Friday, January 28, 2011

The Theology of the Primate of TEC

It is difficult to know where to begin with a response to this lecture by Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori! The context is an Episcopalian leader delivering a lecture to a Roman Catholic college. Quite a bit of hopeful desire for common working together between Anglicans and Romans features in the lecture. Amen to that.

Here are two parts in the lecture which illustrate why some of us have just a little difficulty with this Primate's theology and cannot say 'Amen' to it.

(1) "It’s important to spend some time looking at our history, because many people erroneously believe that the big conflict came at the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The differences between Roman and Anglican Christianity have certainly solidified since then, but the roots are much older. The points of difference between our respective communions are, to this day, rooted in different responses to contextual diversity. How shall the faith develop, or be permitted to develop, in the face of differing local conditions, challenges, and gifts?"

Mere plonkers of the Anglican world like me have been taught that there was a local issue of praxis at the time of the Reformation (Henry's marriages) but a universal issue (or set of issues) of theology. What was the gospel? How are people saved? These were universal questions of theology which Cranmer and co tackled. They thought Rome was wrong, not an Italian development which did not translate onto English soil. They succoured continental reformers who brought with them insights into the universal gospel of Christ nurtured in Swiss and French towns. They did not reject those insights because they came into being in differing local conditions across the Channel! I find it amazing that almost the opposite of what I have learned is being taught here. Of course I could be wrong. But what if it is the Presiding Bishop who is wrong in her understanding of Anglican history? Is that not a serious difficulty both for her own church and for the Communion as it seeks to welcome her leadership?

(2) "One of the charisms of Orthodoxy is the sense that God is active in far more than we recognize, that rather than two or seven sacraments, there are dozens or hundreds and even more than we can count or know." Again, we plonkers have been taught there are two dominical sacraments and five sacramental actions, and we have a bit of theological sport with those Anglicans who have sipped from the Tiber and loosely assert there are seven sacraments. But the Presiding Bishop is saying here that we are wrong. There are dozens of sacraments or hundreds and even more than we can count or know. Is this truth backed up by any catechetical statements anywhere in the Communion? [In the light of Bosco Peters' comment below I acknowledge unreservedly that the PB is backed up here by the official teaching of her own church. But that in itself highlights a possible distinction between TEC and the Communion, leading to the question whether it is a widespread Anglican teaching re sacraments which aligns more with Orthodox teaching (see, again, Bosco's comment below for reference) than with the teaching of the Church of England at the time of the Reformation].

In the end I would want to ask this question of PB Jefferts Schori: is there anything special in God's eyes about people who entrust their lives to Jesus Christ? On the basis of the lecture the answer is negative. God is at work everywhere, in all faiths, so much so that the missional task is to seek out partners among non-Christians in renewing and restoring creation. That God might be at work everywhere tilling the soil for the reception of the gospel does not figure in this lecture. That people being saved through religious pathways other than the way of Jesus undermines any necessity for that way seems lost on this lecturer. On the evidence presented here Jesus died to initiate a local rather than universal means of salvation. Note some logical consistency here: ++Jefferts Schori also understands Anglicanism as characterised by developing the faith locally rather than universally.*

Well, the evidence is there for all to see, that there are reasonable grounds for concern about the general theological direction of TEC, as represented in its Primate's articulation of her views. Some of what she says is not true, some of it raises significant questions as to whether it coheres with Anglican theology as broadly subscribed to across the Communion [n.b. italicised words here re worked since original posting], and, in the end, some of it seems at variance with the gospel of Jesus Christ itself.

*The Anglican Communion necessarily becomes a talking shop: how is your local Anglican expression of the localised Christian faith doing? There is no vision of a universal Anglican mission to spread the universal gospel of Christ within this lecture.

37 comments:

Bryan Owen said...

Peter, back in August 2009 I wrote a blog piece about Katherine Jefferts-Schori's response to the question, "Is the only way to God through Jesus?" entitled "Presiding Bishop: 'The Whole World Has Access to God'." Teasing out the implications of her answer to that question, I concluded:

Since the whole world already has access to God anyway, the Presiding Bishop concludes that special revelation is not so special, Jesus is not unique or necessary for salvation, and persons don't have to respond to the Gospel to be saved.

Since her election as PB in 2006, she has been consistent in offering views that are problematic and troubling.

Kurt said...

“Since the whole world already has access to God anyway, the Presiding Bishop concludes that special revelation is not so special, Jesus is not unique or necessary for salvation, and persons don't have to respond to the Gospel to be saved.”—Bryan Owen

Well, Fr. Bryan, my remembrance of this trumped up “controversy” was the Presiding Bishop was making a point that Christ Jesus didn’t come into the world to just to save Christians, let alone just to save conservative evangelicals. In fact, as I recall, human response to the Gospel was at the heart of her approach; though obviously, we can debate just exactly what “response to the Gospel” means. You appear to imply (I hope I’m wrong) that salvation is some kind of “reward” for “correct” theological belief, that somehow we are “saved” through acts of abstract affirmation. If so, your views are far more problematic and troubling to me than anything I have heard from the PB.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Kurt.

As important as I believe the orthodox faith of the Church is, I also believe that no mere mortal can ascertain with absolute certainty the eternal destiny of any particular person. And no, we are not saved "through acts of abstract information," by but the Truth. And for orthodox Christian faith, Truth is a Person (i.e., our Lord Jesus Christ).

I think the real question raised toward the end of Peter's posting is what gospel the PB actually preaches and teaches. I find it troubling that she implies "Jesus isn't the only way. Jesus is one of many valid ways to God. You have your way. We Christians have our way." That's not a "trumped up 'controversy,'" but a logical implication of things she has actually said.

As for making salvation a "reward" for believing or doing something, the PB herself comes perilously close to doing precisely that, and in a way that would performatively contradict her point about grace in her response to the question "Is the only way to God through Jesus?" (a point I look at on my blog).

Kurt said...

“I don’t know how God does that [salvation]. It’s not my job to figure that out, it’s God’s job. My job is to be the best Christian I can be, to share my understanding of good news and my experience of Jesus, and to live a life that shows that to the world and to let God figure out who’s going to be in the kingdom at the end of all time.”—The Presiding Bishop

Seems Orthodox—in the broadest sense—to me, Bryan. Unless you require a rote formula/act of abstract affirmation such as: “I claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” As a Catholic Anglican, I find such Evangelical formulations very suspect, to say the least.

Yes, I believe that all salvation comes through Christ; the Father arranged that before the beginning of the world. Just how that plays out in the lives of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or even atheists as well as Christians is, as the PB says, “not my job” to say.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Yet, Kurt, baptism has also been important for the church's understanding of salvation, and baptism services include confession of faith. Why, I have even heard of a church which has a 'Baptismal Covenant' which it constantly invokes as crucial to truly understanding what a real, genuine Christian is.

Then there is the small matter of Paul's theology of confession of faith in Romans 10, to say nothing of all those NT stories in which 'salvation' and 'faith' (sometimes characterised specifically as 'believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved') are linked tightly together.

I appreciate that your citation of ++KJS is 'broadly orthodox' but there is more to be said (unambiguously rehearsing the NT's own confession that there is no other name by which people may be saved) and I think the trouble that not only Bryan (inside TEC) but some of us outside TEC have is that that more to be said either does not get said by ++KJS or, in the instance of this lecture, such a play is made for the general salvific integrity of other ways associated with a theology of mission which has no vision for conversion to Christ, that it is hard to affirm the orthodoxy of her theology, even in a very broad manner.

liturgy said...

Greetings

I cannot comment on the wider discussion here, but do want to note that I think the two quotes that Peter highlights can be read in quite a different way than Peter does so here, and appear to do so on my reading of them within the context of the actual lecture.

I do not think there is a rewriting of the Reformation history as Peter suggests in the first quote. I think she is merely highlighting that the divisions between the British Isles and the Roman approach go back further than the Reformation. She explained that in the paragraphs preceding the first quote.

Peter, you mention more than once what you have been taught. I guess some issue are, by whom? And with what agenda? And with what presuppositions did your teachers teach you these things? And when do you bring your own analysis of agreement and/or disagreement to those things you have been taught?

As to her second quote in which you criticise her, the Presiding Bishop is perfectly correct, in my understanding of Orthodoxy. Even the basic theology of Wikipedia concurs: “The Orthodox Churches (Eastern and Oriental) typically do not limit the number of sacraments, viewing all encounters with reality in life as sacramental in some sense, and their acknowledgement of the number of sacraments at seven as an innovation of convenience not found in the Church Fathers.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrament)

Even the TEC Catechism, having listed the dominical sacraments, and the “other sacramental rites evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” states “God does not limit himself to these rites; they are patterns of countless ways by which God uses material things to reach out to us.” (my emphasis)

I guess to put it bluntly, Peter, when you state the things you have been taught: you have been taught wrong.

Blessings

Bosco
www.liturgy.co.nz

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Your better knowledge re sacraments and Orthodox/TEC has led me to revise my post a little in order to acknowledge my new state of knowledge.

I am not inclined to rewrite what I have written about the PB and her understanding of the Reformation. I agree that she is saying that the Reformation was not the beginning of the Church of England etc, and that is part of the reading of the cited and surrounding paragraphs. (Naturally I agree with her general thesis, that the origins of the C of e are not Roman; but I suggest that the way she characterises some of the historical developments of the C of E prior to the Reformation is interesting!)

But she is saying something else as well, about the way in which the 'faith' developed in England. It strikes me that her remarks on that are not only wrong but also serve the general stance of TEC on controversial-in-the-Communion matters, namely that local solutions to local issues without reference to the wider Communion is fine.

Ecclesia Anglicana said...

The tradition of extending the word 'sacrament' to cover a much wider sense was by no means absent from early Anglicanism.

For example, Herbert Thorndike (1598-1672) writes:

"Truly, of all the controversies which the Reformation hath occasioned, I see in none less reason for either side to make a difficulty than in this, which all turns upon the name ‘Sacrament,’ a name which is not found to be attributed in the Scriptures either to Seven, or to Two. For this name being taken up and commonly used by the Church, that is to say, by those writers, whom the Church alloweth and honoureth, what reason is there to deny the Church liberty to attribute it to any thing, which the power given to the Church enableth it to appoint and to use for the obtaining God's blessing upon Christians? Why should not any action appointed by the Church to obtain God's sanctifying grace by virtue of any promise which the Gospel containeth be counted a Sacrament? At least, supposing it to consist in a ceremony fit to signify that blessing which it is to procure."

Bryden Black said...

Peter, I too find it very difficult to know where exactly to begin in assessing the PB’s theology - either as delivered here or even as delivered when she came to Christchurch. I attempted a response in The Living Church, September 5, 2010, Sic et Non: Contradicting Paradox. (If folk want a really great essay in the same edition, see Brian Crowe’s Theology of Hope on Ratzinger and Williams!)

1. I too find her history of religion (I deliberately do not say “Christianity”) in the British Isles driven by an agenda that would necessarily lead to her favoured universalism. Even as she raises legitimate questions re context, her methodology simply does not permit her enough genuine discrimination (another deliberate word!).

2. She and Bosco are broadly right about the sacramental. See notably (rather than Wiki stuff!) Gary Badcock’s great new book, The House Where God Lives, ch.7, Sacrament. But all of this simply begs further discussion re the NT threefold cord of Christian initiation: repentance & faith, the role of the rite of baptism, and the role of the Holy Spirit. It is also quite simply the case that historically (and we can all play the game of historical reconstruction) these three have down the centuries become frayed and often severed from one another, issuing in (as ideal types) the Evangelical, the Sacramental and the Pentecostal. And this goes as much for the Greek East as the Latin West, in their differing ways. So how rounded are any of us?

3. What is basic, and Bryan Own is surely correct overall, is the PB’s horrendous failure to grasp the significance of the uniqueness of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and the Lord of the Church, who fills all in all. To pick on one key word, “access”, and another phrase, “missio Dei”. For access into the Missio Dei is ultimately, via either Latin or Greek versions of Trinitarianism, profoundly Christological, that is via the Person of Jesus. Even Paul at Mars Hill provoked a parting of the ways over the matter of resurrection. Whereas the PB always seems eventually to end up with some speculative inclusivity more akin to the Hindu neti neti.

4. In which case too I finally have serious issue over her capacity to represent the Christian Faith authentically as a member/leader of a global Christian Church ...

Father Ron Smith said...

" I find it amazing that almost the opposite of what I have learned is being taught here. Of course I could be wrong. But what if it is the Presiding Bishop who is wrong in her understanding of Anglican history? Is that not a serious difficulty both for her own church and for the Communion as it seeks to welcome her leadership(?)" - Peter Carrell -

Peter, have you ever thought that it is you who could be mistaken? And you who may have absorbed, albeit perhaps subliminally, the particular theology of the Church that you now express so strongly? I'm sure that your deeply evangelical roots would have effected a very different outlook in you from the roots of catholicity which I absorbed from my religious formation.

The same is true of Bishop Katherine, her foundation in the faith was very different from that available at Moore College in Sydney, or from the Diocese of Nelson, NZ's own College.

Similarly, with your fellow Kiwi evangelical, B.B., a correspondent here, who, I believe, on his own testimony: 'sat at the feet of Rowan Williams' on one occasion. One swallow never made a summer, and one might ask: were his already con/evo- conditioned ears open to what was being taught by this knowledgable catholic Anglican teacher?

Most of us in our early learning experience can be innoculated against things we later on in life do not wish to hear about.

We are all products of our particular background - so it is no surprise that you find it very difficult to resonate with TEC's Presiding Bishop's understanding of what was really at stake at the Reformation and afterwards.

I guess her real problem, as far as some con/evos are concerned, is the fact that she is an intelligent and deeply spiritual woman leader of the American Church, which happens to have 'jumped the gun' with some initiatives on how the Church might take more seriously the discovery of an evolving pattern of biological human development than those Christians who still think that God only speaks through the Bible.

This mentality can only encourage speculation that one need expect no futher interpretation of the existing Scriptures, in case our perceptions on what God has been 'up to' in the creation of our human species is in any way disturbed.

Some Scholars and Thinkers in the Church really do believe the Church needs to reflect on Creation in new ways - in keeping with modern scientific and social experience of the world as we find it - a different perspective from that of 1st century A.D. Christianity.

The Holy Spirit is still using the ministry of prophets and prophecy in the ongoing task of revelation. The work of revelation did not cease with the Protestant Reformation or the publication of the many versions of the Scriptures. Nor indeed has it yet ceased to surprise, and discomfit, it's intended hearers. Deo Gratias!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I could be wrong. That is what I said! But what if the PB is wrong?

This has nothing to do with what gender or IQ the PB is. (She is very intelligent). It has to do with the material content of what was at stake at the Reformation. Even Catholics were aware that universal truth was at stake and not local development of the faith: hence the executions under Mary.

Nowhere in your post do you actually refute the case I rbing against the PB's understanding of the Reformation. Nor has that case much to do with whether I am a conevo, Martian, or caffeine addict! I would be interested if you felt able to get beyond labels and who learnt what from whom and for how long, what are the substantive grounds on which the PB is correct that the English Reformation in respect of theology was about a local English development of the faith?

liturgy said...

Peter, I think it is admirable that you have taken my comment into account and altered your original posting without thereby making my comment incomprehensible. Thank you.

I cannot fairly judge TEC on the attitude of “local solutions to local issues without reference to the wider” context but I can affirm that this is an extremely strong ethos in our own Anglican province, so I would not be surprised to see it evident elsewhere in our Communion. ACANZP appears to me to embody Judges 21:25 “
In those dayes there was no King in Israel: euery man did that which was right in his owne eyes.” Vicars regularly run congregations very much by the adage that you condemn in TEC, even to the violation of the canons that they swear to uphold (generous as they are).

I understand that we are approaching things slightly differently – you are expressing concern when there is division in the communion as a result of the attitude. I am looking at the attitude as an underlying cause – not the resulting symptom. I continue to think we need to look at the causes – and start with those at home first. If we cannot fix the cause at home we are not so well placed IMO to offer advice on dealing with it elsewhere.

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I appreciate that a casual attitude to canons with constant local inventiveness re (say) liturgy, governance could readily become a local inventiveness re theology. Hence in ACANZP we need to be testing what we do in respect of the universal truth of the Christian faith, best practice of the church over 2000 years and so forth. I also appreciate that ACANZP's house could be in better order before we as a church, or individual commenters seek to get other Anglican houses in order; at least, ideally, that would be so. But just as I would ordinarily work on my own marriage before trying to put other marriages right, but would not wait till my marriage was perfect before assisting with a marriage in crisis, so with the Communion in crisis, I think it worth attending to aspects of that crisis rather than waiting until all is in order here.

Nevertheless I appreciate that some around the internet traps think this is no crisis and people like me are being quite impertinent :)

Father Ron Smth said...

re your last memo to Bosco, Peter. Perhaps the word impartial, rather than impertinent, might fit the bill - neither of which, IMHO, you are.

Enjoy the Celebration of Candlemass! - if you get an opportunity to find one such joyous festival in town.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Ron! Apropos one’s pedigree: perhaps a re-read of my first paragraph might assist you in a similar re-write to Peter’s re the sacraments. No pressure; just a pertinent response.

As for impartiality: I certainly would not see this as achievable ever - not even by Jesus, of His own Father’s words and works (ala the FG: see ch.8 for example! or 9, laced with due irony ...). It has only been the (false) epistemology of the Enlightenment Project that has sought such an apparent ‘ideal’. Rather, the goal re both epistemology and Christian theology is one of “sufficient confidence” (following e.g. Polanyi, Newbigin, et al), where faith hope and love are not so much virtues as common human traits, to be cultivated, to permit a viable Way for us in God’s world.

In which case, how does the current PB’s theology exhibit “sufficient confidence”, when both her religious studies (I do not say Christian theology) and her philosophy of science are simply not up to it ...? To justify this claim, I can send you (or others) a fuller report than the one severely edited for The Living Church article.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Words, words, I'm sick of words". Eliza Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady' exhibits the same impatience as I have myself with the everlasting cukltrue of provenance - who went where to imbibe whos teaching no longer excites me as it once did.

What I look for in Christian evangelism, Dr. Black, is the communication of the unlimited love of God as shown to the world by the Incarnate Word - Who fulfilled the Law and offered a 'New and Living Way' for all people to find, and to have faith in, the God of all flesh.

Give me deeds! "By their fruits you shall know them" and, from the Scriptures the words of The Word-made flesh: "They'll know you're my disciples by your Love" - not your learned dissertations. We are meant to be 'alter Christus- other Christ's - to all people, not just demagogues on the subject of SIN.

I guess the TEC Presiding Bishop may not have sat at the feet of any particular theological guru in Europe, but she has a lot of common sense, a love of people and of justice, and some knowledge of the scientific world in which we live and move and have our being. That may be a whole lot more than some other Church Leaders.

Perhaps you and Peter ought to have taken the opportunity to meet Bishop Katherine on her short Christchurch visit. You may have learned a lot more about her, and her deep spirituality than you appear to have gleaned from other sources.

Bryan Owen said...

In a posting entitled "Incarnate Word or hills and forests?" over at Catholicity and Covenant, an Anglican priest in the Church of Ireland argues that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's recent reflections on the significance of the Incarnation "is not what the catholic tradition has meant by the Incarnation" but rather demonstrates a view "torn from Scripture, Tradition and catholic Creeds."

Read it all.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

You lot be sure to rip apart and dissect her every word delivered today in the Dublin Anglican Cathedral! I am sure that you will find it wanting.

http://thinkinganglicans.org.uk/uploads/jeffertsschori20110130.html

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
When ++KJS was in Christchurch I took the opportunity to hear her preach at St Michael's. Unfortunately a prior obligation to a national church conference took me out of town and thus I was not able to engage in the extended opportunity for conversation with her at the marae the next day, nor to hear her deliver her lecture at the university.

Listening to her sermon I formed a very good impression of her as one with a pleasant preaching voice (not all preachers are so blessed!), a formidable intelligence, and an engaging personality. It was not hard to understand from that experience why she had been elected to her primatial role.

But the content of the same sermon gave me pause for thought; just as her recent lecture has done. I feel forced to ask the question or set of questions such content raises: is this true? is this the faith as bequeathed to us through the generations? is this understanding of the gospel in accordance with that revealed in the New Testament?

The reason I raise these questions as someone far from her jurisdiction is not an idle concern about an Anglican church faraway but a relevant concern about the future of the Anglican Communion to which my (and your) church belongs. If it is under threat of division if not dissolution, are the forces driving the threat towards reality expressive of truth?

I am afraid a great personality, a commitment to justice and other good deeds, etc, which undoubtedly may be accorded to the PB, does not change any real concern about the content of her understanding of the Reformation, sacraments (see now comment from Bryan Owen here), and the like.

I would hope that both of us are obsessed on these matters with (a) truth, (b) the future good health of the Communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Thanks for posting the link (which I had not yet come across).

I am sorry that you are using the language of 'rip apart and dissect.' The questions being raised here are better described in terms of seeking and discerning the truth. Focusing on the theology of ++KJS is a matter of respecting the influential role she plays in the life of the Communion, as well as caring that the Communion's life might be founded on good theology.

I will find a moment later today to look at the sermon. Thank you again.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The questions being raised here are better described in terms of seeking and discerning the truth.

That is not what I find you, Bryan or Bryden doing at all, which is why I have refrained for the last few days from commenting on any of your posts. I find it difficult to take seriously the petty issues that you lot raise as you purposely wish to find fault and show her in a bad light.

It makes one question the university you attended and the validity of your advanced degrees if you were not educated to read what she has said accurately. There is no error in her lecture to the RCs. You purposely choose to misunderstand the simple fact, stated in a couple sentences, that she points out that the seeds of the eventual separation between the CoE and Rome were planted long before the Reformation.

She understands the Sacraments, she knows that they are Baptism and Eucharist. She understands the pastoral sacramental rites. But you purposely wish to misunderstand when she alludes to the contributions of the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches of viewing the sacramental acts of God in so much more.

She understands the doctrine of the Incarnation. But you lot purposely choose to be obtuse and misunderstand her allusions of seeing the fingerprints of God in God's creation.

So here in today's invitation to preach in Dublin is another sermon to nit pic and pull apart as you purposely find further to misunderstand.

But how about tomorrow you post a number of your own sermons. I am sure Bryan and Bryden can find fault with your's as well. Perhaps even I will take a crack at them with a microscope to your every word and then miss the greater message as well!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
The substantive issue I have taken with ++KJS's understanding of the Reformation has nothing to do with explaining the roots of separation between Canterbury and Rome as lying earlier than H8/Cranmer (she is right) and everything to do with characterising the issues at stake during the English Reformation as about 'local' development of the faith. No one here has challenged my argument that, at the least, ++KJS may be wrong on that. This is not a nitpicking point but an important point from the perspective of current arguments about what being Anglican and belonging to a Communion of churches means.

I would not presume to publish my sermons here because that would be particularly boring. Also my sermons generally have nothing to do with the future of the Communion nor are my theological beliefs more likely to be in error in them rather than in my posts which, as you are well aware, get picked over a bit from time to time.

Rather than post comment about ++KJS's Dublin sermon (which might invite nitpicking!!), I will just note here that the sermon is a strong call to urgent cooperative action to tackle the many evils of this world. Nothing to nitpick about!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Peter, your use of H8 threw me for a loop for a short time. H8 is also text message speak for hate!

As in;
Make luv, not h8

Peter Carrell said...

I learn something new everyday, David!

Mind you "H8" = hate, and "H8" = Henry VIII, are reasonable companions. Henry VIII was clearly capable of great, raging hatred of his enemies.

Bryden Black said...

Morning (sic) Ron and David.

Well; the reality is I have met her and discussed briefly (there were quite a few other folk) key elements of her theology/Christology/spirituality/methodology. I then wrote up her entire lecture and my most serious questions, some addressed, some left (due to time/numbers). Then in my own file notes (which became the brief Living Church article), I concluded (if I may):

“Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Why bother trying to summarise and engage with one small address, given in an obscure South Island city ‘Beyond Down Under’, where albatrosses fly free for many months without ever touching land?! Why pay sufficient attention to the point of taking pretty comprehensive notes, and then, to cap it off, deliver a summation that merely says, “Yes; but ...”?! What kind of “conclusion” is that anyway?! What’s my point?! Can any point be grasped, when one proposed answer seemingly drops us back, as mere drops of water, into such a vast monistic “sea of faith”?! [the reference is to her eventual answer to my public question, that echoed the Hindu notion of neti neti, already mentioned in earlier post]

In a word, using one of the key words enjoyed by KJS herself, “interconnectedness”.

Just as older refrigerators, embodying the emergence of American middle class affluence and the abundance of white goods post WW2, used - had to use, given the era - what symbolized in time the ambivalence of capitalist growth, CFC gases as coolants, which continue to have such devastating effects upon the very climate of New Zealand due to the hole in the ozone layer in this part of the world especially, so too does TEC’s determination to pursue a particular ecclesial path for itself on the basis of a supposed provincial autonomy, nonetheless have very real and serious consequences on the whole Anglican Communion: “interconnectedness” abounds!”

This is no “nit picking”, but a serious attempt to get to the heart of what KJS means by Christology, and thereafter her entire understanding and praxis of the Christian Faith. Her leadership has consequences (as Peter has suggested and I have reiterated; and Bryan repeated). Furthermore, even the Fourth Gospel insists we address both word-&-works, works-&-word: that’s how the thing is written up! Nor is this surprising: contemporary anthropology views human being as the symbolizer, the one who establishes an ethos and world view via cultural traits, both immaterial and material (to summarise in too few words). And correct me if I am wrong; but I think I have not used the word “sin” anywhere on this thread re the PB’s theology ... But then perhaps I should have: she has such a slight appreciation of it; and the Letters to Corinth (as per RCL) are providentially right on the money!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

The points of difference between our respective communions are, to this day, rooted in different responses to contextual diversity. How shall the faith develop, or be permitted to develop, in the face of differing local conditions, challenges, and gifts?

OK, then in returning to the actual point of your post, what are you hearing her say to the RCs in those two sentences?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,

There are two points worth considering re my concerns. One is the question of accurate understanding of the history of the Reformation and whether the main thing going on was the English church authorities looking to be free to develop the faith locally or not. The other is the matter raised in your citation:

"The points of difference between our respective communions are, to this day, rooted in different responses to contextual diversity. How shall the faith develop, or be permitted to develop, in the face of differing local conditions, challenges, and gifts?"

You ask what I 'hear' in this statement. What I 'hear' is that the key difference between Roman and Anglican understanding of 'the faith' is different contexts for believing and expressing the faith; contexts which are different enough to have led to the points of difference between our respective communions.

I will stop there. You have not asked what I think about what I hear. :)

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

I will stop there. You have not asked what I think about what I hear. :)

I have to wonder if perhaps you were not often slapped up side the head by neighborhood bullies in your youth.

What do you think about what you hear in her lecture Peter?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Focusing on this comment,

"The points of difference between our respective communions are, to this day, rooted in different responses to contextual diversity. How shall the faith develop, or be permitted to develop, in the face of differing local conditions, challenges, and gifts?"

I suggest that there are important points of difference between the Roman and Anglican communions which are not rooted in different responses to contextual diversity. Thus:
(1) there are no contexts in which we accept that Christ instituted the papacy as it has come to be understood in Rome;
(2) in all contexts we believe it appropriate that ordained ministers in any order may be married;
(3) there are no contexts in which indulgences are a warranted application of the gospel of Christ;
(4a) where we believe that Mary is to be venerated, this is a development in doctrine shared with Rome because it is a universal truth revealed by God, not because it is an appropriate local development of doctrine;
(4b) where we believe that Mary is not to be venerated, that understanding is a universal truth, not to be varied because in some cultures there is a pre-Christian history of veneration of a female deity;
(5) distinctions in understanding of the sacraments (e.g. their number, how they 'work') are universal truths arising from study of Scripture and tradition of the church, not reflecting some local contextual factor(s);
(6) (a complicated difference ...) on some matters we think that local authorities may make decisions when Rome seeks on the same matters to impose a universal decision: liturgy is an outstanding example. Roman liturgies are approved by Rome. Anglican liturgies are approved by member church general synods. But our general Anglican principle here is not itself a local contextual development, but a universally subscribed to principle of modern Anglicanism.

Much, of course, turns here on 'the faith'. But that term encompasses everything: doctrine, praxis, liturgy. The reality for Anglicans is that some of the faith (some praxis, most if not all liturgies) develop according to local context, but doctrine (because we adhere to Scripture and to the great creeds) is not developed according to local context (and, when that does happen, it often receives a strong reaction from elsewhere in the Communion).

Father Ron Smith said...

"VIII was clearly capable of great, raging hatred of his enemies." - Peter Carrell -

Henry VIII was also capable of producing live music of a ghigh quality, and also a tract on the essence of Christ in the Eucharist that earned him the title 'Defender of the Faith' - no less - from the Pope opf the day.

re Bryden's discourse on this thread, the word I will remember most clearly is 'albatross'. This must have been what he was dreamily thinking about all the time he was with Bp. Katherine, because not much else in clear from the conversation. She does have this charisma of astonishing people - as well as expressing her love of Christ in the Gospel, and those for whom he gave his life. Not a bad C.V. for a Bishop!

Peter Carrell said...

Henry VIII was a multifaceted, gifted person. But if he wanted you dead ... you died!

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Peter, I think that +Katharine would agree with you on every point. But she is a gracious guest and was not there to antagonize her hosts, nor to stray from the topic at hand, so I seriously doubt it is fair to take small points and critique her personal beliefs or her fitness for office. You appear to be criticizing her for things that she did not say.

"Wise is the man (sic) who says all that should be said, but not all that could be said."
Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Apostle
LDS Church

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
It is beyond my personal capabilities to understand how ++KJS can both agree with me in my last comment AND stand by the cited comment from her lecture. But if she can then there is no telling where her leadership capbilities, to say nothing of her theological acumen could lead her church.

It is also increasingly obvious from comments here and there that ++KJS is (1) a personality beyond compare; (2) a theologian beyond question; (3) a leader beyond criticism. Hers is an unparalleled achievement in the Anglican world.

Theological bishops such as ++Rowan and +Tom Wright come in for an inordinate amount of criticism. Presumably well deserved since few if any defend them from the possibility that they might be wrong. But ++KJS is in a class of her own, sui generis, in respect of the unswerving loyalty of her supporters. Few bishops in my experience have generated such devotion. She is an outstanding candidate to be acclaimed the premiere Anglican bishop of our generation.

Bryden Black said...

Oh dear; sorry Ron. My reference to albatrosses is a line I have used for years - well before meeting her ladyship. Lastly: the "Concluding Unscientific Postscript" has seemingly distracted you - apologies!

Bryan Owen said...

Here's another interesting piece on the PB's theology:

What do people mean when they say that Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori has denied the resurrection or the divinity of Christ?

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bryan.
As I see it, the published writings (or transcripts of sermons etc) leave the reader bemused: what does she mean when she says X? And leave her defenders in a quandary: to defend her revision of the meanings of divinity etc is an invidious task!

Bryden Black said...

We should be most grateful to both Bryan Owen and James Coder for these pieces.

1. It is on clear record, for those who know their history of theology, that the shift from Christian theology to ethics, expressing classical Christian doctrine in ethical terms alone, was the key 19th C Liberal move. This was set up both by Kant on the one hand and Schleiermacher on the other. KJS’s views are merely the logical outcome of all this, dividing off morality from any due ontology.

2. What might just be of some significance is the way she then tries to adjust this theological a priori to some version of science. And here we are up against the thing I have signalled before: her philosophy of science is simply too inadequate (as Coder also suggests). Even a read of AEMcGrath’s Introduction to his Scientific Theology (2004) would reveal just how inadequate. I would want to go further however and run her views past the likes of Tom Torrance’s, that giant of the Christian theology/science discussion (something I have done elsewhere and which is not appropriate for a blog such a this).

3. Coder’s assessment, “It seems to be that we have brought about a situation which is truly unique in world history”, may be a bit extreme to some, but it is not hyperbole! That TEC has elevated such a person to these levels of leadership speaks volumes about their inability to truly discern where ‘modern theology’ has come from or what it has morphed into ... And no amount of genuine “hermeneutics” can turn such lead into gold, or gruel into the “spiritual milk” of the Gospel - let alone “mature food”!

Over and out!