Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fruitful Wednesday

I think our day at the Hermeneutical Hui has gone well. Yesterday we engaged with Genesis 19. Today with Leviticus 18 and Romans 1. I know some readers here may be keen to get some sense of 'where the Hui is going' and/or 'what conclusion is emerging'. To each such query I simply say, we are on a journey, and the journey is likely to have an end in some kind of statement at the conclusion of the next hui. There is no intention to discuss, agree and then publish a statement at the conclusion of this hui.

What kinds of things are being talked about? Well, I am in just one of the twelve small groups, so I do not know all that is being talked about, but the sense I get from conversations with one or two, combined with my own (brilliant) group experience, is that we are canvassing the range of interpretive issues that come up in discussions such as one finds in the larger commentaries.

I think it would be appropriate to report that we are talking together. Those last two words can be read as talking together and as talking together.

So, in one way I have told you little, deliberately, out of respect for the character of the hui, but in another way I have reported something significant about our life together in ACANZP, as represented in the group of 90 or so present!

Further Reports on Visit

++Katharine Jefferts Schori is now on her way to Australia. A final set of reports on Taonga re further Christchurch events are here. I think her visit has been an important exercise in various ways. Not least we have some reflection we could consider doing on how we can best maximise the time such a distinguished visitor has in our church. Could she have visited more centres than two, for example?

Also, if time, there is some further ACI reflection on the Pentecost exchange of letters.


Fruitful Tuesday

Quite a nice day yesterday. Nice, for instance, to find rain in Auckland. So it's not just Christchurch being punished for its moral turpitude this winter :) Lots of fruitful conversations. Catching up with old friends, developing some new friendships. Some good humour along the way. A lovely eucharist led by another old friend. Engagement with Scripture. Good engagement without drifting off into a parallel universe in which Scripture plays no role. Yes, the 3rd Hermeneutical Hui of our church is off to a good start.

Meanwhile Anglicans elsewhere are thinking about things. Prodigal Kiwi(s), for example, offers some thoughts on priesthood in Tikanga Pakeha.

I am also trying to formulate some thoughts ... on a workshop on effective preaching in 2010, this Sunday's sermon on a theme in the readings, Christ-centred mission, which handily is one of the three key strategies in our diocese's strategic plan, and on heresies, especially gnosticism and Pelagianism.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fruitful Sunday

Episcopal Cafe's The Lead picks up a collation of news and blog posts re the visit of Presiding Bishop Schori to New Zealand.

In its opening paragraph it offers this reasonable deduction from the items:

"Her first Sunday looks to have been a fruitful one."

I suggest it depends what is meant by 'fruitful.'

It was a fruitful Sunday in terms of participating in some lovely, warm, hospitable occasions. Some new friends were made. And on the part of those of us who heard ++Schori preach we got a first hand experience of the persona of this leading Primate in the Communion.

But was it a fruitful Sunday in terms of getting to know the reality of our church? When perceptions bounce across the internet about who is close in friendship and comradeship in the Anglican journey of the 21st century, it may or may not have been a fruitful Sunday in terms of perception meeting reality.

The experience of Sunday was of genuine warmth and hospitality. But the experience of Sunday (and the days preceding) was not of the fullness of our church. Some will interpret this visit as deepening the perceived closeness of relationship between ACANZP and TEC. But the reality is more complicated: a part of our church is strongly affectionate and admiring of TEC, while another part is both suspicious and, as previously posted by me, very concerned for Anglicans once part of TEC but now no longer, and another part is oblivious to what is taking place in our Communion. That last section of our church, I suggest, would be most concerned to find that in some eyes it was viewed as part of a church more likely to go where TEC goes than where the majority of the Communion goes. (Of course it would be delighted to find that the kerfuffle was over and the Communion was united!)


Monday, June 28, 2010

25, 55, 500, 145

Yesterday I went to four church events. I participated in worship at two services in a parish church, also preaching and presiding. 25 were present at the first service and 55 at the second. A case could be made for such a parish being a 'stock-standard' NZ pakeha suburban parish. In the afternoon I was present at a farewell for one of NZ's longest-serving vicar's. Wally and Rosemary Behan are leaving St John's Latimer Square, one of our largest parishes, normally with some 500 people worshipping each Sunday across three congregations, many of whom are children, teenagers, young adults, and young married couples. Wally and Rosemary are aroundabout retirement age, but they will be far from inactive in ministry in the foreseeable future. In the evening I went to Festal Evensong at St Michael's and All Angel's Church with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preaching. The sidespeople gave the attendance number at 145.

Just to get something out of the way, in case I unwittingly convey a sense that this post is building up to some demolition of the Schori sermon, the sermon was fine. Indeed, thinking of all episcopal sermons I have heard in my life, one of the better ones. It began with greetings from the 16 countries of The Episcopal Church. Its texts were 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25. It articulated a case for enlarging our freedom in Christ, and used a number of illustrations from Episcopal life and mission (e.g. Haiti, Sudan) to elucidate the challenges some Christians are facing in respect of enjoying the abundant life of God for which Christ has set us free. In spirit the sermon was akin to a recent one noted here. 'Fine' does not mean I have no theological quibble, but let's see if the text is published or not, before I reflect on that. [Text is now published on Taonga]. But 'fine' does mean lots and lots to agree with, to be encouraged by, as well as challenged by. Incidentally, I thought the Presiding Bishop's voice is very nice to listen to. Not every preacher's voice is (what I call) 'listenable'.

Readers familiar with New Zealand Anglican modes will know that St John's Latimer Square stands very solidly in an area described in terms such as Reformed, evangelical, and low church - with these labels being proudly owned by St John's staff and congregation (see further on their website). In the course of yesterday's speeches of farewell and thanksgiving reference was made to other markers of one aspect of the Anglican spectrum in our Communion: 'Proclamation Trust', 'Sydney', 'Dick Lucas', 'Moore College', and 'Peter Jensen'. By contrast St Michael's and All Angels stands very solidly in an area described as 'Anglo-Catholic'. It would not just be some local Christchurch bias on my part to suggest it is New Zealand's best known Anglo-Catholic church, if not it's longest standing one. Last night's evensong did not disappoint in any way: splendidly robed clergy and lay ministers, a robed choir, bowing and crossing at appropriate points in the service, and incensing. The last mentioned being something on which there is no stinting. I am not sure which theological labels, if any, the staff and congregation there would own, so I will not give any here. (You may wish to explore their website further).

Our challenge as a Diocese, and as a church in these islands, includes holding together our diversity. A wide 'diversity' by any Anglican measure. It includes finding ways to build up the numbers of participating worshippers in 'stock standard' parishes. It includes finding successor ministers to those who have created the great challenge of leaving their parishes in extraordinary good heart and great numbers. It includes discerning what is drawing young people to our parishes (and what is not drawing young people to our parishes), and then fostering the results of that discernment. It includes enhancing our freedom in Christ and appropriation of the abundant life God has promised to us. It includes making decisions about the polity and policy of our church for the years ahead which are both faithful to Scripture-based Anglican theology and representative of the make up of our church. It includes not dividing our church.

Our life as an Anglican church has many things to be grateful for, and huge potential yet to be reached. Its breadth of diversity was on evidence for me personally through the course of yesterday. The day ended on a lovely note, including a convivial and generous reception after the evensong. Such feasts of worship and fellowship are always pictures for Christians of what the church seeks to be in its completeness. We are not there yet. By God's grace may we become what God is calling us to be.

PS There is a very nice photo of my colleague Bosco Peters with ++Katharine at the reception, posted here, and a witty reflection to accompany it!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Update Programme for Christchurch Visit

27th June, 3pm, Powhiri at Te Hui Amorangi O Te Waipounamu, 290 Ferry Road. Those attending are asked to gather outside the marae by 2.45pm.
7pm Evensong at St Michael and All Angels (corner of Durham St and Oxford Terrace). Bishop Jefferts Schori will preach.
28th June, 2-3.30pm “In conversation with Bishop Katharine” - an informal gathering at the Bishop’s centre, Te Hui Amorangi O Te Waipounamu, 290 Ferry Road.
5.30pm for 6pm “Conversation and Language – violent and otherwise” Canterbury Women’s House, 190 Worcester Street (between Latimer Square and Barbadoes Street) Women and men are welcome to this event. Donation of $10. Please bring a plate of finger food for a shared tea for after the talk.
29th June, 5.30pm for 6pm C1 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury, ( near James Hight Library between Clyde and Ilam Roads), The address is titled: “Science and Religion – your context or mine?” Donation of $5

Sourced from here. H/T Alison a commenter here re a change.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

NZ Leg of Down Under Visit Underway

The ENS news item on Presiding Bishop Katherine Schori's visit to Down Under is here.

Taonga reports here and that this forum has happened!!

Will Presiding Bishop Schori meet with supporters of the Covenant in our church?

The Anglican Church League is protesting her visit to Australia, and on the grounds which nearly all our bishops here are (I sense) poorly informed about: the treatment of Episcopalians who disagree with the lead of General Convention and the House of Bishops in TEC. [corrected from earlier].

Some questions are emerging in my mind:

For a visit which has been a year in the planning, according to the ENS report, why is so much being arranged at the 'last minute' and why has so little been said about the visits to each province?

What was the nature of the invitation to the Forum at St John's College yesterday? In the photos I see at least one prominent clergyperson from a diocese some hours travel from Auckland. Was this forum one to which some were invited and not others (i.e. apart from the obvious and proper invitations to students and staff at St John's College who could have been invited, literally, at the last minute to a spontaneous event)? If invitations were issued on what grounds were they issued to some and not to others? Were likely disputants kept well away from proceedings?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Where Australia goes, we go too ... sort of

Australia went to the World Cup, so we did too. Australia went out of the World Cup, so we did too. On a slightly interesting note, we lost no games, but won none either!

Oh, but Australia arrested their Prime Minister in a midnight raid and executed him before dawn. I do not think we will be doing that to our Dear Leader!

"The ruthless execution hasn't gone down well with the community, who essentially liked Rudd"


Meantime the Australian Anglican church does not appearing to being going where we are going with ++Schori's visit, the cone of silence there remaining firmly in place. And no journalists spare to shift their attention away from Canberra!

PS For literalists reading this, no guns or knives were used in the 'execution', nor was Rudd actually thrown onto a barbecue :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why wary of Schori?

Why is there a cone of silence over Presiding Bishop Schori's visit to Australia (noting a comment made on my post below "Calming")? Why, as commenters have observed on this blog, is there a sense of ambiguity in the public news about her visit to Aotearoa New Zealand?

I want to suggest that it is due to two factors, one of which is less visible than the other. The first, more visible factor is that there is disagreement and division in the Communion about the course TEC has taken with respect to ordaining bishops in same sex partnerships, and giving clear signals it is moving towards formal authorisation of blessing of same sex partnerships. That must mean (I suppose, I have not been talking to Down Under archbishops and bishops about their thinking) that it is difficult to be unambiguous in talking about this visit. An unambiguous speech-act in one direction might give a wrong signal that ++Schori is not welcome; in another direction it might give a wrong signal to other parts of the Communion that Down Under we are conforming to some of the stereotypes across the internet, that 'Australia and New Zealand' are following TEC, in TEC's pocket, poised to join TEC's new global movement, and the like. So ++Katharine Jefferts Schori is welcome, but enthusiasm for this visit at this time is restrained.

The less visible factor, perhaps because it is of more concern to one section of our Down Under churches than to all, is this: a number of us feel we are in fellowship as Anglicans with the many clergy and congregations in North America who have decided to leave TEC or ACCan for other forms of being Anglican (particularly ACNA). Much as we recognise that we are in fellowship with Presiding Bishop Schori because she is a bishop in good standing with a church which is a member church of the Communion, we are equivocal about the role of her office in the departure of our Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not understand why they have had to be deposed, why litigation about property is occurring, especially in situations where it turns out that no replacement Episcopalian congregation can sustain the buildings they have secured through litigation and so the building is sold to anyone except the new ACNA congregation. But we especially cannot fathom why the turn of events through this decade has moved in the polarising and divisive direction it has taken.

If this is the way forward on embracing change in respect of same sex partnered clergy and blessings of same sex partnerships then we do not want a bar of it. The 'lead' being given by TEC, the 'model' for the future of Anglicanism is not one we wish to take up. There has to be a better way.

I know of no Anglican in Aotearoa New Zealand who wishes to see our church divided in the way division has occurred in North America. So this less visible second factor is a concern potentially shared by all of us.

But for some of us this second concern is already a serious concern. There are Anglicans here for whom the most difficult thing about responding to the Presiding Bishop's presence in our midst is not that there is disagreement with her on homosexuality (we have such disagreements among ourselves), but that there are Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ in the USA who are now formally out of the Anglican Communion because of the way things have been handled in the last decade.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sneering secularism failing to permeate the outer suburbs

Reporting on a recent televised broadcast to churches by Rudd and Abbott, the Sydney Morning Herald offers this observation:

"Rudd and Abbott are both busy. They would not give up this amount of time if they did not believe the audience was important or if they felt uncomfortable talking as Christians to other Christians.

Among the inner-city types who frequent taxpayer subsidised literary festivals, what Michael Burleigh has called sneering secularism is all the rage. Witness the recent successful tours to Australia of such proselytising atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

The teachings of Dawkins and Hitchens seem to have enthused secular flocks in Ultimo or Melbourne's Brunswick.

But not so much in the outer suburbs and regional centres where God is anything but dead.

According to the census, some two-thirds of Australians regard themselves as Christians. When Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims are added, it is evident a high percentage of Australians are believers."

News of the Day

ACI has published a useful table and commentary re Anglican churches, including TEC, which are 'international churches.' Good to see they noted ACANZP which is present in at least four sovereign states (New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa). Also, under proper authority, our work among Maori Anglican in three cities in Australia is overseen by our Maori bishops.

There are no 'good' and 'bad' Anglican churches in the Communion, with our issues being about whether the goodies can defeat the baddies. All our churches have their difficulties which need working on. For instance, this difficulty in the Nigerian church.

Then there is the difficulty in the C of E as it runs up to its next General Synod session and runs into trouble trying to find a way forward in faith to reform its legislation concerning women bishops. See many posts and links on Thinking Anglicans. I have a suggestion to make to the CofE, a church in which nearly every diocese has a suffragan or two as well as a diocesan bishop (the Diocese of Man and Sodor is an exception?) - a suggestion which picks up on the Australian approach to having women bishops: legislate to have at least one man bishop and one woman bishop in each diocese.

Faith and Order: careful comparison

Mark Harris of Preludium has posted again on Anglican Faith and Order, this time offering a very helpful comparison of Anglican statements on 'faith and order', including the Covenant.

The further note I add here is to cite this from 1930 Lambeth Conference resolution 49,

"they are bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference".

Somewhere in Anglican understanding of 'faith and order' is the common counsel of the bishops in conference. In my view what has been driving forward Anglican Communion responses to the events of 2003 and 2010 has been the common counsel of Lambeth 1998, a driving through which has included the Windsor Report, Primates' Communiques, the formulation of the Covenant, and now the Pentecost Letter and subsequent action.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

That interesting Dean of Southwark Cathedral

... might lead his Cathedral and Chapter out of the Anglican Communion?

John Richardson offers analysis of the evening sermon the day Presiding Bishop Schori preached at Southwark Cathedral:

"This, however, brings us to the most significant statement of all, for having acknowledged that threats of separation may turn into reality, and having indicated that this might be not only necessary but helpful, the Dean states quite clearly his own conviction:
I believe the Chapter and congregation of this church will walk the same path as the Episcopal Church of America, the links are deep in our history, especially here.
Thus, according to the Dean, the Chapter and congregation of Southwark Cathedral are ready, when the time comes, to separate from others in the Anglican Communion, and to do so in line with TEC."

What an interesting approach to Anglican life this Dean has. Some Kiwis know Colin Slee well. So it is of interest, even Down Under, what his thinking is on such matters.


Calming

From this morning's Christchurch Press:

"A controversial United States cleric will not appear at Christ Church Cathedral during her visit to New Zealand to calm Anglican tension over gay priests."

You can read the whole article here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Faith and Order: supporting the Williams-Kearon line

Has TEC crossed a ‘Faith and Order’ line which deserves, if not demands that members of that church on Communion ecumenical bodies should be removed, and its member on the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) be restricted to consultancy status? Mark Harris at Preludium argues for a negative answer: such action is neither deserved nor demanded. In respect of the ecumenical bodies, Harris argues that ‘no requirement exists that there be a consistent Anglican voice at the ecumenical table’ and offers issues such as divorce and remarriage or the inerrancy of Scripture as issues on which it is unlikely that an Anglican body engaged in ecumenical discussions would have ‘one voice on the matter’.

With respect to IASCUFO Mark Harris cites the relevant Anglican Communion information about this body as offering nothing ‘to suggest that unanimity in viewpoint is a requirement for participation in the Commission.’

Harris also contrasts Kenneth Kearon’s point, relating to ‘the mind of the Communion’ that (on some matters at least) the Anglican Communion must speak with one voice with this point, ‘Surely it would be just as honest to come to the ecumenical table and say that Anglican churches are not of one mind on the matters concerning the vocation of gay and lesbian persons.’

A final point which Harris makes is, I suggest, easily dealt with. He asserts that when Kearon said to the TEC Executive Council, ‘not been to get at TEC, but to find room for others to remain as well as enabling as full a participation as possible for TEC’ this meant, ‘In other words to rid the Communion of those troublesome people.’ But that is not at all the plain meaning of either Kearon’s words, or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s actions. No one is being gotten rid of from the Communion.

Nevertheless action has been taken re two forms of Communion meetings, and Mark Harris is rightly keen to determine whether justification for this action is solid or ephemeral.

What might the solid ground or grounds of justification be? One ground is helpfully given in a comment in the post below: some bodies, such as another Christian church or a Muslim body either will not dialogue with Anglican bodies, or only dialogue with difficulty, while the Anglican Communion is deemed to be a body accepting the ordination of same sex partnered bishops. A sidelining or inhibition of TEC from certain Communion bodies is a signal that the Communion does not accept (or, does not yet accept) that which is inimical to such ecumenical dialogue.

Another ground involves ‘faith and order’ but in a different way to that given when reference is made to a World Council of Churches understanding of ‘Faith and Order’. It goes like this: the Anglican Communion is a body to which some churches want to belong to as members. Not all who wish to belong are permitted to belong, so some criterion or criterion of membership is involved in determining which churches may be member churches and which may not. Further, member churches appear to derive some benefit from belonging because there is normally a cost to membership, monetary or in time, energy and people resources. In short, there is shared faith and agreed order to Anglican life in the Anglican Communion. There are other Anglican churches in the world, but they do not share the faith and order of the Communion so they are not members of the Communion.

Further, varying interpretations of what constitutes that faith and order are likely to arise in a multi-member body, and in fact this is the case. Hence a further aspect to order in the Communion is the Communion collectively finding ways to address the question of handling these varying interpretations. Mostly the Communion is adept at living with varying interpretations, and on a number of matters has found that it can communicate to other bodies that it is itself a body with more than one view in its midst. One such example is the ordination of women.

However recently the Communion has found that living with varying interpretations about homosexuality is not something it is adept at. It may one day be in a different position, but right now it is not. Collectively the Communion has said it is not ready for the lead TEC has given, and is not any more agreeable to it now it has been confirmed than before. Part of that collective statement has been a series of clear indications that the Communion will no longer exist in its current form if no signal is given that TEC’s lead at this time is not acceptable.

Whether or not there is a past statement such as the Nicene Creed or the Lambeth Quadrilateral to be pointed to, or a common canon law or constitutional rule to be referenced, the Communion is saying two things at this time: ordaining same sex partnered bishops and authorising blessings of same sex partnerships is not part of Anglican faith and order as this Communion in its present composition understands faith and order AND these are not matters on which we formally wish to be seen speaking with multiple and different voices.

In other words, Mark Harris’ careful critique of the arguments proffered by Kenneth Kearon fails to recognise that we are not in normal Anglican mode on these matters. If we were, his argument would be solid ground for refuting Kearon’s line. But we are not in normal mode. These are exceptional times for the Communion and exception is being taken to the view that refusal to listen to the Communion means business as usual on bodies concerned with faith and order.

It is not clear to me how this message gets through into the collective mind of TEC’s leadership. It is bizarre that a church desperate to belong to the Communion will not listen to the Communion let alone accede to its wishes. It is beyond bizarre that there is seemingly little or no understanding that the Communion which it is so keen to belong to is at a turning point. If we make the wrong move at this crucial moment in history then the Communion could be lost for ever.

Addendum: The message does seem to be getting through to some such as this commenter on Preludium, who identifies himself as a gay priest serving in TEC. An excerpt: "We are getting a time-out because we acting arrogantly and self-servingly. We act as if we are not part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We act vaingloriously as if we are so incredibly wise, knowledgeable, and “prophetic” that we don’t need to listen to anyone else.


We are acting as a Church in the same why our State Department and Military leadership acted under George Bush. We can do whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want, unilaterally because we are Americans and that makes it right! We claim over and over that we "listen," but we still act like Bushy Americans. Are we so blind that we cannot see that as a Church we are acting like the “ugly Americans,” imperialists, paternalists thinking that we know so much better than all others, particularly those backward Africans? And to add insult to injury, we are actually claiming “colonial victimhood” because the English ABC is beginning to take action - fairly, I might add."

Faith and Order: careful critique

The recent inhibitory moves re Episcopal folk participating in some Communion committee/commission work have been explained in terms of 'Faith and Order.'

Mark Harris at Preludium, and member of TEC's Executive Council present when Kenneth Kearon met with the council a few days ago, has posted a thoughtful, careful critique of (what we could call) the Faith and Order explanation.

Is he right? I am going to ponder that!

Which Inclusion Leads Communion?

Colin Coward, writing for Changing Attitudes frames the Communion crisis, as reflected in the Kearon conciliar contretemps (some are calling it a 'show trial') with TEC's executive council, with this headline:

"The full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians is the most serious threat to the life of the Communion says Kenneth Kearon."

But a careful reading of the post yields this key phrase, citing Kearon:

"the aim has not been to get at the Episcopal Church, but to find room for others to remain ..."

So, the question before the Communion is not whether the most serious threat it faces is the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, but whether it is able to move forward together seeking faithful answers to doctrinal, ethical and pastoral questions it faces in an ever changing world.

Which inclusion will lead the Communion? The 'full inclusion' of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians or the full inclusion of as many current member churches as possible? When the 'full inclusion' of the former means the extending of the Anglican understanding of marriage to include two men or two women, and the breaking open of the standard of marriage or singleness for the episcopacy, the Communion is entitled to ask of itself whether that 'full inclusion' should be pursued at the expense of the other full inclusion, the full inclusion of as many member churches as possible. That inclusion is worth considering because it offers the possibility of Anglicans moving forward together, albeit too slowly for some, to seek answers to doctrinal, ethical and pastoral questions, faithful to our responsibilities to Scripture and tradition.

After all, let's remember that a fair amount of inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in Western Anglican churches was going on before 2003. None of which pushed the Communion to the point of breakdown. It has been the 'final push' towards 'full inclusion' as defined, not by the Communion itself, but by groups within the Communion that has brought us to this point. Moreover it has brought us to the point where we are now very polarised on homosexuality, to a point I suggest where it is very difficult to address together the important concerns Colin Coward reminds us of in his post: the widespread and dangerous homophobia across many nations in which the Anglican church is represented.

Are we now at a point where we face a 'worst case scenario' in which we have Hobson's choice between pursuit of 'full inclusion' as sought by Changing Attitudes et al with inevitable breakdown of the Communion into which inclusion is aimed, or full inclusion of as many member churches as possible in a Communion too polarised to deal with homophobia?

I hope we are not facing Hobson's choice; that ++Rowan's lead is making space for a full Communion to remain together in order to move forward together.

For my own church I believe that we are at a point where we are more together than divided, in a better position to work together on our doctrinal, ethical and pastoral responsibilities. That was not the case a few years ago. Things can change. The centre can hold.

Speaks for itself

New Zealand (rank: 78) 1 - 1 Italy (rank:5)

Number of NZ goals in tournament to date: 2

Did I mention the number of English goals in tournament to date? (1)

Australia is doing really well, by the way. 1 loss, 1 draw, 1 goal scored. Just thought, in fairness to our cousins, that I should mention how they are doing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Creatively Anglican in being church

There are some crazy things being said on the internet as the full impact of the meeting between Canon Kearon and TEC's Executive Council is being digested. MidWestConservative has a couple of zingy posts which highlight some, well, let's call them, 'interesting responses'. Here and here. A Stand Firm posting also gathers up the harvest of 'interesting responses' here. But the crazy element I think is in making the move from the mildest discipline imaginable being applied to errant member churches of the Communion (inhibition of involvement in two forms of meetings) to ++Rowan is acting as Pope of the Communion (with 'Pope' not being a good kind of leader).

It is quite clear that the basis for the discipline is the taking of soundings across the Communion that without discipline there will be no Communion of significant size left which remains anchored to the historic mooring provided by the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus ++Rowan has acted as a leader with limited powers should act when the future health of the organization for which he is responsible faces destruction: use those limited powers to the maximum for the greater good of the organization. There is nothing papal about this action if by 'papal' is meant 'autocratic' or 'dictatorial'. (There is another version of 'papal', by the way, which means the leader of a church acting in consort with the college of bishops to give expression to a doctrine or policy of the church for which they are charged with solemn responsibility to uphold and to implement.)

Thus the kind of post on the internet which suggests the Communion is either a fellowship of autonomous churches or it should submit to Rome forthwith is deficient in reckoning with the possibilities which Anglicans can creatively explore at this time. It is possible to be a communion of churches resolved to live interdependently with one another, autonomous-and-accountable, accepting international leadership shared in various ways, whether through current Instruments of Unity, or through a new, yet to emerge, conciliar structure.

These are interesting days. If I am right, that ++Rowan is acting responsibly within the responsibilities of his role, and not overreaching himself Romanesquely, then what we should see in the weeks and months ahead is a growing chorus of support for his leadership and a small chorus of support for TEC (and the interventionist churches such as Southern Cone). Expect diplomacy and respect: there is more likely to be loud silence about TEC and its right to autonomy than voiced criticism.

Rather than criticising Canon Kearon for 'obfuscation' certain leaders in the Communion and within churches of the Communion should look carefully at whether what he said at the Executive Council reflects prevailing winds across the Communion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's not the mitre, it's Canada you should be thinking about

Do not sweat the small stuff, we say. Then we sweat the small stuff. Despite a lot of comment, some outraged, some merely bemused, about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori being asked not to wear her mitre at Southwark Cathedral, her mitre is not the issue. The issue remains the nature of our relationships as member churches of the Anglican Communion. The American push is for autonomy to be more important than accountability. That is a fine and reasonable argument to advance. The Archbishop of Canterbury's lead, or following of the majority of the Communion, is for accountability being more important than autonomy in our relationships in the Communion. Some antagonists of both TEC and the ABC are arguing for stronger accountability than the ABC is asking for. But like TEC those antagonists are struggling to gain support across the majority of the Communion's member churches.

If the ABC or one of his bureaucrats asked for the mitre not to be worn, then that is a signal about accountability, even if a seemingly petty and ungracious one. If some grizzling in response echoes around the Communion, then that is a signal about autonomy resisting accountability. But beyond earnest discussion about whether the mitre might've been handled better, there is a need for some taking stock. Is anyone following TEC's lead in staking a claim for the Communion to be a fellowship of autonomous churches not accountable to one another? It would have been most helpful if Canada in its recent Synod had followed up its protestations of closeness to TEC with a signal action that it too was more committed to internal dynamics around homosexuality than to uninhibited membership of the Communion. It did not, and that, surely, is something more important to think about at this time than being mitreless at communion in Southwark.

Has there been any signal from Scotland that it will follow TEC's lead? I can tell you from Down Under that things are very quiet in the run up to the PB's visit down here. No General Synods will be addressed. The programme scheduled for NZ is very low key. I still cannot find any internet information about the (apparent) visit to Australia. It is far from clear that TEC's reasonable argument for autonomy ahead of accountability is gaining traction. It is very clear that some member churches such as Canada value their membership of the Communion highly and will not imperil it if they can help it.

In the end I think TEC will be chastened. Not by incidents about mitres, or inhibitory letters, or even requests for resignations. But chastened by it's failure to carry the majority of the Communion with it. Even if its machinations to retain Bishop Douglas on the Standing Committee succeed, what will that mean? That they have some kind of domination of that Committee? That will be neither here nor there if the Standing Committee does not properly represent 'the mind of the Communion'.

By contrast, ++Rowan Williams is demonstrating great qualities as a leader. In particular he has the quality every great leader needs, of reading the way the wind is blowing, of knowing what the 'mind' of his organisation is thinking.

Incidentally, this is not some capitulation to right-wing financed prelates from homophobic nations. If only life were so simple that it conformed to left-wing conspiracy theories. Rather, this is about a Communion moving forward - too slow for some, but at the right speed for the great majority who really do need more time to find a way to be faithful to the doctrines, ethics and pastoral responsibilities of the church. More time to find a way to be faithful together.

If the colonial days of the Communion are over then so are the pioneering days. What is counting for the future is accountability not autonomy. If the Spirit is moving in the Communion today then it is in building coherency among the majority of Anglicans. Unchecked diversity is yesterday's news. In unity is our strength; the centre cannot hold if things fall apart. The question of our relationships as member churches is not whether our rights for autonomous action will be respected under the Covenant. The important question is whether we understand the blessing accountability brings: the unbreakable strength of true union in the body of Christ.

Not so odd?

The gift that keeps on giving could be the conclusion all bloggers, and Anglican media reporters could agree on concerning what is being called 'mitregate.' It seems clear that Presiding Bishop Schori was asked not to wear her mitre when presiding at eucharist in Southwark Cathedral recently; that she was asked to supply proof of ordinations to each of her orders (H/T K Topfer, Stand Firm); and (though strictly speaking a separate 'lettergate') was asked to step down from the Standing Committee of the Communion.

But also becoming clear is that the C of E and whichever of its hierarchy or bureaucracy requested her to restrain from wearing the mitre and to fill in pieces of paper was simply following canonical order with the same perspicuity which the Presiding Bishop herself has shown in respect of TEC canons when deposing bishops. In fact, arguably, as Anglican Curmudgeon points out, the C of E may have been following its own canons with more attention to the letter of the law than the PB herself has shown to TEC's own canons.

Nevertheless it still remains odd to me that even a dim bureaucrat would apply the letter of the law re applying for a licence to preach for one of the three or four most famous Anglicans in the Communion. Do ++Desmond Tutu and ++Peter Jensen fill in such paperwork each time they flit in and out of England to preach?

Still, this is a time for some largeness of spirit and greatness of heart, and we need to see our Communion leaders rise above the petty level of these matters. Understanding each other's canon laws may be a step to understanding each other's doctrinal and Communion polity concerns!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Odd

The 'please do not wear your mitre' story about Presiding Bishop Schori's presiding and preaching at Southwark Cathedral recently gets high level confirmation in this ENS story. With an odd twist: ++Schori was asked to provide evidence of her ordinations to each order. Strictly speaking this (I imagine, having once lived and ministered in the CofE) would be a legal requirement, not odd per se. But what is odd is requiring such evidence of someone so well known. We will not be requiring such evidence Down Under :)

Why be annoying at a time when tensions are high?

Conciliar Anglican Thoughts

Permeating global Anglicanism at the moment, post prelatial Pentecost postings, are some important issues: autonomy, authority, discernment of the Spirit, discipline. Beyond some immediate, urgent angst and anger about discipline, these issues underline that global Anglicanism is only beginning a conversation about the future shape and structure of global Anglicanism. Will we be a Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, or a loose fellowship of autonomous Anglicans enjoying meeting together, or a lightly revised Anglican Communion (with or without Covenant, with or without North American funding enabling the panoply of committees and commissions to continue meeting), or (as I am disposed to envision) a global Anglican Church? A cynic might respond and say that we will be nothing quite so precisely described because we may simply continue wallowing in the shallows of the beginning stages of a discussion which not only never ends, but never moves forward to the next, and deeper stage of conversation!

I am intrigued, continuing to take Preludium (both Mark Harris' postings, and the comments responding) as a reliable guide to a strong if not dominant voice within TEC, at the robustness of response there to the recent discipline of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here is underlining of autonomy: we are right to do what we do, and no other part of Communion life has the right to tell us we are wrong, nor to inhibit our presence in the life of the Communion, even though that Communion's life is diminishing as a result of our actions. In other words, the strong push from TEC is for its vision of Communion life to be the vision shaping Communion life: more fellowship than church, more movement than institution, more diversified than unified, more diversity than uniformity, more liberal than orthodox, more progressive than conservative.

For this vision there definitely is support within a number of other churches of the Communion, notably the churches of Canada, of the United Kingdom and Ireland, of Australasia, of South America (outside the Southern Cone), of Central America, and of Southern Africa. I do not think that support amounts to majority support within those churches taken collectively but (and its quite an important 'but') I do not think one alternative vision is shared by the remaining majority. To give just one instance, among evangelicals in those churches there are those committed to a 'Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans' vision and those committed to a Communion-with-Covenant vision.

Here I do not want to attempt to work out which vision, in the end, might succeed in shaping the future of global Anglicanism. But I do want to observe that we are in for further conflict. It is difficult to imagine TEC backing away from assertion of their vision of autonomous Anglican churches meeting for fellowship, signalled by accepting the discipline of the ABC. Conversely, a Communion open to the Covenant, keen to emphasise a vision for Communion life stressing unity, common mindedness, and shared approaches to ecumenism, is likely to support the ABC's light but consequential inhibition of TEC. Thus the next year or so, including the run up to the scheduled Primates' Meeting, will involve difficult conversations. A great challenge for the primates, including Archbishop Rowan and Presiding Bishop Katharine, will be to articulate the respective visions driving their contributions to the conversation. Fussing about mitres and the like is not trivial, but it may obscure the bigger issues that need attending to.

My own vision, for a shaping and structuring of the Communion on an evolving pathway towards being a global church, directly clashes with a vision for autonomous churches meeting for fellowship. A challenge for my vision is to develop an understanding of conciliarity which is attractive rather than repelling. But a challenge for TEC's alternative vision is to at least retain a fellowship which wishes to meet together.

The forthcoming visit of the Presiding Bishop to Aotearoa New Zealand is going to be very interesting. It is unlikely that we will hear anything we have not already heard before (courtesy of the accessible and instant nature of communication of addresses and sermons on the internet). But what we may hear which will be new is our response to her vision for the future of the Communion.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Authority, autonomy and Anglican

Clayboy, discussing the 34th of the 39 Articles, makes an astute observation:

"The article seems to entirely miss noticing its most egregious innovation, to be found neither in tradition or scripture, that moves from noting diverse historical and cultural practices to the assertion that “every particular or national Church” is where the authority in matters of tradition lies. It is this complete blurring of the social and ecclesial orders that has always been the Church of England’s biggest problem, and which lies at the root of many of its contemporary issues, whether adjusting to post-Christian society, or creating and responding to bizarre concepts of “provincial autonomy” across the Anglican Communion."

At the least I take this to mean that the 39A do not steer Anglican tradition well in respect of authority of or over, and autonomy of Anglican churches in the era of the Anglican Communion.

There is a case for a 40th Article of Religion (and, yes, I know, also a case for revising the 39A): one which sets out the nature of authority for Anglican churches in communion with each other. My sense is that this involves a new appreciation of the role that councils have played, and can continue to play in the life of a global movement. That is, citing 'councils do err' is unhelpful if we wish to improve on the current situation.

The remedy for the poor ecclesiology expressed through the 39A lies in developing a theology of the church as communion ('communio ecclesiology') with attention to conciliarity ('conciliar communio ecclesiology').

Facts on the Ground

Germany 4 - Australia 0
USA 1 - England 1
Argentina 1 - Nigeria 0
South Africa 1 - Mexico 1

NEW ZEALAND 1 - Slovakia 1

Could New Zealand be heading towards the title of 'Best Football Team in the Communion'?

Surely better than Across the Tasman :)

Grace and Favour

A Wednesday round up:

Cranmer's Curate, affirming Christopher Hitchens demolition of 'religion', reminds us that our Christian faith is grace or nothing:

"In common with the other churches of the Reformation, the Church of England, in its 39 Articles of Religion, holds to the biblical doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’.

'Of the Justification of ManWe are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works and deservings'."

His conclusion is:

"In abhorring the religion of the Pharisee, it is odd to be in agreement with such a public atheist, who incidentally writes like an angel.

But that does not alter the fact that the title of his book could not be more wrong if applied to the God and Father of Jesus Christ. The true and almighty God, who saves depraved mankind by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, is great."

Anglican Curmudgeon draws attention to the continuing itinerary of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church: a few days at home presiding over a meeting of TEC's executive council. The council has a few things on its plate. The decisions it makes could be very interesting.

Preludium, in common with some other blogs, takes umbrage at the thought that the ABC may have asked the PB not to wear her mitre when presiding at eucharist in Southwark Cathedral. (If this is so, one presumes the apparent 'inhospitality' of such a request was in tension with the C of E's present state of not yet formally recognising the ministry of women bishops within its own jurisdiction).

When the Presiding Bishop is welcomed onto the marae (meeting place) in Christchurch on Sunday 27th June she will not speak in the exchange of speeches which is part of the powhiri (welcome). Someone else will speak for her: a man, in fact, because that is the context and culture of powhiri, where women do not speak. I hope this will be understood from afar. Yet grace and favour will be shown, for Presiding Bishop Schori will be honoured by being seated in the front row with the men leading her party onto the marae.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Presiding Bishop Schori Visits Anglicans Down Under

Anglican Taonga now has a post on the visits of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Graham Cray to New Zealand at the end of June and beginning of July respectively. The Taonga post carries more details than my post below. Please consult it for details.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Episcopal Visitors Down Under

Today the clergy of the Diocese of Christchurch have been informed about the visit of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, ++Katharine Jefferts Schori to the city of Christchurch. We will be able to publish details in church newsletters and parish websites this week to the people of the Diocese. There is already an announcement on our Cathedral website.

Later: please see updated report of visits on Taonga.

While some have been aware by word of mouth of her visit, only recently have 'hard details' of meetings been firmed up. Her visit to our city has been through invitation from Pihopa John Gray, Bishop of Te Wai Pounamu (South Island), and her meetings have been organised by Te Wai Pounamu as host to her visit. Close on her heels is another episcopal visitor, Bishop Graham Cray of the Church of England, who is coming at the invitation of the Diocese of Christchurch to lead two conferences on Fresh Expressions. This is the announcement concerning both visitors and events in Christchurch they are associated with:

"This year, 2010, has brought a host of church leaders to our diocese: the Archbishop of York; Barbara Brown Taylor and Bishop Graham Cray. ...
  • Fresh Mission: The New Anglican Expressions of Church

8-9 July (9.30am – 9pm Thursday, 9.30am – 5pm Friday)

At Lincoln University

  • Fresh Expression: Theology and Practice

Saturday 10 July 9.30am – 4.30pm

At St Christopher’s Avonhead


At the end of June Christchurch will receive a visit from Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Scheduled to speak in Australia, Bishop Jefferts Schori asked our Primates if she could stop over briefly in New Zealand on her way west. On the North Island she will visit Auckland and specifically St John’s College, and in Christchurch she will be hosted primarily by Bishop John Gray. You are welcome to attend a number of events that will feature Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. These are:

  • 27th June, 3pm, Powhiri at Te Hui Amorangi O Te Waipounamu, 290 Ferry Road. Those attending are asked to gather outside the marae by 2.45pm.
  • 7pm Evensong at St Michael and All Angels (corner of Durham St and Oxford Terrace). Bishop Jefferts Schori will preach.
  • 28th June, 2-3.30pm “In conversation with Bishop Katharine” - an informal gathering at the Bishop’s centre, Te Hui Amorangi O Te Waipounamu, 290 Ferry Road.
  • 5.30pm for 6pm “Conversation and Language – violent and otherwise” Canterbury Women’s House, 190 Worcester Street (between Latimer Square and Barbadoes Street) Women and men are welcome to this event. Donation of $10. Please bring a plate of finger food for a shared tea for after the talk.
  • 29th June, 5.30pm for 6pm C1 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury, ( near James Hight Library between Clyde and Ilam Roads), The address is titled: “Science and Religion – your context or mine?” Donation of $5."
Now, here is a question for Australian readers (or knowledgeable others): where is Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visiting in Australia? To whom is she talking? (I have not been able to track down any web info).

So the global mission of TEC expands in successive weeks: Canada, Scotland, England, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia ...

Chickification of the church Down Under?

Never come across the word 'chickification' before. But lots of language changes originate in places where pure English is not spoken (as it is here in Nu Ziland). When I was 16 I would have thought, had the word been then known, that the chickification of the church was quite a good idea :). But it seems to represent quite a controversial matter concerning how many men are in churches these days, how many women are in pulpits, and whether there is a correlation between the former being low and the latter being high. Thus the (Melbourne) Age reports on this matter ...

"Porter was shocked. For decades Melbourne had been the diocese most supportive of women priests, and the issue seemed long resolved. But now, in the Anglican Church and in others, it seems to be a divisive issue once again, with a backlash unleashed and gaining ground.

The question is broader than whether women can be priests and exercise leadership over men, though that is usually how it is framed inside the church.

It concerns all the roles women play in the church and in the home, where the once-traditional idea that they should submit to their husbands is gaining fresh traction.

This is being re-examined in churches around Australia: Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and others.

Porter says the change in Melbourne and elsewhere is due to a rising number of hard-line young Melbourne ministers who are strongly influenced by resurgent conservatism in the United States.

She says they are "very masculine and horrified by what they call the 'chickification' of Christianity"."

I am very glad to report that a soon to come visitor to Christchurch, Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College, is in favour of the ordination of women. From the same report:

"RIDLEY College principal Peter Adam, a complementarian, believes that Christians can hold either view with a clear conscience.

He concedes that the issue has become a source of tension among students, but so are other matters, such as infant baptism.

Nevertheless, he says, the women's issue is "very delicate. There are a number of political undercurrents going on in the diocese of Melbourne over this issue at the moment. There's a rumour going around that Ridley is lobbying the diocese to stop ordaining women, which has no truth at all."

Adam's policy is not to stifle debate.

"For the broader welfare of the church, I think it's better not to take sides in a way that precludes others or denies them their rights to participate in the diocese."

Ridley's written policy is to welcome and provide equal training for male and female students, and accept a variety of views on the roles of men and women in ministry and leadership — the same policy as the Melbourne diocese and, indeed, the Anglican Church of Australia."

Here is my take on the matter:

It is right and proper to be concerned about the gender and generation mix of the church. It is a worry to find mid-morning congregations (i.e. in Kiwiland, the main congregation of a parish) composed of elderly people. It is worrying because it raises the question when and how the next generation of that parish will arrive. It is also a concern to find that a congregation is mostly composed of one gender: at the least it raises the question whether the gospel is being presented in such a way as to engage with one half of humanity rather than both halves.

But the solution lies in the presentation of the gospel, not in the gender of the vicar. In my personal experience a healthy gender mix can be present under a female vicar; and an unhealthy gender mix can be present under a male vicar.

Preventing women from leading churches is not the key to healthy gender mix in congregations. The key lies in the gospel as an appeal of God to all humanity and the question we need to ask of any minister, tall or short, old or young, male or female, Kiwi or Aussie, is whether the gospel is being proclaimed through word and deed faithful to the revelation of the gospel in Scripture.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's Refreshing Approach

Having finally read the whole of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's address to the USPG Conference in the UK last week, here are some excerpts worth a careful read (IMHO). The whole (after introducing it via summation) is here.

Gospel and Culture

"No-one, nowhere, is without culture. All of us find ourselves in cultures of one sort or another, and the gospel has a message of both judgement and hope for each one. It is only dependence on the Spirit’s guiding that will enable us to hold each up to the searing light of Christ, and to know what it is we may affirm, and what we must challenge.

Even where there is much to affirm, we will generally want to do this through a recontextualisation within the perspectives of life in Christ. Or, to put this in the language of Scripture, we will want to ensure it is transferred from the dominion of darkness, to the kingdom of light (Col 1:13), and that it is understood from within that perspective of light and life. What I mean is that we must make clear that we uphold what is good and godly, for reasons that are good and godly. Often we may not want to affirm the assumptions and motives behind practices of contemporary societies, even though we may support the practices themselves.

It can be helpful to speak of ‘baptizing culture’. In doing so, we recollect that baptism means being united with Christ through dying to the old life and being reborn in him. So even where our faith finds expression in ways that align with surrounding cultures, we expect there to be a radical dying to the underlying assumptions of that culture and a rebirth into new life where Jesus, and Christ-likeness, reign."

Interpreting Scripture

"We must sit with Scripture before us. We must bring to bear all that we have learnt from two millennia of tradition, the history of God at work among his people and in his church. And – being Anglicans, and wedded to the primacy of Scripture, interpreted through tradition and reason! – we must then use all the skills that reasoning offers. This is the reasoning of the wisdom, understanding, discernment by which the Holy Spirit helps us find Christ-shaped, redemptive and life-giving answers. These answers may appear different on the surface, but on a deeper level, they will be coherent with each other and with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the vital point – Jesus Christ is the standard for discerning the path between authentic cultural expression and flawed syncretism; between ensuring we do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19), and yet nonetheless properly testing what we believe may be the Spirit’s leading. As St John writes in his first letter, we recognise the Spirit in the confession of Jesus Christ incarnate (1 Jn 4:1-2). Orthodox Christology, orthodox life in the Spirit, and orthodox praxis, all go together, whatever the cultures we find ourselves in – and our ability to recognise this in one another is what holds us together in our different expressions of gospel truth.

This is a profound truth. It is fundamental in helping us discern between acceptable diversity, and unacceptable deviation. It is what helps us in our vocation to ‘make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ when we wrestle with the really difficult questions (Eph 4:3)."

Unity amidst Diversity on Human Sexuality

(After characterising the Church of South Africa as a mix of Global South and Global North)

"Nonetheless, we still hold together – and are managing to do so over human sexuality.

It is well-known that within our Province, and within our Synod of Bishops itself, one can find pretty much the whole range of views on human sexuality that are found within the global Anglican family. This ranges from seeing Mary Glasspool’s longstanding lesbian relationship as no impediment to her suitability for consecration, through to membership of the Fellowship of Confession Anglicans.

This is a live issue within our Province also, since South Africa now allows for civil partnerships between people of the same gender. In response, and though we are by no means of a single mind, we continue to affirm that the marriage of Christians is between a man and a woman, and that clergy who are not married should be celibate; and we do not allow clergy to officiate at civil unions or to bless them.

We are also considering pastoral guidelines for the consequences and questions that civil partnerships raise for ministry within our parishes. Do we welcome people in such partnerships in our congregations? Should their children attend Sunday School? What if they seek baptism for their children? What if those children in their teens seek baptism and confirmation for themselves? And what do we say to the parents of those who enter civil unions, who may be overwhelmed by confusion and conflicting emotions?

These questions also prompt us to think more deeply about the essence of marriage. It is not solely the legitimating of genital acts, but sometimes our discussions of polygamy and of same sex relationships seem to reduce it to little more than this. Therefore all this is no light or easy matter to us.

When we meet – as, for example, the Bishops do twice yearly – we feel sharp, sharp, pains and great distress when, as inevitably is the case, we are called to consider developments around these issues. But we are united in this: that none of us feels called to turn to another and say ‘I no longer consider you a Christian, a brother in Christ, a member of the body of Christ’. None of us says ‘I am no longer in communion with you.’"

Resurrection and Redemption for and in the Church

"But resurrection comes. Fr Michael invited us to a service of thanksgiving: not only that his life was spared; but that out of the great evil perpetrated against him, God by his grace is bringing a far greater and more lasting good. For Fr Michael set up and runs the Institute for the Healing of Memories which conducts significant work among victims of violence and torture all around the world. As he says himself, this ‘is not to say that I will not always grieve what I’ve lost … Yet I believe I’ve gained through this experience. I realise that I can be more of a priest with no hands than with two hands.’ Fr Michael is a living embodiment that walking the path of Jesus Christ opens the possibility for God to take all that is destructive or broken, and transform and transfigure it, and bring a good that is far greater than what went before.

This is the redemption that we seek for our Communion. Therefore we must go forward, unafraid to bear our pain honestly as we keep journeying with Christ, and seeking his mind for us at each step of the way. This is our experience in Southern Africa. Looking back, we see God’s grace in the painful struggle against apartheid, that not only threatened to divide the church, but was for many a life and death matter. Against those experiences we find it hard to understand how human sexuality has become such a touchstone of faith, and mark of fellowship or enmity within the Anglican Communion.

Yet today, especially in what I have experienced within our Synod of Bishops, what counts is not the past we shared in adversity; but rather it is the continuing sensing of Christ in and among us, in the pain of our divisions, which holds us together, through our suffering – confident in the resurrection. And so we dare to join together in the prayer of St Paul, who said ‘I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in death if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead’ (Phil 3:10,11)."

Jesus is the Standard for Synods and Communion

"All this goes back to what I said earlier about Jesus being our standard. If in our Synod of Bishops we did not see Christ in one another – and if we did not agree on the central issues of who Jesus is and of the salvation that he brings – it would be another matter. But we do. And so our differing views on human sexuality therefore take second place alongside the strength of this overpowering conviction of Christ among us. As long as we know unity in Christ in this way, human sexuality is not, and cannot be, a church dividing issue.

This is why our Synod of Bishops said last September ‘we remain committed to upholding the bonds of unity with one another, as we journey together through the difficult questions that confront the worldwide Anglican Communion. Differences of opinion are inevitable, schism is not.’ Therefore our heartfelt prayer is that the Anglican Communion will also find ways of continuing to journey, even in pain, together – sharing in both suffering and resurrection hope."

Responsibility for Introducing Indaba to the Communion

"Faced with all this, my reason for introducing the concept of Indaba into the Anglican Communion (and yes, I was the guilty party on the Lambeth Design Group!) was to help us reconnect with more gospel-shaped approaches, that better reflect theologies around the work of the Spirit, and the body of Christ. I believe it can powerfully enhance our traditional ways of doing business."

A Challenge to Certain Approaches to Current Issues

"In these circumstances, I find myself returning to the words of St Paul, when he warned the Corinthians that not everything that is lawful is necessarily helpful (1 Cor 6:12). St Paul writes that even when we believe our understandings, our actions, to be justifiable and correct, we can – and sometimes should – choose not to pursue them, while that is to the greater benefit of the whole body of Christ. Yet this runs so counter to so much of today’s culture, in which we are far more conscious of our so-called rights, and our freedom to exercise them to the full."

A model sermon

Anglicans (and, of course, other Christians) preaching through the lectionary face good challenges: saying something fresh about the gospel reading which was the same three years ago; connecting gospel and other reading(s). Here is an excerpt from a good sermon on yesterday's readings:

"What makes us so afraid of the other? There’s something in our ancient genetic memory that ratchets up our state of arousal when we meet a stranger – it’s a survival mechanism that has kept our species alive for millennia by being wary about strangers. But there’s also a piece of our makeup that we talk about in more theological terms – the part that leaps to judgment about that person’s sins. It’s connected to knowing our own sinfulness, and our tendency toward competition – well, she must be a worse sinner than I am – thank God!

That woman who wanders into Simon’s house comes with her hair uncovered – “oh, scandal! She’s clearly a woman of the street!” And she starts to act in profoundly embarrassing ways, crying all over Jesus’ feet and cleaning up the tears with her hair. And, “oh Lord, now she’s covering him with perfume! We can’t have this in a proper house – what will people think? And I guess now we know just what sort of person this fellow is!”

The scorn that some are willing to heap on others because we think they’ve loved excessively or inappropriately is still pretty well known. Yet it is this woman’s loving response to Jesus that brings her pardon, and Jesus’ celebration of her right relationship with God. She doesn’t even have to ask. Jesus seems to say that evidence of her pardon has already been given – full measure, pressed down, and overflowing – just like her tears and hair and cask of nard.

It’s the same message Jesus offers over and over: “perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn 4:18). It’s actually our fear of the wretchedness within our own souls that pushes us away from our sisters and brothers. Fear is the only thing that keeps us from knowing God’s love – and we most often discover it in the people around us. Jesus wasn’t afraid to eat with sinners, either Simon or the other dinner guests, and he wasn’t afraid of what the woman of the city was going to do to his reputation."

You can read the whole sermon here.

It was preached by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori at Southwark Cathedral. (H/T Thinking Anglicans).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Koinonia or ekklesia?

Mark Harris has a strong commitment to the Anglican Communion being a fellowship or koinonia and not a church or ekklesia. He outlines his case here. I am wondering if he actually gives a helpful guide to a future restructuring of the present Communion into two entities not based on sex.

What if we had an Anglican Fellowship and an Anglican Church? What if those who cannot stand the Archbishop of Canterbury exercising any kind of meaningful leadership beyond the borders of England, who loathe the thought of some kind of Anglican commission on doctrine with teeth, and, of course, who worry lots about an Anglican Covenant, gather together in ways which smack not of popes, magisteria, and inquisitions? Positively, that is, what if there were a Fellowship of Anglicans who like meeting together but do not wish to subject any element of local Anglican church life to such meetings?

Then, what if those who find the present Anglican Communion inadequate have opportunity to become a global Anglican Church? That is, those who find it a commissioned and supported leader, a meaningful conciliar structure, a resolute and unabashed commitment to Covenant, and an intentional journey towards common doctrine short of being a global church, are empowered to join the dots into a solid line, and develop 'Communion' into 'Church'?

All could be happy! Note the two previous paragraphs offered possibility for changes to the Communion which mention nothing about differences over human sexuality.

Then, here is a lovely possibility, from time to time representatives of the Anglican Fellowship and the Anglican Church could meet as the Anglican Communion, presided over by, say, the most recently elected primate.

Addendum: Anglican Curmudgeon neatly encapsulates the differences in approaches between those Anglicans defending a koinonia vision from the encroachment of an ekklesia vision ('the left') and those promoting an ekklesia vision ('the right'):

"The bottom line is that the right recognizes the authority of the Archbishop to act, and is thankful that he finally acted. The left, on the other hand, concedes no such authority to the Archbishop, and regards his action as arbitrary and unlawful -- and what is worse, discriminatory."

Curmudgeon's whole post is long, but worth reading for its analysis of TEC's inner polity versus expectations of the Communion's (non-)polity.

If the Spirit is at work in the Communion

... then perhaps we should only claim this much is true about what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst:

(1) Working with us on what it means to be a Communion.

Probing us with questions about whether we are a fellowship, a church, or something more than a fellowship and less than a church, if the Spirit is at work in our midst, then we are being worked on through this first part of the twenty-first century towards an answer agreed across the Communion.

(2) Facing us with the question how we know and how we determine that we know what is the leading of the Spirit into all truth.

If there is a one significant issue present in the exchange of letters between the Presiding Bishop of TEC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, an issue of the kind that the whole Communion should be engaged by it, it is the question of what is the leading of the Spirit.

If we are a fellowship or a church or something in between, it is the one (and only one) Spirit of God who binds us together as a body of believers in Jesus Christ. The question of how we know what the leading of the Spirit is remains the same question whatever it means to be a Communion.

Nevertheless, historically, the churches of God have tended to resolve questions of what the Spirit is saying to the church in one of two ways: through a single leader (or papacy) or a council (an approach called conciliarity). A hallmark of Anglicanism is eschewing the first way. A great challenge for Anglicanism is embracing the second way. We do this quite well in our member churches (synods and conventions). A great question related to the two posted above is how we might be conciliar as a worldwide something.

The irony of the position espoused by Presiding Bishop Schori, that the Spirit of God is leading TEC into new truth, is that the determination of this leading is primarlily conciliar, through General Convention.

Why not a General Council of Anglicans worldwide to determine the leading of the Spirit?

Friday, June 11, 2010

True

A distinguished visitor is coming to our land. A full press release is (I believe) forthcoming. Here is one notice already on the web.

PS Added Saturday: this low key indication that there is some notice already on the web is low key for various reasons, mainly not to steal the thunder of our Anglican media persons. My further information about that announcement suggests it could be a day or two away.

Can't you read mate?!

Andrew McGowan, Australian theologian and theological college principal presumably reads documents carefully. So I am intrigued to find him saying this in his commentary on the ++Williams and ++Schori letters:

"The removal of a TEC member of IASCUFO makes it a weaker body in all respects."

Now, when I read ++Williams' Pentecost letter, I read this:

"I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members."

"consultants" = "removal"?

Still, English is an ever changing language. And those Aussies probably meet those changes before us Kiwis!

This is the Communion Speaking. Are You Listening?

It does not get much blunter than this. It does not get much harder to ignore, let alone refute than this, when the voice is out of Africa, South Africa not West or East or North Africa. This is ++Thabo Makgoba speaking at the USPG Conference in Swanwick this week:

"Bishop Katharine, what I am going to say next is painful to me, and I fear it may also be to you – but I would rather say it to your face, than behind your back. And I shall be ready to hear from you also, for I cannot preach listening without doing listening. It sometimes seems to me that, though many have failed to listen adequately to the Spirit at work within The Episcopal Church, at the same time within your Province there has not been enough listening to the rest of the Anglican Communion. I had hoped that those of your Bishops who were at the Lambeth Conference would have grasped how sore and tender our common life is. I had hoped that even those who, after long reflection, are convinced that there is a case for the consecration of individuals in same sex partnerships, might nonetheless have seen how unhelpful it would be to the rest of us, for you to proceed as you have done.

There are times when it seems that your Province, or some within it, despite voicing concern for the rest of us, can nonetheless act in ways that communicate a measure of uncaring at the consequent difficulties for us. And such apparent lack of care for us increases the distress we feel. Much as we understand that you are in all sincerity attempting to discern the best way forward within your own mission context, we ask you to be sensitive to the rest of us.

Let me immediately add that, if there were certain others here, I would speak to them equally frankly. Cross border visitations and other moratoria violations have undermined not only your polity, but wider attempts to handle disagreements in a godly way before the face of the watching world. I will also add that, outside the scope of the moratoria, there are too many other shameful and painful ways that ‘gracious restraint’ has not been exercised by various different individuals and groups from all manner of perspectives. These too destructively exacerbate our attempts to live truly as a Communion, and contribute to the way that disagreements over human sexuality and its handling have come to dominate the life of the Anglican Communion to a disproportionate and debilitating extent. When I am interviewed, when I participate in radio phone-ins, no matter what the ostensible topic, again and again I find myself derailed by questions on this. I have to say this undermines our witness; dissipates energies that ought to be spent on the true priorities of mission; and distorts the focus and agenda of the Communion’s common life to an increasingly detrimental degree."

Is this the authentic voice of the centre of the Communion?

(H/T Thinking Anglicans)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kenneth's Zenith

Sometimes people lower in one's estimation. Sometimes people rise. Someone rising this week for some commentators is Kenneth Kearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. He certainly lays it on the line in respect of the ping-ponging Pentecost letters, and which way is up and forward for the Communion in the light of them:

"The issue of same-sex relationships is on the agenda of every political body and every church though a lot of churches may not be facing it in the same way as the Anglican Communion is. I think we have to articulate the question appropriately for ourselves as churches and not just simply buy into the sociopolitical agenda of same-sex issues. I think it presents itself to the Church in a different way. It raises questions about biblical authority, the way in which decisions are made, the way Communion is maintained and expressed. They’re the issues we are gradually and very slowly trying to address."

That's telling it. So is this Q & A re alleged moral equivalence between moratoria:

"Anglican Planet: Is the moratoria on cross-border interventions of the same moral equivalency as the first two moratoria on same-sex blessings and the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians?

The Windsor Report said they were not morally equivalent and the Windsor Continuation Group Report in 2009 agreed but said they were equally damaging."

These comments are from an interview in Canada. Kenneth Kearon is not a man serving two masters:

"Given that the development in Los Angeles [the consecration of a non-celibate lesbian] meant that gracious restraint was not being exercised, I think the Archbishop did have to act. What I think he’s done is say, “Look, the consecration of Mary Glasspool is a full, well-thought out decision of the Episcopal Church. There are implications to that decision. In that action, it is clear that The Episcopal Church does not share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion as expressed through the Instruments of Communion time and time again. They’ve made that decision and that’s fine. But if they don’t share the faith and order, then they shouldn’t represent the Communion on faith and order questions and that’s why ecumenical dialogues are the obvious ones where issues of faith and order are discussed and they ought to be discussed by bodies that share that faith and order. At the very minimum to be honouring to our ecumenical partners so that they know who they are in conversation with. Similarly on the Standing Committee on Faith and Order, if you don’t share the faith and order of the Anglican Communion then it’s an odd position to be in to be making decisions on faith and order. So we’ve asked the people to serve as consultants not as decision-making members. I think that’s an obvious working out of a decision not to exercise gracious restraint."

'Kenneth, did you actually make a distinction between TEC and the Communion, albeit in the form of an interpretation of what the Boss is saying?' 'Yes I did. Let me say those words for you again:'

"In that action, it is clear that The Episcopal Church does not share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Communion as expressed through the Instruments of Communion time and time again."

Just to highlight that difference, let's remind ourselves what the Canadian Anglican church discussed this week, notwithstanding egregious headlines in internet reports making out that ACCan and TEC are closer than a stamp on an envelope:

"There’s “a tension between striving for the deepest pastoral response possible without impairing Communion and needing to care for the missional and pastoral context of the Canadian church.”

These were three of the paradoxes recognized when members of General Synod broke up into “discernment circles” on June 7 to figure out what the Anglican Church of Canada should do about the issue of human sexuality. The report was read to delegates by Canon Robert Falby, General Synod prolocutor.

In spite of these contradictions, however, “overall, there is a growing sense of discernment,” said the report, copies of which were distributed to members. “People found the community building helpful and are discerning a deeper sense of dialogue guiding us rather than a battle to win a position,” it continued. “There is a strong sense of relief that these conversations are respectful, allowing members to both speak and be heard together. Members experience this as very positive and hopeful compared to the last General Synod.”

There was also a common desire expressed to “walk together, to find a way to continue to be in community despite our differences while we continue to find our way with these issues…We want to hold our common life together…”"

So, careful listening to one another and to the Communion going on north of the border. The thing is this: if the ACO, long criticised as puppets of liberal puppet-masters etc etc, is in line with Canada, and Canada, much vaunted as the second most progressive Anglican province etc etc, is in line with Lambeth, then ... well, you do not need to go to rocket science college to work it out. The Communion is holding to a line. Push against that line by all means, but the other side of the line is looking pretty united. Maybe not as tight as the All Black scrum, but no pushover!

I think Kenneth should have a last confirming word about the Communion and the status of its unity:

"I don’t think things are disintegrating. I think things are much clearer now. There are still tensions and problems. But I don’t think we are in the state we were in five years ago when the Windsor Report came out. Then the Communion was really in a state of crisis. Now we’re much clearer about where we’re going. The Windsor Report recommended several strands. The Covenant was one. …We’ve moved as fast as we can but the Covenant did require a very detailed, substantive process. Huge numbers of provinces did engage with that and did make submissions. Realistically we’ve moved as fast as we could.…

We’ve also tried to strengthen the Instruments of Communion and make them more effective and yet not deny the autonomous way we as a Communion operate. The Global South is not one, single, monolithic body. Be careful you don’t just listen to the loudest of voices. There was a South-to-South Encounter recently and the final communiqu├ęs that came out of that were extremely helpful. I think there is an impatience, especially when others don’t respect all the moratoria. I think the Global South does see the value of the Anglican Communion. I understand the impatience but I don’t see signs of the Global South ready to walk off. "

Agreed. Things do seem clearer now. Better late than never!