Tuesday, May 17, 2011

++Jefferts Schori's Potent Vision for Anglican catholicity

Speaking recently Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori set out a potent vision for Anglican catholicity:

" "The leadership of Christian bodies like ours, as well as all of the partners we can discover and nurture, are needed in order to transform the future," she said. "We must build networks for that transformed future, for that image of the reign of God … That future is only possible with the catholicity of relationships beyond our current understanding. We must reach beyond the bounds that divide us for the love of God and for the love of our neighbors. We can do no less; we can do nothing more important." "

This is precisely what the Anglican Communion needs in the present situation where our diversity is such that we need to "build networks for that transformed future" on the basis that the "future is only possible with the catholicity of relationships beyond our current understanding." In respect of the differences between TEC and ACNA it is indeed true that "We must reach beyond the bounds that divide us for the love of God and for the love of our neighbours. We can do no less ..."

Even more potent is that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori expressed this vision precisely in a geographical location in which overlapping Anglican jurisdictions already exist and are working out the Anglicn future of that location together.

Over to you, Archbishop Bob Duncan, to return service with an equally potent vision, and for a joint declaration of cessation of legal actions within the shores of the USA!

Unfortunately, the reality of the Presiding Bishop's expression of catholicity is that it was made in the context of friendly overtures to European churches rather than friendly overtures to ACNA. But one can only live and pray in hope that one day we Anglicans might be as ecumenically minded towards ourselves as towards others.


Father Ron Smith said...

Full marks, Peter, for your thoughts on a possible TEC ACNA reconciliation. However what would really be required for the two to become one would be for ACNA to renounce its territorial claims to TEC property.

I'm reminded here of a poster I once saw regarding the subject of strained relationships: "Feeling the absence of God? Guess who moved!"

Andrew Reid said...

Going by her actions, the Presiding Bishop's vision of catholicity has more to do with centralised control rather than universality of relationships. Ironic really that someone who has done so much personally to destroy relationships and undermine the catholic faith within her own national church and across the Anglican Communion is out there speaking about catholicity.
Just a side question, why is TEC negotiating re its own ecumenical relationships? My understanding was national churches handled national ecumenical relationships, but international relationships were handled by IASCUFO, on which TEC has been reduced to observer status. The article mentions the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, but I wouldn't have thought 20 parishes across a continent qualified you to start making ecumencial agreements. Is TEC establishing separate international credentials from the rest of the AC in case of any future reduction in status (e.g. not signing the covenant), or is there an uncontroversial reason? Just doing a quick search, I discovered the Porvoo agreement with the Scandinavian churches only covers the Churches of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland rather than the whole Communion, so maybe that is why TEC is pursuing its own agreement.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
My understanding is that TEC is pursuing a general strategy of building relationships with churches amiable to its aims and goals. I cannot see any particular reason why it should not pursue ecumenical relationships in Europe as it is doing: it does have parishes there. A bit like our church having a strong ecumenical relationship with the Diocese of Sydney in respect of our Tikanga Maori work there!

James said...

This is particularly interesting to me since in the Church of England, the Diocese of Europe is my diocese. She visits the Convocation of American Churches & the Diocese of Europe in the Church of England simultaneously.

Notice, however, that there's no mention at all of any persons present from the Church of England, nor any visits to Church of England churches here.

Fr. Ron Smith, notice how here you are putting the ACNA in the position of the individual estranged and TEC in the position of "God." Are you sure this is an apt metaphor?

Kurt said...

The fact is that we in TEC have much more in common, theologically and liturgically, with the Old Catholics and Church of Sweden than we do with the con evos in the Anglican Communion. .” Both the Old Catholics and the Church of Sweden ordain women and gays.

Historically, every time evangelicalism has had a period of growth in TEC (1750-1784; 1800-1860; 1970-2000), it has found a way to shoot itself in the foot, and destroy its influence in the church. Generally this self-destruction has manifested itself (as one historian put it) in evangelicals being “exclusive, intolerant, denunciatory.”

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt,
Is the history of Episcopal evangelicalism a history of growth followed by self-immolation or a history of growth followed by progressive theology within the Episcopal church spurting forward with cavalier disregard for the contribution evangelicalism has made to its life and growth?

James said...

If we look at "evangelical" movements in history, I believe we find such movements share perceptions similar to what Kurt describes here as "exclusive, intolerant, denunciatory." But then again, so were prophets typically perceived. "Conservative" liturgically, I probably would have shared these same perceptions had I lived during some of the large revival movements of the past; and I share the same perception with regard to some of the fastest-growing denominations today.

Perhaps God frequently brings about some sort of purifying and chastizing force at moments that He deems to work powerfully amongst His people? I think of the first Baptists and the Methodists for the Church of England; elsewhere, of Jan Hus and the Moravians, Wycliffe and the Lollards, of the many monastery reforms. But then again, the Church of England was likely in need of reform at the moment of these evangelical movements; and they probably brought her some good in their wake as cautionary signs, and inspiration to some.

Traditionally, "institutional" churches have the reputation of resisting rabble-rousing "evangelical" movements that tend to throw out much good in their wake; most certainly, things worthy of being thrown out, are - but problematically, such movements often find their new weaknesses in over-zealous purification. In 1750-1784 and 1800-1860, the Episcopal Church would have not only been very "institutional," but highly establishment-oriented. Thus, evangelical movements would be sure to be perceived as even more exclusive, intolerant, and denunciatory than already is usually the case.

It is a great pity that the church universal does not act more in unity, with the more "stability-oriented" factions working together better with the grubby, rabble-rousing, prophetic evangelicals - with mutual discernment, repentance, and sharing of gifts. We usually operate with the eye saying to the hand, "I have no need of you."

Father Ron Smith said...

"Fr. Ron Smith, notice how here you are putting the ACNA in the position of the individual estranged and TEC in the position of "God." Are you sure this is an apt metaphor?'

- James -

Well, James, as you've jumped to this conclusion, let's use it: Presumably there is as much of God in the mission & work of TEC as ever there is/was in ACNA?

Kurt said...

Well, Peter, this is the way I see it: As originally constituted in 1785-1789 the American Episcopal Church was, theologically and liturgically, a middle ground between the Low Church Latitudinarians typified by Bishop William White, and the High Church Catholics typified by Bishop Samuel Seabury. The Prayer Book of 1789 reflects this. Evangelicals were largely out of the picture, since the great bulk of them had broken with American Anglicanism in 1784 to form the independent Methodist Church, or had joined the Presbyterians. While they had differences among themselves, the White and Seabury schools were united in their anti-Calvinism, and both were suspicious of Evangelicalism in general. However, beginning about 1800 the relationship of forces within the Episcopal Church began to change; a growing Evangelical presence began to make itself felt.

In the beginning the Evangelicals argued for the toleration of their theological perspectives and they made the case that their positions deserved the same respect as those of the Latitudinarians and High Churchmen. They met with increasing success. By the 1830s and 1840s, they were a significant force within the Episcopal Church. However, once they had attained a measure of influence, Evangelicals forgot all about tolerance and used their newfound power to punish their rivals. (Sound familiar?) They began, quite literally, to persecute individuals for their theological High Churchmanship. This was, ultimately, their undoing.

Much of the American Northeast had long been a High Church region prior to the American Revolution. The war nearly destroyed the Episcopal Church in many sections of the country and left a vacuum. With the High Church and Latitudinarian obstacles to expansion being removed in some areas, the Evangelicals were quick to exploit this vacuum, particularly in Massachusetts and Virginia. In the wake of the growth of evangelicalism in the Episcopal Church after 1800, Massachusetts in particular, became a battleground between High Church adherents and Evangelical partisans. By the 1870s with the Cumminsite split (Reformed Episcopal Church), most Episcopalians were glad to see the Evangelicals go. Today, most I know are glad to see the Minnsites (Duncanites?) depart for similar reasons.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

James said...

Fr. Ron, thank you for your good-humoured response, especially after our disagreement in a previous thread. I have visited your blog and am charmed by your picture with the warm smile, and I see you smiling in this comment. Blessings to you.

"Presumably there is as much of God in the mission & work of TEC as ever there is/was in ACNA?"

I like this thought and do wish that I could affirm that the church where I began my journey in the Anglican Communion (TEC) was as faithful as this church I've never been a part of, and of which my knowledge is relatively limited (ACNA).

However, I can't affirm it, though I suppose it would help to stipulate in what matter we're thinking in terms of God being "in" these things, given His omnipresence, and sustinence of all things in His natural grace. Surely both churches are equally able to call upon God for His blessing. But I do not believe that God smiles upon all of our thoughts and deeds equally. And this then would also apply for corporate entities like churches, as well as individuals. Though there is no pleasure in saying it - in some, we will discern more faithful following of Christ than in others. But I must hasten to add: that I believe there are very fine men and women of God in both churches.