Saturday, July 31, 2010

Even Atheists Pray?

Julia Gillard, current Australian Prime Minister, is an atheist, and under a bit of attack from archbishops (I understand she has not been sleeping well at nights because of the attacks, and was recently seen quaking in her boots when she saw two crosses like this "++"). But this does not mean she is not a praying person. Speaking about her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, and his dramatic rush to hospital for gall bladder treatment, Julia Gillard said,

"we’re all hoping, wishing, praying for a speedy recovery."

Being a Kiwi I recognise that Australia is a different country. Not only are their animals different to ours, so are their atheists.

Light touches of humour lace this post ...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reconstruct the Anglican Communion and Stop the (Mal)adjustments

The recently completed AngComStCom meeting represents a number of things which are particularly poor about the Anglican Communion at the moment. Not least is a "making it up as we go" approach to membership of this potentially very, very important committee. The beginning of the meeting saw tinkering with the constitution of its membership (while the potential new member to be admitted waited outside). Then the meeting signalled desire for further change, but recognised that in this instance even it could not authorise change itself, and so ACC-Kiwi in 2012 will consider the proposal. Adjustment or maladjustment?

Fortunately Archbishop Rowan Williams, who else, has the brains, vision, and voice to recognise that the tinkering needs to stop and a root-and-branch review of Communion structures for the 21st century is required, as reported by George Conger:

"As he has done before, Archbishop Williams questioned whether the Communion’s structures are adequate for the 21st century. He pressed for further review, “So when it comes to looking at the complex questions of the Communion we have a better foundation upon which to build.”"

To help Dear Leader along, I offer the following plan for reconstruction. Broad picture stuff, of course, with many details to be worked out!

A starting and finishing point for this reconstruction begins with observing that in a couple of days Bishop Winston Halapua (currently a bishop of the Diocese of Polynesia, resident in Auckland, where he has also been principal of the College of Polynesia within the College of St John the Evangelist) will be installed as Archbishop of Polynesia, resident in Suva, and responsible for this oceanic diocese which includes Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and congregations in New Zealand (principally Auckland city). In setting out his task Winston has said this brilliant and easily memorable vision, reported in Taonga, and noticed faraway by Preludium:

"The mission,” he said, “is simply to preach the Gospel, to teach the Gospel, to live the Gospel – and to pass it on."

A new Communion needs to be an appropriate expression of the ekklesia of God for preaching the gospel, teaching the gospel, living the gospel and pass it on. Understanding this is very important, and highlights the need for a Communion which shares a common understanding of what the gospel is. Our future Communion needs to be a 'Common union'. At the moment it has more the feel of a 'Disunited Diversity'!

From this starting point I suggest that the Communion of the 21st century needs structures that 'guard the gospel' in the sense of continually articulating the gospel of Jesus Christ which binds us together and propels Anglican mission forwards, and, where necessary, clearly maintains unity-in-the-gospel through procedures of discipline (i.e. of teaching what the gospel is, and is not).

Yet this is an Anglican Communion we are talking about, and new structures cannot, by definition, involve a 'pope', nor an understanding of the gospel which is narrowly construed on one and only one theological line. New structures, to avoid papalism, and to enhance reasonable, traditional, Scriptural diversity, will necessarily be conciliar, that is, involve councils.

We have some councils already, such as Lambeth and ACC, and, perhaps even the Primates Meeting could be called a council. But they are muddled in their structural relationship to each other, and they lack power because any time a resolution or similar is passed which people do not like, the cry goes up 'but council X has no authority in our realm'! A new Communion, if it is to have meaning as a new Communion will necessarily involve less autonomy for its member churches, and greater authority for its councils. Otherwise we may as well continue as we are.

But there is a theological argument to be considered here, against contentions of the overriding importance of autonomy. Is the Anglican Communion an expression of the 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of God', a branch, as some hold, of the global church for which other great branches are the Roman and Eastern churches? If it is such an expression, can it meaningfully claim to be 'one' when autonomy counts against common life across the globe? Further, can it meaningfully think of itself as a 'branch' when it entertains possibilities for its understanding of ministry which drive it further away from the other branches, rather than closer together? To be an expression of God's 'one' church, it necessarily needs to be open to greater oneness, to union with other expressions of God's 'one' church, rather than consistently inhibited in both its own unity to say nothing of greater unity with others by propensity to be governed by the value of 'autonomy'.

Cutting to the chase, I would like to see a new 21st century Anglican Communion of member churches from around the whole world, east and west, north and south, binding themselves together as a church of three orders, one common eucharist*, concurring with the ancient church that baptism is admittance to the eucharist, sharing a common lectionary with at least the Roman church, built upon a gospel of salvation from sin in which Christ's death on the cross is the one perfect sacrifice offered once and for all time.

The one point of difference with Rome and Constantinople I would not give away is the ordination of women to the three orders (and I think there is a theological case for this point of difference not being a complete barrier to future unity).

For this global Communion to hold together in contrast to its current spinning apart I suggest the following conciliar structure based on a starting point in which those who wish to belong to the new Communion both agree to a common doctrinal foundation for the Communion, and to this structure and its authority. That is, the role of the new conciliar structure would be to uphold what has been agreed, and to consider proposals for future variation to faith and order.

(1) The Archbishop of Canterbury remains convening bishop for the common life of the Communion, reinforcing the historical base of Anglican life, as that beginning with the Church of England, and before that with the ancient church of the British isles.

(2) The supreme council of the church is the regular gathering of its bishops, i.e. 'the Lambeth Conference', and this council has authority over the common life of the Communion, including admitting new member churches (and, concomitantly, suspending or expelling errant members). To this council, bishops 'bring their dioceses', so the chief route of the voices of clergy and laity are via diocesan synods and general synods of member churches (who should elect bishops who will represent them well, and not elect mavericks or heretics!)

(3) A new feature of conciliar life would be regional councils of bishops held at least once between supreme councils of bishops. These regional councils would play at least this decisive role in global Anglican faith and order: no resolution affecting faith and order would be proposed at the supreme council unless it was proposed by a regional council. (An important detail to be worked out here would be whether some or all matters of faith and order resolved at a supreme council needed to be ratified by regional councils).

That should sort out the gold from the dross, and prevent even a supreme council from being carried away in the emotion of the moment.

I would suggest regions that incorporated diversity such as 'Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa', 'North America, South America, the Caribbean, and North Pacific', 'Central, West and Southern Africa, and West Asia', and 'South-East Asia, and South Pacific'. Actually, even better would be placing TEC, Nigeria, and Uganda in one region. If they could agree on something, it could really fly :)

(4) The 'standing committee' or 'executive council' of the new Communion, meeting on a regular basis between supreme councils of bishops, would be the Primates meeting together. (Member churches: through your general synods of bishops, clergy, and laity choose your primates well, because they will be representing all of you!)

(5) The councils would need to have a unified constitutional basis for operating, be supported by an efficient 'Anglican Communion Office', paid for by all member churches contributing (and not beholden to any one source of finance), and have power to appoint appropriate advisory bodies such as theological and liturgical commissions.

All of this, remember, is for the sake of the mission of God which is, "to preach the Gospel, to teach the Gospel, to live the Gospel – and to pass it on."

*A common eucharist: would it be that difficult to agree to a common eucharist that we could pray together? There could be other eucharists authorised for use (e.g. by continuing currently authorised ones), but would it not be wonderful to have a common Anglican eucharist for the 21st century? Without any bias on my part - of course not! - I suggest the eucharist on page 404 of A New Zealand Prayer Book  as a starting draft for such a common eucharist ...

Postscript: any Anglican who says that if  we had had this structure in place in the 20th century then X, Y, or Z would not have happened will be summarily excommunicated :) Other arguments against this structure will, however,be considered on their merits!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Standing Committee Regrets Consecrations of Robinson and Glasspool

Some of the news from the AngComStCmt meeting of special interest to this blog:

"Progress of the Covenant
Canon Barnett-Cowan reported that the Anglican Church of Mexico was the first Province to adopt the Covenant. Other Provinces had reported on the process they had adopted and there was much appreciation for the depth of seriousness with which the Covenant was being considered.
There was a further discussion about the role of the Standing Committee with respect to the Covenant which noted that the decision-making bodies with respect to the Covenant were the Instruments of the Communion.
Legal advice on the Covenant
Following a request from the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia the Committee received legal advice from the ACC's legal adviser Revd Canon John Rees on the scope of Clause 4.2.8 of the Covenant and then requested that it be sent to the General Secretary of The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia." (Full day's report here).

Some news of special interest to me and my current role:

"Theological Education in the Anglican Communion
Two major pieces of work for the Working Party on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion over the coming year will be an international consultation for theological college Principals, and the production of a web-based course on Anglicanism. The Principals consultation is aimed particularly at Principals who work in isolated situations. It plans to offer encouragement, support, and sharing of insights about curricula and the spirituality of ministerial formation. The web-based course on Anglicanism will be based on the already available 'Signposts statement' (a concise expression of 'The Anglican Way' published by TEAC in 2007) Members of the Standing Committee acknowledged the importance of theological education in helping to share the life and well-being of the Communion."

Then some more news about covenant/moratoria/governance of the Communion:

"Further discussion on moratoria breach
As agreed, the Committee revisited Saturday's discussion. Dato' Stanley Isaacs delivered a frank and passionate presentation about the distress felt by some parts of the Communion about The Episcopal Church's decision to breach one of the moratoria. He concluded by proposing that rights to participate in discussions of matters of faith and order at the Standing Committee and the ACC be withdrawn from The Episcopal Church.
In the subsequent discussion Archbishop Philip Aspinall reiterated that the Standing Committee did not have the power to undertake such an action. He reminded the Committee that the Covenant had been drawn up to address just these kinds of points of disagreement. It was also stated that the Standing Committee did not have all the powers of the ACC, especially when it came to the Membership Schedule.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori questioned why the proposal was singling out The Episcopal Church. Bishop Ian Douglas stressed he was present in his role as an elected representative of the ACC, not a member of The Episcopal Church and he desired to always be responsible to the Council. He thanked Dato' Stanley Isaacs for attending the Standing Committee meeting despite his [Isaacs'] feelings about recent events in the Communion. He said that having other elected representatives present who represented a genuine segment of the ACC helped him [Bp Douglas] to be a better member. He added that he missed having Bp Azad's voice at the meeting.
Dr Tony Fitchett agreed that the Committee needed as full a range of views as possible. "I'm conscious I'm not here representing my province," he said. "I'm here because I was appointed by the ACC. My accountability is not to my Province. I expect to continue to serve on the [Standing Committee] even if my Province were ever to be unacceptable to other churches because of its actions."
After what Canon Elizabeth Paver described as "the time, prayer and space necessary for everyone to be heard on this matter" the Standing Committee agreed a resolution that it: "regrets ongoing breaches of the three moratoria that continue to strain the life of the Anglican Communion; regrets the consequential resignations of members of the Standing Committee which diminish our common life and work on behalf of the ACC and the Primates' Meeting; recognises that the ACC and the Primates' Meeting are the appropriate bodies to consider these matters further."" [Full day's report here].

Um. Wonder what the voting was on that resolution. Did +Douglas and Fitchett, both vocally identifying themselves as representing ACC, not their own provinces, vote for a motion which expressed regret for the consecrations of +Gene Robinson and +Mary Glasspool? (Yes, the motion included other things, including other moratoria, but read these words carefully, "regrets ongoing breaches of the three moratoria that continue to strain the life of the Anglican Communion." One of those moratoria is the consecration of bishops in same-sex partnerships. Ergo ...).

Still good to see that the Standing Committee, even in its present diminished form, can vote for a motion mildly (but inconsequentially) critical of TEC.

(I remain curious about the logic involved in +Ian Douglas' prominent role on the Standing Committee. Consider this: another breach of the moratoria concerns blessing of same-sex partnerships. These occur in the Diocese of Connecticutt (I recall reading at the time of +Douglas' consecration). In theory the following may have happened, consistent with +Douglas' words reported above: outside of his diocese +Douglas supports a motion critical of breaches of the moratoria in his capacity and commitment as a representative of the ACC, while inside his diocese and member church he supports breaches of the moratoria. If so, there is some interesting logic at play. And if +Douglas voted against the motion, consistent with the situation inside his diocese and member church, the question continues to be underlined for me about the logic of a system of representation within the Communion which includes moratoria-breaching persons on such an august committee, when they are excluded from other august bodies!)

In sum, and to try to clarify my underlying argument through this and yesterday's posts: the governance of the Anglican Communion is being exposed in our generation as at best muddly (note the way the "Standing Committee" here throws certain responsibilities to other bodies) and at worst absurd (as measured by sound organisational practice); there is significant inconsistency at work in the structure of the Communion when certain actions lead to suspension of reps of one member church from some but not all important councils/committees; it is painful to find that instigators of divisive actions seemingly have more say in the running of the Communion than those trying to represent the mind and mood of the majority of the Communion; and it is likely that lack of action on the inadequacies of the current situation will (a) further deepen the rifts in the Communion as presently organised, and (b) lead to new forms of Anglican networking and cooperation outside of, and beyond the control of the present Instruments of Unity.

In sporting parlance, we are in the process of scoring an own goal against ourselves.

If I had my way (!!) I would begin the Communion again.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Spinning like a top

""We felt as a group that we were less whole, less representative of the church catholic in all of its many perspectives by the loss of those who have chosen to resign," Douglas said. "While it wasn't always easy for me as a person from the Episcopal Church to hear our brothers' concerns and observations about our life, the fact that they weren't at the meeting diminished us."

The committee agreed that its response to those who'd resigned "would express regret that their voices would be missed and that the committee's work was diminished when it lacked a range of opinion as well as full representation.""

From ENS' report on the winding up of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. Read the whole report here.

Let us get this straight: the Anglican Communion is 'less whole, less representative of the church catholic' because it has failed to get on top of the difficulty created by one of its significant (in money, power, loquaciousness) member churches undertaking a strategic course of action which is not representative of the 'church catholic'. It has so failed to get on top of the difficulty that one of its leading committees - the Standing Committee, no less - has lost members from it through resignation. One of them, in the same ENS article is reported thus:

"East President Bishop Mouneer Anis, who resigned his membership in February saying that his presence has "no value whatsoever" and that his voice is "like a useless cry in the wilderness.""

Unfortunate though those resignations are, they are not the primary reason why the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion is 'less whole, less representative of the church catholic.' The primary reasons lie further back: in the Communion's inadequate and tardy response to the strategic direction TEC has pursued in respect of its gay and lesbian members, to say nothing of the strategic direction itself. (Remember: if that strategic direction had not stretched to include ordaining partnered same sex persons to the episcopacy, we would not be in the situation we are in today!)

The spin here, by +Ian Douglas, is that all would be well if only the resignations had not occurred. But on the reason for the resignations he says nothing.

But there is another spin here. The impression is conveyed that the Communion is in a state of 'diminishment' rather than 'division.' If the SC really thinks we are just a bit diminished at the moment; that the effective loss of Nigeria, Uganda, and the like (including the many parishes in North America they have offered support to), amounts to 'diminishment' and not 'division', then we are not being well served by this committee. At least not as the true global Anglican Communion we could be.

It sounds like we are shrinking downwards to a moderate, middling, mediocre Communion which cannot stomach its more conservative member churches, which prefers to march to the beat of one social democratic cultural drum rather than a multi-cultural one, and which occasionally gets a razz from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but otherwise is really led by the spinmeisters. Is the "official Anglican Communion" really in American hands? Reading elsewhere in the ENS report one could be excused, I think, for concluding that the Millenium Development Goals are now the gospel of the "official Anglican Communion."

Except I do not think that is the whole story. Douglas and co can spin these things like a top, but a whole lot of Anglicans are not for turning. Keep spinning this way, Standing Committee & co, and the "official Anglican Communion" will spiral off into irrelevance to the majority of Anglicans.

Neither truth nor reality can be suppressed ... or spun to be what they are not.

Incidentally, can anyone find in reports of the meeting anything remotely forwarding the adoption of the Covenant?

It should not be surprising if the answer is negative. Some of the leading opponents of the Covenant are on this committee!

Then a final question to end with: if the continuing, active, voting presence of members of TEC is suspended from certain important Communion bodies at this time, why not from all the important bodies?

I know the answer is that the ABC had power to do so for those bodies but not for this one. But the point is that our Communion's rules (such as they are) are stupendously inadequate: suspension should be from all bodies of important, not some.

The Communion has no single set of rules governing all aspects of its governance and management.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My enemy's enemy is my friend?

Both Anglican Curmudgeon and Preludium find quarrel with where the Anglican Communion Standing Committee is heading re new representation. In the course of reading their posts you might get a sense of what this august body is up to, even though it is only July. Then again you might not.

In other, and Down Under relevant news, we can read from the ACO site:

Canon Kearon then reported that during his visit to New Zealand earlier this year he had met with an informal group about the planning of ACC-15. Bishop John Paterson has been selected to Chair an official planning group and the venue has been selected as Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland. The group also identified the strong mission theme of ACC-14 as something they would like to continue."

I think this meeting will be in May, 2012.

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland is a lovely venue for a conference. Auckland city itself is a multicultural, polyglot of a city. And it has multiple Anglican jurisdictions at work in it :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It is not looking like there is a conservative evangelical is on the AngCom SC

At least, that is the way I am reading this analysis from Anglican Curmudgeon posted here. Curmudgeon is interested in a range of matters concerning the composition of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. In various ways it is looking quite unbalanced.

Some may say that is because various people have resigned who should have stayed around.


Why did they resign?

How come TEC has so many bishops on this important committee?

Well, not to worry too much: if they misplay their cards in the game they are playing, there will be consequences.

And a committee to blame!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What is Valid Validity?

A post or two below I had a crack at some words on 'Anglican validity' and a very interesting series of comments has ensued which has got me thinking about this word 'validity'. In connection with the eucharist of course, not my stamp collection. (Actually, the latter is non-existent).

I wonder if we use the same word in different ways and thus making some distinctions could be helpful.

Here are some ways I think may have been touched on in the comments below:

(1) Denominational validity: there are these rules pertaining to the ordering of eucharistic ministry. Sure they reflect great theological insights and powerful Scriptural injunctions and examples, but their sharp edges are provided by the denomination. Thus we Anglicans can entertain thoughts like 'a Methodist celebrating a Methodist eucharist in an Anglican church is offering a valid eucharist, but a Methodist (not having been ordained by a bishop) offering an Anglican eucharist in an Anglican church is offering an invalid eucharist.' The measurement of 'validity' at this point is 'our rules'. And, I do not think we are saying such a eucharist is theologically invalid (or, if you like, invalid from God's perspective). I suppose 'invalid' here has a strong sense of 'illegal.' Yet the rules are not rules for rules sake: the rules of denominations re eucharist reflect particular theologies of church, ministry, liturgy as well as eucharist.

(2) Transformational validity: there is a view that something happens to the bread and the wine when the eucharist is held, according to order, presided over by a correctly ordered person (so Anglicans, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Eastern Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and (perhaps depending who one is talking to) Presbyterians), and, depending precisely on the view held, those holding to the view accept a variety of denominational eucharists as valid, and a potential variety of correctly ordered persons presiding over the eucharist as being okay; and even where we do not think some things are correct we can respect the transformational intention of such churches. But the one thing many holding this view are united on  is that a non-transformational intention (e.g. to steadfastly view the bread and the wine as nothing more or less than tokens or emblems) results in an invalid eucharist. Thus most Anglicans (so I understand) view Roman and Eastern Orthodox eucharists/masses/divine liturgy as valid eucharists (the exceptions could be certain evangelical Anglicans); and would see no need for a further ordination to take place of a Roman priest or E.Orthodox priest who (if we can imagine it) was willing to preside over an Anglican eucharist in an Anglican church. I understand Romans to view E. Orthodox divine liturgies as valid eucharists, but hold Anglican eucharists to be invalid ... yet I think they respect our eucharists in a way in which they do not (say) a Baptist or Brethren eucharist. It is on this sense of 'validity' that an Anglican might say that a Brethren or Baptist eucharist is invalid.

(3) Scriptural validity: all Christians undertaking eucharistic ministry aim to be faithful to the words of Scripture, both the narratival material concerning the last supper of Jesus, and the instructions of Jesus, reinforced in Paul's teaching. What Christians believe happens, or does not happen in respect of transformation of the bread and wine, and whether or not certain words are said as received by the church through tradition (such as the words known as the epiclesis or calling down of the Spirit), where Christians are faithful to Scripture in their enactment of eucharist, in this perspective, a valid eucharist is performed. Thus, as an Anglican, if I am a participant in a Baptist eucharist or a Brethren eucharist, I think I have been present at a valid eucharist. (I might also find it unsatisfactory in a number of respects and choose not to make it the form of eucharist I regularly attend).


If only my name was Mead, Mede, Meed, or even Medici

... I too could have a very smart Anglican name for my blog!!!

Walter Russell Mead has announced the new name for his blog, Via Meadia.

He outlines its Anglican (and other characteristics) in this post, which includes a very fine Anglican war song :)

Many years ago I began to hear the name "Loren Mead" mentioned in hushed tones of reverence for his speeches and writings, and for the farsighted and thoughtful body of work emerging from the Alban Institute. I was fascinated to read one of WR Mead's posts and find that he is Loren Mead's son.

Is there just one conservative evangelical on the ACC Standing Committee?

I do not know the answer to my question in the heading. But here is the official AngComm Standing Committee membership and profiles. I know some on this list are NOT in any way shape or form, conservative evangelicals!

And here is a set of Qs and As about the SC.

Clearer about everything now?

Anyone care to say that this committee IS representative of the whole Anglican Communion?

(H/T Thinking Anglicans)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Let's create a church within a church

Julian Mann at Cranmer's Curate draws attention to an intriguing proposal re reaction to C of E women bishops, voiced within a Reform newsletter:

"One way of doing this may be to create a ‘Society’ within the Church of England, focused on mission, with its own bishops providing support and encouragement. It could even be that if such a Society were to come into being, the House of Bishops might recognise it as a place where separate episcopal oversight could operate when the Women Bishops Measure comes in. We will be actively exploring this possibility in the months ahead."

Julian Mann himself offers the view that new bishops ought to be consecrated to serve this Society (by which is clearly meant, consecrations not officially authorised by the C of E hierarchy):

"But there is no practical reason why the Society, made up initially of a group of around 20 GAFCON-supporting churches, should not be set up before 2012. There are existing bishops in the UK who could already provide episcopal oversight for clergy and churches in the network, but it would be advisable to arrange for the consecration of some new conservative missionary bishops to serve alongside them. That would be a clear demonstration that the new Society means business."

Note how small this particular group of anxious opponents of women's ordination to the episcopacy is: 20. (That would be a lot in NZ, but it is not many at all in the vast C of E).

Call me naive, and ill-informed through distance from the C of E, but is this not rebellion pure and simple? Or, if not rebellion, an effective step in schism? "To arrange for the consecration of some new conservative missionary bishops" is either with the approval of the leaders of the C of E, or it is not. Since the premise of such "arrangement" is that the C of E General Synod does not agree to satisfactory provision for opponents of women bishops it is not conceivable that the leaders of the C of E could approve of such "arrangement" in defiance of their own synodical governance. Ergo, rebellion or schism. Or both. But not reform.

Anglican Validity

A post below re the Church of England and women bishops has led to a long sequence of comments. One aspect emerging in those comments particularly intrigues me, the notion of "validity."

What does God think of the way we conduct our sacramental ministry? Does God approve of the ordaining of women? Answer: we do not know what God thinks about the way we do things in respect of the sacraments and of ordination.

What we do reflects our human attempts to best understand the meaning and implications of Scripture, including the few remarks and reports we have about the eucharist and about ministry. Even when we build that understanding on what we have received through tradition, we are building on human developments of Christ and the apostles' ministries.

To say that this eucharistic occasion or that ordination is "valid" is to make a judgement concerning our understanding of these things, believing earnestly that God is also pleased with what has been done. As is being pointed out in the sequence of comments in the earlier post, some judge "validity" in different ways. We Anglicans think our eucharists and ordinations are valid, not only as an "Anglican" judgment, but also viewed against the back story of undivided, and then Western and Eastern Christianity. Romans and Eastern Orthodox differ. And we differ amongst ourselves as to whether (say) a woman ordained is validly ordained, or whether a eucharist is valid when conducted in a particularly Protestant way (including, let us say, employing words at the "epiclesis" which suit Protestant sensibilities so no actual invocation of the Spirit upon the elements occurs).

But what God thinks about these questions of "validity", we do not know.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oh dear, is this really helpful?

I thought that our church in its 'official' mode of being has no need to revisit the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. So I do wonder if the following statement by our archbishops is, in the end, as helpful as they intend.

"The ordination of women is in the news again, thanks to developments in the Church of England, and comments from the Vatican.

It is timely, therefore, for us to reflect again on our own position in this church on this matter.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia long ago affirmed and provided for the ordination of women to all levels of ordained ministry, as deacons, priests and bishops.

This has resulted in widespread, in-depth and effective ministry, with a unique and special character, across all three Tikanga.

As the Church of England comes close to providing for the ordination of women bishops, we pray that all three orders in that church will benefit as richly as we have done from taking this step.

This church also takes part in Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, both here in New Zealand and abroad.

For some decades now, our affirmation and celebration of the ordination of women has been a feature of our contribution to these conversations.

We draw our authority for these ordinations from scripture, tradition and reason, as well as from the decisions of many General Synods of the Anglican Communion.

At a time when the Vatican-based Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has restated its commitment not to proceed in this way, we affirm again the fundamental value of all ordained women within our church.

For us, such ordinations are a profound enrichment of the sacraments – and when ordained women and men work together in ministry and mission, we have found this both invigorating and life-giving.

++David Moxon, Senior Bishop of the New Zealand dioceses

++Brown Turei, Pihopa o Aotearoa"

Sourced from Taonga.

I am personally less than enthusiastic about this phrase: "with a unique and special character". It suggests women in their priestliness and episcopalness are different to men in their priestliness and episcopalness. I thought we were one in our priestliness and episcopalness. Our church in various ways is troubled by 'class' concepts in respect of ministry: lay v ordained, stipendiary priests v local shared ministry priests.* This phrase veers awfully close to another distinction: male priests v female priests.

But then I could be wrong!

*Highlighted in some instances by dioceses having separate annual conferences for the two classes of clergy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fig-leaf Expressions

Giles Fraser, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, London, and columnist for the Church Times, writes confidently about age-old Anglican divisions not separating even in their current 'fresh expressions'. But in the course of an otherwise agreeable [later: 'controversial'] column, he throws this remark away:

"Fresh Expressions is the latest fig-leaf for liturgical anything goes."

I think that remark is a pity because at best it is a quarter-truth. +Graham Cray, on his recent visit to Christchurch, gave plenty of evidence that Fresh Expressions includes liturgically sound Anglican services (the 'fresh' bit being in new contexts, with new congregations), and services led by Methodists, Baptists and the like (who are not bound by Anglican liturgical requirements). Further, it is not at all clear that a new congregation of new converts beginning with a flexible form of meeting together is not on the way towards something liturgically responsible. The least we can do in a brave new world of mission is to allow liturgy to emerge over time rather than impose it from the beginning.

Nevertheless I imagine that in the wilds of England somewhere some have worked out that their songs & sermon services now have the perfect riposte when the bishop's liturgical inquisitor comes investigating. "But it's a Fresh Expression." With tail between her legs, worrying about impending redundancy, the inquisitor heads back to the bishop muttering, "Oh, nothing to worry about then." A fig-leaf indeed, from Eden itself!

Naturally, if Giles were to visit New Zealand his sentence would never have entered his head! At least not until my tongue unplanted itself from my cheek.

Nor, for that matter, would his delightful previous sentence apply here:

"Some flap their hands towards an overhead projector; others throw incense at statues to the rhythms of the Roman missal."

We use Powerpoint. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fresh Expressions and Youth

There is no doubt in my mind that Fresh Expressions of church can take hold in any group in our society. But there is also certainty in my mind that the primary Fresh Expression goal for churches such as the Anglican church in New Zealand should be Fresh Expressions of church among young people. There is a simple imbalance between young and old in our church which needs righting. Any presumption that time will take care of the imbalance without any further action on our part could be disastrous.

The good news is that Fresh Expressions among young people are already taking place. I visited one such FE last night!

The challenging news is that we need more such FEs ... and we need to continually think about the form these FEs will take as time goes by (and the young people become middle-aged, then simply aged ...).

Back to last night: a particular feature of that Fresh Expression is its 'total youth' approach: young people lead, preach, plan the FE.

That is not the only way but it is something to think about. For example, do "oldies" (such as me at 50) get in the way of youth Fresh Expressions being Fresh?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Footnote to Cray Visit

This site here has links to Bishop Graham Cray's presentations in NZ. Download warning: some files are quite large. (H/T Anglican Taonga).

Hear What the Spirit Is Saying To The Church

I promised some further reflection on Fresh Expressions. In part that can be found here and here.
Careful reading of both will show that I commit to nothing about future action more concrete than listening to the Spirit and discerning the signs of the (cultural) times. My mind tends to work in practical ways, so much of my thinking in the last week about Fresh Expressions has been 'what if we did this ... or this?' Of course the Spirit may be speaking to me, and through me, via such thoughts. But likely (on the basis of assessment of my life story) I am running ahead of the Spirit!

So, a week on from +Cray's two Christchurch conferences, the primary reflection I offer is to be serious about listening to the Spirit. Should not be hard, after all in modern liturgies we commit ourselves to doing that reading by reading.

One picture in my mind lends some urgency to this task. It matters not where or when the picture formed, and many readers will easily recognise the picture ... whether in NZ or other Western countries. It is a picture of a congregation at worship. Everything is done well. True devotion to God is expressed. Warm hospitality is shown to one another and to any strangers in their midst. The gospel is proclaimed and the sacrament administered. But apart from one family with children, the congregation is aged 60 years and above.

What is the Spirit saying to such congregations, and (speaking as an Anglican) to the dioceses in which such congregations live their inter-dependent lives?

Keep going ... eventually things will change (e.g. secularism will fade away) ...

Change the way things are being done. Doing what has always been done will always succeed in the same result. Thus ...

Keep going with what you have and start a new thing ...

Take the wider view. Celebrate what the Pentecostals/Catholics/New21stCenturyChurch are doing in the next street over ...

Install a webcam and feed services live on your new Facebook page (having first Tweeted news of this new development) ...

Ignore the above. That is me trying to second guess (again!) what the Spirit is saying to the church. But do not ignore the Spirit.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bombshell demolishes evangelical theology?

I have started reading a blockbuster theology tome, The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Eerdmans, 2009) by Douglas A. Campbell, Associate Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, and Down Under scholar who began his academic studies at Otago University, Dunedin.

I am about a fifth of the way through its 1000 or so pages, so it is early days to draw conclusions. But the gist of Douglas' case is that 'Justification theory' (i.e. 'Justification by faith' asserted as the great Pauline doctrine, especially as construed in Reformation and post-Reformation scholarship, and driving forward modern and post-modern evangelicalism) both misreads Paul and is responsible for many reprehensible developments in the life of Christendom (and its vestigial cultures, including Nazi Germany), the Protestant church, and Protestant theology. To say nothing of leading (Protestant) theology up the garden path of Old or New Pauline Perspective.

Campbell reckons (so far on my reading) to get 'beyond' the Old and New Pauline Perspectives, to rid theology of Justification theory (root and branch), and to establish an apocalyptic rereading of Paul, largely based on Romans 5-8 (rather than Romans 1-4, and Galatians), in which the great doctrine of salvation is God's deliverance of us from evil, drawing us through the Spirit into participatory union with Christ.

What I have not yet read is a proposal to reread Romans 1-4 and Galatians in the light of this new reading, thus (as I understand where this is going) rescuing Paul from charges of contradiction.

So far, then, this blockbuster is a bombshell, at least in the field of my own evangelical thinking (though not completely new, as for sometime my understanding of the heart of Christian experience is that we are 'in Christ').

Is it a bombshell in the field of all evangelical theology? Will it be the seminal work of the 21st century reconfiguring evangelical theology away from Lutheran and Calvinist influence to the 'real' Paul?

Will post again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On English Women Bishops, with note for Evangelicals

I find what is going on, or what might be going on, let alone what will be going on in the C of E re women bishops a little confusing. Go to this Fulcrum link for further links. If I understand what the ABC is saying here, then (i) there will be women bishops in the C of E, (ii) there are unlikely to be 'provisions' satisfactory to those seeking 'provisions' (i.e. ways not to have ministry of women bishops in my corner of the Lord's vineyard), but (iii) there is a chance there might be satisfactory 'provisions' if discussions in dioceses over the next 18 months accumulate to be a tide in GS approving 'provisions'. But then I might be wrong.

John Richardson, reliably, posts an extremely helpful essay on how conservative evangelicals might respond to women bishops, distinguishing the ways in which this response could, or should differ from anglo-catholics. The whole essay is here. Some sentences which caught my eyes are these:

The essential difference between CEs and A-Cs opposed to women bishops:

"At the risk of over-simplifying, the Anglo-Catholic takes the view that a womancould not be a priest or a bishop, whereas the conservative Evangelical holds more broadly that a woman should not be a priest or a bishop.

Underlying this is a difference over whether being ordained confers a change of condition — often referred to as ‘character’ — or essentially an authority to exercise a public ministry (compare Article XXIII, ‘Of ministering in the congregation’). The Anglo-Catholic would hold to the former, whilst the Evangelical Anglican would generally adhere to the latter."

On an Anglican way forward for CEs opposed to women bishops to work with women bishops:

"The conservative Evangelical Anglican understanding of orders and ministry means that the debate concerning women priests and bishops is not ultimately about gender but about faithfulness to Scripture.

The conservative Evangelical may thus apply Article XXVI in a way that the Anglo-Catholic cannot, for what the Article says about ‘unworthy’ ministers, the Evangelical may also be willing to apply in principle to women priests and bishops:"

"The conservative Evangelical would therefore not automatically deny the validity of Holy Communion celebrated by a woman priest, nor maintain that nothing useful could ever be learned from a woman’s teaching. (Indeed, the crucial objection in 1 Timothy 2:12 that a woman should not ‘teach or exercise authority over a man’ rather presumes that a man could, nevertheless, learn in such circumstances.) Equally, the conservative Evangelical need not have a problem with a man ordained by a woman bishop, since the prescriptions of Article XXIII have arguably been met:
... those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men [in the old, ‘generic’, sense] who have public authority given unto them in the congregation to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
Since, under any new legislation, a woman bishop would be in receipt of that ‘public authority’, she could lawfully call and send ministers."

On the non-necessity of departure:

"The question conservative Evangelicals need to confront, however, is this: “If you had your own way, and were running the Church of England, what would you do that would transform it from what it is to what you think it ought to be?” And the answer cannot be (to put it extremely crudely), ‘get rid of the women and the gays’.

We may need to remind ourselves that the Church of England had no women priests before 1993, yet it wasn’t exactly thriving back then. What it lacked was not men, but faithfulness to the gospel and integrity regarding its own outward standards of faith and practice.
By the same token then, and according to the arguments I have advanced above, the advent of women bishops need not be the ‘end of the world’ that some are gloomily predicting. It is possible to be ‘salt and light’ even in a Church where, as Article XXVI puts it, “the evil have chief authority in the ministration of the word and sacraments.” And even the Church of England is not there yet!
It will, however, require faithfulness of its own, as well as courage, fortitude, imagination, dedication and a willingness to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
What we must look for from our evangelical leaders in the next few weeks is not threats (or, as our opponents would regard them, offers) to depart, but coherent and practical proposals to achieve what our bishops are called to do in the Ordinal, namely, “to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers” and “with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same.” And this applies, of course, not just to the ordination of women or other ‘hot button’ issues, but to the ‘whole counsel of God’."

This is eminently sensible. It opens up the crucial question of finding fellowship with those we disagree with because we look first for what we hold in common and not what we differ on. (John has fine things to say on this which I have not cited). That, I suggest, from afar, could be important to rapprochement between 'conservative' and 'open' evangelicals in the C of E!

The essay also helpfully focuses attention on what we can admire in the ministry of those we are cautious about: are they faithful to the gospel?

This, incidentally, is part of the reason why I affirm the ministry of women in all orders of our church: there is no intrinsic reason by way of gender why women and men cannot be faithful to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; and, having ordained women as deacons, priests, and bishops, there is good evidence of these ministries being carried out faithful to the gospel.

The difference between conservative evangelicals opposed to women bishops and women bishops themselves will be paper thin indeed in the C of E where the teaching ministry of women bishops is doctrinally sound!

Fresh Expressions in Christchurch

My report for Taonga is here. I may post a further reflection or two here, later.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Idea for C of E to Try: Electoral Synods

Down Under we love England, the English, and appreciate the great heritage England has given us, including soccer, netball, rugby and cricket, which last three we regularly beat England at. One point to draw from sport is that the colonials may have something to teach England. To be fair to England's sporting administrators and coaches, they are willing to learn. But the Church of England, is it willing to learn from Down Under? Actually, willing to learn from a whole lot of churches in the Communion?

A simple and relevant idea at this point would be electoral synods as the means of nominating bishops to the crown for appointment. Such elections would, among other things, avoid the appalling and outrageous imbroglio of the last few days in which one reporter has been responsible for titillating the Anglican world with rumour that Jeffrey John was a candidate for Southwark and is now also responsible for catalysing liberal wrath and anger towards ++Rowan Williams that Jeffrey John is no longer a candidate for Southwark. Was he ever short-listed or merely one name of many on a long list?

Despite the fact that no one other than people sworn to confidentiality can possibly know what ++Rowan did or said, or not did or not said, the Archbishop of Canterbury is being hung, drawn and quartered in liberal Anglican circles without trial to determine the facts of the matter. I always thought liberals were as concerned about justice as any other Christian value.

Thanks to this reporter and whoever thought it funny/important/ego-boosting/savvy/whatever to feed him the rumour, both Jeffrey John and ++Rowan Williams are being subjected to public scrutiny, comment, judgment and consequent vilification (by some). Result Secular World 5 - Church of England 0. Three of the Secular World goals were self-inflicted by the hapless English defence!!

Two of the brighter sparks in C of E life, Nick Baines and John Richardson, have sensible things to say about this appalling media beat up. But neither proposes the simple possibility that dioceses might have more say by holding electoral synods. Chances are that Southwark would have elected Jeffrey John as its nomination.

Meantime, here in Christchurch we are appreciating very much the lessons being learned from England re Fresh Expressions of church from the acknowledged master, Bishop Graham Cray. I will try to say more over the weekend about his pearls of wisdom, but suffice for now to note the wonderful way in which everything he says is grounded in theology, centred on Jesus Christ, and embued with testimony of gospel transformation of people.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Missing Bishop Appears Down Under

At least one bishop of the C of E will not be present for the great debate looming over multiple amendments, as well as the substantial proposed legislation on women bishops. (Probably best to head to various posts on Thinking Anglicans for briefing on the intricacies of it all).

Instead Bishop Graham Cray, Team Leader of Fresh Expressions and Archbishops' Missioner, is here in Christchurch speaking at two conferences we have arranged. The first, a two day event at Lincoln University, is on Fresh Expressions of Anglican Mission, the second, a one day event at St Christopher's Avonhead, is on Fresh Expressions. Amazingly, and a sign of great interest in 'fresh expressions' of church, we have quite a few people from other denominations coming to the first event as well as to the second ... about 150 to the first and 180 to the second.

Understandably, blogging will be a little light for the next few days :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Some problems with comments

Hello. Have had problems with disappearing comments to my Monday 5th July post 'Cultural Cleavage etc'. Even reposted comments have disappeared. I give up :(

One hopes

That as the C of E moves towards its General Synod, and considers the claims of its various media promoted candidates for Southwark, the following words are kept in mind:

"If the truth of Christ is indeed ultimately one as we all believe, there should be a path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth."

That was just a few weeks ago in the ABC's Pentecost Letter!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Communion's Cultural Cleavage Rends Asunder What Man Joined Together

It is difficult to see the Anglican Communion holding together as events unfold around us: the touting of Jeffrey John as bishop (celibate gay man, alleged to be unrepentant for the non-celibate years, proven to teach in favour of non-requirement of celibacy), the resignations of bishops from the AC's Standing Committee and the non-resignations of bishops from the AC's Standing Committee (laid out here in its chaotic detail by the ACI).

Sitting here Down Under, immersed in the Western mode of being Anglican and being human, it is reasonably easy to understand the consistency of ++Rowan Williams one month inhibiting TEC members of certain Communion committees consequential on the consecration of non-celibate Mary Glasspool to be bishop and the next month, apparently, not inhibiting the C of E appointments' process commending celibate Jeffrey John for nomination as bishop. But I am guessing that in some parts of the Communion, both in the Global South, and in churches sympathetic to the Global South (including parishes in Southwark and California), perceptions are different. Insufficient action against TEC, and no action against John amounts to a completely different way of responding to the presence of homosexuality in society and church. An unacceptable way which, in the end, is being driven as much as anything (IMHO) by cultural differences: in both the USA and the UK (and in NZ) our societies have moved very very fast relative to history to embrace homosexuals as normal, ordinary, equitable, indiscriminate citizens. It is not so much that the church is being pressed to conform to an alien culture around it (though this is a factor) but that the culture is challenging the church to welcome 'aliens' in its midst as full, included, insiders. The church has been caught so flat footed in a number of cases that our protestations of our "rights" to determine what is right and wrong appear to bring the gospel into disrepute: how come the community of love is so filled with fear of those who are "different"? In any case, our culture is pressing us to consider that homosexuals are not different, but like us, being our friends and family.

Of these questions and issues, of the nuances being explored, willingly or unwillingly, by the Western church, there seems little evidence of understanding in the minds of African prelates and Asian princes of the church, to say nothing of some of us known as 'conservative' sitting in the very citadels of changing societal attitude. Now time may prove that the understanding of African, Asian, and conservative Western church leaders is full of wisdom from above. (That part at least which refuses to let go of the moral question of same sex sexual relationships. Homophobically driven "kill gays" legislation will not be proven to be wisdom from above). But right now, the difference in understanding, the appreciation of the question of human dignity as represented in the Western world compared to parts of the non-Western world toying with more rather than less repressive anti-homosexuality laws, is so great as to likely constitute a cleavage in the Communion, rending asunder what man - colonial rulers, missionaries, Victorian bishops - joined together, the Church of England and its fledgling children as one incipient global church. Archbishop Rowan may yet preside over his worst case scenario, the clear, un-spinnable break up of the Communion, but not because his own gifts of wisdom and leadership have been less than any other leader could have provided, but because the cultural forces at work have been more like two continents colliding than a train wreck which might have been averted if only the driver had better sight.

Australian Leg of Down Under Visit

Michael Bird's report and reflection, as posted on Virtue Online, includes this report of ++Schori's address in Brisbane:

"As it goes I got the opportunity of hearing Jefferts Schori speak on the Australian leg of the Rainbow Tour. She spoke to a gathering of 120-140 people at Christ Church in St Lu-cia Brisbane, Australia. A mostly receptive audience with a handful of evangelical ministers in attendance as well. To her credit, Jefferts Schori is a very engaging speaker, full of wit, charm, and eloquence. She is a master of working an audience and a superb communicator. Her talk went for 40 minutes and covered four areas.

First, she spoke about the history of the civil rights movement in the USA. This made it clear that gay rights stands in a trajectory with black rights and women's rights. In other words, the inclusion of gay clergy at all levels is not singularly a theological issue as much as it is a civil rights matter. She asked, "What is the normative human being?" and argued that no gender, race, or orientation is normative for all human beings. She spoke a lot about TEC canons and regulations including a 1985 canon that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Then 1989 saw the first openly gay priest ordained in TEC and she made clear that it was not considered a matter of doctrine. Most of all, she argued that TEC is obligated to affirm gay partnered relationships when they show signs of 'holy living'.

Second, Jefferts Schori spent time talking about how TEC elects its bishops. She noted that each diocese has its own canons and processes that must be respected. Furthermore, the presiding bishop has no power of veto over appointments. Jefferts Schori said that the presid-ing bishop has no power to intervene in a diocese except on moral grounds. This caused me to cough up a laugh with an embarrassing loudness that made people nearby turn around and look at me to see what I was smirking at. I couldn't conceal my jolted laugh-ter since I know about Jefferts Schori's legal representations in the Diocese of South Carolina that constitute a pre-emptive strike against Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Third, attention was given to changing views of marriage in TEC. Jefferts Schori summarized Paul's view of marriage as "don't bother about it" because Jesus was coming soon and the world was going to end according to Paul.

She rightly noted that marriage as a sacrament did not begin until the 1100s and that was usually for the purpose of legitimating an heir. The original Book of Common Prayer purposed the purpose of marriage as being to avoid fornication and for a child-bearing. In contrast, TECs Book of Common Prayer sees marriage for the purpose of mutual joy which can include child bearing but not necessarily requiring it. The Presiding Bishop also noted that between the 1100s to the late 1800s the blessing of friendships was common, especially for knights, and the intimacy of their friendship was never examined in such a blessing. All this served to demonstrate TECs unique theology of marriage that can accommodate committed long term same sex relationships.

Fourth, she addressed the matter of incursions into TEC's episcopal jurisdiction by Afri-can, Asian, and South American bishops. She noted that ordaining bishops to work in North America occurred in 1999/2000, three years before Gene Robinson was elected. She also mentioned that the Sydney Anglicans have a congregation in New York City (the abdominals.). I had another one of those embarrassing smirks on my face when I heard her appeal to the council of Nicea that forbade wandering bishops from operating out of their own area of jurisdiction. Since when did TEC regard itself as bound by the authority and regulations of the ecumenical creeds and councils?

Several TEC bishops have brazenly denied and denounced every single line of the Nicene Creed at one time or other. If Jack Spong is free to disregard the creeds and councils, why not anybody else? The irony here was most amusing. Anyway, Jefferts Schori spoke earnestly about the "gospel of liberty" that is compromised if the issue of gay and lesbian inclusion is not adequately addressed. She recognized a diversity of views in the church. She was adamant that she wants to keep talking and dialoguing with those who do not agree and does not insist that everyone follows the TEC on this matter.

Several questions followed which addressed her specific views of sexuality and Scripture. I learned that Jefferts Schori expects to be invited to the next Primates Meeting. There was a question about whether TEC's actions would prove to be worth it given the rupture that it has caused. She said she believed it was worth it because dioceses and provinces have to be allowed to determine how they will minister in their own context.

The impression I got from Jefferts Schori's lecture was: (1) TEC is not going to budge on the issue of gay ordination and same sex blessings, it is a done deal from their end of things; (2) The only real authority in TEC are the canons and by-laws, everything else including Scripture and Tradition is up for negotiation; (3) Whatever "Episcopalianism" is, it is not recognizable as orthodox Christianity, and truth be told, it seems clear that they rather like it that way; and (4) Christianity simply provides a vocabulary for talking about spirituality in the postmodern American context, and terms like grace, gospel, redemption, sin, salvation are no longer used with any currency that is recognizably Christian."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Saying What You Mean and Meaning What You Say

Blogs and the like are picking up on the Telegraph story that enigmatic Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John may be in line to become the next Bishop of Southwark. (See my post below). John, recall, is enigmatic because he is in a civil partnership with another man, is currently celibate, though once was not.

Christopher Johnson at MCJ waxes on a bit about this. E.g. "What sanctions should be applied against Lambeth Palace? After all, the Americans were sanctioned; why should the British be treated differently? More importantly, if sanctions are applied, who will apply them? The Archbishop of Canterbury? Shall Dr. Williams penalize his own church for taking an action that he probably supports?".

I suspect he will not be the only thinking Anglican who thinks this represents a call to conservative action:

"If Jeff John gets a pointy hat and Rowan Williams doesn’t interfere, the ball is back in the Anglican conservative court. What do they do with it? One would hope that they would be intelligent enough to realize that such an action would destroy any reason to remain “officially” Anglican.

One supposes, for example, that conservative die-hards will separate the Archbishop of Canterbury from the church he heads. That is, Rowan Williams is both the head of the Church of England, with which we have no connection, and the head of the Anglican Communion, something we revere. So the fact that the Church of England consecrated an unrepentant sinner as a bishop is irrelevant."

But the conservative case, all along, has been that there is a difference between orientation and practice. The former involves no moral judgment (whether to accept or to reject as conforming to God's law). The latter involves moral judgment.

If John is celibate there is no moral issue relative to the Windsor Report, Lambeth 1.10, or even Scripture itself. There may be a theological issue (does John uphold the teaching of Scripture in accordance with Lambeth 1.10?) but if that were determined to be a negative against John being a bishop then ... well, I do not think we are going to see mass sackings of bishops who do not agree with 1.10.

So, contra Christopher Johnson, I do not see the problem for conservatives. If we mean what we say and say what we mean, then we make no pre-judgments against celibate homosexuals.

If we mean what we say and say what we mean then we should treat John as saying what he means and meaning what he says when he says he is celibate. All will be well.

Incidentally, far from such a situation muddying the waters around ++Rowan's treatment of TEC reps to Communion committees following the Glasspool consecration, it would clarify an important issue: orientation is one thing, practice is another.

++Rowan looks like he is acting consistently.

Will conservatives act consistently also?

I hope cool headed appreciation of the situation will prevail over any temptation to follow prejudice.

Troubling Text

For nearly a week now I have been thinking off and on about the sermon Presiding Bishop Schori preached in New Zealand last Sunday (the same sermon in Auckland in the morning as in Christchurch in the evening). The full text is published here. Part of my hesitancy in writing anything about this sermon is that, inevitably, it can be seen as a 'picking on the bishop'. But a lot is at stake these days in the life of global Anglicanism, including events in the days since the sermon when it is possible that some moves have been made which add up to the dominance of one theology over another in the make up of the AC Standing Committee.

The sermon, as sermons go, as sermons delivered by bishops go (in my experience of some 40 years of knowingly hearing episcopal sermons), is fine. One sermon cannot be expected to have all doctrinal "i"s dotted and "t"s crossed. Most sermons I hear (and, in all likelihood, also the ones I deliver) have a flaw. In evangelical circles, for example, it is worrying how many profess to preach grace and then apply works as remedy for life's ills! Nevertheless, this sermon is representative of something larger than itself, a theological tendenz in other published writings emanating from the high levels of TEC. (Yes, also representative of thinking we can find in my own church, which also has a member on the AC Standing Committee).

It is within the following paragraphs that I find my reading of the sermon as most troubled:

"The guy who drove me to the airport went a way I hadn’t gone before. It was an eye-opener. We went by a Jewish center with beautiful mosaics on the front of the building, and young men in yarmulkes walking down the street.

We stopped at a red light and I looked over at the next car, to see a Sikh in turban and full beard, with a ceremonial knife hanging from his rear view mirror. That knife is actually a symbol of freedom – in the ability to choose non-violence.

The next block was filled by a beautiful old stone church complex – Mary, Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church. The shops and storefronts gave evidence of the world’s many families, languages, peoples, and nations.

Are we free enough to see that as blessing? Are we free enough to meet all the world’s people with a desire for their full flourishing? Can we be martyrs – witnesses – to the image of God in all people?

The freedom we have is to choose for those on the margins, to be in solidarity with the friendless and forgotten, the despised and the demonized. Exercising that freedom is almost always challenging – it annoys people who don’t see any need to change the status quo, it offends those in power, it challenges the ways of the world that say, “me first.” "

In the end I am simply unclear as a reader/hearer of this sermon whether the diversity of people belonging to other faiths is any kind of problem. It seems to be fine that some people in this world do not know Christ. Also unclear here is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. If the Gospel of Christ is a message of the transforming power of Christ to bring people from darkness to light, from bondage to the power of sin to freedom in the Spirit of God, available universally to all people, then that is opaque. It seems that the gospel is about 'full flourishing' of people (without address as to their responsibility for not fully flourishing (i.e. that 'all have sinned') since the responsibility by implications lies with those not on the margins, such as 'those in power'). Despite reference to the full flourishing of 'all the world's people', the gospel witness of Christians is to one side of the world divided into two sides: what Christians say to the marginalisers, the despisers, the demonizers about their being made in the image of God is not said.

But the most troubling aspect of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is lies in these words,

"Can we be martyrs – witnesses – to the image of God in all people?".

The sentiment is understandable. People are made in the image of God, but not all know this, and knowing this could help significantly in confidently reaching out to embrace a fully flourishing life.

But questions flourish here. Where is the Gospel, and our witness to it defined in Scripture or theology as bearing witness to the image of God in all people? The normal sense of witness in relation to the Gospel is witness to Christ, better to Christ and what he has done for us on the cross. When the cross is at the heart of the gospel the connection to the idea of being made in the image of God is not 'that we are made in the image of God' but that we are marred as the image of God with the good news that through Christ the image may be restored. Further, this understanding applies to every human being, rich and poor, centre and margin, powerful and weak.

The crucial difference between the Gospel of Christ as taught in the New Testament and the Gospel represented here is that the difference the gospel makes is not through knowledge (overcoming my ignorance of my being made in the image of God) but through power (Christ transforming my life on the basis of his work on the cross forgiving my sin and defeating the powers of sin and death).

The difference will seem small, even negligible to many Anglicans. But on it turns quite a lot. When we get the gospel wrong, even on a small part, we are like a ship on a course relative to another ship. Initially the wrong bearing matters little because each ship can see each other. Eventually they become miles apart, and finally they are completely separated. The genius of Anglicanism, in a sense, is that it has held two or more ships together in its fleet, here and there correcting direction to enable each to be in sight of the other. The breakdown of Anglicanism in the 21st century could occur not because it has (as some allege) 'two religions' in its midst, but because it fails as a whole, or one or other or both religions fail, to correct course.

But then I may be wrong ...

Media engineered crisis looming?

Jonathan Wynn-Jones is a follower of a sub-branch of the Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste school. His sub-branch is the Never Let An Opportunity To Generate a Good Crisis Pass By school of journalism. So with a bit of inside info on Rev Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, former candidate for Bishop of Reading, and "gay cleric" according to Wynn-Jones' headline, being a leading candidate for the Diocese of Southwark, he works his article up according to the school rules:

"Promoting him to one of the most senior offices in the Church would trigger a civil war between liberals and conservatives and exacerbate existing divisions within the Anglican Communion."

Wynn-Jones does mention that John is celibate. That is the bit that may prove the undoing of Wynn-Jones as a prophet. We might hope that his gratitude that we do not live in 'biblical times' knows no bounds!

John Richardson of The Ugley Vicar is an astute commentator on C of E affairs. He knows which side the bread is buttered on:

"it would be difficult to condemn Dr John’s appointment on the grounds that he is in a relationship with someone of the same sex. The Church of England accepts the existence of civil partnered clergy, and although some (including myself) may think this is a mistake, the House of Bishops has made it clear that this acceptance is based on the provision of assurances that such relationships are sexually celibate. Moreover, Dr John has (as I recall) declared that this is the case for his own relationship.

There are therefore no current grounds within the Church of England’s teaching and practice regarding Dr John’s domestic arrangements for condemning his appointment as a bishop."

This kind of thinking could mean that not only is civil war averted, but the situation never comes close to war.

That is not to say there are no problems with this appointment: John has not taught that celibacy is required of gay and lesbian Christians, and has argued in favour of there being no such requirement. Richardson canvases the difficulties in respect of this doctrinal angle on the possible appointment.

I hope and pray that the C of E follows the lead of theologians such as John Richardson and not the lead of journalists!

PS One presumes that Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark has no objection to Jeffrey John becoming his new bishop :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Unsteady Standing Committee

What is going on with the Anglican Communion Standing Committee which is losing members and not sorting out the status of Bishop Ian Douglas' membership? Check here and here.

I am picking that the resignations represent discomfort that Presiding Bishop Schori remains a member of the committee. Yes, properly elected etc (to head off one line of comments). But her presence is at odds with the majority understanding of the mind of the Communion.

Stick around as is your legal right; but if the Communion unravels around you, please do not say no one warned that this would happen!

Is this the slow motion Communion train crash gathering speed?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Terrifying Taonga Text

Lloyd Ashton at Taonga has worked fast to get a report on the Hermeneutics Hui posted. Read it here. A few things to ponder. The intervention cited at the beginning of the article was a very moving moment in the Hui.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Very Fruitful Thursday

What could be a measure of a successful Hui on Hermeneutics? One measure could be down the track of life, “Where the church is now, is down to that hui back in 2010.” We will pass that one by. Another measure could be a sense as people leave that some things in our life together are better. That may not be much of a measure, since whatever sense we have at the end of the hui could result in no action such as follow up reporting back to our dioceses and hui amorangi. Here are my thoughts about what is better in our life together because of our hui this week:

1. We may have a deeper commitment to move forward together resolved to lose no one, conservative or liberal (or those who do not identify as either), straight or gay or lesbian – a commitment deepened because we have listened to each other in a responsible way, recognising that both experiences and theological commitments matter.

2. We may have begun to say to ourselves that our reading of Scripture corporately is something we cannot sidestep. Holy Scripture is our Holy Scripture. We may, in this (new) beginning, be realising two things. First, that Scripture says what it says about sexuality (including homosexuality). Despite some creative hermeneutical explorations around the possibility of concluding that Scripture does not say what the church has thought it has been saying, it does say what it says (i.e. an overall negative approach to homosexuality). Secondly, that it is possible that we may need to go beyond Scripture because we face a new situation, unknown when the Bible was written. A ‘going beyond’ akin to what we have done on matters such as usury and remarriage of divorced persons. Yet it is notable that on those two matters our church has gone forward together.

3. We are recognising that each tikanga is engaged with consideration of the place of gay and lesbian and transgender and bisexual people in our church. Once upon a time we could only have said that of one tikanga.

4. We may be recognising that finding a way forward towards reaching some kind of decision as a whole church (any decision, one way or another) may involve “re-envisioning” of the situation. Perhaps a new framing of the situation in different language to the language that has been used hitherto. (I hope to offer further reflection on this soon on Hermeneutics and Human Dignity).

5. We may be recognising that through this last decade some things have been changing about our church, things which we need to factor into our reflections and explorations, such as certain ways in which we are becoming more conservative, and certain ways in which an underlying therapeutic model of church is being transformed into a missional model of church.

6. We may be recognising that more people are affected by the way we are handling these matters than we have recognised before: ‘more people’ including gay and lesbian people in our congregations, and gay and lesbian people in the extended families or whanau which make up our churches.

7. We may be recognising that some arguments are better than other arguments in order to advance whichever cause we are promoting. In each of the three hui so far there have been arguments advanced which have not gained traction across the majority of those present. Arguments are not everything in ‘changing attitude’ but for some aspects they are important. They need to be good, in tone and content, otherwise they will not persuade.

Well I never set out to write down seven emerging things; but I have. I will stop for now. If you are asking the question, ‘Where will this end up?’, then my answer is, ‘I do not know.’ But I think it is more likely that we will end up in a place where we are both undivided and inclusive than if we had not held the hui.

Please read this as a personal statement of one individual at the Hui. It is not a description of the Hui per se, nor a record of its outcomes. It is an attempt to offer a sense of what its meaning for the church might be.