Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do the people putting the Anglican Communion at risk ...

... know what they are doing?

Interesting to me that Michael Poon's article published at Fulcrum, noted two posts below, has generated less than heart-warming comments here. Could be a sign that no one from Fulcrum visits here!

My own thinking has been that Poon is putting his finger on something very important when viewed from the perspective of 'risk': who and what is putting the Communion at risk?

Let's start at the beginning with two simple propositions. (1) The Anglican way of being Christian is worth living and dying for - it is the way of catholic Christianity without a papal hierarchy, the way of protestant Christianity with bishops, a way of being orthodox that incorporates the voice of laity, a worshipping Christianity committed to the developing liturgical tradition of ancient Christianity. (2) The Anglican Communion is the attempt to hold all Anglicans in the largest (widest diversity, most global geographically) organisation possible - if you like, the Communion is the 'big tent' for global Anglicanism (and the Covenant is the door into the tent!).

This blog is about these propositions: Anglican Christianity is good, the Anglican Communion is worth fighting for as the means of both associating Anglican Christians in global fellowship and of maintaining the distinctive character of Anglican Christianity, steering it away from reabsorption into Roman Catholicism and from evolution into other forms of Protestantism.

Poon reminds me that various forces within global Anglicanism are putting this great vision for Anglican Christianity at risk. Here are the risk-takers (in no particular order of demerit):

(1) GAFCON and its local expressions in national churches

(2) TEC (and to a lesser extent, ACCan)

(3) Nigerian, Ugandan, Rwandan, and Kenyan Anglican churches These churches, in my view, have demonstrated capability be disruptive of Communion life apart from organisations such as GAFCON.

(4) Global South

Each of the above offers some argumentation in favour of their approach to pan Anglican life on this planet. But none of the above has demonstrated that it is reasonable to view their approach as having the full width of the Anglican Communion.

Does anyone really imagine that (for instance) the future of global Anglicanism is along the pathway of excluding women from ordination, or of the full inclusion of the GLBT community in ordination and blessings of relationships, or via an Anglicanism in which one national church takes it upon itself to remedy perceived deficiencies in another national church, or that a 'South' Communion can have true global reach without the 'North' as well?

I suggest we who love and value Anglican Christianity, yet have strong commitments to certain matters, might think about the possibility that a many splintered Anglican Christianity is not a future worth fighting for. Sure, within my 'splinter' I might feel good that I have a space to pursue what I think is right and true, to see the fulfilment of 'my vision'. But what if 'my vision' is just that, a vision limited by my own limitations as a theologian?

The point of 'big tent' Anglicanism is that it allows for many 'my visions' to jostle together, out of which emerges a larger vision for the present and future of Christianity.

A commenter here rightly noted the future of Christianity is heading in a Chinese direction and raised the question whether current Communion life is geared to welcome that new future. Probably it is not so geared. But it could be. If we can get over our ghettoes, mend the fractures, and reconstitute ourselves.

Too big an 'if'?

34 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I think the bigger question here, is not whether the Anglican Communion can contain all of the divisive elements already at work within it; but rather:

Can institutional Christianity contain the diversity of different cultural expressions within it's 'Good News' outreach to ALL?

Some of the differences that formerly seemed important to the religious and social world (B.C.) were, race, ethnicity, social status (slave or free), and gender. However, with the emergence of Christianity, these difference are gradually being accommodated in a radical inclusion of ALL people

This ought to be what the Churches of today seek to encourage: the inclusion of ALL people into the freedom of the Gospel - whatever their racial, ethnic, social, gender or sexual-orientational differences may be.

Rosemary said...

Who and what is putting the communion at risk Peter? You are. Michael Poon is .. sigh .. why can’t any of you see this. I say once again Peter because you bring it up. There are many of us who are willing to work within a church that ordains women, but YOU want us to change our minds theologically. YOU are the one who is unwilling to accept the ‘global tent.’ Can’t you see that? How dare you suggest four groups that are putting the communion at risk .. brother, there is a plank in your own eye.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
It is always possible that I am putting the Communion at risk, but until I actually start a specific network/organisation of Anglicans which implicitly or explicitly rivals the Communion as an organisation, or seek to lead ACANZP on a Communion dividing pathway, I think the risk is small.

In this post I am not (please believe me) getting at people such as yourself who are willing to work within a church that ordains women. Not at all. What I am getting at are those elements within global Anglicanism who are making the ordination of women into a divisive issue: some are present in North American Anglicanism, some are present in the Church of England (and some of those, it seems to me, are being 'aided and abetted' by overseas bishops).

I am not quite sure why there is anything remarkable about making the suggestion that the four groups I name are putting the Communion at risk. Each in their own way is posing a challenge to the Communion and its future as 'the Anglican Communion' and each in its own way is providing a 'follow us or not' moment in respect of a vision of what 'true Anglicanism' means.

Let's see what others say here before I get the de-planking tools out!

Rosemary said...

Another sigh .. I am aware Peter, that you genuinely do not know, do not understand. You genuinely don’t know that at least 80 per cent [maybe more] of the folk you worshipped with on Sunday, do NOT support the ordination of women. I know that because I know the locals, and I know the church [and therefore the theology] that the large group came from. So when you say, “Does anyone really imagine that (for instance) the future of global Anglicanism is along the pathway of excluding women from ordination?” You .. and yes I’m afraid it is YOU, are excluding heaps of folks.

I know you know this, but we need to be reminded of it constantly .. me too .. it’s all about Jesus. It is HE who saves, He whom we follow, He who calls us to share our knowledge of Him. He who comforts us [not groups within our communion], He who strengthens us when our peers do not support us, but sometimes, it’s of inestimable comfort to share with groups of folk who believe the same as you do. Unfortunately, that support and comfort is NOT always offered to us by our own denomination, it’s not offered by you when you declare we should be members of a big tent, but you exclude those who don’t believe as you do, and try to insist that they cannot share their beliefs under the canons of our communion. So no, you don’t have to set up a network or organisation to make some Christians feel unwelcome, unloved .. you do that in this post as you have in many others. You support the few, but the many do not feel safe to voice their opposition. Now where have I heard that before???!!! I suspect in the end our church here in New Zealand will support the few GBLT as well, and the majority will not feel safe to voice their disapproval because they will be condemned if they do so as unloving. Sigh .. I would like people to feel comfortable enough with you to be able to speak their minds, but your public utterances so constrain them that even though they are I hope aware that it is Jesus who is the gate to Heaven, and not you, they keep their own counsel.

May I tentatively suggest that it is the leadership of both our local and world wide communion that has put our church at risk as you put it. Yes, some folk have formed groups to try and maintain the faith once given, but they did so as a RESULT of the actions of their leaders, and NOT to try and cause division. As I point out above, you and others are the cause of that division.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I am only making the claim that the future of 'big tent' Anglicanism does not lie in excluding women from ordination; I am not making the claim that the future lies in excluding from the Communion those who do not believe in the ordination of women. Nor do I want a future which made the latter exclusion. I cannot think of anything I have written here which leads to such conclusion.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

Anglicanism is a subcategory of Christianity. One must be a Christian before one can be an Anglican. The differing parties in this conflict do not agree on the definition of 'Christian.' Unless there is some agreement on this definition, there can never be unity. So when you say something like ...

The point of 'big tent' Anglicanism is that it allows for many 'my visions' to jostle together, out of which emerges a larger vision for the present and future of Christianity.

... you end up begging the question. Your statement is true as far as it goes, but it doesn't address the limits of the 'tent' in which the jostling may occur. The tent must be small enough to prevent theological incoherence. Any church that tries to unify (say) Syndey with (say) TEC is going to be theologically incoherent.

The intervention of African churches in North America is a reaction to that reality. Conservative Episcopalians could no longer recognize their own church as even minimally Christian. They determined that TEC had abandoned the Faith, and so they sought out assistance. These bishops whom you condemn for disturbing the Communion were in fact responding to that very cry for help. Should the bishops have refrained from doing so? Should the cry for help have gone unanswered for the sake of unity?

To answer that question you must at long last deal with the question you seek to avoid at all costs. What is a Christian? Those who sought out assistance from Rwanda determined that they had been placed under the leadership of wolves who pointed the way to spiritual destruction. If this determination was true, then the disruption to the Communion is of little consequence. The justification for intervention was inherent in the context. Unity is by definition precluded with apostates, so the Communion had already been severed by the apostasy. It is a cold and dead leadership that would consign brothers to the tender mercies of an apostate organization simply to maintain the unity of that organization in such a circumstance. So what say you. Were conservatives in TEC justified to call out for help? Were the bishops justified in their response?

The AC does not demonstrate is strength by being unable to address this question. Rather it demonstrates its weakness. That is why there are so many fractures and fissures that grow by the day. People have found the Communion structures unable to cope, and so have taken matters into their own hands. They will continue to do so despite repeated calls for unity because unity is a lesser value than the defense of essential truth.

Understand that the Covenant as structured will not correct this problem, because the Covenant also studiously avoids addressing the definitional question that is driving the division. It is constructed to preserve the Institution by avoiding that definition. It cannot hope to succeed. This means the two sides will continue to travel their own paths at the expense of the other side's interest.

You can't achieve the objective you desire. There is no hope of maintaining an Anglican Communion that is half liberal and half conservative. It must become all the one or all the other. The process can be accepted and managed, but it cannot be stopped. There are AMiE churches in the US. There are soon going to be AMiE churches in England. The separation is growing and becoming hardened. It's not reversible because it is perceived as a conflict of mutually exclusive religions. For good or ill, that is how the participants see the situation. And they are going to act according to that vision.

carl

Rosemary said...

Well, as I said in my first post Peter, I understand that you don’t see what I’m saying.
Remember that I speak as a lay person on behalf of lay people. Can you tell me what options parishes have, in particular small rural parishes, in their choice of vicar, more particularly the gender of their vicar? Can you tell me how many people are being ordained in the US, the UK and here in NZ who DO NOT support the placing of women over mixed congregations?

I do see and understand the ‘justice’ of the folk who say to me, “But that’s not fair. That’s not just. That’s not loving.” It is what keeps most of us silent. But as I said earlier Peter, it’s all about Jesus. Why didn’t He place women in leadership positions over His church? That question ought to be answered. As I see it, we do not belong to an equitable society when we become members of His church, not even a ‘friendly’ society. We belong to a hierarchical society. HE is Lord AND Saviour, perhaps we should put a bit more emphasis on His Lordship. He is Lord. He chooses whether I live or die .. not me. My ideas and plans must diminish while we work to ensure that His are spread and glorified. Conservatives will work hard to forget the minor skirmishes as long as they have the freedom to preach the Gospel, but when that is taken away ..

I think my biggest fear is that there will be a backlash. Then those of us who DO support the equality of women with men, who DO support our homosexual brothers and sisters, will be lost in that backlash. I don’t think that backlash is too far off. Far enough away for me to believe that I will be safe and sound with Our Lord at that time, but what about my sons and grandchildren? I despair about what they must face. I cry out in my prayers that ‘it’s not fair.’ The cry of Adam and Eve of course, life ISN’T fair, nor just, but what He asks of us is that we trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

I do hope others will write on this subject Peter, because I’m very well aware that I don’t do a very good job of it.

Lucy said...

Peter, you ask ‘do the people who are putting the Communion at risk, know what they’re doing?’

I guess the answer is that some of them do and some of them don’t, as with most things. Within your categories - which could have been expanded to include the Instrument of Unity?? - there will be those who just like a good stoush and don’t care too much about the consequences; there will be the ambitious ones who seize any opportunity to become big fish even in shrinking ponds; there will be others who are good followers but poor thinkers ... but there are also men and women who, although deeply distressed, have made principled decisions even though they knew those decisions would harm the Communion. In this regard, I recall remarks made by Jim Packer, but more particularly I recall his demeanour. I was very moved by his anguish at what was happening to his beloved Church and by the pain he felt at having to make the stand he has made.

I would suggest that among the conservatives who have made it onto your list of risk makers there will be some with Jim Packer’s integrity, love for the Communion, commitment to the Communion ... but who sincerely believe that more than the Communion is at stake. They would contend, I think, that the Gospel, salvation, the authority of the Bible and the role of the Church as the bastion and bulwark of God’s truth are at stake.

Your ‘big tent’ raises some issues for me:

I’m happy to be welcomed in to someone’s tent in the middle of a storm, or following an earthquake; but if that tent is to become my permanent home, then I must become a co-owner with equal rights and responsibilities. A tent in which I am welcome on someone else’s terms will never be my home. I don’t want to be assured that I will be ‘respectfully listened’ to, that is simply patronising. In order for the tent to become my home, I must have a voice that has equal weight with the other voices. I must also be assured that this tent will be a place in which my core values are upheld and honoured by all ... I can cope with people who squeeze the toothpaste tube instead of rolling it, but I will not live in a tent with people who will bring my children harm, or who will teach them values that are abhorrent to me. People like that will be my neighbours and I will teach my children how to love them, and even learn from them ... but we will never make our home with them and give them power over our lives.

Now, it is simply not possible for everyone in the Communion to find a home within the big tent. Rosemary has already expressed the pain that she and others feel in regard to women’s ordination. They are told over and over again that they are welcome in the tent ... but it’s not their tent any longer; they began as co-owners, understanding (I’m guessing here) that group ownership would require them to extend maximum room, maximum charity, maximum grace in all sorts of areas. Now, they find themselves as tenants or lodgers ... assured of a welcome, but without a voice and therefore without any of the rights or privileges of ownership.
If the big tent isn’t working on a matter of secondary importance and therefore one on which many conservatives were willing to extend maximum grace etc, how can it possibly work on something which these same people have decided is not secondary at all? How can someone who believes that same sex unions are holy and God-ordained have an equal voice in the tent with someone who believes that this is utterly opposed to God’s clearly expressed purpose and that the issue is being driven by a different view of the Bible, a different view of God, a different view of what Jesus came to do, a different of what the role of the Church is?

There is much more required than ‘respectful listening’. No-one wants to be listened to and then ignored; no-one wants to be listened to and then have to live with standards and decisions which are abhorrent.
Lucy Eban

Rosemary said...

I'm not sure why this further comment of mine didn't go through, perhaps it was too long, so I'm trying again.

Well, as I said in my first post Peter, I understand that you don’t see what I’m saying.
Remember that I speak as a lay person on behalf of lay people. Can you tell me what options parishes have, in particular small rural parishes, in their choice of vicar, more particularly the gender of their vicar? Can you tell me how many people are being ordained in the US, the UK and here in NZ who DO NOT support the placing of women over mixed congregations?

I do see and understand the ‘liberal justice’ of the folk who say to me, “But that’s not fair. That’s not just. That’s not loving.” It is what keeps most of us silent. But as I said earlier Peter, it’s all about Jesus. Why didn’t He place women in leadership positions over His church? That question ought to be answered. As I see it, we do not belong to an equitable society when we become members of His church, not even a ‘friendly’ society. We belong to a hierarchical society. HE is Lord AND Saviour, perhaps we should put a bit more emphasis on His Lordship. He is Lord. He chooses whether I live or die .. not me. My ideas and plans must diminish while we work to ensure that His are spread and glorified. Conservatives will work hard to forget the minor skirmishes as long as they have the freedom to preach the Gospel, but when that is taken away ..

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,

I think what's missing from this discussion is the historical context to these groups that you and Dr Poon claim are threatening the Communion. We all know the history, so I won't rehearse it here, but to say there are 4 groups threatening the AC neglects the context of those groups' formation and actions.

While Anglicanism has been and still is a big tent, it isn't big enough for two gospels. We have to be united around the Lord Jesus and the good news he brings. One of the helpful things to come out of the 2009 Alexandria Primates Meeting was that everybody saw clearly that the issue was not about different polity or emphasis or cultural context, it was about different gospels.

When there is a cancer in the body, we have to take harsh medicine to remove it - medicine that causes harmful side effects. To blame the medicine for these side effects misses the point. We have a false gospel being propagated in the Communion, a gospel of grace without repentance and faith, a gospel that is based on human feelings and emotions rather than the Word of God. We have to get rid of it in order to survive. And if the official church leadership and institutions won't do it, then we need unprecedented, unofficial action to do so.

That is what GAFCON/FCA is about. It is working around the official instruments to promote the health of the whole body. As for the Global South, it is a particular community within the body, which was formed with the encouragement of the AC. Of course it will have a view about Communion matters, but it is seeking to help non-Western Anglicans in their mission and service, rather than replace the AC or be a splinter group.

We are in intensive care as a Communion. Now is not the time for endless reflection or analysis paralysis. We need life saving surgery and strong medicine, and we need it quickly.

Anonymous said...

Good to finally see a good, sensible, strong, Bible, consistent, evangelical string of comments here! Your voice is being heard here, Rosemary, at least by the others here. Where were you in the other discussions recently where no Bible voice was heard?

Dave

Mark Baddeley said...

I have to say just how much I'm enjoying your gentle, irenic tone Peter; I think it's a great model of godly strength. And I'm glad that you got the time to make a more substantial response to our critical reactions to Poon's article, it's good to see your thinking here.

It won't surprise you that my response is pretty much along the same kind of lines as Rosemary, Lucy, Carl and Andrew.

I think where the disagreement begins in your response is with your second simple proposition:

The Anglican Communion is the attempt to hold all Anglicans in the largest (widest diversity, most global geographically) organisation possible

I'm not sure that that is right. Or at least, it is sufficiently incomplete that it needs a third simple point. The Anglican Communion exists to serve something beyond itself, to serve the gospel of Jesus Christ. It can't just ask the question, 'do some Anglicans believe/practice this?' it has to also ask 'is this compatible with faith in Jesus christ?'

Without that built in, you are, at least in principle, open to anything evolving as Anglican - child sacrifice, race based discrimination, polygamy, the blessedness of abortion, supporting the All Blacks. Nothing can be ruled out, because there are no standards outside of Anglicanism's understanding of its own tradition and trajectory.

One of the things that seem to divide those with views like yours and Poon from those of us who disagree is this question as to whether your two simple propositions are a sufficient basis to approach this issue. You think they, we think they are incomplete. I don't think anyone disagrees with the two points, rather the issue is whether they are sufficient.

So, for me, when we get to something like this:
the Anglican Communion is worth fighting for as the means of both associating Anglican Christians in global fellowship and of maintaining the distinctive character of Anglican Christianity, steering it away from reabsorption into Roman Catholicism and from evolution into other forms of Protestantism.

I just don't resonate. I can't imagine that most Presbyterians, or Baptists, or Lutherans, sit around saying that it is really important that we make sure that don't evolve in other forms of Protestantism. At least not the ones that are healthy. They make sure that they don't evolve into something else by getting on with the Great Commission and finding that their heritage is living and has the resources to meet the demands of the present. It's a byproduct of doing something else, it can't be an end in itself.

The way you describe things sounds as though the Anglican Communion either isn't a communion at all - a genuine sharing in anything of substance beyond a commitment to have as big a diversity as possible (as long as none of that diversity isn't too Roman or too much like any other Protestant group) - or you consider the gospel of inclusion to be just a 'ghetto' question that needs to be transcended so we can all get along and be Anglican together.

Mark Baddeley said...

Finishing up, Peter.

In my view your list of four risk-takers is also incomplete.

Why is there no mention of Lambeth in your list of four? Rowan Williams was presented with one province behaving in a way that the Communion's bishops had, in convention, declared to be outside the bounds. The ACC asked the province to withdraw their delegates. The Primates gave a clear path, with a timetable, to address the issue. All of it was undermined in favor of a plan preferred by Lambeth, one that wouldn't address the issue at all. And to enable this to happen two instruments got changed into encounter groups to ensure that they couldn't speak with a single voice any longer. And all done while the Archbishop of Canterbury could have dealt with this by working with the other instruments and not invited TEC to the most recent Lambeth or the most recent Primates Meeting.

How did Lambeth escape your list of 'risk-takers'? Do you think that GAFCON, the South, the Africans, would have stepped forward the way they have if Lambeth hadn't shown that it simply wasn't prepared to uphold the doctrine and ethics taught by the bishops of the Communion in convention?

Your whole diagnosis seems to presume that the Communion doesn't have a common mind on this matter. It does and it has declared it. TEC has made it clear that it rejects that position as a body. If Lambeth had then acted to discipline TEC and support those Anglicans in America who held to the mind of the communion much of your 'risk taker' list would disappear. But Lambeth's behavior is 'risk taking' - to result in a communion that stands for nothing except diversity (at least until the liberals control it sufficiently and then watch it go the same way as TEC).


Does anyone really imagine that (for instance) the future of global Anglicanism is along the pathway of excluding women from ordination, or of the full inclusion of the GLBT community in ordination and blessings of relationships, or via an Anglicanism in which one national church takes it upon itself to remedy perceived deficiencies in another national church, or that a 'South' Communion can have true global reach without the 'North' as well?

Could we ask some different questions here? Is the way ahead to seek partial inclusion of the GLBT community in ordination and blessings of relationships? They don't press the point that disapproval of same gender sex is homophobia, an issue of justice and a requirement of the gospel, their opponents don't speak or act in a way that says that same gender sex is a very serious sin? We just work out a way to live with each other?

Was Athanasius right to take it upon himself to interfere in other Dioceses during the Arian debate? Or was the deity of Christ yet another issue where the Anglican way is to seek a big tent and one national church should have the humility to not insist that Jesus Christ really is Lord to another national church who seems deficient in that area?

Sure, within my 'splinter' I might feel good that I have a space to pursue what I think is right and true, to see the fulfilment of 'my vision'. But what if 'my vision' is just that, a vision limited by my own limitations as a theologian.

What about the alternative? What if 'your vision' is actually true and is life and death? What if you can't be a true Anglican Christian and hold to the gospel of inclusion? What do you do then? What if it isn't about ghettos or mutual forbearance but about truth revealed to us by God himself? Does that change anything you've written?

Suem said...

TygerI've read Poon's article and think it very interesting. His focus is on describing and analysing more than anything. When he does offer a solution, it is high minded - that we should rediscover the height and depth and breadth of Christ's love- but, unfortunately it is not pragmatic, there is a dearth of love between those at the polar extremes!
The idea (if I read it correctly that the African churches may be "growing out of" their dependence on Western and global Anglicanism and finding a Christian identity in their own right it also a fascinating one, but I am not sure it is that simple. The African churches may well be facing similar tensions on their own soil over human rights and LGBT issues in due course.

Poon seems to me overly optimistic. He writes, "Such lurking movements of thought need to be brought to light, articulated, and confronted in public discussions. This reality check may well help polemicists from all sides to identify key issues and work out the way forward."
Well, it may, but then again I would ask whether "polemicists" from all sides are able or willing to "work out the way forward" if this involves relinquishing positions and making concessions which they feel are entirely untenable - and I think we must accept that many (on both sides) feel that what they stand for , whether "human rights" or "traditional marriage", or whatever they define it as, is a principle they cannot concede, even at the cost of breaking communion.
I do not see a clear way forward. I think we will just have to watch events and fallout evolve. It is a great shame. I do think though that ultimately things are in God's hands; it is his church and he will always be working his purposes out let us do what we will.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary
I do not know the answers to your questions.
There could be a 'backlash' in the future: actually in a Christianity in the West which is shedding a lot of its older 'liberal' Christian base, I wouldn't like to predict which way any 'backlash' might go.
But I hope there is no 'backlash' either way!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark,
Lots of points made above, so this is not an attempt to respond to them all; but:
(1) I can imagine Presbyterians being concerned they do not become Baptists; and vice versa. Certain distinctives are at stake among Protestant denominations.
(2) Lambeth and/or ++RW could be on a list of risk takers, but, overall I think they have tried to hold as much of the Communion together as possible under the circumstances. But, I suppose, in today's climate even that approach is risky!
(3) I think the Communion's existence does serve our Lord and the gospel: unity is a witness!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, this will be the second time I've asked you on this thread: 'Where did you go to worship on Sunday, where Rosemary says that 80% of the congregation are against women's ordination?

I cannot think of one Anglican Church in New Zealand where that might be the case. If that is the truth, I would like to know the identity of such a congregation.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Sorry - must have missed something and not posted your earlier comment with the question you ask above.

I am not going to be party to speculating on what people believe and how many a percentage they constitute etc in congregations I visit.

If Rosemary or someone else wants to make the identification you seek that is their freedom to do so.

All I will say is that I find second guessing congregations and what is going on inside their collective mind and heart a tricky business!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
A bit distracted by things at the moment, and short of time, but a brief but pithy comment to respond to some things you say above is that nothing you are concerned about cannot be helped by the Covenant as a document offering a fair Anglican basis for agreed belief underlying the Communion. But now we find an important body within TEC is commending not signing up to it ... so it must have a bit of teeth and distinctiveness!

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the follow up thoughts. I'm away for a couple of days, and will interact when I return.

Rosemary said...

Peter, with regard to your latest remark about how the Covenant offers a ‘a fair Anglican basis for agreed belief underlying the Communion.’ May I ask, what was missing from our creeds, canons and articles prior to the writing of the Covenant? What is the ‘extra’ that needed to be spelt out in order to hold us together?

Ron, I think it’s a great pity to think in terms of parishes who support this or that, but I think it’s also a great shame that you appear to have no idea that there are parishes who 100% do not want a woman serving as their priest. There are also parishes who 100% would prefer a woman as their priest, we should definitely be aware of that rather than imposing our own beliefs [remembering that the Windsor Report declared them adiaphora] upon them don’t you think? Clergy are after all, their servants.

Father Ron Smith said...

Rosemary. You have expressed the thought that maybe your comments might, on occasion, be 'too long'. I wouldn't let that worry you. Peter seems to be pretty generous on that score. just look at the lengthy posting, e.g., of Mark Baddeley, who gets away with great screeds of stuff, sometimes in sequential postings. And then there's Carl...
Mind you, they're all conservative.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Your last comment is not particularly worthy! No comments here are moderated here on the grounds of length, whatever there (non ad hominem) content. (Whether "Blogger" will let through a longer comment is another matter).

As is being pointed out ad nauseam, I am not a very good discerner of ad hominem comment, but am trying to improve my scorecard!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
There are few agreed doctrinal statements across the Communion, and the articles are not among the few - even churches such as our own do not require subscription to the articles. Given the era we have been through with Spong and co writing things under the banner of Anglican/Episcopalian, I suggest it is a good idea to restate what Anglicans around the globe do believe together, hence one reason for my supporting the Covenant.

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell

it is a good idea to restate what Anglicans around the globe do believe together, hence one reason for my supporting the Covenant.

Except the Covenant as written doesn't do that. That is one of the principle Conservative objections to its current formulation.

carl
who wrote a short comment just for the sake of Fr Ron Smith ;)

Anonymous said...

... and then there's the Bible... being God's Word, and all...

Dave

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Carl. Understood and out.

Father Ron Smith said...

Lucy, with all due respect: I think that your requirement of (1) an equal voice, (2) your own ethic respected, and (3) no-one who doesn't share your ethic; means a rather small tent.

Lucy said...

Father Ron, I'm not advocating turning the Communion into a series of pup tents for prima donnas. What I am contending for is a situation in which glib offers of 'welcome for all' are tempered by the realisation that that these same offers cannot be based on the unspoken assumption that some occupants of the 'big tent' will hold landlord status while others are relegated to tenant or lodger status.

I do not believe that the Communion can be a real home for the two groups I mentioned in my post above...How can someone who believes that same sex unions are holy and God-ordained have an equal voice in the tent with someone who believes that this is utterly opposed to God’s clearly expressed purpose and that the issue is being driven by a different view of the Bible, a different view of God, a different view of what Jesus came to do, a different of what the role of the Church is?

Lucy Eban

Father Ron Smith said...

Lucy, you are speaking of the world-wide Anglican Communion - as it has existed from the very beginning of it's chequered history - Unity in Diversity (but maybe not Fraternity).

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the thoughts here. I can see that you've given something more reflective still in your more recent posts, and I'll say something on those threads if I can think of anything to contribute to the conversations there.

(1) I can imagine Presbyterians being concerned they do not become Baptists; and vice versa. Certain distinctives are at stake among Protestant denominations.

I'll basically concede that point. In my experience, however, I think many Anglicans carry this concern far further than most other Protestants.

(2) Lambeth and/or ++RW could be on a list of risk takers, but, overall I think they have tried to hold as much of the Communion together as possible under the circumstances. But, I suppose, in today's climate even that approach is risky!

Tsk, tsk. That's fine as your take on their actions, but as a response to my argument you've just not engaged with my claim that they've neutered two instruments and ignored the directions issued by them and that that behavior has 'hollowed out' the communion. The office of Archbishop of Canterbury has lost most of its capital under ++Williams, confidence in the instruments has been harmed.

It's like Greece and the EU. It is 'risk taking' to say that Greece has to stay in the EU no matter what. For then there are no consequences for actions. That might be all sorts of good things (like keeping the EU together) but it is 'risk taking' for the EU as a whole.

Motivation ("He's been trying to hold the communion together) surely isn't the issue. Everyone involved has surely been doing things for good motives in their own minds - TEC, Lambeth, conservatives. 'Risk taking' is about the nature of the actions.

(3) I think the Communion's existence does serve our Lord and the gospel: unity is a witness!

Is that the case when we have unity with a branch of the church that practices slavery? That has ritual sacrifice of children? That encourages polygamy? That declares that Jesus is nothing more than the greatest prophet before Mohammed? That declares that Jesus is nothing more than a Jewish man with a mixture of good and bad insights about God?

Unity is something good. The ability to live at peace with all people is something good. But 'unity' surely presupposes a common deposit of faith, however minimal or varied you wish to cast it.

nothing you are concerned about cannot be helped by the Covenant as a document offering a fair Anglican basis for agreed belief underlying the Communion.

On the contrary, the covenant can be criticized as something that won't actually help those things even though it is meant to because of details in how it will work. Further criticisms can be made that it will have other negative effects (like my argument that it will make the traditional role of bishops in the communion obsolete and to be taken up by primates instead).

As someone else has said, what we had looked like it could have worked if Lambeth supported it. The ACC had asked TEC to withdraw delegates. ++Williams was supposed to make invitation to Lambeth conditional on responses regarding the issue. All of these things were entirely within the existing powers of the instruments.

The covenant is both unnecessary, a distortion of Communion polity, and a trojan horse to ensure that control over issues like this is again returned to the CoE and the English speaking west rather than genuinely shared with the Global South.

I fundamentally don't agree with you regarding how the covenant is going to function.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark,
I would concede the point that the good intentions of ++Rowan/Lambeth re holding the Communion together have led to poor decisions, especially the decision to invite the TEC bishops to Lambeth 2008, which have had the opposite effect on the Communion than holding it together.

Yes, if the Covenant were in my 'control' I would change some things to improve it (e.g. I would place more emphasis on the bishops meeting in council, ie. at the Lambeth Conference); but I accept that in today's present structures what is proposed is the best we can do, given that many voices are involved in running Communion affairs, and not my own!

If the Covenant does not come to pass, then I see a Communion unravelling further and thus contributing less to the witness of Christian unity.

On the matter of unity, yes, of course, there are limits to how far unity may extend when there are core disagreements so that (e.g.) I do not expect us to go into a union with Mormons anytime soon. But potentially the Communion could remain united (e.g. we all protest that we still believe the creeds so there is some commonality in truth). I think we should keep asking the question whether we wish to divide over homosexuality, for that, inexorably, seems to be where we are heading, notwithstanding some of us believing there are wider theological issues at stake. Would Jesus (especially the Jesus of John 4) and Paul have made sexual ethics a point of division for the church?

Mark Baddeley said...

Hi Peter,

If the Covenant does not come to pass, then I see a Communion unravelling further and thus contributing less to the witness of Christian unity.

I think that's likely, and you have my commiserations that the covenant rug has seemingly been pulled out from under you this week.

But I think it is likely to have happened even with the covenant as it is currently constructed and overseen. Even if the covenant process was followed, it is unlikely, based on the events since 2003, that there would be any consequences for a province who taught or practiced contrary to resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998. Lambeth palace would make sure of that, whatever motives we ascribe to those actions.

In such a situation, the communion will unravel further. It might do it with a 'bang' as provinces declare they are out of fellowship with other provinces, and drop out of the covenant. But it can also do it with a 'whimper', very quietly, as bishops, ACC delegates, primates, continue to turn up to meetings that say nothing and that express simply a lowest common denominator unity (one that gets lower and lower). It just keeps hollowing out and expressing no reality that should be implied by 'communion'.

How I would cast the difference between us is that you're primarily concerned about 'bang' disunity, and I think the danger is more 'whimper'.

But potentially the Communion could remain united (e.g. we all protest that we still believe the creeds so there is some commonality in truth).

No synods have formally denied the creeds. But there are lots of anecdotes about clergy getting ordained when they don't believe the creeds, and their bishops know they don't.

I think we should keep asking the question whether we wish to divide over homosexuality, for that, inexorably, seems to be where we are heading, notwithstanding some of us believing there are wider theological issues at stake. Would Jesus (especially the Jesus of John 4) and Paul have made sexual ethics a point of division for the church

Who wants to divide over anything except Jesus Christ and him crucified? But that faith in the crucified Lord of glory has to be cashed out in ethics and piety, or else it is another, more sophisticated, form of unbelief.

A communion that says 'we can transcend sexual ethics' is either being extraordinarily godly or is denying Christ. For the NT has a lot to say about sexual behavior, and I don't think either Paul or the Jesus of the Gospels would have had fellowship with someone who promoted as godliness what they considered to be immorality worthy of the second death (and they considered all sexual immorality worthy of the second death).

I cannot imagine any time in the last 2000 years when Christians would not have divided from a church that said that same gender sex is on the same moral level as opposite gender sex. The 'two sides can live together' is completely against tradition on this.

Even in the communion this isn't up for grabs, nor is it an issue of debate. Anglicanism has a position on this. Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998. As Rowan Williams has stated repeatedly since then, that continues to be the mind of the communion. (And we'll know when and if that changes, because then either Lambeth or the Primates meeting will be called on a non-indaba basis to produce a new position more in keeping with Lambeth's Palace's own views.)

If we have a statement by our bishops as a body, and we are supposed to be held together by the bishops in their teaching capacity, then how can teaching and acting on the basis of that - and requiring all provinces and dioceses to conform - be putting the Communion at risk?

The 'risk taking' is to not act in line with the resolution, and to ensure the resolution is effectively ignored when it is flouted. That completely undermines and hollows out what we claim is the episcopal basis of our communion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark
Am in much agreement with what you say.

I am not quite sure how imagining a time when the church would not have (to summarise) divided over homosexuality helps: I cannot imagine a time when Christians and society [in some parts of the globe] would have been as open and tolerant of the variety of living arrangements we see today, and of the serial polygamy occurring, even among clergy and bishops, and therefore cannot imagine a time in the past when the church might have engaged with these matters as we are doing.

I think a strong part of what you say is considering that 'communion' in a divided group is not going to be repaired until a new basis for truth is discerned and thus as long as we refuse to countenance resolution sessions of the Lambeth Conference, 1.10 is the mind of the Communion ... perhaps a new ABC will change Lambeth 2018 yet again!