Monday, June 27, 2011

Toxic and Exotic?

In the ongoing engagement with the future direction of global Anglicanism, some member churches of the Anglican Communion are of more interest to some engagers than others, one is TEC, another is the Church of England (CofE), with the result that attempts are being made, by various organisations, some old, some brand new, to influence if not alter radically, the general direction of that member church. The recent establishment of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) is such an attempt. Its raison d'etre is:

"AMIE has been established as a society within the Church of England dedicated to the conversion of England and biblical church planting."

This sounds novel (but there are other societies dedicated to the conversion of England, including the hitherto much under-estimated "Church of England") and innocuous (but ask the question, "Will the church plants be authorised by the local C of E bishop?" and it is immediately unclear what the answer is). Some explanation is given by Charles Raven here, but his very celebration of the announcement begs a question or two, as Charles leads an Anglican church in England which is not of the Church of England. His Anglican church is one which has broken away from the formal structure of the Church of England. There are already Anglican churches in England which are plants and not breakaways. One example is Christchurch, Durham. It is linked to various Anglican organisations (e.g. Reform, the Proclamation Trust) but not to the Diocese of Durham.

Another intriguing element of AMiE is its talk of a 'panel of bishops' to oversee its work. I cannot find in the GAFCON statement linked to above whether those bishops are solely C of E bishops or a wider grouping, but Charles Raven's explanatory statement linked to above mentions that at the announcement meeting three Anglican clergy ordained out in Kenya by a Kenyan bishop were welcomed and commissioned for work in England. But to work in the Church of England (with a few exceptions*) requires the acceptance for and licensing of that work by a C of E bishop, thus raising the question that it is likely men who felt they would not be ordained in the C of E may have been ordained for Anglican work outside of the C of E. Then by turns it seems reasonable to suppose that the 'panel of bishops' will include bishops from outside of England.

Rachel Marszalek, whose blog is linked to here, has responded to the AMiE announcement via commentary on Richard Hooker. Her response is provoked by an analysis of the state of the Church of England which justifies the seemingly exotic origins of AMiE in terms of that state being 'toxic'.

My question, from a long way a way, is What the attitude of evangelicals in AMiE is to evangelicals not in AMiE or its associated organisations? If the attitude is, We will plant churches in your parishes if we deem you to be insufficiently evangelical, then I suggest AMiE take a very careful look at itself and reflect carefully on what is 'toxic' and what is not in the life of God's mission and ministry in England.

But AMiE may have no such attitude. It may be solely concerned to fight progessivism and liberalism where it deviates from orthodox Anglican theology as that is understood in the Church of England (cf. Canon A5 of that church). It may be aiming to spearhead a movement for renewal in the Church of England with a keen evangelistic edge which gathers up all parts of the C of E committed both to A5 and the conversion of England. It may be so compelling in its raison d'etre that it scoops up support of a great majority of C of E bishops, drawn to renew the vigour and enthusiasm with which they lead the church in its apostolic mission.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, I really like the approach of Cranmer's Curate, another English blog linked to here, whose latest post is both supportive of AMiE and critical with a twist, urging consideration of mission to the north of England. POSTSCRIPT: I see that Cranmer's Curate has CHANGED his original post to this. All reference to AMiE removed. Now why would that be?

Incidentally, I like CC's simplicity of description of the core of ministry:

"preaching Christ's Word and administering his Sacraments."

*In England there are a few "proprietary chapels" which are Anglican and yet can appoint whom they choose to be their minister, without reference to the local bishop (though if that minister wished to be a licensed Anglican clergyperson they would need a license of thir bishop). Or, so I understand these ecclesiastical anomalies.


Lucy said...

A few questions: Would it be possible just to be glad the Gospel is going to be preached in more places and to more people?

Could we be like St Paul and say,even if they do it to hurt me I'm glad that more people have the opportunity to hear the Good News?

Can't we expect AMiE to be passionate about the Gospel, sincere, arrogant, muddled, hardworking, frail, faithful followers ... just like so many of us?

Is the use of 'toxic'reasonable at this early stage? all they've done is say 'hi guys, we're here'.

Would it be fair to suggest that Rachel Marszalek's opinions about AmiE might be a little more mellow when she's had a chance to find out for herself just how hard ministry can be?

Lucy Eban

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Lucy,

It is AMiE which has come into existence on the back of an analysis of the C of E which says the C of E is "toxic". I am not aware of anyone saying that AMiE is "toxic".

It is very good that the gospel is being preached and we can be glad that this and other initiatives in England will increase the preaching of the gospel.

There is a question to ponder (as St Paul himself took time to ponder a similar question) whether it is good, bad or indifferent that some of AMiE's preaching of the gospel could involve a supplementary message "We good Anglicans, those in that long-standing parish church across the street not such good Anglicans." If AMiE's sole concern is preaching the gospel, without ecclesiological ambitions, why not drop all associations with "Anglican" or "Church of England"?

AMiE are more than entitled to be as frail and fallible as, say, my rather faulty self! But just as I have found in my life that if one of those faults is arrogance, pretension, superiority then I have been called out for it, I expect AMiE might find itself called out for some faults, especially if they are of the "we are better than you lot" variety.

Please remember that AMiE is being established not solely because there are some heretics within the C of E's hierarchy, but because they feel (1) their particular version of evangelicalism has little or no place in the C of E, and (2) other versions of evangelicalism are not achieving much these days. (1) is an issue to address (but I humbly suggest other ways than setting up AMiE). (2) rather begs your point about making allowances for faults in AMiE because it would appear that they are not allowing for faults in others, even those who are evangelicals.

Peter Carrell said...

Sorry, Lucy, you made one further point about Rachel's future mellowness. We shall have to await her future blog posts on that one.

Brother David said...

Wow, deja vu, this all sounds so familiar. Where HAVE I heard this before?

Oh, yes, I recall. This is AMiA all over again, but in the UK, rather than the US. And AMiA is what lead to ACNA. Shall we expect a future that holds ACUK&EI* vying to formally/officially replace the four AC provinces that already exist there?

*Anglican Church in the United Kingdom and the Emerald Isle

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I think much would depend on whether the C of E veered away from the mind of the Communion and the AMiA-inspired church was seen to be solidly in touch with that mind.

Anonymous said...

From my reading of the sites and contacts in England, it seems to me that the creation of AMiE is a a consequence of the political sidelining of conservative evangelicals in the "(episcopal) corridors of power", while "open" (i.e. pro-WO) or liberal evangelicals have been advanced into leadership, along with gay-ordination sympathizing liberals. Others from an evangelical background now support homosexual relations, e.g. James Jones, against Lambeth 1998. Since 1997 only one conservative evangelical has been made a bishop in the C of E, although there are numerous CE parishes, some of them the largest in England (All Souls, London; Crowborough; Christ Church Sheffield). Liberal bishop Tom Butler in Southwark (South London) tried to stop or curtail the Co-Mission family of churches in south London by refusing to ordain clergy for them, and tried also to take away the licence of their leader, until he was overruled. The Co-Mission churches are self-supporting and have about a dozen, generally growing congregations in a very unchurched diocese- so, yes, leave it ot the liberal hierarchy to try and stifle growth. Since retiring, Butler has become a strong advocate for accepting gay relations and gay ordinations, so his hostility to Co-Mission is clearly understood: he was always a lot closer to Tec-style thinking than he ever admitted.
Christ Church Durham, AFAIK, used ot be a Presbyterian church led by OT scholar Bob Fyall, and when he left Durham it came into the Anglican orbit. It has had a very successful student ministry, but it has to be said its success is resented by some because it doesn't agree with WO.
The existence of AMiE is a reminder that episcopacy in the C of E is largely a political game of who controls the levers or power, or 'the power of the keys'. The "Open Evangelicals" who are favored in this game will discover that power comes with a price. The conservative evangelicals are not even allowed to play (just to pray and pay). Now they are trying a different set of rules.


Peter Carrell said...

It is an interesting point to consider, Peter P, that the C of E might have worked harder to get the balance on its bench of bishops better. I guess that when the general movement of the C of E is towards affirming the ordination of women, and cementing it into the permanent life of the church by ordaining women bishops, it is difficult to continue to appoint bishops who do not agree with that general movement.

Thus a converse point is whether the likes of those founding AMiE might have been more accommodating of where the C of E is heading. It is, for example, most unfortunate, that words like "toxic" have entered the discourse of conservative evangelicals when speaking of the church which they profess to love and to serve within and not without.

Christchurch, Durham is based on a former United Reform church (in which I once occasionally worshiped!). That only begs the question why it has chosen to call itself "Anglican" while not connected to the local Anglican diocese.

Brother David said...

the mind of the Communion

Such a nebulous concept.

Remind me again please, which body it is in the Anglican Communion that actually has any authority comes up with the mind of the Communion?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
You and I know that we disagree on this matter and what I am about to say has many times been disagreed by you here and on other blogs. Nevertheless I will say it again:

Bishops are outstanding representatives of their dioceses. They know their dioceses well and are ideally placed to interpret the "mind of the diocese." Thus when bishops of the Anglican Communion meet together in conference and make resolutions, those resolutions have a rational basis for being considered to reflect "the mind of the Communion." Although the Lambeth Conference is not constitutionally set up as an authoritative body, it has the authority of being the bishops of the Communion in conference together: their voice deserves to be heard by Anglicans who are Christians professing to believe in the importance of episcopal leadership. If the bishops do not know the mind of the Communion then no one does! Of course people profess to ignore or disregard such expressions of the mind of the Communion, and it could be that one discerns such views to be closer to the real mind of the Communion. But, on a matter such as Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, it is difficult to see any signs that if the bishops of the Communion met again today and voted for or against that resolution, it would not be reconfirmed by a majority of bishops.

Anonymous said...

Peter comments: "I guess that when the general movement of the C of E is towards affirming the ordination of women, and cementing it into the permanent life of the church by ordaining women bishops, it is difficult to continue to appoint bishops who do not agree with that general movement."

I imagine people like John Richardson ('The Ugley Vicar') who has written on this would say it's not so much "difficult" as a matter of deliberate centralized policy to *exclude* opponents of WO from the episcopacy - except for the 'flying bishops', trying somewhat vainly to keep what's left of the Anglo-Catholics in the C of E. What has happened is a complete repudiation of the "two integrities" argument in 1992 that both sides belonged in the C of E. In reality, the pro-WO party has worked to isolate and eventually drive out the anti-WO party - or to keep them corraled with no bishops of their own. Meanwhile, the slide into liberalism of the "Open" evangelicals continues - just read the comments on the "Fulcrum" website.
Incidentally, Nazir-Ali is not an opponent of WO but he has become deeply disenchanted with the direction (or drift) of the C of E under Williams' lweadership, not least the undermining of Windsor and the complete failure to get the Americnas to abide by agreements, now openly flouted since the Glasspool ordination.
You need to remember why GAFCon happened - and to recall that the fiercest "attack dog" at the time was Tom Wright with his ever-more desperate assurances that "all is well, don't go". Maybe thinks look dofferent now he's out of England and the C of E?
I don't know why Christ Church Durham entetred the Anglican fold, but maybe they liked Anglican worship and doctrine? :) Stranger things have happened at sea.

Lucy said...

Sorry Peter, I didn't read your vey clear post properly and made a connection that wasn't there ... apologies

Peter Carrell said...

No problem, Lucy!

James said...

(1/2) Things in the good ole Church of England have been at least a bit "stinky" for a looooong time. The "Elizabethan settlement" never really settled. The emergence of respect between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals never ended up happening ... and it's only rather recently that there has been more recognition amongst them, given the extremism of some groups in the CofE.

Evangelical parishes have long been way too typically evangelical, with the emphasis so much on parish ministry, that the diocese isn't discussed much. One jumps immediately from our parish to being a "World Christian" - talking about mission work in Africa, great things other churches are doing, etc. etc.. Little talk of the diocese or the Province.

Evangelicals tend to think of talk of church polity as either "dirty" or "just leave that up to God." I admire the humility but loathe the theology here.

The groups are still very much of the mindset: "what's up with these weird ..." - instead of appreciating one another. This is the case between the conservative evangelicals, the open evangelicals, and the Anglo-Catholics. "Liberals" I suppose are always in some way either a bit "evangelical" or self-identifying as "Anglo-Catholic"; I don't generally like to think of some separate "spot" for "liberals" as I tend to believe we need sensible "liberals" in all Anglican congregations.

Then the battle for women clergy came about, and some extremist groups began heavy recruiting of individuals for clergy positions who have very little notion of faith in general, without enough even for that faith to be cultivated throughout seminary so as to have the full basic beliefs of Trinitarian Christianity. Clergy associating with WATCH and Affirming Catholicism in particular score so low on the very basics of faith that I'd probably refuse to lead a Bible study where the laypeople had a similar lack of faith ... I'd want a few more members of solid Trinitarian faith. This simply means that such affinity groups are so far removed from faith that there aren't enough clergy in them who do have faith to help disciple and encourage those clergy without faith. And we're short on faith in the rest of the Church of England clergy as well.

All in all, this a situation where re-defining the word "faith" in order to associate it with "transformation," like Marcus Borg, becomes much more appealing. So people who lead civil rights campaigns have faith by definition, since they are agents of social change. God really has nothing to do with it - unless one's simply referring to a metaphor for social change itself.

What hasn't happened (and how we are unlike TEC) is: we still have a lot of general respect for Trinitarian theology, and aren't "out and proud" about this lack of faith. We don't have many teaching their flocks that the resurrection is unimportant, or things which would lead the flocks to believe that Jesus is dead. But we do have some parishes importing materials from the U.S. with TEC figures which do teach this - perhaps the vicars secretly like it, but aren't yet ready to put it in their sermons - or perhaps the parishoners just aren't reporting about the content of the sermons. At any rate, I do not see the reports of non-Trinitarian sermons as I do in the United States. Discussion tends to be bickering about civil rights vs. theological principles and "conscience." The whole "women bishops" debate has been a disaster. Old wounds, old treacheries, broken promises, etc. etc.. Rhetoric about "woman hating" and just plain "hatred" where this is clearly not the case; describing some parties as having a "theology of taint" etc. etc.. The Guardian in particular has been more or less cheering the more vitriolic voices on, which of course hasn't helped.

James said...

(2/2) There has already been evidence of some forces "colluding" in ordinations to get parishes which are "A" or "B" (i.e., having problems with female clergy or bishops) to change - with statistics showing a large number of such parishes now having Aff Cath clergy. The choice of bishops also hasn't helped. And we have a system where parishes aren't funded by their own collections, but rather by a centrally divvied pot - meaning it's hard for some parishes to grow, and others that are on "life support" will continue.

So all in all, the idea of starting parishes outside of this structure is very attractive. One simply doesn't know where the Province is going, and doesn't want one's work to be used for purposes like that of TEC, if this becomes the future of the Church of England. In the eyes of many, that would simply be working for evil purposes.

But it is so sad, working outside of the Church of England.

I am more likely to think:

Ministry should, in general be parish-based, given a healthy church polity. But in times of exigency, it is possible also to operate largely in para-church organizations. This also allows other faithfully Trinitarian churches to contribute to the working and guidance of such para-church organizations. It helps a largely insular church look outward, and be taught by those churches which don't share our lack of faith.

In general, I tend to prefer to see parishes active in their neighborhoods, rather than e.g. seeing Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity or Navigators at work. But: if we're truly sick, with all this distrust - we may need to rely more upon mission within trustworthy para-church type organizations, with these organizations then gradually taking over various ministry tasks that we tend to associate with parishes - home groups, Bible studies, visits of sick and needy, all ministry outside of the church building - as the Church of England crumbles (or comes to repentance).

In general, I think I'd support this type of approach rather than a "church within a church" approach. But I have not examined the situation as closely as the AMiE folk have, and they well may be right.

James said...

I should add: I think "toxic" is appropriate given the ascendance of vocabulary such as "haters" to describe conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics. The promises made in order to get votes, and then breaking of these promises - meaning Anglo-Catholicism will effectively die in the Church of England - as well as the branch of conservative evangelicals - is utterly heart-rending. Perhaps we must move on, but I think it's necessary for us to see this toxicity and repent, perhaps looking forward to a day that another church takes over our task in the many ways we have failed. The day may come that what we mostly need to do is help people get out of the Church of England into other churches, with a few faithful staying inside in order to facilitate this task. This most certainly isn't "un-Anglican" - it might be the very "most Anglican" thing we've seen heretofore, in its generous ecumenism.

I certainly don't see womens' ordinations or the coming of women bishops as a disaster - it's simply that I see things crumbling at a rather rapid pace - with one of the strongest ministries we've managed to accomplish in the last century - i.e., Alpha - not associating itself much with the Church of England, and then being rather irrationally attacked (without much grounds for the attack being provided) by various parties, who then import TEC-associated materials in similar genre of very low quality and rather high in vitriol (which "liberal" Christian Century has described as being the "mirror image of fundamentalism"). TEC-style obfuscation and politicking are becoming more prevalent, so I think we'll likely bend to the will of TEC, given the way we've successfully marginalized those parishes and groups where we show the strongest indicators of faith. It will leave a rather scrawny, embittered non-Trinitarian church that's mostly intent upon making uneducated and snooty statements about the surrounding, successful Trinitarian Christian churches, teaching fear in trying to find new ways of preventing its flocks from mixing with those churches outside (like for example, teaching them that they hate people and that they all believe in DIVINE SPERM).

Brother David said...

James could you please point us to this imported TEC material that you keep mentioning. Who is the author? Who is the publisher? Where does one find it to import it?

James said...

Brother David: the materials associated with TEC is the Living the Questions series.

Andrew Reid said...

I strongly sympathise with the aims and goals of AMiE, but I have a few questions about its strategy. These are all spoken with little experience of the CofE, but experience from Australia and the Middle Eastern Anglican contexts.
1) How does AMiE relate to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans UK? Isn't FCA-UK the group that unites evangelicals around the Jerusalem Declaration and is meant to carry the GAFCON movement forward in the UK? My concern is the further fragmentation of the evangelical movement.
2) As Brother David points out (take your heart pills, I'm going to agree with him for once!), this has echoes of AMiA. As international as the church is becoming, we rightly let local churches ordain their own clergy. Is the CofE such a closed shop that evangelicals can't even be ordained there and have to go to Kenya?
3) In Australia, there are some closed shops for evangelicals, but there are many open doors we ignore in unfashionable suburbs and rural areas. Similar to Cranmer's Curate, I wonder if our efforts shouldn't be focused more on evangelical ministry in the parishes we can get into, rather than establishing independent Anglican parishes in the closed shop areas.

Brother David said...

the materials associated with TEC is the Living the Questions series.

Which has absolutely nothing to do with TEC, other than perhaps there are TEC parishes that use the material.

The LtQ website states that it was not started nor is it associated with any denomination, but is a site for resource materials for progressive Christians started and managed by two United Methodist clergymen.

James said...

Br. David,

It's highly associated with TEC, especially in a Communion context - TEC may be the denomination most actively using it (or this might be the Methodists in the U.S.); it's rather rare in other Provinces, except for quite some pick-up in the U.K. with a "special edition" being created for the U.K. market.

Also contributors:

- John Shelby Spong
- Marcus Borg
- Matthew Fox
- Winnie Varghese
- Diana Butler Bass

(if not the denomination with the highest number of contributors, it would be most certainly #2)

So that's quite a lot of association with TEC.

What's also significant here is how TEC people started the "Via Media" video series, but that parishes which tended to use those materials have now largely migrated to LtQ.

Brother David said...

That is not a connection with TEC, that is a connection with some members of TEC who are associated on a personal basis, not in any official capacity of TEC.

Like you are an expert on all the parishes of the 110 dioceses of TEC and what the majority may use as educational material.

Your obsessions lead to exaggerations.

James said...

David, I used the word "association" rather than "connection." The associations between LtQ and TEC are quite significant.

The number of denominational users of the LtQ materials can be estimated simply on the basis of googling [denomination name] "Living the Questions" and then trying to estimate how many of these are actual parishes, and how many are "false hits." You'll find that in addition to many parishes, LtQ receives prominent mention in the educational pages of many TEC dioceses.

I did not insinuate that the majority of TEC parishes use LtQ materials; actually I'd think it would be less than half.

I became interested in these materials when asked to find information on a TEC priest who had used the materials who was a ministry candidate.

Brother David said...

The associations between LtQ and TEC are quite significant.

Actually I would not agree. I would state that the association of LtQ and some prominent members of TEC may be significant. But the way you usually use terms you paint the entire province with the broad strokes aimed at those personalities that you would find suspect.

I became interested in these materials when asked to find information on a TEC priest who had used the materials who was a ministry candidate.

Because, Lord knows, if there is stink to be found about someone, you are the one to smell it out!

So the stupid question; What is so bad about LtQ? And do not make me regret asking. The short version that does not activate your obsession about it please.

James said...

Br. David, to be honest, I have grown quite tired of this topic. I mentioned LtQ, I think, twice, pointing out "associations" and not implying that it was officially connected with TEC, you implying otherwise, requiring a few posts to simply get over this obfuscation. Were I to describe what I find wrong, I think it's likely we would have a repeat of the scenario above, especially since you are prone to consider me a sex delinquent, insane, obsessional, etc. etc.. I do think you and I could have interesting discussions; but at the moment this doesn't seem to be happening, and we may be filling this thread with our noise.

Brother David said...

I see that you are not used to having your loose statements and obsessions challenged very often. Yes, that may get old quickly. The key would be to not let your obsessions out for all to see.

I shall continue to challenge the baseless claims that you make regarding TEC, the North American provinces and liberal/progressive Christians when I see them. So perhaps you could refrain from making them.

Father Ron Smith said...

In my opinion, A.M.i.E., has the same value, in the U.K., as has it's namesake in North America - as a marauding campaigner with a toxic affect on the life of the local Anglican Church.

To claim a uniquely evangelistic character - based on a puritanical and fundamentalist understanding of the Scriptures, is antithetical to the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit did not cease to teach 'new things' with the publication of the King james Bible. Indeed, the ground-breaking ministry of Jesus inaugurated a 'new view' if the existing way of interpreting the scriptures that led to his cricifixion and death. The 'Semper Reformanda' call of the Gospel cannot be neglected for the deadly agenda of a desire to imprison the Gospel in a climate of exclusivity.