Monday, September 12, 2011

We need a bass guitarist to lead the Anglican Communion

Yesterday was a good day in various ways. Some details about lunch need not detain us here :), but a morning service with Tallis and an evening service with Hillsong bookended the day, in the middle of which I had some discussion about the Telegraph's speculation re the retirement of ++Rowan (see post below). Some things were not so good about yesterday, including learning at the evening service that the brilliant young guitarist in the music group is moving out of the city. At the heart of future Anglicanism is great music and I am not talking only about music for which the key strategy is refurbishing organs. Last night I was reminded of a church once looking for a new minister which asked a candidate what was the first thing he would do if appointed, and both in wit and in earnest he replied that he would find a bass guitarist.

Future directions are at stake these days, both for the Communion and for member churches of the Communion. But is it possible, however, that in the fight for the soul of Anglicanism today many of us are lost in a time warp? When one of our synods here resolves that a clause in the proposed Anglican Covenant is 'contrary to Anglican ecclesiology' it seems we are fighting about our heritage and how it is to be correctly interpreted. That is a fight worth having - our past has been about seeking the truth. The Reformation was not a blip on an otherwise steady development of English catholicism: searching questions were asked of an accumulating body of teaching and practice which was found wanting in some places where foundations in Scripture were found not to exist. I keep being surprised by Anglicans who seem to think one can be Anglican and bypass the Reformation (cf. some comments about Mary to my post below, A Fine Tribute). Yet the future keeps crashing upon us. Are we ready for it?

In the debates over the Covenant I sense that one large debate is fixated on power and control (e.g. here). The Covenant in this debate is a tool of control, perhaps by named and known figures ('the Instruments' for example), or perhaps by shadowy figures really under the thumb of others ('We all know that X does what the financiers behind X tell  it/him/her what to do'). The debate I am more interested in, personally, is about future coherency of the Communion, not its future control. Do we want a global Anglicanism that has some commonality in doctrine and practice? If we do then we need a bit of control (i.e. a means of calling one another to account). To me that question of coherency is primary, not the question of control.

If we either do not want to ask that primary question, or if we wish to answer it negatively, then it matters little who the next ABC is. She or he will make no difference, beyond some pleasantries mouthed on the occasional visit to far flung places that still print A-n-g-l-i-c-a-n (or E-p-i-s-c-o-p-a-l-i-a-n) on their sign boards.

But should we want some kind of coherency, taking up the opportunity the Covenant provides for us to develop that coherency, then it matters to the Communion who the next ABC is. That person needs some skills both in articulating the coherency (request: please do so using less words than the current ABC) and in presiding over the process of accountability to one another. But as much as anything, the new ABC needs to be better versed in the future of Anglicanism than in its past.

Memo to David Cameron: please quiz possible candidates on their ability to play the bass guitar.


Paul Powers said...

A bass guitarist would be even better. ;-)

Peter Carrell said...

You are right, Paul! Correction coming up :)

Anonymous said...

Great post thanks Peter!

I am somewhat disturbed by the current day church view that accountability is a dirty word. It seems an unfortunate reflection of a secular mindset that the individual's desires are paramount and the highest yardstick of truth. I'm currently reading a great book on theology (The Mosaic of Christian Belief) which among other things is convincing on the need for church, belief and theology to be accountable / measured against appropriate yardsticks (which this author sees as the Wesleyan quadrilateral/pentelateral).

P.S. If your promising guitarist is coming our way (Karori, Wellington) please send him or her our way...

Peter Carrell said...

Not quite a geographical match up, unfortunately!

Fr. Bryan Owen said...

I'm a bass guitarist and have been for most of my life. But I have absolutely no aspirations beyond serving faithfully as a priest (and perhaps also in a blues and rock band on the side). So any hint that others would want to put me up for bishop (much less ABC!!!) would all but guarantee my going into hiding!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, perhaps it has bypassed your notice that there is already a 'commonality' among Churches of the Anglican Communion. Our commonality is in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not Paul, Peter, Pope Pius or Calvin, but securely on the Gospel.

The Reformation, you say, was not a blip. No, for one thing it was a rejection of conservative papal uniformity under the dominance and influence of the Roman Magisterium. Oddly (I think) this is a culture presently being proposed under the Anglican Covenant Process - uniformity without Gospel freedom for each Province to pursue the Gospel in their own context.

It strikes me (and, I suspect, many others in the Communion) that the ACO - frightened of losing the support of GAFCON and the Global South Provinces - is back-tracking on the new reformation - which was meant to broaden the net beyond the current culture of misogyny and homophobia that still inhabits the Roman Magisterium and our Communion

Another oddity is that the pro-Covenanters include former Protestants against Rome, who now want to ape Rome's culture of authoritarianism - by closing the gate on the new Reformation that wants the Church to admit of the common humanity of Women and Men, Straights and Gays in the Church.

You cannot plead the benefits of one reformation without at least embracing the prospect of another.
"Semper Reformanda!".

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
The Reformation was about doctrine, and doctrine was reformed in the light of Scripture (without division between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the gospel Paul proclaimed).

The doctrine was about who was in charge, and the there was a change from Pope to Parliament. Far from ushering in a new world of non-uniformity, there was a striking amount of conformity required following the English Reformation.

As for a new reformation and current commonality in the Communion: yes, a new reformation is taking place; no, there is not a settled commonality across the Communion (if there were I do not think we would be having these kinds of discussions!!).

I have no idea whether the ACO is frightened of anything. I have a good idea that the ACO is committed to developing the life of the Communion as the life of as many member churches as wish to meet together.

I don't know any Anglicans wishing to ape "Rome's culture of authoritarianism" (are you insulting Romans as well as Anglicans at this point in your excursus?). I do know many Anglicans concerned to explore what our common humanity means as men and women, and as men and women as sexual beings. In that exploration we seek to understand what Scripture, tradition and reason says.

If we cannot agree on what we think is being said to us, how do you propose to resolve the differences between us?

A great advantage of the Covenant is that it charts a way forward for such resolution!

Father Ron Smith said...

You say, Peter, that the Covenant charts a way forward for the resolution of differences within the Communion. However, one fails to see how this could happen if, from the very beginning, section 4:2 is ready to exclude all such as do not agree with the more conservative views of those provinces which have not moved forward on the clarification of issues of gender and sexuality that are de riguer in the world at large.

This is the stuff of obscurantism, which is hardly the fulcrum for objective collegiality - such as the Covenant pretends to facilitate
Difference exists for a reason. It was present in the Early Church (viz: Peter & Paul on inclusivity). this is a similar problem.

Peter Carrell said...

I hadn't realised, Ron, that "de riguer" was a means of receiving God's revelation which has been agreed by the Communion as a whole.

Your comments here make me wonder whether you want to belong to a truly global Communion of Anglicans or only to one which is in tune with Western liberal democracies and their attendant cultures?

If the latter, how does that square with 'catholic' which concerns the universal church rather than a section of it?

Father Ron Smith said...

Now Peter, I think you're just stirring here. I've been an Anglican since well before you were born and have valid experience in more than just one Province. My understanding of Anglicanism - stemming from my early baptismal beginnings in the Church of England is so obviously different from yours - and yet we're in the same Communion. Is that not proof that Anglicans can agree to be different and yet remain in the same Communion of Churches. Or are you in a different Church from me? I must confess, I do sometimes wonder.

Nelson Diocese is so very different in ethos from that of most other N.Z. Dioceses (and you have been a theological educator in that diocese) but do you feel you inhabited a different Communion? Even Nelson's symbiotic relationship to Sydney doesn't make it not part of ACANZP.

I don't think even an Anglican Covenant could bring us any closer. Our basic Christian relationship is 'en Christo' - not in any diocesan or covenantal structure. Do you feel you need more than this?

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

Could you please list which of the “comments about Mary” surprise you as being by people who “seem to think one can be Anglican and bypass the Reformation”?

In particular your taunt that, “It is a travesty of the clear teaching of Scripture that we pray through Jesus to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit to then add Mary into the mix” is explicitly countered in our formal ARCIC ecumenical dialogue where Mary’s intercession is unequivocally placed in the context of “In our praying as Christians we address our petitions to God our heavenly Father, in and through Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit moves and enables us” and concluding that “we affirm that asking the saints to pray for us is not to be excluded as unscriptural”.

That you do not yourself seek such intercession is acceptable within our church. That you deride other Anglicans as somehow being unAnglican in doing so is unfair.

That your berating occurs within yet another post advocating the so-called “Anglican Covenant” reinforces the perception that this Covenant would narrow the breadth (read catholicity if you like) of Anglicanism currently enjoyed.



carl jacobs said...

Fr Ron Smith

Our commonality is in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not Paul, Peter, Pope Pius or Calvin, but securely on the Gospel.

This is true of course. But it is being used to serve a hidden master. The Gospel has objective doctrinal content. To say we don't need unity in doctrine because we have unity in the Gospel ignores that fact that unity in the Gospel requires a significant level of unity in doctrine. It begs the question of "What is the Gospel?" It is easy to throw around words and claim unity so long as you never actually define an actual basis for that unity. "Let every man define the Gospel for himself" doesn't work as a basis. That unity is a potemkin shell. It has form but no content. It serves only to allow mutually exclusive religions to occupy the same institution.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I offer the following observations in reply:

(1) Whichever episcopal unit we serve in within these islands, we are bound together by a written constitution and canons. These undergird our commonality, and also prescribe limits to that commonality (e.g. if you found that I was using the Presbyterian prayer book at services and I found that you were using the Roman Missal at services, then we both rightly would be reported to our common diocesan bishop for questions!).

(2) No one, least of all me, disputes that for many years the Anglican Communion has been held together by a minimal number of words written on paper and by a maximal amount of goodwill.

(3) The Communion question being wrestled with is whether we can continue as we were before or whether it would be helpful to have more words written on paper and less reliance on the vagueness of goodwill.

(4) That we might have more words on paper at the Communion level of relationships should not particularly disturb Anglicans who belong to member churches with detailed constitutions and canons such as we have here.

(5) As someone who served in the Nelson Diocese and who has an appreciation of many good things in the Sydney Diocese, I nevertheless think it a mistake on their part to have diaconal presidency. I see the Anglican Covenant as assisting in clarifying such matters, e.g. providing a process to challenge a practice as not coherent with Anglican theology and praxis. Do you join me in thinking that diaconal presidency is unAnglican?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco
The following comment was made:

" just as I ask or bid that you or Fr. Ron, or any other living Christian pray for me, I ask/bid (the root-word of bead, as in Rosary) Our Lady to pray for me as well. My belief in the Communion of Saints means that I believe that all Christians are joined together in Christ and that the departed, as well as the living, can—and should—pray for each other. I pray for the departed, including St. Mary, and I ask her to pray for me too.

Pray for us sinners, Theotokos, now and at the hour of our death, Amen."

A number of commenters challenging me re this matter did not disavow that comment.

The above comment does appear to be in contradiction of the one of the Thirty-Nine Articles - that is, the statements which sum up the reforming of doctrine in the English Church - viz.

"XXII. Of Purgatory
The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."

I understand the invocation of Mary and other saints to bypass the clear result of the Reformation that we should not pray to or through them or ask them to pray for us, such having no warranty of Scripture.

I do not agree with ARCIC if it sees adding Mary into the mix of trinitarian prayers as "not to be excluded as unscriptural." It would not be my only disagreement with ARCIC (another concerns their dialogue on the prinacy of Peter).

It is not clear to me that I have derided Anglicans invoking Mary in prayer as unAnglican. My specific self-referring statement was that such actions continue to "surprise" me. They do.

Of course the Covenant will narrow the breadth Anglicans currently enjoy: if the breadth we enjoyed had remained within the bounds of a Scripturally authoritative Anglican theology clearly continuous with the Reformation's shaping of the catholic tradition within the English church then the need for the Covenant would not have arisen.

The fundamental question to which the Covenant is proposed as an answer is whether there are limits to Anglican diversity or not.

Are you saying that there are no limits?

If there are limits to our diversity, what is your proposal for defining those limits and for calling fellow member churches of the Communion to account should they go beyond them?

Hogster said...

As one brought up in the Catholic church and now an Anglican priest it seems that the 39 articles are quite clear in giving guidance in this area.

Mind you in a church where many have to cross their finders when saying the creed there are bigger issues to worry about.

liturgy said...

"Are you saying that there are no limits?"

You know well that I think there are limits to Christian diversity.

"If there are limits to our diversity, what is your proposal for defining those limits and for calling fellow member churches of the Communion to account should they go beyond them?"

Even though I have not yet had my morning coffee, any number of ways of "calling to account" spring to mind. Your concern above is about Sydney's diaconal presidency: have you moved a motion about your concern at a diocesan synod? Advocated for such a motion at General Synod? Written personally to the Sydney diocese? Published an open letter to their diocese? Sought a statement from our bench of bishops? When you've exhausted these obvious ideas, and I've had some coffee, we can talk about some further ideas.

I hope that helps.



Peter Carrell said...

I believe in the communion of the saints, but I would have to cross my fingers if asked to believe in the invocation of the saints!

Kurt said...

Back to the 39 Articles, are we Peter?
As I have explained before, your quoting the Articles of Religion will not impress most Episcopalians. The Articles of Religion have never been very popular in the American Church. In our Proposed Prayer Book of 1785, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England were down to twenty in number, and in the first authorized Prayer Book of 1789 they were left out altogether. The question of their reinstatement proved to be a subject of considerable debate within the American Church.

Eventually, after much consideration, a modified set of 39 Articles was included in the Prayer Book of 1801. However, no one in the American Church—neither clergy nor lay—has ever been required to “subscribe” to the Articles.

The 39 Articles, whether of 1563 or 1801, are of purely historic interest—as are the 10 Articles of 1536, and the 6 Articles of 1539, the 42 Articles of 1552, the 20 Articles of 1785, etc.

Kurt Hill
Enjoying the wonderful late summer weather
In Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Surprise, surprise, Peter. The very thought of having to 'cross one's fingers' sound rather superstitious if not outright heathen. My credal statements are made in the understanding that the Church Catholic has made great efforts to formulate the Creeds. Who am I to question their theology.

The differences in the Church today are not necessarily on credal statement; rather, on the adiaphoral matters that seem so abhorrent to conservatives - like women and gay clergy. Even rthe St. michael's Commission in Canada, of which our Diocesan was once Chair-person, decided that these matters were adiaphoral and not touching on the essential nature of the Creeds.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
You are misunderstanding my use of the 39A (English church version) at this point: I am not making a claim for their ongoing use and relevance for the church today (per se); I am making a claim for their representation of the reformed theology of the Church of England which, subsequently, some Anglicans/Episcopalians may or may not have seen fit to uphold or to bypass etc.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I hope it was a nice cup of coffee and that nothing you read on ADU has caused you to splutter while sipping :)

They are all good ideas and all, in my view, are compatible with the Covenant: that is, they represent appropriate actions individual Anglicans, diocesan synods, and provincial General Synods could undertake in order to call fellow Anglicans to account.

My question would then be, what if these statements, resolutions and letters made no difference to the situation (they are, after all, communications from one side of a point of difference to which the other side is not obligated to respond)? One answer to that question is that the Covenant would then provide a way for two member churches to engage with each other on a point of difference.

liturgy said...

There are two tracks now, Peter,

1) Can you please clarify: do you think that asking St Mary to intercede for us (eg. “Pray for us sinners, Theotokos, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”) is beyond what you term the “limits to Anglican diversity” or not? If it is (as you appear to be suggesting so far), do your regard our diocesan bishop as being negligent in her duty in not disciplining communities with this practice? Do you think she should be called to account for her own participation in such practice?
2) I’m afraid the coffee was merely “instant” – so I’m not up to full potential yet, but I’m anticipating quality coffee & conversation later in the afternoon. & no spluttering yet. As to your desire to be already making threats of escalation if Sydney fails to respond to your appeals which it appears you have not yet begun at the first of my rungs: yes, we can both think of further steps I am sure – ultimately leading (if you think diaconal presidency significant enough) to a loss of communion with Sydney. May I remind you that though you are asking such detailed questions of me, and I am responding with what is currently available to us, no such detail is present in the so-called “Anglican Covenant” in which you place such confidence! You don’t need a “Covenant” for the steps I am outlining – their principle can be found in the Bible. As I’ve said more than once – God has already given us enough.



Peter Carrell said...

As you know, Bosco, I am a simple-minded lad, brought up in the hinterland of Canterbury and educated at a school with a passion for outdoor sports, so I hope that two is the maximum number of tracks I have to deal with :) (I am also hoping for more comment on whether or not a bass guitarist would be suitable to have as a future ABC).

(1) I accept, somewhat reluctantly, that asking St Mary to intercede for us has come to fall within the limits of Anglican diversity. I remain puzzled as to how it got there, given the Reformation and all that, and I am happy, as always, to remind invokers of St Mary that it is a custom without scriptural basis, notwithstanding the conclusions of ARCIC.

(2) I am in sorrow at your coffee being instant only and trust that this has nothing to do with budget constraints at your employing institution :)

I would not like to be out of communion with the Diocese of Sydney because, as you know, that would be a loss of communion with those parishes that do not see eye to eye with their bishops, to say nothing of being out of communion with those in that diocese who would like to serve in our diocese!

Is the Bible sufficient unto the day of all possible breaches of the limits of diversity? I would like to think so, but unfortunately not all Anglicans adhere to the Bible as closely as you and I do. Consequently we have constitutions and canons in our member churches, and we could do with something similar for the Communion as a whole. I am sure details will develop around the Covenant: case law has a habit of building up an apparatus around such things once they are promulgated and tested in the relevant arena!!

Pageantmaster said...

We need a drummer, able to read the score, and faithfully and consistently to keep the beat.

carl jacobs said...

Fr Ron Smith wrote:

The differences in the Church today are not necessarily on credal statement;

Yes, if fact, they usually are about about credal statements. Consider the conflict over the physical resurrection, and the virgin birth to name just two. Liberals are willing to hold the creed as a standard but only so long as the meanings of the credal statements are not closely defined. This is the only way the conflict can be avoided on the essentials. It makes unity nothing more than formal adherence to an agreed set of words on a page where the words can mean whatever any particular speaker wants them to mean.

... rather, on the adiaphoral matters that seem so abhorrent to conservatives - like women and gay clergy.

In practice, these issues are symptoms of essential disagreements about the nature, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture that produce essential disagreements about Anthropology, Soteriology, and Christology. The issue of homosexuality is almost always a derivative argument that reflects broad disagreement on essential matters. That's why it is intractable. Neither side can lose without surrendering a essential principle.


Father Ron Smith said...

Carl Jacobs, I really think you might be a bit behind the state of play on this thread by your last remarks.

The main differences being here currently dicussed - on the esse of Covenant relationships - centre around, not credal statements but rather, as I have before indicated, matters of adiaphora (according to the determination of the definitive St. Michael's Report from Canada, Chaired by our own Bishop Victoria Matthews, Diocesan in Christchurch)

I say this because, under the thread heading - about base-players - there has developed a theological spat that includes lots of other stuff, that needs to be addressed in other threads.

Your introduction of the perennial red herring of anthropology, soteriology and Christology brings into the conversation matters that are not presently under discussion here - apart from P.C.'s bringing in the idea of diaconal presidency at the Eucharist, which is, simply non-catholic and non-apostolic.

Kurt said...

“You are misunderstanding my use of the 39A (English church version) at this point: I am not making a claim for their ongoing use and relevance for the church today (per se); I am making a claim for their representation of the reformed theology of the Church of England which, subsequently, some Anglicans/Episcopalians may or may not have seen fit to uphold or to bypass etc.”—Fr. Carrell

Ah, I see. Well, I’m with Hurrell Froude in the belief that “the Reformation was a limb badly set.” Fortunately, over the centuries, it has been broken again and righted in many Anglican churches, including my own.

Kurt Hill
Enjoying perfect late summer weather
In Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Sadly, Kurt, some of the conservative parts of the Communion are still languishing under the anaesthetic administered while the limb was being re-set. They have yet to wake up to the reality of what has happened since the original Reformation.

Paul Powers said...

I see the 39 Articles as a part of our Anglican patrimony. But they aren't holy scripture, and while they are _a_ source of Anglican teaching, they are certainly not the only source. I think the ACNA got it about right in its constitution: "We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues _controverted at that time_, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief." (emphasis added).

liturgy said...

Thank you for the acknowledgement, Peter, of the acceptability of asking St Mary to intercede for us. The discussion, I think, once again underscores issues with sola scriptura. I wonder also, whether your response to the steps I outlined in relation to your issue with Sydney’s diaconal presidency was adequate? You regularly challenge people to provide an alternative to your eagerness for the so-called “Anglican Covenant” but when I outlined such an alternative for a particular situation, it got a rather slim response. Instead you shored up the obvious inadequacies it shows up in the “Covenant” in this very regard with your assurance that the gaping holes in the “Covenant” will be filled by case law and imagined apparatus. The fact that not even the first step has been taken on my suggested steps but you are advocating a “Covenant” to solve the issue instead is in danger of getting a wrecking-ball to swat a fly on a window.



Peter Carrell said...

I may have to get rather stern with you Bosco! I did not say that asking Mary to intercede for us was acceptable. I actually wrote, "asking St Mary to intercede for us has come to fall within the limits of Anglican diversity." Acceptable to some Anglicans, yes; not to this one.

In some ways we could go on a roundabout re diaconal presidency and the Sydney Diocese. The Covenant, as you know, is about member church to member church communication. The first issue re diaconal presidency in Sydney lies with the Australian Anglican Church as a province. If in due course they continue to tolerate it, the question would be whether or not another member church found it intolerable.

My own suspicion is that the church to which we belong would not make an issue of it; so I am not sure I want to push hard on that via our synodical processes. (It is proving difficult enough to get anywhere on other matters). But we may yet find that other member churches more readily find a united voice to raise the issue with Australia.

I remain convinced that the Covenant is important for the future life of the member churches of the Communion. But I can see that I need to do some more posting on it, rather than attempting in a briefish comment to respond to the important critique you bring to it. Watch this space. But not tomorrow ...

Father Ron Smith said...

Regarding the matter of diaconal presidency at the Eucharist, Peter, do you really think that Archbishop Peter Jensen and the Sydney Diocese would withdraw from the possibility if the General Synod of the whole Province of Australia forbade it?

I think it would be more difficult for all the Australian Dioceses to make a Covenant with Sydney on such issues, than it is going to be for Anglican Provinces to Covenant with one another around the world.

liturgy said...

At the risk of being spoken to sternly once more, where, Peter, is diaconal presidency at the Eucharist contrary to the scriptures?



Peter Carrell said...

HI Ron,
Yes, nothing is easy in the Australian church re getting agreement on certain matters - inter-state rivalries etc being mirrored in church politics.

The Covenant would be useful for charting a forward direction for a unified Australian church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
There is nothing in Scripture against diaconal presidency at the eucharist.

I would be interested in hearing more about why you are asking this question in this context ... I can imagine some possible comments from you but would prefer to hear directly from you rather than rely on my unreliable imagination :)

liturgy said...

This context, Peter, appears to me to be circling around authority, acceptability, limits of Christian diversity, the place of the Bible within all that, and the limits of the Bible and what might be added to the Bible to allow the church to function… Your strong opposition to “not unbiblical” diaconal Eucharistic presidency stands in tension to your regular approach that all is revealed in the Bible, and alongside the already-mentioned finding that we need to supplement the Bible with a human agreement, a so-called “Anglican Covenant”.

Peter Carrell said...

(From Ron Smith - with apology on mine part for pressing the wrong "button" and losing the ability to publish the comment directly)

Father Ron Smith has left a new comment on your post "We need a bass guitarist to lead the Anglican Comm...":

Well, Peter. Are you able to answer Bosco's questioning of your consistency - re Biblical authority for everything. We're all agog!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco et al,

I am not sure where I have said that "all" is revealed in the Bible. Some things Christian hold to be important are not revealed in the Bible, one of those being the precise connection between ministry offices and the role of presidency at the eucharist.

In general terms my hope is that I share with Christians through the ages and around the globe convictions about what the Bible does reveal to us.

In Anglican terms my hope is that I share with Anglicans those convictions which are distinctive to us as a group of Christians. One of those distinctive convictions (relative to some fellow Protestants; but shared with Romans and Eastern Orthodox) is that priests and bishops preside at the eucharist and not deacons.

Anglican distinctives could easily change, for example, through a resolution of the Lambeth Conference. If (say) diaconal presidency was favoured by the bishops of the Communion en masse, then my opposition to diaconal presidency in Sydney would fade away.

liturgy said...

I think we’ve had a conversation here previously about distinctive uses of the word “distinctive”. I certainly do not think of the way Anglicans organise presiding at the Eucharist as distinctive.

I think your next paragraph is most revealing:

“Anglican distinctives could easily change, for example, through a resolution of the Lambeth Conference. If (say) diaconal presidency was favoured by the bishops of the Communion en masse, then my opposition to diaconal presidency in Sydney would fade away.”

Really? You think Anglican distinctives can “easily be changed” and just by a Lambeth Conference resolution?!

I do not think everyone is quite as submissive to every resolution of Lambeth Conferences as you are. I think allowing decisions to be made solely by the order of bishops is quite foreign to contemporary Anglican governance. You did not wait for such an en masse favouring of the bishops of the Communion to accept women in church leadership (read ordination) a change altering what not long ago you would have called distinctive of Anglicanism, (and don’t mention the biblical issues).


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,

From a Protestant perspective I think the way Anglicans preside at the eucharist is a distinctive: ex-Baptists etc are generally puzzled as to why dog-collar, robe wearing deacons are not able to preside at the eucharist (or at weddings)! They also, in my experience, are puzzled as to why when the vicar is away on holiday one of the leading lay leaders cannot step up to preside over communion.

I think some Anglican distinctives could change through Lambeth Conference resolution; others might not. In the (hypothetical) case of diaconal presidency such a resolution could take at least two forms. A form such as 'deacons must be permitted to preside at the eucharist' would - I agree - be difficult for the Communion to instantly submit to. But a form such as 'we have come to the view that there is no intrinsic objection to diaconal presidency (and thus support any member church proceeding to authorise such presidency)' would not require submission so much as acceptance of the principle enshrined therein (and possible choosing to take action in the light thereof). For me personally such a resolution of the Lambeth Conference would undermine my objections to diaconal presidency in Sydney.

It is pretty hypothetical to me to imagine what I might have thought when the ordination of women was being decided for in our church (I was (a) calendrically young at the time; (b) almost unaware of the debates; (c) not engaged in the debates) so I do not know whether I would have thought then that the gender of a priest was an Anglican distinctive or not. For what it is worth I am inclined to think that I would not have held that view.

Father Ron Smith said...

Actually, Peter, in cases where the vicar is away, and there is no other priest in the community to preside at the Eucharist; in churches where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, the licenced Lay Minister may administer the Sacrament at what is called a para-liturgy - leaving out the words of consecration (there is a form in our Prayer Book), and just administering the Sacrament.

This is only used when getting a priest to preside is not possible.