Paradoxically, no matter how much wrath holders of the "Covenant" pour on the Communion and its current leaders, the Communion is desperately necessary because according to this "Covenant" an Anglican is someone who belongs to a member church of the Communion and a not-Anglican is anyone not so belonging. Dismantle the Communion and anyone belonging to any claimant Anglican church is an Anglican!

But note this: to determine which are member churches and which are not, to decide on applications to be member churches, there must be a Communion body which administers the notion of membership of the Communion. I think we could call it a "curia" (and, as I understand things, that "curia" is the ACC). But what will guide this "curia" as to whether an applicant for membership of the Communion is worthy of admittance or not? Of course! That would be the "magisterium", the teaching body within the Communion which informs the Communion as to what is Anglican and what is not, who is Anglican and who is not. Currently this "magisterium" in respect of the "Covenant" already at work among us is an informal network of Anglican experts (on being Anglican!), but do not underestimate their convictions, their passionate intention to promulgate their teachings in accordance with the "Covenant", and their rigorous examination of all those who question this "Covenant" (most especially if they happen to hold office as primate of a member church in the former colonies of the British Empire).

So, my humble question to the Communion is not, will we agree to the proposed Covenant, but which covenant will we live by? The proposed Covenant or the "Covenant" already at work among us.

And my last underlining observation is this: note that no matter how loud, long or lambasting are the complaints against the Communion by those asserting the autonomy of their church, they will not cease membership of the Communion for they need it to validate their being Anglican and to exclude those who they think unworthy of the title!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

World Mission Society Church of God or New Apostolic Church?

I have a hidden agenda for this blog. It is to save world Anglicanism from itself. OK. That might be a bit grand, and the Communion certainly does not need any more grandstanders. My downwardly revised agenda, then, is to serve the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia. I think my church will be well served by belonging to something bigger than itself; a lively and faithful Anglican Communion meets that need. (So I offer thoughts about healthy sustainable life for the Anglican Communion). Our church will also be well served by growing and developing as a lively and faithful Anglican church. This is something I do not think can be taken for granted. Nor is it something which will sort itself out if we just do what we have always done before. No, we need to think carefully and creatively, and act boldly and biblically if we are to remain alive.

Coming recently to live in the city of Christchurch I have been shocked to find that a number of Methodist churches here have been put up for sale (Riccarton, Merivale, Bryndwr, Burnside, and, just in this week's Harcourts' Blue Book, the Burwood Uniting Church) or have been recently sold (Shirley). These sales go well beyond the occasional church building a denomination finds surplus to requirements from time to time (especially in the ever shifting dynamics of rural demography). No, these are parish churches in flourishing suburbs. These sales are a sharp reminder that a church can embark on the wrong strategy in response to the ever shifting changes in culture and society. As a child, for instance, I cycled many times past a healthy St David's Methodist Church in Burnside. More recently, just over twenty years ago, Shirley Methodist was a thriving neighbouring church to St Stephen's Shirley where I served my curacy. I do not know where Methodism in Christchurch has gone wrong, but my hunch is the general liberal theological embrace of this church in its training for ministry, and in its national leadership over recent decades has not served it well. (Tell me I am wrong?!).

I am conservative in theology by conviction, but I am also pragmatically deeply wary of liberal theology's tendency to diminish strong, lively, congregational life across regions and nations. Oh, yes, here and there in these islands there are lively church communities with a sure and strong commitment to liberal theology. But there are no Anglican or Catholic dioceses or regions for other churches in which liberal theology drives forward strong congregational life. Even in the most liberal of our NZ dioceses 95% of the largest parishes would be conservative in theological outlook. (For avoidance of misunderstanding: I am not dimissing liberal theology per se. I appreciate much learned from liberal theology, it offers insights I continue to be challenged by, and it has a role to play in the overall theological life of the church. But it is not a good theology to implement in the life of the church at parish level).

I believe it is imperative that the Anglican church here takes notice of what has happened to Methodism and resolves not to go the way they have gone.

Yes, there are many challenges facing Western Christianity, including Christianity in these islands; and being conservative is no guarantee of growth and development. But it remains the most fruitful way forward for the church.

There is a deep irony in some of the sales of these Methodist churches. This week the Christchurch Press (14 April, page C10) reports on the sales of some of these churches. The recession is biting deep, so even those churches next to major shopping centres have not sold to property developers. No, in several cases these churches have sold to other churches: Shirley to the World Mission Society Church of God (which seems pretty wacky), Burnside to the New Apostolic Church (not to be confused with the Apostolic Church), and Riccarton to a Korean congregation.

There is some irony here, methinks! Empty Methodist churches, possibly emptied through an over indulgence in liberal theology, are not replaced by some better version of liberal Christianity, nor taken over by other mainstream denominations. No, the new face of Christianity in NZ being expressed in these developments is variously conservative or wacky or populated by a new wave of immigrants. Is that a double failure on liberal theology's part to successfully engage with NZ society in recent decades!?

One more question about the future of our church in these islands: God building his church in NZ seems to have had no great loyalty to Methodists. Do Anglicans have any reason to think God will be any more loyal to us?

The Irrational Communion?

Are Anglicans being reasonable these days? Reason is meant to be an Anglican hallmark, a leg of the tripodic stool. I know, I am not much of one to talk, what with commenters finding me confusing and all :) But the more primates make calls to ++Rowan to "do something" in response to Mary Glasspool's forthcoming consecration, the more my reading of the Anglican blogosphere raises questions about our possible irrationality. I thought rationality goes like this: A is requested by a larger entity C, to which it belongs, not to do B. This call is based on various agreements within C, at various levels of its governance, that B is not the right thing to do. A hears that call because it says it will exercise gracious restraint and not do B. This decision is beyond doubt because what it says is widely known throughout C. To underline that this is so, the leading leader within C, let's call him R, says that if A does B then everything will be very difficult. But time goes by and A agrees within itself to do B.

What then is a reasonable response of C to A?

(a) ignore A, say and do nothing about its proposed action
(b) suddenly change its mind and say it is ok for A to do B
(c) give voice to concern about this situation and call on R to do or say something about it.

I think (c) is a reasonable response. It may not be the only reasonable response (i.e. there could be options (d) to (z)). I think it more reasonable than (a), and that (b) would be irrational.

So we have now had, in recent days and weeks, the resignation of ++Mouneer Anis from 'the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion', a letter from ++Henry Orombi to ++Rowan Williams, and, today, another primatial letter, this time from ++Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean.

Cue howls of outrage, for example here, here, and here (follow the comments, if you have time). The gist of all this is that TEC is behaving Anglicanly and the protesters in an unAnglican way-and-the-sooner-they-sod-off-from-the-Communion-the-better.

Hmm. I think the Communion is behaving very rationally. It is exhibiting one of the hallmarks of being Anglican. What we need are some steady reasonable voices. It would be helpful, for instance, if Anglicans could stop saying 'the other' is responsible for destroying the Communion. On both sides Anglicans are acting reasonably! TEC, according to its lights (its processes, canons, constitution, history) is acting reasonably. But so is the Communion according to the history of statements and resolutions of the last decade. No one, as far as I can tell, is setting out to destroy the Communion, or to take it over. It is sad that we are thinking these thoughts instead of thinking about how the Communion might move forward into a future in which the integrity of Anglicans acting reasonably can be honoured.

Incidentally, for excellent overviews of all things being said and done in recent weeks, ENS has two excellent posts full of links, here and here.